Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Resolutions and the Newbery

As I read the posts of many of the blogs I follow, I've noticed that quite a few bloggers have posted their New Year's resolutions. One of the things I have struggled with since I started this blog is how much personal information to post. I started the blog as a way to share resources about children's literature for the readers of The Joy of Children's Literature and anyone else who happens upon this blog. Surely no one is interested in my personal life.

However, if there is anything I know for sure, it's that for reading to be meaningful, it must be personal. As I wrote JCL, one of my goals was for my passion for children's literature to be palpable. I want the reader to know that I care deeply for children's literature and one reason for that is how it has touched me personally. The way I conveyed that feeling in the book was to share stories from my own childhood and from my work with children as a teacher and a mother that exemplified the affect children's literature can have on our own lives and the lives of others we touch.

Posting personal information gives the reader the opportunity to get to know the person behind the blog. I value the information posted on the blogs I read because I have some idea of the person posting the information. She may be a children's librarian, author, teacher, professor or mother but I read the post because I value her opinion and the only way I know her opinion is because she shares it on her blog.

So, one of my New Year's resolutions is to not only post about children's literature resources, but also about my own life experiences that make me the reader I am. So, here goes:

One of the things I try to do all year long is to have already read the Newbery winner before it is announced. I know this is not a big surprise and lots of others do the same thing, but given the fact that the Newbery will be announced in a few weeks, I wanted to share with you how I'm doing so far.

A few weeks ago, Fuse #8 posted a round-up of mock Newbery winners. The titles that received the most votes were:

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (7)
My One Hundred Adventures by Polly Horvath (6)
Savvy by Ingrid Law (6)*
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt (5)
Diamond Willow by Helen Frost (5)*
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (4)
Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor (4)
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look (4)*
The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry (4)
We are the Ship by Kadir Nelson (4)

I've not always done a good job of keeping track of the books I read throughout the year, but since I started this blog at the end of March, I've posted the titles on the sidebar to the right. So, the three titles with asterisks I still need to read in the next two weeks.

There has been much written in the news and blogs about the Newbery lately. The basic gist is that the Newbery winners are not popular with children. The Newbery is a literary award not a popularity award and that's the way it should be, in my opinion. There are lots of other awards given throughout the year in which children vote for their favorite books. Of the 10 titles listed above and of the 7 I have read, all are of outstanding literary quality, but not all will appeal to children. I will write more about this when I've finished reading the other three.

I am thankful for so many wonderful books that were published this year. As the excitement mounts for the announcement of the Newbery so does the excitement for the 2009 year in children's books. I know it will be another amazing year. I'm not going to delete the list of books I've read on the sidebar until after the Newbery announcement. Then, I'll start documenting my reading for a full year in 2009!

This is my last post of 2008. It's been a great year for me in so many ways as I hope it has been for you. I wish everyone a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Books to celebrate the New Year!

I love the beginning of a new year! It brings with it the sense of a fresh beginning and the hope for all that is to come the rest of the year. I always think about the year of new books ahead (okay, and summer vacation!).

As much as I'd like to be the girl bringing in the new year with champagne and dancing, most often I'm watching the ball drop on TV like many others in the US. However, New Year's Day is celebrated many different ways (and times) around the world. So, below is a list of a few great books that can be shared with children in celebration of the New Year everywhere!

Happy New Year, Everywhere! by Arlene Erlbach (2000, Millbrook Press)

Through interesting text and colorful, dynamic illustrations, this excellent book briefly describes traditional New Year's celebrations and customs in 20 countries. The introduction explains that varying cultures observe different calendars and seasonal celebrations. Each spread highlights a different country, providing the dates of the observance; the name of the holiday; the traditional greeting (with a helpful pronunciation key); and a related game, recipe, song, or craft. Simple, colorful line drawings illustrate the projects and a world map pinpoints the location of each celebration. Festive side borders with stars and fireworks adorn each page. This title's particular strengths are the activities and the lengthy bibliography. (Grades 2-5, review by SLJ)

With delightful charm and simplicity, Demi offers readers a lovely look at the Chinese New Year. The vibrant, colorful double-page spreads are full of small, stylized cartoon drawings of Chinese children and adults dancing and smiling as they prepare for and participate in the festivities. The author clearly explains traditions; the always-fascinating animal zodiac; the vast array of gods and heavenly beings that are honored; and the symbolism behind special foods, signs, and rituals. Primary-grade assignments will be enriched by this jewel-toned picture-book presentation. It's just unfortunate that there is no pronunciation guide for the many words, names, and foods mentioned. (Grades K-3, review by SLJ)

Happy New Year! by Emery Bernhard (1996, Lodestar)

This well-researched, appealing book describes how people celebrate the new year, not only in the U.S., but also in such varied places as Bali, Ethiopia, India, China, and Japan. Discussion of historical perspective and the significance of the holiday in different religions lends authority to the text. Bright, bold illustrations enhance the multicultural theme. (Grades 2-5, review by SLJ)

Dumpling Soup by Jama Kim Rattigan (Little, Brown, 2001)

A large, loving Hawaiian family gathers to celebrate the new year with Marisa making mandoo, or dumplings, a traditional holiday feast. Told from the seven-year-old child's breathless point of view, the event is also a tribute to diversity. The Yang family, like much of the population of Hawaii, includes members of Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian, and haole (white) descent. And everyone loves mandoo, especially the funny-looking ones that Marisa makes. Though the text is low-key, the characters and their affection for one another are infectious. Cluttered, lively, full-color illustrations in a style reminiscent of Marylin Hafner's work are packed with detail and children. Domestic groupings of all sorts will keep young eyes busy trying to identify which cousin is which. The pages are so full of activity that they often bleed entirely off the page. Any child who loves family gatherings will identify with this book, and teachers will welcome it for its inclusive approach. (Grades K-3, review by SLJ)

This Next New Year by Janet Wong (Frances Foster Books, 2000)

A Chinese-Korean boy relates how he and his friends celebrate the "lunar new year, the day of the first new moon." One child celebrates the holiday with "Thai food to go," while a non-Asian child likes to get "-red envelopes stuffed with money from her neighbor who came from Singapore." The narrator's mother cooks a special Korean soup, and his family observes the traditions of house cleaning, lighting firecrackers, and being extra good to ensure a lucky new year. Wong carefully and clearly presents the reasons behind the rituals in a manner understandable to young children. She explains in an appended note about her own confusion as a child about the timing and meaning of the holiday. Choi's vibrant, somewhat primitive paintings realistically capture the details of and preparations for this hopeful time of year. Youngsters will enjoy the bright colors and the sense of motion and activity conveyed as the boy helps his mother clean, flosses his teeth, and cringes from the noise of the firecrackers. (PreK-2, review by SLJ)

Tet: A Vietnamese New Year by Dianne MacMillian (Enslow, 1994)

A look at red-letter days from around the world as they are observed by U.S. residents. Chinese New Year presents the history and customs associated with the holiday, concluding with the Golden Dragon Parade. Jewish Holidays describes Passover, the Seder, and lesser feasts such as Purim, Yom Ha-Atsma'ut, Lag B'Omer, and Shavuot. Ramadan and Id al-Fitr looks at the Islamic culture: Mohammed, mosques, minarets, and the Koran. Tet focuses on how the Vietnamese-Americans mark the beginning of their new year. Although the writing is choppy, the texts are well researched and have a great deal of information. A glossary and index as well as notes for parents, teachers, and librarians round out each title. (Grades 3-4, review by SLJ)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Judy Blume's Love, Writing About Kids Ages 9-12

From NPR by Renee Montagne:

Author Judy Blume talks with Renee Montagne about how a suburban housewife in New Jersey turned into one of the country's most celebrated children's writers and how her own childhood inspired her fiction writing.

