BY JEANNE GILLIAM FAIN
These are hard times. Many of us are scrambling to figure out a schedule that keeps us all from losing our minds. One important part of your schedule should definitely include the power of the read aloud. This is a wonderful time to facilitate reading aloud digitally. There has never been an easier time to get to know some of the fantastic authors that are online. It would be easy to send your students a link and have them check out a favorite author (provided that they have online access). Many authors are spending valuable time reading online via YouTube, their websites, Instagram, and there are even author posts via twitter. These digital resources were created by the author and read by the author. As a reminder, it’s completely fine to read books aloud in a classroom or library setting but the rules change when it comes to a digital platform. So be wary of reading books online to your students*. Here are a few of my favorite authors and some of their websites.
Kwame Alexander is a poet and educator. He is the author of 32 books. He is known for his energetic approach to making poetry come alive in his writing. His website includes various read alouds and tips for teaching in the home.
* Creating a recording of reading aloud a published work is subject to copyright law. Sharing copyright-protected work via a public platform and/or monetizing your recording is not allowed. Sharing a read-aloud via a Drive link you post only to your own classes is generally allowable under Educational Fair Use. However, posting to something like YouTube (which is by default indexed and potentially searchable) is not. The story Publishers Adapt Policies To Help Educators published in the School Library Journal (SLJ, March, 2020) offers some helpful guidance as to how children’s publishers have temporarily altered some of their policies to support teaching in the context of COVID-19
BY ADAM CRAWLEY
Before becoming a teacher educator, I taught in elementary public schools for twelve years. The affordances of technology – particularly in connection to literacy and literature – have long been an interest of mine. While I’ve always aimed to stay current with what’s available and to consider increasingly innovative, meaningful, and critical use, I have gleaned much from countless others who are generously sharing resources via social media and other networks…particularly during these past few days and weeks with shifts in instruction due to COVID-19. While an abundance of online children’s literature resources is available – and resources continue to grow from educators, librarians, authors, illustrators, and publishers – Epic! has been particularly helpful in my work teaching a children’s literature course for pre-service teachers at Oklahoma State University.
For those unfamiliar with Epic, it provides a vast collection of children’s literature including picturebooks, chapter books, and graphic novels. As stated on the site’s homepage, users can “instantly access 35,000 eBooks, learning videos, quizzes and more for K-5.” Many of the books available are recent publications and award/honor recipients. The site includes books diverse in representation (e.g., race, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, social class, language, etc.) and genre. Just a few of the many books available include El Deafo (Bell, 2014), When Aidan Became a Brother (Lukoff, 2019), and The Princess and the Warrior (Tonatiuh, 2016). One of my particular favorites is the bilingual picturebook Sora and the Cloud (Hoshino, 2011), exquisite with its soft mixed media illustrations and Japanese translation.
In addition to digital versions of printed books, the site includes audiobooks and “read-to-me” books with the option to add text highlighting. I emphasize to the pre-service teachers the importance of such features for emergent readers.
There are numerous ways to explore what’s available in Epic. Users can type a title, author, illustrator, or topic into the search bar; hover over “Explore” in the menu to see options for various subject areas (such as “narrative nonfiction” in English Language Arts or “geometry” in Math); or browse curated collections by other users. Educators can also add their students – whether K-12 or beyond – and assign books to them within the site.
As I want the pre-service teachers to have access to and use this resource beyond our semester together, I encourage them to create their own free account as an educator. Educators can create an Epic! for Educators account.
Adam Crawley is Assistant Professor of Literacy Education at Oklahoma State University. He is also Co-chair of CLA's 2021 Master Class.
Online Author/Illustrator Studies: Leveraging E-Books, Author/Illustrator Sites, and Interviews for a Virtual Exploration of the Creative Process
BY ERIKA THULIN DAWES
The children’s literature course that I teach at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA is a survey course titled Literature for Children, Tweens, and Teens in a Diverse Society. Typically, when I introduce the idea of author/illustrator studies to the students in this class, I present groups of students with stacks of books to browse along with a curated collection of weblinks to explore. In the context of this survey course, this activity is framed as a teaching strategy and our class time is organized to introduce the goals and elements of an Author/Illustrator study and to provide a ‘tasting’ of what it is like to experience such a study. I’m careful to note that to experience the work of an author/illustrator in depth would take more time and more intensive study. When I learned I would be teaching this class ‘remotely’ from our Blackboard site, I wondered what the options were to replicate the book browsing element of this in-class activity.
Introducing the Strategy:
The readings below can support an introduction of the purposes and processes of an Author/Illustrator Study. Students can read with the following guiding questions in mind:
Experiencing an Author/Illustrator Study:
Once students have developed a concept of Author/Illustrator studies, ask them to opt into a small group to explore a collection of online resources on a single author/illustrator, simulating the experience. Students will read and view:
When I carry out this activity in class, I focus on picture books authors/illustrators because students working in small groups have time to read several picture books each. In follow up discussion, we note that the same strategies can apply to the reading of novels. In a remote learning context, students are reading eBooks. In the examples below, I make use of Epic! Books to provide access to eBooks. This platform is free to educators. I signed my graduate students up as a Class and submitted their emails, obtaining them free access until June 30, 2020.
Additionally, I use two resources available through my university’s library database:
From the many wonderful author/illustrator study possibilities, I have selected four to share in this blog entry. If you have more names to suggest, for whom eBooks are readily available, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Online Author/Illustrator Study Resources
* As mentioned above, I also provide resources from TeachingBooks.Net and Something About the Author for each of author/illustrator
As your students read across the available books and learn about their chosen author/illustrator’s life stories and creative processes, ask them to make notes about:
To share their learning with classmates, your students can use online collaboration tools such as Google Slides, Voice Thread, PowerPoint or Book Creator (some of these require a paid account).
Since this is an abbreviated author/illustrator study (really, it is just an introduction to the body of work), let your students know that they are sharing their initial findings and wonderings. You could provide students with a structure for their presentations or leave it more open ended. In the past, I’ve asked students to share a general overview, their discoveries and connections, and their questions. They conclude with a listing of “Top Three Reasons to Check Out this Author/Illustrator.”
BY LAUREN AIMONETTE LIANG
Whether they are our preschoolers or our graduate students or anywhere in-between, we miss them right now. We miss getting to know them better as individuals, and we miss the rush of an amazing class discussion. We miss watching their faces light up with understanding; we miss the shared experience of reading a book together.
This is a challenging time for teachers everywhere. For many of us, we have abruptly moved into teaching in an online context for the first time, and in a world that changes every day. Worried for our students, and perhaps unsure of how this new classroom environment will work, we are doing the best we can. However, incorporating literature into an online class that may not have easy access to certain books we typically use, or even to any titles at all, is particularly hard.
CLA hopes to help and support our members and the greater education community who are using children’s literature in their newly online or remote settings. We will be posting new blog entries on Tuesdays at Noon EST and Thursdays at Noon EST. Each entry will either highlight a great online resource available for teachers at this time and how it might be effectively utilized, or will offer a description of a short lesson using children’s literature that educators might be able to use in their newly located classes.
Please visit this blog and check out the posts every Tuesday and Thursday. Share it with your peer educators, colleagues, and friends, and consider volunteering to contribute a post as well.
On behalf of CLA, I hope that you and your families are safe during this time. My heart is filled with gratitude and awe for you—the amazing teachers who are overcoming extreme hurdles in order to continue serving their students in all possible ways. Thank you.
Lauren Aimonette Liang
CLA President, 2019-2020