Free Spirit Is Traveling to ALA!

AC15_WereExhibitingJune has arrived, which means one thing: It’s once again time for the annual American Libraries Association Conference! This year’s event will bring 25,000 librarians, publishers, and other book-related organizations to beautiful San Francisco from June 25–30 for several days of author events and education opportunities. Topics covered will include, but are not limited to, library funding, digital literacy, and the importance of diversity.


Shhh! Voices are not for yelling in the library!

Of course, the star attraction of ALA is all of the new books. Be sure to schedule a stop at Free Spirit’s booth (#1018) and chat with Anastasia and Penne about our latest and forthcoming releases.We’d love to say hello and hear how you’ve been using Free Spirit titles in your programming.

Here’s what we have on the docket:

Saturday June 27

Book signing with Erin Frankel and Paula Heaphy from 12:00–1:00 PM

Stop by the Free Spirit booth to get your complimentary copy of Nobody! signed by the author and illustrator. From the same pair who brought you the Weird series, Nobody! follows Thomas—a third-grade boy who loves soccer, drawing, and science—as he grapples with persistent bullying at school.

Sunday, June 28 and Monday, June 29

The first 25 people to stop by the Free Spirit booth on Sunday and Monday will receive a complimentary copy of one of our recent releases!

While you’re in town, you might also consider visiting some of these literary landmarks:

  • City Lights Bookstore—Don’t miss a trip to one of San Francisco’s oldest and most respected bookish institutions.
  • The Beat Museum—Make a pilgrimage to the Beat Museum and pay tribute to beatnik writers and artists like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.
  • San Francisco Public Library—Of course, if you’re in town for ALA, the attraction you might be most interested in seeing is the gorgeous main branch of the San Francisco Public Library, famous for its bright, five-story atrium.
  • The Golden Era Building—Named after The Golden Era literary magazine that was published here, this site was a haven for writers in the mid-19th century. It was here that Mark Twain honed his writing talent while working as a news reporter.
  • The Booksmith—Another fabulous, not-to-be-missed indie shop famous for its “Book Swap” nights, where patrons bring in used books they’ve loved to trade with other customers.

Wherever the conference takes you, remember the cardinal trade show rule: Wear comfortable shoes!


Safe travels, and see you in San Francisco!

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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When Kids Fear Swimming Lessons, Don’t Just Dive In

By Eric Braun

Minneapolis writer Eric Braun on Thursday, November 20, 2013.For me, few things symbolize the joy of summer vacation more than a swimming pool. When I wrap my toes over a pool’s concrete lip, gaze at the shimmering blue water, and inhale the smell of chlorine, memories bob to the surface of my mind like floaty toys. Equally lovely are lakes, oceans, swimming holes, and rivers.

Like most kids, I always loved playing in the water, but like many, I was nervous about swimming lessons. Even now I can remember fighting with my parents about this subject. I argued that I didn’t need lessons. Really, lessons put me out of my comfort zone. I didn’t have friends in my classes and I didn’t know the teachers. It wasn’t fun—it was work, and I was afraid.

Kids certainly need swimming lessons. But when should they start? What if they have anxiety about lessons? Here are a few guidelines for parents.

When to Begin
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends kids begin swimming lessons around age 4. Some kids may begin earlier. Parents should decide whether to enroll their kids earlier than age 4 based on the child’s emotional development, physical abilities, and how often he is exposed to water.

Swim_lessons_by Fae wikimedia commons“Not every child will be ready to learn to swim at the same age,” said Jeffrey Weiss, MD, FAAP, lead author of the AAP’s policy statement on the prevention of drowning. The policy does not recommend lessons for kids under 1 year old.

Is your child ready? If she’s fighting or screaming, she probably won’t learn much anyway—and she surely won’t have fun. Don’t force it. Consider sitting poolside during the first lesson or two and just watching. If she’s not ready after watching a couple lessons, your best move might be to hold off for a few months.

What to Look for in Lessons
Get opinions from other parents, and if possible, visit lessons to see the facility and teacher. Here’s what to look for:

  • Safety. There should be a lifeguard on duty in addition to the swimming instructor and appropriate lifesaving and first aid equipment.
  • Teacher. A teacher certified by the American Red Cross or YMCA has training in teaching and in safety. Also, you want a teacher who gets in the water with the kids and who is supportive and positive. Look for kids who are having fun—that’s a good sign.
  • Class size. The lower the student-to-teacher ratio, the better. Less than six kids per teacher is best. While you’re visiting, pay attention to whether the teacher is watching all the children at all times.
  • Class length. 30 to 45 minutes is ideal. After that, kids start getting distracted and tired.

What About that Anxiety?
pool of deep end open source  via free teacher clip artA fear of water or swimming lessons may seem silly to adults, but to a kid who’s experiencing it, it’s real. The most important thing we can do is respect the fear. Let them know you understand, but be firm that learning to swim is important. You can work up the courage together. Maybe you start by sitting on the edge of the pool and dipping feet in. Then you get in up to your child’s knees, then hips. And so on, up to his neck. Introduce a little water on the face, but back off if your child isn’t ready.

swim toys for totsWhile working with the child, try to keep things fun. Play with water toys such as diving rings and boats, and don’t pressure him to do more than he’s ready for. Take small steps and be patient.

What Else?
Of course, swimming lessons don’t guarantee safety. Drowning is the second-leading cause of death among kids ages 1 to 19.

“Children need to learn to swim,” Dr. Weiss said. “But even advanced swimming skills cannot ‘drown-proof’ a child of any age. Parents must also closely supervise their children around water and know how to perform CPR. A four-sided fence around the pool is essential.”

Water can be the number-one ingredient in a fun summer and a great memory-maker. Be patient and persistent with kids who resist swimming lessons. It will pay off.

Eric Braun, when he is not busy writing, might be seen riding his bicycle to the beach.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2015 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved.

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Enter to Win Character Development Books for Children!

This month we’re giving away the Being the Best Me! series to help children learn, understand, and develop character traits to strengthen self-confidence and a sense of purpose:

6 Being the Best MeBe Positive!
Feel Confident!
Have Courage!
Bounce Back!
Stand Tall!
Forgive and Let Go!

To Enter: Leave a comment below telling us how you help children gain self-confidence.

For additional entries, leave a separate comment below for each of the following tasks that you complete:

giveaway button © by Free Spirit Publishing lg

Each comment counts as a separate entry—that’s four chances to win! Entries must be received by midnight, June 19, 2015.

The winner will be contacted via email on or around June 22, 2015, and will need to respond within 72 hours to claim his or her prize or another winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way affiliated with, administered, or endorsed by Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Winner must be a U.S. resident, 18 years of age or older.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2015 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved.

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Cash in on Learning: Five Tips to Help Avoid the Summer Slump

Richard Cash EdD, FSP AuthorAs the school year winds down, students, parents, and teachers are preparing for a bit of a break from the rush of the school year. One concern, however, in the break from school is the break from learning, or the possible summer learning slump.

Here are five tips to help kids, and you, keep learning and avoid the summer slide. These tips are for students, parents, and teachers.

  1. Read every day. No matter if you read the newspaper, Web blogs, comic books, chapter books, or beach-worthy romance novels, everyone should read something for at least 20 minutes per day. For early readers or those who struggle, it’s okay to read along with an audio version of the text, or have someone read the text to you.
  2. Reading_Borders_USA flickrlickr wikimedia commonsLearn something new. Summer is a great time to learn something that is not a requirement or an expectation. This is a time to learn how to play the guitar or mandolin, learn to speak a new language such as American Sign Language or Swahili, learn to crochet or sew (even learn to sew on a button or patch a seam) or learn to paint or do chalk art. Try something new, something out of the ordinary. Most importantly, document the process of your learning. Highlight the struggles and successes. Let others know how it felt to overcome a challenge. Documenting learning is a powerful tool for teachers to use with their incoming students to show that learning, while sometimes difficult, can be rewarding as long as you put forth effort.
  3. Volunteer your time. Set aside time during your summer to give back to the community or help others. Whether it’s mowing a neighbor’s lawn, assisting at a community center, or helping out at the local library, volunteering your time is a great way to give back to your community. It’s also a way to get to know others, learn how to build empathy, and get a feeling of fulfillment by building a better community. You may also learn a new skill or find a new career path.
  4. Jogging_couple_-_legs by sillyfolkboy wikimedia commonsExercise every day. A healthy mind needs a healthy body. Summer is the time to get out and enjoy the environment, build your skills in a sport or activity, and exercise your body. It’s a great time to train your body to stretch, breathe, run, walk, or bike. If you are into toning your muscles, do outside exercises such as calisthenics or find a park that has exercise equipment (with “how to use” directions). Every person, based on physical ability, should raise their heart rate (in a good way) for at least 20 minutes each day. Remember to eat properly as well. Even though this time of year is full of celebrations, cookouts, parties, and fair going, avoid overeating delicious summertime foods—everything in moderation!
  5. Learn to relax. During the school year, things happen so fast that we often lose the knack for relaxing or unwinding. Students go through a rush at the end of the school year with all the testing. Teachers frantically pack up their classrooms in preparation for cleaning or moving rooms or schools. Parents rush around all school year taking children to and from activities or keeping family life organized. Man_sitting_under_beach_umbrella by Johner common wikiThe coming months of summer will be a good time to practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or visualization (for more on relaxation ideas see my last blog post “Breathe! 6 Strategies to Reduce Stress During Testing Season”). Spend at least 20 minutes every day taking time to relax. Remember these techniques for your return to the routine of school.

As a resident of Minnesota, where the winter can be long and harsh, I look forward to summertime. I try to spend as much time as possible outside, reacquainting myself with my local community and the wonders of nature. I can combine this desire for outside time with my need to keep up my learning. Students, families, and you can do the same by following the five tips above. Have a wonderful summer!

I’d love to hear your ideas for making summer a productive and enjoyable time for learning and relaxation.

Richard M. Cash, Ed.D., writes the monthly Cash in on Learning blog posts for Free Spirit. He has given hundreds of workshops, presentations, and staff development sessions throughout the United States and internationally. His most recent book is Differentiation for Gifted Learners, coauthored with Diane Heacox, Ed.D. He is also author of Advancing Differentiation: Thinking and Learning for the 21st Century.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2015 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved.

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Share the Wealth: One Student’s GSA Story

By Laurel Lisovskis, BSW

Part 5 in our Share the Wealth series. Click to read other Share the Wealth posts.

Laurel LisovskisUpon entering her eighth-grade year as a new student at our middle school, Jessie, whose name has been changed to protect her confidentiality, sought support in order to help her with the transition. I have had the great pleasure of working with her throughout the year, and she and her parents have agreed to let me share some of her story with you.

Having two amazing moms in her life since she was very small, Jessie has been accustomed to normalizing her peers to an unconventional family situation, and she has done so with grace and determination for as long as she can remember. Part of this experience for her as a middle school student has been to start Gay-Straight Alliances, or GSAs, wherever she is attending. The middle school I am working at was the lucky recipient of her efforts this year.

As part of her self-care plan, Jessie thought starting a GSA at the school would be a good way to focus her energy while nurturing a positive school climate for her peers along the way. She approached her principal, who agreed that it was an excellent idea. She then approached a trusted adult, her science teacher, and requested that she help oversee her efforts. Again she was met with a positive response. After filling out the appropriate paperwork to authenticate the group and reviewing school policy, we were ready for Jessie to set a date for the first meeting, which was to be held during lunch. We nervously wondered if anyone would show up. Jessie knew the school needed this group; but did other students?

You bet! Sixteen students crowded around tables in the facilitating teacher’s room, and, amid a flourish of poster-making and lunch-eating, kids identified their sexual preference, sexual identity, and their preferred pronoun. Then we talked about how it felt to have this new group. Kids expressed many things that day. What stands out was that the GSA seemed to be filling a huge void. Kids felt like they could finally be themselves. Some kids talked about how difficult it was to share regular events and stories about their lives because their home life looked different from friends’. Others talked about feeling a disconnect with peers because they were hiding a part of their identity.

teachout_logo_1Before long, Jessie told the group, now meeting on a regular basis, about an event called the University of Oregon Teach-Out. This workshop was created for students to gather across the three local Eugene school districts to talk on a larger scale about LGBTQ issues, including identity, healthy relationships, harm reduction, and how to advocate for inclusive school environments. We decided it would be amazing to go, and go we did!

On May 14, well over 200 students gathered to listen to LGBTQ community leaders and to participate in inclusion activities on the themes of group cohesion and identity expression. The grown-ups received education and resources. We acknowledged the importance of a population carrying by far the highest suicide rates among kids across the country. We discussed the love and warmth that comes from students feeling like they are a part of something nurturing and nourishing, and we shared stories about things that are working at our respective schools.

I talked about my school site, and how we went from having some of our first posters torn off the walls to the recent experience of having fifth graders tour the school, brightly and happily mentioning and responding to the posters now permanently fixed in the cafeteria. Working closely with the school counselor who sat beside me at the Teach-Out, we have seen, through our group work and through individual interactions, a number of students coming out. She explained to me that this is a significant change, and she would know. She is the ear for so many worries and triumphs, aspirations and fears. She has known many of these kids since they were little, and it occurred to me, watching her emotional reaction to the day, that Jessie’s self-care plan had expanded to a community-care plan, changing the lives of not only current students, but the generation to come.

These are the kinds of things that we social workers live for—the service user serving her own in a way that only she could. I feel proud of Jessie as a trusted adult in her life, but I also feel grateful and amazed at what she has given her school, and what she has taught me about the power of one voice.

Laurel Lisovskis, BSW, is in her second year of graduate school working toward clinical licensure in social work at Portland State University. Her field placement is at the school-based Bethel Health Center, one of the innovative programs conceived through an alliance between state healthcare initiatives and public schools to bring services directly to students and families at school sites. Her intern experience includes doing individual and group therapy, as well as traditional social work roles such as resource utilization, collaboration with internal and external supports, and case management. Laurel is also working within the clinical setting to streamline integrated care services. With over ten years of expertise in counseling in both healthcare and public school domains, she lends a unique perspective of the connectivity between mental health and the well-being of middle school student populations.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

Suggested Resources
Details about the University of Oregon Teach Out Program  are available here.

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