Friday, June 28, 2013

Civic Education: How Much Do YOU Know???

The Atlantic Asks:
Are You Smart Enough to be a Citizen?
Take Their Quiz and Find Out!

Illegal immigration and citizenship continue to dominate the national conversation. A recent article titled "Are You Smart Enough to Be a Citizen?" in The Atlantic made a modest proposal: 

What if citizenship were not guaranteed by birth? What if everyone had to earn it upon turning 18, and renew it every 10 years, by taking an exam? What might that exam look like?

Take the challenge! And invite the young people in your life to take the challenge and discover how much you all know--or don't know. To take the quiz, click here

Our White House Is Perfect Resource for Helping Young People Engage in Civics and American History
Exciting stories, informative essays, humorous poetry, and extraordinary art can help kids understand the past and make connections with our present and future. A perfect resource for learning more about American history and civic engagement is the NCBLA's award-winning anthology Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out.

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.

The Our White House anthology is supported by a companion educational website,, which expands the book content with additional stories, primary sources, articles, activities, and discussion questions related to book topics.  
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 in the Classroom."

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!

Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review!
“Eight years in the making, this anthology of White House history convenes an all-star roster of 108 children's authors and illustrators, as well as a few scholars and former White House employees and residents and it is a blue-ribbon choice for family sharing during an election year. Chronologically ordered, the entries range from poems to presidential speeches, satirical cartoons to stately portraits. . . . The volume makes the invaluable point that history does not have to be remote or abstract, but a personal and ongoing engagement.”

The Horn Book Starred Review!
“With something for adults and children alike is the sumptuous new anthology Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out. . . . The contributors are all luminaries of the children’s book field. A fascinating, eminently browsable, and accessible entrance into the People’s House.”

School Library Journal
Starred Review!
“This handsome compendium is rich with excerpts, poems, and other writings about the historic residence, many of them personal in tone and subject. With artwork as eclectic as the text, the book offers glimpses into the presidents, their concerns, their families, and the mansion itself.”

Featured on the “Martha Stewart Show” as One of The New York Times “Eight Great Books for the Holidays”
On the December 15, 2008 “Martha Stewart Show,” Martha advised procrastinating audience members and viewers to “Think books! I do!” as ideal holiday gifts. With that in mind New York Times book review editor Sam Tanenhaus shared recommendations of eight great books. Our White House was one of those books—the only children’s book on his list!

L.A. Parent
“This is the definitive White House book for history buffs young and old. Whether you seek ghost stories, architectural details, or personal accounts . . . you will not be disappointed. With amazing artwork and entries spanning more than 200 years from literary luminaries ranging from Charles Dickens to Walt Whitman, Gregory Maguire to David McCullough, there is material enough to keep you coming back for more.”
  • 2009-2010 National Endowment for the Humanities We the People “Picturing America” Bookshelf Award
  • 2009 American Library Association Notable Children’s Book for All Ages
  • 2009 National Council for Social Studies and the Children’s Book Council Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People
  • 2009 International Reading Association Teachers’ Choices Booklist Selection
  • Best Books of 2008 Top 10 Editors’ Pick for Middle Readers
  • Parents’ Choice Foundation Recommended Book Award, Fall 2008
  • School Library Journal Best Books of the Year 2008
  • The Horn Book Fanfare, Best Books of 2008
  • Publisher’s Weekly 2008 Best Books of the Year, Children’s Nonfiction
  • Publishers Weekly 2008 Cuffie Award, Best Nonfiction Treatment of a Subject, Honorable Mention
  • Scripps-Howard News Service Favorite Children's Book of 2008
  • named a 2009 American Library Association “Great Websites for Kids”

About The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance
The NCBLA is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization founded by award-winning young people’s authors and illustrators. Acting as an independent creative agent or in partnership with interested parties, the NCBLA develops original projects, programs, and educational outreach that advocate for and educate about literacy, literature, libraries, and the arts.

We believe that literacy is essential to the development of responsible citizens in a democracy. And we believe that citizens, both young and old, must have equal access to stimulating books and information sources that invite them to dream and give them the tools to achieve their dreams. As writers and illustrators, teachers and mentors, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles—as citizens and neighbors—our ultimate question is always how can we best serve all of our nation’s children?

