Friday, August 30, 2013


Fall is approaching.

That means it's time to start stockpiling books-- hoarding  them like squirrels hiding nuts in the crevices of old trees preparing for cold winter nights.

Actually... I am always gathering books, creating piles of " next-reads",  and looking forward to the future pleasures of shopping in my own store of books. So autumn is the time to continue with that practice with even more intentionality.

Always.. I am reading several books at once-- but then sometimes  I get so engrossed in one that I forsake all others until that one is finished.

This happened with The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel by Neil Gaiman, which I recently completed. (See related post, Knowledge of  Children)

And I can see it beginning to happen with Khaled Hosseini's latest gift to fiction lovers, And the Mountains Echoed.  I am finding it harder and harder to leave Hosseini's characters and their complex lives in Afghanistan, harder to leave them stuck in unread pages.

Since it is on my iPad, this is the book I am reading in every spare moment away from home.

While I am completely captivated by And the Mountains Echoed, my eye periodically wanders to Moth Smoke by Mohsin Hamid, which is waiting in the wings to be read next--to be my next engrossing, time-stopping journey. His bestseller,The Reluctant Fundamentalist, is one of my all time favorite novels.

I tend to be reading from several categories or genres at any given time--reading several selections for a variety of reasons.
My fall reading reflects this typical pattern.

In addition to the above novel, I am in the middle of several other books.

Professional Books

 I Used to Think..and Now I Think..: Twenty Leading Educators Reflect on the Work of School Reform (Harvard Education Letter Impact Series) edited by Richard Elmore.
I am reading this with interest, both agreeing and arguing in my head with the ideas and authors... and ultimately wondering if this book might be an appropriate text for the 2014 Columbus Area Writing Project Summer Institute. We are always on the lookout for texts that will not only foster critical thinking and reflective conversations about our teaching, but also serve as mentor texts for our writing about our work as teachers, and as learners, writers, and readers   (See related post, I Used to Think...But Now I Think...)
Rethinking Classroom Participation: Listening to Silent Voices by Katherine Schultz
This past summer in the 2013 CAWP Summer Institute, we read several chapters from this book .   Schultz challenges us to reconsider the role of silence in our classrooms and in our lives, with young students and adults alike. I am still reading... and still rethinking all of teaching I have ever done in light of her ideas about classroom participation.. I wrote my initial thinking in the related post Silences.

Next-Read in Professional Books

Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading  by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst
The Common Core Standards calls for close reading. What does that mean?  Do I know how to do it? Do I already do it or is it new?  Do I agree with the concept?   I respect Beers. I am  greatly interested in her interpretation and perspective on this new buzz term.


This Art: A Copper Canyon Ars Poetica Anthology (Copper Canyon Press Anthology) edited by Michael Wiegers
I love poetry about poetry, writing about writing--metawriting.  I discovered this treasure when I was researching resources for an idea which inspired my lowest read blog post to date-- perhaps it is the name that is off-putting-- Ars Poetica , or maybe I really am nearly alone in this interest.

Quote Poet Unquote: Contemporary Quotations on Poets and Poetry edited by Dennis O'Driscoll
 I read a few pages from this work daily.  I read when I am stuck or when I am  taking a break in writing or when I just want to remind myself why I write. Each short quote fosters much reflection on the whats and whys and hows of poetry-- and writing.

 Definite Next-Reads in Poetry

Gulls Hold Up the Sky: Poems 1983-2010 by J. Patrick Lewis.
I was excited to discover this volume of poems for adults.  I have been a J. Patrick Lewis fan forever, and own many of the 85 books he has given us. A peek into several poems revealed the classic wit we have come to expect from him. I was privileged to hear him speak at OCTELA 2013, and at that time posted my related reflections.

 I am so excited that  J. Patrick Lewis will be one of  the keynote speakers at the Columbus Area Writing Project Fall Forum.


The Novelist's Lexicon: Writers on the Words That Define Their Work edited by Villa Gillet and LeMonde
This is my kind of book on several levels.  First, it is writing about writing.  Second, it deals with keywords--or boiling things down to the crucial kernel- another personal penchant.  At the international  literary conference hosted by Villa Gillet and Le Monde, seventy prominent novelists were asked to select a word that describes, summarizes or serves as an entrance into their work. Their resulting brief reflective pieces have been collected in dictionary format.  The individual and seemingly unconnected passages interrelate and weave together in surprising ways.

What If?: Short Stories to Spark Diversity Dialogue by Steve L.. Robbins
This unique book provides  personal stories that allow us to begin what Robbins calls "crucial conversations" about how we work together and get along in the work place, our personal lives, and the world.   Each story is followed by suggested reflections and activities. I dip in and out of these short readings, always connecting them to my own personal encounters, always learning something new about myself and the world..

