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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Martin Luther King Jr. and the Common Core: A critical reading of “close reading”

Martin Luther King Jr. and the Common Core: A critical reading of “close reading” | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

7 August 2015


A must read, as is viewing the video upon which  author Daniel E. Ferguson bases his concerns. 


The video is available here: 


I'm going to forgo my usual verbosity and say, read the article. Watch the video.


Read Martin Luther King Jr's Letter from a Birmingham Jail. 


And, then, read Sir Ken Robinson's "The Global Search for Education: More Arts Please " here. ;


Read them closely and then read them critically. 


Which way does your scale tip?


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The Ethics of Sarcastic Science

The Ethics of Sarcastic Science | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Every year the British Medical Journal publishes an issue of joke science. But years later, those papers are cited as real.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

23 August 2014


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Here's one for the Informational Reading folks. And, it's actually quite informative despite its reliance upon references to intentional "Joke Science" articles as its starting point.


"Joke Science" in such satirical venues as The Onion, IS FICTION of course. And, only the densest of readers would miss The Onion's clear signals that nothing it publishes is true. The stories are ludicrous and surrounded by stories that are also ludicrous. And, it would be hard to even imagine that someone would wind up on The Onion site without knowing that it's a modern day Mad Magazine.


"In context" the signs are hard to miss that it's just funny stuff intended to amuse us without intention to misinform us. 


But, what happens when those amusing stories or stories like them published in any number of "April Fools-type" issues of otherwise serious publications are taken "out of context" and redistributed via social media or gossip or via conspiracy-adamant sharing venues by those who like to share funny things, or those who like to share  ill-informed/misinformed/disinformed "information" they've read with the rest of the world?


The  signals that The Onion or "April Fools issues surround their articles with are gone and it becomes more likely that if not read carefully, the reader might easily assume with unquestioned trust that the article originally was published by a reliable source. 


No this does not ONLY FOOL THE FOOLS. This article notes that much of this amusing fiction winds up being cited in very serious scholarly work. 


Truthfully, I was shocked that I hadn't considered the obviousness of this finding prior to reading this article. Social networking for all of its benefits does also raise the likelihood that information is often quite divorced from its source. and probably more often than not, divorced from an assumption that the information will be read with the same level of intellectual scrutiny as the original article in its original context would be read. And, unlike Wikipedia, where we have come to be cautious about the validity of any article at any time, we also can recognize that Wikipedia itself has instituted practices intended to reduce its content's margin of error. We know enough to warn our students that Wikipedia is NOT original source information and that it should never be relied upon as a sole source of information. Wikipedia continually warns us of this possibility.




Wikipedia also is pro-active in warning us. Anyone who had used  Wikipedia enough has seen header banners on articles warning that the article lacks reliable citation or expresses a bias. 


Many people have learned that one quick way to use Wikipedia as a starting point is to search for a subject and then immediately scroll to the bottom of the page to see a list of links to the article's referenced sources. In this mode, the Wikipedia article might serve as a useful starting point and possible overview of a subject AND a quick way to find sources that might be likely "go to" sources for more reliable places to dig deeper.


But what happens when the bridge between information and all references to its reliability are severed?


This is not to say that information received through redistribution severed from its original context is to be assumed unreliable. But, it is safe to say that information received through redistribution severed from its original context ought to be read with caution. 


It's quite a bit like that old classroom game called telephone where a story is shared from one student to another who shares what he or she believes he or she heard to another student who... well, you've probably played the game. The last student when asked to share the story aloud to the class generally shares a story with very little, if any, resemblance to the original story.


And, this is what happens when the story was only shared among a group that knows the rest of the group.


An interesting question might be to brainstorm all of the many possible explanations for why the original story inevitably fails be to be accurately reflected once it goes through the multiple incarnations of its redistribution.


I would suggest that poor memory or poor hearing/listening are only the most obvious explanations. It is the less obvious causes that reveal the essential elements of a sophisticated  informational literacy skill set. 


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Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |

GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Happy to announce the publication of our newest Google Lit Trips for Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. This Lit Trip was developed by Dalena Luis, a graduate student from the College of Education at the University of Central Florida.


Bud, Not Buddy is of particular interest as it is one of the English Language Arts Common Core Standards exemplar works for Literary Reading. And, it has won several awards for Literature.


Bud, Not Buddy is posted both in the K-5 and the 6-8 sections of the Google Lit Trips website.


We have also published a Google Lit Trip for Christopher Paul Curtis' The Watsons Go to Birmingham.


