Inspired by Regie Routman’s most recent post about what she’s reading, I thought I would do the same on my blog. Below are the books I read in 2013. I am sure I read a few more than what was listed here, but I was too busy reading to post them on Goodreads! Some of these titles are rereads, noted with an *. These books deserved another read because they had more to offer than one round would provide.
Books of Note
Favorite Fiction: The Wool trilogy by Hugh Howey
Humanity is sequestered to a silo underground, due to some event that made the surface of Earth uninhabitable. How the remaining members of civilization live and interact in this alternative world makes for a fascinating read. I have read the first two installments and plan to read the final book soon. If you investigate the back story on this series, you will discover the author self-published his writing online as a short story, in order to sustain ownership and to get feedback on how the story should proceed. Using his fans’ input, he crafted the rest of the Wool series, which then lead to a larger book deal. Is this the future of writing? If excellent science fiction like Wool is the result, I wouldn’t mind.
Suggested Nonfiction/Informative: The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
This resource should be in the home of every young family. Some hospitals hand this book to new mothers and fathers after delivery. Whenever a parent asks me about what they can do to help their child become a reader, my response is usually, “Read aloud to them, every day.” My school received a grant to promote reading aloud with our families. We will be hosting a book study on The Read Aloud Handbook with parents starting in January, along with putting up Little Free Libraries in our community. Look for a post on the Nerdy Book Club blog on January 4th to learn more about this essential title.
Recommended Paired Reading: The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley and World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students by Dr. Yong Zhao
Although I did not read both titles at the same time, I believe they would work well together if someone were studying education in the age of technology and globalization. In The Smartest Kids, Amanda Ripley follows three U.S. students as they participate in foreign exchange programs in South Korea, Finland, and Poland. That all three score higher than the U.S. on the PISA, an internationally-based standardized test, is no accident. This piece of investigative journalism gives the audience an anecdotal perspective of the difference between the U.S. educational system and these three countries. Although I felt the author gave too much credence to one assessment, she does make a compelling case that the U.S. does need to ramp up our expectations for students’ learning, especially in mathematics. Ripley also showcases the greater amount of respect other countries have for the teaching profession.
Where The Smartest Kids gives the reader an up close and personal report about education, World Class Learners provides a more aerial, 20,000 feet in the air point of view on learning. Dr. Zhao also looked at the PISA scores, and placed them side-by-side with an assessment on students’ engagement and entrepreneurship potential. The result: A strong correlation between high test scores and low creativity. The author, a professor in the University of Oregon’s College of Education, surmises that when schools focus on one right answer due to tests, students’ imagination and innovation skills are not as developed. When you combine this evidence with the fact that standardized test results cannot be used to teach more responsively, one wonders what we are really measuring and why. As Dr. Zhao astutely points out in his most recent post on his blog, “Global benchmarking can only give you the best of the past.”
Where their two philosophies converge is the belief that U.S. schools can do better. Whether it is through better teacher preparation programs, or through professional development focused on student interests and project-based learning, both authors believe life long learning and high expectations are the key to our country’s future success.
What’s On Deck? Books I Want to Read in 2014
Any thoughts on the titles and perspectives I share? What books did you thoroughly enjoy this year? What’s on your to-read pile for 2014? Please share in the comments.