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Palestinian emergency personnel dig through the rubble of a building destroyed by an Israeli military strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip Thursday. Hamas announced that three of its senior military commanders were killed in a predawn Israeli air strike. (AFP/Getty Images)

Hamas Says Airstrike Killed Three Senior Commanders

Aug 21, 2014

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Bill Chappell

An Israeli attack on a house has killed three military commanders in Gaza, Hamas says, including one of the group's most senior leaders. Thursday's strike follows an Israeli attack on the top Hamas military leader earlier this week.

From Gaza, NPR's Philip Reeves reports:

"The attack happened overnight and targeted a residential house in Rafah close to Gaza's border with Egypt.

"The three men were commanders in the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. Hamas named one as Raed al Attar, their most important commander in southern Gaza. He was reportedly involved in the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was released in a prisoner exchange three years ago.

"These killings come a day after hundreds of Palestinians turned out on the streets for the funeral of the wife and infant son of Hamas' top military commander Mohammed Deif. Hamas says the two were the victims of a failed assassination attempt against Deif himself."

The attacks came amid new exchanges of missiles and rockets between Israel and militants in Gaza, after a temporary cease-fire fell apart early this week.

The BBC reports, "Six weeks of fierce fighting have left at least 2,103 people dead, all but 67 of them Palestinians and most of them said to be civilians."

Welcoming the news of Thursday's successful attack in Rafah, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the Shin Bet, the country's domestic security service.

"The extraordinary intelligence gathered by the Shin Bet through hard work and professionalism, together with the precise execution capabilities of the IDF, enabled us to decide to carry out this operation against the Hamas leaders who plotted fatal attacks against Israelis," Netanyahu said, according to Haaretz.

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No Age performing at FYF Fest at the Los Angeles State Historic Park in August 2013. (Getty Images for FYF)

A Rational Conversation: Do We Really Need A Rock Festival?

by Eric Ducker
Aug 21, 2014

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"A Rational Conversation" is a column by writer Eric Ducker in which he gets on instant messenger or the phone with a special guest to examine a music-related subject that's entered the pop culture consciousness.

This weekend — as the summer music festival season nears its sunburned, ear-ringing end — California will host two major two-day events: First City Festival in Monterey (held on the same location as 1967's Monterey Pop Festival) and FYF Fest in Los Angeles. This is First City's second year and the eleventh for FYF, which began as punk-spirited free event around the Echo Park neighborhood and now follows the more common model of multiple stages in one large outdoor venue. The Southern California concert promotions company Goldenvoice, which is best known for its annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, is involved with both events. It's responsible for all of First City, and since 2012 has handled many of the logistical and infrastructure aspects of FYF, with FYF founder Sean Carlson taking charge of the booking and vision.

The acts playing First City and FYF are mostly indie rock or indie-sounding rock, with Beck, the National, Best Coast, the Strokes, Phoenix and the Blood Brothers toward the top of the posters. This stands in contrast to the direction that the Coachella Festival is heading, where the emphasis of both the programming and the crowd is trending dance music. With so many American festivals now clamoring for attention and attendees, is positioning a festival as rock-centric still a smart move if you're looking to draw concert-goers? Or are these two particular festivals filling a gap for music fans that Coachella has now left open?

Eric Ducker discussed these questions with Mikael Wood, a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, who has attended multiple editions of FYF and Coachella.

I don't know if or what you've been assigned, but if you could chose between attending this year's First City Festival or FYF Fest, which would it be?

First City, but that might just be the lure of the seaside setting, in contrast to another weekend in scorching downtown L.A.

Does First City's lineup appeal to you at all?

Parts of it do. Dawes? Sure. Best Coast? Yes, please. And I'm always happy to see Beck. But I have no use for the National. Or CocoRosie. Or Tokyo Police Club. And it continues to surprise me that Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. is actually a thing.

Right. I feel like there's a precipitous drop in enticing acts as you work your way down the lineup. There's a lot of filler there and acts I'm not sure I'd even go see for $10 at the Echo.

LOTS of filler. I've literally never heard of Mr. Little Jeans.

Electro pop, School Night at Bardot-type act. Not the worst!

