This is What the Arts do for You

This is what the Arts can do for you

















This is What the Arts do for You

You know this is my favorite subject!

I gave my theatre appreciation class their final assignment.  They nearly had a nervous breakdown.

Student: I’m not creative.  I can’t possibly do this. I’m a softball player.

Me:  How do you know?  You haven’t even tried.

Student:  I know me.

Me:  Do you listen to music?

Student:  Yeah.

Me:  Have you ever designed sound before?

Student:  I don’t even know what that is.

Me:  Right.  How about you research what a sound designer does before you decide if you can do this.  I purposely gave you choices in this assignment so that you could find one which you were most comfortable accomplishing.

Student:  (forlornly)  Ok…

Although she gave me a forlorn look, I know this young woman well enough to know she’ll try.

This is what the Arts can do for you

My goal is for these young people to see theatre as more than a bunch of actors in films.  Luckily this semester,, they enjoyed most of the videos I showed them. And they enjoyed seeing a live production as well.  Several students even attended productions on their own (okay, it’s a class requirement, but still…)

One of the outcomes of course is to explore “the collaborative nature of theatre”.

I thought an assignment (set, costume, props, or sound) for a particular play (in this case, “The Importance of Being Earnest”) would be an excellent way to learn about the process of creative collaboration.

The students must research the responsibilities of their chosen designer position, create powerpoint, design, find fabric swatches or paint chips, choosen pre and post show music or make two props.  Lastly, they must present their project to the class.

They will evaluate their learning near the end of the semester.  That’s when the project will do its magic, I’m hoping. Let’s see if the kids notice any differences in themselves after the project.  I’m hoping they’ll come away from it

What they don’t know yet is I plan to throw a kink in the works next week.  As the director of the imaginary show, I gave them my concept and color palette.  I haven’t decided what I want to throw at them, but they need to learn to be flexible and open minded.

Besides, I hold the gradebook (mwahhaha….)

These students are mostly high school kids, graduating very soon, who are taking the class for college credit. They want absolutes and to regurgitate the information through a series of tests.  They have seniorities like crazy. Right now they are hanging on by their fingernails.

I could feel the stress level rise when I assigned this project.

arts b

They don’t like changes.  They grow impatient with I change due dates or chapter assignments even though I’m very understanding when they were confused and didn’t turn in their work on time.  (My fault, really.)

This will be an interesting couple of weeks.

I’ll be back to share the students’ evaluations of the experience.  Wish us luck.

Kamishibai Paper Performance Storytelling Unit–Engaging and Unique

Let’s talk about Kamishibai Paper Performance, shall we?  Are you looking for an engaging and unique unit for your students?  An oral communication project for your students?  Check out my Kamishibai Paper Performance Storytelling unit on

The paper drama

Simply put, Kamishibai storytelling is a form of storytelling which integrates art and storytelling.

It can used with reading or an ELA, english/language arts, social studies, music  or drama class.  The subjects are endless.

Let’s say you have a reading class.  That’s an easy one.  Have your students draw picture for a particular book or chapter.  The next step is for them to tell the story.  What a great way to help your students retain the plot!

How about in social studies?  If you were studying Mexico, the students could create Kamishibai for a particular region’s folk lore (I advised one SS teacher who was teaching about Austrailia and they used Kamishibai to share Aborigine stories.)

ELA?  The students could create Kamishibai for an American tall tale.

English?  Mythology would work great with this form of storytelling.

Music?  Tell the story of the life of a famous composer.

Drama?  Use it was first intended (sorry, you’ll need to check out the actual lesson at for that.)

The Kamishibai Paper Performance product is a three week unit, complete with a day by day calendar, instructions for creating kamishibai (which is a little involved if you have never tried it, but I clear those worries up right away) and suggestions for extensions.

And….it’s a bargain.

Contact me at or



Meet Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest

Have you met Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest?

There are many authors who need a boost.  Here is one with a darling book I know you and your children would enjoy reading, Jaden Toussaint the Greatest. One of Marti’s stories includes Jaden being in a play.

A play, you say?  Hmmmm.


