Library of the Early Mind

Library of the Early Mind “is an exploration of the art and impact of children’s literature on our kids, our culture, and ourselves. From the first stories we hear told to us to those childhood heroes that stay with us a lifetime, the impact on our culture runs deeper than what we might expect…..
The film features nearly 40 prominent authors and illustrators talking about their work, its genesis and its impact.”

This documentary is now screening in selected venues in the United States, I wonder when it will be available in Australia? I’d love to see it….

I’ve posted on the Library of the Early Mind Facebook page to ask them.


Reading Matters

Note: the Netvibe mentioned in this post has been superseded by my new Reading Matters website. Please follow this link to visit the new Reading Matters!

updated Dec 2014

One of my passions is reading aloud to children.

Recently I conducted a reading workshop for parents in which we discussed the importance of reading aloud, learned how to choose appropriate books, and shared some tips about how to effectively read with children.

I created a Reading Matters netvibe to help parents access the myriad of resources and information available on the web.

We used the Netvibe during the workshop to structure our exploration of some of the key resources. There are some wonderful videos, blogs, book trailers, review sites and research articles out there!

Apples & Oranges

One of the people in my PLN on twitter is Angela Maiers, an educational author and consultant who has some wonderful resources available on her website. Be sure to visit there.

Her model lesson with Grade 4 students on fiction and non-fiction reading is terrific. Angela uses an apples and oranges metaphor to differentiate between non-fiction and fiction reading. I love this metaphor. Such a simple and effective way to illustrate both the importance of balanced reading and the different way we read fiction and non-fiction books.


Kamishibai is a form of picture storytelling that originated in Japan. Tara McGovern on the Kamishibai for Kids website explains that:

“Kamishibai, (kah-mee-she-bye) or “paper-theater,” is said to have started in Japan in the late 1920s, but it is part of a long tradition of picture storytelling, beginning as early as the 9th or 10th centuries when priests used illustrated scrolls combined with narration to convey Buddhist doctrine to lay audiences. Later, etoki (picture-tellers) adopted these methods to tell more secular stories. Throughout the Edo period (1603-1867) and on into the Meiji period (1868-1912), a variety of street performance styles evolved, using pictures and narration.”

Eric Nash in his recently published book Manga Kamishibai: The Art of Japanese Paper Theater provides a wonderfully illustrated and detailed history of Kamishibai.

Kamishibai was most popular in the 1920s and 30s before the introduction of television. Children would gather in the streets to buy sweets from the “Kamishibai Man” and listen to his stories. The Kamishibai men travelled on bicycles which had specially made boxes with a “stage” for the picture cards and drawers for the sweets.They would use hyoshigi (hyoh-shee-ghee) wooden clappers to call attention and beckon the children to gather ’round for the stories.

Allen Say’s beautiful book Kamishibai Man recounts the story of a Kamishibai man and his memories of days spent riding around sharing stories.

Kamishibai stories are told using large picture story cards. There are usually anywhere from 12 to 20 cards per story. It is a wonderful way to share stories with students and we have had fun in our library creating and sharing our own Kamishibai stories. I recently used Kamishibai with Kindergarten children in their unit of inquiry on storytelling. We learned about traditional fairy tales then explored the many ways they have been retold. We focused on the Three little Pigs and learnt about some of the fun versions including the Three Horrid Little Pigs. Each Kindergarten class created their own Kamishibai horrid little pigs story. The children enjoyed seeing their artwork in the final product!

The Grade 2 children also enjoy Kamishibai when we share traditional Japanese tales as part of their Banzai Japan Unit of Inquiry. They create their own versions of tales such as Momotaro, the Peach Boy.

I have been disappointed that there are not more Kamishibai stories available in Japan with English translations. There are few options available to those of us who need the English text. I buy Japanese language Kamashibai cards and ask my Japanese friends to translate them for me. It is easy to attach the English translations to the back of each card next to the Japanese text. The Kamishibai story cards are readily available in bookstores here in Japan and average around $20 US per set.

