Welcome, Choice Literacy Readers

Thank you to the Big Fresh, the Choice Literacy newsletter, for mentioning Chicken Spaghetti's 2011 Best Children's Books: A List of Lists and Awards. Welcome, readers! Literacy is all about connection, and I'm so happy that you've stopped by.

For those of you who don't know Choice Literacy, I highly recommend the Big Fresh, which is a free weekly e-newsletter; as a parent and school volunteer, I've picked up many good tips over the years. One of these days I hope to attend a literacy workshop.

Here is more about Choice Literacy, from its website:

Choice Literacy is dedicated to providing innovative, high-quality resources for K-12 literacy leaders. Founded in 2006, the website has grown to include over 1800 professionally produced and edited video and print features from top educators in the field like Jennifer Allen, Aimee Buckner, "The Sisters" (Joan Moser and Gail Boushey), and Franki Sibberson, as well as promising new voices like Katie Doherty and Heather Rader.

We believe literacy change that endures comes from within schools -- which is where you will find most of our contributors day in and day out. We honor and support local literacy leaders by supplying them with the practical resources they need to mentor colleagues, design demonstration classrooms, lead study groups, and assess literacy learning.

Happy reading in 2012!

Let 'Em Read What They Want

Tara Parker-Pope reports on an interesting new study about children and summer reading, at the New York Times:

Now new research offers a surprisingly simple, and affordable, solution to the summer reading slide. In a three-year study, researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, found that simply giving low-income children access to books at spring fairs — and allowing them to choose books that most interested them — had a significant effect on the summer reading gap.

To read the entire piece, go here. I was tickled at the top choice of book-fair participants, and wowed by the last sentences in the piece, a quote from an expert.

You'll notice that book fairs play a role in the study; the children involved chose free new books there. I have seen at a school where I volunteer that many kids cannot afford to buy books at the book fair, and often can bring only a dollar or so to buy some erasers or bookmarks. This is why organizations like Reading Is Fundamental and First Book are so important; both distribute free new books to kids.

Summer Reading for Kids with ADD

Kay Marner, a librarian and a mother of a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD), writes about summer reading in a good article at ADDitude Magazine's online edition. Although her tips are geared toward children with ADD and/or learning disabilities, they make a lot of sense for everyone else, too.

Marner says,"Reading quantity counts. There’s a strong relationship between the number of books read and a child’s improvement in reading ability. Reading at least four or five books each summer produces big skill-saving. Let your child choose books that fit his interests. Garfield—or, in [her daughter] Natalie’s case, Captain Underpants—is as effective in sharpening reading skills as are more serious books. Popular series—Harry Potter and others—are especially good at keeping children reading."

Check out the entire article here.

As far as our summer reading schedule goes, I plan to set aside one day a week as Library Day. For an hour or so on Thursday afternoons, say, we can stop by and return books, look for more, have a snack at the small cafe, and use the computer if we want.

What are you going to do for summer reading?

Minerva Louise

Aleah and I sit at a little table outside her public-school first-grade classroom. She is one of my reading buddies; she was last year, too. First grade was a little too much for her, so she's repeating it. First grade was a little too much for several other classmates. Aleah likes to read.

We are looking at the cover of Janet Morgan Stoeke's Minerva Louise and the Colorful Eggs. "She's going to have an adventure," Aleah says. Minerva Louise is a hen. "Hens are the girls. The females. And the roosters are the daddies," Aleah tells me. I listen as she reads. We laugh at the endearingly mixed-up Minerva Louise, who thinks an Easter basket is a hat. 

Apropos of something, Aleah says, "I know how to say beautiful in French!" 

"You do?"

"Yes." She kisses the tips of her fingers, and says, through pursed lips, "Bee-yoo-tee-fool." 

Have a beautiful day with your books, too.

People Are Talking About...

The end of the PBS show "Reading Rainbow." (via NPR) I hate hate hate this news. Hate it. But I like this post by The Millions' mom, a.k.a. Dr. Christine Morano Magee, of Educating for the Unknown.

Motoko Rich's New York Times article on reading workshops, in which students choose their own books. See also the Educating Alice blog for a 4th grade teacher's approach to teaching reading (and a response to the Times article).

Oprah's next Book Club pick, to be announced September 18th. (My guess? Like GalleyCat, I think it's Uwen Akpam's Say You're One of Them.)

Susan Straight's essay at the New York Times Book Review about Accelerated Reader, a school-based reading-incentive program

Lorrie Moore's new novel, A Gate at the Stairs (due from Knopf on September 1st). Excerpted in The New Yorker's 7.06.09 issue.

Entertainment Weekly's grade of "C" to Suzanne Collins' young adult novel Catching Fire, a sequel to The Hunger Games

The Boston Globe's look at high-pressure kindergarten and test prep (via Jen Robinson on Twitter)

"Where's Ramona Quimby, Black and Pretty?," a post at Publishers Weekly's ShelfTalker blog

Nearly fifty years after its initial publication, Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking makes the bestseller list. (via The Village Voice's Fork in the Road blog)

The Kidlitosphere Conference for bloggers, October 17th

Book Blogger Appreciation Week, September 14th-18th. Voting for favorites takes place September 7th-12th.

An Abundance of Bananas--and How It Relates to Books

When I was in college, one of my most looked-forward-to activities was studying for classes reading the Waverly News-Democrat, a small-town Tennessee newspaper that one of my friends got in the mail each week. She wanted to keep up with her hometown goings-on, but I loved the reports from a tiny community outside Waverly called Bakerville. My friend knew the Bakerville columnist, and referred to her as Miss Frances. So I did, too. Miss Frances had an eye for detail, never missed much at all that I could tell, and recorded any number of events, like, "The Hunt family visited this week from Chicago, Illinois." (A good time was had by all. Always.) A boy once had a tick in his ear and had it removed at the doctor's office in Waverly. It involved a drive. Others took a trip to Destin, Florida.

Bakerville people and their kinfolks married, moved to far-away places, and passed away, naturally,  but my all-time favorite was when Miss Frances wrote about this: "Today I went to the grocery store, and for the first time ever, there was not an abundance of bananas." Sure, it was a little different from her usual fare, but don't you just know what Miss Frances means? Grocery stores should have an abundance of bananas, and when they don't, well, something is amiss and ought to be noted.

Which brings me to the resident nine year old and books. There has not been an abundance of reading around here this summer. A bit of read-aloud (by me), a bit of Garfield (by him), and some listening to the excellent audiobook version of City of Ember on a car trip constitute the bulk of Junior's literary endeavors so far. There has been an abundance of SpongeBob watching. 

I thought of some remedies to the situation, while keeping in mind that my ideas are not always met by overwhelming enthusiasm.

1. Make read-aloud a more regular event, at a set time.

2. Place enticing nonfiction like The Day-Glo Brothers (by my pal Chris Barton) on Junior's bed.

3. Visit the library with Junior at a time when he is not dead-tired after camp. Let him play Poptropica games on the computer and then suggest looking for books.

4. Wrestle SpongeBob down to an hour a day.

5. Capitalize on Junior's interests. Make a bigger effort to find books on pet garter snakes, which are surprisingly hard to find. The books, I mean. The snake? Not so much.

That's it, so far. I'll let you know how it goes. Meanwhile, if you have additional suggestions or recommendations for a kid who avoids Harry Potter like the plague, I'm listening—because fifth grade is coming up, and an abundance of reading is only going to help.

"Beyond Gossip Girls": Neesha Meminger and Sheba Karim

A representative from the South Asian Women's Creative Collective (SAWCC) emailed me with news of a reading by Neesha Meminger and Sheba Karim, authors of the young-adult novels Shine, Coconut Moon and Skunk Girl, respectively. The event, called "Beyond Gossip Girls," takes place tonight in New York, at the Asian American Writers' Workshop; for details, see this page at the SAWCC website


Review of Shine, Coconut Moon, at sikhchic.com

Review of Skunk Girl, at The Happy Nappy Bookseller

"The best reading teachers are teachers who read."

I appreciate Donalynn Miller's insights over at The Book Whisperer. She's a sixth-grade language arts and social studies teacher, and blogs about reading. Recently she wrote about the connection with her students.

There are many days when I don’t get it right—my lesson falls flat, my temper is short, or I am too distracted to focus on the child standing in front of me. My students forgive me on those days because I am one of them—a reader. I rarely fail when talking to children about books and why they should read this one. It pleases me when my students consider me an expert whose opinions about books they value; I convince a lot of kids that they are experts because they read, too.

Read the whole post at Miller's Teacher Magazine blog, which is well worth subscribing to. Miller's book The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child (Jossey-Bass) hits the shelves in March.

The Fire of Literacy

"The fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks between a child, a book, and the person reading. It isn't achieved by the book alone, nor by the adult who's reading aloud—it's the relationship winding between all three, bringing them together in easy harmony."

from Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever, by Mem Fox (Harcourt, 2001). Highly recommended! Also, a new and revised edition was published this year.