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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. Gender Matters? Swedish Picture Books and Gender Ambiguity

guest bloggerBack in June, Laura Reiko Simeon wrote about how race is handled in Swedish picture books. We’re thrilled to host Laura again as she sheds light on how Swedish picture books handle gender and gender-ambiguous characters.

You sit down with your favorite 4-year-old to read a sweet, wordless picture book featuring a little duck swimming down the river. Quickly, without thinking too hard, what pronoun do you use to describe the duck? Do you say, “Look at him paddle past that shaggy dog!” or “What does she see in the sky?”

If you were like the mothers in a 1985 study, you would use masculine pronouns for 95% of animal characters with no gender-specific characteristics. A follow-up study from 1995 examined children’s use of pronouns and found that by age 7 they had absorbed and were repeating these same gender stereotypes. Listen to those around you: has it changed much since then?For children who may not yet be aware (1)

In the US, Sweden is widely regarded as a leader in gender equality, although many Swedes still see a need for greater progress. Meanwhile, our own biases are apparent, for example when we consider gendered toys. Compare this 1981 Lego ad, with its blue jeans and t-shirt-clad girl to the pink-infused products targeted at girls today. As with other social issues, picture books reflect concerns in society at large – but how they’ve done so is dramatically different in the US as compared to Sweden.

Some American picture books encourage acceptance of kids who break free from gender restrictions: Charlotte Zolotow’s William’s Doll, Cheryl Kilodavis’s My Princess Boy, and Campbell Geeslin’s Elena’s Serenade, among others. The point of these stories is that a character is acting in opposition to gender norms, but for children who may not yet be aware that they’re “not supposed to” do or like certain things, these well-intentioned books could introduce self-consciousness.

What have largely been missing from English-language picture books are deliberately gender-ambiguous characters that are neither being bullied nor defiant. They just are. Rather than focusing on the consequences (good or bad) of pushing against societal restrictions or elevating the rebel as cultural hero, they turn the focus on the reader. Do we feel uncomfortable if we don’t know someone’s gender? Why? Do we make assumptions about gender based on what someone is doing or wearing? Why?

We do have some characters – e.g. the diverse, roly-poly infants in Helen Oxenbury’s delightful baby books – that are non-gender specific, but they tend to be in simple, relatively plot-free books for the very young. They are distinct from the Swedish picture books in which pronouns are cleverly avoided and characters send deliberately contradictory gender signals. My earlier post about

Kivi and the Monster Dog

Kivi and the Monster Dog

Swedish approaches to ethnic diversity introduced the concept of not making difference the problem. There is a similar philosophy at work here.

The Swedish Institute for Children’s Books publishes annual “Book Tastings” that identify trends for the year’s publications. The theme for 2012 was “Borders and Border Crossings,” and one border was gender: not just sexual orientation or gender roles, but the concept of gender as an identifier itself.

The anti-bias publisher OLIKA has published several titles of this nature, but the one that made the biggest splash was Kivi and the Monster Dog by Jesper Lundqvist, the first children’s book to use the gender-neutral pronoun, “hen.” (In Swedish, “hon” means “she” and “han” means “he.” First proposed in the 1960s, “hen” was mostly used in academic research and hipster neighborhoods of Stockholm.) In this funny rhyming story, a small person, Kivi, wishes for a pet dog and ends up instead with a demanding beast that runs amok.

Åsa Mendel-Hartvig and Caroline Röstlund write about Tessla, a preschooler clad in gender-neutral clothes and boasting a mop of brown hair. In Tessla’s Mama Doesn’t Want To! and Tessla’s Papa Doesn’t Want To!, the child, in an amusing role reversal, creatively cajoles badly behaving parents into leaving the park, washing their hair, waking up on time or going to work.

interior page from Pom and Pim

interior page from Pom and Pim

Pom and Pim by Olof and Lena Landström may be the only Swedish gender-neutral book that has been translated into English. The first in a series, it features an adventurous toddler, Pom, who sends mixed gender signals: a boyish-sounding nickname, sparse curls, a long purple sweater, and a little pink toy (Pim). The story is told without pronouns, yet two professional American reviewers assumed Pom was male and referred to the character as “he.”

In Maria Nilsson Thore’s Bus and Frö Each on Their Own Island, two gender-ambiguous animals reach out from their lonely islands to become friends. One is shown variously smoking a pipe and knitting. In Jonatan Brännström’s The Lightning Swallower, we never learn the gender of the narrator, who is terrified of thunderstorms.

The Lightning Swallower

The Lightning Swallower

These books make a reader consider what markers are “masculine” or “feminine” – and why. They don’t dictate what you “should” do – rebel or conform – or offer value judgments about those who do either. In English-language books, feisty heroines reject traditionally female pursuits as “boring” (what about those girls who do love sewing and cooking?) and boys are persecuted for their love of pink and dolls (making these preferences seem risky to express). With their gender-ambiguous characters, Swedes have tilted the lens slightly and given us a whole new perspective through which to consider this topic. Can we change the terms of the discussion instead of framing everything in terms of binary gender categories? Where could that small but crucial shift take us?

Laura SimeonThe daughter of an anthropologist, Laura Reiko Simeon’s passion for diversity-related topics stems from her childhood spent living all over the US and the world. She fell in love with Sweden thanks to the Swedish roommate she met in Wales while attending one of the United World Colleges, international high schools dedicated to promoting cross-cultural understanding. Laura has an MA in History from the University of British Columbia, and a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Washington. She lives near Seattle.


Filed under: Diversity 102, Diversity, Race, and Representation, Educator Resources, Guest Blogger Post Tagged: gender, gender roles, gender stereotypes, picture books around the world, sweden

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2. Book Activities for the Family

amanda_boyarshinovAmanda Boyarshinov is one of the creators of the blog, The Educators’ Spin On It, a site that makes everyday moments into teachable opportunities. She has a Master of Reading Education for grades K-12 and a B.A. in Elementary Education. Additionally, she has her English Speakers of Other Languages (E.S.O.L.) endorsement and has received her National Board Certification in Early Childhood Education. In this post, we’ve been given permission to share her steps on building a family theme Love Book Basket, as well as how to create an “I Love You” book.

HOW TO BUILD A FAMILY THEME LOVE BOOK BASKET

family basket 1

1.  Choose a Book

Select themed literature that is appropriate for your child’s age.  Younger children may enjoy shorter stories.  Older children may like more detailed picture books.  Consider both non-fiction and fiction text. Lee and Low Publishing Company sent me the 3 books to read with my children for this article.  All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

How Far Do You Love Me?

How Far Do You Love Me? is a delightful tale of families all around the world and how much they love their children.  Each page introduces a new place on the globe, with a sweet sentence about their love. Geared for 3-6 year olds Click here for the Teachers Guide

Grandfather Counts

Grandfather Counts (Reading Rainbow Books) is a picture book about making connections with your family, no matter what the language may be.  Author Andrea Cheng draws upon her own family and friends experiences to weave this tale of love and family. Geared for  6-8 year olds It is a Reading Rainbow selection Click here for the Teachers Guide

Honoring Our Ancestors

Honoring Our Ancestors: Stories and Paintings by Fourteen Artists is a non-fiction picture book highlighting some AMAZING artists: Carl Angel, Enrique Chagoya, George Crespo, Mark Dukes, Maya Gonzalez, Caryl Henry, Nancy Hom, Hung Liu, Judith Lowery, Stephen Von Mason, Mira Reisberg, JoeSam, Patssi Valdez, and Helen Zughaib.  Each short story and accompanying artwork gives the reader a snapshot into the importance of family to that artist. Geared for  8-10 year olds.

family basket 2

2. Gather the Supplies for the Selected Activity.

In this activity, children make an “I Love You,” book for a family member.  This can be done with art materials around the house.  Directions for each page below.

3. Arrange and Display.

Arrange the materials and books in a pleasing manor in a basket, bag or container.  Then, leave it on a table or desk area as an invitation to explore.  Snuggle in and read.  Then make the activity!

family basket 3You can find directions (and pictures) on how to make an “I Love You” book on The Educators’ Spin On It website.

Make your #LOVEdiverseBooks Basket today!

Stay TUNED!!!!

Next week, The Educators’ Spin On It will be highlighting author Andrea Cheng, author of Grandfather Counts. Here is a sneak peek…

 


Filed under: Activities and Events, Art and Book Design, Educator Resources, Guest Blogger Post, Lee & Low Likes, Musings & Ponderings Tagged: activity basket, Andrea Cheng, arts and crafts, Children's Book Press, educator activities, Educators, educators' spin on it, family activities, family basket, grandfather counts, honoring our ancestors, How Far Do You Love Me, i love you book, kid activities, Lulu Delacre

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3. New Visions Award Reminder

New Visions Award sealWe’ve been excited to receive so many great manuscripts for our second annual New Visions Award! We just wanted to give you a reminder that the contest ends October 31, 2014, so get those manuscripts in! The New Visions Award, which was created in 2012, will be given to a middle grade or young adult fantasy, science fiction, or mystery novel by a writer of color. Established by Tu Books, an imprint of LEE & LOW that publishes YA and middle grade science fiction and fantasy, 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 is modeled after Lee & Low’s successful New Voices Award, which was established in 2000 and is given annually to a picture book written by an unpublished author of color. This award has led to the publication of several award-winning children’s books, including It Jes’ Happened by Don Tate and Bird by Zetta Elliott.

Details

The New Visions contest 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.

Manuscripts will be accepted now through October 31, 2014. The winner of the New Visions Award will receive a prize of $1000 and our standard publication contract. An Honor Award winner will receive a cash prize of $500. For further details, including full eligibility and submission guidelines, please visit the New Visions Award page.

