Welcome!

Just a quick hello to those of you who have found your way here from The Learning Network Blog at The New York Times.  I blog about literacy for the most part, with some focus on STEM-related issues.  I’m a passionate reader of YA books and post a lot of reviews here on the blog.  For more information on me, check out the About tab up top.

 

 

RIF’s New STEAM Initiative!

RIF is a fantastic organization that I have worked with in the past.  Earlier this week I received a press release from them that I am thrilled to share with you.  Their new early childhood literacy initiative focuses on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics), a cause close to my own heart.

 

Early Childhood Literacy Initiative Launches

Targeting Next-Generation Innovation with STEM+Arts Approach

 

RIF Releases STEAM Multicultural Book Collection Connecting STEM, the Arts and Early Learning

– Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) is launching a multi-year early childhood literacy campaign to inspire the next-generation of innovators through an approach integrating the arts with STEM learning (science, technology, engineering and math). The campaign is anchored by today’s release of RIF’s 2012-2013 Multicultural Book Collection, comprised of 40 children’s books and related activities using STEAM-themes.

“The next Mark Zuckerberg may be that 8-year-old child RIF serves whose only books are the ones we provide,” said Carol H. Rasco, president and CEO of RIF. “The skills today’s students need to succeed as tomorrow’s pioneers should start at the earliest possible opportunity with an approach that builds on their natural curiosity. As a country, we’re missing the mark with few resources explicitly aimed at STEAM education for our youngest students.”

Rasco added, “This initiative is about inspiring the innovators of tomorrow early with engaging books and resources that connect the dots between science, technology and the arts from broad-ranging cultural perspectives. From DaVinci to Madame C.J. Walker to Steve Jobs, our greatest innovators are those who are as creative as they are precise, as imaginative as they are methodical. STEAM-based learning aims to nurture every facet of innovation.”

This year’s collection will be accompanied by a set of free downloadable activities for parents and educators to engage children in literacy development, based on the Common Core Standards adopted by 45 states in the nation.

“Out of 30 developed countries, our students in the U.S. ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science literacy and 25th in math literacy. There are stark gaps here at home with low-income students scoring lowest and white and Asian students outpacing African-American, Hispanic and American-Indian students,” said Rasco, detailing results from the most recent Program for International Student Assessment and the National Assessment of Education Progress reports. “Our focus on STEAM literacy ultimately supports a national priority to ensure all American students receive the skills and knowledge required for success in the 21st century workplace.”

Each book in the collection was carefully reviewed and selected by RIF’s Literacy Services team with guidelines provided by RIF’s Literature Advisory Board and Multicultural Advisory Committee, national panels of educators and experts in books for children.

“What makes this collection unique is our insistence that each book present diverse characters and stories,” Dr. Judy Cheatham, RIF’s vice president of literacy services. “When children see themselves in the books they read at a young age, they are motivated to read more books and read more often. Books are powerful mirrors and windows for all of us.”

RIF has distributed the collection to RIF programs across the country since 2007 as part of its Multicultural Literacy Campaign, a multi-year initiative to promote and support early childhood literacy in African-American, Hispanic and American-Indian communities.

A full list of the new collection’s selected titles is available on RIF’s website along with accompanying activities. This year’s list includes celebrated and award-winning titles such as:

  • Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet
  • Z is for Moose  by Kelly Bingham, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
  • How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
  • City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems, illustrated by Jon J. Muth
  • Grandpa’s Garden by Stella Fry, illustrated by Sheila Moxley
  • 10 Things I Can Do to Help My World  by Melanie Walsh
  • Miss Lady Bird’s Wildflowers by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Joy Fisher Hein


Throughout the year, RIF will be distributing 650 collections to local RIF programs across the country. The donation of these book collections is made possible through generous contributions from Macy’s.

“RIF is investing in this vital initiative to provide educators with the resources they need to put our youngest students on the path to becoming tomorrow’s innovators,” added Rasco. “To be clear, this serves far beyond the classroom. It fosters the kind of creativity, drive and determination that will ultimately create a pipeline of American workers poised to not simply compete in a global economy, but to lead.”

