Monday, November 29, 2010

A story of Christmas everyone can share.

    Last holiday season KBN proudly introduced the original Dickens classic A Christmas Carol on the KBN website. Everyone loves this very special story of the winter season, so this year we're introducing it again – for the first time in our exciting live, on-screen bookcasting™ format.
    Now you can actually project the enduring tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, Marley's Ghost and Tiny Tim right up on your classroom wall! 
    Everyone in your class can enjoy the story together – whether you choose to read it to them or they prefer to read it to you.

    A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens was first published in a British newspaper, in a serialized format, in 1843. Republished here again on paper – in a "serialized," five-part format – our special edition of of the story was carefully prepared by scholars at the University of Virginia Library and has been made available to KBN with their kind permission.
   Teachers not familiar with 
A Christmas Carol may wonder if a work with such a religious-oriented title is appropriate for the public classroom. Happily the correct answer is yes. 

   It might come as something of a surprise, but the work is completely focused on the personal moral behaviors of the characters during a traditional holiday season of goodwill, and except for the title does not actually mention anything about religion – except, perhaps, the universal principle of charity and caring shared by all of humanity.
   The lively dialog of Dickens not only makes the story feel more immediate and personal to young readers today, it makes A Christmas Carol a wonderful work for students to share in the form of "readers theater."
    Our thanks once again to the University of Virginia.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Vileburgers are back. Uh-oh, this could be so big it's scary.

       Just to remind you if you haven't looked around and noticed the pumpkins all over the place that every child in your class will be incredibly excited about reading KBN's Halloween thriller, The Vileburgers.
      And the sooner you get started the better.
      After all, Betty has to track down her lost archeologist parents with the help of the most incompetent family of ghouls in New York and her parents are lost in Texas.
      "City Slickers meets Ghostbusters in this short, goofy tale ... enjoyably ridiculous," according to Kirkus.
      "Replete with elements of magic, humor and wit, Uncle Henry's new Halloween classic is an imaginative adventure ... hilarious cast ... sure to rouse a chuckle," Bookwire suggests.
      And best of all, it all comes with an electrifying lesson plan, featuring readers theatre, which we promise will make your hair stand on end, your eyes spin and your ears wobble.
      Education in October doesn't get any more fun than this.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Perhaps the best classroom project in 200 years.

     Once again, KBN has made starting out the new school year easier than you ever thought possible.
     September 16 marks the 200th anniversary of Mexican independence, the moment of the historic Grito or corageous shout for independence by Fr. Miguel Hidalgo, and for this very special day KBN is very pleased to bring you a very special project.

    It starts with a special Bicentennial book, El Grito, written and illustrated entirely by the students of Solano Avenue School in Los Angeles. Your whole class can enjoy this book together, projected on screen or viewed directly on any computer monitor in our convenient flashbook bookcasting™ format. We hope that it becomes the first of many student-created book projects KBN will be able feature this year, and that it serves as an interactive inspiration for students everywhere to become exited about writing more books of their own.
     But the project also features a student-filmed video, found on the KBN homepage, of the corrido in El Grito. The corrido – be sure to zoom in on the image – was performed live and sung by its original young authors, on the school campus, along with the famous composer and presidential Medal of Arts winner Lalo Guerrero, who wrote the music. We hope that the hand-held video also inspires your own students creatively – to write and perform more of their own original songs.
     And finally, talk about revolutionary –  our El Grito project includes a comprehensive lesson plan on Fr. Hidalgo, El Grito, and the story of the Mexican Revolution for students at every grade level.
     KBN and teachers. It's going to be an exciting new year.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Looking back on KBN's amazing Year One.

      Both the Kids' Book Network and the teaching year started last September 1,  and on June 24, 2010, both KBN and our teacher colleagues concluded an amazing year in U.S. education.
     Reflecting on what we've accomplished in Year One, it's clear that we've come a long way in less than ten months.
      First, we introduced the concept and practical possibility of free, self-made books for every child in the world. Picture books, coloring books, adventure books, puzzle books and literary classics. Even one book in eight languages.
      Our original KBN books are witty and fresh books you can download, print and form into classic on-paper, page-turning quality books to read and share with friends and family, at home or in the classroom.
      Next, we introduced the exciting and unique device-free reading technology of live on-screen bookcasting. And suddenly reading is more fun and exciting than ever.
      The Kids' Book Network website has now been identified as an information resource for young readers from Kindergarten through Grade Six by the official California Learning Resource Network. And we're pleased to see that visitors from around the planet have begun to discover KBN – from Australia and Brazil to China and Russia.
      Now, while most U.S. schools are enjoying a well-earned summer vacation, KBN will continue working on even more new surprises for both teachers and young readers in Year Two.
      Including many more fresh and original KBN books. As well as important new ways to make your classroom teaching more effective and easier, too.
      It's really all about the KBN mission.
We want every teacher to succeed, we want every child to read.

Monday, May 3, 2010

What to give Mom for Mother's Day.

     With Mother's Day now only a few days away it's time to help your class prepare a special gift for Mom. A card with hand-colored hearts is always nice. Moms can't get enough of those no matter how many they already have filling a shoebox in the back of their dresser drawer. Plus, eighty years from now they can pull them all out and show them to their child who by then will have a shoebox full of cards from his or her own children, who by then will have a shoebox which, well, you get the idea.
     You've got to get out the crayons and make some cards, for sure. But this year, in that card, why don't you try something different and ask all the children in your class to ask and answer a wonderful question. On the outside of the card they can simply write, "Mom, you're the best because ..."
     And then inside they write as many reasons they can think of.
     1. You make pancakes sometimes. 2. You wash my socks even with all of that mud on them. 3. You're really nice to Bowser. 4. Well, you get the idea. We wish we could be there to see what your children come up with. It's always magical.
     But this year why don't you also add in something else Mom will really like, maybe even more.

     This year why don't you have everyone in your class download, print, and form one of KBN's super-easy, one-piece-of-paper microbooks. Then take it home to Mom and read it to her.
     We have a special heart-tugging KBN picture book designed for just that purpose.
    Mom might actually weep, not only to see her child reading with such passion, but because of the book itself.
     I'm So Glad You're My Mom!
     From all of us at KBN to all of you out there with only four days to get ready, Happy Mother's Day.

Monday, April 5, 2010

How to improve those national student test scores.

     As we move into the annual test-every-child season you might want to consider one of the best methods ever devised for keeping students alert and focused during those endless days of exam after exam. It was devised, actually, by a desperate Russian elementary school teacher named Lester Pavlov.
     You have to make exams more fun, and to make them more fun there has to be some immediate reward. The exam, then, becomes an interesting game and the student becomes more actively engaged in trying to remember everything he or she knows to win it.
     Personally I never had more fun in 5th grade myself than with those daily spelling bees in which the whole class stood up along the blackboard and got knocked off, one at a time, until only one student was left standing. Usually it was Marcy Cotton but sometimes I got lucky and that occasional gratification was all I needed to keep alert every time.
     So how do you overcome test fatigue, attention drift and other problematic test factors today? You might try this.
     First tell the class that they will win a prize for different test scores. One top prize for a perfect score, another prize for just 1-3 wrong answers, and perhaps yet another prize for only 4-5 wrong answers. Devise your own prize system according to the kind of test and results you might generally expect, and try to deliver the results of the test and prizes on the same day or within the week.
     Results for the individual student on state and federal tests may not be available for some time, but do not let that deter you from installing your prize program for ordinary day-to-day content tests, standards tests, and any form of review and practice tests. In fact, that's where it will help your national test scores the most.
     Remember, it's Pavlovian. The increased fun of test-taking will carry over into the larger exams which are key for state and national school evaluation.
     Plus, once you try our tests-are-fun methods you'll be pleasantly surprised at how, all of a sudden, some students just seem to wake up and actually know a lot more than they might have appeared to know before.
     So what kinds of prizes should you offer? Now we get to the best part.
     You've heard of the National Book Award for excellence? Same idea, only right in your classroom.
     Instead of prizes like candy crunchies, which only promote student obesity and tooth decay and are not so good for their teacher, either, now you can give your students the very special prize of an honorific KBN book. We hope that by now your students have already learned how to download and make books from our free KBN book library, but perhaps they have just been making books in black & white format. So as a special prize they might now be awarded a KBN book in full color.

