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1. Reading for the Earth: Ultimate Earth Day Resource Roundup

Earth Day, April 22nd is right around the corner, and we at Lee & Low are some pretty big fans of this blue planet we live on. So, whether you choose to plant a tree or pledge to better uphold the 3 R’s -reduce, reuse, recycle- we are celebrating and promoting awareness the best way we know how- with books!

Here are 5 environmentally friendly collections to bring nature READING FOR 1 yellowindoors & encourage “thinking green”:

Save the Planet: Environmental Action Earth Day Collection: Be inspired to be an advocate for planet Earth through the true stories of threatened ecosystems, environmental recovery efforts and restorations plans, and heroic actions. Like the individuals and communities explored in these stories, children everywhere will realize the difference they can make in protecting our planet and preserving its natural resources.

Earth Day Poetry Collection: Through rhythm and verse, float down the cool river, reach as high as the tallest tree, and search for all of the vibrant colors of the rainbow in the natural world. This collection of poetry books are inspired by the joy and wonder of being outdoors and brings the sight and sounds of nature and all of its wildlife to life.

Seasonal Poems Earth Day Collection: Travel through winter, spring, summer, & fall through a series of bilingual seasonal poems by renowned poet and educator, Francisco Alarcón.  Learn about family, community, and caring for each other and the natural environment we live in.

Adventures Around the World Collection: Explore Africa while traversing Botswana’s lush grasslands and Uganda’s Impenetrable Forest, celebrate the deep-seeded respect for wildlife in India, Mongolia and on an island off the coast of Iceland, and journey to Australia to explore animals found nowhere else on Earth.

Vanishing Cultures Collection: The 7-book series introduces readers to the Yanomama of the Amazon Basin, Aborigines of Australia, Sami of the European Arctic, Inuit of the North American Arctic, Tibetans and Sherpas from the Himalaya, Mongolians of Asia, and Tuareg of the Sahara.

Lesson Plans & Ideas:

What fun is Earth Day if you don’t get your hands a little dirty? Bring some of the outdoors into your classroom-or vice versa- by engaging students in various hands-on and project-based Earth Day lessons and activities:

Earth Day Curriculum Resources, Grades K-5 from The National Earth Day BooksEducation Council. Features lesson plans, units, useful websites, games & activities, printables, and video.

Environmental Education Activities & Resources from The National Education Council. Features lesson plans, activities, projects, games, and professional development ideas.

Celebrate Earth Day! from ReadWriteThink. Features a classroom activity, 6 lesson plans for grades K-2, 6-8, and 7-9 & other Earth Day resources for kids.

Nature Works Everywhere from the Nature Conservancy. Features lessons, video, and tools to help students learn about and understand nature in various environments and ecosystems across the globe.

Check out the research-based read aloud and paired text lessons for The Mangrove Tree created by the staff at the award-winning, non-profit ReadWorks.org

Explore the educator activities for The Mangrove Tree and Buffalo Song, titles featured in RIF’s Multicultural Book Collections. To find other free activities that inspire young readers as well as learn more about Reading Is Fundamental, visit RIF.org

Activities, Projects, & Video:

Greening STEM Educator Toolkits from National Environmental Education Week. Features toolkits for activities based on water, climate, energy, and engineering a sustainable world through project-based service learning.

NOVA Earth System Science Collection from PBS LearningMedia. Standards-based video collection that explores important Earth processes and “ the intricate web of forces that sustain life on Earth.”

22 Interactive Lessons to Bring Earth Day to Life from Mind/Shift. Features informational videos, images, and other forms of multi-media highlighting research on biodegradation, climate change, waste, energy sources, and sustainable practices.

I Want to Be Recycled from Keep America Beautiful. Find out how different kinds of materials are recycled, transforming trash into new things. Students can play a super sorter game and start a recycling movement in their community.

Journey North: A Global Study of Wildlife Migration & Seasonal Change from Learner.org. Track various migratory species with classrooms across the world.

The Global Water Sampling Project from the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education (CIESE). Students from all over the world collaborate to compare the water quality of various fresh water sources.

Tools to Reduce Waste in Schools from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Learn how to begin a waste reduction program in your school or community with helpful guides and resource tool kits.

Wildlife Watch from the National Wildlife Federation. Learn about and monitor the wildlife where you live, helping track the health and behavior of wildlife and plant species across the nation.

What’s Your DOT (Do One Thing)? from the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE). Pledge your DOT (Do One Thing) to take action and inspire others to make a difference.

Plant a Poem, Plant a Flower from the blog Sturdy for Common Things. Since April celebrates both National Poetry Month & Earth Day, why not plant a little poetry in nature?

And finally… some Earth Day treats!

Earth Day Cookies from Tammilee Tips
Earth Day Cookies from Tammilee Tips at tammileetips.com

 

Earth Day Cookies

Earth Day Dirt Cup

Earth Day Cupcakes

 

 

 

 

veronicabio

Veronica 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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2. Interpreting César Chávez’s Legacy with Students

Guest BloggerIn this guest post, Sara Burnett, education associate at the American Immigration Council, presents strategies and resources to enrich the classroom with the legacy of César Chávez. This blog post was originally posted at the American Immigration Council’s Teach Immigration blog.

“When the man who feeds the world by toiling in the field is himself deprived of the basic rights of feeding and caring for his own family, the whole community of man is sick.”   — César Chávez

César Chávez was a Mexican-American labor activist and civil rightsWhen the man who feeds the world by leader who fought tirelessly throughout his life to improve the working conditions of migrant farm workers. A man of great courage, he championed nonviolent protest, using boycotts, strikes, and fasting as a way to create sweeping social change. Importantly, his work led him to found the United Farm Workers union (UFW).

His remarkable achievements towards social justice and human rights serve as an excellent example to young people of how vital their voices are in bringing about change and championing causes that are as relevant today as they were in his day.

One group of middle school students in Fellsmere, FL has done just that by writing and producing a short news broadcast “The Hands That Feed Us: A Migrant Farm Workers Service Project,” highlighting the unfair labor practices and strenuous conditions of migrant farmworkers who pick oranges in their community. Their teachers are winners of the American Immigration Council’s 2014 community grants program which helped to fund this service-learning opportunity. Their project culminates with a school-wide donation drive for materials sorely needed for migrant farmworkers.

Inspired to enrich your classroom with the legacy of César Chávez? 

Start with a lesson

Interpreting the Impact of César Chávez’s Early Years

In this immigration lesson plan, students will understand how César Chávez’s adolescence as a migrant farm worker influenced his later achievements.  First, students will analyze how an artist and biographer have interpreted Chávez’s legacy.  Then by reading excerpts from Chávez’s autobiography, students will draw connections between how his early years shaped his later beliefs and achievements around organized labor, social justice, and humane treatment of individuals. Once students have read and critically thought about these connections, they will write a response supported with evidence from the text to answer the investigative question on the impact of Chávez’s early years and development.  This Common-Core aligned lesson includes extensions and adaptations for ELL students and readers at multiple levels.

Use visuals and picture booksCESAR

Appropriate for younger students, but inspirational for all ages, picture books have a unique capacity to captivate and educate. The following books all have linked teacher’s guides.

Poems to Dream Together/Poemas para Soñar Juntos by Francisco Alarcón pays tribute to those who toil in the fields, and to César Chávez. This is an excellent bilingual book to use in your celebration of National Poetry Month in April.

Amelia’s Road by Linda Jacobs Altman explores the daily life of migrant farm working in California’s Central Valley from a child’s perspective. According to the publisher, Lee and Low Books, “it is an inspirational tale about the importance of home.”

First Day in Grapes by L. King Perez follows Chico and his family traveling farm to farm across California where every September they pick grapes and Chico enters a different school. But third grade year is different and Chico begins to find his own voice against the bullies at his school

Calling the Doves / El Canto de las Palomas by Juan Herrera is the poet’s account of his own childhood as a migrant farmworker.  Beautifully illustrated and composed in Spanish and English, Herrera describes the simple joys he misses from his native Mexico as well as detailing his personal journey in becoming a writer.

A brief video Mini-Bio: César Chávez sets the foundation for older students to learn about the major achievements of Chávez’s life.

Initiate a community service project

Chávez was explicit about the need to serve one’s community. As a class, identify a need in your community and then brainstorm ways that students can make a difference from running a donation drive to decorating school walls in order to welcome all students and families.  Take inspiration from the students in Fellsmere, FL for a more intensive project and let us know about it and apply for our community grants.

Extend learning into the present state of migrant farm workers

Read How Inaction on Immigration Impacts the Agricultural Economy (American Immigration Council) and What happens when more than half of migrant workers are undocumented? (Michigan Radio)  Ask students: What is the status of migrant labor today in the U.S.?  How much has changed and stayed the same since Chávez’s early childhood?

Read Interview with a Crab Picker (Public Welfare Foundation) and explore what it is like to apply for U.S. jobs while residing in the home country.  Pair this reading with the short film about a Public Welfare Foundation grantee: Centro De Los Derechos Del Migrante, Inc. available on their website. Ask students:  How do these recent interviews and stories compare and contrast with the conditions facing Chávez and his family? How are some individuals in home countries benefitting from sending migrant workers to the U.S.?

Have more ideas on teaching César Chávez and his legacy with students?  We’d love to hear them.  Email us at teacher@immcouncil.org and follow us on twitter @ThnkImmigration.

Sara SelfSara Burnett is the education associate at the American Immigration Council, a non-partisan non-profit dedicated to honoring our nation’s immigrant past and shaping our immigrant future. She was a former public high school English teacher in Washington D.C. and Vermont. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland, College Park, where she taught a service-learning and creative writing with undergraduates and recently immigrated high school students. Additionally, she holds a MA in English Literature from the University of Vermont, and a BA in English and Economics from Boston College. 

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3. Novels to supplement history | Part 1

This year, I started a new role as the 8th grade Humanities teacher. I began the school year with an ambitious “Novels of the World” plan that would flawlessly integrate every Common Core standard in Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking along with the world history.

Then reality hit me in the throat.

I realized that even though I’m technically teaching “English Language Arts,” the colorful demographics of my class means I am also unofficially teaching a lot of English Language Development. I started noticing that in the mushy realm of “middle school humanities,” history ends up getting the shorter end of the stick — probably because English is more heavily tested than history. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to choose which area to skimp, but this is reality.

So, to make sure that some history gets into each ELA lesson (and to provide yet another lens for students to learn history), I correlate the novels I teach with the history unit. There are also times when I can’t devote that much time or depth to the history unit. In those cases, I give book talks to let my students know about different leveled books available for their enjoyment.

Below are books in bold that I’ve personally used either in whole-class or small group instruction.* There are also books that I’ve included that I plan to use in the future. Also, as I compiled the list, I realized this post was getting too long, so I’ll have the second half up next month!


Anna of ByzantiumByzantine Empire

Anna of Byzantium by Tracy Barrett
To be honest, this book was difficult. I had to explain much context and there were not too many exciting plot jumps. My students were still curious, but I would say that this would be a more advanced reading level and probably not the best way to start the year. It was great, however, for teaching figurative language, point of view, and character development. Anna is also a great female protagonist, and there are many teachable moments throughout the book.

 


One Thousand and One Arabian NightsRise of Islam

One Thousand and One Arabian Nights by Geraldine McCaughrean
This is one of my favorite books. Although the reading level is a bit lower, the text is complex especially for students who do not have an understanding of the Arabian peninsula. This is a frame-tale narrative so students are able to practice looking at plot structure, setting, character development, theme, and figurative language. This book is full of similes and personification. I differentiated by reading some stories together as a class and expecting extra stories from more advanced readers. I have actually started 7th grade with this book twice now.


SundiataWest Africa

Sundiata: Lion King of Mali by David Wisniewski
So yes, according to the Horn Book Guide, this is meant for K-3. But this book is gorgeous, and I hope to use this and a few other Sundiata narratives to help my students grasp an understanding of the African narrative style and create their own historically accurate play.

 


The Ghost In the Tokaido InnMedieval Japan

The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler
This is a fun mystery that takes place in 18th century Japan. Students clearly enjoyed seeing what they learned about samurai, dishonorable samurai, and the Code of Bushido coming alive in this fast-paced chapter book. I focused on mainly covering suspense, setting, and characterization here.

 

The Samurai's TaleThe Samurai’s Tale by Erik Christian Haugaard
I have only read an excerpt and it seems a bit more high level. I could see this book being very engaging, however, as it starts with quite a lot of action, betrayal, and suspense in the first chapter.

