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Recommended Reading: “In a Mother’s Library, Bound in Spirit and in Print”

favicon Nick Bilton last week wrote an ode to physical books in “In a Mother’s Library, Bound in Spirit and in Print.” It strikes all the key notes: his mother’s passing, the inheritance of a 3,000-book library, her notes in the books’ margins, memories of childhood, and plenty of emotion.

In the piece, Mr. Bilton does not take sides on the perennial e-books vs. physical books debates. Each is good for its purpose. But if the purpose is to remember a loved one, then we know which format is better.

Excerpt
“In late March, a few days after my mother died from cancer, I sat in a cold living room in the north of England with my two sisters as a lawyer read my mother’s last will and testament. We were told that her modest estate would be divided evenly among her three children, with one exception.”

It always gets me thinking: Will people say the same thing about photographs? Many funerals now include hand-constructed tributes that include physical prints. What about a slideshow projected on a screen? Less emotional and impactful?

As for physical books, yes, there will always be that tactile experience, the feeling of the paper, the quality that an object takes on in an environment. It’s maybe true that a physical book offers a better reminder of having read a book.

But on the other hand, I don’t think I’ll forget reading Last Chance in Texas or Just Mercy anytime soon. Those books will stay with me even if their contents live inside my Kindle rather than on my bookshelf. favicon

Source: http://j.mp/1d7CUCM (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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Why kids lose interest in reading as they get older

favicon Daniel Willingham is a leader in secondary literacy and independent reading, and his recent article, “Why kids lose interest in reading as they get older,” does a good job summarizing a few of the basic reasons that young people’s interest in reading declines as they move into middle and high school.

As students get older, Willingham suggests, reading becomes more of a chore. Teachers require greater comprehension, offer less choice, and demand that students read various genres for various purposes.

None of these reasons is particularly earth-shattering, of course. But they remind me that schools, by themselves, are not in the business of promoting independent reading past mid-elementary school.

If students are going to read widely, they have three choices:
1. Already love to read,
2. Live with a family that loves to read and promotes independent reading,
3. Have a teacher or be part of a program that encourages independent reading.

In other words, if we want our young people to read, it won’t happen automatically. There are too many other fun things to do. But it’s not rocket science. If we care about reading, and if we put good books in front of students, and if we foster a love of reading, then young people will read.

Excerpt
“Attitudes toward reading peak in early elementary years. With each passing year, students’ attitudes towards reading drop.”

Source: http://j.mp/1cm9dNs (via Pocket). favicon

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Recommended: “Obama Launches E-Book Initiative For Low-Income Students”

favicon My friend Elizabeth sent me a tweet today informing me that the Kindle Classroom Project has gotten so big and famous that even President Obama is getting into the act.

(My friends are very funny and very kind.)

Apparently, the President is providing $250 million to making e-books accessible to low-income students. Even more impressive, several major publishers have agreed to the initiative, and the New York Public Library is building a reading app for students to use.

The details are still coming in, but I’m really excited. Please check out the article and let me know what you think!

Excerpt
“WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama announced Thursday that major book publishers will provide more than $250 million in free e-books to low-income students and that he is seeking commitments from local governments and schools nationwide to provide library cards to all students.”

Source: http://j.mp/1EV7zPN (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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This just in…

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

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More evidence that Kindle donors are great

favicon Kindle donors are not just generous. They’re also creative and conscientious. You can tell in the packaging.

Today, Kindle #513 came, a Kindle Fire from Jules in Portland, Oregon. Thank you, Jules!

Here’s the outside of the package. Note the drawing.

Kindle Outside Package

And here’s the inside of the package. Yep, it’s another padded envelope, just in case, plus another note.

Kindle Inside Package

And take a look at the little notebook that Jules included. Though I want to keep this notebook, I’ll be giving it to the student who gets Jules’s Kindle.

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The extra touches are perfect. I can’t wait to give this Kindle away to a student. He or she will hear about Jules from Portland who packages her Kindle safely and securely and who really cares about the student’s reading life.

Want to read more stories like this? Subscribe to the new monthly Kindle Classroom Project Newsletterfavicon

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Book Review: The Glass Cage: Automation and Us, by Nicholas Carr ★★★★☆

Ed. Note: The following book review is by Noam O., a student in Kathleen’s class in San Francisco.

Glass Cage Coverfavicon The Glass Cage is a neutral book about the pros and cons of technology and automation. I enjoyed it because I expected the book to be biased against technology, and I expected it to speak of the evils of modern technology. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by the author’s neutrality and his ability to weigh the pros and the cons of technology and automation. It talks about how technology has been incredibly helpful and is the hallmark of our species. At the same time, the book also speaks of the dangers of its misuse and how we must balance the use of technology. favicon

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Big Kindle donations = More eager readers. Now let’s make sure they have enough books!

favicon You don’t need a master’s degree in Statistics to understand this graph:

Kindle Growth

The growth of the Kindle Classroom Project is startling. It took 18 months for the program to reach 150 Kindles. For the next 150 Kindles, it took less time, just 11 months.

And then things went boom. In the last three weeks, the number of Kindles has skyrocketed from 300 to 512.

Most of the growth came from last week’s gift of 210 Kindles from a generous donor who would like to remain anonymous. Still, Kindles continue to stream in from people across the country — usually one at a time, but sometimes in multiples — and there is no sign there’s anything stopping this glut.

Which is all pretty great. More students are reading, more teachers are feeling supported, and what was once a cute little hobby of mine is entering a new phase in its development.

EA Student Reading

That next phase is going to be exciting. Hundreds of students from several high schools in Oakland and San Francisco are going to be reading books from the Kindle Library, taking their Kindles home, writing reviews, and talking about the books they’ve read. In short, the scale of the project has shifted.

