February 16, 2018 | Week in Review

Hello, all,

I’m stepping in this Friday while Alin is out of the office. As always, more happened in the past week than we can begin to tap into here. Forefront in our minds are the students whose lives were taken. We take a moment of silence to acknowledge and honor them, and grieve with their loved ones. [long pause and deep breath]

  • For more than 10 years, the writers at The Brown Bookshelf have used Black History Month as inspiration for their flagship initiative, 28 Days Later, a month-long showcase of the best in Picture Books, Middle Grade, and Young Adult novels written and illustrated by Black creators. Their 2018 collection, currently at #16, is inspiring and we highly encourage you to check it out.
  • Ever heard of a sensitivity reader? They’re the folks who read books prior to publication to help authors sensitively and accurately portray characters if they’re of a different culture. Recently, Dhonielle Clayton, a sensitivity reader, author, and one of the chief executives of We Need Diverse Books, shared some insight into her work and its importance. You can learn more by reading the articles “What the Job of a Sensitivity Reader is Really Like” and “Sensitivity Reading Reinforces and Encourages a More Diverse and Aware Publishing Process.” She writes that, while “Many claim that sensitivity readers are diversity police officers telling (white) writers that they cannot write cross-culturally…one thing that gets left out of the conversation is that, when an author fails to write well-rounded, fleshed-out characters outside their own realm of experience, it’s, at its core, a craft failure. In simple terms: it’s bad writing.”
  • We heard that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will launch a new imprint, Versify, in Spring 2019, and that it will be curated by author Kwame Alexander! “‘I get asked what will make Versify different from other imprints,’ says Kwame Alexander. ‘The truth is we are not reinventing publishing. It’s the same ingredients in our kitchen as everyone else’s: we want to publish books for children that are smart and fun, that inform and inspire, that help children imagine a better world. My goal is just to make sure there are more chefs in the kitchen, more voice sin the room, that create unique and intelligent entertainment that electrifies and edifies young people.”
  • Mind overloaded at the end of the week? How about taking in a few short sound bytes about why we need diverse books?
  • And, ending on an uplifting note, we offer congratulations and felicidades to the authors and illustrators who received recognition at the recent American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards! Congrats to Ruth Behar for Lucky Broken Girl, Pablo Cartaya for The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora, Celia E. Pérez for The First Rule of Punk, Susan Middleton Elya and Juan Martinez-Neal for La Princesa and the Pea, Monica Brown and John Parra for Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos, and Xelena Gonzalez and Adriana M. Garcia for All Around Us! Visit Latinx in Kid Lit for links to reviews and more info about these authors, illustrators, and their respective works.

Best,
Keira

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En la Clase: Gracias~Thanks

Gracias Thanks |En la Clase | Vamos a LeerIn last week’s En la Clase I talked about using Round is a Tortilla and Green is a Chile Pepper as the basis for a poetry activity based on gratitude, gratefulness, and awareness.  This week I’m highlighting Gracias ~ Thanks, another beautiful book illustrated by John Parra and written by Pat Mora.  As the title suggests, thankfulness is the main theme of the book, making it the perfect book for this time of year. The publisher’s description writes, “There are so many things to be thankful for. . .Straight from the heart of a child flows this lighthearted bilingual celebration of family, friendship, and fun.  Come share the joy, and think about all the things for which you can say, ¡Gracias! Thanks!”  Like last week’s books, Gracias ~ Thanks is a book written with young children in mind, so it’s great for your pre-school or early elementary students.  But, with such an important and universal theme, it’s great for encouraging a mindfulness of the everyday things for which we can be thankful in older and younger students alike.  Plus, each page is written in English and Spanish, so it’s great for English, Spanish, or bilingual classrooms.

In all of our busyness, it’s easy to take for granted the people or things that make our lives so special.  Mora’s poetic words and Parra’s beautiful illustrations turn the very commonplace things in our lives into reasons to celebrate.  They highlight the ways in which the ordinary actions of family and friends can make our lives such lovely experiences.  Not only is it a fun book to read, but it easily lends itself to writing activities. Continue reading

En la Clase: Gratitude, Awareness, and Poetry for the Classroom

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It’s officially November. Here at Vamos a Leer we’re not advocates of teaching the traditional tales of Pilgrims, Indians, and the First Thanksgiving (Charla does a great job discussing this in her post “Thanks but No Thanks: Creating a November with No Stereotypes”). This doesn’t mean that we want you to entirely ignore the fall season. One of my favorite parts of being in the classroom was that I was able to explicitly call attention to the changing of the seasons.  This made me so mindful of the different things I loved about each time of year and allowed me to encourage my students to do the same. The end of fall and the beginning of winter are a great time to have your students focus on gratitude, gratefulness, and awareness. So for today’s En la Clase post, I thought I’d highlight the ways the two beautiful books by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and John Parra can be used as the basis for a great seasonal literacy activity.  The books by this duo are amazing. If you’re not familiar with their work, you must remedy that right away! In tVamos a Leer | 2015 Pura Belpré Award Winners and Honor Books| Green is a Chile Pepper by Roseanne Thong and illustrated by John Parrahis post, I’m going to discuss Green is a Chile Pepper and Round is a Tortilla. Check out the review Lorraine wrote last year of Round is a Tortilla for a quick introduction to their work.

Focusing on shapes and colors, both of the books were written with young children in mind.  But as with many great children’s books, this doesn’t mean that young readers are the only ones who can enjoy or benefit from them.  For me, these books really inspire the reader to be fully aware of all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures around them.  Full of cultural references, they really encourage students to think about all of the everyday things that not only make up our daily experiences but really enrich our lives.  As is probably evident from the titles, Round is a Tortilla encourages this kind of awareness by focusing on the shapes of the things that surround us, while Green is a Chile Pepper highlights colors.  Written with a lyrical style, I think the books really lend themselves to a poetry activity. Continue reading

¡Mira, Look!: Round is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes

51B7Kr5bqWL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_The winter holidays are approaching which for many of us means impending celebrations that revolve around…food! That is why this week, in light of Thanksgiving, I present a review of Round Is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes (ages 3-5), written by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and illustrated by John Parra, a children’s picture book that teaches about food and shapes featuring objects that are Latino in origin. Continue reading