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1. Parent practices: change to develop successful, motivated readers

Oxford University Press is a proud sponsor of the 2014 World Literacy Summit, taking place this April. The Summit will provide a central platform for champions of literacy from around the globe to come together and exchange points of view, knowledge, and ideas. We asked literacy experts Jamie Zibulsky and Anne E. Cunningham to discuss the importance of literacy on this occasion.

By Jamie Zibulsky and Anne E. Cunningham

Being literate involves much more than the ability to sound out the words on a page, but acquiring that skill requires years of development and exposure to the world of words. Once children possess the ability to sound out words, read fluently, and comprehend the words on a page, they have limitless opportunities to learn about new concepts, places, and people. To say that becoming a reader gives one the power to change is an understatement. In fact, attempting to detail the many ways that reading can foster personal growth and development without writing an entire book on the topic is truly challenging!

Children’s capacities to build the many skills required to access text are, to a large degree, determined by their environments. Parents and teachers play a critical role in introducing children to the sounds of words, the print on a page, the ideas and concepts that provide the background for comprehension, and the structure of stories. For these reasons, if we want to ensure that all children have the opportunity to become successful, motivated readers, we need to think about the power the adults in their lives have to change children’s literacy trajectories.

The language and literacy experiences of young children are largely social in nature, and both the environment and the adults that care for them initially guide children’s development. In fact, psychologists point out that language development occurs first as a social act between people and then later as an individual act, as we gradually internalize the directions, strategies, and advice of more skilled others by verbalizing them to ourselves. Similarly, to make sense of the written symbols used to convey any language, children need guidance from the adults in their lives. Talking and reading together with children is a powerful way to help them gain entry to the world of words, and doing so most effectively may require parents to change their current practices.

The kids reading together. photo by Valerie Everett. CC BY-SA 2.0 via valeriebb Flickr.

The kids reading together. Photo by Valerie Everett. CC BY-SA 2.0 via valeriebb Flickr.

Here are some powerful tips that families can use to make shared reading time supportive and effective for young children learning a variety of languages:

  • Let your child take the lead during reading time. We often think of reading together as a time when a parent reads a story to a child straight through, page by page. Instead, let your child take more of an active role by using the pictures to narrate the story, answering your questions about aspects of the book, or sounding out some words independently. This may feel like you and your child are swapping your regular reading roles. And that’s exactly what we want you to do. Even before children are able to read independently, they are ready to be active participants in book reading experiences. Giving them these opportunities helps children build stronger language skills, and provides some insight into their skills and interests.
  • Give your child hints, rather than providing the answer, when he is struggling. This support helps the child solve the problem in a way that allows him to feel competent and to learn from the situation, but also lets the adult to guide the child through the problem-solving process. In addition, it gives him the chance to successfully experience tasks he would not have been able to tackle alone, or that would otherwise make him become frustrated and give up.
  • Identify your child’s strengths, and those reading skills he or she already possesses. Providing experiences that build on the skills your child already possesses will allow her to enhance her learning capacities. If you think about almost any activity you expect your child to complete, you can probably think back to a time when you completed that activity for her. Gradually, over time, she took more responsibility and was able to do more of the task independently. This is not only true for activities like getting dressed and tying shoes, but also for language and literacy tasks, as well as tasks that require memory and concentration.
  • Label the behavior that you want your child to display, and praise it specifically.  Praise and encouragement from parents is a powerful motivational tool. Because shared reading is such a social activity, much of your child’s initial pleasure in reading together may come not primarily from the stories that he hears, but from the joy of sitting in your lap and spending time together. Your child values the time you spend together and will, over time, begin to value the books in front of him and the strategies needed to make sense of them. You can help him build his reading motivation by praising specific skills he displays, like listening carefully, sounding out words, and making great predictions.

Each of these tips helps set the stage for a successful shared reading experience, but may require change on the part of parents to help foster a powerful and engaged reader. These changes, though, help empower children to identify themselves as readers from the time they are young. And this strong foundation prepares them for so many challenges they will face in the future, so doing everything one can to raise a successful, motivated reader is one of the best gifts a parent can give any child.

Anne E. Cunningham, Ph.D. and Jamie Zibulsky, Ph.D. are the authors of Book Smart: How to Develop and Support Successful, Motivated Readers. Anne Cunningham is Professor of Cognition and Development at University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Education and Jamie Zibulsky is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Learn more at Book Smart Family.

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2. A Mini-Crash-Course on Oral Storytelling

It’s been several months since I’ve written for Two Writing Teachers. In December my son was born, and I was on maternity leave until a few weeks ago. Then, in March I pushed aside all excuses… Continue reading

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3. When science stopped being literature

By James Secord

We tend to think of ‘science’ and ‘literature’ in radically different ways. The distinction isn’t just about genre – since ancient times writing has had a variety of aims and styles, expressed in different generic forms: epics, textbooks, lyrics, recipes, epigraphs, and so forth. It’s the sharp binary divide that’s striking and relatively new. An article in Nature and a great novel are taken to belong to different worlds of prose. In science, the writing is assumed to be clear and concise, with the author speaking directly to the reader about discoveries in nature. In literature, the discoveries might be said to inhere in the use of language itself. Narrative sophistication and rhetorical subtlety are prized.

This contrast between scientific and literary prose has its roots in the nineteenth century. In 1822 the essayist Thomas De Quincey broached a distinction between the ‘the literature of knowledge’ and ‘the literature of power.’ As De Quincey later explained, ‘the function of the first is to teach; the function of the second is to move.’ The literature of knowledge, he wrote, is left behind by advances in understanding, so that even Isaac Newton’s Principia has no more lasting literary qualities than a cookbook. The literature of power, on the other hand, lasts forever and draws out the deepest feelings that make us human.

The effect of this division (which does justice neither to cookbooks nor the Principia) is pervasive. Although the literary canon has been widely challenged, the university and school curriculum remains overwhelmingly dominated by a handful of key authors and texts. Only the most naive student assumes that the author of a novel speaks directly through the narrator; but that is routinely taken for granted when scientific works are being discussed. The one nineteenth-century science book that is regularly accorded a close reading is Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859). A number of distinguished critics have followed Gillian Beer’s Darwin’s Plots in attending to the narrative structures and rhetorical strategies of other non-fiction works – but surprisingly few.

