Friday, June 21, 2013

Check It Out! The Great Summer Library Challenge for Kids

I love making lists, but N. has never been interested in the summer reading programs hosted by libraries and bookstores, which usually involve listing books read over the summer months.  So I really appreciate the fresh approach to summer reading that Erica at What Do We Do All Day and Bethany at No Twiddle Twaddle are taking with their Great Summer Library Challenge for Kids.  They've come up with a bunch of fun, scavenger-hunt-style "challenges" to help kids get to know their library.  I like that they emphasize exploration rather than quantity, as in the usual summer list.  Much as we go to the library, I'm pretty sure N. doesn't know as much yet about how to explore the library as these challenges would teach him.  I think these activities will help him think beyond the computer catalog when he wants to browse.  The non-fiction challenges are especially smart.  I'm looking forward to trying them out with N.! 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Field Trip: Washington, D.C.

In early May we went to Washington, D.C. to visit my parents.  We went to a couple new places we'd never seen and an old favorite.

Among the new places was Strathmore Hall in Bethesda, Maryland, a beautiful performing arts center where we heard my mom sing in National Philharmonic Chorale.  After this lovely evening of Brahms, the next day we gawked at azaleas and dogwoods at the National Arboretum.  N. especially liked the Capitol Columns from the 1828 East Portico of the Capitol, which were removed when the East Portico was renovated and eventually installed at the National Arboretum.

(photo by N.)
We also spent a couple hours at one of N.'s favorite D.C. places, The National Building Museum.  We really loved the new exhibit on the tilework of the Guastavino family, whose elegant tile vaults crown spaces in Grand Central Station, Biltmore, the Boston Public Library, the U.S. Supreme Court, and many many more.  The work of these craftsmen forms a significant part of early twentieth-century architecture, but they are not household names.  N. really enjoyed browsing the pictures, drawings, and artifacts, as well as the multi-media elements of the exhibit, some of which are available on the exhibit website as well.  At another exhibit called PLAY WORK BUILD, after browsing the neat collection of architectural/ building toys on display, N. built a vaulted structure out of foam blocks.  He said it was a model of a D.C. subway station, but I think he was also processing all we'd just learned about the Guastavino vaults.   

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Third Grade Read-Aloud Chapter Books

Every year I post a list of the books Tim and I have read aloud to N.  Here's the list of what we read over the course of his third grade year, from June 2012 through May 2013.  (You can click on previous years' lists in the sidebar at right).  This list is a bit shorter than in past years, in part because the books we read aloud have gotten much longer and in part because N. has been reading more on his own in the evenings or in the car, which is when I generally read aloud to him.  As a family, we really love reading aloud, however, and are committed to continuing it for years to come.

Reading aloud is the central method and principle of our homeschooling approach.  Tim reads autobiographies, history, and science to N. (and N. takes his turn reading paragraphs aloud) daily.  I read fiction to N. daily.  The books we experience together through reading aloud become part of the texture of our days.  

As you can see, this year was dominated by the Swallows and Amazons series.  I read 9 books in the series to N. this year, including rereading the first book (which we'd read last year) and reading Coot Club twice.  N. also read half of another, Missee Lee, himself, and I've recently begun the final book, Great Northern?  Tim's and my favorite was probably We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea.  N. and I also really liked Winter Holiday, Coot Club, The Big Six, and Pigeon Post.

Among the books we read that were not written by Arthur Ransome, N. really loved My Side of the Mountain, Cheaper By the Dozen, The Gammage Cup, and The Enchanted Castle.  He also really liked Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Captains Courageous (notice the sea theme here?).

A Third-Grade Year in Read-Alouds
  • Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome
  • Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
  • Coot Club by Arthur Ransome
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  • Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer (did not finish)
  • Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown by Maud Hart Lovelace
  • Winona's Pony Cart by Maud Hart Lovelace
  • My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
  • Never Leave Well Enough Alone by Raymond Loewy (read by T.)
  • Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
  • Pigeon Post by Arthur Ransome
  • We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea by Arthur Ransome
  • Cheaper By The Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
  • Belles on Their Toes by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Secret Water by Arthur Ransome
  • Coot Club (again!) by Arthur Ransome 
  • The  Chronologers' Quest by Patrick Wyse Jackson (read by T.)
  • A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle (read by T.)
  • The Great Railroad Revolution by Christian Wolmar (read by T.)
  • The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit
  • The Big Six by Arthur Ransome
  • The Gammage Cup by Carol Kendall
  • The Whisper of Glocken by Carol Kendall
  • The Picts and the Martyrs by Arthur Ransome
  • The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell (read by T.)
  • Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling
I learned of the Swallows and Amazons and The Gammage Cup from other homeschool parents' blogs and I cannot be grateful enough; these books were such fun.  Tell me what you've read to your kids recently that you really loved!

