Thursday, August 26, 2010

TED…Ideas worth spreading

I have to admit, I'm in love with TED…..the non-profit organization devoted to spreading worthwhile ideas globally. TED began in 1984 with a combined effort of geniuses in the fields of technology, entertainment and design. Presenters can be famous authors such as Amy Tan, gurus in the field of technology such as Steve Jobs or lesser known people with amazing ideas. TED talks can be anywhere from ten minutes to an hour and accessed at the TED website. The website is a great place to browse for topics on innovation, invention, technology, literacy….all speakers are cutting edge or "out of the box" thinkers in their fields.

90% of the time, TED Talks are for grownups. However, every once in a while a TED Talk is great for kids. For example, Jim Toomey: Learning from Sherman the Shark is a talk about how cartoonist, Toomey, uses his genre to create awareness of the ocean and issues that affect its health and survival. His talk is great inspiration for those kids that draw and draw and doodle their way through the day….it can actually lead to not only a career but one that can impact a cause.

Take 14 minutes to watch Learning from Sharks with a young person today and get to know TED. I'll bet you will love TED too.

Toomey, J. Learning from Sharks {TED Talk}. Retrieved from TED Talks website:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Chester by Melanie Watt….er Chester!

I had a cat named George who was very large in the life of my family. Physically, George was large. And, George had a way of impacting the script of daily life. If I was in a mad dash to get out of the house, sure enough, George would be padding down the hall in front of me at his slow and steady pace. For the life of me I could never charge past or over him without being tripped by a fat, purring cat. Because I've known George, I feel like I know Chester of the picture book Chester so very well. Melanie Watt, author and Chester's owner sets out to write a book about her cat when the big guy himself interrupts the entire book from the jacket cover, every page of text and credits with this fat red marker. This cat is equally full of himself, and there's a lot to be full of, and naughty in the funniest of ways. My six and nine year old children chortled all the way through this Virginia Reader's Choice nominee for 2010-2011 at the primary level.

Melanie Watt has written other great books for primary readers such as Scaredy Squirrel and Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend.

Have a laugh with fat cat and a fat cat lover – pick up Chester for fun reading.

Watt, M. Chester (2007) Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco

Patricia Polacco has done it again! In an amazing autobiographical story, she's redefined what it means to be "special ed". I love Polocco for how she writes inspirational and complex picture books to read aloud to young children or motivate very young but strong readers. Now, if only I could get through her books without a tear in my eye! I need to read these aloud to children without choking up.

A delightful quote from Junkyard Wonders:

"Genius is neither learned nor acquired.

It is knowing without experience
It is risking without fear of failure
It is perception without touch
It is understanding without research
It is certainty without proof
It is ability without practice
It is invention without limitations
It is imagination without boundaries
It is creativity without constraints
It is……extraordinary intelligence!"

This is a must read for parents, teachers, administrators and anyone that has ever experienced learning differently. Viva la difference! For grades 3 and up.

Polacco, P. Junkyard Wonders New York: Philomel Books. 2010. Print

School Library Celebrations!

Gotta love the American Library Association's list of reasons to celebrate a library and in a library!

American Library Association. (July 2010). Library Promotions and Events 2010-2011. Retrieved from:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Virginia's Reader's Choice Award

Each year, young readers from across Virginia vote on their favorite book in four categories: Primary, Elementary, Middle School and Young Adult. Books, noteworthy and published in the last five years, are nominated by a committee. Book lists from past years provide outstanding titles for children and families to choose from when looking for a great new book to read.

Virginia State Reading Association. (June 2010). Retrieved from.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Classroom and School Library--What's the Difference?

I was reading through some of my library school material recently and came across this passage. It helps explain the special role of a school library....and, I think, why they need to be supported.

"A school library and a classroom collection of reading material both support the school reading program. One cannot substitute for the other. One--the school library is a collection of resources that are organized according to a standard system with materials catalogued and classified for universal accessibility. The other--the classroom collection of reading materials--is organized and leveled to service the individual classroom.........

By providing proactive support for in-class reading instruction, school library media specialists demonstrate their commitment to helping schools meet reading goals. For teachers, they provide catalogued sets of material in searchable formats and data on material use. For students they provide collections for research, skill building, and pleasure that support reading motivation."

Roscello, F. and P. Webster (2002). Characteristics of School Library Media Programs and Classroom Collections: Talking Points, Albany, NY: Office of Elementary, Middle, Secondary and Continuing Education, New York State Education Department.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

When You Reach Me

Last week, my kids and I took an 8 hour van ride and while my "littles" watched Disney movies, my eldest and I listened to When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. My daughter read this in the spring and begged me to read it too. I never got around to it until we picked up the CD set at the library before our trip. What an incredible, suspenseful, mysterious, sci-fi…yet big life emotional questions kind of story! I loved it. And, I really do think that this book is better listened to than read. My 11 year old daughter agrees with that. She appreciated the complexities of the story much more after listening to it on our trip. We had so much to talk about. How much we loved how main character handles challenges, how mysterious Sal's part was in the story and how each of us arrived at our conclusion about who the time traveler was in the story. We also both want to know more about time travel theory…it's all so fascinating.

I also enjoyed When You Reach Me because the story was set in 1978……just about the time I was in sixth grade as the main character was. If you are a fan of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time, seventies kitsch such as the game show Twenty Thousand Dollar Pyramid and smart writing, this is a must read. I recommend it for advanced readers in grades 4-8 for a satisfyingly challenging book.

When You Reach Me is the very worthy recipient of the 2010 Newberry Award for Children's Literature.

Stead, R. When You Reach Me (2009). New York. Listening Library

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Word After Word After Word by Patricia McLachlan

Today I made one of my favorite annual trips – to the teeny, tiny library in the village where I grew up. Even though my kids are accustomed to a large county library with multiple branches, they love Bell Memorial Library too. The display of books in the children's room is always inviting and up to date and we can make ourselves comfy for an hour to browse and read in a building made of old stones that cast a that special library hush. While visiting, I picked up Word After Word After Word, by Patricia McLachlan from a new book display. The story is of a group of elementary school children transformed by the power of creative writing when a famous author visits their class to conduct a writing work shop. Little by little, each child in the group of friends "hears" the words they are supposed to hear to tell their story – in the form of poetry or essay or short story.

Word After Word After Word, a fictional story, is based on McLachlan's experiences as an author (1986 Newberry winner for Sarah Plain and Tall) who discusses stories and the craft of writing with young audiences. The poems shared by the characters in the story are refreshing and add depth to the story. The ending of the story is surprising and creative, one that brings a smile and a hooray from readers that also enjoy writing! This would be a super book to share with creative writers, especially girls, in grades three through six. There are lots of good ideas about where to get writing ideas from and how writing affects the author and their audience. I'm so glad that a trip to a far away but loved library led me to this lovely, lovely story.

McLachlan, P. Word After Word After Word (2010). New York. Katherine Tegan Books.