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<<August 2014>>
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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Education, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Changing legal education

Martin Partington discussed a range of careers in his podcasts yesterday. Today, he tackles how new legal issues and developments in the professional environment have in turn changed organizational structures, rules and regulations, and aspects of legal education.

Co-operative Legal Services: An interview with Christina Blacklaws

Co-operative Legal Services was the first large organisation to be authorised by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority as an Alternative Business Structure. In this podcast, Martin talks to Christina Blacklaws, Head of Policy of Co-operative Legal Services.


The role of chartered legal executives: An interview with Diane Burleigh

The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives sets standards for and regulates the activities of legal executives, who play an important role in the delivery of legal services. In this podcast Martin talks with Diane Burleigh, the Chief Executive of CILEX, about the challenges facing the legal profession and the opportunities provided for Legal Executives in the rapidly developing legal world.


Educating Judges and the Judicial College: An interview with Lady Justice Hallett

The Judicial College was created by bringing together separate arrangements that had previously existed for training judicial office-holders in the courts (the Judicial Studies Board) and Tribunals Service (through the Tribunals Judicial Training Group). In this podcast Martin talks to its Chairman, Lady Justice Hallett, about the reasons for the change and ways in which the College is developing new ideas about judicial education.


Headline image credit: Law student and lecturer or academic. © Palto via iStockphoto.

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2. Law careers from restorative justice, to legal ombudsman, to media

What range of career options are out there for those attending law school? In this series of podcasts, Martin Partington talks to influential figures in the law about topics ranging from restorative justice to legal journalism.

Restorative Justice: An interview with Lizzie Nelson

The Restorative Justice Council is a small charitable organisation that exists to promote the use of restorative justice, not just in the court (criminal justice) context, but in other situations of conflict as well (e.g. schools). In this podcast Martin talks to Lizzie Nelson, Director of the Restorative Justice Council.


Handling complaints against lawyers: An interview with Adam Sampson

In this podcast, Martin talks to Adam Sampson, Chief Legal Ombudsman. They discuss the work of the Legal Ombudsman, how it operates, the kinds of issue it deals with, and some of the limitations the office has to deal with matters raised by dissatisfied clients.


Reporting the law: An interview with Joshua Rozenberg

Joshua Rozenberg is one of a very small number of specialist journalists who cover legal issues in a serious and thoughtful way. He has worked in a wide variety of media, including the BBC, The Daily Telegraph, and The Guardian. In this interview, he describes how he decided to become a journalist rather than a practising lawyer and comments on the challenges of devising ways to enable legal issues to be raised in mass media.


Headline image credit: Law student and lecturer or academic. © Palto via iStockphoto.

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3. Challenges facing UK law students

Making the leap between school and university can be a stretch at the best of times, but for UK law students it can be a real struggle. As there is no requirement to study law at school before beginning an undergraduate programme, many new law students have a very limited knowledge of how the law works and what they can expect from their studies.

We asked a group of 77 law students from around the UK about how they prepared for their courses. It turns out, only a third of them did any reading before starting, but a vast majority would have done, if only their university had given them a bit of advice.


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4. The Common Core & the Cornerstone

  by Sally Matheny
Common Core
     Common Core. 
     Two simple words have created a divisive buzz in the educational realm. All sides agree on providing fair and excellent opportunities for students. But there’s little common ground on how those are obtained. 

     Beyond the educational segment, there’s also another division throughout the population. The stressed foundation of the Common Core prompted a few thoughts about a strong Cornerstone. 

     The United States’ “school chiefs and governors recognized the value of consistent, real-world learning goals and launched [the Common Core State Standards] to ensure all students, regardless of where they live, are graduating high school prepared for college, career, and life.”
     Not everyone agrees with the implementation of the Common Core, but many have to follow it, regardless of their opinion. How many have adopted the Common Core? Forty-three states, the District of Columbia, and four territories.
     There are over 7 billion people in the world. A common core exists in all of us. But unlike the state’s educational standards, each person has the freedom to accept it or not.
     Amazingly, every one of those 7 billion people is unique. No two are exactly alike in mind or body.  However, we all share one thing. We have the same Creator.

 “Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all.” Proverbs 22:2 (NIV)

     Some parents and teachers do not feel comfortable with the educational system’s new standards. They’re not sure the Core will produce the outcomes for which they had hoped.

     What hope do we have in God’s teaching?

     Isaiah 42:4b-7 says,

 In his teaching, the islands will put their hope.
This is what God the Lord says—
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,
    who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,
    who gives breath to its people,
    and life to those who walk on it:
 “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
    I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
    to be a covenant for the people
    and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
    to free captives from prison
    and to release from the dungeon
 those who sit in darkness.

     Don’t we all want someone to take us by the hand and care about us? Isn’t it our desire to be a guiding light to those still blinded by the darkness of ignorance? Everyone is a student. Everyone is a teacher.

     A common list of standards was the basis for the development of the states’ educational goals. Even when schools comply though, it is debatable whether all will have the ability to achieve the objectives.
     However, for all the people in the world—their purpose is based on the cornerstone, which is Jesus Christ.
     Obtainment of the highest goal is guaranteed for every person in the world, except for those who reject the standards of His Cornerstone. For it’s only through following His principles that we become accredited.
Jesus is the Cornerstone
     It appears the original Common Core State Standards are suffering a few stress fractures. Tweaks and changes are necessary. 
     However, Jesus Christ, the Cornerstone remains complete and steadfast.
     When we allow God to adopt us into His plan, He provides training for the journey. And while our life experiences vary, we stand on equal ground at the foot of the cross.
     Christian classmates, I’m thankful during the tests of life (and especially on the final exam) we have the Cornerstone in common.

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5. Publishing tips from a journal editor: selecting the right journal

One of the most common questions that scholars confront is trying to find the right journal for their research papers. When I go to conferences, often I am asked: “How do I know if Political Analysis is the right journal for my work?”

This is an important question, in particular for junior scholars who don’t have a lot of publishing experience — and for scholars who are nearing important milestones (like contract renewal, tenure, and promotion). In a publishing world where it may take months for an author to receive an initial decision from a journal, and then many additional months if they need to revise and resubmit their work to one or more subsequent journals, selecting the most appropriate journal can be critical for professional advancement.

So how can a scholar try to determine which journal is right for their work?

The first question an author needs to ask is how suitable their paper is for a particular journal. When I meet with my graduate students, and we talk about potential publication outlets for their work, my first piece of advice is that they should take a close look at the last three or four issues of the journals they are considering. I’ll recommend that they look at the subjects that each journal is focusing on, including both substantive topics and methodological approaches. I also tell them to look closely at how the papers appearing in those journals are structured and how they are written (for example, how long the papers typically are, and how many tables and figures they have). The goal is to find a journal that is currently publishing papers that are most closely related to the paper that the student is seeking to publish, as assessed by the substantive questions typically published, the methodological approaches generally used, paper framing, and manuscript structure.

Potential audience is the second consideration. Different journals have different readers — meaning that authors can have some control over who might be exposed to their paper when they decide which journals to target for their work. This is particularly true for authors who are working on highly interdisciplinary projects, where they might be able to frame their paper for publication in related but different academic fields. In my own work on voting technology, for example, some of my recent papers have appeared in journals that have their primary audience in computer science, while others have appeared in more typical political science journals. So authors need to decide in many cases which audience they want to appeal two, and make sure that when they submit their work to a journal that appeals to that audience that the paper is written in an appropriate manner for that journal.

Peer reviewer
Peer reviewer for Scientific Review by Center for Scientific Review. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

However, most authors will want to concentrate on journals in a single field. For those papers, a third question arises: whether to target a general interest journal or a more specialized field journal. This is often a very subjective question, as it is quite hard to know prior to submission whether a particular paper will be interesting to the editors and reviewers of a general interest journal. As general interest journals often have higher impact factors (I’ll say more about impact factors next), many authors will be drawn to submit their papers to general interest journals even if that is not the best strategy for their work. Many authors will “start high”, that is begin with general interest journals, and then once the rejection letters pile up, they will move to the more specialized field journals. While this strategy is understandable (especially for authors who are nearing promotion or tenure deadlines), it may also be counterproductive — the author will likely face a long and frustrating process getting their work published, if they submit first to general interest journals, get the inevitable rejections, and then move to specialized field journals. Thus, my advice (and my own practice with my work) is to avoid that approach, and to be realistic about the appeal of the particular research paper. That is, if your paper is going to appeal only to readers in a narrow segment of your discipline, then send it to the appropriate specialized field journal.

A fourth consideration is the journal’s impact factor. Impact factors are playing an increasingly important role in many professional decisions, and they may be a consideration for many authors. Clearly, an author should generally seek to publish their work in journals that have higher impact than those that are lower impact. But again, authors should try to be realistic about their work, and make sure that regardless of the journal’s impact factor that their submission is appropriate for the journal they are considering.

Finally, authors should always seek the input of their faculty colleagues and mentors if they have questions about selecting the right journal. And in many fields, journal editors, associate editors, and members of the journal’s editorial board will often be willing to give an author some quick and honest advice about whether a particular paper is right for their journal. While many editors shy away from giving prospective authors advice about a potential submission, giving authors some brief and honest advice can actually save the editor and the journal a great deal of time. It may be better to save the author (and the journal) the time and effort that might get sunk into a paper that has little chance at success in the journal, and help guide the author to a more appropriate journal.

Selecting the right journal for your work is never an easy process. All scholars would like to see their work published in the most widely read and highest impact factor journals in their field. But very few papers end up in those journals, and authors can get their work into print more quickly and with less frustration if they first make sure their paper is appropriate for a particular journal.

Heading image: OSU William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library Stacks by Ibagli. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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6. Supporting and educating unaccompanied students from Central America

By Robert Hull and Eric Rossen

Since 1 October 2013, the United States has detained over 57,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America crossing the border from in an attempt to escape severe violence. Makeshift immigration shelters emerged, with emergency responders providing medical attention and care. Meanwhile, the government must now identify a response to what is now considered a humanitarian crisis, with an estimated 90,000 unaccompanied minors expected to cross the border in 2014.

Do we have a moral obligation to offer asylum or refugee status to people escaping violence or political persecution? What if they are children?

Should the children be deported to their families? If not, where will they go? Who will care for them?

Who bears the financial responsibility for meeting their needs?

The country seems split in its views. While most do not outright say these children should be returned to a country where their lives and well-being are in danger, concern remains about the country’s ability to sustain support for them physically, socially, emotionally, academically, and occupationally. In polls, some Americans say displaced families place a burden on housing, health care, and other public service industries, whereas as the majority believes they should be allowed to stay if it is unsafe for them to return home. As the debate continues, many of these children have arrived at the doors of our local schools hoping to enroll with minimal information or supports, with more anticipated to arrive as the new school year begins. Meeting their educational needs will be difficult, and according to the Department of Education, mandatory.

International school lunch

In May, the Federal Department of Education published Guidance on enrolling students regardless of immigration status. This guidance outlined the legal requirements concerning school districts’ responsibilities to enroll all students, regardless of immigration status. They did not include guidance in reference to provision of essential services that would lead to a successful education experience for these students. What is clear from this guidance, however, is that local school systems will be responsible for enrolling and educating the surge of students using local resources.

Immigrant and refugee students who arrive at the school house door after leaving their homes have typically experienced multiple adverse events prior to leaving and multiple adverse events during their travels. These adverse events can be traumatizing to students, not to mention navigating an unfamiliar country, sometimes with a completely unfamiliar language and low literacy, without parents or immediate family support available (resettlement stress). This often leads to serious disruptions in their access to education and their mental status upon arrival. Educators and school support personnel can mitigate some of the issues associated with these adverse events, and perhaps are among the most equipped and qualified to do so.

