Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Newbery and Caldecott Awards Will be Awarded in January! Part 1: Predictions about the Newbery

Countdown by Deborah Wiles
(Scholastic Press, 2010)
     In the world of children's literature, there will be a BIG annual announcement made on January 10th! That's the day that the Newbery and Caldecott awards will be announced at the American Library Association's Midwinter Conference in San Diego. As you probably know, the Newbery is awarded for the children's book which was found to be the best written book published in the last year. The Caldecott is awarded for the book that is regarded as the best illustrated children's book published in the past year. I decided to focus this blog entry on the Newbery, with a "part 2" coming up soon on the Caldecott.

One Crazy Summer by Rita
(Amistad, 2010)
A few of the many news articles and blogs that give us a peek at the possible Newbery Medal Winners for 2011:

The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan
(Scholastic Press, 2010)
     What are my guesses for which books are in the running based on what I've had a chance to read? In no particular order, my pool of books that I think the picks should come from include Keeper by Kathi Appelt, Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord, Countdown by Deborah Wiles, Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman, One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, and The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan. However, there are more critically acclaimed books from the past year that I have NOT had a chance to read that I am curious about such as Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schiltz, Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter, Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes, and A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner. Therefore, I can't really predict the proper winners.  I'm excited to keep reading! :)

      Do you agree with the predictions for this year's Newbery awards? Which ones have you read or seen? Feel free to leave a comment on your predictions and favorite books of the year! :)
      P.S. - I recently planned a third grade literacy coaching lesson using Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman for mid-January! :)  It will be my first time using the text that I received from Amazon the other day. :) I have enjoyed Sidman's other fabulous collections of poetry and love this one, too! Be sure to check in January for a blog post about my lesson! :)

Additional Links of Interest

American Library Association: This association awards the Newbery Medal annually. You  can check out past winners by going to this link: 

Anita Silvey: Check out children's literature expert on Facebook, Twitter (@anitasilvey), and her websites. She updates on all of these social networking tools quite often!  It was thanks to her Facebook update today that I heard about this afternoon's Scripps news article. :) (Thank-you so much Anita Silvey! :)

Pam Munoz Ryan:  You can visit Ryan's newly revised website to learn more about her books and read some interview responses. Ryan is a guest blogger for this post on Teaching Books. Click here to listen to her introduce and read an excerpt from her book The Dreamer. You can preview the a portion on the book through this Google books link, too. There is an official Teaching Guide from Scholastic as well, and you can download it as a PDF.  In this Scholastic's On Our Mind You Tube video entry, Ryan was interviewed about the book and her inspirations.


Cynthia Lord: This link will take you to her blog, and this link will take you to her website.  Lord has posted a Teacher's Guide to use with her book Touch Blue.  Explore more of Lord's offerings for teachers and librarians by looking at the interview and blog links for her books on this page of her official website as well. This Google books link will take you to a preview of Touch Blue.

Rita Williams-Garcia: Preview One Crazy Summer through this widget from publisher Harper Collins. You can also listen to Rita Williams talk about her book in a very informal conversation, taped by her friend Kathi Appelt (small writing world!) at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. I love how hearing the author talk about their book brings an extra dimension of life and understanding to the reader's experiences.



Kathi Appelt:  Here is Kathi Appelt's website link, and this link will take you to the blog portion of her site. You  can preview the beginning of the text through this Google books link. (For fun, you can catch other video clips from Appelt on You Tube. She posted a few with Rita Williams-Garcia on fun aspects and observations with their real life friendship. I love her voice! She must be give an amazing read aloud. It makes me miss Vermont, too!)

Deborah Wiles: This link will take you to the author's blog, and this link will take you to her website. Through this link from Scholastic, you can download the publisher's discussion guide for Countdown. Also available on Scholastic's site is a sample of Chapter One that you can read online, and you can hear an audio read aloud sample through this link. You can also go to a multimedia page where the YouTube book trailer for Countdown is posted, as well as the "Duck and Cover" video from the early 1960s that school children saw. In addition, all of the music mentioned in the book is available as an iTunes playlist. What an innovative novel!

Enjoy exploring!!!

Monday, December 27, 2010

President Obama's New Book in Honor of His Daughters

    On November 16, Knopf Books for Young Readers released President Barack Obama's children's book entitled Of Thee I Sing. It is beautifully illustrated by Loren Long, who also wrote and illustrated books such as Otis and Drummer Boy. In this Washington Post article, President Obama visited an Arlington, VA library to read aloud his book (along with a read aloud of Twas the Night Before Christmas.)  He was very personable with the children as he shared this book he wrote in 2008, prior to being elected to be the President. All proceeds from the sales will go to a scholarship fund set up for children of fallen and disabled soldiers called the Fisher House.

Beautiful Illustration by Loren
Long for President Obama's
book Of Thee I Sing (Knopf Books
for Young Readers, 2010)

     The book starts out with this question: "Have I told you lately how wonderful you are?" As you can see in the Associated Press clip introduction below, President Obama states his inspiration for his book began as a letter to his wonderful daughters. It led him to think of thirteen famous people in history who embodied the same character traits that Malia and Sasha display. The President uses lyrical language to explain the given famous historical figures and their traits. President Obama's sincere adoration of his daughters is quite evident in his writing.   

     In this presentation video from Random House/Knopf Books for Young Readers, illustrator Loren Long discusses the text and its powerful message that he helped to convey in his talented illustrations. It's a wonderful, short clip to show before reading the book aloud with the class.

      There is so many ways to build this text into a lesson, from characterization, main idea and supporting details, "golden threads" of well crafted writing, a strong lead and ending, multiculturalism, citizenship, and more. Be sure to check out Loren Long's website and his other books. I highly recommend it! :)  

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Keeping Up with the Growing Trends in Technology and Literacy

Wild About Books (Knopf
Books for Young Children,
2004) Written by Judy
Sierra and illustrated by
Marc Brown
      Although we hope that real books are always a part of our personal and educational lives, it is also savvy to be aware of the emerging technologies involved with the world of literacy.  Think about where technologies with cell phones were 10 years ago and what they can do now! Some of us can remember when sending one email was a big deal 15 years ago. In contrast, think how many pile up in your in box by noon on a daily basis. Personal computers were so much more basic 20 years ago, and the world is at your fingertips via the Internet today. Technology will be much more integrated in the literacy lives of the children we teach in the future, too. In the age of the more affordable Kindle and the color Nook, children's books are becoming more available in this format.  Apps, or applications, based on children's books are also being explored by the large publishing companies. I recently saw on Facebook that Random House was previewing its iPad app for the book Wild About Books, written by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Marc Brown (of the Arthur series fame.)  

     Earlier this week, author Donalyn Miller posted about an article Publishers Weekly has on their site called "Don't Write the Obit for the Picture Book Yet." The article is largely a response to a New York Times article published in October called "Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children."  In the PW article, the Association of Booksellers for Children executive director Kristen Mclean refers to children being "omnivorous," meaning that they consume and respond to reading in a variety of formats.

      PW has even recently started a weekly "Apps News" update about how publishing companies are testing the waters of apps for children's books. Here are some more recent articles from Publishers Weekly highlighting the current and developing technological trends in literacy.
Other explorations in the world of apps:
  • Random House will soon expand on Wild about Books by releasing apps for the books How Rocket Learned to Read and classic Pat the Bunny. 
  • ScrollMotion is an app creator which features apps from the series Curious George.
  • The children's book classic The Little Engine That Could is available as an app on the publisher Penguin Young Readers website.
  • Scholastic is delving into the world of apps with the popular 39 Clues Series, as well as the I Spy series, Clifford, and the PBS show Word Girl.  
  • Curious Puppy - E-Imprint of Harper Collins Children's Books - This site has published its first app based on a book. It's Freight Train, the classic early childhood picture book written and illustrated by Donald Crews. Upcoming apps are slated for other classics such as Goodnight Moon, The Giving Tree, and Where the Wild Things Are, as well as classic chapter books Charlotte's Web and Ramona Quimby.
  • Books from Dr. Seuss are brought to life from Oceanhouse Media. This company also very recently released a few apps from the Tacky the Penguin series, Miss Spider series and the Little Critter series.  
     It seems that classics and popular series are a staple in the emerging apps world. There is another facet that may be aimed at appealing to those children who love interacting with technology like video games. Children's picture books are a vital part of our reading lives. It's fascinating to see how technology will continue to compliment and promote literacy!


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Great Holiday and History Read Aloud: 12 Days of Christmas in Virginia!

      Hi fellow M.W. readers! :) I have a great book to lend out this week. It's called The Twelve Days of Christmas written by Sue Corbett and wonderfully illustrated by Henry Cole. It is written in a letter format on each page spread. Although it has a title and a background story of traveling during the holiday season, the real focus of the story is Virginia's history! I would say that it's enjoyable from grades 2-4. Due to the rich incorporation of Virginia's famous and historical highlights, it's great for tying in studies and real life field trip experiences that your children have gone on this year. The "Historic Triangle Area" of Jamestown, Yorktown, and Williamsburg are featured, as well as caverns, the ponies of Chincoteague, the music of the Shenandoah Mountains, George Washington's fox hounds, and much more are included. I particularly like the full page spread after the story that continues to celebrate things Virginia is famous for. You'll just have to check it out! I plan on sharing it with a 4th grade history class this coming week for a half hour, but teachers can come by and borrow it any other time this week. :)  

Click on this link to go to Google Books for a preview of The Twelve Days of Christmas in Virginia!

