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1. Writers Write — and Read

Writing Life Banner

by

E.C. Myers

EC Myers

It’s harder than ever to become a writer.

Not because of all the doom and gloom about the death of the novel, print vs. electronic books, big publishers vs. self-publishing, or Amazon vs. everyone. The problem is that many kids today (girls and boys) not only aren’t reading, but they don’t have access to books. Good writers are born from a lifetime love of reading.

It’s not a matter of kids and teens choosing to play video games, or watch TV, or go online instead of picking up a book — books simply are not in their lives as much as they should be. I was recently invited to talk to a couple of English classes at my old high school about my writing. I was honored, and even more so when I discovered what a hardship it was for the school to afford an author visit and books on their limited budget, which does not include much money even for school books. Or for a school newspaper or literary journal. Or a full-time librarian. These kinds of budgetary cutbacks in school and public libraries is an epidemic.

LegoMovie_Poster_200x300Back in my day, we had all those things. (Although one committed English teacher did sometimes have to resort to photocopying Marlowe, in an early form of book piracy.) I’m a product of every school library, every book we studied in class, every librarian who either recommended good reads to me or quietly looked the other way while I explored on my own. I’m a published author because of English teachers like Mrs. Fein, Mrs. Post, Mrs. Halpern, Mr. Riti, and Mr. Valk.

My author bio says that I was “raised by a single mom and a public library” for a reason: I was lucky enough to live a 10-minute walk from my local library (and I’m not exaggerating when I say I had to walk home up a huge hill in 100-degree weather carrying an armload of books, but it was worth it.) I was lucky because I had family and teachers who nurtured my love for reading and gave me the tools to turn that love into something else: a desire to write books of my own one day.

RRlogo_homeI was also fortunate to have other positive influences in my life like Reading Rainbow, which reinforced reading as a good thing; even at the time, I stood out for reading so much. Many people of a certain age remember the show’s theme song fondly. It talks about the amazing and varied experiences readers can have in the pages of a book, but the lyrics are also motivational for what readers can accomplish in life: “Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high.” “I can go anywhere!” “I can be anything!” Those are important messages to give young people. Happily, Reading Rainbow is making a comeback and will be able to reach new generations via computers and mobile devices.

At my former high school, where kids no longer have a creative outlet or writing instruction, one student asked me if I needed a college degree to become a writer. Though I was a little embarrassed, because college is important to getting most good jobs these days, I was also truthful. “No,” I said. “I learned how to write by reading books.” By reading, you naturally gain a knowledge of proper grammar (even if you don’t know the names of the rules or how to parse a sentence) and story structure and pacing, and you begin to develop a prose style and your own voice. Yes, you can take classes and join workshops or critique groups, and I think those are useful things. But to build a solid foundation with words, an active imagination, and a lifelong devotion to consuming and creating stories, you have to read.

handy_rabSo my best advice, forever and always, to kids in school, aspiring writers, and published authors is READ. Read anything. Read everything. Read genres you love and books you think you’ll hate. Read young adult and middle grade and books intended for adults, even if you aren’t meant to understand them. Pick up literary bestsellers and mysteries and science fiction. Try urban fantasy and new adult. Read non fiction and fanfiction, comics and read magazines — and yes, the internet. Read for pleasure. Read for research. Read for inspiration. Read to learn how other authors write well, and to learn what you shouldn’t do. Just read.

So… What are you reading now? (Other than this blog post.) Me, I’m finishing up my friend Rajan Khanna’s excellent debut science fiction novel, Falling Sky, out in October from Pyr. In the comments below, tell us about what’s on your eReader, in your bag, or on your night stand.

