Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

Publish your own cookbook in 2014!  Click here to enter Rachael Ray's cookbook competition, and you could be a published cookbook author!

Happy New Year,

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Bookworm Charm

My editor gave me a necklace with adorable book  and worm charms.  I don't know where she got it, but it is the perfect gift for any librarian, reading teacher or book lover on your list.  Think about it if you have any last-minute shopping to do.

Happy holiday reading,

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Book Swap

To get my students excited about reading over the holiday break, I plan a book swap.  I tell students to bring in a book that they enjoyed, but no longer need, to swap with a friend.  In the days leading up to the book swap, I prepare the boys and girls by sharing my expectations for the swap.
Students will have to share the title and genre, introduce the protagonist, and give a little preview of the plot, without spoiling the ending.  (This is the most difficult part.)
My friend and mentor, literacy consultant, Carol Varsalona taught me a great way to get students to summarize plot in a one-sentence gist.  "___________ wanted _______________, but ________________, so __________."  For example, for the book, The Egypt Game, students would say, "April wanted to be with her mother, but her mother sent her away, so now she must live with a grandmother she hardly knows and make new friends."
By requiring students to speak about their book using grade-appropriate vocabulary such as genre and protagonist, and by having them craft a summary of the plot that doesn't include any spoilers, students are applying what we have learned in class since September.  They are engaging in accountable talk, with me walking around the room, listening in and making sure everyone is on-task.
I end with an exit card on which students respond to questions about the book swap, rate their experience, and even offer additional comments.  I've gotten great feedback from the students, but perhaps the greatest affirmation came from a colleague who said to me, "The kids are talking about the books and trying to convince their friends to swap with them in my homeroom."  Oops!
Anyway, if you're thinking of doing this with your students, I offer the following tips:

1.  Introduce the book swap idea early and remind students every day about bringing in a book.
2.  Offer extra credit to students who bring in extra books.  (You'll need them for the students who
     inevitably forget to bring in their own book to swap.)
3.  Model your own book talk with enthusiasm.  Remember, you are trying to convince someone to
     trade with you.

My students have enjoyed this activity, and a colleague who tried it with her special-ed students said they really loved it, too.  As a result of the book swap, every student goes home with a new (to them) book to read over the holiday break, and hopefully, some peer-inspired motivation to read.

Happy holiday reading,

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Christmas Carol Turns 170 Today

The Dickens classic was published 170 years ago today.  What is your favorite rendition of this classic?

Happy holiday reading,

Monday, December 9, 2013

Rhymes with Reason 2014

The Highlights Foundation is offering this workshop on writing rhyming picture books, on of the most difficult genres in which to get published. 

Happy reading and rhyming,

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Second Sight Saturday: A Day That Will Live in Infamy

I originally posted this two years ago.

December 7, 2011
Below is an audio clip of President Roosevelt's "Infamy" speech, made before Congress on December 8, 1941.  I hope you will find it useful in integrating history and meeting the Common Core Standards for Speaking and Listening.   Of course, you might consider reading the transcript of the speech with your students as you pursue the Common Core Standards for Reading Informational Text.

 Transcript of Joint Address to Congress Leading to a Declaration of War Against Japan (1941) Mr. Vice President, and Mr. Speaker, and Members of the Senate and House of Representatives:
Yesterday, December 7, 1941 "a date which will live in infamy" the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
The United States was at peace with that Nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American Island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.
It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.
The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.
Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island. And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our Nation.
As Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.
But always will our whole Nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.
No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.
Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.
With confidence in our armed forces—with the unbounding determination of our people—we will gain the inevitable triumph- so help us God.
I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.
Transcription courtesy of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.

Happy reading,

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Food for Thought

Today I read that a Chick-Fil-A will be opening up not far from here.  With Chick-Fil-A encroaching on the northeast, would you choose to eat there?  Their sandwiches are supposed to be delicious, but could you really give your hard-earned money to a company that donates to anti-gay groups in opposition to same sex marriage?

Happy reading and eating at places where everyone is treated with respect,

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Mingle with Members of NYPL

This weekend, members of the New York Public Library will welcome in the holidays at a festive open house.  Children can see puppet shows, make crafts and meet characters from literature, like Scrooge and Mother Goose.  Click here to learn how to become a member.  You'll not only share a cup of good cheer, you'll be supporting all of the wonderful educational programs that public libraries provide as cornerstones of our democracy.

Happy reading,

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


What book should you read to commemorate a convergence of two holidays that won't happen again for another 77,798 years?  Molly's Pilgrim, by Barbara Cohen, reminds us that it takes all kinds of pilgrims to have a Thanksgiving.  The short film adaptation of the book even won an Academy Award.

