For Teachers

What are teachers reading to Middle Grade kids these days?

I have four daughters. Yeah… that’s right. Four. Your sympathy is welcomed and appreciated, thank you.

My youngest is now eight… just hitting the age to start reading Middle Grade novels. Her teacher is reading the students Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. The teacher read this same book to my oldest daughters nine years ago. They loved it then, my youngest loves it now.

So, as I did nine years ago, I’m reading Double Fudge by Jude Blume to my daughter at night.

 

It’s been a while, but I can remember my teacher (during the Middle Grade years) reading The Wind and the Willows by Kenneth Grahame to the class. It was that book that really sparked my love for reading.

All this got me wondering… what other books are teachers reading to Middle Grade students these days? If you’re a teacher… what are you reading (or have you read) to your students? If you’re a parent, what are your kid’s teachers reading to them?

 

Teacher/Librarian Page Update

We are growing our Teacher/Librarian Page by adding to what we already have for you and creating some new resources. Please do check them out and let us know what you think and share anything you’d like to see us add.

Now, with that said, here is the run down of all changes:

Author Websites with Discussion/Activity Guides-included now are some of our own Mixed Ups, as well as authors Cinda Williams Chima, Wendy Mass and Lauren Myracle. This list will be updated regularly so do check back often.

Successful Author or Illustrator Visits-now includes a link to Cynthia Leitich Smith, collection of articles and advice on school visits.

Author Visits on the main Teacher/Librarian Page) now includes links to author and illustrator visits by state and the direct link to Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators that allows you to search a wide list of visiting authors by region.

QUICK LINKS & GENERAL RESOURCES has some new links (for the full list head here):

ALSC Blog-Blog of programming ideas and literacy initiatives from Association of Library Services for Children

Children’s Book Council

Middle Web-Resources for Middle Grade Educators and Parents

The Reading Tub-Middle Grade and YA Book Review Blogs

Included the following the Booklists:

ALCS Recommended Book Lists

Reading. Org-Teachers Choices Booklist 2011

2011 Notable Children’s Books-Association of Library Services for Children-ALSC)

2011 Best of Children’s Books: A List of Lists and Awards

Finally, we added some categories that we hope will help you continue to develop a love of reading and life long learning.

ON-LNE BOOK CLUBS, READING PROGRAMMES & Activities:

Book Club Central, ChildrenOfficially starting December 1, 2011 this resource will include book suggestions with sample chapters and ideas for organizing the club.

Middle Grade Book Club Guide-Some Mixed Up Files suggestions for starting a book club and keeping it going.

Middle School Reading Activities-Look for activities from simple to hard to match up with classroom reads, literacy projects or for suggestions to kids looking for ways to bump up that book report.

NPR’s Back-Seat Book Club-Every month there is a Book Club selection that students read then have the option to send in questions to NPR. Some of those questions are given to the author will visit the radio programme, All Things Considered at the end of the month.

Pragmatic Mom-Book Clubs for Kids-Excellent resource of tried and true book club meetings, including the books used and the activities done. Many of the included titles are middle grade.

Sylvan Book Adventure -Intended to motivate kids in grades K-8 to read. Book suggestions, quizzes, and prizes add up to some online reading fun.

BLOGS & ROUND UPS:

Charlotte’s Library-Weekly Round Up of new Middle Grade Fantasy and Science Fiction -This librarian will help you keep up with what’s new and hot in the world of Middle Grade Fantasy and Science fiction so you can stay one step ahead of your young readers.

Middle Grade Ninjaa blog about reading and writing middle grade that includes great interviews to enhance author studies.

Marvelous Middle Grade MondayA weekly round-up of book talks from middle grade authors, librarians, teachers and booksellers. From new releases, to classics to graphic novels, they have all reading interests covered.

Project Mayhem-A group of well known middle grade authors blogging about writing, life and reading. Great opportunity for students to see inside the mind of some of their favorite authors.

Smack Dab in the MiddleMiddle grade authors talking about their books, the journeys they took to publication and themes of the month where they each weigh in on different topics. Gives students a great opportunity learn even more about the authors they read.

Tween Tuesday-Round-up of great book talks for the upper end of middle grade.

Now. Didn’t change anything on Virtual Visits yet, but am mentioning anyway. Maybe you’ll go have a quick peek in case you’ve not seen it before!

That’s it for now.

Happy reading, writing and sharing that passion with students and young library patrons!

 

 

 

 

One for the Gals By Erin E. Moulton

Today, I’m going to be talking about strong female protagonists as well as supplying you with a few resources, but before I do so: an anecdote. This way, you can see why I have chosen this topic in particular.

Picture a fine Saturday. Sun shining. Hound dog napping. Tomatoes weighing heavy on their stems in the garden. Birds chirping. I’m telling you, it was off to a great start. But things went awry quickly. I had some errands to run, one of which included spinning by the library to drop off a few books. Passing the computers in the main area, I noticed two girls playing a game. I’d peg them as sisters. One 7ish and one 10, probably. I did a double take as the pink fashion game they were playing stared out at me from the monitor. The curvey cartoon model stood in her panties and what looked an awful lot like a push up bra as the two girls debated lipstick shade and eyelash length. It wasn’t exactly the paper dolls of my youth. “Go outside! Read a book!” I wanted to yell. But my internal voice was all Keep on walking, Moulton, you’re not their mom.

Still, I jotted the website down real fast and google-searched it when I got home. The game was one from www.girlsgogames.com. I perused the site briefly and even played one of the popular games: “nerdy girl makeover.” The game tag line proclaimed: “Scrub and pluck this bookish babe, then browse the make-up, hair, and accessory options to makeover her entire appearance. You won’t believe the before and after pics…”

And I didn’t believe them, let me tell you! This was one of many makeover games, which actually appeared to me to be a lot healthier than the “Mall Kissing game” and “Bieber Kissing game.”

Feeling a bit disillusioned I clicked out of the website. My phone buzzed, reminding me that I was attending a shower the same afternoon. I threw on some shoes, made sure I looked decent, secured the ribbon on the gift bag and headed out. When I arrived, I dropped the gift, scooped some pretzels from a snack bowl, was handed a mug of iced cappuccino and grabbed a seat. I wasn’t at the shower long before the conversation went to books. Please keep in mind I said books, not literature. To my despair, a copy of Snooki’s book had been pulled from the shelf, (meaning it was actually bought and placed their prior to this), then set on the table. I busted out laughing, thinking maybe it was part of a funny shower game that was about to take place. Turns out…. not so much. And this is where it gets ugly.

“Great book, right?” I said, sarcastically.

To my horror, earnest eyes stared back at me. Yes, the answer was, yes all around. The “ghost writer was ok” and it’s just “a light read, you know, something to lighten up with after a long day at the office.”

WHAT? I thought as the cup of cappuccino in my hand tipped and spilled some of its contents over my knuckles. Were they being serious? From their looks it appeared I was the crazy one. So I inquired, wondering if maybe I had wrong perceptions of the merits of this work. “So she’s on some tv show, right?” I said.

“Yeah, Jersey Shore. It’s a reality tv show.”

From there, the conversation disintegrated into something about Jersey Shore and Sixteen and Pregnant as light things to watch at the end of a long day. I stared from one working professional to another. I could agree with the sentiment of wanting to unwind with something light, and shared that I liked 30 Rock and, right now, was enjoying Parks and Rec(They both have strong female protagonists, just sayin’). One person next to me actually said that they liked Parks and Rec, too. Delighted that I had a comrade, I gushed that I thought Parks and Rec was a great study in character development.

“All of the characters in the show have their own special quirks. They’re so unique and 3 dimensional,” I said placing the cappuccino on the coffee table.

As soon as the words “character development” were out of my mouth I knew I’d really screwed up. Not the right crowd, Moulton, I thought to myself as one person walked away from me. My friend from work gave me a pity smile across the crowd.

“Erin writes books,” she said, as if this explained everything.

“Really? What kind?” asked the woman nearest me.

“Oh, books for kids. My first novel is a middle grade. You know, 8-12 years old,” I said.

“Like Twilight?” she said.

Was this real life? I pinched myself.

I looked at her and she looked at me and I thought, C’mon, now, don’t judge. Open your mind.

“Not exactly,” I said, “a little younger age group, and the girls in my story go off on an adventure in the mountains of Vermont, facing rapids, poachers, the elements and rough terrain. No vampires. No romance.”

“Neat,” she said, nodding. “I love books.” She then reached across the table and pulled Snooki’s book over to her.

At that point, I ran—okay, I walked, but on the inside I was running–for the door. I headed home. I drove into the garage and huffed up the stairs.

“Babe!?” I shouted through the house, then remembered that hubby was away to VT. Not that I had really forgotten, but in my frenzy I forgot for a just a second. Naturally, I went to the next step, exclaiming to the hound that the world was in peril. He looked up from his bed, groaned, as he is accustomed to do, and laid his head back down. I dropped into my computer chair. Took a deep breath, paused, and turned toward my bookshelf.

“Ladies, what is going on?” I said, locking my eyes on the braid-framed face of Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables. “Are the positive female figures gone?”

I stared from one bookshelf to another, looking for some positive female characters. Some smart, fun, true grit, dirty nails, determined gals. And just as Gurdon’s “mother of three” found nothing bright in the YA section at Barnes & Noble, I found nothing strong amidst the bindings in my bookshelf.

Ha! Just kidding. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Rest assured, just as there is great YA, there are some great female gals kickin’ it in literature. We simply must seek them out and get educated. And share it. Celebrate it. So, I opened this document and I scanned my bookshelf. Favorites of my youth stared back at me:

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (Anne is wistful, sure, but this girl’s got backbone)

Lyddie by Katherine Paterson (Lyddie faces a bear at the top and just gets better from there!)

Little House on the Prairie By Laura Ingalls Wilder (Laura is determined and sure of herself, also one of the best students in school!)

The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley (Aerin slays dragons! Need I say more?)

I mulled a bit. Such old titles. What about the girls in recent literature? I looked over my shelf of middle grade literature that is currently rocking. Big sigh of relief. Right off the bat I saw strong females at their best!

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (Delphine looks after her sisters and takes charge as they navigate a new place and a tough relationship with her distanced mother, while also attending a summer camp sponsored by the black panthers.)

Sources of Light by Margaret McMullan(Sam uses her camera to observe social change in her community of Jackson Mississippi in 1962.)

Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy (Zulaikha, a young afghan girl with a cleft lip, struggles to find worth. She is quiet, but brave spirited, sneaking to a professor’s house to learn to read even though she knows it could jeopardize her life as it did her mother’s.)

But wait. What if these are only on my bookshelf? I wondered. What if no one else is noticing them? What if the Snooki-loving moms let their kids makeover the nerds on girlsgogames and then at the age of 10 they read Twilight and (face hits desk) —what if they never meet the likes of Anne Shirley or Lyddie or Delphine?

Well, here are some links for you and your daughters so we can avoid that little chain of events. There is a lot of great information amongst them so please bookmark and share!

Book Lists(compiled, these lists include over 100 books with spunky girls from both fiction and history! And that’s just counting titles for middle grade readers!)

The Amelia Bloomer Project honors strong, powerful girls and the books that inspire them(look halfway down the page for Middle Grade titles).

The Women’s National Book Association has a great list of books for 21st century girls. (Scroll to Intermediate titles for the middle grade readers!) A lot of my favorites and classics are on this list!

Spunk and Determination: Real and Imagined is a list by our own Mixed Up Member, Tracy Abell

Gender Equal.com has a list of Brave Girl titles, split up by age level, and includes some stellar non-fiction titles.

Education Oasis includes selections from teachers and librarians.

Goosebottom Books describes itself as Books for Thinking Girls. I’m intrigued by their Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Dastardly Dames series!.

Positive websites for girls:

HerInteractive has online mystery games, including Nancy Drew Mysteries.

New Moon Girls is an online community and magazine where girls create and share poetry, artwork, videos, chat together, and learn.

Whyville incorporates creating your own character and chatting with friends while also playing thinking games.

Zoey’s Room is an award winning online community for middle school girls that focuses on creativity, engineering and math.

Josie True is a fun and educational adventure game. Josie looks for her teacher in 1920s Chicago and meets Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to earn her pilot’s license! They then go to Paris to catch thieves, see an airshow, and all kinds of other adventurous things!

Resources for parents:

Hardy Girls Healthy Women (HGHW) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the health and well being of girls and women. It has great resources, conversation, seminars and trainings! And also has a good children’s lit booklist.

Media Awareness Network (MNet) is home to one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of media literacy and digital literacy resources. It has some great articles on perceptions of women and girls in the media.

How to Empower Your Daughter by Kathleen Odean and How to Talk to Little Girls by Lisa Bloom are handy articles to have around.

All right, that’s only a start! I know there is much more and please feel free to add to this list in the comments section. On a final note, even though my dismal Saturday of fashion games and Snooki and Twilight did not celebrate strong girls, that does not mean that they are not here, being represented. I urge you to find the books with the strong female protagonists, so that they might hook the readers that would otherwise be using their Saturday to peruse eye shadow and lipstick via all the online fashion games. Find and share the books with the strong female heros, so they might inspire the next generation, and so the authors of the future will have characters that stand up tall with Lyddie and Anne and Laura. And, hopefully many, many others.

Erin E. Moulton graduated with an MFA in Writing for Children from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2007. She is the author of Flutter: The Story of Four Sisters and One Incredible Journey(Philomel 2011), and Tracing Stars, forthcoming from Philomel/Penguin in 2012. Erin is co-founder of the Kinship Writers Association. You can visit her online at www.erinemoulton.com or on Facebook as Erin E. Moulton (Author)