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1. Turning Pages Reads: SPEED OF LIFE by J.M. KELLY

Welcome to another session of Turning Pages!One of the things the kidlitosphere talked about a lot in the early days of the early 2000's was the preponderance of YA novels with ridiculously 1% families in them. Rare were the books where the kids... Read the rest of this post

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2. Racing towards OHA2016 in Long Beach, the “International City”

As has become OHR tradition, we have enlisted the help of a local to serve as a guide to the upcoming OHA Annual meeting in beautiful Long Beach, California. Below, Mark Garcia shares some of the city’s fascinating history, as well as his personal recommendations for oral historians who want to venture out and see some of what the city has to offer.

The post Racing towards OHA2016 in Long Beach, the “International City” appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. Very short facts about theVery Short Introductions

This week we are celebrating the 500th title in the Very Short Introductions series, Measurement: A Very Short Introduction, which will publish on 6th October. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make often challenging topics highly readable. To mark its publication editors Andrea Keegan and Jenny Nugee have put together a list of Very Short Facts about the series.

The post Very short facts about theVery Short Introductions appeared first on OUPblog.

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4. A Q&A with Lauren Jackson: Morrissey, MMA, and Megan Abbott

We sat down with Lauren Jackson, an Assistant Marketing Manager based in our New York office, to quiz her on her favourite words, her favourite books, and her favourite UFC fighter. We are delighted to welcome Lauren to the marketing team and are jealous of what she keeps in her desk drawer... You can find out more about Lauren below.

The post A Q&A with Lauren Jackson: Morrissey, MMA, and Megan Abbott appeared first on OUPblog.

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5. New Voice: Christian McKay Heidicker on Cure for the Common Universe

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Christian McKay Heidicker is the first-time author of Cure for the Common Universe (Simon & Schuster, 2016). From the promotional copy:

Sixteen-year-old Jaxon is being committed to video game rehab...ten minutes after he met a girl. A living, breathing girl named Serena, who not only laughed at his jokes but actually kinda sorta seemed excited when she agreed to go out with him.

Jaxon's first date. Ever.

In rehab, he can't blast his way through galaxies to reach her. He can't slash through armies to kiss her sweet lips. Instead, he has just four days to earn one million points by learning real-life skills. And he'll do whatever it takes—lie, cheat, steal, even learn how to cross-stitch—in order to make it to his date.

If all else fails, Jaxon will have to bare his soul to the other teens in treatment, confront his mother's absence, and maybe admit that it's more than video games that stand in the way of a real connection.

Prepare to be cured.

How did you approach the research process for your story? What resources did you turn to? What roadblocks did you run into? How did you overcome them? What was your greatest coup, and how did it inform your manuscript?

John Cusick
This all began when I told my agent, John Cusick, that I’d write a YA book about a kid committed to video game rehab. His excitement was infectious, and I got that fluttery feeling of embarking on a new adventure. Of darkness unlit. Of stones unturned. Of all the little surprises that come with blindly slashing out with my pen and hoping for the bloody best.

That fluttery feeling vanished when I realized I hadn’t played video games for years, let alone had any clue what it was like to be addicted to them.

In order to survive as a freelance writer, my entire life had become carefully structured to eliminate time-wasters. I worked all possible hours, filled my downtime with reading, exercising, eating healthily, and not buying expensive things like the next generation of PlayStation or Xbox. I had become completely unversed in the world of video games and unhealthy amounts of playing.

I realized if I tried to write a book about video games, I’d out myself as a fraud. I’d make out-of-date gaming references, the community would eat me for breakfast, and I’d become next on Gamergate’s death list. (Now that I know a thing or two, I can confidently say that many gaming references do not go out of fashion, and that being on Gamergate’s threat list is actually a good thing.)

Let’s face it. As novelists we’re all impostors. We don’t really remember what it’s like to have that first kiss. We’ve never reached to the back of the wardrobe and in place of fur felt pine needles. Our goal is to seem the least impostery as possible. To convince the reader that this stuff is legit.

Christian's office & Lucifer Morningstar Birchaus (aka writer cat)
Still, the idea was good. Video game rehab? I’d never seen that before, and that’s a rare thing in any medium. So I needed a plan. My plan was this: get addicted to video games.*

So out with work!

Sod off, schedules!

Be gone, exercise routines!

Forget healthy eating and gluten intolerance. Forget that coffee turns me into an absolute monster and dairy turns my insides into the Bog of Eternal Stench!

I bought myself a month and turned my life into that of a sixteen-year-old video game addict on summer vacation. I drank coffee from noon (when I woke up) until three in the morning when I went to sleep. (My character drinks energy drinks, but one can only go so far, dear reader.) I slept too much. I didn’t exercise. Sometimes I put whiskey in my morning coffee. I only read gaming news, but only if I really felt like it and only if I had to wait for a game to download.

Mostly, I played video games. I played a lot of video games. I continued to play throughout the duration of writing the book, but in October 2012, I played so much it would have made the characters in my book quirk their eyebrows.

I was trying to get addicted. All of my dopamine release came from beating levels, leveling up characters, downloading DLCs. When I went to the bathroom, I brought my iPad with me and played Candy Crush. (Considering what my new and worsened diet was doing to my digestion, I played a lot of Candy Crush.)

I beat Dark Souls. I beat Sword & Sworcery. I played Starcraft and Hearthstone and Diablo III. I bought a Nintendo 3DS and played through all the Mario and Zelda games I’d missed out over all the years. (Definitely the highlight.) I got lost in world after world, and adulthood as I knew it became a faint haze around an ever-glowing screen.

