Monday, June 25, 2012

Library Needs Our Help

I know that you are probably wondering. . . why is Sandi posting?  She said that she was taking a break for the summer.  

Well yes, I am taking a modified break, as I a truly incapable of taking a complete break.  

Recently Lesely Koyi, who was interviewed in Words From the Wise in May, contacted me about a library in Kenya that is in great need.  

As you may recall, Lesley is a librarian and poet.  He recently launched a boys lit club for his local community and they are in desperate need of books.  I interviewed Lesley a few days ago about his new project so that we all have the information that we need to help these kids have access to books.  Please read the interview below.

Hi Sandi,
Good morning from Kenya.  It's a bright morning over here, and I must say I am honored  very much to be hosted by you for another interview. I therefore wish to offer my sincere answers to the questions asked by you as follows.

1. Can you tell me about the organization that you are collecting books for?  History of the organization and where things are at right now.

The organization that I am collecting books for is called Single Mothers Association of Kenya. This organization has a community library in which, as a professional librarian, I am interested in seeing it come out from its death bed. It is not in use because it does not have books and has a number of infrastructural issues to be addressed. It is built of iron sheets and it has some parts of it exposed to the entrance of dust.  I felt as a librarian, I would use my experience and network of friends to help it grow.  First, I must state also that the main thing that made me become aware of the plight of this library is when I decided to approach the Director of the site, Mrs. Angeline Nandwa to ask her to allow me to start a Boys Litclub within the library.

The history of this organization is that Single Mothers Association of Kenya is a non-profit community based organization that was formed in 1991, and legally registered under the ministry of culture and social services. This ministry is committed to addressing major problems facing the single adolescent mothers and the vulnerable girls within the slums communities in Nairobi and other parts of the country. This they do through offering vocational training to the women, girls and boys. The training is to help them become self employed in the future.  The training is offered in tailoring and dress making, welding and fabrication, embroidery, bead and leather work, electrification skills, and also voluntary counselling and testing, and then last but not least, the community library services. The community being catered for in the projects of Single Mothers Association of Kenya is one that is riddled with drugs, crime, high level of school drop outs, unwanted pregnancies and poverty. This, therefore, makes it impossible for the majority of parents to afford the buying of books for their children as this is challenged by the need to put food on the table. It is a hustle, if not a struggle for many to gain access to the 3 basic needs--food, shelter, and clothing.  Currently, because of many financial challenges that Angeline has faced in the running of this project, the library has suffered the most with no books and dusty shelves. This is where I think and wish I can help by getting good friends who will stand with me and make the availability of books to this community and children become a reality. Knowledge is power, and that will transform this community both socially and economically.

2. How did you become involved, and what do you do?

As stated earlier, I became involved when after undergoing a facilitator training with Litworld, I was given a thumbs up to open a Boys Litclub in my community. That is when I started looking for a conducive site for boys to come and meet without disruption.  Single Mothers Association of Kenya was the best site for us, and while here, I noticed the big problem with the library section.  So currently, I am honestly looking for good people all over the world who will feel the need to donate and send over some books for this library so that it can become a vibrant hub of knowledge to the community as a whole.  I would have sat back comfortably as I have my own job where I work as a librarian, but with this library reeling to oblivion I think I cannot have my peace, and that's why I appeal for help.

3. Who are the children that you are servicing?  How many children, ages, are they in school, what are their home lives like?

The children i am servicing in my Litclub are boys but i have under way plans to include the girls and mums by getting them their own Litclubs too so that they can also get engaged in matters of literacy, i am servicing about 20 kids of between ages of 12-14 years old.Since Litworld offers a different forum from a normal school curricular this boys attend the Boys Litclub meetings on Saturday and Sunday afternoon after their normal school.As stated earlier this kids are coming out from poor family back grounds and from homes faced with a number of challenges in an environment that has lots of vices.I must state before i forget too that Litworld encourages the culture of reading and writing all over the world for kids and its upon this back drop that we are in need books down here.

