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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. 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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2. 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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3. 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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4. 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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5. 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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6. INK AND ASHES Blog Tour Round Up

To celebrate the release of her debut novel, Ink and Ashesearlier this month, author Valynne E. Maetani has been stopping by blogs to talk about her writing process, winning the first ever New Visions Award, and much more.

More about Ink and Ashes:

Claire Takata has never known much about her father, who passed away ten years ago. But on the anniversary of his death, she finds a letter from her deceased father to her stepfather. Before now, Claire never had a reason to believe they even knew each other.

Struggling to understand why her parents kept this surprising history hidden, Claire combs through anything that might give her information about her father . . . until she discovers that he was a member of the yakuza, a Japanese organized crime syndicate. The discovery opens a door that should have been left closed.

The race to outrun her father’s legacy reveals secrets of his past that cast ominous shadows, threatening Claire, her friends and family, her newfound love, and ultimately her life. Winner of Tu Books’ New Visions Award, Ink and Ashes is a fascinating debut novel packed with romance, intrigue, and heart-stopping action.

Here is a round up of the tour.

YA Books Central – Valynne E. Maetani shares 5 facts you should know about the Japanese mafia, known as the Yakuza, here.

Dear Teen Me – Read Valynne E. Maetani’s letter to her teen self here.

We Are Word Nerds –  Valynne E. Maetani on the inspiration behind Ink and Ashes and her journey to publication here.

The Book Smugglers – Valynne E. Maetani on winning the New Visions Award here.

Teen Lit Rocks! shares why they enjoyed reading Ink and Ashes here.

To find out more about Valynne E. Maetani and Ink and Ashes, follow her on Twitter and Tumblr.

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7. Authors of Color: Submit Your Manuscript to the New Visions Award!

new visions award winnerSummer is already here! That means that the third annual NEW VISIONS AWARD is now open for submissions! Established by Tu Books, an imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS that publishes middle grade and young adult books, the award is a fantastic chance for new authors of color to break into the world of publishing for young readers.

The New Visions Award writing contest is awarded for a middle grade or young adult manuscript, and is open to writers of color who are residents of the United States and who have not previously had a middle grade or young adult novel published. The winner will receive a $1,000 cash prize and a publication contract with LEE & LOW BOOKS.

Ink and Ashes by Valynne Maetani, the first New Visions Award winner, was named a Junior Library Guild Selection and received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews.

The New Visions Award is modeled after LEE & LOW BOOKS’ successful New Voices Award for picture book manuscripts. New Voices submissions we have published include Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee StoryIt Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw, and Bird.

The deadline for this award is October 31, 2015.

For more eligibility and submissions details, visit the New Visions Award page. Spread the word to any authors you know who may be interested. Happy writing to you all and best of luck!

 

 

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8. What does Juneteenth Celebrate?

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the abolition of slavery in Texas and more generally the emancipation of African American slaves throughout the Confederate South.

Author Carole Boston Weatherford, author of Juneteenth Jamboreewanted to celebrate this “emancipation celebration that is said to have begun on June 19, 1865, when Union Army soldiers arrived in Texas and informed slaves that they were free.”

juneteenth day
Learning of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation

According to Weatherford’s author note, the news of emancipation took two years, six months, and nineteen days to reach Texas after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

juneteenth jamboreeToday, African Americans come together all around the country to celebrate Juneteenth with traditions from the early days, including parades, picnics, music, speeches, crafts, and African dance. In 1980, June 19 was made a legal holiday in Texas.

Think about Juneteenth as a companion holiday to the Fourth of July. While Independence Day celebrates freedom for our country, it is important to remember that not all people in America were free at this country’s birth. As Dr. Charles Taylor writes:

Juneteenth has come to symbolize for many African-Americans what the fourth of July symbolizes for all Americans — freedom. It serves as a historical milestone reminding Americans of the triumph of the human spirit over the cruelty of slavery. It honors those African-Americans ancestors who survived the inhumane institution of bondage, as well as demonstrating pride in the marvelous legacy of resistance and perseverance they left us.

150 years later (better late then never?), several representatives will push for legislation to make Juneteenth Independence Day a National Day of Observance in America. Currently, 43 states recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday.

————————————

Learn more about Juneteenth Celebrations
12 Facts About the History of Black Independence Day
Purchase a copy of Juneteenth Jamboree, by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Yvonne Buchanan

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9. Using Picture Books to Teach and Discuss Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera with Students

Congratulations to Juan Felipe Herrera who has just been appointed the 21st Poet Laureate of the United States (or PLOTUS for those in the know) by the Library of Congress!

To introduce students to Juan Felipe Herrera and his body of work, we have put together a collection of resources and activities for an author (and poet!) study. We’ve structured this Author Study Unit off of Reading Rockets’ Author Study Toolkit (available as a PDF and online).

Juan Felipe Herrera1. Set a purpose and goals for the author study

Have students read these books to find out:

  • who Juan Felipe Herrera is
  • how he uses his background, life, and experiences as inspiration for his stories and writing
  • what themes Herrera writes about in his stories and what themes these books share
  • which story (or moments in a story) the students connect to the most and why

2. Choose an author

Juan Felipe Herrera is the 21st Poet Laureate of the United States and the first Latino poet.

3. Read and respond to the books

  • From where do you think Juan Felipe Herrera gets his inspiration for his stories and settings? What makes you think so? How does he include his culture and heritage in his works?
  • How would you describe Juan Felipe Herrera’s writing style?
  • What themes or topics are most meaningful to him? Why do you think that?
  • Compare two of his books. Use a Venn diagram to collect ideas on how these books are similar and unique. What is the central idea of each? Is the book written in verse or prose? Compare the topic, main figures, setting, and text structure of each.

4. Research the author

  • There are a ton of news articles celebrating and reporting the announcement of Juan Felipe Herrera as Poet Laureate. Build excitement and interest for students at the beginning of the unit with a couple of the articles, such as this one from the Los Angeles Times.
  • As a class, create a timeline of major events in his life and keep it posted in the classroom throughout the unit. Have students explore Herrera’s website, this curated Library of Congress collection of web resources, and bios from the Poetry Foundation, the Academy of American Poets, and the Library of Congress.
  • Show students this YouTube collection of videos featuring interviews with Juan Felipe Herrera or the PBS clip of Herrera reading his poem, “Five Directions to My House.”

5. Culminating projects and reflection:

Here are just a few ideas:

  • Several previous Poet Laureates created projects to share poetry with the public. Have students read about the Past Poet Laureate Projects from the Library of Congress. Knowing what they now know about Juan Felipe Herrera, have students brainstorm and discuss what project Herrera might create while Poet Laureate. What topics and themes are meaningful to Herrera? What makes you think that?
  • The main figures in each of these stories draw a lot of strength from a special adult in their lives. Who in your life helps you when you are having trouble, feel scared or doubtful, or have a goal you want to achieve? What advice has this person shared with you? What actions and qualities do you admire most about this person?
  • A major focus for Juan Felipe Herrera in his writing is family or community. Encourage students to write a poem or paragraph about a big or small tradition that is important in their own family or community.
  • Juan Felipe Herrera has written a lot on his migrant background. Encourage students to interview their parents or guardians about their family’s migration or immigration history. When did you or our family come to this city/community? Why did you or our family come to this place (was it voluntary or forced)? From where did you or our family come?What traditions does our family have?
  • What does “home” mean to you? How might this word mean more than just the place where you live? What does “family” mean to you? How might this word mean more than just your mother and father? How might these words mean something different to various people?
  • Have students write a letter to Juan Felipe Herrera. In their letters, students may describe which story, poem, or moment in one of his books they connected to the most and why. Students can also include any questions they are curious about concerning Herrera’s life and work.