And guess what? It was hard.

You’d think it would be easy doing as little as humanly possible, only filling one’s time with video games.

Video games are fun. Many are designed to keep you falling into them again and again, to captivate you enough to stick around for hours on end. But I had so carefully trained myself to not be that way so I could write.

During this indulgent month of October, I felt lazy. I felt sick. I felt jittery and uncomfortable in my skin and a little voice inside my head kept saying, “No, no, no. Stop doing nothing. You’re dying.”

I was disgusted with myself. I liked the games I was playing, but they didn’t bring the same satisfaction of selling a short story.

Like I said, it was really hard. But it was nothing compared to what I was going to embark on next.

I ended my month of terror with a bang. On Halloween night, at 11:56 p.m., I drank four shots of whiskey and became a vomiting sprinkler on my friends’ front lawn. (Apologies, Alan and Alan).

My girlfriend at the time drove me home and poured me into bed. I slept for thirteen hours. . . and when I awoke late afternoon on Nov. 1, I began something new. I didn’t put on the coffee pot. I didn’t boot up the PlayStation to see if any system updates needed downloading. I didn’t bring the iPad to the bathroom.

Instead, I entered Phase 2 of my research.

The character in my book was going to rehab, where all creature comforts would be taken away from him. And so I spent the entirety of November without sugar, caffeine, music, phone, books*, internet*, or of course, video games.

I called it my no-nothing November.

(Er, no stimulants, at least. But that isn’t quite as catchy.)

After surviving a two-day hangover unaided by stimulants of any sort, I crawled out of bed . . . and I went out into the world. I ran in the morning. I talked to people at coffee shops while sipping herbal tea. I took ukulele lessons. I learned how to cross-stitch. I cleaned Alan’s and Alan’s puke-covered lawn (just kidding I didn’t; I just realized this would have been a nice thing to have done (sorry again, Alans)). I studied life without my nose buried in a book.*

And mostly, I wrote. I wrote about a kid who had all of his comforts taken away and was forced to earn points through a sort of gamified therapy. I don’t know if any of this actually worked or not . . . I’m not sure if it really added anything to the book.

So, um, take that into consideration before flying off the rails for your own book.

*I use the term "addicted" lightly. Read Cure for the Common Universe for a full explanation.

**The most difficult, by far.

***I also didn’t surf the internet, save my email—for emergencies and so I wasn’t fired from my job.

****Ug, this is starting to sound like some sort of new age instruction manual, which I swear it is not; I just wanted to see what it would be like to be the character in my book.

As a contemporary fiction writer, how did you deal with the pervasiveness of rapidly changing technologies? Did you worry about dating your manuscript? Did you worry about it seeming inauthentic if you didn't address these factors? Why or why not?

@cmheidicker on Twitter
Video games are the fastest growing medium in the world, so it’s pretty difficult to remain relevant when writing about current games. Fortunately, there’s a persistent spine in gaming (your Blizzards, your Nintendos, your Easter eggs). I tried to focus on those mainstays and accept the fact that no matter what I did I would probably piss off and please an equal number of gamers.

If I had attempted to copy the language of gamers verbatim, I would have set myself up for failure. (Although having a game-addicted roommate during the edits of this book definitely helped me sprinkle in some legit jargon.) That’s why I like to follow the Joss Whedon rule of leading the charge on language instead of attempting to copy it.

For the dialogue, I ended up stealing a lot of hilarious lines from my friends—truly iconic things that I lifted straight out of real-life conversations and put into the text. During a rousing game of racquetball, a friend aced me, stuck his racquet in my face, and screamed, “Nobody puts princess in a castle!” A barista once mentioned how stepping on a LEGO was a lot more rage inducing than playing Grand Theft Auto. And a previous student told me about a—ahem—particular sensory combination involving Nutella. I blushed . . . and then I stole it.

I stole all of these with everyone’s permission, of course.

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6. Banned Book Week Roundtable: The Evolution of Censorship

This week is Banned Book Week, a celebration of the freedom to read and an acknowledgement of the ongoing fight against censorship. There is much to talk about this year, including a fascinating survey by School Library Journal about librarian self-censorship and a PEN America report on challenged diverse children’s books, coupled with recent conversations sparked by author Lionel Shriver’s controversial comments about cultural appropriation and freedom of speech.

So, where are we when it comes to censorship? We asked authors, scholars, teachers, and librarians to share their thoughts with us in today’s roundtable. Participants:

  • Guadalupe García McCall, author and teacher
  • Jo Knowles, author
  • Pat Scales, librarian
  • Debbie Reese, scholar
Pat, as the former chair of the American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee, you’ve seen a number of book challenges over the years. What has changed since you first began looking at these issues? What has remained the same?

Pat Scales: Issues related to profanity, violence, and sex have always brought the censors calling. In the early 1970s and 1980s Judy Blume was being censored in school and public libraries coast to coast because she dealt with topics related to sex, bullying and other issues associated with coming of age. These were relatively new topics at the time. Now, her books aren’t challenged so much, but a host of others are. 21st century issues and concerns have ushered in a new wave of books that trouble censors. The Supreme Court decision that made gay marriage legal has caused some conservative groups to target books that deal with LGBTQ topics. As states wrestle with issues like North Carolina’s “Bathroom Bill,” the censors storm libraries looking for books about transgender youth like George by Alex Gino, Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart, and I Am J by Cris Beam. These books are the subject of Internet chatter on various listserves and blogs. Book Fair and Book Club companies refuse to offer these books in an effort to avoid controversy. And librarians, especially school librarians, sometimes avoid purchasing the books because they themselves are uncomfortable with the topic, or because they don’t want to “raise a red flg” to the censors.