If you have any questions about submissions, eligibility, or anything else, feel free to drop them in the comments and we’ll try to answer them. And please spread the word to any aspiring authors you know who might be interested. We look forward to reading your entries!

Keep the manuscripts coming everyone!

Further reading:

New Visions Award: What Not to Do

Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part I

Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part II

Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part III

Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part IV

Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part V: Diversity in Genre Fiction


Filed under: Awards, New Voices/New Visions Award, Tu Books Tagged: writers of color, writing award, writing contest

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4. Cover Reveal: Rose Eagle

Last fall, Tu Books released Killer of Enemies, a post-apocalyptic steampunk adventure by Joseph Bruchac. Readers were introduced to seventeen-year-old Apache hunter Lozen, a kick-butt warrior who kills monsters to ensure the safety of her family.

Set to be released next month, Joseph Bruchac has written an e-novella that’s a prequel to Killer of Enemies, titled Rose Eagle.

Rose Eagle is set in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where readers are introduced to seventeen-year-old Rose Eagle of the Lakota tribe who is trying to find her place in a post-apocalyptic world.

Before the Silver Cloud, the Lakota were forced to work in the Deeps, mining for ore so that the Ones, the overlords, could continue their wars. But when the Cloud came and enveloped Earth, all electronics were shut off. Some miners were trapped in the deepest Deeps and suffocated, but the Lakota were warned to escape, and the upper Deeps became a place of refuge for them in a post-Cloud world.

In the midst of this chaos, Rose Eagle’s aunt has a dream: Rose will become a medicine woman, a healer. She sends Rose into the Black Hills on a quest to find healing for their people.

Gangly and soft-spoken, Rose is no warrior. She seeks medicine, not danger. Nevertheless, danger finds her, but love and healing soon follow. When Rose Eagle completes her quest, she may return with more than she ever thought she was looking for.

rose eagle coverThanks to the following blogs for participating in the Rose Eagle cover reveal:

Beyond Victoriana

Finding Wonderland

Rich in Color

We can’t wait to hear what you think of the cover!


Filed under: Book News, Cover Design, New Releases, Tu Books Tagged: black hills, cover reveal, dystopia, family, first love, friendship, genetic engineering, healer, healing, Joseph Bruchac, Killer of Enemies, lakota, medicine woman, mining, native americans, novella, rose eagle, science fiction, south dakota, steampunk

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5. How We Feel About Amazon

Jason LowIn this post, Publisher Jason Low shares his feelings on the Amazon vs. Hachette battle, the future of publishing, and the view from here as a small publisher.

Since the great Amazon-Hachette feud of 2014 started this summer, many people have asked where we stand. It is no secret that we do business with Amazon—almost every publisher does. At the same time, what I see from Amazon, and where I see the book industry heading as a result, worries me.

To me, Amazon is a different animal. It is unlike any other corporation out there because of the way it treats the bottom line. The problem is, Amazon’s bottom line is growth, not profits. In sacrificing profits they have made a conscious decision to sell books at unsustainable prices, undercutting any and all competitors who are still operating under the profit model, which is everyone.

The consequences of this are twofold. First, it puts other companies out of business, straight and simple. We have seen the continual decrease in the number of independent and even chain bookstores over the last several years as Amazon increases its market share.

Second, selling books cheaply exacts a considerable price from the entire publishing industry. Books still require substantial capital to create, print, and ship. While the cost of doing business goes up, any price increases to help offset these costs are compromised by a major player who is not concerned with making money. Publishers are being squeezed for all they are worth, in a business that already operates with a great deal of risk and razor-thin margins.

Before Amazon, publishers and distributors had a symbiotic relationship. The distributors needed the books to sell and publishers relied on distributors to sell the books. Amazon is looking to upend this entire system.

Here is where I see the publishing industry in the next couple of years: Amazon will control the majority of retail bookselling. Currently, Amazon has 65% of all online book orders, which includes print and digital. As a result, they will have a say as to what gets published and will dictate book pricing. Can you tell me another industry where a distributor has this kind of control over content creators?

The Amazon-Hachette battle is a pivotal moment in our industry. If you are not familiar with this issue you should bring yourselves up to speed because this concerns everyone who cares about books. You should consider carefully the impact that rock bottom prices and free shipping will have on the publishing ecosystem in the near and long term. Here are a few good articles to start, which offer arguments on both sides:

As Publishers Fight Amazon, Books Vanish (NY Times)

Plot Thickens as 900 Writers Battle Amazon (NY Times)

Amazon vs. Hachette: What Would Orwell Think? (New Yorker)

In Defense of Amazon: An Author’s Dissent (Salon)

My Week as an Amazon Insider (The Guardian)

In Defense of Amazon (The New Republic)

Agree? Disagree? We’d love to hear your thoughts.


Filed under: Publishing 101 Tagged: Amazon, ebooks, Jason Low

6 Comments on How We Feel About Amazon, last added: 9/25/2014
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6. Lee & Low’s Favorite Banned Books

Banned Book Week started yesterday.

For those of you who don’t know,

“Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types –- in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.” –American Library Association

Here at Lee & Low Books, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite banned/challenged titles (in no particular order).

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – banned for use of racial slurs and profanity.
  2. Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling – banned for depictions of witchcraft and wizardry/the occult.
  3. the absolutely true diary of a part-time indianThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie – banned for racism, sexually explicit language, and profanity.
  4. The Kite Runner by Khaleid Hosseini– banned for depictions of homosexuality, profanity, religious viewpoints, and sexual content.
  5. Our Bodies, Ourselves by Boston Women’s Health Book Collective – banned for language and “promoting homosexuality.”
  6. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck– banned for profanity and sexual references.
  7. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’engle – banned for offensive language and use of magic.
  8. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – banned for language. a wrinkle in time
  9. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – banned for profanity, racial slurs, and “blasphemous language”,
  10. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley – banned for sexual content.
  11. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – banned for drug usage, sexually explicit content and unsuited to age group
  12. Summer of my German Soldier by Bette Greene – banned for language and racism.
  13. The Giver by Lois Lowry – banned for “religious view point, suicide, unsuited to age group, and sexually explicit content.”
  14. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – banned for “violence, sexually explicit content, and being unsuited to the age group.”
  15. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich– banned for “drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, and religious viewpoint”
  16. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things by Carolyn Mackler – banned for “offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group.”the earth, my butt, and other big round things

Here are some other resources for Banned Book Week:

ALA: Frequently Challenged Books of the 21st century

Banned Books that Shaped America

Book Challenges Suppress Diversity


Filed under: Book Lists by Topic, Lee & Low Likes Tagged: Banned Book Week, Book Lists by Topic, books, Censorship, diversity issues, Harper Lee

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7. Poetry Monday: Trees

A nice poem to start off your week! Today, we’ve chosen a poem from our new fall title, Lend a Hand: Poems About Givingto share with you:

Trees

I doubt

many people

will pay much attention

to a few scrawny saplings

on this harsh city street.

But if any of these people

are here years from now,

enjoying the shade

in the heat of the summer

or the dazzle of color

on the branches in fall,

maybe they’ll remember

what this street once looked like

and go to a place

in need of some trees,

and plant a few saplings

like I’m doing today.

Lend a Hand

If you’re interested in planting trees in your area, check out some of these great organizations:

TreePeople (Based in Los Angeles)

Million Trees NYC (Based in New York City)

The Nature Conservancy – Plant a Billion Trees (National)


Filed under: New Releases Tagged: books, lend a hand, planting trees, poetry, poetry Monday, trees

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8. 5 Strategies to Help Parents Navigate Lexile

30-31This week we are tackling what parents can do once they hear those magical words, “Your child has a Lexile score of…” For strategies for teachers and booksellers on navigating leveling systems and building a community, check out here and here.

For parents who want to help your children find a book at their levels:

1. Ask teachers what leveling system they are using to assess your child’s reading growth.

  • What does this system measure?
  • What does a book at this level look like? Below-level book? Above-level book?
  • What are examples of books and series that are on this level?
  • Where can I find out more information about this leveling system and books measured using it?

How to Set Up An Author Skype Visit2. Research books and this leveling system for yourself online. Publishers and the leveling systems themselves often have books leveled. Additionally, there are many booklists already out there. Remember, your child isn’t the only one to ever have achieved a Lexile level 620. Someone has made a list before you.

3. Do not assume that a library or bookstore will know what these levels are or mean. Ask your child’s teacher for a conversion chart to other leveling systems or download your own (see above). Download one from Reading Rockets, Booksource, Scholastic Guided Reading Program, Lexile, or Lee & Low. Also ask for booklists for Lexile levels the child should explore and take them with you to the library or bookstore.

Howard Thurman's Great Hope4. If you have a child who is reading significantly above his or her typical grade level and are concerned that higher levels equal too mature content or themes, look for expository nonfiction. Nonfiction often has higher technical and academic vocabulary bumping up the Lexile or Accelerated Reader levels (as they measure linguistic complexity), but the themes and concepts won’t be mature. Is your child reading a grade or two above peers and absolutely loved the science unit on forces and motion? Find sciences books that align with your child’s science or social studies units. Your child will be able to explore more in-depth about forces than will be covered in class. Check out the annual Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal winner and honors list and iNK (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids) Think Tank for award-winning nonfiction titles.

Pop Pop and Grandpa5. Most importantly, continue to expose your child to a wide range of genres, levels, and text sources. Just because your child achieved a Lexile level 920 doesn’t mean the child should only read books at a Lexile level 920. Your child’s teacher may assign homework with reading passages at specific reading levels, but it’s important for students to engage with texts that aren’t leveled as most books in bookstores and libraries won’t be. We interact with texts of all kinds throughout our day, including nutrition labels, newspaper articles, advertisements, recipes, and road signs. The real world does not provide children with texts at their level all the time and we need to work with them to develop reading strategies to cope when they come across more challenging texts. Moreover, we want our readers to develop their love of reading, along with skills and critical thinking. This may include our children seeking out and re-reading favorites or comfort books that happen to be lower leveled (who hasn’t indulged on a silly summer beach read every now and then?) or trying harder books that happen to be on their favorite subject (who can resist those stunning books filled with multisyllable Greek- and Latin-derived names of awe-inspiring dinosaurs?).

