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A Word from Pat Scales

November 10, 2015

Geography Awareness Month

I never enjoyed geography in school.   It wasn’t information that I ever thought I would use.  I’m not even sure my teacher saw the use for it or she would have made it a more interesting subject.  Her method of teaching included writing notes on the chalkboard (that dates me) and asking us to copy them in notebooks.  Then we simply memorized the facts and spit them back on weekly and end of term test. I do think if I had had someone point out to me that a geographical area helps define the culture of the people I might have seen the subject differently.  Even if we had made use of the globe that sat on a table in the front of the classroom, I might have made the all-important connections between the lands and their people.  That said, I admit that as I began traveling the nation and the world, whether physically or through books, I am surprised how much of the information has come back to me.

The National Geography Bee has become quite the event to watch, and I’m amazed at the kids that compete.  It’s clear that they aren’t just spitting out facts, but they truly understand lands of the world.  November is Geography Awareness Month, and I think it fitting to introduce all ages to fiction and nonfiction that help them see the importance of geography.  Only then can they fully understand all the lands that constitute the world in which we live.  Here are a few programming ideas with book suggestions from Random House:

  • Introduce young children to the following books:

Me On the Map by Joan Sweeney & illus. by Annette Cable

There’s a Map on My Lap! By Tish Rabe


Talk with them about what maps tell us.

  • Then have them color a map of their state.  Show them important areas in the state, like mountains, deserts, beaches, etc.
  • Talk about books where the geographical setting is important:

Picture Books

The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown & illus. by Leonard Weisgard

Why Oh Why Are Deserts Dry? By Tish Rabe & illus. by Aristides Ruiz & Joe Mathleu

 Middle Grade

Child of the Mountains by Marilyn Sue Shank

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen

Faith, Hope and Ivy June by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Holes by Louis Sachar

Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry

River Thunder by Will Hobbs

Skink No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Written in Stone by Roseanne Parry

 Young Adult

Blue Skin of the Sea by Graham Salisbury

Hattie Big Sky and Hattie Everafter by Kirby Larsen

Island Boyz by Graham Salisbury

  • Introduce world geography with the following:

Picture Book

How To Make An Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman

Somewhere in the World Right Now by Stacey Schuett

Middle Grade

Laugh with the Moon by Shana Burg

Monsoon Summer by Mitali Perkins

  • Have them read a biography about an explorer or adventurer that made their living or hobby seeing and studying the world.

Picture Books

The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino


Climbing Everest (Totally True Adventures) by Gail Herman & illus. by Michele Amatrula

The Race Around the World by Nancy Castaido & illus. by Wesley Lowe

Young Adult

The Beet Fields by Gary Paulsen

  • Have readers take facts from books (both fiction and nonfiction) they have read, and make questions for a group geography bee.
  • Ask older readers to make cutouts of countries of the world.  Then scramble the cutouts and sponsor a competition to see how quickly small groups can create a continent with the countries in the right places.  Younger readers may be encouraged to do the same thing with the 50 states.
  • Suggest that readers use reference sources to find out information about the geography of a particular region of the world.  Then have them write and illustrate an adventure they may take to that area.  They should include specific geographic facts as a way of educating their readers.
  • Divide readers into groups and assign them each a continent.  Then have them gather geographical facts about that continent and write and perform a rap that teaches the facts the larger group.


October 12, 2015

October – Happy Birthday, Mrs. Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt was born October 11,1884 and died at the age of 78 on November 7, 1962.  Some Americans felt she was too outspoken as a First Lady.  Others thought she was a woman beyond her time. She worked with her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, on programs that helped the nation recover from the Great Depression, and together they dealt with a nation at war.  Perhaps her greatest contribution came after her husband’s death when she began her work with the United Nations.   She oversaw the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  History has been kind to Mrs. Roosevelt, and it is important for the young to understand the difference she made to our nation, and to the world.

  • Introduce students to President Roosevelt so that they may understand the contribution Eleanor made to his administration by using the following books:

FDR’s Alphabet Soup: New Deal America 1932-1939 (elementary) by Tonya Bolden

The American Crisis (middle grade) by Albert Marrin

The Great Depression

Children of the Dust Bowl (middle grade) by Jerry Stanley

A Letter to Mrs. Roosevelt (middle grade) by C. Coco De Young

Leo and the Lesser Lion (middle grade) set during the Depression by Sandra Forrester

The Mighty Miss Malone (middle grade) by Christopher Paul Curtis

  •  Read about Eleanor Roosevelt on the following websites. Then have readers write a one-page paper called “Eleanor Roosevelt: First Lady of the World.”