Lists and Links:
My Listography
My LibraryThing
Kindergarten Read-Alouds
First Grade Read-Alouds
Second Grade Read-Alouds
Second Grade Independent Reading List
Third Grade Independent Reading List
Nice-Boy Heroes in Chapter Books
Architecture in Children's Fiction

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Third Grade Independent Reading Book List

Below is a list of most of the books my 8-year-old son read during his third-grade year (excluding picture books, of which he read many, and magazines such as Trains and Classic Trains and National Geographic, which constitute a large share of his reading time).  Most of these are well-known titles, but I hope you'll find some here (and in my next post of this year's read-alouds) that interest you or the young reader in your life; I love browsing other parents' lists of books for inspiration.

Our son enjoys reading fiction (and he loves being read aloud to!) but he really loves reading non-fiction as well.  He sometimes loses interest in a fiction book before finishing it, perhaps because sometimes he chooses quite long books, so I've noted if he read most of a book.  He was immersed in Calvin and Hobbes and Tintin this year, as you can see below.  He also loves to reread favorites; the first three Harry Potter books are on this year's and last year's lists.  Sometimes I try to push him to read new novels and not return to the favorites again, but he's always loved rereading (and dipping into books), and after all I'm spending my career rereading, teaching, and writing about six novels by Jane Austen, so who am I to criticize?

Third Grade (2012-2013). This list only includes books read in their entirety (or almost so).
  • Tales of the RAF: Scramble! By Don Patterson
  • Henry and the Paper Route by Beverly Cleary (read 1/3)
  • The Tunnel of Hugsy Goode by Eleanor Estes (all but final chapter)
  • Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid #5 by Jeff Kinney
  • Treehorn Times Three by Florence Parry Heide (read 2/3)
  • What a Year by Tomie DePaola
  • The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
  • The Best-Loved Doll by Rebecca Caudill
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid #6 by Jeff Kinney
  • Wonderstruck by Brian Selznik
  • Key to the Treasure by Peggy Parish
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling
  • Amtrak: An American Story by Amtrak staff
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling
  • The Cars of Pullman by Joe Welsh, Bill Howes, and Kevin J. Holland
  • Encyclopedia Brown #2-6 by Donald Sobel
  • Scientific Progress Goes Boink by Bill Watterson
  • Something Under The Bed Is Drooling by Bill Watterson
  • Ramona and Her Mother by Beverly Cleary
  • Underground by David Macauley
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid #3 by Jeff Kinney
  • Ghostopolis by Doug Tennapel
  • Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
  • The Talented Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
  • Clementine's Letter by Sara Pennypacker
  • Harry Cat's Pet Puppy by George Seldon
  • Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson
  • Yukon Ho by Bill Watterson
  • Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn by Herge
  • Clementine, Friend of the Week by Sara Pennypacker (read 1/3)
  • Tintin: Red Rackham's Treasure by Herge
  • Tintin: The Crab With the Golden Claws by Herge
  • Tintin: The Shooting Star by Herge
  • Tintin: The Seven Crystal Balls by Herge
  • Ribsy by Beverly Cleary
  • Tintin: Prisoners of the Sun by Herge
  • Tintin in America by Herge
  • The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  • Tintin: The Calculus Affair by Herge
  • Amelia Bedelia Play Ball by Peggy Parrish
  • Horrid Henry's Stinkbomb by Francesca Simon (read 1/2)
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
  • Chi's Sweet Home by Konami Kanata Vols 1-9
  • Tintin: Explorers on the Moon by Herge
  • Tintin: The Castafiore Diamond by Herge
  • Tintin: The Broken Ear by Herge 
  • Usborne Puzzle Adventure Omnibus
  • Missee Lee by Arthur Ransome (read 1/2)
  • Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magic by Betty MacDonald
  • Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia Maclachlan 
I'm interested in the range of "reading levels" on this list; it's a good reminder either that rating the reading levels of books is an imprecise project or that kids sometimes read at the upper and lower levels in the same week, or both.

