Those old Greek Myth posters

A quick bleg for those of you who might be able to help me.

Back in the 1980′s (and early 1990′s) there was a series of posters covering Greek Myths. I know, because I saw them in both fifth grade (1984-85) and in either 10th or 11th grade (1990-1991), in two separate California school districts. They were pretty extensive, with posters for Europa and Bellerophon as well as the usual suspects (Appolo, Hermes, etc.). I’m pretty sure they were part of an educational unit, and I seem to recall that they came with pages for students to color in.

The posters themselves were in a sort of very abstracted art-deco style, usually with just two colors (plus black and white). The Dionysus poster was purple and green and showed him eating grapes (held above his mouth, if memory serves). The Demeter poster was a sort of maize-tan color, and she had really big hair. The Bellerophon one showed him dumping the lead into the Chimera’s open mouth.

Anyway, I’ve spent over an hour trying to find them on the ‘net, to no avail. Does anyone else remember these posters? And does anyone know where I can find some?

Any hints or clues are welcome. Many thanks in advance.

(Oh, and so people will have something to argue about: Resolved, that teaching Greek Mythology in some exacting detail is an absolute requirement for any elementary school curriculum which purports to prepare its students for any sort of more advanced literary or academic endeavors.)

Repent. The end is near.

So this is a thing.

You want that sweet Ivy League vibe to reverberate through your essays but don’t have the chops to write them that way? Let Unemployed Professor write all of those tedious essays, take-home exams, and anything else that one of your dreadful professors throws at you. With low rates, unparalleled customer service, and insane expertise, you can buy research papers and college term papers from your own Unemployed Professor.

Unlike most of our competitors, all of our writers hold advanced graduate degrees from respected universities. If they don’t, we simply don’t hire them. So what are you getting when you hire us to do your work? The person who will be writing for you will have approximately the same qualifications as the person who designed the assignment! What does that mean? Our people know the proverbial tricks of the trade whereby your professors trap you, make you lose points on ridiculous technicalities, and thereby prevent you from partying (or living quietly) as you would so desire.

I suppose this is what they mean when they talk about chickens coming home to roost. I suppose that universities sort of had this coming, what with the rampant overproduction of PhD’s.

Maybe this has been around a long time — Slate seems to have discussed it back in February — but I just found out about it, so the horror is still fresh.

Education, Politics, and Cultural Identity

No links to start discussion today. No quotes with snarky replies. Just a few thoughts that I’ve been working on for a little over a year now. I thought that it’s about time to toss a preliminary version into the public space and see what happens.

First, a few assumptions (which could easily be wrong):

1. It’s not incoherent for a country to aspire to multicultural pluralism.
2. A multiculturally pluralist country nevertheless will have some sort of shared culture.
3. At the most fundamental level, the primary purpose of the education given to children in any society, at any time, is to reproduce a culture and to give children the ability to fit into that culture. (This is straight from Dewey.) The sorts of things that are often said to be purposes of education — economic success, survival, the growth of powers, etc. — are the purposes of the various aspects of the particular culture in question.

The tension is obvious: if education is about cultural reproduction, then which cultures in a multiculturally pluralist country get to reproduce?

On the one hand, the answer seems obvious. “They all do. They have a right to reproduce themselves, and to exist. That’s what multiculturalism is.”

But we also have to educate for the “shared” culture, the over-culture that makes our multicultural country a nation in the first place. And we need to do that without interfering with the reproduction of the various subcultures.

When we, as a country, find ourselves contemplating something like the Common Core — which proposes to establish a “national” curriculum (and that is exactly what it proposes, despite the protestations of some of its proponents) — we’re faced with the question of what, exactly, our shared culture is that needs to be reproduced. And not only are we then in the business of picking and choosing what parts of the culture get included and which do not, we’re also inevitably going to have to deal with the notion of cultural change and how we should alter our culture by altering the values and practices that are transmitted to the next generation.

This is, of course, one of the reasons (if not the reason) that education is so politicized in this country: education has been institutionalized to a tremendous degree in the United States, and that means it’s something of a “winner take all” in terms of cultural (re)production. All of the fighting that goes on — whether it’s about textbooks or Howard Zinn or Heather Has Two Mommies or prayer in schools or “Evolution is just a theory” — it’s all about the struggle to seize control of the mechanism of cultural reproduction and establish the culture that is desired.

