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Best Books of 2018 According to Me: Young Adult

24 Dec

Here we go…installment number three of the best books of the year…according to me. I read these, I loved these, and I think you should read them too.

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

I read this early in the year because my library was fortunate enough to host Dhonielle Clayton last February (she’s delightful, by the way). OH MY GOODNESS what a story. What a setting. I wanted to be in the palace with Camellia, experiencing all the beauty and opulence. I wanted my mail delivered by tiny dirigible. I wanted a teacup elephant. But then I wanted most definitely NOT to be there because that princess is…creepy and awful. This is the best kind of fantasy – incredible world-building and a story that will keep you glued to the pages. Meanwhile it’s also a commentary on the commerce of beauty. I can’t wait for the sequel!

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

Darius Kellner struggles with social norms. He doesn’t fit in anywhere. He doesn’t relate to his father, whom he describes as “the ubermensch”, even though they share a diagnosis of depression. He feels he’s not Persian enough to fit in with his mother’s side of the family either. When his parents decide to take a trip to Iran to see his grandparents, Darius feels even more disconnected to his family. Until he meets Sohrab, a neighbor boy, who might just be the first person Darius connects with – and his first real friend.

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

It’s easy to see why this book was a finalist for the National Book Award – it’s heartbreaking, hopeful, and beautiful. Krosoczka tells the story, through words and pictures, of his own youth. Raised by his grandparents as his mother was in and out of jail dealing with a heroin addiction, he found solace and comfort in art. His tough-but-loving grandparents supported him completely, and this really is a love letter to them – and to his mother, with whom he maintained a written relationship. The story includes artwork and letters from his youth.

Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee

I absolutely adored Lee’s The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and this, a continuation of Felicity’s story, I think I love even more. Set a year after the first adventure, Felicity has been struggling to make her dream of studying medicine come true. When the opportunity arises to meet her medical idol, she jumps at the chance – albeit under false pretenses. From Zurich to Algiers to a secret island, this story is filled with adventure, drama, badass women, and mythical creatures. Oh – and for those concerned, Percy and Monty make an appearance too.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

This tale told in verse most deservedly won the National Book Award. Xiomara pours her feelings into poetry, which she writes only for herself. But when she struggles with the wishes of her traditional Dominican parents, the Church, and a burgeoning (but secret) love life, she finds an outlet in the school’s poetry club.  If you have the opportunity, listen to Elizabeth Acevedo read her story – it’s infinitely more powerful when read in the slam poetry style Acevedo speaks so well. This book will lodge itself in your heart.

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

This retelling of Pride and Prejudice, set in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, tackles issues of racism, classism and gentrification in one really engaging story. When Darius Darcy and his family move into a renovated brownstone on Zuri Benitez’s block, Zuri is absolutely sure they have nothing in common. Darius is haughty, wealthy, and and doesn’t fit in their close-knit community of families who have lived there for years. When thrown more and more together, however, they just might find some common ground.

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Stevie, a true crime aficionado, gets the chance of a lifetime when she’s accepted into Ellingham Academy, a boarding school where, years ago, one of the greatest unsolved mysteries happened. Stevie is, naturally, determined to solve the crime. And then one of her classmates ends up dead. Told in two time periods, we (and Stevie) must determine – are the two crimes related? This is book one of a trilogy and I absolutely CANNOT WAIT for the next installment.

Well, there you have it. In three posts, my favorite kids’ and YA books of the year. What were your favorites? What are you looking forward to in 2019?

 

Best Books of 2018 According to Me: Middle Grade (Plus One Early Reader)!

21 Dec

It’s part 2 of “books I think are completely awesome that happened to be published in 2018!” Up now: middle grade fiction

For those not as immersed in the book world as I am, “middle grade” means fiction for elementary school-aged kids who are confident readers. So – no controlled vocabulary, just really great stories.

However, I’ve included one early reader because it’s awesome and needs to be recognized. It’s not for brand new readers, but for those gaining confidence who are ready for short chapters and a full story.

Enjoy!

EARLY READER

Meet Yasmin by Saadia Faruqi, illustrated by Hatem Aly

Yasmin is a 2nd grader with spirit! At school or at home with her Pakistani-American family, she finds creative solutions for her challenges. Newly independent readers will find much with which they can relate!

MIDDLE GRADE

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Amal dreams of being a teacher. But when an accidental run-in with the her small Pakistani village’s corrupt landlord occurs, she must become his servant in order to pay off her family’s debt. Life on the landlord’s estate is difficult, but soon Amal becomes aware of dealings that may enable her and others to bring about the landlord’s demise. At once heartbreaking and hopeful, this is a story that will leave you cheering.

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Fans of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series will love meeting Aru! In fact, this book is one of the new “Rick Riordan Presents” imprint titles! When Aru accidentally frees the Sleeper, whose job it is to awaked the God of Destruction, she must find a way to trap him before the world ends. She is joined in her search by a new friend, and the two discover that they are both destined for the task. Filled with quirky characters and Hindu mythology, this story will keep you turning pages!

Breakout by Kate Messner

Life in Wolf Creek centers somewhat around the prison. Many of the town’s inhabitants work there. So when two prisoners escape into the woods around town, everyone’s on edge. Nora Tucker planned to spend her summer working on her journalism, and now she has something to write about she hadn’t planned on. Through her writing and that of Elidee, a new classmate who’s only recently arrived in Wolf Creek, we learn how their lives are upended by the escape – in completely different ways. Contains themes of friendship and injustice that middle grade readers will understand.

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty

I received an ARC of this at ALA Annual and I couldn’t wait to start reading it. It hit all the right “quirky girl sets off on unexpected adventure” notes for me! Bronte, upon learning her absent parents have died, must set off to fulfill the terms of their will in order to inherit their fortune. She has been tasked with visiting all of her aunts in far-flung parts of the country and delivering gifts left to them by her parents. She soon finds, however, that these gifts, and her travels, might have more meaning than originally though. Contains dragons, evil kings, water sprites, and more!

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Based on the author’s personal experience, Front Desk tells the story of Mia Tang, who moves to the United States with her parents from China. When her parents take a job managing a motel, Mia becomes the de-facto front desk attendant as her parents are busy cleaning rooms. Secretly her parents are also hiding other immigrants who have no where else to go – and hoping that the mean motel owner, Mr. Yao, won’t find out. Mia faces additional challenges at school, where she wants to be able to write well, but struggles with English. Mia is a fighter and a creative thinker, though, and through her hard work and determination she finds solutions.

Harbor Me by Jaqueline Woodson

When six children of diverse experience are left alone in a classroom for one hour every Friday afternoon, what might happen? In the case of these six, honesty, growth, understanding, and friendship happen. While it takes them time to trust, eventually, they talk about their fears, hopes, and challenges and discover that each one can be a harbor for the others.

Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

Merci Suarez is having trouble fitting in at her private school. Edna Santos keeps picking on her and as a reluctant member of the Sunshine Buddies she has to help a new boy settle in to the school. She’s also feeling out of control at home, where her grandfather has started acting strangely. In this engaging and real story of family and friends, Merci navigates change and challenges with determination and heart.

Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

Caught between two newly-separated countries, India and Pakistan, and two religions, Nisha is forced to leave her home with her father and brother and make the long difficult trek to safety. This is a part of history I know little about, and their harrowing journey, as described in letters Nisha writes to her deceased mother, was heart-wrenching. This book, and Nisha, will stick with you for a long time.

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson

If you love mysteries mixed with some history, this book is for you! Candice’s grandmother once had a tennis court dug up in search of a treasure – and now her granddaughter is following in her footsteps. Candice, staying in her grandmother’s house for the summer, finds a letter that contains information about a family that was long ago run out of the small town of Lambert, South Carolina. A mysterious person has left clues to help Candice and her friend Brandon unravel the truth about what happened to the family, and if they do, they’ll win a fortune! Meanwhile they learn some dark truths about past injustices while facing their own challenges with bullying and racism.

Sanity and Tallulah by Molly Brooks

A graphic novel about best friends, living on a space station, with a pet three-headed kitty named Princess, Sparkle, Destroyer of Worlds. When kitty escapes, can the friends find him again before he destroys there home? WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED IN A STORY? NOTHING.