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WHOA: This Is What Life Hacks Looked Like 100 Years Ago

WHOA: This Is What Life Hacks Looked Like 100 Years Ago | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
You know... everyone thinks the thought of a life hack is just some new thing created by folks on the internet. But as this Reddit post is showing, people have been thinking of clever ways to create easy solutions for over a hundred years.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Well, who would have thought ....




Let's talk about Informational reading...


I found this article pretty interresting. I'd use it in class.


With the exception of the very clear labeling indicating that these quite clever and great examples of what might have been at the time fanscinatinging clever examples of out of the box thinking, I couldn't help but wonder about the corporate decision to sell cigarettes without any mention of why someone would want to buy cigarettes, why this particular brand of cigarettes might in some way be considered a better tasting or more convenient or even healthier alternative choice than another brand of cigarettes. (Note that the article includes examples from competing cigarette companies)


The deceptive art of misdirection in advertising  is nothing new. 

We live in times when cherry-picking evidence to support our opinions and what passes for debate is too often a matter of who can most "successfully" pull the wool over the eyes of  the inattentive by side-stepping  the obligation of considering the validity of rational counter-arguments. Through deliberate refusal to veer from pre-established talking points.crafted by wordsmiths, handlers, "interested" financial benefactors, (perhaps with the help of an English major or two) to deflect legitimate challenging questions and to transform through repetition exceptions to the rule into what appear to be examples of the rule.


Why misdirect in advertising? It works and most importantly consumers don't even know they've been had. 


Ask a class of high school students whether or not they are tricked into buying "stuff" by commercials because they happen to be funny, or sexy or bordering or crude, or as in the case of the cigarette ads in this scooped article, actually interesting and useful but at the same time completely and intentionally free of useful information about the product. 


Will you be surprised at how many of your students will make some claim to the effect that there may be stupid people enough to be fooled, but they're too smart to fall for it, who at the very same moment are wearing logo-branded clothing turning themselves into walking advertisements?


And then ask them if they're even aware of the extent of the extent to which the practice of stealth advertising has permeated their world, particularly the parts of their world that they spend hours a day paying attention to not even realizing they're being sold.. 


Some interesting efforts to misdirect perception of the unwitting::


Stealth Ads: They're Effective — And Priced To Move

Be sure to watch the Jumping in Jeans video. It's just too cool to wonder whether this was bought and paid for by Levi's!

_________ has several examples of its ability to place ads sereptiously in front of unquestioning eyes. Besides the Jump into your Jeans campaign there are several more examples of their "fine work" here.:



And you have to give credit. They're perfectly willing to reveal some of the elements employed to deceive and thereby influence viewers eager to be entertained by their clients (un)commercials.


IF I WERE DESIGNING AN INFORMATIONAL READING learning experience, I might begin by pre-selecting a few of the videos featured  in this website to casually share in class without revealing the reason why I'd decided to share them with the class.. Though I think it would be important to find the best ones on their original YouTube sites to show them as they were meant to be seen. As well as to let them see how popular they have been.


After sharing five or six or so, I'd let the class discuss which were the coolest videos. And, I might after enough time to let the conversation gain momentum, casually ease in questions like, "What kind of people would do such things?" (as though I were enjoying the opportunity to feel superior to the people in the video) Or "Are these people cool? or idiots? or crazy? or, try this, "Are they YOLO"?  (Just in case  this term hasn't crossed your trajectory, it stands for "You Only Live Once:," which has become a mantra in defense of doing just about anything from climbing Mt. Everest to getting totally out of control at a party.)


I'd let the conversation roll for awhile leaving enough time to say something like, "Hey, you guys want to see something really cool about these videos? And I'd flip back to the pages on the site where they can see "WHO" these people really are. They're all actors being paid by various big companies to make their products attractive without letting you even know what they're up to. 


And, I'd leave just enough time at the end of the class period to ask the question, "So how much of this class period was I doing stealth teaching?" and "Did it work?"


What might be of interest in a flipped classroom sort of way would be to go through this warm up experience and then send kids home with the assignment to Google "stealth advertising" and to find three articles that are primarily text that are  published on "reliable" websites. They should collect the URLs for the articles they chose to be ready to discuss in class the next day along with a list of the four or five talking points they wanted to remember about the article for class discussion the next day.


