Archives For reading

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Every November the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) gathers for an annual conference.

Last November (2016), emotions were tense…raw. Distressed elementary and intermediate grade teachers muttered about the language and actions of candidates, and how leaders were setting a bad example by engaging in behaviors that would not be tolerated in a classroom.

Frustrated middle and high school teachers grumbled about the inability of their students to judge facts for accuracy, completeness, timeliness, and relevance given the barrage of information coming from social media. College educators were stymied on what adjustments needed to be made to teacher preparation programs.

The 2016 conference was one of collective incredulity.  In response to the brutal political season that polarized the school year, what guidance would this national organization offer?

Sadly, the response from NCTE Conference was inaudible. Hushed.

In representing the profession, one that centers on the ability to confront all forms of text, the leadership provided few words. To be fair, the timing was perhaps too soon, and few in leadership could have anticipated the depth of polarization that had created the divides in schools and classrooms across the nation.

And so, at this year’s (2017) conference the leadership of NCTE needed to make some critical choices.

The name of the conference, “The First Chapter”, was one choice that promised a new beginning.

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Another choice was the location of this conference in St. Louis, Missouri, the city of Michael Brown and the 2014 riots. A city already dealing with large equity gaps in education. According to a study by Washington University in St. Louis, there has been a continued “disparity in St. Louis schools caused by an allocation of resources.”

An article in the WUPR newsletter by Victoria Johnson in March 2016 detailed the ratio of students attending unaccredited schools as 44% black students to 4% percent of white students. Her observation was that:

“Five miles is the difference between receiving one of the best educations in Missouri and attending one of the worst schools in the entire country.”

So far, this latest 2017 NCTE Conference had a promising title, “The First Chapter”.
So far, the conference had a significant setting, St. Louis.

So who would be the characters to move the plot?
Who would address the central conflict?

The writers.
Writers drove the plot of the 2017 conference.
Writers did what writers do best in responding to the rawness, the hurt, the confusion, the rifts, and the arrogance of the past…the past 12 months…still reverbing from the past 12 decades.

The writers speaking at NCTE confronted all conflicts head-on. They did not mince words. They used their outsider lenses that get to the inside of minds.

If they wrote books for students, they spoke about themselves as students.

“We don’t want to lose the boys. Don’t call them reluctant readers.”
Jon Scieszka (Knucklehead, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs)

“The cornerstone of culture is language. Don’t tell me my culture is wrong.”
AND “Our fear of discomfort makes us less safe. We need to be less faithful to our fears and more faithful to our future.”

-Jason Reynolds (YA author Ghost, Long Way Down)

If they wrote books for teachers,  the writers spoke about themselves as teachers.

 “When you read fiction, you go into the author’s world. When you read nonfiction, it comes into your world, and you have to decide if you stand with it or stand against it.” AND  “The world is tough. No one taught you how to teach after a gunman has killed people in a church, school, concert…. but the kids are looking at you.”
Kylene Beers (Notice and Note, Reading Nonfiction)

“We aren’t here to raise a score, we are here to raise a human.”
~Lester Laminack (Writers are Readers)

“Community is about diversity. Let’s make listening instruction something that brings people together.”
Lucy Calkins (Reading Units of Study, Writing Units of Study, Pathways to the Common Core)

“We say we teach all children, but do we teach all stories?”
Pernille Ripp (Passionate Readers)


And as storytellers, they chastised teachers into action:

“Now more than ever we live in a time when resistance matters….Teaching to resist. Writing to resist.”
-Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming, Locomotion, Another Brooklyn)

“In my book, I don’t shy away from racism and language because that’s what our young people are dealing with. And teachers, I need you not to shy away from it either.”
Angie Thomas (The Hate U Give)

The writers came to the NCTE to share with educators their  process, their craft, and their message that stories teach students to:

Read. Write. Think.*

The writers whispered, they cajoled, they teased, they argued, they humored, and they demanded. They sounded their “barbaric yawp”:

In separate and in panel sessions, the writers inspired…their words both provoked and soothed.

Then we all went back home…to our schools and classrooms…to our students.

So now what?
The NCTE 2017 in St. Louis was “The First Chapter,” and as readers, we already know that a first chapter can deceive. We may not have gotten to the page (as in page 17) when the real reason for the story is revealed.  Moreover, a happy ending is not yet in sight; education is complicated and messy with plot twists.

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For the next chapter (2018), NCTE leadership has selected the title “Raising Student Voice”  and placed the setting in Houston, Texas. Given the havoc created by Hurricane Harvey, this may prove a significant choice as well.
The writers have spoken. Now, let us see what that first chapter really began.
Get ready for the students!

Continue Reading…

The 7th and 8th grade teachers who administered our own  “How I Feel about Reading Survey” to teams of students have collected some contradictory data. The survey is based on questions suggested by Kelly Gallagher in his book Readicide. In this book, Gallagher uses the term “readicide” to define “the systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools.”

The student body is divided into four teams at each grade level, and each team has taken the survey these first few days of school. Each team’s survey provides a snapshot for  a group of students and their attitude towards reading.

The results are contradictory. Take for example the results on 8th grade team in student responses to two prompts: I think being a good reader is important for success in life juxtaposed with the results from I read everyday and look forward to my reading time.

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Yes, students agree that reading is important, but the data shows they do not feel that the practice is important enough to do every day. Moreover, most students do not think reading if pleasurable with over 50% voting they “rarely” look forward to reading. This results from these questions were repeated throughout the grades 7 & 8, team by team.

This data suggests Gallagher’s diagnosis that students could be suffering from “readicide”, an unfortunate consequence of education’s current culture of assessment. The requirements to assess student learning often means employing reading practices that include worksheets, quizzes, or tests; none of these are “fun.”

To counter this, teachers at the middle school are implementing an ambitious independent reading program- 20 minutes a day in a block period- where students are encouraged to read whatever they want from classroom libraries. There are no quizzes. There are no tests. There are no worksheets.  The students will have time built into their day to read, but most important, the students get to choose what they want to read. They can choose from the school book collections or bring in their own book. They will talk about their books with each other, and teachers will visit and conference with them to listen about the books they choose.

In fighting the toxic effects of “readicide”, teachers already have the data that gives them an ace up their collective sleeves…most students have admitted that reading is important for success in life. Guaranteeing that success will be the goal of the 7th and 8th grade teachers who will be working this year to change that high percentage of students who are “rarely” looking forward to reading to a higher percentage of students who “usually” looking forward to reading. Hopefully, teachers can add an “always looking forward to reading” survey choice as well.

January weather forecast? Frigid.
Blogger forecast? Sunshine.
Specifically, “Sunshine Awards.”
Nominating or receiving a Sunshine Award is a way for bloggers to get to know each other. There are unlimited winners to this award because this operates much like the chain letters of old. Get an award from a fellow blogger, and then nominate 11 other bloggers to participate. I suspect that sooner or later, every blogger in the world will be nominated proving the blogging universe has no degrees of separation blogger to blogger.
That said, I was delighted to get a mention….really!!
The Sunshine award does give other bloggers an opportunity to learn about each other, although I am not sure any of the following random facts on me will be useful.
There are five “official” rules (in green):

RULE #1 Acknowledge the nominating blogger:

For me, that was Vicki Vinton of To Make a Prairie “A blog about reading, writing, teaching and the joys of a literate life.” Her blog is an amazing combination of education application and literature tie-ins. Her blog looks so organized and engaging. I know if I am thinking that something might be possible, Vicki proves that what I am thinking is doable. I will reread her posts before I write on a topic (ex: Cautionary Tale Close Reading).You owe it to yourself to visit her blog.

RULE #2 Share 11 random facts about yourself.
Okay…..11 random facts about me:

a. I have 31 nieces and nephews (no twins) from my eight younger brothers and sisters.

b. I made my prom dress in high school; I thought pink calico was adorable!

c. The famous clown Emmett Kelly, Jr. patted me on the head when I was a toddler; I am terrified of clowns.

d. I learned to drive a stick shift on my family’s white 68 VW bus that we called “Moby Dick”; consequently, I also know how to jump start a car with a stick shift.

e. I have one “attached” ear lobe and one “unattached” earlobe which is not the genetic abnormality  you might think.


Kindergarten narrator

f. I was the “lead”narrator in my kindergarten play which surprised my mother and father. NOTE: I am still comfortable onstage.

g. I can recite Marc Anthony’s speech from Julius Caesar III.i.253-275(“O pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth…”) because my high school teacher made me memorize a soliloquy.


Lock on the Pont L’Archevêché in Paris

h. My husband and I (married 32 years) left a lock on a bridge fence in Paris near Notre Dame in 2011.

i. I tear up at at flash-mob videos. Example? (USAirForce Band at Air & Space Museum)

j. I buy white cars because I want to be seen at night. Paradoxically, these cars always look cleaner than black cars.

Haunted House

My Halloween Haunted House

k. For many years,I had a haunted house for Halloween in my barn while my two sons were young. Now, I shut off all the lights on October 31st and pretend I am not home.

RULE #3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.

(Yikes….11 more facts? Aren’t you tired of all this?)

1. What book would you want with you if you were stranded on a deserted island?
How to Build a Ship and Navigate if You Are Ever Stuck on a Desert Island. The more romantic answer, however, would be James Joyce’s Ulysses or Ulysses S. Grant’s letters. Both are on a “to do” list that would require hours of uninterrupted reading time (the connection to Ulysses trying to get back home should not overlooked either…)

2. What did you learn from your mother?
I learned how to cook for a family of eleven; food was plentiful at our dinner table. Cooking is a great skill, but this early training resulted proportion miscalculations and substantial weight gain for my husband. I just cannot get used to cooking for two.

3. Where do you write?
There is a small table in my kitchen where I do much of my writing, but when the weather is nice, I will write on my back patio table. I imagine if I was driving by, I would think, “Oh! I would like to be writing there!”

4. Where do I find joy in my classroom or my work?
When I hear a student correct another student by saying, “a lot is two words.”

5. What do I do to recharge?
I watch movies. I am a movie addict which is not surprising given my addiction to stories.

6. What was my favorite book as a child and why did I love it?
Without question, my favorite book as a child was Little Women. I am the first born, the practical Meg, but in my heart, I am the second born Jo March.

7. If you could have dinner (or coffee or drinks) with anyone living or dead, who would it be and what would you want to ask him or her?
Sister Ella, my first grade school teacher who taught me to read. I want to know if she predicted my interest in reading. She was incredibly -almost frighteningly- tall, and I could never tell if she was smiling or not.

8. Do you have a quote that you keep (in your mind, a notebook, a pocket, your desk, etc.) that captures something that seems important to you? If so, what is it?
The most recent is by Carl Sagan, “What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you.” That’s impressive.

9. How do you feel about the age you are currently in?
Emotionally, I am fine with being 57. I have come to terms with things I will never accomplish (play piano, hike the Appalachian Trail) and still hopeful on other things I want to accomplish (PhD in English, speak French). Physically, I am surprised at how often I need to get up from reading or writing so I don’t get stiff and cramp up. Mentally, I am surprised that 57 sounds old, but 58 sounds wise.

10. What are you afraid of?
I do not like turning off the lights downstairs. To this day, I will race up the stairs as if something is chasing me.

11. If you could go back to one moment in time, when & where would that be & why?
In Our Town Thornton Wilder cautions against revisiting the past; the character Emily finds it too painful. Therefore, I would choose to relieve something I did as a child but not go as myself. I would go back to the 1964-65 World’s Fair in NYC and spend the day with all the exhibits that “predicted” our future.

Now for the fun part:

RULE #4. List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!

NOTE: Should any of the following bloggers want to accept this award WITHOUT the chain letter-like activities, they have my permission. I have no demands for their participation in what could be a Ponzi-scheme of blogging. These bloggers represent a cross-section of  Bloggers and Tweeters that I read regularly.

 HOWEVER, readers who visit these blogs will benefit. I learn so much from all of these writer/educators…I feel their “love”:

1. First and foremost, my dear friend Catherine Flynn blogged so often in 2013 on Reading to the Core that I could not keep up. I walk with Catherine on the weekends (and I can hardly keep up!), so I am always interested in how our conversations show up in a post. She is a literacy specialist…and a specialist in keeping me focused on the real issues in literacy.

