Two-time Coretta Scott King Award winning author, Sharon M. Draper, has written a stunning novel for upper-elementary school children that opens like this: “Words have always swirled around me like snowflakes–each one delicate and different, each one melting untouched in my hands. Deep within me, words pile up in huge drifts. Mountains of phrases and sentences and connected ideas. Clever expressions. Jokes. Love songs …. But only in my head. I have never spoken one single word. I am almost eleven years old.” So begins the story of fifth grader Melody Brooks who has cerebral palsy but doesn’t want to be defined by it. Although she can’t walk, talk, feed herself, or go to the bathroom without help, she can read, think, remember, and feel. She is a brilliant girl trapped in her own weak body and confined to a wheelchair. Melody learns of a computer with technology that will allow her to communicate to others and her world changes big time! But there are still ignorant doctors, thoughtless teachers, and cruel classmates to deal with. Fortunately, Melody has a fierce advocate in her mother, not unlike the author whose own daughter has cerebral palsy, thus providing great authenticity and accuracy in the writing. This book is a compelling read that will hopefully make all readers more compassionate and understanding toward those with disabilities and the misconceptions that go with them. I especially loved Melody’s sense of humor and fortitude despite her many challenges. This is one book you won’t be able to put down until you come to the final page.
Do you have a child just learning to read? Congratulations! Your child is on the verge of exploring a whole new world! The path to becoming an independent reader can seem slow and arduous at times, but here are some tips to help your child stay the course and discover the joy of reading.
Let your child choose books he wants to read. This sounds simple, but so often we get derailed by two little words—“reading level.” Kids need to read “easy” books to build fluency and comprehension, so let them choose books below reading level. Just like practicing an instrument, reading an easy book or an old favorite will refine skills. Kids need to read what they’re interested in—even if it’s hard. So let them choose books above “reading level,” and they’ll tackle challenging vocabulary just because they care. And if they need help, you’ll be there to ease the way.
Which brings up the next tidbit of advice- kids need you to read to them. Don’t abandon reading aloud once your child begins reading. Your reading models skills they need—cadence, speed, inflection, pronunciation, vocabulary. Even more, your read-alouds remind them why they’re working so hard—for the love of story and information! So the next time they choose a book that’s above their reading level, help them meet the challenge—share the reading, model for them, and let them echo you.
The mechanics of learning to read can be hard work, but be careful about making it a “chore.” Your child’s motivation to read is a huge indicator of how accomplished he’ll become. And, let’s face it, how motivated are we by our chores? Beginning readers are encouraged to practice their skills at least 20 minutes a day, but it’s important to not become clock-watchers. Keeping track of time is fine, but shift the focus away from that in hopes that your child will one day completely lose track of how long he’s been reading.
While your child is practicing, be a great listener. Don’t correct mistakes unless it changes the meaning. Help your child when he needs it. Be patient and nonjudgmental. Find fun and alternate ways your child can practice—with siblings or family pets, or even leading a stuffed animal storytime. Soon, you’ll discover that you’ve raised a reader!
The Search for WondLa has been on my “To Read” list for awhile now, since it was published in 2010. But having learned a valuable lesson in series anticipation from Harry Potter, I put off starting this trilogy until the last book was published. This May the final book was published, The Battle for WondLa, and the time was ripe to start this series.
DiTerlizzi has mixed a good bit of science fiction into his fantasy to create a fascinating world. Eva Nine is a human girl being cared for and trained by Muthr, a humanoid, multifunctional robot. They live in an isolated Sanctuary with no contact with other humans. Eva longs to go outside and venture into the real world, but up until now Muthr has prevented this, deeming it safer to stay inside. But when their home comes under attack from an outside force, Eva is forced to flee on her own. Outside, her encyclopedic Omnidroid cannot identify any of the strange creatures she encounters. Feeling increasingly unprepared for life on the surface, Eva is captured by the strange hunter Besteel, but is able to escape and free his other captives at the same time. Thus, she has made her first friends, Rovender Kitt, a tall blue alien, and Otto, an enormous water bear.
Rovender has some news for Eva, instead of being on Earth as she had assumed, they are on a planet known as Orbona. To help make sense of this new world, she insists on rescuing Muthr from the ruins of their home. Reunited, the group sets off in search of other humans using Eva’s most prized possesion, a photo of a girl, robot and book with only the letters “Wond L a” still visible. Along their journey they encounter both kindness and cruelty from the natives. Eva and Muthr soon realize that they are oddities that no one has seen before, and thus valued for their rarity. The mystery of their origins is left unanswered for most of the book, with the only tantalizing hints coming at the end. Told in four parts with short chapters, this a fairly quick read accompanied by DiTerlizzi’s sylistic illustrations. An interesting tale that leaves you wanting to more, a demand that can gladly met by the sequel, A Hero for WondLa.
