Thursday, February 25, 2010

Great science books

I Was Wondering... a Curious Look at Women's Adventures in Science is a wonderful site sponsored by the National Academy of Science for upper elementary and middle school students. The website showcases their series of books (which our school library owns) and also has games and activities, a Q&A section and science-related news. While these books were designed especially to highlight women scientists and encourage girls to pursue science, they are certainly fine for boys too!

Another well-written and engaging set of science books is the Scientists in the Field series by Houghton Mifflin that profiles the actual work of real, individual scientists in various fields. These examples show children quite vividly how exciting and important the work of scientists is!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lighting Their Fires

As a parent and an educator, one of my personal heroes is Rafe Esquith, an extraordinarily dedicated and gifted teacher and writer whose students are known worldwide for their achievements.

Last week I finished listening to the audio version of his latest book, Lighting Their Fires: Raising Extraordinary Children in a Mixed-up, Muddled-up, Shook-up World, which talks to parents and teachers about concrete, specific things they can do to help their children soar.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough, along with his other works and the documentary about his classroom, The Hobart Shakespeareans, available to borrow from the public library.

While Esquith is a truly incredible human being who I can only dream of one day emulating, what shines through all his work is a deep humanity and desire to help children shine. If you are not already familiar with him, do yourself and your child a favor and check out his latest work.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Olympics: read and watch!

With the Vancouver Winter Olympics just around the corner, here are a few books to read - when you're not glued to your TV screen watching the excitement, of course!

Ancient Greece and the Olympics : A Nonfiction Companion to Hour of the Olympics by Mary Pope Osborne (the author of the Magic Tree House series gives you a glimpse into the origins of the Olympic games)

The Encyclopedia of the Winter Olympics by John Wukovits (a comprehensive guide to the Olympics)

The Olympics : Unforgettable Moments of the Games by Matt Christopher (a noted sports writer takes you on a tour of the most exciting moments in Olympic competition from ancient times to the present day)

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds : The Sammy Lee Story by Paula Yoo (a fascinating picture book biography about an incredible athlete whose persistence and dedication truly paid off!)

Wilma Unlimited : How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull (another picture book biography, this time of a woman who overcame incredible obstacles to excel at the sport she loved)

You Wouldn't Want to be a Greek Athlete! : Races You'd Rather Not Run by Michael Ford (a funny cartoon-style guide to the ancient Olympics - part of the immensely popular You Wouldn't Want to Be series)

Also look for these great online resources collected by the public library:

KCLS links about the Ancient Olympics
KCLS links about the Modern Olympics

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Twilight & the Quileute

The extraordinary popularity at OWS/Vista and beyond of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series sparked a thought-provoking editorial in the New York Times. "Sucking the Quileute Dry" raises important questions about the impact on a community of people of an international runaway bestseller. This is a good article for teens and their parents to read and discuss!

Friday, February 5, 2010

KCLS cards for all second graders!

Next Thursday during library classes, 2nd grade student will receive their own King County Library System card! This will allow them to borrow some of the millions of books, magazines, DVDs and other resources available through our impressive local library system. They will also be able to access an incredible array of online databases which are full of useful information for homework as well as just for fun (language learning, history, world cultures, science, etc.).

Before students can use their cards they must be activated in person at one of the many KCLS locations. Children must be accompanied by a parent who has a photo ID and proof of residence in King County (e.g. a utility bill). An information sheet with details will accompany each card and stretchy wrist band.

Students who already have a public library card need not take another one, but may do so if they wish. The cards are not activated so bringing one home will not affect an existing account.

Please feel free to contact the school library (library at ows dot org) if you have any questions!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Live chat with Gennifer Choldenko!

This winter Vista students participated in the first annual One Book Vista! Inspired by Seattle librarian Nancy Pearl's "If All of Seattle Read the Same Book" project which has since spread throughout the country, middle school head Tim Costello proposed our own smaller scale version.

Vista students, staff and many parents read Gennifer Choldenko's highly acclaimed novel If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period. This story of two middle school students grappling with issues of identity, belonging and family secrets resonates on many levels with students of this age.

What made One Book Vista most exciting, however, was yesterday's live chat with Gennifer from her home in the Bay Area! The Newbery Honor-winning author kindly took time out of her busy schedule to spend 45 minutes chatting via speakerphone with Vista students. She graciously answered their questions on a wide variety of topics, some of which students prepared in advance, and some that occurred to them during the discussion.

Here are a few of the highlights from our chat:

Many students wondered about the inspiration for the story and how Gennifer, as an adult, was able to know so much about what goes on in middle schools today. Apart from being the mother of two kids who are around this age, she got permission to observe at a local middle school and took note of the social dynamics. Gennifer also drew on her own personal background and memories. For example, going from being a white student at a predominantly white school who did not think much about race, to being one of the few white students at a mostly black school, gave her many insights which are apparent in the novel.

Vista students also were curious about Gennifer's favorite books (too many to list, but The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and House of the Scorpion are among them), possible career choices if she were not an author (librarianship!), favorite genre to write (historical fiction) and favorite subjects when she was their age (history and algebra).

Students were amazed to discover that the research for Al Capone Does My Shirts, which many of them had read, took five years! In addition to this model of perseverance, Gennifer offered Vista students valuable advice about following your passions despite fear of rejection or failure. Through persisting in doing something she loves, she has succeeded beyond her wildest dreams.

Look for Gennifer's next book, a work of magic realism, coming out next January!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Thirteen Ways to Raise a Nonreader

Here for your enjoyment is Unlucky Arithmetic, a tongue-in-cheek guide from Horn Book magazine with a very serious point to make! If you want to make sure your child is a reader for life, check out this list - and then do the opposite!