E.C. Myers was assembled in the U.S. from Korean and German parts and raised by a single mother and a public library in Yonkers, New York. He is the author of the Andre Norton Award–winning young adult novel FAIR COIN and its sequel, QUANTUM COIN; his next YA novel, THE SILENCE OF SIX, will be published by Adaptive in November 2014. You can find traces of him all over the internet, but especially at his blogTwitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

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2. Video Sunday: Not that anyone doubed LeVar’s godlike qualities

A couple thoughts on that video. First off, it is sung by author Deborah Underwood (whatta pretty pretty voice, eh?) and editor Arthur A. Levine (whatta pretty pretty voice, eh?) at what Vimeo calls an “agency retreat in Brandon, Vermont”. So I had to wonder what precisely an “agency retreat” really is.  Well, there’s a perfectly logical explanation for it right here.  I wouldn’t mind having the chance to go on a retreat but what I really want is to be in a band.  Anyone wanna start one with me?  I can’t play any instruments but I do know all the word to “Shoop” by Salt n’ Pepa.  Does that count for anything?

And now, ladies and gentlemen . . . . why we love LeVar Burton.

ReadingRainbow 500x307 Video Sunday: Not that anyone doubed LeVars godlike qualities

Thanks to Jules for the link!

Our Kickstarter video of the day (since we always have at least one per Video Sunday these days) is a good one.  Remember the Slate article that came out earlier this year called “This Is What a Librarian Looks Like”?  Well the fellow behind the piece wants to go to ALA and do something with a huge swath of librarians.  And for a modest sum of $3,000 too.  Granted he’s already doubled his goal, but no reason why he shouldn’t triple it, eh?

AlexandriaStillBurns 500x375 Video Sunday: Not that anyone doubed LeVars godlike qualities

 

Oh my! A hat tip as well as a big thank you to Travis Jonker for locating this video of author/illustrator John Hendrix. As a big time fan of his work, I found this a real treat.

Thanks to 100 Scope Notes for the link.

I wasn’t able to make Book Expo this year and, by extension, wasn’t able to attend the BEA Children’s Breakfast.  So this Mem Fox speech at said breakfast is NOT persuading me that I wasn’t missing anything, people.  Doggone it.

And for your off-topic video of the day, ain’t nothing hotter than women who make classical musical funny and incredibly difficult all at the same time.  Love this stuff.

 

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3. Video Sunday: But he was STILL hungry

Well, had this post just about wrapped up when the whole computer crashed on me.  Viva la internet!  Let’s see if I can recover what I lost.

First off, the best thing in the world.  Best.  The world.  Ever.

He is, for the record, on Twitter now.  I’m a bit reluctant to tell you this since I like being one of his few followers.  Ah well.  It was there that I discovered this video as well.  Oh, Huffington Post.  You knew not what you wrought.

Bet Angelina Jolie looks positively easy in comparison now, eh?  Geez, he’s good.

Meanwhile, also at BEA, we had other authors singing.  Michael Buckley brings us Lionel Ritchie while Gareth Hinds, Phil Bildner, and Tom Angleberger juggle behind him at the BEA silent auction.  Not so silent now!!

Thanks to Alvina Ling for the link.

Switching gear away from singing (but focusing just as much on white men standing in front of crowds doing things) this was taken in Australia.  It’s at a bus depot where a lot of preachers have a tendency to stand on milk crates.  Or, in this case, read from the true word of caterpillars.s

Five Hail Marys and four ripe red strawberries.  Thanks to Marci for the link.

Well good one, America.  I hope you’re happy now.  You just made LeVar Burton cry.

By the way – the folks getting upset about this?  Do we truly have nothing else to be upset about?  Let the blooming Rainbow have its day.

Now, of course, that every Kickstarter gets this kind of support.  Case in point, Literary Lots.  The idea?  “Literary Lots will transform 2 vacant lots near inner-city libraries into four-week literary spaces for children in Cleveland. Working together with local artists around themes from specific children’s books, we will re-create places, concepts, and images from these books…”  Nicely done.  The video is a bit off on its year (it says 2013 by accident) but the idea is still a nice one.

LiteraryLots 500x372 Video Sunday: But he was STILL hungry

Thanks to Pink Me for the link.

