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    July 11, 2014: Apply for a Thurber House residency!

    Thurber House has a Children’s Writer-in-Residence program for middle-grade authors each year and  guidelines and application form for the 2015 residency were just released.

    This unique residency has been in existence since 2001, offering  an opportunity for authors to have time to work on their writing in a fully furnished apartment, in the historic boyhood home of author and humorist, James Thurber. Deadline is October 31, 2014. For details, go to READ MORE

    July 10, 2014:

    Spread MG books in unexpected places 7/19
    Drop a copy of your own book or of another middle-grade favorite in a public place on July 19 -- and some lucky reader will stumble upon it.
    Ginger Lee Malacko is spearheading this Middle Grade Bookbomb (use the hashtag #mgbookbomb in social media) -- much in the spirit of Operation Teen Book Drop.  Read more ...

June 16, 2014:
Fizz, Boom, Read: Summer reading 2014

Hundreds of public libraries across the U.S. are celebrating reading this summer with  the theme Fizz, Boom, Read! Find out more about this year's collaborative summer reading program and check out suggested booklists and activities. Read more ...
 

April 30, 2014:
Join the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign and help change the world

The conversation on diversity in children's books has grown beyond book creators and gate keepers to readers and book buyers. What can you do? Take part in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign May 1 though 3 on Tumblr and Twitter and in whatever creative ways you can help spread the word to take action. Read more ….

April 11, 2014:
Fall 2014 Children's Sneak Peek
A peek at forthcoming middle grade books (as well as picture books and YA books) in a round-up from Publisher's Weekly. First printed in the February 22 issue, but now available online. Time to add to your to-read list. Read more ...

April 9, 2014:
How many Newbery winners have you read?
You could make a traditional list of all the Newbery Medal Award-winning Children's Books you've read, but there's something so satisfying when you check them off and get a final tally on this BuzzFeed quiz. Read more ...

March 28, 2014:
Middle Grade fiction is hot at 2014 Bologna Children's Book Fair

For the second year in a row, publishers are clamoring for middle-grade, reporters Publishers Weekly. "I’ve been coming [to Bologna] for 12 to 15 years, and I’ve never had as many European publishers asking for middle-grade," said Steven Chudney of the Chudney Agency. Read more ...

February 14, 2014:
Cybils Awards announced
Ultra by David Carroll (Scholastic Canada) wins the Cybil for middle grade fiction; Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Disney Hyperion) wins for Speculative Fiction. Read more.

January 27, 2014: And the Newbery Medal goes to ...
Kate DiCamillo won the Newbery Medal for "Flora & Ulysses"; Rita Williams-Garcia won the Coretta Scott King Author award for "P.S. Be Eleven." Newbery Honor awards to authors Vince Vawter, Amy Timberlake, Kevin Henkes and Holly Black. For all the exciting ALA Youth Media Award News ... READ MORE

November 12, 2013:
Vote in the GoodReads semifinal round

Readers' votes have narrowed the middle-grade semifinals down to 20 titles. Log in to your GoodReads account and vote for your favorite middle-grade (and in other categories, of course). Read more ...

November 9, 2013:
Publishers Weekly Top Children's Books of 2013

Middle-grade and young adult titles selected by the editors of Publishers Weekly as their top picks of the year. Let the season of "top ten books" begin! Read more ...

October 14, 2013:
Middle Shelf: Cool Reads for Kids debuts January 2014

Shelf Media Group, publisher of Shelf Unbound indie book review magazine, will launch a new free digital-only publication for middle-grade readers. The debut issue features interviews with such notable authors as Margaret Peterson Haddix and Chris Grabenstein as well as reviews, excerpts, and more. Middle Shelf will be published bi-monthly beginning in January 2014.
Read more ...

September 19, 2013: Writer-in-Residence program at Thurber House

Dream of time and space to focus on your own writing project? Applications now being accepted (11/1/2013 deadline) for The Thurber House Residency in Children's Literature, a month-long retreat in the furnished third-floor apartment of Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio. Read more ...

September 18, 2013: Vermont College of Fine Arts Scholarship opportunity

Barry Goldblatt Literary launches The Angela Johnson Scholarship, a talent-based grant for writers of color attending the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults program at VCFA. Up to two $5,000 grants will be awarded each year. Read more ....

September 16, 2013:
National Book Awards longlist for youth literature

For the first time, the NBA is presenting lists of 10 books/authors on the longlist in each category. The 2013 young adult literature list includes five middle grade novels and five YA. Read more ...

Sept. 13, 2013: Spring preview
Check out Publishers Weekly roundup of upcoming children's books to be published in spring 2014. Read more...

August 21, 2013:
Want to be a Cybils Award Judge?

Middle grade categories are fiction, speculative fiction, nonfiction. Applications due August 31! Read more ...

August 19, 2013:
S&S and BN reach a deal
Readers will soon be able to find books from Simon & Schuster at Barnes & Noble. The bookstore chain was locked in a disagreement with the publisher over how much it was willing to pay for books. Read more ...

August 6, 2013:
NPR's 100 Must-Reads for Kids
NPR's Backseat Book Club asked listeners to nominate their favorite books for readers ages 9 to 14. More than 2,000 people nominated titles, and a panel of Newbery authors brought the list to 100. Most are middle grade books. Read more ...

 
July 2, 2013:
Penguin & Random House Merger

The new company, Penguin Random House, will control more than 25 percent of the trade book market in the United States. On Monday, the newly formed company began to take shape, only hours after a middle-of-the-night announcement that the long-planned merger had been completed. Read more ...

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  • Reading for Empathy

    Learning Differences

    Indulging his current obsession with all things dolphin, my son and I recently went to see the movie, Dolphin Tale. As the story unfolded, it became obvious that he was putting himself in the main character’s shoes. When that boy swam with the dolphin, my son had projected himself into that swim as well. He rose and fell with every emotional arc of the movie.

    While working on a recent manuscript, my editor explained this to me. She said that when children are really drawn into a story, they will read themselves into the experiences of the character with whom they most identify. If they’re reading a Percy Jackson book, in a way, they are living out the adventure as if they are Percy Jackson.

    Washington University psychologists recently studied brain scans to determine the impact of reading upon the brain. One of the findings suggested that, according to the authors of the study, “readers mentally simulate each new situation encountered in a narrative.” In other words, they internally experience the story they are reading.

    The stories our children read help them learn how to feel, and through the eventual resolution of the plot, they learn how to better understand and deal with their own emotions.

    I recall this in my own childhood as I read the first BOXCAR CHILDREN book over and over. I shared in the worry and loneliness
    the four Alden orphans experienced as they tried to build a home for themselves in a boxcar. Gradually, they figured out how to take care of themselves, and as they did, I began to feel more confident that I could take care of myself too, if the need ever arose. That book literally helped me learn to manage one of the most common of childhood anxieties: losing one’s parents and being alone.

    Last fall, The Journal of Psychological Science published a study by Dr. Shira Gabriel and Ariana Young that tested the effect of reading on children’s empathy. Some children were given passages from TWILIGHT in which Edward describes the experience of being a vampire. Others were given a passage from HARRY POTTER, in which Harry and the other first years are sorted into their houses. Following the read, the children underwent a test in which words associated either with vampires or wizards were randomly shown on the screen and they could respond with either a “me” or “not me” answer. The next test asked the children questions such as, “How sharp are your teeth?” and “If you really tried, do you think you could make an object move with your mind?”

    Results of the study revealed that most of the children had self-identified as either wizards or vampires, according to which passage they had read. Further, they found that the “fictional communities” they joined gave them the same emotional satisfaction as their actual peer relationships. In fact, Gabriel wrote that reading “fulfills a fundamental need – the need for social connection.”

    Interestingly, a 2010 University of Michigan study found a sharp decline in the empathy levels of college students over the last thirty years. This comes during a period in which fiction reading has been on a similar decline. Which begs the question of how closely the two are related.

    The ability to understand not only one’s own emotions, but the emotions of others is a critical life skill. And it appears that for anyone with a child in their life, the easiest way to help them develop empathy is to give them a great book.

     

    Jennifer Nielsen is the author of THE FALSE PRINCE (Scholastic Apr `12), and The Underworld Chronicles beginning with ELLIOT AND THE GOBLIN WAR (Sourcebooks `10).

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