Sparks are Flying!

It’s here. It’s finally here. We’ve blogged about it, hosted giveaways about it, and generally geeked out about it, but the wait is over. Catching Fire is now available at booksellers (and libraries) everywhere.

Judging by some of the blogs we’ve seen, and by the awesome fan videos you made, we’re not the only ones. Time recently wrote a wonderful review of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire and noted how the popularity of the series is really, um, catching fire:

It inspires in readers a kind of zeal I haven’t seen since the early days of Twilight. Stephen King is a major fan. So is Stephenie Meyer.

And so are we. In fact, I’m on my second reading of Catching Fire right now. But Tyler has the best bragging rights at OOM, because he got to meet Suzanne Collins during her recent visit to Scholastic:

Suzanne Collins is also featured in today’s USA Today, where she talks about Katniss’s boy troubles, her inspiration for the series, and -gasp – Book 3.

Giveaway alert: We’re giving away a hot-off-the-presses, brand-spanking-new, SIGNED copy of Catching Fire to one lucky reader! And 5 runners-up will win their very own mockingjay pins – perfect for sprucing up a backpack, decorating a bulletin board, or rebelling against the Capitol.

To enter: Leave a comment on this post below and answer the eternal question: Team Peeta or Team Gale? We’ll choose a winner at 5 PM (ET) on Wednesday, September 2.

Previously On Our Minds:

* An Early Glimpse of Catching Fire
*Catching Fire ARC Contest Update
* Hunger Games Tastes the Thrill of Victory


Back to School with 5 Questions: Word Families

We have a couple more great minds to share in our Back to School video series. Today we’re happy to introduce Lisa Fitzgerald McKeon, classroom teacher, reading specialist and author of 20 Week-by-Week Word Family Packets.

Ms. McKeon gave a fabulous presentation during our Teacher Appreciation Week earlier this month. We spoke with her afterwards and asked her not one, not two, but 5 questions! Take it away, Lisa!


Previously On Our Minds:

* Human Families
* Word(Girl) games
* What the heck is a flaindle?

What were your favorite books from school?

I remember not liking The Scarlet Letter very much when it was assigned to me in English class in high school.

I don’t remember exactly why, but I assume my disinterest was due to a combination of factors: it being quite a long book, my being overwhelmed by many other school assignments and feeling as though I’d have to speed-read through it — and probably that I just didn’t “get it” at the time.

I admit (and I hope my English teacher isn’t reading this), I probably stopped reading it after about 100 pages and then eked out a mediocre grade on the test because I paid attention to class discussions. This happened with several books I had to read in high school.

On the other hand, I LOVED The Grapes of Wrath, another monumentally long book that I have since re-read. To Kill a Mockingbird I read in 9th grade, and I enjoyed it so much I went back my senior year to write a term paper on it. Ernest Hemingway might be my all time favorite author.

I bring this up because there’s a nifty little article in this month’s Scholastic Instructor magazine about “the new middle school canon.” And it offers up examples of “classics” that still resonate to students, and some that often don’t and maybe should be replaced with newer titles in classrooms.

The article suggests possibly cycling out books like Lord of the Flies, and including future classics like The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie or Monster by Walter Dean Myers.

What’s the point of this post, Tyler?

I have two I want to make:

1) “To each his (or her) own.” There are no books that we have to like just because others say so. I felt guilty in high school for not wanting to finish The Scarlet Letter. Now I know it’s OK. There are tons of other books out there that I love. And there are plenty of people who I know enjoy The Scarlet Letter. There’s a book out there for everyone.

2) There are tons of books written in the last few years that should be used in English classes now. (See Instructor article for examples) There needs to be a mix between classics and modern lit — and there ought to be more choice, so students can find and choose books they enjoy. That’s how you inspire kids to read. IMHO…

UPDATE (8/31/09): The New York Times published a great story on Sunday — part of Motoko Rich’s “The Future of Reading” series — about many teachers turning away from “assigning” books and giving students more choice in reading classes. Definitely worth a read!

Question of the day: What is one book that you LOVED from middle or high school, and one that you DIDN’T?

News for kids, by kids!

After a summer of excellent blogging from Canada to Costa Rica, from lakes and beaches to Niagara Falls, the Scholastic Kid Reporters are going back to school with a brand new web site!

The Scholastic Kids Press Corps kicks it all off with a back to school special report and interviews with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan AND his favorite teacher Ms. McCampbell, plus swine flu prevention, first-person reports from new schools and more.

I, for one, think the site looks great and am going to use this platform to give a big shout-out to our team who worked so hard putting it all together. Thanks, Russell, Chris, Morgan and Miles!

Remembering Senator Kennedy

The OOM team woke, along with the rest of the world, to the sad news that Senator Edward Kennedy had passed away during the night.

With a 47-year career in the United States Senate, there were hundreds of pieces of legislation that bore the Senator’s name, but it was his role as a passionate, vocal proponent of America’s schools and America’s kids that held such power for us.

In July of 2004, Scholastic Kid Reporter Alexandra Conway interviewed Senator Kennedy, and asked him how he would like to be remembered.

“I want to be remembered as someone who helped children, someone who cares for children,” he said. “Children need good schools to go to, a place to live, good food to eat. The most important thing for children is to have a good education.”

From school desegregation to No Child Left Behind, Head Start to Serve America, Title I to Children’s Health Insurance, early childhood education to student loan programs, Senator Kennedy was a constant champion of equity and access for all children. As Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, his work on education had an unwavering goal…to ensure that every child in America had access to the best education possible. A daunting project—-and one that only “The Lion of the Senate” could have undertaken.

At Scholastic, we were lucky enough to work with Senator Kennedy on a very different kind of project—his children’s book, My Senator and Me, which explains, through the eyes of the Senator’s dog Splash, how a bill becomes a law. Cheryl Klein, the editor of the book, wrote a wonderful essay on her experiences working with the Senator, meeting Splash (and his baby sister, Sunny), and making the book. We think it is fitting to share it with you today.

Photo Credit: Mark Bugnaski. © 2004 Family of Edward M. Kennedy

Homework Hub Hubbub

For kids and parents alike, going back to school means the return of (drumroll, please) … homework!

But check it out. Scholastic has a great online resource called Homework Hub, which helps kids develop better homework skills like studying, organizing and researching.

In fact, our Chief Academic Officer Francie Alexander was just interviewed about homework and the Hub by the LoveToKnow web site. Read all about it — including tips for parents and links to study break activities — here.

Back to School with 5 Questions: Learning to Read

Of course we at OOM think reading is fun, but today’s Teaching Resources expert thinks learning to read is fun too. Former teacher and administrator (and current grandma) Shelley Harwayne gave a fantastic presentation during our Teacher Appreciation Week at The Scholastic Store. Shelley’s book Look Who’s Learning to Read: 50 Fun Ways to Instill a Love of Reading in Young Children gave her plenty of fodder for the workshop and for 5 Questions.


Previously On Our Minds:

* Back to School with 5 Questions: Move it!
* Phonics is Fun!
* Thoughts on Reading in the Digital Domain