October 6, 2013: Fall colors on Pinecone Ridge near Park City, Utah

Can’t Help Falling…

£££-Blown-Up-House

The state of my house since school started

Beloved reader, it has been six weeks since I last posted. Six weeks! According to the Internet, that’s how long it took Charles Dickens to write A Christmas Carol. (If it’s on the Internet, you know it’s gotta be true.) I hear you asking me, “What’s the deal? Why has it taken so long to write a new post???” Well, I’ll give it to you straight. School started, and life blew up. Kaboom! (From the looks of my house right now, this might literally be true.)

So much has happened since early August. There are countless tales of triumph and woe I could tell. The most exciting thing to happen, however, is that Fall Foliage Watch 2014 has begun chez UVU Forum on Engaged Reading. That’s right–here at FTLOR Central we’re anxiously scanning the majestic mountains of Utah Valley for blips and pops of scarlet and ochre. Fall could happen any day!

goodbye august, hello september

I adore fall. It’s always been my favorite season. (Confession: This might have something to do with the fact that my birthday comes around this time of year.) I know springtime is a favorite for many, but for my money you can’t beat the crisp air, vibrant color, and dappled golden sunlight of late September and October.

For the full fall experience, one of the most beautiful places in all the world in mid October is Park City, Utah. I’m not a skier so I can’t comment on its beauty (or lack thereof) during the winter months, but the beauty of October in Park City and the surrounding area takes my breath away! The scrub oak turns shades of crimson, and the aspens shimmer with burnished gold.

October 6, 2013: Fall colors on Pinecone Ridge near Park City, Utah

October 6, 2013: Fall colors on Pinecone Ridge near Park City, Utah

alternative-health-care-choices-for-chronic-painAs luck would have it, there’s something wonderful happening in Park City toward the end of next month. That’s right, it’s the Fourth Annual Forum on Engaged Reading on October 23-24 at The Chateaux Resort in Deer Valley! On account of my connections with some Extremely Important People, I managed to get a sneak peek at the program, and as I read over it I began sweating bullets. Why? Well, based on what I read, each session is jam-packed with charismatic presenters and irresistible ideas. How will I possibly choose one presentation when I need to be at all of them?

hermione-granger-galleryUnless I stumble upon a Time-Turner over the next month and manage to split myself several ways a la Hermione Granger, I think the obvious strategy here is to divide and conquer. So who’s going? Let’s divvy up the schedule and draw straws. I’ve got dibs on Gene Nelson’s Books 4 Boys presentation!

All In The Family

What could go wrong?

Yesterday my brother and his wife welcomed their sixth child and my parents’ 20th grandchild into the world. I’m the mother of four of those 20 grandchildren, which makes me an aunt to 16 smallish people. I love being an aunt! Compared to parenthood, it’s a trip to Disneyland. As the oldest of five children, I feel it’s my sacred duty to recount to my nieces and nephews all the hairy details of their parents’ early years. I might embellish a bit from time to time, but it’s mostly all true.

I’m still learning how to be a teacher, but I’ve been a parent for almost 18 years now (how time does fly when you’re having fun!). In thinking about families and teaching, Super Genius 1it occurs to me that families are a child’s first teachers and home her first school. The instructional methods vary widely; there’s no prior-year CRT or curriculum map for a kindergarten teacher to review. Nevertheless, children learn a great deal from their families, and a smart teacher is mindful of the many ways students’ family backgrounds affect an individual student’s educational outcomes and, in a broader sense, the classroom dynamic.

Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson

The summer is fast winding down to a close, and that means it’s time for family reunions. In fact, I’m scheduled to attend one next week. I’m looking forward to watermelon, green grass, delicious salads, sticky children, and clusters of chatty grownups.

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Thinking about the reunion reminded me of one of my favorite children’s books! I read this book for the first time about five years ago, when it came in a group of Newbery-award-winning books I had purchased through school book orders. It’s called The Relatives Came, and it was written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Stephen Gammell. 

I don’t think it’s the kind of book I would ever have picked up on my own, but the first time I read it to my children, I knew it meant something special to me. The story, told from the perspective of a first-person omniscient narrator, begins by detailing the narrator’s relatives’ long trip from Virginia to visit. The joy experienced by each member of this extended family as they see and greet and love each other again is plainly evident through the pictures and the words.

I can envision this book used as the anchor text for a first-week-of-school lesson plan for language arts. First, ask students if they have ever attended a family reunion, especially during the previous summer. Invite several students to share their experiences. Next, play this YouTube video for your students–it’s a read-aloud of The Relatives Came. Ask the students how the relatives felt about each other and what words the author used to communicate those feelings.

edoutreach_1Next, have the class participate in a graffiti shared-writing experience; you might have different writing spots where students share what family reunions look like, smell like, and feel like. Then assign the students to write about a family reunion they have attended using as many descriptive details and words as they can. Ask them to include a “family picture” that would have been taken at the reunion.

Once the students have completed the assignment, don’t forget to allow a few students to share their stories and artwork with the class, and while they do, emphasize that everyone’s family is different and special because of its unique ways. This lesson is especially effective at the beginning of the school year because some students experience new-school-year jitters, and thinking about their families can bring feelings of comfort and security. Moreover, our students’ families play a dramatic role in shaping their identities, and when we honor their families, we demonstrate that our classrooms are safe places for our students to learn and grow.

More books for celebrating extended families:

Aunt Claire’s Beehive Hair by Beborah Blumenthal, AuntCLAIREillustrated by Mary GrandPré (2007, Pelican);

What a Family! WhataFAMby Rachel Isadora (2006, Putnam)

Me and My Family Tree me & famTREEby Joan Sweeney, illustrated by Annette Cable (2000, Dragonfly Books)

In My Family/En mi familia by Carmen Loma Garza, In-My-Family-En-Mi-Familia-9780892391639illustrated by Annette Cable (2000, Children’s Book Press)

 

Posted by Karen Rapier, an elementary education major at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT

Tiny Gardens, Young Minds

I think I went to school with that guy...

