Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The 2009 Nation's Report Card in Reading

The 2009 Nation's Report Card in Reading has been released.

The Nation's Report Card presents results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for 4th and 8th graders in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Department of Defense Schools, and the nation as a whole. Significant results for reading in 2009 include:

* The average score for students at grade 4 showed no overall increase at the national level, although scores were significantly higher in 2009 than when the assessment began in 1992.

* Overall in 2009, 67 percent of students at grade 4 performed at or above Basic and 33 percent performed at or above Proficient; these percentages were unchanged from 2007, but were higher than previous assessment years.

* The average score for grade 8 in 2009 was higher when compared to both 2007 and 1992. The percentages of students at grade 8 performing at or above Basic and at or above Proficient (75 and 32, respectively) were also higher in 2009 than in both 2007 and 1992.

* Since 2007, scores have increased for lower- and middle-performing eighth-graders (10th, 25th, and 50th percentiles); there was no change for higher-performing students at grade 8.

* Since 1992, the White-Black gap has narrowed at grade 4 and the female-male gap has narrowed at grade 8. There were no changes in the racial/ethnic or gender gaps since 2007.

* Between 2007 and 2009, one state made gains at both grades 4 and 8; two states increased at grade 4 only, and eight increased at grade 8 only. Scores declined in four states at grade 4; no states had a decrease in scores at grade 8.

NAEP is administered by the National Center for Education Statistics within the Institute of Education Sciences.


Storyworks®, the literature and language arts magazine for grades 3-6, has expanded its online and whiteboard resources for teachers. The new interactive features - free to Storyworks subscribers - include online-exclusive plays, writing workshops, videos, downloadable skills sheets and step-by-step language arts lessons for whiteboards.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Book Cover Release Fun!

Scrolling through all of my favorite blogs today, I noticed there were quite a few book cover reveals...they all look wonderful and I can't wait!

The Brown Bookshelf has a wonderful post about the Ruby and the Booker Boys series by Derrick Barnes. Tad P. Loves Ruby B. will be the fifth book in the series.

Entertainment Weekly posted the cover of Cassandra Claire's next novel, Clockwork Angel the first book in Clare’s new fantasy trilogy, The Infernal Devices, and her fourth novel to date. I was a big fan of her Mortal Instruments series, so I'm looking forward to this new series. 

Publishers Weekly announced the new cover for John Grisham's first book for kids (ages 8-12) Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer, which centers on a 13-year-old amateur attorney who gets involved in a murder trial. The book will be out May 25 and will have a million copy print run. My husband is a huge Grisham fan, so maybe I can get him to read it with me.

Publisher's Weekly also announced the covers of Cornelia Funke's next fantasy series, Reckless, set for worldwide release September 14. The cover images for the three simultaneously released editions due from Little, Brown (U.S), Chicken House (U.K.) and Dressler (Germany).

Scholastic announced the release of cover of the first book in the all-new graphic novel series of Captain UnderpantsThe Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future, which will be out in August.

I've put all of these on my wish list for summer reading!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Common Core Standards Draft and National Tech Plan

The first draft of the K-12 Common Core Standards was released today.  Governors and state commissioners of education from 48 states, 2 territories and the District of Columbia committed to developing a common core of state standards in English-language arts and mathematics for grades K-12.

Commentary from several organizations and media have already been published. Read IRA and NCTE's responses on the English/language arts draft standards. Read NPR's article, and EdWeek's report.

At the same time, the US Department of Education's Office of Technology Educaiton released the National Educational Technology Plan--a five year plan which presents a model of 21st century learning powered by technology, with goals and recommendations in five important areas: learning, assessment, teaching, infrastructure, and productivity. Read SLJ's article and Weblogg-ed's response.

These are two HUGE initiatives that will impact instruction and the future of our children. What are your thougths?

Would your school or library like a visit from Katherine Paterson?

From Sara at ReadWriteBelieve:

Would your school or library like a visit from Katherine Paterson, the new National Ambassador for Young People's Literature?

The newly named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for 2010-2011 is Katherine Paterson, author of such critically acclaimed and popular classics as “The Bridge to Terabithia” and “Jacob Have I Loved.”

Paterson’s theme for her ambassadorship is “Read for Your Life,” and she will be carrying that message with her during her travels as National Ambassador.

Tell us what kind of event you would develop if Katherine Paterson were to visit. Also, tell us how you would promote the event and to whom. Describe the event and its promotion in detail in no more than 250 words.

