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Get Kids Excited About Presidential History Using the Award-Winning Anthology Exciting stories, informative essays, humorous poetry, and extraordinary art can help kids engage in the past and make connections with our present and future. A perfect resource for learning more about American and presidential history that provides all of this and MORE is the NCBLA's award-winning anthology Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out.
Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out
With Our White House, kids can learn about the building of the White House--and why it once burned. They can engage with intimate stories of those who have resided in the White House over the years, including presidential pets and ghosts! And kids can also discover the joys and sorrows that have faced our nation and the often gut-wrenching decisions needed to be made by our presidents.
Our White House was created by the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance as a collaborative effort by over one hundred award-winning authors and illustrators to encourage young people to read more about America’s rich history and culture; to think more about America’s future; to talk more about our nation’s leadership; and to act on their own beliefs and convictions, ensuring this great democratic experiment will survive and thrive.
The Our White House anthology is supported by a companion educational website, OurWhiteHouse.org, which expands the book content with additional stories, primary sources, articles, activities, and discussion questions related to book topics. The website also includes printable education resource guides on the OWH Plus page to help you make the most of the book's content in your classroom and library.
Our White House is available in both hardcover and paperback from Candlewick Press.
Ask for Our White House
at a library or bookstore near you!
Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review!
“Eight years in the making, this anthology of White House history convenes an all-star roster of 108 children's authors and illustrators, as well as a few scholars and former White House employees and residents and it is a blue-ribbon choice for family sharing during an election year. Chronologically ordered, the entries range from poems to presidential speeches, satirical cartoons to stately portraits. . . . The volume makes the invaluable point that history does not have to be remote or abstract, but a personal and ongoing engagement.”
The Horn Book Starred Review!
“With something for adults and children alike is the sumptuous new anthology Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out. . . . The contributors are all luminaries of the children’s book field. A fascinating, eminently browsable, and accessible entrance into the People’s House.”
School Library Journal Starred Review!
“This handsome compendium is rich with excerpts, poems, and other writings about the historic residence, many of them personal in tone and subject. With artwork as eclectic as the text, the book offers glimpses into the presidents, their concerns, their families, and the mansion itself.”
Featured on the “Martha Stewart Show” as One of The New York Times “Eight Great Books for the Holidays”
On the December 15, 2008 “Martha Stewart Show,” Martha advised procrastinating audience members and viewers to “Think books! I do!” as ideal holiday gifts. With that in mind New York Times book review editor Sam Tanenhaus shared recommendations of eight great books. Our White House was one of those books—the only children’s book on his list!
“This is the definitive White House book for history buffs young and old. Whether you seek ghost stories, architectural details, or personal accounts . . . you will not be disappointed. With amazing artwork and entries spanning more than 200 years from literary luminaries ranging from Charles Dickens to Walt Whitman, Gregory Maguire to David McCullough, there is material enough to keep you coming back for more.”
L.A. Parent Recommendation!
- 2009-2010 National Endowment for the Humanities We the People “Picturing America” Bookshelf Award
- 2009 American Library Association Notable Children’s Book for All Ages
- 2009 National Council for Social Studies and the Children’s Book Council Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People
- 2009 International Reading Association Teachers’ Choices Booklist Selection
- Amazon.com Best Books of 2008 Top 10 Editors’ Pick for Middle Readers
- Parents’ Choice Foundation Recommended Book Award, Fall 2008
- School Library Journal Best Books of the Year 2008
- The Horn Book Fanfare, Best Books of 2008
- Publisher’s Weekly 2008 Best Books of the Year, Children’s Nonfiction
- Publishers Weekly 2008 Cuffie Award, Best Nonfiction Treatment of a Subject, Honorable Mention
- Scripps-Howard News Service Favorite Children's Book of 2008
- www.ourwhitehouse.org named a 2009 American Library Association “Great Websites for Kids”
Helping Young People Connect with Contemporary Events
Tonight President Obama will make his state of the union address to Congress. Will he find refuge in the White House movie theater sometime beforehand to practice his delivery of tonight's speech, just as his predecessor President George W. Bush liked to do? What policies and legislative goals will the president be promoting tonight? Is the state of the union address important? Need we watch?
In his 1949 state of the union address, President Harry S Truman proposed his program of social and economic reform, asserting that “Every segment of our population, and every individual, has a right to expect from his government a fair deal."
In his state of the union address of 1974, President Richard Nixon refused to resign the presidency despite the rising tide of suspicion that was enveloping him...yet he did resign seven months later.
And in 1982 with the country in recession President Ronald Reagan called for a “New Federalism” in his state of the union address, advocating for less federal spending and more state initiatives to solve social and economic problems.
What might President Obama be proposing for Americans in tonight's speech?
Events such as the state of the union address provide a perfect opportunity to continue our dialog about American history and politics with our young people. Encourage young people to watch tonight's address. Watch it with them! When the speech is over, turn off the TV pundits and discuss the speech. What did they think about it? Do they agree with the president's proposals? Why or why not? Take the time to help young people make the connection to their own lives. Learn more about the constitutional requirements for the state of the union address in the New York Times article State of the Union.
An excellent resource to consult regarding the presidency, politics, and American history is the NCBLA’s art and literary anthology Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out. Our White House seeks to build on logical links between literacy, historical literacy, and civic engagement. Coordinating activities and discussion suggestions, as well as additional articles, are available on the book's supplemental website: ourwhitehouse.org.
On ourwhitehouse.org, learn from a political speech writer how a state of the union address differs from an inaugural address in "Writing Political Speeches: An Interview with Thomas LaFauci."
I Will Read To My Kids --
If I Ever Find The Time!
All right, so you've heard that you should read aloud to your kids fifteen minutes everyday. You've heard from teachers and pediatricians and politicians and the so-called "educational experts" that it is the best thing you can do ensure your child's success in reading and school. But who are they trying to kid with this fifteen minutes a day deal? It takes a heck of a lot more time than fifteen minutes a day!
First, if you are going to read books, you've got to have books to read. And that means getting everyone dressed, then driving to the library through rain, sun, sleet, hail, or snow, because at ten to twenty dollars a pop you're probably not going to have a pile of kid's books on your shelf at home. And a trip to the library is going to take at least a half hour and then you have to return the books, and of course one book will be lost, and you will be late getting it back. Then you will be penalized with late fees, all of which takes even more time.
And, you have not one child, but three, all different ages, all different temperaments, all different interests. Do you read different books to each child individually? That adds up to 45 minutes a day. And how do you know what book to read to each one? Do you read to all three at once? What if your three year old gets up and walks away in the middle of the story? And what if the baby starts crying? And what if your eight year old doesn't want to read "baby books" any more? And what if you've been working all day and you're so bone tired that you can't even keep your eyelids open to read?
I know. I understand. I've been there, too, with three kids, two jobs, and a husband whose work requires him to travel extensively. So here's the bad news. The best thing you can do to help your child succeed in reading and in school is to read aloud to them, period, the end. Why? Because you, taking the time to read aloud to your children, especially when you are so very busy, shows them that you think words and reading and books are very important. Reading aloud to children enriches their vocabularies, models reading behaviors, expands their emotional expression, and introduces them to story, history, folklore, and culture, enlarging their world. They love you. When you take the time to read to your kids, their love for you spills over. It encompasses all that you do together, so they will automatically begin to love books and language, too. And kids who love books and language definitely have a leg up on everyone else when they start school.