I think I went to school with that guy…

Earlier this week I tweeted and posted a thing or two on Facebook about fairies–books that describe them, gardens that welcome them, and adventures in finding them. Since then I’ve been thinking a lot about how to incorporate a study of fairies into the classroom. Hold on a second! I know what you’re thinking: “C’mon, are you serious? If I started teaching about fairies, I’d have a flood of parent complaints. If I’m going to do that I may as well enroll a chimpanzee as a student in my class and call it an ‘educational experience’!”

Bear with me for a minute. Without question, the first order of business would be to send home a well timed and carefully worded note that clearly explains the unit you have planned and details the pedagogical value of the unit on fairies. You’d be sure to make clear that you can neither confirm nor deny the existence of fairies to your students, which is best handled by your students’ families. Now you’re asking what I might possibly find in a study of fairies that could have pedagogical value, and that’s a valid question. The following is my answer, which I hope you will find not only legitimate but persuasive as well.  

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The Utah Core Standards for social studies in kindergarten, first, and second grades state that students will be able to use geographic tools and skills, including maps and globes, and 1364782980_1understand map legends and directions. Now, because of that wonderful semester I spent in Educational Psychology (I’m serious! It was hard, but it was also really fun) learning about Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, I know that some students’ learning styles are better suited to visual/spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, and naturalist approaches.

I think you know where I’m going with this one. That’s right, a fairy garden is little more than a diorama of a physical (either real or imagined) space, combined with soil, plants, and other living and nonliving natural features. Because it is a 3D representation, it benefits visual and kinesthetic learners. Its use of plants, rocks, and natural objects facilitates learning for those who lean in the naturalist direction. A fairy garden can include houses, streets, signposts with directions, water features, even tiny human people. Depending on how the garden/city is laid out, students can gain a clearer sense of Core Standards concepts such as “grid,” “landmark,” and “compass.” Moreover, because it’s a fairy garden, the unit satisfies a science Core Standard with regard to examining living and nonliving things (such a multi-tasker!).

moreI think I’ve made a fairly strong case for this idea, but I’m not one for resting on my laurels. That’s why I’ve come up with even more applications. In Writers’ Workshop, why not encourage students to write stories set in the class fairy garden? Instruct them to visually examine the garden and then include those details in their writing, so that someone who hasn’t had a chance to see the garden personally can still imagine what it looks like.

Here’s another idea–as a class, identify a tiny object that can be moved within the fairy garden. Explain to students that as soon as they get to school tomorrow they will want to search for and find the object. Then, after students have gone home for the day, hide the object in a particular place in the garden. For bell work the next morning, have students find the object and write a short paragraph describing its specific location in the garden. Emphasize that they should use directional and measurement words. Collect the responses and pull them randomly to read aloud. The first student whose response correctly describes the location of the target object can have the chance to hide the object for the next day.

Once upon a time in a quiet, peaceful village lived a....

Once upon a time in a quiet, peaceful village lived a….

At this point you’re probably thinking you might be able to do this with your class, but you’re not sure where to start. How about this–collect students’ milk containers, rinse them out, and have students make them into houses and other buildings in the fairy garden. In the note you send home explaining the project, tell parents that students are welcome to contribute craft supplies, plants, and other small objects lying around the house. Ask students to gather pebbles, twigs, acorns, pinecones, and other interesting items in nature. Consider writing a grant proposal and submitting it to local garden centers, asking for donations of soil, plants, and a large container for your garden. More than anything, keep it simple and cost-effective, and as a teacher, you’re already really good at that!

Posted by Karen Rapier, an elementary education major at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT

Is This Going In My Permanent Record?

Lately I’ve been thinking about biographies and why it’s important to select quality children’s biographies, and I had a horrifying thought: What if a children’s biography were written about me? What kinds of details would be included? How about my “loose” housekeeping style, or my inability to get dinner on the table before 7 o’clock? I’m positive I remember sitting down to dinner at 6:39 p.m. one evening in early June!

On the other hand, what if the author only portrayed me as a goody-two-shoes Mormon miracle mother and wannabe schoolteacher who selflessly put her children’s needs above her own all the days of her life? Yuck! That’s not the kind of drivel I’d want written about me either. You see where I’m going with this, right? In a way, a biography is someone’s Permanent Record.

Is there one of these with my name written on it somewhere?

Is there one of these with my name on it somewhere?

I’m reflecting back on a simpler time in my life–the 1980′s–when my loving and well-meaning parents subscribed to a series of pseudo-biographical books called ValueTales. The one I’m looking at right now is entitled “The Value of Compassion: The Story of Florence Nightingale.” Here’s a direct quote for your reading enjoyment: “Florence knew this was not going to be easy, but she welcomed the challenge” (p. 41, for anyone who wants to see it with their own eyes).

I have a few questions for the author of this book. Were you there with Florence during the Crimean War? Did you hear her say, “This isn’t going to be easy, but I welcome the challenge, by gum!” LAMPAre you actually her trusty oil lamp Lucy, who fanned the flames of Florence’s desire to alleviate suffering and save lives? (Note: Lucy is actually a fictitious talking oil lamp, a character invented by the author in an effort to “simplify” difficult concepts for children’s immature minds.)