For more information about the NCBLA, please visit our website at

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Support RIF and You Could Win a $500 Macy's Gift Card!

Be Book Smart!
Give $3 to Provide a Book for a Child and
Get $10 Off a $50 Purchase at Macy's

RIF has partnered with Macy’s to create Be Book Smart, a national partnership to raise awareness and support of children’s literacy. This effort will help RIF provide free books and literacy resources to children nationwide, while expanding RIF’s outreach to the children at greatest risk for developing reading difficulties. This campaign provides an opportunity for Macy’s customers to join the effort and have an impact on literacy in their community.

From June 21–July 21, 2013, Macy’s customers can give $3 to provide a book for a child and receive a coupon for $10 off* a $50 in-store purchase at any Macy’s nationwide. Macy’s will give 100% of every $3 to RIF. 

Since 2004, Macy’s has played an integral part of helping RIF carry out its mission, raising more than $25 million to support children’s literacy. That means millions of free books and resources for children who need them the most.
As we launch the 2013 Be Book Smart campaign, Macy’s and RIF are celebrating our 10th year together. Through this incredible partnership, we’ve done amazing things. With your help this year, a Macy’s customer using a Be Book Smart coupon will help RIF get the 10 millionth book to a child in need through this partnership.

Why Support the Campaign
Reason #1: By supporting RIF at Macy’s, you are helping provide free books and literacy resources to children in underserved communities. All children need access to books and to be exposed to reading at an early age to prepare for success in school and life. And for many of the children RIF serves, their RIF books are their only books.

Reason #2: Macy’s will thank you with a $10 off coupon* valid on eligible purchases of $50 or more!

Reason #3: You’re a Book Person and helping kids make you feel good.

To learn more, click here.

Friday, June 21, 2013

In Case You Missed It!

New York Times Reviews New Exhibit
at New York Public Library:
The ABC of It: Why Children's Books Matter

In the New York Times article titled "Bedtime With Puritans and Wild Things," journalist Edward Rothstein writes:

Photo by Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times
The great green room and the purple crayon are here; so are the wild things and the poky puppy, Charlotte’s web and Alice’s wonderland, the very hungry caterpillar and the stinky cheese man. It is a reunion of creatures, characters and creations, gathered from memories of childhood and parenthood, and celebrated in “The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter,” a remarkably rich new exhibition at the New York Public Library. 

To read the entire article, click here.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Activist Alert!

Ask Your Senators to Support Library Amendment to Immigration Bill

This week the Senate is considering S.744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (commonly referred to as the immigration bill).
Sometime this week, Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) will offer amendment #1223 to the bill, a library amendment.
Sen. Reed's amendment specifies that public libraries will be an eligible entity for funding for English language instruction and civics education. It also would add the director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to the Task Force on New Americans.
Please call both your senators today and ask them to support Sen. Reed's amendment #1223, the library amendment. Libraries play a crucial role in assisting immigrant populations and they need to be a part of immigration reform.
To quickly find your senators' names and phone numbers, click here and enter your zip code.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Traveling with Kids

Make Your Summer Travels with the Kids FUN with the Anti-Boredom Travel Backpack
Make one for your kids, then you can relax!

"She took my markers!"
"Gimme back my Gummi Bears."
"Dad, he's taking up the whole back seat!"
"I'm hungreeeee."
"Mom, this is boring."
"Are we there yet?"

As the survivor of twenty years of traveling with children, I have three suggestions for parents:

  1. Defy your spouse's request to keep packed items to a minimum! Let each kid bring their own pillow, blanket, backpack full of stuff, and electronic equipment. So what if you can't see traffic out of the back window of your van? Isn't that what rear and side mirrors are for?
  2. Do not leave a rest stop until everyone has gone to the bathroom, especially the kid who claims "I don't have to go now."
  3. When desperate, give them sugar.
Actually, whether you're traveling by car, bus, train, or plane this summer, the best way to make traveling fun, and keep family bickering to a minimum, is to fill a back pack for your child or teen with surprise items which will entertain and comfort them.

