These books are great to listen to on CD on a long road trip, because they are amusing for the whole family. We listened to several one summer when weThese books are great to listen to on CD on a long road trip, because they are amusing for the whole family. We listened to several one summer when we had a "no iPad or DVD" rule for a particular vacation. I thought it was going to be a torturous trip with whining from the kids, but they were pretty content to listen to these. ...more
I've been reading this series aloud to my 3rd grade son. Because he has dyslexia, his reading interests exceed his ability to read, so I'm glad he's pI've been reading this series aloud to my 3rd grade son. Because he has dyslexia, his reading interests exceed his ability to read, so I'm glad he's picked an entertaining series for me to read to him. Hank is quite a character, with lots of personality, and the books are well written, fun to read aloud, and full of humor. The pace of these books is a bit slow; it's not about the plot, but about the characters, the language, and the wit that makes you smile frequently more than laugh out loud. It's true the same tropes keep occurring again and again from book to book, but instead of becoming completely boring because of this, the result is more like a warm laugh at an old friend. There are tons of books in this series, and we've or listened to (on CD) maybe 9, so we'll see how long it takes him to bore of them. ...more
Coulter is usually witty enough to at least be amusing, but this book lacked that for me. When she doesn't have a specific theme (McCarthyism, racialCoulter is usually witty enough to at least be amusing, but this book lacked that for me. When she doesn't have a specific theme (McCarthyism, racial demagoguery, etc.) to develop, there's not much of interest in her writing. This came off too much like a series of rants, and I had to abandon it before completion....more
Suggests potential asset allocations based on stage in life; suggests rebalancing at least once a year but preferably three times a year, as rebalanciSuggests potential asset allocations based on stage in life; suggests rebalancing at least once a year but preferably three times a year, as rebalancing forces you to sell high and buy low. Talks about the different asset classes in some detail. Warns against trying to "time the market." As with many books of this type, doesn't give a lot of reasons to seek out a financial manager. ...more
This book has a "finance for dummies" feel to it, with the many shaded boxes, bullet points, quotes, check lists (some of them silly), and constant reThis book has a "finance for dummies" feel to it, with the many shaded boxes, bullet points, quotes, check lists (some of them silly), and constant repetitive summarizing. It is, however, easy to understand and highly comprehensive, except in the one area I most wanted detail – investment terminology. It covers every stage and walk of life, and, because of this, any reader will likely want to skim several sections. Perhaps only one-fourth of the book was actually applicable to me at this point, though I still enjoyed skimming the parts that might have applied to me in the past. The book runs the gamut from career, paying down debt, insurance, and retirement savings to taxes, home ownership, and college savings. It can be read by anyone at any stage of life, though I would think people in their thirties would get the most out of it.
He suggest buying stocks of generally solid companies when they are beaten down and bonds when interest rates are high (and holding to maturity), which he describes as going against "the herd mentality." He suggests that if you want to simplify things, you may never need to invest in more than six mutual funds: a large-cap stock, a mid-cap stock, a small stock, an international stock, a corporate bond, and a U.S. government bond fund. But he also says ETFs that passively mirror a market index are best in the long haul. He is a strong proponent of taking maximum advantage of tax deferred retirement accounts, particularly the ROTH IRA, and made an interesting suggestion about opening a custodial IRA for your kids as soon as they have their first income (whether from babysitting, mowing lawns, or that first high school summer job). You can let them keep their income but "gift" them the maximum IRA contribution they could have made with that income. This will emphasize the importance of saving for retirement early and, if they hold the money until retirement, it may grow quite a bit tax free in that account. Also, an IRA, though in the child's name, won't count when looking for college financial aid. I thought this was one of the most interesting points he made, as was his analysis of how little a second income adds to the purchasing power of a middle-class family with kids. ...more
This guide suggests how to make money whether the market is going up, down, or sideways. After the 2008-2009 recession, Horowitz is not a fan of the "This guide suggests how to make money whether the market is going up, down, or sideways. After the 2008-2009 recession, Horowitz is not a fan of the "buy and hold" strategy. Like most financial advisers, he promotes diversification. He strongly advises against buying in a market with a steady downward trend, but instead suggests protecting your assets during such a time by selling after a certain set loss and possibly employing stops. He suggests buying when the trend is upward, after researching your options using quantitative, fundamental, or other types of analysis (he explains all of these). There is discussion of some basic financial terminology, including ETFs, REITs, P/E, EPS, and PEG. There is also some discussion of reading economic indicators to try to determine whether the economy is heading for expansion or contraction. Overall it had some useful information for me, but what is a bit repetitive, and I'm not sure the Great Recession should have overturned the standard financial advice with regard to riding out rough times. Obviously some losses were permanent, and if you had to access your money during that time to live, you'd be in trouble, but if you have a longer time horizon, taking a 10-15 percent loss and not buying while prices are low may not be the best idea. This book was written after the brunt of the recession but before the recovery and subsequent stock market climb. A closer look at the ups and downs of the business cycle would have been interesting, especially as we appear to be headed into another bubble and possibly poised for another crash sometime in the next six to eighteen months. ...more
I learned some of the things in this book in my college economics classes (particularly Money and Banking), but Smiley's explanation went into greaterI learned some of the things in this book in my college economics classes (particularly Money and Banking), but Smiley's explanation went into greater detail and drew a more complete picture for me. The author talks about the gold standard and scores of other things I won't touch on much in my summary, but I'm going to try to highlight what stood out for me. Although the book was not horribly dry, I wouldn't call it easy reading either. I'm not sure anyone who does not have a fairly strong interest in economics would want to plow through it, though he does speak largely in layman's terms.
