One-Minute Book Reviews

March 26, 2012

Are School Reading Assignments Making Your Child Dumber?

Filed under: News,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:50 am
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High school students are reading books appropriate for fifth graders, often assigned by teachers

By Janice Harayda

Schools are supposed to make you make you smarter. Are American teachers routinely assigning books that make kids dumber? You might think so after reading a major new report by Renaissance Learning, which develops hardware and software that helps schools measure students’ educational progress.

The top 40 books read by teenagers in grades 9–12 have an average of reading level of grade 5.3, appropriate for the third month of fifth grade, the report said. And the picture wasn’t much prettier for younger students. The book most read by seventh graders is Diary of a Wimpy Kid (reading level: grade 5.5). For eighth grade, it’s The Outsiders (grade 4.7). And students often read these books because their teachers assign them.

Students sometimes can benefit from reading books that are below their level. Easy books can build confidence, keep reading fun, and reinforce educational gains. But a steady diet of too-simple books won’t prepare students for the demands of life after high school. David Coleman, a contributor to the Renaissance Learning report, notes that the most important predictor of success in college is the ability to read and understand challenging material. And many books on the top 40 lists aren’t “complex enough to prepare them for the rigors of college and career.” Students may also lose interest in reading for pleasure if they find easy books boring.

That’s why parents need to fight back when schools frequently require children to read books that are below their reading level. Here are three ways to do that:

Check the reading levels of books that seem too easy. You can find the levels of many books used in schools by entering their titles in the search box on the AR BookFinder site. You can find the levels of others by pasting text from them into the box at ReadabilityFormulas.com. The Renaissance Learning report “What Kids Are Reading, 2012″ has the reading levels of the top 40 books read by grades K-12.

Talk to teachers who assign too-easy books. Find out why they thought your child would benefit from the books. If the reasons aren’t convincing, ask teachers to substitute others suited to your child’s level.

Let the principal know. Don’t quit if teachers won’t assign books at your child’s level or if your concerns go beyond one assignment – for example, if an entire summer reading list is too easy. In some schools or districts, most lists are dumbed-down, and the problem requires action at a higher level.

Some children will find their way to harder books if you do nothing. But most won’t, Coleman says. Children, he says, “need to be challenged  and supported to build  their strength as readers by stretching to the next level.”

For more information: Read the Huffington Post summary of the Renaissance Learning report. You may also want to read this One-Minute Book Reviews post on how Mitch Albom is writing at a third-grade reading level, which compares his level to that of other bestselling authors.

You can follow Jan on Twitter by clicking on the “Follow” button in the right sidebar.

© 2012 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

August 29, 2007

What Makes a Novel “Good”? Quote of the Day (Tom Wolfe)

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Novels,Quotes of the Day,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:37 pm

What makes a novel “good”? Tom Wolfe once gave this answer:

“To me, it’s a novel that pulls you inside the central nervous system of the characters … and makes you feel in your bones their motivations as affected by the society of which they are a part. It is folly to believe that you can bring the psychology of an individual to light without putting him very firmly in a social setting.”

Tom Wolfe, author of The Bonfire of the Vanities and other novels, in an interview with George Plimpton in Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews: Ninth Series (Viking 1992). Edited by George Plimpton. Introduction by William Styron. Reprinted from the Spring 1991 issue of the Paris Review. You can read more from this and other interviews in this acclaimed series at www.parisreview.com.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

August 5, 2007

Authors for 49¢ on Amazon: John Lithgow, James Lee Burke, Melissa Fay Greene and Others

Filed under: Books,Essays and Reviews,Fiction,Humor,Mysteries and Thrillers,News,Nonfiction,Poetry,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:34 pm

Fed up with the alpine cost of books? Amazon.com sells previously unpublished short stories, essays and other works for 49¢ through its Amazon Shorts program. The online bookseller requires that all sellers have at least one book for sale on Amazon. And some of the authors who have posted their work may surprise you, including actor John Lithgow, journalist Melissa Fay Greene and mystery novelist James Lee Burke.

But you could easily miss hearing about the program, because it isn’t listed on the home page for www.amazon.com. You have to use the search bar to look “Amazon Shorts” or go to the pull-down menu that says, “See All 41 Product Categories.” I knew nothing of the program until a writer friend persuaded me to post my “A Year in Cleveland,” a parody of A Year in Provence, there. So you may want to check this section of the Amazon site if you enjoy short fiction, nonfiction and poetry. You can read the shorts by downloading them, having them e-mailed to you, or following an HTML link.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

July 13, 2007

Backscratching in Our Time, Jeffrey Eugenides and Jonathan Safran Foer

Filed under: Backscratching in Our Time,Books,Novels,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:11 am

Jeffrey Eugenides on Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated: “Great humor, sympathy, charm and daring … Every page is illuminated.” Jeffrey Eugenides on the dust jacket of the hardcover edition of Everything Is Illuminated