Image from BABY FLOFor further reading:

7 Strategies to Help Booksellers and Librarians Navigate Lexile

8 Strategies to Help Educators Explain Lexile and Invest Stakeholders

What have we missed? Please share in the comments your tricks, tips, and ideas for helping families and children navigate the bookshelves.

 

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Specialist, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 


Filed under: Common Core State Standards, Educator Resources, ELL/ESL and Bilingual Books Tagged: CCSS, children's books, close reading, Educators, ELA common core standards, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension

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9. Lee & Low at the Brooklyn Book Festival on Sunday, 9/21

For those who are in the New York City Area, we’ve got lots of great things happening this weekend!

On Saturday, September 20 at 10:30 am, Katheryn Russell-Brown, author of Little Melba and Her Big Trombone, will be doing a reading at the Bank Street Bookstore in New York City. More info here.

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

LEE & LOW BOOKS will also be at the Brooklyn Book Festival this Sunday, September 21! We’re looking forward to a fun-filled day with our authors, and if you’re in the New York City area we hope you’ll stop by! We’ll be at booth #604, right next to the Columbus Statue Garden.

brooklyn book festival

Artwork from HIROMI’S HANDS, written and illustrated by Lynne Barasch

The festival is located at Brooklyn Borough Hall and Plaza, 209 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201.

BROOKLYN BOOK FESTIVAL SIGNINGS

monica brown10-10:45am at booth #604; 3-3:30pm at the Brooklyn Book Festival Children’s Area

Monica Brown is the author of Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match and Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash

 

christiane kromer 11-11:45am at booth #604

Christiane Krömer is the illustrator of King For a Day

 

mark greenwoodfrane lessac12-12:30pm at the Brooklyn Book Festival Children’s Area; 1-1:45pm at booth #604

Mark Greenwood and Frané Lessac are the author and illustrator of Drummer Boy of John John

Hope to see you there!


Filed under: Activities and Events Tagged: author signings, book festival, Brooklyn, Brooklyn Book Festival

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10. Your Sleepy Hollow Season 1 Recap

Stacy Whitman, Publisher of Tu Books, Stacy Whitman photoexplains why she loves Sleepy Hollow and tells us what we need to know to jump into season 2 next week. Spoilers ahead, so beware!

I never really considered myself a fan of the original Washington Irving “Sleepy Hollow” tale. It scared me as a kid, and not in a good way.

So when I started seeing posters advertising the show last year, I shrugged, despite the fact that the show was going to star a woman of color in a lead role.

As I heard people talk about how wonderful the show was, I caught up on the first few episodes and quickly became a Sleepyhead (as we fans call ourselves), spurred on by the storytelling in the show itself and the fun that actor Orlando Jones created for us as he fangirled his own show on the Internet.

If you didn’t quite get the show when it first started, we understand. We’ve been there. But that doesn’t mean that you need to miss out on all the fun this year. Sleepy Hollow is not only one of the most diverse dramas on network TV right now, it’s also one of the most fun. Come over to the dark side and become a Sleepyhead – you won’t regret it!

Note: If you have Hulu Plus and a wide-open weekend, we recommend you stop reading right now and just go binge watch entire first season on Hulu Plus right now (or just the pilot, which is available to everyone). Or, if you need a TL;DR right now (stands for too long, didn’t read) you can just check out this clip from Fox that will catch you up in 60 seconds:

Otherwise, read on for our highlights!

The Characters

Ichabod Crane: British, but fought with the Patriots in the Revolutionary War. During a Revolutionary War battle, Crane sees a masked Redcoat (the Horseman, we discover) coming at him. The Redcoat deals him a lethal blow, but Ichabod is able to cut off the man’s head before he collapses. Several hundred years later (welcome to 2013!), Ichabod wakes up in a cave and digs himself out of his own grave.

Lt. Abbie Mills: Sheriff’s Lieutenant in the quiet town of Sleepy Hollow, Abbie is preparing to leave for Quantico to join the FBI when she witnesses the murder of her Sheriff by the Headless Horseman. Skeptical by nature, a series of strange happenings convinces Abbie that there’s no need to head to Quantico: there is plenty of trouble afoot right in Sleepy Hollow. 

Captain Frank Irving: Abbie’s boss. Captain Irving at first denies that anything supernatural is going down in Sleepy Hollow. He can’t stay in denial forever, though…and may know more than he’s letting on.

 Andy Brooks: Abbie’s coworker Andy (played by the always lovable John Cho) is killed off in the very first episode, but death can’t keep him away. In subsequent episodes Brooks returns, as an agent of the Headless Horseman who, once in a while, is still able to protect Abbie.

Katrina Crane: Ichabod’s dead wife is a witch and trapped in Purgatory. She’s giving him visions from beyond the grave to help him figure out why he was awakened along with the Headless Horseman.

Jenny Mills: Abbie’s sister. Jenny was put into a mental institution years ago after she admitted to seeing a strange demon as a teenager. She may be the only one in Sleepy Hollow who’s not a little bit crazy, though.

Sleepy Hollow 1

What You Need to Know

 The answers are found in Washington’s Bible. This one keeps coming up, so take note.

The Headless Horseman is Death, the first Horseman of the Apocalypse. His goal is to bring about the end of the world, with as much misery and mischief along the way as possible. Ichabod and Abbie are the two witnesses spoken of in the Book of Revelation, and their job is to see the signs of and hopefully be able to prevent the return of the Four Horsemen who wish to usher in the Apocalypse.

The demon Abbie and Jenny saw as teens was the start. This event turns out to be the beginning of the end—the start of this round of machinations to end the world. Only Jenny admitted to seeing the demon (landing herself in a mental institution) and she becomes an important link between Abbie, Ichabod, and Moloch, the demon putting everything into motion.

Ichabod and the Horseman are linked. This I tell ya, brother/ Can’t kill one without the other…

The Horseman is actually…Arthur. Who’s Arthur? Some chump who used to be Ichabod’s best friend and Katrina’s former fiancé, back in the day. Katrina left him and later fell in love with Ichabod. Arthur, in his fury, agreed to become Death. The world would have ended back then had it not been for Ichabod killing him in battle. Talk about a bad end to a love triangle.

Katrina had a son by Ichabod. He didn’t know it at the time of his (not permanent) death, though. That son was whisked away by Abbie’s ancestors, only to end up buried alive. His name is Sleepy Hollow 2Jeremy.

There is a way to unlink Ichabod and the Horseman. A person called a Sin Eater has the ability to literally eat someone’s sin, and I honestly have no idea how this unlinks Ichabod from him, but it does.

The Sin Eater in question is Henry Parrish, who all along has seemed to be an ally in the fight against Moloch, but in the very last episode, we come to find out he’s … not such a nice guy. In fact, he’s Jeremy, Katrina and Ichabod’s son, with a lot of power and a lot of parental resentment. He helps Ichabod and Abbie enter Purgatory to rescue Katrina, but it all goes wrong, and as Ichabod and Katrina leave Purgatory—leaving Abbie behind there—Jeremy reveals his true nature as the Horseman of War. He whisks his mother off to Moloch and buries Ichabod alive…

And now you’re where we all are, two Horsemen down, and waiting for next Monday with bated breath! Join us as we live-tweet our reactions to the season 2 premiere on Monday on @leeandlow and @tubooks!


Filed under: Educator Resources Tagged: diverse television, pop culture, Sleepy Hollow, tv

1 Comments on Your Sleepy Hollow Season 1 Recap, last added: 9/22/2014
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11. The Little Melba Playlist: A Jazz Music Primer from Frank Morrison

Summer is coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean the fun stops! With cooler weather comes fun indoor activities, like catching a great jazz show. We asked Frank Morrison, illustrator of our new picture book biography, Little Melba and Her Big Trombone, to share some of his favorite jazz numbers with us. Many of the artists below played or arranged with Melba Doretta Liston; others inspired Frank while he created his illustrations. So sit back with your cup of apple cider and let the rhythm carry you away!

  • John Coltrane: “Out of This World,” plus Coltrane’s albums The Inch Worm, Big Nick, and Giant Steps
  • Thelonious Monk: “Well, You Needn’t,” “Ruby, My Dear,” “Off Minor,” and “Bemsha Swing”
  • Dizzy Gillespie: “52nd Street Theme” and “A Night in Tunisia”
  • Miles Davis: “Freddie Freeloader,” “Round Midnight,” “Airegin,” and “Blue in Green,” plus Davis’s album Kind of Blue 

little melba and her big trombone

  • Chet Baker: “My Funny Valentine”
  • Art Blakey: “Dat Dere,” “Moanin’,” “Blues March,” “The Chess Players,” and “Señor Blues” (performed with Horace Silver)
  • Abbey Lincoln: “Afro Blue”
  • Clifford Brown: “Daahoud,” “The Blues Walk,” “Jordu,” and “Parisian Thoroughfare”

little melba and her big trombone

  • Duke Ellington: “In a Sentimental Mood” and “Take the ‘A’ Train”
  • Stan Getz: “Corcovado” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”
  • Louis Armstrong: “Summer Song,” “West End Blues,” and “I Got Rhythm”

Still can’t get enough jazz music? Here’s Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood.”

Have your own favorite jazz tunes? Leave ‘em in the comments!


