You are currently browsing the archives for September 2007.
Displaying 1 - 10 of 14 entries.

The Life of a Book?

  • Posted on September 30, 2007 at 8:50 PM

What is the life of a book? Wed. afternoon I hosted two vendors at my school. One of them stated they had an unconditional guarantee of their books. If the book fell apart, binding broke, or pages came out as an example, they’d replace it because our relationship was worth more than the price of one book.

The other vendor stated their policy was to replace any book that’s binding did not last the life of a book. I pondered this and asked, "Just how long should a book last?"

Do you measure this by the # of checkouts? Do you measure it by time on the shelf? Do you measure it by the ratio of little brothers and sisters in the home? Does it vary for schools like mine that have just marginally become Title 1 and are receiving tiny amounts of funds for books? Does the life shorten when they use substandard paper? Some of the titles I have recently touched are apalling to handle. I can predict we won’t get 10 circulations before the pages wear out. Other titles have 120 circulations.

What is the industry standard?

Connected Army Families

  • Posted on September 30, 2007 at 5:38 AM

Fourteen weeks after theArmy Infantry training officially began my oldest son (referred to as #1 son) has now graduated. Within 10 minutes of graduation he marched off to Airborne Hold and is now in an Airborne unit. Fortunately after we parents stood in the hot Georgia sun for 5 hours, their new unit released them for a weekend pass. So proud of those soldiers. That makes two sons that have graduated basic training this fall.

We almost didn’t make it. Only through the connections we made online and in army forums were we able to be there. After teaching all day, taking #3 son back to the doctor, and driving 6 hours, the car’s right front tire seized up at 70 mph only one mile from Fort Benning. At midnight I’m sitting alongside the road looking at the signpost to Fort Benning and wondering if I’m going to have to walk to get there.

I was just far enough away from the post that my cell phone worked so I could reconnect with the world and come up with Plan B. My brothers were cub scouts so I understand the phrase "Be Prepared!" I had made sure I have Roadside Assistance with my car insurance so activated it and began the wait. Logistically I needed to get from the side of the road to a repair shop, to the motel, and to the ceremony the next morning. 

I’d programmed in the names of other parents (note photo of Laura Kelley, Chloe Wilson, and me) who had sons/boyfriends in the same unit and began leaving messages on their phones. We’d met online in the forums, shared the experience of watching our children grow into soldiers, and established relationships including sharing contact information. Would anyone help?

By 2 a.m. my family was in a hotel room, the car at Meineke. At 8 a.m. army family cars showed up and loaded us up to attend the ceremony. We journeyed back with families to their cabins to celebrate our sons and were ecstatic to hear the car was repaired. Our greatly expanded family continued celebrating with lunch and then the return to the car shop.

We were able to get beyond celebrating with only one group to reaching out to other families and soldiers. How will this impact our soldiers in the future? We demonstrated what Army Strong Families are and what they do for others. The phrase I kept hearing over and over was, "I just hope someone is there in case my son ever needs help."

Sometimes in our school library silos we don’t reach out to others and build communities. Be strong, ye librarians, be together and get connected.

School Counselors & Bibliotherapy

  • Posted on September 24, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Steve Barancik at Best Children’s Books states "the number one meaning of the word the use of books to help children experiencing difficult times." He has combed the lists of best books to compile his own lists on these topics:

  • alcoholism and drug abuse
  • bullying
  • death and dying
  • disabilities and handicaps
  • divorce, separation and stepfamilies

Dr. Mac  (Tom McIntyre, Ph.D Department of Special Education Hunter College of CUNY) maintains the website, has written a bibliotherapy page that I use extensively, and has published a book for kids (though teachers, counselors, and parents can read it with them) called The Behavior Survival Guide for Kids: How to Make Good Choices and Stay Out of Trouble

Dr. Mac states "the purpose behind the use of bibliotherapy; to assist a youngster in overcoming the emotional turmoil related to a real-life problem by having him/her read literature on that topic.  This story can then serve as a springboard for discussion and possible resolution of that dilemma."

Cheryl Tyler, School Counselor at my school agreed to add insight to this blog and writes:

I am all about bringing in books and current events into my lessons. Sometimes it’s better to read a story about Janie Sue’s mother who is sad all the time as an intro into discussion. It helps the child to open up to know "someone else" has the same problem. For most elementary kids, the people in the story are real people.

As well ,several years ago I worked with a child whose whole family was into gangs. I spent a long classroom session reading Stanley "Tookie" Williams books about gangs. The child was struck and at least tried to stop being part of the gangs for the rest of the year.

I also keep very current with my information about television shows the kids like, who they idolize as well as issues surrounding that person. For example girls with a potential body-image problem might only hear that "Britney Spears looked fat" when in reality Britney looked great for a woman who had two children in two years.  The school counselor has to be able to relate. That means the best players in sports as well as knowing who Hannah Montana and Raven Baxter are, and that a "naked mole rat" is a character in Kim Possible. When a child says he’s waiting for Halo 3, the counselor needs to know what it means.

That is all possible with a close connection to the school librarian who can become the second set of eyes and ears for what’s in and who is reading what. The school librarian can look out for issues and information to assist the counselor.

Last year Diane found a book about a bipolar parent. This is an excellent resource for children who can’t understand why Mom or Dad can’t get their "act together".

Thanks, Cheryl! You have an awesome knowledge of strategies and techniques to help our students. I hope we school librarians can keep providing the resources and connections for guidance counselors everywhere.

Two publishing companies I utilize are:

Please share here other companies, authors, and titles you use.

Moon Festival

  • Posted on September 23, 2007 at 12:00 AM

All over the world people celebrate their version of Harvest Moon/Mid-Autumn Moon Festivals. In many cultures you can read tales of the moon. For Chinese families, this is reunion time and there is a special food involved – moon cakes. If you cannot return home, my Chinese family in Taiwan taught me long ago that I must spend time out of doors, looking at the brightest moon of the season and thinking of my family gazing at that same moon and thinking of me.

I’m surprised more schools haven’t discovered the extensions that naturally occur with this holiday. The science and math lessons are numerous. Perhaps you need to learn more about the holiday.

Web sites to learn about the Moon Festival and the folklore surrounding "my" holiday:

I spent Friday night at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts for the ARTINI  Lyrical Traditions: Four Centuries of Chinese Painting from the Papp Collection. Lyrical Traditions and the concurrent exhibition Whispering Wind: Recent Chinese Photography are the first exhibitions of Chinese art shown at the Frist Center. I hope there are many more to come. While living in Taipei, I was able to visit the National Palace Museum and many craft museums. Art integrates with poetry and text. Perspection changes but the traditions remain. From the center’s web site we see how web 2.0 tools enhance our experience:

It is a long-standing tradition within Chinese culture for a painting’s owner or a famous scholar to write a personal response on the artwork, sometimes even centuries after the painter’s death. In keeping with this idea, the Frist Center invited a group of Nashville’s Chinese community members to provide personal reactions to artwork in the exhibitions Lyrical Traditions and Whispering Wind. These responses address Chinese folktales, explore cultural qualities, and provide personal commentary related to the Chinese experience.

Bibliomania? Do you suffer?

  • Posted on September 22, 2007 at 5:53 AM

I confess. Not only do I suffer bibliomania, but I actively encourage the practice subversively in my school.

A second grade teacher came to me and described the reading problem she is having in class. She was actively teaching the entire class when suddenly one of our ELL students tapped his neighbors on the shoulder and invited them to read what he just discovered in his library book. The teacher told the child to check out a less interesting book next time. While she told me this, I gave my hand signal for winking and found 2 more titles even more interesting and engaging to give him.  (Maybe I have been reading Bad Kitty too many times and am choosing to do bad instead of good).

Check out Princess Perky’s Page to see if you suffer these symptoms. Beware of Chain Reading. Like LibraryThing, this can be addictive. The DR. Romance Blog describes her reasons for reading:

  • To escape
  • To keep up
  • For Entertainment
  • To read other writers

My reason for reading: I will perish if I cannot read. I am starving without my daily dose. I must read.Tracey offers her description of this insiduous reading addiction. I bet you recognize yourself. "I have no control over my reading! When I get engrossed in a book time means nothing and family means nothing. I get sucked into an altered state of consciousness – an alternate reality. It’s lights on, nobody home. "Muuum. Muuuum!" [no reply] "Hellooo! Oy!" …. "Huh?" I have no self control and no sense of self or family responsibility when it comes to the urge to keep reading. And reading. And reading."

