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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. Recap: Horn Book’s Mind the Gaps Colloquium at Simmons College

On October 11, 2014, I attended a colloquium called Mind the Gaps, hosted by The Horn Book at Simmons College in Boston. There was an all-star line up consisting of Peter Brown (Mr. Tiger Goes Wild), Gene Luen Yang (Boxers and Saints), Andrew Smith (Grasshopper Jungle), and Steve Sheinkin (The Port Chicago 50), to name a few. Roger Sutton, Editor in Chief of The Horn Book, played a big part in pulling all these folks together for a day.

One of the highlights was the keynote by author/librarian Vaunda Micheaux Nelson (No Crystal Stair). Here’s a snippet from her speech:

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Keynote speaker, Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. Photo credit: Shara Hardeson

“We are here at Simmons trying to solve this problem while one of the biggest stories in the news is that Apple released a new iPhone. Yet ALA struggles to get a one-minute spot on one network to announce the nation’s most prestigious children’s book awards. Is this our world now? To quote one of my favorite library patrons, ‘Have we dumbed down society so much that what is truly significant is not considered important?’ This conversation is significant. So how do we make it important?”

I participated in was called Publishing for the Gaps. The other panelists were Arthur Levine, publisher of Arthur A. Levine Books at Scholastic but more famously known for bringing Harry Potter to the United States, and Ginee Seo, children’s book director of Chronicle Books. The moderator was Roger Sutton. We covered a lot of ground, from the acquisition process to responding to Roger’s charge that publishers often put out “derivative crap” (Roger’s words, not mine) when it comes to blatantly duplicating what works. This statement was met with Arthur’s vehement defense that he sorely doubted that publishing executives would order their editors to make “more derivative crap!”

While I have been on many panels over the years, what was nice about this one was that the audience of 150 was predominately white. Non-diverse audiences like this usually benefit from hearing about the diversity problem, since some may be hearing about it for the first time. Publishing for the Gaps for me is about publishing the stories about people who are left out, which are most often people of color. I discussed LEE & LOW’s efforts to offer clarity and perspective, to help define the scope of why diversity is met with obstacles across most media channels, and how this remains a society-wide problem.

Arthur Levine, Jason Low

(L-R) Arthur Levine, Jason Low. Photo credit: Shara Hardeson

From the editorial side, the lack of representation can be greatly improved by decision makers who feel a personal stake in publishing diverse books. Ginee, as one of the few Asian American women at an executive level, can and does make a difference. Arthur Levine remarked that it was a part of who he is (as an openly gay and Jewish man) to publish inclusively.

The panel was recorded and is an hour. Note: Since the video is stored on Simmons College’s Google drive you’ll have to log in to view it. I also apologize in advance for the sound quality.

When the colloquium was over, I asked one of the moderators, Nina Lindsay, how she thought the day went. She said, “I was pleased with the colloquium, but feel like we just got the conversation started, then everyone went home. I’m hoping the momentum continues to build on this, and that we don’t all suddenly assume we’re enlightened and part ways.”

Recap of Publishers Weekly Diversity Panel, October 16, 2014


Filed under: Activities and Events, Diversity, Race, and Representation, Fairs/Conventions, recap post Tagged: diversity, multicultural books, Race issues

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2. Paula Yoo on Muhammad Yunus, Banking Smarter, and Managing Finances

paula yooPaula Yoo is a children’s book writer, television writer, and freelance violinist living inGuest blogger Los Angeles. Her latest book, Twenty-two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank, was released last month. Twenty-two Cents is about Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of Grameen Bank. He founded Grameen Bank so people could borrow small amounts of money to start a job, and then pay back the bank without exorbitant interest charges. Over the next few years, Muhammad’s compassion and determination changed the lives of millions of people by loaning the equivalent of more than ten billion US dollars in micro-credit. This has also served to advocate and empower the poor, especially women, who often have limited options. In this post, we asked her to share advice on what’s she’s learned about banking, loans, and managing finances while writing Twenty-two Cents.

What are some reasons why someone might want to take out a loan? Why wouldn’t banks loan money to poor people in Bangladesh?

PAULA: People will take out a loan when they do not have enough money in their bank account to pay for a major purchase, like a car or a house. Sometimes, they will take out a loan because they need the money to help set up a business they are starting. Other times, loans are also used to help pay for major expenses, like unexpected hospital bills for a family member who is sick or big repairs on a house or car. But asking for a loan is a very complicated process because a person has to prove they can pay the loan back in a reasonable amount of time. A person’s financial history can affect whether or not they are approved for a loan. For many people who live below the poverty line, they are at a disadvantage because their financial history is very spotty. Banks may not trust them to pay the loan back on time.

In addition, most loans are given to people who are requesting a lot of money for a very expensive purchase like a house or a car. But sometimes a person only needs a small amount of money – for example, a few hundred dollars. This type of loan does not really exist because most people can afford to pay a few hundred dollars. But if you live below the poverty line, a hundred dollars can seem like a million dollars. Professor Yunus realized this when he met Sufiya Begum, a poor woman who only needed 22 cents to keep her business of making stools and mats profitable in her rural village. No bank would loan a few hundred dollars, or even 22 cents, to a woman living in a mud hut. This is what inspired Professor Yunus to come up with the concept of “microcredit” (also known as microfinancing and micro banking).

In TWENTY-TWO CENTS, microcredit is described as a loan with a low interest rate. What is a low interest rate compared to a high interest rate? 

