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Posts from March 2010

Welcome Book Whisperer Readers

Bookwhisperer Donalyn Miller is a 6th grade language arts teacher who has had tremendous success in connecting her students with books (hence her moniker "The Book Whisperer"). Donalyn's blog is one of my go-to sources for ideas about books and raising readers. Donalyn was an organizer for this year's Share a Story - Shape a Future literacy blog tour, and she simply loves books. I reviewed her book, The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child last fall, and recommend it to people, especially teachers, at every possible opportunity. As Anne Shirley would say, Donalyn and I are kindred spirits.

So you can imagine how honored and pleased I was last night to see that Donalyn had recommended my blog to her readers. This completely made my day! So now I would like to offer a special welcome her to any Book Whisper readers/fans of Donalyn who are here today thanks to her recommendation. I sure that you are all kindred spirits, too. Welcome!

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: March 30

Jpg_book007Today I will be sending out the new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on children's books and raising readers. It is sent out once every two weeks. There are currently 1054 subscribers.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have six book reviews (three picture books and three one books for young adults), two posts with Kidlitosphere news, and two children's literacy round-ups (one here in full and one published at The Reading Tub). I also have a fun quick post about a father and daughter who read aloud together for 3218 nights in a row.

The only posts from the blog this week that I didn't include in the newsletter were a press release about the Curious George exhibit at the Jewish Museum and a response to a School Library Journal article about a Lois Lowry book that's ended up linked to a political conflict between the US and Turkey.

I also shared some additional children's literacy links, aimed especially at parents, at Booklights. Also at Booklights, I published Tip #10 in my Tips for Growing Bookworms series, about occasionally letting kids stay up late reading under the covers.  

Reading Update: I read four new picture books during the past couple of weeks (plus a variety of re-reads), as well as four young adult titles. Additional reviews will be forthcoming for some of these titles. 

How about you? What have you been reading and enjoying? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms.

© 2010 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

Lois Lowry's Number the Stars in US/Turkey Political Storm

Number-the-stars I find it striking when other hot-button issues in my life pop up in the children's literature world, as happened today. I read a School Library Journal article by Rocco Staino about how children's author Lois Lowry "may be caught in the middle of an international storm between the United States and Turkey."

I had actually seen Lowry's blog post, in which she shares a letter from a teacher about the banning of Lowry's book Number the Stars by the Turkish Department of Education. However, I hadn't made the connection between that and another important issue in my home, the conflict between the US and Turkey over recognition of the Aremenian Genocide. This is a personal issue for me because Mheir, my husband, is Armenian. I've learned over the past 20 years how important this issue is to people of Armenian descent, and how the genocide continues to affect Armenians today, some 95 years after the events took place.

In his article, Staino says:

"Why would the Turkish government remove a modern classic that’s been taught in many school curricula? Lowry wonders if it’s connected to a recent move by the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, which, despite protests from Turkey and urgings from the Obama administration not to offend its NATO ally, voted 23-22 to endorse a resolution on March 4 declaring the Ottoman-era killing of Armenians as genocide. The resolution now goes to the full House, where prospects for passage are uncertain.

Minutes after the vote, Turkey, which plays a pivotal role for U.S. interests in the Middle East and Afghanistan, recalled its ambassador, Namik Tan, from Washington.

“Turkey is a largely Islamic country,” says Lowry. “And although Number the Stars espouses no religious or political view, it does tell a true story of compassion toward persecuted Jews, and its unstated theme is clearly that of integrity and humanity between people of differing faiths. Perhaps that is a story that the Turkish government does not currently want told to children.”"

Fascinating. Do go and read the article. Lois Lowry's quote at the end is brilliant. I'll be interested to see what happens with this.

Children's Literacy and Reading News Roundup: March 29

JkrROUNDUP This week’s children’s literacy and reading news round-up, brought to you by Jen Robinson’s Book Page and Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, a Reading Tub blog, is now available at The Reading Tub. This week Terry Doherty and I have collected plenty of content for you about literacy & reading-related events; literacy and reading programs and research; and 21st century literacies. I especially liked this tidbit:

"Guest contributor Dana B offers a personal story and a nice way to help you engage teens with books and still be a parent. In her 5 Minutes for Books post, Dana shares how she guided her pre-teens through books that were too violent or had mature content beyond their age. “Here is the key to my ability to say I don’t forbid, I discuss: I work to know my teenagers. I know their beliefs and opinions, and I trust that they have developed a filter of discernment that will only strengthen as they grow.”"

