“She anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.”

Do you like to read aloud to your friends and family? I do. And this week, a trio of articles served as a catalyst for discourse and especially for wild gut-busting laughter during some family car trips.

The Article: How We Are Ruining America by David Brooks

The premise of this piece is that upper middle class Americans deliberately move their families away from the other half (read: “the poor and less educated”) and therefore limit opportunities for inclusion. This essentially bars class mobility. Basically, it is a caste system – locking out the untouchables, with little access to the upper classes. Education is a key part of this, and the system for college admissions is rigged to prioritize children of parents who are wealthy enough to play the game.

screen-shot-2017-07-16-at-7-06-35-am.png

While Brooks’ premise is aligned with my experiences with my own education and my profession as an educator, he makes a BIG MISTAKE – a paragraph so distracting that it is ripe for parody, and, well, just pretty dumb.

tenor.gif

Here it is – in all its glory:

Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.

This is a lesson in writing – reread and ensure that your discourse is aligned and on message. The paragraphs before and after are written with on message and with academic language that fits the tone of the rest of the article. Brooks attempts to use a personal anecdote to connect with the reader – but it is an incredible distraction from his message and drew enormous critical responses about this single paragraph (see the fun part below). The poignant parts are forgotten as America reacts to the mention of delicatessen.

Also interesting to note that Italian is perceived as sophisticated (a change from just a century and change from when Italians were outcasts and even lynched) whereas Mexican is clearly just a step above a Miller High Life,  a bag of pork rinds, and some stale circus peanuts.

And now for the fun part…

Exhibit A: From the poignant blog The Outline, an  op-ed piece by Alex Nichols

Stop patronizing the working class: Why are pundits obsessed with Applebee’s and farm workers?

BOOM! Here’s the question on everyone’s miss after reading the sandwich shop story:

“First of all, how does someone so stereotypically provincial manage to befriend a high-profile Times columnist?”

And the following paragraph (definitely read this one aloud to a friend!) rips the equally-obsessed-with-how-the-lower-castes-handle-food columnists anti-gay conservative Rod Dreher and Bloomberg columnist Meghan McArdle a new one:

There is indeed a pattern here, but it isn’t that working-class Americans universally break out in hives when confronted with food other than hamburgers and mac ‘n’ cheese — it’s that no one wants to go out to lunch with any of these pompous hacks.

BOOM! Ain’t that the truth!

Exhibit B: From The AV Club‘s Sean O’Neal

Explaining David Brooks’ column to a stupid coworker who’s scared of fancy meat

This article is an absolute gem. And a single sentence had my husband and I laughing so hard that my daughters all laughed along with us:

“Indeed, I said single-malted-scotch-ily. I explained how this column serves as yet another clarion call alerting us to America’s slow sinking into a morass of cultural decline, which David Brooks and others like us—we who thoughtfully chew our piquant charcuterie while brooding over the Proustian reveries of ourselves it inspires—can only look upon it sadly, gazing down at our bologna-smeared consorts and lamenting the many bloviating, condescending, overpaid butchers of language and meat that are driving us apart.”

“Single-malted-scotch-ily” – who writes like this? Amazing. Just meet a friend for lunch (antipasto, anyone? or maybe just a gas station pickle in a bag)  and read this article to them. You are giving them a gift, seriously.

 

A Rule of the Park (Boston Tales)

My daughters wandered off the playground and onto a path at the park. Francine was playing with the water fountain, and Carolina was curious about two dogs running nearby. She toddled over to see the dogs.

The dogs were with a woman – she was wearing a sweatshirt with a large red H – Harvard. I saw another woman walking nearby – she was wearing a Yale sweatshirScreen Shot 2017-06-04 at 7.08.46 AMt. I never know any fashion trends. I had on a plain black top, plain black pants, and flip-flops.

One of the Harvard woman’s dogs went really close to Carolina – the dog’s mouth looked disgusting. Large pointed teeth, drool, and matted fur (from the drool). The dog was grey – it wasn’t that big. I picked up Carolina, and Francine continued playing in the water fountain.


The woman turned to me.

She said,”My dogs are really friendly. My 2 year old niece plays with them all the time.”

I said,”It’s not that – it’s just that it’s a rule of the park to have dogs on a leash.”

