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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When reading bug bites, don’t turn out lights

When reading bug bites, don’t turn out lights | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
When it comes to parenting, my husband and I have screwed up our fair share of times.





Except for the part where the author says that she and her husband used to punish their kids by making them read for 30 minutes, this article brought back some fond memories about my childhood reading days.


I was always a pretty good, though not necessarily voracious, reader. My parents made the bi-weekly trip into town to go to the library a trip to anticipate. I still remember stumbling across a series of 'chapter books" about a family of pigs that could talk. I don't really have any other recollections except that on our trip to the library, I knew exactly where the series was shelved in the children's section and once through the main entrance doors, I'd make a beeline to see if the next volume in the series was available. 


Every year at Hannukah, one night''s present was guaranteed to be the most recent World Book Almanac. I'd devour that book, not in sequential order but by favorite sections first followed by articles with illustrations that caught my eye, then by topics that at quick glance had "something that caused me to pause" as I thumbed through the thick volume trolling for something that might be interesting. 


I wasn't particularly fond of Hannukah. Waiting a whole 24 hours between gifts, too often only to find that my parents were passing off a few pair of news socks or a 3-pack of underwear as a gift that counted wasn't my idea of adequate gift giving ettiquete. But I did look forward to the night when given the opportunity to select which gift from those left on top of the old upright piano where our Hannukah gifts taunted us for eight days a year, that I'd hit the jackpot and pick the present that was the new World Book Almanac.


When I was a little older, my parents did something extravagant. And, extravagance was not common in our household. They bought a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. It was the World Book Almanac on whatever the equivolent to steriods was in those days! Just stuff. I could always count on grabbing any random volume off the shelf and finding interesting articles to read.


But, my parents had a few parenting rules that were not held by several of my best friends' parents. Besides no gum ever, and no soda pop mostly, my access to comic books was extremely limited. And my favorite, Mad Magazine, was banned with scorn. Thankfully my buddy "The Looch" had parents who not only allowed him to read Mad Magazine, Looch even had a subscription! So, of course, like the forbidden fruit, I couldn't wait for Saturdays when I'd walk over a mile to "The Looch's" house to get a chance to read a little of this fascinating publication. The only subscription I had was to Archie comics. To this day I still believe my parents had more to worry about as I perused, well stared, at Betty and Veronica, wondering about the nature of the human anatomy than they ever had to worry about in Mad Magazine.


And then there was Mr. Kay! The guy that made me want to become an English teacher. He let us each design our own "outside reading" project. We had to read books of our own choice in addition to those he assigned for us to read. I don't remember the parameters he set for the number of books we were expected to read, but I remember that he set no parameters on the titles we chose. None. I was stunned. So immediately I asked if I could read some James Bond books. The real ones! The ones written by Ian Fleming. This was in the days before the syndication of the series. It was still in the days when the "real James Bond," Sean Connery played the role in movies, (that by the way my family was too poor to send me to see). 


"Really Mr. Kay? We can read anything we want?"


"What about James Bond?" I was pretty used to English teachers who scorned "junk literature."

And, then he did it, and he was so casual about it. "Whattaya say you read 'em all?" 


Well to tell you the truth I'd already read four of them, knew I liked them and knew that they were pretty fast reads so I said, "Well, yeah sure. I guess I could do that."


So let's cut to the chase. My vision was, first, I can learn a lot about "getting girlfriends" by reading about the suave James Bond and second, I could have a sort of bragging rights to say, "Oh yeah, I've read every James Bond book written... no big deal."


In reality that sentence always came out, ""Oh yeah, I've read every James Bond book written... that Mr Kay! He's so cool."


What I did not expect was that by the end of the semester, I "owned Ian Fleming." I could tell his style at a glance. I knew his sentence structures, his story telling techniques, the way he wrapped Bond's adventures in danger and the way he'd bring Bond so close to the "maybe he won't make it this time" point and yet still Fleming could come up with a perfectly plausible way for Bond to escape death at the very last second. 


And to my surprise, I knew Fleming so well that I also realized that Hollywood interpretations, even with the great Sean Connery, playing the lead, weren't really Ian Fleming's stories, but at best okay adaptations that missed the point sometimes.


Those one-on-one book talks as I finished every 2-3 titles became really interesting and thoughtful discussions, even as Mr. Kay gradually brought Bond's relationship with women into the conversations.


It was absolutely amazing to me that there was so much to think about in books that I realized that for most of my education to that point, reading "school books" never got me interested in the conversations and thinking they could generate because I was too misfocused upon the idea that reading the book was important in order to pass the test.


And as I sat there with Mr. Kay for our last book talk, I realized how much I would miss those talks. Mr. Kay then said as casually as he ever said anything, "Well, you did it Jerome. And, I hope you've enjoyed our talks as much as I have." That really got me! And he went on to say, "So I got you something you might enjoy. It's really nothing, but you might find it interesting." He reached into his drawer to get something and as his hand began to rise from the drawer with whatever it was he wanted to give me, he said, "It's another book by Ian Fleming." And with that he put a copy of "Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang" on the desk in front of me.


Ian Fleming wrote that? I couldn't believe it. I guess I didn't know all there was to know about my favorite author afterall.


And as a 17 year old student, I went home that afternoon and read that children's book from cover to cover and enjoyed the heck out of it.


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Kelly: Reading between the lines - News - The Times-Tribune

Kelly: Reading between the lines - News - The Times-Tribune | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |

"...Mom and Dad - apparently unaware that reading is a gateway drug that leads to mental disorders like critical thinking, skepticism and passion for learning - encouraged me to keep turning pages..."




Okay, I'll start with another warning. There is much for ultra conservatives to dislike about this satirical article. And, like all good satire, some will find it hilarious; others will find it outrageously offensive.


