Skip to main content
University of Wisconsin–Madison

Tag: reading

UW-Madison Professor Provides Insight on Children’s Reading Comprehension

“The way kids are taught to read in school is disconnected from the latest research, namely how language and speech actually develop in a child’s brain.”

In an NPR interview with Mark Seidenberg, cognitive scientist and professor at UW-Madison, he offers insight on what it will take to improve reading instruction with the nation’s children.

Seidenberg is not the only one to come to the surprising conclusion that “only a third of the nation’s schoolchidren read at grade level.” He claims that in order to be a successful reader, it depends on linking the text to speech; successful reading is dependent on the child’s language, grammar and vocabulary. Where the big connection lies is through teaching kids the “correspondence between the letters on a page and the sounds of words.”

Only a third of the nation’s schoolchildren read at grade level, according to UW-Madison professor Mark Seidenberg. CC Image Credit to Pexels.

Seidenberg also notes that teachers are often told this connection is not relevant to their teaching styles and that these scientific discoveries has no connection with what they decide to teach in the classroom. In his book, “Language at the Speed of Sight,” he explains that in order to understand the scientific research, teachers need a basic level of scientific literacy in order to fully understand it. In his eyes, they can either dismiss what he is saying in his discoveries, or they can share the findings and create change.

He was motivated to write his book based on frustration that has built up. Scientific discoveries about reading have barely had an impact on educational practices and he feels that it has “put kids at risk for failure.”

“‘Reading scientists have been talking about this for a long time and tried to communicate with educators and failed,'” Seidenberg explained. “‘We have not been able to get the science past the schoolhouse door.'”

An interesting recommendation Seidenberg offers is that college graduates who sign up for Teach for America be hired for reading tutors instead of classroom teachers for supplemental reading instruction. This would put more people in the classroom or after-school programs instead of putting the entire responsibility on one teacher in the classroom.

Seidenberg also recommends that schools of education ensure that teachers have a basic understanding of linguistics and child development in order to properly teach reading. For him, it is an entire community effort, and if done correctly, it will make a monumental difference in improved youth reading levels.

 

Gillian Keebler
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

Go Big Read selects “I Am Malala” for 2014-15

The Taliban thought bullets would silence Malala Yousafzai.

But instead they made her voice stronger, and today the teenager from
Pakistan is known worldwide as a transformative advocate who embodies
the power of education for girls.

Her book, “I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban,” is the latest selection for Go Big Read, UW-Madison’s common-reading program.

Go Big Read organizers encouraged the campus community to suggest
titles that fit into a theme of service. Chancellor Rebecca Blank chose
“I Am Malala” from the short list that a selection committee culled from
nearly 200 nominated titles.

“Malala’s story offers our students and campus community a firsthand
account from a part of the world that is continuously in the news,”
Blank says. “Readers will connect with these experiences through her
convincing description of how she became a voice of protest against the
social restrictions she faced. Her story will lead our students to
reflect on the opportunities they have to use their own voice in the
world.”

Yousafzai begins the book, co-written with British journalist
Christina Lamb, by recounting the moment she was shot in the head in
October 2012 on her way home from school in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. The
rest of the book retraces the events that led up to that moment in a
region that is one of the world’s hotspots.

“It is difficult to imagine a chronicle of a war more moving, apart
from perhaps the diary of Anne Frank,” said a review in The Washington
Post. Time Out New York said Yousafzai’s touching story, “will not only
inform you of changing conditions in Pakistan, but inspire your
rebellious spirit.”
Yousafzai was 11 when she began writing a blog anonymously for the
BBC, describing life under Taliban rule from her hometown of Mingora, in
the northwest region of Pakistan.

She was awarded the country’s National Peace Award in 2012, which has
since been renamed the National Malala Peace Prize.She was nominated
for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 and was recently named by TIME
magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. She and
her family now live in England, where she continues to go to school.

