Happy Birthday, Edward Lear! Thank you for all your Nonsense!
Happy Birthday, Edward Lear! Thank you for all your Nonsense!
Portlanders who frequent Nossa Familia Coffee—a Portland-based roastery with three local cafes and one in Los Angeles—should dust off their thermoses.
The local chain announced today that it will be the first Portland coffee shop to add a 25-cent extra charge to orders served in disposable to-go cups. The extra fee will be implemented starting Earth Day, April 22.
Karen Lickteig, the company’s marketing and sustainability director, says the charge is an effort to reduce waste.
“Every year, 50 million cups are thrown away in Portland alone,” Lickteig says. “The charge on cups is about sending a message that this item is wasteful.”
The company also plans to start building free cup libraries at its cafes, where customers can donate mugs for people to use when they forget a reusable cup. People who bring in their own mugs will be given a 25 cent discount.
Augusto Carneiro, Nossa’s founder, says he was nervous that instating the charge would turn customers away but “knew it was the right thing to do.”
“Our goal isn’t to shame people or make them feel bad about paying the charge,” Carneiro says in a statement. “The real goal here is to help people think more consciously about their decisions, and offer a little nudge to help them make a better one for the planet and our community by using a reusable cup over one that becomes trash.”
As a supporter of reading with children and a fan of traditional print books, I cannot say I am entirely surprised by the results of new research suggesting that print books are the best way to go when reading with young children.
Reading books is one of the great and ongoing pleasures of my life, and although I read all kinds of things on screens, I cling to the print book, the paper book, or what we all secretly call “the book-book.”
I am willing to travel with a heavy bag full of books in order to enjoy the pleasure of turning paper pages on the airplane, and watching my bookmark (yes, of course, I have a bookmark fetish) move further and further through the book on the hotel night table. But when it comes to books for young children, there’s a certain research imperative to figure out the role that screens can or should or might play in those first exposures to the written word.
Reading is my cause, and has been for years. I am the national medical director of Reach Out and Read, a nonprofit that supports pediatricians in counseling parents and children to read together and providing books at checkups.
Written language will be only more important in our children’s lives as the world becomes more and more networked, in the largest written-word-based community that has ever existed. Our children will grow up to depend on their facility with reading and writing in their jobs, their personal relationships, their ability to access information and news, and their participation in civic discourse at every level. How can we help them into the world of written language, in all its many modern manifestations?
In a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, researchers at the University of Michigan asked 37 parents to read similar stories to their 2- to 3-year-olds in three different formats (the order was varied for the different families): a print book, a basic electronic book (no bells or whistles) on a tablet, and an enhanced electronic book with animation and/or sound effects (tap a sea gull or a dog and hear the sounds they make). The interactions were videotaped and coded, looking at the number and kinds of verbalizations by parents and by children, at the amount of collaborative reading that went on, and at the general emotional tenor of the interaction.
Reading print books together generated more verbalizations about the story from parents and from toddlers, more back and forth “dialogic” collaboration. (“What’s happening here?” “Remember when you went to the beach with Dad?”)
Dr. Tiffany Munzer, a fellow in developmental behavioral pediatrics at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, who was the first author on the study, said the researchers had wanted to study toddlers in particular because of a concern that the toddlers might be particularly susceptible to distraction by electronic enhancements. That was why the enhanced books were compared to print books but also to nonenhanced electronic books.
“They were susceptible,” Dr. Munzer said, “but the basic electronic book without the enhancements was also distracting to toddlers, and they had less engagement with their parents than with print books.”
So while earlier research had suggested that the enhancements were problematic for young children, the results of this study suggested that even a nonenhanced story on the tablet screen seemed less likely to generate that parent-child dialogue. “The tablet itself made it harder for parents and children to engage in the rich back-and-forth turn-taking that was happening in print books,” Dr. Munzer said.
The researchers can only speculate about why; it may be because of the patterns we are all accustomed to in using our devices. Perhaps “the tablet is designed to be more of a personal device, perhaps parents and children use it independently at home,” Dr. Munzer said. There were also some struggles over who got to control the tablet, and more “negative format-related comments,” like “Don’t touch that button.”
