Alpha Celebrates World Autism Day with Books You’ll Love
Today is International Women’s Day (IWD). The UN adopted this internationally celebrated day in the late 20th century, but did you know that the historic roots of IWD can be found in Russia dating back to 1917? On March 8, 1917, a demonstration of women textile workers covered Petrograd, the capital of Russia. Eight years before that, however, on February 28, 1909, the first “National Women’s Day” observance was held to honour garment workers in New York.
In 1977 the UN “adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions” (UN Women Watch).
Today, IWD means many different things for people all over the world. Each year has a new theme. The 2017 theme is #BeBoldForChange.
Throughout the history of literature, women have not only been bold and gone against the grain to write great books, but they have also written books about other bold women.
To honour IWD 2017 #BeBoldForChange, Alpha Textbooks is featuring books that we think represent bold women writers and stories.
Our list includes (in no particular order):
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, by Malala Yousafzai
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank (aka Diary of Anne Frank)
Hannah’s Suitcase, by Karen Levine
What We All Long For, by Dionne Brand
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf
What other great books written by women about bold women would you add to this list? Why?
If, like us, you’re still immensely impressed by the performance of Canadian athletes at the summer Olympics in Rio, particularly Penny Oleksiak’s performance, then you will find Leanne Shapton’s Swimming Studies engrossing.
In this autobiographical novel, Shapton reflects on some important moments in her life that were shaped largely by one activity: swimming. To most of us, swimming is just that – an activity. But to Shapton, swimming was all encompassing. Whether it was swimming for the Olympic trials, or swimming for the pure enjoyment of it, she spent much of her life in the water.
Slipping into a body of water is to Leanne what strumming a chord is to a musician, or what painting is to a painter. It feels right to her. It is in describing how she feels in water where the writing in Swimming Studies becomes so serene and poignant. Swimming becomes a source of inspiration for her, not only as a writer, but also as a painter.
The book’s ruminations on a life spent in water doesn’t follow a straight, linear path. Instead, the book starts at one moment, jumps three years into the future, only to go back ten years in the subsequent chapter. However, the book does focus on the significant stages of Leanne’s life, particularly, her time training for the 1988 and 1992 Canadian Olympic trials.
The life of an athlete is often distilled down to superficial statements about having to work hard, train hard, and strive to be the best every day. Leanne’s story goes beyond stale platitudes and shows us the strain of chasing perfection; the almost daily 5:30am practice sessions, the cardio, the strength training, the drills, and the carbo-loading before a race.
Although the book takes us through the routine tasks of an athlete, the reader is also shown how the obsession to get better can manifest in interesting and unique ways depending on the athlete.
For Leanne, the time one minute and 11 seconds (1:11:00) was significant to her as a teenager, but it also haunted her. It was the time she wanted to swim in the 100-metre breaststroke for the Olympic trials. While nuking her breakfast in the microwave on mornings before practice, she would set the timer for 1:11:00. She would then close her eyes and visualize her race, trying to beat the microwave on its countdown to 00:00:00. There are many idiosyncratic moments sprinkled throughout Swimming Studies, like Shapton’s race against her microwave, and they breathe so much life into the book.
But as the reader learns from the outset of the book, Leanne didn’t make it to the Olympics. Once she accepted that she wouldn’t be a competitive swimmer, she had to figure out who she was and what would come next. Identity quickly surfaces as a major theme in Swimming Studies. Is she an athlete? Is she just a casual swimmer? Can she be a teacher? Like the ebb and flow of a tide, Leanne had to find a balance between the competitive swimmer she was in her adolescence, and the person she will become in her adult life. Her struggle to move on from a sport that defined her offers some of the most emotional and relatable moments in Swimming Studies.
Swimming Studies is an engaging read about the author’s journey of self-discovery, and her efforts to reconcile her feelings about swimming after walking away from competitive swimming. The book offers a look into the mind of a former athlete who finds the beauty and tranquility in a sport after years of seeing only competition and five different coloured rings.
