School Matters Column
For the Young and Young At Heart

Newspaper Columns


Multi-cultural chapter books support emerging readers

Hot Summer Days -- Great Reading Weather

Summer reading keeps children ready for school

Sharing picture books is a start

Great Picture Books: Caldecott Medal and Honors

How to Win a Caldecott Medal in 6 Easy Steps

The gap is in serving student needs, NOT achievement

What Does Martin Luther King Day Mean to Children?

Great Authors:  Walter Dean Myers

Please Read Multicultural Picture Books to Me!

Warm, Fuzzy Friends = Mammals

Kindergarten is a Big-Step - Enjoy the fun!

Want to Get Kids Excited About Books?

Our Children:  Keepers of the Bears

Babies Love It When You Read To Them!

Summer Reading is Fun!

Happy Birthday to You!

Kids & Computers

Alcohol Awareness

Hispanic American Heritage

Summer Reading

Asian American History

Math "Prime Time"

Remember the Children

Pictures Tell Stories

Like to Read?

Start of School

Voices Home

Math Matters

Celebrate Native American Heritage

Honoring Hispanic American Heritage

Honor Asian Pacific American History

Celebrating Women's History

Celebrate African American History

Homage to
Coretta Scott King

Celebrating the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King

The Children's March

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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.  How do we deliver skills across diverse learners?  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.  No, we don't have all the answers; which is why we believe it is important to share ideas.

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.

Different Americans celebrate different holidays in a variety of ways -- some choose not to celebrate the end-of-the-year holidays all. This isn’t a “war”, “crisis” or an attack on the Christian Christmas celebration which is dedicated to the birth of Jesus Christ. The only strife is coming from folks conducting divisive on-air battles using violent rhetoric, inflaming and spewing hate to insult those who experience life different.

Does anyone else see the irony of doing this in the name of the Christian Bible and Savior?

We don’t have to teach children to react angrily to others that celebrate holidays differently -- especially when it is a historical fact that the December 25th observation of Christmas has its roots in pagan tradition and ritual surrounding the Winter Solstice.

So despite what you may hear on TEE-VEE, there is nothing wrong with a diverse look at the yuletide holidays. Looking for some great children’s books to share along with season’s cheer? Here are some suggestions:

The Amazing Menorah of Mazeltown, by Hal Dresner and Joy Fate. Mazeltown, in the Cry-Me-a-River valley, was a dreary village on the dark, cold days leading up to Hanukkah.

Hoppy Hanukkah, by Linda Glaser. Violet and Simon, two small bunnies, are excited about Hanukkah. Mama and Papa explain how the family lights one candle nightly at sunset, placing the menorah in the window for all to see.

The Black Snowman, by Phil Mendez. Jacob and his brother make a snowman out of the dingy snow on their street, wrapping it in a scrap of cloth. But the cloth is really a kente, an African storytelling shawl with magical qualities. Soon, Jacob's snowman comes to life and teaches an unforgettable lesson about history, hope, heritage...and faith.

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, by L. Frank Baum. A human foundling child, adopted by a wood-nymph and raised by the creatures who inhabit a magical forest, grows up to be the immortal Santa Claus.

Nine Days to Christmas: A Story of Mexico, by Marie Hall Ets and Aurora Labastida. Published over 50 years ago, this classic remains fresh and relevant. Ceci's first Christmas posada party and pinata have made her Mexican town come alive for generations of readers.

The Sound of Kwanzaa, by Dimitrea Tokunbo. Hear the words, sing the songs, dance to the beat, and shout "Harambee!" as you jump into this joyful celebration of the sounds of Kwanzaa! Come close, gather round, and discover what Kwanzaa is all about!

Children around the world celebrate Christmas! by Christine Harder Tangvald and, Susan T. Osborn. This books is exactly as the title describes, fun.


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."

That's a lot of books -- you can find her work in Madison's public libraries. Her concern is that, while there are many wonderful stories, adventures, mysteries, sports-books, and reflections on growing up, Ms. Flake knows that the vast majority of these books feature kids on their covers that look nothing like the children she writes about and for. Ms. Flake isn't afraid to say it -- to accurately tell America's story, we need more books about African-American youth and other children of color.

And when it comes to chapter books -- books written for emerging readers -- she is right. A chapter book is a story book intended for young developing readers, generally age 7-10. Unlike picture books for pre- and beginning readers, chapter books tell stories through the written word instead of pictures. Unlike books for advanced readers, fonts are larger, text is simpler, and chapter books often contain pictures to keep a young reader’s interests and illustrate the story.

English is a complex language -- it isn't written as it is spoken. Children need to see and read the written word, learn the different ways we use language -- the different ways different people use language and the different ways we use language in different situations.
We've written and shared booklists for multicultural picture books

HERE is a booklist of multi-cultural chapter books for emerging readers.  But today, we would like to support the developmental reading of our youngest readers -- children that are enjoying books beyond picture books.

In literary circles, the character a book is primarily about, often written from that point of view, is called the protagonist. While all stories have characters that play a central role in an unfolding drama, because chapter books can develop a story in a manner that a 32-page picture books cannot, the protagonist in chapter books can better demonstrate, reflect, and feature perspectives that young readers may hold or at least understand.

And it isn't just African American and other children of color that benefit from diverse perspectives. We can all learn about community. Families presented in multi-cultural chapter books, whether they look like our own families or not, have important stories to share.

When books about African-American youth are not widely available, we all miss out, but our children miss-out the most. We undermine our schools when we don’t more-fully support the recreational and developmental reading needs of diverse children. And please remember, you can share the fun reading aloud. Read a chapter a day together!

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.

Looking for a safe cool place to spend some time? Try your local library or, if it is convenient to get out, please visit other libraries.

Today’s libraries have more than books -- video collections, computer labs, and comfortable places to chill. Summer is a great time for children to visit libraries.

While we like to see children be active and Madison is blessed with great outdoor play space for people of all ages, when it is approaching 100 degrees, plazas, parks and even beaches can stress our endurance. Some days, it just feels too hot to ride a bike, play soccer, baseball, softball, tennis, suntan or even swim.

On these days, the key to staying cool may be to just chill. Reading a great book is a wonderful way to cool off on a too-hot-to-do-anything-else day and your library is a great place to do it. Today, libraries are air-conditioned, and in Madison, they are considered “cooling centers.”

What could be more kewl than spending part of an uncomfortably hot day with friends at a library?

A library card is a ticket to virtually any adventure you can imagine. Children love selecting books, especially when there is a large, colorful collection of fiction and nonfiction to choose from. They love checking books out and taking them home to read and share.