Picture book recommendations for the author study:

Calling the Doves / El canto de las palomas

Bilingual English/Spanish. Poet Juan Felipe Herrera’s bilingual memoir paints a vivid picture of his migrant farmworker childhood and his road to becoming a writer. Calling the Doves won the 1997 Ezra Jack Keats Book Award for New Writing.

The Upside Down Boy / El niño de cabeza

Bilingual English/Spanish. Award-winning 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. The Upside Down Boy captures the universal experience of children entering a new school feeling like strangers in a world that seems upside down at first.

Grandma and Me at the Flea / Los Meros Meros Remateros

Bilingual English/Spanish. Every Sunday Juanito helps his grandmother sell old clothes beneath the rainbow-colored tents at the remate, the flea market. Juanito learns firsthand what it means to be a true rematero, a fleamarketeer, and understands that the value of community can never be measured in dollars.

Featherless / Desplumado

Bilingual English/Spanish. At his new school or on the soccer field, all everyone wants to know is why Tomasito is in a wheelchair. His Papi gives Tomasito a new pet to make him smile, but this bird is a little bit different from the rest. Juan Felipe Herrera scores again with this sparkling bilingual story of self-empowerment and friendship. Featherless won the 2005 Independent Publisher Book Award for Multicultural Fiction.

What are your recommendations for a successful author study? Share with us!

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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10. Marketing 101: How to Prepare for Your First Conference

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

With the 2015 American Library Association (ALA) conference just around the corner, many first-time authors are probably starting to get nervous, wondering what’s in store for them. Going to your first trade conference, book event, or signing can be incredibly daunting. It marks a transition from the very private and solitary process of creating a book to the very public process of interacting with readers directly and getting your book out into the world. This is by no means easy, but being in a public space with your book can be incredibly rewarding. Here are a couple things to keep in mind as you make the transition:

1. Your primary goal should be to let people know about Book Marketing 101: How to Prepare for Your First Conferenceyour book.  Signing at a well-attended event like ALA is as much about visibility as it is about book sales. Your goal should be to engage with as many people as possible to let them know who you are and what your book is about. Sales often come naturally out of this engagement; and if they don’t, don’t be discouraged. Many book sales don’t happen on the show floor, as most librarians and other professionals order books through their systems. But a good conversation with a librarian can lead to copies being ordered for his/her branches.

2. Have something to hand out with your information on it. Many publishers create bookmarks or postcards for new titles – you should ask your publisher before the signing what materials they will be bringing. If they are not bringing handouts, or even if they are, you may also want to create your own postcard or brochure with more information and your own contact information. If you are looking to build your school visit business, consider creating a brochure about what you offer. This is a perfect opportunity to spread the word.

3. Come up with a one-liner “elevator pitch” about your book. The most common question people will ask if they stop at your signing is, “What is this book about?” Even though you have labored over your book for a very long time, this is sometimes a hard question to answer if you haven’t practiced. Before the conference or signing, have friends and family help you shape a one-sentence quick description of the book that you can offer to pique the interest of passersby.

4. Share more if someone looks interested. Your one-liner should draw people in, but if they are lingering and paging through your book, don’t be afraid to offer more information. Tell them about the process, the research you did, or what inspired you to write this story. Ask them questions about their interest and to build connections (“This book is about a jazz musician. Are you a jazz fan?”; “This book takes place in California – are you from California?”). These lines may sound cheesy, but delivered earnestly they can form a welcome bridge to further conversation.

5. Don’t be afraid of the actual ask. If you’ve been engaging with someone for a while and they seem reluctant to put your book down, it’s OK to ask them, “Would you like a signed copy?” For some authors, this can be a little scary, but the more you do it, the easier it will get. Some people will say yes; some will say no. Remember that it’s not a judgement on you or the quality of your book either way. If they say no, follow up by handing them a postcard or brochure to take with them. That book sale may come at a later time.

Valynne Maetani, author of Ink and Ashes, at a signing
Valynne Maetani, author of Ink and Ashes, at a signing

 

6. When you are signing, be fully present – even during lulls. There are so many things going on at once during major conferences that competition is fierce, and you may well find yourself with a lull during your signing when no one is at your table. This is normal, and even very experienced authors sometimes face this. Don’t feel bad or be embarrassed – this is just a reality of book signings. During quiet periods, you can talk to the staff helping with your signing but be sure to stay open and receptive – i.e. don’t retreat to your phone, or turn away from the aisle. You never know when someone interested may wander past, and if you’re checked out, you will likely miss them.

7. One person brings more. It is a truth universally acknowledged that crowds breed more crowds. You may go a few minutes with no one at your signing, followed by a line of 7 or 8 people all at once. One interested person will attract others who are wondering what’s going on. Embrace this chaos. If you do have a crowd forming, respect the line and make sure you’re not spending too much time talking to any one person. If someone wants to have a long conversation with you, politely tell them, “I’m sorry, I need to sign for the next person but perhaps we can continue this conversation at a later point.”

For some great insights from the author end, I encourage you to read this series we asked experienced authors for their advice on planning a successful book signing:

How to Plan a Successful Book Signing Part I
How to Plan a Successful Book Signing Part II
How to Plan a Successful Book Signing Part III

Apart from these things, just remember to bring your lucky signing pen and you’ll do fine! The more events you do, the more comfortable you’ll get, and you may find that these opportunities to interact with readers inspire and motivate you as a creator in new ways.

More Marketing 101 posts:
Five things to do before your book is released
What to put on your author website

 

 

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11. How to Turn a Quiet Author Event into a Big Success

In this joint guest post, librarian Jane Levitan of Guest Bloggerthe Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Libraries and author/illustrator Lulu Delacre give their takes on a quiet event that turned into a great success. 

Librarian Jane Levitan: It was the worst of times; it was the best of times.  I admit it.  It was my fault.  Who would schedule an author visit the day before Easter?  Me.  When I contacted author/illustrator Lulu Delacre and she mentioned that she had a Saturday free, I jumped at the opportunity to host her in our library as part of our El Dia grant.  Realizing my pre-Easter mistake, we spared no opportunity to promote the event.

We had advertisements and the FREE book provided by the grant displayed at the circulation desk (including one that literally hit the patrons in the head when checking out), we also used radio, newsletters, Facebook, websites (ours and Lulu’s), personal contacts (ours and Lulu’s again), etc. Still, when the program started it was ill attended.  Lulu, undaunted, presented an engaging session filled with fun, dance, travel and music.  She signed books and the young participants had their pictures taken at their dream worldwide locations via green screen technology.

Then it happened: we looked out the window and there they were—kids in the plaza across the street greeting the Easter Bunny and a few other costumed critters. Lulu launched a full-on musical parade with staff and patrons and serenaded the Bunny and his young friends with Latin instruments. She introduced herself and her FREE books, and did a surprise encore presentation.  Leading the group back to the library, she sang, danced and traveled the world again for a packed audience.

She did not leave until every child received a signed book and posed with her in front of the green screen.  Her favorite background was her native Puerto Rico. The hour program stretched on to four hours. An ill-fated program was now a success.

We even issued some cards to new members of our community who were coaxed into the library with the promise of diversity and fun.

The moral of the story? Check the calendar.  Second moral, invite Lulu: she will deliver the best program possible, sometimes twice, including rounding up her own audience.  Did I mention that she wanted the El Dia pin to wear proudly throughout the month?  Third moral, DO NOT compete with the Easter Bunny!


 

Lulu Delacre: I believe that a good-sized enthusiastic audience has a positive influence on a presenter. I also know that public libraries are at the mercy of circumstances beyond their control. Weather, weekend sports and sudden family plans play a role in attendance to a children’s program. Often, library patrons do not feel the consequences of skipping a free event.

