No, really, let kids choose what they read

In case you need something to tide you over while you wait for your copy of Reading Unbound to arrive, here are some more quotes about why we need to let kids choose what they read.

We want to help our students fall in love with books in ways that foster a life-long devotion to reading. So what should schools do? We think the implications of our research are manifold, but two seem especially compelling.  First, our data make clear that educators should consider interpretive complexity in concert with textual complexity, a centerpiece of the Common Core State Standards.  Every text our participants read—from graphic novels to dark fiction to Harry Potterrequired sophisticated strategies for entering a story world and absorbing the twists and turns of the plot line and character relationships.  All fostered deep intellectual engagement.

Our data also convinced us of the importance of choice. Students should have regular opportunities to behave the way adult readers do and choose their own reading.   They know the kinds of texts from which they will take pleasure. At the same time, teachers should expand the possibility of pleasure by introducing students to new books they might not select on their own.

http://edublog.scholastic.com/post/why-kids-need-read-what-they-want

I love that this quote illustrates the role that “gate-keepers” should have–opening gates rather than closing them. Once a kid has read through everything they could find on their own, teachers and librarians can help them find the hidden treasures that will still meet their needs.

Reading is indeed crucial to success in school and in careers.  But we worry that discussions of reading, especially public policy discussions, focus almost exclusively on its utilitarian value. What’s missing is the pleasure readers derive from the reading they do.

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/11/the-most-important-lesson-schools-can-teach-kids-about-reading-its-fun/281295/

Again, people making these policy decisions know very little about children and child development; however, I do believe that Common Core, with its breadth of text types, actually encourages what I believe is important–giving children a wide variety of choices when it comes to what they read. Have you ever had it suggested that novels in verse are better for struggling readers because of the white space and shorter length? Then what about play scripts? White space abounds, it is mostly dialogue, and it very pointedly tells you what you’re seeing–but then again, it’s like a graphic novel without the images, and your imagination needs to fill in the pictures. HOW AWESOME IS THAT?

If I were Queen of the World, I would decree that all students be given the gifts of time and books they want to read throughout their schooling, and all pre-readers would have an adult who would read aloud to them everyday. Through independent reading children gain a wealth of background knowledge about many different things, come to understand story and non-fiction structures, absorb the essentials of English grammar, and continuously expand their vocabularies. Many also remember visually how to spell words. In a nutshell, the habit of reading does as much, if not more, than Direct Instruction and the rigorous demands of the Common Core. All without boring kids to death or persuading them that they’re dumb.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/09/08/why-kids-should-choose-their-own-books-to-read-in-school

Yes.

Years ago, I received a phone call from my godson’s mother. She said, “I know you told me to wait, but David is reading Harry Potter on his own.” David was in kindergarten. David read Harry Potter at 5 for the plot. He reread it at 10 for the plot, characters and emotional truths. He reread the entire series repeatedly the summer he was 13, to his mother’s dismay. “Can’t you get him to read something else?!” I didn’t even try.

NY Times Room for Debate

Yes. The importance of re-reading. I know, I know, there are so many books! But every time you re-read something, you gain something new. It’s magical.

The latest salvo comes from a survey released late last week by Scholastic Corp., a publisher of popular children’s books, which suggests that middle and high school students who have time to read books of their own choosing during the school day are also more likely to read frequently for pleasure.

“For us, choice is key,” said Kyle Good, a spokeswoman for Scholastic. “When you let kids choose the books they want to read, they’ll be voracious readers.”

In the survey, 78 percent of students, who read frequently for fun (at least five days a week), said they had time to read a book of choice during the school day. By contrast, 24 percent of infrequent readers — those who read for fun less than one day a week — said they had time to read a book of choice during the school day.

Chicago Tribune

Review of Reading Unbound, with links to supplementary material 

Top 5 Reasons to let kids choose their own books

 

Why Kids Need to Read What They Want

8748654245_7602e2bacf_o
Is this how we want kids to act when it comes to reading? / flicker, C. Bitner

In the most recent edition of Cover to Cover by K.T. Horning, there are no early childhood, middle grade, or ya distinctions in books for children. Encompassing fiction and nonfiction, the breakdown is:

  • Picture books (including board books)
  • Readers/Beginning Readers/Easy Readers
  • Transitional books
  • Chapter books

That’s it. We have those formats, and within those formats, every genre is covered, for ages birth to teen. (Oh, but wait–where should graphic novels go? I’d include them with chapter books, honestly; the art in a graphic novel serves as a concurrent visual text, in my opinion. Or, heck, let’s put them in with picture books, maybe? I don’t have all the answers, clearly.)

In my ideal, imaginary library, this is how it would be– those formats would be organized, so kids who are being read to can find board and picture books, pre-readers can find the books they need, transitional readers the same, and then chapter books for independent readers who can make their own choices (with guidance from their parent/guardian and, ideally, a librarian). There would be a call number, and no other designations– no guided reading, or any of that other stuff. Just books and excellent staff and seemingly limitless choices. (I’m getting chills just writing about it.)

