Reflections: A Gallery of 2014-2015 Student Art

Since 1969, the PTA Reflections program has encouraged students across the nation and in American schools overseas to explore their creativity. Each year, students in preschool through high school are invited to create and submit works of art in the areas of dance choreography, film production, literature, music composition, photography, and the visual arts. In the 2014-2015 school year, Reflections students shared their artistic interpretations on the theme “The World Would Be a Better Place If…

National PTA Reflections submissions are reviewed by experts in the visual, literary and performing arts. Judges look for personal interpretation on the program theme that best exemplify creativity and technical skill. We are proud to share with you this year’s award winning works of art and invite you to join us at future exhibitions.

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Dance Choreography

Outstanding Interpretation in Dance Choreography –
“The World Would Be a Better Place If everyone Was True to Themselves” by Madison Duellman

When [my friends and I] heard the song “Try” by Colbie Caillat, I was inspired to create a dance about being yourself and not trying to be something you are not. We all feel that if we could dress, look, and be ourselves, we would be happier and if everyone did that, the world would be a better place.” – Madison Duellman

View all of the national award winning dance choreography submissions.


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Film Production

Outstanding Interpretation in Film Production –
“Masks” by Jacqueline Fashimpaur

I always noticed that people act differently around others then they do in private. Even Ida Shel Silverstein wrote a poem comparing this phenomenon to wearing masks, and I thought it was a great metaphor. This film shows how “wearing a mask” can lead people to be isolated and lonely. I think that if people felt free to be themselves, there would be more friendship and understanding between people, and the world would be a better place. Hopefully this film inspires some change in that direction.” – Jacqueline Fashimpaur

View all national award winning film production submissions.


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Outstanding Interpretation in Literature –
“The World Would Be a Better Place…” by Sarah Murphy

Poem“The world would be better if hatred, jealousy, war, and disease were eliminated. Focusing on the negative makes life harder. The world has flaws and sadness but we must also see the good to appreciate what we have. I used alliteration in the beginning to show anger and agitation when talking about the “bad” things. The second part has no alliteration to convey accepting the good with the bad. The spacing emphasizes the meaning. The “negatives” are on the left side, the contrasting feelings are on the right. The conclusion is in the middle to combine the two.” – Sarah Murphy

View all national award winning literature submissions.






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Music Composition

Outstanding Interpretation in Music Composition –
“It’d Be Better” by Fritz Hager

This song [It’d be Better] focuses on the greed that is in the world. My song states that the world would be a better place if we all gave more than we received, and showed love through our giving.” – Fritz Hager

Check out all national award winning music composition submissions. Video coming soon!


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Outstanding Interpretation in Photography –
“Determination” by Cesily Covey

My artwork illustrates my belief that everyone should receive an equal opportunity and equal exposure to the culture around us. Regardless of where we come from, we all come from one planet and that everyone deserves equal access to education and global culture so we can all unite not under the name of a country, but under Earth.” – Cesily Covey

View all national award winning photography submissions.


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Visual Arts

Outstanding Interpretation in Visual Arts –
“Unity” by Catherine Park

My artwork illustrates my belief that everyone should receive an equal opportunity and equal exposure to the culture around us. Regardless of where we come from, we all come from one planet and that everyone deserves equal access to education and global culture so we can all unite not under the name of a country, but under Earth.” – Catherine Park

View all national award winning visual arts submissions.


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Special Artist

Outstanding Interpretation in Special Artist Division –
“Everything Will be Ok I’ll Just Stay” by Maria Quiles

Giving someone a hurtful nickname, making fun of their medical conditions, claiming you’re their true friends and during all this feeling like not even family cares. Having it lead you fell as well, there is no other choice, suicide is the only possible answer for all this to just end. To ignore these problems, bullies, and this non-stop hurtful pain deep inside. Well no, it’s not. Believe in yourself instead! To continue staying strong, ignore those bullies, those that have no idea what they are even talking about or what your’re truly going through. Tell yourself ‘Everything Will Be OK’.” – Maria Quiles

Learn more about the Special Artist Division for students with disability.

Repetitive Reading to Toddlers Reaps Big Rewards


This post is part of the PTA Family Reading Challenge Blog Party Challenge series. View the full post on “Learning First Alliance”.

Valentines birthdays 2015 160“One more time.”

These are the most dreaded words when you’re trying to get a rambunctious two year old to go to sleep—and it’s already 10:30 p.m. The big stack of board books had toppled. The Dreamland CD was finishing its last lullaby. Mom needed to do some work before bed.

But my son wouldn’t give it up—he just wanted to read the same books over and over: “Good Night Little Pookie” and the whole series of Sandra Boynton’s board books, “Trains” by Byron Barton, the classic “Big Joe’s Trailer Truck,” and anything about trucks, trains, or transportation.

Eventually, he began memorizing the rhymes and recognizing sight words. We moved on to longer books but I came back to several of his favorites to help him spell and sound out familiar words and phrases. Those late nights eventually paid off. By age 4 he was reading… his preK teacher didn’t believe me until she spelled out a word to another teacher and he announced it to the class. When he entered kindergarten his initial reading assessment score was already higher than the minimum to complete the grade.

As the National PTA kicks off its Family Reading Challenge this summer, consider these statistics:

  • 73 percent of children get ideas from their parents for books to read for fun.
  • The top reason children say they enjoy being read aloud to is that it’s a special time with their parents.
  • Having parents involved in their reading habits is one factor that predicts children ages 12–17 will be frequent readers.

National PTA wants everyone to share their reading stories today as part of the Family Reading Challenge (use #FamiliesRead to promote on social media). The campaign will be taking place through July, visit to get more ideas.

Reading the same book again and again and again may be exhausting, but it’s worth every second. Now, my son is starting “Magic Treehouse” and downloading books on the Kindle–and yes, he still wants Mom to read to him. I won’t complain.

Cumberland County District PTA Council Makes a Smart Move


When Cumberland County District PTA Council (CCDPTAC) first decided to apply for the Smart from Start Grant: Community Outreach from National PTA, sponsored by the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF) , we saw this as an avenue to implement healthy living in our county. Our theme for the school year was Healthy Lifestyles and we knew this grant would be a great way for us to help move forward in our communities.

Lucile Souders Elementary Fall Fitness Fair

Lucile Souders Elementary Fall Fitness Fair

Cumberland County is a military town, which has been consistently undergoing development. However, many of our school districts and families reside in places known as food deserts. In these areas, families lack access to transportation and are predominately low-income communities. Many of the residents in these areas find it difficult to obtain affordable and nutritious food nearby or within their community, thus compelling them to purchase daily groceries from gas stations and convenient markets while consuming excessive amounts of over processed foods. Also, these same districts have limited affordable indoor activities and are lacking safe recreation centers.

Mary McArthur Elementary Fitness Fair

Mary McArthur Elementary Fitness Fair


After receiving the grant and assessing the needs of our families, we decided as a board that we needed to find ways to help families possess the knowledge and skills necessary to make nutritious and enjoyable food choices for a lifetime with the resources and food markets within our county. The Smart from the Start: Pre-K curriculum teaches children ages 3-5 how to practice energy balance, which is balancing what we eat and drink with physical activity, and incorporates practical tips for reaching out to families.

In efforts to raise public awareness of energy balance living, we offered two fall fitness fairs at Lucile Souders Elementary and Mary McArthur Elementary schools. The fall fitness fairs focused on helping families across the community learn more about living a healthy lifestyle and provided relevant resources and education through movement. Participants were encouraged to use the curriculum and other free resources from HWCF’s Together Counts™ program. The events offered EMS Education, dental services, Zumba, free cellular phone giveaways, healthy eating door prizes and a game truck experience for all the children who attended.  There were more than 250 in attendance at each school. Both nights, a free food box was given to the first 200 families.