Terry_readingtubfinal_1 Terry also made an announcement today about changes to our publication schedule for the roundups, explaining:

"As many regular readers know, Jen and I have been publishing literacy-related roundups for several years; first independently, then as a team. We are thrilled that interest in growing bookworms has grown so much and that there are so many voices talking about literacy. With so many avenues for information, studies reaffirming the core elements of learning to read, as well as changes in our own lives, we thought we would take a step back and transition the Roundup to a biweekly feature on Jen Robinson’s Book Page and Scrub-a-Dub-Tub...

We want to keep the content fresh and valuable, and believe that a few tweaks will help us do that. Jen will continue to have her Literacy ‘Lights at Booklights, highlighting parent-related content, as well as her Afternoon Visits. Likewise, if I see something fun, I will post a Daily Blurb. Both Jen and I will continue to post items to the News Between the Roundup widget and are still exploring the best way to get daily feeds of that information to the Book(re)Marks blog, our archive for children’s literacy and reading news, in ways that make sense for visitors."

Terry and I welcome your feedback on this format change, and appreciate your interest in children's literacy.

ReachOutAndRead One additional literacy news tidbit came to me this morning from Matt Ferraguto of Reach Out and Read (an organization that works with pediatricians to give kids books at their well-child visits up through age five). ABC World News just profiled Reach Out and Read's new CEO, Earl Phalen. Here's a quote from the article:

"The real genius of "Reach Out and Read" is that reading takes on the power of a doctor's prescription. "When your doctor says, 'This is good for your child's health,' 99 percent of us will do something," said Phalen, and he has the numbers to back up the claim. "Reach Out and Read" studies have shown that parents who participate in the program are four times more likely to read to their kids, and non-English-speaking parents are 10 times more likely to read to children."

In other news today, Tricia is hosting both the March Carnival of Children's Literature and today's Nonfiction Monday roundup at The Miss Rumphius Effect, as well as her Monday Poetry Stretch. The Carnival, a well-organized roundup of links contributed by participants from all around the Kidlitosphere, is a particular delight, and a wonderful way to start the week. I love that Tricia stuck with a carnival theme all the way through. My contribution is in the section prefaced with: "When you are ready to head home after a fun-filled day, falling into bed comes ONLY after the most important time of the day. What is that you ask? Well time to read, of course!" Lovely!

Booklights And finally, I've put off my usual Monday Booklights post until tomorrow, so that Susan Kusel can share books for Passover today (tonight being the first night of Passover). Pam/MotherReader shared books for Easter (April 4th) last week at Booklights. I'll be up tomorrow with Tip #10 in my Tips for Growing Bookworms series. This week's tip is about letting kids occasionally stay up late reading under the covers.

Happy Pesach! Happy Easter! Happy Monday! Happy March Madness Final Four week (my team, Duke, made it in this year). Happy April Fool's Day and National Poetry Month. There's a lot going on this week... Enjoy.

Saturday Afternoon Visits: March 27

There continues to be lots going on around the Kidlitosphere. Here are a few quick highlights on this beautiful day:

Alma_logo_eng The winner of the 2010 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award was announced this week (I first heard about it from Tasha Saecker at Kids Lit). Congratulations to Belgian illustrator and author Kitty Crowther, who won a prize of 5 million kronor ($620,00 US). I love that this award celebrates the creator of Pippi Longstocking, and the importance of children's literature. The size of the award is a strong statement about the value of children's literature and its creators.The ALMA website explains:

"Astrid Lindgren is one of Sweden’s most important authors. Her works have been translated into more than 90 languages. She renewed children's literature and combined artistic integrity with commitment to the rights of children and young people. Astrid Lindgren passed away in 2002 at the age of 94, but her stories will live forever. To honour her memory and to promote interest in children’s and young adult literature around the world, the Swedish government has founded an international prize in her name, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award." 

30P30D Gregory K has announced the lineup for his upcoming 30 Poets/30 Days celebration of National Poetry Month. It's quite a star-studded list. And I love the new logo, created by Greg's kidlitchat co-host, Bonnie Adamson.

