Friday, 25 May 2018

Why American students haven't gotten better at reading in 20 years

Schools usually focus on teaching comprehension skills instead of general knowledge—even though education researchers know better, writes Natalie Wexler in the Atlantic. Read on: 

Every two years, education-policy wonks gear up for what has become a time-honored ritual: the release of the Nation’s Report Card. Officially known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, the data reflect the results of reading and math tests administered to a sample of students across the country. Experts generally consider the tests rigorous and highly reliable—and the scores basically stagnant.

Math scores have been flat since 2009 and reading scores since 1998, with just a third or so of students performing at a level the NAEP defines as “proficient.” Performance gaps between lower-income students and their more affluent peers, among other demographic discrepancies, have remained stubbornly wide.

Among the likely culprits for the stalled progress in math scores: a misalignment between what the NAEP tests and what state standards require teachers to cover at specific grade levels. But what’s the reason for the utter lack of progress in reading scores?

On Tuesday, a panel of experts in Washington, D.C., convened by the federally appointed officials who oversee the NAEP concluded that the root of the problem is the way schools teach reading. The current instructional approach, they agreed, is based on assumptions about how children learn that have been disproven by research over the last several decades—research that the education world has largely failed to heed.

The long-standing view has been that the first several years of elementary school should be devoted to basic reading skills. History, science, and the arts can wait. After all, the argument goes, if kids haven’t learned to read—a task that is theoretically accomplished by third grade—how will they be able to gain knowledge about those subjects through their own reading?

The federal No Child Left Behind legislation, enacted in 2001, only intensified the focus on reading. The statute required states to administer annual reading and math tests to students in grades three through eight and once in high school, and attached hefty consequences if schools failed to boost scores. The law that replaced No Child Left Behind—the Every Student Succeeds Act, enacted in 2015—has eased the consequences but has hardly weakened the emphasis on testing.

What is tested, some educators say, gets taught—and what isn’t doesn’t. Since 2001, the curriculum in many elementary schools has narrowed to little more than a steady diet of reading and math. And when test scores fail to rise after third grade—as they often do, especially in high-poverty schools—subjects like history and science may continue to be relegated to the far back burner through middle school.

To some extent, it does make sense to focus on reading skills in the early years. One component of reading is, like math, primarily a set of skills: the part that involves decoding, or making connections between sounds and the letters that represent them.

But educators have also treated the other component of reading—comprehension—as a set of skills, when in fact it depends primarily on what readers already know. In countries that specify the content to be taught at each grade level, standardized tests can test students on what they’ve learned in school. But in the United States, where schools are all teaching different content, test designers give students passages on a variety of topics that may have nothing to do with what they’ve learned in school—life in the Arctic, for example, or the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. The tests then ask questions designed to assess comprehension: What’s the main idea of the passage? What inferences can you make?

On a daily basis, teachers have their students practice skills and strategies like “finding the main idea” or “making inferences.” And teachers select books that match the given skill rather than because of the text’s content. Rarely do the topics connect: Students might read a book about bridges one day, zebras the next, and clouds the day after that.

Cognitive scientists have known for decades that simply mastering comprehension skills doesn’t ensure a young student will be able to apply them to whatever texts they’re confronted with on standardized tests and in their studies later in life.

One of those cognitive scientists spoke on the Tuesday panel: Daniel Willingham, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia who writes about the science behind reading comprehension. Willingham explained that whether or not readers understand a text depends far more on how much background knowledge and vocabulary they have relating to the topic than on how much they’ve practiced comprehension skills. That’s because writers leave out a lot of information that they assume readers will know. If they put all the information in, their writing would be tedious.

But if readers can’t supply the missing information, they have a hard time making sense of the text. If students arrive at high school without knowing who won the Civil War they’ll have a hard time understanding a textbook passage about Reconstruction.

Students from less educated families are usually the ones who are most handicapped by gaps in knowledge. Another panelist—Ian Rowe, who heads a network of charter schools serving low-income students in New York—provided a real-life example during his remarks. A sixth-grader at one of his schools was frustrated that a passage on a reading test she’d taken kept repeating a word she didn’t understand: roog-bye. The unfamiliar word made it hard for her to understand the passage. When Rowe asked her to spell the word, it turned out to be rugby.