The greatest challenge of this next phase — and greatest opportunity — is making sure the 500+ students have all the books they want to read when they want to read them.

That’s why it’s my goal to raise $5,000 by September 1.

That figure, I predict, will support the 500+ students and their reading lives through the end of the 2015-16 school year. The money will go to build the Kindle Library, to purchase additional copies of popular books, and to honor student requests of new books.

Would you like to help?

You can make a donation via PayPal (using your PayPal account or credit card), via Square (using your debit card), or via an Amazon gift card (to the email kindleclassroomproject at gmail dot com).

Or, if you’re advanced, you can become a sustaining donor by making recurring monthly donations. Choose a level (Book Lover, Bibliophile, Bibliomaniac, Bookworm) that feels comfortable to you.

Promote reading: Become a sustaining donor of the Kindle Classroom Project!


So far, even before announcing any campaign, the Kindle Classroom Project has already raised $320 over the past three days. Thank you, donors!

Maybe I should make an online fundraising thermometer. You know what I’m talking about, right — the thermometer that tells us how we’re doing on our goal?

You know, like this one?

Visit Easy Fundraising Ideas

 

And there it is! I’ll be updating the thermometer as donations come in, and with your support, I know that we’ll obliterate that $5,000 goal.

After all, almost every day, I receive an email from someone I’ve never met who wants to donate a Kindle and promote the joy of reading. Generous people are everywhere. Together, we are building a community of young readers, and it is heartwarming, and I am grateful. favicon

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Book Review: Crank, by Ellen Hopkins ★★★★☆

Ed. Note: The following book review is by Nicholas G., a student in Kathleen’s class in San Francisco.

crank2favicon Crank, by Ellen Hopkins, was one of the most interesting fiction books I’ve read in a long time. The writing style author Ellen Hopkins employs is odd, yet it provides for a much more entertaining read. It is almost like reading a poem, yet it still is very unique.

The story tells of a girl and her downfall into the depths of drug addiction. I would recommend this book for someone looking for an unusual but quick read. Since the pages are like a poem with unorganized stanzas, it actually doesn’t take too long to get through this book. favicon

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The (happy) story of a stolen Kindle

IMG_20150414_120819579_HDR
Stolen Kindle, retrieved.

favicon One of the things that makes the Kindle Classroom Project unique is that students get to keep their Kindle, day and night, at school and at home, and everywhere else in between.

Which means that sometimes, things happen.

One day back in February, I got a call from Deputy Sheriff Strickland of Santa Clara County. “I think we have some of your property,” she said.

I didn’t know what the deputy was talking about, so I asked for more details.

“Apparently, some students were on a field trip, and their backpacks were ransacked by a thief,” she said. “But we’ve retrieved your Kindle, and you can come pick it up.”

The rumor goes that a student in San Francisco joined his classmates on a golfing trip, and while they were out on the course, a total stranger decided to steal backpacks the students had left in their van.

Somehow, the backpack-taking man was found and apprehended — in Cupertino, about an hour away from the scene of the crime.

Good thing each Kindle comes with a glossy neon sticker, like the one below. Deputy Strickland said she appreciated the easy-to-read phone number. “You wouldn’t have gotten your stuff back without it,” she added.

IMG_20150414_121032702

This ordeal restored my hope in the justice system, though the amount of paperwork (case numbers! evidence letters! phone calls! decisions not to press additional charges!) could have been streamlined. (The process took two months.)

If you’re looking for a treat, please swing by the evidence room at Santa Clara County Sheriff Department. (Unfortunate pre-requisite: Have something stolen.) From the bullet-resistant glass, you can view the stash of unclaimed stolen property. It goes on forever. David, who keeps track of everything, has the eye of an interior decorator. Portraits and paintings, for example, are hung up, while the rest of the merchandise lines the space in an organized mayhem. It might be a good episode of “Hoarders.”

I’m happy that everything turned out well. Kindle #KK23 is now safe, sound, and ready to go to a new student soon. (Jonathan got a replacement Kindle back in February and has been reading tons of books since.) favicon

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210 Kindle Fires arrive in largest donation ever

favicon Just a few days ago, I announced that the Kindle Classroom Project had reached 300 Kindles. There was fanfare and jubilation. It was big.

Today is even bigger. Huge, in fact. Perhaps enormous.

A donor (who asked not to be named) has contributed 210 Kindle Fire HDX 7s to the program. There are now 511 Kindles in all.

The cash value of the donation is more than $35,000.

This is what the 210 Kindles look like inside my (new) car:

210 Kindles in Car

In each of those boxes, there are six Kindle Fire HDX 7s. If you open up one of the boxes, this is what you get inside.

6 Kindles in a Box

Keep opening and opening, and you get a beautiful reading tablet. (I’m checking out a sample of The Girl on The Train, which is getting good reviews.)

Kindle Fire HDX 7

I think, at this point, I’m pretty much speechless. Maybe I’ll have better words in a few days to explain more clearly what has just happened.

But here are a few first attempts:

1. Thank you. Thank you to the wonderful donor, and thank you to the good friend who connected the donor with me.

2. The Kindle Classroom Project is no longer a cute little program. I’m not sure what it is yet, but it’s at least a medium-sized program now.

3. Tablets are different from e-readers. Their additional features push me to think more broadly about next steps. One possibility is to look into audiobooks, particularly for students who have dyslexia or may benefit from professional narration (in addition to reading the text).

Now it’s time to get these Kindles in front of students as soon as possible. To make that happen, there is a ton of work to do. But I can’t wait! favicon