Not A Regular Reader? 4 Strategies To Make Reading A Habit.

Join us:

Not A Regular Reader? 4 Strategies To Make Reading A Habit.

If you have trouble reading, it doesn’t necessarily end as soon as you’re out of school. Nearly 20% of adults struggle to read, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. But just because you’re not nose-deep in Dostoyevsky doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of good resources out there to help.

“People who have trouble reading are not dumb. They are bright smart people but they just read differently from others,” says Manju Banerjee, the Vice President for Educational Research and Innovation and a professor at Landmark College, a school in Vermont for students with diagnosed learning disabilities. She knows what’s up.

Here are some ways that you can get started on your reading journey, especially if it’s difficult:

1. Remember: if you are a slow reader, or if you struggle to read, that doesn’t mean you’re not smart!

Reading slowly, or struggling to read happens to all kinds of successful folks — just ask Stephen Spielberg, Kiera Knightley or Whoopi Goldberg! Of course, there’s a huge range of what it means to struggle to read — please know that in this piece we’re being as broad as we can when we speak to all you smarties who struggle to read. From folks with dyslexia, folks who just can’t seem to pick up a book and all of y’all who worry that social media has effectively put your brain into the microwave. And heads up, if you think you have an undiagnosed learning disability — talk to your doctor.

We can put a lot of pressure on ourselves to read quickly when we read, which Banerjee says is really counterproductive. “I see so many individuals benefit from extended time,” she says. “There is there is that pressure around if you’re not a speed reader then you’re slow and slow is associated with not being smart.” So, she says, take it easy on yourself and give yourself enough time to pick up whatever book is interesting to you and release yourself from the pressure of time.

2. Drop! Everything! And! Read! Read whatever you want, but make time for it.

Carve the time out of your day or night to stop scrolling Instagram or fretting about tomorrow and tell yourself “I’m going to do this for 30 minutes,” or whatever you’ve got time for on that particular day.

Also, reading doesn’t need to be highbrow — you don’t have to read some massive doorstopper! If the classics don’t do it for you, let ’em go. “People who do read a lot can have a little bit of snobbishness about it,” says Juanita Giles, who writes a delightful column for NPR and is also the founder of the Virginia Children’s Book Festival. If you’re wondering what to read, just … read whatever the heck sounds interesting to you without judging it. So that dishy celeb memoir you’re reading is fine! It’s a book! And if you’re reading it, that is the point in and of itself.

“Give yourself that time at night to read. Just dedicate that time, and you’ll find if you don’t like it, the book that you pick out at first, put it down and just try another one,” she says.

3. If you want to read more, make sure you have books all over your life.

“If you have to go to the doctor’s office or if you have to go to the DMV or any place … Keep a book in the car, keep a book in your bag. Just put them all over the place,” says Giles. “I have books everywhere. You know, make them available to you. And pretty soon you’ll pick one up and you’ll start reading and then there you go your reader.”

Giles and Banerjee stressed that you don’t necessarily need a physical book — if your eyes are having trouble taking in books, try an audiobook! Or even use a program for text to speech. Banerjee says that Microsoft’s Immersive Reader software works well, especially in reading aloud, translating words in the text that are in other languages, like Latin, and in making it possible for readers to highlight text in audio. She also says that Adobe Acrobat Pro and the standard Adobe Acrobat both have a helpful feature that allows her as a teacher to embed a spoken note in the text that the student is reading.

4. Break it down with this 4-part reading strategy

We have some useful strategies from Banerjee that are rooted in neuroscience that I think can help all of us. Think of it like a little Russian nesting doll of advice for how to read:

Pre-reading: Evaluate how much time you have and how much you want to read.
Gist reading: Skim everything you’ve got and get a sense for it. I remember my mom taught me this smart trick about skimming, which is look out for numbers and bolded words, any titles and sort of move your eyes over the page.
Strategic reading: Strategic reading is all about finding the meaning in what you just read. Basically, you read slower and focus on keeping that information in your brain.
Review reading: This final step, Banerjee says, is a little more for the classroom than it is for just sitting down and reading your novel, but it’s where you go over everything you read to make sure it’s all there in your brain.

So these four steps: Pre-reading, gist reading, strategic reading and review reading are the way to get those words from the page to stick in your head. But Banerjee recommends that you can be flexible with these steps depending on what you’ve got on your plate.

Bonus Tip — Change word spacing

Banerjee highly recommends that anyone struggling to read check out the work of Matthew H. Schneps. “He’s done some very fascinating studies which show that if you reduce the number of words in a sentence and add more white space between words those who are different couldn’t read before can actually read,” Banerjee says. If this seems interesting, be sure to click around here and here to learn more about this research and the ways in which it could help you.


