Sunday, November 4, 2012

Children's Choice Book Awards for 2012

        The 2102 Children's Choices and 2012 Teachers' Choices book lists have been announced from the International Reading Association and the Children's Book Council! These lists contain book suggestions which serve as valuable resources for teachers, parents, and librarians. 

       Click on the links below to go directly to the PDF files. You can easily bookmark and save the documents electronically  to refer to them again. It's a great reference for you to use during your next visit to the public library or book store. You are sure to find some new titles that you will fold into your instruction or classroom libraries. Finding new favorite books will invigorate both your book selections for lessons and simply sharing with children for enjoyment!

     The list for the Children's Choices is also the starting ground for the finalists for the annual Children's Choice Book Awards with the Children's Book Council.  You can click on this link to see who the finalists and winners were for 2012.  Here is a clip of author Jarrett J. Krosoczka introducing the awards gala in May 2012.

     You can also find out more about the Children's Book Council's Children's Choices Book Awards through their Facebook page which is dedicated just to the awards. The Children's Book Council can also be found on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook as well. The International Reading Association can be accessed here through these links for Facebook and Twitter, too. 

    Here are a few of the first place winners which are relevant to the elementary levels:

Illustrator of the Year: Brian Selznick for Wonderstruck (Scholastic Press, 2011)

K-2 Winner:  Three Hens and a Peacock Written by Lester Laminack and Illustrated by Henry Cole (Peachtree, 2011)

Grades 3-4 Winner: Bad Kitty Meets the Baby Written and Illustrated by Nick Bruel (Square Fish, 2012)
Grades 5-6 Winner: Okay for Now Written by Gary D. Schmidt (Clarion, 2011)


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Writing Fix - Mentor Texts of the Year 2012-13

     Northern Nevada Writing Project has a fantastic writing resource website called Writing Fix. I highly recommend that you bookmark and explore this site. It is an extensive collection of information on Six Traits concepts, mentor texts, journaling, writing prompts, and so much more.

     The mentor texts for the 2012-13 school year have been announced by the staff at Writing Fix. This year, the two books are The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter and illustrated by Giselle Potter (Schwartz & Wade, 2006) and Vocabulary Unplugged by Alana Morris (Discover Writing Press, 2005).


      The Boy Who Loved Words is a picture book about a boy named Selig who relishes in collecting words. It is a good text to support the trait of word choice during a mentor text lesson as part of a writing workshop session. Schotter's book can also show how to spice up your writing pieces during the revision stage of the writing process. In addition, the text can be used to exemplify how to use context clues to figure out large vocabulary words within a story.

      You can download a PDF Teacher's Guide from Random House for The Boy Who Loved Words.  There is more information available about the book through the Parents' Choice Award Website as well.

      Sign up here for the Writing Lesson of the Month email from the Northern Nevada Writing Project/Writing Fix. Interesting lesson ideas for teaching elements and traits of writing. (Some of the lessons deal with music, which would apply better to an older student demographic, but many lessons deal with mentor texts.) 

    You can also read an older post about a previous fall's WritingFix's Mentor Text of the Year by clicking here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Joy of Literature and Literacy Conference: Keynote Speaker Lester Laminack

      I wanted to share about a wonderful experience that I recently had at a professional conference. The conference was the second annual Joy of Children's Literature and Literacy at the College of William and Mary. This wonderful event was coordinated by Dr. Denise Johnson of William and Mary's School of Education. She is a professor of Reading, Language, and Literacy. Dr. Johnson invited me to introduce author Lester Laminack who was the conference's keynote speaker. I was honored to have this opportunity! Here is the majority of the introduction that I gave for Mr. Laminack:

       It is our great fortune to hear Lester Laminack speak to us today for the keynote presentation entitled “Let Common Sense Be Our Guide: I Have a Dream for America’s Schools.”  Lester is a renowned expert on reading and writing instruction. He is a Professor Emeritus at Western Carolina University. Lester taught courses in writing workshop, reading, and children's literature. He is a frequent presenter across the country.

       Lester is an author of well-respected professional texts, articles, and children’s books. Lester served as the co-editor of Primary Voices for three years, as well as the editor of the children’s book reviews for the publication Language Arts from 2003-2006.

      Crafting children's books is one of Lester’s many talents. They are favorites with teachers for reading and writing mini-lessons. They are published by Peachtree Publishers and include titles such as :

     Among its many accolades, Three Hens and a Peacock was awarded the Children's Book Council Award for Kindergarten to 2nd grade Book of the Year in May 2012. (You can learn more about the Children's Book Council Book of the Year Award Gala through this YouTube link.) 


      Not only is Mr. Laminack an accomplished author of children’s books, but he is a skilled writer of professional texts as well. One of the professional titles Mr. Laminack has written and collaborated on is The Writing Workshop: Working Through the Hard Parts (And They're All Hard Parts) This was written in collaboration with Katie Wood Ray and published by NCTE in 2001.

·            Titles which were published by Heinemann include Reading Aloud Across the Curriculum and Learning Under the Influence of Language and Literature. These texts are both written in collaboration with Reba Wadsworth.  Mr. Laminack collaborated with Georgia Heard on a study of the crafting of poetry writing in Climb Inside a Poem: Reading and Writing Poetry Across the Year.

       One of Lester’s professional titles published by Scholastic include Cracking Open the Author's Craft: Teaching the Art of Writing. It is not only a teacher guide for how to examine his mentor text Saturdays and Teacakes but it also explains how to apply various studies of audible and visual author’s craft with other mentor texts.  The follow-up title is entitled Unwrapping the Read Aloud: Making Every Read Aloud Intentional and Instructional. In this text, Lester highlights the intensity, tone, pace, and mood of quality read alouds.

            Mr. Laminack's most recent professional text is a collaboration with Reba Wadsworth and is also published by Heinemann. It is entitled Bullying Hurts: Teaching Kindness Through Read Alouds and Guided Conversations.

·       This year, Lester also co-wrote with Reba Wadsworth The Classroom Library Book for the Classroom Library Company.  You can view a sample of the text through the Classroom Library’s app for the iPad and iPhone.

     Lester is not only an author, he is what I would consider to be a “teacher’s teacher.” He passionately promotes collaboration among educators in order to promote the development of great ideas for teaching. He advocates for educators and respects their vast knowledge and skills as professionals.

     He is steadfast in his beliefs that reading aloud to children is powerful and life changing, and that it is critical to the growth and development of children into skillful students. Lester highly promotes the use of great picture books for instruction as this fosters the idea of providing real mentors for children.  He talks with students as if they are fellow authors standing side by side in the journey of composing writing.   Lester is a master of reaching the reader and pulling them right into his books.

Lester believes in something that I tell children I work with in writing workshops: “You make the ordinary extraordinary just by writing it down.” Every day events and memories hold importance and they are worthy of capturing in writing. He promotes the notion that in order to be a great writer, you must be a ravenous reader.

As a presenter and author, he mentors fellow educators and children alike. Whether you have had the great fortune of hearing Lester speak before or if this is your first time, you will undoubtedly find what he has to say to be compelling. Lester is genuine in his compassion for others and respects every adult and child for what makes them unique as a person.

     I highly recommend that if you need your “teacher soul” to be encouraged and renewed, reread your favorite Lester Laminack professional books. I particularly recommend that you read his closing essays which he wrote in his Scholastic professional titles.  You will never tire of his messages and how he encourages you as a teacher. He will passionately remind us all that school is about more than test scores and accountability.  Lester stokes our fire within to educate and nurture the future.

     If you have ever had the great fortune of hearing Lester speak in person, you are well aware of how captivating he is. He can touch your heart as you connect to his loving memories of his grandmother as he discusses his inspiration for Saturdays and Teacakes. Lester can invigorate your sense of advocacy as he shares stories that served as motivation for Bullying Hurts. His sense of humor and comedic timing engages you and gives you laughter that warms your soul.

    Something that Lester shared with the crowd at the conference was the notion that we read because it matters, and that you must instill in your students the sense of how will they be altered after reading a powerful story. Lester also encouraged us all to keep asking those in-depth questions which activate critical thinking skills.
He also shared that when you share a book aloud with your students, that you are "no longer standing on the banks of the story, you jump into the current."  He ended his session with a wonderful piece he originally wrote in 2008 called, "Toward a New Vision for Our Children and Their Schools: I Have a Dream." You can read this speech in its entirety via the Classroom Library Company website. 

