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Looking Past the Cover • Children's Book Publishing • Diversity and Race • Conversation The blog of independent children's publishing company Lee & Low Books, The Open Book talks about publishing, books, library and school news, race and gender, discrimination and diversity, and more.
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1. Marketing 101: The Best Social Media Platforms For Authors

This post is part of an ongoing series at The Open Book answering questions about book marketing and publicity.

One of the questions I get most often from authors—both new and MARKETING 101: The Best Social Media for Authorsexperienced—is, “Which social media platforms do I have to be on?” There are a lot of ways to answer this question but I want to start by addressing the question itself, which is often phrased in exactly this way. The answer is: you don’t have to be on any social media platforms that you don’t want to be on. Social media can help you connect with new readers, raise your discoverability, and sell books, but it can also be a drain on your time, attention, and ideas. Social media is not for everybody, and not every platform is for every writer. So the first thing to do is let go of the guilt and pressure you feel to be on every social media platform that exists, posting content in real time. Almost no authors can pull this off and it’s not worth losing your sanity to attempt it.

With that in mind, the question to ask becomes not “which platforms do I have to be on,” but “which platform(s) would benefit me most to be on, and which are the best fit for me?” When considering where to be on social media, the number one thing you should ask yourself is whether a particular platform will be enjoyable and sustainable to you. Here are some things to consider:

  • How often do I want to post?
  • Realistically, how often will I have time to post?
  • What kind of content do I enjoy posting most? (i.e. do I enjoy curating content by others, creating my own content, or a mix of both)
  • What subjects will I be posting about?
  • How much time will I be able to dedicate to each post?
  • Am I text-driven or image-driven?
  • Do I want a platform that is very interactive or less interactive?

While you could make any platform work for you no matter how you answer the above questions, it helps to find the platform that’s the best fit for you, so social media can become an activity you enjoy instead of a slog or obligation. So, here’s a rundown of some of the most popular social media platforms and a couple things to consider about each:

TWITTER:
Ideal frequency of posts: At least once a day, preferably more
Type of content: Mixture of curation and new created content
Time commitment: Surprisingly high
Interactivity level: Varies, but higher interactivity is recommended

Twitter is a weird social media platform- even though it’s been around for several years now, it can still be hard to describe, and even harder to understand the purpose of. Think of Twitter as the world’s biggest cocktail party, happening online 24/7 without end. It can drive you crazy, but it’s also a great equalizer: where else can you tweet to celebrities and have them answer you directly? Where else can readers and authors come together so seamlessly?

Twitter is what you make of it: you can have a minimal presence there and use it mostly for “lurking,” but the truth is that unless you are very, very famous, you will get almost nothing out of Twitter unless you are on it frequently and using it in a very interactive way. Yes, it can be overwhelming and a total time suck, but it can also be a nice break from your other projects and an easy way to key yourself in to important conversations going in within the industry.

Bottom Line: If you want to do it right, Twitter takes a lot of time and attention – but the rewards can be big.

FACEBOOK:
Ideal frequency of posts: once a week minimum
Type of content: More created content than curation
Time commitment: Low-medium
Interactivity level: Medium-high

Remember when Facebook was a novelty? Over the years it’s morphed into something more akin to an Internet staple, right alongside Google. If you’re not on Facebook, you’ve probably been met with shock and awe more than once. If you are already on Facebook, you may think you’ve already got this one in the bag. However, there’s an important distinction that needs to be made here between personal pages and fan pages. As an author and therefore a public figure, you should absolutely have a separate Facebook account for your author persona apart from your personal Facebook account. This allows you to build a following, tweak your privacy settings, and save your family and friends from seeing posts about your book in their feed all the time (unless they want them).

Once you set up a fan page, what you post and how often is up to you. Unlike Twitter which is really pretty useless if you’re not using it frequently, I think there are still benefits to having a Facebook fan page even if you only update it every couple of weeks – it’s a way to allow people to demonstrate that they like you, and allows them to “subscribe” to get updates from you. It won’t let you meet new people as easily as Twitter does, but it can help you build a stronger relationship with your fans, and that’s always a nice thing.

Bottom Line: A little effort can go a long way when it comes to Facebook, so it’s a good place to be.

BLOGGING:
Ideal frequency of posts: Once a week minimum
Type of content: All created content
Time commitment: High
Interactivity level: Low-medium

I don’t technically consider blogs to be a social media platform but they always seem to get tied into this discussion, so I wanted to address them here.  The number one thing to remember about blogs is that they are a LOT OF WORK, and that amount of work never really diminishes. When you start a blog, you are essentially starting the equivalent of a one-woman (or one-man) newspaper and giving yourself the job of creating all new content for it. You may think you have blog ideas aplenty, but will you still want to be writing new posts every week six months down the road?

There are a couple questions you should keep in mind when considering starting a blog: How much extra time do I have to write? Will my blog have a specific theme or focus? A helpful thing to do is to sit down and create a list of 20 blog post ideas, and see where that gets you. If you find this exercise fun and can’t wait to start writing some of your ideas up into posts, a blog might be a good platform for you. But if getting to 20 ideas is a bit of a struggle and you can’t see yourself doing this kind of thing for a couple of hours each week, a blog might not be right for you.

A big thing to keep in mind about blogs is that if you want to get the most out of your blog, the time demands go way past writing the posts themselves. It takes time and effort to build a blog readership, and requires a good deal of marketing. So if you begin a blog, you will also probably want to be on Twitter and/or Facebook so you can use those platforms to share your content – otherwise you’re just putting your great content into the black hole of the Internet.

That’s not to see blogs can’t be worth it. When done well, blogs give you a terrific platform as an author. There’s nothing better than writing a blog post you’re proud of and seeing it reshared in many different places. Blogs can help new readers discover you and can help you connect with readers, reviewers, and other authors. Just have a sense of what you’re signing on for before you start.

Bottom Line: Probably the most demanding of all the social media channels, blogs can offer a lot but should be started with an understanding of the work they will entail.

OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS
Ah, to go back to the days when you could count the number of social media platforms out there on one hand! The fact that we now have Pinterest, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Vine, Instagram, and many others only seems to make writers more anxious about where they “need to be.”

When it comes to these more peripheral platforms—and I mean peripheral specifically in the context of online presence for authors—my advice is simple: have fun! Love photography? You might enjoy connecting with readers on Instagram. Love design? You might have fun making Pinterest boards inspired by your books. If you’re intrigued by a platform, try it out – there’s no rule that says you have to stay on it forever (though you should delete your account if you decide it’s not for you, rather than being inactive). Ultimately, all of these platforms are about the same thing: connecting with people. So if you want to be on any of them, make sure that’s what you’re getting out of it in the end, and that you’re enjoying the ride.

More Marketing 101 Posts:
What to Put on Your Author Website
Five Things to Do Before Your Book is Released

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2. Diversity Baseline Survey Update: #BigFiveSignOn and Survey Deadline

Exciting things have happened with the Diversity Baseline Survey since our last update!

The Diversity Baseline Survey gathers statistics on publishing staff and reviewers in four major categories:

1) Gender
2) Race/ethnicity
3) Sexual Orientation
4) Disability

These categories will be further broken down by department. The goal is to have all major review journals and publishers—from small, to mid-size, to large— participate in this project. If we are serious about trying to address the lack of diversity in the publishing world, this is the very first step we need to take. Sharing our numbers as an industry will not only clue us in to important patterns that may be missing, it will also show that we are committed to change.

Since our last update, several new publishers have joined the survey, including Bloomsbury, Lerner Publishing, Chronicle Books and Abrams. More small publishers have joined, including Clean Reads, Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C., and Owlkids Books. Macmillan, one of the “big five” publishers, has also joined. You can see the full list here.

All in all, almost 30 publishers and 8 major review journals will be administering the survey. This is huge.

WHY bigfivesignon

This week, a supporter created the hashtag #BigFiveSignOn to encourage more publishers to join the survey, including the rest of the “big five” publishers (HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, and Hachette), in advance of the mid-September deadline. We were thrilled to see the hashtag trending on Monday! Check out some great media coverage of the campaign from around the web:

Diversity Matters: Lee & Low Push for Diversity in the Publishing World” at BookRiot
Diversity Survey Deadline Nears” at Publishers Weekly
“Why I’m Asking that the #BigFiveSignOn” at SC Write
“The Page is a Mirror…Or Is It?” at Jamie Ayres’ blog
“Why #Bigfivesignon? #WNDB” at Coloring Between the Lines

Over at Change.org, our petition encouraging publishers to join the survey is now at almost 1,900 signatures. Have you signed yet?

The deadline for joining the survey is September 15, 2015. Help us encourage remaining publishers to join by spreading the word on social media using hashtag #bigfivesignon and by signing the petition!

Read our previous update on the Diversity Baseline Survey.

Learn about why we are asking publishers to join our Diversity Baseline Survey.

Sign the Petition.

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3. 8 Ideas for Educators to Get Students Excited About the Public Library This School Year

Do you know how many books your students or their families own or even have access to? The start of school is a great time to introduce (or reintroduce) children (and their families) to the public library.

libraries!

In the home visits many of us make at the beginning of each school year, it is an unique opportunity to see not only where our students live, but also where they study and keep their books. I learned that many of my students had only a few books in their homes and our classroom libraries would be vital to enabling student discovery of new interests and topics, as well as access to texts at and above their levels.

Families may not be able to afford books or find few books for sale. For example, one study of low-income neighborhoods in Philadelphia found one book for sale for every 300 children.

As we set out to create literacy-rich environments in our classrooms this school year, let us remember a powerful ally in the community: public libraries.

September is also Library Card Sign-Up Month so many public libraries have programs and resources available to students of all grades. Check with your nearest branch to see field trip availability, possible funding, and to download and distribute the library card application.

Before You Go

1. Read Aloud Book Recommendations

 

The Storyteller’s Candle / La velita de los cuentos

Richard Wright and the Library Card and Richard Wright y el carné de biblioteca

Destiny’s Gift (setting is a bookstore, but applicable themes)

Questions during reading

  • Why does this character/historical figure believe in the power of books?
  • What obstacles does this person have to overcome to achieve his/her goal?
  • How do reading books change the main characters/historical figures?
  • How does this person demonstrate respect or show appreciation for books and the library space?
  • Why are libraries an important part of a community?
  • Should having a library in a community be a right or is it a privilege?