In short, without FDR's contradictory reform efforts, the Depression would have been much shorter. "Rethinking the Great Depression" paints a picture of major legislative expansion and increasing federal control, law after law, program after program, each bringing forth unintended negative consequences that have to be "fixed" by further legislation, which itself has unintended consequences. The whole time I read, I was reminded of Hayek's famous saying," The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design."
The downturn was deepened during the transition to FDR's term in part because of uncertainty over what actions his administration would take regarding devaluation of the dollar (he refused to comment on his plans). Then the New Deal program had inconsistent goals. Businesses were expected to keep prices low while keeping wages high and spreading the work through a shorter work week. The National Recovery Administration (NRA) ended up encouraging the formation of cartels and a reduction in production, which stalled the recovery for two years.
The NRA was ruled unconstitutional in 1935 unanimously by the Supreme Court, as were some other programs. (FDR, as we all learn in high school, tried to stack the court but failed.) The economy started to recover in the summer of 1935 and indicators looked good by January of 1937 – rising stock prices, declining unemployment. However, the Federal Reserve increased reserve requirements to stave off what they thought would be impending inflation; the money supply fell and interest rates rose, deterring investment. In addition, wages rose rapidly because of unionization, and labor costs also increased because of FDR's new social security tax. To compensate for higher labor and wage costs, businesses further reduced investments, which contributed to contraction. The social security tax also decreased purchasing power, but, because no one was collecting benefits yet, that decrease was not offset by payouts. The tax on undistributed profits was also considered a contributor to the contraction.
All this resulted in "the depression within the depression." There was a sharp rise in unemployment. The stock market crash in October of 1937 was almost as bad as the one in 1929. In fact, from May of '37 to May of '38, the S&P fell 52%. FDR had completely lost the support of business by now, but he also began to lose the support of the media and even the Democrats in the House and Senate. His latest reorganization bill was defeated, with over half of the nays coming from Democrats. Republicans gained seats in the House and Senate.
Over Roosevelt's objections, the House and Senate eliminated the tax on undistributed profits and replaced it with a flat, 18% corporate tax. FDR's administration finally began to focus on recovery instead of reform, and 1938 marked the end of the reform efforts. The economy began to recover. World War II boosted employment through foreign demand for war materials, and it also led FDR to bring top businessmen into his administration as consultants in preparation for war efforts. This, in turn, diminished the "regime uncertainty" that had prevented businesses from investing in the long-term.
Smiley points to "regime uncertainty" as one of the primary contributors to the length of the Great Depression; this uncertainty "ravished the confidence of business men" – businesses did not invest, and the economy therefore did not recover. They did not invest because they did not know what the administration was going to do next, what economic freedoms they might have to surrender, or how secure their property rights were.
John Maynard Keynes argued that a decline in investment contributes to depression and that the federal government should therefore boost aggregate demand to increase Gross National Product (GNP) either by increasing spending (without increasing taxes) or decreasing taxes (while holding spending steady). While Roosevelt was not impressed with Keynes when they met, the war did lead to an increase in federal spending (up 885.3% from 1940-1943) over and above tax revenues (up only 182%). Unemployment fell and real GNP appeared to increase. Keynes's theory seemed to be validated, and it dominated economic analysis for the next 20 years.