And a print book, with a young child, may be a better piece of technology, if the goal is dialogue and conversational turn-taking. “A print book is just so good at eliciting these interactions,” Dr. Munzer said. “You’re comparing a tablet with the gold standard.”
I was one of the co-authors of a commentary accompanying the study, which acknowledged the many potential benefits of electronic books for children, but argued for continuing to rely on print books for the very young, including in programs that encourage parent-child reading.
My colleague, Dr. Suzy Tomopoulos, assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at N.Y.U. School of Medicine, who was the lead author on the commentary, said that whatever the medium, “parents need to read together with their child, use what they’re reading, and expand on the text.” With younger children, she said, there’s evidence that they get distracted with e-books, and there’s a lot of technology being actively marketed to parents nowadays. “You don’t need a lot of bells and whistles to support your child’s development,” she said. “Engaging the child and talking to the child does a wonderful job of supporting early child development.”
Reach Out and Read has a partnership with Scholastic, which this week released the seventh edition of its Kids & Family Reading Report, a national survey of school-age children and parents. It found that though 58 percent of the kids surveyed said they love or like reading books for fun, there has been an incremental decrease in reading frequency among the children surveyed since 2010.
And as children reach the age when they are expected to have fully mastered reading, they seem to be reading less for fun. In what the report called a “decline by 9,” the percentage of kids who report reading books for fun five to seven days a week dropped to 35 percent of 9-year-olds from 57 percent of 8-year-olds.
Lauren Tarshis, senior vice president at Scholastic and a contributor to the report, pointed to the focus on third grade as the pivotal year when children are expected to achieve full fluency as readers.
The worry is that is that the pressure — and the testing — at that stage may contribute to the perception that reading is no longer so much fun.
“I keep saying to my colleagues, it made me feel sorrowful,” Ms. Tarshis said. “If you have reading in your life as something you see as a way of transporting you, opening doors, it’s just a wonderful, wonderful thing.”
The report also highlighted the importance of “reading role models,” pointing out that the children who are frequent readers have people in their lives who enjoy reading, and parents who read frequently. This is hardly a surprise, though again, in the digital era, it might raise the question of just how our children can tell what it is that we are doing on our devices.
(When my own children were young, and I had just started to investigate the literature on reading, I was delighted to discover that “sustained silent reading” was an important pedagogical technique in elementary schools. I promptly invented another important technique, which I termed “witnessed sustained silent reading,” which I felt changed my parenting approach from “don’t bother me now, I’m reading,” to something far more laudable.)
But clearly parents play an important role. The book that stimulates the dialogue between parent and toddler is also the child’s introduction to the pleasures of written language and stories. The pleasure that a parent takes in reading helps shape a growing child’s attitude. And the message to parents should not be that they’re doing it wrong (we all know we’re doing things wrong, just as we all know that we’re doing our best), but that parents really matter.
“Parents today work harder than ever,” Dr. Munzer said. “Our goal is to help families reflect on activities they engage in that spark connections.”
Another in an occasional series of Little Free Libraries in Portland and Beyond.
I was recently in Forest Grove, OR, for a full-day professional development training. I went walking at lunch and stumbled across two little libraries. I couldn’t find charter numbers or signs on either of them, so I don’t know if they’re registered with Little Free Libraries or not, but they seemed to be busy!
This one was right outside the Tim & Cathy Tran Library.
This one was in front of the Early Learning Center.
I looked on Google to see if maybe there were more little libraries I’d missed. Looks like these are the only two so far, according to this article. I couldn’t find them on the Little Free Library map either, but if they’re run by students, that’s not terribly surprising. Next time I’m out there, I’ll have to bring some books!
(Also, if you’re out there, look for the Art-O-Mat machine in the art gallery!)
by Sarah Aswell at ScaryMommy
If you need to mix up your bedtime story routine a little bit, the Global Space Education Foundation has just the thing for you: Story Time in Space. It’s exactly what it sounds like — astronauts on various missions in space read popular children’s books while floating about, and the videos are edited and shared with kids way down on Earth.
