School Matters Home Page
For the Young and Young At Heart

Welcome to the homepage of School Matters, the column that Bill Breitsprecher writes for Madison's Voices newspaper.  The content of this page represents the For the Young at Heart section of the paper.  Any questions, comments, or ideas you would like to share?  I would love to hear from you at webmaster@clubtnt.org.
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About School Matters

School Matters by Bill Breitsprecher

These reflections appear as a regular column in Madison's Allied-Dunns Marsh community newspaper, Voices.  Discussions about schools and the educational needs of children are important.  In many ways, America is a very different place than it was even a generation ago -- a good education in the 21st century may require a very different set of skills than the previous century.

  • December 2012, Multi-Cultural Holiday Children’s Books.  Those watching cable news networks know that the holiday season is here. One of the “star” pundits on a major right-leaning network has once again proclaimed there is a “war on Christmas”, sad, but an annual occurrence.  Click HERE to read more.
  • November 2012.  Multi-cultural chapter books support emerging readers.  Sharon G. Flake, author of nine young adult novels including "Pinned," about a female wrestler in love with a brilliant disabled boy, states: "It is often difficult for me to go into the young adult section of a book store. It should be easy. I have about 2 million books for young people in print."  Click HERE to read more.
  • August 2012.  Hot Summer Days -- Great Reading Weather.  We’ve seen some scorching hot days this summer and we are not through the “dog days” of August. Most likely, the hottest days of 2012 are yet to come.  Click HERE to read more.
  • July 2012:  Summer reading keeps children ready for schoolWe see a great deal in the media and across our community about an “achievement gap”. Differences in test scores actually say little about what children “achieve”, indicating much more about each child’s learning needs and whether these needs are being met.  Click HERE to read more.
  • April 2012:  Sharing picture books is a start.  Over the years I chat with parents and teachers about helping children get ready to read, Early Literacy Skills. Most people associate this with reading books to kids, but we need to remember, this is just one part of developing skills that eventually bloom into full-reading.  Click HERE to read more.
  • March 2012:  Great Picture Books: Caldecott Medal and Honors.  Looking for wonderful picture books? Try an award-winning book, a Caldecott Medal winner or honor book. The 2012 Caldecott Medal winner is A Ball for Daisy, written and illustrated by Chris Raschka. Click HERE to read more.
  • February 2012:  The gap is in serving student needs, NOT achievement.  It is disappointing to hear professional educators misleadingly talk about students “underachieving” by referring to an “achievement gap”.  Click HERE to read more.
  • January 2012:  What Does Martin Luther King Day Mean to Children?  Many have heard the famous quote Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."  Click HERE to read more.
  • February 2011.  Great Authors:  Walter Dean MyersWalter Dean Myers was born as Walter Milton Myers on August 12th, 1937, in Martinsburg, West Virginia. At an early age, he was given to and raised by Herbert Dean who lived in Harlem. To this day, Mr. Myers does not know why he was given up for adoption.  Click HERE to read more.  NOTE:  For a downloadable, printable 8.5 X 11" handout of this article and a comprehensive booklist of Mr. Myer's work, please click HERE.

  • January/February 2010.  Please Read Multicultural Picture Books to Me!   America is increasingly becoming a diverse place. The good news is that book publishers are coming to understand the value of supporting families with diverse picture books. When children are very young (many promote before birth), it is important for them to hear the written word.  Click HERE to read more.

  • November 2008.  Warm Fuzzy Friends = Mammals.  Looking for some information about mammals? That's not hard, because librarians also use the word "mammals" to organize books.  Things become more complex when you want to research for specific kinds of animals. Research is easiest when you use the same search words a librarian uses. Let's review the difference between KEY WORDS and SUBJECT HEADINGS. Click HERE to read more. NOTE:  For a downloadable, printable 8.5 X 11" handout of this article and mammals pathfinder with subject headings Dewey Numbers, please click HERE.