 

•   •   •

In my next post, I will list the books I’ve used for China, South America, Feudal Europe, Renaissance, and the Age of Exploration. Have you used any of these books before? Am I missing some must-have gems? Let me know by commenting below!

*In California, middle school spends one year learning about medieval to modern world history. It usually consists of the fall of Rome, the Byzantine Empire’s rise, the Arabian Peninsula and Islam, West Africa, Medieval Japan and China, South America, and then Europe, Europe, and lots more Europe.

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4. Why Literacy Teachers Should Care About Math

I’ll be the first to admit it: I didn’t pay much attention to math. I specialized in literacy and focused on reading, speaking, listening, writing, social studies, and science instruction. Math? My third graders went down the hall each day to the “math classroom.” My co-teacher and I collaborated over best teaching practices, family relationships, and classroom management, but I didn’t spend time delving into the third-grade mathematics standards.

It wasn’t until I entered into our first parent-teachers-student conferences in September that I realized I couldn’t afford to compartmentalize my students’ learning.

In those conferences, we had students who loved math and had excelled in math every year leading up, but were now struggling to advance. They seemed to have hit an invisible wall. What happened?

Two words: Word problems.

Why Literacy Teachers Should Care About Math (1)Some of our students who were English Language Learners, reluctant readers, or who struggled to read at grade level for other reasons all of a sudden “couldn’t do” math anymore because the vocabulary, text length, and sentence structure were increasing in complexity. Even though they knew what 9 x 5 was, they couldn’t read and decipher the sentence:

Rene enjoys wearing a new outfit every day. His father bought him nine pairs of shorts and five shirts. Rene doesn’t want to wear any outfit twice. How many different outfit combinations does he have?

Now several of my students weren’t only struggling to read in my literacy class, but also struggling to read in math class. This was disheartening and confusing for them because math was a subject they loved, excelled at, and didn’t feel “below their grade level” because of language abilities or background schema. Yet reading challenges were following them down the hall and across instruction periods.

Guess what: Reading teachers are ALSO math teachers.

What?

Let me explain.

  • A text is a text no matter the form. Those ELA standards about determining the central idea and unknown or multiple-meaning words apply to word problems along with poems, plays, and biographies. Word problems can be lengthy, involve two or more steps, and contain new and unknown vocabulary that require examining context clues to solve.
  • Great English teachers improve students’ math scores. According to The Hechinger Report, researchers from Stanford and University of Virginia looked at 700,000 students in New York City in third through eighth grade over the course of eight school years. Results: Students of good English language arts teachers had higher than expected math scores in subsequent years.
  • Starting in second-grade mathematics, students are reading, interpreting, and solving two-step and multi-step word problems. Even as early as kindergarten and first grade, students are encountering one-step word problems. Bottom line: If they can’t read, they will get left behind in math, too.

So, how can literacy teachers embrace math?

1. Nice to meet you, Math. I’m ELA. The Common Core website also falls victim to sequestering the ELA and math standards. Whether you teach both math and literacy or only one, compare the math standards to the ELA standards of your grade. Open two windows on your computer setting the Reading or Language standards of your grade side by side with the Operations & Algebraic Thinking standards for your grade. What do they have in common?

(Hint, hint: determining central idea of a text, interpreting unknown words or phrases, using context clues, and learning general academic and domain-specific words)

2. Share what read aloud or model text you are reading for the week or unit if you have a separate teacher for math instruction. In word problems, you or the math instructor can write a few of the problems about the characters. Reading In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage? Make Augusta the main character in the word problems.

This book has several money references because Augusta earned money from her teaching and from competitions she entered. Use some of the scenes in the book to review the values of currency. For example, Augusta earned a dollar every day from the principal of her school. How many different ways can you make $1.00 using combinations of quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies?

3. Reward students with a math problem during the reading instruction block. (I’m telling you—students LOVE seeing you break out math during a literacy block). This gives students a break, uses a different part of their brains/thinking, and allows them to display their abilities in another subject (which is especially important if English makes a student feel doubtful or shy). Students can do this if they finish their required assignment early or you are transitioning between periods.

4. Allow students to create a word problem using the setting and characters of a book they are reading as an incentive, extension opportunity, or way to engage reluctant readers. Students can submit problems for you to review at the end of the day and the next day you can post one with the student author’s name. Students will have a chance to model (and observe) high quality writing and thinking, as well as delight in their peers’ recognition.

5. Word problems ARE story problems. Treat a word problem like any other fiction story. Have students identify the main character(s) and the problem. Give the word problem a setting. Encourage students to expand the math problem into a fiction story through writing or drawing.

6. Make a math bin in the classroom library. Whatever gets a student excited to read and pick up a book, right? Just as we will scour web deals and dig through yard sales for books on tiger sharks and poison dart frogs, don’t forget to hunt for math-themed books to add to your classroom library if math is your students’ passion.

from Ice Cream Money

7. Pick math-themed books to align with units students are covering in the grade level’s math standards. Great read alouds and leveled readers exist to help teach concepts around counting, money, time, geometry, and mixed operations, such as:

8. Even books without explicit math themes can inspire math conversations.

From Baby Flo: Florence Mills Lights Up the Stage:

  • Florence was promised twenty-five cents a night to perform at the Empire Theater. If she performed every night for one week, how much money did she earn? How much money would she earn in two weeks?
  • After her performance in the butchers’ shop, Florence earned $3.85. How many nickels would you need to make $3.85? How many pennies would you need to make $3.85?

From Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy:

  • If Hoy was born in 1862 and died in 1961, how old was he when he passed away? If Hoy started playing in the major leagues in 1888 and retired from baseball in 1902, how many years did he play in the major leagues? How many years ago did Hoy last play baseball? If Hoy were alive today, how old would he be?

From Love Twelve Miles Long:

  • Frederick’s mother walks twelve miles. How many yards does she walk? How many kilometers and meters does she walk?

If students can’t read, they will struggle to succeed in math (and science and social studies). These challenges will compound with each year affecting self-confidence and commitment. Bridging math and literacy for students is a powerful way for students to see that learning how to derive meaning from text has real world applications and that you are invested in their entire education.

img_1587Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

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5. 10 Ways to Use Instagram in the Classroom

Think there’s no need for sepia-toned filters and hashtags in your classroom? Don’t write off the world of #selfies just yet.

Instagram is one of the most popular social media channels among generation Z, or those born after 1995 and don’t know a world without the Internet. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that this is a generation of visual learners and communicators, where sharing your life-from the food you’re about to eat to your thoughts about anything and everything-is a part of your everyday routine. So, why allow Instagram in your classroom?

For starters, preparing students to be college and career ready involves helping them build their digital literacy skills on a professional level, and Instagram is a technological tool that offers educators innovative ways to motivate and engage students, opening up a new platform for collaboration, research, and discussion. Secondly, we all know the importance of interest and ownership for getting students excited about learning, and since your students probably already love Instagram you’ve already won half the battle.

Teacher/Classroom Instagram Accounts

Create a private classroom Instagram account that you control and instagramcan use to connect with your students, their parents and guardians, and other grade team members. Invite them to follow your account and catch a glimpse of your everyday classroom moments and adventures.

  1. Student of the Week: Each week, feature a different student on the class Instagram account, posting photos-with their permission- of their favorite classroom projects and other examples of their hard work and achievement. This is a fun opportunity to highlight your students’ individual strengths, positively reinforcing their behavior and progress.
  2. Daily/Weekly Classroom Update: Similar to student of the week, you can instagram your students’ classroom projects and activities on a daily or weekly basis. From photos of new classroom reads to capturing field trip memories, this is an excellent way to build a sense of community while allowing parents to see what lessons, topics, and exciting activities are happening in your classroom. This is also a great way to easily and quickly share your classroom ideas with other grade team teachers.
  3. Student takeover: If you’re not able to encourage students to create their own individual Instagram accounts, invite each student to “take over” the classroom account for a day or week by sharing photos from his or her everyday life. This is a great opportunity for students to learn more about their peers by instagramming their interests, hobbies, routines, and even cultural traditions.
  4. Photo Inspiration: Finding inspiration to write can be one of the most difficult parts of the writing process. Spark your students’ imaginations and help them discover new ideas through instagramming writing prompts by playing with different angles, perspectives, and filters to capture random moments and objects that you encounter throughout your day-to-day.
  5. Caption That! For a variation of the writing prompt, post an interesting photo and ask your students to write a descriptive caption in the comments. Differentiate how challenging this task is by asking students to write their caption using specific sentence types, different parts of speech, clauses, prepositional phrases, and their current vocabulary words.
  6. Daily challenges: If your students are able to follow the classroom Instagram account on a regular basis, you can use it to post daily challenges in the form of visual word problems, review questions, and bonus questions. Instagram photos of important learned concepts and pose questions to your students in the caption, asking them to write their answers in the comments. For example, this fifth-grade teacher used Instagram to review who Henry Ford was and other important events in history.

Student Instagram Accounts

Asking your students to follow the classroom Instagram account with their personal accounts is one, highly unlikely, and two, probably not the best idea. What you can do is ask your students to create additional Instagram accounts that would only be used for school or classroom purposes. You know how LinkedIn is your professional Facebook? A similar idea applies here.

  1. A Day in the Life: Challenge students to assume the role of a classroom longfictional literary character and share images that he or she believes the specific character would post, highlighting the character’s interests, personality traits, and development throughout the story. The 15-second video option is a great way to really let students get into character through recorded role-playing and even performance reenactments. These activities can also be applied to important figures in history, such as the creator of Honda, Soichiro Honda, or jazz musician, Melba Liston.
  2. What the Kids are Reading: Students can snap photos of their favorite reads and write a brief 1-5 sentence review in the caption. To take it a step further, ask them to record 15-second long persuasive book trailers to hook their peers. Boost further discussion among your students by asking them to comment on other book reviews and book trailer videos to share their opinions. Tip: Encourage your students to use a unique #hashtag (ex.: #SMSGrade4Reads) for each book review posted, and by the end of the year you will have a visual library of all of the books your class has read.
  3. Math Hunt: “Why do we have to learn this?” “I won’t need this in my everyday life.” Sound familiar? Help your students see the real-world math applications all around them by sending them on a hunt to document or illustrate their knowledge of different math concepts:
  • Geometry: lines (parallel, perpendicular, and intersecting), angles (right, acute, obtuse, etc.) symmetry, and three-dimensional shapes (prisms, cubes, cylinders, etc.)
  • Everyday fractions and arrays
  • Concepts of money
  • Examples of volume vs. mass, area vs. perimeter
  1. STEM Research: Students can watch, observe, and record science experiment data and results over time by documenting any step-by-step process with photo and video narration of learned science concepts. Outside of the lab, students can use their Instagram accounts for observing science in nature or sharing their own scientific findings. What makes this special is how quickly and easily students can share and revisit their visual references and recorded data.
  • Physical & chemical changes
  • Weather patterns and phases of the moon
  • Animal adaptations
  • Habitats in nature

Note: Instagram, as well as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Snapchat, has a minimum age limit of 13 to open an account, but according to Instagram’s parents’ guide, there are many younger users on Instagram with their parents’ permission since you don’t have to specify your age. Always check with your school’s administrator and obtain parental permission before sharing photos of students or their work.

Know of any other interesting ways to use Instagram or other social media sites in the classroom? Already using Instagram in the classroom? Let us know in the comments!

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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6. Talking with Cynthia DeFelice: About Writing, Inspiration, the Common Core, Boys, Guns, Books and More

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I have long followed and respected the work of author Cynthia DeFelice, who over the past 25 years has put together an expansive and impressive body of work. No bells, no whistles, no fancy pyrotechnics. Just one well-crafted book after another. There’s not an ounce of phony in Cynthia; she’s the genuine article, the real magilla. Last November, I was pleased to run into Cynthia at the Rochester Children’s Book Festival. Pressed for time, we chatted easily about this and that, then parted ways. But I wanted more. Thus, this conversation . . . I’m sure you’ll like Cynthia almost as much as her dog does.

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Greetings, Cynthia. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule for this conversation. I feel like we have so much to talk about. We first met sometime in the early 90s, back when Frank Hodge, a bookseller in Albany, was putting on his elaborate, gushing children’s book conferences.

UnknownIt’s nice to be in touch with you again. I’ll always remember those conferences​ with Frank Hodge.  He made me feel validated as a fledgling writer.  He left me a voice mail telling me how much he loved the book Weasel.  I played it over and over and over!   In 1992, the Hodge-Podge Society gave the first ever Hodge-Podge Award to Weasel.  It meant the world to me.  Those were great times for authors, teachers, kids, and for literature.

