Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Excitement of Using Middle Grade Novels in the Classroom

Next month I will present once again at the Illinois Reading Council Conference.  The conference is held from March 13-15.  It is always a stellar coming together of teachers, editors, authors and others interested in the reading welfare of children  I am honored to have been part of it for the past four years.

My presentation this year is titled:  Using Middle Grade Books in the Classroom:  A Bridge to Growth, Self-Awareness, and Maturity.

This has been a fun presentation to do, along with my power point.  I have defined middle school kids for this post with some authority, as I taught them for some ten years.

The first bridge I use is Growth.  In what ways do middle grade students grow?  Here are a few examples:

A beginning of the end of childhood
A stronger sense of self
Early romantic fantasies for girls and boys
Kids moving in packs defined by gender
Bullying and being bullied for some boys  (Girls, too.)

Using trade novels to address this partial list of events in a middle schooler's life, is an exceptional aid for teachers of this special and magical time of childhood.

As Stanley Milgrim observed:

Crossing over the line from childhood to adolescence is difficult because the line is not clear and there are inherent risks involved.  It is an emotional leap as well as a physical one, and maintaining a balanced sense of self becomes increasingly difficult.

It is a pleasure to work with teachers of middle school kids at the conference.  It is my hope they will enjoy and profit from my presentation.             

Friday, February 21, 2014

New Program in the US Aids Teaching Love of Reading to Arab Kindergarten Children

A new national program, Maktabat al-Fanoos (“Lantern Library”), encourages pre-school children in Arab communities to read.

A Kg teacher near Hadera reads
Sumsum the Mouse’ in Baka al-Gharbiya, 

The program, geared towards three- to five-year-olds, aims to instill a love of reading from an early age and provide children the opportunity to enjoy reading books together with their teachers and parents.

During the school year, more than 45,000 children in 1,750 kindergartens will receive four children’s books each, one per month, as a gift to bring home and read with their families. The Education Ministry is running the program in collaboration with the Massachusetts-based Harold Grinspoon Foundation and the California-based Price Family Charitable Fund. According to Israeli Education Minister Shai Piron:

I am proud that as of today, Arab society in Israel can also enjoy the highest quality program to encourage children to read, and instill in them a love of books, which is key to future success in school.

Teachers will engage their students in fun and educational activities surrounding the books’ stories, and after exploring the books in school, children will receive copies for their home libraries. The last pages of each book will include suggestions to parents for joint activities and discussions.

“In the Arabic sector there are a lot of homes that don’t have books, and through this program, children will receive different books so that over a period of two to three years, from pre-school and through kindergarten, they can build a nice collection,” Vromen said.

The first book the children will receive, Sumsum (“Sesame”) the Mouse, tells the story of a field mouse who tends to daydream while the other mice work and gather food for the winter. When the cold finally arrives and Sumsum’s friends are bored and unhappy, the little mouse shares his colorful stories and lifts their spirits of his friends. The book allows teachers and parents to stimulate a discussion on the different kinds of personal contributions toward a joint effort.

This year the program will encompass all kindergartens and special education state schools in the Arab, Beduin and Druse communities as well as some pre-schools. Teachers will receive suggestions for creative activities surrounding the book, including integrating the stories into games, movements, discussions and artworks.

A committee of experts on education and children’s literature selected the four books. Each deals with topics closely related to the world of children and aims to stimulate discussions on universal values and to enhance the readers’ Arabic vocabulary.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Before They Were Famous: The Strangest Jobs of Six Literary Luminaries

Everybody has to make a living, even writers.  Here are some interesting jobs by famous authors before they became famous.  I am convinced, though, that each of these people gained insight about the human condition while fulfilling their jobs. 

Kurt Vonnegut managed America’s first Saab dealership in Cape Cod during the late 1950s, a job he joked about in a 2004 essay: “I now believe my failure as a dealer so long ago explains what would otherwise remain a deep mystery: Why the Swedes have never given me a Nobel Prize for Literature.”
 John Steinbeck took on a range of odd occupations before 
earning enough to work as a full-time writer. Among his day jobs: apprentice painter, fruit picker, estate caretaker and Madison Square Garden construction worker.
 Stephen King served as a janitor for a high school while struggling to get his fiction published. His time wheeling the cart through the halls inspired him to write the opening girls’ locker room scene in Carrie, which would become his breakout novel.
 Harper Lee worked as a reservation clerk for Eastern Air Lines for more than eight years, writing stories in her spare time. This all changed when a friend offered her a Christmas gift of one year’s wages, with the note, “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please.” She wrote the first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird within the year.
 Before his writing career took off, William Faulkner also worked for the Postal Service, as postmaster at the University of Mississippi. In his resignation note, he neatly summarized the struggle of art and commerce faced by many authors: “As long as I live under the capitalist system I expect to have my life influenced by the demands of moneyed people. But I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp. This, sir, is my resignation.”
 T.S. Eliot worked as a banker, serving as a clerk for Lloyds Bank of London for eight years. The job must have been a bummer—he composed passages of The Waste Land while walking to work each da Sometimes, an odd job can actually lead to opportunity. Poet Vachel Lindsay was interrupted as he dined at a hotel restaurant in Washington, D.C., by a busboy who handed him some sheets of poetry. At first irritated by the young man, Lindsay was quickly impressed by the writing. When he asked, “Who wrote this?” the busboy replied, “I did.” Langston Hughes was about to get his big break

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Lonely Planet Launches New World Search Children's Series

Lonely Planet, the world’s leading travel authority, has published three brand new and highly visual books for children to inspire curiosity about exploring the world. Lonely Planet’s World Search series contains hands-on books for little adventurers aged 3 and up: World Search: Amazing Jobs, World Search: Incredible Animals and World Search: Busy Places.

With Lonely Planet’s World Search series, kids can travel the world in search of the weird, wonderful and sometimes plain silly things that happen all over the globe. From animals and cities to the cool jobs people do, there’s plenty for them to look for and find. They can hunt amazing treasure and spot some awesome objects all over the world without ever leaving home.

These fun titles contain over 50 sturdy, easy-to-lift flaps so that kids can see what’s happening inside the amazing landscapes. With lots of detailed drawings to keep young ones engrossed, World Search is perfect for airplanes, road trips or quiet time at home.
World Search: Amazing Jobs
World Search: Amazing Jobs takes kids in- search of the most amazing jobs in the world, including being a stuntman on a Bollywood film set, a park ranger in Yellowstone National Park and a Royal Flying Doctor in the Australian Outback.

World Search: Incredible Animals shows incredible animals in their habitats around the world, including Antarctica (polar), Red Sea (coral reef), Serengeti (grasslands) and the Indian jungle (rainforest).

Not For Parents: World Search - Busy PlacesWorld Search: Busy Places is a tour through some of the busiest places in the world, including Rio’s Copacabana beach, New York City, London’s Heathrow Airport and Paris streets in search of hidden items.

About the Books:
World Search: Amazing Jobs
Published by Lonely Planet
ISBN: 9781743219201
16 pages, $14.99, full color, 11”x8.5”, board
February 2014
World Search: Incredible Animals
Published by Lonely Planet
ISBN: 9781743219225
16 pages, $14.99, full color, 11”x8.5”, board
February 2014
                                         World Search: Busy Places
                                         Published by Lonely Planet
                                         ISBN: 9781743219188
                                         16 pages, $14.99, full color, 11”x8.5”, board
                                         February 2014

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Lovely Offering of Books from Guardian Angel Publishing

Happy New Year from the GAP family! 
This month’s theme is Weather Wonders. GAK, our very own Angel Gecko has a special feature in this month’s issue titled, “Tsunami Fog on the Beach.” Don’t miss it.
Robert Niven provides this month’s poem, “A Sudden Storm,” and short stories come to you from Arthur Carey, Carol Thompson, and Irene S. Roth.
We have two weather-related non-fiction articles this month, and as a special treat, our Editor-in-Chief, Mary Sue Roberts, provides this month’s Parent Teacher Article, “Down on the Windmill Farm.” This article includes a neat paper windmill activity.
To read this month’s issue, please visit us online at http://www.guardian-angel-kids.com/ You’ll also be able to access all our past e-Zine issues there.
And below are three more you may enjoy this month.  Do notice that there are two offerings about Australia, each from a different author.

Monday, February 3, 2014

What in the World do You Authors Do All Day?

I am asked this question more times that one could imagine.  For those of us who write full-time, the answer is simple and complex:  We work all day long!

My day has become, by fiat really, divided into three segments.  The first begins about 6:15 in the morning. Still dark.  House quiet.  Coffee brewing.  Puppy ready to jump into my lap for a hard day’s writing.

My attention turns to housekeeping issues.  Emails from two accounts, facebook, Twitter, Google Circles and my blog. Several years ago, none of this existed for me but email.  Today social networking has big teeth and is crucial to an author’s professional life.  If I’m lucky and efficient, all this can be finished by around 8 AM—unless it’s a gym day, when things get pushed back by an hour.

The second segment of time focuses on actual writing.  I am best at “being an author” if I've warmed up with other tasks but am not too tired.  This is when being in the flow occurs.  When nothing is in my mind but the story at hand.  When I am squarely in my protagonist’s (or antagonist’s) head.  When nothing else matters but moving the story from here to there.  What a good time of day it is when the magic works.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  Mercifully, most of the time it does.

The third part of my professional day is decidedly not my favorite, and sometimes I skip it.  That would be marketing.  There was a time not long ago when authors didn’t have to do such things.  Not anymore!  Today one must talk with bookstores, visit schools (which actually I love), do signings at various locales (fun, too, come to think of it).  Hmm.  Maybe I dislike the idea more than doing it…

The evenings will find me with my laptop in front of the TV, which I usually zone out.  It’s then that I’ll be sure my next blog is ready to post later that evening, my calendar is up to date and coffee’s ready to brew.  Everything at the ready for 6:15, quiet, coffee, puppy…You get the drift.

I can be brought out of the flow at:

Web Site:  http://www.nancystewartbooks.com 
Blog Site:  
 https://twitter.com/#!/stewartnancy                                                                                          Facebook: