Thursday, January 31, 2008

Poetry Stretch Results - Rondel/Roundel

This week we worked on the roundel, a poem with eleven lines in the rhyme scheme abab bab abab. But wait! Lines 4 and 11 must be the same. Here's what the creative people came up with.
Daisybug at Things The Make Me Say... shares a roundel called Stillness.

Andi at a wrung sponge was inspired by a rock she photographed on a walk and wrote a roundel entitled Rough Cut Stone.

Diane Davis
reflects on her the naughty housemates who share her home in Empty Nest.

sister AE at Having Writ reflects on a sailor's adage and gives us Blue Roundel.

Laura Purdie Salas captures dreams and nightmares in her roundel.
I spent some time this week reading through really bad high school poetry (mine!) and was inspired to use some of my previous words in this roundel.
Spinning, Spinning

With arms held straight out from my side
and wearing a giddy grin,
to the left I turn, eyes open wide,
and the world begins to spin.

On the Ferris wheel, high above the din,
I want to whisper and secrets confide.
But where on earth to begin?

You stand so close -- I've nowhere to hide,
my heart you're trying to win.
Lost in your gaze our lips collide,
and the world begins to spin.
It's not too late if you still want to play. Try your hand at a roundel and leave me a note. Then I'll add your poem to the list.

Steve Jenkins Talks

If you've spent any time here, you know that I'm a huge fan of Steve Jenkins. He's highlighted at the Cybils today, talking about his work. It's a great interview, so do make some time to check it out.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

First Podcast is Up!

Okay, deep breath. My very first podcast is up over at Open Wide, Look Inside. It is surprisingly long (16 minutes!), but covers a good bit of ground. If you're interested in counting books, this one's for you.

Podcast No. 1 - What Makes a Good Counting Book?

Please Note: If you have subscribed to Open Wide, Look Inside in blog reader/aggregator, the link to the audio file does not work from within the reader. You need to go directly to blog entry containing the podcast. Sorry for this. We are still working out technical issues.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Author Visits - From Both Sides

Camillle at Book Moot wrote a wonderful post about authors and school visits. Once you've read it, be sure to read another perspective published in the Guardian today, where Sian Pattenden writes My Favourite Critics.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Monday Poetry Stretch - Rondel/Roundel

A rondel is a variation of the roundeau. In the book A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms, Paul Janeczko calls it a roundel and defines it this way.
A roundel is a three-stanza poem of 11 lines. The stanzas have four, three, and four lines in them and a rhyme scheme of abab bab abab. Ah, but there's more. Line 4 is repeated as line 11 -- not an easy trick!
The roundel in the book, entitled A Silver Trapeze, was written by Alice Schertle, a woman who once said "Writing poetry is difficult, absorbing, frustrating, satisfying, maddening, intriguing – and I love all of it!" I'm with her there.

Here is a roundel about a roundel.
The Roundel
By Algernon Charles Swinburne

A roundel is wrought as a ring or a starbright sphere,
With craft of delight and with cunning of sound unsought,
That the heart of the hearer may smile if to pleasure his ear
A roundel is wrought.

Its jewel of music is carven of all or of aught--
Love, laughter, or mourning--remembrance of rapture or fear--
That fancy may fashion to hang in the ear of thought.

As a bird's quick song runs round, and the hearts in us hear
Pause answer to pause, and again the same strain caught,
So moves the device whence, round as a pearl or tear,
A roundel is wrought.
Will you join us this week in writing a roundel? Leave me a comment about your poem and I will post the results later this week. Happy writing!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award

Last week the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, the University Libraries, and the Pennsylvania School Librarians' Association announced the winner of the 2008 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award.

Birmingham, 1963
by Carole Boston Weatherford

Honor Books

All three books were Cybils nominees for poetry. This is Just to Say was named one of the poetry finalists.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Thoughts on Poetry

In the Guardian this morning was an article entitled Finding the Right Words to Define Poetry. Here's how it begins.
Poetry can quite easily be seen as the poor relation of the arts. Collections of poetry sell in remarkably small numbers and almost nobody earns a living from writing the stuff. And yet, if the internet is to be believed, hundreds of thousands of people seem to be writing poetry, and a lot of them are also discussing this most noble of arts in blogs and other online forums. One of the things most often discussed is the fundamental question, "what is poetry anyway?"
And here's how it ends.

Other definitions of poetry have tended to avoid questions of harmony and morality entirely. For instance, William Carlos Williams wrote that a "poem is a small (or large) machine made out of words". Williams points to a distinction between prose and poetry that, by analogy, lies somewhere in the self-sustaining economy of effort and complete lack of sentimentality that characterises machines. Williams's words also, I believe, sit very comfortably with Samuel Taylor Coleridge's famous dictum, "I wish our clever young poets would remember my homely definitions of prose and poetry; that is, prose - words in their best order; poetry - the best words in their best order."

This last is the definition that most pleases me. Now all we have to do is agree on what we mean by the "best words" and the "best order" and we're laughing.

In the spirit of poetry Friday, this is a worthy entry. Do click on over and read all the stuff in the middle.

