About ruth

Author, teacher, librarian and tree-climber, though not all at the same time.

The Kites of Hamamatsu

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A happy cacophony of bugles and drums greeted us as we approached the walking trail to Nakatajima Dunes where the annual Hamamatsu Kite Festival is held. Continue reading

Pocket Poems

April is Poetry Month! Ironically enough, it is also Mathematics Awareness month and while I gravitate towards poetry I flee from mathematics. If I landed in Norton Juster’s “The Phantom Tollbooth,” I would undoubtedly side with the denizens of Dictionopolis and not the inhabitants of Digitopolis. I am probably not being fair, since poetry celebrates math in its rhythm and meter, but for me, anyways, April is Poetry Month.

Like many libraries around the world, we are using a “Poem in Your Pocket” theme to generate interest for poetry of all types. In the junior library, the bulletin board posts a challenge to young readers… read the “Pocket Poem” and find the book that contains the poem and indicate the page number. All entries will be put into a drawing at the end of the month for a prizes. (I usually give away books.)

The beautiful pockets were made by our head librarian who is an accomplished seamstress. We selected some of the poems to match the material pattern of the pockets. The pattern that included buses and crossroads and maps ended up holding Robert Frost’s “Road Less Traveled” in the junior library and “Travel” by Edna St. Vincent Millay in the high school library. A pocket whose patterns is populated with owls holds “The Owl and the Pussycat” and Joyce Sidman’s “Dark Emperor.”

We have collected poem suggestions and even original poems from school staff members. All library patrons are encouraged to “pick a pocket” and take one of the many poems home with them.

As patrons pocket our poems, we will add new ones. Here in Tokyo, as the sakura petals pile in drifts on the ground, it does seem very appropriate for April to be Poetry Month.

It’s hard not to stop and stare at the spectacle of falling pink snow. Perhaps that is why April is also officially “Distracted Driving Awareness Month.”

Making the Second Grade Buzz

Credit: leemt2 (FlickR Creative Commons)

Self-published authors of children’s books tend to agonize over how to create a buzz around their work.

M. Knoop; Natl. Trust for Scotland

We try everything: Facebook, email, blogs, discussion boards, reader and writer organizations, library lists, book reviewers… all in the efforts to get some grown-ups to notice our books, buy our books and give our creation some validity in the mature world of children’s publishing.

Well, I may not even be a blip on the radar of the publishing world yet, but by golly I sure made a bunch of our second graders buzz. Here is a link to a class blog that our second grade teacher kindly posted: Making It Educational; Princess Ramona.

The student reactions posted in the classroom blog are priceless:

YeJin – I liked when after Princess Ramona said, “You hurt my friend’s owie,” because it was funny. The dragon was crying like a 4 year old.

Nykolas – I liked the part when the knight came through the forest and the animals were ready to attack him. I liked the part when the king was in his seat and the animals were next to him and the dragon behind him and he didn’t know it. It is about helping each other.

Devika – I liked the part when Ramona set free the animals from the cage. It reminded me of Noah’s ark. It is a good book because it has funny and interesting things in it.

Reading directly to the students and seeing their reactions and hearing what they are noticing and learning from the story make all of those hours of writing and rewriting and polishing and programming completely worth it.

When all is said and done, a writer of literature is not producing for the reviewers or publishers, we are producing our craft for the children. A buzz from the tiniest of bees is always sweeter than the sweetest honey to the soul.

Ripples in the Blogosphere… or Self-Publishing Promotion

Imagine that you are lying in sunlit pool of still water, and you are dreaming. Your dreams are vivid, colorful and profound; but you are the sole spectator and the sole participant. The pool remains still without a single ripple until you sit up and start to share your dream.

An author may write a masterpiece or at least a lovely poem of book that would be a delight to the eyes of many, but if no one knows of the creation, no one but the creator can enjoy it. So here is the frustration of many an independent author who has chosen the path of self-publishing.

 

The first step is, of course, to make sure that the dream in your soul is written and illustrated in the best and most excellent fashion. Too many self-published books are in dire need of editor and professional artist to rescue them from oblivion. In some cases, there is no earthly help for them and they should become the compost for stronger creations to follow.

If you do have a polished and carefully crafted piece of true literature, then your journey has only begun. The dream is over. It’s time to wake up and make some ripples in the blogosphere. Here are a few places to start:

1. Create a Webpage

  • This website may be dedicated to you as an author or an illustrator, or it may be created for one single literary endeavor; a book or a series of books, etc.
  • Your webpage should be simple, straightforward and well-designed. Keep in mind what it is you want the page to do… promote the book, author or series? become a gathering place for other creators? support educators with lesson plans relating to your book?
  • Update your webpage frequently to keep the content and interest fresh.

2. Create other promotional avenues

  • Consider creating a Facebook page or a Twitter account for the book. (twitter hashtags listed below)
  • Post jacket cover photos on the internet by way of TinyPics. (http://tinypic.com/index.php)
  • Become an active poster and sharer on Pinterest, LinkedIn, GoodReads or other social networking sites.

3. Get the word out!

  • Find relevant bloggers that may agree to review your book or mention it in a post. (Possible iBook kid lit reviewers listed below.)
  • Find legitimate book reviewers specific to your genre and intended audience. (These are few and far between for electronic illustrated children’s books.)
  • Try to get some airtime on GoodReads (but if you’re new, your title may not even show up in the search box)
  • Create your own blog posts and review site. (Yes, that’s what I’m doing now)
Keep splashing. Your first attempts to create waves may fall flat. Established publishers do not necessarily want you to succeed. You will have to be persistent and patient. Remember, ripples and waves create more ripples and waves. You never know how far your message will travel. I was recently surprised to find that folks from India, Iran, Indonesia and Italy were clicking on links to my book… and yes, there were some other countries that didn’t start with the letter “I” in there as well.
Good luck to all of you independent, aspiring authors and may all of your ripples be productive.
Lists:
Relevant Twitter Hashtags for Children’s Literature:

#ebooks, #ibooks, #kidlit (children’s literature), #tlchat (teacher-librarians)

#bookapps (book-like apps for iPad, Android, etc.), #childrensbooks, #dads, #moms

#ece (early childhood education), #edapp (educational app), #ePrdctn (electronic production or book designers)

#kidlitchat, #kidlitPRchat (marketing children’s books), #kids, #kidsbooks

#library, #librarians, #litchat, #literacy

#pblit (picture book literature), #pblitchat (picture book literature chat), #picturebooks

#publishing, #SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators)

#selfpublishing

Sampling of Kid Lit Reviewers or Bloggers Who May Accept eBooks:

A Monster Calls; Book Review

A Monster CallsA Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book will rend your heart and then heal it.

If you have ever had to watch helplessly as someone you love is slowly taken away from you by a long-term sickness or health issue, then this book will resonate deeply with you. It is not a difficult read and can be finished in a day or two, but the message is deep. How do you forgive yourself when you simply want to let go… when you have hung onto the hope of recovery for so long that it has exhausted the last morsel of strength from your soul and you have to admit that you are ready to move on to the last chapter.

This book speaks to the exhaustion of caregivers, their resilience and pain, and the stages of grief that they begin to endure even before the one that they love has passed away.

Note: The illustrated version is excellent with evocative, expressive drawings throughout.

View all my reviews

The History of Books, Libraries, and Getting Kids to Write

My final project for the COETAIL course in which I am currently enrolled consists of supporting a group of 4th graders as we attempt to create a digital book on the expansive topic of… The History of Books and Libraries. I work at an international school as the elementary division librarian, and the project began as a frustrated attempt to find readable and understandable material on the subject for my 3rd grade class as part of the library curriculum. I had one decent picture book to start with and had developed the curriculum from that point. After searching online for more kid-friendly information, I finally came to the conclusion that we would somehow have to create our own material. And that is why last year’s 3rd graders are now creating material that will be used by this year’s 3rd graders.

From an authentic need and an authentic audience comes an authentic use of technology.  The SAMR model helps to identify and analyze the uses of technology to determine whether technology is being used for its own sake or for accomplishing something original that technology finally makes possible.

Although academic instruction can be enhanced by the use of technology, the transformative use is the most valuable in pedagogy. The task which the 4th graders at our school are now tackling would not be possible without the use of technology.

Each student was given a subject within the span of the “History of Books and Libraries.” They were given a folder which contained a copy of one relevant page of a book on their subject  along with a few other resources. They began to work on the “who, when, where, what, why and how” or their topic and were shown how to search for additional information on the web relating to their topic.

Some of their sources were over their heads and a teacher or helper had to sit next to the student translating into age-appropriate vocabulary what their source material was trying to communicate. Then the student would write down what they understood from the material. A few students were tempted to copy the source material word-for-word into their own document, but were quickly found out when they could not explain the vocabulary words that they had typed. The content was explained and they rewrote their page in their own words. This was essential since students who were at their grade level or lower would be the audience for this book.

As the students researched more deeply and wrote in greater detail about their topic, they became more confident in their abilities. Merely learning that your first draft is rarely your best draft was worth the process as students self-edited, peer-edited and received many successive corrections back from the teachers. It was amazing to see how well the students persisted in their editing. They knew that it had to be polished and presentable as it would be published in the final book. They also understood that the content was more important than the form. They were not given the option of choosing their own font as this tends to sidetrack many for hours. They were not even given the option of finding graphics or illustrations for their page until their final text had been approved.

Students who finished editing the text of their page more quickly than others, were challenged to take their research and creation to the next level. Some wrote emails to experts on their subjects and some created models or paintings or pictures that would enhance their page in the book. A few are even creating movies to embed into their page.

One of the drawbacks of using iBooks Author was that the software is not designed to accommodate many creators or contributors at the same time. One person needs to compile the data; it is not a multi-user, magazine or newspaper publishing type of tool where copy editors and writers can all submit material in real time to a work in progress. Actually, my husband works for a company called Woodwing that sells just such a tool. It works very well and is used by Time magazine and other large companies. It has recently been adopted by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Mainichi Newspaper in Japan who used it first with their image-rich publication, Tap-i, which incorporates interactivity and embedded video into their weekly digital news magazine.

But for our purposes, the tech tools that we have chosen have served us well. We did run into some problems as the students attempted to drop their pages into my teacher Drop Box folder which has “Write-Only” capabilities and the folder did not show up. The tech department is fixing the link so that the next attempt will be successful. Students in 4th grade do not have their own email accounts so for some purposes, we had to use memory sticks to transfer data. The students could not access their student folders from home and so some could not work on their content at home. Many did not have Apple computers at home, so they had difficulty transferring some of the files. We are working around these issues, however, and the students are getting closer and closer to being ready to publish.

If this project is successful, we may make this publishing unit a regular fixture in the 4th grade curriculum. It gives the students a jump on the research and writing skills that they will need to tackle the more in-depth Independent Study Project, or ISP, that they all must deal with in 5th grade. As it is, they are getting lots of practice in editing, online research, proper image attribution and digital publishing. Many students will be embedding links into their pages that will take readers to museums, universities and other sites where further studies can undertaken. The students can’t wait to see where in the world their book may be downloaded.