Sunday, October 2, 2011

New Biographies Grace the School Reading Room!

   This is exciting news especially for my MW colleagues! I have been able to order some fabulous new biographies for the school reading room. I have started processing the sets of 12 books by labeling them for their A.R. reading level as well as stamping the covers and taping the spine. As I add the sets to respective grade level shelves, I am also adding the titles in the reading room's inventory notebook. 

    You will notice that I have been incorporating older biographies onto various grade level collections. I've also been rearranging grade level shelves a bit for grades 2-5 in order to make room for the biographies. I will be relabeling the updated shelves once I receive a new label maker. :) 

    These people are great examples of fascinating American citizens. Many of these figures are important people represented in our state's standardized testing. If they are not one of the important people listed in the Standards of Learning, they are a person who is a part of a historical time period that is studied. Some of the books are simply about fantastic people that are great to explore while reading biographical material and applying nonfiction reading skills with real texts.

    Here is a preview of the titles courtesy of Google Books. Just click on a title to get a sneak peek at the new books. :) These will be something fresh and exciting to share with the students in January and February when biographies and nonfiction texts are genres that are highlighted!

From the On My Own Biographies Series from Lerner Publishing:

From the Ready to Read Series from Simon Publishing:

From the Who Was.../Who Is...Series Published by Grosset and Dunlap:

From the Time for Kids Biographies Series: 

    As a bonus for the upper grades, be sure to check out the website for Time for Kids to extend your real life application on expository reading skills. Keep your eyes peeled as I process sets in my spare time and continue to add them to the school collection. I hope you and the students enjoy them this school year!

Read for the Record Day is Coming October 6th!

     Read for the Record day is coming this Thursday, October 6th. It is sponsored by an initiative from Pearson called We Give Books.  It purpose is to promote early literacy by having readers read online or traditional books. Then, they ask readers to go to their website and choose a literacy campaign to support. It is as easy as clicking. Once to pick a group, the foundation adds another book to their donations which will be made to that cause. What a win-win situation! There is also a page on the website dedicated to educators, including a section devoted to Llama Llama.

     One of the really neat things about the We Give Books site is there are many books that are available to read for free. They are easy to select. Classroom teachers can even include this website on their classroom webpage or newsletter, too. You can click here to read Llama Llama Red Pajama right on your computer!

     Be sure to check out all of the FREE online trade books that you can share online in your class with a computer projector hookup. You can also simply share some of these books at home on the home computer with your child. There is a wide variety ranging from pourquoi stories to bestsellers to classics.  

    Jumpstart, a Pearson campaign for supporting early literacy in low-income neighborhoods, is a partner in this initiative. You can find out more about Jumpstart at:


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Coming Soon! Joyce Sidman's Swirl by Swirl Nonfiction Poetry Picture Book

     Check out this engaging preview for Joyce Sidman's latest book Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature (Houghton Mifflin, 2011.) It is beautifully illustrated by Caldecott Award winner Beth Krommes. Sidman and Krommes previously collaborated on the picture book Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow (Houghton Mifflin, 2006.)  Swirl by Swirl will be released on October 4th, and I can't wait to use it as a fresh mentor text at my school! Not only will it be another book to add to my Sidman author study, it will be an additional example of one of my favorite niches for picture books referred to as hybrid nonfiction. Stay tuned for a blog post featuring how I used the text in a lesson within the next month! In the meantime, you can explore the Reader's Guide from Joyce Sidman's website. It's full of scientific tie-ins for lessons. I hope you are inspired and energized like I am to dig into a new mentor text!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Celebrate the Legacy of Roald Dahl Through "Follow That Peach!"