2. Shared Reading ActivityThe following articles, which can be downloaded as a PDF file, contain information at just the right level for readers. Comprehension questions also included:

*note: must sign-up to read, but free for teachers

A Helper at the School Library” by ReadWorks.org

A New Kind of Library” by ReadWorks.org

Homework takes over the library for kids without Internet” by Newsela

A Chicago library’s books hit the road on two wheels” by Newsela

3. Bring in a library book for students to observeCompare the library book to a classroom book. Note the spine label on the side, the barcode label on the back, the plastic covering, the library pocket, and so on.

Finally, before your class visits the library, print off library card applications for students to fill out in class or at home with their families. This will streamline the process at the library and students will have the necessary information like their home addresses to obtain the cards. With cards in the hand, students can borrow some books!

If Doing a Visit or Field Trip, Here Are Some Activities at the Library:

4. Interview a librarian—Have students brainstorm a list of questions before they visit to ask, including:

  • What motivated him/her to become a librarian?
  • What is his/her favorite part of being a librarian?
  • What are some of the challenges of a library?
  • Why is it important for communities to have libraries?
  • How have libraries changed? How has this library changed since it first opened?
  • What can someone do at a library in addition to reading books?
  • What if someone does not speak English (or very well)? What resources can he/she use to get the most out of the library? How does the library make an inclusive space for multiple languages?

5. Library scavenger hunt—Premade lists for grade bands are available from ALA. Ideas include:

  • Get the signature of two librarians.
  • What is the name of the Children’s Librarian?
  • How much does it cost to make a copy in the library?
  • List two magazine titles the library has available to read.
  • Find a chapter book with an author whose last name begins with “D.” What is the title of the book?
  • What newspaper does the library have for reading?
  • How many computer stations does the library have for visitors to use?
  • Have students try to find a couple of the read alouds you have already read in class this year, such as The Storyteller’s Candle / La velita de los cuentos or Richard Wright and the Library Card.

Activities After the Visit to the Library

6. Create a poster to advertise the local libraryWith words and pictures, explain the benefits of visiting a library and highlight the perks of the space. How is the library rewarding to one’s education? How can a library help with homework? Depending on the class size and the amount of posters, encourage students to donate their poster to each classroom in the school as well as the main office to post on the bulletin board.

7. Write a thank you letter to the children’s or teen’s librarian or community volunteers. Encourage students to include what book title they would like to borrow first with their new library cards.

8. As a class, brainstorm a list of ideas on how to responsibly treat a borrowed library book. What does being responsible with a library book look like? Record student ideas on a chart. Look up the behavior rules on the library website. Post this list in the classroom library as a reminder for all borrowed books throughout the year.

How to make a trip to the library affordable and achievable:

  • Most important: TALK to the librarians! Many public libraries have back-to-school programs available (or preferred times for such visits) and schedules that work with the school calendar. The children’s or teen librarian may also know of funding or grants available specifically for school visits to the library.
  • Make it a family affair. While optional, encourage students’ families to join you on a Saturday at the library. This will save you having to pay for bussing or coordinate chaperones as students will attend with their families.
  • Absolutely can’t get off campus? Make sure to prioritize a program at your school library or see if the public library has school-visit programs.
  • Virtual field trips: (elementary school age) KidVision VPK Library Field Trip and (middle school age) Tour the Library by Harper College Library or Check It Out by Topeka Library

For further reading on educators engaging librarians for student achievement:

Dear librariansWhat other ideas do you suggest or have you seen work well for encouraging students to discover all that the library has to offer them (and their families) this school year? Share with us!

Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Specialist, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. In her column at The Open Book, she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

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4. The Opposite of Colorblind: Why it’s essential to talk to children about race

diversity102-logoIn this post, Tu Books Publisher Stacy Whitman discusses why avoiding discussions of race with young people can do more harm than good.

Many African American parents already know what “the talk” is. It’s not the talk that many white parents might expect—we’re not talking about the birds and the bees. No, this “talk” is the one where black parents have to sit with their children and discuss how they might be perceived by the world around them: particularly police, but also teachers, neighbors, and friends who are not from their racial background.

Though the burden often falls on parents of color alone to discuss these issues with their children, in reality all parents should address race with their kids in a conscious and meaningful way. Communities are also seeking ways to address interpersonal racial issues, Why It's Essential to Talk to Children About Raceparticularly in schools. Having the tools to know how to discuss racial matters is essential for children from all backgrounds. 

Research has shown that the “colorblind” approach—teaching children that it is racist to acknowledge racial and ethnic differences—is doing no one any favors, and in fact can reinforce racist attitudes and assumptions, and especially reify systemic racism. “Black children know irrefutably that they’re black by the time they’re about 6 years old and probably earlier,” one article noted in our research. Do white children know they’re white? If not, how do they think of themselves?

At Lee & Low, we’ve always believed that even the youngest readers have the capacity to understand and appreciate difference—that’s why many of our children’s books address issues like racism and discrimination. But you don’t have to take our word for it: many experts, educators, and academics have done work on this topic as well and their recommendations can help point parents and teachers in the right direction.

“Young children are hard-wired in their brains to notice difference and to categorize it. So it is vital during early childhood to put some context around making sense of differences,” said Shannon Nagy, preschool director in 2011 at Lincoln Park Cooperative Nursery School in Chicago.

Studies have also shown that not addressing difference does not make children colorblind—it only encourages them to absorb the implicit racial messages of American society. Children learn that race is a category even when parents try to teach them not to recognize race. Much like children learn to perform regional accents even when their parents are from another location, children learn Young children are hard-wired to notice difference.how the larger society around them views race, via inference and transductive reasoning. “In other words, children pick upon the ways in which whiteness is normalized and privileged in U.S. society.”

Teaching children to be “colorblind” has led children (and adults) to believe that it’s rude or racist to even point out racial differences—even kids of color. This makes it exponentially harder to have frank discussions about racial issues when they need to be had.

“Nonwhite parents are about three times more likely to discuss race than white parents,” said a 2007 study. “It’s the children whose parents do directly address race — and directly means far more than vaguely declaring everyone to be equal — who are less likely to make assumptions about people based on the color of our skin.”

One study even had white parents dropping out of the project when the researchers asked them to discuss racial attitudes with their children, even when they went into the study knowing that it was intended to measure children’s racial attitudes.

Many argue that “the talk” should happen far more often than once, and that parents shouldn’t bear the sole burden to teach their kids about race—that it is a community-wide issue.

Erin Winkler provides several ways for parents and teachers to address the biases that children might pick up, including discussing The Talk should happen far more often than oncethe issue in an age-appropriate way, with accurate information that doesn’t shame or silence children for having questions. They also suggest encouraging complex thinking and taking children’s questions and biased statements seriously—“When children are taught to pay attention to multiple attributes of a person at once (e.g., not just race), reduced levels of bias are shown,” the author notes, and suggests that the most important thing parents and teachers can do is to give children information that empowers them to be anti-racist.

One New York City-area school asked, “Can racism be stopped in the third grade?” They began a “racial affinity program,” in which elementary-age kids were sorted by racial groups for discussions of questions that “might seem impolite otherwise,” and to then come together as a school community to discuss these questions and experiences in a way that fosters greater communication. Parents and students are mixed on whether this program succeeded, with Asian students noting that the discussions of race still focused on the dichotomy of black and white, and some parents uncomfortable with the idea of discussing race at all. The administration notes, however, that many of their students of color needed this program—mandatory for all students—to combat microaggressions between students.

Allie Jane Bruce, the librarian at Bank Street School in New York City, has been discussing race, biases, and stereotypes with the students in her school for three years, using children’s book covers as a launching point. “I’m constantly delighted by the new discoveries kids make, and by the wisdom and insight already present in 11- and 12-year-olds,” Bruce noted in her most recent series of blog posts about the curriculum, which she has named “Loudness in the Library.” She notes especially that kids at this age tend to feel very uncomfortable with discussing race at first. “The fact that race-related conversations are so very fraught is a huge part of the problem. We must be able to communicate in order to solve problems that exist at interpersonal, institutional, and societal levels. If kids in 6th grade already have the inclination to stay silent in conversations on race, how much stronger will that inclination be in adults? And if we can’t talk about race and racism, how will things ever get better?”

Parents, what does “the talk” look like in your home? Teachers and librarians, how do you approach discussions about race with your students and patrons?

Stacy WhitmanStacy Whitman is Editorial Director and Publisher of Tu Books, an imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS that publishes diverse science fiction and fantasy for middle grade and young adult readers.

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5. How I Created the Ink and Ashes Personality Quiz

internKandace Coston is LEE & LOW’s summer intern. She is one of five recipients of the We Need Diverse Books Internship Program inaugural grant. She graduated from Barnard College where she majored in music and took every creative literature class possible. In her free time, Kandace pursues her other interests, which include American Sign Language, handmade jewelry, and composing cinematic adventures!

I’ve always loved personality quizzes. As a teenager I was obsessed with brightly-colored magazines promising to reveal and explain different traits of my personality. I spent hours answering quirky questions, deciphering ambiguous logic, and debating results. Ink and Ashes coverOften the answers were frivolous and vague like a daily zodiac reading; but every once in a while I got an explanation that cut through my skepticism and perfectly pinched my persona. It felt as though an omniscient force was watching me from within the glossy pages. Those goose bump-inducing quizzes got neatly cut out and taken to school to entertain, and discreetly dissect, my friends.

When I was offered the opportunity to write a personality quiz for Tu Books’ popular YA mystery Ink and Ashes, I jumped at the chance. Creating the quiz would allow me to play haunting omniscient force! I was determined to craft a quiz so poignant and accurate it would induce goose bumps across the arms of every reader in the land! *Evil Laugh*. I immediately set to work in the dark lair of my cubicle.

