I’ve officially become a presenter with the Children’s Literacy Foundation! Their mission is to “inspire a love of reading and writing among low-income, at-risk, and rural children up to age 12 throughout New Hampshire and Vermont,” and I LOVE it! I’ve already gotten to visit two summer programs, Green Mountain Camp for Girls and the Title 1 Summer School program in Swanzey, NH. At Green Mountain Camp for Girls, we talked about persistence, running with your passion & how sometimes you find out you’re stronger than you thought. And at the summer program in Swanzey I got to talk about THE BENEFITS OF BEING AN OCTOPUS for the first time. This was my message:
1) Recognize your superpowers,
2) Name the obstacles in your path,
3) Find the courage to raise your voice,
4) Team up with allies who listen and support you!
In the book, the main character Zoey uses a Sharpie to give herself her own octopus tattoo to remind herself of her inner strength, and I was excited to give these kids their own temporary octopus tattoos to help THEM remind themselves of their own inner strength. One girl told me that she’s going to save her tattoo for when her cat dies so that it can help her remember to be strong!
What a fast and furious — and fabulous — #MGBookChat we had last night on Twitter. I had the privilege of co-hosting it with Susan Sullivan, and we focused on the topic of “Building Book Access in Book Deserts.” If you missed it, here are some of the highlights!
I am so excited about this book trailer that students at Brattleboro Area Middle School put together for The Benefits of Being an Octopus. To celebrate, I’m giving away one advanced reader copy of my book! If you’re on Twitter, here’s the tweet with the details. If you’re not on Twitter, leave a comment below if you’d like to be entered into the giveaway. I’ll pull a winner on July 1st.
#KidsNeedBooks Is Evolving to #KidsNeedBooks AND #KidsNeedMentors! We’re thrilled that authors & educators are teaming up to help students learn to love reading & writing. Building relationship between authors and classrooms can be so powerful. Imagine a book delivery from an author in the fall, staying in touch throughout the school year (via postcards or e-mail or Flipgrid), and a Skype classroom visit (or maybe even an in-person visit) in the spring. Kristin Crouch, Kristen Picone, Jarrett Lerner, and I are excited to help make this happen. We’ll be piloting a #KidsNeedMentors program this year, and we’d love for you to be part of it!
AUTHORS: If you’re interested in being part of this, please fill out the Author Sign-Up Form. We’ll contact you over the summer to let you know who you are partnering with for the year. Thank you for being willing to participate!
EDUCATORS: THANK YOU FOR THE AMAZING INTEREST! WE CAPPED OUR PROGRAM AT 300 EDUCATOR SLOTS, BUT YOU CAN SIGN ON TO THE WAITLIST HERE.
We’ll be limited in how many connections we can foster, based upon the number of authors that sign up, but we are dedicated to making as many connections as possible. (Please note that Title 1 Schools will get preference.) We will contact you with more information sometime over the summer. Thank you!
We know it can take a village to help students develop a love of reading and writing. Here’s to coming together as a village and reaching as many students as we can.
Wow! What an incredible past few weeks it’s been. Since I wrote my first post about #KidsNeedBooks, hundreds of books have gotten into kids’ hands thanks to the generosity of over 85 authors, and giveaways are still going on. Check out this great article in School Library Journal about the movement!
We’re excited to keep this going, too. There are still some giveaways being offered (use the hashtag #KidsNeedsBooks to find them). We’re also hoping to to broaden out the program to foster real relationships between authors and under-resourced schools.
We’re hoping to build a list of all the organizations that currently offer books to schools that need them. If you know about a book donation program, will you add them using this Google Form? (You can see organizations listed so far here.) This way we’ll have a better sense of how to best help, and it’ll be easier for teachers and librarians to know what opportunities are available.
If you have ideas for other ways to get books into kids’ hand, will you share them in the comments? So far on Twitter, we’ve seen some inventive ideas like the book drive that librarian Jill Dodge organized to give the kids who qualify for free-and-reduced the chance to go book shopping during lunch, the school-wide Book Swap that Laura Mossa is organizing, and the school in Canada that collected books from families and donated over 2,000 books to nearby schools that needed books last year. It would be wonderful if we could all share ideas with each other.
