/  By  / comments Please comment!

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.


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

 /  By  / comments Please comment!

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

 /  By  / comments Please comment!

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

 /  By  / comments Please comment!

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

 /  By  / comments 3 comments. Add yours!

The (happy) story of a stolen Kindle

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.


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

 /  By  / comments 5 comments. Add yours!

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

 /  By  / comments Please comment!

Recommended Reading: “Where Are the Teachers of Color?”

favicon Motoko Rich’s latest piece in the New York Times asks a basic, perennial question: “Where Are the Teachers of Color?”

Ms. Rich reports that 80 percent of teachers in the United States are white. This isn’t surprising news. I don’t have the data, but my gut says that fewer people of color are going into the teaching profession now than have in the past.

This is a big problem, but it’s not one that will be solved quickly or easily. This is because teaching is underpaid and carries low status in society. The emphasis on testing — and the resulting cheating scandals, Atlanta being the most famous — probably doesn’t help, either.

Please check out the article (link below) and let me know your thoughts.

“The majority of those who successfully attend college choose careers other than education, mainly because of the pay,” said Marvin Lynn, dean of the School of Education at Indiana University in South Bend, who is starting a scholarship program for minority students interested in education careers.

Source: http://j.mp/1Cz4sX6 (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

 /  By  / comments Please comment!

Book Review: Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson (★★★★★)

Just Mercyfavicon Please read this book as soon as you can. That’s pretty much it.

Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson, is probably the best book I’ve read in the last five or so years.

It’s pretty much about everything I care about: social justice, race, poverty, compassion and empathy, commitment and dedication, and the power of hard work and hope.

Mr. Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, is an attorney who has spent his life defending people on death row. He has done most of his work in the South, where the death penalty, along with years of mass incarceration, serves to extend the legacy of slavery.

In fact, Just Mercy is a perfect companion to Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. While Prof. Alexander’s book focuses on the institutional progression from slavery to race terrorism to Jim Crow to segregation to mass incarceration, Mr. Stevenson centers in on the personal, dedicating most of his book to the case of Walter McMillian. He intersperses the main narrative with poignant, disturbing chapters on injustices facing women, children, and people with intellectual disabilities.

There are many reasons to read this book. If you care about issues of social justice, the justice system, race, or poverty, then this book is a natural fit.

But this book is even more. It will push you to consider what you’re doing with your life, about what you stand for, about how you treat people. It will get you out of the humdrum dailiness and encourage you to think about the big.

Just as an example, here’s a short excerpt where Mr. Stevenson reflects on why he stays in this challenging work. After a page in which he describes how society has “broken” his clients, he continues:

I do what I do because I’m broken, too. My years of struggling against inequality, abusive power, poverty, oppression, and injustice had finally revealed something to me about myself. Being close to suffering, death, executions, and cruel punishments didn’t just illuminate the brokenness of others; in a moment of anguish and heartbreak, it also exposed my own brokenness. You can’t effectively fight abusive power, poverty, inequality, illness, oppression, or injustice and not be broken by it. We are all broken by something. We have all hurt someone and have been hurt. We all share the condition of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent.

Also, if you haven’t seen it yet, consider watching Mr. Stevenson’s TED Talk, “We Need to Talk About an Injustice.”

As Mr. Stevenson says, let’s listen. And once we’ve listened, let’s talk about what we may not want to talk about. Let’s believe things that we haven’t yet seen. Let’s consider our hearts in addition to our minds. Let’s have an orientation of hope. And if you’ve read the book, let’s start talking about it! Please leave a comment. favicon

 /  By  / comments 1 comment. Add yours!

Hi there! My name is Kindle #300.

Kindle300horizontalfavicon  I am pleased to announce the arrival of Kindle #300, a gift from Virginia in Murphy, North Carolina.

Thank you very much, Virginia. This is a big milestone!

Over the past year, the Kindle Classroom Project has doubled in size. From 150 Kindles last April to 300 today, the program has exploded in interest and impact.

After a slow February (just 12 Kindles), March was back to normal, with 29 Kindles coming in. Since last November, I’ve been averaging six Kindles a week, nearly one a day.

The next few months, I’ll be recruiting teachers for next school year. I’m excited about growing the KCP in Oakland and San Francisco, home to excellent teachers who often do not have the additional time or resources to build robust classroom libraries.

The book requests are still streaming in at all hours of the day and night. Yesterday, Elizabeth (Hayward, CA) asked for Looking for Alaska, by John Green. Because of the book’s popularity, more than six students have read the title, which means, according to Amazon policy and publishers’ expectations, I purchase another copy.

I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Summer 2015 and next school year. In a few months, we will pilot our first KCP Summer Session, in which a group of students will get to keep their Kindles in June and July. I’m going to ask them to reflect on whether having a Kindle encourages them to keep reading over the break. My prediction is yes.

Please let me know your thoughts and questions. The KCP community of students, teachers, and generous donors is growing, and we’re on the cusp of something big! favicon

 /  By  / comments 7 comments. Add yours!

TEACHER VOICES: Michele Godwin, #8

“I’ve got too much pride. I don’t want help.”

