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Check out LEE & LOW BOOKS’ Building Classroom Community Unit for First Grade! The FREE and downloadableunit consists of eight read aloud lesson plans to inspire your best classroom community yet.
The start of first grade is ripe with opportunities for building long-lasting positive school behaviors and attitudes. Time spent building relationships and establishing social and academic expectations can pay dividends all year long.
Using a rich collection of diverse picture books to support this work lays the foundation for a classroom culture of appreciation and acceptance.
The Building Classroom Community Unit for First Gradeconsists of eight read alouds and provides a structured approach for this important work, yet the lessons are flexible enough for you to teach language and behaviors specific to your students’ population, preferences, and goals. Each lesson is intended for multiple days so that from the beginning students are exposed to close reading and the value of multiple readings. We believe the first eight read alouds, or roughly the first two months of school, are critical to setting the tone of your classroom community, read aloud procedures, and expectations for engagement.
review and build on the expectations for listening and discussion participation introduced in kindergarten, with a new emphasis on staying focused on a topic and building on others’ responses
encourage students to learn about one another through discussions of favorite individual and family pastimes and goals for the year ahead
engage in rigorous yet developmentally appropriate discussions about crucial topics such as individual strengths and challenges, managing disagreements kindly, and persevering through mistakes and difficult tasks
Each lesson may be used as a stand alone, but we hope that using these books as a broad unit will help lay the foundation for a strong classroom community with strong learning expectations. We designed the unit to spiral. Additionally, each lesson and book can be adapted for other grades (and we hope you will do this!).
Book extension activities encourage exploration of these topics through writing, drama, and art, as well as lay the foundation for collaborative learning during your year.
What could bring together teachers, community organizations and hungry friends of First Book?
First Book is proud to partner with Pizza Hut and excited to take part in their new 10-year campaign, Pizza Hut: The Literacy Project. When friends, families, and co-workers sit down to eat or order online from Pizza Hut they’ll be able to add a donation to First Book to enable access to books for children in need. The funds raised from each Pizza Hut location will go to local educators so they can purchase books and resources from the First Book Marketplace. The combination of this campaign’s worldwide reach and local community focus will bring the greatest impact.
The funds raised from each Pizza Hut location will go to local educators so they can purchase books and resources from the First Book Marketplace. The combination of this campaign’s worldwide reach and local community focus will bring the greatest impact.
Kyle Zimmer and Artie Starrs
Some of the students at PS 30 in New York City got a “taste” of the Literacy Project on September 8th, when they were treated to pizza, a visit from representatives of Pizza Hut and the United Federation of Teachers. In honor of the occasion Artie Starrs, President of Pizza Hut, and Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO, First Book, read Secret Pizza Party by Adam Rubin and got a copy of the book to take home.
“The teachers we serve tell us that when a child discovers a love of reading, not only do they unlock their potential, but ultimately the community benefits,” said Zimmer, “But too many low-income communities simply don’t have the resources to provide children with access to books, and teachers in these classrooms and programs often spend hundreds of dollars of their own money to try to provide what students need. Pizza Hut: The Literacy Project will unlock the potential of millions of underserved children and communities.”
Each Pizza Hut location will also be organizing reading-centric events with community partners — fun things ranging from building pop-up reading nooks or bookcases to simply reading with children who are hungry to learn.
And maybe for pizza, too.
If you serve children in need, please visit theliteracyproject.pizzahut.com to learn more about the events in your community and First Book’s partnership with Pizza Hut: The Literacy Project.
Check out LEE & LOW BOOKS’ Building Classroom Community Unit for Kindergarten! The FREE and downloadableunit consists of eight read aloud lesson plans to inspire your best classroom community yet.
The start of the kindergarten year is ripe with opportunities for building long-lasting positive school behaviors and attitudes. Time spent building relationships and establishing social and academic expectations can pay dividends all year long.
Using a rich collection of diverse picture books to support this work lays the foundation for a classroom culture of appreciation and acceptance.
TheBuilding Classroom Community Unit for Kindergartenconsists of eight read aloud lesson plans. Each lesson paired with a book is intended for multiple days so that from the beginning students are exposed to close reading and the value of multiple readings. We believe the first eight read alouds, or roughly the first two months of school, are critical to setting the tone of your classroom community, read aloud procedures, and expectations for engagement.
help students connect to one another by discussing things they like and their families
share goals for the kindergarten year to create a sense of shared purpose
establish a common vocabulary for discussing emotions, which will support both social and literacy goals
generate clear, specific expectations for active listening in groups and partnerships, respectful communication, treating one another with kindness, solving problems, and working together as a community of learners.
Each lesson may be used as a stand alone, but we hope that using these books as a broad unit will help lay the foundation for a strong classroom community with strong learning expectations. We designed the unit to spiral. Additionally, each lesson and book can be adapted for other grades (and we hope you will do this!).
Book extension activities provide initial opportunities to practice these crucial behaviors, and the resource materials you create will support ongoing focus on these topics.
Dive Into Reading! is LEE & LOW’s new line of early chapter books that focuses on supporting readers in each stage of their reading development.
The Confetti Kids series follows a group of five children from diverse backgrounds living in a friendly city neighborhood, and each book follows a different character as they learn about friendship and how to navigate common childhood experiences.
Synopsis: Lily moves from a quiet suburb to an apartment on a busy street in the city. Lily worries that she’ll never fit in. As she and her parents explore their new, multicultural neighborhood, Lily discovers that sometimes change can be a good thing!
Synopsis: It’s a warm, sunny day, and the gang heads to the neighborhood playground to play. What should they play? Pablo comes up with a great idea: to play pretend. It’s a game that everyone can do easily. They can pretend to be archaeologists, astronauts, and explorers. There’s no limit to what they imagine they can be!