Jaden Touissant 2

Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest
Making smart cool again.
Series Title: Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest
Author: Marti Dumas
Genre: Illustrated Chapter Book/Middle Grade Fiction (Ages 5-10)
New Orleans children’s book author Marti Dumas’ has released a new book in the
popular Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest series.

Each book has debuted at #1 on
Amazon’s Hot New Releases list for children’s chapter books.

Jaden Touissant

Jaden Toussaint, 5-year-old scientist and all around cool dude, wants to become super famous. The problem is that his parents won’t let him upload his amazing animal facts videos to the internet. He’s working on a plan, when a perfect opportunity presents itself:
his class play. Jaden and his friends soon learn that being upon stage is not easy for everyone. Jaden Toussaint’s positive problem-solving techniques are entertaining for children and the adults who read with them, and give children a fun, positive role
model for their own big decisions.

Marti Dumas is a mother, teacher, and author from New Orleans. She is a contributing writer on education and parenting for and other publications. An expert in childhood literacy, Marti has worked with children and teachers across the country for the last 15 years to promote an early love of reading both in and out of the classroom. Her most recent book, Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest was a #1 New Release on

Author Website:
New Orleans, Louisiana Author Email:

I highly recommend you look for Marti’s books!  I think you’ll enjoy them.

Contact me at or

I’d love to hear from you.

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If you are interested in my middle grade award winning book, Bumbling Bea, here are some recent reviews.  Check it out here:  New Book reviews on Bumbling Bea

You can purchase Bumbling Bea here:  Bumbling Bea at Amazon

Beginning Acting–My Acting Debut in Third Grade


Let’s talk about beginning acting.

(That’s me, with all the hair, holding on to the young Oliver Twist, circa 1986 I think. Yikes!)

To this day, I have no idea how I got cast as Queen Isabella in third grade. I was a good reader and very expressive. I know we didn’t have auditions or at least I don’t think so. I mean, that was a long time ago.  I sort of remember my costume.  My mother made a crown out of cardboard, blue pop beads from a necklace of hers and aluminum foil.  I wore Mom’s clear-plastic-but-looked-glass wedding shoes (from the 1930’s, this was the l960’s) that cramped my feet something awful but I would never have complained.  Maybe I wore a white bathrobe as my gown.  Heck, I don’t know.

But I do know one thing:  I had wanted to be an actress since I was teeny.  We lived in a huge old brick house in a small town in Kansas.  It had three floors, four fireplaces, a front and back staircase (one for the servants to use, I guess but we had no servants) and two porches.  One porch was on the second floor and enclosed and another porch was connected to the living room.  On the upstairs porch, I spent many late afternoons and Saturdays playing dress up, making blanket forts under the ping pong table and dramatizing any and all books I had read or movies I had seen. There was no heat on the porch and I remember just about freezing off my toes in the dead of winter, and forget playing out there during those hot, hot Kansas summers! I’d go across the street to Lori’s house and have Orange Crush pop and soda crackers and bask in the breeze of her window air conditioner.

Mostly, I just pretended and pretended.

I kept real quiet about my pretending, because I was afraid people would think I was crazy and maybe I’d get in trouble with my parents.  That seemed to be a great fear I had.  I didn’t like to mess up and get those looks from them.  The ones that said, “Oh my. We are ashamed of you.” I still can’t handle those looks from people.

Sorry, I digress…

Acting was a fabulous outlet for me!  It was effortless and such fun!  I still enjoy it.  It is never stressful like directing can be for me. Don’t get me wrong, though.  I enjoy directing even with all of its stresses.  It is just very different from acting.

Deborah Conard Baldwin

I remember ordering a kneeling boy (ironically named Christopher–maybe that’s why he got the part), “Rise, Christopher Columbus!”  I gestured upward with my arm copying the high school girl portraying the Angel Gabriel I had seen in the annual community Christmas pageant.  I guess I thought all important people gestured like that–queens, angels, presidents and the like.  Even today when I direct a young child to gesture in the same way, I am reminded of my performance as Queen Isabella. Hopefully, they look better than I did.

