Saturday, September 20, 2014

Happy Anniversary "Star Spangled Banner!"

September 2014 Marks
the 200th Anniversary of
Our National Anthem

This month marks the 200th anniversary of "The Star Spangled Banner." Did you know that our national anthem has its roots in a poem and a drinking song? And that baseball played a role in its history?

Share the story of how Francis Scott Key's poem became our national anthem. It's all in "Star Spangled Presidents" by Helen Kampion on the NCBLA's education website! Click here to read the article.

The website is the online education companion to the NCBLA's award-winning anthology Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out, an incomparable collection of essays, personal accounts, historical fiction, poetry, and a stunning array of original art, offering a multifaceted look at America’s history through the prism of the White House. 

With Our White House, kids can learn about the building of the White House--and why it once burned. They can engage with intimate stories of those who have resided in the White House over the years, including presidential pets and ghosts! And kids can also discover the joys and sorrows that have faced our nation and the often gut-wrenching decisions needed to be made by our presidents.

Our White House
was created by the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance as a collaborative effort by over one hundred award-winning authors and illustrators to encourage young people to read more about America’s rich history and culture; to think more about America’s future; to talk more about our nation’s leadership; and to act on their own beliefs and convictions, ensuring this great democratic experiment will survive and thrive.

Ask for Our White House at a library or bookstore near you! And learn more at

Friday, September 12, 2014

Writing Workshops in Northern Ohio

Northern Ohio SCBWI to Host
Three Fall Writing Events

The Northern Ohio chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) invites adults interested in writing for young people to join them at their monthly workshops and annual conference. You do not need to be a member of SCBWI to attend.

SCBWI is the only professional organization specifically for those individuals writing and illustrating for children and young adults. It acts as a network for the exchange of knowledge between writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, agents, librarians, educators, booksellers and others involved with literature for young people (see

Upcoming 2014 events include:

  • In the Heart of it All – SCBWI: Northern Ohio’s 12th Annual Conference, September 19-20 at the Sheraton Cleveland Airport Hotel. The perfect place to learn more about writing and illustrating and meet some of the most knowledgeable professionals in the field of publishing who are eager to educate, inspire, and encourage attendees!
  • Good is no longer Good Enough – Writing the Stand-out Picture Book/ Novel Workshop with Dandi Daley Mackall, October 18 at the Holiday Inn Cleveland South. Through presentations, writing exercises, Q&A and written critiques, the day's emphasis will be on striving for excellence when writing picture books, nonfiction picture books, novels and historical fiction novels. (There is currently a waiting list for this event.)
  • November 15th Critique Meeting with Michelle Houts, November 15 at the Highland Library in Medina. Bring a manuscript to share or just listen and learn from others’ critiques.
Pre-registration is required for all events. For more details, visit

Questions? Contact Victoria Selvaggio, SCBWI: Northern Ohio Regional Advisor at

Friday, September 5, 2014

Join Us at IN SEARCH OF WONDER October 17, 2014 in Perry, Ohio

Top FIVE Reasons to Register for
In Search of Wonder: Common Core & More

Illustration (c) Steven Kellogg
Teachers, principals, librarians, parents, students of education and library science, book lovers--you are ALL invited to register for the NCBLA's upcoming literary event
In Search of Wonder: Common Core & More
to be held Friday, October 17, 2014 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Perry, Ohio.

But WHY should you take a day to attend? We are so glad you asked!

    Sit back and hear firsthand the inspiring, wise, and often witty words of five of America's most talented authors: Katherine Paterson,
    Steven Kellogg, Nikki Grimes, Tanya Lee Stone, and Chris Crutcher!
    Are you wondering how you can possibly integrate Common Core into your classroom or library program in an inspired and magical way? Our expert Common Core commentators will demonstrate exactly how you can do that using books written by our five featured authors.
    Our panel of educators, librarians, and children's literature industry specialists will discuss classic, contemporary, and brand new books that can be utilized across all academic disciplines and grade levels to enhance students’ learning experiences. Are you questioning the goals of Common Core? Wondering how to help young people identify fact in fiction? Come hear what the experts have to say.
    Every registered attendee will receive a free hardcover copy of the NCBLA's award-winning anthology Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out at the end of the day, courtesy of Candlewick Press. A $30.00 value!

