Brief reviews for January 2008
Bender, Alexandra Sabina (2007).
Alana's Advice: Where There is a Clique You've Got to Think
Crown House Pub.
Alana's Advice is a fictional account of events in a middle
school, during the final two weeks before the start of summer vacation.
Alana, the protagonist, writes an advice column for her school
newspaper and her friend Jackie is a contributor to the paper as well.
They conflict with the editor, their classmate Jane. The story follows
Alana's frustration with Jane's behaviors and her triumph over the
petty scheming, jealousies and fights. Alana's advice is to be both
smart and compassionate in responding to bullies. The ability to take
the perspective of the bully and recognize their challenges helps turn
Alana from a target into a friend.
What makes the book exceptional is the age of the author. Alana's
Advice is a very mature piece of writing for a twelve or thirteen
year old. The author is either incredibly insightful about conflict
resolution or a resourceful writer. The story itself mirrors much of
the research literature on the impact of strong and authentic
relationships with friends, family and adults, in building resilience
The structuring of each chapter with an anecdote is engaging. Yet it
is hard not to be somewhat skeptical about the sudden turnarounds and
role reversals in the characters. Things rarely turn around that fast
in school settings. The sub-heading of "Where there is a clique" also
is somewhat misleading because the book is mostly about interactions
with one girl, not a clique. This character, Jane, is represented as
vengeful, mean and authoritarian. She is also described in sensory
terms: smelling of make up and chemical products. By the descriptions
provided in the book it is unclear whether Jane is actually powerful or
widely loathed or possibly both. Jackie remains a sidekick most of the
time with few insights of her own. Moreover the story telling itself is
not consistent. Some pages were tedious in the descriptions and never
quite as engrossing as they could be, possibly because the reader never
actually feels much compassion for Alana. The book also has grammatical
and typographical errors in places.
The girls and in fact, all the students at this fictional school
seem Caucasian and somewhat indistinguishable in the descriptions of
their appearance. The setting of the school and the various activities
of the students imply privilege and a higher socioeconomic background.
Many of the specific references might not be relevant for children
outside of this demographic.
Despite these shortcomings the book is a valiant effort and its true
test will lie in whether the advice, the writing style and the content
are meaningful and relevant to Alana's peer group. Teachers could use
the book to encourage discussion and self-expression surrounding
interpersonal challenges and bullying in middle schools. The author's
age can be another point of discussion and whether a peer's perspective
is more meaningful to students than that of an adult.
Reviewed by Girija Kaimal, EdD, MA, EdM, Harvard University Graduate
School of Education.
Bishop, Rudine Sims (2007).
Free within Ourselves: The Development of African American
Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Rudine Sims Bishop, the author of Free within Ourselves: The
Development of African American Children's Literature is a familiar
name in the realms of children's literature, multicultural education,
and literacy education as an educator, mentor, and researcher. In
her long career, she has also been an essayist (Stories Matter: The
Complexity of Cultural Authenticity in Children's Literature,
2003), an editor (Kaleidoscope: A Multicultural Booklist for Grades
K-8, 1994), and an author (Shadow and Substance: Afro-American
Experience in Contemporary Children's Fiction, 1982; Presenting
Walter Dean Myers, 1991).
This exemplary author has created an exemplary text. As its title
states, Free within Ourselves: The Development of African American
Children's Literature covers the development of works created by
African Americans about African Americans both as authors and
illustrators. It concentrates on fiction and poetry written for
children up to the age of fourteen, (grades pre-K-8).
The introduction of the book succinctly covers issues related to the
paucity, when compared to the total publishing output of children's
literature, of African-American authored and illustrated children's
literature about African Americans and their life experiences. There is
also an overview of the external social, economic and political factors
which negatively affected the development of a flourishing body of
work. Throughout the book, Bishop employs an intriguing, approachable
conversational style, making deeper philosophical and critical concepts
easily understandable to both lay and professional or academic readers.
Following this introduction, the text embarks on a comprehensive
chronological journey describing the development of an oral tradition
in African American people during slavery, the quest for literacy and
education during and just after slavery, and the development of a
children's literature accurately reflecting the life experiences of
African American children up to the present time. All of this is
described in the context of the existing social, political and economic
forces of the times along with comparisons to developments in
"mainstream" children's literature.
