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1. This is a Life He Never Imagined

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When Antwon’s kids get a little older, he plans to tell them what he’s been through. A 25-year-old father of three, he’s working hard to give them all a better life.

Today, he is employed as a plumber, studying to get his GED and has completed a leadership and empowerment program for young fathers… twice. But this is a life he never imagined.

Antwon grew up in the Woodland Terrace housing development in Washington, DC where many families live off an annual income of $7000 per year.

“My mother worked on and off. She was raising five kids. She was struggling.” When his siblings’ father, who his family relied on for financial support, passed away, “everything changed.” As the oldest child, Antwon felt a tremendous sense of responsibility.

“The only thing I cared about was taking care of my family, but my mind wasn’t thinking that I could get a job. I wasn’t old enough to get a job. I was 13 at the time, and I got into street life. I was selling drugs.”

Antwon faced time in prison. While he was incarcerated, his mother passed due to a stress induced seizure.

A few weeks before returning home, something hit Antwon. “I had children, and I couldn’t do nothing for them but stand on the block all day. I needed a job. I needed to stay off the streets.”

IMG_7800That’s when Antwon connected with Smart from the Start, a family support, community engagement and school readiness organization. As a First Book partner, the nonprofit helps parents and caretakers become their child’s first teacher by supplying them books to help break the cycle of chronic school underachievement.

“I read to them. They like the sticker books, but I read,” he shares with a smile. “My oldest son, he is in school now. He’s got good grades. I sneak up on him sometimes, but I never let him know I’m coming. I just peek in the classroom. He’s doing good.”

Antwon knows there is work ahead, but he’s incredibly motivated. He needs to earn his GED to get an apprenticeship. Eventually, he wants to become a firefighter. But above all else he wants his kids to have a better life than he had.

“I want to motivate them to do better than I have done – finish school, get a good jobs; if they have kids, take care of their kids, be responsible.”

“It’s crazy,” he tells us, “I’ve seen a lot of things, but now I don’t even look back… My whole life has just changed.”

The post This is a Life He Never Imagined appeared first on First Book Blog.

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2. A Simple Bag of Books Can Help Beat Summer Slide

Books For Keeps smiling girl

Aliyah had always been a reluctant reader.

While other students curled up with their favorite stories during reading time, Aliyah struggled to find books that captured her imagination.

That is until Aliyah was introduced to Books for Keeps, a nonprofit based in Athens, Georgia that offers kids the opportunity to choose 12 new books to keep and read over the summer. Since Books for Keeps’ founding, 240,000 books have gone home with kids at 11 elementary schools in their community.

With their help, Aliyah was able to walk into her school’s media center and find stories she was interested in and excited to read.

“You can put a book in a child’s hands that is on his or her grade level,” says Leslie Hale, Executive Director, “but a very different thing happens when a child picks out the books that they’re excited about.”

Giving kids a chance to choose books that interest them is especially powerful during the summer when they are out of school and at risk for summer slide.

Students from low-income households who don’t have access to books typically see their reading test scores drop over the summer, but the 4,300 kids (and growing) who participate with Books for Keeps actually improve their reading skills during that time.

And Aliyah was one of them.

“I just read all summer,” she told Leslie in the fall, “my brothers would go out and play and say, ‘don’t you want to come outside with us?’ and I would just say no, I want to stay here and read my books.”

After spending the whole summer with her nose buried in a book, reading doesn’t feel like the chore it used to — Aliyah now looks forward to independent reading. And what’s more: Aliyah shared that she now feels more engaged and confident at school.

And it all came from a simple bag of 12 books.

If you work with children in need you can find books and resources to promote summer reading on the First Book Marketplace.

The post A Simple Bag of Books Can Help Beat Summer Slide appeared first on First Book Blog.

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3. Make Time to Play!

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Today’s kids are playing less than any other generation.

Play is losing out to TV, recess times have declined and many children in low-income communities lack safe spaces to run, jump and be active.

But play is essential to kids’ learning. Play helps encourage kids to explore and use their imaginations, increases their ability to store more information and can improve literacy skills by building connections by oral and written expression.

As the school year ends and kids have more free time, you can incorporate play into all of your school or program’s activities – even reading and learning!

Try using the books and recommended games below to incorporate play time into reading time.

Wild Things Tag

Players: 10 or more
Space: medium to large
Materials: none

19543First, read Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Then, mark off a large area to serve as the Island of the Wild Things. One player, the “King of the Wild Things,” stands in the middle of the island, while the rest of the players (the “Maxes”) line up on either end of the island.

When the King shouts “Let the wild rumpus start,” each Max tries to make it to the other side of the island without getting tagged by the King.If a Max is tagged by the King, he or she becomes a Wild Thing. All Wild Things (except the King) must keep one foot planted on the ground at all times while still trying to tag the Maxes.

