Students Connect…Thanks to Good Books!

You’ve all been where I was this morning: caught underprepared (read that “woefully unprepared”) for my day’s classes! The days have been filled with TAKS testing, crazy schedules, and meeting upon meeting, library fund raising, blah, blah…and I had simply not prepared sufficiently for my big kids! Twitter network to the rescue! Before school, I saw a tweet about Betsy Bird’s 100 Best Children’s Books, and the Animoto video that Maggi Idzikowski prepared to go along with it. They saved my day!! What a great basis for a sort of wrap up session with our soon-to-graduate 5th graders!

I started off with the video, first relating to them something that a professor and mentor of mine, Dr. Ruth Cox Clark, used to tell us: everyone should read Charlotte’s Web once every ten years. As with most good literature, you will get something entirely new from it each time you read it! As they watched the books of their childhood flash across the screen, they exclaimed over and over again, “Oh! That was a good one!” or “I LOVED that one! Remember when Mrs. S read that to us?” All of the classes–even the ones peopled with some of our harder-to-engage students–had great discussions about the books they remembered and who they read them with! It was a great exemplar of the power of literature!

Since our last checkout is coming up soon, I challenged them all to try a book from the list that they have never read before. The books just about flew off the shelves! Hopefully many of them will be read, too! :/ All the classes certainly spent time reading and talking about their books and memories before they left–and without my directing it! It was a nice thing!

Before they went back to class, students entered the name of a children’s book that they’d enjoyed & that they thought every student should read before leaving our school. Then I used Tagxedo to make this word cloud for our web site!

I’m thankful for my Twitter network! I’m going to stop blogging and tweeting now though, and prepare for my next couple of weeks’ classes! I promise! ….is it summer yet?

Biblioburro an Inspiration

Thanks to a colleague, I found this wonderful story from CNN’s Heroes series. It fits so perfectly with one of our Bluebonnet Nominee books for 2010-2011, That Book Woman by Heather Henson & David Small! This story is current & contemporary though, and will bring this story full circle to our kids.

Luis Soriano is a teacher and evangelist for education and the power of literacy for children and adults in rural Columbia. Twice a week, he saddles his 2 burros, Alpha and Beto (LOL), and carries 120 children’s books, to the far reaches of his region–a journey of up to 8 hours a trip! Not only does he deliver books for these young minds to devour, but he teaches lessons he’s prepared, and supports the adults in these families as some of them learn to read as well.

What a mission, and what a man! Thanks CNN for bringing his story, his integrity and his passion for the power of literacy to us all!

From the CNN web site:
Want to get involved? E-mail Luis Soriano at eldoctosoriano@hotmail.com

Favorite Picture Books

I discovered a new school librarian blog today through a new Twitter contact! The blog’s called Top Shelf, and it had some interesting posts! Check it out!

One of her recent posts listed her Top 10 Favorite Picture Books, and that’s a meme that I just couldn’t pass up! Here are mine! My favorites today, that is. I’d probably give some different answers on another day..


Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
I remember checking this book out just about every week of 1st grade! I loved it sooo much that I even bought a lithograph of one of the illustrations a few years ago. It is a seminal piece of children’s literature, and the quintessential picture book, IMO.


Animalia by Graeme Base
I loved this intricate picture book so much the first time that I saw it, that I bought a poster set and hung it up in my middle school MATH classroom! The kids were captivated by the illustrations! I may have been a librarian even then, and I didn’t know it!


My Big Dog by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel
I just LOVE Merle the cat! This is a sweet story of home and belonging, and acceptance! I think this team (Stevens and Crummel) is one of the treasures of today’s children’s literature–any of their picture books could have made my list. I love My Big Dog the most though!


Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude by Kevin O’Malley
My students absolutely love this silly picture book told in 2, very distinct, voices! Kevin O’Malley visited our school last year, and I don’t think any of us will forget it soon! What a character he is! Even before his visit, I couldn’t keep our multiple copies of this book on the shelf! It’s a hit with teachers, boys, girls, primary-aged and intermediate kids! Check it out if you haven’t already!


The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith
What kids don’t love this silly collection of fractured fairy tales! It’s a perennial favorite in our library!


Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport & Bryan Collier
Not every single book on my favorites list is a silly one! Martin’s Big Words is such an affecting work, and I see something different in it every time I share it with students. Wow! This is what makes children’s literature exciting and amazing!


Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore! by David McPhail
This picture book just makes me laugh to think about it. That Elvis pig is just a hoot! McPhail’s use of a black background just makes the story come alive. I love this one!


My Dinosaur by Mark Alan Weatherby
I love this quiet story of imagination! I love that the main character, who love-love-loves her dinosaur friend, is a girl and not a boy. I love the soft illustrations and the small details that keep kids interested. Notice the wallpaper in the girl’s room, the dinosaur’s eye peeking in the window, his shadow falling across her lawn! I also love that my students applaud when we finish reading this sweet tale. Lovely.


Click Clack, Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin
Cows that type are just plain enjoyable!


The Rainbow Goblins by Ul De Rico
Maybe slightly heavy-handed, as far as the storyline goes, but I have such sweet memories of reading this book over and over to my nephew when he was small! He reads it to his daughters now…The illustrations are stunning and unique.

What are your top 10 picture books?
Tag them with top10picturebooks! It’ll be interesting to see people’s picks!


Bluebonnet Reading…

As I do most summers, I’ve spent a bit of time reading next year’s Bluebonnet nominees and so far, I’ve not found what I think is a clear favorite. I’ve found some that I really don’t love and some that I can’t fathom why they’ve been included on the list. So far, one of my favorites (because I’m a geeky teacher at heart) is Douglas Florian’s poetry collection, Comets, Stars, the Moon and Mars: Space Poems and Paintings.

I’ve loved his past work and so do so many of my students. His poetry is accessible to even the most stalwart of non-poetry-reading boys, and I love it that he is also an artist. This collection fits perfectly into the curriculum, has intriguing artwork, humor and information all at once. Pluto is even treated scientifically correctly! That being said, I know that some kids will like this a lot, but it will be mostly teachers that love it and find curricular uses for it. I wonder…Two more nominees that I loved reading (with minor questions) are Cherise Harper’s Just Grace and MJ Auch’s One-Handed Catch. LOVED them both for read-alouds. Just Grace will be accessible to many of my 3rd graders, where most of the books on this list this year may be a tad too challenging for them. I wished at the end of that book that Harper had found some way to resolve her plot without having the 2 children lie to their neighbor and get away with it. I had to groan a tiny bit on that note. To persnickety of me? Am I turning into a pinched librarian? One-Handed Catch is just wonderful–and it made me want to look into having Mary Jane and Herm Auch for an author visit! This fictional account, loosely based upon a year in Herm’s childhood, is funny and touching and just has so many good jumping off places for class discussion/writing. I’d love to read this to a class. I wish Auch had left the part out about Santa not being real though…even 5th graders still want to believe! Dang! Loved, loved LOVED it though!

Great Book for Descriptive Language Lesson!

Each year at this time, my 4th grade teachers really start to hit writing skills hard with their students. In TX, 4th graders are tested on writing for the first time, so this is a major priority in the 4th grade curriculum.

Toad, by British author Ruth Brown is really wonderful piece of descriptive writing! It’s a very simple and short story, so it’s easy to fit into the short time frame that I have to work with as classes visit the library. I use Toad each year with my students–it’s accessible to them (nice, “gooey” descriptors that the boys really get into!) and the illustrations allow me to slip in a little art appreciation on the side! The elementary art curriculum in TX is all but nonexistent–in practice, anyway–so this book affords me a great opportunity!
Thanks Ruth Brown, for your wonderful work!!

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