Monday, July 3, 2017

For the Love of Reading: I can't hold it in

I decided this Spring to leave the education profession and go back to school to get a Master's Degree in Accounting. It was a hard decision, but ultimately the best one for myself and my family. However, I just can't miss Nerd Camp MI, and I am excited about helping plan Nerd Camp NC. I have always loved reading, but for most of my life, it was a solitary adventure. I didn't think it was possible to love reading more, but the Nerdy Book Club community has made that happen. It has also done major damage to my bank account because I am quite impatient about waiting for the library to get the books I want to read. There is no going back to the days where I read a book and then just moved on to the next one. I can't hold my love of reading in!  It demands to be shared.

By valuing reading as a community, I have helped my children love reading more. I make more of an effort to share with them the books that I'm reading, which expands their exposure to current literature. It is perfect because I have a teenager, tween and a nine-year-old and can share almost the entire spectrum of children and young adult literature. My two oldest children are presenting at nErDcamp with me next week! We'll hopefully present at least 20 books. After last year, I know to expect 50+ people in our session so I am bringing other 2017 books, books from nErDcampMI authors, professional books, and 2016 elementary nonfiction books that I bought/received during my participation on the 2017 Cybils committee.

Here are the books we are presenting:

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Carolyn - 9th grade

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Charlotte - 6th grade

Books I am presenting:

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


In March, we look forward to Winter saying goodbye, so that we can welcome our friend, Spring. Basketball fans cheer for their favorite college team during NCAA's annual tournament, an event referred to as March Madness. We nerds even have our book version of March Madness, replacing team brackets with beloved books. However, March has an even greater significance.

I didn't see the recent movie about the March to Selma. I knew the basic overview, but not the specifics. I am extremely glad that Civil Rights Leader and House Representative Mr. John Lewis shared this story in March Book Three. There were actually dozens of marches on Selma for voting rights. The most famous of these was a 50 mile journey on foot from Selma to Montgomery, the state capital of Alabama. The first attempt was on March 7, 1965. Marchers were attacked by state troopers. Even despite injuries and hospitalizations, they didn't give up. The perseverance of John Lewis and the other marchers was a sacrifice that led to government enforcement of rights guaranteed by the  U.S. Constitution. Every American owes these participants a debt of gratitude. 

The book also opened my eyes to understanding the history behind the resentment of "white liberals" from African Americans. I think we need to acknowledge that it is impossible to understand the perspective of a person of color (unless you are one). White privilege and racism still marginalize the rights of many, many Americans. We need to be thoughtful, respectful and sensitive. Well-intentioned, yet ignorant actions/words from white liberals can cause damage, just like overtly racist ones do. 

I was present in Atlanta on January 23, 2017 when March was chosen as the recipient of 4 American Library Association Youth Media Awards. I cheered along with the crowd as the National Book Award winner was mentioned again and again as awards were announced. Read March Book Three immediately if you haven't. We celebrate Spring, basketball and books this month; we should also remember the marchers to Selma and celebrate the freedom they helped attain for all Americans. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

SLJ 's Battle of the Kids' Books: Round 1

Every year I enjoy School Library Journal's version of March Madness, which includes 16 books battling out to see which one is the best. The judges are those who write children's or young adult literature. An exciting change this year is the addition of picture books.

The first two books are Ashley Bryan's Freedom Over Me and Carole Boston Weatherford's Freedom in Congo Square.

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Accurate depictions of life as a slave show that is was unbearable. However, those living in New Orleans were given every Sunday off. They required by law to congregate only in Congo Square. The slaves created a culture experience, bringing traditions like African music, which was banned in the fields and their homes. The story counts down the week to Sunday afternoon in Congo Square. The illustrations are bright and colorful, reflecting what was undoubtedly a mood of brief celebration and joy in an otherwise dismal existence. The book contains a Forward and Author's note providing background information.

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As she explains in her author's note, the idea for Freedom Over Me originated in some papers Ashley Bryan found from a former estate. Many slaves were uneducated, and history accounts often overlook the perspective of marginalized people. This means the stories, hopes, dreams and feelings of slaves are forever lost. Bryan recreates roles and uses beautiful poetry to give a voice to these slaves.

Both of these books are very similar and I could see either one advancing to the next round. Since Carole Boston Weatherford is from my home state of North Carolina, and I know Freedom In Congo Square would make a wonderful read-aloud, I hope it is chosen as the winner in this battle.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Mrs. Ralph Teaches Theme

As a school librarian I often collaborate with teachers to decide what I will be teaching for the week. When I met with the fourth grade teachers they asked me to do a lesson on theme. At first I was very apprehensive about teaching theme. I usually teach science and social studies topics during media because these are not covered as frequently as reading and math. 

I decided to research some possible picture books for teaching theme. I found a blog post from my friend Pernille Ripp that helped me feel more confident about teaching it. She recommended Each Kindness as one of the books to use. I also decided to read Thank you Mr. Faulker as another book for theme.

Talk about a powerful lesson. The message in Each Kindness was one that the students really identified with. They all raised their hand when I asked if they had ever been picked on or picked on someone else. The students easily picked out the theme. I decided to also read Thank you Mr. Faulker to the kids. It has been awhile since I read the book so of course I cried in front of my students. I had to explain to them that I was crying because I did not meet my Mr. Faulker until I was in college. I still remember the horrible way I was treated in Elementary school because of my ADHD. Both books reminded me of why I became a teacher. I became a teacher to treat all my kids with respect and let them know that they have some one here who cares about them. 