  • Have readers brainstorm all the things Eleanor Roosevelt cared about.  Then have them read a few of the following books and share how the book represents the spirit and believes of Mrs. Roosevelt.

As Good as Anybody (picture book) by Richard Michelson & illus. by Raul Colon

Dear Malala, We Stand with You (picture book) by Rosemary McCarney

Lillian’s Right to Vote (picture book) by Jonah Winter & illus. by Shane W. Evans

A New Coat for Anna (picture book) by Harriet Ziefert

A Thousand Never Evers (middle grade) by Shana Burg

Goodbye, Vietnam (young adult) by Gloria Whelan

Laugh with the Moon (middle grade) by Shana Burg

Sylvia & Aki (middle grade) by Winifred Conkling

Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina (middle grade) by Michaela DePrince and Elain DePrince

Before We Were Free (young adult) by Julia Alvarez

Children of the River (young adult) by Linda Crew

Enrique’s Journey (young adult) by Sonia Nazario

Hattie Ever After (young adult) by Kirby Larson

In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer (young adult) by Irene Gut Opdyke with Jennifer Armstrong

One Thousand Paper Cranes (young adult) by Takayuki Ishil

The Red Umbrella (young adult) by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Slumgirl Dreaming (middle grade) by Ali Rubina in collaboration with Anne Berthod and Divya Dugar

  •  Have younger students make an appropriate birthday card for Mrs. Roosevelt from the viewpoint of a favorite main character.
  • What social and political issues might she care about today?  For example what might be her views about immigration? The Pope’s agenda? Syrian War refugees?  Then plan a feature about one of the events in the style of Mrs. Roosevelt.
  • Ask readers to interpret the following quote by Mrs. Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”

September 01, 2015

September – The New Kid

Kids who have moved understand what it’s like being the new kid in the class, or in the neighborhood.  But even kids who have never moved experience new kid anxieties at the beginning of every school year.  They are in a new grade, have new teachers, and they may face new subject areas. Those who move from elementary to middle school, or middle school to high school feel a bit like a fish out of water as they adjust to a new environment.  Sharing books is a unifying experience, and may do a lot to relax new kid fears.  Allow time on the first day for kids to share a book they’ve read.  Then tell them that you are going to introduce them to your favorite book, and begin on the very first day reading the book aloud. Here are some other new kid activities.

  • Ask students to pick a character from a favorite book and introduce them to the class as a new kid.  Instruct them to tell three interesting things about the character.
  • Have students grade 3-up brainstorm the information that should be recorded in a reading journal.  Then instruct students to pick a character from a book that they have read and write an entry in a reading journal that reveals that character’s favorite subject. Ask them to make specific references to the book to support their thoughts.  For example, Brandan Buckley from Brendan Buckley’s Sixth-Grade Experiment (middle grade) by Sundee Frazier would really like science.
  • Then use books to introduce students to the subjects they will be studying.  Suggestions from Random House include:


R is for Rocket: An ABC Book (picture book) by Tad Hill - Guide Available

How Rocket Learned to Read (picture book) by Tad Hills - Storytime Kit Available 

Eleven (middle grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff


Tyrannosaurus Math (picture book) by Michelle Markel

Piece = Part = Portion (elementary) by Scott Gifford

G is for Googol: A Math Alphabet Book (elementary/middle) by David M. Schwartz


I, Galileo (picture book) by Bonnie Christensen

Dangerous Planet (elementary) by Bryn Barnard

Frozen in Time (middle grade) by Mark Kurlansky

The Great Trouble (middle grade) by Deborah Hopkinson - Educators’ Guide Available

Outbreak! Plagues That Changed History (young adult) by Bryn Barnard

Ringside, 1925 (young adult) by Jen Bryant

Black Gold: The Story of Oil in Our Lives (young adult) by Albert Marrin


I Pledge Allegiance (picture book) by Pat Mora & Libby Martinez & illus. by Patrice Barton

The Ballot Box Battle (picture book) by Emily Arnold McCully

Me on the Map (picture book) by Joan Sweeney & illus. by Annette Cable

The American Story (elementary) by Jennifer Armstrong & illus. by Roger Roth

The Hope Chest (middle grade) by Karen Schwabach

The Century for Young People (all ages) by Peter Jennings & Todd Brewste

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia (young adult) by Candace Fleming


The Noisy Paint Box (picture book) by Barb Rosenstock - Guide Available 

The Chalk Box Kid (early reader) by Clyde Robert Bulla

Pictures of Hollis Woods (middle grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff - Author Study Guide Available

Pieces of Georgia (middle grade) by Jen Bryant


Theater Shoes (middle grade) by Noel Streatfeild


Junie B. Jones #22: One-Man Band (early reader) by Barbara Park and illus. by Denise Brunkus

Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century (picture book) by Carole Boston Weatherford & illus. by Raul Colon - Guide Available

Harlem’s Little Blackbird (picture book) by Renee Watson & illus. by Christian Robinson

Physical Education

The Girl Who threw Butterflies (young adult) by Mick Cochrane

Toby Wheeler: Eighth-Grade Benchwarmer (young adult) by Thatcher Heldring

Good Sports (picture book) by Jack Prelutsky & illus. by Chris Raschka

Out of Nowhere (young adult) by Maria Padlan


Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (elementary school) by Chris Grabenstein - Guide Available

Miss Brooks Loves Books (And I Don’t) (picture book) by Barbara Bottner & I  llus. by Michael Emberley


August 04, 2015

August – Humanitarianism

by Pat Scales

Mother Teresa would turn 105 on August 26.  Though she is no longer living, her work lives on in the slums of Calcutta, India where she served the poor, the sick, the needy and those who were helpless.  For her work, she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, and the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985.  In celebration of Mother Teresa’s birthday, ask readers to read and think about the less fortunate in their own communities, and discuss ways they can help. It may be something as simple as providing school supplies for students who can’t afford them.  Run a book drive for children and young adults who may have never owned a book.  Here are other activities that libraries might do in the weeks leading up to Mother Teresa’s birthday:

  • Identify local organizations like the Urban League, United Ministries, the local chapter of the Red Cross, Department of Social Services, Loaves and Fishes, Free Medical Clinics, Habitat for Humanity, etc. that offer services to the underserved.  Ask someone from these organizations to speak to young library patrons, or offer a panel discussion for young patrons and their parents.
  • Then have them find out about global humanitarian organization working to make a difference in third world countries.  Such groups may include: Doctors without Borders, Action Against Hunger, World Food Programme, WHO: Humanitarian Health Action, World Vision, CARE, Save the Children, and Women for Women International.
  • Ask children and young adults to discuss how these local and global organizations embody the spirit of Mother Teresa.
  • Read Aloud-Dear Malala, We Stand with You by Rosemary McCarney to all ages.  Tell them that Malala also won the Nobel Peace Prize.  Ask them to compare her work to that of Mother Teresa. Use the educators’ guide  along with your story time.
  • For the youngest readers, have them read books about caring, sharing, justice and equality, and respect for others.  Suggestions from Random House include:

The Berenstain Bears Think of Those in Need by Stan and Jan Berenstain

The Berenstain Bears Lend a Helping Hand by Stan and Jan Berenstain

Doña Flor by Pat Mora and illustrated by Raul Colon

How Dalia Put a Big Yellow Comforter in a Tiny Blue Box by Linda Heller and illustrated by Stacy Dressen McQueen

The Mitten String by Jennifer Rosner and illustrated by Kristina Swarner

  • Suggest that middle-graders and teens read the following books and discuss which character most represents Mother Teresa’s qualities, or which character could benefit from humanitarian groups:

Middle Grade

All the Earth Thrown to the Sky by Joe R. Lansdale

All the Way Home by Patricia Reilly Giff  Guide available

Children of the River by Linda Crew

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

The Great Trouble by Deborah Hopkinson  Guide available

Laugh with the Moon by Shana Burg  Guide available

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead  Guide available

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis  Guide available

One Year in Cold Harbor by Polly Horvath

Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff  Guide available

Slumgirl Dreaming by Ali Rubina in collaboration with Anne Berthod and Divya Dugar


Ghost Boy by Iain Lawrence

Grief Girl by Erin Vincent

How to Build a House by Dana Reinhardt

I Will Save You by Matt de la Peña  Guide available

In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer by Irena Gut Opdyke with Jennifer Armstrong  Guide available

Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, Adapted for Young People by Michael French

Small Steps by Louis Sachar  Guide Available

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

Prizefighter en mi Casa by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

Trash by Andy Mulligan

What They Found by Walter Dean Myers

  •  If your library has a blog, encourage older readers to create blog posts titled In Celebration of Mother Teresa.