Here's the good news. Forget the fifteen minutes a day thing. Think about reading time in terms of a week's length of time instead of a day. When my kids were little I worried about their eating habits. Were they getting representative foods from all five food groups everyday? No. Sometimes my oldest would only eat chicken nuggets, peas, and white bread slathered with peanut butter for days. Eventually, I stopped worrying about daily food intake and began to think of my childrens' nutrition in terms of a week's time. It was only then that I realized that within a week they ate from a variety of food groups and were getting all the nutritional requirements their bodies needed to grow.
Think of your children's brain growth in weekly terms, too. Think in terms of providing your kids with language enriching experiences. For example; if you don't have the time to read a book aloud, tell them a story while you do the dinner dishes. The story can be as simple as you recalling a childhood memory, like the time your cat Henry gave birth to kittens under your parents' bed. Or, borrow a few book and tape sets from the library and when you are tired, lie down on your bed with your kids and listen to the tape together. While, driving back and forth doing errands play alphabet and word games in the car, or listen to great songs on a tape or a CD and sing along with the lyrics. Have your children "read" you a well loved book that they have actually memorized. Then, when you have the chance during the week to read for more than fifteen minutes, do so. It will compensate for the days you couldn't find time to read.
Be honest with yourself. Is it really a great imposition to get to the library? Do you find the time to go to the mall? Do you find the time to rent videos or DVD's? Videos have to be returned, too. If you really don't have the time to go to the library, check out your library's services. Many libraries now have bookmobiles which bring the books to you. And for returns, libraries can often arrange book pick-ups or they can renew your books over the phone.
Resolve this year to read aloud more to your children. Talk with them. Discuss their day and yours. Tell them more stories, made-up and real. Sing them more songs. It is time spent that you will never regret.
© 2007 Mary Brigid Barrett
Robin Adelson, Outgoing Executive Director
of the CBC and Every Child a Reader,
Talks to Teen Reads
Take a moment and read the insightful interview with esteemed Executive Director Robin Adelson of the Children's Book Council and Every Child a Reader on TeenReads.com here.
Here is an excerpt:
Every Child a Reader is a charitable organization focusing on literacy. Its mission is to instill a lifelong love of reading in children. It’s not enough to learn how to read. For a child to truly reach their potential as a student and ultimately as a productive member of society, you need to look beyond just learning the basics of reading. And to get beyond the basics, you have to have an appreciation for reading. With all of the things competing for your leisure time, if reading is one of those choices that you'll consider as you grow up, it expands your horizons in ways that ultimately expand your potential. We try to instill a lifelong love of reading by promoting the joy of reading, so it’s not just associated with school and chores and homework, but is recognized as something entertaining, cultural and artistic.
Learn more about the Children's Book Council at CBCBooks.org and Every Child a Reader at ECARFoundation.org.
Help the NCBLA In this season of giving, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to the NCBLA. Large or small, we value and honor every donation.To make a donation by credit card using our secure credit card service, click here. To send a check or money order, please mail your donation to:Mary Kemper, TreasurerThe National Children's Book and Literacy AllianceP.O. Box 1479Brewster, MA 02631 Thank you! We hope you and your family have a delight-filled holiday season and a joyous New Year!
Help All of Our Nation's Kids
Expert Tips for Finding Perfect BooksWhen you buy a special book for a child at Hanukkah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa, it helps your child to create emotional connections linking family, tradition, and reading. It also sends the message that receiving books is as pleasurable an experience as receiving toys.
for Special Young People
this Holiday Season
I asked Natacha Liuzzi, librarian and book buyer, for some age-pertinent book suggestions for gift giving this year. Natacha's youthful appearance belies the fact that she has years of experience connecting kids to books. For eight years, Natacha was the Children's Services Librarian at the Hinesburg Public Library in Hinesburg, Vermont. There she was responsible for buying all the children's, middle grade, and young adult materials, servicing children from toddlers through to high school students. Currently, Natacha is the children's book buyer for the independent Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Vermont. For the past four years she has served on a committee that nominates picture books for the Red Clover Award, Vermont's annual student choice awards. She is also the RIF coordinator for the Hinesburg Community School, providing each student with a free book three times yearly, and she was the Hinesburg Literacy Team coordinator working with area preschool and reading teachers throughout Chittenden County.
Finding a special book for the child you love can be an overwhelming task given the selection available at your bookstore. Natacha offers the following advice:
- Find out what the child or teen has read already. Ask them what authors they like to read.
- Discover the subjects and topics that interest them.
- Find out if they prefer fiction or nonfiction, fantasy or reality.
- Don't be afraid to ask your neighborhood children's librarian or children's books seller for suggestions and advice.
- Read your local newspaper's book section. Many newspapers and magazines feature book suggestions this time of year.
- Be consumer savvy. The books with biggest marketing budgets are not necessarily the best books for you child or teen. And conversely, a book you've never heard of may contain the story that changes your child’s or teen's life. Natacha says, "Just because a book jacket may look promising does not mean the story is going to live up to it. We all fall victim at one time or another to 'judging a book by its cover.'
- Take into consideration the content and age recommendation. I think great care needs to be taken, especially if a young reader is at a higher reading level. Even though the child can read the material the content is not always appropriate.
- No one is ever too old for a picture book!!
- Consider all possibilities: great literature and fun, entertaining books. Says Natacha, "Think of books in terms of chocolate mousse and a Hershey kiss. There are moments for both!"
Great Book Gift Suggestions Going to the bookstore with a list of recommended books in hand can help guide your choices. Click the titles of the following lists for some authoritative advice: © 2005, 2014 by Mary Brigid Barrett
Share Holiday Traditions
in Our Nation's Capitol
with the Young People in Your Life
The lighting ceremony of the National Menorah on the White House Ellipse will take place Tuesday, December 16th at 4:00 p.m. Tickets are FREE, but required for entry. To learn more, click here.
Share the story of how the Christmas tree became a White House tradition and how farmers across America compete to grow the “Grand Champion” selected to adorn the White House each year in "Grand Champions of the White House" by Renee Critcher Lyons on OurWhiteHouse.org.Read about the history of the National Christmas Tree, which graces the Ellipse between the White House and the Washington Monument, in "Our National Christmas Tree" by Cheli Mennella on OurWhiteHouse.org. Here is an excerpt:The magnificent blue spruce towers above the Ellipse, the ground between the White House and the Washington Monument. Throughout the year it is a silent reminder of yuletide pleasures and joy. Then in December the tree takes on new significance. Dressed in strands of colorful lights and trimmed with ornaments, the tree, our National Christmas Tree, becomes a beacon of beauty and brilliance.Watch the lighting ceremony of this year's tree at: http://thenationaltree.org/2014-national-christmas-tree-lighting-on-demand/Read Newbery-medal winning author Susan Cooper's contrasting memories of the White House--one at a time of sorrow and another at a time of Christmas splendor--in "Memory of the White House" on OurWhiteHouse.org at: http://www.ourwhitehouse.org/memoryofwhouse.htmlDiscover MORE About the White House and
American History in
Our White House:
Looking In, Looking OutFor even more information and stories about White House holiday traditions, the presidents and first ladies, and American history, check out a copy of Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out from your local library and share the extensive fiction and nonfiction pieces and plethora of original art illustrations with the young people in your life. To learn more about White House holidays, you might choose to read how the American hostage crisis in 1979 affected the lighting of the national Christmas tree during President Carter’s term in office in “From Christmas in Plains: Memories” by Jimmy Carter.Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out is sold in hardcover and paperback at bookstores everywhere. LEARN MORE about this anthology at OurWhiteHouse.org.