     You can devise the book prize system that works best for you. A book for the best test score. A book for the best essay on being nice in the playground. A book for the best homework. A book for – well, you get the idea. The more ways you distribute free KBN books to every child in your class the more you will encourage them to read for pleasure and strengthen their interest in personal reading.
     And if you can use the same KBN invention of free books for every child to help improve student attention during test season, well that's pretty good, too.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It isn't just a good idea or luck, it's you.

     Today, on St. Patrick's Day, we wish to thank everyone in our growing teacher community for your help as we work to establish greater awareness of KBN’s free books for children, as well as the availablity of KBN’s new classroom teaching advantages like bookcasting.™
      Luck has nothing to do with it. We simply couldn’t be getting the KBN concept of innovation out there so quickly without your strong support.
      With your help, thousands of teachers across the country today can now use the KBN website to show children the meaning of America’s cultural diversity – and the new classroom power of bookcasting – by projecting and reading Why We Wear Green On St. Patrick’s Day, as well as teaching with the book’s special lesson plan.
      This plan not only reviews Irish history, it provides a practical method for every child, from every cultural and ethnic experience, to gain a new understanding of their own personal values and special cultural heritage – and “to be proud of who they are.”
      Of course it doesn’t really matter exactly who we are on March 17, we all still have to wear our green socks.
      As our KBN teacher community continues to help us reach out to more of their colleagues in education, as well as to more families and children at home, and as they in turn help reach out to others, we at KBN will soon be able to give more time once again to our primary objective – the rapid expansion of our exciting KBN book library.
      We have many fresh, surprising new books for KBN readers now on the way.
      We thought it would be much easier to create a swift awareness of KBN in the halls of education. To the nation’s school districts, at a time of severe budgetary stress, certainly the KBN project is now being received as very welcome news. Through the latest computer technologies, here comes an expanding library of original children’s books, both printable and viewable directly on computer or even by projection, and all for free.
      But getting the word out has not been quite as simple as we all might like.
      The reality is that we still need everyone’s strong and active support – teachers, educational administrators, parents, parent organizations, community organizations, political leaders and children themselves – to tell everyone else that KBN is here.
      With the promise of free books and new ideas for every child in the world.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Why do we all wear green on St. Patrick's Day? An explanation at last.

      Here's some early good news for March.
      Why do we all wear green socks on St. Patrick's Day, even when we're from anywhere and everywhere else on the planet?
      Now teachers can read Why Wear Green On St. Patrick's Day with their class and find out.

      You can read the story to your students from a classic KBN on-paper book, which of course you can download and print for free for your entire class. Or you can read it all together up on your classroom wall, directly from your computer and a projector, in our new KBN flashbook reading format.
      A complete standards-based lesson plan – you'll find it on the Why Wear Green book page – comes with this timely picture book as well, and together they make a very special learning experience for children of all ages.  
      What more can we say at a moment like this? Erin go bragh! 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Let's face it. There's nothing more fun than reading a story you wrote yourself.

      The whimsical new KBN book The Metal Detector, by Amsterdam illustrator Linda Lee, is an exceptional literary project by any measure.
      First because it tells a story that doesn't need any words, almost like a classic silent movie.
      But then because there are no words in the book – the artist's dog, apparently, ate the original story – the KBN reader is invited to develop the story on his or her own, then write their personal word version of the story directly into the book.
      Each book and story becomes unique, and young readers can learn to be better writers by working together in reading groups to share their story ideas.

      The best way to begin, and to introduce this book and story to the class, is probably with a new KBN flashbook reading, projected on a whiteboard wall or projection screen directly from our KBN site shown on a classroom computer. You can show the KBN flashbook to the entire class at once, read it all together, and discuss what's happening in the cinematic flow of Linda Lee's delightful images, and even model as you read some of what your students might later want to write about.
      A small line of metatext on each page is there to help, by suggesting to the reader some elements of the story they might need to explain. In your class discussion you can come up with more ideas and questions together as well, and then write them all on a chalkboard. Classifying the questions is another good way to help young readers understand the essentials of story and character development, establishing motivations, and arriving at logical outcomes, in a way they can use in their independent writing later.
       Finally, after some class discussion, your students can print out and form compact, on-paper minibook copies of  The Metal Detector, one for each student, and let each reader/writer compose their own final version of the story and write it directly into their own personal copy of the book.
      Whether you're reading the story without words or writing a story with your own new words, The Metal Detector adds a wonderful new work to the KBN library of free books for every child in the world.