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Posts from October 2010

KidLitCon 2010

Last weekend I attended the fourth annual conference of children's and young adult book bloggers: KidLitCon 2010 in Minneapolis. I'm very late in sharing my thoughts (tough to catch up after a weekend away, with a job and a baby, let me tell you).

Organizers Andrew Karre, Ben Barnhart, and Brian Farrey are collecting links to conference wrap-ups here and conference presentations here. Plus there's an excellent conference write-up by Liz Burns in School Library Journal, a roundup of the conference Twitter stream by Greg Pincus, and a categorized Twitter recap by Alice Pope. And there are lots of photos here. At this point, I feel like all of the important stuff has probably already been shared on other blogs.

Kidlit_con But here are a few thoughts. This was the fourth conference that I've attended (along with, I believe, Pam Coughlan and Maureen Kearney as the only other attendees of all four). I couldn't have missed this year's. I had a streak going. Seriously, though, KidLitCon is one of my favorite weekends of the year. As Melissa Fox noted in her recap (from which I borrowed the great logo to the left), the best part of KidLitCon is the unstructured time spent sitting around a hotel lobby bar with other kidlit bloggers, talking about anything and everything.

Don't get me wrong. The sessions were great. Organizers Andrew, Ben, and Brian did a wonderful job. Maggie Stiefvater's keynote was excellent: witty and entertaining, and relevant for all bloggers, authors and reviewers. My only real regret from the conference is that I didn't get to talk with Maggie - she had to leave early on Saturday, and I missed the Friday night event). The other sessions were full of food for thought and validation for bloggers (I live-tweeted my favorite thoughts throughout the conference, and didn't take any other notes).

I especially enjoyed the Blogging the Backlist panel that I was on (with Melissa Wiley, Charlotte Taylor, and Carol Rasco), because we had some wonderful audience participation as we all discussed the joys of reviewing older books, not for the glory or the ARCs, but for the love. And I had fun talking about blogging for a larger entity (PBS, in my case) with Liz Burns and Andrew Karre, and about Kidlitosphere Central and the Cybils with Liz, Pam Coughlan, and Sarah Stevenson. I found the publicity panel, with representatives from three of the publishers, particularly interesting.

There was also a very nice catered lunch, courtesy of HarperCollins. And the venue, Open Book in Minneapolis, was perfect. Roomy enough for all of us, but with a cozy, eclectic, bookish feel. So, KidLitCon 2010 absolutely held its own as a conference. But that's still not why I went, or what I thought was the best part. For me, KidLitCon is about having the chance to see people face to face that I only otherwise interact with online. As @TobySpeed and @ThePoemFarm put it on Twitter, there's a Velveteen Rabbit feel to the thing - virtual friends becoming real.

I'll never forget how validating the first KidLitCon was: being in this room, surrounded by other people who cared as much as I did about children's books, and encouraging kids to love reading. Most of the people in my real life, while respecting my passion for these things, don't feel the same way about them. To be surrounded by people who do ... it's an incredible gift!

And now, four years in, KidLitCon is even better. This year, I had the joy of meeting people like Carol Rasco, Mary Ann Scheuer, and Melissa Wiley, who I've emailed with many times, face-to-face for the first time. I discovered that Alice Pope is a kindred spirit. I found new blogs, like The Diamond in the Window (LOVE the name!) and Alison Can Read. I met bloggers I'd followed like Kurtis Scaletta, Caryl from Leaning Tower of Books, and Mia from Pragmatic Mom. I met authors like Janet Fox and Jacqueline Jaeger Houtman. And I got to spend time with friends like Pam, Liz, Sarah, Mary Lee, Susan Taylor Brown, Laura Lutz, Maureen, Charlotte, and Melissa F., who have been "real" to me now for 1 to 5 years. Plus, added bonus, Cybils co-founder, and the first blog person I ever met in real-life, Kelly Herold made a surprise drop-in appearance.  

I don't have detailed session notes, with insightful tips about blogging, or the blogger/publisher relationship (though I could have). I didn't bring home a single signed book (though they were available). But I spent two fabulous evenings sitting around the lounge, chatting with friends, and one great day talking with people at the conference. I feel very lucky!

Next year's KidLitCon will be held in Seattle. 2012 will be in New York. I very much hope not to miss either of them. I'll keep you posted just as soon as I have more details.