So if you want to skip my commentary below, here's an assignment. You may do it before, during, or after reading the article.



Is the brand of satire used by this article Horatian Satire or Juvenalian Satire? (HINT: Wikipedia does a superficial at best attempt to distinguish the two)



But, I offer this wisdom from Dick Cavett, ""It's a rare person who wants to hear what he doesn't want to hear."


You can read the article yourself, but I'd like to "riff some of my mental meanderings as I read it myself.


Whether liberal or conservative, refusing to even listen to the more articulate voices of the opposing point of view is a sign of adamant ignorance. Ignorance is forgiveable at some levels; adamant ignorance is shameful. 


I noticed an interesting phenomenon over the 30+ years that I taught a course called Satire that concentrated at various times on the works of Swift, Voltaire, Mark Twain, Orwell, and Vonnegut among others.


With some, but too few exceptions the problem with satire is that those who don't need it get it and those who need it don't get it.


It may have something to do with the black and white simplistic non-questioning approach taken by those who do not learn to see beyond the words when reading, whether that be literature or newspapers. Or heaven forbid those who simply do not read or think for themselves but exchange their potential for critical thinking  for the convenience of being told what to think. You can brainstorm your own list of those who make their livings telling people what to think. 


So, with a questionable segue, I'll mention that yesterday I had a chance to hear one of my educational gurus speak at the CUE Conference in Palm Springs, CA. David Thornburg has been sparking invaluable paradigm shifts in my professional development for multiple decades now. 


We were sitting in a larger conference room with beautiful tables that sat perhaps 10 people, each with a very comfortable chair, complete electrical connectivity, and gorgeous table top surfaces. And David pointed out that the room was, as nicely as it was furnished, just the kind of seating arrangement that classrooms have had for many, many years. Teacher up front with seating for students to sit and listen and take notes PASSIVELY.


The way David phrased it was moreeloquent, though at the time I was so entranced by the message that when I snapped out of the (en)trance to jot it down, I'm sure I did not remember it precisely as David said it. I'm paraphrasing a bit...


"This variation of traditional the classroom arrangement (teach up front facing rows of students) was NOT designed to get students to think; it was designed to get students to believe."


So whether you agree with the criticisms put forth in this article or not, the real question is did it get you to think?


My question is how do we as educators promote critical thinking in a world where those who incessently criticize without sound reasoning and are believed without question by those who want to believe what they believe more than they want to think about what they've heard?


Remember the old saying, "If you don't think for yourself, somebody else will"?



And, one more for those of you who might enjoy a satirical definition of satire...


"Satire, n. An obsolete kind of literary composition in which the vices and follies of the author's enemies were expounded with imperfect tenderness. In this country satire never had more than a sickly and uncertain existence, for the soul of it is wit, wherein we are dolefully deficient, the humor that we mistake for it, like all humor, being tolerant and sympathetic. Moreover, although Americans are 'endowed by their Creator' with abundant vice and folly, it is not generally known that these are reprehensible qualities, wherefore the satirist is popularly regarded as a sour-spirited knave, and his every victim's outcry for codefendants evokes a national assent. [Ambrose Bierce, "Devil's Dictionary," 1911]"


Oh alright! one last piece of trivia...

"Satire" and "sarcasm" are not synonyms. Sarcasm is an often used tool of satirists, but not all sarcasm is satirical. But did you know that the word "sarcasm" has its roots in a word that means "the tearing of flesh"? Ouch!


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Anatol Knotek's Visual Poetry Pieces Words Together To Make Art (PHOTOS)

Anatol Knotek's Visual Poetry Pieces Words Together To Make Art (PHOTOS) | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
The overwrought cliche "a picture is worth a thousand words" can be applied literally to artist Anatol Knotek.





WARNING: Preview before sharing with students. There are two images that are mildly sexual.


Most teachers of writing and literature know the famous clichés, "Show don't tell" and "Try to paint a picture with your words." You know...imagery.


Anatol Knotek does exactly that. literally. They are in fact, "hand written pictures."


Among the images here created entirely out of words are portraits of such luminaries of letters as Tom Waits, Bob Dylan and Hermann Hesse. And artists such as Picasso and Van Gogh.


So, I'm trying to do the math.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, is a picture of a thousand words worth a million words?


There's a kind of poetry there isn't there?



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My Book Problem

My Book Problem | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Recently, I moved to another apartment. While moving in itself is a traumatic event, my principal problem is books. I have a huge collection of books.





I suppose once one comes to terms with his or her feelings about paper books vs digital books, articles that promote one over the other or otherwise "make the argument" soon become of less and less interest. Who wants to play the same game of tug-of-war over and over again? 


In my own case, I like both formats. Each has its special place in my heart. Each has benefits and drawbacks that the other does not. 


What I don't quite understand, particularly since it is a debate between literate people, is the hostility often expressed on either side against proponents of the "other side."




Above the fray is the content. the heart, the wisdom the relevance and enlightenment that text can bring to the receptive, to the open, to the contemplative.


New ideas brought to us in the best books require us or woo us to consider our perceptions of living our lives well. But, that benefit requires that we be open to new considerations regarding existing perceptions.


We need only look at the the current political campaigns and the ridiculously adamant insistence of politicians never having had other viewpoints than those they currently hold. Growing, learning, adjusting our understandings, is a sign of thoughtfulness and openness. It is silliness to think that if we ever get caught having learned a thing or two that actually changes our existing paradigms that we've killed our credibility.


We need not accept every new idea as better than all old ideas. There is wisdom in the warning about throwing the baby out with the bath water. However, not being open to considering when the new might have value is just, well, it's just stubbornness. And stubbornness can be pretty annoying at times. 


Just READ!!! I for one will not condemn you for choosing your preferred mode of reading. 


