Sunday, April 30, 2006

Urban Babies Wear Black

In the gift shop of the National Art Gallery today, I found the most hilarious board book I've seen in a while: I'm seriously considering purchasing a copy for my coffee table/permanent collection. It's called Urban Babies Wear Black; it's by Michelle Sinclair Colman with illustrations by Nathalie Dion; and it has funky illustrations of urban babies doing urban things like yoga, drinking lattés from a bottle, etc. Swing by the bookstore and take a look if you're in need of a smile and a few moments of entertainment.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Mayor's Walk for Volunteerism

On Saturday, April 29, a small but energetic bunch of us headed down to Ottawa City Hall to participate in the Mayor's Walk for Volunteerism, hosted by Volunteer Ottawa, as a wrap-up to National Volunteer Week. Here's a couple of action shots from this beautiful sun-filled morning.

Here's us on the bridge with two of the folks from ALSO. Our walk was also a good chance to talk: ALSO has an exciting new program proposition for us! Isobel is standing backwards so we can get her good side--er, that is, the back of her t-shirt which reads, "The Amazing Book Race." I'm not sure on the details, but we'll find out and get back to you.

Before the walk, we were treated to some live music. Here, Jenny and Lorna sing along to "Paved Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot" ...

...while Mayor Bob shakes his maraccas and dances along.

The final photo is Jenny and her new love: an enormous Newfoundland named Tucker who was, admittedly, very charming. And very enormous.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Even Bigger Bunny!

Okay - now THAT's impressive! Thanks to Fuse 8 for the link.

Kids Lit has a fun post on how kids catch the book bug.

Also, in new blogs I found news, a lot of Children's blogs are linking to, or chatting about Mother Reader. So I went and took a gander. She has a fun, humourous blog. Especially liked her post about bees. It's nice to think you might have saved the world à la X-files.

And in entertaining pieces on non-kid lit blogs news - I enjoyed this post on Cherniak's blog. It turned out to be a spoof - the post was about a comment allegedly from Ashley MacIsaac that he was giving up fiddling until the previous Government`s child care plan was saved. This turned out to not be the case - but I enjoyed the idea of "Child care lent" and the ensuing discussion about various things one might "give up for the cause." Because, if it would help the children, I'd be more than happy to give up completing my Masters ...

Finally - few news pieces of interest from yesterday that I`d missed:

Courtesy of an Ottawa Citizen Profile on Summer Camps:
Visit the Ottawa Public Library this summer and take part in the TD Summer Reading Club 'Quest for Heroes.' Includes programs and events from super heroes to local heroes and all the stories in between. This will be a summer filled with mythical adventures, crafts and activities at all 33 branches and bookmobile stops. Check with your local branch, visit or pick up Preview magazine at library branches or the bookmobile and community centres throughout the city after May 1 for details and registration guidelines.

Also courtesy of yesterday's Ottawa Citizen - groundbreaking news that UNIVERSITY EXAMS cause stress (although the stats are a bit worrying):

University exams bring on stressful days and nights

When her heart started pounding in the middle of an English exam last week, Angel Groulx-Croteau told herself to keep calm.

It didn't work.

Instead, the 21-year-old student felt time slow down and nausea settle in.

"I can't panic. I can't panic. I can't panic," she thought, although that was, of course, exactly what she was doing.

It took 10 stressful minutes before the University of Ottawa student was forced to abandon her papers: "When I thought I was going to be sick I had to go tell the teacher," Ms. Groulx-Croteau said.

The second-year English major indeed vomited after she left the lecture hall and admits the panic attack was "pretty crazy." But ask any sleep-deprived college student about exam stress and almost every one will share a personal tale of physical or psychological meltdown.

Thousands of Ottawa-area university students are mired in exams, and the stakes are high. Good grades can make the difference between scholarships and loans for some, graduate programs and job searches for others.

Officials statistics confirm what everyone suspects: Students often cram and they get stressed.

Stress levels in Ontario are among the highest in the country, with 47 per cent of students claiming they experience high levels of exam stress, according to a 2005 Ipsos Reid study. More women (44 per cent) than men (34 per cent) are affected by such stress and Quebec students are least likely to get stressed while studying for an exam, said the research.

When it comes to preparation, Canadian students are unlikely to start studying in advance of a big test. About 43 per cent of students say they never start studying early enough and 27 per cent admit to staying up all night studying, said the research.

"There's definitely cramming because there's so much to read and to keep up with," said Ms. Groulx-Croteau. "If you don't do every assignment when you're supposed to and you procrastinate even a little bit, you get screwed."

Ms. Groulx-Croteau had to plow through almost 30 books in order to prepare for her exams this year. When she told her professor about the panic attack, he was understanding and said that happens often.

At the University of Ottawa yesterday afternoon, students filled desks, their books open and headphones on. It was easy to suspect that some might still be there if you came back at 5 a.m.

"When you look at the scope of life, this exam is like a little spec," said 20-year-old Lauren Abbott, who was starting a study session with two friends for a political science exam that was a respectable 48 hours away.

Ms. Abbott and her friend Erik Harmsen, 20, said that younger students are more likely to experience extreme stress during the school year's final exam and final paper period. Still, she recently sat in the university's library until 3 a.m. to finish a paper. She left the library feeling -- and looking -- terrible. "It's like self-torture," she said about the all-nighter experiences.

Mr. Harmsen usually fuels himself with caffeine while studying, although there were no coffee mugs in sight yesterday -- just bags of chocolate-covered raisins and dried mangoes. His schedule is particularly gruelling this year: five exams in one week.

Still, as a second-year student, he says that he's gained perspective on the stresses of studying and how worthwhile it is to cram: "I'm pretty relaxed about it," Mr. Harmsen said.

Sharmarke Edan, 19, might be more relaxed about the exam period if he weren't juggling his schoolwork with a part-time job. "There's so much to do," said the second-year criminology student about his occasional cram sessions. "You've got to work to pay off school, there's always tuition deadlines and stuff that gets in the way." As soon as the semester's over, he'll try to find full-time work to pay for the following year's studies.

Mr. Edan's friend Ahmed Mohamed had a linear algebra textbook in front of him yesterday afternoon and made no excuses about cramming for his exams: "I just procrastinate for no reason," he said.

By the Numbers
- 43 per cent of students say they never start studying early enough for exams.
- 68 per cent of studying said they start studying for exams no more than a week in advance.
- 44 per cent of women say they experience high exam stress compared to 34 per cent of men.
- 59 per cent of students in are stressed when they prepare for exams compared to 70 per cent in all other provinces.

The poll was conducted in 2005 by Ipsos Reid for Kumon Math and Reading Centres. Almost 600 students across the country were surveyed. Results are considered accurate within four percentage points.


Cheers for now!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

What makes a good teacher?

Hey all,

Good article courtesy of What's New in JK-12 about a new study from Australia regarding what makes certain teachers more effective than others.

The section that caught my eye:

the most effective teachers - those whose students made the biggest literacy gains over the year - drew on a much wider repertoire of teaching practices. They explained activities more clearly, had deeper subject knowledge, maintained a high level of intellectual challenge for their students and had more fun than did less-effective teachers.

"Good teachers are able to figure out where every child is at and set them a task that's hard for them," said Professor William Louden, dean of education at the University of Western Australia, who led the team of researchers, together with Associate Professor Mary Rohl, of Edith Cowan University.

"Good teachers had the most fun in their classrooms: the lessons were lively, fast-paced, and full of jokes and little classroom games. Good teachers put on a fabulous show and clearly they're the best thing to look at in their classroom.