Come on, confess here. Tell us about your addiction.

Finger Plays

  • Posted on September 22, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Kids still love fingerplays. It doesn’t matter how many videogames they play, the preschool, kindergarten and first graders love occupying their hands with fingerplays. Visit most classrooms and you won’t see their fingers occupied creatively in this way. I say, "Let’s bring back respect for our hands!"

Years ago teachers at my previous school attended a BER workshop incorporating music in elementary reading programs. (I wish I could find that instructors name!) One of the points they brought back was that students’ hands need to cross the invisible vertical line in our brains to involve both plains. I have been practicing this for the past 10 years and I believe it is true. Children and adults remember more when their hands travel across their bodies. Try some of your favorite fingerplays and you’ll see. Little Bunny Foo-Foo? Five Little Monkeys Sitting In a Tree? Big motions across your body help retain the actions.

According to Kathy Reschke (Family Life Extension, Human Development and Family Studies, Iowa State University), "When children repeat fingerplays and rhymes, they are learning and practicing many important language skills: building vocabulary, rhyming, rhythm, memory, matching words with actions – just to name a few. Verses can also help develop children’s muscle coordination and listening skills as well as strengthen children’s understanding of concepts such as counting, colors, and spatial positioning (up, down, behind, etc.)."

Our library rules are practiced using sign language. #1 Bring back your books. #2 Take care of your books. #3 Take care of your library. We often drop what we are doing to include fingerplays or sign language in our lessons.  Every student at our school knows if I silently signal rule #3 that they need to think about what they are doing and adjust.

While you can read about fingerplays, only actively doing can’convey the motion, energy or drama of a fingerplay. Where are my vlogs and videologgers to help demonstrate what these fingerplays should look like? I found some of Miss Lori doing the Itsy Bitsy Spider with Sqedunk entertainment. Come on librarians. You are the best storytellers out there. Turn the camera on and show us your hands.

Star Bright 4th star I see tonight

  • Posted on September 18, 2007 at 5:59 PM

Judi, you yourself are an author in addition to serving as Director of Business Development and Product Management for Star Bright Books. Tell us about your books.

To date, Star Bright book has released just one of my published children’s books. Read to Me/Vamos a leer is the anchor book in the literacy givt bag. I donate a portion of my royalties from the book to Project L.I.F.T.– (Literacy Involves Families Together), a literacy project for pregnant teens and young moms and dads at the Pima County Public Library. You can see some of the Project L.IF.T. young moms and babies on my web site at:

I have two other titles in the works with Star Bright Books. The illustrator is just beginning to envision the art so it’s premature to talk about them in detail. One is a collection of two-voice poems that upper elementary students have enthusiastically performed in prepublication. The other is such a unique book that I don’t want to spill the beans. It’s a book I wish I had had to share during my tenure as an elementary teacher-librarian and as an undergraduate classroom teacher educator. Please stay tuned…

My first published children’s book is still in print and selling well ten years after its initial publication. I wrote Sing Down the Rain (Kiva, 1997) to be performed as a choral reading by a classroom of students. The narrative poem tells of the Tohono O’odham American Indians’ saguaro cactus fruit harvest and rainmaking ceremony. The book is illustrated by Michael Chiago, a member of the nation. Readers can learn more about the book on my Web site at:

I’m also the author of a professional book for teacher-librarians and classroom teachers: Collaborative Strategies for Teaching Reading Comprehension: Maximizing Your Impact (ALA Editions, 2007). In this book, I offer coteaching strategies for educators using lessons that focus on teaching reading comprehension through children’s picture book literature. ALA Editions provides all of the graphic organizers, rubrics, and sample student work needed to teach the twenty-one lessons on their Web site. For me, this book is a memoir of the ten years I served as an elementary teacher-librarian. A section of my Web site is devoted to supporting educators in using this resource:

Star Bright 3rd star I see tonight

  • Posted on September 18, 2007 at 5:55 PM

You also offer many other services unique to Star Bright such as customized new baby bags, supplying books for reading give-away projects, and helping develop opening day preschool collections.

