Read Across America

Reading is a cornerstone life skill that is the basis of classroom success. The abilities to learn about new subjects, to find information on topics, and to conduct research depend on reading. On Monday, March 2, schools, libraries, and bookstores throughout the USA will celebrate the memory of Dr. Seuss. For many children, Dr. Seuss is their first introduction to reading. Let’s help children develop the life-long joy of reading on what would have been Dr. Seuss’ 111th birthday.  Check with your local schools, libraries, and bookstores for events that promote this celebration.

At home, model an example and read with your family throughout March. Research shows that when children read outside of the classroom, they do better in schools. Worried about reading to your child? Don’t be. Use different voices for characters, hand gestures, and movement. For emerging readers, point to easy sight words (for ex., I, he, she, am, in, on) and have them read. Ask your children what they think will happen next in the story.

Make it fun, not stressful. You can find more ideas at the National Education Association site. Most of all, kids will love the attention and the time they spend with you.  Reading is a skill, and one that can bring joy and fulfillment throughout life. Give your voice and your time and read.

(Some content was adapted from Councilman Mike Gatto’s Read Across America notification.)

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A Room Full of Love

My article from the Children’s Literature Council of Southern California newsletter, The Sampler. To learn more about the CLCSC, visit the website.

The 53rd Fall Gala of the Children’s Literature Council of Southern California took place on October 11’s beautiful morning in La Canada- Flintridge’s Descanso Gardens. Librarians, educators, authors, illustrators, and book lovers met in the lovely environs for the annual Awards for Authors and Illustrators of Southern California.

CLCSC First Vice President, Dr. Marjorie Arnett, introduced keynote speaker Bryan Collier. Mr. Collier has won numerous awards, including the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration and the 2002 Caldecott Honor Award. Dr. Arnett described Mr. Collier’s interest in art—shapes, colors, textures—as having derived partly from his grandmother’s quilts.

Credit: CLCSC

Bryan Collier; Photo Credit: CLCSC

Mr. Collier explained how his love of books started at a young age with the influence of his mother, a Head Start teacher. Two books from his childhood stand out especially: Ezra Jack Keat’s The Snowy Day and Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon. Mr. Collier described that the character in Snowy Day “looked back at me. I had the same pajamas,” and how reading that particular book and seeing that character “said something to me beyond any other book. I couldn’t articulate what it was, but I felt it.” Harold prompted thoughts on pies and on journeying home.

In what can be characterized as an incredible demonstration of perseverance, Mr. Collier haunted the publishing houses of New York City once a week for seven years. In addressing whether he became discouraged during that lengthy job search period, Mr. Collier replied, “It’s always been bigger than about just a book. It’s about being connected.” As if to confirm this belief, a young girl told Mr. Collier, “You need purpose” when, during a school visit, he asked students what is needed in order to make a book. This young girl’s words resonated with Mr. Collier, as did the directive from Henry Holt Publishing, who hired him, to “tell me what you know.”

In that continual process of expanding what he knows, Mr. Collier believes that research helps find truths to bring to light. It is a process of “talking and looking at history up close” and is a part of the work ethic that goes into making a book. Mr. Collier explained that “history is a chain and it’s connected. Picture books are the perfect vehicles to celebrate history.”

As part of his research for the picture book Rosa, Mr. Collier met with Mrs. Johnnie Carr, a friend of Rosa Parks. She told him the stories behind the story, such as the threats leveled against Ms. Parks’ church members, friends, and family. For authenticity’s sake, Mr. Collier tried the process of getting on and off the bus from the back, to try to understand what that must have felt like.

For Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave, Mr. Collier visited the plantation in South Carolina where David Drake, a slave, added short poems on the approximately 40,000 clay storage pots he made. This plantation was in Edgefield, Strom Thurmond’s hometown, where Mr. Collier described meeting some “good ol’ boys” who helped with his research and shared what they knew.

Research and connection with the books’ subjects have influenced Mr. Collier’s artistic style, helping him to add details in his art. The School Library Journal notes that “alert readers [of Dave the Potter] will find hidden messages in some of the collages, but what stands out in these pictures are Dave’s hands and eyes, and the strength of his body, reflected in the shape and size of his legendary jars and pots.” The Kirkus Review of Rosa states “the art complements and extends the text, with visual references to Emmett Till, the Edmund Pettus Bridge and Martin Luther King, Jr. The yellowish hue of the illustrations represents the Alabama heat, the light emanating from Rosa Parks’s face a shining beacon to all who would stand up for what’s right.”

