Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
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Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
An Educator's Reading List of Contemporary Literature, Literacy, and Reading Issues. Visit us at
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A colleague for whom I have tremendous respect just let our Apple Distinguished Educator group know about his participation in this website providing high-quality Common Core lessons to all educators for free. 


Project sponsored by highly reliable organizations. Might be worth exploring. The site has a fairly easy navigation system for filtering by Math or ELA and then by grade level and topic as well as by Common Core standard.



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The Best Bookends Ever?

The Best Bookends Ever? | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Nestled in a quiet corner of Kentucky, America is a small privately owned metal work company called KnobCreekMetalArt.



Check out the "weird and Wonderful Book Ends" in the slide show!



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Abraham Lincoln's 9 Favorite Poems

Abraham Lincoln's 9 Favorite Poems | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Originally posted on If Abraham Lincoln's leadership is any indication of his ability to navigate America's complex cultural landscape, then you might want to take heed of Lincoln's recommended reading list.





My recent scoop re: "For those who want to lead, read" ( was rescooped more than any scoop I've published. 


This article may therefore be of similar interest. 

Another of interest might be this from the Library of Congress:


As I reviewed this collection of Lincoln's favorite poems,  the last of which was actually a reference to his own poetry, of which I was unfamilar, I began wondering whether or not his taste ran more towards  what might have been "classical" or or more towards contemporary writings. 


Of the 8 poems mentioned that were written by poets other than himself, 5 were written within his lifetime, 3 were not, Of the three not written within his lifetime, 2 were written quite long before his birth; the third, "A Man's A Man for A'That" by Robert Burns was written just 14 years before his birth.


And I began to wonder whether "kids these days," at least those who are the focus of concern regarding their declining interest in reading, are being maligned a bit too harshly about their reading reluctance. 


It's all just wondering without drawing any data-driven conclusions. However, several thoughts passed through my mental meanderings...


We know that Lincoln was NOT a reluctant reader; that he was quite an enthusiastic reader as a child. But, we also know that the range of other distractions or access to storytelling was significantly narrower in his day. Reading must have been the most accessible source of storytelling beyond the direct oral access to friends, family, preachers, teachers and others. Reading was the #1 "virtual" access to stories. And, that virtual access, like the virtual access of the internet or television, or movies, DVDs, and Netflix streaming, must have been perceived, at the time as being so far beyond the limitations of direct storytelling. Books may well have been perceived at the time as being an overwhelmingly relatively easy access to an "infinite" volume of stories. 


I began reflecting upon my own young reading experiences which I'd identify as having occurred between the early 1950s and mid 1960s. TV, radio, and records were books' primary competition for my story seeking hunger.


My tastes in reading weren't for the classics so much, though I remember Treasure Island being a favorite and I did have a very small collection of treasured "chapter books" all published by the Whitman Publishing Company of Racine, Wisconsin. I know because I still have every one of those books in a honorary shelf on my main bookcase. Titles included Gunsmoke an "authorized edition featuring Matt Dillon, western marshal of the CBS television and radio programs," Maverick (the cover title listed as "Warner Bros. Maverick starring James Garner and Jack Kelly), Zorro (listed as Walt Disney's Zorro on the cover though Johnston McCulley is identified in what appears to be 4 point font as the creator of the character on the inside title page), Wyatt Earp, The Walton Boys in High Country, Black Beauty, Robinson Crusoe, Robin Hood, Sand Dune Pony, and The Call of the Wild (unusual in that Jack London's name, unlike every title listed above actually appears on the cover.


There were "classics" but for the most part, they were pretty connected to contemporary influences on my interests in storytelling; many having direct links to my television consumption which ran heavily towards westerns in those days. 


But look at those titles on Lincoln's list. Most were relatively contemporary. They were not when I was a kid. And, for today's young readers they are all for the most part quite distant from contemporary and must compete with a far greater array of storytelling options now available. It may not be so much that in "the good ol' days" when kids weren't like "kids these days," they may well have been much more like them than we give them credit for being. Perhaps they were, like kids these days, quite attracted to storytelling, to stories told by people who had been to or imagined worlds beyond the experiences of most live storytellers they might have access to, to stories much more accessible via technology advancement in publishing and distribution that themselves leaned more towards "what sold" than what was "classical," that  like today led them to explore "other stories" accessibile via the most readily available technology.


I dunno. It's just mental meanderings. But, I can't help but wonder whether Lincoln's interest in Shakespeare and Thomas Gray, came simultaneously with his interest in more contemporary stories or whether the contemporary came earlier and the taste for more "classical" stories was an acquired taste. 


I can't help but wonder whether today's reluctant readers are not so different in their taste for stories. But, they live in times where access to engaging stories comes in so many forms that the trajectories of their appreciation for the well-told story is simply taking them on a different route. 


I remember not liking Shakespeare as a high schooler. I was still reading James Bond and Mad Magazine and listening to the Beach Boys. But, as I think back on my own craving for storytelling, I realize that James Bond superceded my interest in "Disney's Zorro" and preceded my interest in To Kill a Mockingbird; my interest in Mad Magazine superceded my interest in Archie comics and preceded my interest in National Lampoon and Candide and Johnathan Swift, and my interest in the Beach Boys superceded my interest in, well, I don't even remember, but it preceded my interest in Peter, Paul and Mary and Bob Dylan and Joan Baez and then Woody Guthrie and then John Steinbeck and then and then...


I was a "late bloomer" of sorts, but I wasn't "dumb." I just had a trajectory in my reading interest and appreciation. But, thanks to several encouraging teachers, I found myself less and less discouraged by teachers who criticized my reading likes and more and more encouraged by teachers who were happy to share with me "something they thought I just might ALSO like." 


