Boing Boing 

XKCD vs hand-wringing about what texting does to kids' literacy


It's great, and the tooltip's even better: "I'd like to find a corpus of writing writing from children in a non-self-selected sample (eg handwritten letters to the president from everyone in the same teacher's 7th grade class every year)--and score the kids today versus the kids 20 years ago on various objective measures of writing quality.

Read the rest

Painted "bookbenches" spring up across London


The National Literacy Trust has dotted London with painted benches that celebrate classic works of literature from Paddington to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy.

Read the rest

Who reads books in America, and how?


The Pew Internet and American Life project has released a new report on reading, called E-Reading Rises as Device Ownership Jumps. It surveys American book-reading habits, looking at both print books and electronic books, as well as audiobooks. They report that ebook readership is increasing, and also produced a "snapshot" (above) showing readership breakdown by gender, race, and age. They show strong reading affinity among visible minorities and women, and a strong correlation between high incomes and readership. The most interesting number for me is that 76 percent of Americans read at least one book last year, which is much higher than I'd have guessed.

E-Reading Rises as Device Ownership Jumps (via Jim Hines)

Auctioning a conceptual copy of Banksy's thrifted "Banality of the Banality of Evil" to benefit 826 Valencia


A San Francisco artist commissioned a Chinese artist to make a copy of "The Banality of the Banality of Evil" -- a painting that Banksy thrifted, added a Nazi to, and shop-dropped back into the thrift store. The copy, called "The Banality Of The Banality Of The Banality Of Evil," is now being auctioned to support 826 Valencia, a literacy for kids program in San Francisco.

Read the rest

Canada Reads top-ten voting ends this weekend


As I mentioned last week, the CBC's Canada Reads list of top 40 Canadian books is up, and it's got a really commendable, wide-ranging variety of titles in it (including my own novel Little Brother). The CBC is asking for readers to choose their favorites by tomorrow, at which point they'll release the top ten list.

It's a great exercise for energizing the nation about reading, and I'm immensely flattered and excited to have a small part in it.

Canada Reads Top 40: Explore the books

Raising a reader: how comics can help kids learn to love reading

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund -- tireless free speech crusaders who fight for comics' legitimacy -- commissioned a great educational resource about comics' role in literacy called Raising a Reader (PDF).

This new resource is written by Dr. Meryl Jaffe, with an introduction by three-time Newbery Award honoree Jennifer L. Holm (Babymouse, Squish) and art by Eisner Award winner Raina Telgemeier (Smile, Drama) and Eisner Award nominee Matthew Holm (Babymouse, Squish). Raising A Reader! was made possible by a grant from the Gaiman Foundation.

You can get print-ready digital files from the Foundation, and they'll have print copies at at San Diego Comic-Con.

CBLDF Releases RAISING A READER, a Resource for Parents and Educators

Kids' soap opera, with a cameo by Nick Hornby: "Dead Ends"

Lucy writes,

Best-selling author Nick Hornby has a cameo role in a new soap opera, written by young people at the creative writing centre he co-founded in Hackney. Created through after-school workshops with input from EastEnders writers, 8 young writers devised and scripted 4 episodes of a new soap opera inspired by Hoxton: 'Dead Ends'.

The project is a new venture from UK charity the Ministry of Stories, co-founded by Hornby and celebrating its second anniversary this month. The Ministry chose to work with soap as a genre that young people engage with and understand. Writing about their own local area and in a style they enjoyed, young people turned themselves from audience members into confident, motivated writers.

Dead Ends follows the stories of Andrew, a young man trying to put his troubled past behind him; his mother, Lou, who has a dark family secret to guard and the hapless Chloe, a local girl who has fallen in love with a man that she can't have. These individual stories combine towards a dramatic and shocking climax!

Ministry of Stories is my local literacy charity (my office is a block away in Hoxton), and they do awesome work. And they've got a secret door. And they sell screams in jars, as well as candied ear-wax.

Dead Ends | Ministry of Stories (Thanks, Lucy!)