I’m so thankful to all the authors who are helping to make this happen…Jarret Lerner, Intisar Khanani, and so many others. And I’m thankful for all of the teachers and librarians who are such champions for their students that online advocating for them!
Let’s all stay connected, and let’s all keep working to help kids have access to good books!
Exciting News! My pre-order campaign launches today! Not only do pre-orders play a key role in a book’s success, but when you pre-order THE BENEFITS OF BEING AN OCTOPUS from Bartleby’s Books, you…
1) Support a fabulous independent bookstore
2) Get a signed, personalized copy
3) Get a pair of super cool octopus tattoos, AND
4) Support the Women’s Freedom Center!
For every pre-ordered copy, $1 will be donated to this amazing organization of fearless women working to create a society where violence is no longer tolerated. (Plus, I’m also excited to be partnering with the Women’s Freedom Center for an awesome launch party in September, so stay tuned for dates!)
A few weeks ago, the brilliant Donalyn Miller published a #NerdyBookClub post that highlighted a simple but powerful truth: kids need books. I’m a former middle school teacher, so I know how many obstacles can stand in a teacher’s path, and how many teachers push forward anyway determined to support their students with whatever resources they have. And I also know how hard it can be for many kids to have access to new books.
So, when I lucked into a bag of new middle grade books at a Vermont Library Conference this past Friday, it made sense to post of picture of them on Twitter and offer them to a classroom that needed them — especially because I know there are teachers who are hoping to send each child home with a book at the end of the school year.
But what I didn’t expect (although, in retrospect, I should have) was the response. There are SO MANY teachers who are passionate advocates for their students, working to support them as readers and eager to place these books into their hands. And THEN, author Jarrett Lerner decided to offer a stack of books of his own, and suddenly more and more authors and other book-lovers were following suit offering their own stacks of books! As of right now there are over 50 separate stacks of books being be given away, so we can reach over 50 different classrooms!!
Yes, we need the institutional change that will recenter the needs of students and the voices of teachers in decision-making about school budgets, but in the meantime, let’s bring together those of us who love books and love kids and figure out the best way to make sure as many students as possible have access to books this summer. As one teacher said of her student who lives with her family in a motel told her, “In the summer I turn into something I don’t like because I have nothing to do.” I know that there are so many kids just like her, and I am so incredibly grateful to all the authors who have stepped up with such generosity of spirit so that we can reach as many classrooms as possible and give those kids the books they need.
There are several giveaways still underway (I’ll link to them at the bottom, so you can make sure you’ve entered), but I wanted to announce the first round of winners! If you won, please contact me with your mailing address, and I’ll ensure your stack of books gets to you and your students!
First Round of Winners!
Ann Braden’s original set of books goes to….Elizabeth (@elizkyser)!
Ann Braden’s 2nd set of books goes to…. Bonnie Belsinger (@belsinger)!
Augusta Scattergood’s MG set of books goes to…. Lori Barber (@barberchicago)!
Augusta Scattergood’s YA set of books goes to…. Kristen (@Eatbooks4brkfst)!
Marie Cruz’s first stack goes to…Susan Roberts (@quiltmom5600)!
Marie Cruz’s second stack goes to…Emily Golightly (@emilygolightly3)!
Anita Silvey’s three stacks go to… Adison Godfrey (@adisonhaleyy), Alexis Ennis (@Mrs_EnnisOMS), & Donna Miller (@DonnaMiller44)!
Mae Respicio’s stack goes to…. Sarah Williams (@teacherSarah21)!
Paula Chase’s MG stack goes to… Mary Thomas (@msmarythomas)!
Paula Chase’s YA stack goes to… Dani Fouser (@drfouser)!
Congratulations to the winners! I hope your students love their books!
If you didn’t win, don’t give up! There are plenty of giveaways still going on. Here’s a list of all the other authors who have offered up books and haven’t yet chosen their winner, so they’re still time to enter!
(And of course, given the way this movement has been spreading, there might be more giveaways coming, so use the hashtag #KidsNeedBooks to keep track of new ones.)
