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Authors & illustrators

Loss of a friend

Walter Dean Myers

I've been away for a while. The family vacation was without Internet access or even phone service. When I was reconnected, I was deeply saddened by news that one of the true giants of contemporary children's and young adult literature had died.

Making a list? Check these twice!

If you're like me, you're scurrying around looking for the perfect gift for a child in your life. Below are some helpful gift suggestion lists I've come across. Maybe you'll find just what you were looking for!

A treasure trove of resources from Jen Robinson's Growing Bookworms Newsletter. Be sure to look through the links she shared on Twitter. Lots and lots of book suggestions!

Board books: Three a day keeps the reading specialist away

That's essentially what I write in every card as I hand over a stack of board books to expectant mom friends: "Three a day keeps the reading specialist away." After a chuckle and a roll of the eyes, my Mom-to-be friends add our tried and true board book titles to the pile of baby gifts and toys. But I'm happy, knowing that those board books will be loved and chewed on for years to come.

Why field trips are worth the effort

Taking a group of children for an outing can be rough — perhaps more so for adults than for the young people. After all, it's up to parents and teachers to keep track of their charges, worry about transportation, safety, snacks, and more. So why bother?

Because field trips make a difference. There's research that supports field trips to art museums, aka "culturally enriching" activities, has a significant and positive impact on students. In my experience, almost all family or class outings can make a positive impact.

Books just in time for vacation

The weather says it is definitely summertime — often travel or vacation time.

Lots of families will take road trips; many will visit some of the wonderful national parks across the country. And a great time it is, too; after all, July is Park and Recreation Month.

In addition to summer pleasure reading, two recent books are must-haves on these excursions.

Sure signs of summer: watermelon and weather

I love the long days of summer. I even enjoy the heat (not so much the humidity though). And what could be better on a hot summer day than a cool slice of watermelon?

Thunderstorms are a part of summer, too. But many brave children who (like a small dog named Rosie) aren't afraid of night shadows or tigers or anything else — except thunder. Rosie's boy couldn't comfort her — not even by telling her that "thunder was watermelons rolling off a watermelon truck." But the wait for the end was much easier when the boy held Rosie.

No screen required

Many are best done outdoors while others are really intended for indoor use; some require special accoutrements, others none. They were once called "diversions" and although the names have changed, games are still around and in fact, have never gone away. (There is even evidence that ancient people in Greece, China, and even Sumeria played them.)

And summer is the time when there's more down time for children or even adults to learn or revisit games.

The fun begins at summer camp

As summer gets underway, lots of children prepare for what is often the first time away from home — a sleep-away camp: lots of outdoor activities (swimming, archery, hiking — more?), camp fires, camaraderie and independence.

Sleep-away camps can be a fine way to allow children to connect with nature and start to figure thing out alone (though with guidance, of course). It can be downright transformative.

All children should have a camp experience. If it can't be gotten in person, then maybe the next best thing is to vicariously experience camp.

Keep 'em laughing all summer long

Do you ever drag your feet when someone tells you absolutely must do something — especially when it's supposed to be "good" for you? I know I do —and so do lots of young people. Call it human nature. Call it whatever, but foot-dragging can be a real drag on summer learning especially for children who associate books exclusively with school.

Maybe a different approach can help: a carrot rather than the old stick. The potential for a chuckle rather than a push?

How books can open minds

During a school visit recently I met classes of 3rd and 5th graders to talk about authors and illustrators, share some of their books and highlight some of their advice for young readers. I talked to the children about what they would do if they were in a position similar to those that book characters were placed.

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"You may have tangible wealth untold. Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be — I had a mother who read to me." — Strickland Gillilan