Previous month:
February 2008
Next month:
April 2008

Posts from March 2008

AudibleKids Launched: Audiobook Website for Parents and Children

I received the press release below in my inbox today. It's about the launch of a children's book-specific Audible site, with various community features like sharing of reviews and lists. Audible/Amazon will be working with Reading is Fundamental on the project, too. I'm interested in this site as a long-time Audible subscriber, one who frequently download children's and young adult books, so I took a quick look.

It's not clear to me exactly how the integration will work with existing Audible accounts. I was able to log in using my Audible username and password, but it didn't list any of my previously purchased titles in the download list - that seems to be completely separate. This makes me wonder if this is a first step in weaning people away from Audible's subscription model to a pay per book model, now that Amazon has purchased Audible. But perhaps I'm just being paranoid. I just hate the idea of potentially losing a service that I've enjoyed for years.

Anyway, I could see using this site to select books for now, and then going back to my regular Audible account to purchase them. I'll be interested to see if all of the books are available at both sites, or whether there are differences. It's definitely something that I'll be following. The press release follows (highlighting mine).

One-of-a-kind community of parents, educators, and children launches a website with nearly 4,000 titles and exclusive and never-before-released content

NEWARK, N.J.--Monday March 31--The leading provider of premium digital audio, Audible, Inc., part of the, Inc., group of companies (NASDAQ:AMZN - News), today announced the launch of AudibleKids, a first-of-its-kind destination where families can find and purchase the highest-quality digital children's audio books available online. is a safe and engaging community environment for parents and children to discover and listen to thousands of children's audio books, share recommendations and discuss listening experiences. AudibleKids is launching with nearly 4,000 titles from over 75 publishers, including 500+ new-to-digital titles such as exclusive stories from R. L. Stine of "Goosebumps" fame, all playable on iPods and hundreds of audio players and mobile devices. AudibleKids provides unmatched choice and convenience for parents, children and educators.

"We're igniting a young person's love of reading through digital audio books. We believe that AudibleKids will help children to develop critical literacy skills such as improved reading ability and comprehension," said Donald Katz, founder and CEO of Audible. "The unique power of audio books to engage, entertain and bring a story to life can help children develop a love of books. We fully expect AudibleKids will reposition digital music players as story-tellers and learning machines, and thus build a new generation of enthusiastic readers."

"AudibleKids is a truly unique community for anyone who is passionate about children's books, where one can discover the highest quality children's audio books available on demand-in a medium that is becoming as common as backpacks and pencils," added Brian Fitzgerald, vice president of AudibleKids. "From reaching out to reluctant readers to encouraging gifted readers to stretch their limits with more challenging books, AudibleKids is helping families build a bridge to books for this media-saturated, multi-tasking generation."

AudibleKids is working with Reading Is Fundamental, Inc. (RIF), the nation's oldest and largest nonprofit children's and family literacy organization, to help support RIF's mission of motivating all children to become lifelong readers. As part of the arrangement with RIF, AudibleKids will provide a featured section on the website where children, parents and educators can always download a select number of audiobooks for free. "Children enjoy listening to stories being read aloud," said Carol H. Rasco, president and CEO of Reading Is Fundamental. "RIF's new relationship with AudibleKids is especially exciting because it's a generation-relevant way to motivate children to read and improve their literacy skills."

Beyond its extensive library, AudibleKids can help families discover great audio books for the first time, and receive peer-to-peer audio book advice. The friendly, easy-to-navigate site provides the ability to search and browse titles by age, grade, category, award winners, and more. Further, with AudibleKids, parents can get recommendations of the best books for their kids from English teachers, librarians, reading specialists, and other educational leaders. Through the ideas children have expressed in extensive field studies, and by working with top media literacy experts, AudibleKids has developed a curriculum for parents, teachers and educators designed to help them get the most from their listening experience.

About AudibleKids

AudibleKids is a creation of Audible, Inc., the leading online provider of premium digital spoken word audio content on the Internet. Content from AudibleKids is downloaded and played back on personal computers, CDs, or AudibleReady(r) computer-based and wireless mobile devices. Audible and AudibleKids are the preeminent providers of spoken word audio products for Apple's iTunes Store. Audible headquarters are in Newark, NJ, with offices in London, England, and alliances in Germany and France.

