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Celebrating Children’s Book Week

This week, May 12th through May 18th, is Children’s Book Week. This is the 95th year of this annual celebration of children’s books and reading. Children’s Book Week is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country. Every year events are held nationwide at schools, libraries, bookstores, and wherever children and books connect.

Read about some children’s authors who were born this week.

L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900: born May 15, 1856 in Chittenango, New York.

Margret Rey, author/illustrator of the Curious George books with her husband, H. A. Rey: born May 16, 1906 in Hamburg, Germany.

Lillian Hoban, illustrator of Bread and Jam for Frances and other books about Frances, and author/illustrator of the early reading books about Arthur the chimpanzee: born May 18, 1925 in Lansdale, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia.

Debbie Dadey, author of Bailey School Kids series and others: born May 18, 1959 in Morganfield, Kentucky.

May 11th through May 17th is also National Transportation Week. Here are some children’s books about transportation.

Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
Railroad Engineers & Airplane Pilots—What do they do? by Carla Greene
Snow Trucking! and other Trucktown books by Jon Scieszka
Drive and Job Site by Nathan Clement
Firehouse by Mark Teague
Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld

And, finally, a few websites to check for more information and things to do during Children’s Book Week.

Book Week online

Get some ideas for ways to celebrate Children’s Book Week at this site from Scholastic.

Find more ideas on the ReadWriteThink website.

Happy Reading!  Read More 
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Sharing April—Poetry and Autism Awareness Month


April is National Autism Awareness Month, and National Poetry Month.

The Autism Society has been celebrating National Autism Awareness Month in the United States since the 1970s. It creates a special opportunity to highlight the growing need for concern and awareness about autism. The seventh annual World Autism Awareness Day was celebrated on April 2, 2014.

To find out more about autism, visit the Mayo Clinic website.

Here are some other websites about autism that I found interesting and helpful.

Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew from the book by Ellen Notbohm.

For some tips on helping children with autism, go to HelpGuide.org.

And because it’s also poetry month, click here to read some poetry written by teachers, siblings, moms, and people with autism at the Autism Speaks Website.

To tie Poetry month and Autism Awareness month together, I wanted to write my own poem about autism. I found that it was not so easy! But here it is:

Today!

Today
was a good day—I
rode the school bus,
didn’t fight
got my spelling words
all right
drew a castle
and a king
at recess got my
favorite swing
shared my race cars
fed the ducks
counted night stars
counted trucks
ate my dinner
played with brother
did my homework
hugged my mother…


Yesterday
was different—I
scowled when teacher
called my name
threw the pieces
from the game
cried ‘cause my friend
wasn’t there—
wouldn’t talk and
kicked my chair
pushed in line and
ran ahead
went outside to
play instead
groaned and pushed when
brother bugged me
didn’t move when
mother hugged me…

But TODAY
was a good day!

copyright Peggy Archer 2014
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Poem in Your Pocket Day!


Today is Poem in Your Pocket Day! On this day people in the United States select a poem, carry it with them and share it with others throughout the day. It’s not too late to join the fun!

What poem will you choose to share? Will it be one that you enjoyed as a child? A nursery rhyme? Something that you discovered as an adult? Will it be funny, romantic, or something to make you think? Maybe it will be one that a friend wrote, or that you wrote yourself. Or maybe you wrote an original poem, just for today!

How will you share it? Will you sneak your poem into someone’s lunch box, or into their coat pocket or under their pillow? You can pass a copy to friends that you see during the day. Be sure to have plenty of copies in your pocket! Maybe you’ll decide to hang a poem up on a public bulletin board. You can share on facebook or on your website. If you tweet, you can share by using the hashtag #pocketpoem.

Throughout history, poems have been stowed in pockets in a variety of ways, from the commonplace books of the Renaissance to the pocket-sized publications for Army soldiers in World War II.

Poem in Your Pocket day got its start in New York City. In 2002, the Office of the Mayor, in partnership with the New York City Departments of Cultural Affairs and Education, initiated Poem in Your Pocket Day as part of the city's National Poetry Month celebration.

In 2008, the Academy of American Poets took the initiative national, encouraging individuals around the country to join in and channel their inner bard.

If you’re looking for a poem to share, or for some ideas on how to celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day, visit the Poets.org website.