Some of us that may not always think of recreational reading when thinking of fun things to do enjoy a book that helps us learn more about favorite subjects and hobbies -- nonfiction.
This time of years, books about camping, fishing, biking, skateboarding, and all types of sports and activities are popular. When it is too hot to do what we love, picking up books about doing our favorite things is fun.

Then, when the weather is less-hot, we can go out and enjoy our activities even more, better-understanding how to enjoy and excel at the things we enjoy and do best.

And while quiet time is a good way to stay cool on a hot day, today’s libraries are more kid-friendly than in previous generations. It is now rare to hear a librarian SHHHHHH kids in the children’s section.

That is because librarians are taught that a sterile, silent environment actually chases kids out of the library and keeps them from coming back. Today’s children's librarians understand that a silent, empty library serves no one.

A library is a great place for kids to get together in a safe, special space that is designed to accommodate their needs and interests. They are staffed by professionals that understand children’s developmental needs. And on the hottest days, the children’s department might be the kewlest place in town.

Summer reading keeps children ready for school, by Bill Breitsprecher

We 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.
Our schools are not perfect - nothing humans create is.

We are seeing changes in education. Some proposals raise a variety of legitimate concerns. While Dr. Tony Evers, Wisconsin DPI, other politicians, school district administrators, teachers, and other stakeholders argue about improving schools, we need to keep our children learning and moving forward.

Want to help a child do
better in school?

Then let’s find ways to keep children reading over the summer. Most of us can remember some of those first days of the academic school year. Picking up textbooks and getting back into the school routine each fall can be a challenge. There can be many distractions. There are many old friends we may see each year. Each year in school, we probably meet many new friends too.

Studies consistently show children that read over the summer start school in the fall more ready than children that do not read regularly. When we help keep children we love and care about reading, we are keeping them learning.

But more importantly, summer reading is FUN. If we encourage children to read and help them find books they will enjoy, they keep on reading. And they love it too.

Librarians are taught to assume that everyone loves a great book, but there are many different books and readers. Our challenge is to provide a matchmaking service -- helping children find books they are comfortable with (appropriate reading level for their reading development) and which interest them, making them want to turn each page and keep reading.

The best way to do this is with an open mind, giving young readers choices. Instead of telling children that one book is “best” or even that they will love a certain book, try giving them choices. They decide.

Don’t be afraid to share opinions of books and authors you have loved - recommending a great read is wonderful. Librarians learn that when children self-select books, they choose books that are “just right” -- not “too hard”and not “too easy”.

Children become enthusiastic about topics and authors they have selected and enjoyed reading.

And please don’t forget nonfiction! Learning about favorite subjects over the summer is sure to keep a child reading and constructively engaged. Even “reluctant readers” will read a “just right” book all day once they find a great read.

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Sharing picture books is a start, by Bill Breitsprecher

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.
Sometimes I chat with someone that is skeptical or even doubting. In their mind’s-eye or experience, reading picture books aloud cannot make big a difference. It is misleading to tell parents that if they read to children, it’s enough to prepare children to read. Reading is build on a series of 6 skills:

  • Wanting to read
  • Seeing many ways we use writing
  • Playing with the sounds in words
  • Telling stories, using sequences: beginnings, middles, and ends
  • Learning names,words, vocabulary
  • Learning the alphabet and the sounds letters stand for

If we merely read to children and expect them to passively listen, we may be building an interest in reading and showing one way the written word is used, but this does not get a child ready to read. We must do more - the good news is that we can have a lot of fun sharing all 6 early literacy skills with children.

Start by choosing books both you and your child will love and have fun sharing. If a child is not ready to listen, that is OK. Put the book down and read together later. Make reading books a special time together (Print Motivation).

Point out all the different ways we use reading and writing. Look for signs and read them together. Browse at menus, brochures, flyers, newspapers and anything with writing on it. Make lists together (Print Awareness).

Sing together, share rhymes, make up words, and teach children nursery rhymes & short poems. Have fun sounding out or creating words (Phonological Awareness).

Ask children to explain what they see and what they are thinking. Show them picture books and let them make up stories. When you read a picture book together, ask them what they see in the illustrations and what they think will happen next. Find ways to get them involved as the storyteller too. Talk through steps of doing things together, emphasizing the sequence of events (Narrative Skills).

Teach children words, lots of words - things, actions, and names. When a child tells you something, expand on what they say. If they say they see a fire truck, respond, “Yes, a RED fire truck with a great big LADDER). Talk about what they see in pictures (Enriched Vocabulary).

Learn the alphabet together, starting very young. Magnetic letters are great. Don’t expect a child to learn too quickly - start with the shapes of letters (colors if you use magnetic). Show them the first letter in their name and more as they are ready. Share alphabet books. When appropriate, carefully look at book titles together, pointing and sounding out letters and words (Letter Knowledge).

When helping children get ready to read,we must do more than expect them to listen to us read books. We want children actively learning and showing us the building blocks of reading.

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. You can find it at your local library or bookstore.

Each year the Newbery Medal is awarded by the American Library Association for the most distinguished American children's books published the previous year. However, many believed that artists creating picture books for children deserved an honor too.

In 1937 Frederic G. Melcher suggested a second award be given each year to the artist who had created the most distinguished picture book of the year. The award was named to honor nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph J. Caldecott.

The Caldecott Medal "shall be awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American Picture Book for Children published in the United States during the preceding year. The award shall go to the artist, who must be a citizen or resident of the United States, whether or not he be the author of the text.”

In 1977 the Board of Directors of the Association for Library Service to Children changed the 1937 action, stating that "any book published in the preceding year shall be eligible to be considered for either award or both awards."

Separate committees to choose the Newbery and Caldecott Awards were established in 1978 and began with the 1980 selection committees.

From the beginning of the awarding of the Newbery and Caldecott Medals, committees could, and usually did, cite other books as worthy of attention. Such books were referred to as Newbery or Caldecott "runners-up."

In 1971 the term "runners-up" was changed to "honor books." The new terminology was made retroactive so that all former runners-up are now referred to as Newbery or Caldecott Honor Books. Whether winners or honors, these are great books.

Randolph Caldecott was one of a group of three influential children's illustrators working in England in the 19th century. The other two illustrators were Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane. His illustrations for children were unique in their time in both their humor, and their ability to create a sense of movement, vitality, and action that complemented the stories they accompanied.

The illustration on the Caldecott Medal, which is taken from Caldecott's drawings for "The Diverting Story of John Gilpin," is a perfect example of the fun and excitement conveyed by Caldecott's work. The illustration shows John Gilpin astride a runaway horse, accompanied by squawking geese, braying dogs, and startled onlookers.

How to Win a Caldecott Medal in 6 Easy Steps

  1. 1. Develop ideas for your book and what you'd like the art in it to look like. Either do the artwork yourself or hire an illustrator to do this for you.

