Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Great Books for Back to School!

The New York Times Recommends
Books for Kids Going Back to School

In the "Back to School Children's Book Column," the New York Times recommends a variety of books for young people as they make their way back to school. Specific titles recommended include Sidekicked by John David Anderson; Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick; and Jane, the Fox and Me by Fanny Britt, illustrated by Isabell Arsenault. This column also reviews four picture books about bad behavior, three picture books featuring family stories, and several books on art and what inspires it, including Henri's Scissors by Jeanette Winter.

To read all the book recommendations and reviews, click here.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Save the Dates! October 17-19

2013 Boston Book Festival 
Scheduled for October 17-19 in Copley Square

The Boston Book Festival celebrates the power of words to stimulate, agitate, unite, delight, and inspire by holding year-round events culminating in an annual, free Festival that promotes a culture of reading and ideas and enhances the vibrancy of our city.

To learn more about this year's festival and scheduled authors, click here.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Join Us at the National Book Festival Sunday, September 22

Make Plans Now
to Join the NCBLA for
Our Children's Literary Lights
Readers Theater Presentation
at the National Book Festival in D.C.
RIF Luminaries 
Lynda Johnson Robb and Carol Rasco
to Join
Former National Ambassadors
for Young People's Literature 
Katherine Paterson and Jon Scieszka
and Award-Winning Authors
Susan Cooper and Grace Lin
Former Ambassadors for Young People's Literature
Jon Scieszka and Katherine Paterson
Photo (c) Library of Congress,
The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance and the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress invite you and your family to join us Sunday, September 22 on the mall in Washington, D.C. for an original Readers Theater presentation featuring former National Ambassadors for Young People's Literature--Katherine Paterson and Jon Scieszka--as well as award-winning authors Susan Cooper and Grace Lin. Joining Paterson, Scieszka, Cooper, and Lin on stage and participating in the reading will be literacy champions and special guests Carol Rasco, President and CEO of Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), and Lynda Johnson Robb, a former Chairman of RIF. NCBLA President and Executive Director Mary Brigid Barrett will also be participating.
Authors and illustrators perform a dramatic reading at the 2011 National
Book Festival. Left to right: Patricia McKissack, Fredrick McKissack,
Susan Cooper, Gregory Maguire, Mary Brigid Barrett,
Katherine Paterson, Jack Gantos, Chris Van Dusen, and
Calef Brown (at easel).
The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance has been captivating audiences of all ages with author presentations at the National Book Festival for years. This year's presentation will feature a Readers Theater script (a dramatic presentation of a written work similar to a radio play) written by Katherine Paterson and Susan Cooper. Included will be excerpts from Paterson's story collection A Stubborn Sweetness and Other Stories for Christmas, Cooper's time-travel novel King of Shadows, Scieszka's picture book Cowboy and Octopus, and Lin's fantasy novel Starry River of the Sky

About the Literary Lights Readers Theater Cast
Katherine Paterson is a former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, an honor co-sponsored by the Library of Congress Center for the Book and the Children’s Book Council. Her international fame rests not only on her widely acclaimed novels but also on her efforts to promote literacy in the United States and abroad. A two-time winner of the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award, she has received many other accolades for her body of work, including the Astrid Lindgren Award for Lifetime Achievement. She is also a vice president of the board of directors of the NCBLA. Her new book is Giving Thanks (Chronicle Books), featuring Pamela Dalton’s exquisite cut-paper illustrations. Learn more about Paterson and her books on her website.
Jon Scieszka was the first National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, a program sponsored by the Library of Congress Center for the Book and the Children’s Book Council. His zany, somewhat subversive sense of humor is evident in such best-sellers as The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales and The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs. He also has a book series and website that encourages boys to read more called Guys Read. Scieszka’s new book is Guys Read: Other Worlds (HarperCollins). Learn more about Sieszka and his books on his website.
Susan Cooper is the author of the classic five-book series The Dark Is Rising, which won a Newbery Medal, a Newbery Honor Award and two Carnegie Honor Awards. Cooper has also received the Margaret A. Edwards Award from the American Library Association for a “significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature.” Born in England, Cooper was a reporter and feature writer for the London Sunday Times before coming to live in the United States. Her writing includes books for children and adults, a Broadway play, films and Emmy-nominated screenplays. Ghost Hawk (Margaret K. McElderry/Simon & Schuster) is her latest novel. She is a member of the board of directors of the NCBLA. Learn more about Cooper and her books on her website.
In 2010 Grace Lin won a Newbery Honor for Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, an Asian-inspired fantasy that some people compare to The Wizard of Oz. Many of Lin’s books feature members of her family. “My mother and I were star characters in my first book,” says Lin. That book was “The Ugly Vegetables.” In addition to writing her books, Lin also illustrates them. She is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. Her new book is Ling & Ting Share a Birthday (Little, Brown). Learn more about Lin on her website.
Regarding her most important accomplishments, literacy advocate Lynda Johnson Robb has this to say, “I am the mother of three almost perfect children. I am still married to Chuck after 46 years. For more than 40 years I worked  to get books into the hands of children  who did not have books of their own. I have received many awards but none as important as those.” Robb is a member of the NCBLA's Advisory Board.

Carol H. Rasco is President and CEO of Reading Is Fundamental, the largest children’s literacy nonprofit in the United States. Throughout her life, Carol has been a devoted advocate for children, youth, and families, as a professional and as a volunteer. Prior to joining RIF in 2001, Carol was the executive director for government relations at the College Board. From 1997 through 2000, Carol served as the senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, and as director of the America Reads Challenge. Previously, Carol worked in the White House as domestic policy adviser to the president and directed the Domestic Policy Council. You can enjoy her expertise, insight, and good humor at Twitter: @CHRasco and Tumblr:

Mary Brigid Barrett is an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator, a professional educator and president and executive director of the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance. Her latest book is Shoebox Sam (Zonderkidz). She is also editor of the NCBLA publication Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out, a read-aloud family anthology of prose, poetry, drama, nonfiction and art that promotes reading and historical literacy. All profits for Our White House support the work and programs of the NCBLA. Barrett is also the organizer of the Library of Congress’ chapter book called The Exquisite Corpse Adventure, available on
About the National Book Festival
The 13th annual National Book Festival will be held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Saturday, September 21 and Sunday, September 22. The NCBLA's Readers Theater presentation is scheduled for Sunday, September 22nd. The National Book Festival is free and open to the public. 

Each year the National Book Festival features authors, poets, and illustrators in several pavilions. This year two pavilions are dedicated to authors and illustrators who write and illustrate books for children and teens.  The festival is a family friendly event, providing an opportunity for readers of all ages to meet and hear firsthand from their favorite authors and illustrators, get books signed, hear special entertainment, and have photos taken with storybook characters. Learn more at the official website: 
About Us
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, the arts, and humanities.  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? Keep up with NCBLA news and events on our website (, our blog (, and our Facebook page.
The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress was established by public law in 1977 to promote books, reading, literacy and libraries, as well as the scholarly study of books. Since its founding, the Center has established affiliate centers in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Center's mission is carried out internationally through its overseas affiliates. More than 80 organizations are Center for the Book reading promotion partners both in the United States and abroad.

Center for the Book programs include the Books & Beyond author series, in which writers from across the country come to the Library to discuss their work and their use of the Library's extraordinary resources. The National Book Festival authors program is also a Center for the Book project. The Center also places special emphasis on young readers through reading and writing contests, the website, and the Young Readers Center in the Thomas Jefferson Building on Capitol Hill.
Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) delivers free books and literacy resources to children and families in underserved communities in the United States. By giving children the opportunity to own a book, RIF inspires them to become lifelong readers and achieve their full potential. As the nation's largest children's literacy nonprofit, RIF has placed 410 million books in the hands of more than 39 million children since it was established in 1966. Learn more and help RIF provide books to kids who need them most, visit

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Back to School

Great Tips for Reducing the Stress
of Going Back to School

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

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

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

© 2013 Mary Brigid Barrett

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Price of a Book

Letter to the Editor Invites Readers
to Consider the Value of Books
New York Times Asks for Your Opinion
Before August 15

New York Time
(c) 2013 Miguel Porlan
In "Invitation to a Dialogue: The Booksellers’ Tale," Stuart Bernstein writes, "Your local bookstore can’t survive as a showroom. The Justice Department apparently wants you to have cheap book prices above all else. But isn’t there a bigger picture? We vote at the polls, but also with our wallets. What is the value of the best book you’ve ever read? Can you even put a price on it?"

To read the entire letter and to send your response, click here.