When I googled "Stealth Advertising" Google provided as usual links to similar searches at the bottom of the first page of results including such related ideas as:

 • fcc targeting stealth advertising
• stealth advertising definition
• stealth advertising examples
• product placement
• stealth ads
• undercover marketing techniques


I don't know about this, but I'd guess that even though the assignment specifically limits them to finding articles that are primarily text, I'd bet money that engagement levels might well have them choosing to take some side trips into the area of checking out some of the Images for Stealth Advertising links that they will also see on the first page of results. And, if they happen to mention any of the images they saw while looking at image results or began talking about product placement they had seen ...


Well, then I'd take that as a fairly positive assessment indicator of how well I had done in engaging students in some quite important informational reading.


p.s. If you want to get crazy about it, either show or suggest that interested students check out the Morgan Spurlock film, "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold."


It's a movie about making a movie about product placement that is completely funded by product placement.


Here's a link to the trailerl


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Common Core Literacy Standards: Portrait of College & Career Readiness or Habits of Mind

Common Core Literacy Standards: Portrait of College & Career Readiness or Habits of Mind | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
I am an idealist. I am an optimist. I credit my optimism for carrying me in times of trial and grief. I look for the best in people and in situations. I believe positivism generates enthusiasm and ...
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

An interesting read for teachers of reading who find themselves "pounding tables" during faculty and department meetings devoted to the Common Core Standards. 


When we find ourselved either literally or metaphorically table pounding about the pros or cons associated with the Common Core Standards, we might find ourselves so locked into our position that we might have great difficulty identifying the elements of the opposing argument that are worth considering and conceding as having merit not particularly well addressed by our own positions.


The first task in taking a thoughtful position is to inform ourselves regarding the defenses and critiques being put forward  by the intelligent and well-informed on both sides. Actually I suppose this means to weed out the loud and less well informed white noise. 


Is the 70% informational reading /30% literary reading controversy a demotion of literary reading or a spreading of the responsibility for all reading instruction across the curriculum?


Does the stated goal of college and career readiness include or overlook the other literary benefits to life beyond college and career such as being good parents and neighbors, responsible and understanding members of our various communities, and being open to at least an appreciation and respect for the perspectives, cultures, points-of-view, histories and traditions of others?


This article is a thoughtul endorsement of the Common Core Reading Standards. Though it is clear that the author has not addressed some major concerns such as whether or not the Common Core is a sufficiently funded mandate or whether assessment structures for literary reading are done in authentic conditions capable of adequately limiting the margin of error factor caused by a cold reading of an excerpt under the pressure of high stakes testing, are capable of measuring whether the student takes value from reading or has only gained the advanced literary skills useful for scholarly analysis, whether or not the benefits of being able to do so are indicators of whether the benefits of liteary reading are even received. 


But, raising and intelligently addressing counterarguments one way or the other is a necessary obligation of those entrusted with the education of any society. To pick a side and expect those with opposing points of view to be open to respectful consideration of those points of view while being open to reconsidering or refining their own points of view without being willing to do so ourselves is folly. 


In reading this article, I found myself at times in agreement with some positions and defenses and  disagreeing with some positions and defenses at other times. 


It seemed like a perfect opportunity to employ my standby practice of color-coding my initial reactions whereby I'd pull out my three different colored highlighters and highlight parts of the article that I had a strong positive reaction to in green, parts that I had an initial strong negative reaction to in red, and partis that I had quite mixed feelings about in yellow. 


And then after a day or two, I'd go back and revisit my initial "gut reactions" and challenge myself to understand the thinking behind intelligent and informed people who might well have a very different distribution of green, red, and yellow highlights than I had. And, rather than take the position that my only obligation at that point was to fiercely defend my positions as "trump cards" in a winner take all debate, to take the position that the debate is too important to not constantly be reconsidering my own opinions in light of any thought provoking influences that respect for and openness to the thoughts and concerns of other points of view might bring.







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Grant Writing: Blending Literature and Community

Grant Writing: Blending Literature and Community | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
New type of English Lit assignment - Grant Writing. Learn about a great lesson idea that allows High School students to write, present and defend a proposal for a grant. Covers Common Core Standards for English Language Arts.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Now this is what I'm talking about!


If literary reading has value in the 21st century, then providing learning experiences for our students helping them to discover absolutely real-world relevance to that value is a must.


This is an "A++" learning experience. The rubric evaluation need go no further than one student's comment that this was a lesson she would remember for the rest of her life. 


One element that I found particularly impressive in light of the Common Core division of reading into Literary Reading and Informational Reading and all of the controversy as well as misunderstandings on both sides of that controversary, is that this assignment meets requirements for both types of reading and brings the value of each together in a project that engages students by emphasizing the relevance of each kind of reading to the other in the real world because neither fiction alone nor facts alone is enough. 