Community Wellness Fair’s throughout the County

Community Wellness Fair’s throughout the County

Community Wellness Fair’s throughout the County

Community Wellness Fair’s throughout the County

We were excited to be able to offer a family from each school a $100 shopping spree donated by Food Lion.  The shopping spree would allow our families to demonstrate and implement the energy balance curriculum they received during our fitness fair. At each event, we invited the families from the elementary schools and the nearby Head Start preschools in efforts to bridge the gap between Pre-K and K-12.

We received an enormous amount of support and appreciation from our school system, families and community partners, allowing us to expand our efforts throughout the entire county. Moving from two food desert areas to hosting community wellness fairs throughout the county—we were able to provide an array of services such as cooking classes, cooking demonstrations, taste testing, three 30-day fitness memberships and one family fitness membership. The family fitness membership allowed us to track the data and progress of a family and ensure that they utilize and implement the energy balance curriculum in their daily lives.

Is your PTA interested in focusing on healthy lifestyles in your school or community? Learn more on National PTA’s website.


Porcha McMillan is a proud member of PTA and has enjoyed servicing families in Cumberland County for the past eight years. She currently serves as the president for Cumberland County District PTA Council, recipient of a 2014 Smart from the Start: Community Outreach grant, and on the NC PTA Board of Directors. Her ultimate hope is to impact the lives of our future leaders and establish unity, active and successful PTAs within our communities.

5 Favourite Picture Books For Babies and Toddlers


This post is part of the PTA Family Reading Challenge Blog Party Challenge series. View the full post on “Parenting From the Heart”.


We are fortunate enough to live three blocks from a public library. Despite our love for it, I fear the librarians see my SVU-sized stroller barely squeezing through the first set of glass doors and can’t help but cringe to see that we’ve come back yet again. You see, both my kids love books. My almost three-year-old has started running her fingers along the pages of books reciting what she can remember from the story as if to read it herself. I love, love, love children’s lit – Eric Carle, Robert Munsch, Kevin Henkes, and Laura Numeroff are favourites I remember fondly from childhood and have been thrilled to share with my kids. To say my son is an avid reader is an incredible understatement. I think “rabid” about reading might be more fitting. On an all-too-regular basis, he grabs whatever he’d like to have read, throws it at me (despite my corrections and attempts at showing “gentle”) and proceeds to scream and squeal with delight the whole way through. Each book concludes with him asking for more. This cycle repeats itself until I finally cut him off.
When I do muster up the courage to head to the library, I tend to coach them beforehand; I exaggeratedly aspirate, “We need to ‘Whisper! Whisper!’” and try to make “shushing” seem as enticing as possible. Within moments of entering the second set of glass doors at our local library, you’d swear my kids were in an amusement park. They run to books as if they’ve been starved for ages, and my son’s shrill excitement cuts through any quiet that had preceded us.
Though I wish their expressions of joy were a bit more covert, it is fitting in certain ways. With my daughter, I see her eyes fill with wonderment as the story unfolds. To her, it is as if the storyline’s possibility is boundless. To me, it’s rampant with nostalgia. To my son, every page is worthy of an ear piercing squeal of delight. Because of their avid interest of being read to, all three of us have developed an especial interest for books wherein the story exceeds the text. Though all of these books do have, at the very least, captions, the way we move through them is different each time.

The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 Senate Passage

The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 (ECAA) was passed by the Senate on a vote of 81-17. National PTA applauds the leadership of Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) for crafting the historic and bipartisan legislation. We believe that this bill is a solid foundation for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—No Child Left Behind (ESEA-NCLB). The Senate bill will soon go to a Conference Committee with the House to work out the differences between its reauthorization bill, the Student Success Act (H.R. 5).

Throughout the consideration of the reauthorization of ESEA-NCLB, National PTA and PTA members across the nation strongly advocated for the inclusion of several provisions to improve family engagement in the bill. Thousands of PTA members and advocates called, emailed and tweeted at Senators voicing their support for amendments to improve family engagement in the bill. Because of this impressive grassroots advocacy by PTA members, the Senate adopted an amendment by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Jack Reed (D-RI) that will provide school districts and schools with the capacity to effectively engage families in their children’s education. The inclusion of this program in the Senate bill is a huge victory for children and families. The House bill (H.R. 5) also includes this program.

