Friday, August 29, 2008

Math and Science

The performance of students in math and science has always been a high priority in the United States, but the successful launching of the Russian satellite Sputnik in 1957 mobilized resources in an unprecedented way. In 1958, Congress responded to the perceived threat to American security and competitiveness by passing the National Defense Education Act to increase support for education in math, science, and languages.

Interestingly, the US Department of Defense (DoD) included 10.3 million dollars in its FY 2006 budget for a New Defense Education Act (DoD, 2005) and business and community leaders are once again making reference to Sputnik. For example, the American Electronics Association recently released a document entitled "Losing the Competitive Advantage: The Challenge for Science and Technology in the United States." Their argument broadly addresses US competitiveness in a global economy, but includes the concern that US students will be unable to participate in a technological society without an increased emphasis on math and science. In a similar vein, Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft, in a speech focused on the failure of American high schools, remarked that

When I compare our high schools to what I see when I'm traveling abroad, I am terrified for our workforce of tomorrow. In math and science, our 4th graders are among the top students in the world. By 8th grade, they're in the middle of the pack. By 12th grade, US students are scoring near the bottom of all industrialized nations.

Gates is likely referring to the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Studies (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2003). The 1995 TIMSS showed significant performance gaps between American students and students in other countries (e.g. gaps of 1.5 standard deviations between American students and students in Singapore) with twelfth graders performing significantly below the international average. The 2003 TIMSS shows American students in the fourth and eighth grades performing above the international average with no change for fourth graders between the 1999 and 2003 administration, but significant improvement for eighth graders.

2007 PEARSON Merrill/Prentice Hall
Pearson Education, Inc.
Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, USA

Pearson Education Ltd.
Pearson Education Singapore Pte. Ltd.
Pearson Education Canada, Ltd.
Pearson Education -- Japan
Pearson Education Australia Pty. Limited
Pearson Education North Asia Ltd.
Pearson EducatiĆ³n de Mexico, S.A. de C.V.
Pearson Education Malaysia Pte. Ltd.

Motivating Students to Learn History

2004 Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
New Jersey, USA

George Santayana, poet and philosopher, noted, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

HOOTSTEIN (1995) interviewed eighth-grade teachers about the strategies they used to motivate students to learn U.S. history. The 10 most frequently mentioned strategies were: having students role-play characters in historical simulations (mentioned by 83% of the teachers), organizing projects that result in the creation of products (60%), playing games with students as a way to review material for tests (44%), relating history to current events or to students' lives (44%), assigning students to read historical novels (44%), asking thought-provoking questions (33%), inviting guest speakers from the community (33%), showing historical videos and films (28%), organizing cooperative learning activities (28%), and providing small-scale hands-on experiences (28%).

Be Enthusiastic (Regularly)

A history teacher generated a great deal of interest by enthusiastically explaining to his students that during the Middle Ages, the Mediterranean Sea was the center of the world. Mediterranean seaports were major trade centers and places like England were outposts of civilization, but this changed drastically with discovery of the New World and the emergence of new centers of trade and culture. His presentation included references to maps, reminders about the primary modes of transportation at the time, and characterizations of the attitudes of the people and their knowledge about other countries and trade possibilities.

Another teacher brought ancient Israel alive by enthusiastically telling his students about David as the slayer of Goliath and ancestor of Jesus, Abraham leading his people to the Promised Land, Moses as the man who presented the Ten Commandments and led the people out of the wilderness, and Solomon as a wise man and builder of the (first) temple. This lesson included locating Jerusalem, Israel, and the Sinai peninsula on a map and speculating about whether the (third) temple (at the time of Jesus it was a second temple -- destroyed by the Romans in 70CE) might be rebuilt in modern Jerusalem (noting that a major Moslem temple is located next to the spot occupied by Solomon's temple.) In each of these examples, the teacher was able to parlay personal interest and detailed knowledge about a topic into an effective presentation that sparked interest and elicited many questions and comments.

First Jerusalem Temple (temple for all nations)

Romans destroy Jerusalem Temple 70 C.E.

