Five tips for summer library “shopping”

Going to the library is like shopping without the buyer’s remorse. Wait, scratch that. The library can still offer buyer’s remorse if you check out too many books, the wrong books, or just plain lose books.

Here are my tips on organizing your library haul.

  1. Keep a dedicated library basket (or bag) in the car and at home. The basket at home is so you don’t lose books. When you’re not reading the book, it goes in the basket. When you’re checking out dozens of books at a time, this becomes important. Keep a basket in the car for already-read books so you can drop them off whenever you’re nearby. If you wait for a scheduled trip to the library, you might end up with overdue books.
  2. Teach your child how to select books. Librarians and teachers try, but it might mean more coming from you. Kids pick the strangest books. My third graders will show me their latest library picks and I’ll say things like,“Have you read the first five books in this series that is two grade levels above yours? No? So why did you pick this?” “This book is about the Russian Revolution. Do you have any interest in that? Then why did you pick it?”“This is a tender coming-of-age story about a girl and her horse. You like Transformers and anything about war. Why did you pick it?”Teach your child to really think about whether there is anything he can relate to—the cover, the title, the author, or the first page. If not, pass. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s for you.
  3. Use the five-finger method. At school, books are labeled with their AR levels. Not true at most public libraries. You can check on ARBookfind.com, or you can just use the five finger method. Encourage your child to read the first page aloud and hold up a finger for each word that’s too hard. If your child finds five too-hard words on the first page, the book is too hard. Put it down.
  4. Ask the librarian for advice. Librarians read more than anyone and they know what kids like. You can trust them to help you choose. Just make sure your child understands that while he doesn’t have to read everything the librarian recommends, he has to read enough so as not to annoy her and make her not want to help him next time.
  5. Feel free to take and check out the display books. Librarians set books out on display, like at a bookstore. You’re allowed to borrow these books. The librarian can always find something new to set out. (Hint: for picture books, sometimes it’s random. I’ve found some cool books by reading the random picture books librarians set out.)
Posted in Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Jul 18, 2016

 

American Girl Teaching Guides

American Girls SeriesThe American Girl series is just wonderful for introducing elementary school students to history. For each era, there is an irrepressible character with many books, games, and often even a movie to hook students on that time period. Students comprehend history lessons more easily if they can relate them to the experiences of an American Girl.

Today, the American Girl Teaching Guides! These are high-quality materials, just like everything from this company. You will find printable worksheets, easy-to-teach lessons, and ideas for connecting the books to character lessons as well as academic content.

Example: the Kit teaching guide focus on the Great Depression, giving, and resourcefulness. Worksheets encourage students to relate to Kit’s experiences with the Depression, make judgment calls about giving, conserve today’s resources by applying the lessons of the Depression, and even create their own messages in hobo code.  The materials are very high quality, and the worksheets would have taken you a while to develop. Good, time-saving stuff!

Here are the teaching guides. Each link opens a file in pdf format.

Addy: Freedom, the Civil War, and Life After Slavery

Caroline: Patriotism, Heroism, and the War of 1812

Chrissa: Bullying and How to Stop It

Felicity: Loyalty, Independence, and the Revolutionary War

Josefina: Spanish Culture and the Settlement of the Southwest

Julie: Equality, the Environment, and Facing Change

Kaya: Native American Life and the Nez Perce Tribe

Kirsten: Pioneer Life, Cultural Differences, and Helping One Another

Kit: The Great Depression, Giving, and Resourcefulness

Lanie: Animal Habitats and Observing Birds and Butterflies

Marie-Grace and Cécile: Diversity, Community, and Point of View

McKenna: Self-Esteem, Goal Setting, and Encouraging Self & Others

Molly: Cooperation, Adaptability, and Resourcefulness

Rebecca: Immigrants, Old Ways and New Ways, and Doing the Right Thing

Samantha: Innovation, Generosity, and Family


 

Fun and Educational Games on the American Girl Website

American Girls SeriesThe American Girl series of books have been so helpful in my classrooms—whether I taught 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade. The books do a wonderful job of dramatizing eras in our country’s history, which helps students build a schema that helps them comprehend new content. (More simply, kids will understand a lesson about the Great Depression more easily if they read some books about Kit.)