One strategy to avoiding this sort of life-and-death struggle, of course, is to “thin” out the notion of our shared culture. (Note — I touched very briefly on this issue in the third chapter of my dissertation.) Instead of having our public schools serve as a center of substantive values creation and the inevitable culture wars that follow, we might think to “dial back” the public school’s curriculum to include only those things upon which universal (or near-universal) agreement can be established.

Nearly everyone — even the Amish, the Gangsta Rappers, and the Hippies — seems to think that learning to add and subtract and read is a good thing. But while that might fly with mathematics, with reading it’s almost impossible to teach the skill without having something to read. And that means exposing children to ideas, which necessarily means presenting them to kids as “endorsed” by society.

So it’s easier said than done.

I suspect that the great push to make schools into job-factories, that is, institutions whose sole purpose is to prepare students for some sort of “career”, is a reaction to the cultural battles that (I think) reached their apex in the late 80′s and early 90′s. If the schools just limit themselves to producing economic widgets, and leave the culture to the local institutions, then everyone’s happy, right? We all share the thin “culture” of economic efficiency, don’t we?

Well no. First off, it’s not clear that everyone got the message that there was supposed to be a truce in the culture wars. There are many political factions (primarily but not exclusively progressive) who desperately, desperately want to teach substantive values in schools, and who aren’t happy until they win. (And they never win, because no matter what sorts of institutional change they manage, it’s never enough.) That’s one problem.

A second problem is that this sort of thin-culture “education” (if we can call it that) really requires that there be some local, supplemental institution providing a substantive, value-laden culture. Otherwise it’s just a skills-training center, and not a proper education for children at all. If a student is not given a culture into which they can fit, not given a culture in which they can take up a meaningful role… well, we’re ignoring the fundamental purpose of education. (And this might help explain why so many students are shooting up their schools these days, but that’s probably a cheap rhetorical point unworthy of me.)

Additionally, for the greater part of the last century, schools have served as a (albeit contentious) source of cultural values. Our national culture has gotten quite used to the seeing schools as sources of civic value, and we’re ill-equipped, I think, to have the rug pulled out from under us with so little warning.

This post grows over-long, so to sum up: there is a fundamental tension between the fact that we want (to the extent “we” want) to live in a multicultural society on the one hand, and the notion that we can have some sort of centralized education curriculum on the other. There may be a way to deal with this tension, but I think it first requires that we acknowledge that it exists, and that we explicitly attempt to deal with it.

Common Core math: deep or dull?

According to a New York Times article by Motoko Rich, parents and students are finding Common Core math not only confusing but tedious and slow.

To promote “conceptual” learning, many Core-aligned textbooks and workbooks require steps that may be laborious for students who already get it. A second-grade math worksheet, pictured in the article, includes the question: “There are 6 cars in the parking lot. What is the total number of wheels in the parking lot?” To answer the question, the student drew six circles with four dots within each. (Actually, this doesn’t seem new; it reminds me of “New Math” and “constructivist” math.)

One nine-year-old, apparently weary of this kind of problem, stated that she grew tired of “having to draw all those tiny little dots.”

Students with good understanding may be put through steps that seem redundant to them. If they skip those steps, they may be penalized.

“To make a student feel like they’re not good at math because they can’t explain something that to them seems incredibly obvious clearly isn’t good for the student,” said W. Stephen Wilson, a math professor at Johns Hopkins University.

One reason for emphasizing “conceptual” learning is that employers apparently are demanding critical thinking. Several questions remain to be answered, though: (a) whether Common Core math–in its current forms–really is promoting conceptual learning; (b) if so, whether it also promotes math proficiency; (c) whether the current approach is benefiting students at the upper and lower ends–and those in between, for that matter–or holding them back; and (d) whether this is the kind of “critical thinking” that will serve students well in college, the workplace, and elsewhere.

I will comment briefly on the first question; I welcome others’ insights.

Tedium and depth are not the same. One can go through a long explanation of a problem without gaining any understanding; one can solve a problem quickly and come to understand a great deal.

In sixth grade, in the Netherlands, I learned mental arithmetic: I learned to add, subtract, multiply, and divide double-digit numbers in my head, using all kinds of tricks that the teacher taught. Those tricks enhanced my understanding of what I was doing. I enjoyed the swiftness and ingenuity of it; I would have detested it, probably, if I had to write it all out, step by step, and illustrate the steps with circles and dots.

