There's been quite a bit of discussion on a few listservs about the new report I blogged about a few days ago. Some people feel we're focussing too much on books when we discuss reading -- there's a lot of other reading going on -- while others say that maybe we need to rejig the material we're presenting to kids, making things more relevant rather than relying on older "classics." (I have to say, I know that The Outsiders and The Giver are fine, fine books, but sheesh, how many fabulous books have been written since - and by Canadian writers, too? For novel study this year my daughter's grade 9 class read an Agatha Cristie novel. No excuse for that.
But, there are lots of ideas for action circulating too. Here's one that I love: Work with your local elementary school to have a small bookshelf full of books that kids can take home...forever if they want. So many kids have no, or very few, books of their own. Suggest that the books are donated by local people culling their children's bookshelves, or by cruising thrift shops where many the bargain can be snapped up. Of course, new books are welcome, too.
Here's another thing we do at home. We don't say grace as a matter of course in our family, but we did start to read a poem before dinner instead. Consequently, our shelf of poetry has grown to three shelves, and my kids hear the occasional (okay, we don't do it every night) poem outside of school (or my poorly realized attempts). And speaking of poems, check back here soon for an interview of the fabulous Tiffany Stone, "poetess extraordinaire" and author of two of our favourite silly poems books, Baaaad Animals and Floyd the Flamingo and his Flock of Friends.
In response to my list of wishes, I heard from Liam O'Donnell last week. Liam is the prolific author of many books including the Wild Ride graphic novels, the Max Finder series (OWL readers will recognize Max), and books in a very cool looking series of graphic non-fiction books by educational publisher Capstone Press. (I'll have to get my mitts on those titles for a peek. Knowing the world actually has a graphic "novel-style" book on photosynthesis warms my heart.) Liam is currently on a Book Week tour in Nunavut. Lucky duck. (And lucky kids, too.)
I also heard from Diane Haynes last week. Diane is the author of the Jane Ray Wildlife Rescue Series. Titles thus far include Flight or Flight and Crow Medicine. (A third is on it's way I believe -- watch for Gaia Wild sometime in the near future.) Diane is passionate about animals and her commitment comes through in these well-researched novels. I read Crow Medicine last year and remember clearly the passion of our heroine Jane Ray as she naviagates the tricky territory of crows (and their bad reputation; I love 'em though -- we even did an issue of KNOW on crows and ravens), West Nile virus, and fighting for the rights of animals and the survival of her beloved wildlife rehabilitation centre. Young readers looking for adventure stories with strong girls (who love animals) as central characters should give these books a read.