You can purchase a copy of Lily’s New Home or Want to Play on our website here.
Veronicahas 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.
Last year, we gave our 10 favorite reasons to read diversely. One reason being that we live in a diverse world, so why not the books that we read? Books help us see the world through someone else’s eyes, and in the case of bilingual books, through another language.
Here are our ten favorite reasons to read bilingual books!
Teach us how to read in two languages.
Celebrate the 22% of students who speak a language other than English at home.
Develop strong critical thinking skills
Keep our brains young, healthy, and sharp.
Expose us to new ways of communicating.
Make reading an inclusive activity for all students.
Highlight the achievement of knowing more than one language.
Encourage interest in other cultures and languages.
Two factors contributed to the quantum leap that the idea of district planning made. First was the Total Literacy Campaign which caught the nation’s attention; the success of quite a few districts in becoming ‘totally literate’ imparted a new thrust to UPE because it was realised that that success would be ephemeral if an inadequate schooling system spawned year after year a new brood of illiterates.
Looking for ways to get families more involved with your classroom or program? Or for resources to send home with them? The First Book Marketplace is the place to go!
Visit us for great family read alouds, resource collections for kids ages 0-12 and tips to arm caregivers with the skills they need. When educators and families are on the same page and pulling in the same direction it gives kids the confidence they need to keep building skills.
Build Strong Families with Stories
The books in this section model habits that families can adopt to grow stronger together. Each title is paired with a FREE downloadable reading guide designed for parents and caregivers. It includes activities, discussion prompts, and key ideas to take away from the story.
Tools to Get Families Involved
First Book proudly partners with content experts to provide easy-to-use tools to help you engage with families around subjects like healthy living, developing early literacy skills and building strong character. Our Family Engagement section includes 12 unique categories of books paired with free downloadable tip sheets, many in both English and Spanish.
Last week we wrote about the enduring impact of Cool Melons–Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa and today we bring you reflections from the award-winning author Matthew Gollub.
“Looking back on this book’s remarkable journey, I remember my frustration with publishers early on. My previous publisher had declared as “lovely” the poems that the artist Kazuko Stone and I had presented. But, they believed, haiku were too abstract for most American children to grasp. This made us all the more grateful to Lee & Low, and the editor Liz Szabla, for sharing our intuition that the translated poems would in fact resonate, especially when interspersed in a story about the poet’s life.
Now, having spoken at over 1,000 schools, I’ve been greeted with countless wall displays and “welcome” folders of haiku. It is an honor to have worked on a book that has inspired such an outpouring of original children’s poetry and drawings.
Last summer, while traveling in Japan, I had the further honor of meeting the noted translator Akiko Waki. She had translated, then lobbied her publisher Iwanami Shoten, to issue a Japanese edition of “Cool Melons.” Ms. Waki and her husband graciously invited my college-age son and me to their home. The Japanese version also had been well-received and widely collected by libraries, so it felt even more celebratory to meet the translator in person. Over dinner, she described how daunting it would have been for a Japanese writer to translate centuries old haiku. That, she pointed out, was a job better suited to a Japanese speaking foreigner less encumbered by the weight of Japan’s literary tradition. Better suited also to an innovative publisher like Lee & Low!”–Matthew Gollub
This award-winning book is an introduction to haiku poetry and the life of Issa (b. 1763), Japan’s premier haiku poet, told through narrative, art, and translation of Issa’s most beloved poems for children.
Author Matthew Gollub’s poignant rendering of Issa’s life and over thirty of his best-loved poems, along with illustrator Kazuko Stone’s sensitive and humorous watercolor paintings, make Cool Melons—Turn to Frogs! a classic introduction to Issa’s work for readers of all ages. With authentic Japanese calligraphy, a detailed Afterword, and exhaustive research by both author and illustrator, this is also an inspirational book about haiku, writing, nature, and life.
Matthew Gollub is an award-winning children’s author who combines dynamic storytelling, interactive drumming, and valuable reading and writing tips. What’s more, he does this while speaking four languages: English, Spanish, Japanese and jazz! He helps families re-discover the joy of reading to children aloud for FUN. Find him online at matthewgollub.com.
Downloadable and streaming audiobooks have been on my mind again. Recently, some articles came out about the benefits of audiobooks for literacy; a revelation that probably surprised few of us in children’s and school library services. We did not create the Odyssey awards for nothing. ALA Editions published a wonderful book about it by Sharon Grover and Lizette D. Hannegan “back” in 2012. Last year, Rachel Wood from Arlington Public Library wrote an ALSC Blog post that stands as a primer for building an e-audio collection. But it always feels like a topic needs to come around a few times before the greater profession and the greater public latches on.
Perhaps it is not always content that is the way to hook a reluctant reader but format too. Dan Cohen from the DPLA wrote an article for The Atlantic talking about the powerful role that smartphones play in the lives of today’s teens and how this may be a way to bridge the digital divide. One of my own young relatives revealed to me that because she has difficulty reading, she uses audiobooks to keep up with her English class assignments. She finds and streams audiobook editions of assigned books on her smartphone. Recognizing that most parents and caregivers have smartphones, many libraries, like Spokane County Library District, are emphasizing their media mentor skills to recommend downloadable and streaming audiobooks and related apps for them to use with their children.
In the past, a former children’s librarian could feel alone in the greater e-content world. Too often children were not considered during e-content discussions. (Besides my fellow children’s librarians, who else at a meeting would excitedly prattle on about an audiobook of Winnie the Pooh in which Judy Dench gives voice to Kanga.) Now, we live in a world of Bookflix, Tumblebooks, and Overdrive Read-alongs. When children’s e-material did not circulate well during the early years of e-content platforms, I still believed it was worth building a collection. I knew at some point, this part of the market would grow. And, with the growth in downloadable audiobook circulation and sales, the time is upon us.