Signs are posted all around the park that say: Leash, curb, and clean up after your dog. Each sign has a visual of the silhouette of a man with a do
g on a leash and a bag in his hand.

The woman turned to her dogs,”Come on. Come on.” She leashed her dogs and brought them to her car in the nearby parking lot. My daughters and I stayed at the water fountain. The woman then walked back towards us and approached me. “You know – it’s not a rule of the park, but it’s a complete waste of water to let your daughter play with that fountain.”

I just looked right at her, but I didn’t say anything. I was wearing sunglasses, but I still did my best penetrating stare.She walked back towards her car. As she was opening the door, another car pulled up. The driver was a woman, and she had a dog in the backseat.

The Harvard woman began to talk to the second dog lady who was getting out of her car. She was talking loudly – she was broadcasting from the parking lot, and she wanted me to hear her

“You better leash your dog. This little mom over there is hyper about her kids being by a dog that’s off leash. She’s going around saying it’s a rule of the park. I’m actually leaving. Maybe you want to go to.”

Harvard woman then got in her car and drove off. The second dog lady walked her dog to a field a ways away from the water fountain. She played with her dog, off leash. She was not near us. We went back to playing with the water fountain.

Receiving the #Pages4Progress Education Activist Award at World Education’s Annual Dinner

Last Friday evening, I had the honor of attending World Education‘s Annual Dinner at the Artists for Humanity Epicenter in South Boston, where I was the proud recipient of the #Pages4Progress Education Activist Award. It was an incredibly energizing feeling to be a part of an event full of humanitarians dedicated to global education, not to mention the abundance of food and drinks, the futuristic gallery atmosphere, and the rhythmic live music.

I was really stunned when I visited the World Education offices a few weeks ago, and Erin Doheny and Danielle Klainberg presented me with an invitation to the Annual Dinner and asked to recognize me for my #Pages4Progress Summer Reading. Reading is an absolute pleasure for me, and it was not at all difficult to log my pages. However, receiving this award certainly made me feel validated that writing about my love for literacy on this site is, in fact, making an impact. I also think that, in my work with K-8 students, it sets a great example to show them that, just because of reading and writing, I was able to connect with people and attend an incredible celebration. Thank you to World Education for making me feel so proud!

Here are some of my favorite photos and even a video from the event!

My Husband, David

Thank you so much to my husband, David, who always picks up my books from the library. I would not get all this reading done without him.

Literacy Selfie: David Dines and Jennifer Dines (me!) – We were so happy to be out on a Friday night!

Artists for Humanity

Artists for Humanity is a Boston-based organization that provides underserved youth with arts-based employment. Their LEEDS-certified Epicenter felt modern, spacious, and airy – and absolutely full of life!

artists for humanity

Proudly Holding Up the Program at The Artists for Humanity Epicenter

Group Saloum

Afro-Pop band Group Saloum provided the evening’s soundtrack.

Table Eight

David and I were seated at Table Eight with some wonderful company.

I was so happy to see a familiar face – Pamela Civins, Executive Director of Boston Partners in Education. I have had Boston Partners tutor volunteers  in my classroom. They always treat my students like gold, and the students always look forward to the day when their special tutor comes ! My students and I have also been fortunate enough to participate in The Big Cheese Reads.

PamelaCivins

Pamela Civins (left) and I (right)

We also made some new friends!

tim winters

Me and Dr. Thomas Winters of the Occupational and Environmental Health Network

lori and nanette brey magnani

Me, Lori Winters, and Nanette Brey Magnani

World Education Award: Mr. Abdou Sarr

The evening’s primary honoree was Mr. Abdou Sarr, Country Director of World Education Senegal. The audience was disappointed to learn that Mr. Sarr was unable to personally attend the event because his visa had been denied due to concerns regarding Ebola. Moussa Sidibe, Honorary Consul of Senegal, accepted the award on Mr. Sarr’s behalf. Although Mr. Sarr has established and developed an array of social and economic programs in Senegal, I found it most interesting to learn about his work in supporting women in radio production, journalism, and community discussion.

Abdou Sarr video

A video of Mr. Sarr was presented in lieu of a personal appearance.