Charles Darwin

It is easy to forget that De Quincey was arguing a case, not stating the obvious. A contrast between ‘the literature of knowledge’ and ‘the literature of power’ was not commonly accepted when he wrote; in the era of revolution and reform, knowledge was power. The early nineteenth century witnessed remarkable experiments in literary form in all fields. Among the most distinguished (and rhetorically sophisticated) was a series of reflective works on the sciences, from the chemist Humphry Davy’s visionary Consolations in Travel (1830) to Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology (1830-33). They were satirised to great effect in Thomas Carlyle’s bizarre scientific philosophy of clothes, Sartor Resartus (1833-34).

These works imagined new worlds of knowledge, helping readers to come to terms with unprecedented economic, social, and cultural change. They are anything but straightforward expositions or outdated ‘popularisations’, and deserve to be widely read in our own era of transformation. Like the best science books today, they are works in the literature of power.

James Secord is Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge, Director of the Darwin Correspondence Project, and a fellow of Christ’s College. His research and teaching is on the history of science from the late eighteenth century to the present. He is the author of the recently published Visions of Science: Books and Readers at the Dawn of the Victorian Age.

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Image credit: Charles Darwin. By J. Cameron. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

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4. What is academic history for?

By Paula A. Michaels

Writing on Saturday in The Age, popular historian Paul Ham launched a frontal assault on “academic history” produced by university-based historians primarily for consumption by their professional peers.

In his article, Ham muses on whether these writings ever “enlightened or defied anyone or just pinged the void of indifference” Lamenting its alleged inaccessibility and narrow audience, Ham asks with incredulity:

What is academic history for?

Ham’s is only the latest in a steady stream of attacks castigating historians and other scholars for their inability to engage the general public effectively. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof sent American academia into a collective apoplectic fit with a February column imploring academics to make a greater contribution to policy debates as public intellectuals.

Less convinced than Ham of the purposeful obscurantism of academic writing, Kristof nonetheless met with a sharp rebuke from the academy, which defended its track record for engagement and faulted Kristof for pointing only to the highest profile venues to judge scholars’ participation in debates beyond the Ivory Tower.

As political scientist Corey Robin observes:

there are a lot of gifted historians. And only so many slots for them at The New Yorker.

Scholar-turned-Buzzfeed-contributor Anne Helen Petersen notes that, in combination with a shortage of academic jobs, “the rise of digital publishing has ironically yielded an exquisite, flourishing community of public intellectuals”, as The Conversation itself attests.

But the opening up of a raft of new, online avenues for smart, serious commentary and analysis has no corollary in the book business. If Kristof’s cardinal sin is an elitist reluctance to look beyond the most venerable establishment periodicals, Ham’s central failure is a seemingly wilful blindness to the role market forces play in the publishing industry.

Academic historians fail to make their way into Amazon’s Top 100 list not because they are unable or, as Ham asserts, unwilling to write accessibly. I doubt there are many academic historians who, whether out of passion for their subject or sheer ambition, would turn down the opportunity to enjoy a moment in the limelight.

But the path of popular history is closed to most historians because of the very subjects of their investigation. No amount of finesse with the written word would have put my first book, on the history of medicine and public health in Soviet Kazakhstan, on the shelves of Dymock’s. The publishing of popular history is driven not by how scholars write, but by what readers are willing to buy.

A Baroque library, Prague. © Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar / CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia

Is there value to scholarship that falls outside the narrow parameters of what is financially feasible for a commercial press? Of course there is, not least because scholarly studies, though often narrowly conceived, nonetheless inform the work of those engaged in topics of broader interest.

Take, for example, the work of popular American presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. She investigates first-hand the relevant primary sources, but she also supports her analysis by drawing on works that delve deeply into the more slender crevices of history. The research of perhaps hundreds of historians informs her understanding of the world in which her protagonists operate.

No-one would expect every scientist to produce work that was at once highly sophisticated and accessible to the lay reader. There is a depth and detail of analysis that is only of interest to the specialist but necessary for the field’s advancement; we value American astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson’s ability to distill that vast, dense body of scholarship and present it to us with crystal clarity on the TV series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.

And when he turns to evolutionary biology, far from his own area of expertise, he leans entirely on the research of others. Similarly, Kearns Goodwin and her fellow popular historians rely on the solid, vetted works of academic historians to tell their more accessible stories for popular audiences. That act of translation does not render the original scholarship superfluous, but rather attests to its impact.

Publications are, of course, only one measure of public engagement. Through work in the classroom, academic historians translate and interpret scholarly writings for and alongside students.

They are also out in the community, sharing their expertise in public talks designed for general audiences at museums, at schools, at retirement communities, and elsewhere, such as at the Making Public Histories Seminar Series run by Monash University and the History Council of Victoria and held at the State Library of Victoria.

Not only are academic historians clearly far more engaged with the public than they appear at a first, blinkered glance, but there seems to be ample room for and value in a wide range of intellectual activity. Perhaps it’s time to set aside pot shots and straw men and recognise that the changing terrain of public engagement allows for a multiplicity of voices and forms of expression.

It’s not all about making the bestseller list.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Paula A. Michaels is Senior Lecturer of history and international studies at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia and is the author of Curative Powers: Medicine and Empire in Stalin’s Central Asia and most recently Lamaze: An International History.

Disclosure statement: Paula Michaels does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

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The Conversation

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5. An igloo and disco ball in Charlottesville, VA

On 3/20-21/14, I had the privilege of speaking at four schools in lovely Charlottesville, VA:

  • Stone-Robinson Elementary
  • Baker-Butler Elementary
  • Agnor-Hurt Elementary
  • Sutherland Middle

This school district obviously has a thing for hyphens.

And flair.

Baker-Butler had on display an actual size igloo ingeniously made by librarian Anita Mays and a partner…out of empty milk containers.

They followed the procedure as described in the 1981 book propped up on the black cube (only subbing gallon jugs for snow bricks). They also turned the installation into a teaching moment, as seen by the question posed on the whiteboard.

Speaking of ingenious, Baker-Butler also showcased a 2nd grade art project involving two notable artists. This is one mashup I’d not seen before, and I think it’s wonderful.

Sutherland was holding a school event immediately following my afternoon presentation. Spot the clue:


You can tell by the way I use my walk 
Im in middle school
No time to talk

Thank you to the four librarians who hosted me, and to the Virginia Festival of the Book for arranging the visits.

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6. Craftsy launch!

Happy Day! Today my online Craftsy class, The Art of the Picture Book launched!
Check out the commercial and head on over to Craftsy to join us in adventures in storytelling.
(An addendum—WHITE WATER takes place in 1962, not the 1950s. Please forgive me of the faux pas if you enroll in my class)

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 10.36.15 PM

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7. Make your reservations now!

I am booking school visits in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area for Read Across America Week, March 2 – 6, 2015. Friday the 6th just got reserved this morning. If I can book the whole week, everybody gets me for 25% off the regular rate.