In rereading this meandering contemplation, I realize that it may or may not be much more than off the top of my head thinking out loud first thoughts. 


But, I'm reminded of a lesson I learned from Ansel Adams as he critiqued one of my photographs. He taught me that when he critiques "young" photographers' work, he does not expect that they will gain much from hearing all the ways their work is not as good as his. He said he'd learned that where a photographer is on his or her journey as a photographer wasn't as important as what the next step was that each photographer was ready to take. And, that was where he felt his comments and suggestions would be most valuable.


It's not so easy to be "there" for every one of our students particularly in the days of pacing guides. 


But, as we first are weaned from complete dependence upon our parents' world, and then begin discovering our own world, we eventually must begin to wean ourselves from our self-centered provincial world views before we can be begin to become receptive to the world  beyond the existing provincial borders of concern.  


What does this all have to do with our job? 

Growing up is a journey. That journey may not need to be the same for everyone of our students, but we should be encouraging a greater and broader trajectory regardless of what point each of our students' journeys has reached when our paths cross.


Vygotsky has told us that what is nearby (contemporary) is an easier route to what is beyond nearby. What was "nearby" for Lincoln was not nearby for me. What was nearby for me was not nearby for my students. I did eventually find my way to Byron and Bryant and Burns and Gray and even Shakespeare, but each of them spent considerable time on my "Why should I care about those guys list." 


And I recognize that Bob Dylan and others who were contemporary influences for me were influences BECAUSE they were "nearby." They are not so "nearby" to today's students' lives. But, maybe what is nearby has just as much potential for affecting their intellectual trajectories in the direction of the universal truths of the "classics."




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The Millions : The Great Taxonomy of Literary Tumblrs: Round Two

Yikes! My job here may just be over!


This is a great article that has already curated the best of the already curated collections of best of the literary world websites online.


Once, one had to discover the best literary articles for one's self.


Then various online tools such as scoopit, tumblr, goodreads, and many others made it possible for people to create and make public the articles they'd discovered all in one place. 


Taking it a step further, this article lists a reviewed list of those collections, seeking a sort of cremé de la cremé of those collections.


You can spend a lot of time checking out the lists at the end of this article, and save a lot of time while you're at it because for the most part the list is already filtered 3 or more times. 


Of course, some may be the best of the best of articles about areas of literature of less interest to you, though it's always good to remember that even if you have less interest in one of the sites on these lists, those very sites may just be the stepping stones that one or more of your students finds so engaging that his or her reading trajectory is changed for the better.


I'm having difficulty resisting the urge to point out some of my specific favorites, and won't. But, I'd suggest you start by simply scanning the list of titles and their one line descriptions before visiting any of them. 


Oh here's a trick that might be of real value here. I happen to use Safari as my primary browser, so I'm not really certain if this works on other broswers or not, or whether other browsers have other ways to accomplish the same task.


Nevertheless in Safari, it's called "Tabbed Browsing."


As you scan the list, when you see a title or description that is tantalizing, hold down the COMMAND key and then click the link. This will NOT take you to that website, but rather leave you on this site while opening a TAB with that site ready to view when you're ready. When you have enough other open tabs and are eager to start reviewing some of them, then click the tab to see the site. This way you can instantly change your view from this page, to any of the others, without that annoying, "I clicked then waited for the page to reload then took a look and didn't like it so I clicked the back button to come back to this page and waited for it to reload and then clicked another link hoping to find a more interesting page and waited for it to load..." craziness! The wait to reload and back and forth to this page clicking consumes way more time than you might imagine.


Of course this trick works on basic search results too. Believe me, once you start Command Tabbing, you'll never scan search results the same way again.



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A Kindle World blog: Kindle Tips: Today only (Sat. 8/25) - Up to 70% off 400 books for college students

A Kindle World blog: Kindle Tips: Today only (Sat. 8/25) - Up to 70% off 400 books for college students | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |

An unusual Kindle Daily Deal + Gold Box Deal of the Day -
70% Off 400+ Books for College Students





Should be of interest to Kindlers off to college.



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Why Study Literature? - Freethought Forum

Why Study Literature?Arts & Literature...




THE ABSOLUTE BEST ARTICULATION of why we should study literature I've seen in a LONG time!



1. Are these critical skills for living in the 21st century?


2. If so, what rubric criteria would you establish to assess how well we as a profession and we as an an entire society and we as global citizens are doing at achieving the benefits listed here? 


3. What rubric criteria would you use to assess 21st century educational reform and 21st century skills that we believe our students should have?


4. If we were to create a rubric for the acheivement of the benefits of reading literature and another for the 21st century educational reform and 21st century skills that we believe our students should have, what criteria would be found at the intersection portion of a Venn Diagram? What criteria would appear only in the Literature only and only the 21st century portions of the Venn Diagram?


Speaking only of the Intersection of thebenefits of literature and the needs for 21st century educational reform. What valid data could be collected and how might that data be collected? How could we design an assessment that found out whether students had actually adopted the benefits of reading literature into their daily lives rather than merely memorizing the obvious "right answer" that being emphathetic is a right answer whether actually practice it or not. 


Are these rhetorical questions at best? Or can an objective collection of and analysis of valid and appropriate data actually be made when the desired outcomes exist outside of the "there is a right answer or a wrong answer spectrum? 


The issue I see regarding justifying these outcomes via a data-driven process is the difficulty in determining what data to collect, how to collect it, and how to analyze it as not merely knowing but actually practicing the desired outcomes?


We can assess levels of literacy and decoding skills fairly easily.


It might take a bit more sophisticated assessment to dertermine whether those who can read do read.


However, I have trouble wrapping my head around how we might reliably assess the degree to which the benefits listed here can be reliably observed and documented. 


