Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Effective Literacy Practices Video Library

I just received a link to a wonderful new series of videos on effective literacy practices developed by The Reading Recovery Council of North America in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education to offer professional development resources and activities to strengthen early literacy outcomes with K-3 students nationwide.

As I clicked on the first module, described below, I was thrilled to see Vicki Altland (in the picture above), a literacy coach at Sallie Cone Elementary in Conway, AR, and a dear friend of mine who is featured in The Joy of Children's Literature!

Professional Development Resources to Strengthen Early Literacy Outcomes

This video library offers extensive examples to help educators strengthen early literacy outcomes for K-3 students. Six effective literacy practices are highlighted to deepen teachers' understandings of literacy learning. The practices may be incorporated into teaching in the classroom, small groups, and one-on-one instruction.

The web-based modules, listed and linked at the bottom of this page, consist of a short video and a downloadable reference guide.

K-3 classroom teachers, Reading Recovery teachers, specialist teachers, literacy coaches, and school administrators who wish to develop a deeper understanding of effective literacy practices

Each module highlights one literacy practice and consists of a short video (approximately 7 minutes) and a downloadable 2-page reference guide. The guide includes the module focus, definitions and other important information, key points for teachers, and resources. Reading the reference guide prior to viewing the video will enhance your learning experience.

Participating Schools
Special thanks to these schools for their participation in videotaping module segments:

– Sallie Cone Elementary School, Conway Public School District - Conway, AR
– Ellen Smith Elementary School, Conway Public School District - Conway, AR
– Gibbs Magnet School, Little Rock School District - Little Rock, AR
– Simonton Elementary School, Gwinnett County Public Schools - Lawrenceville, GA
– Maple Elementary School, Walled Lake Consolidated School District - West Bloomfield, MI
– Tremont Elementary School, Upper Arlington City School District - Upper Arlington, OH Effective Literacy Practices Video Library Modules

Teachers may use the video library flexibly as they select and view the modules. Groups of educators may wish to view modules together and discuss implications for teaching practices.

Video 1: Making It Easy to Learn
Building on a child's strengths to set up situations in which the child is in control and will experience success while enjoying challenges within reach

Video 2: Teaching for Transfer: Strategic Activity
Exploring strategic activities initiated by children and actions teachers can take to encourage those behaviors

Selecting Texts That Are Just Right
Understanding the importance of selecting books that are just right for young readers, considerations for book selection, and the critical role of the book introduction in making books accessible and successful for the readers

Phrasing in Fluent Reading
Exploring aspects of fluent reading and supporting phrasing in fluent reading

Assessing Through Close Observation
Assessing rapid change in literacy learning of young children through close, systematic observation

Learning About Phonology and Orthography
Learning about relationships between the letters of written language and the sounds of spoken language (often referred to as letter-sound associations, graphophonics, sound-symbol relationships)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

2010 National Book Festival: Celebrating a Decade of Words and Wonder

It's hard to believe that this is the 10th year for the National Book Festival. The first festival began the summer I moved to Virginia, which made it possible for me to attend. And, am I ever happy that I made the trip!

Being among people who love books as much as I do is a wondrous thing indeed. Hundreds of people, old and young alike, descend upon the National Mall in Washington D.C. each year to hear authors talk about their work. It's usually hot or raining and crowded, but still, you gotta love it.

This year, the National Book Festival will be held on Saturday, September 25th from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and as usual, is free of charge. Each year, the line up of children's and YA authors/illustrators/advocates  is commendable and this year is no different. Check out the list so far:

M.T. Anderson
Michael Buckley
Suzanne Collins
Timothy Basil Ering
Jules Feiffer
Mem Fox
Margaret Peterson Haddix
Phillip M. Hoose
Norton Juster
Pat Mora
Marilyn Nelson
Linda Sue Park
Katherine Paterson
James Ransome
Anita Silvey
Judith Viorst

I know! Exciting, right? So, make plans to attend. Maybe we can even have a kidlit get together the night before?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Two Gifts in Two Days from Barbara O'Connor

