Monday, November 14, 2016

Caught Reading, Across the Whole School . . .

Going strong since Fall 2012, and now faculty and staff across the school are participating in the "What I'm Reading Now"  displays of their current reading choices.  The incredible variety continues to amaze me -- fiction and non-fiction, current bestsellers and backlist classics.  It's extremely rare that any two people are reading the same book at the same time.

One fun thing is that our Admissions staff routinely points out the displays as they lead tours around campus.  No doubt about it, at Paideia, Reading Rocks!

Here's a roundup of current reads from elementary, junior high, and high school teachers and administrators.

What We're Reading

This is me.

Eddy's pups Pepe & Paco
enjoy read-aloud time when
it's about chihuahuas.

Some folks get to
play twice . . .
What Stacey's reading,
and the book she's reading
with son Winston.

And here's a list of other titles read by faculty and staff since the beginning of the school year. It's clear -- there's a whole lot of reading going on!

A Great Reckoning  by Louise Penny
Against Football   by Steve Almond
All the Light We Cannot See  by Anthony Doerr
All-American Boys  by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
The Strange and Beautiful Life of Ava Lavender  by Leslye Walton
The Best of the Barefoot Farmer  by Jeff Poppen
Between the World and Me  by Ta-hehisi Coates
The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
Beyond Religion   by the His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Darktown  by Thomas Mullen
Bone Mountain  by Eliot Pattison
The Book Thief  by Markus Zusak
Foreign Agent  by Brad Thor
Breath, Eyes, Memory   by Edwidge Danticat
Daughter of Smoke and Bone  by Laini Taylor
A Brief History of Seven Killings  by Marlon James
Building Emotional Intelligence  by Linda Lantieri
Casino Royale  by Ian Fleming
Blood in the Water  by Heather Ann Thompson
Depraved  Heart  by Patricia Cornwell
Don't You Cry by Mary Kubica
The End of Plenty  by Joel K. Bourne
Every Day I Fight  by Stuart Scott
Bone Gap  by Laura Ruby
The Girls  by Emma Cline
Grace Without God  by Katherine Ozment
City of Ashes  by Cassandra Clare
Canada  by Richard Ford
Grit Lit: A Rough South Reader
Hillbilly Elegy  by J. D. Vance
The 39 Steps  by John Buchan
Hollow City  by Ransom Riggs
The House of the Spirits  by Isabel Allende
I Think Therefore I Play  by Andrea Pirlos
The Interestings  by Meg Wolitzer
Jonthan Strange and Mr. Norrell  by Susanna Clarke
The Kind Worth Killing  by Peter Swanson
Kindred  by Octavia Butler
Kismetwali, and Other Stories  by Reetika Khanna Nijhawan
Life Among the Savages  by Shirley Jackson
The Big Red Lollipop  by Rukhsana Khan
Life is So Good  by George Dawson and Richard Glaubman
Love Warrior  by Glennon Doyle Melton
The Luminaries  by Eleanor Catton
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children  by Ransom Riggs
My Brilliant Friend  by Elena Ferrante
The Nightingale  by Kristin Hannah
No-Drama Discipline  by Daniel J. Siegel, MD
Norwood  by Charles Portis
The Round House  by Louise Erdrich
The Rule of Three  by Eric Walters
Self-Reg  by Dr. Stuart Shanker
William Tecumseh Sherman: In the Service of My Country  by James Lee McDonough
Sing for Your Life by Daniel Bergner
Red Sorghum  by Mo Yan
The Sleepwalkers Guide to Dancing  by Mira Jacob
The Soul of a Chef  by Michael Ruhlman
Spaced Out  by Stuart Gibbs
Surrender, New York   by Caleb Carr
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie  by Alan Bradley
And Tango Makes Three  by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
The Bronx is Burning  by Jonathan Miller
The Whites  by Richard Price (as Harry Brandt)
The Big Short by Michael Lewis
The Natural Way of Things  by Charlotte Wood
The Pearl that Broke Its Shell  by Nadia Hashimi
Underground Railroad  by Colson Whitehead
Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

Friday, October 28, 2016

HS Book Group Goes Trickster with Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys

Tiny gathering for this afternoon's book club, but when the dedicated gather, interesting discussion happens.  We listened to the NPR Q&A (students hadn't realized that Neil Gaiman is British), and talked about the issues of race, our recollections of Anansi stories from picture books in the elementary library, and the godlike nature of parents. Usually for teenagers,  parents go from godlike to human, and that's when they become seriously irritating. For Fat Charlie, his father goes from a seriously irritating human to a god, and becomes more understandable and helpful.  Hmmm.

The collage below represents 11 years of Anansi Boys cover art, since publication in 2005.  Check out the "retro" cover (click on the image for more info) -- it was 'specially designed for the mass market edition (like old Dashiell Hammet stories) just released this week!  We talked about how it's accurate in the depiction of Mr. Nancy (don't think he ever got a first name) and the beginning of the story, but doesn't really show what the book's about.

1st edition hardback cover

paperback cover

paperback cover

paperback cover
2016 "Retro" Cover --
Just published this week!

 NPR interview with Neil Gaiman

We also talked a little bit about how Neil Gaiman is white, and he's writing about (and from the point of view of) black characters.  If you've listened to the interview above, you'll know that this is very deliberate on the author's part.   One student commented that the novel is about brothers, girlfriends, parents and folktales, rather than about the experiences of a specifically black man.  Sort of like The Snowy Day is about a little guy in a snowsuit having a great time.  The experience is universal, regardless of the external appearance of the main character.

Next up is The Art of Racing in the Rain -- a regular guy's life as seen by his dog, who's seen it all.

Neil GaimanActor Lenny Henry,
Neil Gaiman's inspiration for Fat Charlie
Lenny Henry in 2006

Greg Changnon's Reading Group Questions
(on ProQuest -- use our database pw or click link at school for access)

Reading Group Questions --

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Junior High Reading Club:
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

I am having the best time with Junior High reading club this year!

Since its inception several years ago, I've been the assistant grownup, with homebase teacher (and reading club founder) Greg Changnon taking the lead.  This year, though, Greg has left the homeroom to to write, do special projects (the Author-in-Residence program, coaching the National Championship(!) academic bowl team), and to work with the Alliance Theatre as they bring his play Slur (co-written with his Paideia class) to the professional stage (premiering next week - how exciting is that??! ).  I'm now the official grownup-in-charge, for better or for worse.

Anyway, so far this year, reading club has been very small, with just 4-6 members.  The unexpected and wonderful upside of this is that every single one of these students is excited about the books and has lots to say!  We've met twice this year, and both times everyone had read the whole book and offered insights, frustrations, favorite characters and scenes for discussion.

Our first meeting was at the end of September, and the book was The Rule of Three  by Canadian YA author Eric Walters.  A "what if" survival thriller about modern civilization & society when computers suddenly stopped working (set in utterly suburban Toronto), it got students thinking about everything they use and own that depends on computers.  Yep, those smartphones wouldn't be so smart anymore.  Yikes!

So they read the whole book?  Well, I'd forgotten how long The Rule of 3 is (just over 400 pages), but no one was in the least bit fazed.  When I suggested our October book, Afterworlds, I'd also completely forgotten its length -- 600 pages!  As it turns out, no apologies needed. The club LOVED the book and both of its storylines (the novel alternates chapters between a contemporary teenager working to publish her first YA novel, and the text of her finished book).  We talked for much of the hour about characters, plot, and construction.  Wow.

November will be easy -- we're reading More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera.  The author will be here at school as the junior high Author-in-Residence, and reading club members will be having lunch with him while he's here.

Another reason why I'm loving these avid readers?  They voted to meet in December, despite the craziness of the end of the semester.  They all wanted a fantasy, and despite warnings of its length (400+ pages), they decided that Daughter of Smoke and Bone was a must-read.

It's an ongoing challenge to find books that this group hasn't yet read but would still like to read.  My rules are 1) YA/teen genre (there's so much good reading that flies under the popular radar, no need to jump to the adult market yet), and 2) in paperback.  So far, so good.  Yes, this is fun stuff!

Below are four short videos we watched toward the end of yesterday's meeting, to spur thought and even more discussion.

~ ~ ~

Scott Westerfeld talks about his book

"Where I get my ideas."

Official Publisher Book Trailer

Not how our group envisioned the characters.

A Reader Review and Analysis

"Westerfeld takes self-referential to new heights!"

Reverse Psychology!!!

So duh, of course "Standerson" is John Green.  Too funny!

Monday, August 22, 2016

And It's Off To School We Go

The Seniors have Graduated.

Best senior prank EVER. Thanks Dominique and Celeste!!

Long Live the Seniors!

The Class of 2016 has mostly gone off to become the Class of 2020, and the Class of 2017 has risen to take their place.  School began last Wednesday and we're off and running at pretty much full-speed already.

On Friday morning, the Junior High had a very successful Skype session with Ami Polonsky, author of the summer all-read novel Gracefully Grayson.  The six homebase classes generated and submitted questions on Thursday afternoon, and the author, a middle-school teacher herself, answered them non-stop for 20 minutes before having to off to an 8 am (her time) teacher planning meeting.  This wonderful novel has been embraced fully by our junior high teachers and students, and it's been the catalyst for some amazing learning already.  Only 8 months left to find a 2017 all-read that comes even close to this one. Yikes.
In the library, it's the usual carousel of summer books coming back, and more books going out.  I've added a couple of titles to our iPods for listening by students for whom text is difficult, and pulled together options for "free choice" assignments.