Does a library like this exist? Probably not. Although my personal library is like this. I’m sure everyone’s personal library is like this. So why do we insist that youth follow dozens of arbitrary guidelines when it comes to the stories they get to read?

Anyway. This summer I tried something different with our suggested reading book lists, in an attempt to create a small scale version of this literary utopia. I wanted to move away from parents just grabbing the list of their child’s grade, and slavishly following those suggestions we’d made, with the best of intentions. Instead of lists covering 2 grade levels, as had been the practice in the past, I had:

  • Pre-readers (babies-Kindergarten): includes board and picture books, all genres
  • Beginning readers (K-3rd): easy/beginning readers, all genres
  • Transitional Third Grade reads: transitional chapter books, all genres
  • Third Grade and Up: picture, beginning, transitional, and chapter books, all genres

Now, there isn’t just one Third Grade and Up list, oh no. There were several, with titles like:

  • Smile Diary: books for Wimpy Kid and Telgameier Fans
  • Murder and Mayhem: stories that are scary and thrilling
  • WONDERing what to read next: Wonder readalikes
  • Full STEAM ahead: books for kids who like to tinker and create
  • Myths, Magic and More: fantasy, science fiction, and the just plain strange
  • Game On: books for gamers
  • Tell Me A Story: books about the magic of storytelling
  • That’s Funny: Books to make you laugh
  • Can You Believe It?: Books to make you see the world in a different way

The books were listed not in alphabetical order, but rather in order of literary and thematic complexity.

To explain, each list had an introduction like this:

3rd Grade and Up

Murder and Mayhem: stories that are scary and thrilling!

If you enjoy scary stories, thrilling tales of true crime, forensic science, and the unexplained, then these books are for you!

Read from the beginning of the list when you’re short on time but still want a good story. Read from the end of the list when you’re up for a more textually and thematically challenging experience.

Not every book on every list will be right for your child. If you have questions about any title, please see [library] staff for guidance.

Third grade and up meant just that: independent readers from third to twelfth grades (or beyond! Mom and Dad, you can read these books too!) could read these books, all of which were chosen from our children’s department collection. I wanted to do this so that an older student who wasn’t reading at grade level wouldn’t be stigmatized by reading from a list that was clearly marked for a younger age. By having only a lower limit, rather than a lower and upper, the list was more open to more readers. And by keeping the selections limited to our children’s department, we were still helping parents make appropriate choices for their child (advocate for freedom that I am, I still want to make things easier for parents, so I’m not going to hand them a third grade and up list with really intense themes and situations).

Oh, and another cool thing–the books on these lists were jointly nominated by my library staff as well as school librarians from our main school district, and they used these lists as their district’s recommended summer reading. How great is that? School librarians got to suggest awesome books that they loved, while I did all the grunt work of collating and organizing them, and our wonderful graphics department made them into beautiful brochures.

Ultimately, I wanted these lists to provide some guidance, while also encouraging kids and parents to use library staff to help them find the  best book for them.

For teens we had 7th grade and up lists, with items exclusively from the teen collection. (Now, ideally I’d want to include picture and other books, but with display and cataloging restraints, this just wasn’t possible; and, again, these teens could also enjoy all the books on the third grade and up lists.)

For teens, our themes were:

  • Social Justice: books about making the world a better place
  • Not Okay: readalikes for The Fault in Our Stars 
  • Get Real: Realistic fiction and memoirs
  • Myths, Magic and More: Fantasy, sci-fi, and speculative fiction

I have to say, the impetus for this project was the book Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read What They Want—and Why We Should Let Them. We actually recommended this title to parents in our lists, and amazingly, the book got checked out. How many people actually read it, I don’t know, but it just goes to show that if you make something available, people will take advantage.

I was concerned about confusion and push back–would parents get on board? Would they understand it? Was I creating a problem where there wasn’t one?

I don’t think so. I actually think these lists have been doing what they are meant to do–broaden the scope of what kids read, and providing guidance while also encouraging choice.

Now, summer’s not over, so the verdict isn’t completely in yet, but so far I’m going to call this a success. Books are still getting checked out at a rapid clip, I’ve heard people express delight at the themes, and so far no one has been upset that a book about the Lizzie Borden case was on the “Murder and Mayhem” list (really, with a title like that, I was suspecting parents of sensitive kids would know to steer clear).

What do you think? How do you handle suggested reading/passive reader’s advisory?

 

 

 

 

Programming for Preschoolers: Take a Tip from Preschool Centers

photo from Alternative Heat (http://www.flickr.com/photos/alternative_heat/) via http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
photo from Alternative Heat (http://www.flickr.com/photos/alternative_heat/) via http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

When I was still teaching preschool (oh how I love to talk about when I taught preschool) one of the early literacy tactics we employed was to integrate literature and literacy skills into every center. This meant having books with building themes in the block center, books about nature in the science center, having pads of paper to write shopping lists and recipes down in the dramatic play center, etc and so forth.