Why this is good for teachers
This is a great book for teachers that are looking to include materials into their curriculum that cover the sporting world.
Swimming Studies is an honest look at the life of an athlete. The book, however, doesn’t just explore the physical and mental demands, but also the relationship between the author and the activity that makes her sport a sport: swimming.
Swimming Studies will satisfy teachers that are looking for something that can appeal to the sports fans in their classroom, while challenging their students to view sports from a different perspective.
Why this is good for students
Leanne Shapton’s reflections not only on her career, but also her love of swimming and being in the water, will be thought-provoking for many students, especially those that are involved in a sport or enjoy watching sports.
Shapton’s autobiography reveals her deep appreciation for everything swimming has given her: the friendships, disappointments, familiar smells, bathing suits, and the cathartic, self-affirming moments spent floating calmly on water.
Swimming Studies gives the reader a glimpse into an athlete’s mind that is unique, and young people either involved in sports or just interested in sports will be intrigued by Shapton’s views on swimming.
Book of the Month for September – Intro to Mass Communication: Media Literacy and Culture, 8th Edition
From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed, we are bombarded by messages from hundreds of media sources. The man on the ad tells us the deodorant he uses will help you smell like an Irish spring, the people on the latest reality TV show present their version of an ideal lifestyle, and the news anchor tells us the top story of the day involves a squirrel and a jet ski.
Messages like the ones above can have a very obvious impact on individuals, their behaviour, and the culture they’re a part of, while the impacts of other messages are less apparent. This begs the question: how aware are we of media’s influence on us, and are we able to scrutinize the messages aimed at us to discern their intent? Stanley J. Baran’s Introduction to Mass Communication: Media Literacy and Culture, 8th Edition takes a comprehensive look at media and mass communication, and how we can learn to effectively comprehend images and messages targeted at us, the consumers.
Baran does a good job unburdening the reader with weighty concepts and theories. That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of key terms in the book, because there are many. He makes it easy for the reader to conceptualize everything he presents by using plenty of real world examples that young people will find interesting and relevant to them (i.e., the rise of Apple products, pirating music, product placement in movies like The Social Network, and the rise of shock jocks on the radio). This makes the text more engaging, and the information easy to retain.
The book takes the large, messy and convoluted world that is media, mass communication and our relationship to the media, and lays it out in a clean, methodical fashion. The author groups his deep dive into this world into four chapters: 1) Laying the Groundwork, 2) Media, Media Industries, and Media Audiences, 3) Strategic Communication Industries, and 4) Mass-Mediated Culture in the Information Age.
The book begins by introducing the reader to the key concepts and terms that continually pop up in the book, then looks at the history and influence of the most pervasive media industries (film, Internet, TV, PR, advertising, etc.), and finally, it explores the social responsibility of the media.
The section of the book that looks at the dominant media industries is a very intriguing part of the book. The chapter on the Internet, in particular, is equal parts interesting and concerning. As I previously mentioned, the author takes a holistic approach to the content in his book. That approach is used in an effective way in the chapter on the Internet, as he tasks the reader to confront the good, the bad, and the ugly of the World Wide Web. The chapter invokes many mixed thoughts and feelings about this technology that has such a strong influence on our lives.
Needless to say, there is a lot to digest in the book. Although there is a lot of content (to the point where it could seem daunting), the text is neatly divided into easily digestible chapters, and the reader always knows what to take away from each section, with each chapter having learning objectives and a detailed review section.
The thoroughness of the review section is very helpful, as it helps the reader memorize important information. It covers the key terms, provides review questions and review points that sum up all the important information succinctly, and features thought-provoking discussion questions that make the reader apply what they learned using critical thinking.
Author Stanley Baran is able to take a dizzying amount of information and present it in a clear and concise fashion, making it easy to both retain important information and use it to interrogate the world of media and mass communication.
Why this is good for students
Students will enjoy using Introduction to Mass Communication: Media Literacy and Culture, 8th Edition because it covers a world that they are steeped in every day. With the amount of time they spend on the Internet, social media, television, etc., and as key media targets, students will enjoy learning how to scrutinize ubiquitous messages and images.