Children's Literacy News and Books for Treats

JkrROUNDUP I'm pleased to report that Carol Rasco from RIF will be officially joining Terry Doherty (from The Reading Tub) and me in our regular Children's Literacy and Reading News Roundups going forward. Carol took over for me during my recent maternity leave, and she brought such a valuable perspective that Terry and I simply couldn't let her off the hook, even after I came back. So, I'll be posting at the beginning, Terry in the middle, and Carol near the end of each month.

Carol shared a great roundup earlier this week, looking back on recent events, and looking forward at others. She included some notes on KidLitCon, the Future of Reading, and Sesame Street’s position as a hit of the internet for all ages.

Carol also pointed out something important that Terry's been doing this week, building up to Halloween with some scary statistics on illiteracy (starting here and finishing here). If you can spare some time from costumes and decorations, please do take a moment to check out these posts.

Speaking of Halloween, my friend Maria sent me a link to Books for Treats, a local (Willow Glen) program that promotes giving gently-read books to trick-or-treaters. Here's the scoop:

"Since Halloween 2001, we’ve given up to 6500 books each year to excited, costumed Willow Glen trick-or-treaters. Now-former Mayor Ron Gonzales, now-former Councilman Ken Yeager, Mayor Chuck Reed and Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio joined us in greeting the kids and happy parents. We are supported by the Diabetes Association."

I love that! Wishing you all books AND treats this Halloween weekend. Let's do what we can, house by house, child by child, to make Terry's scary statistics on illiteracy a little less scary next year.

(And for those wondering, Baby Bookworm is going to be a bunny this year - that's one of her many nicknames. Perhaps next year we can come up with a literary character for her.)

Off to KidLitCon

This morning I am off to the fourth annual conference of Kidlitosphere bloggers, Kidlitcon 2010. I'll be participating in three panels:

  • The Best of the Backlist, with Melissa Wiley, Charlotte Taylor and Carol Rasco
  • ProBlogging for Media Organizations, with Liz Burns and others, moderated by Andrew Karre
  • The Kidlitosphere and the Cybils, with Liz Burns, Pam Coughlan, and Sarah Stevenson

Although I'm looking forward to that, and to seeing the other presentations, I'm also looking forward to seeing friends, meeting new people, and (says the new mom of six month old who is staying home with her dad) sleeping through the night. Hope to see you all there!



Children's Literacy Round-Up: Mid-October Edition

Jpg_book008 The mid-October children’s literacy and reading news round-up, brought to you by Jen Robinson’s Book Page and Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, a Reading Tub blog, is now available at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, a Reading Tub blog. Terry Doherty has collected plenty of content for you about literacy & reading-related events; literacy and reading programs and research; and unwrapping literacy. Carol Rasco from RIF will be joining us later this month, with some reflections for October and a look forward to November events.

Here's what I think is the coolest thing from Terry's round-up this week:

"QR Codes (aka quick response codes). I’m sure you’ve seen some promotion where you can use your camera-enabled phone to read the code and it will show you great information. Well, the Contra Costa County (California) library has a grant to put QR Codes on popular books. Hold up your phone, and voila! you get a list of read-alikes for that title. “QR Codes on books could also take patrons to online book review pages or a list of other books cataloged under the same subject headings.”"

Now that's innovative thinking! I love it! I also like the series on motivating struggling/reluctant readers that Terry found at the On the Lap blog (as in "readers are made on the lap of a parent"). Good stuff!

I've run across a few other links on Twitter, but my own lap reader just woke up, so I'll have to save those for another day. But do head on over to The Reading Tub for the rest of the literacy and reading news from Terry. Happy reading!

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: October 11

Jpg_book007Today I will be sending out the new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on children's books and raising readers. There are 1293 subscribers. Currently I am sending the newsletter out every 2-3 weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have three book reviews (one board book, one middle grade, one young adult), along with my first children's literacy round-up in several months. I also have an interview that Reach Out and Read did with Scholastic CEO Dick Robinson, and a brief post highlighting three Kidlitosphere events (the Cybils, the Carnival of Children's Literature, and KidLlitCon). It's not to late to nominate books for the Cybils, read the carnival posts, and/pr register for the conference of children's literature bloggers.

On the blog but not in the newsletter I shared a brief Baby Bookworm reading update and a post about the 2010 Cybils panels.