Are you familiar with the centers in a preschool classroom? Many youth departments now have set ups similar to a preschool classroom, including block play, dramatic play and puppet stages. If your youth space is lacking distinct areas for different kinds of play, you might want to consider changing things around to allow for these play spaces. If you’re not familiar with preschool classroom centers and how classrooms are arranged, here are a few links:

NAEYC guide to setting up literacy rich classroom centers
Centers in a preschool classroom
Introduction to Preschool Classroom Centers

Now, if you’re stymied for some “beyond story time” programs for three to five year olds, just take those varied centers and start creating programs based on them.

Here are just a few ideas from some of the “centers” you’d find in a preschool classroom.

Discovery, Sensory, and Science

STE(A)M is a buzzword that can potentially get concerned parents into your programs. In certain communities, you need to promote programs as being enriching and academically rigorous to get buy-in from families.

For any science, cooking or making program, try to have the recipes or steps printed–with accompanying picture instructions–to amp the early literacy.

  • Invest in a sensory table, which you can fill with sand, colored rice, moon sand, cotton balls–the possibilities are endless!
  • Have a mixing & “cooking” program where you make  flubber or playdough.
  • Write or draw in shaving cream
  • Play with a light table
  • Mix up bubble solution and make giant bubbles
  • Do a “sink or float” program

Writing Center

Writing is just as important an early literacy skill as letter recognition, phonemic awareness and print awareness. Fine motor skills and being able to hold a writing utensil correctly is an important skill to have for Kindergarten as well.

  • For any program, have kids write their own names on name tags or on a (large) sign-in sheet
  • Practice writing with different media, including  crayons, markers, paintbrushes, colored pencils; write on chalkboards, white boards, and tablets, too
  • For a more sensory experience,– in rice, shaving cream, or tracing letters on sandpaper

Dramatic Play

Dramatic play is the perfect opportunity for children to try out different characters, work through difficult emotions in a safe space, and “…it remains an integral part of the developmental learning process by allowing children to develop skills in such areas as abstract thinking, literacy, math, and social studies, in a timely, natural manner.” (x)

Further, the ability to retell a story verbally or using props is a CCSS benchmark from Kindergarten up. Helping kids retell stories and get a handle on narrative structure–beginning, middle, end, etc–makes for a perfect preschool program.

  • An easy “unprogram” would be to gather toys, puppets, props and costumes for 5-6 well known fairy tales. Station them in your programming room or even all around your Youth Space. Have staff available to read the stories if kids aren’t familiar, then encourage the kids to use the props to retell the story, even changing it if they like.
  • Another unprogram would be to create a dramatic play center if you don’t have one. Create a house, grocery store, post office, shopping mall, farm, or restaurant, and stock it with books about those places. Have lots of paper and writing tools available to create shopping lists, menus, take orders, or whatever else the kids want to create.

Building/Block Center

Fine and gross motor skills are developed in the block center, depending on whether you use large wooden or cardboard blocks or smaller duplo sets. Seeding this program with related picture books, both fiction and non-fiction (Iggy Peck, Architect, any and all construction books, Lego guides), will give kids ideas without being prescriptive. Include toys and props with your block program, and kids will also engage in dramatic play.

These are just some suggestions, and often play centers and areas will intersect. For example, dramatic play will often happen in the block area, and building will often happen during dramatic play. It’s easy to work math into dramatic play (How many bears are there? How long do you think it would take to climb a beanstalk to the sky?) and work writing in science (write a question you want to answer, or draw something you’re observing). Retelling stories overlaps literacy activities with dramatic play. By using centers as a starting point for programs beyond storytime, it allows you to have one main focus, to which you can add and tweak as suits your mood and your audience.

Also, nothing precludes you from adding elements of different centers into your story time if you want. Instead of a craft at the end of story time, why not give the kids costumes and props and a chance to act out the stories you just shared? Or do a science experiment? The possibilities are endless and there’s no one way to do it.

author, author!

The past couple of conferences I went to, there was some chatter about author visits at libraries—namely, how do you get anyone to care about and come to your author event? (I’m assuming here you’ve found the money already. Top notch authors are almost always going to be quite expensive, so start budgeting now and looking for financial partners. Also, start locally if you’ve never done an author visit before. Cutting down on travel costs cuts the budget significantly). I’ve done a few author events at my library, and seen other well done events in action, so I thought I would share some of my hard earned wisdom with you, my dear and lovely readers.

1) Choose your author wisely.
Not every great book has an author worth visiting with. Harsh, but true. When selecting an author to bring to your community, you need to consider reputation, charisma, and speaking skills just as much as you consider the quality and appeal of the author’s work. People have already spent time with the book(s). You want to get them excited about spending time with a person. When choosing an author, make sure to….