Ruins of Second Temple

Induce Dissonance or Cognitive Conflict

If a topic is familiar, students may think that they already know all about it and thus may listen to presentations or read texts with little attention or thought. You can encounter this tendency by pointing out unexpected, incongruous, or paradoxical aspects of the content; by calling attention to unusual or exotic elements; by noting exceptions to general rules; or by challenging students to solve the "mystery" that underlies a paradox.

One teacher used dissonance to stimulate curiosity about the Persian empire by noting that Darius was popular with the people he conquered and asking students to anticipate reasons why this might be so. Another teacher introduced a selection on the Trojan War by telling students that they would read about "how just one horse enabled the Greeks to win a major battle against the Trojans." Another introduced a video on the fall of the Roman Empire by saying , " Some say that the factors that led to the decay (decadence) of the Roman Empire are currently at work in the United States -- as you watch the video, see if you notice parallels."

Romans (Centurions)

Romans of Decadence

United States history is full of opportunities to create dissonance, especially in students whose prior exposures have been confined to overly sanitized and patriotic versions of the subject. Exposure to topics such as the Trail of Tears, the Japanese Internment during World War II, or CIA involvement in undermining foreign governments can be startling eye openers for students, especially if approached not just as past history but as grist for discussions about whether such things might still happen today or what their implications might be for current and future government policy.

In 1838 the Cherokee were stripped of their rights and forced to move against their will on 'The Trail of Tears.'

Japanese Internment Camp (World War II)

School Types and School Designs in USA

School Types in USA:

Religious (private) - typically are funded through a combination of tuition and fees, fundraising campaigns and money from a larger religious body. They are owned by nonprofit entities and controlled by boards mostly made up of people whose religious affiliations match the schools.

Magnet (public) - typically have a special curriculum or teaching method. They draw from cross-section of a city or town rather than specific neighborhoods.

Home schooling - means teaching your child at home, either alone or in conjunction with other home-schooling parents. You own, you control, and in most areas, you pay for materials and equipment.

Public - typically are funded mainly through a combination of local, state, and federal funding, "owned" by the public, and controlled by the local board of education.

Private - are funded mainly through a combination of tuition and fees charged to parents and fundraising campaigns, owned by non-profit organizations (although not always), and controlled by boards of alumni, parents, staff and interested citizens.

Charter - are also public and in most states are funded with a combination of local, state, and federal money, but they are "owned" and controlled by independent groups of citizens. They can lose their public funding if they do not meet performance goals.

Special programs within schools - more and more schools run special programs for a subset of students, such as foreign language and International Baccalaureate programs.

School Design:

Accelerated Schools (K-8) - provide students with enriched instruction based on entire school community's vision of learning. (gifted children)

The Coalition of Essential Schools (K-12) - students and teachers should be active partners in creating meaningful learning.

Core Knowledge (K-8) - focus on teaching a common core of concepts, vocabulary, skills, and knowledge.

Direct Instruction (K-8) - aims to improve achievement significantly over current levels by using highly prescribed curriculum and instruction.

Edison Schools, Inc. (K-12) - for profit educational management company that operates public schools nationwide using research-based school design.

International Baccalaureate (Pre K-12) - develop whole child, including cultural capabilities, through study of prescribed international curriculum promoting thinking and transdisciplinary skills.

Montessori (Pre K-8) - develop culturally literate children by nurturing their intelligence, independence, curiosity, and creativity.

Multiple Intelligence (Pre K-12) - design instruction so that it supports student's natural abilities and talents in order to access a broad range of human potential.

Paideia (K-12) - foster more active learning and better use of teacher and student time.

School Development Program (K-12) - meet the needs of urban students by improving educators' understanding of child development and fostering healthy relations with families.

Success for All (Pre K-8) - structured research-based reading program designed to teach all children to read well in the early elementary years.

Waldorf (Pre K-12) - children learn best through experience that awaken multiple senses and focus on capabilities.

2004 Armchair Press, LLC

Free Resources

The federal government offers a treasure trove of teaching and learning resources. Where can you find them?

