Monday, January 31, 2011

Looking for Ed Materials on Black History Month? Check Out! Offers Diverse Teaching and Learning Materials

Timely lesson plans, activities, and resources regarding the following topics are available now on partners with leading educational organizations to provide educational content for students in grades K through 12. All resources are grade specific and aligned with state standards. The complete list of content partners is listed here.

Also provided are at-home activities (maps, games, reading lists, and homework help) for students, parents, and guardians to work on together, as well as professional development training materials for educators. is a project of the Verizon Foundation.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

NCBLA Great American Citizens: George Washington, Education Champion


"Throughout his life, Washington regarded his education as defective. He consciously made up for some of what he did not learn in school through reading and study on his own. Over the years he amassed a large and diverse library, and in his later years he subscribed to several newspapers. He became a skilled and prolific writer. Perhaps as a result of his lack of formal education he strongly believed in the value of a good education and left money in his will for establishing a school in Alexandria, Virginia, as well as for establishing a national university.”

From George Washington’s Letter to School Teacher George Chapman:

Sir: Not until within a few days have I been honor'd with your favor of the 27th. of Septr. 1783,accompanying your treatise on Education.

My sentiments are perfectly in unison with yours sir, that the best means of forming a manly, virtuous and happy people, will be found in the right education of youth. Without this foundation, every other means, in my opinion, must fail; and it gives me pleasure to find that Gentlemen of your abilities are devoting their time and attention in pointing out the way. For your lucubrations on this subject which you have been so obliging as to send me, I pray you to accept my thanks, and an expression of the pleasure I felt at the declaration of your intention to devote a further portion of your time in so useful a study.

Of the importance of education our Assemblies, happily, seem fully impressed; they establishing new, and giving further endowments to the old Seminaries of learning, and I persuade myself will leave nothing unessayed to cultivate literature and useful knowledge, for the purpose of qualifying the rising generation for patrons of good government, virtue and happiness.”

From George Washington’s First Annual Message to Congress, January 8, 1790

Nor am I less persuaded, that you will agree with me in opinion, that there is nothing which can better deserve your patronage, than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is, in every country, the surest basis of public happiness. In one in which the measures of government receive their impression so immediately from the sense of the community as in ours, it is proportionably essential. To the security of a free constitution it contributes in various ways: by convincing those who are entrusted with the public administration, that every valuable end of government is best answered by the enlightened confidence of the people; and by teaching the people themselves to know and to value their own rights; to discern and provide against invasions of them; to distinguish between oppression and the necessary exercise of lawful authority; between burthens proceeding from a disregard to their convenience, and those resulting from the inevitable exigences of society; to discriminate the spirit of liberty from that of licentiousness—cherishing the first, avoiding the last; and uniting a speedy but temperate vigilance against encroachments, with an inviolable respect to the laws.

Whether this desirable object will be best promoted by affording aids to seminaries of learning already established; by the institution of a national university; or by any other expedients, will be well worthy of a place in the deliberations of the Legislature.


Current articles and essays of interest to read, contemplate, see if you agree--or not, share, discuss, and then act! Write a letter to the editor of the publication or website, go to you local city, town, and state meetings and find out what is going on in your schools and libraries, see what you can do to help all of our kids! We all need to fight for our kids' future, because it is our future, too!

From George Will's Column in the Washington Post:
Too many American parents, Duncan says, have "cognitive dissonance" concerning primary and secondary schools: They think their children's schools are fine, and that schools that are not fine are irredeemable. This, Duncan says, is a recipe for "stasis" and "insidious paralysis." He attempts to impart motion by puncturing complacency and picturing the payoff from excellence. 

He notes that 75 percent of young Americans would be unable to enlist in the military for reasons physical (usually obesity), moral (criminal records) or academic (no high school diploma). A quarter of all ninth-graders will not graduate in four years. Among the 34 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations, only four (Mexico, Spain, Turkey and New Zealand) have dropout rates higher than America's, whose 15-year-olds ranked 23rd in math and 25th in science in 2006. Canadians that age were more than a school year ahead of their American counterparts; Koreans and Finns were up to two years ahead. Within America, the achievement gaps separating white students from blacks and Hispanics portend (according to a McKinsey & Co. study) "the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession."

From the Political Education of Michelle Rhee by  Ben Smith and Byron Tau on Politico

The group intends, she said, to engage in policy battles around the country and to give allies of a policy platform that involves higher standards and more flexibility for teachers the kind of backup that unions have long provided their foes: money and organization.The first battle is a particularly ugly one. With governments around the country facing deep budget deficits, many will lay off teachers. Rhee would like them to fight union-backed “last in, first out” policies and to fire bad teachers, not new ones. 

Rhee has brushed off concerns about job security, because “seniority layoffs” can mean that good, young teachers are fired; that low-performing schools — with high rates of turnover — lose more teachers; and that districts that could save money by firing a few higher-paid teachers are instead forced to fire more lower-paid ones. “Doing layoffs based on seniority is not helpful to kids — it’s not in the best interest of children,” she said, and she’s been making that case nationally, notably in an op-ed Wednesday with former New York City Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein that described the policy as an “outrage.”

The above painting of George Washington is from an illustration by Bagram Ibatoulline in the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance's award winning publication on American presidents, Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out-- available at your local library or bookstore.

Read more about the book and George Washington at:

Monday, January 24, 2011

State of the Union Address Scheduled for Tomorrow Night

Use the President's Address to Help Young People Connect with Contemporary Events

Tomorrow night President Obama will make his state of the union address to Congress. What policies and legislative goals will the president be promoting? Is the state of the union address important? Need we watch? Need our kids watch?

Among the topics President Obama discussed in last year's speech were job creation, deficit reduction, encouraging American innovation, investing in education, immigration reform, and the need to repeal the military's policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. You can watch the president's 2010 state of the union address on

You can read the text of previous state of the union addresses (back to 1982) on the website of the government printing office.

What might President Obama be proposing for Americans in tomorrow's speech?
Events such as the state of the union address provide a perfect opportunity to continue our dialog about American history and politics with our young people. Encourage young people to watch the president's address. Watch it with them! When the speech is over, turn off the TV pundits and discuss the speech. What did they think about it? Do they agree with the president's proposals? Why or why not? Take the time to help young people make the connection to their own lives.

Learn more about the constitutional requirements for the state of the union address, plus additional information regarding guests and opposition responses, in the article
"State of the Union Addresses and Messages" on the American Presidency Project website.

Help Young People Make Connections with Our White House

An excellent resource to consult regarding the presidency, politics, and American history is the NCBLA’s art and literature anthology Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out. Our White House seeks to build on the logical links between literacy, historical literacy, and civic engagement. Coordinating activities and discussion suggestions, as well as additional articles, are available on the book's supplemental website:

On, learn from a political speech writer how a state of the union address differs from an inaugural address in "Writing Political Speeches: An Interview with Thomas LaFauci.

Also on, discover research tips to help adults guide young people in their quest for knowledge, Presidential facts, tips on visiting the White House, and an extensive guide of additional history websites you can share with young people. 

You can find Our White House at your local library. Our White House is also available in both hardcover and paperback at a bookstore near you!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Discover the World at Your Library This Winter

Libraries across the nation are sponsoring a treasure trove of events this winter. From history lectures to job hunting workshops, from pajama time storytelling hour to language classes, you are bound to discover a class or event--or even a book--to spark the imagination of all members of your family this winter! 

Read below for a sample of library happenings across the country. For ideas about how to make the most out of a library visit with your family, check out the NCBLA's article, "An Affordable Family Night Out: Visit Your Neighborhood Public Library."

Starting this month the Boston Public Library initiates its Local and Family History Lecture Series, which will continue through May. In this lecture series speakers will shed light on topics such as Boston’s metamorphosis into an intellectual and cultural hub, uncovering family connections to the Civil War, and what drove Bostonians to dump tons of tea into the harbor on a cold December night in 1773. The series alternates between topics of local historical interest and instruction for those interested in genealogical research. A particular focus of the 2011 series is the men and women of the Civil War Era, as the nation marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the conflict. 

The Chicago Public Library is offering a lecture series titled Law at the Library, to be presented by the Library and the Chicago Bar Association. The weekly lectures begin January 24 and continue through April. January's lecture is titled "Cleaning Up Your Credit." 

Los Angeles
The Los Angeles Public Library is sponsoring the ALOUD series, featuring lectures, readings, performances, and discussions. Tomorrow's program features V. S. Ramachandran, author of The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human. Also at the Los Angeles Public Library is the exhibit "Forty Years of Sesame Street Illustration: Selections from the Publishing Archive of Sesame Workshop," which explores the history of the popular children’s educational television show Sesame Street, through April 30, 2011. 

What's happening at YOUR local library?!

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Poem for All Americans and Their Children in Honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

   Romare Bearden, Berkeley––The City and Its People, 1973
     collage of various papers with paint, ink, and graphite on seven fiberboard panels
    City of Berkeley, California, Public Art Collection
    © Romare Bearden Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, N.Y.

Let America be America Again
by Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain,
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."
The free?
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—Except the dream that's almost dead today.
O, let America be America again—The land that never has been yet—And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine—the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME—Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,
O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—All, all the stretch of these great green states—And make America again!

On this special day honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., share the poem and the collage, and information about Langston Hughes and Romare Bearden  with your children and teens --

For information about poet Langston Hughes, go to:

For information about artist Romare Bearden go to:

Sunday, January 16, 2011

"Madeline at the White House" Coming Soon!

Coming to a bookstore and library near you on January 25 is a new book in the Madeline series, Madeline at the White House. Written and illustrated by John Bemelmans Marciano, Madeline at the White House tells the story of the adventurous French school girl Madeline and her visit to Washington, D.C. at the invitation of the president's daughter. Madeline and her friends have been invited to attend the annual Easter Egg hunt and roll, and they embrace the opportunity to enjoy the many wonders of our capitol, including a midnight sightseeing tour on a magic carpet of cherry blossoms.

