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Reading and Suing

Ralph talks to literacy expert, Nancy Newman about how to raise passionate readers; and law professor, Alexandra Lahav tells us how a “litigious society” is actually vital to a functioning democracy.

“In the recent scandal involving GM, there’s a story I tell in the book about a young woman who was killed because of the failure of those GM cars.  And her parents went to a very well regarded lawyer in her state, and the lawyer turned down her case.  And he said, ‘Look, you have a good case in terms of there’s something wrong with this car.’  At the time, they didn’t know what it was.  ‘And your child died.’ She was a young woman in her twenties.  ‘But her life just isn’t worth enough to bring a lawsuit.  We don’t think this lawsuit’s worth more than $350,000.  And that’s what it would cost to bring it.’  And that was because in that state they had eliminated punitive damages. And there were a bunch of other limitations on damages that made the case just not that valuable.”  Alexandra Lahav, author of In Praise of Litigation

nancy newman


Nancy Newman is a teacher, a literacy consultant, and an author.  After a career teaching remedial English in elementary school, high school and community college, she began offering workshops on the simple steps both parents and teachers can take to strengthen a child’s language skills and reinforce their enjoyment of books and learning.  Ms. Newman’s upbeat presentations have inspired and empowered thousands of parents, teachers, learning specialists, librarians, and school administrators in a wide variety of settings.  Her latest book is entitled, Raising Passionate Readers.

Alexandra D Lahav


Alexandra Lahav is professor of law at the University of Connecticut, who teaches classes in civil procedure, complex litigation and tort reform.  Her book defending the role of litigation in American democracy is called In Praise of Litigation.


  1. Patty Cleary says:

    I loved hearing Nancy Newman today and her insights about Literacy. Inspiring people to pick up a book and read to/with their children and family in this crazy world is one of the most grounding and important things any parent can do. Thanks for a powerful reminder of that fact. And this being Black History month, the great Frederick Douglass deserve a major shout-out because I have never read or heard anyone articulate it better than he did in his Narrative, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free”

  2. Akinyele Brandley says:

    This was really an informative episode!
    About this time last year, I took the Cambridge TKT(Teacher Knowledge Test).
    One of the study questions asked how many books does the average American read in his/her entire life;the answer to this was disturbing; and I know these kinds of questions are sample driven questions, where someone or a team of people take a sample in a few states and use the conclusion as the overall picture—the aggregate picture, but the answer to this one was “5 books.” Five books will be read by the average American in his/her lifetime! The only thing that continues to playback, and playback in my mind is Benjamin Franklin’s quote, “..a Republic, if you can keep it.”

  3. Saba Ahmad says:


    Avid listener to your show, and love it.
    I’m a Bangladeshi, and I know exactly what you mean by “the way you control people is by controlling their expectation level. If you the control expectation level, where their demand is so low that they just live lives of pitiful desperation, that they don’t rise up”.
    Sad to hear about my country in such a context, but I know it’s true. I wish my politically hyper-aware fellow countrymen would see through the veneer of their leader(s).

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