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Kindles help multiple students read the same book at the same time

favicon English teacher Angela’s 10th graders at City Arts and Technology High School in San Francisco like to read books with their friends and talk about them.

For example:

  • 4 students are reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie,
  • 4 students are reading Speak, by Louise Halse Anderson,
  • 7 students are reading Boxers and Saints, by Gene Luen Yang.

true diary 2   speak   boxers and saints

This is where Kindles shine.

With physical books, these 15 titles would cost about $250. With Kindles, following Amazon’s terms and conditions, these books cost about $40.

Better yet: The Kindle e-books never get lost or worn. Their pages and covers stay intact. There’s no need for contact paper or library binding. Angela doesn’t need to beg her students to return the books. They’re all safe up in the Amazon cloud.

This also means that Angela can spend more time talking with her students about what they’re reading, rather than worrying about raising funds to replace lost or worn books. She can push her students to more challenging books. Her students, in turn, can spend more time enjoying reading and discussing their books instead of waiting for the most-popular titles to become available.

Sure, Kindles don’t let you flip pages and curl up in a sun-lit reading nook. There’s no book smell or dogeared corners.

But Kindles get books in the hands of students, fast and en masse. As Kathleen says to her juniors at Leadership High School in San Francisco, a Kindle is like “a book store in your backpack, except you don’t have to pay.”

That’s because of the many generous donors who contribute to the Kindle Classroom Project. Thank you, donors!

If you have not yet donated to the KCP, I challenge you to do so. We all know the power of reading. It’s self-discovery, it’s mindfulness, it’s connection, it’s empathy.

As you can see, I’m hoping that new donors to the KCP consider a $10 contribution so that a book is added to the KCP Library for the program’s 253 students. (To donate, you need a credit card, $10, and less than 2 minutes.)

If this is not the right time for you, please do your part to get the word out. There is a small reading movement happening among young people in the Bay Area, and it’s about time that people find out about it! favicon

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A flurry of book requests

favicon The Kindle Classroom Project is flourishing. Here’s how I know:

– Kindles are streaming in (~1 a day, on average),
– Students are requesting tons of books.

It’s heartwarming. Students are reading, and they’re reading a lot, and as a result, they’re requesting books at a pace of around five a day.

The KCP Library is up to 406 titles. Here are a few books that students requested today:

Retribution of Mara Dyer   I Am Legend   After

The Retribution of Mara Dyer (requested by Elizabeth), I Am Legend (requested by Leo), and After (requested by Nandini) are all excellent choices. When students have choice, they choose well.

The best part about my promise — that if a student requests a book, I’ll honor that request — is that students spend more time reading. They churn through books, talk about them, and build a robust reading life.

As the KCP grows (~90 Kindles the past three months), the demand for books grows. It’s time to build the Kindle Library to 500 titles and to continue honoring students’ reading interests by providing them with high-quality titles.

Will you help? I’m piloting a cute new donation button. It’s quick and easy and fast and safe (using PayPal competitor Stripe). If you have a credit card, $10, and less than two minutes (it really is fast), please consider buying a book for a student. Here is the button!

If you donated (or have already donated — there are many of you), thank you very much! I can’t wait to thank you more formally. If right now is not the right time, I too appreciate your interest in young people and enthusiasm for the KCP.

Update: Mary (Parkersburg, IA), a sustaining donor to the KCP, has contributed again! Thanks for getting this little book campaign started! And thanks, Kate (Oakland, CA) and Michele (San Francisco, CA), too! favicon

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Why it matters that Mark Zuckerberg is reading books this year

Mark Zuckerbergfavicon Mark Zuckerberg is reading books this year.

Every year, Mr. Zuckerberg makes a self-improvement goal. They’ve been varied — everything from wearing a tie to meeting a new person every day to learning Chinese to eating meat only from animals he’d personally killed.

