For Teachers

For Teachers/Librarians Page Update

It’s time once again for our semi-annual update on what’s new on MUF’s For Teachers/Librarians page!

We’ve added some great new resources and links to our regular categories. More on those in a moment, but first we want to tell you about two whole new sections just for you:  MUF Posts for Teachers and Librarians!  We’ve captured posts tagged for teachers and/or librarians in one convenient place.  The posts are organized by date, so “drop on by” any time to see what we’ve written with you in mind.

Here’s an overview of the other great new resources and links we’ve added: (you’ll find them marked with New! on the For Teachers/Librarians page):

BLOGS for middle-grade reading and writing
The Pirate Tree: Authors who explore books in the context of social justice themes, from violence to gender to race to poverty.

IRA Children’s Literature Special Interest Group Book Reviews:  Weekly reviews of books for grades K-12 organized by topic.

Publisher’s Weekly Best Books of 2012: Children’s Fiction

Publisher’s Weekly Best Books of 2012: Children’s Nonfiction

GENERAL RESOURCES for teaching and literature
Teaching Tolerance: From the Southern Poverty Law Center, in-depth and free resources and book lists on a wide range of social justice issues for educators. You’ll find an extensive list of classroom resources, as well as “What We’re Reading,” culturally aware book lists for educators in Teaching Tolerance Magazine.  Subscriptions to the magazine (print or digital editions) are free for educators.

As always, please help us build this page by suggesting other resources in the comments section.

Teaching with Themed Literature Units: Older Middle Grade

Recently, I wrote about the value of Themed Literature Units, structured units of study designed to develop crucial literacy skills as students read, write about, discuss, and sometimes respond artistically to high-quality children’s literature.  My previous post, “Finding My Way: Teaching with Themed Literature Units,” introduces a strategy for organizing meaningful literacy instruction around memorable middle grade literature.  The post also offers a glimpse into three classrooms where teachers and middle grade students are reading great books on themes such as “Adapting to new situations,” “Taking risks to help others,” and “Courage is inside all of us.”

Today, I’d like to expand our list with an additional themed literature unit for older middle grade readers in an unusual context — a middle school Spanish class.

Overcoming Obstacles in the Search for Identity ~ 8th grade
Ceinwen Bushey is teaching 8th grade Spanish in a Seattle middle school.  She developed her unit, “Overcoming Obstacles in the Search for Identity” to help her students understand their own quests for identity and to recognize similar struggles in other adolescents in Latin America.  She introduced her students to the unit this way:  “For most teenagers like yourselves, middle school is a time of fast growth – physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. It’s also a time for developing your sense of identity, self-esteem, and relationships with your peers. This is true for kids all around the world, but some have it tougher than others. Imagine having to deal with all the things everyday teens have to deal with, then adding to them some really big obstacles. Think about what it would be like to have to move to a new country, learn to speak a new language, make new friends, eat food you’ve never seen before, not have MTV to watch, not have iPhones or iPads or Facebook, and have people thinking you look weird because you’re different from them. Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to read, write, and discuss the lives of kids your age that are trying to figure things out, just like you, but who are from Latin America and have to overcome really big obstacles like the ones I just mentioned. They are teenagers who have to move to the United States from other countries, and try to figure out who they are; they’re searching for their identity. The end goal of our work together is to promote cross-cultural understanding and develop awareness that the journey toward understanding oneself is universal; that is, it connects us all to one another.”

Big Ideas
The unit guides students to understand two big ideas:
The path to self-discovery is a universal human experience and connects us all; and
Tough experiences are often the ones that teach us the most about ourselves.

Book List

As older middle grade readers grow, they yearn to figure out who they are and how they can make a difference in this world.  Ceinwen Bushey’s unit guides her middle schoolers to take a cross-cultural look at ways that young people, like them, find ways to overcome the obstacles in their lives as they search for identity.

Katherine Schlick Noe teaches beginning and experienced teachers at Seattle University. Her debut novel, Something to Hold (Clarion, 2011) won the 2012 Washington State Book Award for the middle grade/young adult and has been named a 2012 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People.  Visit her at

Authors for Earth Day

Brooke Bessen is one of the many inspiring people I met at SCBWI-LA (yes, I’m still talking about it!  If you’re interested, you can read more about my conference experience here.)  On top of being an author-illustrator, naturalist, and warm and engaging person, Brooke is the founder of Authors for Earth Day.

Authors for Earth Day (A4ED) started with Brooke’s visit to an elementary school in Phoenix, Arizona on April 22, 2008. “I was looking for a meaningful way to observe Earth Day with young readers,” says Brooke, “so I planned to donate my speaking fee to a conservation organization. Then I got thinking… what if the students voted to determine the donation recipient? I was excited to empower kids to find their ‘voice’ as writers and as voters, and to use that voice to help care for our blue planet.”

The visit was a success.  Such a success, in fact, that Brooke decided it was something she wanted to do every year.  And she wanted to invite other children’s authors and illustrators to join her.  She developed A4ED infrastructure with resources for a team and went to the 2009 SCBWI conference in LA with a badge that said, “Ask me about Authors for Earth Day.”  With the help of authors like Linda Sue Park, Dan Gutman, Lin Oliver, and Eileen and Jerry Spinelli (who no longer do school visits but have contributed financially to the cause) A4ED grew from there.

At the 2012 conference, Brooke’s badge had been replaced by am A4ED sign up table, prominently displayed in front of the main ballroom.  A4ED is now a coalition of 64 authors and illustrators who have collectively contributed more than $15, 750 in donated fees from school visits.  And thousands of students from New York to California to Australia have been involved in choosing, from a short list of organizations striving for a more sustainable future, who gets the money.

It’s turned into a lot of work for Brooke, who organizes everything from maintenance of the A4ED blog to recruitment of new participants.  When asked why she does it, Brooke says “I started Authors for Earth Day to tie together those precious elements… children and voice and courage. And an author’s power to shape the world through their writing.  I think many people write, or want to write, or imagine writing books that will infuse courage into their characters… and thus perhaps infuse courage into the young readers who love them.”

Want to get involved?  If you are an author, all you have to do is contribute the fees from one school visit in April.  You can sign up by emailing Brooke at   If you are a librarian, media specialist, teacher or principal, check out schools page of the A4ED website for more details and consider scheduling one of the talented professionals on the growing list of Available Authors & Illustrators.

Yolanda Ridge, author of Trouble in the Trees (Orca Book Publishers, 2011) and Road Block (Orca Book Publishers, 2012), is signed up for A4ED and looking forward to her first Earth Day School visit in 2013.  For more information, please read her contribution to the A4ED blog or visit her website.