Make reading a habit and you’ll lead a better life

That’s the gist of what we were psyched to see Jay Mathews of the Washington Post say in this column about the power of books.

He references a study that came out this Spring (one we blogged about at the time) showing that children who grow up in homes filled with books tend to achieve higher education levels than those who weren’t so lucky. And he uses his wife as an example of someone who, in part by making reading a habit, succeeded academically and professionally.
“These book habits, as many parents know, never go away. We shampooed the carpets at our house this month, forcing me to move many volumes so the cleaners could get under the bookcases. It nearly killed me, but when Linda and I see books also piling up in the homes of our children, we know it is worth the effort.”

Was reading a habit for you when you were a child? Do you think that helped you lead a better life?

(Photo credit: Flickr photo by chego101)

—Previously On Our Minds:

Hungry for Mockingjay giveaways?

On Monday, August 2nd, we’re launching the Hunger Games 13 District Blog Tour, hosted by some of your favorite book bloggers. Each blogger will run a contest for fans to win game-changing, custom Hunger Games prizes exclusive to each blog stop. We’re as excited about this as Galleysmith, representing District 1! To learn more about the tour and prizes, join the Scholastic Hunger Games Facebook Page. The full blog tour is listed below and on Facebook.

Now, for our giveaway: Tell us in the comments below how you plan to “get hungry” for the release of Mockingjay and we’ll select a winner at random on August 20, 2010. If you’re the lucky winner, we’ll ship you a copy of Mockingjay so that you’ll have it at your doorstep the morning of August 24! For a little inspiration, we sent OOM bloggers Amanda and Tyler to “get hungry” at our “HG Training Center” where they worked on physical skills necessary for survival if they plan to return to the Arena in Mockingjay

Inspired? You bet! (*Whew* I’m a little exhausted just watching them…) Now it’s your turn: Tell us how you’ll “get hungry” for the final book in The Hunger Games trilogy and you’ll be entered for a chance to win.

You must be 18 or over to enter. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. U.S. only, void where prohibited. Read the official rules here.

13 DISTRICT BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE:

District 1 Galleysmith August 2

District 2 Sci Fi Guy August 4

District 3 WORD for Teens August 6

District 4 GreenBeanTeenQueen August 9

District 5 Dear Author August 11

District 6 Hey Lady August 13

District 7 Novel Novice August 16

District 8 Jenn’s Bookshelves August 18

District 9 The Compulsive Reader August 20

District 10 Presenting Lenore August 23

District 11 Mundie Moms August 25

District 12 The Book Smugglers August 27

District 13 Beth Fish Reads August 30

UPDATE: We picked our winner! Congratulations to DarcyO! We’ll reach out to her shortly so we can ship her a copy of Mockingjay on Monday!


Previously On Our Minds:
* If Katniss had a theme song…
* Hunger Games alert: Watch the Mockingjay trailer and join the HG Facebook Page!
* The Hunger Games: now’s the time to get caught up!

Can single-gender schools revive public education?

We thought we’d share some thoughts today from Carolyn Kaemmer, one of the brilliant folks blogging over on Scholastic’s “Math Hub” blog. She’s wondering what you think about the emerging trend of single-gender public schools… If you’re interested in education, math, or technology in schools, we encourage you to head on over to “Math Hub” — or subscribe by RSS!

I was a reserved but enthusiastic nine-year-old when my parents decided to send me to a private all-girls school rather than back to the local public school. We had strong public schools in our town, and I had always liked the elementary school I attended. I suspect their primary motivation was to increase my self-confidence and outspokenness in the classroom in the absence of boys.

There is ongoing debate about the merits and drawbacks of single-gender education, especially as it enters the realm of public schools. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the Pittsburgh Public Schools plan to open two single-gender high school programs this coming year, but the initiative faces strong opposition. Single-gender education can offer a more focused classroom environment free of the social pressures and distractions provided by the opposite sex. On the other hand, a single-sex classroom is not a real-world environment, and students may miss out on learning some important social skills.

In an educational system in which students are so often categorized—by RTI tier, income level, race, English proficiency, and now gender—differentiating instruction and closing the achievement gap clearly take precedence. But is classifying students really that simple? Perhaps each student’s needs are more complex and personal than these categories reveal. While single-gender education certainly has its benefits (and I, for one, loved my experience), it offers only one remedy for our struggling students. How can we provide individualized attention and support necessary in order to help every student succeed?

(Photo credit: Flickr photo by woodleywonderworks)

—Previously On Our Minds:

Librarians do Gaga

It’s no secret that here at OOM, we think librarians are their own brand of awesome. I am, of course, very biased in this view. That’s why when this video appeared in my inbox I couldn’t help but share it here with all of you. There are librarians, future librarians, shelves stacked high with books…and Lady Gaga! What’s not to love?? Enjoy!


Previously On Our Minds:
* What should you read next?
* Off to the library
* ACCESS GRANTED: 39 days until the final book in The 39 Clues

Scholastic Facebook fans help donate 30,000 books to K.I.D.S. with more on the way!

It’s simple: Become a fan of our Facebook page by clicking “Like” and we’ll donate a book on your behalf to Kids in Distressed Situations (K.I.D.S.) until September 1, 2010 – up to 100,000 books!

Today we surpassed the 30k mark! Thanks to 30,025 of our fans so far, we’ve locked down 30,025 books ready to go to kids in need. If you’re already a fan then we can’t thank you enough and hope that you’ll share this great campaign with all of your Facebook friends.

We still have a ways to go before we reach our goal of 100,000 books. But you know the saying: go big or go home. So help us rally!

If you’re not yet a fan…Here are the ingredients that make our Page so awesome:
– Comments and discussions from fans who love books and education
– Daily posts from the awesome OOM blog (the one you’re reading now)
– Updates on hot topics such as
o Scholastic authors
o new books for kids and young adults
o literacy champions
o publishing and education news
o Scholastic’s upcoming 90th Anniversary
Harry Potter trivia, polls, and artwork
Scholastic Summer Challenge badges for parents and teachers

You can become a fan just by clicking the “Like” button on the Facebook box at the right side of this blog post. Or stop by and say hi on Facebook.com – we really appreciate your support!


Previously On Our Minds:
* Hunger Games alert: Watch the Mockingjay trailer and join the HG Facebook Page!
* Scholastic donates one new book on behalf of each Scholastic Facebook fan
* LA Times notes Scholastic’s inroads into Arabic children’s book market

Help! I think I got some Ook in my Gluk…

Hey, remember George Beard and Harold Hutchins?

They’re two fourth graders who accidentally created a new superhero named Captain Underpants when they hypnotized their principal. (I know! It’s crazy! Funny! Brilliant!) Now, in a brand-new graphic novel, they’re presenting another appropriately-wacky story about two kung-fu cavemen named Ook and Gluk who are growing up in Cleveland, Ohio. (Or rather, what was Cleveland, Ohio, 500,000 years ago. I’m guessing it wasn’t yet known as Cleveland back then.)

Dav Pilkey is the creator of the award-winning Captain Underpants series, and now, The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future! It’s written through the eyes of George and Harold and follows two cavemen who are pulled through a time portal into the year 2222, where they get trained in the ways of kung fu so they can go back to their world and defeat the evil villains. Back when we first posted the news, a faithful OOM reader asked us to remind you all when the book was being released, and we like to make good on our word — so consider this your official reminder!

The book will be in stores on August 10, but until then, we thought we’d hold you over with some exclusive comments from Pilkey himself. (You can also check out what Publishers Weekly had to say when the news broke.)

Where did you get the idea for Ook and Gluk?
Pilkey: I got the idea from something that my editor, Bonnie Verburg, had witnessed firsthand when she was visiting her son’s kindergarten class one day.