Lots of people are raising a rallying cry for libraries this week. Dawn Morris has a heartfelt post about libraries at Moms Inspire Learning. And Jennifer R. Hubbard from writerjenn inspired a whole library-loving blog challenge, which has spread to dozens of blogs. The basic idea is that the participating bloggers promise to donate to libraries based on the number of comments that they receive. There are too many participants for me to highlight them all here, but I did want to mention that The Texas Sweethearts will be making a donation to the Reading Tub for their challenge. How great is that?

Trevor Cairney has a fun post today at Literacy, families and learning on choosing great educational toys for children. He breaks the post down by type of play, from timeless construction toys to toys that allow kids to create things. He concludes with a few principles that he follows when choosing toys (like "Do they stimulate creativity and learning?").

Based on the responses to her recent survey about blogging books for boys, librarian Ms. Yingling has started sharing some themed booklists, aimed at middle school age boys. This week, she shares a host of books about war, neatly categorized according to which war is covered. She says: "While not all of the books on this list have a lot of fighting, they have all been popular with my boys."

There seems to be a bout of spring-induced sports fever spreading in the Kidlitosphere:

  • Doret from TheHappyNappyBookseller is doing a fantastic Baseball Lineup series in which she asks nine authors of baseball stories for kids a series of 12 questions each (3 per day). Personally, I haven't been able to resist chiming in on the first two posts, to share my responses, too. They're great questions for baseball fans of all ages.
  • Colleen Mondor takes on sports books in the latest installation of her What a Girl Wants series at Chasing Ray. She asks her band of author friends: "What books can you think of about famous female athletes in history? Do we honor them on the same level as male athletes? And what about game playing girls in MG & YA novels? Can you think of some great ones and do familiar teen girl tropes (like mean girls and romance) play into those novels? In other words, is a book about boys playing ball crafted the same as one about girls playing ball? Is the sport enough when selling a book about girl athletes?" Thoughtful responses abound.
  • At The Miss Rumphius Effect, Tricia features a baseball poem about Forgiving Buckner. She speculates that baseball just might be "the true harbinger of spring." I can't disagree with that. Speaking of poems, this week's Poetry Friday roundup is being hosted by Julie Larios of The Drift Record.

Other quick hits:

And that's all for this weekend. Happy reading, and happy spring. Only 8 more days until Red Sox Opening Day!

© 2010 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

Over at the Castle: Boni Ashburn: Picture Book Review

Book: Over at the Castle
Author: Boni Ashburn
Illustrator: Kelly Murphy
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-8 

Castle Over at the Castle, written by Boni Ashburn and illustrated by Kelly Murphy, is a companion to Hush, Little Dragon, one that fans of the first book will definitely want to get their hands on. Over at the Castle is a rhyming counting book hidden inside a story about Mama Dragon and her little son. Various scenes from around a castle are depicted and used for counting practice. For example:

"Over at the castle, in the dungeon, still alive,
Scheme the old wily prisoner and his pet rats five.
"Plan!" says the prisoner. "We plan!" say the five.
So they plan their great escape, in the dungeon, still alive."

All of the other counting scenes follow this same basic format, right down to the brief bits of conversation, making for a rhythmic read-aloud with enough complexity in subject and vocabulary to hold the attention of early elementary school kids.

The counting passages are periodically interrupted by visits back to Mama Dragon and her small one, as they patiently await ... a surprise at the end of the book. Ashburn uses a nice balance of soothing repetition and suspense. It's a book that, far from becoming tedious, actually improves on multiple readings. (This, of course, is an excellent quality in a picture book.)

I love Kelly Murphy's acrylic, oil, and gel illustrations. She uses a somewhat subdued palette (like on the cover), which feels appropriate to the Medieval castle setting. Every page includes detailed, textured backgrounds (the dungeon is especially well-drawn), as well as whimsical details to reward the careful reader (e.g. a mouse carrying a key down the stairs to the dungeon). The dragons are adorable, with big eyes and striped horns. They often hide in the background of the castle scenes, a series of little jokes for the reader.

So what we have hear is a beautifully illustrated, engaging picture book, one that also happens to work as a counting book for preschoolers. And it's about dragons and castles! I'd say this one is a must-have, for home and school libraries everywhere. A definite keeper!

Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 1, 2010
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2010 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

Kiss Me, Kill Me: Lauren Henderson

Book: Kiss Me, Kill Me (Scarlett Wakefield Series)
Author: Lauren Henderson
Pages: 272
Age Range: 13 and up 

Kissmekillme Kiss Me, Kill Me is the first book in the Scarlett Wakefield series, by Lauren Henderson (book 3 is due out in April). Kiss Me, Kill Me is that relatively rare entity - a nonparanormal mystery, aimed at teenage girls. The premise is fairly well-known at this point, so I won't worry about spoilers for the early part of the book.

