Laurie Halse Anderson, the New York Times-bestselling author who is known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity, was born on this day in 1961. Her work has earned numerous national and state awards, as well as international recognition. Two of her books, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists. Laurie was honored with the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award given by YALSA division of the American Library Association for her “significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature…”.
In the novel Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, the main character lists "the first ten lies they tell you in high school":
1. We are here to help you.
2. You will have time to get to your class before the bell rings.
3. The dress code will be enforced.
4. No smoking is allowed on school grounds.
5. Our football team will win the championship this year.
6. We expect more of you here.
7. Guidance counselors are always available to listen.
8. Your schedule was created with you in mind.
9. Your locker combination is private.
10. These will be the years you look back on fondly.
Discuss with the students if some of these "lies" were similar to the ones they have heard, as well as how they are different. Then, ask students to brainstorm their own personal list of "ten lies they tell you in high school," complete with the truth, or their views on the truth.
Have students share, as a class, the "lies" they have been told in high school and how they've learned differently. Consider publishing a handmade classroom book with the lists of ten lies created by each student, and using it as a "guide to high school" for future students.
Laurie Halse Anderson's site has information on her life, books, and censorship, among other resources.
This site contains biographical information and an interview with the author.
Anderson's playful side emerges when she looks at real history and women who played a role in it.
Matt de la Peña is known for his young adult novels such as Ball Don't Lie and We Were Here that depict teens whose lives are shaped by the stresses of poverty and neglect. He also collaborated on A Nation's Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis, a book for younger readers illustrated by Kadir Nelson. "Last Stop on Market Street," written by Matt de la Peña, is the 2016 Newbery Medal winner.
Share with students de la Peña’s essay Sometimes The 'Tough Teen' Is Quietly Writing Stories. Have students read and discuss the essay in groups, focusing on questions such as
- What attitudes toward literacy (reading and writing) does de la Peña convey?
- What stories does he tell to get these points across?
- How does he craft or structure the stories to make them both interesting and effective in communicating the points?
Then invite students to write a literacy narrative of their own, selecting a few key stories to shape into an essay that conveys a point they wish to make about reading and/or writing in their own lives.
Matt de la Peña’s official site offers biographical information and news about his books and upcoming projects.
In this video interview hosted by the Library of Congress, de la Peña discusses his efforts to represent aspects of the Mexican-American experience to readers.
This article from The New York Times reports on the removal of de la Peña’s books from classrooms in Tucson schools.
Covering some of the same material as the essay in the classroom activity, this interview also addresses his then-newest title, The Living.
Natalie Babbitt was born and raised in Ohio. As a child, she spent a great deal of time reading and drawing. She always wanted to become an illustrator, and eventually studied art in college. In 1966 Babbitt illustrated a children's book written by her husband, called The Forty-ninth Magician. With the encouragement of her editor, Babbitt went on to write and illustrate over a dozen children's novels, picture books, and collections on her own.
Many of Natalie Babbitt's books address the concept of immortality, an issue that has intrigued humanity for centuries. From the ancient Egyptians' determination to reach the afterlife, to the more recent quests to locate the mythical "Fountain of Youth," history offers numerous examples of humankind's attempts to achieve immortality.
- Have students research these and additional beliefs from around the world, and then compare them to Babbitt's vision in Tuck Everlasting.
Have students consider questions such as:
- What are some similarities and differences among these different views?
- Why do people find the prospect of eternal life so intriguing?
- What would be the positive and negative aspects of immortality?
- After considering the issues, have students compose a short story, myth, or poem that addresses immortality.
- Finally, have students illustrate their works in a style similar to Babbitt's black-and-white line drawings.
This Scholastic biography for the author includes a link to an interview transcript and a list of her works.
Glencoe offers this reproducible teaching guide. It includes an author biography, vocabulary list, graphic organizers, and additional resources.
The site provides information about the book Tuck Everlasting and its author, Natalie Babbitt. In addition, there are links to activity ideas, online quizzes, discussion questions, and lesson plans. There is even a comparison to the Disney movie of this book.
Barbara Park was the author of over two dozen Junie B. Jones books, as well as several stories for older readers including My Mother Got Married and Other Disasters, Skinnybones, and Mick Harte Was Here. Park's books have earned a number of awards, including many children's choice and parents' choice award lists. Titles in the Junie B. Jones series continue to appear on bestseller lists.
Have your students write their own "Junie B." stories after brainstorming issues they've experienced during the school year.
- First have the group make a list of the Junie B. adventures in the books they've read (e.g., cheating, school play, losing a tooth).
- Then ask students to brainstorm a second list of ideas that would make interesting stories.
- Students can work alone or in pairs to write their stories, using one of the ideas from the class list. Have students use the interactive story map to plan their writing.
- After all stories have been completed, have each student or pair share their story with the class.
Have students turn their stories into books, with illustrations, and then work with your school or community librarian to create a library display of all the new stories.
A website for kids, including a bibliography of Junie B. books, interactive and printable activities, as well as information about Park's books for older children.
This Random House resource provides summaries and teacher's guides for all of the Junie B. Jones books. Links are provided to other book series resources as well.
This resource contains a brief biography of Park as well as some notes and a list of some of her Junie B. Jones books.
This site provides links to resources about Barbara Park, including an interview in which she describes her experiences in writing the books.
J.R.R. Tolkien, Oxford don and professor of linguistics and medieval literature, was born in South Africa on this day in 1892. He is best known for his creation of the elaborate mythological world of Middle Earth. A tale told originally for his children's amusement, The Hobbit was published in 1937 to great acclaim. His more substantial work for adults, The Lord of the Rings, became a literary watershed with an inestimable impact on popular culture. Tolkien died in 1973.
With the film versions of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit having become so popular in recent years, there is a good opportunity to compare the differences between print and nonprint media. Start with a brainstorming session on how movies tell their stories. Students may need prompting, but eventually they will generate a list that will likely include music, characters, costumes, settings, and acting. Then, ask students to think about how books or novels tell their stories; some things on this list will overlap with the first.
Next, have students read an excerpt from a Tolkien novel. One that works well is the scene from the first chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring in which Gandalf convinces Bilbo to leave the ring behind. Then, view the corresponding scene in the film version. This scene can be found at roughly 0:25.00 on the time counter. After viewing, have students write about changes the filmmakers made and, most important, why they made these changes.
As a final step, have students return to any text that they are currently reading in class and imagine how a particular scene might be filmed. Ask students questions such as the following: What music would be used? What actors would play the roles? What costumes would they wear?
The goal of this site is "to encourage and further interest in the life and works" of Tolkien by providing information about "the books he wrote, his life, and books others have written about him." It is a must-stop for Tolkien fans.
Explore pictures of real-life locations in Scotland, paired with descriptions that Tolkien used to describe his Middle Earth, at this National Virtual Museum site from the United Kingdom.
The History of Literature Podcast takes a fresh look at some of the most compelling examples of creative genius the world has ever known. This episode covers J.R.R. Tolkien.
From an early age, Karen Hesse had an interest in and enjoyed writing. She aspired to become a professional author, in part because of the encouragement of a supportive teacher. She has authored a number of works of historical fiction which bring history alive for young readers. Hesse's writing offers a view of historical topics varying from the depression-era dustbowl to World War II, the Holocaust, and early 20th century issues of racism and bigotry.
Have your students write original short works of historical fiction in verse format, modeling the style Hesse used to write Out of the Dust. Have students read the book and discuss the ways that Hesse incorporates historical detail into her work. Then brainstorm some of the historical topics they have studied in class during the school year. Tell students they will be writing original works using the history they have studied. Have pairs of students do the following:
- Select a history topic from the brainstorm list for their story.
- Research the topic, looking for factual details to include in their stories (names, places, and events).
- Create a Story Map to develop the details of their story.
- Work as a team to write the story in verse.
When all pairs have finished their stories, display them in your classroom by having students place them in order along an historical timeline.
This Scholastic resource offers an author biography and interview. There is also a link to an annotated booklist.
This page from Librarypoint provides information about Hesse and her work, including brief biographical information and a link to her 1998 Newbery acceptance speech.
Baltimore Public Schools offers this research project based on Out of the Dust. The project is designed to enhance students' reading of the novel by building their understanding of the historical time period in which it is set.
Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women and other novels, was born on this date in 1832. Alcott wrote several novels under her real name and also penned works under a pseudonym. Her very first novel, The Inheritance-written when she was 17-wasn't published until 150 years after she wrote it, when two researchers discovered it in a library in 1997.
Little Women is partly autobiographical. Alcott used many of the events of her own life as fodder for her writing of this and her other novels. In fact, most scholars believe that the character of Jo March closely resembles Louisa May Alcott. It is not unusual for authors to take incidents from their own lives and use them in their fiction.
Ask students to brainstorm and write in their journals important events and names of people from their lives that might serve as the beginning point for an interesting story, poem, or longer work. Students can then use the interactive Bio-Cube to plan their story. There are more tips available to learn more about the Bio-Cube. An alternative might be to ask students to write about a memorable person in a nonfiction essay format. (This could be submitted to Readers' Digest, which has a feature of this type in each issue). Another alternative would be to have students research the life of Alcott and then read some of her novels to develop a list of those people and incidents from her own life that appear in her fiction.
Information about Alcott's life and work is found at this site. Links provide information about various aspects of her life. The site also includes a virtual tour of the house where Louisa May Alcott grew up.
From the textbook site for the Heath Anthology of American Literature, this site provides complete biographical information, critical material, and links to related resources.
This site for the American Masters film biography of Louisa May Alcott offers extensive information about Alcott's life and work, including historical photos and a multimedia timeline.
The Library of Congress offers this resource with information about Alcott's life, images, and excerpts from the writings of Alcott's father regarding her birth and early childhood.
On this day in 1967, Dr. Christian N. Bernard performed the first human heart transplant. He also developed a new design for artificial heart valves.
Chances are, every student in your class will know someone who has had heart problems. After discussing the causes of heart disease, talk about the role that diet and exercise can play in maintaining a healthy heart. Ask your students to go online and find healthy dessert recipes that do not involve cooking or to bring in magazines from home that include recipes for healthy desserts. You can also provide access to kid-friendly cookbooks, such as the Kids' Cookbook: All Recipes Made by Real Kids in Real Kitchens! (American Heart Association, 1993). After sharing their recipes, have students vote on which dessert will be made in class. Before eating the dessert, take your students on a brisk walk outdoors. If it's a rainy day, do some indoor aerobics to their favorite music.
The Franklin Institute Online provides an interactive, multimedia learning experience about the heart. Visitors can hear the sound of a heart murmur, see photographs of the human heart, watch an echocardiography and open-heart surgery video, and learn how to monitor their hearts' health!
On this website developed by NOVA Online, visitors have the opportunity to perform a virtual heart transplant. After the operation, students will have a pretty good idea of how surgeons perform heart transplants.
Research has shown that heart disease begins in childhood. Parents, teachers, and students will benefit from the information on this website.
The American Heart Association offers dozens of lesson plans, activities, and other resources for teaching about heart health.
This lesson plan from ScienceNetlinks has students examine changes in diet and lifestyle from prehistoric to modern times and how these differences have spurred the development (and better treatment) of heart disease.
Eric Carle, born in Syracuse, New York, in 1929, has illustrated more than 60 books. One of his most beloved books, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, has been translated into more than 25 languages and has sold more than 12 million copies.
Eric Carle's illustrations feature paper collages, so after reading some of Carle's books you might create your own torn paper collages. Or if you're ready for more of a challenge, try creating Word Collages. Have students choose a scene, an emotion, an animal, or a person. Then students search out or create words, phrases, and sentences that illustrate what they've chosen. Words can be cut out of newspapers or magazines, created on a computer using a drawing program or the art tool in a word processing program, or drawn with markers or crayons. Assembled on a sheet of paper using glue or tape, the words should remind the reader of the scene, emotion, animal, or person that the student has chosen.
Eric Carle's own website includes information on all of Carle's books, upcoming events, forthcoming publications, and the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.
Devoted to national and international picture book art, this museum emphasizes ways of combining visual and virtual literacy. The virtual tour provides great visuals, which could be a springboard for language or visual arts projects.
Scholastic's Eric Carle Author Study includes information from an interview with Carle, background information, a bibliography, and a variety of classroom activities using several Carle books for art, science, math, social studies, and writing connections.
The National Gallery of Art offers this interactive tool for creating collages. Letters, numbers, signs, and shapes comprise the images available for use in the collage.
Best known for his collaborations with illustrator Lane Smith (The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Stories, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs), author Jon Scieszka has also written a memoir, Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka. Scieszka is a champion of reading opportunities for boys, having founded the web-based literacy program Guys Read and served as the first National Ambassador for Young People's Literature.
- Ask students to brainstorm all the ways that their families, school, and community have supported their love for reading—or have squelched their love for it. Ask them to transform this list into a chart of Do’s and Don’ts advising the adults in their lives on how to nurture a love of reading in young people.
- Then share (in language appropriate for your students’ grade level) and discuss the components of Jon Scieszka’s platform as Ambassador for Young People’s Literature to motivate young readers:
- Expand your definition of reading beyond fiction and novels. Lots of kids love to read non-fiction, humor, comic strips, magazines, illustrated stories, audio recordings, and websites. It’s all reading. It’s all a good way to become a reader.
- Let kids choose reading that interests them. It may not be the reading you like, but making the choice is important to kids.
- Be a good reading role model. Talk to your kids about how you choose what you read. Share your reading likes and dislikes. Let kids see you reading.
- Try not to demonize TV, computer games, and new technologies. These media do compete for kids’ time, but they are not the “bad guy.” Help kids become media literate. Show them how different media tell stories in different ways.
- Think global. Act local. There are all kinds of good people and worthy groups working to help kids read. Teachers, librarians, and booksellers are a wonderful resource. Ask them for book recommendations. Join a local literacy group.
(from National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Library of Congress)
- Then ask students to compare their suggestions to Scieszka’s and to return to their list to make additions or changes.
- Finally, invite students to use the Letter Generator to write a letter to families, school staff, librarians, and community members sharing their ideas on how best to support young readers’ interest in books.
This video shares Sciescka's perspectives on how to make reading fun.
Scieszka's whimsical webpage includes a biography and information about his books and series.
The homepage of Scieszka's project supporting reading choices for boys includes book lists, ideas for book clubs, and more.
This page offers a brief feature on each of the Ambassadors, including Scieszka, Katherine Patterson, and Walter Dean Myers.
This resource from Scholastic provides suggested activities for teaching Squids Will Be Squids by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. There is a link on the page to similar resources for The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.