Art Exhibition: Get the Picture! Contemporary Children’s Book Illustration

Over this Labor Day weekend, my family and I ventured out to the Brandywine River Museum of Art to see the exhibit Get the Picture! Contemporary Children’s Book Illustration. This exhibit featured the illustrative work of eight notable picture book illustrators: Sophie Blackall, Bryan Collier, Raúl Colón, Marla Frazee, Jon Klassen, Melissa Sweet, David Wiesner and Mo Willems. Seeing artwork from books I remember reading to my daughters and those I currently share with my students in an exhibit space, enabled me to appreciate the illustrations more fully. The collection of work curated by H. Nichols B. Clark, former director and chief curator of the Eric Carle Museum of the Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts, was a phenomenal representation of the high caliber artwork made accessible through so many of the picture books in our school library collections.

The exhibit materials were grouped by artist, which provided the perfect platform for drawing comparisons. The museum also utilized iPads for an interactive exploration of David Weisner’s illustrations. This dynamic use of technology created a hot spot for the youngest museum goers. Films made with each of the artists discussing an aspect of the creative process were streaming in the gallery, and are available through the Brandywine’s site about the exhibit. I would highly recommend using any one of these videos in conjunction with a read aloud of one of the illustrator’s books to show students how they choose various media and how artists accomplish research for specific illustrations. Check out Jon Klassen’s video which captures his process of using atypical materials to draw a dog!

Get the Picture! Exhibit

Exhibit attendees reading books by the authors featured in Get the Picture!

The lasting lesson for me from this exhibit is to keep looking critically at the books we select. There are so many new styles and techniques emerging in the books we read to students, as well as a limitless crop of new talented artists rethinking the art of stories. Barbara Elleman provides a framework for picture book art evaluation where she stresses that we actually look at picture books with a multifaceted perspective: “with the lens of an artist, the needs of a librarian, and the appetite of a child.” After viewing the exhibit and reflecting on this helpful summary of how we engage with illustration, I plan to reinvigorate our class discussions about the illustrations in books we read together. My aim will be to have my students critically think about illustrations and how they add to a story, especially through recognition and analysis of artistic techniques utilized in picture books. I know that these questions will stimulate our discussions and provide students with an opportunity to showcase their visual observations and understanding.

This is a page from the exhibit guest book which reads, "I love knuffle bunny and pigeon books."

This is a page from the exhibit guest book which reads, “I love knuffle bunny and pigeon books.”

New Year’s Resolutions

In Tony Schwartz’s opinion piece for the New York Times titled Addicted to Distraction, the executive and author laments his inability to sit down and read a print book. Citing numerous reasons for his lack of focus and several bad habits that had also gotten out of control, Mr. Schwartz “created an irrationally ambitious plan” to right these behaviors and in essence, went cold-turkey for 30 days. Over the time period he aimed to reduce the amount of time he spent on the internet to re-establish his attention span, start eating better, and get more exercise.

He admitted that he had some success over the 30 day period of abstinence, noting that he stopped drinking diet soda and gave up sugar and carbohydrates. But he failed completely in his quest to modify and cut-back on the time he spent on the Internet. As we start off the year with new resolutions, I was humbled by his efforts and results. And he honestly characterized his use of technology and the internet as a need to be constantly stimulated or a way to get a “fix.” His struggle was a portrait I could identify with in relation to my own technology use and reading habits, and that of the students I teach.

Mr. Schwartz’s experience kept resurfacing in my mind as I read Sherry Tunkle’s new book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. In her book, Tunkle explores the idea of distraction in the classroom and the “hyper-attention” behavior we see in some of our students. In her chapter on Education she writes, “There is a way to respond to students who complain that they need more stimulation than class conversation provides. It is to tell them that a moment of boredom can be an opportunity to go inward to your imagination, an opportunity for new thinking.”

Ms. Tunkle’s book is based on the idea that with technology we have greatly limited our face-to-face communication. The inability to connect through discussion has occurred virtually everywhere from the dinner table, the workplace and in the classroom. And she readily admits that “we want technology put in service of our educational purposes.” But she argues that we have to be intentional about the outcomes we want from utilizing the technology otherwise it may be distracting the teachers and students from focusing on one another.

