Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Science, and Surveys on Benefits of Reading (Ebooks and Hard Copy Books)

Most of us already know the importance of reading for our kids, and that reading is the best indicator of success in school. But here are some more studies supporting why reading is so important for everyone whether they're in or out of school.

Reading reduces stress

A 2009 study (University of Sussex, published in The Telegraph, March 2009) found that reading (for pleasure - not work) for just six minutes can reduce stress levels by 68%.

[Note that listening to music reduced the levels by 61%, a cup of tea or coffee lowered them by 54%, taking a walk lowered stress levels by 42% and playing video games reduced stress levels by 21%.] 

According to the article, psychologists believe reading helps reduce stress because while reading, we concentrate on the reading and this distraction eases the tensions in the muscles and heart. Dr. Lewis, Cognitive Neuropsychologist further notes that,
"...It really doesn’t matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination.”

Reading helps maintain the brain's grey matter

In another study which appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and was reported by ABCNews, elderly people who regularly read are 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than those who don't. According to the study's main author, Dr. Robert Freidland, people who don't exercise their brains lose brain power.

 The Wall Street Journal notes another study of 300 elderly people (published by the journal Neurology) which showed that regular engagement in mentally challenging activities, including reading slowed memory loss in its participants' later years. The article, "Read Slowly to Benefit Your Brain and Cut Stress" by Jeanne Whalen (updated 9/16/2014) also notes a study published in Science where reading literary fiction was shown to help people understand others' mental states and beliefs.


Reading print books may help comprehension better than reading ebooks

A 2014 study led by Anne Mangen at the University of Stavanger in Norway, and Jean-Luc Velay at Aix-Marseille University in France found that 25 subjects who read a short mystery story in print, retained and comprehended more than another 25 who read the story on a Kindle. While there was no significant difference between the groups along emotional measures or to questions about the the plot or setting, Kindle readers scored significantly lower on questions about when events in the story occurred. They also performed almost twice as poorly when asked to arrange 14 plot points in the correct sequence.

Source: Reading Center, University of Stavanger; CNRS/Aix-Marseille Université (via The New York Times)
Source: Reading Center, University of Stavanger; CNRS/Aix-Marseille Université (via The New York Times)

Analyzing their data, they believe that the brain finds it easier to make a mental map of text when it is presented via physical, tactile interaction with the book. They note that,
"Previous research has demonstrated that a mental map is particularly important if the text is long. Lengthy texts call for quicker navigation. You need to be able to leaf back and forth through different parts of the text to see, review, and comprehend relationships and contexts."
Mangen further notes that,
"... laboratory experiments, polls and consumer reports indicate that modern screens and e-readers fail to adequately recreate certain tactile experiences of reading on paper that many people miss and, more importantly, prevent people from navigating long texts in an intuitive and satisfying way. In turn, such navigational difficulties may subtly inhibit reading comprehension. Compared with paper, screens may also drain more of our mental resources while we are reading and make it a little harder to remember what we read when we are done...."
According to an article in The Guardian, Mangen also published a study in 2013, in which she gave 72 Norwegian 10th-graders texts to read in print or in PDF on a computer screen. Comprehension tests following the reading found that, "students who read texts in print scored significantly better on the reading comprehension test than students who read the texts digitally."

 In "The reading Brain in the Digital Age" posted on April 11 2013, Scientific American, Ferris Jabr reports on various studies of digital versus printed text reading. Jabr, for example notes that Before 1992, most studies concluded that people read slower, less accurately and less comprehensively on screens than on paper. More recent studies, however "have produced more inconsistent results."

Surveys about the use of e-readers suggest that our inability to flip pates affects our sense of control and limit our sensory experience, thus reducing long term memory of the text. Studies also find that reading long sentences without links is a skill we all need, but can lose if we don't practice.

As noted in "Science has Great News for People Who Read Actual Books" Rachel Grate notes that,
"Before the Internet, the brain read in a linear fashion, taking advantage of sensory details to remember where key information was in the book by layout.
As we increasingly read on screens,  our reading habits have adapted to skim text rather than really absorb the meaning."
Grate further notes that Tufts University neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf worries that, "the superficial way we read during the day is affecting us when we have to read with more in-depth processing." Wolf and others advocate a "slow reading" movement, as a way to counteract their difficulty many face making it through a book.

Slow Reading

Slow reading advocates recommend 30-45 minutes of daily reading away from the computer, ebooks, smart phones and other distractions of modern technology. These advocates site many of of the studies above noting the benefits of 'slow' low-tech reading such as stress reduction, empathy, and the ability to concentrate.

