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A Girl, a Racoon, and the Midnight Moon
Author: Karen Romano Young
Illustrator: Jessixa Bagley
Published: January 7th, 2020 by Chronicle Books

Summary: In a slightly fantastical New York City, one very special library branch has been designated for possible closure. Bookish, socially awkward Pearl, the daughter of the librarian, can’t imagine a world without the library—its books, its community of oddballs, its hominess. When the head of their Edna St. Vincent Millay statue goes missing, closure is closer than ever. But Pearl is determined to save the library. And with a ragtag neighborhood library crew—including a constantly tap-dancing girl who might just be her first friend, an older boy she has a crush on, and a pack of raccoons who can read and write—she just might be able to.

With an eclectic cast of richly drawn characters, a hint of just-around-the-corner magic, footnotes, sidebars, and Jessixa Bagley’s classic illustrations throughout, this warm-hearted, visually magnificent tale of reading and believing from beloved author Karen Romano Young tells of a world where what you want to believe can come true.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the official educators’ guide for A Girl, a Racoon, and the Midnight Moon (created by me!):

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about A Girl, a Raccoon, and the Midnight Moon here.

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AstroNuts Mission Two: The Water Planet
Author: Jon Scieszka
Illustrator: Steven Weinberg
Published: August 25th, 2020 by Chronicle Books

Summary: AstroNuts Mission Two: The Water Planet is the second book in the laugh-out-loud series by children’s literature legend Jon Scieszka.

The book follows a new mission, where AstroWolf, LaserShark, SmartHawk, and StinkBug must find a planet fit for human life after we’ve finally made Earth unlivable.

After they splash-land on the Water Planet, they find power-hungry clams, a rebellious underwater force, and a world full of too-good-to-be-true. Can this aquatic world really be humans’ new home? And why are these clams so eager to swap planets?

• Features full-color illustrations and an out-of-this-world book jacket
• A can’t-put-it-down page-turner for reluctant readers
• Complete with how-to-draw pages in the back

AstroNuts Mission Two is full of laugh-out loud humor with a thoughtful commentary on the reality of climate change at the core of the story.

Eager and reluctant readers alike ages 8 to 12 years old will be over the moon about this visually groundbreaking read.

• Creatively illustrated, full-color action-packed space saga
• Perfect for fans of Dog Man, Big Nate, Wimpy Kid, and Captain Underpants
• Great gift for parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians, and educators who are looking to introduce STEM and environmental topics to children
• Add it the the shelf with books like The Bad Guys in Superbad by Aaron Blabey, The 104-Story Treehouse: Dental Dramas & Jokes Galore! by Andy Griffiths, and The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the official educators’ guide for AstroNuts Mission Two (created by me!):

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about AstroNuts Mission Two here.

You can see information about AstroNuts Mission One and its Educators’ Guide here.

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Leave It to Abigail!: The Revolutionary Life of Abigail Adams
Author: Barb Rosensock
Illustrator: Elizabeth Haddeley
Published: February 4th, 2020 by Little, Brown and Company

Summary: In this inspiring tribute, award-winning author Barb Rosenstock and New York Times bestselling artist Elizabeth Baddeley tell the true story of one of America’s greatest founding mothers: Abigail Adams.

Everyone knew Abigail was different.

Instead of keeping quiet, she blurted out questions. Instead of settling down with a wealthy minister, she married a poor country lawyer named John Adams. Instead of running from the Revolutionary War, she managed a farm and fed hungry soldiers. Instead of leaving the governing to men, she insisted they “Remember the Ladies.” Instead of fearing Europe’s kings and queens, she boldly crossed the sea to represent her new country. And when John become President of the United States, Abigail became First Lady, and a powerful advisor.

Leave it to Abigail–an extraordinary woman who surprised the world.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the official educators’ guide for Leave It to Abigail (created by me!):

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about Fight of the Century here.

Barb Rosenstock also created two other resources for educators:
A Pinterest Board
A Text Set

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My son’s phenomenal elementary school teacher, started the first week of school reading Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard. Children volunteered to share their tribal membership and lineage. They talked about family and what fry bread meant to them and their families. From the first day of school, I noticed the beauty of her instructional approach as she read different picture books aloud which invited the children to share their stories. She doesn’t limit books to designated months and is sharing year-round and her pedagogies are culturally sustaining in so many ways (but this is not the purpose of this post, so I’ll stop there).

Recently, two K-2 teachers asked me specifically: What can I do for Indigenous Peoples Day and Thanksgiving? These are two teachers who I didn’t need to say: first, don’t make this a single day or a month. They knew this. I shared with them some of the resources from good sources that I know, and I am sharing them here in case others find them useful. My expertise is in 6-12 teacher education, but I know others who do research/writing in this area or write books for K-2 (and beyond), and they are cited among the resources below. There are so many resources outside of this post, so if this is your first go at it, please don’t limit yourself to this post here. If you are grades 6-12, this is not really the post for you, and on another day, I might venture into recommendations for this age level, which I feel are even more bountiful (which include publications by some of the people cited on the list below, among other brilliant authors and scholars). If you are K-2 and have more suggestions, lay them out in the comments section.

First, I recommend Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza’s Tips for Teachers: Developing Instructional Materials about American Indians (which is K-12). This just offers grounding knowledge that is imperative. If you will read nothing else on this page, read this (and their two comments below the post, which include resources that primarily feature resources for grades 4 and up but are very good).

Indigenous Peoples Day

Every family celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day differently. With my relatives and (non-school) community, growing up, we most often talked about the truth about Columbus on this particular day because it was such a glaring holiday on our school calendar. Looking back, this centers Whiteness in many ways because we were so keenly focused on that day. But it was a reality for us as I would come home with worksheets from school coloring in his face. It is still celebrated as “Columbus Day” in the school district that I grew up in as a student. This made school very confusing to me, where Columbus was revered. It wasn’t until I was in middle school that I felt like my relatives shifted to more of a Indigenous Peoples Day conception and celebration (although they have no problem talking about some of the absurdities of who is revered in holidays—such as Columbus). I don’t know if others celebrated it this way growing up, but this was my experience as a child in K-6.

When these K-2 teachers asked me how they might talk about Indigenous Peoples Day this coming Monday, I recommended that they start by ensuring that their 5- and 6-year-old students knew that Indigenous people are still alive. I know this feels like a basic thing, but young kids are often taught about Indigenous people as a thing in the past, and they don’t seem to connect this past and present connection at this age. The way Native Americans are depicted in history and books, they are frozen in time. If you want to show them that Indigenous people are not a thing of history, you could, for instance, show the Project 562 gallery or you could show this video of an elementary school which offers a bilingual Ojibwe program and bilingual Cree program. Celebrate famous Indigenous people in the news, sports, etc. today. These are quick suggestions, and I am sure others have more.

You might also talk with kids about the land that they live on. I like the Native Land Digital website a lot. This gets complicated because territories are a Western notion, but this site offers a starting point. You can talk about the nations that exist in your area and their present day issues (rather than solely focusing on historical) and look at the nations’ websites.

Native Knowledge 360 offers ideas for instruction (sortable by grade). Beyond the K-2 suggestions, you might offer a modified version of this project about environmental challenges for your students.

Focus on reading stories by Indigenous authors. The American Indian Youth Literature Award is a great place to start.


Thanksgiving

This holiday is associated with a lot of hard experiences for me—and the holiday is inextricably tied to experiences in my schooling. It is these schooling experiences that compelled me to decide to go into teaching. There’s a lot to unpack and it’s beyond this post, so instead, I can offer a brief list of don’ts for teaching: Thanksgiving plays/feasts, dressing up as Indians/Pilgrims, stereotypical images of Indians and pilgrims, Indian names (and while we are at it, spirit animals), Native American craft time, and paper headdresses or fake feathers.

When I was younger, we did a harvest dinner, and our family talked about what this day meant (and it wasn’t a happy pilgrims/Indians thing). As a starting point, Teaching Tolerance offers age-appropriate ideas for teachers, Oyate has a website about myths about Thanksgiving, and you might check out the blog post “Do American Indians celebrate Thanksgiving?” There is also an “interactive historian” website that works against myths about the holiday.