Happy reading and Happy Thanksgiving,

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Writing for Boys

If you read the blog often, you know that I try to share book  titles that appeal to boys who are reluctant readers.  While I focus on books that boys may like, I don't often focus on writing specifically for boys.  Well, here's an opportunity for all the aspiring authors out there to hone their craft and capitalize on the need for exciting books that grab boys' attention.  The Highlights Foundation is offering this workshop on writing for boys.  Check it out.  Who knows?  You may be the next Jeff Kinney!

Happy reading and writing,

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Second Sight Saturday: Thanksgiving

I originally posted this last year:

November 21, 2012
This year many of us have so much to be thankful for in the wake of Sandy.  Here are some quotes on gratitude to help us keep our focus:
"Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude."   -   A.A. Milne
"We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.”    -  John F. Kennedy
“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.”  -  Alphonse Karr
"Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”  -  Epicurus
"As you walk through life, make it your goal to see the doughnut and not the hole."  - Bob Merrill
“The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.”   - H.U. Westermayer
Happy Thanksgiving,

Friday, November 22, 2013

11/22/63 - What if?

What if Kennedy wasn't assassinated?  Would the U.S. have entered Vietnam when we did?  Would the  Civil Rights Act have been passed when it was?  These are questions posed by Stephen King's 11/22/63.  For time travel, historical fiction, rhetorical questions, suspense and even a romance, read Stephen King's 864-page book, 11/22/63.

Happy reading,

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Books Build Memories

When my children and I started reading When Did You See Her Last? my son commented on how long it takes authors to release new books.  I told him I didn't remember how long ago Lemony Snicket's last book came out.  He said, "Sure you do.  Don't you remember we read it in the dark, in the den during Hurricane Sandy?"
And suddenly it all came flooding back to me.  Not just the memory of reading that book, but the memories of reading significant books in my life.  Speechless and staring at my son, I vividly felt like I was twelve years old at Christmas and getting Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.  Once again, I could hear my cousin, who is ten years my senior, telling me what a great book it was. (Of course, she was right.)
I realized, this is my son's story.  For the rest of his life, when he thinks of the book, Who Could That Be At This Hour?  he will think of Hurricane Sandy.
So my question is, what's your story?  What visceral memories are evoked in you when you think of particular books?

Happy reading and remembering,

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Gettysburg Address - 150 Years Later

Thanks to my dad for reminding me that this was the 150th anniversary of The Gettysburg Address.  Here is a video of famous Americans recounting those immortal words:

Happy reading,

Monday, November 18, 2013

President Obama on American Education Week

According to the DOD website, this is President Obama's proclamation for National Education Week:

“Education is both a pillar of democracy and a cornerstone of American opportunity. In an increasingly competitive world, it gives our children the tools to thrive and our Nation the talent to lead. During American Education Week, we reaffirm our commitment to the next generation, and we celebrate everyone who is striving to help America’s young people realize their full potential. “Every day throughout America, our children mark the many milestones of learning — from scribbling their first attempts at the alphabet to conducting their first science experiment to crossing the stage at commencement. The educators who guide them deserve our highest admiration, respect, and support for investing in young people’s futures. We all have a stake in public education, and we all have a role to play — from parents and mentors to community leaders and business owners. Through programs focused on tutoring, sports, the arts, and vocational training, we can inspire children to learn both inside and outside the classroom. “A great education is a ticket into the middle class, and it should be available to everyone willing to work for it. My Administration is committed to reining in college costs and reducing the burden student loans place on young people. We are also moving forward on a plan to connect 99 percent of America’s students to high-speed internet within 5 years; pushing to make high-quality early education accessible to every child in America; and working to strengthen programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Because none of these plans will succeed without outstanding teachers, we must support these professionals as they perform their vital work. “As we move toward Thanksgiving, American Education Week offers a chance to express our gratitude to educators across our Nation. Let us do so with a renewed commitment to giving every young American the opportunities a world-class education affords. “NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 17 to November 23, 2013, as American Education Week. I call upon all Americans to observe this week by supporting their local schools through appropriate activities, events, and programs designed to help create opportunities for every school and student in America. “IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifteenth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.” BARACK OBAMA

Happy reading,

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck

This weekend, my children and I finished reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck.  Filled with middle school humor and Greg Heffley's continued antics, this book is just as perfect for reluctant readers as is the rest of the series.  Read it with a boy who thinks he hates reading and you'll both be clutching your bellies from laughing so hard.  For my other book picks for reluctant boy readers, click here.