  • October 2008.  Kindergarten Is A Big-Step. Enjoy The Fun! Kindergarten is a special time in a child’s life. For many, this is the start of their formal education. The first day of school can be full of tears - children are spending a day (or half-day) away from mom and dad, often for the first time. This can be hard for parents too.  Click HERE to read more.

  • June/July 2008.  Want to get kids excited about books? Sing with them before you read to them!  I read a lot of books to young children - Kindergartners, first-graders, and second graders. I believe that as an elementary school librarian/media center director, we must make the time we share in our library special - it’s a celebration. We share a love of books, a love of reading, a love of language. Click HERE to read more.  Hear my reading song, "I Love it When You Read to Me!" (streaming video, .flv).  For printable, downloadable lyrics, please click HERE (.pdf file).

  • March/April 2008.  Our Children: Keepers of the Bears.  Every fall, I conduct a survey with my Kindergarten students to determine how many bears are in the community. Participation is voluntary – it’s a way to have fun with counting. Young children are enthusiastic about learning numbers.  Click HERE to read more.

  • March/April 2008. Children Love Their Teddy Bears.  An enduring, traditional form of stuffed animal, Teddy Bears comfort children. The name Teddy Bear comes from one of Theodore Roosevelt's hunting trips. There were several other hunters competing, and most of them had already shot something. A few friends of Roosevelt who were hunting with hounds treed an American Black Bear after a long and exhausting chase and suggested Roosevelt shoot it. Click HERE to read more.

  • October/November, 2007.  Babies Love It When You Read To Them!  So when is it time to read to your child? IT IS NEVER TOO EARLY!  It’s a great way to bond with a baby - hold a child on your lap, let them rest their head on your chest and feel the warmth of your body and the vibrations as you talk to them - reading a fun book.  Click HERE to read more.

  • August-September, 2007.  Summer Reading is Fun & Builds Lifelong Learning.  Many educators talk about helping students build "lifelong learning" habits. This is because today's youth live in an environment that changes and evolves - especially as it relates to technology. "Lifelong learning" means that a person is ready to adapt and has the information and technology literacy skills to keep up.  Click HERE to read more.

Happy Birthday Book Talk Video

July 1 - 31, Happy Birthday to You! by Bill Breitsprecher.  When you're a kid, what day is more fun than your BIRTHDAY! Sure, holidays like Halloween are Christmas are fun, but you have to share them with everyone else. A birthday, however, is a special celebration JUST FOR YOU!  Click HERE to read more.

Youth & Technology on Heart and Soul  - Webcast from Madison's "The Pulse" 1670 am.  CLUB TNT Webmaster & Media Specialist, Bill Breitsprecher joined Richard Brown and Betty Banks to lead a community dialog about youth, technology, and schools.  In addition to an audio Webcast and podcast, we provide an outline of key issues including:  what information and technology literacy means, what kids think about technology in schools, the digital divide technology in schools, and how technology impacts literacy,   There are also links for printable, downloadable resources (.pdfs) and links to other great Websites about youth, schools, and technology.  Click HERE for some of the issues we will discuss.

May 31 - June 30.  Kids & Computers! by Bill Breitsprecher.  Like all new tools, the key to bringing technology into schools is to find ways to effectively use it. Today's software is so much more than an electronic "typewriter" or "slide projector." Often overlooked, is the socialization and language opportunities technology enables.  Computers can encourage students and teachers to interact more. The full benefits of technology will be realized when school computer labs are set up to allow two or more people to work together with a computer.  Click HERE to read more.

April: Alcohol Awareness Month, by Bill Breitsprecher.  Some may ask, “WHY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT ALCOHOL” in this month’s section for and about youth?  April is Alcohol Awareness Month. Alcohol abuse affects people of all ages - children, teens, adults, parents, and even grandparents. It is important for families to talk about alcohol abuse and drugs. These are important subjects to discuss with our children.  Click HERE to read more.

