I really wanted to come up with a more concise title, but as it stands, these three fiction picture books focus on the place of the library in African American history. Two of them were nominated for the Cybils Fiction Picture Book awards this year, and the first book won a Coretta Scott King Award in 2001.
Goin’ Someplace Special
by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
It’s the 1950s and ’Tricia Ann is heading downtown in Nashville to go “Someplace Special.” Her grandmother is reluctant to let her go on her own, but when she relents, ’Trica Ann faces a journey of pride, humiliation, encouragement, and ultimately joy as she reaches her destination the public library, open to whites and blacks alike. The injustices of the segregated south are made all too real with this likeable character facing off against the obstacles. Pinkney’s lovely watercolors bring just the right feeling of the era to the book.
by Ann Malaspina, illustrated by Colin Bootman
When this story takes place in Alabama in 1951, Louis isn't allowed to use the public library. When his father's own book collection runs thin, he turns to the small library at his church to find a book on President Lincoln. When he can't find the information he wants to know, he bravely steps into the public library to find the book he needs. Some people are rude, but one librarian is helpful in getting Louis the book he wants which shows how Abraham Lincoln starting shaking things up even as a boy - just like Louis. The book contains additional information about segregation in libraries, plus a bit about Abraham Lincoln. The watercolor illustrations are lovely and capture the feelings and characters quite nicely.
Ron's Big Mission
by Rose Blue, Corinne Naden, illustrated by Don Tate
Ron loves books and is well-known at the Lake City Public Library for his frequent visits. He spends hours reading there, but this day is different. The nine year old boy is going to take on the system by demanding to be allowed to check out books. Knowing that the privilege is reserved for whites, he literally takes a stand to get his own library card. Based on a real incident in the life of Astronaut Ron McNair, the story gives a different feel to discrimination than most books on the subject, focusing on the institutional ruling than belief system. All of the individuals who encounter Ron - from the friendly elderly lady to the helpful librarian to the befuddled police - all want to help him, mostly by getting around the law. While it may not offer a more valid a perspective than other books that tackle discrimination, it puts the emphasis on an unfair law rather than racist people. The illustrations also lighten the tone, with the bright colors and expressive faces. A particularly good book for read-aloud in the classroom or library.
Links to books in this post are affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which the site MotherReader.com may receive a referral fee.
Ask a simple question, get lots of fascinating answers. Last week, I talked about my home library and asked: "Do you organize your books? How so?" Between comments on the original post and on Facebook, I got over 200 responses. I thought you might enjoy reading a sample of them. There were lots of funny, creative and intriguing answers.
How did the majority of people say how they organized their books? By genre? By author? By subject? Nope (although all of those were mentioned repeatedly.)
The number one answer was: by physical attribute. Height, size, width and weight were all on the list. Also, whether the book was hardcover or a paperback. A surprising number of people said they sorted by color. See this picture for a beautiful example.
"I live in an RV. The few precious books we keep are divided by owner (Mom/family) then fiction/non-fiction, then ordered by size (because space is at a premium)."
"Hardcovers are shelved vertically and paperbacks end up stacked horizontally."
"Height, so I can adjust the various shelves to the level of the books on them. (This drives people who organize by subject crazy by the way)."
The second most popular method was by genre and the third was alphabetical. Many adults were very specific about they shelved their books. For example:
"As a grad student I had a special system. My personal library was broken down by subject, content similarity, book size, and color, since I knew exactly in my head which books I had and what each one looked like. I could find them much quicker that way."
"I have photos of each of my bookcases, so that when I move, I can arrange the books exactly how I had them in the previous setting. I pack them according to bookcase too. Original arrangements are by topic, and size, mostly, often author, if several titles by same."
Children's books posed a much bigger challenge, and one I completely understand:
"Arrange the children's books?? Try explaining that concept to my 4 year old."
"I put them in a bookshelf. Then said child comes along and tears them all out. Then rinse and repeat."
"I have 3 year old twins, I am happy if their books are back on their book shelf every night!"
"My son's books always get scrambled through his room every time I try to organize them."
"If I can keep the kids' books with the spines facing the right direction, we're doing well."