We need not assume that the Informational Reading our students do in their English classes be treated as reading "true stuff' disconnected to storytelling. Both are necessary elements for living in the real world and can be perceived as being relevant and thereby engaging, particularly  when linked together in innovative projects such as this.


The wisdom of literary reading and the facts of Informational reading need not be two separate coins. They ought to be considered two sides of the same coin. And, that single coin might be the most valuable coin of the 21st century realm.


And be sure to notice in the right hand column that several resources are provided for bringing this project ot your classroom.


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Students miss literature’s lesson

The first major piece of literature I ever taught at the high school level was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic American novel, “The Scarlet Letter.”
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Just a few comments, but before making my thoughts on this article.


What the heck is going on in this article with the little number 1 that pops up to the left of the story as one hovers one's mouse pointer over each paragraph? So distracting that I attempted to hide the phenomenon by sliding the window as far off the screen as possible without losing the left edge of the story. 


The good news is that when I stopped "tracking my progress through the story with my pointer, I discovered that if I moved it to the RIGHT of the story the phenomenon ceased.


If you know what's happening a quick note to would be appreciated.



Now about the article...


I was attracted to the story by its headline. I've been concerned for quite some time that an unintended consequence of the intense interest in "testing, testing, testing" as an "harmless and/or accurate" method of assessing progress in literary reading might be the misdirection caused in student perception of literary reading's actual value.


In fact, in schools where such testing is at the center of all curricular development creating an "if-it-ain't-on-the-test-it-ain't-acceptable-in-your-lesson-plan" attitude, even the efforts of literature-loving English teachers can become seriously derailed causing a potential perfect storm of literary reading disengagement. 


Yet, my personal dilemma is that I'm absolutely in favor of holding both students and educators accountable for having learned the lessons in all curricular area.


I don't know what forces are behind the disappointment of the article's author. It might have been the excessive Pavlovian attention to testing that caused the traditional Pavlovian automaton reaction focused not on the story's relevance but on the test where actual literary value is insufficiently emphasized in favor of the rewards of passing or failing a test.


But, it might also have been a misfocusing of the way in which the novel was presented focusing more upon a scholarly dissection than upon relating the 21st century relevance of reading the story.


It appears to be quite clear that the article's author is a caring educator who also knows the "real value" of literary reading, but perhaps the assumption of reading a story of true value "now" and hoping that students will see the real-world relevance "later" is not the most effective strategy. 


We know that teaching vocabulary and grammar without a direct connection to the value of knowing vocabulary and grammar is significantly less effective than teaching those "more easily measurable skills" WITHIN a meaningful context. 


Why might we assume that teaching literature in a disconnected context where the immediate context is more focused upon the pending test or essay would be any more engaging, and for that matter long-lasting? 


Raise your hand if you've frequently had the experience of kids doing exceptionally well on fill-in the blank tests on topics such as the difference between "your, you're, and yore," "then and than, "it's and its" and yet in subsequent writing assignments, all  those right answers on the fill-in the blank tests showed no sign of having actually become part of their working understanding of the language.



Let me count the hands...

Wait, keep them up so I can get an accurate count...

Oh damn! there are too many hands, ...

Let's try this. Just hold up your hand if you've never seen this.

Ah! that's better. 

No one has never seen this phenomenon! (double negative intended!)


Perhaps intentionally building contempory connections to the novel's THEMES into the lessons throughout the study would shorten the distance between the students' known world, and the students' unknown world would place the study of the work more at the center of the students' zones of proximal development. (Oh Vygotsky! You were so wise!)


Here's a completely disconnected connection.


When I went to school it was still quite popular to do actual animal dissections in sophomore biology classes. We dissected dead "pickled and dried" Rattus Ratti;" the common black rat. Though I have very specific recollections about the scientific name and that our pickled and dried specimen was definitely quite yellow.


I had never seen a live rat, though I'd seen several live mice. And, I had no preceding love for rodents, so except for the "gross" factor of dissection, I had no particular repulsion caused by the experience. In fact, I must admit that there was, at least in my mind, a bit of curiousity satisfaction attained.


Now, (the disconnected connection), I wonder if instead of a pickled and dried rat, we had to watch a live fluffy bunny peacefully nibbling on carrots in its cage for a few months before we were told on a Friday that we'd be dissecting Fluffy on Monday. 



