Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Today is a beautiful day!

It's a beautiful Sunday here in New York City. I met up with my dear friend Lesley early this morning for our weekly walk around the reservoir in Central Park. We walk, chat, watch the sun come up and the water glisten and by the time we start walking home, we sometimes feel energized enough to take on yet another day of life and another day of parenting. We've been doing this for a while and one of us always notes the beauty of the scene and how lucky we are to live where we do (this is usually juxtaposed against a running rant on the expense of living in NYC, the crazy school admission processes and systems, and the challenge of raising kids - anywhere). It's important to take the time to appreciate what we have and where we are in life. For me, the Central Park reservoir is a reservoir of strength and balance. Kids today are much more environmentally conscious that our generation ever was and many are involved in environmental causes but, to load on the cliches, it's important not to lose the forest for the trees; it's important to remind our kids to take time and smell the roses too. We all have our stress and chaos so it's important that we each find our reservoir. Slow down and enjoy your surroundings, even for just a few minutes today.

To enhance your enjoyment of a beautiful autumn day, I hope you'll consider reading Peter Brown's wonderful and beautiful book, The Curious Garden with a child in your life. If your older child who wants to spook things up a bit this Halloween while staying true to the gardening theme, consider The Gardener by S.A. Bodeen.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

What am I reading now?

This and subsequent Saturday blog posts will be dedicated to letting you know what I'm reading now and, where applicable, why.

Friday, October 29, 2010

You Say Fantasy, I Say Historical Fiction

One of my daughters had to select a historical fiction novel for a book project at school. She had selected a book that just wasn't working for her so she asked her teacher if she could base her project on Rick Riordan's The Heroes of Olympus: The Lost Hero that had just come out and she was dying to read. When her teacher identified the likely genre of the Riordan book as fantasy rather than historical fiction, my crafty child insisted that the book is based on mythology which, in turn, is based on the customs and beliefs that defined ancient Greece. Her clever teacher acquiesced but insisted that part of the project will have to focus on those customs, beliefs and myths. So why do I love this story? My daughter thinks it's because I'm proud that she was such a persuasive advocate for her position. I am certainly impressed by her creativity, advocacy and, yes, even the way she's mastered the art of manipulation. However, I really want to hug the teacher! It would have been so easy to enforce the strict letter of the law here but instead she seized on the opportunity to engage a child. My daughter is now excited about her book project and she is loving her book; she is also feeling as though she is an active participant in her own education and she is enjoying a connection with her teacher. This one decision on the teacher's part is more significant than she may have realized but not at all taken for granted. Good teachers can and do make a difference.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Is it safe to read while you're walking?

Most mornings after getting my kids off to school, I see the same father walking his son to school. The boy must be around 12 by now. The dad reads a book to his son as they walk. I've witnessed this recurring scene for years. I can't picture any expression on the boy's face and I've never noticed what books they read (I think I've been distracted, wondering if the dad ever bumps or steps into anything).  When I first encountered them years ago, I thought this was a remarkable scene and wondered if maybe I owed it to my children to do the same thing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Live in the Future...

Nick Bilton, the lead technology writer for The New York Times Bits Blog and a reporter for the paper, spoke about the future at the recent Children's Book Council Annual Meeting. These days, of course, the future is like 10 minutes ago. Nick talked about some of the newest reading technology that's in development, which is all very cool; some of the mind-blowing functionality that is already available on a limited scale but will be available on a widespread scale before we know it; and the speed-of-light rate at which our brains are adapting to these changes, even though, scientifically speaking, our brains should not be able to keep up.Nick talked about the way we will all soon be programming our devices to give us only the news about issues of interest to each of us personally. His countless examples made it easy to conclude that whoever named those born in the 70s, 80s and 90s the "Me Generation" was premature.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Different Kind of Library...

The Children's Book Council moved to a new office space over the summer so yesterday we invited our members to an open house/Halloween party to check out the new space, visit with one another, eat cupcakes and explore our library. It was great fun to see people delighting in books published by rival publishing houses.A little know fact to those who are not immersed in the children's book publishing/trade association world is that the CBC is home to a fabulous examination library that is open to the public, free of charge (weekdays only, from 10 am-4 pm and only until 12:30 pm on Fridays).

Monday, October 25, 2010


Inherent in the Read for Your Life platform of National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Katherine Paterson is a message of learning and acceptance. Katherine has said, “I want people to be reading about children of other places and other races and religions,” she said. “I think novels are a wonderful way to do that because you get in somebody else’s psyche and you see things quite differently than the way you see things simply through your own eyes.” By promoting diversity through books and bringing those books to the attention of young people, we can help our children accept differences in others and embrace the differences in themselves. 

Amy Bowllan, teacher and Director of Diversity at the Hewitt School in New York City hosted a symposium earlier this month to explore the issue of diversity in books. Amy takes initiative where others do not and explores critical issues in Bowllan's Blog so it is not surprising that she brought together teachers and librarians from different schools in the city for A Conversation About Books. I was fascinated by the way attendees answered the question,

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Learning to love to read

There is an important distinction to be made between learning to read and loving to read. Learning to read requires mastering several skills. It's the cornerstone of education and a necessary foundation for learning across a standard curriculum and beyond. A parent or caregiver can certainly teach or assist in teaching a child how to read but this series of lessons can also be outsourced to a great teacher. Loving to read is more about interest, personal connection and joy. Helping your child cultivate a love of reading is not something that can be outsourced; rather it's one of the most important and wonderful gifts you can give a child. It starts with snuggling together and reading to and with your young child every day. It involves letting your children see you enjoying books of your own. It requires letting each person in the family identify or create their favorite reading spot. And it involves choice. When learning to read and acquiring comprehension skills at school, kids read books that are considered "just right" for them. The books that will help them cultivate a love of reading are the books that interest them most; the books they want to read. Let your child loose in a bookstore or a library and if they come back with The Butt Book by Artie Bennett (which is a riot!), take the opportunity to giggle along with them and know that you're doing a good thing. If your child is excited about a book do not miss the opportunity to respect their choice - help them through the book if necessary - but support their choice. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010


As parents, we try to find the teachable moments in most every situation in order to prepare our children for the bumpy road ahead. Bullying has always been one of those "teachable" issues but the recent stories about young people who have been bullied because of their sexual orientation - young people who in the wake of horrendous bullying felt they had no alternative to ending their own lives to find a way out - has brought a new urgency to dealing with the issue. I cannot imagine the pain born by the families and friends of the victims and I mean them no disrespect when I attempt to search for that teachable moment to guide my own children. I use these stories to impress upon my children that bullying is a broad term that encompasses so much more than they might have considered and, indeed, so much more than was even contemplated when I was their respective ages; and that it is more important than ever to consider our every word, our every action and our every keystroke with the utmost care. You can't erase the words you text or email and you can't control how someone else may interpret your tone so it is crucial to think carefully before hitting "send" or "post" or "reply".

Friday, October 22, 2010

Seth's Blog

Seth Godin is a bestselling author, entrepreneur and agent of change. He riffs on marketing, respect, and the ways ideas spread. Seth's blog at is one that I subscribe to, from which I have learned a great deal that has proven useful in both my professional life and my personal life. In today's post, Seth contemplates the problems with whining.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Why blog?

Earlier this month, the New York Times, in a rare move, dedicated part of its front page - incredibly valuable real estate - to children's books ( Naturally, given my professional life, I read the article with great excitement and interest. Wow! What a disappointment! I can best sum up the article as a missed opportunity. Rather than speak to the incredible contributions picture books have made to literature or the key role picture books play in a person's (and not just a little person's) creative and cognitive development, the article premised that picture books are "languishing". Pushy, competitive parents were blamed for this tragedy. I don't even want to go there. I think the several hundred comments posted in reaction to this article covered it admirably. Reflections on all aspects of this article were posted. One of my favorite responses was written by the amazing Lisa Von Drasek, the children's librarian/book reviewer at the Bank Street College of Education. Check her comments out at

My preference is to lament the missed opportunity because, after all, the front page of the New York Times can and should be used to raise awareness and move the needle on issues that matter and this was merely an article that noted declining sales. Parents could have been reminded of what librarians and many teachers already know - picture books are not just for those who can't read. Seriously, have you read Lane Smith's, It's a Book or Lemony Snicket's 13 Words or Peter Brown's Children Make Terrible Pets or Mo Willems Pigeon books or pretty much anything by Jon Scieszka?  I love these books and so do my kids, even though they've been reading chapter books for years! These books are fantastic and they are brilliant because they can be appreciated by anyone at any age but their brilliance is most apparent to and they are most deliciously devoured by those with some level of sophistication - sophistication that was cultivated early on for most of us with great picture books. They are books that can be enjoyed by a family ... together. Indeed, they are the stuff that family memories are made of. My kids, like so many, love to hear stories about when they were little. In response to that request this afternoon by one of my 6th grade daughters (I have 2), I asked if she remembered the time she and her sisters acted out every story in Jon Scieszka's Squids Will be Squids as their bedtime story. She remembered it gleefully and asked if we could do that again tonight.

I'm blogging because when my worlds collide, like they did when I read the New York Times article, I tend to have a lot to say. I am in the fortunate position of adoring my family and loving my work and appreciating how each enhances, supports and benefits from the other. I hope to be able to share those benefits with anyone who chooses to follow this blog.  My kids insist that I talk too much so I immediately rejected any possibility of tweeting my thoughts. Blogging seems to suit me fine. The only thing limiting how much I write now is the time because bedtime is approaching and we have several scenes of Squids Will be Squids to act out as a family tonight. Long live the picture book!