“Let us pick up our books and our pens,” the now 16-year-old told
young leaders from 100 countries at the United Nations Youth Assembly in
New York last year. “They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one
teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world. Education is the
only solution.”
Patrick McBride, associate dean for students at the UW School of
Medicine and Public Health and a member of the selection committee, said
the story will remind readers why they can’t take their right to an
education for granted.

“The rights of women, and the values of freedom, family, and
education are championed by this remarkable family,” McBride says.
“While the title sounds simple, when we read in the introduction
of where those words are spoken, it will bring chills to the reader and
become a cry for freedom around the world.”

Karen Crossley, associate director of operations for the Morgridge
Center for Public Service, also served on the selection committee and
says Yousafzai being close in age to most UW undergraduates will capture
the attention of students.

“Malala’s commitment to composing a better world defines service in a highly personal way,” Crossley says.

Planning is underway for how students, faculty and staff will use the
book in classrooms and for special events associated with “I Am
Malala.”

Yousafzai will be in her senior year of high school and therefore
unable to come to campus, but organizers are arranging for a speaker
connected to the book who will give a public talk this fall.
UW-Madison instructors interested in using the book can request a review copy here.

Copies of the book will be given to first-year students at the
Chancellor’s Convocation for New Students and to students using the book
in their classes.

More information about the ongoing Go Big Read program and plans for this fall can be found here.

Jenny Price, UW-Madison University Communications

The Power of Books

In
Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being,
both Nao and Ruth (the character) show their changing views on life through
their relationship with books.  I
have also learned how to better connect with fellow students and staff through
reading.
Ruth
is a novelist who moves from New York City to Vancouver Island with her husband
and mother.  She initially
struggles with the move, as is illustrated by her dependent relationship on
books.  Ruth feels a connection to
her home through her books. 
However, this tie begins to wither with time.  Ozeki writes, “Recently, however, she had started to notice
that the damp sea air had swollen their pages and the silverfish had taken up
residence in their spines.  When
she opened the covers, they smelled of mold.  This made her sad.” 
The degradation of her books mirrors her creeping misgivings about
moving to “Desolation Sound.”  Ruth
is again comforted and intrigued when she discovers Nao’s diary.  After finishing the journal, her husband
Oliver asks whether she is happy, to which she responds, “Yes, I suppose I
am.  At least for now.”  Readers are led to believe that
although Ruth is now settled in her new home, she is still motivated to
continue writing and living.
Nao
is young girl living in Tokyo. 
Ruth learns her story by reading her diary, which is in a “hacked” book
by Proust.  The more Ruth reads in
Nao’s diary, the more readers get to know her, discovering that she is really a
complex character with many burdens. 
We learn Nao is suicidal and only wants to live long enough to write
down her grandmother Jiko’s story. 
By the end of the story, both characters have come a long way.  My favorite passage in the book was the
last paragraph when Nao decides to continue writing.  She expresses a new keenness to learn, and it seems as
though her ambition has been restored. 
Readers can only hope this means a new beginning for Nao.
            
Books
are used throughout the novel to help characters transition in both places and
states of mind.  I have also
learned how books affect my life in my own experiences at UW-Madison.  I came from a small town in northern
Wisconsin, and moving to a large school was a big change.  The Go Big Read book has helped me feel
welcome in such a different place by connecting me with other students.  Also, like Ruth, I brought a couple of
books from home as a comfort in a new place.  When I was speaking with one of my professors, I mentioned
how I had brought The Great Gatsby
with me.  This is one of his
favorite books and we ended up talking in length about it.  I realize I have undergone a
transformation, just as Ruth and Nao did. 
Books are no longer just a comfort to me; they are a way to connect with
others.  I am now more confident
and social in light of this transformation.  I enjoyed learning these characters’ stories and look
forward to applying the lessons they learned to my life.
Dana Kampa

UW-Madison student

“A Crucial Collaboration”: Ruth Ozeki on the reader-writer relationship

A Tale for the Time Being author Ruth Ozeki

If you’ve started reading this year’s Go Big Read book, A Tale for the Time Being, you’ve probably figured out that it’s not exactly an ordinary novel. The book’s two main characters, Ruth and Nao, speak to each other across distance both geographical and temporal; at the same time, they do their best to break out of the confines imposed on them as characters in a work of fiction. Ruth boasts more than a few similarities to the real-life Ruth Ozeki, and Nao is constantly aware that she is writing her own story, frequently appealing directly to the reader or calling into question her own motives and reliability as writer.