Detailing and explaining your steps is a worthwhile exercise. But part of the elegance of math has to do with its mental leaps. Sometimes, when you do steps in your head, or when you figure out which steps in a proof are assumed, you not only understand the problem at hand, but also see its extensions and corollaries. Sometimes this understanding is abstract, not visual or even verbal.

There seems to be an unquestioned assumption that one comes to understand math primarily through applying it to real-life situations; hence the Common Core emphasis on word problems. While word problems and practical problems can lead to insights, so can abstract reasoning, and so can models that bridge the abstract and the concrete, like the multiplication table.

Yes, the multiplication table–horrors, the multiplication table!–abounds with concepts. If you look at it carefully (while committing it to memory), you will see patterns in it. You can then figure out why those patterns are there (why, for instance, any natural number whose digits add up to a multiple of 3, is itself a multiple of 3). (Something similar can be said for Pascal’s triangle: one can learn a lot from studying the patterns.)

In other words, conceptual learning can happen in the mind and away from “real-life situations”; it need not always be spelled out at great length on paper or illustrated in terms of cars and wheels. Nor should students be penalized for finding shortcuts to solutions. Nor should memorizing be written off as “rote.” Yes, it’s good to understand those memorized things, but the memorization itself can help with this.

In ELA see a similar tendency toward laboriousness (that likewise long predates the Common Core). Students are required to “show their thinking” in ways that may not benefit the thinking itself. For example, they may be told to explain, at great length, how a supporting quotation or detail actually supports their point–even when it’s obvious. Students with economy of language (and, alas, clarity of thought) may lose points if they don’t follow instructions. Instead of being at liberty decide whether an explanation is needed, they receive a message along the lines of “Explain, and explain again, and then explain that you have explained what you set out to explain.”

Critical thinking is important–and one should think critically about how it is conveyed and taught.

Structure leads to speedy degree

While most community college students spend years pursuing a credential — and often fail to complete one — accelerated students at Indiana’s Ivy Tech complete a two-year degree in 11 months. The program is designed for first-generation students from low-income families.

Technology: the great unequalizer

According to Annie Murphy Paul and a number of researchers, technology is not narrowing achievement and opportunity gaps; rather, it seems to be widening them.

Susan B. Neuman, a professor of early childhood and literacy education at NYU, and Donna C. Celano, an assistant professor of communication at LaSalle University in Philadelphia, spent hundreds of hours observing children in the high-poverty Badlands and the affluent Chestnut Hill sections of Philadelphia. They found that technology exacerbated inequalities between rich and poor children–not because the rich had more of it, but because they used it differently. Paul writes: “They select different programs and features, engage in different types of mental activity, and come away with different kinds of knowledge and experience.”

Paul relates this to a well-documented “Matthew Effect,” a term coined in 1968 by Roger Merton. (“For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.” [Matthew 13:12]). That is, when rich children use technology for educational purposes, they make greater leaps than poor children.

Not only do poor children gain less from technology than their rich counterparts, but they may even lose. In a forthcoming article, economists Jacob Vigdor, Helen Ladd, and Erika Martinez report a possible negative effect of technology on poor students’ performance: after broadband was introduced to public schools across North Carolina, math and reading performance went down in each region where it was introduced. The scores of disadvantaged students dropped the most.

Paul suggests that affluent children have more guidance from adults when using the computer; thus, they may be directed toward intellectually challenging activities.

There may be still more explanations of the phenomenon. Schools have been told that technology will help raise the achievement levels of the disadvantaged. High-poverty schools are clearly under great pressure to raise the achievement levels of the disadvantaged. So, when technology comes their way, they may require teachers to use it, even when it doesn’t serve the lesson well. (A pre-Danielson classroom observation form in NYC had a check box for technology use–nothing about whether it was used well or poorly.) I have attended PDs where the emphasis was on making use of technology no matter what, not on examining how it might or might not enhance a given lesson. At one PD, we watched a video that ended with the a principal’s advice, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

How can schools improve the quality of their technology use? Paul has a few suggestions:

Addressing it would require a focus on people: training teachers, librarians, parents and children themselves to use computers effectively. It would require a focus on practices: what one researcher has called the dynamic “social envelope” that surrounds the hunks of plastic and silicon on our desks. And it would require a focus on knowledge: background knowledge that is both broad and deep. (The Common Core standards, with their focus on building broad background knowledge, may be education’s most significant contribution to true computer literacy.)