This particular day was “show and tell” day, and Bonnie’s son, Robbie, had brought an actual dinosaur tooth to show his class. Robbie told everyone how old the tooth was, and what kind of dinosaur it had come from. He told them how he told them how big the dinosaur was, what it ate, and he even knew where the tooth had been dug up. It was the best show-and-tell anyone (including the teacher) had ever seen. This was bad news for the next kid in line for show-and-tell that day.

This unfortunate kid didn’t have anything cool to show the classroom and he knew it. All he had was a little toy ambulance. But instead of admitting defeat, he marked up to the front of the room and started making up a tall tale.

He told his fellow kindergartners that his toy ambulance was very special. In fact, it was a prehistoric ambulance that was millions and millions of years old. The boy told about the ancient cavemen who used to drive that particular ambulance through the jungle when they took sick dinosaurs to the hospital. I think a lot of the kids believed him.

Bonnie told me this story one day, and it just kind of stuck with me. That day, I drew a picture of two caveman paramedics and named them “Ook” and “Gluk.”

I thought it seemed like a great idea for a book.

Are Ook and Gluk similar to George and Harold, the protagonists from the Captain Underpants books?
Pilkey: Actually, yes. I pretended that George and Harold were writing the book, and so the story is really seen through their eyes. I think Ook and Gluk are powerful, fantasy versions of what George and Harold wish they could be like.

Will there be more Captain Underpants books in the future?
Pilkey: Of course! I’m working on a new one as we speak!

If you haven’t seen Pilkey’s web site yet, you’re missing out — there are tons of games, polls, quizzes, artwork, and more!

We know there are lots of stories out there about reluctant readers who’ve found reason to keep reading thanks to the Captain Underpants books. If you have one, we’d love to hear it!


Previously On Our Minds:
* Captain Underpants returns!
* What kinds of books do boys like?
* “Whatever it takes”

Summertime is Harry Potter time

I’m going to recommend something that will not come as a surprise to you: Re-read your favorite Harry Potter book this summer. My advice is if you or your kids plan to read every day, then read something you love. Whichever book in the series you pick, there’s no better time to read Harry Potter than now as we all head out on road trips and family vacations.

Two weeks ago, I re-read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and it was even better this time around! I rushed through the first reading in 2007 after all the built-up excitement, midnight parties, and of course, I didn’t want anyone to spoil the ending for me! But reading it again really helped me focus more on the characters’ emotions and less on the plot itself. So much so that I was that person who was crying in public as I read the last few chapters in various locations around NYC…

It’s also the perfect time to reacquaint yourself with the HP gang or to start reading the series because there are a LOT of exciting Harry Potter things to watch out for, including Harry’s birthday on Saturday, July 31! Then of course, part 1 of the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows movie is (sort of) right around the corner. I, for one, get giddy every time I see anything Harry Potter as a trending topic on Twitter – you know you do too!

Scholastic’s Harry Potter website is also revealing a new spell for younger first-time Harry Potter readers. Moody’s Trunk, the fourth spell on the site allows users to test their knowledge by following logical clues, which lead the users to open the magical trunk. Each time users succeed in opening the trunk, they’ll be able to hear a Q&A led by J.K. Rowling. But the only way to hear more than one Q&A is by playing the game again.

The Harry Potter website at Scholastic is full of activities for readers of all ages and I could definitely kill some serious time on the site. If you’re a…

  • First year at Hogwarts? You’ll want to get sorted into a House first so take the personality quiz. And you might want to try your hand at wand practice, creature creator, transfiguration and even Moody’s Trunk.

  • Fifth year at Hogwarts? Then you may want to start preparing for your O.W.L. exams by brushing up on the terms of glossary that list out every spell.
  • Seventh year or Prefect? Then, you probably think you know everything there is to know! Well, better take all the quizzes to make sure you’re truly prepared to enter the wizarding world.

We hope you have a great summer with Harry and the gang. We’d love to hear from you if you’re re-reading any books this summer and what your experience has been like in the comments below!


Previously On Our Minds:
* Summer fun: Nonfiction edition
* The Real Magic of Harry Potter arrives today!
* A new Harry Potter experience for a new generation of readers