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Celebrate with books

It's earlier than it's been in the past and the location has changed from the National Mall to the Washington Convention Center but once again, it's back. If past is prelude, then it will be just as much fun (with the benefit of indoor plumbing and air-conditioning against the dreaded DC humidity).

I'm talking about the National Book Festival, of course.

2014 National Book Festival

Digging for Little House Treasures in Pepin’s Attic

Remember Laura’s first trip to Pepin? In Little House in the Big Woods, Wilder writes, “Laura stood up on the board and Pa held her safe by the arm, so she could see the town. When she saw it, she could hardly breathe. She knew how Yankee Doodle felt, when he could not see the town because there were so many houses.”

Loss of a friend

Walter Dean Myers

I've been away for a while. The family vacation was without Internet access or even phone service. When I was reconnected, I was deeply saddened by news that one of the true giants of contemporary children's and young adult literature had died.

What's on your summer reading list?

Schools are winding down. Teachers, librarians and parents all want the children in their lives to continue reading. Lots of children, however, don’t come from homes where books are readily available.

No more Pooh?

Many classics of children's literature involve animals that behave like people. I've certainly likened several two-legged people I know to Eeyore. I often think like the Cat in the Hat on a dull, rainy day, looking for good, clean, indoor mischief. And in my house, Farmer Duck became a metaphor for unappreciated hard work.

Strong words, strong women

There have always been strong women although we haven't always known a lot about them.

The availability of Information about women and their impact has come a long way since the first celebration of Women’s History Week. In 1987, that week was changed permanently into a month-long celebration.

Books for children and youth are catching up, too, with more and more publications about women and their achievements.

Celebrating diversity and change all year long

Change is tough. Big things, little things, it’s just not easy for most of us. Nonetheless, change is inevitable. Some change we see immediately, some is more subtle. It’s easy to forget that societal norms are fluid, and that one person can effect great change if they are brave enough to stand up, stand out and work together.

Overcoming the odds

Everyone knows the story of how Helen Keller's tenacity (and the help of a special teacher) overcame her disabilities. Most know that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who led the nation during depression and war, had polio. Blindness hasn't stopped Stevie Wonder from topping pop music charts nor did it prevent Dr. Katherine Schnieder from obtaining a Ph.D. to become a noted psychologist.

Each of these people is celebrated for what they could do and have done not for a disability.

Why field trips are worth the effort

Taking a group of children for an outing can be rough — perhaps more so for adults than for the young people. After all, it's up to parents and teachers to keep track of their charges, worry about transportation, safety, snacks, and more. So why bother?

Because field trips make a difference. There's research that supports field trips to art museums, aka "culturally enriching" activities, has a significant and positive impact on students. In my experience, almost all family or class outings can make a positive impact.

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.

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