Saturday, December 16, 2017

Social media & engaging teen readers: Goodreads & Pinterest

It's no secret that many teens love social media. They want to know what their friends are doing, liking and sharing. At Berkeley High, we've been using Goodreads & Pinterest to engage our readers, encouraging them to find more books to read. Goodreads is a social media site for readers, letting you mark books you've read or want to read, add reviews and share them with friends.
BHS Library on Goodreads
While reading might be something you do alone in your own head, its true power comes from sharing the experience. What do our friends think of this? Have they read it, or does it remind them of something like it? If I liked this book, is there another one that I might like reading?

Key to this process is valuing all of the books our students are reading. The masterful teacher Donalyn Miller writes passionately about how we must value and encourage our students' choices in what they read.
Using Goodreads has let us honor and value our students' reading choices, whether they love horror graphic novels like Tokyo Ghoul, powerful nonfiction like The 57 Bus or contemporary YA like Libba Bray's The Diviners.  Each reader is different, with different tastes, preferences and interests. I have loved the conversations that come from learning more about what they like.

Yesterday, I was talking with a freshman who liked reading Nightfall, by Jake Halpern--an intense action-adventure story that kept him up all night reading. When I read his review, it made me think of how much I had liked reading Gary Paulsen's Hatchet. So I built a Pinterest board focusing on wilderness adventures. My student said to me, "Wait, you created this just because I liked Nightfall? Just for me?" It was a powerful moment--and he left the library with a new book to read: Trapped, by Michael Northrop.
Berkeley High Library's Pinterest page:
Survival & Wilderness Adventures @ BHS Library
The true power of using social media to engage teen readers is that it lets our students develop their own authentic voices. I have loved working with fellow Berkeley High librarian Meredith Irby to focus on how we can encourage teens to write authentically about their reading experiences. I so appreciate how thoughtful she is, helping teens develop their writing styles. This type of writing is actually a lot like the personal essays teens will write for college applications. As Donalyn Miller writes in Reading in the Wild:
“If we really want our students to become wild readers, independent of our support and oversight, sometimes the best thing we can do is get out of the way.”
Follow Berkeley High Library on Goodreads & Pinterest  to see what our teens are reading and what we love sharing with them.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sharing the love of stories & dance: the Nutcracker and beyond (ages 4-9)

Are you going to see the Nutcracker this a holiday? Introduce the magic of dance with these picture books, and let the power of the moment fill your child’s imagination.
The Nutcracker in Harlem
by T.E. McMorrow, illustrated by James Ransom
HarperCollins, 2017
Amazon / local library
ages 4-8
The vibrant Harlem Renaissance makes a grand setting for this charming reimagining of the classic Nutcracker story. Marie shyly watches as her beautiful Harlem home fills with music and dancing on Christmas Eve, but she can’t bring herself to perform. When she falls asleep and begins to dream, she finds her courage and her voice as she defends the Nutcracker from the army of uniformed mice. Ransome’s lyrical illustrations bring the Jazz Age to life.
Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova
by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Julie Morstad
Chronicle, 2015
Amazon / local library / Google Books preview
ages 5-9
With beautiful, graceful illustrations and poetic text, this book captures the spirit and charm of one of history’s prima ballerinas. Although Anna was born to a poor family in Czarist Russia, she was determined to become a ballerina. Young children will revel in this resolve, but it’s the imagery that will stay with them in their dreams.
Danza! Amalia Hern├índez and Mexico’s Folklorico Ballet
by Duncan Tonatiuh
Abrams, 2017
Amazon / local library / Google Books preview
ages 5-9
Amalia Hern├índez studied ballet and modern dance, and she blended these styles with “folkloric danzas” she saw as a child in Mexico City. Forming her own small company, she traveled throughout Mexico to research and create dances that intertwined Mexico’s many traditional and indigenous “danzas” with modern dance styles. A beautiful, stylistic picture book biography.
by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers
G.P. Putnam’s Sons / Penguin, 2014
Amazon / local library / Google Books preview
ages 6-10 
This moving picture book reassures young readers that they can pursue their dreams. When a discouraged African-American girl looks up to her idol--ballet star Misty Copeland--the older dancer reassures her saying, "darling child, don't you know / you're just where I started." Their imagined conversation develops as the young child takes center stage. the blend of soaring illustrations and inspiring words will encourage many young dancers.

