Archive for the ‘World Literacy’ Category

Poetry Friday: Still Three Days Left to Contribute to LitWorld’s Global Poem for Change

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Have you taken part in LitWorld’s second annual Global Poem for Change yet?  This year poet Sharon Creech set the poem off with this thought-provoking (indeed, poetry-inducing) couplet:

It has certainly inspired literally hundreds of people to respond. If you haven’t done so already, you can add your lines here, but hurry – you only have until the end of the month to join in. Teachers, this could be a wonderful way to blow away the Monday-morning blues!

If you’ve already contributred, then do go and take another look at the poem itself. It is growing by the hour, and it’s wonderful and fascinating to read all the different ways people have responded to Sharon’s initial call.

So whether you are a published poet, a closet poet or someone like me, who can only read and marvel over the original poems that are often a part of the Poetry Friday get-togethers, here’s your chance to join in with this unique chance to link your words for literacy across the globe. Why do that? Well, I leave the last word to Lit World:

Literacy rights are human rights. Each time we come together in acts of literary community, we stand in solidarity with all children worldwide who want to belong to the world of words.

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference – head on over.

Poetry Friday: interview with Julia Donaldson and her Library Poem

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Julia Donaldson is one of the UK’s most popular children’s authors. As I learned in the new exhibition at at Seven Stories in Newcastle, UK , she started her career writing songs for children’s television – which I must have heard as a child watching Play School. In 1993, one of those songs was made into a book, A Squash and A Squeeze, and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, so beginning a partnership that has become renowned the world over, thanks especially to their book The Gruffalo.  Other illustrators who have worked with Julia include Karen George, Emily Gravett, Lydia Monks, David Roberts and Nick Sharratt.  Indeed, since 1993, Julia has written over one hundred books and plays for children and teenagers.

Last year, Julia became the UK’s Children’s Laureate. This year, there is the exhibition about her, her work and some of her illustrators and I not only had the good fortune to be there for yesterday’s opening, but also the privilege of a quick interview (you can read my post about the whole day here).  I had time for just three questions…

First of all I asked about the background to her book The Magic Paintbrush, which I wrote a post about  going on five (gulp) years ago… Rereading that post, yes, it’s still a favorite, which is why it wasn’t the book I took with me to ask Julia to sign: I didn’t have time to go through all the various piles of books in my boys’ rooms to find it!   The Magic Paintbrush is the retelling in verse of a Chinese legend in which the heroine Shen helps her fellow villagers with food and essentials thanks to a magic paintbrush given to her by a mysterious gentleman: but things get dangerous for Shen when the Emperor finds out about the magic paintbrush and wants it for himself…

So, about the book’s background, Julia told me that a friend of hers had been running a multicultural project in Stirling, Scotland, with local women from different countries telling traditional stories from their cultures. One woman told the story of The Magic Paintbrush. After hearing the story, Julia originally envisaged writing it as a play, and in fact, often uses the book during school visits as there’s plenty of scope for getting a whole class involved in acting out the story, with Julia herself playing  Shen and the teacher as the Wicked Emperor! And it’s also a great vehicle for Julia to pass on her passion for language as she invites children to come up with objects for Shen to paint and thereby make real – as long as they have two syllables to fit the rhythm of the original verse. Interestingly, Julia also acted The Magic Paintbrush out with children last year at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh to promote two resource packs for schools produced by Amnesty International (you can read an article she wrote about it; and find Amnesty’s resources here – they include a lesson based around the wonderful We Are All Born Free…).

The Magic Paintbrush became a picture-book rather than a play – but it still had a bumpy path to publication. The original publisher who’d suggested it as a picture book then rejected it because what Julia had written was too long and detailed and “too much of a ballad”. In fact, this is one of the things Julia actually likes about it: that it is a fusion of its Chinese origins and the old English ballad. However, fortunately for us, Macmillan took it on, and Julia was delighted with their choice of Joel Stewart to do the illustrations. I agree, and it is a real treat to see some of his fine watercolour originals in the Seven Stories exhibition.

When I suggested that The Magic Paintbrush was different to her other books in that she didn’t invent the original story, I stood corrected: Julia’s original inspiration for The Gruffalo was the Chinese trickster tale about a tiger and a little girl. That was the starting point anyway although the little girl became a mouse and Julia expanded the story, and changed the setting – and of course, invented the Gruffalo, who changed her life. I later learned in the exhibition that Julia nearly gave up on writing The Gruffalo and we have her son to thank for saying he liked it and she had to finish it – phew!

I also asked Julia about the songs that go with so many of her picture books. It’s the words that come first, she said; and while writing the song, she may have to change the words slightly from the book to make them fit. She thinks about what kind of music will suit each book – so, for example, she was thinking of Bright Eyes when she composed the bits where the mother dinosaur speaks in the song for Tyrannosaurus Drip, a story about a little duckbill dinosaur that hatches out in a Tyrannosaurus nest by mistake, gets himself to the other side of the river to be with the other duckbills, and turns out to be a lot braver than his scary big sisters think – you can watch Julia performing it with her husband Malcolm here. I think it’s quite funny that Julia was inspired by a song about rabbits for hers about dinosaurs – what would the rabbits say! And now she’s working on a calypso song for her recent book Jack and the Flumflum Tree

As Children’s Laureate, Julia has been a key figure in the campaign against library closures and cuts in the UK. It just so happened that yesterday statistics pointing at falling standards of literacy hit the headlines, so I asked Julia what her reaction was, in relation to our libraries. After expressing her concern about reading too much into a set of statistics, she pointed out that nevertheless any measures for getting children reading are welcome –  “but let’s not forget we have this fabulous resource – libraries!” She then counted off some of the fantastic programs available through libraries for enhancing literacy and getting children enjoying books: the Rhymetime sessions set up by Book Trust’s BookStart program; the equivalent Bookbug sessions organised through Scottish Book Trust (and Julia recently became Bookbug’s patron); the Summer Reading Challenge (yes, my boys have loved that every year).  So closing down libraries? “For me it’s madness, if we’re worried about literacy.  You can’t just ram a book down a child’s throat.  A library is where you decide what you like.  For goodness’ sake, we should be hanging onto our libraries. ”

And another “fantastic” way to enhance literacy, Julia says, is for children to read playlets together – and it so happens that she’s working on a book of 36 playlets at the moment. Now that will be a treat in store. And I have a real treat for you now too, because Julia gave me permission to reproduce the poem she wrote for the UK’s National Libraries Day in February this year in celebration of libraries and as a prod against library cuts. Here it is:

Library Poem

Everyone is welcome to walk through the door.
It really doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor.
There are books in boxes and books on shelves.
They’re free for you to borrow, so help yourselves.

Come and meet your heroes, old and new,
From William the Conqueror to Winnie the Pooh.
You can look into the Mirror or read The Times,
Or bring along a toddler to chant some rhymes.

The librarian’s a friend who loves to lend,
So see if there’s a book that she can recommend.
Read that book, and if you’re bitten
You can borrow all the other ones the author’s written.

Are you into battles or biography?
Are you keen on gerbils or geography?
Gardening or ghosts? Sharks or science fiction?
There’s something here for everyone, whatever your addiction.

There are students revising, deep in concentration,
And school kids doing projects, finding inspiration.
Over in the corner there’s a table with seating,
So come along and join in the Book Club meeting.

Yes, come to the library! Browse and borrow,
And help make sure it’ll still be here tomorrow.

Julia Donaldson, February 2012

Thank you, Julia. It was such a pleasure to meet you and I so enjoyed talking to you.

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Gregory at GottaBook – head on over…

World Read Aloud Day is today – who are you sharing it with?

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Have you already started? Or is your pile of books ready to go?  Who are you going to read to?  Who is going to read to you?  If you haven’t registered yet, head over to LitWorld right away…

We’ll be reading to each other in the car and at home, and imagining a world where everyone can read…

Poetry Friday/Week-end Book Review: Water Sings Blue by Kate Coombs, illustrated by Meilo So

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

I’m posting my week-end book review a day early to clock in with Poetry Friday as a couple of days ago I received a review copy of Kate Coombs and Meilo So‘s new book Water Sings Blue, which Kate gave us a glimpse of back in January when her first copies arrived (and if you don’t know Kate’s blog, Book Aunt, it’s well worth a read).  It arrived just in time to squeeze it into our Water in Multicultural Children’s Books theme…

Poetry Friday this week is hosted by Dori at Dori Reads…

Kate Coombs, illustrated by Meilo So,
Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems
Chronicle Books, 2012.

Ages 4-11

The finely tuned observation in both the poetry and illustrations of Water Sings Blue draws young readers into that world of the shoreline where time just seems to disappear and exploration offers up endless possibilities for discovery.  Kate Coombs’ poems are satisfyingly memorable, with their cohesive patterns of meter and rhyme that, nevertheless, contain plenty of surprises – like, for example, the alliteration and internal rhyming at the end of “Sand’s Story”, in which mighty rocks have turned to sand:

Now we grind and we grumble,
humbled and grave,
at the touch of our breaker
and maker, the wave.

… Not to mention the witty pun on “breaker”: and the gentle wit of Coomb’s verse also lights the imagination throughout this collection.

Turning the pages, readers encounter a vast array of sea characters, starting in the air with the seagull; then listening to “What the Waves Say” before diving down to meet the creatures of the deep: like the shy octopus author (think ink…), or the beautiful but self-absorbed fish whose tail and fins act as brushes, and who concludes his/her soliloquy with the wonderfully evocative: “I’m a water artist. / You wouldn’t understand.”  As well as creatures like sharks and jellyfish, there are poems about fascinating, less well-known fish – “Oarfish”, “Gulper Eel” and “Nudibranch”: they could become a follow-up project by themselves!  There’s also a deep-sea shipwreck, and back on the sea shore, a gnarled “Old Driftwood” telling stories “to all the attentive / astonished twigs”, and a property agent hermit crab with a salesman’s patter.

Bringing all the poems together in a visual feast are Meilo So’s gorgeous watercolors.  As well as her depiction of jewel-colored corals and waves in every shade of blue imaginable, her illustrations are clearly also influenced by direct observation of the shoreline around her Shetland Isle home, from fishermen’s cottages to diving gannets.

Just like in real beachcombing, young readers will lose track of time as they pore over So’s seashores for what they can find.

Water Sings Blue would be the perfect picture book to bring on a trip to the beach, wherever in the world that happened to be; and if young readers can’t wait for that, it will take them there immediately in their imaginations.

And just a reminder that the count-down to World Read Aloud Day on 7th March has more than begun.  LitWorld are aiming for 1,000,000 participants this year, so do register with them and tell all your friends about it too.  It’s a win-win-win situation – somebody gets to read, somebody gets to enjoy being read to, and everyone raises their voices together to support global literacy goals of every child’s right to education…  And if you’re spreading the word on Twitter, the hashtag is #readaloud – use it to link in to the ever-widening community of WRAD supporters, and connect with LitWorld at @litworldsays.

IBBY’s Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities Exhibit ~ Oakland, CA, USA

Monday, January 9th, 2012
Do you live in the Oakland, CA, USA region? If so, Oakland University is hosting an exhibit of  IBBY’s Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities that would be well worth attending. Here’s the press release:
Oakland University will exhibit a collection of rare books featuring a variety of illustrative styles and tactile reading experiences for readers with disabilities. Some books are presented in Braille with embossed pictures, others are made of cloth and still others have attached pieces intended for readers to handle.On loan from the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), the Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities collection will debut at an open house from 4-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 10,in OU’s Educational Resource Lab. The lab is located in Pawley Hall on the campus of Oakland University.The books in the collection – which feature special needs topics, characters and designs – promote understanding and knowledge, as well as foment ideas for the publication and promotion of new books in the field.Linda M. Pavonetti, chair of OU’s Department of Reading and Language Arts and vice president of IBBY, said she is pleased to have OU included among a number of international locations the collection is sent to each year.”Many of OU’s students have had limited exposure to international books. Because of that, there is a perception that the U.S. has cornered the market for children’s publishing,” she explained. “This exhibit may be the first step in understanding that we all need to help children learn – no matter the situation or difficulties. One of the best ways of doing this is through high quality books for all children in their native languages.”

The award-winning books in the exhibit were selected from more than 130 nominees submitted by IBBY National Sections and friends of the Haug School in Oslo, Norway, where the collection of more than 3,500 books is housed. They come from nations across the globe, including Japan, Finland, France, Spain, England, Australia, United States, South Africa, Italy, Quebec, Mexico, China, Switzerland, Poland, Germany, Korea, Czech Republic, Slovenia and Iran.

“The importance of this type of collection is clear to anyone who has ever tried to find reading material for children who are visually impaired,” Pavonetti said. “Books printed in Braille, BLISS or other tactile languages are rare and expensive. They are generally not available in libraries or bookstores. Parents and teachers of hearing-impaired students also understand the need for books that mirror other children who deal with the same problems their children face on a daily basis.”

For more information on the exhibit click here.

e-troducing the e-book

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

[Sara Hudson joined our team of contributors last year, bringing her perception and love of children’s books to the book reviews she has written for us. You can read more about her on our About Us page, including an allusion to her travels that have centered on book collections around the world (and, in fact, we first met Sara at the International Youth Library stand at the Bologna Book Fair last year…). With this post, Sara introduces a short series focusing on e-books for children that will include an overview of multicultural e-books and interviews with two authors who have embraced the e-book format, Janet Wong and Hazel Edwards.

– Marjorie]


e-troducing the e-book

The degree to which debates about e-books can polarize begins to make sense after we consider how we often frame their presence as a question of alleged murder. “Will the e-book kill off traditional books?” It’s the perennial question at the front of the mind of cultural critics and librarians hovering at the back of any crowd rushing out for the latest Kindle, iPad, Nook or other e-reader. In turn, the question of e-books draws its roots from deeper long-standing concerns, those surrounding the question “Is the book dead?”

Despite decades of worry, the book is not, in fact, dead; nor has the e-book yet killed off traditional books.  E-books developed from work in the mid-1970s to create image- and text-based publications for computers – themselves still a fairly new and ungainly technology. Advances in technologies and software programs ricocheted the development of e-books and their subsequent e-readers forward in the 1990s. Today e-books are visual and/or aural publications readable on digital devices, which often cost a fraction of the price of traditional books, and offer the advantage of portability and accessibility to large numbers of texts at once.

That said, the e-book industry remains in its infancy, and its approach to all books, especially those for infants and children, evolves every day.  E-book readers pose considerable technical issues. Amazon and Apple, two companies historically known not to play well with others, if at all, both have proprietary restrictions, so buyers can only read book purchases on Kindles or iPads, respectively (although you can download a Kindle reader to your PC). Additionally, as evidenced by the overarching debate about e-books, “Will they kill off traditional books?”, e-books evoke enormous emotional responses from readers. “Traditional” readers argue, for example, that reading a book on a machine cannot substitute for reading a physical book, that the medium is part of the message, that a machine is a sterile substitute for the tactile experience of reading.