The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon

Our story begins when Caleb and his brother, Bobby Gene, swap their baby sister for a bag of fireworks. This sets in motion their extraordinary summer spent with Styx Malone, a boy in the foster system whom they happen to meet in the forest behind their house. Styx introduces them to the “elevator trade”, in which the boys make increasingly larger trades. Their ultimate goal? A grasshopper green moped. Styx is older and wiser, and the boys can’t believe their good fortune in finding a friend like him. But what if Styx needs the boys as much as they need him?

Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta

A girl growing up in New Jersey has been told by her parents her whole lift that she’s a princess, and she never believes it – until, on her 12th birthday, her parents disappear and two princes come to take her to the Kingdom Beyond Seven Oceans and Thirteen Rivers to fulfill her destiny and rescue them. On their adventure they’ll meet the demon queen, a snarky talking bird, the Serpent King (who has a giant python from whom they must steal a gem), and cross a river made of rubies. Oh, and there are flying horses and baby stars, too. If you’re a fan of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson or Magnus Chase series, you’ll love meeting Kiranmala!

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier

Nan Sparrow has always been a climber – a child who climbs into and cleans chimneys. It’s a difficult life, especially after her guardian leaves mysteriously when she is very young. When a suspicious accident happens, she’s almost killed but survives thanks to a golem – a “monster” and protector who becomes her friend. Set in Victorian England and filled with historical references, this tale of survival and true friendship will warm your heart like a freshly-stoked fire.

Best Books of 2018 According to Me: Board and Picture Books

18 Dec

One of the things I’ve done for the past few years is offer, on facebook, to make suggestions of books for friends and family to purchase for the younger ones in their lives.* I’ve made suggestions for babies as young as 2 months up through YA, and I absolutely LOVE it. Seriously, sharing and recommending books is one of the absolute perks of being a children’s librarian. Not only do I get to READ these great books but then I get to TELL PEOPLE ABOUT THEM SO THEY CAN READ THEM TOO? Dreamy.

I’ve already made suggestions for those that asked for them, but I thought it might be helpful to make a post listing ALL of my faves for the year. You know, in case anyone still needs ideas. I’m totally not doing this for myself.**

So…drum roll….here are MY favorite board and picture books. Middle grade, graphic novels, and YA coming in separate posts!:

BOARD BOOKS 

(Babies – Toddlers. Not all board books are created equal; ask me if you  need specific age recommendations!)

Here, George by Sandra Boynton, illus. by George Booth (yes, of New Yorker Cartoon fame)

This book is so sweet and simple. George moves hardly at all, but his sentiment comes through. And the ending? Perfection.

Huggy the Python Hugs Too Hard (Wee Beasties) Cover Huggy the Python Hugs Too Hard/Roary the Lion Roars Too Loud (Wee Beasties Series) by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Alex G. Griffiths

A little social/emotional learning for the youngest set, with delightful line drawings. Can you show Huggy how to be gentle?

PICTURE BOOKS

Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell, illustrated by Corinna Luykin

Adrian Simcox is telling everyone he has a horse – but Chloe knows that’s just not possible. She gets angrier and angrier at him for lying, until something changes her mind. The illustrations are the star of this story – filling each page with color and texture.

 

Baby Goes to Market by Atinuke, illustrated by Angela Brooksbank

Early math! As baby rides on mama’s back all around the market, he is given treats by various vendors. He eats one, but puts the rest in the basket on mama’s head. How many are left? The brightly colored illustrations effectively portray the energy and happiness of the market.

 

Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin

Little Star loves baking mooncakes with mama. But she musn’t eat them yet! What happens when Little Star just can’t resist a nibble? This original tale reads like a folktale and explains the phases of the moon.

 

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López

Beautifully illustrated story about how we all begin feeling alone and different, but sharing our stories may bring us together. A perfect book to share with someone starting a new school.

 

Drawn Together by Minh Le, illustrated by Dan Santat

A boy and his grandfather, who speak different languages, find a common language: drawing. The illustrations start in two distinct styles that eventually merge!