Scarlett is thrilled when she's unexpectedly invited to a popular girl's party (though she has to let down her fellow-gymnast friends to accomplish this). She's even more thrilled when her long-time crush, Dan McAndrew, notices her, and ends up kissing her on a moonlit terrace. Scarlett is thrilled right up until the point where Dan dies in her arms. After that, her life is changed forever.

Scarlett is a likable heroine placed in a tough situation. She's a teenage girl who prides herself on her physical strength (she's a dedicated gymnast). She has a toxic family, and little in the way of friends. As a reader, you want to help her, even as you admire her strength. She has a flair for description, too. For example:

"That's true of all the girls clustered round the fountain: they present themselves so well, like packages wrapped in bright shiny paper, tied up with inviting satin bows, sprigs of flowers carefully slipped under the ribbon...

If we were packages, we'd be wrapped in brown paper, very battered at the corners, tied up with fraying string. I don't think this contrast has ever hit me quite in the same way before." (Page 13-14)

I like that. Girls as packages, wrapped in different ways. It works.

I also enjoyed the UK setting in Kiss Me, Kill Me. Henderson uses various British colloquialisms - not so many that the book is impenetrable to the casual American reader, but enough to firmly place the story in England. ("Knackered", for example). There are also places where characters demonstrate their British temperaments - clearly different from what things would be like in, say, Los Angeles. For example:

"No one's going up to her, at least not yet: she's making such a racket that the more repressed Brits are embarrassed by they noise. It's not that they don't want to help, it's that they're afraid that approaching her will inevitably draw them into the Scene she's making, and one thing British people are really scared of is Being Involved in a Public Scene. It's very shameful in our culture." (Page 227, paperback edition)

I found Kiss Me, Kill Me to be a quick read, one that held my interest. Henderson includes interspersed journal entries by an unknown girl who has information that Scarlett doesn't. This helps ratchet up the suspense, and keep the pages turning. There were a couple of plot points that stretched credibility for me (like why Dan was so quickly interested in Scarlett in the first place, and why her two friends cut her out so ruthlessly after one incident). But these were quite minor. The reader should also be forewarned that parts of the mystery are left to solved in future books (though there is some resolution to this book).

Still, Kiss Me, Kill Me is an enticing read for teenage girls. I think that fans of the Gallagher Girls novels by Ally Carter will like Kiss Me, Kill Me (which is a bit more realistic than Carter's books), as will anyone interested in mysteries with a high school setting, and/or British boarding school novels. Recommended.

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: January 8, 2008
Source of Book: Library copy
Other Blog Reviews: WORD for Teens, Bookshelves of Doom

© 2010 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

Airhead: Meg Cabot: Young Adult Fiction Review

Book: Airhead
Author: Meg Cabot (blog)
Pages: 352
Age Range: 13 and up

Airhead Meg Cabot's Airhead is the first book of a YA trilogy (the final volume is due out next month). Airhead is an unusual mix of near-future speculative science fiction and beautiful people/fashion model story. Leave it to Meg Cabot to put those two things together and completely have it work.

Emerson Watts is a video game-loving, sneaker-wearing social outcast at her exclusive New York school, Tribeca Alternative (TAHS). She spends most of her time with her best friend, and unrequited love, Christopher. She worries about her younger sister, Frida, who has become a "Walking Dead wannabe" (people who have no interests of their own, or squelch the ones that they do have, and merely pursue what's going to help them get into college and/or be popular).

Because she's a good older sister, Em accompanies Frida to a chain music store opening (although chain stores go against her own beliefs). There, Em first encounters Nikki Howard, a gorgeous 17-year-old model who is everything that Em isn't (and vice versa). Em is largely disinterested in Nikki. Until, that is, an unexpected catastrophe brings the two girls' lives together, and changes Em forever.

It's difficult to say more without spoiling the first part of the book. So I'll just say that I enjoyed Airhead. It's a quick read that kept me turning the pages. It has a similar feel to Cabot's Mediator series, which I loved, but with a somewhat lighter tone. I found Em easy to relate to. She's quietly sarcastic and decidedly introverted (she'd rather stay home and read than go out), and acknowledges her own inconsistencies ("Christopher and I are ethically opposed to Stark Megastores ... but we're not above taking advantage of their heavily slashed prices.").

