Reading programs for grown ups!

Here’s a report from the daily online newspaper, Inside Higher Education, about a non-school-based reading program in communities around the country. It’s about people coming together to read a common book and discuss it with guidance from a local college professor. How cool is that?


Reading junkies, this one is for you!

OK, all you reading junkies…there’s a new reading option out there in the world that is a collaboration of two of my favorite resources: the New York Times and PBS. The Times and the PBS Newshour have joined forces to create a new book club online.
Find it at
They pick a book each month, interview the author(s) on the Newshour and have discussion on Facebook.

Also of interest, from the other side of the world, is a story on the book business in Afghanistan of all places. Despite its low literacy rate, the Afghans publish an amazing number of books. Here’s the report that appeared fairly recently in the Times:

More books worth a look

Recent reviews in the New York Times suggest these items might be of interest to those concerned about the status of reading and books.

E.O. Wilson has published a book called The Origins of Creativity in which he discusses the biology of literacy. The review is by Peter Godfrey-Smith, and is available at

Two others come from other writers…
Martin Puchner wrote a book called The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization, on the value of literature and reading.

Abigail Williams has published The Social Life of Books: Reading Together in the Eighteenth-Century Home, about the importance of reading in eighteenth century. Reviews of these two are at this link:

Finally, I have mentioned previously a book called Reading with Patrick by Michelle Kuo. Sometimes I mention books, like those above that I haven’t actually read. But I have been reading this memoir and I really recommend this one. The author taught for two years in the Teach for America program in the Arkansas delta. After leaving the area and attending law school, she returns to the same area to work, and revisits one of her former students, jailed on a murder charge. She reconnects with this young man through reading and writing. The story is beautifully told, showing the power of reading and writing for everyone. Enjoy!

Two books worth a look

Two books worth a look

These two should be of interest to readers of this blog. The first appeared last year (2017) and devotes a full chapter, called “Build a Bookshelf” to reading and helping kids become good readers on their way to adulthood. Sasse, the Republican senator from Nebraska, holds a Ph.D. in American history. He writes that he was concerned about his kids becoming strong readers, saying that “Critical, engaged reading skills are not a luxury, but rather a necessity for responsible adults and responsible citizens” (p. 208). He and his wife decided to encourage their kids to create a reading list of 50-60 books that they read or planned to read by time they left home for college and beyond, and also set as a household goal reading for 60 uninterrupted minutes per day, without any digital distractions or interruptions. The chapter is definitely worth a look (along with the whole book), regardless of your political views.
Michelle Kuo’s memoir is the story of her time working in the Teach for America program in the Arkansas Delta. Although she left the program after working in a poor, rural school for two years, she went on to law school and returned to the area to work again with one of her former students who had developed his reading ability in his time with her as his teacher. The book addresses issues of racial discrimination and criminal justice, showing the importance of reading to these topics.
Both books are definitely worth a look. Links:

Here’s a link to a report by a University of Michigan professor that appeared in the NY Times on Nov. 22, 2017. Though she does not give sources for the research she reports, she discusses the interesting positive effects of reading and writing the old-fashioned way with paper and pen or pencil. While the report focuses on students’ use of laptops in class, showing that they performed more poorly with laptops than when electronics are banned, it is easy to extrapolate to reading as well as writing and think that reading on paper has a similar beneficial effect. There is research to support this claim (“Why the Brain Prefers Paper” Scientific American 309, 48 – 53 (2013) doi:10.1038/scientificamerican1113-48). Here’s the link to the article:

Yet another new book

I am blessed with family, friends and colleagues who know of my on-going interest in reading and related matters, and they often send me notes about new books, blogs of interest and assorted articles. So a colleague recently sent me the link to this review of a new book called Reading with Patrick by Michelle Kuo. Here’s the link:
I confess I have not yet read this book, but from the review, it looks extremely interesting and potentially useful to those of us interested in reading issues.

Good news about books and libraries

Good news for libraries, books and kids!

Here’s some good news for school libraries and reading, as reported by AP. Best-selling author James Patterson has donated $1.75 million to school libraries in collaboration with Scholastic Books. This news is especially good because Daniel Willingham, the University of Virginia psychologist mentioned in my previous post, has said that the best way to encourage kids to read is to have lots and lots of books readily available. This good news was reported by AP in September, 2017. Here’s a link to the report:

Old and new insights on reading

A new book on reading was mentioned in my usual source, the New York Times. In the Sunday Review section on Nov. 26, 2017 (p. 6) there was a piece by University of Virginia psychologist Daniel Willingham. He’s the author of a new book called The Reading Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Understanding How the Mind Reads (Jossey-Bass, 2017). He discusses three points of interest to readers of this blog in this short piece, but covers them in more detail in his book, so that’s worth a look: 1)since reading comprehension hinges more on knowledge than skill, youngsters should spend more time on substance than on developing reading skills; 2)testing is skewed to kids who are better off because they have more opportunities to pick up a wide range of knowledge and experience outside the classroom; 3)the Common Core stresses reading skills when the evidence suggests that prior knowledge is what really matters. These points bring to mind for me a famous article from the 1960s called “Reading Is Only Incidentally Visual” by psychologist Paul Kolers. Here’s the citation for that one, worth a look: (1969). Reading is only incidentally visual. Psycholinguistics and the teaching of reading. Newark, Del.: International Reading Association, 8, 16.

Important new books on reading

There are two important books on reading published in 2017 that warrant attention from readers of this blog. The first of these is Mark Seidenberg’s Language at the Speed of Sight: How we read, why so many can’t, and what can be done about it (New York: Basic Books, 2017). Here’s a review from someone at the Fordham Institute (a Conservative think tank on education):
This review appeared on the Education Next website.
A second review appeared in the New York Times:

This review is by David Kipen, the former head of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Both reviews are very positive, and these are supported by the fact that Seidenberg holds a named professorship in cognitive psychology at the University of Wisconsin.
A second new book is called The Reading Mind by University of Virginia professor Daniel Willingham.
A favorable but not strongly substantive review appears on this website:
I think this one has not been out long enough to get substantive reviews in academic venues.
Seidenberg has definitely got my attention, particularly since he pokes some holes in the work of two reading theorists whose work I have respected for many years, Canadian psycholinguist Frank Smith (author of Understanding Reading which went through 6 editions), and University of Arizona reading expert Kenneth Goodman whose work, published in many academic journals, is summarized in On Reading (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1996). I have some doubts about Seidenberg’s assertion that there is no research to back up the claims of these scholars, since Goodman offers many case studies of oral reading deviations (aka miscues) that reflect readers’ strategies for text comprehension. Smith relies on psycholinguistic research done by others, cited extensively in UR.
Both of these new books present summaries of the latest findings from psychological, neurological and other kinds of research and offer proposals for how to be sure young people develop the critical literacy skills essential to success in both online and offline environments. Have a look and post comments on this blog if you like.