A Tale for the Time Being brings up a lot of questions about the relationship between the reader and the writer. In an essay for Poets & Writers, Ruth Ozeki recently explained her own understanding of this complicated relationship, and how it plays out in the separate-but-connected experiences of reading and writing. It’s an interesting essay, but I’m going to pull out my favorite part:

All meaning is created through relationship, which means all meaning is
relative. There is no one, single, definitive book. There is no one, single,
definitive author. And clearly there is no one, single, definitive reader,
either. There is only the exchange, the meaning that you and I, in any given
moment, make together, as your eyes scan these words and your mind makes sense
of them. And because we are always changing, the words you read today mean
something very different from those same words if read a month or a year from
now.

If ever a book disproved the existence of “one single, definitive book,” “one single, definitive author” and “one single, definitive reader,” it’s A Tale for the Time Being. The entire book is built around the idea of exchange, the meaning created between two people—even, or perhaps especially, two people who will never meet. At its heart, A Tale for the Time Being is a book about the power of books.

If you haven’t started reading it yet—what are you waiting for?

Suggested Read: Dignifying Science: Stories About Women Scientists



Have you read about the story of Marie Curie and her life as a scientist in this year’s book, Radioactive? Interested in reading more about other successful female scientists, such as Lise Meitner who made contributions to nuclear physics and radioactivity and Rosalind Franklin who is known for her work with X-ray crystallography and DNA? Pick up the graphic novel, Dignifying Science: Stories About Women Scientists!

Like Radioactive, this book is also very artistic in its depiction of these women, not only in their field of work, but also their in their personal lives. This short graphic novel is an fun and easy read, as well as informative. If you’re interested in learning more about stories of women scientists like Marie Curie, you can find this book in our UW Library System.

Photo courtesy of G.T. Labs.

Share photos on Flickr! Submit pictures with “In Defense of Food” scenes.

One of the many benefits of a common book program is the community that is formed by the mere act of lots of people all reading the same book. We have an opportunity to share images of that act using Flickr. Go ahead and take a picture of yourself, your family, your book club, your class – whatever scene might include people with this year’s common book, In Defense of Food. We’ve created a group in Flickr called Go Big Read. Join the group and add your photo to the group pool. The end result: a wonderful depiction of the book being read in all kinds of settings by all kinds of people.

I recently took In Defense of Food on my vacation in Yosemite. The small, light-weight book fit perfectly in my backpack and I read it by headlamp in the tent every night. As one of my tent-mates said to me, “was the last thing I heard last night really you telling me that butter is better than margarine?” 🙂

I thought to myself during the week, wouldn’t it be great if we could capture all the various places people are reading this book and share that? So I had my picture taken on top of Sentinel Dome to provide a spectacular vista as background for my Yosemite vacation book choice. I wonder what other scenes of reading this book will emerge…

Therefore, I’m sending out the call to everyone participating in this program: take a picture with the book, load it to Flickr and join the Go Big Read group: http://www.flickr.com/groups/gobigread/ If you don’t use Flickr and still want to participate, email your photo to: gobigread@library.wisc.edu.

Keep Reading!

