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Authors & illustrators

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.

We're all hyphenated Americans

We're all hyphenated Americans really. It's the way we identify our backgrounds and that's fine. If, however, identification by self or others becomes a way to maintain separation, well, that's not fine.

I was reminded recently that books are important as both "mirrors" and "windows" as I introduced books to a group of teenaged parents. They were learning about their children's development and the role of literature and language in it.

And the winner is ... children!

It's always heartening to be with other booklovers — especially those who recognize that the younger we start sharing the power and pleasure of language and story with children the more likely they'll grow into lifelong learners.

It was exciting to attend what has become known as the Youth Media Awards announcements at the midwinter conference of the American Library Association.

Text sets: One theme, several books

Teachers often have a specific theme or content they want to cover, but have a wide range of reading levels in their classroom. One way to handle that situation is to have many books on that one theme, but the books are written at different reading levels. These are often called text sets. I wrote here about a text set on persistence. ReadWriteThink has some good guidelines for creating text sets.

Super Ambassadors for young people and reading!

What do a red cape, a magic wand and a light sword represent? Each seems to be a sign of magic, heroics, something more than mere human, right?

What happens when the writers who hold these objects come together in one room? They become the superheroes and spokespeople to let the world know about the importance of reading.

These are the Super National Ambassadors for Young People's Literature! Together, their power can change the world! And that's just what current and former Ambassadors have set out to do.

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"I'm wondering what to read next." — Matilda, Roald Dahl