                         The Twelve Days of Christmas in Virginia (Twelve Days of Christmas, State By State)

National Writing Project: Supporting Teachers to Become Even Better Teachers of Writing!

  Have you ever heard of the National Writing Project? The National Writing Project is a highly respected professional learning opportunity for teachers. There is a network of over 200 sites at various college and university campuses across the United States. Each respective site host a summer institute where teachers work on developing their skills as teachers of writing. Also, teachers develop their personal skills as a writer.


    It is so important for teachers to see themselves as writers who are always developing their own skills in order to continue to develop their instructional writing skills, too. I know that is how I personally feel, and I work with writing instruction for about half of any given school day. If I can model my thinking, sifting, brainstorming, drafting, editing, revising, and sharing, that modeling will lead to more risk taking and confidence building in the students. Like any other subject, students need to be explicitly shown. As we all know, writing can be intimidating! :) The more you practice, the more your voice and crafting abilities grow.  I would say that participating in the NWP was one of the top professional development activities that I have ever been a part of. I highly recommend it!  

     Our local branch of NWP, the Eastern Virginia Writing Project, holds its annual course each summer at William and Mary each summer. I'm a teacher consultant of the EVWP from the summer of 2004, and this participation also makes you a fellow of the NWP. Here is the EVWP's blog link, too. The application is available at their link above, and the six graduate credits and books are paid for, as well as a $100 honorarium. What a deal!

     Donalyn Miller is the author of one of the many books I enjoyed this year, which is called The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Reader in Every Child (Jossey-Bass, 2009.) This link will take you to an insightful interview she gave with the NWP. Also, she was one of the special speakers at the NWP's national convention this year. It is really worth listening to her in this YouTube posting of her speech. We all need to keep the fire and passion about why we teach, and listening to her speak is a great dose of encouragement!

Author Donalyn Miller Speaking at National Writing Project's 2010 Convention

Additional Links Related to the National Writing Project:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sharing Adventures at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

     This summer my fiance and I embarked on an over 2,000 mile road trip to his home state of Vermont. We explored so many interesting things along the journey throughout New England. One of my top requests was to stop at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts. It's a quintessential New England college town that is also famous for being the hometown of Emily Dickinson. Considering that I'm a reading teacher, avid admirer of children's literature, and a lover of a great museum gift shop, it was right up my alley!

       Here's the main link so you can take a peek:
This is me posing with the "photo opportunity" Very
Hungry Caterpillar. :)

Four very large canvases line the central hall which
were created by Carle.

    The museum has a sense of talking to children with a sense of understanding and respect. Bins of books from the artists are in bins in each room of the three galleries for children to explore and connect to the exhibitions. Pencils, clip boards, and interactive pamphlets are right at a child's level of grabbing a hold of to use. A fantastic library is also accessible for visitors to sit and explore together. There is an AMAZING museum store, and a room for children to experiment with making art to take home. There are also numerous talks and performances occur throughout the year in their auditorium. These photos were taken out in the main hall, and I obviously couldn't take photos of the actual art in the exhibitions. It was really neat to actually see the art of Eric Carle, as well as Leo Lionni and other artists. If you are ever up that way, be sure to check it out!

This banner hung in front of the museum's
children's library. I love it!
Here are a few other links of interest:
                               Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children About Their Art
  • This book, Artist to Artist, was given to me by a special friend and fellow children's book lover Denise Johnson. It's still one of my very favorites in my writing workshop process book collection. :) There are 23 artists who share about their process, photos, and drafts of their work. The proceeds from this book support the Carle Museum.
  • Eric Carle talking about The Very Hungry Caterpillar. It was filmed for the 40th celebration of this classic picture book. It includes Eric Carle talking about the inspiration, process, and shows him creating the caterpillar.  
Isn't this such a cool car? :) You can promote literacy everywhere you drive in this! :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Newly Updated, Interactive Magic Tree House Website is Launched!

      Hi fellow readers! If you haven't seen the newly revamped Magic Tree House website, be sure to check it out! Kids who are Magic Tree House fanatics will love the interactive updates to the site. Check out this YouTube clip that shows an overview of the new features.

      The actual website opens with Jack and Annie chatting with the viewer, and then the child is invited to tag along on an adventure. Kids start earning "medallions" after successfully answering questions that come from the books.  I love that kids are encouraged to type notes in a notebook, too. There are also videos from Mary Pope Osborne where she answers questions from children. These fast paced adventures that blend fantasy and facts (in most of the stories) are a favorite chapter book series for a reason. :) Also, explore the nonfiction research guides that compliment the adventures!

      You can preview sample portions of all the books from the Magic Tree House series (numbers 1-28), the Merlin Missons (numbers 29 and ongoing), and research guides here.