In other news, ALA recently released a controversial movie it produced (?!) back in 1977 called The Speaker.  They’ll be showing it at the upcoming ALA Conference in Vegas as well.  Why the controversy?  Well, as their press release put it:

The film depicts a high school Current Events club that decides to invite a white supremacist professor from a local college to address the student body and the controversy that ensues. It was intended for schools, libraries and other organizations to encourage them to discuss the true meaning of the freedom of expression, particularly regarding “tolerance for ideas we detest.”  Many ALA members objected to the film’s subject matter and the process by which the film was produced.  After contentious debate at the 1977 Annual Conference, multiple ALA bodies voted down proposals to remove the organization’s name from the film.

So in case you’ve 42 minutes to spare . . .

And finally, for our off-topic video, the bloody thing that crashed my computer in the first place.  And you know what?  Worth it.  Check out what happens when you sing an 800-year-old Icelandic hymn in a German train station.

share save 171 16 Video Sunday: But he was STILL hungry

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4. Video Sunday: “…Rousseau and his mate Voltaire.”

Oh, why not.  Let’s just start with what is undoubtedly the best thing ever.  Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 90-Second Newbery and James Kennedy, the author and organizer, was clever enough to know how to start things off.  It seems that Aaron Zenz and his Boogie Woogie kids have made another video.  And darned if it isn’t even better than their previous (genius) efforts. I liked it so much I’m including the Making Of film as well.

Those of you already familiar with the PBS Digital Studio’s remixes of Mr. Rogers, Julia Child, and Bob Ross (boy is that catchy) know that no one is safe when it comes to classic public television.  They did a nice job with LeVar here too.  It’s fun to watch based on his shifting facial hair alone.

Seems to me that LeVar Burton had his way of recommending books.  Iron Guy Carl of Boys Rock, Boys Read has a different method: Scare them away with a PSA.  Works for me!

Now here we have a movie coming out based on a YA novel I never read.  I did listen to the Read It and Weep podcast episode about it, but now I suppose that was insufficient.  I dunno.  The creepy kiddo looks interesting but I may just hold out for The Last Apprentice film that’s coming out soon anyway.

Thanks to bookshelves of doom for the link.

Oksey-doksey.  New publishing model time.  It happens.  Seems Rebecca Emberley and Deidre Randall are creating a new “hybrid children’s book imprint” called two little birds (something about that name just speaks to me).  They’re pairing a picture book in print form with an app of the same title and publishing them simultaneously.  The first book is the sure-fire winner The Itsy-Bitsy Spider, catchy song in tow.

You can learn more about their Kickstarter campaign here and read the article about it here.

Author Alan Silberberg has a different method of bringing videos and books together.  He animates his thoughts on writerly advice.  Like so:

Sweet screams never sounded so right.

Finally, the off-topic video (I did well this week, didn’t I? – she said like an eager puppy).  Normally I’d eschew something as tawdry as a Gangnam Style parody, but . . .  but . . . there are literary references!  And for once the idea of looking like you’re riding a tiny pony makes odd sense.

Thanks to Jeanne Birdsall for the link.

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5. Video Sunday: And the Reading Rainbow Mash-Ups Just Keep On Coming

There was no question in my mind which video to begin with today.  I cannot help but think that meeting Quentin Blake must be akin to meeting Roald Dahl.  The man is a living legend and this video is a true treasure.  Would that every illustrator were half so thorough when discussing the preservation, creation, and process that goes into their art.  A very big thank you to Jonathan Cape Graphic Novels for the link.

Mind you, Quentin had some stiff competition for the top video of the day.  He only narrowly beat out this Reading Rainbow remix.

I’ve been trying to identify all the books in the video but it is incredibly tough.  I can account for Carl Hiaasen’s Flush, Christopher Paul Curtis’s Elijah of Buxton, and what appears to be a Civil Rights book that I can never quite catch the title of.  Other spotted books are welcome.  Mention them!  And thanks to mom for the link.  Probably the only time you’ll ever see the New Orleans Bounce on this blog, I’d wager.