The first chapter covers the pioneering works, many by women, found
primarily in church-supported periodicals of the nineteenth century.
Then Bishop surges into the twentieth century. One chapter is devoted
to the Brownies' Book, the celebrated children's magazine
created in 1920 by W.E.B. Dubois, Jessie Fauset, and Augustus Dill.
Succeeding chapters cover the works of authors, poets, and illustrators
whose contributions though vital, are now forgotten. A multitude of
well-known authors, illustrators and poets such as Langston Hughes
(whose first literary efforts and high school graduation were
highlighted in the Brownies' Book), Arna Bontemps, Ellen Tarry,
Virginia Hamilton, Walter Dean Myers, John Steptoe, Jacqueline Woodson,
Christopher Paul Curtis are also discussed.
Each chapter also considers the movements and philosophies that
affected the development of the literature and the genres which were
explored as a result. These include the mid-century Civil Rights,
Intercultural Education, Multicultural Education and Black Arts
Movements and concepts such as "cultural authenticity" and "liberation
literature." In addition, the author provides a critical evaluation of
the works covered and an estimation of their historic and present-day
Each chapter contains a bibliography of young adult and children's
resources mentioned. The bibliographies can be used to highlight gaps
in library collections and the cultural literacy of the reader. Sadly,
many of the young adult and children's works cited are out of print,
proving again the need for acceptance and widespread reading of writers
and illustrators from "parallel cultures," Virginia Hamilton's
preferred term for "minorities" (p. 198). All other resources are
mentioned in the reference lists at the end of the book. There is an
inset section of illustrations reproduced in black-and-white between
pages 176 and 177, containing examples of the art of the illustrators
discussed in Chapters 8 and 9. The book also contains a combined index
of subjects, titles, and authors and illustrators.
The uses of this book are many: as a supplementary text for
children's literature, literacy education and elementary education
courses; and, as a literary history for African-American studies
courses. For those familiar with African American children's
literature and its historical development, this book will prove a
cogent, comprehensive, accessible one-volume resource. For those
unfamiliar with the subject, this book will be a revelatory
introduction. It can also be used as a resource through its
bibliographies and reference list to discover previous scholarship on
the topic, as well as pioneering literature that may have disappeared
from many library and resource collections and pertinent current
literature that should be included. In our diverse society, this is an
essential, required text for students, educators, librarians, and
Brownies' Book. [Electronic Version](1920, January -1921,
November). Digital Collections From the Rare Book and Special
Collections Division, Library of Congress. Retrieved December 13, 2007
Fox, D.L. & Short, K.G. (Eds.) (2003). Stories matter: The
complexity of cultural authenticity in children's literature.
Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Reviewed by Sheila Kirven, Education Services Librarian, New Jersey
City University, Jersey City, NJ.
Higgerson, Mary Lou & Joyce, Teddi A. (2007).
Effective Leadership Communication: A Guide for Department Chairs
and Deans for Managing Difficult Situations and People.
Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing.
There are multiple operational models that define higher education
and likely multiple effective ways to address the issues facing higher
education. However according to Mary Lou Higgerson and Teddi A. Joyce
there is most likely a single phrase that defines how to be successful
in every model: "Live in the sunshine" (p. 61).
The authors offer case studies as a helpful guide through complex
scenarios that might be hard to conceptualize from multiple
perspectives. Although the administration approves the institutional
mission, "the curriculum is typically owned by the faculty" (p. 6); is
administrative curriculum direction appropriate? The theoretical overt
archetype Dr. Schmidt can excel in herculean tasks, yet his curriculum
is impenetrable to palpable reason; should he be reprimanded, or
"should you issue an ultimatum?"(p. 11). The struggling untenured Dr.
Chessman has "mediocre student evaluations" (p. 119); do you review or
revise his methods? Diametrically opposed views can grid-lock
discussions and cause the hypothetical Dr. Collins to emote; do you
exclude her for fear that discussion will "provoke anger or
defensiveness?" (p. 236).
