Category Archives: teachers

American Indian Cultural Festival

A lot of the work of being an author is the dull and dry sitting at a desk (even when that desk is in a tree) and writing day after day. But every now and then an event comes along that you know you’ll remember forever. The American Indian Cultural Festival in The Dalles last week was just such a moment. It was a celebration of literature and poetry and music and dance. It involved a group of books that I admire and authors I feel honored to share the stage with: Elizabeth Woody, Oregon’s Poet Laureate, Craig Lesley, acclaimed author of contemporary western literature, and National Book Award winning writer Sherman Alexie.

I was lucky enough to spend time with an adult book club and share a poetry reading with some truly outstanding young poets. I got to hear the culture club from Lyle school in Washington give their very first performance in the Sahaptian language with traditional dancing. They were simply amazing. I’m so proud of all they’ve accomplished in a year. I meet with some avid writers in the North Oregon Juvenal Detention Facility, and best of all I got to dance with the Taholah drum group from the Quinault Reservation. My favorite part of the whole thing was the series of classrooms who came to hear me and the Taholah drum group speak. They had all kinds of great questions about the culture and art of the Quinault and Makah and the practice of tribal whaling. It was the sort of mind-opening conversation that cultural festivals are made for. I am very grateful to Julian Peterson and Marko Black and all the tribal dancers from Taholah who shared their songs and prayers and dances so generously, and who invited the students to dance and drum along so whole-heartedly. I know those are memories the students will always cherish.

Thank you to Jim Tindale the librarian at The Dalles School District who made this all happen in conjunction with the great booksellers at Oregon’s oldest bookstore Klindt’s who sold all the books and hosted many of the events. Tina Ontiveros is the manager at Klindt’s and Joaquin Perez is the owner. The fundraising for this event was truly a community affair with donations coming from area schools and libraries, educational foundations, local congregations, Oregon’s poet laureate program, the Wasco County Cultural Trust, the Ford Foundation, the Meyer Memorial Trust, and the Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde. It’s inspiring to see so many community members come together in support of literacy and the cultural understanding of our local American Indian communities. Thank you!

World Read Aloud Day

February 16th is World Read Aloud Day. I will be celebrating this day by reading aloud via Skype to as many classrooms as I can. Last year I read to 15 schools on 3 continents over 24 hours. I’d love to include your school in this year’s celebration. If you are a teacher of students between 3rd and 8th grade and you’d like to share some reading excitement with your class please get in touch as soon as possible so I can fit you into my schedule.

My newest novel The Turn of the Tide will come out in paperback on Valentines Day and in honor of that I’ll be giving away one of my paperbacks to the first ten teachers who schedule a free Skype visit for World Read Aloud Day.

You can use the contact me feature on the website or email me at rosanne@rosanneparry.com

World Read Aloud Day is sponsored by Lit World and they have a pretty impressive slogan:

Read aloud. Change the World.

World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words and creates a community of readers taking action to show the world that the right to literacy belongs to all people. World Read Aloud Day is celebrated by millions of people in more than 100 countries thanks to people like you who participate and spread the word across the globe!

If you are not a teacher I hope you will honor the day by choosing a book or poem you love and reading it to somebody you care about. My mother read poetry aloud to me her whole life long and those are some of the memories of her that I treasure the most.

Thanking the Light-Bringers

unknown Today is the feast of Saint Lucia, which is traditionally celebrated with a procession involving a girl wearing a crown of candles and a tray full of cookies or sweet breads. The custom commemorates an Italian teenager who, during the Roman persecution of Christians, spent her dowry to bring food and books and letters to Christians who were hiding in caves to survive. The story goes that she wore a crown of candles to light her way in the dark and give the refugee Christians light to read by.

My family has made a custom of baking sweet bread and sharing it with people who are light- bringers in our lives. For the past 21 years that my children have been attending public schools, we have brought sweet bread to their teachers with a note of thanks for all the unsung work they do to make their classrooms and the lives of my children a brighter place.

My youngest will graduate from high school this year, so I wanted to take one last opportunity to thank all of my children’s teachers and librarians over the years, their 16 primary school teachers and the the primary school librarian. their 72 middle school teachers and the middle school librarian, and their 96 high school teachers and high school librarians. All of them teaching in the Beaverton School District in Oregon. I am inspired by your dedication to excellence in the classroom, by your creativity, your steadfastness in a culture that shows little respect for education and even less for those who have dedicated their lives to teaching. Even in those years where one or another of my children struggled with illness or injury or immaturity, you were a steady hand in their young lives. Even in years when you struggled–I remember those too–the year your mother went blind, the year you were pregnant with twins, the year you were critically ill or grieving a death in your family. You were still faithfully in your classroom day after day trying your best with a dwindling pool of resources.

imagesAnd I want you to know that even though I will no longer have children at home to send to your classrooms, you are still all my local teachers. And my work of advocating for better schools and more just funding of educational needs and wise allocation of the funds you have, will go on. Your value extends far beyond what you can do for my immediate family, and I will continue to do what I can to support the light you bring to our community.

Thank you.