     September is "Roald Dahl Month!" At the website Follow That Peach, Puffin Books is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the classic James and the Giant Peach. In the spirit of the book's sense of adventure, you can send a Peach gram via e-mail or snail mail to a friend. A tally of how many miles Peach grams have traveled is updated at the top of the screen, and a there's a photo gallery from participants as well. A PDF poster of 50 ways you can celebrate Dahl's rich legacy is available, along with a "Teach the Peach" teacher's guide for using James and the Giant Peach in instructional and enriching ways. Something that is of particular interest in the full color PDF guide are photos of actual postcards sent by Dahl to his mother. Students love learning about authors as real people, especially when they were children themselves. A "Peach Party Pack" includes additional ways to enjoy the main character James Henry Trotter.   

    As an additional part of the fun of celebrating Roald Dahl Month, Puffin Books recently released Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Pop-Up Book (Puffin, 2011). Have a scrumdiddlyumptious time rediscovering James and the Giant Peach and more of Roald Dahl's lasting treasures through Dahl's official website!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

2nd Annual "August 10 for 10" Book Recommendations

     I know everyone is starting to buzz with ideas and aspirations for the new school year! As part of my back to school mental preparations, I am joining the Ten for Ten Picture Book Roundup event this year. This event was dreamed up last year by Mandy Robek and Cathy Mere. Mandy is a Kindergarten teacher and blogger at Enjoy and Embrace Learning.  Cathy keeps a blog called Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community and is the author of More Than Guided Reading: Finding the Right Instructional Mix (Stenhouse, 2005.)  A special thanks also goes out to fellow participant Deb Frazier, who is the  blogger of Primary Perspectives. Deb was the one who brought this to my attention on Twitter and encouraged me to participate this year!

     This event involves kid lit bloggers who share a collection of ten favorite picture books that teachers shouldn't live without in their classrooms.  Some blogs feature ten books that are all time favorites, while others take a slant such as mentor texts, books that are great for teaching story elements, texts that can help teach math concepts, or ones that are a just right fit for a particular age group. The common thread that fellow kid lit bloggers state is that it is a really hard task picking just ten books, and I wholeheartedly agree!  Like some of the other bloggers, I decided that I would help myself narrow the playing field by picking ten of my new favorites to teach with that have been published since last August.  Although I still couldn't squeeze in all my new discoveries with just ten choices, this certainly helps to give this blog post a narrower focus. I've included links to authors and information on the text, so just click on the names and titles. I've also tucked in a few extra links to things, so be sure to check those highlighted portions as well.

A Butterfly is Patient Written By Diana Hutts Aston and Illustrated By Sylvia Long (Chronicle Books, 2011)

     From the author of A Seed is Sleepy and An Egg is Quiet, Diana Aston pairs up once again with the wonderfully realistic illustrator Sylvia Long. This is a fabulous author/illustrator team that I like to use when focusing on nonfiction in model lessons in the classrooms. Something I like to ask students is why did the author choose the wording for the title. (Patience would certainly be needed as butterflies go through their life cycle!) Children write interesting facts down in their writer's notebook and I have them help jot the facts after a discussion on a class chart.
     There are specific labels for each varied species of butterfly represented in the book, which makes it an example of labeling as an important nonfiction text feature. I love using the document camera when I teach, and sometimes revisiting a book under the camera to enlarge illustrations and text features helps to bring attention to the detail and impact of the pictures. This book is fabulous inspiration for nonfiction writers creating their own research project.

We Are In a Book Written and Illustrated By Mo Willems  (Hyperion, 2010)

