The Help

March 30, 2011

     Author:  Kathryn Stockett

     ISBN:  0399155341

    Pages:  451

    Level:  Adult

    This is an excellent novel that gives us a glimpse into the lives of “the help”, the black women working in Mississippi for white families.  It focuses on a young white woman, Skeeter, who returns home to the South from college.  She is determined to become a writer and begins by writing a cleaning column for a local newspaper.  She enlists the assistance of one of her friend’s “help” and a relationship develops between them.  In Skeeter’s attempt to reach her goals, she decides to write a collection of interviews from various black maids and tries to encourage other maids to share their experiences with her as well.  As the story unfolds, we are privy to the life experiences of the “help”, as well as those of the families they work for.  The bigotry and social rules that were prevalent in the 1960’s are exposed and presented in a way that can’t help but touch the reader.  This story is heartwarming and heart wrenching, and I highly recommend this book.  This is an excellent follow up after reading The Book of Negroes.

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Igniting a Passion for Reading by Steven L. Layne

March 30, 2011

Themes: Love of Reading, Inspiring Students to Read

Genre: Adult Non-Fiction

At first glance, I could have said there’s nothing new in this book.  Reading aloud and sharing my own passion for reading have always been the best tools in my toolbox as a language arts teacher.  Layne’s own teaching experience as well as his dogged determination to get every child in his classroom loving reading are the clear inspiration in sharing easy to implement and well thought out strategies that can immediately be used in the classroom.  Layne’s anecdotes about his own experiences in engaging reluctant readers, and at times reluctant parents or colleagues create an easy to read book with tonnes of ideas. 

Paperback: 184 pages

Publisher: Stenhouse Publishers (November 28, 2009)

ISBN-10: 1571103856

ISBN-13: 978-1571103857


Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts – by Will Richardson

March 30, 2011

  Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms by Will Richardson is an excellent guide for educators to learn how to use these low-cost Web 2.0 tools in classrooms. Even though the book was written in 2006, it is still a good reference for those who are now just joining the tidal wave of our changing world.

Richardson starts off by explaining the Read/Write Web and the extraordinary changes that are occurring because of it. He cites great examples of how Web 2.0 has transformed many areas of our lives. He also writes about how to keep students safe and that is a must read section for educators!

Richardson has outlined how to use weblogs (blogs), wikis and podcasts in a direct manner. Included in this book are things like the following:

  • Blogging Across the Curriculum
  • Blogging with Students
  • Blogging Safety
  • Wikis in Schools
  • Wiki Tools and Resources
  • Podcasting
  • RSS (what it is and how to use it)
  • The Social Web

Richardson ends the book with a chapter entitled – What It all Means. This chapter includes New Literacies – which is crucial for educators to understand and implement, The Big Shifts – open content, many, many teachers and 24/7 learning as well as collaboration and what I think is the biggest shift – Teaching is Conversation, Not Lecture.

So, this entire book is recommended as a must read for educators. It really describes how education is changing, and how we, as educators, must change with it. It is a practical guide but also a “wake-up” call for those who have not explored the Web 2.0 tools and what they will do for learners.

Read it!


The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick

December 3, 2010

Level: Adult

Genre: Non Fiction

This is an adult non fiction read but is very necessary for anyone who works with teenagers. Facebook only began in 2004 and has 500 million users! It has changed our world but even more so, it has changed our students’ world.

The Facebook Effect details how Facebook began – for Harvard University students – and how it has grown to a multi billion dollar industry. One part that I found extremely interesting was that the the author implies that Mark Zuckerberg is in the advertising business. When looked at from that perspective, I  realized that this was very true and even though Mark’s goal was to network the world, it is even more true that Facebook is making huge sums of money from its advertisers. What is particularly disturbing, is that, all of our information is being collected so that advertisers can target their ads much more specifically than even Google.

