Hilltown Families


One of literary great Leo Lionni’s lesser known titles, “Tillie and the Wall” is a symbolic tale that encourages readers to bridge the gap (or, rather, tunnel beneath the wall) between themselves and others. Living in a mouse community where walls are the norm, young Tillie wishes to find out what’s on the other side. Much to her surprise, she learns that what’s on the other side isn’t all that different from what she already knows – save for the wall between them.

Making a zine is a rewarding, creative process and can certainly be a part of your gift giving plans for the holidays. Need some inspiration for your zine-making adventures? We have a great local resource and documentary to share with you!

Literary Guide for Barbara Cohen’s “Molly’s Pilgrim”

Centered around the shared environment of the natural world, “Once There Was a Tree” tells the story of a stump’s usefulness once a tree has died. A number of visitors utilize the stump as a resource and grow to think of it as their own – but who does it truly belong to? Explore the pages of the story while using resources offered in our literary guide in order to thinking critically about ownership in nature.

Introducing the concept of homeschooling to young audiences, Jonathan Bean’s loosely autobiographical book takes a close look at a day in the life of a busy and constantly learning homeschooling family. The concise text and dense illustrations offer up a fascinating tale of nontraditional education, and paired with our literary guide, the book offers itself as a portal into the examination of nontraditional education and personal learning style.

Told in graphic novel format, “Nobody Particular” spotlights shrimper-turned-activist Diane Wilson’s early efforts to increase regulation of the petrochemical industry and to draw attention to the impact that such manufacturing had on her hometown. Best for teen readers, the book highlights themes of activism, trust in self, and perseverance, and inspires readers to consider the environmental impact of all that they do.

Writing is a hobby which can help kids and adults in many areas of life including academics, careers, and even relationships. In general, being able to write clearly helps people work through their own thoughts and express their emotions. Writing fiction in particular can build a stronger sense of empathy. In 2013, researchers at The New School in New York City found that reading fiction helped people perform better on tests of their ability to understand what others were thinking or feeling. Writing fiction requires a similarly empathetic process of deciding what characters feel and how those feelings lead to actions. This summer, the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield is encouraging children and young adults to foster their creative and expressive abilities through a short story writing contest this summer!

A science project of vegetable seedlings is launched into space. Giant vegetables of all varieties land in town across the United States. Is it some kind of strange coincidence, or has the science project gone massively wrong somehow? David Wiesner’s “June 29, 1999” offers a creative and engaging take on the use of the scientific method and the powers of deduction. — Download our literary guide for ideas on how to use this story to support literacy and learning!

A complex tale of love, loss, and learning how to be a family, Half a World Away follows Jaden, a boy adopted from Romania, halfway around the world to get a new sibling. Struggling to understand and be accepted by his family, Jaden spends his time in Kazakhstan learning, growing, and changing. Using our literary guide, families can delve into the rich themes and topics that the story presents.

Celebrated annually as part of National Poetry Month, Poem in Your Pocket Day encourages people to share writing and connect with others by spreading poems throughout their communities. Celebrated by literally carrying poems in pockets or by sharing words through more creative means, the event presents a unique opportunity to share important writing and to connect with others through the thoughts and feelings that great writing can provoke.

A unique offering within the realm of children’s literature, The Black Book of Colors is a book about colors – without any colors! Designed to give seeing readers a taste of what it’s like to experience colors and read books without sight, the book pairs sensory-rich descriptions of a rainbow’s worth of hues with tactile illustrations, and is a great read for all ages.

In anticipation of April’s celebration of National Poetry Month, young poets can share their work through community art workshops and poetry contests! Offering young writers a space in which to share their voices, these upcoming events and contests provide unique opportunities to explore creativity.

In our first literary guide created specifically for teens, an exceptional graphic memoir is paired with suggestions for critical analysis of cultural expectations for gender and sexuality. “Honor Girl” is a story of first teenage love, coupled with the difficulty presented by challenging assumptions of heteronormativity; it’s an important read for teens!

More than just a biography of the amazing Jane Goodall, Me… Jane emphasizes the importance and long-term positive effects of curiosity-driven learning and engagement with natural surroundings. Written in a way that makes these ideas accessible to even the very youngest of readers and enhanced by educational activities detailed in out literary guide, this book belongs on every family reading list.