Let’s admit. Unlike a book, a physical audiobook can be clumsy (yes I know, for some downloading from the library can be clumsy as well). I tried the entire carry ten discs onto the subway thing when I had longer commutes, and yes, I did miss a few stops because of a wonderful narrator. As well, technology has changed so rapidly as concerns personal electronics. A few months ago, a member of an audiobook award committee told me she had a hard time finding a store near her that still sold Discmans (she wanted one so she could listen for her committee while she went on her walks). In the age of tablets, smartphones, and smartwatches, I think more focus needs to be on downloadable and streaming e-content.
To paraphrase Ranganathan: every young listener, their downloadable audiobook, and every downloadable audiobook, its young listener.
Michael Santangelo is the Electronic Resources Coordinator for BookOps, the shared technical services department for the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library, and the current chair of ALSC’s Children and Technology Committee.
Since 1965, The Parent Child-Home Program (PCHP) has been providing under-resourced families the necessary skills and tools to help their children thrive in school and life. PCHP’s nationwide network of program sites works with low-income families to ensure that they have the knowledge, skills, and resources to achieve their greatest potential in school and in life.
Today, we are excited to have Sarah Walzer, CEO of The Parent-Child Home Program. 2015 marked 50 years of service for the PCHP.
1. How did PCHP begin? How has the program’s vision evolved since it was founded?
PCHP was started in 1965 when educational psychologist Dr. Phyllis Levenstein was asked to develop a program to help reduce the growing number of high school dropouts on Long Island. Based on her research, she concluded that the most effective way to reduce high school dropout rates would be to reach families before their children even entered a classroom and ensure that parents had the knowledge, skills, and materials to prepare their children for school success. With this idea, the model for PCHP was created.
The vision has essentially stayed the same – with PCHP focusing on reaching out to underserved families in under-resourced communities and working with them to strengthen parent-child interaction, support and increase reading and play activities in the home, and build language and learning rich home environments. The biggest change since 1965 is that now we work with families speaking over 50 different languages and almost always with a home visitor who speaks their language. Phyllis could not have imagined that when she first piloted the Program.
2. Can you tell us about the PCHP research-based model structure and how it works?
PCHP is based on an extensive body of research that demonstrates that children who receive rich verbal stimulation in their homes (conversation, reading, and play) come to school with the language, vocabulary, and social-emotional skills they need to be successful. Researchers have demonstrated that by age 3, low-income children have heard 30 million less words than their middle income peers, so we know that too many children do not experience the quality verbal interaction they need to succeed. Parent (primary caregiver)-child interaction is critical to closing this word gap and preparing children for school.
Building on this research, the model PCHP provides two years of intensive, twice-weekly home visits to underserved families when their children are 2 and 3. We match each family with a PCHP early literacy specialist in their community, and most of the time this early literacy specialist shares the family’s cultural background and language. These home visits are for a half-hour, twice-a-week. The half-hour is to make it easy for parents to fit the visits into their schedule and so they can see how little time each day it takes to support their children’s school readiness.
Over the course of the two years, each family receives at least 92 home visits, 46 new, high-quality books and educational toys, as well as curricular guide sheets that provide the family with tips for verbal interaction, skill development, and additional literacy, music, and art activities. The early literacy specialists model for the parents and children together verbal interaction, reading and play activities that are fun and become part of the families’ regular routines.
It is important to note that PCHP’s approach is one of modeling, not teaching; a non-directive, non-didactic approach that builds on the relationship between the home visitor and the family, empowering the parent to be their child’s first and most important teacher.
Texting parents is a great way to remind and teach parents the importance of conversing and reading with your child; however, by itself it will not close the achievement gap for the most under-resourced families. You don’t actually know if the parent receiving the text can read it or read it in the language of your text. You don’t know if they have access to books to read to their children, if they know how to find age-appropriate reading material, and how to read and talk to a young child in a way that builds language and literacy skills.
School readiness is about so much more than just language skills, it is about the social-emotional skill development that comes from playing games that involve taking turns, supporting children while they try increasingly difficult tasks on their own, etc. These are not all things that can be conveyed or demonstrated to parents via text messages. Some families need more support and the PCHP model can provide the needed materials, modeling, and tools for their children’s’ success.
4. After 50 years, what does the research show about families who complete the PCHP program?
The research not only shows that PCHP participants start school ready to succeed, but it also shows that this success continues as they move through school. A new study just released in February highlights the impact that PCHP is having both on kindergarten readiness and on third grade success. This longitudinal study demonstrates significant long-term outcomes for PCHP graduates based on standardized Washington state assessments of kindergarten readiness, English language proficiency, and third grade academic performance. The three key findings from the study show that signifcantly more PCHP graduates
started kindergarten better prepared than their peers
demonstrated English proficiency in kindergarten
scored significantly higher on third grade WA Reading and Math assessments, including above the state average in math.
5. Looking forward, where do you see PCHP headed in the coming years? Any projects that you are particularly excited about?
We’re hoping to expand to reach over 10,000 families annually. We want to be able to serve as many families as possible. We recently trained the staff for our second site in Chile, which is the 4th country we have opened sites in. We are currently working in 14 states and would like to see that number grow as well. We were recently selected by the GreenLight Fund Philadelphia to be their newest portfolio program, which will mean a four-year expansion there to reach at least 400 families annually. We are particularly excited about expansions like the one in Philadelphia that involve working with housing authorities to support families in public housing and immigrant organizations to support diverse immigrant populations.
6. How can people get involved or find a PCHP nearby?
You can find a PCHP location nearby by going to our website, www.parent-child.organd using the link “Find a PCHP Near You” to find a list of all of our locations and their contact information. Additionally, there is information on our website about how to support the Program, how to start a site if there is not one in your community, and potential volunteer opportunities. Please be sure to also follow us on social media and sign up for our newsletter to stay in the loop. We constantly have exciting news and events to share, and are always happy to welcome anyone who would like to get involved.
Sarah Walzer has been the Chief Executive Officer of The Parent-Child Home Program, Inc. since 1997, during which time the Program has grown from reaching 800 families in 5 states to over 7,000 families annually in 14 states. Before joining The Parent-Child Home Program, Sarah Walzer was Counsel to the Assistant Secretary for Legislation of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services where she worked on legislation related to early childhood and domestic violence prevention programs, and the development of crime, substance abuse, and dropout prevention programs for youth. She has presented on The Parent-Child Home Program to many audiences, including the Social Impact Exchange, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Council of Great City Schools. She serves on the Board of The Petey Greene Program and the Princeton University Bridge Year Advisory Committee. She is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School.
In this interview with The Open Book, guest blogger Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas, Director of Not in Our School, shares the organization’s latest video release about families and family structures. Not in Our School is part of the larger organization of Not in Our Town and focuses on empowering students to create safe, inclusive, and empathetic communities.
“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”—from “Human Family” by Maya Angelou (listen to Maya Angelou read the poem here)
At Not In Our Town, we are extremely pleased to be sharing our film, “Our Family,” with the Lee & Low Open Book Blog community. Our hope is for our film to become part of the growing collection of resources that educators are using to create identity safe classrooms where children of all backgrounds feel a sense of belonging. These classrooms should not be colorblind spaces, where differences are ignored or where students must leave their identities, stories, and experiences at the door. It is our belief that belonging is created through drawing on the diversity in every classroom as a resource for learning. And quickly, we learn that, as Maya Angelou so aptly pointed out, we are more alike than different.
LEE & LOW: What inspired you and your team to create this video focusing on family configuration and family diversity? Put another way: Why create a film about family configuration and diversity from an organization that fights prejudice, bullying, and discrimination?
Part of fostering a sense of belonging for children is creating an environment where they feel fully accepted for who they are. Even from a young age, children are aware of and have many aspects that make up their social identities. That includes: how they look, the language(s) they speak and the way they express themselves, as well as their culture, religion, race, and gender identity. Their families, a huge part of their lives, form a crucial part of their identities.
Children need to see themselves reflected in the curriculum, on the walls, and throughout their school life. They need to see others like them and they need to learn to appreciate those who are not like them. That does not always happen. My daughter announced at age four that she wanted a sex change operation to become a boy. At that time, we had no idea where she heard about this (she is now 33) because nobody was talking about transgender issues and back then. She did get strange reactions at preschool when she told people she was a boy. I remember she loved doing Mexican dancing, but when they insisted she wear the girl’s outfit, that was the end of her preschool dancing career. As she grew up we did not counter her feelings or ideas. However, now, married and openly a lesbian, she says she does not feel that way anymore, but that she always knew she was different in some way.
Some children grow up and never see a family like theirs celebrated in any way. They may be teased for being adopted, for having two moms or two dads, or for having a mixed-race family. A child whose mother has different color skin than he or she does may experience rude comments or stares. I raised my oldest daughter, who was from my husband’s first marriage. She had dark skin and we got many stares and she heard some rude remarks as people looked from her dark skin to my light skin and asked, “Is that your mother?”
We are approaching Mother’s Day. I wonder about all the children who don’t have mothers. How do they feel when their classrooms are making gifts for their mothers? (At Not In Our Town, we suggest that you celebrate Caregiver’s Day and children can honor those who care for them.)
We made this film for elementary students to see themselves reflected and hear the voices of children like themselves, and to see validation of those who might be different. They also can see how all these families can join together and be friends, and have fun. We kept the film short so teachers can show the film and then open a discussion with the students. We also have our Lesson Guide with activities for students at different grade levels to celebrate their families.
Our organization features communities of all backgrounds who come together to stand up to bullying, hate, prejudice and intolerance. We have always been proactive in seeking to create safety, acceptance, and inclusion. For this film, we partnered with a wonderful organization, Our Family Coalition, which focuses on supporting schools and communities to create acceptance for LGBTQ families. Our shared goal with the film is to support children from all kinds of families.
The best way to address hate and prejudice is by creating identity safety, and preventing hate and prejudice before they rear their ugly heads. Researchers have known for a long time that getting to know people who are different from you will reduce prejudice. New research has shown that it also will reduce implicit biases—the unconscious attitudes we all pick up from living in a society that has much underlying racial bias. According to the article, “Long-term Reduction in Implicit Race Bias,” fostering empathy is another way to reduce prejudice and implicit bias. Children can learn to be empathetic, but it will only stick if they also see empathy and acceptance expressed and modeled by all the adults in their world on a regular basis.
LEE & LOW: How can schools encourage children to appreciate their own family’s configuration and diversity?
The best way to celebrate families is to open the doors of the school and invite all the families in. Other activities include times where students invite their caregivers to volunteer or share expertise in one area or another. Also, students can write about their families, read books (like the excellent collection from Lee & Low), and use family diversity lesson plans and materials from the organizations Welcoming Schools and Teaching Tolerance. In our Lesson Guide we suggest having a Family Diversity Extravaganza where students organize an event and everyone gets involved and has fun together. When students experience acceptance of all kinds of families, they feel pride in their own families and their awareness is built for others.
LEE & LOW: What is at stake if parents, educators, and administrators do not purposely model tolerance and inclusion for children?
We are at a frightening moment in our nation’s history. While many gains have been made to promote equity in our country, our current climate and electoral process is rife with hate rhetoric. In a recent online survey by Teaching Tolerance, educators shared that many of their students—especially immigrants and Muslims—have expressed concerns or fears about what might happen to them or their families after the election. Educators also reported they have witnessed an increase in anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant sentiment in their schools.
Much is at stake for all of us if we do not make it a priority to teach empathy, and model positive attitudes towards those who are different from ourselves. We need to openly discuss and work together to find ways to address all forms of intolerance. We made our film freely accessible on Youtube in hopes that it goes viral and the voices of children are shared. PLEASE SHARE WIDELY! I close with the wise words of young Nathan, a student in our film:
“It is important to have diverse children, to have diverse families in a school so you know how to include everyone… you don’t just go to the people who are like you, you reach out and embrace everyone.” —Nathan, student, Peralta Elementary School, Oakland, CA in “Our Family”
Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas is the co-author, with Dorothy Steele of Identity Safe Classrooms: Places to Belong and Learn published by Corwin Press. Currently as director of Not In Our School, she designs curriculum, coaches schools and produces films on models for creating safe and inclusive schools, free of bullying and intolerance at the national non-profit, the Working Group. She presents internationally at conferences and provides professional development in schools and districts. Dr. Cohn-Vargas began her 35-year career in early childhood education at the Multicultural Center in Sonoma County, California. She did community service in the Guatemalan Highlands and produced educational films for the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education. She returned to California and worked as a teacher and principal in Oakland, a Curriculum Director in Palo Alto, and as Superintendent in San Jose. In each setting, she focuses on educational equity and effective strategies for diverse populations. Dr. Cohn-Vargas and her husband live in El Sobrante, California and have three adult children. With her husband, she is developing an environmental research center on their private reserve in the Nicaraguan rain forest.
Further reading and learning from Not in Our School:
Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. Joseph Addison
I don't know about you but when I have something great to read...I feel smarter, happier, more confident and fulfilled. It can be hard being a writer myself and running a business to take the time to make reading for pleasure a priority. As a mom of a toddler I am very adept at making sure my little guy sees and understands the value of books. We have even began telling each other stories off the top of our heads. His stories usually consist of: Once a time Mommy and Daddy and ice cream the end. I know I know...but he is two! We are working on it. I am fascinated when he grabs a book and appears to read it. Keep in mind he has memorized most of his favorites. So if you are looking for an in-depth conversation on "How to give a mouse a cookie" or "Goodnight Moon" he is your orator. This week I got to meet up with some great readers and writers at an event focused on literacy. Bookstock Michigan will take place on May 15th-May 22nd at Laurel Park Place Mall in Livonia. Opening day will be a great day to bring the whole family. For a $20 donation you can even get first pick of all of the stock! This special admission allows you to get in as early as 8:15 a.m. and the pre-sale runs through 11:00 a.m. I am more than thrilled to take my kid and hubistrator because we will have first choice of over 100,000 books, dvds, cd's, etc. So if the quote above is true my mind is getting prepped for a great workout! I hope that you can join me! Here is the website for those who want to research more intently: bookstockmi.org Read something great!
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At the end of the panel discussion, all attendees will receive a FREE, ready-to-go toolkit with tips and strategies from American Immigration Council, MommyMaestra, Spanish Playground, and LEE & LOW. Additionally, proof of attendance and participation is available for professional development credit.
Title: Celebrating Día at School
Date: Thursday, April 14, 2016
Time: 04:00pm Eastern Daylight Time
Duration: 1 hour
Recommended for: Educators, Caregivers, and Community Coordinators teaching K-5 students in traditional and non-traditional classroom settings
Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Specialist, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language for second through sixth grade in Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in the Bay Area, CA where she became passionate about best practices for supporting English Language Learners and parent engagement. In her column for Lee & Low’s The Open Book blog, she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.
In this interview with The Open Book, guest blogger R. Joseph Rodríguez, Assistant Professor of Literacy and English Education at The University of Texas at El Paso, shares strategies on teaching Guadalupe García McCall’s novels in middle and high school English Language Arts, as well as discusses the impact of culturally responsive and relevant literature in the classroom.
What inspired you to write about GuadalupeGarcíaMcCall, her literature, and classroom applications?
Guadalupe García McCall’s writings create many connections and destinations in my life, crossing many geographies and memories across time—from my growing up to today. As I read her books, I travel in conversation with her characters.
In literature, we enact the elements of storytelling and literacy by becoming involved with all the facets that make a story readable, understandable, relatable, and enjoyable.
The worlds García McCall creates in her literary works mirror my childhood and journeys. Specifically, Piedras Negras, Coahuila, México, where García McCall was born, is the home of my maternal aunt Cristina, uncle Andrés, and cousins. While growing up, my parents, siblings, and I traveled from Houston to visit them.
Like in García McCall’s novels and poems, many families and cultures are before us—en vivo and in print—with storytellers and cuentos crossing the national grids of the U.S. and México borderlands.
For teachers interested in using Summer of the Mariposas and/or Under the Mesquite—what would you recommend they use the texts for? What part of curriculum? What could they pair this with—any literature or primary source documents?
The novel in verse Under the Mesquite meets various standards in English language arts that include poetry and various literary elements as well as other disciplines. The book presents an adolescent female who creates poetry and dramatic performances, supports her siblings as a caring problem solver, and seeks ways to keep her mother’s memory alive. The text can be paired with other novels in verse that feature characters with dilemmas and choices that lead to trials and triumphs.
Several primary sources can be considered such as the literary works within the novel, diaries and ballads with historical and personal accounts, and excerpts from classics and contemporary classics that feature first-person point of view such as A Good Long Way, American Ace, Brown Girl Dreaming, CrashBoomLove, My Own True Name, Locomotion, and Republic, among others.
As teachers, we can welcome diverse voices in our classrooms and students’ lives by allowing characters to move from the page to other media: performing and visual arts. Reading García McCall’s novels and poetry remind us of the varied stories we carry with our families and in our interior—alive and in memory.
