Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Resolve to Read to Your Kids in 2014

Start the New Year with a GREAT Book!

The wealth and joys of reading cannot be made any clearer than in the words of beloved American poet Emily Dickinson:

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!
Why not make a resolution this year to share the world with the young people in your life by reading to them every single day?!

Reading aloud is an experience to be shared not only with toddlers and preschoolers, but also with infants, elementary school kids, and even teenagers. Blustery winter evenings provide the perfect opportunity for a family of all ages to snuggle together and take turns reading chapters from an engaging novel or stories from a favorite anthology of folktales. And fear not the "oppressive toll!" A world of books is available free of charge to all when you indulge in the stacks of your local library.

For reading lists and fun ideas to help the young people in your life become lifelong readers, be sure to check out the literacy resources available on the NCBLA's website, including The Parent/Teacher/Mentor Notebook. Be sure to take a minute and read our informative article "Why Do Kids Need Books?"

Check Out These Lists
to Begin Your Search for the Right Book

Remember:  your local librarian is the perfect resource for guiding your search for the best books for your kids of all ages! Following are some authoritative lists to assist your search:

The NCBLA wishes you and the young people in your life
many happy reading adventures in 2014!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The NCBLA Needs You!

Help the NCBLA Help All of Our Kids!

The NCBLA needs you! In this season of giving, we ask that you please consider making a donation to the NCBLA. The NCBLA is a not-for-profit organization with 501-C3 status, so your donation will be tax deductible.

We need you to help us fight the good fight, making sure that all of our nation's kids have equal and ready access to school libraries and healthy neighborhood libraries.  

We need your help in educating the adults who live and work with children and teens to the literacy needs of the young people in their lives.  We need your help educating the United States Congress concerning the literacy and library needs of all of our young people. 

We need your help raising our nation's awareness to the fact that a democracy can only survive and thrive if its citizens, young and old, are literate and educated. 

We need your help so we can continue to create innovative national literacy outreach projects that reach millions of children across our nation and the world, such as the multiple award-winning book and companion website Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out and OurWhiteHouse.org; and our Internet reading/writing world-wide initiative with the Library of Congress, The Exquisite Corpse Adventure story game, book, and educational support webpages.
We need your help to ensure our authors and illustrators can visit more classrooms, libraries, book festivals, and museums to work with our kids, exciting kids and their families about reading!

Please consider making a donation this holiday season to the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance. Large or small, we value, and honor every dollar, every donation.

In 2014 we hope to launch a new education initiative for educators and other adults who live and work with young people that focuses on using outstanding fiction and nonfiction literature to expand students' knowledge and improve their reading and writing skills in all subject areas. We need your help to make it happen! 

To make a donation by credit card using our secure credit card service, click here then click the Donate button.  

To send a check or money order, please mail your donation to:
Mary Kemper, Treasurer
The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance
P. O. Box 1479
Brewster, MA 02631
If you are making a donation in honor or memory of a colleague or loved one, please be sure to include that person’s name and any additional information you would like us to know.

Thank you! We hope you and your family have a delight-filled holiday season and a joyous New Year!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Celebrating the Holidays at the White House

Help Kids Discover December Holiday Traditions at the White House

The December holidays provide a perfect opportunity to help young people learn about their own history and heritage, as well as the history, heritage, and traditions of others. 

The 2013 White House Christmas Tree
You can share the story of how the Christmas tree became a White House tradition and how farmers across America compete to grow the “Grand Champion” selected to adorn the White House each year in "Grand Champions of the White House" by guest writer Renee Critcher Lyons on OurWhiteHouse.org. Read on for an excerpt:

A tree has not always graced the White House at Christmastime. In fact, Franklin Pierce (1856), our 14th president, became the first to embrace the 500-year old tradition of bringing a tree into the home to celebrate the hope of Christmas morn. And, the practice did not become a yearly event until the 1880’s. Only one president since has frowned upon the use of an official White House Christmas tree, Teddy Roosevelt. Our 26th president (1901-1909), at a time before Christmas tree farms were prevalent, believed the harvesting of Christmas trees might deplete our national forests, and thus banned the practice from the White House.

