"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Spreading the Word: the Not-So-Midnight Ride of a WRADvocate

World Read Aloud Day is Coming! 
World Read Aloud Day is Coming! 

March 7, 2012

Watch this preview video.
Visit LitWorld's Website
Join World Read Aloud Day. 


Take action for global literacy.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

On my soapbox (again) for World Read Aloud Day. This time it's personal.

In this, the least snowy winter on record I have been reflecting on the bounty of past winters.  I love winter.  I love: skiing; sledding; building snow forts; no-holds-barred snowball fights; and, the delicious feeling of sitting in front of a fire, drinking hot chocolate, after any of these events.

I dug through my files to find a story I wrote for my daughter when she was five.  It is not really a story,but more a recounting of an experience we had.  I saved it and gave it to her on her 13th birthday.  

Will You Remember?
Will you remember the day we saw a rainbow in a cloud?
Freezing rain had followed the previous day’s snow and the cold temperatures at night had created an icy crust, a crust so hard we didn’t sink in. “Look mom!” You said.   “I can walk on top!” 
The top of the snow shone like glass.  The hill in the backyard beckoned and, sitting side by side, hands held tight, we pushed off; our snow pants and jackets, the sleds we didn’t need.  From our tangled heap at the bottom of the hill, your voice, laughing and eager, said, “Again!”
Again and again and we climbed the hill, cresting its peak only to slide back down on our backs, bottoms and stomachs. 
            Finally spent, we lay on our backs, chests rising and falling with each breath. The sky was crisp, blue and nearly cloudless.  A thin, wispy cloud took shape as it moved across the sky towards us.
“It’s a person stretched out on a hot summer’s day,” you said.  “Now it’s a bird!”  Then, as the cloud passed over our neighbor’s garage, it began to change colors: greens, blues, oranges, yellows and reds.  It was a rainbow in a cloud.  “It’s magic!”  You said. 
 The cloud continued to change colors and shapes as it drifted out of sight. 
Wanting more, we looked eagerly back across the sky for another cloud.  None existed.  Reluctantly, we got up and climbed quietly back up the hill, knowing somehow that this had been a very special experience.
And I wondered, “Will you remember?”  Will you remember the day we saw the rainbow in the cloud? 
Maybe if I write a story about it.
Here's what I am thinking today, "What if she was not able to read it?"  

We all know, Literacy is Power.  Being literate gives readers access to ideas and information.   Here's where it's personal, what about the stories that are not passed down through the oral tradition? What about the written letters, notes, and histories?  Who will read those?  

Let's ensure every family is able to preserve its history.  Let's ensure everyone can read, by creating access to materials and programs that build literacy.

Join the movement.  Become part of World Read Aloud Day.
Read with someone you love on March 7th, 2012.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Reading is (a Super) Power

My World Read Aloud Day Ambassadors are making bookmarks to raise awareness about World Read Aloud Day.

Looking for more bookmark inspiration?  
Check out this video!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Share the Power: Read Stories to Children

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

So Says Albert Einstein...

I don't know about you, but I am happy to follow the advice of a Nobel Prize Winner and recognized genius.  He may have developed the General Theory of Relativity, but it appears science was not his only area of expertise. I am comfortable expanding my interpretation of this quote beyond the fairy tale genre: Read and read often, whatever it is.

World Read Aloud Day, which is fast approaching!  On March, 6th, teachers, students, parents, children and book lovers from around the globe will be participating in this event, created to: raise awareness of and develop programs to combat illiteracy around the world.

I have just started my
Patricia McKissack author study with the 3rd graders.  I love this author study because her books afford so many different learning experiences and always elicit great conversations.

Last week, I read Flossie and the Fox.
Flossie and the Fox by Patricia McKissack
This week we compared it to traditional Little red Riding Hood stories and then watched an interview with Patricia McKissack.  In the Reading Rockets interview, Patricia and Fred McKissack talk about the book and the one very important change she made to it. 

She explains that her husband (and collaborator) felt there was something missing in the story, but didn't know what; and, it was only upon reflection that she realized what the problem was.  Here's an excerpt from the interview:
"So he couldn't tell me exactly what it was, but he made me think and re-think the end of that story. I had destroyed fox. Was that the intent? No, it was to get through the woods safely with her basket of eggs. And she used her wits to do it; she didn't beat him over the head; she didn't shoot him.

She didn't maim him and, you know, hang him out to dry. She tricked him and got through the woods. And then when she was safe and her eggs were safe, she gave him back his foxhood and he could be imperial. I am the fox!" 

Why is this important to today's quote?  

