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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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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ISTE 2013: Google Lit Trips

GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

My good friend Kevin Amboe presenting at ISTE 2013.


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Readers around the world | Russia Beyond The Headlines

Readers around the world | Russia Beyond The Headlines | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
According to a March poll by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center, Russians have, in fact, been reading more – on average, 4.2 books in a term in 2013, compared to 3.9 books in 2011
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Make of it what you will.


According to this poll, we ain't much on readin' here in the US of A.


Not sure what causes and effects can legitimately be drawn from this information. 



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Map | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

I had a quite pleasant conversation this morning with Andrew Williams and Katie Williams, two of the founders of an interesting Literature project called "Placing Literature: Where Your Book Meets the Map."


Their focus is specifically on creating a map-based data base of locations that have been locations from literature. Their audience is primarily the general population rather than the specific education audience, We discussed the possibility of collaborating and/or partnering our efforts to the benefit of both of our audiences.


I am particularly intrigued by their crowd sourcing the data collection. Anyone can contribute data for a literary location by simply clicking location on the map which opens up a brief set of data entry cells. Fill in the info and you've added to the map. It's pretty simple.


Though more designed to document the locations than to follow a literary journey, as is the focus of Google Lit Trips, I'm certain that the growing database will be of interest to bibliophiles and book clubs and the general public. 


I'm looking forward to the possibilities of collaborating with Andrew and Katie so that both of our audiences benefit from the effort.


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The Decline and Fall of the English Major

The Decline and Fall of the English Major | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
In the drift away from the humanities, we risk losing something essential in ourselves.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Curmudgeon? or Truthsayer?


Is this the proverbial "bitter pill" we resent being forced to swallow? Or, is it a call to action?


Personally, I choose to take it as a call to action in the same sense that Jonathon Swift's very bitter "A Modest Proposal" force-fed us a quite distastefully bitter pill of reality. 


It's the difference between "Ain't that the truth!" and "What can we do about this?"


Of interest to me is that we're not talking about mediocre students here or perhaps a mediocre embittered professor. Both the author and his subjects have "credentials." These are Harvard, Yale, Bard Pomona, Sarah Lawrence and Columbia-types.


We know everyone of them "aced" their standardized tests and Entrance exams don't we?


In a sense, the second paragraph puts the situation quite clearly. We've done an excellent job teaching them how to,...


"... assemble strings of jargon and generate clots of ventriloquistic syntax. They can meta-metastasize any thematic or ideological notion they happen upon. And they get good grades for doing just that."


It's not that this is what we taught. But, it is what too many thought was the main reason for studying great literature. At least it's what many thought was all they needed to know to pass the test.


But, what we apparently haven't done so well is teach them the skills associated with,...


"writing clearly, simply, with attention and openness to their own thoughts and emotions and the world around them."


I could not help but wonder about the conclusions drawn by the article's author, all of which contain truth. Yet there seems to be an elephant in the room of analysis.


The author suggests that,...



"There is a certain literal-mindedness in the recent shift away from the humanities. It suggests a number of things. One, the rush to make education pay off presupposes that only the most immediately applicable skills are worth acquiring (though that doesn’t explain the current popularity of political science)."



It's an easy conclusion to swallow when it's "them," not us at the heart of the problem. 


I certainly can not argue that there is an excessive focus on short-term reward.


"What's your major?"


"Really? Can you make any money with that major?"


Kind of reminds me of the Wall Streeters who consider immediate impact on their quarterly bonuses a much higher priority than long term success of the companies they choose to sell shares in or even the success of their own clients' investments.


But, the author goes on to say,...



"Two, the humanities often do a bad job of explaining why the humanities matter. And three, the humanities often do a bad job of teaching the humanities. You don’t have to choose only one of these explanations. All three apply."



When the author goes on to suggest that we who teach the humanities do a bad job of explaining why the humanities matter and that it is we who do a bad job of teaching the humanities, then the conclusion is not so easy to swallow. Nobody likes it when responsibility for "falling short" lands in our own laps.


Of course, I still believe that the vast majority of my colleagues in the English departments across the country are doing darned good work. Most go far beyond, extremely far beyond, any reasonable expectation the public might have for "giving it their all."


But, there are those within our profession as there are in any profession, who even when well-intended, don't do well helping their students connect the value of the humanities to 21st century hazily focused perceptions of value in their students' eyes. 


There's little doubt that the among the "best of the best" students, too many of them are simply best because the are better at figuring out what will be on the test. Understanding why the "right answer" is the right answer is not as important as knowing the the teacher or test designer has determined to be the right answers.


And then there is that disturbing sentence from the article,...


"They can assemble strings of jargon and generate clots of ventriloquistic syntax." 


And I can't help but wonder whether the author was suggesting that today's college students, even the elite, are graduating as ventriloquists (masters of misrepresentation) or as the ventriloquists' dummies (manipulated block heads)?


Certainly, they are not stupid people. Stupid people rarely get into such prestigious universities; or if they do, they rarely survive long without having "somebody's" finger on the scale.


Ironically, though the author bemoans the failure of his students to appreciate the value of the humanities, perhaps it is because they have spent their time mastering the skills associated with our attempts to measure what they have "learned." And, we really haven't developed sufficiently sophisticated attempts to measure what the have learned that can distinguish between what they have learned and what they can "appear to have learned."