Poetry Friday - A Lesson in Latin

While working on my macaronic verse this week, I experimented a bit with Latin. I studied Latin through high school and into college. The appeal for me was in both the etymology and the connection to science. I still love the language, though I don't read it much these days. Since I've been thinking Latin lately, here's a favorite poem that mentions it.
A Lesson in Latin
by Lewis Carroll

Our Latin books, in motley row,
Invite us to our task-
Gay Horace, stately Cicero:
Yet there's one verb, when once we know,
No higher skill we ask:
This ranks all other lore above-
We've learned "'Amare' means 'to love'!" -
So, hour by hour, from flower to flower,
We sip the sweets of Life:
Till, all too soon, the clouds arise,
And flaming cheeks and flashing eyes
Proclaim the dawn of strife:
With half a smile and half a sigh,
"Amare! Bitter One!" we cry. -
Last night we owned, with looks forlorn,
"Too well the scholar knows
There is no rose without a thorn"-
But peace is made! We sing, this morn,
"No thorn without a rose!"
Our Latin lesson is complete:
We've learned that Love is Bitter-Sweet!
The round-up this week is being hosted by Mentor Texts, Read Alouds & More. Before you head over to read all the great posts, be sure to read the results of this week's poetry stretch. Lots of creative folks wrote macaronic verse, or poems in more than one language. It's great fun, so do take a look. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Poetry Stretch Results - Macaronic Verse

This week's challenge was to write macaronic verse, a poetic form that uses more than one language. Folks really seemed to have fun with this one. Here's what we have so far.
Fiona Bayrock wrote a tasty verse entitled Lasagna, But Do You Love Me?

just paisley gives us a meditation on a photo, in English, English and Spanish, and back to English again. Do read the three versions of Sepia and weigh in on your favorite.

The Crafty Green Poet at Over Forty Shades (of green) gives us a verse entitled Untranslateable.

cloudscome at a wrung sponge also wrote from a photo, then replaced all the nouns with words from a made up language. Now if only someone would read it aloud!

Over at Things that make me say..., daisybug gives us Sub Ubi. That's underwear for you non-Latin types.

sister AE at Having Writ gives us a song and lesson in Yiddish with her verse Oy Vey, Tateh!

Sandy at Sensual Senryu has written a senryu in macaronic verse.
While thinking about this challenge I experimented with Latin (5 years in high school and college) and Yiddish (thanks to the very funny Yiddish with Dick and Jane and the head full of words my Jewish friends have taught me). However, I just couldn't get away from the snippets of various languages that are rattling around in my brain. Here's my verse.
The Necessary Linguist
How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways.
Shall I un, deux, trois or
uno, dos, tres?

I can raise my glass
and offer a toast,
with sláinte or yasas,
gan bei or prost!

Traveling abroad
I say hello,
with Merhaba, Ni hao,
Shalom and Jambo.

I can please and thank you
in languages ten,
but I must beg forgiveness
again and again.

I'm a necessary linguist,
for I speak only English,
though I hope to know more
one day.
It's not too late if you still want to play. Read the rules and then leave me a comment about your verse. I'll add it to the others here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

It's Called Therapy

My accreditation review is almost over. To keep me going through stressful times, my colleagues sent me this gem this morning. Man, I love them.

To Maintain a Healthy Level of Insanity
  1. At lunch time, sit in your parked car with sunglasses on and point a hair dryer at passing cars. See if they slow down.
  2. Page yourself over the intercom. Don't disguise your voice.
  3. Every time someone asks you to do something, ask if they want fries with that.
  4. Put your garbage can on your desk and label it "in."
  5. Put decaf in the coffee maker for 3 weeks. Once everyone has gotten over their caffeine addictions, switch to espresso.
  6. In the memo field of all your checks, write "for smuggling diamonds". (Keep an eye out for FBI or IRS agents afterwards.)
  7. Finish all your sentences with "in accordance with the prophecy."
  8. Don t use any punctuation which seems to be an accepted format for people using e-mail on a regular basis and who really don't care how or what people think about their ability to communicate using the English language with the printed word.
  9. As often as possible, skip rather than walk.
  10. Order a diet water whenever you go out to eat...use a serious face.
  11. Specify that your drive-through order is "to go."
  12. Sing along at the opera. (Be ready to duck).
  13. Go to a poetry recital and ask why the poems don't rhyme.
  14. Put mosquito netting around your work area and play tropical sounds all day.
  15. Five days in advance, tell your friends you can't attend their party because you're not in the mood.
  16. Have your coworkers address you by your wrestling name, Rock Bottom.
  17. When the money comes out of the ATM wave it around and scream "I won! I won!" Then watch to see if others line up for your machine.
  18. When leaving the zoo, start running towards the parking lot, yelling, "Run for your lives, they're loose!!"
  19. Tell your children over dinner that, "Due to the economy, we are going to have to let one of you go."
  20. And the final way to keep a healthy level of insanity......send this e-mail to someone to make them smile. It's Called Therapy.
I'm smiling, and I hope you are too. I'll get back to my regularly scheduled program shortly. I promise.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mathematics Achievement Gaps