2) Consider your audience.
Think about who your author writes for– lower elementary, upper elementary, middle school, or teen. Sometimes there is overlap. Andrea Beaty has both picture books and chapter books, and is great for Prek-5th presentations. Adam Selzer has middle grade, middle school, and upper YA novels, as well as adult nonfiction about Chicago history and hauntings that appeal to teens /and/ adults. You really want to target your audience, because this will tie in so much to your promotion of the event. You can have an author present for more than one audience, but make sure those events are clearly delineated. Also, think about your community– is it conservative? Artistic? Older? Younger? Make sure you have a population that will be interested in the person you’re bringing in.

3) Promote.
This seems like a “duh” moment but it’s very important. It’s not enough to put a few lines in your newsletter or a picture on your webpage. You need to hustle. This is not a drill, people. Most authors worth having are going to be expensive, and you want to make the turn out worth everyone’s while. So target your audience. For me, I hit the middle schools–and I mean hit. At the two middle schools in our main district, I physically went to the school and presented a 15 minute, high impact promotion about the author to as many kids as I could. (At one school, I managed to see every student during the day; I was on my feet from 8-3 and it was amazing.) I’ll talk more about my specific promotion strategies at the end.

4) Get a bookseller.
If everyone’s done their job, there will be a hunger for your author’s work, and people will want to get their copies signed and maybe even take a picture. Also, you want your authors to make money so they can keep writing books. Partnering with a local, indie bookseller is imperative. Further, booksellers often have insider knowledge about when and where certain authors will be touring– if you form a strong partnership, oftentimes a bookseller can get you free author appearances for your library. They are more likely to do this for you if you have a record of bringing out good crowds for events, which you will if you follow these guidelines.

5) Make the event an EVENT.
You’re essentially throwing a party, so throw a damn party. Have a cake decorated to look like the book cover. If there’s a special or unique food mentioned in the book(s), serve it. Decorate. Have music that relates to the tone of the book playing before the start. Make sure to introduce your author with appropriate excitement and pomp. Hype everyone up. Throw your hands in the air. Whatever you have to do, do it. Bust out your best Neil Patrick Harris hosting the Tonys here, because that’s what it deserves.

Let’s walk through an example of an author visit that I worked on.

ADAM GIDWITZ!

860661_515247835185202_1408791629_o1) Choose your author wisely.
Adam’s visit to my library and local schools was already in the works when I began my job last fall, but I quickly jumped in and started implementing my master plan. Adam is a perfect visiting author. He is energetic, engaging, interesting, and an excellent performer. His books–A Tale Dark and Grimm, In A Glass Grimmly, and The Grimm Conclusion–are excellent and have high appeal factors for a wide variety of readers. Adam was also extremely gracious and easy to work with, providing me and my coworkers with lots of information we could use to promote his visit– including making a short video just for our middle schoolers.

2) Consider your audience.
From working with the schools and the school staff, we knew the personalities we were dealing with, and we knew that plenty of kids would be excited about seeing Adam. Word of mouth about his books spread quickly as kids talked it up to each other. We also knew the fairy tale element–fairy tales being one of the text types in the new Common Core State Standards–would lend the presentation a whiff of educmacational value, which doesn’t hurt when talking a program up to parents.

3) Promote.
I’m lucky to have a great marketing department to work with, so they did a wonderful job of getting this event in the newsletter, on the website, and in the community (including a local newspaper blurb!) As the School Outreach Librarian, it was then my job to TAKE IT TO THE SCHOOLS. This is one of my favorite parts of the process, and while I’ve found a formula that works for me, be aware that your mileage may vary. Like any creative, personality driven library presentation you need to promote in a way that makes sense for your style, especially if you’re working with kids. You need to be genuine and genuinely enthusiastic. If you’re not, your promotion will fall flat, and no excitement will be generated.

My promotion formula is based largely on the author, as illustrated by this mostly gratuitous pie chart:

piechartStart off with a quick, punchy book talk about the author’s works. I talked up Adam’s two novels (this was before the third one was released) and also showed an awesome book trailer in German, because everything sounds more awesome in German. Then, I segued into talking about Adam as a person and an author. I gave a brief biographical sketch, including–and this is important—pictures of Adam when he was the same as the teens I was promoting the event to.

I cannot state enough how cool this is. Even the most jaded eighth grader will guffaw when shown a picture of someone in their youth. Suddenly the teens can relate just a little bit easier to this person, just by seeing their dork-tastic 90’s hair and braces. Contrast this with a picture of what the author currently looks like, just so the kids know who they will actually be seeing at the event.

Also: food. Most people are into food and get excited about it. I ask authors their favorite foods then and now. Adam’s answer for his current favorite food was blood pie. I used this heavily in my promotion. “WHAT is a BLOOD PIE?” I asked dramatically. “You’ll have to come to the event to FIND OUT. Because we will be SERVING one.” Cue 45 middle schoolers groaning excitedly about BLOOD.