Before you begin to assemble your kid's individual backpacks you need to do the following:
  • Find out your kids' favorite book authors, musicians, colors, gum, and candy. If you don't know, ask them. Don't tell them why. It will drive them crazy.
  • Get their friends' names and addresses. Give them each a small address book and tell them they have to write down all their friends' full names, addresses, and zip codes. They have to return it to you before you leave. You can motivate them with a promise of a banana split. I prefer to bribe my children with an extravagant reward that I know, and they know, will probably never happen. I offer them their dad as a servant for a day, or I promise them a Jaguar on their sixteenth birthday. Hope blooms eternal.
  • Find a backpack for each of your kids. You can be very brave and clean out their school backpack (beware of old tissues, leaking pens, and sticky, unidentifiable food remains) or you can be smart and get new packs in their favorite colors.
23 Great Things To Put In A Backpack
Pack some, or all items. Judge as to age appropriateness for your child or teen:

  1. Bottle of water
  2. Gum (sugar-free or regular)
  3. Deck of cards (great cheap entertainment for hotel rooms and in crowded restaurants waiting for your meals to arrive)
  4. Clip board (mini-travel desk!)
  5. Bound sketchbook (so the pages don't fall out) for journal writing; drawing; playing tic-tac-toe and hangman; reviewing hotels and restaurants; writing silly limericks; making signs to communicate to other cars and trucks ("honk if you like mashed potatoes" was one of my kids' favorite signs); and keeping lists of: state license plates, animals they spot, cars they like, cool names they wish they had instead of their own boring name, things they hate/love about traveling by car.
  6. Markers of all shapes and sizes. Younger kids like the scented markers. *Hint: take out of boxes and put in zip-lock plastic bag.
  7. Kneaded eraser
  8. Lead pencils and colored pencils. See* in #6. Remember you take a risk packing crayons, they melt in hot cars.
  9. A great age appropriate, FUN paperback book or books (not mandatory books from their school's summer reading lists). Find books by their favorite authors. Ask your local librarian for entertaining books. Libraries have paperback copies as well hardback books.
  10. Correspondent's kit. Tuck the following in a large zip-lock plastic bag: their friend address book, blank postcards, STAMPS, stickers, water-proof pens or markers, blank cards and envelopes. Encourage them to write to their friends throughout the trip. And stop to mail!
  11. One-two packs of favorite candy. Keep back up supply with you to dispense gradually.
  12. Terrific sunglasses
  13. Healthy snacks – a banana, trail mix, or bag of carrot sticks
  14. Plastic bag full of disposable hand wipes
  15. Pack of tissues
  16. Comic books
  17. Dime store treasures: paper doll set (pre-cut and put in folder), animal stickers and album, Silly Putty, Fuzzy Magnetic Mustache Man, Kaleidoscope, etc.
  18. Ipod or personal CD player
  19. Audio books, age appropriate. Audio books are often more expensive than the books themselves, but at most libraries, you can borrow them for free.
  20. Music of favorite musical group
  21. Disposable camera
  22. Cheap binoculars for spying
  23.  Flashlight for reading/writing/drawing when it gets dark.
The "anti-boredom" backpack will not only keep your kids entertained in the car, it just might hone their reading, writing, and creative skills as well. Make sure to pack your own bag full of goodies. Why should the kids have all the fun?

© 2002 Mary Brigid Barrett; The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance

Friday, June 14, 2013

Summer Reading

Summer Reading Recommendations  from Authoritative Sources Abound

Would you like to visit your local library or bookstore with a list of summer reading books for your kids in hand? Then check out recommendations from Reading Rockets,, and Horn Book!

And don't forget to ask the librarian at your local library. He or she can help you find the perfect books for your kids based on their interests and reading levels.  

Monday, June 10, 2013

In Case You Missed It:NYT's Op/Ed Essay on Children's Literature, "No Learning Without Feeling."

"I like it when my students cry, when they read with solemnity and purpose, when the project of making meaning becomes personal. My middle school students turn again and again to highly charged young adult novels. The poems and stories they receive enthusiastically are the ones that pack the most emotional punch. Just as teens like to take physical risks, they are driven to take emotional risks. For teachers, emotion is our lever. The teen mind is our stone.

Put another way, emotion is the English teacher’s entry point for literary exploration and for the development of the high-level skills outlined in the Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted in 45 states. Unfortunately, the authors of the standards are not particularly interested in emotional risk taking but rather in the avoidance of political risk. It is a rather bloodless effort."