Burchfield and Moussa Sidibe

Moussa Sidibe, Honorary Consul of Senegal, accepts the World Education Award from Shirley Burchfield, Vice President of World Education’s Africa division.

EmpowermentThroughMedia Women as Reporters Community Listening#Pages4Progress Education Activist Award

I was so nervous to go up on stage in front of all of the extremely accomplished in the room. However, I just put on my biggest smile, and I tried to stand up as straight as possible. I felt so inspired by the incredible accomplishments of Mr. Sarr. As I accepted the award, I thought: “There is so much more work I need to do!”

It was especially humbling to meet World Education President Joel Lamstein, an incredibly accomplished humanitarian who was in fact present at John F. Kennedy’s announcement of the creation of the Peace Corps in 1960.

Here I am, standing tall, and accepting the award from  World Education President Joel Lamstein.

Here I am, standing tall, and accepting the award from World Education President Joel Lamstein.

It was so exciting to see my name in the program.

It was so exciting to see my name in the program.

There’s No Place Like Home

After the big event, David and I returned home to find our little girls sleeping! Before going to bed ourselves, Dave had me pose once more with my award. We plan to hang it in our home next weekend. Thank you, World Education, for giving us such special memories.

Standing Proud Next to the Piano

Standing Proud Next to the Piano

Our Little Free Library: Built by the Dines Family, Powered by the Roslindale Community

Hello, Literacy Change readers, I’m Jenn’s husband, David, and I’ll be guest blogging for this post.

We’re excited to finally give our Little Free Library its proper debut! While it’s been open for business for about a month now–and it’s definitely seen its fair share of activity already–we didn’t hang up the official sign until this weekend when I put the final touches on the paint. We think it looks great and are so happy that three generations of the Dines family collaborated in putting it together.

The Little Free Library on Cornell Street

The Little Free Library on Cornell Street in Roslindale, MA

Like Jenn, I’m an avid reader and all-around lover of books. When Jenn proposed hosting a Little Free Library at our home, I was 101% for it. I’ve seen other Little Free Libraries in Boston and loved the idea of providing our neighborhood with an inviting space to discover and share books. I’m so happy with the response it’s received so far.

I love checking it in the morning and finding a new set of books in it in the evening when I come home from work; while Jenn and I add a few books to the collection, it’s clear our neighbors are eagerly wasting no time in making this their own. I’ve met a few neighbors as they drop off books, with a few driving from a few blocks away to add to or take from the collection. I’m told by a neighbor across the street that he’s seen the same young boy take a new book from the library each day for the past week or so. I have no idea what books he’s taking home, but I couldn’t be happier knowing that this little fella takes advantage of the opportunity to find and explore new books.

Building the Library was a lot of fun.  My dad, who you can see below, is a great woodworker and must be credited with a majority of the work in putting it together. Jenn had sent some pictures of other libraries to him, and he took the idea and ran with it in his designing of the Library. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and thus had to do all the prep work over there so that we could assemble and install the library over the weekend when he visited recently. (Thankfully, his luggage came in a fraction of a fraction of a hair’s weight under the 50lb limit for checked luggage!) We assembled the library that weekend and I took a few hours here and there over the next few weeks painting it to match our house (which was it’s own small project), as I wanted it look like part of the neighborhood. You’ll see the handle I picked out below, which I think lends the whole thing its proper gravitas.

If you’re in the neighborhood, please stop by and visit our library, located at 185 Cornell Street, which is always open to share and accept what could be you or your neighbor’s new favorite book. Or, if Roslindale is a bit of a trek, check out the Little Free Library website and find one closer or host one of your own.

-David Dines

The humble beginnings of the library in our ad-hoc basement workshop.

The humble beginnings of the Library in our ad-hoc basement workshop.

IMG_2243

Humble beginnings part 2. We only found out that weekend that post/stand for the Library would take up most of our time, but it seems to be fairly stable and hopefully permanent now.

The regal lion who grants entrance and guards the valuable treasure inside!

The regal lion who grants entrance and guards the valuable treasure inside!

Rob "Pop-Pop" Dines standing proud and tall with the assembled Library.

Rob “Pop-Pop” Dines standing proud and tall with the assembled Library.

Adding the first books to the Library.

Adding the first books to the Library.

