Tuesday, September 01, 2009

I felt like I had let my "baby" go out into the world when I dropped my tenure portfolio off at UPS to be sent to ECU today. A 4" high binder full of examples of my professional life/contributions since August 2006. Hard to believe I am beginning my 4th academic year at East Carolina University. Seems like yesterday that I attended all those "new faculty" meetings and realized why it is good idea to stay at one university long term - you only have to attend those once! :-) But, now maybe I can catch up a few things and actually enjoy life for a bit even if I am stuck sitting with a heating pad on my knee. I have migrated from the bedroom to the recliner in the living room - I feel less like an invalid out here and can look out at the ferns swaying in the breeze on the back deck and the plum tree we planted when we first moved in, which is growing like a bad weed. Thank goodness for small laptops. I absolutely love this little Dell Latitude E4200 - it is bigger than the small notebooks but so much lighter than the average laptops and I really don't mind the smaller screen. It is small enough that I don't even have to put any pressure on my left knee when I sit with it.

Trying to catch up on email and saw that Reading Rainbow is going off the air. Not enough funds to continue airing it. Here's a bit of the quote from NPR http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112312561

The show's run is ending, Grant explains, because no one — not the station, not PBS, not the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — will put up the several hundred thousand dollars needed to renew the show's broadcast rights.
Grant says the funding crunch is partially to blame, but the decision to end Reading Rainbow can also be traced to a shift in the philosophy of educational television programming. The change started with the Department of Education under the Bush administration, he explains, which wanted to see a much heavier focus on the basic tools of reading — like phonics and spelling.
Grant says that PBS, CPB and the Department of Education put significant funding toward programming that would teach kids how to read — but that's not what Reading Rainbow was trying to do. "Reading Rainbow taught kids why to read," Grant says. "You know, the love of reading — [the show] encouraged kids to pick up a book and to read."

For those of you who know me, you can probably hear me grinding my teeth and growling at the shift to telling kids what to read and how many points a book is worth based on the often incorrect reading level and how everything is standardized test focused these days. The way kids become better readers is to read, for pleasure, and by selecting books they want to read, even if the books are below or above their supposed reading level determined by a test. I'd love to see someone do a reading level test on a paragraph of a limited text book about dinosaurs - the one that has all the dinosaur names in it and then tell me that a primary age boy can't read this book because it is above his reading level. Heck - the Kindergarten-2nd grade boys used to help me pronounce the names - they even know how to spell them. Delight in reading comes from reading what interests us. But, I have sung this song before and am sad to see a beloved show that actually encouraged the love of reading to be let go like this.

Some of you may recognize Susanne Dunlap's name from her adult historical fiction novels - several of them that look very interesting. But, I was pulled in by the lovely illustraqtion on the cover of her first YA novel, published by Bloomsbury, The Musician's Daughter http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Musicians-Daughter/Susanne-Dunlap/e/9781599903323/?itm=1 - a young woman with what looks to be a violin in her hands, but the character of this book, fifteen-year-old Theresa Marie has learned how to play the viola. It is 18th century Vienna and her father has been found dead in a Gypsy camp on Christmas Eve, his beloved violin gone. With her mother pregnant and a younger brother who is as hungry as she is, Theresa goes to her Godfather, none other than the composer Hayden, for assistance. He hires her to create the sheet music as he composes as he can no longer see well enough to do it on his own. Young women of her day do not go out alone, but she is determined to solve the mystery of who killed her father and where his violin is and in the process puts herself and her younger brother in grave danger. This is a historical mystery that will pique the interest of possible female musicians and those who like historical romance, as there is a bit of that as well. Yes, some of the incidents appear to be a bit stretched, but that's part of what historical fiction does - takes real people and creates a new story around them, while being seeped in historical setting accuracy. And, as far as the musical accuracy I wouldn't know if something was wrong as I have no musical talent or knowledge, but I trust Dunlap to have gotten it correct as she has a PhD in music history from Yale! From her website, it looks like she has another YA novel coming out soon in March 2010, Anastasia's Secret http://www.susannedunlap.com/Susanne_Dunlap/Home.html

My grandson Michael started his first day of First Grade today and was not the least bit happy about being back at school from what my daughter Mary said. Hopefully that will change as he gets back into the school focused schedule of the academic year. Maybe he feels a bit like the kids in many of the poems in Laura Purdie Salas's Stampede!: Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of School http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Stampede/Laura-Purdie-Salas/e/9780618914883/?itm=1&usri=1. The rhythm and the rhyme of the poems will make them great fun to read aloud to elementary age students. Lots of the issues addressed, such as not having done your homework and getting lost in the school, are topics that cross all age levels, but the bold illustrations by Steven Salerno make this more appropriate for primary grades, though I am sure some of the older elementary students will also enjoy the poems. Love all the illustrations except for the one for "New Mouse" about getting lost in the maze of hallways. The other illustrations are appropriate to the elementary school environment, but this one shows a maze with arrows pointing to rooms such as Woodshop, History, and French - none of which would be found in elementary schools even though the mouse girl illustrated is of elementary age. The one thing I do like about this particular illustration is that Salerno uses the term Library rather than media center, a term I really detest, especially since in most school libraries the students are not allowed to check out any of the media! Order this one rebound as the trade edition is so poorly bound a child could easily stick a pencil under the binding string and pop it. One circulation and that would be it if first checked out by the inquisitive child who wants to see what happens if the string in the book is broken. If you can't find a rebound edition it would be worth adding to your own collection for storytime.

And one other gripe - children's picture books normally have the same illustration on the book itself as on the dust jacket, but if an elementary librarian wants to save money by taking the jacket off and processing the book without it, the author and illustrator information is no longer accessible to the children, nor is the book blurb. I wish they'd be "forced" to keep the dust jacket on as is the case with most YA and adult hardbacks as the book itself is not illustrated and a blank cover with the title on the spine only will not pique a potential reader's attention as did the cover art of The Musician's Daughter for me.

That's it for today - back to over flowing email inbox. I haven't checked my yahoo email in weeks so if you sent me an email there, bear with me. I have to catch up with ECU email first.