February Update

February is flying by, and with days shortened for skiing schedules, snow days, Valentine’s Day and the prospect of February vacation exciting the students even more, we have been having a remarkably productive and eventful month!

Younger students read books about love, friendship, and Valentine’s Day, and contributed to this heart tree full of lovely thoughts and decorations after reading The Day It Rained Hearts.

We also read transportation books, including Steam Train, Dream Train, and had a blast with some leftover bookshelves during checkout time.

Older students have been working amazingly hard, and between the dozens of submissions for the bookmark contest and preparing for the classroom spelling bees, 2nd through fifth grade have been using the library for more than just books!  The Grand Spelling Bee will be March 1st at 5:30 pm in the OQS gym.  Come cheer on the spelling bee finalists and make a few purchases at the book fair while you are at it!  The book fair opens Monday after break and will be open all that week!

Have a wonderful vacation and of course, don’t forget to read with your child or visit the local library!

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Wordless Books

Is a book still a book if it doesn’t have any words? That’s the question kindergarten and first grade are exploring during library this week, with the help of some amazing storytellers and illustrators.  Ask your students what do they think the answer is?  Hint: the answer is a resounding, YES!

The Journey trilogy by Aaron Becker was amazingly popular.  I was only planning to share the story of the first book, Journey, but every class has begged me to read all three! We were also able to incorporate a conversation on the Caldecott Award medal using David Weisner’s books, as he won so many.

The students LOVED one of this year’s Caldecott runner-ups, Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis, even though it featured a completely made-up language.  We used the illustrations to infer what the story was saying, and by the end, some students were saying it was their favorite book they’ve ever read!

Then they had time to quietly browse multiple wordless books and it was a delightful way to close out class.  I am looking forward to making a display of wordless books after we’re done using them in class– I know they’ll be excited to bring them home!

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Marvelous Mo!

Kindergarten and first graders have been having a ball this month, diving into the wonderful world of Mo Willems, one of the most acclaimed and talented authors and illustrators of this generation.  His sense of humor is second to none!  Don’t be surprised if you start seeing books starring Piggie and Gerald, the Pigeon, Knuffle Bunny and more making their way home to you from the library!  With humor like this, who could blame them?

Gotta Catch ‘Em All

In the new year my goal is still to try to “catch” all the 2nd and 3rd graders and turn them into excited, engaged readers by introducing them to beginning chapter books and series that spark their interest and get them hooked.

I invested in several Jake Maddox books this summer, which are illustrated chapter books that are all about sports.  I read Quarterback Comeback to 3rd grade last week, in honor of the Patriots making into the postseason (again!), and the kids were really into it!  I can see why–the chapters are quick but if you are a fan of the sport, the stories are very detailed and exciting! Jake Maddox has published over 80 books on many different topics, from gymnastics to motocross to basketball.

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According to Jake Maddox’s website “Each of his stories is stamped with teamwork, fair play, and a strong sense of self-worth and discipline. Always a team-player, Maddox realizes it takes more than one man (or woman) to create a book good enough for a young reader. He hopes the lessons learned on the court, field, or arena and the champion sprinter pace of his books can motivate kids to become better athletes and lifelong readers.”  I hope so, too!

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2nd grade was introduced to the world of Geronimo Stilton last week, and considering almost all of my 21 Geronimo books were taken after directly afterward, I’d say they were a hit! I still have fourth graders who love reading Geronimo and Thea books after reading one of the stories last year, and with its bright illustrations, descriptive language, informational text features, and hilarious story lines, I know the current 2nd graders are going to love them, too!

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I am going to begin reading one of the Ivy and Bean series to 2nd and 3rd grade next.  Even though some of the class might think they are too “girly” and feel reluctant, once they get to know these two characters they will have no doubt that there is more to them than just a story of two girls! I have a feeling that series will go just as quickly!

Hopefully these great series will help me pique 2nd and 3rd grades’ interest!  As far as engaging young readers, I gotta catch ’em all!

5th Grade World Connections

Imagine my surprise and excitement this morning when I received a notification on my cell phone regarding current world events that completely tie in with the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award-nominated book I am reading with the 5th grade. It Ain’t So Awful Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas is the story of an Iranian family living in California during the Iranian revolution in 1979.  The BBC shared a concise and detailed two-minute video that outlined current Iranian protests happening right now, and I was eager to share it with fifth grade this morning (as I will with 5R on Friday).

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The conversation 5B had about the connections they could draw between the text, current events, past historical events such as the Civil Rights movement, and other texts like Brown Girl Dreaming was beyond what I could have hoped for.  Our students are so mature, thoughtful, empathetic, and interested in social justice.  I could not have been more proud and more pleased to have such an astute group of students to start my day with, and I look forward to providing them with more opportunities to learn and grow as members of the global community through books!

Be sure to ask your fifth grade students what they have learned about Iran, including asking them whether or not you are pronouncing it correctly!

Hour of Code

Grades 2-5 participated in the worldwide phenomenon known at the Hour of Code last week.  Students all over the world were celebrating computer science and providing student access to coding that they may not have had otherwise.  Over 150,000 separate Hour of Code events registered!

The Hour of Code uses pop culture and fun graphics to entice students to persevere through the daunting world of computer coding.  Go to their website here with your student and ask them to show you around!  They were incredibly knowledgeable and intuitively picked up the nuances of coding incredibly quickly!  They are really demonstrating the skills that make them 21st century learners!

2nd grade, pictured here, participated during library, while grades 3-5 participated in STEAM time (and sometimes in their classrooms as well!) Already kids are begging me for opportunities to continue coding in STEAM and library time.

The Hour of Code doesn’t stop now.  Your students can log in to hone their skills any time.  If you’re going to have screen time, why not have them learn a thing or two while they’re at it?