Celebrating Our Collective Heritage: Honoring Hispanic Americans, by Bill Breitsprecher.  In 1968, Congress authorized President Lyndon Johnson to proclaim National Hispanic Heritage Week. In 1988, this celebration was extended to a month. Because of this, many American’s believe that the influence of Hispanic Americans is recent. Longer than America has been a nation, however, Hispanic settlers have greatly impacted the culture and history of the “New World.”  Click HERE to read more.

Summertime is Reading Time! by Bill Breitsprecher.  Its Summertime. Students of all ages welcome a break from school. Schoolwork may be done for now, but please don’t stop reading. Why not use summertime to find some run reading?  For youngsters just learning to read, summertime is the best time to have a caring person read to them, perhaps mom, dad, a grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister; or even a librarian or volunteer at the local library.  Click HERE to read more.

Asian Pacific American Heritage, by Bill Breitsprecher, May 31, 2006.  I once spent some time in a community with a large Asian American population. There seemed to be a great deal of resentment toward these new Americans. I was told that there were protests, some with violence, when this new ethnic group arrived. This seemed hard to believe; it disturbed me. Click HERE to read more.

Math "Prime Time", by Bill Breitsprecher, April 7, 2006.  Math is important - the "young and young at heart" can often use a "quick refresher." Mom and dad can share math with kids. Students of ALL ages need math skills. Seeing when a number is divisible by another is important. We need it to work with fractions. It is also the starting point for factoring - writing numbers as multiplication.  Click HERE to read more.

Please Remember the Children, by Bill Breitsprecher, February 24, 2006.  Imagine segregation.  African Americans couldn’t go to most schools, restaurants, parks, hotels, swimming pools, or amusement parks.  There were separate drinking fountains and bathrooms.   The situation looked overwhelming.  Like many of his followers, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was discouraged. One night when Dr. King asked who would demonstrate with him, ready to go to jail, the children stood up.  Click HERE to read more.

Every Picture Book Tells a Story, by Bill Breitsprecher, January 19, 2006.  Picture books bring to mind the colorful books that children enjoy. Some picture books merely feature illustrations of a story that is mainly presented as text. Others carefully present each picture so that the next illustration is put in context – the pictures actually tell the story.  Click HERE to read more.

To Nonreaders, by Bill Breitsprecher, November 4, 2005.  Perhaps a newspaper column directed to “nonreaders” sounds odd.  Maybe the term “reluctant reader” is more appropriate.  Some studies seem to suggest that teenagers report they are reading less for fun.Is this true?  Is it important?  Click HERE to read more.

Great News, School will be starting soon!  by Bill Breitsprecher, August 25, 2005   Are ya ready?  It’s almost that time of year.  I hope everyone had a great summer.  I also pray that students will enter the new school year refreshed, with open-minds and positive attitudes.  Click HERE to read more.

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Thoughts from a Librarian

I'm happy to be here!  This is an exciting time to be involved with education.  Technology is changing the world, our economies, and even our schools.  As someone that has worked with virtually every generation of PC hardware and software, it is amazing to think how far we have come.  I won't bore you with the details -- let's just say that today's computers are so powerful and easy to use.  Click HERE to read more.
 

The "Hub" of an Elementary School? by Bill Breitsprecher.  Reading is a fundamental skill; it underlies much of the curriculum taught in schools at all levels. While teaching the basics of grammar and language is important, children need to develop a personal interesting in reading in order to build the skills that today's "accountability" movement demands. The Library Media Centers (LMC) offers an important opportunity connect students with reading and learning.  Click HERE to read more.

Children and Recreational Reading: It's FUN, and GOOD FOR YOU TOO! by Bill Breitsprecher, November 4, 2005.  Most librarians do not ask children if they like to read - it is better to simply assume they do when they are given appropriate books. It's all about "match-making." Finding a book that a child will want to read is the key.  Click HERE to read more.

Books for Children, by Bill Breitsprecher.  Children’s books come in different formats.  Small books that a very young child can actually hold in his or her hands are called “hand-books.”  They tend to have no words and illustrate stories in pictures.  Because of their size, they may not be convenient to read and share with a child – they are meant for children to hold and enjoy.  To an adult, they are very small.  Click HERE to read more.

