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1. Building Classroom Community in Second Grade

Check out LEE & LOW BOOKS’ Building Classroom Community Unit for Second Grade! The FREE and downloadable unit consists of eight read aloud lesson plans to inspire your best classroom community yet.

The start of second grade is ripe with opportunities for building long-lasting positive school behaviors and attitudes. Time spent building relationships and establishing social and academic expectations can pay dividends all year long.

Using a rich collection of diverse picture books to support this work lays the foundation for a classroom culture of appreciation and acceptance.

The Building Classroom Community Unit for Second Grade consists of eight read alouds and provides a structured approach for this important work, yet the lessons are flexible enough for you to teach language and behaviors specific to your students’ population, preferences, and goals. Each lesson is intended for multiple days so that from the beginning students are exposed to close reading and the value of multiple readings. We believe the first eight read alouds, or roughly the first two months of school, are critical to setting the tone of your classroom community, read aloud procedures, and expectations for engagement.

Scope & Sequence
Scope & Sequence

This unit combines relationship-building opportunities with direct instruction and guided practice in the art of thoughtful conversation. Then, by closely studying a variety of engaging protagonists, students learn to use characters’ thoughts, words, and actions to gather information about their emotions and goals. Discussions structured around graphic organizers, such as two-column charts and concept webs, help students begin to make connections between characters’ actions and the pro-social behaviors present in a strong classroom community.

Each lesson may be used as a stand alone, but we hope that using these books as a broad unit will help lay the foundation for a strong classroom community with strong learning expectations. We designed the unit to spiral. Additionally, each lesson and book can be adapted for other grades (and we hope you will do this!).
Book extension activities encourage exploration of these topics through writing, drama, and art, as well as lay the foundation for collaborative learning during your year.

Here’s to a meaningful year of reading!

PINTEREST Building Classroom Community Grade 2Download the FREE Building Classroom Community Unit for Second Grade here

Further reading on teaching literacy in SECOND GRADE

Guided Reading Collections from Bebop Books

2 Comments on Building Classroom Community in Second Grade, last added: 10/13/2016
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2. Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: Bird

Lee and Low 25th anniversaryLEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and to recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used in classrooms today as well, as hear from the authors and illustrators.

Featured title: Bird

Author: Zetta Elliott

Illustrator: Shadra Strickland

Synopsis: Young Mekhai, better known as Bird, loves to draw. With drawing you can erase the things that don’t turn out right. In real life, problems aren’t so easily fixed. As Bird struggles to understand the death of his beloved grandfather and his artistic brother’s decline into drug addiction, he escapes into drawing as an outlet for his emotions and imagination. Along the way, with the help of his grandfather’s friend, Bird finds his own special somethin’ and wings to fly. Told with spare grace, Bird is a touching look at how a young boy copes with real-life troubles. Readers will with be heartened by Bird’s quiet resilience and moved by the healing power of paper and pencil.

Awards and honors:

  • New Voices Award Honor, Lee & Low Books
  • Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award, American Library Association
  • Ezra Jack Keats Award, Ezra Jack Keats Foundation
  • ALA Notable Children’s Books, American Library Association
  • Best Children’s Books of 2008, Kirkus Reviews
  • Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
  • Celebrate with Books List 2008, Cleveland Public Library
  • Editor’s Choice 2008, The Bloomsbury Review
  • “Choices” 2009, Cooperative Children’s Book Center
  • Best Children’s Books of the Year, Bank Street College of Education
  • 2009 Paterson Prize for Books for Young People, The Poetry Center
  • Storytelling World Resource Awards Honor, Storytelling World magazine
  • West Virginia Children’s Choice Book Award

The story behind the story (read the full interview here):

 LEE & LOW BOOKS: What part of this book was the biggest challenge for you?

Zetta Elliott, author: When I first wrote the story at the start of 2002, there was nothing challenging about it at all. I wrote it quickly—in less than a day, I believe. The story was simply ready to come out. The biggest challenge came in 2006 when my editor asked me to turn the book into a [longer form]. It was difficult to accept praise for the unique voice I had created but then to manipulate that voice after I felt I had said all I needed to say. The story felt complete to me, but it wasn’t complete to others; and so it was challenging to satisfy other readers’ needs.

LEE & LOW BOOKS: Bird tackles some very serious subject matter. Why did you choose to approach these subjects through a picture book as opposed to something aimed at older readers?

Zetta Elliott, author: Children are open: they see, and hear, and feel things, just like adults; but they don’t have access to the same information, and they can’t process that information in the same way. I understand the impulse to protect children from difficult subject matter, but sometimes our efforts to shield children actually silence kids instead. The children I’ve worked with know about drugs; they know what junkies look like, how they act. But they may not understand why. Many urban children have had a family member affected by drug addiction, and increasingly, many children in small towns are also having their families torn apart by drugs such as crystal meth. We teach children to “just say no,” but we don’t always give them the tools they need to understand addiction. I felt a picture book could promote discussion between children and adults. I definitely see parents reading this book with a lot of conversation—it’s okay to stop reading and start talking! Give the child an opportunity to ask questions or express emotions. When we demystify things such as drug addiction, we empower children to make better choices.

—Zetta Elliott, author of Bird, in an interview with LEE & LOW BOOKS

Resources for teaching with Bird:

  • Inspire a philosophical exchange overBird with these discussion questions created by the University of Washington Center for Philosophy for Children, which is dedicated to bringing philosophical inquiry into schools
  • Discover how to teach philosophy with elementary school students with the Bird book module from the Teaching Children Philosophy Program
  • Use the activities and discussion questions on page 17-18 for Bird created by the 2009 Coretta Scott King Awards Committee, American Library Association
  • Check out the Teacher’s Guide from LEE & LOW BOOKS
  • Read why to read sad and dark books with children

Additional collections including Bird:

Book activity:

Uncle Son is a mentor for Bird. Pair students up and have them interview each other about who their mentors are. Ask students to brainstorm a list of questions to ask their partner first, such as: What is a mentor in your opinion? Who is or has been a mentor for you? What advice has she/he given or model behavior has she/he demonstrated for you? Do you think every person needs a mentor? Why or why not? What makes a good mentor? Students should take notes during their interview of their partner and then write a description of their partner’s mentor. Encourage volunteers to share their reflections with the class.

How have you used Bird? Let us know!

Celebrate with us! Check out our 25 Years Anniversary Collection.

0 Comments on Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: Bird as of 10/3/2016 9:34:00 AM
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3. Building Classroom Community in First Grade

Check out LEE & LOW BOOKS’ Building Classroom Community Unit for First Grade! The FREE and downloadable unit consists of eight read aloud lesson plans to inspire your best classroom community yet.

The start of first grade is ripe with opportunities for building long-lasting positive school behaviors and attitudes. Time spent building relationships and establishing social and academic expectations can pay dividends all year long.

Using a rich collection of diverse picture books to support this work lays the foundation for a classroom culture of appreciation and acceptance.

The Building Classroom Community Unit for First Grade consists of eight read alouds and provides a structured approach for this important work, yet the lessons are flexible enough for you to teach language and behaviors specific to your students’ population, preferences, and goals. Each lesson is intended for multiple days so that from the beginning students are exposed to close reading and the value of multiple readings. We believe the first eight read alouds, or roughly the first two months of school, are critical to setting the tone of your classroom community, read aloud procedures, and expectations for engagement.

PINTEREST Building Classroom Community in First GradeDuring this unit you will:

  • review and build on the expectations for listening and discussion participation introduced in kindergarten, with a new emphasis on staying focused on a topic and building on others’ responses
  • encourage students to learn about one another through discussions of favorite individual and family pastimes and goals for the year ahead
  • engage in rigorous yet developmentally appropriate discussions about crucial topics such as individual strengths and challenges, managing disagreements kindly, and persevering through mistakes and difficult tasks

Each lesson may be used as a stand alone, but we hope that using these books as a broad unit will help lay the foundation for a strong classroom community with strong learning expectations. We designed the unit to spiral. Additionally, each lesson and book can be adapted for other grades (and we hope you will do this!).

Book extension activities encourage exploration of these topics through writing, drama, and art, as well as lay the foundation for collaborative learning during your year.

Here’s to a meaningful year of reading!

Screen Shot 2016-09-15 at 1.06.57 PM
Scope & Sequence

Download the FREE Building Classroom Community Unit for First Grade here

Further reading on teaching literacy in FIRST GRADE

Guided Reading Collections from Bebop Books

Stay tuned for second grade!

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4. Teaching teamwork

The capacity to work in teams is a vital skill that undergraduate and graduate students need to learn in order to succeed in their professional careers and personal lives. While teamwork is often part of the curriculum in elementary and secondary schools, undergraduate and graduate education is often directed at individual effort and testing that emphasizes solitary performance.

The post Teaching teamwork appeared first on OUPblog.

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5. 25 Books from 25 Years: First Day in Grapes

25th anniversary posterLEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year! To recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used in classrooms today and hear from the authors and illustrators.

Today, we are celebrating First Day in Grapes, an inspirational story for children of all backgrounds. Chico’s story of personal triumph and bravery in the face of bullying is a testament to the inner strength in us all.

Featured title: First Day in Grapes

Author: L. King Perez

Illustrator: Robert Casilla

First Day in Grapes cover imageSynopsis: All year long Chico and his family move up and down the state of California picking fruits and vegetables. Every September they pick grapes and Chico starts at a new school again. Often other children pick on him — maybe because he is always new or maybe because he speaks Spanish sometimes.

Chico’s first day in third grade turns out to be different. His teacher likes him right away, and she and his classmates are quick to recognize his excellent math skills. He may even get to go to the math fair! When the fourth-grade bullies confront Chico in the lunchroom, he responds wisely with strengths of his own.

Awards and Honors:

  • Pura Belpré Illustrator Award Honor, ALSC/REFORMA
  • Notable Children’s Book, Smithsonian
  • Choices, Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC)

From the Illustrator:

“Stories that help kids become familiar with kids of other cultures or others in different situations are books that I like to illustrate. I appreciate the way the author put the main character in situations that kids deal with daily in real life and how the boy used his wits to get out of tough situations.

I related to the kid in this story in a wacky way when it came to avoiding bullies. When I was about nine years old there was a boy who picked on me daily, until one day I came up with an idea. I thought that if I walked by him making a face that he wouldn’t recognize me and leave me alone. The plan worked, but now that I think of it, I doubt it was because he didn’t recognize me.”

Purchase a copy of First Day in Grapes here.

Other Editions: Did you know that First Day in Grapes also comes in a Spanish edition?

Primer día en las uvas

First Day in Grapes Spanish edition cover

Resources for teaching with First Day in Grapes: First Day in Grapes Teacher’s Guide

For more titles about different experiences with bullying and peer pressure, check out our Bullying/Anti-Bullying Collection here.

Have you used First Day in Grapes? Let us know!