Listen to the story here!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Are Newbery books turning off kids to reading?

The Newbery Medal has been the gold standard in children's literature for more than eight decades. On the January day when the annual winner is announced, bookstores nationwide sell out, libraries clamor for copies and teachers add the work to lesson plans.

Now the literary world is debating the Newbery's value, asking whether the books that have won recently are so complicated and inaccessible to most children that they are effectively turning off kids to reading. Of the 25 winners and runners-up chosen from 2000 to 2005, four of the books deal with death, six with the absence of one or both parents and four with such mental challenges as autism. Most of the rest deal with tough social issues.

An article in October's School Library Journal —"Has the Newbery Lost Its Way?" by children's literary expert Anita Silvey—touched off the debate, now in full bloom on blogs and in e-mails. The Association for Library Service to Children, the organization that awards the Newbery—and several other book prizes, including the Caldecott Medal for best American picture book for children—defends its methods and its record. Read more in The Washington Post online.

Monday, December 15, 2008

IRA launches "Gateway" e-newsletter

The International Reading Association has launched IRA Gateway, a new monthly e-newsletter offering practical tips from IRA publications and links to valuable resources online. To view a sample issue or to subscribe, visit the IRA website.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Interview with Helen Oxenbury

Reading Rockets has a new video interview with Helen Oxenbury! You can watch the interview below, view the interview transcript, or see a selected list of her children's books. You can also see our exclusive video interview with writer Mem Fox, Oxenbury's partner on Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Best Books of 2008 Lists: Yep, it's that time of year!

It's that time of year when "the best books of 2008" lists start appearing. Two such lists are SLJ's Best Books of 2008 and the CCBC's preliminary list of Choices 2009.

From the preface of the SLJ list:

Of the more than 5000 books reviewed in SLJ’s pages in 2008, the 67 books listed below stood out as having distinctive voices, singular vision, and/or innovative approaches. They include books for toddlers and preschoolers, terrific picture books and easy readers, and some highly original novels. Fantasy, historical fiction, science fiction, humor, mystery, affecting family stories, and adventure all make an appearance.

SLJ also states, "It was an amazingly strong year for YA novels, several with hard-hitting, powerful themes. " I completely agree. As I looked through the list, I found that I had read all of the young-adult books list. I had not, however, done such a good job reading the nonfiction:-( How about you?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Jon Scieszka, A Seriously Funny 'Knucklehead', November 20, 2008 · Children's author Jon Scieszka has written two dozen children's books, including The Stinky Cheese Man and the Time Warp Trio series, but his most recent work is a memoir. Knucklehead, an autobiography for young readers, details Scieszka's experiences growing up in Flint, Mich., where he was the second-oldest of six brothers.

In one chapter, Scieszka writes about his own experience as a young reader encountering the "strange alien family" of Dick and Jane and wondering why the characters repeated each other's names so frequently.

"If Jane didn't see the dog, Dick would say, 'Look Jane, look. There is the dog next to Sally, Jane,' " Scieszka says. "I thought they were afraid they might forget each other's names, because they always said each other's names — a lot."

'Oh Man, Here's My Audience'

Dick And Jane never made Scieszka want to read, but Dr. Seuss's The Cat In The Hat and the funny parodies in Mad Magazine did. Later, when Scieszka was a graduate student at Columbia University, he began writing his own fiction. His heroes were Borges, Cervantes and Kafka — writers who played with language and new ways to tell stories.

After he got his degree, Scieszka brought his post-modern sensibility to a Manhattan elementary school, where he was teaching. He remembers telling the second-grade class about Kafka's Metamorphosis.

"[I said] 'What if a guy woke up one day and he was a bug? Wouldn't that be weird?' and they loved that," Scieszka says. "And I think that was the trigger that made me think … oh man, here's my audience. They're just a lot shorter than I ever thought they might be."

Scieszka started to write funny, twisted stories just like the ones he used to write in graduate school — this time with kids in mind. His first book, published in 1989 with illustrator Lane Smith, was The True Story Of The Three Little Pigs, told from the point of view of Al, the wolf who laments his "big bad" reputation. ("Hey, it's not my fault wolves eat cute little animals like bunnies, and sheep and pigs," Al says. "That's just the way we are. If cheeseburgers were cute, folks would probably think you were big and bad, too.")

'You Just Want To Keep Reading'

Three years later, Scieszka's next book, a collection of contorted fairy tales called The Stinky Cheese Man, became a bestseller. He has since sold nearly 9 million books. Leonard Marcus, author of Minders Of Make-Believe, a history of children's literature, calls Scieszka "one of the funniest writers to come along for children."

"He has a way of reaching children by making them feel that they're part of the joke," Marcus says. "It was really refreshing for a lot of kids to feel that someone was making books for them. ... There's something wonderful about that for a child."

Sandra DiRe, a fifth-grade teacher at the Glen Head school in suburban Long Island, uses The True Story Of The Three Little Pigs to talk with her students about point of view and the nature of truth. She says the book is good for teaching because she's interested in it, and the children can relate to it.

Ten-year-old Carly Rovner agrees: "All [Scieszka's] books kind of connect, because all his characters are either running away from something or running to find something," she says. "But it's interesting along the way. ... You just want to keep reading."

'Painless Inoculation'

As the Library of Congress' first national ambassador to children's literature, Scieszka is on a mission to connect kids with books they like. He says the key to getting kids to read is not to force-feed them literature, but to let them read what they want — be it comic books, magazines or graphic novels — and eventually they'll move on to some great writing and great reading.

After the success of his twisted fairy tales, Scieszka wrote funny books that made math, science and history accessible. His Time Warp Trio series, which was adapted for children's television, is about three kids who travel through time. Scieszka says the initial idea for the series was to write something kids would want to read — then he realized he could infuse the books with history lessons.

"I thought, what a cool thing — just, like, have them go anywhere in history. And I can just plug this great historical knowledge, and use that, and kids don't even know it," he says. "It's kind of like a painless inoculation."

Scieszka says he's flabbergasted by his success, and feels lucky to get up every day and make up wild stories for kids.

"If the day gets really bad, I can always pull out fan mail," he says with a laugh. "Who else gets mail where kids write to you and say, 'Dear Mr. Scieszka, We were supposed to write to our favorite author, but Roald Dahl is dead. So I'm writing to you.' "

Read an excerpt from Knucklehead.

Is listening to an audiobook really reading?

A survey conducted by Recorded Books found that the biggest concern teachers have about audiobooks is that it isn't really reading.

I've written an article with my opinion, but I'd like to know what others think. Do you agree that listening to audiobooks isn't really reading? Leave a comment and let me know!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Final version of Reading First study released

Students in the $6 billion Reading First program have not made greater progress in understanding what they read than have peers outside the program, according to a congressionally mandated study.

