3 Important Ways to Brighten the Future of Reading in the U.S.

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Reading a great book for pleasure can be a magical experience for kids. It takes them to new places, lets them relive history, and teaches them about worlds they would never encounter in real life.

Unfortunately, a study on the state of reading in the United States has recently revealed some disheartening statistics: did you know 66 percent of 8th graders tested below proficient in reading, according to The Nation’s Report Card? The problem: reading is one of the most important skills for a child to have—it will follow them through the rest of their schooling and career, in every way. Continue Reading ›

Owl Eyes Annotated Texts: A Great Resource to Add to Your Teacher Toolbox  

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The beginning of a new season is always a good time to consider new ways to engage students in the classroom. One way to do it—only a few keyboard clicks away—is to incorporate Owl Eyes annotated texts into lesson plans and instruction.

In case you’re unfamiliar with using the annotated texts at Owl Eyes, here are a few things to know to get started. First of all, they’re free, and they’re comprehensive! At Owl Eyes you will find hundreds of poems, short stories, novels, and essays to which instructional annotations have been added throughout the texts—and hundreds of additional annotated works are on the way. Continue Reading ›

Literary Nostalgia: A Few Favorite Reads from Over the Decades


One of the best things about books is that they can be about anything. Anything. There are post-apocalyptic stories dating all the way back to ancient times, and a lot of those wild and crazy stories about medieval kings and primordial gods are still being read today (thank you, oral tradition). As it happens, some of the best books are also some of the oldest books, and epic poems like The Iliad and The Odyssey never go out of style. Continue Reading ›

The Secret Literary Lives of the eNotes Staff: What We’re Reading Now

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They have dedicated their days to making Hamlet survivable. To making calculus doable and those funky little greek letter things decipherable. They maintain the complex virtual temple of learning that is the website. What is this pantheon, you ask? Who are these noble masters of learning, these repositories of wisdom and knowledge? This is the eNotes staff. And they are reading only great literature, all the time.

Okay. Some of them are reading great literature all of the time. Some of the time. A couple of us. Once in a while. Meet the eNotes staff. Continue Reading ›

How to Read a Book a Day in 2013

Perhaps one of your resolutions for 2013, like so many people’s, is to read more this year. I’m guessing, though, that you did not set yourself the daunting task of reading a grand total of 365 books over the course of as many days. That would be crazy, right? Not according to Jeff Ryan of Slate, who proved in 2012 that such a resolution, though insane, is not impossible to achieve. While I certainly do not have plans to attempt Ryan’s wacky goal myself, the tactics he employed to reach that number might help anyone looking to cover more literary ground this year. Here’s how he did it, how you can learn from it, and why Ryan’s goal might actually not have been so wacky after all…

For a resolution like this, Ryan had to start out with some ground rules. And no, priority No. 1 was not to lower the minimum page count of the books on his list. It was to avoid scrimping on his current duties as father, husband, and full-time job-holder.

My test for this was my wife: I didn’t even tell her I was tackling a book a day until six weeks into the project. If she suspected I was slacking—dishes undone, litter box a ruin, laundry growing sentient—then I was failing my prime directive.

The preference for quick reads didn’t come into play until rule No. 2: Read short books.

I don’t deny that 2012 was not the year for me to launch into Terry Goodkind. Want some Tolstoy? The Forged Coupon, not War and Peace.

Don’t hide your YA, exercise shamelessness if you want to reach your 365 book goal.

In similar fashion, if I had to point out a third rule of Ryan’s in this project, it’d be “Don’t be a snob.” You don’t get to read 365 books in a year without padding out your reading list with a bit of light fodder. The journalist’s “literary junk food” as he calls it consisted of “zombie novels, books about Old Hollywood,  books about video games (I can’t play you anymore, but I can read about you!), comedians’ memoirs, and essay collections.” Anyone else’s indulgence of guilty pleasures would easily stretch to include Young Adult books, chick lit, comic books, even erotica. Does everything you read have to be Booker-worthy? Not if the goal is simply to read and learn more, so feel free to exercise a bit of shamelessness.

One of Ryan’s most important tactics was to read multiple books at once. If you’re anything like me, you’ll imagine this point as being annoying; I like to give my full attention to a novel without interruption from other works, if I can manage it. But the thing about this project is that it opens your eyes to how many different things you already read simultaneously everyday, besides books, and how much extra stuff can be forsaken in order to read more literature. For instance, Ryan might in one day finish up a 1,000 page tome he’d been working on for a while, approach the end of an audiobook on his drive home, and close the final chapter on a Chronicles of Narnia novel with his daughter at bedtime. Sound like the kind of multitasking you’re used to?

And what happens when you replace the normal go-to forms of entertainment crunching up your free time and replace them with books? What might you inadvertently give up? For Ryan it was video games, “direct-to-DVD horror films” (in the manner of Starship Troopers 2 and Saw V-VII), and music, as he exclusively listened to audiobooks on his iPod. It’s also not difficult to imagine how much more most of us would read were it not  for our TV addictions. To many people, some of those casualties would be unforgivable. To others, pledging to read a book a day might help to check off other resolutions we might often swear to keep but never manage to.

It’s this new awareness of how most of us use our free time that suddenly makes this resolution appear less impossible and more like something we already engage in:

If you follow my path and read a book a day in 2013, you’ll find that you truly, truly will not be reading more than usual. Right now, you are probably reading a comparable amount to me—but you’re reading newspapers, Facebook and Twitter, and the work of the fine folks at Slate. I let that stuff go for a year in the interest of making my quota. (Maybe that’s why I liked essay collections so much; they’re like magazines in book format.) I always dreamed that in retirement I might be able to knock off a book a day: Turns out, I didn’t have to wait.

So you see, pledging to read more in 2013 doesn’t have to be a futile promise. As for me, I’m going to try something infinitely more manageable than 365 books and focus on six authors I always mean to read but never get around to. They are:  David Mitchell, Haruki Murakami, David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Franzen, Phillip Roth, and (just for fun, because I’m appalling when it comes to Russian lit knowledge) Leo Tolstoy.

Do you have any literature-related resolutions planned? Perhaps you’ll plan to read a book a month, or even to participate in 2013’s NaNoWriMo? Please, share your ideas on how to read more in a comment below. Whatever you resolve this New Year’s, I hope your 2013 is full of inspiring and enjoyable reads!