Many school districts and agencies have wide ranging experiences with displaced children. While the majority of children of immigrants are US-born citizens, over 15% are first generation immigrants, among which over one-third cross the border as victims of trafficking or seeking asylum. It’s safe to assume that many school districts have enrolled these students at some point. Even beyond immigration, following Hurricane Katrina, schools absorbed a high number of displaced students amidst extremely stressful conditions. Schools provide stable educational opportunities, exposure to trusting adults, an opportunity to interact with peers, and access to school employed mental health professionals. Many districts have partnered with communities to develop comprehensive supports and services to ease transitions and mitigate the effects of potentially traumatic experiences.

No matter what the circumstances that led displaced students to classrooms, there are a few strategies that can be implemented that will help in providing support to help these students learn and adapt positively to their new environment. As with many traumatized students, school personnel have to reframe the presenting problems as a result of their experiences rather than an indication of something being wrong with the child. For example, they must:

  • develop a structured daily routine as a foundation for support
  • connect students with other children of immigrants enrolled in schools (it is reasonable to expect that most schools in the country have displaced or immigrant families already in the community)
  • recognize and build on strengths, such as strong family ties, optimism, strong socio-centric values, resilience, and cultural diversity
  • acknowledge potential stigma associated with mental health supports
  • engage family or extended family as much as possible.

Providing these supports and other strategies require a coordinated effort between all school staff, including teachers, administrators, and specialized instructional support personnel. Doing so goes beyond a legal mandate from the Department of Education; it’s a moral and ethical obligation to provide the best available supports to all children, especially those with the greatest needs.

Robert Hull ED.S., MHS. is a school psychologist in Prince Georges County Maryland, He has worked for over 30 years in schools addressing trauma concerns. In addition to his degrees in School Psychology he also holds a graduate degree in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University. Eric Rossen, Ph.D., is a nationally certified school psychologist and licensed psychologist in Maryland. He currently serves as Director of Professional Development and Standards at the National Association of School Psychologists.

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Image: International School Meals Day at Harmony Hills Elementary School in Silver Spring, MD by USDA. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.

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7. Children learning English: an educational revolution

By Fiona Copland and Sue Garton

Did you know that the introduction of languages into primary schools has been dubbed the world’s biggest development in education? And, of course, overwhelmingly, the language taught is English. Already the world’s most popular second language, the desire for English continues apace, at least in the short term, and with this desire has come a rapid decrease in the age at which early language learning (ELL) starts. From the kindergartens of South Korea to classes of 70+ in Tanzania, very young children are now being taught English. So is it a good idea to learn English from an early age? Many people believe that in terms of learning language, the younger the better. However, this notion is based on children learning in bilingual environments in which they get a great deal of input in two or more languages. Adults see children seemingly soaking up language and speaking in native-like accents and think that language learning for children is easy. However, most children do not learn English in this kind of bilingual environment. Instead, they learn in formal school settings where they are lucky if they get one or two hours of English tuition a week. In these contexts, there is little or no evidence that an early start benefits language learning. Indeed, it has been argued that the time spent teaching English is better spent on literacy, which has been shown to develop children’s language learning potential.

So why are children learning from so young an age? One answer is parent power. Parents see the value of English for getting ahead in the global world and put pressure on governments to ensure children receive language tuition from an early age. Another answer is inequality. Governments are aware that many parents pay for their children to have private tuition in English and they see this as disadvantaging children who come from poorer backgrounds. In an attempt to level the playing field, they introduce formal English language learning in primary schools. While this is admirable, research shows that school English is not generally effective, particularly in developing countries, and in fact tends to advantage those who are also having private lessons. Another argument for sticking to literacy teaching?

Student teacher in China

Of course, government policy eventually translates into classroom reality and in very many countries the introduction of English has been less than successful. One mammoth problem is the lack of qualified teachers. Contrary to popular belief, and despite representations in film and television programmes, being able to speak English does not equate to an ability to teach English, particularly to very young children. Yet in many places unqualified native English speaking teachers are drafted into schools to make good the shortfall in teacher provision. In other countries, local homeroom teachers take up the burden but may not have any English language skills or may have no training in language teaching. Other problems include a lack of resources, large classes and lack of motivation leading to poor discipline. Watch out Mr Gove — similar problems lie in store for England in September 2014! (When the new national curriculum for primary schools launches, maintained primary schools will have to teach languages to children, and yet preparation for the curriculum change has been woefully inadequate.)

Why should we be in interested in this area of English language teaching when most of it happens in countries far away from our own? David Graddol, our leading expert on the economy of English language teaching, suggests that the English language teaching industry directly contributes 1.3 billion pounds annually to the British economy and up to 10 billion pounds indirectly through English language education related activities. This sector is a huge beneficiary to the British economy, yet its importance is widely unacknowledged. For example, in terms of investigating English language teaching, it is extremely difficult in England to get substantial funding, particularly when the focus is on countries overseas.

From the perspective of academics interested in this topic, which we are, the general view that English language teaching is not a serious contender for research funding is galling. However, the research funding agencies are not alone. Academic journals rarely publish work on teaching English to young learners, which has become something of a Cinderella subject in research into English language teaching. There are numerous studies on adults learning English in journals of education and applied linguistics, but ELL is hardly represented. This might be because there is little empirical research or because the area is not considered important. Yet as we suggest, there are huge questions to be asked (and answered). For example, in what contexts are children advantaged and disadvantaged by learning English in primary schools? What are the most effective methods for teaching languages to children in particular contexts? What kind of training in teaching languages do primary teachers need and what should their level of English be? The list of questions, like the field, is growing and the answers would support both the UK English language industry and also our own approach to language learning in primary schools, where there is very little expertise.

ELT Journal is a quarterly publication for all those involved in English Language Teaching (ELT), whether as a second, additional, or foreign language, or as an international Lingua Franca. The journal links the everyday concerns of practitioners with insights gained from relevant academic disciplines such as applied linguistics, education, psychology, and sociology. A Special Issue of the ELT Journal, entitled “Teaching English to young learners” is available now. It showcases papers from around the world that address a number of key topics in ELL, including learning through online gaming, using heritage languages to teach English, and the metaphors children use to explain their language learning.

Fiona Copland is Senior Lecturer in TESOL in the School of Languages and Social Sciences at Aston University, Birmingham, UK, where she is Course Director of distance learning MSc programmes in TESOL. With colleagues at Aston, Sue Garton and Anne Burns, she carried out a global research project titled Investigating Global Practices in Teaching English to Young Learners which led to the production of a book of language learning activities called Crazy Animals and Other Activities for Teaching English to Young Learners. She is currently working on a project investigating native-speaker teacher projects. Sue Garton is a Senior Lecturer in TESOL and Director of Postgraduate Programmes in English at Aston University. She worked for many years as an English language teacher in Italy before joining Aston as a teacher educator on distance learning TESOL programmes. As well as leading the British Council funded project on investigating global practices in teaching English to young learners, she has also worked on two other British Council projects, one looking at the transition from primary to secondary school and the other, led by Fiona Copland, on investigating native-speaker teacher schemes. They are editors of the ELT Journal Special Issue on “Teaching English to young learners.

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Image: Student teacher in China by Rex Pe. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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8. A decade of change: producing books in a digital world


Oxford Scholarship Online (OSO) launched in 2003 with 700 titles. Now, on its tenth birthday, it’s the online home of over 10,000 titles from Oxford University Press’s distinguished academic list, and part of University Press Scholarship Online. To celebrate OSO turning ten, we’ve invited a host of people to reflect on the past ten years of online academic publishing, and what the next ten might bring.

By Kathleen Fearn

It may be hard for some of us here at Oxford University Press to imagine a life without Oxford Scholarship Online (OSO), but even though it has reached the grand old age of 10 years old, it is still only a baby in comparison with some of our other venerable institutions. For example, the Oxford English Dictionary first published in 1884, 130 years ago, and the Oxford Almanack 340 years ago in 1674; even our celebrated duck pond is almost 200 years old. OUP employees in our Great Clarendon Street building are used to bumping into history in the most unexpected corners; my most recent find has been the story of the Oxford University Press Voluntary Fire Contingency, our very own fire brigade formed in 1885, with photos and artefacts displayed in a cabinet created from the space previously used to store the fire hoses. We even have an OUP Museum, open to the public (by appointment) and well worth a visit.

Yet even though OSO has existed for only a decade among centuries, for those of us working on book production, it has been a time of unprecedented change. My career at OUP began in 2006, when OSO was in its infancy, and my first impression of the office was, well, that I couldn’t see very much of it beneath the piles and piles of paper: manuscripts, galley proofs, first proofs, second proofs, final proofs, on desks, shelves, often even on the floor. At each stage of production, we diligently photocopied the pile just in case the courier should misplace our precious bundle. Production Editors faced the constant health hazard of paper cuts, to be feared only a little less than that dread moment when the padded envelope containing the author’s proofs splits on opening, sending an explosion of sticky grey dust over desk, floor, and clothes. The end of the production process came with the delivery of a box of (hopefully) pristine advance copies and the eventual recycling of a wall or two of our paper fortress.

Book pages

The development of digital publishing was, of course, well under way, and as more and more modules were added to OSO, the production teams began to get involved in the delivery of titles online. We have worked from the start to create our online content using XML, and although the words and spaces on the screen may be the same as those in the print book, there’s actually an awful lot going on behind the scenes, as it were. Abstracts and keywords, for example, make it much easier for the reader to find what they’re looking for online, and these, together with other bits of metadata generated during the publication process, make it possible to link up each title with other relevant resources. One of our biggest challenges was, and to some extent still is, making sure that what works in a print book also works on a PC – and now on a tablet or mobile phone too. There’s no point in referring a reader to a picture overleaf when there are no pages to turn, and it’s not at all easy to create working cross-references using that old print standard, ibid.

During OSO’s life, the days of paper in the office have also passed. If you visit us today, it’s a lot easier to spot the team at their desks, as most of the production processes are now carried out on-screen. (Since we’re enjoying the benefits of a paper-light life, we’re glad that OSO readers can also save those 400 metres of shelf space freed up by reading online.) And although we still look forward to opening those advance copies, we don’t stop there, as we’ll often also be delivering the same content as an e-book and for online publication. No one knows exactly what the digital world will look like when OSO reaches its twentieth birthday, but even if our paper proofs have been consigned to the museum with the hot metal typesetting, we’ll still be producing great OUP content in whatever format our readers want and need.

Kathleen Fearn is the Content Operations Manager for Oxford University Press’s Law, Academic, and Trade books in the UK.

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Image: Urval av de böcker som har vunnit Nordiska rådets litteraturpris under de 50 år som priset funnits by Johannes Jansson/norden.org. CC-BY-2.5-dk via Wikimedia Commons.

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9. Education and crime over the life cycle

By Giulio Fella and Giovanni Gallipoli

Crime is a hot issue on the policy agenda in the United States. Despite a significant fall in crime levels during the 1990s, the costs to taxpayers have soared together with the prison population. The US prison population has doubled since the early 1980s and currently stands at over 2 million inmates. According to the latest World Prison Population List (ICPS, 2013), the prison population rate in 2012 stood at 716 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants, against about 480 in the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation – the two OECD countries with the next highest rates – and against a European average of 154. The rise in the prison population is not just a phenomenon in the United States. Over the last twenty years, prison population rates have grown by over 20% in almost all countries in the European Union and by at least 40% in one half of them. The pattern appears remarkably similar in other regions, with a growth of 50% in Australia, 38% in New Zealand and about 6% worldwide.

