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Authors & illustrators

How do you hear about great new kids' books?

We're always on the hunt for good books around our house. I rely on friends, librarians, my local bookstore, and several online sources for new titles we should be sure to read.

Fun with science and math IS possible

All too often, children hear the word math and they freeze. It just can't have pleasure associated with it nor can it possibly have anything to do real life.

Math really is everywhere but like the narrator in Jon Scieszka's funny and slightly offbeat Math Curse (Viking), fear of it can be a serious affliction. It can even impact how children perceive and school success — and eventually their career choices.

Beyond Earth Day

A friend of my son and I were talking about a high school course he's taking on environmental science. He said that it wasn't as much about saving the planet as it was saving people.

I thought about what he'd said and I agree — at least in general.

Where does respect for the environment and people begin? When children are very young. My son's interest in observing backyard birds started when he built a small birdhouse as a 6-year old Cub Scout and continues to this day.

Authors are real!

When I was growing up, I thought that all authors had to be dead and gone to have a book published. That misconception has quite happily been dispelled. I've even gotten to know some published authors, all of them quite alive and well. Many of these authors enjoy hearing from their readers.

What books do best

Books entertain, educate, inform, engage, and more — more than we may realize. Readers meet others and see themselves in them. They may feel validated, see change, or may be changed by a book.

A recent piece by Katia Hetter exploring how children's books help families explore diversity brought this home for me.

Beyond cookies

I was one. So was my sister. We did lots of things in Girl Scouts, but what I remember most is summer day camp and selling cookies — door to door — and having a good time with other kids. I don't remember being taught anything specifically, though I learned a lot. We were part of a Girl Scout troop where learning was engaging and part of all activities.

Reading across America

Today is Read Across America Day! It celebrates the Doctor's birthday (Dr. Seuss, that is) and the joy he created with his wonderful imagination.

Because of Theodor Geisel, we have unforgettable characters like the mischief-making Cat in the Hat, an environmentally concerned guy named the Lorax, the 20th century Scrooge named the Grinch, and an exceedingly kind elephant named Horton who saved the Whos from utter obliteration. (These and other Seuss creations as well as the doctor himself can be explored on a highly interactive website.)

How stories relate to their readers

There has been lots of interest in what's next for J.K. Rowling, famous author of the Harry Potter series, though it seems likely that Harry Potter will live on in audio, print, and DVD for the next generation to enjoy.

That's the thing about good stories — they continue to be fresh regardless of when they were created.

Why getting out matters

I remember many years ago sharing a book with photographs by Bruce MacMillan with a group of inner-city preschool children. They were bright and vivacious and eager to share what they knew.

While I no longer remember the title of the book, I'll never forget a little boy's response when I asked what the full-color image of a black and white cow was. He exclaimed with authority, "A dog!"

Libraries and the achievement gap

Is the growing gap in children's achievement primarily fueled by economics? What other factors may have a role in it — and how can the apparent trend be reversed?

A recent piece in The New York Times reports studies that indicate a widening fissure in educational achievement between rich and poor. But it also suggests other factors may be at play.

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"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." — Groucho Marx