"Are you kidding me? We have books everywhere. Just getting them on a shelf is an accomplishment. I take solace in the fact that the books are all over is because they love to read book, after book, after book."
"My toddler is against organization."
Here's some of the methods used by parents:
"Big books on the big shelf. Little books on the little shelf. Keep the books off the floor."
"I have the board books down low, and a big shelf of readers. Then there is a giant pit full of oversized books I don't know what to do with. All the books in the kids' room are left to their own devices. It's all about serendipity up there."
"On my adult shelves, by category, then author, then height, for visual appeal. On the kids shelves, there is a lot of traffic. So I just tidy and place by size so it looks neat."
"I've got it 'easy' since my child is a toddler; all indestructible board books on one shelf, other books arranged by publisher/series on another shelf with a special spot for 'current reading' books. We're concentrating on winter/snow-related books this week."
A few people mentioned that it was the children actually doing the organizing:
"As a child I wanted to be a librarian and taped little call letters to the fronts of all my books."
"When my daughter was 8 she began organizing her book shelf by genre. I was in chidren's literature course while finishing up my English degree and she was fascinated by the work I had to do. So one day she decided to put all of her historical fiction, fantasy, biography, etc. in respective categories. I was impressed by how much she had learned."
And I found that not everyone holds on to their books.
"I try to give my books away. I only keep those I have an attachment to. I find it's better to share with the Veterans Admin., or library, or wherever so they are read again and again."
"We recycle a lot of my son's books with their younger cousins. We lay out the books they've outgrown and invite cousins over to pick and choose what they like. The rest have gone to the friends of the library."
Plus, I discovered some interesting and creative ways to shelve books (and other objects.)
"The most fun way to organize is to have the titles of the book all tell a story as you look the spines on the shelf. Sentences and poems are fun to make that way. I also like to put them in order by relation to one another."
"I am a self-confessed bibliophile. I live with my books, constantly making stacks of the ones I'm reading at the moment and displaying them with other furniture about the room. At school, I've arranged low, long book shelves with one standing tall bookshelf for display of children's books with great, illustrated covers/sleeves and related artifacts that go with that theme. For example: Flotsam is on display with a collection of shells, clay sea creatures, etc."
And, this was a common refrain:
"I just want to know how she gets her kids to follow the system!"
The truth is, I don't. I mentioned in my previous post that we had moved recently, but it was six months ago. My son had disorganized everything I had originally organized. Our books were everywhere, so last weekend, I made an attempt to put them back in some kind of order. We discovered lots of books this week because we were finally able to find them.
And here are my favorite comments. I kept these until the end to give you a laugh.
"By how short the errant chair leg is."
"I organize them... mess them up a bit... then organize again."
"The librarians do it for me. I store them in my library bag until they are all read, and then I drop them in the book return slot. Then I go look for more already-sorted books. It's like magic!"
"Yep, right on the back of the toilet in order of which was most recently read!"
Thanks to Lee Erickson for the beautiful pictures of his toddler granddaughter looking at books. See his whole post on the subject here (with more great pictures).
Thanks to Alex Zealand for the picture of her five year old's bedroom and his book collection.
At first glance, February isn't the most inspirational of months. The slog of winter feels, well, sloggy, and spring is still ages away. May we suggest a little writing prompt to help you and your kids through the doldrums?
The Exquisite Prompt Writing Challenge from Reading Rockets and Adlit.org has just the right mix of ideas to get you going: Self-portraits, poetry, pourquoi tales, fabulous fables, and the 13th Labor of Hercules. This month, Shannon Hale (Princess Academy) and Calef Brown (Polkabats and Octopus Slacks) provide the inspiration and your kids do the rest.
Any other creative ideas to break the February blahs? Or does anyone out there actually like February?
I've run across a host of articles dedicated to encouraging young readers recently. I hope that you find some of them useful.
Commonsense Media shares a Q&A with Diane Frankenstein (author of Reading Together: Everything You Need to Know to Raise a Child Who Loves to Read) on how to get kids excited about books. Here's a brief excerpt: "Parents mistakenly think that once their children can read on their own, they no longer need to be involved. Reading and discussing a story creates and nurtures the habit of taking about what matters to children. And in our fast-moving, media-saturated world, thoughtful conversations are more important than ever before." I so agree! Diane also includes some specific guidelines for talking to your kids about books. Thanks to my friend Liz for the link.
T. Wright at Room to Grow: Making Early Childhood Count has a nice nuts and bolts piece, with examples, on questions to ask when choosing a book for your preschooler. For example: "Is the text appropriate for my child's developmental level? Text with rhymes and repetition are often favorites for young children. Children are able to remember the text patterns and "read" the books independently."
Once you're done choosing a book for your preschooler, you might want to check out Dawn Little's piece at Literacy Toolbox on ten tips for reading aloud with your preschooler. Dawn suggests: "Read wordless picture books with your children. Create a story for your child based on what is happening on each page. If your child is old enough, ask your child to "read" the story to you." She also includes some suggested wordless picture book titles, such as Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola. What do you all think? Do your preschoolers like wordless picture books?
Author Patrick Carman has an interesting piece in Publisher's Weekly about how to reach young readers in the distraction-filled modern era. Carman says: "Today's teens and preteens have an overwhelming need to stay connected, and while adults may not appreciate it, we do have to live with it. My wife and I face this reality on a daily basis with our 14- and 12-year-old daughters. We've surrounded them with books, read to them endlessly over the years, and encouraged quiet time away from their friends and the consuming force of the computer. Yet it's a challenge to keep them engaged by the written page." He goes on to discuss the need to have (in addition to traditional books) stories like his Skeleton Creek books that "seamlessly blend words, videos, and the Web." Have any of you parents seen your teens and pre-teens engaged by more interactive, media-connected books? Thanks to Benjamin J Apel of PC Studio for the link.
And for another piece with an author's views on encouraging young readers, don't miss our new National Ambassador for Young People's Literature at Public School Insights. The interview is available in text and audio formats (it's 12 minutes long). Among other insights, Katherine Paterson says "Reading asks things of you that nothing else does. You cannot be a passive reader. It takes the gift of your intellect--you have to be able to decode the words and understand them. It takes, in a way, life experience, because a story doesn't make any sense to you if you can't understand what's happening in it. It also takes your creative imagination, because you have to make all the pictures. The whole child is involved in the process. I think we've seen what happens to a country and to a society when people stop reading and listen to a few sound bites, making really important decisions on the basis of very little--and many times very biased--information."
Dawn Morris from Moms Inspire Learning recently read Jim Trelease's The Read-Aloud Handbook for the first time. She considers it essential (the one book we all should read), and I do agree with her. I'm in fact re-reading it right now. Dawn is writing a series of posts in response to the book. One that stood out for me is The Tortoise, the Hare, and Literacy, about how many parents seem to live like the hare, instead of the tortoise, racing around to teach children phonics and worksheets, instead of slowing down to gift them with the love of reading. Dawn says: "It's up to parents to raise the readers and leaders of tomorrow. If we want to create a better world, we have to stop relying on other people to help our children to learn and grow. It's a big responsibility; but we have the tools we need to change the world, one child at a time..."
Joyce Grant from Getting Kids Reading is always thinking about ways to connect her son with books. Recently she shared two posts that stood out for me. In the first, she describes leaving her eight-year-old son a surprise, no occasion gift: a copy of Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. "You're eight, you don't feel like going to bed, you're dragging your feet, prolonging the inevitable... and then you find a new book in your bed. The whole situation suddenly changed. His face lit up, and he thanked me like crazy." The second post is about getting kids reading by telling them about the movie or TV show. She was thrilled to see a rack of movie tie-in books at Blockbuster, saying "I think reading extensions can get kids reading. For instance, while they're waiting for the new Alice in Wonderland movie to come out, I bet a lot of kids are picking up the book for the first time." What do you all think? Do popular movies and TV shows get kids excited to go back and read the books?
I've mentioned Amy's series at Literacy Launchpad on tips for fostering a love of reading. In her latest post, Amy talks about limiting television (something that I also wrote about recently here at Booklights). Amy extensively references The Read-Aloud Handbook (are you parents out there getting the idea that this might be a good book to read? It is!). But she also shares her own family's personal experience in limiting television watching for the sake of encouraging reading. For example, she suggests having audiobooks or NPR on in the background, especially in the car, instead of TV.