Celebrate with us! Check out our 25 Years Anniversary Collection.

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6. Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: Babu’s Song

LEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and to recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used in classrooms today as well, as hear from the authors and illustrators.

Featured title: Babu’s Song

Author: Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen

Illustrator: Aaron Boyd

Synopsis: Babu’s Song is the story of a young Tanzanian boy who learns a lesson about family love after selling the special music box his grandfather made for him. Set in contemporary Tanzania, this story is a tender testament to the love between grandchild and grandparent.

Awards and honors:

  • Children’s Books of the Year, Bank Street College of Education
  • “Choices,” Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC)
  • 40 Books About Sports, Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC)
  • Parents’ Choice Recommended, Parents’ Choice Foundation
  • South Carolina Children’s Book Award Nominee, South Carolina Association of School Librarians
  • Storytelling World Resource Award, Storytelling World magazine
  • Children’s Africana Book Award, African Studies Association
  • Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award Master List, Pennsylvania School Librarians Association
  • West Virginia Children’s Book Award Master List, West Virginia Children’s Book Award Program

The story behind the story: 

“To this day Babu’s Song is still one of my favorite books and though I’ll illustrated over 20 books since then, I still go back to it when I’m speaking with kids and other artists. Babu’s Song is such a beautiful story and it is still one of my most requested books when I talk to people.

Working on Babu’s Song continues to touch my life as an artist as much today as it did when I began illustrating it. Not only because it’s one of my most recognized and colorful books I’ve illustrated, but also because it helped set the trajectory of my artistic and social conscious. Growing up where books (and movies) too often didn’t contain subjects or people that I saw in my own life I knew that when I began illustrating books my priority would be to capture people and places that we don’t often see or know on a map.

In Babu’s Song I got to show a boy and his father in Tanzania dealing with poverty and loss that while not uncommon in the world are often unseen by most of us, even when next door. And while this story does deal very honestly with the boy’s struggles, it always keeps its heart and shows us that there is a way to persevere. So a story about a little boy and his grandfather on the other side of the globe becomes someone we can begin to see (empathize with) thus bringing us all a little closer. “

Aaron Boyd, illustrator of Babu’s Song and new title Calling the Water Drum

Resources for teaching with Babu’s Song:

babu's songBook activity: Ask students to write a letter to their grandparent or grandparent-figure in their life. Review the structure and tone of a friendly letter. Students should describe what they admire about this person and include questions to learn more about them.

How have you used Babu’s Song? Let us know!

Celebrate with us! Check out our 25 Years Anniversary Collection.

0 Comments on Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: Babu’s Song as of 8/22/2016 8:36:00 AM
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7. 10 Reasons to Celebrate Bilingual Books

Last year, we gave our 10 favorite reasons to read diversely. One reason being that we live in a diverse world, so why not the books that we read? Books help us see the world through someone else’s eyes, and in the case of bilingual books, through another language.

Here are our ten favorite reasons to read bilingual books!

Bilingual books…

  1. Teach us how to read in two languages.
  2. Celebrate the 22% of students who speak a language other than English at home.
  3. Develop strong critical thinking skills
  4. Keep our brains young, healthy, and sharp.
  5. Expose us to new ways of communicating.
  6. Make reading an inclusive activity for all students.
  7. Highlight the achievement of knowing more than one language.
  8. Encourage interest in other cultures and languages.
  9. Expand our vocabulary and lexicon.
  10. Bring readers together.

Lee and Low Bilingual Books Poster

Tell us why you read bilingual books!

2 Comments on 10 Reasons to Celebrate Bilingual Books, last added: 9/19/2016
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8. Plan your Month Roundup: New Resources for September

It’s finally September, which means back-to-school season has officially begun! Plan out your month with these book recommendations and resources to get you ready for the autumn season:

Richard Wright’s Birthday-September 4
Richard Wright and the Library Card

Labor Day-September 7
My Teacher Can Teach…Anyone! 
Sky Dancers
Amelia’s Road
First Day in Grapes
The Have a Good Day Café

September BooksInternational Literacy Day-September 8
Amelia’s Road
Armando and the Blue Tarp School
Babu’s Song
David’s Drawings
Destiny’s Gift
Drumbeat in Our Feet
Elizabeti’s School
Etched In Clay 
First Day in Grapes
Howard Thurman’s Great Hope
How We Are Smart
Ira’s Shakespeare Dream 
Love to Langston
My Teacher Can Teach…Anyone! 
Richard Wright and the Library Card
Seeds of Change
The Storyteller’s Candle
Su Dongpo: Chinese Genius
Tofu Quilt 
Up the Learning Tree
Yasmin’s Hammer
Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree

National Grandparent’s Day-September 13
Abuela’s Weave
Babu’s Song
Bird 
The Blue Roses
Bowman’s Store 
Chachaji’s Cup
DeShawn Days
Finding the Music
Going Home, Coming Home
Goldfish and Chrysanthemums
Grandfather Counts
Grandma and Me at the Flea
Grandma’s Purple Flowers
The Have a Good Day Café
Honoring Our Ancestors
Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-Ji
How Far Do You Love Me? 
The Hula Hoopin’ Queen
Janna and the Kings
Juna’s Jar
Keepers
Kiki’s Journey
Love to Mamá
Maya’s Blanket
No Mush Today 
Only One Year
Poems in the Attic
Rainbow Stew
Rattlesnake Mesa
Seaside Dream
Shanghai Messenger
Singing With Momma Lou
Summer of the Mariposas
Sunday Shopping
Tashi and the Tibetan Flower Cure
The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen
Two Mrs. Gibsons

Hispanic Heritage Month-September 15-October 15
A Movie in My Pillow
Abuela’s Weave
Alicia Afterimage
America: A Book of Opposites
Amelia’s Road
Angels Ride Bikes and Other Fall Poems
Animal Poems of the Igazu
Armando and the Blue Tarp School
Arrorro, mi nino
¡Béisbol! Latino Baseball Pioneers and Legends
Birthday in the Barrio
The Birthday Swap
Calling the Doves
Confetti Poems for Children
Capoeira: Game! Dance! Martial Art!
Drum Chavi, Drum!
Estela’s Swap
Family Pictures
Finding the Music
First Day in Grapes
Friends from the Other Side
From the Bellybutton of the Moon and Other Summer Poems
From North to South
Gracias · Thanks
Grandma and Me at the Flea
The Harvest Birds
I Had a Hippopotamus
Home at Last
Iguanas in the Snow and Other Winter Poems
In My Family
Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems
Let Me Help!
Love to Mamá
Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match
Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash
Maya’s Blanket
My Diary from Here to There
My Very Own Room
My Papa Diego and Me
Nana’s Big Surprise
Ole! Flamenco
Parrots Over Puerto Rico
Poems to Dream Together
The Pot that Juan Built
Prietita and the Ghost Woman
Quinito Day and Night
Quinito’s Neighborhood
The Road to Sanitago
Say Hola to Spanish
Say Hola to Spanish, Otra Vez (Again)
Say Hola to Spanish at the Circus
The Storyteller’s Candle
The Upside Down Boy
Uncle Nacho’s Hat
Under the Lemon Moon
When This World Was New
Xochitl and the Flowers
¡Yum! ¡Mmmm! ¡Que Rico! America’s Sproutings

Ray Charles’ Birthday-September 23
Ray Charles

National Little League Month
Baseball Saved Us
¡Béisbol! Latino Baseball Pioneers and Legends
Catching the Moon
Keepers
Louis Sockalexis
Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy
Willie Wins

International Literacy Day:
5 Strategies to Help Parents Navigate Lexile
7 Strategies to Help Booksellers and Librarians Navigate Lexile
7 Tips to Help Make Reading With Your Child This Year Achievable
Diversity in Children’s Literature and the Legacy of Pura Belpré
Where Can I Find Great Diverse Children’s Books?
Checklist: 8 Steps to Creating a Diverse Book Collection
Choosing the World Our Students Read
Where to Find Culturally Diverse Literature to Pair with Your Required Curriculum
Diversifying Your Back-to-School Reading
Why Do We Need Diverse Books in Non-Diverse Schools?
8 Ideas for Educators to Get Students Excited About the Public Library This School Year
10 Myths About Teaching STEM Books and How You Can Teach STEM in Your Classroom Right Now
Growing Up Without Books: Discovering DeShawn

Grandparent’s Day:
Sunday Shopping Activity Sheet
Intergenerational Activities for Grandparents Day
Make a Grandma and Me Scrapbook
Read and Make an I Love You Book
Rainbow Stew Inspired Felt Food Tutorials

Hispanic Heritage Month:
5 Books for Hispanic Heritage Month
11 Educator Resources for Teaching Children About Latin American Immigration and Migration
11 Books on Latin American Immigration and Migration
5 Tips to Engage Latino Families and Students
Using Picture Books to Teach and Discuss Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera with Students
Using Dual Language and Bilingual Books in First and Second Grade
Using Dual Language and Bilingual Books in Third and Fourth Grade
Using Dual Language and Bilingual Books and Parent Volunteers to Foster Deep Thinking
Monica Brown on Dehumanizing Language and the Immigration Debate

National Little League Month:
Watch Kevin Costner and Jillian Estell Read Catching the Moon from the Screen Actors Guild Foundation and Storyline Online
Celebrate and Teach About Baseball with Toni Stone
Women in Professional Baseball: “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend”
Book and Activity Suggestions to Match Your Summer Adventure: Ballparks!

What are your favorite September reads? Let us know in the comments!

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9. Building Classroom Community in Kindergarten

Check out LEE & LOW BOOKS’ Building Classroom Community Unit for Kindergarten! The FREE and downloadable unit consists of eight read aloud lesson plans to inspire your best classroom community yet.

The start of the kindergarten year is ripe with opportunities for building long-lasting positive school behaviors and attitudes. Time spent building relationships and establishing social and academic expectations can pay dividends all year long.

Using a rich collection of diverse picture books to support this work lays the foundation for a classroom culture of appreciation and acceptance.

The Building Classroom Community Unit for Kindergarten consists of eight read aloud lesson plans. Each lesson paired with a book is intended for multiple days so that from the beginning students are exposed to close reading and the value of multiple readings. We believe the first eight read alouds, or roughly the first two months of school, are critical to setting the tone of your classroom community, read aloud procedures, and expectations for engagement.

Scope and Sequence
Scope and Sequence

During this unit you will:

  • help students connect to one another by discussing things they like and their families
  • share goals for the kindergarten year to create a sense of shared purpose
  • establish a common vocabulary for discussing emotions, which will support both social and literacy goals
  • generate clear, specific expectations for active listening in groups and partnerships, respectful communication, treating one another with kindness, solving problems, and working together as a community of learners.

Each lesson may be used as a stand alone, but we hope that using these books as a broad unit will help lay the foundation for a strong classroom community with strong learning expectations. We designed the unit to spiral. Additionally, each lesson and book can be adapted for other grades (and we hope you will do this!).