Three generations of Dineses helped put it together: Jenn was the Brains, Dave and Rob were the muscle, and Francine and Sophia provided moral support and final approval.

Three generations of Dineses helped put it together: Jenn was the Brains, Dave and Rob were the Muscle, and Francine and Sofia provided moral support and final approval.

Even before the Library was painted it was filled with the neighborhood's books!

Even before the Library was painted it was filled with the neighborhood’s books!

Adding the final touches to the paint this weekend. While it was functional when it was un-painted, it seemed a little shabby not having it painted.

Adding the final touches to the paint this weekend. While it was functional, it seemed a little shabby not having it painted.

Completed and Official!  The Little Free Library on Cornell Street in Roslindale, MA.

Completed and Official! The Little Free Library on Cornell Street in Roslindale, MA.

Author and Activist Michael Patrick MacDonald Visits the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School

I was both surprised and thrilled when my colleague Susan Lovett sent out an e-mail about arranging a visit for author and activist Michael Patrick MacDonald. I jumped in right away to help organize this event for our school, the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School.

Years earlier, I had taken Mr.MacDonald’s book All Souls: A Family Story from Southie out of the library and read it cover to cover over the course of a single weekend. The book is a memoir of MacDonald’s early life in South Boston during the 1970’s and 1980’s, and the story that unfolds is much more than a personal narrative. All Souls offers a historical narrative with vivid first-hand descriptions of  Boston’s busing era and the influence of notorious criminal “Whitey” Bulger on the Southie neighborhood. The novel is also a spiritual journey of resistance and resilience on the part of young MacDonald, whose bright soul, curiousity, and dedication to his family and community shines through the trauma of living under the effects of poverty, crime, and death. The writing and publication of the book itself is a tribute to MacDonald’s bravery and activism, breaking the unwritten “code of silence” that long prevented the residents of the Southie neighborhood and others like it from reporting and discussing crime, drugs, and deaths plaguing their communities.

Image

My autographed copy of MacDonald’s first novel

 

During Mr. MacDonald’s visit to our school on Tuesday, the acclaimed author spoke to a group of about fifty of our students, who were specially selected to attend the event based on their commitment to social justice and community leadership. Mr. MacDonald talked about the City of Boston’s Gun Buyback program, and he read a passage from his second novel Easter Rising which discussed the post-traumatic stress he experienced following the deaths of his brothers. The students had many questions to ask Mr. MacDonald, and he thoughtfully answered each and every one of them.

After the presentation, students received copies of All Souls (one young man even brought his own hardback from home) and had the opportunity to have their books signed. The students were overjoyed to talk with a real author, and I saw many students reading their books in the hallways while walking back to class. In fact, I taught a class right after Mr. MacDonald’s visit, and I had to ask students to put their new books away to focus on the lesson – this is the kind of focus issue that I am more than happy to see!

Image

Students gather around MacDonald to have their books signed.

Two students from Academy 1 smile and show the cover of the book.

Image

Sixth grade student Rasha shows his beautiful smile as he stands next to Mr. MacDonald.

Image

7th graders Mikel and Kiajah look on thoughtfully while Mr. MacDonald autographs Kiajah’s copy of All Souls.

Over the course of the week, many teachers reported to me that students were carrying the books in their backpacks and “showing off” the autographed books to students and teachers alike. My colleague Alice Laramore commented that the students were treating the books “like a trophy” of Mr. MacDonald’s visit.  I myself have ordered additional copies to use with my intermediate and advanced ESL classes in the last quarter of the year as part of a unit on argument and persuasion – at the conclusion of the unit, students will produce argument essays about how to best prevent violence in an urban community. Mr. MacDonald sent me some photographs of toy gun buyback programs to inspire our students to perhaps organize their own drive. The note I received from Mr. MacDonald read: Jennifer, please share these images from past buybacks and concurrent toy gun turn-ins organized by middle school aged kids, in case that might inspire some local community organizing in the school with the local community. These toy gun turn ins (in exchange for non violent toys and books donated by businesses like Toys R Us and Publishers like children’s lit Houghton Mifflin) are very fun.  And it’s a great way for teens, pre teens, and the smaller children to feel a sense of voice and agency.