Jonathan Safran Foer on Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex: “Whatever you might be expecting, Middlesex will surprise you … a roiling epic … the kind of book that urges to be read in one day, then reread.” Jonathan Safran Foer in Bomb www.bombsite.com/eugenides/eugenides.html
and quoted in the front matter of the paperback edition of Middlesex

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

July 5, 2007

Backscratching in Our Time, Tina Brown and Holly Peterson

Filed under: Backscratching in Our Time,Books,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:05 am

Tina Brown on Holly Peterson: “Holly Peterson writes about the rich with acute understanding and a drop-dead eye for detail. The funniest, sexist ride in the limo lane since the The Bonfire of the Vanities.” — Tina Brown on Peterson’s The Manny on the dust jacket the novel

Brown also offers “thanks and appreciation” to Peterson, among many others, in the acknowledgments of her new biography, The Diana Chronicles (page xv).

Holly Peterson on Tina Brown: “I read mostly non-fiction books. My all-time favorite is Tina Brown’s new book on Princess Diana called the Diana Chronicles … She was my boss.” — Peterson on Brown’s The Diana Chronicles on her My Space page http://www.myspace.com/hollypetersonthemanny. I can’t get the direct link to work but you can find the blurb by going to www.myspace.com and searching for “hollypetersonthemanny.”

Peterson also writes in the acknowledgments to The Manny: “Thank you to those who assisted in the delivery room in various forms and reincarnations of this whole concept, including Tina Brown … ” (page 356).

For more examples of authors who love each other’s books, click on “Backscratching in Our Time” under “Categories” on this site. If you know of other candidates for this continuing feature, please use the e-mail address on the “Contact” page of One-Minute Book Reviews to submit their blurbs.

A review of The Manny appeared on this site on June 26, 2007 www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/06/26/. Page numbers for bad sex scenes in The Manny appeared on this site on June, 27, 2007 www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/06/27/. The Diana Chronicles is scheduled to be reviewed on this site during the week of July 8.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

July 2, 2007

I Can’t GIVE Holly Peterson’s ‘The Manny’ Away

Filed under: Books,Contests,Novels,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:20 pm

Did I make the book sound THAT bad? Or should I have said that if you win it I won’t publish your name and tell people you actually wanted to read its bad sex scenes?

On Saturday I announced the rules for a contest that would let you win Holly Peterson’s novel about a male nanny, The Manny, and nobody has claimed the prize. I can’t say I blame you. But this book probably won’t be out in paperback until 2008. So if you’re worried that you’ve been reading too much high-toned intellectual material lately, here again are the rules: www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/06/30/.

Here are the links to the review www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/06/26/ and to the page numbers for some of the worst sex scenes in the book www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/06/27/.

I’ll be having more contests that let you win bestsellers and other books this summer, announced between 5 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Saturday if there’s a contest that week. So check back then if you’re interested. You can see some of the books offered in past contests by clicking on the “Contests” link at right.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

June 29, 2007

What’s Unique About One-Minute Book Reviews?

Filed under: Books,Reading,Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 4:42 pm
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One-Minute Book Reviews recently passed its six-month anniversary, and I celebrated by redoing its FAQ page. Here’s the revised version. If you enjoy the reviews and readers’ guides on this site, I’d be grateful if you’d forward this post to others who might enjoy them.  Thanks for visiting One-Minute Book Reviews.

Jan Harayda, the One-Minute Reviewer

What is One-Minute Book Reviews?
One-Minute Book Reviews is an independent blog devoted to short reviews of new, evergreen, and forthcoming books. The reviews are written by the editor-in-chief of the site, Janice Harayda, who has been the book columnist for Glamour, book editor and critic for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, and vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle www.bookcritics.org. The site is the home of the Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books, published annually on March 15 http://oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/03/15, and the Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guides. You can find all the guides by clicking on “Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guides” in the “Categories” column at right.

Why have a blog just for short book reviews?

The number of Web sites and blogs about publishing news, trends, and gossip recently has surged. There are far fewer independent sites or blogs just for reviews. And publishers pay for the reviews on some sites, so they’re hardly objective. I wanted to help to close the gap with sophisticated and witty reviews, including artful takedowns of overrated books and appreciations of underrated books, that aren’t influenced by all the hype.

Can you really read any review on this site in a minute?
You can read my one-sentence summaries of each book in less than a minute — maybe two or three seconds. You can find the summaries by clicking on the “Books in a Sentence” category. I also try to keep the regular reviews short enough so that you can read them in a minute or so. But I include extra text for people who have more time. At the bottom of each review, you’ll find my choices for the best and worst lines in the book. You can skip these and the other extra material.

What kinds of books do you review?
All kinds. That includes new and older fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and books typically bypassed by the review sections of newspapers, such as self-help manuals. Nothing is off limits.

How often do you post reviews?
As often as possible. On days when I don’t post a review, I often post a quote on a literary topic. Reviews of books for children and teenagers appear on Saturdays.