My first step was to evaluate the six personality types I would use as results: Forrest, Nicholas, Claire, Parker, Fed, and Avery. I assigned each character a different color sticky tab and reread passages of the novel marking moments that revealed their different personality traits. I oversimplified each character’s persona by condensing it into three adjectives. Next I drew a line and plotted the two most opposite personalities, Nicholas and Avery, on either side. Everyone else seemed to fall in between these two characters. I plotted them appropriately completing the personality gradient.quiz picture 1

Next, I began building questions that centered around an outing to the mall. The mall served as a great theme because it’s a natural setting for character-revealing situations. I crafted six questions that related to the novel and are circumstances readers can identify with. I thought four multiple-choice answers per question would suffice but it proved problematic. More than two characters were associated with one answer which made the personalities indistinguishable and muddied the results. Although each character is distinct, they possess certain overlapping traits. For example Parker is smart like Fed, who likes video games like Avery, who embraces conflict like Claire, and so on. The characters’ intersecting personalities led me to a significant realization: they shouldn’t be plotted on a line, but on a triangle.quiz picture 2

With this new discovery I tried a different tactic. Instead of the quiz determining which character the reader was most like, it would determine which characters the reader was most unlike. The process reminded me of how doctors diagnose patients. The answers to questions would reveal symptoms of personality, and with each symptom the quiz would eliminate the character with contrasting personality traits. Through process of elimination the reader would be left with the character he/she has the most in common with. This seemed like a solid, plan until one of my Quiz Testers managed to perfectly eliminate all six characters with her six answers. This showed me I needed additional questions, more specific answers per question, and that this diagnosis-based grading mechanism was unnecessary.

After a few more adjustments to structure and questioning my quiz was finally complete. It turns out crafting a quiz doesn’t entail the wisdom of an omniscient force but rather focused trial and error. The quiz may not be perfectly accurate or provide poignant personality revelations but that’s not the point. The point is to engage fans of Ink and Ashes by giving them something fun to discuss and results to agree or disagree with. The quiz serves as another way for readers to see themselves in literature.

To take the Ink and Ashes quiz for yourself, check it out here.

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6. How a Writing Contest for Students is Changing the Immigration Narrative

LEE & LOW BOOKS has two writing contests for unpublished authors of color: the New Voices Award, for picture book manuscripts, and the New Visions Award, for middle grade and young adult manuscripts. Both contests, which are now open for submissions aim to recognize the diverse voices and talent among new authors of color who might otherwise remain under the radar of mainstream publishing.

In this guest post, we wanted to highlight another groundbreaking writing contest that’s bringing attention to marginalized voices and fostering a love of writing in students: the Celebrate America Writing Contest run by the American Immigration Council. Coming into its 19th year, the Celebrate America Writing Contest for fifth graders has been bringing attention to the contributions of immigrants in America through the eyes and pens of our youngest writers.

In this guest post, Claire Tesh, Senior Manager of Education at the American Immigration Council, discusses the mission of the Celebrate America Writing Contest and how it has helped to shape the immigration narrative.claire tesh

It is impossible to escape the negative vitriol and hateful rhetoric around the issue of immigration that dominates the headlines, talk radio, popular culture, and in some cases the dinner table. In an effort to educate children and communities about the value of immigration to our society The American Immigration Council teams up with schools and community groups to provide young people the resources and information necessary to think critically about immigration from both a historical and contemporary perspective, while working collaboratively and learning about themselves and their communities.

The American Immigration Council developed “Celebrate America,” an annual national creative writing contest for fifth graders, because they are at the age where they are discovering their place in the world both locally and globally. They are also finding their own voice, opinions and ideas through writing, creating and sharing.   Students at this age start making sense of current events; they have a better working knowledge of basic history, and have a sense of global awareness.

Thousands of Entries

“Celebrate America” began 19 years ago with just a couple dozen entries. Today it has grown to over 5,000 entries annually! Since 1997 a total of close to 75,000 students have participated in two dozen cities, in nearly 750 schools and community centers across the nation.

As the lead on the contest since 2006, I have read thousands of entries and have attended numerous events featuring the writers. It is difficult to pick just one example, but in 2008 the winning entry America is a Refuge really showed how much a 10-12 year old can comprehend about the issue. That year, the winner, Cameron Busby, explained to a reporter from the Tucson Citizen that “I want to be a horror writer when I grow up,” and in order to tell the story of America being a place people come to be safe and thrive, he used bits and pieces of some of his classmate’s true horror stories of their own or their family member’s immigration journeys. This excerpt shows the young writer’s entry and how he made sense of injustice and how America has always been a nation symbolic as a beacon for hope:

A small child holds out a hoping

hand,

a crumb of bread,

or even a penny just to be fed

Hoping America is a refuge. A 

child weeps over her mother’s 

lifeless body,

the tears streaming down her

face

Praying America is a refuge.

Part of the reason why it’s a popular contest is because it fits neatly with the fifth grade curriculum and it is easy for teachers to implement by offering timely lessons and expository learning opportunities from classroom visits by experts to interactive web-based games. The contest is unique in that it allows for any written work that captures the essence of why the writer is proud that America is a nation of immigrants and students can express themselves through narrative, descriptive, expository, or persuasive writings, poetry, and other forms of written expressions. The teaching and learning opportunities the contest brings to both the classroom and the community has made it very popular and most teachers who participate do so year after year.In the Classroom

Monica Chun, a teacher from Seattle who has participated in the contest for several years and whose student, Erin Stark, was a national winner in 2013, starts the assignment by asking students to ask their relatives at home a question: “Who was the first person in our family to come to America?” No matter what ethnicity or how recent or distant a family’s arrival be, every student is going to have a unique answer to this question.

Involving the Community

”Celebrate America” encourages youth, families and surrounding communities to evaluate and appreciate the effects of immigration in their own lives. The unique contest includes the following components:

  • Immigration attorneys or trained volunteers visit classrooms, whether in person or virtually. The visitors give short presentations about the history of American immigration and the contributions immigrants have made over the years;
  • Teachers complement the contest by implementing lessons about immigration, social justice and diversity into their curriculum;
  • The American Immigration Council provides classrooms with innovative, relevant, and interactive lessons and resources;
  • Communities organize events, naturalization ceremonies and other celebrations to showcase the local winners;
  • The winning entry from each locale is sent to the national office and judged by well-known journalists, immigration judges and award winning authors;
  • The winning entry is read into the Congressional record, a flag is flown over the Capitol in the winner’s honor and the winner reads their entry at a 700+ person event that celebrates immigration; and
  • In the submissions the youth voice brings hope that there will be solutions to the immigration debate.

The American Immigration Council believes that teachers, parents, and students are essential to building a collective movement toward a better future: in our classrooms, in our schools, and in the larger society.   With the community’s engagement, educators, parents and students can help bridge this divide and approach the issue of immigration with intelligence and empathy.

american immigration council

Contest Impact

The contest has an impact not only in the schools and communities that participate, but also in the halls of Congress. Each year when the winning entry is read into the Congressional Record, it is rewarding to know that our leaders are hearing words of wisdom from a young person who has big ideas and who has chosen to use their voice to invite others to learn about immigration and to celebrate America’s diversity.

When the winning entries are read to new citizens at naturalization ceremonies or at dinner galas in communities of all sizes, almost every attendee has tears in their eyes because the young readers are speaking from their hearts and they represent the future. Each and every year the young writers continue to surprise us with the depth and empathy in their writings whether it is their common sense solutions to an immigration system or the story of their own immigrant background. Any writer, no matter how old and how experienced, should look at these entries to get a sense for authentic voice and various styles of writing. The thousands of students who submit to the contest get recognized in their communities and the affect is exponential because students start in the classroom and their voice continues to be shared within their schools, within their communities and beyond.

The students participating in “Celebrate America” are America’s future citizens, voters, educators and activists and it is truly an honor to shape the contest so that it provides some of the tools to think critically about immigration and to learn to explore the economic and moral effects of immigration policy as they engage in the public debates. But, today as we try to navigate the complicated maze that is immigration law and policy, it is through their incredible choice of words, that they are our guides, our teachers, and our voices of reason.

For further information on eligibility and submission process:

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7. Diversifying Your Back-to-School Reading

In this guest post from the Lee & Low archives, professor Katie Cunningham discusses ways to diversify Common Core recommended texts. As we gather resources to begin the new school year, Katie’s post is a good reminder that each year offers a fresh opportunity to look at the books we use with new eyes to see if they are serving us, and serving our students.

We live in an increasingly diverse society. Nowhere is this more evident than in classrooms, in both urban and suburban schools.  Nationally, our classrooms are almost 45% non-White and the trend toward greater diversity is expected to continue. Our classrooms reflect this trend, but our classroom libraries do not. The New York Times found that despite making up about nearly a quarter of the nation’s public school enrollment, young Latino readers seldom see themselves in books. Those of us in schools working with children from minority backgrounds know this to be true as we scan our bookshelves and find protagonists that are overwhelmingly white and living in suburban, privileged settings. The Cooperative Children’s Book Center found that in 2011, only 6% of children’s books featured characters from African American, American Indian, Asian Pacific/ Asian Pacific American, or Latino backgrounds.

Toni Morrison said, “National literature reflects what is on the national mind.” More than ever, we have a responsibility to reflect national population trends through our literature selections. As of 2011, teachers are being directed to the Common Core State Standards and its corresponding Appendix B: Text Exemplars and Performance Tasks, which has suggested texts for read-alouds and independent reading for students at grade level bands K-12.

While not required reading, there remains confusion among teachers and administrators about how to approach the list. As you scan the suggestions, you’ll quickly find a return to traditional texts like Black Stallion in fourth grade and Little Women in sixth through eighth grade. I’m of the opinion that reading traditional texts like the Preamble and Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” (also in Appendix B) can give students cultural capital needed to be successful within the educational system.

Yet, while we can turn to the Standards for suggestions, we need to turn to the children in our own classrooms and ask ourselves whether they see themselves represented in books. Not only a responsibility, this is a moral imperative. We need to ensure a balance between traditional texts and books that offer contemporary portrayals of life and youth today, that reflect the lived experiences of the students in our classrooms.

The Uncommon Corps has started a campaign to better Appendix B and has a running Better B list worthy of checking out to hear what’s on the national mind. Teachers searching for a solution can also consider classic and contemporary multicultural pairings such as those below, especially when searching for titles that represent childhood. If we keep questioning what’s accepted as our national literature for children, we will rightfully start to see books that provide mirrors for every child in every class.

Classic and Contemporary Multicultural Pairings

CLASSIC: Henry and Mudge by Cynthia Rylant

CONTEMPORARY: Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic by Ginnie Lo; Elizabeti’s Doll by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen; Loose Tooth by Margaret Yatsevitch Phinney; Bird by Zetta Elliott

Bird cover

CLASSIC: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

CONTEMPORARY: Angel’s Kite by Alberto Bianco; Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Summer of the Mariposas cover

CLASSIC: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

CONTEMPORARY: Alicia Afterimage by Lulu Delacre; Cat Girl’s Day Off by Kimberly Pauley

Cat-Girl-Cover FINAL

CLASSIC: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

CONTEMPORARY: Galaxy Games: The Challengers by Greg Fishbone; Chess Rumble by G. Neri; Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri

GalaxyGamesKatie CunninghamABOUT KATIE CUNNINGHAM: Guest blogger Katie Cunningham is an Assistant Professor at Manhattanville College. Her teaching and scholarship centers around children’s literature, critical literacy, and supporting teachers to make their classrooms joyful and purposeful. Katie has presented at numerous national conferences and is the editor of The Language and Literacy Spectrum, New York Reading Association’s literacy journal.