    PLUS, every registered attendee will have the opportunity to win one of our TEN themed book bags at the end of the day. Many of these giveaway books have been autographed by the authors!
    The event fee is just $35. Members of NEA, AFT, NCTE, and ALA pay only $25. Employees of the Cleveland Public Library, CLEVENET member libraries, and Cleveland Public Schools also pay only $25. Undergraduate and graduate university students pay $15.
Five reasons to register for In Search of Wonder aren't enough? Here are a few more:
  • FREE educational support materials will be published online to provide creative ways you can integrate engaging and quality literature in your classroom or library using the Common Core Standards.
  • Contact hour certificates will be provided.
  • A special display of Steven Kellogg’s original illustrations will be available for you to browse, courtesy of the Mazza Museum in Findlay, Ohio. 
  • On-site book sales and AUTOGRAPHING by all five of our featured authors! 
Convinced? To register now, click here.

Need more information? Please click here to read all the details!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Back to School

Great Tips for Reducing the Stress
of Going Back to School

Grown-ups begin a new year on January 1st, but for kids the new year begins on the first day of school. Although kids love to "hate" school, many are truly eager to learn, to get back to their school, its social scene, and its reassuring routine. New kids in town, oldest children, kids transitioning from elementary to middle school or from middle school to high school, or kids with learning or behavioral challenges, may feel a little anxious when the new school year rolls around.

Our job as parents is to raise our children to be independent. One of parenting's greatest challenges is learning to distinguish when and how much we should help our children and when we should encourage them to solve problems themselves. The best way to help your children or teens prepare for school this year is to teach them by example and by posing questions that will help them think through their own problems and arrive at workable solutions.