The results are adorable as well as educational and inspiring. Check out astronaut Kathleen Rubins reading Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty and try not to get choked up at how amazing this all is.
The concept was developed by Patricia Tribe, the former director of education at Space Center Houston, and Alvin Drew, the first NASA astronaut to read a story in space for the program, during the final mission of the space shuttle Discovery. The pair were looking to find a way to encourage reading among kids while also promoting STEM education, and landed on the idea of having on-duty astronauts reading science-based kids’ books, gravity-free.
Since the initial reading, all of the story times have taken place on the International Space Station, as it hurtles through nothingness at 17,500 miles per hour around the planet. It’s only a guess, but this may be slightly more interesting than your kids listening to you feign excitement while reading The Mitten again.
“What better role models to engage kids in science and to engage them in reading?” Tribe told the Huffington Post. “You’re not only looking and listening to the books, you’re looking around the International Space Station.”
Astronaut @Tim Peake tweeted from the ISS about his reading of The Incredible Intergalactic Journey Home by Lost My Name book that he has read for us!
“I enjoyed reading this “Story Time” for the kids- my boys will like this too
check out the pic!!! So excited!
Not only are does Story Time in Space aim to make reading out of this world, it also stresses the importance of diversity. Tribe and her team select books for a wide range of reading levels (though all can be read in 15 minutes or less) and from a wide range of STEM topics, from physics to engineering to biology. The group also selects a diverse set of astronauts to read the books, so that kids can see that people who look just like them can reach for the next frontier. For example, Japanese engineer and JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata read Max Goes to the International Space Station in Japanese for the program this summer.
The Story Time from Space program is also expanding. The group is working on adding a set of nine simple science experiments for kids that were conducted from the space station, involving concepts like energy transfer and surface tension. In addition, more books are on the way, including A Moon of My Own by Jennifer Rustgi, The Rhino Who Swallowed A Storm by LeVar Burton and Susan Schaefer Bernardo, and Moustronaut by Astronaut Mark Kelly.
While those projects are being completed, Earthlings can enjoy the rest of the collection, which includes Max Goes to Mars, by Jeffrey Bennet, as read by astronaut Mike Hopkins.
Let’s just hope that these awesome videos don’t ruin regular books read in gravity, from the ground, by plain old mom who probably isn’t even an astronaut.
from Compound Interest
Everyone’s familiar with the smell of old books, the weirdly intoxicating scent that haunts libraries and second-hand book stores. Similarly, who doesn’t enjoy riffling through the pages of a newly purchased book and breathing in the crisp aroma of new paper and freshly printed ink? As with all aromas, the origins can be traced back to a number of chemical constituents, so we can examine the processes and compounds that can contribute to both.
As far as the smell of new books goes, it’s actually quite difficult to pinpoint specific compounds, for a number of reasons. Firstly, there seems to be a scarcity of scientific research that’s been carried out on the subject – to be fair, it’s understandable why it might not exactly be high up on the priority list. Secondly, the variation in the chemicals used to manufacture books also means that it’s an aroma that will vary from book to book. Add to this the fact that there are literally hundreds of compounds involved, and it becomes clearer why it evades attribution to a small selection of chemicals.
It’s likely that the bulk of ‘new book smell’ can be put down to three main sources: the paper itself (and the chemicals used in its manufacture), the inks used to print the book, and the adhesives used in the book-binding process.
The manufacture of paper requires the use of chemicals at several stages. Large amounts of paper are made from wood pulp (though it can also be made from cotton and textiles) – chemicals such as sodium hydroxide, often referred to in this context as ‘caustic soda’, can be added to increase pH and cause fibres in the pulp to swell. The fibres are then bleached with a number of other chemicals, including hydrogen peroxide; then, they are mixed with large amounts of water. This water will contain additives to modify the properties of the the paper – for example, AKD (alkyl ketene dimer) is commonly used as a ‘sizing agent’ to improve the water-resistance of the paper.
