9.04.2017

After the Storm: Cleaning up the Collection

If you have a personal or professional collection of books that was affected by Hurricane / Tropical Storm Harvey's rain or flood waters, here are some resources that may be helpful as you begin to clean up.

The Texas Library Association has assembled an extensive list of disaster relief resources ranging from food and safety services to library clean-up guides.  If you will be cleaning up a damaged collection, be sure to view the Mold Remediation Guidance document prepared by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Biblio.com has a guide for cleaning books that show signs of mold and mildew.  This resource will be especially helpful in collections that have been exposed to wet air but not inundated with standing water.  Some books may just need minor treatment to remove the musty smell left behind by excessive humidity.

If you are looking for ways to support Gulf Coast libraries as they clean up and rebuild, check out this resource list developed by Karyn Lewis, a librarian in Katy, Texas. 
One fun option if you want to support damaged libraries is to purchase the Texas Library Association coloring book which includes 50 drawings by talented illustrators such as Judy Schachner and Rosemary Wells.  Proceeds support library disaster relief efforts.

8.31.2017

When the Creek Does Rise: A Hurricane Harvey Reading List

My great grandmother used to answer a lot of questions by saying, "if the good Lord's willing and the creek don't rise."  This week, a lot of coastal Texans have been pondering what to do and how to feel when high water does come.  Since Hurricane Harvey came ashore one week ago, Houstonians and our neighbors have been on pins and needles awaiting one threat and then another.  With the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in the collective memory (and experience for many), the fear and anxiety around this weather event has been extremely high.  The discomfort has not been unwarranted.  Trillions of gallons of water have inundated the city, chasing people out of their homes and businesses at all hours of the day and night.  Rescues by helicopter and boat have been ongoing.  Additional neighborhoods have continued to be evacuated even in the days since the rain has stopped falling.
Traumatic and uncertain events such as these are at least as confusing and upsetting for children as they are for adults.  As area communities begin to attempt a return to normalcy, children will need time and opportunity to reflect on and resolve their feelings about the storm and its effects.  Literature can be a helpful tool in the process, allowing readers to hear and see stories of experiences like their own.

Picture books can be shared with children of all ages.
The Pink House at the Seashore by Deborah Blumenthal is a sweet story about a family who has to use creativity and to adjust their summer traditions after their beach house is destroyed in a storm.  I love this underrated book that can help readers imagine the innovative ways in which they can begin to feel okay again.
Yesterday We Had a Hurricane / Ayer Tuvimos un Huracon by Deirdre McLaughlin Mercier is a bilingual (English/Spanish) book written in simple text from a child's perspective about the events, such as downed trees and power outages, that children may experience during a storm.  The story illuminates some positive aspects of the storm experience.
Hurricane! by Jonathan London is set in Puerto Rico and describes a family preparing for a hurricane, finding shelter, waiting out the storm, and finally returning to clean up and repair their home after the storm.  The story reveals the protagonist boy's feelings throughout the process and shows that life does return to normal.
Over in the Wetlands: A Hurricane-on-the-Bayou Story by Caroline Starr Rose describes the hurricane experience for animals beginning with their preparations for the storm, showing how they brace themselves during the hurricane, and finally how they return to explore their homes after the storm has passed.
Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bildner and John Parra describes the real-life everyman Cornelius Washington whose can-do spirit shined in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  This folktale-style story of a real New Orleans sanitation worker who helped others rebuild after they experienced a devastating hurricane is uplifting for readers who can imagine ways they can help their own city rehabilitate.
A Place Where Hurricanes Happen by Renee Watson is a free-verse story told through the eyes of four New Orleans neighborhood friends who must part ways as they endure Hurricane Katrina.  After the storm, the friends' resiliency and camaraderie show as they experience the restoration process in their community.
Rain Tonight: A Story of Hurricane Hazel by Steve Pitt is a historical fiction story about a family's experience during the 1954 Hurricane Hazel in Toronto, Canada.  The family was forced onto their rooftop by rising floodwater while winds still tore through their city.  The book is sprinkled with primary documents and photos from the actual hurricane more than 50 years ago.

Older children may appreciate longer, more developed stories about storm experiences.
Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina by Rodman Philbrick tells the story of a boy who was visiting New Orleans for the first time when Hurricane Katrina separated him from his host and left him and his dog to survive the terrifying winds and rising waters that pummeled the Louisiana city.  This story explores the wide range of human behaviors that are exhibited during harrowing circumstances, ranging from lawlessness and opportunistic greed to heroism and generosity.


Teachers and parents along the Gulf Coast may be in search of additional resources.  More reading and teaching suggestions are available in the book, The Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: Educating Traumatized Children Pre-K through College by Dorothy M Singleton.

8.01.2017

To Zoo or Not to Zoo...Ethical Animal Experiences

Visits to zoos, circuses, aquariums, farms and animal theme parks are classic summer day trips and school-year field trips that allow children to interact with and learn about animals.  However, most of these experiences come at the expense of a free and natural life for the animals involved.  Lately I've been contemplating how we can give children opportunities to experience animals first-hand while respecting the lives of the animals.
It's always a good idea to start with some background reading.
 What's New? The Zoo!: A Zippy History of Zoos by Kathleen Krull is a fun historical summary of zoos written for kids.  The book highlights zoos throughout history including some designed for animal protection and others assembled purely for the private amusement of wealthy people without regard for animal needs or feelings.  Krull's zoo timeline helps readers consider the intentions behind past and present animal enclosures and can help begin a conversation about the probable goals of the zoos and other animal experiences in your town.

After considering the value of zoos, we are still left with the question: where can we ethically interact with animals? One Green Planet has several suggestions that fall into two major categories.

1. Sanctuaries, Rescues, and Rehabilitation Centers
These centers distinguish themselves from traditional zoos and theme parks by devoting themselves entirely to rescuing, protecting, healing, and when possible, releasing animals back to their natural habitats.  Centers exist for the protection of various wild and domestic animals, and they often offer tours, children's programs, and volunteering opportunities.  You can easily locate facilities like these in your area using a search engine.

2. Natural Habitats
Other options for animal experiences exist all around us.  Visit the beach to see ocean animals up close.  Head to a river, pond, or other nearby waterway to watch fresh-water animals and other critters that make use of the water source.  Grab your binoculars and visit a bird observatory or even just spend some time watching the animals in your own backyard.  Hike through a forest, drive across a desert, or stomp/splash/sneak through nearby areas with limited human settlement to see animals in their real homes.

3. Virtual Visits
Most families and schools have an easy third option thanks to high-quality video and the Internet.  If you want to experience animals that are difficult to locate in your area, watch a documentary about them or find a live-stream of animals in far-away places.  The Audubon Society has prepared a list of high-quality wildlife web cams.  National Geographic has a database of videos collected through their CritterCam and WildCam programs which allow viewers to see animals in their wild homes.

What are your favorite ways to learn about animals while respecting their rights?

3.08.2017

International Women's Day

March is Women's History Month, and March 8 is International Women's Day, a day to commemorate the ongoing struggle for women's rights.  Learning about inspiring women and girls is a great way to participate in this day, and there are some amazing books available to help you.

Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History . . . and Our Future! is a super cool books that highlights the bravery and contributions of 25 American women as well as the unknown ladies whose accomplishments were never recorded.  The book concludes with a list of 26 ways the reader can be rad.  After reading, visit the Rad Women website, where you can learn more about great heroines and print a set of posters to go with the book.

Author, Laurie Halse Anderson, has written books perfect for celebrating International Women's Day.


Independent Dames: What You Never Knew About the Women and Girls of the American Revolution tells the stories of women and girls who contributed to our victory in the American Revolution, and Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving explains how Sarah Hale led the campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.

The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps, Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa, Malala, a Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan: Two Stories of Bravery, Nasreen's Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, and The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq are all written by Jeanette Winter.  Each book tells the story of a trailblazing woman or girl who changed the world through her own hard work and determination.

Once you've read about some amazing heroines, students can react and reflect about the stories.  Visit Make Beliefs Comix to find some printable writing prompts that ask students to imagine a conversation they could have with a favorite woman from history or plan discussion points about advancing the rights of women.

You can also head to Alpha Mom to find a printable that encourages students to illustrate and describe a woman they admire.

2.24.2017

Mapping Panem

Did you know that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has an entire webpage devoted to mapping the districts in The Hunger Games Series?  This page, which uses BLS data to help users determine where in North America each of the fictional districts must be located, is part of the BLS Career Outlook series.

The article explains, "To use data to find the districts of Panem, you’ll need to look for areas with the highest location quotients for the industries and occupations associated with each district."

This is a fantastic activity that challenges students to use math and social studies skills to analyze real data about the United States to draw conclusions about a very popular book and movie series.

This is a far more scientific approach than my attempt, a few years back, to map the Hunger Games arena.

2.06.2017

Stories of Refugees and Immigration


The best cures I know for misunderstandings between people are conversations and books.  Lately, it seems, we in the United States are engulfed in conflicts between people who are having trouble understanding each other's points of view.  One of the contentious topics is immigration...who should be allowed to visit or live in the United States and under what circumstances.  To help young readers grapple with this question, I am sharing stories about refugees and immigrants who along with their descendants are, after all, the vast majority of our country's population.

Coming to America: The Story of Immigration is one great story that provides an overview of the history of immigration in the United States.  Readers may also be interested in reading historical fiction accounts of the experiences of immigrants.

If you're looking for books on this topic that you can share with the children in your life, there are a few great lists already published by very reputable sources.

School Library Journal - Tales of Child Refugees and Safe Havens


The Horn Book - Refugee Children

Additionally, Teaching Tolerance has an article for educators including many facts about refugees and immigrants.  This detailed guide can provide helpful background information for adults who are hoping to facilitate student conversations about the current, and eternal, topic.

After reading some of these great books, students can reflect on U.S. immigration policy using a fantastic printable prompt from Make Beliefs Comix that asks students to think about what the Statue of Liberty thinks of President Trump's executive order banning immigration from certain countries.

Groundhog Day

Last week, we learned from Punxsutawney Phil that we can expect six more weeks of winter.  Groundhog Day is such an odd tradition, especially given ol' Phil's paltry prediction accuracy.  But, it's a fun holiday that lends itself to lots of lessons about weather, seasons, and traditions.

For years, my favorite Groundhog Day read-aloud has been Punxsutawney Phyllis, partly because Phyllis is my mom's name and partly because it's a really fun story.  I even wrote to author Susanna Leonard Hill to tell her how much I love sharing her book each year, and she let me order a signed copy for my mom.

This year, I have finally discovered another Groundhog Day book I totally loved reading and sharing with my students.

Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox is a fun story that includes the basics of the holiday's traditions woven into a story of unexpected friendship.  If you're looking for a fresh take on a very old topic, definitely add this title to your Groundhog Day reading list.