A virtual National Book Festival featuring the Road Map to Reading and Indiana’s ‘Wake Up, Woods’

Like most things in 2020, the National Book Festival looks nothing like it has in the past. Last year, tens of thousands of attendees crammed themselves into long lines to meet their favorite authors. They joined hundreds of other literary buffs in giant halls at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. to watch interviews with Pulitzer Prize-winning writers and famous politicians. They snaked their way through the crowded vendor hall, picking up free bookmarks, posters, and other swag from the hundreds of booths and stages, all catering to the book-loving public who swarmed the festival in droves.

Past National Book Festivals included the crowded Pavilion of the States

None of that is possible in this year’s COVID-19 reality. Instead, the festival has gone virtual. One thing that has always been true of the festival is that it is a free event, open to the public. This year, the public does not only include the people who can make it to Washington, it includes anyone with access to a computer. Virtual attendees will be able to explore nine author “stages” where more than 120 authors will be featured, including many who will be participating in live events where participants can interact with the presenters in real time.

In addition, the 2020 festival will include the Roadmap to Reading feature, a virtual iteration of the beloved Pavilion of the States attraction from years past. In the old days, the Pavilion of the States was one of the most crowded areas of the festival. Each state and territory of the U.S. had a booth where they’d feature a special book, highlight local authors and give away more swag than you could fit in one literary themed tote-bag. This year, each state will be presenting virtual content, including videos and poetry at their virtual booths.

Visit the Roadmap to Reading to experience literary content from all the states

You can visit Indiana at the 2020 National Book Festival by navigating to the National Book Festival’s website. Register to attend the festival, and once you are on the landing page, click on Discover Great Reads to explore as many states as you like, including Indiana.

Indiana’s booth will have lots of content surrounding our chosen book for the festival, “Wake Up, Woods.” Sammy the Interviewing Toucan will do a very special interview with the two authors of the book and there will be plenty of information about Indiana native plants.

You can watch a preview of the Wake Up, Woods interview on Sept. 22 on the Indiana State Library’s Facebook page

The 20th annual Library of Congress National Book Festival will be held online Sept. 25-27. For news and updates, follow the festival blog and subscribe to latest updates.

This blog post was submitted by Indiana Young Readers Center Librarian Suzanne Walker.

‘Celebrating Diversity’ Statehood Day essay contest now accepting submissions

The Indiana Center for the Book is hosting an essay competition to commemorate Indiana’s 204th Statehood Day. This year’s theme is “Celebrating a Diverse Indiana.” The Statehood Day Essay Contest takes place annually in the fall and is open to all Indiana fourth graders. The essays are judged by a panel of Indiana State Library staff and volunteer educators.

Essays should be well organized and reflective of the theme “Celebrating a Diverse Indiana.” Judges are looking forward to seeing students’ interpretation of the theme. Some ideas to help them could be: What is diversity? What does it mean to live in a diverse state? In what different ways can a state be diverse? In its people? Its plants? Its economy?

Winners of the essay contest will be honored on Friday, Dec. 11 in a virtual ceremony. Winners are expected to record their essays for the virtual ceremony.

Additionally, any Indiana fourth grade class – or student – is welcome to attend the Statehood Day virtual ceremony, regardless of whether or not they participate in the contest. Registration is required. Visit this link to register for the online virtual ceremony.

The first-place winner receives a CollegeChoice 529 deposit of $250, while the second, third and fourth-place winners receive CollegeChoice deposits of $150.

Essay Contest Rules

  • The competition is open to any Indiana fourth grade public, private or homeschooled student in the 2020-21 school year.
  • A panel of judges will choose the first, second, third, and fourth place winners.
    Essays must range from 100 to 300 words; handwritten or typed.
  • Essays must be submitted with an entry form.
  • Individual entries should use the 2020 Individual Entry Form.
  • Class sets should use the 2020 Group Entry Form. The following information should be included on each essay for class sets: student name, teacher name and school name.
  • All entries may be mailed or emailed.
  • Mailed entry forms can be sent to: Indiana Center for the Book Indiana State Library 140 N. Senate Ave Indianapolis, IN 46204.
  • Mailed essays must be postmarked by Friday, Oct. 16, 2020.
  • Emailed entry forms can be sent to this email address as an attachment.
  • Emailed entries must be received by Friday, Oct. 16, 2020.