Supplemental Education Resources
Created for In Search of Wonder
Now Available Online
for All Educators and Librarians
Are you looking for creative ways to implement outstanding fiction and nonfiction literature in your library and classroom using the Common Core English Language Standards?
Then be sure to check out the NCBLA's education support materials designed to supplement our recent interdisciplinary professional development day titled In Search of Wonder: Common Core and More, held in conjunction with the Perry Ohio School District.
|In Search of Wonder Author and Illustrator Steven Kellogg|
Photo (c) 2014 David Rzeszotarski
Author Education Resource Guides
We have developed a series of five education resource guides, each of which provides engaging activities and discussion questions all linked to particular Common Core standards and designed to demonstrate how you can use the books of renowned authors Katherine Paterson, Steven Kellogg, Nikki Grimes, Tanya Lee Stone, and Chris Crutcher in your classroom or library. Lists of Book Recommendations by Category
|In Search of Wonder Author Katherine Paterson|
Photo (c) 2014 Jeff Rzeszotarski
In addition, our participating specialists in literature for young people shared their expertise by recommending both fiction and nonfiction book titles—new titles and classic titles!—that represent some of the best books for young people in twelve different categories: • Earth Science, Geology, and Plant Life
|In Search of Wonder Author Nikki Grimes|
Photo (c) 2014 David Rzeszotarski
• Humans and Animals, Biology and Health
• Chemistry and Physics
• Computer Science, Engineering, and Technology
• American History
• World History
• American Literature
• World Literature
• Visual Arts
• Performing Arts
The entry for each book in the book lists includes a recommended age range and summary to help you decide which books will meet your needs, plus other basic information you need to find the book at your library or bookstore. Just like our education resource guides, each list has been published as an easy-to-print file. To review, download, and print all our education resources, click here.
|In Search of Wonder Author Tanya Lee Stone|
Photo (c) 2014 Verdi Photography
To read more about In Search of Wonder, including the biographies of our participating authors and lists of their books with Common Core Connections, click here.
|In Search of Wonder Author Chris Crutcher|
Photo (c) 2014 David Rzeszotarski
And to see the full photo album from our day-long event that celebrated quality fiction and nonfiction literature, visit our Facebook page. While you are there, be sure to Like Us so you can keep up with all our projects and events!
This Year Marks
200th Anniversary of the
Burning of the White House
|"Struggling to Stand"|
Copyright (c) 2008 by Wendell Minor
In August of 1814, during the War of 1812, British troops marched into our nation's capital and set fire to the White House. In the NCBLA's award-winning anthology Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out, young people can learn not only about the building of the White House, but also why it burned in 1814 through its incomparable collection of essays, personal accounts, historical fiction, poetry, and stunning array of original art.
Engage young people in the following War of 1812 content in Our White House:
- Wendell Minor's stunning illustration "Struggling to Stand"
- Ralph Ketcham's enlightening essay regarding the days and events preceding the War of 1812 in "The White House Prepares for War: 1812"
- Susan Cooper's poignant, imagined letter written by a British soldier to his parents about the burning of the White House titled "The Burning of the White House"
- Don Brown's story of Dolley Madison in "Dolley Madison Rescues George Washington"
- An excerpt from the 1865 memoir of Paul Jennings, a former slave who worked in the Madison White House, titled "The First White House Memoir: 1865"
Also check out the exclusive articles and education resources available on the companion website OurWhiteHouse.org, such as:
"Primary Sources: Dolley Madison's Letter to Her Sister About the Burning of the White House" "Star Spangled Presidents" by Helen Kampion"Presidential Fact Files" and "First Lady Fact Files"
Our White House is available
in both hardcover and paperback from Candlewick Press.
Ask for it at a library or bookstore near you!
September 2014 Marks This month marks the 200th anniversary of "The Star Spangled Banner." Did you know that our national anthem has its roots in a poem and a drinking song? And that baseball played a role in its history?Share the story of how Francis Scott Key's poem became our national anthem. It's all in "Star Spangled Presidents" by Helen Kampion on the NCBLA's education website OurWhiteHouse.org! Click here to read the article.
the 200th Anniversary of
Our National Anthem
The website OurWhiteHouse.org is the online education companion to the NCBLA's award-winning anthology Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out, an incomparable collection of essays, personal accounts, historical fiction, poetry, and a stunning array of original art, offering a multifaceted look at America’s history through the prism of the White House. With Our White House, kids can learn about the building of the White House--and why it once burned. They can engage with intimate stories of those who have resided in the White House over the years, including presidential pets and ghosts! And kids can also discover the joys and sorrows that have faced our nation and the often gut-wrenching decisions needed to be made by our presidents.
Our White House was created by the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance as a collaborative effort by over one hundred award-winning authors and illustrators to encourage young people to read more about America’s rich history and culture; to think more about America’s future; to talk more about our nation’s leadership; and to act on their own beliefs and convictions, ensuring this great democratic experiment will survive and thrive.Ask for Our White House at a library or bookstore near you! And learn more at OurWhiteHouse.org.
Northern Ohio SCBWI to Host The Northern Ohio chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) invites adults interested in writing for young people to join them at their monthly workshops and annual conference. You do not need to be a member of SCBWI to attend.
Three Fall Writing Events
SCBWI is the only professional organization specifically for those individuals writing and illustrating for children and young adults. It acts as a network for the exchange of knowledge between writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, agents, librarians, educators, booksellers and others involved with literature for young people (see www.scbwi.org).
Upcoming 2014 events include:
Pre-registration is required for all events. For more details, visit https://ohionorth.scbwi.org.
- In the Heart of it All – SCBWI: Northern Ohio’s 12th Annual Conference, September 19-20 at the Sheraton Cleveland Airport Hotel. The perfect place to learn more about writing and illustrating and meet some of the most knowledgeable professionals in the field of publishing who are eager to educate, inspire, and encourage attendees!
- Good is no longer Good Enough – Writing the Stand-out Picture Book/ Novel Workshop with Dandi Daley Mackall, October 18 at the Holiday Inn Cleveland South. Through presentations, writing exercises, Q&A and written critiques, the day's emphasis will be on striving for excellence when writing picture books, nonfiction picture books, novels and historical fiction novels. (There is currently a waiting list for this event.)
- November 15th Critique Meeting with Michelle Houts,November 15 at the Highland Library in Medina. Bring a manuscript to share or just listen and learn from others’ critiques.
Questions? Contact Victoria Selvaggio, SCBWI: Northern Ohio Regional Advisor at email@example.com.
Top FIVE Reasons to Register for
In Search of Wonder: Common Core & More
Teachers, principals, librarians, parents, students of education and library science, book lovers--you are ALL invited to register for the NCBLA's upcoming literary event
|Illustration (c) Steven Kellogg |
In Search of Wonder: Common Core & More
to be held Friday, October 17, 2014 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Perry, Ohio.
But WHY should you take a day to attend? We are so glad you asked!
Five reasons to register for In Search of Wonder aren't enough? Here are a few more:
- FIVE FAMOUS AUTHORS!
Sit back and hear firsthand the inspiring, wise, and often witty words of five of America's most talented authors: Katherine Paterson, Steven Kellogg, Nikki Grimes, Tanya Lee Stone, and Chris Crutcher!