The implication is clear. The best way to boost students’ reading comprehension is to expand their knowledge and vocabulary by teaching them history, science, literature, and the arts, using curricula that that guide kids through a logical sequence from one year to the next: for example, Native Americans and Columbus in kindergarten; the colonial era and the American Revolution in first grade; the War of 1812 and the Civil War in second grade, and so on. That approach enables children to make sense of what they’re learning, and the repetition of concepts and vocabulary in different contexts makes it more likely they’ll retain information. Not to mention that learning content like this can be a lot more engaging for both students and teachers than the endless practice of illusory skills.

Another panelist—Timothy Shanahan, an emeritus professor at the University of Illinois and the author or editor of over 200 publications on literacy—went on to debunk a popular approach that goes hand in hand with teaching comprehension skills: To help students practice their “skills,” teachers give them texts at their supposed individual reading levels rather than the level of the grade they’re in.

According to Shanahan, no evidence backs up that practice. In fact, Shanahan said, recent research indicates that students actually learn more from reading texts that are considered too difficult for them—in other words, those with more than a handful of words and concepts a student doesn't understand. What struggling students need is guidance from a teacher in how to make sense of texts designed for kids at their respective grade levels—the kinds of texts those kids may otherwise see only on standardized tests, when they have to grapple with them on their own.

That view was endorsed by Marilyn Jager Adams, a cognitive and developmental psychologist who is a visiting scholar at Brown University. “Giving children easier texts when they’re weaker readers,” she said during the panel discussion, “serves to deny them the very language and information they need to catch up and move on.”

The failure to build children’s knowledge in elementary school helps explain the gap between the reading scores of students from wealthier families and those of their lower-income peers—a gap that has been expanding. More affluent students may not learn much in elementary school, but compared to their disadvantaged peers their parents tend to be more educated and have the money to provide knowledge-boosting perks like tutoring and trips to Europe. As a result, those wealthy children are far more likely to acquire knowledge outside of school. Poorer kids with less-educated parents tend to rely on school to acquire the kind of knowledge that is needed to succeed academically—and because their schools often focus exclusively on reading and math, in an effort to raise low test scores, they’re less likely to acquire it there.

The bottom line is that policymakers and advocates who have pushed for more testing in part as a way to narrow the gap between rich and poor have undermined their own efforts. They have created a system that incentivizes teachers to withhold the very thing that could accomplish both objectives: knowledge. All students suffer under this system, but the neediest suffer the most.

The NAEP is a valuable educational barometer, but it’s important to understand that while standardized tests can identify a problem, they can’t provide the answer to it.

While some elementary teachers have embraced the approach advocated by the NAEP panel, it’s clear that most have been trained to in methods that aren’t supported by research, and that many are resistant to change. The University of Illinois’s Shanahan noted that when he speaks to teachers around the country, they’re aghast at the idea of giving struggling readers grade-level books—even when their state’s literacy standards call for doing so.

Still, schools in some parts of the country are embracing the kinds of insights offered by the panelists. Louisiana has not only created its own curriculum but has also asked the federal government for permission to give tests based on that curriculum rather than passages on a variety of randomly selected topics. If that movement spreads, the National Assessment of Educational Progress may finally live up to its name and the American education system may at last be able to unlock the untold potential of millions of students.

Partners who really love each other tend to get fat: Research

Obesity is one of the biggest problems in the world right now with lots of young adults and teenagers obese. Many different factors are responsible for obesity one of which is overeating. Many people have done several things to ensure that they try to correct this problem by changing their lifestyle and dropping other habits.

However, no one can truly know if what they are doing would be of any help at all until they have already started to do it. People cut down their foods, go hungry, starve themselves, begin to visit the gym regularly and take lots of supplements to help reduce their weight. Sometimes even all of these sacrifices are not able to work at all because of the person’s genes or way of living.

Here’s a shocking fact, did you know that couples who truly love each other tend to grow fat. Yes, it has actually been backed by scientific proof. Have you ever felt that you were gaining a few pounds when you were in a relationship? Well, that’s because you were.

A lot of research carried out have proved that once two people have a comfortable bond between themselves, they have a higher tendency to gain a few pounds. A few researchers from the University of Queensland, Australia researched 6,459 women. The research lasted for 10 years.