Frank forced me to read your book — and I loved it. So I’ll always be grateful to Frank for that; it’s important to have those people in your world, the sharers, the ones who press books into your hands and say, “You must read this!”

Well, good for Frank! He is definitely one of those people you’re talking about. His enthusiasm is infectious.

We’ve seen many changes over the past 25 years. For example, a year or two ago I  participated in a New York State reading conference in Albany for educators. The building was abuzz with programs about “Common Core” strategies & applications & assessments & implementation techniques and ZZZZZzzzzz. (Sorry, dozed off for a minute!) Anyway, educators were under tremendous pressure to roll this thing out — even when many sensed disaster. Meanwhile, almost out of habit, organizers invited authors to attend, but they placed us in a darkened corridor in the back. Not next to the Dumpster, but close. At one point I was with Susan Beth Pfeffer, who writes these incredible books, and nobody was paying attention to her. This great writer was sitting there virtually ignored.

9780374400200To your point about finding fabulous authors being ignored at conferences, I hear you. It can be a very humbling experience. I find that teachers aren’t nearly as knowledgeable about books and authors as they were 10-25 years ago, and not as interested. They aren’t encouraged in that direction, and they don’t feel they have the time for what is considered to be non-essential to the goal of making sure their kids pass the tests. Thankfully, there are exceptions! You and I both still hear from kids and teachers for whom books are vital, important, and exhilarating.

But, yes, I agree with you completely that literature is being shoved to the side. Teachers tell me they have to sneak in reading aloud when no one is watching or listening.

When I was invited to speak at a dinner, along with Adam Gidwitz and the great Joe Bruchac, I felt compelled to put in a good word for  . . . story. You know, remind everybody that books matter. In today’s misguided rush for “informational units of text,” I worry that test-driven education is pushing literature to the side. The powers that be can’t easily measure the value of a book — it’s impossible to reduce to bubble tests — so their solution is to ignore fiction completely. Sorry for the rant, but I’m so frustrated with the direction of education today.

Well, it’s hard not to rant. It’s disconcerting to think how we’ve swung so far from those heady days of “Whole Language” to today’s “Common Core” curriculum — about as far apart as two approaches can be. I think the best approach lies somewhere in the vast middle ground between the two, and teachers need to be trusted to use methods as varied as the kids they work with every day.

On a recent school visit in Connecticut, I met a second-year librarian — excuse me, media specialist — who was instructed by her supervisor to never read aloud to the students. It wasn’t perceived as a worthwhile use of her time.

Well, that is sad and just plain ridiculous. I was a school librarian for 8 ½ years. I felt the most important part of my job was reading aloud to kids

I didn’t realize you were a librarian. 
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9780374398996Yes, I began as a school librarian. But, really, my life as a writer began when I was a child listening to my mother read aloud.  And every crazy job I had before I became a librarian (and there were a lot) helped to form and inform me as a writer.  This is true of us all.  I had an actual epiphany one day while I was a librarian. I looked up from a book I was reading aloud and saw the faces of a class of kids who were riveted to every word… I saw their wide eyes, their mouths hanging open, their bodies taut and poised with anticipation – I was seeing full body participation in the story that was unfolding.  I thought: I want to be the person who makes kids look and feel like THAT.
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And that’s exactly who you became. Which is incredible. This can be a tough and discouraging business; I truly hope you realize how much you’ve accomplished.

Thanks, and back at you on that. I think we have to constantly remind ourselves that what we do is important. I think we’ve all had the experience of being scorned because we write for children. The common perception is that we write about fuzzy bunnies who learn to share and to be happy with who they are.

I loved your recent blog post about the importance of books that disturb us. I’m still amazed when I hear from a teacher or parent –- and occasionally even a young reader –- saying they didn’t like a book or a scene from a book because of something upsetting that happened in it. Conflict is the essence of fiction! No conflict, no story (or, worse, a boring, useless one). I love my characters, and I hate to make them go through some of the experiences they have, but it’s got to be done! Did I want Stewpot to die in Nowhere to Call Home? Did I want Weasel to have cut out Ezra’s tongue and killed his wife and unborn baby? Did I want Erik to have to give up the dog Quill at the end of Wild Life? These things hurt, and yet we see our characters emerge from the dark forests we give them to walk through, coming out stronger and wiser. We all need to hear about such experiences, over and over again, in order to have hope in the face of our own trials.

I admire all aspects of your writing, but in particular your sense of pace; your stories click along briskly. They don’t feel rushed, there’s real depth, but there’s always a strong forward push to the narrative. How important is that to you?

I love beautiful writing, I love imagery and metaphor, and evocative language. But all that must be in service to story, or I am impatient with it.  I don’t like show-offy writing.

The ego getting in the way.

Yes. Even the best writers need an editor to keep that ego in check! I seek clarity — what good is writing that obscures and obfuscates? The purpose is to communicate, to say what you mean. That goes for all kinds of writing, not just writing for kids. Kids want to get to the point. So do I.

Can you name any books or authors that were important to your development as a writer? Or is that an impossible question to answer?

 Impossible. Because there are too many, and if I made a list I would inevitably leave out a person or book I adore. Safer to say that every book I’ve read -– the good, the bad, and the ugly –- all are in there somewhere, having an effect on my own writing.

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You are what you eat. Also, your love of nature — the great outdoors! — infuses everything you write.

Nature and the great outdoors, yes.  My love of these things will always be a big part of my writing.  I find that after a lifetime of experience and reading and exploring, I know a lot about the natural world, and it’s fun to include that knowledge in my writing. Sometimes I worry that kids are being cut off from the real world.  But I do know lots of kids who love animals and trees and flowers and bugs, love to hunt and fish, to mess around in ponds and streams, build forts,  paddle canoes, collect fossils — you name it. They give me hope for the future.
Where do you live?

On and sometimes in (during the floods of 1972 and 1993) Seneca Lake in beautiful upstate New York.

Is that where you’re from?

Nope. I grew up in the suburbs of northeast Philly. I came up here to go to college and never left.
Your books often feature boy characters. Why do you think that’s so?
9780374324278You’re right: more than half of my main characters are boys.  I’m not sure why.  And I don’t know why I feel so perfectly comfortable writing in the voice of a 10-11-12 year old boy.  Maybe because my brothers and I were close and we did a lot together?  Maybe because my husband still has a lot of boyish enthusiasm?  At any rate, I am crazy about pre-adolescent boys, their goofiness and earnestness and heedlessness.  My new book (coming out in May) is called Fort.  It features two boys, Wyatt and Augie (age 11) who build a fort together during summer vacation.  I had so much fun writing it.  (I have to admit, I love when I crack myself up, and these guys just make me laugh.)
While writing, are you conscious about the gender gap in reading? This truism that “boys don’t read.”

I am. Sometimes I am purposely writing for that reluctant reader, who is so often a boy. I love nothing so much as hearing that one of my books was THE ONE that turned a kid around, that made him a reader.

I just read Signal, so that book is on my mind today. I had to smile  when Owen gets into the woods and his phone doesn’t work. No wi-fi. It’s funny to me because in my “Scary Tales” series I always have to do the same thing. If we want to instill an element of danger, there has to be a sense of isolation that doesn’t seem possible in today’s hyper-connected world. “What? Zombie hordes coming over the rise? I’ll call Mom to pick us up in her SUV!” So we always need to get the  parents out of the way and somehow disable the wi-fi. You didn’t have that problem back when you wrote Weasel.

9780312617769Thanks for reading Signal.  And, yeah, it’s really annoying that in order to be plausible in this day and age, you have to have a reason why your character isn’t on the phone with Mommy every time something goes wrong.  (Another good reason to write historical fiction!)  In Fort, Augie lives with his grandmother and doesn’t have money for a cell phone, and Wyatt’s with his father for the summer. His parents are divorced, and (unlike Mom) Dad doesn’t believe in kids being constantly connected to an electronic nanny.  So — halleluiah!  Wyatt and Augie are free to do all the fun, dumb, and glorious things they feel like doing!
My friends and I built a fort in the woods when we were in high school. Good times, great memories, just hanging out unfettered and free. I included a fort in my book, Along Came Spider. For Trey and Spider, the book’s main characters, the fort represented a refuge. It was also a haven for their friendship away from the social pressures and cliques of school. A place in nature where they could be themselves. So, yes, I love that you wrote a book titled Fort. I’ll add it to my list! (You are becoming an expensive friend.)
Well, now that I’ve discovered your books, I can say the same. Money well spent, I’d say.
Where did the idea for Signal originate?
The inspiration for Signal came one morning as I was running on a trail through the woods with Josie, my dog at the time.  She proudly brought me a white napkin with red stuff smeared on it.  I thought, Whoa, is that blood?  No, whew. Ketchup.  But what if it had been blood?  And what if a kid was running with his dog and she brought him pieces of cloth with blood stains?  Eww.  That would be creepy!  And scary, and exciting, and mysterious — and I started writing Signal.

You’ve always been extremely well-reviewed. Readers love your books.  And yet in this day of series and website-supported titles, where everything seems to be high-concept, it feels like the stand-alone middle grade novel is an endangered species.

I have been lucky with reviews.  But, sadly, I think traditional review sources are becoming increasingly irrelevant, as blogs and websites and personal media platforms take over. That’s not good news for me because I am simply not interested in self-promotion.  Can’t do it.  Don’t want to do it.  I just want to write the best books I can and let them speak for themselves.  I know it’s old-school, but there it is.  You said that a stand-alone middle grade novel is becoming an endangered species amid all the series and “high concept” books out there, and I think you’re right.  But when that stand-alone book somehow finds its niche audience, when kids and teachers somehow discover it and embrace it as theirs . . . , well, it’s a beautiful damn thing, and it’s enough to keep me writing, for now.

For now?!

Well, my husband is 9 years older than I am and recently retired, and there are a lot of things we still need to do!

Like what?

We have a farm property we are improving by digging a pond, and by planting trees and foliage to benefit wildlife. We stocked it with fish, and enjoy watching it attract turtles, frogs, toads, dragonflies, birds and animals of all sorts. So we like to spend a lot of time there, camping out. We love to travel, and are headed next on a self-driving tour of Iceland. We also have four terrific grandchildren we like to spend time with. I could go on and on with the bucket list…

By the way, I agree about the blogs. I think we are seeing a lot more opinion — more reaction — but less deep critical thought. It’s fine and useful for a neighbor to tell you they hated or loved a movie, but it’s not the same as a professional film critic providing an informed, and hopefully insightful, critique. Yet somehow today it’s all conflated. 

Well, there is a similar phenomenon with self-published books. I’m not a total snob about it, and there are plenty of good books that didn’t go through the process of being accepted by and edited by a professional at an established publishing house. But I’ll repeat that everyone needs an editor. And I’m often amazed at the brazenness of people spouting off in various social media platforms, often without being fully grounded in the subject they are pontificating about. But, hey, maybe I’m just getting to be an old fart.

Yeah, I don’t Tweet either. We’re being left in the dust! My observation is that the “kidlitosphere” is comprised 90% of women. Of course, many of those bloggers are passionate, smart, generous women who genuinely want to see boys reading. But I always think of a favorite line written by one of my heroes, Charlotte Zolotow, where a boy imagines his father telling his mother, “You never were a boy. You don’t know.”

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zolotowa-father

I don’t think it’s an ideal thing that the blogging world — which has become such an important source of information about books — is overwhelmingly female. Of course, the situation is not at all their fault. 

That’s why it’s so great that there are writers out there like you, Bruce Coville, Tedd Arnold, Jon Scieska, Neil Gaiman, Jack Gantos –- who not only write books boys like, but are out there in schools demonstrating that REAL MEN read and write! I don’t know what we can do about the gender gap other than to be aware of it and to write the best books we can, books that both boys and girls will devour.

Tell me about Wild Life. Once again, you are mining the world of adventure — a boy, a dog, and a gun.

I never got as much mail from kids, teachers, grandparents and other caregivers as I did after that book came out. In our hyper-politically correct world, GUNS = EVIL. You can’t talk about them in school. So where does that leave a kid who spends his or her weekend hunting, who studies nature in order to be part of it, who hunts respectfully, with care, who is enmeshed in family history and tradition, who through hunting feels part of the full complexity of life?

8901928I had to keep silencing the censors in my head telling me I couldn’t put a gun in an 11 year old kid’s hands, unless it was a matter of survival in a book set back in “the olden days.”

