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Enjoy this guide to the best books read by our Bibliofiles and KCUR staffers in 2019.

courtesy of Charlie Mylie

Gift-giving can be challenging enough when you're human. But when you're a mouse, it's really tough. Kansas City artist Charlie Mylie has just released his first children's book about this difficulty.

"Something for You" is about a mouse who delivers a cake to a friend and finds her unwell, not in cake-eating spirits at all. He must find something to cheer her up, so he takes to the surrounding streets, meadows and mountains.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

The state of Kansas is canceling a contract that administered an elementary-school reading program because of what state officials call inappropriate spending on travel and salaries. 

The contractor disputes any mishandling of the money, which in recent years amounted to nearly $10 million routed from a program meant to serve needy families. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Inside the Rabbit Hole, a national museum celebrating children's literature set to open in North Kansas City in 2020, visitors will encounter something unexpected. 

Past the two-story front door, limestone steps will lead down into the burrow of a magical creature named Fox Rabbit. 

"What we want to create is an environment where it is a suspension of disbelief, a magical space, and a beautiful space," says Debbie Pettid, who started the non-profit organization with her husband, Pete Cowdin. "And one that is really accessible."

Segment 1: Kansas City mourns the death of philanthropist Henry Bloch.

Henry Bloch, co-founder of the tax preparation firm H&R Block and World War II veteran, has had an immense impact on Kansas City. His legacy will persist through the institutions he helped established and support. Today, a look at how his contributions were aimed to serve the community he loved. 

Bigstock

After being asked to create a program to help the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph recognize signs of sexual abuse, Cathy Morrison found herself doing much more than teaching – she began listening.

A consultant specializing in leadership development, strategic planning and executive coaching, Morrison had already developed a program to help adults identify and report signs of suspected sexual abuse of minors. And as she presented her program to various organizations, survivors inundated her with stories of their own sexual assault.    

Gretchen Rubin

Apr 12, 2019

In "Outer Order, Inner Calm," happiness explorer Gretchen Rubin explains how getting control of your stuff makes you feel more in control of your life.

Organizing your belongings isn't a one-size-fits-all concept. Kansas City native Gretchen Rubin explained the "don't use, don't need, don't love" rule for sorting through your possessions and why something as simple as making your bed can bring a sense of calmness to your life. 

Segment 1: Architects need to change the way they design buildings to adapt to the complex changes in our environment.

The benefits outweigh the costs when designing architecture that can withstand the effects of climate change, says one leading voice on the matter. Natural disasters like Superstorm Sandy and recent flooding throughout the Midwest show why cities need resilient design that also makes them quicker to recover.

Segment 1: Kansas governor and lawmakers don't see eye to eye.

Political reporters described a hostile environment  between Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly and the Republican-led legislature. They explained what each side is looking for on the issues of Medicaid expansion, school funding, protecting vulenerable children and the food tax.

PublicDomainPictures.net

Segment 1: Policymakers have yet to grasp the depth of the recession in farm country.

Farmers are slowly losing their livelihood as the input costs of farming rise and the price of commodoties sink. We talked with Paul Johnson, a grower and policy analyst, about the crisis in farm country. "There's not much, if any, of a debate of a farm and food discussion that we need in Kansas," Johnson said.

File photo / Kansas News Service

Most Kansas students graduate high school nowadays. Yet many still struggle with the skills of reading and writing.

Now a task force of educators, parents and lawmakers hopes to help close that gap.

Over the past half year, the Dyslexia Task Force put together recommendations and this month handed them off to the Kansas State Board of Education.

The group’s work is well worth paying attention to. It could change reading instruction for every public school student in the state.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Crestview Elementary third grader Hana Ismail is reading two books she picked out from her classroom library that feature Pakistani protagonists.

“Four Feet, Two Sandals,” by Karen Lynn Williams and illustrated by Khadra Mohammed, tells the story of two girls who meet in a refugee camp. “Malala’s Magic Pencil,” by Malala Yousafzai, is about the young Nobel laureate, with illustrations by Kerascoët.

“I get to pick out all my favorite books,” Hana said. “They’re really fun to read for me, and they give me more information about everything.”

Flickr user LeAnn Weishaar

Midwest readers provide a good barometer for what's popular in books around the country, according to some library officials. So what topped the non-fiction and fiction lists at Kansas City-area libraries in 2018?

Prolific writers such as James Patterson and John Grisham continued to be popular in fiction along with some first-time authors. A.J. Finn's debut "The Woman in the Window," a psychological thriller, cracked the top five for all but one area library.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / KCUR/Kansas News Service

Angie Schreiber sees it time and again: dyslexic students failing to learn to read through traditional teaching techniques.

But she says she knows how they can flourish.

Schreiber’s private teaching service in Emporia uses an approach known as structured literacy. The method drills students on myriad rules of English sound and spelling that most of us never learned consciously.

Olathe Public Schools

Kansas public schools will see $27 million from the U.S. Department of Education to improve literacy for all kids — including those not yet old enough for school.

