Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Blog is Moving!

I've moved to WordPress.

It's the home of my newly updated website, and allows me to manage my blog and website all in one place and one format.

I hope you'll move with me and follow me there. I've posted two new blog entries this week...

Thank you all!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Nice shout-out from BEA for the poetry anthology from EarlyWord Kids!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The coolest thing at BEA? Amy Krouse Rosenthal's "The Beckoning of Lovely."
Got something loverly?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Facebook's Book Clubs Gets Kids Excited About Reading

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The arts and brain development: Does music help elementary students with math? Will dancing or painting improve spacial or reading ability?
Nice shout-out for Raising Bookworms at Planet Esme's blogspot, plus tons of other great resources

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Happy Children's Book Week!

In 1919, the American Booksellers Association committed to organizing an annual Children's Book Week. A few months later, the American Library Association officially approved it during its first Children's Librarians session - and twenty five years after that, the newly-established Children's Book Council assumed responsibility for administering the event, planning official events and creating original materials. But the need for Children’s Book Week is as essential today as it was in 1919. The task remains the same as it was when Frederic Melcher made this fundamental declaration: “A great nation is a reading nation.”

You can celebrate Children's Book Week any number of ways. Join the official celebrations...

Tuesday, May 12 - Children's Choice Book Awards Gala
The second annual Children's Choice Book Awards, at the Edison Ballroom in Manhattan. Individual tickets - $300. Call (212) 677-3173, ext. 240 or email

Tuesday, May 12 and Wednesday, May 13 - Children's Book Week in Chicago
Renowned storyteller Barbara Clark performs three events in Chicago to celebrate Book Week and the 40th anniversary of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards. Free and open to the public.

Thursday, May 14 - Children's Book Week in Seattle
National Ambassador Jon Scieszka visits The Secret Garden Bookshop to celebrate Book Week.

Saturday, May 16 - Children's Book Week in Boston
Activities will be held at Copley Square, Boston, at the main branch of the Boston Public Library and also in neighborhood branch locations. Participating authors are Paul Carrick, Erin Dionne, Kate Feiffer, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Megan McDonald, Sara Pennypacker, Michael Rex, Linda Urban, and Alan Witschonke. Join the fun from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. just outside the Rey Children's Room on the main floor. Free and open to the public.


•Make your voice heard with the Children's Choice Book Awards! Click here to see the finalists, then vote for your favorite! Awards will be given to the winner in each age group and will be posted on the Book Week site.

•Test your skills with Children's Book Week puzzles!

•Great authors have started a story… help them finish the tale with Story Starters.

Download the official Children's Book Week bookmark, or make your own charmed bookmark.

• Tell your teacher or librarian to check out the teachers and librarians page on the Children's Book Council website for great ideas for how to celebrate Book Week.

If nothing else, READ to a child! Remember that a love of reading starts with a connection between reading and pleasure - and the best way to cultivate that connection is to read something wonderful to a child, with love.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Technology + Books = Synergy

Don't worry - I haven't converted to an electronic reader (yet). I still prefer the tangible, tactile pleasure of a good old fashioned book. But I do believe that the technology of the digital age, used well, can be a great enhancement to literacy and reading pleasure. For instance...

"Trouble finding books they like" is one of the top reasons kids say they don't read more, according to Scholastic's recent Kids and Family Reading Report. Two new web sites provide terrific resources in this regard.

Jennifer Brown, children’s editor of the e-newsletter Shelf Awareness, has created the new TwentybyJenny site with the goal of "helping educators and caregivers build a child’s library one book at a time by guiding them to 20 books in each of four age groups (0–3, 4–7, 8–12, and teens)." The site also offers a weekly newsletter and a Twenty blog, which explores book-related themes. Brown focuses on trying to find "a mix of books people might be familiar with, alongside titles they might not have come across before,” as well as books that would appeal to both genders, and different interests and sophistication levels. Her hope is that the lists comprise a good "starter library" for a child, which can then be built upon.