Twelve-year-old Willow Chase has had trouble fitting in her whole life because she is a genius, a person of color, unusual, and adopted. Her parents provide much love and support despite Willow’s idiosyncrasies and mild obsessive compulsive disorder (she counts by sevens to help calm herself down and has a fixation about medical issues). Finding a friend has never been easy, but meeting Mai Nguyen who accompanies her brother to his counseling sessions, prior to Willow’s own hour with the inept Dell Duke, changes things and the girls build a unique friendship together. When the unthinkable happens, the car crash that kills Willow’s adoptive parents, Willow goes to stay in the garage behind the nail saloon that Mai’s mother owns. The social worker insists that this is just temporary until she can be moved to a facility that can deal with someone who has twice lost her parents and must fine another place to live. Finding a “new normal” amid a Vietnamese family living just barely above the poverty level creates an opportunity for Willow to change other people’s lives while finding stability and her own unique place in society. The strong characterizations, the different voices used in the storytelling, and the plot through which Willow finds meaning and acceptance again, create a special novel that will definitely hold the interest in 5th-8th grade readers.
Lois Ehlert has long been a favorite picture book author/illustrator of mine. Her books are perfect for storytimes with their large beautiful collage illustrations and short text. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting this Milwaukee children’s book author a couple of times and she is just as colorful in her dress and lively in her conversation as you would expect from her artwork. She collects folk art from her travels and many of those items like fabric and toys from other countries are found in her picture books. Her latest book, The Scraps Book; Notes from a Colorful Life, is a delightful insight into her creative process when making picture books for children. The reader learns a little about her life and sees photos of her parents, the house she grew up in, early sketches of some of her books, tools she uses to create her artwork, and some of her actual collections– fishing decoys, folk art dolls, items from the natural world. The collage of photos on the end papers are inspirational for young artists as is her simple text with notes throughout that makes reading this book pure joy. The Scraps Book is a unique autobiographical picture book that will be enjoyed by young artists and readers, not to mention art teachers and parents. Hurray for creativity and inspiration for children to make their own art and learn about bookmaking in the process by a very gifted artist.
The Iowa City Public Library ended the 2014 Summer Reading Program with a bang, recording record participation numbers among all age levels – babies, kids, teens, and adults.
In all, 4,822 patrons registered for the 2014 Summer Reading Program, with 2,205 participants turning in completed game cards by Aug. 2.
The kids program had the highest number of registrants – 2,720 people – and the highest completion rate – 1,386 people.
More than 1,250 adults signed up for the program, with 453 turning in completed game card.
The teen program had 404 registrations and 184 completed game cards handed in, while the babies program had 440 registrations and 183 game cards returned to the Children’s Room.
All completed game cards were entered in a drawing for the Summer Reading Program Grand Prize, which varied depending on the program level. The winners were chosen by a random drawing and contacted by Library staff.
Congratulations to everyone who received a Summer Reading Program prize and thank you to all who participated!
Babies Summer Reading Program Grand Prize: A $50 gift card to Prairie Lights
- Winner: Treymire Johnson
Kids Summer Reading Program Grand Prize: A Kindle Fire
- Winner: Edward Li
Teen Summer Reading Program Grand Prize: A Kindle Fire
- Winner: Anh To
Adult Summer Reading Program Grand Prize: A Kindle Fire
- Winner: Mamta Gautam
Both the teen and adult Summer Reading Programs had additional prizes. In the teen program, first prize winners include:
- John Green prize: Morgan Louvar
- Day Dreams Comics prize: Madeline Van Horn
- Prairie Lights Bookstore prize: Thomas Duong
- Movie Theatre Prize: Ashley Rose Joens
Second prize winners received Taste of Iowa City tickets. The winners of this prize includes Palmer Love; MaryClare Greer; Emma Dochterman; Noah Bullwinkle; and Abby Walling.
The winner of the first prize in the adult program – a bag of books – is Lenore Maybaum.
Second prize winners also received Taste of Iowa City tickets. The winners of this prize include Ellen Lee-Andino; Rachel Carmen; Wesley Beary; Brittni Stille; and Jennie Fischer.