FREE organizes more than 1,500 lesson plans, primary documents, science animations, math challenges, and works of art, literature, and music from the Library of Congress, Smithsonian Institution, National Archives, National Science Foundation, NASA, National Institutes of Health, National Gallery of Art, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other federal agencies.
February 16, 2008

Teaching Ambassador Fellowship Positions

Secretary Spellings has announced the creation of Teaching Ambassador Fellowship positions for currently practicing, K-12 public school teachers at the U.S. Department of Education for the 2008-2009 school year. These positions will offer highly motivated, innovative teachers the opportunity to contribute their knowledge and experience to the national dialogue on public education. The Fellowship includes two kinds of opportunities for teachers across the U.S. Up to 20 Classroom Fellows will remain at their schools under their regular teaching contracts and will be paid to participate in additional Department discussions and projects throughout the school year on a part-time basis. Up to five Washington Fellows will be chosen to become full-time, paid federal employees in Washington, D.C. for the school year, working on education programs and participating in policy discussions.
Teaching Ambassador Fellows will be selected based upon their record of leadership, impact on student achievement, and potential for contribution to the field. Highly qualified K-12 public school teachers who have spent at least three years in the classroom are eligible to apply. Teachers must be currently practicing in and employed by a public school district to be eligible. To ensure collaboration at the school and district levels, teacher applicants must have the full support of their school principals.
Applications are due by April 7, 2008. Teaching Ambassador Fellows will be named by early summer for the 2008-2009 school year.
February 12, 2008

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Genesis One

Genesis One — A physicist Looks at Creation

According to Professor Gerald Schroeder, a nuclear physicist from MIT, God’s creation took 15 billion years, but also six twenty-four hour days as Scripture states! The answer lies in time dilation in our universe. Things that look very small, like distant stars, are actually very large. And times that seem very short, like six days for all of creation, become very long—even as long as 15 billion years. “How can these things be?” Just read this book.

When agnostic scientists finally acknowledged Divinity...

The (intelligent and orderly) design of the universe and its laws are such that this fact has not escaped the notice of even agnostics. Below, four quotes from agnostics regarding the design of the universe. Even to them, the apparent design of the universe has theological implications.

For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries. (Robert Jastrow)
“There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all....It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature's numbers to make the Universe....The impression of design is overwhelming.” (Paul Davies)
“As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency - or, rather, Agency - must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?” (George Greenstein)
A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question. (Fred Hoyle)
Author & Astrophysicist :
Dr. Robert Jastrow, is the director of Mount Wilson Observatory and was founder and director for twenty years of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. He authored books which explore the universe; Red Giants & White Dwarfs, and Until the Sun Dies.
. .as to why science and theology don't have to be enemies. Dr. Jastrow, recognized as one of the world's foremost astronomers (and an acknowledged agnostic on religious matters) demonstrates with remarkable honesty that astronomy and theology may well have more to talk about than the fanatics in either field would like to admit. He does so in a manner which is non-threatening, non-controversial, and non-technical.

Originally published in 1978, this second edition includes an appendix presentation by Catholic and Jewish theologians. He concludes his book with this often quoted statement: "He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."

Christian/Catholic websites:

IDEA 2004 (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) -- a U.S. Law

The culmination of many years of struggle on behalf of children with disabilities occurred on November 29, 1975, when President Ford signed Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA). This landmark federal legislation mandated a free, appropriate education for students with disabilities aged 3 to 21. The EHA has been called the "first compulsary special education law." Today, EHA is known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Despite the name change and other amendments, the basic rights and provisions it afforded students with disabilities and their families have remained largely the same: the right to an individualized education program, the right to protection in evaluation procedures, the right to due process, and the right to education in the least restrictive environment.

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB 2002) contains sweeping changes in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. All students including those with mild disabilities are to be held to the same curriculum and assessment standards. Federal aid is contingent on an increase in proficiency in math, reading, and science among all students. States must maintain goals and assess results for various categories of students based on poverty, ethnicity, disability, and limited English proficiency.