 

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8. 10 Reasons to Read Diversely + Poster Giveaway

When we talk about reading diversely, the conversation often focuses on representation and social justice: making sure that our books don’t reinforce inequality by stereotyping, marginalizing, or erasing groups of people. This is urgently important.

But what often gets left out of the conversation is how reading diversely can be a matter of pure enjoyment.  For those of us who love books because they help us see the world through someone else’s eyes, reading diversely can be the icing on the cake of a spectacular reading experience.

Here are our 10 favorite reasons to read diversely. What are yours?

  1. The world is diverse, so why shouldn’t our books be?
  2. It’s boring to only read about people just like you.
  3. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes.
  4. Diverse books inspire us to be the authors
    of our own stories
    .
  5. Walking in someone else’s shoes builds empathy.
  6. Diverse books make us feel seen and understood.
  7. Reading diversely can help turn nonreaders into readers.
  8. Understanding different cultures helps us succeed in a global world.
  9. Magic happens when we step outside of our comfort zones.
  10. Diverse books redefine who and what we can be.

10 reasons to read diversely

Click here for a larger image. Want a copy of our Reading Diversely poster? Comment below with your name and email address and we’ll send one out to you! (US addresses only).

Why do YOU think it’s important to read diversely?

 

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9. Two Authors Share What “Voice” Means To Them

New Voices Award sealThis year marks our sixteenth annual New Voices Award, Lee & Low’s writing contest for unpublished writers of color.

In this blog series, past New Voices winners gather to give advice for aspiring writers. This month, we’re talking about what “voice” means to an author.

When discussing the various elements of writing craft, “voice” seems to be the most difficult to pin down. You can’t plot it on a chart or even clearly define what the word means, and yet it is one of the most important elements of a story. Editors (and readers) are always looking for strong, distinct voices. It is an invisible string that echoes throughout a story and pulls the reader in. And when an author or character’s voice is nonexistent or inconsistent, it is the first thing we notice.

Voice builds trust between the author, characters, and readers. To develop a strong voice that will ring true, an author needs to understand both the story and him/herself as a writer. What is the tone of the story? Who are your characters? If a key feature—gender, age, cultural background—of the main character changes, would the voice change? It should! There are many ways to approach “voice,” and below, Linda Boyden and Paula Yoo share their techniques.

Linda Boyden, author of The Blue Roses, New Voices Winner 2000New Voices Winners (1)

The Blue Roses was my first published book. I had written many picture book manuscripts prior to it, most of which are still gathering dust and mold, but now I see how that process was vital for me to evolve as a writer. I developed the voice of this main character, Rosalie, by experimenting.
I wrote many versions of the book. I considered writing it inthird person, having one of the adult
characters do the narrating for about a nano-second; in my heart I knew this was Rosalie’s story and no one else’s, but that didn’t stop me from more experimenting. I tried having her voice be that of a child, but Papa’s death would have been too harsh an experience for a child to deal with objectively. Instead, Rosalie narrates as her adult self, after having had enough time to smooth the edges of her loss. So experiment until you understand the heart of your character; that’s where you’ll find their true voice. 

Paula Yoo, author of Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds, New Voices Winner 2005

For me, voice comes out of nowhere. I can’t predict when I will find the “voice” of my story. Voice is not only the way my main character narrates the story (his/her style of speaking, their point of view, their personality) but also in the tone of the entire story (humorous, tragic, touching). Sometimes I find my “voice” AFTER I do a ton of research and preparation, such as figuring out the story beats and plot twists and the character’s emotional journey/arc. Sometimes the voice finds ME first—I’ll just start writing a story from the point of view of a character that has taken over me because he/she has something important and unique to say. Ultimately, I think “voice” for me comes from my heart. What moves me emotionally when I write? What about a story or character makes me laugh or cry? For me, “Voice” is the heart of my story—what emotions do I want to bring out in not only in my readers but also in myself? You can write a book that has the most original and surprising plot, the most compelling and fascinating characters, and a unique setting. But if there is no EMOTION, then that book falls flat. That’s where “Voice” comes in—“Voice” determines the emotion behind the story. I wish I could give a more specific answer with facts and evidence, but when it comes to writing from the heart, there is no formula.

 

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10. Interview: Monica Brown on Her New Book Maya’s Blanket

monica brown

Out this September from the Children’s Book Press imprint of LEE & LOW, Maya’s Blanket/La manta de Maya puts a child-focused Latino spin on the traditional Yiddish folk song “Hob Ikh Mir a Mantl” (“I Had a Little Coat”) about a piece of fabric that is made into smaller and smaller items. We interviewed author Monica Brown about how she’s been inspired by the book.

1.     What inspired you to write a children’s book based on the Yiddish folk song “Hob Ikh Mira Mantl”? 

I’ve always loved the idea song, which is as much about creativity as it is about recycling and creating something from nothing. The song has inspired several books, in fact, and still inspires me. I often draw on my cultural heritage for inspiration, and Maya’s Blanket/La manta de Maya is no exception, paying homage to different aspects of my Jewish and Latina identity. It celebrates the two languages I speak, side by side on the page, along with a history of multigenerational storytelling passed down from both sides of my family.

I love the message of the song–that an object can be transformed again and again, and ultimately into something intangible and lasting through effort, creativity, and imagination. I like the idea that we can extend the life of things we love—with our own two hands or our imagination.

2.     Did you have a favorite lullaby that your parents sang to you growing up? What about a lullaby that you sang to your daughters?

My mom sang me wonderful songs in Spanish. As a child I loved in particular Tengo una muñeca vestida de azul, which translates into I have a doll dressed in blue. When her granddaughter and namesake Isabella was born, my mother, Isabel Maria, made up a special song for her. It started with this line “Isabelita, Chiquita bonita de mi Corazon” and ended with “Corazon de melon!”  It was a silly sweet line, but I’ve forgotten the lines in between, and now my mother is gone.

As a child, my only babysitters I knew were my tías and my Nana, my paternal grandmother, who taught me to embroider and sew.  I stayed overnight at my Nana’s often and when I did, “the sandman” would visit us at night. For those who don’t know, the Sandman myth, which originates in Europe, is of a character who sprinkles sand on children’s eyes, bringing them happy dreams. My Scottish and Italian Nana would be sure the sandman visited each night. If I behaved just okay during the day the sandman would sprinkle regular sand on my forehead to help me fall asleep. If I was good, I would get silver sand, and if I was very, very good, I would get gold sand sprinkled on my forehead. I could feel the different types of sand as my Nana’s hands smoothed across my forehead, hair, and closed eyes.maya's blanket

3. Do you have an object today that’s your “Maya’s blanket,” i.e. that you are continually finding new uses for and don’t want to part with?

As an adult I have more of a subject than an object, and it is the subject of childhood memory. I think I became a children’s writer so I can go back and be in that moment of childhood innocence to remember what it feels like to be comforted by a beloved grandmother or my mother, to remember those minutes and hours, forever gone, of days spend with my Nana, who patiently taught me to embroider, and to sew and stitch or my mother, who shared story after story of her childhood in Northern Peru, and her dreams and her art.

I’ve never used an electric sewing machine, but thanks to my Nana I’ve still managed to stitch and mend and sew my daughter’s things—even a Halloween costume or two with those basic stitches my grandmother taught. I have my Nana’s sewing basket still, just as I am surrounded by my mother’s paintings each time I pick up a pen or open up my computer to write.

5. MAYA’S BLANKET provides an important message about recycling! Do you have any tips on how people can be more eco-friendly?

As a teacher, I always think the place to begin with is education and The Environmental Protection Agency has a website with lots of resources for children, parents, and especially teachers: http://www2.epa.gov/students. I also love that the Sierra Club has a student coalition for high school and college students that trains and connects young environmental activists: http://www.sierraclub.org/youth. Finally, well, I want to give a shout out to my fellow writers by highlighting Authors for Earth Day: http://www.authorsforearthday.org, a group that supports conservation through literacy.

It is my hope that children and the adults in their lives can become more aware and conscious of the challenges using our natural resources responsibly, and looking to for more creative solutions to persistent problems.

About the Book:

Maya's Blanket CoverMaya’s Blanket/ La Manta de Maya
by Monica Brown, illustrated by David Diaz
Out September 2015
Ages 5-9 ~ 32 pp. ~ bilingual
Learn more about the book here.

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11. The Other Side of Quiet – An Intern’s Perspective

intern

Kandace Coston is LEE & LOW’s summer intern. She is one of five recipients of the We Need Diverse Books Internship Program inaugural grant. She graduated from Barnard College where she majored in music and took every creative literature class possible. In her free time, Kandace pursues her other interests, which include American Sign Language, handmade jewelry, and composing cinematic adventures!

Intimate. Calm. Inviting. That’s the atmosphere of the LEE & LOW BOOKS office in New York City. Twelve floors removed from the noisy hustle and heat of the city streets, this diverse books publisher’s office is a small levitating oasis.

I first noticed the Quiet during my interview in late May for the summer internship position in Marketing and Publicity. I stepped off the elevator, opened the door slowly (in compliance with the instructional sign), and instantly noticed the cool and calm. Initially I found the Quiet unnerving like the eerie silence in a horror movie that cues a tragic event. But the inviting display of bright books put my nervously pounding heart at ease. They make children’s books. I thought to myself. They make magic. I gazed at the sunny, shiny titles and was instantly relaxed.

intern deskOne month later I started my internship excited to be a small part of the magic LEE & LOW BOOKS creates. I was also excited to step over onto the other side of the Quiet. Now that I was an official member of this exclusive team I was sure my ears would tune into the buzz of the office like a radio tuning into a tricky channel. What I found instead was an immense Quiet accompanied only by the hum of a distant printer and the occasional disembodied sneeze. By July I’d surrendered. My ears stopped scanning for transmissions within the white noise that is the office’s Quiet.

As I ceased my mission for sound, I began my mission of getting to know the office. I made appointments with personnel in various departments to learn how the largest publisher of diverse books in the country operates. Everyone I reached out to was more than happy to oblige me which I was grateful for but not surprised by; the office is incredibly friendly and welcoming.