And, that's not the test we hope they do well on in the real world.


In actuality, the author's students have mastered what we measure.


For some odd reason, it all reminds me of one of my favorite lines from an old Jean Shepherd story. I'll have to paraphrase, but it was from a story where Ralph, his constant character, is sitting in study hall. He suggests something ot the effect that, "the study hall teachers was pretending to care about what we were pretending to do."


Whattya say we worry a bit less about creating English Majors and a bit more about creating "humane beings"?


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Jessica Laney Petty's comment, June 26, 2013 2:56 PM
You can't blame people. They have to think about their future.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's comment, June 26, 2013 4:04 PM
I'm just hoping that people consider the importance of being informed and responsible citizens, neighbors, parents, and good friends in their futures. What's good for "me" is sometimes exactly what is not good for "we."
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Brilliant Map Reveals 'True' Names Of U.S. Places

If someone told you they hailed from the "Farm of the Elf Counsel's People," you'd be forgiven for thinking they'd grown up in Middle-earth, not Arlington, Texas. Yet according to a very special new atlas, that's precisely what "Arlington" means.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Not quite Literary Reading-centric, but certainly well within the intriguing area of geography meets language arts which is certainly at the heart of the Google Lit Trips project.


It's not apparent but you can zoom in to any area on the map with a click and drag.


Now the question is how to build an engaging learning experience from this remarkable resource? Cross-curricular (or maybe "integrated curricula" perhaps)


I've never met a kid who wasn't fascinated with the "meaning" of his or her name whether it was chosen intentionally because of the assoicated meanings or not. Perhaps mashing together the meaning of the kid's name and the meanings of names of places near them or favorite places might make for an intriguing setting for an educational exploration.


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The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens: Scientific American

The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens: Scientific American | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |

By Ferris Jabr


"How exactly does the technology we use to read change the way we read? How reading on screens differs from reading on paper is relevant not just to the youngest among us, but to just about everyone who reads—to anyone who routinely switches between working long hours in front of a computer at the office and leisurely reading paper magazines and books at home; to people who have embraced e-readers for their convenience and portability, but admit that for some reason they still prefer reading on paper; and to those who have already vowed to forgo tree pulp entirely. As digital texts and technologies become more prevalent, we gain new and more mobile ways of reading—but are we still reading as attentively and thoroughly? How do our brains respond differently to onscreen text than to words on paper? Should we be worried about dividing our attention between pixels and ink or is the validity of such concerns paper-thin?"

Via Jim Lerman, Jonathan Jarc
Pam Colburn Harland's curator insight, April 28, 2013 7:57 AM

I loved the part about mind mapping and the meta-cognitive things we do before we start reading. Great article with research-based facts.

Sunflower Foundation's curator insight, June 20, 2013 3:32 AM

I think that, given time, our brains will adapt. The generation now in primary school are hardwiring their brains from toddlerhood. But for older readers, my own experience is that while the screen grabs the brain and gets me reading, I don't necessarily read attentively.

It might also increase differences between poor and wealthy as those with access to multiple devices may develop differently to those without. But the jury is still out as to who will have the advantage.

Angela Watkins's curator insight, December 30, 2013 3:23 PM ... -

Scooped by GoogleLitTrips Reading List! | Gatsby Explained

Lavishness and decadence stand as long-running motifs from F. Scott Fitzgerald's timeless classic,
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

I remember when I discovered that F. Scott Fitzgerald lived the spitting image of the life style he criticized in The Great Gatsby.


I remember the song "I'm Easy" from the film Nashville being a quite moving love song written and performed by Keith Carradine) whose character in the film was a complete "player/hypocrite" in his own love life.

And of course there is  the long list of authors whose personal lives seemed to be tragically flawed in spite of the wisdom expressed in their work.

This article takes an interesting look at the comparison of the lifestyle of the actor and the character he or she portrayed in the recent adaptation of The Great Gatsby.

No. I don't suppose actors are hypocrites if they are very like the unlikeable characters they might play in their films. But this particular infographic provides for some amusing contemplations nevertheless.

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Storyville: 3 Essential Books You Should Read in Every Major Genre

Storyville: 3 Essential Books You Should Read in Every Major Genre | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Here are three essential books you should read in every major genre.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

I remember being shocked when I discovered that the authors of published articles do not often get to title their articles. The reason being that unlike titling books, articles that are published in newspapers, magazines, and often online must live within layout restraints. 


Tradition has it that the best titles are as close to the same length as the line space in which it sits. One line titles with only a word or two and lots of white space on the right end of the line look like empty space as opposed to the much desired white space. This is particularly important when the layout  has the article text in multiple columns and the headline doesn't reach across the columns.


Okay that was a digression intended as a set up for my problem with this article's headline. The good news is that it demonstrates the desire to "fill the space." However, it does not accurately reflect the important point being made in the article and thereby implies something that happens to annoy me a bit.