Click here for additional information about the 2020 Statehood Day essay contest, including lesson plans for teachers and the 2019 winning essays.

Please contact Suzanne Walker, Indiana Center for the Book director, with any questions.

This blog post was submitted by Indiana Young Readers Center Librarian Suzanne Walker.

Celebrate Juneteenth with books for young people by Indiana authors

Juneteenth, which takes place on June 19 annually, celebrates the implementation of the Emancipation Proclamation across the United States. While all enslaved people in the Confederate States were declared to be legally free on January 1, 1863, in practice many slaves in western states were not free until years later. On June 19, 1865, enslaved African Americans in Texas were finally made free by executive decree. Juneteenth has been celebrated for over 150 years.

Celebrate this Juneteenth by reading the Emancipation Proclamation available through the National Archives or by learning more about this holiday through the National Museum of African American History. Honor African Americans by reading books by African American authors.

The Indiana Young Readers Center has put together this list of books, new and old, so that people of all ages can engage with rich stories for everyone told by African Americans with Indiana connections.

“I See the Rhythm” text by Toyomi Igus, with paintings by Michele Wood

Winner of the 1999 Coretta Scott King Award for outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values, this primer of history is told through the amazing art of Hoosier Michele Wood and the exuberant verse of Toyomi Igus. Read this book to experience the rhythm of African American history.

“The Music in Derrick’s Heart” by Gwendolyn Battle-Lavert, illustrated by Colin Bootman

Looking for a picture book? This is a sweet story about Derrick who is aching to learn how to play the harmonica from his uncle, Booker T. Children will love hearing about Derrick’s passion and how he tapes his harmonica to his head and his heart when he sleeps. Dr. Gwendolyn Battle-Lavert is from Marion, Indiana and is the author of several children’s picture books including “Papa’s Mark,” “The Shaking Bag” and “Off to School.”

 

“Singing Black: Alternative Nursery Rhymes for Children” by Mari Evans, illustrated by Ramon Price

Nursery rhymes, with their simple words and sing-song rhythms have enthralled and excited youngsters for centuries. But most of the best-known rhymes reflect a limited Western perspective. “Singing Black” is a charming collection of original short poems by award-winning poet and writer Mari Evans that draw their inspiration from black culture. Evans made her home in Indianapolis for nearly 70 years.

 

“The Usual Suspects” by Maurice Broaddus

If you are in the mood for a good middle-grade mystery, look no further. Thelonius Mitchell is tired of being labeled. He’s in a special education class, separated from the “normal” kids at school who don’t have any “issues.” When a gun is found at a neighborhood hangout, the school administrators start their inquiries right in Thelonius’s class. Thelonius feels the injustice deeply and sets to work right away to solve the mystery. Maurice Broaddus lives and works in Indianapolis and is the author of several books for grown-ups as well as children.

 

“Tyler Johnson Was Here” by Jay Coles

A stunning young adult novel about police brutality in modern American. When Marvin Johnson’s twin brother Tyler goes to a party, Marvin decides to tag along to keep an eye on him. But what starts out as harmless fun turns into a shooting, followed by a police raid. The next day, Tyler is missing and Marvin wants nothing more than to find his brother alive and safe. The chilling truth is that Tyler is dead; shot and killed by a police officer. Author Jay Coles wrote this book based on true personal events. Jay Coles lives in Indianapolis and is also a teacher and musician.

 

“The Season of Styx Malone” by Kekla Magoon

Looking for a summer friendship story? Meet Caleb and his brother Bobby. They are excited for a whole summer of exploring the woods when they meet newcomer, Styx Malone. Oozing cool from every pore, Styx convinces the two brothers to help him pull off the Great Escalator Trade – exchanging one small thing for something better until they achieve their final goal. But, as one thing leads to another, the boys seem to know less and less about their new friend. Award-winning author Kekla Magoon grew up in Indiana and is the author of many books for young people including “How It Went Down,” “Shadows of Sherwood,” “X: A Novel” and “The Rock and the River.”

