You are here


Now Read This: A Look at Books

With renewed political attention on literacy, the time is ripe for reading a good book.

Reading instruction and achievement have gotten almost as much attention this year from President Bush as Sept. 11 and the War on Terror. A major part of the new No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is a 300 percent increase in federal funding for the Reading First initiative-from $300 million in fiscal year 2001 to $900-plus million in 2002 (and, if the president's budget request is granted, $1 billion in 2003).

This funding "makes it a national priority to support teachers in helping every child learn to read," says Donna M. Ogle, former president of the International Reading Association. And all the attention on reading is certainly good news for those involved in book publishing-an industry that could use a boost.

Industry Spotlight

Overall, U.S. book sales increased from 2000 to 2001 by just one-tenth of 1 percent to reach $25.4 billion, according to the Association of American Publishers.

Trade books, or those fiction and non-fiction books available through retail, have been incorporated into teacher lesson plans more and more in recent years, according to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development's book, The Language of Learning: A Guide to Education Terms. Despite this, AAP figures show that trade sales dropped 2.6 percent, to total sales of $6.37 billion, in 2001. The largest drop in the trade category was juvenile hardcover books, with sales down 22.7 percent ($928.6 million) in 2001. Juvenile paperback sales rose, however, by 17.9 percent ($887.8 million).

The textbook industry remains steady, despite that the recession has caused educational budgets to get slashed. Bob Resnick, founder of Rockaway, N.Y.-based Education Market Research, says he hasn't really noticed content changes in textbooks since Sept. 11. "The big textbook companies are not nimble enough to turn on a dime and change their content to reflect current events," he says, adding that only a few small changes may have been made so far.

According to Associated Press reports, textbook companies are at least mentioning Sept. 11 and the war. The cover of one McGraw-Hill high school textbook due out next fall will feature an Army recruiting poster and a picture of Ground Zero rescue workers raising the American flag.

During 1999-2000, the most recent year tracked by Market Data Retrieval, public school spending on instructional materials-which include textbooks, workbooks, videos, software and classroom supplies-rose by 6.1 percent to more than $9 billion, or $195 per student.

Meanwhile, professional/scholarly book sales dropped from 2000 to 2001 by 7.6 percent, according to the Association of American Publishers. Total sales in this category were $4.74 million.

Professional Reading

"When superintendents get together, they tend to ask each other, 'What have you read lately?' " says Paul Houston, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators. To get dialogues going within a district, some administrators publish a list of recommended reading for their staff.

Giving books as gifts is another way education leaders encourage professional reading. "When I was a superintendent and I ran across a book that was particularly powerful, I would go and get a bunch of books and give them to my principals," Houston says.

Despite all the interest in keeping up with professional reading, Houston knows that administrators are surrounded by things they should read, and as a result they "don't read nearly as much as they should." He says it's especially difficult for superintendents to "read sustained pieces of information ... [because] their days are so chopped up. They may read only certain chapters-I think there's a lot of sampling that goes on."

And just what topics are administrators sampling these days? Superintendents are most likely to be caught reading books on leadership and business, Houston says. He adds that, in his district-leading days, he was also quite interested in books covering sociology and demography.

Curriculum directors are more likely to focus on books specific to education, especially those on testing and assessment and accountability, Houston says. In addition, he has noticed an interest surge in spirituality books among the education community. Perhaps a summer reading break is in order.

Melissa Ezarik,, is features editor.

American Productivity and Quality Center

Closing the Achievement Gap: No Excuses, $20

Learn how a diverse school district stared down the widening gap separating high-performing students from low-performing ones and did something about it. 'losing the Achievement Gap: No Excuses chronicles the steps that administrators in Brazosport (Texas) Independent School District took to dramatically increase achievement among students throughout the district regardless of their race, gender or socioeconomic status.

Describing how Brazosport established a continuous improvement plan that led to breathtaking results and nationwide recognition, the book's authors (former Brazosport administrators Gerald Anderson and Patricia Davenport) provide practical approaches and inspiration for those who believe all students can, and must, learn.

Association for Childhood Education Intl.

Brain Research and Childhood Education: Implications for Educators, $22

Ninety percent of what scientists know about the brain has been discovered in the past decade, and the movement to apply this knowledge to education is growing. This 80-page paperback book offers advice to educators derived from interpretations of brain research findings. Authors Doris Bergen and Juliet Coscia specifically address developmentally relevant brain research findings from a scientifically sound perspective that discusses the sound (and unsound) implications of such research for childhood education.

Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

Lessons from Exceptional School Leaders, $22.95

Lessons from Exceptional School Leaders presents specific ways to handle five broad challenges: forming beliefs about school excellence; supporting a strong staff development program; broadening the school or district leadership; adapting leadership skills to specific school or district needs; and addressing the gaps caused by discrimination, racism and poverty. Through interviews with education "greats" such as Al Shanker, Ernest Boyer and Deborah Meier, as well as tips and examples from real schools, the book offers strategies for leading school and district improvement efforts.


Guiding Curriculum Decisions for Middle-Grades series, $18 each

The Guiding Curriculum Decisions for Middle-Grades series helps administrators choose curricula that will sustain the interest of middle-grades students and meet state standards. The books include advice from educators about how they implemented particular curriculum materials and about the instructional approaches they found most effective for student learning. Also included are annotated resources for curriculum materials and for more information about standards and frameworks. An overview of the curriculum decision-making process ties it all together. Mathematics, science and language arts titles are available.

