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1. Five questions for Cynthia Leitich Smith

Cynthia Leitich Smith Five questions for Cynthia Leitich SmithCynthia Leitich Smith’s urban fantasy series the Tantalize quartet did indeed tantalize readers with its vampire-themed eatery Sanguini’s: A Very Rare Restaurant (and, of course, the vampires and other supernatural beings involved therein). Her latest novel, Feral Curse (Candlewick, 13–16 years), is the second book in the Tantalize spinoff series Feral, which brings various species of werepeople (a preferred term for “shifters”) to the forefront with intrepid werecat protagonists Yoshi and Kayla. Despite the palpable suspense as her characters face bewildering magic, anti-were prejudice, and scheming yetis, Smith keeps the tone light and witty — a catnip-like combination for fans of smart supernatural romance.

1. The Tantalize and Feral series are populated with vampires, werepeople, angels, and yetis — a motley crew, to be sure. Any other supernatural creatures we should look out for?

CLS: My inner Whedonite relishes geek-team protagonists in a multi-creature-verse. Along the way, I’ve also unleashed hell hounds, dragons, ghosts, and sorcerers. Writing the series finale, I’m showcasing diva demons and my heroes’ metaphorical demons within. Not to mention the diabolical governor of Texas. But pffft! You probably saw that coming.

2. What kind of shifter would you be and why?

smith feral curse Five questions for Cynthia Leitich SmithCLS: I’ve been saying werecats, in light of their starring role in the Feral series. But as of late, I’ve become intrigued by wereorcas and Dolphins. I’ve lived a largely mid- to southwestern, landlocked life, so even though most of our world is covered by water, to me it’s as alien and fantastical as anything we’d find in fiction.

3. Will Quincie, Kieren, Zachary, and Miranda of the Tantalize books cross paths with Yoshi and Kayla?

CLS: Isn’t that what finales are for? Yes, they’ll all be back in Feral Pride (2015) along with heaven’s bureaucracy, Italian-Romanian-Texan fusion cuisine, and — of course — senior prom.

4. We can’t resist asking: what’s your favorite item on the menu you created for Sanguini’s? (And would you actually eat it?)

CLS: Chef Bradley’s signature dish: chilled baby squirrels, simmered in orange brandy, bathed in honey cream sauce. And I might, absent Brad’s secret ingredient. By the way, it’s inspired by a real-life historical Romanian recipe involving mice.

5. If you could live in the world of another YA fantasy series, which would it be?

CLS: The world of Ellen Jensen Abbott’s Watersmeet books, after Abisina saves it.

From the April 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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2. Four Books to Celebrate El día de los niños

Today’s guest blog post is by Pat Mora, award-winning author and founder of El día le los niños, El día de los libros/Children’s Day, Book Day.

All the books Pat recommends are available at deeply discounted prices on the First Book Marketplace to educators and programs serving children in need.

Pat MoraA lifetime of reading teaches us the pleasure and power of books, and that literature at all levels and from all cultures can not only teach us but humanize us.

Through the writings of others we can share the experiences of a Midwest family on a farm years ago, the fear of a Jewish family during the Holocaust or the internment terror of Japanese families here during World War II. As readers, we can share in the triumph of a black family or an Egyptian family that writes a play about its history or traditions. By reading writers from the diverse cultures that are part of our United States, children learn new songs, celebrations, folk tales and stories with a cultural context.

This is what El día de los niños, El día de los libros/Children’s Day, Book Day is all about – implementing creative literacy strategies using diverse books and planning Día book fiestas for all children, from all cultures, in all languages. High-quality children’s books that reflect our rich plurality are able to reveal the many ways we are all alike as well as the ways we are all different.

Another major element in Día is honoring. Do we connect our literacy goals and efforts with really honoring each child and honoring home languages and cultures? Once honoring culture becomes a priority, creative and dedicated staff and families can propose and share ideas. Teachers and parents can create a sense of “bookjoy” with stories, games, literacy crafts and read-alouds. Coaching parents who did not have diverse literacy experiences growing up is of particular importance; whether a family is Spanish- speaking, English-speaking, Chinese-speaking, etc., we need to invest in respectfully and innovatively coaching multilingual families to join us in sharing a love of books.

Today, twenty-five percent of our children live in poverty – including one-third of black and Hispanic children. By 2018, children of color will be the majority in the U.S. What can we do to serve them and their families well? Celebrating Día and creatively championing the importance of literacy for children from all backgrounds is one way to start. Here’s to becoming a reading nation!

Here are 4 titles that can help you spread “bookjoy” and celebrate El día de los niños, El Día de los libros/Children’s Day, Book Day with children in your community! Sign up with First Book to access these and other great titles on the First Book Marketplace.

crazy_horses_visiongrandmas_chocolate_bilingualmeet_danitra_brown_2tomas_library_lady_mora

You can learn more about Pat Mora and El día de los niños, El Día de los libros/Children’s Day, Book Day on Pat’s website.

The post Four Books to Celebrate El día de los niños appeared first on First Book Blog.

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3. Reviews of Ilsa J. Bick’s Ashes Trilogy

bick ashes Reviews of Ilsa J. Bicks Ashes TrilogyAshes [Ashes Trilogy]
by Ilsa J. Bick
High School    Egmont    468 pp.
9/11    978-1-60684-175-4    $17.99

An electromagnetic pulse kills most of the country’s population instantly; many of those left become zombielike, “brain-zapped” cannibals. Survivor Alex teams up with eight-year-old Ellie and soldier Tom to search for other people. The trio’s deepening bond adds to the already high tension. This horror/survival story (with extremely graphic violence) presents an intriguing take on zombie fiction.

bick shadows Reviews of Ilsa J. Bicks Ashes TrilogyShadows [Ashes Trilogy]
by Ilsa J. Bick
High School    Egmont    520 pp.
9/12    978-1-60684-176-1    $17.99

In this middle volume of an anticipated trilogy (beginning with Ashes), Alex continues to hover on the edge of sanity and survival as she fights the zombies created by a cataclysmic electromagnetic pulse; avoids the creepy powers that sent her out of a protected community and into the wilderness; and searches for her missing love. All of these endeavors would be derailed quickly should her brain cancer, which thanks to the EMP disappeared along with most of humanity, suddenly return. It’s quite a lot for one girl, however tough, to take, and she crumbles often, eliciting both reader sympathy and exasperation. The shifting narrative perspective to other central characters offers both an extended view on what is happening in each of several key locations and a break from Alex’s misery. Dystopian and apocalypse buffs, as well as fans of the earlier novel, will find this an exceptionally well-developed look at one way in which the end of the world could play out. However, given the gore, crushing desolation, and dearth of joy, they will likely hope the final volume comes up with something that even faintly resembles a happy ending.

bick monsters Reviews of Ilsa J. Bicks Ashes TrilogyMonsters [Ashes Trilogy]
by Ilsa J. Bick
High School    Egmont    821 pp.
9/13    978-1-60684-177-8    $18.99

A brutal, stunning, and compellingly written trilogy (Ashes; Shadows, rev. 9/12) comes to a close as Alex, who had been destined to die of a brain tumor just before the world effectively ended, is still battling nature, herself, the humans who have turned into monsters, and the other “normal” humans whose ethics seem rather monstrous as well. Tom and Ellie are still separated from Alex, each struggling to survive and find his or her place in this constantly horrifying world (though Bick excels at always acknowledging the spark of hope that keeps everyone fighting to live in spite of incessant danger and hardships). The frequent cliffhangers created by chapters that focus on different characters wear a bit thin but are a logical choice given the division of the three protagonists around whom the first book was focused. Fans may initially find the length daunting, but there are few wasted scenes and ample chances to say goodbye to these beleaguered characters, who all deserve better but whose outcomes absolutely fit the tone of the postapocalyptic scenario.

