RHCB | More Sites
More Sites
Magic Tree House
Junie B. Jones
Random House
Return Home

A Word from Pat Scales

December 04, 2013

December: Human Rights

by Pat Scales

Reacting to the atrocities of the Holocaust during World War II, the General Assembly of the United Nations issued the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. Eleanor Roosevelt, the widow of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was the architect of the document. In 1950, the United Nations declared December 10 as Human Rights Day, and asked the member countries to use this day to educate their citizens about “the rights and dignity of all people” as outlined in the document.

- Commemorate this day by encouraging young adults to read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Some may wish to see the movie and make comparisons to the book. Then have them discuss why the leaders of the United Nations felt the Declaration of Human Rights so necessary.

- Display in the school and public library the Declaration of Human Rights. Lead a discussion about each of the 30 Articles. The document may be found here.

- Display a world map and use pushpins to indicate the countries that belong to the United Nations.
Ask students to watch the national news for a week and take notes on stories that relate to human rights.

- Suggest books that support the need for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Titles from Random House include:

Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq (picture book) by Mark Alan Stamaty
Child of the Civil Rights Movement (picture book) by paula Young Shelton & illustrated by Raul Colon
Faith, Hope and Ivy June (middle grade) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Flesh and Blood So Cheap (middle grade) by Al marrin
Laugh with the Moon (middle grade) by Shana Burg
Sylvia and Aki (middle grade) by Winifred Conkling
Shattered (middle grade) by Jennifer Armstrong
Goodbye, Vietnam (middle grade) by Gloria Whelan
Under the Blood-Red Sun (middle grade) by Graham Salisbury
Before We Were Free (young adult) by Julia Alvarez
Farewell to Manzanar (young adult) by Jeanne Houston
Chinese Cinderella (young adult) by Adeline Yen Mah
Diamonds in the Shadow (young adult) by Caroline B. Cooney
Enrique’s Journey (young adult) by Sonia Nazario
Eyes of the Emperor (young adult) by Graham Salisbury
Forgotten Fire (young adult) by Adam Bagdasarian
Shabanu; Haveli; The House of Djinn (young adult) Suzanne Fisher Staples
Mountains Beyond Mountains (young adult) by Tracy Kiddar, adapted for young people by Michael French
The Power of One (young adult) by Bryce Courtenay
The Red Umbrella (young adult) by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
The Queen of Water (young adult) by Laura Resau and Maria Virgina Farinango
Slumgirl Dreaming (young adult) by Rubina All in collaboration with Anne Berthod and Divya Dugar
Ties that Bind, Ties That Break (young adult) by Lensey namioka
You Against Me (young adult) by Jenny Downham

October 30, 2013

November: National Adoption Awareness Month

There are states that observed Adoption Awareness Month long before it became a national focus.  But in 1990, President Gerald Ford recognized the need for the observance and proclaimed November as National Adoption Awareness Month.  The purpose of this month long observance is to make people aware of the thousands of children and teens that need a loving home.  This year President Obama has turned the focus to those in foster care.  For a long time the belief was that a foster home was a better alternative than orphanages.  There are people who debate that issue today.  Whether a child is in an orphanage or in foster care, the one thing they all have in common – they want a home.

  •  Read aloud the following picture books to young children and ask them to talk about family and why the children in the books need a family:

Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale (picture book) by Karen Henry Clark & I llus. by Patrice Barton

Ten Days and Nine Nights (picture book) written & illus. by Yumi Heo

  • Read aloud Oddfellow’s Orphanage by Emily Winfield Martin or The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry to elementary and middle school students.  Have readers discuss the humor in these books.  Debate whether the Willoughbys might enjoy the Odfellow’s Orphanage.  Why?
  • Look at suggested community activities for National Adoption Awareness Month.  There are books suggested on this site to help children learn and talk about adoption (http://national-adoption-month.adoption.com).  Have children and teens read a book about orphaned children that isn’t mentioned on this site.  Then have them write a paragraph that recommends the title for inclusion on the website.
  • Have readers use books in the library or sites on the Internet to research the orphan trains.  The following PBS site is helpful.  (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/orphan/.
  • Many families elect to adopt from other countries.  In 1994 the United States agreed to become a part of the Hague Convention that oversees international adoptions.  Read about the guidelines for the Hague Convention of the following website: http://adoption.state.gov/hague_convention/overview.php.  Why are such rules and laws necessary to protect children and the families who wish to adopt them?
  • Have readers find out the guidelines for becoming a foster family in their state.  Based on the guidelines, create a fictional foster family for an orphaned main character in a work of fiction.  Suggestions from Random House include:

