Category Archives: Web resources

That time a nun read my kindergarten class Oscar Wilde

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Sister Catherine was awesome. Sister Catherine taught me how to read, and my phone number, and what prayer meant and the beginnings of self-control.

She read to us. Two books I particularly remember were Sylvester and the Magic Pebble and The Selfish Giant. Because she was a Sister and it was kindergarten, it was kind of a shock to me as an adult when I realized that anyone might consider either of those books controversial.

Sylvester, like a lot of children’s books, features animal characters acting like people. The main character is a donkey and when he mysteriously disappears, his family calls the police. The controversy over this book, published in 1969, is that the police are depicted as pigs.

It’s hard to describe “The Selfish Giant” without giving away the ending, but on one level it’s a fairy tale and on another it has Christian symbolism. It’s considered a classic and has been included in anthologies such as A Treasury for Six Year Olds, The Children’s Book of Faith, and Easter Treasures.

I guess I didn’t really think about who the author was until (at a previous job) someone questioned my classifying the book with some other Christian fiction. My first thought was that someone might have stripped the story of the more explicitly religious elements while adapting it to picture book format. But as I thought more about it, I realized that the the person who raised the issue might really have been objecting less to the actual book and more to who the author was.

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Because if you ask, “Who was Oscar Wilde?” the answer usually includes these elements: he was a writer, he was known for his flamboyant personality, and he was imprisoned for homosexual acts. But because of Sister Catherine, his notoriety isn’t the first thing I think of. The Selfish Giant is still a book I put out on display at Easter time every year (and I was upset when our last picture book version of it got lost last year and relieved when it reappeared on the shelf this spring).

When I was asked to pick some books for the GLBT Book Month display in the lobby, I thought of some of the classic, much-loved authors who fall into this category. I actually forgot to put any Langston Hughes books in last year’s display, but several artists have recently made beautiful picture books by illustrating his poetry. I’m also planning to feature books by Hans Christian Andersen, whose fairy tales are even better known than Oscar Wilde’s.

The resources for GLBT Book Month include tools to find books by contemporary authors. The Stonewall Book Awards and the Rainbow Book List can help you find books with characters who are gay, or gender-fluid, or living in a diverse community or just figuring things out. The display will have something– old or new– for everybody.

 

 

 

Comforting Reads for Difficult Times

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The Association for Library Service to Children has released a new list of recommended books called Comforting Reads for Difficult Times, which you can download and print here:
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In addition to suggested books for different ages on topics like depression, resilience and violence, ALSC also suggests resources for adults. These books, articles and websites provide additional book suggestions and advice on topics like talking to children about the news.

New Spanish books and new Spanish blog

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Thanks to a tip from a wonderful teacher, we were able to stop at a local book fair and pick up a box full of great new children’s books in Spanish!  They will be added to the collection soon.  If you would like to stay up-to-date on library programs and new books in Spanish, check out Fountaindale’s new OYE blog.  This Spanish language blog will have information for children and adults on library services, events, and new items in our collection.

On your marks, get set, go!

Are you planning to follow the Iditarod in your classroom?  Did you know that there is a whole Iditarod education web page?  It includes lesson plans for teachers and fun materials like coloring pages for students.

Are you looking for some stories about mushers and sled dogs?  The Iditarod education page includes recommended books about the Iditarod and Alaska.  Debbie Reese, blogging at American Indians in Children’s Literature, recently recommended a series of picture books about an Inuit boy named Jake and his puppy, Kamik.

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Kamik’s First Sled adapted from the memories of Matilda Sulurayok, illustrated by Qin Leng
Jake’s puppy Kamik is growing quickly, but the dog isn’t becoming any easier to handle. All Jake wants is to raise his puppy into a strong, fast sled dog, but Kamik is far from ready to pull a sled with a dog team. With some advice and a little help from his grandmother, Jake learns basic principles of how to begin training a dog to pull. Kamik finally has his first sled, and he and Jake can finally begin exploring the tundra together. But Jake and Kamik are still inexperienced, and when a blizzard starts blowing in across the tundra, Jake has to rely on his knowledge to get home. Inspired by the life memories of the author, an Inuit elder, this book lovingly presents basic dog-rearing practices that even the youngest dog lover can try.

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Kamik Joins the Pack adapted from the memories of Darryl Baker; illustrated by Qin Leng
Jake cannot wait for his uncle to meet Kamik, and to see what an obedient puppy he is becoming! Jake’s uncle is a great musher, who has won many dogsledding races, and if Kamik is good enough Jake hopes today might be the day that Kamik finally gets to run with a dog team!

It’s the first day of early voting!

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Are you talking about the election in your family or classroom? We have many online resources you can access with your Fountaindale library card that you might enjoy sharing with your children. These can be found in alphabetical order by going to fountaindale.org and clicking on Find It! Select Online Resources and scroll down for each of the following.

BookFlix pairs classic animated storybooks with related nonfiction. A Read Aloud feature enables children choose whether to listen to the stories or read the books themselves. Books are aimed at preschool through the primary grades. Three sets of books introduce youngsters to the democratic process: Duck for President and Election Day; Madam President and What Does the President Do?; Otto Runs for President and Let’s Vote on It.

The books on TrueFlix are aimed at third through fifth grades. They, too, have the Read Aloud feature. Each includes a video, follow up activities, and projects. Among the titles in the U.S. Government section are several of particular interest in this election year: The Presidency, Voting, The Congress, The Supreme Court, and The Bill of Rights.

Upper elementary and middle school students will find the FreedomFlix eBooks useful. Each title is accompanied by video, a project, and related websites. Our Democracy books include: The Branches of U.S. Government, Citizenship, The Democratic Process, Forms of Government, The Supreme Court, The U.S. Constitution, Women’s Right to Vote, The Bill of Rights, and American Capitalism.

At Scholastic Go! find a wealth of material on Election 2016 from the latest news to a section on the road to the White House and an Electoral Challenge game. The developers of the site state, “Our engaging news articles get kids hooked on the nonfiction reading they’ll do their whole lives as they become informed, active citizens. There is no bigger news story in the Unites States than the election of a president. And there is no better opportunity to engage kids in our democratic process.”

Tough topics for any age

I can hardly imagine what it’s like to be a preschool-to-primary teacher right now trying to plan a lesson on some of the typical beginning of the year curriculum topics.

“All about me”: I describe myself.  My classmates describe themselves.  We talk about similarities and differences.

“Community helpers”: We learn about the people who work in our community, like the police.

Whether you’re a parent, a student, or a teacher you may be having a really hard time this week as you watch the news (or react to grown-ups watching the news).  I’m certainly seeing this among family and friends.  While I don’t have easy answers, I want to share what we have at the library.  We have some books to help you talk to children about scary things in the news, general resources for coping with stress, and old favorite books and movies if you decide to take a break from news or social media and just gather together as a family.

I really don’t know of any children’s books that talk about contemporary police shootings.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has an online collection of resources at http://www.tolerance.org/racism-and-police-violence to help with discussing the topic and help make students feel safe and supported so they can learn.  We have books at the library that can help you talk to children about race and racism.

We have also helped recommend books for a police officer who was visiting a classroom and wanted to read aloud to the students.  (He wanted funny books.  I asked if his feelings would be hurt if I suggested something with donuts?  The answer was no, and he did check out a doughnut story.)  We have funny picture books and simple factual books about police.  Whatever you need, we will do our best to help you find it.

We must be kind to one another

Saturday I was moving materials in and out of the Vortex for the library’s hardworking teen volunteers.  I noticed the teen department had a display for GLBT Book Month and thought to myself that I really needed to get it together and make a display for our department already…

IMG_0675[1]and then the next day I caught a couple of headlines before work, and by the time I had a chance to read a little further it had become clear that there had been a terrible shooting targeting the gay community in Orlando, committed by a man with some kind of association with ISIS.

I’ve already shared the best resources I know for talking with children about scary things in the news.  Today I want to share some resources for talking with young people about tolerance and about extremism.

One of the most thoughtful people addressing this topic is Eboo Patel, founder of the Interfaith Youth Core.   Living in the Chicago area, you have probably heard him interviewed.  This is from the introduction to his book Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation:

This is a book about how some young people become champions of religious pluralism while others become the foot soldiers of religious totalitarianism.  Its thesis is simple: influences matter, programs count, mentors make a difference, institutions leave their mark.  When we look back in the lives of young religious terrorists, we find a web of individuals and organizations that shaped them.  These young killers are not, for the most part, dramatically deranged individuals.  They are kids who fell into murderously manipulative hands. …And then we should ask: why weren’t the hands of people who care about pluralism shaping that kid instead of the hands of religious totalitarians?

He writes about people from a variety of backgrounds who have fallen into extremism, as well as his model for people of different faiths learning and serving together.  It’s a good book for any adult who cares about young people.

The American Muslim Teenager’s Handbook is a title that is focused on individuals rather than an interfaith movement.  I’m listing it because it offers basic information (an important alternative to online searches), is inclusive (taking the approach that it’s OK for people to disagree), and contains advice for how to “avoid extremism, fanaticism, radicalism, and other pesky ‘isms’.”

Not My Kid: 21 Steps to Raising a Nonviolent Child has advice for any parent who worries about children living in a violent world.  There is practical advice on raising children and preventing violence, and specific information on what behavior might be a sign that a child needs professional help.

Two organizations that are well known for identifying and opposing hate groups are the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.  They offer tools for Education and Outreach and Teaching Tolerance.  (A bonus this time of year is that in addition to resources for the school curriculum, there are also resources for summer camp.)

PFLAG is another well-known organization, offering support through local chapters to “LGBTQ individuals, family members and allies.”  They are a good first place to look for information, resources, and community.

The GLBT Book Month link above has some resources for finding recommended books (“authors and writings that reflect the lives and experiences of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community”) including the Stonewall Book Awards List (which includes fiction and nonfiction for adults, children, and young adults) and the Rainbow Book List, which has titles for children and teens.  The Horn Book Magazine also featured an article not long ago about Maurice Sendak, Arnold Lobel, James Marshall, Remy Charlip, and Tomie de Paola, five gay men who created beloved picture books.

It can be hard to talk to children about difficult and scary topics.  But it’s important to make a start, to keep talking, and sometimes to get advice from other people who are also working to make their world a better place.