Additional components of RIF’s STEAM initiative include:

  • National Art Contest sponsored by Nestlé
  • Professional Development for Early Childhood Educators and Care Providers
  • Family Literacy Celebrations with Free Books for Participating Kids
  • Early Childhood STEAM Learning Advocacy


About RIF
Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) delivers free books and literacy resources to children and families in underserved communities in the United States. By giving children the opportunity to own a book, RIF inspires them to become lifelong readers and achieve their full potential. As the nation’s largest children’s literacy nonprofit, RIF has placed 400 million books in the hands of more than 35 million children since it was established in 1966. Learn more and help RIF provide books to kids who need them most, visit RIF.org.
# # #

Never Forget

(A version of this was originally written on 9/11/03, on my personal journal. It has been edited for this posting. I have reposted it every year since 2003.)

the view I see each year from the beach at home.

I can’t forget. This morning, between classes I was sitting in my car listening to the radio. I listened to the children read off the names of those who perished in the WTC disaster. As I listened to the small voices read the thousands of names, tears ran down my cheeks. I managed to miss hearing the names of anyone I knew, but still…….

I can remember that day like it was yesterday. I remember eating breakfast with one of my best friends, Erin (we barely even knew each other at the time, having moved into our freshman year dorms only a few days earlier). The dining hall had talk radio playing over the speakers and they were talking about the WTC bombing. I remember Erin and I wondering why they were talking about something that had happened in 1993. We tuned out the radio as it became nothing more than white noise in the background.  Quickly, we finished breakfast and I went to my Women and Public Policy class.

As my classmates settled into seats in the small lecture hall, our TA, Jen, apologized for having to keep her cell phone on during class. She explained that she had flight reservations later that day, and she needed to keep up on any airport delays due to the incident in the city. That was the first that I heard about a plane crash, as the TV in my room wasn’t hooked up yet. (We had moved in only days earlier). But everyone in class seemed fairly calm. We talked about what had happened for a few minutes, but most of us assumed it was just an errant pilot; a tragedy, but nothing too life-changing for the majority of us. So from 9:50-10:30am we continued on with our normal class schedule, discussing women in the current political system. As class ended I remember walking back to the dorm, over the Hickman Bridge, and hearing people around me say classes were canceled for the rest of the day. Yet I still really had no idea what was going on.

I walked back to my dorm on the other side of campus planning to turn on the news while I got organized for the day. Then I remembered that I didn’t even have a tv (stupid no cable in the dorms). As I walked into the building, you could sense the panic. The stress and tension in the air was palpable.   I walked up the 3 flights of stairs to my room and immediately saw that my answering machine was blinking wildly. Each message was from my mother, trying to get in touch with me. I grabbed my cell phone to call her back, but by that time the lines were down.

As I kept hitting the redial button I watched my floormates pace up and down the halls. One of the girls walked past my door no less than 20 times in 2 minutes. She was trying to get ahold of her father, who worked in the Towers. Others were just trying to find their parents even if they didn’t work in the city. Unable to get through to anyone on the phone, I took my cell phone and walked back downstairs to the lounge and sat on the couch with my dormmates, staring at the images that were being flashed on every station on our common room TV. No one spoke.

Still dialing, I headed back upstairs to my computer, sure that I would be able to find more information on the internet. The news anchors were so unsure and so frightened. I finally got through to my mother (while reloading news sites over and over) and she was relieved to hear from me. She told me you could see the flames from the beach by our house, and that there was a huge cloud of smoke and a smell enveloping Middletown. She asked if I wanted to come home, and while I considered it,  I chose to stay.  I wanted to be with my friends, and admit that the idea of driving home was frightening.  None of us knew what was happening or what would happen.

The panic in my dorm just increased all afternoon. My friends and I sat in stunned silence watching the television coverage. At one point, military planes flew over the campus, and people ran for the basement. No one knew what would happen next. That sense of terror was something unimaginable only hours before.