Stepping Stones

  • A Little Princess (early reader) by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Anne of Green Gables (early reader) by M.C. Helldorfer & illus. by Ellen Beler
  • Heidi (early reader) by Johanna Spyri & adapted by Gail Herman & illus. by Lydia Halverson
  • The Little Princess  (early readers) by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Oliver Twist (early reader) by Charles Dickens & adapted by Les marlin & illus. by Jean Zallinger

Classic Literature

Historical Fiction

Contemporary Fiction

October 02, 2013

October: National Diversity Awareness Month

Children are taught that the United States is a “melting pot” where people of all cultures, races, religions, disabilities, and socio-economic groups contribute to society.  What they also need to know is that a diverse population includes all ages, genders and sexual orientations.   The best way to help children and teens become aware of diversity is to encourage them to read books with all types of characters.  Perhaps it’s a novel like Racing the Moon by Alan Armstrong where a girl aspires to be an astronaut.  They may gain empathy for those with disabilities after reading books like Wonder by R. J. Palacio.  And with the current national debate about immigration reform, readers need to better understand the plight of today’s immigrant.  Here are a few programming ideas for school and public libraries for National Diversity Awareness Month.

  • Ask readers to find out from their parents or older family members their country of origin.  Then have them seek books about that culture.  Are there family traditions that reflect that culture?  Why is it important to maintain these family traditions?
  • Sponsor a panel discussion of religious leaders in the community.  Have them focus on the aspects of their religion that are universal, and the theology that is different.
  • Invite a “new American” to speak to a group of children and teens.  Ask them to address the following questions:  Why did they come to the United States?  What has been their most difficult adjustment?  Have they encountered any cultural prejudices?  What do they miss about their homeland?  What advice do they give to immigrants seeking to make the United States their home?
  • Identify community organizations that help those from diverse populations.  Visit the website of these organizations and read their mission statement.  Maybe it’s a Senior Action Center, a Kroc Center, YMCA, YWCA, a literacy group, or community health organizations.  Then read a picture book or novel with a main character that might enjoy the services of one of these organizations. Suggestions from Random House include:


All Ages

Song and Dance Man (picture book) by Karen Ackerman & illus. by Stephen Gammell

Stitchin’ and Pullin’ (picture book) by Patricia McKissack  & illus. by Cozbi A. Cabrera

Alida’s Song (middle grade) by Gary Paulsen

Jake (middle grade) by Audrey Couloumbis

Gingersnap (middle Grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff

Lily’s Crossing (middle grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff


Socio-economic Groups

 Faith, Hope and Ivy June (middle grade) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

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

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (young adult) by Gary D. Schmidt


Disabilities, Disorders or Learning Differences

Annie and Helen (picture book) by Deborah Hopkinson & illus. by Raul Colon

All the Way Home (middle grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff

Beholding Bee (middle grade) by Kimberly Newton Fusco

Navigating Early (middle grade) by Clare Vanderpoole

Wonder (middle grade) by R. J. Palacio

Black Box (young adult) by Julie Schumacher

Small Steps (young adult) by Louis Sachar

Unraveling (young adult) by Elizabeth Norris



Harriet the Spy (middle grade) by Louise Fitzhugh

Hokey Pokey (middle grade) by Jerry Spinelli

The Girl Who Threw Butterflies (middle grade) by Mick Cochrane

Heart of a Shepherd (middle grade) by Rosanne Parry

Racing the Moon (middle grade) by Alan Armstrong

Lord of the Deep (young adult) by Graham Salisbury

The Chocolate War (young adult) by Robert Cormier


Nationalities and Cultures

Cuba 15 (middle grade) by Nancy Osa

How Tia Lola Came to Stay (middle grade) by Julia Alvarez

Return to Sender (middle grade) by Julia Alvarez

Enrique’s Journey (middle grade) by Sonia Nazario

Burning (young adult) by Elana K. Arnold

Mexican WhiteBoy (young adult) by Matt De La Paña



 Tar Beach (picture book) by Faith Ringgold

Bud, Not Buddy (middle grade) by Christopher Paul Curtis

Burning Up  (young adult) by Caroline B. Cooney



Sunday is for God (picture book) by Michael McGowan & illus. by Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher

Amen, L. A. (young adult) by cherle Bennett and Jeff Gottesfeld

Days of Little Texas (young adult) by R. A. Nelson

Growing Up Muslim (middle grade – young adult) by Sumbul Au-Karamall

A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life (young adult) by Dana Reinhardt

Intentions (young adult) by Deborah Helllgram

Kindred (young adult) by Tammar Stein

Sexual Orientations

Boy Meets Boy (young adult) by David Levithan

Happy Families (young adult) by Tanita S. Davis

Two Boys Kissing (young adult) by David Levithan



September 02, 2013

September: Self-Improvement Month

by Pat Scales

September is Self-Improvement Month, and while the month long observance may have really been intended for adults, it’s also a good time for children and teens to think about ways they can improve.  Maybe it’s making a pledge to work harder it school.  It could be a focus on improving behavior.  And it never hurts for anyone to conquer something out of their comfort zone or acquire a new skill.  Here are things that a school or public library can try to encourage readers to focus on self-improvement:

  • Have readers learn a new skill and share it with others. Introduce books where a main character learns a new skill.  Then have them compare the skill they learned to that of the main character in the books.  Suggestions from Random House include:

I Can Draw It Myself, By Me, Myself (PB) by Dr. Seuss

Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle (PB) by Chris Raschka

Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine (PB) by Allison Wortche & illus. by Patrice Barton

Stitchin and Pullin:  A Gee’s Bend Quilt (PB) by Patricia C. McKissack & illus. by Cozbi A. Cabera

Magic Tricks from the Tree House (New Independent Readers) by Mary Pope Osborne & Natalie Pope Boyce & illus. by Sal Murdocca

Tae Kwon Do! (Step into Reading 1) by Terry Pierce & illus. by Todd Bonita

Super Surprise (Middle Grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff

When You Reach Me (Middle Grade) by Rebecca Stead

Whittington (Middle Grade) by Alan Armstrong

Catwalk (YA) by Deborah Gregory

Lemonade Mouth (YA) by Mark Peter Hughes

Nightjohn (YA) by Gary Paulsen

How to Build a House (YA) by Dana Reinhardt

The Book Thief (YA) by Marcus Zusak

Tiffany’s Table Manners for Teenagers (YA) by Walter Hoving & illus. by Joe Eula

  • Introduce readers to books where the main character tackles life experiences out of their comfort zone. Suggestions from Random House include:

Bears Beware (New Independent Readers) by Patricia Reilly Giff

The Mighty Miss Malone (Middle Grade) by Christopher Paul Curtiz

Wonder (Middle Grade) by R.J. Palacio

Hattie Big Sky (YA) by Kirby Larson

Hattie Ever After (YA) by Kirby Larson

  • Perhaps a reader chooses to make a change in behavior.  Book talk books where a main character improves their behavior either consciously and through the help of others.   Titles from Random House include:

Confessions of a Former Bully (PB) by Trudy Ludwig & illus. by Beth Adams

Liar and Spy (middle grade) by Rebecca Stead

The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 (middle grade) by Christopher Paul Curtis

Small Steps (YA) by Louis Sachar

Revolution (YA) by Jennifer Donnelly

  • The national focus on good health may inspire a reader to set a goal for a healthy lifestyle.  Display books about diet, exercise, rest, etc.  A suggestion from Random House:

Be Healthy! It’s a Girl Thing: Food, Fitness, and Feeling Great (Middle Grade) by Mavis Jukes & Lillan Wai-Yin & illus. by Debra Ziss

  • Academic success should always be a personal goal. Students may be encouraged by the characters in the following novels:

 Darnell Rock Reporting (Middle Grade) by Walter Dean Myers

Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen (Middle Grade) by Donna Gephart

The Smart Aleck’s Guide to American History (middle grade) by Adam Selzer

  • The success of others is always inspiring.  Introduce books about people, whether real or fictional, who offer such inspiration.  Here are a few suggestions from Random House:

 Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child (PB) by Jessie Hartland

Brush of the Gods (PB) by Lenore Look & illus. by Mello So

Nothing but Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson (PB) by Sue Stauffacher & illus. by Greg Couch

The Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up to Become Dr. Seuss (PB) by Kathleen Krull & illus. by Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher

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

  •  Reading always contributes to self-improvement.  Suggest that library patrons read at least one book a week in September.  Here are some reader favorites:

 Tomas and the Library Lady (PB) by Pat Mora & illus. by Raul Colon

Crow (Middle Grade) by Barbara Wright

Harriet the Spy (Middle Grade) by Louise Fitzhugh

Navigating Early (Middle Grade) by Clare Vanderpool

Scat (Middle Grade) by Carl Hiaasen

Mexican WhiteBoy (YA) by Matt de la Pena

Tiger Eyes (YA) by Judy Blume

  •  At the end of the month have readers write about how they accomplished the goals they set at the beginning of the month.
  •  Sponsor a Look What I Achieved! event at the end of the month.

August 06, 2013

August: One More Time

by Pat Scales

A third-grade student once said to me, “I wish I could spend a whole day in the library and read all my favorite books one more time.”   This student was an excellent reader, and I think she had the idea that once she became a fourth grader that she wouldn’t be allowed to read books that had delighted her during her first three years in school.  Instead of asking students to give up their favorite books, we should ask them to hold on to them.  This celebrates the power of books and the reading experience and offers clues about what titles to suggest next. There is also another side to this scenario.  Teachers and librarians shouldn’t be so quick to give up old favorites either.  Some books are just too good to miss, and many children or young adults may never find such literature without our guidance.