Then check out Reading Rockets where you’ll find videos of poets reading poetry, and other ideas for celebrating National Poetry month.

For some fun links to poetry for children, visit Jump into a Book.

My poem for today:

Fishing for a Bite

“I’m tired of worms,”
said the fish in the lake.
“I’d rather have
some chocolate cake,
a piece of cheese,
or, I suppose,
some ankles, knees,
or dirty toes!
So if you want
to get a bite,
just cast your legs
in the lake tonight!”

c Peggy Archer (not for use without permission of author)

What poem will you share today?  Read More 
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RhyPiBoMO Blogpost—Are You Naturally Musical?


My Guest Author blog post is up on Angie Karcher’s RhyPiBoMo—Rhyming Picture Book Month! I decided to blog about the Lesson for the Day, Are You Naturally Musical? Music and rhyming poetry have a lot in common. Click the link to read my blog post.

Today’s lesson is accompanied by a video on the same topic. Take today’s challenge to “Prove Them Wrong!” when someone says that you can’t. You can learn to feel the rhythm in music and in your words. “It just takes practice, a never-give-up attitude and the desire to learn.”

If you haven’t been keeping up with the guest blogs, go back to Saturday, April 12th. Read Jane Yolen’s post, where she talks about poets as ‘code masters.’ Read the lesson on ‘syllables,’ and read Jane’s ‘Five Tips on Writing a Poem.’ Then write your own poem from the Writing Prompt.

Read some ‘Rhyme Writing Advice’ from Deborah Diesen, author of THE POUT-POUT FIST, which I read to my grandson recently, and we both loved! Then take the Word Stress quiz.

There’s a new blogger every day, with a new lesson, and writing prompt. Check out the calendar of Guest Bloggers. To find the archives list, scroll to the bottom of any post. You can also find a specific blog post by typing the date of the blog – comma- guest blogger’s name in the search field, in the upper right corner.

Become a RhyPiBoMo participant and win some awesome prizes. There are still 2 ½ days left to register! Participants can comment on a blog post to win weekly prizes. Congratulations to Laura Rackham, winner of an autographed copy of my picture book, NAME THAT DOG! Participants can also enter the Golden Quill Poetry Contest. Contest deadline is April 25th, midnight central time. Don't forget to follow the fun on facebook, too.

Are you naturally musical? Does it matter? With practice, you can learn! Happy rhyming!  Read More 
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Celebrate Spring with Poetry!


The weather was beautiful here yesterday. My husband and I went to the Botanical Gardens in St. Louis, and after a winter that just won’t quit it was like stepping into spring! There was a Daffodil Show indoors sponsored by the Greater St. Louis Daffodil Society, but outside daffodils and other spring blooms were everywhere! I didn’t realize that there are nearly 700 different varieties of daffodils! Inspired, I wrote this short poem—

Daffy-dils
Laffy-dils
Usher in the springtime,
Fill my yard with sunshine—
Daffodils!

On the bottom of one of the posters at the show was a poem called “Daffodils” by William Wordsworth. It begins this way:


I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze….

Don’t stop here! A Child’s Garden of Poetry, presented by the Poetry Foundation, features a video of the poem, DAFFODILS, read by David Matthews on their website. Listening to the poem, and watching the short video, I could just imagine myself ‘dancing with the daffodils!’ A child’s Garden of Poetry also has two other videos that feature readings of poems.

As U.S. Children's Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis said in a recent interview, "Poetry should be read out loud even if you are all alone in a room. Readers should want their ears to have as much fun as their mouths are having."

Here are a few more places to watch videos of children’s poetry being read out loud.

J. Patrick Lewis can be found reading his poem, “Chromosomes” at Scholastic.

Go to Ken Nesbitt’s website, Poetry4Kids.com, where you can hear and watch some of his funny poems for children, including “My Teacher Calls Me Sweetie Cakes,” and “I Taught My Cat to Clean My Room.”

On the pbs website, Reading Between the Lions, you can listen to even more poems for children on video.

Hear Renee LaTulippe, children’s author, read her poem Jake the Snake!

Listen to some poems by Ted Scheu and hear a little about what inspired them.