The Center for the Book, the Children’s Book Council and Every Child a Reader — the CBC foundation — sponsors of the National Ambassador program, will choose one winner. It could be you!

E-mail your entry no later than midnight EDT on March 15 in a Word document attachment to

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Censorship: Alive and Well

I am writing a new section for the second edition of The Joy of Children's Literature on censorship. Have you ever noticed that when you start to really focus on something, you see it everywhere? In the case of censorship, that's really sad.

Lois Lowry just posted a letter sent to her by a teacher at Tarsus American College in Tarsus, Turkey. She writes, "Last week the inspectors from the Turkish Department of Education came to our school and after reading one paragraph of your book, Number the Stars, banned the book at our school."

It is wonderful that this teacher is reaching out for help. So many children's and YA authors are willing to help when classroom teachers are faced with challenges. Please read the letter in its entirity and email Lois Lowry if you have any suggestions for "what, if any action" she should take.

Lino It: An online bulletin board

The picture above is from Lino It, a program that operates like an online bulletin board. It allows multiple users to post stickies or other media such as photos and webpages to a common page that can have a variety of different backgrounds.

I immediately thought of different ways this could be used in the classroom. For example, if the kids in a book club each posted stickies with their thoughts on the pages they were reading for the next book club meeting, everyone in the group would already be aware of the different thoughts of the other book club members and would really be primed for the conversations! Students could also post questions and information they might look up in response to their questions so everyone could read, learn, and respond.

Have you used Lino It? Post your thoughts and/or activities.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Gladwell + Pink = Brilliant!

Two of my favorite nonfiction adult authors, Malcolm Gladwell and Daniel Pink are teaming up in a joint venture. Gladwell, a writer for the New Yorker, has chosen Pink's new book Drive for the March online book club.

As for Drive, Gladwell writes,
In Drive, he tackles the question of what motivates people to do innovative work, and his jumping-off point is the academic work done over the past few decades that consistently shows that financial rewards hinder creativity. These studies have been around for a while. But Pink follows through on their implications in a way that is provocative and fascinating.

Sound familiar? If you have read any of Gladwell's books such as The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, and his newest book, What the Dog Saw, you will see a parallel between the type of research and writing they both do.

In peparation for the online book discussion, Gladwell asked Pink 5 questions:

1. What surprising truth motivated you to write Drive?

2. What books would you recommend as background or supplementary reading?

3. What do you hope members of this book club will take away from your book?

4. If you had a book club, what book would you choose to read?

5.  Do you have any rules for writing?

For the answers to the first four questions, you'll have to check out the interview, but for question five, Pink's response follows:

1. Show up. Get to work even when you don’t feel like writing—especially when you don’t feel like writing.

2. Write every day. Regaining momentum takes three times as much energy as sustaining momentum. (Look it up: It’s a law of literary physics.)

3. Don’t do anything else until you’ve written five hundred words.

4. Move. Some of my best ideas come when I’m climbing the stairs of my house or running in my neighborhood.

5. Once you’ve produced a semi-credible draft of a section or chapter, have someone read it to you aloud. Hearing your words will make you rethink—and sometimes regret—them.

6. Remember that writing, though solitary, is also social. You’re making a promise to readers. Honor that promise.

7. These rules work for me. Your mileage may vary.

I'll be honest, I struggle with a lot of these...I completely agree with 4, it works for me every time. I totally agree with 1, 2, 3 and 5 but rarely follow them (big problem!). I really like 6 and will definitely strive to keep it in mind (which might help with 1, 2, 3 and 5).

What do you think? Does Pink's writing habits match yours? Which ones work for you and which ones do you struggle with the most?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Poetry Speaks Who I Am

A few years ago, I discovered Poetry Speaks to Children (edited by Elise Paschen, 2005, Sourcebooks), a wonderful collection of poetry--old and new--accompanied by a CD with many of the poems read by the original poets. When I shared this with the students in my children's literature course, they loved it!

March 1, 2010, Elise Paschen released a new volume in the Poetry Speaks series, Poetry Speaks Who I Am with CD: Poems of Discovery, Inspiration, Independence, and Everything Else. The book is smaller and the collection in general is aimed at an older audience. From the editor:
This is not a poetry anthology for adults, for children, for classroom study, or for required memorization and recitation. It's made just for you.

The idea behind the collection is that poetry is deeply personal and will touch and move different people in different ways. To this end, the series editor, Dominique Raccah, writes:

...poetry changes the world because, as poet Jason Shinder says beautifully in Eternity--the poem that begins this book--it makes us feel known:

And every time the poem is read,
no matter what her situation or age,
this is more or less what happens.

