Tag: Reading

This week on The Learning Curve, Cara and Gerard speak with University of Virginia Professor Dan Willingham about cognitive psychology and K-12 education. Professor Willingham discusses the psychology of learning and the research that shaped his thinking and writing, including his advocacy of using scientific knowledge in classroom teaching and education policy and his critique of the “learning styles theory” of education. They explore what elements appear to be missing from American K-12 schooling and schools of education; his support of E.D. Hirsch, Jr.’s Core Knowledge curricular work; and what must be done to improve students’ enjoyment of and performance in primary and secondary education.

Stories of the Week

Books I Should Be Reading


Last year I posted a list of books I was hoping to read over the coming year, and invited y’all to chip in with suggestions. Thank you for your help. I figured I should report back as to what I actually read this year. Okay, that’s part of it, but mostly I’ve been tarrying overlong in giving my Mom a Christmas list. If you have suggestions, I’m sure she’d appreciate them. Right, let’s start with books from that post that I’ve actually read.

Books I Read Last Year

The Horatio Hornblower series, by C.M. Forrester. I’ve read the first three of these so far, will pick up the others as time allows. I enjoyed them quite a bit, first because they’re solid adventure stories, and second because some of the devices are genuinely  new to me. If you recall the rice from Mr. Midshipman Hornblower you’ll know what I mean. I’m reserving the rest of the series as fun reads, and will read them as needed. From there, I’ll move on to the Aubrey Martin and the Sharpe series (thanks @Clavius and @KevinKrisher for the suggestions)

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Maryanne Wolf, Director of the Center for Dyslexia and Diverse Learners at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, and the author of Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World. They discuss American K-12 education’s approach to reading instruction, and how we can increase students’ enjoyment of reading for its own sake, as well as their performance on national assessments. She reviews the findings from her 2007 book, Proust and the Squid, on how reading shapes and transforms our knowledge and emotions. They delve into how technology is changing our attention spans and ability to digest and understand more demanding books and ideas, and the negative impact of smart phones, screens, and multi-media on the brains of young people. She differentiates between acquiring knowledge through the printed or written word and digitally, and how educators and parents should think carefully and constructively about the use of technology in schools and at home. The interview concludes with Dr. Wolf reading a favorite passage from Reader, Come Home.

Stories of the Week: How did the pandemic school shutdowns affect the seven million students in America who did not receive special education services – and what can we do about it? Schoolchildren in Florida are suffering from learning loss as a result of school closures in the wake of the tragic, category-four Hurricane Ian. Can we better prepare for school shutdowns after natural disasters?

Found Books


You know the feeling. You’re visiting a family or staying at a hotel, and you spot books. They draw you, and you pull out the most appealingly packaged volumes, start thumbing through, and read random interesting passages with no thought of discipline. Sometimes, you actually commit yourself to one. You sit down with it and read long sections, so absorbed that you stay up way past your bedtime. Case studies and examples are irresistible. Or you borrow the book, take it home, and read it from cover to cover. Can your found books and how you read them tell a story about your life?

My story away from home started with . . . well, no, actually, it goes farther back than that.  After I discovered reading, taught by my mom in our village home in Northeast Thailand, I always picked up books at friends’ houses. What else are you going to do when there’s no TV? One of my earliest memories was of a family visit with German friends in the mountains. In the kids’ room, I saw the row of colorful picture books and hesitated, remembering that this family spoke German. But I took a look anyway, and although the letters looked English, I realized I couldn’t decipher the text. My mom caused some momentary confusion when she said, “Did you see the books?!” And when I picked one up hopefully with the same indecipherable result, she laughed and said they were in German.

Reading, Listening, and Watching


Here I’m providing snapshots of media I’ve consumed lately since there’s too much material for discrete reviews. Note: The Kindle and audiobooks were deals I acquired on the cheap.

