Keeping Current in Children's Literature
Several years ago, I found myself in a place no reading teaching should ever be - unable to recommend books to my students. Mid-year, I had taken a new position as a sixth grade reading teacher after spending several years in third. Quickly I realized how little I knew about current young adult literature. While in third grade, I had spent years reading children's literature, cultivating my personal library, and making lists of books I would use in my lessons. As I was boxing materials to take to my new classroom, I realized that Junie B. Jones, Wayside School, and Magic Tree House just weren't going to cut it with my new group of friends. Panic set in at the idea of cramming years of reading into a couple of weekends. It seemed impossible, and it was. I needed help and right away.
I soon learned that I should never have relied solely on myself for building my library. And I don't mean the physical library, but the one we have stored in our heads, notebooks, and hearts. There are individuals and organizations out there who do nothing but read and review new children's literature. Find a few good ones and you'll remain current amid the flood of new books published every year. Here are the resources I've come to depend on for finding quality children's literature.
Five Resources for Keeping up with Children's Literature
1. Blogs about books. With little effort, you can find dozens of bloggers who write about books. Follow some of your favorite authors on social media and they are sure to lead you to a few great resources. These are two of my favorites!
Nerdy Book Club. Several years ago, I stumbled across Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer, and it changed me as a reading teacher. How I planned my reading block, allowed myself the "luxury" of independent reading for students, and how I recommended books - all changed after reading this little gem (if you haven't read it - go get it!). I discovered that she was one of four main contributors to the Nerdy Book Club blog, visited the site, and fell in love. Not only do they provide recommendations of books they have read, but also write other helpful posts such as their top 10 lists. You can even apply to be a Nerdy Blogger yourself!
Children's Book-A-Day Almanac. Have you heard of the Mazza Museum in Findlay, Ohio? If not, be sure to check out my post about it later this week on my blog. A couple of years ago, I heard Anita Silvey speak at their Summer Conference and was so engaged that I completely skipped the session I was to attend next in order to listen to her some more. Formerly she was a publisher at Houghton Mifflin and editor for The Horn Book. As someone who loves literature and sharing it with others, she decided to start a blog where she reviewed one children's book each day for a year. While it sounded great at the time, she admitted to us that she didn't realize how much work it would entail. However, she enjoyed the process so much that she extended her project past that initial first year. You won't find all new books here. Instead, she will remind you of classics you had long forgotten and need to incorporate back into your lessons. Definitely worth adding to your RSS feed!
2. Book Award Lists. Each year, reviewers sift through the tens of thousands of books published to fill their "Best of..."lists. Award season is the perfect time to find new titles for your students and yourself. Follow the nominations of these awards for some of the best of the best.
- Caldecott Medal - Awarded to illustrators for artwork in children's literature.
- Coretta Scott King - Award for best written or artistic work by an African American author or illustrator.
- International Literacy Association - Dedicated to newly published authors in primary, intermediate, and young adult categories.
- Laura Ingalls Wilder - Awarded to a writer who has made a lasting impact on the genre of children's literature.
- Newbery Medal - Honors the author who contributed the most "distinguished" work in children's literature from the previous year.
- Pura Belpre - Award given to a Latino or Latina writer and illustrator whose work portrays or celebrates the Latino experience.
3. Compilation lists and publications. Of course, publishers and literacy organizations are great sources of current information on children's literature. You can access their lists and journals online for free or subscribe for a small fee. The following are excellent sources.
4. Goodreads. Do you have a Goodreads account? I absolutely love the site. It allows you to keep track of books you've read and want to read, create custom bookshelves (categories) and share on your blog or website, interact with other readers, and read book reviews. And it's free to join. After you create an account, search for people you know and authors you love to either "friend" or "follow." Donalyn Miller has an account and is fabulous to follow! She has bookshelves filled with books recommended by the Nerdy Bookclub for the past several years.
Want to be friends on Goodreads? I'd love to connect! Here's my profile.
5. Pinterest. Pinterest is a great resource for literature in the form of book lists. Who doesn't love a great list? There are several bloggers who do nothing but research and create book lists for all sorts of topics. I love collecting these so much that I've created an entire Pinterest board for just book lists. You can find it here:
OK - those are my top five resources for remaining current in children's literature. How about you? What are your top resources? I'd love to add to my list!