"Some of the other teachers could get their kids' attention but they did not secure that deep engagement that the most effective teachers did."

So there you have it.

Also, will again be updating the side lists (you may have noticed some recent changes already) to add a section on "About Ottawa" as I came across this blog which seems to pull some of our posts. I haven`t yet figured out quite how that happened - but anyway. The other Ottawa site I use frequently which I will also add is Ottawa Start.

I will also be adding the Organizational Team Job Descriptions to our main links section.

All about Children's books has a post today on Mem Fox. We've posted previously on Mem here and here. Last year we used some of her reading theory stuff in our trainings and it worked very well.

Finally, moving off topic for a moment, I wanted to say a quick hello to my coworked Marc-Olivier Girard (who we all affectionately call MOG). We traded blog links last week - so I'm now testing if he comes back :) Mog runs a French blog about Paul Simon here. As for his comments on my blog:

"J'ai jeté un coup d'œil à ton blog. Très bien, mais j'ai pas tout compris. Quelques fois, je ne voyais pas toujours le lien avec l'alphabétisme. Liked the picture around the plate of hot nachos."

Quick translation - he liked it - but didn't always get the link everything had to literacy (like the nacho photo :) I guess my sign photos are a bit off topic too. As explained - all in good fun.

And wanted to give a shout out to Kat's Eye and Jerz's Literacy Weblog for mentioning us on their blogs. Thanks a lot!


Monday, April 24, 2006

Happy Belated Birthday Bill!

Coutesy of Semicolon - and found through Here in the Bonny Glen, I learnt that yesterday was William Shakespeare's Birthday. So Happy Birthday to the Bard!

Also courtesy of the Bonny Glen - I discovered that the next Carnival of Children's Literature is in May and will be hosted over at the Glen again. Deadline for submissions is May 20. So lots of time to think up something good.

Fuse 8 points out another poke at Munsch's Love you Forever over at Gotta Book.

And many of the kiddie lit bloggers are blogging about THIS. Sarah Hepola shut down her blog and explains why. In short, blogged for five years and at first thought it would help her write - then discovered it prevented her from writing. Chicken Spaghetti picked up on it and Gail Gauthier at Original Content has a good post on it as well - being an author herself. The Chicken Spaghetti post also has a cool link to some other good picks for kids books from Publishers Weekly. Also be sure to check out the cool new format of her blog.

Another recent hot topic is the fact that Horn Book has been getting threats from a publisher regarding its reviews! The publisher feels that they should ask permission first before reviewing their books. Fuse 8 also chats about it here, as does A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cosy.

An third in the hot topic rankings is THIS. Parents are upset about a storybook called King & King which is a fairy tale about a gay couple. Horn Book has reviewed it HERE and chats about it on the Read Roger blog HERE.

In lighter fair Read Alert has a fun link HERE to a site where you can write your own YA novel.

Finally, Cachibachus has a link to a site called Blog Traffic Central which offers tips on how to increase traffic to your site. Felt good to know that we were already doing a lot of them :)

And on a last point - happy to report that this is our 200th post since going online last August.

Cheers for now!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

STAR Volunteer and Service Awards

STAR Volunteer Awards went to:

Janie Lober, West End Shelter Program
Stephen Campbell, Sawmill Creek Homework Club
Jessica Olliver, Rideau Reading Circle
Ellen Coker, Rideau Reading Circle
Kate Greavette, Centretown Reading Circle

Service Awards were issued to:

Catherine Bernier, 88 Main Street, 3 years service
Lyndsay Buehler, Sawmill Creek, 4 years service
Yvonne Clevers, Communications, 4 years service
Clare Demerse, Rideau, 3 years service
Joan Hall, Centretown, 2 years service
Louise Hayes, Rideau, 4 years service
Charles Long, 88 Main Street, 3 years service
Jennier Martin, Rideau, 3 years service
Lorna McCrea, Centretown, 3 years service
Eva Morrison, Centretown, 2 years service
Joan Ryan, Reception House, 2 years service
Jennifer Watt, 88 Main Street, 2 years service

A sincere thank you, round of applause, and platters of appetizers were offered to all of our new and faboo volunteers:

Hilla Aharaon, Rideau
Pankaj Ballal, Fundraiser/Events Coordinator
Cindy Beischer, Sawmill Creek
Cindy Bergeron, Fundraiser/Events Coordinator
Luc Andre Brunet, Reception House
Stephen Campbell, Sawmill Creek
Alex Ciappara, Rideau
Ellen Coker, Rideau
Stephanie Courtney, 88 Main Street
Kristin Cunningham, Sawmill Creek
Samantha Coulas, Centretown and Rideau
Kristin Derry, Sawmill Creek
Margaret Friesen-Stowe, Reception House
Kate Greavette, Centretown
Jennifer Haylor, Reception House
Timothy Ho, Carleton Liaison
Joshua James, 88 Main Street
Le Yen Lam, 88 Main Street and Reception House
Janie Lober, Chrysalis House
Craig Mackie, Centretown and Reception House
Lilah McMorrow, Sawmill Creek
Patrick McMullan, Rideau
Jessica Oliver, Rideau
Leslie Paterson, Rideau and Centretown
Holly Pratt, UofO Liaison
Elena Smyrniatis, Centretown
Jeanette Veter, Chrysalis House
Melanie Wade, Sawmill Creek

Shopping, anyone?

Frontier College Students for Literacy Tote Bag: $10.00
Proceeds SFLO receives: 100%
Coolness factor of anyone who buys and uses one: BEYOND MEASURE!

If you're interested in getting one of these bags for your very own, send an e-mail to ottawa[at]frontiercollege[dot]ca ([at] = @ and [dot] = . , just to clarify; we're oh-so-cleverly avoiding spam here. ;)

Our model, Jess, demonstrates the spaciousness and comfort of these high-quality bags. The bags have a zippered top, a pocket on the front that's big enough for pens or a wallet, and a dark-coloured bottom so you can set it down in dirty places and not ruin it forever. Ooh. Lala.

The Real Rideau Photo ;-)

What a photogenic crowd! Pictured here are almost all of our tutors from the 2005-2006 Rideau Reading Circle, plus a few of our camera-loving learners. Jess and Patrick even managed to colour coordinate! As Louise mentioned in an earlier post today, this morning was our last reading circle at Rideau library until October 2006.

Thanks to all of our tutors for giving your time, patience, creativity, and numerous other skills to our program. We couldn't have done it without you!

Par- TAY at Rideau!

So we had our last Reading Circle at Rideau for the season this morning. In honour of this monumental occasion we threw a bit of a party for the kids and tutors and took some photos.

This wasn't one of them. This is from my Home Scrabble Party in February. I haven't gone digital yet and it just took that long for me to get them developped. Lyndsay had the camera and will upload some nice group shots soon.

However, in honour of the end of season - I thought I'd share some of our rather impressive stats with you:

We had:
- 21 sessions
- 10 volunteer tutors
- 16 registered learners
- 126 hours of instruction
- 108 volunteer hours
- average of 5 tutors a week
- an average of 6 learners a week

So a big THANK YOU to all our tutors and learners for making the program this year so great.

Before I sign off - here are some more Frontier College related photos courtesy of my retro camera:

This was the winning Scrabble Board at my Scrabble Party!

Lyndsay and me at the Family Conference at Immaculata High School last October.

Lyndsay in action at the Family Conference.

