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    Finding Family in the Community

    By Allister Chang
     | Apr 18, 2019
    chang-LTIn an episode of the This American Life public radio program called "What's Going On In There?," Ira Glass shares the story of a Chinese-American son who can't speak to his father. The father never taught his son Chinese, but the father also never learned English. This almost happened to me! My parents, aunts, and uncles had learned Chinese as children, and they thought their kids would pick up the language naturally on their own—­as they themselves had—and they spoke to me in broken English. I was developing a Chinese accent when I spoke English, and I also wasn't learning any Chinese ­until a librarian intervened. 

    After speaking with this librarian, my parents spoke to me only in Chinese, providing me an opportunity to grow up bilingual. Thinking back on my childhood, I remember many specific interventions like this one, where a kind, thoughtful, and brave educator stepped up to make an intervention that changed the course of my life. 

    I think that these kinds of transformative interventions—the ones that determine whether you'll share a common language with your own father—are possible coming only from people that you trust. As recent immigrants to the United States with limited English fluency, and an even more limited social network, knowing who to trust wasn't easy for my parents. Ads left and right promised scams. Who could we trust besides family? 

    My mother is the one who brought our local library into the family (and vice versa). As a kid, she escaped boredom by hiding in wealthier families' gardens to listen in on TV sets. When they chased her away, she read books. We would fill a bag of books for her at our local library in Maryland every week. When she finished reading every available Chinese language book in our local library system, the librarians ordered new Chinese titles. 

    We began to build trusting relationships with our local librarians, and the world opened up to us in new ways. They alerted us to scams and referred us to relevant resources that we would otherwise have never looked for. 

    We had found people who we trusted, and I am deeply grateful that we put our trust in kind people who just happened to be experts at guiding the wandering and the lost. 

    Allister Chang is a 2019 ILA 30 Under 30 honoree. Chang, the former executive director of Libraries Without Borders. is an affiliate with Harvard University's Berkman-Klein Center for Internet and Society, and a fellow with Voqal. a philanthropic organization that uses technology and media to advance social equity. 

    This article originally appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of
    Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.
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    Resources for Celebrating National Poetry Month

    By Bailee Formon
     | Apr 17, 2019

    honoring-students-rights-to-readApril is National Poetry Month, which provides an opportunity for teachers and educators to bring poetry into the classroom and inspire students to read and experience works of poetry on their own. Since 1996, the national holiday has celebrated the contributions of poets while recognizing poetry's vital place in our culture and everyday lives. Following are resources and activities to help students get excited about poetry.

    • ILA’s Choices Reading Lists includes works of poetry chosen for children, by children.
    • This Writer’s Digest post, “The 20 Best Poems for Kids,” outlines three categories of poems (short poems, funny poems, and rhyming poems), lists popular examples of each type, and explains why they succeed with children.
    • Scholastic offers poetry-related articles, lesson plans, and blog posts that are applicable to educators of various grade levels.
    • Goodreads lists titles of popular works of poetry geared toward children. From Shel Silverstein to Dr. Seuss and Robert Louis Stevenson, the poems on this list will engage students and help them find their favorite authors. 
    • ReadWriteThink includes poetry resources in addition to lesson plans and classroom activities—organized according to grade level—that can help to get students excited about poetry.
    • Ahead of last week’s #ILAchat, Poetry, Rap, and Hip-Hop: Connecting With Students Through Rhythm and Rhyme, the ILA team rounded up a list of resources—recommended by our guest experts—for teachers to use and learn from.
    • Reading Rockets shares video interviews with renown poets as well as a collection of classroom resources, including poetry booklists, activities, and lesson plans.
    • ILA’s Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) regularly reviews works of poetry for educators in search of inspiration.
    • Edutopia’s compilation post includes resources from the web, Edutopia's most popular poetry-themed blogs, and other quick reads.

    Bailee Formon is an intern at the International Literacy Association.  

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    Developing Language and Literacy Through No- and Low-Tech Coding

    By Stephanie Branson
     | Apr 16, 2019

    internet-safetyQuality early childhood classrooms are language rich and full of opportunities for children to learn through storytelling, exploration, problem-solving, socializing, and inquiry-based activities. Moreover, early childhood teachers use a plethora of diverse tools that foster literacy and language and spark children’s interest to learn and develop. Literacy is seamlessly embedded throughout the day and exposure to rich and robust language is intentional and meaningful. However, often these rich environments neglect to include technology as another important tool to build language and literacy.

    According to a joint position statement of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College, technology can support learning and development when it is used appropriately and intentionally by a teacher well versed in developmentally appropriate practices. And although there are screen time debates and fear of young children spending too much time on devices, there are no- and low-tech choices that align with and reinforce the goals and vision of an early childhood classroom.

    One such prospect is to incorporate basic coding games and screenless coding devices into project-based learning and centers. Coding affords children the opportunity to acquire and practice communicating with clarity and precision, while also encouraging decision-making, risk-taking, creativity, visualization, and problem-solving. Further, coding develops persistence, resilience, and confidence.

    In layman’s terms, coding is a basic language of the digital world, directing computer-based technologies on what to do and how to operate. It requires exact step-by-step instructions to operate a device correctly. While there is much more involved, young children can begin to develop the necessary habits and processes of coding that can transfer into more complex coding later on. The following are suggestions for getting started and incorporating coding language in the early childhood classroom with no- and low-tech solutions.

    No tech and unplugged

    Young children begin to develop the language, vocabulary, and the processes of coding without a device or screen using body movement, games, and storytelling. In order for unplugged coding to work in the classroom, children must use precise language and communicate exact commands. Following are ideas from different early childhood classrooms for precoding.

    • To get started with basic commands and vocabulary, create directional command cards with symbols or write them on the whiteboard for students to physically execute as the card is pulled or as the “programmer” directs (similar to Simon Says). Children get in the habit of following a specific command tells them when and how to move. Like robots or devices, children can’t move until directed. Eventually, children transition into the role of programmer and practice clear communication and strategic thinking to move peers within the grid.
    • Incorporate a human coding grid on the floor to visually represent space and boundaries. Have children work together and take turns assuming the role of game programmer. The programmer flips a series of 2–3 cards and communicates precise directions for the teammates to execute. Include obstacles in the grid to challenge children to be flexible and creative in their thinking and choice of commands.
    • Create a storytelling grid with familiar books. Take a favorite picture book and plot out different setting or events across the grid. Ask children to move a character through the story grid, following the correct order of events and retell the story as they go. This not only encourages students to recall story elements, but also reinforces coding essentials and clear communication. Children can also create their own storylines, characters, and coding cards. Variations are numerous, and I suggest following the embedded NAEYC link to get a better idea of how to incorporate storytelling with coding grids and extend coding play in the classroom.

    Low tech and screenless

    A next logical step is to transition children to operating a device with basic codes. There are a number of coding bots that are the perfect fit for different early childhood settings. Most require minimal setup, and many are screenless, encouraging children to explore and manipulate physical coding pieces to control a bot.

    • Cubetto is especially interesting and appealing because of its natural aesthetic, minimalist design, and open-ended features. Children arrange tactile tiles on a board to control the movements of a robot. Although Cubetto comes with premade mats, children can design their own courses and experiences. This is a perfect transition from the low-tech coding activities described previously and appropriate for ages 3–6.
    • Similar screenless devices include Beebots, Code-a-pillar, Matatalab Coding Set, and Botley. The devices are low-risk, hands-on, and high-challenge and embolden children to fail and persevere through tasks.

    Incorporating coding through stories, games, and screenless bots is a fantastic way to reinforce and foster a language-rich classroom and introduce children to future skills and thinking. For more information or anyone interested in how coding fits into an early childhood classroom, please take a look at our ILA 2018 Conference presentation in collaboration with the USF Preschool for Creative Learning.

    Stephanie Branson, an ILA member since 2015, is a PhD candidate at the University of South Florida, pursuing literacy studies and elementary education with a special focus on digital literacies and teacher development. Connect with her on Twitter @blueskysb.

    This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

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    Debut Authors and Illustrators

    By Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
     | Apr 15, 2019

    Each year we look forward to reading the first books by children’s and young adult authors and illustrators. In this week’s column we review debut picture books and novels that caught our attention and left us eagerly anticipating the next literary offerings of these authors and illustrators.

    Ages 4–8

    Dust Bunny Wants a Friend. Amy Hevron. 2019. Schwartz & Wade/Random House.

    Dust Bunny Wants a FriendEveryone craves love, even a lone dust bunny under a chair. In this almost wordless book (words are limited to “hi,” “bye,” “achoo,” and “byeee!”), Amy Hevron makes her debut as an author with the story of a little dust bunny seeking friendship with all the wrong creatures (a bug, ants, a cat, a teddy bear) which gives young bookworms lots to “read” in the humorous and colorful illustrations (rendered in acrylic and marker on wood and collaged digitally). When Dust Bunny finds himself swept under a bed by a broom, he finally discovers his people, a community of dust bunnies who happily welcome him.

    How to Walk an Ant. Cindy Derby. 2019. Roaring Brook/Macmillan.

    How to Walk an AntAmariyah, a self-proclaimed Expert Walker, shares with readers her very own nine-step “How to Walk an Ant” guide with handwritten instructions, tips, rules, and occasional footnotes. Debut authorillustrator Cindy Derby’s black ink-and-watercolor artwork with a distinctive goth vibe shows Amariyah working her way through the steps, including securing a leash to an ant and practicing walking it. A collision with a ladybug walker results in a tangle of leashes (and the need to reference “How to Conduct a Funeral” in the appendix) before step nine: “Celebrate when you reach your goal,” which Amariyah does with her new friend and business partner.

    Ruby’s Sword. Jacqueline Véissid. Ill. Paola Zakimi. 2019. Chronicle.

    Ruby's SwordRuby’s brothers consider her a pest and always leave her behind. One day, Ruby finds three “swords” (long sticks hidden in the grass), gives two of them to her brothers so they will “swashbuckle” with her, and, after they run off without her, uses her imagination to fight a dragon, have a royal feast, and save loyal subjects all on her own. When she begins building a castle with sticks and a sheet, her brothers return with “honorable offerings” (twigs, rocks, dandelions, their swords), and together they build a magnificent castle perfect for three noble knights. Argentinian illustrator Paola Zakimi’s illustrations, rendered in watercolor and pencil as well as digitally, capture the challenges and sweetness of sibling relationships in author Jacqueline Véissid’s first book. 

    Snakes on a Train. Kathryn Dennis. 2019. Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan.

    Snakes on a Train“The conductor takes the tickets / as the snakes all slither on. / The tracks are checked. / The whistle blows. It’s time to move along. / Hissssssssssssssss goes the sound of the train.” The rhythmic text with a repetitive refrain and graphic illustrations with simple shapes and bold colors of Kathryn Dennis’ first picture book take young children on a day-long train trip with carloads of snake passengers reading books, enjoying snacks, and gazing at the scenery. At the end of the journey, as the snakes slither off to sleep in their dens, “the train rests for the night. / Snakes wrap themselves in little balls / and tuck their tails in tight. / Ssssssssssssssssh goes the sound of the train.”

    Spencer and Vincent, the Jellyfish Brothers. Tony Johnston. Ill. Emily Dove. 2019. Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster.

    Spencer and VincentJellyfish siblings Spencer and Vince share a special ditty: “My brother, my brother, / he’s sweet, not smelly. / I love him from down in / my jelly belly.” After Vincent disappears in a wave of “superior magnitude,” Spencer asks friends (a whale, mermaid, seahorse, and sea star) to help locate him, and with Spencer’s singing of their special song for encouragement and a helpful smack of the water by the whale, Vincent, so weak he can barely “slurp” forward, floats back to Spencer. “In a tenderness of tentacles the brothers clasped each other, an embrace of superior magnitude.” Debut illustrator Emily Dove’s imaginative illustrations, rendered digitally and with watercolor in oceanic hues, work in tandem with Tony Johnston’s clever text. An author’s note provides information about jellyfish.

    Ages 9–11.

    Hurricane Season. Nicole Melleby. 2019. Algonquin.

    Hurricane SeasonIt is storm season, and 11-year-old Fig fears the arrival of a hurricane that would draw her father (who has an undiagnosed bipolar disorder) to the dangerous beach of their New Jersey coastal town during a manic state. Her father, a once-accomplished pianist and composer, has not performed or written music since Fig’s birth, after which his wife abandoned them. In doing research for an art project on Vincent van Gogh, Fig sees similarities in the mood swings of her father and Van Gogh as well as parallels in their fatherdaughter relationship with that of the painter and his brother Theo. As a relationship between her father and a new neighbor, Mark, grows, Ruby is conflicted. Mark has a calming effect on her father, but is he interfering with the special bond she has with her father, who has always depended on her alone? Debut author Nicole Melleby’s novel is beautifully written, realistic, and thought-provoking. 

    Ruby in the Sky. Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo. 2019. Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan.

    Ruby in the SkyRuby Moon Hayes and her mother have just moved to the small town of Fortin, Vermont. They never stay long in any one place so Ruby plans to be “invisible” and not involved until she convinces her mother to return to Washington, DC, their home before her father, a police officer, was killed. Although not intending to, Ruby becomes friends with Abigail Jacobs, the reclusive “bird lady” who is considered a town nuisance by the mayor. Finding the courage to speak as Abigail in front of the whole town at the sixth grade’s Wax Museum project, in which the students imitate historical figures, is just what Ruby needs to do to make Fortin her true “forever home.” Ruby in the Sky is Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo’s first novel.

    The Simple Art of Flying. Cory Leonardo. 2019. Aladdin/Simon & Schuster.