In many countries – such as the United States and Canada – this fast-paced growth has occurred against a backdrop of stable or decreasing crime rates and is mostly due to mandatory and longer prison sentencing for non-violent offenders. But how much does prison actually cost? And who goes to jail?

The average annual cost per prison inmate in the United States was close to 30,000 dollars in 2008. Costs are even higher in countries like the United Kingdom and Canada. Punishment is an expensive business. These figures have prompted a shift of interest, among both academics and policymakers, from tougher sentencing to other forms of intervention. Prison populations overwhelmingly consist of individuals with poor education and even poorer job prospects. Over 70% of US inmates in 1997 did not have a high school degree. In an influential paper, Lochner and Moretti (2004) establish a sizable negative effect of education, in particular of high school graduation, on crime. There is also a growing body of evidence on the positive effect of education subsidies on school completion rates. In light of this evidence, and given the monetary and human costs of crime, it is crucial to quantify the relative benefits of policies promoting incarceration vis-à-vis alternatives such as boosting educational attainment, and in particular high school graduation.

When it comes to reducing crime, prevention may be more efficient than punishment. Resources devoted to running jails could profitably be employed in productive activities if the same crime reduction could be achieved through prevention.


Establishing which policies are more efficient requires a framework that accounts for individuals’ responses to alternative policies and can compare their costs and benefits. In other words, one needs a model of education and crime choices that allows for realistic heterogeneity in individuals’ labor market opportunities and propensity to engage in property crime. Crucially, this analysis must be empirically relevant and account for several features of the data, in particular for the crime response to changes in enrollment rates and the enrollment response to graduation subsidies.

The findings from this type of exercise are fairly clear and robust. For the same crime reduction, subsidizing high school graduation entails large output and efficiency gains that are absent in the case of tougher sentences. By improving the education composition of the labor force, education subsidies increase the differential between labor market and illegal returns for the average worker and reduce crime rates. The increase in average productivity is also reflected in higher aggregate output. The responses in crime rate and output are large. A subsidy equivalent to about 9% of average labor earnings during each of the last two years of high school induces almost a 10% drop in the property crime rate and a significant increase in aggregate output. The associated welfare gain for the average worker is even larger, as education subsidies weaken the link between family background and lifetime outcomes. In fact, one can show that the welfare gains are twice as large as the output gains. This compares to negligible output and welfare gains in the case of increased punishment. These results survive a variety of robustness checks and alternative assumptions about individual differences in crime propensity and labor market opportunities.

To sum up, the main message is that, although interventions which improve lifetime outcomes may take time to deliver results, given enough time they appear to be a superior way to reduce crime. We hope this research will advance the debate on the relative benefits of alternative policies.

Giulio Fella is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Economics and Finance at Queen Mary University, United Kingdom. Giovanni Gallipoli is an Associate Professor at the Vancouver School of Economics (University of British Columbia) in Canada. They are the co-authors of the paper ‘Education and Crime over the Life Cycle‘ in the Review of Economic Studies.

Review of Economic Studies aims to encourage research in theoretical and applied economics, especially by young economists. It is widely recognised as one of the core top-five economics journal, with a reputation for publishing path-breaking papers, and is essential reading for economists.

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10. Are schools teaching British values?

By Stephanie Olsen

In June, (now former) Education Secretary Michael Gove announced that all primary and secondary schools should promote “British values”. David Cameron said that the plans for values education are likely to have the “overwhelming support” of citizens throughout the UK. Cameron defined these values as “freedom, tolerance, respect for the rule of law, belief in personal and social responsibility and respect for British institutions”. ‪At root, such a policy gets at the emotional conditioning of children. To adhere to a certain ideological conceptualization of “freedom,” to feel “tolerant,” or to be “respectful” (whether of parents, teachers, authorities or institutions), is to act according to implicit feelings of rightness.

Values are never just abstract ideas, but are expressed and experienced through emotions. And they are not ideologically neutral. To stress the education of British values is to put a form of emotional education on the agenda. Though many commentators have pointed out that the broad outlines of such an education already exist in schools, the fear of “extremism”, of the promotion of the “wrong” sort of values, has triggered a vigorous debate. What has largely gone unrecognized in this debate, however, is that it is emphatically not new.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, politicians and educationalists promoted a new education based on character training and the emotions, precisely to build British citizens who would respect and uphold British institutions. This brand of education was to be accomplished at school, but also at home, and in religious and youth organizations.

Herbert Fisher, the President of the Board of Education who spearheaded the Education Act of 1918, argued that the masses should be educated “to stimulate civic spirit, to promote general culture … and to diffuse a steadier judgement and a better informed opinion through the whole body of the community.” Other educational commentators broadly agreed with this mission. Frederick Gould, a former Board School teacher and author of many books on education argued that “The community cannot afford to let the young people pass out with a merely vague notion that they ought to be good; it must frame its teaching with a decisive and clear vision for family responsibilities, civic and political duties”.

Michael Gove, by Paul Clarke, CC-BY-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Michael Gove, by Paul Clarke, CC-BY-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Civic duties – the civic spirit – were to be taught to the extent that they would become ingrained, implicit, felt. This was to be primarily a moral education. Educators stressed character training, linking moral education to British imperialism or nationalism in an unashamedly patriotic spirit. Education reform was to improve future citizens’ productivity and develop national character traits.

Like Gould, educator John Haden Badley stressed the need to teach active citizenship and service. Education on these lines would provide “a deeper understanding of the human values that give to life its real worth”, cultivating and maximizing the potential of a “superior” Britishness. Meanwhile, in a speech in Manchester in 1917, Fisher argued that “the whole future of our race and of our position in the world depends upon the wisdom of the arrangements which we make for education.” He observed, in language strikingly familiar to contemporary political rhetoric, that “we are apt to find that the wrong things are being taught by the wrong people in the wrong way.”

But even in 1917 the rhetoric was clichéd. A generation of commentators before Fisher argued that the civic shortfalls in mass formal education could be fixed by informal education in youth groups and religious organizations and through improved reading matter. Much juvenile and family literature, whether motivated politically or religiously, stressed emotional socialization, especially in the building of morality and character, as critical for national cohesion.

The trouble with visions of national cohesion, as the last century and a half of educational debate bears out, is the difficulty in getting any two parties to agree what that vision looks like. At the turn of the twentieth century all agreed that children mattered. How they were to be educated was important not just to individual children and their families, but equally importantly, to the community and the nation.

Yet some reformers had patriotic aims, others religious; some civic, some imperial; some conservative, others socialist. Many combined some or all of these aims. All, whether explicitly stated or not, wanted to train, instrumentalize and harness children’s emotions. Children’s reading matter, the stories they were told, and the lessons they heard were known to be powerful forces in cultivating the emotions. Hence the high stakes, then and now, on the narratives supplied to children.

Michael Gove, in common with his Victorian forebears, turns to the “great heroes of history” to serve as models of emulation. Back in the early 1900s, Gould thought history “the most vital of all studies for inspiration to conduct.” The study of history is certainly no stranger to being manipulated for didactic ends in order to impart “British values.”

While Gove is only the latest in a long line to link British history, British values and education, there are surely lessons to be learnt from past attempts and past failures to implement this strategy. A generation of boys and young men at the turn of the twentieth century had grown up learning the positive value of patriotic service. In this memorial year, marking a century since the outbreak of the First World War, it seems appropriate to reflect on what values we might want to instil in the young. What feelings do we want them to learn?

Stephanie Olsen is based at the history department, McGill University (Montreal) and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Center for the History of Emotions (Berlin). She was previously postdoctoral fellow at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University. The co-author of Learning How to Feel: Children’s Literature and the History of Emotional Socialization, c. 1870-1970 she is currently working on children’s education and the cultivation of hope in the First World War.

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11. Electronic publications in a Mexican university


Oxford Scholarship Online (OSO) launched in 2003 with 700 titles. Now, on its tenth birthday, it’s the online home of over 9,000 titles from Oxford University Press’s distinguished academic list, and part of University Press Scholarship Online. To celebrate OSO turning ten, we’ve invited a host of people to reflect on the past ten years of online academic publishing, and what the next ten might bring.

By Margarita Lugo Hubp

Translated by Karina Estrada and Greg Goss

From a librarian’s perspective, there has been a huge change in the types of electronic publications that academics, students, and researchers use. In Mexico, as in other developing countries, journals, e-books, and other electronic works make it possible to offer greater access to scholarship in increasingly large university populations. In the last ten years, many people have found a solution to the lack of availability of traditional libraries and the consequent lack of access to quality information. Access to journals and e-books has strengthened higher education institutions and research centers, particularly in the areas of science and technology, increasing the ease and breadth of access to full text content.

University faculty and students who work in rapidly changing science fields are no longer restricted to physical libraries for access to electronic publications. Remote access and mobile device access options are becoming more common.

Perhaps the most pertinent change in how publishers grant access to scientific, technical, and humanistic information can be seen in electronic books. Several years ago, libraries faced restrictive acquisition models; now the ease of availability allows for a more favorable user experience. Consider the option of acquiring a single electronic book to be used only by a single user. Clearly, this model was unfavorable, particularly for the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. We considered these proposals unacceptable because of the large student population at the postgraduate level, exceeding 26,000 students, and at the undergraduate level, reaching 190,000 students.

The central library of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. by Maximiliano Monterrubio. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The central library of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México by Maximiliano Monterrubio. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

In regards to the routes pursued by publishers promoting Open Access for scientific information, there have been significant changes. Some proposed routes were carefully crafted while others gave the impression of being more scrupulous, which mandated the decision makers proceed with caution. We are progressing in a framework that fosters increasingly fruitful communication between publishers, researchers, teachers, government representatives and librarians.

In the coming years, electronic publications will continue to develop and maintain their role as one of the most important factors in the realm of science via striking or even startling technological changes. At the same time, we will witness the evolution of initiatives that aim to facilitate access to information, especially as the debate over these alternatives is moving increasingly into a political, rather than academic or scientific, sphere.

*          *          *

Las publicaciones electrónicas en una universidad Mexicana

Desde el punto de vista bibliotecario, el cambio que muestran en los últimos años las publicaciones electrónicas que demandan los académicos, estudiantes e investigadores ha sido impactante. Lo que quisiéramos resaltar es que en México, como seguramente sucede en otros países en vías de desarrollo, las revistas, los libros y otras publicaciones electrónicas nos ofrecen la posibilidad de tener mayor acceso al conocimiento en poblaciones universitarias cada vez más amplias.  En los últimos 10 años, numerosos usuarios han encontrado una solución al problema de la escasez de sistemas bibliotecarios tradicionales en nuestro país, y por lo tanto, a la falta de apoyo para obtener información de calidad. La revista y el libro electrónico son las opciones que han permitido el fortalecimiento de las Instituciones de Educación Superior y Centros de Investigación para que el conocimiento científico y tecnológico universal sea del dominio de los usuarios, para ampliar, consolidar y facilitar el acceso ágil y con amplia cobertura nacional e internacional, a los recursos de información referencial y en texto completo

La población universitaria que se caracteriza por conocer más rápidamente los avances de la ciencia y por  adaptarse mejor a los cambios, ha dejado de luchar contra las dificultades que representaba el hecho de transladarse a una biblioteca para acceder a las publicaciones electrónicas, ya que además de las opciones de búsquedas desde sitios remotos cada vez más frecuentes en nuestro medio, se ha generalizado el uso de los dispositivos móviles que resultan accesibles y adecuados para estos fines.

Tal vez el cambio más relevante en los esquemas que ofrecen los editores en relación con el acceso amplio  al conocimiento científico, técnico y humanístico, se puede encontrar en los libros electrónicos. En este sentido, la apertura y flexibilidad que se observa en las ofertas actuales  favorece a los usuarios en nuestro medio. Pensemos en la opción de adquirir un libro electrónico que se va a utilizar únicamente por un usuario simultáneo  (modelo de venta que se promovió hace años). Por supuesto que era desfavorable, en particular en la Universidad  Nacional Autónoma de México. Siempre consideramos inaceptable esa propuesta debido a la población estudiantil tan grande, misma que en el nivel de posgrado rebasa los 26 mil alumnos y en el de licenciatura llega a 190,000 estudiantes.

En relación con la ruta que siguen actualmente los editores para lograr que se promueva el acceso abierto a la información científica que publican, los cambios también se muestran significativos; son muy diversos los caminos que plantean. Algunas  propuestas se presentan cuidadosas, otras dan la impresión de ser muy  escrupulosas y hasta  se proponen con cautela. Nos movemos en un marco de acción que propicia la comunicación cada vez más fructífera entre los editores, investigadores, profesores, representantes gubernamentales y bibliotecarios.

En los próximos años, las publicaciones electrónicas seguramente continuarán su desarrollo cambiante y mantendrán uno de los liderazgos más importantes en el mundo de la ciencia, se mantendrán además añadiendo cambios tecnológicos llamativos y hasta asombrosos. A la vez se podrá constatar la evolución de una serie de iniciativas que persiguen facilitar el acceso a la información en un mundo que debate estas relevantes alternativas, cada vez más  en el terreno político que en el académico y el científico.

Margarita Lugo Hubp is a member of the Libraries Department at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

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12. Get $75 OFF Book Promotion & Publicity Boot Camp!

Get $75 OFF registration for MediabistroEDU’s brand new online boot camp, Book Promotion & Publicity Boot Camp with code SUN75! Hurry, this boot camp starts on July 10!

In this intensive boot camp starting July 10, you will learn the publicity skills needed to ensure a successful book launch using various promotional techniques. You will hear from publishing and public relation experts who will teach you step-by-step how to successfully launch your book campaign including how to create a social media kit, use social media to build your audience, interact with fans and other authors on panels, start your own email marketing newsletter and more! View the full agenda here.

Whether you’re an author who’s already working with a big publisher or are self-published, this interactive boot camp will teach you the best methods to launch a successful publicity campaign for your book. Hurry and register before July 7 to get $75 OFF with promo code SUN75. Register now!

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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13. Five Tips for Summer-Long Learning

tchovanecGuest blogger Tina Chovanec is the director of Reading Rockets: the authoritative online source for comprehensive and accessible information about teaching young children to read and helping those who struggle.Reading Rockets is one of five education websites created by Learning Media, a division of WETA, the PBS affiliate in the Washington DC area.

Summer_ReadingWith the call of the swimming pool and the playground, getting kids of all ages to stay interested in learning and reading during the long, hot summer can be a challenge to parents and summer program leaders.  Keeping kids’ minds active during the summer means they’ll be ready for the challenges of the new school year. So, how to rev up the summer learning? Picking one learning activity a week can be a fun way to switch up the normal summer routine.

Try some of these tips and great resources to get kids excited about learning – all are designed to help kids look at some of their favorite subjects in a new way and keep their brains lighting up with new knowledge all summer long. 

Kids in a libraryInvestigate your public library’s summer reading program. Most libraries offer a special program or two during the summer, including lively read-alouds, visits from children’s authors and storytellers, “maker fairs” and science-themed activities. Most are free – plus your child can take home a stack of books to extend the learning!

Listen up! Audiobooks are a great way to engage sometimes-reluctant readers and introduce kids to books above their reading level – helping to build vocabulary and background knowledge. Many libraries have audiobooks available for check out, and an Internet search can turn up several sites, including Speakaboos.com, that offer free audiobooks for children. Learn more about the benefits of audiobooks for all readers.

boy in chairWhere do all the summer thunderstorms come from?  How do fireflies light up?  Summer can lead to all kinds of interesting questions to investigate together.  Pick a question and find an answer!  Visit the library to find fiction and non-fiction books relating to kids’ questions.  Do some Internet research – you can find resources at the American Library Association’s Great Website for Kids.

Go on a learning adventure!  Is your child interested in bugs? Dinosaurs? The Night Sky? Music? Do you have a young detective, explorer or superhero at home? Reading Rockets’ Start with a Book offers 24 kid-friendly themes, with theme-related books, hands-on activities, and awesome apps and website to jumpstart your summer learning adventures.

Write it down. Encourage your child to keep a simple journal or summer diary. Track interesting things like the number of fireflies seen in one minute, the number of mosquito bites on a leg or the different types of food that can go on the grill. Each entry is a chance to be creative.  Your child can record everyday adventures in your local community with Reading Rockets’ Adventure Tracker and log summer reading favorites with Reading Rockets’ Book Tracker!

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14. Discovering digital libraries

By Ian Anstice

English public librarians don’t get out much. Sure, we’re often dealing with the public every open hour or talking with our teams but, well, we normally just don’t meet librarians from neighbouring authorities, let alone from around the country. Most branch staff stay in their own building and may never talk to anyone from another authority other than on the phone arranging for a book for a customer. So, it was a delight for me to be invited by Oxford University Press (OUP) to an afternoon to meet with nineteen other library professionals, ranging from part-time library staff to at least one head of service. It was also wonderful that the session was in the publishers’ beautiful headquarters in the famous historic town of Oxford, which has to be one of my favourite places in world and, not coincidentally, one of the most book-friendly too.

So why the nice day out? Well, the meeting was the first one for public librarians in the UK of the OUP Library Advisory Council. The clever purpose of this impressive sounding group is to get together library staff who use and promote online resources so that we can share ideas and learn more about how the publisher can help libraries and their users. I am delighted to say that from the start – and to the great credit of our hosts – it was clear that this was not just going to be a thinly veiled sales day but rather a real chance for us all to hear about what best practice was going on and how we could adapt it for our own purposes.

The importance of online services to public libraries was clear in every presentation and in every conversation. People are more and more using their computer as their source of knowledge for factual information and for what is going on locally and libraries, used for so long to fulfilling that function, need to get with the programme. Further to this, social media is being used by many as a primary way of getting answers. People get their news about what is going on from Facebook and Twitter and will often ask questions online that are then answered by their friends or followers. I recently came across an example of this myself when I tweeted asking for anyone’s experience of using lego in libraries: I got ten replies including from practitioners who have won awards for their work in the United States and Australia. The challenge for public librarians is therefore about how to meet this challenge and how best to serve the public in a world where answers are obtainable without even opening up a new window on the computer. It’s also important for us to provide a professionally-resourced, factually-based, and entirely neutral service to counteract what can often be the biased (and sometimes inaccurate) views expressed by others in social media.

Kids having fun at Cockburn Libraries during the school holidays. Photo by Cockburn Libraries. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via cockburnlibraries Flickr.

Kids having fun at Cockburn Libraries during the school holidays. Photo by Cockburn Libraries. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via cockburnlibraries Flickr.

How librarians are meeting this challenge is truly inspiring. One city mayor realised early on that libraries are instrumental in improving literacy and sense of community and invested in a special website where e-books, online services, reviews and events all came together. Another library service goes out to schools to let them know about how useful their website (including a fair number of OUP resources) can be for their students, with the visits being such a success that they’re being invited back to deliver classes. Yet another city’s library twitter account is now really embedded in the local community, sharing information on local events, linking to old photographs of the town and chatting to users who need never leave their mobile phone to access their library. It’s even be used as some sort of instant messaging service with the library being tweeted about the wifi having just stopped working elsewhere in the building.

Lots of great ideas then, which got me thinking (perhaps counterintuitively) during the day about how important surrounding and buildings still are in this digital age. The OUP offices in Great Clarendon Street are beautiful and spacious, mixing the old and the new with some skill. In this environment, all of us felt comfortable and happy to talk about our and each other’s experiences. The building had all of the facilities — space, light, refreshments, wifi — that we needed. The same can also of course be equally said of a good public library for our users. Such a library provides the space for people to meet, read, and study with no need to worry about anything else that is going on and with no need to pay. Even for the digital elite, such meeting spaces are not without importance and for those with no online presence, with little money, or even just for those who downright love the printed word the public library building can be absolutely essential. The online resources are an extension of this, promote it and enhance it, but do not totally replace it. This is why the OUP has a headquarters and why there will always be public library buildings.

My thanks therefore to OUP for putting on such a good day, and to all of my highly skilled and motivated colleagues who made the day so useful. I travelled back on the train thinking about how to share what I had learned with my colleagues and how to use the examples and resources to improve the service that I provided. In such ways, the library gets more value for the money it pays for online resources but also, more to the point, the public gets served better and the library continues to be so well-used by everyone, including by those who use Facebook and Twitter.

Ian Anstice is a full-time public librarian working in the North West of England. He also finds the time to run the Public Libraries News website which provides a free summary of international and national coverage of the sector.

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15. Common questions about shared reading time

By Jamie Zibulsky, Anne Cunningham, and Chelsea Schubart

Throughout the process of reading development, it is important to read with your child frequently and to make the experience fun, whether your child is a newborn or thirteen. This may not sound like news to many parents, but the American Academy of Pediatrics is just announcing their new recommendation that parents read with their children daily from infancy on, and it is expected that this announcement will serve as a reminder to many parents and a call for educators and policymakers to help parents who lack the time, resources, and skills to read with their children encourage reading development. We are so excited about this new development because the benefits of shared reading accrue over time and we believe that this announcement will create the energy needed to help many young children become successful, motivated readers.

Although reading together is important at all ages, the specific strategies parents use will change dramatically as their children get older. The strategies parents use will also be dependent upon their children’s interests, temperament, and abilities. There is no one “right” way to read together.

parent reading to children

Figuring out the best way to engage in shared reading with a child while he or she is young gives parents an opportunity to use cuddle time together as a way to also help a child understand a book more deeply, and to simultaneously teach specific reading skills. Perhaps as important, children who have an enthusiastic reader as a role model may stay determined to learn to read, even when facing challenges, rather than becoming easily discouraged. The magic of shared reading comes from this combination of warm, interpersonal experiences, playful and captivating storytelling, and opportunities for learning. This winning combination helps children not only learn to read, but learn to love and value reading.

There are many questions that parents often ask about reading together with their children, and some of those questions are answered below. We hope that thinking through these issues inspires parents to start reading with their children regularly (even if they are already a bit older), and create family reading rituals that last a lifetime!

How can I get my child more engaged in reading time?

If you are having difficulty engaging your child in reading time, try searching for books on topics that she finds interesting (even if those topics are not ones that you find engaging). If your child enjoys looking at comic books, embrace this type of reading, rather than discouraging it. Although it might be surprising to hear, they include much richer language than we encounter in a typical day. Reading any printed material also helps children get comfortable turning pages, and give you the chance to talk with your child about new ideas and vocabulary words.

Many children also respond well to having some freedom and getting to make choices during reading time. You may want to let your child to choose the book you will be reading, whether you are picking books out in the library or off your own bookshelf. You can also let your child select where and when you will read…within reason, of course.

Most importantly, try to make the reading experience enjoyable by focusing on what goes well. Praise your child just for sitting down with you to read, even if she only wants to sit briefly. The next day, try to get her to sit through a few pages of the story and sit a bit longer. Reading time should be a time to relax and bond with your child. If she acts up, simply end reading time, but do so calmly and try again later.

How do I know if my child is actually listening while I am reading to him/her?

Asking questions throughout the story that actively engage your child in the reading process should encourage him to listen more closely while you are reading. If you think your child is not listening as you read, try asking a question or two on each page in order to get your child to interact with the story and actively express himself. If he seems particularly distracted, simply end reading time, but do so calmly and try again later.

How long should I spend trying to explain something to my child if they get frustrated?

Reading time should be a relaxing, bonding experience for both you and your child. Rather than trying to teach many new skills during any one reading session, pick just one idea to focus on each day, whether it is a new vocabulary word or letter to identify. Setting manageable reading goals will help make this time feel fun, rather than stressful, for you both.

If you ask a question about a book that your child is having trouble understanding, respond calmly and either restate your question in a simpler way or give a clue regarding the correct answer. If she seems to be frustrated, move on and return to the concept at another time. Story concepts might become clearer to children with repeated readings of the same story.

What if my child wants to read the same book every night?

Repeated readings of a story actually help children to more deeply understand the plot. In addition, your child will grow more familiar with the story and the words that make it up. You can even try having your child read to you. If he is familiar with the book, he might be able to decode words he would not be able to decode in an unfamiliar context. If your child is not ready to actually read the words on the pages, have him retell the story to you using the pictures and what he recalls from other readings of the story. By asking questions and making comments, you can continue to build his vocabulary and background knowledge, even while reading a familiar story.

Anne E. Cunningham, Ph.D. and Jamie Zibulsky, Ph.D. are the authors of Book Smart: How to Develop and Support Successful, Motivated Readers. Anne Cunningham is Professor of Cognition and Development at University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Education and Jamie Zibulsky is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Learn more at Book Smart Family. Suggestions are adapted Book Smart: How to Develop and Support Successful, Motivated Readers by Anne E. Cunningham and Jamie Zibulsky. Read their previous blog posts.

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16. Music parenting’s unexpected, positive benefits

By Amy Nathan

When parents sign up kids for music lessons, probably first on the list of anticipated outcomes is that their youngsters’ lives will be enhanced and enriched by their involvement with music, possibly even leading to a lifelong love of music, whether the youngsters become performers (pro or amateur), teachers, or simply enthusiastic listeners, concert-goers, and music downloaders. Another perk that many parents may be counting on is the joy that they imagine they’ll feel while watching sons and daughters perform, whether at rough-edged but enthusiastic elementary school concerts or, later on, at more polished teen presentations. The soft glow of parental pride can help make the hard work of raising musical youngsters seem worthwhile, from the expense of music lessons to all the encouraging (and sometimes nagging) that’s required to nudge kids to practice, get to rehearsals on time, and not forget to bring their sheet music to all-county tryouts.

Asian musicianHowever, there can also be some pleasant surprises that a music parent may never have imagined would occur, according to parents I interviewed on the ups and downs of music parenting.

A broadening of musical horizons: It has “opened up a vast new world of music for us…. styles and composers that we weren’t [familiar with] before,” says Peter Maloney, father of two youngsters who take lessons in multiple instruments at a New Jersey community music school. “Our lives include so much music every day — the most wonderful experiences imaginable.” Jackie Yarmo, whose kids studied at a New Jersey School of Rock, agrees, “Our kids bring new music into the house that we haven’t heard and end up loving.”

A rekindled flame — or a new venture: Several parents pulled out old instrument cases they hadn’t opened in years and began practicing again. Or they sat down at the family piano and began picking out tunes they used to play before quitting lessons years earlier. Others joined a community choir — all because they saw how much fun their kids were having making music. “I hadn’t played my horn for almost twenty years,” says Kristin Bond, a Maine mom who bravely joined an ensemble at her church. “I started again, really awful at first, but it was good for my girls to see adults performing, some proficient and others less so. They see there’s a place for every level of ability to enjoy music.” Massachusetts mom Heather MacShane adds, “My daughter, who plays flute, convinced me to start flute lessons. I love it.”

A hedge against the dreaded empty-nest syndrome: “I knew I’d have an empty nest soon. I’ve been getting a running start preparing for it,” says Thanh Huynh. She began piano lessons again when her daughters were teenagers, hoping to become good enough in a few years to join a jazz ensemble at the Baltimore medical center where she was working. Cindy Buhse, who began playing viola again when her violist daughter was in middle school, joined a Missouri community orchestra when her daughter headed off to college, using an old viola her daughter left behind. “I go to orchestra once a week and have a good time,” she says. “It definitely helps with the empty nest.”

A way to connect: “Music can be a way to understand your child at times when they may otherwise be uncommunicative. I can tell when my teenager is unhappy by what she plays when she may not want to talk about it,” notes Ms. Yarmo. Kyle Todd, a Massachusetts father of two young adults who are pursuing nonmusical careers, says that music still remains “something that we hold in common. It continues to provide us with activities for shared experiences.”

Kids can also experience unexpected, positive benefits from immersing themselves in music, including some that are nonmusical in nature. More on that later.

Amy Nathan is an award-winning author of several books on music including The Music Parents’ Survival Guide: A Parent-to-Parent Conversation, and two earlier books for young people, The Young Musician’s Survival Guide: Tips From Teens and Pros, and Meet the Musicians: From Prodigy (or Not) to Pro. A Harvard graduate with master’s degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Columbia’s Teacher’s College, she is the mother of two musical sons: one a composer and the other a saxophone-playing political science graduate student. Read her previous OUPblog post.

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Image credit: A young Asian woman with her clarinet. Photo by tmarvin, iStockphoto.

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17. MediabistroEDU Summer Sale- $75 OFF Courses

MediabistroEDU wants this to be your best summer yet. That’s why we’re offering $75 OFF all courses and boot camps with code SUN75. Before you head to the beach, set your goals for the summer and register for one of our courses to guarantee you meet them!

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So make the most of your summer and register for any of our online coursesin-person courses, or online boot camps today!

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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18. Interview with Anita Banks, author of Tanner Builds a Block Tower

AnitaAnita Banks has lived in Alabama since she was six years old, she raised three children and has  four grandchildren. They are the inspiration for her writing. She likes the adventures and escapes that stories allow you to explore and the myriad of emotions you feel. Anita loves to travel, read and has recently started running.


Thank you for joining us today, Anita. Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself?

Thank you for having me here. I am a new author with my first picture book titled, Tanner Builds a Block Tower. I am excited as puppy with a new toy. I am a wife, mother, grandmother. My favorite new activity is running, I started because I needed to get some activity from sitting in a chair for more than nine hours for my day job. I started two years ago, and have found the running community where I live to be a great group of people that are passionate about the sport and are supportive of new runners. I started with a training program to run a 5k and have progressed to three half marathons so far. 

When did you first get bit by the writing bug?

          I have loved reading since my introduction to Dick and Jane and Dr. Seuss. I am constantly reading something all the time. When I was in  junior high school, I had a creative writing class. That was when the writing bug stung me. But when family and life took over, I put the dream aside and just occasionally thought of it.

Why did you decide to write stories for children?

          Probably for the simple joy children’s books give to a reader. I enjoy reading to children and seeing their smiles and their happiness in asking you to read to them. I wanted to contribute to  that happiness. And it’s fun.

Do you believe it is harder to write books for a younger audience?

         I personally have nothing to compare it to, yet. Maybe I will give another genre a try someday. The other writing I do is journaling for myself.

Anita 2What is your favorite part of writing for young people?

          I like the writing, I like putting the words to paper, or rather the screen. They have to be edited  quite a bit before I’m done. But seeing the story unfold on the screen is probably my favorite part.

Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?

Tanner Builds a Block Tower is about a little boy who is determined to build a tower with his blocks. But on the way to his destination he get distracted by different animals and insects. He  also loses some of his blocks. So he has to find them to finish what he started. Determination and perseverance is the theme.

What inspired you to write it?

          The inspiration for this book, was my grandson, Tanner. On a visit when he was about three        years old, he loved to play with his building blocks and build towers, over and over. He was fascinated with this repetitive play. We also went on numerous walks, he loved to explore the outdoors, and still does. So it seemed a natural fit to combine the two activities.  

What is up next for you?

I am shopping out two more picture books, and writing a chapter book right now.

Do you have anything else to add?

          Thank you so much for having me. I hope you enjoy my book.

Thank you for spending time with us today, Anita. We wish you much success.


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19. Why we love libraries: the Aussie way


This week is National Library and Information Week in Australia — a week-long celebration of library and information professionals across the country. To celebrate the wonderful work of Australian libraries and librarians, here are a few thoughts on why libraries are so important, from those at the very heart of them. Also this week, a selection of articles from our resources about Australia are available to read online for free.

“I’ve always had a love of libraries and being raised in NYC allowed me access to some of the most well recognized and memorable ones; Ghostbusters anyone? However, the public libraries here in Melbourne are a little different from what I knew. One of my favourite public libraries is the City Library in the CBD. It has the most casual feel; very reflective of the general Australian demeanour. There are portals and nooks to cater to everyone, not to mention a cornucopia of information on hand in a myriad of formats. They’ve developed different methods to attract patrons and appeal to more than your common bibliophile; from video game consoles to a bar/café, from corners to nap in to an upright piano that you can play or just leave to the experts. You just can’t beat being lulled to sleep, whilst listening to a beautiful rendition of Moonlight Sonata, as you curl up with the newest book from your favourite author. Oh bliss.”
      –Nami Thompson, Oxford University Press, Australia

“I had just started working in my current role at a public library after many years on the reference desk at a big university library when an elderly lady came to the desk to borrow a handful of books. After I had finished issuing them she looked up and said with a heartfelt sigh ‘I don’t know where I’d be without this library’ and I thought ‘I can’t remember hearing the students saying anything like that before!’”
      –Sarah Hopkins, Bayside Library Service, Victoria, Australia

“What I love most about libraries are the surprises. You never know just what you will find. I am always excited to find what treasures have been found in collections from all over the world as well as my own library. It is this that makes libraries what they are – not just a place to find a book or to get an answer – but a place to explore and discover!”
      –Karen Stone, State Library of Queensland, Australia

“I’ve loved libraries since I learned to read. My mother let me take books out on my own library card as well as those of my three brothers who had different priorities. This big reading habit has persisted all my life and the library allows me to read huge numbers of books and try out new authors and find ‘mystery’ reads. It’s great fun! The public library is an oasis of calm and just the thing to relieve stress. I wonder how many people realise that it is also a place where you can find free wifi, DVDs, CDs, ebooks, audio books and online resources of all kinds.”
      –Marika Whitfield, Oxford University Press, Australia

“I’m fortunate enough to have worked across the Library service in Public, Academic, School and Tafe Libraries. I find the Library to be one of those integral services we all take for granted until it’s not there. Librarians are not usually the most outspoken or visible people in society, but most who I know are committed and hard working professionals who always strive to be available and willing to provide the best possible service to their customers. If you want evidence of the popularity of Libraries, go to any public library’s story time session. I remember when I worked at Moreland Library Service at the Coburg branch, as Community Liaison Librarian. All staff would get rostered during these sessions, and one point of service was being on ‘pram duty’. That’s right, we had to help the public park prams in a confined space. Up to 50 prams was not unusual.

