Monday, December 14, 2009

Non-fiction reading list for 5th grade

In January, 5th graders will be doing a report on a non-fiction book for Ms. Russell. If you're having difficulty finding something to read, check out the following authors, some of my favorite writers of non-fiction for young people:

Rhoda Blumberg
Russell Freedman
Sy Montgomery

Also take a look at the Sibert Medal, an award for exceptional non-fiction given by the American Library Association (which also gives out the Caldecott & Newbery Medals).

Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12 offers detailed annotated lists for those who enjoy science.

Books for Boys (which is also great for girls, of course!) has a section with books organized by subject - just be careful, because some of these are fiction!

The Cooperative Children's Book Center has numerous reading lists, many of which focus on non-fiction. Select first by grade level, then by topic.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Winter break reading list

Here are a few reading suggestions for you to explore over winter break. Take a look at past vacation reading lists on the OWS website and also explore my profile on Goodreads where I've sorted nearly 500 recommended books by genre and age level.

Picture books:

Albert by Donna Jo Napoli (A man learns from two birds what it really means to be alive.)

Cannonball Simp by John Burningham (An endearing story about a homeless dog.)
The Composer Is Dead by Lemony Snicket (Love clever word play? There are puns galore in this delightful orchestral mystery!)

Forty Fortunes: A Tale of Iran by Aaron Shepard (Good fortune comes to a clever man who outwits a band of thieves.)

The Ghost Catcher by Martha Hamilton (A humorous Bengali trickster tale about a barber who fools a passel of ghosts.)

Shin’s Tricycle by Tatsuharu Kodama (The deeply moving true story about a young victim of the bombing of Hiroshima.)

Tadpole’s Promise by Jeanne Willis (A delightfully wry tale with a surprise ending!)

Chapter books:

Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynne Jonell (Magical rodents help save a young girl from the clutches of her wicked nanny!)

Brendan Buckley’s The Universe and Everything In It by Sundee Tucker Frazier (By a local author and set in the Seattle area, this is a heartwarming family tale with a strong boy as the main character.)

King of the Cloud Forests by Michael Morpurgo (Exciting wilderness adventure story about a boy who is rescued in the Himalayas by a tribe of Yeti.)

Elementary/middle school
Emma Jean Lazarus Fell in Love by Lauren Tarshis (In her second book, quirky and original middle school student Emma Jean Lazarus tackles the concept of love.)

The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages (Dewey Kerrigan joins her father in Los Alamos, where he is working on a secret gadget that will end World War II in this tale of friendship, family and secrets.)

A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck (This, the third Grandma Dowdel story, brings more hilarious hijinks from life in small town Illinois.)

Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy (Moving tale based on the actual experiences of the author's mother-in-law who was one of only 12 children to survive the Holocaust while hiding in the Lodz ghetto.)

Middle/high school
Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen (Boys, love, friends, school, family... Auden tackles it all during the summer after high school graduation in this engrossing work of chick lit for teens.)

The New Policeman by Kate Thompson (What if time were really running out? A boy bargains with the fairies after he heads to the land of Tír na n'Óg in this wonderful Irish fantasy.)

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson (Historical fiction based on the adventures of the author's great-grandmother. A 16-year-old orphan girl sets off to homestead all on her own in the Montana wilderness.)


Ain’t Nothing But a Man by Scott Reynolds Nelson (An historian explains how he unraveled a real life mystery in this gripping tale of detective work!)

Four Pictures by Emily Carr by Nicolas Debon (A beautiful cartoon version of the life of a noted Victoria, BC artist.)

Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka by Jon Scieszka (Imagine growing up in a house filled with six boys! Read this laugh out loud funny memoir by America's Children's Laureate and you will never again wonder where his wacky sense of humor came from!)

My Librarian Is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the World by Margriet Ruurs (The titles says it all! Filled with color photographs and fascinating tidbits, you won't look at your local library the same way again!)

Open Wide: Tooth School Inside by Laurie Keller (Who knew teeth could be so much fun?)

Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World by Jane Yolen (Ahoy, matey! If you love pirates and adventure on the high seas, do not miss this collection of stories about some courageous and infamous women.)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Fun with folktales

Each year from September to December, children in grades K-3 focus on a different part of the world and learn about it in-depth through hearing a variety of fiction, non-fiction and folktale stories written by or about people from that culture. In past years we have learned about West Africa, Japan, Scandinavia and Latin America.

This year our focus is Germany, which naturally makes the Brothers Grimm a major area of study! Folklore forms a significant part of the rich cultural heritage of every culture around the world, and it has been interesting for students to understand how these precious tales are passed down through generations, travel around the world with traders and adventurers - and sometimes end up on our bookshelves or movie screens!

If you would like to explore more folktales at home, check out:
  • Grimms' Fairy Tales - a National Geographic site
  • German Fairytale Route - information about the settings of many Grimm tales as well as a link to a page where you can read them online
  • SurLaLune - a wonderful site with many basic European tales and their variations

Also, you can go to the public library and browse in the 398.2 section, where you will find many wonderful folktales from around the world to delight readers of all ages!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Award books

Fifth graders will be reading a book that is an award winner for their next book report for Ms. Russell. She shared a very useful link to the Database of Award-Winning Children's Literature.

Meanwhile, there are a few great awards that are not listed on that site that I would like to share:

  • Children's Choices (the only national children's choice award, co-sponsored by the International Reading Association & the Children's Book Council, chosen by kids ages 5-13)

  • The Cybils (Children's & Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards)

  • The Sasquatch Award (Washington state children's choice chapter book award)

  • The Young Readers' Choice Award (Pacific Northwest children's choice chapter book award)

Happy reading!

The Big 6: Your guide to research!

Fifth grade students recently learned more about the Big 6 approach to research by doing an exercise in library class. They had already reviewed this technique in class with Ms. Russell, and by finding a way to apply it to information needs that come up in daily life they became more comfortable with actually using it.

Fifth graders came up with a variety of creative personal information needs such as finding out how to improve their playing in a particular sport, investigating their family's history, and learning more about an upcoming vacation spot.

People's information seeking behavior is a major area of study in the field of information science (i.e. library schools)! In this information age we are generally bombarded with too much information rather than too little and this can become overwhelming. A simple tool such as the Big 6 can help make looking for information - whether for school, work or personal use - a lot more manageable regardless of your age.

For children in grades K-2, there is the Super 3. The steps are:

1. Plan
2. Do
3. Review

Visit the website for more details!

For older students, there are two sites, both linked to the main kids' page, one for grades 3-6, and one for grades 7-12. The six steps are the same for both age groups, but the explanations and examples are given in more complexity for older students.

Virtually all information needs - from deciding which washing machine to buy to writing a report about the life of Jefferson Davis to choosing the perfect breed of dog for your family - can be broken down into manageable steps using the Big 6.

Many people procrastinate because the task facing them seems so large as to be daunting! If you notice this behavior in your child, you can help him or her by first taking a few minutes to break down the task into the following six steps:

#1 Task Definition: What needs to be done? (Being crystal clear about what you need to do is crucial before you get started! This will help keep you on track.)

#2 Information Seeking Strategies: What resources can I use? (Think creatively! Resources go well beyond books and the Internet to encompass people, organizations, periodicals, etc.)

#3 Location & Access: Where can I find these resources? (The library may have the perfect book for your project but unless you place a hold on it right away you may not get it in time. Or Aunt Mildred might be an expert in the area you need advice in, but you'd better call before she leaves on her 6 month trek around Nepal!)

#4 Use of Information: What can I use from these resources? (This is an area where many people get distracted by interesting but irrelevant information. Remember step #1? If what you read or hear doesn't apply to what you need to do, disregard it for now. Stay focused - and you can always go back later and follow up on that fascinating tangent.)

#5 Synthesis: What can I make to finish the job? (In the case of a school assignment or work project this may be determined by someone else. If it is a personal information need, you can define it for yourself: how about a list of characteristics your new digital camera should have? Or a cookbook of your family's favorite recipes to give as holiday gifts?)

#6 Evaluation: How will I know I did my job well? (Was that llama the perfect choice of family pet? Were you satisfied with your playing at the last chess tournament? Did everyone ask for second helpings of that new casserole you tried? This is an area where you can decide for yourself what the criteria for a job well done will be.)