    The Simple Art of FlyingDebut author Cory Leonardo’s characters are working their way through losses. Alastair, a cantankerous grey parrot, who composes original poetry based on books he’s eaten, longs to escape to a faraway island with Aggie, the sister he’s been separated from. Twelve-year-old Fritz, who journals about ailing animals he cares for at the pet store where he works part time and misses his deceased grandfather, adopts Aggie. Eccentric, 80-year-old Albertina Plopky, who writes letters to her dearly departed husband, adopts Alastair. Leonardo uses free verse poetry, letters, and narrative with zippy dialogue in the different storylines of her engaging middle-grade work of magical realism, which ends with Alastair concluding, “You don’t always get everything you want in this life. But sometimes what you do get is better than you imagined…”

    Ages 12–14

    Cursed. Karol Ruth Silverstein.2019. Charlesbridge Teen/Charlesbridge.

    CursedFourteen-year-old Ricky Bloom was recently diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Since her parents’ divorce, her mother has sent her to sleep on a sofa couch at her father’s “Batch Pad,” and she’s attending a new school where she’s bullied. Ricky curses everyone around her, and after a truancy streak and swearing at Mr. Jenkins, her public speaking teacher, she may flunk ninth grade. Through the unexpected help of Mr. Jenkins (and his afterschool assignment make-up sessions) and new friend, Oliver (a cancer survivor), she learns that words have power and that sometimes the most important one is “help.” Debut author Karol Silverstein drew upon personal experiences with juvenile arthritis in writing her first novel.

    The Line Tender. Kate Allen. 2019. Dutton/Penguin.

    The Line TenderWhen local fisherman Sookie catches a great white shark in his net off Rockport, Massachusetts, 12-year-old artistic Lucy and her best friend, science-savvy Fred, want to include the great white in their summer project, an illustrated field guide. Then Fred drowns during a nighttime swimming party in a nearby quarry, and his body is recovered by Lucy’s dad, a member of the police dive team. Learning how research currently being done on the relationship of the great white shark and gray seal in the Cape Cod area is related to a study proposed by her mother, a shark biologist, just before her death when Lucy was 7, becomes a way for Lucy, her depressed father, Sookie (a family friend), and Mr. Patterson (an elderly widower and neighbor) to connect and deal with grief over what they have lost. Each chapter in Kate Allen’s debut novel is introduced with a double-page pencil sketch of a shark.

    Ages 15+

    Four Dead Queens. Astrid Scholte. 2019. Putnam/Penguin.

    Four Dead QueensSeventeen-year-old Keralie, a Torian skilled thief working with her childhood friend Mackiel and Varian Boltt, an Eonist messenger, become unlikely allies when his attempt to reclaim a case of comm chips with embedded memories she stole from him outside the Concord (where the queens of Toria, Eonia, Ludia, and Archia, the four Quadrants of Quadara, live and rule) leads to their shared knowledge of the memory embedded in the comm chips of the killing of the four queens and their subsequent life-endangering involvement in uncovering the identity of the assassins and who is behind the diabolical conspiracy. With masterful worldbuilding and complex timeline manipulation accomplished through alternating points of view, Astrid Sholte creates an action-packed suspenseful novel that will intrigue and delight both fantasy and mystery fans.

    Genesis Begins Again. Alicia D. Williams. 2019. Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

    Genesis Begins AgainThirteen-year-old Genesis Anderson adds what she dislikes about herself to “100 Reasons Why We Hate Genesis” (created by two girls in her fifth-grade class), including her hair and skin color. When her troubled father doesn’t pay the rent and they are evicted, she and her mother temporarily live with her grandmother, who tells her that only light-skinned blacks succeed. After her dark-skinned father finagles another home in which she, her mother (who could almost pass for white), and him to live together, and Genesis attends a suburban school of mostly white students where she struggles to fit in by straightening her hair with frenemies and secretly trying to lighten her skin. After she develops relationships with two new friends and her music teacher who don’t care about these things, Genesis finds her voice, literally and psychologically, as she performs a medley of songs from Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Etta James for the school talent show. Debut author Alicia Williams draws on personal experience as she takes on sensitive issues of “colorism” (color prejudice) from outside, and inside, the African American community.

    Nancy Brashear is Professor Emeritus of English, Azusa Pacific University, in Azusa, California. Carolyn Angus is former director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California.

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  • #ILAchat: Poetry Resources

    By Wesley Ford
     | Apr 11, 2019

    Speaker listIn an effort to make the #ILAchat series align better with ILA's understanding of professional learning, the ILA team started gathering resources lists to share at the end of each chat, either a citation list of our quotes (it's always good to cite your references!) or a bibliography of research and further reading on the topic.

    For the #ILAchat about poetry, rap, and hip-hop, which will start at 8:00 p.m. ET on April 11 (which is tonight at the time of this writing), our guests provided me with so many poetry resources that it isn't feasible to share them all during the chat. Instead, I decided to put all the resources in this round-up post.

    I also recommend you check out each guest's websites (and follow them on Twitter):

     Ford is the social media strategist for ILA.

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