Contact Lisa— bookings@johnmanders.com

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8. The ADHD explosion: How much do you know about the disorder?

The push for performance has never been higher. Students today are faced with a grueling course load, extra-curriculars, and standardized tests. In the wake of this competitive atmosphere, the United States has seen a spike in both ADHD diagnoses and increased demand for prescription medicine. But who’s to blame? The fast-paced, technophilic culture that young people are subjected to, or the parents who are quick to medicate a child who is under-performing at school?

In The ADHD Explosion: Myths, Medication, Money, and Today’s Push for Performance, Stephen P. Hinshaw and Richard M. Scheffler offer new insight into the origins, science, and troubling trends behind this ever-increasing disorder. Take our quiz to find out how much you know about ADHD, and learn more about some of the new research published in the book.

Your Score:  

Your Ranking:  

Stephen P. Hinshaw and Richard M. Scheffler are the authors of The ADHD Explosion: Myths, Medication, Money, and Today’s Push for Performance. Stephen P. Hinshaw, PhD, is Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and Vice-Chair for Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. He is also editor of Psychological Bulletin. Richard M. Scheffler, PhD, is Distinguished Professor of Health Economics and Public Policy in the School of Public Health and the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.

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Image credit: Young teacher explaining the world to preschoolers via iStockphoto.

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9. Try Your Luck and Win $10-$50 OFF Freelancing 101

Mediabistro is introducing its newest boot camp: Freelancing 101. This four-week interactive online event starts April 28, and teaches students the best way to start a freelancing career, from the first steps of self-advertising and marketing, to building your schedule and managing clients.

With St. Patrick’s Day quickly approaching, Mediabistro is inviting you to try your luck with code GETLUCKY. Register with the promotional code and you could win anywhere from $10-$50 OFF your registration! Make sure to sign-up before 3/17 to redeem this offer!


New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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10. Research in the digital age


Oxford Scholarship Online (OSO) launched in 2003 with 700 titles. Now, on its tenth birthday, it’s the online home of over 9,000 titles from Oxford University Press’s distinguished academic list, and part of University Press Scholarship Online. To celebrate OSO turning ten, we’ve invited a host of people to reflect on the past ten years of online academic publishing, and what the next ten might bring.

By Adrastos Omissi

As someone who has lived out his entire academic career in a research environment augmented by digital resources, it can be easy to allow familiarity to breed contempt where the Internet is concerned. When I began my undergraduate degree in the autumn of 2005, Oxford’s Bodleian Library, as well as every faculty and college library, had already digitized their search functions, Wikipedia was approaching one million English articles, and all major journals were routinely publishing online (as well as busily uploading their back catalogues). Free and instantaneous access to a vast quantity of research material is, for those of my generation, simply assumed.

The Radcliffe Camera, part of the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. By Kamyar Adl CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Radcliffe Camera, part of the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. By Kamyar Adl CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Internet’s greatest gift is text, in every permutation and definition of that word imaginable. For research students, one of the greatest obstacles is to acquire the necessary information that they need to make their own work a solid, and above all, living piece of scholarship, in communication with the wider academic world. Text is, ultimately, the sine qua non of this struggle.

Each specialism has its own particular loves, its debts owed to the Internet. Find any doctoral candidate in Britain today and they’ll each have their own version of ‘I couldn’t have completed me doctorate without online product X.’ For me, a classicist, it was the digitization and free availability of an increasing proportion of the written records of the ancient world. Online libraries of Greek and Latin texts, libraries like Perseus, Lacus Curtius, and the Latin Library, or searchable databases like Patrologia Latina brought the classical world to life (and to my laptop).

Of course, it’s not just ancient books that are now open to easy access from anywhere that the Internet can reach. When I was an undergraduate I looked into how much it would cost me to buy the entire Cambridge Ancient History series, which I felt would make an invaluable addition to my bookshelves. The answer – somewhere in the region of £1,600 – was enough for me to go weak at the knee. Now, I have all fourteen volumes in PDF. Google Books and the increasing digitization of the archives of publishers and academic libraries means that paradigm shifting debate can now beam into student rooms and even into private homes.

Just as the automated production line turned the automobile, once a bastion of elitism, into an affordable commodity for the average household, so the Internet is now putting books that would have once been hidden in ivory towers into the hands of any person with the desire to find them. And as hardware improves, these options become more and more exciting. Tablet computing means that this enormous corpus of academic texts and original sources is now available on devices that fit into a coat pocket. Gone – or going – are the curved spines and broken bag straps that were formerly the lot of any student forced to move between libraries.

Of course, not everyone is beaming as barriers of cost and inconvenience are stripped away from academic texts. Publishers still have businesses to run and it will be interesting to see in years to come how sharply the lines of battle come to be drawn. Nor is the marginalization of the book, a thing of beauty in its own right, much of a cause for celebration. But for those wishing to access academic texts, the trend is up, and texts that would once have been found only after a long search through some dusty archive or at the outlay of several hundred pounds are now nothing more than a Google search away.

Adrastos Omissi grew up in Jersey, in the Channel Islands. He recently completed a doctorate in Roman History at St John’s College, Oxford, and now works as a researcher for the social enterprise consultancy, Oxford Ventures.

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11. Librarian voices from the other side of the world

By Annabel Coles

Reading for our first Australia/New Zealand LAC

Reading for our first Australia/New Zealand LAC

After months of planning, preparation and final presentation run-throughs, I stood at the front of Seminar Room 3 within the State Library of Victoria, looking across the tables carefully decorated with our OUP goody bags and name placards. It was 8:30 in the morning and I was ready to meet my first librarians from “Down Under”. Back in the office in the United Kingdom, a colleague and I had planned the two meetings (one in the morning for academic librarians, one in the afternoon with state, public, and school librarians) with military precision. The refreshments, the sessions, the materials, the presentations, the timings, even our entertainment at lunch (a local author was coming in to give a lively talk on his book) was planned to a tee. But what you can never plan when dealing with people, and perhaps especially passionate librarians, is how they will respond to those plans…

I was nervous. My colleagues were more relaxed, being based in Australia, they were more familiar with the subtle culture differences; they knew the drill. I, on the other hand, needed to fit in, be approachable, and most importantly I needed to ensure I listened and absorbed everything they had to say so I could fully represent them and their needs back in Oxford, on the other side of the world.

Shortly after 8:30 a.m. the librarians started arriving, one by one, picking up their coffees and muffins, huddling in small groups, and started chatting. I needn’t have worried.