Sing, Play, Grow! 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Aug. 8
Come sample West Music’s own early childhood music and movement program, Sing & Play & Learn Today!
This is a fun, engaging program that explores instrument playing, singing, moving and so much more!
To learn more about West Music’s Education program, visit their website.
Chinese Storytime 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Aug. 22
Book Babies will host Emily Jia. Emily will introduce families to Chinese language.
Come have fun learning Chinese songs, nursery rhymes, fingerplays, Chinese Classics, and instrument play. (Older siblings are welcome, too!)
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
The wisdom of this age-old proverb becomes new in the recent research on the correlation of play and learning. Although playing is an important way children learn, it’s often overlooked. Professor Laurel Bongiorno says that playing and learning are intertwined, like a science lecture and a lab. “Play is the child’s lab,” she explains in her article 10 Things Every Parent Should Know About Play.
The Delta Center, an interdisciplinary research team at the University of Iowa, has been studying the importance of play with a project called Playing is Learning. They’ve identified eight skills that playing builds—creativity, self-regulation, spatial awareness, language, healthy bodies, number knowledge, social skills, and conceptual thinking. They’ve partnered with the Iowa Children’s Museum, connecting exhibits with research, focusing on the power of play. It’s all pulled together in the Game of Games, a deck of cards full of creative ways for parents and their children to play together.
We are excited to announce that the Delta Center is bringing a new edition of Playing is Learning to the Iowa City Public Library! They have studied how kids play at the Library and will link that to their research, creating activities that correspond. We expect a debut this fall. For more information on Playing Is Learning, visit www.playingislearning.org.
In the meantime, even as our children head back to school soon, let’s make sure they have time to play each day!
I have been looking forward to reading this latest and perhaps last tale from the late and fantastic, Diana Wynne Jones, ever since it was announced. Finished by her sister Ursula, The Islands of Chaldea is a fitting bookend to such a long and varied career. The story begins as Aileen, a young magic user in training, discovers that she doesn’t seem to be all that magical. Devastating news for a girl from a long line of powerfully magical Wise Women of Skarr. Aileen is not given any time to dwell on this as she and her no-nonsense Aunt Beck are sent on a quest by the king of their stony grey island. Their quest is in response to a prophecy, that only a Wise Woman and a man from each of the four Islands of Chaldea will be able to remove the barrier that separates them and reunite them as one kingdom. At the end of the last battle between the islands, Logra was magically sealed off from Skarr, Bernica, Gallis, with the barrier in place for most of Aileen’s life. They set off accompanied by Ivar, an arrogant prince of Skarr, and Ogo, a Logran abandoned during the war.
After an eventful start involving poisoned clothes and a sometimes invisible cat, the companions arrive on Bernica. As they wander through rolling green hills, a traveling monk joins them, bringing with him a bird who may tell the future. After Aunt Beck runs afoul of a queen and her donkeys, Aileen begins to come into her own as a leader. She gets them all safely to Gallis, where spells are sung and a religious order reigns supreme. Here they find the relatives of Aileen’s long lost father, who offer them a way over the barrier to Logra, via hot air balloon. Together with her newly discovered cousin and his size changing dragon, they make it over the barrier only to crash land and be taken prisoner. In the capital, the companions find that the poor Lograns have blamed the barrier on the other three islands, and hope for its removal as much as the rest of Chaldea. Who then put up the barrier in the first place? As a decades long conspiracy begins to unravel, Aileen must become the Wise Woman she was meant to be and bring together the four magical guardian animals of Chaldea to overcome the great evil intent on keeping the islands apart.
A great read for fantasy fans, The Islands of Chaldea is a fantastic coming of age adventure, full of the magical comedy Diana Wynne Jones was best known for.
Rebecca Chaperon’s new picture book, Eerie Dearies: 26 ways to miss school, is a hilariously haunting abecedarian that is not for the faint of heart or humorless. While not all of her heroines, and yes they are all female, meet their demise playing hooky, a few are already undead and others are well on their way.
Each of her full color acrylic illustrations are set on old and well worn book covers with many of the titles remaining visible, interacting with and commenting on the excuse for nonattendance. With their similar melancholic expressions, elongated features and the whimsical play between page design and illustration Chaperon almost alludes to Edward Gorey’s, The Gashlycrumb Tinies.
Full of excruciating detail that only multiple readings will reveal, Rebecca Chaperon has created a delightfully grim exploration of the alphabet and cutting class.
Disclaimer: I cannot recommend all of these alternatives to attending school.