Two days ago I was drinking my morning cup of coffee as I scrolled through my blog roll when I received my first gift from children's author extraordinaire, Barbara O'Connor. I came upon a post from Barbara's blog, Greetings From Nowhere, titled: The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester, Chapter 1. I thought maybe she had posted the first chapter of her soon-to-be-released new book. But, no. It was so much better than that! Barbara READ ALOUD the first chapter of the book!! And, it is amazing for many reasons:
  • First, Barbara does an excellent job of reading aloud.
  • Second, there is nothing like hearing the author read aloud his/her own work. Just think about it. The author's craft comes alive!
  • Third, what a great way to entice the potential reader to run out an buy a copy of the book as soon as it becomes available.  
I think we readers should start a new campaign. Rather than or in addition to the ever so popular book trailer, the author should read the first chapter. Isn't that what Amazon's Kindle does? You get a free sample of the book and 9 times out of 10, that sample chapter is all you need to know you need to purchase the book. The author reading a chapter aloud is even better! So, let the AUTHOR READ ALOUD CAMPAIGN begin! I can't wait to get my copy of The Fantastic Secret of Own Jester. You can watch Barbara read aloud the first chapter below:

Yesterday, I received the second gift from Barbara O'Connor. The mail person delivered the July 2010 issue of Language Arts (a professional journal of the National Council of Teachers of English). The theme of this issue is "Inquiries and Insights" and inside is an article titled, Keeping It Real: How Realistic Does Realistic Fiction for Children Need to Be? by Barbara O'Connor. Yep! How fantastic is that??!

In the article, Barbara discusses how she decides if the story she is writing is "too real" for the intended audience by examining  five story elements: dialogue, character, family relationships, economic class, and endings.

"How real is too real" is question that comes up in my children's literature courses all of the time. Barbara elaborates on her writing process and gives examples from her books on how she makes these decisions. What it comes down to is authenticity. This article will be required reading for my students next semester!

Thank you Barbara for these two gifts!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Reading Aloud + Dean Pitchford = Amazing! and Free Audiobooks

Those of you that read this blog know that I'm a big listener of audiobooks, so last year when I listened to Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford and was ***completely blown away,*** I told myself to look this guy up to find out more. But, then life got in the way and I totally forgot...until last month when I listened to The Big One-Oh! and thought this guy is really good! So, I did look him up and found out why he is such an amazing performer:

Dean Pitchford starred on Broadway in Pippin and Godspell before turning to songwriting and screenwriting. His multimillion-selling songs include the Oscar-winning “Fame,” “Footloose,” “Holding Out for a Hero” and “After All.” He has been nominated for four Academy Awards, five Grammys and two Tonys. His stage musical adaptation of Footloose played over 700 performances on Broadway and is now being produced around the world.  

With those kind of credentials, no wonder Dean Pitchford is so good at performing his own books! But, it did make me wonder if he had won any awards for his audiobooks. The answer, of course, is YES. The following is a review of Captain Nobody from AudioFile Magazine:

Author Dean Pitchford is certainly an impressive narrator. With masterful characterization he introduces us to Newt--aka Captain Nobody--a mild-mannered boy who becomes a hometown hero. Pitchford captures the delicious pathos of Newt the underdog. Listeners will hear humor, disgruntlement, and even fidgeting--thanks to skilled vocalizations. Judicious use of pacing and varied volume also contribute to a dramatic reading. Pitchford even throws in sound effects and onomatopoeia. Secondary characters, such as Newt's friend Cecil, have distinct voices. Pitchford shows us the boy behind the mask in this unexpectedly poignant laugh-out-loud tale. C.A. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award.

