Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pre-K Picassos: Georgia O'Keeffe and Edward Hicks

My friends LOVE this preschool art class. They're really digging the artists and the process. Success!

Last week, we discussed Georgia O'Keeffe. Evidently Ms. O'Keeffe painted what she wanted to paint, as discussed in Georgia in Hawaii: When Georgia O'Keeffe Painted What She Pleased by Amy Novesky. We skimmed the book, focusing on the pictures. I showed the kids some of her work while discussing scale, as O'Keeffe's famous flower paintings leave little white space on the canvas. I sent the kids and caregivers outside to find something interesting to paint; they came back and got to work!

I got in on the action as well.
My friends did an amazing job. A few days later, a mother relayed to me that her son, who had been in the program with his grandmother, was talking about how O'Keeffe "painted what she liked." He had painted a lovely purple flower in the program as well, so evidently he got a lot out of it!

Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks via Britannica Image Library

This week, we focused on Edward Hicks, an American Quaker pastor remembered for his primitive paintings. We discussed his most famous work, "The Peaceable Kingdom," after we talked about animals who really don't like each other. Of course we had to read Dog vs. Cat by Chris Gall! Our project was to make a "Peaceable" collage from discarded Nat Geo magazines. Here are some results:

Next week, we're going to rock some Picasso!

Why I Hate Leveled Reading: A Parent Librarian's Perspective

Much of my blog is pretty lighthearted banter. I try to keep it fun while keeping it real. However, since it is the middle of Banned Book Week, and since I have had several patron parents freaking out about AR tests lately, I feel the need to open up about my view of leveled reading madness. -Michelle

Only two of these books have an AR test.

Tis the season for fifty thousand questions regarding Lexiles, AR, points, and "Why don't you put spine labels with the AR on the books?" Did you hear that collective sigh? That was all the librarians in the world who are tired of The Man telling kids what they can and cannot read.

As a librarian, whose work desk IS the public children's desk, I can say there are so many parents simply confused about leveled reading. Rightly so when your kids are tested, given a Lexile number, and then told to find an AR book at that Lexile worth X amount of points. It's like one has to solve an algebraic equation to find a book to read. And I can tell you that the answer to that equation is rarely Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Junie. B. Jones.

On top of that, kids who don't get enough points at my local school system don't get the "prize" at the end, and are publicly shamed by not being able to go to a baseball game or attend a pizza party. Oh, look! My head just exploded.

I'm all for expanding horizons. Once you have read a Junie book, you have gotten the idea of the rest and could move on. However, what do you tell a ten year old kid who needs a book with an AR of 10 or higher, AND only has a week to read, comprehend, finish, and test on said book? "I hear the unabridged version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is still really good after 144 years in print."

No. No.

Now that I have ranted a bit for everyone, here is my personal story about Lexile, tests, and books:

Last year, my son was in kindergarten. He has the delightful curse of being a librarian's kid, and can read above his grade level. His reading teacher, Mrs. F., wanted him to do AR tests because he was at a higher level. I was actually blinded by how proud I was, and agreed to have him do the testing.

The day after I agreed to him being entered in the AR program was library day. I figured he would pick a book like he always does and be ready to read it at bedtime. Unfortunately when I picked him up from school, he started crying.

"What's wrong, buddy?!" I said. He wasn't one to cry over nothing.

"They wouldn't let me get the book about sidewinder snakes because there wasn't a test for iiiiiit!"


Oh HELL NO I thought. I told him that I would email his teacher in the morning about it. LET THE SIX YEAR OLD GET A BOOK ABOUT SNAKES, Y'ALL.

Only after I worked it out with his teacher and the librarian did I allow him to continue the testing. The librarian let him check out two books instead of one. I was happy when school was out for the summer, because I knew he could just read what he wanted to read.

Deep breath.

That all being said, it's a new school year. He has a new reading teacher. They haven't started the AR testing yet, but from now on, I will politely decline that my child takes part.

He can write a book report, or do a booktalk in front of the class. In the long run, that sort of assignment is exponentially greater than answering ten questions about a book that you may or may not have wanted to read in the first place.

I understand the thinking behind the Lexiles and AR tests, I really do. But reading comprehension would be so much easier to teach if a child is reading something that they're enthralled about. Not being able to read a book because there isn't a "test" for it doesn't make any sense whatsoever. Telling a kid that they can only read certain books at a certain vocabulary level is a surefire way to make that kid hate reading, and as a parent, librarian, bookworm, and citizen of the world, I'm not going to take any part in anything that will remotely send kids away from books.

Reading is also not a competition. One should not be shamed for not getting "enough" points, or reading less books, or even reading at a lower level than classmates. How about we celebrate reading for what it is, and not make it a race?

Other than opting my own child out of the system and being an advocate for read-what-you-want-all-the-time point of view, I'm not sure what to do about the broken way my local school handles the AR stuff. I have a feeling if parents join together and say "enough is enough," that maybe someone would listen.

However, not all parents are librarians, and not all parents will turn down a competitive game if it forces their child to read. Not all kids are readers. If this AR frenzy makes kids who are normally not readers into readers, then I honestly can't say that it's all bad. I think the system does have good intentions, but for my family, the Lexile/AR system is just hell.

Friday, September 19, 2014

What I'm Reading

I don't ever think I have done a recap of what I'm reading. Alas, there is a first for everything!

My 52 Chapter Book Challenge has slowed down a bit. I binged when I first started, and now am peppering my picture book addiction with spurts of Beezus and Ramona. I remember liking the Ramona series when I was younger, so I'm doing a little revisit. I also finished up Captain Underpants and the Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo Toilet 2000 with my seven year old earlier this week. There's a reference to Monty Python and the Holy Grail in the book. Well played, Mr. Pilkey.

I recently found some great resource books by Sally Anderson and the Vermont Center for the Book. Click the first link for titles. If you are interested in doing STEM storytimes, I highly recommend all of them, especially Math and Science Investigations. They are written for parents, however the majority of activities could be translated easily into storytime stations or group projects.

I'm always checking out the new picture books because I love love love love love love them because, you know, work research. Here are a few of my recent faves:


Really fun!

Crying. In a good way.

Odd. Also in a good way.


Hyped? Yes. Still good? You bet.

I would read this in the burning ring of fire.

Pretty and pretty funny.

 If you are feeling saucy, please find me on Goodreads. I would love to be your book buddy know what you are reading!