A basic, old-school literacy lifeline tossed into a sea of declining reading skills.


A language arts and reading specialist offers a systematic but individualized program for teaching children to read.

Wirtz (Reading Champions! Master Training and Teaching Book, 2002) comes with 40 years’ experience teaching grades K through 12. Her program, developed over many years in the classroom crucible, is for teachers, parents, or tutors, all of whom are assigned the roles of coaches. Wirtz builds on what she calls common-sense minilessons designed to augment but not replace existing school reading programs. Each carefully formatted CSML packet is geared to take no more than 15 minutes, though some seem likely to take longer. Others, especially those for beginning readers, are meant to be repeated as often as necessary for a particular student. The coaching approach is decidedly hands-on and will produce best results in one-on-one or small classroom settings. “Practice, drill and repetition are the best way to build language skills,” she writes, and these will remain necessary until readers automatically and without conscious thought apply skills such as word recognition. Only then can these advancing readers begin to use techniques such as scanning, in which the eyes sweep pages for broad meaning without plowing through every sentence. Wirtz goes even further, suggesting a subliminal technique in which the eyes are focused on the white spaces between the lines “to let the mind, rather than your eyes, gather information in larger chunks.” But she concentrates mainly on letter-recognition methods, phonics, short and long vowels, letter groupings, consonant blends and digraphs, diphthongs and the like, each the focus of individual CSMLs. Generally clear and concise, these lessons call for nothing fancier than homemade word boards and alphabet cards. Computers and bedazzling reading software don’t figure into her old-school approach; a CSML on the use of dictionaries doesn’t mention spell-checking software or the ease of looking up a word online. Indeed, Wirtz’s entire program could have been carried out just as well 50 years ago. Maybe that’s a good thing.

A basic, old-school literacy lifeline tossed into a sea of declining reading skills.

Pub Date: June 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-1489702081

Page Count: 280

Publisher: LifeRichPublishing

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.


Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.

“We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened,” writes Cullen, a Denver-based journalist who has spent the past ten years investigating the 1999 attack. In fact, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold conceived of their act not as a targeted school shooting but as an elaborate three-part act of terrorism. First, propane bombs planted in the cafeteria would erupt during lunchtime, indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of students. The killers, positioned outside the school’s main entrance, would then mow down fleeing survivors. Finally, after the media and rescue workers had arrived, timed bombs in the killers’ cars would explode, wiping out hundreds more. It was only when the bombs in the cafeteria failed to detonate that the killers entered the high school with sawed-off shotguns blazing. Drawing on a wealth of journals, videotapes, police reports and personal interviews, Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community. He portrays Harris as a calculating, egocentric psychopath, someone who labeled his journal “The Book of God” and harbored fantasies of exterminating the entire human race. In contrast, Klebold was a suicidal depressive, prone to fits of rage and extreme self-loathing. Together they forged a combustible and unequal alliance, with Harris channeling Klebold’s frustration and anger into his sadistic plans. The unnerving narrative is too often undermined by the author’s distracting tendency to weave the killers’ expressions into his sentences—for example, “The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and, man, were those things badass.” Cullen is better at depicting the attack’s aftermath. Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy.

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

Pub Date: April 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-54693-5

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

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