Book extension activities provide initial opportunities to practice these crucial behaviors, and the resource materials you create will support ongoing focus on these topics.

Here’s to a meaningful year of reading!

Download the FREE Building Classroom Community Unit for Kindergarten here

Building Classroom Community in Kindergarten (1)Further reading on teaching literacy in kindergarten

Guided Reading Collections from Bebop Books

Stay tuned for first and second grades!

4 Comments on Building Classroom Community in Kindergarten, last added: 9/16/2016
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10. Interview: Why Culturally Responsive Literature Matters

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 4.21.07 PMGuest BloggerIn this interview with The Open Book, guest blogger R. Joseph Rodríguez, Assistant Professor of Literacy and English Education at The University of Texas at El Paso, shares strategies on teaching Guadalupe García McCall’s novels in middle and high school English Language Arts, as well as discusses the impact of culturally responsive and relevant literature in the classroom.

What inspired you to write about Guadalupe García McCall, her literature, and classroom applications?

 Guadalupe García McCall’s writings create many connections and destinations in my life, crossing many geographies and memories across time—from my growing up to today. As I read her books, I travel in conversation with her characters.

In literature, we enact the elements of storytelling and literacy by becoming involved with all the facets that make a story readable, understandable, relatable, and enjoyable.

The worlds García McCall creates in her literary works mirror my childhood and journeys. Specifically, Piedras Negras, Coahuila, México, where García McCall was born, is the home of my maternal aunt Cristina, uncle Andrés, and cousins. While growing up, my parents, siblings, and I traveled from Houston to visit them.

Like in García McCall’s novels and poems, many families and cultures are before us—en vivo and in print—with storytellers and cuentos crossing the national grids of the U.S. and México borderlands.

For teachers interested in using Summer of the Mariposas and/or Under the Mesquite—what would you recommend they use the texts for? What part of curriculum? What could they pair this with—any literature or primary source documents? 

The novel in verse Under the Mesquite meets various standards in English language arts that include poetry and various literary elements as well as other disciplines. The book presents an adolescent female who creates poetry and dramatic performances, supports her siblings as a caring problem solver, and seeks ways to keep her mother’s memory alive. The text can be paired with other novels in verse that feature characters with dilemmas and choices that lead to trials and triumphs.

Several primary sources can be considered such as the literary works within the novel, diaries and ballads with historical and personal accounts, and excerpts from classics and contemporary classics that feature first-person point of view such as A Good Long Way, American Ace, Brown Girl Dreaming, CrashBoomLove, My Own True Name, Locomotion, and Republic, among others.

How do you think Under the Mesquite or Summer of the Mariposas could be used to support student writing? What student work or output could teachers have students create to demonstrate understanding? 

As teachers, we can welcome diverse voices in our classrooms and students’ lives by allowing characters to move from the page to other media: performing and visual arts. Reading García McCall’s novels and poetry remind us of the varied stories we carry with our families and in our interior—alive and in memory.

We carry these stories beyond our own biological families to the literary characters and families we meet through the mirrors, windows, and doors of their lives created by our author and medium García McCall and our very own lives. Student can write about these memories with an image that launches the conversation to a recording that can create a collage of storytelling with varied techniques and improvisation for the classroom stage.

Rodriguez pull quote 1There are no required texts for the Common Core State Standards, but we still see that schools and districts can be shy to branch out from more classic texts (“classics” as in texts that seem to appear in every high school year in year out as well as many that are Caucasian and European American literary canon). Why do you think that is? What can teachers do to include more contemporary and/or culturally responsive and relevant texts with limited time and flexibility in the year and curriculum?

Becoming aware of the civic communities that border our schools, the cultural resources and references that inform ideas and decisions, and students’ everyday resilience are key insights to create community through literature and even transport readers to other places in time, to the present, and toward the future.

As teachers, we can also plan literary experiences that create dialogue across borders, cultures, and migrations. Our lessons can reflect adventure, drama, choice, conflict, dilemma, and triumph experienced by characters through literature from diverse experiences, places, and realities. This requires deliberate planning with concepts and competencies for culturally responsive and sustaining instruction that places classics and contemporary classics in dialogue with deeper learning, thinking, and questioning.

Lastly, through the guidance of their teachers, many students are book borrowers who experience libraries in classrooms, schools, homes, and civic communities. As a result, students are permitted self-selection of both print books and e-books.

Is it enough to select a “culturally responsive” book for the curriculum? What does culturally responsive and relevant instruction look like? How can high school teachers make the whole process from book selection, introduction, instruction, and student work/output culturally responsive and relevant? 

When I found García McCall’s novels, which were recommended by Pat Mora, I heard the familiar voices come alive and the stories speak to me from the print and digital pages of our national and binational literary canons. Culture is really about imagination and knowledge and how these sustain us as communities. Thus, as teachers we must be in conversation with our teaching colleagues as well as readers who are among us: our students, their families, librarians, and critics.

There are several book awards that can inform our literary selection and introduction. For instruction and student work, we can rely on resources from the American Library Association, Edutopia, ReadWriteThink.org, and publications from ILA and NCTE. Moreover, the process for selecting a book can take into consideration teaching standards and student learning outcomes that promote growth with interdisciplinary thinking and learning.

Teachers interested in the inclusion of diverse literary traditions understand the role of reading, writing, authorship, and representation in the literacy classroom. The research informs us that students seek literary characters and favor reading and writing experiences that reflect their life choices and questions in both public and private spaces. These choices and questions can be explored through both classics and contemporary classics.

Rodriguez pull quote 2What is at stake if educators do not include culturally responsive and relevant works like García McCall in middle and high school classrooms?

What is at stake here is our democracy and shared efforts for global world understanding. Like García McCall and her characters reveal, we barter through world languages and literature. As a result, we have examples of human cultures meeting and sharing in the making of civilizations, languages, and stories. My earliest memories of family gatherings reflect bilingualism and biculturalism with biliteracies bringing us the warmth and energy to express ourselves so freely and with laughter and occasionally some of life’s sorrows.

Partly driven by fear and also by limited access to print and marketing, diverse voices were missing in textbooks and shelves across the country. This is changing as the U.S. mirrors more who its inhabitants have been: a country of diverse citizens with shared values about literacy and learning. We cannot succumb to fear with non-publication and non-participation if we are to keep our reading public alive for democracy to survive.

I remember the great importance placed on attendance in my schooling. In retrospect, many went uncounted and unaccounted for in my schooling: the literary characters who could forge new ways of seeing, reading, and interpreting adolescent life and thought, yet remained absent. That need not happen any longer as we rethink language arts and literacy education. Our teaching profession calls us to be committed to social change, reflection, and action by bringing more literacy opportunities into the lives of our students—of all ages, abilities, backgrounds, colors, and reading interests—and their diverse communities.


Joseph Rodríguez is Assistant Professor of Literacy and English Education at The University of Texas at El Paso, located on the border across from Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México. His research interests include children’s and young adult literatures, socially responsible biliteracies, and academic writing. Catch him virtually @escribescribe or via email: rjrodriguez6@utep.edu.

For further reading by R. Joseph Rodríguez:

Why Culturally Responsive Literature MattersUnder the Mesquite:

Summer of the Mariposas:

Guadalupe García McCall:

 

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11. Celebrating Día at School

 El día de los niños / El día de los libros is turning 20!

Join Spanish Playground, MommyMaestra, American Immigration Council and LEE & LOW BOOKS for a dynamic discussion on how to create an effective and meaningful Día celebration at schools.

Sign up to learn how to:

  • start/magnify a Día celebration at your school
  • invest stakeholders
  • select culturally responsive and relevant books
  • engage English Language Learners and bilingual/multilingual families

Dia Day 2016

Panelists will offer examples and strategies they’ve used to promote multiculturalism and inclusion through books and storytelling techniques to celebrate Día any day.

Meet the Panelists

  • Claire Tesh, Senior Manager of the Community Education Program at American Immigration Council
  • Susan K. Coti, professional storyteller and educator
  • Monica Olivera, Founder and Lead Education Writer at MommyMaestra and Co-Founder of Latinas for Latino Lit
  • Carolyn Vidmar, Public Librarian and Summer Reading Program Coordinator at Spaish Playground

Meet the Moderator

At the end of the panel discussion, all attendees will receive a FREE, ready-to-go toolkit with tips and strategies from American Immigration Council, MommyMaestra, Spanish Playground, and LEE & LOW. Additionally, proof of attendance and participation is available for professional development credit.

Overview

Title: Celebrating Día at School

Date: Thursday, April 14, 2016

Time: 04:00pm Eastern Daylight Time

Duration: 1 hour

Cost: FREE

Recommended for: Educators, Caregivers, and Community Coordinators teaching K-5 students in traditional and non-traditional classroom settings

Learn more: #TeachDia @SpanishPlaygrd @LatinMami @LEEandLOW @ThnkImmigration

Register here!

 together in a panel discussion-Sources with ideas for celebrating El día de los niños / El día de los libros

Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Specialist, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language for second through sixth grade in Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in the Bay Area, CA where she became passionate about best practices for supporting English Language Learners and parent engagement. In her column for Lee & Low’s The Open Book blog, she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.

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12. How to Be an Explorer in Your Own Backyard: The Olinguito Activity Kit and Teacher’s Guide

Have you ever wanted to take a trip to the cloud forest? Explore the Andes of Ecuador? Discover a new species? Well, you’re in luck.

With ¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z! / Olinguito from A to Z! travel to the unique world of the cloud forest and discover the bounty of plants, animals, and other organisms that live there as you help a zoologist look for the elusive olinguito, the first new mammal species identified in the Americas since 1978.olinguito spread 1

But the adventure doesn’t stop there. Anyone can learn to be an explorer in their own backyard with the FREE Olinguito Activity Kit and Teacher’s GuideLearn more about the cloud forest and other ecosystems, including all of the important animals and the adaptations that help them survive in their environment with the many interdisciplinary ideas, projects, and engaging activities.

Content themes and subjects covered:

  • ecosystems and habitats
  • biodiversity
  • animal classification and adaptation
  • vertebrates and invertebrates
  • competition and predation
  • world geography

Here’s a preview of the types of engaging projects and activities youOlinguito Activity Sheet.indd can find in the Olinguito Activity Kit and Teacher’s Guide:

Observe an Ecosystem!

You will need:

  • a notebook
  • a pen or pencil
  • a camera
  • a thick, old paperback book
  1. Make note of the time of day you are making your observations. Is it morning, afternoon, or night?
  2. Record all the plants and organisms you see, including trees, shrubs, bushes, grasses, ferns, mosses, and lichens.
  3. Record all the animals you see in the area, including insects, arachnids, mollusks, reptiles, birds and mammals.
  4. Gather fresh leaves of different shapes from trees and shrubs and put each separately between two pages of the paperback book. You may also gather small, colorful flowers or flower petals and put them between pages of the book.
  5. Take photos of any animals you see.
  6. Once you are back inside, place the paperback book under a pile of heavy books for a week or two to let you pressed leaves and flowers dry.

Design a Cloud Forest Travel Brochure!Olinguito Activity Sheet.indd

Have students research cloud forests in the Andes and create an informative and persuasive travel brochure. Include headings, subheadings, pictures, maps, and informative captions.

  • Where are the cloud forests located?
  • What plants and animals live there?
  • Why are cloud forests valued or important?
  • What is the climate like?
  • What will people see there?
  • What environmental and human threats do they face?
  • Why should someone make the cloud forest his or her next vacation destination?

Create a Cloud Forest Alphabet or Glossary Book:

  • card stock
  • hole puncher
  • string or twine
  • art decorating supplies (crayons, colored pencils, markers. etc.)

Alphabet Book: include the featured letter, a picture or drawing of the featured plant or animal, and the name of the plant or animal.

Plant/Animal Glossary Book: include the name of the plant or animal, a picture or drawing of the featured plant or animal, and an informative description of the plant or animal: where does it live? what does it eat? how is it classified (plant or animal, vertebrate or invertebrate, etc.)?

For more fun and exciting activity ideas, including I-Spy Fun and learning to create you own pressed leaf print, check out and download the FREE Olinguito Activity Kit and Teacher’s Guide.

You can purchase a copy of ¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z! / Olinguito, from A to Z! : Descubriendo el bosque nublado / Unveiling the Cloud Forest on our website here.

veronicabioVeronica has a degree from Mount Saint Mary College and joined LEE & LOW in the fall of 2014. She has a background in education and holds a New York State childhood education (1-6) and students with disabilities (1-6) certification. When she’s not wandering around New York City, you can find her hiking or hanging out with her dog Milo in her hometown in the Hudson Valley, NY.

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13. How to Use Family Diversity and Family Structures to Teach Empathy

Guest BloggerIn this interview with The Open Book, guest blogger Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas, Director of Not in Our School, shares the organization’s latest video release about families and family structures. Not in Our School is part of the larger organization of Not in Our Town and focuses on empowering students to create safe, inclusive, and empathetic communities. 

We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” from “Human Family” by Maya Angelou (listen to Maya Angelou read the poem here)NIOT 2

At Not In Our Town, we are extremely pleased to be sharing our film, “Our Family,” with the Lee & Low Open Book Blog community. Our hope is for our film to become part of the growing collection of resources that educators are using to create identity safe classrooms where children of all backgrounds feel a sense of belonging. These classrooms should not be colorblind spaces, where differences are ignored or where students must leave their identities, stories, and experiences at the door. It is our belief that belonging is created through drawing on the diversity in every classroom as a resource for learning. And quickly, we learn that, as Maya Angelou so aptly pointed out, we are more alike than different.

LEE & LOW: What inspired you and your team to create this video focusing on family configuration and family diversity? Put another way: Why create a film about family configuration and diversity from an organization that fights prejudice, bullying, and discrimination?

Part of fostering a sense of belonging for children is creating an environment where they feel fully accepted for who they are. Even from a young age, children are aware of and have many aspects that make up their social identities. That includes: how they look, the language(s) they speak and the way they express themselves, as well as their culture, religion, race, and gender identity. Their families, a huge part of their lives, form a crucial part of their identities.

Children need to see themselves reflected in the curriculum, on the walls, and throughout their school life. They need to see others like them and they need to learn to appreciate those who are not like them. That does not always happen. My daughter announced at age four that she wanted a sex change operation to become a boy. At that time, we had no idea where she heard about this (she is now 33) because nobody was talking about transgender issues and back then. She did get strange reactions at preschool when she told people she was a boy. I remember she loved doing Mexican dancing, but when they insisted she wear the girl’s outfit, that was the end of her preschool dancing career. As she grew up we did not counter her feelings or ideas. However, now, married and openly a lesbian, she says she does not feel that way anymore, but that she always knew she was different in some way.

Some children grow up and never see a family like theirs celebrated in any way. They may be teased for being adopted, for having two moms or two dads, or for having a mixed-race family. A child whose mother has different color skin than he or she does may experience rude comments or stares. I raised my oldest daughter, who was from my husband’s first marriage. She had dark skin and we got many stares and she heard some rude remarks as people looked from her dark skin to my light skin and asked, “Is that your mother?”

We are approaching Mother’s Day. I wonder about all the children who don’t have mothers. How do they feel when their classrooms are making gifts for their mothers? (At Not In Our Town, we suggest that you celebrate Caregiver’s Day and children can honor those who care for them.)

We made this film for elementary students to see themselves reflected and hear the voices of children like themselves, and to see validation of those who might be different. They also can see how all these families can join together and be friends, and have fun. We kept the film short so teachers can show the film and then open a discussion with the students. We also have our Lesson Guide with activities for students at different grade levels to celebrate their families.

Our organization features communities of all backgrounds who come together to stand up to bullying, hate, prejudice and intolerance. We have always been proactive in seeking to create safety, acceptance, and inclusion. For this film, we partnered with a wonderful organization, Our Family Coalition, which focuses on supporting schools and communities to create acceptance for LGBTQ families. Our shared goal with the film is to support children from all kinds of families.

The best way to address hate and prejudice is by creating identity safety, and preventing hate and prejudice before they rear their ugly heads. Researchers have known for a long time that getting to know people who are different from you will reduce prejudice. New research has shown that it also will reduce implicit biases—the unconscious attitudes we all pick up from living in a society that has much underlying racial bias. According to the article, “Long-term Reduction in Implicit Race Bias,” fostering empathy is another way to reduce prejudice and implicit bias. Children can learn to be empathetic, but it will only stick if they also see empathy and acceptance expressed and modeled by all the adults in their world on a regular basis.

LEE & LOW: How can schools encourage children to appreciate their own family’s configuration and diversity?

The best way to celebrate families is to open the doors of the school and invite all the families in. Other activities include times where students invite their caregivers to volunteer or share expertise in one area or another. Also, students can write about their families, read books (like the excellent collection from Lee & Low), and use family diversity lesson plans and materials from the organizations Welcoming Schools and Teaching Tolerance. In our Lesson Guide we suggest having a Family Diversity Extravaganza where students organize an event and everyone gets involved and has fun together. When students experience acceptance of all kinds of families, they feel pride in their own families and their awareness is built for others.

Not in Our Town blog postLEE & LOW: What is at stake if parents, educators, and administrators do not purposely model tolerance and inclusion for children?

We are at a frightening moment in our nation’s history. While many gains have been made to promote equity in our country, our current climate and electoral process is rife with hate rhetoric. In a recent online survey by Teaching Tolerance, educators shared that many of their students—especially immigrants and Muslims—have expressed concerns or fears about what might happen to them or their families after the election. Educators also reported they have witnessed an increase in anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant sentiment in their schools.

Additionally, according to the National Crime Prevention Council, youth ages 15-24 commit half of all hate crimes in the United States. In The New York Times op-ed, “White, Bigoted and Young: The Data of Hate,” economist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz explored the demographics of Stormfront, the most popular U.S. white supremacist website. His findings revealed that the most common age of Stormfront members is 19. He also found that the most venomous hate was displayed against African Americans and Jews, often with tremendous ignorance about those targeted groups.

Much is at stake for all of us if we do not make it a priority to teach empathy, and model positive attitudes towards those who are different from ourselves. We need to openly discuss and work together to find ways to address all forms of intolerance. We made our film freely accessible on Youtube in hopes that it goes viral and the voices of children are shared. PLEASE SHARE WIDELY! I close with the wise words of young Nathan, a student in our film:

“It is important to have diverse children, to have diverse families in a school so you know how to include everyone… you don’t just go to the people who are like you, you reach out and embrace everyone.” —Nathan, student, Peralta Elementary School, Oakland, CA in “Our Family


 

DSC_0427Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas is the co-author, with Dorothy Steele of Identity Safe Classrooms: Places to Belong and Learn published by Corwin Press. Currently as director of Not In Our School, she designs curriculum, coaches schools and produces films on models for creating safe and inclusive schools, free of bullying and intolerance at the national non-profit, the Working Group. She presents internationally at conferences and provides professional development in schools and districts. Dr. Cohn-Vargas began her 35-year career in early childhood education at the Multicultural Center in Sonoma County, California. She did community service in the Guatemalan Highlands and produced educational films for the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education. She returned to California and worked as a teacher and principal in Oakland, a Curriculum Director in Palo Alto, and as Superintendent in San Jose. In each setting, she focuses on educational equity and effective strategies for diverse populations. Dr. Cohn-Vargas and her husband live in El Sobrante, California and have three adult children. With her husband, she is developing an environmental research center on their private reserve in the Nicaraguan rain forest.  

Family Diversity Book Collection from LEE & LOW BOOKS

Further reading and learning from Not in Our School:

Additional resources on family diversity and family structures:

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14. Author Rosanne Parry on the Benefits of Reading Levels

The topic of reading levels is always contentious foGuest Bloggerr librarians, educators, booksellers, and authors. A recent article by author Sergio Ruzzier argued against the merits of using reading levels to determine which book is right for a child. In this guest post, author and bookseller Rosanne Parry offers her thoughts on why reading levels can be valuable, despite some of the drawbacks. Welcome, Rosanne!

Reading levels posted on trade fiction for children are a bit of a hot-button issue for those who work in the book world and periodically I hear calls for their complete abolition.  I agree that people use reading levels on books unwisely all the time. I believe that in general kids ought to have the widest possible access to the books they choose for themselves. I think there are many mistaken assumptions about what those reading levels mean. However there are useful purposes for reading levels on books.

I started my career as a teacher with a specialty in reading. I did most of my work with learning disabled students. If you are choosing books to use in school for instruction with children who are struggling, then keeping them within the parameters of a book that is just challenging enough but not too frustrating gives optimal progress toward reading fluency. An accurate reading level, manageable book length, accessible font, generous leading and kerning, and affordable price all help a teacher choose useful material for each student.

The temptation to make reading instruction leak over into at-home recreational reading is very strong for a highly motivated parent who is ashamed of a child’s low reading level or overly impressed with a high one. Sometimes this prompts a parent to steer their child away from high quality books that would be developmentally appropriate and captivating, and push them toward books that are decodable but outside the child’s emotional sphere and therefore not very engaging.

Most of the reading levels that publishers put on books are there as a shelving aid for booksellers, rather than a prescription for readers. They have almost nothing to do with the readability of the text and much more to do with the maturity of the content. To be perfectly honest, the vast majority of adult books are written at a 5th-6th grade reading level. The current literary fashion is toward a plain-spoken prose style and simple sentence structure.  This drives down the reading level of adult books. But it doesn’t make adult content in a book appropriate for children.

Here’s an example of where I think the publisher’s reading level is helpful. Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit is a short novel Anna and the Swallow Manabout a seven-year old girl. At first glance a bookseller might just toss it on the shelf with Clementine and Captain Underpants. Fortunately, the reading level says 7th grade and up (12+ years). It’s a story about the atrocities of WWII. The seven-year old girl is a fugitive on the run with an adult of dubious motives. She steals from battlefield corpses; she is raped; the ending is ambiguous and not particularly hopeful. It’s a stunning piece of writing and will likely be in the buzz come book award time and rightly so. Nevertheless it’s not a book that serves a second grader well. The reading level helps us get the book in the right spot in our store and because it’s at a discrepancy with the outward appearance of the book, it encourages us to read the whole book and figure out where to best recommend it.

Sometimes we decide to ignore the reading level on a book. When we got Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson last year, we opted to ignore the grade level recommendations and shelve it in adult history where our avid World War II buffs and professional musicians were most likely to find it. It would be less work for the bookseller to shelve all of an author’s work in one spot. But if the author is Ursula LeGuin or Suzanne Collins or Neil Gaiman, the reader is better served by having the adult, young adult, middle grade, and chapter books shelved in separate areas.

Reading levels are one tool among many a bookseller can use. Even in a small bookshop we get in hundreds of new books a week in addition to the classics we always carry. There’s no way even a cohort of dozens of booksellers can analyze every book we carry. So I’m glad there’s a reading level marker that we can use or ignore as we see fit. I’d love for it to be in a magical ink that only a bookseller can see, but until then, part of a booksellers job is to help anxious parents feel good about the quality of books their child is choosing and help them anticipate other books that will give their family joy.


Rosanne ParryAbout Rosanne Parry:  Rosanne Parry is the author for four middle grade novels from Random House, including her most recent title, The Turn of the Tide. She has been an elementary teacher and is now a part-time book monger at the legacy indie bookstore Annie Blooms. She also teaches children’s and YA literature in the Masters in Book Publishing program at Portland State University. She lives in Portland, Oregon and writes in a treehouse in her back yard.  You can find out more about her online here.


Further Reading:
Lexile: A Bookseller’s Best Friend or Worst Enemy?

5 Strategies to Help Parents Navigate Lexile

7 Strategies to Help Booksellers and Librarians Navigate Lexile

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15. 2016 Diverse Summer Reading Lists Grades PreK-8

Memorial Day Weekend has come and gone, which can only mean one thing. The end of June is right around the corner (hang in there teachers!).

Now, we are all well aware of the importance of having access to books and the harmful effects of the slippery slope that is the summer slide.

So, to keep the kids reading all summer long, LEE & LOW has put Diverse Summer Reading List 2016together a Diverse Summer 2016 Reading List for Grades PreK-8 and printables which you can freely download here or find listed below. Each list contains books that not only highlight different grade-appropriate interests, such as sports, music, sci-fi/fantasy, and the environment, but also explore diverse cultural backgrounds and traditions.

These lists are not only an excellent tool to help you include diverse books in your summer suggested reading lists, but a way to begin diversifying the books available to students in your classroom libraries. It is important to remember that diverse books are not only for diverse readers. Reading books featuring diverse characters and communities mirror experiences in their own lives, allowing children to see themselves reflected in the stories they love, but they also provide windows into other life experiences to understand and be more accepting of the world around them.

Finally, there are many great organizations compiling and creating Summer Reading Book Lists and offering free, exciting programs for the summer. Be sure to check out your local library as well as the following groups for additional summer reading tips, suggestions, and ideas:

veronicabioVeronica has a degree from Mount Saint Mary College and joined LEE & LOW in the fall of 2014. She has a background in education and holds a New York State childhood education (1-6) and students with disabilities (1-6) certification. When she’s not wandering around New York City, you can find her hiking with her dog Milo in her hometown in the Hudson Valley, NY.

 

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16. Celebrating 25 Books From 25 Years: Baseball Saved Us

Lee_Low_25th_Anniversary_Poster_2_LEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year! To recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used in classrooms today and hear from the authors and illustrators.

Featured title: Baseball Saved Us

Author: Ken Mockizuki

Illustrator: Dom Lee

Synopsis: Shorty, a Japanese-American boy, learns to play baseball when he and his family are forced to live in an internment camp during World War II. Shorty quickly learns that he is playing not only to win, but to gain dignity and self-respect as well. Read The New York Times review and article.

Awards and honors:

  • 50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know, Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC)
  • Not Just for Children Anymore Selections, Children’s Book Council (CBC)
  • Parents’ Choice Gold Award
  • “Pick of the List,” American Booksellers Association
  • Washington State Governor’s Writers Award
  • “Choices,” Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC)
  • “Close the Book on Hate” Reading List, The Anti-Defamation League
  • “Editors’ Choice,” San Francisco Chronicle
  • Washington State Children’s Choice Award Finalist
  • Best Multicultural Title, “Cuffies Award,” Publishers Weekly

The story behind the story:

“During August 1991, I received my first phone call from Philip Lee, who tells me he has founded a children’s picture book company called Lee & Low Books in New York City. He was searching across the country for authors and illustrators to launch his first set of books, and got my name through his wife Karen Chinn, a former Seattleite and colleague of mine at the International Examiner newspaper. Up to that point, I had never authored anything in the field of children’s literature, but would I be interested in writing a children’s picture book? I remained open to the idea, and Philip sent me an article from an East Coast magazine about Japanese Americans forming baseball teams and playing the sport within the American incarceration camps for Japanese Americans during World War II. A non-fiction story about this subject? he suggested. I decided I wanted to make it historical fiction, and create a young hero who hits not only one home run during a clutch situation, but two!

With good reviews – particularly a write-up in The New York Times Book Review – and over a half million copies of this book later sold, my career began as a children’s book author and presenter.”

Ken Mochizuki, author of Baseball Saved Us

Resources for teaching with Baseball Saved Us:

  • Explore a reading guide and learning activities for Baseball Saved Us from OurStory, a website created by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History to encourage adults and children in grades K–4 to read historical fiction and biography together.
  • For ideas on how to teach World War II and the roles children can play in solving national problems, check out the NEH lesson series, On the Home Front, featuring Baseball Saved Us from EDSITEment, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) website for K–12 teachers, school librarians, and students.
  • Learn about the experiences of children and teens in World War II interment camps with “The Japanese American Internment: How Young People Saw It,” a set of four lesson plans divided into grade bands featuring Baseball Saved Us, produced by the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies.

Book activity:

Have students imagine they are Shorty in the story. Encourage them to write as Shorty a letter to a friend outside the internment camp or a diary entry describing how they feel about being in the camp and what life is like there.

How have you used Baseball Saved Us? Let us know!

25 years (1)Celebrate with us! Check out our 25 Years Anniversary Collection.

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17. Part 1–Having Students Analyze Our Classroom Library To See How Diverse It Is

Guest BloggerWe at LEE & LOW BOOKS are excited and honored to share the impressive work happening in the classroom of Jessica Lifshitz, veteran educator in Northbrook, Illinois. In an excerpt of her essay, Jessica describes how she empowers her fifth grade students to analyze their classroom library for its culturally responsiveness and relevancy. She provides students with background information, including LEE & LOW BOOKS’ visualization of the lack of diversity in children’s books. Originally posted at Jessica’s blog, Crawling Out of the Classroom, this excerpt is reposted with permission.

Having Students Analyze Our Classroom Library To See How Diverse It IsI truly believe that books, of all kind, play a large role in shaping how our students see the world. So often, children have little choice in what kinds of books surround them. Even in classrooms and schools where children are free to choose to read whatever books they want, they are still often limited by the choice of books that we adults have placed around them. And too often, we adults do not think carefully enough about what books, with what images of race and gender and family structure, we are surrounding our children with.

So that is where I wanted to look. At the books I was choosing to put into my classroom library. I wanted my students to join me in looking more closely at the books that I had in my classroom and how they represented and misrepresented the world they are living in.

So we began with an infographic. In fact, the majority of my students had no idea what an infographic was. So first. We had to learn. This was a good reminder to me to use these rich conveyers of information more often through the year. Anyway, we began by looking at THIS infographic, which shares the disturbing statistics on diversity in children’s literature. This, alone, led to incredible discussion about so many things.

We began with a discussion of the term, “people of color.” So many of my almost all-white students had never heard this term before and it took a while for them to grasp its meaning. We then had a discussion on the difference between white writers writing about people of color and writers of color writing about people of color. Then we entered into a discussion of how it might be harder for writers of color to get their books published in the competitive world of children’s publishing. And finally we ended up at a discussion of our own reading preferences and how sometimes we are tempted to read books that discuss lives similar to our own and how much more rewarding it can be to push ourselves to read books that teach us about the lives of others whose lives are different than our own.

All from one infographic.

The children were so eager for the discussion. We actually ended up looking at an entire series of fascinating infographics that show how different kinds of diversity are represented or misrepresented in different areas of society. That series of infographics CAN BE FOUND HERE.

img_0992And then we turned to our own books. I wanted to start in my own classroom. I have shared openly with my students that all of this work, on race and on gender, it is work for me too. I know that I make mistakes often and I wanted them to see that I, too, need to constantly do better to work past my own biases and stereotypes.

So I gave my students the chance to audit our own classroom library to find out how different genders and races are represented and how we could do better to make sure that different genders and races were more accurately represented by the books in our classroom.

I asked the students to each randomly grab 25 books. And for each book they were to look to see if there were people on the cover. If there were, they were to note if all of the people on the cover were white and if all the people on the cover were boys. They kept track on this simple data collection sheet.

img_0994Now, I recognize that this is FAR from a thorough and scientific analysis of the books in our classroom library. I recognize that just because there is not a person of color on the cover of a book that does not mean the book does not contain a person of color in it. I recognize the flaws. I am shared them with my students. And still, it was something.

Because even more important than our results was the task of looking at the images on the covers of the books that surround us. More important than the numbers that we wrote down, were the discussions we had about why book publishers make the decisions that they make about who goes on the covers of our books. More important than the percentages that we ended up with were the realizations that we all made as we learned to look at the world differently. To see who was represented and, more importantly, to see who was NOT represented. This was the important work that we were doing.

Once the students finished collecting their data, they entered their results into a Google spreadsheet. HERE ARE OUR RESULTS.  

After spending time looking closely at the books in our classroom library and after spending time looking at the numbers we collected, we had a discussion of what they noticed. Here are some charts that we used to capture our observations:

I was kind of blown away, once again, by what my students discovered. I thought I had a diverse library. I really did. In fact, I have worked over the past two years to make sure that I was buying the kinds of books that would help all of my readers to see themselves reflected in the pages of the books in my classroom.  But what I forgot is that the vast majority of my readers are white. They see themselves, in terms of race, in almost every book they pick up.