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A Man Ranks How Likely He’d Be Caught Using a Kate Spade Book Clutch « PWxyz

A Man Ranks How Likely He’d Be Caught Using a Kate Spade Book Clutch « PWxyz | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |

Would a guy carry this? If you call it a clutch aka purse, probably not!  But, if you saw it as just another place to carry pens, pencils, loose change, cell phones, or a cool way to let the smart girl think you're cultured when you casually leave it on your desk in her peripheral vision... I dunno. Even if some guys wouldn't be attracted to the concept,  there are plenty of reasons to hope for a love of literature to bloom when concepts such as this one are cultivated.


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Audible Launches New Audiobook Series Featuring Hollywood Stars

Audible Launches New Audiobook Series Featuring Hollywood Stars | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Audible, the audiobook provider bought by Amazon in 2008, has just launched a new series of unabridged digital audiobooks read by Hollywood stars.




An intriguing idea. What happens when trained actors read aloud? There's a fine chance that the story comes to life in ways not possible in film adaptations. The reading is done so well that listeners become not only engaged in the story but do so in an environment where their own imaginations create "the movie in their heads." 


Yes, I've heard reading engagement frequently described as "when I'm reading a really good book it's like I'm watching a movie in my head." 


We've long discussed the difference between the "movie" and the "book," most often with a noticble skepticism in our tone regarding the movie. Even great movies like "To Kill A Mockingbird" fall terribly short in expressing the many rich facets of the book. And, the list of movie adaptations that are embarrassingly awful is too long to bother mentioning.


BUT, if it is so that part of the dilemma of the book vs. movie adaptation concern can be addressed by removing the time limit imposition of movies AND the "pre-imagined" visuals while maintaining a quality of a trained reading of the original text, then another question arises. And, it is an elephant in the classroom.


What is the impact of a cold reading by a reluctant and/or uninterested reader? It's a fairly common practice in classrooms to have students read aloud small sections of a book "sharing the task" of reading, say something like Act I of "Romeo and Juliet" or Chapter 1 of "The Grapes of Wrath."


It is sometimes by default assumed that this is "good practice" for students doing the reading.


Is it?


Or, is it possible that the downside of a cold reading for both the student reading and for the students listening to the reading far outweighs any benefit? 


Is it possible that such "practice does not make perfect." But, rather that such practice stirs feelings of extreme embarrassment and resentment in the "humiliated reader" and deep resentment and boredom in the "tortured ears" of those listening while dreading the fact that it will probably be their turn too soon?


Pretty harsh language I know. But, is it your experience that reluctant or struggling readers actually grow to love reading because they've had to read aloud in class? Perhaps it's possible that they DO eventually get to be better decoders, but does this mean they become engaged readers who enjoy diving into the world of books, even those they are not assigned to read?


And turning to those students who are skilled decoders, are they receptive to engaging in books outside of their normal areas of interest if those books' first impressions come through awkward readings, stumbling over pronunciation and complex sentence structures? 


Reading aloud works best when the audience is appreciative and encouraging. Thus, when parents express joy and pride while their very young children sound out words as they discover the magical world encoded in text, the child is exploring while being encouraged. And, eventually gets better and better AND more interested in and engaged by the wonders of reading.


But reading aloud in classrooms under pressure of embarrassment isn't as likely to be supported with the same levels of encouragement by either the teacher or the readers classmates. 


It's a delicate balance. If not done with care, there is a danger that everyone loses. The reader, the listeners, the teacher, as well as Harper Lee and William Shakespeare.


Addressing this issue need not be an either or situation. But, slight tweaks can change the environment significantly. For example, sell the book FIRST. Engage all students without fear of embarrassment or boredom BEFORE asking students to begin sharing the reading aloud responsibility. Gradually transition from a good reading by the teacher or better volunteer student readers. Once there is engagement, both the student reader and the listening classmates are more receptive to hearing what comes next in the story than they are annoyed by a poor reading of a story they have not yet developed an interest in.


Set up a reading aloud schedule so kids knowing that they will be asked to do some reading aloud the next day can preview the passage they will be asked to read. 


Offer readers an option of "passing" on reading on the condition that they'll be expected to read a little bit the next day. Then start the next day by letting the students who passed on reading the day before get their obligation out of the way right away rather than letting them sit there wondering and worrying about when they'll be called on.  


Offer readers an option of simply reading at least two paragraphs but letting them choose to read up to a full page if they wish. The minimum and maximums can be adjusted for grade appropriateness. But, simply giving them "some" control of the situation can go a long way towards alleviating the anxiety associated with reading aloud. 


Or if you'd prefer to have students all read, for example three paragraphs, then consider making it a practice to pick the next reader "randomly" rather than in a pre-determined order. This way you can "randomly" pick the struggling reader when you see a series of three shorter paragraphs coming up. 


Be careful about "over-assisting" while students sound out unfamiliar words. Give them a chance to sound out the word or guess the word from contextual hints. Sometimes just a few extra seconds for the puzzle pieces to fit together makes the struggle a challenge met rather than an embarrassing moment where the teacher had to jump in and save the student in front of the whole class.


Speaking of which, of particular interest to teachers of elementary age students, it's remarkable to turn upper grade struggling readers into student readers for younger grade students. Perhaps your struggling fifth grader can read well enough to be the "big kid" who comes into the second grade classroom to read a story to the little kids. He becomes a hero big kid reading to little kids.


This model can work in after school day care programs that many schools have as well. 


This puts the older child in a role model position while giving him additional practice and pride in his reading skills. This is a subtle improvement over having the older reader read "lower level" books in his own classroom where he and others are aware that "Johnny can't read as well as the rest of us." But, changing the paradigm from Johnny being the older guest reader for younger kids rather than always seeing himself as being the struggling reader among better readers puts Johnny in a position where practicing his reading aloud brings a sense of pride more often than a sense of shame.



