Friday, September 25, 2009

Citations 101

This weekend our 5th graders will be busily writing up their solar energy papers for Ms. Stivers's science class after doing research during library classes. One of the less exciting aspects of the research paper process comes next: creating the bibliography!

Fortunately things have come a long way since I was a student flipping through my Turabian guide. You can take some of the pain out of this process by using the following sites:

Simply fill in the boxes, click on "submit" and voila! Remember, we use the MLA format at Open Window & Vista Academy.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Celebrate your freedom to read: choose a banned book!

September 26-October 3 is Banned Books Week, sponsored by the American Library Association. Although the majority of book challenges go unreported, bans and challenges occur all over the United States, a fact which surprises many.

If you check out these lists of the most frequently banned and challenged books arranged by year, author, type, etc. you are likely to find some beloved favorites. In fact the list of top ten most challenged authors of the past 8 years includes such stellar talents as J.K. Rowling, Kevin Henkes, Katherine Paterson, Gary Paulsen, Maurice Sendak, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and Philip Pullman.

So, take this opportunity to talk with your family about first amendment rights and what they mean. Then head over to the library and pick up a great banned book to read!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Letters about Literature

Students in grades 4-12 can enter the Letters about Literature contest run by the Washington State Library (outside Washington, check out the Library of Congress' site for how to enter). One winner at each grade level (4-6, 7-8, 9-12) in each state will be entered at the national level. The deadline is December 12, 2009.

Interested entrants should "read a book and write a letter to the author about how the book changed their view of the world." Check out the links above for more information!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A memorable encounter

Last weekend my daughter and I were thrilled to attend a talk by Jane Goodall at the Theo Chocolate company in Seattle. She was promoting her new book, Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink. This book, co-written with Gail Hudson and Thayne Maynard, outlines remarkable environmental successes as dedicated people around the world work to improve their local habitats and actually revive species that many had given up for lost. It is written for adults but would be accessible to strong readers of younger ages.

Dr. Goodall, who at age 75 travels 300 days of the year spreading awareness about conservation, gave an inspirational talk and then patiently signed books and chatted with her large crowd of admirers. She spoke about the organization she founded for children, Roots & Shoots, which allows young people around the world to actually make a positive difference in their communities.

What particularly tickled me was her emphasis on the impact books had on her as a child. She grew up in the age before television and the Dr. Dolittle books by Hugh Lofting and the Tarzan series by Edgar Rice Burroughs filled her with a desire to one day go to Africa and write books.

While the Lofting books may seem dated in some respects to modern readers, I remember as a child being similarly excited by the world of adventure they promised! Every time Dr. Dolittle closed his eyes and stuck a pin in a map of the world in order to determine his next destination, I felt a thrill! To this day I would love to plan my next holiday in that manner, but haven't quite had the nerve...

If you, like Dr. Goodall, are an adventurous animal lover, I would recommend the following:

  • The Chimpanzee Family Book by Jane Goodall
  • The Chimpanzees I Love: Saving Their World and Ours by Jane Goodall
  • Light Shining Through the Mist: A Photobiography of Dian Fossey by Tom L. Matthews
  • The Man-Eating Tigers of Sundarbans by Sy Montgomery
  • Quest for the Tree Kangaroo by Sy Montgomery
  • The Case of the Monkeys That Fell from the Trees by Susan E. Quinlan
  • The Case of the Mummified Pigs by Susan E. Quinlan
Happy reading!

Friday, September 11, 2009


In October, Ms. Russell's 5th graders will be writing book reports on mystery and suspense books. There are few things I enjoy as much as a good whodunnit! Here are a few clues that will lead you to a great mystery in case you are feeling stumped...

A few fiction series to try: Hannah West by Linda Johns (set in Seattle!), Gilda Joyce by Jennifer Allison and Sammy Keyes by Wendelin Van Draanen

A few fiction authors to try: Margaret Peterson Haddix, Willo Davis Roberts, Peg Kehret, Blue Balliett, Roland Smith and Elise Broach.

A few non-fiction titles:
  • Ain't Nothing But a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry by Scott Reynolds Nelson
  • The Bone Detectives: How Forensic Anthropologists Solve Crimes and Uncover Mysteries of the Dead by Donna M. Jackson
  • Little People and a Lost World: An Anthropological Mystery by Linda Goldenberg
  • Looking for Life in the Universe: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence by Ellen Jackson
  • Search for the Golden Moon Bear by Sy Montgomery (note: she's written two versions of this book, one for adults and one for kids)
  • Wildlife Detectives: How Forensic Scientists Fight Crimes against Nature by Donna M. Jackson
Reading lists:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What Book Got You Hooked?

What Book Got You Hooked? is a charity initiative by the literacy non-profit First Book. Check out the website to see which books various celebrities named as the ones that first really got them hooked on reading - you might be surprised at what Mo Willems, Kate DiCamillo or Judy Blume picked!

You can also browse favorites chosen by regular people just like you. Even better, with your parents' permission you can submit your own pick and also vote for the state that should get a donation of 50,000 new books for needy kids. The state with the most votes wins! Stop by before September 30, 2009 to make sure your vote gets counted!

As for me, I would have to give credit to A.A. Milne and his eternally delightful Winnie-the-Pooh stories and poems for turning me into a lifelong reader. If you haven't yet experienced the rich delights of the original stories, it is not too late to go off on an adventure with a friendly bear and his favorite little boy.