“Academic Libraries are different, but again are highly valued by both staff and students. One of my favourite experiences recently was talking to a group of Grade 5 students, who visited the Library during a day on campus. I took them on a tour and then read a story for Halloween – I loved seeing their enthralled and eager faces – the next bunch of university graduates, assuming any of us can afford higher education in 10 years’ time!”
      –June Frost, RMIT University Library, Melbourne, Australia

“Last night after work I went to see a person about buying some antique opera glasses. His house was in Hughesdale which is two suburbs along from where my library service is, about a 20-minute drive. After we concluded our transaction we chatted for a bit and he asked me where I worked after I said I had travelled from Brighton. When I told him I managed the library service he broke into a very broad smile and said he goes there all the time and to one of my other branches and that it was the best library around. Even though there is a library about 1km away he would rather travel to us because we have what he wants. This is why I like public libraries, they make people happy!”
      –Karen Siegmann, Bayside Library Service, Victoria, Australia

“I love libraries. My local library, a QLD library (who shall remain anonymous) and the State Library are still considered my favourites. I am fortunate in my role as I visit so many libraries around Australia and see they have changed and embarked technology and developed some very creative ways to drive patrons to the library.

“I used to visit the library to do my studies, or quickly borrow a book because I knew it was available. Librarians were always so helpful I knew I could always rely on whatever they told or showed me. My fondest memories were meeting with my friends after school at the local library. We would all sit by the round table with books laid out as far as the table could stretch busily trying to complete our assignment and wait in line for the printer.

“Today my library is different. I can engage and find out all sorts including the wonderful events that help bring my local community together which is so relevant and important to me. I can now access online resources that were previously only available through my University to do my own professional / personal research.

“It’s a different kind of library, my retreat, one I can always rely upon and even though the internet has expanded, one thing remains for me: ‘Librarians are still the original search engine’.”
      –Tina Argyros, Oxford University Press, Australia

Celebrate Australian National Library and Information Week with a selection of articles about Australia available to read online for free.

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20. We Need to Talk About Apostrophe’s - Liz Kessler

Before I start, let me just make two points. The first is…yes the apostrophe in the title was a joke, not a mistake.

The second point is this: We only know what we know, and I don’t think that it’s up to anyone else to mock us for the gaps in our knowledge.

To underline this point, let me put myself and my own ignorance out there for you.

I rarely read a newspaper nowadays. I stopped quite a few years ago when I found that it was too full of horrific things being done to people – usually children – and it took me days to get over each horrible item I read. This means that, nowadays, I rarely know what’s going on in the world and I often don’t know who people are when I probably should do. I’m not saying I’m completely clueless about politics or the world* but there are gaps in my knowledge which some people could find painful.

Equally, yes, I admit it, I am pained by some of the grammatical gaps in knowledge that I see around me every day. But just as I hope people don’t judge me too harshly for my gaps, I don’t blame the perpetrators of these grammar slips (let’s not call them crimes). But I do want to do my bit towards helping put them right.

The main one that bugs me, and the one that is probably the most badly abused and misused little squiggle in the world, is, of course the apostrophe. But how do you do anything about this without upsetting people, losing friends and generally getting a reputation as a grammatically uptight know-it-all?

The answer is – or might be – you write an ABBA post about it!

I think that most of the people who follow this blog are writers, bloggers, teachers, librarians etc. As such, I'm sure most of you know exactly how to use apostrophes. But I bet you’ve all got a friend who has at some point sent you a text saying “Hope your OK” and you’ve bitten your lip and replied to their kind sentiment rather than replying, as you might have wanted to, “Hope YOU’RE OK! YOU’RE YOU’RE YOU’RE!!!!!!”

So, right. I'm obviously not doing this for you. I'm not even doing it for your friends because, to be honest, most of them probably KNOW how to use apostrophes; they just don't care quite as much as I do if they accidentally use them incorrectly from time to time. Let's just say I'm doing it on the off chance that there's an occasional reader of this blog who's never been a hundred per cent sure when and where to put their apostrophes but is way past the point where it's deemed acceptable to ask. Like I would feel about, say, asking who's the shadow chancellor or something like that.

And yeah, I'm doing it for me. Partly just to get it out of my system and share my pain because I’m tired of seeing things like this around the place and weeping silently to myself.

With thanks to Candy Gourlay and Fiona Dunbar, who suggested that it might mean you literally get a dog's welcome - i.e. a lick on the face and a sniff of your bum - with your Cornish Cream Tea.

And partly because, actually, I've always quite fancied writing a guide to the correct usage of apostrophes.

So here is my (very brief) guide to the correct usage of apostrophes. 

For those of who don’t care, don’t have a problem with this or would rather move on to the next blog with the cute kitten photos on it** please skip the section in blue.

OK. Apostrophes have two main uses.

1. To show possession of something. Here’s how you do that.

Look at your sentence and decide who or what is the person (or animal or thing) that is owning the other thing. When you know who that is, put your apostrophe after it.

For example…

The boy’s toys. (All the toys are owned by one boy.)
The boys’ toys. (All the toys are owned by a group of boys.)

The lady’s house. (One lady lives there.)
The ladies’ house. (A house where lots of ladies live.) (Make of that what you will.)

A missing apostrophe at the Edinburgh Book Festival - just to show that even the experts make mistakes.

The only real exceptions, where you indicate possession without an apostrophe despite the word looking as if it might want one, are “its” and “your”.

Without getting into extended discussions about possessive pronouns, just remember, if they are being used in the context of possession, the words “its” and “your” do not EVER need an apostrophe. OK?

For example…

The cat licked its paw.
Your hair looks nice today.

No apostrophe. Think of the “its” and the “your” in this context in the same way as if they were “his” or “her” or “my”. No apostrophe.

The ONLY times that “its” becomes “it’s” or “your” becomes “you’re” are when they fit into rule number two…

2. To indicate that a letter (or letters) have been left out.

For example…

It’s an interesting blog but can we move on now please?

Same with “your” and “you’re”. If you are using the word instead of “you are” it is always“you’re”. Never (ever ever) “your”. Ever.

Hope you’re OK.
You’re a star.
You’re starting to labour the point a bit now.

And finally, there is NEVER any need to use an apostrophe just because something is a plural. Never. Never. Never.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

OK, that's the end of my lesson. You can come back now.

If in doubt, the main things to remember are:

1. If you are married to a writer/English teacher/other grammatically-obsessed person, you may need to double check your Facebook status updates before posting them, just to be on the safe side.

2. If you are a friend of a writer/English teacher/etc and are asking after their health, please bear in mind that your correct use of apostrophes in the phrase “Hope you’re OK” (as opposed to the incorrect “Hope your OK”) will be at least as pleasing to them as the fact that you are thinking about them. Probably a little more, actually.

3. If you live in a small seaside town in Cornwall and are in the process of writing your menus for this year’s summer season, please send them my way before going to press. I will happily proof read them for free, and you will have no need to hurt people’s eyes with your pizza’s or pastie’s.

And finally…

For those of you who knew all of this already and have suffered all the way through this long blog, thank you! To you, and to those who want to see if they’ve learned anything from reading this, here’s a bit of fun, taken from a workshop I used to run when I was working for the Plain English Campaign. How many apostrophe mistakes can you spot in the following passage? I’ll post the answer at the end of the day.

The Housing Acts main aim is to set down local council’s future role as assistant’s to other housing agencies’ instead of being major provider’s of rented housing themselve’s. After carefully considering it’s options, Bloxwich Councils Housing Committee has decided that local peoples’ interest’s would be best served by transferring the bulk of the Committees’ housing stock to two newly-created housing associations’. But the chairman of the Housing Committee, Sid Wheale, said last night, “If its apostrophe’s your looking for, what about: ‘Its’ the princesss birthday today, isnt it?’”

Thanks for reading! 

* Especially now. In fact, I found the results of this week's elections and the advances made by far right organisations so horrifying and scary that the twenty-something-year-old me, who was very loud and active and political and who is still in there underneath everything else, is definitely planning a comeback.

** I think I might have implied that there were going to be photos of cute kittens. Just in case you were holding on for that, here you go...

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21. Let's hear it for the kids: more literate and creative than ever - David Thorpe

Who says today's children are being dumbed down? Who says the intelligence, literacy and creative ability is weakening compared to previous generations? (Could it be Michael Gove?)

I personally detest it when people put down children in this way. Any writer or teacher who goes out to meet kids in schools knows how smart they are. I believe that modern technology has made them far smarter than us oldies were at their age. They have a wider vocabulary and a much greater appreciation of the world, brought about by the broadened horizons made available by the Internet, games, books and a smörgåsbord of television channels. They probably also travel much more widely than we did 50 or more years ago.

All of this has had a marvellous effect. This is underlined by the results of BBC Radio 2's and the Oxford University Press' 500 words competition for children announced a few days ago, in which children had to compose an original work of fiction of 500 words.

They received a record-breaking, staggering 118,632 entries. Wow. Oxford University Press dictionary's team has analysed the stories to find out what words kids are using the most and the extent of their vocabulary, etc., all stuff that is of interest to us writers.

The most interesting thing first of all is the gender split. Girls outnumbered boys entering the competition by about 2 to 1. Three quarters of the entrants were in the 10 to 13 age range, the rest being nine and under. That probably means that girls in that age range are more likely to read books than any other children.

Now: how reassuring that the most common noun used in the stories is: 'mum'; and the most common adjective: 'good'.

Despite the fact that girls wrote twice as many of the stories, the main protagonist is more likely to be a boy. Now why do you think that is?

And the commonest name, used 27,321 times, is Jack, closely followed by Tom, Bob and James, all solid Anglo-Saxon names. I was certainly surprised to find that the most common girl's name is Lily/Lilly (17,981), closely followed by Lucy, then Emily and Sophie, also traditional English names.

And the most common historical figure? Adolf Hitler (used in 641 stories) followed by Queen Victoria (258).

I'd like to see Nigel Farage and his ilk use this as evidence for the insidious infiltration of multiculturalism into British culture. Actually it goes to show the opposite: there is no cause for concern, if anyone is concerned, that British culture is being watered down (although the research results are not accompanied by an ethnicity breakdown of the entrants to enable us to determine whether Celtic or Anglo-Saxon-originating Brits are unevenly represented amongst the entrants).

Looking at the keywords used in the stories, children were especially interested by this year's floods, with that single noun being by far the most commonly used (4008 uses), followed largely by non-real-world originating terms, coming from films and computer games: Lego, minion (used in Despicable Me), Minecraft and flappy (from the game Flappy Bird). Other words commonly used derived either from games or recent events such as the Winter Olympics.

What about new words? The research found that popular culture and social media have given rise to new verbs such as 'friended', 'Facebooked' and 'face-planted'. These will no doubt be finding their way into the next edition of OUP's children's dictionary.

Now for the really good news: children know - and are not afraid to use - really long words, including some that you or I may not even know: how about 'contumelious'? As used in the following context:

The girl springs to her feet losing all caution and apoplectic with outrage. "How dare you?" she cries, "Fighting them is bad enough, but capturing one to be slaughtered, as if it were a common boar, is contumelious. They will take their revenge and it will be terrible." (The War Party, girl, 13)
Or hands up who knows what 'furfuraceous' means? As used in:
Folkrinne's crown was placed on his furfuraceous head. The Basilisks applauded and cheered for the corrination of their new king of Malroiterre. (The Basilisk king, girl, 12)
(OK, so there was a spelling mistake in that, but I forgive this author because I think furfuraceous is a lovely word, conjuring up such a beautiful image in my mind).

And what about making up words? Children are not afraid to do this because, as you and I know, it is so much fun. My favourite made-up word quoted from the stories is 'historytestaphobia' because I absolutely used to suffer from that when I was at school. I also love 'Mucaologist', which is apparently a collector of mucus.