Filed under: Art and Book Design, Lee & Low Likes, Musings & Ponderings Tagged: dizzy gillespie, Duke Ellington, Frank Morrison, jazz music, jazz videos, louis armstrong, melba liston, miles davis, Music, musical instruments, trombones

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12. 8 Strategies For Educators To Explain Lexile and Invest Stakeholders

What happens when there is a lack of or break down in communication between stakeholders about the tools used to assess children’s reading? One bookseller shared her experience when parents, booksellers, and students attempt to find the right book within a leveling framework.

In our previous post, “7 Strategies to Help Booksellers and Librarians Navigate Lexile,” we presented strategies for the book experts out in the field on strengthening the communication lines, sharing resources and context, and building a community invested in each child’s education. In doing so, we show our students, children, and customers that they have a whole team cheering for them and invested in their growth, joy, and success.

Pencil TalkNow for educators! Want a child to achieve a year and a half of reading progress and develop a life long passion for learning? The more adults you have involved in your students’ success, the better chances you have for meaningful growth and creating a love of reading.

Next week, we will offer strategies for parents.

For teachers and school staff who want to invest more stakeholders:

1. Don’t wait for summer break to provide reading lists. After each assessment cycle or parent-teacher conference period, provide parents with book ideas to help students get to the next level. Research or create booklists to hand parents at a parent-teacher conference. Except for the outliers, you can generally get away with making 3 lists (above-, on-, and below-grade level) of where students are reading.

2. Assume that no one knows your leveling system outside of school. Create a toolkit (that can be re-printed each year) for parents when they go to a library or bookstore. At parent-teacher conferences or Back-to-School Night, arm parents with 1) pre-made booklists (see above) 2) addresses and directions to the public library, bookstore, or community center you trust or have reached out to 3) a level conversion chart—If your leveling system doesn’t provide one, download one from Reading Rockets, Booksource, Scholastic Guided Reading Program, Lexile, or Lee & Low.

Ten Ways to Support Parents and Cultivate Student Success3. Hold information sessions at Back to School Night or other times in the year for parents. Explain what leveling system you are using to assess a child’s reading ability. Demonstrate how to find books at that child’s reading level when in a store, online, or at a library. “What does an such and such level book like? Below-level book? Above-level book? What should a child be able to do at such and such reading level?” With colleagues, consider another session for nearby bookstores or public librarians. All leveling systems have websites and FAQs sections addressing misconceptions and how-tos that you can show parents, librarians, or bookstore staff.

4. Find out where your students and families are going for books. My students borrowed books from the local community center or bought books at the nearby discount retail superstore. We built a community by reaching out to the children’s librarian and community center coordinator. Reaching out to these places helped me learn about my students outside of school and familiarize staff with our goals. Share any booklists and conversion charts. Libraries and bookstores will be thrilled to be a part of your community. As I said last week, students may move on, but you and book staff are in it for the long haul.

5. Extend the classroom to your local library or bookstore. When I learned where my students were looking for books (and what poor quality those offerings were at a discount store), I realized that many had not been to the neighborhood branch of the public library and did not know what the library had to offer.

  • Invite a librarian to class to talk to students about finding books when they are outside the classroom. Show students how to find books when they don’t know a book’s level (Hello, five finger rule!)
  • Post in class or send home the library or bookstore’s calendar of monthly events.
  • Encourage families to join you at a weekend storytelling event at the library or an evening author event at the bookstore (you might be able to persuade your school to count these events as parent community service hours).
  • Is your local library or bookstore on Pinterest, such as Oakland Public Library TeenZone? Check out your branch’s or favorite bookstore’s new releases and collections. Show families how to engage with the library or bookstore from a school computer or on a mobile phone.

6. Simulate the real world in your classroom. Many teachers organize their classroom libraries around their guided reading levels or assessment leveling system to make it easy for students to find the right book. Yet, students need experience interacting with books that aren’t leveled—as most books in bookstores and libraries won’t be. Consider organizing your classroom library by author, theme, genre, or series—or at least a shelf or bin—so students can practice figuring out the right fit book.

7. Remember: You will most likely have at least a few parents whose first language is NOT English. They will rely even more heavily on librarians and bookstore staff for help finding the right fit book for their child. The more you help librarians and local bookstores and the parents, the more you help the child.

8. Think about the message. Parents may hear that their child is at Lexile level 840 and try to help you and their child by only seeking out Lexile level 840 books. Coach parents to continue to expose students to a wide range of texts, topics, and levels. Parents may need a gentle reminder that we want our readers to develop their love of reading, along with skills and critical thinking. This may include children seeking out and re-reading favorites or comfort books that happen to be lower leveled or trying harder books that happen to be on their favorite subject.

Bruce Lee 1Next week, we will offer strategies for teachers and parents.

For further reading:

7 Strategies to Help Booksellers and Librarians Navigate Lexile

What have we missed? Please share in the comments your tricks, tips, and ideas for helping families and children navigate the bookshelves.

 

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Specialist, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 


Filed under: Common Core State Standards, Educator Resources, ELL/ESL and Bilingual Books Tagged: Book Lists by Topic, booksellers, Bookstores, CCSS, children's books, close reading, Educators, ELA common core standards, independent bookstores, librarians, libraries, reading comprehension

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13. Poetry Friday: Puppy

It’s Friday everyone, and you know what that means! Poetry Friday! Today, we’ve chosen a poem from our new fall title, Lend a Hand: Poems About Givingto share with you:

Puppy

The puppy we’re raising

is the cutest I’ve ever seen

cuddly and playful,

with floppy ears

and a wagging tail

and a look on his face that says,

“Please hold me and love me.

I want to be yours forever,”

and before long

we’re going to give

him away.

He’ll be someone’s eyes

one day.

puppy poem

If you’re interested in working with puppies and training them to become guide dogs, you can check out a few of these great organizations:

Guide Dogs for the Blind (based on the West Coast)

The Seeing Eye (based on the East Coast)

OccuPaw Guide Dog Association (based in Wisconsin)


Filed under: Lee & Low Likes Tagged: guide dogs, lend a hand, poetry, poetry Friday, puppies, puppy, service dog

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14. Paula Yoo on How to Publicize Your Children’s Book

Paula YooPaula Yoo is a children’s book writer, television writer, and freelance violinist living in Los Angeles. Her first book, Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds, won Lee & Low’s New Voices Award. Her new book, Guest bloggerTwenty-two Cents, was released this week. In this post, we asked her to share advice on publicizing your first book for those submitting to the New Voices Award and other new authors.

When I won the Lee & Low New Voices Award picture book writing contest in 2003, I thought I had hit the big time. This was my “big break.” My dream had come true! My submission, Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story, about Olympic gold medalist Dr. Sammy Lee, would be published in 2005 and illustrated by Dom Lee.

BUT… winning the New Voices contest was just the start. I had to do several revisions of the manuscript based on insightful critiques from my editor Philip Lee. Because this was a biography, I had to do extra research and conduct many more follow-up interviews to make sure all the facts of my manuscript were accurate. And then after all the line edits and copy edits and proof reading checks and balances were completed, I had one more thing to do.

Publicity.

No problem, I thought. All I had to do was answer that huge questionnaire the Lee & Low publicity department sent me. Our publicists were amazing – they were already aggressively sending out press releases and getting me invited to a few national writing conferences for book panels and signings.

But I quickly discovered that a debut author must be willing to pound the pavement, too! So I hired freelance graphic designer friends to create bookmarks and fliers of my book and an official author website. I dropped these off at as many schools, libraries and bookstores I could visit on the weekends. I contacted these same places to see if they would be interested in hosting a signing or school presentation of my book which included fun show-and-tell visuals of how the book was made, a slide show and even a specially-edited CD of historical film footage about my book’s topic.

I contacted local book festivals to be considered for signings and book panels. I not only asked friends and teachers and librarians to spread the word but even people I thought might have a vested interest in the book because they were also professional athletes/coaches and Asian American activists. I always updated our amazing Lee & Low publicists so we both were on the same page. We were a team who supported each other.

NaPiBoWriWee logoI also kept up with the news. Any pop culture trend, breaking news or social issue that was a hot button topic related to my book was an opportunity to see if my book could be mentioned or if I could be interviewed as an “expert.” For example, I pitched my book during the Summer Olympics as a relevant topic.

For my second book, Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story (illustrated by Lin Wang), published in 2009, I created NAPIBOWRIWEE – National Picture Book Writing Week on my website. It was a fun version of the famous National Novel Writing Month (“NaNoWriMo”) event that promoted writing a 50,000-word novel in one month. My NaPiBoWriWee encouraged writers to write 7 picture books in 7 days. I advertised my new SHINING STAR book as a contest giveaway drawing prize for those who successfully completed the event with me.

To my shock, this “out of the box” creative publicity idea not only worked… but it went VIRAL. Thousands of aspiring newbie writers AND published veteran authors all across the United States and in countries as far away as Egypt, Korea, France and Australia participated in my NaPiBoWriWee event. Talk about great publicity for my second book! As a result, my NaPiBoWriWee event has become an annual event for the past six years, where I have promoted all my new Lee & Low books! (For more information on NAPIBWORIWEE, please visit my website http://paulayoo.com).

And this is only the tip of the iceberg of what I did to promote my first book. Today, not only must debut authors “pound the pavement” for publicity, but they also must navigate the social media waters with blogs tours, breaking news Twitter feeds, Instagram and Tumblr visual posts, and so on. As I write this blog, I’m sure a brand new social media app is being invented that will become tomorrow’s Next Big Social Media Trend.

Twenty-two Cents coverIn the end, it was an honor and privilege to win this contest. I’m grateful for what it has done for my book career.