 

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

Morales tells the story of her own arrival in the United States with her young son. They faced much uncertainty but brought their dreams and strength with them. Soon, the library and the many wonderful stories it contained helped them feel at home. Gorgeously illustrated with found objects which tell as much of a story as the words, this book will find a place in your heart.

 

Giraffe Problems by Jory John, illustrated by Lane Smith

Beginning with the sentence “I feel bad about my neck” (a nod to Nora Ephron?) giraffe laments the many challenges he faces. A turtle tries to convince him of the benefits of having a giraffe neck. This companion to Penguin Problems is laugh-out-loud funny and must be read aloud.

 

Fox and Chick: The party and other stories by Sergio Ruzzier

Fox and chick are different, but they are friends. New readers will enjoy their (well, mostly chick’s) silly antics, told in a series of short vignettes. Sure to make you smile!

 

How to Be a Lion by Ed Vere

This British import features the ‘King of the Jungle’ musing on what it means to be a lion. MUST he be fierce? MUST he roar? His friend Marianne, a duck, helps him figure it all out. Vere’s thick-lined illustrations and limited palette set the right tone.

 

I’m Sad by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

What if, sometimes, we’re sad for no reason? In this story, a girl and her friend potato (yes, I said potato) try to cheer up their friend flamingo (yes, I said flamingo). While flamingo is grateful for his friends’ efforts, he still feels sad. And that’s okay. This silly yet sweet story validates a child’s feelings.

 

Mad, Mad Bear by Kimberly Gee

Perfectly representing and acknowledging a toddler’s anger at having to leave the park when he’s not ready. Bear is SO mad, but after a bit of time being mad, he feels better. As Mr. Roger’s said, it’s good for kids to learn that feelings don’t last forever. You won’t ALWAYS be mad.

 

Niblet and Ralph by Zachariah O’Hora

Niblet and Ralph are two cats who look very much alike and are friends, but also are, in fact, quite different. When, on an attempt to visit each other, they get mixed up, their people know right away that something isn’t right. Will this mix-up get fixed? O’Hora’s retro art style fills me with happiness. Also, the next cat I get will be named Niblet BECAUSE.

 

Penguin and Tiny Shrimp Don’t Do Bedtime by Cate Berry illustrated by Charles Santoso

I’ve already shared this in storytime a couple of times and it’s a winner. Penguin and Tiny Shrimp (see? It’s already funny) try a number of stall tactics to convince the reader it’s not time for bed. The illustrations are filled with silly details that will demand multiple readings.

 

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

When Taylor’s blocks are knocked over, they are sad and mad. Lots of animals suggest ways to feel better, but none of them suit. The rabbit? The rabbit just…listens. And this turns out to be just what Taylor needs. A beautiful sweet validation of feelings.

 

Thank You, Omu by Oge Mora

The scent of Omu’s stew draws everyone in the neighborhood to her home, and she gives them all a taste. But soon there’s nothing left! The cut-paper illustrations add to the story’s warmth. This tale of generosity and friendship will make your heart smile. And want to eat stew.

 

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

Starting school is HARD – especially if you are a little dinosaur in a class full of humans! This little dino is learning how to make friends, and that includes NOT snacking on her classmates. How would she feel if someone wanted to eat her? This is easily one of the funniest, and best, early-elementary-appropriate first-day-of-school picture books out there.

Stay tuned for my middle grade, graphic novel, and YA faves!

*I absolutely can’t take credit for this idea; I stole it from one of my many genius children’s librarian friends.

**I am 1000% doing this for myself. I. LOVE. BOOKS!

What is a Read Aloud Revolution

12 Jul

As I start the process of moving the posts from my early literacy blog over here, I think it’s only fitting that I start with the one that explains WHY I’m starting a read aloud revolution:

