Tag Archives: holiday

For Mama: Books for Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day and what better way to celebrate than through all of the literature the celebrates mothers. Moms appear in a lot of children’s literature as they are primary caretakers for so many children. What got me thinking about this post, other than it being Mother’s Day, is the classic book by Robert Munsch – Love You Forever. We had two copies of this on our house because moms love it and kids like to hear about how much they are loved. This story still brings a tear to my eye.

Not all stories about moms are the same because not all moms are the same. Some of the best stories about moms talk about all the different moms about there and how they love us, no matter who they are and no matter if we try to flush their keys down the toilet. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Mom and Me by Marla Konrad. For very little ones, this picture books shows moms and kids from all over the world and the love that they share. Though it does not identify location or culture, the photos show children how different moms still do many of the same things.
  • Mama’s Kiss by Jane Yolen. The always fantastic Yolen shares the hilarious tale of what happens when Mama’s kiss does hit its target and instead starts to travel the world.
  • Mother Number Zero by Marjolijn Hof. A recent chapter book for older readers, Mother Number Zero explores the issues of adoption and wanting to know all of ones mothers.
  • Brushing Mom’s Hair by Andrea Cheng. Another chapter book for older readers, this verse novel explores the emotions of Ann as her mother deals with breast cancer.
  • I have already mentioned the fabulous Mommy, Mama, and Me by Lesléa Newman in my post about GLBTQ lit, but Mother’s Day means it deserves another mention. Along the same lines check out Molly’s Family by Nancy Garden about drawing exactly what your family is to you and In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polacco, which deals with adoption as well as same sex parenting and the love and challenges that go with both.

There are almost as many stories about moms as there are moms. No matter what form your family takes – happy Mother’s Day and happy reading!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, which is an official feast day in Ireland, and is a celebration of Irish culture all over the world. Other than everything green, St. Patrick’s Day can be celebrated by learning a little more about what’s behind all those shamrocks and leprechauns.

Information books, also known as non-fiction, are an often underused category of children’s literature, which is unfortunate because there is a plethora of well written and engaging information books available to youth. One important reason to try to expand your knowledge of non-fiction is the appeal these books hold for boys. In 2005, Lee Galda, a professor of children’s literature at the University of Minnesota was quoted about the worth of nonfiction in the Washington Post (Strauss, p. A12):

A lot of teachers think of reading as reading stories. And in fact, a lot of boys, and not just boys, like nonfiction. But we keep concentrating on novels or short stories and sometimes don’t think of reading nonfiction as reading. But in fact it is, and it is extremely important.

This is not new information. In 1998, author and teacher Stephanie Harvey published Nonfiction Matters: Reading, Writing, and Research in Grades 3-8. This text is designed for teachers to integrate more nonfiction into their classrooms and to pay attention to the power of nonfiction, which “demands that learners select a real topic that interests them” (Harvey, 1998, p. 4). It also demands that there are good topics of interest available that are well written and researched.

So, back to St. Patrick’s Day and Ireland. One of the premiere nonfiction authors for is Susan Campbell Bartoletti. This award winning nonfiction author penned Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850, an amazing information book that is ideal for middle grade readers and us is about the potato famine that, among other things, caused a wave of Irish immigration to the United States. Other great information books about St. Patrick’s Day and Irish culture include:

Of course nonfiction isn’t the only way to educate children about Ireland and St. Patrick’s day. There a number of great folktales from Ireland as well as great early readers, picture books, and fiction stories, but today I thought nonfiction deserved some focus.

To check out great information books for children on any topic, check out the Sibert Informational Book Medal winner and honor books awarded by the ALSC or the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children, which is awarded by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). It should be noted that Bartoletti has won both of these awards for Black Potatoes and has been honored by both for other information books. If you find book you really enjoy, check out what else they have written. Once bitten by the nonfiction bug, authors tend to write a lot of books about many topics. Once you’re bitten, you’ll want to read and share many of them.

Go gcuire Dia an t-ádh ort! (Best of luck to you!)

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Harvey, S. (1998). Nonfiction matters: Reading, writing, and research in grades 3-8. York, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.

Strauss, V. (2005, March 15). Educators differ on why boys lag in reading: Gap stokes debate over teaching approaches, curricula. Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35057-2005Mar14.html

100th (!) International Women’s Day

I hadn’t really thought about how much stuff happens in March until I started this blog, but it’s a lot! March is an amazing month for many reasons, but today I’m going to focus on just one of those reasons: Women’s History. Though we should be celebrating the contributions women make all year round, March is the month set aside to really bring these contributions to light. In particular, today is the 100th International Women’s Day. From Feministing:

International Womens’ Day was the brainchild of a woman by the name of Clara Zetkin in 1910. Zetkin was leader of the ‘Women’s Office’ for the German Social Democratic Party and at the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, she proposed establishing day of celebration and activism, to be held on the same day every year, around the world. Thanks to Zetkin, in 1911, the first International Women’s Day was celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.

There are many women who are often mentioned during International Women’s Day and throughout Women’s History Month. Sacajawea , Rosie the Riveter, Susan B. Anthony (and the Suffragettes in general), Rosa Parks, and Amelia Earhart all get mentions because of their courage and their impact on history.