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The post Reviews of Ilsa J. Bick’s Ashes Trilogy appeared first on The Horn Book.

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4. Byron Barton on My Bus

byron barton Byron Barton on My BusIn the March/April 2014 Horn Book Magazine, reviewer K. T. Horning asked author/illustrator Byron Barton about My Bus, his latest transportation celebration. Read the starred review here.

K. T. Horning: Joe from My Bus and Sam from My Car (Greenwillow, 2001) seem to lead parallel lives. And yet Joe’s passengers are animals and Sam’s are people. Do they reside in the same town, or even the same universe?

Byron Barton: Joe and Sam live in neighboring communities. They have different bus routes. The area has changed somewhat over time, but it is only by chance that, on one day, Joe had only cats and dogs for passengers. On another day and another bus route Joe or Sam could have chickens, pigs, or people on his bus. They all love to ride on buses, cars, trains, boats, and planes.

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5. Do Great Work and the Rest Will Follow

morrison please louise Do Great Work and the Rest Will FollowGrowing up in the heart of the South, I saw firsthand how people were excluded based on skin color. I was taught that the rules weren’t the same for blacks and whites, but I also witnessed game-changers such as John Lewis and Coretta Scott King, who rose in spite of that fact. I never thought that being black or a woman would preclude me from any opportunities in life. I graduated in the top ten percent of my high school class and got into every college to which I applied.

My mother, an educator and guidance counselor, took me on a tour of my top ten schools. We met with professors, financial aid officers, and other students so that I could make an informed decision. My mother had been discouraged from pursuing her own dreams of becoming a singer, and so she always nurtured my talent. Although she herself couldn’t draw a straight line, she knew that my success would depend on my choosing a strong art program. The great news was that schools wanted me. The bad news was that most scholarships went to science majors and athletes. Undeterred, I took out thousands of dollars in loans — money I wasn’t sure I’d ever make back as an artist.

Syracuse University was my first choice. Though not in New York City (my childhood dream), it was the picture I had in my head of what college looked like. I had terrible anxiety surrounding the cost of college and the stigma of being labeled a starving artist, so I enrolled in communications design, taking illustration and creative writing as minors. I was one of only two black students in my class — both female. There was one other black student in the class ahead of me who took me under his wing as a baby designer. He pleaded with me to stay in design because, as he put it, “We need more black women.”

cook our children can soar Do Great Work and the Rest Will FollowAfter my first year of design, I missed drawing and painting, and so I switched to illustration. I was then the only black female in that program. I found freedom as an illustrator and saw growth in my work. But I didn’t see myself reflected in illustration’s history. Where were the black editorial illustrators, comic makers, and book illustrators? Norman Rockwell was great, but his town didn’t look anything like mine. Maxfield Parrish was wonderful, but his angels and elves didn’t look like the ones in my head. Though most celebrated illustrators didn’t look like me, they were my only models.

I spent a semester studying abroad in Florence, Italy, and then returned to Syracuse for my senior year. There, I found that one of my instructors was Yvonne Buchanan, a black female illustrator. I was really excited to see her published work, which primarily reflected African American history. I also remember being introduced to the art of Jerry Pinkney, which made me think, “If this is what illustration is, I have a long way to go!” But I’d found a spark. I began studying the field more on my own and developing projects that might move my career forward. I worked with a local author in Atlanta that summer and made my first picture book dummy.

Senior year ended, and my future was uncertain. I had sent out promotional postcards and gotten some nice feedback, but nothing loomed on my horizon. Still, I returned home to Atlanta optimistic. I had my degree and was confident in the knowledge and experience I had gained. After some time, I landed some small freelance illustration jobs — including an easy reader with Jen Frantz, a young editor at Lee & Low Books — made a few more failed attempts at getting picture book work, and painted some commissioned portraits. Eventually a full-time position for an art teacher with the Atlanta Public Schools opened up and I took it, promising myself I would apply to grad school once my three-year provisional was up. While reading to my students every morning, I finally found myself in the pages of books like Storm in the Night, C.L.O.U.D.S., and Dancing in the Wings. These stories were about kids whose experiences reflected my own. Seeing those books gave me permission to explore ideas that interested me. I was ready to move on to the next phase of my art journey.

randall diary of bb bright Do Great Work and the Rest Will FollowDuring my third year of teaching, I was accepted into the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay program at the School of Visual Arts (finally — New York City!). I worked alongside nineteen other talented artists, and four of us immediately made ourselves known as “the book illustrators.” My competitive nature was fully engaged as part of “the fabulous four.” For two years, we shared books, critiqued and encouraged one another, did group portfolio drop-offs, and met with publishers. When graduation came, two members of our group — Jonathan Bean and Taeeun Yoo — landed book deals immediately, then Lauren Castillo, but not me. I was talented. I worked hard. I had knowledge of the industry and had been published in the past. I hit the pavement with my portfolio, thinking surely someone would use me, but nothing happened.

My mother had taught me to exhaust every possibility before looking to another solution, so that’s what I did. My friends helped me stay positive in those dark months. I sought guidance from Pat Cummings, who was one of the only other working black women book illustrators I knew at the time. Pat gave me a lead on part-time work assisting illustrator Christopher Myers, and on a design job where I was the only black person working in the children’s art department. I showed my colleagues my own illustration work and was told it was nice, but no book contract followed. A few weeks later, I took in samples of two of my friends’ work, and they both got offers within the month. What a blow to my ego! I was frustrated, then sad, and then angry. I worked harder and stopped making images that I thought editors wanted to see. Instead I made images that I enjoyed.

elliott bird Do Great Work and the Rest Will FollowThrough a serendipitous encounter at the 2007 Original Art Show opening with editor Jen Fox, then at Lee & Low Books, I landed my first big manuscript, where I found an opportunity to use the ideas and visual language that I had been experimenting with all along. That opportunity launched my career. I won the 2009 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent and the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award for Bird, written by Zetta Elliott.

It’s strange being black and a woman in a field that has historically celebrated white male contributions. Before I was published, I wondered if the only way in was to write and illustrate stories about slavery and black history. When all of my graduate school friends landed book contracts before me, at times I thought, “Is it because I paint black people?” I talked myself down from that ledge, but why was I up there to begin with?