One of the compelling, if not enjoyable features of the Amazon.com web catalog, is its ability to show what other books and media its customers are purchasing in addition to the title with which you began your search–thereby supplying a handy way to discover items of related interest. An Amazon query on the campus common book selection, In Defense of Food, reveals the following selection of titles, among many others. Ettlinger, S. (2008). Twinkie, Deconstructed: My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated into What America Eats. Plume.
Kingsolver, B., Kingsolver, C., & Hopp, S. L. (2008). Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. Harper Perennial.
Menzel, P. (2007). Hungry Planet: What the World Eats (illustrated edition.). Material World.
Nestle, M. (2007b). Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition, and Health, Revised and Expanded Edition (2nd ed.). University of California Press.
Patel, R. (2008). Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System. Melville House.
Petrini, C. (2007). Slow Food Nation: Why Our Food Should Be Good, Clean, And Fair. Rizzoli Ex Libris.
Planck, N. (2007). Real Food: What to Eat and Why. Bloomsbury USA.
Roberts, P. (2009). The End of Food (Reprint.). Mariner Books.
Schlosser, E. (2005). Fast Food Nation. Harper Perennial.
Shiva, V. (2000). Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply (Soft Cover.). South End Press.
Simon, M. (2006). Appetite for Profit: How the food industry undermines our health and how to fight back (1st ed.). Nation Books.
Wansink, B. (2007). Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. Bantam.
Wilson, C., & Schlosser, E. (2007). Chew On This: Everything You Don’t Want to Know About Fast Food. Sandpiper.
Woolf, A. (2008). King Corn. DVD, DOCURAMA. Speak with your librarians for assistance locating these and any other related titles.
With thanks to Bob S for this blog post.

Children of the Corn Belt

As “corny” as it may seem, we really should spend some time thinking about corn. As a child, a corn field could frighten me. Once it surpassed “knee high by the Fourth of July” and my diminutive height, the rustle of the stalks and the greenish cast of the field would set my imagination on high alert–running wild with thoughts of that lurking beyond the first row. (Weirdly, as an adult, though, I enjoy Shyamalan’s movie, “Signs” for how brilliantly he captures that eeriness of a stand of corn).
These musings aside, the transformation from successful grass to commodity crop generates another kind of awe and proves to be an interesting history–and one that is well-documented within library collections. Among these collections are the titles listed below. Speak with your librarians for assistance locating these and related titles. Additional search terms, for use in library catalogs and journal indexes, include: maize, teosinte, and zea mays. Title: Handbook of Maize: Its Biology / edited by Jeff L. Bennetzen, Sarah C. Hake.
Publisher: New York: Springer, 2009.
Description: ix, 587 p.: ill. (some col.) ; 25 cm.
Notes: Includes bibliographical references and index.

Title: Corn: Origin, History, Technology, and Production /editors, C. Wayne Smith, Javier Betran, E.C.A. Runge.
Publisher: Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, c2004.
Description: xi, 949 p., [8] p. of plates: ill. (some col.) ; 26 cm.
Notes: Includes bibliographical references and index.Author: Fussell, Betty Harper.
Title: The Story of Corn / Betty Fussell.
Publisher: New York: Knopf, 1992.
Description: 356 p.: ill. ; 25 cm.
Notes: Includes bibliographical references (p. [335]-344) and index.

Food System or Farm System

Thank you to all who have already posted here. I would like to propose one simple tool for evaluating the work we are all now reading. My suggestion is not novel and extends across disciplines so widely that perhaps it does not need to be repeated. However, I fear a discussion as broad as the one that is likely to happen here might become worthless without a framework for engaging the work. What I suggest is that we engage this text in part by identifying the questions being asked and identifying those that are not being asked. Answering questions is, of course, important, but a simple outline of the questions is quite telling. What questions did Pollan have on his mind as this work moved forward? What questions does the narrative address and which questions does it leave out. Suggesting, that some questions have been left out is not meant to be a critique at all. Telling a story or conducting an experiment requires us to bound our questions and inquiry. I do feel, however, that failure to recognize the limits of a story or of research can be dangerous. I think we will more richly understand the important contributions of the work we are now reading by engaging in this exercise. I titled this entry, Food System or Farm System as this represents a question for me (perhaps not for you). I have farmed most of my life and now work closely with farmers. I often wonder whether the questions we ask are questions about food systems or farm systems. Now, I recognize that many might not create the distinction I just created, but it is has utility for me. For example, what questions might a farmer who depends on production to provide for his or her family be asking that are not represented in our reading? Likewise, what questions are being asked here that are not being considered by your favorite farmer? Why might they differ? What can the questions tell us about the complexity of the system and how it might operate?