In their analysis, they found out that lots of women who were within the 20-30 age group, married, or are in a serious relationship had a decidedly increased weight, unlike the women who were single.

The women in a relationship who have fostered a wonderful bond between themselves and someone else weighed about 5kilos. Other women also gained some weight amounting to about 4 kilos. It would have been unfair if only girls suffered from this. Apparently, both male and female couples do.

This time the research was done on men by the Southern Methodist University in Dallas. They studied 169 couples for over 4 years and came up with the same findings. It seemed that the guys in a happy committed relationship also gained more weight within those years.

A thesis from the University of York came to the same conclusions that there was no difference between the man and the woman in the relationship. Both of them gain a bit more weight. In fact, they even noted that a good weight gain is one of the signs of a good relationship.

So the big question remains, why do we get fat when we are in a relationship?

The causes of this phenomenon have not yet been clearly discovered however certain things are said to be its probable causes. The scientists have said that the closeness of such a bond might influence their habits and way of life making a person easily get adapted to their partner’s way of life. Besides that, women in a relationship begin to eat more of sugary junk. This alone can cause them to grow fatter. Sometimes the women also tend to eat as much as their partners without remembering that most guys have a larger appetite. Many of the women who were asked confirmed this exact point, stating that they eat the same amount of food with their partners.

Another clear reason why couples get fatter is that they spend a lot of their time cuddling, and doing lots of domestic work together like doing the dishes together.

Another point is that when we live alone, we most times don’t even bother about cooking any delicious meals, so we settle for taking out or something light. But when we are in a relationship, we spend more time cooking good meals to share together as a couple, and that can also be a contributor to the weight that we put on.

Some people actually stop exercising or living the healthy lifestyle to which they were accustomed to before they entered that relationship. A lot of their attention isn’t focused anymore on getting someone; it is spent on keeping that person happy.

One thing the researchers noticed about the couples who got fatter was that they had some sort of routine which they followed judiciously. This routine included spending time together in restaurants and other social places while they got to know themselves better. Then as the bond between them thickens, they begin to spend more time indoors and settle for cooking dinner and watching a movie after dinner. These activities would result in an apparent weight gain.

The weight gain can also be affected by the relaxed feeling coursing through you. As the bond thickens and we feel safe and secured in it. These positive feelings can bring on more improved appetite.

It’s important to note that all the factors explained here are just general conclusions to which there are lots of exceptions to the rules.

(Source: You Can't Break Me)

“Once upon a time” and other formulaic folktale flourishes

Instead of ending with ‘and they lived happily ever after,’ many Russian folktales end with ‘I was at their wedding and drank beer. The beer ran along my mustache but did not go into my mouth’, writes Anthony Madrid - the author of Try Never, and a correspondent for the Daily - in the Paris Review. Read on: 

We take the phrase “once upon a time” for granted, but if you think about it, it’s quite oddball English. Upon a time—? That’s just a strange construction. It would be pleasant to know its history: When, more or less, does it get up on its legs? Around when does it become standard procedure? My researches into this question, however, have yielded nothing conclusive.

Forget “upon a time.” Look at the “once.” That part really is standard from the beginning, and not only in English. Just this past weekend, I paged through fifteen volumes of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library, and I’m here to tell you: The word once is in the first sentence of almost every single folktale every recorded, from China to Peru. There is some law of physics involved.

Folktales get right down to business, no fooling around. Once there was an old king who had two sons. Once there was a poor lace merchant who decided to make a trip. And if it doesn’t say “once,” it will say “a long time ago.” A long time ago, the fox and the hen were good friends. A long time ago, there was a man who had a shaving brush for a nose and who had two daughters, et cetera.

Why should it always be a long time ago. That’s easy. If you said, “When I was a girl, there was an old man in this village … ” you’d be opening yourself up for interruptions. Where is that old man now? Where are his two sons? But if the story took place a long, long time ago, or simply in undefined and undefinable history (“once”), interruptions will be … fewer.

I want to mention that not one story in Grimms’ Fairytales actually begins “once upon a time.” German doesn’t have that expression. They just say “once.” (The term is einmal. Es war einmal ein Mann und eine Frau … ). Italian, pretty much same thing. C’era una volta … (literally, “One time, there was … ”). All this counts as formulaic.

Carlo Collodi plays with this in the famous beginning of Pinocchio:

C’era una volta …

—Un re!—diranno subito i miei piccoli lettori.