Another great site in this regard - which I've written about here before - is James Patterson's ReadKiddoRead, an invaluable resource for kids as well as parents, caregivers and educators. Patterson's site not only provides scores of recommendations for books sure to engage young readers (or, in Patterson’s words, “great books, cool books, books they would absolutely, positively love… the crème de la crème of reading… very, very special books that kids will gobble up and ask for more”), it also leads young people towards other books and authors that may interest them through the “If You Love This Book, Then Try…” suggestions on each book page. In addition, the site provides reviews, thematic connections, and links to more information about the books and where they can be purchased. Perhaps most valuable, however, is the “Community” section of the site, where members of all ages can connect, discuss topics related to reading, read interviews with childrens book authors and get involved. Here, teachers manage discussion groups with students, reading specialists post blog entries, and parents as well as kids engage in lively discussion, post their reading experiences to forums and groups and get proactive about the role of reading in their lives.

There are also a number of terrific blogs out there with respect to childrens books, many of which are linked to this site. By managing all these with my Google Reader account (which I can then download onto my iPhone - oops, I guess I am reading electronically!) this is a great way to stay current and get new ideas about books my kids might love.

This, I think, is the perfect marriage between the digital world and the world of books - using modern technology to support and enrich the reading experience.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Yes, We Can! Victory for the Arts in Stimulus Bill

This just in from Americans for the Arts... THANK YOU to all who wrote in and conveyed their support!

"Just moments ago, the U.S. House of Representatives approved their final version of the Economic Recovery bill. We can now confirm that the package DOES include $50 million in direct support for arts jobs through National Endowment for the Arts grants. We are also happy to report that the exclusionary Coburn Amendment language banning certain arts groups from receiving any other economic recovery funds has also been successfully removed. Tonight the Senate is scheduled to have their final vote, and President Obama plans to sign the bill on Monday - President's Day.

A United Voice
This is an important victory for all of you as arts advocates. More than 85,000 letters were sent to Congress, thousands of calls were made, and hundreds of op-eds, letters to the editor, news stories, and blog entries were generated in print and online media about the role of the arts in the economy. Artists, business leaders, mayors, governors, and a full range of national, state, and local arts groups all united together on this advocacy issue. This outcome marks a stunning turnaround of events and exemplifies the power of grassroots arts advocacy.

We would like to also thank some key leaders on Capitol Hill who really carried our voices into the conference negotiation room and throughout the halls of Congress: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Appropriations Chairman Dave Obey (D-WI), House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Norm Dicks (D-WA), and Congressional Arts Caucus Co-Chair Louise Slaughter (D-NY). We also want to publicly thank President Obama for taking the early lead in recognizing the role of the arts in economic development. These leaders were able to convincingly make the case that protecting jobs in the creative sector is integral to the U.S. economy.

What's Next
As we wrap up our work on the Economic Recovery legislation, we wanted to share with you other upcoming legislative action that we are tracking:

Finalization by early March of the FY 2009 appropriations, which has been operating under a continuing resolution for the last five months.
Release of President Obama's first federal budget for FY 2010 is expected in late March/early April.

Hearings in the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee on the FY 2010 budget.

Hearings in the House Education & Labor Committee on arts in the workforce and arts education.

The 22nd Annual National Arts Advocacy Day conference on Capitol Hill on March 30-31, 2009."

Monday, February 9, 2009

What Price the Arts?

Yesterday the senate voted 73-24 to EXCLUDE the arts and arts organizations from any part of the economic stimulus package. I just received an incredibly valuable update from the wonderful Americans for the Arts (which I will share below) that contains details and links to steps we can take immediately to reverse this appalling amendment. They have already done most of the work for us, providing language and links to send letters to our Senators, to editorial sections of news organizations and even banners we can put on our social networking sites.