All of my presentations were about 15 minutes (yep, only 15 minutes). I wanted my message to be brief and intense. Between the BLOOD PIE and Adam’s middle school picture, and a gory 3 minute retelling of Cinderella, the teens were left with strong images and a strong incentive to attend the event. You can see my keynote slides here: gidwitz copy

4) Get a bookseller.
The bookseller we brought in sold out of paperbacks and sold almost all of the rest of the stock he brought with him. This made everyone happy.

4) Make the event an EVENT.
Our attendance exceeded expectations. We were hoping for around forty five people but had over one hundred kids and teens  held in thrall by Adam’s presentation, which included a full telling of the fairytale “The Juniper Tree.” As promised, we served BLOOD PIE (berry pie with no top crust). No one was more surprised and delighted by this than Adam. “Wow. That was just something I made up,” he said. That’s me…the person who makes dreams come true. Especially when they involve BLOOD. We also had cookies decorated to look like the cover of Adam’s book. They were so gorgeous, one girl just held her cookie, crying that it was too beautiful to eat. IMG_0400 IMG_0402Not mandatory, but forcing your author to pose by the food can’t hurt. You can see the BLOOD PIE to the left (to the left, all the blood pie is on the table to the left). We also had BLOOD PUNCH because BLOOD. BLOOD YOU GUYS. This entire post could have just been the word BLOOD.

So that’s how I (and my awesome coworkers) achieved author visit success. What about you?

Uncommonly Good Books (and more!) for Common Core Instruction

uncommonbooks (pdf of slide show)coreNovember 1st, ISLMA Conference 2013, Springfield, IL

Hi ISLMA friends! I’ll be updating this post during the upcoming week, adding annotations and the new resources I added for the second chance presentation. Thanks so much for coming, and if there’s anything you’d like to add please leave a comment!

Here is my list of resources from my presentation for ISLMA. Annotations in quotes taken directly from the website of the resource.

This post is updated as of 11/8/2013. It will be a living document and be revised as further resources are found.

ALA

The ALA award and booklists are a natural place to start. Here’s a handy run down of all the lists and awards.

YALSA

http://www.ala.org/yalsa/great-graphic-novels
http://www.ala.org/yalsa/outstanding-books-college-bound
http://www.ala.org/yalsa/popular-paperbacks-young-adults
http://www.ala.org/yalsa/quick-picks-reluctant-young-adult-readers
http://www.ala.org/yalsa/readers-choice
http://www.ala.org/yalsa/fabulous-films
http://www.ala.org/yalsa/best-fiction-young-adults
http://www.ala.org/yalsa/amazing-audiobooks

ALSC

http://www.ala.org/alsc/booklists
http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia
http://mrschureads.blogspot.com/ (Newbery and Caldecott Challenges)

Other Book Awards

Cybils
http://www.cybils.com/
The Cybils are given out by book bloggers, whose ranks include teachers, librarians, authors, and voracious readers. Awards are given in many categories, including book apps, speculative fiction, beginning chapter books, poetry, and nonfiction. “The Cybils awards are given each year by bloggers for the year’s best children’s and young adult titles.”

Eisner Awards
http://www.comic-con.org/awards/eisners-current-info
The Eisner awards are considered the “oscars” of comic books.

Science Fiction Awards

I’m a big proponent of using science fiction and fantasy as a way to ease into having kids read books with more “text complexity.” The world building, vocabulary, and themes inherent in most speculative fiction make an easy argument for complexity. Plus, the genres can have a lot of reader appeal (seeing as the dystopian and paranormal subgenres are part of speculative fiction).

The Hugo Awards
http://www.thehugoawards.org
The Hugo Awards are a set of awards given annually for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year.

Mythopoeic Society
http://www.mythsoc.org
The Mythopoeic Society is a national/international organization promoting the study, discussion, and enjoyment of fantastic and mythopoeic literature through books and periodicals, annual conferences, discussion groups, awards, and more.”

The Nebula Awards
http://www.sfwa.org/nebula-awards/
The Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy is an annual award presented by theScience Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) to the author of the best young adult or middle grade science fiction or fantasy book published in the United States in the preceding year.”

Multicultural Awards

You can’t deny that we live in a global society, and kids need books that act as windows into this wider world. Being aware of what other countries consider to be excellent examples of children’s literature is one way to do this; seeking out awards for specific cultures is another.

Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals
http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/home/
“The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals are the UK’s oldest and most prestigious children’s book awards. Often described by authors and illustrators as ‘the one they want to win’ – they are the gold standard in children’s literature.” Essentially Britain’s Caldecott and Newbery.

