Saturday, August 17, 2019

17th August Reading is my secret power

It is Book Week in Australia, a time to celebrate books, especially Australian books, authors, illustrators and reading. As I only teach 4 to 8 year olds I found it harder this year to get enthused about the books on the shortlists. I shared the Early Childhood shortlisted books with my Kindergarten and Year 1 classes, but felt that in the main they were aimed at an even younger audience.   I read my Year 2s The All New Must Have Orange 430  from the Picture Book Shortlist, which they did enjoy and discussed the message at length, but I didn't feel invested in any of the others on the list, too much background needed.

So, instead Year 2 classes and I have shared books where the theme of Book Week, Reading is my secret power  and the theme of the power of reading has opened their eyes and mouths to just what reading or the lack of it means. We have had lots of lively debate, some good personal reflection and connections and lots of questions. All good.

Firstly, we read that wonderful book by Nadia Wheatley, The Greatest Gift of Charlemagne the King. Why is it out of print? The debate at the end of this story about what the greatest gift is always amazes me. The students fall into three camps, those who think it is the book, those who think it is the library and those who think it is the ability to read. Remember these animated students are 7 or 8 and they are loudly and vehemently stating their case.

Secondly, we read Nasreen's Secret School  by Jeanette Winter. I stopped at the part where it says the girls were not allowed to go to school and separated the students into boys and girls. The boys were asked to discuss what they thought it would be like to have no girls in the class. The girls were asked to discuss what they thought it would be like to stay home from school every day. Four different Year 2 classes all had very different views on this. We then kept reading and discussed at the end what would happen long term without schools.

Thirdly, we read Ruby's Wish by Shirin Yim Bridges which continued this theme of education only for boys. The girls in particular had very little difficulty putting themselves in Ruby's shoes and had lots to say about being excluded from a university education. I paired this with The Girl Who Buried her Dreams in a Can an autobiographical picture book by Tererai Trent so that the students realised that this is not a phenomena applicable only in Ancient China or Afghanistan, but also happened in parts of Africa.

We haven't read these two books yet, but I plan to also share with the students what happens when learning to read is not easy or doesn't happen when you're young, by sharing Patricia Polacco's Thank You, Mr Falker and Amy Hest's Mr George Baker.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

16th July World Snake day

It's World Snake Day! I'm certainly not enamoured of snakes, but the students I teach are. In fact the snake books in the library are nearly as popular as the shark books. Usually they want to borrow expository texts and marvel at the photos. We have many books that satisfy this need, the most popular probably being Damian Goodall's The Snake Book: Slip Sliding Away, but if you are looking for some picture books, these are some of the newer and more popular ones in the library:

I (Don't) Like Snakes by Nicola Davies and Luciano Lozana
Python by Christopher Cheng and Mark Jackson
There's a Snake in My School!  by David Walliams and Tony Ross
Boa's Bad Birthday by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross
Anna and Otis  by Maisie Paradise Shearring
I Saw Anaconda by Emma Dodd and Jane Clarke

If you want to share a short novel, try:
Akimbo and the Snakes  by Alexander McCall Smith
The Snake Who Came to Stay by Julia Donaldson
• Snake and Lizard  by Joy Cowley

I have written about snakes before here.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

20th July 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing (Part 2)

In the book Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon author Catherine  Thimmesh gives  a rare perspective on a story we only thought we knew. 'For Apollo 11, the first moon landing, is a story that belongs to many, not just the few and famous. It belongs to the seamstress who put together twenty-two layers of fabric for each space suit. To the engineers who created a special heat shield to protect the capsule during its fiery reentry. It belongs to the flight directors, camera designers, software experts, suit testers, telescope crew, aerospace technicians, photo developers, engineers, and navigators.' 

I love picture book biographies and the subject of the moon landing has been well written about for children. There are biographies about Armstrong and Aldrin, but perhaps you haven't seen some of the other amazing biographies that tell the stories of other people who have been involved in the quest to get to the moon either before Apollo 11 or after. Many of them were woman and continue to be women. They help to show what Thimmesh contends, that there are so many other people involved.

Reaching For the Moon by Buzz Aldrin and Wendell Minor
Look to the Stars by Buzz Aldrin and Wendell Minor 
One Giant Leap: the Story of Neil Armstrong  by Don Brown

Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing  by Dean Robbins and Lucy Knisley

• Hidden Figures: The True Story of  Four Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly and Laura Freeman

Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13  by Helaine Becker and Dow Phumiruk

A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon by Suzanne Spade and Veronica Miller Jamison

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed and Stasia Burrington

Friday, July 12, 2019

20th July 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing (Part 1)

Fifty years ago, on July, 20th, 1969 everyone watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin land on the moon. I was one of the watchers. I was in my first year of high school and the whole school gathered in the school hall to watch a very small black and white television that was on a trolley on the stage. We sat in age order, the older Year 12s at the front of the hall back to Year 7 at the back. As you can imagine I saw nothing, but the significance of the moment was not lost on me. After all the moon is the only place in our solar system that humans have visited. Recently I had lunch with a group of girls I went to school with and we laughed as we reminisced about this occasion. 

Several new picture books have been published to commemorate this occasion, so I put together a large display of books in my library to share the occasion with today's students and their parents. They have been very slow to move out of the library and I am hoping that once they have been exposed to more of it on the television and internet, that they will come back after the school holidays and be more enthusiastic about borrowing them. In the past the young students I teach have been very interested in space, but not so much anymore.

Among the new books are

Moonwalkers  by Mark Greenwood and Terry Denton
• Touch the Moon  by Phil Cummings and Coral Tulloch
When We Walked on the Moon by David Long and Sam Kalda
Moon! Earth's Best Friend by Stacy McAnulty
Moonshot by Brian Floca (an expanded and reissued version of a book published ten years ago)
Moon's First Friends: One Giant Leap for Friendship by Susannah Leonard Hill and Elisa Paganelli
Go For the Moon: A Rocket, a Boy and the First Moon Landing  by Chris Gall
The Usborne Book of the Moon  by Laura Cowan and Diana Toledana

And if you don't have access to these new books perhaps revisit some of the gems from the past like
The Sea of Tranquility by Mark Haddon and Christian Birmingham
One Giant Leap by Robert Burleigh and Mark Wimmer
If You Decide to Go to the Moon  by Faith McNulty and Steven Kellogg
Grandpa Takes Me to the Moon  by Timothy R. Gaffney and Barry Root
Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon  by Torben Kuhlmann

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

12th July Paper Bag Day

Millions of people use paper bags every day. Readily recyclable, paper bags have been around for many years.  American inventor, Francis Wolle, received credit for his patent of the first paper bag machine in 1852. Margaret E. Knight became known as “the mother of the grocery bag” after she designed the square, flat bottomed bag and the machine that would fold and paste them in 1870.

Margaret E. Knight invented many things and had 27 patents to her name. Her obituary called her a 'woman Edison',  high praise maybe but not necessary as if you read about her she certainly was a pioneer in a field commonly thought of at the time as a male domain. There is a wonderful picture book biography called Marvellous Mattie by Emily Arnold McCully, which certainly creates some wonderful discussion among my students. Read it for growth mindset, Girls and STEM, to highlight themes of resilience, perseverance and creativity.

If you plan a craft activity or just want to talk about uses for paper bags, read Baghead by Jarrett J Krosoczka.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

3rd July Plastic Bag Free Day

There has been so much talk about going without plastic bags that even the five year olds I teach can tell you why we should. We live near the water, so these children spend a lot of time at the beach, on boats and in the water. They know about the damage they cause in the ocean especially to turtles, but it is always a topic that needs revisiting, so when I saw this new book at the bookshop I purchased it for the library. Someone Swallowed Stanley by animal behaviourist and wildlife expert Sarah Roberts reiterates this important message about turtles and plastic bags and it has a child as the wildlife hero. It also has fun illustrations by Hannah Peck who seems to have enjoyed giving all the sea animals anthropomorphic mannerisms. If you are looking for other books about plastic bags see this earlier entry in my blog.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

21st May World Meditation Day

This year World Meditation Day is being celebrated today the 21st May. It was Open Day at school with masses of visitors and very hard to keep students focussed. However, I bravely tried out  Meditate With Me and My Magic Breath with a preschool class and was pleasantly surprised. It is a large group of children and they can be quite noisy. We breathed in and out. We scrunched up our bodies, wiggled our fingers and used our magic breath beautifully. I would happily use these two books again.

The library has a large collection of books on mindfulness. See here.