After my books were out in the world, interviewers would ask questions like, “Why do you only paint black people?” To which I would reply: My choice of characters isn’t what defines my style; it’s how I paint them and the world around them. Would you ask a white male artist why he doesn’t paint black people?

bandy white water Do Great Work and the Rest Will FollowMy New York chapter closed after eight years. I went home to Atlanta, with plans to try living in Paris for a year. During that time, though, my mother lost two brothers and an aunt, and I was glad to be there to support my family. Paris would have to wait. Coincidentally, illustrator R. Gregory Christie, whom I had met in New York, had recently moved to Atlanta. One day over lunch he encouraged me to apply to a position at Maryland Institute College of Art, having already given the search committee my name. I applied, gathering up all of my stories, successes, and failures from the past. The next adventure was calling.

As a professor of illustration, I understand how important it is to be visible and accessible to other artists who are looking for guidance. I now have a range of books under my belt, and my attitude about the industry has certainly shifted. Looking to the future, in addition to collaborating with talented authors I know that I will be illustrating stories I write myself, and I will do my part in reflecting a more inclusive vision of our world. The industry still has a way to go in publishing stories that reflect our diversity. As an artist and illustrator of picture books, I look forward to being a model for those who are looking for themselves in their pages.

From the March/April 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: Illustration.

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6. Does Soman Chainani, Author of The School For Good And Evil, Consider himself good?… or evil?

“Sophie had waited all her life to be kidnapped.”

Does that quote seem familiar to you? It’s the widely recognized first line of the book, The School For Good And Evil. Soman Chainani is the author behind the book, which is available through First Book.

If you missed out on our video from last week that includes promo codes for free books, but not just any books… an entire free box of The School For Good And Evil books, then there’s still time to take action. Soman Chainani can help you ask the question – are you a GOOD or EVIL teacher?

Soman Chainani, author of The School For Good And Evil

Soman Chainani, author of The School For Good And Evil

Soman:  We didn’t have cable when I was young, so all we had was our rickety TV set and VHS tapes of every single Disney animated movie. Until age 8 or so, that was all I pretty much watched. Everything I learned about storytelling, I learned from Disney. (You can imagine what an irritating child I was.)

When I went to college, though, I read the original fairy tales and realized that my entire childhood was built on a lie! In the original stories, there’s so much more darkness and richness and real life. What I loved about them was how unsafe the characters were. You could very well end up with wedding bells and an Ever After – or you could lose your tongue or be baked into a pie. There was no ‘warmth’ built into the narrator, no expectations of a happy ending. The thrill came from vicariously trying to survive the gingerbread house, the hook-handed captain, or the apple-carrying crone at the door – and relief upon survival.  Somewhere in that gap between the Disney stories and the real stories, THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL was born.

Q:  What was your favorite fantasy book?

Soman:  I love The Phantom Tollbooth, Alice in Wonderland, and Roald Dahl’s books the most — but my favorite fantasy book as a child was Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews. It’s just wildly inventive in every way.


Q:  How do kids react when reading The School For Good and Evil? 

Soman:  The enthusiasm kids have had for the book continues to shock me every day. Kids have created all kinds of fanart, from posters, stickers, tattoos, cakes, fan fiction, fan poetry, Ever-inspired workout tapes, online Wikis to the book’s world, role playing games, Tumblr tributes, science fair projects, SGE-themed Warrior Cat games, Halloween costumes… Just typing that list made me realize how creative and amazing our growing community of Evers and Nevers has been.

The School For Good And Evil is available on the First Book Marketplace

Q:  How can a GOOD teacher use your book to get students excited about reading? 

Soman:  Well a Good teacher would use the SCHOOL FOR GOOD & EVIL curriculum guide, designed by teachers for teachers, available on www.schoolforgoodandevil.com. It meets Common Core standards and gives teachers discussion questions, activity ideas, and tips on how to use the book in their classroom. A Good teacher would also tell the teachers to skip all the parts where the Evil kids, or Nevers, are plotting world domination in the most terrible ways.

Q:  How can an EVIL teacher use your book to get students excited about reading?

Soman:  An Evil teacher would tell students that the book has a recipe for “Children Noodle Soup,” a character that can turn anything she touches into chocolate (including people), and that in this story — unlike most other kids’ books — Evil has just as much a chance to win as Good.

Q:  So… Would you consider yourself good? Or evil?

Soman:  I was so compelled by this question of whether I was an Ever or a Never that I launched an interactive game on www.schoolforgoodandevil.com that helps each reader answer this question for themselves. You can log-on and take a 10-question Entrance Exam to The School for Good and Evil that sorts you into your school as an Ever or a Never. It also computes what percentage of your soul is Good and what percentage of your soul is Evil. The questions change every time (and I’ve written all of them!), so be prepared for a stern test. I, myself, have taken the quiz honestly a few times and consistently get 75% Evil, 25% Good. So it appears I’m a Never after all. Not surprising.

The post Does Soman Chainani, Author of The School For Good And Evil, Consider himself good?… or evil? appeared first on First Book Blog.

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7. 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.

 

The post Four Ways to Engage Parents and Families in Reading Time appeared first on First Book Blog.

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8. Stories For All: Todd Parr – It’s Okay to be Different

Author, illustrator, and macaroni and cheese aficionado Todd Parr, uses humor and bright illustrations to celebrate the differences that make us all unique. Most of Todd’s books are now available on the First Book Marketplace.

First Book recently interviewed Todd about his inspiration for writing so many books that make a difference in children’s lives.

Todd Parr's books are now available through First Book

Todd Parr (Photo Credit: Jeff Fielding)

Todd Parr:  Yes, in second grade I was placed in a slow reader class because I could not keep up with the rest of the class. I also couldn’t read in front of the class. It made me feel very different because I was made fun of. This was a big part in my writing It’s Okay To Be Different.

The Family Book was somewhat inspired by losing my mom at a young age and feeling like my family was different.

Q:  Have there been any children you’ve met along the way that have inspired you to tackle such issues? 

Todd Parr:  All the time. I never dreamed these two books would lead my awareness of the need to help kids and families feel good about themselves no matter what they were dealing with.

Q:  Why is it important for children to be reading about diversity issues at such a young age? 

Todd Parr:  Because I believe it is important for kids to see that everyone is different. And that is what makes everyone special and unique.

Q:  In your experience, how have children reacted to reading these books? Do they understand the nature of what they are reading? 

Todd Parr:  Yes, I think it’s my art style that helps with the delivery of the message (kids think they can draw just like me – and they can). Also, humor and unpredictability helps a lot.

Todd Parr books available on First BookQ:  What is your goal when writing children’s books that address these topics? 

Todd Parr:  To present things that may be very complicated to understand in a simple fun way.

Q:  What inspired you to become a children’s author? 

Todd Parr:  It all came about through my art. Megan Tingley (Little, Brown) approached me at the licensing show in NYC and asked if I had ever thought about writing children’s books because I was basically already telling stories through my artwork.