Furthermore, in large part to the efforts of local PTA members, the bill contains several other laudable family engagement provisions such as the inclusion of parents in the development of school district plans to support student achievement and promote family engagement strategies in early childhood learning programs. Additionally, through the leadership of Chris Coons (D-DE), Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Jack Reed (D-RI), language was also included to encourage Title I school districts to invest additional resources in family engagement. In total, 178 amendments were introduced, with 65 accepted and 13 rejected. Several accepted amendments included the creation of a student data privacy commission to inform policymakers on updates to current laws governing this issue, addressing student access to digital learning resources at home, and the establishment of a full-service community schools grant program. Other amendments that were adopted include a proposal from Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) allowing certain funds to be spent on mental health awareness programs and one by Sen. Bennet that would require states to limit the total time students spend on tests.

National PTA has long advocated against any proposal that would permit federal dollars to follow a student to another public school or for private school vouchers. The association was pleased that several amendments that attempted to do so were defeated.

Now that both houses of Congress have passed bills to reauthorize the ESEA-NCLB, they must come together to work out the differences between the two bills in conference committees. Once there is agreement, the bill will go back to each chamber of Congress for another vote. The final step is to send the bill to President Obama for his approval. We are excited that this long overdue reauthorization is closer to a reality. National PTA will continue to work to improve educational opportunities and experiences of all children across the United States.

Lindsay Kubatzky is the government affairs coordinator at National PTA.

How We’re Doing It: Favorite Summer Learning Activities


This post is part of the PTA Family Reading Challenge Blog Party Challenge series. View the full post on “The Deliberate Reader”.

IMCPL-Summer-Reading-2015My children are young enough that they’re still very much at an age where almost everything is a learning activity, so our summer plans are mostly of a “more of the same!” nature.
This is our first year where we’re really doing the library summer reading program. Last year I was too pregnant to want to hassle with it. And yes, it seemed like a hassle. This year it’s fun, and the kids love going to the library and picking out their own books. Lately it seems like most of the books I check out are for them.

Beyond their picks, I also choose books for them –there are so many great books I’m thrilled to read with them and introduce them to some of my favorite characters from when I was a child. (Coming up next: The Mouse and the MotorcycleThe Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary – I loved this book as a kid, and I’m sure my son will love it too.)

I’m also working off of a giant list I’ve compiled over the years of hundreds of potential titles to read to them and with them. More than enough books for our family reading time!

(Anyone interested in me sharing that list? I’ve been debating sharing it here, but that’s a lot of typing and reformatting if no one cares.)

With all summer birthdays here, it also gives us a chance to get new games and activities as birthday gifts. My daughter just got a couple of books from us, and my son is getting books as well. Earlier this week I asked him what he wanted for his birthday and he actually requested books – books for him to read and me to read to him. Talk about the way to his mom’s heart – he just guaranteed himself a big stack of new reading material. :)

I’ve said before that I think developing a love of reading is my biggest focus at this age, and I believe that the best thing I can do for them is to read aloud, provide access to books, and help them develop reading routines. That’s my focus this summer as we work around all the other activities we have these months.

Special Video Message from President Bay: Thank You PTA Advocates!

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate passed an amendment that strengthens family engagement provisions in the Every Child Achieves Act, a bill that would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind. The passage of the amendment is a testament to the power of our collective voice to make a difference for all students and schools.

I want to take a few moments to thank you for your advocacy efforts because this could not have happened without you being a voice and your hard work and dedication to the mission of PTA.

Thank you again to all of our members and advocates and keep up your tremendous advocacy on behalf of our nation’s children and families!

Laura’s Corner: Our Children Are Counting on Us

Copyright 2014 Lifetouch National School Studios, IncWelcome to my new corner of the blog!