The idea that the economy improved during and because of World War II ("war prosperity") came into question in the 1960s, when economists began to talk about monetary policy and the role of the money supply. The Fed did not act to expand the money supply in the 1930s because of the restrictions of the gold standard and fears of inflation. However, from the end of 1939 to the end of 1943, the Fed moved to increase the money supply over 79%; without this move, federal spending could not have been sustained.
The "war prosperity" gospel drew two attacks – first, it was observed that unemployment decreased from 1940-1943 only because military employment rose, in large part through draft. Military pay was low, and many of those men died. It wasn't precisely an ideal solution to the unemployment problem.
Second, the argument that the nation produced more during the war was also drawn into question. Rather, it was argued, consumption was simply transferred from "butter" to "guns" through rationing and price controls that forced civilians to save more of their money rather than spend it on civilian goods. Thus, production of non-durable civilian goods declined while production of war goods increased.
Tax rates were also sharply increased at this time, which took money from civilian consumption to be used for war consumption via the government. While real GNP appeared to increase during the war based on government statistics, it is now believed that price indices were understated at that time because of the price controls. When this is corrected for, GNP was actually lower during the war years. Despite wartime investment, existing capital continued to depreciate.
People were not better off during the war. Only after the war, when price controls were lifted, rationing ended, and labor unions restricted by a more conservative Congress, did production of civilian goods begin to increase. Prosperity returned not *during* the war, but *after* the war, when the command economy was dismantled and the market economy "came back to life." When the war ended, there was a new optimism that led to more spending and investment as well. Stock prices rose.
What failed in the 1930s, Smiley argues, was not the market economy, but "governments, in their eagerness to direct activity to achieve political ends—ends that were often contradictory." One hopes we've learned a few lessons about what not to do from the Great Depression. However, it remains to be seen whether or not policy makers and the Federal Reserve will make depression-lengthening mistakes in the future. While Smiley's above summarized "rethinking" of the Great Depression may well be true, the "war prosperity" gospel and the policies of FDR's administration have forever changed the way the U.S. federal government operates. As a famous Time (?) headline stated, "We're all Keynesians now."
I ended up having to skim this one. It was rather dry reading and offered very limited practical advice. Its value lies primarily in providing encouraI ended up having to skim this one. It was rather dry reading and offered very limited practical advice. Its value lies primarily in providing encouragement that dyslexics can, and do, succeed well in life, but I don't need to read hundreds of pages to know that. Also, it didn't really seem to apply to my son (I read it because he is dyslexic). It kept going on about how spatially gifted dyslexics are, but that is not the case for him. He has clear gifts (he's good at mental math, logical thinking, strategy, and has a good sense of humour), but he actually has a deficiency in geometrical matrices. It has clearly been encouraging to many, but I guess I'm not the intended audience. ...more
There is so much packed into this book, which, except for some excessive repetition (typical of most nonfiction of its kind), is easy and interestingThere is so much packed into this book, which, except for some excessive repetition (typical of most nonfiction of its kind), is easy and interesting to read. There are a number of practical suggestions (from details on fluency training to lists of prefixes, suffixes, and commonly used words to emphasize with your dyslexic child), a brief history of the recognition of dyslexia over time, the brain science involved in dyslexia, how to talk to your child about his dyslexia, what to look for in a school and reading program, how to do fluency training, and profiles and insights from famous dyslexics.
The subtitle is misleading. The book does not offer "a new and complete science-based program for reading problems at any level." Rather, it advocates that you use any program of your choice as long as it employs a systematic, phonics-based approach and you use it consistently (preferably daily). The book offers the names (and websites) of many such research-based programs.
Some chapters may not be of use to a particular reader; you may skip those about dyslexia in youth or adults, for instance, if you have a younger child with dyslexia, or you may skim those chapters about teaching kindergartener and first graders if you have only discovered your child has dyslexia in second or third grade. There is a bit too much emphasis on reading instruction in pre-K through first grade. I imagine most parents turning to this book will have children in 2nd or 3rd grade or beyond, because they will not have reached quite that point of concern until then. Unfortunately, parts of the book seem to imply an "intervene early or else" message, which is not encouraging. (And yet that is contradicted by other parts of the book that offer hope in cases of late discovery.)