It took me years to become proficient (I think it’s the best word to describe my acting) as an actress.  I think I stunk at it pretty badly until I was way up in my twenties.  When I look at myself in photos from a show I always remember what I felt like at the time the photo was taken and for me at least, it doesn’t feel at all the same on the inside as what I am projecting on the outside.

Some readers who have performed will understand me when I say that acting is a gift you give yourself. When an actor “finds the character”, it’s a huge surprise–like receiving a present one didn’t expect. There is something very mystical about acting and lifting my chubby arm to Christopher Columbus that first time in my life as an actress confirmed it. I was totally intrigued and excited. To this day, I still feel the same way. How many times can a person say that about life?

That’s my  beginning acting story.  What is your story?

Three Things A Writer Needs According to Faulkner

Here are three things a writer needs according to Faulkner.

This is a terrific thought and so very true.  Thanks Mr. Faulkner.









When I was sixteen years old, I decided I wanted to put to pen my story of a girl who wants to be a Kabuki actor, but couldn’t because she was female.

For over twenty-five years I never got further than the first chapter of the book which was then titled, Two For the Kabuki for as many years.


Thank goodness I waited to write it.  I need experience both as a human being on this earth and teacher.  Without the experiences, my book would have been very superficial and not what it became.

I used to blame myself for waiting so long to write it.  As if I didn’t write it, someone else might do so first.  Maybe so.


I needed all those years to observe people.  A great place to do so was in my drama classroom. For twenty years, I taught middle school students.  Middle school is the most complex of all the years for a child.  They arrive to you as an eleven year old and leave as nearly a fourteen year old.  Wow.  Think about that!

The middle school years are the ones of the body changing, hormones a moaning, pimples, facial hair, squeaky voices and lack of poise.  Even the greatest athlete of the group can trip over himself on the way to the cafeteria.

I noticed the girl give up their long locks of hair and trying something more daring right around seventh grade.  As if the approaching high school years beckon them to mature in to the young adult they will become.

I listen to people’s conversations a lot, or rather I eaves drop on conversations.  Who needs to write original dialogue? People sometimes express themselves far better than I can.   I keep my ears peaked at all times.


I have quite an imagination.  I’m still afraid of the dark and think strange noises are some alien trying to get me. I won’t put my foot outside the sheets and when I do, it stays on top of the mattress.  No dangling my vulnerable foot over the edge of the bed.

Because of my experience as an actress and director, I rarely have trouble getting the juices to flow once I open the door to them.  Frankly, I have more trouble prioritizing which creative activity I should do first.  I always seem to have several irons in the fire–teacherspayteachers products, this blog, social sites to keep up, a play version of Bumbling Bea and a book or two rolling around in my mind.

I wish I could put one first over the rest, but I simply can’t.

But Mr. Faulkner obviously knows what he’s talking about.  If I could write what he did, maybe I’d be quoted instead of him.

Nah, I doubt it.

Contact me at or or here.  I’d love to here from you.

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Gift Guide for Your Favorite Theatre Geek

graduate bear

Wow, it’s April all ready!

It seems like once we pass Valentine’s day time moves a lot faster.

Today, I noticed graduation cards at my local pharmacy.  I always forget graduation is in mid-May.

The high school students in my college classes are quick to share the number of classes  they have before they are finished.  Funny, the other students don’t want to know how much time is left in the semester–they are panicked about finishing all their assignments in time.


Each year near graudation, people ask me for suggestions of a good gift for a theatre lover. 

Here are a few suggestions for you:

      1. Tickets to a Broadway play, musical or to attend a touring company production of the graduate’s favorite show.  Most of our students are on tight budgets and having free tickets to see a show would be heaven for them.

     2.  DVD’s of plays or musicals

     3.  A year long membership to Do you know of this company? They are gaining popularity with their Netflix-like approach to Broadway plays and musicals. These are live performance which have been video recorded by professionals. They are awesome!

     4.  A biography on your graduate’s favorite actor or actress. Just about every actor and actress a student would be familiar with will have a biography.