Em's conflicted feelings about her younger sister feel real. Her love for Christopher is, perhaps, a tad less convincing (or perhaps I've just read all of the stories I can handle about the secret love for the opposite sex best friend). But there's plenty else going on to distract from that.

Here are a couple of quotes to give you a feel for Em's voice:

"How do couples not just go around kissing all the time? Kissing is fantastic." (Page 97)

"I could see that the walking dead were in fine form when the cab I'd been lucky to snag let me off in front of TAHS the next morning. They were all leaning up against the chain-link fence around the construction site across the street (because why have a high school if it isn't across the street from a former thread factory they've imploded to make room for more condos, so you can listen to the beep, beep, beep of trucks backing up all day?), text messaging one another.

All but Whitney Robertson and Jason Klein. They were making out.

I felt some throw up come into my mouth, just looking at them." (Page 256)

Airhead has some of the "quest for identity" themes that I enjoyed in The Adoration of Jenna Fox, crossed with the fashion model insider world of Violet on the Runway, and sprinkled with the school dynamics of the first Princess Diaries book. Fans of the Gossip Girl TV show will probably like it, too. Recommended for teen girls, and for adults looking for escapist fare. As for me, I've requested the next book, Being Nikki, from the library.

Publisher: Point
Publication Date: May 13, 2008
Source of Book: Library copy
Other Blog Reviews: The Compulsive Reader, Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf, Reading the Best of the Best, Teenage Fiction for All Ages 

© 2010 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle: Brian Dennis

Book: Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle
Authors: Brian Dennis, Mary Nethery, and Kirby Larson
Pages: 48
Age Range: 4-8

Nubs I loved Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery's picture book about a dog and a cat who, together, survived the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: Two Bobbies. So naturally, I said yes when I was offered a copy of Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle. Like Two Bobbies, Nubs is both the story of a tenacious animal overcoming adversity and the story of a powerful friendship.

Nubs was a wild dog scraping out a meager existence in the Iraqi desert when he met US Marine Brian Dennis. Somehow, despite the demands of work and survival, the soldier and the dog bonded. They in fact bonded to such an extent that when orders took Major Dennis away, Nubs undertook a dangerous 70-mile journey to follow him across the desert. Their friendship then faced another challenge, this one from a military policy against pets. But the astute reader will suspect, since this was published as a children's book, that things probably turn out ok.

I found the style of this book, a mixture of photos, emails, maps, quotes, and narrative text, occasionally awkward to follow. It's not a great read-aloud title, where the text trips from the tongue. It's more a book that kids will pore over, looking at the crisp photos, and marveling over the maps that document Nubs' journey. Here are a couple of examples, to give you a feel for the text:

"The next day, Nubs watched as Brian and his team prepared to leave. He touched his nose to Brian's face as Brian bent down to pet him good-bye. He felt Brian's head on his and heard him whisper, "Hey, buddy, you need to eat. You need to get better.""

"Each night, after the sun set over the desert, Nubs and Brian did their job together. Under an ice-black sky of a thousand stars, they kept watch over everyone."

"This small dog has done amazing things in his short life. He chose to travel 70 miles alone across a desert to be with Brian. It was a miracle he survived. The bigger miracle may be that this dog of war chose to become a dog of peace."

The text is a mix of somewhat sentimental passages like the above and more workmanlike narrative, like about the dog eating pancakes and MREs. I'm not a pet person. Still, I must confess that the later parts of the book brought  tears to my eyes, even on a second reading. I think Nubs will work his way right into the hearts of early elementary school readers, particularly those who love dogs. Many of the photos are gorgeous, too, making this an excellent choice for reluctant readers. Nubs is well worth a look!

Nonfictionmonday Today's Nonfiction Monday Round-Up is at Books Together.

Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: November 1, 2009
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2010 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

Children's Literacy and Reading Round-Up: March 22

JkrROUNDUP This week’s children’s literacy and reading news round-up, brought to you by Jen Robinson’s Book Page and Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, a Reading Tub blog, is now available at Jen Robinson's Book Page. This week Terry Doherty and I have collected plenty of content for you about literacy & reading-related events; literacy and reading programs and research; 21st century literacies; and grants, sponsorships & donations.