The Maxes continue to run back and forth across the island until only one Max is left untagged. The last Max becomes King of the Wild Things and the game begins again.

All Tangled Up

Players: 6 or more
Space: medium
Materials: none

32955First, read Hairs – Pelitos by Sandra Cisneros, illustrated by Terry Ybáñez

Next, have the players stand close together in a circle. Then have each player hold one hand with anyone in the group except the person standing next to him or her.

Repeat with players’ free hands – avoiding anyone standing next to them or with whom they are already holding hands.

Now have the group try to untangle itself without letting go of anyone’s hand. It takes patience and lots of cooperation!

If you have twelve or more people, split into two groups of six and see which group can get untangled first.

Need more playtime ideas? Visit the Read and Play section on the First Book Marketplace to find all of the books and activities created by First Book and Kaboom! to encourage playing to learn.

The post Make Time to Play! appeared first on First Book Blog.

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4. How To Keep Kids Learning At Your Summer Meal Site

how to use first book at your summer meal siteWant to keep kids’ minds and bellies full while they are out of school this summer?

If you provide summer meals to children from low-income communities through USDA’s Summer Food Service Program, you can access books, basic needs items and other educational resources on the First Book Marketplace.

When school is out, many of the students at your summer meal site may not have books or learning opportunities available to them. Here are some great ways to incorporate books, games and learning activities into your meal program this summer:

Establish a lending library. When kids come to your site, have books available that they can read while they are on site. Or let them “check out” books to take home, then bring back when they visit.

Develop an incentive program. Help encourage kids to keep coming back to your meal site throughout the summer.  Award points each time they attend your meal site. Encourage them to keep collecting until they have enough to earn a book of their own, a game or a craft kit.

Use books to help reinforce healthy eating habits. Stock up on books about healthy eating and healthy living to get kids eating their fruits and veggies. You can even send some healthy snacks home with them!

Throw a Reading Party. Show the kids at your summer meal site that reading is fun with a reading party. Select one book to provide to all the kids you serve. Invite community members and local “celebrities” to read to small groups of kids. Invite parents or caregivers to join the celebration.

The post How To Keep Kids Learning At Your Summer Meal Site appeared first on First Book Blog.

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5. Author Kate DiCamillo Finds Summer Fun at The Local Library

This summer, kids can access great books, go on adventures to faraway places and even win prizes – all at their local library.

Kate DiCamillo, author of Because of Winn-Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux and the recently released Raymie Nightingale, appreciates the importance of reading – especially during the summer.

As she visits schools throughout the country, answering questions about her new character Raymie and her journey to conquer remarkable things, she’s also letting kids know that all summer long their local libraries offer great opportunities for summer fun as the 2016 Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP) National Summer Reading Champion.

We had the opportunity to talk to Kate about what inspired her to become a children’s author, the importance of books and imagination and which books she loved to read during summer break as a kid.

Your books are very imaginative. Why is important for kids to explore their imagination through books?

Because you find that anything is possible – and the feeling of possibility gets into your heart. That’s what books did for me.

As a kid, I was sick all the time and spent so much time alone. It was super beneficial to read because I was convinced that the things I didn’t think were possible actually were! That’s incredibly important for kids in need, but also for all of us.

DisplaypicYour stories are very relatable for children. Why is it important for kids to see parts their lives in the books they read?

I feel this as an adult reader too. Books give me an understanding not only of the world and other people’s hearts, but my own heart. When you see yourself in a story, it helps you understand yourself.

During my school visits, so many kids tell me stories of how they connect with my characters – Despereaux and Edward Tulane and Raymie. It’s so humbling to see that connection.

And when you see other people, it introduces you to a whole new world. I think of a story I read as a kid, which was actually just reissued, called All of a Kind Family. It’s about a Jewish family in turn-of-the-century New York. That couldn’t have been more foreign to me growing up in Central Florida but I loved every word of it.

Did you like to read during the summer as a kid?

Yes! I loved reading. I could spend all day reading. I’d go up into my tree house with books and sometimes didn’t come down until dusk.

If you gave me a book as a kid, I loved it. I read without discretion.  But I did have my favorites I’d come back to again and again: Beverly Cleary’s books, Stuart Little and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books.

It’s so crazy to stand in front of groups of kids and tell them this. There’s always a murmur of “oh, yeah, yeah! I read that!” That’s the staying power of books.

How can kids access books and learning activities over the summer?

That is the beautiful thing about CSLP summer reading programs at public libraries: it makes it easy for parents, caretakers and kids themselves to access all kinds of materials and activities for free.   The 2016 summer reading theme is “On your mark, get set, READ!” and I think that’s an open invitation to readers of all ages to take advantage of everything their library offers.

Want more Kate DiCamillo? Listen to her talk about the fantastic summer fun you can find at your local library!

The post Author Kate DiCamillo Finds Summer Fun at The Local Library appeared first on First Book Blog.

