A Win for Diversity in the News

It finally feels like autumn is here and if you don’t mind us saying, we’ve been “fall-ing” for all the diversity-related stories that have been in the news recently! Here are a few that we were especially excited to read:malala yousafzai and kailash satyarthiMalala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen who was shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating for girls’ rights to education, and Indian children’s right activist Kailash Satyarthi, both won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for their fight against the oppression of children and young people, and for the right of all children to education. In light of the recent violence that has broken out between India and Pakistan along the border of the disputed, mainly Muslim region of Kashmir, the Nobel Peace Prize committee said it was an “important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism.”

In the entertainment industry, we’ve been seeing more positive changes when it comes to representation and shonda rhimes the hollywood reporterdiversity in television and movies. Shonda Rhimes, creator of the popular TV shows Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, and Scandal, was featured on the cover of The Hollywood Reporterwhere she talked about her success and what she’s learned from previous on-set controversies. Rhimes is also executive producer of the new TV show, How to Get Away with Murder, which just recently got a full season order from ABC along with Black-ish. Sullivan & Son, a TV show that is written by and stars Steve Byrne, is also renewed for its second season. Steven Byrne is an Irish-Korean American, one of a handful of writers of color that has found success in Hollywood. The fall television programming this year has been great for diverse representation, which is a breath of fresh air considering an infographic we did on the Emmy Awards.

On the movie front, Lionsgate is teaming up with Women in Film to create a series of short films based on the Twilight franchise. According to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media and USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, only 7% of major film directors around the world are women. Whether you’re a fan of the Twilight series or not, we love the fact that an effort to get more female directors out there is a good thing!

There’s no denying the fact that computer science is a popular field to get into; however, Google recently looked over their annual diversity reports and found that 70% of their workforce is male, with 61% being white. In an effort to get more women to take an interest in coding, Google announced that they were launching a new program called Made with Code that “includes a mix of coding projects, partnerships with youth organizations, and $50 million in funding Google says will help get more females involved in the field of computer science.”

Some of the Girls at Made to Code from Tarrant County

See any stories that we missed? Feel free to share them in the comments! Happy Friday everyone!

An Interview with Lin Oliver on SCBWI’S Emerging Voices Award

On this blog we’ve often discussed our own New Voices and New Visions awards for unpublished authors of color. Today we wanted to spotlight another great award specifically for authors of color: the On-The-Verge Emerging Voices Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

scbwi Emerging Voices Award

The On-The-Verge Emerging Voices Award is a grant created to “foster the emergence of diverse voices in children’s books.” It offers two writers or writer/illustrators from under-represented backgrounds the chance to receive:

  • An all-expense paid trip to the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles August 1-4, 2015 (transportation and hotel)
  • Tuition to the SCBWI Summer Conference
  • A manuscript consultation at the Summer Conference with an industry professional
  • An additional meeting with an industry professional
  • Tuition to the Summer Conference Writers or Illustrators Intensive
  • A press release

We interviewed Lin Oliver, Executive Director of SCBWI, about the creation of the award and the role of SCBWI in diversifying the world of children’s book publishing.

When was the Emerging Voices Award established?

The SCBWI Emerging Voices Award was established in 2012, with funding from Martin and Sue Schmitt of the 455 Foundation.  The grant was created to foster the emergence of diverse voices in children’s books. Each year, we select two writers or writer-illustrators for an all expense paid trip to the summer SCBWI conference, which includes a manuscript consultation and additional mentoring.  Qualified applicants must be from an ethnic or cultural background that is under-represented in children’s literature in America, such as Black or African-Americans, Latinos, Pacific Islanders, American Indians or Asian-Americans.

Why did the SCBWI decide to establish the award?
The SCBWI is committed to encouraging the creation of a diverse body of literature for children. We believe that all children should be able to see themselves on the page and all readers will benefit from participating in diverse experiences through literature.  The representation of many cultures of ethnicities is vastly under-represented in today’s marketplace, and we hope this Award is a step to correcting that situation.

Have any past Emerging Voices winners gone on to receive publication contracts or publish books?