2006 Pearson Education, Inc.
Allyn and Bacon, Boston, MA, USA
Boston New York San Francisco
Mexico City Montreal Toronto London Madrid Munich Paris
Hong Kong Singapore Tokyo Cape Town Sydney

National Parks Seek Teacher Rangers

National parks enrich the lives of many in this nation. They provide access to the powerful ideas, values, and meanings associated with the remarkable cultural, natural, and recreational heritage of the United States. The National Park Service (NPS) strives to provide opportunities for all Americans to connect to their national heritage through the national parks. However, these opportunities are lacking for some - often due to a variety of social and economic factors.

The Teacher to Ranger to Teacher (TRT) Program offers a solution, by linking National Park units with teachers from low income school districts. Under this program, selected teachers spend the summer working as park rangers, often living in the park. They perform various duties depending on their interests and the needs of the park, including developing and presenting interpretive programs for the general public, staffing the visitor center desk, developing curriculum-based materials for the park, or taking on special projects.

Then, during the school year, these teacher-rangers bring the parks into the classroom by developing and presenting curriculum-based lesson plans that draw on their summer's experience. In April, during National Park Week, teacher-rangers wear their NPS uniforms to school, discuss their summer as a park ranger, and engage students and other teachers in activities that relate to America's national parks.

For additional information about the Teacher Ranger program go to

January 26, 2008

Some Critics on No Child Left Behind

Not everyone is enamored of the standards movement...
Alfie Kohn has called the standards movement a "horrible idea." Kohn points out that the movement oversimplifies why children might want to learn, how they are best taught, and how improvement might best be brought to a complex system. The idea of demanding higher test scores, Kohn notes, will accomplish little more than studying for tests, emphasizing rote learning, and tightening control over classrooms by people who do not spend their time in classrooms.
Gerald Bracey (2004), editor of a research column in Phi Delta Kappan, has been particularly critical. He has spoken out against the No Child Left Behind Act as well as against the standards movement, particularly the standardized testing that has come to be part and parcel of the movement.

Bracey, observing the high price paid in terms of what might be called by some nonstrategic subjects:
In what might be considered its swan song, the Council for Basic Education conducted a survey and found NCLB producing "academic atrophy" in social studies, history, geography, civics, languages, and the arts. A little more of this, and we can declare, "No Education Left." (p.166)
Marzano, Kendall, and Cicchinelli (2000), who are not particularly critical of the movement, note an apparently overlooked problem with addressing the standards. Their calculations show that, given the demands of the standards and accompanying benchmarks from the various subject matter areas, it would take more than 15,000 hours to adequately address the necessary content. Put another way, Marzano, Kendall, and Cicchinelli say the implication for coverage would be to extend school from K-12 to K-21. They conclude that one possible solution would be to extend the amount of time given to instruction, and another would be to decrease the number of standards.
James Popham cites three reasons why schools should not be judged on the basis of standardized test scores: 1) Mismatch between what is taught and what is tested. 2) Standardized tests do not measure the most important things that teachers teach. 3) Over time teachers become familiar with the content of standardized tests, and that leads to an inflation of test results because teachers, knowingly or not, end up teaching to the test.
Research on Education Innovations
Fourth Edition
Arthur K. Ellis
2005 Eye on Education, Inc.
New York, USA

Assistive Technology for Literacy Produces Impressive Results for the Disabled

Multimedia tools can serve as a "scaffold" to help children learn to generate grammatical speech
by Terry Woronov

Angie is blind. But by using a special Braille-encoding laptop computer to take notes, she is able to participate fully in regular tenth-grade classes. At the end of the day she prints out her work in Braille or standard print in her school's computer lab. "It's my lifeline," she says of her computer. For students like Angie, technology can change lives

The field of "assistive technology" -- tools to help students with disabilities -- is booming. More and more products designed to support the integration of these students in regular classrooms are available. Computer tools synthesize speech, merge printed text with audio, and help students with limited motor skills generate text. Keyboards operate by head, foot, mouth, or even the blink of an eye.
Inclusion and Special Education (page 9)
Harvard Education Letter
Focus Series 1
1996 President and Fellows of Harvard College
Cambridge, MA