What they need is something else. They need to be able to see into the lives of others. To use books as windows so that they can gain an understanding of what it means to be a race other than white. They need books to help them grow and become more empathetic citizens of this world. And while I have tried to provide books for them that would do just that, I realized from their work that I have a LONG way to go.

I need to do better. I need to do more.

And showing my students that I can look at where I am and find ways to do better in terms of making this world more equitable and just, that is no small thing.

So together we brainstormed ways that I can work to improve our classroom library. We talked about starting with sports fiction. The students noticed that while the nonfiction sports books were filled with African-American people, the books in my sports fiction bin barely had any characters of color.  The exception was The Crossover, which just goes to show how important it was for that book to win the Newberry last year.

Here we have taken an area of our society that is rather diverse and the books that I have purchased that have fictionalize that area of society have completely sucked all of the diversity right out of it.  So I must do better.

In the same area, we saw how few girls were represented in our sports fiction books. I have so many girls in my classes who don’t just play sports, but whose lives revolve around their favorite sports and still, we could only find one book, The Running Dream, in our sports fiction books that had a female main character. I must do better.

And then, we moved on to my fantasy and science fiction books. This was an area that was also very much lacking in racial diversity. And so I will now be on the lookout for books with characters of color in these two genres. I must do better.

And one of the most powerful observations that a student made was that while he did see books with African-American characters on the cover, he did not see many other races represented. He did not see any Native American characters, Asian American characters or Middle Eastern characters on the covers of the books that he looked at. Again, I must do better.

These suggestions came from my students and I am so proud of the work that they have done. As I shared with my students, I continue to be proud of our classroom library. I am proud of the choices that I have made in the books that I have put into our classroom library AND at the same time, I know now that I can and must do better. I shared with my students how grateful I am for the work that they have done to help me to see this.

After our counting books, we then used the following pages to look more closely inside of our picture books in order to see how races, genders and families were being represented. The kids chose one of these types of diversity to focus on and then pulled a few books to record their observations and evidence.  Here are the sheets that they used for:

Race

Gender Roles for Children

Gender Roles for Adults

Family Structure 

Again, the students had time to discuss their observations and I was blown away by what they were picking up on.

Finally, we headed to our school’s library, to again count books. We collected the same type of data, but this time for our school library. HERE WERE OUR RESULTS. 

We realized that many of the trends that we saw in our classroom library, also existed in our school library. One of the greatest parts of this work was listening to the students talk to our school librarian (who is amazing) about the changes that we were hoping to make to our classroom library. This led to other powerful conversations between the librarian and me and I was so grateful for her input and her support.

This work has been incredible. It has, at times, left me feeling doubtful. Doubtful of myself, of this world we live in, of the way we misrepresent so many of the people who surround us. But ultimately, after watching and listening to my students, I was left hopeful. Hopeful because once my students began to see what was around them in new ways, they couldn’t un-see things anymore. They couldn’t not see. They were running up to me when they came across stereotypes that were perpetuated in their books. They had their parents send me pictures from bookstores when they noticed books that either reinforced or fought against stereotypes in some way. They noticed things on the news, on TV shows, on social media. And I believe that noticing is one big step towards making change.

There were times during this work when I felt like I had to rush through. There were times when I questioned if I really had time to be spending on this work. But the truth is, there is no way that I don’t have the time. This world we live in needs changing and the students that I am teaching must be a part of that change. And so though it feels like there is never enough time to do things that we most believe in, this work has showed me that we must find a way.

I am grateful, yet again, for what my students have taught me. And grateful, even more, for the hope that they give me for this world of ours.


IMG_1316Jessica Lifshitz is a fifth grade teacher in Northbrook, Illinois and has been teaching for 13 years.  She believes in teaching her students that reading and writing can make the world a better place and is honored to learn from her students and to be inspired by them every day.  She writes about teaching and learning at crawlingoutoftheclassroom.wordpress.com.

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18. 25 Books from 25 Years: Richard Wright and the Library Card

Lee & Low 25th AnniversaryLEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year! To recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used in classrooms today and hear from the authors and illustrators.

Today, we are celebrating Richard Wright and the Library Card, an inspirational story for children of all backgrounds. This book shares a poignant turning point in the life of a young man who became one of this country’s most brilliant writers, the author of Native Son and Black Boy.

Featured title: Richard Wright and the Library Card

Richard Wright and the Library Card cover imageAuthor: William Miller

Illustrator: Gregory Christie

Synopsis: The true story of the renowned African American author Richard Wright and his determination to borrow books from the public library that turned him away because of the color of his skin.

Awards and Honors:

  • Notable Children’s Book, Smithsonian
  • Honor Book, Society of School Librarians International

Other Editions: Did you know that Richard Wright and the Library Card also comes in a Spanish edition?

Richard Wright y el carné de biblioteca

Richard Wright y el carné de biblioteca

Purchase a copy of Richard Wright and the Library Card here.

Resources for teaching with Richard Wright and the Library Card:

Richard Wright and the Library Card Teacher’s Guide

Learn more about Richard Wright:

Additional LEE & LOW titles by William Miller:

Have you used Richard Wright and the Library Card? Let us know!

Celebrate with us! Check out our 25 Years Anniversary Collection.

 

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19. Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: Cool Melons–Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa

Lee_Low_25th_Anniversary_Poster_2_LEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and to recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used in classrooms today as well, as hear from the authors and illustrators.

 

Featured title: Cool Melons–Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa

Author: Matthew Gollub

Illustrator: Kazuko G. Stone

Synopsis: This award-winning book is an introduction to haiku poetry and the life of Issa (b. 1763), Japan’s premier haiku poet, told through narrative, art, and translation of Issa’s most beloved poems for children.

Author Matthew Gollub’s poignant rendering of Issa’s life and over thirty of his best-loved poems, along with illustrator Kazuko Stone’s sensitive and humorous watercolor paintings, make Cool Melons—Turn to Frogs! a classic introduction to Issa’s work for readers of all ages. With authentic Japanese calligraphy, a detailed Afterword, and exhaustive research by both author and illustrator, this is also an inspirational book about haiku, writing, nature, and life.

Awards and honors:

  • Notable Books for a Global Society, International Literacy Association (ILA)
  • Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts, National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)
  • Notable Children’s Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies, Children’s Book Council (CBC) and National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
  • Children’s Books Mean Business, Children’s Book Council (CBC)
  • Not Just for Children Anymore selection, Children’s Book Council (CBC)
  • Outstanding Merit, Children’s Book of the Year, Bank Street College of Education
  • Best Children’s Books of the Year, Bank Street College of Education
  • Books to Read Aloud with Children of All Ages, Bank Street College of Education
  • “Editor’s Choice,” San Francisco Chronicle
  • Bay Area Book Reviewers Association Award finalist
  • Children’s and Young Adult Honorable Mention for Illustration, Asian Pacific American Award for Literature (APAAL)
  • “Choices,” Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC)
  • ALA Notable Children’s Book, American Library Association (ALA)
  • A Horn Book Fanfare Best Book of the Year, The Horn Book Magazine
  • California Collections, California Readers
  • Utah Children’s Book Award Masterlist
  • Children’s Book of Distinction, Poetry Finalist, Riverbank Review
  • Read-Alouds Too Good to Miss, Indiana Department of Education
  • Starred Review, Publishers Weekly
  • Starred Review, The Horn Book Magazine

From the author: “A haiku, because of its brevity, resembles a quick line sketch. It’s up to the reader to imagine the details and to make the picture complete. In a sense, we can think of a haiku as a telegraph; for example: “Should arrive Tuesday, supper time.” From this short message, we can infer that, weather permitting, the sender will arrive early on Tuesday evening, and that after the long, tiresome journey she would appreciate a good meal.

Often, haiku describe two events side by side, such as: “Plum tree in bloom—/ a cat’s silhouette/ upon the paper screen.” Does the silhouette of the plum tree also appear on the paper screen? Does the plum tree in bloom suggest the warmth of a spring day? Again, it’s up to the reader to imagine how or if the two things are related.

Haiku tend to be simple and understated, so there’s never one “correct” way to interpret them. The idea is to ponder each poem’s imagery and to discover and enjoy how the poem makes you feel.”

–Matthew Gollub, from “What is a Haiku?

Resources for teaching with Cool Melons–Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa:

Book activity:

Expand students’ experience with haiku by having them read and discuss works by other seventeenth century and eighteenth century poets such as Basho, Jöso, Ryota, Buson, or Sanpu. Students may also enjoy reading more contemporary haiku and comparing the contemporary poetry with the more traditional.

cool melonsHow have you used Cool Melons–Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa? Let us know!

Celebrate with us! Check out our 25 Years Anniversary Collection.

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20. Part 2–Having Students Analyze Our Classroom Library To See How Diverse It Is

Guest BloggerEarlier this month, we highlighted the impressive work happening in the classroom of Jessica Lifshitz, veteran educator in Northbrook, Illinois. Following her popular essay on how Jessica empowered her fifth grade students to analyze their classroom library for its culturally responsiveness and relevancy, she shares in this interview with LEE & LOW BOOKS why she wanted to take on this project with her students, where families and administrators fit into this process, and her hopes for her students.

LEE & LOW: What inspired you to have your students analyze your classroom library?

After the events surrounding the shooting and death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, I felt compelled to find a way to bring more discussions on race into my classroom. I teach in a suburb of Chicago, where the vast majority of my students are white. There were little or no conversations about race at all taking place. I knew that if things were going to ever have a hope of getting better in this country, my mostly white students HAD to be a part of the solution. They had to recognize the bias that exists in this country and then find a way to fight against it. But that is really hard to do when the concept of race is not one that my students have had much, if any, experience dealing with. So, like with most problems, the first place that I looked to try and find a solution was with the very books that make up a huge part of the work that my students and I do together.

We began by doing a small experiment (explained here) where we looked only at the images on the covers of picture books and made predictions on what those books would be about. Based on our results, we realized that we made MANY predictions because of the race and gender of the people shown on the covers of those books. After a powerful discussion with my students, they crafted the following inquiry question: Where do the biases and stereotypes we carry around related to gender, race, family structure, religion, etc. come from?

We then set out to try and answer that question. This eventually led us to think about the picture books in our classroom and that led us to the work of analyzing our books to look at how they represented or misrepresented different groups of people.

So the short answer really is that this work was inspired by students and the conditions of the world that they are living in.

LEE & LOW: Why do this at all? This project is not a part of the curriculum or scope & sequence for fifth grade—why did you think this was important enough to use instructional time?

As teachers, we have an incredible opportunity to truly make the world a better place. Not to sit and wait for others to fix the problems, but to ask our students to join us in the powerful work of actually starting to make the world a better.

I think that a lot of times we waste this amazing opportunity because we feel limited by standards and objectives and curriculum. But what I have found is that if I begin with what work I want my students to be engaged in and then work backwards to connect that work to the standards, I am then able to do the work that I feel is most important AND meet the standards and objectives that I am asked to teach.