The authors of Effective Leadership Communication are both
vice-presidents in higher education with exceptional experience and
track records on which to draw. They have taken that simple concept
– live in the sunshine – and developed it into a concise
text. The book accommodates the myriad of issues facing chairs and
deans by formulating realistic practices for daily use. Granted, the
issues facing higher education are dynamic and fluctuate under such
shifting conditions as national disaster, political turmoil,
diminishing resources and fluctuating tax bases. So while it may be
difficult to summarize the issues facing higher education, or facing
chairs and deans, the authors have established a framework defining the
skills it takes to be successful regardless of the issues.
Through fifteen chapters formatted into three sections, the authors
have structured the text such that it can work both as a user's guide
and as a quick reference. Consistent with Daryl R. Leaming's (2004)
text that establishes the origin of leadership as self-reflection,
("Above all else, academic deans and department chairs–and all
leaders–must come to terms with and accept who they are" [p. 1]);
Higgerson and Joyce establish three central themes: know yourself, know
your audience and expect trouble. The authors discuss issues in real
terms and then follow-up the more open discussion with specific
straight forward summaries. You can easily find the skills, tactics
and concepts Higgerson and Joyce advocate in the text being utilized in
hypothetical situations throughout it to convey a comprehensive
message. From managing people, to being "able to say that the idea was
reviewed" (p.188), to getting the most out of people where good enough
is not good enough any longer, the text presents a cohesive
multidimensional message. Interestingly you can conceptualize how the
authors might have envisioned this book in terms of the medieval
trivium: logic, grammar and rhetoric.
Initially, the authors differentiate building a communication
foundation from developing communication style in terms of logic. Here
the authors weave an intricate web of antidotal progression focusing
more on how chairs and deans should guide themselves and anchor their
decisions to create "a publicly shared logic" (p. 24). They work hard
to keep the focus on the chair and dean even while increasing
involvement and discussion with other people whom may be "less
informed" (p. 24). The authors stress how and why a new leader
establishes himself or herself in the context of relationships. They
use case studies to support the reader through this journey and anchor
the chairs and deans' decisions in support of the administration's
It is no surprise that they would focus the reader to understand how
and why the chair or dean acts and what the chair or dean shares with
the faculty and administration. This focus is important because, as
the authors note, all the concerned parties will be doing exactly that
– guessing what the chair or dean is thinking. Understanding how
others view the role and actions of the chair or dean can substantially
enable that leader to know how to communicate with others. Even though
sharing is ubiquitous throughout the text, Higgerson and Joyce still
suggest caution "to consider the salient points and determine how much
information can be shared with others" (p. 45).
As Higgerson and Joyce progress into grammar, the facet
appropriately changes to how and why the chair or dean chooses his or
her words. The message should really be understood in its most broad
sense of sharing the human experience, both through actions and words.
The specifics of the message are of critical importance. It should not
surprise any reader that certain words or phrases set off immediate
visceral reactions. The authors take appropriate time in the text to
assist chairs and deans to develop skills for viewing and conveying
content in context, refocus issues in terms of the institutional
mission and desensitize issues when considering how to approach shared
The authors use the same rich discussions, case-studies and
arguments in developing concepts relating toward communicating with
constituents. The authors highlight the importance of framing goals,
decisions and information for the hypothetical Dr. Schmidt and Dr.
Chessman in multiple case study scenarios. Accepting human nature as
part of the human experience, Higgerson and Joyce recommend against
surprises and in favor of being predictable. If faculty and staff know
what to expect, then they should not be surprised by when or how you
act in your capacity as chair or dean.
Although this book is directed toward managing difficult situations
and people in higher education, I feel the authors have
mischaracterized faculty as "typically [lacking] understanding of the
institutional context" (p. 51). This misinterpretation tends to set a
comprehensively negative connotation that all faculty members are
ignorant of the bigger picture and seldom access "from a broader,
institutional context" (p. 51). Managing diversity extends beyond
simply noting that action has a larger purpose based on the mission, it
also respects multiple interpretations of the mission.
Taken together logic and grammar should be used to create rhetoric
for everyone; a persuasive message anchored in the institutional
mission and framed in context. This really is the comprehensive
description and analytical process of accommodating all personality
types. The authors use case studies to strategically explain how
decisions that seem against common sense and analytical thought can
even help the overtly emotional Dr. Collins relate to the institutional
mission. When the process may seem counter-productive, the authors
discuss how each decision is ultimately helpful to chairs and deans as
leaders. It is important to note that the chair or dean is a leader of
even those that do not want to be lead. The authors develop reasonable
steps the chair or dean can take to support and enable all participants
to interact beneficially, even if they do not want to interact at all.