We carry these stories beyond our own biological families to the literary characters and families we meet through the mirrors, windows, and doors of their lives created by our author and medium García McCall and our very own lives. Student can write about these memories with an image that launches the conversation to a recording that can create a collage of storytelling with varied techniques and improvisation for the classroom stage.
There are no required texts for the Common Core State Standards, but we still see that schools and districts can be shy to branch out from more classic texts (“classics” as in texts that seem to appear in every high school year in year out as well as many that are Caucasian and European American literary canon). Why do you think that is? What can teachers do to include more contemporary and/or culturally responsive and relevant texts with limited time and flexibility in the year and curriculum?
Becoming aware of the civic communities that border our schools, the cultural resources and references that inform ideas and decisions, and students’ everyday resilience are key insights to create community through literature and even transport readers to other places in time, to the present, and toward the future.
As teachers, we can also plan literary experiences that create dialogue across borders, cultures, and migrations. Our lessons can reflect adventure, drama, choice, conflict, dilemma, and triumph experienced by characters through literature from diverse experiences, places, and realities. This requires deliberate planning with concepts and competencies for culturally responsive and sustaining instruction that places classics and contemporary classics in dialogue with deeper learning, thinking, and questioning.
Lastly, through the guidance of their teachers, many students are book borrowers who experience libraries in classrooms, schools, homes, and civic communities. As a result, students are permitted self-selection of both print books and e-books.
Is it enough to select a “culturally responsive” book for the curriculum? What does culturally responsive and relevant instruction look like? How can high school teachers make the whole process from book selection, introduction, instruction, and student work/output culturally responsive and relevant?
When I found García McCall’s novels, which were recommended by Pat Mora, I heard the familiar voices come alive and the stories speak to me from the print and digital pages of our national and binational literary canons. Culture is really about imagination and knowledge and how these sustain us as communities. Thus, as teachers we must be in conversation with our teaching colleagues as well as readers who are among us: our students, their families, librarians, and critics.
There are several book awards that can inform our literary selection and introduction. For instruction and student work, we can rely on resources from the American Library Association, Edutopia, ReadWriteThink.org, and publications from ILA and NCTE. Moreover, the process for selecting a book can take into consideration teaching standards and student learning outcomes that promote growth with interdisciplinary thinking and learning.
Teachers interested in the inclusion of diverse literary traditions understand the role of reading, writing, authorship, and representation in the literacy classroom. The research informs us that students seek literary characters and favor reading and writing experiences that reflect their life choices and questions in both public and private spaces. These choices and questions can be explored through both classics and contemporary classics.
What is at stake if educators do not include culturally responsive and relevant works like GarcíaMcCall in middle and high school classrooms?
What is at stake here is our democracy and shared efforts for global world understanding. Like García McCall and her characters reveal, we barter through world languages and literature. As a result, we have examples of human cultures meeting and sharing in the making of civilizations, languages, and stories. My earliest memories of family gatherings reflect bilingualism and biculturalism with biliteracies bringing us the warmth and energy to express ourselves so freely and with laughter and occasionally some of life’s sorrows.
Partly driven by fear and also by limited access to print and marketing, diverse voices were missing in textbooks and shelves across the country. This is changing as the U.S. mirrors more who its inhabitants have been: a country of diverse citizens with shared values about literacy and learning. We cannot succumb to fear with non-publication and non-participation if we are to keep our reading public alive for democracy to survive.
I remember the great importance placed on attendance in my schooling. In retrospect, many went uncounted and unaccounted for in my schooling: the literary characters who could forge new ways of seeing, reading, and interpreting adolescent life and thought, yet remained absent. That need not happen any longer as we rethink language arts and literacy education. Our teaching profession calls us to be committed to social change, reflection, and action by bringing more literacy opportunities into the lives of our students—of all ages, abilities, backgrounds, colors, and reading interests—and their diverse communities.
Joseph Rodríguez is Assistant Professor of Literacy and English Education at The University of Texas at El Paso, located on the border across from Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México. His research interests include children’s and young adult literatures, socially responsible biliteracies, and academic writing. Catch him virtually @escribescribe or via email: email@example.com.
“Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are.”– Mason Cooley
Mason Cooley took the words right out of my mouth. As an avid reader, I have experienced the beauty of finding myself lost in another world within the pages of a book. Unfortunately, not all students may have had this type of opportunity. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the first step to creating a well-rounded classroom library should not only intrigue and motivate students to want to open a book but also meet their diverse learning needs.
Here are my top 5 ways to build a classroom library:
Create a classroom library without breaking the bank. Check all of your resources before heading to the closest department bookstore or even the school book fair. You can find gems while visiting local garage and yard sales, as well as thrift shops. Ask for donations from your family and friends. Look into your school’s policies in terms of grants or donors, and explore resources like Donors Choose to request materials for your classroom and First Book for discounted books.
2. Listen to and know your students. Think back to your favorite book, author, or series that you loved at your students’ age. Even though you ate them up, these types of books may or may not be as relevant to your group of students. If you want to have books in your library that students want to read, you need to ask them and get to know your students. Reading conferences can serve as a time to discuss books that students are currently reading or topics that they would be interested in learning more about. Readers notebooks can also provide insight into the reading patterns of your students. Have students record how often they read and the title and author of each book to open up your library to books you may have not considered.
3. Be thoughtful about your classroom community. The books in your classroom library need to not only reflect the topics and interests of your students but your students themselves. Can your students see themselves in these books? Do the characters and stories build understanding of diverse cultures and experiences? Reading books with diverse characters and content not only builds self-confidence through making personal cultural connections but also promotes empathy and understanding. A truly culturally responsive library does involve awareness and research. For more information, check out 8 Steps to Creating a Diverse Book Collection.