—No, ragazzi, avete sbagliato. C’era una volta un pezzo di legno.

(Once there was … “a king!” cry my little readers. But no, children, you’re wrong. Once there was a piece of wood.)

But why is a formulaic beginning desirable. Ah, here we go deep into an insight that my guru taught me. She and I call it the cartoon insight. Consider: when a child is exposed to a cartoon, even before anything happens in the narrative, the kid knows a lot. Front and center, there’s the fact the presentation is intended for children. That’s huge. The fact of the thing being a cartoon means that almost all the dreariness of adult affairs, and the curdlingness of adult ambiguity, will be excluded. Instead, the presentation will be geared toward enjoyment. There will be humor and animals and other good things. Indeed, there’s nothing more disappointing in childhood than when this convention (cartoons are for pleasure) is violated. It’s like when old people put stuffed animals in their cars, in the space under their rear windshields, where the toys can be played with by nobody and will only become sun bleached. To a child, the waste of a toy is sickening.

Anyhow, to begin a story with a set phrase or set construction that signals the onset of a cartoon-like thing is obviously a good idea, and so the more predictable the opening flourish, the better, it seems to me. I was feeling surprised more languages don’t have some piece of rock-solid arcane lala at the beginnings of their folktales, like English does. But then, as I say, I paged through that pile of books last weekend. I made a number of pleasant discoveries.

For starters, it does make a difference if your source for a folktale is someone’s mouth rather than a piece of paper. Ethnographers who make oral recordings and then transcribe ’em will tend to give you a taste of the scene of storytelling, and such tastes are often charming. For example, the 1983 book African Folktales by Roger Abrahams is full of formulaic beginnings, many of which function something like the Hwæt! of Old English.

Apparently in Hausa (forty or fifty million speakers in Niger, Nigeria, and all over West Africa), you launch a folktale with, “A story, a story. Let it go, let it come.” Every single Hausa story in the book starts like that. For this formula, I experienced love at first sight, but I must confess I don’t understand it. I get the “let it come”; I don’t know what they mean by “let it go.” Yoruba meanwhile (thirty million speakers, Benin and Nigeria and elsewhere) has a similar seesaw formula: “Here is a story! Story it is.”

Walter Crane, Beauty and the Beast, 1875
But now switch over to South America—Chile in particular. There, the basic once-upon-a-time formula is, “Listen to tell it, and tell it to teach it,” but the storytellers often put in all kinds of curlicues. The following specimens are all from Latin American Folktales: Stories from Hispanic and Indian Traditions (2002), incidentally the very last book published under color of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library:

If you ask to hear it you’ll listen and learn it, and any who can’t will have to drink tea; for sleepy wits it’s a mother’s remedy. There was an orphan boy, his name was Antuco …

Listen and learn it, learn to tell it, and tell it to teach it; if any can’t learn it they’ll buy it if any can sell it. The shoe fits, yes? No? Ouch! It pinches my toe.  There was once a gentleman who …

If you learn it you’ll know it, so listen and learn how to tell it; now, don’t pick the fig until it’s big; if you want a pear you’ll need a ladder; and if you’d like a melon, marry a man with a big nose. There was an old woman called Dolores who had two children …

If I tell it to know it you’ll know how to tell it and put it in ships for John, Rock, and Rick with dust and sawdust, ginger paste and marzipan, triki-triki triki-tran.  It’s about a rich widower and his daughter …

Speaking of curlicues, Inea Bushnaq records case after case in her wonderful Arab Folktales (1986). Again, there is a basic formula: “There was or there was not [a man who, et cetera].” But look at the embellishments:

This happened or maybe it did not. The time is long past and much is forgot.

There was or there was not—is anything sure or certain but the greatness of Allah?—a king so powerful that man and Djinn bowed before him.

There was or there was not (is anything sure or certain but that God’s mercies are many, more numerous than all the pebbles on the land or the sum of the sea’s sand?) a rich man and his wife who had one son …

And then, late in the game, the “or” turns into “and” …

There was and there was not a man burdened with years who saw the Angel of Death, snatcher of souls, hovering near.

There was and there wasn’t, O Ancient of Days, a king who had one daughter [italics in both these quotations are mine].