Previously, I have written about the American Girl books and movies. Now, I want to extol the virtues of the American Girl online games.

There are games for all the American Girl characters. Some are mostly educational, others are mostly fun. All the games make students more interested in American Girl characters and books.

My best use of the American Girl online games was as an incentive for my American Girl challenge. I challenged my class to read at least one book about each of the historical characters. We set benchmarks with rewards: read 2 books and you can watch the Kit movie with the class, read 4 and we’ll watch the Felicity movie, etc.

Students who kept up also got to play the American Girl games during specially scheduled computer lab time. (Students who were behind on their reading sat in the back and read.) After one of those sessions, my students decided to get on board and do their reading so they could participate fully in the American Girl awesomeness.

Even the boys liked it! I take sexism out of it as much as I can. I tell the entire class that there is nothing like American Girl for boys, and so the girls owe it to the boys to not tease them about reading books about girls. That speech does the trick because the students understand that they have the power to create the environment they want to learn in.

There are several ways to access the games. I have listed many because they might help you create links for your class.

General access to games

Historical characters: this displays the game menus for all. Click on the girl whose era you want to teach.

Girl of the year: These are modern girls. Click on the girl for access to books, games, etc.

List of American Girls with links to their books:

Kaya 1764: a Native American Girl

Felicity Merriman , 1774: a horse-loving girl caught between Patriot and Loyalist family and friends during the American Revolution

Josefina Montoya , 1824: lives in New Mexico when it was part of Mexico

Kirsten Larson , 1854: a Swedish immigrant who settles in the Minnesota Territory

Addy Walker , 1864: a fugitive slave who escapes to Pennsylvania during the Civil War

Samantha Parkington , 1904: an orphan being raised by a wealthy family during the Victorian period

Rebecca Rubin , 1914: a Jewish girl growing up in the Lower East Side of New York City

Kit Kittredge , 1934: faces the hard times of the Great Depression

Molly McIntire , 1944: keeps the home fires burning during World War II

Julie Albright , 1974: A San Francisco girl facing the changes of the mid-1970s

Posted in Book Lists,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Dec 28, 2012

 

Black & White – A Crystal Kite Award Winner

Black and White: The Confrontation between Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene “Bull” Connor
by Larry Dane Brimner
AR book level 8.7/Point value: 4
Available at Amazon.com

Take your civil rights lessons beyond Dr. King with this insightful book about the conflict in Birmingham. Few things in life are black and white, but I don’t see any other way to spin the conflict between civil rights leader Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and segregationist Eugene “Bull” Connor. After reading about civil rights activists being bombed, jailed, attacked, and killed, I think your students will agree that Black & White is a fitting title.

I learned about Black & White at a SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference. Author Larry Dane Brimner received the prestigious Crystal Kite Award for this book. After hearing his acceptance speech and attending a breakout session on how he wrote the book, I knew I had to read it, review it, and most importantly, share it.

Black & White has plenty of photos that help the reader believe the incomprehensible events that occurred in Birmingham during the civil rights movement. Today’s students are at least one generation removed from the civil rights movement and they truly might not believe some of what happened.

Accelerated Reader classifies the book as the 8.7 reading level, and I have to agree. This book is perfect for middle school. Older elementary students may enjoy it, but the descriptions of the important legal battles may be difficult for them to understand.

If the book is too difficult for your students, you might want to read it yourself and then teach students from it. They can learn a lot by looking at the pictures and listening to you tell about Reverend Shuttlesworth and Bull Connor. Author Larry Dane Brimner shows how Reverend Shuttlesworth was able to use Bull Connor’s zeal against him, ultimately showing the country just how bad things were in Birmingham and paving the way for real change.

To me, the climax of Black & White is the children’s march. The world was horrified to see images of police dogs and fire hoses turned on the young demonstrators. Black & White coordinates well with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s documentary Mighty Times: The Children’s March. You can request a FREE teaching kit with lessons and the movie.

Here’s the link to the official teacher’s guide for Black & White.  Be sure to visit author Larry Dane Brimner’s site. You can learn about his books and find out how to book him for an author visit or professional conference.