“You Should See Me in a Crown” by Leah Johnson

Liz Lighty has always believed that she’s too black, too poor and too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed Midwestern town. But it’s okay – she has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever – one that revolves around financial aid that unexpectedly falls through. Liz is devastated until she remembers that her school offers a scholarship for the prom king and queen. This brand new book by debut author Leah Johnson is a number one new release on Amazon. Though Johnson currently lives in Brooklyn, New York she was born and raised in Indianapolis and is a tried and true lifelong Hoosier.

 

This blog post was submitted by Indiana Young Readers Center Librarian Suzanne Walker.

Toucan Tuesdays author interview series to start this month

Do you love authors? The Indiana Center for the Book is excited to announce an opportunity for you to learn more about Indiana authors through their new initiative, Toucan Tuesdays at 2:00! Join us on the Indiana State Library’s Facebook page on select Tuesdays at 2 p.m. Eastern Time for a weekly Facebook premiere party to watch the newest installment and share your comments in real time. You do not need to have a Facebook account to watch the videos.

Each video features an Indiana writer being interviewed by the Indiana Young Readers Center’s chatty correspondent, Sammy the Interviewing Toucan. Join us for one or more of these premieres:

June 9 – Barb Shoup
June 16 – Maurice Broaddus
June 23 – Skila Brown
June 30 – Rob Harrell
July 7 – Peggy Reiff Miller
July 14 – B. A. Williamson
July 21 – Michele Eich
July 28 – Meg DamakasAfter making their premieres on social media, the full interviews will be available to stream on the Indiana State Library’s YouTube page.

If you are an Indiana author and are interested in being interviewed, please reach out to Suzanne Walker. We are interested in authors of fiction and poetry for all ages.

We hope you can join us!

This blog post was submitted by Indiana Young Readers Center Librarian Suzanne Walker.

Firefly season – Voting, summer reading challenges, nominating and more!

Children’s librarians across the state of Indiana know May as Firefly voting season. For the past five years, May has been the month that libraries have showcased the five nominated picture books through programs, displays and outreach, leading up to inviting their youngest patrons, ages 0-5 to vote on their favorite book to win the Indiana Early Literacy Firefly Award. Like most things in 2020, this year the voting season for the Firefly Award will be different.

Voting for the Indiana Early Literacy Firefly Award has been extended until July 31
Libraries now have the opportunity to offer the Firefly program virtually and as a part of their summer reading programs. Libraries are welcome to showcase the Firefly program in whatever way they choose using the following resources:

Virtual Viewing: Patrons can view all five books through recorded videos available on the Indiana State Library’s Firefly website. The videos will be available until July 31, at which time they will be taken down.

Virtual Voting: After patrons have viewed the books, either in person, or through the recorded videos, they are welcome to use the online voting form to record the votes of any members of their household ages 0-5. An effort should be made to limit votes to one vote per child.

Program Guide: Every year the award committee collects craft ideas, activities, songs and rhymes to support each book. These are perfect for patrons to do while at home or for children’s librarians to use in virtual storytimes. The 2020 Program Guide is available for download here.

Libraries and childcare providers may collect votes in any manner of ways. They can encourage their customers to use the online form or they can collect votes themselves and email their tallies to Suzanne Walker at the Indiana State Library. Tallies will be accepted until July 31. If libraries choose to collect votes themselves they might do this through hands raised during a virtual storytime, phone calls, email or even snail mail.

In addition, libraries are encouraged to offer Firefly voting directly through their summer reading programs, either as a challenge in their online reading platform like Beanstack or READsquared, or as simply a task that patrons can complete for a prize or incentive. This is the first year that the Firefly deadline has been extended to coincide with summer reading. It is a great opportunity to engage the public in these quality picture books while at the same time providing virtual content for summer reading.

How to add the Firefly Award to your Beanstack Summer Reading Program
The Indiana State Library recognizes that Beanstack is just one option for tracking summer reading participation online. We offer these directions as a guide and perhaps as inspiration for any library who is using Beanstack or any other online summer reading platform. These directions are being included as a courtesy and should not be considered to be an endorsement of Beanstack or any other summer reading tool.

Creating a Beanstack Learning Track to feature the Firefly Award is a great way to get your young readers connected to this fantastic program! You’ll need a title, a description which you can copy from the Firefly Award website, badge details, patron details – where you can set age limitations for our 0-5 year old customers – and then you’ll add the activities. Each book can be a separate activity with a link URL to the video. The sixth activity of your learning track will be the link to the voting site. Beanstack has some helpful tools for learning how to build your program. Learning tracks are covered here.

For a step-by-step guide to adding the Firefly Award to your Beanstack Summer Reading Program download the Firefly Beanstack Activity Badge put together by the North Manchester Public Library. Alternatively, you could offer the Firefly as its own program. Directions for that are here.

New Facebook Group
The Firefly Award Committee has started a new Facebook group for any librarian or childcare provider who works with the Firefly Award. The purpose of the group is to share ideas and inspirations and to generally support each other and the book award. You can find the group by searching for “Indiana Early Literacy Firefly Award.” Once you have located the group, click Join Group to request to join.

Nominating Titles for 2021
This summer, not only do we want you to keep the votes coming, we are also starting to collect nominations for the 2021 Firefly season. Nominations will be accepted from June 1-Oct. 1, 2020. We recognize that it may be difficult for libraries to access new picture books this year due to budget constraints. We encourage librarians who can to go ahead and nominate several titles.

If you work with youth in a library, either in a school or in a public library, you are eligible to nominate as many titles as you wish. Nominating is easy. Just send an email to Suzanne Walker. Include in your email: title, author, illustrator and publication date.

Criteria for book nominations are as follows:

  • Must be published by July 1 of the current year, or any time in the previous year and still be in print. Currently, this ranges from Jan. 1, 2019 to July 1, 2020.
  • Possess strong child appeal.
  • Demonstrate three or more of the five practices of Every Child Ready to Read®: talking, singing, reading, writing and playing.
  • Have artistic quality with text that supports the illustrations or a compelling narrative provided by illustrations.
  • Diversity and inclusion are encouraged.

The nomination pool will be narrowed down to five titles by the Indiana Early Literacy Firefly Committee by January 2021. More information on ballots and how to vote will be available in early 2021.

Watch for Fireflies
Finally, we are entering the outdoor evening firefly season in Indiana. According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the Say’s firefly is one of the earliest emerging fireflies in Indiana and may be seen from early May through mid-July. What better tie in for the Firefly Award program than actual fireflies?

This blog post was submitted by Indiana Young Readers Center Librarian Suzanne Walker.

Hoosier youth chronicling COVID-19

The Indiana Center for the Book and the Indiana Young Readers Center are calling out for youth up to age 18 to report how their life experiences have changed in light of the global health crisis. The current pandemic has brought many aspects of life to a stop, while other aspects of life, like time with family, have been magnified. Youth are invited to share their observations during this unique time in the history of our state. Entries will be added to a permanent collection at the Indiana State Library.

Entry is simple. Download the editable PDF titled Hoosier Youth Chronicling COVID-19 and complete online or by hand. Each entry will need a License to Use form signed by both the child and a parent or guardian. This allows the Indiana State Library to use your form in future possible publications, in print or to display in our collection or online. You may also want to include one to two images, such as photographs you have taken or pictures of artwork you have created. Images are optional.

All entries may be submitted via email to Tara Maxwell Stewart, or mailed to the Indiana State Library:

Indiana State Library
Attn: Indiana Young Readers Center

315 W. Ohio Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202

While there is no current deadline for entries to the collection, we would like to collect thoughts in real time as students are home from school.

The Indiana Young Readers Center also wants to draw your attention to a wonderful packet created by Natalie Long of Long Creations. Natalie says, “This is something I designed for fellow families with children living through this difficult time, it is meant as a gift, not for profit.” Families are welcome to include the packet in their submissions to the Indiana State Library, but please note that the packet is optional.