Q:  It’s pretty clear that you love macaroni and cheese. What’s your favorite kind?

Todd Parr:  Can I say I am so easy to please that I will eat any kind of macaroni and cheese, even if it has worms on it. No, that’s not right…

Todd Parr’s books are available on the First Book Marketplace, a website exclusively for educators and program leaders that works with kids in need. 

The post Stories For All: Todd Parr – It’s Okay to be Different appeared first on First Book Blog.

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9. Janet Tashjian on Creating Imagination, Inspiration & Illustration with Reluctant Readers

Janet Tashjian is a children’s author, an advocate for reluctant readers and strong supporter of First Book. She collaborates with her son Jake Tashjian, who creates the illustrations for her books. Their most recent joint effort, Einstein The Class Hamster was not only released to retailers, but made available to children and educators in the First Book network on the same day. 

First Book recently interviewed Janet about why access to books is so important and what led to the inspiration behind Einstein The Class Hamster. 

Einstein The Class Hamster by Janet Tashjian available through First BookQ:  As an author, what drew you to want to become involved with First Book?

Janet Tashjian:  I first heard about First Book from a librarian in Florida who never would’ve been able to stock his school library without First Book. I also donated a lot of books to Bess’s Book Bus and she’d email me pictures of kids on reservations or in the Mississippi Delta holding my books with big smiles. Those photos made me want to back a truck up on the side of the road and just hand out books to kids. She also mentioned First Book, so I called to offer my services. I’m a big, big believer in giving back to the community and as a writer, my community is readers.

Q:  Why is it so important for kids in need to have access to books at home and in their classrooms?   

Janet Tashjian:  Books are one of the best ways to engage a child’s imagination and creativity is one of the most important skills children can develop. So many of today’s activities – television, Facebook, video games – are fun, but don’t actively engage the imagination the way reading does. Kids with limited resources need books as much as anyone else, maybe even more.  Books are a gateway to different worlds, to empathy, to understanding; for that reason alone they should be available to all children, not just those with resources.

Q:  You are quite the reluctant readers’ advocate. How do you help reluctant readers become interested in reading? 

Janet Tashjian:  When The Gospel According to Larry came out, teachers and librarians kept telling me how boys who usually weren’t readers loved the book. It made me really think about that population of readers for the first time. Then I noticed that Jake and his friends started having a hard time when chapter books got more difficult. Jake went to a lot of excellent reading tutors; I’m such a pragmatic mom, I told myself if I was spending all that time and effort on helping Jake be a better reader, I would put those tools to use for other kids too.

In the My Life As books, the main character is a visual learner who has a hard time reading so he draws his vocabulary words to learn them. The series has been a big hit with reluctant readers which makes me very happy. And it was the first time Jake and I collaborated which makes that series special too.

Q&A with Janet Tashjian, children's author and huge supporter of First Book

Janet Tashjian and son, Jake Tashjian

Q:  Einstein, The Class Hamster is based on a comic strip your son, Jake Tashjian, illustrated. What inspired him to first create this? 

Janet Tashjian:  I home schooled Jake for a few years in middle school. He was always drawing, so one of my assignments was for him to do a daily comic strip. At first, he said, “I can’t be funny every day!” but then he really got into it. The character he created was a hamster, but not a class hamster, and his name was Martin, not Einstein. But the illustrations were so hilarious and the hamster was so droll, I thought it would be fun to do another book together. We tweaked the story and Jake worked very hard on designing all the characters. I think he did a great job.

Q:  What books got you hooked as a child that eventually led to you becoming a children’s author?

Janet Tashjian:  The books that really got me hooked weren’t children’s books per se but adult books I read in junior high and high school. I devoured Vonnegut, Hesse, and Burgess – couldn’t get enough. They have greatly influenced my work.  As a young girl, I was obsessed with Nancy Drew, read every single one. I never thought I’d be writing a series for kids, but now I’m writing two!

Q:  What’s one of your favorite nuggets of information? 

Janet Tashjian:  Kids always ask how to get un-stuck when they’re writing.  It may sound simplistic, but I always tell them you write yourself out of writer’s block one sentence at a time.  ”Bill didn’t want to go to soccer practice.”  ”He didn’t want to see Maria.”  ”Why did Maria always make fun of him when he read out loud in class?”  Suddenly you go from blocked, to a sentence, to a paragraph. You keep going and you have a page.  You keep going some more and you have a chapter.  It’s really that simple – one sentence at a time.  It’s what Hemingway did; if it worked for him, it can work for you.

Q:  What can we expect next from the Tashjian duo?

Janet Tashjian:  There are at least two more Einstein’s coming out. And My Life As A Joke comes out in April. We’re doing several more of those too!

Einstein The Class Hamster is available on the First Book Marketplace, a website exclusively for educators and program leaders that works with kids in need. The hardcover title retails for $13 but First Book is able to offer it for $5.60. 

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10. Ellen Galinsky: Reading Time’s a Missed Opportunity for Life-Skills Learning

The following is a guest blog post by Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute and author of ‘Mind in the Making’. This post also appears today on The Huffington Post.

 Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs by Ellen GalinskyFor a long time, we’ve been told, “read to children!” As important as this message is, it has frustrated me. It’s not JUST reading to children that matters; it is HOW we read to children that has benefits for us and for them.

This may sound like a guilt-trip, but it’s not! There are simple ways to read to children that make it more fun for us and for children and that promote their learning even better. These don’t cost money or take lots of time. I certainly know from my research on work and family life that time is something we all feel starved for.

So what do I mean?

One of the enduring findings from child development research is the importance of what researchers such as Jack Shonkoff of Harvard call “serve and return”. This involves a back and forth interaction between you and your child. Like a game of ball: One of you says or does something (serves) and the other responds (returns). It is important to listen and then to build on and extend what your child says or does and to keep this going for as long as your child is interested.

'Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs' by Ellen GalinskyHere is an example. While reading the book Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes…(based on the song) to your child, you can point to your head and say: “Here’s my head. Where’s your head?” Then point to the child’s head: “There’s your head!” Wait for your child’s response and respond back. That is the essence of serve and return. It doesn’t matter if you don’t finish the book–having the conversation is what counts.

As Catherine Snow of Harvard says:

The book creates a platform on which the conversation takes place. [The adult is there to] interpret, to name the pictures, to describe the action, to explain what’s going on. This is one of the reasons why research shows that families in which children are read to regularly are families whose children are more likely to arrive at school ready to learn, with bigger vocabularies and a greater capacity to participate effectively in classrooms. [It's] because they’ve had this kind of focused conversation with adults.

Another important finding from child development research is the importance of promoting executive function life skills. And that sounds like a mouthful too, but it isn’t. These are skills that emerge along a developmental timetable in children. However, they emerge often unnoticed, and as such are typically not consciously promoted, but when they are, children are more likely to thrive in the short- and long-term. That’s why I call them life skills.

All of these life skills are based, in one way or another, in the prefrontal cortex of the brain and we use them to “manage” our attention, our emotions and our behavior in order to reach our goals. So they are executive function life skills.