Many other chemicals are also used – this is just a very rough overview. The upshot of this is that some of these chemicals can contribute, through their reactions or otherwise, to the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, the odours of which we can detect. The same is true of chemicals used in the inks, and the adhesives used in the books. A number of different adhesives are used for book-binding, many of which are based on organic ‘co-polymers’ – large numbers of smaller molecules chemically chained together.
As stated, differences in paper, adhesives, and inks used will influence the ‘new book smell’, so not all new books will smell the same – perhaps the reason why no research has yet attempted to definitively define the aroma.
An aroma that has had much more research carried out around it, however, is that of old books. There’s a reason for this, as it’s been investigated as a potential method for assessing the condition of old books, by monitoring the concentrations of different organic compounds that they give off. As a result, we can be a little more certain on some of the many compounds that contribute to the smell.
Generally, it is the chemical breakdown of compounds within paper that leads to the production of ‘old book smell’. Paper contains, amongst other chemicals, cellulose, and smaller amounts of lignin – much less in more modern books than in books from more than one hundred years ago. Both of these originate from the trees the paper is made from; finer papers will contain much less lignin than, for example, newsprint. In trees, lignin helps bind cellulose fibres together, keeping the wood stiff; it’s also responsible for old paper’s yellowing with age, as oxidation reactions cause it to break down into acids, which then help break down cellulose.
‘Old book smell’ is derived from this chemical degradation. Modern, high quality papers will undergo chemical processing to remove lignin, but breakdown of cellulose in the paper can still occur (albeit at a much slower rate) due to the presence of acids in the surroundings. These reactions, referred to generally as ‘acid hydrolysis’, produce a wide range of volatile organic compounds, many of which are likely to contribute to the smell of old books. A selected number of compounds have had their contributions pinpointed: benzaldehyde adds an almond-like scent; vanillin adds a vanilla-like scent; ethyl benzene and toluene impart sweet odours; and 2-ethyl hexanol has a ‘slightly floral’ contribution. Other aldehydes and alcohols produced by these reactions have low odour thresholds and also contribute.
Other compounds given off have been marked as useful for determining the extent of degradation of old books. Furfural is one of these compounds, shown below. It can also be used to determine the age and composition of books, with books published after the mid-1800s emitting more furfural, and its emission generally increasing with publication year relative to older books composed of cotton or linen paper.
So, in conclusion, as with many aromas, we can’t point to one specific compound, or family of compounds, and categorically state that it’s the cause of the scent. However, we can identify potential contributors, and, particular in the case of old book smell, a number of compounds have been suggested. If anyone’s able to provide further information on ‘new book smell’ and its origins, it would be great to include some more specific details, but I suspect the large variations in the book-making process make this a tough ask.
In the meantime, if you can’t get enough of that new book or old book smell, you might be interested to learn that the aroma is available in perfume form.
References & Further Reading
April 12 is DEAR day: Drop Everything And Read day!
What is Drop Everything And Read?
“April 12 has been proclaimed National “Drop Everything and Read” (D.E.A.R.) Day. It is an initiative to encourage families to designate at least 30 minutes to put aside all distractions and enjoy books together…to make it a special time to “drop everything and read.” The birthday of Newbery Medal-winning author Beverly Cleary is the official national D.E.A.R. day, and Cleary’s most popular book character, Ramona Quimby, is the program’s official spokesperson.
Join the thousands of librarians, educators, and parents hosting National D.E.A.R. Day family reading events on April 12 each year.” – Association for Library Service to Children
If you are a teacher (Preschool, K-5, special ed, etc) or a parent, you can find useful resources and printables here
I saw this piece on BookRiot about “Literary Crochet” recently. Amigurumi, the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting stuffed dolls and animals, has been around a while, and of course crocheting blankets and scarves has been around much longer. I’m also pretty sure it’s a law that if you have two or more hobbies or interests, you *must* combine them at some point. Therefore, it was inevitable that we would see our favorite scenes and characters show up in crochet eventually.
Paddington not your thing? What about a pattern for Star-Bellied Sneetches, from Dr. Seuss?