Notice the AudioFile Earphones Award? AudioFile awards Earphones to truly exceptional presentations that excel in all the following criteria:

• Narrative voice and style
• Vocal characterizations
• Appropriateness for the audio format
• Enhancement of the text

You can listen to a very nice excerpt from both of Dean Pitchford's books at Listening Library. The excerpts are long enough for you to get a real sense of why he won the AudioFile Earphone award. Then, do yourself a favor and listen to both books. They are wonderful!
Also, AudioFile is offering two free downloads of YA literature each week of the summer. Below is the schedule:
Available July 15 - July 21

Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Available July 22 - July 28

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Available July 29 - August 4

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

Available August 5 - August 11

Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Available August 12 - August 18

Beastly by Alex Flinn
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Available August 19 - August 25

Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston
A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

Available August 26 - September 1

Handbook for Boys by Walter Dean Myers
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Happy Listening!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Seth Godin Pushes Our Thinking About School...Again

Seth Godin on how schools teach kids to aim low and wait for instructions.

This is a very thought provoking video. Godin says the original purpose of public education as envisioned by Andrew Carnegie, Woodrow Wilson and others was to train people to become compliant factory workers and to teach kids that the best way to fit in and feel good is to buy stuff--and that is what we are still doing today. While we've built an economy on the factory worker, we under value and even discourage creativity, innovation and asking questions.

His main premise is that we can't test our way out of this situation. Rather, we must essay, sketch or debate our way out of it.

He goes on to say that college is an even bigger scam than public school and that the application process is a joke. My son will be entering his senior year in high school in the fall and we have been visiting campuses in our area. This and the fact that I teach at a college bring this discussion close to home.

Throughout Derek's academic career, I have downplayed test scores and promoted deep thinking, questioning, and creativity. Yet, now that it's time to take AP tests, the SAT, and pass state standards tests, I hear myself encouraging him to do well or he won't get into the college of his choice. Godin states that it is this type of paranoia of middle and upper class parents that keeps public schools churning out automatons. He goes on to say we should not be encouraging kids to do the types of things that get them into Harvard, but instead to think about what is the best way to invest that $150,000.

However, we still live in a world in which where you go to college and having a college degree are still important. Maybe that will change, but right now, it still matters. But, so do parents and educators. We have the power to change the conversation. The question is how... What do you think?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Horn Book's Mind the Gap Awards

From the July/August 2010 issue of The Horn Book Magazine

Books that Horn Book loved by the ALA awards didn't:

Someday My Printz Will Come: Marcelo in the Real World
by Francisco X. Stork

Everybody Loved It But ALSC:  Marching for Freedom by Elizabeth Partridge

Most Discussed, Least : The Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge

Best trip to the moon: Mission Control, This Is Apollo by Andrew Chaikin, illustrated by Alan Bean

Best trip to Japan: Hannah’s Winter by Kierin Meehan

Best camping trip: Alvin Ho by Lenore Look, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Best subway ride: Redwoods by Jason Chin

Most instructive: How to Steal a Car by Pete Hautman

Most constructive: Pharaoh’s Boat by David Weitzman

Most deductive: Thumb and the Bad Guys by Ken Roberts, illustrated by Leanne Franson

Best sisters: The Great Death by John Smelcer

Best grandparents: Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry

Best foster mother: Hook by Ed Young

Best father figure: The Champion of Children by Tomek Bogacki

Best star turn: Grandma Dowdel in A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck

2010 Africana Book Awards

The Outreach Council of the African Studies Association annually honors oustanding authors and illustrators of books about Africa published for children and young adults in the United States. The Children's Africana Book Award program has announced two winners and two honor books for 2010.

The 2010 Best Book for Young Children is Pharaoh's Boat, written and illustrated by David Weitzman (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children).

The 2010 Best Book for Older Readers is Nelson Mandela: The Authorized Comic Book by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and Umlando Wezithombe (W.W. Norton & Co.).

The 2010 Honor Books for Older Readers are Trouble in Timbuktu by Cristina Kessler (Philomel/Penguin Young Readers Group) and

Burn My Heart by Beverley Naidoo (Amistad/HarperCollins Children's Books).