Benefit books come out occasionally but rarely do they incorporate Broadway stars.  Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project is benefiting breast cancer research.  You’ve got big name vocalists singing songs from big name composers with a book illustrated by big name artists (for the most part).  Here’s the roster:

” . . . the project’s book component also features a distinctive cover illustration by fabled cartoonist/playwright Jules Feiffer, along with a foreword written by stage and screen legend Julie Andrews and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton. Among the award-winning illustrators lending their talents are Selina Alko, Lynne Avril, Paulette Bogan, Beowulf Boritt, Lauren Castillo, R. Gregory Christie, Seymour Chwast, Jane Dyer, Richard Egielski, Daniel Glucksman, Julia Gran, Ying-Hwa Hu, Genevieve LeRoy-Walton, Betsy Lewin, Anna Louizos, Victor Mays, Emily Arnold McCully, Wendell Minor, Barry Moser, Jon J Muth, Sean Qualls, Peter H. Reynolds, Marc Simont, Javaka Steptoe, Melissa Sweet, Cornelius Van Wright, Neil Waldman, Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, Tony Walton, Gary Zamchick, and Paul O. Zelinsky.”

I had no idea Jules Feiffer was a fable.  And here I was convinced he was a real person.  In any case, impressive list of names!  A couple I don’t know but most I do. And here, on a related note, is a glimpse at one of the songs.

Thanks to Rich Michelson for the info.

Speaking of Julie Andrews, I’m sure you’ve all seen Stephen Colbert’s interview with her in conjunction with his own picture book release of

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6. KBWT

Who can think about Kids Book Website Tuesday when the phone keeps ringing and I have to make nametags for StoryFUSION and I haven't collected enough media cords for my workshop yet?????

I can!!  Ta Ra Ta Ra!  I can think about Kids Book Website Tuesday.  Of course, right now my favorite KBW is Battle of the Books.  DUH!!  With amazingness happening at every cliff-hanging turn!  Today, Judge Jewel Parker Rhodes chose Drawing from Memory to move to the semi-finals.  I have hope for Inside Out and Back Again to rise from the dead in the final round.

I was hoping to share a Reading Rainbow site but since the show was taken off, PBS no longer hosts a site for it.  But, never fear, Reading Rainbow fans.  I have heard from very credible sources that Reading Rainbow will come out with an app for your iPhones this Spring!!!  YAY!  Take a look!  It's in a book!  Reading Rainbow.

Here you go.  Stone Soup, the magazine, has been publishing stories, poems and drawings of young people for decades.   So Stone Soup, though not actually a book website, is my choice for this week's Kids Book Website.  Sample the writings of children and teens.  This magazine never publishes the work of grown-ups.  NEVER!  Stone Soup is Peter Pan's favorite reading material, I've been led to believe.  I'm sure that's true.

Make sure you check out the video on the magazine's home page.  Very cool.


Back to BoB: Tomorrow, Life: an Exploded Diagram goes up against  Wonderstruck.  My first lackluster prediction is that Wonderstruck  will head to the next round.  But Chris Lynch is the judge and that changes things.  Must....think... ... ... I am going to predict Wonderstruck.  Just because I feel I should predict something.  Is that lackluster enough for you?  Both good books.  Both worthy opponents.  Just not A Monster Calls.

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7. Video Sunday: But you don’t have to take my word for it (ba-dum-bum!)

That was this week’s Most Alerted Video.  I had a couple folks send it my way and I admit that you simply could not come up with a better beginning to a Video Sunday.  Aside from the fact that Fallon does one heckuva Jim Morrison, I love the choices of books he sings halfway through.  Hopefully LeVar is aware of this (how could he not be?).  Thanks to Jarrett Krosoczka, Anna Hebner, and Lindsey Lane and others for the link!

Book trailer time!  As some of you might be aware the newest Diary of a Wimpy Kid came out this week.  I’d have read it except that I was too busy downing a very different Abrams book by the name of My Friend Dahmer (do NOT get the two mixed up!).  This book trailer is for the Kinney title but there’s something odd about it.  I think I’m becoming a major book trailer snob.  For as big a book as the latest Wimpy Kid is, why did they opt for GarageBand background music?  Now hand me my caviar and don’t chintz on the 1978 Montrachet, my good man.

