Wednesday, August 16, 2017

If I Was Teaching 4th grade...

A colleague asked me to help her weed and replenish her classroom library. I don't think she was prepared for the weeding part.

I'm ruthless.

We went through each book in her classroom library one at a time. If the cover was torn, soiled, stained, or just dated-looking, we removed the book from her library. By the time we were finished, we had boxed up at least two boxes of 'unwanted' books and dramatically reduced the number of books in her library.

Some might argue that the information inside the books is still good. And while I would agree, when the books don't have 'curb appeal', students are unlikely to pick up the book to read it. No matter how much we try to convince the students that the story is great, if the cover isn't appealing, they aren't going to pick up the book to begin with.

Once we were done weeding, my colleague was left with quite a few less books, but the ones she does have are appealing to students. 

We can now work towards curating an appealing, diverse collection that represents the students and their interests.

Below are my suggestions of books she should be sure to stock in her library. I've narrowed it to 10, knowing that funds are an issue. There are many, many more titles I could suggest, but we shall start here.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Confessions of an Imaginary Friend by Michelle Cuevas

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Flying Lessons and Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh

Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers by James Gulliver Hancock

Strange, Unusual, Gross & Cool Animals by Animal Planet

Two Truths and a Lie by Ammi-Joan Paquette

Friday, May 12, 2017

All Things Unicorns

We are currently obsessed with unicorn books at our house. It is not surprising since My Little Pony is one of the girl's favorite things, but we have found some great unicorn books lately.

You Don't Want a Unicorn by Ame Dyckman

We love You Don't Want a Unicorn because it is hilarious. The unicorns poop cupcakes. While disgusting, it's also hilarious. Too many unicorns together decide to have a party and that can cause all kinds of damage. We probably read this book at least 3x/week before bed. It's a real party pleaser.

A Unicorn Named Sparkle by Amy Young

We love how much Sparkle does not look and act like a 'real' unicorn. Lucy has high hopes for the unicorn she orders, but is disappointed when Sparkle arrives. She calls the unicorn man to come and take Sparkle back because he doesn't act like a real unicorn.

Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima

I love this book. Love. Love. Love. Kelp doesn't know if he really belongs with the narwhals or with the unicorns. A great story about finding yourself and accepting who you really are.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Love Letter to My Four-Year-Old

To The Girl,
I’m reading a book. Daddy bought it for me. It’s called Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times. It’s a hard book to read because it makes me realize how much I want to tell you. You won’t understand most of what I want to tell you because you are four. And you shouldn’t have to understand these things just now. But, the world is a different place than when you were born. I fear it will only get worse, and therefore, I have to tell you a few things.

First, remember to be brave. Being brave is one of the hardest things to do. Bravery doesn’t mean looking for danger, but rather being strong in the face of adversity. There will be times when you must be brave for yourself. Maybe you will have to stand up to an authority figure because they are in the wrong, perhaps you will have to go against what your friends want to do because in your heart you know it is not a good choice, or maybe you will have to leave a situation because it is not healthy for you. Whatever it may be, remember to be brave for yourself. There is only one you and you deserve it.

Be brave for those you know. Our country is in a difficult time right now. There is a lot of fear and anger about people who are different. Daddy and I chose to live here so that you would know that there are different people in our town and they all have a right to be here. Unfortunately, some of the people in our country are trying to make things hard for people who look and act different than us. They are doing this because they are scared and because they don’t understand other people. It is important for you to be brave and stand up for people who are being bothered.

Throw yourself into your passions. I see your enthusiasm for learning emerging. I can name your interests on one hand - Legos, My Little Pony, Frozen, books. Whatever you are interested in, be ALL interested in it. Don’t worry about whether your friends like it or not. If it brings you joy, that is the important thing. Put your whole self into whatever your interests may be. They may change over time, but don’t be afraid to pursue.

You will fail. It’s ok. Sometimes you will only fail a little; you might forget your lunch one day at home. Someday, you will fail big; maybe you will break someone’s trust, or worse, their heart. It hurts to fail. You might want to cry, that’s ok. You might need a hug, that’s ok too. But, it’s not ok to give up. When we fail (even Mommy and Daddy fail too), we get back up and try again. Sometimes, we just have to fix it and start over. Sometimes, we have to apologize and hope we are forgiven. But, whether big or small, we brush ourselves off, learn from our mistakes, and move forward.

There is so much more, my love.

Be Brave.
Be Passionate.
Move Forward.


Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times by Carolina De Robertis (Editor)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Collection of Animals

Flock, gaggle, pride...these are all words used to describe a group of animals. Most of these we have probably heard before. But what about tower, murder, or even an intrusion? While learning the correct name for a group of animals may not be essential in every day conversations, it can be fascinating and spark conversations about language, animals, and collective nouns.

These books are a great way to get started. The language and illustrations are fascinating and present the information in an easy-to-understand way.