The important thing about these events (which we are labelling our “Library Advisory Councils”) is giving the librarians an opportunity to talk with their peers on issues that matter to most to them, and we, as publishers, have the privileged to be part of those conversations. I learnt early in the sessions that they rarely get the chance to discuss issues that they want to discuss. In their usual meetings they are presented with a specific theme and asked to represent only on that area.

Ahead of the meetings it was really important that we asked what they wanted to discuss, and then we would make that a big part of the day. Of course we also have things we want to update them on — as our “Advisors” it’s important that we are able to give them information on our strategies and plans for the future — but this was never intended to be a sales pitch. We want to give them the stage and sit alongside them in the discussions, rather than it being an “us and them” debate.

For me, this was my first time on antipodean soil, surrounded by librarians who were having good and bad experiences with publishers, and this is my opportunity to do something about it. I felt lucky to sit amongst them and openly eavesdrop (whilst furiously taking notes).

Underway with the LAC

Underway with the LAC

It would be naïve to think that a meeting like this could solve all the problems discussed. Some of the topics discussed were huge hitters that have been discussed and debated in various forms at library conferences around the world over the last few years. It was acknowledged that these issues are larger and more complex than we could possibly hope to remedy within a day. But, as the group were together, the very act of them venting and sharing their experiences enabled them to strengthen their own network and not feel so isolated. It also gave me first-hand experience of their thoughts and feelings on the topic, so that I can now better represent their views when I’m back in Oxford.

Once we got past those larger issues, it was now time to buckle down to get some actionable takeaways: what could we actually impact on a short term basis?

The majority of the actions that I brought away from the sessions were based around workflows: how can publishers work with librarians to make their jobs easier; cut out complexities within processes; and just generally make things simpler. The renewals process is complex and long-winded: what can we do to streamline and simplify the process? We supply our meta-data to discovery service tools but it’s getting stuck with that intermediary for months before finally getting added to their system: so how can we influence our partnerships to move things through more quickly?

Much discussion was had around business models (and we have a Future Business Models group at OUP), including Patron Driven Acquisition and Evidence Based Acquisition. Librarians had both positive and negative experiences and expectations around the impact of those on budgeting and workflows. Again, this was all gold dust to take back to Head Office and sprinkle liberally into the agenda!

So, after brainstorms, lively debate and summarising in groups, I came away with an armful of flipchart paper, covered in ideas, straight from the people who really matter. As the librarians left at the end of the sessions, they were exchanging contact details, thanking us for the day and the opportunity to be involved, and promising to pop by to say hello to us the following week at VALA (a library conference being held in the city).

The Victoria State Library, Melbourne

The Victoria State Library, Melbourne

In addition to the fantastic feedback, I have also made some real connections with those librarians on the other side of the world to me — librarians with diverse workflows, audiences, and requirements of publishers. But now, with their voices and opinions still ringing in my ears, my intention is to carry their specific ideas and challenges, the 17000 kilometres across ocean and continents back to the working groups and strategy-makers in Oxford. There, librarian voices from all around the world, whose ideas are communicated through other Library Advisory Councils, will be heard.

Annabel Coles is the Senior Marketing Manager in the Institutional Marketing team at Oxford University Press, promoting our online products and journals to institutions across Europe and Australia and New Zealand. She has held various sales and marketing roles within OUP for nine years.

Regional “Library Advisory Councils” are held within various territories across the world to facilitate conversations with our customers (librarians) on issues that are of mutual interest to ensure that we are feeding back appropriate information and intelligence directly from our markets to our product and platform development, business model and publishing strategies across the business. This provides an opportunity to listen to our customers on their turf, alongside their peers and in their local language and specifically to speak on issues relevant to them in their part of the world. We hope that this will ensure we are bringing the customer voice back into the heart of the products and services we develop within the Global Academic Business. For more, see the OUP Librarian Resource Center.

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Image credits: (1) Photograph of Steacie Science and Engineering Library at York University by Raysonho@Open Grid Scheduler. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. (2-4) ANZ LAC images courtesy of Annabel Coles. Do not reproduce without permission.

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12. 8 марта 1979: Women’s Day in the Soviet Union

By Marjorie Senechal

“March 8 is Women’s Day, a legal holiday,” I wrote to my mother from Moscow. “This is one of the many cute cards that is on sale now, all with flowers somewhere on them. We hope March 8 finds you well and happy, and enjoying an early spring! Alas, here it is -30° C again.”

Soviet Women's Day card

Soviet-era Women’s Day card. Public Domain via Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty.

I spent the 1978-79 academic year working in Moscow in the Soviet Academy of Science’s Institute of Crystallography. I’d been corresponding with a scientist there for several years and when I heard about the exchange program between our nations’ respective Academies, I applied for it. Friends were horrified. The Cold War was raging, and Afghanistan rumbled in the background. But scientists understand each other, just like generals do. I flew to Moscow, family in tow, early in October. The first snow had fallen the night before; women in wool headscarves were sweeping the airport runways with birch brooms.

None of us spoke Russian well when we arrived; this was immersion. We lived on the fourteenth floor of an Academy-owned apartment building with no laundry facilities and an unreliable elevator. It was a cold winter even by Russian standards, plunging to -40° on the C and F scales (they cross there). On weekdays, my daughters and I trudged through the snow to the broad Leninsky Prospect. The five-story brick Institute sat on the near side, and the girls went to Soviet public schools on the far side, behind a large department store. The underpass was a thriving illegal free-market where pensioners sold hard-to-find items like phone books, mushrooms, and used toys. Nearing the schools, we ran the ever-watchful Grandmother Gauntlet. In this country of working mothers, bundled bescarved grandmothers shopped, cooked, herded their charges, and bossed everyone in sight: Put on your hat! Button up your children!

At the Institute, I was supposed to be escorted to my office every day, but after a few months the guards waved me on. I couldn’t stray in any case: the doors along the corridors were always closed. Was I politically untouchable?

But the office was a friendly place. I shared it with three crystallographers: Valentina, Marina, and the professor I’d come to work with. We exchanged language lessons and took tea breaks together. Colleagues stopped by, some to talk shop, some for a haircut (Marina ran a business on the side). Scientists understand each other. My work took new directions.

I also tried to work with a professor from Moscow State University. He was admired in the west and I had listed him as a contact on my application. But this was one scientist I never understood. He arrived late for our appointments at the Institute without excuses or apologies. I was, I soon surmised, to write papers for him, not with him. I held my tongue, as I thought befits a guest, until the February afternoon he showed up two weeks late. Suddenly the spirit of the grandmothers possessed me. “How dare you!” I yelled in Russian. “Get out of here and don’t come back!” “Take some Valium” Valentina whispered; wherever had she found it? But she was as proud as she was worried. The next morning I was untouchable no more: doors opened wide and people greeted me cheerily, “Hi! How’s it going?”

