Top 100 Children’s Fictional Chapter Books- Vote Now!

Now is your chance to have your say!  Betsy, over at Fuse#8, is running her newest poll.

The Top 100 Children’s Fictional Chapter Books Poll!

Vote for your top ten middle grade books of all time (not just this year or last year) by January 31, 2010.  This will NOT include YA books  or early readers. You should list these books in your order of preference. That means, your #1 chapter book would be the one you feel is the most important or the best, so Betsy will give it 10 points.  Your #2 choice will receive only 9 points.  Etc, etc.

I am getting ready to start my list now.  I already have well over 10 books so it’s time to get to work.  Make sure you do the same!

Edublog Awards Nominations

The Edublog Awards are one of my favorite blogging awards.  Through the nominations I always discover new and interesting blogs.  This year, I decided to take the plunge and nominate a few blogs.

My nominations for the 2009 Edublog Awards are as follows:

Best individual blog- Jen Robinson’s Book Page:  Jen’s blog is amazing.  She posts thoughtful, insightful reviews of many middle grade and YA books.  And it that wasn’t enough, she also does the Kidlitosphere Round-up, Children’s Literacy and Reading News, and is the literacy evangelist for the Cybils.  Her hard work exposes books to parents, teachers, librarians, and many others!
Best resource sharing blog- Two Writing Teachers:  Stacey and Ruth are my own personal writing gurus.  The minilessons they share are always inspiring and never fail to make me sit down and plan out my own version.  They work hard to share new mentor texts and professional books with teachers while also writing their own book.  Finally, they encourage their readers to write alongside their students and they provide memes as opportunities to do this.  I love participating in their Slice of Life Tuesdays and Memoir Mondays!

Best teacher blog- The Book Whisperer: Donalyn Miller is the book whisperer; a teacher who can find the right book for any student in her classroom.  Her blog is a veritable treasure trove of book recommendations, classroom experiences, and her own reading life.  It should be required reading for any language arts or English teacher.
Best librarian / library blog- Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog: Every year I run a mock Newbery with my 6th grade students.  That means I read, read, read.  I love to talk about my reading with other adults who enjoy children’s literature and that is why Heavy Medal is one of my favorite blogs.  Jonathan Hunt and Nina Lindsay do a phenomenal job posting thought-provoking questions about eligible titles and the conversations in the comments are almost scholarly.  I always leave the blog feeling like I have learned so much about children’s literature.

“In a Million Words or Less” First Week Assignment

One of my favorite back to school activities is “In a Million Words or Less”.  My mentor teacher used this activity when I was student teaching and I fell in love.  For those who don’t know, the assignment is for parents.  It asks each parent to write the teacher a letter, in a million words or less, explaining what makes their child special.  The responses I get are truly amazing.  There are just some things I would never learn about the student or would take me most of the year to discover.  When a parent tells me that their son/daughter has a special talent or a specific anxiety I can look out for them from the beginning!

I handed out my assignment on the first day of school.  The students always love that they get to give mom and dad homework!  I explain to the students that because their parents have work and outside responsibilities, I give them a whole month to finish their assignment.  That night, I already had my first emailed responses.  I share the responses with my teammates, special ed teacher, and specials teacher as needed.

“In a Million Words or Less” is an invaluable assignment.  The letters I receive are priceless.  If you are interested in trying it out, my handout can be found below.

Bella & Bean by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Back in April I was lucky enough to have coffee with Kathi Appelt, who was in the area for a school visit.  We had a great time talking about books, writing, and blogging.  Before parting ways, Kathi told me she had a book I absolutely must read.  She said she knew I would love Bella & Bean by Rebecca Kai Dotlich.  I wrote down the title and promised to look for it.  Of course, I promptly forgot about all of this in the chaos that is the end of the school year.