Yet that is very much what I would like to do.


Any ideas for restating each of the listed benefit as a rubric criteria and then breaking each of the crieria into observable and measurable performance?


I'd be happy to hear ideas 



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Your Brain on Fiction







Besides recognitions that reading literature just might be of value in the business world (as argued in the previous scoop), this article presents recent defenses for reading literature as discovered in the field of Neuroscience.


Reading literature appears to have documentable and significant positive impact in regions of the brain beyond the “classical” language regions, like Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area, (that) are involved in how the brain interprets written words."


Among several notable findings documented in this article, I was quite intrigued by this one...


"The novel, of course, is an unequaled medium for the exploration of human social and emotional life. And there is evidence that just as the brain responds to depictions [in literature] of smells and textures and movements as if they were the real thing, so it treats the interactions among fictional characters as something like real-life social encounters."


It's a fairly short article and quite accessible to the "sciencephobic."


We're getting validation from a wide range of fields beyond our own and they're providing the "data-driven" types of defenses that are at the center of current decision making practices.


Well worth your reading.



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Developmental Benefits of Reading Literature

Reading literature, like winners of the Newbery Medal, has far more impact on children and tweens than simply boosting reading skills. Reading literature also aids in social, cognitive and emotional development.







Much attention to the benefits of reading is directed at the benefits to young readers.


However, as children progress through and beyond gaining the skillsets of basic literacy and more advanced decoding at the center of early reading focus, and head towards the "tween' years of their educational careers where the areas of deeper understandings of the themes and universal truths articulated in great literature begin to take center stage, the focus is sometimes, perhaps too often, not as much on the personal value that literature can bring to one's life, as towards doing well "academically" as measured by standardized testing.


Thus, literature study lives in a sort of schizophrenic tug-o-war between what is good for test results and thereby for academic planning (i.e., positioning oneself for college entrance requirements) and the actual reasons why literature is worth including in one's life practice.


Though this article's purpose is to indicate that there are multiple benefits in reading literature which is true, if one is familiar with journalistic tradition, it is implied that academic benefits are "at the top of the list." (The journalistic tradition being that stories are written with the most important information first and additional information is presented in the order of decreasing importance on the assumption that journalistic writing is quite often not read in its entirety and therefore "Put the best stuff first because the reader might bail at any moment)


Though a Venn diagram would certainly indicate significant areas of overlap there are also significant distinctions between the two foci that can actually work quite forcefully against success in the "other" foci.

The academic benefits tend to address the kinds of content of more interest to academic students, those who want to major in English, or go on to college where grades in all subjects play a role in that perception of success.


This approach leads to more importance on knowing things like Onomonopia or iambic pentameter or terms such as protagonist antagonist, and denouement. These terms might be more interesting to the academic student than to the struggling, reluctant, or infrequent readers in the same class. The focus on those elements may in fact be counter productive; even perhaps "disengaging" to students, even those who like to read, but who haven't yet reached an appreciation for the technical dissection of literary structure even though they may have enhanced receptiveness to a real page turner or to stories where they see characters struggling with situations somehow similar or parallel to situations they can relate to.


To be clear, I am not arguing one position over the other. But, my particular attraction to this article is its extending the benefits beyond the academic benefits, to benefits of great potential value in areas such as literature's particular benefit in aiding tweens to develop increased cognitive and reasoning skills as they follow the plot and thematic  outcomes resulting from  the levels of understanding and reasoning displayed by the characters in a well-told story.


The article continues to make the argument that great literature puts readers in a position to follow the outcomes of interactions between characters of "diverse backgrounds, including varying economic means, different races and ethnicities and unique regions of the country or the world." Thus giving tweens opportunities to virutally experience and simultaneously or subsequently develop empathy for fictional characters that transfers as real value when confronted with friends and strangers in the real world who need and deserve empathy. or tolerance for difference or emotional sensitivities. As the article says, "Being exposed to varying backgrounds and perspectives may also help tweens move beyond adolescent egocentrism, which in turn benefits their interactions with peers, teachers and parents." And, by the way, I would add thereby benefits society at large. 


In the purity of literary value, I must admit that I'm attracted to the humanizing benefits of reading literature as they are in direct parallel to what I believe is literature's  "greater" benefit; its ability to engage young readers in caring about what it is to be not just human beings, but also humane beings which as important as academic assessment is, pales in comparison to the importance of passing the test of living one's life as a good person.


And this I am convinced, can lead to our students becoming better friends, neighbors, parents, employees, employers, and global citizens. 


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Books Are Not Sacred Objects

Books Are Not Sacred Objects | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
The bookish internet exploded last week when, in what one report called ?the worst craft idea ever,?





Well, even though I threw my own two cents into this conversation a couple of days ago, I must admit that Rebecca Joines Schinsky gets my vote for rational commentary on this mighty viral topic!



Random thought...

At what point does "going viral" go from indicating something of interest to something of "immense vapidtude?"



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Drumea Diana's comment, May 27, 2013 2:40 AM
Cartile pot fi sacre prin scris, precum omul sfinteste omul. Mesajul din carti poate sfinti obiectul.
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How Paperbacks Transformed the Way Americans Read - Mental Floss

How Paperbacks Transformed the Way Americans Read - Mental Floss | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
How Paperbacks Transformed the Way Americans ReadHalf a century before e-books turned publishing upside down, a different format threatened to destroy the industry.






It's good to remember that disruptive ideas, well- or not-so-well conceived, are quite often met with early dismissive criticism.


Many are doomed to live up to early criticism, crashing and burning in a blaze of "what-was-I-thinking" realization, destined to rise again from time to time as entertaining historical folly; think Edsel for example or pretty much anything appearing in the all-too-popular "Weird News" pages of the HuffPost or on sad or hilarious (depending upon one's levels of compassion) TV shows mimicking Maury Povich and the like.