The author does not say that he considers some books to be essential books for the article's readers. In fact, his very first sentence says that the list is subjective. And, his second sentence says that they happen to be the books he mentions because they were important to HIM. He even goes on to suggest that he doesn't address "Every Major Genre" in spite of what the headline says, pointing out that he has no listing for "Romance" writing because personally it isn't an important genre for him. He even ends the article by making the point that even though it's a personal list of HIS FAVORITES, his thesis is not that they are essential for everyone, but rather for an audience of people who happen to write in any of the genres he does include.


Okay. So what bothers me besides the misleading headline? The use of the word "essential." That's what bothers me.


The term reeks of the long held belief that the only literature of any merit worthy of being in the curriculum was that of "dead white guys."


That's sort of like refusing to think outside the small, hertetically sealed box.


There are many paths to gaining the benefits of literary reading. Shakespeare may or may not be essential for all. For many Neruda might serve a very similar purpose.


How many adults have become truly great thinkers without ever having read a single word of Shakespeare? And, conversely, hom many adults have become truly great thinkers specifically because they had encountered the wisdom of Shakespeare?


In the real world, it is often not a simplistic either / or situation. There can be many right answers and many right answers that are not right for everyone.


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Orwell 2013

Orwell 2013 | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Orwell 2013 - The Huffington Post
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

I remember reading 1984 in high school and wondering whether 1984 was going to look anything like Orwell's novel.


‡•0 whoa!



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Poster for Penguin book makes light of #mentalhealth help, "literature-induced psychosis"- what do you think? - via @Rethink_

Poster for Penguin book makes light of #mentalhealth help, "literature-induced psychosis"- what do you think?   - via @Rethink_ | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Just what we need huh?



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Watch the world's longest domino chain made of books

Watch the world's longest domino chain made of books | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
To kick off its 2013 Summer Reading Program, the Seattle Public Library set a world record with a library-appropriate domino chain. Twenty-seven volunteers lined up 2,131 books and knocked them all down.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Just for fun.


Watch and just for the heck of it, pay attention to all the people reading on the floor as the books fall. I thought they were mannequins at first.



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Reading Literature Makes Us Smarter and Nicer

Reading Literature Makes Us Smarter and Nicer | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
"Deep reading" is vigorous exercise from the brain and increases our real-life capacity for empathy
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

It's just one of those days!


My third scoop of the day and each takes a slightly different take on the value of openness to ambiguity and alternative interpretations.


Like the ThugNotes comments, this article poses both concepts and ideas that I find quite attractive and  concepts and ideas that I'm not so certain I can agree with.


But in either case, reading both what I agree with and what I may not agree with provides a value much richer than reading with blinders on. 


For example, I really liked this..



“ 'Deep reading' — as opposed to the often superficial reading we do on the Web — is an endangered practice, one we ought to take steps to preserve as we would a historic building or a significant work of art. Its disappearance would imperil the intellectual and emotional development of generations growing up online, as well as the perpetuation of a critical part of our culture: the novels, poems and other kinds of literature that can be appreciated only by readers whose brains, quite literally, have been trained to apprehend them."

Yet at the same time, when the author extends this argument to suggest ...


"A growing body of evidence suggests that online reading may be less engaging and less satisfying, even for the “digital natives” for whom it is so familiar. Last month, for example, Britain’s National Literacy Trust released the results of a study of 34,910 young people aged 8 to 16. Researchers reported that 39% of children and teens read daily using electronic devices, but only 28% read printed materials every day. Those who read only onscreen were three times less likely to say they enjoy reading very much and a third less likely to have a favorite book. The study also found that young people who read daily only onscreen were nearly two times less likely to be above-average readers than those who read daily in print or both in print and onscreen."



...I have concerns that the explanation for such data has insufficiently considered the causes and effects leading to the conclusions drawn. 


I think a serious case could be put forward that printed reading is becoming much less engaging for many digital reading of the same text. But that is not the parameters of comparison here. Comparing engagement with paper text with engagement with e-reader text is a perhaps more authentic than comparing printed text (implying paper) to web reading (including very different kinds of reading).


I would concede that reading text on my laptop does cause me to lose that deep engagement. Yet, reading text on my iPad is much more engaging for me. The difference? The physical process of reading on my iPad is very similar to reading a paper-based version of the same text. I can hold my iPad in one hand. I virtually turn pages in a very similar fashion, I can slouch around in my hammock while reading or sit on a rock at the top of a mountain with my iPad. But, I can't do that with my laptop so easily.


On my laptop, I can't as easily pause and savor while highlighting and writing marginalia (which does slow the reading allowing for the very slowing down the author endorses). When comparing paper-based reading to web reading, these disadvantages of web-based reading do make web-reading less engaging to me. 


But, on the other hand, my iPad kicks the butt of paper-based reading when it comes to highlighting and marginalia conveniences and advantages.


Is the author wrong and therefore is this article to be dismissed? Of course not, critical thinkers don't really judge complex issues in such black and white terms.


I like much, perhaps even most of what this author is suggesting in spite of the fact that there are parts of the argument that I find troublesome.


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Anne Oswalt's curator insight, June 15, 2013 6:32 PM

Ammo for 1st day of school.

Robin Burns's curator insight, June 20, 2013 10:54 AM

Interesting read.