President Ronald Reagan receives a menorah in the
Oval Office to mark the lighting of the menorah
on the Ellipse
President and Mrs. Barack Obama have continued the tradition of hosting Hanukkah celebrations at the White House as established by previous administrations.
To read about Hanukkah traditions at the White House, visit the article titled "Hanukkah at the White House" on the White House website WhiteHouse.gov

Discover More About the White House and American History in Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out
For even more information and stories about White House holiday traditions, the presidents and first ladies, and American history, check out a copy of Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out from your local library and share the extensive fiction and nonfiction pieces and plethora of original art illustrations with the young people in your life. To learn more about White House holidays, you might choose to read how the American hostage crisis in 1979 affected the lighting of the national Christmas tree during President Carter’s term in office in “From Christmas in Plains: Memories” by Jimmy Carter.

Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out is sold in hardcover and paperback at bookstores everywhere. LEARN MORE about this anthology at OurWhiteHouse.org.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Holiday Gift Book Buying Tips

Finding Just the Right Book for Holiday Giving
Suggestions for Your Family

When you buy a special book for a child at Hanukkah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa, it helps your child to create emotional connections linking family, tradition, and reading. It also sends the message that receiving books is as pleasurable an experience as receiving toys.

I asked Natacha Liuzzi, librarian and book buyer, for some age-pertinent book suggestions for gift giving this year. Natacha's youthful appearance belies the fact that she has years of experience connecting kids to books. For eight years, Natacha was the Children's Services Librarian at the Hinesburg Public Library in Hinesburg, Vermont. There she was responsible for buying all the children's, middle grade, and young adult materials, servicing children from toddlers through to high school students. Currently, Natacha is the children's book buyer for the independent Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Vermont. For the past four years she has served on a committee that nominates picture books for the Red Clover Award, Vermont's annual student choice awards. She is also the RIF coordinator for the Hinesburg Community School, providing each student with a free book three times yearly, and she was the Hinesburg Literacy Team coordinator working with area preschool and reading teachers throughout Chittenden County.

Finding a special book for the child you love can be an overwhelming task given the selection available at your bookstore. Natacha offers the following advice:

  • Find out what the child or teen has read already. Ask them what authors they like to read.
  • Discover the subjects and topics that interest them.
  • Find out if they prefer fiction or nonfiction, fantasy or reality.
  • Don't be afraid to ask your neighborhood children's librarian or children's books seller for suggestions and advice.
  • Read your local newspaper's book section. Many newspapers and magazines feature book suggestions this time of year.
  • Be consumer savvy. The books with biggest marketing budgets are not necessarily the best books for you child or teen. And conversely, a book you've never heard of may contain the story that changes your child’s or teen's life. Natacha says, "Just because a book jacket may look promising does not mean the story is going to live up to it. We all fall victim at one time or another to 'judging a book by its cover.'
  • Take into consideration the content and age recommendation. I think great care needs to be taken, especially if a young reader is at a higher reading level. Even though the child can read the material the content is not always appropriate.
  • No one is ever too old for a picture book!!
Consider all possibilities: great literature and fun, entertaining books. Says Natacha, "Think of books in terms of chocolate mousse and a Hershey kiss. There are moments for both!"

(c) 2005 Mary Brigid Barrett, The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Print and Share Our Readers Theater Scripts

Just in Time for the Holidays!
Help Kids Create Christmas Drama by Performing the Readers Theater Script for Katherine Paterson's Christmas Story
"The Handmaid of the Lord"

The art of Readers Theater provides an inexpensive and compelling way to get kids reading! Readers Theater is similar to a radio play in that no costumes or props are required. Readers simply stand on stage--or in the front of the classroom!--and read their lines from a script, using their voices to dramatize the production.

The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance, in partnership with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, recently presented a Children's Literary Lights Readers Theater presentation at the 2013 National Book Festival. Following the Festival, the NCBLA has created a Readers Theater Education Resource Guide, as well as several scripts, for adults to share with the young people in their lives.

Katherine Paterson's Readers Theater script for her Christmas short story "The Handmaid of the Lord" provides an opportunity for young readers to share the suffering and joy of a minister's young daughter who never gets any good presents for Christmas. The story's protagonist Rachel Thompson hopes to change her luck by playing the part of Mary in the church's annual Living Nativity. Paterson's story is included in her newly published collection A Stubborn Sweetness and Other Stories for the Christmas Season (Westminster John Knox Press).