  • Make your own “Too Good to Miss” list and post it on the school or library website.
  • Ask readers to make a list of their favorite books from each of their school years.
  • Allow readers to write a  “Dear Reader” note on the end pages of their favorite books.  Ask them to focus on why it’s their favorite book.
  • Ask readers to write about a book they would most want in their personal library.  How many titles does the library own?
  • Suggest that readers make placemats about favorite books to be use in the school cafeteria on the first day of school.  For example, have second-graders make placemats for first-graders, etc.
  • School and public libraries should display favorite books so that other readers might discover them.

Here’s my “Too Good to Miss” and “One More Time” list from Random House:

Picture Books



Middle Grade


Young Adult


July 08, 2013

July: Don’t Know Much About Geography

Public libraries are well into their summer reading programs, and schools are out for the summer, but children and young adults have the world available to them through books that give them a sense of geography.  What prompted me to focus on geography is a newspaper article that said that students know very, very little about national or global geography.  I admit that I didn’t especially enjoy the study of geography in school, but books like Heidi, The Secret Garden, and the books by Lois Lenski caused me to ponder long moments over maps.  If the young are exposed to geography through story (setting) then they may be better prepared for a global focus in their studies.  Don’t think that incorporating geography into summer reading turns kids off to reading.  It likely will turn them on to books and all they have to offer.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Ask readers to share a picture postcard that has been sent to them or their family by a friend or relative.  Then ask them to hone their reference skills in the following way:
  1. Locate the state, country, and city on a map
  2. What are the bordering states or countries?
  3. Name the largest cities in the state or country.
  4. Trace the principle rivers
  5. Are there mountain ranges, deserts, etc.?
  6. What is the primary religion?
  7. When is the best time to travel to the state or country?
  8. What is the currency?
  • Teach very young readers how to look at maps by using There’s a Map on My Lap (picture book) by Tish Rabe. Have all readers draw a map from their school to their neighborhood.  How much detail should be included?
  • For younger readers, read aloud The Little Island (picture book) by Margaret Wise Brown & illus. by Leonard Weisgard.  Ask them (with the help of older readers) to look on a map and name the number of island countries in the world.
  • Introduce them to deserts by reading Why Oh, Why Are Deserts Dry (picture book) by Tish Rabe & illus. by Aristides Ruiz & Joe Mathiew.   In small groups, have them study a map and name the principal deserts of the world.
  • Display and book talk books that are set in locales that readers are likely to know very little.  Ask them to study sample questions on the National Geographic Geography Bee website. Then have them make 5 geography related questions from the book(s) they choose to read. Book selections from Random House may include:

                      We Planted a Tree (picture Book) by Diane Muldrow & illus. by Bob Staake – several countries are mentioned.

                      Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq (picture book) by Mark Alan Stamaty – Iraq

                      Enrique’s Journey (middle grade) by Sonia Nazario – Hondurus &  Mexico

                      Ice Island (middle grade) by Sherry Shahan – of the coast of Alaska

                      Laugh with the Moon (middle grade) by Shana Burg – Malawi

                                Along the River: A Chinese Cinderella Novel (young adult) by Adeline Yen Mah – China

                      I Am Messenger (young adult) by Markus Zusak – Australia

                      Nine Days (middle grade) bt Fred Hiatt – Hong Kong, Vietnam & the  China border

                      Shabanu, Haveli, & The House of Djinn (young adult) by Suzanne Fisher Staples – Pakistan

                      Mountains Beyond Mountains (young adult) by Tracy Kidder &  adapted for young people by Michael French – various countries that  have a high poverty rate

  • Don’t forget books set in our own nation.   Selections from Randam House include:

 A Place Where Hurricanes Happen(picture book) by Renee Watson &  illus by Shadra Strickland – New Orleans, LA

 Look Out Washington DC(easy reader) by Patricia Reilly Giff – DC

Next Stop New York City (easy reader) by Patricia Reilly Giff -  New York

 Chomp (middle grade) – Florida Everglades

The Mighty Miss Malone (middle grade) – Michigan

Navigating Early (middle grade) – Maine

The Beet Fields (young adult) by Gary Paulsen – North Dakota

 Lord of the Deep (young adult) by Graham Salisbury – Hawaii

  • Ask readers to make picture postcards that best represents the geographical locations of the books they read.  Then plan a postcard exhibit and invite parents and community leaders in to see the display.  Readers may also prepare a short presentation that includes the geographical facts they learned.