And now another book trailer.  This one comes from James Proimos and is for 12 Things to Do Before You Crash and Burn.  The bt as short film.  I have seen it done before (the MT Anderson video here, for example) but it’s rare to see it so . . . . artistic, I guess.

Author Katie Davis alerted me to this next video.  As she says, it’s “a book charity that is really different and whom I’m interviewing for next week’s podcast. It’s called Milk and Bookies and it’s got the most gorgeous web site ever, and GREAT video which you should totes use for Video Sunday (IMHO!) Here is the URL, and the video is right on the home page.”

So I checked it out and lo and behold . . . she’s right!  This thing is bloody gorgeous.

That’s all I had this week, folks.  More soon, you betcha.  In the meantime, enjoy this little short film.  I found it via Dan Santat.  Nice.

4 Comments on Video Sunday: But you don’t have to take my word for it (ba-dum-bum!), last added: 11/22/2011
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8. Ypulse Essentials: Reading Rainbow Redux, Gap’s Promotion With GetGlue And EW, Comment On COPPA Changes

LeVar Burton takes Reading Rainbow into the 21st Century (by launching RRKidz. Just like its previous iteration, RRKidz is all about reading, but the twist is that it’s an app for iPad and Android featuring a curated collection of... Read the rest of this post

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9. Ypulse Essentials: ‘Breaking Dawn’ Trailer, Reading Rainbow Goes Digital, VH1′s ‘Pop Up Video’ Returns

Twihards rejoice! The full trailer for ‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1′ is finally here (and by the looks of it, it may be the most intense of the movies yet. Needless to say, we know where millions of teen girls will be on... Read the rest of this post

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10. Fusenews: Hunting the snark

After posting a video from the episode of Community where Troy meets his hero LeVar Burton I got a penchant for a little Reading Rainbow.  The universe, it appears, was happy to oblige.  First off you have a woman that I would love to meet one day.  If the name Twila Liggett fails to ring any bells, know only that amongst her many accomplishments she was the founder and executive producer of Reading Rainbow back in the day.  In the article Just Read Anything! she writes a message to parents and teachers that’s pretty self-explanatory.  If you can’t think of Reading Rainbow without the aforementioned LeVar, however, the same website Happy Reading has a lovely interview with the man.  I’d love to meet LeVar myself, but I think my reaction would be a shade too similar to Troy’s.
  • Mmm.  Critical reviews.  They’re important.  I don’t do as many of them these days as I used to, but I try to work in at least a couple per year.  Some bloggers don’t do them at all, and while I understand that I think it’s important to have a critical dialogue in the children’s literary blogosphere.  That nice Justine Larbalestier author recently wrote a post called I Love Bad Reviews that covers this.  She’s a gutsy gal, that one.  I hope she writes a middle grade book one of these days (How to Ditch Your Fairy came close but wasn’t quite there).  And if the research author Elizabeth Fama found in the Sept/Oct 2010 issue of Marketing Science is true, then “negative reviews of books of relatively unknown authors raised sales 45%.”  So there you go, oh first time authors.  It’s win-win!
  • Along similar lines is this other snarky link.  Personally I’ve nothing against Cassandra Clare.  She was a lovely person that I got to meet at a Simon & Schuster preview once.  Of course, I’ve never read a one of her books (she’s a YA writer) but bookshelves of doom gave a positive review to her City of Bones and I trust Leila.  That said, I enjoyed Part One of the podcast Read It and Weep’s series on that same book (Part Two isn’t out as of this posting).  Read It and Weep is a couple dudes and their guest host talking about books and various pop culture icons they dislike.  I wouldn’t recommend the podcast for fans of the series, but if you’re curious about the book it can be amusing.  Particularly since they will mention things they enjoyed, like the cat-related paging system.  I think I’ll have to seek out their thoughts on Percy Jackson soon.  Not Twilight, though.  It’s been done.
  • Everyone and their mother emailed me the amazing Aaron Renier

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11. Video Sunday: Uncle Shelby’s Corner

When I first started to work for New York Public Library I was placed at an amazing near 150-year-old part of the system called the Jefferson Market Branch in Greenwich Village.  My husband once shot a fantastic short film there in the clocktower, and I believe a Law & Order episode took place there once involving a man and a sword.  This little PSA is also set there and takes advantage not only of the architecture (gorgeous, right?) but also my former boss Frank who takes great glee in his role as Library Ghoul.  Love you, Frank!

I’m not entirely certain the universe is big enough for me to imagine Weird Al and Shel Silverstein having a conversation with one another.  But huge thanks to Mr. Schu for this amazing piece of info.

I would have watched Uncle Shelby’s Corner.  Absolutely, you bet!

Recently I was asked to blurb a new edition of Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant.  Now normally I’d think twice about that kind of request because, let’s face it, Oscar Wilde was one weird children’s author.  We sometimes think of Hans Christian Andersen as an odd duck (Red Shoes, anyone?) but I doubt he ever created much of anything to compare to The Happy Prince and its ilk.  The Selfish Giant has always been way too didactic for my tastes (too much of an allegory) but there is a way to make it palatable.  First off, you give the book great art.  Then, if possible, you hire an orchestra and turn the book into a kind of Peter and the Wolf type gig.  Here’s a taste.

Cool, eh?

I wouldn’t call this next video of a jazzed up version of The Three Bears any real threat to Hey There, Little Red Riding Hood, but it’s still interesting.

Thanks to BoingBoing for the link!

This week I was pleased to be asked to come up with a list of great Black History Month titles for our local channel NY1’s coverage of what to read with your kids.  Fellow librarian Robyn Mutnick did a top notch job of presenting the books themselves.

I should note that there was one change made to the books I recommended

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12. Ypulse Essentials: 'Jersey Shore' Goes Global, Reading Rainbow 2.0, Savage, Schwartz To Build Fake Empire

Jersey Shore goes global (airing in more than 30 countries this week. Will the "Shore" lifestyle [aka "guido" stereotypes] translate? Also MTV and VH1 ink a deal with Foursquare encouraging fans to join and "friend" their favorite cast member, the... Read the rest of this post

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13. The end of Reading Rainbow

Due to low ratings and lack of funds, PBS's "Reading Rainbow" is no longer being broadcast.That's too bad. I have fond memories of watching the show with my daughter. They featured some terrific books, like If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, and, Everett Anderson's Goodbye. (Neither one is by a Native writer or features any Native content. They're just two books I like.)

Native-authored books (that I recommend) that were on the show include:

  • Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp
  • The Goat in the Rug, by Charles L. Blood, illustrated by Nancy Winslow Parker
In looking over the books they've featured over the years, I am puzzled that none of Joseph Bruchac's books are on the list.That was a tremendous oversight by the show's producers, and, a loss to its viewers who could have found some terrific books by him.


Among the Reading Rainbow books I do NOT recommend are:
  • Dancing with the Indians, by Angela Shelf Medearis, illustrated by Samuel Byrd - Depiction of a ribbon dance is wrong, playing drum with hands is wrong, Native dancers are just plain scary... 
  • Knots on a Counting Rope, by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault, illustrated by Ted Rand. Among other problems, Rand depicts Native dancers watching a horse race in their traditional clothing, suggesting it is worn everyday. In reality, the men would be wearing jeans, shirts, and boots, just like the other spectators.  
  • Thirteen Moons on Turtle's Back, by Penny Pollock. She (like "Jamake Highwater" did in Anpao) collapses the diversity within the hundreds of Native tribes into a single "Native American" portrayal.

There are a handful of others I could have listed here as 'not recommended' but those three jumped out at me. One of Paul Goble's books is on it, but that is not ok....   Looking over the list on their site, it just seems to me that their 'rainbow' did not have much space on it for Native authors.

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14. In Memory of Reading Rainbow. All Great Things Must Come to An End.



Reading Rainbow built the love of reading. It was the show I watched daily in graduate school as I learned about children's books. I also stole many of LeVar Burton ideas for making books come alive. I had a little Reading Rainbow notebook(I still have it).





The FUN needs to be put back in reading and learning! Send a email to PBS to keep this show on the air.

Thirteen/WNET New York 450 West 33rd StreetNew York, NY 10001Phone: (212) 560-1313Fax: (212) 560-1314 Email: web@thirteen.org

A little history -


August 28, 2009



Even if you can't remember a specific Reading Rainbow episode, chances are, the theme song is still lodged somewhere in your head:
Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high,Take a look, it's in a book — Reading Rainbow ...
Remember now?
Reading Rainbow comes to the end of its 26-year run on Friday; it has won more than two-dozen Emmys, and is the third longest-running children's show in PBS history — outlasted only by Sesame Street and Mister Rogers.
The show, which started in 1983, was hosted by actor LeVar Burton. (If you don't know Burton from Reading Rainbow, he's also famous for his role as Kunta Kinte in Roots, or as the chrome-visored Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation.)
Each episode of Reading Rainbow had the same basic elements: There was a featured children's book that inspired an adventure with Burton. Then, at the end of every show, kids gave their own book reviews, always prefaced by Burton's trademark line: "But you don't have to take my word for it ..."
"The series resonates with so many people," says John Grant, who is in charge of content at WNED Buffalo, Reading Rainbow's home station.

Enlarge GPN/Nebraska ETV Network and WNED Buffalo.
"I think reading is part of the birthright of the human being," Burton said in a 2003 interview. "It's just such an integral part of the human experience — that connection with the written word."
GPN/Nebraska ETV Network and WNED Buffalo.
"I think reading is part of the birthright of the human being," Burton said in a 2003 interview. "It's just such an integral part of the human experience — that connection with the written word."
The show's run is ending, Grant explains, because no one — not the station, not PBS, not the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — will put up the several hundred thousand dollars needed to renew the show's broadcast rights.
Grant says the funding crunch is partially to blame, but the decision to end Reading Rainbow can also be traced to a shift in the philosophy of educational television programming. The change started with the Department of Education under the Bush administration, he explains, which wanted to see a much heavier focus on the basic tools of reading — like phonics and spelling.
Grant says that PBS, CPB and the Department of Education put significant funding toward programming that would teach kids how to read — but that's not what Reading Rainbow was trying to do.
"Reading Rainbow taught kids why to read," Grant says. "You know, the love of reading — [the show] encouraged kids to pick up a book and to read."
Linda Simensky, vice president for children's programming at PBS, says that when Reading Rainbow was developed in the early 1980s, it was an era when the question was: "How do we get kids to read books?"
Since then, she explains, research has shown that teaching the mechanics of reading should be the network's priority.
"We've been able to identify the earliest steps that we need to take," Simensky says. "Now we know what we need to do first. Even just from five years ago, I think we all know so much more about how to use television to teach."
Research has directed programming toward phonics and reading fundamentals as the front line of the literacy fight. Reading Rainbow occupied a more luxurious space — the show operated on the assumption that kids already had basic reading skills and instead focused on fostering a love of books.
Simensky calls Reading Rainbow's 26-year run miraculous — and says that its end is bittersweet.
Reading Rainbow's impending absence leaves many open questions about today's literacy challenges, and what television's role should be in addressing them.


"But" — as Burton would have told his young readers — "you don't have to take my word for it."

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112312561

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15. Where Should Students Learn To Love Reading?

Over the weekend The New York Times, reg. required, profiled an experimental teaching method that allows students to select their own reading material. The piece opened up an ongoing debate over the role of English teachers, and how the... Read the rest of this post

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16. Ypulse Essentials: VMA Side Story, Final Chapter Of 'Reading Rainbow', Maine Predatory Marketing Law Under Fire

'VMA Side Story' (Host Russell Brand and an ensemble of celebs spoof "West Side Story" in this lengthy, slightly off-key promo for MTV's upcoming Video Music Awards. Also Britney's back.. in another promo with Russell Brand. And Boston.com finds... Read the rest of this post

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17. Reading Rainbow

I have the pleasure of being one of two judges for the kindergarten entries for the local Reading Rainbow contest sponsored by KEET-TV. I so look forward to judging because I love to see what these young minds are thinking. I also delight in their artwork, how they interpret shapes and mix the wildest colors together. It's so honest.