Last week the National Science Board (NSB) released the Science and Engineering Indicators 2008, the 18th in a series of biennial science indicators reports. The report provides information on science, engineering, and technology at all levels, including K-12. Since I'm teaching Foundations of Mathematics Instruction this semester, I was most interested in the data regarding mathematics. A number of achievement gaps are noted at the elementary level. Here's what the report says about this.
Changes in achievement gaps are most easily summarized by examining average scale scores, which place students on a continuous ability scale based on their overall performance. Results indicate that all demographic groups gain mathematical skills and knowledge during elementary school but the rate of progress varies.
  • Gender Gaps. Boys and girls started kindergarten at the same overall mathematics performance level, but by the end of fifth grade, boys had made larger mathematics gains than girls, resulting in a small but observable gender gap of four points.
  • Race/Ethnicity Gaps. Gaps between white and black students and between white and Hispanic students existed when students started kindergarten and they widened over time. In mathematics, from kindergarten to fifth grade, white students posted a gain of 93 points; Hispanics, a gain of 89 points; and blacks, a gain of 80 points. By fifth grade, the gap between white and black students in average mathematics scores was 19 points, and the average score of black fifth grade students was equivalent to the average third grade score of white students.
  • Mother’s Education and Family Income Gaps. Students whose mothers had higher levels of education entered kindergarten with higher average mathematics scores than their peers whose mothers attained less formal education and these gaps increased as students progressed through elementary school. By grade 5, the gaps in mathematics scores were substantial, with students whose mothers had dropped out of high school posting a lower average mathematics score than students whose mothers had graduated from college had posted at grade 3. Students living in families with incomes below the poverty threshold also entered school with lower mathematics skills than their peers from higher income families, and those discrepancies in scores grew by fifth grade.
These data are startling and frankly, a bit depressing. Now, I must arm my students with this information and ask them what they intend to do about it. It should be an interesting discussion.

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

I am under the microscope right now, being poked, prodded and examined. Well not me really, but my department. Most of you who read this blog know that I am an education professor, but what you probably don't know is that I chair the department. I've held this unhappy position since 2000. Unhappy? Absolutely. Administration is not my cup of tea. I am a teacher. Just put me in a classroom and let me do my stuff. Because of my administrative responsibilities, I teach less than some of my colleagues. I'd like to teach more.

I've spent the last year and half (longer, perhaps) looking at our program to prepare teachers, and analyzing miles of data in an effort to demonstrate that we prepare teachers who are "competent, caring and qualified." I've correlated, calculated measures of central tendency, run regressions, created scatterplots, analyzed variance (have I lost you yet?) and gone bug-eyed over statistics. What has it told me? Well, I'm not sure. I know it's not enough to say that experience has taught me what a good teacher looks like, and that on paper, the numbers don't always tell the whole story. For example, that 4.0 graduate may be an outstanding student and know his/her content, but will he/she be flexible enough to meet the demands of the classroom? The answer? Not always. How about that 2.9 grad? Some of my most creative and passionate teachers have less than stellar grades.

I had professor in grad school who insisted that gifted statisticians could make the data "say" whatever they wanted. I guess it all depends upon the "lens" through which we choose to look at these things. The numbers can be helpful to an extent, but seeing candidates in action is really the most telling piece of evidence we have. I DO know a good teacher when I see one, and so do you.

What say you, dear readers. What does a good teacher look like? Share your thoughts, because I would love to hear them. And by the way, no statistics needed.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Monday Poetry Stretch - Macaronic Verse

I reviewed the list of poetry stretches to date and am amazed by how much we've tackled. I want to try something else new to me this week, so I've selected macaronic verse. The Handbook of Poetic Forms defines macaronic verse in this fashion.
Macaronic verse is a peculiar, rare and often comic form of poetry that sometimes borders on nonsense. It is a mixture of two (or more) languages in a poem, in which the poet usually subjects one language to the grammatical laws of another to make people laugh.
You can read more at Wikipedia and learn a bit about the history of this form. You can also read something by an academic (c'mon, don't let that stop you). I was interested to note that the Carmina Burana is a fine example of this.

So, that's your challenge for this week, to write a poem that uses more than one language. If you don't know another language, make one up. Pig Latin, anyone? Leave me a comment about your macaronic verse and I'll post the results here later this week.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

January Carnival is Up!

Susan over at Wizards Wireless has put together this month's carnival of children's literature, focused on book awards. There is much here to think about, so head on over and check it out.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

School Around the Globe

Dear Readers,

Please forgive the cross-posting for a while. I want to make sure people find their way to my other blog. Yesterday I wrote a post entitled School Around the Globe. It is a thematic book list about schools around the world. Please stop by and take a look. If you know of title that I have missed, please let me know about it. I'm looking largely for nonfiction, but if you know of a picture book (fiction) that would fit, please mention it.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Poetry Friday - More Alcott

I'm still thinking and reading about Louisa May Alcott. Since I'm such a fan of Thoreau, I found this poem gave me much to think about.
Thoreau’s Flute
by Louisa May Alcott

We, sighing, said, “Our Pan is dead;
   His pipe hangs mute beside the river;
   Around it wistful sunbeams quiver,
But Music’s airy voice is fled.
Spring mourns as for untimely frost;
   The bluebird chants a requiem;
   The willow-blossom waits for him;
The Genius of the wood is lost.”

Then from the flute, untouched by hands,
   There came a low, harmonious breath:
   “For such as he there is no death;
His life the eternal life commands;
Above man’s aims his nature rose:
   The wisdom of a just content
   Made one small spot a continent,
And turned to poetry Life’s prose.

“Haunting the hills, the stream, the wild,
   Swallow and aster, lake and pine,
   To him grew human or divine,—
Fit mates for this large-hearted child.
Such homage Nature ne’er forgets,
   And yearly on the coverlid
   ’Neath which her darling lieth hid
Will write his name in violets.

“To him no vain regrets belong,
   Whose soul, that finer instrument,
   Gave to the world no poor lament,
But wood-notes ever sweet and strong.
O lonely friend! he still will be
   A potent presence, though unseen,—
   Steadfast, sagacious, and serene:
Seek not for him,—he is with thee.”
The round up today is over at Farm School. Please stop by and check out all the great poetry being shared this week. Before you head on over, do read this week's poetry stretch results. We have some great centos created from titles of favorite books.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Poetry Stretch Results - Modified Cento

Inspired by the spate of book awards and "best of" lists announced recently, I thought it might be fun to write some centos using book titles. Here's what the creative people came up with this week.
cloudscome over at a wrung sponge gives us a cento inspired by the Cybils finalists. It is called Short List.

