Using picture books with English language learners

This is adapted from a post was originally published on our heritage blog PS We’re Reading on 25 August 2015

Many picture books offer opportunities for children, and even adults, new to English to explore both the written and spoken language they are acquiring. How picture books are put to this purpose requires sensitivity to potential learners and wise choices of books to use.

English language learners represent a wide range of ages, life experiences, literacy levels in their home languages, and–just as important–linguistic and cultural histories. Many speakers of Latin American Spanish dialects, for example, may indeed be learning English as a second language. However, those coming to North American English from the Indian subcontinent and some Northern African cultures probably are conversant in multiple languages already and thus have a different skill set to use when learning yet another–third, fourth, fifth–language.

Working with English language learners who are present in classes with native speakers also draws attention to the need to be inclusive, rather than focusing attention on the use of specific books as a means of gaining English fluency. With these varying potential student needs in mind, how and why can picture books become part of the learning experience?

  • They offer content that makes use of general life experience that is not culturally bound
  • They provide opportunities for relatively sophisticated discussions of the theme, plot technique, character development, or art presented
  • They introduce culturally specific tall tales or geography information that builds out the English language learner’s general acquisition of idiomatic expressions, local history and/or physical environment, and vocabulary used in a contextually engaging manner

One example of how such picture books can expand upon the English language learners’ current strengths is through the creation of a neighborhood map, as do the friends featured in Gecko Press’ Detective Gordon: The First Case. This kind of activity works well for the English language learner who is mainstreamed with native speakers and is based on observation and documentation through drawing.

A group of English language learners who may share no language other than beginning English may find that the game of What If…? as is suggested by discussions in No Starch Press’  The Incredible Plate Tectonics Comic, provides the opportunity for sharing information about their own experiences with earthquakes, work together to create a model that expresses possibilities, and expand their academic understanding both of STEM-related content and articulating ideas in their new language.

Building empathy into the experience of sharing picture books in a group that includes English language learners and native speakers can also expand everyone’s horizons. Inhabit Media, a wholly owned Inuit publisher, includes titles that are published in Inuit as well as English. The written language is unlikely to be familiar to anyone in the group, giving all a level playing field for understanding how an old language may be new to this reader.

What activities do you find comfortable for new English speakers and readers when you share and expand their reading choices? We’d love to hear from you!

Macy McMillan Wins the Schneider Family Award

cover-macy-mcmillanWe are thrilled to share that at the Youth Media Awards announcements earlier this month, author Shari Green and publisher Pajama Press were awarded the prestigious Schneider Family Book Award’s  Middle School division for Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess.

The Schneider Family Book Awards is an initiative of the American Library Association that honors “an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.” Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess won the 2018 Schneider Family Book Award in the Middle School Book category.

Written in flowing free verse, Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess follows deaf sixth-grader Macy as she is helped through difficult life changes by an unexpected friendship with her elderly neighbor Iris. Through the power of shared stories and freshly baked cookies, Macy and Iris support one another as they begin new chapters in their lives, full of hope and promise for the future.

Shari Green is the author of numerous books for middle-grade and YA readers, including Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles and the upcoming Missing Mike. In her non-writing life, Shari works as a practical nurse.

If you haven’t yet had the chance to read Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess, we hope that you take the opportunity to pick up a copy and share this endearing story with a young reader.

Find out more about Pajama Press, Shari Green, and Macy McMillan by clicking here.

This was originally posted on our heritage blog PS We’re Reading on 28 February 2018

Take Along some Listening on Earth Day!

cover-Will-AllenFor many of us, it’s been a long winter. What better way to celebrate Earth Day than to get outside, and what better activity than to listen to some Earth-celebrating audiobooks while you walk or sit and enjoy the spring scenery!

Live Oak Media has a lot to offer to fit this bill!  We can start with Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table, a true story picture book Readalong celebrating a basketball star’s second career as a farmer…and worms!

Or how about Deep in the Swamp, celebrating the Okefenokee cover-Deep-in-the-Swampmarshland? Tom Chapin performs this one,as he does Out on the Prairie,featuring the
animals and plants of South Dakota’s Badlands, another natural Earth delight to celebrate today.

There’s plenty more to choose among, including Tortuga in Trouble, an animal tale sure to stretch your imagination.

So, drop what you’re doing and go outside and listen!

Happy Earth Day from all of us!

This was originally posted on our heritage blog PS We’re Reading on 22 April 2015

PRIDE in Our Publishers

This was originally posted on our heritage blog PS We’re Reading on 20 June 2017

BB_Baby's First WordsBarefoot Books celebrates inclusivity with Baby’s First Words, a board book that follows one busy baby and her two dads through a day full of exploration. Also available in Spanish as Mis primeras palabras, this title by Christiane Engel introduces younger audiences to a variety of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and phrases, giving a new spin to a classic first word book.