Fortunately for us, it’s a new century: We now know that children don’t need simplified information. In fact, their minds crave the retelling of complex, genuine experiences. FlorenceLAMPFurthermore, they engage and understand much more readily when the information is presented in a fair, unbiased manner; when the historical figure is presented as a whole person, rather than a caricature of evil or a paragon of virtue; and when the illustrations that accompany the text complement the book’s theme. 

As luck would have it, a Florence Nightingale biography was published for children earlier this year, written and lovingly illustrated by Demi. I’ve perused it online, and I look forward to reading it in person sometime soon. Curiously, the book’s Amazon preview fails to show any images of Florence talking to an oil lamp.

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Florence Nightingale, by Demi. 2014: Henry Holt & Co.

Posted by Karen Rapier, an elementary education major at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT

Don’t Let Core Standards Bug You!

I attended elementary school in the early 80s, and I have been wracking my brain trying to remember learning anything about insects during those years. If I did, I sure don’t remember it now.

insect_wallpaper14

“Take me to your leader!”

Earlier this week when I started thinking about reading and bugs and books and teaching, only the most basic insect ideas came to mind. My brain was bringing up only boring, factual kinds of things, like insects’ exoskeleton, their head/thorax/abdomen body structure, and the six-leg requirement. But as I thought more deeply, it occurred to me that factual lessons about insects (or about anything else, for that matter!) aren’t going to cut it for today’s elementary and secondary students. They’re growing up in a far more complex environment than the one I grew up in.

When I started kindergarten in 1979, a Japanese telecom company began offering analog cell-phone service. That same year, Usenet, a predecessor of the World Wide Web, was born. The compact disc was invented. The Atari 400, an early computer gaming platform, was made available to consumers. (Side note: I’m old!) Fast-forward to today. We carry portable, handheld computers in our pockets. (These computers also function as phones–a fact my teenagers conveniently forget whenever I need to talk to them.) My kids play video games on a system that wirelessly connects to the Internet and responds to voice commands. Old CDs are reused in children’s crafts. The world has changed dramatically since I was a kid, and it continues to evolve at breakneck speed.

Could we have a moment of silence for this now-useless communication device?

Could we have a moment of silence for this now useless communication device?

Many positive outcomes can be directly traced to the new Common Core Standards. I applaud its implementation because of this: it forced us to start paying closer attention to the educational needs of the students growing up now. Because of these highly demanding standards, we all started thinking and talking and doing something about what it takes to compete, survive, and ideally thrive in a time of historic technological and social change.

When the students of today become the adults of tomorrow, they’ll need critical-thinking skills to solve problems brought about by climate change. They could develop solutions to solve the mysteries of phenomena such as honeybee colony collapse disorder. They might also be forced to come up with creative food sources (mealworms for dinner, anyone?).

Fortunately for teachers and students alike, authors and illustrators continue to write and publish books that spark engagement and pique curiosity. When combined with careful and focused lesson planning, these titles can provide students with quality learning experiences that will stick with them. Some of the best bug books out there include The Beetle Book, written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, which can be used to get students thinking about the “jobs” beetles do in different ecosystems, not to mention its abilities to inspire close-up observation and a great deal of scrutiny in telling and writing description! Then there’s The Case of the Vanishing Honeybees: A Scientific Mystery by Sandra Markle, or The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe (from the Scientists in the Field Series) by Loree Griffin Burns and Ellen Harasimowicz, either of which (or both of which) can be paired with other books (or each other), like What Is Pollination? by Bobbie Kalman or What If There Were No Bees?: A Book about the Grassland Ecosystem by Suzanne Slade to introduce a science unit on cause and effect.

The Core Standards definitely require teachers to up their game, but that’s nothing to get antsy about. With the help of quality nonfiction titles like these, it’s hard to go wrong.

Posted by Karen Rapier, an elementary education major at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT

 

Living Green, Teaching Green

A few weeks ago, my seven-year-old daughter had an unusual request: “Can we grow something I can eat?” (This is a child who loves fruits and vegetables as long as they aren’t touching any other foods.) mother-daughter-kitchenI asked her which foods she thought might be good to grow; her reply included carrots, strawberries, and grapes. Here’s my confession: When I asked her the question about which foods we should try to grow, I was buying time and hoping she’d get distracted and forget all about growing food. I didn’t know what to say!

It seems like such a simple request, but just thinking about it makes me feel overwhelmed. I’ve tried growing vegetables once or twice, and it was a bust every time. Who knows why–maybe I didn’t do it right. Maybe I overwatered or underwatered. Or maybe the planets just weren’t quite aligned and karma decided that gardening and me were not to be. Regardless, I’m pretty sure I missed out on inheriting any of my grandma’s talents for growing a healthy, abundant vegetable garden. I can grow flowers fine, A young girl planting some strawberry plants...but my vegetable gardens of the past have looked nothing like hers. Instead they end up looking sad and bedraggled, and my plants develop these tiny appendages that resemble alien babies more than food.

backyard-vegetable-garden

Not really my grandma’s garden, but hers looked a lot like this!

My daughter’s request got me thinking, though, about the food we eat–where it comes from, how it’s grown and harvested, and whose hands touched it before ours did. It’s obvious she’s curious about how food becomes what it is, and it’s important for children to have experiences that help them learn that food grows in the ground before it ever gets to the grocery-store shelves. Here’s a teacher in Arizona who is doing that by growing food with her students (YouTube clip): Teaching kids where their food comes from

While planting and growing a class garden would certainly engage students (dirt! worms! rocks! yay!), it’s a big project that takes considerable planning, commitment, and time. Teaching Responsibility Through GardeningBut you don’t have to grow a garden with your class to get them thinking about sustainability. How about a unit on trash and recycling? Use the book Where Does the Garbage Go? and end the unit with a field trip to clean up a public park. Here’s another idea–in a science unit on sunlight and energy, students carry out an experiment by growing vegetables using varying amounts of sunlight and water and record the results. Once the students have gathered their data, invite a local farmer to the classroom to evaluate the students’ findings and talk about the complexities of growing food for many.