I can see the blurb already.

What if, by some amazing instance of clusterf—- booking, Coachella was happening the same weekend as First City and FYF. Which of the three would you go to?

My gut reaction is Coachella — it's well run, reliably entertaining, plenty of creature comforts and of course it's a story in a way most festivals aren't. So the journalist in me wants to cover that one, because people care about it (or anyway are thought to care about it). But every Coachella, I'm so burnt by Sunday morning, there's always a "never again!" moment. So that leaves another festival that's fairly familiar and a new one. I'd probably go with the new one, though FYF has a more persuasive lineup.

You went to Coachella this year, right?


The bigger "story" I saw coming out of it was that it's becoming more and more of a dance music festival. Even though there has been dance music at Coachella since it started in 1999, now it's the dance acts who most people are really there for, even if in the way the lineup is presented, rock is still given the main emphasis. I haven't gone to Coachella in several years, but is that depiction accurate?

For sure. The biggest crowds were undoubtedly gathered to see the dance acts like Calvin Harris, Zedd, Skrillex and Martin Garrix.

So who was watching the rock bands? Olds? People looking to chill for a minute?

It kind of varied. The crowd for the Replacements could safely be described as olds, even if it could not safely be described as a crowd. Tiny.


But the Pixies played to a much larger group. And more varied. There was a definite vibe of kids who know the Pixies from hearing "Where Is My Mind?" in Fight Club.

They might know it as the song covered in the anti-texting and driving AT&T commercial or the song that Bassnectar remixed.

You may well be right about Bassnectar. The Pixies should have more remixes.

It wasn't quite true that rock bands were drawing no kids. Some of the younger bands, like Two Door Cinema Club, drew really big, young crowds, which is interesting to me. I couldn't care less about Two Door Cinema Club, but there they were appealing to all these young people who I'd have thought couldn't have cared less about rock. Wait a minute. I think I'm talking about Bombay Bicycle Club. Are these two different bands?


Ugh, they're all so useless to me. So Bombay Bicycle Club had the big crowd.

Does Coachella now feel like Hard Fest, one of Southern California's biggest dance music festivals, in terms of who is there, what they're there for and how they're acting? Has it gotten to that stage yet?

The portion of the Coachella audience that is there for Zedd and Skrillex and Martin Garrix overlaps pretty clearly with the Hard Fest crowd, but Coachella still has this other contingent, the people who do want to see the Replacements or whoever. And I don't think those folks are interested in Hard at all.

Right, and we should say that not all young people are only interested in dance music. Events like the recent Burger A Go Go in Orange County prove that, even though the crowd there was a fraction of the size as the one at Coachella. It's just that the young people (from around the country) that Coachella draws are more likely to be interested in dance music.

Coachella is actively courting them. The Sahara Tent is obviously a bid to seduce that audience. It's full all day. You get the idea that some people aren't coming to Coachella so much as they're coming to the Sahara Tent. I kept finding myself drawn back there. It's super-stimulating in a thrilling, almost frightening way, whereas so much of the rest of Coachella can feel like business as usual.

The organizers of FYF Fest would probably disagree with me and say that they have an "eclectic" lineup, but it's very heavy on indie rock or indie-inspired rock; and their choice of headliners the past couple years really cements that. Meanwhile First City's lineup is pretty much straight up-and-down indie or alternative rock. Do these festivals and their programming feel like a reaction to the direction that Coachella is going? Are they trying to fill a gap?

That's happening to some extent, yeah. I mean, FYF didn't start out as part of Goldenvoice, so I'm inclined to believe the idea that FYF is reflecting the taste of the people that put it on more than it's trying to be strategic. But obviously Goldenvoice's linking with FYF was a way for Goldenvoice to be strategic, so perhaps that's a distinction without a difference. The FYF brand is definitely more indie-aligned than Coachella has become. It also has that punk energy, which is kind of the opposite of indie in 2014. But you've also got loads of acts on FYF this year who've played Coachella recently: Phoenix, Julian Casablancas, Blood Orange, Haim ...