An alumni family clearing out a friend's house donated 50+ great, essentially brand new books for distribution on the "Free Books" cart.  Who doesn't love free books?

And I've printed FORTY book cover images for faculty and staff participating in the What I'm Reading display.  That's a LOT of reading going on around here, folks!  Yep, it's another school year, all right.  Somebody let the kids in, and we're running with it!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Please, Write in Your Book:
A New Twist on HS Summer Reading Requirements

For twenty years, Paideia's summer reading requirements have been very unstructured.  Students had to read a certain number of books over the summer -- any book, any choice -- and hand in a list of their reading at the beginning of school.  That's been really cool for the students, but harder on the teachers who wanted to build assignments around summer reading, or check a little more deeply into whether their students really had read (and understood) the books they'd listed.  It's hard to come up with an academic assessment that works for a whole class when student choices range from fantasy and sci-fi to classics of the canon, graphic novels, popular fiction and non-fiction.

Click this image for
a printable copy of
these instructions.
A few years ago, we instituted an "Junior High Community Read"  requirement, picking one book for all 7th & 8th graders to read over the summer in addition to four free choice books.  Now, some of the first activities of the new school year include writing assignments, author visits and group discussions of the Community Read choice (which for 2016 is Ami Polonsky's lovely novel Gracefully Grayson).

Paideia's High School English department spent much time and several department meetings investigating the summer reading programs at other schools, and debating how to craft a requirement that reflects the range of student and teacher interests, upholding Paideia's core value on reading for pleasure, while also giving teachers the ability to plan around a single title read by all their students.

Below is the result, and I think it's a fine compromise.  This information is printed inside the cover of the 2016 High School Summer Reading booklet (downloadable PDF edition) or, if you just want to print the instructions, click the image above for a printable copy.

Happy Summer Reading -- read early and often, and feel free to contact me with any questions.

The English department has decided that only ONE book (the grade level title) is absolutely required, and that students may choose ANY THREE additional books they wish from the reading booklet (including anything from the Teacher Picks list). 

NEW!!   2016 Paideia High School Summer Reading Requirement   NEW!!

Each high school student must complete the 4 steps below during the summer months.  Read a total of 4 books  -- 2 required books and 2 personal choice books — plus watch 2 movies from the list.

1.  Find and read the Mortimer Adler article, then read and annotate the book assigned to the grade you will enter in fall 2016:

All grades must read “How to Mark a Book” by Mortimer Adler.

(There are several PDFs on the Internet.  Once you have read the article, you are required to annotate your grade’s book listed below as you read it.  Bring your annotated copy of the book to school with you on the first day of school to share with your English teacher.)

9th:  Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons
10th: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
11th and 12th:  The Round House by Louise Erdrich

UPDATE -->2.  Choose one of the books from the top picks of the English Department teachers (some are available as free PDFs or ebooks on the internet—search book name followed by the word 'text.'  Example:  "Tess of the d’Urbervilles"  text).

John’s pick: Tess of the d’Urbervilles  Thomas Hardy
Clark’s pick: The World’s Largest Man, Harrison Scott Key
Joseph’s pick: Number 9 Dream   David Mitchell
Gavin’s pick: Treasure Island  R.L. Stevenson
Marianne’s pick:  Left Hand of Darkness  Ursula LeGuin
Tally’s pick: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Gregory’s pick: The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat
Sarah’s pick: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Thrower’s pick: any poetry collection by Billy Collins
Jim’s pick: Colored People by Henry Louis Gates

UPDATE --> 3.  Choose TWO THREE more books from the plethora of books in the summer reading list.  One of these can be from the Teacher Picks list above, if you choose.

4.  Watch two of the movies from the list below.  You can get some of them through streaming internet sources. 

• Beasts of the Southern Wild
• Selma
• The Namesake
• A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
• Stand and Delver
• 4 Little Girls
• Moonrise Kingdom
• Crooklyn
• Children of Men
• Billy Elliot
• Brooklyn
• Hugo
• Bend It Like Beckham

Friday, April 1, 2016

Musings (or, Spring Break Approaches)!

I was a little bit late walking over to the high school assembly yesterday morning, and as I approached the theatre this scene just bowled me over -- maybe 100 backpacks fairly neatly stacked up outside, waiting confidently for their proper owners to come collect them in 45 minutes.  Just through the lobby doors was a repeat scene.  Around here it's a common sight, but having been to a big public high school for a meeting the night before, I realized again how fortunate we are to enjoy this level of trust in our community.