The wonderful thing about designing lessons around sustainability is that the issues are pragmatic and timely. Students are already aware of the importance of conserving resources, and they’re eager to do their part. What’s more, most sustainability initiatives incorporate elements of science, social studies, math, and literacy, providing an engaging, authentic, and memorable learning experience. For my money, it doesn’t get more green than that.

Posted by Karen Rapier, an elementary education major at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT

Location, Location, Location!

This weekend, as I write, folks in Orem, Utah (where Utah Valley University is located)orem-utah-420x163 are celebrating the annual “Orem Summer Fest.”  This includes a carnival with rides, food trucks, and craft Summerfest2014booths in a local city center park, a “kick off” parade through downtown, a “cutest baby” contest (and more), as well as a culminating fireworks display.  The Orem High School Marching Band fireworkshas been practicing throughout the neighborhood for two weeks, and I suspect that Mountain View and Timpanogos High Schools have been doing the same thing.

Well guess what?  I thought of a connection to this!  The Orem Summer Fest is all about celebrating what’s great about living in Orem, Utah…  and it made me wonder about fiction for young people that might have their settings in Orem, Utah.  I actually know about one Iforget(and I know the author, too!):  If I Forget, You Remember, by Carol Lynch Williams (Yearling Press, 1999).  I love this book for its plot and characterization as much as I do for its location!

This description is adapted from the hardback book jacket blurb: Sixth grade has just ended and Elyse Donaldson is ready for a perfect summer. She’s going to read her favorite books and write her first novel. She’s even determined to get along with her older sister, Jordyn. But her plans quickly unravel when Granny, whose Alzheimer is getting worse, moves in. Elyse finds change difficult as she watches her beloved grandmother slowly slipping away from them, but she also finds that she is a lot stronger than she knew.

Reminiscing about how much I loved  this book also made me think about a book series that was set in my previous location – Buckhannon, West Virginia.  BuckhannonPhyllis Reynolds Naylor wrote a delightfully funny series of books about the Malloy family (with all girls) who move in across Island Avenue from the Hartford family (with all boys). The take-off from Hatfields and McCoys smallNAYLORgives you a subtle idea about what to expect.  The whole series is a delightfully funny and laugh-out-loud experience – perfect for reading aloud to a variety of ages! My personal favorite will always be the first: The Boys Start the War, but this series could take you 2inONENaylorthrough the entire summer: The Girls Get Even, Boys Against Girls, Who Won the War?,  The Girls’ Revenge, The Boys Return, A Traitor Among the Boys, The Boys Take Control, The Girls Take Over, Boys Rock, and Girls Rule!

Do you know about fiction for young people that has YOUR hometown as its setting location!  Please let us know! Happy “Orem Summerfest,” everyone!

Posted by Nancy L. Peterson, Ed.D., Professor of Teacher Education at Utah Valley University, and Co-Chair of UVU’s Forum on Engaged Reading – “For the Love of Reading”

Summertime! And the readin’ is easy…

Because I wanted to inspire folks for summer reading opportunities all week, I’ve been remembering every book I ever read that had the word “summer” in it. summer-reading(And this was after a few days of brainstorming book titles for “something old,” “something new,” “something borrowed,” and “something blue” for our Twitter and Facebook campaigns!)  Reminiscing about my favorite summer books and finding some new discoveries for every age range of this summer’s readers  has inspired me to create my own “have-to-have” list, and to try to persuade my now grown children into reading down my list with me!   summerBOOKSWhen my kids were younger, we did this every summer… not every kid, but always at least one of them and always with me. We instigated this tradition when my daughter was 13. After meeting Phyllis Reynolds Naylor at a children’s literature conference, and telling her of my daughter’s interest in her “Alice” books (Starting With Alice, The Agony of Alice,  Incredibly Alice,  Alice in Charge, etc., Lovingly Alice, Alice in Rapture, Sort of, etc.) AliceBOOKSPhyllis suggested that an article about mothers and daughters reading the Alice Books as Alice and the daughters “grow up” would be a fun idea.  My daughter and I have been collecting “Alice” books ever since, and beginning with their reissuing in the last 10 years, that collecting has been fun and easy!

Just in case you are not looking for books to share with a preteen or teen daughter, but you are looking for some summer books that will provide a jumping off (or diving in) place for sharing summer dive into booksreads with the children in your life at a variety of ages, here is my new list.  As I said, I’m going to invite my adult kids to read these with me…  and hope to have that experience with grandchildren, someday.

Features #1 through #22 are for readers between the ages of 8 and 12 or 13.  #23 is for young and old — a great picture book. Features from #24 to the end are for teens (and adults!). Enjoy!

1. The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall. Whether or not you are familiar with this entire series, you will be delighted by this summer read! The penderwicksPenderwick sisters are on the grounds of a beautiful estate called Arundel, where sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts, provide a delightful holiday. But the best discovery of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, who quickly proves to be the perfect companion for their summer adventures.

2. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia  In this Newbery Honor novel, three sisters travel from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, oneCRAZYin 1968 to meet the mother who abandoned them. When they arrive to spend the summer with her, Cecile is nothing like they imagined. While the girls hope to go to Disneyland and meet Tinker Bell, their mother sends them to a day camp run by the Black Panthers. Unexpectedly, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern learn much about their family, their country, and themselves during one truly crazy summer.