So, it did not catch me by surprise when I arrived the Saturday of Easter weekend at the Martingsburg downtown library to find that six librarians and a handful of children were my only audience. Waiting for latecomers, I sensed heavy disappointment in the room. Still, I delivered the liveliest session I could. What could we have done differently? To whom could we now give the free copies of my book?

After the last game-dance, one librarian suggested to go parade outdoors. I led the group up the street singing De Colores to the rhythms of güiro, maracas and palitos. At the corner I saw dozens of families hovering around the Easter Bunny. They were at the plaza right across from us! Suddenly, the thought of rounding up the kids for an encore program at the library crossed my mind. With the librarians on board to do just that we fanned out to invite all the families to the impromptu session.

How marvelous to see our efforts’ success on the smiling faces of the children as we traveled the world in my program! The kids were as thrilled with the autographed copies of How Far Do You Love Me? as I was to see the change of demeanor in the organizers.
What’s sweeter than an Easter chocolate egg? A gift from your public librarian: a beautiful book for your very own library!

 

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12. 2015 Diverse Summer Reading Book Lists K-8

June is finally here! Winter is already a long distant memory and students are becoming more and more fixated on the summer vacation countdowns they started in January, daydreaming of exciting and unknown summer plans, camp adventures, and seemingly endless free time.

But just because school year is (almost) over, doesn’t mean reading has to come to a halt. In fact, we are well aware of the importance of having access to books and the harmful effects of the slippery slope that is the summer slide:

To keep our children reading all summer long, LEE & LOW has put together several Diverse Summer Reading Book Lists and printables for grades K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6-8, which you can freely download and share here or find listed below. Each list contains books that not only highlight different interests, such as sports, music, sci-fi/fantasy, and the environment, but also personally connect with students of diverse cultural backgrounds and traditions.

Diverse Summer Reading ListsLEE & LOW Summer Reading Book Lists by grade:

LEE & LOW Summer Reading Printables:

It is important to remember that diverse books are not only for diverse readers. Reading books featuring diverse characters and communities not only mirror experiences in their own lives, allowing children to see themselves reflected in the stories they love, but also provide windows into other life experiences to understand and be more accepting of the world around them. If you’re still wondering why diverse books then take a look here:

There are many great organizations compiling and creating Summer Reading Book Lists and offering free, exciting programs and challenges. Be sure to check out your local library as well as the following groups for additional summer reading tips, suggestions, and ideas:

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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13. Interview: Nikki Grimes on Writing Poetry

nikki grimesComing this month, Poems in the Attic is a collection of poetry that creates a tender intergenerational story that speaks to every child’s need to hold onto special memories of home, no matter where that place might be. We interviewed master poet Nikki Grimes on her process for writing poetry and if she has any tips to share.

In Poems in the Attic, the reader is introduced to free verse and tanka styles of poetry. Why were you drawn to the tanka form?

Poetry, for me, has always been about telling a story or painting a picture using as few words  as possible.  Haiku and tabla are forms that epitomize that.  I’d previously played with an introduction to haiku in A Pocketful of Poems, and I have long since been intrigued with the idea of incorporating tanka in a story.  Poems in the Attic provided such an opportunity, so I jumped on it.

Many readers are intimidated by poetry or think it is not for them. For people who find poetry difficult, where would you recommend they start?

Start with word play.  I sometimes like to take a word and study it through the lens of my senses.  Take the word “lemon”, for instance.  What is its shape, its scent,  its color?  Does it make a sound?  Does it have a taste?  How would you describe that sound, that taste?  Where is a lemon to be found?  What does it do or what can you do with it?  In answering such questions, in a line or two in response to each question, one ends up either with a poem or the makings of a poem.

poems in the atticIs there something people can do to be “good” at writing poetry? Where do you find inspiration when you get stuck?

There are a few answers to that question.

  1. Read poetry voraciously.  If you aspire to write good poetry, you must first know what that looks like.
  2. Practice, practice, practice.  Writing is a muscle that must be exercises, no matter the genre.
  3. Play.  Build your vocabulary.  Experiment with a variety of forms.  For too many trying poetry, rhyme is their default.  But rhyme is bot synonymous with poetry.  It is merely one element of it.  Explore metaphor, simile, alliteration, assonance, and all the other elements of poetry.  Think interns of telling a story and painting a picture with words.  These practices will lead you somewhere wonderful.

What’s one of your favorite lines from a poem?

I love lines from my poem “Chinese Painting” in Tai Chi Morning: Snapshots of China.  In seeking to describe the magic of a master painter, I wrote

“a few strokes

And a bird is born

A few more,

And it sings.”

Do you prefer poetry on the page or poetry read aloud? Who is your favorite poet to hear or read?

I especially love poetry on the page, in part because not all poets read their work well.  I do love to hear Naomi Shihabe Nye, though, and I especially loved to hear the exquisite Lucille Clifton.

Learn more about Poems in the Attic on our website or Nikki Grime’s website.

 

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14. Student Book Review: Seeds of Change

In this guest post, Ruben Brosbe’s third-grade students from P.S. 368, Guest BloggerThe Hamilton Heights School in New York, NY demonstrate their critical thinking skills and share their reviews of the book Seeds of Change, a picture-book biography of the first African woman-and first environmentalist- to win a Noble Peace Prize (in 2004), on their class blog We Read Diverse Books. As a teacher, Ruben was inspired by the WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign to make his read alouds represent the diversity in his classroom and the broader community.

“To begin the school year, I shared the campaign with my students and asked them if they would take part by reviewing books with diverse characters. Since then we’ve talked about about diversity in kids’ books and our blog is a way of sharing stories we love that feature diverse characters. It is also my hope that it can serve as a resource for teachers like me who are looking for great stories to share with their students.”

Do you like books about people who work hard? If you do you willmain_large love Seeds of Change. I would recommend this book to a friend because some people like to grow trees. The main idea of the book is planting trees because people were cutting them down. My favorite part in Seeds of Change is when Wangari planted 30,000,000 trees. Another book that is similar is Grace for President. How they’re similar is Wangari is a change maker and Grace is a change maker because Wangari planted 30,000,000 trees and Grace was the first lady president. In conclusion that’s why you would love Seeds of Change.
Kasime

The main idea of Seeds of Change is when Wangari moved to a
different city and cared about her environment. Another main idea is she cared about women fairness. I recommend you read this book because it teaches you not to cut down trees. Another reason not to cut down trees is to do nice things for the trees. My favorite part of Seeds of Change is when all the women planted 30 million trees. Wangari is a hero because she saved the plants and wasn’t afraid to do the work.
Lester

I would recommend this book to a friend because if someone in my class would like to plant. Also it is about how trees are so important. The main idea is that she was moving. Wangari was being a hard worker and helping nature. My favorite part was when she went back and planted a lot of trees. I think that Wangari is a brave person. Also she is a hero because in the book she was brave to plant all of the trees to help nature. She dug in the dirt planting seedlings and shared ideas with people.
Melina

Hey do you like people who don’t give up? If you do then you will WANGARIlike Seeds of Change! I would recommend this book to a friend, because maybe somebody likes seeds and likes science. And also somebody can learn how important is trees. The main idea of this book is that trees give us life and also that you should not cut down trees because then it looks like a bad place and when you grow trees it looks like a good place. My favorite part of the book was when Wangari planted 30,000,000 trees. I think Wangari is a brave person, because they cut down trees and she still made trees. One other book that is similar is Grace for President. This is why I recommend you to read Seeds of Change.
Octavio

My favorite part of Seeds of Change is when Wangari stopped the men from cutting down the trees and also from the men making plantations. Wangari was a brave person because she went to 3 places and got women to care about trees. If I were going to introduce Wangari I would tell my family what made her brave.
-Anthony

You should read Seeds of Change. I would recommend this book to a friend because the lesson of the book is to not cut down trees because it hurts nature. The main idea of the book is that Wangari helps her country. My favorite part of the book is that Wangari plants over 30,000,000 trees and when Wangari went to school, because she gets friends to be with. In conclusion, that is why you should read Seeds of Change.
Randy

Hey you there have you heard of Seeds of Change? It’s a great book!! My favorite part is when she got in jail. And then got out. And planted more trees and made the forest green. Also my favorite part is when she saved the trees. I recommend this book to a friend because I think this book can teach my friends how to take care of our world. The main idea is that Wangari saved the trees. Also Wangari went to school and it was not common for girls to go to school. I think “seeds of change” is when Wangari used seeds to change.
Phoenix-I think that Wangari is a brave person.