Posted in Book Reviews,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Dec 3, 2012

 

Book Review: Desert Baths by Darcy Pattison

AR Quiz number 153577/Reading Level 3.3/Point Value 0.5

As National Board Certified Teacher, I know that Desert Baths by Darcy Pattison is highly educational and entertaining.  Students and teachers will enjoy extended study with the activities, printable worksheets, and discussion guides in the comprehensive (52 pages!) teacher’s guide.

Darcy Pattison writes beautifully, but the clever use of figurative language and literary devices does not distract.  Students will enjoy the vivid imagery and description heightened by Kathleen Rietz’s illustrations.  Teachers will be glad to point out the many examples of onomatopoeia, vivid verbs, descriptive adjectives and varied sentence structure.

The information is interesting; it’s not often we think about whether desert creatures take baths, let alone how they do so.  Students will enjoy seeing the different techniques for cleanliness in a dry place.  Kids love animals, so this book is a natural fit.

The book features several activities printed at the end, but there is much, much more in the extensive Teacher’s Guide.  Click here to view or download the 52 page manual.  Many of the resources are a snap to use—ready to print vocabulary lists, Mad-Libs style activities, worksheets, quizzes and more.  Other ideas are more involved, like a STEM activity to build a bird bath or a printable card game to sort desert animals.

Click here for school visit info—everything you need to organize a visit from author Darcy Pattison.

Full disclosure: I didn’t just happen upon this book.  I have followed Darcy’s career since attending her one of her Novel Revision Retreats a few years ago.  If you write, either casually or for publication, check out Darcy’s resources.  Her website is a treasure trove of ideas you won’t find elsewhere, and her books Novel Metamorphosis and Paper Lightning are must-have resources.

Posted in Academics,Book Reviews by Corey Green @ Oct 19, 2012

 

Accelerated Reader Genre Challenge

Here is a fun way to encourage your students to select a wider variety of AR reading material.

The Accelerated Reader program makes it very easy to keep track of students’ reading. Student progress is measured by reading level, point value, and percent correct. Kids can read pretty much anything so long as they fit their material within those parameters.

I noticed that my students were staying well within their comfort zones and missing out on the array of genres available to them. I also noticed that students tended to read a lot more fiction than nonfiction. While fiction is fun, nonfiction is increasingly emphasized in standardized testing to reflect its importance in the real world.

I created the AR Genre Challenge. Over the course of a nine week grading period, students had to read from a selected list of genres, but they chose the book. Spaces were reserved for free choice.

I keep track of the Genre Challenge with a class list generated by our grading software. I tape the list to a piece of construction paper and decorate it a little for flair, then label the boxes with genres. Here are some suggestions:

Fiction Nonfiction
Mystery
Science fiction
Historical fiction
Realistic fiction
Fantasy
Fable
Fairy tale
Myth and legend
Poetry
Free choice
Animals
Plants
Vehicles (cars, trucks, planes, etc.)
Places (states, countries, regions)
Biography
Autobiography
Environments (jungle, desert, etc)
Ancient cultures
History
Cultures
Free choice

You can measure progress by book or by point value. There are pros and cons to each system; you have to decide what is best for your class.

How to use AR student records to keep track of the challenge

I use the individual student record function to keep track of the AR Stamp Sheet. The record is great because you can customize the date range so you don’t have to wade through records you’ve already seen. I just keep a note by my computer of when I last checked records so I know where to start this time.

Print (or view) the report after students have left for the school day so you know that you are capturing all tests up to that day. Fill in the chart with the books you can identify by genre. Highlight the titles you can’t easily classify and ask the student about them the next day.

I highly recommend you use one whole-class chart to keep track of the challenge. When I first started this system, I used individual stamp sheets, and the admin took MUCH longer. Plus, it’s good for students to see others making progress.

At the end of the quarter, have a blowout party for students who completed the Genre Challenge.

Happy reading!

Posted in Accelerated Reader (AR) by Corey Green @ Sep 13, 2012

 

Book Review: The Princess School series

The Princess School is a short-lived book series—much like a favorite TV show that gets cancelled too soon*. Authors Jane B. Mason and Sarah Hines imagine that Ella, Snow, Rapunzel and Rose attend Princess School, a finishing school that teaches mirror skills, charms, how to be charming—everything a princess needs to know.

