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Posts from May 2009

May Carnival of Children's Literature

I'm happy to announce that the May Carnival of Children's Literature is now available at Into the Wardrobe. Tarie has grouped the submitted posts into the following wonderfully positive categories: Excellent book reviews that will make you want to read the book; Insightful and enjoyable author profiles; Reading experiences; Great resources; and Fun videos. Book reviews are especially well-represented. I'm going back to the carnival myself to look for potential future reads. Do check it out!

Saturday Night Visits: May 30

Booklights I fell quite behind on my blog reading while I was on vacation last week. I spent some time catching up this weekend (though I was by no means able to actually read all of the posts that I missed), and I do have a few Kidlitosphere highlights for you today. I'll be back Monday with some more literacy-focused news, both here and at Booklights.

Catching Fire People have started receiving ARCs of the Hunger Games sequel, Catching Fire (talk about an accurate title - this book is catching fire in the market already). PW has an article about it here. The first review that I saw (a positive one!) was from Tasha Saecker at Kids Lit. Sadly, I have not been among the lucky ARC recipients. But I am glad to hear that the book is being well-received. Really. And perhaps my copy is just slow making it out to California, don't you think? Or, I should have gone to BEA.

Great news! Kelly Herold, of Big A little a and Cybils fame (and one of my very first blog friends), is back after a bit of a blogging hiatus. She's started a new blog called Crossover. She explains: "This blog, Crossover, focuses on a rare breed of book--the adult book teens love, the teen book adults appreciate, and (very, very occasionally) that Middle Grade book adults read. I'm interested in reviewing books that transcend these age boundaries and understanding why these books are different." I love Crossover books, and I'm certain to enjoy this new blot.

The Kidlitosphere's own Greg Pincus from GottaBook has a new blog, too. It's called The Happy Accident, and it's about using social media to help create happy accidents. [If you need proof that Greg understands how to use blogs and other social media tools well, The Happy Accident already shows up as the #3 entry when I Google search.] Although this new blog is not about children's literature, I'm introducing it here because I think that it will have value to anyone who has goals that in some way include using social media (Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc.). I'll certainly be following Greg's progress.

And speaking of people from the Kidlitosphere doing great things, Betsy Bird and Liz Burns were both featured in a panel at BEA last week (with Libba Bray, Cheryl Klein, and Laura Lutz). School Library Journal has a mini recap of the session, written by Debra Lau Whelan. Debra begins: "When Betsy Bird and Liz Burns speak, people listen." Certainly I always do. BEA also featured a blogger signing booth this year. Pam Coughlan and Sheila Ruth are scheduled to be there tomorrow, and Lenore was there earlier in the weekend. (And perhaps others - I'm too demoralized from not having been at BEA to read any more coverage.)

Betsy also recently received her first author copies of her upcoming book: Children's Literature Gems, Choosing and Using Them in Your Library Career. She has pictures here. And she was recently interviewed by James Preller.

CybilsLogoSmall And still speaking of Kidlitosphere members doing great things, the Cybils were included in a recent list of the Top 100 Poetry Blogs (along with several of our other friends). Sarah Stevenson has the full scoop, with links, at the Cybils blog.

The Book WhispererEsme Raji Codell recently reviewed Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer last week at PlanetEsme. She begins with: "I don't usually stray from reviews and recommendations of books for kids, but in the interest of children's literacy I need to shout out about a title that might do for independent reading what Jim Trelease's READ-ALOUD HANDBOOK did for read-aloud." She moves on from there to compare and contrast Donalyn's results with her own teaching experience, concluding on a positive note with "Oh, Donalyn Miller. You go, girl."

At Jenny's Wonderland of Books, Jenny Schwartzberg traces a history of ghosts in children's literature, from the 1600s through the 1960s (I remember Ghosts Who Went to School, too) right up to 2008 Newbery winner The Graveyard Book. She concludes: "Over the last two hundred years children's books have shifted from showing ghosts as frightening images used to teach morals to ghosts as a common theme in all kinds of books for children, whether they be scary or friendly." Like many of Jenny's posts, this one is well-researched, and well worth checking out.

I recently discovered the blog YAnnabe. Kelly has a fun post called 5 Ways You Can Convert YA Scoffers, about methods for getting other adults to start reading young adult books. She begins: "We all know adults who read YA have nothing to be ashamed of. But I’m not content to read YA just for my happy little self. You see, I’m a pusher." In addition to Kelly's five tips, there are other reader-suggested ideas in the comments.

At the Reading Rockets Sound It Out blog, Joanne Meier shares several "relatively painless ways for teachers to stay in touch with teaching and learning this summer, besides of course browsing Reading Rockets!" I was honored to be included (along with Anastasia Suen) on Joanne's recommended resource list.

One_lovely_blog_award Speaking on honors, Mrs. V awarded me a One Lovely Blog award at Mrs. V's Reviews, for new blogs and blogging friends. She agrees with my mission statement, about how "helping establish life long readers has the power to change the world." It's always a joy to find a new kindred spirit.

And that's it! After resorting eventually to "mark all as read" in my reader, I'm declaring myself caught up. Happy weekend to all!

Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse: David A. Kelly

Book: Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse
Author: David A. Kelly
Illustrator: Tim Jessell
Pages: 112
Age Range: 5-8 (see further notes on the age classification of this book in the comments)

Babe RuthBackground: I hardly ever enter contests to win books, because I already have books piled up in stacks around my house. But every once in a while, a contest tempts me anyway. Recently Lori Calabrese had a contest at her sports book blog Get in the Game -- Read! to win a signed copy of Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse, a Stepping Stones book by David A. Kelly, about Babe Ruth, and the curse that his trade to the Yankees placed upon the Boston Red Sox. As a dedicated Red Sox fan, I was unable to resist.

Review: Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse is a chapter book aimed at new readers, part of the Random House Stepping Stones series. The book begins with the heartbreak (for Red Sox fans) of the 2003 American League Championship series, and then steps back in time to Babe Ruth's childhood in the early 1900s. The reader learns about George Herman Ruth as a young, disadvantaged troublemaker, and the mentor who taught him to love baseball. The action quickly moves to Ruth's early career as a pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox, and the celebrity (and further trouble-making) that followed. The second third of the book recounts Ruth's trade to the Yankees, and the resulting success for the Yankees, and apparent curse for the Red Sox (they didn't win another World Series for 86 years). The final third of the book is about the 2004 Red Sox, and how they broke the curse and won the World Series. The book ends on an up note, a nice contrast to the opening chapter.

Although much of the Red Sox history was familiar to me, I learned things that I hadn't known about Babe Ruth (especially his prowess as a pitcher -- he once pitched a fourteen inning complete game!). I was also surprised to learn about a specific event that some have apparently credited with the official breaking of the curse. The final third of the book was, for me as a reader, a lovely, nostalgic recap of happily remembered events from five years ago. Of course I'm not the target audience for the book.

Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curseis definitely a book for newer readers, with short, declarative sentences, exclamation points, and occasional full-page illustrations. Tim Jessell's black-and-white illustrations have, as befitting a book about Babe Ruth, an old-fashioned feel. They also offer a nice mix of humor, heart, and action (I especially enjoyed a sketch of Ruth slamming his bat into home plate, with the pieces of the bat flying, and Ruth's hat rising up from his head).

David A. Kelly includes in-line definitions for less common words. For example:

"Even though he was now a professional baseball player, Ruth never seemed to grow up. He even had a big smiley face like a baby's. Ruth's nickname was "the Bambino," which means "baby" in Italian." (Page 19)

"In one of the games of the 1918 World Series, Ruth didn't give up a single run to the other team. That's called a shutout." (Page 23)

Older readers might find these definitions redundant, or even faintly condescending, but I think that the tone is perfect for new readers, kids just moving beyond Frog and Toad into slightly longer chapter books. The author also makes sure to provide the most kid-friendly details whenever possible. For example:

"Many times he acted like a kid. He liked pulling silly stunts, trying new things, and simply horsing around. Ruth was often more interested in having fun than in doing what he was supposed to do. Sometimes he wore the same underwear for days at a time. He just didn't feel like changing. He claimed to be able to burp louder than a tractor. He'd prove it to anyone who would listen." (Page 19)

Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curseoffers a nice mix of baseball play-by-play and personal details about the players. Baseball fans will love it, but I think that even non-fans will still find the book interesting. Particularly if they live in New England, where the details of the Red Sox curse and the 2004 World Series are required knowledge for all citizens. Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse is an excellent addition to the ranks of early chapter books, just the thing to engage kids (particularly boys) and get them reading on their own. A must-purchase for early elementary school classroom libraries.

Publisher: Random House Books for Children
Publication Date: February 24, 2009
Source of Book: Won a signed copy in a contest at Get in the Game -- Read!, hosted by Lori Calabrese
Other Blog Reviews: TheHappyNappyBookseller
Author Interviews: AuthorsNow!

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: May 27

Jpg_book007Tonight 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. There are currently 762 subscribers. 

Newsletter Update: I just got back from vacation, so this issue is a bit light. However, I have one book review, one post with Kidlitosphere news, and an enormous children's literacy round-up. I also have an installment of my recurring Reviews that Made Me Want the Book feature, and two announcements about books previously reviewed that are now available. And finally, I have a brief post about the joys of Outdoor Reading, linked to a longer version over at Booklights.

Reading Update: In the past two weeks I read:

  • City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare (second book in the Mortal Instruments series).
  • Tattoo by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.
  • The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams.
  • Chasing Darkness (An Elvis Cole novel) by Robert Crais (adult mystery by one of my favorite authors).
  • The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (adult science fiction, a highly recommended product of my most recent reviews that made me want the book column).

I'm currently reading Pastworld by Ian Beck. And hoping to get caught up on my overflowing inbox and Google Reader tomorrow. How about you? What have you been reading and enjoying? Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms!

