Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Rocking Out with Pete the Cat

Last Thursday was the first day of classes at William and Mary. I decided that my first day of class read aloud was going to be Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes by Eric Litwin. I played the audio so we could rock out. Most of these students are fairly new to the School of Education. I'm sure that starting class by rocking out with Pete the Cat was a new experience for them. But, they were good sports and jumped right in. The song is contagious!

I'm not the only one who started the first day of school with Pete the Cat. Check out Many's blog post at Enjoy and Embrace Learning. Love the shoes, Mandy! I see a new trend starting...

What was or will be your first day of school read aloud?


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Exciting new project: Many Voices, One World

I have an exciting announcement that I believe is quite timely right here at the beginning of the new school year.

I have started a new project, Many Voices, One World. The purpose of the Many Voices, One World project is to provide access to an online collection of picturebooks written in dialect that are read aloud by people who convey an authentic voice of the book.

Today, there are many children’s picturebooks that reflect the language variation found among the many and various cultural groups in the United States. These books do much to validate the cultural values, customs, beliefs, attitudes, and mannerisms of these cultural groups for children.

My hope is that the online read alouds included on the Many Voices, One World project website can be used by teachers to share picturebooks that provide a rich source of culture and diversity to the classroom.

Right now, there is only one book available, but it is a wonderful book: Don't Say Ain't written by Irene Smalls and performed by Anne Charity Hudley. Don't Say Ain't is the perfect "first" book for the collection. Below is the review from School Library Journal:
Dana and her friends Cindybelle and Ellamae live in Harlem in the 1950s where Dana's godmother reminds them, "Don't say ain't, children. People judge you on how you speaks!" When her goddaughter's high scores on a special exam provide access to an advanced, integrated school, the girl isn't quite as enthusiastic as Godmother. Children snicker when her teacher corrects her speech, while at home, her friends call her "Miss Smarty Pants." One day, her teacher announces plans to visit each student's home, and Dana is first on the list. When she arrives, Dana is surprised to learn that "-Godmother knew Mrs. Middleton's mother back in Charleston, South Carolina." However, she is absolutely stunned when her teacher exclaims, "Honeychile, I ain't gonna eat more than one piece of your famous peach cobbler." Confused at first by the woman's use of nonstandard English, Dana is smart enough to discover an essential truth. She reconciles with her friends and announces, "If you want to say `ain't,'-/Just say it at home./And when you roam,/Speaking proper sets de tone-." Engaging, richly hued oil illustrations effectively capture the characters and setting. The flap copy notes that New York City schools were first integrated in 1957, and Smalls portrays the advantages open to a select group of students with subtlety. This perceptive and useful title can be used to generate discussion on a variety of issues.
The online read aloud of Don't Say Ain't is beautifully done. The illustrated pages turn automatically as the story is read aloud by Anne Charity Hudley. Anne is an Associate Professor of Education, English, Linguistics, and Africana Studies at The College of William & Mary and the coauthor of Understanding English Language Variation in U.S. Schools.

The publisher of Don't Say Ain't requires that access to the online read aloud be password protected.  Therefore, if you are an educator and would like to share the online read aloud of Don't Say Ain't with your students, please follow the directions on the Many Voices, One World website to received access.

It is my hope to add many more books to the project over the years. There is a great deal of work involved to create each online read aloud and the project currently has no funding.

Please share your thoughts with me about this project and help me to spread the word about this wonderful resource. If there are books you would like to have included in this online resource, please let me know.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Exquisite Corpse Adventure to be published

The Exquisite Corpse Adventure, which began as an online story of 27 biweekly installments on Read.gov, will soon be available in book form from Candlewick Press.

his story-game was a collaboration between the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance, one of the center’s reading-promotion partners. The story was originally available at Read.gov, a Library of Congress website devoted to books, reading, literacy and libraries.

"The Exquisite Corpse Adventure" is a buoyant, spontaneous experiment--a progressive story-game like those played by children where one person begins a story, stops at a cliffhanging moment, and the next person picks it up and continues until everyone in the group has the opportunity to contribute. And just as in those games, the contributors to "The Exquisite Corpse" invented characters that spontaneously erupted out of their imaginations; plotlines that tumbled forth, some realized, some lost; and conflicts with no logical solution in sight. The story is about two kids, Joe and Nancy, from the circus whose parents are caught in another dimension.

The contributors to "The Exquisite Corpse Adventure" are some of America’s most gifted artists and storytellers: M.T. Anderson, Natalie Babbitt, Calef Brown, Susan Cooper, Kate Di Camillo, Timothy Basil Ering, Jack Gantos, Nikki Grimes, Shannon Hale, Lemony Snicket, Steven Kellogg, Gregory Maguire, Megan McDonald, Patricia and Fredrick McKissack, Linda Sue Park, Katherine Paterson, James Ransome, Jon Scieszka and Chris Van Dusen.

More information about "The Exquisite Corpse," including links to accompanying educational materials, is available at www.Read.gov/exquisite-corpse/. "The Exquisite Corpse Adventure" from Candlewick Press will be available at local libraries and bookstores in hard or soft cover beginning Aug. 23.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August 10 for 10 Picture Book Event

You definitely don't want to miss his year's August 10 for 10 Picturebook Event hosted by Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek.  Thirty-two bloggers, including myself, have posted their top 10 picturebooks.

I have already added numerous titles to my picturebook wishlist! How about you?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

10 for 10 Picturebook Event

Picturebooks. Who can resist them? Old and young alike, there's a picturebook for everyone. But, keeping up with the best of them can be daunting. That's why you might be interested in Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek's 10 for 10 Picturebook Event.

In event hosts bloggers who have chosen 10 picture books s/he could not live without and wrote a post about the titles.  Each blogger puts her/his own spin on a collection. Last year (the first year for the event) there were over 400 "must have" picture books.

There are so many ways to create this list. I could list 10 of my all time favorites or 10 new releases which I plan to use in my class this year. But, I've decided to focus on 10 new nonfiction books. Why? Because nonfiction is vastly overlooked in the classroom and because these new nonfiction picturebooks are amazing!

The nonfiction titles I chose to include range in age/grade level appropriateness and also include both biography and informational text. All of them however, are wonderful.

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The first book on the list must be Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg. I think most teachers are familiar with Van Allsuburg's work, but Queen of the Falls is his first foray into nonfiction. And, as with his other books, the illustrations and the writing is brilliant!

She could remember standing in a park near the falls, hypnotized by the sight and sound, and holding her father’s hand as they took a walk that would lead them closer.
That’s what everyone wonders when they see Niagara . . . How close will their courage let them get to it?
At the turn of the nineteenth century, a retired sixty-two-year-old charm school instructor named Annie Edson Taylor, seeking fame and fortune, decided to do something that no one in the world had ever done before—she would go over Niagara Falls in a wooden barrel.

This book has already made many midyear Caldecott prediction lists. Read a review here.

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Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos.

This book was on many short lists for the Newbery Medal last year. The authors have done a wonderful job of taking a great deal of information and condensing it into a comprehensible and captivating story that touches on many topics in the elementary and middle school curriculum. From the book:

In the Age of Sugar, Europeans bought a product made thousands of miles away that was less expensive than the honey from down the road.  That was possible only because sugar set people in motion all across the world–millions of them as slaves, in chains; a few in search of their fortunes.  A perfect taste made by the most brutal labor: That is the dark story of sugar.  But there is another story as well.  Information about sugar spread as human knowledge expanded, as great civilizations and cultures exchanged ideas.  In fact, while sugar was the direct cause of the expansion of slavery, the global connections that sugar brought about also fostered the most powerful ideas of human freedom.
 Read an analysis of this book here.

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Husband and wife team Steve Jenkins and Robin Page have a new Time To... series of nonfiction books for young readers. Time to Sleep, Time to Eat, and Time for a Bath are all titles in the series now.  