Finally, telling stories is not just about the words you know but the order in which you put them, and these children seriously know how to build suspense using perfectly ordinary words. As the report writers say:
If asked to write on a theme of mystery and suspense, one would not immediately think of the words door, house, step, and walk and yet the following example shows clearly how these words can be used to build suspense:
'Something had caught his eye. He turned around and saw an old, creaky house standing on its own in the middle of the woods. He took one step towards the scary house. He got closer and closer until he reached the house. Ben slowly walked up the cracked steps to reach the front door. Ben was scared out of his skin. Although on the outside he was brave. He pushed the rotten door and took a step inside the house.' (Haunted House, boy, 11)
All of this makes me happy, because it shows that there will continue to be a hungry audience for anything we writers produce, and, moreover, in a few years' time there will be more fantastically creative young adults ready to take our place.

Let's hear it for the kids.

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22. Ladies and gentlemen . . . the amazing Pat Cummings!

DSCN0088When I was in graduate school at SVA, I was able to choose an advisor during my thesis year. My choice was Pat Cummings. I asked Pat because I had been reading her books and admiring her art since “Just Us Women” appeared on Reading Rainbow in 1984. I went on to fall in love with C.L.O.U.D.S. and fueled my passion for breaking into the field with her “Talking with Artists” series. Not only has Pat been a great role model through her work and life, she has also been an amazing mentor and friend. I sent a few questions her way to host our conversation here on Living the Dream. Initially I hoped to do a video chat and post it to my Youtube channel, so in lieu of that live conversation, I will insert a few footnotes here and there, à la Junot Dìaz. Without further ado, Pat Cummings.

Pat, you have been illustrating books for over 30 years now. My first memory of your work was in the Reading Rainbow Book, Just Us Women. You were one of the only people of color on my radar who made books about children of color that were more whimsical and didn’t solely focus on history. Can you talk to me a bit about how you entered publishing and the motivation behind the books that you have created? 

I had been to see a bunch of publishers, not realizing that seeing one editor at a publishing house did not mean you’d really covered the whole house.  So it had been hit and miss.  There was a newsletter back then (this was the early/mid seventies) published by The Council on Interracial Books for Children.  They highlighted an illustrator or photographer on their back page.  When they ran my work, an editor at one of the publishing houses I thought I had covered called me and said she had a book for me. I had NO idea how to start but I didn’t want to let on that I was clueless.  So I did what seemed reasonable.  I knew someone who knew someone who knew someone who had once dated Tom Feelings.  So I called him up, explained my situation and he took the time to walk me through how he put a book together.  He was working on The Middle Passage.  It was 1975.  That book came out in 1995.  He was my hero when it came to deadlines.1  (Be kind, Shadra.)

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 8.36.02 AM

Has there been any time in your career where you wanted to stop writing and illustrating books? If so, what kept you going?
Nope.  There have been times I wanted to stop drawing and just write. But not permanently. I just wanted a change of pace.  There are too many stories I’d like to get to so I can’t imagine NOT wanting to tell them.

You work closely with SCBWI, The Highlights Foundation, and The Author’s Guild. How does this work inform your book making?
I was actually someone who was anti-groups when I was in college.  It took me a while to realize that others had invented the wheel already.  When I had thanked Tom Feelings profusely for helping me, Tom said, ‘Just help someone else when you can.’  I took that to heart.  I joined the Graphic Artists Guild and later, SCBWI.  I found that anytime I shared something I had learned about the business, I invariably learned more.  Every organization I work with, The Authors Guild, SCBWI, The Eric Carle Museum, Highlights, The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation…all of these groups…are immersed in the children’s book business in different ways.  So I’ve learned a lot about business, about the craft of making books and I get to constantly see the new work that is coming from puppies like yourself. (Please, Louise puts you about one book away from graduating from Puppy status).

You just published a gorgeous version of “Beauty and the Beast” written by your husband, Chuku Lee. I first met Chuku in C.L.O.U.D.S., how was it working with him as a model to working with him as an author?

Why, thank you ma’am for the kind words.  You know how long that book took to finish.  Chuku used to be a magazine editor when I met him and he was doing cover interviews with folks like Muhammad Ali and Andrew Young. Aside from being a writer and editor, he had served in the Foreign Service as a junior office in Paris. So, when I found an original French version of Beauty and the Beast I wanted him to translate it and do the retelling. He wrote up the story and sent it in to our editor, Barbara Lalicki at HarperCollins. I warned him that the way it worked in publishing, he would have to crawl across hell over broken glass to get to a final version because editors were very exacting. But Barbara only asked for one minor change and then said, “It’s great.”  I think the years of journalism paid off.  Writing lean, mean text is the way to go these days and his retelling was elegant and lyrical.  He has no idea how unusual his experience was.

As a model, he’s learned to be very patient and accommodating.  I’ve had him standing on furniture at 3am so I can get an angled shot. As the author of the book he was a cheerleader and kept me motivated when I thought I’d never finish.2  Because this wasn’t his usual endeavor, he didn’t seem to feel any pressure about seeing the book finished.  So he never mentioned that I was taking decades to get it done.

Can you talk a bit about the setting of the book? Why Africa and more specifically, Why Mali culture?
I’ve been fascinated by the Dogon for some time.  Their masks and traditional costumes are graphic and richly colored.  But, beyond any specific tribe, I’m attracted to the imagery of a host of cultures and West Africa was an ideal inspiration.  I remember seeing the opening scene of Coming to America with Eddie Murphy. 3 A mythic African kingdom is depicted, very opulent and very Hollywood and I loved the idea of combining African imagery with a fairy tale theme.  When I looked at the architecture of the Dogon, it held elements that I thought would be fitting for a castle where the Prince turned Beast might live.  Along with the African inspiration though, I wanted to capture some of the mystery in the Jean Cocteau film version of Beauty and the Beast.  I wanted to capture some of the magic in that film, with the watching faces in the architecture and waiting hands that provided whatever Beauty needed.

   B&B sisters b:w line174        B&B sisters b:w173

As a professor, you have mentored many successful illustrators, from David Ezra Stein, to Julian Hector, and myself, to name a few. You also take on a teaching role with SCBWI. How important is the work you do in the classroom? Do you consider teaching as much a part of your legacy as storytelling and being an artist?

You’re a teacher so you must know how satisfying it is to be able to help others bring their stories to fruition.  I think some people are genetically encoded to teach others and I recognize that in you. 4 When I told Tom that I would help others, I think I meant it sort of metaphorically.  But I found it so satisfying to see projects come together and to see people start their careers that it truly became a large part of what I do now.  I LOVE storytelling and I love just about every aspect of this business.  So, when I see others who have the same passion for it, it’s pretty easy to encourage and help them connect to publishers.  I feel proud of the folks I’ve worked with who have gone on to create wonderful books.  But I can only advise.  Their successes are all based on their unique talents.

With someone like yourself, and all of you phenoms out of SVA.Taeeun Yoo, Lauren Castillo, Anna Raff, You Byun, Lisa Anchin…the list goes on, I remember having the impression that the future was crystal clear and right around the corner for you. When you start out, the problem with being in the trenches, working like crazy, is that it’s hard to see what’s ahead and it might feel like it could take forever.  But to anyone like myself who has been in the business a while, talent glows in the dark. 5 So, I always remember how Tom Feelings helped me and I try to pass that on.

Can you talk a bit about your process? What are some of your favorite tools? What do you love the most about making art for picture books?

Eeeek.  My ‘process’ is pretty much a hot mess.  I doodle for days.  I collect the doodles, compose a slew of layouts, discard half and put together a smorgasbord of images to discuss with my editor.  Usually, I feel my way along a dark corridor, downloading images from dreams, things I’ve seen, music, travels….doodling and then, refining the doodles.  Eventually, I pick variations, stick them into mini dummies and then blow them up to refine further.  I go through about three or four dummies at least. 6 When I have layouts I like, I start final drawings in whatever order appeals.  Those final drawings are done by hand but in a photoshop, layer fashion:  a hand here, a horse there, a house on yet another piece of trace paper.  I assemble all of the scraps on my drawing table where I’ll have drawn an outline of the open book.  After I’ve arranged the various elements within that frame, I put a piece of trace paper over everything and make a final ink drawing.  That drawing I copy onto Fabriano Artistico hot press paper, the heavy stuff….300 pound I think.  I use paper that is forgiving because I tend to abuse it.
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With the drawing done in light pencil (usually 3 or 4H), I usually do washes of the background colors or any underpainting first.  Then I feel my way along in terms of color.  If I’ve put down an olive green, I might feel I need a rust next to it.  Even if I’ve done color studies, I tend to just go with my gut once I start painting.  It surprises me without fail, that after the book is done I’ll see there was a particular palette specific to the book.  Only rarely have I set out with an intentional palette.  I use watercolor and gouache pretty interchangeably, go in with color pencil, smooth things out with pastel, hit it with anything that seems called for and then spray the whole thing heavily.  I don’t recommend this.  What I do know is that I may start a page with every intention of being light and washy and loose and then things get brighter and juicier and tighter and I swear that the next book will be light and loose.7

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The #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign has been a hot topic for a few weeks now. As a maker of diverse books for children and a luminary in the field, what are some of your thoughts on this issue? 

The percentages haven’t changed since I’ve been doing books.  I came in after a wave that included Tom Feelings and Jerry Pinkney and Walter Dean Myers and Mildred Pitts Walter and others.  They were prolific new voices.  But back in the day, it seemed like I knew every single illustrator and writer of color and could call them up.  The field should not have been that small.  Today, there are more creators of color but the percentages of books featuring people of color has apparently diminished despite the wide range of work covering a wide range of topics, being created by a wide range of people of color.  The disparity can’t be corrected by people of color.  There still exists a mentality that a child will only appreciate a book with someone of his own race on the cover and that is what needs to change.

As a black woman, I think a lot about the lack of black women picture book artists working in our field. Do you have any thoughts on why African American women seemingly aren’t pursuing careers in picturebooks as much as their male counterparts? 

We could be at this for days.  I have this talk in class every semester. Not just about African American women though…about all women.  Here’s my thinking and it is unrefined and preliminary at best:  There seem to be a grillion-to-one women-to-men at every children’s book conference and in every class.  But the industry is heavily male when it comes to the talent.  What I see in class informs my thinking.  If you critique a woman she might take your advice, she might reject it.  But when challenged or critiqued, some decide it is not working for them, that this may not be the business for them.  Men don’t seem to get as easily discouraged.  This is a pretty amateur observation based, I think , on one dance I went to in high school where the guys never retreated to a corner or went home if a girl wouldn’t dance.  Men seem genetically encoded to pump themselves up and get back in the fray….even if a casual observer would consider them delusional about their gifts.  Women need a bit of that chutzpah.  What helped me, and the trait I see in the women I know who get published, is a no holds barred passion for the work.  I left school with the attitude that this is what I would do.  I heard all of the stories about folks who ‘got discovered’.  But what I’ve found over time is: male, female, black, white, whatever…you have to throw everything you have at this if you want to do it.8

I could ask many more questions, but I will end with one more. What advice do you have for illustrators working today who are trying to sustain a career as long and successful as yours has been?

It is as huge a cliche as you’ll ever hear:  Do what you love.  It won’t feel like work.  It won’t ever get boring.  You won’t ever retire.  If, bless you, you one day sell the worldwide film rights to your little picture book and make a grillion dollars, you’ll wake  up the next day and still want to tell another story.  And it will be fun.

Thank you Pat for all that you do and have done for us puppies!
I certainly would not have made it this far without you and your work.
To see more of Pat Cumming’s work visit her at www.patcummings.com.
You can also find her on facebook.


1. For those of you who want to become book illustrators, a book typically takes six months to a year to illustrate, but as I tell all of my students, it is a marathon, not a sprint. Do your very best work and if that means slowing down a tad to ensure your best work, then by all means, do so. Do be realistic about your working process and let your publisher know well in advance how long it will take you to finish. Tom Feelings’ The Middle Passage is an amazing work of art that transcends the label “picture book” by all accounts. You can see more of his work here. (Fast forward to 31:00 to hear Tom in his own words).