From what I understand, FYF books the acts separately and Goldenvoice mainly handles the logistics and "the festival experience," which they've excelled at, but part of me thinks that both sides got together and realized that having the Strokes at FYF would be a much bigger deal than having them at Coachella in 2014.

I think that's right. And it's good for the Strokes, too. For them the FYF brand has some cool factor; at Coachella, they're just another reunion.

Is FYF in danger of falling into Coachella's nostalgia trap (the "Who's reuniting this year?" question)? I'm not really talking about having Slint and Slowdive on the lineup since they probably account for a small percentage of the reason tickets sold out this year — both groups also have upcoming LA club/theater shows that seem more geared toward the people who were listening to them when their music was released — and I guess the Blood Brothers coming back could be a bigger deal to the festival's target demographic, but I more mean having the Strokes and Interpol at the top of the poster. I hadn't really considered them nostalgia acts, or even felt like they hadn't been around, but when reading reviews of Governors Ball in New York from earlier this summer, I was surprised by how many writers in their early 20s were like, Oh my god, I can't believe I finally got to see the Strokes and/or Interpol.

I hadn't really thought of FYF as having a nostalgia problem before this year (though it did have the Breeders and My Bloody Valentine in 2013, so maybe I should have). But, yeah, it could be in danger of becoming a destination for bands like the Stokes and Interpol that aren't quite into full-on reunion mode but might be in need of somewhere safe to re-launch after a bit of time away. Goldenvoice has always tried to present itself to artists as a trusted accomplice in that way.

Is a big rock-centric music festival financially viable in 2014 with the direction things are going? The average festival-goer is pretty young, and as we've discussed, many of them might not be stoked on a 90-minute set from the National.

It's really hard to imagine a rock-centric festival on the scale of Coachella doing well. That's why so many of the new festivals we're seeing are quite a bit smaller. And then of course that smallness becomes a supposed selling point. They're boutique, small-batch, etc. And if you're only looking to draw 10 or 20 thousand people (or perhaps even more), then you're probably safe(ish) booking rock bands.

It's funny, I realized I might be willing to pay First City's one-day ticket price of $79.75 to just see Beck, Best Coast, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Tanlines play a show where they held Monterey Pop. Surrounding that four-act lineup with a whole festival only makes me want to go less. But that's probably a reflection of my age.

Right, standing in the sun for eight hours: barf. But that kind of seems like a problem from a marketing P.O.V. Everything about First City — the setting, the history, the emphasis on sustainability — seems directed at an older demographic. But at 36, I'm part of that demographic, and I don't think I'd ever go if it weren't my job. Clearly not everyone my age thinks that way.

Is it for Silicon Valley folks?

That's a good question. There's Outside Lands [in San Francisco], which kind of has that affluent tech-idealist vibe.

But I can see how First City could develop into more of an escape from the city rather than a journey into it. You rent a house, you go for a hike in Big Sur one morning ...

Right, the seaside sanctuary. That gets at the whole resort-ification of Coachella that we've seen more and more of, where the festival is pitching itself as a destination unto itself beyond the music.

I also wonder if First City is appealing to these indie bands because they rarely stop on tour between the Bay Area and L.A. Some might do Santa Cruz, or a very select bunch might play the Henry Miller Memorial Library, but that's rare.

Yeah, it's kind of long stretch that most bands don't play. It would be interesting to analyze how many bands are playing the festival as a one-off and how many are playing between shows in LA and SF.

Are you into how FYF's booking has progressed over the years?

This year's lineup is pretty strong. I'm not sure if I can draw a clear identity for the festival from it, though there does seem to be something connecting "older" rock bands like the Strokes and Interpol and Phoenix with younger artists like Flying Lotus and Blood Orange.

In terms of what?

Some sensibility of stylishness? These aren't sloppy acts, they're precise, tailored in sound and appearance. There's something I like about that. But then of course you have Built to Spill and Against Me! and the Bronx — sloppiness-as-a-virtue bands.

I like that FYF feels like a festival for Los Angeles. I remember when it seemed like certain neighborhoods here were empty on Coachella weekend, but as its national and international reputation has grown, it doesn't feel that way anymore. FYF still feels local to me, to the extent that this year, because they've changed venues, I'm kind of bummed I can't just take the Gold Line there from the Metro stop near my house, but will have to transfer to the Red and then the Expo line.