I always like to hear "if he liked X, he'll love Y" recommendations.  In addition to graphic novels and stories (I've got to get Asterix in front of him!), he likes books from an earlier era; he was complaining bitterly to me the other day that our public library mostly has (in his perception -- I think this might not actually be true) children's books published in the past 20 years.  And we're always looking for fiction and nonfiction about trains and buildings! 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Old Building Sleuths: The Henry D. Poindexter House

H. D. Poindexter House in 2012.
One day last spring (2012) I took a different route home from work and on a little out-of-the-way street near downtown I saw an old Queen Anne-style house I'd never noticed before hidden behind overgrown trees and shrubs.  Knowing his love of Queen Annes, I took N. to see it.  To my great surprise, he immediately recognized the house from a library book he'd been reading on the history of our city.  "Mom! That's the Poindexter House!  But Mom," he said, "that house used to be on 5th street!"

This was intriguing.  I didn't doubt for a minute that he was right; he knows his buildings!  When I suggested on a different day that we go to the public library to research the integration of the public libraries in our city, N. said he wanted to learn more about this house instead: who was Poindexter, when and why was the house moved?

H. D. Poindexter House in 1963.  Digital Forsyth.
So N. and I went to the North Carolina Room at the library and explained our quest to the archivist on duty.  She pointed us to hanging files of newspaper clippings!  N. and I paged through a file labeled "Winston-Salem: Biography" and found a long article from 1963 about H. D. Poindexter.  The librarian then thought to look for an application in the National Register of Historic Places, and sure enough, the house had been nominated for the registry.  In addition to recapping information from the 1963 newspaper article about Poindexter's career as one of the earliest merchants in the new town of Winston, and his life with his 8 children, the form included a detailed description of the house's interior and layout.  And we learned that the house was scheduled to be moved in late December 1977, just after the registry nomination was completed.  The lot on which the house sat had been purchased by the Integon Corporation; Integon donated the house to the new owners, who would move it a few blocks away so that Integon could build a new office tower.  (The National Register application states that the builder of the Poindexter House was unknown, but I found through subsequent googling that the North Carolina Architects & Builders Biographical Dictionary identifies the architect as Hill C. Linthicum).

The archivist recommended we return another day to speak to local historian Fam Brownlee, who heads the North Carolina Room.  After he got over his surprise that a seven-year-old boy wanted to know about the Poindexter House, Mr. Brownlee told us all about it.  It turns out Brownlee himself had written that application for the National Register of Historic Places and had been one of the primary forces in saving the house when Integon expanded.  Fresh out of college, he, with a couple other local people, convinced Integon to donate the house, found a new lot to move it to, wrote the application, etc.  In fact, his involvement with the Poindexter House was the beginning of his career as a local historian.  Our conversation with him was fascinating.

Having fun with the microfilm reader.
N. was interested in seeing pictures of the house being moved.  In the local history books he'd browsed, he'd seen pictures of the moving of another landmark structure, the Zevely House.  You can imagine the appeal to a person with N.'s interests in buildings and transportation of pictures of an old house traversing downtown on the flatbed of a truck!  There were no pictures in the online repository of old photos owned by the library, but we thought it was likely that the local newspaper reported on the moving of the Poindexter House.  We didn't know exactly when it was moved, but we knew it was after December 1977, so we started looking through the microfilm of the newspaper for January 1978.

N. absolutely loved browsing the microfilm, reading the ads, marveling at prices, checking out the comics.  It seemed like magic to him that you could read old newspapers this way.  Eventually we found the story we were looking for: January 5, 1978.  "Move of Poindexter House Runs Into Trouble.  Weight Breaks Tractor: Stretch of Mud Looms."  N. was fascinated!  We printed out copies of the newspaper stories, the National Register application, etc. and N. saved them in a folder.

a photo of a newspaper page (1/6/1978) on microfilm
The library closed for the day so we didn't have time to look for a follow-up story in the next day's paper.  We already knew the outcome, of course; somehow, the house did make it to its new lot.  I was curious about how the conclusion of the house's journey was reported, but N. was less so, and we didn't get around to going back to the North Carolina Room and the microfilm machines for a year.  This spring, however, we finally did return and found reports and photos in both the morning and afternoon newspapers showing the house in its new home.