Sharon Hayes's comment, August 28, 2013 3:00 AM
This has come up at the Writers Festival this year. I think I've always known this but nice to have research to back it up!
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New Case of Libramnesia Confirmed in Miami

New Case of Libramnesia Confirmed in Miami | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
No, Libramnesia is not the name of a woman or the latest mixed drink. Libramnesia is a highly common, but under-treated social condition that causes its sufferers to completely forget about libraries or even worse, believe libraries are irrelevant.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Finally, a dibilitating disease exposed!

The true horror of Libramnesia is that its symptoms are rarely or at least too rarely even noticed by its victims. And even worse, the suffering is felt more by the victim's neighbors at every level of "neignborness" from local to state, national and international neighbors.

That suffering is more often than not the in the form of chagrin caused by the Libramnesia victim.

Though the disease is 100% curable and the damage caused to the suffer's intellect is potentially reparable, the damage done to humanity while suffering may never be fully repaired.

Yeah... I'm just kidding .... sort of.

Plenty of great people have lived wonderful, thoughtful, and giving lives without the benefits of being life-long Lit-Lovers.

But, there are still those who never having explored the great questions posed by great literature, gone their merry way not knowing the extent to which their obliviousness to the great questions has left them unwittingly being parts of the very problems we all live with when people never get about the serious business of considering the great questions of humanity as expressed by humanities most articulate spokespersons from cultures beyond our own.


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My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier & Christopher Collier

My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier & Christopher Collier | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Just uploaded a complete updated version of the popular My Brother Sam Is Dead Google Lit Trip developed by Carol LaRow, the well respected educational technology speaker and founder of the Google Historical Voyages and Events website.


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MelissaRossman's curator insight, August 30, 2013 10:29 AM


MelissaRossman's comment, August 30, 2013 10:29 AM
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The Crack-Up Book

The Crack-Up Book | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
I tell my students, if you want to learn about depression, don't read the DSM. Read The Crack-Up. If you want to understand grief, read Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

This is one of those, "Wait for it, wait for it, WOW!" stories. It's not really a long wait. Maybe a 3 minute read, or perhaps a 7 minute "contemplative" read. 


The "Wait for it" element is that there are a few early paragraphs that seem to focus much more on the author's concerns regarding the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic Manuals (referred to as DSMs followed by a version number with the higher number referencing the most recent edition)


But you don't read my Scoop-it articles or commentary looking for some sort of analysis of the resources used in the psychiatric field. And, that's why, I suggest you not skim the first few paragraphs and then assume the focus is beyond your area of interest or concern. 


And, not being an expert in the examples of the author's concerns regarding  psychiatric diagnosis, I nearly decided to pass on this article myself. I really don't have an educated opinion about the position the author takes. But, the article's title and references to F. Scott Fitzgerald in the opening paragraphs kept me wondering about how the article would eventually draw some important connection between literary reading and "whatever it was" that the author was using the DSM discussion as a prefacing set for.


And, then... 

The wait was over. The author brings his discussion to the power of storytelling as a diagnostic tool. The DSM is a rubric. And, as a rubric it is a tool that filters one's attention in pursuit of psychiatric evaluation.


I used rubrics extensively. When done well, rubrics can provide a level of objectivity that limits the influence of subconscious biases, obsoleting practices, and arbitrary valuation assigned to various elements and other "elephants  in the curriculum" selected to be measured.


Though between you and me, it was my opinion that too many rubrics I found being passed around were not entirely, but frequently close to being entirely useless. 


Perhaps, I'm being too harsh. But, in an attempt to set a norm, many  "home made" rubrics did little more than transfer those "subconscious biases, obsoleting practices, and arbitrary valuation assigned to various elements and other "elephants  in the curriculum" to a scientific-looking grid giving little more than the appearance of objectivity.


I don't doubt that the attempt of the vast majority of creators of the poorly designed rubrics were well-intended. Nor do I doubt that the amateur attempts to design such rubrics, actually did have the potential for more accurate assessment. But, my concern was that when poorly designed or poorly used, the benefits as well as the detriments of assuming that the evaluation is somehow free of subjectivity must be considered before choosing sides on whether or not the "English department should get together and create their own rubrics that will be adopted by the department to ensure consistent and objective student evaluation."


It's only one example, but I can't help but remember the rubric used by one of my son's teachers for an assignment that my son had made multiple mechanics, usage, and grammar errors on. Of course, all of this did not come to my attention until the assignment had been graded and my son had received a (probably) deserved "F." Not just an "F"  but a 37% on. And any teacher who has seriously considered the impact of the difference between a  50% "F" and a 37% "F" knows that although both represent an assessment that a student has not demonstrated skill mastery, the the mathematical impact of averaging a 37% "F" into a grade calculation can create a near irrecoverable possibility.