  2. Make sure that the story of your book is one that gives children a new way of looking at the world. Think of historical stories or something as simple as saying goodnight to the day that has passed. Work hard to make the artwork reflect your concept.

  3. Write a letter detailing some information about your book and your writing or publishing experience. Keep it brief, specific, and persuasive.
  4. Work with your publisher to make the best book possible and get it out in the marketplace. Do book signings at book stores.
  5. Go to the Caldecott Medal Webpage and read through the criteria for submitting your work for consideration of the award.Prepare your submission and send it in before the deadline.
  6. Win the award!

Caldecott Winners:  1938 - present (downloadable, printable, pdf file).

Caldecott Honor Books:  1938 - present (downloadable, printable, pdf file).

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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”.  Professional educators know better. All are taught that it serves no purpose to measure “achievement” with tests children have not been prepared for.

Low scores on tests indicate only one thing - children were not ready to take those tests. Low scores say a great deal about instruction and curriculum, but virtually nothing about learning.

Please don’t let school districts, charter school advocates, teachers, principals, or even the State Superintendent in Wisconsin redirect discussion away from serving children’s needs. It is intellectually dishonest to talk about students “under-achieving” on standardized tests.

If scores are low, it means only one of 2 things: (1). The test may not be written to measure what students were taught. (2). Children were not fully-prepared for the tests, proving that low-scoring children have unmet learning needs.

It is sad to see local newspapers, school board members, advocates for charters, and Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction make this about “achievement” instead of identifying what children need to be successful and finding ways to deliver those skills.

There is no achievement gap - what we are seeing is proof that Wisconsin’s schools (and Madison’s) continue to under-serve high-needs populations. Wisconsin has been identified as under-serving economically disadvantaged children more than any other state.

This most-heavily impacts non-majority children. In the US, people of color carry the burden of poverty much heavier than the population as a whole.

But it is worse than this - even factoring for poverty, the outcomes of Wisconsin’s schools for non-majority students is abysmal. For African American boys, it is literally a disgrace. Recent studies show only about 1 in four African American boys are being taught to read at their grade-level by the end of the fourth grade.

Sadly, if children are not reading at grade level by the third grade, they are statistically unlikely to ever become fluent readers. We know what happens to adults that struggle with reading. They fill up our prisons.

No one should be surprised that a state which literally does not teach African American boys to read also has one of the highest African American prison populations.
This is shameful. Why do “leaders” grandstand and misrepresent this as an “achievement gap” across children? Why isn’t the dialog focused on adults, professional educators, and working together towards meeting students’ unmet needs?

Please demand a more honest and meaningful dialog about how to help children succeed by serving the diverse learning needs of diverse children.

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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."

Sadly, one of Dr. King’s 4 children is no longer with us. Perhaps the rest of his children will live to see their father’s dream come true. 

What does Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy mean to children?

To find out, this writer would suggest you talk to young people. I do know that while there is a federal holiday to honor his life and work, it appears very few children get that day off in Wisconsin.

This is also very sad - recent studies suggest that the Badger State actually underserves people of color in schools more than any other state in our nation. And when it comes to reading, Wisconsin is only teaching about 1/3 of African American boys in the 4th grade to read at their grade level. Does this shock you?

Professional educators know, or should know that children not reading at grade level by the third grade are unlikely to ever be fluent readers. The extra support and services they may receive in school helps, but still does not make children who have fallen behind by the third grade likely to become fluent readers at any point in their lives.

Please talk to children to find out what Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy means to them. Perhaps professional educators, parents, citizens & taxpayers need to start talking about whether this nation has the will to someday realize his dream - equity and justice for all.

This will demand an honest dialog that starts by looking at outcomes in our schools. If non-majority children in Wisconsin are not learning what majority children learn and if this difference is the greatest in the nation, we have a problem.

But it IS NOT an “achievement gap”- these children were never fully-prepared to take those tests. May we please be honest and talk about ways to more-fully serve unmet needs that result in lower test scores.

If the test scores indicate a problem, can we talk about a solution?
Can we stop shifting attention away from the adults?  Children don’t “under-achieve” nor are differences in test scores due to an “achievement gap”.

The real problem is that there are clear and present unmet needs that our schools are still struggling to find a way to address and fulfill.

Great Authors:  Walter Dean Myers

Walter 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.

He grew up in Harlem, a predominately African American community in New York. Like many African American children, his early years centered around his neighborhood and church. The neighborhood provided protection and the church provided guidance.
Myers was a smart child, he says that all kids are smart, but he didn't do well in school. Myers dropped out of high school and joined the army when he was 17.

He enjoys basketball and still daydreams about games he remembers playing when he was younger. Myers doubts he was good enough to play in the NBA, but wonders what it would have been like to compete at the college or professional level.

In high school, he always wrote well and a teacher recognized this. When she could see that he was going to drop out, she told him to keep on writing no matter what happened to him. "It's what you do," she said.

He didn't understand what she was saying, but years later, when Myers was working on a construction job in New York, he remembered what she had said.

He began writing at night and eventually began writing about the most difficult period of his own life, the teen years. Today, he is primarily known as a teen author, one that writes about his experiences growing up as an African American. He also writes books for younger children and for adults.

Have you ever wondered how others grow up and experience life? You will find a lot of good reading if you look at some of the books Walter Dean Myers has written.

Please click HERE for a comprehensive booklist of Mr. Myer's work (downloable, printable, pdf.file)

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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.

English is spoken differently than it is written. Helping children get ready to read means letting them hear this, introducing them to early literacy skills, the building blocks of reading. For more information, please visit BreitLink's Early Literacy Web at:

All families benefit when they share multicultural picture books with children. It is important for today's youth to develop an awareness and understanding of others. Non-majority children benefit from seeing an affirmation of their culture and heritage in books.
Let's be clear - sharing a love for the written word with children before they start pre-school is important. It nurtures the development of their brain and cognitive skills. It also gets them ready to become readers. Studies are increasingly showing that readiness to read is the single most important predictor of success in school.

But books do more, they let us experience the world through the perspectives of others. Picture book can do this in different ways - powerful visuals and simple narrations and dialogs that are fun to hear and read.

The best picture books introduce children to exciting characters and let children see though the eyes of others. Great picture books allow a child to experience and understand the different ways we all contribute to society.

In the past, finding picture books that celebrate diversity was a challenge. Perhaps this is one reason Don Freeman's Corduroy (1968)and Pocket for Corduroy (1978) are such timeless classics. These books are about a girl named Lisa and her family. While ethnicity is not central to the story, we see that she is from a family of color.