The emotional questions of e-books reveal themselves nowhere as strongly as they do with e-books for children, particularly picture books aimed at early readers. As this recent article from The New York Times reports, “[e-books for children] represent less than 5 percent of total annual sales of children’s books, several publishers estimated, compared with more than 25 percent in some categories of adult books.” Children’s e-books present practical arguments (teething toddlers + expensive electronics = definite disaster), practical unknowns (when do bells and whistles enhance and when do they distract?), and questions of the practices of adults themselves, particularly those of middle class income, many of whom rely on their own ability to flip through a book – or that of a librarian, teacher, or fellow parent – to select it for bedtime reading.

Over the coming weeks, PaperTigers will explore questions at the intersection of children’s books, multicultural books and e-books. We’ll interview two authors who have written e-books, survey a sampling of multicultural children’s e-books, and start to frame some of the different perspectives that go into writing, illustrating, distributing and creating e-books for children. There’s sure to be a lot of ideas and opinions about e-books – don’t keep them to yourself; please join in the discussion by leaving a comment below…

Guest Post: “Using Your Education to Help Others” by Anthony Garcia

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Today we welcome Anthony Garcia, a writer for the Online Graduate Programs website, with a thought-provoking article about why it is so important to ensure children have access to a diverse array of multicultural/cross-cultural books.

Anthony recently completed his graduate education in English Literature. A New Mexico native, he currently resides and writes in Seattle, Washington. He writes primarily about education, travel, literature, and American culture.

Educating people through literacy can last a lifetime, because it allows for empowerment. If someone can read information, they can continue to learn and educate themselves for a lifetime.

Have you ever run across someone who was woefully ignorant of diversity? It is a shame that so many people cannot appreciate the value of other cultures and be interested in the different ways social groups all over the world operate.  Perhaps these people would have been more interested in learning about and appreciating different cultures if they were more literate and could assess information accordingly.

Not all of us can attend graduate programs or are even exposed to reading as children. However, it is the responsibility of educated people to share the gift of education, empowering others to learn.

One of the best ways to help others through literacy is to begin sharing books in childhood. It can be difficult to expose children to new viewpoints, especially in areas where there are not significant minority populations. However, using books is a good start to combating ignorance. If children are exposed to other viewpoints, it raises levels of literacy, but also helps them to see similarity, rather than focus on the issues which divide as adults.

Parents and educators are aware that children need to read and to be read to, and should try to pick up books that focus on other cultures, nations and groups. Books about other countries are easy to find in any local library, and children will enjoy seeing pictures of children all over the world who, in some cases, are actually quite similar to them. Children can also learn about the foods that other cultures enjoy and perhaps prepare some of them as part of a class project. Another option is to have students read about the various holidays that are celebrated all over the world and enjoy a class party!

Besides books that just discuss the facts and figures about different countries, if can be fun to explore the folklore of various groups. Most civilizations have legends and fables describing how the world began and the origins of evil. It is interesting to compare all accounts and see how they are similar and different. Educating others through literacy should involve discussion for the most impactful education possible.

Reading culturally diverse books to children is important because (more…)

On Traveling Libraries and Heroic ‘Book People’: Inspiring children’s books about getting books to people in remote places and difficult circumstances

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Abigail Sawyer regularly reviews books for us here at PaperTigers, and she’s also, in her own words, “a lifelong library lover and an advocate for access to books for all”, so who better to write an article for us about “unconventional libraries” and the children’s books they have inspired. Abigail lives in San Francisco, California, USA, where her two children attend a language-immersion elementary school and are becoming bilingual in English and Mandarin: an experience that has informed her work on the blog for the film Speaking in Tongues. I know you’ll enjoy reading this as much as I have.

On Traveling Libraries and Heroic ‘Book People’: Inspiring children’s books about getting books to people in remote places and difficult circumstances

My sons and I paid our first-ever visit to a bookmobile over the summer.  For us it was a novelty.  We have shelves of books at home and live just 3 blocks from our local branch library, but the brightly colored bus had pulled up right near the playground we were visiting in another San Francisco neighborhood (whose branch library was under renovation), and it was simply too irresistible.  Inside, this library on wheels was cozy, comfortable, and loaded with more books than I would have thought possible.  I urged my boys to practice restraint and choose only one book each rather than compete to reach the limit of how many books one can take out of the San Francisco Public Library system (the answer is 50; we’ve done it at least once).

The bookmobiles provide a great service even in our densely populated city where branch libraries abound.  There are other mobile libraries, however, that take books to children who may live miles from even the nearest modern road; to children who live on remote islands, in the sparsely populated and frigid north, in temporary settlements in vast deserts, and in refugee camps.  The heroic individuals who manage these libraries on boats, burros, vans, and camels provide children and the others they serve with a window on the world and a path into their own imaginations that would otherwise be impossible.

Shortly after my own bookmobile experience, Jeanette Winter‘s Biblioburro (Beach Lane Books, 2010), a tribute to Colombian schoolteacher Luis Soriano, who delivers books to remote hillside villages across rural Colombia, arrived in my mailbox to be reviewed for Paper Tigers.  I loved this book, as I do most of Winter’s work, for its bright pictures and simple, straightforward storytelling. Another picture book, Waiting for the Bibiloburro by Monica Brown (Tricycle Press, 2011), tells the story of Soriano’s famous project from the perspective of one of the children it serves, whose life expands beyond farm chores and housework thanks to Soriano and his burros.

I was moved, of course, by Soriano’s story, which got me thinking about another favorite picture book my children found at our branch library a few years ago: That Book Woman by Heather Henson (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2008) is a fictionalized account of one family’s experience with the Pack Horse Library Project, a little-known United States Works Progress Administration program that ran from 1935-1943.  The Pack Horse librarians delivered books regularly to families living deep in Kentucky’s Appalachian Mountains.  In this inspiring story (more…)

Announcing the 2011 Spirit of PaperTigers Book Set (originally posted Sept.6th)

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

SPT SealFanfares! Drum rolls! We are very excited to be announcing today the 2011 Spirit of PaperTigers Book Set.

They are:

A Child’s Garden: A Story of Hope by Michael Foreman (Walker Books / Candlewick Press, 2009)

Rain School by James Rumford (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2010)

Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia by Jeanette Winter (Beach Lane Books, 2010)

All three are stunning picture books that were chosen for their engaging narrative and fine illustrations. By coincidence, all three are author-illustrated, something that only became evident after our choice had been made. We hope that the children participating in the Spirit of PaperTigers project will love the books as much as we do. They all encourage children to engage with big issues such as education and peace. They can, we believe, be enjoyed by a wide age range of children – an important consideration for the Spirit of PaperTigers project, as the books will also be read by older children who are learning English.

Following feedback from last year’s participant schools and libraries in the Spirit of PaperTigers Outreach project, we will be sending five copies of each of the three books that make up this year’s Book Set to each of the project’s participants. This will enable teachers to use the books more flexibly and allow for class input, as well as individual enjoyment.

To find out more about the Spirit of PaperTigers project, headover to our Outreach site, where you will find information about the Book Set gathered on one page. You will also be able to view feedback about the 2010 Book Set – and the site continues to be updated as new feedback come in.

The PaperTigers website will be featuring the SPT Book Set over the next few weeks: look out for Gallery Features of all three illustrators’ work, Q&As with the books’ editors, and more…

In the meantime, read reviews of:
A Child’s Garden: A Story of Hope
Rain School
Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia

and enjoy these interviews with their creators:

Michael Foreman
James Rumford
Jeanette Winter

A big thank you to them and to their publishers. I’m sure you’ll agree that these are all exceptional books. We can’t wait to get them into the hands of readers around the world – we’ll keep you posted as to that, and look forward to featuring their feedback too.

Children’s Books About Peace, Compassion and Creative Problem-Solving

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Concerned about the violence in many parts of the world, Lise Lunge Larsen recently blogged about children’s books with tales about peace, compassion, and creative problem-solving. Click here to read her article on the Children’s Literature Network blog.