I would recommend this book to a friend because it’s amazing and it has an important lesson. The main idea of the book is that women can do anything they set their mind to. Also, about how trees are important to the world. My favorite part of the book was when Wangari and the other women planted trees. I think Wangari is a hero, because she helped her environment to be a better and great place. When Wangari says “Young people, you are our hope and our future” she means that kids shoudl plant a garden and help our community.
Karen

I would recommend this to a friend because if my friends like seeds they’ll probably give the book to my friends and I like planting seeds. The main idea of this book is not to cut down trees and let women have equal rights and to let women do anything but not anything bad and another thing that was the main idea was help people with anything.  My favorite part of the book was when Wangari planted 30 million trees it was really helpful to the world. I think Wangari is a brave person because when people said stop doing this she ignored them and she is also brave because she went to jail but people said let her free! So they did. I think the purpose of this book is not to cut down trees and to is help to the world. In closing this was about keeping the world green.
Carlos

*all posts edited slightly for spelling and punctuation by Mr. Ruben

To find resources for teaching or reading Seeds of Change, visit the book page here.

Blogging with Students:

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15. Out today: Ink and Ashes

It’s finally June! We’re excited to announce the release of Ink and Ashes, the heart-stopping debut mystery by Valynne E. Maetani! Ink and Ashes is Tu Books’ first New Visions Award winner.

How far would you go to discover the truth?

Every family has its secrets, but Claire Takata’s family secrets can kill her…

In Ink and Ashes, personal vendettas and organized crime collide, sending Claire Tanaka on a race to outrun her father’s legacy. When a letter from her dead father reveals a family secret, Claire searches for information about her father’s past and discovers a dangerous family connection to the yakuza, the Japanese mafia.

INK AND ASHES cover smallHere’s what early readers have said about Ink and Ashes:

“This fantastic debut packs a highly suspenseful blend of action, intrigue, and teen romance.” —starred review, Kirkus Reviews 

“Full of character, culture, and suspense, Ink and Ashes is a fascinating read with surprising new elements and a true heroine in Claire Takata.”

Ally Condie, author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Matched Trilogy

Happy book birthday to Ink and Ashes!

Be sure to buy your copy from our website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local indie.

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16. Case Cracked: The Process of Editing Mystery Novels

trixie belden book cover
Trixie Belden

I’ve long been a fan of mysteries. Trixie Belden was my BFF as a third and fourth grader. Nancy Drew was another favorite. Veronica Mars updated the teen sleuth idea, bringing the storytelling form to a new generation.

When I got the chance to work on Valynne Maetani’s Ink and Ashes, our new YA mystery which comes out in June, all of those mysteries and more were going through my mind. Claire, the main character, has the spunk and curiosity of Veronica Mars and all of her predecessors, but she’s also a little different. And to honor those differences in the editing process, I needed to refresh myself on what’s out there right now in the teen mystery/suspense genre, and the mystery genre in general.

As I was editing Ink and Ashes over the course of about a year and a half (which spans two developmental edits and a line edit), between edits I was reading mystery after mystery. I stocked up on Agatha Christie, I rewatched Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and read the first book of the series it’s based on (Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood), I read multiple YA suspense, spy, and murder mysteries.

Miss Fisher ABC
Miss Fisher from the TV show “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries”

That reading reminded me that a great mystery read requires the same elements as any good read: well-paced plotting, characters the reader cares about enough to want to know what happens next; even world-building, though that’s a term we generally associate with speculative fiction, is tremendously important in setting the stage in a mystery. But my rereading of classic and contemporary mysteries also showed me that more than in any other genre, a sense of suspense and danger must permeate the mystery book, must drive the reader to breathlessly wonder what will happen next.

Ask probing questions

One of the biggest challenges in this edit—with any edit, really, especially with an author you’ve never worked with before—was discovering how to bring the author’s vision of the characters fully to life. An editor’s job is often to just ask questions: Why is this happening right now? Why would that character decide to do this? What is the goal here?

In that way, figuring out the goal allows the editor to ask further probing questions on what the solution might be—figuring out how current plot points and character decisions hamper the desired effect.

“The plot thickens” turns out to be trueink and ashes cover

The biggest thing I learned while editing Ink and Ashes and reading all these mysteries is the importance of plot escalation. In the original draft, clues did of course build up into a frenzied final few pages of conflict that were very enjoyable—that’s one of the reasons the book won our New Visions Award. But comparing the early manuscript to mysteries I enjoyed the most, I realized that there were so many ways that the narrative could be complicated. (Valynne was on the same page. As she waited for the results of the contest, she was also already thinking of ways to improve the manuscript. That kind of editor-writer synergy makes a huge difference in any book project like this.)

We looked at the end goal, and discussed the plot points that got Claire and her friends to that point. In particular, we discussed how the inciting incident—the moment that gets Claire to veer her course to investigating whether her father and her stepdad ever knew each other—might be complicated and how those complications would have a ripple effect that would improve multiple other plot points, and increase the pacing.

In other words, escalation. If the reader didn’t feel the suspense at every page turn, we had work to do.

Valynne worked very hard on making that happen, and I’m very happy with the results! In answer to all my probing questions, Valynne improved on an already-well written manuscript to bring what was an interesting read to the level of an exciting page-turner that’s getting readers hooked. That’s the end goal for any editor and author: Creating a final book that readers can’t put down. I’m happy to say, we succeeded with Ink and Ashes.

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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17. Five Authors Share Their Favorite Writing Prompts

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 new writers. This month, we’re talking about writing prompts and what gets the creative juices flowing.

Linda Boyden, author of The Blue Roses, New Voices Winner 2000

Prompts are all around us. When I do school visits, I refer to the place where our imaginations live as the “Cosmic Goo,” and urge them to wander outside looking and listening to the wonders that spark our imaginations to awake. Nature is a never-ending source of writing inspirations. Because I am a voracious reader, I glean phrases from the books I devour. Since the Espresso Shotend of 2011, I have written a poem a day as the means to jump-start my prose writing. I use many of the phrases I’ve underlined in the books I own for my daily poetry prompt.

Paula Yoo, author of Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds, New Voices Winner 2003

My favorite writing prompt is to write from the point of view of an animal. It’s a writing exercise I teach in my writing classes as well. I love this writing exercise not only because I’m an animal lover and Crazy Cat Lady (ha) but because it forces you to think from the point of view of someone who is definitely NOT YOU. You have to know and embody the nature and physicality of the animal character, and it forces you to look at story and emotion with a new perspective. It’s a great exercise for point of view writing, and it helps me when I do write another children’s book because I am very conscious of writing from a child’s perspective, which is so different from mine as an adult.

Glenda Armand, author of Love Twelve Miles Long, New Voices Winner 2006

I don’t need much to prompt me to write. Usually I have the opposite problem. I need to a compelling reason to stop writing:

It’s past midnight and I have to substitute teach in the morning.