The final version of the study, released November 18, 2008, by the U.S. Department of Education, found that students in schools that use Reading First, a program at the core of the No Child Left Behind law, scored no better on comprehension tests than students in similar schools that do not get the funding.

"It is a program that needs to be improved," said Grover J. "Russ" Whitehurst, director of the Institute of Education Sciences, the department's research arm. "I don't think anyone should be celebrating that the federal government has spent $6 billion on a reading program that has had no impact on reading comprehension." Read the article in The Washington Post online.

National Book Awards - 2008


WINNER: Judy Blundell, What I Saw and How I Lied (Scholastic) - Interview


Laurie Halse Anderson, Chains (Simon & Schuster)

Kathi Appelt, The Underneath (Atheneum) - Interview

E. Lockhart, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (Hyperion) - Interview

Tim Tharp, The Spectacular Now (Alfred A. Knopf) - Interview

Young People’s Literature Judges: Daniel Handler (chair), Holly Black, Angela Johnson, Carolyn Mackler, Cynthia Voigt.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Paging Through History's Beautiful Science

A few months ago, I posted a review of the book, The Mysterious Universe, written by Ellen Jackson with photographs and illustrations by Nic Bishop (Houghton Mifflin, 2008), which takes an in depth look at the expanding universe. Of course, our understanding of the universe today is based upon the work of scientists of the past. A new exhibition of science books at the Huntingtion library in California called "Beautiful Science: Ideas That Changed the World" highlights many of the books that influenced or were written by some of the greatest scientist of the past.

The exhibition focuses on four areas of science: astronomy, natural history, medicine and light. Some of the books featured are Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica, the book where Newton codified the laws of motion and gravity; Nicolaus Copernicus' De Revolutionibus, the description of a solar system which had the sun, not the Earth, at its center; and Petrus Apianus' Astronomicum Caesarium, a collection of strikingly beautiful, hand-illustrated star charts published in 1540.

NPR's recent broadcast, Paging Through History's Beautiful Science highlists the exhibit and some of these books. Several photos and videos highlight the books themselves. Absolutely fascinating!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Read Across America partners with kidthing

From Reading Today Daily:

The countdown is already on for the 2009 Read Across America celebration, which will take place on March 2. Each year, millions of people participate in this National Education Association-sponsored reading promotion event honoring the late Dr. Seuss. One of the resources offered for this year's celebration is a Read Across America calendar, with each month featuring a special book. You can access the calendar and other resources at the Read Across America website.

Through a partnership with kidthing, inc., selected books in the Read Across America calendar (or excerpts from the books) will be featured free downloables on a special site. November features Crossing Bok Chitto, an award-winning book by Native American author and storyteller Tim Tingle.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

NYT Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2008

Every autumn since 1952, the New York Times Book Review has invited a panel of judges to survey the year’s output of children’s books and to select the top 10 best illustrated. This year’s trio of judges were: author and illustrator Christopher Myers, whose Jabberwocky (Hyperion) was a Best Illustrated Book of 2007; Caroline Ward, Head of Children’s Services at the Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT, who recently co-curated the exhibition “Children Should be Seen: The Changing Image of the Child in American Picture-Book Art”; and Luann Toth, Managing Editor of School Library Journal’s Book Review, who was a member of the 2002 Randolph Caldecott Award Committee.

Top 10 best illustrated books of 2008:

A Is for Art: An Abstract Alphabet, written and illustrated by Stephen T. Johnson (S & S/A Paula Wiseman Bk.)

The Black Book of Colors, written and illustrated by Menena Cottin and Rosana Faría (Groundwood)

Ghosts in the House!, written and illustrated by Kazuno Kohara (Roaring Brook)

The Little Yellow Leaf, written and illustrated by Carin Berger (HarperCollins/Greenwillow)

Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City, illustrated by Meilo So, with text by Janet Schulman (Knopf/Borzoi)

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, with text by Jen Bryant (Eerdmans)

Skim, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, with text by Mariko Tamaki (Groundwood)

Wabi Sabi, illustrated by Ed Young, with text by Mark Reibstein (Little, Brown)

Wave, illustrated by Suzy Lee (Chronicle)

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Hyperion/Jump and the Sun)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Can J.K. Rowling Save Christmas?

From Publishers Weekly, 11/10/2008:

With publishers and booksellers nervous about Christmas sales, a little $12.95 book might be the season's savior. The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a Harry Potter offshoot by J.K. Rowling, is being published by Scholastic on Dec. 4. This will be the first Rowling book to be published at the height of the holiday season; all her previous Harry Potters were published in the summer—and the timing, although ideal in the gift-giving sense, may present some logistical distribution challenges.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a slim collection of five stories, including “The Tale of the Three Brothers,” which appeared in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, will have to ship from wholesalers during the Thanksgiving rush. Ingram Book Group's director of merchandising Mary McCarthy says the logistics will be “challenging.” The company meets weekly to review orders and transportation to ensure that everything will go smoothly. Although she doesn't expect Beedle to sell at the same levels as Deathly Hallows—Ingram's initial order was roughly one-third of its initial buy for Deathly Hallows—it is still a major title.

McCarthy notes that the low price, the Potter connection and the “charity appeal”—net proceeds to Scholastic, Bloomsbury and Amazon are being donated to Children's High Level Group, the charity Rowling co-founded to improve the lives of marginalized children—will make the book “one of the highlights of the season.”

Bookseller Carol Chittenden, owner of Eight Cousins in Falmouth, Mass., and buyer for BookStream, agrees. She views Beedle as a smaller Harry Potter—“but that's still a lot larger than 99.8% of the other fall frontlist titles,” she notes. Like McCarthy, Chittenden is taking considerably fewer copies than she did for Deathly Hallows; about 8% of her original order for the store, and about 20% for BookStream.

That dovetails with Scholastic's own first printing of 3.5 million copies, which is hefty but a lot less than the 12 million it laid down for Hallows. In that case, though, the bulk of the sales occurred the first week out of the gate. The trick for booksellers will be to keep the Beedle magic going throughout the holidays and beyond.

Read the rest of the story here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Review of The Hunger Games

I recently read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and loved it! The starred review below by Megan Whalen Turner appeared in this week's Publisher Weekly:

If there really are only seven original plots in the world, it's odd that “boy meets girl” is always mentioned, and “society goes bad and attacks the good guy” never is. Yet we have Fahrenheit 451, The Giver, The House of the Scorpion—and now, following a long tradition of Brave New Worlds, The Hunger Games.

Collins hasn't tied her future to a specific date, or weighted it down with too much finger wagging. Rather less 1984 and rather more Death Race 2000, hers is a gripping story set in a postapocalyptic world where a replacement for the United States demands a tribute from each of its territories: two children to be used as gladiators in a televised fight to the death.
Katniss, from what was once Appalachia, offers to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, but after this ultimate sacrifice, she is entirely focused on survival at any cost. It is her teammate, Peeta, who recognizes the importance of holding on to one's humanity in such inhuman circumstances. It's a credit to Collins's skill at characterization that Katniss, like a new Theseus, is cold, calculating and still likable. She has the attributes to be a winner, where Peeta has the grace to be a good loser.