The Princess School characters are relatable and fun. There is something for everyone; think Princess Spice Girls. Rapunzel is Sporty Spice. Ella is relatable-and-spunky Ginger Spice. Snow White is Baby Spice, the girl the others protect. Rose is Posh Spice—if Posh wanted to be a normal girl rather than marry soccer star David Beckham, move to Los Angeles and start her own clothing line.

The Princess School will interest readers in third grade and up, but high-achieving second graders can handle it. The books are more difficult than Magic Tree House and similar in reading level to American Girl books. The Princess School books hover at the 5th grade reading level.

Personally, I don’t think The Princess School books are particularly difficult to read. I think the high AR reading level may have kept students from being allowed to read it for school. I see the same thing happening with Beverly Cleary books—I swear that part of the reason kids don’t read them so much nowadays is the 4-6th grade AR level on most of her books.

Here is the information on The Princess School books. Buy them on Amazon, or, better yet, see if you can convince your school library to buy them for you! Your girls will thank you.

If the Shoe Fits: Reading level 5.2, worth 4 points
Who’s the Fairest: Reading level 5.2, worth 4 points
Let Down Your Hair: Reading level 4.9 , worth 4 points
Beauty Is A Beast: Reading level 5.2, worth 4 points
Princess Charming: Reading level 5.0, worth 3 points
Apple-Y Ever After: Reading level 4.8, worth 3 points
Thorn In Her Side: Reading level 5.2, worth 3 points

The The Princess School series is very different from Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. The Princess School is like a fun and fluffy romantic comedy; Princess Academy is like Serious Film “Oscar bait.” Both are good—but they are very, very different.

*Prime example: Joss Whedon’s Firefly. Check it out if you haven’t already! Maybe we can bring The Princess School back in the manner that Firefly fans got the Serenity movie made.

 

Posted in Book Lists,Book Reviews,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ May 29, 2012

 

Book Review: Washington City Is Burning

Washington City Is Burning, winner of the 1997 Carl Sandburg Award, is a wonderful story by respected author and multiple award winner Harriette Gillem Robinet. I recommend it for any classroom, but particularly if you study American history.

The focus, of course, is the British invasion of Washington City (now Washington, D.C) in the War of 1812. Tremendous extra value is added by telling the story from the point of view of Virginia, an enslaved girl. Dolley Madison saving the portrait of George Washington figures in the story, but that’s really just the beginning.

The strongest storyline is about slavery in our nation’s capital. To me, it was much more interesting than the actual invasion when the British soldiers burned Washington City (although that is well told, too.)

Did you know there were slave auctions just blocks away from the White House? Wait until you read about the suffering Virginia endured to save her fellow slaves—even before she became a house slave at the White House, the central setting of the book.  (Don’t worry, it’s not too much for your students.) There is an exciting sequence wherein Virginia rescues slaves that are to be sold at auction. Her bravery is stunning and humbling. Could you or I have done what she did?

I hope you read and enjoy Washington City Is Burning. I think it is Newbery Medal quality. I wish it had been around when I was a kid, but I will content myself with sharing this book with today’s children.

Posted in Book Reviews,Fun With Literacy,Social Studies by Corey Green @ May 21, 2012

 

Amelia Bedelia in the Classroom

Idiom-challenged maid Amelia Bedelia has delighted children since 1963.  Who can resist a maid who doesn’t understand how to draw the drapes or put out the lights?  Amelia Bedelia’s good intentions and delicious desserts carry her through.

Interestingly enough, I have noticed that most children don’t enjoy the humor of Amelia Bedelia unless they are taught how to appreciate it.  Like Amelia Bedelia, children are very literal and they just don’t get the jokes.   I think kids enjoy Amelia Bedelia books best if they hear several of them read aloud.  That way, the students can help each other explain the idioms.  If you are lucky, one or two kids will get each joke, and they can explain them to the class.  Once the students understand Amelia Bedelia books, rereading them makes for good fluency practice.

Amelia Bedelia books are time-honored vehicles for teaching children about idioms.  This is especially helpful to English Language Learners (ELL students).  Idioms are hard to pick up—notice I used an idiom to explain the quandary.