But immediate condemnation is, or sometimes ought to be, at least also embarrassing for their short-sightedness; think iPad for example or soap for that matter.


As educators, we're often caught in the fragile area between encouraging and "cautioning" our students regarding the wisdom of pursing "at all costs" their interests and passions. 




What if early passions are based upon a belief that money is the sole determinate of success? (Think Enron) Or that "illegal" is only illegal if one gets caught? (Think athletic doping scandals) Or, "me" is always more important than "we."  


What if my student steers his passions towards his childhood dream that he'll "go to Stanford on a baseball scholarship, be seen by a big league pro, and get a hugh signing bonus to play for the New York Yankees" even though as a junior in high school he's a mediocre scholar who isn't quite good enough to be a first string player on the last place varsity baseball team? 


Or my pretty darn good student who had two passions; first to be a marine biologist and second to live in Kansas where most of her family lived. 


It's easy to condemn insufficient awareness of the challenges of one's passions. It's also easy to offer useless support such as "Well, I sure hope your dreams come true!" 


It's a challenge to the responsible educator to provide realistic encouragement perhaps assisting our students in refining their dreams, considering how to best address the serious challenges, and exploring possible realistic refinements to their vision of what it is that they care about and how to go about realizing those dreams.


I just like to keep in mind that passions, realistic or otherwise, are primary engagement points for motivation. And, that people like Whoopi Goldberg, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, J.K. Rowling, Picasso, e.e. cummings, and so many others have found great success with "new ideas" that just may have seemed worthy of early dismissive attitudes. 


Let's hear it for people like Robert de Graff and his disruptive idea about making books more portable, available, and affordable when the publishing industry had little positive to say about such a "foolish idea."


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The Worst Craft Idea Ever [Updated]

The Worst Craft Idea Ever [Updated] | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
This is the perfect idea for someone who likes to pretend that they read. I feel like I'm watching a murder.





Why in the world would I scoop this video/article? 


A while back I caught some good-natured (?) kidding from some buddies after proudly posting my new iPhone charger. I'd "sacrificed" a copy of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's AUGUST 1914 in order to hide the charger's long white wire inside the book with just the tip of the charger connector sticking up above surface of the book cover. (


But, I must say, this book destruction craft video bordered on horrifying, even though the intention to decorate with indications that reading is valued in this home, isn't all that different from my intention.


So why scoop it? Because not mentioned in the video but in text in the commentary below the video, Lemony Snicket, author of the mutilated books, gives his reaction to the video and it made me smile.



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21st-Century Students Need Books, Not Textbooks

21st-Century Students Need Books, Not Textbooks | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Textbooks are expensive, outdated, and stifling to creativity, says a veteran English teacher. And worst of all, they don't promote a love of reading.





Thanks to my good buddy, Jim Harmon (see his great scoop-it collection at:
for this lead.

As we watch the sea-change in publishing caused by ebooks taking place, there is a special element of that conversation that is getting too little attention. Whether you love paper and resent digital or love your iPad and have pretty much left paper behind, or like me just love the "word" and are willing to forgo your personal likes in that regard in favor of promoting whatever form of reading your students will engage with, traditional textbooks are a completely separate question. That they are paper-based certainly brings significant downsides just in the area of cost and heft, but those may not be the most damning characteristics when contemplating their value in the classroom.

Two lines jumped out at me while reading this article. The first, "...the textbook promotes the study of a subject—it does not promote reading. To improve reading skills, teachers need to offer students the kind of books that persuade them that reading can be a joy."

The distinction between studying a subject (literature in this case) and promoting reading is actually pretty significant. I was always honored to hear that a student of mine had decided to become a teacher, and particularly moved when that student had decided to become an English teacher. But, I never felt quite comfortable with the virtual default mode of most textbooks. They seemed to focus much more upon creating English majors than upon promoting an engaged reader who enjoyed reading the stories because they struck home, somehow reflecting "something universal" and therefore intriguing about what it means to be a human being; something that put "reading a good book" on the list of things they liked to do not just on the list of things they were required to do.

That paragraph ends with a rather simple point, "...research shows that reading for pleasure improves reading scores. No student reads a textbook for pleasure."

I've never been one to be too fond of absolutue statements. But, truthfully, my guess would be that textbooks really aren't the first choice for a pleasurable evening with a good book for many.

And I do believe that kids who read for pleasure do just fine on standardized tests. Whether they spend time reading Sci-Fi, YA, ChickLit, or any kind of book based (electronic or otherwise) stories, they are spending imaginitive time in other places, other cultures, other times, and amid other people's trials and tribulations.

I have no doubt that in the hands of a great teacher traditional textbooks can be the source of some pretty pleasurable engaged reading. But, for the most part that success would probably be more a result of the teacher's skill than the textbooks themselves.

And, given the article's excellent suggestions regarding alternative sources for pretty much everything that textbooks have provided, the argument for textbooks is getting harder and harder to make. It really has nothing to do with whether they are or are not paper-based; it really about the old school paradigms for teaching reading upon which they are designed.

And, by the way... those old school paradigms do not magically become new school paradigms when textbooks are digitized without taking advantage of the new possibilities that digital books bring to the table.


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From Jail to Harvard: Why Teachers Change the World

August has arrived, and you're heading back to the classroom, and all the familiar challenges will meet you there on Day One. Let me encourage you. Your efforts are valued, and what you do truly does matter.





August was always like spring to me. A time for new beginnings and renewed dedication to my commitment to the noblest profession of all.


It was time to remember what each of the particularly special teachers in my own educational journey had done for me and to rededicate myself to my personal vision statement, "Be for my students what my best teachers had been for me."