Happy reading,

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013

An Ethical Question

Being happy in my classroom, it has been years since I have had to search for a job and go through the whole interview process.  Thinking back on it though, my stomach does a little flip as I remember cover letters, resumes, gathering my college and grad school transcripts, teaching certificates, building a portfolio, interviews, second interviews, writing samples and sample lessons. 
A friend of mine recently went through this whole process as she went on her first job interview after being home with her children for the past twelve years.   Most of the process was exactly the same.  The administrators interviewing her were very gracious, and after her second interview, they escorted her to another part of the building to work on her writing sample.  And that is where she observed a big difference. 
The young, recent-college grad who was there also working on a writing sample, took out her smartphone and was scrolling, then writing, scrolling then writing.  My friend was shocked.  My question is, was this other girl cheating, or was she just using the technology that we teachers have been training our students to use?

Happy reading,

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Cricket in Times Square

Here in New York we had our first snow of the season today.  It wasn't a good, sticking kind of snow.  It was more of a wet, messy kind of snow; the kind that makes you want to curl up with hot cocoa and a good book or movie.  When I saw the snow today, I was sorry that I had just finished The Cricket in Times Square, because it is exactly the kind of cozy book that today's weather called for.  The classic story of friendship, is not only a great way to think about what it really means to care about someone, it is also a celebration of all things New York; Times Square, Grand Central, Chinatown, the subway, Broadway, Coney Island, and Central Park. 

Happy reading,

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day

My favorite book to read on Veterans Day is a book that several years ago, I sent to my father-in-law, a veteran.  The Wall, by Eve Bunting is a picture book with the simply beautiful message that although it is an honor for a child to see their grandparent's name on a memorial, it is better to have the grandparent here, telling you to button-up your jacket.  Read it with your students, or read it with a veteran that you love.

Happy reading,

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Second Sight Saturday: NaNoWriMo

November is National Novel Writing Month - thirty days where you write every day and try to bang out a completed first draft of a novel.  The pace is grueling and the results probably won't even be publishable, but at least you will have a completed draft to revise at your leisure.
Last year I posted this from NaNoWriMo veteran Mimi Cross:

November 20, 2012
Mimi Cross is a multi-talented singer, song-writer, and now, novelist, that I met at a writer's workshop. We immediately hit it off and formed a small writing group with another woman we met at the workshop. Below is a guest post in which she shares her writing tips for a successful NaNoWriMo. Enjoy!
Hi, Christine, thanks for having me as a guest on your blog J
My first NaNoWriMo experience was in 2009. I loved it so much, I’ve participated every year since. This year I’m taking a break, but only because I’m working on editing and revising one of my NaNo manuscripts.
For all those folks who are participating this year, here are some tips to try. They worked for me, so they can work for you. Good luck, Wrimos!
Take Five for NaNoWriMo
Write 50,000 words in 30 days? How? This puzzle has five easy pieces.
1. A Carrot. Set up your reward, NOW.
The SCBWI conference in NYC was the reward I chose for my first NaNo. The conference is in February this year, and registration is open. If you are writing for children and you aren’t a member of SCBWI, I strongly suggest you join—even if you don’t use the winter conference for your reward. This community of writers and editors and agents is your tribe. http://www.scbwi.org
Other possible rewards: Chocolate—actually no, you ought to stock up on that for your writing. How about a nice dinner out? Or you could get some new clothes, or a puppy, a new car, a trip around the world . . . Seriously? Make sure your can actually pay for your reward! Like I said, plan it now.
2.A Website.
I told myself I didn’t need to spend time I didn’t have on the NaNoWriMo site, as refreshingly irreverent and hilarious as it is. Then, I saw the template for my own personal page. I’m an artist—give me any parameter, please! The template is an opportunity to organize.
After a few days of writing I uploaded my title and text and got a word count. I was right on! I uploaded my excerpt that any NaNoWriMo participant would be able to read. Wait!Are you kidding? I’m not telling ANYONE about this! Hmm.
3. A Secret. Enter my pseudonym. The name my son gave me. He was three at the time of my first NaNo. (I didn’t ask for a new name, guess he just figured I needed one. Psychic.) Having a name that felt lucky for me was freeing and—anonymous.
After two weeks, when I realized I’d succeed, (there’s not enough space here to chronicle my doubts, I’ll simply say the NaNo community is awesome! See my blog for advice I gave a blocked writer who supported me in my darkest hour. Wacky, but it works!) I uploaded my picture and confessed my true identity. I added my website link.
My page read, “Mimi Cross The author of I Woke Up One Morning in November and I Realized I Love You the story of two young musicians who become confused during their creative journey, mistaking the highs and lows of their musical efforts for the ups and downs of life itself.” Proof—I was writing a novel.
4. A Circle. At some point I told several accomplished writers what I was doing. Why? I’d be embarrassed if I didn’t complete my goal. Wisely, I chose creative, generous people. All month long, behind the music of Philip Glass, Phish and Böjrk, (the artists my characters listened to at high volumes) I could hear the voices of my mentors cheering.
5. A Rockstar. Don’t Look Back. That’s right, D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary film covering Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour of the UK. If you’re weak like Orpheus, if you turn back and read what you have written, your novel may vanish forever like Eurydice. Write like a runner. Sprint. Outrun your inner critic. Fly. Flow. Let go. Remember Franny and Zooey. A writer writes. NaNoWriMo is about writing. Save the reading—and editing—for later.
Magically enough—and there were many magical moments during my NaNo adventure, I’m convinced there are unseen universal energies at work when it comes to writing—my story developed a beginning, middle and end. One day it will be ready to share.
Here’s the kicker:
As of today, 10/30/2012, I Woke Up One Morning in November and I Realized I Love You still isn’t edited, but that’s okay, because what my first NaNo experience did was clear the pipes.
That's right—3 days before I finished my first NaNo, a blazing new idea lit up my brain. As of today, that manuscript is in the hands of agents—yes, I mean today, right now. So keep your fingers crossed for me, because it’s the first book of a trilogy that’s nearly complete.
Who knew noveling was so addicting?
Remember writers; you can do this. You really can. Let go and allow National Novel Writing Month to have its way with you. It just might change your life.
Wow!  Great guest post!  Thank you, Mimi.
Happy reading and writing,