Amen: I suspect that if schools focus on that last part–building background knowledge (and foreground knowledge, for that matter, and ways of interpreting the knowledge)–the proper uses of technology will present themselves, not automatically and naturally, but relatively easily all the same.

One minor quibble, though (minor because it’s tangential to her argument):  The Common Core, particularly in ELA, doesn’t focus on building background knowledge. It stresses the importance of curriculum but focuses on skills. Not that the Core should have specified a curriculum–but as it is now, one can “implement” the Core–to the satisfaction of state officials–without a clear sense of what is being taught and why.

In the spirit of Paul’s last point, though, schools would do well to have technology serve the lesson and not the other way around.

Of widgets and failure

What’s a school to do if it looks like students just aren’t doing so well this year?


Report cards for Montgomery County’s 151,000 students were mailed Friday after a three-day delay that followed a mass recalculation of final exam grades for Algebra 1, according to the school system.

Schools officials said late Friday that they added 15 percentage points to all Algebra 1 exam scores after they became aware that already-high rates of failure had risen markedly.

You’re not misreading that. Scores were too low. So they just gave everyone an extra 15 points on the final.

Now I’m not wholly against shaping grade outcomes to meet a predetermined distribution. Fixed curves are better at differentiating, and the competition they breed tends to really push students to excel. (Unfortunately, they have the side effect of making those on the bottom end of things feel like giving up.) This happens in the hard sciences and math all of the time, where a 40% on a final is often a B+.

But this is something different.

Erick Lang, Montgomery’s associate superintendent for curriculum and instructional programs, said the main cause of the failure spike appears to have been a loss of instructional time in the spring semester, as teachers prepared students for state exams required for graduation.

The preparation for state exams took two to three weeks out of the semester, he said.

* * * *

Lang said that officials added the extra points so that students would not be penalized for a problem they did not create.

So let me get this straight. I’m trying to be charitable here, and assume that the district isn’t just inflating grades across the board to cover up their own failure (which very well may be the case).

The district has an Algebra I course that covers, let’s call it A1, where A1 is the set of Algebraic topics {1,2,3,4}. And the district also has a test which covers A1. But the state has a test that covers A2, which is the set of topics {1,2,3,5}, let’s say.

So the teachers teach A2 as their algebra class, sacrificing the time that would have been spent teaching topic 4, and instead teaching topic 5. Because it’s a state test and presumably there are money, jobs, and other things at stake.

So then they give the district test, and a huge number of students are unprepared to be tested on topic 4, because they never learned it. Because the teachers weren’t teaching it. Because they were teaching A2 instead of A1.

And… wait for it…. wait for it…


Does that about sum it up?

This is what happens when you treat youth education like a mass-scale industrial process and not like the series of interpersonal relationships that it’s supposed to be. You get product defects that affect production runs of hundreds and thousands of widgets. Except those widgets are students. And no one is paying attention because they’re all trusting the system.

You know who should be an absolute authority on what sort of test is given as a final to an Algebra class? The Algebra Teachers. If you’re a teacher, and you’re letting someone else design your final exam (a questionable situation in the first place), and you don’t know exactly what’s in that final exam, then you’ve failed at your job.

And if you do know what’s in that exam, and you don’t teach it? You’ve failed at your job. And if you agree to teach a subject knowing that you can’t teach it in the time allotted? You’ve failed at your job. And if you don’t take a few hours at the beginning of the term to get a handle on exactly what you need to teach and how much time you’ll have to teach it? You’ve failed at your job.

And if you do all of the things you have to to succeed at your job, and you recognize the $#!+storm coming down the tracks, and you recognize that you are not in fact going to be teaching your students something on which they will be tested by the community, and you take the community’s money knowing that you can’t possibly do what’s being asked, why then you’re a fraud and a coward.

Now my purpose isn’t to rag on teachers, here. My purpose is to explain that the district seems to be putting out a story in which the best-case scenario is that every single one of their Algebra I teachers is entirely unfit for his or her position as an Algebra I teacher.

In the first case, I hope that the teachers realize this, and object. In the second case, I doubt it’s true. I smell a rat.

UPDATE: Fixed an effect/affect error.

On seeking out in summer what should happen all year

Teacher writer Jessica Lahey wrote a lovely piece about unstructured play and the summer time:

Most schools across the nation have marked the end of another academic year, and it’s time for summer. Time for kids to bolt for the schoolhouse doors for two long months of play, to explore their neighborhoods and discover the mysteries, treasures, and dramas they have to offer. This childhood idyll will hold true for some children, but for many kids, the coming of summer signals little more than a seasonal shift from one set of scheduled, adult-supervised lessons and activities to another.