The Chosen One: Carol Lynch Williams

Book: The Chosen One
Author: Carol Lynch Williams
Pages: 224
Age Range: 13 and up

The Chosen OneThe Chosen One left me shaking ... with fear, with horror, with frustration, with outrage. But it was beautiful, too. The Chosen One is one of those books that you finish, and then just sit there, thinking about it, staring off into space. 13-year-old Kyra lives in the compound of "the Chosen Ones". She is one of 21 children of her father, via three wives. Her three-mother family lives in a set of worn-out trailers, while the Prophet (the polygamous sect's supreme leader) and the Apostles (other leaders of the group) live in big, nice houses with air conditioning. The Chosen Ones live a life "protected" from the outside world. But evil lives there, too.

Kyra is a devoted daughter and sister. She is a girl with secrets. These include the books that she reads on the sly, from the mobile bookmobile, and the boy, Joshua, that she meets secretly, in the middle of the night. Both the books and her feelings for Joshua give Kyra ideas. And ideas are dangerous things, particularly for girls, in a society that considers women property. When Kyra learns that the Prophet has commanded her to marry her 60-year-old uncle, to be his seventh wife, she starts thinking about escape. But her love for her family binds her. Not to mention the fact that terrible things happen to Chosen Ones who don't obey.

The Chosen One is an inside look at religion gone awry. It's a demonstration of the ways that power can corrupt, and the price that people sometimes pay for their beliefs. It's a love story, too. Most of all, it's the story of a remarkable girl. Despite her upbringing, Kyra is someone who sees the moments of loveliness around her, from her developmentally disabled sister's smiles to the branches of a Russian Olive tree swaying in the wind. She's a person to whom books are as necessary as breathing, a girl who cries her eyes out over Bridge to Terebithia and identifies with Laura Ingalls. And, in part because she's seen the larger world through books, Kyra is someone who can't ignore it when she sees suffering that she knows is preventable. Here are a couple of quotes, to give you a feel for the book:

"I look past the crisscorssy brances of the Russian Olive toward our settlement. I can see most everything here, if I part the leaves. the lawns of the Prophet and the Apostles, the store, the Temple and the Fellowship Hall where we meet for school and Wednesday evening activities. I see it all. And nobody can see me.

"Mmm," I say, breathing deep and closing my eyes. It smells so good to be by myself here." (Page 6, ARC)

"...I have a horrible thought.

I see each of my sisters married to the oldest man in the Compound, Brother Nile Anderson. Married to him. He has to be 150 years old. In my head, I can see his spotted hands, yellowed nails, and those fat blue veins that look like they might pop any second.

This comes into my mind because of last night. Of course it does. Because that is what our lives are, I realize, holding on to my little sister.

We are here for the men." (Page 54, ARC)

Kyra is a girl in an impossible situation. She is unforgettable. She is brave. She is heartbreaking. The Chosen One has my highest recommendation, for teens and adults. Be sure to start it when you have time to read it straight through, because you won't want to put it down.

Publisher: Macmillan / St. Martins Griffin
Publication Date: May 12, 2009
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: Far too many to list, but here are a few recent ones from my reader: Young Adult (and Kids) Book Central, Kids Lit, My Friend Amy, Book Muncher, Archimedes Forgets (more a discussion than a review, but with several additional links). Updated to add: Melissa Wiley had a different experience with this book, possibly colored by listening to the audio version, rather than reading the printed book. In addition to her thoughts on the book, this post includes interesting insights one negative of audiobooks.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Books Now Available: Killer Pizza

Killer PizzaEarly last month, I reviewed Killer Pizza by Greg Taylor, an early young adult novel about an underground monster-fighting organization disguised as a pizza place. I said:

Killer Pizza is a great book for kids who have outgrown early middle grade horror, but still want to read creepy stories, and aren't necessarily ready to move on to Stephen King. I think this is one that middle school librarians will definitely want to stock.

Killer Pizza is scheduled for publication today. It's well worth a look.

Outdoor Reading

IMGP4453 I hope that you've all had a lovely Memorial Day Weekend. I'm just wrapping up some vacation time in Hawaii, but I do have a new post up today at Booklights that I think is particularly apt for this summer-celebration holiday. It's about the joys of reading outdoors in a beautiful location. Here's an excerpt:

"What the most memorable of my childhood reading spots have in common, I realize now, is that they are all out of doors. It's been quite a while since I climbed up into a tree to read. But reading out of doors, particularly in some scenic location, remains one of my greatest joys. I'll go a step further, and say that it's how I recharge, how I heal myself, how I do what I love while remaining connected to the world."

The photo above is of my most recent tranquil reading spot. Technically, I was indoors, but I was in front of a huge open window (no glass) onto the beach. That photo is taken from my chair. The spa called it the Tranquility Room, but I call it the Magic Room. I was able to spend about 40 minutes reading there on Saturday, between having a massage and going to a luau (with thanks to Mheir for letting me sit there and read, while he waited in line for the luau). The whole thing was a rejuvenating experience. Vacation is a happy thing!

Haiku Also this week, I drove by a town that I thought some of you might appreciate. Did you know that Maui has a town called Haiku? It's true. See proof to the left. Let's call this an early Poetry Friday post, in honor of Haiku, Hawaii.

