Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Peace: The Biography of a Symbol (National Geographic)

A book for adults to share with the children in their lives. This is important. Order it here.

Peace: The Biography of a Symbol

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Review: Piper Reed Navy Brat

Like the author of Piper Reed Navy Brat, Kimberly Willis Holt, I too was born into a Navy family in Pensacola Florida, or Pepsi-Cola as Piper's younger sister Sam calls it. My dad was a Navy pilot for 20 years, so I experienced what Piper experiences in the book. The Navy tries to move families at the end of the school year. But sometimes, it doesn't work out that way and you move in the middle of a school year. That is the hardest.

Piper loves being in a Navy family. She calls her dad "Chief" which is his official rank and she has a wonderful sense of adventure that serves her well as she leaves good friends behind in California to move to Florida. Piper endures days and days in the car with her family as they drive across the country. The stories of who gets to sit where, for how long, and how they entertain themselves in the car is very familiar territory to me. One thing about moving a lot is that you grow very dependent on your family for company and entertainment. Piper's family is very much like my family was - so the story is true to life. The way the author portrays Piper's anxiety about making friends in a new place will be familiar to anyone who has moved to a new city.

Piper discovers that one of the best things about moving to Pensacola is that it is the home of the Blue Angels, the highly-trained acrobatic flying team who are goodwill ambassadors for the Navy. I often saw the Blue Angels perform on special occasions at air shows on Navy bases across the country as I was growing up. They are thrilling to watch. When Piper's class goes on a field trip to see the Blue Angels, she gets to meet the pilots - one of whom is a woman. Now that's a lot different than when I grew up. There were women who flew planes, but not in the Navy.

I completely understand Piper's desire to become a Blue Angel. Thank heavens, times have changed so that a nine-year-old girl has just as good a chance to become a Blue Angel as a nine-year-old boy. Christine Davenier's pen and ink illustrations perfectly capture Piper's personality in this chapter book.

This story was a great trip down memory lane for me as it would be for anyone who lives in a Navy, Army, Air Force or Marine family. It's a different kind of life than most people have, but it is an interesting life.

Reading is Fundamental Funding Update

CEO Carol H. Rasco of RIF sent a thank you and an update to the recent "Dear Colleague" campaign to save RIF's funding for 2009. Thanks to some of you who responded to my post, more than 45,000 RIF supporters sent e-mails, phone calls, letters, and faxes to Congress and this year more legislators than ever before signed the funding letter. Democracy in action is a beautiful thing. Check to see if your senator and or representatives signed. If they did, be sure to send them a note of thanks.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Introducing New SLJTeen

The folks at School Library Journal have responded to the expanding 'tweens and young adult market with the launch of SLJ Teen. What a fab piece of news this is in the publishing world where there is more contraction than expansion.

It is a joy to read about teens so passionate about reading that they're creating book clubs and writing book reviews. It's enough to make one think that there is hope for the traditionally packaged printed story after all.

For public and school librarians who work with this age group, this must feel like tremendous validation. And if the rest of the SLJ Teen team is as passionate about teens and books as Editor Dodie Ownes, then this publication is well on its way to becoming a beloved and trusted resource. I have known Dodie for some years and we've had many wonderful conversations about books we love. She has a long history with SLJ and has always volunteered as a school librarian at her son's schools. As he's grown, she has relished the role of resident book promoter to younger students and now teens.

Be sure to sign up here for your free, bimonthly electronic newsletter from SLJTeen.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Time for Summer Reading Lists? It's Not Possible.

For school librarians and teachers, Easter and Passover are the traditional harbingers of the last push to the end of the school year in schools that end in May. This year, Easter was early and Passover was this past weekend. So, as hard as it is to believe, it's time to assemble summer reading lists.

Here are some terrific sources of reading lists for kids, parents and teachers. Franki Sibberson has assembled a collection of picture books and middle-grade novels at Choice Literacy that have summer activities as their theme.

Education World features a round-up of reading lists from around the web by grade level.

Check out Reading Rockets for book lists, parent tips, teacher recommendations and reading research.

Kids Read features new and classic titles including all of the Newberry winners from 1922 to the present.

In addition to books by category, The Horn Book also recommends books on particular topics each month.

