Monday, April 6, 2015

Celebrate National Library Week with Your Favorite Book

National Library Week is April 12-18.  There are so many wonderful books to read.  Check out a book from our school library and/or visit your local public library to find something classic or the latest best sellers.

As I write this I am nearly finished reading the graphic biography El Deafo, by Cece Bell.  This is the author's own story of losing her hearing at age 4 due to meningitis.  It is heartbreaking, humorous, and inspiring all at the same time.  And it is the best example I have seen of blending narrative with graphics.  It's pretty powerful to see speech bubbles that are blank, because Cece cannot hear anything without a powerful hearing aid.  This is one of the books that has been selected for next year's DCF list.

Reading El Deafo also made me think back to Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, the
ficitonal story of a boy born with extreme facial differences and hearing impairment.

There are many other wonderful books about overcoming challenges -- here's a quick list:

Anything But Typical, by Nora Raleigh Baskin.  The story of a 12-year-old autistic boy who wants to become a writer.

Finding Ben: a Mother's Journey through the Maze of Asperger's, by Barbara LaSalle

Granny Torrelli Makes Soup, by Sharon Creech

I Funny, by James Patterson. The story of a boy in a wheelchair who aspires to be a "stand up" comic.

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, by Jack Gantos. First in the series of books about Joey, a boy with ADHD.

One-Handed Catch, by Mary Jane Auch. Based partly on the experiences of the author's husband, who lost a hand as a young boy.  Humorous and inspiring, with many strong characters (especially the boy's mother who is unforgettable).

Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper. A brilliant 5th grader with cerebral palsy is thought to be retarded because she cannot speak.  She eventually finds a device that helps her to communicate all she wants to say.

Rules, by Cynthia Lord. A 12-year-old girl tries to help her autistic brother by making up rules for him to follow.

Small Steps: the Year I Got Polio, by Peg Kehret. The author's true story of her difficult but inspiring recovery from polio.  This was a DCF Book Award winner.

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World, by Temple Grandin

Friday, November 7, 2014

Eyes on: Counting by 7's, by Holly Goldberg Sloan

This is the remarkable story of a girl named Willow, a 12-year-old genius who has the ability to quickly learn foreign languages (including Vietnamese), and also has a special talent for growing plants of all kinds.  One day Willow's life changes suddenly when both of her parents are killed in a car crash (this happens right at the beginning of the book, so I am not giving away anything).  Willow suddenly finds herself living in a completely different situation, with people that she barely knows.

Holly Goldberg Sloan creates an interesting mix of believable characters.  If you read this book, you will feel that you have gotten to know each of the characters personally.  I am hoping that there might be a sequel someday, so that I could find out what happened to each of the people in this book.

You can find out more about Holly Goldberg Sloan by visiting her website:

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Caldecott Award Given to Brian Floca

Last week at the Midwinter Meeting of the American Library Association, author/illustrator Brian Floca was awarded the Caldecott Medal for his book Locomotive.  I was very fortunate to meet this author at Vermont's Red Clover conference a couple of years ago.  At that time, he spoke about his work on Race Car Alphabet and other books.  He said that he feels very strongly that even with all or our electronic devices, nothing will replace the picture book.  Locomotive is a great example of why he is most likely right about this.   The large format is meant for sharing, and upon opening the book the pictures pull the reader into a time when the transcontinental railroad was just becoming a reality.  The Caldecott Award is given for the best illustrations in a children's book, but this book is also an example of outstanding writing. Read this book and you will feel as though you were there when it first became possible to travel across the United States by rail.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The World's Most Beautiful Libraries

Recently when a friend sent me a link to the 28 Most Beautiful Libraries, I immediately thought of The Library of Congress, which is by far the most beautiful library that I have visited.  But, the LOC did not even make the list.  There are some incredibly beautiful libraries all over the world.  This site also includes quotations about libraries from famous people.  I hope you enjoy looking at this as much as I did.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Promoting Financial Literacy through Reading is an Investment

For the third straight year, the Ottauquechee School is participating in Vermont’s financial literacy program, Reading is an Investment. This program is coordinated by the Vermont State Treasurer’s Office, and our school library receives 3 new “money books” each year that we continue with this program. There are many wonderful books on the list, all with lessons to teach about saving and managing money. One of this year’s favorites is Betty Bunny Wants Everything, a story about a little bunny who fills her shopping cart with toys even though her mother has said “just one.”

For the complete list of Reading is an Investment books, go to: 
Students must read at least three of the money books to start a reading log, then continue with
additional reading until they complete their chart.  All of our completed logs will be sent in
before the March 15 deadline. From all of the statewide entries, the Treasurer’s Office will then draw 20 names, and those students will each win a $250 college savings account.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Finding a "Just Right" Book

One of our first graders is eagerly awaiting the day when her name comes to the top of the waiting list for Purplicious.  This book recently joined Pinkalicious and Goldilicious as very popular items in our picture book collection.

The students in our school are enthusiastic readers.  They are learning to read, and they are also learning how to select books.  There are many things to consider in choosing just the right book.

Reading Level:  Our school uses the Fountas & Pinell reading test, so it is possible to use those levels to match students with books that they will be able to read independently.  F&P has a website for looking up books by title and finding out the level, so I find that handy if I am wondering whether a book might be on a suitable level for a certain student.

Five Finger Rule:  There are thousands of books in our school library, and many of them do not have reading levels easily available.  There are many other situations (other libraries, book stores, etc.) where children choose books without knowing what level the book is. To make matters more confusing, many publishers assign their own leveling system (e.g. Step into Reading - Step 1, 2, 3 or 4).  Without knowing a specific level, students can easily check the degree of difficulty of a book by using the Five Finger Rule:  Read a page of the book, and hold up one finger for every tricky word.  Just one finger? The book may be too easy.  Two or three fingers? The book may be just right.  Four or five fingers? The book may be a bit of a struggle.

Length of the Book: Check the number of chapters.  Check the number of pages.  I tell students to figure out how long it would take them to finish the book if they read 1 chapter per day, or 10 pages per day.  Using some of their math skills, they can figure out how long it would take to finish the book.

Interests:  When students find books that are interesting to them, they are much more excited about reading and engaged with what they read.  I see many happy faces when students choose books that they are excited to read, and many happy and proud faces when the book is returned having been read from cover to cover.  Students then tell their friends about the books, and the word spreads so that many books become popular and have waiting lists.  When new books arrive, I know that books by certain authors, in popular series or popular formats (e.g. graphic novels) will be checked out of the library as soon as they hit the New Book table.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Kids' Turn to Talk: Fourth Graders Tell About Their Favorite Books
Our Fourth Grade students have been thinking about their favorite books.  They were asked to write a few sentences using this format:  Reaction (how did the book make you feel?), Detail (tell one thing that happened in the book), and Recommendation (who else might enjoy this book?)  Here's a sampling of what the students had to say:

Holly: The book Princess Academy by Shannon Hale made me want to own it myself.  In the book, girls who know nothing about academics might be a future princess, but bandits come and only Miri can save them!  This is a book for someone who likes thrilling adventures and romance.

Geogia:  Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan impacted my life by making me realize how lucky I am.  Koly (main character), like many girls in India, will leave home forever when she gets married.  I recommend this book to girls who like a touching story.

Sebastian:  The book Chomp by Carl Hiaasen made me unable to put it down.  It's about a boy named Wahoo, his father named Mickey, and others who get offered a job from a celebrity.  I'd recommend this book to adventure lovers. (Note:  Chomp is on 2013-2014 DCF Reading List).

Megan:   The book Bluestar's Prophecy by Erin Hunter will wow you.  It's about a cat that is blessed with a prophecy about fire that can only be destroyed by water.  I recommend this book to someone who likes cats and a little bit of mystery.