Thursday, October 29, 2009

Suggestions for beginning readers

One challenge for beginning readers is that their comprehension far outpaces what they can read independently. This is naturally frustrating! To help keep them engaged with books, use audio books. You can borrow them on CD or download them as eBooks from the public library.

It also helps to make reading as social and interactive as possible! Sit together to read, alter your voice and expression while reading, and talk about the story (predict how the plot might develop, discuss why the illustrator made the choices he/she did, describe alternate endings, etc.).

It is difficult to write works of gripping literature using a limited vocabulary of phonetically spelled words! However, beginning readers can be made more engaging with parental involvement. If you take turns reading sentences, that will also help minimize the mental fatigue (think back to your own experiences trying to express yourself or read something complex in a foreign language...).

Two of my personal favorite beginning reader series are The Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems and the Little Bear books by Else Holmelund Minarik. However, I think the best strategy is to go to the public library, settle in for awhile, browse the shelves of beginning readers, and choose together a few titles that appeal to your child and that he or she can read without too much of a struggle. After all, there is nothing quite like the thrill of picking out your very own books!

Here are some other resources to check out:

Books for Beginning Readers from the Cooperative Children's Book Center.

TumbleBook Library and BookFlix – Databases of video storybooks and read-alongs for children. You will need your KCLS card to log in.

Book lists for various ages from the public library.

The Geisel Award - A beginning reader book award given out by the American Library Association (which also gives out the Caldecott & Newbery Medals).

Beginning Readers: Overview from the International Reading Association - Check out the Teachers' Choices and Children's Choices Booklists, which include beginning readers!

Read Kiddo Read - Reading lists for all ages.

Ready to Read - Resources for parents of infants to 3rd graders about supporting reading.

How to Read with a Beginning Reader - Tips from Reading Rockets.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Multicultural reading list for 7th grade

Ms. Iverson's 7th grade Humanities students will be reading a book set in another culture. Below are a few particularly good titles to check out! We have most of them in our school library but you can find them all at KCLS. Parents, please note that some titles are are recommended for grades 7 and up and may contain mature content.

  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (A powerful book based on the Seattle author’s actual experiences growing up on the Spokane Indian reservation.)

  • Alabama Moon by Watt Key (Set in the deep South, this follows Moon, a boy raised by a survivalist, anti-government father who must cope with reform school following his father’s death.)

  • Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez (A girl living under a dictatorship in the Dominican Republic confides her fears in her diary.)

  • Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac (Follows the experiences of a Navajo recruit in the Pacific theater of World War II.)

  • Diamonds in the Shadow by Caroline B. Cooney (A refugee family from Sierra Leone is taken in by an American host family.)

  • Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah (An Australian Muslim girl decides to wear the hijab full-time and her decision sends ripples through the lives of her family and friends.)

  • Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan (Poverty and violence send a Mexican family fleeing to the United States in search of work.)

  • A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer (A Shona girl in contemporary Mozambique flees to relatives in Zimbabwe to escape an arranged marriage.)

  • Go and Come Back by Joan Abelove (Two American anthropologists enter a traditional village in the Amazonian jungle; told from the point of view of a teenaged girl from the tribe.)
  • Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye (A Palestinian American girl moves to Jerusalem and befriends an Israeli boy.)

  • Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff (LaVaughn, an inner city girl, tries to hold onto her own ambitions as she reaches out to help a formerly homeless single teen mother.)

  • Maya Running by Anjali Banerjee (Maya's Indian heritage makes her stand out in rural Canada, but praying to Ganesh helps her find her path. The author will be visiting our school & meeting with Vista students in March 2010!)

  • No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War by Anita Lobel (A moving Holocaust memoir based on the childhood experiences of a noted children’s author.)

  • Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins (This story follows a 16-year-old girl living in Calcutta, rebelling against family rules and considering her own ambitions.)

  • A Stone in My Hand by Cathryn Clinton (Told from the point of view of a Palestinian girl living in Gaza City in 1988.)

  • Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata (Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Sumiko’s family must leave their farm in Southern California for a prison camp in the desert.)

  • The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera (Contemporary story set among the indigenous Maori people of New Zealand.)

The importance of independent reading choices

Many parents feel concern over the reading choices their children make. However, independent reading - reading purely for the joy of it - is a crucial part of a child's overall academic development. Intuitively, I believe we all know that children (and adults!) are more likely to find pleasure in reading if they are able to choose the books that speak to them. Fortunately, there is sound evidence showing that letting children read what they like is beneficial.

I highly encourage parents and children to keep reading logs. These can be in a notebook or online, using a site such as Goodreads or Library Thing, or even in a simple Excel spreadsheet. If you track your reading over time, you will likely notice it going in waves as your interests change. Perhaps you'll go through a phase of Civil War fiction followed by books that help you plan your next summer vacation followed by contemporary Irish fiction followed by spy thrillers.

Similarly your child may be in the midst of a reading phase you don't particularly like right now - but if you keep track, odds are it will soon be succeeded by another and then yet another... the main thing is to keep alive that passion and excitement about reading in whatever form it takes!The latest issue of Knowledge Quest, the journal of the American Association of School Librarians has an article called “Anything but Reading” by Stephen Krashen (professor emeritus from the University of Southern California in linguistics & education). He is a well-known advocate for children and reading. This article surveys 19 controlled academic studies of children and reading. The following quotes summarize it well:

“[The] studies show that those who read more read better. They also write better, spell better, have larger vocabularies and have better control of complex grammatical constructions.”

“The research literature also contains a number of case histories, cases in which self-selected voluntary reading resulting in unmistakable improvement in reading and other aspects of literacy. These studies are ‘scientific’ in that there was no other possible source of the improvement other than reading.”

“Even more convincing are experimental studies in which students who do self-selected reading for a given amount of time are compared to students who devote the same amount of time to ‘regular’ instruction. Self-selected reading has been a consistent winner in these studies…”

“In all studies time was set aside for self-selected reading, and readers were compared to similar students who did not have reading time included as part of their English program… [W]ithout exception, the readers did better than those in the comparison group.”

“[A]vailability of a school library is a very strong predictor of reading scores – nearly as strong as the effect of poverty…” [Laura’s note: the school library is a place where children have a source of books they can self-select from!]

“[T]he consistent winner in all the studies discussed here is self-selected reading. Nevertheless, self-selected reading is still a hard sell. People seem to be attracted to nearly every possible means of improving reading ability other than the most obvious…”

Of course, this is not to say that reading instruction is unnecessary – far from it! Rather, we must not underestimate the crucial importance of allowing children to self-select reading materials to supplement instructional time. Model a wide-ranging love for books and give time for reading prominence in your family's life and everything else will follow.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fiction set in Colonial America

In November 5th grade students will be reading fiction set in Colonial America during the years 1600-1740. We have some titles in our school library that students may choose from, however you may also browse through various online lists.

Remember to check the exact time period that your novel is set in! Much Colonial American ficion is set around the time of the Revolutionary War, which is too late for Ms. Russell's assignment.

You can also search the public library by entering the following subject headers:

United States History Colonial Period Ca 1600 1775 Juvenile Fiction


United States History Colonial Period Ca 1600 1775 Fiction

The second subject header will yield more results, but you must check the call number to be sure of the intended age group. If the call number begins with a J, the book is intended for elementary-aged students. If it begins with a Y, the book is intended for young adults (teens). However, if you click on the "reviews" button in the book's record you can find more detailed information about recommended ages.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Seattle Bookfest: something fun to do this weekend!

Seattle Bookfest is taking up where the Northwest Book Festival left off 5 years ago. Head over to the Columbia City Event Center this weekend, October 24-25 to buy & browse for books, attend talks by authors, participate in workshops for book lovers and aspiring authors, enjoy vendors' exhibits and much more!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Finding foreign language materials at the public library

Today I taught Ms. Vernon's advanced Spanish students from Vista how to search for Spanish language materials at the public library. This information may be useful to those of you looking for other languages as well!

1. If you just want to browse, you can go directly to the list of foreign languages offered. (Or, start from the main page, click on BOOKS & READING, select Browse Books, click on Browse Books by Format, then choose Other Languages.)

2. If you know exactly what you're looking for, you can do an advanced catalog search, enter the subject, title or author search terms, and then choose your language in the drop down menu. From the main page or any other page in the catalog, you can also select Advanced Search.

Foreign language learners should also remember that KCLS subscribes to two language learning databases (byki and Mango) that are available to all KCLS card holders. Just choose DATABASES from the main page, then click on Language Learning to select one. You will need your KCLS number to log in.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mystery list for 6th grade

In the coming weeks, Ms. Iverson's 6th grade humanities class will be reading and reporting on mystery books. To help you out, here are a few of my own favorites as well as links to some online lists.

Down the Rabbit Hole: An Echo Falls Mystery by Peter Abrahams – This first book in the Echo Falls series follows 13-year-old Ingrid, cast as Alice in her town’s production of Alice in Wonderland, as she attempts to unravel a suspicious murder and the mysterious past of the play’s creepy director. Will the police chief find out Ingrid was lying about being at the scene of the crime? Will the murderer find out she was there? Read and find out!

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd – The late Siobhan Dowd created a memorable hero in Ted, a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome who uses his special way of seeing and thinking about the world to locate his missing cousin Salim just in the nick of time. The cliffhanger ending gets my heart racing even to this day!

Masterpiece by Elise Broach – Who says a boy and a bug can’t be friends? When Marvin the beetle and James the boy combine their talents they become an unstoppable force as they recover a valuable painting taken from the Metropolitan Museum of Art by a dastardly thief no one else suspects.

The Mystery of the Third Lucretia by Susan Runholt – International intrigue and adventure are the name of the game as two friends take off from school to go on a globetrotting quest to foil an international art forger in this first book in the Kari and Lucas series!

The Postcard by Tony Abbott – Here’s one for those who like their mysteries on the hardboiled side. Instead of hanging out with his best friend over summer break, Jason finds himself in hot, humid Florida, helping his dad clear out his deceased grandmother’s house. But a strange phone call, a series of postcards with clues and a cast of bizarre circus stars soon add up to more excitement than he thought boring St. Petersburg had to offer!

The Red Blazer Girls: The Ring of Rocamadour by Michael D. BeilNew York City, watch out! These Catholic schoolgirls (plus their middle school English teacher and a certain very cute boy) are teaming up to find a valuable lost treasure – with sleepovers, math problems and their favorite coffee shop along the way. If you can’t have this group of girls as your best friends, reading this book is the next best thing!

Shakespeare’s Secret by Elise Broach – Sixth grader Hero (named by her Shakespeare-loving parents but not so thrilled about the teasing she gets for it) finds herself starting a new school, befriending the eccentric old lady next door – oh, and trying to find a missing diamond. It’s not just any old diamond, however. It’s one that might hold the secret to a centuries-old mystery surrounding Shakespeare’s true identity…

Websites with reading lists:

Mystery books from KCLS’s Teen Zone (please note: some of these are more appropriate for high school students)

Mysteries for Teens from Seattle Public Library (books recommended for middle school students are labelled "MS")

Ms. Simeon’s blog post for 5th grades mystery & suspense book report

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

OWS & Vista Academy Library Program, 2009-2010

This post and the ones below offer some information for Specialists' Night (tonight, Wednesday, October 14th)! Please feel free to email me if you wish to receive a copy of the library benchmarks.

A brief overview of our library program:

Libraries are exciting places because they are both archives of past treasures as well as gateways to the riches of our current information age. This dual purpose underlies the major goals of the OWS & Vista Academy library program; we hope that students will cultivate a love of reading and literature and that they will become effective users and seekers of information. We want students to leave our school with the understanding that libraries are important community institutions that will serve them in many capacities throughout their lives.

Library classes build on each other over time, from reinforcing basic literacy skills in the lower grades to developing more advanced research techniques in the upper grades. During storytimes we sample some of the best children’s literature, both old and new. Many storytimes are based on a theme or are part of a larger ongoing unit.

OWS/Vista Library resources

In addition to the blog and my Goodreads page (which has recommended books sorted by subject and genre) we subscribe to a number of databases that are useful for homework and just for fun. We cannot publish the passwords here, of course, so email us at library @ ows dot org (without the spaces!) if you need that information. It was also included in the curriculum night handouts you received from your child's teacher.

OWS/Vista Library policies

Borrowing & returning books: Please help your student remember to return his or her books on or before the date they are due (see back of book for date due stamp). Books should be returned to the library bin in your child’s classroom.

Lost or damaged books: If your student loses or damages a book, please notify me via email at library @ ows dot org (without the spaces). Please do not purchase a replacement! If you later locate a missing item, you will receive a refund, which cannot happen if you bought a replacement copy. We may also choose to use fines to purchase titles that are more urgently needed or more up-to-date than the lost or damaged item.

Gift book donations to our school library

Our school library has a long-standing tradition of families donating books in honor of students’ birthdays and other occasions. A special book plate with the donor’s name is placed in each book, and the honored individual is allowed to take the item home first.

If you are interested in donating, please go to Amazon*, click on “Your Lists” at the top of the page, select “Wish List,” and search for “Open Window School” or “Vista Academy.”

If you would like to donate a title that is not on either wish list, please consult with the librarian before making a purchase, to avoid disappointment if the title is not needed in our collection. Thank you!

*Of course you may also purchase items at your local independent bookstore - in fact, I highly recommend that! If you choose that route, please let me know so that I can remove the book in question from the Amazon wish list.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month!

National Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to honor the many contributions Latino Americans have made in a wide range of arenas. In the realm of children's literature there are abundant riches as proven by the Pura Belpré Award, the Americas Award and the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children's Book Award.

A few books by Hispanic American authors and illustrators that I particularly love are Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Muñoz Ryan (a moving chapter book about family ties for grades 4 and up), Sugar Cane: A Caribbean Rapunzel by Patricia Storace and illustrated by Raúl Colón (among my very favorite illustrators), and A Gift of Gracias by Julia Alvarez (a beautiful legend from the Dominican Republic).

İLeer es divertido! Reading is fun!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Percy Jackson Readalikes

Last week a parent asked for reading suggestions for her son, who is a big fan of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Below are a few of my suggestions followed by lists put together for Riordan fans by different public library systems.

If you haven't yet tried this fast-paced, Greek-mythology-inspired adventure series, go pick up a copy of The Lightning Thief and get ready for some fun!

Cronus Chronicles series by Anne Ursu
Hercules by Geraldine McCaughrean
Juliet Dove, Queen of Love by Bruce Coville
Odysseus by Geraldine McCaughrean
The Odyssey by Homer - various retellings for young people by Robin Lister, Adrian Mitchell and others
Perseus by Geraldine McCaughrean
Theseus by Geraldine McCaughrean