Set in the not-too-distant future, Crunch chronicles the life of 14-year-old Dewey Marriss, left to help care for his siblings and run the family bike repair business when gasoline runs dry. Weaving together a mystery and the adventure loved by readers near Dewey’s age, the story highlights themes of self-sufficiency and sustainability.

Just in time for the seed-distributing days of fall is our literary guide for “A Seed is Sleepy,” an incredibly rich textual exploration of the world of seeds. Using our guide, families can learn about the science of seeds by finding hands-on place-based ways to connect with the environment.

Speaking to teenagers’ desire for freedom, The Homeschool Liberation League chronicles a young teen’s quest for educational independence. Teaching readers about nontraditional education and the importance of relying on friends, family, and community when engaging in self-directed studies, the story promotes self confidence and educational independence in teens.

Western Massachusetts is a treasure trove for community-based studies of literature and literary history! Including historic homes, local landmarks, beautiful trails, and more! Here in the western half of the state, community-based educational resources for explore American literary history are plentiful.

One of Ezra Jack Keats’ many beloved children’s books, “Whistle for Willie” perfectly encapsulates the play-based discovery that leads early childhood learning. Using our literary guide, families can explore the book and engage in meaningful play-based learning sparked by themes within the story!

Fun under almost any circumstances, people-watching can serve as a great tool for young writers and thespians. The observations made in a particular context can help inspire or contribute to the development or portrayal of a character. Visit some of our suggested people-watching locations!

Weaving together creative free play, hands-on natural science learning, and a child’s sense of time, George Ella Lyon and Vera Rosenberry’s “The Outside Inn” makes a fantastic family read. Use our accompanying literary guide to begin engaging in meaningful learning, using the story as a catalyst!

Bird enthusiasts rejoice – the next installation of our 2015 Summer Reading Resource series is Farley Mowat’s “Owls in the Family!” Inspired by true events in author Farley Mowat’s childhood in northern Canada, “Owls in the Family” is charming, humorous, and full of adventures involving creatures of all kinds. Young chapter book readers can be supported in both the development of literacy skills and understanding of natural science using our literary guide as a resource!

Not just another book about pirates, “Tough Boris” teaches an important lesson about human emotions. Appealing to sailors and land-lovers alike, the story is rich in interesting vocabulary and relies heavily on the visual clues provided in its illustrations. Read the accompanying literary guide to find resources to guide your reading of this great book!

Humor meets the brutal truth in Todd Hasak-Lowy’s “33 Minutes… Until Morgan Sturtz Kicks My Butt.” Paired with supporting activities from our literary guide, the story encourages tween readers to engage in critical self reflection as they – and those around them – grow and change.

More than just a tale about a farmer who wishes to sew quilts rather than sowing seeds, “Sam Johnson and the Blue Ribbon Quilt” can be used to raise discussion about gender roles and cooperation – not to mention opportunities to connect the story to concepts in math, art, and history, too!

Looking for ways to enhance family reading time? Summer is the perfect time to explore books as a family, and to expand stories and create opportunities for deeper learning together. Hilltown Families offers a wealth of resources for supporting families in this endeavor, beginning with the very first featured title in our 2015 Summer Reading Resource series of literary guides!

Designed for use with readers at a 5th grade level, our literature guide for Lois Lowry’s “Gathering Blue” offers families support in adding insight, visualization, and even mastery of a new skill to a great summer read!

Combining science with writing and visual creativity is such a refreshing way to approach a complex topic. American Chemical Society is now seizing the day and holding an innovative poetry competition for kids that will drive them to explore different avenues in science.

Thursday in national Poem in Your Pocket Day. We love what this community in Virginia organized that celebrates poetry, supported collaborations & volunteerism, and encouraged community engagement & literacy development. Check out this video and be inspired to share poetry in your community!

Audio book lovers rejoice! LibriVox is an online resource offering thousands of recordings of a wide variety of written works. Including everything from Shakespeare to Hans Christian Andersen, LibriVox’s titles are all available through the public domain and read by volunteers, meaning that users can download recordings completely for free! Perfect for a snug winter day indoors.

Winter’s cold months lend themselves to lots of indoor time, but youngsters still need an outlet for their energy and creative imaginations! This winter, engage cooped up kiddos in storytelling – a process that not only offers an outlet for active imaginations to run wild, but presents opportunities to learn together about spelling, grammar, punctuation, and parts of speech, skills that are all essential to translating oral tales to written ones.

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