World's Greatest Teacher (49 Quotes)

Ellen L. Kronowitz (California State University, San Bernardino)
2008 Pearson Education, Inc., U.S.A.
I touch the future. I teach.
Christa McAuliffe (teacher & first civilian in space)
The beginning is the most important part of the work.
What teachers know and can do, makes the most difference in what children learn.
Linda Darling-Hammond (teacher educator and researcher)
All the resources we need are in the mind.
Theodore Roosevelt
First Day
You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
At a round table, every seat is the head place.
German proverb
Clothes make the man.
Anonymous Latin Proverb
Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.
Mark Twain
We could learn a lot from crayons; some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, while others bright, some have weird names,
but they all have learned to live together in the same box.
The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.
Teddy Roosevelt
No one is ever old enough to know better.
Holbrook Jackson (English journalist)
Classroom Organization & Management
Knowledge is always accompanied with accessories of emotion and purpose.
Alfred North Whitehead
A student wants some kind of undisrupted routine or rhythm. He seems to want a predictable, orderly world.
Abraham Maslow
For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.
Habits are cobwebs at first; cables at last.
Chinese Proverb
Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds.
Alexander Graham Bell
Never trust a computer you can't throw out a window.
Steve Wozniak (co-founder Apple Computers)
The Internet is a giant international network of intelligent, informed computer enthusiasts, by which I mean,
"people without lives." We don't care. We have each other...
Dave Barry (humorist)
Positive Discipline
It is our continuing love for our children that makes us want them to become all they can be,
and their continuing love for us that helps them accept healthy discipline -- from us and eventually from themselves.
Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers)
People's behavior makes sense if you think about it in terms of their goals, needs, and motives.
Thomas Mann (German novelist and essayist)
All human actions have one or more of these seven causes:
chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reason, passion, and desire.
Prevention is better than cure.
No method nor discipline can supersede the necessity of being forever on the alert.
Henry David Thoreau (American poet, lecturer and essayist)
If I want to be great I have to win the victory over myself...self-discipline.
Harry S. Truman
When a teacher calls a boy his entire name, it means trouble.
Mark Twain
Planning & Organizing Subject Matter
A man who does not plan long ahead, will find trouble right at his door.
It pays to plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark.
The best things in life are free.
American Proverb
I am not authorized to fire substitute teachers.
Bart Simpson (cartoon character)
Engaging All Learners
If you accept the expectations of others, especially negative ones, then you never will change the outcome.
Michael Jordan
A master can tell you what he expects of you. A teacher, though, awakens your own expectations.
Patricia Neal (actress)
I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.
Albert Einstein
We have become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic.
Jimmy Carter
El que sabe dos lenguas, vale for dos.
(He who knows two languages is worth double.)
Spanish maxim
Saber es poder.
(Knowledge is power.)
Spanish maxim
Assessing & Communicating Student Progress
One had to cram all this stuff into one's mind for the examinations, whether one liked it or not.
This coercion had such a deterring effect on me that, after I had passed the final examination,
I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year.
Albert Einstein
Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.
Winston Churchill
Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.
Sign hanging in Albert Einstein's office at Princeton
I didn't fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong.
Benjamin Franklin
But there are advantages to being elected President. The day after I was elected, I had my
high school grades classified "Top Secret."
Ronald Reagan
If you want your children to improve, let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others.
Haim Ginott (psychologist and author)
A Professional Life in a Balance
The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection.
Thomas Paine (patriot and philosopher)
Respect your fellow human beings, treat them fairly, disagree with them honestly,
enjoy their friendship, explore your thoughts about one another candidly,
work together for a common goal and help one another to achieve it.
Bill Bradley (NBA player and presidential candidate)
Don't worry about the world ending today. It's already tomorrow in Australia.
Charles Schulz
Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart
give yourself to it.
Last Day
No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers' dirty looks.
Nursery Rhyme
There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.
Louis L' Amour
Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
Albert Einstein
There are no secrets to success. It is a result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.
Colin Powell

Digital Workshops for Teachers of Native American Students

The U.S. Department of Education's Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative, in collaboration with Office of Indian Education, is proud to announce the launch of the Digital Teacher Workshops for Teachers of Native American students. The workshops are designed to provide professional development opportunities for teachers of American Indians and Alaska Natives in all grade levels and content areas. The workshops support mastery of academic content and application by modeling strong teaching methods that have been successful in the classroom and providing a classroom application component, and additional resources.