Clothes are mildewing in the washer.

The fridge would be empty if not for egg whites and ketchup.

On the other hand, a writing prompt for me would be an early morning after a good night’s sleep: My mind is clear.

My thoughts are flowing.

My coffee is steaming.

My computer is calling.

I answer the call.

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

I don’t really write from prompts, but what I try to use as a guideline for all my writing is the use of sensory details: Seeing, Hearing, Feeling, Smelling and Tasting. It’s not always relevant to include all of these details, but it’s good to include at least 3 within a scene. If I feel that I can’t move forward in a story, I’ll “step inside” my character and try to figure out what “I” am seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling or tasting at that point. If my character is neutral, then it’s time to rewrite the scene.

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

I enjoy finding and thinking about interesting writing prompts, but I don’t have a favorite. I have to confess, when it comes to writing prompts, I usually don’t get past the “thinking about it” stage. However, I used to work for a daily newspaper, and I learned from that experience how valuable it can be to cultivate a habit of writing – in a structured way – every day. And I turn to newspapers, sometimes, when I’m stuck or need a place to start. Headlines can make for some pretty great prompts. Direct quotes are even better – like an overheard piece of conversation. Here’s one that helped me pull FINDING THE MUSIC into focus: “He wanted to rest in peace, but with music.”

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18. Why We’re Asking Publishers to Join Our Diversity Baseline Survey

diversity102-logoIf you’ve been following us for a while, you know that over the past few years we’ve released a series of infographics about the diversity gap in different industries including publishing, film, television, theater, and politics. Our infographic studies were designed to give people who were unfamiliar with issues of race and gender a sense of how deep the diversity problem goes in the United States and how entrenched these issues are in every facet of media. Our latest infographic, The Diversity Gap in Silicon Valley, is our first study that reports on a bigger question: What comes after the numbers are established? Once we acknowledge the diversity gap, what can we do to close it?

The Diversity Gap in Silicon Valley
The Diversity Gap in Silicon Valley (click to read more)

The tech industry presents a unique model for this. After Pinterest engineer Tracy Chou asked, “Where are our numbers?” hundreds of companies, both large and small, chose to release the diversity statistics of their staffs in a transparent way. Although the numbers showed a lack of diversity, after they were revealed there was a flurry of activity across the industry to address the problem. We were encouraged to see the brightest and the best minds in technology confronting a decades-old problem with pragmatism, budgets, and goals.

We were inspired to create our own baseline survey in the hopes that it could serve as a catalyst for the same kind of movement within the publishing industryGiven this, we were inspired to create our own baseline survey in the hopes that it could serve as a catalyst for the same kind of movement within the publishing industry. 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.

There is precedence for a survey like this, not only from the tech industry, but also from the publishing industry in the United Kingdom. Both industries ran surveys as recently as 2014. Even large publishing houses, such as Hachette UK, HarperCollins, and Penguin Random House UK, were among the publishers who participated in the British survey. Hopefully, this is a good sign that these companies might extend their participation to the US version of the survey.

In the past, publishers have usually put the responsibility on readers for the lack of diverse representation in books. The extremely dated adage that “diverse books do not sell” has become a belief that has reached mythical proportions. While it’s important for readers to support diverse books with their dollars and voices, it’s equally important for publishers to self-reflect on how they can do better on their end. We must acknowledge that one factor contributing to the lack of diverse books is the lack of diversity among the people who edit, market, review, and sell the books. Surveying our staffs and reporting on our The onus is on us to move forward.findings would give us a starting point, not to point fingers or assign blame (especially since most media industries face similar problems) but to bring clarity to the problem so we can understand it better, attempt to correct it, and measure whether or not we are improving.

Publishers, the onus is on us to move forward. Many publishers have said that they support We Need Diverse Books and the movement for more diverse books, but words are not the same as action. If we are serious about increasing the number and quality of diverse books, it is essential for us to be transparent about our own challenges. By surveying our staffs and sharing our numbers, we can work together to put in place sustainable programs that will increase diversity among publishing staffs in the long-term.

Here are some ways you can help:
Sign the petition. We consider transparency in the publishing industry both a social and economic justice cause. If you agree, stand up and be counted. Your name in support of this effort will be used to convince publishers to join this effort.

Place a comment in the comment field of School Library Journal’s article about the survey. Public commentary about this issue from educators, librarians, reviewers, editors, authors, and illustrators helps put a face to this problem. Many of the gatekeepers/decision makers do not understand the problem, but words can make a difference and change people’s minds.

Ask your publishers to sign on. If you are an author or illustrator, contact your editors and other publishing contacts and encourage them to participate in the survey. Your voice in support of this effort can make a difference.

Subscribe to Lee & Low’s blog or social media channels. Understanding the issues is important, but the complexity surrounding issues of race and gender can be daunting. We discuss these issues on a daily basis. Learn through reading and engagement in a safe place to ask questions and stay current on the issues.

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19. President Obama Announces ConnectED Library Challenge and #BooksforAll Project

Every child deserves the chance to learn and thrive in an environment that is enriched by the latest technology. Two years ago President Obama announced ConnectED, a signature initiative focused on transforming teaching and learning through digital connectivity and content.  Today, building on the progress made to date, at the Anacostia Library in Washington, D.C., the President will announce two new efforts to strengthen learning opportunities by improving access to digital content and to public libraries: new eBooks commitments and the ConnectED Library Challenge.  LEE & LOW BOOKS is excited to be a part of this new program!

The first is commitments from publishers to find ways to make sure their content is available to low-income youth in America.  Major publishers (including LEE & LOW BOOKS) are announcing they will make over $250 million in free eBooks available to low-income students.  Nonprofits and libraries are partnering with each other to create an app that can deliver this content and materials from the public domain.  Complementing that effort, the ConnectED Library Challenge is a commitment by more than 30 communities to put a library card into every student’s hand so they will have access to the learning resources and books they can read for pleasure, all available in America’s libraries.

These initiatives represent another way the ConnectED effort is making a real difference for students. Combined with the $2 billion in private-sector commitments, and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) funding for school and library connectivity that includes $2 billion specifically for Wi-Fi, and $1.5 billion more in annual funding today’s announcement brings the total value delivered as part of this five-year transformation in American education to over $10 billion. And as a result of these commitments, we are on track to meet the President’s goal of connecting 99 percent of students to high-speed broadband in their classrooms and libraries.

—————–

As part of today’s effort, the New York Public Library is developing an e-reader app that will provide access to a universe of digital books, including contributions from publishers and hundreds of classics already in the public domain, to create a book collection for students aged 4-18 from low-income families.  The New York Public Library will work with a network of top librarians volunteering their time through the Digital Public Library of America to connect young readers with books that match their reading levels and interests.  New York Public Library will work with First Book, a book-donation non-profit, to help make sure eBooks reach students in low-income families.

Major publishers are committing to make wishing aavailable thousands of popular and award-winning titles to students over a three-year period.  These contributions will create a new book collection for students aged 4-18 from low-income families. Students from all demographics will be able to access the public domain titles, whose cover art and typography will be freshly designed by world-class designers and artists.

The new commitments the President will announce today will help ensure the smartphone or tablet that is increasingly a part of students’ lives is also a teaching tool outside the classroom that encourages kids to become lifelong readers.