Poetry moves you when it's true. Find what's true for you.

Poetry Speaks Who I Am is filled with more than 100 remarkable poems. The CD contains 44 poems read by 35 poets of which 33 poets, past and present read their own work. 39 of the recordings are original--only found in Poetry Speaks Who I Am. The power of poetry lies with the beholder, but there is also power in hearing the poet read her work. On the CD, renowned poets such as Langston Hughes and Robert Frost read their own works while Emily Dickinson and William Butler Yeats is read by the editor Elise Paschen. Contemporary poets such as Billy Collins and Naomi Shihab Nye also read their poetry.

Teachers in my children's literature course often are not fans of poetry. They were not exposed to the joys of poetry as children and/or had bad experiences with how poetry was taught in high school. Many do not come willingly or happily to our discussion of poetry. However, upon hearing Langston Hughes read Dream Variations and Marilyn Nelson read Worth along with many more, they were moved to open their mind to the power of poetry for children. They could easily see how to incorporate the Poetry Speaks to Children and Poetry Speaks Who I Am into the classroom to inspire children to read and learn more about poetry. 

Poetry Speaks Who I Am is a wonderful collection to give to yourself and if you are so inclined, to share with others in your life.

My Abuelita by Yuyi Morales

If you are a fan of unique illustrative style, be sure to watch this video of how Yuyi Morales creates the art and illustrations for My Abuelita.

Gary Paulsen

I am a big fan of Gary Paulen. I haven't had a chance to read his newest book, Woods Runner, but it is high on my list.

Paulen is embarking on a 9 city tour to promote Woods Runner (unfortunately, he's not coming anywhere near me).

You can read SLJ's interview with Paulsen and you can also hear him read and excerpt from Woods Runner here.

A poster and author's study guide are also available.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Movie Live Chat

From Scholastic:

You have been asking us for a Wimpy Kid chat, so since the movie is coming out on March 19, we are planning an AMAZING Wimpy Kid chat with 2 extra special guests. Who are these splendiferous guests coming to Scholastic to chat online with YOU? I'll give you a hint, one is an author and one is a twelve-year-old actor. Can you guess who they are?

WHO: Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series PLUS Zachary Gordon, the kid who plays Greg in the movie

WHEN: Wednesday, March 16, 2010 6-7 PM E.T. (3-4 PM P.T.)

WHERE: THE STACKS (Click here for instruction on the 16th.)

TOPIC: Diary of a Wimpy Kid Movie!

That's right. Jeff Kinney and Zack Gordon will be both be joining us for this Live Chat, so you will definitely not want to miss this one!

Sign up for our Live Chat reminders and we will send you an e-mail every month a couple days before the chat to remind you to join!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Horn Books' March/Apirl 2010 Starred Reviews

Horn Books' March/Apirl 2010 Starred Reviews

My Garden (Greenwillow) by Kevin Henkes

Once (Holt) by Morris Gleitzman

Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs (Candlewick) by Ron Koertge

The Dreamer (Scholastic) by Pam Muñoz Ryan; illus. by Peter Sís

Revolver (Roaring Brook) by Marcus Sedgwick

The Last Summer of the Death Warriors (Levine/Scholastic) by Francisco X. Stork

A Conspiracy of Kings (Greenwillow) by Megan Whalen Turner

One Crazy Summer (Amistad/HarperCollins) by Rita Williams-Garcia

Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse (Dutton) by Marilyn Singer; illus. by Josée Masse

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Free e-book: Pandas' Earthquake Escape e-Book

To help parents and teachers explain the recent earthquake tragedies to their children, Sylvan Dell has posted its Pandas' Earthquake Escape e-Book on its homepage free for the next 30 days. The company hopes that having access to this e-book will help children understand the shifting plates and dynamic earth forces at work.

Sylvan Dell encourages parents and teachers to listen to the news, read the picture book, use the 6-page non-fiction educational section in the back of the book, and then use the 50-page cross-curricular Teaching Activities section online in order to create a teaching moment from these tragic events.

Pandas' Earthquake Escape, written by Phyllis Perry with illustrations by Susan Detwiler, follows the adventures of a mother panda, LiLing, and her cub, Tengfei, for several days after the devastating earthquake that hit China two years ago. Perry's story follows the two pandas' quest to survive outside the comfort of their reserve.

The eBook features read-aloud, auto page flip, and selectable English and Spanish text and audio. This title is also available in hardcover and paperback. To access Pandas' Earthquake Escape, visit the Sylvan Dell website.