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Saturday, October 29, 2011

So I enjoyed...

...reading this little chat with Shannon Hale. It officially starts on page two of the comments. Sadly I could not attend, myself, but this was my favorite bit. Says Shannon,

Alvilo, getting my first book published was freakin' amazing. It was a fairy tale. I was not a best seller. I did not make a lot of money (very, very little, actually). I did not win a major award. It wasn't that kind of fairy tale. Not the prince marries you and you swim in gold coins and caviar. It was the kind where you think the bear outside is going to eat you and instead he shows you the way to a secret spring where raspberries are ripe all year long.

Sweet! I could go for ripe raspberries all year long!

Also, as of today, you can bid on having a character in a Shannon Hale book named after you. To benefit the Kids Need to Read charity. Also several other awesome authors are participating. Here is the link for that!
**edit** looks like the auction opens at 3:30 p.m. MST

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Guest Post: The Relationship Between Reading and the Brain

So! Here is something new!

Lindsey Wright, a writer for onlinecollegeclasses.com, approached me wanting to write a piece for Everead. I am so flattered! She proposed to discuss the psychology behind online book reading -- a pertinent issue these days. I have read a handful of books in electronic formats, though none on ereaders, and a certain something is different. If you own or have used an ereader, tell me about it in the comments. How does it compare to other forms of reading?


Without further ado, here is Lindsey.


The Relationship Between Reading and the Brain

Since the birth of the printing press, humans have become accustomed to reading printed material. However, with the explosion of the Internet and electronic publishing, more and more people are replacing print text with digital text. For example, students taking online classes are now getting their text books digitally, and there are even websites available that offer classic books such as Great Expectations by Charles Dickens to read for free via the Internet. However one must consider the implications of reading material through technology. For instance – how does the brain react to electronic text? A 2009 New York Times article titled, “Does the Brain Like E-Books?” stated "Initially any new information medium seems to degrade reading because it disturbs the balance between focal and peripheral attention.

Researchers will agree that the brain reacts to electronic text and printed text in many different ways. Alan Liu, head of the Transliteracies (a group researching online reading practices and technologies) states one's balance of focal and peripheral attention differs greatly when reading an electronic text and print text. When reading print text, one's attention is very focused on the page, paragraph, sentence, word, etc. In standard novels and nonfiction books, there is very little to distract the reader from the material. All print material is different however. With a newspaper, there will be photographs, multiple news stories, comics, and many times all on the same two pages of printed material. Readers will, nonetheless, be more focused on a standard book than a newspaper, and some may suffer from what Liu refers to as tunnel vision when reading a single page, or paragraph.

Although the balance between focal and peripheral attention in print material varies, in most cases electronic text presents an unhealthy balance resulting in the reader lacking a proper amount of focal attention and being overwhelmed by one's peripheral attention. When reading an e-book on an iPad or reading a blog online, the brain is not entirely focused on what it is reading. Whether the brain becomes sidetracked by the ads on the side of screen or feels an urge to switch tabs to check email, the reader struggles to focus on the text at hand. The best reading experience is considered one in which there is a balance of focal and peripheral attention, and many researchers believe reading a printed text many times results in an abundance of focal attention, whereas reading an electronic text results in an abundance of peripheral attention.

Maryanne Wolf, author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, believes that the effects of electronic reading are unknown. What researchers and scientists do know is how the brain takes in print material. According to Wolf, it takes the brain approximately 300 milliseconds to comprehend a word and the brain allocates an "additional 100 to 200 milliseconds to an even more sophisticated set of comprehension processes that allow us to connect the decoded words to inference, analogical reasoning, critical analysis, contextual knowledge, and finally, the apex of reading: our own thoughts that go beyond the text." Going beyond the text and entering our own understanding is what French novelist Marcel Proust referred to as the heart of reading. As a neurologist, Wolf's greatest concern with reading through an electronic means is that the "young brain will never have the time (in milliseconds or in hours or in years) to learn to go deeper into the text after the first decoding, but rather will be pulled by the medium to ever more distracting information."

Today, the iPad, Nook, and Kindle are household names. In recent years, e-readers have taken the publishing industry by storm. According to a recent Harris poll, one out of six Americans uses an e-reader, rather than reading books in print, while another one out of six Americans is likely to purchase an e-reader in the near future. E-books and electronic text are here to stay. The way we access text and comprehend language is evolving, and we can only hope that our brains can keep up.