So yesterday, I sat out on my deck, entries spread before me, and read the stories. At this age there's not a whole lot of character development, or even conflict. But there is imagination. I got a kick out of the clown who carried around blue cotton candy and offered to share it with the bears at the zoo. I also loved the insect amusement park with its grasshopper merry-go-round. There was even a story that made me think it had potential as a real book, about a Mexican family who was divided - part lived in Mexico to tend to the sheep, and the others lived up here for work.

Judge number two will read the stories next, and then we'll discuss our top choices, so I don't know who won yet. Good luck, future writers and illustrators!

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18. Video Sunday - La Bibliotheque

Today we look at the library. Why? Because there are roughly a million videos on YouTube involving libraries and getting people into them. The best way to do so is to get the children while they're young. Now when I saw this video on Becky's Book Reviews, the memories just starting flooding back. I remember this routine like it was yesterday. What else is residing in my brain that I don't know about?



And correct me if I am wrong, but didn't this contemporary commercial totally rip-off Sesame Street?



Beautiful. Not that I wasn't equally swayed as a child by Reading Rainbow.



Speaking of Reading Rainbow, this one amuses me horribly. First of all, Levar seems to be participating in some kind of Rex Harrisonish song styling. Then there's the fact that the sign says "FREE LIBRARY" which is a term I haven't seen in my lifetime. I'll have to ask my grandmother about it. And the first librarian in this video? Fab.



Gotta get me some hot pink spandex shirts and purple skirts to wear. I adore that she still wears a bun. Otherwise how do you know what her profession is? Then the whole video becomes Pippin. I'd mind, but I've a soft spot for Pippinish behavior. Y'know, they still rerun old Reading Rainbows on PBS these days. I love the thought of some kid catching this on the telly, then asking their parent what a record is. My library still has them. Does yours?

I remember all of these. But this one from The Electric Company? Not so much.



If you pause it quickly enough you'll see that the "I" at the end appears over a book titled, "The Truth About Weight Control". Odd. Speaking of which...



Cell-u-leet? 1987 was a glorious year.

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19. Not That I Don't Love Spongebob Too

I'm not one for panel series. Seems to me they tend to overprice themselves and I just end up talking with the participants at ALA meetings anyway half the time. But this one... this one is different. This one I have an active interest in.

Best opening line for a panel ever? It's Spongebob's world and we're just living in it. I can dig it, man.

This panel, the second in a series organized by New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT), will explore the evolution of children's media - from wholesome to edgy - and look at what's in store in the future. Participants will ask some tough questions: What happens when the goal posts of taste, wholesomeness and educational value are moved? What are the differences between media created for children and media created for teens and adults? What factor does money play in determining what is suitable entertainment for children?
People of my generation tend to slip into Cranky Old Codger Mode when the subject of children's television programming comes up. "You whippersnappers don't know what it was like. Why in MY day we had Reading Rainbow, The Electric Company, 3-2-1 Contact, GOOD Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, and a bunch of shows I can't even REMEMBER. You kids today with your crummy corporate shows. Do they even teach sign language on Sesame Street anymore? Huh? Huh? What about kids with Down's Syndrome? How many of those do you get on the show these days?"

I could go on. You see why this panel appeals to me.

The real highlight? I was just discussing with the Kidlit Drink Night attendees that Reading Rainbow may still exist. Now I see that Twila C. Liggett, founder of the show, will be on the panel. I'll ask her.

The whopping great price to attend? $10 if you're a nonmember. I'm there. Let me know if you'll be showing up as well.

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20. Straight From the Horse's Mouth

Awww. This is adorable. YouTube has put up all these booktalks done by kids for books they particularly enjoy. Book Moot has the scoop, plus four talks of interest. My sole problem with this is that anytime a kid finishes I keep expecting the three note "Ba-dum-bum!" that would play after the kid booktalks on Reading Rainbow.

Thanks to Book Moot for the link.

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