International Women’s Day, with roots in suffrage, labor, and the Russian Revolution, became a national holiday in Russia in 1918, and is still one today. In 1979, the cute postcards and flowers looked more like Mother’s Day cards, but men still gave gifts to the women they worked with. On 7 March I was fêted, along with the Institute’s female scientists, lab technicians, librarians, office staff, and custodians. I still have the large copper medal, unprofessionally engraved in the Institute lab. “8 марта” — 8 March — it says on one side, the lab initials and the year on the other. The once-pink ribbon loops through a hole at the top. Maybe they gave medals to all of us, or maybe I earned it for throwing the professor out of the Institute.

Women's Day medal, courtesy of the author.

Women’s Day medal, courtesy of  Marjorie Senechal.

I’ve returned to Russia many times; I’ve witnessed the changes. Science is changing too; my host, the Academy of Sciences founded by Peter the Great in 1724, may not reach its 300th birthday. But my friends are coping somehow, and I still feel at home there. A few years ago I flew to Moscow in the dead of winter for Russia’s gala nanotechnology kickoff. A young woman met me at the now-ultra-modern airport. She wore smart boots, jeans, and a parka to die for. “Put your hat on!” she barked in English as she led me to the van. “Zip up your jacket!

Marjorie Senechal is the Louise Wolff Kahn Professor Emerita in Mathematics and History of Science and Technology, Smith College, and Co-Editor of The Mathematical Intelligencer. She is author of I Died for Beauty: Dorothy Wrinch and the Cultures of Science.

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13. Calling all English teachers in Malaysia and Singapore!

Helloooooo to all my fellow English teachers in Malaysia and Singapore. Please encourage your students to join the Scholastic Writers' Award 2014!

If you are in Malaysia, check out this link. And if you are in Singapore, check out this link. :o)

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14. 496 Million Women

496 million. That’s how many women in the world can’t read or write even the most simple sentence. Many women never have the opportunity to reach 6th grade, and some don’t get to go to school at all.

Today, we join citizens around the world in celebrating International Women’s Day, and I want to share the stories of Dinah Mwangi and Katie Hendricks, two special women whose lives exemplify the theme of this year’s celebration, “Equality for Women is Progress for All.”

Dinah MwangiDinah makes progress for all in Nairobi, Kenya. While waiting in line at a carwash, Dinah noticed two young boys straining to see what she was reading – a children’s book she had purchased for her niece. When she asked if they would like to join her, the boys lit up.

They read, and laughed and shared stories with Dinah. Then they told her they had no books of their own.

Dinah started buying books with her own salary and recruited volunteers to read and distribute them to kids each Saturday. In less than three months, she had over 500 kids participating. Now she’s pursuing relationships with Kenyan publishers, corporations and funders in order to expand her reach and deepen her impact.

On the other side of the world, Katie makes progress for all by helping girls from low-income families in California’s East Bay bridge the gap between school and home.

Photo from girlsinc-alameda.orgAs a young teacher, Katie yearned to improve all aspects of her students’ lives, inside and outside the classroom. Her holistic approach led her to create Girls Inc. of Alameda County, a program that inspires girls to be strong, smart and bold. Katie and her team reinforce what their girls learn at school, help them become fluent English speakers, provide them with healthy meals and expose them to subjects girls aren’t always encouraged to study, like science, technology and athletics.

By improving the lives of girls in California’s East Bay, Katie also improves the lives of their family members, teachers, friends and classmates.

Dinah and Katie represent what’s possible when women have the education, resources and motivation to make progress for all. Their immediate impact on the kids they serve is immense. Equally powerful, however, is how their spirit and service ripple through entire communities, transform lives and change the future.

In addition to celebrating heroic women like Dinah and Katie, I invite you to join me in recommitting ourselves to becoming a powerful force for equality.

The gender gap has closed significantly over the past few decades, but we still have a long way to go. In some countries, less than a quarter of women finish primary school; 496 million women around the world cannot read or write a simple sentence; and globally, women only reach 93 percent of men’s educational attainment.

I believe the path to equality is through access to quality education. That’s why First Book is equipping educators like Dinah and Katie with brand-new books and resources for the kids they serve, expanding our network to reach women and girls around the globe and lifting up the voices of an unprecedented community of individuals serving children at the base of the economic pyramid.

Please consider a gift to First Book today. Together, we can support the work of heroic women like Dinah and Katie around the world.

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15. “Everyone Is the Only One”

In 2004, I wrote a picture book manuscript called Everyone is the Only One. (I remember precisely where I was when the idea hit: the guest room in a friend’s house.)

It is about a boy named Ansel who feels uncomfortable for being the only dwarf at his new elementary school. Once his classmates learn this, they remind him one by one that each of them is also the only one in some way…only one with braces, only one allergic to peanuts, only only child, and so on.

I submitted to editors. No takers.

A couple of years later, I learned that the idea actually did get published, and in the year I sent it around…just not by me. Jane Naliboff’s The Only One Club follows a similar premise, except the central character’s distinction is that she is Jewish.

I’m glad this concept saw print, and I like Jane’s spin (not only the Judaism angle, which was what I had considered prior to dwarfism, but also that the first Only One starts a club revolving around it).

Parents and educators: I encourage you to encourage your kids to look at their circle of intimates and determine the ways in which each of them is also the only one. It’s a wonderful and worthy challenge that will get kids thinking about how we are different and how that is good.

“Instead of always telling our children that we are all equal and the same, we should tell them that we are all different. Saying were the same naturally makes them look for differences. Conversely, saying were all different (in appearance, cultures, etc.) makes them instinctively look for ways were alike.” 
Erica L. Scott, Binghamton, NY, 2009 letter to Newsweek

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16. Books—and a tablet PC—for a hard-working teacher in Pakistan

In 12/13, I received a compelling email from Tayyab Ajmal in Pakistan:

I teach primary, secondary and tertiary students (poor/needy) English but its all pathetic situation. We do not have books, libraries or book shops over here in my city. The habit of reading is dying day by day which is not a good thing.

Can you plz send a copy of Vocabulary Cartoon of the Day book. 

Despite how much I dread waiting in line at the post office (I value the service but it sometimes seems they go slow on purpose), I immediately said yes. Tayyab’s excerpted response:

thanks for your reply as i thought i am from Pakistan and so no one will reply.

This was heartbreaking.