August wasn't the time to piss and moan about faculty meetings, or some administrative mandate that "inconvenienced me." It was a time to remember those teachers who were there for me; who cared about me; and to remember that they too worked within a system that had it's behind the scenes challenges and frustrations. Yet, they rose above all that when they walked into the room and gave us all the gift of their caring. No, it wasn't every teacher who was capable of that kind of personal strength and dedication. There were grumblers and grouches. But, they were never destined to become my inspirations; except by their negative examples.


The downsides of the profession are probably a constant. Though, in truth, it's easier to see those downsides if one is unable or unwilling to walk in the shoes of those whose responsibilities are campus-wide rather than primarily within only one of the many classrooms on campus.


But, the best rise above the challenges rather than marinating in their resentment of them.  


Set yourself an impossible goal. Rededicate yourself to being that special teacher that every single one of your students will look back on as one of the ones who made a difference.


And, while you're at it... if you happen to be a veteran teacher, try adding this goal. While you're remembering the best of the best of your own teachers, remember the first day you walked into the faculty room on the first day of your teaching career and which of the veteran teachers took the time to inspire you, to mentor you, to encourage and support you. Try to be the colleague to the new staff members that those early mentors chose to be to you. 


Here's to your students having a great school year because they were lucky enough to have you for a teacher!



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After a Year Teaching High School, Tony Danza Says We Owe Educators an Apology - Education - GOOD

Dismal parental involvement, fights, and low test scores opened the actor's eyes to the tough reality in Philly schools.





Tony Danza (actor) and Steve Wozniak (Apple co-founder) have both earned my respect. Why would anyone who has earned both the fame and fortune of either of these guys choose to change direction and spend time as teachers?


After Apple, "The Woz" spent eight years teaching 5th grade as a credentialed volunteer. Danza spent a year teaching high school English (!) in Philadelphia.


It's easy to be proud to claim that either of these guys saw our profession as a nobler endeavor than their previous well-rewarded work. Those of us who have dedicated our careers to the noblest profession of all know the rewards that money just can not buy.


And, we know the challenges that result when large segments of society would rather turn responsibilty for the success of  their children's educations completely over to us assuming that we ought to some sort of magic wand or if not, are incompetent, too often finding it easier to use teachers, their unions, and "our long vacations & short work days" as easy out scapegoats.


This article introduces Danza's book, "I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had." (reminder: Scoopit free version does not allow for either italics or Bold or underline so I'm kind of stuck for how to enter book titles)


In his one-year experience he may not have picked up as many of the tricks of the trade as a few more years might have brought him, but he learns enough to discover a bit more about the flip side of the story from the basic schools are failing us media focus.


I'm glad he did it. I'm glad he spent a year not only giving but learning more about the challenges. I'm glad he wrote his book. I'm glad he wrote an op-ed and I'm glad he chose USA Today to publish the op-ed even though USA Today is one of my least favorite "newspapers." It's extremely light-weight for the most part leaning more towards the People magazine crowd. But, it has national distribution and reaches more of the very audience that needs to hear someone they like tell them a thing or two about how misguided much of the criticism of schools is. 


When educators attempt to share this information they are almost automatically assumed to be biased merely attempting to shift due blame away from themselves, at least by the segment of society that is loud about complaining and frugal with both time and money about trying to help.


For this reason I was quite disappointed in reading "What Tony Danza Learned From Teaching" by Liana Heitin in Education Week Teacher (


Danza is complements for discovering the basic challenges that we already know. But, I don't really understand her suggestion that because there ARE teachers who are part of the problem that we shouldn't really "waste our time pointing fingers and assigning blame." Okay, assigning blame, particularly when it excuses our own contribution to troubling issues and only blames without taking that position as a starting point for working towards improving OUR efforts whether we are educators, politicians, parents, journalists or any other outspoken person or group is just whining. 


Whining IS wasting our time pointing fingers ans assigning blame. Evaluating a current situation, identifying elements that can be improved, developing means of addressing those weak spots, and spreading the potential solutions based upon more complete data sets is worthwhile. Danza has not bitten off the entire challenge, but he has addressed a significant and seldom addressed beyond the facutly room weak point.


He has made an effort to better inform himself. He has synthesized his new information in light of his own admittedly weak effort as a student. He has discovered that there are many who are responsible for some of the most talked about "failures" of the education of our children. He has written a book INTENDED FOR THE LAY PEOPLE who express concern for improving our children's education. 


He may not be providing much news for educators, but I'll bet because of his celebrity, his unselfish sacrifice of a year of his high income lifestyle and probably a second year in writing his book, that he may well be more successful at reaching the masses with a message about the elephant in the room of education than we have mangaged to be in our efforts to include the lay persons with only partially informed understandings of the challenges of improving education.


He has potentially pulled the rug of scapegoating out from under the feet of those who would rather whine and complain about the problem thereby excusing themselves from responsibility for being part of the solution.  


Yes as a profession we have lots of work to do to improve the quality of education. But, reaching ALL the stakeholders regarding our understanding of the potential solutions is the key. And, I think we all owe a debt of gratitude to Danza for being a part of the solution to that part of the problem.



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Book Reviewers for Hire Meet a Demand for Online Raves

Book Reviewers for Hire Meet a Demand for Online Raves | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
The growing business of self-published books has spawned an industry in which hired reviewers produce favorable online reviews.






Fake book reviews are big business! Do you think this issue is limited to the self-publishing industry?







I've been cautioning about the questionable quality of group-sourced product and service reviews for some time. The reference in this article to the reviews received by The Great Gatsby, for example are an embarrassment to the reviewer who is ill-prepared to see quality and ill-equipped to recognize his or her own ignorance amplified by the audacity to believe that his or her snide or mean or ignorant opinions are worth sharing as though they have merit. 