PAULA: When you borrow money from a bank, you have to pay the loan back with an interest rate. The interest rate is an additional amount of money that you now owe the bank on top of the original amount of money you borrowed. There are many complex math formulas involved with calculating what a fair and appropriate interest rate could be for a loan. The interest rate is also affected by outside factors such as inflation and unemployment. Although it would seem that a lower interest rate would be preferable to the borrower, it can be risky to the general economy. A low interest rate can create a potential “economic bubble” which could burst in the future and cause an economic “depression.” Interest rates are adjusted to make sure these problems do not happen. Which means that sometimes there are times when the interest rates are higher for borrowers than other times.

confused about money

What is a loan shark?

PAULA: A loan shark is someone who offers loans to poor people at extremely high interest rates. This is also known as “predatory lending.” It can be illegal in several cases, especially when the loan shark uses blackmail or threats of violence to make sure a person pays back the loan by a certain deadline. Often people in desperate financial situations will go to a loan shark to help them out of a financial problem, only to realize later that the loan shark has made the problem worse, not better.

Did your parents explain how a bank works to you when you were a child? Or did you learn about it in school?

PAULA: I remember learning about how a bank works from elementary school and through those “Schoolhouse Rocks!” educational cartoons they would show on Saturday mornings. But overall, I would say I learned about banking as a high school student when I got my first minimum wage job at age 16 as a cashier at the Marshall’s department store. I learned how banking worked through a job and real life experience.

TWENTY-TWO CENTS is a story about economic innovation. Could you explain why Muhammad Yunus’s Grameen Bank was so innovative or revolutionary?

PAULA ANSWER: Muhammad Yunus’ theories on microcredit and microfinancing are revolutionary and innovative because they provided a practical solution on how banks can offer loans to poor people who do not have any financial security. By having women work together as a group to understand how the math behind the loan would work (along with other important concepts) and borrowing the loan as a group, Yunus’ unique idea gave banks the confidence to put their trust into these groups of women. The banks were able to loan the money with the full confidence in knowing that these women would be able to pay them back in a timely manner. The humanitarian aspect of Yunus’ economic theories were also quite revolutionary because it gave these poverty-stricken women a newfound sense of self-confidence. His theories worked to help break the cycle of poverty for these women as they were able to save money and finally become self-sufficient. The Nobel Committee praised Yunus’ microcredit theories for being one of the first steps towards eradicating poverty, stating, “Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty.”

twenty-two cents: muhammad yunus and the village bankTwenty-two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank is a biography of 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, who founded Grameen Bank and revolutionized global antipoverty efforts by developing the innovative economic concept of micro-lending.


Filed under: Guest Blogger Post, Lee & Low Likes, Musings & Ponderings Tagged: bangladesh, banking, banks, Economics, grameen bank, loan shark, loans, microcredit, money, Muhammad Yunus, nobel peace prize, Paula Yoo, poverty

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3. Inspiring the Next Architects: Children’s Books About Design, Building, and Architecture

Celebrate architecture and design for Archtober with students!

October, or “Archtober” as it is called, marks the 4th annual month-long festival of all things architecture and design in New York City.

Architecture Children's BooksRecommended reading to teach about architecture for students:

Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building

Sky Dancers

The East-West House: Noguchi’s Childhood in Japan

 Shapes Where We Play

STEM + Literacy Activities:

1. Encourage students to examine the differences between architecture and engineering. How do these two fields depend on each other? What is unique about each field? What do architects contribute to building a structure? What do engineers contribute? For a simplified breakdown of the duties of an architect and an engineer, the New School of Architecture + Design has a clear infographic.

2. Have students in small teams research a well-known structure in their community, city, or state (such as a museum, performing arts center, or place of worship). Who built it and when? For what is the structured used? Where is it located? What is it made of? Why were those materials used? What is special about the design? What challenges did the architect have in creating this structure? In addition to online and print resources, students can interview someone who works at the structure, if possible. After research is complete, students can create a model of the structure, design a poster advertising it to tourists, or write and present a report on the structure to the class.

3. Ask students to imagine that they are architects assigned to design a new school. Describe the materials you will need and what the building will look like. As you think about the design and materials needed, consider the types of spaces children in the school will need to learn, read, eat, study; what you will need to make the building safe and sturdy; and what will make it an attractive place in which to learn.

4. Set up a hands on, or sensory, station with materials from home or a local hardware store that are used to build structures. Examples could be a wood spoon for wood, a cooking pot for steel, etc. Have students touch and record the characteristics of each sample material. Why might an architect use steel instead of wood, or bamboo instead of concrete? Students can make a chart of popular building materials to compare the advantages and disadvantages of each. Have students study the physical characteristics (based on sight, touch, sound, and even smell) of brick, wood, bamboo, clay, concrete, steel, glass, iron, rock, straw, recycled materials, and more. For advanced or older students, topics to compare include cost of the material, availability, resiliency in natural disasters, typical lifetime, flexibility and ability to shape the material, environmental friendliness, and beauty/appeal.

5. Have students study the roles that appeal/beauty, safety, and function/purpose play in the design of a structure. Is one preferable over the other? Why? Do these factors all work together or can they be in conflict with one another? Students can look at one specific structure to see how the architect addressed each of these issues. If possible, ask a local architect or professor from an area college to discuss these factors.

6. Watch PBS’s “Building Big,” a five-part miniseries on bridges, domes, skyscrapers, dams, and tunnels. Each one-hour program explores the different type of structures and what it takes to build them. An educator’s guide of activities from PBS is available online.

7. Lead students in a step-by-step activity to create their own geodesic dome, sandcastle, toothpick structure, or floor plan. Instructions can be found online at the archKIDecture website.

Jill Eisenberg

Jill 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: Educator Resources, Holidays and Celebrations Tagged: architecture, book activities, children's books, Educators, STEM

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4. Recap: Diversity Panels at New York Comic Con 2014

Stacy Whitman photoStacy Whitman, Publisher of the Tu Books imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS, gives us a recap of the 2014 New York Comic Con (NYCC) event and two big panels on diversity.

The #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #geeksofcolor hashtags were well represented at Comic Con this year, with three panels discussing diversity and several more panels where the subject came up. Publishers were showcasing their diverse titles among their frontlist promotions. And panels about diversity topics, even those held in large rooms at inconvenient times, were standing room only all weekend—a clear sign to me that this subject is on the minds of more and more people lately.

I missed the #WeNeedDiverse(Comic)Books panel, but you can see a recap of it here. Read on for recaps of the panels I attended:

Geeks of Color Go Pro panel

I arrived early, wanting to be able to get a good seat, and only two people were waiting in line—which made me nervous. Last year, the Geeks of Color panel was packed full. Would they repeat that this year the 8pm Thursday time slot, which admittedlywas less than ideal?

I needn’t have worried. Soon the room filled to capacity, perhaps 400-500 people, mostly people of color who were fans, interested in writing or illustrating themselves, or who had family members interested. Diana Pho, an editor at Tor, moderated the panel. Panelists were LeSean Thomas (BLACK DYNAMITE: THE ANIMATED SERIES; THE LEGEND OF KORRA; THE BOONDOCKS), Tracey J. John (MTV.com; Gameloft), Alice Meichi Li (Dark Horse), Daniel José Older (Author, HALF-RESSURECTION BLUES); and I. W. Gregorio (Author, #WeNeedDiverseBooks).

Geeks of color go pro panel

from L to R: Diana Pho, LeSean Thomas, Alice Meichi Li, Daniel José Older, I.W. Gregorio, and Tracey J. John

Most of the time was taken with each panelist sharing their story of how they went pro. Their answers for how they became an animator, a writer and editor, an illustrator, a video game writer, and a surgeon and writer were as diverse as the panelists themselves, showing how many paths there are to a professional creative career. For example, Boondocks and Legend of Korra animator LeSean Thomas grew up in the projects and never attended college, but instead got into comics because the materials to draw were pretty cheap, he said. He found opportunities when he showed his work to his boss at a sports store where he worked after high school, and learned as he worked his way up.

Daniel José Older, on the other hand, was a paramedic and antiracist organizer. Getting published took him six years. “The publishing industry will make you learn patience,” he said.

I.W. Gregorio wanted to become a writer but followed the path to becoming a doctor because that was what one did in her family. But one day, someone told her, “you’ll never become a writer,” and that, she said, ticked her off enough to want to prove them wrong. She also mentioned that her job as a surgeon makes her writing career possible and gives her stories to tell.

Others spoke of internships, art classes, balancing day jobs, getting master’s degrees, and community building.

Tracey John, when asked what she wished she knew when she began, said that she wished she had known to challege the status quo. Now, she’s more willing to ask tough questions, she said—such as “why does Princess Peach need saving?”

Older suggested that writers of color need to “reimagine what success means for each of us” and to build community “rather than think of it as networking.” For people who are getting started, he suggested to find people who are willing to ground you and challenge you.

Alice Meichi Li said that “you are an average of the five people you interact with most in your life,” so look for people who fit three categories: an older mentor, an equal, and someone you can mentor, because you learn a lot from teaching.

The big question of the night came from one of the last audience members to ask a question: Why are we still having this conversation? When will we not need a geeks of color panel at 8:00pm in the corner? Diana Pho replied that she thinks we’ll need such panels until we hit critical mass—not just at Comic Cons, but in all of pop culture, of people who believe diversity matters. We here at LEE & LOW agree with Older’s concluding remark: the more people speak up, the less circular the conversation will be, and we can push the conversation forward.

Women of Color in Comics panel

Friday was the Women of Color in Comics panel, which I was thrilled to see was an equally packed room. Moderated by Regine Sawyer of the Women in Comics Consortium, this panel also featured Alice Meichi Li (Dark Horse), Alitha Martinez (penciler and inker for Marvel), Jamila Rowser (Girl Gone Geek blog), Juliana ‘Jewels’ Smith (comics artist, (H)AFROCENTRIC), Barbara Brandon-Croft (cartoonist), Geisha Vi (cosplay model), and Vanessa Verduga (actor, writer, producer).

A packed audience for the Women of Color in Comics panel

A packed audience for the Women of Color in Comics panel

From L to R:

From L to R: Geisha Vi, Barbara Brandon-Croft, Jamila Rowser, Vanessa Verduga, Alice Meichi Li, Juliana ‘Jewels” Smith, Alitha Martinez, Regine Sawyer

The moderator, Regine, started out by asking what drew the panelists to comics and how they got started. Again, a diverse range of answers—from family influence to students introducing their teacher to comics, to a natural desire to draw as a child—led to a diverse range of paths into their professional work.

The panel also discussed the ongoing harassment issue in comics as well as genre and gaming. Young women are the fastest growing demographic, changing the base of the comics industry. The panelists were asked how they address feminine issues in their work. Alice Meichi Li (who was on the Geeks of Color panel), said that she loved how panels such as these were getting bigger. She addresses feminine mythology, the heroine’s journey, in her work, and argued that visibility made all the difference for readers. She told a story of reading Wizard magazine growing up, where the list of top ten writers in the back of the magazine were all white guys every time, except occasionally Jim Lee. To be able to see all kinds of people creating comics helps create demand from more diverse readers.

Jamila Rowser from the Girl Gone Geek blog said that from a fan perspective, the changing face of the industry shows the demand and the need for representation of women, particularly accurate representation of women of color. “When you don’t see people like you doing things you love, it’s discouraging,” she said.

The panelists also spoke of how sometimes they might feel invisible in the industry—Alitha Martinez, who has worked at major comic book houses as an artist, including work on a Batman comic, said that she’d been mistaken for cleaning staff before when arriving for a panel or other major professional event. Vanessa Verduga mentioned that sometimes she feels an expectation to whitewash herself, to fit within an expected personality structure rather than to be herself.

When asked why diversity was important in the first place, Jamila Rowser answered that a lack of diversity can stop readers’ enjoyment, but it can also discourage future creators, and stories set in the future with no diversity “erase our presence in the future.”

Alitha Martinez noted that women of color can’t remain on the fringes, shouting from the outside. She said that women tend not to approach editors at Marvel and DC, and that those are the places where change needs to happen most because they’re the biggest. In addition, Alice Meichi Li said that if we want to see change, as readers, we need to support that change with our wallets. “Ignoring creations by women and people of color is ignoring community,” she said. “Find your audience, know your community, know how to speak to them, and create your own niche.”

Throughout the weekend, I saw a widely diverse audience excited about comic books, animation, science fiction, fantasy, and games. Cosplayers were in abundance, including people of color. Here are a couple of my favorites:

baby captain america

iron man storm cosplay

Korra cosplay

NYCC is a great example of why #WeNeedDiverseBooks, like those we publish!


Filed under: Diversity 102, Diversity in YA, Diversity, Race, and Representation, Fairs/Conventions, recap post Tagged: Comic Con, comics, cosplay, NYCC

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5. Thirteen Scary YA Books: Diverse Edition

Thirteen Scary YA Books (diverse edition)
Halloween is right around the corner. There’s no better way to celebrate than by reading books that will scare you to pieces! Here’s a lucky thirteen list of our favorites (all featuring diverse characters or by diverse authors):

  1. Half WorldHalf World by Hiromi Goto – Melanie Tamaki lives with her mother in abject poverty. Then, her mother disappears. Melanie must journey to the mysterious Half World to save her.
  2. Vodnik by Bryce Moore – Sixteen-year-old Tomas moves back to Slovakia with his family and discovers the folktales of his childhood were more than just stories.
  3. The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa – Allie Sekemoto survives by scavenging for food by day. She hates the vampires who keep humans like cattle for their food. Until the day she dies and wakes up as a vampire.
  4. Liar by Justine Larbalestier – Micah is a liar; it’s the only thing she’ll tell you the truth about. But when her boyfriend Zach is murdered, the whole truth has to come out.
  5. Battle Royale by Koushan Takami – A group of junior high school students are sent to an island and forced to fight to the death until only one of them survives.
  6. Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall – Odilia and her sisters discover a Wolf Mark coverdead man’s body while swimming in the Rio Grande. They journey across Mexico to return his body in this Odyssey-inspired tale.
  7. Devil’s Kiss by Sarwat Chadda – Zombies, ghouls, and vampires all make appearances in the story of Bilquis SanGreal, the youngest and only female member of the Knights Templar.
  8. Panic by Sharon Draper – Diamond knows better than to get into a car with a stranger. But when the stranger offers her the chance to dance in a movie, Diamond makes a very wrong decision.
  9. Ten by Gretchen McNeil – Ten teens head to a secluded island for an exclusive party…until people start to die. A modern YA retelling of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.
  10. Wolf Mark by Joseph Bruchac – Inspired by the Abenaki skinwalker legend, this YA thriller is Burn Notice with werewolves.
  11. The Girl From The WellThe Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco – A dead girl roams the streets, hunting murders. A strange tattooed boy moves to the neighborhood with a deadly secret.
  12. 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad –  Three teenagers win the vacation of a lifetime: a week-long trip to the moon. But something sinister is waiting for them in the black vacuum of space.
  13. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake – Cas Lowood is a ghost hunter, called to Thunder Bay, Ontario to get rid of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, who has killed every person who has stepped foot in the house she haunts.

What else would you add to the list?


Filed under: Diversity in YA, Diversity, Race, and Representation, Lee & Low Likes, Tu Books Tagged: African/African American Interest, Asian/Asian American, Book Lists by Topic, diversity, halloween, Joseph Bruchac, Latino/Hispanic/Mexican, list, Multiracial, Native American, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Teens/YA, Tu Books

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6. Teaching Cinderella Stories from Around the World

CINDERELLA world hands smallerWith the welcoming of ghoulish decoration displays and the buzz of Halloween costume ideas, the streets will soon be filled with candy-hungry witches, superheroes, and beloved fairy tale characters. Of all the many treasured fairy tale characters that come and go in popularity, none seems to be more resilient than Cinderella. But this Halloween, Cinderella doesn’t have to just mean the classic blue ballroom gown and glass slippers…

Whether you are planning your Cinderella unit this time of year or are brainstorming with young readers on Halloween costume ideas, Lee & Low Books is proud to present the Cinderella Around the World series. This collection of five diverse Cinderella stories from our Shen’s Books imprint features stories of Cinderella from several different cultural perspectives. Cinderella has been told for centuries across many distant lands and cultures from around the world. Readers will discover a range of settings, cultures, traditions, and characters as they explore Cinderella tales from Southeast Asia, India, and Mexico.

CINDERELLABLOGPOSTIMAGEOn our Cinderella Around the World webpage, you will find recommendations for classroom-tested, educator-created resources to utilize with this five-book series collection. We are grateful to the educators at ReadWriteThink.org and EDSITEment from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for sharing exemplary lesson plans for teaching diverse Cinderella stories.

But the resources don’t stop there! Check out our Cinderella Around the World Pinterest board to discover more ways to teach these treasured retellings, where we are compiling the most extensive collection of related content, enriching activities, and instructional plans for teaching Cinderella both in the classroom and at home.

We believe that collaboration and sharing of resources is key to furthering a more global mindset and education. Therefore, if you are interested in connecting with our broader educator and parent community through collaboration on Pinterest or know of even more high-quality resources to share on our webpage, please contact us at curriculum@leeandlow.com.


Filed under: Common Core State Standards, Educator Resources Tagged: cinderella, diversity, Educators, ELA common core standards, halloween, holiday, literacy

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7. A Win for Diversity in the News

It finally feels like autumn is here and if you don’t mind us saying, we’ve been “fall-ing” for all the diversity-related stories that have been in the news recently! Here are a few that we were especially excited to read:

Malala Yousafzai and Kailash SatyarthiMalala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen who was shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating for girls’ rights to education, and Indian children’s right activist Kailash Satyarthi, both won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for their fight against the oppression of children and young people, and for the right of all children to education. In light of the recent violence that has broken out between India and Pakistan along the border of the disputed, mainly Muslim region of Kashmir, the Nobel Peace Prize committee said it was an “important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism.”

In the entertainment industry, we’ve been seeing more positive changes when it comes to representation and shonda rhimes the hollywood reporterdiversity in television and movies. Shonda Rhimes, creator of the popular TV shows Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, and Scandal, was featured on the cover of The Hollywood Reporterwhere she talked about her success and what she’s learned from previous on-set controversies. Rhimes is also executive producer of the new TV show, How to Get Away with Murder, which just recently got a full season order from ABC along with Black-ish. Sullivan & Son, a TV show that is written by and stars Steve Byrne, is also renewed for its second season. Steven Byrne is an Irish-Korean American, one of a handful of writers of color that has found success in Hollywood. The fall television programming this year has been great for diverse representation, which is a breath of fresh air considering an infographic we did on the Emmy Awards.

On the movie front, Lionsgate is teaming up with Women in Film to create a series of short films based on the Twilight franchise. According to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media and USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, only 7% of major film directors around the world are women. Whether you’re a fan of the Twilight series or not, we love the fact that an effort to get more female directors out there is a good thing!

There’s no denying the fact that computer science is a popular field to get into; however, Google recently looked over their annual diversity reports and found that 70% of their workforce is male, with 61% being white. In an effort to get more women to take an interest in coding, Google announced that they were launching a new program called Made with Code that “includes a mix of coding projects, partnerships with youth organizations, and $50 million in funding Google says will help get more females involved in the field of computer science.”

Some of the Girls at Made to Code from Tarrant County

See any stories that we missed? Feel free to share them in the comments! Happy Friday everyone!


Filed under: Dear Readers, Diversity 102, Diversity, Race, and Representation, Lee & Low Likes, Musings & Ponderings, TV Tagged: computer science, diversity, google, how to get away with murder, kailash satyarthi, made with code, malala yousafzai, nobel peace prize, scandal tv show, shonda rhimes, twilight series, women in film

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8. An Interview with Lin Oliver on SCBWI’S Emerging Voices Award

On this blog we’ve often discussed our own New Voices and New Visions awards for unpublished authors of color. Today we wanted to spotlight another great award specifically for authors of color: the On-The-Verge Emerging Voices Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

scbwi Emerging Voices Award

The On-The-Verge Emerging Voices Award is a grant created to “foster the emergence of diverse voices in children’s books.” It offers two writers or writer/illustrators from under-represented backgrounds the chance to receive:

  • An all-expense paid trip to the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles August 1-4, 2015 (transportation and hotel)
  • Tuition to the SCBWI Summer Conference
  • A manuscript consultation at the Summer Conference with an industry professional
  • An additional meeting with an industry professional
  • Tuition to the Summer Conference Writers or Illustrators Intensive
  • A press release

We interviewed Lin Oliver, Executive Director of SCBWI, about the creation of the award and the role of SCBWI in diversifying the world of children’s book publishing.

When was the Emerging Voices Award established?

The SCBWI Emerging Voices Award was established in 2012, with funding from Martin and Sue Schmitt of the 455 Foundation.  The grant was created to foster the emergence of diverse voices in children’s books. Each year, we select two writers or writer-illustrators for an all expense paid trip to the summer SCBWI conference, which includes a manuscript consultation and additional mentoring.  Qualified applicants must be from an ethnic or cultural background that is under-represented in children’s literature in America, such as Black or African-Americans, Latinos, Pacific Islanders, American Indians or Asian-Americans.