Tayyab asked several more questions:

Is it ok if i can be in loop like asking some questions regarding  English language, vocab and grammar etc. in future?

Do you know any tutor/post grad student on Skype who can be my MENTOR.

Can you advise any classic movies for improving English. I am a big fan of Hallmark Hall of Fame movies.

I said yes, no, and yes, and recommended movies including Twelve Angry Men and The Sound of Music.

I asked if Tayyab discovered me because I wrote a children’s book about Pakistan many years ago:

He said yes and then asked the following: 

Is it possible if i can get a Tablet PC (new/used) as a donation. It would be a really good AID to teach as i do not have my PC. Can you check with your family and friends as its CHRISTMAS ahead so any one like to GIVE/GIFT.

I do not need an expensive one just a normal one with normal specs like i can teach through videos, play audio files, share picture/photo for vocab building etc. [He sent this link.]
In response to this, I cut him a deal. 

I asked him to send me photos of his students with the books I would send and in exchange I’d blog about this experience—including a call to action to raise the money to send this clearly passionate teacher a tool that would be a relatively small cost for some of us and a huge asset for him. 

He sent photos:

How to help improve a few lives (AKA Kickstarter Lite):

Please simply PayPal me $5; to do that, all you need is approximately 27 seconds and my email, mtnobleman@gmail.com. (If you prefer to mail a check, email me for my address.)

To make this happen, I estimate we’ll need about $250, including shipping. That’s only 50 people contributing only $5. (Of course, should you wish to give more, that will be gladly welcomed. Also welcomed: suggestions as to which tablet to get him.)

Once we hit the goal, I’ll stop accepting donations and add an addendum here indicating the effort has completed successfully.

We’ll likely never meet Tayyab or his students, but we will know the effect of this small gesture.

I’ll again ask him to send us a photo of his students, this time with the tablet PC.

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17. David J. Johns: The Importance of Literacy Among African American Youth

Welcome to First Book’s celebrity blog series. Each month we will be connecting with a powerful voice in education and hearing their suggestions for books to use in the classroom, all of which are available on the First Book Marketplace.

This month we hear from David J. Johns, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, on the importance of literacy among African American youth.

David Johns on the importance of readingA love of reading is crucial for increasing achievement among African American students and, consequently, for closing persistent achievement and opportunity gaps. Any student who picks up a book is exposed to adventures, life experiences, and characters that help cultivate voice and agency, and contribute to developing a strong sense of self. Since many students depend on books as their primary method of learning beyond the confines of the classroom, African American children are uniquely challenged when the majority of characters in the literature available to them do not affirm their experience, identity or culture.

The availability of texts reflective of the interests and experiences of African American students, schools and communities is critical – powerful books, such as Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave and Richard Wright’s Native SonThese books depict African American boys leveraging skills cultivated from their life experiences to negotiate racial, class, and historical tensions. The need to negotiate these tensions continues to this day and these lessons apply regardless of the child’s family wealth, home language, zip code, identity, expression, race or gender. Both Frederick Douglass, as he reflects upon his experiences in the autobiography, and Bigger Thomas, Wright’s protagonist, are examples of resilient and intelligent young boys who struggle to learn, grow, and pursue a better life.

Strong female protagonists, like Cassie Logan from Mildred D. Taylor’s The Road to Memphis and Pecola Breedlove from Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye support young women in developing a strong sense of agency as well as the strength to persist in pursuing post-secondary opportunities. These books can also help young men understand how to relate to, and engage with, strong women.  The poetry collection In Daddy’s Arms I am Tall celebrates fatherhood and promotes the importance of family in a way that all children can relate to. The stories and images in this important text disrupt and supplant negative stereotypes about absent fathers, reminding us of the tremendous opportunities male mentors and engaged fathers provide.

Additionally, reading about characters who are disabled, children of veterans, English language learners, children who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning, can help all students mature, develop empathy, awareness, and appreciation for diversity. In Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin describes the experiences of his protagonist, John, in ways that enable readers from all backgrounds to grow in their understanding of the challenges faced by their peers—at home, in school or at church.  The book is a powerful lesson of the role that faith and family play in supporting young people through adversity and is a seminal text for all students searching to find their voice.

Literacy is essential. Individuals without the skills to read or fully comprehend written text or without access to written text at all (including books and other materials that are inclusive, diverse, and affirming) are constrained in their ability to engage in our global society.  For these reasons, The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans supports efforts to increase literacy and encourage diversity within the publishing industry.

By David J. Johns, Executive Director, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. The Initiative contributes to closing the achievement gap for African American students.  For additional information on ways to support African American educational excellence, please visit http://www.ed.gov/AfAmEducation and follow the initiative on Twitter at @AfAmEducation.

Recommended Books:

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Native Son

The Road to Memphis

Bluest Eye

In Daddy's Arms I am Tall




Go Tell it On A Mountain






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18. How STEM Books Make a Difference to Girls in One Dallas Afterschool Program

One afternoon last week, a big box of books arrived in Miss Vicky’s classroom. After she explained to her students, who devote each Wednesday to studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), that the books were about “why things work and how they work”, the girls “shot up from their seats and ran over to the books.”

“Some of the younger girls didn’t understand all the words, but they kept reading,” she said. “Working hard to figure out what the book was about.”

Miss Vicky — known to the world outside her classroom as Vicky Hernandez — teaches girls, ages 6 to 18, at Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas, and she strives to help them be strong, smart and bold.

[INFOGRAPHIC] STEM Education Makes a Difference in Children’s LivesHer students come from the surrounding West Dallas neighborhoods, an area known for high crime and struggling schools. Their parents have chosen to pay $5 every month so the girls can participate in tutoring and educational programming and receive a full, healthy meal each night after school at Girls Inc.

Recently, Miss Vicky received a grant from First Book, made possible by our generous corporate partner, Lockheed Martin. “We had some books,” she said, “but not STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] books.”

Despite the lack of resources, STEM is central to the curriculum at Girls Inc. They believe studying STEM improves their students’ chances for successful college and career placement.

And they’re right. By 2018, there will be over 8 million STEM jobs in the United States, but only 5 million people qualified to fill them. Women in STEM careers also make more, with median annual earnings in selected STEM occupations nearly doubling that of women workers overall.

“STEM books are so valuable, because they teach specific concepts while helping the girls develop their reading skills,” Miss Vicky said. “It’s not just reading to read, it’s reading to grow a greater knowledge base.”

First Book is grateful to our friends at Lockheed Martin for making it possible for us to provide books about science, technology, engineering and math to students like Miss Vicky’s across the country.