The Great Reads Campaign

The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance (NCBLA) has just launched  GREAT READS, a new project aimed at connecting kids with great books. A GREAT READ can be a page turner, a funny-bone tickler, a wild adventure ride, a slow drift down the river, a snuggle-under-the-covers. A GREAT READ may, or may not, be great literature, but sharing GREAT READS is the best way to turn kids into lifelong readers.
I was very honored this year to be asked to participate in this literacy project. I had no trouble at all picking a book I wanted to share. It’s Echo by Pam Munóz Ryan. I reviewed the book on the blog earlier this year.
Here is my contribution to the book recommendations of the NCBLA Great Reads program. It was great fun to see several Portland authors also in this group. Susan Blackaby, Heather Vogel Frederick, Eric Kimmel, Virginia Euwer Wolff, and Graham Salisbury.
Rosanne-Parry-BW-FINAL
You can see all the other Great Reads posters at  thencbla.org. There’s a ton of great literacy resources on the website, so whether you’re a teacher wanting to promote reading in your classroom or just a family looking for the next great read aloud, I hope you’ll give it a look.

Returning Librarians to my School District

A few years ago my children’s school district faced a catastrophic shortfall in their budget. The cuts that followed were many and painful, among them the loss of every single certified teacher librarian in the largest school district in Oregon. Fortunately our funding crisis is over and we’re in the happy position of deciding how to expand services. After some very eloquent 5th graders testified to the frustration of going to the school library only to find the door locked, I added some observations as a former student, a parent, a 20 year volunteer, and a visiting author.

What I had to say may be applicable to your home school district so if you are fighting this battle in some other place, please feel free to borrow my words. If you are a parent or student in the Beaverton School District, you have one more chance to make your voice heard at a budget meeting at 6:30pm on the 20th of this month at school district headquarters.

Here are my thoughts on why my own school district needs a certified teacher-librarian in every school.

1.Teacher support

As a visiting author I am in hundreds of schools all over the country. I work with grade school, middle, and high school teachers to encourage reading and writing and generate excitement for literature. Everywhere I go I meet English and reading teachers who are genuinely excited to do the higher level reading work that new standards ask of them. They want to delve deeper into texts of all genres. They are excited to bring students the best and most current books. But not every book stands up to higher level reading. The Wimpy Kid franchise, for example, is not up to the task. In order to find the books that will bear greater scrutiny and model the best and most elegant use of language, you’d have to read several hundred books each year. It’s wildly impractical to ask every single English and reading teacher to do this every year.

A certified teacher librarian is the person well qualified to winnow the enormous variety of current books to the 30 or 40 strongest candidates so that each teacher can choose from among the best of the best. They are also the ones with the resources to help teachers find books available in translation, audio, and ebook to accommodate the needs of a diverse population.

2. Loss to private schools

There are dozens of private schools within Beaverton’s boundaries. All of them have full time teacher-librarians, and that is a huge draw. It was not always so. When my parents were choosing between public and parochial schools for me they looked at the options and saw, on the one hand, a parochial school that would see to my spiritual development and had significantly smaller class sizes, and on the other hand, a public school with a well funded library and a full time librarian. They chose public schools. The parochial schools in the area are expanding, and we stand to lose high achieving students and highly involved parents if we don’t provide school libraries. Having been in several Catholic schools over the last five years, I’ve seen relatively small libraries with limited technology. But they have a full time teacher librarian and children have full access to that smaller collection. The Beaverton school district libraries far exceed most private schools in the size and quality of the collection but that vital asset is currently behind a locked door.

3. Supporting growing diversity.

Our school district has recently become a majority non-white district. This coincides with a moment when publishers are highly motivated to publish titles with multicultural characters. Looks like a win-win situation. But if nobody is there to buy the books with non-white characters, publishers will stop making them. There is a huge need for kid’s books with non-white characters. At the moment, 90% of titles have a white protagonist. That’s a ridiculous figure and the only reason it’s true is that those books consistently sell. In order for an authentic body of literature to take root for the young readers we have today is for well funded school libraries to buy the books that reflect their populations, and make sure that kids find the books that mirror their own experience and speak to their own values. We could make a huge difference in providing a legacy of inclusive literature for children.

4. Supporting family literacy

One of the things I’ve seen in talking to immigrant students, not just in Oregon but all over, is that for many of them the school library is their only library. Whether the issue is transportation or fear of library fines or reluctance to register an address publicly, lots of kids only have access to free books through a school library. One of the strongest factors in predicting whether a child will read on grade level is access to books in the home. Our families no matter how poor or disadvantaged want to support their children’s reading. By keeping the school library behind a locked door, we deny them the number one tool in learning to read: books!

A fully funded and staffed school library supports literacy better and more efficiently by enabling the student and parent to do their share of the work. With English language learning families we have a golden opportunity in the years when parents are motivated to read aloud to their children. A teacher-librarian is in the position to put into the hands of these families the books and audio books that will, not only support the child, but lift the literacy of the parent. Then we have both higher performing students and more empowered and engaged parents–a win for the entire community.

Please consider testifying in support of fully funded and staffed libraries at the Beaverton School District Administration Center at 6:30 on Monday April 20th. 16550 SW Merlo Road, Beaverton, OR  97003.

If you are not in the Beaverton School District I hope you will consider advocating for school librarians in your home district.