Why do you post readers’ guides, too?
Publishers haven’t created guides for many books that groups might love. For example, they often don’t publish guides for new hardcover nonfiction or for classic works of fiction. The guides they do post are part of a marketing plan intended to sell books. They may appear to be objective, but they are far from it. Publishers’ guides do not quote unfavorable reviews, encourage you to compare a book to others suggest that you are reading anything other than a flawless work. On that level, they don’t promote the lively debate about the merits of books that most book clubs enjoy.

How can publicists and others submit books to you for review?
They can’t. I don’t accept books or promotional materials from editors, publishers, literary agents or book publicists.

Why don’t you accept free books from publishers?
I agree with that pillar of newsroom ethics that says that journalists shouldn’t just avoid conflicts of interest — they should avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest. If I accepted free books from publishers, how would you know that the reviews on these pages hadn’t been influenced by the freebies?

If you don’t accept books from publishers, where do you get them?
Sometimes from the library. Those of us who live in New Jersey get a fantastic benefit for our tax dollars. You can walk into almost any public library, fill out a card asking the staff to buy a book, and get your wish as long as you want a title that would enhance the collection or appeal to others. If I can’t get a book from the library, I may try to borrow it from a friend or buy it online or elsewhere at half price.

How can people bring books to your attention if they can’t send them directly?
They can’t. Getting reviewed on One-Minute Book Reviews is a little like winning a MacArthur Foundation grant. You can’t apply. You just have to get lucky.

You can find out more about the blog by reading the “About One-Minute Book Reviews” page on the site.

The reviews on One-Minute Book Reviews may not be reproduced in any form without written permission from the author except for brief quotations that do not violate fair-use provisions of copyright laws. Publishers who quote from reviews in ads or elsewhere should credit: Janice Harayda, One-Minute Book Reviews. For permission to reprint longer passages or full reviews, send an e-mail message to the address on the “Contact” page on this site or write to: Janice Harayda, 41 Watchung Plaza, #99, Montclair, NJ 07042, and enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope. If you send e-mail, please mention your request in the subject heading so you don’t get mistaken for a spammer.

If you would like Janice Harayda to speak your book group, please visit http://www.janiceharayda.com and click on the page labeled “For Book Groups.”

Home page photo credit: (c) Michael Stahl

(c)2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

June 22, 2007

Win a Copy of Deborah Garrison’s Poetry Collection, ‘The Second Child’

Filed under: Books,Contests,Poetry,Reading,Women — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:06 pm

Is buying poetry a luxury on your budget? Would you like to win a copy of Deborah Garrison’s The Second Child (Random House, 2007), one of the most talked about poetry collections of the year?

This book deals with the everyday experiences of a working mother of three and is available only in hardcover. Here’s how you can win a copy:

1) Link from your blog to this post or or any other on One-Minute Book Reviews.

2) Send an e-mail message that includes the link to the address on the “Contact” page on this site. Include your mailing address.

3) If you’re the first person to send a link I can verify and you live in the U.S., I’ll send you the book. (I’ll pay the postage.) This is the copy of The Second Child that I used to write the review that was posted on this site on March 12, 2007 http: oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/03/12. It’s also the copy I used to write the reading group guide to The Second Child posted on the same day But it has no marks on (except for a bookstore sticker on the back) and is in very good condition.

Because links can be slow in showing up on Word Press and Technorati, you must send an e-mail message to the address on the contact page to win. I’ll judge the winner by the times on the e-mails.

This is the third in a series of book giveways that I’ll be having on Fridays or Saturdays on this site this summer. There may not be a giveaway every week, and not all giveaways may require a link. Some may involve writing contests that ask you to tell why you want the book.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

May 24, 2007

Does ‘The Secret Work’? Update on 30-Day Test

Filed under: Books,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:36 am

Yes, I’m still doing the 30-day test of The Secret begun on May 2 when I asked “the Universe” for a seven-figure advance for my next book or a comparable movie deal for an earlier one. Are you surprised to hear that Steven Spielberg still hasn’t called? No? Check back at the end of the month for the full results. Spielberg’s still got a week.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

May 11, 2007

Does ‘The Secret’ Work? Day 10 of 30-Day Test

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 8:39 pm

Day 10
No closer to getting a seven-figure advance for my next book than I was on Day 1 of this test. So why, you might wonder, didn’t I ask for something more reasonable? Why not one of the Caribbean vacations that my favorite radio station here in New Jersey is giving away when it’s not playing “Little Deuce Coupe” or “Here Comes the Sun?” Or – to make it even easier for the Universe – one of those great Alice Roi purses (only $250) shown on the fashion page of yesterday’s New York Times?

Answer: The Secret says that the mysterious “law of attraction” will “manifest” what you want, regardless of its value if you just “ask, believe, and receive.” Or, as Rhonda Byrne puts it on page 63: “It is as easy to manifest one dollar as it is to manifest one dollar.” So why shouldn’t I give the Universe a chance to show what it can do?

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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