If you have not read these two books to your child yet, do everyone a favor and please ask your local librarian to help you find copies. Let them help you find great multicultural picture books.

Today, you may be able to find many picture books that feature multiculturalism at your local library. In some, the characters just happen to be of various ethnicities. In others, a celebration of diversity is a central part of the story. There are still communities where finding quality multicultural picture books may be more of a challenge.

The best part about writing this column is that people share their favorite books with me! I’ve presented some of these titles here. We will be updating BreitLink’s Early Literacy Web to include a listing of multicultural picture books that families enjoy.

Do you have a favorite? Are you looking for some suggestions? Please email me at: and let me know what your family have enjoyed or what your family is looking for.

Please be sure to check There are many great book suggestions for babies, talkers, and pre-readers. We will be adding another section, "I Love It When You Read MULTICULTURAL Picture Books To Me!"

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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.  NOTE:  For a downloadable, printable 8.5 X 11" handout of this article and mammals pathfinder with subject headings Dewey Numbers, please click HERE.


These are words that appear in documents. They are words that we use when we talk and write. Different people use different words to talk about ideas. 

For example, what do you call a fountain to get a drink of water? In Wisconsin, it is commonly called a bubbler. In other places, people may call this a "drinking fountain."

What do you call fizzy drinks like Coke and Pepsi? In Wisconsin, it is commonly called "pop" or "soda pop". Others might just call it a "soft drink" or "soda." Do you see how we use words differently?

Keyword Searches

A keyword search looks for when a word is used. Most Internet searches are keyword searches, though today's search engines use technology to find related items and not just the keyword we used.

Google has created special ways to search the Internet with keywords. Google actually is performing the search when you use YAHOO search and some other search engines too.  You can do keyword searches with library computer catalogs too. But be careful. Different people describe the same topic with different words. Keyword searches can be frustrating, especially when using a library catalog or database. Different people use words differently.

Subject Headings

Librarians know that we actually look for ideas, topics, and information, not keywords. If different people use different words for ideas and topics, we should still be able to find what we want.

Librarians gather information and organize it - nonfiction, informational books, are placed together on the shelves by subject. Librarians use a list of words called “subject headings.”   A number code, a Dewey Number, is assigned based on the subject heading. Librarians use subject headings that come from a controlled list. Most school and public libraries use subject headings that come from the book, Sears List of Subject Headings.

Subject Heading Searches

If you can find the subject headings that a library uses for the information you want, searching with the subject terms will be a faster, more accurate search. The same is true when searching databases.

Sometimes, we don't know the subject headings. An easy way to find out will be to use keyword searches to find ONE book or item about the topic or idea we want.  Then, look for the subject heading that a librarian uses. Most computer catalogs and databases show subject headings along with all searches.

Usually, related subject headings presented off to the left or right. Sometimes, they are included with each item's listing, usually presented as links. You can just click on the subject headings you want and you will find more of the same information!

Think Like A Librarian:  Subject Headings

Researching animals? Mammals? Looking for COWS? Then search for CATTLE. It is easy if you use the same words librarians use. Most school and public libraries use SEARS
SUBJECT HEADINGS. Dewey numbers are assigned by these subject headings.

These numbers tell you where to find information on the shelves. For example, a book about Monkeys has the subject heading Primates and is numbered 599.8. Here are some subject headings and Dewey Numbers for mammals (599's for wild animals, 636's for domesticated):

  • Mammals (599)

  • Bats (599.4)

  • Beavers (599.37)

  • Bison (599.64/636.2)

  • Camels (599.63/636.2)

  • Cats (636.8)

  • Cattle (599.64/636.2)

  • Chipmunks (599.36)

  • Deer (599.65/636.7)

  • Dogs (599.77)

  • Elephants (599.67)

  • Fossil Mammals (569)

  • Horses (599.665/636.1)

  • Marine mammals (599.5)

  • Mice (599.35/636.008)

  • Pigs (599.63/636.4)

  • Primates (599.8)

  • Rabbits (599.32/636)

  • Reindeer (599.65/636.2)

  • Seals (599.79)

  • Sheep (599.649/636.3)

  • Squirrels (599.36)

  • Whales (599.5)

  • Wild Cats (599.75/636.8)

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Kindergarten Is A Big-Step. Enjoy The Fun!

By Bill Breitsprecher

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.

Children miss their parents and parents miss their children. For many kids, this is also the first time they spend days with a large number of their peers. It can be scary.

But Kindergarten teachers are special people, professionals that understand the needs of their students. They work to make kids and families comfortable. They strive to make Kindergarten a positive experience. They truly care about their students.

On the last day of school, there can also be a lot of tears. Children have adjusted to the changes and look forward to each day at school. They enjoy the company of their friends. They develop a strong sense of love and respect for their teachers. Kindergarten teachers are very special people.

As a school librarian, I consider it a privilege to see this drama unfold. I carefully watch teachers work with their students . There are many life-lessons here, wonderful examples of patience, acceptance, tolerance and love.

If you have a child starting school, enjoy the school year. It is a big step and can nurture a child’s passion for life-long learning. While professional educators work hard to ensure that each child experiences success, families can help too. If you want your child to get the most out of school, be a partner. Support your schools. Support their staff. Support teachers.

Elementary school teachers find that there are huge differences between the vocabulary or word-knowledge that different students have. Studies indicate that differences in the vocabulary words that Kindergarten students understand are great, perhaps approaching a factor of 100! This creates many challenges.

Most Kindergarten students are pre-readers. They are learning early literacy skills that become the building blocks of reading. Larger vocabularies give kids a head-start. Please see for more about helping a child get ready to read.

Reading involves recognizing what written words would sound like when spoken. Children that can sound out words and then recognize what each means enjoy learning to read - it becomes an exciting adventure!

Want to help a child you love succeed in school? Help them get ready to read. Talk with them. Ask them questions. When they answer, help them by adding to what they say.

Help children hear different words and understand what these words mean. Enriching a child’s vocabulary enriches their education. It gets them ready to read. Books use language very differently than the spoken word. Read to children. Kids need to hear the written word. It expands their vocabulary and gets them ready to read, ready to learn, and ready for school.

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Want to get kids excited about books?
Sing with them before you read to them!

by Bill Breitsprecher

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.

I know we are doing something right when young children, pre-readers, are excited about finding and checking out fun books. They skip through the library (please, no running feet!) and it is an adventure. They point to titles and excitedly ask, “What does this say?!?!?!?”

We have a wonderful collection of books -- bright, colorful picture books and great nonfiction/informational books with eye-appealing illustrations. I want our library media center to be a joyful place - I don’t believe in telling kids to “shhhhhhhhhhhhh” when we are having fun in the library and there is no one that we are disturbing.