Mr. Zuckerberg’s goal to read a book every two weeks this year is a big deal. Obviously it’ll help several authors and publishers make tons of money. (Mr. Zuckerberg’s first book, The End of Power, jumped from #45,140 on Amazon to the Top 10. That’s pretty amazing.)

But I’m less interested in the book industry and more interested in how Mr. Zuckerberg, at least this year, will become the new Oprah.

Here’s what The New Yorker had to say about Mr. Zuckerberg:

Mark Zuckerberg New Yorker

Many of us (including author Jonathan Franzen) may have not always liked Oprah’s book choices, or even the idea of one extremely powerful person recommending what we should read. But Oprah got millions of people reading — and millions of people talking about the books they were reading.

That’s the problem with books — vs. movies, TV shows, and even podcasts. There are too many of them, and not enough people are reading the same books at the same time, and so therefore, a lot of times, this is what happens between friends.

Friend #1: Hey, did you read Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande?
Friend #2: No, but I heard about it.
Friend #1: You totally should read it.
Friend #2: OK, right. Yeah, so have you read All the Light We Cannot See?
Friend #1: No, but everyone else has. Is it good?
Friend #2: It’s amazing. You should read it.
Friend #1: OK.

This silly conversation happens all the time — and would never happen with a top movie, like Selma, or even a popular podcast, like Serial. With other forms of media, there are more shared experiences and shared conversations.

That’s not to say that I dismiss reading for its own sake. There are plenty of books I read that I love that don’t need to be talked about. Some books are just for me. Reading is wonderful as a solitary act of self-discovery.

But sometimes, I want to talk about a book. And even in book clubs, discussions sometimes stay on the surface. If books are meant to challenge our perspectives, to deepen our sense of meaning, and to build connection and empathy, then it would be nice if they’re talked about sometimes.

And that’s why I like that Mr. Zuckerberg is reading. Read on, Mr. Zuckerberg! favicon

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SF students give thanks for Kindles

favicon The Kindles have been in Kathleen’s classroom in San Francisco for less than two weeks, and already, students are writing thank-you cards.

Here are a few! (The first two didn’t photograph well.)

“Thanks so much for the Kindles, Mr. Isero! You’ve opened me up to so many books. I am currently reading The ShallowsThe Alchemist, and The New York Times. Thanks! -Nick


“Dear Mr. Isero, Thank you very much for the Kindles. I am excited to read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. The Kindles will come in handy! —Sincerely, Eryka Q.


“Dear Mr. Isero, Thank you so much for the Kindles! They have opened the doors even wider into the world of reading. You are so kind for donating all of these Kindles to us juniors! Because of this Kindle, I will never lose my interest in reading.” —Sincerely, M.C.


“Dear Mr. Isero, I am very happy to know that someone like you takes pride in helping young adults. I would like to appreciate and thank you for the Kindles. They make reading so much better! I am reading The Cartel series, and I’m on Book 5, thanks to the Kindle. Thank you so much!” —Jada

* * *
I think these are wonderful — it’s great to get thanks. But really, the gratitude goes to the hundreds of people from across the country who have found the Kindle Classroom Project and donated their Kindles. (And to Kathleen, who is encouraging her students to read every day.) (And to Kathleen’s students, who are reading up a storm.)

This gives me an idea. It’s time that the students know the name of the generous donor who contributed their Kindle. That way, if they want to write a thank-you card, they can thank the donor directly. Once the student writes the note, I would fill out the envelope with the donor’s address and mail off the note.

Thoughts? favicon

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This just in…

Go ahead, follow me on Twitter! Or contribute to the KCP! favicon

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TEACHER VOICES: Trevor Gardner, #3

Letters of Rec and Looking Deeply

TrevorGardnerfavicon I ended my last post, which was written last November, with the quip, “The only downfall [of looping with the same students for four years] is the mountain of recommendation letters I am about to sit down and start writing.”