In addition to the classic Amelia Bedelia books, your students will enjoy reading Herman Parish’s books about young Amelia Bedelia and her first experiences at school.  The books are charming and will make your students feel like seasoned vets as they chuckle over how confusing school is to young Amelia.  You can read a sample here at the Harper Collins website.

Tip for standardized test prep: it’s tough to answer a question about explaining the idiom if you don’t know what an idiom is.  Your students will face this problem unless you periodically review the meaning of words like “idiom.”  It’s easy to lose sight of vocabulary basics in fun lessons, so remember to bring the kids back to the definition.

Resources for Amelia Bedelia and Idioms

List of Amelia Bedelia books
Available at Amazon.com

Amelia Bedelia (1963) – Wiki link
Thank You, Amelia Bedelia (1964)
Amelia Bedelia and the Surprise Shower (1966)
Come Back, Amelia Bedelia (1971)
Play Ball, Amelia Bedelia (1972)
Good Work, Amelia Bedelia (1976)
Teach Us, Amelia Bedelia (1977)
Amelia Bedelia Helps Out (1979)
Amelia Bedelia and the Baby (1981)
Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping (1985)
Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia (1986)
Amelia Bedelia’s Family Album (1988)
Good Driving, Amelia Bedelia (1995)
Bravo, Amelia Bedelia! (1997)
Amelia Bedelia 4 Mayor (1999)
Calling Doctor Amelia Bedelia (2002)
Amelia Bedelia and the Christmas List (2003)
Amelia Bedelia, Bookworm (2003)
Happy Haunting, Amelia Bedelia (2004)
Amelia Bedelia Goes Back to School (2004)
Be My Valentine, Amelia Bedelia (2004)
Amelia Bedelia, Rocket Scientist? (2005)
Amelia Bedelia’s Masterpiece (2007)
Amelia Bedelia Under Construction (2007)
Amelia Meets Emilie Castro (2007)
Amelia Bedelia and the Cat (2008)
Amelia Bedelia’s First Day of School (2009)
Amelia Bedelia’s First Valentine (2009)
Amelia Bedelia Makes a Friend (2011)

 

Posted in Book Lists,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ May 3, 2012

 

AR Report: What Kids are Reading

Renaissance Learning’s report on What Kids are Reading has garnered national media attention, much of it focusing on perceived inadequacies among today’s readers.  A National Board Certified Teacher offers a different perspective.

Renaissance Place’s Accelerated Reader program gathers a lot of data when students take AR tests.  Kids rate books and the program counts how often tests are taken.  The results can be interesting…and misleading.  For example, kids almost always pick the top rating, so you can’t place much stock in the stars books receive on the ARBookFind site. Additionally standalone titles of perennial popularity (Charlotte’s Web) do better than really, really popular series.  Kids love Magic Tree House books, but there are so many that they split the vote.

Sometimes the reason for a book’s popularity isn’t what you think.  For example, three of the top books read by third graders (Boom Town, Officer Buckle & Gloria, and Lon Po Po) are in the Harcourt Trophies third grade reader.  Would these books be so popular among AR test takers if they weren’t in the reading textbook?

Reading level can be a misleading thing.  Just because a student is in third grade doesn’t mean she reads only books rated three point something.  A quick glance at the top books for any grade level shows you that reading level is just an average.  For example, third graders love Diary of a Wimpy Kid (5.5), but they also enjoy Green Eggs and Ham (1.5)  Books hovering around grade level are prominent, but so are outliers.

Reading levels run the gamut in every grade, both among the readers and the titles they favor.  That’s why I’m not nuts about assigning kids to a narrow reading level (2.5-3.1 would be a common reading zone for third grade.)  Kids miss out on so much and the reading level is not always an indicator of whether the child can read the book.  It’s an indicator of sentence length, word length, sentences in a paragraph, that sort of thing.

Much has been made in the media about the low average grade level of high school students’ favorite books.  Don’t wig out, America!  There are several forces at work here.  First of all, mostly younger high school kids take AR tests, and mostly kids who are in regular English, not honors are required to earn points.  Honors students read literature and write papers; AR tests rarely figure into the curriculum.   If it does, it’s just an assignment to rack up points for independent reading.  Why not get credit for Twilight under such a system?