With each interview I learned new facts about children’s books and the publishing industry:

  • Children’s books take over a year to create.
  • Marketing a book entails intensely creative work.
  • The difference between dystopian and post-apocalyptic.
  • How to spell apocalyptic.

With each interview I also noticed a recurrence: every person I spoke to is excited about the work they do here. Their faces lit up as they eloquently, passionately, and patiently explained to me how they contribute to the LEE & LOW BOOKS message. Each person brings pride and a distinct expertise to their work that makes them invaluable. Many people in my life are not content with the way they earn a living. It seems the team at LEE & LOW has that life conundrum figured out. I found everyone’s enthusiasm refreshing and encouraging.

summer intern

Nowadays when I enter the office I’m not caught off guard by the Quiet. Instead I’ve realized that within the Quiet is progress. The diligent staff members of Lee & Low Books are busy bettering the world through children’s literature. In this intimate oasis of an office the Quiet is a sound; the sound of focus and fulfillment.

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12. Books for Children and Educators About Kindness

Kids can be kind, empathetic, and compassionate – but not always. 17 children's books about kindnessAs we head toward the new school year, we know that new friendships will be formed, old friendships may fall away, and there are bound to be hurt feelings before too long. By teaching about kindness in a conscious way, we can arm young people to go into complex situations ready to be kind and to model kindness to others. Books present a perfect springboard for having discussions about kindness and engendering a deeper level of understanding and appreciation for what it means to be kind.

The book list below was put together by Dr. Sylvia M. Vardell, a Professor at the Texas Woman’s University School of Library & Information Studies. Dr. Vardell originally put this list together for a presentation she did at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) conference last fall, and was gracious enough to let us reshare it here. 

Selected Books for Young People About Kindness:

Bunting, Eve. 2006. One Green Apple. Clarion.
Cuyler, Margery. 2007. Kindness is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler. Simon & Schuster.
Dillon, Leo & Diane. If Kids Ran the World. Blue Sky Press.
Frank, John. 2014. Lend a Hand. Ill. by London Ladd. Lee & Low.
Graff, Lisa. Absolutely Almost. Philomel.
Hennessy, B. G. 2011. Because of You: A Book of Kindness. Candlewick.
Jules, Jacqueline. Never Say a Mean Word Again. Wisdom Tales.
Lord, Cynthia. 2006. Rules. Scholastic.
Ludwig, Tracy. 2013. The Invisible Boy. Knopf.
Myracle, Lauren. 2014. The Life of Ty: Non-Random Acts of Kindness. Dutton.
Newman, Leslea. 2012. October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard. Candlewick.
Palacio, R. J. 2012. Wonder. Knopf.
Pearson, Emily. 2002. Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed. Gibbs Smith.
Raschka, Chris. 2011. A Ball for Daisy. Schwartz & Wade.
Stein, David Ezra. 2012. Because Amelia Smiled. Candlewick.
Snow, Todd and Snow, Peggy. 2008. Kindness to Share from A to Z. Maren Green.
Woodson, Jacqueline. 2012. Each Kindness. Penguin.

Recommended Professional Resource Books

Ferrucci, Piero. 2007. The Power of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life. Tarcher.
Goldman, Carrie. 2012. Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear. HarperOne.
Laminack, Lester and Wadsworth, Reba. 2012. Bullying Hurts: Teaching Kindness Through Read Alouds and Guided Conversations. Heinemann.
Mah, Ronald. 2013. Getting Beyond Bullying and Exclusion, PreK-5: Empowering Children in Inclusive Classrooms. Skyhorse Publishing.
Pearson, Ferial. 2014. Secret Kindness Agents: How Small Acts of Kindness Really Can Change the World. WriteLife.
Rice, Judith Ann. 2013. The Kindness Curriculum: Stop Bullying Before It Starts. Redleaf Press.
Rue, Nancy. 2014. So Not Okay: An Honest Look at Bullying from the Bystander (Mean Girl Makeover series). Nelson.

Here’s an infographic we created based on the book Lend a Hand about random acts of kindness:

Lend A Hand Infographic
click for larger view

 

What are your favorite books for children, adults, and professional educators about kindness? Please share in the comments!

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13. The Right Read Aloud for the Classroom Community You Want This Year

Whether students have a year or more under their belts or are starting school for the first time, a new school year can invoke everything from laughter to tears to giggles and cheers. Teachers face the full spectrum of student feelings about the first day of a new school year: excitement, shyness, doubt, fear, anxiety.

How can we help our students face their feelings and the start of the new school year?

Selecting the right back-to-school read aloud is exciting because of the potential it holds. We can imagine the conversations we will have with our scholars and the connections they will make. We can imagine the safe, welcoming, reading-first space we will inspire.

back to school booksIt may be tempting to concentrate on introducing students to routines and expectations and practicing procedures around sitting on the carpet or signaling for the bathroom. However, building classroom culture is critical to a successful school year. Reading should start on day 1 as part of your strategy for achieving that safe, welcoming, reading-first space.

As you assemble or sort through your read aloud bin for the right mentor texts for the first unit in your scope & sequence, think about which books signal the community and classroom culture you want and your students need.

Pair read alouds that are “elementary school classics” with books that celebrate and recognize your students’ experiences, backgrounds, and interests.

For example, a classic back to school read aloud is Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes, about a young girl’s first day of kindergarten. Henkes captures the feelings of many new students navigating new spaces and friendships.

Now pair that with a text that has characters with identities and experiences that are meaningful to your student population. Yes, first day jitters and excitement are universal, but the additional challenge of being a non-native English speaker or coping with homelessness can tip feelings over from nervous to overwhelmed.

Chrysanthemum, You’re Not Alone!

As part of your preparations for the beginning of the school year, gather a collection of your books related to the first day of school.

Book Pairing Recommendation:

Elizabeti’s School + Moony Luna/ Luna, Lunita Lunera + Chrysanthemum (HarperCollins)

Ideal read-alouds for the start of school should:

  • Allow you to introduce and discuss the roles of students and teachers, the classroom, and school in general
  • Show young learners that it is normal to have a mixture of feelings during this time of change
  • Include a variety of themes and topics: the first day of school, making friends, families and communities, dealing with new situations and separation, helping each other process our emotions/overcome fears, and growing up

Getting students to start talking about how a character grapples with new  classmates and the school setting can help them express how they are feeling as well as recognize that others in the room feel exactly the same way. (It also gives you the opportunity to start reading to kids! And show how book-centric your classroom is.)

Activities:

  1. In the first few days, read more than one character’s first day of school. Ask children to make connections between these stories. Also encourage them to connect their own school experiences to those of characters in the books.
  2. If students are writing, have children write about something in school that made them feel happy. It may be one or two sentences. For students who are not writing yet, encourage them to dictate their experience for their drawings to an adult who will record their words. Include a space for students to sketch their answer.
  3. Have students turn to the last page in the book. Then ask them to draw a dream that the character might have that night or imagine what her second day will be like.
  4. As a whole group, write a class letter as Chrysanthemum to Moony Luna. What advice would she have for Luna about school?
  5. Finally, create a bin of other back-to-school books (it’s quite a genre!) for students to explore in and outside of class.

Additionally, consider reading your favorite must-read back-to-school book in the students’ first language (or inviting a parent to join alongside you in the reading) if they are English Language Learners. Many of the most popular “classics” are available in other languages as well as authentic literature written as bilingual texts.

Recognizing children’s cultures and their languages is a BIG deal. Too many schools get students’ names wrong from the beginning. More and more schools have English Language Learner populations and multiple languages spoken within one school and classroom. Reading in students’ language or selecting a text that portrays a character your students identify with communicates to them that they matter, their lives matter, and they are going to learn a ton with you this year.

Culturally responsive books with characters and themes about navigating a new school/grade/year:

A Shelter in Our Car: Zettie and her Mama left their warm and comfortable  home in Jamaica for an uncertain life in the United  Sates, and they are forced to live in Mama’s car.

David’s Drawings and Los dibujos de David: Available in Spanish and English, a shy young African American boy makes friends in  school by letting his classmates help with his drawing of  a bare winter tree. A shy young African American boy  makes friends in school by letting his classmates help  with his drawing of a bare winter tree.

Elizabeti’s School and La escuela de Elizabeti: In this contempory Tanzanian story available in English and Spanish, author Stephanie  Stuve­Bodeen and artist Christy Hale once again bring  the sweet innocence of Elizabeti to life. Readers are sure  to recognize this young child’s emotions as she copes  with her first day of school and discovers the wonder and  joy of learning.

First Day in Grapes and Primer día en las uvas: Available in Spanish and English, the powerful story of a migrant boy  who grows in self­confidence when he uses his math  prowess to stand up to the school bullies.

Home at Last and Al fin en casa: A sympathetic tale available in Spanish and English of a mother­daughter bond and  overcoming adversity, brought to life by the vivid  illustrations of Felipe Davalos.

Moony Luna/ Luna, Lunita Lunera: Bilingual English/Spanish. A bilingual tale about a  young girl afraid to go to school for the first time.

The Closet Ghosts: Moving to a new place is hard enough without finding a bunch of mean, nasty ghosts in your closet. When  Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god, answers Anu’s plea  for help, Anu rejoices­until she realizes that those pesky  ghosts don’t seem to be going anywhere.

The Upside Down Boy/ El niño de cabeza: Bilingual English/Spanish. Award­winning poet Juan  Felipe Herrera’s engaging memoir of the year his  migrant family settled down so that he could go to  school for the first time.

Willie Wins: In this heart-warming story, a boy gets beyond peer  pressure and comes to appreciate the depth of his  father’s love.

For further reading on starting the school year:

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14. Spotlight On: REFORMA’S Children in Crisis Project

From time to time here on the LEE & LOW blog we like to shine a spotlight on organizations, companies, or projects that move us. Today we’re featuring a special project close to our heart: the Children in Crisis Project from REFORMA, the National Association To Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos.

Preparing books for donation (image from REFORMA website)

Last year, over 70,000 unaccompanied children crossed the Southern border into the United States. This is a true humanitarian crisis, with many of these children ending up in detention centers, awaiting immigration processing or deportation. They have few or no personal belongings, don’t know English, and have been separated from their families with no sense of if or when they will be reunited.

