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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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  • Let’s Put On A Show! Reader’s Theater and the Middle-Grade Reader

    Activities, For Kids, Parents, Teachers

    Are your kids drama queens (or kings?)


    All kids love make-believe… so how about combining their passion for making things up with their favorite middle-grade books?

    Turns out there’s a name for acting out scenes from books– Reader’s Theater (aka Readers Theater or Readers’ Theater or just plain RT) and it’s been around for decades.

    What is Reader’s Theater? It’s a scene from a book dramatized in script form. Players perform by reading the script (no memorization required) using few or no props, stage sets, and sometimes absolutely no rehearsal!

    I was first introduced to Reader’s Theater at an American Library Association Convention when a panel of authors read dramatic adaptations of their own work. Pretty neat! But little did I know how magical those scripts could become when child readers take center stage to act out the parts. Reader’s Theater puts the kid INTO the story, inhabiting his favorite hero, villain or sidekick. Words on a page literally come to life when real kids stand up to act out a scene.

    Reader’s Theater is an amazingly effective teaching tool.  Studies have shown that second graders who participated in regular Readers Theater productions gained an average of a full year’s growth in reading skills. (See generally The Power of Reader’s Theater  http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/instructor/readerstheater.htm)  But even better than that it’s easy, it’s active, it’s entertaining for actors and audience alike… and IT’S FUN!

    Intrigued? Ready to get started? These days there are almost as many teachers guides to creating Reader’s Theater as there are for solving long division (okay maybe that’s an exaggeration!) Some frequently cited resources are Lisa Friedman’s Break a Leg! The Kids’ Guide to Acting and Stagecraft, Sheryl Ann Crawford’s 15 Easy-to-Read Mini-Book Plays, Folk Tale Plays From Around the World That Kids Will Love! By Marci Appelbaum and Readers Theater for Beginning Readers (Grades 1-4) by Suzanne Barchers. Nearly every teacher’s resource cites Aaron Shepard’s Readers On Stage which includes detailed instructions for how to get started, scripts, production suggestions, curriculum connections and more.  There are tips on script writing and reading technique as well as scripts for three stories.

    If you are performing Reader’s Theater in the classroom and must conform to curriculum guidelines and standards, with formal performance rubrics and the like, these guides might be the way to go, but personally I think these canned scripts for stories kids have never heard of (Peddler Polly and the Story Stealer????) aren’t nearly as much fun as performing Reader’s Theater for a book your troop, class or group is actually reading.

    Scenes from plenty of wonderful middle-grade novels have been translated into Readers Theater scripts. Are your kids Shannon Hale fans? Then how about Shannon’s script from Rapunzel’s Revenge, downloadable free from her website?    Scholastic has great supporting materials for one of my favorite middle-grade novels Because of Winn-Dixie, including a terrific free Reader’s Theater script.

    Closer to home, Mixed-Up Files member Sarah Aronson is kindly offering readers of this blog an EXCLUSIVE downloadable script for her terrific novel Beyond Lucky. Reader’s Theater Beyond Lucky downloadable pdf

    And I’ve created a Readers Theater for The Map Of Me you can download, too. It’s only available here, for readers of From The Mixed-Up Files. I’d love to hear about your performances!   Reader’s Theater- THE MAP OF ME

    So how do you start with a Readers Theater script taken from an actual middle-grade novel? Combine RT performances with book club reading or after lunch read alouds. Give your readers a taste of the book first- the first five chapters, perhaps, then spice things up with a Reader’s Theater performance. Or use Reader’s Theater to introduce your readers to a new book- play first then read the real thing. Once they get a taste of the book by acting the parts they won’t be able to wait to hear (and read!) the rest of the story.

    I prefer to keep the actual “performance” loose- I’m encouraging readers, not training the next Sir Laurence Olivier. Choose parts, clear an area of the room as a “stage”, grab a hat or a cup if you must as a prop, and everybody read. It really can be that simple. If you want  you can practice and perform for other classes or groups, but it’s not the performance that matters most. It’s all about the experience of living inside a character’s skin- becoming that character- if only for a minute or five.

    Obviously “experiencing the book” by acting the scenes is a great way to engage reluctant readers, but I’d argue it’s even better as a way to enhance an avid reader’s love of novels. “Living” inside a book is the ultimate reader experience and Reader’s Theater models this enhanced appreciation for young readers.

    Dozens of authors have created Reader’s Theater pieces for their novels yet I found no complete (or even short) list of actual author or publisher created scripts. This could be a fantastic resource for an eager librarian or teacher blogger to create! In the meantime, I suggest prowling your favorite authors’ websites. If you don’t find a script there don’t despair. Many authors haven’t had the opportunity (or idea) of uploading that script they prepared for a particular conference or school visit. If you don’t find a script right away just contact the author directly and ask if he or she has written an RT script. You may be rewarded with a nearly unique piece of Reader’s Theater—and a new relationship with one of your favorite authors.

    Thinking of writing your own script based on a published book that’s special to you and your kids? Sounds like a great classroom or backyard activity… but there are some complicated issues to consider before you tackle a project like this, and I’m not talking about the challenges of script writing. Characters, plots, and dialog are an author’s intellectual property. If you use that work and give credit to the author that’s not technically plagariam… but it’s still appropriation of their work and it’s not okay. Teachers and others have a “fair use” right to use works of art, particularly for educational purposes, but the exact limits of where fair use ends and stealing begins is hazy. School Library Journal tackled this issue in an article here  http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6673566.html

    My feeling is that this kind of imitation is NOT NECESSARILY the most sincere form of flattery.  Nearly every author is accessible by email or contact form these days. If you’re interested in adapting a chapter or scene of their work for Readers Theater to be used only by your class or youth group ask the author if it’s okay. Most will be happy to have readers appreciate their work by performing it. But if it bothers the author aren’t you better off choosing another book to work on that defying an author’s wishes?

    Other than that I say GO FOR IT! Places everyone! Lights! Camera! READ!

    Have you seen any fab Reader’s Theater performances? How about great script sources? Best of all what scenes would you like to see played out in Reader’s Theater?

    Tami Lewis Brown will present an un-rehearsed, spur of the moment, hopefully wonderful(!) Reader’s Theater performance with kids from the audience acting out a scene from THE MAP OF ME at the Gaithersburg Book Festival in Gaithersburg, MD this Saturday morning. Learn more here.

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