The award is still very young—there were three winners in 2012, and two in 2013.  As of now, all five winners are having their work-in-progress shared with editors and agents in the field.  There are no sales to report yet, but we feel confident that their work is in professional hands and receiving every possible consideration.

Emerging Voices Award winners

From L to R: Martin Schmitt, award winner Jennifer Baker, award winner Dow Phumiruk, and Sue Ganz-Schmitt

How do you perceive the SCBWI’s role in the greater movement for more diverse children’s books?

As the largest organization of children’s book writers and illustrators, we believe we play a leadership role in the movement to increase diversity in our field. We always make sure that the faculties of our national conferences include publishers, agents, authors and illustrators of diverse backgrounds.  We encourage our members to support and promote books from these publishers, authors and illustrators.  We often publish articles and papers about the role of diversity in children’s books, and work with other organizations such as the Children’s Book Council, First Book and We Need Diverse Books who are involved in this important initiative.

We all acknowledge the need to support aspiring authors of color, but their eventual success will be determined by the marketplace.  It is crucial that the these books prove to be not only artistic and social successes, but also commercially viable.From your perspective at the SCBWI, what are a few of the biggest obstacles that you see aspiring authors of color facing?

We all acknowledge the need to support aspiring authors of color, but their eventual success will be determined by the marketplace.  It is crucial that the these books prove to be not only artistic and social successes, but also commercially viable.  This is a challenge not just for children’s books but for our whole society—-we need to all show interest in and embrace all the diverse cultures that make up America.

Has the SCBWI taken any other steps to promote diversity among its membership?

In addition to the Emerging Voices Award, we have a special category in our Work in Progress Awards for multi-cultural books.  Many of our scholarships have been awarded to students of color. And our Amber Brown Grant sends authors to low-income schools who have never been able to afford an author visit.

How can publishers and the SCBWI work together to create a more inclusive industry?

In the past year, the We Need Diverse Books campaign has done a wonderful job of creating awareness of the lack of diversity in our field. That is the first step. The SCBWI will continue to provide opportunities for publishers to discover new talent. The publishers need to put forth their best effort to publish those books, and together, the SCBWI and the publishing community need to market those books and help bring them to the forefront in the consumer consciousness.

More information about The Society of Children’s Book Writers and all of its programs can be found at scbwi.org.  Please visit us.

How Common Core’s book choices fail children of color

The Common Core has become a hot-button political issue, but one aspect that’s gone larGuest postgely under the radar is the impact the curriculum will have on students of color, who now make up close to 50% of the student population in the U.S. In this essay, Jane M. Gangi, an associate professor in the Division of Education at Mount Saint Mary College and Nancy Benfer, who teaches literacy and literature at Mount Saint Mary College and is also a fourth-grade teacher, discuss the Common Core’s book choices, why they fall short when it comes to children of color, and how to do better. Originally posted at The Washington Post, this article was reposted with the permission of Jane M. Gangi.How Common Core's Book Choices Fail Children of Color

Children of color and the poor make up more than half the children in the United States. According to the latest census, 16.4 million children (22 percent) live in poverty, and close to 50 percent of country’s children combined are of African American, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian American heritage. When the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were introduced in 2009—2010 , the literacy needs of half the children in the United States were neglected. Of 171 texts recommended for elementary children in Appendix B of the CCSS, there are only 18 by authors of color, and few books reflect the lives of children of color and the poor.

When the CCSS were open for public comment in 2010, I (Gangi) made that criticism on the CCSS website. My concerns went unacknowledged. In 2012, I presented at a summit on the literacy needs of African American males, Building a Bridge to Literacy for African American Male Youth, held at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Emily Chiarello from Teaching Tolerance acknowledged the problem and connected me with Student Achievement Partnership, an organization founded by David Coleman and Sue Pimental, “architects” of the English Language Arts standards.

In the fall of 2012, representatives from Student Achievement Partnership came to Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, New York, to ask our Collaborative for Equity Literacy Learning (CELL) to help right the wrong. SAP wanted us to provide an amended Appendix B. In July 2013, CELL presented SAP with a list of 150 multicultural titles, which were recommended by educators from across the country and by more than thirty award committees. All the books were annotated and excerpts were provided. The 700+ PowerPoint slides of the project can be found here. SAP then sent the project to Stanford University’s Understanding Language Program for validation of text complexity. The Council of Chief State School Officers has yet to make the addition to the CCSS website.