     5.  Find out your graduate’s taste in stage makeup and purchase some for them in their particular shades or colors.

     6.  Make up a basket, a “care package” for the graduate to use the next next time she is in a show.  Fill it with things like cough drops, deodorant, makeup wipes, a box of tissues, hard candy, throat spray, bandaids, a can of hairspray, a water bottle, a trade magazine (like Stagelight magazine a pen and journal, etc.

      7.  Have a tee shirt quilt made. You can find companies who will create it for you by checking on line.  Most theatre kids have scads of show tee shirts.  I had a friend of mine make a quilt for my daughter.  She LOVED it!  She dragged it off to college and it finally wore about five years ago (she’s twenty-nine.)

     8. A gift card to a particular dance supply company if your graduate is a dancer or so they can purchase sheet music for auditions.

     9. A glitzy picture frame is fun. Obviously, theatre geeks have lots of photos.

    10. Just a plain old VISA gift card is nice, too!

One of my favorite high school graduation gifts was an umbrella.  It was a great gift.  It never occurred to me I would be walking to class in the rain. Ha! (naive me)  I can’t even tell you how many times that wonderful umbrella came into use.  I think I wore it out!

graduate bear

Do you have favorite graduation gift memories?  I’d love to hear them.  Contact me here or at dhcbaldwin@gmail. com or



educating other's children

What Everyone Ought to Consider About the Educating of Other People’s Children-Universal Education


Have you ever wondered about the importance of universal education–why we should all care about the education of other people’s children? Here’s an excellent editorial on the subject.  See you agree.

Why We Should Care About the Education of Other People’s Children

By Arthur H. Camin

It is time to care about the education of other people’s children. Other people’s children are or will be our neighbors. Other people’s children – from almost anywhere in the United States and beyond – could end up as our coworkers. Other people’s children are tomorrow’s potential voters. How, what, and with whom they learn impacts us all.

That is why we have public schools, paid for with pooled taxes. They are designed to serve the public good, not just to suit individual parent’s desires.

My granddaughter Ellie is almost 2. With each passing day, my wife and I worry more and more about the world in which she will grow up. We worry about what appears to be a celebration of divisiveness, ignorance, helplessness, and selfishness among too many people. We are particularly concerned about whether her education will help prepare her for a happy, successful life in troubled times. I know we are not alone.












In school – either by intention or by omission – children learn to make sense of the world around them. They learn how to treat other children and adults and how to regard others in the wider community. They learn whether or not they can participate in shaping their lives and that of others. They may or may not learn how to live, collaborate and respect all the different people whom they will inevitably encounter in their lives.
We can’t avoid it. What other people’s children learn affects each of us.

When she is ready to enter kindergarten, her parents, Eric and Laura, will probably ask us for advice about sending her to school. The answer is far from simple. They live in New York City where making school attendance decisions is a bit like desperate folks rushing the door when the department store opens on Black Friday.

Making a decision will be challenging. Too many schools are maniacally focused on raising reading and math test scores. Too many are racially and economically segregated. I know that Eric and Laura will find a way that is best for their child. I’m confident that if their neighborhood school isn’t so great, my son and daughter-in-law will either struggle with other parents and teachers to make it better, find another, or move. Their individual freedom to make those choices is not the kind of freedom I value. It will not help Ellie grow up is a better world.











The easy short-term answer is, “Just worry about your own child. Do whatever you must to find the best school for her.” That is the thinking behind the current bipartisan embrace of three key features of charter schools and the renewed Republican push for vouchers: Schools competing for student enrollment; Parents competing for their children’s entry into the best-fit school of their choice; schools governed privately rather than through democratically-elected school boards.

As these strategies gain acceptance and spread, the result is to undermine education as a collective effort on behalf of the entire community. Divided parents and their communities end up with little collective voice. Similarly, without unions, teachers have no unified influence. Millions of personal decisions about what appears to be good for a single child at a moment in time is a recipe for divisiveness, not collective good.

I refuse to accept the ethos of selfishness and winning in a world of ruthless competition. Education policy focused on the educational choices of individual parents is not just morally repugnant but stupid and shortsighted. Does anyone really think that giving every parent the right to choose which school to send their children to is a recipe for raising the next generation of knowledgeable, capable, caring Americans?