To print and share Paterson's Readers Theater script for "The Handmaid of the Lord," click here.

To learn more about Readers Theater and to print our Readers Theater Education Resource Guide, click here.

Monday, December 2, 2013

From Page to Screen: Tips for Making the Most of Movies Based on Books

Enhancing Kids' Reading Pleasure When Popular Books Hit the Silver Screen

Marcus Zusak's "The Book Thief" recently joined Suzanne Collins' "Hunger Games: Catching Fire" on the marquis in movie theaters. Both will soon be joined by the second installment of the movie version of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy classic "The Hobbit." Before you buy tickets, check out our suggestions in "Books to Movies: A Literacy Link" by Mary Brigid Barrett that will help ensure your kids' experience with the movie enhances their reading pleasure:  

  • Read the book first. Read picture books and novels aloud to your kids whenever possible. Encourage older kids to read a novel on which a movie is based before they see the movie or video with their friends. Why? Books are generally much better written than movies. Your child will meet inspiring characters and gain a rich vocabulary when reading a story in a book.
  • A book is the most interactive medium your kids will ever encounter. It makes them think. It stimulates their imaginations. Give your kids the opportunity to see a story in their mind first, before a movie production company dictates a visualization of that story.
  • Suggested Activity: After your kids have read a book, and before they see the movie, have some family fun with scrap paper and markers by having them create their own visual interpretation of the story. Give each child a scene from the book to illustrate. Encourage them to draw the characters, setting, and action in great detail and full color. Then, tape all the drawings up on a wall in the order the scenes appear in the book. As a family, read each corresponding scene aloud from the book, making your own visual experience come alive.
  • Make sure that books and movies are age appropriate for your children. A story in a book only half belongs to an author. The other half belongs to the reader. When reading a book, your child controls the visual interpretation of a story, unconsciously limiting or expanding aspects of the book that please, amuse, or scare him. When a parent reads a story aloud, security is ever present and assured. That is why parents can read books to their children that are a couple of years beyond their grade level. Not so with movies and television. In a movie, an adult who does not know your child is feeding him or her predetermined visual images that may be far more violent than anything your child has imagined. Do not assume that your younger child's comfort level with a book automatically carries over to a movie interpretation of that book. Make sure you read responsible reviews and get an impression of the movie from trusted friends before you take your child to the theater. But you know your child's personality and needs best, so use your best judgment.
  • After your children have seen the movie, have a conversation with them about the movie and the book. Talk about what they like and do not like about the movie in comparison with the book. Help them to understand that a movie is a different "medium" than a book, that a direct translation of the story is impossible given the time requirements. Ask them if the characters, scenes, and action in the movie are the same or different from their visualization of the story. Ask them which interpretation of the story they like best.
  • If you and your child should see a movie before reading the book it is based on, run to your nearest library, get the book, and read it together. I'm betting you will enjoy the book more! 
To check out other tips and informative articles for parents and guardians to get and keep kids reading, visit the NCBLA's Parent & Guardian Handbook.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

Avoid the Kid's Table Syndrome,
and Share Thanksgiving Stories
of the Past This Holiday!

As families across America stock their pantries and begin late-night baking sessions in preparation for Thursday's holiday, why not take a few moments to think about your own family's meal-time traditions. In the NCBLA's article "Holiday Dinners: Avoiding the Kid's Table Syndrome," Mary Brigid Barrett offers sage advice for parents and guardians regarding how to encourage conversation and quality family time at the dinner table.

Looking for some stories of the past to share with your kids? Check out the NCBLA's education website OurWhiteHouse.org, which includes a treasure trove of articles, activities, and resources for families to share.

On OurWhiteHouse.org, you can learn which president offered the first presidential pardon for a Thanksgiving turkey in "Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My! Wild Animals at the White House" by Heather Lang. Discover which president and first lady are credited with serving the first annual Thanksgiving dinner at the White House in the Presidential Facts File and the First Lady Facts File! And foodies of all ages will want to check out White House recipes of the past in "A Taste of the Past: White House Kitchens, Menus, and Recipes" by Mary Brigid Barrett.

