Sunday, July 31, 2011

New Author added to the JCL Conference!

I am very excited to announce the addition of author Tommy Greenwald to the list of presenters at the Joy of Children's Literature conference!

Tommy Greenwald is the author of the hilarious Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to NOT Reading. If you haven't had a chance to read it yet, definitely put it on your list!

Tommy Greenwald has enjoyed reading all his life, which is why he's appalled that his kids Charlie, Joe and Jack, would prefer getting a dental check-up to checking out a book. After years of pleading, threatening, and bribing, Tommy finally decided the only way to get his kids to read was to write a book about how to get out of reading. This is the result. And they read it! (So they say.) The Executive Creative Director at SPOTCO, an entertainment advertising agency in New York City, Tommy lives in Connecticut with his wife, Cathy; his non-reading sons, Charlie, Joe and Jack; and his dogs, Moose and Coco.

Below is a brief summary of Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to NOT Reading:

Charlie Joe Jackson may be the most reluctant reader ever born. And so far, he’s managed to get through life without ever reading an entire book from cover to cover. But now that he’s in middle school, avoiding reading isn’t as easy as it used to be. And when his friend Timmy McGibney decides that he’s tired of covering for him, Charlie Joe finds himself resorting to desperate measures to keep his perfect record intact.This is the hilarious story of an avid non-reader and the extreme lengths to which he’ll go to get out of reading a book.

I hope you are planning to attend the JCL conference and enjoy a day of learning, connecting and collaborating around the joy of children's literature! Information and registration for the conference can be found here

Please help me spread the joy and share this with others who might be interested.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Harry Potter in and out of the classroom from NCTE

Harry Potter in and out of the Classroom from NCTE

With the last installment of the Harry Potter movies out, there seems to be renewed interested in the series by J.K. Rowling. Have you read all 4,370 pages of the Harry Potter books? Many people have! How can you capture the excitement over the movies and books and bring that enthusiasm into the classroom? NCTE and have several resources that can help do just that.
The School Talk issue "Literary Partnerships: Collaborating with Literature to Create Readers" (E-M) shares how Rowling and other authors and illustrators are literary partners who can lure kids to reading with their own form of "magic."

In the Language Arts article "The Right to Be a Fan" (E), author Peter GutiƩrrez asks and answers the question, "Becoming ardent followers of specific pop culture texts can't be a good thing for young readers -- or can it?" Harry Potter's popularity is also discussed in this new podcast of a conversation between Teri Lesesne and Franki Sibberson.

Students from Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis review each of the seven books in the Harry Potter series in the Voices from the Middle article "Harry Potter and the Avid Readers" (M-S).

College instructor Elissa Caruth explains how, over the years she's been teaching Harry Potter, her students have read one book, gone on to read the other books, and been exposed to the things we want our students to be exposed to in a critical thinking class: literary terms and their application to literature, critical thinking, and writing analytical essays (C).

The English Journal article "Celebrating Multiple Literacies with Harry Potter" (M-S) presents a cauldron of hands-on literacy activities inspired by Rowling's characters. How will you celebrate Harry Potter -- the books and the movies?

Did you know that Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling share July 31 as their birthday?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Saturday, July 16, 2011

My Big News: JCL Conference!

Announcing The Joy of Children's Literature Conference to be held October 15, 2011 at The College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA. 

This is something I've wanted to do for years, but have never had the facilities to do it. Now, the university has built the School of Education a brand new, beautiful building which includes a professional development center, so facilities problem solved! 

The JCL conference will be a day of celebration, collaboration and connections with great children's literature, so please join us!

To see more information, including a list of presenters, program, and registration, visit the JCL Conference website. Please contact me with any comments or questions. 

Also, please help me spread the word about the conference. Please Facebook, Tweet, blog, or name-your-social-network about the conference. Thank you!

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Potter Generation

The picture to the left is the post my son made on his blog today after seeing Harry Potter 7, Part 2, last night at midnight. And it's soooooooooooo true!

We arrived at the theater at 10:00pm  and the line was already around the building! I noticed that most of those in line were at least Derek's age (just graduated high school). I don't think that's just because it was too late for young kids to be out. I think it's because they are the Potter generation.

Many of those in line were dressed as their favorite character or had on HP t-shirts. As the stood in line, they talked about their many experiences over the years with HP and as we moved into the theater, they talked in groups and even entire sections about their expectations for how certain main events in the book would be played out in the movie. It was wonderful!