June 23, 2015

June – Heroes

by Pat Scales

It’s likely that most public libraries are well into their summer reading programs.  Most of these programs are developed around a theme chosen locally or part of the Collaborative Summer Library Program (http://www.cslpreads.org).  Those participating in the collaborative program are using the theme of Every Hero has a Story.   Here are suggestions for Random House:

  • Ask children to name their favorite superhero:  Batman, Batgirl, Superman, Superwoman, Ironman, etc.  Ask them what makes a hero a superhero.  Talk about the different type of heroes.  Then ask them to read a book about various types of heroes. Suggestions from Random House include:

Real Life Heroes

A Boy Named FDR (picture book) by Kathleen Krull & illus. by Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher

As Good as Anybody (picture book) by Richard Michelson & illus. by Raul Colon  Guide Available

The Bravest Woman in America (picture book) by marissa Moss & illus. by Andrea U’Ren

The Daring Nellie Bly (picture book) by Bonnie Christensen

Dear Malala, We Stand with You (picture book) by Rosemary McCarney  Guide Available

Only Passing Through (picture book) by Anne Rockwell & illus. by Gregory Christie

They Called Her Molly Pitcher (picture book) by Anne Rockwell & illus. by Cynthia Von Buhler

FDR and the American Crisis (middle grade) by Albert Marrin

Flags of Our Fathers (middle grade) by James Bradley & Ron Powers & Adapted by Michael French

In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer (young adult) by Irene Gut Opdyke with Jennifer Armstrong  Guide Available

Unbroken (young adult) by Laura Hillenbrand  Guide Available

Fictional Heroes

Powerless (picture book) by Matthew Cody

Traction Man (picture book) by Mini Grey

Sammy Keyes & the Power of Justice Jack (middle grade) by Wendelin Draanen

Daughter of Xanadu (young adult) by Dori Jones Yang

Historical Fiction – Heroes

The Great Trouble (middle grade) by Deborah Hopkinson  Guide Available

 Jump into the Sky (middle grade) by Shelley Pearsall  Guide Available

Navigating Early (middle grade) by Clare Vanderpool  Guide Available

Daughter of Venice (young adult) Donna Jo Napoli

Eyes of the Emperor (young adult) by Graham Salisbury

  • Have students read a favorite book and write a letter that one character might write to their hero.  For example:Ginny to Armpit in Small Steps (middle grade) by Louis SacharKenny to Byron in The Watson Go to Birmingham 1963 (middle grade) by Christopher Paul CurtisJames to Twig in Nightbird (middle grade) by Alice Hoffman

       Guide Available

  • Finally, create a mural of favorite fictional heroes. Allow each reader time to share which character they added to the mural, and why the character is a hero.

June 11, 2015

June – National Family Month

by Pat Scales

Families are celebrated each June with the commemoration of National Family Month. This is a good time to help children and teens understand that there are all types of families. Many children and teens live with only one parent, or with two moms and two dads. Some live with grandparents or other relatives. There are stepfamilies, multigenerational families and foster families. There are wealthy families and those that struggle to put food on the table. Whatever the family unit, or socioeconomic level, it’s important that the young understand the characteristics of family. Here are suggestions to help them grasp the many meanings of family.

  • Read aloud Families, Families, Families! by Suzanne Lang & illus. by Max Lang to the youngest readers.  Describe the different families in the book. Use our family tree activity with your storytime.
  • After reading the book, ask readers to draw a picture of their family.  Then allow them the opportunity to share their pictures with the class.  Encourage them to share something they enjoy doing with their family.
  • Display poetry anthologies and allow readers to work in small group to browse the books and find poems about family. Ask for volunteers to read aloud one of the poems.
  • Have older readers write an acrostic poem using FAMILY as the spine word.
  • Suggest that older readers write and perform a rap about their family, or a fictional family.
  • Display books with various family units, and family challenges. Ask readers to select a title, and discuss the family in the book. Older readers may write an essay that compares the family in the novel to their own.  Suggestions from Random House include:

Picture Books

Just Plain Fancy by Patricia Polacco

Piggybook by Anthony Browne

Song and Dance Man by Karen Ackerman & illus. by Stephen Gammell

The Berenstain Bears by Stan and Jan Berenstain

Who’s in a Family? by Robert Skutch

Early Readers

Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business by Barbara Park

Tooter Pepperday by Jerry Spinelli

Middle Grade

Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything in It by Sundee Frazier

Child of the Mountain by Marilyn Sue Shank

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen

Laugh with the Moon by Shana Burg

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

The War with Grandpa by Robert K. Smith

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis

Nest by Esther Ehrlich

Tia Lola books by Julia Alvarez

True Colors by Natalie Kensey

The Penderwicks Series by Jeanne Birdsall

Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff

Young Adult

Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa

Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario

Love Me Tender by Audrey Couloumbis

Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Peńa

Spoils by Tammar Stein

Tending to Grace by Kimberly Newton Fusco

The House of Djinn by Suzanne Fisher Staples