Macmillan Children's Publishing Group

In the new young adult novel “A Blade So Black,” the main character, Alice, doesn't have long blonde hair, and the other side of the looking glass isn't a place full of innocently quirky tea parties.

Latrice "Elle" McKinney, a Kansas resident who writes under the name L. L. McKinney, has created a  fantasy world full of adventure and imagination but infused with real-world issues and black girl magic.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

There's good news for a Kansas City elementary school that wasn’t sure how it would continue a successful tutoring program that helps transient students catch up in English and math: a $75,000 grant from the Kauffman Foundation will keep it alive.

Bibliofiles: Suburbia

Jul 17, 2018

The 'dark side' of suburbia has been a running theme in American literature for at least a couple of decades. The theme has many forms: existential boringness, the soul-sucking blandness of conformity or as an evil secret lurking behind a too-pleasant veneer. On this episode, the Bibliofiles dive into a discussion about how suburban life is represented in literature and recommend new and noteworthy releases. 

Kaite Stover, Director of readers' Services, Kansas City Public Library

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: Democratic rising star Jason Kander on voting rights, Missouri politics and the 2020 presidential race.

While he may have lost his 2016 bid to unseat Missouri's Republican U.S. Senator, Roy Blunt, Democrat Jason Kander certainly hasn't disappeared from the political stage. Today, he tells us why he's turned his sights to expanding voting rights. Plus, Steve Kraske asks him why he's spending so much time in Iowa and New Hampshire lately.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

There were 307 students enrolled at Pitcher Elementary on the last day of school, but that number doesn’t tell the whole story.

Pitcher is about as far east as a school can be and still be in the Kansas City Public Schools – out by the stadiums, mere blocks from the Independence and Raytown districts. Kids come and go constantly as their families’ circumstances change.

Kansas has some of the highest education achievement standards in the country, but students are struggling to reach that high bar.

The new report from the National Center For Education Statistics standardized state proficiency assessments for math and reading in 2015. For eighth grade, Kansas had the highest benchmark for proficiency in both reading and math out of the states evaluated.

Segment 1: How do you learn how to read?

Reading is an important life skill that starts at an early age. But how do kids actually learn how to do it? There is research, of course, but implementing the findings is more complicated that you might think.

 

Matt Grobe / KCUR 89.3

Do you devour 'think pieces' online? Or perhaps you read essays the old-fashioned way: in books. Either way, you're participating in the timeless art of making sense of the world through words. Today, the Bibliofiles discuss the latest trends of long-form literary journalism and recommend their favorite works in the genre.

Jeffrey Ann Goudie, freelance journalist and book critic:

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Imagine, teacher Shauna Hammett tells first-graders gathered around a small table, a train whistle.

“What sound is the long ‘A’ sound?” Hammett asks.

Hands shoot into the air, then tug downward as if pulling on a rope. Their sing-song answer mimics the sound of a passing train: “Aaaaaaaa. Aaaaaa.”

Bibliofiles: Romance

Jan 2, 2018
Stewart Butterfield / Flickr-CC

Love is hard to define — so how do you analyze a whole literary genre with rules built around the concept? Today, KCUR's 'Bibliofiles' explain the themes, constructs and plot devices behind the romance genre. They also recommend their favorite books featuring romantic elements and wade through controversy stirred up by a condescending article on romance novels featured in the New York Times.

Guests:

Danie Alexander / KCUR 89.3

Have a little last minute shopping to do for the young bookworms on your list? With a visit to your local bookstore, and these recommendations from the Johnson County Librarians, you'll be all set. Today, the librarians give us their reading pics for tots to teens and all the kids in-between. 

Guests: 

  • Debbie McCleod, retired librarian.
  • Elena McVicar, youth collections librarian.
  • Dennis Ross, youth services supervisor.

Books:

Some see memoir writing as a shameless act of navel-gazing. Fair enough . . . But a great memoir is about more than the person who wrote it. It's about what it means to be human. KCUR's 'Bibliofiles' join us to recommend their favorite memoirs. 

Guests:

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Growing up, Kansas City Mayor Sly James had to wait for his younger brothers to go to bed before he could read.

“I would sit on the attic steps with a flashlight and read Doc Savage books,” James said Tuesday as he accepted an All-American City Award for his efforts to promote reading. “It was my ritual.”

The mayor was appalled to learn in 2011 that only 33.8 percent of Kansas City students could read proficiently by third grade.

Danie Alexander / KCUR 89.3

Summer break is here, and for students that means sunshine, fresh air and months away from school. For youths looking to keep the heat from melting their minds, there's nothing like a good book. Today, our panel of librarians have reading recommendations that are sure to divert young eyes from the television, and keep young brains active and engaged.

For preschool through 2nd grade

Elle Moxley

Kansas City Mayor Sly James sits in a comfy chair, holding up a book featuring a bow tie-wearing owl with a striking resemble to the mayor.

“The name of this book is ‘Our Home, Kansas City,’” James tells a group of 4-year-olds from Operation Breakthrough.

“It’s my book!” shouts a child.

“No,” says James, “this is my book.”

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