The idea for a “read aloud revolution” first began at work. As you know, I’m a children’s librarian who has worked primarily with preschoolers, and in recent years, through my job, have learned a lot about how children learn to read. My interest was really piqued, though, when the Association of Library Services to Children (ALSC – a division of the American Library Association) and the Public Library Association (PLA) teamed up to create a curriculum that librarians could use to learn about, and incorporate, more early literacy skills development in their storytimes. It was also designed to help librarians educate parents about early literacy and what parents, as a child’s first teacher, could do at home. This was a revolutionary concept for some librarians – breaking that 4th wall in storytime and speaking directly to parents in order to share “early literacy tips” with them – and it was a difficult idea for many of us to get our minds around. Our storytimes have ALWAYS incorporated early literacy learning (the acts of reading a story aloud, singing songs, doing fingerplays and reciting rhymes build language skills, storytelling skills, comprehension skills, and, most importantly, a love of books and stories), but the idea that we were EXPERTS in early literacy, and had something to teach parents, was new.

For some reason unknown to me, I quickly embraced the idea. I think it was in part due to the excitement I felt when I learned how EASY it could be to prepare a child to learn to read, but how IMPORTANT it was to begin early. Early literacy became my passion. I started working with a group called Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy where I was able to share ideas for promoting early literacy learning in the library and learn more about the brain development of the young child. And as I learned more and more, I became more passionate about sharing the information with… well, EVERYONE.  Truly, my friends with children can’t get me to shut up.

A few years ago I was asked to speak to a group of community leaders. It was an annual awards ceremony, and the theme they had chosen for the year was “literacy.” I was honored to be chosen, and as I worked on my speech, a theme began to take root: a read aloud revolution. The idea that we can CHANGE THE WORLD if everyone knows how important it is to read aloud with and talk to young children. And DOES it. And passes the word along.  Here’s the text of that speech, with a few minor alterations:

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I am here to start a revolution.  A revolution that will change the world, one child at a time, and it begins today and with all of you! A read aloud revolution!

Why do we need to start a read aloud revolution? What IS a read-aloud revolution?  I would like to share a passage from the book Reading Magic by Mem Fox.  You many have heard of Fox, she’s the author of many wonderful picture books, including Time for BedWombat Divine, and Ten Little Fingers, Ten Little Toes.  She’s also become a well-respected expert in the area of early literacy, speaking on the importance of reading aloud to children. In Reading Magic, she writes:

“In 1975 our daughter, Chloe, came home from school in a state of excitement and said, “I can read!”  She was four years old and had been at school for two weeks.  We smiled indulgently as parents do when they think their child is cute.  Read? She had to be joking.

She ran to her room and came back with The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss, one of her favorites at the time, and read it to us word for word, with expression.  We were beside ourselves.

But could she really read? We had read that book to her so many times, we thought she might have memorized it. We hesitated, not wanting to dampen her wild enthusiasm, then bravely opened the book at random to see if she could read a page by itself, without reciting the whole book by rote from the beginning.  She read that page, and another page at random, and another.

At the time, I was a college professor teaching drama.  I knew nothing about the teaching of reading.  In my eyes I was “only” a mother.  I rushed to Chloe’s school the next morning and told her teacher what had happened.

“What did you do?” I asked, agog.  “What method did you use? It’s a miracle!”

“I didn’t do much,” she said.  “How could I? She’s only been in my class for two weeks.  You must have read to her often before she came to school.”

“Of course,” I said.

“Well, there you go,” said the teacher, as if that were that.

When I first read this passage in Fox’s book, I had to stop and consider.  Is it really as simple as that?  C’mon.  Reading aloud with kids is fun for them, sure, and they learn something, and it’s a nice way to settle them down before bedtime, but will the simple act of sharing books with a child, every day, cause a child to learn to read?

Here’s a revolutionary fact I’ve learned: YES, it really is AS SIMPLE AS THAT. Children who are read to, regularly, from birth, become readers.  By hearing stories read aloud and using books, they develop important early literacy skills such as how to use and recognize print, an awareness of phonics sounds, and learn how to identify letter shapes and sounds.  They grow their vocabularies and become able to tell stories and predict what will happen next.  If a child has developed this early literacy foundation, he or she will have an easier time learning to read.