     Here is their teachers page. I picked a few examples of ones that are fun but can also be related to studies explored in 2nd and 3rd grade.

                                                   Product DetailsThe newest additions that come out next year can be seen on #45 A Crazy Day for Cobras, a Research Guide on Snakes and Other Reptiles, #46 Dogs in the Dead of the Night, and a Research Guide on Dog Heroes.

     Don't you just love sneak peeks of upcoming books in a series? Have fun and let the kids know about it! :)

     For an additional link, here's a video of an interview of Mary Pope Osborne which is posted by Reading Rocket's resourceful website.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Spilling Ink's First Annual Writing Contest!

      One of my favorite finds in books in June was the book Spilling Ink from Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter. My personal copy is completely bookmarked, tabbed, starred, and sticky noted. Let's just say it's one of my well loved sources of inspiration for my teaching. I also select passages to open my writing lessons in the fifth grade classes that I have visited this year. Like Ralph Fletcher's series written for young authors, Spilling Ink talks TO the students and encourages them to take risks and try!  

     One of the most rewarding things to be a part of is when those students find their voice, and realize that their everyday lives are important and that they do have something to say. I've brainstormed, planned, written, and shared with students stories from my own life, because it is so important to model how to harness the possibilities. Writing is intimidating and vast, and Potter and Mazer know that. One of my sayings is, "You can make the ordinary extraordinary just by writing it down!" I've zoomed in on moments like a flat tire on a road trip, little adventures with my Yorkie Lola, and exploring the Chesapeake Bay as a child. It's about finding the right words to "spice" up your writing, sticking to the subject while elaborating, great leads, and satisfying endings. Mentoring writers is instilling a confidence to experiment and try, and the openness to edit and revise to polish and give writing the proper structure to make it shine.

      If you are a 3-5 grade teacher, you could post this link on your Edline and encourage students to write over the holidays. If they choose to enter, they can do so by following the entry directions here.

      Spilling Ink's First Short Story Contest!

      You Tube video from authors Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter about their inspiration and a sneak peek at their audio recording. (Thanks to Dr. Denise Johnson for letting me know about this link. :)

      Here is the direct link to Spilling Ink's fun writing inspirations from Mazer and Potter for kids. (Also great for Edline! :)

      I have purchased three copies for MW this fall. Third grade has loved using it as a source of inspiration as well! If you would like to see a copy, come by and I'll show you mine. The students will go above and beyond on writing if we keep nurturing their voice and applauding their efforts. Both structure and testing demands can be taught in partnership with the teachings of authors Mazer, Potter, and Fletcher. (I'll post more about Fletcher in an upcoming post. :) Keep an open mind, keep capturing, and keep taking good risks with your writing with the kids. :) The kids learn best from their mentors - real authors and really great teachers like you!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Pioneer Valley - Dufresne's Useful Information on Early Literacy

      One of our favorite companies that creates little books is Pioneer Valley. In this link, author and early literacy expert Michele Dufresne writes a great article about guided reading for beginning readers in first post in a series. In the "Part 2" post, Dufrense discusses in detail her helpful advice on selecting appropriate books for instruction. In her "Part 3" post, Dufrense shares about effective book introductions.

     Michele Dufresne includes this link of this helpful video clip from the Reading Recovery Council of North America's website. It discusses assessment, taking running records, and observation of reading behaviors. Dufresne also provides a helpful link to this concise summary of what running records are about from Rapid City Schools.
     You can also check out the Pioneer Valley catalog. Books from Pioneer Valley are typically used by at our school for Reading Recovery and some ELL instruction. It is nice to see the quality catalog! Be sure to flip through the sample books online.

Bella and Rosie are Cute     Bella and Rosie are two of Dufresne's dogs that star in a popular series from Pioneer Valley. I have seen many students eagerly enjoy following the adventures of Bella and Rosie in books at various reading levels. You can download a few free books, sign up for a monthly calendar from Bella and Rosie, and even follow them on Facebook and Twitter. (Really! Too cute!:) I also love her spin off series on Yorkie puppies Daisy and Jack that have also joined their family. These little books are humorous and adorably photographed! Thank-you Michele Dufresne for your wonderful contributions to reading and helpful links for teachers to explore!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Anchor Charts for Our Writer's Sparks Notebooks!

Developed by Wendy Melzer
Developed by Wendy Melzer

     These anchor charts are located in all of the fifth and third grade classes as a support reference to guide the use of the Writer's Sparks Notebooks that I created for these grade levels to use. Thank-you to all of the fifth and third grade teachers for their openness in incorporating this idea this year and applying their own creativity in using the writer's notebooks. I get so excited when the kids are motivated, curious, or proud of something they've written! Keep up the AMAZING work! :)  

Developed by Wendy Melzer