International Society for Technology in Education

Making Technology Standards Work for You-A Guide for School Administrators, $44.95

Making Technology Standards Work for You-A Guide for School Administrators is organized around the International Society for Technology in Education's National Educational Standards for Administrators and includes tracks for curriculum and technology coordinators and library media specialists, as well as site-based, district- and cabinet-level administrators.

Each chapter is geared to one NETSA standard of educational leadership as it applies to technology use-planning, curriculum and instruction, assessment, staff development, and legal and social issues. Specific questions help administrators assess what's in place already, what needs to be done, and who should be involved. The book includes reproducible charts for planning and managing the reform process.

Libraries Unlimited

The Internet Resource Directory for K-12 Teachers and Librarians 2001/2002 Edition, $30

In the Internet Resource Directory for K-12 Teachers and Librarians 2001/2002 Edition, author Elizabeth Miller describes more than 1,500 useful Web sites for educators and students. Organized by subject area and thoroughly indexed, the book offers hundreds of new sites, and all previous listings have been revised as needed. With its stringent inclusion criteria, curriculum-driven organization, online updates and straightforward instructions, the guide serves as a useful Internet directory for educators.


Project-Based Multimedia: Step-by-Step Projects for Integrating Multimedia into Your Classrooms, $20

Project-Based Multimedia: Step-by-Step Projects for Integrating Multimedia into Your Classrooms has five projects to guide high school and middle school teachers in the use of Web multimedia. Projects include: Web photo album, digital autobiography, electronic portfolio, flash cards and a basic Web site. Creating the Web projects can help students develop research, collaboration, communication, project management and critical-thinking skills. The book includes teacher materials, reproducible lessons, step-by-step instructions, interactive training, multimedia and a series of training modules for use with the applications Macromedia Flash 5, Dreamweaver 4 and Fireworks 4.

Oxford University Press

Designs for Science Literacy, $49.95

Based on the premise that curriculum reform must be more extensive and fundamental than tinkering with individual courses and subjects, Designs for Science Literacy covers the issues involved in creating sound instructional materials into a new, coherent K-12 whole. It aims to encourage diverse curricula suited to the needs of individual schools, communities and students. Special attention is paid to the need to link science-oriented studies to the arts and humanities.

Scarecrow Education

Eight at the Top: A View Inside Public Education, $29.95

Call on the community for support during both positive and challenging times. Make contact with each board member every week. Affirm the work of staff and students by being visible at school events.

These are just a few lessons that the women superintendents from California who wrote Eight at the Top: A View Inside Public Education have learned. They share professional and personal narratives from their beginnings as teachers to their moves into administration, looking at the skills they used along the way.

The book is split into five sections: Knowing Your Community, Knowing Your Board, Knowing Your Organization and Its People, Knowing Your Students and Knowing Yourself. Each section contains stories by the unnamed authors that any superintendent can relate to and ends with a bulleted list of lessons learned.

Yale University Press

The Other Boston Busing Story, $26.96

The Other Boston Busing Story examines Boston's METCO, America's longest-running desegregation busing program in America. For 34 years, black children from Boston's inner-city neighborhoods have been bused into more affluent, white, suburban schools. The book includes the thoughts of 65 METCO graduates, who talk about their own experiences. Nearly all of the graduates explain why this type of racial integration isn't easy, but that it's worth the effort.


Leapfrog Schoolhouse

Leaptrack Assessment & Instruction System, Starts at $2,295

This system allows teachers to instantly assess students as they use the LeapPad. Each student is assigned a writable cartridge that is put in the LeapPad when they are working. The cartridge can be popped out and plugged into a LeapPort Cartridge Station. All the information is automatically uploaded to a classroom computer, allowing teachers to see reports on one student or class-wide. LeapTrack then prescribes an individual learning path for each student.

NCS Learn

High Stakes Management, $12,000 (for full package for five schools, two grades and two subjects) and up

The High Stakes Management solution, a suite of tools and services for customers of the software and online learning program SuccessMaker, was developed through research that shows a correlation between student levels in SuccessMaker and student performance on standardized and state tests.

High Stakes Management service options include usage evaluation, reports on progress and statistical analysis to correlate SuccessMaker outcomes to the relevant high stakes test. The solution's real-time feedback was designed to help districts meet specific goals. For example, if a school's goal is for more than 80 percent of students to demonstrate proficiency on their state math assessment, the school can establish a SuccessMaker target level for that goal.

Smart Board

SMART Recorder, $999-$1,999 for hardware, software update free to users

Smart Recorder is an update to Smart Board software, which is used in conjunction with Smart

interactive whiteboards, so lessons and seminars can be captured and played back or viewed online. The software makes it easy to capture and save synchronized data and audio. All annotations and information can be recorded to a single file for later playback in Windows Media Player or online.

Using the software, users control computer applications by pressing on the board's touch-sensitive surface. When a pen is selected from the Smart Pen Tray, users can write over any application using either a finger or a stylus. This software, which includes the Smart Board driver 7.0 and Smart Notebook 2.4, is for Windows.