Terry and I skipped the roundups the past couple of weeks because we were busy with the Share a Story - Shape a Future Literacy Blog Tour. In case you missed it, Terry has just put up a post at Share a Story that includes links to all of the posts from around the literacy blogosphere in one convenient location. Many thanks to everyone who participated!!

How fun is this? The Wavepaint Gallery, Ipswich MA is hosting "The Illustrator Show," a display of works by children's book illustrators Jarrett Krosoczka, Ed Emberley, Jamie Harper, Andy J Smith, Mary Jane Begin, Pat Lowery Collins, and Julia Purinton. The exhibit includes original illustrations will be presented beside their printed books. The exhibit runs from March 1 to April 23. There is an illustration lecture/reception on April 17, 2010, from 4 to 7 pm). The Gallery Della-Piana in Wenham will have their own exhibit of children's book illustration at that same time, so grab the kids and have a fun afternoon traveling up or down route 1A admiring art for children's literature.

Lois Lowry reports that Scottish Football clubs are promoting literacy and reading among children, via the SPL Reading Stars programme. The idea of the program is to use the football players "as positive role models to capture the imagination of families".

April is going to be a VERY busy month. Here are a few highlights.

30poets30days All month long there will be poetry and poetry celebrations galore for National Poetry Month.  Like these (with thanks to the Kidlitosphere Yahoo Group for the links):

April 30 marks El Día de los Niños/El Día de los Libros (Children's Day/Book Day). But we love children and books all the time, and so does Pat Mora, author and Día founder.  Pat is hosting a month-long Díapalooza featuring daily posts with Día ideas, visuals, resources, facts, testimonials and more at the Bookjoy blog.

On April 8, 2010, Education Week is sponsoring a free webinar: Online Learning in a Hybrid World. For those of us on the East Coast (like Terry) whose kids were home (what seems like) half the winter, the idea of online learning is particularly appealing. From EdWeek: "As online learning gains traction within brick-and-mortar schools, a hybrid model of face-to-face and Internet-based coursework is emerging as the most popular form of e-instruction. But it takes more than computer access to create a successful hybrid-learning program. Join our expert guests for a discussion of how administrators can incorporate online courses into their students’ school days, and how in-person instructors can help make the online-learning experience work better for students."

National Library Week is April 11-17, 2010. Over the next few weeks we expect to start seeing more about events to celebrate libraries and librarians. Shelli Johannes-Wells is getting a head start and has announced that she's hosting The Blogosphere Loves Libraries at Market My Words. And, although it's not directly Library Week related, Dawn Morris shares a heartfelt plea on behalf of school and public libraries at Moms Inspire Learning.

Literacy Programs & Research

In a recent School Library Journal Extra Helping, Debra Lau Whelan pulls together data from several recent studies that suggest kids who will fall behind in school can be identified at nine months.  A report by the U.K.’s Millennium Cohort Study of nearly 15,000 children was first announced in the Guardian. Whelan's article includes additional reports, including results from the Sutton Trust charity, which looked at economic factors, and the London University Institute of Education.

JenRobinsonEarlyReader The Ithaca Journal recently ran a guest article by Katrina Morse, assistant director of the Family Reading Partnership, a community coalition dedicated to promoting family reading. In the article, Morse offers tips for "transforming your house into a Book Home". For example, "Take photos of your child enjoying a book and put that picture on the refrigerator, in a photo album or in a picture frame." Thanks to Jenny Schwartzberg for the link. [Image is of me reading as a child]

Margo Dill highlights an interesting literacy organization called Milk + Bookies at Read These Books and Use Them. From the Milk + Bookies website: “Milk + Bookies is a non-profit organization that teaches young children how great it feels to give back while celebrating the love of a good book.” Margo adds: "When people hold Milk + Bookies events, children are given an opportunity to select, purchase, and inscribe a book for someone less fortunate. The events also have storytime, activities, and you guessed it–milk and cookies." Sounds neat!

Ian Newbold at the Tidy Books Blog has a post in response to a couple of recent studies on whether or not boys need more encouragement to read than girls do.  Ian notes: "The overriding positive seen from the study is that of the children studied, boys, in general, read just as much as girls, yet the perceived negative found was that they do not read books that are as challenging."

Terry found (via @keithschoch from Teach with Picture Books) an interesting post by Kris Zorigian at LEARN NC blogs about the relationship between learning problems and behavior problems. Kris concludes (after a careful examination of the facts) that "Research has shown that learning problems and behavior problems often coexist. This issue has serious implications for classroom teachers, who need to be aware that students with one of these diagnoses are typically more susceptible to the other."