The author's advocacy for systematic, phonics-based instruction for dyslexics and regular reading practice seems like a bit of a no brainer. I guess this may have been more of a revelation when the book was published many years ago, at the height of the "whole language" fad, which still lingers in many public schools. The emphasis on echo reading, and having a child read the same passage over and over again, however, was a good note for me. I am still puzzled that schools simply don't used systematic phonics based programs for all students in grades K-2. My son was lucky enough to attend a private school in K and 1st that did, so by the time he began to attend public school, he was only about 1/2 year behind his peers instead of the usual 1-2 years of dyslexic children. He didn't have such a program for most of 2nd grade, until we were able to get him admitted to the dyslexia program in the school toward the end of 2nd grade, which does use a research-based curriculum.
I could recognize my child in most of the symptoms she described in this book, including what the author aptly described as "being in pain." It was intriguing to get some insight into why he can sometimes sound out long words but then inevitably stumbles over little articles and prepositions and pronouns ("the" "an" "this" "they" "their" "on" "of", etc.) It was also interesting to learn that dyslexics compensate for not using the back of their brains by using more of the front when reading, but I wouldn't say that discovery is revelatory or particularly helpful – it just shows that dyslexics compensate as best they can for the fact that they can't seem to access the part of the brain that allows them to instantly recall words they have read. One other point that particularly interested me was her assertion that dyslexics do not actually *see* words differently, but only *name* them differently. My son does the typical "was" for "saw" and "how" for "who" and that sort of thing, and he sometimes described it to me as "the letters move," so I thought he was actually seeing things differently.
Especially for children of high IQ, reading problems can often appear as mere average or below average ability, and the suffering and intense struggle required to pull off an average reading may be hidden in school even while the pain is obvious at home. Also, the teachers, not seeing the very real struggle you see at home, and not really knowing how much time you have invested in keeping your child afloat, may very well think you are just one of those crazy high pressure parents who can't accept an average performance, rather than someone who has seen the odd patterns of reading struggle and the emotional pain it has inspired. Therefore, outside testing is often necessary before a problem will be acknowledged. (It was certainly necessary for us.)
The author of this book takes an even sterner approach than "get outside testing." She pretty much concludes that you shouldn't rely on the public school. Get your kid into a systematic phonics program right away, even if you have to mortgage the house. Most public schools probably aren’t going to pull through for your dyslexic kid, though they are getting better, she argues, in part because of the No Child Left Behind Act's Reading First portion. That's about the first positive thing I've read about NCLB, though she did have a point – before state testing, it may have been easier for the schools to take a "let's wait and see" approach (which any parent of a dyslexic child, especially a child who is compensating with high IQ, is probably familiar with). And because funding is given only for scientifically researched based reading programs, that has probably reduced the number of useless reading programs employed in special ed classrooms. But, ironically, she goes on to talk about how useless and disadvantageous and how poor a judge of ability standardized tests are for dyslexic students, and of course NCLB is all about standardized tests. (She doesn't seem to notice the inconsistency.)
At times, the author talks as though dyslexics will struggle for life, always sounding out words from scratch and finding themselves behind their peers in reading; at other times, though, she speaks almost as though a systematics phonics program is some kind of magic bullet that will sort your kid out in little time.
The author is somewhat flippant in her dismissal of the parent as a primary teacher, and the possibility of homeschooling is nowhere on her radar. The parent is relegated to only fluency training, never teaching reading itself or new material. It is suggested parents work with their kids about fifteen minutes a day. Much better to rely on professionals (experts and specialists and experienced teachers), she says, and yet she repeatedly upbraids schools (which are presumably staffed with these professionals) for not identifying dyslexic kids soon enough. While I personally have no intention of homeschooling at this point, I expect to play a larger instructional role in my kid's reading struggles than fifteen minutes a day, and I fully understand those parents of dyslexic students who do choose to homeschool. That she would not even devote a single page to the possibility was odd to me.
