Friday, November 12, 2010

5 Questions Video! Natalie, Siobhan, and Cecil talk road trips and writing friends

Q: What happens when you put three YA authors in a room together and ask them to take the lead the interview?

A: The funniest, most charming 5 Questions video ever!

We recently caught Siobhan Vivian, Natalie Standiford, and Cecil Castellucci as they hung out in Scholastic Headquarters in SoHo one humid fall afternoon to celebrate their newest releases. Siobhan is the author of Not That Kind of Girl; Natalie wrote Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters; and Cecile penned Rose Sees Red -- and together, they made us OOMers laugh and laugh as we turned the tables and asked THEM to interview each other. Check it out!

Previously On Our Minds:
* My Bookprint: Morgan talks about her choices
* It's Teen Read Week! How are you celebrating?
* Video: Teen Lit Day and interviews with YA authors

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My Bookprint: Morgan talks about her choices

It's been a few weeks since we launched You Are What You Read, and the buzz about Bookprints is still a big part of our daily conversations here. One of the coolest components of the site is where users get to talk about why they chose the books they did, so we're starting a new series called #MyBookprint. We regular OOMers will be posting about our own Bookprints, and we'll also tap other Scholastic employees to share theirs as well. And of course, we want to hear your Bookprint reasons, too! Morgan's up first. Here goes...

Earlier this week, Ivy and I presented at a BlogWell conference in Philadelphia. When we showed the crowd You Are What You Read and explained the concept, there were audible gasps from the audience. Why? Well, obviously, because it's an amazing site, but also because choosing just five books that influenced your life is nearly impossible!

But alas, it must be done. So I did it, after much debate and sincere apologies to the dozens of incredible books and authors I had to leave out. (I can't even talk about my choice of not including The Baby-sitters Club in my Bookprint; I worry that my idol, Ann M. Martin, will never forgive me!) So below, I've listed the five books that make up my Bookprint, and why I chose them.

1. Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfield: As a nine-year-old American dancer in the '80s (rather than a nine-year-old British dancer in the '50s), some of the terminology was lost on me, and yet I read this book time and again. I have no idea how this book ended up in my home library - perhaps my grandmother, who was a voracious reader? - but I am so, so grateful it did, in all its dog-eared, tattered glory. (Anecdote: it wasn't until I saw the movie You've Got Mail that I realized the "Shoes" books were famous and that Streatfield had a whole series of them. Thank you, Meg Ryan!)

2. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin: Turtle. Wexler. Plays. The. Stock. Market. And there are word games, and mysteries, and I still gape in awe at how Raskin pulled it all off. Again, this was a book I read probably monthly when I was around ten years old, and again, I have no idea how it ended up on my bookshelf. (Are there such things as book fairies? Do they deliver unexpected, yet perfect, titles to people's bookshelves in the middle of the night?)

3. My Antonia by Willa Cather: One day in college I was assigned My Antonia, and I lugged my massive textbook back to my dorm and tackled all my other work before finally beginning it. I didn't want to read about an old farm in Nebraska. But then I started and I couldn't stop. My Antonia made me change my major and completely rethink my career plans. (No, I'm not a farmer.)

4. An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender: This is one of those titles that has formed me so immensely as both a reader and a writer -- not to mention as a person. I capital-letter LOVE this book. It's smart, completely inventive, and showed me that character eccentricities are to be encouraged.

5. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton: I confess, if I had to choose just one book for my Bookprint, this would be the one. I read it annually; I read it slowly; I read it to savor the words and images rather than to find out what happens next (which is a compliment!). And now, as I walk through the streets of New York City daily, I peek inside the cozy brownstones in the Village and imagine Ellen Olenska taking tea in one of the parlors, or Wharton herself putting quill to page.

I'd love to hear about your own Bookprints, and why you chose the titles you did. Drop by the comments page and let me know! And then add me as your Bookmate on You Are What You Read!