To read that even well-written positive reviews are frequently just as untrustworthy may be shocking to some, but it's old news. It was at least five years ago that I overheard a conversation taking place at a nearby table in a recently opened restaurant where the restaurant owner, too foolish to keep such conversations of this sort "in the back room" was chatting up some business assoicates having lunch at the restaurant and he was proudly telling them how he's written four fake reviews of his restaurant on a yelp-like site and that he had at the same time written several fake negative reviews about his nearby competition. He was proud of his cleverness and his buddies were in giggle stitches expressing their surprise that they hadn't thought of such a good idea themselves.


Today "motivated opinion" rules the day on many fronts. Enough of us have lost the desire for actual informed opinion supported by evidence cited in support of those opinions. And, as was the truth when P.T. Barnum told us "There's a sucker born every minute" and snake oil salesmen were constantly on the prowl and today's email scammers are trolling for easy marks and all were finding plenty of suckers. 


Remember that line from Field of Dreams, "If you build it they will come"?


If's corollary may sound something like...


"If we're biting they will be phishing." (Google it if that's not a familiar term)


Perhaps if we're serious about teaching critical thinking skills we ought to crank up our efforts. There's certainly plenty of free teaching resources readily available.


Another article on this subject can be found here:





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DUGGAN: Graphic novels lack qualities of literature

DUGGAN: Graphic novels lack qualities of literature | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
If you have ever taken an English course, it’s likely that at one point your professor asked the question: What is literature?





Thought provoking, though this article raises questions that have bothered me for some time when thinking about how literature is taught. 


I'm not certain that I disagree with the basic premise of this opinion piece, though I suppose that if the article were the counterargument professing that text-based literature lacks qualities of graphic novels, an equally thought provoking argument could be made.


My concern is not the truthfulness of the article, but rather the side-affects of such articles in classrooms where the audience for literature study may include the illiterate, the reluctant, the casual, the enthusiastic, and the future English majors. Arguments such as this are of potential interest to the last group, I suppose.


However, the article's point of view may be one more reason why we are less successful marketing an interest or potential love of reading among the other groups. Literary snobbery, based upon well-founded arguments or not, is off putting; appearing as annoying as being forced to be a spectator at a pissing contest. It is not unlikely that the majority of the class' reaction might just be "Who cares?"


And, even more damaging might be the implication that the reader of graphic novels, like the readers of YA, SciFi and other genres also considered to be of "lesser literary" quality; and those who are reluctant may feel so criticized that they find themselves marinating in perceived criticism that they somehow ought to be ashamed of themselves and are thereby "unworthy" of respect.


It is that sort of perceived criticism that sooner or later may well be the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. "To hell with it, why bother?" Thus, an opportunity to capitalize upon an existing engagement with graphic novels and to attempt to expand that existing engagement into a possible engagement with reading considered to be of "higher literary quality" is lost, and thereby a potential life-long reader may just lose the last bit of potential for growth as a reader.


So, though I'm not a big fan of graphic novels (only because there is so much more to read than there is time to read and therefore I have too small of a database to condone or condemn with any authority), but, I've read a few; among them I'd point to Maus and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen as being as valuable as a literary experience for some readers as Buddenbrook may be to some literary scholars. And, Buddenbrook may be actually nothing more than mind-numbingly boring to students who are not yet ready for, or for students who have teachers less able to engage students in the challenges of such literary masterpieces.


One real criticism I have about the premise of the this article is the assumption that if a work does not meet a literal understanding of the Oxford English Dictionary, then it can not be literature. And, yet the article's author takes the definition so literally that he does not address the fact that according to his interpretation, pornography, propaganda, and much published material that is racist, sexist, xenophobic, uninformed, misinformed, ill-informed, and published specifically to disinform is literature while Maus is not. 


Thus, in the end, though there is certainly an argument to be made regarding the literary merit of the "mostly text" versus the "mostly not text" storytelling genres, the narrowness of the argument made here is disconcerting to those of us charged not with the duty of precision nit-picking, but rather with the charge of stemming the tide of waning interest in reading.


One last thought...

Consider the definition of "speech" as in many freedom of speech cases (see:


At one time speech meant that which is "said orally." But, who would think that freedom of speech would be limited to that which is said orally and heard aurally? Who would say that speech heard and then printed and taken in via visual means is not literature?


I think a more interesting argument would be whether or not text heavy literature is enough to distinguish "great literature" from crap and whether or not text light storytelling is enough to exclude graphic novels are qualifying for good, if not great literature status.



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Michael Dreyfus-Pai's comment, February 2, 2013 1:36 PM
I'm at your session at Cooltools, and I happen to be an avid graphic novel reader. I immediately started wondering if someone had made Maus into a Lit Trip, and searching brought me here! What an amazing project it would be!
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21st Century Literature by Women: A Reading List

21st Century Literature by Women: A Reading List | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Last week, I asked for help putting together a list of women writers and their works from the 21st century.






A great list to have in one's toolbox. Just may be just the right resource to have available at any moment for the educator whose radar is always tracking for "Learning Moments."


If you believe the saying, " "When the student is ready the teacher will appear," lists like this one are like the green room at the theatre. When you hear your cue, you're ready to appear.

TheGermanItalianBritishLink's curator insight, March 9, 2013 12:11 PM

...still a lot of reading to do :-)

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WATCH: Jon Stewart vs. Literature

WATCH: Jon Stewart vs. Literature | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Continuing with The Daily Show's week of back-to-school-related supercuts, Jon Stewart and The Best F#@$king News Team explain literature to us all.




Be forewarned, there is language in this video. Not a lot, but enough that my generally gracious nature insists that I mention it should you rather not view the video on this site.