Lindsey Wright is fascinated with the potential of emerging educational technologies, particularly the online school, to transform the landscape of learning. She writes about web-based learning, electronic and mobile learning, and the possible future of education.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Food Allergies for Dummies


Food Allergies for Dummies by Robert A. Wood, MD.

So. Things have been a little wacky at my house lately. We are looking for a new normal since discovering (and admitting to ourselves) that my little guy has food allergies. Most of my reading lately has focused on food allergies.

My top recommendation for educating oneself about food allergies goes to Food Allergies for Dummies by Robert A Wood with Joe Kraynack (because, you know, Dr. Wood has the allergy know-how and Mr. Kraynack has the writing thing down).

It is by far the most comprehensive guide I found to read. And that was what I wanted.  Admittedly, I didn't read the tome cover-to-cover -- that's not my typical approach with non-fiction. But what I wanted to know, it told me. And the book also raised further questions in me and explained them.  It has enabled me to feel competent at the doctor's office discussing allergies and intelligent about what tests are available, which ones I want him to have and how to proceed.

Reading this book was invaluable to me when my son started having a severe reaction to milk (he found his brother's sippy cup). Who do you call? What do you say? When is a reaction serious and when is it deadly serious?

I wish I had found Food Allergies for Dummies sooner. Some of my behavior (*ahem* feeding him allergens because I was in denial!) would have changed earlier.

If you have a little one, and you even suspect that maybe, just maybe, your precious baby has had an allergic reaction to something PLEASE take the time to educate yourself about allergies. Determine what systems your child is reacting on, and whether or not they have a true allergy (an immune system response).

Don't dismiss a reaction as a fluke. If you think something is strange, investigate it now.

Like I said, I wholeheartedly recommend Food Allergies for Dummies. If you can't find a copy quick enough, or if you want to read the story of a young man growing up happy with food allergies (which is what I needed after coming out of denial) I recommend www.allergicchild.com.

 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

StarCrossed

I have to blog about this book, because it's just one of those books that must be blogged about! Know what I mean?

StarCrossed, by Elizabeth C. Bunce (who first wrote A Curse Dark as Gold, another awesome read), follows Digger, an irreverent thief-turned-revolutionary. I'm finding it difficult to summarize this book---like, where do I begin? It's so jam-packed with complex people and plot twists, none of which I want to say too much about, that it's hard to find a footing.

Digger is a professional thief on the run, her partner in crime captured and likely dead already. She stumbles upon a group of joy-riding aristocrats, lies about her identity, and is taken under their wings and turned into a lady's maid for one of them---a young woman, Meri, who's about to come of age, and who hides an extraordinarily dangerous secret: she has magic. Magic is strictly outlawed in the kingdom, and those found with any connection to it are swiftly and brutally dispatched.

Plot twist, plot twist, plot twist, holding your breath, a lot, and then an ending with an ultimate cliffhanger about sums up the rest of the book. There's no love story, as the title might lead you to believe. Just hair-raising action adventure at its finest. And maybe, just maybe a little set-up for a romance in a subsequent book? We shall see. At least, I know I shall---November this year. :)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Santa Club

*Before you begin reading this post!*

Are you over the age of 12?





Have you and your parent or guardian had a chat about Santa Clause?






If your answer to one or both, especially the second, is Yes, continue.






Okay, so funny this should be such a hush-hush post, but, you know. Santa has a way of being controversial. :) The Santa Club, by Kelly Moss, walks kids who are ready through that troublesome question of the veracity of the Man in Red. If your child is ready for "the talk," I think this book's approach is perfect. After confirming that the reader is accompanied by a parent and has permission to read, The Santa Club poses that singular question, "Is Santa real?" The answer: a resounding Yes! It all began with St. Nicholas, who wanted to honor the Baby Jesus, and the gift giving continues today with millions of Santas all over the world. After reading, the child is admonished to not share this top-secret information with anyone else, especially younger children, and is then officially inducted him- or herself into The Santa Club.

I loved that this book took such a positive approach to what can be a traumatic revelation. I loved that it embraced the true meaning of Christmas---the birth of Jesus Christ. But ... I didn't love the illustrations. :( I'm no judge of art, but the people depicted throughout the book are generally unattractive and occasionally a little scary looking.

So. The text? Loved it. Fantastic. The pictures? Not my fav. Still, I'll keep this one on a high shelf until my kids are ready for it. A better approach to teaching them about both Santa and his role in the real Christmas, I have yet to encounter.
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