We watched the news for hours on end. I IM’ed and recieved IMs from friends who were at school in the city. People I hadn’t talked to in months came to mind. I went to a tiny high school, 60 kids to a graduating class, and our network of students was reaching out to one another. We just needed to know that everyone was all right. I remember the anxiety we felt while we checked on all the Maryland people, friends who went to school near the Pentagon and Washington, DC. Eighteen years old and we were frantically searching for people just to make sure they were still there.
I will never forget signing on to our high school email network and reading the the public announcements, a forum usually reserved for messages about upcoming school dances and PTA fundraisers.  The tragedy began to hit home as some of my peers posted messages asking for the readers to look for names on lists- parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins. As new lists were posted in the media it became more and more apparent that some of those who were missing would not be coming home that night.  This wasn’t supposed to happen to people you knew…

Only a few minutes later my mother got through to me again, telling me that my brother’s best friend’s dad was missing. That’s when I made the decision. I went home.
I stayed home. School was canceled. The next few days were filled with phone calls “Did anyone hear anything? Any word?” My mother told me how on September 11th, ferries came from the city to the local harbor. Ferries that were based all over NY just packed with passengers from NYC. People who just had to get somewhere besides Manhattan. They stumbled off the boats- people covered in ash, people in shock. They were hosed down immediately by men and women in hazmat suits, for fear that they were carrying biological agents.

The papers talked about how Middletown was the town in NJ hit the hardest by the tragedy. We lost so many. So many people from my church, people I knew from middle school and high school.
Then, my worst fears were realized. A friend was put on active duty. Along with all this tragedy, I had to deal with the idea that one of my best friends could be sent into the city. At that time, it was a terrifying thought.  Would NYC be hit again? Were we safe?

Later, I learned that another friend had worked at the pier in Jersey City on September 11. Unloading and loading ferries and boats, for days at a time. But her story had a happy ending- she became engaged when she grew closer to a friend who took care of her at the time.
My brother spent days with his then-girlfriend and their best friend. A sophomore in high school and he was trying to hold up his friends while they learned that a parent was never coming home. I admired my brother immensely for the strength he showed in those days. He grew up more than I ever knew he could.

We all grew up.

And we will never forget.
God Bless all those lost on 9-11-01……

—————————————————–

My current students were three and seven in 2001.  September 11th is a distant memory for them, something their parents and other adults talk about.  For me, it is hard to fathom not being able to articulate exactly where I was that day, that hour, that minute.  While I am glad they have no memory of the terror our nation, especially the tri-state area, experienced that day, it still leaves me stunned.  It’s such an integral part of my life that I can’t imagine it not being a cornerstone in others’ lives.  Yet I am grateful for that blessing, too.

Never Forget

(A version of this was originally written on 9/11/03, in my personal journal. It has been edited for this posting. I have reposted it every year since 2003.)

the view I see each year from the beach at home.

I can’t forget. This morning, between classes I was sitting in my car listening to the radio. I listened to the children read off the names of those who perished in the WTC disaster. As I listened to the small voices read the thousands of names, tears ran down my cheeks. I managed to miss hearing the names of anyone I knew, but still…….

I can remember that day like it was yesterday. I remember eating breakfast with one of my best friends, Erin (we barely even knew each other at the time, having moved into our freshman year dorms only a few days earlier). The dining hall had talk radio playing over the speakers and they were talking about the WTC bombing. I remember Erin and I wondering why they were talking about something that had happened in 1993. We tuned out the radio as it became nothing more than white noise in the background.  Quickly, we finished breakfast and I went to my Women and Public Policy class.

As my classmates settled into seats in the small lecture hall, our TA, Jen, apologized for having to keep her cell phone on during class. She explained that she had flight reservations later that day, and she needed to keep up on any airport delays due to the incident in the city. That was the first that I heard about a plane crash. But everyone in class seemed fairly calm. We talked about what had happened for a few minutes, but most of us assumed it was just an errant pilot; a tragedy, but nothing too life-changing for the majority of us. So from 9:50-10:30am we continued on with our normal class schedule, discussing women in the current political system. As class ended I remember walking back to the dorm, over the Hickman Bridge, and hearing people around me say classes were canceled for the rest of the day. Yet I still really had no idea what was going on.