Enjoy childrens' poetry this month by listening to some poems being read out loud. Go a step further, and read some of your own favorite poems out loud. But better yet, celebrate spring by writing a poem of your own. Read it out loud to your family. It will tickle your ears and your tongue as well!
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Celebrating National Poetry Month!

In less than two hours it will be April, and the beginning of National Poetry Month! Here are a few links to get you started.

Join Angie Karcher on her blogsite for RhyPiBoMo—Rhyming Picture Book Month. This is a month-long celebration of poetry and rhyming picture books. Enjoy blog posts from well-know poets as Jane Yolen, Lee Bennet Hopkins, Myra Reisberg and others. I feel honored to be a part of the list of guest bloggers for this event. My blog post will be featured on April 14th. During the month enjoy short lessons and writing prompts, and other resources. Register to be eligible for daily prizes. You can also join RhyPiBo Mo on facebook. Check out today's post with poet Lisa Wheeler!

Join the 30/30 Poetry Challenge 2014 and receive daily poetry writing prompts. Take the challenge to write 30 poems in 30 days.

Go to Irene Latham’s blogsite, Live Your Poem, to follow the 2014 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem. What is it? A poem that travels daily from blog to blog, with each host adding a line. Watch as a poem grows from day one to the end of April.

Check out 30 Days/30 Poets with Greg Pinkus. 30 Days/30 Poets 2014 will feature two poems per day by well-known poets in a blast from the past.

National Poetry Month is a celebration of poetry first introduced in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets as a way to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States. It is celebrated every April in the United States and (since 1999) Canada. For information about National Poetry Month, go to Poets.org, the Academy of American Poets.

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Children’s Writers and the Common Core and What School Librarians and Book Store Owners Look For

Panel of school librarians and independent book seller
Recently I attended a program on the Common Core Standards (CCS) and how it relates to children’s writers. Not having a teaching background can make understanding the CCS a little more difficult. But with 45 states, the District of Columbia and four territories using the CCS, it’s something that children’s authors should be aware of. Here are a few things that I learned.

The purpose of the common core standards is to provide consistent and clear understanding of what students must learn. CCS are a ‘guide,’ and are not specific.

There are different requirements for different grade levels, but the anchor standards are reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language. Reading is at the core of the CCS.

So how does this apply to us as writers of children’s literature? Ask yourself, where does your book fit into instruction? How does your book fit into the Common Core Standards taught in the schools? In other words, how can your book be used to reinforce what is being taught in schools.

What ways can you find in your book to connect to the Common Core Standards?
What is the grade level or reading level of your book? Books are made more marketable by using guided reading levels. For example, I can find the Flesch Kincaid reading level of my picture books by going to ‘Review’ in Word and clicking on ‘Spelling & Grammar.’ After it finishes the spell check, it will tell me the word count and readability, including passive sentences, Flesch reading ease, and Flesch-Kincaid grade level. If my picture book is a 2.9 reading level it might be included on the accelerated reading list for grade 2, which boosts sales to school libraries.

Teachers are concerned about having enough non-fiction for students. But your book doesn’t have to be non-fiction to have a connection to a historical event if there are facts within your story. Is there a math connection using counting, money, time? Does your story contain facts about plants, animals, planets? Is yours a book of poetry? The use of ‘language’ and ‘poetic form’ fits into the CCS.

Include how your book aligns to the CCS on your website. Post some book-related activities.

As part of the program, a panel of school librarians and an independent book store owner talked about how they choose the books that they buy. Big on the list was recommendations from sales reps, teachers and readers. Some other influences were—
books with good sales history
award-winning books
books with ‘kid’ appeal or ‘boy appeal’
books with kids as main characters
books requested by students

One librarian from an elementary school said she would like more books about animals and more multi-cultural books.

For non-fiction, in general, panelists wanted non-fiction that is not ‘text-heavy,’ good narrative, readability, and curriculum tie-ins. For biography, they look for non-fiction that reads like fiction. They also look for books about their state or about people from their state.

All agreed that their book purchasing budgets were down this year. All read reviews such as School Library Journal and Booklist, and they look for books with starred reviews. For some, they can only purchase books that have had three favorable reviews in the major publications, such as those above.

All looked for that curriculum tie-in. But—“Do not ‘write to’ the curriculum or the common core standards!” we were told. “Because whatever you write, is relative to someone.”  Read More 
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Using Difficult Words in Picture Books

Dirty Gert

Picture books are intended to be read to, or read by, younger children. They’re usually labeled as age 3 to 5 or age 5 to 8. When writing a picture book, we’re told to keep the age of our reader in mind. Picture books help a child develop language and concept. A picture book can either stick to the familiar, or introduce new words or concepts, or maybe do a little bit of both.

One of my critique groups raised a question about language, and words used in picture books that seem to be well over the age of the intended reader. I had questioned some words in a short picture book manuscript that seemed above the age level for picture books. But if you look at some picture books that children love, you can find some very difficult words in them.

Take for example DIRTY GERT by Ted Arnold. Arnold writes some very funny picture books, including PARTS and MORE PARTS, which I love. Here are some of the words used in DIRTY GERT:

idolized
internalizer
tantalize
supervised
civilize
reorganized
photosynthesized … and so on.

The story is about a little girl who loves to eat dirt. What child wouldn’t find that hilarious! The rhyme feeds into the unfamiliar words. Will they ‘get’ all the words? I think not. Will they ‘learn’ new words? I think most kids would learn at least some of them. Will they ‘get’ the story? Absolutely.

A picture book is a combination of words and pictures. The illustrations help the child to figure out what’s going on in the story. Illustrations are a learning tool. And Arnold’s illustrations are hilarious as well as the text.

The text is written in rhyme, so it’s fun to read out loud. Rhyme is a learning tool. Children like to repeat words in rhyme, and it helps a child to remember the words.

A child may not understand the words, but they are fun to say. Even without considering rhyme, they are poetic.

Picture books are fun. And reading this book together is a way for an adult and a child to have fun together while learning.

Some ways that picture books help a child learn include use of language, visual thinking, developing imagination, understanding humor, and exploring emotions.

I wouldn’t worry about expecting a child to understand all of the words in this book. And I don’t think it’s necessary. There is more for them to get from it. And they’ll have fun reading it, which is an important part of childhood.  Read More 
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Check Out the Caldecott Medal and Honor Books for 2014!


The Caldecott Medal Books for 2014 were announced on January 18th. I was finally able to get copies of them from my library and have a look. The winner—

LOCOMOTIVE by Brian Floca
Atheneum Books for Young Readers 2013

Caldecott Honor Books are—
JOURNEY by Aaron Becker, Candlewick Press
FLORA AND THE FLAMINGO by Molly Idle, Chronicle Books
MR. WUFFLES! by David Wiesner, Clarion Books

A few things struck me as interesting.
The Caldecott winner and all three honor books were by author/illustrators.
The Caldecott winner is non-fiction.
All three honor books are wordless, or almost wordless in the case of MR. WUFFLES.

I love when picture books have illustrations on the inside covers as well as inside the book itself. The inside covers of LOCOMOTIVE are illustrated with different historical moments and maps as well as having text and pictures with additional information. On the inside covers of JOURNEY there are illustrations of vehicles of transportation.

FLORA AND THE FLAMINGO has flaps to open, like in ‘Lift the Flap’ books. The illustrations are very graceful, a good compliment to the type of dance that the flamingo and the little girl are doing in the book.

In JOURNEY, the girl with the red marker or crayon reminds me of Harold in HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON by Crockett Johnson, and the door that she goes through reminds me of THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE by CS Lewis. You’ll have to ‘read’ it to see the surprise at the end.

Never underestimate the power of a cat in MR. WUFFLES! As in other David Wiesner books, the detail is fun and interesting.

Unlike the Caldecott Honor books, LOCOMOTIVE is filled with wonderful words and language. It tells the story of a train, its crew, and a family traveling west aboard America’s first transcontinental railroad. The use of different fonts and letter size, and the many ‘sound’ words (onomatopoeia) throughout the book make it both fun to read and to look at. It reads like poetry—

“…Men came from far away
to build from the East,
to build from the West,
to meet in the middle….”

I listened to a speech online given by Brian Floca at the 2013 National Book Festival. He talked about how his first idea for this book grew from something simple to something more complicated. He also talked about the research he did before beginning to write and illustrate his book. It included reading many books, visiting museums, looking at old photos from the era, as well as primary sources such as talking to people and taking the trip to get the full picture. He actually drove a train along the same path as the first continental railroad trip. From that trip he took what he found most interesting and began to write—notes, questions, phrases. He also drew things that he saw along the way. Revisions included re-writing the text, and changing and re-shaping his drawings as well.

