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TENNERS' TOP TEN: TEN WAYS TO GET SCHOOLED

I've spent a lot of time in schools, community centers, libraries, and all kinds of classrooms over the years, and have always enjoyed looking for ways to make connections between literature and academic life, to bring books into the classroom and library in dynamic and innovative ways. There are so many resources out there to help MG and YA authors, teachers, librarians, parents, and all kinds of adventurous readers do just that -- I can't name a "top" ten, but here are ten (ish) fantastic ones that are bound to light a creative spark:


1. Teaching Tolerance: a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, is a wonderful academic resource for any book that touches on diversity, bias, community -- their Learning Resources and Teaching Diverse Students Initiative are top-notch. Teaching for Change also has an abundant supply of lesson plans and program ideas to help students think critically about the real-world issues and themes that infuse almost any MG or YA book. Writers and readers of historical fiction should be among the first to explore the lesson plan ideas of the Zinn Education Project, sponsored in part by Teaching for Change, and promoting the use of Zinn's groundbreaking PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES.


2. The Reading Zone: Sarah is a 6th grade language arts teacher whose passion for books and a literate life are infectious. She offers reviews, thoughtful and extremely helpful musings on how to use books in the classroom, and more. She and her students also raise Monarch butterflies, which is more than a little cool. At Bib-Laura-graphy, children's librarian Laura Koenig spotlights "good reads for teens and middle grade readers", with thoughtful, in-depth reviews that highlight themes and big ideas in books but remain remarkably spoiler-free. A great way to figure out book pairings/groupings for workshops or presentations, along with the lesson plans from RIF, because, well, I shouldn't even have to give a reason. It's RIF! You know what's up. Pure gold.


3. The Peace Corps offers lesson plans on a variety of subjects, perfect for activities with teens. I especially like the service learning ideas that would go well with any book that involves community building and service, broadening one's horizons, and of course, issues of peace and justice. The politics of reading and literacy are certainly among the issues of peace and justice, and Color Online talks "books, culture, and literacy" with power and conviction. A blog run by a community organization and library "dedicated to empowering young women" in Detroit, Michigan, it offers countless ideas to shape book discussions, presentations, book club meetings and related activities.


4. Author Natalie Lorenzi is also a teacher, and her Teacher's Guides are amazing. Grounded in actual curriculum guidelines and standards, these are the kinds of book companions that make me want a class to use them with. So much fun, well-organized, and did I mention FUN?


5. Teaching Authors are exactly that, and boy, do they know how to do it! Six authors collaborate on this site that offers workshop ideas, writing exercises, tips, interviews, and more, with humour, grace, and a whole lot of wisdom.


6. Edi is a librarian on a mission who knows her stuff -- graphic novels, film, quilting, and more. Her sidebar links alone can bring literature to exciting new life in classrooms and libraries. Her recent post on AuthorsNow! is a perfect example of how she incorporates both substance and style into her work, and her coming-of-age film list is a wonderful starting point for book/film pairings and themed discussion or activities. Jen Robinson's Book Page is a gift of great proportions -- a seemingly endless and regularly updated resource from an true book lover who also thinks "that more adults should try reading children's books, and that the ones who do should be able to share their thoughts on children's books with others." A "literacy evangelist" who's also on the board of Kidlitosphere, she provides fertile ground for any number of ideas.


7. I found Kay Vandergrift's site years ago, while doing research on reader response theory, and my mouth dropped open. Seriously, it's like having a complete college course at your fingertips, for free. With links and info about male and female coming of age stories, fairy tales, and more, there is a ton of inspiration here for a variety of ways to link books across the curriculum, or create a course yourself.


8. Exclamation points all 'round for Nathalie Mvondo's Multiculturalism Rocks!. Nathalie is seemingly tireless, daily posting resources for anyone interested in multiculturalism in children's literature. Her enthusiasm alone is worth the visit, but you'll hang around for the links, reviews, event listings -- a real treasure. Another powerhouse is Paper Tigers, which also covers multiculturalism in children's lit, with a special focus on Asia and the Pacific Rim. Their blog, interviews, an illustrator's gallery, and their latest project, Spirit of Paper Tigers, "whose aim is to promote literacy while raising awareness of our common humanity", are all engrossing and inspiring.