It's no accident that these games are presented as pop culture. Every generation projects its fear: runaway science, communism, overpopulation, nuclear wars and, now, reality TV. The State of Panem—which needs to keep its tributaries subdued and its citizens complacent—may have created the Games, but mindless television is the real danger, the means by which society pacifies its citizens and punishes those who fail to conform. Will its connection to reality TV, ubiquitous today, date the book? It might, but for now, it makes this the right book at the right time.

What happens if we choose entertainment over humanity? In Collins's world, we'll be obsessed with grooming, we'll talk funny, and all our sentences will end with the same rise as questions. When Katniss is sent to stylists to be made more telegenic before she competes, she stands naked in front of them, strangely unembarrassed. “They're so unlike people that I'm no more self-conscious than if a trio of oddly colored birds were pecking around my feet,” she thinks. In order not to hate these creatures who are sending her to her death, she imagines them as pets. It isn't just the contestants who risk the loss of their humanity. It is all who watch.

Katniss struggles to win not only the Games but the inherent contest for audience approval. Because this is the first book in a series, not everything is resolved, and what is left unanswered is the central question. Has she sacrificed too much? We know what she has given up to survive, but not whether the price was too high. Readers will wait eagerly to learn more.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Second Annual Celebration of Latino Children’s Literature Conference

Save the Date for the Second Annual Celebration of Latino Children’s Literature conference to be held in Columbia, SC on April 24th and 25th, 2009. This exciting, two day conference includes performances and appearances by several Latina authors/illustrators including Maya Christina Gonzalez, Lulu Delacre, Lucia Gonzalez, and Irania Patterson. The keynote address will be delivered by nationally-recognized, Puerto Rican Children's Literature and Multicultural Education scholar Dr. Sonia Nieto. Conference participants will have a choice of over a dozen breakout sessions on topics related to Latino children's literature and literacy.

As part of the theme "Connecting Cultures and Celebrating Cuentos," the conference will host an El dia de los ninos/El dia de los libros (Children's Day/Book Day) family and community event on the evening of April 24th at one of the local public libraries. Festivities will include storytelling and intergenerational art exploration.

Registration for the premiere National Latino Children’s Literature Conference is limited and begins January 2009. For additional information, please consult the conference website ( or contact conference co-chair.

Dr. Jamie Campbell Naidoo (; (205)348-1518.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Focus on Native American Heritage

From the NCTE inbox:

National American Indian Heritage Month is recognized each November as a time to learn more about the history and heritage of Native American peoples. These resources provide strategies to explore Native American literature and heritage in your own classroom.

The Language Arts article "Proceed with Caution: Using Native American Folktales in the Classroom" (E) explains the importance of selecting texts that include realistic and accurate presentations of Native American peoples. The article includes guidelines for evaluating and selecting Native American literature.

Examine two speeches by Shawnee Chief Tecumseh with the ReadWriteThink lesson Battling for Liberty: Tecumseh's and Patrick Henry's Language of Resistance (M) and ask students to consider Tecumseh's politically effective and poetic use of language. See the ReadWriteThink calendar entry for National American Indian Heritage Month for links to additional lesson plans and resources.

"Contemporary American Indian Life in The Owl's Song and Smoke Signals" (S) from English Journal explores how to teach the novel and film together in a unit that "paints a realistic picture of contemporary American Indian life" while inviting students to identify with protagonists who grow in both self-awareness and their appreciation of others.

The English Journal article "Hoop Dancing: Literature Circles and Native American Storytelling" (S-C) explores strategies teachers can use to address the misrepresentations of Indian culture through the study of Native American oral traditions and literatures.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Connecting kids and book galleys can boost reading

Children's book publishers and school librarians are trying a new strategy to build the buzz about forthcoming titles: sharing Advance Readers' Copies (ARCs) or book galleys. "The kids' enthusiasm for a title then creates in-school, pre-pub buzz about the book that can, in some cases, have a positive effect on sales," writes Sally Lodge in Publishers Weekly. "It's a chain reaction that is beneficial to all concerned--and one that appears to be happening with increasing frequency."

At Coppell Middle School West in Coppell, Texas, library media specialist Rose Brock runs five separate student book clubs using ARCs. Suzanne Fox, library media teacher at two middle schools in Napa, California, brings ARCs into classrooms and asks students to read and review the books. "Kids love reading a book that no one else knows about, and it's even better if it's a sequel to a book that other kids do know about," Fox says.

For further information, read the full article.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Snicket Redux

Article by Sue Corbett in Publishers Weekly (10/27/08)...

The Baudelaire orphans' sad story may be over but, like a post-apocalyptic cockroach, Lemony Snicket persists—to the great delight of booksellers, children, HarperCollins and Daniel Handler himself.

“I miss them,” Handler admits of Violet, Klaus and Sunny, whose adventures concluded in 2006 with The End—60 million copies from his Unfortunate Events series have sold worldwide. “Every so often I instinctively jot down notes about more bad things happening to them before I remember, 'Oh, that series is over.' It's disorienting.”

Never fear, readers. This fall Snicket returns with A Lump of Coal (HarperCollins), a companion title to last year's Hanukkah-themed picture book, The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming. In his trademark glass-almost-completely-empty fashion, Handler writes about Christmas by anthropomorphizing the traditional gift left by Santa for very bad children. He'll visit eight cities, as Snicket's representative of course, but Handler terms this tour “unplugged.”

The last few tours have been quite elaborate, traveling with musicians and orchestras, but this will be relatively muted,” he says. “I will be signing books and confronting children on an individual rather than a mass level.”

These “interim” books, as Handler calls them, keep Snicket's persona alive. He has another series idea (still under wraps) simmering, but up next is the February 2009 release of The Composer Is Dead (HarperCollins), a picture book-cum-police procedural that uses a murder investigation to explain the orchestra to children.

Read the rest of the article...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Parenting Neil Gaiman-Style: It Takes A 'Graveyard'

NPR, October 17, 2008 · The night a mystical killer murders his family, a child toddles off into a graveyard, where he's adopted by a loving, even-keeled ghost couple. The premise for The Graveyard Book is macabre, but author Neil Gaiman has a strange ability to make otherworldly characters quaint — loveable, even — and the story is anything but grave. Children as young as 9 will enjoy this sweet, funny and gentle tale; adults will appreciate its deeper undertones.

Gaiman is the author of the ground-breaking (rocked-my-world) comic Sandman and the best-sellers Anansi Boys and Coraline. (The latter is being made into a stop-action animated motion picture, with Dakota Fanning voicing the lead.) In the past, he's personified Death as a punk-rock chick and the Dream King as her brooding, self-conscious brother. Among Gaiman's fans are Tori Amos, who sang the line, "…me and Neil'll be hanging out with the Dream King" on her breakout album, Little Earthquakes. The invention of immortal folk who readers feel they might like to kick back with may be this prolific, tousle-haired, ex-pat British author's contribution to world literature.

Dave McKean, an artist famous for comic-book and CD covers, provides excellent, off-kilter inkbrush illustrations. Showing us the graveyard through the boy's eyes, he makes rows of lonely tombstones seem safe and homey. Content to allow Gaiman's writing to create the characters, McKean gives us a world of comfortable, haunted ruins.