Ultimately though, Higgerson and Joyce elaborate effectively on
leading five specific types of difficult faculty; a process "similar to
herding cats or frogs" (p. 179). The case studies are a helpful
literary device to guide the reader through complex scenarios that
might be hard to conceptualize from multiple perspectives.
This text clearly builds a pragmatic program that any reasonably
minded chair or dean can turn into real-world results. The text
warrants attention whether you are a chair, a dean, a faculty member or
simply have a job in higher education. The methodology clearly
benefits chairs and deans, but it also encourages appreciation of other
people's views, a skill we all can benefit using–even those that
might typically lack understanding of the institutional context.
Leaming, D. R., (2004). Managing people: A guide for department
chairs and deans. Bolton, Massachusetts: Anker Publishing Company.
Reviewed by Reviewed by Blair Copeland, EDHE 6720, University of North
Horn, Martha & Giacobbe, Mary Ellen (2007).
Talking, Drawing, and Writing: Lessons for Our Youngest Writers.
Portland, Maine: Stenhouse
Talking, Drawing, and Writing: Lessons for Our Youngest
Writers by Martha Horn and Mary Ellen Giacobbe begins by exploring
the importance of talk for developing writers in kindergarten. Because,
as they point out, talk is one of the basic symbol systems, they see
talk as more than just a way to rehearse ideas for writing. Rather, it
allows children to expand on their thinking, and therefore come to
understand better what it is they want to communicate. This book's
focus on storytelling as worthy of instructional time is unique to
books about writing with young children. Oral language, which is
foundational to literacy development, has not received enough attention
from researchers, policymakers, or practitioners. By way of introducing
the thinking behind this book, the authors explain that they
deliberately chose not to focus on genres like poetry or informational
texts because their belief is that children's stories are the "heart
and soul of our work" and deserve a book dedicated to them.
As the authors explain their reasons for focusing on teaching
children to tell stories, it's obvious that the authors truly
understand children. They reveal their vast experience of how children
behave, how children write, the kinds of barriers children may face as
they write, and they explain in plain language how to support children
as they grow as storytellers (oral, written, and drawn). Also, the
authors tell stories about classrooms, teachers, and children. Stories,
which are a powerful way of coming to understand, are a strong strand
throughout the book, even finding their way into the lessons
themselves. Finally, the authors underline the importance of teachers
telling stories because they often don't understand that they
themselves indeed have stories worth telling. As a teacher educator,
I've seen this to be true in terms of teachers becoming comfortable
with writing in front of children, which might be easier for teachers
if they began with storytelling.
The authors, in their work over the years with young children, have
decided that drawing is worth teaching. Since drawing is a form of
writing for young children, they deserve to have instruction that helps
them to draw well, and that means that just as with writing, teachers
need to model drawing in front of their children and talking with them
about how to communicate their intended meaning through drawing. Though
children naturally draw symbolically, the authors have found that
teaching them about how to draw in a representational way does not
interfere with their natural instincts; they seem to blend symbolic and
representation drawing into one. Drawing is also important because it
provides students who aren't yet writing with letters and words a way
to communicate. Drawing also provides another path for children to
In order to teach students to draw representationally, they begin
with specific lessons on drawing and by having students record their
learning in sketchbooks. They also study the illustrations in specific
mentor texts, such as My Dog Rosie written by Isabelle Harper
and illustrated by Barry Moser. They don't expect that children will
transfer this learning to their Drawing and Writing Books fully and
immediately, but rather incrementally.
The main work that children do at the beginning of the year is in
these Drawing and Writing books, which are easy for children to manage
in early kindergarten. They are described and photographed in detail so
that teachers can replicate them in their own classrooms. Later in the
year, when it becomes clear that students are ready to move to multi-
page stories, they are introduced to booklets—stapled, lined
paper with covers. Lessons for why, how, and when to introduce booklets
The authors resisted providing lessons to teachers for years, but
then realized that some lessons are needed by all children, while other
lessons have to be created specifically for the context in which a
teacher is working. The lessons provided in this book all include an
explanation of the context for the lesson, the lesson itself, and
materials needed. Embedded in the lessons are examples of language used
by actual teachers with actual students, which helps the reader imagine
how to teach the lesson in his or her own classroom.
Teaching children to write words and sentences also receives
attention in this book. Through interactive writing, students see
writing modeled by the teacher and peers. Through working in their
Drawing and Writing books, and with teacher support, students who have
come to school without extensive knowledge of letters and words learn
to communicate their meaning through recording the initial sound of
words. There are lessons for how to teach students to record initial
sounds and the prominent sounds, how to write words that are known and
don't need to be sounded out, and how to write sentences.
Assessment is addressed in a separate chapter. Teachers are shown
how to look at children's writing and drawing in terms of what they can
do, in terms of the craft of writing as well as the conventions of
writing. The point of looking closely as students' writing is to
determine what needs to be taught. This is systematically supported in
the Cumulative Writing Record, which is included as an appendix.
Clearly, the main audience for this book is kindergarten teachers,
but it would also be useful to all teachers in the PreK-2 range,
literacy coaches, principals, and teacher educators. It would work well
as the focus for a study group of kindergarten teachers, who would find
the appendices with reproducible forms, the lessons, and the
photographs especially helpful for putting the ideas into practice.
Reviewed by Sylvia Read, who teaches language arts methods and
children's literature to preservice and inservice teachers at Utah
State University. Her research interests include writing instruction
practices in K-5 classrooms, the reading and writing of nonfiction
texts with primary grade students, and the authenticity and quality of
multicultural literature for children.
Merrell, Kenneth W.; Parisi, Danielle M. & Whitcomb, Sara A. (2007).
Stong Start: A Social and Emotional Learning Curriculum, Grades K-
Over the past two decades, wider social, political and economic
forces are having an undeniable impact on our nation's youngest, most
vulnerable citizens—our children. Many families today are living
under tremendously stressful conditions such as unemployment, family
instability, increased concentrated poverty, and alienation. For the
most defenseless members within the family unit, such extreme stressors
have a direct impact. Educational research identifies increasing
instances of problem behavior and mental health issues in young
children resulting in increased rates of school exclusion. Gilliam
(2005) found that the pre-kindergarten expulsion rate is 3.2 times
higher than the rate for K-12 students. This may indicate a
simultaneous problem wherein educators lack preparation to deal with
difficult behavior and real incidences of problem behavior and mental
health issues in young children. Moreover, accountability pressures
continue to promote practices in primary education with a narrowed
focus on academic skills and testing at the expense of social and
emotional learning. Yet, attending systematically to students' social
and emotional skills has been shown to increase academic achievement,
decrease problem behavior, and enhance the quality of relationships
surrounding each child (Elias et al., 1997).
Unfortunately, current trends indicate an increasing reliance on the
use of school exclusion and psychiatric medication (Olfman, 2006) as
quick remedies to address children's emotional and mental health and
problem behaviors. As such, there is an urgent need to arm educators
with alternatives that increase students' capacity to self-regulate
their emotions and behavior in school and all other environments.
Providing concrete guidance to schools, educators and families, within
a framework of prevention, affords children the critical skills
required for success in the short and long term. In Strong Start: A
Social and Emotional Learning Curriculum for Grades K-2, Merrell,
Parisi & Whitcomb provide such guidance in an exceptionally useful,
practical, and straightforward manner.
Rooted in developmental research and professional practical
experience, the Strong Start curriculum provides schools and
teachers serving our youngest students with a carefully designed
universal prevention program to help them build social emotional
resiliency and competence. Some of the specific curriculum goals
include teaching children: to identify and understand their feelings
and other people's feelings; appropriate ways to express
feelings; to understand the link between how they think, behave and
feel; skills to monitor and modify their feelings, thoughts and
behaviors; behavioral and affective techniques to relax and remain calm
in times of stress or worry; effective communication skills. There are
ten main lessons and two "booster" lessons that include explicit step-
by-step guidance for teachers. Each lesson incorporates the use of
literature and hands on activities. A "feelings" bingo game is even
provided in the appendices.
There are several other noteworthy aspects of the curriculum.