I walked back to my dorm on the other side of campus planning to turn on the news while I got organized for the day. Then I remembered that I didn’t even have a tv (stupid no cable in the dorms). As I walked into the building, you could sense the panic. The stress and tension in the air was palpable.   I walked up the 3 flights of stairs to my room and immediately saw that my answering machine was blinking wildly. Each message was from my mother, trying desperately to get in touch with me. I grabbed my cell phone to call her back, but by that time the lines were down.

As I kept hitting the redial button I watched my floormates pace up and down the halls. One of the girls walked past my door no less than 20 times in 2 minutes. She was trying to get ahold of her father, who worked in the Towers. Others were just trying to find their parents even if they didn’t work in the city. Unable to get through to anyone on the phone, I took my cell phone and walked back downstairs to the lounge and sat on the couch with my dormmates, staring at the images that were being flashed on every station on our TV. No one spoke.

Still dialing, I headed back upstairs to my computer, sure that I would be able to find more information on the internet. The news anchors were so unsure and so frightened. I finally got through to my mother (while reloading news sites over and over) and she was relieved to hear from me. She told me you could see the flames from the beach by our house, and that there was a huge cloud of smoke and a smell enveloping Middletown. She asked if I wanted to come home, and while I considered it,  I chose to stay.  I wanted to be with my friends, and admit that the idea of driving home was frightening.  None of us knew what was happening or what would happen.

The panic in my dorm just increased all afternoon. My friends and I sat in stunned silence watching the television coverage. At one point, military planes flew over the campus, and people ran for the basement. No one knew what would happen next. That sense of terror was something unimaginable only hours before.

We watched the news for hours on end. I IM’ed and recieved IMs from friends who were at school in the city. People I hadn’t talked to in months came to mind. I went to a tiny high school, 60 kids to a graduating class, and our network of students was reaching out to one another. We just needed to know that everyone was all right. I remember the anxiety we felt while we checked on all the Maryland people, friends who went to school near the Pentagon and Washington, DC. Eighteen years old and we were frantically searching for people just to make sure they were still there.
I will never forget signing on to our high school email network and reading the the public announcements, a forum usually reserved for messages about upcoming school dances and PTA fundraisers. The newest message was from a classmate, a few years younger than me. Her father was supposed to be on Flight 93. Reading that message, as she begged anyone reading it to look for his name on ANY list, my heart sank. This was a classmate, a high schooler. She should not have been going through this. And the tragedy began to hit home. As new lists were posted it became more and more apparent that he had probably been on the plane.  I had never met the man, but I went to school with his daughter.  This wasn’t supposed to happen to people you knew…

Only a few minutes later my mother got through to me again, telling me that my brother’s best friend’s dad was missing. That’s when I made the decision. I went home.
I stayed home. School was canceled. The next few days were filled with phone calls “Did anyone hear anything? Any word?” My mother told me how on September 11, ferries came from the city to the local harbor. Ferries that were based all over NY just packed with passengers from NYC. People who just had to get somewhere besides Manhattan. They stumbled off the boats- people covered in ash, people in shock. They were hosed down immediately by men and women in hazmat suits, for fear that they were carrying biological agents.

The papers talked about how Middletown was the town in NJ hit the hardest by the tragedy. We lost so many. So many people from my church, people I knew from middle school and high school.
Then, my worst fears were realized. A friend was put on active duty. Along with all this tragedy, I had to deal with the idea that one of my best friends could be sent into the city. At that time, it was a terrifying thought.  Would NYC be hit again? Were we safe?

Later, I learned that another friend had worked at the pier in Jersey City on September 11. Unloading and loading ferries and boats, for days at a time. But her story had a happy ending- she became engaged when she grew closer to a friend who took care of her at the time.
My brother spent days with his girlfriend and their best friend. A sophomore in high school and he was trying to hold up his friends while they learned that a parent was never coming home. I admired my brother immensely for the strength he showed in those days. He grew up more than I ever knew he could.