Have a younger child, or fond memories of board books? Make your own Very Hungry Caterpillar, to play with or wear!
Check out these pictures and patterns
Literary Crochet, from #AmReading
10 Lovely Literary Crochet Patterns, from BookRiot
Literary Yarns: Crochet Patterns Inspired By Classic Books, by Cindy Wang — and if you want to see more of Cindy’s work, check out her blog!
Make your own Captain Ahab right now!
I’d love to see what you decide to make!
[me: Well, this is some bullshit]
The Washington State Department of Corrections quietly rolled out a new policy via a memo on their website last month which disallows books to be donated to prisons via nonprofit organizations. So quietly, in fact, that one of the largest nonprofits that works to get donated materials to prisoners was taken by surprise to discover the change. They weren’t informed before it was implemented.
“We’re ready to fight it,” said Books to Prisoners, located in Seattle, in a tweet.
The new policy limits books to those accepted by the Washington State Library for incarcerated individuals which had already been approved by the Prisons Division, used books from the Monroe City Library directed specifically to the correctional facilities in Snohomoish County, and to those used books purchased by prisoners enrolled in pre-approved correspondence educational courses from the bookstore linked to the educational facility in which they’re enrolled. Individuals have never been allowed to make donations to prisons; those have always had to go through either nonprofits or bookstores.
As Books to Prisoners pointed out, this severely limits access to literature for incarcerated individuals, and especially impacts those in facilities outside Monroe County.
One of the reasons noted for this sudden policy change is the lack of staff in mail rooms to determine whether or not materials sent are appropriate or whether they’re hiding contraband. Likewise, additional funding and resources are not available to the Washington State Library (WSL). In a tweet, Books to Prisoners notes, “WSL is being used as a scapegoat–they have no special search procedures.” When asked if they’ve reached out to WSL about the change, Books to Prisoners noted, “It has been confirmed that they have no special staff or screening procedures, nor are they being given any extra staff or money to deal with any influx of books. The policy is using them as a pawn.”
This highlights exactly why Books to Prisoners and similar nonprofits do the work that they do — these facilities are underfunded and that lack of funding impacts the individuals who use those books to improve themselves and their own literacy. These book donations, which are thoroughly inspected by those at the nonprofit for suitability, fill a critical role in helping those incarcerated who otherwise lack access to vital educational tools.
Books to Prisoners has been sending free books to prisoners across the country since 1973. They note in a tweet “Attempted bans pop up sometimes, most recently by Pennsylvania DOC in 2018, always using same vague “safety” justification. In 45 years, our books have never had contraband.” They added, “Given that we’ve sent books without issue since 1973, and currently send to 12,000 unique prisoners across almost every state in the country each year, it would be bewildering if after 46 years of work as an award-winning nonprofit we decided to start transporting contraband.”
Prison libraries are severely underfunded, and there’s a lack of staff as well. As Books to Prisoners notes, “Furthermore, the reason that we send books directly to the hands of prisoners is that libraries are chronically underfunded and understaffed. In Washington, each branch has just 1 librarian. Only open certain hours. Going back to PA as an example, prisoners capped at 90 min/WEEK.”
Barring access to literature, which is what this policy does, hinders those who need it most. Other states, including New York, have tried similar bans and they’ve been rescinded. The ACLU has stepped in in similar attempted book bans in prison as well. Criminal justice reform includes ensuring that those who are incarcerated have rights to literature and education, so steps like these by the Washington Department of Corrections are but steps backwards. To combat recidivism, literacy is one of the crucial steps forward, and yet, situations like these further hinder rehabilitation and self-development of those who most need it.
If you’re in Washington or anywhere in the US, speak up about this policy to help get it changed. Contact Prisons Division Correctional Manager Roy Gonzalez at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 360-725-8839.
Sign the petition set up by Books to Prisoners to stop the ban.
Likewise, donate to Books to Prisoners to help support their efforts in getting the policy reversed and keep an eye on their Twitter stream for phone blitzes and other direction action plans you can participate in.
Spread the word. Share this and any tweets, petitions, or phone blitz information among your friends, family, and colleagues.