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2012 Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence Award Ceremony

2012 Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence Award Ceremony - webcast Feb 16 2012...




Lyrics as poetry is not a new idea. In fact, my whole career path was triggered back in "nineteen hundred sixty garble garble" when Mr. Kay started teaching his poetry unit with a field trip to see Bob Dylan and followed it by an incredible discussion of Dylan's imagery.


So, it was a particular pleasure to run across this hour long video of the 2012 Song Lyrics of literary Excellence Award Ceremony.


A few speeches precede the actual awards presentations and they are pretty amazing articulations of the literary merit of song lyrics. In one we were reminded that originally all poetry was song. 


An hour? Yes, but any teacher of literature interested in engaging today's students in the poetry of song lyrics would do well to spend an hour with this video.


And then, whether said teachers are or are not familiar with contemporary song lyrics, pause to contemplate the possibility that perhaps their students might teach them a thing or two about pretty impressive lyric writing... and while doing so, ignite in those students an appreciation for a well turned/tuned line/lyric and even take pride in having received the respect from his or her teacher for having taught an old dog a new trick or two. 


Turning the tables can be a powerful learning experience for both students and teachers.


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Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss: 7 Facts You Didn't Know About The Author

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss: 7 Facts You Didn't Know About The Author | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
By Margaret Bristol for Bookish Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, wrote more than 60 children’s books, many of which became must-haves for every kid’s library before his death in 1991.





I'll be darned. Of the "7 Facts You Didn't Know" I didn't know any!


Though not a particular fan of wishing dead people a happy birthday, I'm certainly happy Theodor Suess Geisel had a birthday nevertheless.



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7 Lessons Celebrities Can Learn From The Berenstain Bears

7 Lessons Celebrities Can Learn From The Berenstain Bears | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
By Margaret Bristol for Bookish: Generations of readers have been mourning the death of prolific children’s author Jan Berenstain last Friday.






Yes, Jan Berenstain has passed away. Alas. Her passing is of course a loss. Fortunately, the Berenstain Bears will live on. 


I love this simple straight-forward "we can learn good lessons from reading" article. Even those we tend to give too much attention to have much to learn that might make them better role models rather than adored for the amount of chagrin they might bring to those who actually care more important things than being rich and famous for no particularly significant contribution to much of anything.


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7 Surprisingly Optimistic Books

7 Surprisingly Optimistic Books | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
That's what optimism is, after all: a belief that your life is going to work out for the best. However sad or challenging an experience might feel in the moment, there is a benefit to be gained.






I recall on more than a few occasions, when a student would build up the courage to ask THE question.


"Why do we always have to read such depressing books?"


At that time, the sophomore reading list dripped with titles such as "Too Kill A Mockingbird," "A Separate Peace," "Cyrano de Bergerac," and "Lord of the Flies" among other "optional titles." 


It was a tough question to answer in some ways. I used to refer to true optimism as being in the eyes of Atticus Finch's ability to know the challenge while still being able to fight, even a losing battle, having hope that the good fight may lead to others. Cyrano's character integrity, in spite of his ego issues, Holden, Huck, Candide, so many characters find themselves confronted by experiences that challenge their innocent brand of fairy tale optimism by simply smacking them in the face with the realities, often admittedly quite amplified, that the status quo is too often strongly influenced by those who are more vicious than virtuous and those who are more foolish than wise. It is the true optimists who find courage to strive for improvement. But, of course, they must first come to realize the call, the challenge, the obstacles that impede the kinds of progress towards a better tomorrow, before they can feel that sense of obligation to "do the right thing."


But, nevertheless, this lesson is often missed or "learned the hard way." A bitter pill to swallow if one is to "get better."


It is rarely a result of the fairy-tale rose-colored glasses versions of optimism that frequently rely upon little more than passive hope or perhaps worse, social pressure to "stop being so pessimistic. We're Number One, If you don't like it leave" kind's of advise from those who think it's good enough for them regardless of how it might be for their neighbors.


As an educator, working with the "sometimes we must swallow the bitter pill of reality" metaphor that I generally promote, I sometimes DO ASK the question as to the proper dosage for those pills. A steady stream of "downer" stories, in spite of their heroic protagonists, can be more discouraging than encouraging for some, perhaps many.


When transitioning from all is always butterflies and rainbows to it's not always good out there but you can survive, you can even be virtuous in the midst of evil; wise in the midst of folly, there is that transition period. There is that passage from innocence and unknowning to experienced and aware. It may not be the time to overdose on bitter pills. Maybe a little taste of winners and successes and conversions of those characters who were "not so good" as realistic models of the joys and rewards of doing the right thing ought to be tossed into the literary pharmacy.


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A bear-hug farewell to Jan Berenstain, cocreator of the Bear family

A bear-hug farewell to Jan Berenstain, cocreator of the Bear family | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Jan Berenstain, whose personality and art merged in the wise and gentle Mama Bear of the cartoon clan that she and her husband created, died at Doylestown Hospital on Friday of a stroke. She was 88.





There are some books and book series that just have their own special places in our hearts. I loved the Berenstain Bears books as a parent and even as a high school creative writing teacher. The artwork, the wonderful situations and storylines just seemed unique enough, sometimes funny in different sorts of ways than more traditional children's books.


I know, there are some who have concerns that the father figure was a bit of  weak model. I don't know. Maybe, Maybe not. But, I do know the joy of reading these stories, absorbing the wonderful illustrations, and hearing my high school students fondly reminisce about their fondness for these stories. 


And, somehow I can't help but think that those sometimes sentimental, but always fond recollections of the joys of reading are nice seeds to plant and nice memories to harvest. And, for teachers, nice opportunities to take students who may have lost the love along the way back to pleasant memories.