As a co-founder of a regional theater, I have experienced firsthand how much arts organizations contribute to the economy of their communities. But perhaps most importantly, the arts are the BEST way to help our children grow up to be compassionate, contributive, creative adults. Kids who participate in, and are exposed to, the arts are not only more likely to be successful in school and in life, but they are four times more likely to grow up to be philanthropic and even VOTE. (They are also twice as likely to be readers!)

Thirteen shows have closed on Broadway since January 1. If this amendment passes, we may well see the shuttering of hundreds of arts organizations across the country. Is this what we want for our kids? Is this the world we want them to inherit? Let's remember the wonderful words of Katherine Anne Porter:

“The arts live continuously, and they live literally by faith; their nature and their shapes and their uses survive unchanged in all that matters through times of interruption, diminishment, neglect; and they outlive governments and creeds and societies, even the very civilizations that produced them. They cannot be destroyed altogether because they represent the substance of faith and the only reality. They are what we find again when the ruins are cleared away.”

... and let's take action today!

Here's the info:

This afternoon the U.S. Senate, during their consideration of the economic recovery bill, approved an egregious amendment offered by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) that stated “None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, and highway beautification project.” Unfortunately, the amendment passed by a wide vote margin of 73-24, and surprisingly included support from many high profile Senators including Chuck Schumer of New York, Dianne Feinstein of California, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, and several other Democratic and Republican Senators.

If the Coburn amendment language is included in the final conference version of this legislation, many arts groups will be prevented from receiving economic recovery funds from any portion of this specific stimulus bill. It is clear that there is still much work to be done in the Senate and in the media about the role that nonprofit arts organizations and artists play in the nation’s economy and workforce.

Plan of Action

1. Arts advocates need to quickly contact Senators who voted for the Coburn Amendment and express your extreme disappointment with their vote. We need these Senators to know that their vote would detrimentally impact nonprofit arts organizations and the jobs they support in their state. We have crafted a customized message for you to send to your Senators based on their vote on the Coburn Amendment. The correct letter, customized to each of your Senators will appear when you enter your zip code. If your Senator voted for this funding prohibition, you can send them a message expressing your disappointment and ask them to work to delete this language in the final conference bill with the House. If your Senator voted against the Coburn Amendment, you can thank them for their support of the arts.

2. We need as many news articles as possible this coming week to publish stories about the economic impact of the nonprofit arts industry and how the recession is negatively affecting arts groups across the country. Please click here to customize an opinion editorial to your local media. We have provided you with easy-to-use talking points.

3. Next week, Americans for the Arts will be sending you another action alert that targets the White House and the soon-to-be-named Senators and Representatives who will serve as conferees to the final economic recovery bill. Please be prepared to take action on this alert as well.

4. Americans for the Arts itself is submitting op-eds to several national newspapers and online blogs. We are enlisting high profile leaders to co-sign these letters as well.

5. Americans for the Arts is purchasing full-page ads titled “The Arts = Jobs” in Washington’s top political newspapers in Roll Call, Politico and The Hill on Monday and Tuesday of next week. We encourage you to post the ad on your social network sites.

Please help us continue this important work by becoming an official member of the Arts Action Fund. Play your part by joining the Arts Action Fund today -- it's free and simple.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Reading Without Shame

I have a confession to make - and I hope the literary purists of the world forgive me.

My daughter Hope, age 5, loves the Disney Princesses, My Little Pony, and Barbie stories. Now, she also loves Ramona Quimby - and elected to read through the entire series twice, back to back, this summer - as well as both Winnie the Pooh's, and a score of wonderful picture books, from Olivia to Miss Rumphius.

That's not the confession. This is: I have judgment about which of these reading choices are "better."

