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, which includes a treasure trove of articles, activities, and resources for families to share.

On, 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. 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 in the Classroom." 
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. 

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 ( 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.