Knuckles that promote literacy


Spotted today at a Toronto restaurant: a great, pro-literacy set of knuckle-tatts.

READ MORE knuckles, Fresh, Crawford Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Upside Comics: UK charity that uses comics to promote literacy

This weekend, I took my daughter to the Kapow! comics fair in Islington, London, and happened on the Upside Comics booth. Upside is a charitable trust that promotes literacy using comics. They run comics-creation workshops for kids, produce pro-literacy comics, and bibliographies of great kids' comics. They're looking for donations of comics and graphic novels, as well as cash, time and expertise.

Upside Comics use comics and graphic novels to promote literacy for children and young people. We support reading, creative writing, design and illustration.

Upside Comics is a small charity with support from the Big Lottery. The organisation was started by people working in schools and youth charities who love comics. We believe that literacy is the key to childrens' future success and happiness.

Upside Comics

Seattle library hides 1,000 books around town for young people to find

The Seattle Public Library system's annual Summer Reading Program is called Century 22: Read the Future, and is tied in with the 50th anniversary of the Seattle World's Fair. Young people are encouraged to scour the city's landmarks for 1,000 books hidden throughout town, and then to re-hide them for other kids to find. Among the books in this summer's program is my own YA novel Little Brother, which is a source of utter delight for me.

Daniel Pinkwater explains his role in the mystery of the NY State reading test pineapple race kerfuffle

Absurdist kids' literature hero Daniel Pinkwater is at the center of an appropriately absurd kerfuffle. An eighth-grade New York reading test published by Pearson republishes an edited (and much less funny) version of a fairy tale told in his novel Borgel (reprinted in this outstanding omnibus). In the original, an eggplant challenges a rabbit to a footrace and a group of spectator animals bet on the eggplant (figuring it must know something they don't). But eggplants can't run, so it loses. Then the animals eat it.

The test version changed the eggplant to a pineapple, and rewrote the passage so it is in "test-ese," then asked the kids to explain the "meaning" of the scene. Lots of students are mystified by this, and so is Pinkwater, who gave a gracious interview with the WSJ on the subject (who didn't do him the favor of mentioning that he has a tremendous new book coming out next week called Mrs Noodlekugel, which I'll be reviewing when it's out).

It’s a nuclear little family, a mother, father and three kids. An old man shows up at the door and says, “Hello, I’m your relative, I’m 111 years old.”

“You’re our relative how?”

He said, “I’m not quite clear about that. I know we’re related. I’m moving in.” And he brings in all his valises and moves into the back room. He becomes great friends with his great-great-great nephew.

In this particular passage, they’re on a bus, and Borgel, the old man, is telling him one of these fractured fables after another. And much better things happen. They go on a time-space adventure, and they meet God, who happens to be an orange popsicle. I think this may the only work of fiction in which it’s revealed that God can take the form of an orange popsicle, which I believe he can.

In the book, the moral is never bet on an eggplant. The old man is gradually giving the nephew reason to believe that he is senile or crazy by the things he says or does, so that the nephew will be alarmed but not surprised when the old man appears to be stealing a car. They take off on a road trip in it. But as far as I am able to ascertain from my own work, there isn’t necessarily a specifically assigned meaning in anything.

That really is why it’s hilarious on the face of it that anybody creating a test would use a passage of mine, because I’m an advocate of nonsense. I believe that things mean things but they don’t have assigned meanings.

I’m on this earth to put up a feeble fight against the horrible tendency people have to think that there’s a formula. “If I do the following things, I’ll get elected president.” No you won’t. “If I do the following things, my work of art will be good.” Not necessarily. “If I follow this recipe, the dish will come out very delicious.” Maybe.

Trust me, there is no formula for most things that are not math.

Daniel Pinkwater on Pineapple Exam: ‘Nonsense on Top of Nonsense’ (Thanks, Jennifer!)

Mule-based bookmobiles for remote Venezuelan communities


Proyecto Bibliomulas is a Venezuelan initiative to improve literacy in remote and rural areas, by turning mules into travelling bookmobiles. Srsly. And how awesome is that?