CP Clive and his Babies

Jessica Spanyol, author-illustrator of Child’s Play’s Clive series, offers early readers stories that gently challenge gender stereotypes. In these board books, Clive, a little boy with a big imagination, spends his days caring for his dolls, adding to his hat and bag collections, and pretending to be a librarian when his friends come over to play.

CP_Quiet

Child’s Play continues to sensitively handle gender with Quiet!, which pubs this fall. The picture book never designates a gender for its main character, a toddler who explores the range of sounds they hear as their day comes to an end. Auditory landmarks help all children to become familiar with daily routines, and can be particularly important to those who are blind or partially sighted. Inventive and inclusive, Quiet! is great for parents on the hunt for a picture book that doesn’t gender its protagonist.

TT_We Are Family

In We Are Family from Tiger Tales, sweet verse takes you through moments in the life of ten families, celebrating diversity through shared experiences. The families may look different—there is a single parent, a child in a wheelchair, a boy raised by his grandparents, two same-sex couples, and a variety of ethnic backgrounds represented—but through thick and thin, these families are all there for one another.

IM Nivis NamesHow Nivi Got Her Names is published by our friends at Inhabit Media and is a valuable exploration of traditional Inuit naming that also touches on Inuit custom adoption. Nivi, her mother Laura, her anaana (mother) Jesse, and their entire extended family are actual people; the picture book includes an introduction from Nivi’s birth mother Aviaq, and short biographies of the people for whom Nivi is named.

TH Real Sisters Pretend

In Tilbury House’s Real Sisters Pretend, written by Megan Dowd Lambert and illustrated by Nicole Tadgell, people often mistake Mia and Tayja as friends rather than sisters. Throughout this heartwarming picture book, Mia and Tayja spend the day playing make-believe and are comforted by the fact that adoption has made them and their two moms a “forever family,” and that they will always be sisters, even after playtime is over.

AL_Raven

Action Lab Entertainment offers readers another graphic novel adventure from the Princeless universe in Raven: The Pirate Princess, Book Three. After a violent confrontation on the Island of the Free Women, Raven and her crew are badly beaten, with one of their own near death. As Raven risks her life to find a legendary healer who may be able to save Ximena before it’s too late, her unspoken love for Ximena propels her onward.

oni_princess princess ever after

Princess Princess Ever After is all about girl power and flipping gender stereotypes on their head. From author-illustrator Katie O’Neill and Oni Press, this middle grade graphic novel follows princesses Sadie and Amira as they join forces to bring out the very best in one another and perhaps find a happily ever after together. Did we mention there are dancing trolls?

ONI_Tea Dragon Society

Also coming soon from Katie O’Neill and Oni is The Tea Dragon Society, a graphic novel about discovering the value in tradition and the strength in found families. A warm partnership between the two men who make up the Tea Dragon Society and a touch of flirting between protagonists Greta and Minette make this a great choice for readers looking for heartwarming, smile-inducing representation.

PJ Moon at Nine

Moon at Nine from Pajama Press tells the story of two girls who dare to dream of a life and future together. Stuck in a world that sees their love as a crime, Farrin and Sadira must keep their growing relationship a secret. Written by award-winning author Deborah Ellis, this novel is based on true events that took place in 1980s Iran.

Amautalik Identification

Does that sound like a scary new science to you? It may well be! Inhabit Media, our favorite Inuit publisher, has a new picture book available that’s stuffed full of scary stuff! You can share with readers five to seven all the gruesome facts about The Dreaded Ogress of the Tundra–and then turn them loose to create helpful posters illustrating how to avoid being eaten by these Inuit folklore creatures!

And if you want to expand the story, Inhabit also has some very short animated films to help stimulate the imagination regarding Tundra ogres.  Check out their site at Taqquit Productions for these multiple award winning films.

The Amautalik  

This was originally posted on our heritage blog PS We’re Reading on 27 April 2015

Acclaim from USBBY

This was originally posted on our heritage blog PS We’re Reading on 8 February 2015

The United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) released its annual list during the opening of the 2015 Midwinter meeting of the American Library Association. Among the books touted on the new list are several from our own publishers:

  • Gecko’s The Day My Father Became a Bush, written and illustrated by Joke Van Leeuwen
  • Pajama Press’ Graffiti Knight, by Karen Bass
  • Kids Can’s Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin, by Chieri Uegaki and  illustrated by Qin Leng
  • Kids Can’s If…: A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers, by David J. Smith, with illustrations by Steve Adams
  • Gecko’s My Heart Is Laughing, by Rose Lagercrantz and illustrated by Eva Eriksson
  • Lemniscaat’s Surprise, written and illustrated by Mies Van Hout
  • Inhabit Media’s Sweetest Kulu, by Celina Kalluk, with illustrations by Alexandria Neonakis