Happy Earth Day!


Friday, April 21, 2006

An Uncomplicated Choice

It's official!
All hail the Canada Reads champ: A Complicated Kindness!

Yet another reason to put this book on your summer reading list, if you haven't aleady done so.

(Al Purdy came in 2nd, so all is right with the world.)
(There were pictures, but they aren't working right, so I took them out.)

...the things we don't know about a person are the things that make them human...
-Miriam Toews, A Complicated Kindness

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Carleton Update - Wanna be famous?

Courtesy of the Carleton inbox:

The Department of University Communications is looking for enthusiastic students who would be interested in participating a series of promotional photo shoots. Photographs taken at these photo shoots will be used in publications, Carleton's Web site, and other materials to promote the University.

If you are interested in participating and you will be in Ottawa for the summer, please email us at with your name, age, program/year of study, telephone number, email address, and a photo if possible. We will contact you to arrange and interview.

Famous by Association

Congrats to Jen Robinson over at Jen Robinson's Book Page! Her blog got mentioned in Melissa P. McNamara's column over at CBS in her weekly Blogophile Column (which is something I was unfamiliar with and may start reading).

She was mentioned in relation to the Fib fad started by Gregory K over at Gotta Book. We have posted previously on Fibs here.

McNamara's article talks about how something that began on blogs, was picked up by other blogs and then picked up by the New York Times (as we previously reported HERE - go Greg!). Jen's blog comes in to play with her comment on the Fib phenomenon HERE. Well done!

In other news (and briefly, because I am taking the day off work to do some work on my Masters' Research Paper), Fuse 8 has two fun posts - one on a contest of sorts where you are required to post about a fly on the wall and one HERE updating us on Winnie the Pooh's stardom.

The UNESCO Blog points out that April 23 is World Book and Copyright Day.

And finally, Jen Robinson has a link to another new blog with possibilities called Dear Time.


The New Edge of the Forest is out!

Hi everyone,

Be sure to check out the new edition of The Edge of the Forest. It is an online journal devoted to children's literature. This month, Students for Literacy Ottawa - and specifically the tutors and learners at the Rideau Library Reading Circle, wrote the article of the Kid Picks section.

Given that I'm a grad student, I thought I would take a moment to show you some of the field work involved in researching for such an article.

It was actually an excellent activity to do with the kids as it got them talking not only about the story they had just read - but about other books they liked and why. It was an excellent way to take the focus off simply de-coding words and put the focus on the stories. This, of course is the main point of a reading circle - namely, making reading something fun and exciting that the kids want to do.

Thanks again to Kelly Herold over at Big A little a for putting together such a great publication. Be sure to check it out - as well as all the contributions from our fellow KidsLit Bloggers out there. Wonderful to see the growing list of contributors is growing.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Education for All Week

Is next week - April 24-30. UNESCO story HERE. Also, go UK go! They recently pledged $15 Billion to Education for All for overseas aid for education in Africa and Asia over the next ten years.

Bigs Bunny - Run Away Scared Kids!

Eeek - also courtesy of Here in the Bonny Glen. A little late, what with Easter being over, but still. Eek.

In other news, Fuse 8 has a good list of sure-fire storytime hits. I like the strong representation from Mo Willems. I love Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

Kids Lit has a link to a new site by Steve Barancik which provides insite into choosing children's books.

Book /$?" has some commentary on the upcoming movie version of Fast Food Nation - and McDonald's offensive strike plans on the issue.

Gail Gauthier over at Original Content will be having a give-away contest on May 18 in honour of the launch of her new book Happy Kid! More details on her website HERE.

Bookshelves of Doom is also all over mocking The Giving Tree. As is Gotta Book - which I originally missed. Poor tree :(

And, courtesy of Jen Robinson's Book page, I came across another new blog called Blog from a Windowsill. Has a fun post HERE on what children's book you would like to live in if you could. I went for Narnia and The Girl who Owned a City. Explained my choices in her comments section.

Finally, I keep meaning to post a news story about the whole child care debate. I know it isn't completely related to tutoring children and literacy programs - but it is related. Anyway - there is the beginning of an interesting debate on the issue over on Jason Cherniak's blog HERE (small disclaimer: Cherniak's blog is a Liberal blog and Students for Literacy Ottawa does not endorce any one party. We are linking to it for the debate and would be happy to link to blogs representing the views of other parties as well, should we find postings of interest there).


And Now for a Little Grammar

So, I came across a series of grammar blogs courtesy of a post on Here in the Bonny Glen. Being literacy tutors and all, we like grammar. Melissa in the Glen links to Classical Home's listing of various grammar blogs. Some of my favorites from the list:

1. Apostrophe Catastrophe Among other things links to this wonderful song, sung to the tune of the Beatle's Yesterday:

It marks where a letter used to be
Like in "isn't", "ain't" or "couldn't be"
That's where to use a-

Of "belonging to", that's possessive
Or a little click is fricative
That's all the uses I can give

Why it's misused so, I don't know
It should be eas-
Y not to get it wrong
Read this song
'bout Apostrophes

Do not use in case's such as the'se
So Im begging you all plea'se, oh please
Learn to use apostrophes

'm 'm 'm 'm 'm 'm-mmm

2. Literally, A Web Blog. Pays hommage to over and mis-use of the word literally.

3. Grammar Hell. General collection of examples of bad grammar. My favorite from their site:


What a Blog's Worth Part 2

As a follow-up to the first post on this issue HERE, our value on Blogshares has risen from $2,633.73 when last reported to $3,647.45. Not too shabby! And thank you to everyone who links to us. We love you too!

Because we missed Poetry Friday last week, I feel a poem coming on to compensate and commemorate this momentous occasion. From memory, courtesy again of my mother and the fact that she would recite it over and over again when I was young:

I love me.
I think I'm grand.
I go to the movies and I hold my hand.
I put my arm,
Around my waist.
And when I get fresh,
I slap my face!

("I" here is the blog collectively). Not sure where the poem comes from - googling it didn't help much - but you'd be surprised how many people out there claim to be the author :). I just think it's a funny poem. When you are feeling down, recite it to yourself and try not to smile.

Now leaving this incredibly geeky moment.


Me to We Awards

Caught a bit about the Me to We Awards this morning on the news.

Remember Craig Kielberger, the Canadian guy who, at 12 years old, was travelling the globe and campaigning for social justice? He's still doing it today, at the age of 22 (that's him in the photo) and is part of the brains behind this latest project.

From the site:

The Me to We Philosophy is about living our lives as socially conscious and responsible global citizens, engaging in daily acts of compassion and kindness, building meaningful relationships and community, and considering the impact on We when making decisions in our own lives. The impact is a social movement where people begin
“ Moving from a world of Me to a community of We ”.

Know somebody deserving of acknowledgement for his/her work? Nominations for this award can be submitted until early June of this year.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Cocksure bites the dust.

Despite the confident title, Mordecai Richler's Cocksure is the first book put back on the shelf in this week's exciting Canada Reads competition.

(Apparently the content was as disturbing as the cover art.)

Book discovery last week

I meant to post on this after circle last week - but then life happened and suddenly it's a week Monday.

Read a very good book with two of the kids at the Reading Circle last Saturday that I was previously unaware of. It's Stellaluna, by Jannell Cannon.

It's an older book - written in 1993 - but I really enjoyed it - as did the kids, so I thought I'd take a moment to tell you about it quickly.