The vibe feels L.A.-ish or the lineup or both?

Vibe more than lineup. They don't pile on the local bands, which is fine, because there are so many "neighborhood" style festivals here that do that: Echo Park Rising, Eagle Rock Music Festival, Topanga Days ... My conception of what an L.A. crowd is (or an L.A. crowd that I like) is a lot different than the national perception, but FYF brings in a good crew. They're stylish, they know the music, they want to have fun but aren't obnoxious about it, not too many jerks.

FYF strikes an appealing combination of professional and DIY.

Well, that's what you get when you combine the promotion companies of Goldenvoice and FYF, right?

Yeah, I think that was precisely their thinking.

I know you've never been to First City, but down the road, any thoughts on how you'd like to see FYF Fest and First City develop?

It'd be cool to see FYF figure out — or keep figuring out — how to combine the punk thing and the pop thing. The scrappiness and the polish. They're doing a good job of that now, but how pop could they go and still retain that gritty downtown vibe? I don't think we're gonna see Lorde at FYF any time soon, but what kind of big pop act could come in and make sense? It might be Kesha.

That seems like a stretch for them. Selling out isn't really discussed much these days, but people would more be like, What are you doing? Maybe the band fun.?

To me Kesha feels so much closer in spirit to the FYF vibe than fun. And FYF has a lot of spirit, spunk. Coachella doesn't have much spunk left.

What about Kendrick Lamar headlining?

The idea of Kendrick at FYF doesn't thrill me if only because he seems at this point to have played every festival ever, which makes each new festival booking (however cleverly intentioned) feel less special. But, I mean, yeah, it'd be a cool way for FYF to deepen its representation of L.A.'s music culture. Maybe FYF could do some cool one-off, like Kendrick sharing a band and tag-teaming with Earl Sweatshirt, or Kendrick jamming with Flying Lotus.

It's weird, a Smiths reunion was always Goldenvoice's dream booking for Coachella, and now I don't even know if that would make sense for them. If that was ever going to happen (it's not going to happen), it would probably happen at FYF now.

I thought about the Smiths at Coachella this year. They would've been like the Stone Roses in 2013, where lot of young concertgoers were like, Who is this band?

The Smiths have so much tied to them, especially in Southern California, that I have to imagine there would still be some excitement about them from Coachella audiences. But then again I never would have thought four years ago that a Replacements reunion would draw a tiny crowd.

Coachella: where sure things go to die.

I was surprised that Goldenvoice never got Pearl Jam to headline Coachella, considering that they found the Empire Polo Club venue in 1993 during the band's anti-Ticketmaster tour for Vs. But now, I don't think a Pearl Jam headlining set would do much for them. We might have seen that in Coachella's Paul McCartney, Roger Waters era of the late aughts.

The dark ages. Pearl Jam would seem very unexciting to me. It doesn't push the festival in any direction, not unlike Muse and Arcade Fire this year.

Do you remember when they had Tiësto headline the main stage in 2007, several years before EDM broke? It didn't go over that well.

Ha, forgot about that. I talked with people this year about how EDM fares on the main stage as opposed to in the Sahara Tent. Calvin Harris seemed perfectly at home on the main stage, but there's something about the Sahara environment that feels better suited to some of the other EDM acts. Obviously, it's like a super-sized club, though I'm not sure how many actual clubs Zedd has played in his day. The festival stage may be his natural habitat.

The only idea I can think of that might bring back excitement to a headlining rock booking at Coachella right now would be Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic doing a Nirvana revue with rotating female singers like they did at the Rock and Roll Hall Fame induction ceremony.

Wow, that's interesting. That might actually be something that would draw the youngsters, but totally turn off the oldsters. "You can't replace Kurt, maaaaaaan."

How about First City's future?

I feel like the smart move for First City would be to really integrate (whatever that dreaded marketing term means) the festival with its surroundings. It's what promises to set First City apart from the billion other festivals going right now. And, you know, the First City lineup seems pretty weak this year. It could be stronger, but maybe there's loads of people dying to see Mr. Little Jeans.

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No Age performing at FYF Fest at the Los Angeles State Historic Park in August 2013. (Getty Images for FYF)

Book News: German Minister Shows Support For Authors' Amazon Protest

by Annalisa Quinn
Aug 21, 2014

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Annalisa Quinn

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • Germany's culture and media minister is speaking out in support of a campaign by more than 1,000 German-speaking authors who have accused Amazon of manipulating bestseller lists and delaying deliveries. In a statement translated into English by the English-language paper The Local, Monika Grütters said she "welcomes and supports" the campaign, adding, "Market power and domination over central distribution channels should not endanger our cultural diversity." Amazon has been embroiled in a dispute with the German publisher Bonnier Group, a fight that in many ways resembles the retailer's standoff with Hachette Book Group in the U.S. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
  • Meanwhile, for Salon, Laura Miller argues that Amazon's problem may be a PR one: "Amazon much resembles a political party that hasn't figured out how to recalibrate its rhetoric to appeal to voters outside its base. Its pronouncements come in Amazonspeak, a language bred in a corporate echo chamber and the cheerleading threads of its self-publisher forums. ... The retailer is now up against a whole lot of people whose expertise is exactly that: communicating with the world. The real war between Amazon and Hachette, the economic one, remains up in the air, but the war of words is all over but the shouting."
  • Elusive Italian novelist Elena Ferrante gives a rare interview to Vogue: "The most difficult achievement is the capacity to see oneself, to name oneself, to imagine oneself. If in daily life we use ideologies, common sense, religion, even literature itself to disguise our experiences and make them presentable, in fiction it's possible to sweep away all the veils — in fact, perhaps, it's a duty."
  • For The Paris Review, Jonathan Guyer writes about Arabic noir: "The golden age of illicit crime fiction translation — from the 1890s through the 1960s —corresponds to the construction of the Egyptian nation, from colonial rule and monarchy to President Gamal Abdel Nasser's nationalization project."
  • For a feature on diversity in publishing, NPR's Lynn Neary talks to Ken Chen, director of the Asian American Writers' Workshop. She writes: "Too often, Chen says, publishing companies say they would publish more diverse books, but the market just isn't there for them. Chen doesn't buy that. 'Your ability to imagine that there is a market has to do with your ability to imagine that those people exist,' he says. 'And if [you] can't imagine that people of color actually exist and can buy books, then you can't imagine selling books to them. That's not just about a company corporate diversity policy; it's about actually knowing what's going on in communities of color.' " (See also: Junot Diaz's essay from a few months ago about the overwhelming whiteness of MFA programs.)
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From The Simpsons short "Music Ville." (Fox Broadcasting Company)

A Perfectly Cromulent Classical Guide To 'The Simpsons' Marathon

by Mark Mobley
Aug 21, 2014

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From its start nearly 25 years ago, The Simpsons was different. Not only was it animated, it had a Murderer's Row of voice actors and writing talent. It was absurdly funny and more than occasionally touching. Today, the show still embraces an uncommonly wide range of comedy, from slapstick to laser-guided wordplay.

History's longest-running scripted TV show also has its recurring obsessions, from politics to religion to sports (Marge, watching basketball: "How come they never call traveling anymore?"). Classical music has come up again and again on the show, even from its earliest days. The second episode, from January 1990, includes a trip to the opera — Bizet's Carmen, performed, as a sign says, "Tonite Only in RUSSIAN." Over the seasons, there have been references to composers, singers, instrumentalists and even, in one memorable case, the architect of an iconic concert hall.

In September, members of the cast, series creator Matt Groening and guests including Conan O'Brien and Jon Lovitz will join the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and music director Thomas Wilkins for three concerts featuring scenes from the show. For a program that honors the entire tradition of animation and film scoring, it's fitting that they'll be where Bugs Bunny conducted.

Today, a 12-day marathon of every Simpsons episode to date begins on the new Fox network FXX. All 552 shows are running in their premiere order, from 10 a.m. ET/PT today to midnight Sept. 1. Here's a guide to a few of the episodes with classical cameos — note that Aug. 28 is an especially highbrow day. (All times Eastern and Pacific.)