Because Patricia McKissack believes that "Reading is Power."  Reading is power because of the power of story.  You have to be able to read a story to learn and understand its power.

Here's Patricia again, "[Story] prepares children for making adult decisions and developing their problem solving skills. Without story you're not connected to anything. I mean, think of yourself as being the Little Red Hen. You've been there. You've done all the work for the committee and then they show up for the photo-op.  Well that's the Little Red Hen — of course it is! The Boy Who Cried Wolf…we know that story and we've seen it acted out in life and we react and respond to those situations based on what we were taught in those stories. And so we needed to tell…you have to tell old stories so that we don't lose the connection. And we have to tell new stories. We have to meet children where they are with new stories."

What a powerful message readers of Flossie and Fox are given.  You do not have to destroy others in order to be successful.  Flossie could safely deliver her eggs and then let the fox head back out into the world with his "foxhood." I also love this story because Flossie is a wonderful role model for children, especially young girls.  She's confident and smart and capable.
These Reading Rockets interview clips with Patricia and Fred McKissack are wonderful.  Read the transcript here as well.

You can learn more about Patricia McKissack in this
interview from TeachingBooks.net.  TeachingBooks.net is an incredible resource for author and illustrator interviews, book guides and lesson plan ideas. 

Reading is Power. So, on World Read Aloud Day and every other day of the year, read, and read often, not just because it's a wonderful thing to do, but because you never know what ideas you will be exposed to or what you might learn!

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Making of a Literature Quilt

Stitchin' and Pullin'

That's what it feels like some days.  It feels as if I am weaving one very funky quilt with an invisible thread that leads from one book to another, one author to another.  Albeit, a quilt that is incredibly diverse yet somehow unified and one that has no discernible pattern but offers interconnected journeys.

Today was such a day. 

Today I begin a Sharon Creech author study with my fifth grade students.

I am so excited about this!  I am going to begin with Love that Dog.  See the post, Reading Is Not Optional to see how much I love this book.  (Also, There is a wonderful "Teach Creech" guide for this book on Sharon Creech's Website.)

Love that Dog by Sharon Creech
In preparation for sharing the book with students, I went around my library  finding copies of the poems mentioned in the book as well as books of poetry by the poets of those poems.

Here's what happened:

I started with Arnold Adoff and while looking for a book of poetry by him, I found a book of poetry by his son, Jaime Adoff.  This book, The Song Shoots Out of My Mouth (which he dedicates to his mother, the amazing Virginia Hamilton) seems eerily thematically similar to his father's poem, referenced in Love that Dog, Street Music.

The Song Shoots Out of My Mouth by Jaime Adoff
This book was right next to Arnold's book Black is Brown is Tan.

Black is Brown is Tan by Arnold Adoff
I know why these two poetry books are beside each other, but the dedication in Jaime's book seemed to bring these two books into another realm of connectedness.  It became a family affair!

I collected the books and moved on to the next poet, Robert Frost.  This was easy enough.  I grabbed our Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.

Walter Dean Myers came next.  There was Harlem.  This got me thinking about the Langston Hughes poem of the same name.  What if the students compared the two poems?  Two more books in hand, I moved on.

Harlem by Walter Dean Myers

Book containing Langston Hughes' poem, Harlem.
Harlem reminded me of Uptown by Bryan Collier.  I abandoned the other poems and poets and headed for my Coretta Scott King Book Award books and collected Uptown. 

Uptown by Bryan Collier
Despite my desire to then follow this to an Ezra Jack Keats book or book award book, I had to stop or I would soon have gathered a significant part of my collection and all for an intro lesson for Love that Dog.  Well, okay, make that at least two intro lessons!

By the time I had finished my task, I was quoting some advertisement from my childhood, "and so on and so on.." 

I will most certainly be sharing this experience with my students and demonstrating how these cool literature threads exist all over the library.  I hope it will inspire my students to begin weaving their own threads.

Here's what else I hope: that they make a connection to the power of being a reader and the opportunities that exist because of being a reader.  We can all be thread weavers and quilt makers.

Do I have passion for books and reading?  You bet.  Let's give every child this opportunity.

That's why I've joined the World Read Aloud Day initiative. 

I remember more of that ad now...it had something to do with sharing information, "and they'll tell two friends and they'll tell two friends, and so on and so and so on..."

Let's make it happen.  Spread the word about World Read Aloud Day.

Be there. March 7, 2012.

Off to teach Creech!  More later....

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Reading Is Not Optional

"Reading Is Not Optional"

Powerful words from Walter Dean Myers, our new National Ambassador for Young People's Literature at the Library of Congress.  This statement says it all.  It speaks to the power of literacy and the power of reading.

I recently had a conversation with a gentleman who works with at-risk boys.  Being the consummate book lover and proud Nerdy Book Club Member, I couldn't help but to begin suggesting books he might add to his repertoire and use with these young men.

One of the books I suggested was Walter Dean Myers memoir, Bad Boy; a book acknowledged and highly valued for its contribution to the body of young adult literature. 
Bad Boy by Walter Dean Myers
Bad Boy: A Memoir is a poignant look into his childhood in Harlem.  Myers shares his journey, including experiences and decisions, both good and bad.  An avid reader, Myers often turned to books as his salve for societal pressures and issues of class and race.

I shared my excitement at  Walter Dean Myers being named National Ambassador for Young People's Literature at the Library of Congress(You can read about Walter Dean Myers in this New York Times Article or learn tips to get children reading from this Washington Post article.) 

I am also a consummate connector of dots, books, and all things reading related.  Not only does Walter Dean Myers write incredible books and promote literacy, he also appears in a book!  Walter Dean Myers connects with and inspires the budding young poet in Love that Dog by Sharon Creech (one of my all time favorite authors).  

Love that Dog by Sharon Creech
Love that Dog is another highly acclaimed book.  Written in free verse, it carries the reader along a journey of discovery and mutual understanding between a young boy and his teacher.  Love that Dog is an acknowledgment of the stories we carry inside and an incredible testament to the the power of language and how a few words, carefully placed, can make all the difference.  Empowering stuff.

As I rattled off books and authors (all be it, carefully rattling, so as to ensure he had the correct spelling), I apologized for talking so much and offered to get off my soap box.  This gentleman dismissed my apology and told me that I had passion for books and the power of reading and for that I should never apologize. 

I am passionate about books, about reading and about ensuring that all children have the support they need to learn how to read as well as access to good literature.  Books do more than just provide windows and mirrors; books heal, books inspire, books inform, and books provide endless amounts of pleasure

Where would we all be if everyone in the world could read? 

Let's make it happen.  One book at a time.  One reader at a time.

Join me in participating in World Read Aloud Day
this March 7, 2012.  

Friday, February 3, 2012

Making the connection: books, students and World Read Aloud Day

I introduced World Read Aloud Day to my fourth graders yesterday.  I absolutely believe in and support the mission of this initiative:

"Take Action for Global Literacy,
Celebrate the Power of Words,
Change the World"

On March 7, 2012, educators, children, parents and a host of literature loving  people will participate in LitWorld's World Read Aloud Day (WRAD).  LitWorld is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to grow and support literacy leaders and literacy programs.

I talked with my students about World Read Aloud Day and shared some of the statistics regarding literacy.  According to the LitWorld site, worldwide at least 793 million people remain illiterate. In December, Stephen Krashen spoke to the Chicago Teachers Union and delivered some thoughts on children living in poverty, two of which are below:

"Study shows that in affluent areas children have access to over 200 books while children in poverty have access to less than 2 books at home. School is not levelling the playing field."

"We must protect children against the affects of poverty.  This means three things: food (free and reduce meals). School nurses (medical care). Books and libraries (literacy)"
With this information in mind, we started to discuss how we, as a school community, might participate in WRAD.  Having recently participated in a webinar with Angela Maiers, I was inspired to explore ways to make this learning experience a passion driven one for my students.  I explained that they would be the ones to design our school community's efforts and that they would be our ambassadors for this initiative. I have given them a week to come up with ideas and designs.

To demonstrate the power of literacy and the gift of reading, I read from one of my favorite biographies, Mary on Horseback: Three Mountain Stories by Rosemary Wells.

Mary on Horseback cover shot

Mary on Horseback is the story of Mary Breckinridge, the founder of the Frontier Nursing Service.

Mary Breckinridge

This slim volume packs a punch.  Readers are invited into the lives of three people, whose very existence is changed by Mary Breckinridge.  With honesty and grace, Wells gently introduces the reader to life in Appalachia in the 1920's.  The ensuing three stories then bring this time and this place to life. 

For this project, I am pairing it with That Book Woman by Heather Henson, the story of the packhorse librarians.

That Book Woman cover shot
The packhorse librarians was a Works Progress Administration program aimed at bringing books to the families of Appalachia.  You can see photographs of the librarians on this site from the New Deal Network.

A packhorse librarian delivering books
We finished our time together by discussing how much the students had been exposed to and learned in such a short period of time and based upon just one reading experience.  I hope this idea resonates with them.   

Check in next week when we share our ideas for WRAD.