An Ambush of Tigers by Betsy R. Rosental

A Zeal of Zebras by Whoop Studios

A Tower of Giraffes by Anna Wright

A Crash of Rhinos by Greg Danylyshyn

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


Families come in all shapes and sizes. We tell our children that, but how often do we really show them evidence that all families are to be respected? These following books can start the launch of a study on how a family is defined, who are the people that make up a family and what it means to be a family.

Home At Last by Vera B. Williams

Home At Last by Susan Middleton Elya

The Family Book by Todd Parr

Oh, Brother by Nikki Grimes

Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer

Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina

One Family by George Shannon

Friday, March 24, 2017


It’s been awhile. So long in fact, that the world began burning.
There is nothing to say on that end that hasn’t been said already. But, with all the negativity that the world is throwing at us, I did realize that the one thing I can control is the books that I read.
I haven’t been able to get to many longer books, but it has never been more important than now to highlight and share picture books that accurately depict different races, cultures, geographic locations, family lives, etc.
Reading with children about differences normalizes those differences. The unknown can be scary for children so when they see characters depicted that are different than themselves, they can begin to ‘see’ the previously unknown.
I work and live in a suburb. Most people drive where they need to go, although there is bus service, no one I know takes the bus. Stores, single-family homes, libraries, groceries, theaters, etc. are all zoned separately and laid out with sprawling streets and parking lots.

But, not everyone has these same living experiences. When we open our children’s eyes to the different types of homes people have and the different ways cities are set up, we can give them a better view of our world.

Where Children Sleep by James Mollison

Houses and Homes (Around the World Series) by Ann Morris

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena

Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

The Water Princess by Susan Verde

Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams

Friday, February 24, 2017

Crabs Create Curiosity

When working with a class of second graders, I was trying to figure out a way to inspire their curiosity to help them generate questions that would lead them to think about a text.
Our target for the day's reading was:
I can ask questions before, during and after reading.
I knew if I just handed them a text, they would comply, but they would most likely not be engaged in our task.
I began by showing them the short film about the crab migration. They were hooked. It is such an amazing and fun video, we watched it twice.
After watching, we talked about what questions we had that had been answered.
Then, students worked together (or alone) to generate additional questions they had about the crabs. One amazing question a student came up with was, "Are the people on Christmas Island scared of the crabs?" The class was able to talk about this question and come to a decision that not only were the people probably not scared, they probably had a great deal of respect and care for the crabs because they shut down roads when the crabs were migrating.
The following day, we used the book Great Migrations from National Geographic Kids to identify text features that helped us generate more questions and/or answer the questions we had previously named. There is a 4-page section on the migrating crabs and the students were very interested in reading the facts about these unusual animals.
I found that pairing a short (3 minutes or less) video with a book/text helped to launch a topic and create a lot of interest.

Great Migrations by National Geographic Kids

Monday, January 23, 2017

Garvey's Choice by Nikki Grimes

Above all else, Garvey just wants to be accepted. While he can deal with the rejection from his peers (they don’t know the real him anyway), his father’s indifference is harder to accept. Garvey’s father longs for the kind of son who plays football, roughhouses and likes to run around. But, Garvey doesn’t and can’t live up to those expectations. Instead of being the “man-boy” his father had hoped, Garvey is just the opposite.

When the new school year starts, Garvey feels like he can handle the taunts and teasing from his classmates, as long as he and Joe are together. When Joe gets transferred to a new lunch period, Garvey must face the long school day alone. The days seem endless until he meets Manny, another social outcast with big dreams. Manny and Garvey form a unique friendship and Manny teaches Garvey that the only person holding him back is himself.

Nikki Grimes delivers this honest, touching story through a series of tanka poems. Due to the sparseness of the text, each word carries great meaning and mood. This beautifully written book weaves together Grimes’ carefully chosen words creating a lasting narrative of acceptance and self-belief.

Garvey's Choice by Nikki Grimes

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Poet's Dog

I think for most people Patricia MacLachlan is one of those authors where you love everything that she's written. Sort of like a Kate DiCamillo or Andrew Clements. You know when you pick up one of their books what you are getting into.
I had seen The Poet's Dog pop up on my Amazon recommendations several times. I hadn't purchased it because I honestly don't have time to read. But, a colleague ordered it and I was in charge of unpacking the box. When I pulled it out of the box, I was surprised to see how short it was. Of course, I dropped everything I was doing and immediately sat down to read.

The Poet's Dog is a short but emotional tale. Teddy, an Irish wolfhound, finds Nickel and Flora all alone during a terrible snowstorm. He takes them back to the cabin where he lived with Sylvan, a poet, until a few days ago. The children are able not surprised that they can talk with Teddy and they spend several days in the cabin together, getting to know one another.

MacLachlan weaves several stories together, combining Teddy's past, present, and hopeful future. This is a delightful book for readers of all ages.

The Poet's Dog by Patricia MacLachlan