I was really fascinated by the profiles of dyslexic writers. Writing is not a profession you stereotypically expect a dyslexic to enter. I am a writer, and I've always had horrible handwriting and been a relatively poor speller like these writers, though I've never struggled with grammar or vocabulary. I came to rely on a typewriter early and was thrilled to get my first word processor in fourth grade and was especially pleased when spell check came along. As far as I know, I'm not dyslexic. I was certainly not an early reader, but I don't think I was a particularly late one either. I can’t remember struggling to read beyond third grade, and I have read thousands of books in my life. Nevertheless, these stories were of particular interest to me. ...more
This came with the Hooked on Phonics Master Reader program my third grader is currently using for extra practice at home, and it is the first chapterThis came with the Hooked on Phonics Master Reader program my third grader is currently using for extra practice at home, and it is the first chapter book he has read entirely by himself from beginning to end. (We usually alternate pages because he is dyslexic and quickly becomes wearied and frustrated with reading.) I think the HOP program prepared him well to be able to read this particular book, because he did not struggle as much as he often does when tackling chapter books. There were some words he needed help with (he can often sound out long words and will then turn around and struggle with a sight word, and that was still the case with this book, but he read more smoothly than usual). He also enjoyed the story (which was somewhat like The Magic Tree House, but, I think, more appealing to him than those books) and asked to read it to me several times without me having to make him read it. The American history theme, I believe, made it more interesting to him.
A truly good children's book should appeal to adults as well as kids, and this did not appeal to me, so I wouldn't give it five stars. However, I give it four because it worked for my son, who needs all the reading encouragement he can get, and it gave him a real boost of confidence to complete his first chapter book on his own.
Hooked on Phonics does an amazing job of matching the texts to the phonics level of the reader, and preparing them to tackle those specific texts. It may not get to the root of the reading problems of a dyslexic, which go beyond phonics, but it does wonders for confidence. ...more
The language is beautiful, almost poetic at times, and there are several passages that are enjoyable to read for that reason alone. The tone is warm aThe language is beautiful, almost poetic at times, and there are several passages that are enjoyable to read for that reason alone. The tone is warm and pleasantly sentimental and the reader gets a sense of hardy rural Midwestern values from it. However, the memoir does not have much momentum. It mixes detailed descriptions of Midwestern life and landscapes with a character sketch, a series of conversations, min-stories, and some mundane events. The primary plotline involves fighting a Highway Commissioner over a driveway....more
I love the Hooked on Phonics system. When I realized my daughter still wasn't learning to read over halfway through Kindergarten (because of the schooI love the Hooked on Phonics system. When I realized my daughter still wasn't learning to read over halfway through Kindergarten (because of the school's heavy sight-reading based approach), I got the Kindergarten level HOP and she was reading in less than two weeks. I've since used level K, 1st grade, and 2nd grade for my son, who needs a lot more routine phonics practice because of his dyslexia.
What I love about the program is that it teaches specific sounds and combinations and then uses only those in the readers/phonic books, so that when the kid gets to the book, he really doesn't struggle. It's a real confidence booster. Despite sticking to pre-taught sounds and words, the books are not badly written. They aren't great literature, but they are better than many leveled readers I've checked out at the library in the past. The system is also well paced so that you can complete an entire lesson or sometimes even two in a reasonable sitting, and it's designed so that the reading of books is broken up by the reading of stories which is broken up by the reading of words. There's a sense of steady progression and familiar routine that makes it appealing to my child.
I have never made use of the included DVDs. I don't really see the point. This is a system that requires one-on-one instruction by the parents, and the DVD just goes through sounds you could go through more quickly yourself.
The only downside is that these programs are highly priced for what you get – in this case, 2 reading workbooks, 8 short readers, and a writing workbook. However, because I have found the program to be so useful, I have been willing to buy it. I will likely get the next level as well. ...more
This simple yet elegant collection of poetry contains 26 poems that explore the central question, "Who is Christ?" The opening poem asks the reader, "This simple yet elegant collection of poetry contains 26 poems that explore the central question, "Who is Christ?" The opening poem asks the reader, "Who is this man / Whom outcasts love, / Fishermen follow, / Pharisees hate, / And demons obey?" The rest of the volume is spent answering that very question, as the reader receives glimpses of Jesus as "Carpenter's Son," "Dance Master," "Diadem," and "First Light," among others.
Stylistically, the poems are free verse, and although they do not employ a large number of literary devices or a great deal of rhythm, they communicate their messages with a stark and uncomplicated beauty. These poems are best digested at the rate of two or three a day, perhaps as an addition to devotional reading. Teresa's poetry has previously appeared in the pages of the old, printed Ancient Paths, as well as in Ancient Paths online, and we congratulate her on her latest publication. ...more