These workshops are available FREE on the Internet at Our first workshops focus on literature, community outreach, and reading.

November 27, 2007

Reluctant Disciplinarian - Phone Call Parent

A phone call to the student's parents is a common threat used. It is ineffective for any or all of the following eight reasons:

1. The student doesn't care.
2. The student likes to pretend that he doesn't care.
3. The student's parents do not have a phone.
4. The student's parents have phone, but the student does not live with his parents.
5. The student's parents have phone, the student lives with parents, but the number he gives on his information card is actually the number for Blockbuster Video.
6. The student's parents have phone, the student lives with parents, and the given number is correct. However, when called, the student would intercept the phone and tell the teacher that his parents are not home.
7. The student's parents have phone, the student lives with parents, and the given number is correct. However, when called, the student puts his older cousin on the phone to imitate the parent. If the student has a deep enough voice, he might even do the impersonation himself.
8. The student's parents have phone, the student lives with parents, the given number is correct, and his parent answered the phone. However, the parent will not want to do anything to help, despite the call.

1999 by Cottonwood Press, Inc., U.S.A.

Doing What Works

The U.S. Department of Education has launched a new Web site to provide teachers, administrators and other educators with recommendations on effective teaching practices and examples of possible ways to implement those practices to help promote excellence in American education and improve student achievement. The first in the series focuses on English language learners. The new "Doing What Works" site, <>, offers a user-friendly interface to quickly locate teaching practices that have been found effective by the department's research arm, the Institute of Education Sciences, and similar organizations. In addition, it cites examples of possible ways, although not necessarily the only ways, this research may be used to help students reach their academic potential.

November 20, 2007

Humorous Essay

Student Feedback

At the end of each lesson, it is wise to request feedback from students to check what was learned....
Written individualized feedback allows us to see how a student is integrating new knowledge with prior knowledge. The following humorous essay demonstrates that what we say is not always what a student hears. An upper grade student wrote this paper:
The human body is composed of three parts: the Brainium, the Borax, and the Abominable Cavity.
The Brainium contains the brain. The Borax contains the lungs and the liver. The Abominable Cavity contains the bowels. The bowels are a, e, i, o, and u.
Famous men with learning disabilities:

Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Louis Pasteur, Auguste Rodin, Thomas Alva Edison, Woodrow Wilson, Winston Churchill, George Patton, Albert Einstein, Nelson Rockefeller, George Burns...

The Duck

Duck walks into a hardware store. "Got any duck food?"
he quacks. "Sorry, no," says the proprietor. Duck leaves.
Next day the duck is back. "Got any duck food?" "No,"
says the proprietor. "I told you before. We don't carry it."
Next day he's back again: "Got any duck food?" The
proprietor glares at him. "Look, buddy, we don't sell duck
food. We never have and never will. And if you ask me
that one more time, I'll nail your webbed feet to the
Next day the duck is back. "Got any nails?"
"We're out of nails today," says the proprietor.
"Got any duck food?"

Reading to Learn - Extreme Positive Results

Children's Literature, Briefly 2nd Edition (pp. 282, 286-288)
Michael O. Tunnel & James S. Jacobs
Copyright 2000 by Prentice-Hall, Inc., Pearson Education, New Jersey