Signing Their Rights Away – This book provides absorbing bios for the thirty-nine signers of the Constitution. (A similar work on the Declaration is entitled Signing Their Lives Away.)  Each piece gives background on the signer’s family life, his career, his part in the Constitutional Convention, and key life events after the signing. I got this as a Kindle deal for under two dollars, and it has been worth it to awaken my mind to facts surrounding this era. For example, I was under the impression that there were just a handful of upstanding “founding fathers” at the birth of our country. This book corrects that assumption, revealing that there were other astute men on hand helping to hammer out an agreement and promote the Constitution to their home states.  I also realize that there was an astonishing amount of wealth in our land even back then; that many of the signers, if not lawyers, were surveyors or merchants; that coming to agreement on the Constitution took weeks of summer meetings in a stifling room; that there were sharp disagreements, especially on how representation in Congress could be fair to both large and small states; and that a number of the wealthy participants also speculated (foolishly) on tracts of land to the west.

Member Post


I think I have probably mentioned once or twice my fondness for brevity.  I just can’t seem to bring myself to read a long post.  A post that goes over two screens or a post that goes off one just has no interest.  Once in a blue moon, a topic is so interesting or the […]

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In a Book-Buying Mood


I dislike acquiring stuff. You only own things in part; in part the things own you. I also have too many unread books already. My shelves are nearly full. And despite my best attempts to convince myself otherwise, I want more books.

I’ve been jotting down a list of books that I need to look up and read sometime. A couple quick notes from it:

Member Post


As a researcher and writer, I care deeply for factual transparency and honesty in reportage. I read across a wide spectrum of viewpoints. Paid subscriptions from the following are sent to my inbox, all of which I scan (and often read in-depth) daily: The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Atlantic, National Public Radio, […]

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This week on “The Learning Curve,” Gerard and Cara talk with Rafe Esquith, an award-winning teacher at Hobart Elementary School in Los Angeles, and the founder of The Hobart Shakespeareans, who annually stage performances of unabridged plays by William Shakespeare. He shares why he founded the award-winning program to teach disadvantaged Los Angeles elementary school students a classical humanities curriculum, the most inspiring experiences and the biggest challenges of teaching highly demanding literary works to young schoolchildren from diverse backgrounds. They explore techniques he uses to help students connect with Shakespeare as well as great authors across the ages.

Stories of the Week: The University of California system agreed Friday to extend its test-free admissions policy through 2025, addressing claims that the use of SAT and ACT results discriminates against applicants based on race, income, and disability. Responding to inequities with regard to internet access that were revealed and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Education will subsidize broadband service for millions of underprivileged K-12 students and college students.

My Out-of-Control Reading Queue


It’s been a while since I wrote, and I was going to post this to a group, but then things got long and I decided I’m sharing this with everyone. So there. Anyhow, because I can’t just read one thing at a time, like a sane person, I’ve a rather long list of “currently reading” items which I’ll list here (with at least one “just finished”). There are actually several categories and reasons why they appear concurrently in my reading list. If you’re interested in just how distracted my reading mind gets, feel free to read on!

“Peace Talks” by Jim Butcher — The not quite latest in the Dresden saga. Once again, Dresden is in hot water even during Peace Talks amongst the various powers in the magical world. Which makes sense. Nothing is simple for him. The Jim Butcher Exponent of Action remains true in this book — as a Jim Butcher book continues, the action increases exponentially, and thus the longer his books go, the more we approach Infinite Action!

“Galen’s Way” by Richard Paolinelli — An independently published eBook, this falls in the genre of Space Opera, when men are real men, women are real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri are real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. So to speak. This takes place in another galaxy centuries after humanity fled some strange entity’s assault on the Milky Way. There’s action, political skullduggery, and fun stuff like that.

What Killed the Dinosaurs! And You Don’t Look So Terrific Yourself.


In 1978, Harlan Ellison published a fine collection of his short stories, called Strange Wine, with an Introduction entitled, “Revealed at Last! What Killed the Dinosaurs! And You Don’t Look So Terrific Yourself.” This was Harlan’s classic broadside against the watching of television.