The Kamishibai for Kids website provides great information and resources about Kamishibai. They are based in the US and do sell several translated Kamishibai stories as well as the Kamishibai boxes and wooden clappers. It is unfortunately an expensive option for those outside the US as the international shipping costs are high.

The International Kamishibai Association of Japan (IKAJ) also has a helpful website with information, links and highlights of how Kamashibai is being used by its members throughout the world.

Kamishibai is a wonderful way to encourage and develop reading, writing and performance skills for children and language learners of all ages!

I plan on gathering stories and taking them, along with my newly acquired Kamishibai box and clappers, back to Australia when I return.

Sakura Medal

Sakura MedalThe International School Librarians Group in Japan has in recent years introduced a reading program for students in international schools across Japan that encourages students to read recently published books of literary quality from around the world. The Sakura Medal begins in the new school year, usually around October (each school decides their own launch date) and finishes at the end of April. The winners are announced in early May. Students choose and read books and at the end of the program if they have read at least 5 books from a list they are entitled to vote for their favourite book on the list. The votes from all participating schools are tallied and the winning authors are presented with a medal, certificate and some student art work.

We have several lists the students can read from. There are four English book lists and two Japanese book lists:

Picture Books
Japanese Picture Books
Elementary Chapter Books
Middle School Books
High School Books
Japanese Fiction for Middle and High School

The lists can be viewed on LibraryThing via the Sakura Medal Group

Each school implements the program a little differently with prizes, incentives, activities and parties that promote the reading.

At Tokyo International School, students in Grades 1 through 8 participate in four of the lists – Picture Books, Elementary Chapter Books, Middle School Books and Japanese Picture Books. We have several incentives and activities. Every child that reads five books on their list is entitled to go to our Sakura Medal party at the end of the school year and they earn a flower with their photo that goes on our blooming Sakura tree.


We offer free library passes for those who read at least fifteen books and for the students who read every book on the list a gift certificate for local book stores – alas not a great selection of Enlgish books available in the bookstores here!

The students are very enthusiastic about the Sakura Medal books and we never have enough copies to go around!

This year at TIS I introduced a Sakura Medal Ning which the students in Grades 4-7 joined and shared their thoughts about the  books. As well as learning how to use a social network in a safe closed environment, the students enjoyed watching and listening to book trailers, and author video and audio clips. We had fun sharing on the ning! If you visit the Ning you will only see the front page.

At the moment I am experimenting with a Sakura Medal netvibe and then I’ll decide which tool to use for next year’s program. For more about Sakura at Tokyo International School visit our web page Sakura Medal Blog

This years winning books were recently announced:


Picture Book

by Polly Dunbar

name of this book

Elementary Chapter Book

The Name of this Book is Secret
by Pseudonymous Bosch


Middle School

by Neil Shusterman

name of the wind

High School

The Name of the Wind
by Patrick Rothfuss


Japanese Picture Book

by かがくいひろし


Japanese MS/High School

by 水野敬也



The Sakura Medal Program is gaining momentum every year as more schools join and we shake out the kinks. It certainly is a way to encourage our kids to read outside their comfort zone!

Links – May

I’ve come across so many wonderful links recently! Here’s a couple of the best ones:
Create your own custom moo cards. i just ordered some very cool minicards with my own photos. Lots of fun!

21st Century Learning Spaces
Loads of resources for inspiration in designing technology rich spaces that promote individual and collaborative learning.

100 Helpful Web Tools for Every Kind of Learner
Great tools that cater for individual learning styles.

Visual Blooms
A visual representation of Bloom’s Taxonomic Hierarchy with a 21st Century twist.

A wonderful kids online book store with great reviews and booklists.

And just for fun…

The Dewey Rap
A great rap about the Dewey Decimal System.

Check my delicious for loads more links!

Book caring

How do we encourage children to care for and appreciate books? I love to see kids excited about books! It’s always a thrill when a child runs in to tell me about a book they’ve just finished,  a new book they can’t wait to read, or a new author or series they have discovered. It’s a joy to experience their enthusiasm and excitement. I think that’s my favourite thing about working in a school.