Why did the SCBWI decide to establish the award?
The SCBWI is committed to encouraging the creation of a diverse body of literature for children. We believe that all children should be able to see themselves on the page and all readers will benefit from participating in diverse experiences through literature.  The representation of many cultures of ethnicities is vastly under-represented in today’s marketplace, and we hope this Award is a step to correcting that situation.

Have any past Emerging Voices winners gone on to receive publication contracts or publish books?

The award is still very young—there were three winners in 2012, and two in 2013.  As of now, all five winners are having their work-in-progress shared with editors and agents in the field.  There are no sales to report yet, but we feel confident that their work is in professional hands and receiving every possible consideration.

Emerging Voices Award winners

From L to R: Martin Schmitt, award winner Jennifer Baker, award winner Dow Phumiruk, and Sue Ganz-Schmitt

How do you perceive the SCBWI’s role in the greater movement for more diverse children’s books?

As the largest organization of children’s book writers and illustrators, we believe we play a leadership role in the movement to increase diversity in our field. We always make sure that the faculties of our national conferences include publishers, agents, authors and illustrators of diverse backgrounds.  We encourage our members to support and promote books from these publishers, authors and illustrators.  We often publish articles and papers about the role of diversity in children’s books, and work with other organizations such as the Children’s Book Council, First Book and We Need Diverse Books who are involved in this important initiative.

We all acknowledge the need to support aspiring authors of color, but their eventual success will be determined by the marketplace.  It is crucial that the these books prove to be not only artistic and social successes, but also commercially viable.From your perspective at the SCBWI, what are a few of the biggest obstacles that you see aspiring authors of color facing?

We all acknowledge the need to support aspiring authors of color, but their eventual success will be determined by the marketplace.  It is crucial that the these books prove to be not only artistic and social successes, but also commercially viable.  This is a challenge not just for children’s books but for our whole society—-we need to all show interest in and embrace all the diverse cultures that make up America.

Has the SCBWI taken any other steps to promote diversity among its membership?

In addition to the Emerging Voices Award, we have a special category in our Work in Progress Awards for multi-cultural books.  Many of our scholarships have been awarded to students of color. And our Amber Brown Grant sends authors to low-income schools who have never been able to afford an author visit.

How can publishers and the SCBWI work together to create a more inclusive industry?

In the past year, the We Need Diverse Books campaign has done a wonderful job of creating awareness of the lack of diversity in our field. That is the first step. The SCBWI will continue to provide opportunities for publishers to discover new talent. The publishers need to put forth their best effort to publish those books, and together, the SCBWI and the publishing community need to market those books and help bring them to the forefront in the consumer consciousness.

More information about The Society of Children’s Book Writers and all of its programs can be found at scbwi.org.  Please visit us.


Filed under: Awards, Diversity 102, Diversity, Race, and Representation, Publishing 101, Writer Resources Tagged: Emerging Voices Award, SCBWI, writers of color, writing contests, writing resources

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9. How Common Core’s book choices fail children of color

The Common Core has become a hot-button political issue, but one aspect that’s gone larGuest postgely under the radar is the impact the curriculum will have on students of color, who now make up close to 50% of the student population in the U.S. In this essay, Jane M. Gangi, an associate professor in the Division of Education at Mount Saint Mary College and Nancy Benfer, who teaches literacy and literature at Mount Saint Mary College and is also a fourth-grade teacher, discuss the Common Core’s book choices, why they fall short when it comes to children of color, and how to do better. Originally posted at The Washington Post, this article was reposted with the permission of Jane M. Gangi.How Common Core's Book Choices Fail Children of Color

Children of color and the poor make up more than half the children in the United States. According to the latest census, 16.4 million children (22 percent) live in poverty, and close to 50 percent of country’s children combined are of African American, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian American heritage. When the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were introduced in 2009—2010 , the literacy needs of half the children in the United States were neglected. Of 171 texts recommended for elementary children in Appendix B of the CCSS, there are only 18 by authors of color, and few books reflect the lives of children of color and the poor.

When the CCSS were open for public comment in 2010, I (Gangi) made that criticism on the CCSS website. My concerns went unacknowledged. In 2012, I presented at a summit on the literacy needs of African American males, Building a Bridge to Literacy for African American Male Youth, held at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Emily Chiarello from Teaching Tolerance acknowledged the problem and connected me with Student Achievement Partnership, an organization founded by David Coleman and Sue Pimental, “architects” of the English Language Arts standards.

In the fall of 2012, representatives from Student Achievement Partnership came to Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, New York, to ask our Collaborative for Equity Literacy Learning (CELL) to help right the wrong. SAP wanted us to provide an amended Appendix B. In July 2013, CELL presented SAP with a list of 150 multicultural titles, which were recommended by educators from across the country and by more than thirty award committees. All the books were annotated and excerpts were provided. The 700+ PowerPoint slides of the project can be found here. SAP then sent the project to Stanford University’s Understanding Language Program for validation of text complexity. The Council of Chief State School Officers has yet to make the addition to the CCSS website.

Why does seeing themselves in books matter to children? Rudine Sims Bishop, professor emerita of The Ohio State University, frames the problem with the metaphor of “mirror” and “window” books. All children need both. Too often children of color and the poor have window books into a mostly white and middle- and-upper-class world.

This is an injustice for two reasons.