Thanks Jan Berenstain. You made a lasting difference in many a young and not-so-young heart.


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Oprah On Jimmy Kimmel: 'Book Club Fight Club' And Other Hilarious New Oprah Shows (VIDEO)

Oprah On Jimmy Kimmel: 'Book Club Fight Club' And Other Hilarious New Oprah Shows (VIDEO) | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Oprah and Jimmy Kimmel teamed up for an incredible series of sketches on Kimmel's post-Oscar show Sunday night.





Do NOT teach "To Kill A Mockingbird" again before watching Oprah go ballistic!


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Should We Still Be Using The Term 'Ethnic Literature'?

Should We Still Be Using The Term 'Ethnic Literature'? | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
There's nothing wrong with the term "ethnic literature" in its original intentions, but I am interested in what happens beyond the marketing of "ethnic literature." Reading ethnic writers reflects a greater trend towards an openness to world...





The wildly odd examples used by those opposed to political correctness have never deterred me from being concerned about the impact of traditional references that carry sexist or racist or ageist or other connotations of inferiority. "Firefighters" is a perfectly acceptable improvement on the older "firemen" as "peace officer" is a clear improvement on the older "policeman." In both professions, women have served and sacrificed as admirably as men in such honorable professions as these. 


As we move forward, such improvements do offer more social, economic, and political equality across previously, sometimes intentionally, sometimes inadvertently excluded citizens. 


The term "Foreign Language Department" is becoming "World Language Department" in many schools. Here in California, few languages are "foreign." And, we certainly have advantages in terms of great varieties of food, music, celebrations of various cultures and many other advantages that come along with diversity.


So as society makes efforts to progress, through attention to previous slights and unexamined default terminologies, we ought to always be open to moving forward with our terminology as society comes to recognitions that previously acceptable (or at least unquestioned) terms do disservice and that such terms can be replaced by terms that are more respectful.


There was a time when "Negroes" was the respectful term among those who cared about such things. But, it was later replaced by "Blacks" and later by "African-Americans." Similarly, "Orientals" was replaced by "Asians" which is appropriately giving way to "Koreans," "Japanese," "Chinese," etc. in recognition that there are many cultures and traditions that distinguish one group from the other and words like "Asians" tends to  imply that it's okay to not care to be able to tell one group from the other.


This article may be asking us to take another look at the evolution of how we speak of the writings of people not 100% of white protestant background, or whatever it is that is the distinction we once made when we realized that there is a disservice to much great literature when we restrict our reading lists to "the dead white guys canon" with an occasional lip service to authors of different colors, cultures or genitalia. 


We began addressing this injustice decades ago and courses in Women's Lit, African-American Lit, Hispanic Lit, began popping up in attempts to rectify the situation. Umbrella terms such as Ethnic Lit came into being. And the "Dead White Guys" had to share the stage. And, I say "Hurrah!" "Hurrah for any change that broadens the understandings of fellow classmates of other backgrounds." "Hurrah for making attempts beyond lip service to making students of other backgrounds feel welcome." "Hurrah for erasing color lines and cultural lines among friendships at school!"


So what does this article bring to the evolutionary process? It reminds us that changes that were once important improvements in how we addressed previously unaddressed injustices, may themselves age and be in need of revisting. Maybe the benefit of the term "Ethnic Literature" is wearing thin and contrary to its original intent, has begun to have a limiting affect that needs to be addressed. 


However, unlike the recent decisions by the good people of Tuscan to ban the authors taught in Ethnic Studies classes and thereby to eliminate the need to have "Ethnic Literature" classes, it just may be time to replace or drop the term "Ethnic Literature" in favor of courses that do represent the broader cross cultural literary treasures without the connotations of "that other group" of writers somehow being "other."


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Are e-books bad for long-term memory? | SmartPlanet

Are e-books bad for long-term memory? | SmartPlanet | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
A growing body of research shows it is hard to retain facts and information when reading an e-book.





I don't know how often while scouring the net for articles to scoop for this topic, I find myself discovering articles that seem to link together in ways that mere coincidence must strain to explain.


Having earlier scooped an article that led me on a contemplative journey regarding whether we are willing to listen to what we do not want to hear or read what we do not want to agree with, I suggested that not wanting to experience the opposing points of view was a sign of adamant ignorance; an almost unforgivable sin unlike "regular" ignorance. This is because ignorance is the norm and only means that we are unaware. It does not mean that we are incapable of knowing; merely that for some reasons we have not yet come to know much about a topic. Whereas, adamant ignorance is an insistence upon remaining unknowing; a stubborn kind of resistance to knowing.


And then I came across this article which pushes some buttons that got me wondering if I am any less adamant about resisting articles that seem to support what I don't want to believe are true.


So, as I read the article, I found myself arguing against the thesis a bit more than I was taking in the argument being posed. I do not want to believe that it is true that reading e-books is bad for long-term memory. In fact, having just spent a great weekend at the Computer Using Educators' Conference in Palm Springs where e-books were definitely a hot topic, and remarkable examples of the (r)evolutionary impact e-books are having on the very concept of what a book is, I came away thinking that we are just at the beginning of discovering the wonders that e-books can bring to the reading and learning experience. 


I suspect that this article and the research it rests upon is limited to the simplest forms of e-books that are essentially simply electrified text with a few additional resources such as bookmarks and maybe embedded definitions. 


But, having seen much of the "far beyond that" stuff coming down the proverbial pipe, I think it is clearly too soon to draw conclusions of this sort about e-books since the media is in its infancy at best. iPads/iBooks for example are bringing highlighting, notes, and marginalia possibilities to the reading experience. Publishers are now embedding video and audio media in place of still images and graphics that include interactive exploration of such things as human biology, the laws of physics, and critical thinking applications allowing readers to experiment with concepts rather than to merely read about experiments.