Thursday, Aug. 21, 10:30 a.m. "Bart the Genius" (1990)

Bart switches IQ tests with a legitimate genius. Feeling guilty about not having encouraged Bart's brilliance, Marge buys tickets to Carmen. Bart sings along: "Toreador, oh, don't spit on the floor. Please use the cuspidor, that's what it's for." (Yet this may be only the silver medal sitcom Carmen — the gold still goes to Gilligan's Island.)

Thursday Aug. 28, 3:30 a.m. "Margical History Tour" (2004)

In this elaborate Amadeus spoof, the shelves of the Springfield Public Library are suddenly empty. Marge fills the void by telling stories about historical figures, including Mozart, played by Bart: "Hello, Vienna! Are there any aficionados in the house?" A concert hall has entrances marked "FOPS" and "DANDIES."

Thursday Aug. 28, 4 p.m. "The Seven-Beer Snitch" (2005)

Springfield is being mocked by rival Shelbyville; Marge's answer is to commission a concert hall from architect Frank Gehry (designer of Disney Hall in Los Angeles, and one of Groening's neighbors). Flanders agrees: "We could use a new HQ for the Springfield Philharmonic. They're playing Gustav Mahler in abject squalor!" Gehry (playing himself) reads a letter from Marge, tosses it aside and then realizes the crumpled sheet is the design for the hall, exclaiming, "Frank Gehry, you're a genius!" But in 2011, Gehry told CNN that the joke has had an exasperating afterlife, as clients ask him to wad paper: "People who have seen The Simpsons believe it."

Thursday Aug. 28, 11:30 p.m. "The Italian Bob" (2005)

One of the lesser-known aspects of The Simpsons is the show's strong connection to the magnificent Dr. Seuss cult film The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, a comic horror musical about piano lessons. Simpsons villain Sideshow Bob Terwilliger (played by Kelsey Grammer) is named for the movie's title character, and one of Mr. Burns's songs, "See My Vest," is a blend of "Be Our Guest" from the Disney Beauty and the Beast and the unbelievable "Dressing Song: Do-Mi-Do Duds" from Dr. T. In this episode, the Simpsons are in Rome, where Krusty is appearing in Leoncavallo's Pagliacci at the Coliseum (Homer, exasperated: "Ohhhhh, opera? They have that here too?"). Bob is on his usual murderous rampage.

Friday Aug. 29, 8:30 p.m. "The Homer of Seville" (2007)

After accidentally crashing a wake, Homer falls into an open grave. The bad news: back injury. The good news: He's now a singer, but only when lying down. Burns recruits him for a leading role in Puccini's La bohčme anyway. In a locker room backstage, a shirtless Placido Domingo snaps Homer with a towel and says, "Nice set, Homer. That was a hot one." "Thanks," Homer says. "You know, of The Three Tenors, you're my second favorite. No, wait, I forgot about that other guy. Sorry, you're third."

Monday Sept. 1, 3:30 p.m. "The Kid Is All Right" (2013)

Last season included one of the show's finest musical moments, a celebration of Walt Disney's Depression-era output, made in the form of a couch gag (all Simpsons episodes open with the family assembling on the sofa to watch TV). "Music Ville" is based on "Music Land," a cartoon from Disney's "Silly Symphonies" series. Simpsons music editor Chris Ledesma has a fascinating account of the episode's production, complete with character sketches and the original Disney cartoon.

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On the left, supplies on the back-to-school list for third graders in Arlington, Texas; on the right, the items fifth graders need in Palmer, Alaska. (photo by LA Johnson/ NPR)

Notebooks And Pencils And Pens, Cha-Ching!

by Aly Seidel
Aug 21, 2014

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Data from each of our schools. This is meant as a snapshot, not a comprehensive list. School supplies for a third grader in Arlington, Texas, and a fifth grader in Palmer, Alaska. This chart shows the average cost of school supplies, compiled from 9 different schools around the nation. It's meant to be a snapshot, not a comprehensive list. These are based on data obtained from one school in each state. It is a snapshot, not a comprehensive list. School supply costs are rising. Data from each of our schools. This is meant as a snapshot, not a comprehensive list.