But don’t take my word for it.  According to a report by the National Institute for Literacy, a federal government agency, “The years from birth through age 5 are a critical time for children’s development and learning. Learning to read begins well before children enter school.”  A 2009 report entitled “America’s Early Childhood Literacy Gap,” commissioned by the non-profit early literacy organization Jumpstart, states that

Cognitive development is the product of two interacting influences – brain growth and experience – both of which exert their greatest impact during the first five years of life.  The developing brain triples in the first year alone and is virtually fully formed by the time a child enters kindergarten.  This period is critical and sets the stage for all of later learning and adult functioning.

What does this mean?  It means that what we do for a child in the first five years of their life sets the stage for that child’s future educational success.  In fact, this same report states that: “studies by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University show that of 50 children having trouble learning to read in Kindergarten, 44 of them will still be having trouble in third grade.”  In other words, children who start behind, stay behind.  They do not catch up.  They WILL probably NEVER catch up – not in 3rd grade, not in 7th grade, not in 12th grade.

In addition to all the brain development and early literacy skills learning that goes along with reading aloud to children, there’s the added benefit of the warm, safe, happy feeling that comes along with snuggling in a loved one’s arms and sharing a book.  Children need to associate reading and books with happy times in their lives. The children I read to get excited when I walk through the door with new books. They greet me with hugs and yells of “Miss Mary!” They ask, “did you bring us new books?” and when we’ve finished a story, they often as me to “read another book”. Now, I don’t have any magic formula for reading aloud that gets kids to listen.  I merely make sure that we are always having fun.  For me, that means occasionally crying like a dinosaur, but that’s another story.

Think for a moment about something you hate to do. I HATE folding laundry.  I put off folding laundry far too long, because I just don’t enjoy it. I’m not motivated to do it, and that’s why I put it off.  Now think of something you LOVE to do.  I happen to love to bake – cookies, especially.  So when it’s time to bake, I jump up, get out the ingredients, and get to work! I’m motivated, because I enjoy the process!  It’s the same thing for children learning to read.  If books and reading are fun for them, because they’ve been exposed to regular and repeated positive experiences with books like snuggling up with mom or dad at bedtime or attending a really engaging library storytime, they’ll be motivated to learn to read on their own.  Hey!  Books are fun! I want to learn how to read them on my own!  If they’re motivated, they’ll practice reading. And the more they practice, the easier it gets.  The easier it gets, the more they’ll read.

Librarians and teachers know reading aloud to children is important and will dramatically affect a child’s educational future. Many government and non-profit agencies know it is important.  But children don’t spend a lot of time with teachers or librarians or government agencies in their first 5 years of life, when all of this critical brain development and early literacy learning is happening.  So it is MOST important that those who are a child’s first teacher, the parents and caregivers, know how important it is to share books and stories and words with young children – early and often.  I know you’re thinking: “everybody knows that reading aloud to kids is important! This isn’t anything revolutionary!” Perhaps we DO know. But are we following through? Are we turning off the tv, sitting down with our children, and reading?

The answer is: not as much as we should be. 37% of children are still starting kindergarten unprepared to learn to read.   The read-aloud deficit is even greater in lower income areas, where children are less likely to have access to books or to be read to by a parent or caregiver.  A report by the Packard and MacArthur Foundations found that children growing up in middle income families have had, on average, 1000 to 1700 hours of one-on-one read aloud time.  Children in low income families, however, have only been exposed to, on average, 25 hours.  25 HOURS.  This is a frightening disparity.

So, what can we do to bridge this gap and ensure that ALL young children are entering kindergarten prepared to learn to read?  Well, in my view, two important things need to be happening: First: We need to be reading to, and talking to, our young children, starting from birth.  Second: we need to make sure all children have access to books.

Libraries can do some things, and schools and teachers (especially the amazing Head Start and Preschool teachers) do so much already to encourage early literacy.  But every one of you can have a major impact on the educational future of the children in your community by doing a few simple things: Talk to anyone and everyone who will listen about how important it is to read to young children.  Give books as gifts. Visit the library, borrow books, and ask the librarians for recommendations of great read alouds.  Support, financially, with your time, or in any other way you can programs that educate parents about the importance of reading with their kids and get books into those kids’ hands, like Reach Out and Read, and the Jefferson County Library Foundation.  Most importantly, talk to, share books with, and READ to the young children in your life.

