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Children's Literacy Round-Up: July 13

It's time for this week's round-up of children's literacy and reading-related news. Happy reading!

  • Terry had another excellent round-up of reading news at the Reading Tub's blog, What Happens Next, on July 7th. My favorite link from it was to the LOST Book Club website, where you can see all of the books mentioned in the television show LOST, by season, and discuss them with other fans. The book references are one of my favorite things about LOST, and I love that someone at ABC took the time to set up this website.
  • In the UK Telegraph, Tom Peterkin writes about Children's Laureate Michael Rosen's concerns about reading for pleasure. Rosen "said ministers were making a "big mistake" by not putting enough emphasis on reading for pleasure in schools. He attacked the "tests and targets" culture of the classroom saying: "It's not sufficient simply to have children learning how to bark at print. You must have enjoyment going on at the same time. If you read for pleasure children will achieve. "The Government is making a big mistake by not saying reading for pleasure is as important as learning to read."" I think that this is a problem in the US, too, and it's good to see Rosen standing up and discussing it. Do go and read the article!
  • The Jackson Sun has a nice article about the importance of summer reading by Ashley Anthony. Link via the International Reading Association blog. For example, "Elizabeth Parnell, children's librarian at Jackson-Madison County Library, wants to help families instill a love of reading in their children. Books can take them on an adventure to anywhere they can dream, quench a curious mind, or even open up a whole new world of thought," she said. "Research has shown that kids who read during the summer perform better when school resumes in the fall."" The article also includes a few kid-recommended titles.
  • Also via the IRA blog, Larry Carson at the Baltimore Sun writes about the importance of an expanded summer Head Start program in getting kids ready for kindergarten.
  • The St. Petersburg Times recently published a guest column by George Bastable, a language arts teacher, about instilling a love of reading in kids. (Funny, I can't see the name Bastable without thinking of E. Nesbit's The Treasure Seekers - seems fitting). George Bastable says: "My love of reading spawned from my family. My parents loved to read, which spread to my siblings, which spread to me. My mother and sister read to me. I devoured my older brother's 23-volume Chip Hilton sports series many times over. But it shouldn't just come from home. Mrs. Osborne, my fourth-grade teacher, catapulted my love of literature by reading aloud to me. And, I suppose, to the rest of the class. It was her choice of titles that helped. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Born Free, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Island of the Blue Dolphin. It's been more than 40 years and I still remember." I just hope that if he's reading these classics to his students, he's also reading them some new titles.
  • The Worcester News (UK) writes about the success, and recent granting of awards, from "a ‘Dads and Lads’ reading project organised by the Worcester Warriors Education Programme. Warrior’s players Ben Jones and Matthew Jones presented the proud young boys with their awards at Worcester Library. The scheme was set up after national statistics indicated that boys are reluctant readers. Its aim was to encourage reading through the use of male role models, particularly fathers."
  • According to a recent Australian Broadcasting Corporation news report, "The Queensland Government is considering asking parents to go back to school as part of a radical new plan to improve children's reading skills. The classes would be aimed at parents with low literacy skills, who themselves struggle to read and write. Queensland Education Minister Rod Welford says parents could be offered a variety of reading classes and tutoring sessions before school and at night."
  • MLive.com (MI) recently ran an article by Myron Kukla from the Grand Rapids Press about summer bookmobiles. It reminded me of the difference that the bookmobile made to young Livy Two in Kerry Madden's Maggie Valley books. "The West Ottawa Public Schools vehicle and two neighboring counterparts, Holland Public Schools' The Big Read (Red) Bus and Zeeland Public Schools' the Zee Bus, are all about bringing reading to children. The bottom line: Keep minds active."
  • The Carolina Peacemaker (NC) has an article  by Jeanna Covington that says that "A modest-sized delegation of North Carolina A&T State University students are traveling throughout the West African city of Accra, Ghana this week, helping to increase the literacy of vulnerable youth in the capital referred to as “street children.” Five rising sophomores, accompanied by two faculty members, are presenting more than 1,200 books to organizations in Accra dedicated to empowering young people through education."
  • In a recent news release, "Sharon Darling, president & founder of the National Center for Family Literacy encourages parents to take a minute – literally – to engage their children in learning activities while they go about their daily routine." She shares several concrete suggestions, like "While you’re waiting for the bagel to toast, have your child look for the letter B on any items on your kitchen counter or table. Count as many as possible before the toaster pops."