Laura Purdie Salas
has poetry on the brain, so she used titles from poetry books. It's titled Why I'm Crazy.

Elaine at Wild Rose Reader has written two centos using titles of poetry books. The first is a lovely little haiku. The second is a poetry invitation.

Sara Lewis Holmes at Read*Write*Believe is thinking about her pile of books to be read. Her cento, An Alphabetized, Prognosticating Cento of Fortuitous Couplets, is meant to organize this pile. Good luck with that, Sara!

MotherReader also gives us a list of upcoming reads in her cento.

Susan at Wizards Wireless takes us on a walk back through 70 years of the Caldecott medal winners with her cento (story).

I was inspired by some of my favorite books to write a poem entitled Nobody's Fool.
It's not too late if you still want to play. Read the directions here. Then leave a comment and I'll add your cento to the list.

The MRE is a Beauty - What Does Your Blog Look Like?

Over at Weekend Wordsmith, Bonnie has linked to a cool site that graphs your blog. Here's what The Miss Rumphius Effect looks like.
Yes, I'm a math lover, but even if I wasn't I would think this graph was amazingly beautiful. Now, go and find out just how pretty your blog is. In the meantime, I'm going to ponder this and see if it inspires something poetic.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Nobody's Fool - My Book Title Cento

The poetry stretch this week was to write a cento using book titles. Here's what I wrote while perusing some of the titles on my bookshelf.
Nobody's Fool
He waits in the secret garden while his
love is lost to the housekeeping.
He knows the name of the rose,
and all creatures great and small.
He meditates on beauty,
and walks where angels fear to tread.
He is the constant gardener,
tending the family orchard while
the sun also rises.
He lives in a brave new world,
without pride and prejudice,
by a thread of grace.
He dreams of Gilead,
the wide Sargasso Sea and
going to the lighthouse,
but dreams blow away
on the shadow of the wind.
He views the world through
an imperfect lens, and knows it's all
one big damn puzzler, but
he believes that life is a miracle and
that the Lord God made them all.
Here are the books that make up this cento.
  1. Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo
  2. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  3. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
  4. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  5. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
  6. On Beauty by Zadie Smith
  7. Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster
  8. The Constant Gardener by John le Carre
  9. The Family Orchard by Nomi Eve
  10. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  11. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  12. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  13. A Thread of Grace by Maria Doria Russell
  14. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  15. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
  16. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  17. Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  18. An Imperfect Lens by Anne Roiphe
  19. One Damn Big Puzzler by John Harding
  20. Life is a Miracle by Wendell Berry
  21. The Lord God Made Them All by James Herriot
It's not too late if you still want to play. Read the directions here. Then leave a comment and I'll post links to all the centos later this week.

ALA Notable Children's Books

The 2008 list of notable children's books is out. (Thanks to Elaine for the notice.) Here is the description of notable from the ALA web site.
"According to the Notables Criteria, "notable" is defined as: Worthy of note or notice, important, distinguished, outstanding. As applied to children's books, notable should be thought to include books of especially commendable quality, books that exhibit venturesome creativity, and books of fiction, information, poetry and pictures for all age levels (birth through age 14) that reflect and encourage children's interests in exemplary ways."
This is an exceptional list. Many of these titles were nominees for the Cybils or are currently Cybils finalists. Here are the finalists that appear on the list.

Young Readers
by Brian Floca
Cybils Category - Nonfiction Picture Book

The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County
by Janice N. Harrington
Cybils Category - Fiction Picture Book

Vulture View
by April Pulley Sayre
Cybils Category - Nonfiction Picture Book

Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity
by Mo Willems
Cybils Category - Fiction Picture Book

Here's a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry
edited by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters
Cybils Category - Poetry
Middle Readers
One Thousand Tracings: Healing the Wounds of World War II
by Lita Judge
Cybils Category - Nonfiction Picture Book

Robot Dreams
by Sara Varon
Cybils Category - Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novel
Older Readers
Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood
by Ibtisam Barakat
Cybils Category - Middle Grade/YA Nonfiction

Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam and the Science of Ocean Motion
by Loree Griffin Burns
Cybils Category - Middle Grade/YA Nonfiction

Who Was First?: Discovering the Americas
by Russell Freedman
Cybils Category - Middle Grade/YA Nonfiction

Marie Curie: Giants of Science #4
by Kathleen Krull
Cybils Category - Middle Grade/YA Nonfiction

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village
by Laura Amy Schlitz
Cybils Category - Poetry

The Wednesday Wars
by Gary D. Schmidt
Cybils Category - Young Adult Fiction

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain
by Peter Sís
Cybils Category - Middle Grade/YA Nonfiction

The Arrival
by Shaun Tan
Cybils Category - Teen/Young Adult Graphic Novel
The ALA also named the Top Ten Graphic Novels for Teens. There are a few Cybils books on this list as well.

Laika by
Nick Abadzis
Cybils Category - Teen/Young Adult Graphic Novel

Both The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain and The Arrival also made this list.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Monday Poetry Stretch - Modified Cento

I'm late in posting, but today was the first day of classes and I am 6 days away and counting from our accreditation review. I'll also admit to spending a fair amount of time reading about the book awards announced today.

I was inspired by the titles of current and past winners and thought that together, they might make an interesting poem. So, let's try a modified cento this week. Using titles from your favorite books (or award winners, classics, etc.), create a poem. I'm calling this a modified cento because I don't want to restrict you simply to the titles. Connect them together in any way that makes sense. When you're finished, don't forget to give us a "key" to the books you used.

So, what kind of poem will you write? Leave me a comment about your piece and I will post the results here later this week.

Book Awards Galore!

For the second year in a row, the live webcast from ALA midwinter was a bust. Perhaps there is just too much traffic for the server, but once again I was left out in the cold. However, I was saved by the amazing Tasha Saecker at KidsLit who posted from ALA as it was happening! Head over to her blog to learn the winners. I won't spoil it for you here, as some of these are terrific surprises. But here are a few clues.
  • The Newbery was won by a librarian again this year.
  • Mo Willems and Peter Sis each won TWO awards, though Mo won for different books.
  • All those mock Newbery committees pretty much picked the four titles that won medals or honors, but not necessarily the correct winner.
Okay, go now and have a look. Many of my favorite Cybils finalists are on these lists.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

New Data on Reading

From the National Center for Education Statistics report America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, here are some interesting (startling?) data on reading.
In 2005, 60 percent of children ages 3–5 who were not yet in kindergarten were read to daily by a family member. This rate is higher than the rate in 1993 (53 percent), but the rate fluctuated in intervening years.

In 2005, 72 percent of children whose mothers had at least a bachelor’s degree were read to every day. In comparison, daily reading occurred for 60 percent of children whose mothers had some postsecondary education, 55 percent of children whose mothers had a high school diploma or equivalent but no further education, and 41 percent of children whose mothers had less than a high school diploma.

White, non-Hispanic and Asian, non-Hispanic children were more likely to be read to every day than either Black, non-Hispanic or Hispanic children. Sixty-eight percent of White, non-Hispanic children, 66 percent of Asian, non-Hispanic children, 50 percent of Black, non-Hispanic children, and 45 percent of Hispanic children were read to every day by a family member.

Children in families with incomes of 200 percent or more of the poverty level were more likely to be read to daily by a family member (65 percent) than were children in families with incomes below the poverty level (50 percent) or those in families with incomes 100–199 percent of the poverty level (60 percent) in 2005.

Children living with two parents were more likely to be read to every day than were children living with one parent. Sixty-two percent of children in two-parent households were read to every day in 2005, compared with 53 percent of children living with one parent.

Children in the Northeast (66 percent), Midwest (62 percent), and West (61 percent) were more likely than their peers in the South (56 percent) to have been read to daily by a family member in 2005.
The fact that 40% of children in this country were NOT read to every day is very discouraging. Jen Robinson has done a great job over at the PBS Parents Expert Q&A and on her blog collecting and sharing a range of ideas for helping kids learn to enjoy reading. (You can even download a pdf file of all these great tips!) However, none of these tips will help if parents aren't reading to kids. This is an issue of race, class and education. My question to you is, how do we reach out to folks who don't read blogs, or much of anything else, and get them to understand how incredibly important reading to children is, and what a long-term impact this practice (or lack of it) makes?

Best of Science in 2007

Frustrated by the lack of science books on the BCCB list of blue ribbon winners for nonfiction (see my last post), I decided to name my own winners for science. Check out my post on Outstanding Science Books Published in 2007. Since everyone is in the predicting business these days (Newbery and Caldecott), consider these my predictions for the upcoming NSTA list.

Friday, January 11, 2008

BCCB Blue Ribbons - Nonfiction

Each year the staff of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books awards Blue Ribbons to the books they believe to be the best of the previous year's literature for youth. Here is this year's list for nonfiction.
The Strongest Man in the World: Louis Cyr, written and illustrated by Nicolas Debon

Henry’s Freedom Box, written by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Houdini the Handcuff King, written by Jason Lutes and illustrated by Nick Bertozzi

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices From a Medieval Village, written by Laura Amy Schlitz and illustrated by Robert Byrd

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain
, written and illustrated by Peter Sís.
This is an outstanding list, full of great biographies and interesting history, but I do have one question. WHERE IS THE SCIENCE?

Charlotte Zolotow Award Announced

The winner of this year's Charlotte Zolotow Award has been announced by the Cooperative Children's Book Center. This award is given annually to the author of the best picture book text published in the United States in the preceding year.
The Winner!
Thank You, Bear
by Greg Foley (Viking)

The Honor Books
At Night
by Jonathan Bean (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Pictures from Our Vacation
by Lynne Rae Perkins (Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins)

Dragon Dancing
by Carole Lexa Schaefer (Viking)

Other books that were cited by the committee as "Highly Commended" include:
Recognize any Cybils nominees and/or finalists here? I'll bet you do.

Adventure in Kids Books?

Ann Giles asks in The Guardian today, "Whatever happened to the classic, rip-roaring adventure books I read as a child?"
Granted, these books were old even in the 1960s, but we read them because there wasn't the profusion of children's books that there is today. I lived and breathed The Three Musketeers and The Scarlet Pimpernel, as well as anything by Jules Verne - of whom there appears to have been more translations into Swedish (my childhood reading language) than into English. I devoured Scott and Stevenson, albeit mainly in abridged versions. When did children stop reading the classic adventure stories?
Giles mentions some current books that now fill the adventure gap, including one of my favorite's, The Diamond of Drury Lane by Julia Golding. I bought mine as a Christmas gift to self in 2006 from Amazon UK. You still can't get it in the US, even though it was on the shortlist for last year's Costa prize. Several books follow Cat Royal as she continues her adventures.

My other new favorite in the adventure series form is Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy. Mary Faber is an orphan who lives a life of begging and petty crime on the streets of London. After her gang's leader is killed, she strips his clothing, cuts her hair, renames herself Jack and takes to the high seas. This is a rip-roaring good book. The ones that follow are just as much fun.

Poetry Friday - A Song From the Suds

Perhaps you're wondering where I've been lately. I am spending every waking minute preparing for an on-site review of our Teacher Preparation Program. Since this is for national accreditation, it's a very big deal. So, this work is sucking up all of my time. What I really need right now is a Calgon moment. Until I can steal a few minutes for myself, this will have to do.
A Song from the Suds
by Louisa May Alcott

Queen of my tub, I merrily sing,
While the white foam raises high,
And sturdily wash, and rinse, and wring,
And fasten the clothes to dry;
Then out in the free fresh air they swing,
Under the sunny sky.

I wish we could wash from our hearts and our souls
The stains of the week away,
And let water and air by their magic make
Ourselves as pure as they;
Then on the earth there would be indeed
A glorious washing day!

Along the path of a useful life
Will heart's-ease ever bloom;
The busy mind has no time to think
Of sorrow, or care, or gloom;
And anxious thoughts may be swept away
As we busily wield a broom.

I am glad a task to me is given
To labor at day by day;
For it brings me health, and strength, and hope,
And I cheerfully learn to say-
"Head, you may think; heart, you may feel;
But hand, you shall work always!"
The round-up this week is at The Book Mine Set. Before you head over there to read all of the great poems, be sure to check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Poetry Stretch Results - Inspired Image

This week's challenge was to write a poem to accompany this image.
I wrote the Fib below.
holding fast
to this well-worn place
sun-drenched and reaching for the sky
The picture seemed to inspire lots of folks this week, including quite a few newcomers, so welcome! I'm always amazed at how different the results can be, even when we're all focused on the same thing.
Sara Lewis Holmes gives us a poem entitled Flower in Tibet.

Laura Purdie Salas shares a poem entitled Just Breathe.

sister AE at Having Writ gives us Pink.

Ms. Mize shares an acrostic poem called Bloom.

M.F. Atkins at World of Words shares a haiku.

Daisybug at Things That Make Me Say ... gives us her brave attempt.

Paisley at Just Paisley has written a poem entitled desert{ed} flower.

Over at Words are My Life, the author shares a haiku.

Diane Davis shares an untitled poem.

Chelle at Snowshoe Diaries has written a series of haiku.

Cath at little cool shallows hasn't written a poem in a while, but is in big time withBlaspheme. She writes, "Warning: this poem does mention Jesus, Sex, Blaspheme, and a Vagina. If this sentence was offensive, do not read on." I read it, and so should you.
It's not too late to play. Does this image inspire you? If so, leave me a comment about your poem and I'll link it here. Feel free to post this image with your poem.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Open Wide, Look Inside - Change of Address!!

Okay, one thing I despise about relying on the University servers is that they are always moving things around (The powers that be call this migrating.). So yes, you guessed it. Less than one week after launching my new blog--they have moved it on me! ARGHHHHHHH!

Sorry for this. Here is the new info.
Open Wide, Look Inside
Let's hope this one's permanent.

2008 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Winners Announced

The winners of the 2008 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books were recently announced. They are:

Children's Science Picture Book
Where in the Wild? Camouflaged Creatures Concealed and Revealed
David Schwartz and Yael Schy, with illustrations by Dwight Kuhn (Tricycle Press)

Middle Grades Science Book

Dinosaur Eggs Discovered: Unscrambling the Clues!
Lowell Dingus,Luis M. Chaippe, and Rodolfo Coria (Twenty-First Century Books)

Young Adult Science Book
The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring
Richard Preston (Random House)

Hands-on Science Book
Exploratopia: More than 400 Kid-friendly Experiments and Explorations for Curious Minds
Pat Murphy (Little Brown & Company)

These titles were selected from a strong group of finalists. In fact, a number of Cybils nominees and finalists from the categories of nonfiction picture books and middle grades/YA nonfiction are on this list. Can you find them?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Monday Poetry Stretch - Inspired Image

One of my loyal readers and partners in crime on the crown sonnet project (cloudscome) has suggested that we tackle some stretches inspired by photographs. I've been a bit shy about doing this, as Laura Purdie Salas does such a great job with this in her 15 words or less challenges each week.

I propose to devote the first Monday poetry stretch each month to writing poems inspired by images. I had many ideas for the photo today, but since I didn't have time to request permission for the one I really wanted, I've decided to start with one of my own. The photo below was taken on top of a mountain in Tibet. At 5000 meters (over 16,000 feet), I was a bit surprised to see it.
What say you? What kind of poem will this image inspire you to write? Leave a comment about your creation and I will link the results here later this week. Feel free to reproduce the photo on your blog to accompany your poem.

Nonfiction Picture Books - Cybils Finalists!

After weeks of reading books and discussing their merits, the shortlist for nonfiction picture books is in. HURRAY! I am so pleased to have been a part of this process. Working with Andrea (Just One More Book!!), Emily (Whimsy Books), Fiona (Books and 'Rocks), and Jennifer (Kiddosphere) was amazing. I also can't forget to mention our fearless leader, Eisha (Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast). Thanks, Ladies!

I was convinced that getting from 46 books to 7 would be a difficult task, but in the end, there was little to debate. All seven titles in my top ten made the shortlist. In fact, two panelists had all seven books in their tops tens, one had six, and two had five. If anything, this should tell you that there was great consensus in choosing these books. To learn more about the work of the nominating panel, listen to this podcast over at Just One More Book!!

I am happy to hand this list off to the judging panel, confident that they will have much to discuss in the days ahead. The folks who will work together to make the final decision are:
Without further ado, here are the finalists in the Cybils nonfiction picture book category.

Guess What is Growing Inside This Egg
Written and illustrated by Mia Posada
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

Let's Go!: The Story of Getting From There to Here
Written by Lizann Flatt; illustrated by Scot Ritchie
Maple Tree Press
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)
Read my review.

Written and illustrated by Brian Floca
Atheneum / Richard Jackson Books
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)
Read my review.

Living Color
Written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Houghton Mifflin
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

One Thousand Tracings: Healing the Wounds of World War II
Written and illustrated by Lita Judge
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)
Listen to the podcast review.

Vulture View
Written by April Pulley Sayre; illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Henry Holt
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)
Read my review.

Where in the Wild?: Camouflaged Creatures Concealed ... and Revealed
Written by David Schwartz and Yael Schy; illustrated by Dwight Kuhn
Tricycle Press
Buy From Amazon | Buy from BookSense (your local independent)

In closing, I should mention that there were a few books that never received full consideration by our panel, simply because we weren't able to obtain copies. I was luckier than most in that I was able to find a few titles in my local library and others through interlibrary loan. I know my top ten would have looked a bit different if some of these titles had been available. I was particularly fond of Meghan McCarthy's book City Hawk: The Story of Pale Male and Sawdust and Spangles: The Amazing Life of W.C. Coup by Ralph Covert and G. Riley Mills.

I will continue to post reviews of Cybils nominated books in this category, as I've found a number of great new books to add to my teaching collection.

Before you head out, be sure to take a look at the finalists in the other Cybils categories. You can also read the full list of nominations.
Winners will be announced on February 14th.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Poetry Stretch Results - Rhymed Couplets

The most recent poetry stretch asked folks to write rhymed couplets in iambic pentameter. Here's what a few creative people came up with.
sister AE at Having Writ shares a sonnet she wrote for her Dad entitled I'm an Artist. Since she was thinking in couplets, she also wrote a poem called Dear Editor.

Laura Purdie Salas turned her couplets into The Pencil's Plight.

Tiel Aisha Ansari of Knocking From Inside shares a story poem (read the news article first!) called The Fish's Tale.
It's never too late if you want to stretch with us. Create your own poem and drop me a line. Then I'll add your work to the list.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

New Blog - What You'll Find There

I thought it might be helpful to give folks a sense of what you'll find on my new blog. Currently, I'm setting up the site so that it will be useful to my students, classroom teachers, homeschoolers and others with an interest in integrating children's literature across the curriculum.

The first thing you will find is a series of posts with links to online resources. I don't want the blogroll on this site to be outrageously long, so all my resource links have been placed in these entries, with the entries linked to the blogroll. One day I'll try to annotate them, but for now, you'll just find links. If you have an idea for a resource list you'd like to see, please let me know. I'll do what I can to put one together.

Thematic lists will appear on both blogs, though they will vary a bit. Since the new blog will have more of a teaching slant, the lists will probably be more tightly focused and divided by grade level or learning objectives. They will also contain ideas for using the books in instruction.

I will continue to include book reviews on both blogs, however, book reviews on the new blog will be based on instructional evaluative criteria. This means that books written specifically for instruction will appear here. The new blog will also feature podcasts about specific books, and their instructional potential.

This blog will remain as the site for poetry, general musings on teaching, book reviews, personal stuff, and more. Don't think because I'm starting a new blog that you can get rid of me that easily. I'm here to stay!

Friday, January 04, 2008

New Blog - I'm On My Way!

My new blog will launch in a few short days. After much thought, I've decided to go with a title inspired by a poem/book by Kristine O'Connell George, called Book!

The title of the new blog is Open Wide, Look Inside. I hope you'll come visit.

Poetry Friday - Sandburg and Math (More Than Just Arithmetic)

I know some readers saw math in the title and ran. What do math and poetry have in common? Since I've been working on a sonnet, I'm counting syllables and looking at rhyme patterns. If that isn't math, I don't know what is. I suppose I see connections between math and poetry the way I see connections between math and music, math and art, math and science and on and on. Math is simply everywhere.

Since I'm still planning my math class for spring (classes start in just 10 days), I do have math on the brain. So today I'm sharing some mathematically oriented poetry by Carl Sandburg.
How Much?
How much do you love me, a million bushels?
Oh, a lot more than that, Oh, a lot more.

And to-morrow maybe only half a bushel?
To-morrow maybe not even a half a bushel.

And is this your heart arithmetic?
This is the way the wind measures the weather.

Child Margaret
The child Margaret begins to write numbers on a Saturday morn-
    ing, the first numbers formed under her wishing child fin-
All the numbers come well-born, shaped in figures assertive for a
    frieze in a child’s room.
Both 1 and 7 are straightforward, military, filled with lunge and
    attack, erect in shoulder-straps.
The 6 and 9 salute as dancing sisters, elder and younger, and 2 is
    a trapeze actor swinging to handclaps.
All the numbers are well-born, only 3 has a hump on its back and
    8 is knock-kneed.
The child Margaret kisses all once and gives two kisses to 3 and
(Each number is a bran-new rag doll … O in the wishing fingers
     … millions of rag dolls, millions and millions of new rag
I'm also quite fond of Sandburg's Arithmetic. It begins this way.
Arithmetic is where numbers fly like pigeons in and out of your head.

Arithmetic tell you how many you lose or win if you know how many you had before you lost or won.

Arithmetic is seven eleven all good children go to heaven -- or five six bundle of sticks.

Arithmetic is numbers you squeeze from your head to your hand to your pencil to your paper till you get the answer.
Alkelda the Gleeful highlighted this poem quite a while ago. You should read it in its entirety. (Sadly, the video link is no longer working.)

If you want to learn more about math and poetry, read this entry.

The round-up today is at A Year of Reading. Do head on over and check out the great poetry this week. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

New Blog? Absolutely. Now if I Only Had a Name ... CONTEST!

Yes, you read that right. I am about to launch another blog. Back in November I wrote about planning for the spring semester and an iPod grant I was pursuing. I found out just before the end of finals that I was awarded the grant! HURRAY! While I try to contain my excitement over my new 80GB video iPod, I must begin the real work of preparing for this new addition to my class.

I am currently writing a series of lectures that I will record and upload to the new blog for my students (and anyone else interested). They will explore the development of mathematical understanding and ask listeners to consider how children come to learn math. In addition to the podcasts, I will be writing about ideas for teaching math. One major focus will be the use of children's literature as a means to increase student motivation for learning math, provide interesting introductions to mathematical topics, and make learning fun.

My students will be contributing podcasts that highlight children's books for use in teaching mathematics. They will do a little booktalking, describe some ways the book can be used in instruction, and provide related titles.

If this experiment works, I will continue the blog into the fall and add science and social studies to the mix.

So, here's what I need from you. I need a title. ASAP! Since you folks in the kidlitosphere are so clever and creative, I'm going to hold a little contest. I have two gift certificates here in my hot little hands, one for Starbucks ($10) and one for Barnes and Noble ($10). To the victor goes the spoils. Leave your title ideas for a blog about using books across the curriculum (in math, science and social studies) and I'll send both gift certificates to the winner. Put your thinking caps on. Ready? Set. Go!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Mathematically Inclined - Part 2

Encouraging and nurturing the love of mathematics can be a challenge both at home and in the classroom. Here are some of the things I do to support reluctant math lovers of all ages.

Read about math.
There are lots of great books that include mathematical content and encourage readers to explore mathematical ideas. Some of my favorites include:
  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster - Take a journey with Milo, a young boy who drives through a magic tollbooth into the Lands Beyond and embarks on a quest to rescue the maidens Rhyme and Reason from exile and reconcile the estranged kingdoms of Dictionopolis and Digitopolis. This is a great book for kids enamored of words and/or numbers.
  • The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure by Hans Magnus Enzensberger - With full color illustrations, this book tells the story of a twelve year old boy and math hater named Robert, who meets the Number Devil in his dreams. Over twelve nights the Number Devil introduces Robert to the exciting world of math.
Play board and strategy games.
Playing games is a great way to develop problem-solving skills as well as practice skills in arithmetic. I had a game corner in my classroom where students could play games when their work was finished. We also had game day on Friday for 20-30 minutes if we'd had a good week. While I know most of these can now be played electronically, there is something to be said for actually sitting down on the floor with some kids and rolling dice and moving pieces around a board. Some of the games on my shelf included:
Solve puzzles.
By puzzles I mean not only logic puzzles and Sudoku, but jigsaw and geometric puzzles. Jigsaw puzzles help develop skills in orientation and visual discrimination. Puzzles like tangrams also help students to think deeply about the orientation of shapes in space and how they can be put together to make new shapes. Here are some of the puzzles I like to provide.
  • Tangrams - The linked site provides a good description of tangrams. When I use these I actually solve the puzzles, trace the outline of the finished shape on cardstock and then laminate. For younger students, these outline shapes help them fit the pieces into the puzzle. Once students are comfortable with using them, I use the shapes to teach area, fractions and angle measure. Try them out online. Then make your own set and try to build some shapes. Here's another good resource.
  • Sudoku - If you like puzzles and numbers and haven't tried sudoku, you're missing out. For kids who may need some concrete help, try a sudoku board. If you want something more kid-friendly (less abstract way) to develop reasoning skills, try a version with pictures.
  • Logic Puzzles - You know the ones I'm talking about here. John, Karen, Tim, Ellen and Sam attend a party. The gifts they bring include a car, a giraffe, a watch, walkie-talkies and blocks. The information keeps coming and it is your job to figure out what each person wore, brought and ate. Phew! These can be great fun!
  • Geometric Puzzles - I own a number of puzzles created by Kate and Dick Jones, owners of Kadon Enterprises. They are all challenging and extremely well made. You can even try some online before you buy. All puzzles come with books explaining the math and offering many variants on play.
Connect math and art.
Using art in math class is one way to develop visual and spatial skills, as well as pattern recognition and basic geometry skills.
  • Origami - Paper folding is a great way to develop spatial reasoning abilities. It's also fun! You can get great paper at Origami Corner. Try making this origami crane. If you have trouble reading origami directions in print, try following along with the videos on this site. Since we connect math and reading around here, think about using Fold Me a Poem by Kristine O'Connell George and Lissy's Friends by Grace Lin.
  • Spirograph - If you haven't seen a real spirograph, look here. Kids love making art with these kits. Restoration Hardware sold a simple one last year. Once a few designs are made, consider the ways to color the design so that a pattern emerges.
Alright, that's it for now. I will continue this in part 3, where I'll talk about problem-solving and offer some suggestions for making homework more interesting and manageable.