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19. Research Across Levels

Last week I was literally sitting on the dock of the bay when along came a kayaker. Hello I shout and she shouts back hello and pulls up to the dock where we proceeded to have a 30 minute conversation. It really is a small world. The kayaker is an English professor at an East coast university and we commiserated about the lack of true research expected of her students and/or the lack of knowledge about how to begin the whole research process. Typically she teaches upper level classes but lately the administration at her university has decided all teachers should have the opportunity to work with English 101 students. I was pleased to hear her say she and some of the other university professors know who can help steer the students at their university…the librarians.

My district and a neighboring district team up every year about this time to have a professional development day for all of the librarians in our area. One of the sessions we will have is called Preparing Secondary Students for Research at the College Level. We have invited four university level librarians and two professors to be a part of a panel discussion covering expectations, academic research, citation tools and ways to develop and boost students’ information literacy IQ’s. When we are in the company of post-secondary librarians we are reminded that our students really are your students.


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20. It Takes Less Than Half An Hour To Change A Child’s Life

First Book provides badly-needed books to kids, but it’s up to educators and parents to help their children open up those brand-new books and become readers. Read Aloud 15 MINUTES is one of the many terrific programs that makes this possible.

Read Aloud board member Jennifer Liu Bryan recently explained how our two missions align and why it’s so important to read aloud for 15 minutes a day, especially to kids in under-served communities.

Q:  How do Read Aloud and First Book work together? 

First Book and Read Aloud for 15 Minutes collaborate togetherRead Aloud:  First Book’s mission provides the essential raw materials: Books. Books for eager young hands to possess, to cherish – to read. Read Aloud 15 MINUTES’ mission provides the marching orders: Engage. Once those reading materials are in hand, there is no better way to prepare a child for reading and learning than to read aloud to him or her every day, for at least 15 minutes.

Read Aloud 15 MINUTES and First Book’s missions join together like two pieces of the literacy puzzle. Approaching the problem from two different angles, both non-profits share the same goal: To grow literacy, improve education and change lives in this country for the better.

The missions intertwine and intersect wherever there are children who yearn to learn and caregivers who want the best for them. In other words, our missions overlap everywhere.

Q:  First Book specifically serves kids in under resourced communities. How is reading aloud to these kids for 15 minutes a day even more important because of that? 

First Book and Read Aloud for 15 Minutes collaborate togetherRead Aloud:  Our message is directed at parents and caregivers everywhere, because it is imperative and applicable to children everywhere. But it is especially critical that our message be heard where the barriers to success are highest, in under-resourced communities.

The disparities are alarming:

  •  By age four, low-income children have heard an average 32 million fewer words than their wealthy peers.
  • By kindergarten, some low-income children have been read aloud to as few as 25 hours while their middle-income peers have been read aloud to as many as 1,000. 

These statistics add up to real life consequences: failure to learn and failure to succeed at school.

Reading Aloud for 15 minutes a day is a small commitment, but for children – particularly in under-resourced communities – it can make a lifetime of difference.

To learn more about why reading aloud will make a difference in your children’s lives, visit our partner Read Aloud for 15 MINUTES

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21. Marketing Schools, Marketing Cities


Maia Bloomfield Cucchiara’s Marketing Schools, Marketing Cities considers the relationship between private markets and public education by focusing on Philadelphia’s Center City Schools Initiative. The Initiative targeted (largely white) middle- and upper-middle class families living in a recently gentrified downtown neighborhood and adopted a slick marketing campaign to convince these residents to elect (and thus, invest in) a series of hand-selected local public elementary schools. Hoping that the Initiative would result in an increase of both property tax revenue and personal investment these schools, proponents saw a viable link between a revitalized downtown and what would become an improved public school system. The problem? The School District of Philadelphia continues to face its worst-ever financial crisis, replete with layoffs, school closures, and program cuts. And those seats in the City Center elementary schools? Turns out they weren’t empty. As Cucchiara reports in a piece at the Atlantic drawn from the book’s research:

The marketing worked: According to my analysis of School District of Philadelphia data, by 2009 the number of Center City children enrolled in first grade in the three most desirable public schools had increased by 60 percent, from 111 to 177. Through fundraising and the activation of social and professional networks, these new families helped bring resources to the schools, including new playgrounds, libraries, and arts programs. But these Center City children weren’t taking empty slots. When they enrolled, they left fewer spots for low-income students from North and West Philadelphia, who had for years used those schools to escape failing ones in their neighborhoods. During this period, the number of first graders in Center City schools from outside the neighborhood decreased by 42 percent, from 64 to 37. Not surprisingly, this shift had racial dimensions: The percentage of white students in these schools in the early grades increased by 30 percent, and the percentage of African American students decreased a corresponding 29 percent.

Cucchiara goes on to address the grounds that on which these issues take root: “Americans have long accepted two aspects of the present education system as a fact of life. First, we are resigned to the idea that urban schools will always have financial struggles. Second, we do not discuss the divisions between city and suburbs.” You needn’t look far to uncover more of this troubling history: Boston, Chicago, and Detroit are well-evidenced examples. Asking us to question to viability of this institutional wall between city and suburb, Marketing Schools, Marketing Cities points to the problem inherent in funding around this divide: it’s fundamentally inequitable and attempting to recruit middle-class families is neither going to solve nor prevent the next public educational crisis.

As the Cucchiara concludes at the Atlantic, “Indeed, by singling out the middle-class for special treatment, they could end up creating even more unequal systems.”

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22. Stand Up to Bullying with These 10 Kids Books

Bullying continues to be an ongoing issue among peers and students, especially at schools. October is National Bullying Prevention Month so we’ve put together a list of 10 anti-bullying books that can help raise awareness of this critical concern throughout classrooms.

Wonder available in the First Book Anti-Bullying categoryWonder – R. J. Palacio

In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope. R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” – indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

Skin I'm In available in the First Book Anti-Bullying categorySkin I’m In – Sharon G. Flake 

Maleeka suffers every day from the taunts of the other kids in her class. If they’re not getting at her about her homemade clothes or her good grades, it’s about her dark, black skin. When a new teacher, whose face is blotched with a startling white patch, starts at their school, Maleeka can see there is bound to be trouble for her too. But the new teacher’s attitude surprises Maleeka. Miss Saunders loves the skin she’s in. Can Maleeka learn to do the same?

Because of Mr. Terupt available in the First Book Anti-Bullying categoryBecause Of Mr. Terupt - Rob Buyea 

It’s the start of fifth grade for seven kids at Snow Hill School. There’s…Jessica, the new girl, smart and perceptive, who’s having a hard time fitting in; Alexia, a bully, your friend one second, your enemy the next; Peter, class prankster and troublemaker; Luke, the brain; Danielle, who never stands up for herself; shy Anna, whose home situation makes her an outcast; and Jeffrey, who hates school.