(A quick aside)

Even in those pre-PETA days, when we were actually later in the same course, expected to dissect a LIVE FROG. The outrage was such that at the last minute the order for the laboratory frogs raised specifcally for this purpose had to be canceled. 


When Mr. T. explained to us that we would be expected to pith the frogs by sticking a needle in the back of their skulls and scrambling their brains so that  "they'd be dead but their nervous systems would still be active so we could see their legs kick when we stimulated a nerve," I found myself unable to resist the opportunity to blurt out, "Well, I'd be pithed too if you stuck a needle in my skull!" Although I considered the play on "pissed "and "pithed" to be sublime and my classmates considered it hilarious, Mr. T was of another opinion and I found myself explaining my lack of good judgment to the assistant principal in short order.


Anyway, back to Fluffy and Hester Prynne, my point being that caring about pets or great stories is a precious joy, but dissecting them is a different thing altogether. 


There is no doubt that dissecting a great story or a loveable bunny can actually increase our appreciation for life and literature. But, in both cases, for those students who perhaps are not destined to take an existing caring about bunnies and books to the scholarly level of becoming veteranarians or  members of the academic literati, there is a danger of disengaging more students than we are engaging if the focus of academic dissection is not tempered by an understanding that continual emphasis upon why we should CARE is a prerequisite to a discovery of life-long relevance and engagement.


In addition to creating future English majors, we ought to remember that we ought to be creating life-long literary readers, many of whom will develop a life-long interest in literary reading as a direct result of the academic dissections they experienced in our classrooms, but many will abandon any interest they may have had in literary reading as a direct result of the very same academic dissections. It is a delicate line to walk as we contemplate our lesson designs.



So here's one trick that I found quite helpful in consistently connecting literary reading to the world my students actually cared quite a bit about.


As I began the study of a literary reading title, I'd set up a Google Alert ( for that title. 


You can set up alerts to automatically notify you about current internet postings on any topic you want. I used to demonstrate this with "To Kill A Mockingbird" with fair confidence that sometime during that unit, there would be news about Harper Lee, or theatre productions, or book bannings, or...all sorts of connected "news., and, I was never disappointed.


There would always be multiple contemporary postings that pre-set a tone that we WEREN'T just reading some old book that was so old and distant from anything students might care about that even the movie was in black and white! We WERE reading a book that even to this day is widely read and considered relevant for all sorts of contemporary reasons. 


By the way, I'd trash all those automated alerts at the end of the unit rather than harvest them for possible use the next year.  Why? Because last year's news is just that last years news. The following year I'd reestablish a new alert for the same title so that we'd only see absolutely contemporary references to the stories we would be reading.  


For what it's worth...



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Five more Google Lit Trips UPDATES!

Five more Google Lit Trips UPDATES! | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

15 May 2015


Today we posted five updated Google Lit Trips including Journey to Topaz, The Kite Runner, Lost! Marching for Freedom and Night


This brings the total number of updated Lit Trips to 29 so far this month. 


See the complete list of updated Lit Trips at 


IMPORTANT: ALL Google Lit Trips are being updated in anticipation of our imminent transition to our new website.  Older versions may soon not work properly.


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On The Timelessness Of 'The Grapes Of Wrath'

On The Timelessness Of 'The Grapes Of Wrath' | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
The following is an excerpt from On Reading The Grapes of Wrath [Penguin Books, $14.00] by Susan Shillinglaw.

Deliberate reading is as cleansing as deliberate movement. To enter a yoga studio is to cross a boundary into a place of serenity. To op...
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

16 April 2014


My first thought in reading the title of this article was "What happens when we don't have time to read the timeless in times when time is money?"


We certainly do live in fast times don't we? But, are we making a terrible mistake by assuming that "faster is better"? Are we sacrificing an element of a TRULY great education if we assume that the only criteria for such an education are college and career readiness? Though I do not criticize the true value of college and career readiness, if we simplistically allow those criteria to dominate curricular planning and if we allow, oh, I dunno, say literary reading to be demoted as either being too impossible to measure beyond the elements of advanced literacy and vocabulary skills then what happens to a deep focus upon the timelessness of literary wisdom?


AND BEFORE you jump on me for suggesting that literary reading has been demoted, let me  say that I do understand that a close reading of the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts implies that literary reading has NOT  been demoted since the expectations are to be spread across the curriculum. This clarification  suggests that the amount of literary reading in English Literature classes will essentially be unchanged given the amount of informational reading expected in non ELA courses. I know that. But, I also know that de facto forces place incredible pressure on course syllabi to focus on the "power standards;" those standards most tested and those having the greatest impact upon a school's overall scores.


