Thursday, May 30, 2013

Book Notes: Let the Great World Spin

If you have not yet read Let the Great World Spin, run to your neighborhood library and borrow it and share it with any and all teens who live with you. Winner of the National Book Award, it transcends time and place and reaches out to all of us who have experienced deep sorrow, helping us find comfort in wholly imperfect human compassion.

Today there is an interesting article in The New York Times about Colum McCann the gifted author of Let the Great World Spin at:

Essential Reading in The New York Times:

“In Raising Scores, 1 2 3 Is Easier Than A B C” 
by Motoko Rich

Excerpts from article:

Here at Troy Prep Middle School, a charter school near Albany that caters mostly to low-income students, teachers are finding it easier to help students hit academic targets in math than in reading, an experience repeated in schools across the country.

Students entering the fifth grade here are often several years behind in both subjects, but last year, 100 percent of seventh graders scored at a level of proficient or advanced on state standardized math tests. In reading, by contrast, just over half of the seventh graders met comparable standards. 

The results are similar across the 31 other schools in the Uncommon Schools network, which enrolls low-income students in Boston, New York City, Rochester and Newark. After attending an Uncommon school for two years, said Brett Peiser, the network’s chief executive, 86 percent of students score at a proficient or advanced level in math, while only about two thirds reach those levels in reading over the same period.

“Math is very close-ended,” Mr. Peiser said. Reading difficulties, he said, tend to be more complicated to resolve.

The article continues: 

Studies have repeatedly found that “teachers have bigger impacts on math test scores than on English test scores,” said Jonah Rockoff, an economist at Columbia Business School. He was a co-author of a study that showed that teachers who helped students raise standardized test scores had a lasting effect on those students’ future incomes, as well as other lifelong outcomes.

Teachers and administrators who work with children from low-income families say one reason teachers struggle to help these students improve reading comprehension is that deficits start at such a young age: in the 1980s, the psychologists Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley found that by the time they are 4 years old, children from poor families have heard 32 million fewer words than children with professional parents. 

By contrast, children learn math predominantly in school.

“Your mother or father doesn’t come up and tuck you in at night and read you equations,” said Geoffrey Borman, a professor at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin. “But parents do read kids bedtime stories, and kids do engage in discussions around literacy, and kids are exposed to literacy in all walks of life outside of school.”

To read full article go to:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Report on Picture Book Panel Discussion Event at the outstanding Politics and Prose Book Store in 
Washington D.C.

"‘You motivate kids to be readers by giving them something great to read. It's as simple as that,’ said Mr. Scieszka…”

If you live in the greater Washington D.C. area, or are visiting, the must-see book store is Politics and Prose on Connecticut Avenue NW. There you will find not only a wide and diverse collection of books for children and teens, but Politics and Prose also hosts many interesting author and book events—we know because the NCBLA has experienced the staff’s warm hospitality first hand!

Karen MacPherson, the children's/teen librarian at the Takoma Park Maryland Library, recently reported  on a fascinating panel discussion that took place at Politics and Prose. Panelists included: author and children’s literature historian and expert Leonard Marcus; Neal Porter editorial director of Neal Porter Books;   authors Marc Barnett, Meg Medina, and Jon Scieszka;  and author/illustrators Christopher Myers and Laura Vaccaro Seege.  

FromMacPherson’s Scripps Howard News  column:  

"Picture books are stories told in two languages -- text and art. A third language is added by putting these things together as the story is read," said Mr. Marcus, who moderated the Politics & Prose panel.

The panelists agreed that digitized picture books are a poor substitute for the physical, print version.

"Digital books break a lot of the magic that makes picture books," Mr. Barnett said. "The page turn, for example, is a basic piece of language in picture books. That's how you show surprise and suspense. But, in digital books, the page turn is a fake" because all you do is slide your finger across a screen.

Read the full article at:  

Politics and Prose Bookstore Website:


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Try to Read to Your Baby, Toddler, or Preschooler Every day!

The three most frequently asked questions to the NCBLA are:
1.    What is the best thing I can do to help my child be ready for school?
2.   What are the best books to read aloud to my child?
3.   When should I start reading aloud to my child?

