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People with dyslexia face unique challenges. For people with this condition, words may seem scrambled, and letters or numbers may appear backward or upside down. Dyslexia has nothing to do with a person’s intelligence, however, only with how the brain “sees” symbols. Listen to hear a woman with dyslexia describe how the condition has affected her life and how the lessons she’s learned from living with dyslexia have helped her achieve her goals of becoming a teacher and Arctic explorer.
Fall in North America, the start of flu season, is when many people receive their yearly flu vaccine. The flu shot differs from other vaccines, such as measles or mumps, which are generally given only once during a person’s lifetime. The flu shot is given every year because the flu virus is constantly changing, and vaccines must keep up with new forms of the virus. Listen to learn more about the flu, including how cold weather helps it spread, which animals can get the flu, and why it’s important to get a flu vaccine each year.
Microscopic creatures have always lived around, on, and inside of us. While some of these tiny bugs can cause illness, others do us no harm, or may even help us. In this audio story, an entomologist discusses her study of Demodex mites, the tiny bugs that live on just about everyone’s faces. Listen to hear what scientists know--and don’t know--about these microscopic critters and how studying them could reveal truths about ancient humans.
Dinosaurs have long fascinated humans. Surprisingly, there are still dinosaurs on Earth today, but they look different from their multi-ton ancestors that went extinct millions of years ago. The dinosaurs that exist today are small, have feathers, and can fly. That’s right, they’re birds! Listen to learn more about extinct dinosaurs and how they are related to the ones that are still flying around the planet today.
For almost 50 years, millions have enjoyed the book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, but where did the author, Judith Viorst, get the inspiration for her unlucky main character? Her very own son! Viorst admires characters that are imperfect, yet redeemable and likeable, and she draws inspiration from the people around her and her favorite books. Listen to find out more about Viorst and learn which character she most identified with as a child.
Mother Teresa’s name is synonymous with selflessness, charity, and compassion. Many know that she worked tirelessly to care for the hungry, poor, and sick. Her charitable acts, and the courage and determination she exercised in carrying them out, have been an inspiration to many people around the world for decades. Listen to learn more about Mother Teresa, how she helped those in need, and how she inspired others to do the same.
Author Sharon Draper believes that life experiences, challenges, and writing about what is familiar are the foundation of an intriguing story. In her books, including Out of My Mind, Stella by Starlight, Blended, and the Sassy series, Draper draws from her own life experiences and the children she knows to develop stories that draw readers in. Listen to hear more about Draper’s books, her writing process, and the inspiration for her stories.
Each year, thousands of children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. People with autism may learn, think, communicate, and behave in ways that are considered unorthodox, or different from what is traditionally expected. Rather than encourage autistic people to conform to non-autistic norms, it can be helpful for neurotypical people to learn about autism and how to best support, encourage, and include their autistic peers. Listen to learn more about the word unorthodox, and hear an autistic boy explain what he and other autistic people most need from others.
Author and teacher Annette Bird Saunooke Clapsaddle is the first published author from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Her mystery novel, Even As We Breathe, is set during World War II in the region of North Carolina where she spent her childhood, and it was written with her students in mind. Listen to hear how Clapsaddle’s experiences growing up and learning from her Cherokee ancestors helped her write a novel that high school students, especially those who are of Native American descent, could relate to.
Certain events in U.S. history are recognized by some and unknown to others. June 19th, also known as Juneteenth, commemorates the anniversary of federal troops arriving in Galveston, Texas, in 1865 to ensure that all enslaved people were freed, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Tulsa, Oklahoma, was the location of a violent 1921 race massacre that destroyed an entire prosperous Black community overnight. Listen to historians explain how they learned about these historical events as adults and why they believe many Americans do not know much about them.
Practice makes perfect–especially for a ballerina. The more ballerinas practice, the stronger they become and the more they can learn. Ballet is an art form that allows dancers to express themselves and share their talents with others. It can seem like pure magic every time a ballerina takes the stage. However, it takes years of dedication and practice in order for a dancer to perform at this level. Listen to the artistic director of the Washington Ballet talk about her love of the arts and ballet, and what it takes to be a ballerina.