Oralia Garza de Cortes, Lucía Gonzalez, and Patrick Sullivan are three longtime members of REFORMA who were moved to help. They implemented the Children in Crisis project to solicit donations, purchase, and deliver books and backpacks to the children in detention centers. In the first phase of the drive, they raised enough funds and donations to deliver 300 books to children in the McAllen Texas Centralized Processing Center, and they have since delivered several hundred more. Currently they are coordinating donations of backpacks that will contain books as well as paper, pencils, erasers, crayons and a writing journal for children to use in their journey toward their destination.

The project is a moving illustration of how librarians essentially serve as caretakers of their communities, bridging the gap between resources and the people who need them. “As the immigrant child that I was, I remember that first librarian taking me to the Spanish section with three or four Spanish books. I hope every child will find that librarian, like an oasis in a desert,” said Lucía Gonzalez.

When asked why they felt that librarians should have a role in outreach to these children, Oralia Garza de Cortes said, “We reached out as a humanitarian cause, just something so overwhelming that we really had to come together to do something.”

Patrick Sullivan added, “It’s also a counterbalance to some of those xenophobic Americans. The initial reception that some of these people received . . . was depressing and doesn’t show how we are as Americans. Librarians reach out to their communities every day and this was something we had to respond to. ”

The process for getting the books into children’s hands was a challenging one, given detention centers’ heavy regulation and policing. The group made contact with the border patrol, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and even contractors in order to find a way to deliver the books. “The books were welcome, but the problem was getting in touch with the right people,” said Sullivan. They were prohibited from entering the detention facilities themselves to deliver the books.

Delivering books to a shelter. (image from REFORMA website)

“This is just mega gyms full of people lying on mattresses on the floor and there’s just no space,” said Garza de Cortes. “They are in these freezing warehouses and have no idea what’s happening. If they had a good book, that would take them along on their journey.”

Although it would be an added effort, the group decided to include bookplates in each donated book, an idea that came from longtime REFORMA member Sandra Valderrama.  “It was cumbersome, but to have the message in the book saying, ‘This is your book, and you’re free to take it wherever you want and it will give you light and be your companion,’ it was a very powerful message,” said Garza de Cortes.

Said Gonzalez, “For many of them this is the first book they own and it is a very unique experience.”

The group hopes the donated books will serve as the beginning, not the end, of children’s relationship with their libraries.  “What we’d like to do is interject ourselves to those kids who will eventually end up in the United States,” said Sullivan. “There are contacts that can happen that go beyond just the books. We’re trying to convey the idea that libraries are these free open places with lots of information.”

“The families need guidance,” said Gonzalez. “If they don’t have a place like the public library, where are they going to go? How are they going to get this information?”

Garza de Cortes, Gonzalez, and Sullivan were named 2015 Movers & Shakers by School Library Journal for their work. You can learn more about ways to help here.

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15. 8 Books to Celebrate International Friendship Day

August 2nd - also known as International Friendship Day- is almost here. (I know, summer is going by WAY too fast).

In honor of International Friendship Day, break out your half of your friendship heart necklace and take some time to remind others how much they mean to you.  If you’re unable to make plans to enjoy each other’s company, a simple gesture, such as a card or hand-written letter, will certainly make them feel loved.

Better yet, say it with a book! Reading books about friendship gives Internationalyou an opportunity to talk about the characteristics of a good friend, and seeing others from diverse backgrounds sharing and being kind to each other positively affects how children will interact and treat others.

Here are 8 books that celebrate friendship and some fun activities to make International Friendship Day a memorable one.

The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen

Juna’s Jar

Up the Learning Tree

David’s Drawings

First Come the Zebra

The Can Man

Rainbow Joe and Me

The Legend of Freedom Hill

  1. Make a Friendship Card

One of the simplest and most appreciated gestures is to make someone a card to let them know you’re thinking of them. Receiving anything heartfelt in the mail is a rare and welcomed occurrence these days.

  1. Make Friendship Bracelets

You don’t need to go to summer camp to make these! They make great gifts and they’re also fun to make.

  1. Do a Random Act of Kindness

International Friendship Day isn’t just about your closest friends. Reach out and be a friend to others.

  1. Write a friendly letter

Whether it be a close or new friend-near or far- taking the time to write a letter shows how much you care.

veronicabioVeronica has a degree from Mount Saint Mary College and joined LEE & LOW in the fall of 2014. She has a background in education and holds a New York State childhood education (1-6) and students with disabilities (1-6) certification. When she’s not wandering around New York City, you can find her hiking with her dog Milo in her hometown in the Hudson Valley, NY.

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16. New Spring and Fall Releases from LEE & LOW BOOKS and Tu Books!

Summer is here in full force. It’s the perfect time to curl up pool- or beachside with a good book! Look no further than our new spring and fall releases!

Finding the Music/En pos de la música

When Reyna accidentally breaks her abuelito’s old vihuela, she travels around her neighborhood trying to figure out how to repair it. In the process, she discovers her grandfather’s legacy. Written by Jennifer Torres and illustrated by Renato Alarcão.

Sunday Shopping

Evie and her grandma go shopping every Sunday. They put on their nightgowns, open up the newspapers,  and turn on their imaginations. Written by Sally Derby and illustrated by Shadra Strickland.

Poems In The Attic Text here

A young girl finds her mother’s poems written when her mother traveled around in a military family. The young girl writes her own related poems. Written by Nikki Grimes and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon.

Ira’s Shakespeare Dream

Ira Aldridge dreamed of acting in Shakespeare’s plays. Because of a lack of opportunity in the United States, Ira journeys to England to pursue his dream of becoming an actor. Written by Glenda Armand and illustrated by Floyd Cooper.

Maya’s Blanket

Maya has a blanket stitched by her Grandma. The blanket later becomes a dress, a skirt, a shawl, a skirt and a headband. This story is inspired by the Yiddish folk song “Hob Ikh Mir a Mantl” (“I Had a Little Coat”). Written by Monica Brown and illustrated by David Diaz.

New from the Tu Books imprint:

Ink and Ashes

Claire Takata discovers her deceased father’s connection to the yakuza, the Japanese mafia, and puts her and her family’s lives in danger. Written by Valynne E. Maetani.

Trail of the Dead

In this sequel to the award-winning Killer of Enemies, Lozen and her family, on the run from the tyrants who once held them hostage, embark on a journey along a perilous trail once followed by her ancestors, where they meet friends and foes alike. Written by Joseph Bruchac.

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17. Two Authors Share Their Favorite Tools to Plot a Story

new visions award winnerThis year marks our sixteenth annual New Voices Award, Lee & Low’s writing contest for unpublished writers of color.

In this blog series, past New Voices winners gather to give advice for new writers. This month, we’re talking about tools authors use to plot their stories.

Pamela Tuck, author of As Fast As Words Could Fly, New Voices Winner 2007

One tip I learned from a fellow author was that a good story comes “full circle”. Your beginning should give a hint to the ending, your middle should contain page-turning connecting pieces, and your ending should point you back to the beginning.

The advantage I had in writing As Fast As Words Could Fly, is that it was from my dad’s life experiences, and the events were already there. One tool that helped me with the plot was LISTENING to the emotions as my dad retold his story. I listened to his fears, his sadness, his excitement, and his determination. By doing this, I was able to “hear” the conflict, the climax, and the resolution.

One major emotion that resonates from my main character, Mason, is confidence. I drew this emotion from a statement my dad made: “I kept telling myself, I can do this.” The challenging part was trying to choose which event to develop into a plot. My grandfather was a Civil Rights activist, so I knew my dad wrote letters for my grandfather, participated in a few sit-ins, desegregated the formerly all-white high school, learned to type, and entered the county typing tournament. Once I decided to use his typing as my focal point, the next step was to create a beginning that would lead up to his typing. This is when I decided to open the story with the idea of my dad composing hand-written letters for his father’s Civil Rights group. I threw in a little creative dialogue to explain the need for a sit-in, and then I decided to introduce the focal point of typing by having the group give him a typewriter to make the letter writing a little easier. To build my character’s determination about learning to type, I used a somewhat irrelevant event my dad shared: priming tobacco during the summer. However, I used this event to support my plot with the statement: “Although he was weary from his day’s work, he didn’t let that stop him from practicing his typing.” His summer of priming tobacco also gave me an opportunity to introduce two minor characters who would later add to the tension he faced when integrating the formerly all-white school.

The second step was to concentrate on a middle that would show some conflict with typing. This is when I used my dad’s experiences of being ignored by the typing teacher, landing a typing job in the school’s library and later being fired without warning, and reluctantly being selected to represent his school in the typing tournament.

Lastly, I created an ending to show the results of all the hard work he had dedicated to his typing, which includes a statement that points back to the beginning (full circle).

Although the majority of the events in As Fast As Words Could Fly are true, I had to carefully select and tweak various events to work well in each section, making sure that each event supported my plot.

Jennifer Torres, author of Finding the Music, New Voices Winner 2011

I’m a huge fan of outlines and have a hard time starting even seemingly simple stories without one. An outline gives me and my characters a nice road map, but that’s not always enough. Once I had an outline for Finding the Music, it was really helpful to visualize the plot in terms of successive scenes rather than bullet points. I even sketched out an actual map to help me think about my main character Reyna’s decisions, development and movement in space and time.

Still, early drafts of the story meandered. There were too many characters and details that didn’t move the plot forward. When stories begin to drift like that, I go back to my journalism experience: Finding the Music needed a nut graph, a newspaper term for a paragraph that explains “in a nutshell” what the story is really about, why it matters. Finding the Music is about a lot of things, but for me, what it’s *really* about is community—the community Reyna’s abuelo helped build through this music and the community Reyna is part of (even though it’s sometimes noisier than she’d like). I think Reyna’s mamá captures that idea of community when she says, “These are the sounds of happy lives. The voices of our neighbors are like music.”

Once I found the heart of the story, it was a lot easier to sharpen up scenes and pull the plot back into focus.

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18. New York City Teachers: How Do You Discover Diverse Literature For Your Students?

It can be challenging to create an inclusive book collection or curriculum. For even the most committed and informed teachers, there is a diversity gap in children’s literature. In addition, there are also the issues of support from colleagues and administrators, time (and money) for discovery, and acquiring best practices.

For those in New York City education, here is an opportunity to share your experiences teaching and searching for culturally relevant and responsive curriculum and books!

Snapshot_20140113Dr. Marilisa Jiménez-García from the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, CUNY is gathering information about diversity in children’s and young adult literature from the perspective of Literature and Language Arts instructors in New York City public schools. Take her ten-minute survey here.

The goals of the survey are to understand how educators learn about books in their professional development and to find better ways to connect educators to diverse teaching materials.

A message from Dr. Jiménez-García:

Your perspective as a practitioner is important to creating a productive dialogue about today’s Language Arts classroom. I want to learn about your experiences as a teacher in NYC public schools teaching literature in classrooms. 

How are you and your students exposed to diverse stories, authors, and characters? What are some resources that would help you increase the kind of diversity your students receive in literature instruction? What development opportunities would you like to participate in that would enrich your experience as a NYC teacher?”

diverse books teacher surveyDue date: September 15, 2015

Time: Ten minutes

Eligibility:

  1. You must be a current New York City public (district or charter) school teacher
  2. Your area of instruction must be Literature/Language Arts/English and/or English Language Learner instruction

Survey link here.

Responses are confidential and will be used in a larger study on diverse books in schools that Dr. Jiménez-García is doing as a National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE) Cultivating New Voices Among Scholars of Color Fellow. She can be reached at @MarilisaJimenez.

For further reading on Dr. Jiménez-García’s work:

 

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19. The Perfect Picture Book for the Last Day of School


The Perfect Picture Book for the Last (2)Your last day with this class is here. You have one last time to share the moment when you gather for a read aloud. How will you honor the moment?

The last day of school is hectic, a blur, a blast, sweet, and wistful.

 

Will you pick a book you already read this year with your students to live again in that moment? Or will you pick a book to launch your students toward their summers and the rest of their education journey?

 

Will your last read aloud be nostalgic or hopeful? 

We’ve gathered some of our favorite Lee & Low titles to conclude and celebrate a year’s worth of reading with your students. Let us know what you recommend (any book!) and your reading tradition on the last day of school!

Poetry

Amazing Faces

An anthology of universal poems focusing on the human experience–emotions, perceptions, and understandings–as expressed by poets of diverse heritage and reflected in illustrations featuring people of all ages and backgrounds.

Confetti: Poems for Children

The renowned poet Pat Mora celebrates the culture and landscape of the southwest through the eyes of a Mexican American girl. 

I and I Bob Marley

A biography in verse of reggae legend Bob Marley, exploring the influences that shaped his life and music on his journey from rural Jamaican childhood to international superstardom. 

Summer

My Steps

An African American girl shares her private world of playtime on her front steps over each of the four seasons. 

Quinito’s Neighborhood/El Vecindario de Quinito

This bilingual book takes readers around the buildings, streets, shops, and people that make up Quinito’s neighborhood. 

Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy

A biography of William “Dummy” Hoy, one of the first deaf major league baseball players. 

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story

The inspirational true story of Sammy Lee, a Korean American who overcame discrimination to realize both his father’s desire that he become a doctor and his own dream of becoming an Olympic champion diver. 

Strong to the Hoop

A boy finally gets to play basketball on the main court with the older boys, and has to prove he can hold his own. 

Young Cornrows Callin Out the Moon

Ruth Forman offers a poetic testament to childhood, language, and play, bringing to life the streets of South Philadelphia. Young Cornrows Callin Out the Moon is a celebration of city summer memories, and of African American culture and community.

Drummer Boy of John John

A joyous picture book set in the Caribbean  during Carnival, based on the childhood of one of the inventors of the steel drum. 

The Power of Learning and Education

Armando and the Blue Tarp School

The story of a young Mexican boy living in a colonia (trash dump community) who takes the first steps toward realizing his dream of getting an education. 

Chess Rumble

A story in free verse about a troubled boy who learns to use his mind instead of his fists through the guidance of an unconventional mentor and the game of chess. 

How We Are Smart

Readers will learn that being smart is about more than doing well in school. There are eight ways to be smart, and they are reflected in how a person uses his or her body, relates to the natural world, responds to music and art, and more.

Love to Langston

This inspiring biography on Langston Hughes celebrates his life through poetry. 

Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace

A picture book biography of scientist Wangari Maathai, the first African woman–and first environmentalist–to win a Nobel Peace Prize (in 2004) for her work planting trees in her native Kenya.

Yasmin’s Hammer

A young Bangladeshi girl who helps support her family by working in a brickyard finds a way to make her dream of going to school and learning to read a reality. 

Silly/Humor

George Crum and the Saratoga Chip

An account of the life and career of George Crum, a biracial chef who is credited with the invention of the potato chip at a Saratoga Springs, New York, restaurant in 1853. Based on historical records. 

Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji

Overflowing with family, food, and a tall stack of fun, this story is sure to warm the heart and tickle the tummy. A fun way for children to learn about the cultural traditions and foods of India. 

Jazz Baby

A celebration of music and movement, this story in verse is inspired by the riffs, rhythms, and freedom of jazz.

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald no combina

A mestiza Peruvian American of European, Jewish, and Amerindian heritage, renowned author Monica Brown wrote this lively story to bring her own experience of being mismatched to life.

Sunday Shopping

Every Sunday night a young girl and her grandmother go on an imaginary shopping trip in this delightful picture book.

The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen

A spunky African American girl has a hula-hooping competition with her friends in Harlem, and soon everyone in the neighborhood–young and old alike–joins in on the fun.

Where On Earth is My Bagel?

A young Korean boy gets a craving for a New York bagel and goes on a journey to fulfill his hunger. 

Believe in Yourself

Allie’s Basketball Dream

Basketball is Allie’s favorite sport–she’s loved it ever since her father took her to her first game at Madison Square Garden. 

Call Me Tree/Llámame Árbol

An imaginary  tale of self-discovery told by a child who grows, learns about the natural world, embraces others, and is free to become who he or she is meant to be–a child as unique as a tree. Gender neutral.  

Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl’s Baseball Dream

The spirited story of Marcenia Lyle, the African American girl who grew up to become “Toni Stone,” the first woman to play for an all-male professional baseball team.

Cora Cooks Pancit

Cora and Mama work together to cook up pancit for the family in this celebration of Filipino heritage and foods. 

Crazy Horse’s Vision

The true story of the great Sioux warrior who, as a young boy, defies tradition and seeks a vision on his own in hopes of saving his people. 

Poems to Dream Together/Poemas para soñar juntos

A bilingual collection of poetry by acclaimed Chicano poet Francisco X. Alarcon celebrating family, community, nature, and the positive power of dreams to shape our future.

The Happiest Tree: A Yoga Story

Meena, a young Asian Indian American girl, grows in self-confidence when she learns to practice yoga and apply the underlying principles to her performance in the school play.

Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree

The true story of the famous writer, who as a young girl, learned about hope and strength from her mother.

Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. In her weekly column at The Open Book, she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

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20. Come meet LEE & LOW BOOKS at ALA 2015!

ALA is just around the corner and we would love to meet you! We’ll be in the North Exhibit Hall at Booth #1020!

See below for our signing schedule as well as a few other events we’ll be participating in:

jason low ignite session

Join LEE & LOW BOOKS publisher Jason Low for a quick-as-lightning Ignite Session: “Diversity’s Action Plan.” This will be a short talk packed with big ideas about how to create change in the publishing industry. Join us on Saturday, June 27th at the Moscone Convention Center from 11: 30 AM – 12:00 PM in room 130N.

SIGNINGS AT BOOTH #1020

Friday, June 26

6:00 – 7:00 PM: Children’s Book Press authors Alma Flor Ada (Let Me Help!/ ¡Quiero ayudar!); Mira Reisberg (Uncle Nacho’s Hat/ El sombrero del Tío Nacho); Harriet Rohmer (Honoring Our Ancestors)Carmen Lomas Garza (In My Family/ En mi familia); and Jorge Argueta (A Movie in My Pillow/ Una película en mi almohada)

Saturday, June 27

Floyd Cooper (Ira’s Shakespeare Dream), 9:15 – 10:00 AM

Maya Christina Gonzalez (Call Me Tree/Llamamé arbol), 10:00 – 10:45 AM

Frank Morrison (Little Melba and Her Big Trombone), 11:00 – 11:45 AM

Jennifer Torres (Finding the Music/ En pos de la música), 12:00 – 12:45 PM

Nikki Grimes (Poems in the Attic), 2:00 – 2:45 PM

Emily Jiang & April Chu (Summoning the Phoenix), 3:00 – 3:45 PM

Monica Brown (Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash), 4:00 – 4:45 PM

Sunday, June 28

Frank Morrison & Katheryn Russell-Brown (Little Melba and Her Big Trombone), 10:00 – 10:45 AM

Paula Yoo (Twenty-two Cents), 11:00 – 11:45 AM

Karen Sandler (Tankborn trilogy), 12:00 – 12:45 PM

Jane Bahk (Juna’s Jar), 1:00 – 1:45 PM

Valynne E. Maetani (Ink and Ashes), 2:00 – 2:45 PM

Christy Hale (Dreaming Up), 3:00 – 3: 45 PM

Monday, June 29

Valynne E. Maetani (Ink and Ashes), 10:00 – 10:45 AM 

You can also download a printable PDF of our schedule here.

PANELS

Join LEE & LOW authors at the following panels:

Sunday, June 28

Diverse Authors Need Us, 9:00 – 10:00 AM

Karen Sandler (Tankborn trilogy) & G. Neri (Yummy, Chess Rumble)

PopTop Stage, Exhibit Hall, Moscone Convention Center

 Poetry Blast, 3:00 – 4:00 PM

Nikki Grimes (Poems in the Attic)

PopTop Stage, Exhibit Hall, Moscone Convention Center

 Monday, June 29

2K15 Debut Novels Panel, 9:00 – 10:00 AM

Valynne E. Maetani (Ink and Ashes)

PopTop Stage, Exhibit Hall, Moscone Convention Center

Hope to see you there!

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21. Pride Month: Fifteen LGBTQ-Themed Books for Readers of Every Age

June is Pride Month!  Pride Month commemorates the Stonewall Riots, which happened June 1969, and was a starting summer deals!point for the Gay Rights movement. The Stonewall Inn, where the riots took place, in New York City recently gained landmark status.

To celebrate, we’ve put together a list of fifteen books that celebrate different gender identities, sexual orientations, families, and ways to be!

Picture Books

Antonio’s Card by Rigoberto Gonzalez – Mother’s Day is coming up. Antonio searches for the right words to express his love for his mother, and Leslie, his mother’s partner.

Call Me Tree by Maya Christina Gonzalez – In this completely gender-neutral story, Maya Christina Gonzalez empowers readers to reach … and be as unique and free as trees.