- COMMON CORE COMMENTARY!
Are you wondering how you can possibly integrate Common Core into your classroom or library program in an inspired and magical way? Our expert Common Core commentators will demonstrate exactly how you can do that using books written by our five featured authors.
- EXPERT PANEL DISCUSSION!
Our panel of educators, librarians, and children's literature industry specialists will discuss classic, contemporary, and brand new books that can be utilized across all academic disciplines and grade levels to enhance students’ learning experiences. Are you questioning the goals of Common Core? Wondering how to help young people identify fact in fiction? Come hear what the experts have to say.
- FREE BOOKS!
Every registered attendee will receive a free hardcover copy of the NCBLA's award-winning anthology Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out at the end of the day, courtesy of Candlewick Press. A $30.00 value!
PLUS, every registered attendee will have the opportunity to win one of our TEN themed book bags at the end of the day. Many of these giveaway books have been autographed by the authors!
- AFFORDABLE PRICE!
The event fee is just $35. Members of NEA, AFT, NCTE, and ALA pay only $25. Employees of the Cleveland Public Library, CLEVENET member libraries, and Cleveland Public Schools also pay only $25. Undergraduate and graduate university students pay $15.
Convinced? To register now, click here.Need more information? Please click here to read all the details!
- FREE educational support materials will be published online to provide creative ways you can integrate engaging and quality literature in your classroom or library using the Common Core Standards.
- Contact hour certificates will be provided.
- A special display of Steven Kellogg’s original illustrations will be available for you to browse, courtesy of the Mazza Museum in Findlay, Ohio.
- On-site book sales and AUTOGRAPHING by all five of our featured authors!
Grown-ups begin a new year on January 1st, but for kids the new year begins on the first day of school. Although kids love to "hate" school, many are truly eager to learn, to get back to their school, its social scene, and its reassuring routine. New kids in town, oldest children, kids transitioning from elementary to middle school or from middle school to high school, or kids with learning or behavioral challenges, may feel a little anxious when the new school year rolls around.Our job as parents is to raise our children to be independent. One of parenting's greatest challenges is learning to distinguish when and how much we should help our children and when we should encourage them to solve problems themselves. The best way to help your children or teens prepare for school this year is to teach them by example and by posing questions that will help them think through their own problems and arrive at workable solutions.Some Helpful Tips:
Great Tips for Reducing the Stress
of Going Back to School
Happy School Year!!© 2013 Mary Brigid Barrett
- Use the two weeks prior to school starting to let your child readjust to their new bedtime. Set their alarm each night and make sure your little one is up and at em' the next morning.
- Take time to go over your child's car pool or bus schedule as well. This way they will be aware of what time they need to be ready when the big day arrives. In addition, you may want to go over routes and how long the ride to school will take. Most importantly, talk to your child about car/bus safety!
- If your child is new to town, the oldest, or transitioning from one school to another, make sure he or she has the opportunity to tour the school a few days before school begins. Encourage your child to ask questions of you and anyone he or she meets at the school. Be aware that younger children, preteens, and teens will all have different fears and concerns. And, older kids may be too insecure to ask questions for fear of appearing stupid or un-cool. For example: young children may worry about paying for lunch the first time and where the lavatories are located in relationship to their classroom. Preteens and teens may be more worried about their lockers, lock combinations, and what they're going to wear the first day of school.
- Before any "back to school" clothing is purchased, make sure you and your child or teen know the school dress code. That knowledge will ease family tension and save you a great deal of time and trouble.
- From kindergarten on, encourage your children to dress in a way that is compatible with his or her personality. Let them know that being true to themselves is "way" better than being trendy; in fact, the kids who create trends never copy anyone else. Peer pressure builds as kids get older and celebrating individuality through clothing style is a great way to show your kids that they do not need the approval of popular kids to survive, and thrive, in school.
- The night before school have your child pick out a first day outfit. This will avoid adding unnecessary chaos to an already hectic event. Have them pack their backpack as well. Click here for tips on backpack safety: http://www.kidshealth.org/parent/positive/learning/backpack.html
- School textbooks are getting heavier and heavier. Make sure you child or preteen has a sturdy backpack that distributes the weight of books equally. You may want to invest in a roller backpack that has a luggage handle so that your child can pull his or her backpack instead of carrying it.
- If you plan on packing them a lunch ask them what they would like to eat on the first day of school. If you aren't fixing their lunch, be sure to give them lunch money and have them put it in a safe place.
- If your children will be participating in any extracurricular sports, they will need a physical. Schedule it as soon as possible, even before school starts.
- If your kids had required reading over the summer, you may want to have an informal discussion with them about their reading right before school starts. Ask them to remind you what books they read and why they liked or disliked them. Don't be satisfied with simplistic explanations; ask for details about characters, place, and plot. Ask them if and why they would recommend the book to other kids. Your informal book chat will jog their memories and help them if they are assigned a report on their summer reading.
- Share your own feelings and memories about your first day of school experiences: being the new kid in town; the first one in the family to ride a bus to school; or the forgetting your locker combination running between classes in middle school. When your kids share their worries or concerns, don't dismiss or trivialize them. Validate their concerns. Ask them if they have ideas on what they can do to alleviate their apprehensions. If they do not have ideas, brainstorm with them to come up with viable solutions and actions.
- In this era of "kidnap fears" it is hard not to be too overprotective of your children, but try. In most of America, kids can walk to school safely. They can ride the bus safely, too. Human skin is waterproof, and dressed for the occasion, kids can walk in the rain and snow unharmed. The classroom is not the only place where learning occurs. The journey to and from school provides your kids with another situation in which to learn. If your area is "traffic safe," adequately prepare your kids with safety tips and, at an age appropriate time, stop driving them to school door and let them explore. Their self-esteem will swell with their responsible independence.
- Make sure your child has a library card, knows his or her way around the library, and knows how to find the books he or she will need to complete assignments and read for pleasure during the school year.
- Get into the habit of going to the library once a week or once every two weeks, regardless of whether or not your child's school assignments require it. The best way you can help your children achieve in school is to encourage them to read and become life-long readers. The best place to get free books, magazines, computer access, entertaining stories, and important information is your neighborhood library.
- No matter how old or young your children, read through the school student handbook with them at the beginning of every year. You both need to know the school's goals, expectations, opportunities, and rules.
- Fill out any medical and emergency forms and return them to the school immediately. If your child has any special health or physical needs make sure you put those needs in writing and that the principal, your child's teacher, and the school nurse all have copies.
- Establish a safe place in the house where all school forms and notices can be deposited every day. Get your kids in the habit of taking all forms and notices out of their backpacks and putting them in that safe place as soon as they walk through your door. They need to learn from kindergarten on that they are responsible for making sure you receive all communications from their school. It may help to give each of your children, including your teens, a sturdy plastic folder that they can keep in their backpack to carry notices home safely.
- Rusty Browder, the librarian at Amos A. Lawrence School in Brookline, Mass., recommends that kids of all ages acquire great "backpack habits." She suggest that kids go through their backpacks everyday, organize papers and notebooks, give parents important notices and work, and throw out garbage of any kind! Older kids who have locker breaks between classes may want to organize their heavy textbooks in groups of morning and afternoon classes so that one group of books can be left in their lockers until needed.