Hundreds of Millions of Dollars in New Private-Sector Commitments: Today, the President will highlight some of the major publishers and their authors that have pledged to donate titles to low-income students:

  • Macmillan: Providing unlimited access to all of the K-12 age-appropriate titles in their title catalog of approximately 2,500 books.
  • Simon & Schuster: Providing access to their entire e-catalog of books for children ages 4-14, comprised of 3,000 titles.
  • Penguin Random House: Committing to provide an extensive offering of their popular and award-winning books.
  • Hachette: Offering participating students access to a robust catalogue of their popular and award-winning titles.
  • Candlewick: Providing unlimited access to all relevant children’s and young-adult e-book titles in their catalog.
  • Bloomsbury: Providing unlimited access to over 1,000 of its most popular titles.
  • Lee & Low: The leading independent publisher of multicultural books is providing unlimited access to over 700 of its titles.
  • Cricket Media: Offering full digital access to all of its market-leading magazines for children and young adults, including Ladybug and Cricket.
  • HarperCollins: Providing a robust selection of their award-winning and popular titles.

Commitments from Government, Non-profit, and Philanthropic Institutions: Today, the President will highlight commitments supporting expanded access to free books:

  • The Institute of Museum and Library Services: Investing $5 million to support the development of the e-reader app and tools and services to help the public  more easily access e-books and other digital content.
  • The Digital Public Library of America: Their network of librarians will volunteer with the New York Public Library to help make sure popular books reach the most appropriate audience. DPLA, in conjunction with Recovering the Classics are also add age-appropriate public domain titles whose text and cover art has been redesigned by leading graphic designers and artists.
  • New York Public Library: New York Public Library is developing a cutting-edge e-reader app and working with industry and tech leaders to improve the experience for students.
  • First Book: a book donation non-profit organization has committed to work with New York Public Library and interested publishes to provide authentication and delivery services to ensure that e-books will reach students in low-income families.

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President Obama recognizes the critical role that libraries play as trusted community anchors that support learning and connectivity at all times and many different paces. In fact, more than 70 percent of libraries report that they are the only providers of free public internet access in their community. Like many modern challenges, improving education for all children requires key leaders to collaborate in new and powerful ways. Libraries are uniquely positioned to continue to build programs and partnerships that bridge the divide between schools and homes and provide educational services to every person in the community.

Announcing the ConnectED Library Challenge: Today, the President will call upon library directors to work with their mayors, school leaders, and school librarians, to create or strengthen partnerships so that every child enrolled in school can receive a library card. These libraries also commit to support student learning through programming that develops their language, reading, and critical thinking; provide digital resources, such as eBooks and online collections of traditional media; and provide broadband connectivity and wireless access within library facilities. Over 30 major cities and counties have announced they are taking the challenge and will work to provide cards to all students.

Communities adopting the ConnectED Library Challenge include: Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Clinton Macomb, Columbus, Cuyahoga, D.C., Denver, Hartford, Hennepin County, Howard County, Indianapolis, Madison, Milwaukee, New Haven, Oakland, Pierce County, Pima, Pocatello, Pueblo City, Ramsey County, Columbia, Rochester Hills, Rochester, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Seattle, Skokie, and St. Louis.

Commitments in support of the ConnnectED Library Challenge: To support the implementation of the ConnectED Library Challenge, the Administration announced new commitments to action:

  • The Institute of Museum and Library Services: Host a national convening this summer to identify and share best practices in reaching universal library card use among public school students.
  • Urban Libraries Council: Lead an initiative that provides a forum for community, library and school leaders to work together to meet city and county education goals by leveraging resources and measuring outcomes.
  • American Library Association:  Drive adoption of the ConnectED Library Challenge through their 55,000 members and align the challenge with existing support and technical assistance provided through their Every Child Ready to Read initiative.

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20. Help Your Students & Families Find the Best Summer Learning Opportunities

You’ve been their teacher for nearly ten months. It seems like only September that a new gaggle  of hungry learners entered your classroom. What a journey it has been!

Summer is fast approaching, which means:

  • Prevent Summer SlideYou will not have explicit control over your students’ daily schedules and learning much longer
  • Summer slide is a serious risk
  • Summer school, camps, and programs are quickly filling up (some by February!)
  • Summer learning can make a difference

So in your final guidance to your students and families—help connect them with the right summer learning opportunities!

Summer slide can happen to any student, but is particularly detrimental for low-income children. If you work in a Title I school, for example, families may lack time to research and to apply early, supplemental income to put towards summer programming, or even the language (English) to navigate and negotiate with programs.

Engaging parents in the summer program process is critical. Ten months together with a student and family is significant, but the summer break is a sobering reminder that our time with students is so short (too short) on their grand education journeys.

Reality: We have about 900 hours a year with students, compared to the 7,800 hours students spend out of school. And so, finding a summer learning opportunity for our students is one last opportunity to engage parents as partners and recognize them as the ultimate teachers and advocates of their children.

Why should educators and school staff support with summer planning? Helping families navigate the convoluted summer programs race, you’ll ensure:

  • your students retain the growth they achieved with you
  • your students find a safe, healthy place to continue learning for the next two months—many of these programs provide not only academic support, but also necessary meal services that families have depended on during the school year
  • your students get exposed to new experiences in art, science, music, or sports which will help them build their background schema—a critical reading strategy
  • the next grade’s teacher will love you forever (no wants to spend the first month(s) of school re-teaching or reminding students what they already learned, thereby losing precious learning time for new material—full steam ahead!)

FIRST, start your own research now.

  • Does your school offer summer school or host a summer day camp?
  • Ask around: What programs did your students from last year go to that they would recommend for your current students? What academic programs do your colleagues and administrators recommend? Does the school’s PTA know of local quality opportunities?
  • Head straight to the local library in the neighborhood of your school—no one does better research on community resources than here, and I have found incredible, meticulously curated binders on health resources, summer camps, preschools, and more in the Children’s Rooms of many public library branches.

Program finders:

Questions to consider when looking into programs:

  • How is reading incorporated? Sports clinics are great for addressing the opportunity gap, but the major goal is about preserving (and hopefully increasing) reading and math literacy
  • Is transportation available?
  • Are breakfast and lunch provided?
  • Are scholarships available? Groups like Wishbone and The Fresh Air Fund can help cover the cost to otherwise out-of-reach high quality programs
  • Can siblings of different ages participate?
  • Are materials available in other languages or staff members able to communicate with non-English speaking families?

SECOND, begin talking to your students and their families NOW (inquire at after-school pickup and in your final parent-teacher conference). Ask:

  • What are your plans for the summer?
  • How will your child continue reading practice and discover books?
  • Have you ever considered a day camp or summer school program?
  • What has been a challenge in finding a program before? (Likely challenges in the past: language, cost, ability to take siblings or multiple age groups, transportation, general convenience, or compatibility with work schedules)
  • Discuss summer slide and if/how their child may be at risk. Talk about some ways to prevent summer slide at home and the benefits of local programs.

THIRD, present families with 3-4 programs you have found that are convenient. You do not need to offer families the whole menu of options (thanks, internet) and, frankly, many may not be realistic due to waiting lists, distance, or cost. You know your families and what is doable.

Having said that, you may also discover scholarships to summer programs that your families wouldn’t have even considered—if you can connect them, do it! These are memories your students will have forever.

FINALLY, hold parents accountable. Consider having an after school or morning session with a couple of laptops in your classroom for parents to register and learn more. (In my first year of teaching, my grade level colleague physically connected parents to the registration forms by printing a couple of forms to attach in the summer learning packets and discussed options in the final parent-teacher conference). In this way, you can:

  • help families learn about programs near their neighborhood
  • answer questions
  • provide translation of a website or help make a phone call to specific programs on behalf of families whose first or preferred language to speak in isn’t English
  • create a visible support system among families who are also registering, which will increase chances of success for when you are working and studying elsewhere during the summer (as well as help with carpooling!)

