Monday, March 26, 2012

What are all those books doing to your brain?!

Ever since I found Maryanne Wolf's highly engaging Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, I have been intrigued by the startling complexity of this seemingly simple task we engage in hundreds of times per day mostly without even being aware of it, from reading menus to traffic signs to text messages.

A recent New York Times article,
Your Brain on Fiction, describes recently discovered neurological effects of reading. For example, "Dr. Oatley and Dr. Mar, in collaboration with several other scientists, reported in two studies, published in 2006 and 2009, that individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective. This relationship persisted even after the researchers accounted for the possibility that more empathetic individuals might prefer reading novels. A 2010 study by Dr. Mar found a similar result in preschool-age children: the more stories they had read to them, the keener their theory of mind..."

Theory of mind refers to the "capacity of the brain to construct a map of other people’s intentions," and is crucial to being able to empathize and engage in healthy social interactions. The article points out this connection between fiction and important real world skills:
"Fiction, Dr. Oatley notes, 'is a particularly useful simulation because negotiating the social world effectively is extremely tricky, requiring us to weigh up myriad interacting instances of cause and effect. Just as computer simulations can help us get to grips with complex problems such as flying a plane or forecasting the weather, so novels, stories and dramas can help us understand the complexities of social life.'"

Apart from the sheer pleasure of it, I can't think of a better reason to make time in your life for curling up with a great novel!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Have questions? Come see me on parent/teacher conference days!

Have questions about what goes on in your student's library classes? Need reading recommendations for your son or daughter? Would you like a tutorial on using online resources for research so you can direct your child to safe and reliable sites? Want suggestions on how to encourage your child to read more or more widely?

I will be available this Wednesday and Thursday, March 21st and 22nd, from 8:30am-4pm. Feel free to drop by whenever it's convenient - no need to schedule, just come in! I look forward to meeting with you then!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Be-A-Famous-Writer Contest!

Our very own fourth grader, Sarah Smale, was this year's grand prize winner of Mrs. P's writing contest for young authors aged 4-13, with her story "The Treasure Decision."

Not only was Sarah's story illustrated and published - and now available to borrow from our school library! - you can also listen to Mrs. P read it online. It's an exciting tale with adventure, mystery and a moral dilemma to solve!

Congratulations, Sarah!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Skype author visit

Today, for the penultimate meeting of our 3rd and 4th grade Global Studies Book Club which meets during lunch recess, students got to Skype with Wendy Shang, author of The Great Wall of Lucy Wu.

They had prepared thoroughly in advance, coming up with a list of things to ask about that ranged from insightful comparisons to other books to funny personal questions about the writer herself.

The wonderful thing about the Skype video call was that we were able to sit here on campus and visit with an author sitting in her livingroom thousands of miles away! We've been enjoying meeting to talk about the book - but nothing beats an actual, personal conversation with the author. It was inspiring for the students to get to hear details about how and why she created various characters and where her inspiration for the story came from - and for them to share their own personal responses about ways in which the book touched them.

If you'd like to explore more fantastic middle grade fiction, check out this great blog that Wendy Shang contributes to!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

See your artwork in print!

It's that time of year again! University Book Store's annual contest has begun, this year with the theme "Words Make Worlds!" Students in grades K-8 are eligible to enter. Winners will be chosen in three grade divisions (K-2, 3-5 and 6-8). These talented artists will have their work printed up as bookmarks to be distributed at all branches of the bookstore and in many school libraries.

We will be handing out entry forms and information sheets in the school library beginning this week. Any student interested in entering may take one home (you can also pick up extras at the bookstore). The deadline is Friday, April 6th. Entries may be submitted in person at any UBS branch or mailed to:

Kids Books
University Book Store
4326 University Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105-5809

Please do not send completed entries to school! We cannot take responsibility for them and do not want your child's precious artwork to get mislaid.

I have uploaded a copy of the directions to my SWIFT and Sharepoint pages. Please see the Documents section of these sites if you need to refer to them.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Stump the Librarian and win a gift card!

Are you a Vista student? Do you want a chance at winning a bookstore gift card? Just enter the Stump the Librarian contest running now through May 2012!

To enter, current Vista students need to submit a reference question* to Ms. Simeon. The goal is to try to come up with something clever and tricky enough to stump her! Ms. Simeon will use print and online resources to try to answer each question.


• At the end of each month from March-May 2012, one student will be chosen to receive a $15 University Book Store gift card
• There will be one winner chosen per month
• One entry per month per Vista student
• Entries must be submitted to the VistaReads wiki AND signed with your real name (if you are not a member, contact Ms. Simeon to be added)
• Questions and answers will be printed and posted on the bulletin board in the library
• Questions must be the original and independent work of the student
• Entries will be judged for creativity and originality (harder and more obscure is not necessarily better than simple but displaying a fresh and thought-provoking perspective!)
• If Ms. Simeon cannot choose between two or more highly qualified entries, she will enlist the help of Vista teachers
• All entries must have a real answer (i.e. “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” is not permissible because it is not the original work of the student and there is no definitive, factual answer

*A reference question is a question a patron asks a librarian about any type of knowledge they are seeking. Here are some examples of real life reference questions:

• Why are our pointy teeth called “eye teeth”?
• Can worms smell?
• Who is the best-selling children’s author of all time?
• Do eagles have tongues?