Previously On Our Minds:
* Bookprints and comfort food books
* Introducing You Are What You Read!
* Honoring literacy

[Video] 5 Questions with Chris Wooding, author of MALICE and HAVOC

We talk a lot about getting caught up in a book. But what would happen if you got trapped in a book - literally?! What if you couldn't get out? That terrifying question is the idea behind Chris Wooding's part novel part graphic novel Malice.

There are rumors. Say the right words. Gather the right items. Enter the dangerous world of the comic book Malice. Urban legend, right? Kady and Seth thought so...until it happened to them. Their thrilling adventure continues in Havoc. Tall Jake has always had control over Malice but now his influence is spreading to the outside world. You'll have to read the series yourself to see if Seth and Kady can stop Tall Jake.

We caught up with Chris, who lives in the UK, to ask him what's on his mind, if the legend of Tall Jake is true, which came first (the writing or the illustrations), and of course why he thinks graphic novels should have a place in literature:

One of my favorite parts about the book is that just holding the book makes you feel like you're already entering a different world. You know how they say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover? Well, in this case, you should because the cover is awesome. In the hardcover version the graphics on the cover protrude out...almost like Tall Jake is about to grab your arm and drag you into the book!

What also makes this series so interesting is that it's part novel and part graphic novel. How does that work? Well, the best explanation is actually Chris's own description from his website:

"Malice was an idea I’d had brewing for a long time: a combination of book and graphic novel, where sections of text give way to sections of comic art and back again. The challenge was to make it more than a gimmick, so that the comic sections were an integral part of the story. I got round that by making it a book about a comic, and the rest fell into place. In Malice, the comic sections represent parts of the published comic, and so anyone in the real world – good guys and bad guys – can read them and pick up information about what’s going on with the kids trapped inside Tall Jake’s world."

This got me to think - if I had to choose one book to be trapped in...what would it be? For me, it would be Harry Potter so I could visit Hogwarts. What about you?

Previously On Our Minds:
* Four big ideas from the research on early childhood education
* What do you learn from picture books?
* Graphic novels earn shelf space

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Honoring literacy

The nitty-gritty work that gets done in classrooms around the world, every day, each year, is easy to overlook or dismiss. We strive to make the accomplishments of teachers known and valued, so today we’re excited to talk about Margaret King, who’s been selected as the 2010 Alferd Williams Literacy Award recipient.

Let’s start at the beginning: who is Alferd Williams? He was the son of sharecroppers, growing up during the Great Depression, who enrolled in the first grade when he was 70 years old. To mark his inspiring story and celebrate his journey towards literacy, Alferd received the inaugural Alferd Williams Literacy Award in 2009. Now, Scholastic is part of the panel that selected this year’s recipient of the Literacy Award, sponsored by The UPS Store and the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.

The honor goes to individuals who are dedicated to improving literacy rates, and Margaret King from Medford Elementary in Patchogue, N.Y., is surely someone who is doing that (and so much more). With 27 years of teaching experience, Margaret’s efforts have reached thousands of children; she’s launched book mobiles and literacy projects that reach kids in new, unexpected ways. You can find out more about her and Alferd Williams on Scholastic’s dedicated microsite.

Margaret will receive a trip to the US Marine Corps Summer Parade, services from The UPS Store, engraved bookends, and she’ll be able to designate $500 in books from Scholastic to a school or organization for underserved children. And her students will continue receiving outstanding literacy education from their teacher. Congratulations, Margaret!

Is there someone in your life who you would honor for their commitment to improving literacy? We'd love to know the story. Tell us in the comments below!

Previously On Our Minds:
* My teacher Mr. Watson: The one who made writing and just about everything!
* Reading is we Read Every Day.
* Who's your literary hero?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How do you know what’s next?

One of the long lists of reasons I like being a librarian in general and one at Scholastic in particular is that we talk about books all day long. It’s kind of implied in the job description.

I wish I could remember how the conversation came up. I really do. One day in the library we were having a conversation about how you decide what book you are going to read next. It did make me stop to think about it. How do I decide what I am going to read next? It feels like part instinct but I do know it’s not. I adore a good title. Words are my vice. A book I know nothing about with a great title will get picked up and turned over to see what it was about. It is exactly how I picked up The Hunger Games and The Deadly Sister for the first time. Some authors I read every time they have a new book because I just love their work. Other times, I will be waiting for the next book in a series to come out and I know it will be next because of the anticipation. I, of course, also take recommendations by other people because it is inevitable that someone around me is going to gasp and say “Oh Jess you have to read this book!”

