Reading together

Forty years strong

Are awards for children's books useful? What can they do in a real sense?

Children's publishing is a crowded field and for many, awards can help identify not only critically valuable books but help identify new and interesting work.

When it first started some 40 years ago, the Coretta Scott King was intended to recognize the work of African American authors and illustrators. It continues to do so and since 1995, the John Steptoe New Talent Award encourages and recognizes new authors and illustrators.

Anniversaries of note

Summer of this year marks several things worth remembering. Some are happy anniversaries, others not so at all.

What do these events mean to children? Are they relevant to them in any way at all? What do stories — real or fictional — offer to children? Can they inspire as well as inform?

It was in July 1969 that Neil Armstrong left the relative safety of his spacecraft to walk on the moon. Many books are available about Apollo 11, about the moon itself and this special anniversary.

Roar (and more)

Imagine…a small mouse being chased by a hungry owl disturbs a fierce looking lion. The lion, however, release the mouse only to be caught up in a rope trap himself. When the mouse hears the lion's roar, what does he do?

If you've read the "Lion and the Mouse," a fable credited to Aesop or even a tale called "Androcles and the Lion" (in a collection by Joseph Jacobs now long out of print) then you know it's been around for a while, a long while.

Listening to kids talk about books

I'm on a national children's book award committee so submissions have been arriving at my home/office in increasing quantities. Even though I read a lot of books for young people anyway, I've been reading them to the exclusion of just about anything. (I can't give up the newspaper though; it's a must-have either online or in print.)

I'm reading so many books so quickly that I've been wondering how I can keep them clear in my mind -- beyond taking notes (which is not always possible given all the places that I find myself reading these days).

My poor dental hygienist

All she wanted to do was clean my teeth and share new pictures of her 6-month-old little girl.

"She's very cute!" I mumbled, with Christina's hands in my mouth. "Do you read to her?" I asked.

"We do! Probably a book almost every day. But it's not like she understands what we say. It's sort of funny to do it."

There's nothing like a comment like that to get this reading specialist to sit up in the chair and start talking. And talk we did!

A day for moms

This weekend is Mother's Day. I always thought of it as a holiday created by, well, by Hallmark.

But it's not. I learned that it has roots in a feisty woman named Anna Jarvis who wanted to honor her mother. And apparently mothers were celebrated even farther back in history.

I admit that I have a particular point of view; that any day and any celebration is better with a book.

Whodunnit? Spring break mysteries

Both girls, Molly (8) and Anna (6), are obsessed with mysteries right now, and they spent most of their spring break tearing through several. It started awhile back when they stumbled into the Boxcar Children series.

For Anna, it's all about the page count

Motivation is a huge topic in reading. So many parents and teachers deal with motivation issues every day. I saw this quote recently; I think it applies nicely to reading: Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going. (Jim Ryun, author and runner)

Yesterday's trip to the library was an interesting lesson for me about Anna's motivation to read. After Anna slipped 3 or 4 really thick books into our bag, I had to ask her about it.

'Tis the season, again!

Was it really a year ago that I wrote this post about feeling frenzied and guilty about the lack of quality reading and writing time at our house? Because it's happening again! And once again I realize that my girls ARE engaged in reading and writing. It just looks different this time of year.

Here what we're doing, language arts style, to get ready for the holidays:

Using volunteers in the classroom

Sometimes parent volunteers require a lot of extra work for a teacher. Other times, parents work as a second set of hands but don't really work one-on-one with kids. Somewhere in the middle is a setting in which the time flies by with both the volunteer and the students benefitting from spending time together.


"Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them." — Lemony Snicket