Story in short - It's about a baby bat named Stellaluna whose life changes when an owl attacks one night separating her from her mother. Stellaluna is lucky enough to land in a bird's nest and is then raised by the mother bird along with her babies. However, she is only accepted if she acts like a bird and not like a bat (no hanging upside down!) Anyway, she learns the ropes and the story progresses until one day she bumps into bats again and learns that it is normal for bats to hang upside down. She introduces her bird siblings to this, and they find it very difficult - nice conversation about "How can we be so different and feel so much alike?" ensues. A nice message and beautiful pictures.

Congrats to Gotta Book!

His Blogging of Fibs got picked up by the New York Times. And, well, if you can make it there... Couple blogs picked up on this fact over the weekend - thanks to Chicken Spaghetti and Jen Robinson's Book Page for drawing it to my attention!

Jen also had a list of a few other items of interest here. My favorite from the list, yet again, has nothing to do with children's lit. She has managed to track down another blog that posts about silly signs. Random Notions and Stories of Teaching has quite a good selection. My personal favorite:

Because, wow, if I smoked - that would be a serious problem. Also enjoyed her posting on telemarketers. My general approach, if I am unfortunate enough to get caught on line generally goes like this:

Hello is Mrs. Hayes there?
I'm sorry there is no one there by that name. Good-bye.

Or alternatively...

I'll tell you what, you guess my first name correctly and I'll sit through your pitch.

Here's hoping the GoC enacts that bill from last Parliament on the do not call registry!

But I digress...

The Magic of Books has a good post on Beverly Cleary in honour of her 90th b-day. We've posted previously on that HERE as well as a post here on the books of Laura Numeroff. Many kids at the Reading Circle are fans of If You Give a Pig a Pancake. And really, who wouldn't be?

Over on Book Moot there is a good post on books about the Titanic - posted last Friday in memory of the anniversary of the sinking. I got quite interested in the Titanic in high school - watched the old A Night to Remember movie, read the book and have a collection of various documentaries on it on VHS from back then.

Another list of book awardees HERE for those interested - courtesy of KidsLit.

Finally, Fuse 8 has two posts of interest. One on celebrities who HAVEN'T written children's books. (Read the comments - the list is even shorter than you think!). We've posted on this previously when both Fiddy Cent and Jessica Simpson - oh AND Post Spice AND Kylie Minogue all announced they would be publishing children's books.

The other is on JK Rowling's rant on her blog about our thin-girl obsessed culture. This was picked up last week when we mentioned that JK Rowling was a Pink Fan. It's a worthwhile read for those who have a moment - I especially enjoy her tale of an aquaintance who runs in to her after a few years and is far more interested in the fact that she has lost weight than in the fact that she has released another best-seller or had a child. It is, after all, important to focus on what matters in life!

Ooh - and one more thing. Courtesy of Daveberta - if anyone is looking for a fun trip try this. And remember - safety not guaranteed (sorry - in a bit of a silly mood).


Exercise Breaks at School

And this one caught my eye. Will have to follow-up on the fact that this is being done in Ontario? I do remember reading an article a while ago where they were doing an experiment where they had children stand rather than sit in class in an effort to have them burn more calories. Then there is this post about encouraging figiting in clasrooms for the same reason. (Thanks to Fuse 8).

DATE: 2006.04.16
CATEGORY: National general news

Man. school board wants to replace lunch and recess with exercise breaks

WINNIPEG (CP) _ Five Manitoba schools hope to be the first in the province to adopt a new system popular in Ontario that replaces recess and lunch with longer classes and extended exercise periods.

The Interlake School Division north of Winnipeg is seeking provincial approval to divide the day at the five schools into three 100-minute teaching slots, separated by two nutrition and exercise periods of 45 or 50 minutes apiece.

Called the balanced school day, the concept is used in more than 600 Ontario elementary schools.

It was devised during a brainstorming session at a small school northwest of Toronto among teachers trying to figure out ways of improving student literacy.

``If it's successful, we would likely bring all our elementary schools online for the following year,'' Interlake superintendent Darlene Dufily said Sunday.

Ontario teachers who are part of the program say that kids learn more in longer teaching slots. They also say that by having kids eat twice, they're not getting hungry in mid-morning, and are far more attentive late in the school day.

The two extended exercise periods give kids more activity than two short recesses and part of the lunch hour.

``Two nutrition breaks does not mean bring two big lunches. Eating smaller amounts more often will be healthier,'' Dufily said.

The 300 minutes of instructional time would be the same as the current day, which includes two 15-minute recesses.

But Dufily said teachers in Kenora, Ont. estimated they had been losing the equivalent of four-and-one-half days of class time a year by the hassle of having kids put on and take off winter clothing and boots twice a day for recess.

The five elementary schools hoping to adopt the program are in Balmoral, Argyle, Stony Mountain, Warren and Rosser, Dufily said.

The first nutrition and exercise break would start around 10:30 to 10:40 a.m. and run 45 or 50 minutes, the other around or shortly after 1 p.m.

Nunavut school problems


This is a story I've been reading about for the past week or so with rising concern - so I thought I'd post two stories on it here.

PUBLICATION: The Whitehorse Star
DATE: 2006.04.13
PAGE: 14
BYLINE: Weber, Bob

'Failing' Nunavut schools add to social woes, cost millions

Nunavut's education system is failing, and its inability to produce graduates competent in either English or Inuktitut is one of the main causes of the territory's social problems and crippling unemployment, says a report being released Monday.

The report, written by former justice Thomas Berger, goes on to blame a federal government that hasn't lived up to the requirements of the Nunavut Land Claim. The report says it would take $20 million a year and revamped, bilingual schools to make things right.

''The schools are failing,'' wrote Berger. ''They are not producing graduates truly competent in Inuktitut; moreover, the Inuit of Nunavut have the lowest rate of literacy in English in the country.''

That failure, he calculates, costs some of Canada's poorest people $72 million a year in lost employment - and costs taxpayers up to another $25 million a year in recruiting, training and housing southerners for jobs that could have gone to Inuit.

Berger penned the report as a conciliator in a dispute between Ottawa and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., which oversees the implementation of the land claim.

Part of the dispute is over Article 23, which guarantees the Inuit a representative slice of federal and territorial civil service jobs in Nunavut. Inuit make up 85 per cent of the territory's population, but have never occupied more than 45 per cent of territorial jobs and are stuck at 33 per cent of federal jobs.

Ottawa has argued that it has held up its end by making jobs available and offering pre-employment training.

But Berger, in a clear win for the Inuit, says that's not enough.

''It is quite apparent that Article 23, which deals with employment, cannot be discussed intelligently without discussing education,'' he writes.

''The schools are supposed to equip students with the skills to obtain employment. But in Nunavut they have not produced an adequate pool of qualified Inuit.''

DATE: 2006.04.17

Iqaluit students lacking basic skills Report highlights need for literacy and remedial math programs in schools

SARA MINOGUE IQALUIT A report on Nunavut last week by former British Columbia Supreme Court judge Thomas Berger outlined a host of social ills there, but educators say they have long ago grown used to the troubling statistics.

Three in four high-school students drop out before graduating, attendance rates are abysmal and literacy levels are the lowest in the country.

Mr. Berger's report may have grabbed the headlines, but last week also saw the release of a research report put together by the Iqaluit District Education Authority, a volunteer board that oversees four schools in Nunavut's capital.

The status report on students at risk in Iqaluit schools also contains some shocking numbers: 13 per cent of Iqaluit children arrive in kindergarten without the basic skills that five-year-olds are expected to acquire before formal education begins.