I was amazed and immensely gratified to learn that a lot of kids found themselves and their interests represented in Erik’s story. I didn’t write it with an agenda in mind. I simply wrote it based on the experiences I’ve had when my husband and I take our bird dog on her yearly Dream Vacation to North Dakota to hunt pheasants.

Ha! I love that your dog has a Dream Vacation.

I get so much joy from watching her do what she was born and bred to do. I cherish our days out on those wide open prairies, and have learned to see the subtle and varied beauty of the landscape. I was just hoping to write a rip-roaring good story that incorporated all that wonderful stuff. Our hunting experiences have nothing whatsoever to do with “gun violence” of the sort you hear about on TV. It’s been interesting to hear from kids who really get that.

Yeah, I enjoy meeting those kids, often out in the western end of New York State. One of my readers from the North Country sent me this photo. Isn’t she great?

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Oh, man, I love that! We can’t forget those kids are out there.

What’s next, Cynthia? Any new books on the horizon?

Possibly, just possibly, a sequel to Fort. But that’s all I will say, even if you use enhanced interrogation techniques.

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Huge-rubber-duck-13--196-pWe do not waterboard here at Jamespreller dot com, and I resent the implication! Those are merely bath toys that happen to be . . . nevermind!

According to the rules of the interwebs, I see that we’ve gone way beyond the approved length of standard posts. Likely there’s no one left reading. It’s just us. So I’ll end here with a big thank you, Cynthia, for putting up with me. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. I hope I’ll see you again in Rochester at the 19th Annual Children’s Book Festival

Yes!  I look forward to seeing you there.  It’s an incredible event, and gets bigger and better every year.

 

 

 

 

 

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7. MIDDLE-GRADE FANTASY (for the beach AND the classroom)

Looking for some recommendations for a middle grader who loves fantasy? Well, we’ve got just the list for you!

Here are some stellar picks for the kid looking for magical powers, mysterious forests, heros, and villains to take to the beach with him.

The Thickety

THE THICKETY, by J. A. White, is the start of a new fantasy series set in a world where magic is forbidden but exists in the dark woods called the Thickety. This book would be a great recommendation for fans of the Septimus Heap series, and here’s a book talk prepared by librarian, author, and Common Core workshop presenter Kathleen Odean:

How would you like to have the power to summon amazing creatures to do your will? When Kara finds a book in the Thickety, a dangerous forest, it awakens her magical powers. Local villagers view magic as evil but for Kara, it’s a connection to her mother, who was executed as a witch. The spells thrill Kara until the magic starts to change her in frightening ways. Is Kara in control of the magic—or is it in control of her? If she doesn’t figure it out soon, she could lose everyone and everything she loves.

There’s even a Common Core-aligned discussion guide with activities written by the author, J. A. White—an elementary school teacher! (You may not want to send this to the beach, though. Maybe save it for September.)

 

The Castle Behind Thorns

THE CASTLE BEHIND THORNS, by Schneider Award winner Merrie Haskell, is a magical adventure set in an enchanted castle that will appeal to fans of Gail Carson Levine, Karen Cushman, and Shannon Hale.

When Sand wakes up alone in a long-abandoned castle, he has no idea how he got there. Everything in the castle—from dishes to candles to apples—is torn in half or slashed to bits. Nothing lives here and nothing grows, except the vicious, thorny bramble that prevents Sand from leaving. To survive, Sand does what he knows best—he fires up the castle’s forge to mend what he needs to live. But the things he fixes work somehow better than they ought to. Is there magic in the mending, granted by the saints who once guarded this place? With gorgeous language and breathtaking magic, THE CASTLE BEHIND THORNS tells of the power of memory and story, forgiveness and strength, and the true gifts of craft and imagination.

Thinking ahead to the new school year, Common Core applications include: Comparing and contrasting texts in different forms or genres; determining the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; and analyzing the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.

The Dyerville Tales

THE DYERVILLE TALES, by M. P. Kozlowsky, tells the story of a young orphan who searches for his family and the meaning in his grandfather’s book of lost fairy tales.

Vince Elgin is an orphan, having lost his mother and father in a fire when he was young. With only a senile grandfather he barely knows to call family, Vince was interned in a group home, dreaming that his father, whose body was never found, might one day return for him. When a letter arrives telling Vince his grandfather has passed away, he is convinced that if his father is still alive, he’ll find him at the funeral. He strikes out for the small town of Dyerville carrying only one thing with him: his grandfather’s journal. The journal tells a fantastical story of witches and giants and magic, one that can’t be true. But as Vince reads on, he finds that his very real adventure may have more in common with his grandfather’s than he ever could have known.

If you’d like to bring this one into your classroom next year, Common Core applications include: Determining the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text; analyzing the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone; describing how a particular story’s plot unfolds in a series of episodes; and describing how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.

The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw

THE HERO’S GUIDE TO BEING AN OUTLAW, by Christopher Healy, is the hilarious and action-packed conclusion to the acclaimed hit series that began with THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM.

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You think you know those guys pretty well by now, don’t you? Well, think again. Posters plastered across the thirteen kingdoms are saying that Briar Rose has been murdered—and the four Princes Charming are the prime suspects. Now they’re on the run in a desperate attempt to clear their names. Along the way, however, they discover that Briar’s murder is just one part of a nefarious plot to take control of all thirteen kingdoms—a plot that will lead to the doorstep of an eerily familiar fortress for a final showdown with an eerily familiar enemy.

And Common Core applications for this one include: Explaining how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text; comparing and contrasting texts in different forms or genres; and analyzing how differences in the points of view of the characters and the reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.

Happy reading!

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8. Jim Averbeck and Ed Porter: Positioning Your Work For The Common Core

Jim Averbeck is an author, illustrator and author/illustrator of picture books (including the Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book, In a Blue Room) and novels. His first novel is just out, A Hitch at the Fairmont, and it has been positioned for use with Core Curriculum State Standards.

Ed Porter is a former superintendent of schools in Long Island. Currently, he is an educational consultant who, among other things, coaches schools in understanding and implementing the Common Core Standards.

Jim Averbeck (left) and Ed Porter


Ed and Jim start with explaining that The Common Core is evolving. "Call it Common Core 1.0"

You can check the standards out at corestandards.org

The handout packet is hefty, and its cover is a map of which U.S. states have adopted Common Core (most), which have similar standards (a handful), and which have rejected it (four.)

Ed gives us an overview of the evolution of Common Core so far.

Today, we're asking students to have skills and attributes beyond what the old K-12 standards could offer them. Things like self-regulation, critical thinking and problem-solving, effective oral and written communication and resilience.

And Common Core is one of many responses to this. Another response is "The 4 C's in STEM: Collaboration, Creativity, Communication and Critical Thinking."

Jim and Ed also share a metric called "Webb's Depth of Knowledge" that breaks down knowledge about a book into four levels. Here are examples of text questions at each level:

1st level of knowledge: What are the names of the characters?
2nd level of knowledge: What happened?
3rd level of knowledge: Why did something happen?
4th level of knowledge: What would happen if…?

Common Core aims to have students go deeper, into those 3rd and 4th levels.

Jim aims to have his book and Common Core tie-in

"Easy for teachers to choose, easy for teachers to use."

Jim explains how texts are evaluated to be used in classrooms, based on "text complexity." It's a mix of Quantitative (like Lexile scores determined by computer - Jim's Hitch book was a Lexile 770, recommended for grades 3 and 4), Qualitative (like judging the complexity of the story, an evaluation performed by educators, and based on this analysis by teachers, Hitch moved up to 4th through 6th grades) and Reader & Task measures (individual teachers choosing things for individual classes and students.)

So what might we do to help teachers choose our books to use in the classroom?

There are group exercises through, like one that demonstrate to attendees how contemporary and speculative fiction can tie into the common core, and also tap into those 3rd and 4th levels of knowledge.

Jim shares his advice on what to do before the writing, during the writing, and after the book is published.

Here's one example for each:

Before: connect your fiction to research

During: Include appendices and author notes that surfaces research where appropriate

After: Create a "Common Core Selection Guide" that summaries the text complexity

They walk us through a page from the actual "Common Core Activity Guide" Ed created for Hitch! You can see and download the entire guide at Jim's website here.

And they even share a giant list of where to distribute your supplemental materials.

So much great information!


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9. VIDEO: PETE THE CAT AND THE NEW GUY

Need a little dose of positivity and acceptance today? We’re here to help you out!

Watch this trailer for PETE THE CAT AND THE NEW GUY, which is on sale today. We guarantee it’ll make you feel groovy!

And here’s another little bit of grooviness to take with you into the coming school year: a Common Core-aligned teaching guide to all of Pete the Cat’s picture books and I Can Read titles!

“Keep walking along and singing your song. Because it’s all good.”

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10. Who’s doing the thinking?

Over the summer, I’ve been doing some literacy work with an educational consulting group here in Boston — we’re taking some of their existing professional development (PD) and classroom tools and modifying them to better address the Common Core. Last week, I went with some other members of the team to a PD session for high school teachers titled “Who’s Doing the Thinking?” In light of the Common Core, this workshop was designed to help teachers accurately assess the thinking demands in their classroom, and to make informed decisions around when we should guide students in diving into complex texts, and when we should let them do it on their own.

As part of this workshop, we watched a video of a high-performing 9th grade ELA classroom. The students were seated in a modified semi-circle having a whole-class discussion around themes in the latest chapter of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks — a literary nonfiction text they were reading together. As the teacher facilitated the discussion, she skillfully asked probing questions like “What makes you say that?” “Where in the text can you find evidence to support that?” “Why do you think that?”  Her questions enabled students to really ground their thinking in textual evidence — a key piece of Common Core reading.

However, I couldn’t help but notice another teacher move that happened often. After each student finished giving evidence and making a statement, the teacher almost always offered a “summary plus.” That is, she concisely restated the student’s point and added some of her own thinking to the student’s comment. I likely noticed this because I do it all the time: taking a student comment and adding more detail. Now, I think this is sometimes wholly appropriate, but after watching about ten minutes of this video and reflecting on my own practice, I wondered, Shouldn’t we be trying to get students to do these “summary pluses”? In a perfect world, wouldn’t we be nearly absent from the conversation?

The video clip I watched happened towards the beginning of a unit, and I have no doubt that the discussion was more “teacher heavy” than later discussions would be. But the video still got me thinking. In addition to simply probing students to give evidence, what can we as teachers say and do to encourage students to give those mini-summaries? One thing I’ve decided I’d like to try in my classroom this fall is to be very explicit about my “summary pluses.” During early discussions of text, I will tell my students exactly what I’m doing when I rephrase and add my own thinking, and then I’ll slowly try to release the responsibility to them.

Giving up control of the thinking in a classroom is so much harder than it looks, but as I delve into the Common Core this summer, I’m realizing more and more how necessary it is. I’m excited to really practice what I preach this fall, and I’m looking forward to hearing from other educators on how you navigate the thinking balance in your classrooms!

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11. Lexile: A Bookseller’s Best Friend or Worst Enemy?

Guest bloggerThe following post by bookseller Melissa was cross-posted with permission from her blog, Scuffed Slippers and Wormy Books. Thanks to Melissa for allowing us to share her perspective!

Fall has (almost) arrived.  Cool weather, pretty fall color, yummy drinks composed of apple cider or hot cocoa, and I get to wear scarves (I like scarves as an accessory).

And standardized testing, if you are or have a school-age child.

In my area of the country, it seems school districts have chosen testing that calculates a Lexile score for a child’s reading level with an associated score range.  Lexile is a company that uses a software program to analyze books for word usage, sentence length, etc. and produce a Lexile Text Measure for each book (I copied the description from the Lexile Analyzer site):

The Lexile ® measure of text is determined using the Lexile Analyzer ®, a software program that evaluates the reading demand—or readability—of books, articles and other materials. The Lexile Analyzer ® measures the complexity of the text by breaking down the entire piece and studying its characteristics, such as sentence length and word frequency, which represent the syntactic and semantic challenges that the text presents to a reader. The outcome is the text complexity, expressed as a Lexile ® measure, along with information on the word count, mean sentence length and mean log frequency.
Generally, longer sentences and words of lower frequency lead to higher Lexile ® measures; shorter sentences and words of higher frequency lead to lower Lexile ® measures. Texts such as lists, recipes, poetry and song lyrics are not analyzed because they lack conventional punctuation.