2. I love Bryan Crandall, Connecticut Writing Project (CWP) Director at Fairfield University. He supervised my CWP experience in 2012. His blog this year is Creative Crandall and his entry for January 1st, 2014, reads: “I will spend the next 365 pontificating what creativity means to my world, the people I love, the students I work with, and the teachers that need desperate rejuvenation. The goal is to counter the dreary, maddening, and absolutely criminal doings of governmental leaders and corporate partners who are undoing public schools.” Love that.

3.  Another amazing Connecticut Writing Project Director is Jason Courtmanche at the University of Connecticut. His blog is The Write Space. His posts on Facebook/Twitter alert me to any gem I might overlook in the news that is tied to literature/education. He has worked very hard to outline the transitions of Common Core State Standards to the Early College Experience at UCONN for hundreds of high school teachers.

4.  I met Kate Baker of Baker’s B.Y.O.D.– Bring Your Own Device, Dog, & Deconstruction of Literature in person at the Council of English Leadership (#CEL13) this fall. I had seen many of her posts/tweets. The meeting was kismet…in minutes we had covered The Odyssey, Moby Dick, and other classics. She gave a dynamite presentation of Stop Bleeding Red Ink! at the conference. (FYI: Kate already has posted 11 random facts about herself on her blog!)

5. My mom is in Idaho…and so is Glenda Funk at Evolving English Teacher. I first read her entries on the English Companion Ning; then, I stalked her at the National Conference of English Teachers in 2011.  I LOVED her post about the impact of high school sports on academics: “What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about Ed Reform in the U.S.A.” In that post she discusses the everyday impact of sports from practice schedules to concussions. Very informative.

6. I read Judy Artz at her blog  Intergrating Learning and Technology-“Here you will find ideas for promoting literacy through the use of technology.” I met her in person also at Council of English Leadership (#CEL13) where I greeted her as an old friend. That is because she tweets (@JudyArtz) at a rapid fire pace, and sometimes mentions me!

7. I also met Daniel Weinstein of The Creativity Core at the National Conference of Teachers of English (@NCTE13) this November. I have used his ideas in my classroom, especially the semantic mapping, with enormous success. The blog is gorgeous with student work as exemplars.

8. Guilty pleasure? The observations of the Anonymous Blogger @ English Teacher Confessions. Entry “This book made me vomit” about Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God is an intriguing homage to McCarthy’s genius as well as a warning. Reading this post will give you an appreciation for this blog writer’s style…who is no slouch herself!

9. Buffy Hamilton, former high school English Teacher and current school librarian, writes at The Unquiet Librarian. She provides interesting and very practical ways to engage students in literacy (Writing Around Texts) through this dual lens. I am more appreciative of advice from educators who have actually been in a classroom.

10. I have participated in the “Slice of Life” challenge series originated by Ruth & Stacey:Two Writing Teachers this year. I admit, I do not always follow the rules (responding to others?!?), but I appreciate their tireless support of teacher writing. I have found that writing my blog (and slices) are the most educational experience I can have. They are to be congratulated for pushing teachers to engage in writing regularly.

11. Not sure where to start? Try The Reading Zone, Sarah Mulhern Gross who writes, “My blog focuses on reading, with a lot of writing and writing workshop thrown in. I also talk about my classroom and classroom projects.” What makes her blog even more legit? She is a regular contributor to The New York Times Learning Network Blog, my “go-to” spot for literacy in content area classrooms. (See how I snuck in two blogs on one entry?)

RULE #5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.

Here are Vicki’s 11 questions to me, and they are as good as anything I could design. I am plagiarizing them:

  1. What book would you want with you if you were stranded on a deserted island?
  2. What did you learn from your mother?
  3. Where do you write?
  4. Where do you find joy in your classroom or work?
  5. What do you do to recharge?
  6. What was your favorite book as a child and why did you love it?
  7. If you could have dinner (or coffee or drinks) with anyone living or dead, who would it be and what would you want to ask him or her?
  8. Do you have a quote that you keep (in your mind, a notebook, a pocket, your desk, etc.) that captures something that seems important to you? If so, what is it?
  9. What are you afraid of?
  10. How do you feel about being the age you currently are?
  11. If you could go back to one moment in time, when & where would that be & why?

So, dear selected Sunshine Award recipient, here is YOUR choice. You can answer any or all of the 11 questions listed above OR (and I am breaking the rules here) answer this ONE important question….

1. Why write on a blog?

Thanks again, Vicki of To Make a Prairie….this was fun to do on a bitterly cold winter afternoon!

I recently had to write a position statement on assessment and evaluation.  The timing of this assignment, June 2013, coincided with the release of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Progress Report for 2012. This “Nation’s Report Card” provides an overview on the progress made by specific age groups in public and private schools in reading and in mathematics since the early 1970s.

Since NAEP uses the results of standardized tests, and those standardized tests use multiple choice questions, here is my multiple choice question for consideration:

Based on the 2012 NAEP Report results, what difference(s) in reading scores separates a 17-year-old high school student in 1971 from a 17-year-old high school student in 2012?

a. 41 years
b. billions in dollars spent in training, teaching, and testing
c. a 2 % overall difference in growth in reading
d. all of the above

You could act on your most skeptical instincts about the costs and ineffectiveness of standardized testing and make a calculated guess from the title of this blog post or you could skim the 57 page report (replete with charts, graphs, graphics, etc) that does not take long to read, so you could get the information quickly to answer correctly: choice “D”.

Yes, 41 years later, a 17-year old scores only 2% higher than a previous generation that probably contained his or her parents.

There have been billions of dollars invested in developing reading skills for our nation’s children. In just the last twelve years, there has been the federal effort in the form of Reading First, the literacy component of President Bush’s 2001 “No Child Left Behind” Act. Reading First initially offered over $6 billion to fund scientifically based reading-improvement efforts in five key early reading skills: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. The funding of grants for students enrolled in kindergarten through grade three in Title I Schools began in 2002-2003.

