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Beyond Mother Goose: Poetry to Please Your Student

by Miriam Downey 29. February 2012 10:37

 I had an interesting experience the other day. My infant granddaughter was sitting on my lap, and I felt compelled to recite the Mother Goose poem:

Little Robin Redbreast

Sat upon a pole

Wibble Wobble went his tail

And plopped into a hole!


Reciting this poem came automatically to me. She loved being plopped into the hole as I opened my legs to let her drop down. Her laugh told me that I needed to do it again. Following that, I told her:

 Jack and Jill went up the hill

To fetch a pail of water.

Jack fell down and broke his crown

And Jill came tumbling after.

These are the rhymes of my childhood and of my children's childhood. Whatever our cultural background, there are certain poems, rhymes, and songs that remain with us forever. I call them "forever poems." I know them instinctively. You probably know some of those poems or songs as well.

A professor of children's literature notes, "Children have a natural affinity for poetry, which is exhibited before they enter school by their love for nursery rhymes, jingles, and childhood songs."

Poetry is a part of the Language Arts curriculum for every grade at Free World U. And in every year of the curriculum, several different types of poetry are taught.

Narrative poems tell stories.

Lyric Poems are like songs.

Limericks are humorous poems that end with a joke.

Haiku is a very specialized poem with 17 syllables.

Concrete Poems are physically shaped like the subject of the poem.

Free Verse is usually un-rhymed and lacks a consistent rhythm.

The professor continues: "A poetry collection should include poems that meet the needs of children who are in the process of developing an appreciation of poetry. This means building a collection filled with a variety of poems to match differing tastes and levels of sophistication."

There are rich resources to supplement the FWU curriculum available through the FWU library. Most of the poems and poets taught in the curriculum have been around for awhile, so their poetry is available in the public domain and can be found online.

Below you will find a listing of the books of poetry currently available through the FWU library. I have connected the title to the link, so you can easily access them. I have also listed them by grade levels.

Happy reading!

Grades K-2

A Apple Pie     A Child's Garden of Verse     Hey Diddle Diddle    Johnny Crow's Garden

Mother Goose     The House that Jack Built

Grades 3-6

I See the Rhythm   Now We Are Six  Golden Treasury of Songs and Poetry  Poems Every Child Should Know

Where the Sidewalk Ends

Grades 7-12

American Poetry    Poems by Emily Dickinson     Poems Published in 1829 

Selections from Wordsworth and Tennyson  The Works of Edgar Allen Poe




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Blog | English

2012 Award Winning Books: Caldecott and Newbery Awards

by Miriam Downey 10. February 2012 10:06

Every year in January, the American Library Association announces the winners of the Newbery and Caldecott awards for the best children's books of the previous year. The Newbery is awarded to the author of the most distinguished children literature of the year. The Caldecott award is given to the best illustrated children's book of the year. That award goes to the illustrator, not the author.

I have followed these awards for most of my career. Some of the best books ever written for children have received the Newbery and Caldecott awards. Here are this year's winners and honor books.

 Newbery Award: Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos is a book about a boy named Jack Gantos, apparently no relation to the author. Smile It is very funny and both boys and girls will love it. The book jacket says it all: "...a sly sharp-edged narrative about a small western Pennsylvania town and a dead-funny depiction of growing up in a slightly off-kilter place where the past is present, the present is confusing, and the future is completely up in the air." (Grades 6 and up) Jack Gantos has written a lot of very funny books including the Joey Pigza series about a hyperactive boy with a very complicated life. (Grades 5-7)

 Caldecott Medal: A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka

I fell in love with Chris Raschka several years ago with the publishing of his delightful books Yo! Yes? and Mysterious Thelonius, both of which were Caldecott Honor Books. A Ball for Daisy, is brilliant in its wordless simplicity. The dog is playing with his ball and the ball breaks. Raschka said he got the idea for the book when watching his daughter playing with a favorite toy which broke. Her reaction to the broken toy inspired the award-winning book. The School Library Journal's review (Aug. 2011) suggests that: "Raschka's genius lies in capturing the essence of situations that are deeply felt by children." (ages 3 and up)

Newbery Honor Books

Inside Out and Back Again by Tahnhha Lai. This is the moving account of one girl's year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next. (grades 4-8)

Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene Yelchin. Written for middle grade students, this short novel about a boy in the Soviet Union in the 1950s will thrill older readers as well. (grades 4-8)

Caldecott Honor Books

Blackout by John Rocco. What happens to the city when the electricity goes out? What do people do to entertain themselves? These issues are explored in the wonderful illustrations that move from color to black-and-white. (preschool-grade 2)

Grandpa Green by Lane Smith. Lane Smith is a well known illustrator, and his beautiful picture book Grandpa Green explores the life of a great-grandfather. (k-2) Lane Smith also illustrated the Caldecott Honor Book, The Stinky Cheese Man, which, by the way, is a very funny book.

Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell is my favorite of this year's award books. McDonnell draws the comic strip, Mutts, so the illustrations have a signature comic strip quality. The remarkable story is about Jane Goodall and her special childhood toy chimpanzee named Jubilee. It is accessible to very young children. (preschool-grade 2)

Here are some more of the year's best books

Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom by Shane W. Evans (The Coretta Scott King Award) (grades 2-4)

Heart and Soul:The Story of American and African Americans by Kadir Nelson. (Coretta Scott King Honor Book) (grades 4-6)

Two other must-read books of 2011 and award-winners in 2012

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. If you loved The Invention of Hugo Cabret, you will also love Wonderstruck. Graphic novel for middle grade students.

