Wednesday, June 20, 2018

READING TAKES YOU EVERYWHERE: Author Visit at Encino/Tarzana Library for Summer Reading Program

Encino/Tarzana Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library
Yesterday afternoon I spent a wonderful hour with kids and their parents at the Encino/Tarzana Public Library in Los Angeles giving a presentation as part of the LAPL summer reading program for kids. The theme this year is “Reading Takes You Everywhere” and my books are a perfect example of all the different places you can go when you read about animals. We started with a virtual trip to Africa as I read A Zebra’s World and we all did a Lion Hunt together. We then talked about birds and I measured the kids wingspans. The kids also helped me sing the Wiggle and Waggle song, along with my Wiggle and Waggle sock puppets.
With Star Volunteer, Masha. A STAR Volunteer Reader is a volunteer who reads books and tells stories with children at their local library. They serve as positive role models for children. They commit 2 hours per week for at least 6 months.
During my visit I enjoyed meeting Jennifer, the new head librarian, as well as one of the teen volunteers who helped with my program, and a devoted Star reading volunteer who works with kids at the library every week. I thank Shokoufeh Moghta, the children’s librarian, for inviting me to the library and organizing the event. From the enthusiastic participation of the kids and good questions at the end, I know the afternoon was enjoyed by all!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

OBSERVING OUR OWN NATURAL HISTORY at Esperanza Elementary School, Los Angeles, CA

The natural habitat garden at Esperanza Elementary School, Los Angeles, CA
On May 30, 12:55 pm three white-tailed swifts were soaring above the palo verde trees. They look like flying cigars with wings.
This careful description was posted by a student at Esperanza Elementary School in Los Angeles on the school bulletin board “Observing Our Own Natural History” after discovering the birds near the school. Every day, as the students spend time in the school's native plant garden, they are learning to be young scientists and how to look at things closely and observe pertinent details.
Students share information and observations on a bulletin board in the school hallway
A corner of the playground where a building once stood has been turned into a natural habitat–a garden filled with California native plants such as poppies, wild grasses, lupins, sage and more. It is home to birds, butterflies, spiders and a wide variety of insects. The school is in a neighborhood located very close to downtown Los Angeles. The garden provides a refreshing oasis in an otherwise totally urban environment.
A wild grape vine climbs over the garden fence. Skyscrapers loom in the background not far from the school.
When I visited Esperanza last week, a group of third graders working with teacher Elizabeth Williams gave me a tour of the garden. They excitedly pointed out the frothy spittlebug deposits on some of the plants, several spiders, lupins both in bloom and developing seed pods, and a pair of sparrows foraging for seeds–the male with his handsome black markings and the female a duller brown. Then they discovered a pair of house finches carrying nesting material to a nest site. Principal Brad Rumble, who has spearheaded the garden project, met us in the garden. He is an avid birdwatcher and his enthusiasm is contagious. He introduced me to a girl who had observed and identified a white-throated swift and then was excited to find it again in exhibits at the Natural History Museum when the class went on a field trip.
Teacher Elizabeth Williams and Principal Brad Rumble with students
Before we visited the garden, I talked with a group of third grade students in the library and shared the books in my Caroline Arnold’s Habitats series. They had great comments and questions! I plan to go back in the fall when school starts again to do an author visit with more of the students. I love it when kids get excited about the animals that I write about in my books, but I find it even more exciting to see kids learning about nature hands-on--by observing it themselves. The natural habitat garden at Esperanza is a great resource and a wonderful stimulus for learning.
For an excellent video about the Esperanza school garden produced by television station KCET for their Earth Focus series, click on this link: https://www.kcet.org/shows/earth-focus/urban-habitat-esperanza-elementary-school 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

NEW CHICKS: Author Visit with Campbell Hall Kindergarten Students, Los Angeles, CA

Day-old chicks in the Kindergarten classroom at Campbell Hall
When I first met librarian Linda Pechin at the CLCSC workshop two weeks ago and she told me that the kindergarten students at her school, Campbell Hall, were hatching chicks in their classrooms, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for an author visit. So Linda arranged it, and on Thursday last week I went to the school and had a wonderful time.
Caroline with Linda Pechin, Librarian at Campbell Hall
Both classrooms had incubated eggs so there were two sets of day old chicks peeping in their cages. The children had read my book HATCHING CHICKS IN ROOM 6 and we talked about how their process was similar to that described in the book. We also talked about how they know that chickens are birds–they have feathers and they lay eggs–and then I showed them my feather collection and measured their wingspans. I also shared my ostrich egg. Everyone was impressed that it takes 42 days for an ostrich egg to hatch–twice as long as a chicken egg. The visit ended with a story from my WIGGLE AND WAGGLE book and singing the gardening song. I then went to the library to autograph books.
I thank Linda Pechin and the kindergarten teachers and their students for a very enjoyable visit at Campbell Hall.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Project Book Bag: Building Personal Libraries at Kipp Raices Academy in CA

Book Bags Ready to be Distributed to Students
Every year just before summer break, Project Book Bag gives young students at Kipp Raices Academy, an elementary school in East Los Angeles, a bag full of grade appropriate books to bring home and call their own. Yesterday, I spent the morning helping volunteers distribute the bags of books to the children in their classrooms.
The children were SO excited to receive the books, finding many of their favorite series as well as new titles, both fiction and nonfiction. Seeing the smiles on their faces as they pulled the books out of the bags was a joy to watch.
This was the seventh year of this program. In past years I have donated books–both my own and from my collection–but this was the first time I had been there in person. A devoted group of volunteers collects the books (both used and new), cleans them if necessary, and sorts them by appropriate age levels. This year, a group of Boy Scouts helped as a service project. Henry, who is earning his Eagle Scout badge, was there to meet the students help deliver the books.
Thanking Henry for his service
The mission of Project Book Bag, a nonprofit, “is to make sure that all kids have books at home to keep them reading and help them find their interests. Research shows that children who do not have access to reading material over the summer experience "learning loss," causing them to fall behind their peers. The kids in the KIPP school(s) are already performing better than many other kids in their area and we want to insure that they keep their skills sharp when school is not in session.”
Some of the Project Book Bag volunteers
You can learn more about Project Book Bag at their Facebook Page.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Sharing Hard Truths in Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults: CLCSC Spring Workshop

Last Saturday I attended an inspiring and informative workshop sponsored by the California Literature Council of Southern California called “Sharing Hard Truths in Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults.” We met at the Glendale Library. The workshop began with a warm welcome by Jennifer Driscoll, CLCSC President and introduction by Laurie Reese, CLCSC Spring Workshop Co-Chair followed by an excellent talk by nonfiction writer Ann Bausum, author of books such as March Against Fear, Freedom Riders, With Courage and Cloth, and many more. I loved hearing about her writing process and how she keeps the mountains of information she collects for each book organized. (Notecards!) It was a pleasure to meet Ann in person. Ann lives in Wisconsin. We had previously met via phone and email when we served on a committee together, but never in person. After Ann’s talk participants broke into “deep dive” discussion groups led by Michelle Markel, “At the Writer’s Desk”, Annette Goldsmith, “In the Library,” Ethan Bradbury, “In the Classroom,” and Madeline Bryant, “Between the Covers: The Look and Content of Contemporary Nonfiction.”
Most of the members of CLCSC are librarians. I enjoyed hearing their point of view about how to use books that face hard truths about topics such as race, human rights, and slavery with children in schools and libraries. These are topics that are often not covered adequately or at all in textbooks. It was a morning of good discussion, a delicious breakfast/brunch food from Porto's Restaurant to keep us fortified, and opportunities to see friends and share news.
Thanks to the CLCSC committee for organizing an excellent spring workshop!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Art Donation to the 2018 ABC/CBC Silent Art Auction at BookExpo

I have donated a giclee print of an illustration from my book A Wombat’s World to the 2018 ABC/CBC Silent Art Auction to Benefit ABFE and Every Child a Reader. The auction will be held May 30th in New York at the Javits South Concourse in conjunction with BookExpo. I am pleased to be able to contribute to this worthy cause.

ABC Children's Group (ABC), a program of the American Booksellers Association (ABA), is dedicated to growing and expanding the reach of children's books. ABC serves independent bookstores, authors, publishers, and illustrators, and develops unique education, events, and communications to further that purpose. ABA is a not-for-profit trade association devoted to meeting the needs of its core members-independently owned bookstores with storefront locations. It exists to protect and promote the interests of independent retail book businesses, as well as - through American Booksellers for Free Expression (ABFE) - to protect the First Amendment rights of every American.

Every Child a Reader is a 501(c)(3) literacy charity dedicated to inspiring a lifelong love of reading in children and teens across America. Every Child a Reader's three major national programs are: Children's Book Week, celebrating 99 years this April 30-May 6, 2018; the Children's & Teen Choice Book Awards; and the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature program, in partnership with the Library of Congress. The 2018-2019 National Ambassador is Jacqueline Woodson.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

NEW CHICKS IN ROOM 6: A Classroom Visit

Four day old chicks. The thermometer monitors the temperature in the cage.
The children in Mrs. Best’s kindergarten class in Room 6 at Haynes School in Los Angeles have just hatched eggs, and now have five fluffy chicks cheeping in a cage in their classroom. Four of the chicks have brown markings. One is black. As the children waited for the eggs to hatch, they learned about chickens and eggs in my book Hatching Chicks in Room 6. That book follows a previous class as they went through the egg hatching process. This is a project that Mrs. Best does every year with her students.
Art projects done by the children. Some of the eggs they incubated had brown shells. Others were green.
Last week I went to visit the chicks and spend time with the children. I read some of my books and we talked about birds and eggs. I brought my ostrich egg to compare with the chicken eggs they had just hatched. The ostrich lays the largest egg of any bird. It is equivalent to two dozen chicken eggs and weighs three to five pounds! (My egg, which I bought a long time ago, has a hole in the end of the shell where the contents were taken out so it does not weigh so much.)
I learned about ostriches when I wrote about them in this book.
The incubation period for an ostrich egg is 42 days, twice a long as it takes a chicken egg to hatch.
Ostrich egg. It is the largest of all bird eggs.
The children and I also talked about birds that don’t fly, such as ostriches and penguins. Chickens can easily fly from the ground to their roosts. So, even though a lot of people think that chickens don’t fly, they do.
The chicks are already starting to grow wing feathers.
The chicks are growing fast. By the time school is out for the summer in a few weeks, the chicks will be ready to go to the henhouse, where they will finish growing up.