There have been individual state initiatives that complement Reading First, funded by state legislatures, such as:

There have been efforts to improve literacy made by non-profit educational corporations/foundations such as The Children’s Literacy Initiative, the National Reading Panel, and a Born to Read initiative from the American Library Association. In addition, there have been a host of policy statements from The National Council of Teachers of English and programs offered by the National Writing Project that have helped to drive attention towards the importance of reading.

All of these initiatives drove publishers of educational materials to create programs, materials and resources for educators to use. Unfortunately, the question of which reading program would prove most effective (Direct Instruction, Reading Recovery, Success for All and others) became a tangled controversy as charges of conflicts of interest between the consultants who had been hired by the Department of Education (DOE) and who trained teachers and state department of education personnel had also authored reading programs for curriculum. Fuel to this controversy was added when a review in 2006 by the DOE’s Inspector General suggested that the personnel in the DOE had frequently tried to dictate which curriculum schools must use with Reading First grant money.

Trying to improve our our students’ reading scores has been the focus so much so that our education systems have been awash in funding, materials, initiatives and controversies since 2001 in our collective to improve reading for students…and the result?

The result is a measly 2% of growth in reading for those leaving our school systems.

The evidence for this statement has been tracked by NAEP, an organization that has been assessing the progress of  9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds in reading. The graphs below taken from the NAEP report measure annual growth at each age level at the high level 250, mid level 200, and low level 150 of reading.  There are other levels measured for highest or lowest achieving students, but the levels measured on the graphs levels are correlated to the following descriptions:

LEVEL 250: Interrelate Ideas and Make Generalizations
Readers at this level use intermediate skills and strategies to search for, locate, and organize the information they find in relatively lengthy passages and can recognize paraphrases of what they have read. They can also make inferences and reach generalizations about main ideas and the author’s purpose from passages dealing with literature, science, and social studies. Performance at this level suggests the ability to search for specific information, interrelate ideas, and make generalizations.

LEVEL 200: Demonstrate Partially Developed Skills and Understanding
Readers at this level can locate and identify facts from simple informational paragraphs, stories, and news articles. In addition, they can combine ideas and make inferences based on short, uncomplicated passages. Performance at this level suggests the ability to understand specific or sequentially related information.

LEVEL 150: Carry Out Simple, Discrete Reading Tasks
Readers at this level can follow brief written directions. They can also select words, phrases, 9 or sentences to describe a simple picture and can interpret simple written clues to identify a common object. Performance at this level suggests the ability to carry out simple, discrete reading tasks.

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The NAEP report does offer some positive developments. For example, from 1971-2012, reading scores for 9-year-olds have seen an increase of 5% in students reading at the lower (150) level, an increase of 15% for students reading at mid-range (200), and an increase of 6% for students reading at the higher (250) level.

Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 7.52.16 PMSimilarly, reading scores for 13-year olds have increased 8% for students reading at mid-level, and 5% for students at the higher level. Scores for student reading at the lower level, however, saw a negligible increase of only 1%.

At this point, I should note that the NAEP report does contain some positive finding. For example, the measurements indicate that the gaps for racial/ethnic groups did narrow in reading over the past 41 years. According to the report:

Even though White students continued to score 21 or more points higher on average than Black and Hispanic students in 2012, the White – Black and White – Hispanic gaps narrowed in comparison to the gaps in the 1970s at all three ages. The White – Black score gaps for 9- and 17-year-olds in 2012 were nearly half the size of the gaps in 1971.

Unfortunately, even that positive information should be considered with the understanding that most of these gains for racial and ethnic groups were accomplished before 2004.

Finally, for students leaving public and private school systems, the overall news is depressing. Any gains in reading in ages 9 and 13, were flattened by age 17. The growth for students reading at higher level dropped from 7% to 6%, while the  percentage of mid-range readers remained the same at 39%. The gains of 3% were in the scores of lower range readers, from 79% to 82%. Considering the loss of 1% at the higher end, the overall growth in measurement is that measly 2%.

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That’s it. A financial comparison would be a  yield $.02 for every dollar we have invested. Another comparison is that for every 100 students, only two have demonstrated improvement after 13 years of education.

Assessing the last 12 of the 41 years of measuring reading initiatives illustrates that there has been no real progress in reading as measured by standardized tests in our public and private education institutions grades K-12. NAEP’s recounting of the results after considerable funding, legislation, and effort, is as Shakespeare said, “a tale…full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Continue Reading…

Dad-Peg, Colleen, Colette -59

Dad with first three daughters (I am in the middle); we were fortunate to have his read alouds more frequently

My father was a reader, and he read bedtime stories to us. Of course, the older children, my four sisters and I, will recollect many more occasions when my father read a bedtime story while the younger children, the remaining four, have fewer memories. Yes, there were nine of us, and the limited number of hours after work combined with the challenges in getting a houseful of children through meals, chores, and school work, made story time with our father less and less frequent. When he did have the time and energy to read aloud, however, we were mesmerized. Part actor-all salesman, he knew how to make a story come alive.

He had read very broadly when he was a child because he had been confined for long periods to hospital beds due to a handicapped leg. He was knowledgeable on the children and young adult literature available from 1928 on, and he was quick to make a recommendation.

“The black spot!” he would dramatically intone, “in the Tavern of the Black Dog, it was the blind man who delivered the the black spot!” This was enough to send shivers into me and me over into Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

“Madame Defarge…” he would growl, “Madame Defarge and her knitting.” He would lower his voice conspiratorially, daring me to discover the dark secrets of Charles Dickens’s Madame Defarge from A Tale of Two Cities years before it was assigned in high school.

He started my sisters and me on A.A. Milne’s House at Pooh Corner reading different stories aloud before we went to bed. “Poohsticks” was our collective favorite, and we demanded the tale because of the way he would read the funniest line in the story. The characters from Pooh Corner were playing a game that involved tossing sticks over one side of the bridge and running to the opposite side waiting to see whose stick would be first to float out from under a bridge. My father would read each character’s voice with only a shade of difference in voice, but he understood how to create suspense from Milne’s language:

“It’s coming!” said Pooh.
“Are you sure it’s mine?” squeaked Piglet excitedly.
“Yes, because it’s grey. A big grey one. Here it comes!
A very–big–grey—- Oh, no, it isn’t, it’s Eeyore.”
And out floated Eeyore.