OurWhiteHouse.org is the companion website to the NCBLA's art and literature anthology,
Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out, a masterpiece of poetry and prose, art and photography, created by over 100 of America's most gifted storytellers and artists as a project of the NCBLA. Our White House is 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. Our White House is available in both paperback and hardcover from Candlewick Press.

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

Monday, November 18, 2013

Make the Most of American Anniversaries
with Young People
Start with Our White House  

The approaching anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination is triggering many Americans to pause and look back into memory and history. Anniversaries such as these provide wonderful opportunities to step back in history and engage young people. Invite grandparents and others who remember that day to share their memories with your kids. Go to the library and find all the books you can. Look online for news coverage of this tragic event. Encourage young people to ask questions, to do their own research, to find out how this event affected America.  

One excellent resource for engaging kids in America's past is 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.
Our White House offers a number of illustrations and stories for examining the Kennedy presidency:

  • "The People's House" illustration by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher.
  •  "The Kennedy White House," an essay about the Kennedy family's life in the White House by Barbara Harrison.
  • "The White House, the Moon, and a Coal Miner's Son" by Home Hickam and illustrated by Joe Cepeda tells the story of how the rocket scientist-to-be met Kennedy on the campaign trail and inspired Kennedy's decision to have Americans travel to the moon.
  • "A White House Physician" by James Young shares his own personal account as the president's physician of "the most extreme emergency imaginable."
  • "A White Mouse in the White House" by children's literature expert Anita Silvey tells the story of Jacqueline Kennedy's relationship with Madeline author Ludwig Bemelmans and her lifelong love of literature.
Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out was created by the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance as a collaborative effort by over one hundred award-winning authors and illustrators. Our White House is available in both hardcover and paperback from Candlewick Press.
Learn more about how you can inspire young people using the Our White House resources in the online article "For Educators: Using Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out and OurWhiteHouse.org in the Classroom." 
The Our White House anthology is supported by a companion educational website, OurWhiteHouse.org, which expands the book content with additional stories, primary sources, articles, activities, and discussion questions related to book topics. 

Our White House is available in both hardcover and paperback from Candlewick Press.

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

Monday, November 11, 2013

Great Tips for Building a Home Library for Your Kids

Creating a Home Library for Your Family
on a Limited Budget

Preparing your child for school begins the day that baby is born. The biggest determinant of a child's success in school is a child's home life and environment. If a child is read aloud to on a regular basis and if a child has books and literacy materials in his or her home, that child's chances for educational success go up immeasurably.

Books, magazine subscriptions, encyclopedias, and dictionaries are expensive. How can you give your child a leg up in school if you can't afford to buy piles of books for a home library?

Baby showers are a great place to start building a home library. If a friend or family member offers to give you a baby shower, add children's books to your wish list. Ask for board books, made of sturdy, laminated, drool-proof cardboard. They have curved corners and are safe enough to put right into your baby's crib. Request a book of nursery rhymes, like My Very First Mother Goose edited by Iona Opie. And, ask for a copy of Jim Trelease's Read-Aloud Handbook. Jim's book is an invaluable resource for you in building a home library.

As your child grows, encourage family and friends to give books as birthday and holidays gifts. On special occasions, splurge and purchase books for your children in addition to toys. Take the time to write a loving, personal message in each book. In our family we give "now and later" books. On their birthday, each child receives one book which they can enjoy now and one book they can grow into. That way there is always a book on the shelf waiting for them.

Neighborhood, school, and main branch libraries often hold used book sales, as do colleges and universities. Call your local library or check the events column in your newspaper to find out book sale locations and times.  At used book sales, books can often be purchased for as little as $.50. Purchase books, both fiction and nonfiction, that your children enjoy, but also purchase information and reference books, like dictionaries and histories, which they can use as they progress in school. Printed encyclopedias are quickly being replaced by electronic software, so used encyclopedias are now available at bargain prices. Much of the information, even in a 10-year-old encyclopedia, is still pertinent.

Instead of the tooth fairy bringing money to your child, consider having the tooth fairy leave an entertaining, fun paperback or a comic book under their pillow.  Paperback books are an inexpensive way of building a home library.