For example, the work that we did here was a part of our unit on synthesizing. We looked at how we could pull pieces of information together in order to gain a better, more complete understanding. So we took the issue of stereotypes and biases and that is what we worked to understand. We looked at advertisements, fairy tales, modern day picture books and novels. We pulled all of these pieces of information together to grow our understanding of how biases form. This allowed us to cover many standards and learning targets.

But more importantly, the kids were learning about their world. They were studying the problems that surround them and thinking of ways to begin to solve those problems. That is learning that will last. That is learning that will make a difference. So if I am able to help them to do that kind of work AND I am able to cover the skills I need to teach in the process, then everyone wins and the world gets better.

BiasesLEE & LOW: What foundation, classroom work, or background context do you think was imperative before leading your students through this project?

I think that one of the most important pieces of work that allowed this project to happen was that, from day one, we had worked to create a culture of trust in our classroom. We practiced making ourselves vulnerable and we practiced listening to the ideas of others without passing judgments on people. These things were absolutely necessary for our work to take place because part of our work involved sharing things about our own thinking that we weren’t necessarily proud of. No one likes to admit that they carry biases, and yet we all do. Ignoring that doesn’t help anything. Confronting that and working to dismantle those biases is what leads to real change. But that takes a lot of trust. So from the start of the school year we talked about big issues.

We began with during our unit on memoirs and on making connections to the texts that we read. These units became a chance to study the power of a person’s story. We learned the power of sharing our own stories and the power of learning from the stories of others. This work allowed my students to open up to each other about their own lives and also allowed us to practicing listening to people whose lives are very different than our own in order to learn more about them and build empathy. These were skills we needed for this project as well.

When we started to look at biases and stereotypes, we began first with gender before tackling race. We began by looking at catalogues like Pottery Barn to notice the differences in what was marketed towards girls and what was marketed towards boys. We did work that helped us to distinguish the actual things we observed from the more hidden messages that this sent. We started with gender because I think it is easier for kids to grapple with. It is more concrete. While my students had almost no experience discussing issues of race, they did have some experience discussing issues of gender. So we started with where they were and then moved on from there. That was really important because I think that if I had just thrown them in to the discussions of how races were misrepresented in the books in our classroom library, they would not have been ready. The work we did with issues of gender helped us to better understand the work we later did with issues of race.

LEE & LOW: For teachers interested in leading their students through similar thinking and analysis, what would you recommend they prepare either for themselves or their students?

I hope that others want to take on similar work and I know that so many already have. The beauty of this kind of work is that is uses materials that are already present in your classroom. We have books and we can all look more closely at those books.

One thing that I would recommend is a whole lot of communication before beginning. I had several conversations with my principal about the work we were taking on. It was never to ask permission to do the work, but instead to just let him know and make sure I had his support in case of any push back from parents. Issues of race often spark fears and concerns with parents and having administrator support makes all of that much easier. On that note, keeping parents informed of the work was also really important for me. I wanted to make sure that parents knew what we were doing so that the conversations we were having could be continued at home. I also made sure to let parents know how our work was connected to our curriculum and our standards and learning targets. Therefore, when questions were asked, I was able to refer back to the information that I had already shared. This was extremely helpful.

Other than communication, I would also just encourage teachers to not say too much. Instead, allow the students observations to drive the conversation. We began by looking at the infographic and then jumped pretty quickly into the data collection in our own classroom library. I have a terrible habit of telling my students all of the things that I want them to discover on their own. I have really had to work to stop myself from doing that because taking away that power from my students takes the learning right out of their hands. So I wouldn’t recommend preparing too much and allowing the students to really guide this work.

LEE & LOW: Is this only valuable for classrooms with a majority of students of color? What can classrooms of various demographic configurations take away from this project?

As I mentioned before, my students are mostly white. Because of that, this work is especially important for them. So often, our white students do not ever think about race. That is part of the privilege they are living with. But that makes it really easy for them to ignore what others have to deal with precisely because of their race. I believe that my students MUST be a part of a solution to the many problems connected to race in this country. But they cannot be a part of that solution if they are not even able to recognize that the problems exist.

For Further Reading:


IMG_1316

Jessica Lifshitz is a fifth grade teacher in Northbrook, Illinois and has been teaching for 13 years.  She believes in teaching her students that reading and writing can make the world a better place and is honored to learn from her students and to be inspired by them every day.  She writes about teaching and learning at crawlingoutoftheclassroom.wordpress.com.

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21. Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: Reflection with Matthew Gollub

Lee_Low_25th_Anniversary_Poster_2_Guest BloggerLast week we wrote about the enduring impact of Cool Melons–Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa and today we bring you reflections from the award-winning author Matthew Gollub

“Looking back on this book’s remarkable journey, I remember my frustration with publishers early on. My previous publisher had declared as “lovely” the poems that the artist Kazuko Stone and I had presented. But, they believed, haiku were too abstract for most American children to grasp. This made us all the more grateful to Lee & Low, and the editor Liz Szabla, for sharing our intuition that the translated poems would in fact resonate, especially when interspersed in a story about the poet’s life.

Now, having spoken at over 1,000 schools, I’ve been greeted with countless wall displays and “welcome” folders of haiku. It is an honor to have worked on a book that has inspired such an outpouring of original children’s poetry and drawings.

Last summer, while traveling in Japan, I had the further honor of meeting the noted translator Akiko Waki. She had translated, then lobbied her publisher Iwanami Shoten, to issue a Japanese edition of “Cool Melons.” Ms. Waki and her husband graciously invited my college-age son and me to their home. The Japanese version also had been well-received and widely collected by libraries, so it felt even more celebratory to meet the translator in person. Over dinner, she described how daunting it would have been for a Japanese writer to translate centuries old haiku. That, she pointed out, was a job better suited to a Japanese speaking foreigner less encumbered by the weight of Japan’s literary tradition. Better suited also to an innovative publisher like Lee & Low!”–Matthew Gollub

About Cool Melons–Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa:

This award-winning book is an introduction to haiku poetry and the life of Issa (b. 1763), Japan’s premier haiku poet, told through narrative, art, and translation of Issa’s most beloved poems for children.

Author Matthew Gollub’s poignant rendering of Issa’s life and over thirty of his best-loved poems, along with illustrator Kazuko Stone’s sensitive and humorous watercolor paintings, make Cool Melons—Turn to Frogs! a classic introduction to Issa’s work for readers of all ages. With authentic Japanese calligraphy, a detailed Afterword, and exhaustive research by both author and illustrator, this is also an inspirational book about haiku, writing, nature, and life.

cool melonsFor further reading:


Matthew Gollub is an award-winning children’s author who combines dynamic storytelling, interactive drumming, and valuable reading and writing tips. What’s more, he does this while speaking four languages: English, Spanish, Japanese and jazz! He helps families re-discover the joy of reading to children aloud for FUN. Find him online at matthewgollub.com.

 

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22. How to Create a Schoolwide Program to Celebrate Student Writing and Heritage

Want to inspire future poets, writers, and dreamers? One elementary school in San Francisco did just that with an author study of U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera.

Lorraine Orlandi, Community School Coordinator, shared with us the goals, preparation, and impact of their Latino Heritage Celebration.

With National Hispanic Heritage Month in the fall, Paul Revere School K-8 selected Juan Felipe Herrera to study and honor for Herrera’s activism and body of work, as well as his ties to San Francisco.How One School

When do your school make time for artist studies?

“We have three major cultural celebrations each school year: for Latino heritage, African American heritage and Asian-Pacific Islander heritage. For each, we have an intensive artists residency of about six weeks to prepare students to perform in school-wide assemblies and at an evening event for the entire community.”

Why choose author Juan Felipe Herrera?

“We have struggled to connect the history and values being taught through these artists’ residencies with our day-to-day classroom teaching and learning. Juan Felipe Herrera’s work provided the perfect vehicle for our school, which includes a Spanish Immersion strand in addition to the general English strand. Students in all classes could access the work and it provided a unifying element for the learning and celebration. The project fit within our school-wide literacy goals. It was a breakthrough that we hope to be able to extend to all of our cultural celebrations in the future.”

Student Work from Paul Revere School K-8
Student Work from Paul Revere School K-8

What kind of work is involved for staff?

“Preparation included teacher training around materials — we bought a bunch of books, found videos and teaching guides online. Teachers had an opportunity to meet all together and in grade-level groups to discuss how to use the materials. As you know, some of the work was eventually posted for colleagues and families to see.”

How does the program pair the content with literacy?

“In our school-wide project for grades K-8, students across grade levels responded to the work of Juan Felipe Herrera as a way to learn about and celebrate Latino heritage and consider their own identities within our diverse school population. The books and poetry gave teachers wonderful tools for strengthening our commitment to using culturally responsive materials in the classroom, and to connect students’ learning to their own experiences.”

How do teachers incorporate Juan Felipe Herreras work into their curricula?

  • Two fifth-grade classes worked with a teaching artist to learn the poems “Laughing out Loud, I Fly” (Harper Collins) and the poem “(Vamonos La Kiva Casa Libre)” (from 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border, City Lights) and choreograph movements to the poems. They read the poems and performed the dances at the assemblies and evening event.
  • Our sixth-graders presented the poetry they had written in response to “Quien Quiere Correr Conmigo?”.
  • Our kindergarten classes and a special day class for K-2 created work in response to Desplumado and Grandma and Me at the Flea.
  • Our first-grade Spanish Immerison class created work inspired by reading Upside Down Boy.
  • We also featured some of this work in the final performances and presentations.

    desplumado-1
    Student Work from Paul Revere School K-8

Juan Felipe Herrera Book Collection (4 Paperbacks)

Ready to bring books to life and allow students to see themselves as creators? Start with some resources:

Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Specialist, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language for second through sixth grade in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in the Bay Area, CA as a Teach for America corps member where she became passionate about best practices for supporting English Language Learners and parent engagement. In her column for Lee & Low’s The Open Book blog, she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.

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23. Year of the Monkey: Books and Activities for Chinese New Year

2016 Chinese New Year is Monday, February 8th and it’s the year of the Monkey. How can you celebrate with students?

Cross-Curricular Activities

Here are some ideas to help you and your students get involved with reading and writing about the Chinese New Year.  Additional ideas can be found in individual book teacher guides and the LEE & LOW Chinese New Year Resource Guide for Teachers.