He would pause there for our mutual astonishment and laughter. No matter how often he told this story, we were surprised and delighted to find that Eeyore had been bounced into the the river, and that once he was “washed” over to the riverbank, Piglet would make the obvious conclusion:

“Oh, Eeyore, you are wet!” said Piglet, feeling him.

My father read folklore to us. He read Uncle Remus’s tongue twisting dialect of B’rer Rabbit and B’rer Bear, and so we knew the allusion of “tossing someone in dat brier-patch”. We learned how to never bet against a turtle, a lesson from Remus’s Old Man Tarrypin, or the famous race between turtle and hare from Aesop. We learned about John Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe; Pecos Bill and the rattlesnake; and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

He started me on the Bobbsey Twin series, and after addicting me to Freddie, Flossie, Nan and Bert, he recommended other series: the Boxcar Children, the Hardy Boys, and finally Nancy Drew.

“How was The Sign of the Twisted Candles?  Nancy’s little blue coupe?” he would ask. “The Password to Larkspur Lane?” He seemed so knowledgable, I was convinced he had read every one, not realizing the successful formula that the Carolyn Keene enterprise used was reused in every mystery. Nancy would solve the crime and discuss the solution with her father, Carson Drew; I would retell the solution to mine.

My father also gave me Little Women at the exact right age, and I am convinced that Louisa Alcott’s story was a “girl” book he had read. He was familiar with feminine concerns of the March girls perhaps because he had several older sisters himself, but he knew the details about Jo’s ambitions to be a writer, and Mr. Baer’s umbrella too well to have only a passing understanding.

I tore through the canon he knew, and soon he was floundering a bit with suggestions. One night, he  tossed a copy of Alistair MacLean’s The Guns of Navarone at me after we had watched the movie on TV. At age 12, I became a reader of espionage, and we found mutual enjoyment from Clive Cussler, Robert Ludlam, and Ken Follett.

He also listened to suggestions from others, and one Christmas I found a copy of Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time before it had received the Newbery Award. He knew enough about me to know that I would love the story, and I did. I loved to read.

Group Camping with KKC '76

Dad with his nine (six girls; three boys) on a camping trip.

Kevin K. Connolly passed away in 1990 at the age of 62, leaving a void in all his children’s lives that we try to fill with stories about him. When I read “Poohsticks” aloud to my own sons, I heard his voice.

There are many gifts a father can give a child, but a love of reading is a powerful gift. On this Father’s Day, I pay tribute to the man who gave me life, and who made that life infinitely richer by making me a reader. Thank you, Dad; you were a great reader, you were an amazing father.

sols_6Why do I stay? This question is circulating on blogs and in videos by teachers from across the country. My friend Catherine, a teacher and literacy specialist, brought this question to my attention in her post this week. She was participating in a challenge organized by Two Writing Teachers called  The Slice of Life. The instructions for participating are on a link that goes first to a definition (“Slice of life is a phrase describing the use of mundane realism depicting everyday experiences in art and entertainment“) while other links provide procedures:

WRITE your slice. SHARE your link. GIVE some comments to (at least three) other slicers.

On one post she linked her Slice of Life post to blogger Beth Shaum’s video “Why I Stay”.  Catherine listed her reasons for staying and noted that other teachers have written about their reasons for remaining in the classroom, “despite changes in curriculum because of Common Core State Standards, new testing, and new evaluations that are being imposed on educators.” The video on Shaum’s blog addresses startling statistics about the teaching and the education profession:

More than 30% of new educators quit teaching after three years, and nearly 50% leave before hitting the five-year mark. (

Shaum’s video showed dozens of teachers from around the country sharing their reasons for staying in education.

I have not written to The Slice of Life challenge, but I did think the idea of recording my personal reasons as to why I have stayed and taught for 22 years in grades 6-12 would be an exercise that could both help me frame my own thinking and possibly encourage younger teachers who are often overwhelmed.

My reason for “why I stay” is purely selfish.…I want to share the stories.

I want to share with children, teens, and adults the stories they have read, seen, or heard.

I want to share the stories in picture books.
I want to share the stories in chapter books.
I want to share the stories in the canon.

So, I teach students to read stories so that we can talk and share the stories that make us human..

I want to share books.

I want to share books at every grade level.

hungry Whales Go_Dog_Go

I want to share books:

  • Go, Dog, Go
  • Hungry Hungry Sharks
  • The Whales Go By

I want to share more books:

  • Nancy Drew’s The Password to Larkspur Lane
  • The Twenty-One Balloons
  • A Wrinkle in Time

Larkspur wrinkle 21 balloons

I want to share novels:

  • Of Mice and Men
  • The Road
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

I want to share stories written as dramas. I want to talk about:

  • Hamlet
  • Medea
  • The Importance of Being Ernest

I want to share stories made into film. I want to talk about:

  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • The Shawshank Redemption

I want to share stories in poems. I want to talk about:

  • The Odyssey
  • Paradise Lost
  • The Cremation of Sam McGee

Guernica Fall of Icarus

GW Delaware

I want to share the stories in paintings. I want to talk about:

  • Guernica
  • The Fall of Icarus
  • George Washington Crossing the Delaware

I want to share the stories that were responsible for essays and speeches. I want to talk about:

  • The Gettysburg Address
  • A Modest Proposal
  • Self-Reliance

I want to share the stories of people’s lives, stories about nature, and stories that mark cultural trends. I want to share:

  • Will You Sign Here, John Hancock?
  • Silent Spring
  • The Tipping Point

From the ancient lights of the campfires to the soft glow from a Kindle, our stories record our humanity.I stayed 22 years in teaching because I want students to understand that record of humanity. I stayed 22 years in teaching because I want students to respond to stories through writing and through speaking. And I stayed because I wanted to encourage students to record their own stories. I want to read and hear and see their stories.

In this great cultural experiment of public education for ALL, I stay to share the stories.

There are many great reasons to teach at the high school level: no outdoor recess duty, college level content, plus, a teacher never has to choose a “line leader”. Best of all, there are no bulletin board requirements.

While most elementary school classroom walls are crammed with colorful thematic cut-outs (apples, shamrocks, stars), high school walls are monochromatic. While middle school classrooms have student work displayed regularly, an essay hung in September will curl and fade on the wall of a high school classroom twisting in the air like an ancient leaf of papyrus.