It is our special place and our special time together. I hope we nurture this love of books - just watch an early elementary school student when they find a book they love, a book they want to share, a book they want to learn to read.

I wrote a reading song last summer - something to express the joy of being read to, a celebration of fun books. The words are on the right. If you want to hear it (and see me teaching it to some bears), please take a look at my website, BreitLinks:

I played and sang it each day with the kids in school first-semester and made a video second-semester so I wouldn’t have to bring my guitar every day. It gets cold and my instrument gets temperamental.

The kids still love it - can’t possibly play it enough. In many ways - sharing this song is the single thing in my life that I am most proud of. These kids love books and love being read to. Music is a powerful way to get people’s attention.

A great song stays with us all day. We want to share it. Singing helps kids get ready to read, ready for school. Songs, raps, rhymes, and poems are a fun way to play with sounds. It’s a fun way to play with language. Songs naturally break words into smaller units - these become the building blocks of reading.

Do you love a child? Share something special. Sing together, play together, and read together. Please give a child a gift that lasts for life - the gift of reading.

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Our Children: Keepers of the Bears

by Bill Breitsprecher

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.

More than half the children choose to participate, returning surveys, tallying all the different types of bears at home - stuffed bears, ceramic bears, bear dolls, bear blankets, bear bedding, and maybe even REAL bears.

These students, usually with the help of mom, dad, or an older brother/sister, report that they have remarkable numbers of bears at home. Of course, this isn’t about how many bears each student has - its about having fun and sharing number skills.

Counting With Tallies

A good way for children to start learning number skills is with tallies - creating a line to represent each item in a set. Tallies create groupings of 5. This allows us to easily sum and compare counts. 

It also introduces students to "skip counting" in this case, by 5's:

5, 10, 15, 20…

Recognizing these patterns in numbers forms the basis of addition - when we add 5 to 5, we get 10. Add another 5 to our total, and we get 15.

This prepares students to think about multiplication and division. If we have 3 groups of 5, then 5 times 3 equals 15. If a child isn't sure, they can always count each line in the tally. Division is just the opposite - if we see 15 tallies in groups of 5, we see that they are in 3 groups. 15 divided by 5 equals 3.

Helping children use a representational system to think of numbers is important - later, they will see how we use symbols to represent the same counts. For many young learners, the key to mastering abstract concepts is to start with similar ideas in more concrete formats.

Kids naturally like counting games and learning numbers. Tallies are a fun way to help children count and get ready to work with numbers. Show a child how to count with tallies and he or she will find many things to count - when you're a kid, thinking about numbers is FUN!

Let’s work together and continue finding ways to nurture children’s natural love for numbers. Math is the “gateway to higher education.” Let’s find ways to keep math exciting.

Children Love Their Teddy Bears

by Bill Breitsprecher

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.

He refused to shoot it himself, deeming this unsportsmanlike, but instructed that the treed bear be killed to put it out of its misery, and it became the topic of a political cartoon. A small town toy shop owner saw the cartoon, and asked the president if she could manufacture stuffed bears named as "Teddy's Bears". He approved, and the name has stuck ever since.

Commercially made, mass produced teddy bears are predominantly made as toys for children. These bears have safety joints for attaching arms legs and heads. They must have securely fastened eyes that do not pose a choking hazard for small children and must meet other rigid standard of construction in order to be marketed to children in the United States and in the European Union.

The "fur" from which these charming creatures are made is as varied and interesting as the Teddy Bears themselves. Today, most have synthetic fur. Specialty or collector bears may have natural fibers.

Mohair, the fur shorn or combed from a breed of long-haired goats, is woven into cloth, dyed and trimmed, produces a fascinating choice for any artist's palette. Alpaca Teddy Bears are made from the pelt of an alpaca because the fiber is too soft to weave. Children don't really care what type of fur a Teddy Bear has as long as it is soft and cuddly.

The world's first Teddy Bear Museum was set up in Petersfield, Hampshire (England) in 1984. In 1990 a similar foundation was set up in Naples, Florida. This was closed in 2005, and the bears sold by auction. Bear books are popular in children’s libraries. Ask any librarian - children love their bears!

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Babies Love It When You Read To Them!

by Bill Breitsprecher

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.

It’s a wonderful way for fathers to develop a nurturing relationship with their child and its fun for mothers, grandparents, even siblings too. Holding a child and sharing a book is a very special time for both of you.

Babies love to hear the sound of voices, especially their caregivers. It is reassuring. They enjoy the attention. They hear the rhythm and rhymes long before they can understand the words.

Sharing activities and providing stimulating fun for a baby is important - it actually helps develop your baby’s growing brain. Hearing language helps a baby learn the basic sounds that make up our language. By the age of 1, a baby has heard all the sounds that make up words - why not give your child a head start and some enrichment? Hearing the spoken word imprints it in their brain.

Read with emotions - babies will pick up on that too. It will help your child’s emotional development. Use different pitches in your voice, varying it to match the story or characters in a book. Make funny noises while you read and sing songs - create a joyful atmosphere.

Your baby loves you and loves the time you share together. Why not build that bond and use it to teach your child the value of reading? Giving a child a love of books is a gift that will last a lifetime. It doesn’t take much time - read for short periods of time - perhaps a few minutes in a sitting, but do it often. You won’t have to finish books, in fact, you can just focus on the pages and pictures that grab your child’s attention.

Baby won’t know if you don’t read all the words, if you skip some, or just make it up as you go along. You also don’t need many different books - babies enjoy repetition. You can read the same book over and over again. As your child gets older, let them handle the book and the pages too.

To get started, choose books that have simple pictures against simple backgrounds - remember, a baby’s eyesight is still developing. As your child gets older, you will see her react and reach out to pictures and pages. Then it is time to find books with brightly colored pictures - especially ones that feature babies and objects that your baby is familiar with.

Ask your local librarian for “board books” and books with textures and mirrors too. Be sure to check out story times for babies at your local library. These are usually held for different age groups, pre-talkers, talkers, and preschool. It’s a great way to meet other parents and baby gets to meet other babies too!

Helping a baby enjoy books is the best way to prepare a foundation for lifelong learning. Reading with your child is the best way to give them a head start when they start school. Please give it a try - you will both love it when you read together!

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Summer Reading is Fun & Builds Lifelong Learning

by Bill Breitsprecher

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.

Summer reading is an important part of developing life-long learning. It builds literacy skills and promotes reading for fun. Children that read over the summer start school in the fall ahead of their classmates. Are YOU reading this summer.

The Madison Public Library offers a number of programs for youth of all ages - why not stop by your local branch library and pick up a calendar? When summer vacation comes, many students put books away. Sure, there are great things to do outside like swimming, biking, playing softball, rollerblading, and a variety of festivals and fairs.