And that's it for this week. I'm sure that Terry will have some more news for you in a couple of days, though.

Sunday Afternoon Visits: March 4

Another week, another business trip. Such is my life these days. For the brief interval that I've been home this weekend, I've been rushing around trying to catch up on work, laundry, and bills, and so on, before I have to leave again. I did manage to get in one book review this morning, but I'm sadly out of touch with the Kidlitosphere. However, here are a few things that have crossed my path:

  • A Fuse #8 Production brings to light a fascinating theory about the link between the television series LOST (to which Mheir and I are addicted) and the classic children's books about the Moomin family, by Tove Jansson. I haven't read the Moomin series, so I can't comment, but I must admit that the tidbits mentioned by Betsy are very persuasive. I do love the way the LOST episodes regularly reference books, especially children's books.
  • The results of Colleen Mondor's compiled list of favorite coming of age novels are now posted at Chasing Ray. This is a must-read list, filled with everything from tried and true classics to brand new titles. I'm amazed at the number of nominations that people made, and at the effort that Colleen took to categorize and sub-categorize the various titles. This list should be a wonderful resource for kids, parents, and librarians, not to mention readers at large, for years to come.
  • I am with Colleen in lamenting the relatively light representation of books with multicultural and gay characters. But maybe drawing attention to this shortage is an early step in changing the situation. I know that the readergirlz divas are thinking about similar issues, because I have emailed with them about it. And Tricia touches on the same issues, when she writes at The Miss Rumphius Effect about the need for "librarians and teachers to diversify their collections so that every child can see himself or herself reflected in the books they read." Mindy also addresses multi-cultural books at Propernoun.net, noting "Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved to read about people in other lands or people from other lands who’ve decided to keep their culture alive." She gives several examples, including the destined-to-be-a-classic Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies), and offers lists of recommended multicultural books by age range.
  • Jennifer gave me some food for thought over at Snapshot with this post, about treating words, and writing, as a hobby. She's generated lots of discussion. My favorite phrase: "Words, in any form, are my leisure activity of choice." I so agree with that!
  • Bookseller Chick also wrote earlier this week about writers as bloggers, and what we expect from writers who blog. She asks readers "what you get out of blogging as a reader or a writer of one and specifically what you get (if anything) out of reader vs. writer vs. personal blogs. What gets you to a blog? What brings you back? And, if you have one, what do you expect from your own blogging?" Excellent questions, and there are a number of thoughtful responses in the comments, too.
  • Speaking of blogging writers (and of the limited sub-set of my Kidlitosphere friends who I've met in person), Chris Barton just announced that he's sold his second book. Congratulations, Chris! Everyone else can head over to his blog, and try to guess what the book is about, based on the initials S.V.T.
  • New book blogger Lectitans, who I think will be around and offering insightful comments for the foreseeable future, was kind enough to set up a syndicated Live Journal feed for my book page, so that she could read it more easily. If you are a LJ user, and you'd like to link to the feed, you can find it here.
  • On a non book-related note, I enjoyed this post by Occidental Tourist (who I met at last year's BlogHer conference, making her part of the select, but hopefully increasing, circle of blog friends who I've met face to face). She is a graphic artist who is currently staying at home with her daughter, and muses on a recent comment by a new acquaintance "So you're just a mom."
  • Speaking of motherhood (funny how certain themes seem to be echoing around the Kidlitosphere this week), there's a lovely essay at Whimsy Books about Motherhood and the Importance of Reading to Kids. She refers extensively to The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, stating firmly that "The best way to make a lifelong reader/learner is to make reading a pleasant experience while they are still very impressionable." That certainly seems to be what the research says.
  • And for a different take on motherhood (really, on parenting in general), MotherReader's post entitled Be the Parent is a must-read. With her trademark wit, she tackles the serious issue of parents who put too much power in their kids' hands, by refusing to take charge. My favorite line: "But tantrums by themselves are not nearly as bad as seeing a mom hand over control to someone who hasn’t even maintained control of his bowels yet."
  • Ilene Goldman writes about the Cybils and virtual book tours in The Prairie Wind, the newsletter of the SCBWI-Illinois chapter. She notes "The Kidslitosphere grows, like my toddler, exponentially every month. Moreover, it encapsulates the wild evolution of online communities."
  • Liz B. at Tea Cozy muses about and links to an interesting mix of articles about the age range of young adult novels, and literary vs. genre fiction. I especially liked the Mary Pearson post that Liz linked to, which likens genre fans to members of high-school cliques (an idea originally posited by author Melissa Marr).
  • The Scholar's Blog Book Discussion group is about to begin discussion (March 6th) of their second title: Penelope Lively's The House in Norham Gardens. Don't miss it!