Along with these amazing women, here are some others that made an impact that don’t often get as much of a mention:

  • Zora Neale Hurston: This American writer and folklorist was all but forgotten until author Alice Walker brought her back to the spotlight. Zora Neale Hurston: Writer and Storyteller tells children about her life that, though complex, is made easy to understand.
  • Pura Belpré: Despite having an award named after her, not many children know much about the woman herself. Belpré was the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library and worked hard to have the library reach out to the Puerto Rican community. The Storyteller’s Candle/La velita de los cuentos introduces children to this incredible woman.
  • Hypatia of Alexandria: Going much further back in history, Hypatia is noted as the first female leader of mathematics and was also a teacher of astronomy and philosophy. The life of this fascinating woman that many children will not have heard about is documented in Of Numbers and Stars: The Story of Hypatia.

There are a number of really great booklists available for those who want to create programming around Women’s History Month or just want to introduce children to women’s history. Here’s a list of some of the best ones out there on the web:

  • New York Public Library – This list is very helpful because it separates the titles by folks and fairytales (not a category I would have thought of), non-fiction, picture books, recordings and videos, and stories, which means fiction works with strong female protagonists.
  • Parentdish – What I like about this list is the inclusion of some lesser known women of history.
  • Carol Hurst – I love this list because of the categories used to organize it. Books of all types are included in the categories “women who expanded traditional roles”, “women in the arts”, “women who protested” (my personal favorite), and “women’s rights”. I highly recommend this list.
  • Kidlit Celebrates Women’s History Month – This blog is dedicated to celebrating women’s history month through children’s literature. The thoughtful blog posts will really expand your knowledge of women’s history and how to teach children about it.
  • Scholastic – Another great list from the children’s literature publisher. Grade levels after the description make picking and choosing titles easy and also makes subject selection a snap.

There’s a lot of children’s literature out there about women’s history, so celebrate it this month, but maybe expand it to other months. There’s a lot to read and know.

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

Today is Dr. Seuss’ birthday and for a blog named after one of his quotes, he must be honored. It would be hard not to anyway as Dr. Seuss colored my childhood much like he did to many others and as he continues to do today.

Dr. Seuss published over 60 books and is known as the creator of the easy reader (Random House, 2011). That first title? The Cat in the Hat, which he wrote in 1957 when asked to write a book for children using less than 300 words (Vardell, 2008, p. 46). These simple vocabulary books, many of which are easily found searching for Seuss’ Beginner Books series, often have chapters and are designed to help children develop the vocabulary and confidence in reading they need to transition from picture books to chapter books. Often silly, these books teach children a love of reading.  Seuss’ influence in this area is so profound that the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA) has named an award after him. The Geisel Award is given to “author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year” (ALSC, n.d.). You can see all of his early readers and ones inspired by him on the official Dr. Seuss Website, Seussville.

So how can we celebrate the birthday of the man that taught many children to love to read and still has an influence today? We can have special storytimes while wearing the Cat in the Hat hat (and there are a number of excellent books to choose from). Designed for teachers, A to Z Teacher Stuff has a list of lesson plans and activities for celebrating this special day. If you’re looking for a way to integrate electronic resources, there are a number of Seuss related apps available both for Apple products and Android based ones. You can try having a  writing day, employing the Seuss-ical style of anapestic tetrameter and silly, nonsense words. Or check out these amazing Dr. Seuss-inspired cakes!

The most important thing to remember is to have fun with whatever you do to celebrate this day. As the man himself said: “I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.” So do something silly, make up some words, plants, or animals, but do something. If you get into it, kids will too and that’s the best way to honor Dr, Seuss, the best reading teacher of all time.

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ALSC. (n.d.) Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/geiselaward/geiselabout/index.cfm

Random House. (2011). Seussville. Retrieved from http://www.seussville.com/#/home

Vardell, S. M. (2008). Children’s literature in action: A librarian’s guide. Westport, CN: Libraries Unlimited.

National Pancake Day

Though it seems weird to have my inaugural post be something other than “hi, welcome to the blog!”, today is National Pancake Day and that deserves some respect.

So what does National Pancake Day have to do with children’s literature? Well, a lot actually. My first thought after starting this blog and realizing the importance of today (because a day dedicated to pancakes cannot be anything other than important, right?), I thought of a very special book from my childhood. That book is, of course, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Book CoverThis was the book that I checked out from the library over and over again and part of that had to do with the pancake that lands on the school. How utterly ridiculous is that? That kind of nonsense is what draws some children in to read. Of course we know a pancake could never land on a school. But what if it did? What would a town like Chewandswallow actually be like? I think this book could be a part of a fun National Pancake Day lesson. Why not read it while eating pancakes? Or after teaching children to make pancakes?

There is a wide variety of cookbooks for kids. Everyone from high end cookware retailer Williams-Sonoma (The Cookbook for Kids: Great Recipes for Kids Who Love to Cook) to Nickelodeon (Dora and Diego – Let’s Cook) has come out with a cookbook that will help you teach kids how to cook. This kind of tactile learning is important for some children and can help connect the imaginary world of a book to real life.

So dig into a short stack of pancakes and books and celebrate National Pancake Day!