Though he lives among the dead, young Nobody Owens, nicknamed Bod, has his ghostly parents, an undead guardian called Silas and 300 ghosts to watch over him. "It is going to take more than just a couple of good-hearted souls to raise this child," says Silas. "It will ... take a graveyard." Bod goes on odd adventures: A young girl adopts the boy dressed in a winding sheet as her imaginary friend, and he's abducted by some hilarious and fairly disgusting ghouls. But the real fun lies in watching Bod's extended, disincarnate family come to terms with a living child, teaching him to read from gravestones and puzzling over foodstuffs like bananas.

There's a sense of peace that comes from reading Gaiman; in his stories, the things that scare us aren't impervious to our humanity. The nonliving in The Graveyard Book, who expect to stay the same through eternity, grow as people. Bod's parents change profoundly, as does Bod's first crush, the young witch-ghost Liza. And when Bod tells Silas that he, Bod, has danced with Death herself, his powerful, lonely guardian, who can neither live nor die, suffers a moment of heartbreak. The Graveyard Book may make children want to play in cemeteries, but it will make adults crack a knowing smile.

Read an excerpt of The Graveyard Book and listen to an interview with Neil Gaiman.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

National Book Award: Young People's Literature

Check out the finalists for the National Book Award in the Young People's Literature section:

Laurie Halse Anderson, Chains (Simon & Schuster)

Kathi Appelt, The Underneath (Atheneum)

Judy Blundell, What I Saw and How I Lied (Scholastic)

E. Lockhart, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (Hyperion)

Tim Tharp, The Spectacular Now (Alfred A. Knopf)

Now, check out the judges!

Young People’s Literature Judges: Daniel Handler (chair), Holly Black, Angela Johnson, Carolyn Mackler, Cynthia Voigt.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Neil Gaiman Reads The Graveyard Book in its Entirity!

Neil Gaiman is on a 9-city video tour for his new book The Graveyard Book. At each stop on the tour, he will read one chapter from The Graveyard Book beginning on October 1st. By the end of the tour, on October 9th, you will be able to watch the master storyteller himself read The Graveyard Book in its entirety. Chapter one is available right now!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mary Ann Hoberman Announced as the Second Children's Poet Laureate

Mary Ann Hoberman Named Children's Poet Laureate

Below is an excerpt from the article on the Poetry Foundation's website:

The best children’s poets look at the subjects most parents are terrified of introducing to their little children—death, for instance—and invite them, gracefully, to dance. A rather Williamseque lyric on mortality, Mary Ann Hoberman’s “Mayfly” couldn’t be simpler, because eloquent simplicity is the key to writing poetry for children:

Think how fast a year flies by
A month flies by
A week flies by
Think how fast a day flies by
A Mayfly’s life lasts but a day
A single day
To live and die
A single day
How fast it goes
The day
The Mayfly
Both of those. A Mayfly flies a single day
The daylight dies and darkness grows
A single day
How fast it flies
A Mayfly’s life
How fast it goes.

But of course the poem could be simpler—it could unfurl without all of those unpredictable rhymes, tumbling us along with inevitable momentum, like life’s arrow itself, ending only when it ends, but launching us past those sudden, chilling moments of realization (“To live and die”) and on to the next moment, the next brief day. Hoberman, author of over 40 children’s books and the new Children’s Poet Laureate, is a consummate channeler of children’s sensibilities. She is clearly a writer who takes children’s verse very seriously—as well she might. One could imagine, especially if one isn’t a parent, that writing children’s poetry would be easier by an order of magnitude than writing “adult” poetry; one could even presume that virtually any bare-boned rhyme or sweet turn of a single-syllable phrase would suffice for the average child reader. But this is famously untrue: children’s poetry requires precision tools, a childlike ear, a capacity for spirited irreverence, and a scrupulous lack of pretension. What’s more, its intended readers have only their inner metronomes and innate sense of the absurd to inform how they react to a poem, not a wealth of experience or literary-cultural know-how, and their native antennae cannot be easily bamboozled. Writing well for children can be as mysterious and difficult as learning to make falcon calls. Read more...

Do You Believe? 100th Post

What a fantastic way to celebrate my 100th post with this video. Amazing!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Artist Macaulay Decodes Body In 'Way We Work'

From NPR's All Things Considered, October 6, 2008 · Illustrator David Macaulay, who has used drawings to teach himself — and then the rest of the world — how things work, has taken on another daunting task: the human body.

In The Way We Work: Getting to Know the Amazing Human Body, Macaulay illustrates such complexities as cellular chemistry, how peoples' limbs move when they walk and how blood flows through the body.

"I knew actually nothing about myself, which was one of the reasons for doing the book," Macaulay tells NPR's Robert Siegel. "I had a complete ignorance of basic information. I don't know how that happened. My kids, who are 9 and 11, know much more than I do, and I thought I'd better catch up."

For six intense years, the best-selling author of Castle, Cathedral and, more recently, The Way Things Work read, talked to people, watched videotapes, sat in on a few operations and took a couple of anatomy courses. And then he let the creativity flow.
Macaulay says he was daunted by the rich tradition of medical drawings, so he created his own style.

"I thought, 'I can't possibly match any of this stuff,' " Macaulay says, referring to medical illustrators like Frank Netter. "So I think maybe part of going off in my own direction was a self-defensive approach. I'll do this my way, and I'll explain it my way. And as long as it makes sense and it teaches what I need to teach, then the drawings will work."

Macaulay, who won a MacArthur grant in 2006, says he found the images associated with the body "just so beautiful. ... They lent themselves to a tremendous variety of pictures." But with the task at hand, Macaulay says he wasn't sure he could pull it off. He says he found some parts of the body particularly difficult to explain, like the brain and the immune system, and he would "develop a hostility towards" them.

"There were moments during this last six years when I really thought I had gone too far. I just felt, 'I'm not going to be able to do this, I will never know enough to be able to confidently illustrate or write a book about the way we work,' " Macaulay says. "I almost gave up a couple of times. I don't know exactly why I kept going."

But Macaulay says he delighted in those "moments of discovery when you sort of come across something that seems so wonderfully simple or extraordinary," like the interior lining of the small intestine — one of his favorite parts of the book.

"You've got a surface roughly the size of a tennis court that you have to squeeze inside the hose, which is the small intestine," he says. "And it's done so beautifully by the cells." Macaulay says he didn't have a specific reader age in mind when he was putting the book together — he was doing it for himself.

"I don't know how to do it any other way," he says.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Politics, Children's Literature Blogs, and Lois Lowry

Each morning I anxiously click through all of the new blog posts on children's literature brought to my attention by my blog reader. I really enjoy the insight, perspective, news and events on children books and related topics the various book bloggers provide. However, since the presidential election has swung into high gear, I have started approaching my blog reader a little more tentatively each day since more and more bloggers are posting about their political views in addition to children's literature. I understand. Blogs are web logs--online journals--and no one takes an oath prior to starting a blog stating that they will stick to a particular topic. So, yesterday, when I read Lois Lowery's blog on which she discussed who she thinks should win the election and why, I cringed. Not Lois, too.