CharlieCover1964 Terry ran across a lovely essay by Peter Brunn at the Developmental Studies Center on the importance of chapter books in children's literacy. Peter describes reading aloud Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with his daughter, and the way that stopping with the outcome unknown had her thinking about the book and formulating theories between readings. He talks about the benefits of "lingering over books together" (and finding time to do so). Great stuff!

Another excellent essay on kids and reading came to us via @cliforg (the Children's Literacy Foundation). Carlton Stowers shares (with humor and passion) grief that he's received over the years in response to first his son's, and now his grandchildren's, reading habits. Carlton says: "It is my firm and unfaltering belief that the valuable habit of reading doesn’t begin with the Great Works. Remember back when you couldn’t get enough of Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys, and when the name Tom Sawyer was more familiar than that of Tom Wolfe? What I’m saying is we’ve all got to start somewhere." He specifically defends S.E. Hinton, J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, and R.L. Stine.

This week's edition of Teacher Magazine (Education Week), includes a reprint of an Associated Press article about the effect of video games on boys and their schoolwork.  Because it's an AP article - and they are such sticklers about reprints and distributions - we'll just point you to the article.

At Literacy, Families and Learning, Trevor Cairney has a great post about one of our favorite things: reading aloud (specifically about listening to children read aloud). He admits that there are disadvantages (it takes longer), but he also shares the joys. His tip on how to help your children become great readers boils down to three things: pause, prompt, and PRAISE.

21st Century Literacies

21stCenturyLiteracies Sometimes news shows up where you least expect it. At The Gold Mine, a blog for website owners, Lindsay Gower draws on National March into Literacy Month to explain how reading improves your writing.

Keith Schoch at Teaching That Sticks recommends PBS Activity Packs as a resource for teachers.  He explains that an activity pack is "a stand-alone app that you can easily install to your site which provides both links and activities for reading and language arts, social studies, science and technology, health and fitness, and the arts." (via @keithschoch from Teach with Picture Books)

In talking about Designing Space for Children and Teens in Libraries and Public Places (American Libraries magazine), Sandra Feinberg and James R. Keller describe how library experience affects a person's perspective of the library.  "How parents and caregivers act within the library setting often influences how children feel and how often they will come to the library. How children feel when they use the library will affect their attitude and behavior not only when they are children but also when they become parents." Substitute the word "reading" for library ... and is it any different?

At Literacy Launchpad, Amy shares a couple of ideas for using audio recordings to enhance the power of storybooks. Planning for a long car trip, she noted: "The problem with that is I get car sick when I read while in motion (this happens to me on planes sometimes too), even while reading simple picture books. I came up with an idea though. What if I record myself reading the books ahead of time? Then I could play them back in the car for Isaac and not have to actually read while moving." This is one tip that I'm likely to find useful myself in the future.

In her Video Sunday post at A Fuse #8 Production, Betsy Bird includes a host of videos, one of which is Eric Carle talking about Bill Martin, Jr. and how their partnership started 30 years ago! The video itself is wonderful, but this is what caught Terry's ear "He told me that he couldn't read until he was 20 years old. A teacher discovered that he could not read and said 'Bill, you cannot read'. And Bill said 'You're right. I cannot read.' This man, through rhythm, taught Bill Martin how to read."

Thanks to @believekids for the link to 18 Resources for English Language Learners to Learn via Blogs (Teacher Reboot Camp blog). In the post, Shelly Terrell describes the value that comes from interacting with blogs. She links to videos and also has a list of  ESL-centric blogs that students of various ages will find valuable.

Grants and Donations

Tbd10 According to a recent news release, on April 15th "Operation Teen Book Drop will deliver 10,000 new books to teens on Native Reservations and Tribal Lands, an event that coincides with Support Teen Literature Day. In addition, more than 100 top young adult authors will leave their books in public places for young readers to discover, and members of the public can buy books online and have them shipped to tribal libraries. Publishers donated the books, valued at more than $175,000." Operation TBD was founded by our friends at Readergirlz and is co-hosted by Guys Lit Wire and YALSA.

Wrapping Up ...

Nonfictionmonday Terry may have some last-minute literacy and reading links at The Reading Tub. I'll also have some additional literacy links for parents today at Booklights. And, for some new resources, do check out Terry's March roundup of tools for reading and literacy at the Reading Tub. There are lots of great new resources.