I loved being back in this environment one last time. I loved being with my son as we immersed ourselves in Harry's world one last time. I loved the movie! How about you?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Catching Up with Children's Literature from NCTE

Catching up with Children's Literature from NCTE Inbox
Walking past an airport bookstore the other day, I saw a sign which read, "Summer is the perfect time to catch up on books you missed during the school year." Sara Mushegian's article in Language Arts is a perfect follow-up to this -- she recounts her family's summer reading and how it gave her a chance to talk with her children about books and, ultimately, about life. NCTE and offer tips for reading to and with children and share children’s literature titles.
The NCTE Commission on Reading pamphlet “Read Together Pamphlet for Parents” provides valuable information for anyone who reads with young children. Specifically targeted to parents, it includes read together book lists for different developmental reading levels. shares more read-aloud strategies.
"Reading" doesn't always have to mean a book or a story. Children feel pretty proud when they can read their street signs or the name of the store up the block. Children should be encouraged to read print and pictures that are all around them. Invite students to share all of the places they love to read.

Before reading a book, children must first select one that sparks their interest and leaves them feeling accomplished and ready to hunt for their next book! Learn more about how to help a child choose a book. Listen for more book suggestions in the podcast episode, "What Should I Read Aloud?"

One way to make a more personal connection with a book is by acting out the story and exploring different characters' perspectives. See an example in this video as an adult reads "Little Miss Muffet" with a young child and then they act it out.

Chatting About BooksChatting About Books: Recommendations for Young Readers is a podcast series for Grades K- 5. Host Emily Manning chats with kids, parents, and teachers about the best in children's literature for ages 4 through 11. Discussions include reading tips and fun activities to do with children before, during, and after reading. Watch Emily interview author Jane Yolen in this episode and then read more from Jane Yolen in her Voices from the Middle article, "How Hard Can It Be?" See more authors talking about literature and writing.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Book that Started it All

Do you remember where you were when you read the first book in the Harry Potter series? I do. I didn't read the first book until it was out in paperback and I picked it up in the airport on the way home from a conference. It was love at first read! I still think the first book is my favorite. It was the first glimpse at the magical world of Diagon Alley, Hogwarts, and Hogsmeade.

I also remember watching the news the first time the midnight book release parties took place across the country. There was footage of kids and adults alike dressed up as their favorite characters standing in lines that went all the way around the building. I cried. I really did. I'm a reading teacher, you see, and there is nothing so beautiful and moving as watching hundreds of children across the country stand in line to get a book that is over 600 pages long. Bliss!

Somewhere around book 4, I started reading the books aloud to my son who was in third grade. It was so wonderful to see Harry Potter through Derek's eyes. I remember when the first movie came out and I asked him if he wanted to see it. He said no because he didn't want to lose the pictures in his mind. How fabulous is that?

But, of course, we did end up going to see the first movie, along with five or six of his best friends, all dressed up in their favorite characters. Experiencing the movie with a group of kids all gasping and complaining about certain parts being left out was so much fun.

Over the years, Derek and I continued to read the books out loud to each other. Neither of us could read a word without the other lest one know something that happened before the other. Harry Potter has brought us a unique experience that I will always treasure. And though I know the books will live on, as we prepare to attend the last movie tomorrow night at 12:01 am., it is hard to not feel a little sad for the next generation of Potter fans. It was really something to be a part of such a wonderful reading phenomenon. There won't be anymore book release parties or midnight movie madness. There won't be another time when everyone is reading the books at the same time.

I know other professors have written blog posts about how their college students are now at the age where they went through the Harry Potter phenomenon, too. This is true for me, too. Last year, almost all of my students had read all of the books, sometimes numerous times, and had seen all of the movies. Since I teach preservice teachers, it is wonderful that they have had such a great experience around reading and can share that experience with their future students.

Will there ever be another big reading phenomenon like Harry Potter in our lifetime? I don't know, but I certainly hope so. I can't wait to participate!

For those of you looking for more books like Harry Potter, NPR has an article titled, "3 Grown-up Books for the Hogwarts Grad,"and readers have made additional recommendations in the comments. What are some of your recommendations for the Harry Potter fan?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading

I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of my copy of Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading, which just released yesterday! Below is a review from Booklist and the book trailer (thanks to Audiobooker). Enjoy!

With his “deep-seated love of not reading,” this title’s young narrator, Charlie Joe, speaks straight to other book-averse middle-schoolers. But avid readers will equally enjoy Charlie Joe’s story, with its wild parodies and surprises that continue to the very end. The elaborate plot revolves around Charlie Joe’s complicated tactics to avoid reading. He sets up bookworm Jake with cheerleader Hannah, for example, so that grateful Jake will read Charlie Joe’s books for a class project about school cliques, but things don’t go as planned; as Charlie Joe warns, “Always be wary of plot twists.” Charlie Joe’s wry first-person narrative, interspersed with anti-reading tips and occasional small cartoons, mocks nearly everyone, also himself, and the hilarious wordplay adds to the fun: Charlie Joe is in love with Hannah, but if she is flawless, her twin brother is “flawful.” Not all books are bad, though: Charlie Joe does like checkbooks (a source of gifts from grandparents), comic books, and Facebook. A perfect read-aloud, this debut is filled with passages that beg to be shared: “It is impossible to concentrate because I don’t have my cell phone to text my friends to break up my concentration.” With its subversive humor and contemporary details drawn straight from kids’ worlds, this clever title should attract a wide following.— Hazel Rochman

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

How E.B. White Spun "Charlotte's Web"

From NPR:

How E. B. White Spun Charlotte's Web by Maureen Corrigan

In a poll of librarians, teachers, publishers and authors, the trade magazine Publisher's Weekly asked for a list of the best children's books ever published in the United States. Hands down, the No. 1 book was E.B. White's Charlotte's Web. Now, a new book called The Story of Charlotte's Web explores how White's masterpiece came to be.

One early fall morning in 1949, E.B. White walked into the barn of his farm in Maine and saw a spider web. That in itself was nothing new, but this web, with its elaborate loops and whorls that glistened with early morning dew, caught his attention. Weeks passed until one cold October evening when he noticed that the spider was spinning what turned out to be an egg sac. White never saw the spider again and, so, when he had to return later that fall to New York City to his job as a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine, White took out a razor blade and cut the silken egg sac out of the web. He put the sac in an empty candy box, punched some holes in it, and absent-mindedly put the box atop his bedroom bureau in New York.

Weeks later, a movement on that bureau alerted him to the fact that tiny spiderlings were making a Great Escape through the air holes. White was delighted at this affirmation of life and left the hundreds of barn spiderlings alone for the next week or so — to spin webs from his hair brush to his nail scissors to his mirror — until, finally, the cleaning lady complained.

Thus was hatched the idea for Charlotte's Web, White's magical meditation on the passage of time, mortality and the great gift of finding a "true friend" in this world. However, as Michael Sims tells us in his wonderful new book called The Story of Charlotte's Web, there was also a much longer incubation period for White's classic — a period that began with his isolated childhood as the youngest of seven children; the snappy creative bustle of the New York newspaper world in the 1920s, which gave White his career and his writing role models; and White's own lifelong struggle with anxiety. That anxiety was soothed, in part, by writing and by the company of animals (except, that is, for rats — take that, Templeton!). If you love Charlotte's Web — and, please, if you don't, just get help now! — Sims' lively and detailed excursion into the mystery of how White's classic came to be is a perfect read for this season: full of grass and insects, pigs and summer rain.

The first two-thirds or so of The Story of Charlotte's Web recounts White's life up to his 50s, when he began writing his masterpiece. Good as it is, the final section of Sims' book is the real revelation — not only about the influences on Charlotte's Web, but about just how hard it was for White to write despite the fact that his style always seemed effortless. White was encouraged to attempt children's fiction by his wife, Katherine White, who was the fiction editor of The New Yorker and a regular reviewer of children's literature. She had urged him to write his first children's book, Stuart Little, which was published in 1945 and had taken him over six years to write.

White also took inspiration from the 1920s newspaper columnist Don Marquis, who wrote acclaimed stories about a poetic typing cockroach named Archy. White was adamant that, like Archy, his fictional animal characters should not be cute but should remain true to their predatory and, in the case of Wilbur, their manure-loving, messy nature. The notes that White made for Charlotte's Web — some of which Sims reprints here — show a multitude of false starts and cross outs. White finished the first draft of the novel in 1951 and then let it sit for a year.

He said in a letter to his patient editor: "I've recently finished another children's book, but have put it away to ripen (let the body heat out of it). It doesn't satisfy me the way it is and I think eventually I shall rewrite it pretty much." When Charlotte's Web finally came out in October 1952, most of the reviews were laudatory, except for one written by Anne Carroll Moore, the influential children's division librarian for the New York Public Library. Years earlier, Moore had panned Stuart Little and now she slammed Charlotte's Web for leaving the human character of Fern "undeveloped."

White's own later estimation of his work is, perhaps, most touching. In old age, when he was suffering from Alzheimer's, White liked to have his own essays and books read to him. Sometimes, White would ask who wrote what he was listening to, and his chief reader, his son Joe, would tell him, "You did, Dad." Sims says White "would think about this odd fact for a moment and sometimes murmur, 'Not bad.' "

Read an excerpt from The Story of Charlotte's Web here.