Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Growing the next generation of leaders: the Student Diversity Leadership Retreat

In February, two 7th graders and two 8th graders (one boy and one girl from each grade) will represent our school at the third biannual middle school Student Diversity Leadership Retreat sponsored by the Northwest Association of Independent Schools.

Featuring around 100 attendees from schools in Washington, Oregon Utah and Nevada, the conference brings together caring young people and challenges them to become more aware of issues surrounding inclusivity and diversity in their school communities - and beyond. The hope is that they will use their new awareness to improve their middle schools and also hit the ground running as leaders in diversity when they enter high school. (Scroll down for more information on how to apply!)

Here are our 2012 OWS representatives at Northwest School!

The theme of the last middle school SDLR was "Is There a 'Me' in Media?" On Friday evening, students watched the young people's version of the powerful documentary, Miss Representation, which was created by an independent school parent. Afterwards they discussed the points raised by the film about bias in media portrayals of women.

Saturday was devoted to sessions led by high school students on a wide variety of topics relating to media literacy, including social networking (how we perceive others and how they perceive us), being advocates for equality through social media, reality TV and the value of privacy, and humor and stereotypes. Students concluded the retreat by creating public service announcements in their school groups to share the messages they found most important with their peers.

If you are a 7th or 8th grader at OWS and would like to apply to represent us at the 2014 middle school SDLR at Catlin Gabel School in Portland, OR, just fill out, print and sign the brief application form available on My Open Window on the Information Literacy Resource board and in the Downloads section of the 7th and 8th grade Advisory pages. It was also sent to your parents in email on November 8th. ***The deadline is November 22nd! Decisions will be announced by winter break!***


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

See yourself in print! Are you read for NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month gives people of all ages a chance to join others who'd like to write a novel and cheer one another one, share writing tips, etc. You set yourself a word goal and then work to meet it, turning off the voice of your inner critic for 30 days! Every published author talks about the endless revision process - but first you need to write something! And that's where NaNoWriMo comes in: for once it's about quantity, not quality.

To support our students, many of whom love NaNoWriMo, our library learning commons space will be devoted to offering them a quiet place to work - whether on our laptops or on paper - during 3rd & 4th graders' lunch recess and middle schoolers' break and tutorial times during the month of November.

If students would like to join our OWS NaNoWriMo class, just sign up on the Young Writers' Program page and send me your username!

What do you do when November is over, you've done edits and re-writes and now want to publish your book? You have a few choices! One option is to self-publish using a local service, such as Third Place Press, or an online one, such as the ones listed here. Figment is a site for teen writers to use to share their work and offer feedback to one another.

Stone Soup publishes writing by young people ages 8-13. Also check out Children Writing & Publishing and Kid Writers for additional ideas!

Happy writing!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What can we learn from Sweden?

This weekend I got to present some of my findings from my summer research trip to Sweden at the Washington state librarians' conference. My co-presenter was a high school librarian friend who studied Finnish libraries on a Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching grant. Here we are in Yakima!
So, what did I learn? Far too much to cover here, or even in a one hour conference presentation! But one major take-away that impressed me was Swedes' fundamental respect for children, summed up beautifully in this recent statement from the Swedish Arts Council. It was their message to the world when Sweden was - for the first time ever - the focus of the Bologna Children's Book Fair. I urge you to read it in full, but here is an excerpt:
Children have a right to culture. We often regard childhood as something transitory, as a preparation for real life. But when does real life begin? Is it acceptable to let people live almost a quarter of their life before they count? Children’s right to culture is intertwined with children’s right to play a part in society. To be presented with challenging art. Different perspectives. A diversity of expression. Relevant, fun, surprising, inquisitive art. Children’s right not to be dismissed as cute but unimportant. Not to be laughed at indulgently. Children are human beings, fellow citizens. Slightly shorter, slightly less experienced. But they are living in the here and now. They are not simply waiting to grow up. We cannot predict their needs 20 years hence. But we can listen to them and find out what their needs are right now.

How does this relate to children's literature? This mindset helps Swedish writers, artists, teachers, librarians and parents remember that books are about exploring ideas, sometimes ideas that are uncomfortable for adults. I noticed how many Swedish children's books were free of the moralizing voice of the adult. The endings weren't always neatly tied up with everyone doing as they "should." They felt real and natural in a refreshing way. And overall they were of an incredibly high standard of literary and artistic merit - appealing for readers of all ages.
Here are a few more photos that I hope you'll enjoy! First, a tvillingpaket, or twin packet, containing the same book in Swedish and Arabic. Swedes believe strongly in supporting children's fluency in Swedish and their hemspråk, or the language spoken at home.

Here I am holding Nutte Nervös (aka Scaredy Squirrel) in the children's section of Husby library. Husby is a Stockholm suburb that experienced rioting in May - but was the site of a vibrant multicultural festival three months later!

If you have three minutes, watch this video from TioTretton (or TenThirteen) a library in Kulturhuset (The Culture House) in Stockholm that only kids ages 10-13 may enter!
Finally, a few photos of some of the very lovely books I had the pleasure of reading:

(From Babo pekar by Eva Susso)


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Neil Gaiman speaks his mind: Let children read the books they love

Arguably one of today's most popular and critically acclaimed authors, Neil Gaiman delivered a passionate defence this week of letting children read the books they enjoy. It's well worth your time to check out the full text of his speech, but in the meantime, here are some quotes that really spoke to me:

"The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them. 
I don't think there is such a thing as a bad book for children. Every now and again it becomes fashionable among some adults to point at a subset of children's books, a genre, perhaps, or an author, and to declare them bad books, books that children should be stopped from reading.
It's tosh. It's snobbery and it's foolishness. There are no bad authors for children, that children like and want to read and seek out, because every child is different. They can find the stories they need to, and they bring themselves to stories. A hackneyed, worn-out idea isn't hackneyed and worn out to them. This is the first time the child has encountered it. Do not discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is a route to other books you may prefer. And not everyone has the same taste as you."


Thinking back on your childhood, were there books you loved that grownups disapproved of? Or books you didn't like that grownups attempted to foist on you? I feel fortunate in that my parents paid little attention to what I read, but a great deal of attention to insuring that I had the opportunity to read widely, from weekly trips to the public library to heaps of books all over the house.

If anyone looks down on your kids' reading choices (or your own!), just tell them you've got Neil Gaiman on your side!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

David Schwartz author visit

Today K-4 students had wonderful assemblies with David Schwartz, a prolific author of (mostly) math and science books. Ask your students about the difference between googol and Google - and about the special surprises (over a thousand of them!) that David brought in his baggage from California... His animated presentation got the kids thinking about how math is all around us and how the power of their imaginations can be applied in creative ways.

To prepare for his visit students heard many of his books in library classes as well as the classroom. My personal favorite is Super Grandpa, based on the truly remarkable story of Gustaf Håkansson.


Before reading the story, we talked about stereotypes: what are they and why are they damaging? Students had many perceptive answers: because they limit opportunities, because they make people feel bad, because they create barriers between people.

But even before the stereotype conversation, we did a little exercise. I asked students to tell me the words that popped into their heads when I said "Grandpa." Here are examples from a 2nd and a 3rd grade class that were typical of what I heard:

Then we read about the real "Super Grandpa" who shattered many stereotypes about the elderly and inspired older people all over Sweden with his admirable physical feats.

Possibly because young people often also feel as if their abilities are underestimated by others, this story really resonated with the children. Several of them commented that they would remember Super Grandpa when they were old - and if anyone dared to tell them they couldn't do something, they would share this story!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Great online sites for readers of all ages

I think the Internet has been fantastic for readers - not only are there now great book-related social networking sites for older readers and adult, like Goodreads and Shelfari, there are also engaging databases for younger children such as TumbleBook Library and Book (accessible with your public library card).

Want to explore some more? Check out a few of these Sites That Fuel a Love of Reading, most of which are free. There's something out there for everyone!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Our Celtic cultural unit

Every year from September until winter break we focus in K-3 library classes on one part of the world in an in-depth cultural unit. Why not sample a broader range of books? We specialize because it helps students develop a deeper and more meaningful understanding of that region, its history and geography, ways of life, holidays, and so on. In the past we've learned about West Africa and Latin America, among other places, referring frequently to maps and flags, and enjoying realistic fiction, folklore and nonfiction. This year's area of focus is the Celtic countries of Ireland, Scotland and Wales!

I was fortunate enough to attend a spectacular high school in Wales where I developed a taste for black pudding and Marmite, made personal connections that persist to this day, and became acquainted with other Celtic cultures as well. I'm pleased to share what I've learned through some wonderful literature - but it's even nicer when students can connect lessons to their own heritage and interests.

This week several classes will be fortunate enough to experience a step dance performance by one of our 3rd graders who danced for us in the library to several lively Irish tunes:

She explained a lot about Irish dancing and how she got started, answered questions from the audience, and showed us a PowerPoint presentation she created about step dancing and her personal connection to Ireland:

It was a wonderful experience that was a huge hit with her schoolmates! This young woman shared her belief that champions are "made, not born" and described her dedicated daily practice in pursuit of her goal of excellence.

If you have a child in grades K-3, ask him or her to explain selkies, wee folk, and what the legends say about why there are no snakes in Ireland!

Check out the fantastic works of Susan Cooper, from Celtic folktale picture books to chapter books for older readers, such as her Dark is Rising series, set in Wales and Cornwall (another Celtic land). Two great Irish writers are Siobhan Dowd, for middle and high school, and Derek Landy for upper elementary and middle school. Gill Lewis is a Scottish veterinarian whose animal- and nature-themed chapter books are brilliant for middle grade readers.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Announcing our parent book club!

Beginning on October 8th, the OWS Diversity Council and Parent Association will be co-sponsoring a parent book club for the first time! We're reading Christine Gross-Loh's Parenting without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents around the World Can Teach Us.

In the interests of full disclosure I will say up front that
Christine is a dear friend and that I helped with research for this book, so I am biased. However, I also believe passionately in its message, which is that as parents and educators we cannot afford to be unaware of our own cultural blinkers when it comes to making choices about our children. Too often we fail to question norms or well-intentioned advice (from experts, family, friends) simply because we are not aware that so much of what is supposedly "natural" is actually cultural.

Grounded in research from multiple disciplines from anthropology to psychology and highly engaging and readable, this book covers infancy to adolescence through the perspective of best practices from cultures around the world. Rather than telling you what you “should” be doing, it challenges you to consider different approaches that have wide-ranging benefits for raising resilient, kind, responsible children. We’ll talk about picky eating, self-esteem, commercialism and more.

For our final meeting, Christine will come to campus from her home in the Boston area. All are welcome for this evening event, even those who can't make it to the book club!
Curious to learn more? Check out these articles and interviews! Book club details below - come to one meeting or all as you are able.

Where: Library Learning Commons

Tuesday, 10/8 – 8:30-9:30am
Tuesday, 10/29 – 8:30-9:30am
Tuesday, 11/12 – 8:30-9:30am
Monday, 12/9 – 7-8pm – Evening author visit open to all

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Growing better readers

Welcome back to the new school year! It's so nice to see everyone back at school, refreshed and ready for another year of learning.

I was intrigued to learn recently that having parents who love to read not only sends the message that reading is a valuable activity, it also correlates with measurably better reading scores! You already know that reading with your child will help, but simply doing your own pleasure reading around your child will also have a positive impact.

According to a 2012 publication from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development entitled Let's Read Them a Story! The Parent Factor in Education:

"In all countries and economies assessed, the children whose parents do not think reading is a waste of time or who spend more time reading at home for enjoyment have significantly higher scores in reading. [some] countries, children whose parents spend time reading for enjoyment at home score more than 30 points – the equivalent of nearly a full school year – higher in reading than children whose parents do not."

The remarkable thing is that this difference persists within a single social class: "even when families of similar socio-economic backgrounds are considered, there is still a strong link between parents’ habits and attitudes towards reading and student reading performance. That means that the relationship is not dependent on the socio-economic background of the family."

Other findings, such as that "in all countries and economies surveyed, children whose parents consider reading a hobby, enjoy going to the library or bookstore, and spend time reading for enjoyment at home are more likely to enjoy reading themselves," were less surprising since children often enjoy the activities they're raised around, whether that means sports, board games, cooking, hiking or reading.
According to OECD, it doesn't matter what you read; it doesn't have to be long novels if that's not your thing (just like not all children enjoy fiction - many gravitate towards how-to books, joke books, comics or other choices). What matters is taking the time to read for pleasure, to go to bookstores and libraries, to talk about what you read, and to give your child the time and space to do the same.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Free e-books and audiobooks!

Did you know you can borrow FREE e-books and audiobooks from the public library? It's easy! Just go to:

KCLS > Books & Reading > Download Books 

There you can choose from books (text and audio), magazines, music and video in a variety of formats. Some require downloading free apps, such as Overdrive. There are plenty of instructions - in written and video form - on the site, but you can also ask a KCLS librarian for help.

Happy reading/listening!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Great art websites and books!

This week in Creation Station summer camp we're exploring various elements of art - line, shape, texture, color, etc. - and exercising our imaginations, concentration and fine motor skills.

When we resurface and need a little break, we've been exploring some cool interactive art sites hosted by museums around the world. They give you a chance to explore different artists and artistic styles in a playful way.
NGAkids Art Zone
Art Games
Art Safari
Tate Kids

Check out my Goodreads "art" shelf which has books
for elementary through high school!

Added July 26th: here is the information from today's art show, as requested by some parents!

Welcome to our art show! Please enjoy our beautiful projects!

Day One: Line
  • Teddy bear line designs
  • Visual music: left to right, A la claire fontaine (traditional French song), Hoodoo Voodoo (Wilco/Woody Guthrie), and the Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9
Day Two: Shape
  • Positive & negative shapes
  • Tangram designs

Day Three: Texture
  • Texture rubbings
  • Tissue paper suncatchers

Day Four: Color
  • Complementary color designs
  • Warm/cool color fish

Day Five: Shape
  • Sculpey sculptures

Monday, July 15, 2013

Bug books - and art!

We had a great time in the Bug out with Bug Art camp last week! Incoming kindergartners enjoyed a lot of great books about bugs, but were especially wild about Honey-- Honey-- Lion! : A Story from Africa by Jan Brett, Beetle McGrady Eats Bugs! by Megan McDonald, Hey, Little Ant by Phillip Hoose and Bug Butts by Dawn Cusick.  We also did some fun art projects - check them out! 

Clothespin ants

Butterfly wings

Fireflies in a jar

Close-up of the fireflies

Ladybug rocks 

Dragonfly magnets

Butterfly life cycle collage (close-up)


Look at these happy bees!

Scarab beetles

Monday, June 17, 2013

Summer Reading for Kids & Teens @ KCLS!

Last Wednesday a children's librarian from KCLS stopped by every K-4 classroom at OWS to talk to elementary students about the summer reading program. She also brought handouts for middle school that I distributed via advisors.

In case you need that information again, you can find out all the deadlines and download and print the summer reading logs here:

Dig into Reading for Preschool & Elementary
Beneath the Surface for Middle & High School

Both programs offer a chance to get fun prizes and be entered in contests!

Another fun opportunity for teens is the Reading Buddy program that gives teens a chance to help younger kids improve their reading. Check out the link for information on how to participate!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

5th graders' video book trailers!

Inspired by Julie Hembree, a local school librarian who shares wonderful information on her blog, I challenged our 5th graders to create video book trailers! In addition to inspiring their fellow students to read, they learned about searching via Creative Commons for images that are licensed for reuse (or creating their own), and thinking critically about what makes a book trailer memorable and enticing (how to select images, music and an Animoto template that evoke the essence of the book, include the right amount of text and say just enough to intrigue the viewer).

I was so impressed by the results - here are just a few to watch and enjoy!

Revenge of the Babysat

Summer of the Mariposas


Monday, June 10, 2013

Summer vacation 2013 reading list

Believe it or not, summer vacation is right around the corner! Here are some reading suggestions to keep you entertained...
For parents
The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory and Why Outsiders Thrive after High School by Alexandra Robbins – This book helps parents take a long-term view about social interactions and popularity and reminds us about the crucial importance of embracing and supporting those kids who are different. One day those differences may well be the strengths that the world most appreciates about them.

Harvard Schmarvard: Getting Beyond the Ivy League to the College That Is Best for You by Jay Mathews – A thorough, reassuring guide that will help take a lot of the stress out of preparing for and thinking about college admissions and help you find a school that provides the best fit to launch your student. Personally recommended to me as the best college guide by the admissions director at a prestigious liberal arts college.

Parenting without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents around the World Can Teach Us by Christine Gross-Loh – A fascinating, comprehensive blend of research and practical advice that will prompt you to consider your own family’s culture, values and long-term goals. It is liberating to be shown so clearly how there isn’t only one “best” way to parent.

Picture books for all ages
The Library Dragon by Carmen Agra Deedy – Sunrise Elementary School’s new librarian is a real dragon! No, really… But you’ll be surprised at who the brave dragon slayer is!

The Man from the Land of Fandango by Margaret Mahy – Mahy never fails to deliver a rollicking good time in her delightfully nonsensical books – not since the Cat in the Hat has a surprise visitor wreaked so much delicious havoc!

Mary Wrightly, So Politely by Shirin Yim Bridges – Mary is a polite little girl, but sometimes the world doesn’t appreciate her good nature! See how she solves a problem that comes up – by being polite and standing up for something that really matters to her.

The Tooth Mouse by Susan Hood – Did you know that in France people say that a mouse comes to take your baby teeth after they fall out? Little Sophie wants to take over when the Tooth Mouse retires, but will she be able to complete all the tasks and prove she’s up to the job? Pair this one with Throw Your Tooth on the Roof: Tooth Traditions from Around the World by Selby B. Beeler!

Tsunami! by Kimiko Kajikawa – Inspired by the true story of Hamaguchi Goryō whose quick thinking in 1854 saved villagers from a tsunami, this book is notable for its incredible collage illustrations that vividly portray the drama of the events.

Chapter books
The Broken Tusk: Stories of the Hindu God Ganesha by Uma Krishnawsami (Grades 2+) – The author has done a wonderful job of taking oral tales she heard as a child and others she located through her extensive research, and making them into a highly readable volume! Those who know Ganesha or are new to his stories will find this book equally accessible!

Cork& Fuzz by Dori Chaconas (Grades K+) – Cork the muskrat and Fuzz the opossum are opposites in many ways – but that doesn’t mean they can’t be friends! This is the first in an easy reader series.

Lulu and the Duck in the Park by Hilary McKay (Grades K+) – A charming addition to the growing collection of high-quality short chapter books for young readers. This is the first in a series about Lulu who is “famous for animals.” See what her encounter with a duck leads to – and then check out the rest of the series!

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher (Grades 7+) – This is a powerful work of great emotional insight about dealing with grief, friendship and family. Jamie finds himself caught between his father’s prejudice and his best friend, Sunya, a Muslim girl, trying to be both a good son and a good friend.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (Grades 5+) – One of my all-time favorite books, this story follows Delphine and her two younger sisters as they spend the summer of 1968 in Oakland with their mother and a group of Black Panthers in an example of the very best historical fiction.

School of Fear (series)by Gitty Daneshvari (Grades 3+) – Students who loved Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle will enjoy moving on to these fast-paced, humorous books about a school where children go to be cured of unusual phobias.

They Never Came Back by Caroline B. Cooney (Grades 6+) – What would you do if the FBI were after your parents, insisting they were criminals who embezzled a lot of money and then fled, leaving you behind? What if they were now coming after you?

Graphic novels
Drama by Raina Telgemeier (Grades 5+) – Drama: it happens in middle school both on and off the stage! Follow a group of friends through the ups and downs of a school musical production.

Explorer: The Mystery Boxes edited by Kazu Kibuishi (Grades 3+) – Seven different stories by seven different creators explore the concept of a box through mystery, humor, suspense and fantasy. There is something for everyone in this great collection

Hereville: How Mirka Got her Sword by Barry Deutsch (Grades 3+) – This graphic novel features an unusual heroine, an Orthodox Jewish girl who dreams of fighting monsters! Learn a few Yiddish words and find out how she cleverly outwits a troll!

Peanut by Ayun Halliday (Grades 6+) – It’s hard being the new kid at school, but even harder when you start off with a big lie: telling everyone that you have a fatal peanut allergy. Will this story help Sadie win friends? Or will she be exposed and have to face up to the truth?

To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel (Grades 4+) – A moving memoir about dreams, perseverance and dealing with the unexpected twists and turns of life.

The Book of Potentially Catastrophic Science: 50 Daring Experiments for Young Scientists by Sean Connolly – A survey of scientific progress from the Stone Age to the Hadron Collider, complete with experiments you can do at home to test some of the basic principles.

Max Axiom, Super Scientist (series) by Liam O’Donnell – Covering a range of science topics (ecosystems, photosynthesis, forces and motion, electricity) these books offer a clear and attractive presentation along with a glossary, a web component and additional recommended reading!

Outcasts United: The Story of a Refugee Soccer Team That Changed a Town by Warren St. John – This adaptation of a nonfiction book for adults aimed at middle and high school readers will inspire you with the courage of the young people starting a new life in America and the dedication of their coach who put her caring into action.

A Rock is Lively by Diana Hutts Aston – Gorgeous illustrations and engaging prose present a view of rocks unlike any of you’ve seen before in this lovely book for elementary readers.