Last week I was at a district meeting and was thrilled when the supervisor pulled out Bella & Bean for a read-aloud!  Of course, I immediately remembered Kathi’s recommendation (and then felt bad for forgetting!).  After listening to the story, I was hooked.  Kathi was 100% right- I loved it!  I can not wait to share this book with my students this year.  

Bella and Bean are best friends.  Bella is a writer- a poet- always playing with words and concentrating on her writing.  She begins each day ready to sit at her window-side desk, writing about the beauty around her.  her best friend Bean is outgoing, fun, and hands-on.  She’s always trying to get Bella to put her writing aside to come and play by the pond.  All day long Bean pokes her head through the window of Bella’s house and tries to get her attention.  She shows Bella her new hat, shows off her “cute toes”, and tries to convince Bella to think of the word “Bean” if she is concentrating on words.  Bean is adorable and I wanted to run off with her!  The illustrations by Aileen Leijten are precious and you just want to dive into the book with Bean.


But Bella will not be distracted.  She even gets grumpy with Bean!

 

I don’t have time for hats, Bean,’ said Bella. ‘I’m writing new poems…I can’t think about rivers and moons when you are talking about hats,’ said Bella.”

Bella perseveres through the distractions and is rewarded- her poems are stunning!    

But what about Bean?  And their friendship?  I won’t spoil the ending for you because it is absolutely perfect.  I admit I couldn’t wait to find out what happened while we were being read to!  I will just tell you to get this book ASAP.

I can not wait to use this picture book in my 6th grade classroom this upcoming year.  There are so many ways I foresee using it.  Of course, it will be wonderful during our poetry unit.  Bella’s poems are not only wonderful but her methods and wordplay will inspire many students.  It will be a great mentor text for my 6th graders.  One of my favorite lines says, 

“The sky poured stars like sugar…”

How gorgeous is that?  I love it!  I can already see Bella inspiring many of my writers.  She certainly inspired me.

Bella & Bean is also a window into the writing process.  I think I will start our writing workshop this year with this book.  What a wonderful way to introduce my students to the workshop we will be a part of during the year.  

But the story is not just about writing.  It’s beautiful on so many levels.  It’s also about friendship and tolerance.  It’s about taking time to live life, not just watch it go by.  It’s about being disciplined but also having fun.  It’s about opposites attracting. Due to the multi-layered text, this book is perfect for kids of all ages, from preschool to high school.  In fact, the adults at my meeting all fell in love with it!  There is no age limit on this one.  And anyone who aspires to be a writer can’t help but be inspired by  Bella & Bean.  Be sure to pick this up for your classroom library!  And maybe even for your teacher library. ;)

The Braille Literacy Crisis in America

Earlier this week I received a press release from the National Federation of the Blind that I wanted to share.

 

An astounding 90 percent of blind people today are Braille illiterate. This would be viewed as a national outrage if the same crisis faced sighted individuals, and yet blind people continue to be deprived of the Braille education and resources they need to obtain jobs, pursue stimulating careers, and enjoy the same opportunities as sighted individuals. Further, Braille illiteracy is the leading contributor to a shocking 70 percent unemployment rate among 1.3 million blind Americans and it’s only going to get worse – 70,000 people are losing their sight each year.

To help fund Braille literacy programs, the NFB has teamed with the U.S. Mint to issue the first coin ever to feature readable Braille.  The Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar will be launched this Thursday, March 26, 2009 at the NFB’s headquarters in Baltimore, MD, after which the coin will be available for purchase. 

Every coin sold will support Braille education nationwide and ensure that every blind American enjoys the same opportunities for success as sighted individuals. Note, only 400,000 coins will be minted and available for order at www.usmint.gov until December 31, 2009.

The National Federation of the Blind is also publishing a report to the nation, titled “THE BRAILLE LITERACY CRISIS IN AMERICA: Facing the Truth, Reversing the Trend, Empowering the Blind”.  The report, a comprehensive overview of the crisis and proposed solutions to reverse it, will be posted online on the launch day on March 26, at www.nfb.org and www.braille.org.

Why is there a Braille literacy crisis? 
As addressed in National Federation of the Blind’s just released “Braille Crisis in America – A Report to the Nation,” there are a number of factors that have led to Braille illiteracy in America, including:

  •  
    1. Negative attitudes and false beliefs that Braille is “slow,”  “unusual” and too complicated to learn
    2. Misguided notions that technological advances have become a viable substitute for Braille
    3. Limited access to quality instruction today
    4. Lack of standardized Braille teaching methods and credentialed instructors

What must be done to solve this crisis?                                                                                 

The NFB’s cutting edge research training center– the NFB Jernigan Institute– has launched a national Braille Literacy Campaign to double the number of school-age children reading Braille by 2015.

To help us achieve this goal and fund the campaign, we are partnering with the U.S. Mint to launch a coin with a special mission – the Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar– available to everyone by the U.S. Mint starting March 26th in honor of the 200th birthday of Louis Braille. 

This stunning, one-of-a-kind collectible in 90% silver is the first U.S. coin in history to feature readable Braille, and marks a turning point for blind people of all ages. Money raised through the coin’s sale and matched dollar for dollar through other fundraising activities will support our Braille Literacy Campaign and literally change the future for tens of thousands of blind people.

How will the funds raised by the coin help blind Americans and increase Braille literacy? 
This Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar symbolizes the most significant investment in literacy for the blind.  While pressure from consumers and advocacy groups has led thirty-three states to pass legislation mandating that children who are legally blind be given the opportunity to learn Braille, more can be done.

Through its sale we hope to raise upwards of $8 million to:

  •  
    • Increase access to Braille instruction and reading materials
    • Expand Braille mentoring, reading-readiness and outreach programs
    • Require national certification in literary Braille among all special education teachers
    • Advance the use of Braille in current and emerging technologies
    • Research new methods of teaching and learning Braille
    • Enact legislation in all 50 states requiring special education teachers of blind children to obtain and maintain the National Certification in Literary Braille by 2015.
    • Make Braille resources more available through online sharing of materials, enhanced production methods, and improved distribution.

Why should I care about the coin? 
Each of us has a right to literacy. Every purchase of this one-of-a-kind commemorative coin will help reverse Braille illiteracy and ensure that every blind American enjoys the same opportunities for success as sighted individuals. When the blind can read, the blind can achieve so much more.

 

Also, be sure to connect with NFB online: 
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/National-Federation-of-the-Blind/54344454247

Twitter: http://twitter.com/BrailleLiteracyhttp://twitter.com/NFB_voice 

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/NationsBlind

 



February Carnival of Children’s Literature

Be sure to set aside some time to check out the February Carnival of Children’s Literature this weekend.  Chock-full of great posts, you don’t want to miss this one!

 

In other news, I am sick. Again.  I have been sick for almost a month straight now.  Whatever is going around right now is awful.  Hoping I feel better tomorrow!

Readergirlz OPERATION TEEN BOOK DROP!


I am so excited about Operation Teen Book Drop 09!  Readergirlz just put up details about this years event.  What exactly is Operation TBD?  Operation Teen Book Drop is an amazing project that brings donations of thousands of fantastic YA titles to hospitalized teens all over the country.

We are delighted to be teaming up with GuysLitWire and YALSA for the second Operation Teen Book Drop! In honor of Support Teen Literature Day, April 16th, 2009, readergirlz, GuysLitWire, YALSA, and publishers are working together to donate YA books to hospitalized teens across the country.

Readergirlz is a teen online book community where members are challenged to read, reflect, and reach out. GuysLitWire  is a top book-review source for literature appealing to teen guys. YALSA is the world leader in selecting books, videos, and audiobooks for teens.

I think I want to get my classes involved in TBD this year.  It would be a great follow-up to our Valentine’s Day Hope Chests.  You should get involved, too!


 

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