International Board on Books for Young People
Hans Christian Andersen Awards
http://www.ibby.org/index.php?id=273
Every other year IBBY presents the Hans Christian Andersen Awards to a living author and illustrator whose complete works have made a lasting contribution to children’s literature.”
IBBY Honor list
http://www.ibby.org/index.php?id=270

TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award
http://www.bookcentre.ca/awards/td_canadian_childrens_literature_award
“On October 28, 2004 the Canadian Children’s Book Centre and the TD Bank Group announced the establishment of a brand-new annual, children’s book award, the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award for the most distinguished book of the year. “Distinguished” is defined as marked by conspicuous excellence and/or eminence, individually distinct and noted for significant achievement with excellence in quality.”

Tomás Rivera Book Award
http://riverabookaward.org/book-award-winners/
http://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/tomas-rivera-award
“Texas State University College of Education developed the Tomas Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award to honor authors and illustrators who create literature that depicts the Mexican American experience.  The award was established in 1995 and was named in honor of Dr. Tomas Rivera, a distinguished alumnus of Texas State University.”

Bibliographies and Databases

The Center for Children’s Books
http://ccb.lis.illinois.edu
The Center for Children’s Books (CCB) at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) is a crossroads for critical inquiry, professional training, and educational outreach related to youth-focused resources, literature and librarianship. The Center’s mission is to facilitate the creation and dissemination of exemplary and progressive research and scholarship related to all aspects of children’s and young adult literature; media and resources for young (age 0-18) audiences; and youth services librarianship.”

Cooperative Children’s Book Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison
http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/default.asp
Cooperative Children’s Book Center is a unique and vital gathering place for books, ideas, and expertise in the field of children’s and young adult literature.”

Picture Book Month
http://picturebookmonth.com
http://picturebookmonth.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Picture-Book-MonthTeachers-Guide.pdf
Picture Book Month is an international literacy initiative that celebrates the print picture book during the month of November.

Picture Book Database
http://www.picturebookdatabase.com
Anyone who loves picture books … authors, illustrators, public librarians, media specialists, educators, researchers, students, and parents. The database eliminates the need to consult multiple resources and helps readers find picture books that best suit their needs.”

Reading Rockets
http://www.readingrockets.org
“Reading Rockets is a national multimedia literacy initiative offering information and resources on how young kids learn to read, why so many struggle, and how caring adults can help.”

Text Types

One of the elements of the Common Core State Standards is the different text types children will be required to read, including fairy tales and folk tales, myths, drama, poetry, and technical writing. These are some of my favorite sources for a wide variety of text types that have kid appeal.

Best American Series
http://www.hmhbooks.com/hmh/site/bas
The Best American Series is an annually-published collection of books, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, each of which features a different genre or theme. Each book selects from works published in North America during the previous year, selected by a guest editor who is an established writer within the given field.”

Sur La Lune Fairytales
http://www.surlalunefairytales.com
SurLaLune Fairy Tales features 49 annotated fairy tales, including their histories, similar tales across cultures, modern interpretations and over 1,500 illustrations. Also discover over 1,600 folktales & fairy tales from around the world in more than 40 full-text eBooks. Read the SurLaLune Blog where daily postings discuss fairy tales in popular culture and academia and more.”

Bloggers

Bookshelves of Doom
http://bookshelvesofdoom.blogs.com
Leila reviews a lot of speculative fiction, and also reviews for Kirkus.

Shakespeare Teacher
http://www.shakespeareteacher.com/blog/
“This blog isn’t exclusively about Shakespeare. Instead, it is approached with the philosophy that a love of Shakespeare is only the beginning of a life of examination and discovery. This is a blog that documents that journey, and tries to have some fun along the way. The title, I think, has more to do with the author than with the intended audience at the moment.

I am involved with a variety of professional activities in the broad field of teacher education. I only occasionally teach Shakespeare, but that’s where my background and passions lie, and the name Shakespeare Teacher makes sense to those who know me.”

Stacked Books
http://www.stackedbooks.org
One of the most comprehensive book review sites for YA literature. Great booklists, great information about the publishing industry, and thorough reviews– great to turn to when you need the full scoop but don’t have time to read the entire book yourself.

Audio & Visual Resources

Lit2Go
http://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/
Lit2Go is a free online collection of stories and poems in Mp3 (audiobook) format. An abstract, citation, playing time, and word count are given for each of the passages. Many of the passages also have a related reading strategy identified. Each reading passage can also be downloaded as a PDF and printed for use as a read-along or as supplemental reading material for your classroom.”

L.A. Theatre Works
http://www.latw.org/
L.A. Theatre Works is a non-profit media arts organization based in Los Angeles whose mission for over 25 years has been to present, preserve and disseminate classic and contemporary plays.

Our unique hybrid form of audio theatre and innovative use of technology in the production and dissemination of theatre keeps this venerable art form thriving, assuring wide and affordable access.”

National Theater Live
http://ntlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk/
“National Theatre Live is the National Theatre’s groundbreaking project to broadcast the best of British theatre live from the London stage to cinemas across the UK and around the world.”

