What does it mean to be an American?

In observance of Thanksgiving, Morning Edition on NPR has been doing a great mini-series about what it means to become an American. As a foreign-born American myself (Mabuhay, Philippines!) the idea of becoming an American is right on, as immigrants have informed and transformed the nation and its citizens from the very beginning. Just look at our Kenyan-Kansan by way of Hawaii President-elect.

Check out interviews with authors Jhumpa Lahiri, Joseph O’Neill and OOM favorite Junot Diaz…and have a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday!

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State-by-state trivia fest

This has been one of those weeks that reminds me how fun my job is…

Since last week, I’ve been talking up the results of a contest Scholastic ran alongside the release of the new edition of the America the Beautiful book series for schools and libraries. For the contest, librarians were asked to submit trivia about their states, and Scholastic picked the best to be published in a special 53rd book in the series called “Fast Facts about the 50 States.”

Basically, I’ve been surrounded by awesome trivia about the 50 states for the last five days, which, if you know me, you know I lap up like a parched puppy.

So, in the interest of spreading the fun, I’m gonna run my own little contest:

Two chances to win a free book!

1) The first person to correctly answer each of these three trivia questions (which I adapted from submissions from genius librarians around the U.S.), wins a copy of the America the Beautiful book for their state. Answer in the comments section! And you’re free to use any research tools at your disposal.

(Only about half of the 52 planned titles have actually been released so far, so if your state’s book isn’t out yet, we’ll figure something else out.)

In what state is the northernmost point of the continental United States?

Pez candy is made in a factory in Orange, CT. How many Pez candies are consumed annually in the U.S.?

About how tall is the supposed “Pedro Mountain Mummy” of Wyoming?

2) Send me your best trivia question about your state. Leave the question in the comments, and I’ll use my special algorithm to figure out which is the best (basically I choose my favorite). And THAT person will also win an America the Beautiful book of their own.

So… have at it!

Teens ‘n Tech, potpourri edition

After blogging about the MacArthur Digital Youth Project, I read this article from the Los Angeles Times, which describes some young people going online specifically to learn more about a book like Harry Potter or Twilight– what we at Scholastic like to call “extending the reading experience.” The Digital Youth Project report calls it “geeking out.”

On January 31st, clever Microsoft is hosting the Teens in Tech Conference in San Francisco. It doesn’t look like Mr. Gates will be there, but I did notice a “milk and cookie” break on the agenda. They list their goal of the conference as “show[ing] that teenagers are changing both Technology and the World – despite their age.”  It looks worth checking out if you’re in the Bay Area at the end of January.

Last but not least, I wanted to mention that the National Center for Women & Information Technology is accepting nominations for their Award for Aspirations in Computing, which recognizes young women in high school for their computing-related achievements. Winners get a laptop computer, $500 cash, and a trip to the awards ceremony in Charlotte, North Carolina in March. Self-nominations are due by December 1st. That’s in one week, people!

Teens ‘n Tech

Earlier this week, the MacArthur Foundation released the report “Digital Youth Research: Living And Learning With New Media,” the culmination of a three-year research project impressively titled “Kids’ Informal Learning with Digital Media: An Ethnographic Investigation of Innovative Knowledge Cultures.”

Among the findings were that (surprise!) there’s a generation gap between teens and adults about the value of online activities (a trend that echoes the Ganz Cooney Center study from May). Given this finding, there are a couple of implications in the report summary that I find most interesting:
  • Adults should facilitate young people’s engagement with digital media.
  • In interest-driven participation, adults have an important role to play.
To me, this doesn’t suggest adult-led online learning or participation, but rather an inter-generational, experimental approach. But are enough adults willing to engage in technology they don’t always understand? And are enough teens willing to give up the online autonomy they’ve enjoyed up until now, a.k.a. “Mom, don’t friend me!”
The report summary highlights another, larger implication: To stay relevant in the 21st Century, education institutions need to keep pace with the rapid changes introduced by digital media. How many more studies, reports, books and conferences will it take before we make that giant leap forward? More and more, it looks like one step won’t be enough.

Sneak Peek: Kids Press Corps 2.0

While we’re not officially announcing the new members of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps, at least one of them is officially working her beat! Shelby Watkins of Leitchfield, Kentucky just wrote her first article for Scholastic News Online.

Shelby covered the opening of the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Site, hosted by the National Park Foundation (NPF) and the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP). First Lady Laura Bush was at the opening ceremony, where she took only three questions, one of which was from Shelby.

Shelby also interviewed a director from the National Park Service, the official historian from the History Channel, and some local school children. But don’t take my word for it. Check out Shelby’s delightful story here.

Today’s Post is Synonym Toast

We are all very busy and productive around here…but every once in awhile, we need a mental break. Because we’re the self-described nerds we are, sometimes we like to play a little something called Synonym Toast. Our friends at Word Girl created this game, where it is your job to help Captain Huggy Face (pictured below with our heroine) stop Chuck, the Evil Sandwich Making Guy. File this one under “strangely addictive.”

Nosotros amamos los libros

That’s “We heart books,” loosely translated. Hello, Jen here. There’s some excitement going on around here this week, as Libreria Lectorum, the largest Spanish-language bookstore online exclusively in Spanish, launches, AND “Café Literario”takes place at our HQ on Wednesday evening. Here’s our colleague Paul Niemi to tell you more about what’s on his mind:

I was thinking today about how the U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2020, 1 in 5 people will be Latino. While most speak English, studies show that Spanish is still a very important part of their lives—that means retaining customs as well as keeping la Lengua Madre or the “Mother Tongue” alive. I think that’s awesome! A majority of them live mainly in a handful of large urban centers. These families in metropolitan areas, in general, have always had access to a good selection of books, through local mom and pop bookshops, and in some cases, the big box chain stores. These days, though, as the Latino population grows, it is spreading out into areas you might not necessarily expect.

In smaller communities, book lovers looking to preserve their cultural heritage through reading in Spanish have fewer options. The neighborhood bookstore, where people can find quality books in Spanish is practically nonexistent. Enter http://www.librerialectorum.com/

To celebrate the launch, we’re hosting Café Literario, a sold-out, invitation-only event, featuring bestselling authors Mirta Ojito, Esmeralda Santiago and Victor Villaseñor.The event will be the first in an ongoing series of live author conversations here at at Scholastic.

It’s wonderful to see how the little Spanish-language bookstore that opened on New York’s 14th Street in 1960, has now become the largest Spanish-language bookstore online offering a shopping experience for kids and adults in Spanish.