Reading Update: Since the last newsletter, I finished:

615zdrgux0L._SL500_AA300_ I'm currently listening to The Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (or I was until my MP3 player stopped working) and reading Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst (due out tomorrow). I'm still reading The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh to Baby Bookworm, and I've also started reading her one of my all-time favorites, The Velvet Room by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Of course we're reading various picture books and board books, too. I especially enjoyed Maneki Neko: The Tale of the Beckoning Cat, by Susan Lendroth (ill. Kathryn Otoshi), a retelling of a Japanese legend about a beckoning cat that became a symbol of good fortune in many Asian countries.

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

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

Touch Blue: Cynthia Lord

Book: Touch Blue
Author: Cynthia Lord
Pages: 192
Age Range: 9-12

Touch-blue-cover-dropshadow Background: I've been a fan of Cynthia Lord's books since I fell in love with Rules back in 2006 (before it received a Newbery Honor, thank you very much). Cynthia is a fellow Red Sox fan and a judge on the Cybils Easy Reader and Early Chapter Books committee. We've never met, but I read her blog, and consider her a kindred spirit. However, I'm certain that I would have loved Touch Blue without any of that. I wanted to nominate it for this year's Cybils Awards, but Abby beat me to it.

Review: Touch Blue is set on the small, island community of Bethsaida, Maine. The population of the island has become so small that the state wants to shut down the one-room schoolhouse, meaning that 11-year-old Tess Brooks and her family would have to move to the mainland. As a desperate measure, Tess's family and several other island families have decided to take in foster kids, kids old enough to boost the school's population. Touch Blue is about the adjustment period that takes place after 13-year-old Aaron arrives.

I often read books in which I like the characters, and/or find the characters realistic and three-dimensional. But with Tess, it was more like I felt like I was her, rather than that I merely identified with her. It's not that my childhood self had all that much in common with Tess, besides a love of books, and the presence of an occasionally pesky younger sister. I never lived on an island. I never had the slightest desire to catch lobster. I was never particularly superstitious. And yet... reading this book, I became Tess. Her every action felt real to me, from scraping paint off a boat to playing Monopoly with her little sister.

Here are a couple of examples:

"The wind quivers a brown strand of hair over my nose. My bangs are in that awful growing-out stage: too short to stay tucked behind my ears and too long to stay out of my eyes." (Page 2, ARC)

"Walking across the store porch, I love the hollow thud of my footsteps on the wood -- it sounds like I'm walking on a wharf." (Page 31, ARC)

Bethsaida and the surrounding ocean are practically characters in Touch Blue, too. There's no question that Cynthia Lord knows and loves Maine. Growing up on a small island, where you know everyone, and can swim in the ocean - it's a kid's dream. Bethsaida reminded me a bit of Avonlea, actually, with its one-room schoolhouse, community-wide events, and resident neighborhood busybody. This is probably not a coincidence, given Tess's strong identification with Anne Shirley (among other literary characters).

Cynthia Lord has a real flair for creating apt descriptions with few words. Like:

"On the metal gangplank, the passengers' footsteps boom like a thunderstorm. A wet breeze off the water raises goose bumps on m y skin, and I rub my arms to warm them. The air smells, a mix of salt water, bait, pine trees, wet wood, and diesel fuel." (Page 12, ARC - don't you just feel like you're there on the dock? I swear I can smell it.)

"It's like the house is barely awake, with only one eye open." (Page 50, ARC)

"Mom, Aaron, and I make our way around a traffic jam of old ladies." (Page 103, ARC)

OK, I'll stop. You get the idea. Touch Blue is one of those rare books that I read slowly, because I didn't want it to end. I found it completely satisfying. It's a perfect book for middle grade readers and up. Although the main character is a girl, I think that Touch Blue is quite boy-friendly, too. Touch Blue has my highest recommendation.

Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: August 1, 2010
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

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

Epitaph Road: David Patneaude

Book: Epitaph Road
Author: David Patneaude
Pages: 272
Age Range: 12 and up

Epitaph As readers may recall, I am a sucker for post-apocalyptic dystopian novels for young adults. So I was, naturally enough, unable to resist reading David Patneaude's latest novel, Epitaph Road. Epitaph Road takes place in and around Seattle in 2097, 30 years after a virus called Elisha's Bear killed 97% of the male population of the world. In the aftermath of the epidemic, women took charge. Without men, wars came to a halt, crime tapered off, and prisons emptied. The women in power promptly instituted procedures to ensure that the percentage of men remained at bout 3%, so that civilization would remain more civil. Men are treated as second-class citizens, their actions highly regulated.