Mr. Collier’s love of art and books is fully evident in his speech, and the audience was lucky to share in it with him. It was, as Mr. Collier noted, “a room full of love” that morning.

Andrew Smith was not present to accept the Peggy Miller Award for Young Adult Literature. He sent word that he is “deeply honored” by this recognition of Winger, especially as he had been told that “Winger wasn’t the right thing” for his career.

Holly Goldberg Sloan, a second-time honoree, stated just how very much being recognized by librarians and educators means to her. The Excellence in Juvenile Fiction awardee, Ms. Goldberg Sloan wrote Counting by 7s about a girl who likes math and science because she feels that girls are discouraged in pursuing these fields and wants that to change.

Most-Distinguished Juvenile Non-Fiction Book Award recipient, Kadir Nelson thanked the CLCSC for acknowledging his work Nelson Mandela, the namesake of which is one of Mr. Nelson’s heroes. Mr. Nelson went on to describe how distilling Nelson Mandela’s autobiography into a picture book was a difficult process. With it, he strived to amplify beauty and harmony, which is what Nelson Mandela worked toward.

Dan Santat; Photo Credit: CLCSC

Dan Santat; Photo Credit: CLCSC

Dan Santat was influenced by Smurfs cartoons and a librarian who surreptitiously gave him a copy of How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way because she knew that although his parents wanted him to become a doctor, he loved art. Mr. Santat has passed it along to his children. When this Excellence in Picture Book Illustration winner gave a speech at his alma mater, UCSD, he spoke about doing what he loves as a career instead of what he was expected to do.

Winner of the Best Narrative Voice in a Picture Book Award, Drew Daywalt discussed his process of writing and publishing The Day the Crayons Quit. He acknowledged the team effort needed over an eleven-year period from writing the manuscript to getting the book on shelves. His humorously described revelation that the manuscript took six years to sell is a rallying cry for aspiring authors to persevere. The much-anticipated sequel, The Day the Crayons Came Home, is in the works.

Recipient of the Dorothy C. McKenzie Award, Dr. Claudette S. McLinn is an inspiration. This busy “retiree” described how “retirement is a continuation of your life’s passion” and that the “enticement of the literary world became even stronger” after her retirement. Currently the Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature, Dr. McLinn has been a passionate advocate for multicultural children’s literature throughout her distinguished career.

Happy Holidays!

Whether you’re spinning a dreidel, decorating a tree, filling a cornucopia, or putting up a Festivus pole…

happy holidays to you and yours.

Wishing you a season of peace and goodwill.

May 2015 bring you joy and prosperity.

Found by Salina Yoon

My review at Good Reads with Ronna, where you can find the latest and greatest in children’s literature.

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Salina Yoon has created a wonderful story with Found (Walker Books for Young Readers /Bloomsbury 2014; $14.99, Ages 2-6.) Bear finds a toy bunny in the forest and wants to find its owner, so he posts “found” flyers in the forest. Time passes and no one claims the bunny, and Bear becomes attached to it. It is, after all, “the most special thing he had ever seen.” But eventually Moose, the owner, spots Floppy, and Bear must prepare to part with his new, treasured toy. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that it has just the right touch.

The magic of this picture book is its simplicity. The storyline is straightforward and the words are chosen perfectly for the young audience. My kindergartener greatly enjoys Found, and is transported into Bear’s world. When Moose arrives to claim Floppy, my little one’s thumb goes right in her mouth (nervous trait), and when Bear sheds a tear at the thought of parting with Floppy, my little one’s eyes well up, too. Children understand simple, pure emotion and Found presents that to them through the themes of friendship, sacrifice, and love.

The artwork is colorful and appealing. The characters are just adorable. Parents will appreciate the clever play on words and the cultural and historical references on the “lost” flyers. My favorites are “Lost Seasons 1-6,” Peter Pan’s “Lost shadow,” and “Lost my marbles! HELP!”

Your child will get lost in the world of Found, and that’s a good thing.

National Poetry Day

In honor of National Poetry Day, I’m reposting “Poems for Made up Occasions.”  Enjoy!

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With National Poetry Month wrapping up, I’d like to highlight some of my favorite poems and the occasions best suited for them.

Enjoy!

RobertFrost

If you are feeling stressed and need perspective, find solace in The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry.

If you want express your love to your significant other, but are too broke to buy a gift, check out I Am Offering This Poem by Jimmy Santiago Baca.

If you’re tired of the know-it-all in your life, pass along The Book of Wisdom by Stephen Crane for a little passive-aggressive fun.

If you embrace womanhood in all its glory, celebrate with Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou. In fact, read anything by Maya Angelou! She is an incredible poet and writer and orator and person. The list goes on!

If people are giving you crap, meditate upon Be Kind Anyway attributed to Mother Teresa (not really a poem, but very inspirational).

If you enjoy the quiet of the morning, find peace with Before Dawn by Jack Cooper.

If you admire cats and/or like misty weather, read Fog by Carl Sandburg.

If you can identify with the folly of youth, pay attention to We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks.

If you think you’ve got it tough, reflect upon Mother to Son by Langston Hughes, and then call your mom.

If you participate in the creation versus evolution debate, think about Design by Robert Frost.

If you have an appreciation for or would like to learn more about Native American beliefs, read Eagle Poem by Joy Harjo.

If you rally for curves, be proud and enjoy Homage to My Hips by Lucille Clifton.

If you can identify with eccentric souls, try a little Tia Chucha by Luis Rodriguez on for size.

If you understand that trees are symbolic of life, read This Tree, This Poem by Luis Rodriguez, and then go hug a tree.

If you have a favorite poem (and an occasion for it), let me know.

There Is Good in This World

Today is remembered for terrible, awful, tragic events. It’s also a day that people everywhere felt the loss and sent out messages of hope, support, love, and sympathy.

To honor 9/11 and to remind ourselves, and especially children, that good is still the predominant force in this world, here is a book that focuses on good people.Good People Everywhere

Taken from my review at Good Reads with Ronna, where you can find reviews on great children’s literature.

Within reading three pages of Good People Everywhere, I’d fallen in love with it. Written by Lynea Gillen and illustrated by Kristine Swarner, this beautiful, touching book is inspiring and empowering. Its message is simple: there are good people doing good things everywhere, every day and in many ways. In a world where we too often hear of the destructive, unethical and terrible acts that people commit, Good People Everywhere offers a powerful juxtaposition to the idea that there are bad people everywhere. It presents the notion that people, including young children, can and do good in the world.

The prose is written in plain language and provides examples that children will find familiar. Numerous examples show children of various ages engaging in good deeds, the kinds that are readily managed by youngsters.

Teachers are teaching math, spelling and reading skills,/Today, people are planning seeds, picking fruits and vegetables, and driving them to grocery stores all around the world, so you can have a ripe, juicy orange in your lunch./Today, a first grade boy is helping a friend who has a skinned knee, and a big sister is holding her baby brother.

The illustrations are warm and engaging, and depict the text in a childlike fashion. They are a perfect complement to the heartfelt message. The bonus activities help children recognize and celebrate the good people around them.

As a mother, I have shared this book with my daughters and discussed how people we know do good things and how they, even at their young ages, can bring good into the world. As an educator, I plan on sharing this uplifting book with my students as our school continues with its theme for the year of giving back. Good People Everywhere provides examples, inspiration and comfort not only to young children

Woo-hoo, We Did It!

Thank you so much to everyone who helped raise money to help stem illiteracy in the US and around the world. World Education has been able to raise almost $22,000 to fight illiteracy through their #pages4progress campaign. Here’s the good news!

Reading Rocks!

Reading Rocks!

 That’s the good news, but the fight isn’t over! According to UNESCO EFA Global Monitoring Report Policy Paper, June 2014, 58 million children ages 6-11 won’t be returning to school. And, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development,  in the US, over 30 million adults don’t have a high school diploma and 20% of US adults with a high school diploma have only beginning literacy skills. There’s more work to be done, but, importantly, it can be done.

Please join World Education and sign a public letter (via Change.org) to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the United Nations Global Education First Initiative Steering Committee calling for increased attention and resources worldwide to achieve universal access to primary education. 

On September 24, take to social media and create a thunderclap in honor of the second anniversary of Secretary Ban Ki-moon’s Global Education First Initiative.

Education is a huge part in erasing poverty, most especially for women and children in developing countries. To be able to read is to be able to start the path out of poverty. If you care, please share.