Art:

  1. Explain that the Chinese dragon represents strength and goodness. The dragon appears at the end of the New Year parade to wish everyone peace, wealth, and good luck. Have students draw a picture of a Chinese dragon and describe the dragon in a paragraph. Instruct students to draw the dragon so it has the features of several creatures. Chinese dragons often have the scales of a fish, the beard of a goat, the claws of an eagle, and the body of a snake. For an excellent and more detailed lesson on drawing a Chinese dragon, check out the Art Institute of Chicago.
  2. Provide students with construction paper, tissue paper, colored cotton balls, crayons, safety scissors, glue, and other art supplies to make their own lanterns, masks, flags, and other items for a Chinese Lunar New Year Parade. Several students may even wish to work together to make a lion or a dragon. Let students carry their creations and hold their own parade. You may wish to download some Chinese music to play during the festivities.

Science:

  1. For the New Year, Chinese children are given red envelopes with brand-new money inside. Make a solution of 1/2 cup white vinegar and 1/4 cup salt in a nonmetal bowl. Let students drop pennies into the solution, wait a few minutes, then remove and dry the coins with a paper towel. Students will have shiny “new” pennies to wrap in red paper and give as gifts to their friends and families.
  2. The Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar as opposed to the solar calendar. Have students investigate the two calendars and compare them using a Venn diagram. Why does the Chinese New Year fall on a different date each year?

Writing:

  1. Encourage students to describe a New Year’s celebration that they spent with their families. What kind of activities took place? How did they celebrate?
  2. Have students write an original story about a holiday they celebrate.

Social Studies:

  1. Many video clips of Chinese Lunar New Year parades are available online. One example is from the History Channel. If possible, let students view one or more of these to see a real parade. Have students describe the excitement, preparation, and festivities of the parade.
  2. Teach students about the history of Chinese Americans. When did they first immigrate to the United States? What were the reasons they left their homeland? In which cities did they settle? What were the origins of Chinatowns? What challenges did Chinese people and Chinese Americans face in the United States? One place to learn more is the timeline of Chinese in America from the Museum of Chinese in America.
  3. Have students locate China on a map or globe and tell students that China is one of the largest countries in the world. Have students mark the capital of China, as well as their location in the United States. On what continent is China? Which countries border China? What are some major rivers in China? What seas and ocean border China?
  4. Explore the 12-year cycle of the Chinese lunar calendar with EDSITEment’s lesson on the Chinese Zodiac and video, “Why the Rat Comes First: A Lunar New Year Story,” from the Asian Art Museum.

Math:

  1. Students may enjoy learning how to write the Chinese characters for the numerals 1 through 10. Here are the characters for 1 through 10 from the BBC for students.
  2. Write the Mandarin numbers, their pronunciations, and their numerical equivalents on the whiteboard. Have students practice saying the number words until they are familiar with their pronunciations and meanings. Then give students simple math problems  to solve using these number words. For extra challenge, encourage students to write a simple math problem in Chinese and share with their peers to try.

Books for Chinese New Year

(Download the list as a PDF here).

SPOTLIGHT: The Magical Monkey King: Mischief in Heaven This is an adaption perfect for elementary schools of one of China’s favorite classics, Journey to the West. This Monkey is arrogant, bold, clever, and hilarious. Every child in China grows up listening to stories of the irrepressible Monkey King. Join Monkey as he wins his title as King of the Monkeys, studies with a great sage to learn the secrets of immortality, and even takes on the job as a royal gardener in the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

Chinatown Adventure A young Chinese American girl is spending the day in Chinatown with her mother. With so many interesting things to buy, how will she spend her money?

 

 

D is for Doufu: An Alphabet Book of Chinese Culture and I Love China: A Companion Book to D is for Doufu This book introduces readers to Chinese culture, beliefs, and legends in today’s context. It explores the meanings of 23 Chinese words and phrases while providing an interesting historical and cultural background.

 

 

 

Golden Dragon Parade Chinese New Year is here. Come along to the Golden Dragon Parade.

 

 

 

Sam and the Lucky Money Sam can hardly wait to go shopping with his mom. It’s Chinese New Year’s day and his grandparents have given him the traditional gift of lucky money. Yet, Sam discovers that sometimes the best gifts come from the heart.

 

 

 

The Day the Dragon Danced Sugar and her Grandma are going to the Chinese New Year’s Day parade, but Grandma is skeptical about New Year’s in February and scary dragons.

 

 

 

 The Dragon Lover and Other Chinese Proverbs These proverbs are used in everyday Chinese life to illustrate moments of humor or clarity in our actions. Each of the five stories collected here feature animals that help readers shed light on the truths of human nature.

 

 

 

The Monster in the Mudball When Jin’s little brother is kidnapped by the monster Zilombo, Jin teams up with Chief Inspector of Ancient Artifacts Mizz Z on the streets of England to find him and defeat the monster.

 

 

 

The Wishing Tree Every Lunar New Year, Ming and his grandmother visited the Wishing Tree. Grandmother warned him to wish carefully, and sure enough, Ming’s wishes always seemed to come true. But one year—when Ming made the most important wish of his life—the tree let him down. 

(Download the full book list and activities as a PDF here).

Chinese New Year

Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Specialist, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language for second through sixth grade in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in the Bay Area, CA as a Teach for America corps member where she became passionate about best practices for supporting English Language Learners and parent engagement. In her column for Lee & Low’s The Open Book blog, she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.

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24. 7 Core Values to Celebrate During Black History Month

The month of February is a time when many communities pause and celebrate the great contributions made by African Americans in history. At Lee & Low we like to not only highlight African Americans who have made a difference, but also explore the diverse experiences of black culture throughout history, from the struggle for freedom in the South and the fight for civil rights to the lively rhythms of New Orleans jazz and the cultural explosion of the Harlem Renaissance.

We put together a list of titles – along with additional resources 7 Core Values for copy– that align with 7 core values and
themes to help you celebrate both Black History Month and African American culture all 365 days of the year.

It’s important to remember that heritage months, like Black History Month, can encourage a practice of pulling diverse books that feature a particular observed culture for only one month out of the year. To encourage a more everyday approach, we developed an 8-step checklist for building an inclusive book collection that reflects the diversity of the human experience. Teaching Tolerance also offers some helpful solutions to connect multicultural education with effective instructional practices and lists insightful “dos and don’ts” for teaching black history that are applicable to any culturally responsive curriculum or discussion.

How do you celebrate during Black History Month? Or, better yet, how do you help children discover the cultural contributions and achievements of black history all year long? Let us know in the comments!

Perseverance, Determination, & Grit

Leadership & Couragemain_large-4

Teamwork & Collaboration

Responsibility & Commitmentmain_Mooncover

 Optimism & Hope

Compassion & Love

Passion & Pridemain_large

Discussion questions when reading and learning about core values:

  1. How does/do the character(s) show (core value)?
  2. What positive effects are associated with having/showing (core value)?
  3. How do you show (core value)?
  4. How can you work towards having/showing (core value)?
  5. What core values do you think are important to apply in our classroom? Why?

Further reading on teaching core values with students:

Looking for additional resources for teaching Black History? Check out these lesson plans, videos, and tips:

veronicabioVeronica has a degree from Mount Saint Mary College and joined LEE & LOW in the fall of 2014. She has a background in education and holds a New York State childhood education (1-6) and students with disabilities (1-6) certification. When she’s not wandering around New York City, you can find her hiking with her dog Milo in her hometown in the Hudson Valley, NY.

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25. Classroom Library: 5 Things to Consider

“Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are.”– Mason Cooley13089CT01.tif

Mason Cooley took the words right out of my mouth. As an avid reader, I have experienced the beauty of finding myself lost in another world within the pages of a book. Unfortunately, not all students may have had this type of opportunity. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the first step to creating a well-rounded classroom library should not only intrigue and motivate students to want to open a book but also meet their diverse learning needs.

Here are my top 5 ways to build a classroom library:classroom lib 1

  1. Create a classroom library without breaking the bank. Check all of your resources before heading to the closest department bookstore or even the school book fair. You can find gems while visiting local garage and yard sales, as well as thrift shops. Ask for donations from your family and friends. Look into your school’s policies in terms of grants or donors, and explore resources like Donors Choose to request materials for your classroom and First Book for discounted books.

2. Listen to and know your students. Think back to your favorite book, author, or series that you loved at your students’ age. Even though you ate them up, these types of books may or may not be as relevant to your group of students. If you want to have books in your library that students want to read, you need to ask them and get to know your students. Reading conferences can serve as a time to discuss books that students are currently reading or topics that they would be interested in learning more about. Readers notebooks can also provide insight into the reading patterns of your students. Have students record how often they read and the title and author of each book to open up your library to books you may have not considered.

3. Be thoughtful about your classroom community. The books in your classroom library need to not only reflect the topics and interests of your students but your students themselves. Can your students see themselves in these books? Do the characters and stories build understanding of diverse cultures and experiences? Reading books with diverse characters and content not only builds self-confidence through making personal cultural connections but also promotes empathy and understanding. A truly culturally responsive library does involve awareness and research. For more information, check out 8 Steps to Creating a Diverse Book Collection.

4. Consider the more formal aspects of a library. In addition to finding books that fit classroom lib 2.pngstudent interest, it is important to consider the accessibility of your books. Having a variety of books that cover a range of genres from graphic novels to biographies to poetry allows students to not only read for personal interest but supplement grade-level content learning in the classroom. So organizing books by not only theme but also level is also important to support students when selecting independent books within an appropriately challenging range. This includes having books both below and above grade level. But this doesn’t mean you should discourage a child from picking up a book just because it is not necessarily at his or her level, as their interest and motivation in the book’s topic plays a significant factor in overall comprehension.

5. Overcome the bumps with inspiration. “Reading is SO boring.” “There is nothing here that I want to read.” “I will never finish a book.” “I HATE reading.” Resistance and frustration are sometimes unfortunate parts of the process, but if met with a student-driven effort to identify each reluctant reader’s obstacles and ways to overcome them, negative attitudes toward reading can be turned around. Besides assessing your students’ reading levels and stocking your library with a wide range of interests, sometimes it is worth the time investment to go beyond the classroom for a little added spark. For example, inviting authors and illustrators to your classroom to share their writing or drawing processes can be a game changer for students. Many students have never met an author or illustrator before, and meeting the minds behind the books they’ve read is an inspiring experience for students.

Authentic reading experiences beyond your classroom, such as class trips to the local public library or bookstore, can help get your kids excited about reading. It’s important to provide students with experiences that show them that reading isn’t just an activity done in school. Personally, the best field trip I have attended so far was to Belmont Library in Bronx, NY. M class was able to have free reign of the library for nearly two hours and browse the selection to find their “just right” books. The highlight of the day was a student walking toward me with an armful of books asking, “How many books can I check out, Ms. Panko?” Giving students the opportunity to explore with your support gives them the freedom to internalize a love of reading.

PankoBioPictureLindsay is a recent graduate from Mount Saint Mary College and is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Literacy Education. She currently holds New York State certifications for childhood (1-6) and students with disabilities (1-6). Lindsay is a first year teacher in the Bronx working as a sixth grade special education teacher. She enjoys hiking throughout the Hudson Valley and baking during her free time.

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