You see, I am a huge Lois Lowry admirer. In addition to reading her books, I have heard her speak at least a dozen times. Most of the time, I cry before she reaches the end of her presentation. I will never forget hearing her speak at a NCTE breakfast many years ago in which she told the story of how her son died. I cried so hard I couldn't talk afterward. A few years ago, she gave a presentation in Richmond titled, How Everything Turns Away, in which I took my son. This time, I learned about her connection to Allen Say. We both cried. In May, I heard Lois speak in Newport News about how she came to write Number the Stars. In her speeches, like her books, she weaves a story in such a way that deeply connects the listener to not only herself but to the other people in the room. After listening, I feel like I know her and I trust her to take me on an emotional journey because I know I will be a richer person on the other side.

Later in the day, after posting on her blog about her political views, Lois posted again stating that people sent comments indicating that she should keep her political views to herself. This really started me thinking about why I felt so reticent about Lois and other bloggers making political posts. I do not share my political views with my college students. I believe teachers in general typically do not share their political views with their students. We come together every class day to learn about how to assist children on their literacy journey to becoming lifelong readers, writers, and thinkers. In this common goal, we completely trust each other. My students trust that I am providing them with the very best the field of literacy has to offer and I trust my students to put forth their very best effort to learn and engage with this information. If I were to share my political views with my students and they were to disagree, would this break their trust in me...even to a degree? A person's political views hit at the very heart of who they are...views about such issues as abortion, health care, economics...

If I learn that Lois Lowery and other book bloggers do not agree with me politically, does that break my trust in them? There is one thing I know about Lois and that is that she believes it is important for people to question their own beliefs and values everyday and to teach their children to do the same. Indeed, there was one aspect of Lois' blog post that I thought about all day. I even talked about it with different groups of people I came in contact with throughout the day. If reading the occasional post on the political views of other bloggers engages me in confirming or questioning my own political views, then I'm a richer person for it. So once again, Lois has taken me on a journey for which I am thankful. As the election comes closer, it is likely that the political posts will become more frequent. But, I would like to think that in a way, they can connect us rather than divides us.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Children's Choices 2008

The Children's Choices Project conducted annually by the International Reading Association and the Children's Book Council since 1974 provides childrenwith an opportunity to voice their opinions about the books written for them. Children from across the country vote on books that were published the previous year and the winning books are developed into an annual annotated reading list of new books that young readers enjoy reading. These lists can assist teachers, librarians, booksellers, parents, and others with finding books that will encourage young readers to read more.
An annotated list is published annually in the October issue of The Reading Teacher and provided free of charge on the IRA website. Additionally, a bookmark listing the winning choices is available.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Doreen Cronin & Betsy Lewin Virtual Author Visit!

Would you like your class to meet an award-winning author? The MYVisit Virtual Author Series is a fantastic opportunity for your class to interact with some of today's best children's book creators LIVE! Each visit brings the creator into your classroom via interactive video, discussion forums, and downloadable learning activities to create a unique learning experience that truly expand some of today's most popular children's titles.

: Broadcast date: October 7, 2008
Go to the MYVisit website to sign-up now!

Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin are the award-winning team behind the Caldecott Honor book Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type. Ms. Cronin is the successful author of many bestselling picture books, including Wiggle; Duck for President; Giggle, Giggle, Quack; Dooby Dooby Moo; and the upcoming Thump, Quack, Moo. Ms. Lewin is the Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator of Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type and its sequels, Giggle, Giggle, Quack and Duck for President, in addition to a number of other picture books, including So, What's It Like to Be a Cat? and Two Eggs, Please.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Official Website for National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Goes Live

Today, the Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, presented author Jon Scieszka with the first National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Medal as part of the National Book Festival celebration. Announced in January, the position was created to raise national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education, and the development and betterment of the lives of young people.

Additionally, an official National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature website has been created for parents, educators and children that includes background information on the Ambassador initiative, Jon Scieszka, and a schedule of Scieszka’s tour stops over the next year. The website features photos from Scieszka’s travels but also provides the opportunity for anyone to upload photos from Jon’s appearances in their city. Most importantly, the “Ask Jon” button allows kids to ask Scieszka questions directly. “The website is meant to serve as an information clearinghouse for all things related to the National Ambassador initiative,” said Robin Adelson, Executive Director at Children’s Book Council. “Our goal was to make it an accessible, fun, and interactive forum which parents, educators and kids can enjoy.”

The National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature is named by the Librarian of Congress for a two-year term, based on recommendations from a selection committee representing many segments of the book community. The selection criteria include the candidate’s contribution to young people’s literature and ability to relate to children.

Born in Flint, Mich., Jon Scieszka earned a bachelor’s degree in writing from Albion College and a master of fine arts degree from Columbia University. He held a number of teaching positions in the first through eighth grades before taking a year off to develop ideas for children’s books. He is the author of several bestselling children’s titles, including “The Stinky Cheese Man,” which won a Caldecott Honor medal, “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” and the Time Warp Trio, a chapter book series. New titles this fall include: “Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland,” “Knucklehead” and “Melvin Might.” Scieszka is the founder of Guys Read, a nonprofit literacy organization.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Webcast focuses on struggling readers

A free School Library Journal webcast sponsored by Capstone Publishers will bring together a panel of experts in reading, media center services, and children’s literacy--including school librarians, educators, and a representative from Capstone Press and Stone Arch Books--to cover a range of processes, programs, and ideas that can bolster reading skills, comprehension, and literacy in the K-6 library and classroom. The webcast will be held from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. eastern time on Wednesday, October 8.

Attendees will learn best practices to engage struggling and reluctant readers, discover multi-level reading resources for classroom and school library integration, and pick up techniques and programming ideas that will encourage the use of fiction and nonfiction. Time will be reserved for questions and answers at the end of the webcast.

Who should attend: School librarians and library media specialists working with grades K-6, classroom teachers and reading specialists, and public librarians involved in children’s literacy programming and collection development. Click here to register.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New reading promotion program announced

The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and the Read It LOUD! Foundation have formed a partnership to encourage parents and other caregivers to read to their children daily. The goal of the partnership is to inspire 5 million parents and caregivers to read daily to their children by 2014.

“The Read It LOUD! program is a natural partnership for the Center for the Book, which has promoted reading and literacy since its establishment in 1977,” said John Y. Cole, the center’s director. “We sponsor several reading-promotion programs specifically for young people, such as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature program, the Letters About Literature project, the River of Words program, and a lifelong literacy initiative.

The Read It LOUD! program will be advertised in shopping malls throughout the United States, through websites, in libraries, and at other locations. Popular children’s characters such as the Cat in the Hat, Curious George, and Clifford the Big Red Dog will also draw attention to the program. Other partners in the program are the Children’s Book Council, First Book, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Reactrix is donating advertising space in shopping malls. Other sponsors are Verizon, Gulfstream, Evergreen, Savannah College of Art and Design, Chips & Cookie and Uncle Wally’s.