One is rooted in the proficient reading research. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, researchers asked, “What do good readers do?” They found that good readers make connections to themselves and their communities. When classroom collections are largely by and about white people, white children have many more opportunities to make connections and become proficient readers. Appendix B of the CCSS as presented added to the aggregate that consistently marginalizes multicultural children’s literature: book lists, school book fairs and book order forms, literacy textbooks (books that teach teachers), and transitional books (books that help children segue from picture books to lengthier texts). If we want all Children must be able to envision possibilities for their futures. And they must fall in love with books. Culturally relevant books help children discover a passion for reading.children to become proficient readers, we must stock classrooms with mirror books for all children. This change in our classroom libraries will also allow children of the dominant culture to see literature about others who look different and live differently.

A second reason we must ensure that all children have mirror books is identity development. For African American children, Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are not enough. They must also see African-American artists, writers, political leaders, judges, mathematicians, astronauts, and scientists. The same is true for children of other ethnicities. They must see authors and illustrators who look like them on book jackets. Children must be able to envision possibilities for their futures. And they must fall in love with books. Culturally relevant books help children discover a passion for reading.

I (Benfer) was one of the annotators for the project. Each year I tell my incoming fourth-grade students, “None who enter here remain unchanged” (from Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven). Participating in this project made this statement come true for my students and me. Before working to amend Appendix B, I had been teaching for 16 years, and had always been serious about my classroom library.

Reading a great book changes us. I had not yet encountered the metaphor of mirrors/windows until hearing Gangi’s talk in our children’s literature course, based on her article “The Unbearable Whiteness of Literacy Instruction.” After the talk I Lakas and the Manilatown Fish coverfound myself reflecting on the books to which I was exposing my students. I expanded my library to include many texts reviewed in the project, which allowed my students to see the wonderful diversity in the world. As my classroom library grew, my students began to read and discuss these diverse texts I began to hear students say things like, “I like books which have a black main character,” and parents emailed me to say, “I just wanted to say thank you for acknowledging Black History Month and having such a wonderfully diverse reading library for fourth grade.” Filipino students gave me a standing ovation when I purchased Anthony D. Robles and Carl Angel’s Lakas and the Manilatown Fish/Si Lakas at ang Isdang Manilatow (see Lee & Low Books for this and other multicultural books.)

I recommended Rukhsana Khan’s Wanting Mor, the story of a young girl in Afghanistan to one of my students (see Groundwood Books for this and other multicultural books). This student’s parents were astounded by the change in their daughter. She had been an uninterested reader and was transformed into an enthusiastic one. She began to request copies of books featuring girls in Afghanistan. The students and I spent countless hours creating lists of recommended texts.

What do we do with this issue now, educators? The CCSS have yet to adopt the expanded and enhanced Appendix B, but the message is too important to be filed away. This work must be must shared with educators. The expanded Appendix B contains recommended texts that are mirrors and windows for our students’ worlds.

“None who enter here remain unchanged.” Teaching Tolerance will be publishing the list in the near future. In the meantime, children of the United States are waiting for us to make this change for the better.

Jane M. Gangi is an associate professor in the Division of Education at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, New York. Nancy Benfer teaches literacy and literature at Mount Saint Mary College and is a fourth-grade teacher at Bishop Dunn Memorial School.  Gangi is the author of three books: “Encountering Children’s Literature: An Arts Approach,” “Deepening Literacy Learning: Art and Literature Engagements in K-8 Classrooms (with Mary Ann Reilly and Rob Cohen),” and “Genocide in Contemporary Children’s and Young Adult Literature: Cambodia to Darfur.” Both are members of the Collaborative for Equity in Literacy Learning at Mount Saint Mary College. Gangi may be reached at jane.gangi AT msmc.edu; Benfer at nb6221 AT my.msmc.edu.


Filed under: Common Core State Standards, Educator Resources Tagged: CCSS, common core, common core standards appendix b

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10. Poetry Friday: Hair

Happy Friday everyone! We’ve chosen a poem from Lend a Hand: Poems About Giving to kick off the weekend:hair poem

Hair

It took six years

to grow my hair this long.

A few quick snips

and most of it will be gone,

a ponytail

in the US Mail,

off to be part of a wavy wig

worn by someone

whose hair

sickness stole.

I don’t suppose we’ll ever meet,

but if we do,

maybe we’ll look

like sisters.

If you’re interested in donating your hair, please check out a few of these great organizations:

Locks of Love

Pantene Beautiful Lengths Campaign

Wigs for Kids

 For more poems about giving, check out Lend a Hand:

Lend a Hand


Filed under: Lee & Low Likes, Musings & Ponderings Tagged: charity, donation, hair, hair donation, locks of love, pantene pro-v, patene beautiful lengths, poetry, poetry Friday, volunteering, wigs for kids

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11. Your Legend of Korra recap post

The Legend of Korra’s fourth and final season, Book 4: Balance, returns this Friday! You’ll be able to watch here. Trying to catch up with all three seasons in one day is a pretty tall order, but luckily the weekend will soon be here! The first three books (as seasons are called Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra) are available streaming on Nick.com.

Avatar: the Last Airbender follows Aang, the last airbender, who survived the Air Nomad genocide from the Fire Nation. Together with his friends Sokka, Katara and Zuko, Aang fights to prevent the Fire Nation from taking over the whole world, all the while mastering all four elements.

The Legend of Korra is the direct sequel to Avatar: the Last Airbender, taking place 80 years after the end of ALTA. Korra, upon discovering she was the avatar at the age of four, was placed under the direct care of the Order of the White Lotus and learned to water-, fire-, and earthbending. Korra sneaks away from the Order of the White Lotus compound to learn airbending from Tenzin, the son of Avatar Aang, in Republic City.

Important Terms

Elements: Air, Water, Earth, and Fire.

Bending: The ability to control one of the aforementioned elements, i.e. waterbending. A person who bends an element is known as a bender.

Avatar: one person who has the ability to control all four elements. The avatar is born into one of the four nations and learns to bend the four elements. The Avatar is supposed to help maintain balance between the Four Nations and the spirits.

The Four Nations

Four Nations: Air Nomads, Fire Nation, Earth Kingdom, Water Tribe.

Team Avatar: the team of people who help and fight alongside the Avatar.

Pro-bending: a sport where benders fight each other with the elements. There are three benders per team: water, fire, and earth.

Order of the White Lotus: a formerly secret order that transcended the Four Nations to share philosophy and wisdom. Later, on the orders of Avatar Aang, they search and protect the next Avatar.

Red Lotus: a group that splintered off from the original White Lotus because they thought that the Order of the White lotus had become the bodyguards of the Avatar. They sought to free the world of its governments and have humans and spirits coexist. During Book 3, Zaheer leads them.

 The Major Players

Team Avatar:

Team Avatar: Asami, Mako, Korra, Bolin and Pabu (from left to right).

Korra: Korra is from the Northern Water Tribe. She is born when Avatar Aang, the protagonist of Avatar: The Last Airbender died. Korra can bend all four elements.

Asami Sato: The only nonbender on Team Avatar. Asami is the owner of Future Industries, a company that makes cars known as the Sato-mobile and other technology.

Mako: former street rat turned cop. Former captain of the pro-bending team the Future Industry Fire Ferrets. Mako is a firebender and both Korra and Asami’s ex-boyfriend. He is Bolin’s older brother.

Bolin: formerly an actor and pro-bender, he is the funny-man of Team Avatar. He is an earthbender and has the special ability to lavabend. He is Mako’s younger brother.

Other important characters

Katara: Aang’s wife, waterbending master and Korra’s teacher.

Tenzin, Bumi, and Kya: Aang’s children. Tenzin is an airbender, and Korra’s airbending instructor. Kya is a waterbender. Bumi is a retired Fire Nation general who later gains the ability to airbend after Harmonic Convergence. You may refer to them as the “cloudbabies.”

Pema: Tenzin’s wife, a nonbender.

Jinora, Ikki, Meelo, and Rohan: Pema and Tenzin’s children. All airbenders. You may refer to them as the “airbabies.” Jinora is the first airbending master in a generation.

Lin Beifong: Chief of Republic City Police, metalbender. Toph Beifong’s daughter.

Book 1: Air

Korra has a difficult time learning how to airbend, because she’s unable to tap into the spiritual side of bending. She joins a pro-bending team known as the Fire Ferrets. An anti-bending movement known as the Equalist Movement gains in popularity. The leader, Amon, wants to get rid of bending and benders. Korra tries to balance learning to airbend, practice with the Fire Ferrets and defeating Amon. Korra finally learns to airbend, when Amon seals off all of her other bending abilities.

Book 2: Spirits

Six months after the end of Book 1, Republic City has a president who is supposed to represent the interests of benders and non-benders alike. When a spirit attacks at a festival that Korra attends, she decides to focus on learning spirit-bending instead of airbending, and her uncle Unalaq becomes her teacher. Unalaq tricks Korra into opening the spirit portals. Unalaq wants to join with a dark spirit to become the Dark Avatar and destroy the Avatar cycle. Korra learns of Won, the first Avatar. With the help of Jinora, Korra defeats Unalaq. Spirits and humans were never meant to live apart, so Korra doesn’t close the Spirit Portals. The world enters a new age where spirits and humans live together.

Book 3: Change

The spirits are disrupting life in Republic City, but Korra can’t get them to live peacefully with humans. When reports of people suddenly gaining the ability to airbend reach Korra, she travels with Tenzin, his family, and team Avatar to restore the Air Nomads. The Red Lotus, a criminal organization that tried to kidnap Korra when she was young, escapes from prison. The Red Lotus’s leader, Zaheer, is one of the new airbenders. Zaheer and his cronies go on a quest to rid the world of its leaders and the Avatar. Zaheer kills the Earth Queen and Ba Sing Se descends into chaos.

When Zaheer threatens all the new airbenders to get to Korra, Korra risks her life to save them.

Several weeks later, we see Korra in a wheelchair getting ready to attend Jinora’s airbending master ceremony. Jinora, Avatar Aang’s granddaughter becomes the first airbending master in a generation. Tenzin announces that the airbenders will regain their nomadic roots

Korra returns with her parents to the Northern Water Tribe to heal.

Legend of Korra returns THIS FRIDAY.

The trailer: with Korra kicking major butt and new hair!

Watch the opening clip.

This is a clip of Kai and Opal airbending some bad guys!

I hope you’re just as excited to return to Republic City as I am!


Filed under: recap post, TV Tagged: Avatar: the Last Airbender, Bryan Konietzko, Korra, legend of korra, LOK, Michael DiMartino, Nickelodeon

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12. 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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13. 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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14. 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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15. 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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16. 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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17. 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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18. 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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19. 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

1 Comments on Paula Yoo on How to Publicize Your Children’s Book, last added: 9/12/2014
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20. 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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21. 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

0 Comments on 8 Strategies For Educators To Explain Lexile and Invest Stakeholders as of 9/14/2014 9:08:00 AM
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22. 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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23. 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

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24. 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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25. 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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