Furthermore, the text does a great job relating its concepts to people, places and events that young people are familiar with. Many examples are from events that students have witnessed in their lifetime, which they will feel more connected to, and they will have already formed an opinion on them.
Why this is good for teachers
For anyone introducing students to media and mass communication, Introduction to Mass Communication: Media Literacy and Culture 8th Edition is the perfect teaching resource. The textbook takes a holistic look at media and mass communication – no stone is left unturned. The book reduces the need for supplementary materials considerably, if not completely.
Teachers will also appreciate how far the book goes to foster discussion and critical thinking. Along with the numerous discussion questions, there are plenty of opportunities for the reader to apply their media literacy skills in the real world (i.e. any of Donald Trump’s campaign literature).
We’ve always had strong relationships with the people we serve, including teachers, students, parents, tutors, homeschoolers, and other businesses.
For over a decade we have offered a free service that connects students with local tutors, as a way to give more to that community.
The tutoring program is an extension of our core values, which involve participating in things that matter. We believe there’s a lot more to being in the “book business” than providing people with textbooks. Our mission includes knowing what is and is not working for schools and students; it’s about being able to make recommendations, offering a new teaching or learning tool, or participating in educational initiatives.
Students can easily request to connect with a tutor using the form found in the tutoring section of our website.
Tutors are invited to request a meeting with us and have their name placed on the list. When we receive a request from a student that matches a tutor’s credentials, we connect the two parties.
All tutors must have teaching and/or tutoring experience, a degree from an accredited post-secondary institution, and be able to show a recent police report or proof that you are a practicing teacher in an organization. We may also ask that you provide references.
Registered tutors will be eligible for a store discount on their teaching materials.
For more information or to get your name on the tutors list, use this link to email your CV and a brief letter.
For me, reading was a way to explore fascinating worlds and wild stories. I also used it as a way to keep learning – I had heard on some newscast that reading fiction makes you smarter. I wanted to get ahead of my class and excel at school. So, while I tried to play it cool with my peers, I was secretly a book nerd.
Although we have tons of novels to offer, summer reading may not be the best option for all kids. Not everyone digs fiction, our minds work differently. Still, being on summer break doesn’t mean that learning has to stop, or worse, regress.
At the risk of making a gross generalization, I think most people would agree that children love to show off their smarts. Kids light-up when they finally “get” that math formula, learn to “do math” in their head, or when they know the periodic table and what happens in chemical compounds. They also want to express themselves well, because they like sharing their experiences with others.
But the brain is a muscle, and, as the saying goes, “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” According to a study by Harris Cooper of Duke University, the average student loses at least a month’s worth of learning over the summer. Other studies conducted throughout the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s, came to similar conclusions, finding that students lose an average of 2.6 months of math, and 2 months of English over the summer when they don’t actively practice their skills. Further studies have also determined that there is a correlation between a family’s socioeconomic status and the degree to which children fall behind in the summer – most families need affordable ways to keep their kids actively learning.
Since it is part of Alpha Textbooks’ mission to provide affordable educational resources to families, this summer we teamed up with Popular Book Company to promote Popular’s SummerSmart series. Our business is in education, we care about the quality of learning and student success at school, and we want to help students keep achieving while still enjoying their summer.
Popular’s summer workbooks serve a unique function. The age/level appropriate books give kids the opportunity to hone their existing skills, but also get ahead. The books function as a bridge between two grade levels. Children review what they learned in the previous school year, but also learn ahead for the coming grade.
Staying true to our education system, the workbooks correspond to the Canadian curriculum and explore Canadian content and themes. They can be used as eight week courses that cover English, math, science, and social studies. The books also contain “hands-on” activities – after all, it is summer.
We are offering a special summer promotion for the series. From now, until July 31, you can pick up the SummerSmart books at Alpha for 30% off the retail price.