Contact your local hospital and see if they have a Reach Out and Read program in your area. Working with pediatricians, Reach Out and Read (www.reachoutandread.org) provides books to children before they enter school. 

Supplement purchased books with books and magazines borrowed from the library. The library provides fresh choices for your children. Reading library books can also help you decide which books you should own. Choose library books which generally interest your family and try them out at home. If a child or teen is captured by a particular story or repeatedly references a book, you may want to consider purchasing that book. Before you subscribe to a magazine, borrow a few back issues of that magazine from the library to see if it suits your family's interests.

Recycle magazines with friends and family. Plan with friends and families to subscribe to different magazines, then trade magazines. Also, investigate student subscription discounts. Many magazines offer reduced rates through schools.

It is never too late to begin reading aloud to your children. It is never too late to begin creating your own home library. Having books and literacy materials readily available to your children at home is one of the best ways to insure a successful educational experience for your children.

This article is one of many in the NCBLA's Parent & Guardian Handbook. To check out our complete list, click here.

© 2005  Mary Brigid Barrett 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Print and Share Our Readers Theater Scripts

Step Back in Time!
Create Drama in Your Classroom or Scout Meeting Reading the Readers Theater Script for Susan Cooper's King of Shadows

The art of Readers Theater provides an inexpensive and compelling way to get kids reading! Readers Theater is similar to a radio play in that no costumes or props are required. Readers simply stand on stage--or in the front of the classroom!--and read their lines from a script, using their voices to dramatize the production.

The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance, in partnership with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, recently presented a Children's Literary Lights Readers Theater presentation at the 2013 National Book Festival. In these days following the Festival, the NCBLA has created a Readers Theater Education Resource Guide, as well as several scripts, for adults to share with the young people in their lives.

Susan Cooper's Readers Theater script for her fantasy novel King of Shadows allows young people to travel back in time with 11-year old Nat Field as he wakes up confused when he  discovers he is no longer in the present, but 400 years in the past!

To print and share Cooper's Readers Theater script for King of Shadows, click here.

To learn more about Readers Theater and to print our Readers Theater Education Resource Guide, click here.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Exquisite Corpse Writing Activity

Write an Exquisite Corpse Story
Using Our Easy Instructions!

How does one write an exquisite corpse? Follow these instructions as provided in the NCBLA's Exquisite Corpse Adventure Education Resource Guide:
  1. Gather a group of people and sit in a circle or in a line so there is an order to pass around a piece of paper.
  2. Decide who is going to start. The first person to start (Author #1) writes a line (or several) of poetry at the top of the page. There are no guidelines regarding content, unless the group has decided upon a theme. The written form of Exquisite Corpse requires an initial agreement about sentence structure. A common form of a sentence created might be: article, adjective, noun, verb, article, adjective, noun.
  3. Author #1 folds back the paper from the line or lines he or she wrote, making sure no one else can read it when looking at the paper.
  4. Author #1 passes the paper to Author #2. 
  5. Author #2 writes another line unaware of what Author #1 has written. Author #2 folds over the section of paper that she or he wrote on and passes the paper to the next author.
  6. Each participant takes a turn writing, and then folding the paper, in order to hide what they have written. The paper can be cycled through a second round, if there is space left on the paper.
  7. When everyone has had a turn (or two), unfold the paper and have someone read the body of work that has been created.

For more fun activities and resources regarding the exquisite corpse art form, visit the NCBLA's Exquisite Corpse Adventure Education Resource Guide!

© 2009 Marilyn Ludolph

Monday, October 28, 2013

This Halloween Share an Exquisite Corpse with Young People

The Exquisite Corpse Adventure
A Progressive Story Game Played by
20 Celebrated Authors and Illustrators

Originally published on Read.gov as the foundation of a national reading and writing initiative created by The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance and the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, The Exquisite Corpse Adventure is available from Candlewick Press in paperback, hardcover, and audio formats!

What Is
The Exquisite Corpse Adventure?
The Exquisite Corpse Adventure is a progressive story just like the one many families play on road trips, at camps, at parties, at home when there is a power outage. It is a game where one person begins a story, stops at a cliffhanging moment, and the next person picks it up, continuing on until everyone in the group has the opportunity to contribute. And just like in those games, in The Exquisite Corpse, characters spontaneously erupt out of our authors’ imaginations; plot lines tumble forth, some realized, some lost; and we are often poised at the edge of a cliff with no logical solution in sight! 
The Exquisite Corpse Adventure authors and illustrators are:
M.T. Anderson, Natalie Babbitt, Calef Brown,  Susan Cooper,  Kate DiCamillo,  Timothy Basil Ering, Jack Gantos, Nikki Grimes,  Shannon Hale,  Lemony Snicket, Steven Kellogg, Gregory Maguire,  Megan McDonald,  Patricia and Fredrick McKissack,  Linda Sue Park, Katherine Paterson,  James Ransome, Jon Scieszka, and Chris Van Dusen. 

Extensive Online Education Support Materials Available!
Discover a treasure trove of online educational support materials for
The Exquisite Corpse Adventure on the NCBLA’s Exquisite Corpse Adventure Education Resource Center. Overflowing with supplemental articles, classroom activities, reading lists, art activities, discussion questions, and more, the Education Resource Center is designed for moms and dads, teachers and librarians, grandparents and guardians—all adults who live and work with young people and have a vested interest in helping kids read more, write better, and create stories and art that expand all of our universes.
The Exquisite Corpse Adventure Education Resource Center provides three categories of content:
* General interest articles explain the history of the Exquisite Corpse art form and how it is played, provide instructions for playing progressive story games, and offer tips for parents to encourage reading in their homes.
* Episodic materials include links to author and illustrator biographical information, annotated lists of recommended reading (thematically linked to each episode!), classroom activities, art activities, and discussion questions—provided and customized for each Exquisite Corpse episode.
* Literacy resources include authoritative articles on reading and writing from the NCBLA and other literacy experts, links to informative websites and blogs dedicated to literature and literacy, and links to Exquisite Corpse Adventure contributors’ websites and video discussions.
The educational resource center was created by the NCBLA and our distinguished colleagues at the Butler Children’s Literature Center at DominicanUniversity.

Ask for The Exquisite Corpse Adventure at a library or bookstore near you!
Or read it online at READ.GOV!

To buy The Exquisite Corpse Adventure from the bookseller of your choice, click here. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Progressive Story Strategies and Ideas

Gather Round and
Create a
Progressive Story
with the Kids in Your Life

by Mary Brigid Barrett
Progressive stories have been around as long as men, women, and children have been able to talk.  Imagine an ancient tribe of people sharing experiences at the end of a long day of fishing, each person’s catch growing bigger, each account of an individual’s struggle to catch that fish growing more dramatic, one story building on the other around the campfire as stars erupt in the night sky.  Imagine an eye witness sharing the details of an animal attack of his or her friend, and that story expanding, becoming more exaggerated as it is spread throughout the village.  Imagine the neighborhood gossips cackling over the long line of suitors courting the rich widow in town, the intimate details growing in inverse proportion to the actual knowledge of the gossips.  The foundations of progressive stories and progressive story games are well rooted in the behavior of imperfect human beings and in the vast panoply of human emotions— pride false and true; jealousy and envy; love and passion; anger; and the always present need to laugh, to find escape, entertainment, and objectivity in humor.

The major element that distinguishes progressive stories and progressive story games is that progressive stories and games are group activities.  One person begins the game or story and it is taken up and/or added to by the next person in the group. This most simple version can be played in an oral story tradition or it can take a written form, as in The Exquisite Corpse Adventure national reading and writing initiative created by The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance in partnership with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.

The basic game can be changed by limiting the story to a certain theme or genre—ghost or horror stories, wacky humorous adventures, fairy tale and fantasy, detective and mystery “who dunnits,” murder mysteries, etc.  Contemporary progressive story games for children also include the game of “Telephone” and a menu of alphabet games such as “I’m Going on Picnic” and “A My Name is Alice and I come from Alabama.”

A simple visual version of the game is to take a piece of paper and fold it width-wise into five equal sections. Only one section of the five should be seen at any given time.  The first player draws the head of a person or animal, then folds the paper so that only the next section down is visible and the section with the head drawing is hidden within the folds. The next player draws the neck and shoulders; the next draws the torso; next the hips and upper legs, and finally the last player draws the lower legs and feet, all without viewing the drawings done previously. The climax of the game, at the end, is when the paper is unfolded in front of game participants revealing all parts of the group drawing as a composite “Exquisite Corpse!”