I was reminded of him while reading a news story headlined: “Almost 40% of university students surveyed are addicted to their phones.” Harlan could have easily updated his Introduction against all of social media. (If you’d like to read the full version of the Introduction, go to Strange Wine on Amazon Kindle, click on the “Look inside” cover image, and scroll down.

NaNoWriMo Victory: I Published a Book!


There has been a lot of sadness and negativity in our world so far this year, but I want to share something good with you all: during the stay-at-home months of March and April, I was able to accomplish a goal that I have had for as long as I can remember. All gratitude and praise to Jesus, I have published my first book!

Even before I could read, myself, I was “writing” books. My mom would fold and staple paper into a “book” for me, and then I would draw the pictures and “read” my book aloud. Once I learned how to actually read and write, I didn’t slow down. In fact, my main issue has always been actually finishing something before I move onto another idea. Being a published author is what I have always wanted to do with my life, but I lacked discipline growing up, and then college and working distracted me from my goal.

COVID-19 Symposium: An (Im)movable Feast


I won’t pretend that I have a singularly unique quarantine story, or even one anywhere near the hardest. Life could be much, much worse and I am supremely grateful, above all else, that I got a choice in how this happened. When my university decided to move online, a few days after Yale and Columbia began demanding that their exchange students return and we had the first two confirmed coronavirus cases on our campus, my parents began making plans for me to come home before it became impossible. I said no. There were still exams I had to sit in May, I said, and there was no way I was going to be able to study with everyone home, or take my last three weeks of classes over Zoom with our unstable internet connection. One of my classes had yet to go online, and I didn’t want to leave and miss a tutorial. Flight prices were going to skyrocket. And these were all true enough, especially the excuse about exams, but I stayed mostly to keep my family safe. 

This was the first winter and spring in all I could remember that my dad hadn’t caught pneumonia, hadn’t ended up with an inhaler or at the ER, struggling to breathe. So I, who had almost definitely been exposed to the virus on campus, and if not there in our university’s city at large, was going to make a long train trip and go through two airports, one that had been host to thousands of Americans on the continent from heavily infected countries escaping while they still had time, to come home? To potentially kill or do irreparable harm someone I loved? Hell. No. 

Quote of the Day: On the Love of Books


“Aren’t we blessed, we who love books?” ― Frances Maureen Richardson

First of all, you’re probably wondering who is Frances Maureen Richardson? I would be shocked if you had heard of her. She’s a friend of mine, a woman in my book club, and a woman who in her senior years wrote and published her first and only novel. The novel is called Not All of Me is Dust. It’s really a fine novel. Twenty reviews on Amazon and all gave it five stars, and other than a couple of friends she has no idea who those reviewers are. You can read about her book here.

Member Post


I am trying to read more this year and I have a stack of non-fiction to read. But if I read that before bed I will keep myself awake trying to solve the worlds problems(update: so far unsuccessful)  I need fiction book recommendations that I can read before bed. I would like to find something […]

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Member Post


On January 16 I wrote a post about my reading plan for 2019, my failure and my hope ( http://ricochet.com/710920/reading-in-the-winter-of-discontent/).  As the product of the Ricochetti tend to be, the comments were filled with morale-boosting wisdom. Thanks, Clifford Brown, for “hosting” this group! Preview Open

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Reading in the Winter of Discontent


BooksA year ago I wrote an article called “Keeping Up” (published elsewhere) about my reading plan for 2019. I noted that since I have fewer reading years ahead of me than behind me, it would be a good use of my time to plan the coming year. It is part of my winter of discontent that I failed to keep that plan.

Not that my plan wasn’t good. To quote myself:

Next, read categories: This year you will read classics, next year economics. I know it is important to read broadly, but not indiscriminately. When I do that, my reading descends into pulp fiction or works of slight worth.

Quote of the Day: Reading


“A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.” – Mark Twain

I may have some advantages. I have been a reader since first grade, nearly 60 years. Over that period I have been an engineer, a quality-assurance manager, a navigator, a technical writer, and an author. Reading has been the key to all of those careers. My ability to absorb information through the printed word has allowed me to succeed in each of those fields.