Some Helpful Tips:
  • Use the two weeks prior to school starting to let your child readjust to their new bedtime. Set their alarm each night and make sure your little one is up and at em' the next morning.
  • Take time to go over your child's car pool or bus schedule as well. This way they will be aware of what time they need to be ready when the big day arrives.  In addition, you may want to go over routes and how long the ride to school will take.  Most importantly, talk to your child about car/bus safety!
  • If your child is new to town, the oldest, or transitioning from one school to another, make sure he or she has the opportunity to tour the school a few days before school begins. Encourage your child to ask questions of you and anyone he or she meets at the school. Be aware that younger children, preteens, and teens will all have different fears and concerns. And, older kids may be too insecure to ask questions for fear of appearing stupid or un-cool. For example: young children may worry about paying for lunch the first time and where the lavatories are located in relationship to their classroom. Preteens and teens may be more worried about their lockers, lock combinations, and what they're going to wear the first day of school.
  • Before any "back to school" clothing is purchased, make sure you and your child or teen know the school dress code. That knowledge will ease family tension and save you a great deal of time and trouble.
  • From kindergarten on, encourage your children to dress in a way that is compatible with his or her personality. Let them know that being true to themselves is "way" better than being trendy; in fact, the kids who create trends never copy anyone else. Peer pressure builds as kids get older and celebrating individuality through clothing style is a great way to show your kids that they do not need the approval of popular kids to survive, and thrive, in school.
  • The night before school have your child pick out a first day outfit. This will avoid adding unnecessary chaos to an already hectic event. Have them pack their backpack as well. Click here for tips on backpack safety:
  • School textbooks are getting heavier and heavier. Make sure you child or preteen has a sturdy backpack that distributes the weight of books equally. You may want to invest in a roller backpack that has a luggage handle so that your child can pull his or her backpack instead of carrying it.
  • If you plan on packing them a lunch ask them what they would like to eat on the first day of school. If you aren't fixing their lunch, be sure to give them lunch money and have them put it in a safe place.
  • If your children will be participating in any extracurricular sports, they will need a physical. Schedule it as soon as possible, even before school starts.
  • If your kids had required reading over the summer, you may want to have an informal discussion with them about their reading right before school starts. Ask them to remind you what books they read and why they liked or disliked them. Don't be satisfied with simplistic explanations; ask for details about characters, place, and plot. Ask them if and why they would recommend the book to other kids. Your informal book chat will jog their memories and help them if they are assigned a report on their summer reading.
  • Share your own feelings and memories about your first day of school experiences: being the new kid in town; the first one in the family to ride a bus to school; or the forgetting your locker combination running between classes in middle school. When your kids share their worries or concerns, don't dismiss or trivialize them. Validate their concerns. Ask them if they have ideas on what they can do to alleviate their apprehensions. If they do not have ideas, brainstorm with them to come up with viable solutions and actions.
  • In this era of "kidnap fears" it is hard not to be too overprotective of your children, but try. In most of America, kids can walk to school safely. They can ride the bus safely, too. Human skin is waterproof, and dressed for the occasion, kids can walk in the rain and snow unharmed. The classroom is not the only place where learning occurs. The journey to and from school provides your kids with another situation in which to learn. If your area is "traffic safe," adequately prepare your kids with safety tips and, at an age appropriate time, stop driving them to school door and let them explore. Their self-esteem will swell with their responsible independence.
  • Make sure your child has a library card, knows his or her way around the library, and knows how to find the books he or she will need to complete assignments and read for pleasure during the school year.
  • Get into the habit of going to the library once a week or once every two weeks, regardless of whether or not your child's school assignments require it. The best way you can help your children achieve in school is to encourage them to read and become life-long readers. The best place to get free books, magazines, computer access, entertaining stories, and important information is your neighborhood library.
  • No matter how old or young your children, read through the school student handbook with them at the beginning of every year. You both need to know the school's goals, expectations, opportunities, and rules.
  • Fill out any medical and emergency forms and return them to the school immediately. If your child has any special health or physical needs make sure you put those needs in writing and that the principal, your child's teacher, and the school nurse all have copies.
  • Establish a safe place in the house where all school forms and notices can be deposited every day. Get your kids in the habit of taking all forms and notices out of their backpacks and putting them in that safe place as soon as they walk through your door. They need to learn from kindergarten on that they are responsible for making sure you receive all communications from their school. It may help to give each of your children, including your teens, a sturdy plastic folder that they can keep in their backpack to carry notices home safely.
  • Rusty Browder, the librarian at Amos A. Lawrence School in Brookline, Mass., recommends that kids of all ages acquire great "backpack habits." She suggest that kids go through their backpacks everyday, organize papers and notebooks, give parents important notices and work, and throw out garbage of any kind! Older kids who have locker breaks between classes may want to organize their heavy textbooks in groups of morning and afternoon classes so that one group of books can be left in their lockers until needed.
  • Read aloud to your children from their favorite books, every night if possible, if only for ten or fifteen minutes. And don't assume that once your child has become an independent reader that he or she no longer wants, or needs, to be read aloud to. Kids of all ages, and adults, love to hear a great story. And reading aloud increases your children's vocabulary, makes them laugh, expands their universe, and helps them to learn about human understanding and compassion. Besides- it's great fun!
  • Try to find a special time each day to talk with your children about their day at school. Sometimes that moment takes place in the car driving between after-school activities. Sometimes it takes place on the phone from home to your work place. Sometimes it takes place at the table over dinner. Wherever and whenever it takes place, don't ask the question, "How was school today?" –– it is a certainty that you will get a one word answer. Ask: what was served in the cafeteria; did you have gym outside; how did your history presentation go? –– anything to initiate a conversation. Never underestimate your impact or importance to your kids. Your taking the time to take an interest in them and their day is not only important to their education, it is something they will remember and cherish the rest of their lives.
  • Send them off with big kisses and a bunch of well wishes!
Happy School Year!!

© 2013 Mary Brigid Barrett