Be Pragmatic. Don’t feel like you need to coordinate 30+ students’ summer learning plans and help students decide between sports clinics. Zero in on students whose learning achievements seem the most precarious and you know that if you don’t help point out a summer learning opportunity, they face two months of staying at home with the T.V.

Even if you only get a couple of families (with siblings) registered this time around, next year they will be back championing the experiences and opportunities, and can be partnered with to encourage other families—nothing like seeing someone like you participate to make you rethink what is possible for your family.

Recommended Reading:

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. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her weekly column at The Open Book, she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

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21. Illustrator Shadra Strickland Takes Us Behind the Art of Sunday Shopping

shadra stricklandSunday Shopping, our new spring title released this month, is a whimsical and fun-filled story of a young girl and her grandmother who use their big imaginations to go “shopping” through the Sunday paper. We asked illustrator Shadra Strickland to take us behind the scenes for creating the art work used in Sunday Shopping.

Making the Art for Sunday Shopping

Making the art for Sunday Shopping was almost like making two different books. The two art styles were distinctly different. The illustrations of Evie and grandma in bed were painted in watercolor, much like the paintings I made for Bird. The second set of images were made with a combination of line drawings, acrylic paintings, and assembled digitally.

The most challenging part of making the art for Sunday Shopping, was making sure that all of Evie and grandma’s “bought” items were consistent in all of the small paintings. I had to draw the same small bits of paper in every scene as the wall of items grew and grew.

sunday shopping illustrations_1

Once the watercolors were done, I drew all of the Evie, grandma, and cat characters on pieces of Bristol board. They were all painted in the same week to make sure that the clothes and skin tones were consistent. Even then, some colors had to be adjusted after I scanned them into the computer.

sunday shopping illustrations_2

 

sunday shopping illustrations_3

Once the characters were all done, I made drawings of the imaginary world with a wax pencil (also known as a China Marker). I drew on sheets of smooth plastic like drawing vellum. Those drawings were then scanned into the computer.

sunday shopping illustrations_4

Next, I painted different pieces of newspaper in different colors based on all of the elements I needed in the book. Some colors were adjusted digitally, but not many. Most of the paper was used as it was painted.

sunday shopping illustrations_5After everything was scanned in, I began to “cut” shapes out in photoshop and compose them within the line drawings.

sunday shopping illustrations_6

The last step was digital retouching. I had to go back into a few faces and digitally paint over some faces to make sure that skin tone was consistent throughout.

sunday shopping illustrations_7

My wonderful editor checked all of the art for consistency, and after a few passes back and forth, we made sure all of the elements were lined up throughout.

Once all of the art was assembled, I worked closely with our designer to discuss page color and type design for the book. My favorite thing about making books with Lee and Low is how truly collaborative the process is!

You can learn more about Shadra Strickland and her creative process on her website.

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22. Tu Books Announces Winner of New Visions Award Contest for Writers of Color

new visions award winnerNew York, NY— May 7, 2015— Tu Books, the middle grade and young adult imprint of respected multicultural children’s publisher LEE & LOW BOOKS, is thrilled to announce that author Axie Oh has won its second annual New Visions Award for her young adult science fiction novel, The Amaterasu Project.

The award honors a fantasy, science fiction, or mystery novel for young readers by an author of color who has not previously published a novel for that age group. It was established to encourage new talent and to offer authors of color a chance to break into a tough and predominantly white market.

The Amaterasu Project takes place in a futuristic Korea wracked by war and a run by a militarized government, where the greatest weapon—and perhaps the greatest hope—is a genetically modified girl. “The futuristic sci-fi setting is inspired by a combination of Japanese concept art and animated television series,” says Oh. “I hope my new book gives to readers what books have always given to me—a new world to explore and new characters to fall in love with.” Oh will receive a cash prize of $1,000 and a publication contract with Tu Books.

Last year, books by authors of color comprised less than six percent of the total number of books published for young readers, according to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The annual New Visions Award is a step toward the day when all young readers can see themselves in books.

Two books were chosen as New Visions Award Honors: Yamile Saied Mendez’s On These Magic Shores and Andrea Wang’s Eco-Agent Owen Chang. On These Magic Shores is a contemporary middle grade novel with a touch of magical realism about 12-year-old Minerva, who must step up to take care of her younger sisters when her mother, who is undocumented, goes missing. Eco-Agent Owen Chang is a humorous middle grade mystery about Owen Chang, a middle schooler who moonlights as a secret agent for an undercover environmental organization. Mendez and Wang will each receive a cash prize of $500.

While writing their manuscripts, both Wang and Méndez stressed the importance of seeking out books by and about people of color. “I naturally gravitate toward books by authors of color because they tell stories that mirror my experience as a person of color too,” says Méndez. Similarly, Wang says, “I’m all for reading books that are outside your comfort zone or told from an unfamiliar perspective. Personally, I would rather expand my reading horizons than restrict it.”

ABOUT: Tu Books, an imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS, publishes diverse speculative fiction for young readers. It is the company’s mission to publish books that all young readers can identify with and enjoy. For more information, visit leeandlow.com/imprints/3.

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23. Pinterest Roundup: 100’s of End-of-the-Year DIY Ideas for Teachers & Students

Pinterest has become a teacher’s go-to source for all sorts of curation inspiration. If you’re like me, you can browse and pin for hours without even once questioning when you’ll have time to DIY your heart out or eat everything pinned to your food inspiration board.

So, since June is right around the corner we thought we’d help you get a head start thinking about and planning some fun end-of-the-year tokens of appreciation. Whether you’re a teacher, student, or parent, Pinterest has an overwhelming amount of DIY-inspired gifts to celebrate the end of the school year and kick-off the start of the summer.

 Teachers: 8 gift roundups (& no apples in sight!)Pinterest roundup

101 Easy & Creative Teacher Gift Ideas from The Dating Divas. An impressive list of over 100 teacher gift ideas broken down by category: the first day of school, appreciation gift ideas, end-of-the-year ideas, and even 2 bonus gift ideas for the bus driver.

Teacher Gift Ideas in Mason Jars from Mason Jar Crafts Love. If I had to describe Pinterest in two words it might just be mason jar. But dare to challenge their all-inclusive, miscellaneous nature and you’ll surely be disappointed.

20 Cheap, Easy, Cute & Practical Teacher Appreciation Gifts from It’s Always Autumn. You’ll find less of the cutesy, where-am-I-going-to-put-this DIY projects and more practical gift ideas that teachers can actually use, from classroom supplies to gift cards.

28 Pun-Tastic Teacher Gifts from BuzzFeed. A laugh-out-loud collection of “punny” printables and DIY ideas for your “uh-mason” teacher or “berry sweet” students.

DIY Treat Bag Tags-Teacher Appreciation from The Busy Budgeting Mama. You can never go wrong with an edible gift, particularly those made with sugar. Here are 5 printable tags to say thanks in a sweet way.

25 Teacher Appreciation Ideas That Teachers Will Love by Crazy Little Projects. This roundup of 25 usable and practical DIY gifts hits it on the head for most teachers. I would be ecstatic to receive anything on this list.

4 Gifts That Teachers ACTUALLY Want (told by teachers!) from A Girl and a Glue Gun. This roundup of teacher-minded gifts shows you how to make what teachers really need and want-from cleaning wipes to pizza gift cards- feel personal and special.

cute-easy-useful-teacher-gift-appreciation-idea-13
from the blog Love The Day

 FREE Teacher Appreciation Cards from The Chickabug Blog. Overwhelmed by Pinterest’s crafting skills? Are you a self-aware last-minute gifter? Or maybe you just have a sarcastic sense of humor? Look no further. This list of printable teacher gift card holders is here to save the day.

The Archives: These blogs are a treasure trove of teacherappreciation gift ideas, many more than can be covered in 

thisroundup. Here, you’ll find teacher gifts for any and every occasion throughout the school year.