I’m not a huge fan of putting a “score” on a book based simply on a computer generated metric because the software doesn’t take into account context or content of a book.  Or form, cf poetry.  But this seems to be accepted by the educational powers-that-be, so it’s here for the time being. However, I don’t know how well or often the scores are explained to parents, because I wind up in a lot of parent-bookseller conversations like this:

Parent: My child has a Lexile score of XXXX.  She has to read books in the range of XXXX-XXXX.  Will this work?
Bookseller [thinks]: Craaaaaaaaap.
Bookseller [says]: Well, let’s pull up the Lexile site to see what it suggests for that range and go from there.

The major problem here is that the parent hasn’t THE FOGGIEST IDEA what books go with the child’s Lexile score or how score ranges line up

The Sun Also Rises cover

The Sun Also Rises, a title with a confusing Lexile identity

with likely grade-levels.  They don’t have/haven’t been provided with a list of suggestions for the range.  They haven’t looked up Lexile on the Internet to get a handle on what this thing is (I mean, hello, the Internet is the Information Superhighway, Google it).  And their poor child is off in the corner trying desperately to read another Warriors book by Erin Hunter or Wimpy Kid or the new Babymouse before the “grown-ups” force her into reading stuff that she thinks she doesn’t want to read.

As booksellers (and by extension librarians, a population I am not a member of but respect greatly), we are the information gatekeepers the parents turn to in this situation.  We are the ones to take an abstract range of numbers and turn it into a physical pile of titles and authors.  We have to differentiate between editions because scores can fluctuate wildly and Lexile isn’t very informative (type “The Sun Also Rises” into Lexile – the old Scribner edition has a score of 610L, the ISBN for the reprint isn’t found, and the Modern Critical Interpretations edition is listed with a score of 1420L….confusing, right?).  And we are the ones who have to know what stories lay between the covers of those books so we can explain the contents to the parents.

In almost every customer interaction regarding Lexile, I have had to find books for a child who reads significantly above grade level (at grade level is generally pretty easy and parents with children under grade level often have a list of recommended titles as a starting point; for some reason, those children who read above grade level don’t have many recommendations).  For reference, Lexile gives a grade approximation for the score ranges:

Even though the approximate ranges are pretty wide, a book or series that is popular among peers isn’t often in the “right” score range for an advanced reader.  Some titles are marked “NC” meaning a non-conforming score (higher than intended audience) but it’s hard to tease those out of a range during a search (I’ve tried).  It can get pretty emotional when the child cannot find anything he or she wants to read or that parents will allow them to read that “counts” for their Lexile score.

The biggest grade-to-score discrepancy I’ve come across was a seventh grade boy (and a bit young socially for his age) who had a Lexile score greater than 1100.  His Lexile range was approximately 1150 – 1210.  The boy had to read at least five books that semester in his range to pass English and he was already behind. His father had done some online research and was at a loss – he was having trouble finding content-appropriate books in that score range (there was also a religious consideration, so a lot of recommended fantasy titles were automatically out).  The boy was very open to reading Stephen King, who has a lot of high-Lexile score titles, but the idea was vetoed by Dad due to language (and probably the religious consideration as well).  Dostoevsky was perfectly acceptable to Dad, but the kiddo really couldn’t get excited about it (he was into Gary Paulsen’s Brian series, but that wasn’t even close).  Some Dumas was in the right range but not the more appealing titles (The Three Musketeers and The Man in the Iron Mask are both under 1000).  Gary Paulsen’s My Life in Dog Years was just in range, so I was able to interest both parent and child in that.  I sold them on The Hound of the Baskervilles and then hit paydirt with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.  The boy had a friend with an Asperger-like syndrome and they were friends in their advanced math classes. Whew.  Finally, three books and a reasonably happy father.  But I couldn’t help but think – what are they going to do as the child continues through the school system?

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with all this since this isn’t quite the usual tone for a “‘Tis the Season” post.

Well, I really just wanted to put this out there to maybe help save parents, children, and teachers (and possibly other booksellers and librarians)  had a little girl just burst into tears once when I told her The Last Olympian  - the book she so desperately wanted to read - had a score of 620L; she had to have books greater than 700 or her teacher wouldn't count them at all. some grief.  I would like to ask school administrators and teachers to work with children and parents to come up with lists of possible books appropriate to both grade-level and Lexile range (and I understand if you do this and the parents forget, are obstinate, or leave the list at home when they head to the bookstore).  For parents, Lexile provides a map with lists of titles for score ranges.  It’s a good place to start when trying to find books.

I would also like to ask teachers to be less rigid when assigning Lexile-related reading assignments because this seems to be where children have the most trouble.  I have so often helped kids who love, love to read but have found that none of the books they find appealing “count” for a reading assignment because they aren’t in the “right” Lexile range or have no score because either the book is too new or has an un-evaluable format.  These kids feel disheartened, that they’re failing, that the things they love are unimportant, and I hate seeing their disappointment when I’ve gone through the entire stack of books they’ve picked out and not a single one was in the right range.  I had a little girl just burst into tears once when I told her The Last Olympian  – the book she so desperately wanted to read – had a score of 620L; she had to have books greater than 700 or her teacher wouldn’t count them at all.  Please let children with high Lexile ranges count some of those lower-scoring books toward their reading assignment (say, an exchange of two non-Lexile books for one Lexile book, not to exceed half the assignment) or perhaps give them extra credit for those books as long as they’re keeping up with the Lexile assignment (if you’re already doing that, bravo!).  These kids are reading because they love reading and they’re already reading outside of school, which is sort of the point of those types of assignments.   I rarely hear of a child being penalized for reading above his or her range so I think there’s a compromise that can be reached for those kids who want to read but have trouble finding books due to age or content.

So bring your Lexile ranges to me and I and my fellow booksellers and librarians will do our best to find what you like to read as well as what you need to read – if we’re very good, that book will fill both requirements.  ‘Tis that sort of season.


Filed under: Common Core State Standards, Educator Resources Tagged: back to school, booksellers, common core, lexile

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12. THE COPERNICUS LEGACY: RELIC HUNT IN NEW YORK CITY!

Looking for a fantasy read that’s great for the classroom this fall? One stellar recommendation is The Copernicus Legacy: The Forbidden Stone by bestselling author Tony Abbott – now in paperback!

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A perfect pick for kids who love Percy Jackson, Kingdom Keepers, or Seven Wonders series, The Copernicus Legacy is a Da Vinci Code-style story for young readers. The book follows four kids who stumble upon a powerful ancient secret of the famous astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus. Protected by notables throughout history, it now falls to our young heroes to become guardians of Copernicus’s secret, racing across the globe, cracking codes, and unraveling centuries-old mysteries in order to prevent it from falling into the hands of a vast and evil shadow network called the New Teutonic Order.

It’s the worldwide adventure and historical scope that makes the series both page turning and educational, earning it many great reviews including a starred review from Kirkus: “With engaging characters, a globe-trotting plot and dangerous villains, it is hard to find something not to like. Equal parts edge-of-your-seat suspense and heartfelt coming-of-age.”

There’s even a downloadable Common Core-aligned activities guide and star map poster so you can bring the adventure into the classroom.

Veteran children’s book author Tony Abbott is no stranger to epic adventure series having written over a hundred books including The Secrets of Droon. The Copernicus Legacy will include six full-length novels and six shorter novellas, each told from the perspective of one of the kids. The first novella, The Copernicus Archives #1: Wade and the Scorpion’s Claw, is available now and the next full-length novel, The Copernicus Legacy #2: The Serpent’s Curse, will be out on October 7.9780062194466_p0_v1_s260x420

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To celebrate the launch of the next books in this exciting series, on Saturday, September 13th, Tony Abbott will be leading a scavenger hunt at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where four lucky winners of a national sweepstakes will work together to find hidden clues amongst the exhibits, crack codes, and earn prizes. You and all readers across the country will have another chance to win a trip to New York for the second Relic Hunt starting October 7 at www.thecopernicuslegacy.com!

After the Relic Hunt, Tony Abbott will be signing copies of The Forbidden Stone at 2:30pm at the Barnes & Noble on 82nd and Broadway in Manhattan.  The Barnes & Noble event is open to the public, and we invite you to join us there for a pizza party! It’s no mystery—the whole family will be in for good food and fun!

 

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13. The Story of the Giant Sequoia + a Giveaway

Tony Johnston and Wendell Minor's new book, Sequoia, will be published later this month. Recently, both of them were gracious with their time and granted me interviews. Hear what they have to say about writing and illustrating. Get a sneak peek at this exquisite text you can use to infuse your students' informational writing with poetry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is an injustice for two reasons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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15. P.S. Evolution is real

queen P.S. Evolution is realSo the Rialto, CA, school district has decided that maybe it’s NOT a good idea to have eighth-graders debate the existence of the Holocaust. I’m of two minds (Opposing Viewpoints: In My Head). While I see the chance for much mischief in such an assignment and believe middle school is too early  for the kind of fact- and viewpoint-evaluation the topic requires, I also think this is a great focus for teaching high school students how to navigate truth, history, and propaganda. It could provide what the Common Core–at its best–asks students to do: “to use cogent reasoning and evidence collection skills that are essential for success in college, career, and life.”

Just so we’re clear: I’m not asking schools to “teach the controversy,” allowing students to decide for themselves in an all-viewpoints-are-respected-here kind of way about the historical reality of the Nazi genocide. What this lesson should instead teach them is how to distinguish facts from the ravings of racist whackjobs.  The Anti-Defamation League’s L.A. office called the assignment dangerous, citing “the large volume of misinformation” on the internet, but doesn’t that volume also mean that people need to learn how to recognize pernicious claptrap when it’s presented to them?

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16. Picture books for launching mathematicians

My school uses a play-based approach to teaching math, which is advantageous because as an early childhood teacher, my students still love math and they love to play games. They enjoy learning and working with numbers and I can build on this through math games.

For me, teaching math is often challenging because my own mathematical background emphasized “doing” math over understanding with drills, formulas, and math algorithms rather than reinforcing why we use specific math procedures. Add to this the new Common Core Math Standard’s focus on conceptual understanding, fluency, and application and you get a recipe for highly reflective lesson planning!

One way to bridge this gap between doing and understanding math is with picture books. They provide purposeful ways to ground students intuitive use of math and easily get them using and talking about the most effective strategies.

There are so many wonderful math concept and picture books out there, yet selecting books that effectively support mini lessons and launch play requires a bit more searching. The books need to interest students, embed rather than simply present math concepts, lend themselves well to differentiated extension activities, and of course, be fun!

Some books I’ve successfully used and that meet these criteria are:

I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean — This is a Kevin Sherry’s story about a giant squid who thinks he’s bigger than everything in the ocean. He’s very big, but is he the biggest? This book is great for introducing relative size, comparisons. This is an alternative text for introducing standard measurements as well as scale when students are challenged to rank by size or to think of reliable ways to determine how much bigger he might be than other animals.

roostersofftoseeworld 218x300 Picture books for launching mathematicians Rooster’s Off to See the World — This classic Eric Carle book can help launch math activities about number sets. In the book, Rooster seeks company as he travels around the world. Along the way, he encounters different types of animals and invites them along. The best part of this book is that every time he meets a new animal, the number of them increases. It’s a great way to introduce students to counting in groups and helps students to distinguish between total numbers and sets of numbers. With this book, students played sorting games and counted number sets.

Ppigswillbepigs 300x259 Picture books for launching mathematiciansigs Will be Pigs — This is the hilarious tale of a family of pigs who need to find enough money to pay for dinner at a restaurant. The author Amy Axelrod wrote this book to teach explicitly about money and she does a fabulous job. I especially love this story because it can also be used across the curriculum. I’m connecting this to a social studies unit on access to healthful food. Grocery store or restaurant math games using coins are natural extension activities with this book.

alexanderwhousedtoberich 300x229 Picture books for launching mathematiciansAlexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday — Judith Viorst’s Alexander tales normalize my students’ every day experiences and emotions. This one is no different. Alexander has just spent every cent of the money his grandparents gave him. As he recounts how he spent it, students add up how much he spends or can subtract from the initial total. I love this one because a few of the items have prices that some students might find awkward to work with. As with Pigs Will be Pigs, it also lends itself well to cross-curricular connections, especially the basic economic principle of scarcity: Alexander had to learn the hard way about saving versus spending his limited income. For this book, a game to help Alexander save is also a next step for money.

When using picture books to teach math, pre- and post-assessment of student understanding can easily get lost. Talking to students about the math concepts in the books before sending them off to play math extension games can give you a sense of their thinking. For post-assessment, reviewing student work and requiring them to either to write or share out their strategies for success on the games lets them talk about their math knowledge and provides natural entry points for correcting misconceptions or pushing learning.

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17. Nonfiction then and now and...?