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Picture Book Month

November is Picture Book Month.  Click on the link to find tips for celebrating this beloved medium.
Picture books are the most expensive books to produce, and consequently the most difficult to get published.  Due to the short, concise nature of the text, the picture book author must be fastidious with his or her words, and merciless with his or her revisions and edits, making well-written picture books models of exemplary writing.  Kudos to all who have successfully published in this medium.  Keep at it for all  those still plugging away. 

Happy reading and writing,

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Election Day

Happy Election Day!  It was on this day in 1872, that suffragist Susan B. Anthony broke the law and tried to vote for president.  Hopefully you have honored the sacrifices of all those who came before us and voted already, today.  If not, please get out and vote. 
When you get home, why not read, Duck for President  with your own kids?

Happy reading,

Monday, November 4, 2013

Looking for Lefties - Research

5 of the last 7 presidents were lefties, as were Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.  Although a small percentage of the population, lefties are over-represented among architects, musicians, and art/music students.  There is increased left-handedness among children with IQ scores above 132.  Why?
I have been assigned to research an article on left-handedness and learning.  If you are a lefty, or a parent of a lefty, I'd love to pick your brain.  I'm also looking for input from coaches on challenges that left-handed athletes may face.  If you would like to be quoted in a national magazine, please leave a comment here, or email bookgirlblogger(at)gmail(dot)com.
Happy reading,

Friday, November 1, 2013

Big Kid Bedtime Stories

I hope everyone had a great Halloween. 
Now that it is November, you can read my article, "Bedtime Stories for Big Kids" in the current issue of Scholastic Parent & Child.  There you will find tips on keeping the bedtime ritual alive with 'tweens, as well as evidence of the importance of reading aloud with older children.  Experts like Michelle Anthony, Ph.D., Krista Granieri, Adjunct Literacy Professor, and parent, Linda Doherty weigh in with their opinions.  You'll also find book recommendations perfect for 'tweens.

Happy reading together,

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What Is In A Name?

One of my relatives graciously brought a bottle of "Morning Fog" Chardonnay over to a family dinner that I was hosting and I thought, what an unfortunate name for an alcoholic beverage.  Who was the employee who came up with the name, Morning Fog?  This got me thinking about names in general; names of products and names of characters in writing.  Obviously, there are some classic names in literature that work perfectly, like Mr. Grumps, Lyle the Crocodile's cranky nemesis.  But what about others?  How much thought do you put into the names of the characters you create?