A recent birth at the National Zoo has delighted millions of people. At age 22, the panda mom was rather old to successfully give birth to offspring, but she defied the odds and now has a beautiful cub that keeps growing and growing. Listen to the director of the National Zoo answer questions about pandas, an endangered species, and learn how the U.S. is working with China to continue bringing baby pandas into the world.
In a world where there is so much darkness, author and poet Kwame Alexander aims to provide some inspiration, joy, hope, and, of course, light. Through his words in his novels and works of poetry, he hopes to engage his readers and keep them reading. Alexander is the author of Solo, Out of Wonder, The Crossover, and more recently, a book about boxer Muhammad Ali. Listen to hear Alexander describe what it feels like to write about painful topics and why he calls his poetry “a bridge.”
Born in 1821, Clara Barton took the role of caring for others to a new level. As a young girl, she helped her brother heal from a head injury even after doctors had given up. As a young woman, Clara worked tirelessly helping to care for soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War. Later, after working with the International Red Cross in Europe, Clara founded the American branch of the Red Cross. Listen to hear about Clara Barton’s life-long dedication to helping those in need.
Events from the past often have lingering effects that last into the present day. This is especially true for redlining. Begun in the 1930s, redlining was the federal government’s practice of assigning a grade to urban areas to help banks decide where it was safe to invest. Time and time again, minority and immigrant communities got the lowest grades. As a result, investment in these areas stopped and, over time, those communities deteriorated. Listen to learn more about redlining and the consequences it had for generations of residents of minority communities.
Ancient civilizations often devised clever methods for delivering clean water to cities. The aqueducts of Rome are a famous example. Recently, archaeologists uncovered a water filtration system used in the ancient Mayan city of Tikal to supply clean water to its residents, a system similar to ones that are used today. Remarkably, the city was not built near water, so in addition to filtering the water, the Maya had to dig reservoirs to collect it. Listen to learn about the Mayan method of purifying water and how contaminated water may have eventually led to the civilization’s decline.
Is scientific discovery always a force for good? Marie Curie’s quest to introduce radioactivity to the world, for which she won two Nobel Prizes, sparked that question. Curie's discoveries of radium and polonium led to therapeutic and diagnostic breakthroughs, but they were also weaponized – into horrific bombs and lethal poison. Listen to the actress who played Curie in the 2020 movie “Radioactive,” released during the COVID-19 pandemic, discuss what she learned about the pioneering scientist’s unusual life and complicated legacy.
Girls growing up in America often receive conflicting messages about ambition. In her new children’s book, Ambitious Girl, author Meena Harris redefines the meaning of ambition for girls. Her story empowers girls to become leaders and encourages them to pursue their dreams. Listen to hear how the experiences of the author’s aunt, Vice President Kamala Harris, inspired the book, and learn why the author wants Black and brown girls, in particular, to see themselves reflected in its pages.
The importance of home and the healing power of friendship are two universal truths that affect every human being. Many people feel homesick when they must leave familiar places and people behind to move somewhere new. Fear of new places and people can be relieved, however, as one becomes more familiar with their new community. Listen to hear how Kate DiCamillo, the author of Because of Winn-Dixie, used her childhood feelings of homesickness to write her first children’s book.
Racism is a serious subject, and one that is a topic of conversation in the lives of many Americans. People across America are protesting the way some police officers have treated people of color, particularly those who are Black. Jason Reynolds confronts this difficult topic in his novel Miles Morales: Spider-Man, which features a Black superhero who fights racism. Listen as Jason joins Kojo Nnamdi for a conversation about racism in America, answers questions from kids, and offers ideas about what people can do to address problems caused by racism.
In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation in public schools was illegal. Yet, due to a loophole in the law, Louisiana’s public schools were still segregated six years later. That changed when Ruby Bridges’ parents chose to send Ruby to first grade at the all-white school near her home. While Ruby helped integrate Louisiana’s public schools, her path was not easy. In this audio story, Ruby discusses what it was like to be the only Black student in an all-white school. Listen to hear how and why Ruby became one of the youngest heroes of the civil rights era.