Of course, some schools do a better job than others educating for life, work and citizenship. Some of those differences are a function of natural and unavoidable variation. But the big differentials in education outcomes are the result of political decisions about local, state and federal policy and funding. More significant, they are the result our country’s refusal to do anything substantive about the residential segregation and distrust that continually enable, perpetuate, and exacerbate inequity.
The differences are the result of growing inequality, concentrated poverty, and the purposeful oblivion of those who live comfortable stable, if insulated lives. The differences are the result of an intentional political campaign to convince folks in the middle of the socioeconomic spectrum– whose lives are hardly easy or secure– to blame other people who struggle even more, rather than the wealthy 1% who wield the levers of economic and political power.

Tragically, far too many parents have been forced to make morally and politically fraught decisions about their children’s education. Folks see the decision about whether or not to keep their children in a local school of questionable quality as a flight or fight decision.

That is why the language of individual choice paired with policies that weaken rather than strengthen neighborhood pubic school is so insidiously successful. It is unrealistic to expect many parents who often feel disempowered to choose stay and fight. Instead, we need to build a political movement to do that. Narrow self-regard may be expedient, but it is self-defeating in the long run.
We all should worry and do something about the quality of education of other people’s children. Here are several reasons why. They apply to my granddaughter, but I think most other children too.
Other people’s children learn about whether and how to treat one another in school. Parents differ regarding whether or not they teach children to treat one another with kindness and respect. Some parents teach their kids to just care about themselves, and some teach them to also care about others. The same is true about schools.

I think these are important, widely-accepted values. In recent testimony, the U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos–a parent choice zealot, refused to say that the federal government would act to ensure against discrimination. That is not OK! Every school, but especially any that gets taxpayer-generated support should teach kindness and respect.

Kids don’t live in a bubble. So, no matter what other parents convey, other children my granddaughter encounters will influence her.

Other people’s children, of course, will eventually become adults who live and work together. Leaders across the business, public and non-profit realms all say that they value the same things among workers: good problem solvers, people who can collaborate and communicate well in diverse settings, and improve their talents and keep learning. No matter what and how well Ellie learns, she will be affected by others.

Anyone like working with deadbeat, ignorant or nasty co-workers or bosses? Schools can’t solve ensure against all of that, but they sure can help. Leaving educational decisions up to individual parents and private charter and voucher boards is a recipe for too much selfishness, discrimination, corruption, and disruption.

Other people’s children will eventually become citizens. Some will vote, and some will decide not to. I hope that more people will vote and do so with the entire community in mind, rather than just one issue or the narrowly perceived interests of a just-like-me group of people. We would all be better off if more Americans treated one another and others around the world with increased rather than diminished decency and respect.

Because so many communities tend to lack diversity, schools from pre-school though college can be a counterweight that broadens people’s perspective, insight, and empathy. Increasing funding for charter schools and vouchers–or worse, making parental choice the centerpiece of education policy is precisely the wrong road to take.

I won’t tell my son and daughter-in-law what to do about sending their daughter to school. I do not presume to tell other parents either. However, I urge everyone to get engaged politically at the local, state and federal levels to fight for broad equitable education for every child in democratically controlled public schools.

I urge everyone to support elected officials who will roll back and eventually eliminate funding for charter schools and to steadfastly oppose vouchers.

Contact me at or

I’d love to hear from you!

National Haiku Day Bumbling Bea Style

April 15 is National Haiku Day. I’m going to honor national haiku day Bumbling Bea style.

You gotta wonder who thinks up these national days….


When I think of Haiku, I think of gorgeous flowering trees in Japan.

I’m sure there are poets who write them without thinking like I do.

I did a little researching and found Creative.Writing.Now. com.  It’s a website founded by writing teachers about writing.  One of their pages is about haiku poetry.  

The following are typical of haiku:

  • A focus on nature.

  • A “season word” such as “snow” which tells the reader what time of year it is.

  • A division somewhere in the poem, which focuses first on one thing, than on another. The relationship between these two parts is sometimes surprising.