The answers, in order, are:
1.    The best thing you can do to prepare your child for school is to create a language enriched home—talk and sing to your baby, toddler, and preschooler; turn off the screens in your home, look at each other and have family conversations at mealtimes, on the beach, in the car, in the grocery story, at athletic events and activities; take your young children to parks, playgrounds, and museums and talk with them about the experience; and of great importance, read books aloud with your baby, toddler, and preschooler. After you have read the book, talk to your child about the story and pictures. Try to find time to read to your child every day!
2.   The best books to read aloud to your young child are ones that are age and personality appropriate, that build on your child’s interests and expand his or her universe. The children’s librarian at your local neighborhood library will be thrilled to help you find the right books for your child. And below we provide several links to great lists of age appropriate books for your baby, toddler, and preschooler.
3.   When should you start reading books aloud to your child? The day he or she is born! And don’t stop reading aloud when your child  becomes an independent reader—“big kids” still love to have Mom and Dad take the time to read to them, too!

Websites that provide great read-aloud tips for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers and websites with great book suggestions for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Attention Coaches and Youth Mentors!

YOU Can Help Connect Kids to Books!

In the article "Great Ideas Connecting Kids to Books" by Mary Brigid Barrett in the NCBLA's Mentor Handbook on, Barrett explains how all the adults in a young person's life--not just a child's parents and teachers, but his or her other family and community members--can make a huge impact on a child's life. All adults who live and work with children in even limited ways can encourage kids to turn off the TV and video games and engage in a good book!

Here is an excerpt:

Grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends, neighbors, coaches, scout and camp councilors, youth volunteers—all of you have far more influence on the kids in your life than you know. And you have enormous influence on the children and teens that have parents who, for whatever reason, are unable to fulfill their parental responsibilities. Your position is free of even ordinary parental/child/teen tension, and because of that, your leadership and friendship are hugely meaningful, especially to preteen and teens that are naturally looking beyond their own backyards for mentors. Don’t be afraid to exert your influence encouraging kids to read, to write, to stay in school and learn.
To read the entire article, click here.

The NCBLA website is overflowing with informative articles for adults and who live and work with young people. Whether you are a parent, teacher, grandparent, or coach, you will find something to help you encourage literacy and help your kids become lifelong readers! Be sure to check out:

Monday, May 20, 2013

Great Books for the Young Baseball Fans in Your Life

Take Me Out to the Ball Game,
But Let's Read a Book Before We Go!

It's baseball season! From little league to the major league, players and fans alike are playing catch, swinging their bats, and gathering for an afternoon at the ball park. If your child absolutely adores baseball, why not take advantage of that passion and look for baseball-themed books during your next trip to the local library?! Finding books whose subjects match your kids' passions is a great way to get and keep kids reading!

The librarian at your local library can help your kids find books that match your kids' interest. For some great ideas to get started with your search for young baseball fans in your life, check out the NCBLA's article "Home Run Reading: Baseball and Books for Kids," which not only offers tips but a list of recommended titles too. 

You might also want to check out Reading Rockets' "Take Me Out to the Ball Park" reading list for younger readers, as well's "Baseball Books" list for teen readers.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

New Head of Library of Congress Young Readers Center Named

Congratulations to Karen Jaffe,
the New Head of the
Library of Congress Young Readers Center
in Washington, DC

Karen Jaffe, manager of education projects for MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, producers of the PBS Newshour, is the new head of the Library of Congress Young Readers Center. In her new role, she will manage the day-to-day operations of the center, which opened in 2009 as the first Library space devoted to the needs of young people.
"The opportunity to join the Young Readers Center at the Library of Congress is a splendid gift," said Jaffe. "Being surrounded by the best in literature for children, working with talented and dedicated staff and volunteers, and helping children explore books in this very special space in the Jefferson Building is a privilege."

"We eagerly welcome Karen, who brings her extensive experience in creating educational programs for young people to the Young Readers Center," said John Y. Cole, director of the Center for the Book, which administers the Young Readers Center.

Jaffe’s experience at PBS included co-directing an online video news broadcast for middle- and high- school students and managing curriculum development, assessment and student competitions. Previously, Jaffe founded and directed KIDSNET, a clearinghouse for children’s electronic media. Jaffe has also been a communications specialist for the National Education Association.

"I look forward to developing new programs for the Young Readers Center and to expanding the center’s national outreach with new partnerships and collaborations," Jaffe said.

Since its creation by Congress in 1977 to "stimulate public interest in books and reading," the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress ( has become a national force for reading and literacy promotion. A public-private partnership, it sponsors educational programs that reach readers of all ages, nationally and internationally. The center provides leadership for affiliated state centers for the book (including the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and nonprofit reading- promotion partners and plays a key role in the annual Library of Congress National Book Festival. It also oversees the Library’s website and administers the Poetry and Literature Center.

The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance has been privileged to enjoy a long and productive relationship with the Center for the Book. Our partnership has developed many engaging programs for the National Book Festival, as well as the national reading and writing outreach initiative titled The Exquisite Corpse Adventure, which is featured on the Center for the Book's website Read.Gov. (Click here to check out The Exquisite Corpse Adventure.)  The NCBLA congratulates Ms. Jaffe on her appointment and wishes all the best to everyone in the Young Readers Center as they continue to promote reading and books for young people.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, is the world’s pre-eminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled integrated resources to Congress and the American people. The Library provides information, understanding and inspiration to the public, scholars, Members of Congress and their staffs. Many of the Library’s resources and treasures may also be accessed through the Library’s website at 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Website Helps You Find Just the Right Book for Your Child

Themed Book Lists on Reading Rockets'
Start with a Book Website Help You Find Winning Books for Your Kids

With 24 kid-tested themes to choose from, you can find the perfect book for your child to dive right into on Reading Rockets' Start with a Book website. Each theme (including kid favorites like Dinosaurs, Sports, Art, and Cooking) includes carefully chosen fiction and nonfiction books, hands-on activities, writing ideas, apps, and other websites to deepen learning. Parents can also sign up for summer literacy text messages, in both English and Spanish.

For a summer full of discovery and learning, download and print the Start with a Book flyer.

To visit the Start with a Book website, click here.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Parental Connection to Libraries Defined

Pew Study Reveals the Strong Connections Parents Have with Public Libraries 

What's the one thing that nearly all parents agree is valuable for their children? The library, of course! Ninety-four percent of parents say libraries are important for their children, according to new report by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project.

The study, "Parents, Children, Libraries, and Reading," reveals the strong connections parents have with public libraries.

"This study echoes what librarians have heard from parents for years: libraries encourage and build a love of reading and books," said American Library Association President Maureen Sullivan in a statement. "Librarians provide more information and resources than any family can afford to have at home. Libraries provide a safe and welcoming space for reading and learning."

To read the study, click here

Monday, May 6, 2013

Kids and Books: Supporting Arguments

NCBLA Article "Why Do Kids Need Books?" Provides Compelling Arguments Regarding the Critical Value of Books to Kids

Why do kids need books? 

Here are just a few reasons from our article:
Books create warm emotional bonds between adults and kids when they read books together.

Books help kids develop basic language skills and profoundly expand their vocabularies—much more than any other media.

Books are interactive; they demand that kids think.

To read our entire list published in the Parent and Teacher Handbook on our website, click here.

While visiting our Parent & Guardian Handbook, take a few minutes to also check out:

The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance, a not-for-profit organization founded by award-winning young people's authors and illustrators, believes that literacy is about far more than the ability to read. We believe that all young people must have equal access to exciting and interesting books and information sources that invite them to dream and give them the tools to achieve their dreams. We believe that literacy is essential to the development of responsible citizens in a democracy. To learn more, click here to visit our website.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

We Will Miss Our Dear Friend Fredrick McKissack

The NCBLA Extends Our Deepest, Heartfelt Condolences to the McKissack Family
Upon the Passing of Fredrick McKissack

Fredrick and Patricia McKissack pose behind their home in 2009.
Photograph from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance is deeply saddened by the loss of beloved board member Fredrick McKissack, husband and writing partner of NCBLA board member Patricia McKissack. Fred, with Pat, was a founding board member of the NCBLA, gifting us with his time and talent, his experience and wisdom, expanding our perspective in multiple directions.

Patricia and Fredrick McKissack created over 100 books for young people, Pat doing the majority of the writing, Fred doing the research. Their book, A Long Hard Journey:The Story of the Pullman Porter, was awarded both the Coretta Scott King Award and the Jane Addams Peace Award; other books have received numerous national awards and accolades. Fred McKissack felt strongly that all young people need good literature by and about African Americans. He stated a dual goal of improving the self-image of African-American children and of encouraging an open attitude in all children toward cultures different from their own.

Fred McKissack was a man of honor and duty; a man of compassion and kindness; a man who brought light, joy, love, and wisdom into the lives of his beautiful family and many friends. We are so grateful, and honored, to have had Fred in our lives.

For those who would like to honor the life of Fredrick McKissack, donations may be made to the United Negro College Fund in Fred's name. Click here

Read the obituary for Fredrick McKissack in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch here