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1. Changing Communities with Books: The Citizen Power Project

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In November, First Book and its partners the American Federation of Teachers and the Albert Shanker Institute presented the Citizen Power Project; a challenge to educators nationwide to identify, plan, and implement a civic engagement project important to their students, school or community.

Fifteen projects received grants to help turn big plans into big impact.

The projects represent a wide range of civic engagement – from teaching empathy and healthy habits to supporting student voices and helping the environment.

So far, the civic impact of these projects has been phenomenal.

In Framingham, Massachusetts, middle school English teacher Lori DiGisi knows her students don’t always feel empowered. “They feel like the adults rule everything and that they don’t really have choices,” she explains. “The issue I’m trying to solve is for a diverse group of students to believe that they can make a difference in their community.”

Using the First Book Marketplace, Lori and her class chose to read books about young people who did something to change the world — books with diverse characters that each student could identify with. Through stories, Lori’s students have begun to understand that they too can make a difference.

From here, Lori plans to narrow the focus onto the issue of improving working conditions. Students will interview custodians, secretaries, and cafeteria workers in their school to understand what their working conditions are like and ask the all-important question: what can we, as middle schoolers, do to make your working conditions better?

claudine-quote_editMeanwhile in Malvern, Arkansas, middle school English teacher Claudine James has used the Citizen Power Project to improve upon an already successful program. In 2011, Claudine visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC and wanted to bring that experience back to her students.

That year her class studied the Holocaust and put together their own Holocaust Museum in their school and opened it to the public.

The reaction to the museum was something Claudine never expected.

“It was very well received by the community and in fact, we had an opening day reception on a Sunday afternoon and there was no room to even stand.”

Claudine has organized project-based learning initiatives like this every year since. The Malvern community has embraced them, and even come to expect them.

This year, powered by the  Citizen Power Project, Claudine and her class are planning an exhibit called, ‘Writers from Around the World’. They are reading books by authors from all over the globe. Her goal is to promote tolerance and understanding among her students and for them to promote those ideas to the community.

“When my students are presented with problems that other people from other cultures have to overcome, they see the world in a new light,” explains Claudine, “then they go home and spread the word.”

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Artwork by one student in Racheal’s class depicting the negative impacts of climate change.

In Newark, New Jersey, kindergarten teacher Racheal Safier has her young students thinking globally. “We wanted to figure out what climate change is,” she explains, “they took a really big interest in how global warming affects animals.”

Racheal has been amazed by her student’s enthusiasm for this topic and the project, but she knows where it comes from. “Books have been the launching point for so many of the ideas generated in my classroom.”

Now that ideas are being launched, Racheal wants to show her class the next step: what actions do we take?

And they have many planned. There will be brochures distributed to parents, a table at the school’s social justice fair, maybe a video, and even letters to the President.

“I want it to be their project — and some of the things they come up with, I am really blown away.”

These three projects are just a snapshot of all the important work educators are doing around the country for the Citizen Power Project. Lori, Claudine, and Racheal are shining examples of the impact that educators can have on their students and their communities.

For educators to create change though students they need access to educational resources. First Book is proud to help provide that access for the Citizen Power Project.

When these 15 projects are completed in early 2017 be sure to check the First Book blog to see videos and pictures, and read more impact stories of impact from across the United States.

 

If you’re an educator serving kids in need, please visit the First Book Marketplace to register and browse our collection of educational resources. Click here to learn more about the Citizen Power Project.

The post Changing Communities with Books: The Citizen Power Project appeared first on First Book Blog.

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2. Every Other Day Blog Challenge (1)

When I was in 7th grade, I was determined to be a writer. I loved English class. I loved to read. More than anything, I loved to write, even if I didn't really have anything to write about. I would journal about my days and try to make them sound exciting, for some future self who might someday be reading my diary. I would scribble story ideas on napkins and used envelopes, and stick them in a notebook for future writing inspiration. I probably still have one or two or ten of those notebooks lying around, gathering dust. 

So what happened? Well, lots of things. My perspective on the world changed a lot when I went home to Manila instead of applying for an Ivy League school like I'd always planned on doing. Depression happened. Working in retail and being really tired all the time happened. Community college happened. Not all things that happened were necessarily good or bad, it was just life. I honed some skills (baking, knitting, art) and got worse at some things (exercising, staying organized, swimming).

Now and then when I think about writing, I realize I have lots and lots of things to talk about. Want to know about that time I got kicked off the school paper? Or that time I really embarrassed myself in front of a guy I liked? (Those times, I should say, there were a few.) How about that time I got left back a grade even though I had the most freaking perfect grades a student could ever want? Oh man, I have some stories.