We all grew up.

And we will never forget.
God Bless all those lost on 9-11-01……

—————————————————–

My current students were four and eight in 2001.  September 11th is a distant memory for them, something their parents and other adults talk about.  For me, it is hard to fathom not being able to articulate exactly where I was that day, that hour, that minute.  While I am glad they have no memory of the terror our nation, especially the tri-state area, experienced that day, it still leaves me stunned.  It’s such an integral part of my life that I can’t imagine it not being a cornerstone in others’ lives.  Yet I am grateful for that blessing, too.

A Request- Looking for Stephenie Meyer/Summit Entertainment for a Last Wish

I am posting this for a friend.  She is desperately trying to get in touch with someone at Summit Entertainment who can arrange a special viewing of Breaking Dawn for a family friend who is dying.  I am hoping that someone out there can get this letter into the hands of someone who can help.  If you can help at all, please email my friend Vicky directly at dibonavl@gmail.com.

I can also give you a phone number where you can reach Vicky directly.

 

Dear Stephanie Meyer,

I am writing to plead for your help. Since I can remember, Diane has been in my life. She is best friends of both my mother and aunt, and in the recent years, has become a very loved friend of mine as well. She is a beautiful, strong, and loving woman. Diane is dying.

7 years ago, Diane was diagnosed with breast cancer. She fought it, and won. On her 5-year anniversary of being breast cancer free, she took those closest to her out for a nice lunch at a fancy restaurant, me included. The day was fantastic. She glowed with pride, accomplishment and most of all, life. A year or so later, she started having horribly, debilitating pain in her leg. Many tests later revealed the worst, another bout of cancer. This time however, the prognosis was not at all promising. Diane, the strong fighter that she is, got repeated opinions until she finally found a doctor willing to attempt to surgically remove the tumors. The surgery was successful, in that it did not kill her. But within months, the tumors came back, more vicious and angry than ever. She tried radiation, which seems only to anger the tumors more. She then tried the dreaded chemo. Diane hated chemo since she went through months of chemo to kill the breast cancer. And despite the discomfort, pain and suffering, she feared loosing her hair. But she tried chemo. This had no effect on the cancer, except to ruin her hair.

Diane is now fighting for each day. We have had many bonding moments talking about your Twilight series over the many years and this is why I need your help. Diane loves all the Twilight books. Your series has even inspired her to start writing a series of her own over the past years. But I fear she will not make it to see the Breaking Dawn movies. As it is, even if she does survive until November, she cannot sit in a movie theater to watch the movie. Her tumors have now spread to her back and are the size of apples, and growing every day. Hospice services are being arranged and she has been given weeks to a few months left to live.

Is there anyway a preview of the final movies can be shown to her? She loves watching movies and T.V. shows because for a few moments she can focus on the T.V. and ignore the pain. I and no one else have to be there, just simply Diane. If you met her, I know you would love her. I am going to try to send this letter to everywhere I can to try to get it to you, so I apologize in advance if you get this repeatedly. I know you are very busy, but if there is anything you can do, Diane is worth it and would appreciate it more than you can ever imagine.

If this is in your power to arrange, my email address is dibonavl@gmail.com.

Thank you in advance for anything and everything you can do to help me do this for Diane.

A fan but more importantly a friend, who is soon losing a better friend,

Vicky DiBona

 

Thank you to anyone who can help!

Happy Birthday to Me!

 

 

Happy Birthday to Me!

 

 

 

 

The Power of a Book

When I was in middle school, my mother used to yell at me for reading.  It sounds crazy, right?  But sometimes she was right. (I won’t agree that she was right all the time!)  In the days before cell phones and e-readers, I carried a book with me everywhere.  Ok, sometimes more than one book. :)  I am the oldest of six, so as a child I was always at someone’s basketball or soccer game.  It was a way of life.  But what middle schooler enjoys watching their siblings at practice?  Boooring. So I brought my book(s) with me.