Image

Image

Image

Photograph of mothers from Charlestown as promotion for Boston’s third gun buyback

Image

Mr. MacDonald with a young activist and organizer

Mr. MacDonald’s visit was a perfect fit for our school – our building itself is a symbol of triumph over violence, as our school was built by activists on a lot that was once a hub of criminal activity. Formerly named the New Boston Pilot School, the Lilla G. Frederick (LILL-LUH, not LYE-LUH) is itself named for a Grove Hall community organizer.

Dines Family Book Club October Selection: Bad Land

Bad Land:  An American Romance by Jonathan Rahan

Ginger poses with Bad Land in the Dines Dining Room.

Ginger poses with Bad Land in the Dines Dining Room.

My Review from My Goodreads.com Account

This book mirrors the landscape it describes: slow, meandering, and seemingly endless. Although the tragedy of the Montana homesteaders is worthy of a place in American history, the author fails to make the personal connections between the reader and the subject of the book. Raban interviews many different people along the Montana plains, but his writing fails to make the reader feel as if he or she knows the people. It seems more like listening to snippets of a public radio broadcast than making connections with human subjects. The book gives the impression of an overzealous Brit exploring the wildness of the American West in a cheesy PBS documentary, yet, to Americans, it is the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder minus the compellingly simple narrative arcs. Raban meanders through the “Bad Land” of Montana, and every inch seems miserable and gray.

Post-Reading Discussion Questions 

by Jennifer and David Dines

1. Compare the effects of the Homestead Act on the railroad industry to its effects on individual homesteaders.

2. How did personal pride and independence influence homesteaders?

3. What is the role of faith in American invention?

4. How does the Wollaston family’s lifestyle contrast with the environment in which they live?

5. How did the homesteaders’ view of themselves differ from the government’s view of the homesteaders?

6. How did advertising serve as a catalyst for the settlement of the railway?

7. What is the role of debt in middle class American adulthood?

8. How are the grasshopper plagues a metaphor for the homesteaders themselves?

9. In what way is self-sufficiency threatening to organized government?

10. Did the homesteaders realize the extent of their effect on Boston and New York-based investors?

Index Card found in the used copy of the book purchased at Brookline Booksmith

Index Card found in the used copy of the book purchased at Brookline Booksmith

A Trip to the National Book Festival

On Saturday, my mom, my husband, and I visited the Library of Congress‘s National Book Festival, held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. This post is a brief photoessay about our wonderful day at the Book Festival.

 

Let's Read, America!: The 2013 National Book Festival was a two-day celebration of American literary life.

Let’s Read, America!: The 2013 National Book Festival was a two-day celebration of American literary life.

Let's Read, America!: The 2013 National Book Festival was a two-day celebration of American literary life.

Let’s Read, America!: The 2013 National Book Festival was a two-day celebration of American literary life.
Upon arrival, this wonderful volunteer presented us with our orange bags and the beautiful book festival poster.

Upon arrival, this wonderful volunteer presented us with our orange bags and the beautiful book festival poster.

We added a new member to the Dines-Westervelt Family: The Cat in the Hat!

We added a new member to the Dines-Westervelt Family: The Cat in the Hat!

We also spotted that curious little monkey...Curious George!

We also spotted that curious little monkey…Curious George!

Inside the Pavilion of the States, visitors could learn about authors from each U.S. state and territory.

Inside the Pavilion of the States, visitors could learn about authors from each U.S. state and territory.

The states and territories were arranged by region.

6 Young Man with Map

Visitors could get a map and receive a stamp from each state. This young man, a student in the D.C. public schools, was proud to tell me that he was almost finished!

13 New Mexico Display

Each state had its own display table.

12 Massachusetts

At the Massachusetts Table

At the Hawaiian table, volunteers wore beautiful tropical dresses.

At the Hawaiian table, volunteers wore beautiful tropical dresses.

7 Your Map to Some Great Books

My completed map with stamps from all states and territories

What Book Do You Think Shaped The World? (My Answer: The Odyssey by Homer)

What Book Do You Think Shaped The World? (My Answer: The Odyssey by Homer)

9 What is a Book

What is a Book? I loved reading the responses written by visitors for this display.

I came home with about 40 pounds of teaching resources including a dozen full-size posters, over 500 bookmarks, and at least 30 large state maps. I hope to make the National Book Festival an annual family tradition!