And speaking of posts that tackle topics that I've also discussed in my Tips for Growing Bookworms series, Dawn Little writes at Literacy Toolbox about incorporating "environmental print" into your preschooler's vocabulary. (My tip was about pointing out when you're learning something useful by reading - environmental print is a more concise way to express some of the things that I as saying.) Dawn says "Recognizing the signs, symbols, and words that children see every day is a precursor to beginning reading... It's important that children use the world around them to help make connections."
One more tips post, one that also references The Read-Aloud Handbook, comes to us from Jim at Teacherninja. Jim offers tips for teachers and parents for growing readers (especially formerly reluctant readers). Here's an excerpt: "The back of the driver's side car seats in both of our vehicles are stuffed with magazines and slim books that my daughter likes. There's no DVD player (except on long trips). Guess what she does when she's not bopping to the music? There's also a basket of magazines and books in both bathrooms. There's one with her name on it next to her bed she can dig into when she can't get to sleep. If you build it, they will come...". Jim also talks about reading aloud and limiting television, clearly recurring themes this week.
On the remote chance that the above didn't provide enough links for you, I have other literacy and reading-related news (including literacy-related events, programs and research, 21st century literacies, and grants and donations) at my own blog today (in a post co-authored by Terry Doherty). I'd also welcome any feedback that you might have on how I could make these Literacy 'Lights posts more useful. Thanks for stopping by Booklights!
I read that this winter is the only instance recorded that snow was on the ground in 49 of the 50 states at the same time. Hawaii was the holdout, even though they do get snow on their mountaintops sometimes. With the snowiest season I remember - and a record-breaking one in the Washington, DC area - it seems most appropriate to bring out the snow books.
In the Snow
by Peggy Collins
When a young boy wakes up to discover a world of white, he is in for a day of snowy fun. He finds animal tracks and tries to catch the rabbit who made them. He builds a snowman with his daddy, complete with hardhat and a wrench. And at the end of his adventure, goes inside for warmth and hugs. With bright, lively pictures and simple text, this is a book for the youngest readers.
Danny’s First Snow
by Leonid Gore
When a little rabbit goes out in his first snowfall, he sees friends in the piles of snow all around him. But they turn out to be trees and such buried in the snow. But it’s all good, because Mommy's waiting for him. The fuzzy art style makes it appear as if we’re viewing the illustrations through a sleet-encrusted window, which is nicer than it sounds. Gentle snowy-time book.
by Lester L. Laminack, illustrated by Adam Gustavson
“Did you hear that? Did the weatherman just say what I thought he did? Did he say... SNOW? Oh please, let it snow. Lots and lots of snow.” This person is ready for a snow day and all the things that go along with it. No alarm clock. Staying in PJs. Playing outside. A day to watch TV and read a new book. To sled and throw snowballs. The special fun in this book is the surprise that I won’t spoil, and the fun illustrations that bring the reader into the imagining of the perfect snow day. (Even if you've had enough of them this year.)
I've already talked about the lovely Waiting for Winter and at MotherReader, I have a review of a very relevant book, The Terrible Storm. And I have so many others that I like for the winter months. What are your favorites?
Links to books in this post are affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which the site MotherReader.com may receive a referral fee.
I spent a lot of time this weekend in the library, but I don't mean the public library where I work. I was organizing my home library.
We've moved a couple of times, and every time the bookshelves get set up, I struggle with how to arrange the books. My children's book collection has grown quite large and by now encompasses at least 5 bookcases.
This time when I shelved everything, I gave a great deal of thought to how my kids would use the library.
On the bottom shelf I always put board books (which are impossible to keep in order, of course). When my older son was a baby, we kept his toys and board books on the bottom shelves, so that he could play with anything he yanked off. At the moment, most of the board books are in the baby's room which has a built in bookcase.
The picture books went on the lower shelves to make it easier for my son to reach them. I also set up a stool near the bookcases, so he can reach the books up top. (The picture books go up to the fourth shelf on each bookcase because I have so many).
My older son is starting to learn to read, so I pulled every early reader I had (2 shelves worth) and put them near the bottom also. That way, they're accessible any time he wants them.
