New Year -- New Resources

Friday, September 25, 2009


I had no idea that the Poetry Foundation sponsored video adaptations of poetry on U Tube until I read about it on

Check out the link there to Heather McHugh's annimated poem, "Above the Space Bar," which is delightful!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

E book readers

Publishers Weekly (The book industry trade magazine) has announced the wireless e-book reader linked to Barnes & Noble will be for sale at Best Buy next month.

It is a European model using the Verizon 3G network, and unlike Amazon's Kindle, it will read multiple e-book formats, just as the Sony Reader does.

IREX Unveils New Wireless Digital Reading Device
By Calvin Reid -- Publishers Weekly, 9/23/2009 7:20:00 AMIREX, a European developer of digital reading devices, will today release the details about the new digital reading device it plans to launch in the U.S. market that will allow consumers to wirelessly download e-books as well as newspaper content through a partnership with Barnes & Noble. The device will be unveiled at a roundtable discussion in New York City featuring IREX CEO Hans Broder, B& president William Lynch, Penguin CEO David Shanks and others (including this reporter). The new device has a 8.1” black & white e-ink touchscreen; offers wireless 3G connectivity through the Verizon network and will cost $399. The IREX DR800SG and will be available for sale through Best Buy chain by next month. The new device has been developed to compete directly with the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader devices. Better known in Europe than in the U.S., IREX is entering the U.S. market a bit late. But the company hopes to overcome that disadvantage through its partnership with B&N, the unique size and quality of the touchscreen device and a long history of developing and enhancing e-ink technology. The device will also offer wireless access to more than a 1,000 newspapers through the NewspaperDirect service. The new IREX device has another advantage: it has a Qualcomm Gobi chipset that allows the device to use wireless networks outside of the U.S.—unlike the Kindle or the Sony Reader. IREX is also reportedly planning to offer an affordable color-screen—current color e-ink devices can cost nearly $1,000-- as early as 2011.

Friday, September 4, 2009


I must admit I’ve been a little taken aback by two articles I read recently about the trend for teachers to encourage “free reading” instead of even some books on a recommended reading list, especially in middle school. One article discussed the new metrics which a private company has developed in order to encourage kids to compete for points. One Harry Potter is worth three To Kill a Mockingbird.

I do believe that reading anything with pleasure has to precede learning to love reading. Stories come before novels; comics are good stories, so are movies and even some video games, just as songs come before poetry.

Nevertheless, why there should be any “all or nothing.” “classics or bestsellers,” in a classroom I have no idea. And giving 50 points to the child who reads three long bestsellers but fewer to a student who reads three short books by Jane Austen, Ernest Hemmingway, or J.D. Salinger makes no sense.

I don’t believe that we all have to read in lock step the same “classics” in order to be educated Americans. I do, however, think that John Grisham is more interesting when you have already read Harper Lee. Twilight should not replace The Telltale Heart. Lots of romance readers would agree having read Pride and Prejudice makes Sex in the City funnier.

Most importantly, I think that teachers should encourage students to read the books they find hard to read as well as the ones they read for fun. Thinking is often hard.

I taught Mrs. Dalloway twice to when I was a Freshman Comp Teaching Assistant at UCLA. I know that very few kids came away even liking Virginia Woolf as a result. But everyone of them was pleased with having learned to read a “hard” writer, and by virtue of having learned that, they were better writers too.

Learning that reading and writing require work but that hard work is also rewarded is the lesson that makes sitting in a classroom interesting, worthwhile, and valuable.

That tackling challenges is part of going to school, that’s what I’m afraid we may be losing. I know most people will not be “English majors,” much less professors, editors, or even teachers. Some will be watch more movies in a year than they read books in a decade. Some will spend more time coaching basketball or being volunteer EMS medics than they will reading.

But everyone needs to be able to tackle a challenge, and a good lesson in hw to do that is reading a book you do not know you will like; reading a book because people you like (assuming you don't hate all your teachers) tell you it’s a good book; reading a book because stories written in another time and place help us learn to live better in the here and now.

That's what I don't want to lose.