- Read aloud to your children from their favorite books, every night if possible, if only for ten or fifteen minutes. And don't assume that once your child has become an independent reader that he or she no longer wants, or needs, to be read aloud to. Kids of all ages, and adults, love to hear a great story. And reading aloud increases your children's vocabulary, makes them laugh, expands their universe, and helps them to learn about human understanding and compassion. Besides- it's great fun!
- Try to find a special time each day to talk with your children about their day at school. Sometimes that moment takes place in the car driving between after-school activities. Sometimes it takes place on the phone from home to your work place. Sometimes it takes place at the table over dinner. Wherever and whenever it takes place, don't ask the question, "How was school today?" –– it is a certainty that you will get a one word answer. Ask: what was served in the cafeteria; did you have gym outside; how did your history presentation go? –– anything to initiate a conversation. Never underestimate your impact or importance to your kids. Your taking the time to take an interest in them and their day is not only important to their education, it is something they will remember and cherish the rest of their lives.
- Send them off with big kisses and a bunch of well wishes!
Teachers! Many kids think of writing as a burden and a chore rather than as a pleasurable experience. Here are some suggestions to help you motivate your students to get them writing. • Professional writers choose their own topics and story ideas; they write about things they care about. In our current test oppressive culture, students have little opportunity to choose their own writing topics. Whenever possible, offer your students choices within a given writing assignment. If, after being given a writing assignment, a student comes up with a legitimately better idea, be flexible; allow them to bend the assignment to meet their interests. • Fight to keep creative writing projects in your classroom and your school’s curriculum. With state testing mandates, many teachers have little time to spend on creative writing projects. Your students need to experience writing for joy and pleasure, just like they need to experience reading and books in a pleasurable atmosphere. • Introducing kids to rich and entertaining children’s literature is the best way to get kids excited about reading and books. Creating their own stories is one of the best ways you can get your students excited about writing. • The esteemed writer Virginia Woolf suggested that a writer needs "a room of one’s own." Writers need privacy in order to work and school is, conversely, a communal experience. What’s to be done? First, buck the team work trend and have your students work independently on their own writing projects and assignments. Second, see if there is some way you can allow your students to find their own writing space either in the classroom or in the school library, even if they can only use the space on occasion. Third, contact your students' parents and ask them to help their children find a special place at home to write. You may want to print and make multiple copies of Creating a Home Atmosphere That Supports Great Writing, and give a copy to each of your students’ parents. It will help them create an atmosphere at home to support their children’s writing. • Be a role model. If you want your students to think that writing is a pleasurable activity, then you should try to write, too, and let them see you writing. Participate yourself in the creative writing projects you give your students and let them hear the results of your attempts, after they have completed their assignments. If you have the courage to share your writing, they will follow your example!For more great tips and articles about encouraging literacy in the classroom and at home, visit the NCBLA's Teacher Handbook and Parent & Guardian Handbook. ©2004 Mary Brigid Barrett
Set The Stage for Great Writing
Interview with Two Literacy Experts Delves into Censorship Issues in Children's Literature
Recently NCBLA President and Executive Director Mary Brigid Barrett and children's literature specialist Maria Salvadore talked with Anna Pivovarchuk of the Fair Observer. The interview is published in an article titled "Banning Children’s Literature: The Right to Read." Here is an excerpt:
|Illustration courtesy of FairObserver.com.|
Pivovarchuk: Children’s books — or literature for young adults — have been the most frequently challenged throughout history. From Huckleberry Finn, The Catcher in the Rye, to the Harry Potter series that topped the list over the last decade, and now to Captain Underpants, which pushed the controversial Fifty Shades of Grey off the top spot in 2013. What it is about these books that makes parents so angry?
Barrett: I think sometimes, on a surface level, parents feel that exposure to certain books challenges the beliefs and values they are trying to instill in their children, and they feel threatened. As a parent and teacher, I totally understand those feelings, especially when talking about age appropriateness issues. Over the last three years, visiting schools and working with children, I have found a number of kids as young as third grade who read The Hunger Games books. No matter how intellectually precocious a third grader is, few, if any, third graders would have the experience level and the emotional maturity to deal with the violence level in those books.
But banning The Hunger Games is not the answer. I found, as a parent, the best way to handle a situation where your child is adamant about reading a book, which you are worried is inappropriate, is to read it aloud with your child, so you can comment on it; your child can share his or her reaction to what is read; and you can then have a discussion with your child, sharing your values, your feelings about what is read and, in turn, your child can share his or her concerns and ask you questions.
A dear friend, author Katherine Paterson, has often found her books on the most challenged children’s books list. One of those, The Bridge to Terabithia, is often challenged for a variety of reasons. Amongst challenger claims are that it contains offensive language, promotes secular humanism, new age religions, cults and witchcraft. But Katherine thinks that in some parents it ignites a much greater parental fear — the fear of your child dying. One of the main child characters in the book dies, and not from an illness or premeditated act, or adult abuse or error, but from a total accident where no one is at fault and no one is responsible. Katherine feels that the real reason the book is challenged is that parents want to feel they are in control, and have the ability to keep their children safe. But deep down, we all know that no matter how much we love our kids, no matter how we try to protect them, anything can happen at any time. The Bridge to Terabithia reveals the deepest, darkest fear we all have as parents: that we can care for our children, but we cannot control the universe — it can take them at any time.To read the entire article, vist FairObserver.com.
Great Ideas for Connecting Kids
to Books this Summer,
Especially for Coaches,
Counselors, and Mentors
Grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends, neighbors, coaches, scout and camp councilors, youth volunteers—all of you have far more influence on the kids in your life than you know. And you have enormous influence on the children and teens that have parents who, for whatever reason, are unable to fulfill their parental responsibilities. Your position is free of even ordinary parental/child/teen tension, and because of that, your leadership and friendship are hugely meaningful, especially to preteen and teens that are naturally looking beyond their own backyards for mentors. Don’t be afraid to exert your influence encouraging kids to read, to write, to stay in school and learn.
Young and single adult mentors’ words are gold – especially to teens – so share what you’re reading with the kids. The next time you visit or meet with kids, bring magazines that you enjoy and magazines you think they would like, too. Mention articles in newspapers that interest you, as well as online materials. Share a book – a mystery, romance, biography, fantasy, or information book – that you have found especially entertaining or helpful. You are much cooler than any old parent or guardian, and if you suggest something to read, the kids will be eager to read it themselves.
Coaches and youth organization leaders schedule an informal “rain” practice or meeting in the children’s or young adults’ rooms at your local neighborhood library. Make sure to email or call your library to let them know when you will be coming to visit. And give them an idea of how many kids will be coming. If you, or your kids, do not have library cards, take the opportunity to get a library card and show the kids how to use it. Ask the librarian to show the kids where books and magazines are located that relate to their interests: sports, scouting, camping, arts and crafts, games, etc. Make sure the librarian introduces them to picture books and novels, to great stories that relate to their interests. And be sure that the kids know that they can also borrow audio books, music CDs, and video and DVDs of their favorite movies – all for free. The example of a coach or scout leader borrowing books from the library will have a far greater impact on kids than any literacy entreaty delivered by their parents or teachers.
Write up your team’s, group’s, or organization’s activities and email or fax your report to your local community paper to get your kids reading newspapers. Community papers are eager to report town activities. If your report gets published, make sure you bring the newspaper to the next practice or meeting to share with your kids. Read the blurb or report out loud and show the kids other sections of the paper that may be of interest to them. If you work with tweens and teens, rotate the “reporter’s” duties through various members of the team and let them write up the information about the game or group activity. They will be thrilled to see their words printed in the local paper. If you live in an urban area that supports a major newspaper, be sure to bring that newspaper to a meeting and point out the sports and life style sections that echo the kids’ interests.
