STAIR Celebrates Read Across America

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STAIR Celebrates Read Across America

Posted by STAIR-Annapolis on March 3, 2021

It's a great month to be a reader!

March is National Reading Month, and we celebrate Read Across America this week.

The National Education Association (NEA) founded Read Across America in 1998, deliberately centering the event on the popular works of Dr. Seuss in order to get kids (and their grown-ups) excited about reading. The association proved very successful, and Read Across America is now widely celebrated by school children across the country.

For the past several years, however, the NEA has made a concerted effort to distance itself from Dr. Seuss. As of August 2019, Read Across America no longer has any ties to Dr. Seuss Enterprises, which means the Cat in the Hat and other Seuss characters don't appear in any official Read Across America marketing or promotional materials. Now, the NEA encourages schools and libraries to observe Read Across America by "Celebrating a Nation of Diverse Readers," planning events and activities that embrace a broader, more varied range of children's books.

Why this shift away from Dr. Seuss, beloved by generations of readers?

The answer is pretty simple, really: Children's literature is much bigger than a single author!

From readacrossamerica.org:

There’s a growing need for schools and libraries to include and promote diverse books. Students need books that provide both windows and mirrors if we are going to create more readers, writers, and people who feel included and recognized, and who understand that the world is far richer than just their experiences alone. NEA recognizes the need to work with a more diverse array of reading organizations and publishers to fulfill this need.

When we make time to read with kids, children get the message that reading is important and fun. When we read books that accurately and compassionately represent characters of all races, genders, and backgrounds, students discover their own voices and learn from the voices of others.

That's the goal of Read Across America, and we think that's something worth celebrating!

If you'd like to learn more about Read Across America, including recommended reading lists, fun activities that celebrate all readers, and ways to add more diversity to your bookshelves at home, here are some excellent resources to get you started:

Anne Arundel County Public Schools AACPS Unites: Celebrating Diversity in Literacy
The National Education Association Read Across America
8 Ideas to Celebrate Read Across America
Diversify Your Bookshelf (with FREE printable checklist!)

Look at What Our Students Are Reading!

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Look at What Our Students Are Reading!

Posted by STAIR-Annapolis on February 25, 2021

STAIR At Home students work hard to improve their reading skills every day! STAIR's modified reading program was designed to be as flexible as possible, so students and their grown-ups have the opportunity to participate in any way that works best for them.

Some of our students enjoy logging on to our live virtual Book Clubs, where they can read and talk about books with our incredible STAIR At Home volunteers.

Other students exchange letters with their STAIR At Home Pen Pal, cheerfully writing about their favorite vacations, their pets, and books they like to read.

Our STAIR At Home family website is a popular destination for students and their grown-ups to access Guest Reader stories, Tutorial Coach video lessons, and resources to make at-home reading fun.

Many of our students practice their reading skills at home using some of the new books for home libraries they receive in their STAIR At Home packages every month, and they can share what they're reading through our family website!

Here are just a few of the books our STAIR At Home students are reading this month:

  • Genesis and Gerardo are reading A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead. 
  • Keyla is reading Elephant & Piggie: My New Friend is So Fun! by Mo Willems. 
  • Angel, Dominick, and Ian are reading The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. 
  • Emily is reading What Will We Build Today by Katherine Durgin-Bruce, illustrated by Mike Byrne, and A Sick Day for Amos McGee. 
  • John is reading another great Elephant & Piggie book by Mo Willems: I Really Like Slop! 
  • TreMira is reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. 
  • Zoey is reading Dyamonde Daniel by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.

We're so proud of our awesome STAIR At Home readers! Keep up the great work!  

STAIR At Home February Book of the Month: A Sick Day for Amos McGee

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STAIR At Home February Book of the Month: A Sick Day for Amos McGee

Posted by STAIR-Annapolis on February 17, 2021

Every month, STAIR staff thoughtfully selects the STAIR At Home Book of the Month. Each STAIR At Home student receives their very own, brand new copy of this book in addition to the other titles included in their monthly book packages. Students and volunteers use the Book of the Month to guide their discussions in our monthly STAIR At Home virtual Book Clubs.

The February Book of the Month is A Sick Day for Amos McGee, written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead.

Amos McGee loves waking up early, putting on his perfectly pressed uniform, eating his breakfast, and heading out to catch the number five bus to his job at the zoo. He takes excellent care of his animal friends, and they love spending time with Amos. But one day, Amos comes down with a bad cold and has to stay home in bed. What will his friends do without him?

This sweet story by husband and wife author-illustrator team Philip and Erin Stead nearly never came to be.

