April 19th, 2018 by Victoria

Final Project Ideas

I think what I will do for my final project is connect the Broadway musical Hamilton to our reading and discussion about canon, and how the musical represents both the preservation of canon and the breaking away from the canon. Hamilton is the story of the life of Alexander Hamilton, as well as the story of the founding of the United States and the other founding fathers, a story which is very much embedded in the canon that is taught today in the common American narrative. Most schools in the United States at some point discuss the founding fathers and the origin of the country in modern terms: it would be very strange for that narrative to not be included in the canon of a school. However, the musical Hamilton strays from canon in the way that it conveys the narrative. Hamilton uses hip-hop style rap music, somewhat explicit language, and purposely cast non-white actors and singers to portray these prominent white figures in American history. Hamilton stays true to the historical narrative while at the same time casting and conveying the story in a non-canonical way, to contrast the modern era to the Revolutionary War era. By straying from the canon in specific ways Hamilton is able to use a story that has been told many times to tell a new story about modern day America, while at the same time honoring the narrative itself.

While I am fairly certain I will end up doing my final project on this subject, I wanted to ask if maybe it would be better to write my paper on a book instead of a musical. My worry about choosing a novel is that many books that I might have in mind I have read a long time ago, and therefore might not be very fresh in my mind. I wasn’t sure if I could remember enough to form a coherent or complicated enough argument for the paper we have to write.


April 19th, 2018 by Lillian

The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Since I am going to be spending the next three years focusing primarily on writings and history from the Early Modern and Medieval eras, I wanted to use this project to delve into my other great literature love: children’s books.

My favorite Children’s book of all time is The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbit, but I don’t have my copy on campus, and the library doesn’t have children’s books. So, I went through what I did bring and I picked up my copy of E. L. Konigsburg’s Newbery award-winning novel. I remember so vividly this being read aloud to me in my third-grade classroom, instilling not only feelings of New York pride, but also a desire for adventure and a heightened curiosity about the world around me.

The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is a story of two kids who run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and quickly get swept up in a mystery of art history. As someone who loves art, New York, and well the Met, this book is near and dear to my heart.

I think this book holds promise with its history of New York (originally published in 1967), but also the deep art history of Michelangelo and the other highlighted parts of the museum. The way these pieces fuel an adolescent story of independence and self-discovery was important to me in elementary school, and still holds meaning now for my college years and beyond.

April 16th, 2018 by Lillian

A Family of Storytellers

My parents were, well, are, storytellers. Coming from a background of theater, they knew the power of a good story, and what a love for them can encourage. The limits of creativity, imagination, and dreaming no longer exist when there is a story to be told. So, it was important that they fostered this love in me.

Even before I was using real words my mom would tell me stories and even talk with me in gibberish. Our intonation was that of a real conversation, but what came out of our mouths was nothing more than the garble of an infant. My ability to speak as though I was expressing meaning probably came from the amount of reading aloud that my parents did. As they read stories to me from our extensive collection of picture books, I heard they way they changed their voices for different characters, how questions sounded compared to exclamations. Sad sounded different from happy which sounded different from angry, and before I could say words I was beginning to understand what sounds meant in terms of storytelling.

One of the books my mom read to me over and over was a large picture book of animals in alphabetical order. She would open to the large picture of an animal and say the name, going through the book a hundred times at least. And one day I was sitting in my high chair and she had placed the book up on my little table. As my mom was clearing dishes she heard me saying “cow” over and over. Coming over to me, my mom saw that I was actually, in fact, pointing at the picture of the cow. Curious, and admittedly a little shocked, my mom decided to test me. Saying “find my the pig” and other animals, I would flip to the page with that animal and point. Now this book had an Orangutan for O, but my mom really didn’t like it because for must of her life she had thought it was pronounced “Orangutang,” so she’d shown my that page maybe once. As a final test my mom asked me to show her the Orangutan, and, well, I did.