4. Consider the more formal aspects of a library. In addition to finding books that fit student interest, it is important to consider the accessibility of your books. Having a variety of books that cover a range of genres from graphic novels to biographies to poetry allows students to not only read for personal interest but supplement grade-level content learning in the classroom. So organizing books by not only theme but also level is also important to support students when selecting independent books within an appropriately challenging range. This includes having books both below and above grade level. But this doesn’t mean you should discourage a child from picking up a book just because it is not necessarily at his or her level, as their interest and motivation in the book’s topic plays a significant factor in overall comprehension.
5. Overcome the bumps with inspiration. “Reading is SO boring.” “There is nothing here that I want to read.” “I will never finish a book.” “I HATE reading.” Resistance and frustration are sometimes unfortunate parts of the process, but if met with a student-driven effort to identify each reluctant reader’s obstacles and ways to overcome them, negative attitudes toward reading can be turned around. Besides assessing your students’ reading levels and stocking your library with a wide range of interests, sometimes it is worth the time investment to go beyond the classroom for a little added spark. For example, inviting authors and illustrators to your classroom to share their writing or drawing processes can be a game changer for students. Many students have never met an author or illustrator before, and meeting the minds behind the books they’ve read is an inspiring experience for students.
Authentic reading experiences beyond your classroom, such as class trips to the local public library or bookstore, can help get your kids excited about reading. It’s important to provide students with experiences that show them that reading isn’t just an activity done in school. Personally, the best field trip I have attended so far was to Belmont Library in Bronx, NY. M class was able to have free reign of the library for nearly two hours and browse the selection to find their “just right” books. The highlight of the day was a student walking toward me with an armful of books asking, “How many books can I check out, Ms. Panko?” Giving students the opportunity to explore with your support gives them the freedom to internalize a love of reading.
Lindsay is a recent graduate from Mount Saint Mary College and is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Literacy Education. She currently holds New York State certifications for childhood (1-6) and students with disabilities (1-6). Lindsay is a first year teacher in the Bronx working as a sixth grade special education teacher. She enjoys hiking throughout the Hudson Valley and baking during her free time.
The October Revolution was probably the determining event of the twentieth century in Europe, and indeed in much of the world. The Communist ideology and the Communist paradigm of governance aroused messianic hopes and apocalyptic fears almost everywhere.
This week I came across a review of This Is Sadie that meant a lot to me. It was partly to do with its placement since the mandate of the International Literacy Association is pretty dear to my heart. (Links to previous posts on literacy here.) But it was also because of the things that the review itself recognized about the book and the way that allows me to think about the way that picture books are really produced by the writer, the illustrator, the editor, and the designer.
Thank you, Lisa D. Patrick for giving me the opportunity to say that while Julie Morstad and I have our names on the front of this book, credit is also due to our editor, Tara Walker, and our designer, Kelly Hill of Tundra Books.
The idea to use "This is Sara" and "This is Julie" on the jacket copy belongs to Tara Walker and I think it was a brilliant one...not just because it is kind of sweet and funny (although it is) but because it ties the author/creator bios into the book and somehow makes the whole thing organic.
I am still learning about picture books--I went from reviewing them to writing them to teaching how to write them and am only now am finally starting to feel I am coming close to beginning to suss out how they work--but I find one of the wonderful things about them is how everything matters. A novel with a not-great cover will still be as good or as bad a novel as it was in manuscript (although its sales may not be what they might be) but a picture book with a not-great cover is much, much less than it might have been.
This is Sara & Tara celebrating Sadie
I was very lucky in that The Henry Books were all designed by the brilliant Robin Mitchell-Cranfield and all three books have been recognized for the brilliance of their covers and their design, but with This Is Sadie I really got a chance to see into the process of the book's design. I saw the sample illos that Julie Morstad did and how Kelly Hill worked with the title text and design to pull it together. And then, in a stroke of genius, when we were presented with two really fabulous covers, Tara Walker found a way to use them both!
When I look at This Is Sadie, it really pleases me to see how things came together on it and it makes me so grateful both to be making picture books and to be working with such great people.
Rocket believes reading rocks and kids will too after they hear Tad Hills read R Is for Rocket: An ABC Story. Rocket and his animal pals go on an alliterative journey from A to Z while introducing readers to art and nature. Your early reader will enjoy seeing Bella the squirrel balancing on a ball, Owl offering a cawing crow a cookie and a crayon, and a guest appearance from Tad’s most popular waterfowl friend!
Do you have the book at home? Open up the dust jacket to find a poster of thewondrous, mighty, gorgeous alphabet! Feel free to read along too.
KidLit TV’s Read Out Loud series is perfect for parents, teachers, and librarians. Use these readings for nap time, story time, bedtime … anytime!
From Random House Kids R Is for Rocket: An ABC Book– Learn the ABCs with Rocket, the dog who inspires kids to read and write! This irresistible alphabet book from the creator of the New York Times bestsellers How Rocket Learned to Read and Rocket Writes a Story is sure to appeal to kids, parents, teachers, and librarians. From finding acorns, to balancing on a ball, to offering a cookie and a crayon to a crow, readers will love exploring the wonderful world of Rocket and his friends. The whole cast is featured, among them the little yellow bird, the owl, Bella the squirrel, and more. Even Goose from the beloved and bestselling Duck & Goose books makes a cameo appearance! With charming and delightful scenes for every letter, here’s an ode to the wondrous, mighty, gorgeous alphabet.
Want to inspire future poets, writers, and dreamers? One elementary school in San Francisco did just that with an author study of U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera.
Lorraine Orlandi, Community School Coordinator, shared with us the goals, preparation, and impact of their Latino Heritage Celebration.
With National Hispanic Heritage Month in the fall, Paul Revere School K-8 selected Juan Felipe Herrera to study and honor for Herrera’s activism and body of work, as well as his ties to San Francisco.