Why does seeing themselves in books matter to children? Rudine Sims Bishop, professor emerita of The Ohio State University, frames the problem with the metaphor of “mirror” and “window” books. All children need both. Too often children of color and the poor have window books into a mostly white and middle- and-upper-class world.

This is an injustice for two reasons.

One is rooted in the proficient reading research. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, researchers asked, “What do good readers do?” They found that good readers make connections to themselves and their communities. When classroom collections are largely by and about white people, white children have many more opportunities to make connections and become proficient readers. Appendix B of the CCSS as presented added to the aggregate that consistently marginalizes multicultural children’s literature: book lists, school book fairs and book order forms, literacy textbooks (books that teach teachers), and transitional books (books that help children segue from picture books to lengthier texts). If we want all Children must be able to envision possibilities for their futures. And they must fall in love with books. Culturally relevant books help children discover a passion for reading.children to become proficient readers, we must stock classrooms with mirror books for all children. This change in our classroom libraries will also allow children of the dominant culture to see literature about others who look different and live differently.

A second reason we must ensure that all children have mirror books is identity development. For African American children, Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are not enough. They must also see African-American artists, writers, political leaders, judges, mathematicians, astronauts, and scientists. The same is true for children of other ethnicities. They must see authors and illustrators who look like them on book jackets. Children must be able to envision possibilities for their futures. And they must fall in love with books. Culturally relevant books help children discover a passion for reading.

I (Benfer) was one of the annotators for the project. Each year I tell my incoming fourth-grade students, “None who enter here remain unchanged” (from Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven). Participating in this project made this statement come true for my students and me. Before working to amend Appendix B, I had been teaching for 16 years, and had always been serious about my classroom library.

Reading a great book changes us. I had not yet encountered the metaphor of mirrors/windows until hearing Gangi’s talk in our children’s literature course, based on her article “The Unbearable Whiteness of Literacy Instruction.” After the talk I Lakas and the Manilatown Fish coverfound myself reflecting on the books to which I was exposing my students. I expanded my library to include many texts reviewed in the project, which allowed my students to see the wonderful diversity in the world. As my classroom library grew, my students began to read and discuss these diverse texts I began to hear students say things like, “I like books which have a black main character,” and parents emailed me to say, “I just wanted to say thank you for acknowledging Black History Month and having such a wonderfully diverse reading library for fourth grade.” Filipino students gave me a standing ovation when I purchased Anthony D. Robles and Carl Angel’s Lakas and the Manilatown Fish/Si Lakas at ang Isdang Manilatow (see Lee & Low Books for this and other multicultural books.)

I recommended Rukhsana Khan’s Wanting Mor, the story of a young girl in Afghanistan to one of my students (see Groundwood Books for this and other multicultural books). This student’s parents were astounded by the change in their daughter. She had been an uninterested reader and was transformed into an enthusiastic one. She began to request copies of books featuring girls in Afghanistan. The students and I spent countless hours creating lists of recommended texts.

What do we do with this issue now, educators? The CCSS have yet to adopt the expanded and enhanced Appendix B, but the message is too important to be filed away. This work must be must shared with educators. The expanded Appendix B contains recommended texts that are mirrors and windows for our students’ worlds.

“None who enter here remain unchanged.” Teaching Tolerance will be publishing the list in the near future. In the meantime, children of the United States are waiting for us to make this change for the better.

Jane M. Gangi is an associate professor in the Division of Education at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, New York. Nancy Benfer teaches literacy and literature at Mount Saint Mary College and is a fourth-grade teacher at Bishop Dunn Memorial School.  Gangi is the author of three books: “Encountering Children’s Literature: An Arts Approach,” “Deepening Literacy Learning: Art and Literature Engagements in K-8 Classrooms (with Mary Ann Reilly and Rob Cohen),” and “Genocide in Contemporary Children’s and Young Adult Literature: Cambodia to Darfur.” Both are members of the Collaborative for Equity in Literacy Learning at Mount Saint Mary College. Gangi may be reached at jane.gangi AT msmc.edu; Benfer at nb6221 AT my.msmc.edu.