We always try to make sure there is plenty of time for unstructured play time in the summer, but I am easily reminded that for many children “two long months of play” or any play, really, is a luxury their schools or neighborhoods or lives don’t afford. The schools could and their lives and neighborhoods should but often don’t.

The piece also reminded me of how the school year for my own children morphs into summer. I was half planning a post on this for my own blog (good thing I have this guest posting gig to make me publish!) about the end of the school year for my children. In Virginia, high-stakes standardized testing (the SOL tests) start in 3rd grade, so much of the month of May, and April if you’re even more unlucky, can be spent either preparing for or stressing out about the tests or both, and then taking the tests. That’s when I start to long for post-testing time. Even prior to May, there is test prep, both direct and indirect.

The lament used to be that students don’t do anything at the end of the school year. In my children’s schools (so far only elementary–we’ll see if this changes when my boys go to middle), I have found it’s quite the opposite: they do tons, working up until the very last day. Once the tests are over, “real” learning and fun can resume. There are novels and cumulative projects and science experiments applying the content they have learned and field trips and social activities and an adequate amount of recess. This is when the teachers bust out some of the lessons and activities they don’t feel they can do or have time to do during the rest of the school year. Both teachers and students continue to work hard, but what they are doing is more meaningful and fun.

This is a beautiful thing to behold. But it also adds to my resentment of the whole testing regime. Why can’t the rest of the year be like this? Why do teachers and students have to suffer through rigid and low-quality standardized tests so they can get to the good stuff? Will the pendulum swing in the other direction while my kids are still in school or will the over-bearingness of The Tests continue until their K-12 careers are over?

Furthermore, and this is (finally) getting back to Jessica’s piece, it makes us seek out more meaningful learning experiences (versus unstructured play) for our children during the summer, like science camp, writing workshops, theater camp,and art camp. Because they don’t get enough of that at school. I remember after participating in a camp at the Math and Science Innovation Center in Richmond where he designed his own math video game, my son said, “This is just like school, only it’s fun!” That kind of broke my heart.

As my husband wrote after spending a day in our children’s elementary school, school has gotten better over the past twenty to thirty years; much progress has been made. But this one piece that drives so much else has been a step in the wrong direction.


Cognitive humility

I have been pondering a recent post on Annie Murphy Paul’s blog, The Brilliant Blog. It begins with a comment on roadside signs in Britain:

“Quite possibly the best fish and chips in central London.” “Probably the oldest pub in Oxford.” “Might well be the finest Indian curry in Euston.”

These are signs I saw on my travels through Britain this past week—advertisements promoted by the restaurants themselves, mind you, not lukewarm reviews on They struck me in part because they’re so different from the blatantly boastful ads common in the U.S., and also because they seemed like minor examples of a weighty virtue: cognitive humility.

She goes on to discuss what cognitive humility might involve: “avoiding overconfidence” and “overcoming the ‘curse of expertise.’” She observes that one can learn such humility by spending time in another country or picking up a new skill.

While these are important observations, there are complications to them. Humility can often mask as arrogance and vice versa. Moreover, outward manifestations (of humility, arrogance, and anything in between) can be a reflection of cultural norms, not of internal attitudes. Beyond that, humility depends on a kind of arrogance or boldness.

Let’s begin with the road signs. Does “Quite possibly” really attenuate the claim “the best fish and chips in central London”? It seems instead to harden it. First, it projects politeness (a cultural norm); “we’re most kindly suggesting that these may be the best fish and chips you have ever had.” Second, it is immune to contradiction; if someone names a better fish and chips place, one could reply, “We only said ‘quite possibly.’”

There’s a paradox here: by wrapping one’s assertions in expressions of doubt, one may actually be shielding them from challenge. That could turn into a kind of arrogance in itself. (“My preferred pedagogical method may have significant advantages over the others.”) Conversely, by putting forth a point boldly, one may be exposing it to judgment, and thus exercising humility.

Even when learning a language, one needs a combination of assertiveness and doubt. When I was fourteen, we spent a year in the Soviet Union. I wanted to be in the ninth grade (the equivalent of our tenth and eleventh) because of the literature curriculum, so I insisted on it. This made me a year younger than my classmates, just as in the U.S. Once at school, I realized that the teachers had not added me to the class lists; they didn’t mind if I just sat there. I wanted to be treated as a regular student, so I asked them to add me. Then I asked them to call on me. Precisely because of my assertiveness, I had the opportunity to stand at the front of the room and get things wrong–an experience of humility. (And I got to read Russian literature in the original.)