And, iBook Author is allowing anyone to experience the long held maxim that having to teach something is the best way to learn something. So readers become writers who must really wrap their heads around concepts in order to build their own e-books as demonstrations of what they have learned in their research about the subject.


It's engaging in ways that looking at static text, digital or ink, can not be.


Sure, there is much flash and dazzle which may or may not be as engaging as we'd like to believe it is, but again we're in the infancy stage of the digital book era.


I truly suspect that in a year or so, as we have just a bit of time for the unrecognized potential that digital can bring to the reading experience, that future studies may come to very different conclusions.


So am I adamantly resisting the thesis posed here because while reading it, it did stimulate thinking on my part that counterargues?


I don't know. My test in such cases is always more or less the same. Was I open enough to the argument to also find things to consider that I had not already consider. Perhaps, not enough to change my general existing paradigm but perhaps enough to help refine my understanding and positions?


In this article the spatial context argument was intriguing. I don't feel my location as clearly beyond the sentence I'm reading on the page I'm reading as I'm used to in a paper based book. I don't feel that thickness of pages in the entire book where I have a visual and even tactile sense of whether I'm at the beginning of the book (as in the pages in my right hand exceed in tactile thickness, the pages in my left hand as I hold the "book." When the thickness shifts from my right hand to my left hand in a paper-based book, I don't feel that anticipation that I may be approaching the end of a mysterious voyage or approaching the day when I'll have to go find a replacement book because I "reached the end" and there was no more "thickness of pages" in my right hand.


And come to think of it, this contemplation reminded me that I do feel a bit confused, even annoyed at times by the fact that pagination in ebooks no longer really helps me locate myself within the story because the pagination is not consistent when I alter font sizes while reading.


So... no, the article did not change my mind, I still think it's way too soon to pass this sort of judgment on the "new" book form. However, there are contemplations here regarding the subtle differences in the reading experience that I had not previously considered and that I do beleive are worth including in the refined version of my opiniion about the paper/digital conversation.


I'm now more open to the pro-paper argument than before, but also not convinced that during the transition period or the early days of one format compared with the other, that the issues presented here will among other pro-paper considerations, grow or recede as the digital formats evolve.


So Amy Kraft, I don't have the same concern you have, but I am grateful for having read your article. You did give me much to think about.


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Val Kilmer In 'Citizen Twain': Actor To Play Mark Twain In New One-Man Play

Val Kilmer In 'Citizen Twain': Actor To Play Mark Twain In New One-Man Play | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Val Kilmer is set to play the backwoods literary genius Mark Twain in his one-man show "Citizen Twain," Playbill reports.






Okay! I'm a real big Mark Twain fan. Really big, and don't get me started on that ignorant argument about Mark Twain's use of the "N" work in Huckleberry Finn! 


But, there are some nit-picky issues I have with the author of this article. And, they have nothing to do with Mark Twain or Val Kilmer.


The first is that opening reference to Mark Twain being a "backwoods" literary genius. "Backwoods?" Uh, I've been to Hannibal, MO. I'm trying to figure out what references were ever made that would lead someone to choose that particular adjective as the best one to describe Mark Twain.


Another is that caption on the left under the photo of Val Kilmer. What has happened to journalism? Check out which words are capitalized and which words are not. Also, check out the third and fourth words in the caption. Who the heck is marT twain?

Call me nit-picky if you want. But those kinds of errors are in the league with the superficial "just-don't-get-it" conclusion jumping behind the criticism of Huckleberry Finn. 


Another irritation with the writer of this article (who is not named for some reason) is the penultimate paragraph where he or she points out that this isn't the "first time Twain, or his works has been on state either." And proves his/her point with two examples neither of which includes an awareness of Hal Holbrook's incredible one man performance that ran for years on stages all around the world and on records (remember records?) entitled "Mark Twain Tonight." Incredibly Holbrook has performed this on stage over 2,200 times over 58 consecutive years! 


(AN ASIDE) Many know that the author's real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens not Mark Twain. Some know that Mark Twain had nothing to do with the common name "Mark." "Mark twain" was what the riverboat leadsman would call when the water was two fathoms deep (about 12 feet), deep enough for most boats to pass through safely.


And because of this, scholars typically scorn the reference to Mark Twain as "Twain," preferring to refer to him as Clemens if they wished to use the traditional last name only mode or "Mark Twain" if referring to him using his nom de plume.


Nevertheless, I do wish Val Kilmer well. We need the wisdom of Mark Twain today more than ever. 


I just hope that some day I'll get a personal call from Val Kilmer letting me know that he has reserved four free tickets for me at a nearby performance and an invitation to stop by the green room after the show to meet him like Hal Holbrook once did for me many years ago. But, that of course is another story.


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'Forbes' Billionaire List: JK Rowling Drops From Billionaire To Millionaire Due To Charitable Giving

'Forbes' Billionaire List: JK Rowling Drops From Billionaire To Millionaire Due To Charitable Giving | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Even Harry Potter's wizardry couldn’t have prevented this blow. JK Rowling, the first female novelist billionaire, recently lost her exclusive status because of some very good deeds.






Let's assume for the good of it that the opening line of this article was an attempt to be amusing. Of course it was, but for reasons I can't quite articulate, I find it annoying in its reliance upon the perpetuating, intended or unintended, the default assumption that JK Rowling's "losing" her "coveted" place on the billionaire list is a "blow" that any sensible person would recognize as a terrible event.


JK Rowling, still plenty rich enough, still "sacrificed" her place on this list of people too rich for theirs AND more than likely our own good. 