So, timeless articulations of wisdom, those that take time, that could be "better spent" on score boosting "learning" experiences, will inevitably get the squeeze. My guess is long reads and slow reads  may  give way to shorter and faster reads in order to get as many literary titles into play as possible. 


This article, one of many dozens of articles I've read on Steinbeck's THE GRAPES OF WRATH, stands among the most interesting in it's focus upon the need to slow down in order to  truly connect and develop an appreciation for the circumstances the Joads and so in which so many others find themselves.


Susan Shillinglaw builds an exquisite case for the inner chapters with particular emphasis upon the inner chapter about the slow yet determined turtle caught up in a fast world of Lincoln Zephyrs flying by completely oblivious to the turtle's situation. Of course it's a metaphor for the "forces of progress" whizzing by the displaced victims of progress. Empathy and compassion for the downtrodden? No time to care about that. 


Faster does not make for better reading. Nor does it always make for better living. 


So, you're probably an English teacher. You probably get my point and will enjoy Shillinglaw's  appreciation for THE GRAPES OF WRATH. But, I've saved something for last that might be a great lesson for your "irony" collection.


Have you seen those commercials for AT&T promoting "faster is better?"


I'd only seen one, but in hoping to find a link to the commercial, I was surprised to discover one I hadn't seen before.  It's the one about turtles!


Check it out here: 



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The Most Famous Author From Every State

The Most Famous Author From Every State | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
From California's John Steinbeck to Maine's Stephen King, here are the most famous authors from every state.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

I actually debated whether or not to scoop this article. I've long been a bit skeptical about "Best _________" lists of any kind. But, this article doesn't claim these are the best authors, nor does it ignore the possibility that there are other authors of equal or better note. 


I was impressed that the article's author actually listed her criteria, giving the reader an opportunity to recognize the "lean" of the evaluative assessment. For example, I suppose "ubiquity, literal acclaim, and financial success" are appropriate criteria for determining fame, though they might not be the most appropriate criteria for evaluating quality. 


That's fair.


That gives me permission to scoop this article for its interest level. 


And it sent me off on a little side trip. As professional literature educators, we have come to recognize that there are titles that are considered the canon of great literature. Most literature taught in schools rely upon an assumption that these are (at least among) the very best of the best and therefore ought to be the at the heart of literary reading's "must teach" books. 


Of course there is open debate and continued conversation about the wisdom of sticking (more or less) to the "dead white guys" curriculum. This conversation is perhaps as prevalent in English Department meetings as is the topic of "Kids these days! They just don't read as much as they used to!"


And I could not help but wonder...

What if we ignored the fact that this article "picks a winning author" from each state and what if we ignored the fact that this article assigns the "winning authors" by state? Why? Because we all know that each state has many popular and great writers and because we know that it might be spurious reasoning to suggest that we can judge a state's citizens' intellectual level by the author who represents their literary reading choices. For example, Dan Brown is certainly famous. But, we really don't know where his work stands in popularity among the citizens of New Hampshire. We certainly know that Mark Twain and John Steinbeck were often much more popular outside of their home states than inside their home states. 


But, what if we simply took this article as a sample data-set of what "average people who DO READ" read?  That's AVERAGE readers, not just the "professional readers" who teach literary reading?


Why? Because our "clients" are not all destined to major in English. But they are all destined to make personal decisions about whether or not they will be lifelong readers. 


So, what might we cull from this article? Perhaps, we can concentrate on what these authors write about regardless of their reputations among scholars.What do they bring to the conversations about the human condition that is attractive to large portions of the GENERAL population? They are "selling" reading to an impressive cross-section of the population whether it be local, national, or international. 


There are those who consider the likes of Stephen King and Dan Brown  "B-List" writers. But, whether or not one is presumptuous enough to offer "better writers than those guys," they are at their essence writing stories containing the very same themes about the nature of the human condition as those on the  assumed "A-List." And, they are reaching millions of people while raising the same esstential questions that we hope all well educated people choose to ponder.


What do the most popular writers write about?


What do they offer the GENERAL reading populace that many of the "A-list" authors" do not, or perhaps I should say, do not any longer offer to the AVERAGE reading populace? 


Perhaps, they are tapping into new forms of engaging contemporary readers as the "A-listers" were able to do in other times and continue to do "less broadly" as the distance between their times and their locations and their proximal relationships grows further from the zones of proximal development grows.