There is much on all of these lists to inspire the readers and would-be readers in your life. There is absolutely nothing as wonderful as a sleepy summer day, a comfortable perch, and a wonderful engrossing story. Good planning now will help you share that experience with kids this summer. Hmmmmm.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

It's Official: Public Libraries are Engines of Economic Growth

Every year at this time during National Library Week, we get an update on the state of the nation's libraries. According to the ALA's newly released State of America's Libraries Report 2008, "New studies provide solid evidence that the nation’s public libraries are engines of economic growth, contributing to local development through programming in early literacy, employment services and small-business development. Other studies show that libraries provide an excellent return on investment, have a measurable positive impact on the local economy and contribute to the stability, safety and quality of life of their neighborhoods."

Given these stellar results, it makes me wonder why we are not better at supporting libraries in our communities? Budgets in some areas are in free fall. Hours of operation are being curtailed. Programs are contracting rather than expanding and staff positions are being eliminated. Perhaps we could be a better, healthier, smarter nation if we increased our investments in preventive measures like getting kids excited about reading and learning before they turned to gang activity instead of building state-of-the-are prisons on the back end. Perhaps we could create communities that engage in healthy, informed debate instead of polarizing rhetoric. Perhaps we could even turn off all our electronic toys for an hour a day and not only read ourselves but encourage others to read for pleasure and the pleasure of learning new things. Perhaps.

Friday, April 11, 2008

National Poetry Month Fun for Kids and Teachers

What better way to celebrate Poetry Friday than to celebrate National Poetry Month? Helping students create their own poetry is a wonderful way to fine tune their literacy skills. The following links will take you to some wonderful free materials to use with students to help them learn how to express themselves through this ancient art form.

Classroom activities, lesson plans and web links from the International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English.

Online student writing workshop with
Jack Prelutsky - beloved children's poet.

All poetry all the time from the Academy of American Poets

Wonderful ways to celebrate National Poetry Month from the Children's Book Council

How to teach poetry to children, poems for kids, and lots of poetry activities

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

ABC Announces 2008 E.B. White Read-Aloud Picture Book Winner

Hooray for the Association of Booksellers for Children for choosing When Dinosaurs Came with Everything as the 2008 E.B. White Read-Aloud Picture Book Winner. I just love, love, love this book. In fact, I loved it so much when I read it for the Cybils Book Awards, that I sent a copy to my 4-year old nephew for Christmas and he love, love, loves it too.

Childrens' booksellers chose this title by Elise Broach and illustrated by David Small from among 43 picture books entered. The reading committee said it was the most highly recommended book on their list this year.

For those who have not yet read this book, you're in for a treat. Here's something to whet your appetite:

"Just when a little boy thinks he's going to die of boredom from running errands with his mom, the most remarkable, the most stupendous thing happens. He discovers that on this day, and this day only, stores everywhere are giving away a very special treat with any purchase." read more here.

If you are looking for a fun, imaginative story to read with little boys in particular, I highly recommend this book. And kudos to the childrens' booksellers for choosing such a great title as their 2008 winner. By the way, childrens bookstores are by definition independent, so support your local independent book stores!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Tom Chapin's Protest Song: It's Not on the Test

This is a wonderful commentary from singer-songwriter Tom Chapin on the end-of-year tests that students and their teachers are now focusing on. In addition to core subjects that have been virtually eliminated from the curriculum (like social studies), art, music, drama and author/illustrator visits are almost things of the past.

What kind of society are we creating here? Anyone like to chime in?

Thanks to Lee Wilson at Education Business Blog for his post on this song.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Poetry Friday: Ogden Nash

It's hard not to smile out loud with some of Ogden Nash's witty poems. Some could almost be considered "poem-lets" because of their brevity. But there are lots to choose from.
Here are a few samples:

The Guppy
Whales have calves,
Cats have kittens,
Bears have cubs,
Bats have bittens,
Swans have cygnets,
Seals have puppies,
But guppies just have little guppies.

The Firefly
The firefly's flame Is something for which science has no name
I can think of nothing eerier
Than flying around with an unidentified glow on a person's posteerier.

Further Reflections on Parsley
Is gharsley.