At that time, I had not yet begun writing the 41 college recommendations that have been my unrelenting duty since the days leading up to the first big deadline on Nov. 30.

And though the task has consumed at least 30 hours of my “free” time and led me on innumerable paths down the rabbit hole of Googcrastination, it has been anything but a downfall.

In fact, it has been an inspiring journey of memory and discovery allowing me to see my students more lucidly than I ever have before, and in turn, to appreciate, with renewed evidence, all the reasons that teaching is the most wonderful job in the world.

In one of my favorite essays by Paulo Freire, his “Fourth Letter to Those Who Dare to Teach” in Teachers as Cultural Workers (if you have not read this book, order a copy right now!), he discusses the quality of lovingness as one of the essential qualities of great teachers.

Freire explains:

And here I mean lovingness not only toward the students but also toward the very process of teaching… I do not believe educators can survive the negativities of their trade without some sort of “armed love.”

Sitting down to write these letters of recommendation for nearly half the class of 2015 at Envision Academy has been a transformative experience for me because it has asked me to focus on where these youngStars have grown, where they shine, how they have moved mountains to get where they are today.

I believe this deep seeing is a vital component of the lovingness Freire describes. It is also a perspective that educators – and society in general – take on too rarely in the midst of the negativity surrounding schooling (and especially urban schooling) in this country.

But what I realize more and more is that the most crucial thing I can do to equip myself with the “armed love” that energizes me to do this work year after year after year, is to look deeply at the incredible young people who surround me for seven hours per day – and genuinely see them for their best selves.

Oh yeah, and I only have five more recommendation letters to go, which makes it much easier to write such a positive post about a task so dreaded by high school teachers. favicon

Ed. note: Trevor Gardner teaches English and social studies at Envision Academy in Oakland. He also serves as an instructional coach and is a member of the school’s leadership team. Trevor has written for a number of educational journals, including the esteemed Phi Delta Kappan, in which his piece on restorative justice, “Make Students Part of the Solution, Not the Problem,” appears in the October 2014 edition.

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Today’s book request. Thanks, Brandon!

favicon I’m thinking it’s a good idea to let you all know, from time to time, what books students are requesting.

Why? (1) It’s gives us a sense of what’s popular, plus it helps us understand what students care about, (2) It confirms that one of the best ways to build the Kindle Library is to have students request books.

American Sniper

Today, Brandon, a student in Kathleen Large‘s class in San Francisco, requested American Sniper, by Chris Kyle. On the book request form, Brandon wrote, “My advisory teacher was talking about this book and how he’s read it, and I felt really intrigued by the summary he gave on it.”

I got Brandon’s request, and within five minutes, I was able to purchase the book, thanks to generous donors, and deliver it directly to his Kindle! (The book also appears in the cloud for other students to access, too, plus it’s available on the online Kindle Library, too.)

I like Brandon’s choice for several reasons: (1) He heard about the book via a teacher’s recommendation, (2) It’s nonfiction, a growth area for the Kindle Library, (3) The movie version of the book is coming out in full release on Jan. 16, directed by Clint Eastwood. (My experience is that students like reading books that have been or will be movies. It helps them with their reading process, plus it helps them talk about the book after they’ve finished it.) It’s pretty clear that Brandon’s choice will be popular with many other students, too.

Today, Kathleen launched the Kindle Classroom Project in one of her classes, and the response was extremely positive. I spent about $150 on titles — both for new books (like Brandon’s) and for additional copies of existing titles (for books where more than six students are reading it simultaneously). It’s a great feeling.

It makes me especially happy that Brandon and his peers got the message loud and clear that the KCP is totally and completely about choice, independent reading. This is a testament to the quality of Kathleen’s teaching. Together, we’re promoting reading, and we’re promoting readers. There’s a bit of a small movement happening here in SF!

Donate Now

(I really like the huge Donate Now button.) Let me know your thoughts or if you’d like to help out! favicon