… In case you are wondering, with all that reading, math was never my strong suit. Unfortunately, I was looking for the other kind of popular in the ‘90s. Although I excelled at school in the liberal arts, I wish I could have been a stronger student in other subjects. My own experience has made me a big advocate of encouraging children to keep trying at all the subjects all year-round, even if they think it is too hard.
Posted by Cris Costa, Alpha Textbooks Communications Manager
If someone tells you that history (particularly Canadian history) is dry, then hand them a copy of Chester Brown’s biographical comic Louis Riel. To put it simply, Brown brings Canadian history to life in his comic, a format that succeeds in creating an engaging reading experience for learning about Canada’s sordid past.
Brown’s comic tells the true story of Louis Riel, a nineteenth century Métis leader. His struggle with the Canadian government – to secure rights for his people –takes the reader back to a time of much violence and uncertainty in Canadian history.
In the mid-nineteenth century, Canada was made up of four provinces: Ontario, Québec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia; and the Canadian government had its eyes on expanding its boundaries into the Red River Settlement – which today is Manitoba. At that time, the Red River Settlement was part of Rupert’s Land, which the King of England granted to the fur-trading enterprise, the Hudson’s Bay Company.
Louis Riel opens in 1869, when Prime Minister Sir John A. McDonald makes a deal with the Hudson’s Bay Company to govern the Red River Settlement. The residents of the Red River Settlement, of which 80% were Métis, were dissatisfied with the news and concerned about governance.
Eventually, Louis Riel emerges from the confusion, anger and uncertainty, as the leader of, and to some a revolutionary for, the Métis people.
The fight for the Red River Settlement’s independence and self-governance is brought to life by Brown’s clean, simple and charming illustrations. The black and white graphic novel is done in an artistic style reminiscent of Serge’s Tin Tin stories (though Brown insists he got his inspiration from another source). Brown’s style is also similar to the Persepolis graphic novels.
Brown pulls us into Louis Riel’s life with a series of vignettes that focus on the integral moments of his 16-year struggle with the Canadian government. Brown keeps the narrative quick and focused throughout the story. The reader never has to wait long for the significant, emotionally charged moments to reach their climax. Even with the fast pace, the narrative never feels rushed, and none of the story’s important moments feel underwhelming.
Throughout the story, Brown portrays Riel’s highs and lows, and his inspiring – and contentious – moments. This is one of the book’s best qualities: it paints an unbiased portrait of Riel. Is Riel a good man, or is he a bad man? Was he a clever leader, or was he madman? Like any revolutionary, Riel does not perfectly fit the pristine image of a hero. Brown puts both sides of Riel on display, and leaves it up to the reader to make their own judgement on Riel’s character.
Whether you like Riel or not, Brown’s comic will certainly entertain you, while shedding light on an intriguing man, and his involvement in a struggle between two cultures that is not talked about too often in Canada.
Why this is good for students
Brown’s comic isn’t 300 pages of dates, names and places that students have to memorize for a test. Louis Riel brings Canadian history to life.
In one sitting, a student can learn about the important moments of Louis Riel’s struggle with the Canadian government in the same way they can read about Batman’s latest confrontation with The Joker.
Why this is good for teachers
Chester Brown’s Louis Riel is great for teachers who are looking for innovative ways to teach Canadian content. Not only is the engaging text by a Canadian author, but it also covers a chapter in Canadian history that teachers can use to discuss today’s social studies and current events.
While Canada continues the process of reconciling old, but harsh, truths about how indigenous people were persecuted in this country, students can discuss the treatment of indigenous people today, civil and human rights, and Canadian politics.
Louis Riel is a great comic for introducing students to the turbulent relationship between the Canadian government and indigenous people of Canada. Brown highlights many issues, like ownership, land distribution, governance, language, and cultural erosion. The book is thematically rich, and will give any classroom many avenues towards interrogating the treatment of indigenous people in Canada.
Summer vacation is nearly upon us, which means the school year is almost done. We feel that we can safely assume that the majority of your time is now spent planning and thinking about all of the fun you’re about to have in July and August.
