Sunday, November 27, 2016

Separate is Never Equal

Last blog post, Folks!

Today I'll be reviewing Separate is Never Equal: Syliva Mendez and her Family's Fight for Desegregation. 

Image result for separate is never equalPublication Information: 
Publisher: Abrams
Publication Date: 2014
ISBN: 9781613126332
Lexile Reading Level:
Awards/Recognition: 2015 Pura Belpre Illustrator Honor Book and a 2015 Robert F. Siebert Honor Book.

This narrative nonfiction picture book tells the story of Sylvia Mendez. About ten years before Brown v. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her brothers were citizens of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage, who spoke perfect English. Their aunt attempted to enroll them in a near by white school with her children, but the Mendez children were denied enrollment and were forced to attend Mexican school which was in a cramped, muddy barn. Sylvia's parents decided to take action and filed a large lawsuit in federal district court against the school. The Mendez family won and helped end school segregation in California.

Related imageSeparate is Never Equal begins with Sylvia's first day attending the formerly all-white school. She is teased by some of the children and when she returns home, asks her mother why she has to go there when she is not welcome and being bullied. Her mother then reminds her of what the family just went through so that she and her brothers could attend. "When she got home that afternoon, she told her mother, Felicitas, what had happened. "I don't want to go to that school anymore, the kids are mean."
"Sylvia," said her mother." ¿no sabes que por luchamos?" "Don't you know that is why we fought?" (pg. 2).

Image result for separate is never equal
I really enjoyed this book and it would make a great read aloud for kindergarten-2nd grade or so. When we think of the Civil Rights movement, we don't always think about the segregation problems that other cultures were facing in addition to African-Americans. Sylvia Mendez's story is a great example of what the Hispanic population was also fighting at the time. The illustrations are great, and remind me a little bit of South American/temple art style (not sure where I'm going with this description and it may be just me here). The figures have very curved features, but it's complete two dimensional. None of the characters are ever seen with their face facing forward; only their side profile.

This book is a must-have for the classroom for building a diverse library. It tells the story with details that would matter to a child, meaningful, child-like language.

Monday, November 21, 2016

How to Code: A Step-By-Step Guide to Computer Coding

Today's book is first book I've reviewed so far that wouldn't work well as a read aloud for early elementary/preschool. That's not necessarily a bad thing. How to Code: A Step-By-Step Guide to Computer Coding by Max Wainewright is a procedural nonfiction book that teaches kids how to code using methods such as Scratch, Logo, Python, HTML, and JavaScript. That sounds like a lot of thick reading doesn't it?

It's actually not so bad.

Image result for how to code: a step by step guide to computer coding

Publication Information

Publisher: Sterling Children's Books
Publication Year: 2016
ISBN: 9781454921776
Lexile Level: between 710L - 800L (7-10 year olds)

This book is very well organized into four different chapters. The first chapter introduces Logo and Scratch, which are the easiest of the methods. Python, HTML, and JavaScript don't get introduced until Chapters 3 and 4. Within each chapter is a short introduction, then step by step tutorial that introduces a single concept per two pages (with the book open, the two pages facing you will teach you one concept. If you turn the page, the next two pages are the next concept. ) The book gives plenty of opportunity to practice, and it challenges kids to try to expand on each activity. There's an answer key at the end of each chapter. There's a glossary and an index in the back as well.

Not only is it well organized, but the design is appealing as well. There are several robot characters in the book that use speech bubbles to explain some of the terms. The text is organized into blocks so that way there aren't large chunks of text so it's spread out and easier to read. There are lots of images taken directly from the programs that the book teaches kids to use, so their computer screens would look identical to what is being done in the book. As I went through this book, I used it to teach myself how to use Scratch, which is a program that we'd like to use more often at my library. It was easy for me to have the book open by my computer as I followed each step to make a game. The design is brightly colored, and the background design of each page looks like a circuit board or wires. It's possible that for some children this background might be a bit distracting and too busy on the eyes. However, the steps are numbered, and there are connecting arrows, so that definitely helped me get passed the busy background designs.

I believe the chapters of this book are sold individually, if that is less overwhelming, or perhaps a child only wants to learn Logo and Scratch, or maybe you've got a coder expert who wants to take a stab at HTML and wants to read the more difficult chapters. As a whole though, this book isn't as long or daunting as it sounds: about a 120 pages, but as you can see, the pages don't have an overwhelming amount of text on them. The language is kid-friendly, and it uses real-life situations to explain the concept of coding, such as "Making Breakfast" like in the image to the left.

Books like these are important to notice right now because coding has become very popular in schools, libraries and homes.  As someone who is pretty familiar with basic coding, I believe this book's instruction did a great job introducing certain terms and concepts at appropriate times. For example, it introduced the very basics first, where you label each step, specifically. In the next chapter, it teaches kids how to loop their commands, which means that you can have the same step repeated a certain or infinite number of times, and it cuts down the repetition and saves space in your code. The book explains this concept in every day life, "We use loops in every day life without thinking about it. When your teacher hands out books, he or she says, "Hand out all the books," not, "Hand out this book, then this book, then this book..." and so on! ...We use words like "each" or "every" to give our every day commands -  it's the same as saying "Repeat 20" in a loop." (page 39). I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is trying to learn coding in order to teach it, as well as the curious child or student who would like to use coding for personal or academic reasons.