Today's Nonfiction Monday round-up is at Books Together. Thanks for your interest in children's literacy!

Sunday Afternoon Visits: March 21

Happy Spring! Happy March Madness! A belated Happy Saint Patrick's Day! Here are a few links from around the Kidlitosphere, for those who are actually indoors on the computer this fine weekend:

First up, I was delighted to see that Jen Funk Weber profiled me this morning as her first Extreme Reader, a new series that she's doing at Needle and ThREAD: Stitching for Literacy. She shares my story about reading on a raft in a lake in New Hampshire as a kid. Jen is looking for other extreme reader stories, as well as extreme stitcher stories, if you have any to share. And have you seen her tutorial for stitching Readergirlz bookmarks? Anyone interested in both books and needlework should really be following Jen's blog.

Matilda Betsy Bird is up to #17 in the Top 100 Children's Novels poll at A Fuse #8 Production. You can also enter a challenge to predict the top 10 titles. I got an extra kick out of seeing Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory side by side at #18 and #19. The book-loving Matilda is one of my all-time favorite characters from children's literature. And I'll always have fond associations for Charlie, because I taught myself to type by copying Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. There's also a top 100 YA books poll going on at Persnickety Snark.

Speaking of Matilda, great fan of reading, Terry Doherty has started a list/widget at The Reading Tub with books about kids finding a love of reading. She would welcome your suggestions. Also, my congratulations to Terry for being the latest Featured Sweetheart at the Texas Sweethearts blog. There's a great interview!

Helaine Becker believes that kids enjoy reading. Inspired by a recent visit as guest author at a bookstore, she shares her thoughts on why kids sometimes get a reputation for being non-readers. I think she makes some good points, especially: "Kids don't like to read books that are "good for them" or jammed down their throats." 

Middle school librarian Ms. Yingling is shifting the focus of her blog a bit to focus more on finding books for boys. She's reformatted her blog, added a list of other blogs that suggest books for boys, and declared Guy Fridays. It's always interesting to me how people shift the focus of their blogs over time, as they discover areas that they are particularly passionate about.

Sara Zarr, on the other hand, wants to know if blogging is dead. She notes: "I don’t have time to read and comment on blogs the way I used to, and that seems to have led to fewer comments on mine, or folks do their commenting on Twitter and Facebook where my blog feeds—or commenting has been replaced with sharing, liking, and reTweeting." The post is a bit slanted (understandably) towards author blogs, but the discussion has implications for us all. I think it depends on whether you're blogging FOR the sense of community, or to share particular things that lend themselves more to the longer format of the blog (vs. Twitter or Facebook).

Lee Wind (co-founder of the Kidlitosphere Comment Challenge) has a new blog about The Zen of Blogging. He says: "This is my new on-line home for sharing weekly inspiration and how-to tips about blogging with you." 

Booklights Speaking of the Comment Challenge founders, Pam Coughlan has a great post this week at Booklights about Thrifty Reading, with suggestions for acquiring books during tough economic times (and no, shoplifting is NOT among her suggestions). See also Susan Stephenson's suggestions at The Book Chook for finding free reading material online. Also at Booklights, Susan Kusel suggests checking out holiday-themed books from the library EARLY.

Quick hits:

© 2010 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

A Most Impressive Reading Streak - 3218 Nights in a Row

Cheryl Rainfield linked to a New York Times article today that I absolutely love. Michael Winerip profiles a father and daughter who read aloud together every night for 3218 nights in a row. 3218 nights!! 

Jim Brozina, a single father and elementary school librarian, proposed "The Streak" to his daughter Kristen when she was in fourth grade. He didn't want them to stop reading together, and he thought that The Streak might help. The original goal was to see if they could read together for 100 nights in a row. Well, 100 nights stretched to 1000, and then The Streak ended up continuing right up until Kristen's first day of college. How awesome is that?

Some compromise was required, of course. They had to do a few of the readings over the phone, or out at Kristen's play practices. They had to interrupt their respective social lives sometimes. But they did it anyway. What a testimonial to the power of reading. And, perhaps, a future tip for growing bookworms... Seems to me that families with two parents at home could have a bit more flexibility in scheduling, and perhaps produce an even more impressive streak. But it would take real determination.

Jim and Kristen, you are an inspiration! Thanks to you (and to Michael Winerip and Cheryl Rainfield) for brightening my weekend.