Right now I have 958 unread posts in my Google Reader, and a ton of unread email. I wrote one review this week, but I haven't had time to format it into a blog post. I do hope to get back up to speed over the course of the week. Happy summer, all! And please do stop by and check out my Booklights post on outdoor reading. I'd love to hear about your favorite outdoor reading locations.

Books Now Available: After the Moment

Back in February I reviewed After the Moment by Garret Freymann-Weyr, a young adult novel about a boy who falls for a troubled girl, and the difficulties that ensue. I said:

After the Moment is about falling in love, making mistakes, and the way that sometimes, love isn't enough. It's also about families, not necessarily conventional ones, and about trying to do the right thing, even when it's hard... My recommendation for distributing this book is to get people to read the first page, and see if they can stop reading after that. I know I couldn't.  

 After the Moment is due out today. Highly recommended.

Children's Literacy Round-Up: May 18

Jpg_book008 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 here. This week Terry Doherty and I have collected plenty of content for you about literacy & reading-related events; raising readers; literacy and reading programs and research; 21st century literacies; grants, sponsorships & donations; and other new resources. Enjoy!


DarknessNow here is an event that I would have attended if I still lived in Boston. Mystery author Dennis Lehane spoke at a reception to benefit ReadBoston, a nonprofit children's literacy organization. According to Victoria Groves in the West Roxbury Transcript, "The $25 tickets were oversold, and about 100 people showed up for the event — a testament to his popularity. Funds raised will be used for the organization’s Storymobile program, which provides storytelling and free books to children at 75 sites across the city, 10 of which are in Roslindale and West Roxbury." I love Lehane's books (dark mysteries, including Gone, Baby, Gone and Mystic River), and I would have donated to a good cause to meet him.

Raising Readers

Via a tweet from @everybodywins, we found a new PBS Parents article about how to create a literate home. The article begins: "What exactly is a "literate home?" It is an environment that encourages children to learn to read and write and become lifelong readers and writers. Transforming your home into a literate home is simple and inexpensive. You need to consider what kinds of materials to have on hand and how to arrange materials so your child will use them. More importantly, you need to interact with your child in ways that foster literacy development." It then moves on to provide specific recommendations by age range. Well worth checking out.

Pbskids And speaking of PBS, we liked this press release about how Super WHY, a PBS Kids Series is helping Kids in Low-Income Families Read. “PBS Kids series Super WHY? is helping kids read, particularly those in low-income families. That’s according to studies conducted by the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and Florida State University’s Center for Reading Research for PBS in conjunction with the Department of Education’s Ready To Learn grant program (RTL).” From Broadcast Newsroom. (Via Meg Ivey's May 15th Literacy Voices roundup on the NCFL Literacy Now blog.)

Terry found an interesting article (also via @everybodywins tweet) on the Bookshop blog, about Why Encouraging Literacy should be part of your Business Plan. The article lists lots of stats, and then asks this question: "What does all this have to do with bookstores? The key to literacy is access to books. In low income areas, 80% of preschool and afterschool programs have NO age appropriate books for kids! In middle class neighborhoods, there’s roughly one age appropriate book per 13 kids between the library and private holdings. In low income neighborhoods, the ratios is 300 to 1."

In Setting the Stage for a Lifetime in Love with Reading in the National Post, reporter Shannon Sutherland shares stories about the relationship between conversation and reading. There's a great story about a dad reading Afterlands to his newborn in the hospital! It reminded me of a friend of mine, who used to read Anne River Siddons novels aloud to her infant daughter (now a teenage bookworm).

Via tweet from @jeanetteMcLeod (yes, there's a bit of a recurring theme here), Terry found a nice article by Jim Gibson on about how reading aloud to children has benefits that go beyond language. Gibson talked with children's author Frieda Wishinsky about the benefits of parents reading aloud to their children. For instance, "A story can be calming for an upset child." The article includes facts on reading aloud, and suggestions for what to do even if you don't think that you're good at it.

Rap to Roots, an afterschool program, is a new pilot program at the Wyatt-Edison Charter School in Five Points, Colorado. The program engages kids in creating rap to help them with their learning. Michael Schenkelberg created the program when schools began cutting arts from their curriculum. What the organizers discovered was that kids in the program "did significantly better in standardized testing, attention spans in the classroom, and some improved their writing skills" in the four years the organizers tracked their progress. The full article is by Colleen O'Connor in the Denver Post.

Thanks to @CircleReader for the lead to Barbara Fisher's article Publishers and Librarians: Two Approaches, One Goal (Library Journal, 1 May). To help her illustrate the perspectives, Fisher uses a (generic) librarian's and editor's answer to the comment "Gee, I wish I could spend all day reading books." I also liked this snippet: "Publishers work closely with authors and use sales figures to tell them what readers want, interpreting those figures like tea leaves. Librarians work closely with readers, using them as informants to help them select books that will satisfy the diverse tastes of a community."

At Librarian Mom, Els Kushner recaps the Six Early Literacy Skills (from referenced sources). She concludes: "So, that's it: six skills that you can encourage and teach in the comfort of your own home. Reading books together hits all of them, but there are so many ways they can be woven into the fabric of daily life. And when your kid has them mastered--at age four, at age eight, whenever they're developmentally ready and have enough of these skills under their belt--they'll be ready to read."