Abortion rates fall drastically in countries that have made birth control legal.

Join us:

Abortion rates fall drastically in countries that have made birth control legal.

Abortion rates have fallen over the past 25 years, even as more countries have made the procedure legal and easier to get, according to a new report released Tuesday.

Countries with the most restrictive abortion laws also have the highest rates of abortion, the study by the Guttmacher Institute found. Easier access to birth control drives down abortion rates, the report also finds.

The report finds about 56 million abortions occur every year — nearly 50 million of them in developing countries. About a quarter of all pregnancies end in abortion.

Because there are so many women of childbearing age, the number of abortions has gone up, but the rates per 1,000 women have fallen, the report found.

Switzerland had the lowest abortion rate at 5 per 1,000 women. The U.S. rate is 13 per 1,000 women, the same as Britain’s, the report found. Colombia and Mexico had abortion rates of 34 per 1,000 women. Pakistan’s estimated abortion rate was the highest at 50 per 1,000 women.

“Abortions take place around the world, no matter the legal setting,” the report reads. But, it adds, “Provision of abortion is safest where it has long been legal.”

“Nonetheless, some countries with broadly liberal laws have increasingly added restrictions that chip away at access to legal procedures; these include the United States and several countries in the former Soviet Bloc or zone of influence.”

Earlier this week, Mississippi’s governor signed a law banning most abortions after 15 weeks gestation, although a federal judge blocked the law Tuesday.

And the Trump Health and Human Services Department has reversed Obama era policies that made contraception more freely available and that used evidence-based approaches to fight teen pregnancy — over the objections of career health officials.

A 2012 study of more than 9,000 women found that when women got no-cost birth control, the number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions fell by between 62 and 78 percent. But political appointees at HHS advocate for abstinence-only approaches, which have been shown not to affect unplanned pregnancy rates.

The report from Guttmacher, which studies reproductive health issues, found rates of both abortions and of unintended pregnancies have fallen worldwide.

“Improved contraceptive use, and in turn, declines in unintended pregnancy rates are the likely driver behind the worldwide decline in abortion rates,” Susheela Singh, vice president for international research at the Guttmacher Institute, said in a statement.

“Most women who have an abortion do so because they did not intend to become pregnant in the first place. Meeting the need for contraception is critical to bringing down rates even further.”

greatly region by region. Much of the reduction in abortions overall follows changes in the former Soviet Union, with policies encouraging contraception over abortion.

The highest abortion rates are now found in Latin America and the Caribbean, where abortion is strongly restricted legally.

“Highly restrictive laws do not eliminate the practice of abortion, but make those that do occur more likely to be unsafe,” the report reads.

The report’s findings echo those from the National Academy of Medicine last week. It found that, despite claims from some anti-abortion-rights officials, abortion care is overwhelmingly safe in the U.S. It found that abortions can be safely provided in clinics and doctor’s offices.

“In many states, regulations have created barriers to safe, effective, patient-centered, timely, efficient, and equitable abortion services,” the report reads.

“Abortion is among the most regulated medical procedures in the nation,” it adds.

“Having an abortion does not increase a woman’s risk of secondary infertility, pregnancy-related hypertensive disorders, abnormal placentation, preterm birth or breast cancer.”

The Guttmacher and National Academies reports agree that making it more difficult to get abortions forces women to get them at a later stage, when they will be more complicated, expensive and risky.

Guttmacher found when that happens to women in developing nations, they often turn to “traditional” methods which include:

  • Inserting sticks, roots, bones, wires, ground seeds or chemicals into the uterus;
  • Instilling bleach, saltwater, detergent or soap into the uterus;
  • Drinking alcohol, detergent, bleach, tea or herbs;
  • Taking aspirin, painkillers, laxatives, hormones or other medications;
  • Beating or pushing on the abdomen or jumping from heights;
  • Blowing air into the vagina or placing a hot stone on the abdomen to “melt” the fetus.

“Not only do these methods often fail, they can lead to severe complications,” the report concludes.



U.S. Court Rules Dreadlock Ban During Hiring Process Is Legal.

Join us:

U.S. Court Rules Dreadlock Ban During Hiring Process Is Legal.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled against a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Catastrophe Management Solutions, effectively ruling that refusing to hire someone because of their dreadlocks is legal.