As Adele Diamond of the University of British Columbia says:

If you look at what predicts how well children will do later in school, more and more evidence is showing that executive functions … actually predict success better than IQ tests.

Here is an example, using the book, Elmo Says, based on the game Simon Says. This book promotes the executive function life skill of Focus and Self Control. Focus and Self Control includes being able to remember rules. It also includes the ability to not just make a quick response, but also to pause and choose a response. Playing games and reading books that require children to remember Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needsand not go on automatic, but to exercise self control, are what promotes executive functions. You can play the game as you read the book with your child. Like the game of Simon Says, your child is not supposed to follow the directions unless the book states: “Elmo says!”

My years of research into executive function skills and the critical impact they have on young children led me to create the book Mind in the Making, a set of seven essential life skills that every child needs. And what better time to promote those skills in children than when you’re sitting down reading with them?

In order to make this a reality, especially for low-income children, I’ve been collaborating with First Book — a nonprofit social enterprise that provides new books and educational materials to children in need — to translate this understanding of why HOW we read to children makes the biggest difference. We’ve put together collections of beloved, iconic children’s books as well as new books that are sure to become classics- for multiple age ranges – that teach these valuable lessons. For programs serving low-income children, these books are available at a very low cost on the First Book Marketplace, an online store available exclusively to classrooms and programs serving children from low-income families.

We’ve also created a set of support tips: simple games and techniques for each book that a parent or educator can use to reinforce one of the seven essential skills. These are freely available for everyone on the Mind in the Making website, and anyone ordering any of the titles through the First Book Marketplace will receive them automatically.

By reaching more educators, clinics, and community programs with the message of teaching life skills early on, we’re helping to ensure that all children find success in the classroom, the workplace and life.

The post Ellen Galinsky: Reading Time’s a Missed Opportunity for Life-Skills Learning appeared first on First Book Blog.

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11. First Book and Mind in The Making’s Ellen Galinsky: Reading Time as a Missed Opportunity for Life-Skills Learning

The following is a guest blog post by Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute and author of ‘Mind in the Making‘. First Book and Mind in The Making have partnered to bring you book lists and tip sheets for seizing the opportunities for life skills learning available in reading time with your children.

This post also appears today on The Huffington Post.

 Mind in the Making and First Book partnership: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs by Ellen GalinskyFor a long time, we’ve been told, “read to children!” As important as this message is, it has frustrated me. It’s not JUST reading to children that matters; it is HOW we read to children that has benefits for us and for them.

This may sound like a guilt-trip, but it’s not! There are simple ways to read to children that make it more fun for us and for children and that promote their learning even better. These don’t cost money or take lots of time. I certainly know from my research on work and family life that time is something we all feel starved for.

So what do I mean?

One of the enduring findings from child development research is the importance of what researchers such as Jack Shonkoff of Harvard call “serve and return”. This involves a back and forth interaction between you and your child. Like a game of ball: One of you says or does something (serves) and the other responds (returns). It is important to listen and then to build on and extend what your child says or does and to keep this going for as long as your child is interested.

 Mind in the Making and First Book partnership: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs' by Ellen GalinskyHere is an example. While reading the book Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes…(based on the song) to your child, you can point to your head and say: “Here’s my head. Where’s your head?” Then point to the child’s head: “There’s your head!” Wait for your child’s response and respond back. That is the essence of serve and return. It doesn’t matter if you don’t finish the book–having the conversation is what counts.

As Catherine Snow of Harvard says:

The book creates a platform on which the conversation takes place. [The adult is there to] interpret, to name the pictures, to describe the action, to explain what’s going on. This is one of the reasons why research shows that families in which children are read to regularly are families whose children are more likely to arrive at school ready to learn, with bigger vocabularies and a greater capacity to participate effectively in classrooms. [It's] because they’ve had this kind of focused conversation with adults.

Another important finding from child development research is the importance of promoting executive function life skills. And that sounds like a mouthful too, but it isn’t. These are skills that emerge along a developmental timetable in children. However, they emerge often unnoticed, and as such are typically not consciously promoted, but when they are, children are more likely to thrive in the short- and long-term. That’s why I call them life skills.

All of these life skills are based, in one way or another, in the prefrontal cortex of the brain and we use them to “manage” our attention, our emotions and our behavior in order to reach our goals. So they are executive function life skills.

As Adele Diamond of the University of British Columbia says:

If you look at what predicts how well children will do later in school, more and more evidence is showing that executive functions … actually predict success better than IQ tests.

Here is an example, using the book, Elmo Says, based on the game Simon Says. This book promotes the executive function life skill of Focus and Self Control. Focus and Self Control includes being able to remember rules. It also includes the ability to not just make a quick response, but also to pause and choose a response. Playing games and reading books that require children to remember  Mind in the Making and First Book partnership: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needsand not go on automatic, but to exercise self control, are what promotes executive functions. You can play the game as you read the book with your child. Like the game of Simon Says, your child is not supposed to follow the directions unless the book states: “Elmo says!”

My years of research into executive function skills and the critical impact they have on young children led me to create the book Mind in the Making, a set of seven essential life skills that every child needs. And what better time to promote those skills in children than when you’re sitting down reading with them?

In order to make this a reality, especially for low-income children, I’ve been collaborating with First Book — a nonprofit social enterprise that provides new books and educational materials to children in need — to translate this understanding of why HOW we read to children makes the biggest difference. We’ve put together collections of beloved, iconic children’s books as well as new books that are sure to become classics- for multiple age ranges – that teach these valuable lessons. For programs serving low-income children, these books are available at a very low cost on the First Book Marketplace, an online store available exclusively to classrooms and programs serving children from low-income families.

We’ve also created a set of support tips: simple games and techniques for each book that a parent or educator can use to reinforce one of the seven essential skills. These are freely available for everyone on the Mind in the Making website, and anyone ordering any of the titles through the First Book Marketplace will receive them automatically.

By reaching more educators, clinics, and community programs with the message of teaching life skills early on, we’re helping to ensure that all children find success in the classroom, the workplace and life.

The post First Book and Mind in The Making’s Ellen Galinsky: Reading Time as a Missed Opportunity for Life-Skills Learning appeared first on First Book Blog.

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12. The Lack of Diversity in Children’s Books, Charmingly Illustrated

The Lack of Diversity in Children's Books

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The lack of diversity in children’s books is a serious problem, and one that First Book is working to solve through The Stories for All Project. This terrific piece by artist Tina Kugler illustrates some statistics from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center.

And, while the illustration is charming, the reality is alarming. Sign up for email updates from First Book and we’ll let you know more about The Stories for All Project and how you can get involved.

 

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13. Mary Pope Osborne supports First Book through Classroom Adventures

Mary Pope OsborneMary Pope Osborne, longtime friend and partner of First Book, is offering her readers the opportunity to apply directly for free collections of her beloved titles through her very own Classroom Adventures Program. These books are provided for by grants which Ms. Osborne awards through her Gift of Books Program within Classroom Adventures and through the deep discounts First Book is able to negotiate with publishers.