2. I speak to my students often about choosing a partner wisely. Male or female, choosing a partner who respects you and your work is crucial to living a long and artistic life. Being an artist is a long and lonely road for most, and there are times when the going will get tough. You will need people in your life, be it a mate, friend, family member, agent, editor, audience, -heck, even a loyal pet will work, to help build you up and remind you that this is work that needs to be done.

3. YES!!! She’s your queeeeeeen to beeeeee! One of the greatest movies of all time. Eddie Murphy and the Hudlin Brothers made black folk so beautiful in their films.

4. I grew up in a family of educators. My mom was an english teacher before becoming a guidance counselor. I also find it funny that many illustrators and authors that I have met over time were raised by teachers. Oh man, I want to make that a book now.

5. I am so thrilled you saw the talent in me then and helped nurture and support it. I was walking around in the dark back then, reaching for stars that I wouldn’t see. I have students like that now, who are amazing artists and storytellers. I drag many of them into the light, but like you, I can only push so much. At the end of the day, they have to find a way to kick the door in for themselves.

6. Again, marathon, not a sprint.

7. Ha! This is hilarious. There is nothing light and loose about your personality. You are bright and vivid in personality and it shines so clearly in the work that you make. It is stunning work, no matter how you arrived at it. Though, the work you did earlier, was lighter and looser. I bought a copy of My Mama Needs Me a while back and was interested to see how much your work has changed from that book and Just Us Women. It’s not a criticism, just an observation. Your use of color is amazing to me.

8. I have this talk too in all of my classes. I ask my students their thoughts about women in the field, people of color in the field, etc. For African American artists though, I wonder if because there aren’t many historically black universities that offer illustration courses. I am seeing more POC at MICA, where I teach, but the numbers are still pretty low. When I was looking at colleges, I didn’t even consider historically black universities because I didn’t know of any illustrators who were making books that graduated from Howard, Spelman, Florida A&M, etc.. As for women, yes, I see so many more in art school, at SCBWI conferences etc., but I tell my students all the time, they have to stand up and be seen. They have to be persistent, and they have to be super confident. As I said in an interview with Sam Weber earlier this year, “if you don’t know that I’m not awesome, I’m not gon’ tell you I’m not awesome”.

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23. Where Angels Fear to Tread by Keren David

I took O Level English Literature at a girls' grammar school in 1979. We studied three texts: Flora Thompson's Lark Rise to Candleford; E M Forster's Where Angels Fear to Tread and A Midsummer's

Night's Dream.  A play by the ultimate English writer, and two texts connected only by their utter Englishness.
I found the detailed social history contained in Flora Thompson's memoir of life in rural England completely tedious. Forster's examination of Edwardian snobbery and xenophobia in Forster's novel was somewhat baffling, sixteen-year-old girls not being best placed to appreciate a story about a middle-aged woman's lust for a younger man (Eeeuw, yuck, disgusting). Re-reading it, 35 years later I was surprised to find it laugh-out-loud funny.
 I didn't enjoy English Literature O level, but I was good at it, and that was why I continued on to A level, which I found much more rewarding, with its wider (but still 100% English...not even British) texts.
Around the same time my husband received a reading list from his school. It included 22 plays, including contemporary works (Arnold Wesker's Roots, Shelagh Delaney's A Taste of Honey), four plays by George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, and Sophocles' Antigone.  For W Shakespeare the list read 'Any Play'.
The list for prose was longer -  44 books. They included plenty of nineteenth century novels: Jane Austen, Brontes C and E, two novels by Dickens and one by Hardy.
There were many twentieth century texts, British, American and translated : Anne Frank's Diary; Of Mice and Men (and another Steinbeck), To Kill a Mocking Bird. George Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984; Nevil Shute's A Town Like Alice and The Pied Piper, Graham Greene's Brighton Rock, D H Lawrence Sons and Lovers.
The list covered many genres -  science fiction (Day of the Triffids); romance (Pride and Prejudice); historical fiction (Rosemay Sutcliff's Warrior Scarlet); memoir( Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals), dystopian fiction (Fahrenheit 451); mystery (Josephine Tey's The Franchise Affair) a western (Shane by Jack Shaefer) and a thriller (Alistair McLean's The Guns of Navarone).  There were several true-life stories from the Second World War, one by a Polish writer, one by an Italian and Alan Burgess's novel A Small Woman about a British missionary in China.
This list was clearly designed to be as broad as possible, introducing pupils to classic works of literature and inviting them to find out what sort of book they enjoy. It was challenging, interesting, reflecting different social classes and nationalities, as well as ethnic minority groups.
Should schools find this extensive list too short, there was a note: 'Candidates from Schools whose extended lists have been approved by the Board may, of course, refer in addition to texts on these lists.'  My husband remembers that pupils were told to read at least five or six of the 66 texts on the list, but he read at least 20, some in class, some from the local library. The final examination at the end of the course asked generic questions such as: 'Write about strong characters in some of the books you have read.'
This list  fostered a love of  reading in my husband which eventually led him to read English Literature at Oxford University.
The really interesting thing is that he was taking CSE English at a Secondary Modern school, a school to which he had been condemned by failing the 11 plus. CSEs were widely seen as useless qualifications for thickies, but I would contend that anyone who was given that list and had a crack at reading six books on it, would find something  enjoyable and challenging to read which might inspire them to read more in the future.

Our daughter took GCSE English recently, studying anthologies of poetry and short stories, a few scenes from Macbeth and Of Mice and Men; a syllabus which seemed to be designed for kids with short concentration spans. Of Mice and Men was the only text she read that ran to any length at all - all 107 pages of it. I have nothing against Steinbeck's classic, and certainly nothing against Macbeth, I am sure that the anthologies contained good material, but I have to admit to a great deal of parental frustration as I watched my daughter thoroughly turned off by this thin fare, and irritated by being asked to compare World War One poetry with Macbeth, an exam question that she found pointless and off-putting. .
I am writing this, of course, because of the recent kerfuffle over GCSE English, a row in which facts got lost to prejudice (for and against Michael Gove, for and against American literature, for and against Dickens and other nineteenth century authors).
Depending on who you read, Gove had personally interfered to ban books, or had bravely intervened to widen the curriculum, or Gove had nothing to do with any of it. As the saying goes, fools rush in, where angels fear to tread: it seemed as though the way the changes to GCSE English were reported and discussed was designed to make everyone look foolish (a Machiavellian plot by Gove himself, perhaps?)
I watched the row develop with increasing frustration, as it had so little to do with the actual crisis facing British children's literacy. Libraries are closing! Schools are being designed without libraries! Reading is being re-defined as deciphering phonics! School library services are closing! Children are spending more and more time glued to screens and less and less time reading for pleasure! These are the real crises, not whether Of Mice and Men remains on the school syllabus.
 When I read that Bailey's Prize winner Eimear McBride wants to spend some of her £30,000 prize money buying copies of Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird to give free to teenagers, I want to scream. These books haven't been banned, Eimear! Schools have so many copies that they will, no doubt, find a way of using them, perhaps by teaching them to Y9 pupils.  Instead, please give your money to the Siobhan Dowd Trust which has the simple and essential aim of promoting the love of reading among disadvantaged children and young adults.
Yesterday the review section of The Guardian newspaper asked a select group of authors and academics to pick GCSE texts (no librarians, English teachers or children's writers among them). The choice that make me giggle the most was put forward by Linda Grant: Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth. And the one with which I agreed  whole-heartedly was Hilary Mantel:
Should we play the Gove game, by setting up opposing lists? Or should we ask, which Gradgrind thought up the idea of set texts in the first place? Why should students be condemned to thrash to death a novel or a corpus of poetry, week after week, month after month? No novel was ever penned to puzzle and punish the young. Plays are meant to be played at. Poetry is not written for Paxmanites. Literature is a creative discipline, not just for writer but for reader. Is the exam hall its correct context? We educate our children not as if we love them but as if we need to control and coerce them, bullying them over obstacles and drilling them like squaddies; and even the most inspired and loving teachers have to serve the system. We have laws against physical abuse. We can try to legislate against emotional abuse. So why do we think it's fine to abuse the imagination, and on an industrial scale? What would serve children is a love of reading, and the habit of it. I wonder if the present system creates either.

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24. Who Can Sign Up with First Book?

eligibility graphicWhen the school year ends, so do many support systems kids in need rely on. Thankfully there are thousands of organizations working across the country to help kids in need during the summer months.

First Book is here to support all of them. We don’t just work with teachers; anyone working with kids in need can sign up to get books from First Book!

From health clinics to summer camps, museums to daycare centers, we’ve got books and educational resources for any and all folks serving kids in need, ages zero to 18. First Book also supports programs serving children from military families and children with disabilities.

And there’s no better time to reach them than now – while kids are out of school and relying on their services more than ever.

Think about your community. Are there shelters, health clinics, faith-based programs, soup kitchens or other community-based programs that need educational resources? Encourage them to learn more and sign up at www.firstbook.org.

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25. First Book’s Summer Book List: High School

Summer_ReadingIn the last week of our series of great summer reads, we’re bringing you our favorite titles for high schoolers to dive into as the days become ever warmer.

Be sure to check out our summer book lists from past weeks for great reads for kids of all ages!

Sign up to receive more great book lists, tip sheets and summer reading facts from First Book!

If you work with kids in need, you can find these titles on the First Book Marketplace by clicking on the pictures next to the publisher descriptions of each book.

mares war“Mare’s War” by Tanita S. Davis

Meet Mare, a grandmother with flair and a fascinating past.

Octavia and Tali are dreading the road trip their parents are forcing them to take with their grandmother over the summer. After all, Mare isn’t your typical grandmother. She drives a red sports car, wears stiletto shoes, flippy wigs, and push-up bras, and insists that she’s too young to be called Grandma. But somewhere on the road, Octavia and Tali discover there’s more to Mare than what you see. She was once a willful teenager who escaped her less-than-perfect life in the deep South and lied about her age to join the African American battalion of the Women’s Army Corps during World War II.

Told in alternating chapters, half of which follow Mare through her experiences as a WAC member and half of which follow Mare and her granddaughters on the road in the present day, this novel introduces a larger-than-life character who will stay with readers long after they finish reading.

sammy_julianna“Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood” by By: Benjamin Alire Saenz
It is 1969, America is at war, “Hollywood” is a dirt-poor Chicano barrio in small-town America, and Sammy and Juliana face a world of racism, war in Vietnam, and barrio violence. Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood is a Young Adult Library Services Association Top 10 Best Book for Young Adults and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Young Adults.


absolutely_true_diary_part_time_indian“Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he thought he was destined to live.

maze_runner“Maze Runner” by James Dashner

The first book in the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series–The Maze Runner is a modern classic, perfect for fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent.

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade–a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every thirty days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up–the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

tall_story“Tall Story” by Candy Gourlay

Andi is short. And she has lots of wishes. She wishes she could play on the school basketball team, she wishes for her own bedroom, but most of all she wishes that her long-lost half-brother, Bernardo, could come and live in London where he belongs.

Then Andi’s biggest wish comes true and she’s minutes away from becoming someone’s little sister. As she waits anxiously for Bernardo to arrive from the Philippines, she hopes he’ll turn out to be tall and just as crazy as she is about basketball. When he finally arrives, he’s tall all right. Eight feet tall, in fact–plagued by condition called Gigantism and troubled by secrets that he believes led to his phenomenal growth.

In a novel packed with quirkiness and humor, Gourlay explores a touching sibling relationship and the clash of two very different cultures.


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