Reading and Young Adults:  Reading Needs Change as Children Grow,  by Bill Breitsprecher.  Across groups of young adults, reading levels vary within a given age group.  High-interest books can encourage a youth to master higher-level language.  When talking about recreational reading, many assume the discussion is about fiction. Click HERE to read more.

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Featured Books

Each issue of VOICES newspaper contains some reading suggestions for children off all ages.  Until they learn to read, children love being read too and its FUN for both the reader and the child.  Just because a child is learning to read on their own does not mean that reading aloud has to stop.  Reading to each other!  An older child or even a young adult may enjoy sharing books as either a reader or listener too.

Book Reviews

Math Picture Books:  A comparison of 3 books that introduce children to mathematics, by Bill Breitsprecher.  Let’s look at 3 picture books about math: David Adler’s Fraction Math, Stuart Murphy’s Spunky Monkeys on Parade, and Greg Tang’s Math Fables. All three are beautiful books, ones that children will enjoy. Each would be fun to read to a child; all are about basic math skills.  Click HERE to read more.

Nonfiction Picture Books:  A comparison of 2 bibliographies of Dr. Martin Luther King, by Bill Breitsprecher.   Real life stories read and sound to children like fiction books - so they represent an excellent way to teach the concept of fiction and nonfiction to young readers. Publishers and educators have also recognized the value that this format provides when introducing social issues and multi-culturalism. Increasingly, these books are written and published to reflect important figures that are part of a typical school's curriculum.  Click HERE to read more.

Picture Book Review: Mama Cat Has Three Kittens, written and illustrated by Denise Fleming, by Bill Breitsprecher.  The idea that, within a family, one child prefers to act differently is a recurring theme in children's books. This story features Mama Cat and her three kittens, Fluffy, Skinny, and Boris. Mama Cat does the things that you would expect a cat do, wash her paws, walk on stone walls, sharpen her claws, chase leaves, dig in sand, and take the proverbial "cat-nap."  Click HERE to read more.

  • About Denise Fleming.  Denise Fleming is an artist that lives in Toledo, Ohio with her husband, David, her daughter, Indigo, seven cats, and one dog. She loves her animals and her cat, Gigi, was the inspiration for Mama Cat.  Click HERE to read more.
  • Illustrations in Mamma Cat Has Three Kittens.  The book is beautifully illustrated with vivid pictures; bright, bold colors; interesting textures; depth; and character. The illustrations are created with colored cotton fiber pulp and stencils. The resulting stylized artwork is unique and gives her books a flavor of their own. Working with this medium, Denise Fleming is able to pepper her pictures with extra touches of eye-catching colors.  Click HERE to read more.
  • Denise Fleming's Pulp Painting Techniques.  All the images for her books are created by pouring colored cotton pulp through hand-cut stencils. This results in images that are set in hand-made paper - the paper is the picture and the picture is the paper. The results are truly stunning and lend a dreamy feel that captures the imaginations of her readers.  Click HERE to read more.

Happy Birthday to You, written and illustrated by Dr. Suess, by Bill Breitsprecher.  When you're a kid, what day is more fun then your BIRTHDAY! Sure, holidays like Halloween or Christmas are fun, but you have to share them with everyone else. A birthday, however, is a special celebration JUST FOR YOU! In this book, readers find out about a wonderful place called Katroo, where a birthday is really a special time for you. A Birthday Bird makes sure that the day is special and memorable. Click HERE to read more.

More Great Birthday -Themed Picture Books! 

About Dr. Suess.  Born as Theodor Seuss Geisel in Springfield, Massachusetts, he earned a doctorate in literature at Oxford University in 1927. He started his writing career submitting cartoons and humorous articles for Judge, which was at that time a leading humor magazine.  Click HERE to read more.