Reading, however, is important - please read a little bit each day. What should kids read? Well, let's leave that to them. Let’s support kids’ reading books that they like and are interested in.

Getting the family involved with recreational reading helps. Studies show that when parents are involved with helping their kids with learning activities, those children do better in school and have fewer problems out of school. Most parents understand the need to encourage and help their kids with homework.

Do parents also appreciate the importance of recreational reading? Do mom and dad feel that they can provide help in that area? Do they feel that they can make meaningful reading suggestions that their children may be interested in? What can we do to encourage kids to read when it is not part of a school assignment?

There are lots of things we can do and resources to help. Many schools and teachers provide reading lists. Libraries offer summer programs. There are many educational Webpages, including this one, Madison VOICES' SCHOOL MATTERS, that explain the reading process, provide reading suggestions, offer tips on selecting books, and present suggestions for reading activities both parents and children will enjoy. You can even ask your friendly local librarian.

Most educators and librarians see themselves as part of a "team" - working together to support the intellectual growth of children. The gift of reading is one of the most important things you can give a child. It is a gift that will keep giving and giving.

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Share Happy Birthday Picture Book!

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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!

In “Happy Birthday To You”, 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.

Written in the typical Dr. Seuss whimsical poetic style, the vividness of the descriptions as well as his stylistic drawings are sure to delight readers of all ages.

It starts with a blaring blast from a Birthday Honk-Honker and meanders through lands filled with Funicular Goats and Hippo-Heimers. And to think, we believe that we are doing something special for someone when we buy him or her a birthday card.

A birthday is a celebration of oneself and in Katroo, one proclaims to the world, "I AM I, ME, I AM I!" The over-riding theme of Dr. Seuss's “Happy Birthday To You” is that we all have a right to be and to belong.

This positive message rings throughout the verses and illustrations. After re-reading this book (I enjoyed it as a child as well), I have to wonder why so many of us start to downplay our birthdays as we get older.

About Dr. Seuss

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.

Inspired by the rhythm of a ship's engine while traveling to Europe, he wrote his first book, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.” Forty-three publishers promptly rejected it before a friend intervened and published it in 1937.

In 1954, a report about children's literacy, published in Life, stated that many kids weren't learning to read. His publisher sent a list of 400 words that were deemed important for children to learn. Geisel pared it down to 250 (an amount it was believed that 1st graders could master) and wrote a book with 220 of those words - “The Cat in the Hat.”

Dr. Seuss's legacy includes a Pulitzer's Prize in 1984, three Academy Awards, and almost 50 children's books (which he authored and illustrated). Perhaps the most enduring of these accomplishments is the joy of reading that Dr. Seuss's books continue to bring to new generations of children.

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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.

Computers must do more than accommodate passive students that follow prompts. Activities need to be structured so that learners are making decisions and interacting. The emphasis should be problem-solving and creating projects that extend learning.

Computers are tools, most people are not interested in being "experts" on the technology itself. When integrating technology into schools, it is important to consider how the technology:

  • Encourages exploration and use of imaginative problem solving

  • Allows students to control the pace and path learning

  • Incorporates visuals, sound, music and voice to engage students

  • Enables directions and activities to be interrupted

  • Provides feedback to keep students engaged and on-task

  • Children learn by manipulating their environment, exploration and discovery. Our challenge is finding ways for technology to create opportunities for learning.

Children are naturally motivated to use computers. This creates an opportunity to extend a child's attention span and engage them more efficiently and for longer time periods. The key is that teachers are also involved, offering instruction and guidance while monitoring.

Computers cannot be "babysitters." Endless "drill and practice" is not effective. Technology changes the teacher's role. Actively engaging students requires teacher to lead and guide inquiry and be willing to explore different learning modalities.

For all of these reasons, discussions about technology and early learning need to start with the responsibilities of schools, teachers, and parents. The adults must integrate technology so that it enhances student learning.

When computers are used in schools as tools for problem-solving, children gain valuable computer skill - the ability to use computers as natural tools for learning. Today's accountability movement demands that student achievement be documented. We need to be careful, however, documenting the positive impact of technology on learning starts with properly introducing the technology into the curriculum in the first place.

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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.

The use of alcohol is deeply ingrained in our culture. It is not possible to watch a major sporting event without seeing ads for beer. Many publications intended for adults but frequently read by teens contain ads for wine, beer, and hard liquor. Television shows feature alcohol as part of their stories. Alcohol is an accepted drug in our culture, for some, it is a part of holidays and celebrations.

For most, alcohol is no big deal - they can take it or leave it. When they have a drink, they have ONE drink. Most people are not interested in a second drink. If offered one, they will politely decline or will sip it slowly, often not finishing it.

Binge drinking is defined as having 5 or more drinks in one sitting - that’s a lot of alcohol. Most people do not binge drink. For some, however, that is the way they drink - it may even seem “normal,” but it is not.

When does alcohol use become abuse? When it creates problems. We don’t want to identify who has a drinking problem, we want to share information so that people can think about drinking and decide for themselves.

When a person has a drinking problem, it can be confusing - they know that alcohol use and abuse creates difficulties, but they do it again and again. Sure, intoxication can lead to negative behavior and adversely affect our lives. But for many problem drinkers, the real issue is not what happens when they drink - the real problem is when they are sober and pick up that first drink. When one knows that they drink heavily, get intoxicated, and get in trouble, why would they choose to do it again and again?

For many, the root of drinking problems is the way they look at alcohol when they are TOTALLY SOBER! For many problem binge drinkers - its not the last drink that is the problem, its the first drink. If one knows that they binge drink and that it creates problems, why would they pick up that first drink? If a person is allergic to strawberries, break out in hives, and end up in the hospital when they eat them, do they even think about having “that first berry” again and again.

No - most of us learn to avoid consuming food and beverages that harm us. It usually only takes one bad experience. Learning about alcohol, its affects on the human body, the impact it has on people’s life's, and the difficulties some have in controlling their drinking is an important lesson for people of all ages.

We have created a Web page about ALCOHOL AWARENESS, please stop by and check out the many resources.

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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.”

The term “Hispanic” does not refer to a nationality or country, but rather cultural or ethnic roots. More than 400 years ago, millions of people have come to this land from Caribbean regions, Central America, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South America, and Spain. The cultural heritage of Hispanic bloodlines includes Mayan, Aztec, Spanish, Mexican, and more than 20 nations.