Michele Godwinfavicon Monday, March 2 – 2:45 pm
M asks the visiting law school student, “Is law school hard? Because I want to be a lawyer and a doctor, and I think it will be hard to go to school for both.”

The law school student kind of laughs, thinking M might be joking. Law school AND med school? The visitor sees that M is 100 percent serious and responds.

“Yes. Law school is hard. It’s really hard, and I don’t think I could handle anything more than I’m already doing.”

M responds: “I want to be a lawyer to help put bad people away, but I want to be a doctor, too, because a doctor saved my mom when she had an aneurysm a few years ago.”

Wednesday, March 4 – 10:50 am
Someone from a college readiness program pulled T out of class today and asked him all kinds of questions: How are your grades? What is your plan? When are you taking the SAT? the ACT? What do you want to major in?

When I ask T about the meeting, he says, “That guy knew all kinds of stuff about me! And then he was asking me all kinds of questions. I don’t even know him!”

I explain that the man and the program specifically picked T out of the crowd to support him to get to college, that this was a great opportunity, that they clearly see something special in him and want to help him be successful.

T shakes his head.

“Why are you shaking your head? What do you have against people helping you? This is a gift! This is a wonderful opportunity!” I screech in my old white lady voice.

“My pride,” he says. “I’ve got too much pride. I don’t want help from him. He don’t even know me!”

Screeching: “He wants to help you!”

“That’s what you’re for,” he says to me. “You’re going to help me get into college. I don’t need another stranger in my life, getting all up in my business.”

I let him go, shaking my own head this time. I suspect he doesn’t want more people in his life because he doesn’t want more people knowing about his hardships. It’s true: It’s my job to help him get into college. But I can’t do it on my own.

Thursday March 12, 2:45 pm
It’s study hall today. I write passes for students to go see teachers and get homework help, and I offer my assistance to the students who stay in the room. It starts out as chaos, but it always settles down to some good productive work time. I get out from behind my desk and sit at a table with students. Without trying to talk over them, I get a chance to observe and appreciate them:

D  goes out of his way to say hello to me and hug me goodbye. He is an only child and lives with his mother in a one bedroom in the Mission. He has been playing the drums his entire life; he lives to make music.

B is everyone’s favorite. Despite the attention, he always comes to class and puts his head down and churns out his work. He tells his dad, “I love you” every time he talks to him on the phone, ever since one of his best friends was killed.

J is going to enroll in an art class this summer so she can take the maximum number of AP classes next year. She volunteers just about every weekend, and she’s constantly working on homework. Somehow, she manages to accompany her mother to her oncology appointments.

T is the funny guy, constantly cracking inappropriate jokes and then apologizing. He and D are music-making buddies, always talking beats and rhymes in class. He’s a natural performer, and I can never stay mad at him for more than two seconds.

N is too smart for his own good. He gets Fs in all his classes, then at the very last minute, pulls them up to Cs. He read The Divine Comedy earlier this year, and just recently finished A Universe From Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing. He works at the Academy of Sciences and plans to be a research scientist. But his GPA is terrible.

S came to us from Mali in September. He barely speaks English, but he speaks way more than he did seven months ago. He is unfailingly polite, always greeting me with a “Bonjour! Ça va?” in the morning. All the kids love him so much. I worry a little bit about the words he learns from them. He’s six-foot-eight with blue-black skin, thin as a rail, so he stands out even before he opens his mouth.

A won’t let me get close to him. He won’t let anyone get close to him. He’s all toughness and surly on the outside, but every once in a while, he’ll show some vulnerability, like when he talks about his new puppy, or when his mom comes for a meeting and he kisses her on the cheek. He’ll be a great lawyer, once he decides to do what it takes.

C is a straight-A student. He gets his work done without fail. But he’s bored by schoolwork. He’s got big dreams to go away to college—maybe out of state or even out of the country!—but I worry that his SAT score will keep him from getting into the schools he wants. High school has been easy. College is going to kick his ass.

Monday March 16 – 2:30 pm
The counselor, Ms. S., tells the other junior advisers and me that the registration deadline for the April ACT is fast approaching, and the SAT registration is coming up in a few weeks. Do we want her to come to our class and help sign kids up?

I tell her, “But they’re not ready! They haven’t studied! They’re just babies!” I don’t really call them babies, but I’m thinking it. Obviously they are not babies, with their cell phones and their surly mouths and their near-adult behaviors. But it seems crazy to me that it’s time for them to take the SAT and start thinking about college applications! How can that be? They are barely juniors!

They are not barely juniors. They are in their last quarter of their junior year of high school, and it is time for them to think about college applications and SATs and moving on with their lives.

I can only imagine how their mothers must feel. favicon

Ed. note: Michele Godwin is in her 14th year of teaching high school. She’s back at Leadership High School, where she taught from 2001 to 2008. An English teacher by training and experience, Michele has changed her focus to build a library for Leadership. In addition to her fundraising and library organizing, she is an 11th grade adviser. These are her musings from the past few weeks. Please donate so Michele can buy more books!