3. Flea Circus Summer by Cheryl Ware  Venola Mae Cutright has spent most of the summer writingFleaCIRC letters, and never giving up, whether begging for a job, nitpicking with a friend, or straightening out a flea company:

Ultra Underwater Flea Circus People

P.O. Box 2000

Destin, Florida

 Dear Flea People’s Bosses

Enclosed is a Tupperware bowl of wet black specs. Please have your doctors analyze these in your oratories and see if there is something wrong with my water. I followed your directions to a tee…

Venola Mae Cutright

P.S. I don’t need any more magic rocks, but I never did receive the circus tent full of tiny elephant and bears and giraffes that the underwater fleas are riding in your advertisement.

4. The Summer Camp Mystery (The Boxcar Children Mysteries #82) by Gertrude Chandler Warner  & Hodges Soileau  The Boxcar Children boxcarare going to summer camp and are looking forward to a week of new friends, exciting activities, and, most of all, the annual camp Olympics, but as soon as camp begins, everything begins to go wrong for the Aldens.

5.  A Summer Secret by Kathleen Fuller (Mysteries of Middlefield Series) Mary Bethsummer secret is a thirteen year old Amish girl with three energetic brothers. She has a sweet, loving spirit and wants to be obedient to her parents (“do not go that abandoned barn out in the field!”) but when she makes a discovery in that barn, she knows she as a work to do.

6. The Summer Before Boys by Nora Raleigh Baskin.  Julia and Eliza SummerBEFOREboysare best friends, so when Julia’s mom is sent to serve in Iraq, it makes perfect sense for her to spend the summer with Eliza and her parents. Any other time, Julia would be thrilled to be there. But on top of worrying about her mom, Julia develops her first real crush. The gap between Julia and Eliza keeps widening—until Eliza does something drastic to win back her best friend. In this follow-up to the award-winning Anything But Typical, Raleigh has written a powerful, touching story about friendship, first love, and how the people who are farthest away from us are sometimes the ones we need the most.

7. Bluffton: My Summers with Buster Keaton by Matt Phelan  Award-winning Phelan has visualized a Blufftonbygone era in this graphic novel. In the summer of 1908, in Muskegon, Michigan, a visiting troupe of vaudeville performers is about the most exciting thing since baseball. They’re summering in nearby Bluffton, so Henry has a few months to ogle the elephant and the zebra, the tightrope walkers and — lo and behold — a slapstick actor his own age named Buster Keaton. The show folk say Buster is indestructible; his father throws him around as part of the act and the audience roars, while Buster never cracks a smile. Henry longs to learn to take a fall like Buster, “the human mop,” but Buster just wants to play ball with Henry and his friends.

8. The Summer I Learned to Fly by Dana Reinhardt:  Drew’s a bit of a loner, summerTOflywith a pet rat, her dead dad’s Book of Lists, an encyclopedic knowledge of cheese from working at her mom’s cheese shop, and a crush on Nick, the surf bum who works behind the counter. It’s the summer before eighth grade and Drew’s days seem like business as usual, until one night after closing time, when she meets a strange boy in the alley named Emmett Crane. Who he is, why he’s there, where the cut on his cheek came from, and his bottomless knowledge of rats are all mysteries Drew will untangle as they are drawn closer together, and Drew enters into the first true friendship, and adventure, of her life.

9. Mom Made Us Write This In The Summer (Max and Maggie Journal series) by Ali Maier, illustrated by Joanna Robinson  When Mom comes up with a plan for them to keep a summer momMADEusjournal, Maggie and Max can t believe it. Worse yet, they have to share! Through their writing, Maggie and Max find out they have very different (and hilarious) views about growing up, family and life a conclusion they only discovered because, as Max and Maggie say, “Mom Made Us Write This.”

10. The Summer Experiment by Cathie Pelletier Roberta is convinced she and her best friend Marilee can win the State Science Fair if only they summerEXPERIMENTcan find an amazing project to showcase. And they’ve got the whole summer to work on it. But in order to win they’ll need to defeat their chief competitor, “The Four Hs of the Apocalypse”: Henry Horton Harris Helmsby! When mysterious lights begin to appear over her hometown, Roberta has a brilliant idea: finding aliens in Allagash and proving they exist would win her first place for sure. Four Hs could never top that…or could he?

11. How Tia Lola Saved the Summer (The Tia Lola Stories) by Julia Alvarez  Miguel Guzman isn’t TiaLOLAexactly looking forward to the summer now that his mother has agreed to let the Sword family—a father, his three daughters, and their dog—live with them while they decide whether or not to move to Vermont. Little does Miguel know his aunt has something up her sleeve that just may make this the best summer ever. With her usual flair for creativity and fun, Tía Lola decides to start a summer camp for Miguel, his little sister, and the three Sword girls, complete with magical swords, nighttime treasure hunts, campfires, barbecues, and an end-of-summer surprise!

12. The Summer I Saved the World . . . in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz:  savedWORLDIt’s summertime, and thirteen-year-old Nina Ross is feeling kind of lost. Her beloved grandma died last year; her parents work all the time; her brother’s busy; and her best friend is into clothes, makeup, and boys. While Nina doesn’t know what “her thing” is yet, it’s definitely not shopping and makeup. And it’s not boys, either. Though . . . has Eli, the boy next door, always been so cute?
To survive this summer, Nina decides to change things. She hatches a plan for each of the sixty-five days of summer she’ll anonymously do one small but remarkable good thing for someone in her neighborhood, and find out: does doing good actually make a difference?   