According to a 2017 interview published in The New Yorker magazine, Erin had all but given up drawing: "Erin had been struggling--she'd dropped out of S.V.A. [School of Visual Arts], worried that she 'couldn't hack it.' She had quit drawing for three years."

Then one day, Erin left a small sketch on the couple's kitchen table, the first piece of artwork she'd created in more than three years--a picture of an old man sitting with an elephant. Philip secretly showed the drawing to his publisher, who loved it, and he wrote the story of Amos later that week; despite her crisis of confidence, Erin provided the illustrations.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee won the 2011 Caldecott Medal for outstanding children's book illustration. It was the first book Erin Stead ever illustrated.

Since rediscovering her passion for illustration, Erin has created beautiful artwork for eight more children's books. In this video clip, she describes her unique woodblock print process.

We'll have more to share next month, when we introduce our March Book of the Month: The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires.

Sources:
"The Making of a Quiet Children's Classic" by Sarah Larson, The New Yorker, March 15, 2017
A Sick Day for Amos McGee, Macmillan Publishers
www.erinstead.com
www.philipstead.com

A February Reading Challenge

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A February Reading Challenge

Posted by STAIR-Annapolis on February 3, 2021

February is Black History Month, an opportunity to celebrate and honor the contributions of Black Americans to our nation's history and culture.

In a tradition that dates back to 1926, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History establishes a theme for every Black History Month. This year's theme is The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity.

Our February reading challenge embraces this theme and, as always, is easy to adapt to any age, reading level, or genre preference. One book per week, every week this month. An added component this month: Every book you choose must be written by a Black author!

  • Read a book with any of these words in the title: family, mother, father, son, daughter, sister, brother, etc.
  • Read a book by Black co-authors or an author-illustrator team who are related to each other.
  • Read a book that has won or been nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work.
  • Read a book written by a Black author from or set in your hometown or home state.

Good luck! We'll be back next month with a new reading challenge for you. Until then, keep reading!

STAIR At Home January Book of the Month: The Snowy Day

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STAIR at Home January Book of the Month: The Snowy Day

Posted by STAIR-Annapolis on January 20, 2021

Every month, STAIR staff thoughtfully selects the STAIR At Home Book of the Month. Each STAIR At Home student receives their very own, brand new copy of this book in addition to the other titles included in their monthly book packages. Students and volunteers use the Book of the Month to guide their discussions in our monthly STAIR At Home virtual Book Clubs.

The January Book of the Month is The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.

The Snowy Day tells the story of Peter, a young boy who wakes up one winter morning to find his familiar neighborhood transformed into a strange, snowy wonderland. He puts on his bright red snowsuit and heads out into the cold, taking readers on an adventure as he crunch, crunch, crunches along icy sidewalks, slides down slippery snowbanks, and explores the world around him.

Published in 1962, The Snowy Day has delighted generations of young readers with its evocative text and colorful collage illustrations.

But, there's much more to discover about this beloved classic!

  • The Snowy Day was one of the first titles in mainstream children's publishing to feature a non-caricatured Black protagonist.
  • Peter appeared in six more Keats' books published after The Snowy Day.
  • The book won the 1963 Caldecott Medal, making it the first book with a Black main character to win a major children's publishing award.
  • The Snowy Day is number one on the New York Public Library's "Top Checkouts of All Time" list, which spans the library's 125-year history.

We'll have more to share next month, when we introduce our February Book of the Month: A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead.

Sources:
The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation
The Snowy Day Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.

A January Reading Challenge

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A January Reading Challenge

Posted by STAIR-Annapolis on January 5, 2021

Happy New Year!

If you're the sort of person who likes to greet a new year with a goal or two in mind, you're not alone. About half of all Americans typically make New Year's resolutions and one of the most popular resolutions year after year is to "read more."

A reading challenge is a great way to help stay on track with a "read more" resolution. There are tons of excellent reading challenges online, with options for readers of all ages and levels that cover a full year or change month-to-month. Some of our favorites include the Brightly Monthly Reading Challenges for Kids and the monthly #AACPLReads recommendations from our friends at Anne Arundel County Public Library.

For a simple January reading challenge that's easy to adapt to any age, reading level, or genre preference, follow the list below. One book per week, every week this month:

  • Read a book with a white cover.
  • Read a book about winter or snow.
  • Read a book with the word "COLD" in the title.
  • Read a book written by an author who was born in a place that gets lots of snow in winter.

Good luck! We'll be back next month with a new reading challenge for you. Until then, keep reading!