A look at AR tests high school kids are taking reads like the bestseller list.  Some of the reading levels may surprise you. For example, The Hunger Games clocks in at 5.3, but anyone who has read it knows the issues, characterization, and depth of the novel go far beyond that.  Besides, how can you knock The Hunger Games for a low reading level when Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is lower, only 4.5?  The low reading levels are indicators of today’s writing style—clear and concise.  Short sentences and paragraphs mean low reading levels.

What differentiates the high school books is topic, not word length and sentence length.  Glass by Ellen Hopkins is considered 3.7 grade level, but would I share that novel-in-verse with my third graders?  It’s way above their comprehension level!

Use the list of What Kids are Reading as it was intended: a way to report usage of AR tests, indicating popularity of certain books.  Don’t think it indicates the end of literacy or a terrible decline in the reading ability of today’s kids.

The report also has interesting essays by some of today’s most famous authors.  Ellen Hopkin’s article about frequently challenged books and what kids should be reading is insightful.

Posted in Accelerated Reader (AR) by Corey Green @ Apr 26, 2012

 

Celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day

On Saint Patrick’s Day, we’re all Irish!  Have some fun with your class.

Preparation: get a class shamrock plant.  (Bonus points if you can convince a parent to donate it!)

Ask the kids to save their milk cartons from lunch.  Use them to take home a piece of the class shamrock plant.  Students can repot a piece of the shamrock plant and grow their own at home.  Learn how to grow a shamrock plant at ehow.com

If you are learning about immigration in Social Studies, tie the Irish immigrant experience in with your Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations.  You could talk with your class about how Irish immigrants were treated and compare it to immigration today.  The countries of origin have changed, but in many ways, how people view immigrants remains the same.  Read Eve Bunting’s Dreaming of America: An Ellis Island Story.

Grownups, take this opportunity to read a book by a wonderful Irish writer, Maeve Binchy.  Her books immerse you in Ireland, and you know her characters better than you know your own family.  Tara Road is her magnum opus, and her newer books all feature that Dublin neighborhood.  Every single book by Maeve Binchy is wonderful.  I read them over and over again.

Posted in Fun With Literacy,Holidays by Corey Green @ Mar 13, 2012

 

Coretta Scott King Book Awards 2012

Author Award Winner:
Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans
by Kadir Nelson, author and illustrator.

The story is told from the viewpoint of an elderly woman who shares her life story while highlighting pivotal historical events including abolition, the Great Migration, World War II, and the Civil Rights movement.

Watch Kadir Nelson’s video description of the book:

Illustrator Award Winner:
Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom

Shane W. Evans’ effective interplay of dark and light characterizes this portrayal of a band of slaves’ nighttime escape.

Author Honor:
The Great Migration: Journey to the North
by Eloise Greenfield

Greenfield’s book describes the Great Migration of 1915-1930, when African-American families left their homes in the South and moved to the North.

Never Forgotten
by Patricia C. McKissack

Watch an interview with Patricia and Frederick McKissack, who began writing books when they decided they wanted to do something about the lack of children’s stories about African Americans.

Illustrator Honor:
Kadir Nelson was honored for his illustrations in Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans.

Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement:
Ashley Bryan, storyteller, artist, author, poet, and musician whose numerous awards include the Coretta Scott King Book Award for Let it Shine and Beautiful Blackbird.

Watch a video interview with Ashley Bryan.

From the American Library Association website: Given to African American authors and illustrators for outstanding inspirational and educational contributions, the Coretta Scott King Book Award titles promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples and their contribution to the realization of the American dream of a pluralistic society. The award is designed to commemorate the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to honor Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.

Posted in Book Lists,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Feb 23, 2012

 

Introducing my new book, Double Switched!

bookI am pleased to announce the release of the third installment in the Buckley School Books: Double Switched. It’s about Connor, who knows he will be a Major League Baseball star—if he can just get through sixth grade.

Connor’s dad says make straight A’s or no baseball—but that’s not so easy when Connor has been Double Switched. Switched ballparks, switched classes, switched baseball positions—the bases are loaded with problems for Connor. Can he live up to his dad’s high standards? Would his hero Jackie Robinson approve of the choices Connor makes?