The narrator, fourteen-year-old Kellen, is one of the few boys his age in town. He lives in a boardinghouse owned by his mother, a prominent figure on the Population Apportionment Council (PAC). Kellen longs to spend more time with his father, who lives alone near a remote settlement of men. When Kellen learns that a new outbreak of Elisha's Bear might be headed his father's way, he sets out with two friends on a dangerous journey to warn his father.

Here are a couple of quotes, to give you more of a feel for the setup of the book:

"Could anyone in his right mind have made a case for going back to a world of poverty and hunger and crime and disease and greed and dishonesty and prejudice and war and genocide and religious bigotry and runaway population growth and abuse of the environment and immigration strife and you-get-the-leftovers educational policies and a hundred other horrors?
Not me. But a little less regimentation would have been good."(Page 26)

"It was a big structure, converted from an old police station and jail. Since Elisha's arrival, governments had been able to shut down most station houses and lockups, converting them to libraries, schools, residences, office buildings, and storage." (Page 62) 

I found the premise of this book intriguing. I mean, there's no denying that men dominate the prison system. It's plausible that a female-led world would exhibit less violence, isn't it? Reading this book, I enjoyed thinking about things like: How would it work, keeping men to 3% of the population? What about relationships?  Wouldn't people fight over the men who where there? How would you justify the restrictions once things stabilized? etc.

I would have liked to see some of these issues addressed more directly in Epitaph Road. But in truth, this premise is something of a backdrop to Epitaph Road. The book reads like a boy's adventure in the woods rather than a weighty dystopia. And that's ok. It's a fun ride. Despite the grimness of the idea of 3 billion men dying (and short epitaphs included at the start of each chapter to highlight this), Epitaph Road doesn't feel grim. We get passages like these:

"Tia sat down on a low canvas chair. I could barely see her face, but I noticed a glistening layer of perspiration on her forehead, a remnant of her long bike ride. My fingers itched to test the warmth of her skin. But all I managed to do was pull over another chair and sit next to her." (Page 88)

"We hid our bikes and backpacks and proceeded on foot. I led the way into the underbrush, taking a shortcut to what I hoped was a safe vantage point. My eyes were used to the dark by now, but it was still hard to see and tough to keep from stepping on dry twigs, tripping over downed branches and stubborn shrubs, and making noise." (Page 117)

Epitaph Road has more in common with an old-fashioned adventure story than with a dark dystopia like The Knife of Never Letting Go (a book by Patrick Ness set in a town with no women). It would be a good introduction to the genre for middle schoolers. I enjoyed it.  

Publisher: Egmont
Publication Date: March 23, 2010
Source of Book: Review copy from the author

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

Reach Out and Read Interview with Scholastic CEO Dick Robinson Matt Ferraguto, Director of Communications for Reach Out and Read, asked me if I'd like to share this interview between Reach Out and Read and Scholastic CEO Dick Robinson [no relation ;-)]. Since the discussion is right along the lines of what I like to talk about on the blog anyway, I said yes. Here it is:

"This fall, Scholastic Inc., the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books, is celebrating its 90thAnniversary with the launch a global literacy campaign called “Read Every Day. Lead a Better Life.” Based on Scholastic’s Reading Bill of Rights, the campaign is raising awareness about the importance of strong reading skills in the digital age.

For more than a decade, Scholastic and the nationwide school readiness initiative Reach Out and Read have been partners in their shared mission to promote early literacy.  In fact, Scholastic Book Clubs has donated millions of books to the children and families Reach Out and Read serves, through the ClassroomsCare initiative.

_MG_9171 Recently, Reach Out and Read interviewed Dick Robinson (pictured to right), Chairman, President, and CEO of Scholastic Inc., about the literacy campaign and Scholastic’s 90th Anniversary.

Reach Out and Read: What do you hope that the “Read Every Day. Lead a Better Life.” global literacy campaign will accomplish?