Teacher Appreciation Ideas from Skip to My Lou. 10 whole pages worth of ideas to thank a teacher. Need I say more? This is one you’ll want to bookmark for later.

Teacher Appreciation/School from Eighteen 25. Printables, printables, printables! This blog is chock-full of cheesy tags & quick DIY gift ideas for teachers that are practical, yummy, and great keepsakes.

Teacher Appreciation/School from The Domesticated Lady. An archive of teacher gift ideas and even “s’more” puns.

Teacher Appreciation Gifts from The Happy Scraps. Teacher gifts for any occasion, these DIY ideas are quick and as simple as possible without breaking the bank.

Students: 8 ways to settle those testing nerves and end the year on a high note with your students.

 End of the Year Gifts! from Lessons With Laughter. Your students’ futures are bright! But with cool sunglasses to wear, a survival kit bucket for life by their side, and having had you as a teacher they’re sure to be headed in the right direction.

Smartie Pants from The Muddy Princess. These are the best kinds of “smartie pants.” All you need is some cardstock, brads, glue, and Smarties!

Sidewalk Chalk End of School Year Student Gift Idea & Free Printable from My Sweet Sanity. Puns make the teacher and student DIY gifts really special, and this “chalk full” of fun idea is no exception. Any inexpensive, summer-themed gift that encourages kids to head outdoors is definitely a winner.

smartie_pants3
from the blog The Muddy Princess

Have a “Kool” Summer- End of Year Goodbye Gift for Classmatesfrom The Crafted Sparrow. Oh so “kool!” Kool-Aid packets and crazy straws just might make you the koolest teacher/parent around.

End of the Year Gift for 2nd Graders from Drama Mama’s LittleCorner. There is only one small problem with this ice-pop gift idea and it’s that it’s being limited to second grade. Ice pops RULE!

Easy End of the Year Student Gift from Happy Home Fairy. Just like the school year, these Frisbees will fly (just hopefully not at your head!).

Candy Gram Ideas from Happy Home Fairy. Candy grams are always sweet motivation for either starting or ending the school year.

Graduation Gift Idea Printable Seed Packets from Pre K-Pages. Just as you helped them plant seeds of knowledge, encourage students to keep growing their minds with this gift. Not only perfect end-of-the-year gifts for students and teachers, Forget Me Not seedlings make memorable graduation gifts.

Finally, if you’re a fan of Pinterest then we want to connect! Follow Lee & Low Books on Pinterest here.

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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24. Submit Your Picture Book Manuscript to the New Voices Award!

New Voices Award sealSummer is almost there! That means that the sixteenth annual NEW VOICES AWARD is now open for submissions. Established in 2000, the New Voices Award was one of the first (and remains one of the only) writing contests specifically designed to help authors of color break into publishing, an industry in which they are still dramatically underrepresented.

Change requires more than just goodwill; it requires concrete action. The New Voices Award is a concrete step towards evening the playing field by seeking out talented new authors of color who might otherwise remain under the radar of mainstream publishing.

NEW VOICES AWARD submissions we have published include Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story, It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw, and Bird.

The contest is open to writers of color who are residents of the United States and who have not previously had a children’s picture book published.

The deadline for this award is September 30, 2015.

For more eligibility and submissions details, visit the New Voices Award page and read these FAQs. Spread the word to any authors you know who may be interested. Happy writing to you all and best of luck!

 

 

 

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25. How to Read With Your Rising First Graders and Kinders This Summer

For parents of soon-to-be kindergartners and first graders, helping their children be prepared for the start of school can be exciting and daunting (and not just for students).

What can parents do over the summer to help their children maintain the growth they made this past year in preschool or kindergarten and be ready to tackle new topics and skills in the fall?

Below is one way parents can read and explore books over the summer. This model can be adapted for both fiction and nonfiction texts and follows how many teachers practice guided reading, which children may experience the first time in the upcoming school year.

I’m going to model how parents can practice reading using the text, David’s Drawings.

We do not need to, nor should we, ask every question for every book during every reading time. We may have only four minutes of our child’s attention one day and maybe twenty on another. The goal is not to drill our youngest learners in Common Core standards by the start of school.

Rather, the ultimate goal here is to show our beginning and soon-to-be readers how reading can be a joyful, positive experience. This mindset will set them up for the best start to their school journey.

Getting Ready to Read

1. Questions to ask and talk through with our rising kinders or first graders about the book:

  • Who is the author? / Show me where the author is on the cover. What does an author do?
  • Who is the illustrator? / Show me where the illustrator is on the cover. What does an illustrator do?
  • Where is the front cover? The back cover? The title page of the book?
  • As we read, which direction do we read the words?

2. Practice making predictions:

  • Together, look at the front cover. Using the title and picture on the cover, ask: what might happen in the story? What makes you think that?
  • Take a picture walk through the book. Ask: What do you think this story will be about? What do you notice when you look through this book?

3. Build background schema and draw on your child’s past experiences:

  • What do you know about drawing, or making a picture?
  • What types of things do you like to draw?
  • Where do artists get their ideas for drawings and paintings?
  • Who might help you draw a picture?

Reading the Book

  • As you begin to read, make sure the book is between both of you so your child can clearly see the text (and illustrations) and be in the position of the reader (rather than a regular listener at a group story time).
  • Make sure to point your finger to each word as it is read aloud. In doing so, your child can follow the text as well as the storyline and learn that we derive meaning from print—we in fact are not just making up a story to match the pictures we are seeing!

Video examples of parents reading with primary grade students:

After Reading

Discuss the meaning of the text. Here are some questions to check comprehension during and after the reading. (CCSS Key Ideas and Details)

  • Who is the main character? Or, who is David?
  • Where does the story take place? When does the story take place?
  • Where does David get his idea for his picture?
  • What details do his classmates add to David’s tree?
  • How does David feel when the other children draw on his picture? Share a time you felt the same way.
  • Why do you think David decides to make another drawing when he arrives home?
  • What does this story remind you of?
  • Could this really happen?
  • Do you think David is polite? Why or why not?
  • If you were to add one more page to the story, what do you think would happen next?
  • Why do you think the author, Cathryn Falwell, picks the title, David’s Drawings? Do you think this is a good title for the book? Why do you think so?
  • What do you think might happen the next time David starts a drawing in class?
  • Why do you think David isn’t shy anymore at the end of the story?
  • What was an interesting part for you in the story? Or, what part of the story made you smile? Why?

Video examples demonstrating book comprehension:

rising kinder readingExplore foundational skills and language:

  • Please show me a word that starts with the uppercase letter D. Show me a word that starts with the lowercase letter p.
  • Put your finger on a word that starts with b. Put your finger on a word that ends with e.
  • Can you think of another word you know that rhymes with day?
  • Can you show me a sentence that has a question mark at the end? A period? An exclamation point?
  • Can you show me a word that ends in –ed? –s?
  • Find a word that starts with the same letter as your name.
  • Find a word that ends with the same letter as your name.
  • Find a word that has a letter that is in your name.
  • Can you show me the (high frequency) words: the, of, and, a, to, you, on, I, me, my? Many primary grade classrooms build reading fluency with sight word practice. For a review for rising first graders or a peak for rising kinders, here are kindergarten high frequency word lists:

Post-Reading Activities

Done with sitting still? Time to move but keep the connections going!

1. Write or draw an answer to this question: Would you be friends with David?

2. Find a tree near school, at a park, or near your home. Sketch it using a pencil and then later decorate it.

3. Re-read the story or have another adult read the story—re-reading stories is great for helping children practice fluency, make predictions, retell events, and build confidence in eventually reading parts on their own.

For more further ideas on early literacy:

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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