Explore how you can connect the kids in your team or group to reading and books. When kids join America SCORES Soccer, they commit to learning how to be great soccer players and to reading and writing poetry. America SCORES is a nationwide program that uses poetry and soccer as tools to teach literacy, life skills and the importance of community service to inner-city elementary school children. The children participate five days a week for ten weeks each fall and spring. They spend two days a week learning poetry and implementing a community service project; the remaining three days per week are devoted to soccer instruction and games played against other area SCORES teams. “SCORES student-athletes improve their reading and writing skills, learn to express themselves, help their community, make lasting friendships, and learn valuable life skills that will help them advance in the classroom, on the playing field, and in society.”
SCORES was originally designed to be both a literacy and sport program, but your team or organization need not totally overhaul its mission in order to connect kids to books. If you run a scouting or recreation program, you might consider starting a book discussion group that meets regularly at a local spot kids enjoy, like a burger joint, ice cream parlor, local park, coffee shop, or neighborhood library. Your local librarian can suggest age appropriate books that work well for kids’ book discussion groups. You may create an incentive program with an award or certificate for the kids on your team that read a designated number of books during the season. Legendary basketball coach Phil Jackson gave his players a reading list at the beginning of each season. You may choose to read a humorous poem at the beginning of your youth organization meetings. A Big Brother or Sister can take their charge to a great kid’s movie inspired by a children’s book, then go to the library or bookstore and get the book that inspired the movie and read it together. The opportunities to connect kids to books are limitless!2005 (c) Mary Brigid Barrett; The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance
Summer Reading Recommendations from Authoritative Sources Abound
Would you like to visit your local library or bookstore with a list of summer reading books for your kids in hand? Then check out inspiring recommendations from the following expert sources:
And don't forget to ask the librarian at your local library for help in finding just the right book for your child! He or she can help you find the perfect books for your kids based on their interests and reading levels.
To Spark Summer Learning,
Start with a Book!
Need help coming up with ideas to keep your child reading and writing over the summer? Reading Rockets’ Start with a Book has some cool ideas to jump start your summer learning adventures:
- Strengthen kids’ literacy, inquiry, and problem-solving skills with a combination of great books and the easy hands-on activities Start with a Book offers in these science-themed activity packs.
- Use Start with a Book themes to plan reading and learning adventures in your own community. Take advantage of the related books, activities and apps selected to extend the learning.
- Encourage kids to write about their learning adventures using this fun, downloadable Adventure Tracker.
- Can’t get to the library? Create your own summer reading program and let kids log all of their summer reading with the Start with a Book Summer Book Tracker.
- Sign up for Summer Reading Tips to Go and get more great ideas for reading, writing and hands-on summertime fun texted right to your phone, in English or Spanish.
In Search of Wonder:
Common Core and More
Professional Development Day
October 17th, 2014 in Perry, Ohio
The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance is launching a new education initiative—In Search of Wonder: Common Core and More—in Northern Ohio this fall! This inspiring professional development day is designed for teachers, librarians, and caretakers—any and all adults who live with and work for young people! “In Search of Wonder: Common Core and More” will take place on NEOEA Day, October 17th, at the Goodwin Theatre in Perry, Ohio and will feature authors Katherine Paterson, Nikki Grimes, Tanya Lee Stone, Steven Kellogg, and a soon-to-be named YA author! For more information and registration details, click here.
We are working with Perry, Ohio School’s chief media specialist Jodi Rzeszotarski and the Cleveland Public Library’s Director of Children’s Services Annisha Jeffries to plan the day’s schedule so we ensure In Search of Wonder addresses the Common Core needs of all teachers and librarians.
Recently, I spent time with Jodi at the Perry Schools touring their beautiful facilities and had an inspiring afternoon working with Annisha and her talented and energetic staff at the Cleveland Public Library (CPL). As a teen working in downtown Cleveland, I spent most of my lunch hours at the CPL, so it was with special joy that I saw all the remarkable changes Annisha and her staff have created—a new teen room, the only safe harbor for teens downtown, a beautiful arts center for creative activities, and the huge reading rooms overflowing with books, looking out onto the city and the lake. Annisha and her staff have accomplished so much in two short years!
Mary Brigid Barrett
President and Executive Director
The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance
Creating A Home Atmosphere The following article, written by NCBLA Executive Director Mary Brigid Barrett, comes from the NCBLA's Parent and Guardian Handbook: Some tweens and teens have a natural compulsion to write, but many kids would rather clean their room, the kitchen, and the garage than complete a writing assignment. Providing your kids with a comfortable, supportive atmosphere is one of the best things you can do to help them become strong writers.
That Supports Great Writing
Check out more helpful information to make literacy a priority in your home in the NCBLA's Parent and Guardian Handbook.
- Writing is hard work, consequently, many kids put off writing assignments to the last possible moment. If your tweens or teens dread writing, encourage them to do their writing assignments first, before they do their other homework. Writing with a tired, fried brain only compounds the challenge. If your kids are given an assignment that spans a length of time, encourage them to address it early on to avoid the last minute "all nighter" syndrome.
- Writing is an activity that is done alone. If your teens do not have a room to call their own, provide a space that they can claim as their own. It should have a comfortable chair to sit in and a surface on which to write. Some teens will write better while sitting on the floor or sprawled across their beds. What is important is that they have their own space.
- Make sure you have ample writing materials on hand. Keep pencils, pens, erasers, lined writing paper, and computer paper in an accessible place in your home.
- If you do not have a personal computer your neighborhood public library will have computers that your kids can use free of charge. Call your library and ask what times the computers are likely to be open without a long wait.
- Turn off the television. Writing involves a great deal of concentration, and when writing informational essays and reports, a great deal of research reading, too. Television is a distraction your kids can do without.
- Some kids write better in total silence and some kids write better with music playing lightly in the background. If your teens insist that music be playing while they write, suggest that they experiment with different kinds of background music. Make your kids aware that writing is both an internal and an external auditory experience, and the rhythm of their written words may be influenced by the music they play while they write.
- Make sure that you have a dictionary and thesaurus in your home that is readily accessible. Encourage your teen to use them daily.
- Great readers make great writers. Encourage your kids to read great books and magazines. And make sure you let them see you reading! Your example will be more powerful than anything you say.