Dick Robinson:  Today we live in a world full of digital information. Yet reading has never been more important, for we know that for young people the ability to read is the door opener to the 21st Century:  to hold a job, to understand their world, and to discover themselves.  That is why we are asking everyone… parents, teachers, school and business leaders and the general public… to join our Global Literacy Call to Action and support every child’s right to read for a better life and success in the 21st century.  In addition to raising awareness about the importance of reading in the digital age, we are providing simple action steps anyone can take to encourage a child in their life to read every day.  These steps and more information are available at .

Reach Out and Read: How did you become so interested in the issue of childhood literacy?

Dick Robinson:  It has always been part of my life. My father, Maurice Robinson, founded Scholastic 90 years ago with the publication of a classroom magazine for students to help explain the contemporary world to them while encouraging reading and critical thinking. That inspiration still drives our company today, for we know that literacy, the ability to read, write and understand, is the key to a successful and complete life.

Reach Out and Read: What can families do to embrace the spirit of Scholastic’s Reading Bill of Rights?

Dick Robinson:  We know from studies and from our own experience working with teachers and families, that one of the most important factors determining whether a child becomes a good reader and a successful student, is having books in the home. Additionally, parents are a child’s first teacher and reading role model. If children see others in the family reading, they will think it is important. Every parent can speak or read a story to a child and every parent can encourage a child to read every day. You’ll find these actions steps and other resources on our literacy campaign web site at

Reach Out and Read: Over the years, nearly 30 million children have participated in the Scholastic Book Clubs ClassroomsCare program, resulting in more than 10 million books being donated to Reach Out and Read and other literacy organizations.  What is it that makes the program so successful, in your mind?

Dick Robinson:  The simple message of ClassroomsCare is a lesson in reading and giving.  By reading 100 books, a classroom of students helps provide books to kids who aren’t lucky enough to own any themselves.  It’s incredible to me that more than 10 million books have been donated to children through groups like Read Out and Read because of ClassroomsCare. Millions of children have books of their own now because of the dedication of teachers and the participation of kids across America.  Teachers tell us how much every child loves to help others by donating books.

Reach Out and Read: What’s been the most significant change to the publishing industry that you’ve seen as President and CEO of Scholastic?  How has that changed the way you do business?

Dick Robinson:  For young people who are bombarded by digital information through mobile devices and computer screens 24/7, it is even more important for them to know how to analyze, interpret and understand that information. This journey of learning begins with reading, whether in print or digitally, and our mission has been, and always will be, to help them learn how to read so they can understand their world. 

Reach Out and Read: What impact do you think the Kindle and other e-readers will have on children’s books and the way families read together in the future?

Dick Robinson:  The needs of children on electronic devices are quite different from the functionality that the current dedicated e-readers provide.  Kids want color; they want a real voice, not a simulated voice; they want some animation and reading supports.  Scholastic is preparing to launch our e-reader software application this school year to meet the unique needs of kids.  Children who may be more inclined to technology than to printed books may find that the printed word takes on new interest on the right device loaded with the right e-reading software.  At the same time, we think the experience of a parent reading aloud with a child should be part of every day – whether on printed pages or on a technology platform.

Reach Out and Read:  As part of your literacy campaign,  Scholastic is launching a website, You Are What You Read, where everyone, young and old alike, can share the books that helped shape who they are. Tell us about that.

Dick Robinson:  While the Reading Bill of Rights, our eight beliefs that affirm every child’s right to read, is at the core of our literacy campaign, the new web site launching October 22nd, ( will unite a global community of readers around the great books of our lives. You will be able to share the books that influenced who you are today – whether you are 6 or 66 – and you’ll be able to see who else shares your books throughout the world.  We call this your “Bookprint” and it is built on an idea from Dr. Alfred Tatum about building a “textual lineage” – a reading and writing autobiography that shows that who you are is in part developed by the stories and information you’ve experienced.  At launch we will have the Bookprints of more than 120 widely recognized people from the arts, entertainment, business, science, sports, and media on the site as well. For example, you’ll be able to see if your Bookprint includes any of the choices of a world famous astrophysicist, a top recording star or a former President of the United States.

Reach Out and Read:  What’s the best piece of advice about reading aloud that you can give to new parents?

Dick Robinson:  Read Every Day. Start when your children are young, by reading to and with them.  It builds a love of reading in the best possible way…great stories and a special time with mom or dad.  Even if you do not think of yourself as a reader, you can help your child by reading or telling them a story based on a book.