Perhaps the order of importance in selecting literature ought to be:


Above all else, sell them reading.. 

Then sell them the idea of wanting to read better stories.

Then sell them the idea of wanting to read the best.


The concept of The perfect being the enemy of the good, most often attributed to Voltaire, might be worth considering. Certainly the best of the best literature is better than the pretty good. But, let us not forget that the pretty good may be reaching far more people far more successfully than the best of the best does.

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Google Lit Trips is the legal fictitious business name of GLT Global ED an educational nonprofit




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The Book That Changed Me Forever

The Book That Changed Me Forever | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
"Sure. Whatever," I murmured, as I continued slouching and staring. Little did I know that before my 14th birthday, that brick of a book would capture my heart and change me forever.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

In this case the book was Gone With the Wind. Though this particular 15 year-old high school student's article is pretty much entirely focused upon the impact that GWTW had on her life, the article isn't about GWTW at all; at least not from this English teacher's point of view.

It's about Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development. In this case, the initial contact with GWTW was Ms Barlas' mother's insight that her daughter might like the book because it was "based in Atlanta [where we live} so you might enjoy it." 

But even then, Ms Barlas was reluctant to read the book for a catalog of reasons not at all unlike the catalog of reasons that cause her friends and peers and many of our students to be resistant to reading. Too thick, too distant from the world I live in or care about, a main character who was too snobby, and perhaps most significant, too distant from what friends would approve of in that peer-pressure laden straight jacket sort of way that makes stepping out of the box an act of courage beyond the available self-confidence strength required to "go where no friend has gone before."

But, as happens with many young adults attempting to make their way through the cocoon phase of life, Ms Barlas did read the book. She did face the challenge of going where she had not gone before. She dealt with the potentially crippling taunting of her friends. And, she wound up on a classic "one thing just led to another" journey that changed her life.

Resistant rejection gradually became relatively unenthusiastic reading, then intrigued engagement, then enjoyment, then love, then love of all things related to GWTW, then to an exploration and discovery of an entire world of places and cultures and films and music and history and to a passionate driving force to go beyond her previous boundaries.

You can almost see a beautiful butterfly emerging from the cocoon of unknowing; a young adult coming to care about things she never cared about as she also discovered the shallowness of caring about things she'd come to realize weren't really worth spending much effort caring about.

It's a beautiful story. That is, Ms Barlas' story is beautiful. Gone With the Wind may or may not be a beautiful story. But, it played a beautiful role in Ms Barlas' story.

No book or poem or play is a must read for every young adult. Ms Barlas' journey, like our own, is a personal journey. GWTW was the book in her case; it was not the book in many, MANY others' cases. The same can be said of any one the many books in the great canon.

In my case, there were a few stories that set me on a similar journey. Fear Strikes Out by Jimmy Piersall took me on an unexpected journey from my fairly deep interest in baseball to a place well beyond my interest in basebal;l to a world I'd never cared about, the world of compassion for those suffering from mental illnesses. That book was responsible for deleting my ignorant and irresponsible use of the word "retard" as a valued put-down.

It was the movie Goldfinger that led me to read the book and then to read every James Bond book by Ian Fleming, to discovering Ian Fleming had also written Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, to discovering the joys of "knowing an author not just a story "by whoever it was that had written the story."

It was Voltaire's Candide and the film The Graduate that took me from my high priority of being the class clown who thought anything that made people laugh was funny to discovering that satire can open one's eyes to more important things to care about than the laughs-at-any-cost attention, I craved so much. 

And, in my case, this was the beginning of my journey towards becoming an English teacher who eventually realized that the power of great and even not-so-great-storytelling to "bust us out of cocoons we don't even know we're in; to shine a light in a room we had never realized was nearly pitch black; to change catepillars into butterfles and human beings into humane beings is a wonderful thing. And, to take my passion for sharing the value of great storytelling as a sacred obligation that combined the Venn-like coming together of nearness, readiness, and life's great questions.

Though I knew it by various other names, I'd like to give Ms Barlas' history teacher a shout out for her integration of an "orbital studies" project that allowed students to explore history from beyond the "disaggrated" divisions into which we've traditionally broken our curricula. This is not to say that our curricula is broken; but there are pieces that would benefit from being put back together.

And, coming from the literature side, though I still have some reservations about common core implementations, I was pleased to see that Ms Barlas's journey led her to appreciate the contributions of both literary reading and informational reading to her greater appreciation for life's many great challenges...and rewards.