Happy reading and writing,

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Another Opportunity to Hone Your Writing

Don't like "workshops", but still need time to perfect your plot?  The Highlights Foundation is offering an "unworkshop" where you can focus on your craft.  The point of getting away to write, is to keep you focused on your writing, not the laundry, cooking, dishes, and chauffeuring that always creep into your writing time.  However, when I look at the beautiful pictures of the atmosphere of this writing retreat, I wonder if anyone would focus on writing rather than walking through those beautiful woods.

Happy reading and writing,

Friday, October 25, 2013

Retreat for Writers

The Highlights Foundation is offering this retreat for writers.  If you have the time (and the funds), this sounds like a great opportunity to hone your craft.

Happy reading and writing,

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Body of Writing

Mimi Cross is a multi-talented mom, writer, musician and yoga instructor. This Friday, she is offering a workshop called, Body of Writing and there is still room to sign up!


With Mimi Cross                                                                                         www.bodyofwriting.com


7:30pm - 9:00pm, Friday October 25th — Body of Writing Sampler. All levels. All genres.

Monmouth Beach Yoga & Wellness, 36 Beach Road, Monmouth Beach, NJ 07750

$15 per person, call to reserve your spot 732.263.1200


Body of Writing offers a combination of inspirational writing exercises and simple yoga postures as well as meditation and visualization techniques designed to help workshop participants access the stories they carry, often unknowingly, in their bodies.

Calming breathing techniques will allow participants to move deeper into the process of unearthing their stories. The artistic aspect of each participant will be challenged and nurtured, and everyone will leave Body of Writing feeling stimulated and relaxed. Some individuals will depart with new goals for their writing lives or the start of a new piece.

Body of Writing is both energizing and soothing. No previous experience with yoga or writing is necessary.

Body of Writing participants will explore their writing and their bodies, and receive the benefits of connecting the two.

Attendees of this special evening sampler of Body of Writing will begin to learn how to leave their inner critics at the door and listen to their bodies instead!

Mimi Cross holds an MA in music education from New York University and is an RYT with over 200 hours of teacher training. Her song 2 Clay Feet was featured on the Kripalu Yoga Center Seva CD, Svadharma. She is the author of The Alligator Waiter, published by Abe's Peanut in 2012, and The Crankamacallit, a children’s iPad app designed by Polymash and released on iTunes in 2011. Her CDs can be found on iTunes.

What you’ll need for the workshop: An 8 x 10 notebook of paper, and a pen or pencil. Please wear comfortable, non-restrictive clothing. Questions? mimi@mimicrossmusic.com

Add an additional dimension to the traditional body, mind, & spirit practice of yoga: Story.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Encyclopedia Brown Turns 50!

The New York Public Library is hosting an Encyclopedia Brown Day.  Even if you can't get to the historic Schwarzman Building to participate, you can enjoy re-reading these classics with a child you love.

Happy reading,

Monday, October 21, 2013

National Day on Writing

Today is the 5th annual National Day on Writing.  How are you celebrating literacy today?

Happy reading and writing,

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday Film Clip - Stephen King

In keeping with the spirit of the Halloween season, here is a Friday Film Clip of Stephen King speaking about books, writing, and e-books.

Happy reading and writing,

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Halloween Reads

Trick or treat,
Smell my feet,
Give me something good to .....

The New York Public Library has posted Halloween Reads IV: The Repass.  Check out the librarians' suggestions for some haunting reads.

Happy reading,

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Flipped School

On Friday, October 4, I posted this about flipped classrooms.  Last Sunday, The New York Times ran this piece on a flipped school.  It is an interesting concept, but still too new to truly evaluate the effectiveness.

Happy reading,

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Walking Dead

For all of you who waited breathlessly for the return of The Walking Dead,  here is a Rolling Stone interview with Robert Kirkman, writer of the graphic novels on which the show is based.  Enjoy!

Happy reading,

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Common Core Focus on the Text

The current issue of AFT's American Educator contains this interesting piece on close reads.  While the author acknowledges the importance of prior knowledge in the comprehension of a text, he cautions teachers to be selective in their pre-reading practices.  Additionally, he points out the inherent hazards of  blindly following the Common Core push for asking text-dependent questions.  Are the text-dependent questions that we are asking worthwhile?  Are they promoting higher level thinking according to Bloom's Taxonomy?  For that matter, are the texts themselves worthy of exploration in the classroom? 

Happy reading,

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Second-Sight Saturday: Halloween Treat

I first posted this last Halloween, but as my children and I decorate the house and plan our costumes, I thought this might be a timely treat:

October 31, 2012
Happy Halloween!  Since we've all been tricked enough by Hurricane Sandy, here is a recipe for a yummy, but ghoulish treat that  my friend, Tracey taught me.  Enjoy!
Happy Halloween,

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

House of Hades

Aspiring writers, fans of Rick Riordan, or teachers dabbling in the 6th-grade Percy Jackson module may be interested in this Publishers Weekly article promoting the October 8th release of Riordan's newest book, House of Hades.