Reach Out and Read: Why did you become such a strong supporter of Reach Out and Read?

LeGrow_100812_16cmykDick Robinson:  Reach Out and Read shares a mission with Scholastic of ensuring that books and reading are a part of every child’s life, and that children will be better prepared to succeed if they are surrounded by books starting at a very young age. Reach Out and Read reaches the children that need our books the most, and for more than a decade Reach Out and Read has proved to be an incredible way for parents to get books for their children.  We look forward to continuing to support Reach Out and Read as together we uphold the right of every child to read and realize a complete life. (Image from Reach Out and Read, photo of a pediatrician modeling effective reading techniques for a father and son).  

Reach Out and Read: What is your favorite children’s book?

Dick Robinson:  The first book I read with my mother was The Little Engine that Could.

For more information about Reach Out and Read, visit:

Happy Half-Birthday, Baby Bookworm

Our Baby Bookworm is six months old today. Because she was born early, her corrected age is about 3 1/2 months, but she's catching up fast. She weighs 13 1/2 pounds. Her favorite thing in the world is her thumb (she discovered thumb-sucking about 2 weeks ago). She also loves a little stuffed monkey that Nana sent her, and a little white security blanket. She is for the most part sleeping through the night, which is a big help.

Pooh And she is aptly named. She does seem to enjoy books already. I sometimes read to her from The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh while she's playing on her activity mat. She'll calm right down and curl up on one side, thumb in mouth, while I read. As soon as I stop (unless she's fallen asleep) she's back to kicking and looking around. We finished reading the first Harry Potter book a few days ago. I'm still thinking about our next chapter book.

Whatdoyousee Baby Bookworm also likes to look at picture books and board books while she's lying on her stomach - I hold them up in front of her and turn the pages. Her two current favorites are Who Do You See?, a taggies book (a gift from Sarah/aquafortis) and The Goodnight Train by June Sobel (a gift from Alexis and family). The Goodnight Train is the first book with complex illustrations that has really caught her eye. She looks all over each page, taking it all in. Who knows what she's thinking... What Do You See? is much simpler, but she never tires of it. It's one of the few things that she'll grab on to (it helps that it's nice and soft for chewing, I'm sure).

Happy Half-Birthday, Baby Bookworm. Our lives changed forever with your arrival, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

Children's Literacy Roundup: Early October Edition

Jpg_book008 The early October children’s literacy and reading news round-up, brought to you by Jen Robinson’s Book Page and Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, a Reading Tub blog, is now available at Jen Robinson's Book Page. Over the past couple of weeks Terry Doherty and I have collected plenty of content for you about literacy & reading-related events; literacy and reading programs and research; and suggestions for growing bookworms.

This is my first round-up since the premature birth of my daughter, Baby Bookworm, nearly six months ago. She's doing well, amusing herself for stretches of time now, and I'm delighted to be back to working on the roundups. I'm very grateful to Terry for keeping the roundups going in my absence, with much-appreciated help from Carol Rasco from RIF and Susan Stephenson from The Book Chook.

This is a bit of a long round-up, because, being newly back, I find it hard to resist interesting articles. I hope you all find some food for thought.


Speakcvr-214x300 Just in time for Banned Books Week, a storm raged over the blogosphere and Twitterverse, sparked by a book banning attempt that likened Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak (a young adult novel about the aftermath of sexual assault) to pornography. Many, many supporters chose to #speakloudly on Twitter and on blogs in defense of Speak, including brave souls like Cheryl Rainfield and CJ Redwine who shared their own personal experiences and voiced their strong feelings about the importance of a book like Speak being available to young adults. (My review of Speak is here). There are also hundreds of comments on Laurie's initial blog post. You can find a list of blog posts in support of #SpeakLoudly at Reclusive Bibliophile.

ALA_BBW_Poster_2010_sm While there have been many other events and posts centering on Banned Books Week, far too many to list here, I did want to bring to your attention an article in Time Magazine online by Phil Bildner about book banning, sparked by a censorship dispute in Texas. Controversy erupted when YA author Ellen Hopkins was dis-invited from a literary festival because of complaints about her books. In a show of solidarity, a number of other authors withdrew from the festival, which was then canceled. I was familiar with the incident, but MotherReader brought this particular article to my attention, and pointed out that the Kidlitosphere's own Camille Powell, librarian and kidlit blogger at BookMoot, is quoted. Way to go, Camille!

