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New research finds an association between lower body weight and participation in cultural and intellectual activities, including reading.
A scale that measures interest in ideas, art, and knowledge—by surveying the amount of time spent reading, attending cultural events, going to movies, and using the Internet—is associated as strongly as exercise with a lower body-mass index, or BMI (a measure of weight relative to height). In other words, reading and exercise appear similarly beneficial in terms of BMI.
.Until very recently, Michelle Ginder, a transportation planner in Seattle, forced herself to finish every book she cracked open. An avid reader, she says she felt "like a quitter" for giving up a novel halfway. Then, while plodding through John Sayles's 2011 "A Moment in the Sun" and "still not knowing what it was about," she made a conscious decision to put down the book. She moved on to something more gripping, reading the "Game of Thrones" series.
"It felt so good," Ms. Ginder, 39, says. "There was so much guilt associated with quitting, but when I finally did it, it was liberating."
In the age of the e-reader, dropping a book has never been easier: It doesn't even require getting up to grab another off the shelf. But choosing to terminate a relationship with a book prematurely remains strangely agonizing, a decision fraught with guilt.
One reason people like Martha Nussbaum have argued for the benefits of literature is that literature, or fictional narrative of real quality, deals in complexity. Literature turns us away from the simple moral rules that so often prove unhelpful when we are confronted with messy real-life decision making, and gets us ready for the stormy voyage through the social world that sensitive, discriminating moral agents are supposed to undertake. Literature helps us, in other words, to be, or to come closer to being, moral “experts.”
The problem with this argument is that there’s long been evidence that much of what we take for expertise in complex and unpredictable domains – of which morality is surely one – is bogus. Beginning 50 years ago with work by the psychologist Paul Meehl, study after study has shown that following simple rules – rules that take account of many fewer factors than an expert would bother to consider – does at least as well and generally better than relying on an expert’s judgment. (Not that rules do particularly well either; but they do better than expert judgment.)
Read more about it at: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/01/does-great-literature-make-us-better/?hp
David Javsicas, a popular seventh-grade reading teacher known for urging students to act out dialogue in the books they read in class, sometimes feels wistful for the days when he taught math.
A quiz, he recalls, could quickly determine which concepts students had not yet learned. Then, “you teach the kids how to do it, and within a week or two you can usually fix it,” he said.
Helping students to puzzle through different narrative perspectives or subtext or character motivation, though, can be much more challenging. “It could take months to see if what I’m teaching is effective,” he said.
Educators, policy makers and business leaders often fret about the state of math education, particularly in comparison with other countries. But reading comprehension may be a larger stumbling block.
A recent survey found that half of all readers had no interest in buying e-books and that the vast majority of people who buy e-books continue to buy print books as well.
Among them are author Marilyn Johnson, who's written books about libraries (This Book Is Overdue) and the art of obituary writing (The Dead Beat). She says that "if you took my (physical) books away, I'd go crazy, but now that I've gotten hooked to readers (first a Kindle and now an iPad), I can't imagine doing without that (digital) library."
She finds her e-reader is essential when she's traveling. She even buys or borrows an e-book copy of a book she already owns "just to lighten my load and continue reading as I move through the landscape."
Johnson straddles any divide between print and digital.
Her ideal reading experience crosses all formats: "Hear the author read on an audiobook, read it myself on the page or e-reader, and own it in a beautiful dust jacket, alphabetized on a shelf, with my notes in the margins and an old review stuck in the pages, ready to be pulled down whenever I want."
Is the beloved paper dictionary doomed to extinction? In this infectiously exuberant talk, leading lexicographer Erin McKean looks at the many ways today's print dictionary is poised for transformation.
Interesting line in talk: Paper is the enemy of words
TORONTO, Apr. 9, 2013 — Elementary school students in Guatemala will be able to borrow books from the library for the first time, thanks in large part to the work of librarians and library students.
Librarians Without Borders members from across North America will be traveling to the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy in Quetzeltenango (Xela), Guatemala from April 13-28, 2013 to collaborate on the development and operation of a school library.
LWB has partnered with the Asturias Academy since 2009 to support the Academy’s vision to build a sustainable community library in the school. This year’s on-site work marks a major transition for their library: we are implementing cataloging, searching and borrowing technologies (and training the staff on these tools) to enable students to locate and check out books for the very first time.
Many Guatemalans are restricted from getting a quality education, in part due to a severe lack of access to books and literacy materials. In a country where books are taxed beyond the reach of the 75% of the population who live in poverty, it’s almost impossible to get children excited about reading because many cannot get actual books in their hands.
This year, we plan to change that.
Over the course of 2012, with the help of a full-time on-site librarian funded by Librarians Without Borders, students far surpassed the reading goal of 4 books per year, reading on average some 14 books per year. Given this enthusiasm, imagine the impact on (the less than 60%) literacy levels of Asturias’ predominantly indigenous students and their families — once they can check books out of the library and bring them into their homes. This is an unprecedented opportunity in Guatemala.
About Librarians Without Borders -- Read More
This week's program provides a news miscellany.
Download here (MP3) (Ogg Vorbis) (Free Lossless Audio Codec), or subscribe to the podcast (MP3) to have episodes delivered to your media player. We suggest subscribing by way of a service like gpodder.net. The production team's Amazon wish list can be found here.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. To view a copy of this license, visit
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Atlantic article about David Coleman, one of the major people behind Common Core