Friday, February 27, 2009

What Keeps Me Writing

Organizers of Spokane’s terrific April 2009 literary festival Get Lit! have encouraged local writers to post a blog on or about March 4th on what keeps us writing. So here goes.
Americans who have fought for equal rights throughout history, that’s who keeps me writing and researching. Activists like Harvey Milk in1970’s in San Francisco who led the charge for gay rights, so well portrayed by Oscar winner Sean Pean in the 20087 movie Milk. Unfortunately that battle still needs to be waged.
During Black History month, I’d like to honor Octavius Catto, a brilliant orator, educator and athlete who stood up for equal rights a hundred years before Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. President Obama has often said he stands on the shoulders of civil rights’ leaders who have gone before him. One of them is Catto, who in 1871 was murdered on the streets of Philadelphia by Democrat party bosses because of his dynamic community organizing of new black male voters. I discovered Catto during research for a book on civil rights activists.
And every day Octavius Valentine Catto inspires me to keep writing, no matter the economy or fewer readers every year. I love this man and will do my best to honor his story and other American activists by sitting down to the computer every morning. Claire Rudolf Murphy

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Money for Libraries

Wouldn’t it be terrific if libraries became a priority in our national consciousness? Just think of the impact that would make on our children and how it would ripple out across the culture.

Now is the time to make it happen.

President Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus package provides a great opportunity for more library dollars and more vitality in both school and public libraries.

The bill gives $53.6 billion in to state block grants that must be spent primarily on education. The rest of the money will be spent as the governor sees fit.

We know libraries should be a top priority. It’s up to us to speak up, take action and believe that we can make a difference, that we can change the national agenda. The door is open, and it won’t stay that way for long. Find out what’s happening your state and make your voice heard.

The American Library Association (ALA) has launched a Know Your Stimulus Web site, calling it a one-stop-shop for all things related to the new law. The Web site offers advice on how to apply for library grants, has important links to other sites, and has a complete breakdown of what each state will receive under the new law.

An extra $2 billion of the stimulus package will go to Head Start, the federal early childhood development program. This money, too, could help pump life into libraries and the children’s book business. Head Start is required to collaborate with local libraries, providing storytimes and other literacy events, and promoting library cards.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Every now and then I am reminded of why I write. A recent review of my book Weaving Tapestry in Rural Ireland gave me pause and joy. Although it was written some time ago, I had not seen it until last night, nearly two years after the book's publication. This review brought me much gratification as the project spanned roughly ten years. It is nice to know that the book is considered worthy of study, even by the scholars upon whose turf I did roam. My warmest thanks go to the author of this review Meglena Z. Miltcheva, College of Charleston, S.C., and to Dr.Eileen Moore Quinn, who undoubtedly suggested that Meglena read it...

"THE APPEARANCE OF THIS BOOK owes as much to the author's interest in weaving, harvesting and dyeing yam as to her desire to explore how an ancient craft could be employed in an innovative way to bring fulfillment and renewal to a rural community. With the assistance of local mentors, a group of Irish tapestry weavers most of whom were Irish speakers--came together in 1993 to form a cooperative called Taipeis Gael (Gaelic Tapestries). The author's account of the cooperative and its work can stand on its own as an excellent documentary and instructional source, but it is also our good fortune that Sayres has taken what could have easily been a mundane academic treatise and produced an artistically stunning volume as socially compelling as it is historically meticulous." Read the full review

---Meghan Nuttall Sayres

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Scholastic Book 'n Toy Clubs?

An organization called Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood has recently charged Scholastic, Inc with overpopulating its monthly book club fliers with toys instead of books. By the campaign's count, 14% of the book club's products are not books, and another 19% were books packaged with something else, like stickers.

While I respect the goal of CCFC, I feel that should they succeed in eliminating toy sales from the book clubs and fairs, they'll likely eliminate the book clubs and fairs themselves. My school has tried working with local bookstores to create books-only book fairs. The resulting events have been miserable failures. Further, Scholastic is able to offer huge amounts of book credits to schools providing much needed classroom and library books. Our school uses those book credits, in part, to give books away, helping kids who may not have been able to purchase any. No other book sale I've been involved with has the net result of putting so many books in the school.

The real problem here, is that schools are in a position to have to sell books in the first place. The only reason schools offer Scholastic clubs is to supplement their woefully underfunded book budgets. Washington State, where I live, provides schools $5 per student per year for library books, and about $40 per student per year for textbooks. That's absurd. Personally, I think the CCFC would do a great deal more good if they focused their efforts on lobbying congress for adequate basic education funding. Scholastic is a publisher that, despite all the furry pens and sparkly stickers, is doing a decent job getting books into kids' hands.

Cross-posted to Under the Covers

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Who Needs 4-years of Science & Math?

I’ve been tipped-off to a great e-zine for teachers, by teachers, but of interest to anyone thoughtful about our young people’s education.
teachersnet Gazette
In the current issue Alfie Kohn asks the question: Are we all to enamored with teaching children self-discipline? Awe come on…read it before you make a judgment. Could it be we just want kids to take care of themselves so that we don’t have to be bothered? Does education that focuses too heavily on self-discipline train students to see studying as a means to an end rather than to help them enjoy learning. Secure, healthy people can be playful, flexible, open to new experiences and self-discovery, deriving satisfaction from the process rather than always focused on the product. An extremely self-disciplined student, by contrast, may see reading or problem-solving purely as a means to the end of a good test score or a high grade. I find this idea quite thought-provoking. What do you think?

Another article immediately grabbed my attention: Who Really Needs Four Years of Math and Science? by Steve A. Davidson. I started asking this question in about sophomore year of high school, when I decided: not me. And I’ve survived just fine thank you. I can’t help my kids with the algebra homework, but, hey, I read them lots of books when they were growing up. I’ve heard that counts for a lot. Check out what this guy says. He taught school for 32-years!