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Duncan's Summer Reading Plans

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It's going to be story-hour at 400 Maryland Ave. - all summer long.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is planning to read to kids on the lawn of the U.S. Department of Education on a regular basis throughout the summer. (Suggest your favorite children's classics in the comments section).

He may even be joined by other cabinet secretaries from time to time.

The program is part of the White House's Summer of Service initiative, "United We Serve" which kicks off on Monday, and runs through Sept. 11. Duncan's cabinet colleagues are getting in on the act too. For instance, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood will be helping build homes with Habitat for Humanity in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Duncan's first stop on the reading tour will actually be Fanwood Memorial Library in Fanwood, N.J. On Monday, he'll be reading to students in kindergarten through third grade and meeting with representatives of the New Jersey Regional Libraries. He'll be reading Wide Mouthed Frog by Keith Faulkner and possibly How I Spent My Summer Vacation by Mark Teague.

The project is meant to highlight the importance of reading in stemming the summer slip-off. Research shows that if kids read just five books over the summer, they might be able to prevent the decline in reading achievement scores that often occurs over the vacation months, according to a statement from the Department.

Photo by Christopher Powers for Education Week.

15 Comments

Given the times, you have got to go with The Lorax by Dr. Seuss.

Why not foster empathy and kindness toward animals while highlighting the importance of reading and volunteering?

United Animal Nations’ (UAN) Humane Education Ambassador Reader (HEAR) program is the first-of-its kind community-based, volunteer-driven literacy program, designed to help children develop compassion and empathy while building their listening and critical thinking skills.

Twelve engaging and beautifully illustrated children’s books are currently used in the HEAR program. Any one of the HEAR books would be ideal for the groups of children Secretary Duncan will be reading with. For a list of these books and others that highlight the animal-people bond visit UAN’s Suggested Reading List at http://www.uan.org/index.cfm?navId=183.

To learn more about the HEAR program visit our Web site at www.uan.org/hear.

Where is there a "lawn" at the USDOE?

I recommend Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs for all of us who prefer to live in a fantasy world during hard times. Best illustrations ever!

Depending, of course, on the age and test scores of those in attendance, in no particular order I might recommend the following small books:

* A Cool Million (Nathanael West, 1934)
* Compulsory Mis-education (Paul Goodman, 1962)
* The Writing Life (Annie Dillard, 1989)

I think that the secretary of education reading aloud to children is a silly PR stunt. He could do a lot more for literacy by supporting school and public libraries, (which generally include read aloud programs) and are suffering budget cuts.

As for his own summer reading, let me recommend that the secretary find out more about the problems with rigid national standards and national tests.

A reading list:

Susan Ohanian, One Size Fits Few
Gerald Bracey, On the Death of Childhood and the Destruction of Public Schools: The Folly of Today's Educational Policies and Practices
Alfie Kohn, The Case Against Standardized Tests.



As a professor of literacy education and someone who watches the political signals from government quarters quite closely, I'm wondering if Arne Duncan's summer reading program suggests a realization that current approaches to literacy in our schools might be tantamount to a Stepfordization process - i.e. designed to close the minds, the emotions, and the empathic tendrils of our K-12 citizens. Is it possible that some government figures have talked about the dangers of reducing the complexity of the human spirit to test scores? Perhaps, conversations have been afoot about the withering effects of narrowed curricular goals? Perhaps there's a growing awareness of the importance of teaching for global citizenship, for empathy, and yes even for strong academic literacy that builds from the students' language and cultural identity instead of scripted texts devoid of a connection to the world in which we live? A summer reading plan by a key government that suggests awareness of some of these elements? Let's support it in the hope that these inklings are there somewhere.

I suggest he read "Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!" He can learn how grandiose plans for privatizing public schools and reliance on standardized tests might be experienced by a creative, compassionate child.

September 11 could be the very worst of times to end any authentic reading. If the Secretary is really doing his read-aloud tour to promote the value of reading aloud to students, shouldn't this be just Step One, the beginning of a new nation-wide read-aloud by adults to children in school movement? Reading for the fun of it?

Rather than piling on more costly programs, how about funding beautiful and handsomely illustrated books for classrooms and libraries? With easy access to books children love to hear and look at, children, teachers, and parents might find that time spent reading for fun was suddenly paying off in other ways, too.

We know that hearing great stories is the way to get the sound of great reading in the head. That is why public libraries have traditionally sponsored storytimes.

We also know that reading stories is a great way to develop vocabulary and writing skills.

The first step is being read to. It is a nearly-lost (and low-cost) way of wedding the notion of pleasure with reading. No test, no low-grade accountability, no press corps required, just the joy of literature. That is a national priority almost all of us could comprehend.

Three cheers for the same message!!!! Animals and Kids, what could be a better match!

Why not foster empathy and kindness toward animals while highlighting the importance of reading and volunteering?

United Animal Nations’ (UAN) Humane Education Ambassador Reader (HEAR) program is the first-of-its kind community-based, volunteer-driven literacy program, designed to help children develop compassion and empathy while building their listening and critical thinking skills.

Twelve engaging and beautifully illustrated children’s books are currently used in the HEAR program. Any one of the HEAR books would be ideal for the groups of children Secretary Duncan will be reading with. For a list of these books and others that highlight the animal-people bond visit UAN’s Suggested Reading List at http://www.uan.org/index.cfm?navId=183.

To learn more about the HEAR program visit our Web site at www.uan.org/hear.

What a great opportunity to help children learn to read and support a more humane nation by reading books about kindness to animals! Children natually love animals, so it's a perfect fit! A great humane reading list can be found on United Animal Nation's website at http://www.uan.org/index.cfm?navId=183.

I hope Secretary Duncan will include a book from the Humane Education Ambassador Reader (HEAR) program (www.uan.org/hear) on his reading list. It's critical to promote empathy towards all living creatures.

In recent years there have been some national issues with humane treatment of animals that involve adults. I too encourage a selection from the Humane Education Ambassador Reader (HEAR) program (www.uan.org/hear) reading list. Promoting empathy for living things is also a promotion of deeper thought and consideration, kindness, and overall peace.

Count me as another vote for books off the HEAR list. You can check it out here: http://www.uan.org/index.cfm?navid=567

Teaching our kids compassion is key to having a better-functioning society. There's really no downside!

Check out the multiple award-winning book, The Tao of Rudy, featuring bold illustrations and positive messages from a real rescued mutt. Rudy was abused and spent 3 years bouncing in and out of various shelters before coming to live with me, and he is now the inspiration for books, paintings and t-shirts. Find out more at www.thetaoofrudy.com or you can find the book at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC and many bookstores nationwide.

There have been many national issues with humane treatment of animals that involve adults. I also encourage a selection from the Humane Education Ambassador Reader (HEAR) program (www.uan.org/hear) reading list. By promoting kindness and empathy for all living beings we also develop a deeper thought process; consideration, kindness, and overall sense of peace and harmony.

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