I started writing for I.N.K. in March 2008.  With nostalgia and curiosity, I went back to look at some of my initial posts.  I kept on reading and realized that I was also looking at a history of what has happened in the field of kids’ nonfiction from then to now.  At least, some of its zeitgeist, its ups and downs. 

By 2008 we nonfiction writers had had time to road-test our liberation from straitjacket association with encyclopedic information.  We had seen or written books such as Dance, Actual Size, and Action Jackson, celebrating the changes that came with cheaper color printing and more experimental styles and formats.  It was no wonder my second post for I.N.K., A Rose by any Other Name? bridled against the confines of the word used to describe our field.  I wrote: 

As we all know, words matter. So what about the one that describes our genre of writing: nonfiction. I used to feel just fine about it, but now I have a slight twinge. After all, it does have a negative point of reference. The “I’m not fiction” instead of the “I am something” kind of writing…

If you link to the post you can see a discussion of the issue and the difficulty I and other  commenters had trying to find a good solution.

Artistically booming , we were about to take a fall. In June 2008, however, most of us didn’t know that. I’m a glass-half-full-AND-half-empty type, perhaps I had a premonition.  In The Lucky Thing about Friday the 13th(prompted by my assigned post date) I amused myself with cheerful grumbling about the luck factor (or lack thereof) in writing nonfiction for kids.  Here is part of it:

The lucky thing is that schools and libraries can always use a well-written book to update their collection on a particular subject.
The unlucky thing is that they can’t afford to buy them.
The lucky thing is that you can create books on subjects kids will love.
The unlucky thing is that many publishers can’t imagine marketing nonfiction to the trade market, so the kids don’t find them.

If you click on rest of the post, please note I do end with the lucky side; I love what I do and have, luckily, managed to make a living at it.  

Nevertheless a few months later, the fan was hit plunging us into the biggest fiscal crisis since the Great Depression.  It hit the book industry the same way it affected the nation at large.  I know many people whose completed, even paid-for manuscripts were dropped by publishers looking at a shriveling market with no immediate change in sight.  One of my own was pushed to a pub date over a year in the future so it could be “supported more successfully.”

Happily unagented for most of my career, I began to think about the comfort of having an ally.  I started a search for an agent and was shocked by what I found on their web sites.  Another post, Agents-Agents of Change was born. 

A personal nadir perhaps, but hope springs and swings eternal along with changing fortunes for people and professions.  In other words, if you stick around long enough, the pendulum swings.  On a personal level, I had three books come out in 2012.  More globally, picture books, declared a dying form, managed a “rebirth.” YA nonfiction is growing. Nonfiction books are more frequent winners and honor winners of the Newbery, Printz and Caldecott. 

I’m not exactly sure when the phrase Common Core first appeared in I.N.K. posts, but it increased exponentially in 2012.  My book Skyscraper was included in Math Reads, Marilyn Burn’s series using actual books to teach math; and I posted about future models of using our books in the classroom. When Penguin combined The Truth About Poop and Gee Whiz in a new edition, I wrote about what was lost and gained by very intelligently reissuing these books in black-and-white digest form for the burgeoning middle grade market. 
 
I wasn’t the only one commenting on the Brave New World of nonfiction’s role in education.  I.N.K. devoted the whole month of October 2013 to Common Core and nonfiction in the classroom with a spirited discussion about the author’s role in the process.

Is Common Core going to change the role and status of nonfiction in our culture?  Who knows.  I know more imprints are opening their lists to it.  And I wish we’d have more time and posts to report on what happens as a result.  But it’s been great to have an opportunity to think and write about all things nonfiction until now.  Thank you, I.N.K.

This post, in fact, my tenure at I.N.K. is dedicated to Linda Salzman, without whom…

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18. Arts in the Schools and INK (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids)

While writing today’s piece, I anxiously checked news feeds regarding the fire at the Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh Building. By the end of the day, the fire service reported they were able to save 90% of the building and about 70% of it’s contents. Just thinking about the possible loss turned my stomach. Started in 1897, the Mackintosh Building was designed by Scotland's most influential architect and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Opened in 1909, the art nouveau building signaled the birth of a new style in 20th Century European architecture. A 2009 poll by the Royal Institute of British Architects voted it the best British building of the last 175 years. Imagine what we could have lost today.

About six and a half years ago, Linda Salzman contacted me. She asked if I’d be interested in writing for a kids’ nonfiction blog she was creating. Evidentially, someone noticed all the blogging I’d been writing promoting of art books for kids.  Today, in preparing to write this second-to-last post, I reread all my pieces and perused the books I’ve promoted. I was curious if there has been any change in the educational world in regard to the arts. Here's just a few items that I found. There are many more. I wonder where we will stand in another six years. 

In the last six years, we’ve become accustomed to the terms Common Core, and STEM and STEAM.
  • Common Core State Standards now aim towards a 50% nonfiction and 50% fiction classroom reading text; previously the classroom reading text was around 80% fiction.
  • In 2009, President Obama started White House Science Fairs as part of his Educate to Innovate campaign to inspire more girls and boys to excel in STEM subjects. Next week, on May 27, the 2014 White House Science Fairbegins. This year’s fair will include a specific focus on girls and women who are excelling in STEM. The Administration’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top competition grants states competitive preference if they demonstrated efforts to close the STEM gap for girls and other groups that are underrepresented.
  • In February 2013, the bipartisan Congressional STEAM Caucus was created, co-chaired by Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL). “We frequently discuss the importance of STEM education, but we can’t ignore the importance of engaging and educating both halves of the brain,” Bonamici maintains. “Creative, critical thinking leads to innovation. The integration of the arts into STEM curriculum will excite creativity in the minds of our future leaders.”
  • Stanford University began requiring all undergraduates to take two units of "Creative Expression" classes, including design, dance, music, fine arts, drama or creative writing.
  • Sesame Street officially expanded its STEM-themed programming to include arts.
  • Last week, Actress Kerry Washington wrote an impassioned plea for arts in the schools in a Huffington Post blog column titled How to Save Our Schools: The Arts and Music are No Fairytale.

Art-themed nonfiction books introduce young people to the passion and inspiration of artists and creators. Years ago, reading Frida by Jonah Winter to an elementary class was an eye opener for me. The text and illustrations presented the art of Frida Kahlo flawlessly, complimenting my presentation. And, the book even caught everyone's attention in a room full of kindergarteners and a class of fifth graders – no small feat.

As the support for arts in the schools continues to grow, I’ll continue to spread the word about nonfiction art books, including STEM/STEAM, activity and creativity books. Tragically, we could physically lose our treasures, but the passion and creative inspiration is what stays in our hearts. That is what art books set out to accomplish.

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19. Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: May 30

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. There are a few links from last week, too, shared from my iPad while I was on vacation in Disney World. Topics this week include authors, book lists and awards, common core, diversity, events, growing bookworms, reading, publishing, schools, libraries, and summer reading.

Authors

Henry Winkler: I love acting but I am proudest of my books - @TelegraphBooks http://ow.ly/xmNSB via @PWKidsBookshelf

12 Charming Tidbits About Beverly Cleary | Mental Floss via @bkshelvesofdoom http://goo.gl/Db5nMs #kidlit

Book Lists and Awards

As Easy as ABC: Awards, Best Sellers, and Critical Thinking by @gregpincus http://goo.gl/UAAJPU

Kirkus Reviews unveils three $50,000 book prizes (for fiction, nonfiction, and #kidlit) http://ow.ly/xoTaovia @bkshelvesofdoom

Ten Dystopian Visions for middle grade readers, some classic some new, at Views From the Tesseract http://ow.ly/xmSqh #kidlit

Damian Dibben's top 10 time travel books | @GuardianBooks via @tashrow http://ow.ly/xjUgM #kidlit

Interesting! Top Ten List: Favorite Postmodern Picture Books by Frank Serafini @nerdybookclub http://goo.gl/c9lTMY #kidlit

Killers in Plain Sight: Five Stories about Assassins in High School @bkshelvesofdoom http://goo.gl/80hEuM #yalit

So You Want To Read Middle Grade: Natalie Aguirre on upper middle grade #kidlit @greenbeanblog http://goo.gl/8WRC6T

YA Gets Nordic: Seven Stories with Roots in Norse Mythology from @bkshelvesofdoom http://goo.gl/O2QRoK #yalit

A Tuesday Ten: London Calling . . . | Speculative #kidlit set in London | Views From the Tesseract http://goo.gl/5TRX3v

3 YA Novels To Help Us Remember Our Nigerian Girls @mitaliperkins http://goo.gl/nXDsp1

15 books that should be the next Percy Jackson from @book_nut http://ow.ly/3kFTAy #kidlit

Common Core

Part One: Developing Your Nonfiction Reading Aptitude by Sue Bartle at The Uncommon Corps http://goo.gl/m4oB5p #commoncore

Beyond the Backmatter: Nonfiction Equivalents of Bonus Features and Director Commentary at The Uncommon Core http://goo.gl/45sIvh

Diversity

30 Diverse YA Titles To Get On Your Radar from @catagator @bookriot http://ow.ly/xoUr1 #WeNeedDiverseBooks #yalit

Thursday Three: Diverse Picture Books suggested by @MotherReader http://goo.gl/A96Hsv

For Armchair BEA, @MsYingling shares a list of books for kids about other cultures http://ow.ly/xoTHk #WeNeedDiverseBooks #kidlit

DiverseBooksCampaignHow To Get People To Care: Anatomy Of A Trending Hashtag, #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign @FastCompany http://ow.ly/xmD0i @PWKidsBookshelf

Where Are All The Fat Girls In Literature? | Mariko Tamaki in @HuffPostBooks http://ow.ly/xkbwt via @PWKidsBookshelf

It's Not Me, It's You: Letting Go of the Status Quo | Zetta Elliott @HuffPostBooks http://ow.ly/xkaUJ via @SheilaRuth #diversity

Diversity in Children's Books: Moving From Outcry to Real, Market-Driven Solutions | Kyle Zimmer @FirstBook @HuffPost http://ow.ly/xjUln

The Great Greene Heist goes on sale today! Have you taken the Great Greeene Challenge? @haleshannon http://ow.ly/xjTwg @varianjohnson

Events, Programs and Research

Activities for Children's Book Week 2014 suggestions from @BookChook http://goo.gl/LjsVS1

Read with your ears! Free SYNC audiobooks this summer, starting now! | @BooksYALove http://ow.ly/xjYKR

It's time for The Sixth Annual Book-a-Day Challenge from @donalynbooks http://goo.gl/PFqkBw #bookaday

48hbc_newCentral Ohio Blogger Breakfast to Kick Off to 48 Hour Read and Book-A-Day @FrankiSibberson #bookaday #48hbc http://goo.gl/GuDSL1

Successful Brains, on the behavior differences between successful people and not from @tashrow http://goo.gl/8rK7sd

Growing Bookworms

When Imagination, Story & Creativity Work As One by @TrevorHCairney http://goo.gl/xEFYwm #literacy

Create a reading culture, make sure you are not perpetuating" gender stereotypes, writes Stacy Dillon http://goo.gl/XD4i1t

Good advice! Chris Evans: parents must read to their children, in @TelegraphArts http://ow.ly/xoM7F via @librareanne

The progression of her sons as readers by @katsok and how to create the next generation of @NerdyBookClub members http://ow.ly/xmwtR

"The best thing we can do to ensure our boys are reading ... is to get to know each child" @katsok on boys + reading http://ow.ly/xjTJm

On building a reading culture | We’re All In This Together by Emily Meixner @NerdyBookClub http://goo.gl/vUn4y1

Kidlitosphere

RT @RosemondCates Check out the fabulous @JensBookPage on http://www.bighairandbooks.blogspot.com  #spotlightsaturday

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

"why do we keep judging readers who don’t have the privilege of buying ... books from a (physical) store?" @catagator http://ow.ly/xoUWM

At The Uncommon Corps, Marc Aronson explores the question of what we mean by "pleasure reading" http://ow.ly/xmvh1

Define "Reading", @catagator responds to recent studies about people reading less, questions definition of readinghttp://ow.ly/xjYEs

Fun! Putting Your Book in Your Book — @100scopenotes (on illustrators including call-backs to their own work) http://ow.ly/xmw26

A refreshing primer from @tlt16 | Dear Media, Let me help you write that article on #YAlit http://ow.ly/xkbiY via @PWKidsBookshelf

MAKING OUR OWN MARKET: Why I Leaped into Print-on-Demand and Ebook Publishing by Carole Boston Weatherford | http://ow.ly/xmvH8

On ‘The John Green Effect,’ Contemporary Realism, and Form as a Political Act by Anne Ursu http://goo.gl/Tkt2UK via @bkshelvesofdoom

Schools and Libraries

Can teachers read books only for pleasure or do they think about teaching? Both. by Amanda Jaksetic @nerdybookclub http://goo.gl/pEDT0U

Another sigh! School Librarians Get No Love in Allentown School District (1 librarian for 15 elem dists) | @sljournal http://ow.ly/xmDgH

Sigh! California’s Modesto City Schools To End Library Instruction for Elementary Schools | @sljournal http://ow.ly/xk5Fa

Summer Reading

IndieBound has released recommended#SummerReading #kidlit. @tashrow shares the top ten, w/ links to more http://ow.ly/xoSS8

#SummerReading List: Books, Resources and Programs by @momandkiddo http://goo.gl/UJI80R

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.

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20. Get Out Your Calendars! It’s June Planning Time!

If we do nothing else, we do this one thing…Read this post to find out what it is!

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21. Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: June 20

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter over the past two weeks @JensBookPage. I have a lot of links because I was traveling last week, and wasn't able to do a post. Topics include book lists and awards, common core, diversity and gender, growing bookworms, kidlitosphere, reading, writing, schools, libraries, and summer reading.

Book Lists and Awards (find other lists in the Summer Reading section below)

10 Books For Kids Who (think they) Hate Reading by Lisa Graff in @HuffPostBooks http://ow.ly/y9Klq via @tashrow

Cool Correspondence | Great Books About Writing Letters | @sljournal #booklist http://ow.ly/yeCXi #kidlit

Always interesting | Newbery / Caldecott 2015: The Summer Prediction Edition from @fuseeight http://ow.ly/y9Ovj #kidlit

Ten Fantastic Father-figures in middle grade science speculative fiction from Views From the Tesseract http://ow.ly/ybPhK #kidlit

I love it! A Tuesday Ten: Incredible Introverts in #kidlit science fiction + fantasy | Views From the Tesseract http://ow.ly/xWOyZ

Congratulations to @gregpincus | The 14 Fibs of Gregory K is deservedly on the Bank Street Best Children's Books list http://ow.ly/ybO3d

Another fun set of lists from @catagator Stacked | Microtrends in YA Fiction (like being stuck in elevators) http://ow.ly/y9L6p #yalit

Semi-Grown-Up Gumshoes: Three Adult-Market Girl Detectives. http://goo.gl/A5QZmW @bkshelvesofdoom

Fun! RT @tashrow Cameron McAllister’s top 10 amazing machines in children’s books | Children’s books http://buff.ly/1ulw6o4  #kidlit

Common Core

Math: "a lens through which we can see the world better", Jordan Ellenberg quoted in post by Marc Aronson #CommonCore http://ow.ly/ybOwD

Cut to the Core: #CommonCore Is a Hot Topic at Trade Shows http://ow.ly/xWP9y @PublishersWkly

Testing (Again), the Gates Foundation, and Curriculum by Mary Ann Cappiello at The Uncommon Corps http://goo.gl/v6NzfJ

Great Kid Books: #CommonCore IRL: Digital Resources for students studying Colonial America http://ow.ly/xFrGv @MaryAnnScheuer

Diversity + Gender

Diverse Books – on why we ALL need them! by @BooksYALove http://ow.ly/xNviZ  #WeNeedDiverseBooks

The Brown Bookshelf shares message from @RIFWEB | how + why to choose good multicultural children's books http://ow.ly/ybPY7  #diversity

#Diversity in Publishing: Next Steps from the Discussion from @thetoast http://ow.ly/xWPmL via @PWKidsBookshelf

Useful resource from Grace Lin | A Cheat Sheet for Selling #Diversity in books http://ow.ly/xQBH2 via @FuseEight

First Book Pledges to Buy Diverse Books in response to #WeNeedDiverseBooks @sljournal http://ow.ly/xNQUI @FirstBook

Interesting question from @haleshannon squeetus: Is anyone really "able-bodied"? Disability as continuum http://ow.ly/xNqjk #diversity

The Muscle-Flexing, Mind-Blowing Book Girls Will Inherit The Earth : Monkey See : @NPRBooks http://ow.ly/xNBBj via @tashrow

Growing Bookworms

How YA Books Engender a True Love of Reading in My Students | Tina Yang @PubPerspectives http://ow.ly/yeKbS via @PWKidsBookshelf #yalit

So true! "It doesn’t take fine literature to hook a kid for life." @LisaGraff @NerdyBookClub on keeping reading fun http://ow.ly/yerfH

"Reading should not be a chore." On the use of apps that force kids to log book time to earn screen time @salon http://ow.ly/y9H50

Are fathers better at bedtime stories than mothers? - @TelegraphNews via @librareanne http://ow.ly/xWQKo

#DadsRead Campaign Celebrates Fathers Reading to Kids | @sljournal @ZoobeanForKids @goodmenproject http://ow.ly/xWQaU

"I ... credit my husband's love for literature with ... Sprout's enthusiasm for books." @SproutsBkshelf for #DadsRead http://ow.ly/xWOPe

#DadsRead Because Dads are Awesome —adorable photos from @fuseeight for @ZoobeanForKids + @goodmenproject effort http://ow.ly/xNVAC

Raise A Reader: A Parent Guide to Reading for Ages 3-5 | @Scholastic http://ow.ly/xNEqc via @librareanne #literacy

Series books for summer pleasure reading - This is the post for parents by @pwbalto http://goo.gl/fqsJNF #kidlit

How to encourage students to read for pleasure: teachers share their top tips | Teacher Network via @librareanne http://ow.ly/xFsHm

Kidlitosphere

The scoop from @100scopenotes | #Bookaday-gate Resolved! @donalynbooks #BookADay #BookADayUK http://ow.ly/xNqzn

For her 200th Post, Stephanie Whelan shares First Impressions Through 100 Favorite First Lines in #kidlit http://ow.ly/y9K4w

On Reading, Writing, Publishing

An Art Exhibit Honors 75th anniversary of 'Madeline' - @WSJ http://ow.ly/xWQ0s via @PWKidsBookshelf

The fault in our aesthetic pigeonholing: Who cares if grown-ups read young-adult fiction? - @GlobeAndMail http://ow.ly/xWPGs

Where, What, How, and Why Teens Do and Don’t Read | Consider the Source | Seeta Pai @CommonSense Media in @sljournal http://ow.ly/xNR5V

Really? Are We Still Genre Shaming People For The Books They Like? Lauren Davis at io9 http://ow.ly/xQCCh via @gail_gauthier

This is hilarious: "adults should be ashamed to read children’s literature!" Satire from Marjorie Ingall http://ow.ly/xQBet @FuseEight

More great stuff! Ten Reasons To Read YA (No Matter What Age You Are) from @Gwenda http://ow.ly/xNtT5 #yalit

Can you infer an author's interests sometimes? Check out Cats, Dogs and Other Authors’ Favorite Motifs @read4keeps http://ow.ly/xNqL6

Schools and Libraries

A teacher says: "you continue the practice of reading aloud because it is right" @Shoulded @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/xNrFc

Ways that kindergarten teachers can foster the love of literacy in kids | Jennifer Schwanke @ChoiceLiteracy http://ow.ly/xNO2h

"As a teacher, I see the importance of caring, compassionate, and dedicated librarians" @JustinStygles @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/xNCt9

When You Know Better: A Journey to Authentic Book Clubs (learning from @donalynbooks ) by @jenbrittin @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/y9KvH

Rethinking Teaching Choices, some thoughts on Accelerated Reader programs from @katsok http://ow.ly/y9Mce

Press Release Fun: Teachers Are Givers Contest from Walden Media highlighting release of The Giver movie — @fuseeight http://ow.ly/ybOSC

I love @lochwouters descriptions of her annual Library Camp-Out programs. Such a fun way to grow bookworms! http://ow.ly/yegbW

The loss of a school's librarian, from the librarian's point of view, sadly, Zoe @playbythebook http://ow.ly/yeuVb

UpClose: Designing 21st-Century Libraries | How we were vs. are now using libraries @LibraryJournal http://ow.ly/yeCND

Good news! RT @tashrow Libraries see light after years of cuts http://buff.ly/1ulvqiq #libraries

Summer Reading

Great stuff! Top 10 Ways to Enjoy Reading This Summer by @jamibookmom @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/xNth2 #GrowingBookworms

10 Tips for Getting Kids Reading This Summer #SummerReading @5m4b http://ow.ly/xWOYj #literacy

Great photos! Top 10 Just Right #SummerReading Nook Ideas from @growingbbb http://ow.ly/y9JYf

BeBookSmartSigh! New Survey from @RIFweb Finds Only 17% of Parents Make Reading a Top Priority for Summer http://bit.ly/1iHaziD

8 Tips to Prevent the #SummerReading Slide from @growingbbb http://ow.ly/yeqPb #literacy

RAISING A READER Organization Offers Tips for Getting Children to Read During Summer Vacation http://ow.ly/xNwmU via @tashrow

I'm loving this series by @MaryAnnScheuer | Here are #SummerReading favorites for Kindergarteners http://ow.ly/y9KVc #kidlit

Lots of ideas in #SummerReading favorites: 1st grade suggestions from @MaryAnnScheuer http://ow.ly/y9K9R #kidlit

#SummerReading favorites: 2nd grade suggestions compiled by @MaryAnnScheuer http://ow.ly/y9JST #kidlit

Reading is fun! #SummerReading favorites from @MaryAnnScheuer | 3rd grade suggestions http://ow.ly/yeqca #kidlit

12 #SummerReading lists by transportation category (inc. rocketship) from @NPR http://ow.ly/ybPEl #bookyourtrip via @bkshelvesofdoom

#Diverse #SummerReading Picks For Kids from Michael Martin @npr via @PWKidsBookshelf http://ow.ly/xNPPB

Stacked with a literal twist on "Summer" Reads, 2014 Edition ( #yalit with summer in the title) http://ow.ly/xNrTe @catagator

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.

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22. Force Field for Good and a Giveaway!

Learn about Barry Lane's newest book, Force Field for Good and enter for the giveaway!

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23. Writing Inspiring Nonfiction for Kids and Common Core

Two weeks ago when I read the latest article about the Common Core in the New York Times titled Common Core, in 9-Year-Old Eyes, I knew this would be the topic of my last post. Things have sure changed in the last six years. When Linda Salzman first started this nonfiction blog and invited nonfiction writers from all areas to write a monthly post, I was all about speaking out about art and creativity books for kids. Now, the popular nonfiction buzzwords are Common Core, STEM, digital publishing, marketing, and graphic novels. These were main topics discussed at last weekend’s Second Annual 21st Century Children's Nonfiction Conference --- as pointed out in this Publisher’s Weekly article about the conference.

In the aforementioned New York Times article, 9-year-old Chrispin Alcindor had been a star student but was struggling with math under the new Common Core teaching and was worrying about not passing to the next grade. I was drawn into his story by “his dream of becoming an engineer or an architect, to one day have a house with a pool and a laboratory where he would turn wild ideas about winged cars and jet packs into reality.” Chrispin’s excitement towards learning changed, as he grew frustrated by the new Common Core math. His enthusiasm was crushed. His dream of "walking across the stage at graduation in sunglasses and white sneakers, claiming his award and basking in the applause of the entire school" banished from his mind.

Trish Matthew, Chrispin’s teacher at Public School 397 in Brooklyn, saw the frustration in her classroom. The article continued, “Many struggled with basic math skills. Ms. Matthew, concerned about morale, called each student to her desk at the beginning of the year. “Please don’t think you are a failure,” she told them, one by one.”
I was so touched and moved by Ms. Matthew’s actions, which prompted writing this post and fueled my final comments. 

Last week, Arne Duncan went on CBS This Morning to talk about the Common Core. If you missed it, I’ll post it here.
And, if you're interested in reading a few pros and cons on the Common Core, check out the 505 comments on the New York Times article. Warning: it gets a little heated.

Recently, I've noticed while sitting down with editors to discuss new book projects, the Common Core is often mentioned. They highlight new book projects that have sold because they support the Common Core---fodder for reader discussions on why they thought the author wrote the book, compare and contrast aspects within the story, etc.
As I set off to work on the next chapters in my writing career, while the Common Core and their writing strategies will be in the back of my mind, inspiring young readers will be my main focus. Inspiring them to think. Inspiring them to achieve whatever they want to be. Inspiring them to be creative. Inspiring them to dream.
I will be continuing my blog posts on my website: AnnaMLewis.  Please check there for my next posts and the latest book news.
Here’s to Interesting (and Inspiring) Nonfiction for Kids!