The flaw that caused the paper to receive an "F" was real. The criterion that cost him to lose points was valid. The value calculation of that criterion was questionable. The teacher was quite within reason to include the criterion that contractions were unacceptable in formal research papers. It was therefore not unreasonable that if a student used contractions points would be lost. However, the system the teacher used was to subtract 5 points for every time a student used a contraction. This is not an unusual approach to calculating the impact of such a demonstration of inadequate skill mastery. But, it is not defensible. Without quibbling over whether this criterion was a measure of the student's mastery of formal writing expectations or a measure of the student's mastery of proofreading (two quite different goals), the student who includes perhaps four contractions will lose 20 points while the student who includes perhaps six contractions will lose 30 points. Both have made it clear that they have not mastered the skill or met the expectations. But the first student by making the mistake four times has doomed his grade to being no higher than a C+ while the second student by demonstrating the exact same lack of mastery or skill has doomed his grade to being no more than a D+ (or an F in the case of schools or teachers who have eliminated the D grade entirely). And, on the assumption that there might be additional errors to be caught or on the assumption that the overwhelming majority of the rest of the assignment demonstrated proficiency regarding several other measured criteria, either the kid is doomed to failure or the skills for which he or she has demonstrated adequate skills  are trumped by the impact of what might be considered to be a lack of mastery of a rather minor criterion when compared to the more complex skills measured in other criteria.


It's easy. You tell me... If we lock ourselves into a grading system where we believe we have built in objectivity and yet we also have a very common influence such as not accepting late papers. Then compare the final assessment of the following four students' mastery of essay writing as they write four essays over the course of a semester for a teacher who believes in averaging grades:


Student A: #1= 77%; #2= 80%; #3= 80%; #4= 78%; #5= 80%

Student B: #1= 59%; #2= 69%; #3= 79%; #4= 89%; #5= 99%

Student C: #1= 99%; #2= 89%; #3= 79%; #4= 69%; #5= 69%

Student D: #1= 98%; #2= 0%(late); #3=98%; #4= 99%; #5=100%


I'll save you the trouble of doing the averaging.


consistent performer doesn't get much better or worse.

Final Grade 79% C+



Struggles but diligent clear steady improvement: clearly leaves class with superb essay skills

Final Grade 79% C+ 



apparently could write an essay on day one, but effort seems to slack over the course. We don't know if this student cheated on the first essay  or had some home life issues or "other interests" or just slacked off.

Final Grade 79% C+


Student D

Exceptional student. We don't know why the one essay was turned in late, but rules are rules.

Final Grade 79% C+


IF the rubric and the math were designed to add objectivity to the measurement of whether a student has achieved proficiency in essay writing. How accurately does the math reflect Student D's mastery of essay writing? Or, Student B's? or Student C's? 


Both mathematical averaging and standards-based rubrics provide a sense of desired objectivity to our efforts. And, they DO add elements of objectivity to our efforts. However, there are many variables in the design and implementation of math and rubrics that can introduce "significant margins of error." 


And finally back to the article...

I might not find the criticism of the DSM-based assessment structure to be as "unreliable" as author suggests. But, the author's concerns for the potential for actually narrowing assessment accuracy and thus actually potentially creating a significant margin of error are woth considering in light of how education attempts to relies upon data-driven assessment on the assumptions that the collection, sysnthesis, conclusions drawn, and planning based upon the data are free from variables that might override the intention to control variables.


And, ironically, his conclusion is that a better understanding of depression, in his particular example, is to listen to the unfiltered stories, to perhaps read fictional accounts if you really want to know the facts.


I studied several wars in high school history classes. We read historian's selected historical events and gave the facts. Even if I concede the possibility that an honest and well intended effort was made to do so without bias, as far as I was led to believe, it was more important to be able to pick the right answer as to what year the War of 1812 was fought than to know the story of human nature that led to that war. I don't know if it was just war or not. But, I knew the "right answer" to the test question. And knowing that did absolutely nothing to provide me with an understanding of how it was that the study of history was important so that we not repeat the mistakes of history."


It was Eric Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front" that helped me see the shortcomings of my history book's version WWI.


It was FICTION as was Randall Jarrell's poem,...


The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State, And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze. Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life, I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters. When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

Because this poem did not claim to be unbiased, I did not read it as unbiased. It was one point of view. There were opposing points of view as was made quite clear in All Quiet on the Western Front and in just about every John Wayne War Movie. 


It was FICTION that added a facet to my understanding of war that led me to at least understand that there is more to the story than my history books were telling me. Did it make me one of those raving anti-war dope smoking unpatriotic liberals during the Vietnam War? 


No, but it did make me want to know the motives behind the Vietnam War, the invasion of Grenada, and pretty much any endeavor when brave young people are asked to put their lives in harm's way. 


It was fiction that helped me want to know more about war's costs and benefits and to hold myself MORE responsible for trying to be an informed responsible citizen. 


And, you what, I knew that John Steinbeck had exercised poetic license when he wrote The Grapes of Wrath. It was FICTION based upon historical events. It was not an entirely accurate documentation of the actual facts of the dust bowl migration. But, that wasn't Steinbeck's intent. His story was about the "rest of the story." The story of family, of generational differences, of the relationship between the haves and the have nots, of the prejudices against strangers and the less fortunate, of the exploitation of the many by a few. All of his example were fictitious, but they clarify some of the motives behind some of the facts that history presents. 


And of course, I must say that had I read ONLY fictional accounts of real events without having also read the historical facts of those events, I would also not be sufficiently informed to accept the obligations of being an informed responsible citizen.


