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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: National Standards, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Wishes for the New Year

‘Tis the season for both gifts and good wishes. Sometimes the two are one and the same. Still good wishes don’t always sound so pretty.

1. I, like so many people, am confused and outraged by the article in the New York Times about certain parents deciding to bypass picture books as quickly as possible to move on to chapter books. (Full disclosure—I write picture books.) This reported trend reminds me of a past fad using flashcards with quasi-verbal kids in an attempt to catapult them into SAT courses about the same time they finished toilet training. Hey, I’m a parent too; I worry all the time about my kids being well and happy and getting ahead. BUT COME ON!

My first wish? I wish that parents will realize that snuggling with their young child and a picture book, looking at it together accomplishes more than the chapter books I write as well. The child hears words she could never read at her age and enjoys a sophistication of story, relationships and ideas he could never read about by himself. The pictures act as an artistic dictionary, helping that young reader equate the look of a word and the word itself with its meaning via a drawing. Why be one of the seven blind men trying to define an elephant when you can just look at a picture of one? Furthermore we live in an increasingly visual age; why deprive a child of a model of using word and image together from the start?

And finally, we not only learn by doing, we learn by liking what we do. Kids love spending undistracted, interactive time with their parents (at that age, anyway) when the parent and a book are guides into new exciting worlds. They love reading picture books. And once they’ve practiced decoding letters and become used to bunches of them together with spaces between them, they love reading chapter books.

So I wish you guys would just calm down, then sit down and read a picture book to your kids.

2. Many writers here at I.N.K. have blogged about evolution and its detractors. They have been as impassioned and eloquent as I could ever be. So I’ll just start this wish/rant by saying, “ditto,” and move on to the general principal that we have never had better access to good, accurate information.

I wish we would value it more. Enough with “truthiness,” Mr. Colbert! And enough of cherrypicking facts or factoids that simply support our previously held views. I wish people would work harder to dig for this accurate information, find it, actually THINK about it, and use the results to create their opinions. Then let’s talk about how to reduce the deficit or raise our students’ math scores.

In other words, I wish we’d all start ascribing to a wise thought attributed to everyone from Bernard Baruch to Daniel Moynihan: Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.

3. I mentioned in a previous blog that I am currently an author-in-residence in a Boston school located in the middle of a public housing community. There is nothing like extended time in a school to remind you that teachers are heroes. They’ve got a hard job that is everyday and most of them try their best to do it well. I wish society appreciated them more.

As an author, I also wish they would/could use better hand-crafted books (nonfiction and otherwise) in their classrooms. I now understand better than ever how hard it is for teachers to use initiative and personalize the lessons they teach. There are seemingly endless mandated tests beyond the required state exams. Grade level curricula have units that must be covered from, say, October 11th to November 7th and others that pick up on November 8th. Where is the time for spontaneity? For the magic that comes from an inspired lesson or experiment or book?

I wish that we can somehow figure out how to slip more want-to’s in with ought-to’s. I can see from my time at the Perkins School that sparks do get kindled in kids and we just hav

2 Comments on Wishes for the New Year, last added: 12/14/2010
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2. Why Our Books Can Save Education

Teachers are living in fear these days. Their administrators are equally fearful. Here’s why: ASSESSMENT TESTS. And why are their knees shaking so hard? If students don’t measure up, a school’s reputation suffers, real estate values in their district suffer, taxes go down, there is less money for education, school budgets must be cut and people (teachers and administrators) can lose their jobs. So everyone frantically focuses on THE TESTS.

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The top educators have been thinking hard about what kids need to know. Each district/state, even the nation has developed standards and content strands—the so-called scope and sequence of what kids need to know and when they need to know it. They make their scope and sequence—their lists— available to the public and to the people who create educational materials, including textbook publishers and others who produce product for the very lucrative (and highly competitive) school market. These publishers take the lists as written, use them as outlines and hand them to writers. “Cover this material” are their instructions. And their efforts are there for all to see in heavy tomes, in wikipedias, and in Google search results.

The expository prose created in this way is flat at best and positively boring and insulting to the reader at worst. How do I know? I was once asked to write a text book and was handed THE OUTLINE. Yes, I can write a decent declarative sentence. I’m not a bad speller and I know the rudiments of punctuation. But, much as I needed the money, I turned down the job. Why? I told them that I don’t write their way. I tried to ‘splain it to them (as Desi Arnaz would say): They could hire Shakespeare and give him THE OUTLINE to follow and they might get something they’d want to publish, but they wouldn’t get Shakespeare. They didn’t get it. I moved on.

Meanwhile the test creators are

7 Comments on Why Our Books Can Save Education, last added: 9/13/2010
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3. Presenting Our Brand-New I.N.K. Brainchild!

This blog was originally posted on October 7, 2009

The I.N.K. bloggers, past and present, are pleased to announce the launch of our new website:
INK Think Tank: Nonfiction Authors in Your Classroom. The main feature of this website is a FREE, searchable database of hundreds of in-print books all written by the 22 award-winning I.N.K. authors. Now you can find lists of books for all grade levels covering content mandated by National Education Standards and your state curriculum. Instead of feeding kids material from bland, uninteresting books, we offer a cornucopia of delicious, appetizing titles guaranteed to nourish both reading and learning. No single book can be all things to all students, but the LISTS of books generated by our database will come close. We believe that if kids learn through these high-interest, well-researched books that have been vetted for accuracy, they will perform better on the required assessment tests. We have included, on our new website, a page of references and studies that support our position. Now you can have fun playing with our database. For teachers, it’s designed to give you peace-of-mind that you’re fulfilling the requirements of your school district while you’re rediscovering the joy of teaching. For parents and librarians, it will provide you with a quick reference to pull books from shelves that tie in with children’s interests and classroom content.
We built our database from the ground up. The books were analyzed for it by those who know them best, their authors. Like any new idea in today’s technological world, our database is still a work in progress. We expect it to grow and change, depending on feedback from you, our users. We will be adding books of new author/bloggers to give you increased breadth of subject areas. And, of course, we will be adding our new books as they are published. We want to know how you search so the database can be as user friendly as possible. There are links on our website for you to contact us with your suggestions. You can also email us at: thoughts@inkthinktank.com

In addition to our books, we authors are also an under-utilized resource for classrooms. So, through the Ink Think Tank website, we are making ourselves available to teachers. You can see our encapsulated author profiles on our INK Thinkers page. We are an amazing group! There is probably no corner of the globe that one of us hasn’t visited. Without exception, we are all life-long learners. We are not afraid to admit when we don’t know something. Indeed, not-knowing is a welcome opportunity to learn something new. Now we want to inject our enthusiasm for learning into your classroom. We have included our email addresses and links to our we

2 Comments on Presenting Our Brand-New I.N.K. Brainchild!, last added: 7/9/2010
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