Titles in Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House series come with non-fiction Fact Trackers, allowing students to experience historically and scientifically significant facts throughout the storyline. Jack and Annie, the two main characters, travel through time and experience various places and historical events. This creates a fun and effective environment for educators to teach these events to students while achieving multiple core standards across the subjects. Teachers report back that using the Magic Tree House series in this manner truly inspires students to read and enjoy learning!

In 2011, Ms. Osborne provided Magic Tree House books to every 4th grader in Newark and has recently donated thousands of books to 3rd and 4th graders in other cities as well. Her Gift of Books program through First Book has provided more than 800 grants and 220,000 books to students across the country.

Teachers can access lesson plans and other free resources on the Classroom Adventures website that may be used with Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House titles and then receive those titles at steep discounts from First Book.

A new partnership with Share My Lesson, featuring free lesson plans developed by educators, program leaders, and available to all, will also continue to expand First Book’s outreach to under-served populations.

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14. Lack of Diversity in Kids’ Books and How to Fix It

The lack of diversity in children’s literature is a problem that affects all children, especially children from low-income families, who rarely see themselves, their families or their communities in the stories they read.

Lack of diversity in kids' booksThe problem is real. In a study last year, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center reviewed thousands of kids’ books, and found that:

  • only 3.3 percent were about African-Americans
  • only 2.1 percent were about Asian-Pacific Americans
  • only 1.5 percent were about Latinos
  • a mere 0.6 percent were about American Indians.

The teachers, librarians, mentors and program leaders we work with tell us time and again that one of the biggest challenges they face in helping kids become strong readers is the lack of stories featuring heroes and experiences they can relate to.

First Book's Commitment to ActionToday, at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative America (CGI America) meeting, hosted by President Bill Clinton, I announced First Book’s commitment to create a sustainable solution to this problem by dramatically expanding the market for diversity in children’s literature through The Stories for All Project.

First Book aggregates the voices — and purchasing power — of thousands of educators and program leaders who serve families at the bottom of the economic pyramid. Through The Stories for All Project, we’re showing the publishing industry that there is a strong, viable and vibrant market out there for books like these.

One more important thing: This isn’t just about kids from African-American or Hispanic families being able to read stories about characters who look like them. All kids should have access to stories featuring diverse characters, to see the world in all its true rich variety.  We’re creating this market in order to make diverse content available to kids from low-income families, but once that content exists, it’s available for everyone.

First Book is truly eager to collaborate with everyone interested in  really changing this landscape for all kids.

Add your name to First Book’s email list to recieve occasional updates about The Stories for All Project and other ways to get new books into the hands of kids in need.

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15. The Stories for All Project: African American Author Tony Medina on Connecting Multicultural Books with Children of Color

Our guest blogger today is author Tony Medina, whose book “DeShawn Days”, from Lee & Low Books, is part of First Book’s Stories For All Project.

The Stories for All Project: African American Author Tony Medina on Connecting Multicultural Books with Children of Color“As a child in the Throgs Neck Housing Projects in the Bronx, I did not grow up with books. The only person I saw reading was my grandmother, who occasionally read mass-market paperback fiction and her Bible that was as big as a phone book. If the Bible fell from the top of the dresser where she kept it, it could take your kneecap off and crush your foot in the process! The only time I recall being exposed to children’s books was at school when the teacher took us to the school library and the librarian allowed us to take out Curious George books.

It was as an adult that I really began to appreciate children’s books. I remember being fascinated by the marriage of art and text. The stories and poems were depicted so beautifully and richly that it seemed as if they blended together seamlessly, creating a world by which even adults would be captivated. I knew right then that I wanted to be part of that magic. I thought, if I as a grownup can be taken with the majesty of these portable art galleries and museums, children must truly love them.

The Stories for All Project: African American Author Tony Medina on Connecting Multicultural Books with Children of ColorSoon after, I began buying children’s books and taking some out from the library. I not only found myself interested in the wonderful stories and poems, I wanted to teach myself how to write them—by reading them. The more I browsed through shelves in bookstores and libraries, the more I noticed that many of the books I came across did not speak to or from the point of view of a kid like me from the projects. I yearned to read about what a child from the ’hood had to say about his life and his world. I remember reading an interview with the African American novelist and Noble Prize-winner Toni Morrison, She said she wrote the books she wanted to read. That nugget of wisdom stayed with me as I made my way to fulfilling my dream of becoming a writer.

By the time I decided to write my own children’s books, a child’s voice began to present itself in my mind. It The Stories for All Project: African American Author Tony Medina on Connecting Multicultural Books with Children of Colorbelonged to a kid named DeShawn Williams, and he was talking about his life growing up in the projects. Not surprisingly, his words seemed to mirror my experiences as a child. Poems in DeShawn’s voice began to take hold of me and I began to write them down. Before I knew it, DeShawn was telling me about the people he loved and lived with: his mother, who was in college; his grandmother, who helped raise him; his uncle, who stood-in for his absent father; his cousin Tiffany, who was like his sister, even though they fought like crazy; and his best friend from school, Johnny Tse, who taught him Karate, which he assumed was from China, but finds out was from Japan. Thus, DeShawn Days, my first book for children, was born.

The Stories for All Project: African American Author Tony Medina on Connecting Multicultural Books with Children of ColorThere was no greater feeling than to see the publication of DeShawn Days, which was initially embraced in manuscript form by my editor and subsequently published by multicultural children’s book publisher, Lee & Low Books. At that time, no books like DeShawn Days were around. The only thing that topped seeing DeShawn Days out in the world was sharing it with children, particularly children who came from a world similar to DeShawn’s. I remember encountering a youngster who had the same name—DeShawn—who was also being raised by his grandmother. This boy exclaimed about me, the author, “How does he know about my life?”

This experience made me realize in a real way, outside of my own literary aspirations, the power of books: how they can matter and make a profound difference in a child’s life, especially when they speak to and from the child’s own experiences and validate his or her life.”

To learn more about our awesome Stories For All Project partner, Lee & Low Books, check out their blog.

The post The Stories for All Project: African American Author Tony Medina on Connecting Multicultural Books with Children of Color appeared first on First Book Blog.

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16. Happy Birthday, Amelia Bedelia! A Q&A With Author, Herman Parish

It’s been 50 years since the original author of Amelia Bedelia, Peggy Parish, debuted the popular children’s book series. Peggy passed away in 1988 but her Amelia Bedelia legacy lives on. Herman Parish, Peggy’s nephew, took over the series after Peggy’s passing.

First Book recently interviewed Herman Parish about Amelia Bedelia turning 50 and why books are important for young readers.

First Book:  How was a beloved character like Amelia Bedelia created? Was there any inspiration?

