6 Things to know about Children’s Lit

I have always loved reading children’s books so taking an entire semester to read them and explore them a little more in depth was a lot of fun for me. During this course I discovered 6 things that everyone should know about children’s literature:

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  1. Children’s literature is not just for children –more often than not kids books teach a lesson or moral that is relevant for everyone. It’s amazing how reading a simple story about sharing and being kind can be a reminder for even us adults.
  2. Children’s literature is a cat lover’s paradise –so. many. books. about. cats.!!!
  3. Reading to children is extremely important- reading to our children is the first step in facilitating their lives as readers themselves. Even reading to middle schoolers and high schoolers is beneficial to their reading levels and comprehension of the literature.
  4. The Children’s literature community is awesome- the online community for children’s lit is such an inviting and fun place to hang out. Yes, serious topics about literature do get discussed, but it’s a lot less controversial and confrontational than some other lit discussions… YA lit…
  5. Reading children’s literature can transform you as a reader- some of us fall out love love with reading or some of us have never been in love with reading in the first place (crazies as I call them). Nevertheless, reading children’s books is a great way to get (back) into reading again!
  6. Children’s literature book awards are valid- these books are winners for a reason and I think that it is with while to read them all.
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#IMWAYR 11/23/15

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Okay, last week I was just in a random reading mood- I did not read for four hours in dedication to the Children’s Literary Awards, but I did read A LOT.

Believe it or not a lot of the picture books I picked from the shelves last week featured cats… weird (not). So, I decided I would pick a few of my favorites to share today!

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This book by Karla Kuskin disappointed me, but only because the Upstairs Cat and the Downstairs Cat never became friends! The illustrations by Howard Fine are beautiful oil paintings. Both artists did an amazing job at depicting a kitty confrontation.

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I loved this story about a cat and the unique relationship it has with its owner. The cat is lost and missed dearly by its owner, but when the man at the cafe shop finds the cat, he isn’t as charmed with the cat’s “bad” habits.

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At first this story caused my palms to sweat- what was the man in the van going to do?! But it all worked out for everyone in the end! This is the second book that Sarah Hayes has both written and illustrated and I think she did a great job! Very colorful and detailed.

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This book was created by a husband and wife from Maine to demonstrate a lesson about lending a helping hand and also to express a wacky love for cats (I can only assume). The watercolor art work really amplifies the kooky story of  Nana Quimby and her concern for the accumulating number of cats in her tree.

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And my favorite book from this week… dare I say from this entire semester of reading?!  Yes! This book is all about cats- history, mannerisms, and essential advice from an expert older cat to his younger cohorts. This book reminded me of the Purina commercials “Dear Kitten.” If you haven’t seen them, they are hilarious- even if you aren’t a cat lover.

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I’ve always really enjoyed watching authors give book talks or interviews via Youtube so to witness a session like this “in-person” through Skype would be awesome!

After reading Kate Messner’s “The Skyping Renaissance,” I was really captivated by the LitWorld’s World Read Aloud Day (WRAD), a Skype event that promotes reading aloud and highlights the importance of sharing stories. I don’t know why I was surprised that Skype was another outlet for such a great Lit community, but I was! Pleasantly surprised!

Now that the Skype technology has evolved I don’t really see any problems with using it in the classroom as long as the students are accustomed to seeing themselves on the screen as well and aren’t easily distracted.

It’s hard to narrow down to one author I would like to Skype with, but for the sake of this post I would have to chose Jon Klassen. I have really enjoyed looking at his picture books this year, and though he is better known as an illustrator, I would still love to have some one-on-one interaction with him and just get to know him more.

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It’s Monday! What are you reading?! #imwayr 11-9-15

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Last week, I continued with my reading challenge and read the Theodor Seuss Geisel award winners and honor books.

The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award is given annually to the 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.   The winner(s), recognized for their literary and artistic achievements that demonstrate creativity and imagination to engage children in reading, receives a bronze medal.  Honor Book authors and illustrators receive certificates, which are presented at the ALA Annual Conference.  The award was established in 2004 and first presented in 2006.

The award is named for the world-renowned children’s author, Theodor Geisel. “A person’s a person no matter how small,” Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, would say. “Children want the same things we want: to laugh, to be challenged, to be entertained and delighted.” Brilliant, playful, and always respectful of children, Dr. Seuss charmed his way into the consciousness of four generations of youngsters and parents. In the process, he helped them to read.

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I always enjoy Jon Klassen’s stories and artwork because it is exactly what I want to emulate in my own work- simple, clean, clever, and silly.

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This book is an easy read that would be great for a child read aloud to his/her parent or even for their classmates during reading circle time.

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This would be a fun read aloud… as long as no one is too embarrassed to “chomp! slurp! chomp!  buuuuuurrrrrrppp!”

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A great book for new readers, Pearl and Wagner: One Funny Day is a level 3 Transitional Reader book in the Penguin Young Readers collection. It includes more dialogue and vocabulary , different points of view, and a more complex storyline.

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And my favorite book of the week featured a CAT named PETE who says “GROOVY!” Need I say more? Besides the obvious, this book was my favorite because it teachers a lesson of staying positive and optimistic which is a virtue for everyone -young and old.

Diversity in Kid Lit- It’s not just about color.

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As I was reading the CBC Diversity article “Here I am” by Brian Pinkney I couldn’t help but think about my reluctance to read “boy” books when I was younger. I only wanted to read books with girl protagonists or mostly female characters at least. I didn’t think that I would find boy adventures interesting or a boy’s perspective relevant, but I’m sure you can imagine how many awesome books I was missing out on because my prejudice.

Diversity isn’t only an issue about color. It’s about sex, culture, disabilities, class, and even religion. Kid lit is the perfect place to start exposing children to lifestyles that differ from their own. It is the responsibility of librarians, teachers, and parents to employ diversity into the books that they buy and read to children. I think that Pinkney’s tips are a great way to get kids interested in different kinds of books than they are comfortable with:

  1. Cover Conversations: Before even opening a book, engage a child in a discussion about its cover by saying, “Wow, look at that boy on the front. He’s got drumsticks in his hand. What do you think this story is about?” And then inviting the reader open the book to find out more.
  2. Make it Personal: Ask a kid, “What are some of the things in this story that are similar to your own life, family, school, dreams, plans, etc.?
  3. Teachers Teach:  Insist that your child’s teacher or school librarian always, under all circumstances, include books during story times and in classroom libraries that include people of color. Most folks are well-intentioned, but sometimes forget.
  4. Sail Away: Let a book’s story drive a child’s interest, rather than the color of its characters. Invite kids to create their own adventures based on the book’s themes.

It’s Monday! What are you reading?! 11/02/15 #imwayr

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This week’s reading was dedicated to the Coretta Scott King Award:

The Coretta Scott King Book Awards are given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.  The award commemorates the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honors his wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.

Here are a few:

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This first book was adapted from a West African Folktale in which the black sheep of the family dreams of becoming a musician and therefore his family has to ban him from their village because music can’t help any of the villagers in a traditional sense. Once Banzar is out on his own he meets an old mentor named Sholo who teaches him that it is their job to tell the history of the African people so that they can have a better future. In the end Banzar returns to his village to show them how successful he has become and the importance of music.

“Yams fill the belly and trade fills the pockets, but music fills the heart.”

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The Great Migration  is a poetic narrative about the courage of those who were suppressed by segregation in the South to make a change and move North. These beautiful stories are accompanied by a collage style artwork in bold colors that really reflects the many families coming together in a journey of bravery to make a better life for themselves.

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This book was true, and by true I mean real. No matter why this boy’s father is absent, whether he chose to leave or he is incarcerated (which is what I believe to be the case) this is a great story to explain any parents dream for their child to succeed, whether they had any dreams for themselves or not.

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Pinkney’s art work in this book is just beautiful and accompanied by Aston’s prose this book will bring tears to your eyes. Mae’s grandfather believes in his granddaughter and her dreams to one day be an astronaut just like Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. A great way to bring a little bit of history into children’s reading.

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Two-time Coretta Scott King Award winner Ashley Bryan praises three favorite spirituals: “This Little Light of Mine,” “Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In,” and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” The fun illustrations of brilliant colors along with the the songs real make reading this book aloud a lot of fun. 

It’s Monday! What are you reading? #imwyr 10-12-15

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For week two of my award winning and honor books challenge,  I decided to focus on The Pura Belpré award.

The award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.

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I really appreciated how this book compared life for a young Latin American boy in a U.S. city and in Mexico -neither is better than the other or worse than the other, just different. Family is always an important subject in Latino culture and that was definitely featured in this book as well. I also found it interesting the way that Duncan Tonatiuh used real images and patterns pasted into his illustrations for a collage-feel.

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This book employs a little imagination to tell about a symbol of Latina culture. A rebozo is a traditional Mexican woven shawl with many uses – both practical and fantastical.

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First Day in Grapes describes a common life for a young boy in Latin American culture in which the family moves around depending on the harvesting season. Being the new kid is hard, especially if you don’t speak the same language or share the same culture, but Chico has a special talent that he uses to gain confidence as the new kid and to make third grade his best year yet.

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This was one of the cutest folktales I have ever read. This story is well known in Cuban culture (much like Little Red Riding Hood is to us) and teaches the lesson that your beauty is not what truly matters, but how one handles your flaws -such as spilling hot coffee on your shoes.

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This was my favorite book in this category because it gives a great account of Pura Belpré and some what she did for Latin American youth and literature. This story emphasizes a sense of belonging and community. I also liked how the story was translated in both spanish and english on each page so everyone can read the book together and understand the effect that Pura Belpré and others like her had on all of our lives.