Category Archives: Finding Ourselves in Books

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

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

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 

Jumping on the POETRY bandwagon…

I’m not really one for jumping on the bandwagon of national-this-or-that days, weeks or months. I promise…  I don’t even do much celebrating of less-than-national days, such as my grown kids’ birthdays (I live in shame for this), my own anniversary national-poetry-month(I go to therapy for this), or  National Day of Prayer (I go to church for this). However, there is one month-long celebration that I’m all in favor of. I go to great lengths to celebrate this one: National Poetry Month. As a passionate proponent of “doing” poetry with children in order to convince them that words are their friends (and very playful ones, at that), and as a “Ralph Fletcher convert” to poetry writing that every child can do (love, LOVE his book, Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem From the Inside Out), poetry mattersI simply cannot resist building my own “bandwagon” and inviting my students, my family, my friends, and you, Dear Reader, to jump onboard!

Here are three elementary-teachers-should” truths that I know about …poetry cover1.   Elementary teachers should  have favorites – favorite poems and favorite poets.

2.     Elementary teachers should collect brief, clever, and delightful examples of poetry with which they can delight and entertain their students.

3.     Elementary teachers should nurture the natural poets children are, rather than assigning poetry.

Here are three elementary-teachers-shouldn’t” truths (I know these truths, thanks to Mike Tunnell & Jim Jacobs):

1.     Elementary teachers shouldn’t force and over-do poetry memorization & recitation.

2.     Elementary teachers shouldn’t force/assign all students to write poetry (particularly with rigid parameters, no matter how many lines or syllables called for).

3.     Elementary teachers shouldn’t force/assign heavy-duty analyzing of poems for their structures and meanings.

And finally, here are three elementary-teachers-can” truths that I know about poetry:

1.     Elementary teachers can  entice children with contemporary poems with humor and some sort of rhythm and rhyme.

2.     Elementary teachers can  empower children with writing poems when they demand fewer conventions and permit “poetic license.”

3.     Elementary teachers can inspire children as poets when they show them that (Ralph Fletcher’s idea here) writing a poem for someone is like giving blood.  It goes from the heart of the giver to the heart of the receiver. (I know, isn’t that brilliantly poignant?)

Are you ready to put your own poetic license“Poetic Teaching License” to work? Needing ideas for some fresh poetry to delight, entice and empower your students?  mooseThe scope of this blog post cannot include everything I wish teachers could know, understand, and do about poetry.  But I cannot resist an opportunity to unload a few things from my bandwagon, and leave them with you for yours:

Check out the Classroom Bookshelf Blog  and scroll through everything you will need, including book reviews, teaching ideas, and supporting resources.  Be sure to “search” the archives for the many new and wonderful poetry books they have included on their site!  Then…  well, in the words of Beatrice Schenk de Regniers,

“Keep a poem in your pocket and a picture in your head and you’ll never feel lonely…”PocketFULofPOEMS

Posted by Nancy Peterson, Ed.D., Professor of Elementary Education at Utah Valley University, and Co-Chair of “For the Love of Reading” conference. 

Looking for a book to love…

Valentine’s Day is past, and I’m feeling guilty that we didn’t re-post our guest blogger’s great Valentine’s Day tradition from last year, so here it is (just a couple of weeks late). It looks like spring may have sprung early (around here, anyway!) and I’m fearing that my leisurely reading hoursBook_Lovers_Day will be prematurely replaced by garden-planning and yard work.  I left my last “lost-in-the-book” experience behind when I drove home from our inspiring conference (UVU Forum on Engaged Reading) at the Chateaux in September.

 

I just haven’t lost myself in a good book, for way too long. Oh, I’ve enjoyed reading some new picture books, and some that are new to me even though they have been around for a while, and I’ve enjoyed classroom and office discussions of the books that my students and colleagues have been losing themselves in.  But I’m feeling pretty melancholy about this, BLANAand I’m starting to worry.  Maybe this is more than a midterm crisis for me – I’m thinking this is serious!  I can’t hear any of my night-stand stacks of “read-me-next” books calling to me.  I look through the Scholastic Book Order leaflets and notice some recent additions, but nothing is reaching out to me. I don’t feel drawn into  bookstores at the moment – not even my favorite ones.  I am stressing over feelings of  guilt about co-chairing a conference that fights the 21st Centure problem of “a-literacy,” while I am exhibiting symptoms of it myself. I don’t want to read a book to “get current” in my field, and I don’t want to read a book just because it received some recent (albeit prestigious) award. I just want to feel lost in a book again.  medalion book-loverI’m longing for a book that holds my heart in between my reading sessions, and that I can hold to my heart as I tell someone about it.

 

I recently came across a delightful poem written by Tom Robert Shields and published (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004) in Wonderful Words: Poems About Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and Illustrated by Karen Barbour. wonderful-wordsThe poem is “I Am the Book” and it promised to be my friend, stay by my side… bring dreams I’ll “forever keep,” to warm me, and to plant in me a “spring seedling…” while I am reading.  It promises,

 

“… I am the book

You are needing.”

 So, I decided to ask you…  any reader who may have stumbled onto this blog, in spite of the fact that it hasn’t been updated for some time – until now.  What do you suggest?  Is there a book that has been your friend…  brought dreams bklvr1you have “forever [kept],” and planted in you a “spring seedling – some book that you were needing and found — that you can share with me?  Please write soon., because you may know the book I am needing.  Yours truly, An Engaged Reader in Crisis

Posted by Nancy Peterson, Professor of Elementary Education at Utah Valley University, and Co-Chair of UVU’s Forum on Engaged Reading

If I were desperate, I might even look into what Heidi and Jo March were doing.

Guest Blog Post by Mike Freeman

When I was young, I lived on a farm in the Ozark hills of southern Missouri, and literally went to school in a two-room country schoolhouse.  one_room_school_houseWe were the real Waltons with eight children in a smTOWNmainSTfive-room house.  Even going to town was a rarity, and I didn’t care to go anyway because standing around watching my sisters shop was not that thrilling.  My brothers liked to hunt and fish but I didn’t.  We didn’t have a television and videos didn’t exist.

One thing we did have was a set of the Great Illustrated Classics and I liked to read.  Over and over again I journeyed down the Mississippi with Huck and Jim, sought treasure with longJsJim Hawkins and Long John Silver, fought duels with d’Artagnan, answered the call of the wild with Buck, and discovered those grim Grimm’s tales.  If I were desperate, I might even look into what Heidi and Jo March were doing.  All of these books fed the imagination of distant times, worlds and sites, and saved my childhood from utter boredom.

Once a month the bookmobile from the county library would appear at our school, and our teacher would select a single representative from each grade to select the Bkmbooks for the month.  Though the student was instructed to select for everyone, a marked bias always seemed to surface.  I just couldn’t believe the kinds of books those girls would choose.

Nonetheless, I was hooked and now years later, with English and History and Library Science degrees under my belt, I still musketeerscan’t find enough time for the endless lists to read.  Now that I am older, I sometimes revisit those old classics and marvel even now how well they still capture my attention.  Reading is the opportunity to look into the minds and souls of people across the ages, and to ponder all the struggles that have created our modern world.  Reading connects our common humanity, and makes us consider other points of view and ways of life.  Mark Twain said that a man who won’t read is no better than a man who can’t read.  I couldn’t say it better.

mike2Mike Freeman is the Library Director at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT. He holds a bachelors and MLS from University of Missouri, and his MA in History from the University of Utah.  Prior to coming to UVU in 1993, Mike worked at the University of South Carolina and the Orem Public Library in Utah.  He is an ardent Mark Twain fan.

Finding Papa and Mama… (Guest Blogger -Axel Ramirez)

Ever since I was in elementary school I have had a fascination with the Great Brain series of books by John Dennis Fitzgerald. I think it all started in 5th grade when a friend suggested the books to me.  What would compel young boys in East Los Angeles to read a book about Mormon and Catholic kids in Utah during Utah’s Wild West period? I’m still not sure, perhaps it is the love between Mama and Papa; perhaps it is the hilarious and touching issues of religious diversity; perhaps it is the draw of a family that sticks together no matter what. I don’t know. All I know is that I grew up with the Great Brain and his family. His family became my family. They were my companions as I moved to Utah.  The only part of Utah that felt at all like home for the first few months was the one I imagined existed somewhere in Adenville, Utah, home of the Great Brain. Those characters were my Utah companions until I found real Mormon kid companions of my own.

Around the time I moved to Utah I also found out that there was a trilogy of books featuring the grown up characters in the Great Brain series: Papa Married a Mormon, Mama’s Boarding House and Uncle Will and the Fitzgerald Curse.  I couldn’t wait to read them and have read the latter two dozens of times each but I’ve read Papa Married a Mormon over a hundred times. At times in my youth, Mama and Papa were the best examples of love and stability in parents that I had ever personally witnessed.    As a result, I am trying to start my own tradition similar to the Fitzgeralds in the book, the passing down of a middle name to the males in the family. I gave both my biological sons the same middle name as mine and hope they will do the same with their sons.  And, for some strange reason, all my children have taken to calling me Papa instead of Dad.  

Last year my youngest came home during 5th grade beaming about the Great Brain series that her teacher was reading to her; I knew it was time to revisit my old friends in Adenville, Utah. For those of us who love the series of books there is a mystery that has always been somewhat solved, but not to full satisfaction.

The question remains, just where in Utah did the book really take place, because Adenville, Utah has never existed? In other words, what real town did the author use as the basis for all the hijinks and drama?  In the series and in the adult books Adenville is in southern Utah, next to the fictional mining town of Silverlode. The current city of Leeds, Utah sort of fits because it is in southern Utah, named after an early pioneer, and is directly next to a mining town named Silver Reef, which had a Catholic Church in the late 1800s. However, the author has been reported to have grown up, at least part of the time, in Price, Utah.  After searching for more clues the best theory is that the author, ever so wonderfully, combined the 1800s diversity found in the mining camps of southern Utah with the diversity found in the mining city of Price, Utah to create Adenville.

To make this theory come alive to my daughter, she and I drove to Leeds, Utah and the old mining town of Silver Reef and used our reader’s imagination to discuss possible geographical connections to the books. We strolled through the Catholic and
Protestant cemeteries, the old boardwalks, the Wells Fargo building, the site of the old Catholic church, and just imagined ourselves with the characters.  The next weekend we drove to Price, Utah to put the finishing piece on our quest — finding where the real Mama and Papa are buried.  We strolled through the Price cemetery and discussed the diversity in the tombstones, the Masonic symbols, the miners, and the children. Finally, we found them — Mama and Papa resting in peace, side by side.   More alive than ever.

Axel Donizetti Ramirez is Associate Professor of Teacher Education in the School of Education at Utah Valley University.

Every child deserves to find herself beautifully portrayed upon the pages of a book…

I’m changing subjects just a bit… away from Valentine’s Day, but not so far from love. This is because something else that I love a lot has been on my mind lately… that is, picture books on whose pages Children of Color find themselves portrayed, and see their beauty in realism and truth and self-respect – and where children with less variety of pigment to hair and skin and eyes, see children of color as subjects of the world’s finest art and prose and poetry.  Without time and space to share all of my favorites, I present my most recent discoveries, as well as my most long-held favorites, and only briefly share my journey of discovery of this world of appreciation.  

I had no understanding of this exchange between the 3-year-old little girl and her mother sitting across from me as I held my feverish 10-month-old in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. This was more than twenty years ago, when I could still claim the title of “young mother.”  The little girl brought an open magazine over to her mommy to show her the dolly she would like to have. Mommy ripped that magazine out of the little girl’s hands and threw it onto the pile of magazines on a table a few feet a way, yelling, “Don’t you come bringing no white baby over here! You know you not going to get no white trash baby!” I didn’t have any frame of reference or understanding for that exchange.  I was sad and afraid for the little girl because of the angry yelling, and the look of rage in the mother’s eyes.  But I didn’t know what to think of the “white trash” baby doll, as I held my own little baby.        

Years later I would read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, and take my first step toward an epiphanal journey in coming to understand just a little bit, the heart and soul of that mother in the doctor’s office, that day.  I would also come to notice so many things that were unfair but unnoticed around me, such as calling that one particular color of nylon stockings “nude,” that one crayon “flesh; or the unfairness of my neighbor in West Virginia having to drive 60 miles to get hair product that would work for her hair.  So in order to surround my students, and my future grandchildren with beauty in realism and self-respect in a variety of color of skin and eyes, and texture of hair, and wonderful prose and poetry and truth, I will keep looking for brilliant authors and illustrators, and I will celebrate their work and their talents, and they way they show me the world. As I looked for just the right book to end this with, I found it…  well, I should say, I found the author.  It was Nikki Grimes.  I’ve been collecting her poetry books, her picture book biographies — pretty-much everything I can get my hands on that she writes. I thought I might try to find just one of her poems, perhaps from Thanks a Million, so I did a search on the internet.  What a found instead was her website, and even better — her blog. So here, at the end of my blog post, I introduce you to hers — Nikki Grimes. Please take the time to go to Nikki’s blog and read what she posted on December 21, 2012. Thanks to Nikki Grimes, I found myself, and the feelings of my heart, beautifully portrayed upon the pages of her blog.  I think you might find something of yourself there, too.  Don’t you just love how books and writers and illustrators can do that for us? Don’t you just want to share that with the young people in your life?