0 Comments on Writing Inspiring Nonfiction for Kids and Common Core as of 6/27/2014 5:31:00 PM
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24. Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: July 3

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. I am posting a day early this week because of the July 4th holiday. Topics this week include: authors, awards, book lists, common core, growing bookworms, events, kidlitcon, publishing, teaching, libraries, and summer reading.

Authors

Rest in Peace, Walter Dean Myers. Here's an appreciation from Tanita Davis at Finding Wonderland http://ow.ly/yIbNs

Just Walk Away: Authors and Illustrators Who Do — @fuseeight http://ow.ly/yIBxa #kidlit

Book Lists and Awards

Roger Sutton makes some excellent points in this @HornBook editorial about new ALSC policy on communication by judges http://ow.ly/yFSbj

RT @CynLeitichSmith: Growing Int'l #Latino Book Awards Reflect Booming Market http://nbcnews.to/1nPPLbF via @NBCNews

2014 Guardian Children’s Prize Longlist | @tashrow has the list http://ow.ly/yFrdp

Children's Literature at SSHEL | #kidlit recommendations for Independence Day: Remembering the Revolution http://ow.ly/yFJcy

Stacked: Get (sub)Genrefied: Alternate History @catagator http://ow.ly/yIBXO #BookList

A few Seek and Find Picture Books, recommended by @greenbeanblog http://ow.ly/yIBq5 #kidlit

Very nice list! 14 Children's Books that Challenge Gender Stereotypes | @momandkiddo #BookList http://ow.ly/yCaBW

Top Ten Books for Young Readers about Encountering Obstacles by @MrazKristine @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/yCcaz

2014 Mind the Gap Awards (books ignored by ALA awards) from @HornBook http://ow.ly/ywTV1 via @tashrow

Common Core / Literacy

#CommonCore IRL: In Real Libraries -- 2014 ALA Presentation from @MaryAnnScheuer + friends http://ow.ly/yFrql

Higher Ed Administrators Seek To Stem States’ Rush Away From #CommonCore @LibraryJournal via @PWKidsBookshelf http://ow.ly/yv1kk

Spreading the Good Word about Visual #Literacy @SevenImp chats with Francoise Mouly @KirkusReviews http://ow.ly/yubPV

Events, Programs and Research

RIF_Primary_Vertical"children spend nearly 3 times as many hours weekly watching TV or playing video games as they do reading" | @RIFWEB http://ow.ly/yIALH

Sad! The World Book Night project has been suspended, reports @bkshelvesofdoom http://ow.ly/yIAzA

Book drive for unaccompanied immigrant children kicks off July 10 reports @latimes via @PWKidsBookshelf http://ow.ly/yFSo6

Growing Bookworms

One of many reasons to read aloud | Children’s Picture Books Use More Sophisticated Words Than You | Michaels Read http://ow.ly/yIBgc

Why dialogue is important to kids' comprehension development from @TrevorHCairney http://ow.ly/yudra #literacy

RT @PapaJFunk: @JensBookPage This story inspired me more than anything http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/21/fashion/21GenB.html … I'll read every night to my kids while they're in my house...

Kidlitosphere

KidlitCon2014_cubeCall for session proposals @charlotteslib -- #Kidlitcon 2014: Blogging #Diversity in Young Adult and Children’s Lit http://ow.ly/yIAlO

The call for session proposals for #KidLitCon14 is live! Deadline for submissions is 8/1. Theme: blogging #diversity http://ow.ly/yIbCJ

Celebrating @MrSchuReads with a Donation to @ReadingVillage, from @MaryLeeHahn + @frankisibberson http://ow.ly/yFrhx

Miscellaneous

Interesting thoughts @haleshannon on the segregation of ideas (choosing to only hear from people w/ similar ideas) http://ow.ly/yIArf

Interesting article on the cost to our productivity of distractions from Facebook push updates, etc. @WSJ (login req) http://ow.ly/yC8Td

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

Bertelsmann Getting Out of Book Retailing, reports @wsj (login req) http://ow.ly/yC9Ks #Publishing

Powerful post on books as Lifelines by Heather Preusser @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/ywV9c

Schools and Libraries

Teachers should cry in class when reading poignant stories ... Michael Morpurgo says @TelegraphBooks @PWKidsBookshelf http://ow.ly/yFSxJ

Interesting! Pew Research Center – 7 Surprises About Libraries | reported by @tashrow http://ow.ly/yC9TN @PewInternet

Save libraries by putting them in the pub says man tasked by Government to save them The Independent via @bookpatrol http://ow.ly/yx0FW

Summer Reading

Fizz, Boom, Read: Library #SummerReading Programs Blend Learning with Fun and Prizes | @sljournal http://ow.ly/yFICh

Jumpstart your summer adventure – Dig into reading, suggests @wendy_lawrence http://ow.ly/yCbNR #SummerReading

Fun idea! @aliposner Tip-a-Day #5: Designate a place outside your home specifically for #SummerReading outings http://ow.ly/yucI1

#SummerReading Tip-a-Day #6: Take your kids on a “summer is here” new book-getting mission! | @aliposner http://ow.ly/ywVze

#SummerReading Tip#7 @aliposner | Make sure your kids have reading STARs – Space, Time, Access to books, and Rituals http://ow.ly/yzTvR

#SummerReading Tip #8 @aliposner | Create an open-faced book display somewhere in your house http://ow.ly/yzTAI

The Ultimate #SummerReading List for Teachers from @Scholastic via @mattbgomez http://ow.ly/ywSXv 

I love this one! #SummerReading Tip #9 from @aliposner | Create an outside reading spot at your home | http://ow.ly/yCbkU

#SummerReading Tip #10 @aliposner : Make sure kids have easy access to tools for written response to books http://ow.ly/yFrJw

#SummerReading Tip #11: Stock up on “Barebooks” materials for fun and authentic summer writing | @aliposner http://ow.ly/yIBDa

Five Tips for Summer-Long Learning - Tina Chovanec from @ReadingRockets @FirstBook http://ow.ly/yFrbS #SummerReading

Macy’s and @RIFWEB Aim to Boost Summer Reading (hint: only 17% of parents think it’s a priority!), says @StorySnoops http://ow.ly/yCbw3

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.

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25. Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: July 18

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include authors, book lists, the Cybils, common core, aging, ebooks, apps, growing bookworms, kidlitcon, reading, writing, play, schools, libraries, and summer reading.

Books and Authors

Stories from authors about school visits "gone terribly wrong" at Wild Things blog http://ow.ly/zcwJO  @SevenImp @FuseEight

75 Years Old, Still Showing off her Scar, fun details about Madeline from @SevenImp + @FuseEight at Wild Things blog http://ow.ly/z94Jk 

Book Lists and Awards

Amazon-backed Booktrust Best Book Awards‘ Lifetime Achievement Award turned down by Allan Ahlberg | @TheBookseller http://ow.ly/z3OLT 

The Wildest (bold + unique) Children’s Books of 2014 as picked by @100scopenotes http://ow.ly/zcxat  #kidlit

Teen blogger Summer from @miss_fictional looks back on Favorite Books from her Childhood http://ow.ly/z5flg  #kidlit

Who knew that there could be a list of Top 5 Picture Books about Ninjas? @rosemondcates could! http://ow.ly/z3KJl  #kidlit

Thanks! RT @145lewis: #CYBILS are an amazing resource Looking for summer reading ideas? http://dadtalk.typepad.com/cybils/finalists/ … #kidlit #edchat #elemed

Common Core and STEM

#CommonCore Becomes Touchy Subject for Governors Group, reports @WSJ, as both parties are internally split on CC http://ow.ly/z5fA0 

Tap the STEM Resources in Your Community! | ALSC Blog post for librarians by @amyeileenk http://ow.ly/z3KzZ 

Diversity

RT @tashrow 5 Stereotypes Positive Aging Picture Books Avoid | Lindsey McDivitt http://buff.ly/1zmZLk9  #kidlit

eBooks and Apps

RT @TWhitford: Great Apps To Introduce Coding to Young Kids http://goo.gl/uUdGX0  via @mattBgomez

Malorie Blackman: ‘I love gadgets, but e-reading has to be carefully handled’ | @GuardianBooks http://ow.ly/z3P8z  via @PWKidsBookshelf

Growing Bookworms

What Do Phonics, Phonemic Awareness and Decoding Mean? @CoffeeandCrayon has the scoop http://ow.ly/zeLEb  #literacy

How #Comics Create Life-Long Readers -- @MaryAnnScheuer interview with @jenniholm http://ow.ly/zeLPW  #kidlit #literacy

Teaching My Daughters to Read -- Part III, Phonics from @ReadingShahahan http://ow.ly/zcvyn  #literacy

RT @LiteracySpeaks: 5 Simple Ways to Improve Reading Comprehension from This Reading Mama! http://fb.me/6BtWnEOln 

Fun times @everead | How I Stopped My Children's Whining with Story Club http://ow.ly/z5eUD  #literacy

KidLitCon

KidlitCon2014_cubeBOOM: And we are LIVE! Why you should attend this year's KidLitCon, from co-organizer Tanita Davis, FindingWonderland http://ow.ly/zcvbM 

The registration form for #KidLitCon14 Oct. 10-11 in Sacramento is now live: http://ow.ly/zc0lr  A great way to see friends + talk books

October will be here soon, soon, soon — @bkshelvesofdoom is coming to #KidLitCon14 Are you? http://ow.ly/z3GYs 

RT @CBethM: The 8th Annual @KidLitCon - Spending Time Face-to-Face with Kindred Spirits by @JensBookPage #nerdybookclub http://wp.me/p21t9O-1zS 

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

On having (and integrating) multiple Reading Lives by Kristin McIlhagga @TeachChildLit @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/z94kV 

Cultivating Curiosity, on love of stories vs. love of words at So Obsessed With blog http://ow.ly/z94SO  via @catagator

Food for thought at Stacked: Growing Up, Leaving Some Books (Narnia) Behind by @kimberlymarief http://ow.ly/zi3Ac  #kidlit

Why Book Reviewers Would Make Awesome Authors, by @Miss_Fictional http://ow.ly/zcvDd 

A proposal from @100scopenotes | All Middle Grade Novels Should Be 192 Pages. No Exceptions. Thoughts? http://ow.ly/zcvYJ 

Here's what @medinger thinks about @100scopenotes idea for Putting a Stop to Middle Grade Novel’s Increasing Girth http://ow.ly/zcwej 

Confessions Of A Binge Reader (Or, How I Read So Much) | Ryan Holiday at Thought Catalog http://ow.ly/z3LKY  via @tashrow

Why Readers, Scientifically, Are The Best People To Fall In Love With @EliteDaily http://ow.ly/z3NZQ  via @librareanne

On Kids

How Much Activity Do Our Students Need? asks @katsok How do you help kids who can't sit still, in era of less recess? http://ow.ly/z92pA 

Did What You Played as a Kid Influence Who You Became as an Adult? asks @FreeRangeKids http://ow.ly/z933H 

Powerful post @KirbyLarson by Michelle Houts on adults looking back and regretting childhood acts of bullying http://ow.ly/z3K36 

Schools and Libraries

Bridging the Gap: Making #Libraries More Accessible for a Diverse Autistic Population | @sljournal http://ow.ly/z3Omk 

Corporal Punishment in Schools: Can it be Justified? @TrevorHCairney thinks it's not the right approach http://ow.ly/zi3el 

Top 10 Ways to Turn Classroom into a Hotbed of Enthusiastic Readers by @megangreads + @muellerholly @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/z5eFi 

Summer Reading

This could keep us busy for the rest of the summer! 50 Fabulous Movies based on Children's Books from @rosemondcates http://ow.ly/zcvGP 

#SummerReading Tip20 @aliposner Set up your vacation accommodations in ways that make literacy more likely to occur http://ow.ly/z3LbF 

#SummerReading Tip21 @aliposner Encourage your kids to author “vacation books” when you are traveling this summer http://ow.ly/z5eOF 

#SummerReading Tip25 @aliposner | Read the SAME BOOK that your child is reading independently + discuss it together http://ow.ly/zeM9u 

#SummerReading Tip26 @aliposner | Try to connect reading to your kids’ summer activities http://ow.ly/zi3mT #literacy

Reading Is Fundamental Study Says Summer Reading Is Not Priority | reports Lauren Barack @sljournal http://ow.ly/z3OeW  @RIFWEB

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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