13. Three Bird Summer by Sara St. Antoine For as long as he can remember, Adam and his parents have 3BIRDsummerspent their summers at his grandmother’s rustic cabin on Three Bird Lake. But this year will be different. There will be no rowdy cousins running around tormenting Adam. There will be no Uncle John or Aunt Jean. And there’ll be no Dad to fight with Mom. This year, the lake will belong just to Adam.
But then Adam meets Alice, the girl next door, who looks just like the aloof, popular girls back home—what could he and she possibly have in common? Turns out, Alice isn’t like the girls back home. She’s frank, funny, and eager for adventure. And when Adam’s grandma starts to leave strange notes in his room—notes that hint at a hidden treasure somewhere at the lake and a love from long ago—Alice is the one person he can rely on to help solve the mysteries of Three Bird Lake.

14. Seaglass Summer by Anjali Banerjee: Eleven-year-old Poppy Ray longs to be a veterinarian, but she’s never had a pseaglasset. This summer, she’s going to spend a month with her uncle Sanjay, veterinarian and owner of the Furry Friends Animal Clinic on an island off the Washington coast. With warmth and humor, Anjali Banerjee tells the story of a resourceful, determined girl who can’t wait to grow up, but begins to realize just how much she has left to discover.

15. Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff: Annie Richards knows there are a million things to look out for—bicycle accidents, chicken pox, runaway zoo animals. UmbrellaThat’s why being careful is so important, even if it does mean giving up some of her favorite things, like bike races with her best friend and hot dogs on the Fourth of July. Everyone keeps telling Annie not to worry so much, that she’s just fine. But they thought her brother, Jared, was just fine too, and Jared died. With a lot of help from those around her, Annie just may find a way to close her umbrella of sadness and step back into the sunshine.

16. Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls: The last thing a fourteen-year-old boy expects to find along an old Ozark river bottom is a tree full of monkeys. Jay Berry Lee’s grandpa had ansummerofMONKESY explanation, of course–as he did for most things. The monkeys had escaped from a traveling circus, and there was a handsome reward in store for anyone who could catch them. Grandpa said there wasn’t any animal that couldn’t be caught somehow, and Jay Berry started out believing him . . . This beloved and classic novel, set in rural Oklahoma around the turn of the century, is a heart-warming family story–full of rich detail and delightful characters–about a time and place when miracles were really the simplest of things…

17. Summer Ball by Mike Lupicia: The sequel to the #1 New York Times bestseller Travel Team! Leading your travel team to the national championship summerBALLmay seem like a dream come true, but for Danny, being at the top just means the competition tries that much harder to knock him off. Now Danny’s heading to Right Way basketball camp for the summer, and he knows that with the country’s best players in attendance, he’s going to need to take his game up a notch if he wants to match up. But it won’t be easy. Old rivals and new battles leave Danny wondering if he really does have what it takes to stand tall.

18. Cam Jansen and the Summer Camp Mysteries CamJANSENby David Adler: Cam Jansen and her best friend Eric are spending three weeks at Camp Eagle Lake, and they couldn’t be more excited. But mysteries seem to follow supersleuth Cam everywhere, and it isn’t long before she’s using her photographic memory to “Click, Click” and save the day! 

19. Summer Reading is Killing Me! (Time Warp Trio, No. 7) by Jon Scieszka and Lane SummRDGkillingMESmith: Sam, Fred, and Joe–the Time Warp Trio–find themselves face-to-beak with a giant, 266-pound chicken … who, unfortunately, looks hungry. As the chicken begins to chase them, the boys realize with horror that they are smack-dab in the middle of Daniel Pinkwater’s The Hoboken Chicken Emergency! How did they get there? Fred accidentally stuck the school’s summer reading list between the pages of “The Book”–a time-warping, green-mist-expelling book that triggers time travel in all of Jon Scieszka’s well-loved Time Warp Trio action-adventures.

20. Summer Bucket List for Kids by Michelle summerBUCKETlistSnow: If you have a hard time helping your kids fill the hours in those long summer days, then this invaluable guide is exactly what you need. Full of fun, original, and thoughtful ideas—sure to use up your kids’ excess summertime energy in a positive, healthy way—this book is guaranteed to stop boredom in its tracks.

21. A Kid’s Summer EcoJournal: With Nature Activities for Exploring the Season by Toni Albert & Margaret Brandt: A Kid’s Summer EcoJournal invites kids kidsECOjournalto write about nature on pages exquisitely illustrated by Margaret Brandt. The author has included short entries from her nature journals, which express her irrepressible and unflagging delight in the natural world. Kids love to read about Trickle Creek, where fawns play on the lawn and young raccoons steal plums in the orchard. The Summer EcoJournal is packed with nature activities for exploring summer. Kids can build a turtle loafing platform, collect insect tracks, make a mushroom spore print, attract moths with a shining sheet, grow a giant sunflower, make sun prints, and enjoy dozens of other summer activities that teach them to love the world of nature. Based on solid science. 

22. Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker: From Clementine author Sara Pennypacker, this is a poignant middle-grade novel about two foster Gypsy mothschildren who must find a way to work together in order to survive. Eleven-year-old Stella misses her (unreliable) mom, but she loves it at great-aunt Louise’s house. Louise lives on Cape Cod, where Stella hopes her mom will someday come and settle down. The only problem? Angel, the foster kid Louise has taken in. The two girls live together but there’s no way they’ll ever be friends.Then Louise suddenly passes away one morning—and Stella and Angel decide not to tell anyone. Now they have to depend on each other for survival. Now they are forced to trust each other with the biggest secret ever. With great empathy and humor, Sara Pennypacker tells the story of two very different girls who unexpectedly become each other’s true family.