First Book Q&A with Herman Parish, current author of the of Amelia Bedelia children's book series

Herman Parish, current author of the of Amelia Bedelia children’s book series

Herman Parish:  My Aunt Peggy Parish would often take things literally, not continually as Amelia Bedelia does, but enough times that one could understand how she could have come up with the character naturally. Peggy also drew inspiration from the class of third graders she taught. She would ask them to do something and a student would ask “Do you mean for us to do what you said?” When Peggy thought back on her exact words, she realized that if they were taken literally, there could be a problem. That got her to thinking that there might be a story there.

A couple of years after Peggy passed away, I heard an intriguing tale that may offer a clue as to why she made Amelia Bedelia a housekeeper. I was visiting Peggy’s hometown of Manning, South Carolina and spoke with one of her cousins. They had been playmates at their Grandparents house, where a big dinner was served every Sunday. The Grandparents were named — surprise, surprise — Mr. & Mrs. Rogers.

Mrs. Rogers had both a cook and a housekeeper. There was also a younger housekeeper whose main job was to look after the children because she was hopeless at housework. Peggy’s cousin recalled a time when this young housekeeper had to fill in for the older one. Mrs. Rogers told her to “sweep around the room.” This young housekeeper did just what she was told: she swept the edges of the room clean, but left the center of the room untouched. All of the children laughed at her mistakes. I asked this cousin if he had ever reminded Peggy about this maid. He said that when he did, Peggy did not say anything — she just smiled.

First Book Q&A with Herman Parish, current author of the of Amelia Bedelia children's book seriesFirst Book:  50 years. Would you or your aunt ever think this series would continue on for so long?

Herman Parish:  Peggy Parish passed away in November of 1988. All during that spring and summer, she and Amelia Bedelia were celebrated at national meetings and conventions of teachers and librarians because it was Amelia Bedelia’s 25th Birthday. So Peggy must have had a sense that the character she created would live on long after she was gone. I’m sure that Amelia Bedelia will be around long after I am gone, taking the world at face value as she does exactly what she is told to do.

First Book:  Why are books so important for young readers?

Herman Parish:  I’ll tell you what my Aunt Peggy Parish thought because I agree with her. She believed that there was a very narrow window when a child would be or could be interested in reading. If you missed that opportunity, it was very difficult to engage them later. She felt that reading was important because a child’s imagination can take them anywhere. It opens them up to all sorts of possibilities in their own lives.

First Book: Over 40% of children in the US do not have age-appropriate books in their homes, nor in classrooms or programs they attend due to the fact that they simply cannot afford new books. As someone who writes children’s books, how does this affect you?

Amelia Bedelia titles are currently available on the First Book MarketplaceHerman Parish:  Well, I would be optimistic about it. I would say that whatever could be done to get just one book into the hands of those 40% would give them a big boost make a huge difference to them. Also, whatever books they get would be cherished and recalled fondly for years to come.  As a writer, I do my best to write the best books that I can. That way, if one of those children in the 40% happen to read one of my books, they will have fun. Reading what you like to read one book at a time will develop the habit of simply liking to read, which will be with them for the rest of their lives. I only hope that children would find my books fun to read, which would encourage them to keep reading and seek out other books they would enjoy.

First Book:  What was your favorite children’s book?

Herman Parish:  My Aunt Peggy sent me a copy of The Cat in the Hat when it was first published. At that time, my father was in the Air Force and we were stationed in England. I remember thinking that the Cat himself must be an American because he was so brash and bold, which is how the British saw us. I identified with this character as a role model, as I was born in Texas and wore cowboy boots and jeans in the first grade at an otherwise tame British primary school. The other kids probably thought that I was the Cat!

Amelia Bedelia books are available on the First Book Marketplace, a website exclusively for educators and program leaders that work with kids in need.

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17. Happy Read Across America Day!

Happy Read Across America Day!

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18. Happy Friendiversary!!

Mo Willems celebrating Friendiversary with 2nd graders at Peck & First BookThe spirit of friendship and the power of reading were in full force at Peck Full Service Community School, a Title I School in Holyoke, MA, yesterday.

The school eagerly awaited the arrival of beloved children’s author and illustrator, Mo Willems: Elephant and Piggie posters decorated the hallways and windows of the school while the receptionist tried her hand at sketching the characters, and every available Mo Willems book was checked out of the school library.

Click here to see Mo celebrating Friendiversary!

As second-grade students entered the library to celebrate Friendiversary with Mo Willems himself, costumed Elephant and Piggie characters greeted the students at door. After a grand entrance, Mo read two of his books – There Is A Bird on Your Head! and I Am Invited To a Party! He then conducted a Q&A with the second graders who asked him all sorts of questions. “Why did you work for Cartoon Network?” asked one of the students. “Do you have a pet pigeon?” asked another.

Elephant & Piggie celebrating Friendiversary with Mo Willems, Peck & First BookMo then informed the second graders that they would each be taking home their very own Friendiversary book and the library erupted with deafening screams of excitement. Students immediately began opening their books, each of which were personally signed by Mo. Smiles were on every face and many were sharing and showing their books to friends.

Friendiversary doesn’t have to be celebrated in February, it can be celebrated at any time of the year! Here’s how you can throw your very own Friendiversary party:

  • Get Friendiversary books for the second grade students in your program.
  • Invite everyone to a party!
  • Read together with friends and celebrate Friendiversary, an annual celebration of friendship and reading.

At First Book, we love celebrating Friendiversary each year, partly because we love Mo Willems, but mostly because it’s one more way to get new, quality books into the hands of kids in need, and seeing those kids become excited readers is what we’re all about.

Happy Friendiversary!

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19. “My Favorite Newbery” matching game featuring Robin McKinley

74a4b042beed463593664345441434d414f4141 My Favorite Newbery matching game featuring Robin McKinleyRobin McKinley won the 1985 Newbery for her high fantasy The Hero and the Crown, in which Aerin, the outcast daughter of the king, battles the great dragon Maur. Can you guess which of these Newbery-winning books is the author’s favorite?

a) Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi (2003)
b) Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (1990)
c) Smoky, the Cowhorse by Will James (1927)

This post is part of our ongoing game matching Newbery and Caldecott medalists to their favorite winning titles. To see more entries, click on the tag matching game.

Previously: Neil Gaiman, Erin E. Stead, Lois Lowry, Linda Sue Park, Beth Krommes, Susan Cooper, Jerry Pinkney, Paul O. Zelinsky, Russell Freedman, Sharon Creech, and Emily Arnold McCully.

Coming soon: David Wiesner and Laura Amy Schlitz.

gameshow 500x341 My Favorite Newbery matching game featuring Robin McKinley

Illustration by Devon Johnson

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20. Medalist matching game round-up

gameshow 500x341 Medalist matching game round up

Illustration by Devon Johnson

For our July/August 2012 special awards issue, The Horn Book Magazine asked Newbery and Caldecott Medalists to write about their favorite winning books. On Out of the Box we challenged readers to match each author or illustrator to his or her choice. We’ve collected all the entries here in case you missed any.

For each author or illustrator below, you’re given three possible favorite titles. Click on the correct one and you’ll see that person’s writing about his or her fave; click on the other choices for surprises from The Horn Book.