My column in the Brattleboro Reformer this month examines the role that honesty plays in our ability to cross divides, whether it’s a class divide, a racial divide, or if it’s about guns, a theme that run through The Benefits of Being an Octopus. I also had the chance to talk with Olga Peters on WKVT-Green Mountain Mornings Radio on this topic, and I’ll include the link below.
We have to believe that a less divided society is possible.
Ann Braden: Crossing our divides, one honest word at a time
By Ann Braden
Usually divisive issues are the last thing people want to talk about. For example, the class divide is at the root of so many stresses and conflicts in our society, but in our regular interactions class is rarely outwardly acknowledged, let alone discussed. Fortunately, the group Act for Social Justice is working to change that one conversation at a time.
For several years they’ve been offering a series of Cross-Class Dialogue Circles, and I’m currently participating in one in Bellows Falls. In the circle not only are we exploring the way class shapes our lives and build walls between people, but we’re practicing talking about it across class lines so that we can find ways to take down those walls.
Just the simple act of talking about something — especially something that’s often considered taboo — is powerful.
Kiran at the National Muslim Women’s Summit at Harvard University
I recently had the opportunity to interview high school senior Kiran Waqar for a children’s book podcast I’m starting with Pakistani American author Saadia Faruqi called “Lifelines: Books That Bridge the Divide.” Thinking back about growing up in South Burlington, Kiran said, “I desperately tried to be white but obviously I was brown, obviously I was different ” It was when she came together with three other friends to form the slam poetry group called Muslim Girls Making Change that she stopped running away from conversations about racism. She explains, “Being able to go up on a stage with other people who understood where I was coming from really gave me the courage to say, ‘Okay, I’m not alone in this. There are other people who are just like me.’ Because if no one talks about this, then we’re all just hiding in the dark, and it’s time to come into the light. There’s so much more out there than being scared of your brown skin.”
Every time I have gotten to watch Muslim Girls Making Change perform I have left inspired by their bravery–and breathless at the power of words spoken with such clarity and truth.
Lucky for us, Muslim Girls Making Change will be performing at the Boys and Girls Club as part of the Brattleboro Literary Festival’s second annual teen poetry slam, “Poetry, Prose & Pizza Slam” on Saturday April 21, at 8 p.m. In addition, earlier that day, Muslim Girls Making Change will be leading a workshop.
Even on the divisive issue of guns, people (and teens in particular) have found ways to speak about their aching need for safety and to bridge cultural divides.
We have all seen the inspiring videos of teens speaking at walkouts around the region and the country and at the Marches for Our Lives, but I want to talk about some of the students who aren’t at the microphone.
Two days ago, I had the opportunity to lead a workshop about finding common ground on the issue of guns at Rutland High School.
The students represented the full range of opinions on the issue, and together we discussed what they perceived to be the main talking points on each side.
We discussed the deep beliefs and emotions at the root of each side and looked for similarities.
And then, we brainstormed statements that represent the common ground between them.
As a group they ultimately offered up the shared desire for safety and the need to keep guns out of dangerous hands as a place of common ground.
The world of online comments might be ferocious right now, but here in this classroom, the conversation was thoughtful, honest, and filled me with hope. At the end when we went around the circle to capture the students’ final thoughts, the word that came up most was “unity.”
At the Cross Class Dialogue Circle, working together on an activity that explored the dynamics of inequity and division.
We have been conditioned to see the divides between us more than the similarities that bind us. But the right words make it possible to bring down those barriers.
In my first Cross Class Dialogue Circle the facilitators had us share the story of our experience with class before the age of 12, a time in each of our lives when we basically didn’t have control about where or how we were living. Those stories immediately highlighted each person’s empathy and vulnerability. Even though the 15 of us represent nearly every segment of economic class, when we sat in the circle together we were simply all human.
April 12, 2018: Ann Braden discusses her new podcast. Braden co-hosts ‘Lifelines: Books that Bridge the Divide’ with Saadia Faruqi. Braden also shares her thoughts on Vermont passing new gun legislation.
I recently teamed up with independent bookseller Nancy Braus and children’s librarians Lindsay Bellville and Paige Martin to offer a series of book talks featuring great books that have strong girls as main characters. The group of us all have different taste, so it was super fun to combine our lists together and offer a broad range of girl-powered books.