All of this is fairly irresistible, I should think. But I’ve saved a special treat for last. I’ve been speaking about formulaic beginnings, but we must give a glance to the weirdest formulaic endings in the world. I mean those of the Russians.

My source text here is a classic: Russian Fairy Tales, by Alexander Nikolayevich Afanas’ev, translated by Norbert Guterman, 1945 (the oldest book in the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library). This book is of special interest, in that its editor was basically the Russian equivalent of the Brothers Grimm. Nineteenth century, same kind of work… only I think Afanas’ev did six volumes, with thousands of stories, compared to the Grimms’ roughly 250.

Now, on the one hand, Russian folktales, more than any others I looked at, showed a strong tendency to end on the same note as Victorian fairytales: “And then they lived happily ever after.” That’s not as standard an ending as you would think; Russian and English seem like sisters on this point. But then it turns out there’s this extremely recurrent “nonsense” ending, where the storyteller suddenly reveals that he (it’s assumed to be a “he” for reasons that will be clear in a moment) had a walk-on part to play in the end of the narrative. For instance:

When Ivashko got down off the eagle, the eagle spat out the piece of flesh and told him to put it back into his shoulder. Ivashko did so, and the shoulder healed. He came home, took the maiden of the golden kingdom from his brothers, and they began to live happily together and are still living. I was at their wedding and drank beer. The beer ran along my mustache but did not go into my mouth.

“I was at their wedding”—? “The beer ran along my mustache”—? Keep in mind these are the very last sentences of the stories in which they appear:

The fisherman made a fish soup out of him, ate it, and praised it highly, for the flesh of the pike was quite succulent. I was there and ate the soup with him; it ran down my mustache but never got into my mouth.

They went, and lo and behold, the children were alive. The father and mother were overjoyed and in their joy gave a feast for all. I was at that feast too, I drank mead and wine there; it ran down my mustache but did not go into my mouth, yet my soul was drunk and sated.

The brothers were so frightened that they jumped in the river. And the knight married the princess Paliusha and gave a most wonderful feast. I dined and drank mead with them, and their cabbage was toothsome. Even now I could eat some!

And here, friends, I close with the granddaddy of ’em all:

The king received him hospitably and gave him his daughter in marriage; they celebrated their wedding, and are still alive to this very day and chewing bread. I was at their wedding and drank mead; it ran down my mustache but did not go into my mouth. I asked for a cap, and received a slap; I was given a robe, and on my way home a titmouse flew over me cackling, “Flowing robe!” I thought she was saying, “Throw away the robe,” and I threw it away. This is not the tale, but a flourish, for fun. The tale itself is not begun!

The US isn’t fertile enough to sustain itself without immigrants

Last year saw the lowest birth rate in the US since 1978, according to data from the US National Center for Health Statistics. The decline in fertility in recent years means that the US population is not able to replace itself through reproduction alone.

The latest statistics are based on data collected from birth records across the US, which together account for over 99 per cent of all birth certificates recorded in the country. These suggest that the total number of births in the US in 2017 was down 2 per cent on the previous year. Today, over the lifetimes of every 1000 women, there are around 1764 births – not enough to replace the population.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” says Kevin Doody of the Center for Assisted Reproduction in Texas. “Most developed countries are seeing the same phenomenon.”

Population stability is important, and has come to depend on immigration in places like the US, says Doody. “Immigration has allowed the population to increase at a healthy rate,” he says. “Without that, the population would shrink, and more of the population would be older – which we see in places like Japan.”

As a result of this, Japan is set to face economic problems due to a declining workforce and an ageing population in need of health support.

The US birth rate is the lowest it’s been for 40 yearsMint Images/Getty
Fewer teen pregnancies
“The good news is that the decline is associated with a decrease in teen pregnancies, which we’re trying to avoid,” says Amy Sparks of the University of Iowa. The birth rate for girls aged 15 to 19 has been steadily declining since the 1990s, and dropped 7 per cent between 2016 and 2017. Compared to 1991, the birth rate for this age group has now dropped by 70 per cent.

“With access to the Affordable Care Act, there has been greater access to birth control”, which has probably contributed to the decline, says Sparks. “It may also reflect better education,” she says.