Why? probably because she's a reader and writer and has spent some time contemplating the deeper values that great literature brings to one's existence than, than,... than even money and the pleasures of self-indulgence beyond imagination.


It is debatable whether or not anyone has done more than JK Rowling to stimulate young and old to return to the book as a valuable way to some portions of their time.


For years perhaps only the pending release of some new Apple products has generated more anticipation and midnight line standing than the pending release of another Harry Potter book.


Truth be told, there is a definite decline in enthusiasm for reading well-told stories even among the best of students. And, among those who begin their reading days with enthusiasm, too many of them also drift from their intense appreciation for reading as they climb the educational ladder.


I can't claim to know the "cause" for the decline in reading. Some blame "bad teachers;" few blame (at least out loud) bad parenting; some blame "boring required books;" some blame standardized testing's having stripped the pleasure of reading by redirecting the value of reading from the joys of contemplating and learning valuable lessons about transitioning from being merely human beings to becoming humane beings to being of little more value than being about passing the test a goal with little advantage if it at the same time is partnered with a dreaded inconvenience of testing, testing, and more testing.


Personally, I want JK Rowling and others like Warren Buffett and even Bill Gates, and quite a few Hollywood-types, all of whom have found more important things to do with their money than the amount of money they accumulate. 


I'm not a socialist as the black and white thinkers who are loudly professing the simplistic understanding they having of the rights and obligations of being members of a SOCIETY. 


After all, in the global society of the 21st century we are all neighbors.


 Thanks JK for caring more about what ought to be cared about than about preserving your spot on this list.


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12 Book Titles That Came From Poems

12 Book Titles That Came From Poems | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
By Gabe Habash for PWxyz: Sometimes a book title is a no-brainer.




And sometimes they're more than meets the eye! How many of these popular titles did you know came directly from famous poems? And, did you know the poem the titles came from?


The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust

Endless Night by Agatha Christie

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

I know Why the Caged Bird Sings by May Angelou

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

A Passage to India by E.M. Forster


Yes, all these titles came from poems...

Can you name the source poem? or a few of the lines referenced? or the poet?


Click the title to see the answers.



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Jonathan Jarc's comment, March 19, 2012 8:30 AM
Let's not forget "Catcher in the Rye"...
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Average Book Length: Guess How Many Words Are In A Novel

Average Book Length: Guess How Many Words Are In A Novel | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
By Gabe Habash for PWxyz According to Amazon’s great Text Stats feature, the median length for all books is about 64,000 words.




Interesting... though the article's author suggests that it's unclear as to why this information might be useful, it is interesting to note that California State Standards for high school language arts has for many years had standards that defined the amount of outside reading that students should do in terms of millions of words read per year, a calculation that one might think was a bit difficult to assess to say the least!


However, if estimates are close enough, there is a simple way to calculate a gross estimate.


STEP ONE: Find the last FULL PAGE of text in the book and the first three unindented full lines on that page.


STEP TWO: Count the number of words in those three lines and divide by three to get an average number of words per line.


STEP THREE: Count the number of lines on that page and multiply by the average words per line determined in STEP TWO to get an average number of words per page.


STEP FOUR: Determine the page number for the first actual page of the story (remember books often do not start the actual story on Page 1) and the page number for the last page of the story (again, this is frequently not the last page of the book). Subtract to find out the number of actual story pages in the book.


STEP FIVE: Multiply the number of story pages determined in STEP FOUR by the average number of words per page determined in STEP THREE to get a rough estimate of total number of words in the story.


It's only a rough estimate, of course, because some books leave last pages of chapters partially blank and/or leave significant blank space at the top of the first page of new chapters. Because of these issues the calculation will be a bit high as the formula assumes that all pages are "full" of text.


Some have suggested that this can be refined by using the paragraph with the shortest last line for the calculation in STEPS One and Two because this would reduce the average number of words per line and therefore words per page and subsequently words in the story and thus compensate a bit for the high guesstimate. 


I never worried too much about this and the kids liked the "bias" in their favor.


I even went so far as to create a Word Document that magically did the calculations for the kids. They were amazed and I took the opportunity to plant the seed that English teachers also appreciate the wonders that math is capable of.


Finally, another benefit. Since I had my students for 1/3 of the year and I assumed that they might be doing appropriate reading at home and in other classes I abitrarily set the outside reading goal at 1/3 of a million words per semester. So when kids would ask how many books they "had to read," I could respond, "Well, I guess that depends upon whether you read skinny books or not so skinny books!"


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'Little Free Libraries' Hope For Lending Revolution : NPR

'Little Free Libraries' Hope For Lending Revolution : NPR | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Two Wisconsin men are on a mission to break Andrew Carnegie's record of creating over 2,500 libraries.




(Audio and transcript)

Would this work in your neighborhood? Mini-Take One Leave One libraries popping up on front lawns in neighborhoods all over. Well, over 200  Little Free Libraries in 34 states and 17 countries. What if they started popping up in parks where moms and dads taking walks with the kids could stop grab a book, find a bench and add a nice storytime right into the morning walk?


Sure there are a lot of "Yes, buts..." BUT aren't there always? Do challenges always stop intriguing ideas?

What about the "Yes ands..."? And, what if youth groups organized a light-weight responsibility for monitoring books left and redistributing books from "overstocked" mini-libraries to "understocked" libraries? And, what if local libraries made aging books available for refilling mini-libraries when the "takes" ocassionally exceed the "leaves"? And what if the local high school shop classes or cabinetry shops volunteered to build a few of the libary cabinets? And, what if families began to establish family traditions where everyone was encouraged to celebrate their gift receiving days such as birthdays and other holidays by gifting the mini-libraries too. 


There are challenges sure certain, but there are definitely rewards aplenty.