March Carnival of Children's Literature

The March Carnival of Children's Literature is now available at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, the Reading Tub blog. For those new to Carnivals, a Carnival is a collection of posts on a particular topic, where each post is chosen by the submitter from among their best work of the past month. Terry's theme is Leap into Spring, and she cleverly categorizes various children's book-related posts according to the attributes of the season (daylight savings, going for a walk, etc.). Distracted by my move, I missed submitting to this carnival, but I'm looking forward to using it to catch up with other blogs. Head on over and start your day with a Carnival.

Books Now Available: Dr. Ted

Doctor TedBack in February I reviewed the picture book Doctor Ted, written by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre. I concluded:

"I love this book. Doctor Ted has heart and humor, and reflects the seriousness with which early elementary school children sometimes take their make-believe games. The illustrations are vibrant and engaging, and add considerably to the affection that I feel for Ted. The end of the book hints at further adventures, and I do hope that these adventures come to pass."

The official publication date is April 8th, but Amazon says that Doctor Ted is now available for purchase. I highly highly recommend that you get yourself a copy. Happy reading, and happy celebration of make-believe.

Sunday Afternoon Visits: It's Good to be Back Edition

I'm still digging out, and can make no promises that this will be comprehensive. But here are a few things from around the Kidlitosphere worth noting:

  • April is National Poetry Month. Several children's book bloggers will be highlighting and self-publishing poems during the month. If you are looking for a place to start, I recommend Wild Rose Reader, Elaine Magliaro's blog. In this post, she outlines her plans for the month, while in this one she offers "links to websites with poetry resources for children, teachers, homeschoolers, and anyone else who happens to be a poetry lover like me." Gregory K will also be publishing a poem every day during the month at GottaBook. He's even set up a subscription list (via Google Groups), so that you can receive just his original poems via email, as they are published. Cloudscome at A Wrung Sponge also plans to celebrate National Poetry Month, "by posting a haiga (haiku and image) every day for the whole month." She links here to several other bloggers who have plans for posting poems or about poetry themes in April. Cloudscome promises to keep her list of participants up to date, so check there for links to other blogs.
  • Anastasia Suen has put together two useful new lists on her blog (with help from the Kidlitosphere Yahoo Group). One is a list of bloggers interested in reviewing children's and young adult books, and the other is a list of Kidlitosphere bloggers interested in hosting blog tours. I have, incidentally, refrained from listing myself on either list, because although I am certainly still interested in writing book reviews, I feel like I have as many sources of review titles right now as I can possibly handle. Hopefully one day I'll be able to find more time for reading and reviewing books...
  • Ellsworth's Journal will be hosting the April Carnival of Children's Literature. As a theme, "The Writer is inviting children's book bloggers to create their own society for their favorite children's book series or author or character. Make up your own fan club! Plan expeditions to author sites, conventions, newsletter, club activities, menus for dinners, secret handshake. Best of all, you are President for Life and you get to wear a big shiny medal on a red ribbon." You can find details here. Submissions are due April 25th for an April 30th carnival. The March Carnival of Children's Literature will be posted any day now at Scrub-A-Dub-Tub, The Reading Tub Blog. I'll be looking forward to that, since I missed so much blog reading in March.
  • Colleen Mondor and the SBBT/WBBT team have put together another cross-blog collaborative effort. Earlier this week, they celebrated Canada Day, with a host of posts about Canadian authors. You can find the recap, with links to the various participating blogs, here. See also this post by Colleen about what's required to pull off these sorts of collaborative efforts in general.
  • I'm very late in announcing this, but Australian author Sonya Hartnett won this year's Astrid Lindgren award. The prize is approximately $800,000 (US), making it a tremendous reward for hard-working children's authors. You can see all of the details at Cheryl Rainfield's blog, including this inspiring statement from Sweden about the award: "The prize is also a signal to institutions and organisations around the world that good children’s and youth literature is worth millions. And our children are worth more than millions. Good children’s literature gives the child a place in the world, and the world a place in the child.”
  • Congratulations to the Kidlitosphere's own Jay Asher of the Disco Mermaids, whose Thirteen Reasons Why recently made it's debut on the NY Times Bestseller list. You can read about Jay's joy here. It's fabulous to see a book that's so substantive doing so well. Just this week I received this anonymous comment on my review of the book: "This book is amazing. This book was still on my mind even after I finished it. It really is something you have to read to understand. I have a friend who considered suicide, and I was just one of many people who helped her through it. I have sort of a connection to this book, and that just made it even more amazing." And that, my friends, is what writing about "edgy" subjects is all about.
  • There's a fun discussion going on at Big A little a about "literary deal-breakers", books that could lead you to break off a relationship if you found out the other person said they were a favorite. Kelly's post was inspired by one at PaperCuts.
  • At The Only True Magic, Snow Wildsmith shares a list of 14 recommended books for middle school boys. She notes: "I've included a rough idea of the year in middle-school I'd recommend the book for. You'll notice, though, that I've left off some standard titles like Louis Sachar's Holes and Anthony Horowitz's Stormbreaker in favor of titles that might have flown a little further under the radar." I've only read four of the recommended titles, and highly enjoyed three of them, so I think I need to get reading some of the others on Snow's list.
  • And finally, Kathy (a fellow Red Sox fan) celebrates the start of baseball season at Library Stew. She'll be reading Casey at the Bat at her library media center this week. In her post, she shares some of her favorite baseball books and baseball links. Not to mention a very fun video of Red Sox fans singing Sweet Caroline at Fenway (fun if you're a Red Sox fan - probably not of general interest). As an interesting (to me) coincidence, both Snow's post above and Kathy's post, published within a few minutes of one another, mentioned Mike Lupica's Heat, which was one of my favorite titles from 2006. Great minds think alike, I guess.

And that's all for today. I went ahead with the "Mark all as read" in Google Reader, and now I'll be starting the week off fresh. Now to get back to writing reviews this week...

Children's Literacy Round-Up: March 30

I'm still unpacking. We have boxes in just about every room. Except for the kitchen, where the box containing the cooking utensils and potholders is mysteriously missing. I'm pretty well ready to have life get back to normal, but I have a ways to go yet.

Meanwhile, I'm daunted by the >1000 new posts that have made their way into my Google Reader in the last 8 days (as Mary Lee pointed out, "mark all as read" may be necessary to create a clean slate). I'm still falling asleep after a few pages of reading every night, and have no new reviews. But I have been able to take some time this afternoon to catch up on the children's literacy and reading news from the past couple of weeks. There is plenty going on that is worth sharing.

  • This one is about adult literacy, but I thought that was interesting. Via the International Reading Association Blog, I found this ABC News story about a book club for homeless men. Donna Kelly, an outreach nurse, "began the club last fall after noticing how many homeless men brought books to the health clinic she helped run in the shelter's cafeteria." She found that when she "talked to the homeless about the books they were reading, they seemed to trust her more." Books, building bridges in all sorts of unlikely places.
  • Also via the IRA blog, the Press Democrat has a feature article by Kerry Benefield about gender differences in reading and writing in Sonoma County, and California as a whole. According to the article, "Today, California's STAR test shows that girls and boys are both improving overall. There is virtual parity in general math scores, which go only through seventh grade, but girls are consistently outpacing their male counterparts in language arts, which includes reading comprehension and grammar." Various statistics and potential causes for the gender differences in reading are discussed. Personally, I think it's important to work on encouraging a love of books for both girls and boys. But I agree that exploring different techniques to reach different kids makes sense.
  • In the Washington Post, Valerie Strauss writes about "how difficult it is for librarians, teachers and parents to match children with the right book at the right age in an effort to turn young people into lovers of reading." Among others, the article quotes Teri S. Lesesne, a professor of young adult and children's literature at Sam Houston State University in Texas on the importance of choosing developmentally appropriate books for gifted children. Thanks to Aerin for the link.
  • I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that MotherReader is blogging part-time at BigUniverse's founder, Anil Hemrajani, sent me the link to this press release, about the formal launch of this "unique website where kids, parents, teachers, librarians and authors can read, create and buy quality children's picture books." In the press release, Hemrajani says “ is the culmination of a longtime dream of combining my professional background and my love of children's books in creating the place to go to maximize the enjoyment of reading and everything that grows from it. We want to leverage the power of the Internet to increase the love of reading and writing children's books." I'm in favor of anything that increases the love of reading among kids, and I hope that BigUniverse is successful with that quest.
  • Speaking of quests to get kids interested in reading, the readergirlz divas are on the job. Their new joint teen literacy project, Operation Teen Book Drop (or TBD) will take place on April 17th. readergirlz and YALSA will be organizing a "massive, coordinated release of 10,000 publisher-donated YA books into the top pediatric hospitals across the country." They are encouraging authors, and anyone who has books to spare, to donate teen books that they love. You can read the full details here, at Mitali's Fire Escape.