I read a lot, too. I know I'm preaching to the choir, but reading is so, SO important for anyone who wants to be a writer. You have to learn how words work, how they string along together to do something, like teach a lesson or evoke a feeling or make you cringe. You have to know the rules before you break them. You have to learn what bores people to tears so you can, you know, NOT write like that.

I almost think reading, too much reading, is the thing that has eaten away at my writing life the most in the last 20 years. Every year I try to read more than I did the year before. Every year I write less, and less, and less. I can tweet, no problem. I usually strive for funny/informative in 140 characters or less. I just want to share things that I think people I know will find interesting. I love hashtags, too. They're the best on Instagram--I probably spend more time picking hashtags there than writing the caption. I kind of hate writing reviews now. I still form opinions on things, but I'd rather comment about them on Facebook than really go into a full analysis of something. I want to have short text conversations with others more than I want to carefully compose a critical essay (because that feels like homework). I just want to react and use as many emojis as possible to get my feelings across. Tumblr is my absolute favorite. I don't even have to comment: just reblog. Always reblog.

When I'm not chasing deadlines for school work, I read. I have read some pretty amazing books, and that's kind of the problem. Have you read The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss? How about every book ever written by Leigh Bardugo, or Mary Pearson, or Maggie Stiefvater, or Maria V. Snyder, or Margaret Atwood? How about Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind (no relation to the other previously named book with "wind" in the title)? I love those books. I think some part of me thinks too far ahead, that I'll never be as good as they are, and why waste time working on something that will never pan out, that won't pay the rent, when I can sit here and unwind from my day job by watching 6 episodes of Gilmore Girls every night?

Part of me knows it's not supposed to be easy if it's worth doing. But another part of me insists I need to do something else first. Cleaning the fridge, or scrubbing the toilet, or putting away the laundry: once the most pressing to-do-list items have been checked off, by the time I'm done, all I'm good for is putting my feet up and watching, you guessed it, just one more episode of Gilmore Girls. Some perverse part of me thinks getting on a treadmill for an hour should come first. Barring that, I should play paper ball catch with the cats so they get some much-needed exercise. These are things worth doing. Maintaining good hygiene, cooking a meal from scratch, getting my teeth cleaned. All worthwhile and responsible uses of time and effort. When I'm done with all of these other things, I'll read. When I'm done, I'll paint/knit/sew something. When I'm done, I'll write. It's always in the plans.

Today, however, and every other day for at least a week, I am writing first, and everything else later. (Actually, I thought up this challenge for myself while procrastinating on the final paper I have to turn in to my teacher on Friday.) Every other day, the moment I'm free, the books will stay closed. The knitting bag stays unopened. Netflix remains frozen on the Gilmore Girls episode I stopped watching last night because I had to be up at 4:30 for work.

What do I think will happen? Well, I don't think I'll have a bestselling novel anytime soon. I won't even have a finished first draft of something in the next year (oh school, I love you, I hate you!). I think I will write about writing, about not writing, about things that are not writing. But maybe, just maybe, I will write.


Is there something you'd like me to write about? Let me know in the comments. Here are some things I brainstormed while procrastinating some more because I am really, really not ready to work on this paper for class:

  • learning to drive
  • favorite restaurants
  • collections
  • forgiveness
  • how much I hate shopping for clothes
  • celebrity crushes
  • disorganization
  • being a bad god-parent
  • being a bully
  • my cats (of course)
  • unrealistic musical aspirations (probably)
  • how much I love eating out alone
  • used bookstores
  • pain
  • optimism
  • sugar
  • talking on the phone and how much I hate it now
  • knitting
  • sewing
  • looking for work
  • working in groups
  • board games
  • video games
  • why I procrastinate

Ok, I think that's enough procrastination for now. 

I'm going to go cook some spaghetti while watching Gilmore Girls, then work on my paper... after I watch an episode of Gilmore Girls...

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3. Illustration Challenge #49

Flowers - today I suggest you draw flowers. Blossoms on trees or near the ground, whatever is blooming around you. You can pick an arrangement and bring it indoors, or take a blanket and find a spot to draw outdoors. Lovely.

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4. Illustration Challenge #48

Draw something that feeds your soul - something that makes you just so darned happy to create it, you can't help but smile. Let your hand GO!

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5. Illustration Challenge #47

In honor of the raptors I recently had the opportunity to draw - I challenge you to draw birds! They can be round little balls of squishy feathers and cute little beaks, OR they can be raptors, with enormous beaks and claws!

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6. Illustration Challenge #46

Is it warming up where you are? Let's play with light today. Choose something that is backlit with natural light - a vase, a friend, a building. What does the light do to the edges, and what details disappear in the front?

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7. Illustration Challenge #45

Draw something in a frame. As in, create a sweetly designed frame and put something in it. It can be simple or complicated, we're going for composition on this one. The frame will be the key focus. It can be lacy, viny, giltish, Rococo, delicate—it's up to you!