This was the first time I displayed that I was reading anything, even if just pictures to start.


Living in the city I was constantly surrounded by words, on advertisements, street signs, and billboards. As my mom traveled around the city with me she would tell me what the words I was seeing were. And as I starting learning the alphabet at home, I could, with help from my mom, start to piece together what I was seeing and understand them as words.

Before I even entered into pre-Kindergarten I was reading every time I went outside my apartment.


I distinctly remember my mom telling me the story of the Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and Wardrobe from memory during our commutes. She did this for years, even though most of my elementary school life. She also took me to the library every day and she would either read to me whatever books I ripped off the shelves just for the sake of touching them or bring me into the weekly read aloud and storytelling hosted by our local NYPL branch. The library quickly became my second home of stories.

During our long car rides to my Grandma’s house in central Pennsylvania, we listened to books on tape that came with an actual copy of the picture book the audio was reading so I would follow along, to the best of my ability, in the back seat.


As soon as I could read words, all I wanted to do was read the stories I’d grown up hearing. So I read quickly and as much as I could. I remember int eh second grade I read every Roald Dahl book in the school library, thoroughly inspired by Matilda, with an ever-changing text of desire that was always a story. To read was to live in a new world for a moment, to let your possibilities expand, and for a young girl with subpar social skills these stories took me in and cared for me in a way that reminded me both of home, but also the potential of my future.

Unsurprisingly, I developed a love of reading and of good storytelling that I rely on to this day.

April 16th, 2018 by Victoria

Yoko Tawada Performance

I was not sure what to expect upon going to the Yoko Tawada performance, because I knew that sometimes people are different on stage in front of many people compared to how they are in a smaller group. Since we had met Yoko Tawada earlier in a small group setting, I was curious as to how similar she would be when she performed. Interestingly, I feel as if she spoke in a similar manner in both of the settings, both large and small. To me this suggests that Yoko Tawada is quite self-confident if she can present herself in such a way that it is her honest self, no matter the context. Of course I do not know her well enough to determine is she was being authentic, but it still takes a lot of skill and self-control to be as measured and assured as she was in front of our class and also while performing.

In terms of the actual content of her performance, I appreciated how she used multiple languages while reading, and how she and the other presenter truly seemed connected in what they were conveying. I thought it was interesting how Yoko Tawada talked about languages as being apart of the same network; different pieces apart of the same whole. I liked how she addressed not only the significance of languages having meaning within themselves, but that accents as well communicate so much about the speaker. It made me think more about how generalizing languages in broad terms like “English” or “Japanese”, etc., does not account for all of the variations within languages themselves.

April 3rd, 2018 by nguyetra

My grandmother and how I learned to read

Under the shadows of my grandmother’s grapefruit trees, I grew up in Vietnamese folk songs and fairy tales. Before every dinner, (and for my constant nagging, of course), my grandmother would read me a random story from our stacks of “colorful books,” funny legends of coconut princes, bamboo heroes, and moon-dwellers. I listened attentively as her fingers traced through the pages, her movements so elegant that I thought she was drawing something from white papers – probably unsymmetrical lines. At night, these legends once again burst into life as I sank into moonlights, faint, parallel strips of lights that were painted all over the bedroom’s window. I dreamt of copra and bamboo leaves instead of princesses and dragons; I woke up wondering whether last night the moon-man, in his eternal longing for the Earth, had watched me during my sleep.

Reading comes to me as natural as listening to these tales: o is an egg, ô wears a hat, and ơ always has its “mustache” on. In my grandfather little library, my reading skills “advanced” as I started to read what he believed was more than dinner-time stories. My reading list reflected a kid’s interest, however: I favorited “Journey to the West” more than anything else, a novel about a devoted monk who travels to faraway lands with a monkey, a pig, and a river monster in the search for sacred Buddhist texts. I was on a thrilling quest where tree spirits, scorpion demons, and six-eared macaques tried to lure and eat the monk, only to be defeated by his protectors who once were also sinned demons.