When do your school make time for artist studies?
“We have three major cultural celebrations each school year: for Latino heritage, African American heritage and Asian-Pacific Islander heritage. For each, we have an intensive artists residency of about six weeks to prepare students to perform in school-wide assemblies and at an evening event for the entire community.”
Why choose author Juan Felipe Herrera?
“We have struggled to connect the history and values being taught through these artists’ residencies with our day-to-day classroom teaching and learning. Juan Felipe Herrera’s work provided the perfect vehicle for our school, which includes a Spanish Immersion strand in addition to the general English strand. Students in all classes could access the work and it provided a unifying element for the learning and celebration. The project fit within our school-wide literacy goals. It was a breakthrough that we hope to be able to extend to all of our cultural celebrations in the future.”
What kind of work is involved for staff?
“Preparation included teacher training around materials — we bought a bunch of books, found videos and teaching guides online. Teachers had an opportunity to meet all together and in grade-level groups to discuss how to use the materials. As you know, some of the work was eventually posted for colleagues and families to see.”
How does the program pair the content with literacy?
“In our school-wide project for grades K-8, students across grade levels responded to the work of Juan Felipe Herrera as a way to learn about and celebrate Latino heritage and consider their own identities within our diverse school population. The books and poetry gave teachers wonderful tools for strengthening our commitment to using culturally responsive materials in the classroom, and to connect students’ learning to their own experiences.”
How do teachers incorporate Juan Felipe Herrera’s work into their curricula?
Two fifth-grade classes worked with a teaching artist to learn the poems “Laughing out Loud, I Fly” (Harper Collins) and the poem “(Vamonos La Kiva Casa Libre)” (from 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border, City Lights) and choreograph movements to the poems. They read the poems and performed the dances at the assemblies and evening event.
Our sixth-graders presented the poetry they had written in response to “Quien Quiere Correr Conmigo?”.
Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Specialist, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language for second through sixth grade in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in the Bay Area, CA as a Teach for America corps member where she became passionate about best practices for supporting English Language Learners and parent engagement. In her column for Lee & Low’s The Open Book blog, she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.
Recently, I have visited two wonderful elementary After School Programs (ASP) in Dania Beach, with my Reading, Writing and Geography Program. If you’re not familiar with ASP, this Florida grant-based, non-profit organization provides excellent on-site After School Programs in Broward, Miami-Dade, Collier and Orange Counties to more than 10,000 children.
Dania Beach Elementary
Rainforest beetles are so colorful and fascinating!
Leafcutter ants are among the world’s most fascinating creatures!
The magic of watercolor pencils always inspires the children.
Learning about the many ways real life experiences inspire fiction writing
No one can resist the rainbow of colors in my watercolor pencil collection.
All children love giant maps, and geography learning is so important!
I wish to thank Janeka Fleurejuste for inviting me to visit these schools and site Directors Renee Lewis and Betty Pierre as well as the staff members who so graciously welcomed me and assisted me with setting up.
YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) has released one of their annual reading lists, 2016 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, which represents: The Quick Picks list, presented annually at the ALA Midwinter Meeting suggests books that teens, ages 12-18, will pick up on their own and read for pleasure; it is geared to the […]
Celebrating Black History Month!
Title: Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses HortonPoet:
Author and illustrator: Don Tate
Publisher: Peachtree Books, 2015
Themes: slavery, illiteracy, poetry, African American, perseverance,
GEORGE LOVED WORDS. He wanted to learn how to read, but George was enslaved. He and his family lived … Continue reading →
The Friends of the Dallas Public Library recently started giving away copies of Read to Me by Judi Moreillon to new parents at the Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas.Read to Me encourages family members to read aloud to their children.It’s a nice gift to welcome a baby to the community.
You can read the January 30, Dallas Morning News story about how the Parkland Health & Hospital System has partnered with the Dallas Public Library and the Friends of the Dallas Public Library to give babies born this year a copy of Read to Me, a board book about reading to babies and children.The Dallas Morning News followed up with an editorial on February 2, congratulating the Friends of the Dallas Public Library for their efforts promoting early literacy skills that will help the children in the Dallas community.
Reading to Your Own Baby
For all the families who don’t own a copy ofRead to Me, what tips can I, as a librarian, offer you about reading aloud to your children?
First of all, relax and have fun.The attention you are giving your child is making your child happy.You might think of yourself as a “bad” reader, but your child thinks you are a superstar.
Board books, those heavy cardboard books, are good for children 0-2 years of age.Board books are meant to be chewed, hugged, thrown and loved.Chewing is normal.Babies test their world with their mouths.That’s why publishers make books safe for babies to put in their mouths.
What should you read to a child?Infants and toddlers like books with photos of other babies. Your baby will probably pat the books when they like a face on the page.Infants will enjoy hearing your voice no matter what you read.
Older toddlers enjoy books about numbers, shapes, colors or ABCs.Rhyming books are a good choice too.
There is no rule that you have to read the whole book at one time.If your child gets up to run around, that’s okay.Books can be picked up and read at a later time.Or, if your child chose one of those really long stories and YOU are tired, you can just read one sentence or make up a story about the picture on the page.
Now go read a book to your baby and have fun sharing a story together.
"[Children's author] Linda Sue Park talks about how books provide practice at responding to the unfairness in life, and how empathy for a book's characters can lead to engagement in ways that have significant impact in the real world.
"Linda Sue Park is the author of many books for young readers, including A Single Shard (Clarion, 2001), winner of the 2002 Newbery Medal, and A Long Walk to Water (Clarion, 2010), on the New York Times bestseller list for more than two years. She has traveled to 46 states and 16 countries to talk to audiences of all ages about books, reading, and writing."