Dear Bully: Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories available in the First Book Anti-Bullying categoryDear Bully: Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories - Megan Kelley Hall 

Discover how Lauren Kate transformed the feeling of that one mean girl getting under her skin into her first novel, how Lauren Oliver learned to celebrate ambiguity in her classmates and in herself, and how R.L. Stine turned being the “funny guy” into the best defense against the bullies in his class.


It's Okay To Be Different available in the First Book Anti-Bullying categoryIt’s Okay To Be Different – Todd Parr 

It’s Okay to Be Different cleverly delivers the important messages of acceptance, understanding, and confidence in an accessible, child-friendly format featuring Todd Parr’s trademark bold, bright colors and silly scenes. Targeted to young children first beginning to read, this book will inspire kids to celebrate their individuality through acceptance of others and self-confidence.

Stargirl available in the First Book Anti-Bullying categoryStargirl - Jerry Spinelli

Stargirl. From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High in a burst of color and sound, the hallways hum with the murmur of “Stargirl, Stargirl.” She captures Leo Borlock’s heart with just one smile. She sparks a school-spirit revolution with just one cheer. The students of Mica High are enchanted. At first. Then they turn on her.


Absolute Brightness available in the First Book Anti-Bullying categoryAbsolute Brightness - James Lecesne

Darkness: Where light is not. Light: Brightness or illumination from a particular source. Absolute brightness: The mystery of Leonard Pelkey. This is the story of a luminous force of nature: a boy who encounters evil and whose magic isn’t truly felt until he disappears.


Thirteen Reasons available in the First Book Anti-Bullying categoryThirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.


Bluford High Series #5: The Bully available in the First Book Anti-Bullying categoryThe Bully – Paul Langan

A new life. A new school. A new bully. That’s what Darrell Mercer faces when he and his mother move from Philadelphia to California. After spending months living in fear, Darrell is faced with a big decision. He can either keep on running from this bully or find some way to fight back.


Henry and the Bully available in the First Book Anti-Bullying categoryHenry and the Bully - Nancy Carlson

The lovable Henry is back–and he’s being bullied on the soccer field at school! When no one’s advice seems to help, it’s up to Henry to solve his bully problem for himself. Classroom favorite Nancy Carlson encourages young readers to use creativity and empathy to deal with one of childhood’s toughest challenges.


Educators and program leaders can find these books and more in our anti-bullying category on the First Book Marketplace

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23. Four Ways to Engage Parents and Families in Reading Time

Today is National Family Literacy Day, created by our friends at the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) to celebrate families who are improving their lives through continued learning.

First Book and Read Aloud for 15 Minutes collaborate togetherThis issue is an important one for the classrooms and community programs that First Book serves. We recently asked hundreds of educators who recently joined the First Book network about the biggest challenges they face, and parent engagement was at the top of the list.

If you work with kids in need — at a school, community program or local nonprofit — you can sign up with First Book to get new books. And, in honor of National Family Literacy Day, here’s a few ideas for how you can use First Book to encourage reading at home:

  • Go beyond books. First Book carries over 5,000 great titles on the First Book Marketplace, our online store. You can pair these books with activities to make reading a family activity. For example, the National PTA’s Family Reading Experience, Powered by Kindle, is a set of free activities — in English and Spanish — that engage the entire family and focus on improving the reading skills of children between kindergarten and fifth grade. 
  • Use books as incentives. The educators we work with use a lot of methods to involved parents in their children’s education, from parent-teacher conferences to family reading nights to reading breakfasts. First Book can help you get free books to give away at these events to help families build home libraries.
  • Help parents with tips. Not every parent feels able to help their child become a stronger reader, but there are tools and resources out there that can help. Our friends at Reading Rockets have some amazing free tips (in 10+ languages) for parents, grandparents and other caring adults about how they can read with the children in their lives. First Book’s Mind In the Making section also includes tip sheets for how to read those books with kids.
  • Start a family literacy program. Designate a corner of your school library or community center as a family reading space. When kids bring a caring adult in to read with them, invite them to take a book home to keep, or invite parents into your school or program to read their favorite book with your students.


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24. [INFOGRAPHIC] STEM Education Makes a Difference in Children’s Lives

STEM Education Makes a Difference in Children's Lives


Thanks to partners like Lockheed Martin, First Book is helping thousands of kids in need get the books and resources they need. If you work with children from low-income families, sign up with First Book today to get brand-new, high-quality STEM books.

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25. I Love Reading Phonics: Tick Tock Books – Level 6

A series of educational books by Tick Tock Books featuring level six reading. A brief summary of the books and their word focus are included below. This is a fun series kids will enjoy, while also learning how to read. Please also see posts on level one, level two, level three, level four and level five information.

What Wally Wanted
What Wally Wanted
Author: Louise Goodman
Illustrator: Kate Daubney
Publisher: Tick Tock Books
ISBN: 978-1-84898-779-1
Pages: 24
Price: $3.99

Buy it at Amazon

Level 6-A: Wally wants gold, so he makes trades to get it.  Will Wally trade his black cat in exchange for a spell?
Focuses on two sounds made with the letter a – as in hat and what.

Superhero Ed!
Superhero Ed!
Author: Louise Goodman
Illustrator: Kimberley Scott
Publisher: Tick Tock Books
ISBN: 978-1-84898-780-7
Pages: 24
Price: $3.99
Buy it at Amazon

Level 6-B: Deb is upset.  Wicked Ted has taken Emu Meg.  Superhero Ed must act quickly to save her!
Focuses on two sounds made with the letter e – as in bed and he.

Adine's Igloo
Adine’s Igloo
Author: Lucy George
Illustrator: Monica Armino
Publisher: Tick Tock Books
ISBN: 978-1-84898-781-4
Pages: 24
Price: $3.99

Buy it at Amazon

Level 6-C: Adine is an Inuit and lives in an igloo.  This book shares a bit of her daily life.
Focuses on two sounds made with the letter i – as in fin and find.

The Robot Bop
The Robot Bop
Author: Lucy George
Illustrator: Caroline Romanet
Publisher: Tick Tock Books
ISBN: 978-1-84898-782-1
Pages: 24
Price: $3.99

Buy it at Amazon

Level 6-D: Ro the Robot loves to bop.  She invents a new dance, but will the other robots like it?
Focuses on two sounds made with the letter o – as in hot and cold.

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