I am a book lover – there is something wonderful about a new book with fresh cover and crisp clean pages. Children too, love new books – they eagerly pounce on all the new books we put out on display and beg for more. I think it’s important to teach children about the value of books and how best to look after them. We have lessons about handling books – how we look at them, how we transport them, how we store them.

We encourage our students to care for books by having library bags to transport them and bookmarks to keep their place. We learn about how books are shelved and how we can help keep the library organised.

This year we decided to purchase relatively inexpensive library bags that the children could decorate themselves. The bags are made from calico and feature the school logo on one side with a flap at the top. We ordered them from Norquest Bags in India. They were inexpensive and Norquest were very efficient and pleasant to deal with.

The children enjoyed decorating them with fabric pens. Here’s some pictures of the children with their decorated bags:

library bags

library bag

The children also enjoy creating their own bookmarks as well as using the bookmarks I have designed for them. We laminate them so they last a little longer!

bookmarks bookmarkmaking

It can’t be overstated that children learn from adult behaviours, so remember next time you lazily turn the corner of a page down, spill food or drink on a book, or leave a book carelessly in an inappropriate place ……..little eyes are watching.

Please leave a comment and share how you help children, or adults, value and appreciate books!

Book Shopping

booksgirlLiving in a non-english speaking country presents numerous problems…one of which is being able to see and touch new books before buying them. I really miss visiting bookstores to spend hours browsing in the children’s book section.

I relish the time I have when I’m back home to visit book stores and choose loads of new books to ship back to the library here in Japan. There’s nothing quite like discovering a wonderful new picture book as you while away the hours in sensual delight in a bookstore! Who doesn’t love the smell and feel of a new book?

So how does an expat international school librarian source and buy new books in a country where so few good english and world language books are available?

Stores in Tokyo with English Books

The best places to find a reasonable selection of English kids books are Crayon House in Omote Sando, and Kinokuniya at Takashimaya Times Square in Shinjuku.  Tower Records in Shibuya also has a reasonable selection.

I’ve also discovered this comprehensive list of bookstores in Tokyo.

Book Review Journals

I eagerly await the arrival of these journals each month/quarter:

Magpies (Australian and New Zealand)

Books for Keeps (UK)

Library Media Connection (US)

Voya (US)

I also visit the websites and blogs for each of these journals and I periodically take a peek at  Horn Book (I skim the current issue online) and Kirkus Reviews (I subscribe to their email update)

For books in languages other than English, this is a good place to start your search.


The old favourites…,,,,  and… just because it’s easy and the reviews are always helpful.

For Australian and New Zealand books, these sites are helpful ….Readings, Pearson, Children’s Bookshop

Follett’s Titlewave

Baker & Taylor

For lots of other links, check my delicious bookmarks for book suppliers


Blogs are a fabulous way to find out about what’s new and what’s happening in the world of kids literature.

There are so many wonderful children’s and young adult literature blogs. A great place to start is KidLitosphereCentral

“The “KidLitosphere” is a community of reviewers, librarians, teachers, authors, illustrators, publishers, parents, and other book enthusiasts who blog about children’s and young adult literature.”

Just view the members page and you’ll find links to hundreds of blogs!

I regularly trawl book review blogs and websites from around the world on my netvibes.

A couple of favourites:


Reading Rants

Chicken Spaghetti


If you are looking for manga or graphic novels visit Sealight Books and check out the School Library Journal’s new monthly ‘Good Manga for Kids‘.


You can hear about all kinds of great stuff on twitter. Follow publishers, authors, librarians…all kinds of interesting people and keep up on all the latest on books and more.

Follow me here:


From Canada, for podcasts about children’s books, Just One More Book is a fabulous resource.

There are just so many great resources out there…..and so little time to really enjoy and use them! I need more hours in the day….

Do you have some great resources that you rely on. Please share in the comments!