But, it is interesting that one of the top satirical humor shows on TV does frequently use an awareness of great literature as a set up for its jokes.





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For Those Who Want to Lead, Read

For Those Who Want to Lead, Read | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Whether it's Wikipedia, Michael Lewis, or Aristotle, reading brings a host of benefits to the workplace.


"Many business people claim that reading across fields is good for creativity. And leaders who can sample insights in other fields, such as sociology, the physical sciences, economics, or psychology, and apply them to their organizations are more likely to innovate and prosper."

Also from the article...

"Reading increases verbal intelligence (PDF), making a leader a more adept and articulate communicator. Reading novels can improve empathy and understanding of social cues, allowing a leader to better work with and understand others — traits that author Anne Kreamer persuasively linked to increased organizational effectiveness, and to pay raises and promotions for the leaders who possessed these qualities. And any business person understands that heightened emotional intelligence will improve his or her leadership and management ability."






Have you ever had to defend great literature at a facuIty meeting? Ever struggle to justify fiction as having value during budget crunch discussions? Or, defend a title as having value to a parent, or that parent's offspring for that matter?


I've been researching the benefits of literature in pursuit of refining vision and mission statements, and other challenging questions related to my pending application for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.


Today, I've focused upon the real question bluntly phrased, "What are the benefits of reading literature in the real world?"


I've come across a few articles today that are responsive to the question from perspectives beyond those of which we who teach literature are already aware. That is to say, articles that bring the value of reading literature to the "rest of the world," and of particular interest to me at the moment, to those who are willing to provide funding to socially beneficial endeavors, IF AND ONLY IF, those efforts can be documented as having measurable impact.


Though it is relatively easy to measure improvement impact in literacy education, as literacy is a "can-you-do-it-or-not" skill, it is much more difficult to measure impact of employing that skill in pursuit of wisdom as it has been articulated in great works of our global literary heritage.






This extremely well-documented article goes right at the "What good is fiction in the business world" challenge.


A LOT of good apparently!


The premise being that great literature can make great leaders, whether they are business leaders such as "Steve Jobs (who) had an "inexhaustible interest" in William Blake; Nike founder Phil Knight [who] so reveres his library that in it you have to take off your shoes and bow; and Harman Industries founder Sidney Harman (who) called poets "the original systems thinkers," quoting freely from Shakespeare and Tennyson" or great political leaders; I had forgotten that the 1953 Nobel prize in Literature went to Winston Churchill who was awarded the prize "for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values". (


To know that there are those in the business world who recognize that the value of being well-read is a true 21st century skill of great value to both those who lead as well as to those being led in the business world may put us in debt to those who recognize and articulate the values of literature beyond the awareness of non literature educators in curriculum development and decision making positions and in the communities where we dedicate our professional efforts.




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Larry Anderson's comment, February 14, 2013 9:34 AM
For quite a long time, I have contended that "All Leaders Are Readers." Perhaps, it would be stated better as, "All Effective Leaders are Readers!" From years of experience and observation, I can tell a great deal about a person's ability to lead others simply by examining his/her personal library. Too, I will pitch out the name of an author or a great work...then see if that "leader" recognizes who or what I'm quoting. Remember the profound adage gleaned from the epic work by Alfred Lord Tennyson in his "Ulysses," -- "I have become a part of all I've met!"
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Data mining the classics makes for beautiful science

Data mining the classics makes for beautiful science | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Statistics and data mining aren't typically associated with literary analysis, but new research suggests that such objective methods may be ...











Speaking of data mining as a primary decision making strategy, even those who are enthusiastic promoters of data-driven decision making are now making the case for the reading of literature!


As data-driven decision making has its critics, so too has this article's premise that data-mining the classics can reveal unprecedented defenses for the value of reading the classics.


What immediately caught my eye was this quote from the article...


"Matthew Jockers, assistant professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has devised a method of comparing thousands of books to one another in order to find systems of influence, schools of thought and other groupings that may not be obvious to literary theorists. He calls it macroanalysis.


"We need to go beyond our traditional practice of close reading and go out to a different scale," Jockers told NBC News. "The traditional practice of close reading allows us to look at the bark on the trees, while the macroanalytic allows us to see the whole forest." Modern programming and data mining tools, combined with widely available digital texts, make this approach possible."


I also found this passage of great interest...


"Naturally, there are objections. Jockers is aware of them: "One of the criticisms is that it succeeds in refinding what we already knew." In other words, why bother proving statistically what we already know from close reading?


But other sciences have different methods for obtaining the same result, such as measuring the diameter of the Earth or the pH of an acid. Why shouldn't literary theory have the same thing? "These are not competing methodologies, but complementary ones," explained Jockers."


Why should we bother proving statistically what we already know from close reading? Because data driven decision making has become an entrenched baseline for extremely important decisions being made by those who DON'T ALREADY KNOW" what we already know.


When we, as the torchbearers for literary study, speak among ourselves we are not only preaching to the choir, but we are speaking what is essentially an expertise-specific jargon. To speak the language of those who speak data-driven decision making, we should welcome the assistance of those who can speak THAT expertise-specific jargon and can do so in defense of the importance of literature in every student's educational endeavors.


This article does also include specific examples of the "new" kinds of data being discovered that support our case. It's short and also quite accessible to the data-drivenphobics among us.


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Watch Your Favorite TV Characters Talking About Books - Flavorwire

Watch Your Favorite TV Characters Talking About Books - Flavorwire | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |

"If you’ve been paying attention to this space over the last couple of months, you already know that we’re fascinated by the reading habits of our favorite fictional characters. But what’s better than a simple reading list? A little informed dialogue, of course. Or even a few well-placed snarky comments..."