    What to learn more about Lester's works?  You can enjoy listening to Lester read aloud from Saturdays and Teacakes from this link from Scholastic. Also, be sure to click on the titles of the picture books and professional titles to learn more about the books and to read samples of the texts. If you are interested in the app which shows a sample of Lester and Reba's Book The Classroom Library Book, you can download the app for 99 cents through the App Store and read the first 19 pages of the book through the home screen. The full book is available through the company online.

    Here are some wonderful links to go explore to learn more about Dr. Denise Johnson's work I am so fortunate that I have not only experienced her as an amazing professor, but I also consider her a dear professional friend. :)
      In my next post, I will share about a mentor text lesson where I recently used one of Lester Laminack's books in a Lit. Coaching lesson with a class. :)  Please stay tuned!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Read for the Record Day 2012

    The Jumpstart literacy organization is once again co-sponsoring with the Pearson Foundation the Read for the Record Day! The organization's mission is to help young children have more exposure to books and reading. There are volunteers who participate in reaching out to low-income communities to support families in cultivating a love of reading. The official website for Read for the Record Day reports that there were 2.2 million known participants in the special day! Since the day's inception in 2007, the site reports that they have been able to raise over 7 million dollars to go towards its programs. That is an astonishing feat! The beauty of the day is that when you participate online through the Pearson Foundation's site We Give Books, a book is donated  every time the book is read. That is a win-win situation!  You can check out more about We Give Books through its website, on Facebook, and Twitter.  Jumpstart can also be found on Facebook and Twitter

      This year's featured text for Read for the Record Day is Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad  written by Jacky Davis and David Soman (Dial, 2011). It is part of a popular series of books starring a spirited girl named Lulu. The books in the collection are stories that hit a chord with young children because the issues Lulu deals with are very identifiable for kids. Her stories explore themes of compromising, using your imagination, responsibility, and being a good friend.

     If you you need a copy of the book, you can read it online for free courtesy of the Read for the Record Day website. Just click here for Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad. If you have a laptop/projector hookup in your classroom, you'll be all set to share it on the screen with your students. :) 

   There is also a certificate available on the website for children after they read or listen to Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad on the special day of October 4. 

    You can explore the Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy series through their official website. On the site, you can read more about the authors. Other books in the series that you might be interested in exploring include:

   There are some "just for fun" activities kids can do at home when exploring the kid-friendly website. They can enjoy doing some of the free printables or games, too.  Lulu's sidekick, Bumblebee Boy, has his own site that boys and girls would like to check out as well. Have fun!

Monday, August 13, 2012

August 10 for 10 Picture Book Event 2012

      I really enjoy the annual showcase of August 10 for 10 Picture Books from a wide variety of fellow bloggers! This event is virtually co-hosted on the Internet by bloggers Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek. Mandy's blog is called Enjoy and Embrace Learning, and Cathy's blog is called Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community. Three years ago, they started this event and shared their recommendations for picture books that you can't live without via the Blogosphere and fellow Twitter users. I posted for the August 10 for 10 for the first time last year, and I gave my post a focus of ten great picture books that had come out within the past year. This year, I decided to highlight nature-inspired picture books that had come out in the past twelve months. I adore both fiction and nonfiction texts which have nature woven within the story. Like so many other topics, I love that an appreciation for nature can be supported through the talent of finely tuned words from a crafty writer and the gorgeous illustrations from a creative artist. As you can imagine, picking just ten books is a challenge. :) Here are ten of some of my favorite nature-inspired picture books from the past year: 

1. In the Sea Written by David Elliott and Illustrated by Holly Meade    
 (Candlewick, February 2012)

    This book is part of a collaborative series of animal-inspired text by David Elliott and illustrator Holly Meade. They have authored several other books together, including In the Wild (Candlewick, 2010) and On the Farm (Candlewick, 2008). The book In the Sea is written about various animals of the ocean habitat through short poems. The illustrations are created through wood block cut prints and create a bold visual. Reading all three of these selections are a distinct style of writing. This collection can also be used to illustrate the writing traits of voice and presentation. 

Here is an example, entitled "The Shark":
The fin, 
the skin, 
the brutal grin...

The terror 
of the dark within. 

      You can review the Horn Book's inclusion of In the Sea in a list of recommended ocean themed books.  Also, here is the review of In the Sea from Publishers Weekly.

  2. The Beetle Book Written and Illustrated by Steve Jenkins
(Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2012)

     I have blogged on several occasions about my appreciation of author and illustrator Steve Jenkins. I enjoy his works so much because of his talent to write about nonfiction in an engaging manner. Like his other books, there is nothing dry or stiff about how he imparts knowledge on these six legged creatures. Here is an excerpt: 

"The mottled tortoise beetle uses its oversize wing casings like a turtle's shell, tucking its head and legs underneath when danger threatens."

     This book can be used in a variety of ways for teaching. The sample sentence given above shows how Jenkins is quite talented with his uses of comparisons and analogies in order to help the young reader visualize a specific breed that they are most likely not familiar with. The text lends itself well to teaching examples of the writing trait of word choice, with the use of words like "threatens," "casings," and "tucking." You can also use the book to highlight how to have an effective lead in writing. He opens up his book with this powerful idea: "Line up every kind of plant and animal on Earth, and one of every four will be a beetle." That opening is effective in illustrating the impact beetles have in our lives, whether we realize it or not! :) 

    You can peruse the online preview of the book through Google books.  Here is the link to the Publishers Weekly review of The Beetle Book.  In addition, you can read about this bug book and more in a Horn Book Magazine article from May 2012. 

3. Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature Written by Nicola Davies and Illustrated by Mark Hearld 
(Candlewick, 2012) 

     Nicola Davies is a noted author of numerous highly appealing nonfiction trade books, including Bat Loves the Night (Candlewick, 2001) and One Tiny Turtle (Candlewick, 2005) You can read more about her work one of my previous posts.  In this offering, Davies provides a collection of nature-inspired poetry that will perk the interests of any creature-loving child. The poems are presented by grouping them with appropriate seasons. 

      This book would be wonderful as an example of a hybrid nonfiction text (a text that is nonfiction, but in a format that is not cut and dry.) Also, the traits of word choice and presentation could be nicely supported with this picture book. Being able to write about nature and observations through poetry certainly exemplifies how to carefully select choice words to support written expression.  I would also recommend using this book as a mentor text for "making the ordinary extraordinary" and "exploding a moment." Davies would make for a fantastic and engaging author study as well! Here is the link to Nicola's blog and her website for you to further explore her work. Also, here's a bonus clip that you can share with students straight from Nicola Davies herself. She shares about the magic of discovery and exploring!



4. Secrets of the Garden Written by Katherine Weinder Zoehfield and Illustrated by Priscilla Lamont (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012) 


    This book by Zoehfield layers information in an engaging way! There are aspects such as speech bubbles and very scientifically speaking chickens which give more facts beyond the central story line. It lends itself to be read more than one time, once as a story and again as an informational reference. It is fantastic to use with studies of food chains, life cycles, and school garden habitats. 

    Be sure to check out the Google books preview of the text. You can visit Katherine Weinder Zoehfield's author page here to see the more than 60 books that she has authored. I bet you will find some familiar favorites here!  Also, you can explore the official website for Priscilla Lamont here.

5. Over and Under the Snow Written by Kate Messner and Illustrated by Chris Salas Neal (Chronicle Books, October 2011)

     Messner's book Over and Under the Snow shares "a secret kingdom under the snow" with readers.  The book starts out as a wondering of a child as her and her father go skiing in the snow. This book can be used as a text which provides an example of comparing and contrasting things in a story. Children can easily think of what visibly happens above the ground when winter and snows arrive, but this book opens children's minds to what happens in what scientists call the "subnivean zone" underground.

    This text is the winner of the Golden Kite Award from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI.) You can read their interview with Kate Messner on the official SCBWI blog here.  She shares how she brainstormed about this book on the back of an attendance sheet while on a bus going home from a field trip with her 7th graders when she was a teacher. That is the perfect kind of antidote to share with budding young authors about how seed ideas are everywhere, just waiting to be cultivated and grow!

     You can follow Kate Messner is a variety of ways online. She can be found on Twitter, Facebookemail, or snail mail.  Messner also Skypes with groups and schools, and maintains a page on her website where she gives information on authors who will Skype for free to schools and classrooms! How wonderful is that? She keeps a current blog as an author where you can find out more about her thoughts and work. Be sure to check out her advice for writing on her website as well. It is wonderful to share with students when investigating of her author's craft skills. 


6. Creep and Flutter: The Secret World of Insects and Spiders Written and Illustrated by: Jim Arnoksky 
(Sterling Children's Books, 2012) 
    Author and illustrator Jim Arnosky has been a prolific author and illustrator of books about nature for many years. This book is fourth in a series for Sterling Children's Books, and there are over 200 spiders and insects featured throughout the book. The books in this series are in a larger format and have fold out page spreads. Previous books in the series include: Thunderbirds: Nature's Flying Predators (Sterling, 2011), Slither and Crawl: Eye to Eye with Reptiles (Sterling, 2009) and Wild Tracks: A Guide to Nature's Footprints (Sterling, 2008).  These larger, highly appealing illustrators are great gateway books into Arnosky's collection as an author. He has a variety of books, most of which appear as if you are looking directly in his sketchbook. Arnosky makes for a great author study to review the traits of presentation, organization, and voice in nonfiction writing.

   If you haven't explored Jim Arnosky's Crinkleroot books, check out the website devoted just to this character and his nature adventures.  Arnosky's cleverly drawn books are a feast for any young naturalist!

7. Nasty Bugs Poems Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and Illustrated by Will Terry (Dial, 2012)  

     In this latest collection of poems, Lee Bennett Hopkins showcases the sometimes yucky (but always intriguing) world of creepy crawly bugs. There are 16 poems from authors such as J. Patrick Lewis, Douglas Florian, and Marilyn Singer.

     Lee Bennett Hopkins keeps a blog and a wonderful, comprehensive website that will show you to more of his fabulous compilations. You can read more about Lee Bennett Hopkins in a previous post from my blog as well. In that post, I highlight his work with poetry and how you can explore his work with your students. 

Here is a sampling of a poem Hopkins penned himself entitled, "Ode to a Dead Mosquito":

8. Sounds of the Wild: Forest Written and Illustrated by: Maurice Pledger
(Silver Dolphin Books, 2012) 

     This book is an installment in a series by Maurice Pledger. He is a renowned nature artist who does extraordinarily realistic drawings. The series includes titles on other topics such as birds, the jungle, nighttime, bugs, and the ocean. This book on various forest habitats is extra special because it is a wonderful pop up book that includes animal sound effects! That makes this book appealing even to the most reluctant reader. There are five different types of forest habitats showcased in full panoramic spreads throughout Europe and North America. 

9.Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas Written by: Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm and Illustrated by: Molly Bang (Blue Sky Press, 2012)

    Author and illustrator Molly Bang, in partnership with friend-scientist Penny Chisholm, created a vibrantly illustrated picture book. This book can be shared as a companion text to Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring the Earth to Life (Blue Sky Press, 2009).  Since Chisholm's scientific passion is studying phytoplankton, that gave this book its niche topic. Bang shares on her website that this book took about a year and a half to complete and they made 134 drafts of the book! I think sharing such struggles with students shows them that determination with revision is worth the effort because everyone needs to polish their first attempts. Check out the starred review of Ocean Sunlight on Publishers Weekly and a fantastic interview with Bang and Chisholm which was featured on the Horn Book website in July. 

10. Gem Written and Illustrated by Holly Hobbie
(Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012)

     Holly Hobbie is well known for her Holly Hobbie artwork, as well as the seven book collection of Toot and Puddle picture books. With the book Gem, Hobbie introduces the main idea of the book on the book cover preview: "Look carefully. There may be a gem in your garden." From the inside flap, Hobbie discloses how she found the inspiration for this idea and concept. She wondered about the journey a frog had to take in the spring time. That is a great example to illustrate the trait of ideas and how to zoom in on a topic. 

     Click here to enjoy a virtual preview of the text through the publisher's website. Here is the starred review from Publishers Weekly as well.

     I hope that you have discovered a few books that have peeked your interest! :) I look forward to delving into the other blogs that have also participated in this annual blog round-up. Currently, there are over 60 other bloggers who have posted lists as well! You can follow people that are sharing about August 10 for 10 by searching Twitter with the hash tag #pb10for10.  You can also find Mandy and Cathy's compiled collection of August 10 for 10 on their Jog the Web collection for 2012. Bookmark this Jog the Web list to quickly refer to the over 60 blogs that have generously shared their book recommendations to help rejuvenate your use of children's trade book literature. Enjoy the 2012-13 school year everyone! Here's to a wonderful, inspired start to your year!