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Children's books

Celebrations fit for a new school year

Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer after which schools are in full swing again. Various September celebrations are ideal complements to school, community and home activities.

In 1965, September 8 was declared International Literacy Day (ILD) by UNESCO. This year, ILD was marked by presentations and discussions (on the Monday after the official ILD) featuring among others, Alma Powell representing America's Promise Alliance and Maureen McLaughlin, President of the International Reading Association.

Getting boys hooked on reading: How can digital media help?

Did you know that boys often underestimate their ability to read? That boys, on average, read less than girls? And that boys are often less motivated to read than girls? Not only that: By the time boys reach high school, roughly half of them will describe themselves as "nonreaders."

Grounded in evidence. Part 1: Fiction

It's funny to be a teacher! When everyone else thinks of the "New Year" starting January 1st, teachers are getting ready to start their "third quarter."" Usually about our "half-time" (aka: Winter Vacation) I enjoy reflecting on our year so far, and how I can tweak my instruction to streamline our focus. So after the presents have been opened, traditions enjoyed, and champagne and poppers cleaned up, it's always a good opportunity to sit back, and begin deciding where instruction needs to be strengthened.

Getting mind and body ready for school

It's a fact. Good nutrition leads to healthy bodies and to healthy minds — minds and bodies that are ready to learn (and grow and play and do everything else that children do).

All schools seem to be moving toward more healthful lunch and snack choices. Some schools use the notion of healthy food in ways to support the curriculum while building community. Last year, about 80 schools in Washington, D.C. had school gardens.

Sure signs of summer: watermelon and weather

I love the long days of summer. I even enjoy the heat (not so much the humidity though). And what could be better on a hot summer day than a cool slice of watermelon?

Thunderstorms are a part of summer, too. But many brave children who (like a small dog named Rosie) aren't afraid of night shadows or tigers or anything else — except thunder. Rosie's boy couldn't comfort her — not even by telling her that "thunder was watermelons rolling off a watermelon truck." But the wait for the end was much easier when the boy held Rosie.

The fun begins at summer camp

As summer gets underway, lots of children prepare for what is often the first time away from home — a sleep-away camp: lots of outdoor activities (swimming, archery, hiking — more?), camp fires, camaraderie and independence.

Sleep-away camps can be a fine way to allow children to connect with nature and start to figure thing out alone (though with guidance, of course). It can be downright transformative.

All children should have a camp experience. If it can't be gotten in person, then maybe the next best thing is to vicariously experience camp.

Saccharine or interesting? Thinking about children's books

I heard an entertaining interview with Daniel Handler (who writes as Lemony Snicket of the Series of Unfortunate Events) this week on NPR. Snicket was talking about his newest book, The Dark.

Talking with kids about cancer

It's never easy to talk with young kids about tough subjects, like illness and death. Sometimes a children's book can open the door to conversations that need to happen. Books can also help teach new and scary vocabulary words in a gentle way. Last, a book can bring some comfort by helping a child feel less alone. It may help to learn that other kids have a Mom or Dad who is also fighting cancer or another disease.

How books can open minds

During a school visit recently I met classes of 3rd and 5th graders to talk about authors and illustrators, share some of their books and highlight some of their advice for young readers. I talked to the children about what they would do if they were in a position similar to those that book characters were placed.

Getting ready for summer reading

Memorial Day is coming up soon — marking the unofficial start of summer. Parents and teachers know how hard it can be for children to remain focused as the school year ends and summer starts.

Summers that don't include books and reading for children most often results in the "summer slide" — the loss of reading skills gained during the previous school year.

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"Oh, magic hour, when a child first knows she can read printed words!" — A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, 1943