What’s The Deal With Graphic Novels?

3rd grade was speed dating with some new graphic novel series this week. Not a Captain Underpants or Diary of a Wimpy Kid in sight! It’s already working—they’ve all called dibs on some awesome new titles, and more new authors have gone out this week to 3rd grade than ever before!  Click on the photos below to see them more closely.

Wondering what graphic novels are and why I would encourage kids to read them? Here’s some great information from Scholastic as to the value of encouraging kids to read them!

“WHAT ARE GRAPHIC NOVELS?

In this context, the word “graphic” does not mean “adult” or “explicit.” Graphic novels are books written and illustrated in the style of a comic book. To be considered a graphic novel, rather than a picture book or illustrated novel, the story is told using a combination of words and pictures in a sequence across the page. Graphic novels can be any genre, and tell any kind of story, just like their prose counterparts. The format is what makes the story a graphic novel, and usually includes text, images, word balloons, sound effects, and panels.

This basic way of storytelling has been used in various forms for centuries—early cave drawings, hieroglyphics, and medieval tapestries like the famous Bayeux Tapestry can be thought of as stories told in pictures.

The term “graphic novel” is generally used to describe any book in a comic format that resembles a novel in length and narrative development. Graphic novels are a subgenre of “comics,” which is a word you may also hear people use when referring to this style of book.

ARE GRAPHIC NOVELS SUITABLE FOR THE YOUNG, AND HOW DO I EVALUATE THEM?

Some parents, educators, and librarians may associate the term “graphic novel” with content that is not suitable for young readers. Today there is a wide range of titles and, though not all graphic novels are intended for children, there are more titles published expressly for kids coming out every month.

HOW DO GRAPHIC NOVELS PROMOTE LITERACY?

MOTIVATION

Graphic novels powerfully attract and motivate kids to read. Many librarians have built up graphic novel collections and have seen circulation figures soar. School librarians and educators have reported outstanding success getting kids to read with graphic novels, citing particularly their popularity with reluctant readers, especially boys—a group traditionally difficult to reach. At the same time, graphic novels with rich, complex plots and narrative structures can also be satisfying to advanced readers. In fact, graphic novels are flexible enough that often the same titles can be equally appealing to both reluctant and advanced readers. Providing young people of all abilities with diverse reading materials, including graphic novels, can help them become lifelong readers.

RELUCTANT READERS

Graphic novels can be a way in for students who are difficult to reach through traditional texts. Even those deemed poor readers willingly and enthusiastically gravitate toward these books. Readers who are not interested in reading or who, despite being capable of reading, prefer gaming or watching media, can be pulled into a story by the visual elements of graphic novels.

BENEFITS TO STRUGGLING READERS, SPECIAL-NEEDS STUDENTS, AND ENGLISH-LANGUAGE LEARNERS

Graphic novels can dramatically help improve reading development for students struggling with language acquisition, including special-needs students, as the illustrations provide contextual clues to the meaning of the written narrative. They can provide autistic students with clues to emotional context that they might miss when reading traditional text. English-language learners will be more motivated by graphic novels, and will more readily acquire new vocabulary and increase English proficiency.

BUT ARE GRAPHIC NOVELS “REAL BOOKS”? ARE THEY “LITERATURE”? DO THEY COUNT AS “READING”?

OVERCOMING PREJUDICES

Some parents and educators may feel that graphic novels are not the “type of reading material” that will help young people grow as readers. They may cling to the belief that graphic novels are somehow a bad influence that undermines “real reading”—or they may dismiss graphic novels as inferior literature, or as “not real books.” At best, they may regard them as something to be tolerated as a means of motivating the most reluctant readers, who, they hope, will eventually “move on” to more “quality literature.”

ACCEPTANCE BY LIBRARIANS AND EDUCATORS

Graphic novels have come to be accepted by librarians and educators as a method of storytelling on a par with novels, picture books, movies, or audiobooks.

The American Library Association has recognized this in establishing its annual list of Great Graphic Novels for Teens, and in 2011 they added the annually updated Core Collection of Graphic Novels for young readers in grades K through 8. In 2007, the graphic novel American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (First Second) won the Michael L. Printz Award for best young adult book of the year. The same year, To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel and Mark Siegel (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin) was named a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book (for informational book), and in 2010 Little Mouse Gets Ready (Toon Books) won a Theodor Seuss Geisel honor.

In 2014, the American Library Association showed their continued support of the format in offering the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants for Libraries, two grants awarded annually to support libraries and librarians in building the best collections and presenting educational programming on the format for their communities.

FOSTERING ACQUISITION OF CRITICAL READING SKILLS

The notion that graphic novels are too simplistic to be regarded as serious reading is outdated. The excellent graphic novels available today are linguistically appropriate reading material demanding many of the same skills that are needed to understand traditional works of prose fiction. Often they actually contain more advanced vocabulary than traditional books at the same age/grade/interest level. They require readers to be actively engaged in the process of decoding and comprehending a range of literary devices, including narrative structures, metaphor and symbolism, point of view, and the use of puns and alliteration, intertextuality, and inference. Reading graphic novels can help students develop the critical skills necessary to read more challenging works, including the classics.

On top of the connections to analyzing text, graphic novels inspire readers to understand and interpret information differently from how readers process prose. In a world where young people are growing up navigating narratives presented through websites, video games, television, films, and increasingly interactive media, learning and maintaining visual literacy is a necessary skill. Today’s world of stories contains far more than just prose, and readers who are skilled at understanding and being critical of multiple formats will excel.”

 

So next time your student comes home with a “comic book,” take a minute to look it over yourself. You might be surprised at its sophistication–and you may find a new favorite genre to read yourself!

To read more from this article, find it in its entirety here.