Neil Gaiman, Newbery Medalist for The Graveyard Book (2009)
a) Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos (2012)
b) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (1963)
c) When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (2010)

Erin E. Stead, Caldecott Medalist for A Sick Day for Amos McGee (2011)
a) Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig (1970)
b) A Tree Is Nice written by Janice Udry and illustrated by Marc Simont (1957)
c) The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (1963)

Lois Lowry, Newbery Medalist for Number the Stars (1990) and The Giver (1994)
a) Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz (2008)
b) The Grey King [The Dark Is Rising Sequence] by Susan Cooper (1976)
c) The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (2009)

Linda Sue Park, Newbery Medalist for A Single Shard (2002)
a) Criss Cross 0 Comments on Medalist matching game round-up as of 1/1/1900

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21. Ten Books Every Child Should Own

Ten Books Every Child Should OwnAt First Book, our mission is to provide new, high-quality books to children from low-income families. We’ve gotten pretty good at it over the last twenty years. In fact, we’re about to distribute our 100 millionth book, and we want YOU to help us choose what it should be.

We know that books are critical to turning kids into readers and helping them become success stories – in school and in life. So we’ve put together a list of ten amazing books that we think every child should own as they grow up. Click here to see the list

Ten Books Every Child Should Own

These aren’t just some our favorites. These books are some of the all-time best-selling titles available on the First Book Marketplace, a website available exclusively to educators and program leaders that work with kids in need.

Voting begins today, Oct. 29, and continues through Nov. 9. To vote, visit firstbook.org/vote.

The winning title will be announced on Nov. 15.

In addition to the voting website, copies of all ten books will be available as a special package to all of the 40,000 schools and programs that make up the First Book network.

Anyone who works with kids in need is eligible to get books from First Book. In addition to the First Book Marketplace, where over 3,000 titles are available at low cost, First Book also regularly distributes large quantities of brand-new books donated by publishers, free of charge. To sign up, visit First Book on the web.

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22. Why I Wanted to be An Author

First Book employee & children's author, Erica Perl does an author visitWhen I was a little kid, I wanted to be an author because I wanted to find one of my books on the library shelves.  Seriously, that was my dream: a big “PE” (for PERL) sticker on the spine and everything.  While I must confess that seeing my books on an alphabetized bookshelf still gives me a thrill, I now know that this is not the best part of writing for children.

The best part, hands down, is sharing my books with kids.

While some kids are fortunate enough to get to meet authors like Jeff Kinney and Suzanne Collins at book stores, festivals, and even their own schools, many kids are not so lucky.  And many schools and programs do not have the resources or budgets to bring in authors to visit and meet with their students.  Luckily, there are great organizations that work to bring authors and illustrators to kids who might otherwise never meet them.  And many of these organizations partner with First Book so every child in attendance receives a brand new signed book to keep.

For example, here in the greater Washington, DC area, there are several groups that facilitate author visits for programs and schools serving children in need.  For example, last month I had a great visit to Washington DC’s Garfield Elementary School with Turning the Page.  At this Community Night event, I got to lead a standing-room-only crowd of kids and parents in a spirited reader’s theater performance of Chicken Butt! First Book employee & children's author, Erica Perl does an author visit Last month I also had the pleasure of visiting Govans Elementary School in Baltimore with Write Brain Kids.  It was a huge treat to hear the fourth grade students try out their “Ace” voices as they chuckled over scenes from When Life Gives You O.J.  In addition to those two programs, I have worked with many Washington DC area programs including An Open Book Foundation, PEN-Faulkner’s Writers in Schools (WinS) program, and The Reading Connection.  Through First Book, authors and illustrators are able to connect with similar programs serving communities across the United States and in Canada.  Examples that come to mind include The Foundation for Children’s Books in Boston, and New York City’s Behind the Book.

Each program is unique in its format and age focus but all have certain things in common:  they serve schools and programs where a published author or illustrator is not someone the kids usually get to meet, they give kids books to call their own and they succeed in getting kids super-excited about reading, writing, drawing and books!

And one more thing: they all have as much of a positive impact on the authors as they do on the kids!

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23. 15,000 New Books on the National Mall, Plus Celebrities, Cabinet Secretaries and Cute Kids

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On Saturday, volunteers from across the country joined First Book on the National Mall in Washington DC to celebrate President Obama’s National Day of Service by providing 15,000 brand-new books to DC-area children from low-income families.

Click here to see photos of the event, including pictures of volunteers, political leaders, and even a few celebrities.

First Book was one of seven nonprofits featured at the event, highlighting the idea of community service in such areas as education, the environment and support for military families.

??Each volunteer packed two books into a bag, and decorated bookplates with personal messages.

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The books, including “Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” by Doreen Rappaport, were provided thanks to the generous support of our friends at KPMG, the U.S. audit, tax and advisory firm, through its KPMG’s Family for Literacy program.

The bags will be distributed in the coming days to students throughout DC, thanks to First Book’s partnership with the American Federation of Teachers.

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Even if you weren’t able to join us on the National Mall, you can still bring new books to kids in need. Click here to donate to our National Day of Service Virtual Book Drive. Every $2.50 provides one new books to a child in need.

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24. Will YOUR KIDS Have Books for ‘Read Across America’ Day?

Chandler Arnold, First Book's executive vice-president, with a student from Belmont Runyon Elementary school in Newark, NJ, at a ‘Read Across America’ event last year.

Chandler Arnold, First Book’s executive vice-president, with a student from Belmont Runyon Elementary school in Newark, NJ, at a ‘Read Across America’ event last year.

Read Across America Day is fast approaching; on March 1, children across the country will celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday by reading ‘The Cat in the Hat’ and other childhood favorites.

But, as much as we love Dr. Seuss, the READING part is the important bit. At First Book, we will always line up for cake and ice cream, but books and reading come first. Because kids who read at home become stronger, more capable readers, and that’s the critical ingredient in become successful — in school and in life.

‘Read Across America’ is an annual event sponsored by our friends at the National Education Association (NEA). First Book is proud to do our part for such a critical issue.

Here’s what you can do:

And most importantly of all, take the time to read to a child in your life. You’ll both be glad you did.

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25. Help Second Graders Celebrate Friendiversary with New Books!

For the third year in a row, our friend Mo Willems, beloved children’s author & illustrator, will be providing brand-new Elephant & Piggie books and activity kits to kids in need!

Friendiversary collection & activity kit available through First BookThe books and activity kits will go to second grade students in New Orleans, Springfield and Holyoke, Mass. (These places have special meaning for Mo; he grew up in New Orleans and now resides in Massachusetts.)

Mo’s Elephant & Piggie characters inspired First Book to create Friendiversary, an annual  celebration of friendship and reading.  After all, who better exemplifies the meaning of friendship than Elephant & Piggie?

You can help second-graders across the country celebrate Friendiversary on Feb. 26!  Click here to donate.

For every $33 donated, 10 second grade students will receive their own Mo Willems books and activity kits for the celebration.

Happy Friendiversary!

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