Like most of those that risked the journey and uncertainty of relocating to an emerging nation; freedom, peace, and economic prosperity were the primary motivators. In a world with much more limited technology and transportation options, no one made the decision to uproot their lives and family lightly. The trip demanded serious commitments, strong work ethics, dedication to family values, and willingness to build community building. In many ways, these attitudes and beliefs are the foundation of the American Dream.

After all, what sets America apart from the rest of the world are the different cultural heritages of diverse people. Each group brings unique perspectives and strengths to the fabric of this nation. Yes, celebrating diversity does mean looking at how different groups make us stronger. It also means recognizing the values we share. Today, immigration issues dominate many political discussions. Today, when politicians and pundits talk about “immigration,” they are usually referring to Hispanics – often from Mexico.

This past spring in major cities all across America, hundreds of thousands of Mexican Americans and recent immigrants took to the street to show America the vibrant and dramatic impact they have in our culture and economy. These are real people, not faceless, nameless beings to be exploited for political purposes.

Like most people trying to find acceptance in a new land, the family unit is important. Loyalty to the extended family is probably the most powerful tool to survive and thrive. The family has to come first as does the well-being of the community as a whole. American history is full of rich stories of different ethnic groups taking their place in our culture, but it all starts with family and community.

Each group brings its own traditions, celebrations, cuisine, spirituality, and heritage. Clearly, most Americans enjoy watching and participating in the assimilation of these attributes – just look at how popular different styles of foods, fashion, and music creates bridges between Americans.

Hispanic influence has had a profound effect on this nation in the past two generations. Hispanic Americans represent the fastest growing segment of our population, an increasing share of our economy, and an important segment of the U.S. labor market. In the process, this change in America’s structure will change American culture, politics, economics, education systems, and government.

Let’s celebrate the diversity of each group of Americans and work together to make sure that ALL Americans have the opportunities and resources to raise their families in dignity. Let’s do what we can to enable ALL Americans to make positive contributions to this nation. Reflecting on the contributions of different groups of Americans and celebrating that heritage unites us and makes us strong.

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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.

Reading skills are important. Good readers do well in school, have more options to continue their education, and have more choices when they think about careers. Good readers are probably good writers too -- these skills are related.

Is reading fun or “work”? With practice, reading is effortless. Good readers learn to quickly skim through material, picking out important information.

Practice is important, but developing reading skills also takes enthusiasm. Read things you enjoy; it is fun. This enjoyment leads to more reading. Develop a passion for reading about thing you are interested in.

Make some time for yourself when you have breaks from school. Now’s the time to read something for YOU!

10 Tips to Help a Child Read

  1. Be a reading role model. Find things that you are interested in, it can be fiction or nonfiction.  It doesn't matter what you read - show children that reading is a valuable part of your life.

  2. Read aloud to a child every chance you get. The grocery store is full of things. Read the signs that are all around us. Read road signs, magazines, newspaper stories - everything you see.

  3. Get a child a magazine subscription about an activity or hobby that they enjoy -- any special interest, even comic books.

  4. Watch what a child enjoys on TV or in the movies, then go to the bookstore or library and find a book about it.

  5. Keep fun books around the house, riddles, jokes, or even magic books are all great choices.

  6. Cook with a child, reading recipes, or work on projects together, reading directions together.

  7. Keep reading positive. Don't say, "Go to your room and read! No more TV!"

  8. Have everyone at home read or look at a book or magazine for a short period of time at least once a day. Remember, when we find fun things to read, we will actually want to read more.

  9. Ask a child to help you find information. This is a great way to help a child that likes computers, look things up online. Reading on the Internet counts too! You can also look things up in books, dictionaries, or at the library.

  10. Write a book together. If you and a child write together, even just a few sentences each day, you will have a book by the end of the summer.

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Asian Pacific American Heritage

by Bill Breitsprecher

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.

As I spent time there, it was obvious that prejudice and racism towards different nationalities was real, sometimes direct, more often subtle, always based on ignorance. There was little appreciation for the rich culture, contributions, or sacrifices Asians Americans made to legally relocate in the U.S.

In 1976, as America prepared to celebrate its bicentennial, Jeanie Jew, president of the Organization of Chinese American Women, was concerned that Asian Pacific Americans were not being included. Jew's grandfather had come to America to find a better life and worked with thousands of other Chinese immigrants building the nation's first transcontinental railroad.

Later, he became a successful business person and community leader. In the late 1800's, Chinese were being blamed for America's economic problems. Asian Pacific Americans were beaten and killed. Jeanie Jew's grandfather was murdered when he spoke out on behalf of his people.

To celebrate Asian Pacific American heritage, the first ten days of May were chosen because Japanese immigrants first arrived on U.S. shores on May 7, 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad was marked by Golden Spike Day on May 10, 1869. Honoring Asian Pacific American history in May allowed activities and events to be included in schools.
Eventually, this celebration became an annual event lasting the entire month of May. To Jeanie Jew, the granddaughter of an Asian American murdered because of public ignorance, the creation of an annual tribute was important. It did not, however, erase the pain of her personal loss.

Spending some time each year acknowledging and honoring the talents, intellect, and determination of diverse Americans is important. It is part of our national heritage. It is also the best way to create an America that will not commit acts of violence against any ethnic group out of ignorance and intolerance.

We have created a Web page to celebrate Asian American Pacific heritage. Please check it out at:

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Math "Prime Time"

By: Bill Breitsprecher

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.

We need to "reverse" multiplication to do higher-level math. That process is called factoring. We know that 2 times 3 equals six. When factoring, we need to see that 6 equals 3 times 2.
Divisibility rules let us quickly see when a number can be divided by another. With practice, we can do this without a calculator or without actually performing the division.

Some numbers are only divisible by themselves and 1 - these are called "prime numbers." Seeing numbers as factors of prime numbers is called "prime factorization." Many important algebra concepts are build on this - it is also the key to adding, subtracting, or simplifying fractions. Here are some prime numbers starting with 2:

2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43, 47, 53, 59, 61, 67, 71, 73, 79, 83, 89, 97, 101, 103, 107, 109, 113, 127, 131, 137, 139, 149, 151, 157, 163, 167, 173, 179, 181, 191, 193, 197, 199, 211

Here are some divisibility rules:

  • Dividing by 2. All even numbers are divisible by 2. E.g., all numbers ending in 0,2,4,6 or 8.
  • Dividing by 3. Add up all the digits in the number. Find out what the sum is. If the sum is divisible by 3, so is the number. For example: 12123 (1+2+1+2+3=9) 9 is divisible by 3, therefore 12123 is too!
  • Dividing by 5. Numbers ending in 5 or 0 are always divisible by 5.
  • Dividing by 7. There are rules here, but they are more complex. Are you a football fan? If so, you see that the Packers gets 7 points with a touchdown, another is 14. If Brett Favre get's "hot," they score: 21, then 28, 35, 42, 49, 56, 63, 70, 77, 84, 91, 98, 105…

    When working with fractions or Algebra, seeing divisibility of 7 up to 84 is often good enough. Remember, for larger numbers, you can find factors of "7" when you see the divisibility of other numbers or factors. When doing prime factors, it is OK to get to your final products of primes in steps. Most of us will use fewer steps the more we practice.