YA Author CHRIS CRUTCHER to Speak at
In Search of Wonder: Common Core and More
October 17th in Perry, Ohio
The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance is thrilled to announce that esteemed author for young adults Chris Crutcher will be joining Katherine Paterson, Nikki Grimes, Steven Kellogg, and Tanya Lee Stone as a keynote speaker for In Search of Wonder: Common Core and More, an interdisciplinary, professional development day designed for educators, librarians, parents, and students of education and library science to be held October 17 in Perry, Ohio. Together we will share information about new and classic fiction and nonfiction literature that can be used in the classroom across a variety of academic disciplines ~ a semester’s worth of information in one day! Chris Crutcher was raised in Cascade, Idaho, a lumber and cattle ranch town located in the central Idaho Rockies, a two hour drive over treacherous two-lane from the nearest movie theater and a good forty minutes from the nearest bowling alley. In high school he played football, basketball and ran track, not because he was a stellar athlete, but because in a place so isolated, every able bodied male was heavily recruited. “If you didn’t show up on the first day of football practice your freshman year,” he says, “they just came to your house and got you. And your parents let them in.” His early interest in stories came principally from reading Jean Shepherd and other fine authors in the Playboy Magazine delivered monthly to his house because, as he overheard his father saying to his mother, “Some of the very finest contemporary American literature graces the pages of that magazine.” Full disclosure, there is justified suspicion that he may have perused some of the photography before settling down to serious reading. Crutcher’s years as teacher, then director, of a K-12 alternative school in Oakland, California through the nineteen-seventies, and his subsequent twenty-odd years as a therapist specializing in child abuse and neglect, inform his thirteen novels and two collections of short stories. “I have forever been intrigued by the extremes of the human condition,” he says, “the remarkable juxtaposition of the ghastly and the glorious. As Eric ‘Moby’ Calhoun tells us at the conclusion of Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, ‘Ain’t it a trip where heroes come from’.” He has also written what he calls an ill-advised autobiography titled King of the Mild Frontier, which was designated by “Publisher’s Weekly” as “the YA book most adults would have read if they knew it existed.” Chris has received a number of coveted awards, from his high school designation as “Most Likely to Plagiarize” to the American Library Association’s Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award. His favorites are his two Intellectual Freedom awards, one from the National Council for Teachers of English and the other from the National Coalition Against Censorship. Five of Crutcher’s books appeared on an American Library Association list of the 100 Best Books for Teens of the Twentieth Century (1999 to 2000). A recent NPR list of the Best 100 YA and Children’s books included none of those titles. Time flies. Crutcher no longer listens to, nor contributes to, NPR. Learn more about Crutcher and his books on his website ChrisCrutcher.com. To learn more about In Search of Wonder and to register, click here.
Educators, Librarians, Parents, and Students of Education and Library Science!
Have You Registered for the NCBLA's Professional Development Day
In Search of Wonder: YOU are invited to attend a very special event with five renowned authors to learn about new and classic fiction and nonfiction literature that can be used in the classroom across a variety of academic disciplines. We will discuss ideas, voice concerns, inspire each other, and work together to demonstrate the power and magic of books and how outstanding literature can be used with and beyond Common Core. In Search of Wonder will take place Friday, October 17 in Perry, Ohio and will include not only presentations by our featured authors, but also an expert panel discussion titled Great Books for Classroom Use, Common Core tie-in instructions, book sales, autographing, book raffles, and MORE! For details and to register, click here.
Common Core and More?
Five Featured Authors! KATHERINE PATERSON, United States National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Emeritus and author of Bridge to Terabithia, Jacob Have I Loved, and The Great Gilly Hopkins.
STEVEN KELLOGG, a recipient of the prestigious Regina Medal for his lifetime contribution to children’s literature, the author and illustrator of Johnny Appleseed: A Tall Tale and Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett, and the illustrator of Is Your Mama a Llama? and Snowflakes Fall.
NIKKI GRIMES, recipient of the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children and author of What is Goodbye?, Coretta Scott King Award winner Bronx Masquerade, and Coretta Scott King Author Honor books Jazmin's Notebook, Talkin' About Bessie, Dark Sons, The Road to Paris, and Words with Wings.TANYA LEE STONE is the award-winning author of the the young adult novel, A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl; picture books Elizabeth Leads the Way and Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors?; and narrative nonfiction Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream; The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie, and Courage Has No Color. CHRIS CRUTCHER is a recipient of the American Library Association’s Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award and two Intellectual Freedom awards, one from the National Council for Teachers of English and the other from the National Coalition Against Censorship, and the author of young adult fiction including Period 8, Angry Management, Deadline, and The Sledding Hill.
The First 100 Registrants Will Receive a Copy of Through the generosity of Candlewick Press, the first 100 people who register will receive a free hardcover copy of the NCBLA's award-winning anthology Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out at the end of the conference. A $30.00 value! Our White House is the perfect book for Common Core highlighting American history, literature, science, and art!To read all the details of the day, click here.To register now, click here.
Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out
|Photo courtesy of the Maya Angelo website.|
My Morning with MayaMary Brigid Barrett
Nervous and expectant, I stood outside the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in the rain waiting for Maya Angelou’s car to arrive. I had been corresponding by mail and phone with Professor Angelou’s assistant for months making sure everything was in order for this speaking engagement. Ms. Angelou would need a private room with fresh fruit and bottled still water where she could wait alone before she spoke, and retreat to later, for there was to be no interaction with the audience before or after her speech. Each week’s phone call with Professor Angelou’s assistant outlined new criteria and demands for the visit. I had begun wondering, and worrying, that one of my life heroes was a high maintenance prima donna.
—Later, I was to learn why her assistant had wanted a private room for her after her speech. The crowd that gathered in the lobby, awaiting her after her presentation, was like my Uncle Mike who when overjoyed, grabbed you, crushing you in a huge bear hug, completely unaware that his embrace was so tight you couldn’t breath. I had grown up around a lot of politicians and was used to crowds, but I had never seen anything like this. I knew I had to get Dr. Angelou out to her car fast. I nabbed my friend and assistant Sally Truslow and told Ms. Angelou I wanted to get her to her car swiftly and safely. She was trembling, the emotion from the crowd was that intense. Sally and I put one arm around each side of her, a wonderful security guard held an umbrella aloft, and we pushed through the crowd out to the car for her get-a-away. It was my first experience with crowd crush, I gained a whole new respect for those who work to protect notable people and dignitaries.—
The event being held was The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance’s first major production, a national symposium entitled “Children and Books at Crossroads," Friday, October 9, 1998. I had worked hard to get a high quality venue—the Kennedy Presidential Library— and worked even harder to get First Lady Hilary Clinton on board as the Honorary Chair of our event. I knew I needed a major presence, a person of depth, quality, and experience to anchor our roster of speakers, a person who knew and understood the power of the written word, a person who understood the transformational power of story and books in young people’s lives. I had long admired Maya Angelou and when I first mentioned to our board that I wanted to go after her as the morning keynote for our symposium, they were enthusiastic, but doubtful of her availability. But I knew if I could “get” Professor Angelou, she would be the solid cornerstone upon which I could then build the whole day’s quality content.
Thankfully, miraculously, Maya Angleou said yes. And because she said yes, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough said yes. And education activist and author of the powerfully moving book, “Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun,” Geoffrey Canada said yes. And CBS “Sunday Morning” host Charles Osgood said yes. And Harvard astrophysicist and literacy advocate Margaret Geller said yes. As did author Sven Birkerts, and Harvard professors Catherine Snow and Jeanne Chall, publisher Lisa Quiroz, and literacy advocates Dr. Perri Klass, William Truehart, and Elizabeth Segal. And Mrs. Teresa Heinz-Kerry honored us by personally chairing our symposium. They all joined the party because Maya Angelou was the first to say, yes, I will come.