And only a little bit ironic, since the assembly speaker was J. Tom Morgan, former Dekalb County District Attorney and powerful legal advocate for young people.  It's been a few years since J. Tom last spoke at Paideia, so 75% of the high school had not heard his important message for teens -- "ignorance of the law is no defense."   Spring break, and soon graduation festivities, are coming up, and it's a good time to remind teens in Georgia (where 17-year-olds can be prosecuted as adults) of the life-altering difference a birthday can make!   High school students and parents -- we have a copy in the library, so come check it out.

The days before spring break is also an active time in the library.  Groups of students gather during breaks to prepare for the inevitable "before holiday" tests, quizzes and assignment due-dates.  There's often a cluster of students with iPads around the printers, waiting for a final draft to come out (the stapler usually needs refilling around now too).  The most fun part (for me, and probably for them too) is the re-appearance of the faithful reading customers, having been submerged in schoolwork since the end of short term, now seeing a little room to breathe -- and to read for fun!!! 

I'm gathering all my spring break reading, and downloading some audiobooks & podcasts for the drive.  I always take too much, but it's better than running out!

Right now, it's time to go, so no time to carefully import images and links.  Have a fabulous week, read lots, and enjoy.

Friday, March 11, 2016

What Happens When the Awesome Wears Out?:
Lock In at Book Club

In a talk at Google headquarters, author John Scalzi explained his latest best-seller with this grounding concept -- that what interests him about technology isn't "how awesome the technology is is," but "what happens when the awesome wears out."  As when unimaginably amazing technological advances (a tiny powerful computer in your pants pocket) become so integrated into daily life that we become annoyed when it's not working right (no reception on your smartphone -- crisis!!!).

Last Friday, the high school Book Club met to discuss John Scalzi's most recent best-seller,  Lock In.  Surprisingly, even though it's a mystery thriller, none of the discussion points were even remote spoilers -- the plot wasn't the most interesting aspect of the story.

We talked about what happens when the awesome wears off, and about what happens when a former minority or "protected class" of people becomes (or appear to becomes) fully integrated and accepted members of society?  Should supports be continued to level the playing field, or has the playing field been permanently leveled?  What happens when those folks (like the people who were born Hadens and have never known any other kind of existence) choose a completely different field (in the Agora, a virtual universe for Hadens)?

We watched a couple of Scalzi's responses in the Q&A time of his talk at Google.  If you've read Lock In, did YOU notice that the main character, Chris Schayne, is nowhere in the book identified by gender?  Christopher or Christina?  I confess, I didn't notice it at all -- and revealed my dominant paradigm by making Chris male.  As the author asks in his response -- how does thinking of Chris as the other gender change your interpretation of the story?  Does it change how you see the relationships between characters?  The power dynamics?  Chris' unfortunate habit of destroying rental threeps?  If you ONLY interact with people in a form other than the one you were born in, does gender even have any significance?  Given the recent discussions in the junior high and high school of gender identity, expression and fluidity, these are relevant contemporary questions and ones I hadn't anticipated coming from a best-selling sci fi mystery.

The video should start playing at the end of the previous question.
If the embed link doesn't work, click here to view on YouTube.

Another question the author answers is about writing, and whether he'd adapted his style knowing the book would be produced simultaneously in print and as an audiobook (two audiobooks, in fact -- one with a male narrator, and one with a female narrator!)  Check out his answer at minute 37:00 in the video.

And well, just because it exists, we listened to the official Lock In theme song (honest -- the link came from the author's website)

Review on Boing Boing

Scientific American Q&A with author John Scalzi

Want more sci fi?  Try one of these from the Paideia Library . . .

The Caves of Steel  by Isaac Asimov.  Another sci-fi detective novel featuring humanoid robots.  In this one, a technology-averse human cop investigates a murder, which may or may not have been committed by a robot (against all 3 Laws of Robotics).  The film I, Robot is an adaptation of this story, blended with other Asimov robot stories.

Circuit of Heaven  by Dennis Danvers.  His parents have abandoned their bodies (and their son, Nemo) and uploaded their minds to the Bin, a deathless, disease-free cyber-utopia, leaving a dangerous and unpredictable Earth to the crazies and criminals.  Nemo vows to live and die in a real body in the real world -- until he meets Justine, a new citizen of the Bin.

The Lives of Tao  by Wesley Chu.  Roen Tan, a couch potato IT worker, becomes emergency host body to an alien secret agent working to save humanity.  Tao, the alien, has to whip Roen into super secret agent shape before it's too late.

Redshirts, another bestseller by John Scalzi.   What happens when the guys in the red shirts (you know, the ones in Star Trek standing next to Kirk, Spock, Scotty or Bones, who always get eaten, blown up or otherwise obliterated in some dumbhead move?) start to compare notes and figure out there's a pattern to their comrades' demise?

And of course, Book Club's inaugural title from 2013, Ready Player One  by Ernest Cline.