I asked around to find out about how other people around me pick their next book to read. Many of the people that I asked quietly admitted that they are swayed by the cover. If the cover catches their eye then they have to pick it up to see what it’s about. One of my interns says that she will browse the new release shelves of her local book store to find her contenders or books she wants to read. Then from that stack of books to be read, she finds her next one based on her current mood and the type of book she wants to read right then. Some people said that they do go to reviews to find a good book. Karen, who shares a library with me, says that she looks at not only reviews but listens to podcasts about books to get author interviews and even listen to the first chapter. While there can be similarities in how different people find their next book, picking a new book to read is as individual as the person picking them. Every experience is different and five different people can have five different ways to get to the same great book. In my experience, as long as you get to the book, you are obviously doing something right.

Now that I am done asking everyone in the office about this, it’s your turn. Leave us a comment and tell us how you decide what your next book is going to be.

Previously On Our Minds:

Monday, November 8, 2010

One million kids to 'visit' Plimoth Plantation virtually next week

If you teach elementary school, there's a good chance you're about to start (or you have already!) a unit about "The First Thanksgiving."

The story of the Pilgrims' voyage to America and their first interactions with the Wampanoags is so widely taught in U.S. schools that a special collection of activities and resources Scholastic makes available on every year is among the site's most highly trafficked sections.

This year we're offering something special -- a chance for students from across the country to visit historic Plimoth Plantation together on the same day. Scholastic is filming and hosting a live, webcasted "virtual field trip" to Plimoth on November 16th at 1 p.m. (EST), and we're already expecting more than 1 MILLION students will participate.

Want a taste of what's to come? Check out the video below.

We're curious: How are you teaching the history and culture of Thanksgiving to your students and children?

---Previously On Our Minds:

Thursday, November 4, 2010

My teacher Mr. Watson: The one who made writing and just about everything!

This is the fifth in a series of posts from the OOM team looking back at some of the teachers who helped shape who we are today. We hope you'll share yours on your own blogs, in the comments here, on Facebook, or on Twitter with the hashtag #myteacher.

  • How did the zebra get its stripes?
  • What happened the day you became bald?
  • "I did it for Johnny!"

These were all writing prompts that my fourth grade teacher Mr. Watson would give us almost every day at the end of class. Our assignment? We had to go home, and write a three-page story (single space!) based on the funny and often times very creative prompts. In case you don't remember...three pages is quite a lot for a fourth grader. But I was always up for the challenge because his prompts were so funny, inspiring, and I loved it! When I walked home after school, I would think about ways I could turn simple quotes like "I did it for Johnny!" and silly topics (yes, my teacher did not have that much hair - hence the "bald" prompt) into a whole story.

These goofy and often times weird prompts not only made homework fun, but in the end, these stories became the pieces of writing that I'll always remember. And I'm not sure I can say that for everything else I've written in school. Telling stories based on prompts taught me to think differently, to get to a point, to tie-up loose ends, to write dialogue and to keep my readers interested. Writing short stories became an obsession and often times I would surpass the three-page limit and go for a six-pager. I wasn't trying to overachieve, I just became absorbed in every story I wrote. The rule I had for myself: the sillier the prompt, the better my story has to be. In the end, I think even my parents enjoyed reading my inspired stories more so than any of my more "academic" papers.

But writing wasn't the only project that made Mr. Watson's class feel less like school and more like summer camp. Mr. Watson always approached learning in a different way. Instead of just reading about Native American history, he would bring in props from weaved baskets to drums to even acorns so we could reenact scenes from American history. We watched Hitchcock movies like Rear Window and The Birds when we learned about cinema and screenplays. Mr. Watson even made cleaning up interesting - you heard that right! He would play "Mr. Sandman" sung by The Chordettes and we would all have to clean up the classroom and be back in our seats by the end of the song.