But the thing is, she LOVES to read - or, more precisely, to be read to. She loves it with a passion. She would rather listen to a story than watch a video, or play a game, or paint, or draw, or run around, or just about anything else. And I've realized I have to be very careful. Because if she sees me wince - even just a tad - when she asks for another My Little Pony story, or if she feels me 'suggesting' Miss Rumphius over Ariel again just a little too forcefully, she'll begin to pull away. Instead of being a way for her to revel, unbridled and unjudged, in all her dreams and delights, reading may become associated with right and wrong, with correctness, or - worst of all - with shame.

That's not to say I shouldn't keep providing her with all the best books I can. I do understand that one can't appreciate the good stuff unless one is exposed to it. But I have to lead her gently, lightly, without pressure. In the end, her appreciation for Beverly Cleary and A.A. Milne tell me that she'll get to it all - and evolve into a well-rounded, discerning and intelligent young woman in the process. After all, I've been known to enjoy junk food from time to time, and it never turned me off of a great gourmet meal.

Aaarggh! There's that judgment again! Breathe, release, count to three....

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Reading on the Rise?

First the good news: according to Reading on the Rise, the latest survey sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, the number of adult Americans reading rose to 119 million in 2008, compared to 115.5 million in 2002.

Now the bad news: If you crunch the numbers, and factor in the fact that the population increased by 19 million during that span, it puts the percentage of Americans who read any book in 2008 at 54.3%, which is actually down from 56.6% in 2002. Also, the latest survey includes online/electronic reading, which the previous surveys did not. NEA Chair Dana Gioia credits "...'Harry Potter' and 'Twilight' and Oprah and the Big Read and the Internet," but is quick to add that the battle is far from over.

My take? I think all of the above have been good for advancing the cause of reading. I also note that the timing and positioning of the report coincides with Mr. Gioia's departure from the Chairmanship. I'm not being cynical - Gioia has worked hard to initiate and advance many reading programs, the Big Read among them, and deserves to celebrate the contributions he has made to the cause. Were I in his shoes, I would welcome, and focus on, some good news at this juncture as well. But mostly I think we must be cautiously optimistic about what these things, and the change of administration, may signal for the future of reading... and carry on working tirelessly in homes, schools, libraries and bookstores to connect - and re-connect - reading with pleasure.

You can read more about this subject in this week's Publisher's Weekly - in Sara Nelson's column, Yes, He Can, and in More Americans are Reading, But..., which includes tables from the NEA study - as well as in the Wasington Post. You can also download the NEA's full report yourself at

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Your Comments

Oh dear!

I'm fairly new to the Blogosphere and somehow today I accidentally rejected all the comments that were still waiting for my moderation and approval. I really want this site to be a dialogue, and love hearing from those of you who are following... so please post again!

Thank you!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Power of Presentation

What a day!

A historic, mesmerizing, glorious, moving, powerful, joyful, triumphant day. A day we will remember forever. A new day.

And, alas, a day in which there was more poetry on the street than on the podium.

Elizabeth Alexander’s “Praise Song for the Day” may actually be a better poem than most of us appreciated at the time. But when read aloud, a poem is only as good as its delivery... and Alexander’s delivery was, sadly, as wooden as her spoons on oil drums.

It's not my wish to be uncharitable, or cast any shadow on this wondrous day. And I do appreciate the pressure of the moment, and the fact that Obama is a pretty tough act to follow. But why, when in a position to transform millions of minds and hearts with the power of words, why resort to stilted, monotonous recitation? How can we expect our children to learn the joy, the value, the resonance of poetry if we can’t demonstrate it for them?

Elizabeth Alexander could take a page from Barack Obama’s public speaking manual:
  • Make eye contact – Sure, there are teleprompters, but the man learns his lines. He never looks down.
  • Let the points LAND – Give the key words and ideas the space, tone and emphasis to stand by themselves and breathe... BUT,
  • Move it along – Trust the audience’s intelligence, and their ability to follow. Most often, they're a beat ahead. And finally,
  • Let it FLOW – Stay open to the opportunity to get caught up in the imagery, the emotion, the message. PRAISE the song, the poem, the day.
Imagine if Obama himself said these words, maybe to Malia and Sasha as he tucks them into bed tonight…

“Praise song for the day.
Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.
Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.
A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."
We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.
We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."
We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.
Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.
Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.
Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."
Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.
What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.
In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.”

Monday, January 19, 2009

Obama and Reading

Great article by Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times today on how Obama's love of reading has shaped his values and his life: From Books, New President Found Voice

Lots of interesting comments posted on the Times' site as well. Here's mine:

"Clearly, Obama is already reading all the right books.

What I fervently hope is that he will convey his passion for reading to America's youth, and apply his gifts and resources to helping the next generation discover, re-discover or maintain a love of reading.

Obama is a stunning example of the direct relationship between reading skills and our ability to participate in the world with confidence as informed citizens, communicate effectively, succeed in our chosen career, enjoy rewarding relationships, achieve personal fulfillment and contribute to our society.

But America now ranks a distant last among eighteen nations with respect to literacy levels for high school graduates, and it is estimated that illiteracy costs businesses and taxpayers $20 billion each year.

Obama knows that our founders, living as they did in an age when the printed word was the primary means of communication, placed a high emphasis on protecting the “marketplace of ideas” so that public discourse could flourish. Today, that discourse is predominantly one-way... we “receive” information from our television sets, radios, computers, and iPods. Large media corporations pay vast sums of money to explore new ways in which we can be collectively massaged toward a certain purchase or perspective. And the more we sit and stare at the screen, the more we turn our back on the kind of thoughtful reasoning that interaction with the written word promotes…and, the more mute we become.

It’s abundantly clear that the digital age has radically altered the entertainment as well as the learning landscape for today’s young people. But according to the National Council on Teachers of English (NCTE), “in order to participate fully in society and the workplace in 2020 and harness the power of technology and all its implications, we will need powerful literacy skills – at levels currently achieved by only a small percentage of the population.” It would seem that our collective health, our capacity for reason, our very future as a connected, contributive society – and that of our fragile planet – depends upon it.

I pray that Obama shares the dream of reestablishing a society of readers- and by extension, a society of thoughtful, engaged citizens who play an active, positive role in their community and their world. I hope he makes it a priority to help kids access the innate joy and empowerment in exploring the ideas and insights of great writers, thinkers, artists, and philosophers, so that they can actually participate in their future world with active voices, informed opinions and the real hope of being heard.

Like him."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Secretary of the Arts Petition

Secretary of the Arts Petition

Here's a favorite quote of mine from Katherine Anne Porter, about the importance of the arts, to our society and to our history:

“The arts live continuously, and they live literally by faith; their nature and their shapes and their uses survive unchanged in all that matters through times of interruption, diminishment, neglect; and they outlive governments and creeds and societies, even the very civilizations that produced them. They cannot be destroyed altogether because they represent the substance of faith and the only reality. They are what we find again when the ruins are cleared away.”

America is one of the few countries that doesn't have a Minister of Culture. When international culture ministers meet on global issues affecting the arts and artists, the best we can do is send the head of the NEA, if we send anyone at all. It's time to turn that around. Obama is an arts supporter, and Quincy Jones has started a petition for a Secretary of the Arts that has a real shot at making an impact. Let's all sign it!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Playful Learning

Just before the holidays I did an interview for the wonderful website and blog "Playful Learning." This site is run by esteemed educator (and Mom of two) Mariah Bruehl, who is a teacher, administrator, curriculum designer and principal. Mariah recently opted to work from home so as to devote herself full time to her two daughters. Fortunately we can all benefit from this decision as much as her girls surely are, since Mariah is now applying her wealth of wisdom about learning - playfully and joyfully - to parenting. In addition to her terrific blog, her site features scores of ideas, activities, resources, recommendations and interviews. Highly recommmended!!!