How I learned to read was never the scolding of first-grade teachers, the frowns from expecting adults. I learned to read by listening to my grandmother, who in her generous patience and gentleness has taught me what the words mean. I knew reading was a delight since I was four, as words take me to strange adventures that only a child’s imagination could match.

April 2nd, 2018 by Victoria

Learning How To Read

I honestly do not remember exactly how I learned to read, or when. I am sure my mother had purchased some books for me to read with her when I was very young, but I do not distinctly remember reading on my own until about first grade. I actually did not begin speaking (talking in general, let alone reading out loud) until I was three years old, so my memories of reading probably get tied up in that as well. I went to a speech therapist and they determined that nothing was preventing me from speaking, I just either did not want to or did not feel the need since I felt my mom understood me well without me speaking.

I have always loved books and stories though, for as long as I can remember. During my early elementary school days (first grade through third grade) I remember going through entire series of books that were lined on the shelves (A-Z Mysteries, The Secrets of Droon, etc.). I do not remember going through the alphabet letter by letter although I am sure that I probably had lessons like that in Kindergarten and elementary school. I did not attend preschool so if I had any experience with reading before Kindergarten, it would have been at home. I asked my mom about what she remembers concerning me learning how to read and she said that we used to read together before I went to school officially.

I would say that I definitely have always loved to read, and I think my love for reading was helped both by the availability of books at my school and also by my mom encouraging me.

April 2nd, 2018 by Annalee

Learning To Read

I think it’s kind of funny that I can’t remember how I learned to do something that seems so effortless now. According to my mom, my brother and I were read to practically from the second we were brought home from the hospital. Strapped to our cribs were signs with different shapes, colors, and lines on them so that we could start distinguishing different objects and shapes. Babies apparently see red and black better than other colors, so the signs consisted of red squiggly lines and black squares amongst other shapes of varying sizes and colors. Everywhere we went, mom and dad were exposing us to new signs with new colors and new shapes until we began to differentiate between them.

Every week, we’d go to the library to pick out that week’s helping of books. Sometimes we’d go more than once a week, picking up twenty or so books. Sometimes mom and dad would pick out books, other times we would pick up a bag of pre-organized books by a certain category. Sometimes we’d head back home with the books, other times we’d stay and read in the colorful children’s room with me often getting distracted by the fish tank against the wall. Other times, more frequently than not, we’d be just in time for story time and be able to be read aloud to. I don’t remember many of the books I read or were read to me, but we still own “Pat The Bunny” and “The Night Before Christmas”, both classics that I think most kids have read.

By the time we started school, I could recognize words like A, The, and Jane, nothing too complicated. From then on, I guess my reading was in the hands of my teachers. Once I was reading chapter books, I remember my parents providing an incentive for us to read: 10¢ for every page we read. I was just trying to make a living, when Teddy, my brother, had to ruin all the fun and start reading nonstop, emptying my parents’ pockets of change. In the end, I didn’t need to money to inspire me to read and neither did Teddy, but I’m still a little salty that he ruined the fun.

April 2nd, 2018 by Marissa

Learning to Read – Marissa

Although I am not completely aware of how I learned to read, I remember in Kindergarten when we were all learning the alphabet and every day we would have another letter to work on. We would say words that came to our minds that started with the letter that we were working on, and my teacher would write them down. I remember doing this throughout all of Kindergarten, in addition to, having read aloud sessions where our teacher would sit and read a book that we chose for her.

Before Kindergarten, my mom would read to my brother and I every night. We had special books for learning to read that would write about one letter of the alphabet and introduce you to different words that you might come across. Also, we owned a lot of picture books that my mom would read aloud to me, but after a few times of hearing the same book, I would know what the book said, and my mom told me that I would try to read the words with what I knew it said. This is a way that I learned recognition of certain words that started my learning process.