A big black sedan pulled up in front of the library’s main entrance. I opened the door for Professor Angelou, introducing myself, welcoming her, helping her from the car, reaching high to hold an umbrella over her head. She immediately engaged me in conversation as we walked into the library and up the elevator to her private room, asking me in-depth questions about our organization and our goals. I get rather passionate when I talk about kids and books and reading, and as I shared information not covered in my correspondence, my nervousness disappeared. It was only later that I realized her interest and considerate questions were meant to put me at ease. The room the Kennedy Library had provided for her was lovely and quiet. She asked where everyone else was, and I explained our board members, with family and guests, were in a large, communal “Green Room” downstairs. She asked me to take her there, to meet everyone, and suggested we bring the bowl of fruit along with us. Before we stepped back onto the elevator, she stopped, placing her hand on my shoulder—even though her posture was curling forward and she leaned on a cane, she was so very tall. Why, you’re passionate believers, she said, a grassroots group reaching up, reaching out.
She entered the Green Room quietly, without fanfare or drama, but everyone riveted toward her anyway. She chose to sit at the table’s end, between a charming young intern from the Kennedy Library and my two daughters Elizabeth and Emily. Introducing herself, she engaged all three young women in conversation, asking them about themselves, their interests, their schools. They were entranced, and my mother heart overflowed with emotion, my mind and eyes making a mental snapshot of the moment for a life memory. CBS’s Charles Osgood was good-humouredly helping my husband Dick and our son Patrick hand-letter panelist name plates—a last minute rescue of an overlooked detail. The room was filled with board members and their spouses—Katherine and John Paterson, Patty and Bob MacLachlan, Sally and Bob Truslow, Natalie and Sam Babbitt and their daughter Lucy, David Macaulay, and Stephanie Loer, and dear friends and supporters Libby Rock and Grant Oliphant. Our organization, the NCBLA, has always been a family affair. Everyone mixed and mingled, introducing themselves and each other to Margaret Geller and Geoffrey Canada and other panelists as they joined us. Maya Angelou was just one of the NCBLA gang.
When Mrs. Heinz-Kerry arrived; it was game time. I escorted both Dr. Angelou and Mrs. Heinz up to stage left, where they could have a bit of privacy before their presentations. I got them some comfortable chairs, then headed to the podium. My job was to welcome attendees, set the tone for day, hopefully providing a bit of humor and inspiration, then introduce Mrs. Heinz-Kerry. Beyond teaching in front of my class at RISD, or giving a presentation at an SCBWI conference, I had very little public speaking experience. There I was, the girl from Cleveland’s West Side, standing at the podium in the Kennedy Presidential Library, in front of Congressional aides, literacy activists, children and family television producers and executives, professional educators, academics, major magazine editors, reporters, and one of my heroes, Maya Angelou—and I was terrified. Without a typed copy of my speech, I would never have remembered later what I said. I only remember that when I finished, after greeting Mrs. Heinz as she walked to podium, Maya Angelou was waiting in the wings. She cupped my face with both her hands, soft and warm, and told me, nicely done little chicken. Always, always follow your heart. We stood there together, her very tall, me very short. She held my hand tight as she waited to go onstage for her speech. And of course, she soared, the tempo and beat of her words and wisdom creating a song of inspiration and hope.
Thank you Maya Angelou for your courage and the many gifts you shared with the world. You were an incandescent flame of hope in weary world. Thank you for a morning of lovely memories.
President and Executive Director
The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance
A Call to Action to Massachusetts Residents from Library Advocates
Dear Massachusetts Library Supporters:
A Conference Committee – their names and contact info are at the end of this letter – has been appointed to resolve differences between the Senate and House versions of the FY15 State budget. Now is the critical time for all of us – librarians, trustees, friends, library users, anyone – to let members know it’s important to reverse some long-overdue library funding deficits. This year is a big opportunity. We must act, even if you never have before!!!
The Western Massachusetts Library Advocates (WMLA) urge funding of the Senate version of the FY15 State Budget for Mass Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) accounts:
7000-9401: State Aid to Regional Libraries:
Senate $9,883,482 vs. House $9,805,978
7000-9501 State Aid to Public Libraries:
Senate: $9,989,844 This amount restores state aid to the 2009 funding level. This is the increase the library community has needed for many years. The Conference Committee should support this increase. The House called for $7,223,657. While any increase is helpful, we feel the State should be able to return funding for this account to the amount it had 6 years ago!
7000-9506 Library Technology and Resource Sharing:
Senate: $2,867,823. Provides an increase of $938,585 over the FY 2014 budget. This increase over the House’s $2,129,238 will help end the Digital Lockout that really needs addressing.
Center for the Book:
In this case, WMLA supports the House Budget that created line 7000-9508 For the Center for the Book, Inc., chartered as the Commonwealth Affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress; provided, that the Massachusetts Center for the Book, Inc. shall be established as a public- private partnership charged with the development, support and promotion of cultural programming designed to advance the cause of books and reading and enhance the outreach of potential of public libraries within the Commonwealth $125,000. The Senate did not pass the amendment.
Conference Committee Members
If you live or work in one of these communities, please consider taking 5 minutes to contact your legislator to ask for their support of these important line items. If you don't live in the communities, please write to your State Senator and State Representative and ask them to contact the committee to urge support.
Senator Stephen Brewer:
Ashburnham, Athol, Barre, Brookfield, Charlton, East Brookfield, Hardwick, Hubbardston, New Braintree, North Brookfield, Oakham, Paxton, Petersham, Phillipston, Rutland, Spencer, Sturbridge, Templeton, Warren, West Brookfield and Winchendon, Brimfield, Holland, Monson, Palmer and Wales, Ware, Ashby
State House: 617-722-1540, District: 978-355-2444
Senator Jennifer Flanagan:
Fitchburg, Gardner and Leominster, Berlin, Bolton, Clinton, Lancaster, Lunenburg, Sterling, Westminster, Townsend
State House: 617-722-1230, District: 978-534-3388
Senator Richard Pat Ross Ferry:
Millis, Needham, Norfolk, Plainville, Wellesley, Wrentham, Attleboro, North Attleborough, Natick, Sherborn and Wayland
State House: 617-722-1555
Representative Brian Dempsey:
State House: 617-722-2990
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Behind the Scenes During Filming of
The Great Gilly Hopkins
S. E. Hinton did it in the film adaptation of her novel The Outsiders. And Louis Sachar did it in the film version of his book Holes. Now Katherine Paterson has done it--she has filmed a cameo role in the movie version of her novel The Great Gilly Hopkins, the story of the brash, brilliant, and completely unmanageable 11-year Gilly who is shuffled from foster home to foster home until she meets Maime Trotter.
|Sophie Nelisse and Toby Turner act out a scene in the bus station. |
Katherine admits on her website that her childhood dreams did not include wanting to become a writer, "The fact is that I never wanted to be a writer, at least not when I was a child, or even a young woman. Today I want very much to be a writer. But when I was ten, I wanted to be either a movie star or a missionary." And now, with her cameo role in The Great Gilly Hopkins, Paterson has attained her childhood wish!
|Katherine Paterson and Sophie Nelisse get direction for their scene.|
The title role is played by the young Sophie Nélisse. "Best Actress" Oscar winner Kathy Bates plays Maime Trotter. The star-studded cast also includes Julia Stiles, Octavia Spencer, Glenn Close, Toby Turner, Clare Foley, Bill Cobbs, Billy Magnussen, Zachary Hernandes, Salvatore L. Rossi, and Sammy Pignalosa. The movie is tentatively scheduled to play in theaters in early 2015, but don't wait for the movie! Why not visit your local library and share the joy of this National Book Award and Newbery Honor winner with the young people in your life today?
|Toby Turner, Sophie Nelisse, and Katherine Paterson.|
|Clare Foley and Sophie Nelisse.|