 ~ ~


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The Country That Stopped Reading

The Country That Stopped Reading | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Nowadays more children attend school than ever before, but they learn much less.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Well, the title says it all. 


Though the story is about Mexico, as I read it aloud (It is National Read Aloud Day you know), I kept hearing an echo.


Perhaps if wisdom is a primary value of literary reading, then we who have accumulated some degree of wisdom might read this article listening for the same echo wondering if it is some sort of omen.



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Part of the takeover is the WIPE AWAY of fine...

Part of the takeover is the WIPE AWAY of fine... | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
“Part of the takeover is the WIPE AWAY of fine literature in which texting, short e-mails and media gossip replaces much of what constitutes essential reading.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:




The content of the large text is a bit controversial, though not the reason for the warning above. 


What is of concern is the reference at the very end of the large text to "The 421 Group thru Joseph Lally."


A Google search results in links to Joseph Lally's "softcore homoerotic photography." 


Enough said?




So why did I scoop this?


The large text content contains a rant that begins,


“Part of the takeover is the WIPE AWAY of fine literature in which texting, short e-mails and media gossip replaces much of what constitutes essential reading. The Silencers have a project and the term they code it with is WIPE AWAY. Not only do they wish to do away with literature that has substance and that challenges ordinary thinking, they wish to do away with how our minds once operated...."


The article takes a fairly aggressive attitude towards what the author perceives as an almost, if not real concern bordering on global conspiracy levels of paranoia. 


Of course, I want to jump to agree with anyone concerned about the declining interest in literary reading, but this article gave me moments to both pause and applaud and moments to cringe.


It got me thinking about an exercise in open mindedness that I always found fascinating for myself and for my students.


You might try it for yourself. And if you'd like to try it for your students using this particular exercise, you'll probably want to exorcize the last sentence.


Here's how it works...


1. Print out the large text.

2. get yourself three highlighters; a Green one, a Yellow one, and a Red one.

3. Use the GREEN highliter to mark any passages for which you find yourself in strong agreement.

4. Use the RED highliter to mark any passages for which you find yourself in strong disagreement.

5. Use the YELLOW highliter to mark any passages that challenge your existing opinions, but also give you pause to think about revisiting those opinions.

6. Give yourself some time to revisit those opinions.

7. Now re-read your GREEN and RED highlights as though you had used your YELLOW highlighter instead and repeat step 6 above.


Did you discover anything?


That's it. It's intriguing how having to pause and choose what to highllite and then what color to highlite with, forces one to pay deeper attention to what one is thinking about while reading rather than flying by the text letting our off the top of our heads first thoughts dominate the impact that the reading might have upon us.



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Jarrett J. Krosoczka: How a boy became an artist | Video on

TED Talks When Jarrett J. Krosoczka was a kid, he didn’t play sports, but he loved art. He paints the funny and touching story of a little boy who pursued a simple passion: to draw and write stories.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:


I'm sitting in my hotel room having just given a Google Lit Trips presentation at the California League of Schools conference in beautiful Monterey California.

Having turned the general focus of my presentations towards the impact on both the teaching and learning of literary reading of the Common Core Standards and the position I think Google Lit Trips addresses in this controversial conversation. 


In checking out TED Talks, by coinicidence or by fate, I decided to watch this video about the trajectory of Jarrett J. Krosoczka's career as it was encouraged by great teachers.


Watch and be inspired to reflect on the students you may have inspired in spite, not only of their challenges, but also in light of the circumstances under which you were able to be that inspiration. What oppoortunity did you see? What did you do or say? And if you had to defend the pedagogical basis upon which you were able to sieze the moment, what made it work?


I am reminded of the time I heard Ansel Adams explain how it was that he was so fortunate to be in the right place at the right time so often. He quoted  Louis Pasteur who once said perhaps in a response to a similar question, " Chance favors the prepared mind."


Teach long enough and you'll come across a former student or two for whom you had never realized the extent of the impact of a single comment you had made who from out of nowhere lets you know how much you meant to him or her. 


During my last 10 or so years in the classroom, I gave an assignment to my satire students "requiring them" to communicate with me 10 years from the date of the last class meeting to let me know whether the class had any lasting value now that they would have been out of high school for a decade "living in the real world."


And, I'll be darned if I don't hear from quite a few of them; pretty much all of whom are eager to let me know that their appreciation grew  rather than diminished as the years past.



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"because literary reading brings much needed wisdom to the Information Age."

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