First, as opposed to "shot in the arm" lessons, this curriculum
provides clear guidance for teachers to embed key lesson ideas
throughout the school day and school year so there is continual
reinforcement of the core of each lesson. Correspondingly, the
curriculum was designed as a companion to the evidence based Strong
Kids curriculum for grades 3-5 and 6-8; and Strong Teens
program for adolescents for ongoing social-emotional learning. Second,
the authors address at length the importance of cultural responsiveness
when implementing the curriculum and explicate specific strategies for
making cross-cultural adaptations to better fit the needs of diverse
children. This is also reflected in the images used within the
curriculum that represent children from all racial and ethnic groups.
Third, the curriculum is low in cost and comes with a CD that
facilitates teacher sharing of materials. Finally, embedded in the
curriculum is promotion of family involvement. Each lesson has a brief
"Strong Start Bulletin" addressed to the family that describes the
week's lesson in easy to understand language and suggests books
relevant to the lesson for
at-home reading. Most importantly, the Bulletin provides key lesson
ideas as bullet points for application in the home environment. In
short, Strong Start is a phenomenal, comprehensive, and
practical curriculum that no K-2 teacher should be without!
Elias, M.J., Zins, J.E., Weissberg, R.P., Frey, K.S., Greenberg, M.T.,
Haynes, N.M, et al. (1997). Promoting social and emotional learning:
Guidelines for educators. Alexandria, VA: Association for
Supervision and Curriculum.
Gilliam, W.S. (2005). Prekindergarteners left behind: Expulsion
rates in state prekindergarten systems. New Haven, CT.: Yale
University Child Study Center.
Olfman, S. (2006). No child left different. Westport, CT.:
Reviewed by Judi Vanderhaar, University of Louisville College of
Education and Human Development.
Opitz, Michael F. (2007).
Don't Speed – Read!: 12 Steps to Smart and Sensible Fluency
New York: Scholastic.
With the publication of Don't Speed – Read! Michael
Opitz has combined the recent research works of major researchers in
the area of reading fluency into an excellent, brief, very readable
summary for teachers. This book is aimed at elementary school teachers
who are looking for the optimum methods to teach fluency to young
readers. His twelve steps, framed as chapters in the book, lead the
reader from a definition of fluency through assessment and planning for
instruction with meaningful activities, to communication with families.
For researchers, this book also offers suggestions for further research
into teaching fluency and other related topics. Drawing upon many other
experts in the field, Opitz provides a wealth of valuable information,
both in the text and in the charts that accompany each chapter.
Opitz points out that there is little consensus in the professional
literature for a definition of fluency. His definition, reading with
speed, accuracy and prosody for the sake of better comprehension of
text, seems to be a logical one based on recent research. Many
researchers and classroom teachers use one or two of the above three
components,(Pikulski, 2006) but Opitz suggests that using all three
components as a basis for assessment and instruction in elementary
school will produce optimum results for children. He also comments
that what constitutes "fluency" fluctuates with various factors such as
reader motivation and/or background knowledge, text topic and/or
difficulty, and the reading environment (p. 9). Opitz also notes that
a teacher's view of how to best teach reading is inexorably bound to
how that teacher assesses and plans for instruction. Along with
Pressley, Opitz suggests that not only do teacher beliefs guide actions
but student learning is maximized when teachers are able to articulate
"why they do what they do" (Pressley, et. al. 2001).
This book is one in a series called, "Theory and Practice."
Chapters are brief, typically 6 to 8 pages, but nevertheless, are full
of important information. Each chapter ends with a "reflection"
section. This section contains a chart for the reader to use to
summarize chapter information as well as a blank page on which the
reader may create a summary statement. This addition to each chapter
makes this book an excellent choice for professional development
seminars and teacher "study groups" as well as being useful to any
teacher who individually wishes to pursue professional development and
increased professional knowledge.
Each chapter is also accompanied by charts that clearly delineate
important concepts. Chapter 4 contains charts to assess children's
fluency and charts for children to assess their own fluency. Chapter 5
contains many excellent activities that can be used to promote fluency.