Digital Theater
http://www.digitaltheatre.com/
“Digital Theatre works in partnership with Britain’s leading theatre companies to capture live performance authentically onscreen. With our unique methods we bring online a library of diverse and acclaimed productions from some of the finest theatre talent around. Each production is available to rent online for a limited period or downloaded to your desktop and enjoyed as many times as you wish.”

Making Common Core Commonplace: On the Front Lines 2013

coreHi OTFL friends! Thank you so much for attending my presentation, and for the great conversation. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you want to talk more– I’d love to help.

Just a note–this post will be living organism over the next few weeks, so don’t fret– more information will be added.

Here are a few links to my work:

Resources from other sites

Eat or Be Eaten: A Disturbing Storytime for the Older Child

I’m reading aloud to a group of fifth graders soon, and I knew I wanted to start off with one of my sure fire hits, Gobble Gobble Slip Slop by Meilo So. I’ve read this book with all ages and the repetition, gross out factor, and beautiful illustrations win everyone over. The fat, greedy cat who gets his painful comeuppance really strikes a chord with kids, and the the cries of “OH NO! He can’t eat THAT!” as the cat’s snacks get progressively larger are a sure sign that kids are having a great time, even as they squirm in horror.

Then I started thinking...I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen has the same appeal. Quirky, funny, and with a disturbing “Did he or didn’t he?” ending to it.

Which led me to my third and final book to read aloud, Beware of the Frog by William Bee. This tale involves a frog, an adorable old lady, some hilariously creepy fantasy creatures with catchphrases like “Nickerty noo”, and a surprise ending that is guaranteed to delight and disturb in equal measure.

Since this is a read aloud for older kids, in between the books I’ll have some conversation about what we just read. At the end, I’ll encourage to write their own tales, involving questionable dietary choices, ambiguous endings, and the like.

Are there any titles you’d add? And what do you read aloud to kids in 5th grade?

for you, a Thanksgiving Casserole of Randomness

So, here’s a bunch of disjointed notes with very little context from a small notebook I found again recently. I think most of them are from the Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough that I attended in 2008? or 2009? Enjoy!

Coffeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Kids doing rubic’s cubes

Irish–Pat
Latin–Mendoza
Makes me a Leprecano

Y’all hush now, it’s Doug Elliot’s turn

(Choich) Foist Church birthday

Snake eating an egg out of his hand

Windham

hide the switch–
and whatever kid found it could switch the other kids
“Happy birdy doo doo” [with drawing of bird singing “doo doo”]
Sat up in bed–“I can play the comb!” And you can do it, too. It’s healthy!

Francis would eat all the cookie dough– she toined out real well.

Comb & wax paper played right through the Methodist hymn

Even when I was seven I thought the plagues were… Wagnerian.

a humorless masoleum of a woman

Feel like 40 miles of bad road

There’s a man at the door-I think he’s here to rape us.

I just wanted her to enjoy the snake!

It was time to go see if my Grandmother was dead.

“The Narrows”

Wide mouthed like the bass we just ate for supper.

“He told me, ‘Question everything.’

“‘Why?’

“‘Good, you’ve got it.'”

The old lady committee for being angry about stuff.

Ben Haggarty–frock coat–HAWT!

at the same moment her two sisters realized the same thing–that’s called morphic resonance

When I was scared by scary stories–my grandmama told me not to worry, vampires don’t bite Black people.

A trick or a marvel. 3 lies that are not lies. They made a journey–it wasn’t long and it wasn’t short.

I prayed to God to tell Jesus to ask Santa to get me the squirrel monkey. -Kevin Kling

Uh huh. We call it a thunder bucket.

picture book-a-loo

I’ve had a pile of picture books that I’ve been meaning to talk about, so here we go, in no particular order:

A Wild Father’s Day by Sean Callahan

Inspired by a card that reads “Have a Wild Father’s Day,” the dad and two kids in this book act like various animals–running like cheetahs, swimming like dolphins, and swinging like monkeys. The text and art are both simple and bold. It would have been nice if the family had been more multicultural, but as it stands this book would work well in a family themed toddler storytime–because all the action will keep kids engaged and moving–or in a Father’s Day storytime for any age. Review copy provided by publisher.

Rapunzel illustrated and retold by Sarah Gibb

Now that Rapunzel has been Disneyfied it might be harder to get a beautiful book like this into the hands of princess crazy readers, which is a shame. Still, Gibb’s bright, stylized art* is akin to some of the best of Disney (it reminds me a lot of Sleeping Beauty, actually), so if you try hand-selling it to Disney-fanatics you’re very likely to succeed. The retelling itself is serviceable, and definitely suited towards a more tender audience (while I, jaded adult that I am, am more of a fan of versions with the questionable sex and twin babies). I am pleased to report that the prince’s eyes are still destroyed by thorns and healed with tears, so I’ll graciously accept the absence of the sex in a children’s picture book. Review copy provided by publisher. *You can see some of the art over at SLJ.