The owner of the Poindexter House quoted in the news stories from 1978 is still listed in the phone book as living there, so I suggested to N. that he write to him.  N. wrote a sweet letter explaining his interest in and research on the house and asking the owner if he'd be willing to meet and tell him more about the house and the process of moving it.  He has not received a reply.

I suggested to N. that he might do some sort of project culminating all he's learned about our city's history, the gradual transformation of 5th Street from a "Millionaires' Row" of Victorian houses to the site of downtown office buildings which left the Poindexter House stranded among towers and parking lots, the mercantile history of this area, how to do research, etc.  Perhaps he could make a drawing, a story, or something else that would help cement his learning through the process of creating.  But N. declined, saying he preferred to keep this information in his head, that that was enough for him.  

Monday, June 3, 2013

Old Building Sleuths: Winston-Salem's Carnegie Library

Winston-Salem's Carnegie Library (Digital Forsyth)
Last spring (2012) N. and I were walking around downtown; we passed a little Catholic chapel that we've walked past hundreds of times.  I'd always wondered what the story of this chapel is.  It's the only Catholic outpost downtown, in an area dominated by Moravian, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches; the Catholic churches are elsewhere in the city.  N. suddenly said, "Mom, I think that used to be the Carnegie Library!"  And I realized he must be right.  Because I'd always thought of the building as a chapel, I'd never noticed that it has the classic lines of the small Carnegie libraries that dot the U.S.  N. had visited the Carnegie library in Two Harbors, MN, the old Carnegie library in Duluth, MN, and had seen pictures of Betsy-Tacy's downtown library, the old Carnegie library in Mankato, MN, so he recognized the form. I knew there had been a Carnegie library in Winston-Salem that preceded our current Central Library, but didn't know where it was located.  I assumed it had been torn down.

I looked for more information about the old library online and learned that it was built in 1906 to designs by Edward L. Tilton, who provided plans executed by local builders (in this case the Fogle Brothers) for many Carnegie libraries throughout the country.  At first the city rejected the proffered $25,000 for a library because "it was not convenient at that time to accept the gift on the terms proposed by Mr. Carnegie."  Carnegie required annual public funding for the operation of the library equal to 10% of the building cost; eventually the sum of $15,000 from Carnegie and $1,500 annual appropriation from the city was agreed upon.  This meant a quite small library was built, and it quickly proved inadequate, as you can see in this 1940 photo.  Eventually sizable private fundraising made it possible to replace the Carnegie library in 1952 (on the site of the former R. J. Reynolds mansion); that library is now also sorely outdated and the means of funding its replacement under dispute.  This does not appear to be a community with a strong history of robust financial support for public libraries.

I'm ashamed to admit that it did not occur to me until I began reading about the history of libraries in Winston-Salem that they were segregated, that the Carnegie library, meant to be free to all, was like many across the South closed to African-Americans.  Eleven years after the Carnegie library opened here, the George Moses Horton Branch for black patrons opened inside a downtown YWCA (here's a cool picture of Langston Hughes reading at the George Moses Horton Branch in 1949).  Two years after the new Central Library opened (presumably for whites), a new building, the East Winston Branch, opened (presumably for blacks).

I want to know more about the segregation and desegregation of my local libraries from the 1950s onwards.  Was segregation enforced at the new Central Library, and for how long?  The History of Public Library Access for in the South by David M. Battles notes that in 1953 "59 cities and towns" in "a survey of 172 libraries, commissions, and library associations encompassing thirteen southern states" gave full main library access to African-American adults but not to children.  29 cities gave limited access to African-American adults through separate entrances and reading rooms.  11 southern library systems with white-only main libraries had one branch that was open to all.  Where did Winston-Salem fall on this spectrum?  Who was involved in bringing about the eventual transition to integrated libraries?

I suggested to N. that we go -- where else? -- to the library to learn more about this history.  As you'll see in my next post, it turned out that he had a different topic of local history he wanted to research.  I haven't yet taken the time to follow up myself, but I want to.  In the meantime, I'm grateful that my son's keen eye for buildings shed light on a complex feature of local history that had been unfamiliar to us.