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Aly Seidel

Millions of families are heading to Target or Wal-Mart this month to make sure their kids have what they need for the first day of school. And, as many parents know, those glue sticks and gym clothes can really add up.

This August, Americans will spend an estimated $8.6 billion on back-to-school shopping, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. A lot of that spending is driven by the lists that schools and teachers give out, detailing what students need to bring on that first day.

To get a handle on what's on those lists and in those backpacks - and how much it costs to fill them — we pulled a sample of schools around the country, one from each of the U.S. Census Bureau's nine geographic regions. Then, we examined each school's lists for grades one, three and five.

This isn't a formal survey, just a snapshot of what parents are expected to provide.

Pencils and notebooks. Paper. Scissors. Cleaning supplies. A quick look reveals not a lot of variation. Kids in Ambler, Penn., or Dover, Ohio, need, basically, the same kinds of things.

Yet, teachers say they put a lot of thought into what they ask students to bring and parents to buy.

"The longer the list, the more unhappy the parents become with major purchases," says Katherine Els, a fifth-grade teacher at Bethany Community School in Bethany, Conn. "We try to just keep it to a very bare minimum of suggested items."

For Els' classroom, she plans out exactly what her students will need, down to the color.

"They need the skills to organize themselves, especially in fifth grade," she says. "So, it's time to take our your writing folder, that's the blue folder, and they pull it right out. It makes things so much easier."

Other teachers are mindful of how much space their students will need to work.

For daily morning lessons like spelling exercises, the familiar composition notebooks will do, says Meaghan Casey, a fifth-grade teacher at Long Branch Elementary in Arlington, Va.

But for subjects like math and writing, students need the thicker three-subject notebooks, which have a lot more pages. "We have computers, but we like them to have enough room for drafts."

The math notebook gets used up by the third quarter, she says, "so we have extras, just in case."

Of course, some of the lists included things like backpacks and sneakers. We omitted those, since many students already have those things. And so that left us with the kinds of supplies you can find at your local office supply store.

Or, the Office Depot website, which is where we went to price out the items.

We tried to bargain shop. Without using coupons, we selected the least-expensive option, except when schools named a specific brand. In that case, we bought that one, even if it wasn't the cheapest.

Sometimes, the lists and the website didn't quite match. For example, a list might call for 10 pens, but they're sold in packs of 12. In those cases we went with the closest number above the minimum.

With those guidelines in mind, let's look at some prices. As you might guess, we learned almost every parent already knows: School supplies are expensive.

There's quite a lot of variation on our list, from $14.58 at Butte Elementary School in Palmer, Alaska, to $122 at Atherton Elementary School in Arlington, Texas. But for the most part, the average was around $60. Few families could slide away for less than $50, again not including items like clothing, shoes and backpacks.

If you're one of the 20 million families in this country with more than one child, your costs can easily hit the triple-digits.

It's worth noting here that these numbers don't include many of the other costs and fees that schools these days are placing on parents: sports equipment, art lessons and musical instruments, to name a few. One study from Huntington Bank suggests that all of these fees combined can run, over the course of a school year, to more than $1,000.

Nor did we examine the large sums that teachers themselves often pay - out of their own pockets- for school supplies.

Enough To Last All Year

As we said above, there wasn't much variation in the kinds of things kids have to bring - the variation comes in the amounts.

At Long Branch Elementary School in Virginia, for example, kindergarteners are bringing 10 glue sticks.

"In the lower grades, there are more communal supplies, because they don't have desks," says Casey. "They're all sitting at tables, with a little caddy full of pencils, markers, colored pencils, glue sticks. But when you get into the upper grades, they have a desk that they're responsible for."

The other underlying goal, teachers say, is to make these things last throughout the year.

Els' list, at $42.99, was one of the least expensive on our list, with just 9 different items. The basics, mostly: five notebooks, five two-pocket folders, a dozen No. 2 pencils, etc.

"In today's economy," Els says, "teachers really have to think long and hard about the supplies they ask for from parents."

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