Which services do you believe are most unique?

Like a number of publishers, we deeply discount our books to libraries and organizations through Reading Is Fundamental, or RIF. We are committed to publishing books in many languages and creating books that include children with different abilities. We have a strong line of titles that include or focus on the special needs of children and youth with disabilities.

Our literacy gift bags for families are likely our most unique service. For two years, Star Bright Books has been marketing the “I Love to Read” Gift Bag to literacy projects across the country. At the present time, the gift bag is available in English and in Spanish.

Star Bright Books worked with Dana Morrow, Director, Outreach Services, Children’s Services and Services to Seniors at the Metropolitan Library System in Oklahoma City to develop the gift bag. Here’s what Dana said about their system’s development and use of the “I Love to Read” Gift Bag: 

When we began to design the ‘Read to Me’ packets our goal was to use a visual message to get the idea of reading to a baby from birth across to parents. The parents we wanted to reach were not natural daily readers so we knew we needed a visual message. Multiple brochures just would not do.


We wanted to be the Nike or the Coke of reading. All you have to do is see the picture and it tells you what to do. We wanted to have the fewest words possible for parents to have to read (with the exception of the book Read to Me, of course).


We wanted to design pieces that parents could use or see everyday – like the bib – the door hanger (with only 4 simple tips for reading and sharing with baby) – the refrigerator magnet. I believe we succeeded.

The literacy gift bag includes Read to Me, a child-size picture book for parents. I am the author of the book; Kyra Teis is the illustrator. The book encourages families to read, to sing, and to tell stories together. This gentle rhyme was originally written for Project L.I.F.T.

In addition, our bag includes Where’s the Kitten, a lift-the-flap board book for the baby. It also includes a bib that shows an adult bear sharing Read to Me with a baby bear, an “I to Read” refrigerator magnet in which the child’s photo can be inserted, and a “take this card to your local library” insert. Various literacy projects have added information about storytimes, a “Baby Reading/Baby Sleeping” door hanger, or other inserts to round out the bag and to promote their programs.

You can read about the literacy gift bags at:

We can customize the kit to meet the unique needs of literacy communities. We are about to publish Read to Me in Vietnamese. Literacy projects can substitute any of our board books (available in sixteen different languages) for Where’s the Kitten. We deeply discount the gift bags to groups who are giving them away free to families. Organizations can even lower the cost by assembling the contents with their own volunteers. We at Star Bright Books believe literacy should be affordable!

Star Bright 2nd Star I see tonight

  • Posted on September 18, 2007 at 5:42 PM

I noticed that Star Bright Books will release an adult/young adult book about the Holocaust early next year. Why is a children’s book publisher involved with the book Hidden Letters?

Diane, I would say it’s fate! Our publisher Deborah Slier Shine received the 86 letters and postcards written in 1942 by her first cousin 18-year-old Philip "Flip" Slier. Flip wrote the letters to his parents while he was imprisoned in a forced labor camp. Deborah was born in South Africa where her father had immigrated; Deborah’s father and Flip’s father were brothers. Although she never met her Dutch relatives while growing up, Deborah knew them through the family photo album and her father’s stories.

In Hidden Letters, Flip’s experiences are told through his letters, translated from Dutch, which were discovered in 1997 in the ceiling of a building being demolished in Amsterdam. Flip tells about camp procedures and his hard work. He shares how he managed to procure additional food and stay healthy in a very harsh environment. In spite of these conditions, Flip acknowledges his blessings in his letters, including the support of many people, Jews and Gentiles, who helped him meet his physical and emotional needs during his imprisonment.

Against the backdrop of Flip’s letters the annotators, Deborah Slier and Ian Shine, have added detailed annotations and over 300 photographs, documents, and maps. The book also has extensive notes and a bibliography. Educators will welcome the addition of these primary sources that contextualize Flip’s experiences during Nazi-occupied Holland.

I had the opportunity to create a Teaching Tools: Curriculum Guide and a Genocide WebQuest to support educators in teaching the book. SJL Blog readers can access them from: I am also involved with a group of educators at a Catholic high school in New York who are using advance review copies of the book in an interdisciplinary course on genocide. I plan to co-author an article about the students’ learning as it relates to their engagement with Hidden Letters.

It is incredible that Flip Slier’s voice is being heard more than sixty years after he wrote his letters. I believe many will be thankful that Flip’s poignant letters landed in the hands of a children’s book publisher who recognized their value and took the time and made the effort to annotate them and make them even more meaningful to 21st-century readers. The book will be available in February 2008.

Star Bright Books’ website states: "Star Bright produces books that embrace children of all colors, nationalities and abilities, because we believe that all children should see themselves in print." You also offer titles in 16 different languages.  Tell us about the demand for these languages.

Star Bright Books is committed to providing books in heritage languages. We know that children who are literate in any language can transfer their literacy skills and behaviors to a second language. It is critical, then, that parents and caregivers read to babies and young children in their homes and daycare centers in their primary language.

If a Star Bright Books customer requires a book in a language we do not currently publish, we can help them fill a need in their community. If they commit to purchasing 500 copies of a previously-published Star Bright Books title in a new language and provide us with a translation or adaptation, we produce the book in the language they need with the next print run of that title. This is the way we have grown our list of languages; through helping libraries and literacy organizations meet the linguistic needs of their service populations.

Star Bright 1st star I see tonight

  • Posted on September 18, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Star Bright Books  is an independent publishing company with some stellar authors/illustrators on their list includind Lorna Balian, Miriam Cohen, Brian Wildsmith, Jackie French, and Valeri Gorbachev. I asked Judi Moreillon about Star Bright as she posts new titles frequently to LM_NET and works the booth at many conferences. How do most of these authors become associated with you?

Our publisher, Deborah Shine, was a long-time children’s bookstore owner as well as an editor with several publishing houses before founding Star Bright Books. In addition to attracting new authors and illustrators, Ms. Shine carefully researches the print and copyright status of classic and international children’s books and the work of authors and illustrators whose work she especially admires. She contacts notable writers and artists whose work has gone out of print, secures the rights to re-publish their books, and when needed, revises the print or illustrations to make these titles even more exciting for 21st-century readers.

For example, Star Bright has bought the rights to re-issue a series of titles that involve first-grade students written in the 1980s by Miriam Cohen. Award-winning illustrator Ronald Himler is re-visioning the illustrations to develop the characters in these books and to make them identifiable from book to book. So far, we have re-issued First Grade Takes a Test (2006). Tough Jim and Jim’s Dog Muffins will follow in the spring of 2008.

Who are the new authors we should be noting?

Earlier this year, we published Ellen Tarlow’s easy reader Pinwheel Days, illustrated by Gretel Parker. Ms. Tarlow wrote her first story about Pinwheel over 15 years ago after seeing photographs of a baby donkey that her father took in Mexico. The book has four charming short stories that are accessible and fun for beginning readers. Ms. Tarlow works for an educational publisher―writing and editing books for beginning readers―so she has a great deal of expertise to share in this niche.

Narelle Oliver is an award-winning Australian author. We have just released her new book Twilight Hunt, which is a stunningly-illustrated informational book about camouflage and predator-prey relationships centered on a screech owl’s evening hunt. We anticipate that elementary classroom teachers and teacher-librarians will find this book useful in their science curriculum.

For teacher-librarians who work with elementary school counselors, Dr. Vanita Braver has written two books that can support the character education curriculum. In Madison’s Patriotic Project, the young protagonist learns about competition and the life skill of being proud of one’s best effort even if it doesn’t win the prize. In Madison and the Two Wheeler, a young girl practices perseverance when learning something new and difficult. These two books are part of the Teach Your Children Well series. Carl DiRocco illustrates the Madison books. Both of these titles will be available this fall.

Although she is not a new author-illustrator for Star Bright Books, we are excited about several new informational books forthcoming from Michèle Coxon. This fall, we will release Termites on a Stick: A Chimp Learns to Use a Tool (2007), which has exquisite, scientifically-accurate illustrations. Ms. Coxon is currently working on a non-fiction title about polar bears for young primary grade readers.