4. How many books do you currently have and what are your most urgent needs in terms of type of book that you are looking for?

Currently I have very few books, and most of them not of use to these kids. These books are about 150 in number.  My most urgent needs in terms of books are books that can be of use to kids let me say all children's books, be it picture books, chapter books, fiction and all manner of story books and not forgetting academic ones if possible.

Sandi, I must say thanks very much for hosting me again for another interview and this is a sure sign that you are touched with my endeavor to enrich the kids with books. I believe  with your support this will no longer be a long journey and never will it be a far cry anymore. Please feel free to include the link to my blog so that the world can know how I feel about the development of the library in Africa and Kenya to be precise. 

As you can see by reading Lesley's responses to my questions, this is a desperate situation.  Please reach into your hearts and send some new or previously loved books to Lesley--the boys and their families need our help.

Lesley Koyi
P.O.BOX 75603-00200
Nairobi, Kenya


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Summer Hiatus

Hello Everyone-

I know that I recently put out a request for new people to be featured on Words From the Wise, however, I am going to have to postpone this feature until the fall.  As the school year winds down, and my personal family life gets crazy with summer plans, I have decided to take a hiatus from this blog.

I wish you all a wonderful summer, and I shall return in September.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Words From the Wise #14 -- Sandi Hershenson

Today's post is not about writing.
Today's post is not necessarily from someone who is wise.
Today's post is from someone who is wiser than she was a few days ago-- me

This past weekend my family and I participated for the 4th year in a row in our local Relay for Life.  For those of you who are not familiar with Relay for Life, it is a 24 hour walk and fundraiser that supports the American Cancer Society.

EVERYONE has been somehow touched by cancer.  Whether you are a survivor, have lost a loved one, have been a care giver, or a friend to someone who has been ill, we have all been connected with cancer.

Each year I organize a team to participate in the walk.  I take care of the logistical aspects for our team.  I organize team fundraisers.  I make sure that we have all of the supplies that we will need, and I make sure that we have people committed to walking and volunteering at our booth throughout the full 24 hours.  After all, cancer never sleeps and neither will we until it is wiped out.

Each year the guests at Relay have the opportunity to hear survivors tell their cancer story.  Being that they are survivors, these particular people all have happy endings.  After the speeches, and after wiping away the tears we all take a deep breath, and get back to walking on that track.  For each of the past three years we have had a very active team and have had plenty of people to walk during the middle of the night.  This being the case, my team has always let me get a good night's sleep in my tent.

This year the number of active participants on our team was smaller, and I took on a longer walk during the night.  I enjoyed the walk.  From 2:00-4:30am I walked in the dark.  It was cold and my ankles and  hips hurt from walking on the uneven track that most days is the athletic field of a city park.  I had been walking in the 100 degree heat during the day and acting as a cheerleader for my teammates since 7:00am.  My body was physically exhausted, but my mind kept pushing me to walk.

During the walk I thought about so many things:  my kids, my mom who is a Survivor, new picture book ideas, and cancer.  I thought about how trivial so many things are when there are people of all descriptions fighting for their lives.  These are not people who made stupid mistakes to cause harm to their bodies (except for those who have smoked for years), these are people who were struck by cancer.  A disease that knows no limitations.

While I walk every year, each year I feel as though I am a little bit wiser.  I have studied the Fight Back information that each team displays and I have learned more about cancer so that I can share that information with others.  Knowledge is power, and I am now more powerful, as I have more knowledge.

The knowledge that I want to share with all of you who are stubborn and don't like to go to the doctor.  This is based upon one of our speakers who shared her story of losing her husband to cancer.  He was stubborn,  he had felt as though something wasn't right for years, but he refused to go to the doctor.  When he finally went, the doctor diagnosed him with Stage 4 colon cancer.  For the next several years the cancer had metastasized to several other places in his body.  He was told that had he come to them 5 years earlier he would have had much better chance of survival.  This gentleman passed away this past year leaving behind a wife and 3 sons.