Even when absorbed in one’s own thoughts, one can benefit from a mixture of humility and boldness. I have seen students get stuck in a text because they doubted their early hunches about it. Their immediate reaction was, “I might be wrong.” As soon as they actually followed the hunch (which takes some boldness), they were able to determine whether or not it was correct. It is good to be aware that one might be wrong–but it is just as important to go ahead and risk being so.

To make this even more complicated, some of the most outwardly arrogant writers, scholars, and others are secretly humble–that is, they have spent their lives refining their work, which requires recognition of its weaknesses. Their seeming arrogance is directed in those who have not undertaken the process. Nabokov is an example: he frequently called out the mediocrity of other writers (as he saw it) but could not have achieved his own work without a great deal of humility.

Cognitive humility is immensely important; it’s just trickier than it appears.


Reading aloud to my babies

Yesterday, Diana wrote:

This coming Tuesday, the American Academy of Pediatrics will announce a new policy: Doctors will now advise parents to read to their children from birth. . . .But is it really necessary to begin at birth? Daniel Willingham advises waiting a bit.

First of all, I found this rather surprising as I didn’t realize the policy was new. I think I remember being told by University of Virginia (of all places) pediatricians shortly after the birth of each of my children (I have fraternal twin boys and a younger daughter) that I should be reading to them. Of course, I didn’t really need to be told this since most of my teaching career up to that point had been spent mostly with students with lower literacy skills and so I was aware of what happens when children don’t get a strong start with reading. In any case, we started reading to our babies when they were a few weeks old.

Diane further wrote:

The problem I see is this. What are the consequences–for the poor and wealthy alike–of reading to your children primarily in order to boost their academics? Will this be good reading?

Some who didn’t previously read to their kids might follow the advice with gusto. Some might treat it as a chore. “OK, it’s time to read an informational text together. You’ve got to do your vocabulary building.” The kids will hate it.

Willingham sees a way through this: give parents some basic advice on how to read; that will both increase the chances that the parents will follow the advice in the first place, and also make it more enjoyable. He offers a few suggestions from his forthcoming book:

  • Read aloud at the same time each day, to help make it a habit.
  • Read a little slower than you think you need to. Even simple stories are challenging for children.
  • Don’t demand perfect behavior from your child.
  • Use a dramatic voice. Ham it up. Your child is not judging your acting ability.

I would add another: get used to listening to audio recordings of poems and stories. The better your ear for these things, the better you yourself will read aloud.

My husband and I generally have found reading books to our children to be pleasurable–it’s a nice way to spend quiet time close to them, and our family and friends enjoy it for the same reason. I also love many children’s books, especially the artful ones. But, to be honest, I didn’t always feel like doing it at bed time or other times. Sometimes, it was a chore, not for them, but for us. I got really tired of reading  Trucks, Trucks, Trucks and then even more tired of reading longer and denser books about trucks. You would not believe the number of books we read about trucks, some of them over and over and over and over again. And sometimes, we were just plain tired. But that was the routine at bedtime or a distraction on a long trip, and we knew that building background knowledge, vocabulary, providing those moments of closeness, and showing them that reading books was wonderful were helping them to positively grow and develop.

Now that our kids are older and can all read to themselves, we still read aloud to them sometimes (reading aloud a series together is especially fun) and it was dear to watch our oldests read to our youngest. But we also, well, compel them to read independently.  At bedtime, our children have the choice of reading for up to an hour or going to right to sleep–those are pretty much the only choices at that time. One of our sons can really complain about this (speaking of reading as a chore), but once he gets started reading then he complains about having to stop to go to bed. Some summers, we have also done summer reading “initiatives” (can you tell I’m a teacher?) where our children earn money for each book they read, but the money can only be used to purchase more books.

I would take Diana’s “another” a step further (or lazier, maybe): play audio stories and books for your babies and children. My children heard so many great stories and books that way and it gave us a bit of a break. One of the best, both in terms of the storytelling and the subject matter (if you’re thinking about background knowledge or cultural literacy) is Jim Weiss (coincidentally from Charlottesville).

Just please don’t ask me to read any more books aloud about trucks.