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Directing the Waikato Picturebook Research Unit

By Nicola Daly, The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato, New Zealand

Cover depicts woman in Victorian era clothing with suffragettes behind herIn 2016, I established the Waikato Picturebook Research Unit based in the Division of Education at the University of Waikato. Its stated aim is to research and analyze the picturebook form and exploring its pedagogical potentials. Together with my colleague Dr. Janette Kelly-Ware, we are gradually building the activities of WaiPRU, as we call it. Continue reading

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Being a Fulbright Scholar in the Worlds of Words Center

By Nicola Daly, The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato, New Zealand

Portrait of Nicola DalyBeing a Fulbright Scholar in Worlds of Words is an amazing privilege. I arrived here in late October 2019 and will leave at the end of February 2020, after a four-month period. There are many scholarships available through Fulbright, all of them encouraging exchange between the United States and another country in the world. The Fulbright program was started in 1946 by Senator J. William Fulbright with the express purpose of fostering international exchange to encourage world peace and understanding. There are a range of exchanges available for teachers, postgraduate students and academics between the United States and approximately 160 counties in a range of 8,000 grants annually. Since its inception, there have been over 370,000 Fulbrighters who have participated in the program. Continue reading

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Cognitive Relationships between Music and Language

Janelle Mathis, University of North Texas

Timbaland cover features an African American child with a cupped hand to his ear, listening to the city generally and specifically to the subtitle text Nighttime Symhony curving into his ear.For this last post focused on the role of literature in supporting music’s importance as a multimodal approach to living and learning in the global society, we consider books that reflect the cognitive support between language and music. The development of both music and language for young learners has been revealed as a somewhat reciprocal process. Recent research, has revealed that the brain regions that process syntax are also responsible for other communicative forms such as music. Concepts about print, conventions of print, rhythm, rhyme and patterned texts are each nurtured by music. Phonological awareness and auditory discrimination of letters and notes, important in language learning, are also important in developing communication through music. Literature offers resources that support these processes. Poetry, obviously, provides rhythm and often rhyme; onomatopoetic words within text can sharpen listening skills; language can help develop a sense of dynamics, tempo, and emotional qualities; and books that point to the importance of listening to the sounds around us link the natural world as a form of communication. Continue reading

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Books Provide a Glimpse of History through Music

by Janelle Mathis, University of North Texas

A Is for Audra cover features six leading ladies of broadway sharing a stageAs we realize, music has been part of mankind’s history since its beginning. The 2019 published books shared here reflect only a few of the ways it has been woven into lives but can encourage readers to seek instances across genre. Broadway is known as the place where music and story intersect in powerful ways and the voices of Broadway impact how these stories are told. A Is for Audra, written by John Robert Allman and illustrated by Peter Emmerich, informs readers about leading ladies who have performed through song, dance and drama on some of the world’s most important stages. With an A-to-Z format, this book celebrates women of Broadway and their noted roles. There have also been biographies of musicians during 2019 that reveal music’s significance in their lives and, thus, their impact in bringing varied music to others. Guitar Genius: How Les Paul Engineered the Solid-Body Electric Guitar and Rocked the World, written by Kim Tomsic and illustrated by Brett Helquist, speaks to invention as well as music. Elvis is King! by Jonah Winter relates details of Elvis’s life with 3-dimensional, hand-built and photographed illustrations by Red Nose Studio. Continue reading

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Literary Insights to Social, Traditional and Cultural Aspects of Music

by Janelle Mathis, University of North Texas

Music is often a focus in literature as readers learn about this communicative art form. It is also a way of contextualizing a character, an event or a culture–revealing a diversity of insights into the daily lives and cultures of the people within the stories told. The books shared here, all published in 2019, represent just a few of the ways music exists in our lives. Three of the books are picturebooks sharing family joy that is supported and expressed through music.

Freedom Soup cover shows a Haitian grandmother in a head scarf dancing in kitchen with child in braids.Freedom Soup by Tami Charles and illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara is a Haitian story told around the Haitian new year custom of making and eating Freedom Soup, a tradition reflecting the Haitian Revolution. As Ti Gran teaches Belle how to make Freedom Soup, readers experience the process as well as the music that enlivens the experience. The kompa not only provides music as they dance around the kitchen, but most importantly, it provides background for Ti Gran as she tells the story of the Haitian Revolution. Both text and illustration afford readers the jubilant feel of the music. Continue reading

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Literature that Engages Readers In Music

By Janelle Mathis, University of North Texas

Music and Literature

Skating Over Think Ice by Jean MillsMusic as a multimodal form of communication can be traced back to primitive societies where it served in many cultural roles, for example in religious rituals, healing processes or sharing societal ideologies. Throughout history, music has been an aesthetic engagement for both performers and listeners, a source of hopefulness and encouragement, as well as a cognitive practice. Music aligns with literature in that both enable us to share our stories (often with stories embedded in music), learn more about ourselves and others and comprehend the world around us as it supports the development of intercultural competencies. It is more recently acknowledged that music and literacy are processed through the same cognitive areas of the brain, pointing to an even closer connection between language and music (Mathis, 2019). Continue reading

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Fantasy and Science Fiction for the Adventurous Reader

Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

This week, let’s take a look at three books that reside outside of our current reality, but have real potential for informing us about the world! Two pieces of fantasy were recommended this year, and one piece of science fiction made it to the list (in December). I will start with the stunning fantasies and then finish this with a look at a gangbuster piece of science fiction. Continue reading

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