If you have any questions about submitting your child’s work to the Indiana State Library, please reach out to Tara Maxwell Stewart.

The post was written by Indiana Young Readers Center Program Coordinator Tara Stewart and Indiana Young Readers Center Librarian Suzanne Walker.

Celebrate Earth Day with activities inspired by Indiana picture books

Earth Day has been observed every year in April since 1970. That’s 50 years of celebrating the planet we all call home. It might feel difficult to celebrate Earth Day this year because of COVID-19, but here are two activities that everyone can do, inspired by two Indiana picture books.

Take a walk and look for native Indiana plants
“Wake Up, Woods,” published by Indiana’s Rubber Ducky Press in partnership with the Indiana Native Plant Society, is a beautiful picture book all about Indiana native plants. The book pairs lilting rhymes with informational text about 12 plants native to Indiana. The book is illustrated with delightfully accurate drawings of not only the plants, but also the creatures who live in and around the plants. On the cover a mouse, caterpillar and bee coexist among violets.

For this activity, all you need to do is step out of your home and take a little walk. You can do this on your own or with members of your household. Keep your eyes to the ground and look for violets, spring beauties or any other Indiana native plant. Violets are probably the easiest to identify because of their distinctive flowers and heart shaped leaves. The flowers can be violet in color, white or even yellow. Take a closer look and observe their petals. They have two top petals, two side petals and one bottom petal. Violets are relatively easy to find because they like to grow in a variety of soils and could even be found on the edges of parking lots. For more information about Indiana native plants, take a look at the Indiana Wildlife Federation’s lists and resources.

Write a thank you note to the earth
“Thank You, Earth,” written by Indiana author April Pulley Sayre, pairs glorious photographs with a simple sentiment: a thank you letter to the earth. As the pages turn, the reader experiences rich vocabulary while taking a visual tour of the world, including several images of Indiana like a redbud tree and a blooming bloodroot plant. The back matter at the end of the book describes several ways to write a letter of thanks to the earth, and where to send it.

For this activity, all you need is a piece of paper. Write a letter to your planet, thanking it for the air you breathe, the blue sky and the water you drink. If you have children in your household, get them involved, too. Instead of writing a letter, make a poster and hang it in a window so passers-by can enjoy the sentiment as well. Mail your letter to your local newspaper or radio station.

Indiana has many authors who have written picture books that celebrate the earth. Take a look at some of these authors for more information:

Rebecca Kai Dotlich
Helen Frost
Phyllis Root
April Pulley Sayre
Lola Schaefer

This blog post was submitted by Indiana Young Readers Center Librarian Suzanne Walker.

Stuck at home? Enriching activities to do with all ages from the Indiana Young Readers Center

Looking for extra activities to keep children busy? Explore some of these activities put together for you by the Indiana Young Readers Center, located in the Indiana State Library. Remember, children of all ages can benefit from play and reading. Keep your kids engaged with some of these resources.

Ages 0-5
Parents with very young children have a big challenge. Little children will not understand what is happening in relation to the current COVID-19 situation. They might sense the fear and anxiety in their parents and react to that by being cranky and unmanageable. Keep them engaged by trying some of the activities listed in our Indiana Early Literacy Firefly Award Program Guides. We have three guides from 2018, 2019 and 2020 all chock-full of fun, developmentally-appropriate activities for little kids. Even if you don’t have the books listed in the guides, you can still do most of the activities.

For children ages 0-5 the best thing to do is to talk, sing, read, write and play with them. We know little kids can’t really write yet, so anything you can do to get them using their hands to work on fine motor skills is a good thing. Examples are block play, crafts, finger painting, playing with pots and pans and so much more.

Ages 6-9
Children in this age bracket are more independent and may be missing their friends and social connections. Involve them in planning out your day of activities. They can do so many things, and many of them independently. Have a game tournament. Start a reading challenge. Keep them involved in the world from inside your home by talking about nature. The Indiana Nature Conservancy has put together a guide for sharing with children to get them more connected to nature. Most of the activities in the guide can be done right at home.

This age group might enjoy many of the ideas in the aforementioned Firefly guides as well. The 2020 guide in particular has activities appropriate for older children on topics like Africa, optical illusions and pirates!

Ages 10 – 14
Even though your preteens might be the group most likely to tell you that they are bored, they are also developmentally ready for more mature thinking. They will have a better understanding of what is going on than little children and can brainstorm with you about how to spend the days in productive and balanced ways. Kids in this age group are often passionate about their interests and may be missing their friends.

Genealogy
The Indiana Young Readers Center has put together a genealogy program for children in this age group. Take this time to talk about family and the practice of genealogy. What is it anyway? Share family stories and history. Work through the program guide and learn about the kinds of documents that genealogists refer to when filling in their family trees. Do you have any documents in your home right now that you can examine?

Indiana History
If you are looking for more academic resources, take a look at this video about two of the murals located in the Indiana State Library. They discuss the history of Indiana Statehood. Talk to your school age students about how the United States was created. Who lived here when settlers arrived in Indiana? If you’d like to have a more robust conversation, take a look at the discussion questions that we use during our fourth grade field trips.

Still hungry for more history content? Explore the Indiana Historical Marker Program coordinated by the Indiana History Bureau. Every Indiana county has at least one marker. Choose an Indiana social studies standard for your student to work on. Fourth grade standards are especially relevant to Indiana history. Find a marker that relates to that standard. Take it further by researching a little more using Indiana State Library’s Digital Collections. This project could fill a whole morning and introduce your student to great online resources.

Keep a Journal – Good for all ages
Encourage children in all age groups to keep a journal about how they are feeling and what is going on around them. This is a historic time. Researchers in the future will be fascinated by primary resources like journals and diaries written by Hoosier children. Those future primary resources will not exist unless we create them now. Someday, your child could donate their journal to the Indiana State Library!

Letters About Literature  – Grades 4-12
Do your kids like reading and writing? Every year the Indiana State Library hosts a writing contest for students in grades 4-12 called Letters About Literature. Students write to an author, living or deceased, about a book that changed how they see themselves or how they understand the world around them. Students write to us every year about how books help them understand topics close to home like family and school or more sophisticated topics like racism and war. The contest for 2020 is closed, but students can always get a jump on working on their letter for next year. Visit the Letters About Literature website for more information about the contest. Your student could get published!

Ages 15-18
High schoolers are more likely to be able to fill their own time, however they may be in need of resources to help them with their existing school work. Be sure to get familiar with INSPIRE. INSPIRE is Indiana’s virtual online library, a collection of online academic databases and other information resources that can be accessed for free by Indiana residents. INSPIRE includes full-text magazine and journal articles, images, historic newspapers and much more. If students are frustrated about not finding sources for a paper or project, have them try INSPIRE.

Explore Old Journals
The Indiana Young Readers Center has put together a packet for teens interested in reading old diaries. Work through the packet to learn about the value of writing journals and researching old diaries. The diaries in the packet are written in cursive! Does your student know cursive? Take this time to teach your student the basics of cursive writing. Why is it important for students today to be able to read and write in cursive? Explore this question with your student. Fun fact: One of the diaries is from 1896 and the writer talks about playing euchre with her family!

Indiana State Library’s Digital Collections
Still looking for something to do? Take a look at some of the interesting things that the Indiana State Library has in our digital collections. From car racing to dogs to historic documents. We’ve got something for everyone:

Indianapolis 500, between 1926 and 1957
Artistic family tree (featuring President James Polk)
Pre-Photoshop trick photo postcard
Studio photos of Chow Chow dogs
South Shore Line broadsides featuring the “Workshop of America,” 1926
Miami Treaty of St. Mary’s, 1818
Preserved ivy taken from Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train 
Letter from D.P. Craig, a soldier with the 14th Indiana Regiment to his family, 1862
Awards given to African American WACs at Camp Atterbury, 1943
Women’s suffrage pamphlet with map, ca. 1915
Susan B. Anthony letter to Grace Julian Clarke, 1900-01-11 
Locks of hair presented to John. M Conyers (March 29, 1865)

In these unprecedented times, we hope these enriching activities will keep children of all ages engaged and busy.

This blog post was submitted by Indiana Young Readers Center Librarian Suzanne Walker.

“Wake Up, Woods” chosen as Indiana’s National Book Festival title

Every year, a list of books for children and youth representing the literary heritage of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands is distributed by the Library of Congress’s Center for the Book during the National Book Festival, which takes place annually in Washington D.C. Indiana’s selection is always by an Indiana author and usually includes other Indiana connections, like being set in Indiana or celebrating Indiana’s culture and heritage.

The 2020 National Book Festival selection from Indiana is “Wake Up, Woods” published by Rubber Ducky Press, written by Michael A. Homoya and Shane Gibson and illustrated by Gillian Harris.

“Wake Up, Woods” pairs informational text with clever verses to inform and delight the reader about plants native to North American forests. “Wake Up, Woods” is not only written and illustrated by Hoosiers, but each of the plants highlighted in the book are native to Indiana and can be found in the spring time in parks and preserves – and even in shade gardens around yards. Detailed illustrations, lilting verses and scientific explanations make “Wake Up, Woods” an important text for anyone wanting to wake up to the wonder around them when visiting the woods. This is an excellent nature book to share with young readers and is perfect for the classroom, or to tuck in a backpack before a hike.

Bloodroot, an Indiana native plant, is the first plant featured in “Wake Up, Woods.”

Adriane Doherty, owner of Rubber Ducky Press, said, “It is such an honor for Rubber Ducky Press to have ‘Wake Up, Woods’ selected by our state’s Indiana State Library’s Indiana Center for the Book to represent Indiana at the Library of Congress National Book Festival. We are so very proud of all the work done by the contributors and, especially, illustrator Gillian Harris and authors Michael A. Homoya and Shane Gibson. And, of course, none of this would have been possible without the drive and determination from the people of the Indiana Native Plant Society.”

The book came about through the diligent work of the Indiana Native Plant Society, whose dream it was have a picture book celebrating Indiana’s native plants in the springtime.

This blog post was submitted by Indiana Young Readers Center Librarian Suzanne Walker.

Get out! Exploring the Children of Indiana Nature Park and its website

Run into the woods! When I told Jonas, my four-year-old, we were going to a park he asked, “Are there slides?” We’ve taken many hiking trips in his lifetime, so I knew he wouldn’t be disappointed, but it’s common for children now to need entertainment planned. We met my two nieces, Grace and Melody, who frequent the park and, along with my daughter Finlea, set off onto the trails. We found an avenue of trees and I told them to, “Run! Run into the woods.” There were no plans, no expectations, no programs, no devices; just an invitation to run.

The Children of Indiana Nature Park was created as a Signature Project of Indiana’s Bicentennial Celebration. It’s located in Centerville, near Richmond on the east side of the state. The park is divided by county to allow children of Indiana to claim a ceremonial deed to the park. Counties that have higher populations are bigger in size. This gift of nature is given to the children in Indiana to create a sense of ownership of the land around them and bring awareness to conserving and protecting our earth. Outside of the park, I recently gave deeds to a group of children I work with and they couldn’t wait to grab their parents’ phones to see their land in the park. When presenting to the group we talked about being good stewards of the land around us as a tribute to the park. We headed outside for a quiet moment. They joyfully ran and we sat on blankets and were silent for five minutes listening to all the nature that surrounded us.

We started our visit at the Cope Environmental Center. This new facility houses a classroom, offices, critters to meet, bird watching and space for meetings and events. The building was constructed using rigorous guidelines for green building and is working toward participation in the Living Building Challenge. We were greeted by executive director Traci Lewis who introduced us to all of the animals and provided a tour of the beautiful building. My favorite was the usage of trees dying from emerald ash borers. They trees were repurposed by a local volunteer to be included in the design. The traces of the damage are visible, bringing context to this invasive species.

My niece borrowed one of the backpacks before heading to the park site. Traci met us and shared more information about the original center. We headed into the woods at the sign for the Children’s Park. The magic and wonder in a tree lined trail captured the hearts of Jonas, Grace and Melody. They ran and giggled up and down the trail. Jonas found a piece of trash when we visited the park. When he picked it up he naively whispered, “I think it was bad guys.” I wore my daughter, Finlea, and walked further into the trail. The stretches of wild flowers were teaming with butterflies and bees. Finlea’s curiosity at 16 months is heightened outside. The open-ended appeal and natural visual stimulation is perfect for her brain development. The map below shows the division of counties and trails. Future trails will be ADA accessible. A personal note: I did not bring my stroller, but a stroller would navigate most of the trails.

If you’ve been in the Indiana Young Readers Center lately, you may have noticed the varying window displays each month. August’s displays highlighted books by Indiana authors about parks, trees and animals native to Indiana. There is also information about Indiana’s State Parks and Indiana Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights. I created our August storytime, themed “Trees,” to highlight the park and provide deeds to the oldest participants. The deeds provide a great conversation starter for taking care of the Earth and a reminder to spend time outside. If you’re interested in any of the books on display or from our storytime, a list is provided below.

If a park isn’t nearby, there are a multitude of resources for children and educators alike located on the park’s website. I used the information on the site through two sets of eyes: an educator and a parent. I looked first as an educator and was dazzled by all of the resources. I was pleased at the connections to Indiana standards readily listed. The different agencies providing these did a phenomenal job of creating engaging lessons. I was most surprised at not just the quality, but the quantity of resources. I cannot emphasize enough the thoughtfulness to connecting nature in the classroom to Indiana Academic Standards.

My children are not school-aged yet, so they loved looking at the Animals and Plants on My Land section of the website and using the zoom-in features on the coordinate map. It has a helpful, Find Nature Near You feature that connects you to resources for nearby parks. It also gives practical tips for exploring nature in your own backyard. “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv, which explores the need for children to be outdoors, opens quoting a fourth-grader in San Diego, “I like to play indoors better ‘cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.” This sentiment is echoed in my experience with children in the classroom. When brainstorming for a journal prompt about spring and summer only two out twenty-three children mentioned an outdoor activity. As a parent, I often feel defeated when the first words out of my son’s mouth are, “Can I have the iPad?” I often self-justify his love for the device because learning is his favorite thing, and he does chose to watch educational videos. This park visit reminded me of my need as a parent to weight outdoor play over indoor conveniences. I was raised to play outside for hours, but I lived in a rural area with a stay-at-home mom. The ideas on the website are realistic for any working family.

I personally believe in the dangers of nature deficiency in children, but it’s difficult as a working parent of young children to navigate screen time with outdoor play. The teacher webinar in the Educational Resources tab on the website is worth 1 PGP and provides compelling research on the topic. It mentions the Oxford Junior Dictionary eliminating “natural world” words in favor of “digital” words. It cites a 2010 study by Solutions Journal referencing children’s abilities to “recognize over 1,000 corporate logos, but few can identify more than a handful of local plants and animals.” The message provided by both the park and website is loud and clear, “Get out! Get outside!” We finished our visit to the park, just my children and I, under the shade of a tree. We sprawled out and watched the butterflies dance in a patch of wildflowers. We listened, as any avid birder would, for the calls of birds we recognize. My children had no plans, no expectation, no programs, no devices, and no slide; we found ourselves delightfully free.

Nature books from the Indiana State Library:
By April Pulley Sayre: “Trout, Trout, Trout,” “Squirrels, Leap,”  “Trout Are Made of Trees,” “Bird, Bird, Bird,” “Woodpecker Wham!”
By Lola Shaefer: “Because of an Acorn,” “Lifetime”
By Helen Frost: “Step Gently Out”
By Christie Matheson: “Tap The Magic Tree,” a 2015 Firefly Award nominee.

The Peace of Wild Things

The post was written by Indiana Young Readers Center Program Coordinator Tara Stewart.