Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Summer reading, full steam ahead!

Summer's just around the bend, and starting the third week of June you can sign up for the Chicago Public Library Summer Reading Program (or, as it has been newly donned: "Rahm's Reader's 2013 Summer Reading Challenge"). This year's theme is "Full STEAM Ahead," playing on the STEM skills (science, technology, engineering and math) and adults' continual and rather inexplicable love of acronyms.  Ms. Lorfel, our lovely and ever-joyful Northtown branch librarian, will be visiting us in full mad-scientist regalia to tell us all about the exciting changes to the program, including lots of hands-on experiments, a chance to read to a dog, a Lego club and so much more! Besides being such a wonderful cheerleader for reading in our community, she has also been very kind in going above and beyond to help us with an annual library card drive to ensure that all of our Stone students have a Chicago Public Library card. Please watch for schedules and information going home, as well as applications for library cards (sorry, *only* for students who are getting their cards for the first time; not available for lost cards or cards with overdues. These issues can easily be resolved with a quick in-person visit to the Chicago Public Library, just bring proof of address). A reminder that all Stone Students are expected to have a Chicago Public Library Card! And why not? Kids can check out up to 30 resources (i.e. books!) at a time! A helpful hint: keep a special box or tote bag near a door, or make a special shelf for all your library booksto keep them separate from any other books in the home. This helps reduce pressure about losing books and keeps book borrowing fun!

Speaking of keeping books fun, please check out this provocative article about summer reading from one of my heroes, Donalyn Miller, "Let My People Read" at the blog NerdyBookClub. Then, you can use the Stone Library suggestions for summer reading or peruse my top reviews at The PlanetEsme Plan as a starting point...but far from the finish! I hope our students enjoy a summer full of choices, and discovering their own very individual identities as lifelong readers and learners!

Now, for a quick end-of-year round-up from the picture files:

You never know who's going to show up at the school library.
A hunka-hunka burning reading love!
But this is not the only royalty...
the kindergarten had fun acting out "The Grand Old Duke of York" 
as part of our discovery of Mother Goose.
After all...nursery rhymes: don't leave kindergarten without 'em!

Meanwhile, the third grade has been loving our serial read aloud, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.  If the whole class brings flashlights, we can read in dark!  (Ms. Esme has a special lamp, and we all have copies in which to follow along.) Children who are familiar with the story add new facets to our discussions, and each cliffhanging section ends with a big "awwwww!"  The biggest awww of all is that we may not finish in time for break...but the good news is the promise to pick back up again in the fall, a magical entry into the world of fairy tales and mythology.  Meanwhile, we are entranced by the wickedness of the White Queen and the contrast of the powerful lion rescuer Aslan, played out on a rainy day with paper-bag puppets.  We also enjoyed tasting real Turkish Delight, just like Edmund does in the book.  Well, most of us enjoyed it.  The rest spit it out in the garbage.  Oh, well.  It's an acquired taste. 

And, as always, big takes care of little in our loving school...thanks to middle school book buddies, who helped our primary kids sound out the hard words in some one-on-one practice reading.

Happy summer, everyone!  Keep those pages turning!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Betty Birney author visit!

Thanks to the exciting read-alouds happening in the classrooms, if you ask the second or third grade about a favorite book, almost unequivocally the answer is one of the "Humphrey"series by by Betty Birney, funny classroom stories told from the observant POV of a pet hamster.  The children were clamoring for a chance to meet the real person behind the funny books they love, so they kept asking for an author visit...but Ms. Birney lives all the way in California, quite the expensive commute to Chicago.  But where there's a will, there's a way...

Skype to the rescue!

Packed to capacity, students were all abuzz when they were invited to the library for a visit with a "mystery author,"  and believe me, our cuties were at maximum "squeeeee!" level when the celebrity was revealed! With a big screen set up so everyone could see and a computer set up so we could communicate, student representatives from each class were invited to ask questions, and were very interested to learn that the author does not have a real hamster herself, but a toy hamster that still serves as some inspiration.  Our children and her "pet" were introduced.

We were very delighted to learn about Ms. Birney's upcoming August book release, MYSTERIES ACCORDING TO HUMPHREY, which is our Stone summer's recommended reading for primary and early elementary families! Of course, while we are waiting, there is also SUMMER ACCORDING TO HUMPHREY and ADVENTURE ACCORDING TO HUMPHREY, and the new upcoming Humphrey books with a nonfiction bend like HUMPHREY'S WORLD OF PETS and HUMPHREY'S HA-HA-HA JOKE BOOK and...and...and...check out all the Humphrey fun in Humphreyville, including plenty of online games and activities and the author's blog!

We also had a chance to talk about Ms. Esme's favorite book by Betty Birney, which is not actually a Humphrey book at all, but a little masterpiece called THE SEVEN WONDERS OF SASSAFRAS SPRINGS.  A boy is fascinated with the Seven Wonders of the World, and is challenged by his family to spend the summer of 1923 discovering seven wonders in his own small town in Missouri.  If he can do it, his father will buy a ticket so he can visit cousins in Colorado, and see a real mountain!  A great read-aloud, summer story and a chance to look at our own worlds a little more closely, this book is also a perfect pick for older and more advanced readers.  If Ms. Esme ran the world, this would have won a Newbery award, but since she doesn't, things continue to go wrong.  Oh, well, at least it is still available to enjoy, and available in our school and public library...along with all the "Humphreys" we can get our hands on!

Sometimes technology misused can serve to isolate us from the world, but cyber-visits like this one continue to connect us, and allow us to know the real people behind the books we love...and Betty Birney, Stone Scholastic Academy sure does love your books.  Thank you for your generosity of time and spirit that made this visit possible!  We will continue to read your books by the pile!