However, the birth rate among women aged 40 to 44 rose by 2 per cent between 2016 and 2017. “Fortunately, assisted reproductive technologies are enabling many women to get pregnant,” says Doody. “But a lot of babies born to women in their 40s are not genetically related to them – they are often conceived with donor eggs,” he notes.

More pre-term births
Last year also saw a small rise in the number of babies who were born prematurely, and those that were born at medically low birth weights.

These factors may both be partially explained by the fact that women are tending to give birth at older ages, says Doody. “Even if you’re using eggs from a 23-year-old, you’re still more likely to develop high blood pressure in pregnancy, and that can lead to early delivery,” he says.

The rate of caesarean sections appears to be on the up – albeit by a fraction of a percentage on 2016 – even for women with low-risk pregnancies. This is surprising, says Sparks, because bodies like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have been pushing to lower C-section rates, and C-section rates have generally been declining over the last few years.

The report also highlighted differences between ethnic groups in the US. Preterm birth rates are much higher in black women compared to their white peers, for example. And while nearly 83 per cent of white women received prenatal care in their first trimester, only 52 percent of non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian and North Pacific Islanders did. It is difficult to know whether these differences might be down to socioeconomic status or other factors, says Doody.

(Source: New Scientist)

Meet Bon and Pon: The Japanese retirees making coordinated outfits cool

Couple have more than 700,000 Instagram followers and are launching their own line in a Japanese department store 

Whether they’re standing next to a work of art, against an ocean backdrop or in front of their home, the location doesn’t seem to matter. The hundreds of thousands of fans who have turned an ordinary Japanese couple into online megastars are really interested in only one thing: what they are wearing.

Bonpon511 – otherwise known as Tsuyoshi and Tomi Seki – have attracted a huge following since they started posting Instagram photos of themselves decked out in coordinated clothes in late 2016. But they are not your average Instagram stars.

‘Bon’ (Tsuyoshi Seki, left) and ‘Pon’ (Tomi Seki, right), pose in coordinated outfits. Photograph: 'May' Seki
The couple, who are in their 60s, appear almost daily in an array of outfits incorporating similar styles and colours. The simplicity of their sartorial choices has earned them praise from fashion commentators and adoration among their almost 720,000 followers.

The playful images, taken with an iPhone mounted on a tripod, also communicate the obvious pleasure they derive from each other’s company, 38 years after the college sweethearts married.

A year on from the Yahoo! Japan article that helped their Instagram images go viral, the couple have published two books celebrating married life and have been the subject of numerous articles in Japanese newspapers and magazines.

Next month they will launch their own range of clothes and accessories, in collaboration with a designer, at the Japanese department store Isetan Mitsukoshi.

They have their daughter to thank for their unlikely celebrity, Tomi told the Guardian from their home in the north-eastern city of Sendai. “She took photos of us and posted them on her own Instagram account. She received lots of comments so suggested that we start our own account.”

Their Instagram handle combines their nicknames as children with their wedding anniversary on 11 May, which they marked this year by appearing in Gingham check, accompanied by the familiar hash tags #over60 and #greyhair.

They have always had similar tastes in clothes, but it was Instagram fame that prompted them to coordinate more closely, even during lazy days at home and trips to the supermarket.

“But it’s not just about coordinating our clothes,” said Tsuyoshi. “We try to choose outfits that complement our surroundings.”

Much of their wardrobe comes from Uniqlo and other high street chains – a no-frills approach they believe has contributed to their popularity. “Of course we’re happy to be described as style icons in the media, but that’s not really how we see ourselves. We wear simple, inexpensive clothes that anyone can buy,” said Tomi.

Outfits aside, they hope to convince other older couples that retirement should mark the start of a second life – the title of one of their books.

“Now we’re on our own and finally have the time to do all the things we didn’t have the time to do when we were raising a family and working,” Tomi said. “We want to show that retirement can be a lot of fun, especially if you find something you enjoy doing together.”

 We want to show that retirement can be a lot of fun
The couple met at a festival when they were both students at an art school in Tokyo. Tsuyoshi went on to work in design and marketing, while Tomi chose to stay home with their daughter.

Each of their photos attracts tens of thousands of likes and universally upbeat comments in Japanese, English and other languages.

“We’re overwhelmed by the number of comments, although we’re unable to understand all of them,” said Tsuyoshi “But we’re extremely grateful to everyone who takes the time to post.”

(Source: The Guardian)