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Responsible Citizens and Workers: Tackling Informational Texts

By Karen Matis with Charlene Klassen Endrizzi

tackling informational texts

One fascinating aspect of the seventh graders’ questions during our conversation after the author Skype was their curiosity regarding specific vocabulary (such as “cesspool” or “costermonger”) used by Hopkinson. I think Dr. Matis’ Word Wall was a great tool for students, allowing them to discuss and learn new words.

Ben Gaul, history preservice teacher

This week we continue our exploration of what it means to be responsible citizens using The Great Trouble, Stolen Dreams, and companion web resources. My two seventh grade classes started our exploration of The Great Trouble with a Word Wall. Like Ben noted, I also see students’ engagement with texts increase if we collectively analyze unfamiliar words. The first word selected to place on our wall was “mudlark,” a term introduced and defined on page one. Readers eagerly contributed to the wall when they came across new vocabulary. To help students connect to words of low practical use but an integral part of understanding The Great Trouble, we acted out new terms or mimicked facial expressions to physically demonstrate a word’s meaning. Continue reading

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Responsible Citizens and Workers: Nurturing Ethical Viewpoints in Seventh Grade

By Charlene Klassen Endrizzi with Karen Matis

examine civic responsibility“Instead of looking with my eyes, I decided to see with my heart.”
(Eel, mudlark in The Great Trouble by Deborah Hopkinson, 2013)

Eel, an adolescent protagonist, along with larger than life teens like Iqbal Masih and Malala Yousafsai from Pakistan, became central figures in a four week exploration of Responsible Citizens and Workers. Overarching questions like “What makes a responsible citizen?” and “What makes a responsible worker?” initiated a collaborative inquiry between Karen’s 45 seventh graders and 12 secondary education minors enrolled in my literacy course. Previous interactions with Deborah Hopkinson led us to contemplate various social justice themes in her books. We set out to create opportunities for middle school readers to explore their place in the world and consider avenues for making meaningful contributions. Eel’s ethical outlook of “see[ing] with my heart” invited adolescents and preservice teachers to examine civic responsibility in their present day lives. Continue reading

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Notes from a Small Island: The Unforgotten Coat

By T. Gail Pritchard, Ph.D., University of Arizona

In this final week of February, I’m continuing Melissa’s look at U.K. award-winning books, in particular the Costa Book Awards. Frank Cottrell Boyce’s The Unforgotten Coat began as an exclusive for The Reader Organisation for their 2011 book giveaway. With 50,000 copies distributed throughout the U.K. and the rest of the world, this brilliant 112 page novella was shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards in 2011, was awarded the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in 2012, received The Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis in 2013, was on the IBBY International Honour List in 2014, and was a starred review for both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.

unforgotten coat Continue reading

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Notes from a Small Island: Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse

By T. Gail Pritchard, Ph.D., University of Arizona

goth girlThis week’s blog focuses on the 2013 Costa Children’s Book Award winner, Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse, written and illustrated by the U.K.’s Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell. The Costa Book Awards honor authors in the U.K. and Ireland in five categories: First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry, and Children’s Book. One unique aspect of the Costa is that it “places children’s books alongside adult books.” The 2015 Children’s Book Award winner, The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (reviewed by Melissa in this month’s blog) was also the 2015 Costa Book of the Year. Continue reading

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Notes from a Small Island: The Lie Tree

by Melissa Wilson, Leeds Trinity University, Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK

The Lie TreeThis is my last week blogging from a small and crowded island; the book I am discussing is called The Lie Tree, written by Frances Hardinge, who is a popular and well received author in the U.K. Like the other texts I have discussed, this one won an award, The Costa Book Award in 2015, and is in the fantasy genre. And like the other two novels, it is being marketed for young adults, although I question this designation. Though the protagonist is 14 years old, she is a chaste and sexless adolescent, and I subscribe to what Karen Coats has said about YA fiction: what makes it YA is the sex. Continue reading

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Notes from a Small Island: The Knife of Never Letting Go

By Melissa Wilson

The Knife of Never Letting GoThis week’s text is a young adult novel by Patrick Ness called The Knife of Never Letting Go. While searching for book reviews I saw that its genre is called “speculative fiction,” a term with which I am unfamiliar. What I discovered with more searching is that it is a literary category that comprises science fiction and fantasy, but it is a bit more Continue reading

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Notes from a Small Island: Examining Recent Award-Winning Books from the United Kingdom

By Melissa Wilson

English children's literatureAs the purpose of World of Words is to “to build bridges across global cultures through children’s and adolescent literature,” I would like to use this month’s WOW Currents to employ adolescent literature from the United Kingdom as a way to examine the similarities and differences of cultures from two different countries that share the same language (although the English may not agree about the “same language” assertion). Continue reading

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Catastrophe or Opportunity?: Rethinking and Resisting Deficit Perspectives on the Language and Culture of Children Living in Poverty

By Tracy Smiles, Western Oregon University
(This originally appeared in the Oregon Reading Association’s quarterly newsletter, The ORAcle—Winter 2015).


One cannot expect positive results from an educational or political action program which fails to respect the particular view of the world held by the people. Such a program constitutes cultural invasion, good intentions notwithstanding.
Paulo Freire

A Troubling Discourse

Just the other day I overheard an administrator addressing a group of preservice teachers. He explained, “Children living in poverty have little to no vocabulary.” While this well-meaning individual was trying to describe some of the very real challenges these future teachers could face teaching in culturally, economically, and linguistically diverse contexts, I was troubled by this discourse Continue reading

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Community Outreach Literacy Practices After the March 2011 Earthquake

By Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico,
and Junko Sakoi, Tucson Unified School District

Toppan CSR Report_2012_P.9 copy

Last week we explored a range of Japanese picture books describing natural disasters. The books became significantly meaningful to children in Japan when the earthquake of 2011 occurred. Allowing time for thinking and talking about the earthquake through picture books developed even more meaning outside of school. Social outreach programs thru mobile libraries were essential for young readers as they, in part, ameliorated the effects of the earthquake for children who lost their schools and access to books. We’d like to explore the traveling library as a type of Japanese cultural artifact that will continue to be important in its future. Continue reading

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Japanese National Trauma: Changing Trends in Japanese Picture Books Since the Tohoku Earthquake

by Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque NM & Junko Sakoi, Tucson Unified School District, Tucson AZ


“March 11th, 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake takes place in Tohoku area including Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi, 231 miles northeast of Tokyo at a depth of 15.2 miles. The earthquake causes a tsunami with 30-foot waves that damage several nuclear reactors in Fukushima. It is the fourth-largest earthquake on record (since 1900) and the largest to hit Japan… The confirmed death toll is 15,893 as of October 9 2015” (CNN Library, 2015).

The Japan Tohoku earthquake resulted in global environmental concerns despite the fact that earthquake originally appeared to be a limited “Japanese” event. Continue reading