Summer Reading is on everyone's mind, as the end of the school year approaches. Here are a host of ideas from various sources:

... by way of Dubai, Literacy is Priceless shares a summer literacy and technology round-up, with links for kids, tweens, teens, and adults.
... by way of Brimful Curiosities, Janelle links to an article about summer reading programs for kids at Freebies 4 Mom and to the Barnes and Noble summer reading program.
... TD Bank even has a Summer Reading Progam. The Summer Reading Program encourages young people to read and additionally provides a goal for them to learn the importance of saving and money. TD Bank and TD Banknorth contribute $10 into a new or existing young savers account for each child who reads 10 books throughout the summer.
... Reading Rockets shares a beach bag full of summer reading ideas. also has a uses the beach bag theme for sharing recommendations; their ideas focused on older kids and teens. AdLit also has a list of hot reads for summer.
... Mitali Perkins has a guest column in The Boston Globe about A Boston Summer of Children's Books. Reading about all of these events is almost enough to make me wish I still lived in Boston. Still not quite, though. Not even with the Dennis Lehane event above.
... This week's sponsor of the Unshelved blog, Random House, offered its Summer Reading List for high school students. The list of 20 new and classic titles is organized by category and has the reading level (by grade). If you don't know about Unshelved, then read the 100 Scope Notes post about the comic strip's book promotion potential in your school library.
... From the Bookworm: A Themed Booklist - The Beach, a set of ten picture books at the Bookworm's Booklist.
... Teaching with Books has two posts with baseball-themed picture book: Extra Innings (boy books) and A League of Their Own (girl ballplayers).  Keith Schoch's presentation style is perfect at home or in the classroom. His "Before Reading" questions can be very helpful to parents not used to booktalking. He also links to other sources on the subject, which are great to have handy with the inevitable requests for "more." (Link via The Big Fresh from Choice Literacy)
... The Intelligencer has a nice article by Donna Kaye about using the outdoors to enhance children's literacy. She says: "Literacy can happen anywhere, anytime, and the back yard or garden is no exception. Young children enthusiastically embrace the perennial ritual of planting seeds and flowers, digging holes and getting down and dirty. When children interact with attentive adults in the great outdoors, learning and growing will happen naturally."
... And if you're looking for book ideas, I have a post up today at Booklights which lists the Cybils winners by category for the past 3 years. There are some great book suggestions there.

I'm sure that we'll find other summer reading resources in future weeks, but this should get your started.

Literacy & Reading Programs & Research

Terry and I were both very glad to learn, via this post at Rasco from RIF, that support for RIF has been included in the President's requested 2010 budget. Carol Rasco said: "Yesterday the President’s requested budget for FY10 was released, and we are thrilled that RIF is recommended for a $25 million contract. This is a result of hard work by you, our supporters, and the RIF government relations team. There is much hard work still ahead as we progress through the budget process, but a major hurdle has been cleared with this announcement."

We also liked this School Library Journal article by Renea Arnold and Nell Colburn: Something to Smile About: A Statewide Early Literacy Program Is Making a Big Difference. The authors explain: "now more than ever, it’s important to appreciate the work that energizes us and gives us hope. Here in Oregon one such program is our new statewide training project to increase early childhood literacy skills. In 2008, after many years of planning and securing funds, Reading for Healthy Families: Building Communities of Learning was launched in 14 of Oregon’s 36 counties. Reading for Healthy Families (RFHF) represents our state’s version of “Every Child Ready to Read @ your library,” a research-based early literacy curriculum created by the Public Library Association and the Association for Library Service to Children."

The Tri-County News (MN) has an article by Candi Walz about a local early literacy program that gives baby literacy packets to new parents. "The delivered kits give parents interactive books, a booklet of activities to help develop children's brains, a growth chart, a list of available parenting services and a bib. The delivery also welcomes new children into the community. "Our goal is to get parents to interact with their babies," (program director Maggie) Lundorff said."

Learning disorders related to writing may be as common as reading disabilities, according to a study published in the May 2009 edition of Pediatrics. Terry found this Yahoo News item via tweet from @philiplee95. Here's more detail: "Learning disorders related to writing are ... are especially likely to affect boys, a new study suggests. Written-language disorder, also known as dysgraphia, includes problems with handwriting, spelling and organizing thoughts on paper; it is diagnosed when a child's writing skills fall "substantially below" the norm for his or her age and IQ. In contrast to reading disabilities, like dyslexia, there has been little research into writing disabilities, and the rate of the problem among U.S. children has been unclear."

21st Century Literacies

Literacy R Us is a "a hub for an ongoing intellectual discussion among a class of college students about the meanings of literacy." To start the process, the students generated a list of statements in answer to What is literacy? There are some expected answers, and some nifty ones. Terry liked "Literacy is a map to the road ahead." I kind of liked "Literacy is like a lamp" (maybe because of Booklights) and "Literacy is like a vacation without leaving your seat". We'll see what else they come up with.