Over the winter break, like many of us, I tackled a growing pile of print items to-be-read and took a brief hiatus from my daily technology habits of searching, sending emails, and collecting data. The winter break also provided many opportunities for socializing and I found that having such a rich variety of opportunities to converse with friends, neighbors, and family was extremely fulfilling. The combination of these two factors – conversing more and using technology less – led me to create two New Year’s resolutions that I think will have lasting results. First, to engage in more discussions from the simple water-cooler chat to more deliberate and proactive conversations about new resources to enrich lessons. I know that I learn a lot from those I meet and share with, and in 2016 I want to continue to foster and nurture that growth. And second, to create a mindful plan for using technology in my life. This week was a victorious balance and I look forward to 50 more weeks where I am productive and still have the ability and time to engage in deep reading and conversation.

What are your technology and classroom related New Year’s resolutions?

How Do You Throw Like a Girl?

This summer our history department chair shared a collaborative document of resources for teaching Social Justice and Multicultural Understanding. I was immediately drawn to the link for Spike Lee’s short documentary, Throw Like a Girl about Mo’Ne Davis. In the summer of 2014, Mo’Ne became the first girl to ever pitch a shutout in the Little League World series. She was the first American girl to play in the Little League World Series since 2004. Even if you never plan to use the film in the classroom, I emphatically encourage everyone to watch the 16 minute profile of this incredibly talented, eloquent, and humble young role model!

Embedded in the document shared by our department chair were resources for utilizing the many links in the classroom. I scoured the internet for other ideas and found the Philadelphia Chapter of the Anti-Defamation League’s unit for teaching about gender stereotypes along with this film.

This idea for a new unit to share with my Fifth Grade students also got me thinking about ways in which I could creatively incorporate the theme of our school’s core values which we were rolling-out for this academic year. The core values are: Be Brave, Authentic, Compassionate, Curious, and Spirited. I had created resource lists of books in our library catalog for our teachers to use that showcase a core value within the theme of each book. And after researching more about Mo’Ne Davis, it was clear that she illustrated each of the core values in all that she has accomplished and embodies. In the film there are many references to Mo’Ne’s attendance at an independent school in Philadelphia, which is a great connection for our girls as well.

We began the unit by drawing pictures of baseball players. You can see from the students work below that not all of them chose to illustrate a male player! We displayed the pictures which were anonymous and then captured the commonalities and differences in our drawn characterizations of the players. This activity helped situate our current understanding and where we had areas to grow our learning.

IMG_0738IMG_0740The Fifth Grade students complete a capstone research project at the end of the year which culminates in a five-minute speech for the Lower School. I am fully integrated in this project, and work with the homeroom teachers to prepare the students for their research. As part of this unit on Mo’Ne Davis I sought to actively incorporate the skills students will use later in the year. To that end, I selected articles from the New York Times, CNN, and Time magazine to read and summarize for the class. Resources used for the Fifth Grade speech process typically include multiple formats and this lesson gave students exposure to the news articles most students would use as a source in their speech project. By sharing my rationale for using news articles to learn more about Mo’Ne Davis, I was thrilled to see the students understand my logic and dive in to the readings!

We discussed vocabulary related to the readings and used throughout the film such as stereotype, gender, discrimination, and role model. Our discussions were spirited and we will conclude the unit by viewing Spike Lee’s film: Throw Like a Girl, along with the video: #Likeagirl. The final step in our learning is to throw a baseball and see if we can “throw like a girl” and approximate this young athlete’s incredible speed and location!

Books for Discussing September 11th

One of the bonuses of being a librarian and a mother, is that my daughters often try to surprise me with books I am not familiar with when they come home from a trip to our public library. One Saturday this summer, I arrived home to find a library book selected by youngest daughter on my desk. I am a native New Yorker and I believe she picked out the book because of its setting, noted in the title.

New Yorks BravestI dug into New York’s Bravest, pouring over the lush illustrations by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. I immediately found myself captivated by the story of a man whose legend was larger than life. Mose Humphreys had overwhelming strength and character, and an unyielding sense of duty. His life ultimately ended in the line of duty and the narrative brought me to tears. Through the story I also gained a deeper understanding of the connection and sense of community firefighters have not only in New York City, but in all areas where we live today.

The book includes a historical note about the origins of this tall tale. And fittingly, the book is dedicated to the 343 New York City firefighters who lost their lives while saving others on September 11th. After researching the book I also found that Mary Pope Osborne included a longer, different version of this legend in her collection American Tall Tales. New York’s Bravest is a gem and reading the book aloud I believe would prompt great discussions with young children about the job firefighters do and the risks they take to save others.

FireboatMaira Kalman uses the history of New York City and a detailed description of the John J. Harvey Fireboat launched in 1931, to set the stage for the incredible work the boat did in the hours after the attack on 9/11.