In Grade 1, 22 per cent of students are found to be below the level of skills they should have by that grade. In Grade 2, that percentage goes up to 28; by Grades 4 and 5, it is in the 30-per-cent range.

The number of students working below their grade level peaks in Grade 8, where teachers estimate that 53 per cent of students do not have the basic skills expected in that grade.

Moreover, students who fall behind are lucky if they get any kind of remedial math or literacy help, because there are no programs specifically designed to help struggling students.

"This is not a surprise to anyone working in the school system," Katherine Trumper, who oversaw the report, said at a board meeting last week. "But for some reason, the issue of struggling kids in our schools is not getting attention." Ms. Trumper said the figures are based on a survey of about 100 teachers, all of whom use their own judgment to estimate who is "below grade level." The report shows Iqaluit has 99 Grade 8 pupils, 105 students in Grade 9, and 172 in Grade 10, the year students face the dreaded tests from the Alberta curriculum used in Nunavut.

Then comes the dropping out. In Grade 11 this year, Iqaluit has 66 students, and in Grade 12, just 44.

The research reveals a trend that is missing from the usual statistics: students who struggle to understand the material they confront in class and who get little, if any, help to catch up.

In some grades, nearly all the students who need extra help get it. In others, none of the students are getting extra help, even though their teachers know they need it. Over all, only half of students who need extra help are getting it, the report says.

The issue of standardized testing draws heated debate in the North, where many view the different language and culture as a disadvantage for Nunavut students.

Ms. Trumper said there is a connection between poor information and the students' poor results. "There is a relationship, in my opinion, between the fact that students are not being [given standardized tests] and that resources are not available for remedial programs," she said.

Nunavut's Department of Education has opted out of national standardized tests since a 2001 math test showed that just 27.8 per cent of Nunavut's 13-year-olds reached the basic level of skills, compared with 88 per cent of 13-year-olds nationwide. Sixteen-year-olds did slightly better, with just over half reaching the first skill level, compared with 91.5 per cent in Canada as a whole.

The lack of data on student performance is one of the reasons the District Education Authority dedicated itself to research at the beginning of its three-year election term.

The latest research paper follows a status report called Closing the Education Gap, which looked at Iqaluit's school outcomes relative to Canada as a whole.

That report found that Nunavut spends more than twice as much per person on education as the provinces, with poorer results. It also outlined health and social issues that affect students.

Social problems again figure in the latest report in a section on discipline incidents in schools, which are often sparked by students who are frustrated academically.

These figures are highly subjective, but some information stands out.

School principals call a social worker or RCMP officers when faced with cases of suspected child abuse or extreme violence. This happened 12 times in Iqaluit schools in the first five months of the current school year.

"The information in this report wasn't a surprise in some ways, because when you talk to the poor teachers, in a regular conversation, these things come out," said Christa Kunuk, the board's chairwoman.

"To see it on paper, though, is another thing. We're hoping that it will open up people's eyes and say, 'Look, this is the situation.' "Should you be concerned? I think so."

More on the LG of Ontario's reading camps

Have posted on this previously quite a few times. This is also being done in partnership with Frontier College. Info on that HERE.

PUBLICATION: The London Free Press
DATE: 2006.04.13


Saying that reading and writing are the keys to breaking a cycle of poverty and despair, Ontario's lieutenant-governor is spearheading a program to establish summer literacy camps in 27 isolated Northern Ontario communities this summer.

London-educated James Bartleman talked about his literacy project yesterday during a visit with The London Free Press's editorial board.

Bartleman said the summer program grows out of a pilot project operated successfully last summer in five remote communities.

This summer's program, with Frontier College as the lead agency, will operate 35 camps in 27 communities.

All are "fly-in" communities with no road connections to southern Ontario.

Their remote location has contributed to poverty, abuse, low educational levels and poor self-esteem, Bartleman said. Adolescent suicides are frequent because of the lack of opportunity.

Bartleman is counting on improved literacy to improve the lives of young people and encourage them to stay in school.

The summer camps will provide morning instruction for children aged five to 10 and afternoon programs for adolescents.

It's important to get children learning early, Bartleman said.

"You have to get them reading in Grade 2 or they won't be able to read and write."

He pointed to statistics showing 40 to 50 per cent of aboriginal children fail to meet literacy and numeracy requirements in Grades 4, 7 and 10. Seventy-five per cent fail to graduate from high school.

Bartleman was appointed lieutenant-governor in March 2001, becoming Ontario's 41st vice-regal representative.

He talked yesterday about being raised in Muskoka and, with support from a benefactor, coming to London for his high school education at Central secondary school.

He went on to earn a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Western Ontario in 1963.

Bartleman served for more than three decades with Canada's foreign service and held posts around the world.

How Boys Read

So, this is the first in a series of postings for today. First of quite a few articles of interest over the last few days here. The website is well worth checking out as well. We have posted on boys and reading previously on this site. Here and here for starters.

Also - particularly like the section of the A book for Boys site that talks about Southpaws. Go Southpaws! Was thrilled to know that I was part of an illustrious group that includes Bill Clinton, Queen Victoria, Leonardo Da Vinci and both Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen!


PUBLICATION: National Post
DATE: 2006.04.13
BYLINE: Don Truckey
NOTE: Don Truckey is a screenwriter whose work includes StreetLegal and TV movies Chicks With Sticks and Crazy Canucks. He is also the author of a children's novel, The Adventures of Caraway Kim ... Southpaw.

How boys read

Twenty years ago, it was girls and math. Now, it's boys and reading. It's the latest hot-button subject in education. In Canada, the United States and many other Western countries, boys trail girls by 10% or more in standardized reading and writing tests.

The counter-attack is well underway. Ontario, for instance, is hosing the entire field of literacy with money, and the special problems faced by boys have gotten an extra soaking. Me Read? No Way! A practical guide to improving boys' literacy skills, a comprehensive survey document put together by the province's education ministry, spells out the scope of the problem.

Those on education's front lines have been studying this issue for some time. In Toronto, the result is the mushrooming phenomenon of boys' book clubs. There are close to 300 of them now operating, with nearly 50 more in nearby Hamilton.

It all started early this decade. Dr. Chris Spence, now Director of Education at the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, was principal at a school where the data on boys' reading achievement were, in his words, "appalling ... jumping off the page."

Spence and others decided to do something about it. A mass gathering of boys was convened at a local video-games emporium, and the kids were asked what they do when they're not reading.

As you might expect, the answers included: playing video games, sports, hanging with friends and eating junk food. "We said to them: You don't have to give up one to have the others," Spence recalls.

So when the clubs were formed, they included comic-book analysis, movie reviews, buddy programs that paired a senior reluctant reader with a junior counterpart, as well as conventional library reading. (More about these clubs can be found in Spence's latest book, Creating a Literacy Environment for Boys).

In Toronto, this club network convenes en masse at a hotel near the airport for an annual day of presentations by authors, poetry readings by members of the Toronto Argonauts (yes, you read that right) and, last year, an appearance by Premier Dalton McGuinty, jacket off and shirt sleeves rolled up, exhorting a ballroom full of hundreds of boys to read.

Boys can attend the year-ender only if they are in a club. It's a goal they work toward. And this aspect notches into a consistent finding among those who study the issue: Boys' reading is directed. They need a reason to read.

Professors Heather Blair of the University of Alberta and Kathy Sanford of the University of Victoria concluded the same thing in their provocative study of the subject (

For two years, they followed groups of boys in grades three to six, snooping with permission in the boys' lockers and backpacks, and examining any and all reading materials they found.

It became clear that boys actually read a great deal, and to great effect, but not always in ways valued or even measured in school.

The researchers found that boys obtain basic reading skills from a variety of non-academic sources, and then adapt them into their own custom-made, boy-honed literacies. Blair and Sanford call it "morphing" literacy.

Boys' reading is often aimed at improving their knowledge or skill in specialized interest areas. It might mean poring over the sports page to relive last night's games. Or studying a videogame instruction manual to learn obscure strategies and tips. It is certainly there in Web surfing and Internet chat rooms, in devouring comic books and analyzing the data and biographical information on sports cards.

Remember the byzantine world of Pokemon? Look beyond the game's animated characters and you find a complex videogame world that requires memorization and strategizing. Tellingly, many schools banned Pokemon, which shows how hostile academic environments are toward the way boys learn. To educators, building literacy typically means school texts and high-brow children's library books. That approach works far better for girls than for boys. It's not literacy boys reject, but rather school literacy.

Blair and Sanford found that boys want reading that delivers in five areas: personal interest, action, success, fun and purpose. It's almost always about "finding stuff out" and "relating to their friends." If boys don't get this in school, they create a literacy of their own that comes in under the radar of standardized testing, school instruction and rigid teaching curricula.

But the researchers pushed their conclusions further. This "morphed" literacy is actually more valuable to boys when they leave school than the conventional reading (novels, poetry, stories) favoured by girls, Blair and Sanford say.

"The abilities to navigate the Internet, experiment with alternate [media], and read multiple texts simultaneously are more useful workplace skills than is the ability to analyse a work of fiction or write a narrative account," they concluded.

But what about boys and the cornerstone of reading -- books? Is it possible to write a novel that engages boys from the first page to the last, that speaks to their world, in their language?

Yes, it is. Boys want to read about relationships and emotions, but they want them on their own terms. Friendship, loyalty, competition, teamwork, winning and losing -- all of these engender positive feelings and help forge strong bonds between boys. And so they are all themes that figure in books that boys enjoy reading.

Yes, some boys still love books. But even those who don't are hardly lost causes. The energy a boy invests in finding out if Jerome Iginla is on the same goal-scoring pace as last year, or how to destroy the Combine Gunships in Half Life 2 is not wasted. "Morphed" reading is just as valuable as its structured, classroom equivalent. If educators want to help boys, they should understand that fact, and learn how to exploit it.

Let the fun and games begin...

The Ottawa International Writers Festival started yesterday and runs all week. Check out their website for a complete schedule. Some events are free, all are fairly cheap (cheaper for students!), and there's a special tribute to my pal Sam Beckett (Happy 100th, buddy).

Also, the first book will be voted off the Canada Reads Island today at 11:30am. (Oh, the anticipation!) Because the CBC is so very cool, all broadcasts are archived on their website, for your listening pleasure.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Other Stars

Go Winnie the Pooh! He gets his own Hollywood star.

Link courtesy of Read Alert.

In other news, Fuse 8 has another post on Slovenly Peter. He apparently has a museum. How cool is that?

The Magic of Books has a post on a web resource called the Bookhive. The site is "put together by the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County" and "is appropriately titled "Your guide to Children's literature and books". Bee sure to check it out!

Finally, on a completely separate issue - Original Content posted yesterday (April 12 for those later scrolling through) on Vampire novels. She reviews Peeps by Scott Westerfeld and discusses what she thinks makes it a YA novel (or not).

Found the post particularly interesting given my addiction to all things Anne Rice during high school. Also have a collection of other Vampire fiction at home as well with other Anne Rice-like vampires.

That's it for now!

Blog Idol!

WARNING! - we're about to toot our own horn.

So, was surfing around yesterday and came across a new site called Frontier College V Spot. Speculating that that's likely V for volunteer. Also THINKING it might be someone in Toronto behind it... You know Toronto - that OTHER Canadian centre of the universe?

But check it out - we are their Blog Idol! AND they include a photo of Lyndsay and me. I even manage to have my eyes open!

That's Lyndsay of the left and me on the right. Photo was taken last August at the Summer Leadership Forum in Toronto.

Apparently, the honour of Blog Idol is bestowed on us for being "simply excellent." Our blog is also "a wonderful collection of wit, useful information and updates for volunteers." I think we might have to start an "I love me wall" in the side column of the blog and post that quote.

(You all know about I love me walls, right? That wall you had in your room as a kid where you put up all your ribbons and certificates from various things you got in order to remind yourself just how fabulous you were? Hoping that wasn't just me....)

Anyway - a warm thank you for the compliments. And relief that the honour of Blog Idol didn't involve having to sing for a panel of judges.

Okay - I'll stop this now. Sincere thanks again for the recognition. I mean, hey - as volunteers we're big on recognition. And we'll be sure to visit often to see what Vspot is up to!

Urging you all to go forth and be simply excellent.

Volunteer Appreciation Night

Nothing says, "thanks for volunteering" like a hot plate of nachos, right?

Last night was our end of the year appreciation night! I will post a list of award winners here shortly. Since it's late and I'm only half done packing, I'll just leave you with a photo for now. Yes, Louise's eyes are closed, and my eyes are glowing demonaically red, but everybody else looks great--and our new swag looks AMAZING! (Get a load of those flashy purple and yellow pens! And how about those tote bags? Don't forget, you can purchase your very own tote for the low low price of $10!)

Edit: "Everyone else" = (left to right) Lilah, (Louise), Kristin, Ellen, Melanie, Leslie, Lorna, (Yours Truly).

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

More on the new provincial Education Minister

And on a warm fuzzy alumni note - Kate Heartfield is a Carleton J-skool grad. We overlapped for a year there in 2001 (of course, I was doing my undergrad in Journalism, and she was doing her Masters - but hey! small program)


PUBLICATION: The Ottawa Citizen
DATE: 2006.04.11
PNAME: City Editorial
COLUMN: Kate Heartfield

Pupatello should push libraries

Most cabinet shuffles are times to call for new ideas. I wish Sandra Pupatello all the best as Ontario's new education minister. But I hope she keeps her ideas to herself for a little while.

Nothing against Ms. Pupatello. She's a talented, hardworking MPP with no shortage of opinions. It's just that the education portfolio is already stuffed to the breaking point with the ideas of the last guy, Gerard Kennedy.

Mr. Kennedy resigned last week so he could run for the federal Liberal leadership. Premier Dalton McGuinty moved Ms. Pupatello into the education job. Madeleine Meilleur moved into Ms. Pupatello's old job as minister of community and social services, while retaining the francophone-affairs post. Backbencher Caroline Di Cocco moved into Ms. Meilleur's old job as culture minister.

This increases the number of women in the cabinet by one, although it's not exactly ground-breaking to put women in charge of culture, education and community services. Mr. McGuinty took the opportunity to make a joke that ended up sounding smarmy: "I'm also pleased to say this was the very first swearing-in where I was able to kiss all the new ministers." Blech.

Ms. Pupatello remains the minister responsible for women's issues. Perhaps she could let the premier know some women think it's a bit creepy when men seem too eager for comradely affection.

She might do it, too. Ms. Pupatello is loyal to her premier, but she's also the type to speak her mind. She's known for her heckles in the legislature.

She isn't an education expert, but she seems like a quick study. Besides, Mr. Kennedy is going to act as a transition adviser. I don't expect it will take her long to acquaint herself with the portfolio, despite its size.