For my new book, Twenty-two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank (illustrated by Jamel Akib, 2014), I’ve already participated in several blog Q&A interviews with signed book giveaway contests from established children’s book writing websites. I’ve promoted the book on my website and on social media sites. And I’m also promoting the book in real life by participating in book festival panels, including the recent Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

For new authors, I recommend pounding the pavement like I did. Think outside the box – are there current news/pop culture trends that relate to your book’s topic that you can exploit as a relevant connection? Can you come up with your own fun “viral” website contest like my NAPIBOWRIWEE? Make fast friends with your local librarians, schoolteachers and bookstore owners. Keep up with the latest and most influential kid lit bloggers and see if you can pitch your book as a future blog post on their site. And give yourself a budget – how much are you willing to spend out of your own pocket to promote your book? Find a number you’re comfortable with so you don’t end up shocked by that credit card bill!

Of course, these suggestions are just the beginning. Book publicity is a difficult, time-consuming job that requires much hard work and persistence and creative out-of-the-box problem solving. But trust me, it’s all worth it when you see a child pick your book from the shelf of a bookstore or library with a smile on his or her face.

New Voices Award sealThanks for joining us, Paula! The New Voices Award is given each year to an unpublished author of color for a picture book manuscript. Find more information on how to submit here. The deadline for submissions this year is September 30, 2014.

Further Reading:

Dealing with Rejection: Keeping Your Dream Going by debut author Thelma Lynne Godin

How to Find Time to Write When You Have 11 Children by New Voices Award winner Pamela M. Tuck

Submitting to Our New Voices Award: Tips from an Editor

New Voices Award FAQs

 


Filed under: Interviews with Authors and Illustrators, New Voices/New Visions Award, Publishing 101, Writer Resources Tagged: aspiring authors, marketing, NaPiBoWriWee, Paula Yoo, writing contest

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15. En la Clase: #weneeddiversebooks

Hannah:

We love this!

Originally posted on Vamos a Leer:

You all may remember #weneeddiversebooks from last May when we posted about this new initiative.  It’s still going strong and has even more resources to offer those interested in increasing access to diverse children’s and young adult’s literature.  If you’re not familiar with this campaign, the following is their mission statement:

“We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. We Need Diverse Books is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality.

We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities. Our mission is to promote or amplify diversification efforts and increase visibility for diverse books and authors, with a goal of empowering a wide range of readers in the process.

In order to accomplish…

View original 140 more words


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16. Three New Picture Books from Lee & Low Books

The temperature has already started to drop and we’re seeing Halloween candy popping up in the grocery stores, so that means a new batch of books for the fall season! Here are three new picture books out this week. We can’t wait to hear what you think of them!

Lend a Hand: Poems About Giving

lend a hand cover

Ages 6–10 • $17.95 hardcover
978-1-60060-970-1

Lend a Hand is a collection of fourteen original poems, each emphasizing the compassion and the joy of giving. Representing diverse voices—different ages and backgrounds—the collection shows the bridging of boundaries between people who are often perceived as being different from one another. Written by John Frank and illustrated by London Ladd.

“At once familiar and slightly out of the box, these giving scenes gently suggest that the smallest acts can inspire and achieve great ends.” —Kirkus Reviews

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

little melba and her big trombone

Ages 6–10 • $18.95 hardcover
978-1-60060-898-8

With three starred reviews (PW, School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews), it’s clear that Melba Doretta Liston is “something special”! Brimming with ebullience and the joy of making music, Little Melba and Her Big Trombone is a fitting tribute to a trailblazing musician and a great unsung hero of jazz. Written by Katheryn Russell-Brown and illustrated by Frank Morrison.

“An excellent match of breezy text and dynamic illustrations tells an exhilarating story.”
—starred review, School Library Journal

Twenty-Two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank

twenty-two cents cover

Ages 6–10 • $18.95 hardcover
978-1-60060-658-8

Twenty-two Cents is an inspiring story of economic innovation and a celebration of how one person—like one small loan—can make a positive difference in the lives of many. Written by Paula Yoo and illustrated by Jamel Akib.

“Yoo makes the significance of Yunus’s contributions understandable, relevant, and immediate.” —Publishers Weekly


Filed under: Book News, New Releases Tagged: children's books, diverse books, fall books, fall releases, Melba Doretta Liston, Muhammad Yunus, multicultural books

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17. 7 Strategies for Navigating Lexile for Booksellers and Librarians

I highly recommend all educators and parents read a bookseller’s perspective on leveling systems, Lexile in this case, which we re-posted on our blog last week. There are great firsthand examples of parents and booksellers striving in earnest to help children improve in reading.

Regardless of where one comes down on leveling books and assessing students with leveling systems, last week’s post laid bare the lack of or breakdown in communication between all stakeholders about the tools used to assess children’s reading growth.

Whether a child’s reading abilities are measured using Lexile, Accelerated Reader, DRA or another, we must equip any and all stakeholders in a child’s education with knowledge about what these tools mean and concrete ways to further support the child.

Children spend 7,800 hours outside of school each year compared to 900 hours in school. The National Center for Families Learning asserts that “the family unit—no matter the composition—is the one constant across the educational spectrum.” I am extending the definition of a child’s family to include afterschool volunteers, librarians, booksellers, pediatricians, and anyone else involved in a child’s education journey.

Below are strategies for strengthening the communication lines, sharing resources and context, and building a community invested in each child’s education. In doing so, we show our students, children, and customers that they have a whole team cheering for them and invested in their growth, joy, and success.

This week we are tackling what librarians and booksellers can do in preparation for hearing those magical words, “My child has a Lexile score of…” Next week, we will offer strategies for teachers and parents.

For librarians and booksellers who are asked which book for which level:

  • Know the local feeder schools to your library or store and ask teachers or the school librarians what leveling systems they are using. Find out how the classroom libraries are organized (by theme, genre, Lexile level, AR level, guided reading level, author). Reaching out to neighborhood schools helps you learn about your customers and build relationships with educators. Ask schools for any booklists or level conversion charts. Schools will be thrilled to recommend their families to places that know their curriculum, leveling systems, and community. Students may move on, but you and teachers are in it for the long haul.
  • If schools use multiple or differing leveling systems, ask schools for level conversion charts to have on hand for customers or download your own from Reading Rockets, Booksource, Scholastic Guided Reading Program, Lexile, or Lee & Low. A conversion chart will help you translate what grade level a customer is reading on and books you can recommend within that range.
  • Design your own booklists based on grade levels or popular leveling systems. Search by book titles or by levels on Scholastic Book Wizard, Perma-Bound, Lexile’s Find a Book, Accelerated Reader BookFinder, and specific publishers like Lee & Low. Parents and students can reference these handouts as they explore the store.
  • Even better: Use other pre-curated lists of popular leveling systems. Remember, you are neither the only nor first bookseller to have a confused nine year old asking what they should read at a Lexile level 930. Share and reach out to teachers and school librarians who may have created lists from which parents and children are requesting. Other persistent souls are tackling these issues as well: Durham County Library and Phoenix Public Library both built a reader’s service to search titles by Lexile, as well as graded and themed booklists.
  • Know the Common Core Appendix B text exemplar list. It may not be perfect, but many schools are using these texts to benchmark against other works. Recognizing these books will give you a sense of what the expectations are for each grade level and what students across the country are reading. Pair books in your store or library with this list to help readers discover more contemporary, diverse, and multicultural books.
  • If you have children who are reading significantly above their typical grade level and parents that are concerned that higher levels equal too mature content or themes, encourage expository nonfiction. Nonfiction often has higher technical and academic vocabulary bumping up the Lexile or Accelerated Reader levels (as they measure linguistic complexity), but the themes and concepts won’t be mature. When I had three students who were reading two plus grade levels above their peers, I sought out more STEM books that aligned with my third-grade science units, the solar system and animal adaptations. They were able to explore more in-depth about black holes and gravity than we could cover whole group.
  • Remember ELL, EFL, ESL, and non-English speaking families. You will most likely have at least a few parents whose first language is NOT English. They will rely even more heavily on you (librarians and bookstore staff) for help finding the right fit book for their child. The more you learn about leveling systems and engage with the neighborhood schools, the more you help the child.

Next week, we will offer strategies for teachers and parents.

What have we missed? Please share in the comments your tricks, tips, and ideas for helping families and children navigate the bookshelves.

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Specialist, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 


Filed under: Common Core State Standards, Educator Resources, ELL/ESL and Bilingual Books Tagged: booksellers, Bookselling, CCSS, children's books, close reading, Educators, ELA common core standards, librarians, Reading Aloud

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18. Diverse Fall Shows We’re Looking Forward to:

This year’s Emmys had an unfortunate lack of diversity. But, never fear! Fall 2014’s TV season is about to start and there are some amazing diverse offerings on the horizon.

Returning:

Grey’s Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes’s medical drama returns for its eleventh season.

Elementary, starring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu as a modern day Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson, returns.

Sleepy HollowSleepy Hollow normalizes POC characters as leads in a fantasy-world setting, in which their POC-ness isn’t an “issue” but definitely a part of who they are as characters. It tackles historical issues like slavery head-on (for example, Ichabod’s reaction to Abbie being a cop), and it centers Abbie’s experience as the hero of this tale.

Ultimately, it’s epic and funny and fascinating—it tells a good story.

Scandal, Shonda Rhimes’s political thriller, returns with Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope.

Premiering:

Fresh off the Boat is the first sitcom starring Asian Americans since Margaret Cho’s All American Girl in 1994. There are 18.9 million Asian Americans in the US. It’s time to see some positive representation! Fresh off the Boat

The Minority Report with Larry Wilmore will replace Comedy Central’s Colbert Report.

Black-ish, starring Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson, follows a middle-class African American family in a mostly-white neighborhood.

Selfie looks fun and funny, a fresh take on My Fair Lady, with a nicely diverse cast across the board.

Cristela, “in her sixth year at law school, is finally on the brink of landing her first big (unpaid) internship at a prestigious law firm. However, she’s a lot more ambitious than her traditional Mexican-American family thinks is appropriate.”

How to Get Away with MurderHow to Get Away with Murder stars two-time Oscar nominee, Viola Davis, as “the brilliant, charismatic and seductive Professor Annalise Keating, who gets entangled with four law students from her class “How to Get Away with Murder.””

Jane the Virgin is a retelling of Venezuelan soap-opera Juana la Virgen staring Gina Rodriguez.

Survivor’s Remorse, produced by LeBron James, follows Cam Calloway, a young basketball prodigy who is thrust into the limelight after getting a multi-million dollar contract with a professional team in Atlanta.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Galavant is about a dashing hero, determined to reclaim his reputation and his “happily ever after” from the evil King Richard. Karen David stars as Isabella. It’s unclear from the previews what role Isabella will ultimately play overall, but Karen David is the top-billed woman in the cast, so we have hopes her character will be important!

Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney

Gotham, WB’s new origin story on Batman and several villains, will have Jada Pinkett Smith in the role of Fish Mooney. Zabryna Guevara will star in the role of Sarah Essen.

Have we missed any? Let us know in the comments what diverse shows you’re looking forward to this fall!


Filed under: Diversity, Diversity, Race, and Representation, Race Tagged: African/African American Interest, Asian/Asian American, diverse television, diversity, fall 2014, Multiracial, new tv shows, Race issues, television, tv

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19. Planting Seeds of Change Around the World

Guest bloggerThis is a guest post by Jen Cullerton Johnson, author of Seeds of ChangeJohnson is a writer, educator, and environmentalist who teachers at an inner-city elementary school in Chicago.

Ashley Howey is the literacy coordinator at Briar Creek Elementary School in Raleigh, North Carolina. Last school year, she contacted me about my picture book Seeds of Change, a nonfiction biography of Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai of Kenya. Brier Creek Elementary school wanted to do something different, something no other school in their district had done before.

The school community wanted to adopt the themes within Seeds of Change to be the deep focus for student growth, teacher extended learning, and administration professional development. In other words, everyone at Briar Creek Elementary wanted to be involved in change. They wanted the book Seeds of Change to guide them because they felt it showed how people tackled big problems and worked together, and most importantly how change brings out each person’s inner potential.

Brier Creek Elementary School hosts diverse learners from various socio-economic and multicultural backgrounds. The school is supported by Title I and is a year around school. Their curriculum mission is to “cultivate culturally ambitious citizens.”

“We want everyone in our school to own a copy,” Ashley Howey said. “Teachers, students, cafeteria workers, administration, parents. Everyone.”

“How many is everyone?” I asked.

“1,200.”

1,200 copies is a lofty goal, a ton of books, an enormous number, I thought.

“What makes this project so special?” I asked.

“Every student in the school is united by reading the book and using it as a springboard for collective change,” she said.

I remembered that goals are all about teamwork, goodwill, and sharing our resources. I was on board.

In September 2013, I sent video message to their teachers. In October 2014, we skyped with the whole school where a storyteller enacted Wangari’s life. By March 2014 the school had purchased close to 300 copies, one for each teacher and one for each family unit in the school. They were not able to give all students a copy. Nonetheless with the copies they had, the school began their Seeds of Change project.

Brier Creek Elementary Teachers

Brier Creek Elementary Teachers with copies of Seeds of Change

The music teacher, Adam Hall wrote an anthem for the whole school. Young people sang lyrics like: Plant our roots/ Let us grow/ Water us love/To watch us bloom!

Children in different classrooms started thinking about how to be the best they could.

One student said: “At our school we are working together to make things better like Wangari did!”

Teachers felt the pull of the whole school learning focus. Enthusiasm was contagious!

One teacher said, “Seeds of Change has given our school a common language of character. We have integrated these powerful message of persistence, patience and respect for our surroundings and others, into our conversations throughout the school.”

But by June 2014, Brier Creek Elementary School still had not been able to give a copy of the book to each student. In fact, since March, many, many had to share. What Ashley Howey wanted when she first started this big school community project was for everyone to have a copy of the book, and so far they still need 700 copies of Seeds of Change.

Then something happened. They started giving away some of their books.

“We wanted the children to sign the book here in North Carolina and give them to the children in Kenya. And the Kenyan children would sign a copy and we would keep a copy it in North Carolina.”

When students decided to share their resources, they were given even more opportunities to learn, grow and be proud of who they are.

The exchange was a success. Students in North Carolina saw a digital video of Kenyan students reading the book. Kenyan students saw North Carolina students dancing and singing to the song they created called Seeds of Change.

Students in Kenya with their copies of Seeds of Change

Students in Kenya with their copies of Seeds of Change

Their special project is unique and is rooted in changing the mindset and actions of a school community. With this first year over, Brier Creek Elementary now wants to continue to connect and share what they learned.

The school is now is involved in a sister project with a school in Kenya. Teachers in North Carolina are sharing lesson plans and learning activities with Kenyan teachers and their students.

“We plan on Skyping with the Kenya teachers and students about Seeds of Change,” Ashley said. “In August we will fundraise with a Seeds of Change Walk-a-Thon and the money will go to buying more copies of the book for us and for Kenya.” They want to raise enough funds to buy 200 copies to send to Kenya.

What you can do

Together with your help, we can continue to plant and honor our seeds of change. If you are inspired by Brier Creek Elementary School’s project, get involved! I have started a Seeds of Change Campaign where young people around the country can help other young people at Brier Creek Elementary and their sister school in Kenya by donating copies of Seeds of Change to help them reach their goal of 700 copies for their school and 200 copies for their sister school in Kenya.

If a young person donates, I will donate an Author’s Skype visit to your home or school. In my Author’s visit, we will read parts of the book and do a seed planting together. I will also create a section on my website where your school will be honored as a donor.

Please contact publicity@leeandlow.com or jencullertonjohnson@gmail.com for scheduling and further information.

Book donations can be sent to the following address:

Ashley Howey, NBCT

Brier Creek Elementary School
9801 Brier Creek Parkway
Raleigh, North Carolina 27617
http://www.briercreekes.net


Filed under: Book News, Educator Resources, Interviews with Authors and Illustrators Tagged: African/African American Interest, author visits, Seeds of change

1 Comments on Planting Seeds of Change Around the World, last added: 8/14/2014
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20. Dealing With Rejection: Keeping Your Dream Going

Thelma Lynne GodinThelma Lynne Godin is the debut author of The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen, which received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews and Shelf Awareness. She lives with her husband in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In this post, we asked her to share advice on believing in your dreams for those submitting to the New Voices Award and other aspiring authors.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”― Eleanor Roosevelt

As a child I was an avid dreamer and reader. I lived in the world of books. Sometimes I was the little girl in the Cat in the Hat enjoying the fun, but worrying about the mother coming home and finding out about the chaos. Other times I was Laura Ingalls Wilder, sleeping in a covered wagon with Pa, Ma, and Mary out on the prairie. As I grew older I dreamt of being a writer and creating worlds for kids to lose themselves in. But I let that dream drift as grown-up life became a reality. My careers as a mother, a librarian, and a social worker took up much of my time and energy, even though I continued to read and enjoy books for children. I was working as a school librarian and struggling with both my kids leaving for college when I noticed a picture book writing class being offered at a local art college. And suddenly, I was back in that drifting dream. Taking that class and being with people who shared the same dream was a giant step forward in my twisty road to publication. Sometimes I could glide on effortlessly, and other times I would round a curve to find a huge hill that I had to toil up.

As writers it is sometimes hard to continue to believe in the beauty of your dreams. Daring to get started, actually putting your words on paper and then having the courage to share them with others is hard. And receiving a rejection for all that daring is like a kick in the arse. It is not for the faint hearted. I got, and still receive, my share of rejections.

It was a cold, dreary, sunless day when I received a letter from Lee & Low regarding my submission of HULA HOOPIN’ QUEEN. I was at a low point in my writing path. I was at the bottom of one of those steep hills. I had just come home from a critique group meeting where one of my friends was sharing her newest book. While happy for her, I also felt despair of ever achieving that same dream. Feeling sure it was just another rejection, I tossed the letter from Lee & Low aside without even opening it. Several hours later, I noticed it sitting on the table, and I actually started toward the garbage with it in hand. I was in such a spot that I felt I couldn’t take another rejection. But suddenly, without even thinking it through, I had opened it.

My first thought was, “Oh no! Now I’m getting two-page rejection letters!” But then I started to read it. It was two pages of things the editor liked about my story and also things she wanted me to think about working on for the possibility of Lee & Low accepting it. And suddenly my mood and the day became all sunshine and warmth, because that two-page letter was actually the beginning of my dream coming true.

That is what this journey of being a writer is all about. Highs and lows; twists and turns. But through it all, even at the lowest point, you have your words and the magical thing that happens when your words become a story. You have the dream of having those stories touch a child’s heart. So we need to dare to dream, dare to believe in the beauty of our dreams, because those dreams are my future and yours.

New Visions Award sealThe New Voices Award is given each year to an unpublished author of color for a picture book manuscript. Find more information on how to submit here.


Filed under: New Voices/New Visions Award, Publishing 101, Writer Resources Tagged: aspiring authors, dealing with rejection, The Hula-Hoopin' Queen, Thelma Godin, writing

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21. Character Education, Part 1: How To Choose Books For Core Value Study

As we cluster in workshops, around webinars, and near the water cooler, we are already thinking about and preparing what skills and knowledge we want to teach. Yet, to truly have a successful year, let’s ponder an additional question: who do we want to teach?

The start of school is a popular time to model and instill core values because August and September are a fresh start: our time as teachers, librarians, and administrators to create and cultivate a community bound and motivated by the same values and goals. It is during this period that we can expose our students to stories with strong morals that feature both examples and non-examples of how to react in tough situations and learn from one’s mistakes.