So the video below is to Mr. Watson. You now have 2:23 minutes to clean up your work space and then to begin writing a story with this prompt...."The most influential teacher of my life is..."

Somewhat of a bonus: If your kids like writing , our book blog for kids on THE STACKS has weekly writing prompts. Check them out here where there's never a shortage.

Previously On Our Minds:
* My teacher Ms. Pierce: The one who taught me how to think for myself
* My teacher Mr. Silverman: The one who made me explain "why"
* My teachers Mr. and Mrs. Lee: The ones who made me look deeper
* My teacher Mrs. Henry: The one who expected more

Four big ideas from the research on early childhood education

Early childhood education is a hot topic -- and for good reason.

Research is telling us, more convincingly than ever before, how important early learning is for children -- and how kids' success in school is in so many ways dependent on the foundations they build as a very young child. That with the right instruction and support from a young age, every child, no matter their socioeconomic background or language barriers, can be ready for success in Kindergarten and beyond.

Scholastic launched a new curriculum for PreK classrooms today that has been in the works for quite some time. Called Big Day for PreK, it takes all the current research on early learning, including the findings of the National Early Literacy Panel, and helps schools and teachers put it into practice.

On the day of the big launch of Big Day for PreK, I asked our Chief Academic Officer, Francie Alexander, if she could boil down the research into four big takeaways for our OOM readers. Here's what she came up with:

Francie's Four Big Research Ideas for 4-year-olds (and 2s and 3s) in PreK:
  • Social-emotional development and academic achievement are linked, so it's important to engage children's hearts and heads.
  • It helps children make sense of their world when learning opportunities are connected across all areas: literacy, math, science, social studies, health, physical education and the arts.
  • Children benefit greatly when the grown-ups in their lives -- families and educators -- work closely together.
  • Literacy and language development are central to pro-social behavior and academic achievement.

Parents: Do you have any tips for how you're putting these big ideas into practice at home? Please share!

---Previously On Our Minds:
*Back to school, forward with books
*Back to School with 5 Questions: Reading Tips
*Scholastic CEO, Dick Robinson, Delivers Call-to-Action for Children's Reading and Literacy

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Are you a green reader?

When a tree falls in the forest, how does it end up on your bookshelf?

There are dedicated staffers at Scholastic who spend a lot of time thinking about questions like that, and how to deal with the environmental repercussions of book publishing. Because, let’s face it – as readers, writers, teachers, and librarians, we consume a breathtaking amount of hard-copy materials. Including, of course, books.

The great news is, Scholastic takes the idea of “green” publishing very seriously. (Just one example: we used a record-setting amount of environmentally-friendly paper for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, with 65% of copies printed on Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)- certified paper. According to the Environmental Defense Paper Calculator, that saved 120,240 trees!) And I was really proud to learn that Scholastic is a part of this year’s awareness campaign from Eco-Libris.

On Wed., Nov. 10, at 1 p.m. ET, 200 bloggers will simultaneously publish reviews of 200 different books printed on environmentally-friendly paper. You can read the complete press release here; basically, the idea is to spotlight those books that are printed using greener methods as a way of raising consumer awareness about how books are printed. Scholastic is one of 56 publishers participating in this Green Books Campaign; The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge (Printed on 100% recovered fiber, of which 50% is post-consumer waste) by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen will be reviewed at Our Whiskey Lullaby!

Meanwhile, Eco-Libris interviewed Scholastic on their blog. There, we talk about why books should be printed on eco-friendly paper, our corporate paper policy, other themed books we publish, and our advice to readers.

I've rounded up a selection of recent interviews and news about the Scholastic green team, too:

  • Scholastic was named “Newcomer of the Year” for book publishers in the SustainPrint Leadership Awards
  • Publishers Weekly featured insights from Scholastic in a piece about children’s publishing and rainforests
  • Book Business magazine talked about the Scholastic green team

Eco-Libris can be found on Twitter, and don’t forget to keep an eye out on November 10 when 200 bloggers simultaneously post reviews of environmentally-friendly books!

So are you a green reader? Tell us what you think about books and the environment in the comments.

Image via

Previously On Our Minds:
* Green is the new black
* Happy 40th Birthday, Earth Day!
* Webcast alert: The Magic School Bus

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

SWEEPSTAKES: Read Every Day. Win a Home Library!

You know that we’ve all been buzzing with excitement over the past few weeks about our new 90th Anniversary campaign, Read Every Day. Lead a Better Life. Following our awesome literacy event with Taylor Swift, we announced the Read Every Day Sweepstakes. We really believe that people who read every day live richer, fuller lives because of it, and now we want to give kids the chance to win big for reading!

Kids ages 15 and under can enter every day, now through November 26th, for a chance to win a home library of age-appropriate books and a limited-edition Taylor Swift poster! All they have to do is visit, enter their information, and indicate what they read that day (i.e. a book, ebook, magazine, blog, etc...). Each day they enter (and read!) gives them another chance to win -- up to 31 entries per person! At the end of the sweepstakes, 31 winners will be selected at random.

Before entering, check out the Official Rules and then head to the Sweepstakes page!

So, what have you read today? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to log on with your kids and enter!
Previously On Our Minds:
* Happy anniversary, Scholastic!
* Read (and rock out) with Taylor Swift
*Introducing: You Are What You Read

Midterm election coverage for kids, by kids

Election Day is here, and our Kid Reporters are at it again ....

The Scholastic Kids Press Corps has been hitting the campaign trail, and you can see all their stories in our Midterm Election Special Report at Their stories are a great way for classrooms (and adults) to get up-to-date coverage on the midterm elections - all from a kid's point of view. From covering local races to reporting from inside Quinnipiac University's Polling Institute, to finding out what it takes to be a grassroots campaign volunteer, the Kid Reporters have been hard at work covering this important election. They'll be reporting on today's election all the way through tonight's results, so keep checking for the most up-to-date election news for kids, by kids.

And if you haven't made it to the polls yet, don't forget to vote today!

(Clockwise from top left) Kid Reporter Mariam El Hasan with US Senator from California Barbara Boxer, Kid Reporter Leila Sachner on the polling floor at the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, Kid Reporter Charlie Kadado interviews Tea Party member Stephen Ross, President of the Southeast Michigan 9.12 Project.

Previously On Our Minds:
* Kid Reporters Wrap Up 2008 Election Coverage
* Election 2008: A Happy Ending
* Scholastic Kids Press Corps offers kid-friendly news on Gulf recovery efforts

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bookprints and comfort food books

As you can imagine we are all pretty excited around here about the new You Are What You Read site. It has made me think of my history with books in a whole new way. Honestly I have been putting it off a little bit. There are a lot of books to think about. I started to “read” (as in I memorized a book I made my mom read to me over and over again but hey, you have to start somewhere) when I was 4. I am…well, more than 4 now and trust me, that it’s a lot of books.

As I was thinking about it this weekend, I found myself thinking of books that I love that I have read over and over again. I call them my comfort food books because they can be just as warm and inviting as your favorite homemade mac and cheese, oven baked bread, or a slow simmering pot roast. There are books and authors that I love reading over and over. Books like Harry Potter, Wonder Boys, Pride and Prejudice, Anansi Boys, Mysteries of Pittsburgh, and High Fidelity among many others will always have a place in my soul reserved just for books.

Every book changes and expands you in little tiny ways (yes I believe that about the ones I don’t like too) and then that are books that alter you in fundamental ways. These five were the books that I wanted to include in my bookprint:

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman: Now in the spirit of full disclosure, Neil Gaiman could write total nonsense and I would be right there reading it. Neverwhere isn’t even the book I suggest to everyone if they haven’t read him before. (That is American Gods for adults and Coraline for kids in case anyone is interested) What stood out to me was that I had never had a place described in print in such detail to me before. Gaiman’s description of London was different than any other photograph I had ever seen of the city. It was the act of Richard going to London in the book that made me think I could go there. I applied to Library School there on a lark as I was studying for my GREs. The rest is history.

Vietnam: A History by Stanley Karnow: This book appeared as the main text in a class that I had in college. It was my first upper level history class. I was a little out of my depth but it opened my eyes to the way that historians thought. It also showed me that everything my teacher said about college was right. I still have my dog eared copy at home on my shelves.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare: The first book I ever picked out that was way over my head. I read it the summer before 5th grade. It was the first book that challenged me…and yes, I did understand more of it when I read it again in school in 9th grade English class.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: The first classic I ever enjoyed and touched me. I read it for school in 10th grade and then reread it that summer finding little things that I couldn’t believe I had missed the first time. For a long while it was my go to gift book. It was beautiful and moving and everything everyone says about it and more.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle: This was my first comfort food book. I have reread this book so many times that I had lost count by the time I was in the 5th grade. I loved the story, the characters, and the pure fantasy of it all. I have never actually owned this book but to this day, I can remember exactly where it was on my public library’s shelf back home.

So those are some my comfort food books and the books that show exactly who I am as a reader and a person. Share your comfort books or bookprint in the comments or just become booksmates with me at You Are What You Read!

Previously On Our Minds:

Friday, October 29, 2010

May the ghosts be with you! A literary Halloween roundup

Frequent guest blogger Yanique Hart is here to tell you all about how you can have a literary Halloween. Check it out!

For those of us who celebrate Halloween, it is not just another holiday -- it's when you can dress up, read scary books, have parties and get all the candy you want! Well, maybe not that much candy.

The Scholastic Store knows how to party, especially for Halloween. Our annual Halloween celebrations have become some of the most anticipated free events for kids (and yes, I said FREE!). Clifford the Big Red Dog comes to visit, hosts story time and takes kids to the Annual Halloween Parade. Every year, we get witches, princesses, pirates and even little Harry Potters. They march from Broadway to Mercer Street with amazed on-lookers cheering along the way. Kids can also come to The Scholastic Store’s Halloween Extravaganza on Saturday, October 30th from 6-8pm. Tickets are $15 and lucky party-goers get a $5 coupon to use right in The Store. Kids will meet Clifford, Geronimo Stilton, and Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus!

Hearing spooky stories on Halloween was always the icing on the cake for me when I was a kid and today, it’s no different. I have two little nieces and they love when I read spooky stories to them, too. We get all dressed up and invite their friends over, turn off all the lights and Aunty Yanique becomes the wicked witch of the west or a monster from the closet. To get your pick of fun and spooky books for the kids in your life, log on to Top Picks offers the best books for Halloween and more. You’ll see new books including Zen Ghosts by Jon J Muth (which the New York Times Book Review called "glowing" and USA Today called "stunning") or Halloween Faces by Nancy Davis. There’s also an I SPY Spooky Mansion game for the Wii heads out there -- and we've got a special I SPY announcement coming later today, so stay tuned!

Speaking of Zen Ghosts…author Jon J Muth (pictured), who was recently interviewed on NPR, submitted his Bookprint on You Are What You Read, the just-launched social network for readers that we announced yesterday. Check out which five books inspired him here – and then create your own!

And don't forget to stop by the Book Clubs blog for their Literary Halloween post, too. Until next year, may the ghosts be with you!

Shout-out to Jenn's Bookshelf and Bookalicious for the amazing Mockingjay jack-o-lantern!

Previously On Our Minds:
* Introducing You Are What You Read!
* What's your Goosebumps story?
* Winner's Circle!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I SPY a spooky giveaway!

It’s the Friday before Halloween -- what better way to kick off the Halloween weekend than with a spooky Twitter giveaway, courtesy of I SPY?

We’re celebrating the release of the new I SPY Spooky Mansion video game for Wii by giving away 10 copies of the new game PLUS the book that inspired it all, I SPY Spooky Night.

Here's how to play:

1. Follow @Scholastic on Twitter.

2. Retweet (RT) our I SPY Spooky Mansion rhyme, and include the hashtag #ISPY. (Find the rhyme on Twitter!)

3. Once you RT our original tweet between 10/29/10 at 5pm ET and 10/31/10 at 5pm ET, you will automatically be entered to win one of 10 I SPY Spooky Mansion and I SPY Spooky Night prize packs.

4. We’ll select and announce 10 random winners on Monday 11/1/10 around 10am ET.

Make sure to follow @Scholastic so we can Direct Message you if you are a lucky winner!

Happy Halloween!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Open to legal US residents, age 18 and older. Void where prohibited. Please read official rules here.

UPDATE: Congrats to our winners! Please DM us your mailing address (via Twitter): @eggiesays, @Mandyoregon, @mellabelle75, @Pwag, @Rutabega80, @SuzaySaidCville, @teacher6th, and @valeriekwrites.
Previously On Our Minds:
* May the ghosts be with you! A literary Halloween roundup
* Introducing You Are What You Read!
* What's your Goosebumps story?

Introducing: You Are What You Read!

Can you guess which book influenced the lives of a former President, two award-winning actresses, a Superbowl MVP, an A-list designer, and popular TV host?*

Today, Scholastic is proudly launching You Are What You Read, a new social networking site for readers around the world. We all remember that special book - the one that changed our life, holds a special memory, or taught us something we'll never forget. You Are What You Read is a celebration of those books that helped us discover who we are and who we can become. Users log on through existing social media accounts and share the five books that made a difference in their lives, and connect with readers all over the world through these shared "Bookprints." And you're in good company: more than 130 "Names You Know" - including Bill Gates, Eva Mendes, Daniel Radcliffe, Damien Hirst, Taylor Swift, Venus Williams, Tony Hawk, and two former Presidents - have shared their Bookprints with us.

And that's not all! Once you've logged into You Are What You Read, you can:

  • Discover new books through an interactive web that shows how users’ Bookprints are connected
  • Find and connect with users across generations and from around the world to see the books in their Bookprints
  • Compare their Bookprints to those of the participating “Names You Know,” and find out if they share a book in their Bookprint with famous athletes, award-winning entertainers, world-renowned scientists, or iconic business leaders
  • “Favorite” other books they like and check out what similar users enjoy reading
  • See which books have been chosen as Favorites from around the world
  • Share a book in the real word through Pass It On, which encourages users to give a favorite book to a family member, a friend, or even a complete stranger.

You Are What You Read also features a separate community for young readers that provides kid friendly information about books and other activities.

Visit You Are What You Read today, and come join us in this global community of readers!

* President George H.W. Bush, Kathy Bates, Scarlett Johansson, Eli Manning, Tommy Hilfiger, and Ellen DeGeneres were all influenced by Catcher in the Rye.
Previously On Our Minds:
* Happy anniversary, Scholastic!
* It's our anniversary and we'll read if we want to
* Read (and rock out) with Taylor Swift

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Read (and rock out!) with Taylor Swift!

Today has been quite a day here at Scholastic headquarters...Nick Cannon was on hand to interview Taylor Swift for an incredible literacy event for schools, which was broadcast to classrooms across the world!

Read Now! with Taylor Swift brought Taylor to our SoHo Auditorium, where she and Nick chatted about books, reading, writing, inspiration, and more. And lucky for the NYC classrooms in attendance and for all the kids watching, Taylor then brought out her band for a live performance!

You can watch the replay of this literacy event here. And the, beginning tomorrow when Scholastic officially launches You Are What You Read -- a social component of our 90th Anniversary Campaign, Read Every Day. Lead a Better Life. -- you can find out which five books had the biggest impact on Taylor, and start talking about your own.

Photos from Associated Press

Previously On Our Minds:
* Happy anniversary, Scholastic!
* It's our anniversary and we'll read if we want to
* Read Every Day. Lead a Better Life. And talk to Taylor Swift about literacy!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

America's Education: We're not waiting either.

Today's post was written by Dr. David Dockterman, Chief Math Officer of Scholastic, for the Math Hub blog. We thought he had an interesting take on the controversial film Waiting for Superman, and decided we should cross-post it here...

Take it away, Dock!

The film Waiting for Superman, which follows five families in desperate searches for quality schools, has quickly generated interest, passion, and controversy. I attended a packed preview screening last week hosted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The buzz in the informal conversations that naturally occurred during the ensuing reception captured the gut-wrenching frustration at watching the futures of lovely children and caring families rest on the roll of a lottery ball or the random selection of a name out of a box or computer. Why can't these kids get the kind of quality education they desire? It's just not fair.

At the same time, many in the audience, myself included, felt a bit cheated by the overly simplistic message about what needs to be done. "The path is simple," reads the text as the credits roll. Really? Just knock down the unions and bureaucracies, open the door to charter schools, and great teachers will flow into the classrooms? While the stories of Geoffrey Canada's Harlem Children's Zone and the growing KIPP School phenomena are inspiring, the film admits that only 1 in 5 charter schools seem to do better than the public alternative. Getting rid of bad teachers is a great idea, but where will all the great replacements come from? It's certainly heartening to see growth in popularity of Teach for America, the number one employer on several top college campuses last spring, but it alone can't meet the need. Will merit pay, an approach that gets implicit endorsement in the film, provide the incentive? As someone who believes in following the research, I'm skeptical. A recent report from the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University found that merit pay alone had no impact on student test scores. The report recommended more nuanced solutions.

Okay, I'm willing to forgive the oversimplifications in the film if it indeed generates attention, constructive discussion, and, most importantly, thoughtful, individual action. The big message that we shouldn't wait for Superman to fix the problem is right on the mark. We can and should be doing something. I've talked to folks who, after watching the film, considered for the first time becoming teachers. Others expressed new energy ready to be tapped. A cultural groundswell that attracts large numbers of the best and the brightest into teaching, a characteristic of the highest performing nations, would be fabulous (I recommend reading the McKinsey report on the world's best performing schools).

And let's not forget that good things are happening, in traditional public schools and charters. The Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard, for example, captured wonderful success stories of 15 public high schools from across the country. It's not everywhere, but each success is further proof that it can be. And to be honest, it's gratifying to find that our programs – READ 180, System 44, FASTT Math, among others – are often part of those turnaround stories. We're doing what we can now. We're not waiting for Superman. I hope you don't either.

(Photo credit: Flickr photo by gematrium)

---Previously On Our Minds:
*Can single-gender schools revive public education?
*How does emotion factor into learning math and other subjects?
*Why fractions are so hard for kids (and how you can help them!)

Monday, October 25, 2010

What's your Goosebumps story?

My brother was not a reader growing up. Even now as an adult, I only spot the occasional issue of a surfing magazine fanned out around his apartment.

As kids, while I was immersed in The Baby-sitters Club and Judy Blume, he was busy skateboarding and running around with the neighborhood boys. But there was one series that he would stockpile in his bedroom alongside his video games; one series that got him to turn off the Nintendo and turn on a nightlight: R.L. Stine's Goosebumps. And as we kick off what we affectionately call "Shriek Week" around here, I started thinking about how a single book or series can make an impact, even -- or especially -- on a reluctant reader.

It's something Scholastic emphasizes often: that giving kids access to books they want to read and letting them choose their books helps them read more, and more often. For my brother, who was probably rebelling against his older sisters (who constantly hounded him about picking up a book), there was something about Goosebumps that clicked with him. Maybe it was the light-hearted gore, or maybe it was the giggly terror the books invoked. Maybe it was just the fact that it was the right reading level, at the right time. Whatever it was, it worked. And I'm eternally grateful to R.L. Stine because of it -- because when my brother picked up a Goosebumps book, I found a way to bond with him.

Sometime recently, he and I were chatting when I mentioned Goosebumps in passing. (I promise it was relevant to the conversation!)

"Dude, those books were awesome," he replied, his eyes lighting up with the memory.

And I agreed. Because anything that could get my brother to voluntarily read was, indeed, awesome.

Previously On Our Minds:
* This blog post will give you Goosebumps
* Book pull: The Baby-sitter by R.L. Stine
* 2010 Kids and Family Reading Report results announced