Readers usually underestimate their own importance. If a reader cannot create a book along with the writer, the book will never come to life. Creative involvement: That's the difference between reading a book and watching TV.
In watching TV, we are passive -- sponges; we do nothing. In reading we must become creators, imagining the setting of the story, seeing the facial expressions, hearing the inflection of the voices. The author and reader "know" each other; they meet on the bridge of words. (L'Engle 1980, p. 37-38).
The Classroom - Education and Trade Books
When children are interested in what they read, and read broadly -- whether fiction, nonfiction, or both -- they can learn much of value from trade books. People are able to grow and develop intellectually without the carefully monitored presentation of information typical of textbooks, as these examples show:
1. Robert Howard Allen has never seen his father. Robert's mother left him at age six to be raised by his grandfather, three great-aunts, and a great-uncle, all of whom lived in the same house in rural Tennessee. After his grandfather taught him to read, Robert regularly read the Bible to a blind great-aunt. "From age seven he read thousands of books -- from Donald Duck comics to Homer, James Joyce and Shakespeare...He began picking up books at yard sales, and by his early 20s he had some 2000 volumes" (Whittemore 1991, p. 4).
Robert Howard Allen stayed home and helped and read. He never went to school, not even for a day. At age 30 he easily passed a high school equivalency test, and at age 32 he showed up at Bethel College in McKenzie, Tennessee. Three years later he graduated summa cum laude (3.92 GPA), and continued his education by enrolling in graduate school at Vanderbilt University. Having earned his Ph.D. in English, he is currently a visiting lecturer at Murray State College in Kentucky (Whittemore 1991).
2. During her childhood, Lauralee Summer and her mother moved frequently from one homeless shelter to another. She remembers sitting on her mother's lap listening to stories. "'She was about 20 months old when I began reading to her every single night,' says [Lauralee's mother], who recalls a well-thumbed book of nursery rhymes. 'I read the same book every night. That was the only book we had'" (Gloster 1994, p. 1).
With money for her fourth birthday, Lauralee bought a See & Say book and taught herself to read. She soon was visiting libraries as mother and daughter moved among shelters and welfare hotels in three states. At age 10, Lauralee tried fourth-grade classes in two Santa Barbara schools, then quit in favor of reading to herself at the shelter. Eventually, she did attend school, an alternative program for nontraditional students during her senior year, where she took the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and scored 1460, putting her in the 99.7 percentile of America's high school seniors. Lauralee applied to Harvard University and was admitted to the 1994 freshman class with a full scholarship (Gloster 1994).
3. Cushla Yeoman was born with multiple handicaps. Chromosome damage caused her spleen, kidneys, and mouth cavity to be deformed and prevented her from holding anything in her hand until she was three years old. She was diagnosed as mentally and physically retarded, and doctors recommended that she be institutionalized.
Cushla's parents had seen her respond to the picture books they read aloud, so they kept her home and increased their reading to fourteen picture books a day, week after week and month after month. By age five, Cushla was pronounced by doctors to be socially well adjusted and intellectually well above average (Butler 1980).
4. Wilbert Rideau committed a crime and was sent to the Louisiana State Prison for life. After a few angry years doing nothing but sitting and rebelling, Rideau picked up a book and spent a number of weeks reading it. Then he picked up another. Although he left school in eighth grade and English was his least favorite subject, soon he was reading two books a day on a variety of subjects. But he liked history best.
"I read about Napoleon, Mohammed, Lincoln, Washington, Bolivar, Sukarno," says Rideau. "I came to realize that a lot of people had terrible beginnings, but they lifted themselves up and gave something back to the world. I read Profiles in Courage (Pulitzer prize winner by John F. Kennedy). I'll never forget what it said -- that a man does what he must, regardless of the cost." One day, a guard passed him a copy of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Its message of self-reliance became Rideau's credo. "I started seeing that no matter how bad things looked, it was all on me whether I made something of myself or I died in some nameless grave." (quoted in Colt 1993, p. 71)
What Rideau did was initiate and become editor of the The Angolite, the convict magazine that is required reading in training classes for new correctional officers and also the first prison publication ever nominated for a National Magazine Award (an honor it has since earned six times). In addition, it is the first to win the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, a George Polk Award, and the American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award (Colt 1993, p. 72).
We are not suggesting that the best way to learn is outside of school. Yet people can and do learn beyond the walls of formal education. All of us need to recognize that books can create interest in readers, that people learn better when they are interested, and that people can learn a great deal by reading widely on their own.