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Texting Generation More Likely To Read Books and Use the Library Than Older Americans -- THE Journal

In what might come as a shock to those whose prime occupation is bemoaning the literacy of the current generation of young adults, new research has revealed that Americans aged 16 to 29 actually read more books and use the library more than those...
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:



If true what paradigms are ripe for shifting?

What opportunities are ready to take advantage of?

What literary bridges can be built?



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Twitter / TheWeirdWorld: Awesome Creativity With Books... ...

Twitter / TheWeirdWorld: Awesome Creativity With Books... ... | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

An advantage of paper-based books over digital books.


Though I have a moderate preference for digital books myself. I try to discourage the paper vs. digital argument as misguided on multiple fronts; particularly for educators who not only have their own preferences, but who are also responsible for not discouraging any "other preferences" that might be "the key" to engaging the reluctant reader.


I think there is much to say in favor of being able to "marinate in the visual feast" of paper books' presence in our daily meandering. 


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UDL-Multiple Modes of Engagement

UDL-Multiple Modes of Engagement | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Google Lit Trips gets a shout out from Johns Hopkins School of Education!



UDL-Multiple Modes of Engagement

Universal design principles address how individuals are engaged in learning by encouraging educators design lessons that are active and engaging. his can be accomplished instructionally by engaging learners by using flexible modes of representation as well as through authentic and meaningful problem and project-based learning experiences.

Authentic Learning: experiences that best enable learners to be engaged with their learning by making learning meaningful to the life of the student and connected to real life events

Google Lit Trips: (

Integrate Google Earth with Electronic Field Trips to take students around the world in authentic and meaningful ways."



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Sunflower Foundation's curator insight, June 23, 2013 1:43 AM

Google could be a good resource for children everywhere but especially those with limited or no access for field trips.

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ShaL i compR thee 2a summer's dai?

ShaL i compR thee 2a summer's dai? | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Forget penning odes with a quill and parchment – predictive text is the poetry tool of the future according to Carol Ann Duffy, who believes "the poem is a form of texting ...
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Coincidence that I'm finding articles that take me to thoughts of hypocrisy? Dunno, but I'm intrigued by how many very interesting articles I'm finding on the website. A site otherwise devoted to the depths of superficiality to which one can delve in the fashion world.


Okay. Maybe fashionista-living will lead one to complete safisfaction with how a life has been spent. I just can't quite get past the lemming-ness of it.


Nevertheless, there are quite freguently very intriguing literary articles to be found on the site.


This one is a bit on the light side, but I'd bet there'd be some great possibilities for engaged learning here. The article presents the original poems, many often taught in schools, followed by a "translation" into "TEXT SPEAK," the shortcut text that pretty much every cell-phone tethered teen is quite familiar with.


I had an interesting thought as I read through these poems and their "translations." My guess is that those of us less "proficient" at TEXT SPEAK might find  a sort of fingernails-on-the-chalkboard (assuming many of us actually remember the sound of fingernails on the chalkboard!) ear-pain as the beauty of the original poetry clashes with our sense of the ugliness of the TEXT SPEAK translation.


Yet, in a sense, we might be responding as TSSL (Text Speak as Second Language) speakers. It may be that the disconnect isn't there for native TEXT SPEAKers. I wonder if they might read the TEXT SPEAK version, not only not bothered by the disconnect, but not even noticing it AND thereby potentially as equally moved by the beauty of the poem's sentiments as we might be less capable of appreciating because we are bothered by "poor translation."


I taught Candide for decades. I don't speak French, but for the first 2.5 decades, I gave little attention to the quality of the English translation. But, somewhere in the third decade, when ordering replacement copies, the district ordered copies with a different translation. And, I was shocked at what I perceived as the ugliness of the new translation.


The translation I'd used for 2.5 decades began...


"In Westphalia, in the castle of My Lord the Baron of Thunder-ten-tronckj, there was a young man whom nature had endowed with the gentlest of characters. His face bespoke his soul. His judgment was rather sound and his mind of the simplist..."


I loved the phrasing...

"endowed with the gentlest of characters"

"His face bespoke his soul."

"his mind of the simplest"


It was so poetic.


BUT The new translation! Oh my! It began...


"In the country of Westphalia, in the castle of the most noble Baron of Thunder-ten-tronckh, lived a youth whom Nature had endowed with a most sweet disposition. His face was the true index of his mind. He had a solid judgment joined to the most unaffected simplicity..." 


How dry. How it "didn't sing" to me. How disappointed I was.


And then there was the reverse case experience. I'd read Don Quixote (well okay the famous parts anyway) and found it hilarious and a quite wonderful read. Then several years later, a "new translation" by Edith Grossman was published. The translation was heralded as being magnificent. And, it was. It brought a pulse to the read that I had not missed in my previous readings. But recognized immediately when compared to the new translation.


My point? Perhaps we see a degradation in going from an original version of the poems in this article to the TEXT SPEAK versions and thereby do not or can not appreciate the "translation" as I was never quite able to appreciate the "new" translation of Candide. While at the same time our students who are more comfortable with TEXT SPEAK are in a position more similar to my experience with Don Quixote in that the quality of the poorer earlier translations did not hamper my appreciation of the story at all and perhaps never would have hampered my appreciation had I not chosen to reread the book in its newer and better translation.


What if a students is moved by reading...


how do i ♥ thee? lt me count d ways.

i ♥ thee2 d depth & breadth & h8t

my soul cn reach, wen fEln out of site

4 d ends of bn & ideal grace.


He or she might be as moved as we were when we first read...


How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.


I dunno why, but I think it might be easier for a student who loved the TEXT SPEAK version to transition to the traditional version and thereby find even more to appreciate (as I did moving from old Don Quixote to new Don Quixote translation) than it was for me to move the other direction as was the case when I moved from old Candide to new Candide.


We might be wary of how we express our opinion about what our kids read and enjoy and by doing so miss a great opportunity to move their existing appreciation to even higher levels by sharing the "better" translation.


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Shocking Confessions of a Recovering Book Snob

Shocking Confessions of a Recovering Book Snob | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
I have a shameful secret: I used to be really snotty about books. My reading rules have remained astonishingly the same over the years (though embracing er
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Ah! Let the introspection begin!


What does your literary journey look like in retrospect?



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How 8 Famous Writers Chose Their Pen Names

How 8 Famous Writers Chose Their Pen Names | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

How many Literature teachers have secretly or otherwise contemplated a potential Pseudonym, Pen Name, or nom de plume?

I have one that I used when I was teaching and occasionally wanted to publish letters to the editors of my local newspaper.

Why? I did have opinions about community issues and felt that as a good citizen I ought to at least be a voice in community conversations. However, as a literature teacher, I always felt it was essential to teach the great questions, but unethical to express my own political and social "biases."

Those who know me beyond my classroom probably are quite aware of my various political opinions. But, in the classroom, my positions ran something to the effect of "I really don't care whether you might be a conservative or a progressive. I just care that you're well-informed about what intelligent conservatives AND progressives believe."

The essence... You can be one or the other. But, you're not well-informed unless you know the intelligent arguments expressed by both sides.

I'm not saying this practice was always successful. In fact, because I always sought an end of the year evaluation from my students, I was often amused that among those evaluations, there were always a couple of students who found me to be biased because I was such a liberal and simultaneously a couple of students who found me to be biased because I was such a conservative.

And, it doesn't take much to recognize that if students hear what they hear sometimes regardless of what was said, then it would probably also be true of the parent community who might be readers of the local letters to the editor. 

I didn't mind if they'd misunderstand the musings of my psuedonym writings. 

And, that's probably one of the reasons why for 25 years or so, I had the following quote by photographer Aaron Siskind running in large letters above my black>green>whiteboard...


"We look at the world and see what we have learned to believe is there."

 That nom de plume?  I'm not revealing that.



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Penelope's curator insight, June 17, 2013 7:24 PM


Do you write with a pen name? If so, you probably have an interesting story behind your own name.


J.K. Rowling's publishers didn't think her intended audience of pre-adolescent boys would read wizard stories written by a woman, hence the initials.


The author gives us seven more pen names of famous authors and why they were chosen.


***This review was written by Penelope Silvers for her curated content on "Storied Lives"***


Link to the original article:

Laura Brown's comment, July 31, 2013 11:17 PM
I've learned to keep names, logins and passwords simple. It drives me crazy trying to keep them all straight as it is.
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Famous Authors' Handwritten Outlines for Great Works of Literature

Famous Authors' Handwritten Outlines for Great Works of Literature | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Writing a novel (or a story, for that matter) is confusing work. There are just so many characters running all over the place, dropping hints and having revelations. So it's no surprise that many a...
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Didn't anybody teach these people proper outlining formats???


I've noticed that the format of my notes often makes no difference at all. In fact, I frequently never reread my notes anyway; at least not thoroughly. Yet I take extensive notes. 


The value? The very pausing to capture an idea in the middle of a thought, abbreviating those thoughts, and scribbling those ideas frequently is enough to let those contemplations find a sticking place in my mind.


Ironically, traditional notetaking almost always never really worked for me. I'd spend so much time worrying about whether I was formatting my thoughts correctly that the contemplations and ideas I was trying to capture were fleeing in different directions while I was worrying about whether I was on a I., A., i, or a. level idea. And too often by the time I had decided whether a new thought ought to be enter as a I., B. level idea or whether it was a II., A level idea much of the idea had managed to successfully evade capture.


 I guess, Some things works wonders for some and Some things don't for others.


And, don't get me started on Robot Writing; you know the Five Paragraph Essay? The one that kids and college professors groan so much about.


Though in the case of the formal outline and the Five Paragraph Essay, they certainly have value in transitioning from chaos to the value of at least some level of ordered thinking. But, we should keep in mind and help our students come to understand that less chaos is not the only goal of ordered thinking. And, that Robot Thinking is only the lowest level of ordered OR Creative Thinking.


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» Meet the Expresso Book Machine!

» Meet the Expresso Book Machine! | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Brainstorm the impact of this technology on reading. What do you think?


Solve any problems? Cause any?


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WATCH: Salinger Documentary Trailer Leaves Questions Unanswered

WATCH: Salinger Documentary Trailer Leaves Questions Unanswered | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
The first trailer for the forthcoming documentary movie "Salinger," about the life of the famous recluse author, has appeared on Yahoo! Movies, and it looks intriguing.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Jerome is a lonely name. As a kid I never knew another Jerome. In my 38 year teaching career, I only had one student named Jerome. I never really liked the name and am still not at all fond of it. I just respond ala Pavlov's dogs when I hear it because that's what you do when you hear your name.


So for about the last 10 years of my teaching career, just above my black then green then white board, I framed and hung a collection of famous Jeromes. At least I wasn't alone.


St. Jerome

Jerome K Jerome

Jerome Seinfeld

Jerome Garcia

Geronimo (yes that one)

Hieronymus Bosch (yep)

Jerome Bettis

Jerome Kern

and Jerome David Salinger

Most went by Jerry, I wasn't fond of that name either.

Salinger went by JD.

It's as if among the few, even fewer actually used the name.

Oh well, there are people with worse problems in the world aren't there?

When I taught Catcher in the Rye, I'd begin by assigning the first chapter as homework and asked my students to come to class the next day with a list of as many adjectives as they could that they'd use to describe their first impressions of Holden. 

"How many adjectives do you want?" asked a beaming "A" student, eager to please.

"I don't know the answer to that question. How can I know how many adjectives you'd use?" And then casually, I'd throw in, "But, I can't imagine that anyone would come up with fewer than, oh, I don't know, maybe ten or so." hoping they'd take the bait; which they pretty much always did.

They'd come in the next day and pretty much half the class would have a list of exactly 10 adjectives. Friends often had "very similar lists" having helped each other stretch their lists to ten. And then there were always a few of the "look-at-me-I'm-an-'A'-student" types who'd show up with at least 20 adjectives; half of whom had reached the magic "twice as many as you wanted" number via words they had had no previous knowledge of until they ran their short lists past Roget. I always was amused by the kid who would take on a well-practiced casualness, suggesting that he or she had found "Holden to be rather vexatious." 

You know words like... ""galling,'" "nettlesome," "irksome" or my all time favorite, "pestilential;" words they'd never used; never even heard. But, their lists were impressively long.

Anyway, first thing the next day, I'd ask them to take out their lists and to take a moment to put a "+" next to every adjective that was basically a positive characteristic and a "-" next to those that described what they would consider a negative characteristic. 

When everyone had finished I asked them to turn their paper over and make a simple drawing of one of those old-fashioned balance scales where they'd put all of their negative words on one side and all of their positive words on the other side. I explained that I wanted them to show the scale tipping downward on the side that had the most adjectives and to show the scale tipping just a little if they had only a small difference in the number of words on each side and tipping a lot if they had significantly more words on one side than on the other.

Then we'd discuss some of the adjectives, which in a sense are nothing more than abbreviated topic sentences.

Holden in annoying!

Holden is funny!

Holden is rude!

Holden is crazy!

Holden is depressed!

Holden is cool!

"So," I'd casually ask, "do you like Holden?"

Interestingly, adjective like "rude" would be the reason why some students disliked Holden and also the reason why other students liked Holden.

As we continued to read the book, perhaps at a rate of 2-3 chapters a night, I purposely began each class discussion with the same question, "So, in last night's reading, was there anything that either supported your original opinion about Holden or that kind of changed your original opinion even just a little bit?"

I was pretty careful not to show any favoritism towards one side or the other. I simply pointed out that, "Yeah, I can see why people would feel that way about Holden." 

There were few moderate opinions about Holden at first. And, the majority of students leaned heavily towards the negative. But, along about the time Holden drops a tear on the red square of the checker board, even some of the most "annoyed by Holden" kids would think there was something sort of sweet about the guy.

And, of course, it was never long after doing or saying something nice enough to shake negative opinions just a bit, Holden would do or say something else that provided fuel for irritation again.

He's just a tough guy to pigeonhole. And, as we progressed through the story he became more and more difficult to pigeonhole. His sister, the baseball glove, his naive wish to be a catcher in the rye all tempered opinions, whether they "won" the tug-of-war of opinions or not.

We'd have some interesting discussions and I could just see the kids really thinking about Holden's complex nature.

So we'd eventually get to the end of the story. And I'd offer three optional thesis statements for a final essay.

1. Although Holden can be annoying, he still deserves some compassion.

2. Although Holden deserves some compassion, he still can be really annoying.

3. Starting with one of the previous thesis statements, change as many words as you like to whatever words you'd like and write that essay.

And, I would assure them that it was absolutely possible to get an "A" on their essay regardless of which of the three topics they chose to write about.

Not infrequently, a student or two would ask if he or she could change the word "Holden." 


"Can I write about this kid that everybody hated in my 8th grade class?"

"Well, I guess that would be a Number 3, wouldn't it?" I'd reply.

Regardless of whether students chose Assignment 1, 2, or 3, that was some of the most gratifying essay reading I ever received.

But I digress! (see Chapter 24 for a defense of digression)

This scoop is about the Salinger movie. Given Salinger's avoidance of all things Hollywood, I'm intrigued to say the least.

I'll be in the theatre on the day of release for this one.

By they way, is there anybody out there who found it ironic that Baz Lurhman used the "narrator as psychiatric patient" motif to tell the story of the recently released movie adaptation of The Great Gatsby?

I'm Just sayin'

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