The lawsuit was filed by the EEOC on behalf of Chastity Jones, whose job offer was rescinded by Catastrophe Management Solutions, located in Mobile, Alabama. According to the case file, Jeannie Wilson, a human resources manager for CMS, commented on Jones’ dreadlocks during a private hiring meeting to discuss scheduling conflicts, telling Jones, “they tend to get messy, although I’m not saying yours are, but you know what I’m talking about.” Wilson told Jones that CMS would not bring Jones on board with dreadlocks, terminating the job offer.

In their suit, the EEOC claimed that this was a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s Title VII, arguing that dreadlocks are a “racial characteristic” that have been historically used to stereotype African-Americans as “not team players” and as unfit for the workplace. Therefore, claiming that dreadlocks do not fit a grooming policy is based on these stereotypes and inherently discriminatory, as dreadlocks are a hairstyle “physiologically and culturally associated” with African-Americans.

The court of appeals disagreed, ruling that CMS’s “race–neutral grooming policy” was not discriminatory as hairstyles, while “culturally associated with race,” are not “immutable physical characteristics.” In essence, traits in a person’s appearance that are tied to their culture but are otherwise changeable are not protected and can be used to deny job offers.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act has been routinely interpreted by the courts to only protect against “immutable characteristics” and not cultural practices. In Garcia v. Gloor, the courts ruled against the plaintiff, arguing that being fired for speaking Spanish at work despite their employers English-only policy did not violate Title VII.

Restrictions against dreadlocks have also been implemented in schools. This past July, Attica Scott, whose daughter is a student at Butler Traditional High School in Louisville, Kentucky, tweeted the dress code distributed by the school, which specifically prohibited “dreadlocks, cornrows, and twists.”


The Names of 1.8 Million Emancipated Slaves Are Now Searchable in the World’s Largest Genealogical Database.

Join us:

The Names of 1.8 Million Emancipated Slaves Are Now Searchable in the World’s Largest Genealogical Database.

The successes of the Freedman’s Bureau, initiated by Abraham Lincoln in 1865 and first administered under Oliver Howard’s War Department, are all the more remarkable considering the intense popular and political opposition to the agency. Under Lincoln’s successor, impeached Southern Democrat Andrew Johnson, the Bureau at times became a hostile entity to the very people it was meant to aid and protect—the formerly enslaved, especially, but also poor whites devastated by the war. After years of defunding, understaffing, and violent insurgency the Freedman’s Bureau was officially dissolved in 1872.

In those first few years after emancipation, however, the Bureau built several hospitals and over a thousand rural schools in the South, established the Historically Black College and University system, and “created millions of records,” notes the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), “that contain the names of hundreds of thousands of formerly enslaved individuals and Southern white refugees.” Those records have enabled historians to reconstruct the lives of people who might otherwise have disappeared from the record and helped genealogists trace family connections that might have been irrevocably broken.

As we noted back in 2015, those records have become part of a digitization project named for the Bureau and spearheaded by the Smithsonian, the National Archives, the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, whose FamilySearch is the largest genealogy organization in the world. “Using modern, digital and web-based technology and the power of [over 25,000!] volunteers,” says Hollis Gentry, a genealogical specialist at the NMAAHC, the Freedman’s Bureau Project “is unlocking information from a transformative era in the history of African American families and the American nation.”

That information is now available to the general public, “globally via the web” here, as of June 20th, 2016, allowing “all of us to enlarge our understanding of the past.” More specifically, the Freedman’s Bureau Project and FamilySearch allows African Americans to recover their family history in a database that now includes “the names of nearly 1.8 million men, women and children” recorded by Freedman’s Bureau workers and entered by Freedman’s Bureau Project volunteers 150 years later. This incredible database will give millions of people descended from both former slaves and white Civil War refugees the ability to find their ancestors.

There’s still more work to be done. In collaboration with the NMAAHC, the Smithsonian Transcription Center is currently relying on volunteers to transcribe all of the digital scans provided by FamilySearch. “When completed, the papers will be keyword searchable. This joint effort will help increase access to the Freedmen’s Bureau collection and help the public learn more about the United States in the Reconstruction Era,” a critical time in U.S. history that is woefully underrepresented or deliberately whitewashed in textbooks and curricula.

“The records left by the Freedmen’s Bureau through its work between 1865 and 1872 constitute the richest and most extensive documentary source available for investigating the African American experience in the post-Civil War and Reconstruction eras,” writes the National Archives. Soon, all of those documents will be publicly available for everyone to read. For now, those with roots in the U.S. South can search the Freedman’s Bureau Project database to discover more about their family heritage and history.

And while the Smithsonian’s transcription project is underway, those who want to learn more can visit the Freedman’s Bureau Online, which has transcribed hundreds of documents, including labor records, narratives of “outrages committed on freedmen,” and marriage registers.