A new study from the University of Leicester says that early word recognition is the key to lifelong reading skills. According to a recent Science Daily article (which Terry found via @everybodywins tweet), the study "found that the age at which we learn words is key to understanding how people read later in life." More specifically (quoting Dr. Tessa Webb in the School of Psychology at the University of Leicester) "When adults read words they learned when they were younger, they recognise them faster and more accurately than those they learned later in life." Fascinating!

From Meg Ivey's Literacy Voices Roundup May 15:

  • Meg credits Angela Maiers for the link to Video: 21st Century Schools that adds to the discussion of why schools “shouldn’t see themselves as the sole provider [of education] but as something that coordinates and brokers learning from a whole range of sources.”
  • Meg's link to the Newseum is both a 21st Century Literacy and a new resource. From Meg: "Thanks to iLearn Technology for this link and a summary of this site: Front pages of newspapers from around the U.S. are displayed on a map. Scroll over the map and the front page of the newspaper pops up. Click on a different country to display newspapers from around the world."

Smartboard Over at A Year of Reading, Franki Sibberson muses on the possible uses of Smartboards to promote literacy development in the classroom. She asks: "Why aren't more of the Reading/Writing Workshop people out there writing about ways they use the boards to support literacy development? How can we somehow collect great clips and posts of great uses of this tool in Reading/Writing Workshops? I imagine it is out there but, why can't I find these samples easily? Am I looking in the wrong places?" Perhaps some of you can help!

In the May 16 edition of The Big Fresh (Choice Literacy Newsletter), we learned about the Educational Podcast Network. The site offers free downloads of hundreds of podcasts. There are student and class podcasts, as well as podcasts on specific topics on everything from the traditional core curriculum to healthful living and theater arts education.

Grants and Donations

This week, we read about two large-scale literacy-related grants. First, via Fox5News - Vegas, "three southern Nevada with largely Hispanic populations will share a $600,000 grant from the Toyota Family Literacy Program to fund children’s literacy programs." Also, according to the Kalamazoo Gazette, in an article by Julie Mack, "Kalamazoo Public Schools has received a $150,000 planning grant to set the stage on a multi-pronged literacy initiative linked to college readiness and The Kalamazoo Promise. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant was announced Wednesday by KPS Superintendent Michael Rice, who envisions both developing new programs and expanding existing efforts to remake Kalamazoo into a ``literacy community'' where no adult is functionally illiterate and every KPS graduate is capable of handling college-level work."

But we also noticed that much smaller grants are having a significant impact, too. For example, this article from the South Boston, VA News and Record, talks about a $1000 grant to help the local library buy more young adult books. Teens helped to select the books purchased. Here's the part that especially caught my eye: "A total of 120 books were selected. In addition to the manga books that were selected, several books were also selected from a list of books recommended by the American Library Association for “reluctant readers”. Unbeknownst to the National Home Library Foundation, the grant that sparked this initial meeting was just the beginning. The group of young adults, age 15-21, has now formed a young adult club that meets at the South Boston Library every Thursday at 4 p.m."

The Corsicana Daily Sun (Texas) also reported on the results of a $1000 grant for literacy. "Carroll Elementary School received a $1,000 grant for books, given by the Association of Texas Professional Educators Foundation. A short awards ceremony took place Thursday in the school’s library. Five schools in Texas will receive the grants... In addition to the ATPE grant, Carroll Elementary did a Reading Rocks fundraiser Friday evening, which raised about $800 for the library."

Meanwhile, in Exeter, preschoolers were awarded 100 books as part of a literacy grant. An article by Jennifer Feals in SeacoastOnline reports: "The pre-school received a donation of 100 new books through the Kensington Public Library, which received a grant for $2,000 worth of new books through the Children's Literacy Foundation. The foundation provides libraries and child care centers in rural areas with good quality books".

GLWHeader3 And, of course, there are the grassroots efforts of the Guys Lit Wire Book Fair for Boys (as I reported on Friday). It cost me less than $30, including shipping, to donate four books to incarcerated boys. A small price to feel like I've made a difference. I'm grateful to the Guys Lit Wire team (especially project champion Colleen Mondor) for creating this opportunity.

New Resources

The Encyclopedia of Language and Literacy Development - This web-based resource is being developed by the Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network to help provide answers to questions about children’s language and literacy – answers that are based on relevant and up-to-date research presented in an easily accessible format. Thanks to Marnee at for the lead.

Terry and I will be off doing some summer reading of our own next weekend (Memorial Day in the US). We'll be back with the next children's literacy and reading news round-up on June 1st. Happy reading!

Friday Afternoon Visits: May 15

It's been another week of newsworthy events around the Kidlitosphere.

GLWHeader3 First up, Guys Lit Wire has an amazing initiative going on. They are running a Book Fair for Boys. Colleen Mondor first announced the event on Wednesday, saying: "We are moving today into the second phase of GLW, where we put our money where our mouth is and physically act on getting books into the hands of boys that otherwise have none. Today we start the first two week Guys Lit Wire Book Fair for Boys to help the teens incarcerated in the LA County Juvenile Justice System. They have no books - at all - and they need them; they need them desperately." Essentially, the Guys Lit Wire team, together with the InsideOut Writers Program, put together a list of 125 books of interest to teen boys, and asked people to help by purchasing one or more titles. Word spread fast, and I'm delighted to report that within 48 hours, more than 100 books had already been purchased. (See a lovely post about Colleen's joy here). Here are more details about the response to this event.

Of course the other ongoing event in the Kidlitosphere is the auction to benefit Bridget Zinn. Bridget is one of our own. She was recently diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. And although she is blessed with many things (a new husband, an agent for her YA novel, and many friends), she is not blessed with sufficient health insurance to weather this battle. So some of her friends from the Portland branch of the Kidlitosphere (especially Jone MacCulloch) decided to host an auction to help. It's a blog auction, and you can bid by commenting. There are tons of amazing, one-of-a-kind prizes, far too many to list here. But I did want to draw special attention to Vivian's post at HipWriterMama. Not only is Vivian donating a signed copy of the last Percy Jackson book, she is also having a contest for another copy, which you can enter by bidding in the auction. All I can say is, I feel privileged every day that I can be part of this community, I really do. The auction closes the morning of May 30th. You may be sure that I'll be bidding on more items between now and then.

48hbc Looking forward to future Kidlitosphere events, MotherReader has posted a prize update and minor rules change for the upcoming 48 Hour Book Challenge. Pam also announced her plan to donate a dollar for every hour that she spends reading to the Bridget Zinn fund. See also MotherReader's post about her participation in the 48 Hour Film Project, with a link to the resulting film, "Please Forward".

Also, if you're in the San Francisco area tomorrow (Saturday), do consider attending the launch party for Lynn Hazen's new book: The Amazing Trail of Seymour Snail. I had hoped to attend myself, but we have out of town guests arriving during the event, and I'm not going to be able to swing it.

I don't normally highlight individual Poetry Friday entries (Kelly Polark has this week's roundup), but I really liked this original poem by Gregory K. at Gotta Book: A Perfect Game - A Baseball Poem. Also, Cari and Holly published this week's Nonfiction Monday round-up at Book Scoops.

Updating on Saturday to add one more event: The Summer Blog Blast Tour starts Monday. You can find the whole schedule at Chasing Ray (and that post will be updated as direct links are available). The SBBT is a series of author interviews, carefully organized across a group of blogs to ensure diversity and avoid redundancy. The SBBT and corresponding Winter Blog Blast Tours are the brainchild of Colleen Mondor.

Moving on from events, Parker Peevyhouse has an interesting post at The Spectacle about the traits valued in girl vs. boy heroes in books. She says: "It seems to me that girl heroes tend to be valued for their smarts and their compassion, while boys are held up as daring (even reckless)–but it could just be that my presuppositions color my perspective. What do you think–are there general differences between boy and girl heroes?" Be sure to read the comments, too.

Solvang Sherrie has a thought-provoking post at Write About Now about the aspects of a book that make her fall "truly, madly, deeply" in love with the book. She says: "For me it comes down to characters. I want to care about the people I'm reading about. I want them to be like me, but better than me." There's some good discussion in the comments, too. I wrote about my thoughts on this issue in detail a while back in my 6 P's of Book Appreciation.

At Literacy, families, and learning, Trevor Cairney has a new post in his key themes in children's literature series: Problem Solving. He explains: "Many children love to solve problems. Children's authors are smart enough to work this out and tap into this interest as one of many ways to engage children with books. There are many forms of problem solving that authors have used. In this post I'll outline a few examples."

2009-CBW-Poster As part of Children's Book Week, the Children's Choice Book Awards were announced. Tasha Saecker has the winners at Kids Lit. In other Children's Book Week news, see Lori Calabrese's blog to find 10 activities for children's book week. In other award news, at Fuse #8, Betsy Bird announced the number one entry in her Top 100 Picture Books poll: Where the Wild Things Are. No surprise, really, but still good to see. Here's the complete top 100 list, all in one place, with links back to the more detailed posts.

And that's alll for today. Happy weekend, all! I'll be back Monday with the Children's Literacy Round-Up.

Reviews that Made Me Want the Book: May 12

Welcome to the latest edition of my recurring Reviews that Made Me Want to Read the Book feature, in which I highlight the posts from around the Kidlitosphere that inspire me to covet particular books. It's a relatively short list this time, but hopefully some of you will be inspired by these excellent reviews, too.

LiarJustine Larbalestier's upcoming book Liar has been on my radar for a while now. But Liz B. from Tea Cozy made me add it to my list with a recent teaser (a mini post about a book that won't be out for a while). She said: "this is a wonderful tale of suspense, with multiple mysteries, and a sense of foreboding and doom in the first half of the book that you can practically taste. It is not only being added to my Favorite Books Read in 2009 list; it's also going on my list of books I think are potential award winners." Given that Liz knows her award-worthy books (having been on the Printz committee and all), Liar is going on my must-read list, too.