  What can I say! I love the creative work of Mo Willems. His writing infuses humor not only for a young child, but for the caregiver who may be sharing in the reading experience with the child. He knows how to get the bang for his buck with a limited amount of text.  Willems refers to writing "easy readers" as "hard writers" because of the limited amount of words he has to work with. Because he is both the author and illustrator, he can help translate his story with the support of his simple but very funny illustrations
   I bought this book, We Are In a Book, at a book signing at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia last October. I was getting close to being a new bride, so I had him sign the book to me using my married name. That was a fun little first for me! In this particular installment of the Elephant and Piggie series, Elephant and Piggie virtually interact with the physical book pages when they realize that they are indeed in a book!  Piggie wonders if they ARE in a book, can they get the reader who is staring at them to say a word. He chooses the word "banana" and when they "hear" the reader say it, they fall out in hysterical laughter. (That was a real crowd pleaser with the kids in attendance at Mo's book signing that night! BANANA!!!! HAHAHA!!! Mo knows how to read aloud with a lot of zest!) When Elephant and Piggie ask the reader to read the book again at the end, this must certainly lead to rereading with many real life bedtime stories! This text is a great example of the character's displaying their voice as characters, and Willems has a distinct way of writing that his storytelling voice as an author comes through, too.

     Here's a bonus! You can read more about my experience with Mo's visit to my town of Williamsburg last October in this previous blog post! Mo has an extensive amount of material on the web. His websites are really divided into separate chunks, so be sure to check out both MoWilliems as well as GoMo. The Pigeon from the series also "Tweets" (excuse the pun), so check out the Pigeon on Twitter. One word of wisdom the Pigeon shared on Twitter awhile ago was that "Writing is asking why and why not simultaneously." That is one insightful bird!

Actual Size Written By Steve Jenkins  (Sandpiper, 2011 Reprint)
      As part of our school literacy team, we decided on a nonfiction focus for our staff development last year. I tied this into some of my literacy coaching lessons. Steve Jenkins was one of the mentor authors that I left with my third grade teachers so they could use his work in an author study to continue the learning that we did during my visits. I just discovered this reprint of the 2004 book that came out in paperback during this school year. I was so happy to add this text to my Steve Jenkins collection that I enjoy lending out to classroom teachers. Jenkins has such a fresh take on his nonfiction texts and he is always appealing to children! This makes for a great launching point for not only a nonfiction author study, but for exciting formats for student nonfiction writing. This text can be a partner text with his 2005 release Prehistoric Actual Size (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2005.)  

     As a sidebar, if you would like a great source of inspiration for mentor texts, be sure to check out Nonfiction Mentor Texts: Teaching Informational Writing Through Children's Literature, K-8 by Lynne Dorfman and Rose Cappelli (Stenhouse, 2009.)  This is a companion professional book to their previous text Mentor Texts (Stenhouse, 2007.)
How Rocket Learned to Read Written and Illustrated By Tad Hills (Schwartz & Wade, 2010)
     Although I'm stretching my own criteria a bit here since it was published July 27, 2010, this book is a certainly a fun new favorite!  As a reading specialist, how can I not love a puppy who wants to read! :)  It's a great book to share during the first week of school to talk about being determined with work and being rewarded with success! This YouTube clip is a sweet way to see children enjoying the story all on their own!

Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night  Written By Joyce Sidman and Illustrated By Rick Allen (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2010)

    I am such as huge fan of Sidman's work! I enjoy using her various books as intriguing examples of hybrid nonfiction texts. Sidman really knows how to "explode a moment" and bring magic to the most average things. When you read other works by Sidman, her distinct style of writing shines. It is as if Joyce Sidman herself is there sharing her work with the reader. I devoted a previous blog post to how I incorporated this text by Sidman into a literacy coaching lesson. You can check out the detailed post and photo of the chart created during the lesson by clicking here. At this previous post, you'll get to see how magical the third graders are trained to think at our school!

Interrupting Chicken Written and Illustrated By David Ezra Stein (Candlewick Press, 2010)

    Children can really identify with the little red chicken in this story from their younger years. His endurance for listening to a story just isn't ripe yet, and he impatiently interrupts Papa during the bed time reading. Children's prior knowledge of the original versions of the interrupted classics like Little Red Riding Hood help to make the humor pop while reading this book.  The author clearly let the little red chicken's voice as a character shine! For ways that the book can be explored with children, Candlewick Press put out a story hour kit  for inspiration. 