Poetry Friday: Hair

Happy Friday everyone! We’ve chosen a poem from Lend a Hand: Poems About Giving to kick off the weekend:hair poem

Hair

It took six years

to grow my hair this long.

A few quick snips

and most of it will be gone,

a ponytail

in the US Mail,

off to be part of a wavy wig

worn by someone

whose hair

sickness stole.

I don’t suppose we’ll ever meet,

but if we do,

maybe we’ll look

like sisters.

If you’re interested in donating your hair, please check out a few of these great organizations:

Locks of Love

Pantene Beautiful Lengths Campaign

Wigs for Kids

 For more poems about giving, check out Lend a Hand:

Lend a Hand

Your Legend of Korra recap post

The Legend of Korra’s fourth and final season, Book 4: Balance, returns this Friday! You’ll be able to watch here. Trying to catch up with all three seasons in one day is a pretty tall order, but luckily the weekend will soon be here! The first three books (as seasons are called Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra) are available streaming on Nick.com.

Avatar: the Last Airbender follows Aang, the last airbender, who survived the Air Nomad genocide from the Fire Nation. Together with his friends Sokka, Katara and Zuko, Aang fights to prevent the Fire Nation from taking over the whole world, all the while mastering all four elements.

The Legend of Korra is the direct sequel to Avatar: the Last Airbender, taking place 80 years after the end of ALTA. Korra, upon discovering she was the avatar at the age of four, was placed under the direct care of the Order of the White Lotus and learned to water-, fire-, and earthbending. Korra sneaks away from the Order of the White Lotus compound to learn airbending from Tenzin, the son of Avatar Aang, in Republic City.

Important Terms

Elements: Air, Water, Earth, and Fire.

Bending: The ability to control one of the aforementioned elements, i.e. waterbending. A person who bends an element is known as a bender.

Avatar: one person who has the ability to control all four elements. The avatar is born into one of the four nations and learns to bend the four elements. The Avatar is supposed to help maintain balance between the Four Nations and the spirits.

The Four Nations

Four Nations: Air Nomads, Fire Nation, Earth Kingdom, Water Tribe.

Team Avatar: the team of people who help and fight alongside the Avatar.

Pro-bending: a sport where benders fight each other with the elements. There are three benders per team: water, fire, and earth.

Order of the White Lotus: a formerly secret order that transcended the Four Nations to share philosophy and wisdom. Later, on the orders of Avatar Aang, they search and protect the next Avatar.

Red Lotus: a group that splintered off from the original White Lotus because they thought that the Order of the White lotus had become the bodyguards of the Avatar. They sought to free the world of its governments and have humans and spirits coexist. During Book 3, Zaheer leads them.

 The Major Players

Team Avatar:

Team Avatar: Asami, Mako, Korra, Bolin and Pabu (from left to right).

Korra: Korra is from the Northern Water Tribe. She is born when Avatar Aang, the protagonist of Avatar: The Last Airbender died. Korra can bend all four elements.

Asami Sato: The only nonbender on Team Avatar. Asami is the owner of Future Industries, a company that makes cars known as the Sato-mobile and other technology.

Mako: former street rat turned cop. Former captain of the pro-bending team the Future Industry Fire Ferrets. Mako is a firebender and both Korra and Asami’s ex-boyfriend. He is Bolin’s older brother.

Bolin: formerly an actor and pro-bender, he is the funny-man of Team Avatar. He is an earthbender and has the special ability to lavabend. He is Mako’s younger brother.

Other important characters

Katara: Aang’s wife, waterbending master and Korra’s teacher.

Tenzin, Bumi, and Kya: Aang’s children. Tenzin is an airbender, and Korra’s airbending instructor. Kya is a waterbender. Bumi is a retired Fire Nation general who later gains the ability to airbend after Harmonic Convergence. You may refer to them as the “cloudbabies.”

Pema: Tenzin’s wife, a nonbender.