LOCOMOTIVE has received many other awards and recognitions as well, including being selected as a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book, NY Times 10 Best illustrated books of the year and Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2013.

Congratulations to all of the author/illustrators of the Caldecott Medal books for 2014!  Read More 
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Computers, Electronic Readers and Eye Strain

I’ve joined the world of e-readers—we got an iPad mini for Christmas! So far I’ve only read a couple of children’s books on it and a magazine. It will take time for me to get used to turning pages with the swipe of a finger.

On the news the other day was a segment about e-readers versus printed books and eye strain. It’s sometimes referred to as computer vision syndrome. They said that reading a book in print, the old-fashioned way, is easier on your eyes. For those of us with vision problems, that’s meaningful. I decided to do some checking on line.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, “Eyestrain occurs when your eyes get tired from intense use, such as…reading or working at a computer. Although eyestrain can be annoying, it usually isn't serious and goes away once you rest your eyes.” If your symptoms persist after rest, then you probably want to see your eye doctor.

Do e-readers really cause eye strain? From what I’ve read, it depends on many factors. An article in the New York Times on line says, “It depends on the viewing circumstances, including the software and typography on the screen,” among other things. And that also included the ink on the paper of a traditional book!

Here are some tips for reducing eyestrain while using an e-reader or working at a computer:

Blink more often—
Many people blink less than normal when working at a computer, which can lead to dry eyes. Blinking produces tears, which moistens your eyes and prevents dryness and irritation.

Exercise your eyes—
Another cause of computer eye strain is ‘focusing fatigue.’ Follow the "20-20-20” rule. Look away from your computer at least every 20 minutes and gaze at an object that’s at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Looking far away relaxes the focusing muscle inside the eye and reduces fatigue.

Use proper lighting—
Be sure that your light is directed on what you're doing. Use a brighter light source if you need one. You can also try turning down the backlight on your e-reader. Make sure that your entire room is well-lighted to reduce shadows, but not brighter than your work area so as not to create a glare.

Minimize glare on your screen—
The glare from other sources of light makes it difficult to view the screen and causes eye strain when you try to see past the glare. Position your computer so that neither you nor the monitor faces a window, or close the blinds to reduce glare. LCD screens are easier on the eyes and usually have an anti-reflective surface.

Adjust your display settings—
Consider brightness, text size and contrast. Try pressing 'control +' to make print larger, and 'control-' to make it smaller again. For more information on this, go to the All About Vision website.

Take breaks—
If you sit at a computer or are using your e-reader for a long time, take mini-breaks. Focus on something else for five minutes or so. Give your neck and back muscles a stretch while you’re at it.

Modify your work area—
Tilt your monitor so that the top of the monitor is slightly farther from the eyes than the bottom of the monitor. If you’re typing from a written page, place your pages on a stand next to the monitor. Make sure the pages are well lighted.

Maintain good posture—
Poor posture not only adds to neck and back strain, it also contributes to computer eye strain. If you are at a desktop computer, adjust your chair to the correct height so that your viewing area is just below eye level. It’s best if your computer screen is at least 25 inches from your eyes.

More tips for those with vision problems:

--Use a larger print size.
--Use bold type.
--Avoid decorative fonts, italics or all capital letters.
--Use 1.5 or double spacing when reading something online.
--Use black rather than colored lettering.
--Try reading with lighter lettering against a darker background.
--Use a font with more space between the letters, such as courier.
--Make sure your eyeglasses are clean and free of scratches. You might consider a separate pair of glasses for use on the computer or e-reader.

Read more on the following websites:

Read Simple.com
American Foundation for the Blind

In the meantime, I’m enjoying my new electronic reader. It’s quick and easy to get connected online. It’s easy to hold and read on when I’m eating lunch, or in bed at night. I like that you can make the text larger, and change the appearance of the page. It’s less to carry when I’m away from home. And I found a Sudoku app that’s more user-friendly than pen and pencil and eraser! As I get more used to it, I’ll enjoy testing out reading books on it, too!

Happy Reading, everyone!  Read More 
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