Those books meant I was far and away from the physical place where I sat.  My mother told me I was anti-social.  And maybe she was right.  I remember her telling me that classmates walked by and said hello without any acknowledgement from me.  I was sitting there, reading my book, and had no idea they had been there.  I was in my own world.  I was in my book’s world.

Those books transported me from the loud gym, the hot soccer field, the hard bleachers, to worlds all their own.  It’s been many years since I was in middle school, but I can still list some of the books that I carried with me. (I was a big rereader).  I read the entire The Complete Anne of Green Gables series multiple times.  Instead of sitting in the cold gym, surrounded by the crashing of basketballs and the sounds of sneakers squeaking on the floor, I was sitting in a rowboat on the Lake of Shining Waters.  I was with Anne, my kindred spirit, exploring Prince Edward Island.  Those books had the power to transport me out of New Jersey and into Prince Edward Island.

I also love L.M. Montgomery’s lesser-known series, the Emily series. As a young tween, I stumbled upon two old books in my grandmother’s house.  They were published in 1925 and 1927, and the romantic in me fell in love before I realized they were written by one of my favorite authors.  I read and reread those two books over and over, for years.  They connected me to my grandmother, and to the person who had owned them before her.  Someday, I will pass them on to my own children.

Someday, those books, and those two girls- Anne and Emily- will hopefully be kindred spirits for the girls who come after me.

Someday, another young girl will find the two books in the picture. Maybe on an old bookshelf, or in a closet.  Maybe in a trunk, or an attic.

And some other young reader will know the power of a book to transport one to another world.  The power of a book.

 

 

 

Check out today’s hosts:  Carol at Rasco from RIF and Donalyn Miller, the Book Whisperer!

E-readers in Their Bookbags (and Purses, and Gym Bags, and Lockers)

Over the past two years, I have seen more of my students carrying e-readers, so the most recent NYTimes article  “E-Readers Catch Younger Eyes and Go in Backpacks” did not surprise me.  Last year, as a sixth grade teacher, I had 1-2 students in each class who asked permission to use their e-readers during independent reading (Kindles and Nooks).  They always caused a buzz the first time they came in, with other students (and even teachers!) crowding around, oohing and ahhing.  After that, they were just another format in the classroom.

This year in high school, I started the year with about 6% of my class using e-readers (mostly Kindles).  After Christmas vacation, I had an even larger percentage using Kindles, iPads, and Nooks.  I think I am up to around 10-12% of my class using e-readers.  I do notice more of my students reading the classics offered for free download, but that could also be a result of my 40 Book Reading Challenge, which requires that they read 3 canon classics.  However, the e-readers make it easier for my students to access the classics.  And this might be crazy, but I also think my students download the classics because a lot of them lack covers or consist of solid color covers.  There is not “judging a book by its cover” because it doesn’t really have one.  Thus, they go into the book without any preconceived notions about it being boring.  Not for nothing, but so many of the classics have atrocious covers that do not attract modern teen readers.  E-readers take that out of the equation!

I am also seeing them read new books, downloading recommendations from friends and books that I booktalk in class.  They also pass the e-readers around, letting friends borrow them to read books.

I’m still a holdout.  I use my iPad to carry books on vacation, but otherwise I stick to paper copies.  I can’t put e-copies in my classroom library.  :)  However, I am a fan of anything that gets kids reading, so keep buying your kids those e-readers!  And publishers, make your newest YA and middle grade titles available as e-books.  If you sell it, they will buy it!

 

Busy as a Bee!

I probably won’t be around a lot this week.  Why, you ask?  Well, this coming Sunday I am getting married!  Needless to say, planning has cut into my reading and blogging time. ;)  However, I will try to post a few reviews this week, along with a giveaway!

Back in Action….For Real!

Apologies for the extended blog break.  While I figured I would be posting only sporadically in June due to the typical “end of the year” cleanup, it intensified beyond my preparations.  But school ended this week, I ran around like a nut finishing up some other plans, and now I finally have settled into “summer”.  This week I am diving into my summer reading, diving back into blogging, and getting ready for next year!

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