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.