I couldn't leave it at that. I had lots more categories to organize! I made shelf space for compilations, Mother Goose, classics and poetry.
I have a shelf for non-fiction, which I need to add to. Also, I always have a shelf for the Caldecott and Newbery winners (and I this year I'm going to add the honor books).
Comic strip books, like the magical Calvin and Hobbes have just about taken over their own bookcase.
I've given holiday books their own special section. That way I don't have to search through all the picture books every time a holiday comes up.
Chapter books are on the top shelves, including long series and favorite authors.
And of course, Harry Potter gets a shelf of his own.
Also, whenever I organize, I always leave a box open for donations. It's okay (but hard) to give away books, but it's also a good idea to remove books that you don't like or bought on an impulse. That way you'll have more room for the rest.
And yes, because I couldn't help it, I alphabetized the books by author. Only by letter though, so all the W books are on the same shelf. That makes it much easier to find multiple books by the same author author. Plus, when I'm looking for a book, it's much quicker to go to the right shelf instead of searching all the books.
So here's a glimpse of a small part of my library. (Keep in mind that you're only seeing three bookcases). I actually have ten bookcases in use, most of which are filled with children's books. The shelves are not completely full, on purpose. That's for all the books we have yet to discover!
But really, it doesn't matter how you organize it. The most important thing is that you have a designated space to put the books you read to your children and that they're able to access it on their own. Size doesn't matter. When I was growing up, my mom kept one small shelf of picture books in my brother's closet. I can't tell you how exciting it was every time I went to that shelf and picked out a book for us to read together.
Do you organize your books? How so? Do you have a special place set aside for children's books that your kids can access? Is it in their bedroom? The living room? Or someplace else. I'd love to see your children's bookshelves. Please e-mail me at email@example.com. If I get enough pictures, I'll showcase all of your bookshelves next week!
Yesterday was Valentine's Day, a widespread celebration of romance and chocolate. Less well-known, perhaps, is that fact that February 14th is also the day that the winners of the Cybils are announced each year. As I've mentioned previously, the Cybils are a series of book awards given by children's and young adult literature bloggers. The awards are given to the books that panelists feel provide the best balance of literary merit and kid-appeal. This year, there are twelve winning titles, in categories ranging from easy readers to poetry to middle grade graphic novels to young adult fiction. Here are the winners:
Cybils Awards for Children's and Middle Grade Books
Picture Book (Fiction)
Picture Book (Non-Fiction)
Early Chapter Book
Middle Grade Fantasy and Science Fiction
Middle Grade Fiction
Cybils Awards For Young Adult Books
Fantasy & Science Fiction
Young Adult Fiction
You can find additional detail about the winners, including blurbs about each book, at the Cybils blog. You can also find a printable list of all of the shortlist titles (five to seven in each of the above categories) in the upper right-hand corner of the Cybils blog.
I hope that you'll take the opportunity to check out the Cybils winners. These are titles that are guaranteed to be well-written, kid-friendly titles, the cream of the crop from each category. You kids won't be disappointed with these books, and neither will you.
Tracey Wynne of PBS Parents shares her new favorite, Tell Me Something Happy Before I Go To Sleep:
Last month, my five-year-old daughter became fearful of going to sleep. There was no monster under her bed, in her closet or creeping down the hall. The monster she feared was in her head in the form of bad dreams.
In my frantic search to ease her fears, I came across the most delightful book, Tell Me Something Happy Before I Go to Sleep, by Joyce Dunbar. Written over 10 years ago, it tells the story of a little rabbit named Willa who can't fall asleep because she fears bad dreams. She asks her big brother, Willoughby, to tell her something happy before she goes to sleep. He obliges. Willoughby gets Willa to see how the many simple things in her life bring her joy, such as wearing cozy pajamas, eating certain foods or looking at the night sky. Eventually, Willa falls asleep.
This wonderful read-aloud is sweet and reassuring. I love how it addresses the power of positive thinking; a skill that will serve children well, even at night.
Reading Tell Me Something Happy... with my daughter has become part of our nightly routine. Although she still frets about bad dreams, I now know how to help - I get her to tell me something happy before she goes to sleep.
What books have helped to calm your child's nighttime fears?