The most up-to-date versions of progressive story games take place on the Internet, as we have done with The Exquisite Corpse Adventure. But we encourage you to play any of the versions of this game with the young people in your life, live and in person. Activities and time spent together take on deeper meaning when your child or teen looks into another human face, not an electronic screen. Your kids need the warmth of human touch, they need to hear your voice, and they need to be able to remember how you smell— the fragrance of your shampoo, aftershave, or perfume, or the scent of grass on your skin after a day hiking in the woods.  Plastics and electronics are not the stuff of memories.

For more ideas and instructions for writing progressive stories, visit the NCBLA's Exquisite Corpse Adventure Education Resource Center.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Halloween Story Time!

  Share Spooky Stories of
Ghost Encounters in the White House
with the Young People in Your Life

The NCBLA's literature and art anthology Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out is an outstanding collection of essays, personal accounts, historical fiction, and poetry that melds with an equally stunning array of original art to offer a look at America’s history through the prism of the White House. 
As Halloween approaches, be sure to check out "The House Haunts" by M. T. Anderson in Our White House. Anderson chose to write about White House ghosts because "I have always been fascinated by ghosts, even though I don't believe in them. I have a whole bookshelf next to my bed filled with ghost stories from around the country (and around the world). I knew that as a kid, the first question I would have about a historical place like the White House would have been, 'Is it haunted?'"
Here is an excerpt from Anderson's "The House Haunts:"
Some say that a British soldier killed on the White House grounds during the War of 1812 still walks the lawns with a torch in his hand. Others say that a dead doorman still welcomes visitors and that a dutiful servant, though deceased, still shuts off lights at night. Some say that Abigail Adams, wife of President John Adams, bustles toward the East Room, carrying a load of laundry to be dried. When gardeners tried to dig up Dolley Madison's rose garden, she returned from the grave to tell them off--so they fled, and the garden remained. Roosevelt, Truman, and Hoover all heard Lincoln knock on their bedroom door; and when Lincoln himself was alive and well, Mrs. Lincoln heard the dead Andrew Jackson tramp up and down the corridors, swearing.
OurWhiteHouse.org, the NCBLA's companion educational website for Our White House, includes discussion questions, activities, and other resources to help young people connect with American history and current events. A special Halloween feature is the web exclusive "Knock, Knock! Whoooo's There? Spooky Stories from Children of the White House" by Renee' Critcher Lyons.  

Did you know that many White House residents throughout the years have claimed that it is HAUNTED? Do you know WHOSE ghosts stalk the bedrooms, fireplaces, and gates? You can read all about the stories of ghostly encounters experienced by presidential children Margaret Truman, Jenna and Barbara Bush, Susan Ford, and Lynda Johnson Robb, in "Knock, Knock! Whoooo's There? Spooky Stories from Children of the White House." We encourage you to share this article--and the accompanying discussion questions and activities--with all the young people in your life.

Here is an excerpt:

Other ghostly noises linger along the gates and upon the doors of the White House’s North Portico. Legend says the banging is the ghost of Anna Surrat rattling the doors and gates, pleading for her mother’s life. (Anna is the daughter of Mary Surrat, hanged in 1865 after her conviction as a conspirator in the murder of Abraham Lincoln. Mary became the only woman ever executed by the U.S. government). Anna’s weeping swells throughout the White House’s entrance hall, even with the doors shut! And on July 7th each year, the anniversary of her mother’s execution, Anna’s ghost paces back and forth on the front steps, supposedly awaiting the arrival of President Johnson.
To learn more about Our White House, click here.

Looking for Even MORE Spooky Stories?
Check out the "Boo to You!" list on ReadingRockets.org
for scary and not-so-spooky tales filled with pumpkins, ghosts, and monsters galore, and peruse the "Monsters Bookshelf" on the New York Times website.

For more great fall reading suggestions, check out the NCBLA's "Great Books for Boys" list and "Discovering Fantasy Beyond Harry Potter."