Monday, May 30, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading?

Memorial Day has special meaning for a military BRAT.  Most of us have worried that a parent won't return from a tour of duty.  For some of us, that worry became grief when a letter came, or a soldier arrived at the front door with official condolences.

I am lucky.  My father survived a tour in Vietnam as an Army recruit and three tours in the Gulf War as a government contractor.  

I don't remember books written just for military third-culture kids when I was growing up.  I know we have the Piper Reed series in my school library, though I confess I haven't read them yet (maybe the fact she's a Navy BRAT has something to do with it, and I'm unfamiliar with having a parent at sea).  As an adult, the book that's come the closest to describing the life I knew on base was  The Yokota Officers Club by Sarah Bird, in which the setting is familiar, but the dynamics in this Air Force family are not what I experienced growing up.  Hmmm, maybe I need to write a book?

The particular culture of military children was documented in the movie "BRATS:  Our Journey Home".  I would recommend it for teens and older, as it touches on some of the darker aspects of military life on base.  I cried a bit while watching, nodding my head every few minutes as common BRAT memories were displayed and explained on the screen.

Getting back to books for BRATs--in my search for such books, I came across this project shared by a fellow librarian Jan Pye Marry.  It's been updated as of 2014, and I know we have a few of the books she mentions on our own shelves in my school library.  Thanks, Ms. Marry, for finding books for such a special group of children.

It's Monday, and this Memorial Day, let's think of the kids of the fallen, too.  They've served our country in their own way.

Monday, May 23, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading?

I've mentioned before that I'm a slow reader, and also have less time for reading during the school year--I get most of my reading done during summer break.

In the midst of May madness (end of school year tasks, prepping for summer activities, welcoming our new college grad back home), I took a quick peek at my Facebook feed and saw the American Library Association's #Readathon2016 challenge.  

For once, I decided that my reading pile took precedence over my to-do list.  I gathered my pile of books--some I needed to finish, others I hadn't started yet--found my one-hour timer....and started a load of laundry.

Then I plopped into a chair, started the timer (restarted it three more times), and finished/ read three of the books on my pile, and got 120 pages farther into a fourth! 

Love Wins by Rob Bell was suggested by a pastor friend.  Thought provoking religious material on the subjects of heaven, hell, and redemption; I'm going to recommend this book to my friends, because I'd like to discuss Bell's perspective.  It's only 224 pages, but took me a few sittings because I had to think and process along the way.

Lawn Boy and Lawn Boy Returns by Gary Paulsen are from my library shelves.  Recommended by a substitute on my campus, I decided I needed some light, fun reading.  They are short books, too--I read each in about an hour, and learned a bit about economics in the process.  Paulsen makes the possibility of a kid becoming rich from a lawn-mowing business almost plausible.

Alas, I still haven't finished The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.  I was pleased with my progress, though, and plan to finish it this week.  

I did finish five loads of laundry in between timer resets.

The other three books?  They'll be at the top of my summer reading pile!

Happy reading this Monday!

Monday, May 9, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading?

I must confess that I am still working on The Mysterious Benedict Society, so it will be a picture book day today!

The days in The Book Nook are dwindling, as our library nears end-of-year inventory time.  I'm finishing up the year with some books from our Texas 2x2 list, a wonderful resource geared for the 2-year-old through second grade children.  We are currently reading Some Bugs by Angela DeTerlizzi, illustrated by Brendan Wenzel, and Extraordinary Jane by Hannah E. Harrison.

Some Bugs is perfect for this time of year in Texas, because bugs are EVERYWHERE at the moment.  The text is simple, mainly action verbs describing what bugs do--"some bugs glide, some bugs hide"--and the oversized book is chock full of beautifully illustrated two-page spreads of backyard bugs. The last pages are pictures of every bug shown with their proper names.  My students found at least three or four they were familiar with, and learned much more!

Extraordinary Jane is also a simple story with pictures worthy of poring over.  We started reading the cover--what is the setting, and who do we think Jane is?  The circus was the correct answer to the first question, but most of us missed the second, thinking the elephant was the main character.  Jane happens to be the small dog on the cover, born into a circus family but lacking the talents of her parents and siblings.  The ringmaster tries to make a circus act with Jane...but her talents lie in other areas.  This is a sweet story about the gifts we possess just by being ourselves.

It's Monday!  What are you reading this week?

Monday, May 2, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading?

Promoting picture books may be one of the toughest tasks I have on my campus of high-achieving students.  Some of my youngest students (and their parents) are so eager to jump into chapter books as soon as their assessed reading level points them in that direction.  It's a balancing act; I don't want to squelch their enthusiasm for reading, but I don't want them to miss out on the experience that picture books provide.  

I'm convinced that the ability to read pictures--to be visually literate, not just print literate--is tied to other important academic and social skills.  In a picture book, the words only tell part of the story, and the reader must fill in the blanks with information from the illustrations--a built-in lesson on inference,which always seems to be an area of need in our assessment results.  This ability to "read between the lines" is essential to understanding print literature and critical thinking.

I also believe that reading pictures is practice in reading social situations, too.  Paying attention to the details in one's environment, the expressions on people's faces, the "vibe" of the space you enter helps you navigate socially.  Spending time looking at the illustrations in a book helps children practice those skills.

I picked up an interesting picture book at our librarians' meeting this year:  N is for North Korea, by Trevor Eissler, illustrated by Matthew J. Baek.

Na-Young is a little girl living in North Korea who finds out she has a cousin in South Korea.  She wants to contact her, but her father tells her that isn't possible.  Upon receiving her first helium balloon, she hatches a plan to use the balloon to send a message to her cousin.

This book is a great example of pictures expanding the scope and depth of a story.  While the words tell a simple tale of a girl trying to get a message to a cousin, the illustrations allude to the political climate in North Korea and the tensions with South Korea.  Getting older elementary students to wonder about the details (the pictures on the wall, propaganda posters, mode of transportation, soldiers at the border) can segue into learning about those two countries.

So please, don't be in such a hurry to rush your young students into chapter books, and let your older ones venture into the picture book section without judgement, too.  There is learning to be had in the "Everybody" section of the library.