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6. Books Beat Summer Slide

Books Beat Summer SlideClassrooms packed, desks emptied, another school year is coming to a close. Summertime is on the horizon and for kids, that means three precious months of sweet, sticky freedom.

But when kids from low-income families leave school for the summer, the outlook isn’t always so sunny.  While their more affluent peers may be visiting libraries, attending summer camp and reading their favorite stories every night, kids in need often spend the summer months without access to books and learning opportunities.

Over the years, those months add up – by the end of 5th grade, kids from low-income families are nearly three grades behind their peers in reading skills.

But there’s good news! Books beat summer slide.

Studies show that kids’ reading skills improve when they have access to books over the summer – and this is especially true for kids in need. In fact, children who are given access to books over the course of three summers perform 35-40% better on reading achievement tests than those without.

Together we can fight summer slide by getting books into the hands of kids in need.

If you work with children in need, you can access books, games, activities and other resources to keep kids learning all summer long. Sign up with First Book today!

The post Books Beat Summer Slide appeared first on First Book Blog.

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7. 770 Pounds of Dreams for His Students

FirstBook at Mary Bethune Elementary School, Atlanta, Georgia

It started with one spelling word. “Beach.”

Malik Ray, a first-time second grade teacher in Atlanta, GA, taught his students their new spelling words by projecting a photo and having students guess the word before putting it in their notebooks.

On this day, Malik displayed a photo of the sand, a palm tree, a little beach ball and the ocean. The classroom went silent. Not one student guessed the word.

They couldn’t recognize the sand; they didn’t know the water was the ocean. They had never seen a tree with what they called “arms.” They did recognize the ball.

This was when Malik realized that his students had never seen a beach. They had never been outside of the Vine City neighborhood where they resided. His students didn’t have what Malik calls “vision” – the ability to see past where they are now and imagine a different life.

But when 770 pounds of books from First Book arrived at their school, that changed.

Malik classroom photo“When the books arrived, I thought, ‘Here are 770 pounds of experience for your children. They are going to dream 770 pounds of dreams,’” says Malik.

Now when they read about faraway places and unfamiliar characters, they ask questions like “How is her hair that way?” “Why do their parents do that when mine do this?”

Students that were reading at a pre-k level when they entered his classroom are now reading chapter books. Their reading assessment scores have improved. They are ready to enter third grade.

And they’ve started to dream.

“We’ve starting to talk about their future in a whole new way,” explains Malik. “Rather than saying ‘I want to be a beautician like my aunt,’ we talk about owning a beauty salon. I want them to be able to dream. These books have given my kids hope.”

Malik Ray’s classroom was able to receive books through First Book’s partnership with Wipro Ltd., a global information technology, consulting and business process services company. If you work with children in need, you can access books and resources for your classroom through the First Book Marketplace.

The post 770 Pounds of Dreams for His Students appeared first on First Book Blog.

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8. Find Free Educational Resources on the First Book Marketplace

free resources

Where can you find free educational resources?

On the First Book Marketplace, of course!

You’ll find tips to encourage family engagement, resources for early childhood education, free subscriptions to online tools and programs and much more. For access, you’ll first need to sign up and log in.

Watch the video below to learn how to access, download and use these great free resources:

 

The post Find Free Educational Resources on the First Book Marketplace appeared first on First Book Blog.

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9. How to Use the First Book Marketplace: Wishlists, the Dashboard and Popular Topics

video 1

Once you’ve registered and logged into the First Book Marketplace there are so many new features to explore!

As we’ve shown, you’ll find new navigation and menus.  You can use gift cards and promotional codes. But you’ll also find a new dashboard for account information, a new wishlist feature and a section highlighting topics that are important to educators and program leaders serving children in need.

In today’s video, you’ll learn how to explore the dashboard, how to make a wishlist and learn more about popular topics.

 

 

The post How to Use the First Book Marketplace: Wishlists, the Dashboard and Popular Topics appeared first on First Book Blog.

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10. Monthly Book List: Our Favorite Books For May

The school year is coming to a close and it’s time to stock up for summer reading. We have five great books for you!

This month, our book list features a sweet story about an unconventional animal family, an adorable picture book that celebrates determination, a nonfiction guide to becoming a backyard scientist, and a book that teaches you how to stand up to their fears. For mature readers, the first-ever graphic novel to receive a Caldecott Honor will make for an engrossing read.

For Pre-K –K (Ages 3-6):

little_pink_pupLittle Pink Pup by Johanna Kerby

Get ready to say “Awww!” every time you turn the page! The real-life photos of a tiny little pig being raised by dachshunds is a heart-warming story that promotes acceptance and reminds us that everyone deserves love.