  • Instead of saying how a scene makes him or her feel, the poet shows the details that caused that emotion. If the sight of an empty winter sky made the poet feel lonely, describing that sky can give the same feeling to the reader.

In honor of National Haiku Day, April 15 I created a few haiku about the characters of my award winning book, Bumbling Bea. There are several acknowledgements to the Japanese culture in the story so it only seemed fitting.

 My haiku aren’t about trees, flowers and clouds, but they are about the nature of human beings.  (Get it, get it?)

Bumbling Bea

Beatrice about Michiko:

Laughing and bowing

Her voice strong and dramatic

I wish I was her.

Bumbling Bea

Michiko thoughts about her mother:

You loudly scold me

Stretching, growing up I cry

This life’s mine not yours.

Bumbling Bea

Peter’s reflection about the  Michiko sabotage:

Devil leaves of three

Softly touch innocent skin

Oozing mounds erupt.

Bumbling Bea

Bumbling Bea would say:

I take over you

blurting outrageous things

Always regretting them.

Mr. Brace quips:

As father I’m bound

To family duties

Begrudging all.

Mrs. Brace to Mr. Brace:

Can’t you see I’m sad?

It’s hard to forget

Happy days, sweet nights.

BB chapter 16

The Cast’s thoughts:

Performance is super

Michiko adds spice and flare

But what’s with the freeze?

Lost?  You won’t be once you read my book.  Check it out here:


Contact me at or check out my website at


Student Survival: The Importance of Pleasure Reading for a Kid

So, let’s talk about pleasure reading for a kid.

Recently, I was looking for a  pleasure reading book to purchase for my upcoming trip over seas. I was having a difficult time finding one. I saw a child who was nearly eating a book while he read it–in the time I looked over one aisle of books, he read three (all right, they were short, but still…)



Some people are selective about the genres they read.  I usually gravitate toward books with quirky characters in ordinary appearing plots. I say “ordinary appearing” because it is always intriguing to find the characters going somewhere else than you expected.

However, I am known to cheat and read the last chapter of a book if a. the story is moving too slowly for me or b. I’m dying to know what happens. When I was a child, my mother would scold me for doing so–still haven’t kicked the habit.  Sorry, Mom.

I worry about kids’ reading preferences. It seems many writers write for whatever trend is popular the time. A few years ago, it was zombies and time travelers. Not every child wants to read fantasy or graphic novels.  That’s why I penned Bumbling Bea.  If you haven’t picked up my book, you might want to try it.  I promise you, it isn’t your run of the mill plot! Check it out here:

I ran on to an article concerning this concern and I thought you’d be interested, too.

Indie Book

Promoting the Pleasures of Reading: Why It Matters to Kids and to Country

June 10, 2017

Advocacy, Inquiry, Literacy, Reading, Teachingpleasure reading

by Lu Ann McNabb

This post is written by member Jeffrey Wilhelm.

Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read What They Want and Why We Should Let Them was this past year’s winner of the NCTE David H. Russell Award for Distinguished Research in English Education.

The research findings that we report in Reading Unbound have profound implications for us as teachers, for our students, and for democracy.

In our book, we argue that pleasure reading is a civil rights issue. Why? Because fine-grained longitudinal studies (e.g., the British Cohort study: Sullivan & Brown, 2013; and John Guthrie’s analysis of PISA data, 2004, among many others) demonstrate that pleasure reading in youth is the most explanatory factor in both cognitive progress and social mobility over time.

pleasure reading

Pleasure reading is more powerful than parents’ educational attainment or socioeconomic status.

This means that pleasure reading is THE way to address social inequalities in terms of actualizing our students’ full potential and overcoming barriers to satisfying and successful lives.

We think that our data explain why pleasure reading leads to cognitive growth and social mobility.

The major takeaway for teachers is to focus on pleasure in our teaching. Pleasure has many forms: play pleasure/immersive pleasure, when you get lost in a book—this is a prerequisite pleasure and we can foster it in various ways, such as teaching with an inquiry approach, using drama and visualization strategies, etc.; work pleasure, where you get a functional and immediately applicable tool for doing something in your life; inner work pleasure, where you imaginatively rehearse for your life and consider what kind of person you want to be; intellectual pleasure, where you figure out what things mean and how texts were constructed to convey meanings and effects; and social pleasure, in which you relate to authors, characters, other readers, and yourself by staking your own identity.

Kids (like all other human beings!) do what they find pleasurable. You get good at what you do and then outgrow yourself by developing new related interests and capacities.


Play pleasure develops the capacity to engage and immerse oneself, to visualize meanings and relate to characters. It is the desire to love and be loved. Work pleasure is the love of getting something functional done. Work pleasure is about the love of application and visible signs of accomplishment. Readers engaging in this pleasure cultivate transfer of strategies and insights to life.

Inner work pleasure involves imaginatively rehearsing what kind of person one wants to be. As our informant Helen asserted: “It’s not really learning about yourself, it’s learning about what you could be . . . .” and “Characters are ways of thinking really . . . They are ways of being you can try on.”

Inner work is the love of transformation—of connecting to something greater, of striving to become something more. When our informants engaged in this pleasure, they expressed and developed a growth mindset and a sense of personal and social possibility.

 pleasure reading

Intellectual pleasure is pursued for the joy of figuring things out; it develops the capacity to see connections and solve problems. Our informants developed resilience, grit, and proactivity through the exercise of this pleasure. Erik Erikson argued that staking one’s identity is the primary task of early to late adolescence and that this is achieved through evolving interests and competence.

Social pleasure involves this human developmental project because it involves relating to authors, characters, other readers, and the self in ways that stake identity. Social pleasure is the love of connection—to the self, others, community, and to doing significant work together.

This pleasure develops social imagination: the capacity to experience the world from other perspectives; to learn from and appreciate others distant from us in time, space, and experience; and the willingness to relate, reciprocate, attend to, and help others different from ourselves.

In other words, it promotes cognitive progress, wisdom, wholeness, and the democratic project. In fact, all of the pleasures were found to do this.

Our data clearly establish that students gravitate to the kinds of books they need to navigate their current life challenges, and that many ancillary benefits accrue in the realms of cognition, psychology, emotional development, and socialness. So much so that we developed the mantra: Kids read what they need!


This finding led us to be more trusting of kids’ choices and to ask them about why they chose to read what they did, and eventually to championing these choices. We likewise found that each of the marginalized genres we studied (romance, horror, vampire, fantasy, and dystopia) provided specific benefits and helped students navigate different individual developmental challenges.

Our data also establish that young people are doing sophisticated intellectual work in their pleasure reading, much of it just the kind of work that the Common Core and other next generation standards call for. So making pleasure more central to our practice is not in conflict with working to achieve standards.

girl reading

Standards and all the other significant goals described here can be achieved if teachers value interpretive complexity as much as they do textual complexity, if they create inquiry contexts that reward entering a story world and doing psychological and social work in addition to more traditional academic goals, and if they provide opportunities for choice and meaningful conversation.

Given the benefits of each pleasure, we are convinced that pleasure reading is not only a civil right, it is a social necessity of democracy.

That is why we urge you to promote pleasure reading in your classroom and school, and it is why our book is filled with practical ideas for how to do so while promoting each of the five pleasures. It is monumental work—and it is work we must undertake with the greatest urgency—particularly at this moment in history.


What are some of your favorite genres to read? Perhaps you have a child who might enjoy reading my book, Bumbling Bea simply for the fun of it.  I think they’ll enjoy it!

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The Reason to Value the Broadway Wig Maker

The Undervalued Wig MakEr

Let’s talk about the Broadway wig maker, shall we?

There are some people who work backstage and behind the scenes of a play who are never acknowledged. One is the wig maker. I ran onto this article in NPR’s Kansas website and thought you’d find it interesting, too!

While Broadway Sings Its Praise, The Wigmaker Remains Unsung

Every time you see a Broadway show, chances are a lot of the actors are wearing wigs.
Sunday night at the 68th Annual Tony Awards, Broadway’s highest honors will be presented in a ceremony at Radio City Music Hall. Awards will go to actors, actresses, set and lighting designers, but not the people who make the wigs the stars wear, even though the wigs are an essential part of theater craft.

Essential, and yet often invisible, says Jason P. Hayes, the wig designer for Harvey Fierstein’s Tony-nominated play, Casa Valentina.

Jason Hayes spent almost a week weaving thousands of strands of human hair into this 1960s hairdo for Reed Birney’s character, Charlotte, in Casa Valentina. The wig’s name is, appropriately, “Charlotta.”

“The problem with being a good wig designer is that if you do your job properly, no one knows that any of your work is on the stage,” Hayes says.

“I don’t think people realize that half of the people they’re looking at are wearing a wig,” Hayes says. “And that’s where a lot of that labor and that love and that work goes unnoticed, because if you do it properly, no one knows … that you were ever in the building!”

Wigs play a central role in Casa Valentina. The drama is based on a real Catskills resort in the 1960s that catered to heterosexual cross-dressers. So Hayes had to create wigs that weren’t for drag queens, but for transvestites.

“It’s knowing that difference that’s very important and integral to getting the looks and the characters right for Casa Valentina,” he says.

“It’s understanding they’re not drag queens. The whole point of their feminine persona is that you should never notice them.”

For the character of Charlotte, Hayes created a realistic 1960s hairdo, painstakingly crafted on a base created from a mold of the actor’s head.

“It’s a very fine mesh lace, so imagine a cross between what looks like window screening, but is as fine as panty hose,” he explains. “For lack of a better word, you take one strand of hair and you hand-knot that, on that mesh. So, it’s almost like you’re doing latch hook.”

It took Hayes almost a week to weave the thousands of strands of human hair into just this one wig. Actor Reed Birney, who’s nominated for a Tony as Charlotte, says that kind of attention to detail helps him as an actor.

“It really is a crucial aspect of the performance, this wig, especially for me,” Birney says. “Your self-image suddenly changes. I can’t see myself, but I see myself in the mirror and I know I’ve got this honey-colored hair and a big swoop and it really does affect the way you move through space.”

Tony-nominated actress Sarah Greene says the wig she wears in The Cripple of Inishmaan completes her character, a volatile teenager on a remote Irish island in the 1930s. Yet initially the brunette actress resisted.

“When they came with the red wig, I was like ‘Oh no! I want my own hair,’ ” Greene says. “And yet, the minute I put it on, it was just like, ‘Oh no — the bold Helen is here.'”

If an actor is playing multiple characters, a wig can be crucial in helping to define them.

In the Tony-nominated musical, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, actor Jefferson Mays, who’s also a Tony-nominee, plays eight roles.

For the gender-bending musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, wigmaker Mike Potter made eight wigs and used magnets so actor Neil Patrick Harris can change quickly on stage. Click here:

The styling of the wigs is important, but so is the stuff they’re made of, says Charles LaPointe, who made the hairpieces for the musical. LaPointe, who’s got an impressive Broadway resume, has a studio with 23 employees.

“We build everything [with] human hair,” LaPointe says. And where does he get the hair?
“Well, we have distributors all over the place,” he says. “We get some from London, that’s like fine Caucasian hair; and then we get Indian hair from Bali; and we get Asian hair from the dime store around the corner.”

Perhaps the most outrageous wigs on Broadway right now sit atop Tony-nominee Neil Patrick Harris’ head in the gender-bending musical, Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Mike Potter has designed all eight of Hedwig’s hairpieces — which evoke the likes of Farrah Fawcett and Tina Turner — in pink. For this show, Potter had to come up with a way for Neil Patrick Harris to change his wigs on the fly. So, he used magnets.

“They’re sown on these hat bases, called buckrams, and Neil has to do all of his own quick changes on stage,” Potter says. “And there are magnets built into his main wig, and so when he’s in the dark behind the car, he just pops it on and it’s like, instantly on his head.”

The actor will be showing off those expensively shaped locks on the Tony Awards broadcast Sunday evening. Harris wouldn’t be Hedwig without wigs, Potter says.

“They’re really a huge integral part of the character,” he says. “I mean, ‘wig’ is in her name!”

The Broadway wig maker- so important!