The book is a worthwhile read and really describes the history of Facebook well. There were parts of the story that were too detailed for my non financial brain though. However, I certainly understood enough of the Silicone Valley “wheelings and dealings” to realize that Facebook is a very powerful force and has shaped our world in a completely new direction in just six short years.

Mark Zuckerberg was interviewed extensively in the book and he often stated that his goal was to make the world more transparent. Well, it certainly is now! I just hope that all of this information will be used for a good purpose and not for manipulating us to the extreme. My worry, of course, is that everything we have done, are doing, and will do, will be recorded forever.

Very insightful and it gives me a better understanding of the social networking world. I wish Kirkpatrick would write a teenage version of this and make it mandatory reading. Then the kids might think twice before they post so much personal information.

On that note, I must go and update my status!


Why Gender Matters by Leonard Sax

November 27, 2010

Level: Adult

Genre: Non-Fiction

Theme: Gender

I first started reading this book because of my present teaching assignment: a class of 28 grade 7 GIRLS!  What I learned has really surprised me, and has gone on to guide much of my teaching this year.  Dr. Sax basically argues that the brains of girls and boys are different….not one better than the other, but biologically different.  He argues that the differences must lead to changes in the way we teach all-girl classes, all-boy classes, and mixed-gender classes.  He does not suggest that we change the material which we teach, but how we teach it.  He believes that many of the world’s social problems could be reduced through appropriate gender education.  Feelings, risk-taking behaviours, bullying, age and gender appropriate discipline, self-esteem, and drug and sex education are just some of the other topics that are explored through the lense of emerging brain research.

ISBN: 0-7679-1625-5

Pub: Broadway Books, 2006


Still Alice by Lisa Genova

April 11, 2010

Alice Howland was a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children.  Alice begins to have episodes of memory loss and sudden confusion.  She attributes her little memory lapses to menopause and having an extremely busy job, which requires her to travel a great deal.   As they become more frequent, Alice relies more on writing herself notes to remind her of her class schedules, appointments, etc.  One day, she was taking her regular morning run, and found herself disoriented, and could not remember how to find her way home. She experienced a fear and anxiety that she’d never felt before. It was then that she decided to visit her doctor.  At the age of 50, Alice is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.  The author gives an excellent portrayal of Alices’ innermost thoughts and feelings in trying to cope with her diagnosis and her determination to maintain a normal existence not only for herself, but for her family for as long as she can.  As Alice’s disease progresses, the more the reader understands what it would be like to live with Alzheimer’s.    Alice becomes like a friend, or mother or sister, you wish you could reach out to, to offer some comfort.  You share in her families’ grief as they cope with Alice’s decline. This book is a window into the world of someone living with this disease.  For anyone who has a loved one that has been diagnosed with Alzheimers, or would like to have a better understanding of what life would be like living with this disease, I would highly recommend this book. 

Reading/Interest Level: Adult

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Theme: Courage, Acceptance, Family, Relationships, Alzheimers Disease


The Hour I First Believed

March 28, 2010

Name of the book: The Hour I First Believed

Author: Wally Lamb

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Theme: Relationships, Family, Columbine, American Womens Prison System.

Summary: I chose this book because of the author’s other excellent books that I have read (She’s Come Undone, I Know This Much Is True).  In this book, Lamb mixes real events with fiction. The story begins with the main character Caelum Quirk, a teacher at Columbine whose wife also works at the high school as the part-time school nurse, in Littleton, Colorado – a few days before the shootings at Columbine High School. Quirk has a conversation with the two boys about their future.

After the stage is set for the story, we learn a lot about Caelum Quirk – and I mean a lot! There seems to be several books within this one large book, and although all of the parts are interesting, it was just too much! I would get involved with one part and then suddenly another part would begin although the previous part was left unresolved.

So, to summarize, the book is about the long term effects of the Columbine shootings on Caelum and his wife. She ends up in prison and he is left having to carry the weight of everything else. The other parts of the novel deal with his family history and he uncovers some very unpleasant things. The Hour I First Believed is worth the time invested to read, but keep in mind that it will take a long time to get to the end!