Next-Reads In Nonfiction

Made for Goodness: And Why This Makes All the Difference by Desmond Tutu
A friend quoted a prayer and several other passages from this book in a recent sermon. What I heard so moved me, that after the service, I asked about the source of the quotes,  then, immediately added this book to my iPad. In this work, Tutu answers the question he is often asked, "Why are you so joyful?" in the face of all you have seen, encountered, and endured.

The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood by Jack Zipes
Next to Cinderella, which is my favorite tale, stands  Little Red Riding Hood.  This book collects 35 versions that challenge our ordinary recollections of this beloved, yet disturbing tale. Included are renderings of the earliest oral tellings and retellings by well-known writers.  Through the tales, Zipes examines our Western culture and the implications of this familiar story.

Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking by Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander

The Language of Life and Death: The Transformation of Experience in Oral Narrative by William Labov

As a fan of Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid,  and as one interested in language and story,  I am anticipating long, deep, and satisfying reads in these two volumes.

What are you reading?
What is on your fall bookshelf?

Today's Deeper Writing Opportunities

What are you reading?  
What is on your next-reads pile?

Reflect on how you select what you read.
How do you hear about new books? 
How do determine which books are for you?

Write a poem, narrative or essay about both your current and potential or future books and reading experiences.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Fifty year ago today, on August  28, 1963, Martin marched and talked and dreamed his dream for our nation.

250,000 people marched  and dreamed with Martin.

They filled the National Mall.
This political gathering, one of the largest until that point, called for jobs and freedom, civil  rights for African- Americans, and racial harmony and peace for all in our nation.

I was 10 years old.
I remember.
The air was different.
Heads were held a little higher and greetings were a bit more enthusiastic in my community.
My parents watched the news even more than usual.
Hope abounded.

We have not yet fulfilled the dream that Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned for us. We have taken steps forward,  but we have not yet brought  into perfect reality the images he outlined  that day in front of the Lincoln Memorial in his I Have a Dream Speech.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day
live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color
of their skin but by the content of their  character. I have
a dream ....
When we allow freedom to ring-when we let it ring
from every city and every hamlet, from every state and
every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all
of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and
Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join
hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual,
"Free at last, Free at last, Great God a-mighty, We axe
free at last."
To read the speech in its entirety click here.
To listen to a recording of King delivering the speech click here

Students in our schools today were not alive when these famous words were spoken.  They were not yet in the world when we were called to create this nation that Martin is describing.

In order for this dream, this vision, this ideal to be achieved we must remember the dream.  We must remind ourselves of what our best selves can look like. We must call each other to be what we should be here in America.

There are many excellent books that introduce our younger citizens to Martin Luther King Jr. and his vision for our world and others that remind our older citizens and all of us to keep this dream alive, to work toward this vision.

Several address the speech and dream itself.

One that has remained a favorite of mine, I Have A Dream,  presents King's speech in its entirety,  includeds a foreword by Coretta Scott King, and is illustrated by 15 Coretta Scott King Award-winning artists. Back matter includes statements from each artists about the meaning of their illustrations along with biographical information, as well as photographs and highlights of  events in King's life.

A new favorite, I Have a Dream (Book & CD), also presents the entire speech along with unmatched illustrations by Kadir Nelson.  This edition  includes a CD of the speech.

What does this speech mean?  What exactly is the dream that King presented then... and now?

We want those who will build our future to not only have heard the speech, listened to the dream, but to also understand what the words mean, what the dream entails, and to realize their role in making this dream a reality.

 In Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s I Have a Dream Speech in Translation: What It Really Means (Fact Finders Kids' Translations), Leslie J. Holland presents the speech  with  clear, everyday-language "translations",  along with additional background information that will also translate the historic context.

 For older students and adults interested in a more comprehensive study of King's  speech, along with other writings, I recommend I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World, Special 75th Anniversary Edition (Martin Luther King, Jr., born January 15, 1929) 

And finally, in addition to learning about  King's speech, there is value in studying the man himself---his words, his leadership, his activism, his call to justice and peace, his demand for a new nation.   One excellent place to begin is Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Bryan Collier. Woven through biographical information are words from his speeches. 

In My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., King's sister, Christine King Farris, offers  a portrait of her brother from her privileged familiar perspective as sister. From her unique position, we gain a closer look at this famous man.  
And, of course, Andrea Pinkney includes Martin Luther King Jr. in Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America
Martin Luther King Jr., indeed, changed America.  
He offered us a new dream, a new way to exist together in our nation.
He calls us still... to be better than we are.

He had a dream.
We, too,  have a dream.

Today's Deeper Writing Opportunities

What did it mean in 1963? What does it mean to you now?
What parts of this dream have come true?
What elements in King's vision are not yet realized?
What is your role in making this dream a reality?

Write a reflection on this famous speech.

Yu may also want to write a new dream speech that Martin Luther King Jr. might deliver today were he alive.