  • The Register-Guard (OR) has a guest column by Paul Weill, curriculum coordinator for the Springfield Public Schools, about the importance of schools promoting the "hows and whys of reading". Weill says "we know that our efforts to address the how of reading are not enough. We must also attend to the why of reading if we are to be successful with all of our students, especially our reluctant readers. Our students must know why they are being asked to learn to read. They must learn to see for themselves why reading is important and why reading connects to their own lives and interests." He outlines several specific examples of local programs.
  • The Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal has an article for parents about ways to boost the reading skills of middle schoolers. It's a short article, but it includes some useful tidbits like "If your child seems bored with a book, encourage him or her to put it aside and pick another. If the book is a novel and your child can't put it aside because it's a homework assignment, encourage him or her to choose a favorite character -- even if it's a minor one. When children identify with a character, they become much more interested in finding out what happens to him or her."
  • The Miami Herald has an article by Sue Corbett (author of the wonderful books Free Baseball and 12 Again) about the ways that teachers are using graphic novels to reach reluctant readers. She says "Comics are infiltrating the schoolhouse like never before because they are reaching that most elusive of creatures -- the reluctant reader. Faced with a generation raised in a visual environment dominated by television, the Internet and electronic games, teachers and librarians have found comics will lure readers -- especially boys -- who have a limited interest in books." See also this Daily Observer (Ontario, Canada) article by Lianne Bowles about the appeal of graphic novels to adolescents.
  • The Orangeburg Times and Democrat (SC) has an AP story today by Joe Milicia about a Cleveland after-school program called Toddler Rock! The program, aimed at three to five-year-olds, "gives inner city children lessons in music and literacy in an environment that they otherwise wouldn't experience", the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The developer of the program, Deforia Lane, says: "A child will sing A-B-C-D-E-F-G long before they learn to recite the alphabet... If we can use that concept of rhythm and melody in learning other skills, that's what we try to do as music therapists to instill some of the pre-literacy skills that we're working on." What a fun way to teach kids about words!
  • Science Alert (Australia) has a brief article with the appealing title Kids should read for fun. The article quotes Dr Alyson Simpson, a senior lecturer and director of the primary bachelor of education program at the University of Sydney, on the importance of "encouraging children to read for enjoyment and not dictating particular books." According to the article, "Dr Simpson - who outlines the findings of interviews and surveys with 100 NSW schoolchildren aged from seven to twelve in the book - is calling on education ministers to return to a more balanced approach to literature in school literacy programs (English)."

I can't tell you how recharged I feel, after reading through all of these literacy-related articles. I hope that you find some of them of interest, too.

RIF-US Airways’ “Read With Kids Challenge” Reaches Goal of One Million Minutes Read with Flying Colors

WASHINGTON—March 24, 2008—Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) and US Airways (LCC) reported today that their “Read with Kids Challenge” has reached the one million minutes read goal two months ahead of schedule. More than 10,000 parents and educators, including hundreds of US Airways employees, have already logged in minutes read to young children since the Challenge was launched on February 29.  The online Challenge runs until May 31.    

