"Studium discendi voluntate quae cogi non potest constat" - Marcus Fabius Quintilianus

Books I am reading this year are included in this list. The page is organized in an accordion style. Click on the book title for a description of the book. The book description is pulled from the publisher's description and not necessarily my own.

Toys to Tools

Many, if not most, educators view cell phones as the enemy. Author Liz Kolb sees them as powerful technology in the hands of students. Acknowledging the current reality at many schools ban student cell phone use in the classroom Kolb discusses a host of innovative and highly interesting uses for the technology that do not require using the phones in the classroom. She also addresses the issues that have caused the bans and provides guidelines for overcoming the problems.

Ignoring, or worse, demonizing a technology that students willingly and actively use in every other aspect of their lives is not a winning educational strategy. Mini lessons and powerful resources throughout the book are easily adaptable and appropriate for almost any grade level and are designed to enhance learning both inside and outside of the classroom.

The Devil Dogs of Bellau Wood

Facing massed German machine guns, the Marines made sweep after bloody sweep through Belleau Wood. Repeatedly accosted by the retreating French and urged to turn back, Captain Lloyd Williams of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, uttered the now-famous retort, "Retreat, hell. We just got here." And indeed, by the end of that terrible June of 1918, the Marines had broken the back of the Germans powerful spring offensive. Their ferocity had earned them the nickname Teufelshunde--Devil Dogs--from their enemies; it also won such admiration from their allies that the French government changed the name of Belleau Wood to Bois de la Brigade de Marine. The Devil Dogs at Belleau Wood recreates the drama of the battle for Belleau Wood as it was experienced by those who were there. Drawing on numerous firsthand accounts of the month-long engagement, the book captures the spirit of the Leathernecks in desperate battle. It offers a harrowing look at a critical campaign in which, as one soldier says, "men were being mowed down like wheat." And, amidst the carnage and cruelty, it tells the very human story of camaraderie and courage that carried the day.

Carry On Private Dahlgren

CARRY ON Private Dahlgren takes the reader on a one year WWI tour in the person of a young private who became a runner. His impressions of the war, exploding shells, water logged trenches, friends he made, friends who died, NCOs and officers; and at the end, the horrors of poison gas (which I identify as Mustard Agent). There is no protagonist nor antagonist in the literary sense, just men, Germans, Austrians, English, Australian, Canadian, and American doing their duty as they saw it. Some were good, some were brave, a few were bad, but most were just trying to stay alive.

Knowing Your Value

Prompted by her own experience as co-host of Morning Joe, Mika interviews a number of prominent women across a wide range of industries on their experience moving up in their fields. Mika reveals how these women, including such impresarios as White House star Valerie Jarrett, comedian Susie Essman, writer and director Nora Ephron, Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, and broadcaster Joy Behar, navigated the inevitable roadblocks that are unique to women. Mika also uncovers what men think about the approach women take in the workplace, getting honest answers from Donnie Deutsch, Jack Welch, Donald Trump, and others about why women are paid less, and what pitfalls women face--and play into--as they try to get their worth at work. Knowing Your Value blends these personal stories and opinions with the latest research and polling on issues such as equal pay, women in the boardroom, and access to start-up capital.

If Houlden Caufield Were in My Classroom

Contrary to traditional educational thought, true emotion, rather than pure reason, is the secret to creativity and intelligence. The truth is ultimately personal-that's why it's universal. By the time Bernie Shein's students arrive in his middle-school classroom, they are little more than a gaggle of defense mechanisms, needing to rediscover who they are. His goal is to help them with this joyous and difficult endeavor. Through stories from his classroom, he shows us how he does it.

Mystery on Mackinac Island

Hunter Martineau, a 13-year-old native American, is devastated when his beloved grandfather dies, and fears that he will have to leave the cabin they shared and live with his father and stepmother in the village. He sets out to solve the mystery of who is stealing rental bikes on Mackinac Island, the popular resort in northern Michigan where Hunter lives, hoping to support himself with the reward money. He is aided in his efforts by Rusty and Jancy, two tourist children who befriend him. Hale utilizes her setting effectively, giving young readers a feel for historic and atmospheric Mackinac Island, and she supplies plenty of action. Unfortunately, the characters are pure cardboard, and the plot is predictable. The identity of the thief is obvious from the outset. Jancy is a throwback to the days of old-fashioned, passive female sidekicks. When the danger reaches its peak, Hunter orders Rusty to "stay to look after Jancy." Since all three children are roughly the same age, this command smacks of male chauvinism, and Jancy never protests. Hunter's father is portrayed as shiftless, although he does reform in the end. These flaws are counterbalanced, however, by the admiring portrayal of Hunter's late grandfather and Hale's obvious respect for native American culture. Not a barn burner, but not a bad story either.

Making Content Comprehensible for ELL: SIOP

The book is a response by American educators to an increasingly diverse student population, at the primary and secondary school levels. This diversity is reflected in no small part by the many students for whom English is a second language.

The pedagogy described here is called the SIOP Model. It tries to teach students how to master academic English (ie. formal written English). But also to do this while learning a more informal spoken English. Both skills are necessary. Whereas perhaps traditionally only the former was emphasized, since it was assumed that students already had English as their primary language.

Without going into the details of SIOP, it seems characterized by an intensive interweaving of different modalities of teaching. Like having students learn written text [of course]. But also tying this into rich graphics. So that visual and written forms reinforce each other in the student's mind. Also, students are encouraged to use deductive skills to analyze a body of text, as independently of the teacher as possible.

Our Iceberg is Melting

Fables have been used to illustrate problem solving, among many other things, for hundreds of years. Remember Aesop's fables? Several years ago, Kenneth Blanchard successfully re-introduced using fables to teach problem solving techniques with his book, Who Moved My Cheese. John Kotter replicated that method of instruction with this fun little book, OUR ICEBERG IS MELTING. As with the aforementioned work, I believe this one will garner similar acclaim.

Kotter's engaging story introduces the 8 principles of problem solving. This can be used in a variety of venues from business, church, child raising, sports, etc. Kotter illustrates how the penguins, faced with a tumultuous dilemma, identified the problem, created urgency, developed a team-building structure, and stepped outside the box. Along the way, the story is entertaining and includes a diverse array of skepticism, cynicism and other challenges that we all face.

The book is also very well illustrated and can easily be read in a couple of hours. It is also readable for almost any age level and would probably make a good reading lesson for children as well. They will certainly be entertained, if not captivated by the illustrations and side notes. Well done.

Dead Man in Indian Creek

Parker and Matt decide to camp out one last time before the weather turns too cold--and stumble upon a dead man. Parker swears he saw George Evans (his widowed mother's boyfriend and his least favorite person) at the scene of the crime. So begins a bumpy, peril-laden adventure. The boys spy out a cocaine ring in which Parker's mother and George are involved; a thug kidnaps everyone. Rescue comes when Parker's dog corners the thug and Matt's little sister pushes a doll carriage with a cocaine-packed doll through a Halloween parade into the police station. There's more than enough action, and Hahn's effortless mastery of kids' dialogue makes this an easy read. But there are illogical gaps: Why is Parker's mother, previously loving, so remote? How likely is it that 12-year-olds go camping alone? Why is it that Matt's flagging self-image shows little repair after such heroics? At the conclusion, when all of the drug traffickers are apprehended and Parker's mother is hospitalized and awaiting charges, Matt assures Parker: "Whatever happens, my mom says you're staying with us." Readers will find this less than reassuring. With the abundance of good juvenile who-done-its available, this one is dead in the water. --Carolyn Noah, Worcester Public Library, MA

Do you agree or disagree?