I am Jazz by Jazz Jennings and Jessica Herthel – Based on the life of transgender activist Jazz Jennings. Jazz has known she was a girl since the age of two, even if everyone around her doesn’t know it yet.

Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman – This classic is one of the first lesbian-themed picture books. Heather is being raised by her mother, Jane and her mother’s partner, Kate.

Middle Grade

George  by Alex Gino – Everyone thinks George is a boy, but George knows that she’s a girl. After her teacher announces that the class play is Charlotte’s Web, George hatches a plan with her best Kelly, so that everyone can know who she is once and for all.

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle – Nate has always wanted to be in a Broadway show. But how is he supposed to make his dreams come true when he’s stuck in a small town in Pennsylvania?

Wandering Son by Takako Shimura – Shuichi Nitori and Yoshino Takatsuki are two friends at the start of puberty sharing a big secret: Shuichi is a boy who wants to be a girl and Yoshino is a girl who wants to be a boy. First graphic novel in a series.

 

Young Adult

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin – Six transgender and gender-neutral teens share their stories.

Ash by Malinda Lo – In this retelling of Cinderella, Ash must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.

None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio– In this debut novel, Kristen, has a seemingly ideal life. She’s just been voted homecoming queen and is a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college. Everything unravels when Kristen and her boyfriend decide to take it to the next level, and Kristen finds out she’s intersex. Somehow her secret is leaked to the whole school.

Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez – Sanchez’s debut novel follows three boys, Jason Carrillo, Kyle Meeks, and Nelson Glassman, as they struggle with their sexualities and their friendships.

 

Books for Adults

Autobiography of My Hungers by Rigoberto Gonzalez – Rigoberto Gonzalez takes a look at his life through the lens of hunger.

Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima – Kochan is unlike other men; he is homosexual. In post-war Japanese society, Kochan must keep this fact hidden under a mask of propriety.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker – This book focuses on the lives of several poor African American women in rural Georgia.

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson – The rich and privileged have left Toronto for the suburbs. Now, the people with money need bodies, so they prey upon the helpless people on the street.

 

 

 

 

 

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22. 10 Myths about Teaching STEM Books and How You Can Teach STEM in Your Classroom Now

STEM Friday + Lee & Low Books (1)Join Lee & Low Books and Anastasia Suen, Founder of the STEM Friday blog and award-winning children’s book author, for a dynamic discussion on how to teach STEM in your classroom starting this fall. Share My Lesson is hosting a Summer of Learning professional development series and Thursday, July 9 focuses on all things STEM.

With the right tools and support, we will show how educators can support all students to become successful in learning STEM content knowledge and conceptual understanding.

We will look at persistent myths about teaching STEM, explore the intersection of STEM and English Language Arts, and reexamine what makes a great STEM read aloud.

Sign up to learn how to discover the right STEM book and hands-on activities for your students’ interests and learning needs. We will cover strategies on inspiring and supporting underrepresented groups in STEM as well as how to differentiate for special populations.

In addition to learning about how Lee & Low titles can fit into your science and mathematics units and how to integrate STEM learning throughout your literacy block, teachers can earn an hour of professional development credit! The whole series is FREE and open to all.

At the end of the presentation, you will have strategies you can apply immediately to your classroom and resources for further exploration.

share my lesson 2Overview:

Title: Teach STEM Now

Date: Thursday, July 09, 2015

Time: 01:00PM Eastern Daylight Time

Duration: 1 hour

Cost: FREE

Register here!

Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. In her weekly column at The Open Book, she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

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23. Lee & Low Books named Indie Publisher of the Year 2014

We’re just back from the ALA Annual Conference, and kicking off the long weekend with some happy news: Lee & Low Books was named Indie Publisher of the Year 2014 by Foreword Reviews! Lee & Low Books Foreword Reviews We are so thrilled, overjoyed, and humbled by this honor. Here’s what Foreword Reviews said about us at the Award Announcement:

Foreword presented Lee & Low Books with its Publisher of the Year award for the minority-owned company’s commitment to diverse voices in children’s literature. Lack of diversity in children’s literature has been a recent topic of discussion in the publishing world, but Lee & Low has focused on filling this void for a couple of decades. “For more than 20 years, Jason Low and his talented team have continued an honorable mission of increasing the number of diverse books available for children,” said Foreword Reviews Publisher Victoria Sutherland. “They are being honored by Foreword for more than books, however. We admire their leadership role in the indie publishing community.”

Thank you all for the outpouring of love and support. We are lucky to have such passionate fans, partners, and readers. Happy Fourth of July weekend, and we’ll see you next week!

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24. ALA 2015 Recap: Wins in Diversity

Another year, another successful ALA annual! We were so excited to be in San Francisco this year, especially in light of the recent SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage! What better city to be in than the one that elected Harvey Milk to public office and issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004, kickstarting a fight for LGBTQ marriage rights in California?

We started off the conference with some great news: Foreword Reviews named us Indie Publisher of the Year 2014! We were thrilled and humbled by this honor. You can see what they said about us here.

foreword review indie publisher of the year 2014

We had a full signing schedule, including award-winning authors and illustrators, and a couple of debut authors. Another highlight was getting to meet many of our Children’s Book Press authors and illustrators who are based in California. We’ve often only emailed back and forth with them, so it was nice to finally meet in person!

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Illustrator Floyd Cooper demonstrates how he creates his art.
alal signing nikki grimes
Authors G. Neri and Nikki Grimes  – what a duo!
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Debut author and New Voices Award winner Jane Bahk
ala signing children's book press
The LEE & LOW team with Children’s Book Press authors and illustrators

We were also excited to see Frank Morrison honored at the Coretta Scott King breakfast for his illustrations in Little Melba and Her Big Trombone! He wrote a moving speech about breaking out of the mold, as Melba did:

I was dazzled by this six year old [Melba] hearing the rhythm and beats in her head. I believe this is true for all artists. First you have to have the love, then passion, next discipline, tenacity, and bravery. I truly believe this is what took Melba from performing on the steps with her grandfather in front of a dog at seven years old to performing in front of thousands on stages around the world. Let’s all encourage our youth to recognized their gifts and if they don’t fit the cookie cutter,
Break! The! Mold!
Other winners also gave contemplative, beautiful, and inspiring speeches (you can read Jacqueline Woodson’s here).

Publisher Jason Low participated in an Ignite Session with a presentation called “Diversity’s Action Plan,” a five minute talk packed with big ideas about how to create change in the publishing industry. If you missed it, you can watch all 5 minutes right here:

One key takeaway: we’re asking people to sign a petition for publishers to participate in our Diversity Baseline Survey, which will measure staff diversity in the publishing industry and give us a benchmark for improvement. If you haven’t signed yet, please take a minute to do so. We’ve now surpassed 1,500 signatures!

jason low ala
Publisher Jason Low at ALA’s Ignite Session

Valynne E. Maetani, debut author and winner of Tu Book‘s New Visions Award, was at the Pop Top stage to talk about her new YA mystery novel, Ink and Ashes. Afterwards, she signed books at our booth, and completely sold out!

ala signing valynne e maetani
Author Valynne E. Maetani

It was a lot of fun to meet everyone and enjoy San Francisco, and we’re looking forward to Orlando next year!

What were your ALA highlights? Let us know in the comments!

1 Comments on ALA 2015 Recap: Wins in Diversity, last added: 7/10/2015
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25. Diversity Baseline Survey Update: Which Review Journals + Publishers are On Board?

Several weeks ago I posted about why we’re asking publishers to join our Diversity Baseline Survey. If you missed that post, here’s a quick summary of the project:

The Diversity Baseline Survey we’ve proposed would be the first of its kind for US publishers. It involves creating statistics that do not yet exist by measuring staff diversity among publishers and review journals in four areas: gender, race, sexual orientation, and disability.

In short, we’re hoping that all publishers, from small to large, will opt in and encourage their staff to take our short survey. If they do, for the first time we’ll be able to see a clear picture of diversity among publishing staff.

Why Bother When We Know the Numbers Are Bad?

Having these numbers is the first step toward improving diversity because it will give us a starting number and a way to measure progress. While publishing is not usually a numbers-focused industry, if we are serious about attacking the lack of diversity among publishing staff it’s imperative that we take an analytical approach. Without baseline numbers, there’s no way to know if new initiatives in recruitment and retainment are actually changing the landscape. For many years, people were under the impression that diversity in books was increasing. When we released our 2014 study which looked at the numbers over a 20-year period, many people were shocked to see that, based on the numbers, the situation had not actually improved. This problem is too important to solve by just throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. It’s time to commit to improvement through concrete actions that can be tracked.

Where We’re At

So far, the following publishers and review journals have agreed to be part of the survey:

Review Journals
Bayviews
Booklist

Foreword Reviews
Horn Book
Kirkus Reviews
Library Journal
Publishers Weekly
School Library Journal

Publishers
Albert Whitman
Annick Press
Arte Publico Press
Charlesbridge
Cinco Puntos Press
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
Groundwood
Holiday House
Just Us Books
Lee & Low Books
Peachtree Publishers
Pomelo Books
Sasquatch Books
Second Story Press
Tradewind Books

If you don’t see your publisher on the list, we encourage you to reach out to them and express your support for the project. Ultimately, everyone benefits when this survey is as comprehensive as possible. Send them here for more information on how to join.

Administering the Survey + Privacy Concerns

When we first announced this project, we got many responses from people who supported the idea but were concerned about employee privacy. We took that feedback to heart and have worked to make sure that privacy will never be put at risk. The survey will be administered by Dr. Sarah Park Dahlen of St. Catherine University. She and her team will be the ONLY people with access to survey results, so companies will not be able to view responses from their employees. Dr. Dahlen and her team will aggregate the results to share an overview of the industry that protects the privacy of individual respondents while still giving us a full picture of racial, gender, and disability diversity among publishing employees.

1,500 Petition Signatures 

To encourage more publishers to get on board, we created a Change.org petition for the survey. We’re thrilled to share that the petition already has over 1,500 signatures! If you haven’t taken a minute to sign yet, now’s the time.

What’s Next

Our immediate goal is to get the big publishers on board – without them, the statistics we’ll derive won’t be representative of the industry. Help us by spreading the word, signing the petition, and sharing. Together we can chip away at institutionalized discrimination and create a more diverse, healthier, alive-and-thriving book industry.

1 Comments on Diversity Baseline Survey Update: Which Review Journals + Publishers are On Board?, last added: 7/11/2015
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