“We’re thrilled to see so many parents reading with their children and hope the momentum continues as every child benefits from being read to daily,” said Carol H. Rasco, president and CEO, of RIF. “Thanks to US Airways’ support, promotion from NBC’s Today Show, many bloggers, and thousands of parents and educators, the word is spreading that reading aloud helps children get off to a fast start in school.”

“Read with Kids Challenge” participants can log their time reading to children at All new and existing participants qualify for weekly prize drawings and a grand prize drawing provided by US Airways of a family vacation to Walt Disney World® Resort in Orlando. During March, US Airways, the official airline of RIF, is distributing copies of best-selling author/illustrator Lucy Cousins’ children’s book Come Fly with Maisy to passengers on domestic, mainline flights to take and share with a child.

About RIF            

Reading Is Fundamental, Inc. (RIF), founded in 1966, motivates children to read by working with them, their parents, and community members to make reading a fun and beneficial part of everyday life. RIF’s highest priority is reaching underserved children from birth to age 8. Through community volunteers in every state and U.S. territory, RIF provides 4.6 million children with 16 million new, free books and literacy resources each year. For more information and to access reading resources, visit

About US Airways

US Airways is the fifth largest domestic airline employing more than 36,000 aviation professionals worldwide. US Airways, US Airways Shuttle and US Airways Express operate approximately 3,800 flights per day and serve more than 230 communities in the U.S., Canada, Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America. US Airways is a member of the Star Alliance network, which offers our customers 17,000 daily flights to 897 destinations in 160 countries worldwide. This press release and additional information on US Airways can be found at

Children's Book Council Launches Second National Initiative this Year to Promote Reading Among Children

I received this announcement earlier in the week. Although it's probably old news for most of you at this point, I thought that it was still worth sharing:

Children’s Book Council Launches Second National Initiative this Year to Promote Reading among Children, Announces Finalists for the First Annual Children’s Choice Book Awards

NEW YORK, NY March 24, 2008 – The Children’s Book Council (CBC) in association with the CBC Foundation, launches the Children’s Choice Book Awards program with the announcement of 25 finalists in five categories. The Children’s Choice Book Awards program was created to provide young readers with an opportunity to voice their opinions about the books being written for them and to help develop a reading list that will motivate children to read. Children will be able to cast their vote for their favorite books, author, and illustrator at bookstores, school libraries, and at until Sunday, May 4, 2008.

The Children’s Choice Book Award winners will be announced live at the Children’s Choice Book Award gala on May 13 in New York City as part of Children’s Book Week (May 12-18, 2008), the oldest national literacy event in the United States. This initiative is a new component of Children’s Book Week and follows on the heels of the appointment of the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, a national program initiated by the Library of Congress and Children’s Book Council.

“The program will allow children from across the country to discover what other children like to read,” said Robin Adelson, Executive Director at Children’s Book Council. “We believe that by empowering children to express their opinions, it will positively impact their perspective and interest in books and bring a renewed excitement to reading.”

The Children’s Choice Book Award finalists are as follows:

Favorite Book for Grades K-2:

  • Dino Dinners, by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom (Holiday House)
  • Five Little Monkeys Go Shopping by Eileen Christelow (Clarion)
  • Frankie Stein written by Lola M. Schaefer, illustrated by Kevan Atteberry (Marshall Cavendish Corporation)
  • Three Little Fish and the Big Bad Shark written by Ken Geist, illustrated by Julia Gorton (Cartwheel Books/Scholastic)
  • Tucker’s Spooky Halloween by Leslie McGuirk (Candlewick Press)

Favorite Book for Grades 3-4:

  • Babymouse: Camp Babymouse by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Random House Books for Young Readers)
  • Big Cats by Elaine Landau (Enslow Publishers)
  • Monday With a Mad Genius written by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Sal Murdocca (Random House Books for Young Readers)
  • The Richest Poor Kid written by Carl Sommer, illustrated by Jorge Martinez (Advance Publishing, Inc.)
  • Wolves by Duncan Searl (Bearport Publishing)

Favorite Book for Grades 5-6:

  • Beowulf: Monster Slayer written by Paul D. Storrie, illustrated by Ron Randall (Lerner Publishing Group)
  • Encyclopedia Horrifica by Joshua Gee (Scholastic Paperbacks)
  • Ghosts by Stephen Krensky (Lerner Publishing Group)
  • The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley by Amy Lissiat and Colin Thompson (Kane/Miller Book Publishers)
  • When the Shadbush Blooms written by Carla Messinger with Susan Katz, illustrated by David Kanietakeron Fadden (Tricycle Press)

2007 Author of the Year

  • Anthony Horowitz, Snakehead (Alex Rider Adventure) (Philomel/Penguin)
  • Erin Hunter, Warriors, Powers of Three: The Sight (HarperCollins)
  • Jeff Kinney, Diary of Wimpy Kid (Abrams)
  • Rick Riordan, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Titan’s Curse (Disney Book Group)
  • J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Scholastic)

2007 Illustrator of the Year

  • Jan Brett, Three Snow Bears (Putnam/Penguin)
  • Ian Falconer, Olivia Helps with Christmas (Simon & Schuster)
  • Robin Preiss Glasser, Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy (HarperCollins)
  • Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic)
  • Mo Willems, Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity (Disney Book Group)

The finalists were determined from the IRA-CBC Children’s Choices program, a joint project of the International Reading Association (IRA) and the CBC since 1975. Publishers submit hundreds of titles to be evaluated and voted on by 10,000 children. The Author and Illustrator of the Year finalists were selected from a review of bestseller lists by the CBC and CBC Foundation.

Can I cast my vote for Rick Riordan? Surely J. K. Rowling got sufficient kudos in 2007...


I've been wanting to say a huge thank you to everyone who sent me encouraging comments and emails this week during my move. I'm able to get email on my cell phone, and every single comment brightened a stressful weekend. Thanks!

We're in the new house now, though mostly still living out of boxes. We're awaiting delivery of various items, including my beautiful new bookshelves and the sofa for the family room. We can't use the dryer because we have to rewire it for a different type of plug, and that's just one of a million details. However, the kitchen is functional, the Internet access is working throughout the house, and I've already started receiving a few review books at the new address. So things are looking up, after a pretty rough few days.

I hope to get back to regular blog posting this weekend. And perhaps find time to read some of the 734 unread posts currently in my Google Reader. I've missed you all these past couple of weeks. More soon...

Moving Weekend!

Sorry I've been so absent this week. This move is really killing me. It's going to be worth it, but ... oh, so much work! Whose idea was it to have so many books, anyway? (Just kidding - I love my books - though the movers may disagree.)

I did manage to finish listening to Nancy Springer's second Enola Holmes mystery, The Case of the Left-Handed Lady, but only because I can listen while doing certain types of packing. Anyway, the Left-Handed Lady is very fun! I highly recommend the Enola Holmes series (about Sherlock Holmes' independent younger sister) for fans of mysteries, historical fiction, and books in general that have spunky female leads. That's about all I've accomplished, reading-wise, this week. I'm so tired by the time I get into bed that I read about one page before I fall asleep. I started listening to Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty today, though, and that's going to be my unpacking book.

Tomorrow night we'll be in our new place, but I won't have Internet access again until Monday. I'll get back up to speed as soon as I can. Wishing you all a more restful weekend than mine (and special good wishes to Cheryl, who is also preparing to move).

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: March 18, 2008

Jpg_book007Tonight I will be sending out the new issue of my Growing Bookworms weekly 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. There are currently more than 200 subscribers.

Unfortunately, as I am still in the throes of moving, this week's issue is relatively light, containing only: a children's literacy and reading news round-up, a Kidlitosphere round-up with links to useful posts from the week, a heartwarming story about a man who honored his childhood librarian, an installment of my reviews that made me want the book feature, and an announcement about a book previously reviewed that is now available.

I apologize for the lack of reviews in this issue. As I mentioned last week, I'm finding that I'm not able to write reviews while I'm distracted by moving. But I have been receiving some great books, and I promise that if you stick with me, I'll get back to the reviews as quickly as I can.

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms!

Reviews that Made Me Want the Book: Adult Authors Writing for Kids Edition

Welcome to the latest installment of my Review that Made Me Want to Read the Book feature. Oddly, both titles featured this week are first kids' books written by well-known adult authors. I'm a bit skeptical about such books in general, but both of these intrigue me.

Sure Fire At her blog Books for YA's and the people who love them, Cindy Mitchell wrote about Sure Fire, written by Jack Higgins, with Justin Richards. It's about two kids who find themselves with a dad they don't know after their mother dies, until the dad is kidnapped. Cindy said: "Now all three of them are running for their lives and only fast wits, smart plans and family togetherness will save the world and their lives along with it. I sure hope that there are going to be many more titles involving the Chance family, because they are fantastic." Sounds fun to me. Plus I know a "Chance family", so I get an extra kick out of that. I've also enjoyed Justin Richard's Invisible Detective books for kids (see my reviews of the first two here and here).

Jack: Secret HistoriesAt Reading Rants! Out of the Ordinary Teen Booklists, Jen Hubert brought to my attention the first children's book featuring the kid version of an adult character who I enjoy. I've been reading F. Paul Wilson's Repairman Jack series for a few years now. They're about a singularly versatile guy who lives "off the grid", and makes a living doing marginally legal "repair projects" for people (like recovering stolen property, protecting them, etc.). They have supernatural elements to them, as well as a whole good vs. evil thing, but I read them because I like Jack. (He's a bit like Jack Reacher, from Lee Child's series). Anyway, the upcoming Jack: Secret Histories is set in 1983, when Jack is a kid riding his bike around New Jersey, and solving mysteries. Jen says: "it’s great fun watching amateur sleuths solve mysteries without the help of Google or past episodes of C.S.I. Why, it’s almost like Nancy Drew! Or Scooby Doo and the gang riding around in the Mystery Machine!" I'd find that hard to resist anyway, and the fact that it's Repairman Jack is just icing on the cake. I'll be watching for this one (due out in late May/early June).

Thanks for inspiring me to read these books, Cindy and Jen!

Children's Literacy Round-Up: March 15

I found myself with a bit of computer time this afternoon, and wanted to share with you some literacy and reading news from papers from around the world. Most of the news that caught my eye this week was from the UK, for some reason.

  • icWales has an article by Abbie Wightwick about efforts to help reluctant readers in Wales, where "a quarter of adults and school children ... have serious problems with reading and writing." According to the article, "Basic Skills Cymru, part of the Welsh Assembly Government, is offering grants totalling £350,000 to all primary and secondary schools to buy books for "reluctant readers". It is also launching a comic to be distributed to schools in Wales after Easter to encourage children put off by swathes of text." The article also includes a list of recommended titles for emerging readers of different ages.
  • Also in the UK, Polly Curtis, education editor at the Guardian, reports on a new study "conducted by Hull University for Xtraordinary People, a learning difficulties charity, funded by the DCSF" (Department for Children, Schools and Families). The study reported "that 2 million children (in the UK) have dyslexic-type learning difficulties, more than has previously been thought but in line with research in the US", and also that "55% of pupils who are failing Sats are at risk of dyslexia or learning difficulties."
  • I thought that this was interesting. An article in the Times (UK) by Rosemary Bennett reports that "the children of parents with healthy social lives outperform other children at school." The authors of the study said that they "took into account the parents’ educational backgrounds and class, known to be crucial to determining educational achievement. Regardless of background, social activity appeared to be important." I tend to agree with another expert quoted, who thought that sociable parents probably talk more to their children than other parents do, and that this talking correlates with academic performance.
  • The Times Educational Supplement has an article by Anne Joseph about children's reading clubs, and how they work in building young readers' confidence.
  • According to an article by Patrik Jonsson in the Christian Science Monitor, a school district in Georgia is considering segregating the public schools by gender. Supporters say that this will help with academic performance, but there are concerns that such a segregation isn't even legal. It seems to me that offering single-sex schools as a choice makes sense, but that implementing it unilaterally across a district is a bit risky. Thanks to the International Reading Association blog for the link. 

Happy reading!