Missouri Reading Journal

Hi everyone,

I think I mentioned the article coming up in the fall issue of Missouri Reader but I forgot to tell you when the journal came out. I won’t print the whole piece here but this is how it starts.

The Missouri Reader
Vol. 40 / Issue 1 A publication of the
Fall 2016 Missouri State Council

David Harrison- For the Fun of It

“When I made up my first poem, I was hungry
and tired of waiting. My mother was frying fish
in the kitchen and I was sent to the living room
to wait for dinner. The words I thought of
expressed my need. I liked the way they
sounded. “Sometimes I wish/I had a fish/Upon a
little dish.” No one told me I had to make up a
poem. I was six-years-old. It was just a fun
thing to do. My mother taped the poem into my
scrapbook. High praise!

Seven decades later I’m still making up
poems. Kids ask why I climb out of bed at 6:00
a.m. to settle into my daily writing routine. The
reason hasn’t changed. It’s a fun thing to do.
Writing poems makes me feel good. Writing
well is neither simple nor easy, but it provides
me with a sense of gratification that drives my
desire to do it again.”

Versions of the article have appeared in New England Reading Journal and are scheduled for Arizona Reading Journal and California Reading Journal in their next issues.


From a reviewer’s point of view

Hi everyone,

I read an article by a reviewer on page 31 of Sunday’s New York Times Book Review section. It’s by Alice Gregory, a contributing editor at Times Style Magazine. For those of us who have at one time or another felt the lash of an invisible reviewer protected by the system from ever having to face the author he or she has just savaged, I’m grateful to Ms. Gregory for her insight and unusual apology. She leads off with, “I am saying, to the authors of books I’ve reviewed even just a few years ago, that I’m sorry.” She concludes by clarifying, “I don’t think I was unfair to those books, but I do think I was unfair to the people who wrote them. There is a difference, and I am inclined to acknowledge it in a way that I once, even quite recently, was not.”

A point Ms. Gregory makes is that she began reviewing when she was 23 and for the first few years “…labored under the delusion that it didn’t matter whether or not I knew anything at all.” She goes on to say that she critiqued nonfiction books on topics she didn’t know well and fiction books by authors she hadn’t read before. The line of reasoning leads her to conclude that in the early days she tended to deal with the book in her hand and pay too little attention to the fact that she was “engaging with the product of someone else’s time and effort and intellect.”

She makes no apology for not liking certain books, nor should she. But growing on the job has taught her that it’s one thing to not like someone’s book and quite another to abuse the person who worked in good faith to create it.

Naturally Alice Gregory doesn’t speak for all reviewers, but I appreciated her perspective and learned something about the business of reviewing that I’d only suspected before.

Book Links

Hi everyone,
Sylvia Vardell
Congratulations to Sylvia Vardell for her article in the November 2015 issue of BOOK LINKS, LITERATURE-BASED RESOURCES FOR THE CURRICULUM, “Playing Tag with Science Poets.” The heading is, “Fifteen poets who write with a science focus endorse their favorite collections of science-themed poetry for young readers.” I’m happy to be in the lineup with other poets and friends. Thank you, Sylvia, for all you do to support children’s poets and their work.

Food for young thought

Hi everyone,

Some of you know of an outstanding teacher named Nancie Atwell http://www.heinemann.com/authors/109.aspx. She has written many great books for educators, including IN THE MIDDLE; TRANSFORM YOUR CLASSROOM; SCHOOL, LESSONS THAT CHANGE WRITERS; and NAMING THE WORLD: A YEAR OF POEMS AND LESSONS.
Nancie Atwell
In March of this year Nancie made national news when she won the inaugural Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize, with a $1 million award attached, and gave the entire $1 million to her demonstration school, the Center for Teaching and Learning, in Edgecomb, Maine.

I just read an article by Nancie that was published in the WASHINGTON POST and titled “Innovation Old-School Style.” In it she states, “When reformers discuss how to improve U.S. education, innovation is a word they use a lot, preceded by the modifier technological: innovation gets defined as devices and apps.” She goes on to say, “But as a growing body of research has begun to question whether tablets, e-readers, and assorted digital platforms are doing children more harm than good, I’d like to reclaim the term. Methods, created by teachers in a quest to develop students’ skills and understandings, are the essential innovations.”

I love the whole article but the statement that jumped out for me is this one: “Give them intriguing introductions to compelling stories and time in school to read them. Give them a community to read in, a healthy collection of books from which to choose, and conversations with a teacher who knows the collection . . . and they will grow into fluent, passionate readers.”

Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Would that it were!