The theme of citizenship, which resonates so clearly in this book, provides a way to discuss the events of September 11th with children. Maira Kalman describes the events and the response from New Yorkers by writing:

“The news spread. The city had been attacked. Everyone was terrified. But people were brave. The entire city sprang into action. Firefighters and police officers and doctors and construction workers and teachers and cooks and children and parents. The mayor was strong. He said, “We will all work together. We will not be broken.”

Fireboat TowersThe illustrations are remarkable. Maria Kalman’s signature colorful, warm style and captures the people who experienced the day and their steadfast determination, working together to repair the city.

14 Cows for AmericaA Maryland Black-Eyed Susan picture book nominee, Carmen Agra Deedy’s 14 Cows for America provides a unique, global perspective on the events of September 11th. In her collaboration with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah, the author uses the vehicle of storytelling to communicate the events of the day paired with beautiful, evocative illustrations.

“There is a terrible stillness in the air as the tale unfolds. With growing disbelief, men, women, and children listen. Buildings so tall they can touch the sky? Fires so hot they can melt iron? Smoke and dust so thick they can block out the sun?”

Yet, from the story it is clear that no matter how great our differences, we are empathetic. The response from the people in a small village in Kenya and their touching gift of fourteen cows for America define the essence of the Maasai – a people, “ …fierce when provoked, but easily moved to kindness when they hear of suffering or injustice.” This book also provides a stepping stone for broadly discussing ritual, cultural values, and immigration.

In the concluding note from Kimeli Naiyomah he writes, “The Maasai wish is that every time Americans hear this simple story of fourteen cows, they will find a measure of comfort and peace.”  We are fortunate as Librarians and teachers to utilize books like these that provide a conduit for healing and way we can remember September 11th, 2001 and move forward.

Celebrating Mother’s Day with Picture Books

As a mother and a Librarian, I used Mother’s Day as a focal point for my classes this week. Rather than read books explicitly about mothers for my youngest students, I chose to focus on books that portray moms in much the same way my students observe them. From my own experience as a mother, I adore the portrayal of Olivia’s mom in the series by Ian Falconer. Olivia’s mother can be seen sitting building a sand castle with her daughter or reading to Olivia before bed. She is busy attending to her children throughout the narrative and that is something very appealing for the children that read these books. Another book where I love the way the mother is drawn is in Jack Ezra Keat’s The Snowy Day. Peter spends the day alone exploring the snowy world outside his apartment but at the end the day when he comes home, his mother is there to peel off his wet clothing and hear all about his adventures!  Finally, I really appreciate the Mama llama in Llama Llama, Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney. In this witty book written in rhyme, Llama Llama starts to fret about being alone in the dark after Mama has tucked him in! I love the opportunity this narrative provides for me to explain what a phone looked like when it was attached to the wall with a spiral cord attached to the receiver!

Llama red pajama


princess and the peas

Another theme that I explored in the picture books I selected this week were narratives in books without a mother figure in them. The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke and The Princess and the Peas by Caryl Hart were enjoyed by all. Both stories portray very spunky protagonists and craft a storyline where there is a breakdown in understanding between father and daughter. In the end everything is rectified, but the books serve as a good reminder that not every child has both a mother and father.


Using the theme of “mother earth,” I also sought to include depictions of women in picture books who cared for our earth. The titles I selected were Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli, Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, and The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins. In each of these books the central figure is a woman that does something to make a lasting and significant difference on the environment. My students made connections about the way their own mothers care for them and how these women cared for the earth in much the same way through their nurturing, dedication, and patience.

Mother's House


In Our Mothers House by Patricia Polacco is a wonderful book to engage the class in a discussion about what is the essential component of a family. How does our own family compare to that of the one portrayed in this book where two mothers have adopted three children?  Students are able to articulate the characteristics essential to be able to raise a family of strong, independent children. And the students never fail to comment to how much love is expressed in the images of this family!


Whenever possible, I seek to work poetry into any lesson that I can with students. Reading poetry aloud provides a platform to discuss the author’s economy of language and symbolism used when dissecting the text. How could mother’s day pass without a look at The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein? For my students in third and fourth grade they are typically surprised by this book. It is such a sharp departure from the humorous poetry he made his signature, but it never fails to inspire the students to talk.  And the conversation from our discussion is rich – does “the tree” symbolize a parent? How do we treat the people who love us unconditionally? What do we really need to be happy?

Finally, as the day came to a close in my own home, I had my daughters listen to The Lanyard by Billy Collins. If you have a poem or picture book that you love reading for Mother’s Day, please share it so we can all add it to our list or resources on this topic!

ALA Media Awards – Books I love!

In February, I eagerly watched the announcements for the 2015 ALA Youth Media Awards. These awards are a professional highlight and the final selections never cease to surprise me! Though there will always be debate over what makes the final cut, at root I see these awards as a way to highlight great books for my students and discuss collection development.

For the past several years I have presented an overview of the award winning books and authors during our lower school morning meeting. The girls and the faculty look forward to seeing familiar titles and surprises as much as I do. The presentation is also a vehicle for informing students about the numerous awards for which the American Library Association recognizes books and authors with distinction.  The following books are selections that I was so pleased to see earn recognition!

El Deafo by Cece Bell

2015 Newbery Honor Book: El Deafo by Cece Bell – It was such a pleasure to see this book gain recognition at the national level! Written as an autobiographical account of her own deafness brought on by childhood illness, this book was a title I had pre-ordered through Amazon months in advance and I was not disappointed after I spent an afternoon reading it straight through. Ms. Bell does a masterful job capturing her own isolating experience of deafness in all its complexity.  The author’s struggle to make friends, survive school, and find a place within her family, are all so expertly captured and illustrated that I cannot wait to reread it.

Frida by Yuyi Morales

2015 Caldecott Honor Book and 2015 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award: Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales – I have long been an ardent admirer of Frida Kahlo and although there are several biographies for children about her, this is the most authentic one I have read. Frida Kahlo was such an incredibly unique artist that encapsulating her dynamic force in modern art is a challenge for an author that writes biography for children.  In this exploration of the imagery of artist Frida Kahlo, the ethereal narration in both English and Spanish, guides the reader through the heart and soul of Frida! The art for the book was created using stop-motion puppets made from steel, polymer clay, and wool. The artist illustrator Yuyi Morales also employed painting and digital manipulation of the photographs to create a warm, accessible view of her career. Viva Frida uses technology in a way that makes the pictures truly captivating for the reader. Through Yuyi Morales’ work we get a chance to follow the life of Frida and discover her own world of fantasy that is full of animals, love, and creativity. I am going to use this book to compliment Frida: Viva La Vida! Long Live Life! by Carmen Bernier-Grand to promote National Poetry month in April.

Roget and his Thesaurus

2015 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal: The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet – Established in 2001, this medal is awarded annually to the author and illustrator of the most distinguished informational book published in the United States in English during the preceding year. I love Melissa Sweet’s illustrations and she has carved a niche creating visually accessible non-fiction for some of our youngest students. This book details the life of the Peter Mark Roget who created the original thesaurus first published in 1852 under the full title: Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, Classified and Arranged so as to facilitate the Expression of Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition.  The list of principal events provide context to Roget’s accomplishment and give the audience a lot to explore beyond his own contribution to writing. My favorite passage from the book was one that I will invariably use in time to come!

“Peter’s family moved often, so making friends was difficult.

But books, Peter discovered, were also good friends. There were always plenty of them around, and he never had to leave them behind.”

What were your favorite 2015 ALA award winners?

Reading Statistics

In fall 2014, several AISL librarians shared lists of their libraries’ top-circulated books. The lists were particularly interesting because while the titles were indicative of the types of collections curated by the AISL librarians, the lists included a number of common titles. So when Renaissance Learning released the 2015 edition of its What are Kids Reading and Why it Matters report, I eagerly got to work to see how those lists compared to the reading tastes and habits reflected by the independent schools’ circulation lists. I should note that our school does not use the Accelerated Reader program, but the Renaissance Learning (RL) report was mentioned by several media outlets, and I felt it was worth reading. I believe it is vital for librarians to cast a wide net when seeking new influences and benchmarking performance.

The data source for the RL report is the Accelerated Reader database, which includes book reading records for more than 9.8 million students in grades 1-12. The Accelerated Reader program is used in 31,363 schools nationwide, the students in which read approximately 330 million books during the 2013-2014 school year. The lists of books published in the report represent the most popular selections delineated by grade and gender. Below are a few items that may be of interest from the report.

  • Students in grades 2 and 3 read the most books, and students in grades 11 and 12 read the fewest
  • On average, girls read 3.8 million words by grade 12, whereas boys read 3.0 million words by the same grade
  • The average number of words read by a student in each school year peaks around grade 6 at 436,000 words and then decreases to the low 300,000’s by the end of high school.

The report repeatedly emphasizes a connection between academic achievement and independent reading practice. Supplemented throughout with essays by prominent children’s authors such as Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and Andrew Clements, the report provides excellent discussion of why robust collections and their use matter to our students. Moreover, the rationale for reading and its multilayered benefits for students could be used to encourage faculty members to assign more independent reading.

The study states that the students who set reading goals for themselves through the Accelerated Reader database read more difficult books and read for more time on a daily basis than their peers who did not set goals. How might this outcome of goal setting help us to redefine projects so that our students may push themselves in their own achievement?

An entry in the report that especially resonated with me was written by Dr. Christine King Farris, author of My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up With the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Farris describes reading as the gateway to “emotional and intellectual expansion” while growing up in a segregated society. Dr. Farris provides anecdotal evidence that reading empowered and motivated her and her brother. She notes that Dr. King learned about Mahatma Gandhi and his unwavering devotion to the practice of nonviolence through books. Perhaps the greatest example of the influence of reading on Dr. Farris and her brother Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is that, understanding the positive power for change that books hold, they both eventually became authors!

At root, the What Kids are Reading report provides a framework for comparison of reading programs in our own schools. It also provides a basis for comparison of overall reading habits. Do you observe a peak in the amount students read in sixth grade or is reading truly sustained throughout high school? If you work in a co-ed environment, do you note differences in the amount read by boys and girls?  In my own library, the second and third grade students, as the report would predict, are circulating the most books. My challenge now is not to sit back and corroborate the data, but to help promote reading in the other grades to match that of my most voracious readers!

Literacy Apps in the Library

This summer I read Jason Boog’s Born Reading: Bringing up Bookworms in a Digital Age – From Picture Books to eBooks and Everything in Between. I have a strong interest in how our students read electronically and a passion for integrating new literacy platforms in my classroom. Through a series of anecdotes about raising a daughter in a technology-rich age, Boog identifies approaches parents can use to guide their children to become literate in a variety of ways. The author credits his advice on how to be a better parent to the vast experience and deep knowledge shared with him by librarians, authors, and publishers.

In my own practice as a teacher, I continually employ new literacy instruction techniques and technology in the library classroom. With my youngest students, I use a range of literacy apps. For example, during a unit in which my second graders compare multiple print versions of Little Red Riding Hood, the students engage in another reading experience with the Nosy Crow Little Red Riding Hood app. The app is a new take on the classic fairytale story with which users can create their own story by choosing from multiple paths along the way, resulting in different endings. Readers are active and engaged as they play games to help Little Red Riding Hood collect objects on her journey through the woods and defeat the Big Bad Wolf!

In a unit on bats, my Pre-K students use the app Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night. The students use the read-aloud feature to cover seven chapters that provide exciting journeys through the bats’ world. The app has annotated illustrations and an interactive echolocation demo that allows the children to “see” the sound waves the bats make with their screeches. This app is always a crowd pleaser. 

Boog’s book offers a few key takeaways that confirm my observations from the classroom. He stresses that parents need to provide an “interactive reading experience.” As someone who reads to and with children on a daily basis, I work diligently to build background knowledge before reading, and I engage in discussion and comprehension checks to deepen and solidify learning. The author also encourage parents to “think carefully about how early (and how often) to introduce devices.” The same philosophy can be applied to use of digital books in the library classroom. Technology poses many practical challenges, but the potential benefits of e-reading motivate me to keep offering the opportunity for our students to e-read. We also need to approach new modes of learning with an open mind: my own genuine engagement with my students using this technology is necessary for the technology to be a success.

After reading Boog’s book, I decided to use e-books with my three-year-old students to help them distinguish between print and digital formats. For example, I read David Stein’s Leaves and then shared an animated version of the book set to music. The students discussed what made the books different and which version they preferred. As we continue our classes this year, I am taking some of Jason Boog’s specific recommendations on apps to use with these students, including Toca Band and There’s No Place like Space: All About Our Solar System.  

I would love to hear about your success using literacy or book apps in the library! 

Studying Baseball in October

Since it’s October and the most exciting part of the baseball season is in full swing, I want to share and welcome your advice on, a new unit I have started with my fourth grade students. This summer my husband and I took a trip to Cooperstown to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame. Visiting the Hall of Fame rekindled my own love of baseball and the passion I have for teaching students about this sport. This is a topic I have tried to inspire my students to learn about in the past, but it never took off with the enthusiasm I had hoped for. Below are some of the sources and strategies I am using to make this unit a homerun. I also have a unique advantage this fall with the opportunity to leverage our home team’s inclusion in post-season play! Keep in mind that I am working in an all-girls setting.

To begin our unit I engaged in some of the practices for questioning based on Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question: the power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. This activity is equivalent to engaging student with a K-W-L before starting a unit of study. Three or four students were grouped together and asked to write down any questions they had about baseball. I allotted 10 minutes for this activity and then the students were asked to go back and review the questions, identifying the three most important questions. From a group of students who self-identified as not knowing much about the sport, they came up with some great questions! Below are images of their work and collaboration questioning.

Example of student questions generating during brainstorming.

Example of student questions generated during brainstorming.


The PBS site for Ken Burns’ series on Baseball  is a wonderful resource for teaching baseball in the classroom. We used the timeline and Baseball for Beginners sections to gain a quick overview of the sport and answer some of the basic questions the students had crafted.

Moving forward, the picture books we will read are Dirt on their skirts: the story of the young women who won the world championship by Doreen Rappaport, Mighty Jackie: the strike-out queen by Marissa Moss, and Girl Wonder: a baseball story in nine innings by Deborah Hopkinson. To make this topic relevant to my students and in response to their own questions about gender limitations in major league baseball, I wanted to include stories that focus on women in the sport. These titles also tie in nicely to the current story of Mo’ne Davis making history as an outstanding contributor in the 2014 Little League World Series. Voice of America wrote a very accessible profile of this incredible, poised young athlete.

Our final goal is to read In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Boa Lord. This is one of my favorite books to share with my fourth grade students. There are so many lessons that can be taught in conjunction with the book that help build an understanding of immigration, use rich vocabulary to teach idioms, similes, and metaphors, and to discuss dealing with bullies. And what student doesn’t love the humor found in the writing?

To help differentiate the lesson, I have more material on hand for my students who are interested in digging deeper into the topic. These are some of my favorite books about baseball that will be available for students to read on their own:

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson

Baseball Saved Us by Ken Michizuki

Lou Gehrig: the luckiest man by David Adler

The Longest Season: the story of the Orioles’ 1988 losing streak by Cal Ripken, Jr.

A Strong Right Arm: the story of Mamie “Peanut” Johnson by Michelle Green

Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the secret mud that changed baseball by David Kelly

Please contribute any suggestions that you have for bringing great baseball stories to our students. And best of luck to all of those teams making their way to the World Series!

O Say Can You Sing?

In June, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced a new policy recommending that physicians instruct parents to read aloud to their children from birth. The policy states that parents should be “reading together as a daily fun family activity.” Reading aloud is another important aspect of a child’s life to help support vocabulary development and aligns with all we know about brain development. As librarians, we also know the value of instilling a love of reading at a young age and how that skill can position a young child for future academic success.

What I found noteworthy in The New York Times’ coverage of the new policy was the statement that reading, talking, and singing is viewed as important in increasing the number of words children hear in their first few years. I am certain that most librarians incorporate multiple modalities into our teaching. My experience is that activities outside of reading – especially singing – provide some of the most serious fun I have in class!

For several years, I have used the song “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” as a year-long theme in my Pre-K classes. I kick off the unit by singing along with the original (using Simms Taback’s 1998 book) and then sing and read other versions throughout the year. The students enjoy the melody alongside the texts’ rhyme scheme. Because the books share the same repetitive structure, each time students hear a new version they utilize their background knowledge from prior versions to determine how the narrative will resolve itself. The students also draw comparisons and contrasts among the versions.

Lucille Colandro has authored numerous versions of the original “Fly”, including crowd-pleasing seasonally themed editions. Another of my other favorites is Charise Mericle Harper’s There Was a Bold Lady Who Wanted a Star. This year I am looking forward to incorporating a new version of the story titled There Was an Old Sailor written by Claire Saxby and gorgeously illustrated by Cassandra Allen.

 There Was an Old SailorThere Was an Old Man who swallowed krill

I cannot say that I have a wonderful singing voice. Once I saw how much my students enjoyed singing in class, however, I quickly got over my concerns about singing in public. Armed with more knowledge about why reading, conversing, and singing are all so vitally important to our students, I cannot wait to incorporate even more music into my classes this year!

Please share any ideas you have for adding song in any way in the Library classroom! We can all benefit from these shared ideas. And to read the New York Times article follow this link:

Pediatrics Group to Recommend Reading Aloud to Children from Birth. The New York Times. June 24, 2014.