 

 

For 1st and 2nd Grade (Ages 6-8):

balloon_isabel_1A Balloon for Isabel by Deborah Underwood

This adorable picture book is both a perfect read-aloud and an ideal graduation gift! It’s a joyful celebration of creativity, determination, and creative problem-solving. We can’t get enough of this one!

 

 

 

For 3rd & 4th grade (Ages 8-10):

citizen_scientistsCitizen Scientists by Loree Griffin Burns

Anyone can be a scientist in this kid-friendly, non-fiction gem! Kids will learn how to observe, conduct research, collect data, and be part of four unique scientific discoveries that can happen anywhere — in a backyard, a field, or even a city park.

 

 

 

For 5thand 6th Grade (Ages 10-12):

liberation_of_gabriel_1The Liberation of Gabriel King by K.L. Going

Warm, wonderful, and unforgettable, this is the terrific story of a boy whose best friend teaches him to stand up to his fears – from spiders to bullies and more. A perfect read for summer!

 

 

 

Grades 7 & up (Ages 13+):

this_one_summerThis One Summer by Mariko Tamaki

Both hopeful and heartbreaking, this beautiful book is the first graphic novel to be awarded a Caldecott Honor. Mature teens will find it captivating and will readily relate to its coming-of-age explorations of complex friendship and family relationships.

The post Monthly Book List: Our Favorite Books For May appeared first on First Book Blog.

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11. How To Use the First Book Marketplace: Making Purchases, Using Gift Cards and Promotional Codes

purchasing

You’ve learned how to navigate the newly redesigned First Book Marketplace. You’ve searched for the books, school supplies and basic needs items you need for your classroom or program and want to purchase them.

What do you do now?

First, you’ll want to make sure you’re logged in. The great educational tools and resources found on the First Book Marketplace are only available to registered members who serve children in need. Logging in will unlock all the functions of the First Book Marketplace.

In this video, you’ll learn what to do once you’re ready to make a purchase. You’ll also learn how to apply discount codes, how to use gift cards and how to distinguish between the two.

Watch to learn more:

The post How To Use the First Book Marketplace: Making Purchases, Using Gift Cards and Promotional Codes appeared first on First Book Blog.

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12. Now Faster and Easier to Use: Your First Book Marketplace

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Drumroll please… Today, we introduce to you the newly redesigned First Book Marketplace.

Updated with your needs in mind, your First Book Marketplace is now faster and simpler to use. Powerful new search capabilities and an improved navigation menu make it easy to find the great books and educational resources you’ve come to expect from First Book. And now you can access them all from the palm of your hand — the entire site is mobile friendly!

For years, you’ve generously shared the needs facing your classrooms and programs. Your feedback directly influenced every improvement and enhancement you’ll experience on the upgraded site.

On top of the books and learning tools you love, you’ll also find specially-curated collections on popular topics like family engagement, character development, health and wellness, and diversity. First Book’s entire inventory, including school supplies, technology, digital learning materials, basic needs items and educational activities is more accessible than ever before.

Stay tuned all week as we share videos on how to use some of the great new features of your First Book Marketplace. Start here by learning how to navigate and search the newly designed site:

The post Now Faster and Easier to Use: Your First Book Marketplace appeared first on First Book Blog.

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13. Watch What Happens: Kids Pick out Books for Summer Reading

“This is the best day I’ve ever had!”
“This is the book I’ve always been looking for!”

These are the typical responses heard when Book Harvest comes to a school with their Books on Break program.

Book Harvest seeks to address periods of vulnerability in a child’s literacy development by ensuring books are easily accessible. Summer is one of the most challenging times to keep kids’ reading skills on track.

Once a year, Book Harvest takes over school libraries throughout Durham, North Carolina and covers every surface of the library with books. Each child is given a string backpack preloaded with information for parents about the program. It even includes an invitation for the students to come back over the summer and choose more books.

The children explore the variety of books in the library, filling their backpacks with ten books to take home and read over the summer.

Watch what happens when they pick out their books to take home for summer reading:

The post Watch What Happens: Kids Pick out Books for Summer Reading appeared first on First Book Blog.

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14. Celebrate Mother’s Day: Read a Book Together!

Looking for a great way to celebrate Mother’s Day? Read a book together and try these activities.

The books below are just some of the books identified by Search Institute that model behaviors that make families stronger: collaborating, encouraging and exploring.

Read these books together and use the activities listed after each book to grow together as a family.

Brothers At Bat: The True Story of An Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team by Audrey Vernick; illustrated by Steven Salerno

brothers at bat
The kindness and generosity of the Acerra family helped their twelve sons become the longest-playing all-brother baseball team in history.

This book shows collaborating: learning, growing and solving problems with your child.

Try this after reading:

Your family is like a team. Each person plays a different role and has different talents. To help your family recognize these, sit down as a group and have each person write or draw pictures of a strength they think each member of the family brings to your team. Talk as a family about the work you do to support one another, as well as skills you can teach one another.