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The Political Dr. Seuss

The Political Dr. Seuss | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |

"A selection of little known World War II-era political cartoons by the famed children's author Dr. Seuss will be on display from March 11 through October 16, 2000 at the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum in the special exhibition The Political Dr. Seuss. (left: Pay Your Income Tax Here, Political cartoon by Dr. Seuss, from the newspaper PM, May 27, 1942)"




Yesterday we celebrated Dr. Seuss' birthday. This morning I ran across this article that reveals the serious adult political cartoons of this beloved "childrens author."


NOTE: The cartoons are miniscule. Click on them to enlarge.


Wait a minute! Did that quote from the article's first paragraph say 1942!?


Hard to believe how the conversation has resurfaced virtually unresolved. 


We are still "debating" the issues around taxes and who should or shouldn have to pay taxes.


And, unfortunately, today we may have lost ground in the conversation about what may or may not be acceptable reading in our schools.  


I wonder if articles like this will create a significant backlash against one of our most beloved children's authors. 


I also wonder where informed liberals and informed conservatives go to balance their understandings of the other side's intelligent arguments. 


In my classroom, I took my obligation to not promote my own political views quite seriously. I would tell my students that I did not care whether they held more conservative or more liberal opinions; but I did care that whether they leaned one way or the other, that they took the responsibility of being well-informed very seriously. 


And, I had a simple test. "If you can not identify at least three positions taken by those who lean the other way that at least cause you to pause and seriously consider whether you might need to adjust your opinion, then you are not yet 'well-informed enough.' "


But of course, that test requires that one first give the opposition credit for having some intelligent concerns.




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Pew Survey: Does Technology Effect Young People's Brains Positively Or Negatively?

Pew Survey: Does Technology Effect Young People's Brains Positively Or Negatively? | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - There is a good chance young people growing up in today's always-wired world will eventually become bright, nimble decision makers - if they don't wind up intellectual lightweights unable to concentrate long enough to chew over a good book."




While I make no bones about being a rather enthusiastic fan of the possibilities of new technologies, this report clearly exposes  a "possible" elephant in the room that I've been concerned about for quite awhile.


I'm old enough to remember how microwave ovens were going to give us more time to read and to do other things that would improve our lives because we'd have to devote less time to hunting and foraging and cooking.


The possibilitiy was certainly there; but of course, they also provided the possibility to slip deeper into existing wasting of the additional time they provided. There is not an inherent default that when given more time we'll use that time any more wisely than we used our time prior to the new technology's impact on our lives.


Technologies such as Twitter and similar popular technologies, are used by some as superb crowdsourcing tools and by others as fixes for their addiction to drivel. 


We can choose to watch the News Hour or E! TV.


It really isn't the technology that is to blame so much as it is the mashup between those who know that drivel sells and those who line up to buy drivel.


It is not a new phenomenon. 


Those who do have the stamina "to concentrate long enough to chew over a good book" may well remember Aldous Huxley's Soma-holidays that somehow became not holidays, but the norm where essentially perpetual holidays were taken by the masses from responsibility and caring.


This is problematic in a world where complex issues require complex solutions and a disturbing percentage of the citizenry spends too little time questioning or taking responsibility for seeking any solution beyond promised quick fixes that far too often do not seem to fix.


I found this quote from the article particularly worrisome,...  


"In contrast, the ability to read one thing and think hard about it for hours will not be of no consequence, but it will be of far less consequence for most people," Jonathan Grudin, Microsoft Inc's top researcher and one of the survey's respondents, said in comments carried in the Pew report." 


 Really? It'll be okay? Really?


I just don't think so! My take is that now more than ever we should be using the benefits of new technologies to read more not less of the greatest articulations of the human condition so that in complex times with complex problems we will be up to the task of being more able to match our understandings, opinions, and actions to the task of facing the complex responsibilities of a complex world.


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A Writer's Journey Through Oz

Aussies proudly read more books per capita than anywhere in the world. Despite this impressive statistic, Australia is aiming to fill its literacy gaps and extend the rewards of reading to every citizen.





In reference to my previous post, I went on and on trying to suggest what this article captures with the simple sentence, "Words can surprise us with their potential to ignite courage and optimism."


That's why writers write. But there has to be a need for courage and optimism in order to exemplify the need to ignite that courage and optimism. 


If we do not see the problem then we can not envision the challenge to be part of the solution.



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14 Movie Cameos by the Authors of the Original Books - Mental Floss

14 Movie Cameos by the Authors of the Original Books - Mental Floss | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
14 Movie Cameos by the Authors of the Original Books

Some authors like to wink at those in the know by appearing in the movies based on their books. Keep your eyes peeled for these writer cameos the next time you’re enjoying one of their movies.





I dunno, stories like this just make me happy! 


That's all!


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With each pizza delivered in Spain, books for the Colombian needy

With each pizza delivered in Spain, books for the Colombian needy | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
The Books for Colombia effort recently used pizza deliveries in Spain to get books to the needy in Colombia.






An interesting take on the old fashioned book drive. There is a clear tendency for corporations to want to participate in programs aimed at social good. More and more companies are recognizing the value in such good works not only in the actual good work being done and certainly also for their own reputations, but also it turns out that many are coming to realize that the workforce and work environments are much improved as employees tend to take pride in knowing that the companies they work for are also involved in doing good. Thus, they are happier workers and the character of the workplace improved with that pride.


What are the chances that your students might organize a "book drive" that includes a "subsidized" element from hometown shop owners and companies? Whether the beneficiaries are local or distant, there just may be a contagious pride that spreads among students and local businesses.


And, of course, spreading the words of books is always a win for the beneficiaries of such noble efforts.



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The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (2011)

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr.Morris Lessmore (2011)...



Just in case you missed this when I posted it a month ago. How proud we can all be that this beautiful movie won an Oscar last night!


Re-enjoy it!


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