Story Updates: #kidsneedmentors, Clinton and Keller in Texas Curriculum, and More | NewsBites

Wondering what happened in Texas, where they wanted to bump Hillary Clinton and Helen Keller from the curriculum? Still waiting for the AR Harry Potter game we wrote about months ago? We've got you covered with news about past articles.

It’s an updates’ edition of NewsBites as we check in on the #kidsneedmentors program, Latinx authors trying to visit a school where staff dressed as the border wall for Halloween; the Texas Board of Ed’s possible elimination of lessons on Hillary Clinton and Helen Keller, among others; and Niantic’s Pokémon Go–like Harry Potter game.

#kidsneedmentors Off to Exciting Start

In August, SLJ spotlighted #kidsneedmentors , a program aiming to create yearlong relationships between authors and students and a lifelong love of reading for the kids. The program matched authors with educators and let the pairs establish their own plan for the school year.

This month, the coordinators of the effort—authors Ann Braden (left) and Jarrett Lerner and teachers Kristin Crouch and Kristen Picone—met at NerdCampLI in Huntington, NY, with more teachers and authors involved in the pilot project. Most everyone in the room wanted to excitedly share an update. The partners are visiting in-person or using whatever technology is available, be it Skype or Flipgrid, to engage the students. Authors talked about learning from the kids, asking them for notes on upcoming work, and more.

One author told children about her writing journal that helps her develop ideas and chronicle creative struggles. A student asked if the class could do it, too, so now they do. Another author stepped out of her comfort zone to participate in a class’s poetry exercise.

All worked to overcome challenges in timing and technology, but no one suggested the effort wasn’t worth it. Author Sandra Neal Wallace described kids’ “eyes of wonder” as she Skypes with them. Teachers said that their students are awed to know a real author who has shown real interest in them as people and in their schoolwork.

“The more you can get to know them, as a friend, the impact can be profound,” said Lerner.

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Clinton, Keller Back in Texas Schools

The Texas Board of Education drew criticism when they proposed changing the state’s history curriculum to eliminate lessons on Hillary Clinton and Helen Keller, among others. But in a preliminary vote this week, they have decided to restore the lessons. The final vote will be Friday, Nov. 16.

A blind- and visually-impaired student spoke at the meeting, imploring the group to restore Keller, according to the Associated Press. Clinton’s place in the curriculum brought greater debate, but she was also reinstated.

According to the AP, “Democrats said Texas girls will be inspired by—and should be taught about—the first female presidential candidate to earn a major party nomination, while Republicans said they’d heard from other residents demanding to know why Clinton was cut in the first place.

“‘I think she qualifies as a significant political leader,’ said Marty Rowley, a Republican from Amarillo, while noting that he didn’t agree with Clinton’s politics.”

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Latinx Authors Continue To Reach Out

After posting an open letter on “Teen Librarian Toolbox” and not getting a response, Latinx children’s and YA authors are stepping up their efforts to connect with the Middleton (ID) School District after some middle school teachers and staff members in the district posted Halloween pictures of themselves at school dressed as the border wall and “Mexicans” with sombreros, maracas, and fake mustaches.

The authors sent the letter certified mail to the superintendent, acting principal, mayor, and members of city council, in an effort to work with the district on school visits to “talk to your students and staff about the richness of our culture. To show a positive and realistic representation of the very people this costume depicts as one-dimensional beings and implies should be kept out. To show that there is no danger in opening our hearts and minds to ALL people and displaying empathy and love to all mankind.”

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Niantic’s “Wizards Unite” Trailer Shares New Launch Timing

Harry Potter fans hoping to play the Pokémon Go-style game “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite” on the way to see Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald this weekend will be disappointed to learn that the launch date for the widely-anticipated AR game has been pushed back. Previously set to release in 2018—many believed it would coincide with the release of the latest movie in the franchise—it’s now “Coming 2019,” according to the end of the new trailer released by Niantic.

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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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