The 2010 Children's Africana Book Awards will be presented on November 6 in Washington, DC. For further information, visit the Africa Access Review website.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

NPR: Summer Reads for Kids

From NPR, July 2, 2010:

School’s out for summer. No more homework. Time to kick back and relax–and read for the fun of it. There’s a big world of new children’s literature out there–ready to take to the beach, to camp, and the backyard. Rick Riordan’s back with the “Red Pyramid.” “Mockingjay” by Suzanne Collins comes out in August. And there’s so much more. Pop-up picture books for toddlers. Graphic novels for young adults. Teenage angst page-turners. We’ve got the list that even your kids will want to read twice.


Monica Edinger, blogs on children’s literature at Educating Alice. 4th-grade teacher at the Dalton School in New York. Contributes children’s books reviews to the New York Times. Has received three National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships to study children’s literature.

Esme Raji Codell, writes about children’s literature at Author of several books for adults and children. Her kids’ books include “Vive la Paris,” “Diary of a Fairy Godmother,” and “Hannukah Shmanukkah!”

Pete Cowdin, owner of the “Reading Reptile” bookstore in Kansas City. Under the pen name A. Bitterman, he is author of the upcoming “Fortune Cookies.”

Our critics’ lists:

Here are the top picks from each of our guests.


“Cosmic” by Frank Cottrell Boyce

“The Hunger Games Trilogy” by Suzanne Collins

“Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice,” by Phillip Hoose

“As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth,” by Lynn Rae Perkins

“The Red Pyramid” by Rick Riordan

“When You Reach Me” by Rebecca Stead

“One Crazy Summer” by Rita Williams-Garcia

“Here Comes the Garbage Barge!” by Jonah Winter (illustrated by Red Nose Studio)

“Into the Volcano” by Don Wood


Picture books:

“Miss Brooks Loves Books! (And I Don’t)” by Barbara Bottner, illustrated by Michael Emberley

“Otis” by Loren Long

“Bats at the Ballgame” by Brian Lies

Graphic novels:

“Daydreams of a Solitary Hamster” by Astrid Desbordes, illustrated by Pauline Martin


“Mirror Mirror” by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josée Masse


“Orangutans are Ticklish: Fun Facts From an Animal Photographer” by Steve Grubman with Jill Davis

“Napi Funda un Pueblo/Napi Makes a Village” by Antonio Ramirez, illustrated by Domi

“Encyclopedia Mythologica: Gods and Heroes Pop Up,” by Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda

Intermediate fiction:

“The Strange Case of Origami Yoda” by Tom Angleberger

“The Night Fairy” by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Angela Barrett

Some fun novels for camp:

“Love and Pollywogs from Camp Calamity” by Mary Hershey

“Summer According to Humphrey” by Betty G. Birney

Young adult fiction:

"Bamboo People” by Mitali Perkins


“The Squirrel’s Birthday and Other Parties” by Toon Tellegen, illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg

“43 Old Cemetery Road: Dying to Meet You”

“43 Old Cemetery Road: Over My Dead Body” by Kate Klise, illustrated by M. Sarah Klise

“The True Meaning of Smekday” by Adam Rex

“The Dreamer” by Pam Munoz Ryan and Peter Sis

“Seasons” by Blexbolex

“Country Road ABC” by Arthur Geisert

“It’s a Secret” by John Burningham

“Sitting in my Box” by Dee Lillegard, illustrated by Jon Agee

“Beautiful Oops” by Barney Saltzberg

“Stitches” by David Small

Friday, July 2, 2010

Free E-Books...

from Barnes and Noble. Yep, it's true. Barnes and Noble has ebooks you can download for free including:
  • Maximum Ride
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Irresistible Forces
  • The Glades
  • Essential Tales of Edgar Allan Poe
  • Siren of the Water
  • The Scarlet Letter
  • Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Writings
  • Last of the Mohicans
  • Federalist
  • Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin
  • Common Sense and Other Writings
  • Skinny Bitch
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
  • Call of the Wild and White Fang
  • His Lady Mistress
  • Leaves of Grass
  • Walden and Civil Disobedience
  • DEAD(ish)
A free ereader application is available for the I-Pad, I-Phone/I-Touch, Nook, BlackBerry, PC, Mac.

Happy reading!