These books are deceptively simple. The introduction to Time to Sleep reads:

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Like you, animals need to sleep. But, they get their rest in lots of different ways. There are animals that sleep during the day, and others that snooze after the sun goes down. A few just take short naps, but some may be awake for only a few hours a day. There are animals that lie down to sleep, and creatures that doze while standing, hanging upside down, floating in the water -- even flying.
The first opening has an illustration of a giraffe in the middle of the couple page spread.  The text to the left of the giraffe states, "Once I get down here, it's hard to get up." Then, text to the right of the  giraffe states, "The giraffe sleeps less than two hours each day. It can sleep standing up or lying down, curled into a ball." And so it goes with each animal...a really catchy caption followed by more information (Did you know that a white stork sleeps in flight? Me either.). Included in the back is a brief glossary of each animal with more information.


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There are a lot of picturebooks about friends, but not very many that are nonfiction. Friends: True Stories of Extraordinary Animal Friendships written by award winning author Catherine Thimmesh is a pièce de résistance! Take a moment to watch the brief video below the book's description and you will know why.

Description: What makes a camel friends with a Vietnamese pig? Or a wild polar bear pals with a sled dog? In this young preschool book, Catherine Thimmesh makes us wonder at the truth and mystery of unlikely animal friendships. Because the stories behind these friendships are true, not contrived, captured by photographers in many countries ranging from Siberia to Japan, they not only give readers insight into animals but challenge preconceived notions about compatibility. This book also expresses tolerance of differences and makes us look at the kindness of animals—and humans—a little differently.





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Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming is an example of excellent biography. The brilliance of this book lies in the format. The chapters alternate between learning about Amelia's life  and her disappearance.

With incredible photos, maps, and handwritten notes from Amelia herself—plus informative sidebars tackling everything from the history of flight to what Amelia liked to eat while flying (tomato soup)--the reader stays engaged and informed.


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You may already be familiar the The Scientists In the Field series from Houghton Mifflin. My first enounter with this series was the Tarantula Scientist written by Sy Montgomery and photographed by Nic Bishop. I was so impressed with the authority of the author, the amazing photographs and the bibliographic information in the back of the book that has become a hallmark of this series. Two new titles, The Elephant Scientist by Caitlin O'Connell and Donna M. Jackson and The Manatee Scientists by Peter Lourie do not disappoint.

Description for The Elephant Scientists: In the sprawling African scrub desert of Etosha National Park, they call her “the mother of all elephants.” Holding binoculars closely to her eyes, American scientist Caitlin O’Connell could not believe what she was seeing from these African elephants: as the mighty matriarch scanned the horizon, the other elephants followed suit, stopped midstride, and stood as still as statues.

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Description for The Manatee Scientists: John Reynolds does an aerial count of manatees from the Florida sky; Lucy Keith spends a weekend rescuing manatees trapped in a dam in Senegal; and Fernando Rosas takes the author on an Amazonian boat trip, looking for a young manatee he released back into the wild, with emotional results. These scientists are working hard to save manatees: docile, large sea mammals who are eaten in some parts of the world, feared in others, and adored in still others. But factors such as human encroachment, disease, environmental hazards, and being hunted are causing their numbers to decline: they are an endangered species, in need of help.

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This is the up-dated version of Kathleen Krull's popular book, Lives of the Presidents: Fame, Shame (and What the Neighbors Thought), which now includes Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

Description: Every U.S. president is the focus of public scrutiny, but how well do we know these men? What kind of fathers do presidents make? Husbands? Neighbors? Other books focus on the historical achievements of those who have occupied our country's highest office; Lives of the Presidents looks instead at their bad habits, silly nicknames, and strange pets. Every president--from George Washington to Bill Clinton--is included, with an emphasis on those who have had the greatest impact on history. Discover their high points, low points, and the times in between. In this stunning addition to their acclaimed series, Kathleen Krull and Kathryn Hewitt take us beyond politics and photo opportunities, revealing the entertaining, complex, and very real lives of the presidents.

Free summer e-books from HarperCollins