Police officers have been a part of communities in America for a long time. Their job is to help keep people safe and ensure that citizens are following the laws. However, there have been many protests recently across the country because of how some police officers treat people of color, particularly those who are Black. There are many different ideas about how to improve police departments. Listen to hear a Black female police officer talk about her career and her thoughts about policing today.
Abraham Lincoln is widely revered as one of America’s greatest presidents. He has been the subject of countless books that explore many aspect of his life, from his role in ending slavery to his wartime leadership, and even his personal relationships. A recent book examines Lincoln’s life in the context of the time in which he lived. It looks at how the culture of the day shaped Lincoln’s image and his approach to governing. Listen to hear a new perspective on Abe Lincoln, and learn how his approach to politics reflected the culture in which he rose to power.
Siddhartha Guatama was born into an aristocratic family in ancient India. He later gave up that life in search of spiritual enlightenment which led him to found Buddhism. Bodhi Day, celebrated on December 8, commemorates the day that Siddhartha Gautama became the first Buddha. On this day, Buddhists around the world reflect on his journey out of suffering and towards enlightenment. Listen to hear a Buddhist scholar and minister explain the purpose of Bodhi Day, the spiritual path of Siddhartha Gautama, and the basic tenets of Buddhism.
While the words uncooperative, unruly, and unrestrained typically carry negative connotations, there are times when these qualities can be helpful. For example, most activists will agree that being obstreperous, or difficult to control, is necessary to bring about social change. Many rights and freedoms people have today were not won by quietly accepting and following the rules. Listen to learn more about the vocabulary word obstreperous and how being unruly helped women win the right to vote.
Black boys and men have long been either underrepresented or negatively portrayed in literature, television shows, and movies. This lack of positive representation takes a toll on Black boys’ sense of self and negatively influences how society views them. Many Black artists and writers are taking initiative to change this and create stories, art, and films that feature Black boys as what they are: confident, intelligent, and beautiful. Listen to hear how one author and artist worked together to create the children’s book, I Am Every Good Thing.
Choices and situations are part of everyday life. They can be complex or they can seem very simple. Is it hot or cold? Sunny or rainy? Is it good or bad? Although people tend to look at choices and situations as a dichotomy--either/or--most things are not black and white. There are “gray” areas made up of degrees of choices. Listen to explore and learn more about dichotomies and which choices and situations truly fit the definition.
In the first half of the 20th century, racial segregation was common in America, including in sports. At the time, Major League Baseball (MLB) did not have a single Black player. That changed in 1947 when Jackie Robinson made history by becoming the first Black athlete to join a Major League team. In his book “Jackie and Me,” author Dan Gutman imagines a boy traveling back in time to meet Robinson on the eve of his first Major League game. Listen to hear an excerpt from the book and fifth-graders discuss the man who broke baseball’s color barrier.
The Old Truck is the tale of a hard-working truck that, after many years on the farm, comes to sit in the weeds until someone decides to bring it back to life. Two brothers worked together to write and illustrate the picture book. They created over 250 detailed handmade stamps to help bring the story to life. Listen to hear the brothers discuss their creative process, what it was like for them to work together, and how the lessons they learned as children continue to guide them.
The world is filled with many living things of all shapes and sizes. From plants and animals to fungi and bacteria, every living thing is important and plays a role on our Earth. The variety of living things in a habitat is known as biodiversity. Having biodiversity in a habitat allows for many different species to thrive. Listen to hear more about how all living things within a habitat depend on one another for survival, making it crucial to find a way to protect each of them.
When the world feels like it is continuously changing, it can be important to stop and think about all of the things in life that are constant. Rebecca Stead’s book, The List of Things That Will Not Change, finds the main character, Bea, adding items to her own list of things that will not change and working to understand her emotions with the help of a therapist. Her list brings her comfort and support during her parents’ divorce, and it makes the reader stop and think about what things in their own lives will not change.