The growing incidents of school violence in this country have caused censors to question whether violence has a place in children’s and young adult literature. Never mind that violence has always been present in children’s literature, and that children and young adults get a healthy exposure to street violence on the nightly news.

Conservative Christian groups have always raised concerns about topics that conflict with their religious beliefs. In the days when OIF and NCAC began tracking book censorship attempts, there were lists of “Inappropriate Literature” circulated among conservative organizations. Now these groups have websites and make such lists available by simply clicking a mouse.   These websites come and go, but it remains alarming that a small number of groups want to control the narrative about what children should or shouldn’t read. There is some good news: Calling out censorship attempts to the public has caused the number of challenges to decline.

Book censorship does reflect trends. There is no way to predict what will be next. We must deal with them one at a time.

Jo, your novel Lessons from a Dead Girl appears on ALA’s list of frequently challenged books. How do you respond as an author when your book is challenged? Have you seen challenges change over time?

Jo Knowles: I can’t think of a single conference I’ve attended in the Banned Book Week quote, Jo Knowlespast ten years in which at least one person has not said to me, “I love your books but could never have them in my library/classroom.” Often they say their community is too conservative for books with
“homosexual content.” Sadly, this hasn’t changed.

How do I respond? I share on social media in an attempt to start a thoughtful conversation. At a librarian dinner a year or so ago, one librarian noted she couldn’t have See You At Harry’s in her library (for the usual reason), and then another agreed. I asked them: “What would happen?” One said, “A parent would complain and I’d probably have to remove it.” “That’s it?” I asked. They both got quiet, then agreed they could handle that. I realize that in some communities, people fear losing their jobs. It’s a sad reality. But I still have to try to have the conversation, because sometimes people realize the risk isn’t that great. And if one kid gets to read the book and feel less alone or gain more compassion for others before it gets pulled from the shelves, it’s worth it.

As a teacher and a writer, how do you balance the need to tell the truth about history and parents’ desire to protect their children?

Guadalupe Garcia McCall: As a teacher, parent, and now grandparent, I do have to consider my audience carefully. Because I am in the classroom, I am sensitive to the concerns of parents and other teachers. I try to balance writing about controversial issues by writing with young people’s best interest in mind. That is, I always try to approach these topics honestly, but also respectfully and responsibly. Truth is, young people have information at their fingertips. Even as we are talking about a topic or time period, they reach for their phones and Google it. So there is no point in trying to pretend these things (e.g. the lynching of Mexicans by Texas Rangers in South Texas at the turn of the century) didn’t happen. . . . By discussing sensitive issues in a respectful manner, we are teaching young people not only to have respect for these topics but also to be sensitive to others.

Thinking about recent examples of books with problematic content (i.e., content that was not culturally accurate) being pulled prior to or just after publication, how do you feel about the publishers’ decisions to pull the book?

Debbie Reese: I hope that the recent decisions by publishers to withdraw a book, just before or after the book has been released, marks a turning point for us. We all care about the quality of representations of people. We’re not all in the same place in understanding what “quality” means, but I think social media is helping us reach a wider audience, and therefore, we’re in a substantially different moment.

Pat Scales: Books that reflect a culturally diverse society need to be in classrooms and in school and public libraries. But I’m uncomfortable with a “checklist” that leftist groups have developed to critique these books. I fear that publishers have become so sensitive to these groups that they have second thoughts about books they have committed to publication.

Jo Knowles: If I was a publisher and had a book recently released, or about to be, only to discover that we overlooked a very problematic aspect of the content, at the very least I would want to pull it back for revisions. I know if I were the author or illustrator of such a book I would want the same. If there’s a way to correct the problem, why wouldn’t you?

What, if anything, differentiates these examples from censorship?

Jo Knowles: Teachers and librarians weed books from collections when they discover they’ve become outdated or have incorrect information all the time. I don’t see that as censorship but as standard practice for collection development and management.

What differentiates these examples from censorship is that they are an issue of factual inaccuracy and cultural misrepresentation. That’s not the same as pulling a book because an individual found the content inappropriate for personal reasons, such as containing the presence of witchcraft, use of the word “scrotum,” or, as is often the case with my books, including an LGBT character.

Pat Scales: Publishers have an obligation to “fact-check” their booksBanned Book Week quote, Debbie Reese for “accurate portrayals” of diverse groups before the books are actually published.   Companies are for profit, and make business decisions regarding the sales of books, but when a book is pulled prior to or immediately following publication it smacks of censorship. Is the concern that a reviewer may pan the book, and therefore affect sales? Or, is it about doing the right thing?   Teachers and librarians are placed in the position to defend books when the censor calls, and publishers should defend the books they elect to publish. Librarians make mistakes, and so do publishers. But those mistakes die a natural death.

Debbie Reese: I don’t view publishers making decisions to hold or withdraw a book as engaging in censorship. These are business decisions made by business people who’ve reflected on concerns they heard. They responded to those concerns. We aren’t privy to the conversations, but my guess is that some of the conversation was about the public relations and reputation of the company, and that some of it was about the new information brought forth via social media.