And I don't expect it will take her long to develop some plans and proposals. Education is a topic that inspires. It's so important, and so universal, and so vulnerable, that it always seems ripe for revolution.

It sometimes seemed Mr. Kennedy could reach into his pocket and find a simple solution for every complex problem. The kids are struggling? Change the curriculum. The kids are dropping out? Make high school mandatory until 18. The kids might leave anyway? Take away their drivers licences if they do. Sometimes, simplicity is brilliance. Sometimes it is folly.

Still, he gets points for the intelligence and passion he brought to the job, and he leaves the education system better than he found it. The teachers are happier, their classes are smaller, the test scores are rising. Paul Whitehead, president of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association, praised Kennedy last week for the "astonishing number of new initiatives" during his tenure.

The immediate task for the new minister is to see Mr. Kennedy's many initiatives through. Ms. Pupatello may be tempted to make her mark on the education file right away. She said the premier told her: "This is your baby." But it's one she adopted from Mr. Kennedy. The next election, in October 2007, will be the time for new ideas.

Ms. Pupatello does not have a perfect record of seeing things through. She didn't fix one of the biggest problems in her old ministry: the provincial government's clawback of the National Child Benefit Supplement from people who get social assistance. That's not entirely her fault, but it was her ministry. She should have fought to see that promise kept.

There's more fun and glory in making wild promises than in making them happen. In education, Mr. Kennedy got to announce the ideas: reducing the drop-out rate, raising test scores, reducing class sizes. Ms. Pupatello gets to see these difficult jobs through to the end. But it will pay off if she can finish the Liberals' term with solid successes in education.

In Mr. Kennedy's time, the Ontario government was finally starting to understand just how important school libraries are. A new study, funded by the Ontario Library Association and conducted by a Queen's University professor and People for Education, shows that students in schools with trained library staffs have better test scores. This is one case where Kennedy-style simplicity makes sense. The kids aren't reading? Give them better libraries.

Ms. Pupatello should take the library ball from Mr. Kennedy and run with it. Appropriate, stable funding for school libraries is a goal she can make her own, but it's not some wild idea from the clear blue sky. The Ministry of Education has had quite enough of those in the last couple of years.

You heard it here fourth!

Harry Potter might really be Lord Voldemort.

Da da DAAA!

Interesting post on the issue on Michele's Scholar's Blog. Others, such as Fuse 8 and Jen Robinson have also picked up on the fun. And for the benefit of certain bloggers, I'd just like to state that I am a fan of Harry Potter (debates on Narnia vs Harry notwithstanding). I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of any criticism of Giving Tree or Love You Forever proportions :)

Fuse 8 also has another post in her ongoing and fun series on the Hot Men of Children's Literature. Click HERE to find out who it is!

Kids Lit has two posts of interest today - one on the issue of teens writing for teens (more here) and one on VOYA's new list of best Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror books for 2005.

Also, forgot to post this yesterday - there has been a bit more news pick-up on the school library issue I posted on previously here. Hamilton Spectator story HERE and Toronto Star article HERE. Links courtesy of What's New in JK-12.

Finally, on the international front, news on literacy from the Philippines and how literacy rates and levels/availability of education are not necessarily linked.



Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Swimmers are good people!

Caught this story from Australia courtesy of Google Alerts. It is discussing literacy initiatives for Aboriginal peoples in Australia and the links between improved literacy and improved quality of life. I would think there are some interesting parallels to some of the literacy challenges our Aboriginal people face here in Canada. We have posted previously on the Ontario Lieutenant Governor's literacy initiatives with Aboriginal communities HERE and the partnership with Frontier College in this regard HERE.

This article also makes reference to something called the Ian Thorpe Fountain for Youth which according to the article concentrates on grass roots literacy and health education. Books and other early learning materials are placed into communities "that are truly bookless." One project is a literacy backpack which a child can share with their brothers and sisters at home. The books are those Aboriginal teachers recommend.

For those unfamiliar with "the Thorpido in a Speedo" he is an Australian Olympic Swimmer and World Record holder.

So there you have it! Competitive swimmers are good people!

In two other quick news points. Article HERE on the Cuban literacy method being successful in Mexico. Posted previously on Cuba and Literacy HERE. And webpage here of interest on good children`s books divided up by age. Courtesy of fellow local literacy org Also.


And miles to go before I sleep

So I spent some time yesterday surfing through some of the other entries over at the Blog Carnival on Semicolon. Came across this one on Bartography that brought back memories of Grade 10 English Class. Anyone else out there wince at any reference to Robert Frost? Chris Barton, whose blog I have yet to add to my list of frequently visited sites, but that I do check out from time to time, entertainingly describes how he use to re-cycle Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening for school presentations for years. My memory of the poem is months spent teasing out every possible hidden meaning in it in high school English. Well before the end I had some suggestions regarding the hidden meaning of those last two lines!

But moving on....

Also of note and found through the carnival was this post on a blog called So Many Books. I don't know about you, but I'm now eagerly waiting some Mad Lib poetry. She also had a fun quiz on her blog HERE. Like the blogger at so many books, I too was John Ashbery. This seemed to be the result of most people. Unfamiliar with the poet myself - but then poetry is not my forte. Courtesy of wikipedia...

Also, be sure to stay tuned for the week of April 24-30. It is national TV-Turnoff Week in the US.

And finally, for those of you who are enjoying following these things - according to Semicolon, the next Carnival will be held at a blog called Picturesque Life. I am unfamiliar with the blog but will be sure to check it out.

Read Alert's round up for the day has some juicy tidbits: JK Rowling likes Pink (the singer), Beverley Cleary turns 90 (previous info on this here) and stop the press! Harry Potter makes a lot of money!

The Magic of Books has a fun post on children`s books with stories that take place in libraries.

Fuse 8 has a fun post on a German book from the 1800s called Slovenly Peter. Apparently it has a bit of a cult following. You can check out some of the reviews at Amazon. In her post, she also takes another swipe at poor Robert Munsch's Love you Forever. We posted on the previous jibe here. If anyone has a defence for this poor book, please come forward! If you need further motivation, I remind you of recent commentary on it by one of Canada's leading political journalists.

That's it for now!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Purdy: Darn Good

Canada Reads starts April 17th. Have you read any of the five contestants yet?

I picked up Al Purdy's rooms for rent in the outer planets yesterday and I've been enjoying it immensely. Go poetry!

Something tells me I've posted this before, but if you didn't already do so, go to the "Al Purdy" link above and watch feature #5, "On Margaret Atwood." It's an hilarious sound clip!

Signs of the Times

Be sure to check out this site. It is one of bloggers Blogs of Note for the week. I have a thing about ridiculous signs, so I found it amusing. My personal favorite was one I saw in Hawaii about six years ago. I made my family pull the car over so I could take a photo. It read, "Now entering Banana Virus Quarantine Area". I still wonder what that means. Do all the poor sick bananas have to travel there?

Also, if you wish to check out other Blogs of Note - you can check out the Blogs of Note blog.

In literacy news, while I'm a bit late on this, McGuinty shuffled Ontario's Cabinet last week, so there is now a new Minister of Education in Ontario. The old Minister, Gerard Kennedy, stepped down as it is anticipated that he will be running for leader of the federal Liberal Party. The new Minister is Sandra Pupatello.

Finally, over at Read Alert there is a link to a new book about Harry Potter called "Mapping the World of Harry Potter."



Couple Quick Announcements

Reminder that this Wednesday evening is Volunteer Appreciation Night at the Urban Well. Don't miss it!

Also, conference of interest at UofO at the end of the month. Info HERE and info on the organization HERE.

And on three totally separate non-literacy related issues, I went to see HMS Pinafore on Friday night with my mother. Put on by the Savoy Society here in Ottawa it was so much fun! I also saw them put on the Mikado two years ago. Next year they are doing Iolanthe. Will have to see that one as well! For those unfamiliar with Gilbert and Sullivan - think Andrew Lloyd Webber for Victorians. They make rather entertaining political commentaries while singing! What more could you want in life? (Disclaimer - brought my boyfriend to see the Mikado - and while he didn't fall asleep, he got pretty close. So it isn't for everyone - hense the bringing of my mother this time around).

Tried a new restaurant Friday night called Flying Piggies - well worth a visit.

And hit Originals - their annual Spring Craft Fair at Landsdowne Park. Bought some nice jewellry and food! Tastetesting is the best part!


Friday, April 07, 2006

Poetry Friday - Second Edition

So I mentioned last week that I may continue with this theme of Friday being poetry day. To recap for those of you thinking "Huh?" Kelly over at Big A little instituted this a few weeks back because kids don't read enough poetry. Jen Robinson has posted twice on the issue - again here today and A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cosy has as well. I also feel obliged to point out that, of course, April is National Poetry Month, as the Magic of Books has pointed out a few times.

Anyway, I have two strains of thought on the issue today. One is related to Kelly's post from last week where she talks about the poem Monday's Child - I am, of course familiar with this as yet another poem my mom would recite - but the "days of the week" poem I always liked best was Solomon Grundy.

Solomon Grundy,
Born on a Monday,
Christened on Tuesday,
Married on Wednesday,
Took ill on Thursday,
Grew worse on Friday,
Died on Saturday,
Buried on Sunday.
That was the end of
Solomon Grundy.

I always liked the idea of a life happening in a week - although the days spread over years. Also, relating back to the previous poem, I guess Solomon Grundy was full of grace.

Wikipedia teaches me that it is a 19th century children's nursery rhyme presented by James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps in 1842. Also, I learnt that those above are actually alternate words and that the poem also reads as follows:

Solomon Grundy, born on a Monday,
Christened on a stark and stormy Tuesday,
Married on a gray and grisly Wednesday,
Took ill on a mild and mellow Thursday,
Grew worse on a bright and breezy Friday,
Died on a gay and glorious Saturday,
Buried on a baking, blistering Sunday.
That was the end of Solomon Grundy.

I like the other better.

My second train of thought on poetry for this week is Girl Guide songs. I thought about what things poetic I remember most from childhood and they are songs more than poetry. But then, I think songs really are poetry - as various high school teachers told me in later years.

So, having spent 3 years as a girl guide (got the cord to prove it!) - I learnt an incredible number of songs which still take up brain cells today. Some of my favorites:


Out of my window looking in the night,
I can see the barges' flickering light.
Silently flows the river to the sea,
And the barges too go silently,

Barges, I would like to go with you;
I would like to sail the ocean blue.
Barges, have you treasures in your hold?
Do you fight with pirates brave and bold?

Out of my window looking in the night,
I can see the barges' flickering light.
Starboard shines green and port is glowing red,
I can see them flickering far ahead.

(amusingly - I also seem to remember bits and pieces of the spoof version of this taught to me by the older girls at summer camp. See! Poetry sticks!)


Boom Chicka Boom

Boom chicka boom (crowd repeats)
I said a boom chicka-boom! (crowd repeats)
I said a boom-chicka-rocka-chicka-rocka-chicka-boom! (crowd repeats)
Uh huh! (crowd repeats)
Oh yeah! (crowd repeats)
One more time... (crowd repeats)
Someone shouts out a style. Choice could be:
Faster, slower, whisper, Southern, English, janitor style broom-chicka-broom... then broom-chicka-sweepa-chicka-sweepa-chicka-broom, valley girl style, photographer style, babystyle, underwater style, motorcycle style (vrooom chicka vroom).

(anything where you make silly sounds is fun!)


Black Socks

Black Socks, they never get dirty,
The longer you wear them the stronger they get!
Sometimes I think I should wash them
But something keeps telling me
No, no, not yet!

(not yet, not yet, not yet, not yet.....)



Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,
Merry merry king of the bush is he,
Laugh, kookaburra, laugh, kookaburra,
Gay your life must be, ha, ha, ha!

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,
Eating all the gumdrops he can see,
Stop, kookaburra, stop, kookaburra,
Save some there for me, ha, ha, ha!

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,
Counting all the monkeys he can see,
Stop, kookaburra, stop, kookaburra,
That's not a monkey, that's me, ha, ha, ha!

For more song resources check out this list.

I also tried to find the words of one of my favorites called "Magdalena Hagdalena" on the web but couldn't. It's possible I'm spelling it wrong, though.

And I think I'll leave that there for now.

Happy weekend!


Look! Teddy Bears!

Check out the photo montage over at Laurier Students for Literacy from their Teddy Bear's picnic event April 2! Looks like it was a great event. (And I'll give a shout out to Andrew from over yonder for stopping by and commenting about the event).

Big A little a has a nice piece on teens writing for teens.

Fun review over at Kids Lit on a book called The Hiccupotamus by Aaron Zen. I mean, just look at the cover. Don't you want to read it?

The Magic of Books reminds us that April 22 is Earth Day and provides some good links for kids.

What's New in JK-12 has an interesting article on how parents and children are losing the art of conversation with each other. Issue being that kids now watch TV and play video games, while work schedules tend to limit the amount of meals families spend together so kids aren't developing communication skills and thus don't arrive at school with skills previously had for expressing themselves. Interesting idea.

And for all the English Lit students out there - your wait is over Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog. Thanks to Book Moot for the link.

Finally - story below picked up by quite a few papers this morning about the benefits of school librarians.


PUBLICATION: The Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal
DATE: 2006.04.07

School librarians good for kids TORONTO (CP) - Kids at Ontario schools with good library resources and staff do better on standardized tests and like reading more, researchers said Thursday]

School librarians good for kids

TORONTO (CP) - Kids at Ontario schools with good library resources and staff do better on standardized tests and like reading more, researchers said Thursday as they called on the province to stop underfunding elementary school libraries.

While more research is required into the influence libraries and librarian-teachers have on students' literacy, "it is essential to halt the decline of Ontario's school library resources and staffing now," said researcher Kathryn Blackett of People for Education, which helped with the study.

The province's funding formula doesn't provide dedicated resources for libraries and their staff, so it's up to the discretion of each school whether the cash is spent on the library or to cover other shortfalls, Blackett said.

If this shift in resources continues "school libraries are surely on the way to demise," said Michael Rosettis, president of the Ontario School Library Association.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Eat Swanky Food for a Good Cause

And other news...

My friend sent me a link to THIS EVENT on May 2. It's called Bon Appetit Ottawa and features over 90 restaurants and caterers and dozens of wineries and breweries. Tickets are $75 with a $45 tax receipt (so TECHNICALLY that makes them $30). Proceeds raised are donated to local charities and Bon Appetit Ottawa has raised over one million dollars and supported such important charities as the School Breakfast Program, Champions for Children, the Snowsuit Fund and the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa.

And just catching up quickly on a bit more news. Another article HERE on the literacy initiative in Bolivia that I've posted on previously. They will be creating one million teaching posts throughout the country. Wow.