Ken Goodman
Ken Goodman

Children cherish the stability of family and community life, yet their growth often depends on how they respond to people and ideas that challenge the status quo.

Ken Goodman, internationally known for his theories about how children learn to read, has written an historical novel for young readers about how Goodman’s father dealt with new ideas while growing up in a Jewish stetl (town) in Belarus. The novel, The Smart One: A Grandfather’s Tale, was published by Garn Press earlier this year.

Goodman will read from his book and lead a discussion during a free presentation at the Arizona Senior Academy at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday (July 1).

The title character in The Smart One is 6- to 9-year-old Duvid Mendel, who describes his childhood conflicts between the traditional Jewish Orthodoxy of his parents and the enlightened revolutionary activity of his older sisters in the early 1900s.

Mendel also narrates adventures with his friend Vanya, the son of a Russian Orthodox priest, as the youngsters try to make sense of a worker’s strike for a 12-hour day and the 1905 revolution that led Ken’s family to immigrate to America.

A retired University of Arizona professor, Goodman has served as president of the International Reading Association, president of the National Conference on Research in Language and Literacy, and president of the Center for Expansion of Language and Thinking. He also worked extensively with the National Council of Teachers of English, which in 2007 gave him the James Squire award for his contributions to the profession and NCTE.

Goodman says he is particularly gratified that his theories about how children learn to read, once controversial and politically unpopular, have been supported both by recent brain development research and by practical classroom applications. These feel like what Goodman calls “victory laps” after winning a race.

Written by Mike Maharry, Academy Village Volunteer

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Growing Up in Changing Times: July 2015
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