For further information about the Center for the Book, visit the Center for the Book website. Learn more about Read It LOUD at the Read It LOUD website.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The countdown is on! Exactly one week from today, I will drive to Washington DC with my husband and son, check into the hotel, and go to Politics and Prose, a bookstore and coffeehouse on Connecticut Avenue. In all the times I've been to DC, I've never been to Politics and Prose, but I hear it is fabulous AND at 4:30 Mary Brigid Barrett, Steven Kellogg, Katherine Patterson, and Lynda Johnson Robb will be there! They are four of over 100 authors an illustrators of a new book titled, Our White House. It is a collection of essays, personal accounts, historical fiction, poetry, and original art that offers a multifaceted look at America's history through the prism of the White House.

The next day, we will attend the 2008 National Book Festival! (See my previous post about the National Book Festival) Over 70 authors will give talks about their books on the National Mall. Just talk a look at the line up of children's and young adult authors:
What a super star line up!

I'm taking my camera and will post all about my experiences, but the great thing about the National Book Festival is that all of the authors' presentations are videotaped and put online. You can find videos of all of the previous children's/young adult authors here.

I have been to the National Book Festival several times and it is a wonderful event, free of charge and open to the public. What could possibly be better than hundreds of book lovers gathered together in the nation's capital? If you are planning to attend, please let me know.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Resource updates

Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears is an online professional development magazine funded by the National Science Foundation for elementary teachers which focuses on preparing teachers to teach polar science concepts in an already congested curriculum by integrating inquiry-based science with literacy teaching. Such an integrated approach can increase students' science knowledge, academic language, reading comprehension, and written and oral discourse abilities. The topic for issue 6 is Rocks and Minerals. Each issue include a strategy specific to the topic, a monthly virtual bookshelf highlighting children’s literature that relates to the theme of the issue, a nonfiction article for students, and monthly science and literacy lessons to promote a real and meaningful integration of the two subjects. Check it out!

Now, if you want to hit the jackpot on science and literacy, you must check out the "Teaching Physical Science with Children's Literature" series at Open Wide, Look Inside, a wonderful blog by Tricia Stohr-Hunt at Richmond University (her blog, The Miss Rumphius Effect is also wonderful!). Each post highlights a children's book along with curriculum connections and additional resources. Recent books include: Scien-Trickery by J. Patrick Lewis, Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Suess, Spectacular Science by Lee Bennett Hopkins, Just Look by Tana Hoban, and many more.

One of my favorite professional development books is Beyond Leveled Books by Karen Szymusiak and Franki Sibberson. Now, a second edition will soon be available:

In the first edition of Beyond Leveled Books, Franki Sibberson and Karen Szymusiak, offered a much-needed perspective on moving transitional readers from the basic supports of leveling to independent book selection. Seven years later, drawing on their continued research and expanding roles as authors and literacy consultants, Franki and Karen, along with colleague Lisa Koch, present a new updated and expanded edition of this "useful and eye-opening book." [Education Reviews, 2001]

The publisher, Stenhouse, has made the revised edition of Beyond Leveled Books available online free of charge!!! Click on the link above and scroll down. Enjoy!

The Big Fresh, the weekly newsletter from Choice Literacy, highlights resources for assisting students with book selection. Literacy coach Carol Wilcox offers a dozen practical literacy activities linking books, drawing, writing, and the arts and a link to the Reading Rockets website for video and audio chats with favorite authors, as well as advice from education experts and videos of best practices from classrooms.

I really enjoyed the September/October issue of The Horn Book Magazine. But, the September issue of Notes from the Horn Book is a really nice bonus! This issue includes "five questions for two teachers" which highlights Robin Smith and Dean Schneider, who have taught at the Ensworth School in Nashville for a combined thirty-six years. Reviews of new back to school books, much anticipated newly released books, books about the fall session and books about the road to the White House are also included.

Last, but certainly not least are two interviews. I am currently reading the just released Brooklyn Bridge by the fabulous Karen Hesse and loving it. A Fuse #8 Production was lucky enough to be provided with a link to a new interview about Brooklyn Bridge and the story behind the story. Don't miss it!

The second is an interview with the renowned Maurice Sendak (who recently turned 80) in the New York Times titled, Concerns Beyond Where the Wild Things Are. In the article, Sendak "is plagued by the question that has repeatedly been asked about Norman Rockwell: was he a great artist or a mere illustrator? Those of us who are avid fans or even connoisseurs of children's book illustrations would not even hesitate to reply, great artist!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Literate are happier, report suggests

From the International Reading Association:

Adults with low literacy skills are less likely to get married or buy their own house, British research suggests. A National Literacy Trust report looking at the effects of literacy on the nation's happiness found stark differences between those with good literacy skills and those without. The report, which looked in particular at men's happiness, found that only half of men with poor reading skills were satisfied with their life so far, compared with 78% of men with good reading levels. Read the article by The Press Association online or the report itself, available on the National Literacy Trust website.

Monday, September 8, 2008

International Literacy Day and Jack Prelutsky's Birthday...

...are both on September 8!

International Literacy Day is sponsored annually by the International Reading Association and is designed to focus attention on literacy issues. The day is marked by many events throughout the world, including the presentation of a U.S. $20,000 UNESCO International Reading Association Literacy Prize. The

International Reading Association estimates that 780 million adults, nearly two-thirds of whom are women, do not know how to read and write. They also estimate that 94–115 million children worldwide do not have access to education. International Literacy Day is just one way the Association strives to increase literacy around the world.

Spend the day participating in a readathon, kicking off a cross-grade reading buddy program, or making original books to share with others in the community. For additional ideas, visit the IRA’s collection of ideas: Idea Starters! International Literacy Day Activities and Events. And an International Literacy Day Toolkit is available online from Proliteracy.

Back in April, I reviewed Jack Prelutsky's latest collection of poetry, My Dog May Be a Genius. Click to read the review and to find lots of resources on Jack Prelutsky -- The Children's Poet Laureate of the US! Happy Birthday, Jack!

Resource updates


"Bookwink's mission is to inspire kids to read. Through podcasting and web video, we hope to connect kids in Grades 3 through 8 with books that will make them excited about reading. The videos are approximately 3 minutes long and are updated monthly. Each video booktalk is about a different topic, and additional read-alikes can be found on the Bookwink website. You can look for books by subject, grade level, author or title. We are constantly updating the booklists with our newest favorite books."

This week's Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy is about making small group instruction successful. The issue includes Part II of the interview with Debbie Miller who gives advice on the importance of waiting before grouping early in the year, especially if you are using criteria beyond levels for groups.
"Long before young children learn to read, they are practicing critical pre-reading skills: discovering the world of print, holding a book and turning its pages, recognition of letters and the sounds of speech, rhyming, word play, and "scribble" writing. To learn more about how to help emergent readers master these skills, visit Reading Rockets' comprehensive collection of preschool resources, for parents, preschool teachers, and caregivers."