9. You can spend hours just looking at all of the links in YALSA's Teen Read Week Wiki, and then days upon days riffing off of the tips, program and theme ideas -- there are even planning and budget resources for a community celebration of teens and books. Author and superblogger Mitali Perkins is another fountain of information, links, and just plain amazing. Her annual contests offer a rare opportunity for young writers to be recognized for their work. A "safe place to chat about books between cultures", Mitali's Fire Escape reminds us all of the joy of discovery through literature.


10. Sometimes an author might have an idea for a workshop or activity, or even a handout, but the mechanics of actually making it work in the classroom are elusive. Check out Angela Maiers' site, where this 20+ year educator breaks down theory, practice, and what 21st century literacy really means. And then be blown away by Web English Teacher, because while it's a little ad-heavy, the sheer volume of links, lesson plans, and ideas is almost overwhelming.


10+. Ning! Doesn't it just sound promising, like a great idea in the middle of the night? I'm totally cheating here, because I went way over ten a while ago, but just check out YA Litchat, In the Middle, and Adolescent Literacy, and you'll understand why I just had to include *at least* these three. You'll find out what educators and students, readers and writers, are talking about and doing with books in classrooms. You'll be inspired by the exchange of ideas and information. Seriously, go there now.


And I didn't even list (until now) the top-notch teens who write extensively about their responses to literature, like Frenetic Reader, Reading in Color, and Liyanaland -- perusing their honest, thoughtful reviews is a wonderful way to develop meaningful discussion questions and activities, and to encourage other teens to challenge themselves and all of us in the same ways.


In the writing and publishing process, I've always hoped that *someone* will read and connect with my work; the beauty of resources like the ones listed here is that they offer fantastic opportunities for 'reading' in new and exciting ways. Creating lesson plans, teachers' guides, activities, or presentations that help readers make their own meaning and make books a lasting part of their lives is no small feat, and I'm grateful that people and sites like these are our partners along the way.

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
ext_108007
Feb. 15th, 2010 02:30 pm (UTC)
Inclusion
You offer quite an impressive list of resources and I'm amazed to be included!!
Thank you!
jennadol
Feb. 15th, 2010 05:52 pm (UTC)
What a GREAT post, Gbemi! I knew about a bunch of these, but a lot are completely new to me...thanks for compiling this!
teachingauthors.com
Feb. 15th, 2010 06:35 pm (UTC)
Schooling resources
Thanks for sharing this terrific list of resources. We're very honored that you included our TeachingAuthors blog.
Carmela Martino
lindsay_eland10
Feb. 15th, 2010 08:56 pm (UTC)
Wow, this was so helpful, gbemi!! Thanks so much!
natalie_writer
Feb. 16th, 2010 03:23 am (UTC)
Wow--thanks so much for the shout-out, Gbemi!

You've listed several great resources that I hadn't heard of before. I'm going to bookmark this post. :-)
seaheidi
Feb. 16th, 2010 04:38 am (UTC)
Wonderful post! Thank you. :)
dawn_metcalf
Feb. 16th, 2010 12:37 pm (UTC)
Wow, Gbemi! You *so* rock!
blythe_woolston
Feb. 16th, 2010 03:05 pm (UTC)
Bookmarked this--it's gold and oxygen, precious and essential. Thank you.
jessica_leader
Feb. 16th, 2010 10:41 pm (UTC)
Well, I can hardly put it better than Blythe. Let's see...the list is hemoglobin, keeping our blood cells oxygenated and healthy!

Seriously, this is an amazing resource, and beautifully written, if I may be so bold. I can't wait to make use of it!
olugbemisola
Feb. 17th, 2010 12:52 am (UTC)
Thanks so much, everyone! I'm glad that this is helpful. And the biggest thank you to the people who create these amazing resources -- I'm always inspired by them!
jencervantes
Feb. 17th, 2010 03:54 pm (UTC)
What a great list of resources, Gbemi. Thank you
sheela_chari
Feb. 20th, 2010 02:47 pm (UTC)
Great list - I bookmarked this page! Thank you, Gbemi!!
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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