But the end of the school year is also a time to plan for selling your no-longer-needed textbooks back to Alpha Textbooks to recoup some of your schools expenses.
Every year, families spend a lot of money on resources students rely on to succeed in the classroom. Textbooks, novels and e-resources, to name a few, are staples of a student’s educational arsenal.
But what happens when the school year comes to a close and students don’t need those resources anymore?
Without a system in place to collect surplus school supplies, those resources can end up in a closet collecting dust, or even in a landfill. Neither of these outcomes are sustainable practices, nor do they help families stretch their budget for school expenses.
When textbooks go unused, or are thrown away, we are forced to replace them, and we use up more of a natural resource – paper.
Here at Alpha Textbooks, we strive to encourage our customers to help us keep gently-used school resources in circulation by selling their books back to us.
Saving money is a major concern for many people. By helping us operate as a sustainable company, our customers get the opportunity to get back some of the money they spent at the beginning of the school year. Furthermore, they earn credit that can offset the price of their educational materials for the following year.
With the help of our customers, we’ve been able to sustain the life cycle of thousands of educational materials, and in doing so, we’ve helped many families recoup some of their school expenses. And we’re just getting started.
Welcome to Alpha Textbooks’ new and improved website! We hope you like what we’ve done with the place.
With its improved user-friendly experience, the new website ensures that we keep our promise of providing exceptional service and goods, while helping families, teachers and schools save money.
Our fully functional e-commerce website is going to make it simple to purchase educational materials; and with its modern design, the site is very easy on the eye.
But we didn’t stop at a fancy makeover and improved functionality. We also expanded the website to include new, enhanced features.
The new site comes with a more comprehensive school supply catalogue with more images and an advanced search function. Convenience is the name of the game; so you’re going to love the ability to order your books and supplies in one place.
The site also makes it easy to save money – which is something everyone will love. Whether you’re saving up for retirement, a Playstation or a vacation, it’s always helpful when the companies you regularly buy products from make saving money effortless. That’s why our new website applies discounts and credits to your order the moment you make a purchase.
Another neat feature is our new community initiatives section. Here, we highlight inspiring and motivational stories about the work we do in our community. Why do we do this? We do it because it’s important to us to get out and help our community. So we hope you enjoy our cheerful community success stories, and we look forward to sharing more of them with you.
But that’s not all! The new site also comes with an updated school list, fully automated backordering, news and staff picks sections, and more promotions for schools and families, to name a few.
We have a goal we strive to achieve at Alpha; and that’s to provide products and services that make purchasing quality educational materials simple and cost-effective for schools and families. Our new website brings us closer to that goal.
On Thursday, May 5, Alpha Textbooks, along with its sister company, BookSwap, planted trees in the GTA for the third straight year. Working with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), Alpha and BookSwap employees went to the Claireville Conservation Area in Brampton, Ontario to participate in the TRCA’s annual spring reforestation efforts.
The Claireville Conservation area is 848 acres of natural and forested area that spans the peel region and Toronto. It’s the largest natural setting of its kind, and it is on the threshold of four major GTA cities: Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, and Vaughan. It has been part of the TRCA’s reforestation efforts for many years now.
Our team spent the day planting two types of trees: white spruces and white pines. Along with TRCA staff Luke, Michael, Ali, and Whitney, the group worked hard to get as many trees in the ground as possible.
“It was a good day for tree planting,” said Howard Cohen, company president. “The weather was nice, the geese were out, we planted a lot of trees, and we had fun.”
BookSwap has donated trees to the TRCA for their annual spring reforestation efforts for over ten years now. The trees were donated by BookSwap on behalf of the schools and school departments that purchased $250 dollars or more in books with BookSwap the previous year.
For the past few years, Alpha Textbooks and BookSwap has taken its sustainability efforts further by participating in the actual planting.
Congratulations go out to the TRCA, the employees, and the schools that had a tree planted on their behalf. Reforestation is vital to the environment and it’s good for the community. Great work everyone!