The review copies were sent by the publishers and came from my public library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Mysteries for young readers: perfect for young sleuths (ages 6-9)

It might be long nights or drizzly days, but winter strikes me as a perfect time to seek out a mystery. Young readers love solving the crime before the detective, and paying close attention to the clues is perfect for developing reading skills. These three favorites will get you started; for more ideas, check out my Pinterest board.
King & Kayla and the Case of the Secret Code
by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers
Peachtree, 2017
Amazon / local library
ages 6-9
When a mysterious letter written arrives at Kayla’s house, she has trouble figuring out its secret code. King, her lovable dog, helps her follow the trail and solve the mystery. Young readers will laugh plenty as super-sleuth King tries to convince Kayla that she just needs to follow his lead. This delightful beginning reader series is perfect for 2nd & 3rd graders ready for several chapters building together.
The Case of the Stinky Socks: The Milo & Jazz Mysteries
by Lewis B. Montgomery, illustrated by Amy Wummer
Kane, 2009
Amazon / local library / Google Books preview
ages 6-9 
The Milo & Jazz Mysteries are favorites with our 3rd graders, drawing them in with likable characters, easy-to-solve mysteries and clues to discover along the way. In this series opener, Milo is excited to get his mail-order kit from Dash Marlowe, Super Sleuth, but it takes the help of his new neighbor Jazz to figure out who has taken the high school’s star pitcher’s lucky socks. I especially liked how Milo and Jazz were not friends at first, but realized that each brought their own skills to solving the mystery.
Hilde Cracks the Case: Hero Dog!
by Hilde Lysiak and Matthew Lysiak, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
Scholastic, 2017
Amazon / local library / Google Books preview
ages 6-9
Hilde Cracks the Case is a new chapter book series for beginning readers written by nine-year-old crime reporter Hilde Lysiak along with her dad. Hilde carefully observes the clues, tracks down the story, and calms irritated adults. Fast-paced action and snappy writing keep readers’ attention, and pages from Hilde’s notebook help young sleuths follow the clues. I'm excited to follow this new series and young author!

If your young readers like mysteries, I've created a Pinterest board with many other books for 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade readers:

The review copies were sent by the publishers, Scholastic Books and Peachtree Publishers. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Friday, November 17, 2017

thinking about the movie WONDER & the portrayal of disability

I have not seen the movie adaptation of Wonder yet (release date is Friday 11/17), but I know that many many of our students will see this movie and talk about it. Reading the book continues to be a powerful experience for many kids (read here about our experience). I am looking forward to seeing the movie, but I want to think carefully about the way it portrays disability.

Here are a few resources you might be interested in reading:
The crux of the question that critics are raising is the choice surrounding the visual portrayal Auggie's disability, which author Palacio never specifically described in the book. What is the impact of the choices made? Does the portrayal accurately represent the experience of disabled people? Or does it soften the experience to make it more palatable for mainstream audiences?

In particular, critics are question the choice to use makeup to change actor Jacob Tremblay's appearance to represent Auggie's disability. Betsy Bird contrasts this with the decision made by the directors of Wonderstruck to cast Millicent Simmonds, a child actor who is deaf.

Does using makeup portray Auggie's disability as a costume that one can put on and take off? In my own viewing of the trailer, the movie does not match my imagination as I read the book; I had imagined Auggie's face as looking more impacted by his disability. But I'm not sure that matters.

Regardless, I truly believe these are important questions to ask our children as they watch and talk about the movie and the book.

An excellent resource to follow is Disability in Kid Lit. This blog "is dedicated to discussing the portrayal of disability in middle grade and young adult literature... from the disabled perspective." Their most recent review looks at the portrayal of autism in A Boy Called Bat, a book that many students throughout Berkeley are reading as part of our Mock Newbery Book Clubs.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

#Road2Reading suggestions for beginning readers & chapter books (ages 6-9)

Our panel discussion at AASL was fascinating. As Fran Manushkin noted, series provide her with friends for life as a young reader. She loved the Betsy, Tacy and Tib stories:
"Because there was more than one book about Betsy, Tacy and Tib, they became my friends! I got to know so much about them, and I could revisit these stories whenever I needed the comfort of an alternate family. I was mastering reading and I was finding a great source of continuity and comfort.

To me, this is the glory of series books for beginning readers: as the boys and girls build reading confidence, these new readers also find a new collection of friends, and these friends keep them reading. Reading confidence an a bunch of new friends: this is a double whammy of joy!"
I especially loved the range of ideas that panelists and the audience suggested for books to share with beginning readers. Below I have embedded the Padlet that we created during this session. Feel free to add other suggestions if you'd like.
Made with Padlet
If you want to keep exploring books for beginning readers, definitely check out these resources:
©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Reading on my own! Beginning reader series @AASL17 (ages 6-9)

Today I’m moderating a panel: Reading On My Own! Beginning Reader Series. We will talk with Megan McDonald (Judy Moody), Fran Manushkin (Katie Woo), Dori Butler (Kayla & King) and Richard Haynes (Slingshot & Burp) about writing for kids who are just beginning their reading journeys.
These authors sparkling with humor and wit, and they create books that are accessible and supportive for new readers. For these readers, a series helps create a comfortable, predictable story environment, but these authors' fresh, funny stories keep readers coming back wanting to read more.

Please add to this padlet ( and share ideas on terrific books to share with developing readers. Our readers at this stage need to read such a volume of books, that we need to help our developing readers find more to read. I like to think of them as book friends.

Follow along the tweets to hear all about the conversation: #AASL17 #Road2Reading.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books