Recently in Children's Literature Category

A New Kind of Storytime?

One of my greatest regrets about leaving home is that I don't get to see my five-year-old niece, Riley, very often. But, lucky for me, I got the opportunity to video chat with her this week (bless technology!). One of the greatest challenges about video chat, though, is remembering that not everything you do can be seen. And this becomes particularly important when you're reading picture books. Or so I've come to realize.

Simmons faculty Megan Lambert teaches a method of reading picture books called the Whole Book Approach. This is basically just a way of interacting with the picture book as an art form. When reading via this approach, children are asked to engage in a dialogue about the text. They move from being passive listeners to active participants in the story. Though I haven't (yet) been formally trained in this approach, Megan demonstrates it often in her classes. If you're curious, you can learn more about this method by taking her course at the Eric Carle Museum this summer.

Anyways, I tried to use the Whole Book Approach with my niece during our webcam storyime. This was as much a validating experience as it was a troubling one. We were able to pay attention to most parts of the story proper but video chat made interacting with the whole book difficult. Smaller images disappeared in the pixelated graphics. Because of this, I often had to hold the page closer to the webcam for Riley to pick up on certain things--and then I felt as though I was mediating her reading. I was choosing what to show her, which didn't give her the autonomy the Whole Book Approach allows for.

As much as I enjoyed practicing some of the things I've been learning at Simmons, I was also struck by the circumstances in which I was reading to my niece. How cool is it, first of all, that our current technology allows for a bedtime story (or in my case, four) in a highly personal way? I think it's incredible. I never imagined that I would ever be in a place where this sort of reading would become necessary, but I imagine I'm not alone. There have to be parents who work away from home or can't be around who have to settle for this kind of interaction. This brings me to my second point: I feel like someone could make a lot of money developing software to make webcam reading easier. Or maybe I just need to get a better camera.

Either way, I recommend you try it out. If you don't have a child in your life, read to your friends. You never know when this sort of skill might come in handy. Maybe someday Simmons will even teach a class. What say you to that?

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A Case for Classes at the Carle

Warning: This is an advertisement. Or perhaps it's more of an endorsement. One of the coolest things children's literature students at Simmons can do is attend classes that are held at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA. Currently, I am enrolled in one such class--Children's Book Publishing--taught by Vicky Smith. We meet for the last weekend of every month, mostly in the windowless conference room, but the change of setting is refreshing. (And the lack of windows really isn't that bad.)

Taking a class with students who aren't Boston-based is enlightening because they bring a different perspective. The cultural climate around the area reminds me so much of Bellingham, Washington (where I went to undergrad) so I feel right at home. So many of the students are writers in the dual degree track--at least in the case of this particular Carle class. For a would-be librarian like me, being surrounded by so many aspiring writers is just the coolest. I could shelve their books someday. Isn't that wild?

The class is also good for librarians because it gives us insight into a different part of the industry. I know that there is a similar publishing course in the library science catalog, but this one seems more focalized on children's literature. Nonetheless, I'll never forget that first day of class when we cut the covers off books (sacrilegious, I know) to see how they were bound. In that moment, I almost wanted to leave Simmons for a book arts program. But I think I'd rather work directly with the patrons and just admire the artistry.

There are plenty of other reasons to go to the Carle. Our enrollment in the class gives us a free membership to the museum. Since we're mostly in class when the museum is closed to the public, there's still time to play around when it opens. However, apparently Eric Carle himself was there just the other day while we were in class and we missed it. But, luckily, I did get to see Dr. Seuss' hat collection while I was in Northampton. What a guy.

Side note: If you're ever in doubt of where to go for lunch, try the Atkins Farm. You won't regret it. That said, I'm still hoping to finally try one of the museum's caterpillar cookie one of these days. Hopefully I won't regret that...

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Big Moves

So, I moved. I'm still in Allston (darn), but at least I am several steps closer to Brookline. I could wax poetic about how much I love that city (fun fact: I volunteer in the Teen Room at the main branch of the public library) but that would do little for our purposes here. As much as I might like to publicly complain about my laborious moving process (it really wasn't so bad), I find myself distracted by a much more exciting move than my own: The Horn Book is coming to Simmons. For the children's literature world, this is huge. HUGE. I'm telling you.

(Don't believe me? Click here.)

This move makes a lot of sense considering that the magazine's founder, Bertha Mahony, graduated from Simmons in 1902. Nowadays, Simmons (specifically its Center for the Study of Children's Literature) and The Horn Book are both involved in Children's Book Boston, a new organization dedicated to providing a shared space for the Boston-based kid lit world. Simmons also hosts The Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium following the Boston Globe/Horn Book Awards each year.

Maybe this sounds like a bit of a fact dump to you, but these factors basically all add up to the fact that Simmons continues to be the premier institution for those who study children's books (librarians included). The college's location in Boston, a literary epicenter in children's publishing since its American inception, marks it as a member of an incredible legacy. While The Horn Book's move does not signify a merger with Simmons, it does signify a stronger partnership. There's no telling what sort of internships might arise but, at the very least, students won't have to commute very far!

Lastly, in related, equally huge news, the American Library Association's Youth Media Awards were announced on January 27. Several Simmons students, myself included, joined Cathie Mercier in the Palace Road building for the live broadcasting of the ceremony. Bagels in hand, we all cheered for our favorites and shared our surprises (I'm looking at you, Midwinterblood). As sad as I might have been that Aaron Becker's Journey didn't win, I have to celebrate another move in the field of children's literature: the selection of a nonfiction title to win the Caldecott Medal. Maybe we can thank the Common Core for this uncommon win, but it certainly signifies an interesting shift in values from previous committees. It's not the first nonfiction win, but there aren't many to precede it. We can only speculate what's in store for next year. And, who knows, maybe we'll even be joined by The Horn Book staff for the 2015 broadcast!

So, there you have it. It's only February and already 2014 is groundbreaking.  I can't wait to find out what happens between now and June 6 (which, for those not in the know, is the day the film adaptation of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars comes out and basically ends the world because of feelings). For now, it's back to the books for another excellent week of grad school.

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