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo. While the movie was told from an adult perspective, the novel is told from the perspective of the horse. Excellent for grades 6-10.

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Blog | English

Search Tools for Elementary Children

by Miriam Downey 22. November 2011 13:24



Children like to "look up stuff." I will never forget my absolute delight when our parents purchased a set of Compton's Encyclopedias when I was eight years old. At the same time, my father purchased a reel-to-reel tape recorder. I remember that winter very well; I read articles in the encyclopedia about famous people (people like Thomas Edison, Louisa May Alcott, Abraham Lincoln), and I wrote reports about them and then taped myself reading aloud those reports. Not for school--just for fun (a geeky researcher in the making, I guess).

Most "stuff" gets looked up on the Internet these days, and, of course, there are dangers attached with looking up stuff on the Internet. If Google is your search engine, the most popular sites come up first--not necessarily the sites with the best information. Many are commercial sites (dot coms). What you want for your children are easy to read sites, filled with pictures, and with as few pop-ups and ads as possible.


I decided to seek out information about groundhogs (woodchucks) on some recommended search engines for kids. We have a groundhog that eats our bird feed (see my posting about Wikipedia). I pretended I was a kid and wanted to know where that groundhog was living. Here are some suggested kid-friendly search engines and what I discovered.

Kids Search Tools. This is a gathering spot for kid's search engines. I used this as the basis for my search.

I first clicked on Fact Monster. This website has basic facts, dictionary definitions, and encyclopedia entries. Please note that most online encyclopedias, like World Book and Britannica, need a membership in order to be accessible. It was on the online dictionary in Fact Monster, however, that I discovered that groundhogs and woodchucks are the same thing. This website is a bit busy. Children might need some guidance.

Then I tried Kids Click. This site was a bit hard to navigate, but it was the search engine that I used with second graders when we were doing research projects in my school library. If a parent helps with the search, this search engine leads children to websites where they will find their information. I found groundhogs on the Animal Diversity website.

Another search engine for kids is Yahoo Kids. This search engine has an area called Studyzone. In that area, I easily found several sites about groundhogs. However, this search engine is very busy and has a lot of TV shows on the site as well as a lot of video games. The good part about it is if they get lost in video game land, the games are all kid safe.

The Awesome Library was very easy to navigate with many websites about animals and animal pictures. The one problem that I had with this search engine was that some of the recommended sites were not active. It looked like it hadn't been updated for a while. Children would need some guidance when using this site so that they don't get frustrated. Another warning: there are ads on some of the recommended sites, but they are for rather innocuous things, like hotels, etc.


I think my favorite search engine for kids was Ask Kids. Children formulate and ask the site a question. This serves a double purpose because it not only gets the child to some good websites, but it also teaches question asking skills. Up pops a bunch of proven sites where answers can be found. I had to go to "Groundhog's Day" in order to find the answer to my question, "Where do groundhogs live?" But then I was led to many websites with no advertisements. The site also has a lot of pre-written questions that children can research. Great for Exploring.

Most parents understand never to let a young child venture onto the Internet without guidance, and I would recommend that the computer your child is using be in plain site. That way, you can help if they are struggling to find the "stuff" they are looking up. Happy searching.

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Welcome to the Free World U Library

by Miriam Downey 20. October 2011 12:56

Welcome to Free World U's new library. I am Miriam, the Cyberlibrarian. Every week I will post an article on this blog related either to books or to research and reference materials. Books will be added to the library in either the category of Online Books or Other Great Books. The category Research Resources will contain websites that will help our children find the information they need to develop reports or essays.

I am hopeful that this blog can become a dialog between the librarian (me), students, and parents. I can help with research projects, book selection, and teaching materials related to a book study. You can help by sharing websites that you have found to be useful, book studies that worked particularly well, and by asking questions that the group can help answer. Of course, all the sites, studies, and questions need to be literacy related; this is the goal of Free World U's library and this blog.

Now let me share just a few words about the classic books that are on our list of books available free online. First, you need to know that as long as the copyright holds for a book, it most likely will not be available on the Internet. Copyrights last for seventy-five years, so most of the books that you will find on our classic book list are more than than seventy-five years old. I guess that's what makes them "classics." There are several projects that seek to digitalize these classic books; Project Gutenberg is one such project.

The exceptions to the copyright rule include several websites that contain a lot of picture books. These are usually sites that promote reading, and authors have given permission for one or more of their books to be utilized on these sites. We Give Books is one such site. It has a marvelous array of free online books. Additionally, you might occasionally find a book that is available through a commercial site, or a book that is on a foreign site where the copyright is no longer in effect. You will find a few books on our lists from those sites.

As we developed our list of classic books, we used this criteria for each grade level (beyond picture books):

  • Books of interest to both boys and girls.
  • Both fiction and non-fiction.
  • A book of poetry.
  • A book of short stories.
  • A biography.
  • A play.

Some of these books can be downloaded; some can only be read online. All of these classic books would be available at your local public library if reading them online is too difficult. Most, if not all of them, are available for Kindle or Nook for a small fee.

I might add that most of the classic books (above the picture book level) will have had a movie made of them. Some of these books are really challenging to read. Sometimes it helps to watch a movie, either at the end of the project, or during the project, as a reward.

One more thing...this is a very fluid list. I would suggest that your reader check out the books several grade levels below and several grade levels above his or her age. Reading interest has no boundaries. For young students, parents might consider finding a book at a higher grade level and use it as a read-aloud for your children.

My questions for you are these: What classic books have you enjoyed that appeared or did not appear on this list? Any suggestions for additions to this list? What are you or your children reading now? Be sure to add websites if you found the book online.

So dear friends, welcome and happy reading.


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