Two appendices also contain forms for assessment and more excellent
fluency activities for children. While these are clearly designed for
teachers (a typical activity begins, "Students read," or "The teacher
reads") nevertheless, many could be done by parents at home with a
single child or with 2 or 3 children. Chapter 11, "Communicating with
Parents," notes that many parents really don't know what to do to help
their children become readers. Saying, "Read to your child," as
teachers have done for years, is not enough for the parent who has no
experience of being read to as a child. That parent needs more
explicit information about what teachers expect when they say, "Read
to your child." Many of the activities in Chapter 5 and in Appendix B
could be easily adapted for a newsletter home to parents with suggested
activities for parent and child.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who teaches young
children to read, whether classroom teacher or reading specialist.
This book is filled with a wealth of information as well as suggestions
for planning for instruction, assessing fluency, providing an optimum
classroom environment, and working with parents. With each page I
turned, I could see how I could use this book with my college students,
both undergraduate Elementary Education majors and graduate majors who
are preparing to be Reading Specialists. This is an excellent
Pikulski, J. (2006). Fluency: A developmental and language perspective.
In S. J. Samuels & A. Fargstrup (eds.) What research has to say
about fluency instruction (pp. 70 đ 93). Newark, DE: International
Pressley, M.; Allington, R.L.; Wharton-McDonald, R.; Block, C.C. &
Morrow, L.M. (2001). Learning To Read: Lessons from Exemplary First-
Grade Classrooms. New York: Guilford.
Reviewed by Dr. Lynda Robinson, Associate Professor, Department of
Education, School of Education and Behavioral Sciences, Cameron
University. She received her Ph. D. in Child Language and Literacy
Development (Education) from University of Illinois in 1990. Her fields
of expertise are early childhood, reading, and children's literature.
Tufte, Edward R. (2006).
The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within.
Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press
PowerPoint was recently listed by authors in USA Today as one
of the top 25 inventions "…that changed our lives since 1982"
(Acohido, Hopkins, Graham, & Kessler, 2007). The authors boast that,
"lecturers from CEOs to sixth-graders display topic headings and charts
with the click of a mouse" (PowerPoint section). While we could argue
about the significance of certain things on the their top 25 list
(e.g., lettuce in a bag), we whole heartedly agree that PowerPoint has
"changed public speaking forever" (PowerPoint section).
The use of PowerPoint (and slideware software in general) has become
ubiquitous; whether in a corporate board meeting or a classroom,
PowerPoint is commonplace. In fact, it is estimated that over 30
million PowerPoint presentations are given each day(Weinstein, 2006).
This rise in popularity has attracted supporters and critics alike.
Supporters can be found in every school, college, and university
throughout the country; critics are fewer, but their numbers are
The most notable, or at least the most vocal, critic of PowerPoint
is Edward Tufte. The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint is a brief
monograph, or treatise, that is a must read for any PowerPoint user and
every educator. Throughout The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint,
Tufte argues the following:
We will focus on elaborating on each of these points.
- PowerPoint's low resolution is inadequate to display rich content.
- PowerPoint's low resolution encourages bulleted outlines which
- PowerPoint's deeply hierarchical and linear structure
decontextualizes and hides information.
- PowerPoint has a tendency to fragment narrative and data.
- PowerPoint encourages a preoccupation with format, conspicuous
decoration, and phluff rather than content.
Tufte argues that PowerPoint's low resolution makes it difficult to
display information rich data-content. Unlike paper or computer
screens, PowerPoint slides typically contain very little information.
Regular users are very familiar with running out of room on a slide.
Related to low resolution, Tufte argues that PowerPoint encourages the
use (and overuse) of bullet outlines, which dilute thought, narrative,
and data. He is especially critical of the use of PowerPoint in our
classrooms. He argues,
Instead for writing a report using sentences, children learn how to
decorate client pitches and infomercials…student PP exercises (as
seen in teacher's guides, and in student work posted on the internet)
typically show 5 to 20 words and a piece of clip art on each slide in a
presention consisting of 3 to 6 slides – a total of perhaps 80
words (20 seconds of silent reading) for a week of work. Rather than
being trained as mini-bureaucrats in the pitch culture, students would
be better off if schools closed down on PP days and everyone went to
The Exploratorium. Or wrote an illustrated essay explaining something.