My wise words are telling you to go to the doctor if something is not feeling right.  Don't ignore it, save your own life and help others to save their lives too.  We live in an amazing world that has endless possibilities, and being stubborn will only result in you missing out on all of it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Illustrator -- Claudia Fehr-Levin

As you all know, a few weeks ago my book, The Boy Who Cried Shmutz, was published on uTales. I could not have done it without the amazing work of the very talented Claudia Fehr-Levin.  Someone who was a complete stranger to me, I can now call my dear friend.  Today Claudia posted all about her process in the creation of the book.

 I invite you all to visit her blog and enjoy her post! Click on her name below, and fall in love with her work.

Illustrator, Claudia-Fehr Levin

Monday, May 14, 2012

Words From the Wise #13--Lesley Koyi

Today I had the great honor and pleasure of interviewing poet, Lesely Koyi.  Lesley is an Information Consultant and Librarian from Nairobi, Kenya.  I could not be more thrilled to be having literary information from around the globe on Words From the Wise.  Sometimes we all get so focused on what we are doing here at home, that we forget about the children who live in other parts of the world.  Lesley was a participant, a very special participant, in World Read Aloud Day.  I hope that you enjoy learning more about this fascinating man.

1.  As a librarian, and a poet you became involved with World Read Aloud Day.  Can you describe your involvement?

Yes I did indeed take part in this year’s World Read Aloud Day, and I must say it was quite a fantastic experience because the World Read Aloud Day became a launching pad for me on how much a wider readership my poems can attract world over. So my involvement with World Read Aloud Day this year March 7 2012 was, first I took part as a guest reader via skype and also my involvement to writing a poem which I titled “The World Read Aloud Day Poem”. This poem was posted on the Litworld website and seen world over and also sent by Litworld to about 3000 friends world over in celebrating this years World Read Aloud Day.

I hope that you don't mind Lesley, but I posted your poem here for all to enjoy!

I hear the echo of a voice, reading aloud to the nations,
I listen to the story and what a story it is,
The story carries my mind and memory to far flung places,
But then
I realize I have had a journey of the mind and for a moment,
I forget about my environment and all my challenges in life.
I hear the echo of a voice, reading aloud to the nations,
I want to know why the voice reads aloud to the nations,
I am told it’s the worlds read aloud day.
I hear the echo of a voice, reading aloud to the nations
It mingles with the tweet of the singing birds, for a morning
Wake up call, for it’s just but morning,
The sun is just but rising, but the voice still goes on and strong,
The story carries with it the tells of literacy to the world, that the young
In the world can grow with strong minds of understanding and knowledge for life.
I hear the echo of a voice, reading aloud to the nations,
I listen to the story and what a story it is,
The sweet voice mingle with various other voices of nature,
The birds chirping, the sun rising, the wind blowing, the trees swaying,
The waves rising and the plains soaring with life.
Then I realize it’s not only, a voice reading aloud to the nations,
But its voices reading, all over the world, and finally,
The sun has gone down, its night and the bats are flying by,
I then continue to hear many other voices read aloud to,
The children into the deep of the night making it full of life.

2.  This blog has followers from all around the world, however, most are in the United States.  Please describe the way the school systems function in Kenya.  

The School systems in Kenya are run on an 8-4-4 system, and basically this means 8 years in primary school education, 4 years in secondary school education and lastly 4 years in university education.

3.  Can you describe what literacy  is like in Kenya?  Are parents actively involved in teaching their children to read or is this something that is primarily learned at school?

 Despite the fact that Kenyans are a knowledgeable lot literacy in Kenya is still a growing endeavor .Some if not many parents do leave the work to the teachers to teach their children how to read but a few parents take an active role in teaching their kids how to read and personally I was lucky when my mum taught me how to read my first book at class three.

4.  Describe your poetry for us.  What inspires you? What types of topics do you most enjoy writing about, and what is your writing process when it comes to a new poem?

My poetry has a great connotation to my own personal endeavors in life and that is from my childhood as a little boy to date. Bearing in mind the various environments I have encountered and life’s experiences in many areas. My poems major on topics of Hope and encouragements through life. My writing process starts with an inspiration, I must for sure get inspired to write a poem and this comes up mostly on the issues I have in my mind that I need a deeper expression about. I personally write my poems in any environment and I do my poems on a single seating by a stroke of the pen, that is my pen is only put down after I have put my inspired poem on paper then I can come back afterwards to edit and do reconstructing where necessary.

5.  Which poets do you most admire and why?

I admire poets like Okot p’Bitek, Adrienne Rich, and this poets use quite a powerful choice of words to pass their message to the readers and they also draw much of their work from personal experiences in life which is one strong factor with me and my poems.

6.  What goals do you have for yourself as a poet?

 My goals as a poet is to write poems that people across all cross sectional divides can draw strength from even in the most difficult and challenging circumstances in life, and more so as a librarian my joy is to make my poems simple and easy to understand to all and also become resourceful and intellectual materials full of information that appeals to all humanity no matter race, creed, religion and any social background. I want to see my poems being a unifying factor in the world as a whole.

Please be sure to stop by Lesley's blog, Lesley Koyi Information Consultancy to read more of his fantastic poetry!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Words From the Wise #12 -- Pamela Courtney

Today we welcome to The Write Stuff, Pamela Courtney who specializes in Early Literacy. She is also the creator of the blog, MyLMNOP REads to Kids.   Thank you so much for joining us today Pam, we are glad to read your wise words!

MyLMNOP__the building blocks of literacy

Sandi Hershenson, the author of Annie and Me, is having MyLMNOP Reads to Kids,  as a guest on her amazing blog,The Write Stuff!  This site is filled with resourceful information that is so beneficial to writers of all levels.  She recently interviewed author/illustrator Frank Asch.  He is the author of the Moobear picture book series. Please visit and read this great interview!   I am excited to be a guest on Sandi's blog!  I get a chance to discuss two of my favorite subjects__children's books and my literacy program.  I began MyLMNOP in the fall of 2005 after being in the field of Early Childhood Education for over twenty-five years.   MyLMNOP is a language based music program designed to enhance literacy and expressive language through music.  This program targets early learners in areas where access to quality literacy engagement is limited.
I love children's books!  More specifically, I love children's books that are rich with descriptive language and compelling illustrations.  These illustrations can be as simple as Shel Silverstein's work or very detailed and complex as in the work of Christopher Canyon.  Either way, illustrations are excellent provisions in connecting young listeners to visual, context clues.  That is why I chose to join the writing community, 12 x 12 in 2012  hosted by Julie Hedlund, I knew that I would connect with writers producing the kind of books that would lend perfectly to my literacy program.  You see, I choose books that take my early learners on journeys of wonderment and exploration.   Add to this the backdrop of music, and a myriad of fantastical creatures come alive!  I love providing an environment with this kind of stimulation and spontaneity!

Each month in MyLMNOP literacy program, a thematic lesson plan is created.  A minimum of two stories with similar themes are chosen.    From the stories, vocabulary words that encourage descriptive narration from our early learners are employed during each weekly session.  The  low frequency vocabulary words are accompanied by theme related songs, and dramatic play exercises.  Enhancing expressive language through music and literature allows for emergent reading comprehension development, and the expansion of descriptive vocabulary.  These activities are excellent aids for students and their retention of abstract concepts.  Additionally, phonemic awareness lessons are used to help children as they connect letters to sounds that make up the words to their favorite poem, story, or song.  Here's an abbreviated example of a  session with MyLMNOP.  The few activities extracted from the lesson was for the Older Three's and Younger Four's program.  The theme:  Time Keeps Passing... Life's Cycles.

In a recent session, Dinosaurs Go to School by Linda Martin, was introduced to visually illustrate the concept of the passage of time from morning to evening.  Additionally clocks were used as tools to measure how time passes in the course of a day.  Accompanying song, When I Wake Up in the Morning."
Vocabulary Word:  Schedule, Routine, and Cycle.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, helped to show how time is measured in the course of a week.  The calendar was used as an additional prop for a measuring tool for time.  Accompanying song, Greg and Steve, Days of the Week, and McMillan's Sing & Learn, Butterfly Fly
Vocabulary:  Larvae, Cocoon, Flutter, Infant, Adult.  Reviewed:  Schedule, Routine, and Cycle.

The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein, showed a broader range of our theme.  The accompanying songs were, Greg & Steve's Months of the Year,  McMillan's Sing & Learn,  Sing a Song About the Seasons,  and The Circle Game,  by Joni Mitchell (which was originally introduced to students as a poem).  The children absolutely loved this song!  I was pleased to see that some of the Fours understood the verse, "Then the boy moved ten time 'round the seasons."  One of the children responded, "He had a birthday ten times!"  Reviewing the vocabulary each week helped the students to understand that as time passes, how we measure repeats itself over and over again.  Learning the songs:   The Days of the Week, The Months of the Year, and Sing a Song About the Seasons, were useful tools in instructing this topic.  Presenting this abstract concept of time measured in days, hours, and seasons, allowed this subject to become more concrete to these brilliant early learners.

These books have been used in various other themes, along with many other vocabulary words (especially with our older students).  Their application in this topic was so engaging and so much fun.  I hope to begin showing videos of my literacy engagements. As soon as I figure out the technical spokes of blogging, uploading music & video files.  I am having fun learning.  I enjoyed sharing a small part of my literacy program with you.  

Pamela Courtney currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia.  She is the creator/owner of My_LMNOP

Monday, April 30, 2012

Words From the Wise #11- Frank Asch

Today we meet award winning author/illustrator Frank Asch.  His first picture book, George's Stone, was published in 1968.  Since that time, Frank has published books in almost every category of children's literature. Personally, I discovered Mr. Asch through reading books in his Moonbeam Bear series.  Sand Cake is one of my favorites!  To say that his complete list of published books is impressive, is an understatement.

Heres's a fun fact:  In l989, Mr. Asch and Vladimir Vagin of the U.S.S.R. published Here Comes the Cat , which was the first Soviet/American collaboration on a children's book. Here Comes the Cat has received wide recognition in the U.S. and was awarded the Russian National Book Award.

I introduce to you, Mr. Frank Asch. . . .

 Please describe some of the pros and cons of being an author and an illustrator.

The best thing about being an author and an illustrator is that you get to match the words and the pictures so the book works as a whole.  Like a well written song.  So many times I think the illustrator misses the essence of a story.  That's why I love James Thurber's work.  Even though he was half blind and couldn't "draw" he always captured the whimsy of his writing. 

Trends in children's reading have changed since you began writing.  How you have adapted to those changes?

I haven't paid much attention to trends.  For example there was a trend for photo realism for a while for.  But I'm not that kind of illustrator so I just let it pass me by. 

How did you get your start as an author/illustrator, and how have you maintained your success?

I was influenced by Where The Wild Things Are.  I wanted to be a fine artist.  And I thought that book was fine art.  So it opened a door for me.  As for continued success I just kept writing.  There are other media that I like.  But the idea that books are read by parents to kids at night before they go to sleep really inspired me and continues to inspire me today. 

What are some strategies for developing a strong character that children will relate to?

The best strategy is to write from your heart.  If you don't have a childlike heart, forget it.  You're better off doing
something else.  But if you love fantasy.  If you love irony.  If you love surprises  etc.  Just write what you think will be fun to read.  That goes for character, plot, everything.  

Besides writing and illustrating books, Mr. Asch enjoys working with children and adults and is currently creating community centered programs consisting of several Ten Minute Plays that are written by community members and performed (read) in his renovated barn/studio.

Mr. Asch’s work has received international acclaim, having been translated into many European languages as well as Japanese, Chinese, and Russian. His poetry has been reprinted in recent anthologies, and his stories have been selected by major book clubs, adapted for various basal reading series, filmstrips, animated films, videos, and periodicals. His books have been featured on television here in the U.S.A., in Germany, Australia, England, and the Soviet Union.