What do you think?
As always, thank you for your visit.
Please leave your reactions and insights in the comments below

 And, for more on reading, please visit:

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fairy Tales Truths Revealed

Fairy tales are master narratives based on folklore and legends of cultures and times long gone, and are often tweaked and watered-down versions of dark stories and historical events. Today's fairy tales have evolved from centuries-old stories that have often appeared in multiple cultures. Valerie Ogden in The True Stories Behind Classic Fairy Tales notes that,

"Their horrific origins, which often involve rape, incest, torture, cannibalism and other hideous occurrences, are brimming with sophisticated and brutal morality."

Definitions of what exactly fairy tales are, are as  diverse as the tales themselves.

On March 8, 1939 J.R.R.  gave a lecture titled "Fairy Stories" that was eventually adapted into his essay retitled, "On Fairy-Stories" (included in the appendix of Tales from the Perilous Realm) which explores the nature of fantasy and the cultural role of fairy tales. According to Tolkien,
"A 'fairy-story' is one which touches on or uses Faerie, whatever its own main purpose may be: satire, adventure, morality, fantasy. Faerie itself may perhaps most nearly be translated by Magic - but it is magic of a peculiar mood and power...There is one
proviso: if there is any satire present in the tale, one thing must not be made fun of, the magic itself. That must in that story be taken seriously, neither laughed at nor explained away."
Regardless of their origin or definition, many, including Maurice Sendak, Neil Gaiman and J.R.R. Tolkien insist that fairy tales aren't inherently for children, although modern versions are often tweaked and relegated to them.

These tales (and others long lost) were told or enacted dramatically and handed down from generation to generation. Because of this, the history of their development is somewhat obscured. Scholars believe these tales have ancient roots, even older than the Arabian Nights collection (compiled circa 1500 AD). The first famous Western fairy tales, however, are believed to have been told by Aesop (6th century BCE) in ancient Greece. Most of our modern fairy tales come from two sources: Charles Perrault's Mother Goose tales and from The Grimm Brothers.

A French poet, Charles Perrault, believed by many to be the father of fairy tales, gave legitimacy to  eight well known tales (Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, Blue Beard, Puss in Boots, The Fairies, Cinderella, Ricky with the Tuft, and Little Tom Thumb) in his fairy stories for children, Contes de ma mère l’oye (1697; Tales of Mother Goose).  Perrault's tales, were intended for adults because no children's literature existed at that time.  Blue Beard, for example, reads like a crime thriller. His original Cinderella, based on a true story, contains violence as well as the wicked stepsisters butcher their feet when attempting to fit the slipper the Prince had found.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm attempted to preserve the plot and characters of the tales as well as the style in which they were told. In the early 1800's Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm collected the often unforgiving life and stories told by central Europeans.  They were determined to preserve the Germanic oral story telling that was vanishing and so traveled and collected the folklore of that region.

So here are some of the true stories behind some of our favorite fairy tales. For more, please see The True Stories Behind Classic Fairy Tales (by Valerie Ogden posted at November 5, 2014) and The Weird Truths Behind Fairy Tales by K. Thor Jensen:


Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is based on the tragic life of Margarete von Waldeck, a 16th century Bavarian noblewoman, who grew up in Bad Wildungen. Margarete's brother used small children to work his copper mine.
Truths behind the story:
  • Margarete had pale white skin and raven black hair, and lived with a jealous stepmother.
  • The physical labor of the mining left many children deformed, and they were frequently referred to as dwarfs. 
  • The poison apple was offered by an old man who tainted fruits to the workers and other children because he believed they stole from him.
  • Margarete's stepmother sent her to the Brussels court to get rid of her.
  • Prince Philip II of Spain fell in love with her. His father, opposing their romance dispatched Spanish agents who poisoned her
Little Jack Horner Poster Print by Mother Goose collection (26 x 38)
Little Jack Horner Poster by The Poster Corp
Little Jack Horner matches events in the life of Bishop Richard Whiting of Glastonbury and his steward, who was perhaps named Jack Horner. When King Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church and dissolved its Monasteries, Glastonbury remained the sole religious home in Somerset. Whiting, bribed the King in an attempt to keep the abbey, offering him twelve Catholic manorial estates. He then hid the deeds to the estates in a pie crust. Bishop Whiting, however, was convicted of treason for serving Rome and a punishment was quartered and hung at Glastonbury Tor. His steward, absconded with the pie and the deed to the Manor of Mells where his descendants lived until the 20th century.
The Pied Piper of Hamelin truths:
Postcard  found at wikipedia
  • In 1264 (some say 1284) a pied piper offered to rid the Germanic village of Hamelin of its rats.
  • The elders refused to pay him for his efforts and so he enticed the village children to follow him. They never returned.
  • Some believe the Piper led Hamelin's children to join the Children's Crusade leaving for the Holy Land where they perished at sea or starved to death.

Illustration by Edmund Dulac
Cinderella may have been based on the life of Rhodopis, a greek woman whose name means "rosy-cheeked." As a young girl she was captured in Thrace around 500 BCE. The remainder of the story may follow one of two paths:
  1. She was sold into slavery and taken to Egypt where she was noticed by the Pharaoh, Ahmose II. 
  2. As a slave there was a festival she could not attend, but the god Horus, in the shape of a falcon, steals one of her slippers and drops it into the Pharaoh's lap.  When he searches for its owner, he falls in love with Rhodopis.

Little Red Riding Hood was believed to have been first told in 14th century Europe. When Perrault rewrote this tale he was serving in the court of King Louis XIV whose bisexual brother Philippe would often dress as an older woman and attend female-only salons to seduce young women.

Hansel and Gretel image found at
Hansel and Gretel - Katharina Schraderin was the inspiration for the witch in the story. Katharina was a baker in the 1600's how developed a delicious gingerbread cookie. A rival (male) baker became jealous of her success. To secure his own success, he rounded up a posse to attack her in her home and burn her to death in her own oven.

Rapunzel - is the story of Saint Barbara and dates back to the third century. A wealthy merchant living in what is now Turkey had a beautiful daughter named Barbara whom he sequestered from suitors.  When he traveled, he locked her in a tower. While it is uncertain if she grew long hair, she did turn to Christianity, which went against the pagan Rome. Upon his return, her father was ordered to behead her, which he did, but was then struck and killed by lightening.

For more information, please visit:
So much for the gruesome origins. 
For a lighter side, please visit Fractured Fairy Tales: Fun for All Ages 
In the meantime, please leave you own reflections and fairy tale favorites in the comments below.
As always, thank you for stopping by.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Question and Quote: What Makes You Great?

Inspired by ABCWednesday's "Q"Week, Zen pencil, and Amy Poehler (see cartoon below) I thought a variety of thoughts on what makes one great.
"Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them."  ~ William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

Tanya Prive at discusses Top 10 Qualities That Make a Great Leader. And, while meant for corporate leaders, they apply for teachers and parents as well.  Forbes' Top 10 Leader qualities are:
  1. Honesty "Whatever ethical plane you hold yourself to, when you are responsible for other people, its important to raise the bar even higher... and encourage your team to live up to these standards..."
  2. Ability to Delegate "The key to delegation is identifying the strengths of your team, and capitalizing on them."
  3. Communication "Being able to clearly and succinctly describe what you want done is extremely important."
  4. Sense of Humor "Morale is linked to productivity, and it's your job as the team leader to instill a positive energy...Encourage your team to laugh at the mistakes...If you are constantly learning to find the humor in the struggles, your work environment will become a happy, healthy space..."
  5. Confidence "Part of your job as a leader is to put out fires and maintain the team morale... keep everyone working and moving ahead."
  6. Commitment " your commitment not only to the work at hand, but also to your promises..."
  7. Positive Attitude "Keep the office mood in a fine balance between productivity and playfulness...If your team is feeling happy and upbeat, chances are they won't mind staying that extra hour to finish a report, or devoting their best work to the brand."
  8. Creativity "...give issues some thought."
  9. Intuition "Learning to trust yourself is as important as your team learning to trust you."
  10. Ability to Inspire "Make your team feel invested in [their] accomplishments..."

And in closing, here's the inspiring quote by Amy Poehler, and brought to life by Zen Pencils. (

Thank you as always for your visit, and in the comments below, please share some of your inspirations on what makes great people great.

In the meantime, please enjoy Amy Poehler and Zen Pencil's -

"Great people do things before they're ready..."
As always, thank you for your visit.
Please share your ideas of what makes one great in the comments below.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Nick Offerman's "Super Genius" Thoughts

I have been super busy lately and have not had the time to create one of my typical posts.

That said, for ABCWedesnday's "O Week" I'd like to offer the following thoughts of genius by Nick Offerman. Offerman is an actor, writer and carpenter.  In the video above he is playing off his breakout role as Ron Swanson from the comedy series, "Parks and Recreation" beginning a new season this fall on NBC.

Want more Nick Offerman? Visit the following links:

Thank you for your time and your visit. 
Please leave your reactions or your own "super genius" offerings in the comments below.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

New York Comic Convention 2014

This past week, New York City hosted the New York Comic Convention (NYCC) and it was quite a show.  IF you missed it, here are some nifty facts and highlights:

  • The crowds this year at NYCC (which began in 2006) surpassed those of San Diego Comic Con for the first time. What used to be the second largest pop culture convention now vies with  San Diego as largest. In 2013, over 130,000 people attended NYCC, about the same number as San Diego Comic Con.  This year over 150,000 people attended NYCC.
  • It cost an estimated $20 million to put on the 2014 show.
  • This year 14,000 new jobs were created at the Javits Center where NYCC was held.
  • The estimated economic impact of NYCC on New York City is an estimated $70-80 million.
  • The average ticket price for NYCC was $50 (there were day passes, weekend passes, VIP, Press and Professional passes - all at different prices).
  • NYCC 2014 had 900 exhibitors contained within 200,000 square feet of showroom.
  • NYCC 2014 hosted 2000 speakers and presenters.
  • NYCC had 27 major film and television studios exhibiting this year.
For additional video links and information, please see:

mr freeze nycc 2014
Mister Freeze and Poison Ivy (Image found at Business Insider)
Alyssa King poses as Harlequin. Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images (Image found at Business Insider)
(Image found at Business Insider)

(Image found at Business Insider)
(Image found at Business Insider)
(Image found at Business Insider)
(Image found at Business Insider)
Doctor Who favorites (Image found at Business Insider)
Venom - Briana Torres
Briana Torres as Venom from "Spider-Man" (Image from

(Image found at Business Insider)
Our favorite Power Rangers (Image found at Business Insider)
Spaceballs 'Heroes" (Image found at Business Insider)
(Image found at Business Insider)
(Image found at Business Insider)
Frank (from Donnie Darko) - Julio Atehortua
Julio Atehortua as Frank from "Donnie Darko" (Image from
Superman vs Lex Luthor (Image from
Meet McThor, winner of the most creative Friday cosplay (Image found at Business Insider)
"Super Saiyan Deadpool - a Dragon Ball Z and Spider-Man comics hybrid (Image found at Business Insider)
For even more cosplay images please go to:

Transformer meets Chevy's Camaro....(Image found at Business Insider)
Robotics startup Megabots Inc. brought the beginnings of a 15-foot tall, 15,000-pound humanoid robot capable of firing paint-filled projectiles at speeds of 120 mph or more. (Found at Business Insider)
The dragon, Smaug from "The Hobbit" franchise - with eyes that glowed and blinked. (Found at Business Insider)
Artist C J Draden (and others) started with a plain piece of glass, painted it white, and then used an X-Acto knife to etch out a portrait of Groot. (Found at Business Insider)
Special-effects company, Smooth-On, exhibited its foam movie props. (Found at Business Insider)
While I find this image somewhat frightening, Skylanders booth invited young (and not so young) gamers to try their fourth installment of "Trap Team" which hit the shelves October 2nd. (Found at Business Insider)
Dreamworks and Oculus Rift offered users an opportunity to strap on an Oculus virtual reality headset and enter the world of "How to Train Your Dragon 2" and fly Toothless through the clouds. (Found at Business Insider)
The Geico booth offered the lucky ones karaoke, virtual pinball and this 3-D imaging  photo studio, using technology from PictureU. Eight cameras took simultaneous shots to produce a panoramic image of the subjects as superheros fighting against a New York City backdrop. (Found at Business Insider)
Here's an example. The images were then emailed to the subjects along with Geico advertisements. (Found at Business Insider)

 For even more exhibit images please go to

And, in case you missed my panel...
 "Super Girls: Using Comics to Engage Female Students in the Classroom" with Josh Elder, Eric Kallenborn, Michael Gianfrancesco, and Ronnell Whitaker - HERE'S A SYNOPSIS:

And if THAT isn't educational enough for you, here's a blog post on 150 Things We Learned at New York Comic Con 2014  posted on October 13, 2014 by Rich Johnston.

For those thinking of next year, another comic con or even Halloween, here are some infographics on which superhero is "you."
Infographic created by and found at

Superheroes and Superpowers
"Superheroes and Superpowers" published by Content Gladiator and found at

And, if you still want more, here's a link to 20 "Super Infographics About Superheroes" Finally, for those thinking of next year, another comic con or even Halloween, here are some infographics on which superhero is "you."

That's about it for this post.
Thank you as always for your visit.
What did you find most interesting? What did you find most frightening?
Please share your thoughts and reactions in the comments.