If You Can Keep It by Eric Metaxas

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Wow. I’m not a fast reader, but I inhaled this book. Metaxas lifts our eyes to see again the hope that is America. How long has it been since you’ve listened to retellings of the heroes of our nation’s history? Have you heard or thought about the exceptional circumstances that formed this country of ours? When was the last time you felt proud of America?

Metaxas is an amazing historian with a talent for shining a light on good and noble things. He speaks of things we don’t hear much about anymore: patriotism, heroism, moral leadership, divine purpose.

I don’t know if our nation can be revived, but this is an excellent step in that direction.  I am reinvigorated to pray for our nation. But I do wonder: can our people show mercy to our nation and extend it to the world if they don’t even know what mercy is or that they need it? The ultimate call, in my mind, is for the Church to rise up and fulfill her calling to go, teach and make disciples. Very inspiring book.

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Christian Book Awards

As a librarian at a Christian school, I have found that I have to be purposeful if I am going to find books that reflect the interests and values of my students. Books rarely include characters who have lives that portray faith in or concern for the things of God. Like most other forms of entertainment, the publishing industry tends to shy away from Christian themes or portrayals of religion. So, I have found a few organizations that give literary awards for Christian writing, and I keep up with the lists each year to help me develop my library collection.

The Christy Award has been giving awards for excellence in Christian fiction since 1999. They name an overall book of the year every August, and choose winners in several specific categories, including a young adult category most years. Things may look a little different next year because administration of the Christy Award  has just been turned over to the ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association). ECPA will be on my radar beginning in 2017 because they have added a Young Adult category to their awards.

The INSPY Awards have been recognizing books since 2010. The award honors “the very best in literature that grapples with expressions of the Christian faith.” The judges are all bloggers who have agreed to the statement of faith that is posted on the INSPY web site. Book nominated for INSPY awards may be from Christian publishers or the general marketplace.

The Crown Lamplighter Awards are lists of uplifting literature for 1st – 3rd (Gallery), 4th – 5th (Crown), and 6th – 8th (Lamplighter) grades. Students at participating schools read the books and vote on their favorite each year. The winners receive the Gallery, Crown or Lamplighter award.

As Christian themes become more popular, there will probably be more award organizations popping up. If you know of any, leave a comment.

 

Year End Reviews

I review books for a local librarian group, HAISLN, to find titles for recommended reading lists. Here are a few I completed over the last year:
Football Faith by Rob MaaddiFootball Faith, by Rob Maaddi
Football Faith features entries for 52 professional football players (one for each week of the year?). Each entry begins with a favorite Bible verse shared in the player’s own words. Some simply explain how they apply the verse in their own lives. Others describe how the verse contributed to their larger faith journey. Entries are brief, which I believe will keep the intended audience engaged.
Scripture stories are followed by Extra Points, which tell of some sort of charity involvement, mission work, or some career goal or achievement beyond professional football.
Finally, there is a quick overview of the player: position, weight, age, high school, career highlights, etc. Every entry ends with an action photo.
I was provided an electronic advanced copy for review. There were some font and layout issues I assume will be corrected before the book goes to press.
I will be purchasing this title for my private school’s library. This book would be appealing to middle school – high school football fans.

Continue reading Year End Reviews

Summer Education

Summer break can be a wonderful balance of relaxation and growth if we lay plans early for how we want our children to spend their time. Here are a few FREE resources that will help you direct your children’s time and avoid those day-long video gaming sessions (surely my kids aren’t the only ones).

Khan Academy offers instructional videos and practice exercises in math, science, economics, art and computing. Parents can create an account and add profiles for child(ren) in order to monitor progress and reward achievements. All learning is self-paced. Videos are translated into many foreign languages as well. I used this with my sons last summer, and I plan to use it again this year.

Moby Max falls under the “too good to be true” category for younger students. They offer curriculum for sale, but simply register for the free version and create a classroom for your child(ren). Tailor the curriculum level for each student and each subject.  Levels will automatically advance as activities are successfully completed. Parents can log in under their administrative account to see progress.

Code Academy offers free online college-level courses specifically for computer programming. The academy has been in existence since August 2011, but I’ve only heard of it recently. I will be exploring it with my boys this summer as well.

online publishing products for readers and writers

Sometimes writers just need a way to get their stories out to an audience, and sometimes readers just need a fresh source of material to choose from. Digital publishing houses are stepping in to fill that gap. Here are three products to check out:

Inklewriter is a free tool for writers to create multi-branching, interactive stories online. Account creation is easy. Teachers can use it to integrate technology and creative writing. Once a story is complete, it can be shared via a unique url. It can even be converted into a file for Kindle for a small fee. Readers can find Inkle products through the app store, and Kindle products are listed on Inkle’s site. Inklewriter was created by two game designers, so it’s not surprising that the apps created with Inklewriter interact like role-playing games, blurring the lines between game and book.

Atavist is both a publisher and a publication. Atavist produces original, primarily non-fiction stories that are not just electronic “paper” versions, but video, images and audio are embedded to take full advantage of the electronic medium. Readers can purchase stories individually, or subscribe and receive monthly stories. Writers who are interested in publishing through Atavist will need to set up a Creatavist account. A free account will allow the publication of one story. Monthly charges apply to standard and professional accounts. Users must be over 13.

Medium is free and open for writers and readers, however the account must be linked to a Facebook or Twitter account. Writers can create using Medium’s composition tool or they can import files. You can share a pre-publication link with your friends if you’d like to ask their editing advise before final submission. Then authors can build an audience through Facebook, Twitter or personal invitation. Readers can head straight to the Medium home page and browse stories. As you share stories you like, your connections will share back.

All of these services explicitly state that the authors are responsible for honoring copyright and the authors remain the sole owners of all of their intellectual property.

Free Teacher Tools

Public, private, home school, and “just for fun” teachers will appreciate the free resources available through the Discovery Education web site. Start at their home page: http://www.discoveryeducation.com/ and scroll all the way down to the bottom to see the links.

As with any free tool, you’ll have to put up with a little bit of advertising, but the sites are fairly well organized and easy to use. I didn’t run across any tools that required the user to set up an account. What a relief, in this market-driven world!

One of my favorite links is Learning Adventures under Free Teacher Resources.

Enjoy!

Hour of Code – computer skills for the next generation

Hour of Code is happening this week! Hour of Code is an organized push to introduce students of all ages to computer programming–for free! Activities are designed for all skill levels, all platforms (laptops vs. tablets vs. smartphones), and several different computer programming languages.

Here is what the Hour of Code founders say about themselves:

Launched in 2013, Code.org® is a non-profit dedicated to expanding participation in computer science by making it available in more schools, and increasing participation by women and underrepresented students of color. Our vision is that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science. We believe computer science and computer programming should be part of the core curriculum in education, alongside other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses, such as biology, physics, chemistry and algebra.

Hour of Code activities can be enjoyed without signing up for an account. But if you love it, you may want to create an account. It’s still free. Activities will be available after this week as well. It is a fun enrichment activity that will help prepare our students with skills for life.

Get started here: https://code.org/

Equipping and encouraging with information and knowledge