I am honored to serve as the 54th president of National PTA and am excited about this opportunity to strengthen our mission to make every child’s potential a reality.

I look forward to connecting and working with you—our members—to achieve this goal.

PTA brings together families, educators, business and community leaders to solve the toughest problems and is a powerful voice for all children from schools and local communities to state legislatures and the halls of Congress.

We understand and believe that opportunity starts and ends with access to a great education, and as president, I want to diversify the association’s education platform and strengthen programs that support the whole child.

We can do this together by:

  • Advocating to make sure that all children have a safe place to live, learn and thrive
  • Working to enhance PTA’s STEM and early learning efforts and college and career programs
  • Diving deeper into health issues to meet every child’s physical, social and emotional needs
  • Ensuring that all families are engaged in education and PTA and are at the table to be a voice for their and all children

In Laura’s Corner, I will share my experiences as I visit communities across the country and meet the people who are making a difference every day for our nation’s children and schools.

You can also follow me on Twitter @PTALauraBay and share your questions, concerns, suggestions and activities. I want to know the positive strides you are making in your schools and communities and the challenges you face in advocating for every child.

Thank you for your support and your commitment to PTA! And thank you for all that you do for our children!

Laura Bay is National PTA President.

10 Books for Middle Schoolers to Read Over the Summer


This post is part of the PTA Family Reading Challenge Blog Party Challenge series. View the full post on “Common Sense Media”.


School’s out for summer! That means swimsuits, beach trips, summer camp, and loads of summer reading. We’ve rounded up 10 new books for book-hungry middle schoolers. Five picks are nonfiction and five are fiction, but they span genres and topics as varied as the Russian Revolution and futuristic empires, touching memoirs and clever urban fantasies. And if your kids are reluctant readers, find some tips from Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney.

Have more recommendations for books a middle schooler should read this summer? Share them in the comments.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, ages 10+
What It’s About
: Raised in both South Carolina and New York, author Jacqueline Woodson shares tales of her upbringing through Jim Crow and Civil Rights in the ’60s and ’70s. Told completely in verse, Woodson’s book details cherished memories about her grandparents, pop culture, new friends, and living in both the segregated country and diverse city streets.
Why Read It? Woodson’s award-winning memoir (National Book Award, Newbery Honor, Coretta Scott King Author Award) is funny and sad and everything in between. The intimate and engaging poems will teach middle schoolers about a complicated time in American history, but it’s also a universal story about coming of age, changing family dynamics, and learning what makes you uniquely talented.

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai, ages 10+
What It’s About
: Before she was the youngest Noble Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai was a young Pashtun girl who loved to learn in her hometown of Pakistan’s Swat Valley. Although her mother was illiterate, Malala grew up in a girls’ school run by her father. A curious, precocious learner who firmly believed in a girl’s God-given right to learn, Malala was considered a blasphemous troublemaker by the Taliban, and in 2012 she was shot by a Taliban gunman. She survived and refused to be silenced.
Why Read It? Educating girls is a global human rights issue, and Malala’s story teaches young readers that even the youngest advocate can have a huge impact. As Malala explains, in countries where women aren’t allowed to go out in public without a man, we girls traveled far and wide inside the pages of our books. In a land where many women can’t read the prices in the markets, we did multiplication … we ran as free as the wind.”

Murder Is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens, ages 10+
What It’s About: In 1930s Hong Kong, a Chinese Anglophile sends his 13-year-old daughter Hazel Wong to boarding school in England. When she arrives at the perpetually dark and damp Deepdean School for Girls, Hazel is in awe of the young (and mean) English girls she meets. Still, she connects with plucky and beautiful Daisy Wells, who asks Hazel to be the Watson to her Holmes. There’s not much sleuthing for the girls to do until Hazel discovers the dead body of the science mistress — but by the time Hazel runs back with Daisy, the body has mysteriously disappeared.
Why Read It? This boarding-school mystery in a historical setting is written in the tradition of Nancy Drew with a dash of Veronica Mars humor and Hogwarts excitement. Although the main characters are girls, boys will enjoy the Holmes-and-Watson-style (or should we say Wells-and-Wong) adventures in figuring out what in the world is happening around them.