Complete Listing of Dr. Suess's Children's Books.  While Dr. Suess never won any of the prestigious awards that are used to honor "great" literature, his name is synonymous with the picture book genre.  No, he did not invent these books and he is not without his critics.  Generations of children have learned to read with his whimsical, poetic verse and stylistic illustrations.  Here is a comprehensive look at his work.  Click HERE to read more.

Multi-Cultural Literature for Teenagers:  Acknowledging the Strength and Richness of Human Diversity.  Like it or not, the world is full of people and countries that do not live their lives or view the world as typical Americans do. Is this a problem? I don't know, but it really is just the way things are. Have you ever tried to discuss personal religious beliefs with a group of people that hold different faiths? If so, maybe you saw that people can hold strong views about what they believe.  Click HERE to read more.

Picture Books:  Asian Pacific American History

Picture Books Featuring  African American History

More Great Picture Books

Chapter Books for Young Readers:  Asian Pacific American History

Chapter Books Celebrating  African American History

More Great Chapter Books!

Teen Reads, YA Literature

Reading for enjoyment develops the mind and builds language skills.  Books that are written for teenagers also introduce readers to different perspectives and life stories.  Increasingly, American is becoming a more diverse place -- reading about the lives of others allows us to better appreciate and celebrate that diversity.  Here are some books that are popular with young adults; please click on the titles below to learn more about these great books.

Teen Reads Honoring Asian Pacific American History

  • American Eyes: New Asian-American Short Stories for Young Adults, Edited by Lori Carlson. These ten short stories reflect the conflict Asian Americans face in balancing an ancient heritage and an unknown future. Includes Taiwan, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam & Philippines.

  • Stella: On the Edge of Popularity, by Lauren Lee. Hoping to be accepted by a popular seventh-grade clique, a Korean American girl is embarrassed by her family's heritage--until a series of events gives her a better sense of who she is.

  • Necessary Roughness, by Marie Lee. Sixteen-year-old Korean American Chan moves from Los Angeles to a small town in Minnesota, where he must cope not only with racism on the football team but also with the tensions in his relationship with his strict father.

Teen Reads Celebrating  African American History

More Teen Reads: 

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Mathematics

Studying Math

  • Math books are meant to be read... but not like novels.  Work though the book very slowly and carefully with pencil and paper in hand.
  • Do not expect to comprehend each new concept with equal ease.  What is easy for 1 person is hard for another.
  • Math is a cumulative subject.  Missing one topic impairs the ability to master new material.
  • Math is similar to a sport.  It cannot be learned by just watching or listening.  It requires practice!

Why Study Math, by Bill Breitsprecher.  For many, math classes represent our greatest “challenge” at school. It may seem abstract and far removed from our lives. Some that may have had difficulty with some math concepts when they were younger and are now afraid. Others may feel overwhelmed by the fact that there is just one right answer – there is no room to “bluff” or “fudge” the numbers.  Click HERE to read more.

Math is Distinctly Different from Other Academic Subjects, by Bill Breitsprecher.    Math is very different than other subjects in school. It is all about applying concepts, processes and ideas. It is not possible to “memorize” all the answers, we need to learn and use the steps to finding the answer. It takes practice.   Click HERE to read more.

How to Read a Math Textbook, by Bill Breitsprecher.   Do you like to read? Do you like to read math books? Getting the most out of a math textbook means reading it carefully – math books are very different than other types of books. They do no “flow” like a novel – typically, math books alternate between text and examples of math problems.  Click HERE to read more.

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Information and 
Technology Literacy

Information literacy is knowing when there is a need for information, being able to identify, locate, evaluate, and use that information for the task at hand.  Whether we as individuals like it or not, the structure of information has changed to a digital format.  Information literacy today demands technology literacy too.

What is Information and Technology Literacy and Why is it Important?  by Bill Breitsprecher.  Information technology is the driving force behind our "new-world" economy. Because information technology skills represents information gathering, organizing, and problem solving tools that students will need to be successful in their education and careers.  Click HERE to read more.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction:  Information and Technology Literacy Resources, by Bill Breitsprecher.   In 1998, Wisconsin's Model Academic Standards for Information and Technology Literacy were published. The idea was to identify and define the knowledge and skills relating to access, evaluation, and use of information and technology that today's students need to succeed.  Click HERE to read more.