Generally speaking, high school teachers do not spend a lot of time decorating the classroom. Subject content or motivational posters are the wall covering of choice, unchanged for the requisite 181 days of instruction. Perhaps it is inevitable that teachers who share classrooms do not personalize classrooms.

However, for one brief part of the 3rd grading quarter, Read Across America Week (February 25-March 1st) changed the decorating habits of the faculty at Wamogo Middle/High School.

English teacher door...a wide rang of reading complete with motivational poster!

English teacher door…a wide rang of reading complete with motivational poster!

In a collective effort to demonstrate the importance of reading to students, teachers from every discipline decorated their classroom doors with materials they have read or are currently reading.


When sharing a door meant less space, this resource room teacher used a poster.

Social Studies (Gr 7) had this door and the side wall as well!

Social Studies (Gr 7) had this door and the side wall as well! The genre range (politics-humor-sports) was astounding!


The Art teacher door centered around the command “READ”.


Health and Physical Ed teacher revealed a “retro” fondness for the books that contributed to her growing up including Erich Segal’s “Love Story”


Alternative education students had to walk through a double door display! Students selected the books they read as well in this display.


The resource room mixed decorative flowers with John Wooden “On :Leadership”


One Social Studies teacher took the assignment to heart by hanging what he reads, quite literally, onto the door and walls….He was considered the “winner!”

Admittedly, when the “Doors of Wamogo” was announced, there was a little hesitation. What would go on the door? When was this “due”?

Finally, a few brave souls stepped up. First, there was the Social Studies teacher, an Army Reserve Colonel, who started by hanging “classified” documents on his door. His display was followed by the Business and Career Department teacher, also a basketball coach, who hung sports magazines and the cover of a Bobby Knight memoir.

The English Department members, the Literary Specialist, and the media center Librarian displayed a range of the reading, from Where the Wild Things Are to Great Expectations.

As the week went on, the competition became a little more intense. Finally,  the Grade 8 Social Studies teacher simply emptied out his bookshelf and placed all his favorite texts alongside the door in addition to the door.

Side shot of the "Classified" materials read by a Social Studies teacher

Side shot of the “Classified” materials read by a Social Studies teacher

Perhaps one of the more interesting outcomes was the sharing of titles between faculty and staff. “Oh, I loved that book!” one teacher would say to another. “This is a hard book, but well worth the effort,” said one teacher. “Yes, we read this in our ‘book club’!” exclaimed another. “Who is the Jody Picoult freak?” questions a science fiction reader. “How much Stephen King can you read?” was the retort.


Math teacher places “Put Me in the Zoo” on his door; hopefully. this says more about his new baby daughter than the classes!

Students had a chance to look at all the titles: assigned reading from high school that they currently are reading (Romeo and Juliet, Animal Farm), political/history books, and sports memoirs. There were magazine covers, newspaper mastheads, and comic strips. Blogger, WordPress, Twitter, Facebook logos were prominent, social media as informational texts.

So what the “Doors of Wamogo”  created for Read Across America Day in our small rural school was a very large window. The doors provided a window into the lives of our faculty, a window for our students to see us as readers, and for our students to see what books made us successful.

These doors illustrate how reading gave each teacher and staff member a chance to at the window of opportunity; reading = individual success.

We had so much fun, we might try decorating again next year!

Happy Read Across America Day, 2013!


Taking the playfulness of a Dr. Seuss motif to heart with replicas of books shared by students.

Go Away. I’m Reading.

December 30, 2012 — 2 Comments

Perhaps you received a book this past holiday, or perhaps you had some time to catch up on book you have been waiting to read. You might need one of these signs:

Why might you need a “Go Away. I’m Reading” sign? Because reading is often interrupted by people. The sign could stop those interruptions by others that inevitably occur at a critical moment in a book or article. You would use the sign to ward off those who are blind to the obvious and ask, “What are you doing?” You might even use the sign to stymie those who intrude to ask, “What are you reading?” But you would most certainly wave the sign to stop those who interrupt to ask, “Is what you’re doing so important?”

Reading is a very quiet, sedentary activity, an activity that requires concentration. You cannot multi-task reading. An interruption in that concentration disrupts comprehension, and there are studies that look to measure the effects of interruptions on comprehension. There was the 2002 study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill titled, “The Effect of Interruption on Working Memory During Discourse Processing ” by Kerry Ledoux and Peter C. Gordon.

Ledoux and Gordon conducted separate experiments using the same narrative and expository passages, but they varied who read the narrative and who read the narrative and expository passages. They gathered evidence to prove that comprehension of similar (narrative) passages was more disrupted by interruption in the first experiment, and than with dissimilar (narrative/expository) passages  in the second experiment:

This supports the notion that the maintenance of text information in working memory is affected by interruption. Second, we found that the initial reading of the second passage in a pair is disrupted more if the first passage in the pair is of a similar type than if it is of a dissimilar type.

Their two experiments looked directly at the systems of language processing necessary for comprehension:

 Our results support the view of the role of working memory in language processing as a system whose function comprises the creation and maintenance of an elaborate, semantic representation of a text and the efficient retrieval of this representation from long-term memory.

They determined that interruptions had an adverse impact on the role of working memory, but could not determine the magnitude of these interruptions because of differences in texts.

Another more recent study concluded that visual clues are helpful to resume reading after an interruption. An abstract from the 2012 study by JE Cane, F Couchard, and UW Weger from the University of Kent, UK titled, “The Time-Course of Recovery from Interruption During Reading: Eye Movement Evidence for the Role of Interruption Lag and Spatial Memory” centered on the impotence of visual cues. Locating where one stopped reading is important to recovering comprehension:

Two experiments examined how interruptions impact reading and how interruption lags and the reader’s spatial memory affect the recovery from such interruptions. Participants read paragraphs of text and were interrupted unpredictably by a spoken news story while their eye movements were monitored. Time made available for consolidation prior to responding to the interruption did not aid reading resumption. However, providing readers with a visual cue that indicated the interruption location did aid task resumption substantially.

Predictably, cuing the place where the interruption took place is helpful to comprehension, but there is also considerably conversation about the amount of time it takes a reader to return to a full involvement with a text. Consider that research in the business communities has determined that many interruptions are costly and hurt business productivity. A 2005 NYTimes Magazine article by Clive Thompson titled Meet the Life Hackers  described a study by Gloria Mark, a professor at the University of California at Irvine. Mark looked at interruptions in the average 21st Century office worker. She developed a series of timed tasks that mimic work in the business day. Her research was organized so that,

 Each employee spent only 11 minutes on any given project before being interrupted and whisked off to do something else. What’s more, each 11-minute project was itself fragmented into even shorter three-minute tasks, like answering e-mail messages, reading a Web page or working on a spreadsheet. And each time a worker was distracted from a task, it would take, on average, 25 minutes to return to that task.

Although 25 minutes may not be the same amount of time required for the average reader to return to a text, Mark’s research does demonstrate the serious loss of time interruptions cause to work productivity. If one of these activities involved reading, then reading productivity was adversely effected.

One other interesting view on uninterrupted reading has been offered by the Telecommunications Information Networking Architecture Consortium (TINAC). In 1988, they published a “manifesto” on writing hypertext, those texts that feature embedded links for the reader. What is surprising is how they began the “manifesto” by focusing not on the writing of such texts starting from the reading of such texts.  Their first statement:

I) No interruptions.

Reading should be a seamless and uninterrupted experience. Its choices proceed from the expression of possibilities as a narrative medium and depend upon the complicity of the reader in the creation of a narrative. Reading is design enacted.

Reading is “design enacted”, meaning that even the distractions in hypertexts are meant to be done in a sitting without distractions, without interruption.

Ultimately, conveying the importance of uninterrupted reading may be necessary. But if the little sign, “Go Away. I’m Reading.” doesn’t work, you might want to try other strategies. A quick survey on the Internet reveals available like-minded products.

There are plans for free “Go Away. I’m Reading” Book Covers in several different styles. There are also “Go Away. I’m Reading” coffee mugs handy for uninterrupted newspaper reading in the morning.

However, the ultimate solution may still be the most simple: find a quiet spot in the house, and lock the door.

Be vewy, vewy quiet….we’re reading!

Our new block schedule at Wamogo High School has made the school much quieter. We have alternating days, four periods of 85 minute classes; the traffic in the hallway is less, and, thankfully, so are the announcements. This quiet provides an excellent environment for us to continue our practice of silent sustained reading (SSR) at all grade levels, 7-12. We embarked on our SSR program two years ago, and we have noted both the anecdotal success with the program through participant surveys and the reading scores on the CMT/CAPT (State of CT mandated tests).

There are a number of texts on the incorporation of an SSR program in a language arts classrooms. Janice Pilgreen’s book (2000) The SSR HandbookHow to Organize and Manage a Sustained Silent Reading Program has an eight point checklist for successfully implementing SSR.

Using Pilgreen’s checklist (her suggestions in red), here is an explanation of how Wamogo is implementing the SSR program this year:

  • “Students need to be flooded with reading materials.”Our classroom libraries of whole class reads and independent reads are full. We have several carts that we can roll into classrooms of independent reading materials. Some carts are dedicated to specific grade levels or classes. For example, our Memoir class have a cart full of memoirs of all reading levels that students can select. Our school library is one of the few in the state to offer Overdrive® to all of its schools. Region 6 students and staff can easily download ebooks to a variety of devices from our Overdrive® catalog with over 15,000 titles. Students and staff can borrow free ebooks and read them on their iPod, iPad, laptop, Kindle or Nook. Creating a flood of reading materials is discussed also in Kelly Gallagher’s book Readicide. 
  • Appeal: The reading materials should be geared toward the interests of the students who are reading them.” We are sensitive to the wide variety of interests in our school. Many of our students are vocational agriculture students who are interested in non-fiction selections. We include all genres: manuals, graphic novels, historical non-fiction, fiction (YA titles) in trying to find books that interest our students.
  • Conducive Environment: The physical setting should be quiet and comfortable.” The new block schedule has benefitted the SSR program in an welcomed level of quiet in the school day. We do have the students read at their desks; we do not have “comfy chairs”.
  • Encouragement: Students need supportive adult role models who can offer assistance in locating reading material.” Our English Department teachers read with the students. We read the books during SSR so that we can make recommendations and discuss books with our students. Our amazing library media specialist comes in and gives book talks. She has also successfully incorporated popular author booktalks, in person or on SKYPE, with popular writers such as Neil Schusterman, Gordan Korman,and  Laurie Halse Anderson. (I am hoping for a Jon Szeiska interview one day *hint-hint*)
  • Staff Training: SSR doesn’t just happen; the staff of a school should be well versed in the goals and procedures used at the school.” Our department has seen the benefits of the SSR program, and we support each other with strategies to make the program work for us. There are teachers who use SSR time to confer with students, however, we found conferencing  distracted other readers. We also discuss the best times to implement an SSR activity in a block period, and how to measure results. 
  • Non-accountability: This is perhaps the most controversial factor. Pilgreen found that students read more, and had more positive attitudes toward reading, when book reports and such were not required.” In today’s data driven classrooms, this is a difficult, even risky, decision. In 9th grade, we do require one book review per quarter to be placed on a shared class blog, and we do require students to read more than one book per quarter. I also record the start page and the end page (students provide this number) as a way of keeping track of their progress. But, there are no other assessments of their independent reading.
  • “Follow-up Activities: Pilgreen found that follow-up activities such as conversations about books read by students or the teacher encouraged other to try them out.” We do spontaneous book talks. “Anyone reading a good book?” I will ask, “Any recommendations?” Students will share their reactions to a book when asked.
  •  “Distributed Time to Read: A common error made by schools new to SSR is that they have one long SSR period a week, rather than shorter periods that occur daily. Pilgreen found that successful programs have students read for fifteen to twenty minutes daily.” We have found that 15-20 minutes of reading time is ideal. On an alternating block schedule, this gives our students 30-60 minutes a week of quality reading time.

A classroom book cart in Grade 9 with high interest titles

Robert Marzano’s book Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement, ASCD, (2004) references Pilgreen’s eight steps; he  suggests a 5-Step Process for implementing SSR:

Step 1: Students identify topics of interest to them.
Step 2: Students identify reading material.
Step 3: Students are provided with uninterrupted time to read.
Step 4: Students write about or represent the information in their notebooks.
Step 5: Students interact with the information.

The major difference between Pilgreen and Marzano is the use of a notebook (step 4) for recording which we may incorporate this year in having students respond to prompt. These prompts are centered on story elements (“What similarities do you notice between your character and the archetypal character we study who is on a journey?”) . Our students are using writing notebooks for free-writes (front to back) and notes/vocabulary/grammar (back to front). Their first assignment was to “decorate” the notebooks, and already there are some enthusiastic participants for both decorating and free-writes!Finally Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey make a case for including SSR as a means to acquire content vocabulary in their book  Word Wise and Content Rich, Grades 7-12: Five Essential Steps to Teaching Academic Vocabulary, Fisher and Frey consider SSR as a means to contribute to gains in both background knowledge and vocabulary.

One more reason to implement SSR? The world is noisy. Students have their individual soundtracks plugged into their ears wherever they go; all venues from public transportation to shopping to sporting events have soundtracks; phone ring tones abound. There is a cacophony of sound in a student’s brain during the waking, perhaps even the sleeping, hours.The daily 15-20 minutes we offer students to read may be the only 15-20 minutes in a day where they are forced to be quiet. SSR allows them to absorb information without distraction. Ultimately, SSR at every grade level provides the opportunity for students to shut out the noise of school; SSR teaches our students to be vewy, vewy quiet. They’re reading.

Certainly, I am not the first to notice the direct correlation between the act of travel and the act of reading. One need only perform a quick web search for quotes about books and travel to find literally hundreds of writers who have written specifically about this connection:

“My grandfather says that’s what books are for,” Ashoke said, using the opportunity to open the volume in his hands. “To travel without moving an inch.”
― Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake

“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.”
― Anna Quindlen, How Reading Changed My Life

In fact, there are some quotations by writers about travel where I could replace the word “travel” with “read” in order and still make an interesting valid sentiment:

“We travel (or we read), some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.”
― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 7

“Through travel (or reading) I first became aware of the outside world; it was through travel (or reading)  that I found my own introspective way into becoming a part of it.”
― Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginnings

While the experience of reading allows readers to imagine places they do not know, the sensory experiences of travel improves their imaginations. For example, a reader who has traveled outdoors in  frigid climates has a more accurate appreciation for Jack London’s To Build a Fire. One could travel on a ferry crossing Lake Michigan or shuttling between the Virgin Islands or cruising up the Bosphorus Strait; the rumble underfoot of a boat engine pulling and out of port, the sensations of crosswinds, and the smell of the diesel combine for a sensory impression, quite literally a “motor memory” ready for recall when one reads about maritime travel.

Perhaps it is the often demanding physical elements of travel that strengthen the link between the tangible experience and a reader’s imagination: the lugging of  personal belongings in suitcases, shopping bags, handbags, backpacks; the laboring over uneven terrains, rural and urban; or the push against a crush of people for transport on a subway, bus, boat, train. The traveler has these physical sensations cognitively recorded as salient memories to be used in imagining how the character(s) march, trudge, slog, plod, trail or trek in, on, or through unfamiliar territory.

The other advantage to travel is the “ah-ha” moment when the reader confronts first-hand the “real setting” of fictional lives. There is a greater understanding of author’s purpose when a reader can place a character within an author’s context, say Dickens’s London, Conrad’s Congo, Tolstoy’s Russia, or any one of Hemingway’s haunts: Paris, Spain, Cuba, South America, Africa. Cathedrals, rose-covered-cottages, pubs, palaces, mosques are better appreciated in their cultural contexts. Similarly, walking the landscape of a historical event that has been recounted in non-fiction allows for a greater comprehension of the significance of a rampart, fort, bastion, jetty or beachhead. One need only add the cacophony of sounds, say the calls from street vendors, the resonance of folk instruments, the chatter of foreign languages combined with the taste of exotic fruits or perfumed sweets in order to complete an immersion in a culture. The reader, standing in the authentic setting of a book, fiction or non-fiction, is connected to the author in a full sensory bond. The well-travelled reader’s imagination can then pluck the strands of travel memory, as if from Dumbledore’s pensive, in creating mental pictures of books already read or books to be read in the future. The traveler cannot help but be a better reader.

There are numerous books written to aid in a traveler who desires this cultural experience.  I have been traveling this past week through Istanbul, Turkey, and by far the most popular book carried by travelers is the Rick Steves’s  Guide to Istanbul, a travel writer who wholeheartedly advocates for a cultural emersion for travelers. On his website, he has a webpage dedicated to “travel as a political act,” which later became the title to his book.

In the introductory paragraph to this webpage, Steves emphasizes the the importance of travel in much the same way that I try to proselytize the importance of reading to my students:

Lessons learned from our travels can better equip us to address and help resolve the challenges facing our world. We travelers are both America’s ambassadors to the world…and the world’s ambassadors to America. Whether you’re a mom, a schoolteacher, a celebrity, a realtor, or a travel writer, it’s wrong to stop paying attention and let others (generally with a vested interest in the situation) make the political decisions for us. Our founding fathers didn’t envision career politicians and professional talking heads doing our political thinking for us. All are welcome in the political discourse that guides this nation. Thoughtful travelers know that we’re all citizens of the world and members of a global family. Spinning from Scotland to Sri Lanka, from Tacoma to Tehran, travelers experience the world like whirling dervishes: We keep one foot planted in our homeland, while acknowledging the diversity of our vast world. We celebrate the abundant and good life we’ve been given and work to help those blessings shower equitably upon all.

Steves’s philosophy of travel is an echo to a great writer from a different century, Samuel Clemens. Clemens was heavily influenced by his trips to Europe and the Middle East (1867-69) before he wrote his greatest contribution to American literature, Huckleberry Finn (1885). One these trips, he wrote a series of travel letters which were later compiled into the popular book The Innocents Abroad. In one letter he wrote:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
-Mark Twain

Readers, get up and pack! Seek out a different world! Improve your imagination and travel, because even the Ancient World’s Augustine of Hippo knew, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”