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.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Resource updates

Debbie Miller's new book, Teaching With Intention: Defining Beliefs, Aligning Practice, Taking Action, K-5, is now available from Stenhouse. However, you can read the book in its entirety online! Just click the link above and scroll down to the linked table of contents.

From the Stenhouse website, "While Debbie's previous book, Reading with Meaning, chronicled a year in her own classroom, Teaching with Intention brings us into classrooms of teachers and children she has met over the last five years in her work as a literacy consultant. From setting up the classroom environment to the intentional use of language, from comprehension instruction to lesson design, Debbie is explicit about what she does and why. At the same time, she encourages teachers to develop their own belief statements concerning teaching and learning, and includes key questions to guide them in this important process."

Listen to an interview with Debbie Miller from Choice Literacy.

The Stenhouse Blog features articles by Stenhouse authors along with audio, video, and print interviews on a variety of subjects. A recent post titled How Would Debbie Diller Redesign your Classroom is based on author Debbie Diller's new book, Spaces and Places which presents ideas teachers can use to better manage the classroom and support student learning and independence. In the blog post, "Diller has set up an online Flickr gallery where you can upload photos of your classroom, as well as post questions and comments on others’ photos. Diller will select three photos of whole group areas that have been submitted to the gallery and will provide her own advice on how the area could be redesigned to provide a more comfortable or productive space for children." If you are among the first ten to upload a classroom photo, Stenhouse will send you a free copy of any Debbie Diller book.

Notes from the Horn Book has an excellent August issue! Annotated, themed lists include books about the outdoors, books for your "space chimps," and back to school. New chapter book reviews and one question for 5 authors (what are you reading this summer?) round out the issue.

Also, the school themed September/October issue of the Horn Book Magazine is out and selected articles and web-extras are online. Be sure to take the CLAT: Children's Literature Application Test designed by Monica Edinger and Roxanne Hsu Feldman (if you tell me your score, I'll tell you mine:-).

Booklist's Read Alert includes featured articles and book reviews on books about sports.

The CLCD newsletter has themed booklists on Johnny Appleseed, Grandparents' Day, and The White House and author features on Kathi Appelt, Andrew Clements, and Ann Whitford Paul.