While Tufte fails to demonstrate convincingly that the use of bullet
outlines make people stupid or children illiterate, the use of bullet
outlines can encourage oversimplification and decontextualization of
material; the use of multiple layered bullets can further
decontextualize material by blurring connections and relationships
Hierarchical and Linear Structure
Tufte also criticizes PowerPoint for being deeply hierarchical and
linear. By default, PowerPoint is a very linear tool. In fact, this is
possibly part of its appeal for educators. However, despite the default
hierarchical and linear structure, PowerPoint does not have to be used
in a linear and hierarchical way. For instance, by typing in the number
of a slide and hitting enter, a presenter can advance to any slide in a
Thus, Tufte's criticism of PowerPoint's hierarchical and linear
structure has more to do with the way presenters think about and plan
presentations—that is, the cognitive style of
PowerPoint—than with the tool itself. However, PowerPoint does
seem to encourage hierarchical and linear presentations through its
default settings and "auto content" wizards.
Preoccupation with Format
Tufte is very critical of PowerPoint's preoccupation with format,
conspicuous decoration, and phluff; in fact, Tufte coined the term
PowerPoint Phluff to describe the way PowerPoint helps people focus
more on decoration and chartjunk than serious analysis. The millions
of PowerPoint templates available online alone illustrates Tufte's
point that PowerPoint or, perhaps better put, PowerPoint users are
preoccupied with format and decoration.
It is our experience that PowerPoint users are also infatuated with
clip art. Richard Mayer has illustrated that a picture is not always
worth a thousand words. A picture or an image needs to be relevant, or
it can actually detract and distract from a presentation and learning.
Yet, PowerPoint users continually include unrelated clip art or
obnoxious slide transitions, typically in the name of fun.
Throughout The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint, Tufte
essentially argues that presenters (especially those reporting
scientific information), would be better off replacing PowerPoint with
Word. Rather than identifying strategies to improve the way we use
PowerPoint, Tufte seems to suggest that we should simply abandon it for
Moving Beyond Tufte
The work of Tufte (2006), Norvig (n.d.), and others is powerful and
persuasive. In fact, Wineburg (2004) states that educational
researchers should not create a PowerPoint presentation until they
have read The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint and the work of
Tufte focuses a great deal on the tool. He seems to blame a piece
of software for the way that humans are using it. One could argue that
PowerPoint does not give bad presentations, people give bad
presentations. While recognizing the role presenter's play in bad
PowerPoint presentations, Tufte argues that PowerPoint is becoming more
than just a tool but rather a cognitive style.
PowerPoint is so engrained in our culture that there is an unspoken
expectation that in certain environments, one must use PowerPoint. Try
to imagine doing a paper presentation at certain major conferences
without PowerPoint. You will be labeled a luddite or even worse-
technologically illiterate. Or imagine giving a PowerPoint presentation
and not handing out the PowerPoint slides? When a tool becomes this
deeply ingrained in a culture, it becomes more than just a tool.
However, this does not dismiss the fact that how people use PowerPoint
is still very much in their control.
Tufte suggests that there is no hope for PowerPoint. His single
mindedness is perhaps his main downfall. Tufte's only advice is
essentially to abandon its use.
Despite the shortcomings of the day-to-day use of PowerPoint in our
board rooms, schools, and universities, it is not inherently evil.
There is a person behind every poor PowerPoint presentation, and this
person is ultimately to blame for any bad decisions. It is time for
educators and speakers alike to take responsibility for their poor use
of PowerPoint and to take back control over their presentations and
lessons. While Tufte does not offer specific strategies on how to
improve the way we use PowerPoint, his work is a great starting point
by helping us begin to think differently about the software.
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Norvig, P. (n.d.). The Gettysburg PowerPoint presentation. Retrieved
June 1, 2007, from http://norvig.com/Gettysburg/
Weinstein, H. (2006). PowerPoint misuse raises threat of losing
audiences. The Business Journal of Phoenix. Retrieved November
1, 2007, from http://phoenix.bizjournals.com/phoenix/stories/2006/10/02/smallb
Wineburg S. (2004). Must it be this way? Ten rules for keeping your
audience awake during conferences. Educational Researcher,
Reviewed by Patrick R. Lowenthal, Assistant Professor – Regis
University and John W. White, Assistant Professor – Regis