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Phillip M. Hoose, ages 12+
What It’s About
: During WWII, Denmark didn’t resist Nazi occupation, and this deeply shamed 15-year-old Knud Pedersen, who along with his brother and some classmates started a small, secret club of political resisters in 1941. Full of brave but naïve teenage boys desperate to undermine the Nazi regime, the Churchill Club committed 25 acts of sabotage — disabling German vehicles, stealing Nazi arms, and destroying and defacing German property — before being arrested in 1942.
Why Read It? What middle schooler doesn’t want to read about teens who defied authority for the greater good? The Churchill Club’s actions sound like something out of a movie, but they really happened, and Hoose interweaves his own historical nonfiction with recollections from Pedersen himself. This is the kind of book students would gladly read for history class, because the characters are such courageous, clever young heroes.

The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming, ages 12+
What It’s About
: Award-winning children’s author Candace Fleming captures the final years of the Romanov dynasty in Russia. Czar Nicholas II isn’t prepared to step up and lead his vast empire. An intensely personal man, Nicholas is better suited to family life with his German and English wife Alexandra (a granddaughter of Queen Victoria) and their five children: four girls and one sickly son. As revolutionaries gain ground and WWI approaches, it becomes clear that the Czar and his family are headed toward doom.
Why Read It? History buffs or not, kids interested in “real stories” will love Fleming’s straightforward style of explaining complex sociopolitical ideas and historical contexts concerning the Imperial family, World War I, the Russian Revolution, Russian Orthodox ideology, and even European royalty. There’s a lot to digest, but it’s always fascinating. Fans of nonfiction narratives will dive into Fleming’s chronicle of one of history’s most fascinating downfalls.

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella, ages 12+
What It’s About
: Fourteen-year-old Audrey struggles with severe anxiety stemming from unspecified school bullying. She is under a doctor’s care and making slow but steady progress, but things significantly change when Audrey meets her brother’s online gaming friend, Linus. Despite her social anxiety, Audrey finds it easy to talk to Linus, and their friendship eventually turns into a sweet romance.
Why Read It? Best-selling author Kinsella, who’s best known for her popular Shopaholic series, delivers her first young adult novel, a realistic contemporary story about social anxiety and gaming addiction that’s nevertheless filled with her infectious brand of humor and romance. A book featuring a young teen protagonist, tough issues, humor, and a quirky, close-knit family? Sounds like an ideal mother-daughter read.

I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives by Martin Ganada and Caitlin Alifrenka, ages 12+
What It’s About
: In 1997, 12-year-old American middle schooler Caitlin and 14-year-old Zimbabwean Martin are paired as pen pals through their schools. At first, Caitlin sends photos and trinkets and asks for the same, not realizing the depths of poverty in which Martin lives. Eventually Caitlin and her family start to send financial support to Martin, and their international friendship forever changes each of their lives.
Why Read It? Caitlin and Martin’s letters and perspectives will teach kids to better appreciate their relative good fortune and to understand how a little bit of help and a lot of compassion can make a huge impact on someone else’s life. Caitlin and Martin’s extraordinary friendship should inspire your kid to be a better global citizen.

Undertow by Michael Buckley. ages 13+
What It’s About
: Coney Island native Lyric Walker has a family secret: She’s part “Sirena.” So when 30,000 Alpha, a five-nation race (Sirena being among them) of beautiful but violent humanoid sea warriors, land on her beach, she knows this means trouble. Lyric’s New York City beach town turns into a militarized zone with the Alpha on one side and humans on another. Then Lyric is asked to give Fathom, the gorgeous and militant Alpha prince, reading lessons, and sparks fly. Which side will she choose?

Why Read It? Described as a combination of The 5th Wave and Twilight with sea creatures, this romantic dystopian fantasy seems to have enough action, war, and adventure to balance out the fiery romance, making it an equally compelling choice for any kid who wants to start reading a popular new series.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, ages 14+
What It’s About
: This dual-narrative fantasy follows two characters in an alternate universe with a strict caste system: Laia is a Scholar (the oppressed class), and Elias is an elite military student for the Empire. After Laia’s brother is arrested, she joins a resistance movement that places her as a slave at the military academy where Elias is a rising star. Despite their differences, the slave and the soldier have more in common than they care to admit, and together they could start a revolution.
Why Read It? One of the biggest debuts of the year, Tahir’s fantasy novel is already a New York Times bestseller and has secured a sequel as well as a lucrative movie deal.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, ages 14+
What It’s About
: Thirteen-year-old Noah and his twin sister Jude are inseparable until their art-critic mom announces that their dearly departed grandmother’s ghost wants them to apply to a local arts high school. The competition for their mom’s approval coupled with an unexpected, catastrophic loss leads to three years of drifting apart, finding love, and discovering whom they want to be as artists, siblings, and people.
Why Read It? Nelson’s gorgeously written coming-of-age novel won multiple awards in 2014, and it deserved every accolade. Best for seventh- and eighth-graders mature enough to immerse themselves in the story’s magical realism, philosophical themes, and relationship issues, I’ll Give You the Sun will impress English teachers and make readers want to share the book with friends.

Travel Buddies for Family Reading


This post is part of the PTA Family Reading Challenge Blog Party Challenge series. View the full post on “The Busy Librarian”.

It’s summer break and the Winner family is gearing up for vacation and we’re bringing along some of our best pals to make sure our bedtimes away from home are as home-like as possible.

Booklight? Check.

Pengiun stuffed animal friend? At the ready.

Book pals? Sounding off!9781442435827

Warning: Do Not Open This Book! by Adam Lehrhaupt and Matthew Forsythe
This book is the an exceptional read aloud, especially for bedtime. Monkeys are set loose in the book and, just as things are getting way out of hand, a plan is hatched. The energy and anticipation of what will come next is enough to wear any young one out, and the satisfying ending eases you into a place of restfulness. This one will probably be read every single night. And throughout the day.9780763675189

The World of Mamoko in the Time of Dragons by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski
This wordless story has more characters and interwoven plot lines than Game of Thrones, and that’s a very good thing when it comes to bedtime favorites. Choose a character and tell his or her story aloud as you follow the character through the day and throughout the day’s adventures. My son never seems to pick the same character to start out, but always ends up switching over to his favorites by the end. I’m talking about you, kind witch looking for those strange mushrooms!


George by Alex Gino
My wife and I are both reading this book, but we’re reading it separately. It started out that way because I couldn’t wait another moment to start reading this story of a boy who identifies as a girl and wants nothing more in the world than to be cast in the lead role of Charlotte in her’s school’s production of Charlotte’s Web. Read this story of a transgender youth feels immediately like you’re sharing in something very special. Something that not everyone will understand or agree with or find the same value there in, but one that’s important because of the way it challenges us to think about others through the lens of diversity. The subject matter is actually very personal to me and it’s one that I hope finds a home with just the right readers, both young and old, as I think it’s a very important story to tell. My wife and I read this book almost as a book club with one another, discussing the story daily throughout different points of our day when George was on our minds. I’ve found myself reading excerpts aloud to friends and I’m hoping to do the same over vacation with some of our extended family members.


Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
Now here’s a book we’ve actually been saving just so that we could read it aloud together. My wife and I read aloud The One and Only Ivan, Katherine’s Newbery-winning story of a gorilla who lived out most of his life in a shopping mall, and the moment the advanced copy arrived on our doorstep we knew it would be something worth setting time aside to enjoy aloud as a family. There’s an imaginary cat. There’s a family on the verge of losing everything. And there’s a boy in need of a friend. I think we’ll be quick to fall in love with this one.

No matter what books you invite along on your travel plans this summer, I hope you’ll consider sharing them with all of us.