Sunday, July 24, 2016

The New York Times Jumps in on Getting Kids to Read

The New York Times has a good editorial here about the importance of getting your children to read during their summer vacation.  My only real criticism of it is that the author devotes much time to trying to figure out if it's okay to bribe children to read.  I wish she had thought to mention that what is really important is being willing to spend money to buy books that kids can love.  And the rules some parents had for their children made me uneasy, like requiring that all of the reading was in books that were on their grade level, and that they hadn't read before.

I devoted much of my 37 years of teaching high school English to helping my students become avid readers.  And I paid attention to the avid readers who walked into my classroom.  I found out this about them:  they almost always developed their love and habit of reading through series books, like the Harry Potter books, or the fantasy books by Rick Riordan, or the Big Nate graphic novels.   Their parents were willing and able to spend money for their books, since libraries rarely had all of the books in the particular series they loved.

Ms KJ Dell'antonia is right about the importance of reading.  My avid readers read better, wrote better, and did better in all of their classes.  

So do everything you can to help your children love reading.  Just don't expect that they will love the same books that you did.  I really believe that all reading is good, and that any kind of reading eventually leads to more reading.  My students who loved comic books and mysteries and fantasies and romances as children were the only ones who read well enough to love Shakespeare in high school. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Reason to Buy a House Rather than Rent

The NYTimes has an article here giving the advantages of buying or renting a house.  The article looks at the choice purely in financial terms, but I think they've missed one of the most important reasons for buying a home:  children.

A huge benefit to buying a house, if you have  children, is that now they can stay in the same neighborhood and the same school system.  Moving can be very hard on children, and in my thirty plus years of teaching high school, I saw a number of my students fall apart when their families moved, whereas those who had grown up in the same small town were able to keep close friends for years.  Plus, a stable school situation is usually a great benefit for children with learning issues.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

J.K. Rowling is Back!

The New York Times has a story here about the new play that J.K. Rowling has written using the characters from her Harry Potter series.  The comments I found especially interesting, as so many writers told about their love or the series, and describe how it brought them to a love of books.  There was the occasional snotty comment of someone who is clearly angry that a children's book author gets so much attention and acclaim.  The post by Peter Giordano is typical of them, calling Rowling's books trashy and calling her a hack.  I just had to respond to his posting, as I think people who think like he does have done more to cause a reading crisis than all of the televisions and video games in the country:

Oh Peter, Peter.  I wonder if you've actually read the books you are so confidently writing off.  I was a high school English teacher when they were coming out, and I read them, since my students were falling in love with them.  I found them to be very well-written children's literature--fresh and funny and full of interesting themes and characters.  Plus they brought an untold number of children to a love of reading.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Perhaps We Should Lay off Buying All Pink Clothes for Little Girls

Russell More has an interesting editorial here in the Salt Lake Tribune giving the religious argument against transgendered bathrooms.  His main point is that he believes God has created each of us to be a certain sex, and we must learn to live gracefully within the sex God means us to be.  While I think there are many problems with that as a rationale for public school policy, he does, I think, make one good observation.

This is it:  the idea that many boys and girls are not interested in, nor comfortable with, traditional gender toys and roles.  Perhaps if we stopped dressing all little girls in pink, and buying them dolls, fewer would think they were really meant to be boys.  And if boys were allowed by their families and culture to be mostly interested in dancing and cooking, fewer would think they were meant to be girls.  Of course, there are true transgendered individuals, and I do believe we must accommodate them as best we can.  I was a teacher for 37 years, and see no problem with transgendered young people using bathrooms they are comfortable in.  All of the ones I knew, without exception, were gentle, timid people.  Impossible to see them as predators.

Reading as a Help for Clumsiness?

The 'Well" blog in the NY Times has an interesting column on clumsiness in children here.  The main idea is that there can be many reason for children acting in an uncoordinated way, and the author, Dr. Klass, gives several good suggestions of steps a parent should take.

I think this is an excellent overview of ways of dealing with an uncoordinated child.  As a teacher for 37 years, I would just add that it might help to find some children's stories about creatures who are clumsy.  You could start by searching
amazon for "clumsy children's books".   I tried that and several good suggestions came up.

With my students, I found that it wasn't the necessarily the most coordinated, or smartest, or best looking children who were the most popular.  Rather, it was the kids who felt all right about themselves, and truly liked and were interested in their classmates.  Some of the experiences necessary for this mindset can come through reading.  Reading makes everything better.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Asking for a Change in your Teenager's School Schedule

The Motherlode column asks here if parents should ever try to get their high school student's schedule changed.  One comment from a teacher said no, absolutely not.  I disagree.

As a high school teacher myself for 35 years, I couldn't disagree more with Kate of PA.  Parents and kids should have no "agency" in their school system?  Who is the system for, anyway?

There are many good reasons why a student should not be in a particular class--wrong level, other students who harass, poor (or abusive) teacher, etc.  Yes, poor teacher.  There are a few teachers out there who should not ever be in front of kids.

If you child has such a teacher, I think it is your responsibility to get her out.  And, believe me, if all of the parents of that teacher's students said, "No way.  Get my child out of that class," the administrators would find a way of getting rid of that teacher.  An emotionally battering teacher can do great harm.  Of course get your kid out, if that's the situation.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

More on the Amazon/Hachette dispute.

The NY Times now has their editorial board writing a piece here accusing Amazon of "bullying tactics" in its contract dispute with Hachette.  The editorial seems to elicit comments from people who don't understand very much about the current state of publishing:

HeyNorris says:  "When good literature is not available where 40 percent of books are sold, the public interest is not served."

Good literature--like the books of James Patterson?  The large publishers publish books they think will sell, period.  Amazon has opened its store to thousands of self-published authors that the Big Five wouldn't touch--many who explore niche subjects or  fiction that doesn't easily fit into current popular categories.

Amazon also gives authors a much bigger share of royalties (70 percent vrs. 17 percent) than big publishers.  The really interesting question is how long mid list writers will continue to subject themselves to the big publishers' confiscatory terms.  Many have already jumped ship and publish independently with Amazon, and other online bookstores.