For our family, when we sit down to dinner on that Thursday that is revered by many, we do take the time (and we do this every day) to talk about the food that we are eating and honoring where it came from; the land that we reside on and the original habitants and the cost at which it came to us; and those for whom we are grateful. Along this line, I especially recommend We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorrell. She has another book coming out in April 2021 that is available for pre-order.

I debated not writing this post because I am not a K-2 teacher, and I am not someone who specializes in representation. But I am a parent. And I was a K-2 child once, and this age carries a lot of weight for me, primarily because of how I struggled in school. When these teachers asked me for help, they asked me genuinely, and they were earnest in their goals of doing what is in the best interest of kids. If your expertise falls more in this area and you have recommendations, comment below. If you have questions, comment below. I’ll come back on another day with more 6-12 books, but as I noted, there are so many great resources in this area, that I felt it best to start with K-2.

 
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Fight of the Century: Alice Paul Battles Woodrow Wilson for the Vote
Author: Barb Rosensock
Illustrator: Sarah Green
Published: February 25th, 2020 by Calkins Creek

Summary: The fight for women’s suffrage between women’s rights leader Alice Paul and President Woodrow Wilson is presented as a four-round boxing match in this nonfiction picture book.

When Woodrow Wilson was elected President, he didn’t know that he would be participating in one of the greatest fights of the century: the battle for women’s right to vote. The formidable Alice Paul led the women’s suffrage movement, and saw President Wilson’s election as an opportunity to win the vote to women. She battered her opponent with endless strategic arguments and carefully coordinated protests, calling for a new amendment granting women the right to vote. With a spirit and determination that never quit–even when peaceful protests were met with violence and even when many women were thrown in jail–Paul eventually convinced President Wilson to support her cause, changing the country forever.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the official educators’ guide for Fight of the Century (created by me!):

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about Fight of the Century here.

Barb Rosenstock also created two other resources for educators:
A Pinterest Board
A Text Set

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On March 5th, Neal Shusterman came to visit my school!

My amazing principal set a goal for an author to visit our school each year and she started this tradition with Jennifer Nielsen visiting in December, 2018. Neal Shusterman continued the tradition and hopefuly in April, 2021 Nathan Hale will be visiting us. This tradition shows how important literacy is to my principal!

We were so excited for the visit, and we wanted our school to reflect our excitement:

Our library and school decorations were made by so many different students: everyone in an art class, 6th and 7th grade intensive reading students (Ms. DeLuca and Ms. Chacon’s classes), 7th grade language arts students (Ms. Rokaw’s classes), Advanced Academics students (Ms. Perez’s classes), my book club, my Student Literacy Leaders, and my library student assistants. My libray clark, Ms. Armstrong, and I made the Neal Shusterman unwound pieces signs.

You can see a tour of my library on Neal’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tv/B97d71tgQsr/?hl=en!

 

Neal did a whole-grade presentation with each grade level. He did a Q&A format and students were so engaged as they drove the conversation. We learned about his upcoming books, movies, and TV shows as well as his inspirations, start as an author, and more!

At lunch, students who had read 3 or more of his novels were invited to a special event where Neal read a couple of chapters from an upcoming novel and then he hosted a writer’s workshop which was truly engaging!

Our AMAZING day ended with a signing line for any student, faculty/staff, or community member that wanted a book signed by Neal.

It was a perfect day! I am so lucky to have school and admin support in endeavors like this and the friendship and brilliance of authors like Neal Shusterman!

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“Four Ways to Help Reluctant Readers”

School is about to start back up—in fact, if you live in my neck of the woods in Colorado, school is already up and running again. Online or in-person remains to be seen for some, and some may prefer to homeschool. Which means as parents, we’re thrust into the role of educators.

It’s challenging, to say the least. After my youngest daughter struggled with reading, I decided to homeschool to help her, and discovered she has a reading disability. Where we lived at the time, there was no help in the way of special education—bottom line, I was on my own.

The upside: you know your kid best. The downside: because you’re the parent, your child is less likely to listen to you. I had to become an expert on reluctant readers, learning disabilities, and ways to ensure my daughter would read.

Here are four things that worked for me:

Start with choice

Okay, so there may be certain books that are part of classroom reading. But whenever possible, make what your kid reads a choice—even if (s)he picks the easiest book with the thinnest spine there is. Graphic novels, manga, comics, non-fiction (yes, even those Ripley’s Believe It or Not books) all count. In fact, if there’s a topic your child is interested in (say, sports, bugs, drawing), non-fiction is a great way to connect reading with what (s)he thinks is fun.

Use stepping stones

If you have a kid who really, really doesn’t want to read, and perhaps is reading below their grade level, you’ll need stepping stones. You can’t start with, say, The Bridge to Terabithia out the gate. Using choice where possible, start with a book that’s at a comfortable reading level for your child—it doesn’t matter where that is. Look for illustrated books, graphic novels, and high-interest books with possible pop-culture tie-ins (like books featuring favorite TV characters, comics, or non-fiction with photos).

Audiobooks are great, because your child will be able to hear someone else read the text while reading along themselves. It increases vocabulary, and helps with pronunciation as well.

Once you feel like your kid is improving, try introducing books that are just a level up from where they’re reading currently.

Oh, and as an added note: graphic novels are perfectly fine reading, no matter the reading level! I talk to parents and educators all the time who think that because of the heavily illustrated nature, graphic novels are lesser reading somehow. Here’s the truth: all reading will help your child get ahead—and in all other classes, too.

Read along

It may seem obvious (and you teachers will already be doing this) but for parents at home: try reading along with your child. Not only do you get to read some great books (children’s literature is booming, and has some amazing books), you also get to make an invaluable connection. When my husband was deployed in the military, my daughter and he read the same book, and would talk every few days about what they read. Not only did it allow them to stay close, my daughter’s reading (and math and science) improved exponentially because they were reading together. If you are a grandparent, this is also a great way to stay close to (perhaps far away) grandchildren.

Celebrate progress

You’ve given your child the choice, watched her or him improve… Now find a way to celebrate this progress! Particularly for a kid who has trouble reading, or started below grade level, it’s hard work to move from milestone to milestone. Imagine getting fit, and charting your progress as you walk longer on the treadmill—it’s like that. So celebrate! Try to make the celebration an experience rather than money or a gift when possible: maybe a movie night at home (you can pick one that was made after a book), a day outside, a picnic or other celebration. Your child worked hard—this deserves celebrating. And maybe, now (s)he’ll have a reason to aim for the next milestone…

My daughter is now grown, and has already finished college. I certainly helped her, but in the end, it was her hard work that got her there.

I now do librarian and educator talks on reaching reluctant readers, and like to end each session with why it’s so important to keep kids reading, by the numbers. So here goes, for my fellow statistics people:

  • Kids who read proficiently are five times more likely to graduate high school;
  • Twenty minutes of reading a day can get your childto their grade level;
  • Strong readers answer 66 percent more math questions correctly…*

I could go on a while, but I’ll simply say this in closing: that hard work to reach your reluctant reader? It’s worth it.

*Source: Renaissance (blog series, struggling readers)

Publishes August 25th, 2020 from Viking Books for Young Readers

About the Book: Hunting ghosts and solving the case before checkout? All in a weekend’s work.

When JJ Jacobson convinced his mom to accept a surprise invitation to an all-expenses-paid weekend getaway at the illustrious Barclay Hotel, he never imagined that he’d find himself in the midst of a murder mystery. He thought he was in for a run-of-the-mill weekend ghost hunting at the most haunted spot in town, but when he arrives at the Barclay Hotel and his mother is blamed for the hotel owner’s death, he realizes his weekend is going to be anything but ordinary.

Now, with the help of his new friends, Penny and Emma, JJ has to track down a killer, clear his mother’s name, and maybe even meet a ghost or two along the way.

About the Author: Fleur Bradley is the author of many middle-grade books aimed at reluctant readers, including the (spooky) mystery Midnight at the Barclay Hotel. Fleur is passionate about two things: mysteries and getting kids to read, and she regularly speaks at librarian and educator conferences on reaching reluctant readers. Originally from the Netherlands, Fleur now lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and two daughters, and entirely too many cats.

For more information on Fleur and her books, visit www.ftbradley.com, and on Twitter @FTBradleyAuthor.

Thank you, Fleur, for sharing your experience and advice with us and our readers!

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