NoveList School News" from Ebscohost:

"Our goal this month at NoveList School News is to provide resources and role models for meeting the various challenges posed by reluctant readers. We begin by shining our Spotlight on different kinds of reluctant readers and discussing how NoveList K-8 can provide "one-stop shopping" for helping these children. Best Practices features an interview with Marian Creamer, a retired school librarian from Portland, Oregon whose nonprofit foundation, Children's Literature Alive!, empowers low income children to read and express themselves through the use of distinguished children's literature. Additionally, NoveList Strategies demonstrates how NoveList K-8 can help you use Lexile ratings - a scientific measure of how difficult a book is to read - to connect books with struggling young readers.If you've been motivated to pick up a book after seeing the related film, then you know from experience that movies bring books and kids together, a fact substantiated by research. Silver Screen presents City of Ember, an upcoming October film that has been heralded as the most-anticipated movie of the year according to If you're ready to participate in the literacy debate about whether or not what kids and teens do online constitutes reading, then check out In the News. Professional Resources highlights two outstanding tools - Guys Read and Gotcha for Guys! -- for motivating boys to read. Since nonfiction is often the literary choice for males, Awards discusses the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal. Finally, In Case You're Wondering leads newsletter subscribers to back issues that include articles related to reluctant readers.

Curriculum Connections from School Library Journal and

"Classmates with superpowers? Vampires in the halls? In this month's issue of Curriculum Connections, Joyce Adams Burner selects some unusual Back-To-School stories for young adults. Other, not-to-be-missed features include Jenny Brown's conversation with paper artists and engineers, Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda, and a review of Must-See Web Sites for Busy Teachers, an up-to-date resource that should be on every educator's bookshelf.As you look forward to the November election, roam America with an assortment of outstanding picture books that will take you and your students coast to coast with amusing facts and poetry on state birds, names, and sites. And don't forget to indulge in the variety of available online resources that support a reading of Judith St. George's wacky and wonderful So You Want To Be President?"

Friday, September 5, 2008

Disturbing Report...

This is a picture of Wendy Melzer, a second grade teacher. In the picture, she is presenting her students with a gift. The gift is a writing notebook for each child. What you don't know is that she has already given her students the greatest gift a teacher can give...the joy of reading!

Wendy loves to read and her students know this about her. She shares her reading habits and her enthusiasm for reading with them every day. She tells them about the books she is reading at home written by her favorite authors. Wendy reads aloud to her students many times every day, she reads with them during guided reading groups, and she provides time every day for students to read independently. She overwhelmingly sends the message that reading is an important part of her personal life and an important part of her teaching. And it's contagious. By the end of the school year, the students who entered her classroom with less than an enthusiastic attitude toward reading have completely transformed to readers themselves.

Unfortunately, an article in the Journal of Teacher Education titled, The Reading Habits and Literacy Attitudes of Inservice and Prospective Teachers: Results of a Questionnaire Survey written by Steven Nathanson, John Pruslow, and Roberta Levitt of Long Island University, indicates a prevalance of aliteracy among preservice and inservice teachers:

This article describes a questionnaire survey of 747 students enrolled in a graduate school of education, who are currently teachers or prospective teachers. The Literacy Habits Questionnaire, developed by Applegate and Applegate, was administered in September 2006. Findings suggest a high prevalence of aliteracy, the ability to read but a disinterest in personal reading. Although graduate students acknowledge the importance of reading for teachers, they do not themselves exhibit investment in personal reading.

As a professor of graduate and undergraduate reading methods and children's literature courses, the results of this study ring true...and it breaks my heart! I know that teachers must be readers before they can motivate children to become readers. Teachers like Wendy who love to read and model their enthusiam for children lay the foundation for successful literacy practices that last a lifetime.

What is the cause of aliteracy for preservice and inservice teachers? My students tell me that they have been reading for other purposes than their own since middle school. They read what their middle school, high school, and college teachers require them to read, which is predominately textbooks or literature for which they feel no connection. There is no time for the type of reading that instills joy. It becomes a complex teachers chose not to read because they really don't like to read or because they have difficulty finding the time and resources to read the types of books they enjoy? Regardless of the cause, the important question is what can be done. The authors of the article put forth another finding from the study:

Also, the findings suggest that professors of literacy and education need to do more to encourage personal reading by incorporating strategies to promote reading among current and future literacy professionals.

I require students in all of my classes to read children's literature, but I give them a choice. I provided them with resources for finding quality literature and let me select the books they think they will like. I also provide class time for them to get together in book clubs and discuss the books they are reading. Peers have a powerful influence on each other and often, students will read the books their fellow book club members endorse. Through this process, most students "remember" liking to read as a child and rediscover their enthusiasm for children's literature. They start a list of books they want to read over the summer and join online book discussions so their time for talking about books with others is more flexible.

But, the biggest influence on their return to reading is my excitement for reading. Over and over, students tell me that I am the reason they start reading again. I love books and I just can't contain my joy for reading. It spills over into everything I do in class in one way or another. I say this not to toot my own horn, but to point out that just like Wendy, those of us who touch the lives of teachers and children have a powerful influence. Spread the joy!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The America's Award Celebration

The Américas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature by will be held Saturday, October 4, 2008 from 10am-noon in the Mumford Room, James Madison Memorial Building, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue, S.E., Washington, D.C.

The 2008 award winners are Pat Mora (author) and Rafael López (illustrator) forYum! ¡Mmmm! ¡Qué Rico! America’s Sproutings and Laura Resau for Red Glass.

YUM! ¡MMMM! ¡QUE RICO!: AMERICA’S SPROUTINGS by Pat Mora. Pictures by Rafael López. New York: Lee & Low, 2007. 32 pgs. ISBN 978-1-58430-271-1 ―Dad bites green mouth-fire/ laughs when tears fill his eyes, sighs/ ‗¡Mmmm! This heat tastes good.‘‖ A combination of energetic haiku and informational text, this vibrant collection highlights fourteen foods native to countries throughout the Americas. The pairing of dual texts introduces background information about various food origins while providing readers with an opportunity to play with lyrical food descriptions. Blazing images suffused with magical realism create a sensory celebración that encourages readers to taste the foods, feel the heat of the sun, and listen to the popping cranberries. Children of all ages will leave this visual and lyrical feast begging for second helpings. (gr 1-6)

RED GLASS by Laura Resau. New York: Delacorte, 2007. 275 pgs. ISBN 978-0-385-90464-3 The author of What the Moon Saw (2006), Resau works her magic again in this compelling first-person narrative. When Sophie‘s mother and stepfather assume the role of foster parents to Pablo, an orphan from Mexico, Sophie‘s life takes a fresh turn. After Pablo opens up and tells them about his village, Sophie‘s Aunt Dika and her friend, Mr. Lorenzo, offer to take Pablo back to his grandmother in Mexico. Soon, the unlikely group—Sophie, Pablo, Dika, Mr. Lorenzo, and his son, Angel—are off on a one-of-a-kind road trip. But after Mr. Lorenzo and Angel make a side trip to Guatemala and don‘t return as planned, Sophie sets out on her own to retrieve them. Along the way she finds her inherent strength, casting her old fears by the wayside. The vivid characters, the fine imagery, and the satisfying plot make this a rewarding novel of hope and self discovery. (gr 8-12)

The Américas Award is given in recognition of U.S. works of fiction, poetry, folklore, or selected non-fiction (from picture books to works for young adults) published in the previous year in English or Spanish that authentically and engagingly portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States. By combining both and linking the Americas, the award reaches beyond geographic borders, as well as multicultural-international boundaries, focusing instead upon cultural heritages within the hemisphere. The award is sponsored by the National Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP).

The award winners and commended titles are selected for their 1) distinctive literary quality; 2) cultural contextualization; 3) exceptional integration of text, illustration and design; and 4) potential for classroom use.