Happy reading,

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Education Nation

Education Nation Week is going on now.  Check out all the resources and events.

Happy reading,

Friday, October 4, 2013

Flipped Friday

Earlier in the week, I wrote about Connected Educator Month and mentioned flipping the classroom.  For those with questions on what a flipped classroom looks like, here is an article introducing the concept.  Try flipping your classroom if you believe in the theory behind it, or if you just want the opportunity to say, "My flipping classroom."

Happy reading,

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Chappaqua Children's Book Festival & Shameless Self-Promotion

I was reading about the Chappaqua Children's Book Festival and read this reference to the Summer Reading Round-Up that I wrote for the July issue of Parenting magazine.  Surreal!

Happy reading,

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

100 Best Children's Books of the Past 100 Years

The New York Public Library released this list of the best 100 children's books of the past 100 years.  Do you agree with their choices?  For more information about how the list was compiled, or about any of NYPL's wonderful programs, click here.


Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Ray Cruz (1972)

All-of-a-Kind Family

by Sydney Taylor, illustrated by Helen John (1951)

Amelia Bedelia

by Peggy Parish, illustrated by Fritz Siebel (1963)

The Arrival

by Shaun Tan (2007)


Bark, George

by Jules Feiffer (1999)

Because of Winn-Dixie

by Kate DiCamillo (2000)

Ben’s Trumpet 

by Rachel Isadora (1979)

Big Red Lollipop

by Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (2010)

The Birchbark House 

by Louise Erdrich (1999)

The Book of Three

by Lloyd Alexander (1964)

The Borrowers

by Mary Norton, illustrated by Beth Krush and Joe Krush (1953)

The Bossy Gallito/El Gallo De Bodas: A Traditional Cuban Folktale

by Lucía M. González, illustrated by Lulu Delacre (1994)

Bread and Jam for Frances

by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban (1964)

Bridge to Terabithia

by Katherine Paterson (1977)

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Eric Carle (1967)


Caps for Sale

by Esphyr Slobodkina (1938)

The Cat in the Hat

by Dr. Seuss (1957)


by Laurie Halse Anderson (2008)

A Chair For My Mother

by Vera B. Williams (1982)

Charlotte’s Web

by E.B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams (1952)

Chato’s Kitchen

by Gary Soto, illustrated by Susan Guevara (1995)

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

by Bill Martin, Jr., and John Archambault; illustrated by Lois Ehlert (1989)


by Don Freeman (1976)

Curious George

by H.A. Rey (1941)


D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths

by Ingri D’Aulaire and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire (1962)

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

by Mo Willems (2003)


Esperanza Rising

by Pam Muñoz Ryan (2000)


Freight Train

by Donald Crews (1978)

Frog and Toad Are Friends

by Arnold Lobel (1970)

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler 

by E.L. Konigsburg (1967)


George and Martha

by James Marshall (1972)

The Giver 

by Lois Lowry (1993)

Go, Dog. Go!

by P.D. Eastman (1961)

Goodnight Moon

by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd (1947)

Grandfather’s Journey

by Allen Say (1993)

The Graveyard Book

by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean (2008)

Green Eggs and Ham

by Dr. Seuss (1960)


Harold and the Purple Crayon

by Crockett Johnson (1955)

Harriet the Spy

by Louise Fitzhugh (1964)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

by J.K. Rowling (1998)


by Gary Paulsen (1989)

The Hobbit

by J.R.R. Tolkien (1937)


by Louis Sachar (1998)


The Invention of Hugo Cabret

by Brian Selznick (2007)


Joseph Had a Little Overcoat

by Simms Taback (1999)


by Chris Van Allsburg (1981)

Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book 

by Yuyi Morales (2003)


Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse

by Kevin Henkes (1996)

The Lion and the Mouse

by Jerry Pinkney (2009)

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

by C.S. Lewis (1950)

The Little House

by Virginia Lee Burton (1942)

The Little Prince

by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1943)


by Jacqueline Woodson (2003)

Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story From China

by Ed Young (1989)



by Ludwig Bemelmans (1939)

Make Way for Ducklings 

by Robert McCloskey (1941)


by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake (1988)

Meet Danitra Brown 

by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Floyd Cooper (1994)