Scapegoating, or blaming others for things they didn’t do, happens among both children and adults. While many children understand that lying is wrong, they might be hesitant to explore how it feels to be lied to or unfairly blamed for something for fear of feeling embarrassed or exposed. In this audio story, a children’s author discusses her humorous take on how a number of lies affect a little goat on a farm. Listen to hear how humor can help children feel safer exploring such topics.
Every year, thousands of refugees around the world are forced to flee their homes in search of safety in a new land. While the reasons for leaving home and the destinations vary, all of these journeys are filled with a mixture of fear, pain, hope, and courage. Storytelling and art have long been great healers. Both art forms can teach empathy by presenting different human experiences, and both can help people work through the emotions conveyed on the page or canvas. Listen to hear how one author and artist tackled depicting one refugee family’s story.
In 1955, racial segregation was legal and common in the United States. Unjust laws and rules dictated where Black people could eat, swim, drink, and shop in public. And while Blacks and whites could ride the same buses, laws in many areas stated that Black people had to sit at the back of the bus. One day, a woman named Rosa Parks decided she had had enough. When told to give up her seat for a white passenger, she refused. Listen to hear what happened after Rosa Parks broke an unjust rule for a good reason.
Is it possible to find “genuine pockets of goodness” on social media these days? Artist Johnny Sun and famed Hamilton playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda think so. They were strangers to each other until they met in the comments section of Twitter and went on to publish Gmorning, Gnight! Little Pep Talks for Me & You, a book which coupled Miranda’s beloved daily Twitter affirmations with Sun’s quirky, expressive illustrations. Listen to Sun tell the story of how his search for positivity in the social media community brought him into Miranda’s orbit and transformed both his career and mental health.
Plagiarism is a vexing problem for administrators in high schools and colleges. Students caught using someone else’s words or ideas could face serious consequences including possible expulsion. But plagiarism doesn’t just happen with research papers and schoolwork. It happens in the world of crossword puzzles. In this interview with Will Shortz, puzzle editor of The New York Times, we learn more about a recent plagiarism scandal affecting crossword puzzles published in many newspapers. Was it inadvertent or intentional plagiarism, and are we likely to see more of it in the future in the crossword community?
After years of witnessing Cubans unsuccessfully strike up revolts against their Spanish rulers, in 1898 America went to war against Spain to liberate Cuba. However, one historian argues that the main reason behind the war had little to do with freeing a nation. He says humans have a natural thirst for war and to satisfy the urge, sometimes enter into unnecessary conflicts. Theodore Roosevelt embodied that spirit when, as Assistant Secretary of the Navy at the time, he fully embraced war against Spain out of deeply personal reasons. Listen to learn more about the reasons America launched the Spanish-American War and how the concept of “wars of choice” is relevant today.
Forests provide much more than public spaces for exercise, relaxation, and enjoying nature. They are complex ecosystems characterized by biodiversity. Forests are vital to Earth’s water cycle and ensure the survival of all living things by absorbing carbon dioxide and transforming it into oxygen. However, forests also provide valuable resources, especially wood and paper, that people need. Listen to an interview with a forestry expert to discover how forests are being managed to provide both resources for consumers and lasting benefits to the environment.
Everyone has fears and worries of one kind or another. When dealing with them, it can be helpful to have support and to know that others have similar feelings. The book Guts, by Raina Telgemeier, is the story of Raina, a young girl who is experiencing stomach problems that continue to worsen the more she worries. Raina’s therapist helps her deal with her anxiety and gives her strategies to help her when she’s nervous, just like many therapists do in real life. Listen to hear more about the story Guts and to hear a psychologist talk about dealing with worries.
What methods do current leaders use to influence the people they govern? During the Progressive era, Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to directly address the people using what he called the “bully pulpit.” Bully, at the time, meant terrific or great. The pulpit figuratively referred to his position of power, as president, from which he advocated his agenda through the use of the media. Listen to hear more about the relationship between President Theodore Roosevelt and the media and how they combined their influence to bring about reform.