Anyone who was not out working the fields - tending the celery that is the main crop here - was waiting for our arrival. The 23 children at the little school were very excited.

"Bibilomu-u-u-u-las," they shouted as the bags of books were unstrapped. They dived in eagerly, keen to grab the best titles and within minutes were being read to by Christina and Juana, two of the project leaders.

BLOG OFICIAL DEL "PROYECTO BIBLIOMULAS"

Venezuela's four-legged mobile libraries (BBC)

(via Bookshelf)

UK library lending down, generation of readers to go missing?

Charlie Stross looks at some leading indicators of library decline in the UK, which he attributes to cuts and closures, and notes: "if the drop in my PLR loans reflects library closures, then we have just slammed the door in the face of a new generation of readers. I got my start reading fiction from my local library; the voracious reading habits of a bookish child aren't easily supported from a family budget under strain from elsewhere during a time of cuts. I hate to think what the long term outcome of this short-term policy is going to be, but I don't believe any good will come of it."

3.8M children in the UK don't own a book

That's what the National Literacy Trust says.

Poorer children and boys were less likely to have books, it added.

The survey was carried out in September with school-aged children from 111 schools across the UK.

It suggested that a third (33.2%) did not have books of their own. That translates to 3.8m children UK-wide.

National Literacy Trust highlights book-free millions

Monster supplies from Hoxton Monster Supplies


Hoxton Monster Supplies, my local outlet of the 826 Valencia literacy charity, has put some of its marvellous "monster supplies" online, including tins of Mortal Terror and Night Sweats, cubes of earwax, and fang floss. These folks do wonderful work, and they've got really cool package design.

Hoxton Street Monster Supplies

(via Super Punch)

Polymer junkbot sales benefit literacy center


Etsy seller Deetsy is selling off her adorable polymer clay robots to benefit Ann Arbor's 826 Michigan literacy center. It's part of 826 Michigan's second annual Robot Art Fair, which runs to Saturday with robot-themed activities and art for adults, kids and families.

polymer clay and found object sculpture by deetsy on Etsy (Thanks, Blooflame!)

Inspirational pro-book poster

I love this striking "Books: That is Exactly How They Work" poster design from DeMotivation; it doesn't look like they're for sale, alas, as I'd buy, frame and hang one in a hot instant.

Books - That is exactly how they work

Rock the Drop: carpet the planet in young adult literature

Author Lorie Ann Grover writing on behalf of the Readergirlz literacy project sez, "Readergirlz and Figment are going to ROCK THE DROP in honor of Support Teen Lit Day on Thursday, April 14th. People around the world will find copies of amazing books in unexpected places, gifted out of love for young adult literature. Everyone can participate to raise awareness of the day!"
Here's how you can get involved:
* Snag the banner above, created by the uber-talented David Ostow (who blogs hilarious cartoons here), and add it to your website, linking back to this post to share the love, and proclaiming that you will indeed ROCK THE DROP!
* Print a copy of the bookplate below and insert it into a book (or 10!) that you'll drop on April 14th. Drop a book in a public spot (park bench, bus seat, restaurant counter?) and you're done. Lucky finders will see that the book is part of ROCK THE DROP!
* Snap a photo of your drop and email readergirlz AT gmail DOT com with the pic -- we'll be posting lots of pictures of drops happening all over the world at the readergirlz blog, and our friends at Figment will also be featuring the event!

Imagine people around the globe finding copies of amazing books in unexpected places, gifted out of love for YA lit. Everyone can participate to raise awareness of the day!

Rock the Drop! (Thanks, Lorie Ann, via Submiterator!)

Read dogs: nonjudgmental greyhounds that listen to kids reading

Inspired by an American scheme, a primary school in Staffordshire, England is using "read dogs" -- specially trained greyhounds that listen patiently and nonjudgmentally while small children read aloud to them.
Danny received five months of training to become a Read dog. Greyhounds are particularly well-suited because they do not bark and their short coat is less likely to trigger allergies.

Nevett hopes that the scheme, piloted in Kent, will spread. "We've had some success stories, including a girl with Down's Syndrome who really took to the dog and improved her reading," he says. "When Danny goes to sleep I tell the children that he's dreaming about their story."

The dogs who listen to children reading

UK charity will give away 1,000,000 books, and you can hand them out!


BillT sez, "A UK-based charity plans to give away a million books - 40,000 copies each of twenty-five selected titles - on March 5 next year. The list of authors includes Toni Morrison, Seamus Heaney, Mark Haddon, Margaret Atwood and Erich Maria Remarque... If you live in the UK and Ireland you can sign up as a book-giver - 20,000 will be selected and each will receive a box of books to hand out." WorldBookNight (Thanks, Bill!)

Help Readergirlz donate 125,000 great books to low-income teens

Awesome kids' book author and literacy activist Lorie Ann Grover sez, "readergirlz and First Book are partnering to give away more than 125,000 brand-new books to low-income teen readers. We need help getting the word out about the A Novel Gift campaign. Let's get organizations serving these teens registered with First Book so they can be matched with inventory during the holidays. If you participate, drop us a note at readergirlz@gmail.com to be included in our blog roll of thanks to run December 31."
They're great books, too, donated by generous publishers. Among the three dozen choices are P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast's HOUSE OF NIGHT series and Alyson Noël's SHADOWLAND.

We need your help getting the word out about the A Novel Gift campaign. Right now! Right now! As in, now!

rgz and First Book Partner for A Novel Gift! Over 125,000 free books to low-income teens (Thanks, Lorie Ann, via Submitterator!)

Tank covered in bookshelves: Weapon of Mass Instruction

An Argentine artist has built a tank covered in bookshelves that he drives through the streets of Buenos Aires and remote towns, operating it as a kind of bookmobile, or "weapon of mass instruction."

Literature gets a ride in the streets of Buenos Aires (Thanks, Scott!)

Radio Shack's 1986 electronic book

Here's a 1986 ad for Radio Shack's "Electronic Book," which connected to your computer's joystick port, and the interacted with software supplied on a cassette or disk. The peripheral cost $24.95, and new titles were $19.95 to $24.95 -- so the hardware prices have increased tenfold (unadjusted for inflation) in 25 years, while media costs have actually decreased.

Radio Shack 1986

Cutting Libraries in a Recession...

(Image: CuttingLibraries, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from daniel_solis's photostream)

(via A Whole Lotta Nothing)

Operation Teen Book Drop: getting 10,000 books into the hands of native American teens

Young adult author Lorie-Ann Grover sez, "In 2008 and 2009, readergirlz, GuysLitWire, and YALSA orchestrated publishers' donations of 20,000 new young adult books to hospitalized teens across the country. For 2010, If I Can Read I Can Do Anything has joined forces with these three organizations to drop over 10,000 new YA books, donated by publishers, into the hands of teens on Native Tribal Lands. Nationwide, librarians, over 100 YA authors, YA lit lovers, and teens will drop YA books in their own communities on April 15th, 2010, to raise awareness for Operation TBD 2010 and Support Teen Literature Day. They will participate further by purchasing books from the TBD Powell's Wish Lists during National Library Week. Purchases will be shipped directly to enrich one of two Native American libraries. Everyone will join an online party that evening at the readergirlz blog."

Operation Teen Book Drop (Thanks, Lorie-Ann!)

DRM-free Kindle books: are they any free-er?

Amazon is selling Kindle books without DRM, but they still won't answer three fundamental questions: 1. Whether the terms prohibit moving DRM-free books to non-Kindle platforms; 2. Whether patents or other IP prohibit making third-party readers for the Amazon DRM-free format format; 3. Whether they can still revoke DRM-free files, or disable their features, and if so, which features can be disabled and what circumstances would lead to revocation. The answer to these three questions is the difference between owning a book and having an innocent book used as bait for a tawdry lock-in scheme.