From the sometimes silly to the often sublime, what a great collection of video clips of TV characters talking books.


A great way to believe that maybe we're succeeding more than we think we are. Even in some of the seemingly less positive clips, (see the second clip from Freaks and Geeks) stick around, there's a good feeling that surfaces by the end of the video.


And, whether you watch them all or not, watch the last one. 


And btw, you may or may not wish to share this page with your students as you may find some less appropriate than others for your students. However, each is posted on YouTube, so if you find one you like, click the YouTube link and then recommend that page.


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A Collection of Original Vintage Advertisements for Classic Books - Flavorwire

A Collection of Original Vintage Advertisements for Classic Books - Flavorwire | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |


While waiting for the new Gatsby movie, you might find this collection of original book ads amusing.


QUESTION: Can it be nostalgic if it happened prior to one's existience?



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Famous Authors' Signatures

Famous Authors' Signatures | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
You know their words, now look at their writing. A collection of some of literature's most famous signatures.




Couldn't help but wonder how many of these writers were criticized for "poor penmanship" as youngsters? 


Encourage, Encourage, Encourage!


Who knows? Maybe they'll have something to say some day.


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Stephen King’s all-author rock band plays swan song on ‘The Late Late Show’ — EXCLUSIVE VIDEO |

Stephen King’s all-author rock band plays swan song on ‘The Late Late Show’ — EXCLUSIVE VIDEO | | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Every so often since 1992, an all-star crew of writers — which has included Stephen King, Dave Barry, Amy Tan, Barbara Kingsolver, Scott Turow and...




The Rock Bottom Remainders are calling it quits! Imagine a rock and roll band comprised entirely of writers! 


"As it happened. As it was meant to happen Bokonon would say," (no Vonnegut never played with them) I happened to catch their last television performance while doing my stationary bike ride this morning. I'd DVR'ed it a couple of days ago not knowing they were quitting the business or that they would be guests on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.


Both King and Barry were interviewed separately before the remaining remainders took the stage for their last performance. 


If you'd somehow not known about the band, among its current and past members were the likes of  Dave Barry, Stephen King, Amy Tan, Maya Angelou, Cynthia Heimel, Sam Barry, Ridley Pearson, Scott Turow, Joel Selvin, James McBride, Mitch Albom, Roy Blount Jr., Barbara Kingsolver, Robert Fulghum, Matt Groening, Tad Bartimus, and Greg Iles. They were even at one time or another joined on stage by Lesley Gore, Roger McGuinn, Bruce Springsteen, and Warren Zevon.


Though they never took themselves too seriously, often hilariously self-deprecating, they did manage to raise a couple of million dollars for charity over the years. And, they had a rock solid following of Lit Lovin' Rock and Roll fans.


Among the famous quotes by and about the band are the following...


"We play music as well as Metallica writes novels." -Dave Barry

"Rock Bottom Remainders? Who the hell are they?" -Kirk Hammett, Metallica

"Your band's not too bad. It's not too good either. Don't let it get any better, otherwise you'll just be another lousy band." -Bruce Springsteen

"I picked up one of the two guitars I'd been using, and just as we were about to start, Stephen King tapped me on the shoulder and said, 'We have a special guest.' I turned around, and there was Bruce Springsteen. I still don't know how he came to be at this convention; I don't believe he's a bookseller. All I know is, he was picking up the other guitar. My guitar. 'Bruce,' I said to him. 'Do you know the guitar part to Gloria?' This is like asking James Michener if he knows how to write his name." – Dave Barry

"People are throwing panties at you. They certainly never do that at my book-signings." -Matt Groening

"There's an audience out there, and the key is to kick it in the ass." -Stephen King

"Roy actually coined the term for our genre of music; 'hard-listening music.' " -Dave Barry



Watch the two videos at the end of the article. I just smile thinking about writers getting together to do what they don't do best just for the all out fun of it.


And, I'm sitting here trying to picture Maya Angelou adding her decorum to an all out rock 'n roll experience.


Sorry you're hanging it up. But thanks for the memories! At least we still have those books you write.



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The Global Citizen: Finding Practicality in a Liberal Arts Education

What can you do with a degree in classics? How are you going to get a job with that degree? Many people still fail to understand what a liberal arts education is and how it translates into success in the job market.






Though I'm not certain all liberal arts majors graduate with more critical thinking skills than others, this article nails the biggest reason why I promote reading literature as a preparation for life in the 21st century.


It IS a global playing field. We can not, at least in good conscious, isolate our social concerns to our local geo location. We must care about the complex worlds beyond our own little corner of the universe because we are responsible for decisions made by those we choose to vote for; to work for;  to welcome. 


When we fail to understand the greater questions of what it is to be a humane being we are in danger of taking the "easy way" out; favoring self-serving or simplistic, or xenophobic, or culturally insensitive choices that bring more than global chagrin to us all; we are less able to see the folly of a "hell-let's-just-drop-the-big-one-on-'em" attitude when dealing with international business, crime, economic, social, and political issues. 


I've always wondered what it might have been like if every MBA program required a significant proportion of serious liberal arts based courses so that the blinders of their narrow focus on money could be removed and replaced with a deeper understanding of their responsibilities for humanity.


And, as what I call a "radical moderate," because moderate seems to be a radical position at the moment, I've also thought that all liberal arts majors ought to be required to take a significant proportion of economics-based courses so that their tendency towards idealism is tempered a bit by the complexities of the realities of complex problem solving.


My fear is that we are experiencing times when focusing almost exclusively upon what we want for ourselves is posing potential problems beyond what we have chosen to care about. 


But, of course, isn't that what pretty much every great work of literature tells us?


Can we really discover the "right answers" if we've never discovered the great questions?


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