I imagine the conversations were terse at times, with some arguing that the company should not “give in” to voices of dissent. I also imagine that such arguments were countered with an argument that the demographics in the US are shifting, and that it is a wise business decision to pay attention to that shift.

The ideal is to have more books with good representation, but problems do persist. How should we handle books with incorrect or culturally insensitive content? 

Debbie Reese: Even very young children understand the concept of fairness. I think that concept is one avenue by which teachers can approach incorrect or culturally insensitive content. I firmly believe that the idea that young children are “too young” to be taught about bias and stereotyping is a problem. It lets ideas they absorb–simply by being a person moving through a society laden with stereotyping at every level–take root. It makes it harder for children to unlearn these stereotypes. Some resist, while others feel betrayed that their teachers gave them worksheets for years, of (for example), smiling Indians at Thanksgiving.

Teachers have a very important job: to educate. Parents trust that teachers won’t do wrong by their kids. There is an implicit trust in the teacher’s judgement. Teachers choose–every day–what they will, and will not, share with their students. . . . If a teacher gives children a book with inaccurate information in it, I believe they have a responsibility to point out those errors–or choose something else! If they choose to use it and point out the error, it teaches children a valuable lesson: you can’t trust every word in a book. That’s a powerful lesson!

Debbie Reese

Tribally enrolled at Nambe Pueblo, Debbie Reese founded American Indians in Children’s Literature in 2006. Her book chapters and articles are taught in Education, Library Science, and English courses in the US and Canada. A former schoolteacher and assistant professor in American Indian Studies, she conducts workshops for librarians and teachers and delivers papers and lectures at professional and academic conferences.


Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Guadalupe Garcia McCall was born in Mexico and moved to Texas as a young girl, keeping close ties with family on both sides of the border. Trained in Theater Arts and English, she now teaches English/Language Arts at a junior high school in San Antonio. McCall’s debut novel Under the Mesquite earned the Pura Belpré AwardHer newest novel is Shame the Stars.


Jo Knowles

Jo Knowles is the author of seven young adult novels, including Lessons from a Dead Girl and Still a Work in Progress. She lives in Vermont and teaches in the MFA program at Southern New Hampshire University. Find her online here.


Pat Scales

Pat Scales is a retired middle and high school librarian from Greenville, SC.  She has authored five books that deal with banned and challenged books, including Defending Young Adult Books: A Handbook for Librarians and Teachers, (Rowman and Littlefield, 2016).  She also writes a column “Scales on Censorship” for School Library Journal and is a regular contributor to Book Links magazine.

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7. Thursday Review: THE FORGETTING by Sharon Cameron

Synopsis: The "every X years something life-changing/terrible/wonderful happens" trope always reminds me of that Ray Bradbury short story "All Summer in a Day," which I read for school in maybe 6th or 7th grade and found incredibly traumatic. In... Read the rest of this post

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8. POETRY FRIDAY: Wild Geese

 
 
I often find it difficult to capture an image/idea that I have in my mind in words. Autumn is the time of year when I hear the honking of geese that are heading south for winter. I have tried over the years to write a poem about migrating geese—but I have never been really satisfied with the results. Here are two versions of a “wild geese” poem that I wrote. The first was written several years ago; the second was written earlier this year.
 
One Poem Two Ways
 
WILD GEESE #1
 
So long…farewell. We’re on our way.
We must depart. We can’t delay
Our journey to a warmer clime.
Mother Nature warned: “It’s time!”
We’re heading south before the snow…
And winter winds begin to blow.
We leave you with our parting call—
Honk! Honk! Honk!
That’s the sound of fall.
 
WILD GEESE #2
 
So long…farewell. We’re on our way.
We must depart. We can’t delay
Our journey to a warmer clime.
Mother Nature warned, “It’s time!”
Days grow shorter. Trees grow bare.
Pumpkins fatten. Frost nips the air.
We know the signs. It’s time to go
Before the sky fills up with snow.
But we’ll return again next year
When we can sense that spring is near.
We leave you with our parting call—
Honk! Honk! Honk! That’s the sound of fall.
 ***************
 
Here is one of my favorite fall poems:
 
Something Told the Wild Geese
by Rachel Field, 1894-1942
 
Something told the wild geese
It was time to go,
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered, "snow."

Leaves were green and stirring,
Berries, luster-glossed,
But beneath warm feathers
Something cautioned, "frost."
 
Click here to read the rest of the poem.
 
***************

Cari Best wrote a touching picture book about a wounded goose that landed in her backyard. It is based on her own experience. A photograph of the one-footed goose is included on the title page. The book was beautifully illustrated by the late Holly Meade.
 
 
From the title page:
“Goose’s story is true. She came on a Sunday. We could only guess about how she’d hurt her foot…Whatever it was, the goose with one foot became our spring and then our summer that year. Who would have thought she’d become our inspiration for all times, too.”
Booklist gave Goose’s Story a starred review. Here is an excerpt from that review:
“Best's simple prose is rhythmic and beautiful, more poetic than much of the so-called free verse in many children's books; and Meade's clear, cut-paper collages show the drama through the child's eyes--the clamor of the flock against the New England landscape through the seasons; the honking and jumping for the sky; and one goose left behind, wild and beautiful, hurt, and strong.”
Unfortunately, the book is now out of print—but you may be able to find it in your public or school library…or a used copy from an online bookseller
 ***************
A Family Movie about Migrating Geese
My five-year-old granddaughter Julia likes Fly Away Home, a 1996 movie starring Jeff Daniels and Anna Paquin. Julia and I have watched the movie together a few times.
NOTE: (Fly Away Home won the 1997 Broadcast Film Critics Association Critics Choice Award as the Best Family Film, the 1997 Christopher Award (for family films), 1997 Young Artist Award in the category of Best Family Feature – Drama, and the 1997 Genesis Award for Feature Films.)
Fly Away Home movie trailer:
 Mary Chapin Carpenter—10,000 Miles
Something Told the Wild Geese (Ann Arbor Youth Chorale)
Mary Oliver reading her poem Wild Geese
 
***************
 
Karen Edmisten has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week.
 