Abuela by Arthur Dorros; illustrated by Elisa Kleven

abuela
Take flight with Rosalba and her grandmother as they soar in Rosalba’s imagination all over New York City, visiting family and seeing places with special meaning to Abuela.

This book shows exploring: exposing your child to new ideas, experiences and places.

Try this after reading:

Maps offer fun opportunities to talk about and discover places of importance to you.
Talk with your child about familiar locations, like the places where friends and family live and work, then draw a map together that includes those spots. Or, ask your child to invent a world they’d like to travel to, then draw a map of it and pretend you’re visiting that place together. What do you see, smell or hear? Talk with your child about this new world and the things that make it different from your own.

My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits; illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska

Yoon
Yoon feels unhappy after her family moves from Korea to the United States, until she gets encouragement at home and at school and learns to write her name in English.

This book shows encouraging: praising your child’s efforts and achievements.

Talk and ask questions as you read:

  • Tell your child about a time you felt like you didn’t belong. ASK: Has that happened to you? What did you do? Did someone help you feel included?
  • Yoon’s parents are proud of her when she sings to them in English. Remind your child about a time you were proud of him or her. ASK: What are you proud of?

Educators and program leaders serving children in need can find more books with tips and activities in the Build Strong Families with Stories section of the First Book Marketplace. Developed in partnership with  Search Institute, through generous funding from Disney, each book comes with a FREE downloadable tipsheet with tips and discussion questions like the ones above.

 

 

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15. Why We Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Day

Teacher Appreciation v3

A teacher’s job is never done.

Their days are spent solving math problems, analyzing the passages of books,  teaching the great lessons of history and serving as their students’ trusted experts. But when the final bell rings, their day isn’t finished. There are countless pages of homework to grade, lessons to plan and maybe even a sports team to coach.

The National Center for Education Statistics found that the average teacher is required to work 37 hours a week, but actually works an average of 52 hours a week. And only 30 of these hours are spent in the classroom instructing students. They spend 22 hours a week on other school-related activities.

Today is Teacher Appreciation Day (and this week is Teacher Appreciation Week!)

There are so many reasons to thank teachers for their hard work and long work days.  Take a moment this week to thank the teachers around you for  their hard work and the dedication they have for the kids they serve.

You can even send them an eCard to show how much you appreciate them.

THANK YOU TEACHERS!

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16. Share This eCard on Teacher Appreciation Day – and beyond!

Tomorrow is Teacher Appreciation Day!

Teachers are truly worth celebrating. They dedicate their time and energy to patiently teaching each child, making learning their top priority. They are mentors, coaches and trusted friends. They introduce us to some of our first lesson and stories.

Share this eCard with a teacher or educator that has made a difference in your life or the lives of kids in your community.

Thank a teacher ecard 2015 v3

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17. Your Students Can Make a Difference in Their Communities

Read and Act

Use these great books to get your students them thinking about how they can make a difference in their communities.

These activities, paired with stories, help students use their own skills and passion to take action.

For more tips and activities to use with the books below, click on the cover images. You’ll find a free downloadable tipsheet available through the First Book Marketplace. Each is full of activities, conversation starters and ways to harness the inspiration kids feel after each story.

New Shoes Written by Susan Lynn Meyer Illustrated by Eric Velasquez

New Shoes

Ella Mae’s excitement about shopping for a new pair of back-to-school shoes disappears when
she discovers that because she is black, she’s not welcome to try on the shoes she wants to
buy. With the help of her cousin, Ella Mae counters this discrimination by opening a used shoe
store where anyone is welcome to try on all the shoes they want.

Try this activity to reinforce the issues of inclusion and exclusion:

Ella Mae and Charlotte’s shoe store is inclusive.

Get kids thinking about what it takes to be inclusive with this spin on musical chairs. Play it like traditional musical chairs except no one is out after a chair is removed. Instead, students have to figure out how to make room for everyone to have a seat as the number of chairs available gets smaller and smaller. After the music ends, ask students how they felt about making room for others.

Citizen Scientists: Be A Part of Scientific Discovery From Your Own Backyard Written by Loree Griffin Burns, Photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz

citizen scientist

This is a hands-on photographic guide for getting kids involved in real and important
scientific research. Kids learn how to become citizen scientists and how to identify wildlife,
collect data, and tag species in their own backyards and neighborhoods. It includes four
projects tied to the four seasons.

Use this activity to teach kids about environmental issues:

Talk about why it is important for citizens to stay informed about things that impact the environment. Together, scan the news for items of interest and importance that effect the environment and your community, such as land development or water restrictions.

Find out what issue or issues resonate with your students and have them study them from all perspectives. Have them look beyond how the environment is effected to the political, social, and economic consequences. What are their concerns? Discuss their ideas for staying informed about their issues and what they can do to have a voice in what happens in their community.