However, it can be very difficult to select just the right text to teach values that will guide our students through academic and developmental challenges over the coming year and lay the groundwork for the community we hope to build.

Many teachers dust off their tried-and-true character education read alouds each coming school year or rely on word of mouth recommendations that send us back to the classics year in, year out. During my first year of teaching, I remember everyone scrambling to find a book that demonstrated “respect” or “persistence.” When a master teacher on campus mentioned that she used a particular title for the start of every first week of school, that sounded like hard proof to me and I was grateful. I went out and bought it.

Yet, there is not just one book that will make the abstract concept of “empathy” or “leadership” concrete to third graders or kindergartners. With such dependence on the same books, many of my third graders had read The Lorax three years in a row to learn about responsibility and respect. It’s an outstanding book to explore these values, but still…three years? It was time to shake things up.

Whether your school has campus-wide core values or you can determine your own, I encourage you to think carefully about which books you use to teach core values. They are the foundation of a classroom or school’s culture and can guide children’s social, intellectual, and emotional development.

For successful character education study, choose a set of books that:

1. Have protagonists that both exemplify and struggle with at least one of the classroom’s core values. Don’t just present stories with perfect, role model-worthy characters! Students should see multiple examples of people and situations of the core value in action to learn that one’s character is made, not born. Finding books where characters (protagonists and antagonists) lie, cheat, lose their cool, or are hurtful to other characters can be just as powerful as exemplary characters, if not more so. Students can discuss what they can learn from both examples and non-examples, share advice for different scenarios, and reflect on similar experiences in their lives where they struggled to make the right decision.

2. Are both fiction and nonfiction. Pair fiction with nonfiction texts to show students a range of experiences and real world applications. Reading a biography of a famous leader practicing or struggling with a core value gives students the chance to visualize the core value in their environment and daily lives, as well as let them see that knowing how to make good choices doesn’t come naturally and needs to be practiced.

3. Align with the Common Core ELA Standards. Character education doesn’t need to be separate from ELA instruction or your curriculum. In fact, core value study is great for teaching close reading, determining central ideas and author’s message, analyzing word choice, and comparing two or more texts.

4. Have protagonists students can identify with based on race, gender, family background, language, and experience. Although students absolutely learn from characters different from themselves, it is very meaningful for children to see someone on the cover and in the pages they identify with struggling or succeeding to make good choices. Especially for younger students, relating to aspects of a character’s identity helps students visualize themselves in the character’s situation and develop empathy. Additionally, for children who are new to school or are English Language Learners, having characters that remind them of themselves or their families may give the children more confidence to participate in class, which is critical to building a strong classroom/school community at the beginning of the year.

Looking to refresh your character education read aloud shelf? For book recommendations demonstrating your classroom’s core values, check out our Pinterest boards:

What core values do you teach children? What are your favorite books to teach these core values? Let us know below!

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident 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 column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 


Filed under: Common Core State Standards, Educator Resources, ELL/ESL and Bilingual Books Tagged: CCSS, children's books, close reading, diversity, Educators, ELA common core standards, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension

1 Comments on Character Education, Part 1: How To Choose Books For Core Value Study, last added: 8/16/2014
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22. Thoughts on Ferguson and Recommended Resources

The following is a note from our Publisher, Jason Low, published in this month’s e-newsletter:

image from BirdIt’s been a hard few weeks for those of us following the news out of Ferguson, Missouri. While the exact details of Michael Brown’s death remain unknown, we can already see how this latest incident fits into a larger narrative in this country in which people of color are routinely discriminated against and subject to violence based on the color of their skin. Healing and change cannot begin until we as a country acknowledge the role racism plays not just in events like Michael Brown’s death, but in the everyday lived experiences of the 37% of America that is not white.

From a distance, it can seem like our book-filled corner of the world doesn’t have much to do with Michael Brown’s death, but we know better. The need for more diverse books and better representation is urgent. Poor representation doesn’t just damage self-esteem and confidence of children of color, it also perpetuates a skewed version of society as a whole. How can true equality ever exist if we are literally not even on the same page? Promoting diverse books is about creating a safer space for all children.

There are no easy ways to teach children about what’s happening in Ferguson, but here are couple links we’ve come across that help illuminate the issues and, perhaps, let us find teachable moments:

The Murder of Sean Bell: From Pain to Poetry

What did you tell your kids after the Zimmerman Verdict?

5 Books to Instill Confidence in African American Children

A Dream Conferred: Seven Ways to Explore Race in the Classroom

10 Resources for Teaching About Racism

America’s Racial Divide, Charted

The Case for Reparations

Stark Racial Divisions in Reactions to Ferguson Police Shooting

We’ll add more links as we find them; meanwhile, please do share your favorites in the comments.


Filed under: Dear Readers, Diversity, Race, and Representation, Educator Resources Tagged: Ferguson, race, Race issues, racism, teaching about race

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23. Character Education, Part 2: How to Teach Core Values To Kids Meaningfully

Last week, we looked at how to pick significant books to teach the core values that will guide our classrooms and school communities for the coming year.

In addition to having the right books with fitting characters and messages, we need to embed these core values in additional activities in the coming first weeks or months of school.

There are three rules in teaching students about core values: model, model, model. Students must see core values in practice in order to grasp abstract concepts such as empathy, persistence, or pride. Below are a sample of ways to integrate core values into character education and ELA instruction.

1. Extend a fiction or nonfiction book’s message of characters struggling with the core value beyond the text.

-Ask questions during and after the reading: How does this character demonstrate respect? Or, how does this character struggle with respect? (look at the character’s actions, feelings, opinions about and interactions with other characters, and dialogue) What advice would you give this character? How should this character handle the situation next time?

-Have students in small groups act out how they would have handled the situation in the book differently or give advice to the main character(s).

-Invite students to create a job ad looking for a person that demonstrates the selected core value. On the flip side, have students create a “Wanted” poster of a character not demonstrating the core value and describing the character.

-Turn the book into a Reader’s Theater script so students can perform it to younger grades and lead a discussion on why this book is good for learning about the particular core value.

2. As a class or in small groups,  have students brainstorm on chart paper what the core value looks like, sounds like, and feels like. Teachers at my school were great about encouraging students to make a list of examples of actions that demonstrate the core value, things we might hear or could say that demonstrate the core value, and feelings we might experience when we practice or see someone practice the core value. Post the resulting chart on the wall for students to refer back to during character study or throughout the year to inform their own choices.

3. Use the core values as the first vocabulary words of the year. In doing so, you will create a classroom-wide common language and create a space for all students (including ELLs) to access academic vocabulary and become familiar with your vocabulary instruction routine. Consider multiple vocabulary acquisition strategies: Have students make predictions about word meanings, look up and record word definitions from a dictionary, write the meaning of the word or phrase in their own words, draw a picture of the meaning of the word, list synonyms and antonyms, create an action for each word, and write a meaningful sentence that demonstrates the definition of the word.

4. Take photographs of your students modeling the core values. Let students brainstorm in teams what one of the core values looks like in action, take a photograph, and then display the example on your classroom wall. (For example: picking up trash=responsibility or helping a younger student=kindness) When students struggle to practice any of the core values, remind them of the photo wall of their peers or themselves modeling the core value. This is wonderful positive reinforcement for students who may struggle with behavior and making good choices later in the year. Whether observing examples or non-examples, students will love describing what their peers are doing well or what they need to change to demonstrate the core value.

5. Make the first wall displays for the year core-value themed and make them visible for all visitors to see. Students can bring in pictures, drawings, or magazine and newspaper clippings. Encourage students to mine advertisements and local news stories to find a celebrity or significant person they admire demonstrating one of the core values (For example: post a picture of an Olympic athlete training=persistence). Feature a collage of these examples on a wall alongside the photographs of students modeling the core value and the chart defining the core value. Think about leaving these up throughout the year to remind students of how far they have come.

6. Apply the core values to students’ lives with real examples and scenarios they may face over the coming year at school, in their homes, and in their community. In addition to realistic fiction books with similar settings and characters with which students identify, discuss realistic situations and have students create skits to solve real world problems using the core value.

7. Remember that those first few weeks offer countless teachable moments! When a child demonstrates a core value, point it out to the class. Encourage students to observe their peers in the classroom and at home. Create a time for students to reflect on one or more of the core values and share who they saw making good choices. Since you can’t observe every moment, involve your students in catching their classmates being diligent, generous, and more. Students will love the positive attention and you will get the chance to turn any tattling into a positive tool.

Have other great ideas to share with our educator community? What activities do you do every year to teach character education?

For further reading:

Character Education, Part 1: How To Choose Books For Core Value Study

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident 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 column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 


Filed under: Educator Resources Tagged: children's books, Educators

0 Comments on Character Education, Part 2: How to Teach Core Values To Kids Meaningfully as of 8/24/2014 10:47:00 AM
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24. Lexile: A Bookseller’s Best Friend or Worst Enemy?

Guest bloggerThe following post by bookseller Melissa was cross-posted with permission from her blog, Scuffed Slippers and Wormy Books. Thanks to Melissa for allowing us to share her perspective!

Fall has (almost) arrived.  Cool weather, pretty fall color, yummy drinks composed of apple cider or hot cocoa, and I get to wear scarves (I like scarves as an accessory).

And standardized testing, if you are or have a school-age child.

In my area of the country, it seems school districts have chosen testing that calculates a Lexile score for a child’s reading level with an associated score range.  Lexile is a company that uses a software program to analyze books for word usage, sentence length, etc. and produce a Lexile Text Measure for each book (I copied the description from the Lexile Analyzer site):

The Lexile ® measure of text is determined using the Lexile Analyzer ®, a software program that evaluates the reading demand—or readability—of books, articles and other materials. The Lexile Analyzer ® measures the complexity of the text by breaking down the entire piece and studying its characteristics, such as sentence length and word frequency, which represent the syntactic and semantic challenges that the text presents to a reader. The outcome is the text complexity, expressed as a Lexile ® measure, along with information on the word count, mean sentence length and mean log frequency.
Generally, longer sentences and words of lower frequency lead to higher Lexile ® measures; shorter sentences and words of higher frequency lead to lower Lexile ® measures. Texts such as lists, recipes, poetry and song lyrics are not analyzed because they lack conventional punctuation.

I’m not a huge fan of putting a “score” on a book based simply on a computer generated metric because the software doesn’t take into account context or content of a book.  Or form, cf poetry.  But this seems to be accepted by the educational powers-that-be, so it’s here for the time being. However, I don’t know how well or often the scores are explained to parents, because I wind up in a lot of parent-bookseller conversations like this:

Parent: My child has a Lexile score of XXXX.  She has to read books in the range of XXXX-XXXX.  Will this work?
Bookseller [thinks]: Craaaaaaaaap.
Bookseller [says]: Well, let’s pull up the Lexile site to see what it suggests for that range and go from there.

The major problem here is that the parent hasn’t THE FOGGIEST IDEA what books go with the child’s Lexile score or how score ranges line up

The Sun Also Rises cover

The Sun Also Rises, a title with a confusing Lexile identity

with likely grade-levels.  They don’t have/haven’t been provided with a list of suggestions for the range.  They haven’t looked up Lexile on the Internet to get a handle on what this thing is (I mean, hello, the Internet is the Information Superhighway, Google it).  And their poor child is off in the corner trying desperately to read another Warriors book by Erin Hunter or Wimpy Kid or the new Babymouse before the “grown-ups” force her into reading stuff that she thinks she doesn’t want to read.

As booksellers (and by extension librarians, a population I am not a member of but respect greatly), we are the information gatekeepers the parents turn to in this situation.  We are the ones to take an abstract range of numbers and turn it into a physical pile of titles and authors.  We have to differentiate between editions because scores can fluctuate wildly and Lexile isn’t very informative (type “The Sun Also Rises” into Lexile – the old Scribner edition has a score of 610L, the ISBN for the reprint isn’t found, and the Modern Critical Interpretations edition is listed with a score of 1420L….confusing, right?).  And we are the ones who have to know what stories lay between the covers of those books so we can explain the contents to the parents.

In almost every customer interaction regarding Lexile, I have had to find books for a child who reads significantly above grade level (at grade level is generally pretty easy and parents with children under grade level often have a list of recommended titles as a starting point; for some reason, those children who read above grade level don’t have many recommendations).  For reference, Lexile gives a grade approximation for the score ranges:

Even though the approximate ranges are pretty wide, a book or series that is popular among peers isn’t often in the “right” score range for an advanced reader.  Some titles are marked “NC” meaning a non-conforming score (higher than intended audience) but it’s hard to tease those out of a range during a search (I’ve tried).  It can get pretty emotional when the child cannot find anything he or she wants to read or that parents will allow them to read that “counts” for their Lexile score.

The biggest grade-to-score discrepancy I’ve come across was a seventh grade boy (and a bit young socially for his age) who had a Lexile score greater than 1100.  His Lexile range was approximately 1150 – 1210.  The boy had to read at least five books that semester in his range to pass English and he was already behind. His father had done some online research and was at a loss – he was having trouble finding content-appropriate books in that score range (there was also a religious consideration, so a lot of recommended fantasy titles were automatically out).  The boy was very open to reading Stephen King, who has a lot of high-Lexile score titles, but the idea was vetoed by Dad due to language (and probably the religious consideration as well).  Dostoevsky was perfectly acceptable to Dad, but the kiddo really couldn’t get excited about it (he was into Gary Paulsen’s Brian series, but that wasn’t even close).  Some Dumas was in the right range but not the more appealing titles (The Three Musketeers and The Man in the Iron Mask are both under 1000).  Gary Paulsen’s My Life in Dog Years was just in range, so I was able to interest both parent and child in that.  I sold them on The Hound of the Baskervilles and then hit paydirt with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.  The boy had a friend with an Asperger-like syndrome and they were friends in their advanced math classes. Whew.  Finally, three books and a reasonably happy father.  But I couldn’t help but think – what are they going to do as the child continues through the school system?

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with all this since this isn’t quite the usual tone for a “‘Tis the Season” post.

Well, I really just wanted to put this out there to maybe help save parents, children, and teachers (and possibly other booksellers and librarians)  had a little girl just burst into tears once when I told her The Last Olympian  - the book she so desperately wanted to read - had a score of 620L; she had to have books greater than 700 or her teacher wouldn't count them at all. some grief.  I would like to ask school administrators and teachers to work with children and parents to come up with lists of possible books appropriate to both grade-level and Lexile range (and I understand if you do this and the parents forget, are obstinate, or leave the list at home when they head to the bookstore).  For parents, Lexile provides a map with lists of titles for score ranges.  It’s a good place to start when trying to find books.

I would also like to ask teachers to be less rigid when assigning Lexile-related reading assignments because this seems to be where children have the most trouble.  I have so often helped kids who love, love to read but have found that none of the books they find appealing “count” for a reading assignment because they aren’t in the “right” Lexile range or have no score because either the book is too new or has an un-evaluable format.  These kids feel disheartened, that they’re failing, that the things they love are unimportant, and I hate seeing their disappointment when I’ve gone through the entire stack of books they’ve picked out and not a single one was in the right range.  I had a little girl just burst into tears once when I told her The Last Olympian  – the book she so desperately wanted to read – had a score of 620L; she had to have books greater than 700 or her teacher wouldn’t count them at all.  Please let children with high Lexile ranges count some of those lower-scoring books toward their reading assignment (say, an exchange of two non-Lexile books for one Lexile book, not to exceed half the assignment) or perhaps give them extra credit for those books as long as they’re keeping up with the Lexile assignment (if you’re already doing that, bravo!).  These kids are reading because they love reading and they’re already reading outside of school, which is sort of the point of those types of assignments.   I rarely hear of a child being penalized for reading above his or her range so I think there’s a compromise that can be reached for those kids who want to read but have trouble finding books due to age or content.

So bring your Lexile ranges to me and I and my fellow booksellers and librarians will do our best to find what you like to read as well as what you need to read – if we’re very good, that book will fill both requirements.  ‘Tis that sort of season.


Filed under: Common Core State Standards, Educator Resources Tagged: back to school, booksellers, common core, lexile

2 Comments on Lexile: A Bookseller’s Best Friend or Worst Enemy?, last added: 8/28/2014
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25. Is TV getting more diverse? Not by the look of this year’s Emmys

This is a post by our literacy and sales assistant, Veronica Schneider.

It was no major surprise who the big winners were on Monday evening’s 66th Primetime Emmy Awards, with Breaking Bad totaling five awards and Modern Family winning Best Comedy Series for the fifth consecutive year.

Cary Fukunaga accepts his Emmy

Cary Fukunaga accepts his Emmy

More importantly, the 2014 Emmy Awards really shocked us all by showing how progressive and diversified television has become.

Kidding.

We need to look beyond the fashionable red carpet looks and the Hollywood glam and instead discuss what is plainly missing: diversity. Diverse television may pull in viewers with hit shows like Sleepy Hollow, Orange is the New Black, and Scandal, but it isn’t necessarily being rewarded. In an interview with KCPP Radio,Darell Hunt, Director of UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, said, “So far we haven’t seen a translation where the awards program reflects the increasing variety of things that are actually being made for the small screen.”

Not one person of color won in any of the lead or supporting actor/actress categories, with only 6 total African Americans amongst the 54 white nominees. Many were hopeful that Kerry Washington would take the win for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for ABC’s Scandal – she would have been the first African American to win in this category. Add to this the troubling fact that, as we reported last year, an African American woman has not been nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series since The Cosby Show (1986). Uzo Aduba, who plays ‘Crazy Eyes’ on Orange is the New Black, did take home an Emmy for Guest Actress in a Comedy, but that category was not part of the Prime Time Emmys and went largely under the radar.

Although we were certainly applauding Cary Joji Fukunaga’s win for Directing in a Drama Series for True Detective, people of color overall held a 22% representation in the directing categories.

Women were also not exempt from underrepresentation at the Emmys. According to the Women’s Media Center (WMC), 26% of the nominees were women, highlighting the consistent lack of representation maintained from the 2013 Emmy Awards’ 26.5% makeup of women nominees. Out of 62 possible award categories, 16 completely failed to include women. But wait, this isn’t the first time this has happened. Yes, according to the WMC, this is the third consecutive year that 16 categories were void of women. Oops.

Maybe that is why many viewers were not laughing as Modern Family actress, Sofia Vergara, slowly spun on a revolving platform while Bruce Rosenblum, CEO and Chairman of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, spoke about the academy being “more diverse than ever before.” While some found this play on sexual stereotypes humorous, the attempt at irony may not have been as successful for others who criticized the Academy for the cringe-worthy objectification. Instead, this failed attempt at irony reminded audiences of the still relevant and persistent issue of sexism and gender disparity.

“What a wonderful time for women in television,” Julianna Marguiles declared as she accepted her Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for The Good Wife.

We agree. There is more opportunity and diversity in television today, but it isn’t reinforced loud enough in what is being rewarded. Here is last year’s infographic on the diversity gap in the Emmy Awards:

Emmy Awards Diversity Gap

Since then, the numbers haven’t changed. Let’s hope 2015 will be the year that moves the needle.


Filed under: Diversity, Race, and Representation, The Diversity Gap Tagged: diversity gap, diversity in Hollywood, Emmy Awards, television

1 Comments on Is TV getting more diverse? Not by the look of this year’s Emmys, last added: 8/29/2014
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