Jinora, Ikki, Meelo, and Rohan: Pema and Tenzin’s children. All airbenders. You may refer to them as the “airbabies.” Jinora is the first airbending master in a generation.

Lin Beifong: Chief of Republic City Police, metalbender. Toph Beifong’s daughter.

Book 1: Air

Korra has a difficult time learning how to airbend, because she’s unable to tap into the spiritual side of bending. She joins a pro-bending team known as the Fire Ferrets. An anti-bending movement known as the Equalist Movement gains in popularity. The leader, Amon, wants to get rid of bending and benders. Korra tries to balance learning to airbend, practice with the Fire Ferrets and defeating Amon. Korra finally learns to airbend, when Amon seals off all of her other bending abilities.

Book 2: Spirits

Six months after the end of Book 1, Republic City has a president who is supposed to represent the interests of benders and non-benders alike. When a spirit attacks at a festival that Korra attends, she decides to focus on learning spirit-bending instead of airbending, and her uncle Unalaq becomes her teacher. Unalaq tricks Korra into opening the spirit portals. Unalaq wants to join with a dark spirit to become the Dark Avatar and destroy the Avatar cycle. Korra learns of Won, the first Avatar. With the help of Jinora, Korra defeats Unalaq. Spirits and humans were never meant to live apart, so Korra doesn’t close the Spirit Portals. The world enters a new age where spirits and humans live together.

Book 3: Change

The spirits are disrupting life in Republic City, but Korra can’t get them to live peacefully with humans. When reports of people suddenly gaining the ability to airbend reach Korra, she travels with Tenzin, his family, and team Avatar to restore the Air Nomads. The Red Lotus, a criminal organization that tried to kidnap Korra when she was young, escapes from prison. The Red Lotus’s leader, Zaheer, is one of the new airbenders. Zaheer and his cronies go on a quest to rid the world of its leaders and the Avatar. Zaheer kills the Earth Queen and Ba Sing Se descends into chaos.

When Zaheer threatens all the new airbenders to get to Korra, Korra risks her life to save them.

Several weeks later, we see Korra in a wheelchair getting ready to attend Jinora’s airbending master ceremony. Jinora, Avatar Aang’s granddaughter becomes the first airbending master in a generation. Tenzin announces that the airbenders will regain their nomadic roots

Korra returns with her parents to the Northern Water Tribe to heal.

Legend of Korra returns THIS FRIDAY.

The trailer: with Korra kicking major butt and new hair!

Watch the opening clip.

This is a clip of Kai and Opal airbending some bad guys!

I hope you’re just as excited to return to Republic City as I am!

Gender Matters? Swedish Picture Books and Gender Ambiguity

guest bloggerBack in June, Laura Reiko Simeon wrote about how race is handled in Swedish picture books. We’re thrilled to host Laura again as she sheds light on how Swedish picture books handle gender and gender-ambiguous characters.

You sit down with your favorite 4-year-old to read a sweet, wordless picture book featuring a little duck swimming down the river. Quickly, without thinking too hard, what pronoun do you use to describe the duck? Do you say, “Look at him paddle past that shaggy dog!” or “What does she see in the sky?”

If you were like the mothers in a 1985 study, you would use masculine pronouns for 95% of animal characters with no gender-specific characteristics. A follow-up study from 1995 examined children’s use of pronouns and found that by age 7 they had absorbed and were repeating these same gender stereotypes. Listen to those around you: has it changed much since then?For children who may not yet be aware (1)

In the US, Sweden is widely regarded as a leader in gender equality, although many Swedes still see a need for greater progress. Meanwhile, our own biases are apparent, for example when we consider gendered toys. Compare this 1981 Lego ad, with its blue jeans and t-shirt-clad girl to the pink-infused products targeted at girls today. As with other social issues, picture books reflect concerns in society at large – but how they’ve done so is dramatically different in the US as compared to Sweden.

Some American picture books encourage acceptance of kids who break free from gender restrictions: Charlotte Zolotow’s William’s Doll, Cheryl Kilodavis’s My Princess Boy, and Campbell Geeslin’s Elena’s Serenade, among others. The point of these stories is that a character is acting in opposition to gender norms, but for children who may not yet be aware that they’re “not supposed to” do or like certain things, these well-intentioned books could introduce self-consciousness.

What have largely been missing from English-language picture books are deliberately gender-ambiguous characters that are neither being bullied nor defiant. They just are. Rather than focusing on the consequences (good or bad) of pushing against societal restrictions or elevating the rebel as cultural hero, they turn the focus on the reader. Do we feel uncomfortable if we don’t know someone’s gender? Why? Do we make assumptions about gender based on what someone is doing or wearing? Why?

We do have some characters – e.g. the diverse, roly-poly infants in Helen Oxenbury’s delightful baby books – that are non-gender specific, but they tend to be in simple, relatively plot-free books for the very young. They are distinct from the Swedish picture books in which pronouns are cleverly avoided and characters send deliberately contradictory gender signals. My earlier post about

Kivi and the Monster Dog

Kivi and the Monster Dog

Swedish approaches to ethnic diversity introduced the concept of not making difference the problem. There is a similar philosophy at work here.

The Swedish Institute for Children’s Books publishes annual “Book Tastings” that identify trends for the year’s publications. The theme for 2012 was “Borders and Border Crossings,” and one border was gender: not just sexual orientation or gender roles, but the concept of gender as an identifier itself.

The anti-bias publisher OLIKA has published several titles of this nature, but the one that made the biggest splash was Kivi and the Monster Dog by Jesper Lundqvist, the first children’s book to use the gender-neutral pronoun, “hen.” (In Swedish, “hon” means “she” and “han” means “he.” First proposed in the 1960s, “hen” was mostly used in academic research and hipster neighborhoods of Stockholm.) In this funny rhyming story, a small person, Kivi, wishes for a pet dog and ends up instead with a demanding beast that runs amok.

Åsa Mendel-Hartvig and Caroline Röstlund write about Tessla, a preschooler clad in gender-neutral clothes and boasting a mop of brown hair. In Tessla’s Mama Doesn’t Want To! and Tessla’s Papa Doesn’t Want To!, the child, in an amusing role reversal, creatively cajoles badly behaving parents into leaving the park, washing their hair, waking up on time or going to work.

interior page from Pom and Pim

interior page from Pom and Pim

Pom and Pim by Olof and Lena Landström may be the only Swedish gender-neutral book that has been translated into English. The first in a series, it features an adventurous toddler, Pom, who sends mixed gender signals: a boyish-sounding nickname, sparse curls, a long purple sweater, and a little pink toy (Pim). The story is told without pronouns, yet two professional American reviewers assumed Pom was male and referred to the character as “he.”

In Maria Nilsson Thore’s Bus and Frö Each on Their Own Island, two gender-ambiguous animals reach out from their lonely islands to become friends. One is shown variously smoking a pipe and knitting. In Jonatan Brännström’s The Lightning Swallower, we never learn the gender of the narrator, who is terrified of thunderstorms.

The Lightning Swallower

The Lightning Swallower

These books make a reader consider what markers are “masculine” or “feminine” – and why. They don’t dictate what you “should” do – rebel or conform – or offer value judgments about those who do either. In English-language books, feisty heroines reject traditionally female pursuits as “boring” (what about those girls who do love sewing and cooking?) and boys are persecuted for their love of pink and dolls (making these preferences seem risky to express). With their gender-ambiguous characters, Swedes have tilted the lens slightly and given us a whole new perspective through which to consider this topic. Can we change the terms of the discussion instead of framing everything in terms of binary gender categories? Where could that small but crucial shift take us?

Laura SimeonThe daughter of an anthropologist, Laura Reiko Simeon’s passion for diversity-related topics stems from her childhood spent living all over the US and the world. She fell in love with Sweden thanks to the Swedish roommate she met in Wales while attending one of the United World Colleges, international high schools dedicated to promoting cross-cultural understanding. Laura has an MA in History from the University of British Columbia, and a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Washington. She lives near Seattle.

Book Activities for the Family

amanda_boyarshinovAmanda Boyarshinov is one of the creators of the blog, The Educators’ Spin On It, a site that makes everyday moments into teachable opportunities. She has a Master of Reading Education for grades K-12 and a B.A. in Elementary Education. Additionally, she has her English Speakers of Other Languages (E.S.O.L.) endorsement and has received her National Board Certification in Early Childhood Education. In this post, we’ve been given permission to share her steps on building a family theme Love Book Basket, as well as how to create an “I Love You” book.

HOW TO BUILD A FAMILY THEME LOVE BOOK BASKET

family basket 1

1.  Choose a Book

Select themed literature that is appropriate for your child’s age.  Younger children may enjoy shorter stories.  Older children may like more detailed picture books.  Consider both non-fiction and fiction text. Lee and Low Publishing Company sent me the 3 books to read with my children for this article.  All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

How Far Do You Love Me?

How Far Do You Love Me? is a delightful tale of families all around the world and how much they love their children.  Each page introduces a new place on the globe, with a sweet sentence about their love. Geared for 3-6 year olds Click here for the Teachers Guide

Grandfather Counts

Grandfather Counts (Reading Rainbow Books) is a picture book about making connections with your family, no matter what the language may be.  Author Andrea Cheng draws upon her own family and friends experiences to weave this tale of love and family. Geared for  6-8 year olds It is a Reading Rainbow selection Click here for the Teachers Guide

Honoring Our Ancestors

Honoring Our Ancestors: Stories and Paintings by Fourteen Artists is a non-fiction picture book highlighting some AMAZING artists: Carl Angel, Enrique Chagoya, George Crespo, Mark Dukes, Maya Gonzalez, Caryl Henry, Nancy Hom, Hung Liu, Judith Lowery, Stephen Von Mason, Mira Reisberg, JoeSam, Patssi Valdez, and Helen Zughaib.  Each short story and accompanying artwork gives the reader a snapshot into the importance of family to that artist. Geared for  8-10 year olds.

family basket 2

2. Gather the Supplies for the Selected Activity.

In this activity, children make an “I Love You,” book for a family member.  This can be done with art materials around the house.  Directions for each page below.

3. Arrange and Display.

Arrange the materials and books in a pleasing manor in a basket, bag or container.  Then, leave it on a table or desk area as an invitation to explore.  Snuggle in and read.  Then make the activity!

family basket 3You can find directions (and pictures) on how to make an “I Love You” book on The Educators’ Spin On It website.

Make your #LOVEdiverseBooks Basket today!

Stay TUNED!!!!

Next week, The Educators’ Spin On It will be highlighting author Andrea Cheng, author of Grandfather Counts. Here is a sneak peek…

 

New Visions Award Reminder

New Visions Award sealWe’ve been excited to receive so many great manuscripts for our second annual New Visions Award! We just wanted to give you a reminder that the contest ends October 31, 2014, so get those manuscripts in! The New Visions Award, which was created in 2012, will be given to a middle grade or young adult fantasy, science fiction, or mystery novel by a writer of color. Established by Tu Books, an imprint of LEE & LOW that publishes YA and middle grade science fiction and fantasy, the award is a fantastic chance for new authors of color to break into the world of publishing for young readers.

The New Visions Award is modeled after Lee & Low’s successful New Voices Award, which was established in 2000 and is given annually to a picture book written by an unpublished author of color. This award has led to the publication of several award-winning children’s books, including It Jes’ Happened by Don Tate and Bird by Zetta Elliott.

Details

The New Visions contest is open to writers of color who are residents of the United States and who have not previously had a middle grade or young adult novel published.

Manuscripts will be accepted now through October 31, 2014. The winner of the New Visions Award will receive a prize of $1000 and our standard publication contract. An Honor Award winner will receive a cash prize of $500. For further details, including full eligibility and submission guidelines, please visit the New Visions Award page.

If you have any questions about submissions, eligibility, or anything else, feel free to drop them in the comments and we’ll try to answer them. And please spread the word to any aspiring authors you know who might be interested. We look forward to reading your entries!

Keep the manuscripts coming everyone!

Further reading:

New Visions Award: What Not to Do

Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part I

Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part II

Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part III

Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part IV

Meet Our New Visions Finalists, Part V: Diversity in Genre Fiction

Cover Reveal: Rose Eagle

Last fall, Tu Books released Killer of Enemies, a post-apocalyptic steampunk adventure by Joseph Bruchac. Readers were introduced to seventeen-year-old Apache hunter Lozen, a kick-butt warrior who kills monsters to ensure the safety of her family.

Set to be released next month, Joseph Bruchac has written an e-novella that’s a prequel to Killer of Enemies, titled Rose Eagle.

Rose Eagle is set in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where readers are introduced to seventeen-year-old Rose Eagle of the Lakota tribe who is trying to find her place in a post-apocalyptic world.

Before the Silver Cloud, the Lakota were forced to work in the Deeps, mining for ore so that the Ones, the overlords, could continue their wars. But when the Cloud came and enveloped Earth, all electronics were shut off. Some miners were trapped in the deepest Deeps and suffocated, but the Lakota were warned to escape, and the upper Deeps became a place of refuge for them in a post-Cloud world.

In the midst of this chaos, Rose Eagle’s aunt has a dream: Rose will become a medicine woman, a healer. She sends Rose into the Black Hills on a quest to find healing for their people.

Gangly and soft-spoken, Rose is no warrior. She seeks medicine, not danger. Nevertheless, danger finds her, but love and healing soon follow. When Rose Eagle completes her quest, she may return with more than she ever thought she was looking for.

rose eagle coverThanks to the following blogs for participating in the Rose Eagle cover reveal:

Beyond Victoriana

Finding Wonderland

Rich in Color

We can’t wait to hear what you think of the cover! Thanks to Hafsah of Icey Designs for the cover art.

How We Feel About Amazon

Jason LowIn this post, Publisher Jason Low shares his feelings on the Amazon vs. Hachette battle, the future of publishing, and the view from here as a small publisher.

Since the great Amazon-Hachette feud of 2014 started this summer, many people have asked where we stand. It is no secret that we do business with Amazon—almost every publisher does. At the same time, what I see from Amazon, and where I see the book industry heading as a result, worries me.

To me, Amazon is a different animal. It is unlike any other corporation out there because of the way it treats the bottom line. The problem is, Amazon’s bottom line is growth, not profits. In sacrificing profits they have made a conscious decision to sell books at unsustainable prices, undercutting any and all competitors who are still operating under the profit model, which is everyone.

The consequences of this are twofold. First, it puts other companies out of business, straight and simple. We have seen the continual decrease in the number of independent and even chain bookstores over the last several years as Amazon increases its market share.

Second, selling books cheaply exacts a considerable price from the entire publishing industry. Books still require substantial capital to create, print, and ship. While the cost of doing business goes up, any price increases to help offset these costs are compromised by a major player who is not concerned with making money. Publishers are being squeezed for all they are worth, in a business that already operates with a great deal of risk and razor-thin margins.

Before Amazon, publishers and distributors had a symbiotic relationship. The distributors needed the books to sell and publishers relied on distributors to sell the books. Amazon is looking to upend this entire system.

Here is where I see the publishing industry in the next couple of years: Amazon will control the majority of retail bookselling. Currently, Amazon has 65% of all online book orders, which includes print and digital. As a result, they will have a say as to what gets published and will dictate book pricing. Can you tell me another industry where a distributor has this kind of control over content creators?

The Amazon-Hachette battle is a pivotal moment in our industry. If you are not familiar with this issue you should bring yourselves up to speed because this concerns everyone who cares about books. You should consider carefully the impact that rock bottom prices and free shipping will have on the publishing ecosystem in the near and long term. Here are a few good articles to start, which offer arguments on both sides:

As Publishers Fight Amazon, Books Vanish (NY Times)

Amazon’s Low Prices Disguise a High Cost (NY Times)

Amazon.com Trying to Wring Deep Discounts from Publishers (The Seattle Times)

Amazon vs. Hachette: What Would Orwell Think? (New Yorker)

In Defense of Amazon: An Author’s Dissent (Salon)

My Week as an Amazon Insider (The Guardian)

In Defense of Amazon (The New Republic)

Agree? Disagree? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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