I read a statement on a t-shirt recently that I think is the perfect battle cry for our read-aloud revolution:

Read Early.

Read Often.

Read Always.

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So. There it is. The read aloud revolution that I want to start begins with you: parents, caregivers, teachers, librarians, ANYBODY who cares about children and their success. Together, we CAN change the world.

What’s in a Name?

2 Nov

When I was born, my parents named me Katie. Well, okay, technically  they named me Mary (that’s what’s on my birth certificate) but always intended to call me Katie. That was back in the days when lots of girls were named Mary Chris, Mary Pat, Mary This, Mary That… but weren’t actually called Mary. So, until I was 5, everyone called me Katie.

Then Kindergarten happened. And my 5-year-old self informed the teacher that my name was Mary and I was to be called that. I then proceeded to make everyone else I knew begin calling me Mary instead of Katie. Why did I decide to change my name? I have no idea what was going on in my young brain, but as an adult I’ve speculated that it’s because we’d recently moved to Denver and lived almost next door to a family with two twin girls – one of whom was named Katie. Strangely enough, her real name was also Mary Something.

I’ve been Mary ever since. Kudos to my family for going along with my self-inflicted name change.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because it kind of relates to why one of my katyfavorite books growing up was Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton. Oh, how I loved the story of Katy, the bulldozer/snow plow who did her work in the City of Geopolis and saved the day one particularly snowy winter. I adored the detailed illustrations with maps of the town so that I could follow Katy’s route as she made it safe for the mail carrier to continue his route and the doctor to get his patient to the hospital. But most of all, I loved that Katy and I shared the same name (albeit a slightly different spelling).

lolaFinding yourself (or even just your name) in a children’s book is a powerful thing.  Each year, I am fortunate enough to be able to gift each child whom I visit in my preschool outreach a brand new book. As the kids in one class were making their selections, one young lady saw Anna Quinn’s Lola at the Library. The book features an adorable, smiling African-American child as she makes her regular visit to the library. The young lady pointed at the book, eyes wide, and said “I want THAT one.” What made this encounter so powerful? The girl who chose the book looked EXACTLY like Lola in the story. Right down to the pigtails.

Children need to feel like they are important and have worth, and seeing yourself and your story reflected in a book provides some measure of that. Just as I was proud to share a name with hero snowplow Katy, my young book selector probably was proud to see that she, or a child that looked like her, could be the star of her own story.

What story are YOU the star of? Are there any books that made you think “hey, that’s me!”?

Happy Book Birthday to Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons!

1 May

I am in possession of a copy of this book RIGHT NOW and I can’t TELL you how excited I am. It’s wonderful! A good match for the first book. And the colors are bright and glorious. Plus there’s a very catchy chant:

I do NOT apologize for getting that stuck in your head. “My buttons, my buttons…”

What Do Storybook Dinosaurs Have in Common?

25 Jan

I was reading dinosaur stories to my preschoolers yesterday, and I noticed a common theme between three books we read. I wonder if you can figure out what it is? One of the teachers got it. The books were:

  • Waddell, Martin. The Super Hungry Dinosaur.  I love this book – especially for Hal’s bravery when defending his family and how he makes the dinosaur apologize.
  • Yolen, Jane. How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food.  All these dino books are favorites of the kids. Even if they won’t admit that YES, sometimes, they DO bubble their milk. But NEVER stick beans up their noses.
  • Shea, Bob. Dinosaur vs. Bedtime. ROOAAARR! Dinosaur wins! Except when it comes to bedtime. Bedtime ALWAYS wins.

Have you figured out what these books have in common? I mean, besides DINOSAURS, obviously. It is…..

Spaghetti. Yes, spaghetti. In The Super Hungry Dinosaur, after Hal makes the dino apologize and clean up, he declares he’s still hungry. So Hal’s mom makes him a Super Hungry Dinosaur Dinner, which happens to be spaghetti and meatballs. In How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food we are asked if a dino would “flip his spaghetti high into the air?” And finally, in Dinosaur vs. Bedtime, the dino goes up against a bowl of spaghetti. Who will win? Dinosaur, OF COURSE.

*SLURP*

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