"Take Five!" Research Process.  Knowing when you need information, how to find it, evaluate and organize it is an important skill.  Information literacy is important in our personal life, school, and business.  There are many good systems to break this process of finding information to solve a problem.  The most popular method presented in school is the Big6.  "Take Five" presents a simple system that emphasized research as a process, the results can then be used to synthesize and create any type of project.  Click HERE to read more.

Technology in the Classroom

  • Computers and Language Arts Skills.  Keyboarding (and previously typewriting) skills have been mainstays of Business Education for years.  Less attention has been paid on the positive role that keyboarding and computer classes can play in development of secondary students’ English skills.  While traditional academic approaches work with some groups of students – today, schools are being challenged to document that ALL students are achieving high standards.  Click HERE to read more.
  • Computers and the Writing Process.  Writing is a process and getting students to look past the accomplishments of a first draft is one of the challenges of teaching and reinforcing writing skills. According to the National Council of the Teachers of English, the writing process consists of (1).  Prewriting, (2). Rough Draft, (3). Revising with Major Changes in Ideas and Organization, (4). Editing for Surface Errors Such as Spelling and Grammar, (5). Publishing the Final Draft for Others to Read.  Click HERE to read more.
  • Math and MS Excel.  Math skills are used in business everyday.  In fact, we probably use the skills that are taught in Math classes much more often than we realize.  Click HERE to read more.

Links and Additional Resources:  Integrating Information and Technology Literacy Across the Curriculum

Online Resources

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About Voices

Serving Allied Dunns Marsh Neighborhoods and Beyond -- "We are each other's most valuable resource."  Voices Newspaper is published bi-monthly by the Allied Dunns Marsh Neighborhood Association through Voices, Inc. PO Box 1163 Madison, WI 53701.  Phone: 608-250-5205
  • Editorial Email: news@madisonvoices.com
  • Advertising Email: sales@madisonvoices.com
  • Editor: Lucy Gibson
  • Managing Editor: GBD
  • Copy Editors: Betty Banks, Jeanne Erickson 
  • Sales-Layout-PR: Leccia and Associates, Inc.
  • Technical Support, Media Specialist, and Webmaster, Bill Breitsprecher & Breitlinks (www.breitlinks.com )  
  • Illustrator: Marcus Nickels 
  • Photography: Lucy Gibson, Jeanne Erickson, Bill Breitsprecher
  • Columnists:
    • Betty Banks, This 'N That
    • Bill Breitsprecher, School Matters
    • Ken Coffeen, Commentaries 
    • Susan Corrado, It's All About Health 
    • Gail-Perry Daniels, Letters to the Village 
    • Armena Ketchum, Conversations with Armena
    • Lauren Brown-Perry, Commentaries 
    • JoAnn Pritchett, Ask JoAnn
    • Tiger and Pooka Bear, All The Best Answers
    • Reporters/Contributing Writers: 
      • Robert Artis
      • Jeanne Erickson
      • GBD
      • Lucy Gibson
      • Brenda Gonzalez
      • Alice Howard
      • Mary Mullen
      • Leslie McAllister
      • Alderperson Brenda Konkel
      • Representative Therese Berceau,
      • Senator Fred Risser
    • Distribution: Allied Dunns Marsh Neighborhood, Business, Institutions and Direct Mail 

About School Matters

The purpose of this page it to extend the breadth and depth of the coverage in Voices newspaper.  Our goal it to make available a variety of resources, on a continuing basis, to support parents, students, and educators.  Right now, we have a humble, simple start, but please check back to see how our resources will grow.  Each issue of Voices can only cover a few topics relating to education and children -- we will use this page to keep those resources organized and to continue a dialog with our visitors about topics and issues that are important to members of our Comm-Unity. 

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