 I added a short video and an online game to the lesson. I also did a formative assessment by asking the kids to write one theme they learned from the lesson for the day on a post it. Then I allowed the kids to stick their post it to the Smart board. This is one of my favorite lessons that I have taught this year. 

I am including the links in case you want to replicate this lesson in your library or classroom.

Pernille's blog post on Theme books: 

Link for the video: 

Link for the game: 

Friday, January 27, 2017

New books

So no more 20 books every Tuesday. Not buying books at all is not a realistic goal so I plan to buy one per week. January technically has 5 weeks. I have bought:

Luckily, I also have these ARCs from ALA Midwinter:

Happy Reading! 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Gum Girl: Gum Luck

The last book I read lately was Gum Girl: Gum Luck. The book is about a girl named Gabby Gomez who likes to chew gum. The shocking part is that now every time she chews gum, she turns into a super sticky hero named Gum Girl! Gabby knows she can’t keep her secret from her parents, but the bad thing about telling them is that she promised she wouldn’t chew gum again! There’s a new villain in town and he is just ready to "stir" up some trouble! Will she tell her parents the truth and still save the day? Or will she give up gum forever and let Robo Chef get his revenge? Find out in Gum Girl: Gum Luck! 

This book is AWESOME, I loved this one and the first one. I give it 4 stars out of five. Why not 5 you ask? The CLIFFHANGER! I absolutely HATE cliffhangers. They just tell you about something, and you think the book hasn’t ended, then WHAMO! They end the book right as it was getting interesting! My favorite part is when Gabby ate the gum that the monkey stole from her and chewed it. I hope you enjoyed my review on this book. Look for Gum Girl!: Gum Luck in your closest library or bookstore! I read an ARC (advanced reader copy) of the book; it comes out in June. You can win a copy from us at Nerd Camp in Michigan in July!

A Nerdy Daughter and Sister,
Charlotte Ralph

Sunday, January 1, 2017

My Hopes for George's Reading Life

Our writing on this blog has taken a bit of a plunge since my son was born back in October. It is hard to find the time to read or write with a newborn taking up your time. Sara and I are going to go back to writing our normal stuff soon. In the mean time I would like to share my hopes for George's life with books.

George has already shown a love for stories and books. When I was pregnant with him he would often sleep while I was working because I moved around a lot. The exception was anytime I read to one of my classes. He would wake up and move around which to me meant he was happy to hear a story. I read to him frequently now that he is here. He still enjoys books and stories.

My hope is that he continues to love books even though the odds are against him. We live in a society where too much emphasis is placed on a child's ability to read. Students are labeled based on their reading level and their choices are often limited based on that. They can't simply read what they want to read. There is also a push for boys to be good at sports. Boys who are good readers are often picked on and called nerds because they love books. George also has the possibility of having ADHD which makes reading difficult. I want my son to love books so I have to be proactive as his mommy.

I have to make sure that he understands that no matter what anyone says that it is okay to love books. It is okay for him to read or try to read anything that he wants to. I want him to know that his reading level is just a number or letter and that we can and will read anything he wants to. I will emphasize to him the importance of books and that reading makes you smarter and builds your vocabulary. If he happens to have ADHD I will do what I need to to help him focus. I will make sure that he has high interest books that are not too long so he can read and finish them.

To help him continue his love for stories and books I promise to read to him every day. Picture books or chapter books or holiday books not on the actual holiday. I will read whatever he wants to read because I know that reading makes you smarter. There is also the joy and imagination that comes with reading a book. Ultimately, I want him to be a Nerdy Book Club member like his mommy and Aunty Sara.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Monday, October 3, 2016

Baby George

So excited that Amy's baby, George Wulfric Ralph is here! HP fans should recognize the middle name. The last name Ralph means "wolf in counsel." He already loves books so he WILL be a nerd. Here's a picture:

George is a family name, but Amy loves to find books with his name in them so here are a few books with characters named George:

We ❤️ Josh Funk! George gets a PenPal, but is very surprised to find out who it is! Amy reviewed Dear Dragon on August 30.

Another George and a dragon book! If George doesn't have this, I will be buying it for him. All George wants is to receive mail, and oh boy, does his magic mailbox deliver. What he decides to do at the end of the story is an amazing message for young readers. I love when picture books teach character traits without being overly didatic.

Knowing George was scheduled to arrive on Saturday, I hit up B&N on Friday for book presents for Amy. She's been wanting Gertie's Leap to Greatness since Nerd Camp. She was too tired to stand in the line for the ARC, and I gave my friend the one I picked up because she didn't get any book swag. This book is officially released on 10/4 so *hint, hint* you'll see it again.

I am George Washington meets Amy's history buff personality and has another character named George. This biography of George Washington was informative and the format is perfect for read aloud or independent reading. I want the whole series now!

Oren, George's father, and my BIL twice over (he is Amy's husband and my husband's brother), mentioned that his favorite George book was Saint George and the Dragon. It won the Caldecott Medal in 1985, so he has excellent taste (he is an art teacher after all). Another book is arriving for George today:

Update: Baby George comes home today! I can't wait to read to him!