23. Rules of Summer by Saun Tan: In a series of loosely linked pictures Tan suggest Rules of SUMa fantastical summer shared by two brothers. Each full-page painting is paired with a one-sentence rule related to the accompanying scene. For instance, “Never leave a red sock on the clothesline” appears next to an image of the two boys crouching against a wall while a seriously giant red rabbit glares at the single sock drying in the sun. How the boys arrived in such a situation is unclear, but speculating is half the fun. “Never leave the back door open” precedes a painting of the two brothers overlooking a living room brimming with an otherworldly forest. Though the rules are occasionally confounding and don’t lend themselves to a clear narrative, and the paintings are tinged with a growing sense of menace that might frighten young readers, Tan’s mesmerizing, gorgeous art is as beautiful and entrancing as ever and will likely have wide appeal well outside the usual picture-book audience, especially among imaginative teen artists. 

For Teens (and Adults!) 

Memories of Summer by Ruth White: It is the mid-1950s, and Lyrics family is finally moving from the backwoods of southwest Virginia to Flint, Michigan, where her father hopes to get an memoriesSUMMERassembly-line job for a car manufacturer. Thirteen-year-old Lyric has always been close to and admired her older sister, Summer, who is pretty and popular. But in their new hometown, Summer unexpectedly and drastically changes. She becomes remote, speaks gibberish, stops taking care of her appearance, and wont go to high school. Lyric and her father try to cope with the devastating effects of Summers mental illness. Ruth White has written a heart-wrenching novel which, despite the sad and serious subject matter, offers readers humor and hope and most of all love.

Revolutionary Summer by Joseph J. Ellis: In a brilliant narrative, Ellis meticulously examines the most influential figures in this propitious moment, inclRevolutaionary Sumuding George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Britain’s Admiral Lord Richard and General William Howe. He weaves together the political and military experiences as two sides of a single story, and shows how events on one front influenced outcomes on the other.

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene: German SoldierThe summer that Patty Bergen turns twelve is a summer that will haunt her forever. When her small hometown in Arkansas becomes the site of a camp housing German prisoners during World War II, Patty learns what it means to open her heart. Even though she’s Jewish, she begins to see a prison escapee, Anton, not as a Nazi, but as a lonely, frightened young man with feelings not unlike her own.

Summer of the Swans summerSWANSby Betsy Byars: The Summer of the Swans, by Betsy Byars, is a heartwarming story about the longest day in the life of a fourteen year old . A wonderfull theme emerges from the story that every child should hear.

A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry: Meg isn’t thrilled when she gets stuck sharing a bedroom with her older sister summertoDIEMolly. The two of them couldn’t be more different, and it’s hard for Meg to hide her resentment of Molly’s beauty and easy popularity. But now that the family has moved to a small house in the country, Meg has a lot to accept. Just as the sisters begin to adjust to their new home, Meg feels that Molly is starting up again by being a real nuisance. But Molly’s constant grouchiness, changing appearance, and other complaints are not just part of a new mood. And the day Molly is rushed to the hospital, Meg has to accept that there is something terribly wrong with her sister. That’s the day Meg’s world changes forever.

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han : Belly measures her life in summers.summerPRETTY Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer — they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one wonderful and terrible summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.

Freedom Summer: The 1964 Struggle for Civil FreedomSUMRights in Mississippi by Susan Goldman Rubin: Fifty years after the Freedom Summer murders, this meticulously researched, compellingly told account covers an incredible moment in history. Mickey Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney were three young civil rights workers who decided to work for the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) to confront bigotry in Mississippi and register African Americans to vote. They left for Meridian, accompanied by student volunteers from across the United States, Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney were killed by Klansmen after being arrested. Their deaths deepened the conviction of the others and served to engender incredible strides in the forward momentum of the civil rights movement.

A Summer State of Mind by Jen Calonita: Summer has finally arrived and fifteen-year-old sumSTATEofMINDHarper McCallister intends to spend her days at the mall shopping or by the pool at her country club. But after receiving her latest heart-stopping credit card bill, Harper’s parents makes other plans, and ship her off to camp. Suddenly, the clueless yet ever-popular Harper is the new girl at the bottom of a social ladder she can’t climb in wedge sandals and expensive clothes. She seems to be winning over super-cute camp “Lifer” Ethan, though, and if she can manage to make a few friends–and stay out of trouble–she just might find a whole new summer state of mind. 

Posted by Nancy L. Peterson, Ed.D., Professor of Teacher Education at Utah Valley University, and Co-Chair of UVU’s Forum on Engaged Reading

Demystifying Dyslexia in Literature and Life

Henry Franklin Winkler is not only a well-known American actor (The Fonze, from the hit comedy, Henry_Winkler_Fonzie_1977“Happy Days”), producer, and director, but he is also the author of a critically acclaimed series, Hank Zipzer.  Collaborating with Lin Oliver, who is a writer and producer of movies, books, and television series for children, Henry Winkler has written HankZipperSERIESa series of 17 children’s books about a 4th grade boy who is dyslexic. Winkler, a dyslexic himself, delights his readers in the escapades of his hero, Zipzer, who always manages to get the last laugh. The “world’s greatest underachiever”,  Zipzer  gives those who struggle with reading a reason to laugh at themselves and to find solace in a character in whom they can relate. Shouting loud and clear is the core message that everyone can succeed no matter what obstacle may be in there way.

Winkler himself did not realize he was learning disabled until he was 31 years old when his stepson was tested and diagnosed. This revelation brought him both ahas and relief. Dyslexia was an unhappy part of his childhood, and it was nice to get a label for the difficulty he had in learning when he was otherwise a very bright and intelligent child.  HWtodayMuch like his main character, Hank Zipzer, Henry Winkler is smart, funny and resourceful. Even though fonzauthorhe can tout such tributes as having a star on Hollywood Boulevard, being presented the Order of the British Empire by the Queen of England, and having the jacket he wore as the Fonz in Happy Days hanging in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., he will tell you that his proudest accomplishment is writing the Hank Zipzer series.

I am a dyslexic. Shoot!  Like Henry Winkler, I didn’t find out I was until I was an adult.  I was in a doctorate program where the science of reading was my focus.  I know, a dyslexic studying the science of reading, seems a little out of place, right?  Right! I was explaining to my professor how I read and she quipped, “That’s not how it works!” What? Yes it is. At least that is how I read.

The conversation wasn’t a complete disaster because it ended up being somewhat life changing. That dear knowledgeable professor promptly led me to Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz.  overcomingDDid you know it comes in an audio format? I purchased the audio tapes and “read” the book going and coming from my home in Las Vegas where I was pursuing my doctorate, to my home in Salt Lake.  As I read I came across a list of clues for dyslexia describing typical behaviors of a dyslexic. I was dumbfounded. I demonstrated all of them. Not one or two, not most, but ALL. I rewound the tape and listened to it again. I got out my printed copy of the book and read, underlined, and flagged the page. THIS explained so many things.

Listen to this! Dyslexia is not just a reading impairment.  It affects the ability to spell (I love spell check!), to retrieve words, spellingto articulate words and to remember certain facts. Impairment is not intellectually based. Just the opposite, those impaired are highly intelligent. (That last part I really like!)  Up to now I had wordsassumed that I just wasn’t as smart as everybody else. I was a hard worker, and I was positive it was my work ethic, not my intelligence, that got me to where I was. My memory was a disaster, especially for proper names or proper terminology.  I was always saying things like the thing-a-ma-bob, or that thing on the you know what, or I can’t remember what it is called but you know… Well come to find out, this tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon is a symptom of a phonological weakness on the left side of the brain we laymen call the language center.  Who knew!

You see, good readers have highly interconnected neural systems that encompass regions in the back and front of the left side of the brain. Most of the reading part of the brain is in the back. brainIn contrast, dyslexics show that their back of the brain has faulty wiring. Neural pathways for them are under activated. This causes them to use other parts of the brain not necessarily equipped well for the reading task. Therefore, they find themselves needing to subvocalize as they read, slowing their reading rate way down. They don’t process words as deeply and as clearly in their lexicon (a fancy word for an internal dictionary of stored words). These poor quality representations make it hard for dyslexics to retrieve words when speaking or to recognize words when reading.

Knowledge is power, and we can take this scientific information and use it to help. So the good news is that the brain can actually be rewired.  Hard to believe but it is true.  Researchers using a functional MRI scanned the brains of struggling readers as they were reading both before and after instructional treatment. What they found is that when dyslexic students were given explicit, multisensory reading instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics that those highly interconnected neural systems start ed lighting up! EUREKA! How exciting is that? Well to me, and the one-in-every-five children who struggle with reading, it is life changing.

As Dr. Sally Shaywitz expresses in her book, dyslexia is no longer a faceless beast causing havoc in the lives of its victims. We now can see the “face of the beast”, and we arewell on our way to taming it and taking command!

This week’w Guest Blogger, Dr. Ann Sharp, teaches literacy in the School of Education at Utah Valley University, Orem, UT.

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Celebrating Cinco de Mayo with the Pura Belpré Award

cinco-de-mayo

I recently returned from a trip to London and I’m now fascinated by anything I see or hear about England. I noticed this same thing after taking my then 12-year-old daughter on a trip to Paris, England and Scotland in 2012. At the time, she had limited experience with international cultures and the trip helped her understand that her life is much different from what other people experience in different parts of the world.  internationalBKSThis later helped bring alive what she was learning in European History, Art History, and Shakespeare classes as well as in any number of other ways I don’t even know about.

Although it’s not feasible to take students on extended field trips, bringing the world into the classroom is a little easier through good books! Luckily, the American Library Association has helped identify outstanding works by Latino/Latina writers and illustrators with the annual Pura Belpré awards puraAWARDrecognize works that “best portray, affirm, and celebrate the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.”

Are you looking for ways to share the Pura Belpré books to develop a love of reading? The Classroom Bookshelf has these great ideas in their blog:

  • Have students analyze their own classroom bookshelves for characters from various cultural backgrounds.
  • What do students notice about the social locations of characters?
  • Do the characters they read about remind them of themselves?
  • Do they see themselves in books? When?
  • Are their stories missing from the shelves? If so, how can they be added to your classroom bookshelves?

Another great way to help students understand the culture is through author videos. For example, what would you do if you won an award like the Pura Belpré? yuyiYuyi Morales has won the Pura Belpré Award honor four times, and the medal four times, all for different books, and most recently for Niño Wrestles the World (2014, Roaring Brook Press).Nino wrestles Here’s what Yuyi had to say (and dance!) about winning the 2014 Pura Belpré Illustrator award! http://youtu.be/F2FDU0B32cc

The 2014 Pura Belpré Award Honor books include:

Maria Had a Little Llama / María Tenía una Llamita illustrated and written by Angela Dominguez and published by Henry Holt and Company, LLC
  Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale illustrated and written by Duncan Tonatiuh and published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of ABRAMS
Tito Puente: Mambo King / Rey del Mambo illustrated by Rafael López, written by Monica Brown and published by Rayo, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

 

The Belpré award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. PuraBelpre2As a children’s librarian, storyteller, and author, she enriched the lives of Puerto Rican children in the U.S.A. through her pioneering work of preserving and disseminating Puerto Rican folklore.

Stay tuned with us for some great book and reading suggestions about portraying, affirming, and celebrating a “world wide” variety of cultures, peoples, places and ideas as we assist young people to find themselves on the pages of books.

Submitted by Lesli Baker, UVU Library Assistant Director-Public Services at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah