Friday, May 28, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Should summer reading be required? The high school teachers who I know believe it's important to keep students reading during the summer—but many also tell me that a good percentage of students don't complete the assignment—even students who have enrolled in an Advanced Placement course! Some schools have resorted to asking parents and students to sign a contract stating that summer reading and assignments will be completed.
What to read? These lists can cause an uproar. Last year, parents at a suburban Chicago public high school wanted Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian pulled from the required reading list because “it uses foul, racist language and describes sexual acts”—but it remains on the school’s list for 2010.
In addition to classic literature such as Rebecca, Brave New World, and Their Eyes Were Watching God, high schools assign an array of contemporary titles. Barbara Kingsolver's The Bean Trees, The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom, The Things They Carried, Outliers, Fast Food Nation, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, and Three Cups of Tea appear on many required reading lists. This year The Help by Kathyrn Stockett and William Kamkwamba's The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricty and Hope are making their first appearances on high school required summer reading lists.
Here's a sampling of high school summer reading lists from around the country:
- Murphy High School, Mobile, Alabama
- Granville High School, Granville, Ohio
- Summit High School, Fontana, California
- Lake Mary Prep, Lake Mary, Florida
- Prosper High School, Prosper, Texas
- Pine-Richland High School, Gibsonia, Pennsylvania
Find more videos like this on To Kill a Mockingbird 50th Anniversary
Thursday, May 20, 2010
On May 23rd, celebrate Margaret Wise Brown's 100th birthday by visiting her haunts in New York City with her acclaimed biographer Leonard Marcus as your guide. Visit the places where Ms. Brown lived, wrote, taught second grade, had cocktails with Ursula Nordstrom and H.A. Rey, and just possibly hatched plans for The Golden Egg Book and Great Green Room. The fun starts at 2 pm at the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 10th Street. Tickets, $20. Reserve by contacting Leonard Marcus.
If you can't make the tour, you can always spend the afternoon reading Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon by Leonard Marcus or reading Two Little Trains to a child.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
This sounds innovative and interesting, but why not ask students to read The Language of Life: DNA and the Revolution of Personalized Medicine by Francis S. Collins or Matt Ridley's Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters?
For those Berkeley freshmen who would like to know more before the fall semester, Dr. Francis Collins—director of the National Institutes of Health—gives a quick overview of where personalized medicine is now.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
I still remember the uproar caused by Am I Blue?: Coming Out from the Silence when it was published in 1994. This collection of original stories—including works from such authors as C. S. Adler, Marion Dane Bauer, Francesca Lia Block, Bruce Coville, Nancy Garden, James Cross Giblin, Ellen Howard, M. E. Kerr, Jonathan London, Lois Lowry, Gregory Maguire, and Jane Yolen—honestly portrays the book's central theme of growing up gay or lesbian, or with gay or lesbian parents or friends. The book received wonderful reviews—and it won a slew of honors:
- ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
- ALA Best of the Best Books for Young Adults
- ALA Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Book Award
- Horn Book Fanfare
- New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age
- Minnesota Book Award
Friday, May 7, 2010
Kicking Up Dirt is Ashley’s own remarkable and improbable story. Born profoundly deaf, Ashley developed an early passion for motocross racing – a passion which led her to become the top female competitor in the sport at age nineteen. Kicking Up Dirt is narrated with the spunk and candor that has made Ashley successful in overcoming personal and professional obstacles. Her story and attitude is infectious and sure to appeal to young adult readers looking for a fun summer read.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
For those looking for classroom resources to stem bullying, Mike Koren, a middle-school teacher in Wisconsin, has written a curriculum guide to Letters to a Bullied Girl by Olivia Gardner with Emily Buder and Sarah Buder. Olivia Gardner was relentlessly bullied. When the Buder sisters heard about Olivia's plight, they started a campaign of comfort and inspiration by encouraging people to write her letters. Letters to a Bullied Girl is the result. Olivia heard from those who had been bullied, those who stood by, and from people who had been bullies. It's an extraordinary collection—and Mike Koren's curriculum guide makes it easy to incorporate into your anti-bullying campaign.
Also of note as a resource for parents, teachers, and administrators is the updated edition of The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander by Barbara Coloroso—which includes a new section of cyberbullying.
Here are several resources that place To Kill a Mockingbird in a historical prespective:
American Experience's documentary "Scottsboro: An American Tragedy:" In the 1930s the trials of the nine falsely accused teens would draw North and South into their sharpest conflict since the Civil War, yield two momentous Supreme Court decisions and give birth to the Civil Rights Movement. The film is supplemented with a timeline, maps, contemporary interviews, and a teacher's guide.
That's Alabama and ThinkQuest provide outlines of the Scottosboro trials.
And, I would be remiss if I left out a new book—The Eyes of Willie McGee: A Tragedy of Race, Sex, and Secrets in the Jim Crow South by Alex Heard. McGee, a handyman in a small town in Mississippi, was arrested in November 1945 and charged with the rape of white woman. During his trial, there were threats of lynching and rumors that the white woman had been the sexual aggressor. Of course, you'll note that this is similar to the plot of To Kill a Mockingbird.
This short video will introduce you and your students to the trial of Willie McGee.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Focus on History: THE WILDERNESS WARRIOR by Douglas Brinkley and MASTERS AND COMMANDERS by Andrew Roberts
In The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, Douglas Brinkley draws on never-before-published materials to examine the life and achievements of Theodore Roosevelt, our “naturalist president,” who, by setting aside more than 230 million acres of wild America for posterity between 1901 and 1909, made conservation a universal endeavor.
Tracing the role that nature played in Roosevelt’s storied career, Brinkley illuminates Roosevelt’s bird watching in the Adirondacks, wildlife obsession in Yellowstone, hikes in the Blue Ridge Mountains, ranching in the Dakota Territory, hunting in the Big Horn Mountains, and outdoor romps through Idaho and Wyoming. He also profiles Roosevelt’s incredible circle of naturalist friends, and brings to life hilarious anecdotes of wild-pig hunting in Texas and badger saving in Kansas, wolf catching in Oklahoma and grouse flushing in Iowa. Even the story of the teddy bear gets its definitive treatment.
Praise for The Wilderness Warrior:
“Although Roosevelt’s presidency ended 100 years ago, Mr. Brinkley finds ways to make his presidential portrait a timely one. . . . The Wilderness Warrior describes a vigorously hands-on president, eager to fight more than one battle at a time. . . . Brinkley’s fervent enthusiasm for his material eventually prevails. . . . He conveys the great vigor with which Roosevelt approached his conservation mission.”—New York Times
"In The Wilderness Warrior, Douglas Brinkley brings into relief the biography, cultural influences, and political record of the most effective conservationist in history. . . . Like the Grand Canyon that as president he more or less rescued from development and mining interests in one fell swoop, Roosevelt is one of those American treasures that can make you wonder how you missed getting around to for so long." —San Francisco Chronicle
Masters and Commanders: How Four Titans Won the War in the West, 1941-1945, explores the degree to which the course of World War II turned on the relationships and temperaments of four of the strongest personalities of the 20th century: political masters Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt and the commanders of their armed forces, General Sir Alan Brooke and General George C. Marshall. Andrew Roberts, whom The Economist calls “Britain’s finest contemporary military historian,” traces the mutual suspicion and admiration, the rebuffs and the charm, the often-explosive disagreements and wary reconciliations, and attempts to answer some of the key questions of Allied strategy. Why, when the most direct route from Germany to Britain was through northwestern France, did the Western Allies launch attacks via North Africa, Sicily, and Rome? Why did the Allies not take Berlin, Vienna, or Prague and allow the Iron Curtain to descend where it did?
Masters and Commanders dramatically recreates the atmosphere, debates, and maneuverings through which Allied grand strategy was forged and reveals the profound impact of personality upon history.
Praise for Masters and Commanders:
"A dramatic story. . . . With his usual brisk and vivid prose, Mr. Roberts shows how these men and their busy staffs overcame conflicting interests and coordinated strategy among the Western Allies to win the war. . . . Mr. Roberts thus captures not only the personalities of World War II's masters and commanders but the dynamics of their relations. . . . Among much else, Mr. Roberts demonstrates that, despite conflicts along the way, military relations among the Western allies during World War II worked far better than during other military engagements before or since." —Wall Street Journal
"Compelling. . . . Roberts chronicles in novelistic detail the battles that the Americans and the British fought . . . among themselves. . . . Roberts takes the reader on an invigorating, intellectual march from North Africa and Italy to France and finally into Germany. . . . If Roberts has left a stone unturned, it would have to be a small pebble indeed." —Christian Science Monitor