There are more divisibility rules, but these are a good start. When working with fractions or doing algebra, seeing these patterns of divisibility and recognizing prime numbers will be useful. Best of all, we didn't need a calculator

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Please Remember the Children

by Bill Breitsprecher

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.  Dr. King was grateful for their offer and thanked them.  He did not want to see children suffer fighting discrimination. 

Reverend James Bevel, another civil rights activist, encouraged King to accept the children’s support.  Reverend Bevel asked, “Are they too young to go to segregated schools?  Are they too young to be kept out of amusement parks?  Are they too young to be refused a hamburger in a restaurant?” 

Dr. King and the assembled crowd answered, “NO!”

Reverend Bevel responded, “Then they are not too young to want their freedom.”

Reverend Bevel understood that adults might be reluctant to march.  They were afraid of going to jail, of losing their jobs, of hurting their families.  Children were not bound by these fears.  When adults saw the dignified and brave manner of the children, they would join the action.  

Perhaps even more important, Reverend Bevel knew that the sight of children being hauled to jail would dramatically stir the nation’s conscience.

Birmingham’s Sheriff “Bull” Conner ordered police dogs be used on the children.  He ordered the fire department to use fire hoses strong enough to strip the bark off trees on the children. 

Local, national and international news organizations covered this abuse.  People saw that Sheriff Connor was not a law enforcer.  He was a bigot and an abusive thug. 

The Children’s March demonstrated that peaceful action would show the ugly nature of racism.  Filling the jails in Alabama with children whose only crime was to advocate for a normal childhood was a gross injustice that few could stomach or justify. 

What would America be like today had the children of Birmingham not accepted Dr. King and Reverend Bevel’s challenge? When else in history have children been such a powerful, positive force for change?

When we celebrate the life of Dr. King, the Civil Rights Movement, and African American history; let’s remember the children.

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Every Picture Book Tells a Story

By: Bill Breitsprecher

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.

Of course, not all “picture books” are meant for young children. Comic books and graphic novels are enjoyed by older readers. Coffee table books, large format books with beautiful color photographs, are considered “sophisticated.” Publishers report that they are increasingly popular.

No, picture books are not just for children – they are an art form that transcends age. Many adults appreciate the picture books they read to children as much or more so than the kids.
Librarians and educators may draw distinctions between books that feature illustrations and picture storybooks. Most of us are just concerned with how we enjoy a book or how well it serves our purpose.

Some technical matters are best presented visually – we want to see what we are learning about. Often, a book about social or historical events needs pictures to help the reader identify with the content. Some stories “stretch” our understanding and illustrations help us imagine the mood and context of the story.

Next time you read or share a picture book, ask yourself:

  • How do the illustrations help create meaning?
  • Would you be able to fully understand and enjoy the book without the illustrations?
  • Do the pictures match the text as you understand or imagine it?

Illustrations in books are carefully chosen by professional artists or photographers. Properly chosen, they appear “seamlessly;” like they “belong.” Casual readers get information about a book without being distracted by the pictures.  Next time you read a book that features illustrations, try asking yourself:

  • How does the angle of the picture affect its effectiveness?
  • What are at the edges of the picture; can you image what might be outside of your view?
  • What element or parts of the picture catch your eye?
  • How does the picture add to the mood or your feelings about the book?

Pictures tell stories. Readers of all ages enjoy a well-illustrated book.

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Do YOU like To Read?

By:  Bill Breitsprecher

Some studies seem to suggest that teenagers report they are reading less for fun. Is this true? Is it important?

Today we have many choices for entertainment. Information is available in more formats: text, audio, video, multi-media, and more. Scientists are developing an understanding of how the brain works and how we learn. Information that we hear or directly see is processed differently than the written word. 

Like it or not, we live in a technical society. Being comfortable with information in different formats, including text, is important. While the format of information is changing, can I really count on what I need to know being presented to me in my preferred format when I am interested in receiving it? Probably not. 

Why is recreational reading important? Because motivated readers not only enjoy reading, they read more. They become comfortable with complex language and develop more effective reading and comprehension skills. Building these skills when we are young pays rewards later. It will give us more choices.

Usually, when educators ask students about reading preferences, they ask about novels, short stories, plays, or poetry that are read in leisure time, not for work or school. NO WONDER MANY REPORT THAT THEY ARE NONREADERS! 

Reading for enjoyment can encompass Web pages, newspapers (like this), blogs, technical instructions, gaming tips and tricks, nonfiction, personal writing, and more. What do YOU enjoy reading?

Many that see themselves as "nonreaders" actually read a great deal. They don't think of it as "reading" if what they read isn't considered "great literature." 

ALL reading is good. It is fun. It is a great way to expand our mind - read anything you enjoy. Reading helps us grow. Please give yourself credit - anything you choose to read and think about is good for you.

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School Will Be Starting Soon!

By:  Bill Breitsprecher

Are ya ready?  It’s almost that time of year – SCHOOL STARTS!  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. 

Sure - having summer off is fun. School is structured. Teachers tell us what to do. Yes, it is work. Why is the start of the school year is something to celebrate?

For starters, school is where we get back together with friends and meet new ones. It is an opportunity to learn more about ourselves. Understanding our feelings; abilities, both strengths and weaknesses; and interests is important. I can learn to use my strengths to build on my weaknesses? This self-understanding is what gives us choices.

Will every moment in school be fun? No, but how I accept and deal with the challenges are up to me. Please don't let anyone take that from you. The question is, "Can I make the most of the moment?"

Accepting things does not mean agreeing that they are right. Acceptance gives us peace of mind and clarity of thought. It lets us find something positive in most everything. Is there a teacher that you don't like? A subject area that you struggle with? Other students that you would rather not see?

Would you agree that I learn more about myself and can make positive changes in my life when I work through these situations? Can I give others a chance and let them share their experience, strength and hope? Can I agree to work with others even if I am not in total agreement? 

All of these things help me better understand who I am, what I need, and where I want to go.
YEAH!!!! SCHOOL IS STARTING! This year, can I promise to give my best and accept what happens? If so, will I be honest with myself? If I see something that looks wrong or unfair, will I still allow myself to grow so that in the future I can work for positive change.

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Bill Breitsprecher is a school library media specialist and the Media Specialist & Webmaster for Club TNT