Apple Pie ABC Written and Illustrated By Alison Murray (Hyperion, 2011)

     In this short book, a girl named Grace bakes a pie. Her dog, Georgie, is so captivated by the smells that he ends up getting into some trouble just to taste the delicious treat. The sparse text incorporates a letter of the alphabet in ABC order to express how the action plays out. Between the few words and the word that begins with the alphabet letter, the main thought ends up being punctuated for impact. Some examples include, "ogle it" and "pine for it" to spice up the vocabulary and serve as teaching moments to use inference to figure out their meaning. A fun writing spin off for young kids could be creating a class version of this style of an ABC book where a story plays out in the course of the alphabet. 

The Loud Book Written By Deborah Underwood and Illustrated By Renata Liwska (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011)

     This book is a companion text to the preceding book entitled The Quiet Book (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2010.)  This is a fantastic bedtime book just as much as it would be great for a mini-lesson for writing and about thinking of all the possibilities with an idea.  Underwood shares all the many ways things can be loud and HOW they can be loud. Both texts are easily identified with by children, but it makes them pause and think about a topic in a way they probably had not before. It is both a short text, but can provoke big possibilities for other topics, too.

     Click here for a preview of the text through Houghton Mifflin. You can check out photos of the illustrator Renata Liwska illustrating and using a light box for sketching on their Amazon page for the book. It's a neat little extension to show these photos after reading the book with children.

Scaredy Squirrel Has a Birthday Party Written and Illustrated By Melanie Watt (Kids Can Press, 2011)

   As the title implies, Scaredy does indeed prepare for his birthday in this story. In classic Scaredy fashion, he tries to be prepared for everything about his party, but as you can guess, disaster strikes! Children love revisiting with this character once they learn about his quirky but loveable personality by reading the first book in the series.  Melanie Watt applies her distinct humorous voice to this newest story in the series. Children love the predictability of Watt's story structure and voice as the narrator. 

   Here's a bonus link to a previous blog post about Scaredy Squirrel. You can see one of the ways I use books by Melanie Watt for teaching. I love teaching this particular lesson in September to first graders. It's a great way to start cultivating that big thinking we come to use during the school year with books. 
    Scaredy might be scared and overprepared, but he's got a Facebook fan page to stay in touch with his followers. It's silly and just for fun, but you do get updates that will put a smile on your face! Here's a little preview for Scaredy Squirrel Has a Birthday Party from YouTube and Kids Can Press:

Children Make Terrible Pets  Written and Illustrated By Peter Brown  (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010)

      First of all, this book is simply a belly laugh kind of story that will put a smile on a child's face. It's about a bear named Lucy who brings home a little boy that she dubs "Squeaker." Instead of a human child begging to keep an unexpected pet animal, it's an animal bringing home a human. For teaching, you can talk about how Lucy has many reasons why she should keep the little boy she dubs "Squeaker." There's a fun way to talk about how to list ideas for a persuasive argument. (Kids are already experts in this area more than they know!)  When a character is trying to be persuasive and give reasons for why he or she should get or do something, that's a great way to show how the character's voice is present. It's also an entertaining way to talk about different character's points of view and how this is a new take on a familiar scenario of "Please Mom, PLEASE!"

    I look forward to reading all of the other 10 for 10 blog posts via Twitter! Happy virtual picture book party!  (Twitter hashtag: #pb10for10) You can also check out this collected list of blogs from the creators on Jog the Web.

Monday, August 8, 2011

"Ten for Ten" Top Picture Book Picks - Bloggers Unite Across the Country To Share!

     I was recently tapped to participate in a growing group of national children's literature bloggers! Numerous bloggers across the country are participating on Wednesday, August 10th. My blog entry will be entitled "10 for 10", where on August 10th a collection of some of my personal favorite picture books will be posted on my blog.  

     My choices will be based on newly published books that have come out since last August. They were incorporated into in my literacy coaching lessons, and I will jot some of the mini-lesson topics that can be taught with the texts. 