Millions of Cats

by Wanda Gág (1928)

Miss Nelson is Missing!

by Harry Allard, illustrated by James Marshall (1977)

Mr. Popper's Penguins

by Richard and Florence Atwater; illustrated by Robert Lawson (1938)

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

by Robert C. O’Brien (1971)

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale

by John Steptoe (1987)

My Father’s Dragon

by Ruth Stiles Gannett, illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett (1948)

My Name is Yoon

by Helen Recorvits, illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska (2003)



by Ian Falconer (2000)

One Crazy Summer

by Rita Williams-Garcia (2010)


The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales

by Virginia Hamilton, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon (1985)

The Phantom Tollbooth

by Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer (1961)

Pierre: A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters and a Prologue

by Maurice Sendak (1962)

Pink and Say

by Patricia Polacco (1994)

Pippi Longstocking

by Astrid Lindgren (1950)


Ramona the Pest

by Beverly Cleary (1968)

Rickshaw Girl

by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Jamie Hogan (2007)

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

by Mildred D. Taylor (1976)


by Paul O. Zelinsky (1986)


A Sick Day for Amos MCGee

by Philip Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead (2010)

The Snowy Day 

by Ezra Jack Keats (1962)

Starry River of the Sky

by Grace Lin (2012)

The Stories Julian Tells

by Ann Cameron, illustrated by Ann Strugnell (1981)

The Story of Ferdinand

by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson (1936)

Strega Nona 

by Tomie dePaola (1975)


by Leo Lionni (1963)

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

by William Steig (1969)


Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing 

by Judy Blume (1972)

The Tales of Uncle Remus: The Adventures of Brer Rabbit

by Julius Lester, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (1987)

Tar Beach

by Faith Ringgold (1991)

Ten, Nine, Eight

by Molly Bang (1983)

Tomie dePaola’s Mother Goose

by Tomie dePaola (1985)

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs

by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith (1989)


by David Wiesner (1991)


The Very Hungry Caterpillar

by Eric Carle (1969)


The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

by Christopher Paul Curtis (1995)

The Westing Game

by Ellen Raskin (1978)

When You Reach Me 

by Rebecca Stead (2009)

Where Is the Green Sheep?

by Mem Fox, illustrated by Judy Horacek (2004)

Where the Wild Things Are

by Maurice Sendak (1963)

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears

by Verna Aardema, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon (1975)


by A.A. Milne, illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard (1926)

A Wrinkle in Time

by Madeleine L’Engle (1962)

Happy reading,

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Autumn and Authors

This weekend, visit the Bayard Cutting Arboretum for a fall festival and author event.  Meet authors published in many genres, tour the lush landscape, and take in the architecture of the Gilded Age.  Educator, Mickla Ring's mom, Ann Coltman, a published author will be there.

Happy reading,

Monday, September 30, 2013

Connected Educator Month

September 30, 2013

Interested in flipping your classroom, but not really sure how to do it?  Want to incorporate more STEM topics into your teaching?  Wondering about the best practices for implementing the Common Core?  Discuss all of these topics and more with fellow educators during Connected Educator Month which starts tomorrow.

Happy reading,

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Colleague's New Blog

Check out this new blog where educators can reflect on their practices and grow as professionals.

Happy reading,

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Be a Part of a New Book!

Literacy consultant and professional developer, Carol Varsalona forwarded this to me:

I need some classrm tchrs, gr 4-12 to take survey on tching NF. Will take you about 15 min. Thanks! surveymonkey.com/s/TeachingNonf…
18 Sep
Dear Teachers, We--Kylene Beers and Bob Probst-- are completing a book on the teaching of nonfiction. We can't do this work in isolation, though, and very much want to hear your thoughts about teaching nonfiction.

Participate if you'd like to be part of a new book on teaching nonfiction.
If you'd like more information about how to book  Carol to offer professional development to your district, visit her blog.

Happy reading,

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Curriculum Writing Opportunity

I saw this ad for curriculum writing for the k-12 market.  Good luck if you apply!

Happy reading and writing,

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Great Writers, Great Readings

Hofstra University will be presenting poet, Philip Levine, and author Jennifer Egan as part of its Great Writers, Great Readings series.  Learn more about this series by clicking here.

Happy reading,

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Orange is the New Black

I recently read Orange is the New Black and loved it.  Piper Kerman's memoir of her year in prison for a ten year-old, nonviolent drug crime will leave you questioning the effectiveness of The War on Drugs, mandatory minimums, and the bias within the penal system.  Most of all, however, it will leave you missing the characters and concerned for their future well-being.  Now a Netflix series, you can read the book, or watch the show based on actual events. 

Happy reading,

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Power of Picture Books

This sounds like a wonderful conference on the importance of picture books in developing literacy.  Presented by the Highlights Foundation and the Eric Carle Museum, this conference targets  educators.  Attendees can even earn graduate credit.  Read more about it here.

Happy  reading,

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Here is a guest blogger and my post from last year: 

September 11, 2012
Every September 11, I think of the terrible tragedy, but I also think about how kind, thoughtful and appreciative most people were in the days immediately following the attack.  For most people, petty differences were put aside.  People helped each other and held their children a little closer. 
Diane Grimsley-Goldberg has written a special guest post for 9/11:
        "While visiting my town's library on Saturday, the children's librarian turned me on to a great read aloud for September 11th. The book is called Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey.   It is based on the true story of a fireboat stationed on the Hudson River, that although retired in 1995, was called into service again on September 11th to help out supplying water to help extinguish the many fires blazing as a result of the attacks on the Twin Towers."
For more info on this book by Maira Kalman, click here.

Thank you, Diane, and God bless America,

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh - Teaching Tool

This must have been my fantasy summer.  I'm usually not a fan of the fantasy genre, but this summer, many of the middle grade and young adult books that I read were fantasies.  And one of my favorite fantasies was Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh.
This Newbery winner is an enchanting tale and a great teaching tool for illustrating the importance of world-building in any novel.  This is a clear example of setting driving the story in much the same way that geography shapes history.  (Mrs. Frisby must move from her winter home if she and her children are to survive.)  Starting with the author's description of the winter home on page four, the relevance of setting to the action is evident throughout this book.
It is easy to speculate that this 1975 publication has probably launched many a school year and lay the foundation of lessons on the literary element of setting.  However, this classic is also very timely in the way in which it lends itself to the Common Core Standards adopted in 45 states.  After reading this novel, students can write an argument for or against the use of animals in research and experiments. (Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.)  Now that is writing that can stand the test of time!

Happy reading,
Literacy Connections Blog

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Middle Grade Resource

I just discovered this website dedicated to the middle grades.  It looks pretty interesting, and I hope you find it useful.

Happy reading,
Literacy Connections Blog

Friday, August 30, 2013

What I'm Reading Now - Richard Peck

I've long been a fan of Richard Peck's witty social commentary.  When I first read The Teacher's Funeral, I shared with my favorite judge, this quote from page 34:
"In his Sunday best and shaved, Dad was a fine-looking man.  He could have passed for a judge."

In his new book, The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail,  Mr. Peck writes:

"Our ancient headmaster was peculiar even for a teacher."

Despite Mr. Peck's insinuation that judges are fine-looking and teachers peculiar, I like his books.  This new book is an enchanting tale about finding oneself and one's place in the world.  If you can squeeze in one more read with your own children before summer ends, try this one.  If not, preview it for your students in September.

Happy reading,
Literacy Connections Blog

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Educational Technology Conference

Here is a post about an upcoming educational technology conference.  The principal hosting the conference was quoted last weekend in USA Weekend.  Read his tips for parents and visit his blog.

Happy reading,
Literacy Connections Blog

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Martin's Big Words

When speaking to your own children or students about the fiftieth anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech,  why not read Doreen Rappaport's, Martin's Big Words?

Happy reading,
Literacy Connections Blog

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Second Sight Saturday: Cost of College - Still Worth It?

I originally posted this on April 30, 2012:

April 30, 2012
Friday night on Real Time with Bill Maher, Bill (I feel I watch his show enough to call him "Bill") asked his panel if in this economy, with such a high joblessness rate, a college education is still worth it?  I must say, that as an educator, at first I was offended by this question.  Obviously, the enriching experience of education is definitely worth it.  At the end of four years, you (hopefully) view the world through a different lens than when you started.  For the enlightenment and broadened horizons alone, an education, no matter what its cost, is worth it.
Bill Maher, however, was referring to financial worth.  In an economy where student debt is over one trillion dollars, where there has been a 600% increase in tuition costs since 1980, and the President of the United States says he and his wife just paid off their student loans eight years ago, is it worth it?  Andrew Ross Sorkin, columnist for the New York Times, answered that it is.  In this country right now the total unemployment rate is 8%.  It is 13% for high-school dropouts over the age of 25, but only 4% for college grads.  An education is worth it, personally, intellectually, and financially.  And although I hate cliches, "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance."
Happy reading,