To read the full essay by Claire Needell Hollander, go to:

Illustration by Jon Han

Friday, June 7, 2013

Summer Family Field Trips: Share Worlds of Picture Books With Your Kids!

The Eric Carle Museum in

"Again!" is the word I most often heard after reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar,by Eric Carle to my children. It is a word many parents hear when they read Mr.Carle's books out loud. Now children of all ages can see Mr. Carle's vibrant illustrations, as well as many other illustrators' colorful works, at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts.

For more than two centuries, illustrations have excited children about books and reading. A family outing to a museum or gallery that exhibits original illustrations from familiar books will not only spur kids to read more, it will introduce them to the world of art. Seeing illustrations up close, and seeing how illustrations are made, will inspire young people to use their imaginations to create their own art.

Located on the Hampshire College campus, The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is a museum that entertains and educates. It is the first full-scale museum in the United States devoted to international picture book art with the aim of "celebrating the art that we are first exposed to as children and that we carry with us throughout our lives." Along with ever refreshed exhibits of Mr. Carle's work, the museum features special exhibits of world renowned illustrators. It offers classes and workshops for children and their families, as well as professional workshops for teachers and librarians. The museum website,,is a wonderful children's literature and literacy resource center for parents and teachers.

Once, a child wrote informing Eric Carle that he was a"good picture writer." Reacting to the child's observation, Mr. Carle commented, "I would like to be remembered as a picture writer and as someone who has opened a door for children to the world of pictures and words."

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art does indeed open a door for children to the world of pictures and words. It wouldn't surprise me if the first word your child says after visiting Mr. Carle's museum is "Again!"--Mary Brigid Barrett, President, NCBLA

For special exhibit dates, directions, hours of operation, and other information about the museum, visit

 The Mazza Museum in Ohio

Additional Field Trip Ideas

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Summer Reading Recommendations for Kids!

KIDS Summer Reading Classics:
Gone-Away Lake and Return to Gone-Away Lake

Elizabeth Enright, the only child of divorced parents, wrote one of the best, and most delightful, family novels in American children’s literature, Gone-Away Lake.

In Gone-Away Lake, city kids escape to the country to spend time with their cousin. Together they explore the landscape discovering an abandoned resort. A common childhood fantasy, often realized literally in kids’ clumsy construction of tree and club houses, is the idea of a secret kid place out of sight and hearing of parents. So much better than a club house is an entire Victorian summer resort community, forsaken and abandoned, and filled with who knows what hidden treasures?

Enright, the daughter of a political cartoonist and a magazine illustrator, and niece of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, was a talented visual artist who later discovered that she was an even more gifted writer. Her books are filled with engaging characters, vivid descriptions, gentle humor, and realistic family warmth that never dips into sentimentality.

Gone-Away Lake and Return to Gone-Away Lake are wonderful, entertaining summer reads. And if your son or daughter enjoys Gone-Away Lake, borrow Enright’s series of books about the Melendy family from your neighborhood library—The Saturdays, The Four Story Mistake, Then There Were Five, and Spiderweb for Two. The Melendy kids— a motherless family of five— are smart, talented, interesting,and interested. Like Frank Capra’s movie You Can’t Take It With You, Enright’s Melendy family series bubble with a quirky joie de vivre that is contagious. All Enright's books are available in paperback editions. –M.B.B.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

In a digital age, parents value printed books for their kids!


The Pew Research Center Reports:

When it comes to sharing books or reading with a child, most Americans adults (not just parents) who have read both print and e-books think print books are the better option. 

More than nine in ten parents of minor children say it is important to them that their children read print books—eighty-one percent say it is “very important,” and an additional 13% say it is “somewhat important.” Very few say having their children read print books is “not too important” (3%) or “not important at all” (3%).

Read full article at:

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Good News for Readers, Writers, and Publishers from BOOK EXPO AMERICA

"E-book sales are no longer growing at a nerve-rattling pace. The unpleasant and expensive price-fixing lawsuit last year, pitting the Justice Department against five major publishers, has been settled. Independent booksellers added 65 stores to their ranks in 2012, according to their trade association, despite competition from Amazon."

Read more at:

Summer Reading: The New York Times Book Review Suggestions for Adults and Kids!

The New York Times has published its summer reading recommendations for children and adults. You may want to check out all the children and teen book reviews for this year!

Go to: