Friday, August 8, 2014

Nutmeg Award Nominees for Elementary...
       So Far, so Good!

This week's focus books are both nominated titles for the inaugural Nutmeg for elementary students. This is the first year in which students in grades 2 -3 can participate in the Nutmeg statewide book award program. However, this new award is offered to students in grades 2-4. Therefore, 4th graders have the opportunity to participate in two levels this year (Nutmeg Elementary (grades 2-4) and Nutmeg Intermediate (grades 4-6).  

I love state book award programs because when a school embraces the program, you actually create a community of readers who experience a common body of literature. Conversations about books and authors naturally occurs across grade levels.  Parents, teachers, and students discuss books and share their impressions or the impact these books made on their lives results in a powerful experience.

In an interview regarding fiction books, Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) award-winning author, had this to say:

Fiction has two uses. First, it's a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it's hard, because someone's in trouble and you have to know how it's all going to end … that's a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable.
The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.
Neil Gaiman stated so eloquently my sentiments and passion for being a school librarian.  It is a pleasure and an obligation to provide access to books that hook students into reading while providing them with opportunities to read.  Encouraging both school and family participation in the Nutmeg Award program is one effective strategy to lead children to the discovery that reading is pleasurable.
FOCUS TITLES: Why did I especially enjoy these two titles? 
Lulu and the Dog from the Sea by Hilary McKay is actually the second title in this early chapter book series. It has characters that are truly likable and  a plot filled with action, heart, friendship and a stray dog.   This book is a quick read (under 100 pages), and I like the fact that the family vacation has plenty of bumps along the way which is the typical experience for most families.
Sidney and Sydney: Third Grade Mixup by Michele Jakubowski (@mjakubowski) is also a fast read, with short chapters,  color illustrations, boy and girl main characters as friends, realistic peer teasing, a child character explaining living with diabetes, and it's told from alternating perspectives. 
Both of these books will work as read alouds or independent reading and will spark a desire to read other books in their respective series. 
From a teaching standpoint, I think language arts teachers will find ample examples of "small moments"  in each text.  Each chapter is brief and could be used as a mentor text during a narrative writing lesson on exploding a small moment. 
Bottom line:   I give both books a thumbs up!  
Students in grades 2-3 will build confidence and stamina as readers since both books are early chapter books.  In addition, the books show realistic characters dealing with age appropriate "drama", while learning how to compromise-- necessary quality in a healthy relationship.  Both characters discover the joy found in placing another person's needs before their own. 

That's just two of the fifteen nominated titles for the 2015 Nutmeg Elementary Award.  To view the complete list of nominees for grades 2-4, take a look at a video slideshow I created to promote the titles.

This is not a new tool, however it is often overlooked.  Consider creating a VoiceThread for either of these titles.  The beauty of VoiceThread--it allows everyone to join in on a conversation.  VoiceThread is a cloud application, so there is no software to install.  You can upload, share and discuss documents, presentations, images, audio files and videos.  Invite others to comment on VoiceThread slides using one of five powerful commenting options: microphone, webcam, text, phone, and audio-file upload.  Keep a VoiceThread private, share it with specific people, or share it with the world.
VoiceThread is a great tool to use for discussing the Nutmeg Nominees!
Simply create one and encourage students and families to respond to a discussion prompt such as: 
For Lulu and the Dog from the Sea, the prompt could be...the two main characters were quite different in their interests and personalities.  Who are you most like, Lulu or Mellie? How are you similar?  Or Lulu and Mellie certainly had a vacation filled with challenges and surprises. Describe a vacation in which you had a challenge and a pleasant surprise. 
For Sidney & Sydney: Third Grade Mix-Up, the prompt could be... The last couple of pages provides additional information on each character based on specific topics.   Re-read pages 126-127 and write a profile about yourself using those same topics and share it on the VoiceThread.  Or, both Sidney and Sydney sacrificed collecting candy on Halloween for the sake of their friends who could not eat sugar.  In the end, they still had a great holiday.   Share a time when you sacrificed doing something you really enjoy and instead chose to do something special for your friend or family member.
VoiceThread (@voicethread) offers educators paid accounts for classrooms, schools, and districts. 

Here is a sample VoiceThread for Lulu and the Dog from the Sea.  Make a comment on the VoiceThread and get the conversation started!

Keep on reading and chatting about books,
Mrs. Martellino