Seedfolks Written by Paul Fleischman

seedfolks

In an immigrant neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio, creating a small garden in a vacant lot turns isolated neighbors into a true community. The transformation is narrated by 13 different voices, each of whom have their own problems, fears, and prejudices. But the garden—and being part of a community—helps the characters discover something new or forgotten about themselves.

Try this activity to help students consider how a person’s background can influence how they think about their place in the world and the place of others:

Group students in pairs and assign each of them a character from Seedfolks. Have them each research
their character’s cultural background in preparation for writing a dialogue between their two characters. In researching their characters’ backgrounds, what have they found that the characters have in common? What would they disagree on?

Before students read and perform their dialogues for the class, have the class predict what kinds of conversations characters will have. After students present their dialogues, have them discuss  whether finding out more about the backgrounds of the characters made it easier or harder to have them  communicate and learn from each other.

Developed as a joint project with Youth Service America and with generous support from Disney, each hand-picked book in the Read and Act section is paired with a FREE downloadable tip sheet.

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18. Your Students Can Make a Difference in Their Communities

Read and Act

Use these great books to get your students them thinking about how they can make a difference in their communities.

These activities, paired with stories, help students use their own skills and passion to take action.

For more tips and activities to use with the books below, click on the cover images. You’ll find a free downloadable tipsheet available through the First Book Marketplace. Each is full of activities, conversation starters and ways to harness the inspiration kids feel after each story.

New Shoes Written by Susan Lynn Meyer Illustrated by Eric Velasquez

New Shoes

Ella Mae’s excitement about shopping for a new pair of back-to-school shoes disappears when
she discovers that because she is black, she’s not welcome to try on the shoes she wants to
buy. With the help of her cousin, Ella Mae counters this discrimination by opening a used shoe
store where anyone is welcome to try on all the shoes they want.

Try this activity to reinforce the issues of inclusion and exclusion:

Ella Mae and Charlotte’s shoe store is inclusive.

Get kids thinking about what it takes to be inclusive with this spin on musical chairs. Play it like traditional musical chairs except no one is out after a chair is removed. Instead, students have to figure out how to make room for everyone to have a seat as the number of chairs available gets smaller and smaller. After the music ends, ask students how they felt about making room for others.

Citizen Scientists: Be A Part of Scientific Discovery From Your Own Backyard Written by Loree Griffin Burns, Photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz

citizen scientist

This is a hands-on photographic guide for getting kids involved in real and important
scientific research. Kids learn how to become citizen scientists and how to identify wildlife,
collect data, and tag species in their own backyards and neighborhoods. It includes four
projects tied to the four seasons.

Use this activity to teach kids about environmental issues:

Talk about why it is important for citizens to stay informed about things that impact the environment. Together, scan the news for items of interest and importance that effect the environment and your community, such as land development or water restrictions.

Find out what issue or issues resonate with your students and have them study them from all perspectives. Have them look beyond how the environment is effected to the political, social, and economic consequences. What are their concerns? Discuss their ideas for staying informed about their issues and what they can do to have a voice in what happens in their community.

Seedfolks Written by Paul Fleischman

seedfolks

In an immigrant neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio, creating a small garden in a vacant lot turns isolated neighbors into a true community. The transformation is narrated by 13 different voices, each of whom have their own problems, fears, and prejudices. But the garden—and being part of a community—helps the characters discover something new or forgotten about themselves.

Try this activity to help students consider how a person’s background can influence how they think about their place in the world and the place of others:

Group students in pairs and assign each of them a character from Seedfolks. Have them each research
their character’s cultural background in preparation for writing a dialogue between their two characters. In researching their characters’ backgrounds, what have they found that the characters have in common? What would they disagree on?

Before students read and perform their dialogues for the class, have the class predict what kinds of conversations characters will have. After students present their dialogues, have them discuss  whether finding out more about the backgrounds of the characters made it easier or harder to have them  communicate and learn from each other.

Developed as a joint project with Youth Service America and with generous support from Disney, each hand-picked book in the Read and Act section is paired with a FREE downloadable tip sheet.

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19. Imagine A School Without A Library

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Today’s guest blog post is by bestselling children’s author Megan McDonald, 2016 Spokesperson for the American Association of School Librarians National School Library Month.

Imagine a school without a library.

A few years back, I was honored to be a visiting author in elementary schools in the state of Florida. After school one day, I was signing books at a table outdoors, because the school did not have a library.

A grandmother waited patiently in line, kids tugging at her. When she reached the table where I was sitting, she held out a well-worn, much-loved copy of my very first book, Is This a House for Hermit Crab?

With tears in her eyes, she told me about the many children, and now grandchildren, she’d taught to read using my book—because it was the one, the only, book they owned at their house.

The school library gave me my start as a reader, and as a writer. It was through my school librarian that I first met Ramona and Homer Price, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Stuart Little, the Melendys and the All-of-a-Kind Family.

