Brain Pickings

Elementary School Kids Record Recommendations for Their Favorite Books


A sweet reminder of what algorithms can never give us.

“Reading is the work of the alert mind, is demanding,” E.B. White wrote while contemplating the future of reading in 1951, “and under ideal conditions produces finally a sort of ecstasy.” Kafka believed that “a book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us,” and Carl Sagan once wrote that “a book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”

Each spring, Methow Valley Elementary School in Winthrop, Washington, and Methow Arts Alliance — a nonprofit seeking to “enrich the lives of the people living in rural Okanogan County by making the Arts an integral, dynamic aspect of community, economic vitality, public education and civic life” — host a Young Writers’ Conference, seeking to get kids excited about the written word by bringing together local creative professionals in a series of community-led workshops celebrating the art and craft of writing. At the 2014 conference, book-champions Jennifer Abel Kovitz and Missi Smith led a workshop on the importance of human book recommendations in the age of algorithms, helping elementary school kids write and record their own recommendations for their favorite books. The result, to be played on local radio station KTRT 97.5FM all summer long, is nothing short of heart-meltingly adorable.

Complete list of the recommended books below.

You can support Methow Arts Alliance’s wonderful work here. Pair with scientists’ and writers’ answers to little kids’ simple, surprisingly profound questions about how the world works.

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