E-mergency by Tom Lichtenheld and Ezra Fields-Meyer

I can see this book being prominently featured in a future session of my Beginning Reader Storytime. Here’s the publisher’s description:

It’s an E-mergency! The letter E took a tumble and the only way to get her back on her foot is for people to stop using her. But who can take her place? The other letters have to make a decision ASAP. Z is too sleepy and Y asks way too many questions. Thankfully, O rolls in to try and save the day. Now E can rost up and got bottor . . . as long as ovorybody follows the rulos. Chock-full of verbal and visual puns, this zany book is sure to tickle both the brain and the funny bone.

This book would make a great pairing with Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and even Dr. Suess’s ABC. A Call for a New Alphabet by Jef Czeka would be a good title to send home with kids. Review copy from publisher.

Tom’s co-author, Ezra, has an interesting story (also taken from the publisher’s website):

Ezra Fields-Meyer is a high school student and an expert on animated movies and animals. He is the creator of the animated short “Alphabet House,” which inspired this book[.]

Here’s the short, if you’re interested:

 

A Dog is a Dog by Stephen Shaskan

Wow. This book is…bizarre. In the best way. You know I like weird (Square Cat, another weird picture book, is one of my more recent favorites and would pair well in a storytime with this book) and Shaskan’s first picture book has weirdness in spades.

It starts off innocently enough, telling us “[a] dog is a dog, whether naughty or nice. Whether it suns on the beach, or glides on the ice. A dog is a dog, if it’s skinny or fat. A dog is a dog unless it’s a….CAT!” (You can see the charmingly horrific image of a cat crawling out of a dog suit here at the publisher’s website.)

My new favorite thing to do with picture books is to read them aloud to a trio of eighth graders who tend to hang out at the youth desk after school. These kids are awesome and funny and appreciate Doctor Who, so they’re the perfect test audience for quirky picture books like this. The general consensus: awesome. And messed up. But mostly awesome.

This would be a good book to toss into a costume/imagination storytime, or pair it with other multiple level picture books like Cow,Too and There Are Cats in this Book. Review copy provided by publisher.

backlist beauties: One for the Morning Glory

One for the Morning Glory by John Barnes.

It was 1996 or 1997  and I was in the Hallmark Waldenbooks in Clinton, Ia, with my mother and most likely my sister. Even though our small family farm never brought in a sizeable or steady income, one thing my mother always allowed us to buy was books. I was scanning the paperbacks in the science fiction section when this cover caught my eye:

I was still deeply in love with The Phantom of the Opera ( the Leroux novel, and the musical, and Susan Kay’s “sequel” Phantom) at the time, so I was first drawn to the Twisted Man, up in the corner. He was so…brooding. And creepy. I also loved the rest of the cover, with its classic fairy-tale illustration style. My mom bought it for me, and I was ready to read.

I loved this book when I first read it, and I love it still. It’s been added to my bedside reading pile, because it is due for a re-reading soon. Does anyone else do that? Re-read books? It’s like visiting an old friend, and if the book is good enough, deep enough, and rich enough, you find new things to uncover with every reading. Also, you’re coming at it from a different age, a different physical and mental space, so different elements will jump out at you than before.

This book is a fairy-tale in the vein of A Princess Bride, and has been compared to that title often. The tale is very self-aware, and plays on fairy-tale conceits with skill. As a child, Prince Amatus drank some of the wine of the Gods, and thereafter was only half a man–literally*: half of his body suddenly disappears. A “year and a day” later, the Prince is joined by four mysterious companions who will prove to be the key to his fate and the restoration of his missing half. Before he can be restored, he and his companions will have to save innocent maidens, befriend mythical beasts, and uncover frightening truths that might better stay uncovered.

Enough with my crap-tastic summary. I can’t say enough good things about this book. Barnes is an author known for his hard science fiction, or so the internet tells me–I haven’t actually read any of it–and recently his book Tales from the Madman Underground was selected as a Printz honor book, which goes to show you that he is a versatile and well-respected author.

But I don’t really care about those books (although Tales is definitely on my tbr list as well); I completely agree with the writer over at Steely Pips, who wrote, “A [..] mystery […] I’d badly like to see solved, is “how can we get John Barnes to write more books like this one?” I’m not wild about his other books, but this is really good stuff.”

If you’re a fantasy fan, or a fan of sly humor and malapropisms (there’s a character named Pell Grant for f’s sake!), or a fan of rich, lovely books, please do yourself a favor and find a copy of One for The Morning Glory by John Barnes.

Recommended if you like: The Prydain Chronicles, The Princess Bride, the Narnia books.

*I mean, really literally, not literally in the way that everyone seems to be misusing it these days

related links:

It was reviewed on a Fantasy Friday Review over at Literary Transgressions.

Review of the book and a little bio of Barnes from SFSite.

Steely Pips wrote about it on his book log.