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.