Dr. Sherry Sanden is an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Literacy at Illinois State University.
30,000. That is the number of new children’s books that will be published this year in the United States. Of course, that is just new titles this year; that number doesn’t include the many thousands of titles that have come along since children’s literature began to be deemed worthy of publication. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, many of these books will go unread by me. Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled that the publication of children’s books has skyrocketed and that there are so many wonderful titles available to readers of all ages who hold a passion for that genre. However, one of my biggest frustrations as a lover of children’s literature is that I will never be able to catch up with all of the children’s books that I would like to know, and that deserve to be included in early childhood classrooms. How can I possibly keep up with all of the incredible new titles and wonderful old favorites that I would like to make my friends and put into the hands and hearts of children?
I could spend my life, 24-7, reading and enjoying books and thinking about ways to use them with children. (What a joyful idea!) However, since there are other parts of my life that need my attention, it has become necessary to find some other way to wade through the ocean of children’s literature available. One new strategy that I have discovered, that acts as a life raft to keep me afloat in a sea of children’s books, are children’s literature blogs. The authors of these blog sites are virtual friends, though known to me only by their regular online posts. They are fellow lovers of children’s books who write about the many new titles they have encountered, and sometimes even about old familiar favorites that deserve to be revisited. Their perspectives are a huge source of support in helping me decide which titles I absolutely need to check out immediately and which can be set aside for another day. I choose to get a daily digest of the blogs deposited directly into my email, but another option is to create an RSS feed of all my blogs, that I could visit in my own time.
One example is the Nerdy Book Club blog (http://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com), written by three classroom teachers, one of which is Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild. These posts include regular book reviews as well as other issues related to reading and sharing children’s literature, written from the perspective of classroom teachers and self-professed book nerds. One recent column included young adult literature titles recommended by a classroom of students. Another column was a revisit of the children’s novel Harriet the Spy, an oldie but goodie. The posts are chockfull of perspectives on children’s titles from online acquaintances I have come to trust. Reading them feels like savoring the words of wise book-loving friends!
Another book blog that I read regularly is There’s a Book for That (http://thereisabookforthat.com/), authored by a primary classroom teacher who is, by her own admission “completely obsessed with children’s literature” and who uses her space to engage with an online literature community. A recent post included three nonfiction selections about the ocean that would make great primary read-alouds. Every Monday the blog invites others to share in a regular feature they call It’s Monday, What are You Reading?, prompting an even broader dissemination of amazing titles from readers. It feels like a great privilege to have fellow children’s literature enthusiasts open up the best of their classroom libraries to me.
These are just two examples of the wealth of blogs in this virtual children’s literature community. Typically, sites list other blogs that share similar topics and interests, so once you explore one, you can gather ideas for others to add to your regular online reading collection. You can allow these resources to act as virtual supports as you continue to build your knowledge base of children’s literature titles, for your own enjoyment and to enhance the literacy joy of your young readers. Accessing these, in combination with discussions with book-loving colleagues and friends, visits to publisher and book seller sites, and good old-fashioned book reads, will allow you to build a repertoire of titles that will keep you afloat as you navigate your own journey across the vast ocean of children’s books!