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8. Illustration Challenge #44

Is it a pretty day where you are? Just take your sketch book outside and DRAW! Whatever you like - a close up of a flower, or a landscape of a park. The point being, enjoy your time outside!

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9. Illustration Challenge #43

Let's play with texture this time... choose an object that has an interesting surface texture—shiny, fuzzy, bumpy, whatever! Try to draw it and capture that texture.

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10. Illustration Challenge #42

In honor of Janice Hardy's Icebox Challenge over at Fiction University, I give you a similar challenge... Pull something out of your cabinets or from your kitchen counter—fruit, a box of crackers, a can of soup—and render it as realistically as you can. Don't forget to choose some interesting lighting!

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11. Illustration Challenge #41

Try to draw water - in all its forms: rain, river, ice, mist, lake, ocean. Your choice!

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12. Illustration Challenge #40

I have fun creating these for you guys. Are you using them? Let me hear from you in the comments!
     So, this being our 40th challenge (!!!) how about create something celebratory? A cake, a cupcake, a balloon bouquet! Use bright colors, but be sure to use various value ranges of those colors to prevent your piece from looking flat. Because, nobody likes a flat cupcake.
     Want to know more about why you need to mix up your values? Read my article: Illuminating Color.

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13. Illustration Challenge #39

Try to draw something ephemeral - like smoke or gauze or moving water - in black and white. :)

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14. Illustration Challenge #38

Create a drawing or painting with two characters emotionally connecting through eye contact. Harder than it sounds.

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15. Illustration Challenge #37

Let's keep it simple this week. In celebration of my TEDx Talk, see how few lines you can use to express the most emotion possible. See if you can get your drawing down to five simple lines (like for the face of Charlie Brown per this TED Talk by book designer, Chip Kidd).

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16. Illustration Challenge #36

I told you about my homework assignment, which I did at the National Museum of Scotland. How about try it yourself? Go find a public place where you can sit quietly to one side (preferably with a cup of tea) and draw what you see. It can be terrible, nobody has to see what you create but you. Try to capture the motion and energy of the people around you. Personally, I hope to do this a lot more often, so perhaps I'll be joining you!

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17. Illustration Challenge #35

Have you ever heard of a palomino blackwing pencil? Vivian French kindly gave me one recently and I have loved how soft the lead is - especially on a soft, high quality paper. If you can't get your hands on the pencil, try a 6B or an Ebony pencil and draw on some nice paper. I promise it will be a unique experience for you!

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18. Illustration Challenge #34

Use a pen (a really nice pen) and a pencil (a really nice pencil) and switch between them as you sketch your favorite things to draw. How does the tool change your artistic expression?

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19. Illustration Challenge #27

For this one, switch up your sketching medium. Usually use a pencil? Try a pen. Usually use small strokes, use long ones instead. Just make sure you're not making your mark the same way you always do.

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20. Illustration Challenge #29

Change up your tools. This is your week to try something new - pastel, paints, crayons, charcoal - it doesn't matter. Be sure to get some nice big paper so that you go big with the new feel. It doesn't matter if you're terrible. It will be a new thing - what would you expect, to master it in the first try? The point is to allow yourself to have fun and mess up!

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21. Illustration Challenge #30

This one I learned from a PhD student studying "Automatic Drawing." Basically, grab a surface (paper or whatever) and a drawing tool, and then give yourself a timed window - like an hour. And just draw all over that page. Start at one side and work your way to the other. Make it detailed. LOSE YOURSELF in the process. Enjoy!

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22. Illustration Challenge #31

In honor of my Unofficial Jack Tales week, choose a folk tale - preferably a Jack Tale (like Jack and the Beanstalk) and do an illustration for it. Maybe you'll use pen and ink, or maybe you'll create a folk-art piece. Whichever - feel free to link to it in my comments below!

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23. Illustration Challenge #32

For this one, choose an object/person/thing and rather than sketching it with a pencil - cut it out of paper. See if you can get the silhouette down!

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24. Illustration Challenge #33

This week lets play with mixed media in different orders. Try watercolor with pen and ink on top. Or pen and ink with watercolor or pastels on top. Or pencil with watercolor on top. Or watercolor with pencil on top. The variations are endless! Experiment and see what happens!

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25. Looking for a writing/revising challenge but short on time? Try this.

To writers out there who never have trouble finding time to write or revise: pls ignore the rest of this post.

To those who are always putting their own projects on the back burner because of bill-paying work taking priority, family obligations, favors for other people, insecurity or fear, procrastination or a zillion other reasons, feel free to check out the Inkygirl Daily Writing Challenge. 

More info on this webpage, plus there's an Inkygirl Daily Writing Challenge FB Page where I sometimes post tips and comics.

I've also added a bunch of time goal badges for those who think that way instead of wordcount.

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