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California Sued Over Child Literacy Rates

Photo by Dave Parker, via Wikimedia Commons

Editor's Note:

Also in the news: A brand new storytelling game, and historical facts about the heroine of Island of the Blue Dolphins. Welcome to the Daily Blunt!

California accounts for about 12% of the US population and constitutes a major chunk of the economy, which makes the following statistic even more depressing: in terms of literacy, the Golden State has 11 out of the nation’s 26 lowest-performing school districts. This is now the basis of a lawsuit being filed against the California Department of Education, which aims to call attention to the state’s “literacy crisis” before too many more students slip through the system. No state should be resting easy on this front: according to another child literacy study, the US’s rank among other nations is falling fast. According to WaPo, we’re now 13th worldwide – a mere six years ago, we were in 5th place.

You don’t have to be a brilliant writer to tap into your storytelling potential, and there are many games designed to do just that. A brand new one called Henshin! invites players to create their own sentai-style adventures (“squadron” or “task force” in Japanese, a popular genre which has filtered over to America in the form of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers and such). The best part of all: a PDF of the basic game is totally free to download and play from their website. If you get into it, you can name your own price to pay for the Monster Freak module, a pre-made setting to turn your characters loose in.

Here’s more from The Atlantic on the art of storytelling as a universal human trait – one which may improve your desirability as a mate. Their focus on the Agta people of the Philippines, where this skill has been prized above all else, with gifted storytellers “twice as likely to be named as ideal living companions,” even valued “twice as much as being a good hunter.” The article also describes the work of a foundation which attempts to preserve Agta tales (passed orally across the generations) into writing.

The closer historians look at the historical novel Island of the Blue Dolphins, the less they find it resembles actual history. The book’s story, inspired by legends about the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island – a native woman who was presumed to be cut off from human contact for 18 years – is no less fascinating now that it’s becoming rounded out with facts.  “There’s now evidence that the Lone Woman may not actually have been alone at all and that she was ultimately able to communicate with some Chumash people  on the mainland,” Smithsonian reveals, citing the work of several researchers who are working to reconcile popular folklore with fact. California’s National Park Service is working on a website for readers to check out side by side with Scott O’Dell’s classic, so they can compare proven details about the heroine he named “Karana” alongside the tales about her that went viral in the 19th century.