Without them, my characters Judy Moody and Stink would not exist.

I want all kids to experience the magic of libraries. I want them to build log cabins out of Popsicle sticks and start their own Independent Saturday Afternoon Adventure Clubs and save the world ala Judy Moody. I want them to grow up to become readers and writers, artists, thinkers, inventors.

But for this to happen, we have to connect kids with books. We have to change lives with books.

First Book is doing just that!

First Book supports educators working in low-income communities with new books and educational resources. By signing up with First Book, school librarians can access affordable, relevant, best-in-class books for all readers, including reluctant readers.

School libraries are the heartbeat of the school. They serve as a resource to all students and support both required and independent reading. They shape lives. Join me in celebrating school libraries and highlighting the important work that school librarians do to transform kids’ learning.

Head for the school library. Seek out a book from First Book.

Anyone working in the lives of kids in need can sign up with First Book at www.firstbook.org/join.

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20. Books that Teach Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication and Collaboration

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Creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration are critical skills for children to learn so they can succeed in today’s world.

Use the books below and the guided questions to teach these concepts found in each story.

You’ll find a well-known fable told from another culture’s perspective, an inspiring tale about a family working together and the true story of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. To view all the books chosen and to see all the tips and activities suggested for each book, visit the Learn for Life section.

Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China Translated and illustrated by Ed Young
Lon Po Po

When sisters Shang, Tao and Paotze get a surprise visitor while their mother is away, they have to figure out if it’s really their Po Po (grandmother) who is at the door.

Lon Po Po is about critical thinking and how you can use lots of clues to figure out a problem. Use these questions and ideas to get your child thinking and talking about the story:

  • What clues did the sisters have to figure out
  • The sisters tricked the wolf. Do you think it was right or wrong to trick the wolf? Why or why not? Have you ever tricked someone? What happened?
Home At Last written by Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Felipe Davalos
Home at Last

The Patiño family moves to the U.S. from Mexico and must learn to speak English and adapt to their new country. Despite some challenges, Ana’s family finds ways to support and encourage one another as they build a new life together.

Home at Last is about communicating and how being able to clearly share your thoughts and needs with others is important to feeling connected. Use these questions and ideas to get your child thinking and talking about the story.

  • Ana and her family learn English when they move to America. Tell me about a time when you learned something new. What happened? How did you feel?
  • Why do you think Mamá doesn’t want to learn English? How did she change her mind?
Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet
Balloons

This real-life story shares the life of Tony Sarg, the talented puppet-maker who helped the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade come to life.

Balloons Over Broadway is about using CREATIVITY to build on existing ideas to make something new and different. Use these questions and ideas to get your child thinking and talking about the story.

  • What are some different ways Tony uses his creativity in the story?
  • Tony is always looking at his balloons and making changes so that they work better. Why was it important that he kept improving the balloons? How do you think about making something better?

Developed as a joint project with the Partnership for 21st Century Learning and with generous support from Disney, each hand-picked book in the Learn for Life section is paired with a FREE downloadable tip sheet. These tipsheets designed to help you equip the kids you serve with the key 21st century skills they need to thrive in school and in life.

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21. How Arts & Crafts Created a Space to Talk and Heal

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Today’s guest blogger is Emily Townsend, an Elementary School Counselor at Lowrie Primary School in Wilsonville, Oregon.

Last year I worked daily with a fourth grade student whose father passed away right before Christmas break. He grieved mostly internally, and became increasingly distant, disengaged, and behind in school.

After feeling like I had tried almost all the tools in my toolbox, I remember setting a velvet poster in front of him – one of the Melissa & Doug Sea Life Reveal posters I purchased from First Book.

I think I was hoping for a calm moment when we could both color and just spend some no-pressure time together being mindful. Although this student had never mentioned any affinity or affection for art, as soon as he picked up the markers to begin filling in the poster he started talking about his father and his feelings for the first time ever at school.

He and I made paper airplanes, learned how to draw jungle animals using the Kids Art Series: How to Draw book I ordered from First Book, and made intricate tangles of doodles while looking at the Draw What! Doodling Book I received in the same order. And he talked. And eventually started feeling better.

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22. Books Gave Him A Sense of Home – Even When He Didn’t Have One

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Today’s guess blogger is Melissa Spradlin, Executive Director of Book’em in Nashville, TN.

I want to tell you about Ben.

From our first meeting, Ben had an extraordinary connection with books. Every time we met to read together, he chose one to keep. He was exceptionally grateful for each one. I could tell the books had a special effect on him.

Ben’s family was homeless. They had been evicted from their home. Sometimes they lived with relatives, sometimes in a shelter.

Ben kept all of his belongings in his backpack, including his books. He carried them with him everywhere he went. He treasured his books – they were among his few possessions. The sturdy spines and crisp pages gave him a sense of home, even when he didn’t have one.

There are so many kids like Ben who cherish the books they receive from First Book. They rely on them as familiar friends during tough times.

If you work with children in need, you can find books and essentials for your students on the First Book Marketplace.

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23. Teaching Good Character with Books

reading into character

Stories can help children to develop into responsible, caring and contributing citizens.

Use the activities for each book below to teach good character traits like kindness, self-control and perseverance to your students.

To view all the books chosen and to see all the tips and activities suggested for each book, visit the Reading Into Character Section on the First Book Marketplace.

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes

This story models self-control: being able to deny your short-term impulses in order to stay focused and pursue what is really important

Lilly's

Lilly loved school, until her teacher took away her fabulous movie star sunglasses, her three shiny quarters and her brand new purple plastic purse.

Ask these questions after reading the story:

  • Lilly wants to show off her new things, even though she knows it’s not the right time. Why do you think is it so hard to wait when you’re excited?
  • Even though Lilly loves Mr. Slinger, she is furious with him for taking away her things. Why is she so angry? Should she be angry?
Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman written by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by David Diaz

This story models resilience and perseverance: honoring your word and your intentions by working hard toward an important goal, despite setbacks and challenges

wilma

A small and sickly child, Wilma Rudolph wore a heavy brace on her leg when she was a little girl, but she grew up to win three Olympic gold medals for running.

Try this activity to learn more about resilient athletes:

Who are today’s women’s sports stars? Ask your students to choose their favorite female champions in track, basketball, tennis, soccer, and more. Research their lives. Create a Women’s Sports Hall of Fame for your classroom.

Those Shoes written by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

This story models kindness and compassion: valuing others so much that you show them respect and offer help to them as a way of honoring their value

those shoes
Like all the other boys in school, Jeremy wants black high tops with two white stripes. But when he finally gets a pair, he realizes that he needs to give them away.

Try this activity to practice kindness and compassion:

Investigate local charities that welcome donations of good-as-new clothing, toys, books, or other useful items. Be sure to play close attention to their donation guidelines. If feasible, organize a class- or school-wide donation drive.

Developed as a joint project with Character.org and with generous support from Disney, each hand-picked book in the Reading Into Character section is paired with a FREE downloadable tip sheet.

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24. Monthly Book List: Our Five Favorite Books for April

Our favorite books for April teach some important lessons!

One celebrates the human body and diversity, while others teach kindness and the keys to a true friendship. You’ll find a story that will help foster kids’ sense of empathy and understanding and an award-winning novel that tackles the topics of prejudice and police brutality.

For Pre-K –K (Ages 3-6):

happy_in_our_skin_2Happy in Our Skin written by Fran Manushkin and illustrated by Lauren Tobia

This affirming and informative book is a charmer and a true celebration – both of diversity and of the human body! Kids will enjoy poring over the diverse faces and hidden details on these pages as they learn about the important role skin plays in their lives.

 

 

For 1st and 2nd Grade (Ages 6-8):

my_best_friend_mary_ann_rodmanMy Best Friend written by Mary Ann Rodman and illustrated by E.B. Lewis

Friendships and healthy relationships – those are two key themes of this read-aloud that will have your students’ undivided attention. Honest and relatable, it perfectly illustrates the confusion kids experience when they want to be liked but set their targets on the wrong person. This book will help them understand that a true friend treats others the way we all want to be treated – with kindness.

 

 

For 3rd & 4th grade (Ages 8-10):

toys_go_out_emily_jenkins_2Toys Go Out: Being the Adventures of a Knowledgeable Stingray, a Toughy Little Buffalo, and Someone Called Plastic written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky

Hilarious and heart-warming, this chapter book is a perfect pick for kids wanting a laugh-out-loud funny book to read on their own. It also makes a perfect family read-aloud!

 

 

 

For 5th and 6th Grade (Ages 10-12):

steal_a_dogHow to Steal a Dog written by by Barbara O’Connor

Empathy, understanding, and a clearer sense of right and wrong – these are just some of the lessons kids will take away from this wonderful, highly accessible book about a well-intentioned girl whose frustrations get the better of her when her family loses their apartment and is forced to live out of their car.

 

Grades 7 & up (Ages 13+):

all_american_boysAll-American Boys written by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely

Teens will be both won over and bowled over by this tremendous novel about prejudice, power, and police brutality. Fantastic fuel for discussion, it’s A 2016 Coretta Scott King Author Honor book and the recipient of the Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children’s Literature!

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25. A Thank You Note from Camila

Every week we receive dozens of thank you notes from schools and programs just like this one. Kids thank us for books they don’t want to put down, books that help them study and succeed, books they wouldn’t otherwise have.

The book she received is turning her into an enthusiastic learner who loves to read.

Thank you for all you do to provide books to kids like Camila. They so appreciate it.

Thank you letter

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