Banned Books Week ended October 2nd. But it's never too late to speak up for open access to great literature, and the brave authors who write it. You can find a great round-up of Banned Books Week posts from around the Kidlitosphere at Finding Wonderland.

In other news, the Tribune-Star has a nice feature story by Sue Loughlin about a literacy initiative called Real Men Read. "Fifty-nine “MENtors” have volunteered for the United Way of the Wabash Valley program, aimed at encouraging and improving children’s literacy skills. Each MENtor will read to the same group of kindergartners once a month for five months, starting in October". The idea is to show kids that men can take an active role in reading and education. (via @RIFWEB)

FledglingwineTechCrunch reports that Twitter's new wine, produced and sold in support of Room to Read, is now available for purchase. A chardonnay and a pinot noir are available. The article adds: "Specifically, these bottles being sold will help promote literacy in Uttarakhand, India." TechCrunch is incidentally being acquired by AOL.

Programs & Research

This article was originally published in the NY Times in early September, but my local paper carried it on September 18th. Benedict Carey writes "Forget what you've learned about good study habits".  Summarizing some recent research findings, Carey says: "For instance, instead of sticking to one study location, simply alternating the room where a person studies improves retention. So does studying distinct but related skills or concepts in one sitting, rather than focusing intensely on a single thing." And "An hour of study tonight, an hour on the weekend, another session a week from now: such so-called spacing improves later recall, without requiring students to put in more overall study effort or pay more attention, dozens of studies have found." Fascinating stuff!

More recently, the Times ran an article by Julie Bosman about the results of a Scholastic study on "the attitudes and behaviors of parents and children toward reading books for fun in a digital age". Here's the lead:  "Many children want to read books on digital devices and would read for fun more frequently if they could obtain e-books. But even if they had that access, two-thirds of them would not want to give up their traditional print books."  I liked this part: "Children ages 9 to 11 are more likely to be frequent readers if their parents provide interesting books to read at home and set limits on time spent using technology like video games, the report said." (via various people on Twitter, including @MStewartScience and @MitaliPerkins) See also the PW Children's Bookshelf article about the report.

In other digital media news, School Library Journal's Extra Helping Newsletter reported on "a new study by market research firm Harris Interactive, which questioned 2,775 adults and found that one in ten Americans use some sort of ereader" and that those who have ereaders read more and buy more books. Encouraging!

Donna St. George of the Washington Post recently shared the results of a study that "linked hours at the computer with achievement test scores and behavior and found little sign of harm for children ages 6 to 12 as they increased their screen time over a six-year period." (via @RIFWEB)

The Toronto Star, in an article by John Goddard, shared the story of a "desperate mother" who opened a literacy center after the school couldn't help her own son learn to read.  Susan Co is "a former information technology consultant who out of compassion and desperation opened a literacy school for autistic children and young adults."

In Nevada, Public News Service reports: "State numbers point to a learning achievement gap, at least partly because only 40 percent of Nevada children are enrolled in a nursery, preschool or kindergarten, according to Nevada's Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems Strategic Plan. However, a "Virtual Pre-K" program is now available at many local libraries. " The program is designed to enable parents to help their kids with math and reading before starting kindergarten. (via NCTE Inbox)

On a lighter note, the Rye, NY Patch shares a fun feature story by Peter Gerstenzang about the Rye Free Reading Room's Paws-A-While-to-Read program, in which kids read aloud to two trained therapy dogs. ""We have the program to encourage literacy and to ease the fears of reluctant readers," said Donna Harvey, the library's Children's Room manager. "Being in a calm social setting with other kids and Charley and Nettie relaxes anyone who has social anxieties about reading.""

Suggestions for Growing Bookworms

You can imagine that my attention was caught when I saw a tweet from @ReachOutAndRead about a article titled: Raise a Baby Bookworm. Why yes, that's exactly what I'm working on every day. The article, by Carolina A. Miranda, outlines nine ways that parents can start forming good reading habits early. There's plenty of great stuff like: ""There are two major predictors of later reading," explains Maryanne Wolf, Ed.D., a cognitive neuroscientist at Tufts University and author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. "How much a child is spoken to and how often the child is read to.""

The Baby Bookworm article suggests that it doesn't matter what you read during the first six months, "since the infant brain at this point is recording the cadence of language, not individual words." Which is good, since I've been known to read the newspaper aloud to BB, if that's what's handy. And I caught her father reading a manual to her yesterday. I also liked this bit: ""Many parents teach their kids to read so they can go to Harvard," (Tim) Shanahan says. "I've always seen it as an expression of love--a gift I've passed on to my children.""

9780064401883 At Literacy Toolbox, Dawn Little (@linkstoliteracy) shares a new suggestion for creating bookworms: connect to your own childhood. She says "I loved books as a kid (still do, of course!) and I’m so excited to pass on to my children all the books I  loved from my childhood!  These are the books that are timeless.  They are as relevant today as they were when I was a child and even when my mother was a child." Speaking as someone who read The Secret Garden to my baby in the NICU, I can relate.

Terry_readingtubfinal_1 Over at The Reading Tub, Terry has re-launched and re-vamped The Wash Rag, an occasional email publication about books and reading. She explains: "Each edition will be tailored to your audience of interest: 0 to 4, 5 to 9, and 10 & up. Since we’re drawing from the blog, our current reading list on Goodreads, and Twitter, some content may overlap. The heart of each edition, though, will be a short list of books our reviewers are raving about and interviews with authors who write for that audience." Subscribe here.

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an opinion piece by Thomas Spence on How to Raise Boys Who Read (via @ImaginationSoup). Spence disagrees strongly with the current tendency to "meet boys where they are", by providing them with gross-out, slapstick sorts of books. He says: "One obvious problem with the SweetFarts philosophy of education is that it is more suited to producing a generation of barbarians and morons than to raising the sort of men who make good husbands, fathers and professionals. If you keep meeting a boy where he is, he doesn't go very far." His conclusion is that it's not a matter of what reading material is provided for boys, but more a matter of limiting their time spent on video games and other electronic media, so that they have time to read.

Based on her experience with her seven-year-old son, Amy Reiter at Strollerderby disagrees with Spence's  conclusions, saying: "if he’s super-excited to read Sports Illustrated for Kids every month, whatever. Who am I to discount his taste? I don’t think it will ruin him for life. (Do you?) I also think the video-game argument smacks of “blame the parents.” We don’t have video games in our house (no one’s asked; no one’s offered), but I’m not prepared to allege that all evil stems from them." Like Reiter, I personally tend towards to "let them read whatever they want - it's better if they're excited to read anything" school. What do you all think?

Wrapping Up ...

Terry may have some last-minute literacy and reading links at The Reading Tub (as expected - see here). Tomorrow's Nonfiction Monday roundup is scheduled to be at Madigan Reads.

Thanks for your interest in children's literacy! It's great to be back following and sharing news in this area.

Cybils, Carnival of Children's Literature, and Kidlitcon

I have three can't miss pieces of Kidlitosphere news to share today:

Cybils2010small 1. Nominations opened for the 2010 Cybils Awards this morning. Anyone can nominate titles (published from October 16, 2009 to October 15, 2010), one title per person per category. Here is the direct link to the nomination form. From the Cybils blog you can find up-to-the minute lists of nominated titles in each category (for example, Young Adult Fiction is here). Hundreds of titles have already been nominated. You have until October 15th to make sure that your favorites have been included. If you read a children's or young adult book this year that you think was well-written and chock-full of kid-appeal, nominate it for the Cybils!

2. The September Carnival of Children's Literature is now available at Great Kid Books. Host Mary Ann Scheuer has assembled a host of links from all around the Kidlitosphere, from news tidbits to book reviews to posts about writing. Mary Ann even took time to include cover images for the reviewed titles - a very nice touch! For fans of children's literature, this Carnival is not to be missed.

3. The schedule has been announced for Kidlitcon 2010, the fourth annual conference for children's and young adult book bloggers. Author Maggie Stiefvater is the keynote speaker. I have read and loved all of her books published to date, and am looking forward to meeting her. I'll be participating in a few of the sessions (more details closer to the conference). But do check out the whole schedule. Kidlitcon has something for everyone involved in children's book writing and blogging. And it's not too late to register! As hosts Andrew Karre, Ben Barnhart and Brian Farrey note: "This conference belongs to bloggers and will only be as strong as those who make it happen." I hope to see you all there!

Great times in children's and young adult literature land. Wishing you all a book-filled weekend.