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9. Recommended: WE SANG YOU HOME by Richard Van Camp and Julie Flett

In the last month or so I've been using the phrase "being loved by words" or "being loved by a book." I don't know if that works or not. Some might think it sounds goofy. It does, however, capture how I felt, reading the stories in Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time: An LGBT and Two Spirit Science Fiction Anthology. It is definitely a book I recommend to young adults.

The emotions it brought forth in me are spilling over again and again, of late. I don't know what to make of that tenderness that I feel, but it is real.

Around the same time that I read the anthology, I got an electronic copy of We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp and Julie Flett. I had that same response to it. Indeed, there were moments when I was blinking back tears! Now, I've got a copy:


I've thought about it a lot since first reading it, trying to put words to emotions. Richard Van Camp and Julie Flett are Native. I've read many of their books and recommend them over and over. Working together on this one (their first one is Little You), or apart, the books they give us are the mirrors that Native children need.

Just look at the joy and the smile of the child on the cover! That kid is loved, and that's what I want for Native kids! To feel loved by words, by story, by books.

We Sang You Home is a board book that, with very few words on each page, tells a child about how they were wanted, and how they came to be, and how they were, as the title says, sang home where they'd be kissed, and loved, and... where they, too, would sing.

Here's me, holding We Sang You Home. See the joy on my face? Corny, maybe, but I wanna sing. About being loved, by this dear board book.


I highly recommend We Sang You Home. Published by Orca in 2016, it is going to be gifted to a lot of people in the coming years.

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10. A French Edition of Sadie

Happy news from France this week, as Editions Belin has acquired world French rights on This Is Sadie.

We had a tiny baguette to celebrate!

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11. Building Classroom Community in First Grade

Check out LEE & LOW BOOKS’ Building Classroom Community Unit for First Grade! The FREE and downloadable unit consists of eight read aloud lesson plans to inspire your best classroom community yet.

The start of first grade is ripe with opportunities for building long-lasting positive school behaviors and attitudes. Time spent building relationships and establishing social and academic expectations can pay dividends all year long.

Using a rich collection of diverse picture books to support this work lays the foundation for a classroom culture of appreciation and acceptance.

The Building Classroom Community Unit for First Grade consists of eight read alouds and provides a structured approach for this important work, yet the lessons are flexible enough for you to teach language and behaviors specific to your students’ population, preferences, and goals. Each lesson is intended for multiple days so that from the beginning students are exposed to close reading and the value of multiple readings. We believe the first eight read alouds, or roughly the first two months of school, are critical to setting the tone of your classroom community, read aloud procedures, and expectations for engagement.

PINTEREST Building Classroom Community in First GradeDuring this unit you will:

  • review and build on the expectations for listening and discussion participation introduced in kindergarten, with a new emphasis on staying focused on a topic and building on others’ responses
  • encourage students to learn about one another through discussions of favorite individual and family pastimes and goals for the year ahead
  • engage in rigorous yet developmentally appropriate discussions about crucial topics such as individual strengths and challenges, managing disagreements kindly, and persevering through mistakes and difficult tasks

Each lesson may be used as a stand alone, but we hope that using these books as a broad unit will help lay the foundation for a strong classroom community with strong learning expectations. We designed the unit to spiral. Additionally, each lesson and book can be adapted for other grades (and we hope you will do this!).

Book extension activities encourage exploration of these topics through writing, drama, and art, as well as lay the foundation for collaborative learning during your year.

Here’s to a meaningful year of reading!

Screen Shot 2016-09-15 at 1.06.57 PM
Scope & Sequence

Download the FREE Building Classroom Community Unit for First Grade here

Further reading on teaching literacy in FIRST GRADE

Guided Reading Collections from Bebop Books

Stay tuned for second grade!

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12. Country house visiting: past, present, and future

From every window there were beauties to be seen. The rooms were lofty and handsome, and their furniture suitable to the fortune of their proprietor; but Elizabeth saw with admiration of his taste, that it was neither gaudy nor uselessly fine.

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13. Rebuilding and restoring the Houses of Parliament [timeline]

The Houses of Parliament in London is one of the most famous buildings in the world. A masterpiece of Victorian Gothic architecture which incorporates survivals from the medieval Palace of Westminster, it was made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO along with Westminster Abbey, and St Margaret’s Church, in 1987. With its restoration and renewal in the news, find out more about the background in this interactive timeline.

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14. Whole grains for cancer prevention? Take the evidence with a grain… of salt

An emerging field in the area of nutrition and cancer is the role of whole grains in cancer prevention. In a world where carbohydrates, particularly refined sources, are increasingly viewed as the culprit for obesity and associated chronic disease, are whole grains the safest carbohydrate to recommend for cancer prevention? Currently, consuming a plant-based diet containing whole grain foods is part of the American Cancer Society

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15. New York City’s housing crisis

New York City is the midst of a housing affordability crisis. Over the last decade, average rents have climbed 15% while the income of renters has increased only 2%. The city’s renaissance since the 1990's has drawn thousands of new residents; today, the population of 8.5 million people is the highest it has ever been. But New Yorkers are finding that the benefits of city living are not without its costs. The demand for housing has outstripped the real estate community’s ability to supply it; as a result, prices have been rising.

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16. Human-animal chimeras and dehumanization

The US government recently announced that it was lifting its moratorium on funding certain experiments that use human stem cells to create animals that are partly human. At present scientists are only interested in creating entities with some human qualities, but which remain “mostly” animals. For example, some scientists want to create a chimeric pig with a human-enough heart to transplant into a human. Distinguishing between humans and other animals is common in most cultures.

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17. Secrets and trivia from the Broadway stage

Why do some great Broadway shows fail, and mediocre ones thrive? How does the cast onstage manage to keep tabs on the audience without missing a beat or a line? Ken Bloom, author of Show and Tell: The New Book of Broadway Audiences, delves into the inner workings of the Broadway stage and the culture surrounding Broadway hips and flops.

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18. Philosopher of the month: al-Kindī

Known as the “first philosopher of the Arabs,” al-Kindī was one of the most important mathematicians, physicians, astronomers and philosophers of his time. He composed hundreds of treatises, using many of the tools of Greek philosophy to address themes in Islamic thought.

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19. Into the unknown: professional development for future educators

One of the greatest challenges faced by schools and universities today is preparing students for an unknown future. Our graduates will likely have multiple careers, work in new and emerging industries, grapple with technologies we can’t even imagine yet. And so we’re asking our staff to equip students with the skills they need to thrive in a potentially very different world to the one we live in now.

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20. History in the courtroom: 70 years since the Nuremberg Trials

Seventy years ago, on 30 September 1946, Lord Justice Lawrence, the presiding judge of the International Military Tribunal, began reading out the judgement in the trial of the so-called major German war criminals at Nuremberg. For nearly a year the remnants of the Third Reich’s top brass, led by Hermann Goering, had stood trial for crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and a conspiracy to commit the aforesaid crimes.

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21. The origin of the word SLANG is known!

Caution is a virtue, but, like every other virtue, it can be practiced with excessive zeal and become a vice (like parsimony turning into stinginess). The negative extreme of caution is cowardice.

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22. In Memory: Barbara Seuling

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

From Barbara Seuling's Author Website: "...children's book editor, author, illustrator and teacher. For several years Barbara worked as an editor for Delacorte Press and Yearling Books at Dell Publishing Company. Later, she moved to J. B. Lippincott & Co.

"As author and/or illustrator of her own books, Barbara became a featured speaker at many educational and writers' conferences and served for many years on the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators' Board of Advisors. She taught writing at Bank Street College and at The Writer's Voice in New York City before establishing The Manuscript Workshop in Vermont..."

From SCBWI: "One of the SCBWI's earliest members her sense of humor shone through in the many books she both authored and illustrated. Two of her more popular series were her Robert books, and her wildly successful Freaky Fact series, including Elephants Can't Jump and Other Freaky Facts About Animals (Dutton, 1985)."

Obituary: Barbara Seuling by Shannon Maughan from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "Outside of her own children’s book projects, Seuling used her extensive publishing experience to lead small private writing workshops. Her adult nonfiction title How to Write a Children’s Book and Get It Published (Wiley, 2004), first released in 1984, was considered a key read for aspiring authors and is currently in its third edition."

Cynsational Notes

I read the 2nd Edition
Popular series by Barbara
In 1995, when I decided to begin writing for young readers, I was living in downtown Chicago. I didn't know anyone in the business. I'd never heard of SCBWI.

I walked to a bookstore on Michigan Avenue, to a shelf of writing craft and publishing information books in the basement, pulled a dozen or so titles, sat down on the floor and began looking through them. I bought two or three. Barbara's (Scribner, 1991) was the one that most clicked.

I read it cover-to-cover, highlighter in hand, and then I re-read it. I learned from the book, formed a plan for moving forward with the dream that would become my life's work.

Thank you, Barbara, for helping me take the first steps of this journey.

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23. Is happiness in our genes?

It is easy to observe that some people are happier than others. But trying to explain why people differ in their happiness is quite a different story. Is our happiness the result of how well things are going for us or does it simply reflect our personality? Of course, the discussion on the exact roles of nature (gene) versus nurture (experience) is not new at all. When it comes to how we feel, however, most of us may think that our happiness

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24. Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Congratulations to fellow Vermont College of Fine Arts faculty member Uma Krishnaswami on the release of Book Uncle and Me, illustrated by Julianna Swaney (Groundwood, 2016)! Note: so far, the book has received starred reviews from School Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews. From the promotional copy:

Every day, nine-year-old Yasmin borrows a book from Book Uncle, a retired teacher who has set up a free lending library next to her apartment building. But when the mayor tries to shut down the rickety bookstand, Yasmin has to take her nose out of her book and do something.

But what can she do? The local elections are coming up but she’s just a kid. She can’t even vote!

Still, Yasmin has friends — her best friend, Reeni, and Anil, who even has a black belt in karate. And she has grownup family and neighbors who, no matter how preoccupied they are, care about what goes on in their community.

Then Yasmin remembers a story that Book Uncle selected for her. It’s an old folktale about a flock of doves trapped in a hunter’s net. The birds realize that if they all flap their wings at the same time, they can lift the net and fly to safety, where they seek the help of a friendly mole who chews a hole in the net and sets them free.

And so the children get to work, launching a campaign to make sure the voices of the community are heard.

An energetic, funny and quirky story that explores the themes of community activism, friendship, and the love of books.

More News & Resources

Author Interview: Deborah Hopkinson by Megan Smith from ALSC Blog. Peek: "There were many stories I could have told of other sailors and submarines, but I feel the ones featured help convey what it was like for the young men who went to war in the Silent Service."

Looking for a job in children's-YA literature? Paper Lantern is hiring a full time marketing assistant in New York City and The Horn Book is hiring a full time assistant/associate editor in Boston.

Picture This Diversity Inforgraphic: Follow Up from Sarah Park. Peek: "Since September 14, the blog post has had over 36,000 views; my initial tweet made over 17,000 impressions; my Facebook post was shared over 10,000 times..." See also A Joyful Diversity Collection by Elizabeth Bluemle from Publishers Weekly.

Missing From the Shelves: Book Challenges and a Lack of Diversity in Children's Literature, a dedicated issue from PEN America. Peek: "...an examination of current patterns of challenges to children’s books reveals that a large portion relate to children’s and young adult books that are either authored by or are about people of color, LGBTQ people, and/or disabled people (referred to in this report as 'diverse books')..." See also School Library Journal on Self-Censorship.

Magazine Credits & Book Submissions? by Deborah Halverson from Dear Editor. Peek: "If you’re a debut novelist, you can stand to cite evidence of your chops and professionalism."

10 Tips for Writing Through Family Stress by Barbara Claypole White from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "Control your social media. Don't let it control you."

Children & Young Adult Books Featuring a Child with an Incarcerated Parent: a bibliography compiled by Mitali Perkins from Mitali's Fire Escape.

The Sibling Reality: When Picture Books Stop Being Nice and Start Getting Real by Elizabeth Bird from A Fuse #8 Production at School Library Journal. Peek: "...picture books that pick apart the nature of sibling relationships in interesting ways. I don’t mean fighting. I mean that crazy pushmepullyou of loving each other to the extreme mixed with scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs annoyance."

How I Got Into Publishing: Luana Horry, Editorial Assistant at HarperCollins Children's Books from CBC Diversity. Peek: "It felt important to me to build a career in an industry where I could make a difference in the lives of children like my niece, who deserve better than a peripheral reading and cultural experience."

Become a Story Genius: How Your Character’s Misbelief Drives The Plot by Lisa Cron from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "What readers are wired to come for is insight into what people do when push comes to shove and, most importantly, why they do it. We’re looking for inside intel into human nature, the better to navigate this scary, beautiful world ourselves."

The Cooling Off Period: Handling Manuscript Feedback Effectively by Mary Lindsey from QueryTracker.com. Peek: "After one-to-three days, I've had time to process the suggestions logically, rather than react emotionally." Note for #ownvoices writers: Take the time, set aside your ego, and thoughtfully consider feedback. But don't bow to direction that minimizes your identity-grounded sensibility and/or literary traditions in favor of the reader's. (Time and again, I've seen mentees struggle with these dynamics.) With agents/editors, proactively and professionally engage in the conversation, explain where you're coming from and why. Anyone who's a good match will be open, appreciative and respectful of your perspective. (Ideally, get feedback and discuss prior to signing with an agency or signing a publishing contract to get a feel.) I've been blessed with insightful and sensitive editors at HarperChildren's and Candlewick as well as my rock-star agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. I personally know many terrific editors and agents. They're out there. Keep submitting!

The Powerful Role of Coach in the Latinx Community by Claudia Meléndez Salinas from Latinxs in Kidlit. Peek: "They’re not just coaches: they’re role models, mentors, friends. They’re the glue of after-school programs, the difference between wholesome entertainment and life in the streets."

Interview with Zetta Elliott from Rich in Color. Peek: "I don’t think about book sales that much; I want the books to exist and to be available to those who are looking for mirrors (see below). I’m leading more workshops on indie/community-based publishing these days, and that makes me feel visible and valued because I’m showing other aspiring writers how to make their own books outside of the traditional system."

Author Cori McCarthy Discusses Her Book Being Optioned by Beth Bacon from Digital Book World. Peek: "As someone with a screenwriting degree, I feel uniquely qualified to say to Sony, 'I think you should hire a screenwriter.'"

Alert! A New Kind of Bigotry: One-Star Reviews on Goodreads by Lee Wind from SCBWI. Peek: "The review copies aren't out yet. But suddenly the book's Goodreads account had more than 1,500 ratings of the book. The book that almost none of them, unless they were personal friends with the author, could have possibly read." Note: hateful online harassment, targeted at female children's-YA authors, especially those who're women of color, is becoming increasingly frequent. Not all of us go public with our stories. Please show kindness toward one another within our children's-YA literature community. Watch out for each other out there.

Banned Books Week Roundtable: The Evolution of Censorship by Hannah Ehrlich from Lee & Low. Peek: "I try to balance writing about controversial issues by writing with young people’s best interest in mind. That is, I always try to approach these topics honestly, but also respectfully and responsibly."

This Week at Cynsations

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More Personally

People keep asking how my new book is coming. I'm so honored by the enthusiasm! Let me assure you that a YA manuscript will be zinging through the Internet to Candlewick Press on Monday morning. I know, right?

I'm in the last stages of polish for the first-round submission, which--for me--means a writer friend (in this case, Sean Petrie) is reading aloud the whole manuscript, start to finish. Then I'll key in changes and put together a note for my editor. (You should hear him do voices in dialogue; hilarious!)

On Twitter @CynLeitichSmith, I mentioned doing the read aloud and got a few questions and comments in reply. So here the scoop:

By the time a manuscript reaches submittable level, I've read it so many times that I tend to see what I meant to write, what makes the most sense, to the point that my mind's eye will fill in missing words. Also, hearing another writer read the text will alert me oddities of cadence or awkward language. What's more I benefit from hearing the reader's emotional reaction, word by word and page by page, over the course of the novel.

I highly recommend doing this twice during the novel-writing process. Before initial submission and after revising informed by the editor's feedback, right before you turn in.

What else? My other highlight of the week was a Q&A with William Shatner, followed by a showing of "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" last Friday night at Austin's historic Paramount Theater.

Mr. Shatner was engaging and funny. He spoke at length about his experiences working with and his admiration for Leonard Nimoy and Ricardo Montalban (and his pecs).

He seemed a bit embarrassed by his early overacting on the small screen and explained it as a byproduct of his stage training. He'd been used to projecting to a live audience rather than for a camera that would magnify his every word, gesture and expression. Which makes total sense.

He likewise felt the need to apologize in an affectionate way for the special effects of the film as compared to today's standards. But then he fully embraced the suggestion that the overall effect was "charming," that what the crew had been able to do, given the limits of the era was "inspiring." I strongly agree.

What else? I am still thinking about a link I featured last week, We Are Still Here: An Interview with Debbie Reese from NCTE. More specifically, about this part:

"Tim Tingle (he’s Choctaw) talks about visiting a school in Texas where he read from his outstanding book about the Trail of Tears, How I Became a Ghost. The teacher apologized to him, saying that she had to teach kids that Choctaws are extinct because that is the answer they’ll need on a test she has to give them."
Tim and I are both Native authors, Texas authors. I greatly value him and his books. Please take a moment to visit Choctaw Nation.You'll find a great people with a past, a present and a future.

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25. Guest Interview: Marcia Lynx Qualey on #WorldKidLit Month

#WorldKidLit Month image (c) Elina Braslina
By Avery Fischer Udagawa
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

September is #WorldKidLit Month, a time to notice if world literature is reaching kids in the form of translations.

(See this Book Riot list of 100 Great Translated Children’s Books from Around the World.)

Leading the effort are Cairo-based writer Marcia Lynx Qualey, translator Lawrence Schimel, and Alexandra Büchler of Literature Across Frontiers.

I was fascinated that Qualey, a journalist for The Guardian and other outlets, takes such interest in children’s literature. She answered my questions for Cynsations by email.

As a journalist, why have you made #WorldKidLit Month a special project?

Marcia Lynx Qualey
Many of the books I see promoted as “Middle Eastern literature” for children—indeed, almost all of them—are books written by Westerners and set in the region. Just so, we have floods of books by soldiers, aid workers, and journalists who spent some time in Iraq, for instance, and almost none by Iraqis.

Writing about other places is valuable, yes, but it’s another thing entirely to listen to the stories—the cadences, the art, the beauty—coming from another language.

I find it limiting and echoey to read the narrow band of “our own” Anglophone stories. We can offer our children much much more: more joy, and more ways of seeing.

What would you like the children’s literature community to gain from this annual event?

Just as with #WiTMonth (Women in Translation), I think it’s key to start with recognition—to recognize that we don’t translate much from around the world. We translate a bit from Western European languages, where publishers have connections, and that’s great. But the literature currently translated from the great Indian languages, from Chinese, from Turkish, from Farsi, from Eastern European languages, would fill a few small shelves. These literatures could give us so much!

I’m grateful for the bit translated from Japanese literature, which has been feeding our children’s imaginations in new ways. (And our grown-up imaginations, too.)

What was your own experience of literature as a child? Was your whole world represented in stories you read?

The world outside was a mysterious and scary place, difficult and sometimes painful to understand. But the worlds as presented in my books were so tangible, they really belonged to me, they could be read and re-read.

As for translations, I particularly loved folktales from around the world, and cherished not just Italo Calvino’s collection (which I read until it fell to bits), but Norwegian and Japanese and Arab and other folktales. The folktale is a wonderful global form where there has been much sharing from language to language, culture to culture.

Have you translated any literature for children?

Not in any serious or systematic way; just helping translate picture books for a friend. I would love to, but interest in Arabic kidlit has been vanishingly small.

What currently available Arabic>English kidlit translations would you recommend?

There are precious few, while children’s books translated into Arabic are many. (There are books from French and Japanese, for instance, that I know and love only in Arabic.)

You can get a translation of pioneer illustrator Mohieddine Ellabad’s The Illustrator’s Notebook, and The Servant by Fatima Sharafeddine (Faten, in the original, translated by Fatima herself), and Code Name: Butterfly by Ahlam Bsharat, translated by Nancy Roberts. I would love you to read Walid Taher’s award-winning Al-Noqta al-Sooda’, but alas there is no translation!

Cynsational Notes

Marcia Lynx Qualey blogs at Arabic Literature in English.

Avery Fischer Udagawa contributes to the SCBWI Japan Translation Group blog and is the SCBWI International Translator Coordinator.

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