My mom told me that she would make my brother and I read all kinds of things from menus to children’s books to signs. She told me that we also had flash cards that had some words that were familiar and some that were different that we would go through every night. The flash cards that we had, had the picture on one side, and the word on the other. For example, if the front had a picture of a house, the back said house. From a young age, parents emphasize words for their kids to learn. The most common words that kids can recognize are the alphabet and animals because they become familiar.

While talking to my mom, she told me that after I was able to read a sentence of a book, I wanted to read more so I wouldn’t let her read to me anymore. She told me that I would read the books to her, and she would help me when I got stuck. I think that this is a common thing for parents to do with their kids. I know that I learned how to read small children’s books, and afterwards, I wanted to start reading short stories, and then moved on to novels like “The Boxcar Children,” in second grade.

After I learned to read, my mom wanted me to gain a bigger vocabulary, so she would make me read everything that we would come across in a day. On top of that, I would read to her every night and she would help me continue to learn new words.

April 2nd, 2018 by Elizabeth

Autobiography: learning to read

I began my journey of learning how to read when I was a baby. Learning to read did not happen overnight, in fact, it took years of practicing up until second grade. Every single evening my mother, an elementary school teacher who taught K-2, would read aloud to me for story time. My mother knew exactly what it took to teach a child how to read. It was very beneficial having a mother as a teacher because I got extra support in, and out of the classroom. She was also very patient, and had wonderful resources for me. She gave my kindergarten teacher reading materials for the whole class to use and learn from.

More specifically, in the beginning, everything I saw, from a street sign to a milk carton I began learning how to read. I would point to words and try to sound them out. My mom would sing the alphabet song to me everywhere in the car in the grocery store you name it! I first learned the letters in my name by playing various name games and puzzles my mom had made. Once I learned the whole alphabet through singing the song, and listening to stories I was able to read words. I started naming anything I saw and trying to figure out what everything was and meant.

I looked at sight words in picture books, and became more familiar with high frequency words. I was taught rhyming words, consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC), i.e. “bat-cat” in short primary books with repeating patterns, which made learning to read fun. I practiced reading every evening to my parents when in kindergarten, first grade and second grade. My parents and my teachers read aloud to me every day modeling how good readers read with expression. I was also asked comprehension questions to make sure that I understood the story I was reading and the ones I was being read to.

During the summers my mom would have reading and writing lessons for my sister and I to keep practicing. Learning to read became apart of my everyday life without me really ever noticing. Reading was fun for me, and it still is because of my curiosity and passion for learning.

March 29th, 2018 by Annalee

Yoko Tawada Multi-Cultural Performance

Sitting in ATS waiting for Yoko Tawada to be introduced, I’ll admit that I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had heard that it was a multicultural performance, but I wasn’t sure what this entailed. After Tawada had been introduced, I found myself wondering what exactly she was doing with the string, but I was also intrigued. I’ll admit that the only language I can somewhat get by in, besides English, is French, so it was a bit confusing to hear Tawada speak mainly in German and Japanese because I couldn’t understand anything she was saying. When Bettina Brandt begin translating Tawada’s poems into English, I found myself longing to know what Tawada was saying in German and Japanese respectively rather than having to wait for a translation. Without knowing it, I was serving as an example to her theory that languages are not only a form of communication and how sometimes it is comforting to use numerous languages to depict something. I wished to be able to suddenly understand German and Japanese, but alas I just waited for the translations. I wanted to know the historic ties that each language brought into the conversation, but I didn’t.

I liked all the odd bits that Tawada included in her performance. I really liked how she wrote one of her poems on the inside of a yellow umbrella because I personally would never think of doing this and found that it added to her quirky personality. When she came to visit class, I personally found her to be a little intimidating as this super accomplished writer sat in front of me willing to answer my questions, but who was I to ask questions on her incredible work? However, I got a very different vibe from her during the performance as her quirky side began to shine through and she began to show more of her personality, making her seem less intimidating.

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