Tagged: reading

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Please read: “The Need to Read,” by Will Schwalbe

favicon My friend Lynn emailed me “The Need to Read,” by Will Schwalbe, in last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal. It is definitely worth reading.



Reading is the best way I know to learn how to examine your life. By comparing what you’ve done to what others have done, and your thoughts and theories and feelings to those of others, you learn about yourself and the world around you. Perhaps that is why reading is one of the few things you do alone that can make you feel less alone. It is a solitary activity that connects you to others.

I’m reminded that reading isn’t just a respite from the relentlessness of technology. It isn’t just how I reset and recharge. It isn’t just how I escape. It’s how I engage. And reading should spur further engagement.

And here’s my favorite:

Books remain one of the strongest bulwarks we have against tyranny—but only as long as people are free to read all different kinds of books, and only as long as they actually do so. The right to read whatever you want whenever you want is one of the fundamental rights that helps preserve all the other rights. It’s a right we need to guard with unwavering diligence. But it’s also a right we can guard with pleasure. Reading isn’t just a strike against narrowness, mind control and domination: It’s one of the world’s great joys.

Source: http://j.mp/2gtt9kI (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a weekly email digest that includes my favorite articles about race, education, and culture. Feel free to subscribe! favicon

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TEACHER VOICES: Marni Spitz, #7

“I’ve changed my mind about Kindles.”

ms. spitz 4favicon I’ve changed my mind about Kindles. (I’ve also changed my mind about which Janet Jackson album is my favorite, but that is blog post for another time.)

Back to the Kindles: It’s not that I never liked them, it’s just that I was always on the side of real, tangible, physical books. You know—books. Turning the pages! Judging the covers! (You know you do.) Bookshelves! Oh, the bookshelves! And of course, that incomparable feeling that happens when you close your book on that final page, look up, and relish in its completion. When it came to books (and my taste in pajamas), I was traditional and old-fashioned. But now, I am all aboard the Kindle Train. Toot! Toot! (But I still love me a matching flannel set of PJs.)

What caused this radical transformation, you may ask? It wasn’t my own Kindle-reading experience, but rather it was witnessing the incredible happiness and reading-frenzy that Kindles have sparked in my kiddos.


Here’s what happened: I got 20 Kindles to loan out to my young readers (thank you, Kindle Classroom Project!) and started dealing them out like crazy in my Reading Lab classes. Before you knew it, I was the Stringer Bell of Kindles! I was the Lucious Lyon of a Kindle Empire! And with each day, the Kindle following spread like a Taylor Swift song. Kids who weren’t even in my Reading Lab were requesting Kindles. In fact, kids who weren’t even my students were requesting Kindles. I simply did not have enough to meet the demand.

So I did what any successful Kindle dealer would do—channeled my inner Stringer Bell and widened my turf: I got more! Twenty more! I now have half my Reading Labbers hooked on their Kindles, including a few of those sassy pants who at the beginning of the year unabashedly told me there was nothing I could do to help them like reading. Look at you now, sassy pants! You can’t get enough of your Kindle! (Cue told-you-so smirk and giggle.) Kindles have been nothing less than magic for my young readers in a way I never could have imagined.

One huge Kindle Classroom perk that I have observed from Kindle-dealing is the infinite access to books. While I absolutely love my classroom library (bookshelves!) and love the value on reading it communicates, it can be limiting. At most, I have five copies of a certain book. But with their Kindles, my students have an endless library at their fingertips. They really have the whole world in their hands! No more, “Oh I’m sorry, Honey! Perfect Chemistry is all checked out!” or “I’m sorry, Sweetie! I don’t have the third book in the Maze Runner series!” or the saddest of all: “ I’m sorry, Darling! We don’t have that one.”

When those conversations happened, my students would would have to wait forever to get the book they wanted. And when that happens, when you can’t put a book that a kid requested in their hands, that is just heartbreaking. But Kindles mean they can read any book they want, when they want, how they want. (Like Hulu, but for books! And completely free for my kiddos! Free Hulu for everyone!)