The Brooklyn NineI'm not generally a fan of interconnected stories (I don't even like episodic television - I like one long story). However, Maureen from Confessions of a Bibliovore caught my attention with her recent review of The Brooklyn Nine by Alan Gratz. She said: "I loved this book and I don't even like baseball... But the love that Alan Gratz, and his characters, have for the game shines through and even hooked this sports-hater. Some characters play, some characters spectate, some are merely passionate fans. At least one or two of the stories don't even include a game, but baseball is in there somewhere." Since I am a baseball fan, I think I'll have to check this one out.

Five Children and ItOK, this one isn't a review exactly, but a piece of news on Laurel Snyder's website inspired me to want a new edition of E. Nesbit's Five Children and It. You see, our very own Laurel wrote an introduction for this new edition. She says: "It’s true! For some reason I will never fully comprehend, I have been granted a wish. I have been given the opportunity to “introduce” my favorite Nesbit book to the world... If you haven’t read it, or if you have  a child who hasn’t read it... I must implore you... READ THIS BOOK! Nesbit is the person who invented the entire genre of backyard magic.  Without her, there would be no Harry Potter, no Spiderwick Chronicles, no Percy Jackson." This edition won't actually available until January, but it's on the list.

One Second AfterYou all know that I can't resist dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction. So, naturally enough, my interest was caught by Ben's recent Guys Lit Wire review of One Second After by William Forstchen. He says: "One Second After begins with a massive EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) attack on the United States that wipes out electronics across the country. It centers on the small town of Black Mountain, North Carolina ... and how the lives of everyone in town are affected." And that's enough for me. Bonus points for the technology angle.

SweetnessDoret sought me out recently, to draw my attention to one of her reviews, a title published for adults that she thought that I would like. She was apparently correct, because I had already starred said review in my reader. Anyway, Doret reviewed The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. "The writing's sharp, fun and well thought out. Bradley takes the time to give the history of the de Luce’s and their family dynamic. I truly enjoyed this novel from beginning to end. Every time I had to put it down, I looked forward to when I could pick it up again. Even though Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie will be shelved in mystery, I will put a few on the YA table."

WitnessI also starred a recent review from Sarah Mulhern at The Reading Zone, and then had it show up on my doorstep a few days later. Seems a bit like destiny to me (though Random House's reviewer lists might have something to do with this coincidence). Anyway, Sarah reviewed Caroline B. Cooney's new novel, If the Witness Lied. She started with: "I have been a Caroline B. Cooney fan since I read The Face on the Milk Carton back in elementary school. Cooney’s books are almost always edge-of-your-seat thrillers that are impossible to put down.  When I saw that she had a new novel coming out on May 12th, I immediately put it on my wishlist.  Her books are always big hits in my classroom and I knew If the Witness Lied would be just as popular. If the Witness Lied is a thriller through and through!" Now, I don't think I was in elementary school when The Face on the Milk Carton came out, but I'm definitely a long-time fan. I think that the new book is going on my 48 hour book challenge list.

Doomsday BookSherry from Semicolon recently reviewed Connie Willis' Doomsday Book, and made me wonder how I ever missed it. She said: "Kivrin, a history student at Oxford in 2048, travels through “the net” back in time to the fourteenth century. In the meantime, a virulent influenza virus puts Oxford and its environs under quarantine, and Badre, the tech who set up the program to send Kivrin back in time, is too ill to tell anyone exactly what’s gone wrong with the plan to send Kivrin back to medieval England and retrieve her in two weeks. But something has gone horribly wrong, and Kivrin’s professor, Dr. Dunworthy, is the only one who’s trying to get her back." And yeah, that's a book that I should read.

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: Children's Book Week Edition

2009-CBW-Poster Welcome! As has been widely announced around the Kidlitosphere, this week is Children's Book Week. I'm going to join My Friend Amy in suggesting tha in honor of children's book week, everyone (adults included) take some time out to read a children's book. As Amy says: "it's not really about adult books or YA books, or children's books. A good story is a good story."

Tonight 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. There are currently 747 subscribers. 

Jpg_book007Newsletter Update: In this issue I have three book reviews, two posts with Kidlitosphere news, and two children's literacy round-ups (one here in full, the other linked from The Reading Tub). I also have the list of books that I read in April, and a short post about Rick Riordan's recent author event at Kepler's (linking to a longer post on Booklights over at PBS Parents). I also published a couple of announcements this week that are not included in the newsletter:

  • The first is about MotherReader's 48 Hour Book Challenge, which I'll be participating in the first weekend in June. The idea is to spend as much time as possible reading and blogging about books during a continuous 48-hour period (you can take breaks, of course, but you track your time between a start time and end time).
  • The second is about a well-deserved honor received this week by Readergirlz.

I posted last week at Booklights about some of my favorite children's books.

Reading Update: In the past two weeks, I read:

I'm currently reading City of Ashed by Cassandra Clare (second book in the Mortal Instruments series), and listening to Envy: A Luxe Novel by Anna Godbersen. I have some visitors and vacation coming up in the next couple of weeks. Posting on my blog may be a bit light during this time, but I'll definitely have posts up each Monday at Booklights. And I'll be back strong well in time for the 48 Hour Book Challenge. How about you? What have you been reading and enjoying? 

Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms!