Happy Birthday, Harry!

Today, the OOM team is celebrating in style–we’ve got our Sorting Hats on and our wands out, and we’re all quietly humming Happy Birthday…in honor of our favorite boy wizard (and his creator)!

Today is Harry Potter’s Birthday!

Longing for the days when you could celebrate Harry’s birthday with him? At the Hut-on-the-Rock when he finally gets to read his Hogwarts letter? When Hagrid gives Harry Hedwig as a present? When Harry receives his first Sneakoscope from Ron? When Harry has his first birthday party–in the Burrow? Or even (*gasp!*) when Ginny kisses Harry as a birthday present?

Who says you can’t have those days back? Give yourself a present by heading on over to Galleysmith and joining the Harry Potter Reading Challenge! Read all seven books again before July 31, 2010 and earn serious bragging rights (and the chance to win cool prizes)!

As for Sneakoscopes, Broomstick Servicing Kits and Fabian Prewett’s gold watch, I’m afraid you’re out of luck…those presents are strictly for wizards.

Previously On Our Minds:
* Read about Daniel Radcliffe’s interview with a Scholastic Kid Reporter
* Check out this exclusive video footage from the launch of The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Summer reading: 64 million minutes!

We’ve been gearing up for the Scholastic Summer Challenge since back in January, but it’s hard for me to believe that summer is two-thirds over! Still, nearly 60,000 kids across the country are reading like crazy: they’re up to 64 million minutes read and there’s one more month left to go. (Hark, is that the sound of the summer slide halting?)

If you haven’t seen the Scholastic Summer Challenge web site yet, check it out at www.scholastic.com/summer, especially if you know a young reader looking for something to do in August. Did I mention the kid-authored book reviews and fun videos?

The Summer Challenge serves more than one good cause too– at the end of the summer, Scholastic will make a financial contribution to Save the Children’s U.S. Programs on behalf of all the participating readers and the winning team gets to vote on a specific issue that will receive an extra donation of books. Win-win.

BTW, if you’re a parent, Spanish-speaking parent, or an educator, there are summer reading resources for you too.

The 39 Clues: The Hunt Continues!

The hunt is most definitely on! – The 39 Clues continues to be a global sensation, as hundreds of thousands of kids around the world have read The New York Times bestselling multi-media book series and joined the online hunt for The 39 Clues. I can happily report that more than 560,000 kids have registered online to digitize cards, play games and earn points, and yesterday we announced the third round of cash prizes, totaling $8,150 and won by 66 lucky children. Over the course of the two-year 10 book series, $125,000 in prizes will be awarded, and kids ages 6-14 (as of December 31, 2008) can enter to join the hunt at anytime and win prizes – so what are you waiting for?

Kyla, a 10 year old girl from Atlanta, was this round’s big winner, taking home a whopping $1000 just for playing the game!

“I love when I get missions. They are so fun to complete and you get a clue at the end!” said Kyla, age 10, who won $1,000 as the first prize winner of the Book #3 Episode Contest. “I know I played on the site a lot, but I did not know I played on it enough to win!” Kyla also identifies with The 39 Clues heroine Amy Cahill – “She is more like me. A little shy, careful, and cautious, but overall a nice girl.”

But there’s much more to The 39 Clues than the books, cards, and game. With a plot that’s steeped in history and geography, The 39 Clues is also a powerful educational resource. Check out how one teacher is using The 39 Clues as a classroom tool (and winning awards for his work): click here to watch.

And we’ll be releasing the next book in the series, Book 5: The Black Circle by Patrick Carman on August 11th, so keep an eye out for it at your local library/bookstore!

Thoughts on teaching global awareness

A few weeks ago, I visited an incredible charter school in Brooklyn called Eagle Academy. The 1-year-old, all-boys school is in a particularly gritty section of the borough called Brownsville — an area where dropout and incarceration rates are particularly high — and school leaders have ambitious and inspiring goals of turning some of New York’s most at-risk students into the leaders of the future.

Founded by the group 100 Black Men of America, Eagle Academy (and it’s twin school in the Bronx) has an extended-day schedule, keeping students in school until the late afternoon for enrichment programs and on Saturdays as well. The curriculum focuses heavily on the importance of literacy and reading, the goal being to help struggling readers accellerate their learning and catch up quickly. I could go on…

The reason I bring this up now, however, is because of one particular thing the principal said that morning that popped back into my mind this afternoon. One of the goals of the school, he said (and I think I’m paraphrasing here), is to help students become “community-focused and globally-aware.” Many of the students who attend Eagle Academy (and other inner-city schools across the country) have very little experience of the world outside of their neighborhood, and the school tries to help students think about content from those two perspectives.

(Check out this New York Times story about Eagle Academy students reflecting on the significance of last year’s Presidential election.)

I read a great post this morning by Marc Aronson, who blogs about non-fiction for School Library Journal, about the importance of seeing the world from different perspectives. And it got me thinking about how that fits into what happens (or needs to happen) in schools.

How does a student who’s never been more than 10 blocks away from his family’s apartment learn about the world and find relevance in it?

Two obvious answers pop into my mind (and I know this only scratches the surface):
1) Access to books, magazines, etc., plays a huge part. Children who don’t have those things are at an immediate disadvantage.
2) Same goes for technology — and that’s especially important in the 21st Century. It helps us collaborate on projects, it helps us communicate efficiently and across borders, it helps us sort and filter information, and it helps us personalize our learning. It must be integrated into learning at all levels.

Written into our Credo here at Scholastic is a line that says one of our goals is this: “To enlarge students’ concern for and understanding of today’s world.”

I can’t help but think the folks who wrote that decades ago had schools like Eagle Academy in mind…

SCHL Earnings

Scholastic’s fourth quarter earnings were announced last week, and you won’t be surprised to hear that we’re pretty happy with the news.

Growth in profit & cash flow for fiscal year 2010 is forecast, and our Education division announced that its earnings in the first seven weeks of the quarter are up 40% over last year (it seems like school districts are finally seeing their stimulus dollars!).

But don’t just take our word for it. Here’s a sampling of the media coverage on the announcement.

From Business Week: Scholastic Corp. books 4Q profit as losses ease… Book publisher Scholastic Corp. said Thursday it returned to profitability in the fourth-quarter, primarily because it had fewer losses to write off than it did a year ago.

From Publishers Weekly: Scholastic Weathers Tough Fiscal 2009; Optimistic on 2010…The publisher has begun fiscal 2010 as a streamlined company that is well positioned to improve profits and cash flow, Scholastic chairman Dick Robinson said.

Visit Google News for more.

OOM Gets One More Mind!

Big news in the OOMosphere today – we’ve got ourselves a new blogger!

Meet Ivy Li:
Ivy is our digital publicist, and she loves social media (obviously). We asked Ivy to answer 5 quick questions to introduce herself:

What is a digital publicist?
Hi! My name is Ivy and I am the digital publicist at Scholastic and newest member to the OOM blog. My job involves everything from tweeting on our Twitter account @Scholastic to working closely with the blogging and online media communities to helping execute our overall social media strategy. While I am part of the fabulous Corporate Communications team here on OOM, I also work with many of the other divisions in the company to make sure we’re engaging you on whichever social network you find us!

My three favorite Web sites are:
www.Bit.ly – I always use this URL shortening Web site that not only shortens your URL to only 19 characters, but allows you to track them in one place and monitor how many clicks each shortened URL gets.

www.DailyLit.com – I like to send free or purchased installments of my favorite books to be my email for daily reads on-the-go. 1) Find a book 2) Enter your e-mail 3) Click subscribe. Take part in the discussion forums, write reviews, manage a book list and give DailyLit books as gifts. There are lots of great books for free!

www.LifeBooker.com – I try to book all hair and skin treatments hours before the appointment at 50% off the regular price. It’s like the practicality of OpenTable.com mixed with the discounts of Amazon.com but for your pores and hair!

Favorite recent viral video:
Fellow OOM Blogger Sarah sent this YouTube video “Ron,” to me last week. It’s from the film set of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” (Not a spoiler so you can watch without covering your eyes.) My favorite part: Ron’s “silver” eye lashes!

Why should companies care about social media?
Companies should care about social media because it’s a great way to give a face and voice to your company. It’s also an excellent way to engage in conversations with your audience and to learn from them! Remember – the digital conversation is happening right now (yes, this very second!) with or without you. You can either take the opportunity and really be a part of the discussion or ignore what your audience is saying. Then again, how well did not listening work out for everyone when Harry said Lord Voldemort was back?

What’s on your mind?
Well, you’ve already been let in on one of my secret “mythical” project, other top secret plans include an online video project and the launch of a new website dedicated to new teachers. Keep an eye out for all three launches. Of course, I’ll announce them first on OOM.

Welcome to the team!

Found at BlogHer – #findamanda winners!

One round trip flight to Chicago, one great dinner with the coolest gals in DC, countless panels and sessions, and 500 Scholastic tote bags later, my trip to BlogHer09 has come to an end. It was wonderful to reconnect with the friends I made last year, meet my blogging heroes, and make all kinds of new friends. Thanks to everyone who kept an eye out for #findamanda, and here are the lucky ladies who found me to win!

In addition, we hosted an OOM version of #findamanda for those not attending BlogHer. We asked you to answer the below #findamanda trivia, and readers Deb A., Erica, and Megan T. responded correctly in the fastest time to win Scholastic totes stuffed with swaggy goodness:

  1. In Amanda’s On Our Minds debut, she “reported” on a super-popular Nickelodeon star’s visit to the Scholastic Store in Soho. Name the teen celebrity. (ANSWER: iCarly’s Miranda Cosgrove)
  2. Amanda was welcomed to the OOM team with a hilarious comic. What color shirt is the cartoon Amanda wearing? (ANSWER: Purple)
  3. Amanda was all over this year’s Scholastic Summer Challenge, and we kicked off this year’s summer reading campaign with a live webcast hosted by what prominent children’s author? (ANSWER: Jon Scieszka)

And the bonus question, which no one got correct: What award-winning television show is the OOM team collectively obsessed with? (ANSWER: The West Wing)

Congrats to all!