It’s absolutely awesome. When a student like Starr, who has received almost more referrals than any other freshman but loves Reading Lab because she has a Kindle, that is awesome. When a student like Damaria, an 11th grader who loves reading so so much but lives far from the nearest library gets to have a Kindle and read to his heart’s content, that is awesome. When a student like Elaine, who always showed up to First Period late starts coming to First Period on time (and even early) so she can maximize the SSR time on her Kindle, that is awesome.

In simple terms, Kindles make reading easy and limitless. There are no hurdles, no hoops to jump through. And for students who have experienced reading in their lives as something filled with countless hurdles and hoops, a hurdle-free experience is just what they deserve and just what they need to find their inner-reader. The Kindle says: “We want you to be able to read any book you want, free of hassle.” favicon

Ed. note: Marni Spitz teaches U.S. History and Reading Lab at City Arts and Technology High School in San Francisco. Donate to Marni’s classroom!

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TEACHER VOICES: Michele Godwin, #3

“They don’t want to stop reading!”

Michele GodwinEd. note: Michele Godwin is beginning 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, her third contribution to TEACHER VOICES. Please donate so Michele can buy more books!

favicon Wednesday, 10/8 – 10:55 am
The first cross-advisory meeting, where every junior is grouped with juniors from other advisories. They are to discuss their individual passions and then look for intersections. Many of them find this difficult; they have never been asked to think about what makes them fired up, excited, angry. Most respond with generalizations: “Music feeds my soul,” or “I enjoy spending time with my family.” Between now and May, it is my work to help them find an issue they feel strongly about, so they can work toward affecting change. It is a high-stakes project. There is much to do.

Friday, 10/10 – 11:15 am
Ms. M, with whom I share a classroom, tells me, “Some students were looking for you.” Really? Because my advisees don’t seem to have much interest in anything but my granola bars, at this point. Turns out they were looking for “the book lady.” They wanted to put in a book request. I’ve died and gone to heaven.

Tuesday, 10/14 – 3:45 pm
Ms. P, senior adviser, stops by after school, a tall boy in tow. “Ms. Godwin, I want you to meet R. He has never read a book the whole way through until this year – until now. He’d like to make a request.” R. smiles nervously and asks, “Can you get the sequel to The Maze Runner?” I want to say, “Are you kidding me? You’re my dream come true! Of course I’ll get that book for you! I’d do whatever it takes to get that book for you! I’d got through a maze myself to get that book for you!” — all while jumping up and down and whooping and hollering. I don’t, though, because I can imagine how disturbing that could be for this shy boy. “Sure!” I say, and send him on his way.

Wednesday, 10/15 – 10:15 am
Independent reading time in advisory. It takes a while to get students settled down and reading, but, once they’re there, they love it. One student is reading The Divine Comedy, another is reading essays from The Best American Sports Writing 2014, another is reading as many articles as he can find about Ebola. When I tell them, “Time’s up. We have to move on,” they groan. They don’t want to stop reading!

Wednesday, 10/22, 11:00 am
Giants fever is in the air. A few of my students request books about baseball, which are surprisingly hard to find, but I manage to get a few, including a book about Derek Jeter. It feels like blasphemy, but my student doesn’t seem to care. In fact, he finishes it in a day and asks for more. I need more sports books!

Friday, 10/24 – 2:10 pm
In the hallway, I see a boy with whom I have not had pleasant interactions. I stop him and ask, “Have you read this?” It’s Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison. I have heard this boy use the words “hegemony” and “dominance” before, and I know he reads at a college level. I tell him, “It’s super advanced, but I hear you can handle it.” He reads the back and says, “Yeah. I’ll give it a try.” He walks away, but turns back and says, “Thanks.” I do NOT jump up and click my heels.

Thursday, 10/30 – 9:15
The Giants have won the World Series, and our students are over the moon. The building is humming with energy, everyone recounting their favorite moments from the game, arguing about who should have been MVP (Bumgarner. Duh.). I wonder about the books that will be written about our team. And will future librarians have to ask for donations to get those books? Will they worry about how to raise $60,000 to fill a beautiful new library space, or will books be obsolete by then, libraries reduced to nothing more than charging stations? I shudder to think about it.

So I will stick with being in the present, enjoying today and the pride that unites the entire city, and the excitement our students experience as they are reminded that amazing and triumphant things can happen, and that, indeed, together, we are giant. favicon