There are literally hundreds of other unread posts in my Google Reader list, but I simply have to stop and eat dinner. So, while this week's post is not as comprehensive as I might have liked, I hope that I've given you some interesting directions for your blog reading. And at least I don't feel totally out of the loop.

Wednesday Afternoon Visits: October 4

I've been a bit preoccupied lately, and haven't provided you with very many links to what's going on around the kidlitosphere. I've tried to catch up a bit today. Here are some highlights (and low-lights, in one case):

  • A Fuse #8 Production started a veritable uproar by publishing an anonymous letter that she received that is critical of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (henceforth known as the SCBWI debate). There has been a huge discussion about the society going on in the comments, but it is mercifully antagonism-free, simply people having an intelligent discussion about the nature of this society. I don't personally have anything to contribute to the discussion, because I've never participated in the SCBWI, but it's an interesting debate.
  • Did you hear about the Frisco, Texas art teacher who was suspended because her students saw nude art while on a field trip an art museum? You can read the New York Times article about it here. This woman was apparently well-regarded, a 28-year classroom veteran, until she made the grievous error of taking her students to the Dallas Museum of Art last spring. Astounding! Thanks to Franki at A Year of Reading for the link.
  • Chris Barton is taking a new approach to selecting history books for his two sons. Instead of selecting books by chronology, he's going to look for history books by theme. He's going to select the themes according to the kids' interest. He says: "Many of the titles I'll expose them to won't look like history books at all, and some won't even be children's books. The idea is that I'm going to give them more of what they're already passionate about, and let their curiosity and the contextual details in these books do the rest." They are starting with birds.
  • As announced at Big A little a and at Scholar's Blog, the shortlists have been announced for the Nestlé children's book awards, a long-time set of awards given in the UK. As Kelly explained, the Nestlés are different from other children's book awards in the UK in that after the shortlists are selected, kids take over the judging process. Awards will be announced on December 13th.
  • Many bloggers have been excited to welcome new kid lit blogger Monica Edinger, with her new blog educating alice.
  • Wendy has some interesting thoughts at Blog from the Windowsill about the nature of book reviewing, and whether or not we as reviewers should publish negative reviews. Wendy says yes, and discusses what it takes to write a meaningful review. It's some food for thought, that's for sure.
  • Anne from Book Buds and Susan from Chicken Spaghetti were able to meet recently, and each shares her thoughts on how nice it was to spend time with someone else who has the same "obsession with kiddie lit" (as Anne put it). I've been fortunate this year to meet up with Kelly Herold from Big A little a and Kim from Gemini Moon. So much fun!
  • On a related note, Liz from A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy asks if anyone else will be attending the ALA midwinter conference. I have to admit that I don't know what industry conferences to attend, myself, since I'm not a librarian or a teacher, and I'm not an author (except for the blog). But I'm sure I'll figure something out. It is a great gift to be able to spend time with people who are passionate about the same things.
  • Young adult author John Green has been conducting a blog circuit interview tour. You can read thoughtful interviews at Chasing Ray, Frank Portman's blog, and A Fuse #8 Production. MotherReader was also able to finagle an informal interview by posting some questions for John in an open post, to which he responded. As for me, I've been meaning to read An Abundance of Katherines since it came out, but I haven't gotten to it yet. So many books, so little time...
  • TadMack at Finding Wonderland is looking for suggestions for books for two to four year olds, so that she can support a nonprofit Early Childhood Education Center. As she is a young adult writer, she is seeking help in deciding what to buy. Also, while there were many posts last week for banned book week, TadMack particularly took the topic to heart, and posted thoughtful comments every day. Visit Finding Wonderland and scroll down to see.
  • Melissa Wiley had a very moving post last week in which she cited some of her journals from 1997, when her daughter Jane was in the hospital for leukemia and when she also started writing her Martha series. If you are in need of perspective, I highly recommend this post.
  • Susan Taylor Brown shares her impressions of her Hugging the Rock book launch party. Oh, how I wanted to be there (it was last week, when I was in Minneapolis). But I'm so glad that it was a success.
  • If such things interest you, you can find Disco Mermaids Mad Libs here. And I'm not sure if I ever congratulated Jay from The Disco Mermaids for being named A Fuse #8 Production's 26th Hot Man of Children's Literature. It's quite an honor. I'm sure that it's much deserved, though I have yet to actually meet Jay in person.
  • In honor of the final volume of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Miss Erin is posting a quotation from the series each day, from October 1st to the 13th. They're a lot of fun!
  • Semicolon has a round-up of writing contests for children and adults. Sherry also believes that she has discovered the latitude of the island on Lost. For those of you who are not familiar with the television show Lost, the new season starts TONIGHT.

And, while I'm sure that there are other things that I've missed, I had better get back to work so that I'll be ready to watch Lost when it comes on. Yes, I have Tivo, but if one is obsessed with something, it doesn't do to hold off for too long.

Sunday Afternoon Visits: June 4

This week, I didn't have nearly as much time to spend visiting other blogs as I would have liked (in part because I spent a lot of time on my Cool Girls from Kit Lit list. I'm trying to catch up today, before leaving tomorrow morning on yet another business trip. Here are some things that especially caught my eye:

  • I was pleased to see that for the first time since 1999 a girl won Scripps National Spelling Bee. Congratulations to Kerry Close from New Jersey! There's a nice post about the contest at the BLTeens blog.
  • Liz at A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy posted a great summer reading list for seventh and eighth graders this week. My favorites from her list are Shakespeare's Secret, The City of Ember, and Uglies. There are several others that are on my to read list, and many others that I'm sure should be on my list. I also liked Liz's interview with author Ally Carter.
  • I was also pleased to see that Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief won the 26th Red House Children's Book award. I found this gratifying, as I've been recommending it to anyone who will listen for months now. Thanks to Kelly at Big A little a for this link.
  • Kelly also once again has her Tuesday/Wednesday review round-up. If you're looking for book reviews, this is the place to start. There seem to be a ton of young adult book reviews this week. So many books, so little time... I'm a bit delinquent on doing reviews lately, myself, but I do have a bunch of books that I've read that I intend to review soon. There's also an interesting discussion at Big A little a about why people would buy an audio recording of a picture book (be sure to read the comments).
  • As previously announced on several sites (e.g. here at Big A little a), there's a new children's book blog on the block: The PlanetEsme Book-A-Day Plan. Esme Raj Codell is the author of How to Get Your Child to Love Reading: For Ravenous and Reluctant Readers Alike, which I've read and highly recommend. Esme is a huge advocate of reading aloud. In fact, her profile says: "Anyone who says they care about kids and schools and doesn't read aloud is lying, or about to make the discovery of a lifetime." She plans to feature a book every day, so you should certainly bookmark her site.
  • Esme's blog also inspired something of a mini-rant on the part of Tadmack at Finding Wonderland about how important is for people, especially kids, to read. My favorite lines: "If people read ANYTHING it would change the world...Also, I am appalled when I realize just how much I got from reading as a kid, and just how many kids are getting by and raising themselves without having books read aloud to them, and without gaining an interest in books as a key to expanding their worldview." I second all of that!
  • Chris Barton has a new list of books about U.S. history, this one focused on the time period from 1875 to 1925. This was quite an eventful time period, with the Wright Brothers, WWI, the Titanic, and the construction of America's first subway in Boston. I've certainly ridden on the subway in Boston, but I never realized that it was the first. So much to learn! Check out Chris's list (where he has links to lists for other time periods, too).
  • Anne at Book Buds issued a blog challenge this week, one that I certainly couldn't resist. She asked for help with book recommendations for a 10-year-old girl seeking summer reading suggestions. So, if you know of a good book for girls, or you're looking for suggestions, check out Anne's post. Lots of suggestions are in the comments already.
  • Bookshelves of doom has a funny post questioning how the women on the television show Lost are able to keep their eyebrows perfectly tweezed and their legs shaved, while on their tropical island. She offers no solution, of course (Lost is much more about questions than answers), but the comments are pretty funny.
  • Also Lost-related, A Fuse #8 Production links in passing to a site that lists all of the literature references from Lost in one place. It's fascinating stuff, if you're a Lost fan and a book fan.
  • But back to books, Little Willow has another book list, this one of well-written dystopian stories. This is a genre that I've had a particular weakness for ever since I took a Utopian Literature class during my freshman year in college. I couldn't resist the Uglies trilogy, and I loved The Giver. If you like this sort of thing, you should definitely check out Little Willow's list. I'm putting The Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix high up on my list.
  • And for another excellent book list, check out Don Tate's list of black males in children's books. He came up with the list in response to the question that he had after reading more than 100 picture books: "Where are the books for African American boys, those who fight off dragons; who defeat the bully; who spend their summer vacations bucking broncos?" Be sure to read the comments - there's some great stuff there! Don seems to have really hit a chord with people, much the way my recent cool girls from kid lit list did. I'll be mining his list when I start my "cool boys" list (so many ideas, so little time).
  • Melissa Wiley at Here in the Bonny Glen has a post linking together several articles on secrets of the bloggers. I've had to bookmark it to revisit later, because I'm going out of town tomorrow, but I'm definitely interested in ideas for increasing traffic to my blog, making it more relevant for people, etc. So, if you know of a way that I could make my blog more useful to you, please let me know.
  • MotherReader has another post about her, how shall we say it, obsession with Mo Willems. This one includes the text of some emails back and forth with Mo himself, and the whole discussion is simply hilarious. My favorite part, from Mo: "My wife would like to ensure that I give your husband my best." You'll have to read the entire post for context.
  • MotherReader has also had a tremendous response to her 48 hour reader challenge (scheduled for the weekend of June 16th). You can see a list of the participants signed up so far here. I really must get started selecting my books to read that weekend. There's also an interesting post about the 48 hour book challenge on the new Readable Feast blog (part of the ClubMom network), proposing that people extend the challenge to their families.
  • I don't link to reviews much (because Kelly does such a great job with that), but I did want to mention Michele's review of The Eyre Affair over at Scholar's Blog. If you're a person who loves books madly, you really will find The Eyre Affair (and sequels) irresistible. They're set in this parallel world in which society reveres books, and a few people can actually enter into, and change, books. Even if you don't normally read fantasy/science fiction, these books are hilarious, and carry lots of treats for the book lover. And by the way, although I don't link to reviews much, I do love to read them, and I use them to add to my ever-growing to read list.

And that is quite enough for one day. Hope you all had a great weekend! I'll be back later in the week with updates to my "Cool Girls" list, and hopefully some reviews.

Lost Weaves Love of Books into Plot

I've written before about how characters on the television show Lost regularly mention books, including children's books. In the most recent episode, the producers actually wove Sawyer's love of books right into the plot. You see, Hurley recently discovered a book manuscript. In this episode, some of the other characters approach Sawyer, needing something from him that he's unwilling to give them. They find him reading the manuscript, with about 10 pages remaining. He tries to put them off, telling them that he's near the end of the story, and wants to finish it. So Jack takes the manuscript and throws it into the fire, manipulating Sawyer by taking away what he really cares about - a good story.

I was, of course, horrified at the idea of burning the manuscript, and people on the island never knowing how the story ended. But I did like the fact that Sawyer's love of books is such a known part of his personality that it can actually be used against him. I didn't like that it was used against him (I'll never see Jack the same way), but I like the reinforcement of it being part of his personality.

In an unusual television tie-in, the book from the manuscript in question has just been published. Amazon says: "Author Gary Troup delivered the manuscript for his hotly anticipated thriller, Bad Twin just days before he boarded doomed Oceanic Flight 815." It's not about the Lost story, but rumor has it that the book contains some hints and/or parallels. Lost fanatics must believe this, because the book was #9 on Amazon yesterday, and already has 10 reviews, after being published on May 2nd. All I have to say is, the writers and producers of Lost really like books. I'd watch the show anyway, but the whole book thing definitely makes it more rewarding for me. If you've read Bad Twin, I'd love to know what you think.

One More Lost Literary Reference: Henry Gale

I owe this one to an ongoing column at USA Today that discusses hints and red herrings on ABC's Lost. Recent column contributors have noted that the "man who might or might not be one of The Others is named Henry Gale, and he says he came to the island in a hot-air balloon — Dorothy Gale's Uncle Henry, perhaps, from The Wizard of Oz." The column also wonders why, of all books, did Locke give Gale The Brothers Karamazov to read. Check out the full column for other interesting tidbits.

Another Children's Literature Reference on Lost

Last night I noticed another children's literature reference on my favorite TV show, Lost (see my previous post about literature references in Lost here). In last night's episode (this is not much of a spoiler if you haven't watched yet), the ever-abrasive Sawyer calls the less-than-svelte Hurley "Babar". Surely this is a reference to the beloved children's classic Babar Books by Jean de Brunhoff.

Babar, for those of you who don't remember him, is a young elephant. Not the kindest children's book reference to choose in describing Hurley, but in keeping with Sawyer's character. Personally, I think Hurley is more like Paddington Bear, but with a more wry sense of humor. Though actually, now that I think about it, Babar is pretty lovable, too.

The Literature of Lost

This month's Pages magazine has a great article about the many literary influences and references in the hit TV show Lost. As an addicted Lost viewer and book lover, I had noticed some of the incidents in which characters are shown reading books (most especially the hard-edged Sawyer reading the classic children's books Watership Downand A Wrinkle in Time). But there are a lot of references that I missed that are mentioned in the Pages article. In particular, did you know that "major characters are named after author Umberto Eco, as well as philosophers John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau"? I mean, I know who Eco and Locke are on the show, but I didn't realize that they were so deliberately named.

Mostly, though, what I found heartening is that the many literary references and allusions are apparently all part of a conscious strategy on the part of the show's producers. Or, as the Pages article states, "literature is very important to the people that produce this show." What a great thing that a hit TV phenomenon can also be literary!