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!