Double Switched is loads of fun, with action and comic misadventure. There is also a serious side. When Connor’s dad talks about growing up in the desegregated South, he draws on stories my mom told me about life during the Civil Rights movement. In Double Switched, I honor my mom’s childhood heroes: Cheryl and Eloise, two brave girls who integrated her junior high school in Montgomery, Alabama.

Inspired by his heroes, Connor sets out to address an inequality staring him in the face—his younger sister Nisha’s experience with softball. For Nisha, everything is less-than: poorly maintained fields require endless fundraising to fix up, poorly attended games give her no opportunity to shine. Connor, Nisha and friends put on a Boys Against Girls exhibition game to bring awareness and needed funds to level the playing field.

I hope you enjoy Double Switched. Visit the official Double Switched website for fun activities and features created by the kids in the book. (My favorite is You are the Umpire, but I think you will also like Chris’s Southern Recipes and Baseball Superstitions.)

Posted in Book Reviews,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ Dec 6, 2011

 

Kids Need to Read! A Charity by Nathan Fillion

I have a soft spot for stories about writers. When I discovered the TV series Castle, I was hooked at first sight. I really appreciate the high quality work of the writers of the show- and the constant challenge: can I solve the mystery before Richard Castle does?

Then there’s a fun twist: As a promotion for the show, “Richard Castle’s” book Heat Wave was released in hardcover by Hyperion and debuted at #26 on The New York Times Best Seller list, ultimately moving up to #6. The second novel Naked Heat debuted at #7 on The New York Times Best Seller list.

What’s not to love about a fictional fiction writer portrayed by Nathan Fillion?

There’s a lot more to love, actually.

Castle star Nathan Fillion co-founded Kids Need to Read, an organization dedicated to getting more books into underfunded libraries:

“Growing up, my parents managed to show me the importance of reading without cramming it down my throat. A difficult task, I’m sure. It breaks my heart to think that there are kids out there, ready to have their imaginations lit on fire, excited and wanting to read, and facing naked shelves in their school or local libraries.”

Now I have a soft spot for Kids Need to Read, and I hope you will, too. Kids Need to Read focuses on stressed populations, such as juvenile offenders, impoverished urban teenagers, and youth faced with learning challenges. KNTR assists educators who are devoted to helping such children overcome the odds and succeed through worthwhile literacy programs. You can request donations online.

I can tell you from experience that helping kids in these circumstances select a book to read is both personally and professionally satisfying. Even greater is finding out that your encouragement came at a time that made a difference in that young person’s life.

I’ll be donating and volunteering. Hope you will, too!

 

 

Posted in Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ Sep 15, 2011

 

Summer Reading: Get hooked on reading a series!

If your child likes one book in a series, encourage him to read all the books in the series.  Your child will feel more like he chose the book and he will be more vested in reading.  Teachers, librarians or booksellers can advise you on a series at the right age and reading level. 

My high readers in third grade loved the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, Children’s Choice Book Award Winner: Author of the Year. Their  enjoyment inspired other students in the class to raise their own reading levels so they could read the five books in the series about Greek mythology set in modern-day America.  More than 20 million copies of the books have been sold in more than 35 countries.

Available at Amazon.com:
The Lightning Thief (Book 1)
The Sea of Monsters (Book 2)
The Titan’s Curse (Book 3)
The Battle of the Labyrinth (Book 4)
The Last Olympian (Book 5)

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney started on Funbrain.com in 2004, appearing  as blog posts.  Now, the series tops the New York Times best seller lists.  My students love Poptropica, the online game that Jeff Kinney produces during his day job at an Internet company.  There are popular movies out for the first two books.  Share them with your kids!

Available at Amazon.com:
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Rodrick Rules (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #2)
The Last Straw (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #3)
Dog Days (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #4)
The Ugly Truth (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #5)

And of course, the Harry Potter series and movies are magnificent (available at Amazon.com).  I have read that series countless times, and before each new movie is released, my family watches all the old movies again so we don’t miss anything. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 will be released on July 15, 2011.  I’ll be there! 

A bit of self promotion: my Buckley School Books series has 2 volumes available now.  I plan to write one book for each kid in Mr. Hoker’s class!

Zapped! (Buckley School Books #1)
Brainstorm (Buckley School Books #2)
Double Switched (Buckley School Books #3 coming soon)

Posted in Book Lists by Corey Green @ Jun 1, 2011