     Dozens upon dozens of more blogs will be participating this year, too! You'll remember once again some of the new ones that you saw yourself, or perhaps you will hear about a couple that are completely new to you. 

     You can also find me on Twitter at wmsbg301. You can see who I follow and those follow me (I keep it this account strictly professional and it is exclusively about literacy related topics.) The search subject is referred to a hashtag, so you can search "#pb10for10" to see others who are participating. 

      See you on Wednesday! I'll also have the link to the other participating blogs that you can breeze through as well. Before you know it, you'll be reminded of a heap of great picture books to share with children, and you'll certainly also be introduced to a few for the first time. Enjoy! :)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Great 2011 Summer Reads from Battle of the Books, Reading Rockets, and the Virginia Readers Choice Books

     Although I am on hiatus with the blog for summer break until August, I can't resist passing along some ideas for summer reading! If you look to the right, my Shelfari shelf shows the fifteen books that are on the 2012 Battle of the Books list for the 4th/5th grade. You can "browse" the shelves by clicking on "next" at the bottom of the shelf and you can click on the titles to see reader ratings and feedback. 

     One of my favorite sites for promoting literacy is Reading Rockets (you can read a previous post I wrote about this site by clicking here.)  Their 2011 Big Summer Read page gives suggestions for families and educators for ages 0-3, 3-6, and 6-9 year olds. The guides can be downloaded for an easy list for summer library explorations.  

    Another great source of summer reading suggestions can be found in the Virginia Readers Choice book lists. This list is sponsored by the Virginia State Reading Association. You can find out more about the books by clicking on the Primary or Elementary listings here:

Titles from the Primary List:
  • Otis by Loren Long (Philomel Books, 2009)
  • Harry and Horsie by Katie Van Camp (Balzer & Bray, 2009)
  • We Are In a Book by Mo Willems (Hyperion, 2010)
  • The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett (MacMillan Children’s Books, 2010)
  • Testing the Ice by Sharon Robinson (Scholastic, 2009)
  • A Isn’t for Fox by Wendy Ulmer (Sleeping Bear Press, 2007)
  • What Pet to Get by Emma Dodd (Scholastic, 2008)
  • Machines Go To Work by William Low (Henry Holt, 2009)
  • The Big Elephant in the Room by Lane Smith (Hyperion, 2009)
  • How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills (Schwartz and Wade, 2010)

Titles from the Elementary List:

  • The 100 Year Old Secret by Tracy Barrett (Henry Holt, 2008)
  • 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass (Scholastic, 2009)
  • All the Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn, (Sandpiper-Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008)
  • Annie Glover is NOT a Tree Lover by Darleen Bailey Beard (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2009)
  • Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford (G.P. Putnam and Sons, 2009)
  • The Dog Days of Charlotte Hayes by Marlane Kenedy (Greenwillow Books, 2009)
  • Drita, My Homegirl by Jenny Lombard (Putnam Juvenile, 2006)
  • How Oliver Olson Changed the World by Claudia Mills (FarrarStraus and Giroux, 2009)
  • Wild Girl by Patricia Reilly Giff (Wendy Lamb Books, 2009)

     The staff of the Williamsburg Regional Library Youth Services Department will be happy to help you find any book, including the BOB or Virginia Readers Choice books.  The librarians are fabulous! Enjoy the remainder of the summer and keep reading!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summer Hiatus...Stayed Tuned! :)

     Happy summer everyone! :) I will be taking a hiatus from regular blog posting since it is summertime. I will give preview posts throughout the summer on the Battle of the Book books for grades 4-5 to help spread the word about the books that are coming up for the winter 2012 season!  I've already been hard at work creating questions for BOB practices! :) New blog posts about classroom examples of work, lesson ideas, authors, new websites, fresh professional books, and exciting book news from the publishing industry and professional associations will be back in full swing when school resumes in September! Have a WONDERFUL summer and enjoy your public library and local bookstores!