The author and illustrator John Bemelmans Marciano is the grandson of the original Madeline creator, Ludwig Bemelmans. Ludwig Bemelmans had hoped to write a Madeline book titled Madeline Visits Caroline in the White House, with assistance from his friend Jackie Kennedy, but Bemelmans unfortunately passed away before the book could be completed. 

Author and children's literature expert Anita Silvey recounts the story behind Bemelmans' White House book project idea, as well as Bemelmans' friendship with Jackie Kennedy and her publishing career, in "A White Mouse in the White House," an article in the art and literature anthology Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out. In the article, Silvey notes, "Around 1958, before Jackie Kennedy had become First Lady, she read the book Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans to her baby daughter, Caroline, and wrote him a fan letter. Bemelmans sent back a sketch of Madeline inscribed 'for Jacqueline's baby,' and the two began corresponding." Be sure to read the entire article in Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out.

Our White House is a project of  The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance designed 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. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough introduces this creative tour de force, in which 108 renowned authors and illustrators have donated their poetry, prose, and art to help advance the cause of young people’s literacy and historical literacy. The illustrations, essays, short stories, presidential letters, personal reflections, and historical accounts in Our White House inform and entertain, offering a window on more than 200 years of American history.

Our White House is available in both hardcover and paperback. The new paperback edition features a NEW poem by Nikki Grimes about President Obama’s inauguration!

Read an interview with John Bemelmans Marciano about the new book in the article,  "Madeline Visits Washington," on

Watch a video interview with John Bemelmans Marciano on

Read Anita Silvey's blog, Anita Silvey's Children's Book-A-Day Almanac, in which she recommends a different book each day. 

Discover extensive online content, exclusive articles, history and civic education resources, discussion questions, and activities in the companion website to Our White House:

Friday, January 14, 2011

First Lady Michelle Obama Writes an Open Letter to Parents Related to the Tragic Events in Tuscon

Mrs. Obama's Letter: 

Dear parents,
Like so many Americans all across the country, Barack and I were shocked and heartbroken by the horrific act of violence committed in Arizona this past weekend. Yesterday, we had the chance to attend a memorial service and meet with some of the families of those who lost their lives, and both of us were deeply moved by their strength and resilience in the face of such unspeakable tragedy.
As parents, an event like this hits home especially hard. It makes our hearts ache for those who lost loved ones. It makes us want to hug our own families a little tighter. And it makes us think about what an event like this says about the world we live in - and the world in which our children will grow up.
In the days and weeks ahead, as we struggle with these issues ourselves, many of us will find that our children are struggling with them as well. The questions my daughters have asked are the same ones that many of your children will have - and they don't lend themselves to easy answers. But they will provide an opportunity for us as parents to teach some valuable lessons - about the character of our country, about the values we hold dear, and about finding hope at a time when it seems far away.
We can teach our children that here in America, we embrace each other, and support each other, in times of crisis. And we can help them do that in their own small way - whether it's by sending a letter, or saying a prayer, or just keeping the victims and their families in their thoughts.
We can teach them the value of tolerance - the practice of assuming the best, rather than the worst, about those around us. We can teach them to give others the benefit of the doubt, particularly those with whom they disagree.
We can also teach our children about the tremendous sacrifices made by the men and women who serve our country and by their families. We can explain to them that although we might not always agree with those who represent us, anyone who enters public life does so because they love their country and want to serve it.
Christina Green felt that call. She was just nine years old when she lost her life. But she was at that store that day because she was passionate about serving others. She had just been elected to her school's student council, and she wanted to meet her Congresswoman and learn more about politics and public life.
And that's something else we can do for our children - we can tell them about Christina and about how much she wanted to give back. We can tell them about John Roll, a judge with a reputation for fairness; about Dorothy Morris, a devoted wife to her husband, her high school sweetheart, to whom she'd been married for 55 years; about Phyllis Schneck, a great-grandmother who sewed aprons for church fundraisers; about Dorwan Stoddard, a retired construction worker who helped neighbors down on their luck; and about Gabe Zimmerman, who did community outreach for Congresswoman Giffords, working tirelessly to help folks who were struggling, and was engaged to be married next year. We can tell them about the brave men and women who risked their lives that day to save others. And we can work together to honor their legacy by following their example - by embracing our fellow citizens; by standing up for what we believe is right; and by doing our part, however we can, to serve our communities and our country.
Michelle Obama

For help and advice on helping your kids cope with tragic news, go to:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"Make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations...."

"I believe we can be better.  Those who died here, those who saved lives here – they help me believe.  We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us.  I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.

That's what I believe, in part because that's what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed.  Imagine: here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation's future.  She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful.  She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model.  She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.

I want us to live up to her expectations.  I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it.  
All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations...."

President Barack Obama at the memorial for those slain in Tuscon, Arizona; January 12, 2011