Like Oil and Water: Unlikely Friendships

by Gail Pritchard, PhD, The University of Arizona



“Things are never quite as scary when you’ve got a best friend” (Bill Watterson).

If you Google “unlikely friendships,” you will find books, YouTube videos, and images of unusual animal friendships. These tend to be animals from different species and even those that would be considered natural enemies, like a bonded cat and bird. But what do we mean when we refer to people with unlikely friendships? Read More »

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The Natural World in our Backyard: Authors of Nonfiction Science at the Tucson Festival of Books

By Tracy Smiles, Western Oregon University

ScienceTFOBEquipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science.

Edwin Powell Hubble

There is little question as to the extraordinary ways non-fiction literature for children has developed both with regard to quality and availability. Read More »

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The Soviet Connection: Cultural Influences in Our Text and Images

by Judi Moreillon, Texas Woman’s University, Denton

Soviet UnionAt the 2015 Tucson Festival of Books, I attended a thought-provoking interview with illustrator Bagram Ibatoulline and author-illustrator Eugene Yelchin. The moderator asked them questions about how their experiences as Russian-born artists had influenced their work. Read More »

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The Decision to Resist: Enough is Enough

by Janelle Mathis, University of North Texas, Denton, TX

EnoughisEnoughWith a powerful title framing their session, four authors spoke to the theme of resistance and to the notion of “enough is enough” as they connected a recent work to contemporary social issues. The panel included Larry Brimmer (Strike, 2014), Margy Burns Knight (Talking Walls: Discover the World, 2014), S. D. Nelson (Digging a Hole to Heaven, 2014), and Eugene Yelchin (Arcady’s Goal, 2014) Read More »

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Celebrating the Story of Stories

By Kathy Short, The University of Arizona

PatersonThe blogs for this month highlight our reflections on authors’ discussions of global and multicultural issues in children’s and young adult literature. These authors appeared on panels at the Tucson Festival of Books on March 14-15, 2015. We each selected a particular panel to share the dialogue that emerged between authors around an issue, such as resistance, cultural influences, and scientific writing. This first column is a brief description of the festival and the opening keynote by Katherine Paterson. Read More »

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We Are Not Alone: Teachers, Parents, & Educational Communities Push Back on Testing

By Marie LeJeune and Tracy Smiles, Western Oregon University



We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Over the past three weeks our focus on high stakes testing (SBAC and PARCC) has examined our personal and professional tensions in our roles as both parents and teacher educators. It is not an exaggeration to say we are deeply concerned over these movements in education and their impacts on children, teachers, and schools. So concerned that we have lost sleep, written letters to administrators, met with colleagues to brainstorm and strategize solutions, Read More »

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To Test or Not to Test, This is Not the Question

By Marie LeJeune & Tracy Smiles, Western Oregon University

SquarepegAssessment literacy- (Gallagher & Turley): [teachers’] deep understanding of why they assess, when they assess, and how they assess in ways that positively impact student learning. In addition, successful teacher assessors view assessment through an inquiry lens, using varying assessments to learn from and with their students in order to adjust classroom practices accordingly. Together these two qualities—a deep knowledge of assessment and an inquiry approach to assessment — create a particular stance toward assessment. (NCTE, 2013).

For the month of March we have presented reasons for pushing back against high stakes testing, and offered examples of how citizens comprised of teachers, parents, and community organizers are, through grassroots movements, resisting these punitive, and often harmful assessment practices. Read More »

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Field Tested: Educators Speak Back to High Stakes Testing

By Marie LeJeune and Tracy Smiles, Western Oregon University

Testing1A boy in Miss Malarkey’s class makes the following observation,

Miss Malarkey is a good teacher. Usually she’s really nice. But a couple of weeks ago she started acting a little weird. She started talking about THE TEST: The Instructional Performance Through Understanding test. I think Miss Malarkey said it was the “I.P.T.U.” test (Finchler, J, 2003).

Last week we talked about the personal toll testing has taken on our children Read More »

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Testing our Resolve: Opting Out as Activism

By Marie LeJeune and Tracy L.Smiles

TestTakingCartoonFirst grade was visited by a woman from the principal’s office carrying a big pile of papers with little boxes all over them. She explained, “We have some tests for you.” Read More »

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The Orbis Pictus Awards: Outstanding Nonfiction Literature

by Deborah Dimmett, The University of Arizona

OPSealThe Orbis Pictus Awards, established in 1989, commemorates the work of Johannes Amos Comenius, whose work included the first nonfiction book for children, Orbis Pictus—The World in Pictures (1657). Each year, NCTE gives one award for a book representing the best of children’s nonfiction for that year along with five honor books and eight recommended books can also be recognized. Read More »

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