In the library, these are the days when we get frantic parents looking for a Valentine book to read at their child's school and finding that all the books are gone. But here are some nice books about love that will nicely fill the gap.
Never Too Little To Love
by Jeanne Willis
A mouse who wants to give a kiss to his friend, but she's way above him - literally. He stacks things precariously to get a little bit higher, but it's pretty clear that this homemade ladder is not going to hold. Fortunately the giraffe he loves bends down and offers a kiss. Simple and sweet, the book has sturdy pages for the littlest readers.
Porcupining: A Prickly Love Story
by Lisa Wheeler
Alone and ignored in the petting zoo, the poor porcupine can’t find somebody to love. Oh but he tries, courting other animals with unintentionally insulting songs. Because no female, pigs included, want to be called "pink and fat." Just as he is about to give up hope, he meets a darling hedgehog. The cheery illustrations feature clever details, and the funny story will charm all audiences.
Pierre in Love
by Sara Pennypacker
A fisherman rat is too shy to talk to the ballerina bunny he loves. He leaves her gifts and flowers in secret, and eventually she catches him. Unfortunately, she loves another. So sad. Pierre stills feels better after having shared his secret and encourages her to do the same with wonderful results for all. The watercolor artwork of the fishing village captures the feelings of this gentle tale.
Links to books in this post are affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which the site MotherReader.com may receive a referral fee.
When should you read Charlotte's Web to your children?
It's a beautifully crafted book. The characters are vivid and easy for children to connect to. It's a wonderful combination of reality and fantasy. It does a "terrific" job of explaining friendship. It's a perfect chapter-a-night book, the chapters aren't too long and there are enough pictures to keep a child's interest. Also, a surprising number of the chapters end with a description of someone going to sleep, which makes it a great book to read at bedtime.
But, but but... Charlotte dies at the end. There's no way to get around that fact or sugarcoat it. You can explain to your children that death is part of the natural cycle of things and that Charlotte's children live on. No matter what you say, though, I guarantee your kids will be sad at the end of the book. I know I am every time I read it.
Many people read Charlotte's Web as a first read aloud. As a librarian, I frequently get asked what age the book is appropriate for. My answer is always that it depends on your child. Will they be able to handle it?
I recently asked myself this same question when I was deciding whether I should read it to my son. Stuart Little and My Father's Dragon had both been big hits for him. Was he ready for Charlotte's Web?
We talked about it for a while. He loved the cover and wanted to see more. I let him look through the book, taking in the pictures. I asked if he wanted to read the book, even if something very, very sad happens in it. He said yes... and we plunged ahead.
It was a wonderful experience. He savored each chapter and always begged for another one when we were done reading. He adored the goose, goose, goose and the gander, gander, gander. He fell wholeheartedly in love with Wilbur. He was studying spiders in his science class and he soaked in all the facts about spiders presented in the book. Since he was on the cusp of learning to read, he was delighted to learn how to spell "pig" and "Charlotte" and then find those words throughout the book.
Then came Chapter 21: The Last Day. You know the one. It ends like this:
"Next day, as the Ferris wheel was being taken apart and the race horses were being loaded into vans and the entertainers were packing up their belongings and driving away in their trailers, Charlotte died. The Fair Grounds were soon deserted. The sheds and buildings were empty and forlorn. The infield was littered with bottles and trash. Nobody, of the hundreds of people that had visited the Fair, knew that a grey spider had played the most important part of all. No one was with her when she died." (Excerpt from Charlotte's Web by E.B. White)
Before we read the chapter, we talked about the fact that there was something really sad about Charlotte was coming up. I told him that she was going to die and asked him if he still wanted me to read it. He said yes, and he snuggled into my lap and I held him very tight while we read the paragraph above. And then we both cried and talked about it. But then we moved onto Chapter 22 where we met Charlotte's children... and there was hope in the story again. And we were both okay again.
I asked him recently about the book (we read it a few months ago). He said it was one of his favorite books and he loved it. I'm planning to read it together again in a year or two.
When did you read Charlotte's Web to your children? Would you do it again at that age level? Did you decide not to read the book to their kids? When did they read it to themselves? When did you read it to yourself? What was their reaction? What was yours?
I'd love to hear about your experiences with this timeless classic.