Read It Forward Week 2

Then and Now

As part of World Read Aloud Day, book lovers are being asked by event organizers at LitWorld to participate in a 4-week blogging challenge.  The instructions for this week are to…

Answer the following questions twice. The first time, answer how you would have when you were 10 years old (or any age from elementary school that you remember clearly) and the second time, answer in the present.

Here are the questions and my answers:

1. I think everyone in the world should read…

When I was 10:  as much as they want, whenever they want.

Now:  as much as they want, whenever they want.  Some things never change!



2. If I could listen to anyone in the world read aloud to me it would be…

When I was 10:  my dad, because he didn’t read to me as much as my mom did, so when he took the time to sit down and share a book it was really special.  He didn’t keep up with what was being published for kids at the time, so he stuck to the classics, like Tom Sawyer.

Now:  author and storyteller Carmen Agra Deedy.  I heard her in person one time and she was phenomenal!  She’s funny, she can do lots of different voices, she has great pacing and timing, and she has so much passion for the stories she tells.  She’s my role model for reading aloud in my library!

3. When I read aloud, my favorite character to impersonate is...

When I was 10:  I liked to do the wicked stepmothers and stepsisters in fairy tales so I could use [what I thought was] a haughty, refined voice.

Now:  I like doing the character of “Baby Blair” from the book Somebody and the Three Blairs by Marilyn Tolhurst.  The voice I use sounds a lot like Baby Bear from Sesame Street, and whenever I read in that voice I invariably have kids laughing and imitating it.  It’s actually the voice I use for all babies and baby animals because it’s so much fun to see the reaction I always get from kids!

5. The last book I wish I’d written or inspired me to write my own story is…

When I was 10:  All books inspired me as a writer when I was young.  Creative writing was one of my favorite subjects all through school.  If I have to choose just one though, I guess it was Little Bear written by Else Holmelund Minarik and illustrated by Maurice Sendak.  One morning my second grade teacher asked everyone to write a story during class.  Instead of making up my own story, I just wrote down the first chapter (“What Will Little Bear Wear”) from Little Bear – from memory! – and turned it in.  I guess I thought my teacher wouldn’t recognize it!

NowWhen You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.  The intricate plotting just blows me away.  I’ve written about this book twice at Book Buzz, my children’s book blog for my students, and it’s the only time I’ve ever written about a book twice.


4. The genre that takes up the most room on my bookshelf (or e-reader) is…

When I was 10:  mysteries.  I had the whole collection of Nancy Drews.

Now:  mysteries.  I have the whole collection of a variety of great mystery series.  I told you, some things never change!

Image: ‘books in a stack (a stack of+books)
Found on
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Literacy Cafe in My Library

Let me tell you about the special event I hosted in my school library last Friday for our first grade students!

When the teachers told me they were doing a Kevin Henkes author study, I suggested a Literacy Cafe as a culminating activity.  They were thrilled with the idea of extending the learning beyond what they could do in the classroom.  The teachers read and discussed the “mouse books” with their students ahead of time, and showed the author video from the Kevin Henkes website.  They also chose the two crafts they wanted the students to make.

I planned two Cafe sessions as follow-ups to the books shared in the classroom, and two other sessions to introduce new Henkes books to the students.  And of course, it wouldn’t be a Cafe without food!  We asked parents to send in Cheez-Its and juice pouches as a snack.  I dressed up as Lilly, and my assistant dressed as Owen.  We put up a temporary Kevin Henkes bulletin board, which we changed later to display student work, and we were ready to celebrate!

I was thrilled with the level of thinking and discussion that was going on in our small groups (5-6 students in each), and the kids enjoyed being able to actively participate at each station.

You can find links to the all resources I used on our school webpage (the Schedule of Activities lists which 1st grade ELA Common Core standards each activity meets), and you can see the “highlight video” on my Book Buzz blog.

I’m already looking forward to the next one!


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Read for the Record with Ladybug Girl

This is the email I sent the teachers at my school announcing Jumpstart’s Read for the Record Event coming up this week:

“I hope that you will plan to participate in Jumpstart’s Read for the Record on Thursday, Oct 4, by reading Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad by Jacky Davis and David Soman to your students!  (Some of you may remember reading Llama Llama Mad at Mama last year, as well as other books in other years.)

Once again the online version of this year’s book is available from We Give Books, which is a wonderful site packed with e-versions of books for young readers.  And the best part is, every time you share one of these great e-books with your students, you enable the Pearson Foundation to send physical books to organizations that support early childhood literacy.  They have already donated over one million books to programs around the world!

Be sure to take the pledge to read so your students can be counted among those who participated in the big event!”

Is your school participating in Read for the Record?  I’d love to hear about anything special you are doing!

 Edited Oct 1:  I’ve realized that what we need is to have Ladybug Girl visit our school on Thursday to read aloud in the classrooms.  Watch for pictures!
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Library Lessons Online – Do You or Don’t You?

One of my goals this year is to do more to reach out to the families of our students.  I want to share the good things we are doing at school, and to get families more involved in the learning process. 

So, in that spirit, I spent some time this past weekend setting up a new blog with the intention of posting my lesson plans there.  My idea was that parents could see what their kids are doing in the library each week (complete with links to the resources we use), and I could also include follow-up ideas to promote literacy at home.

But now that the time has come to share the site, I’m feeling a bit reluctant about publicizing it, and I’m not entirely sure why. 

I realize that many of you don’t have scheduled library classes like I do, but for those who do:  Do any of you share your lesson plans online?  Why or why not?  What are the pros and cons?


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Family Literacy Calendar

I’ve added a new resource to my Parents page on our school website:  The Day By Day SC Family Literacy Calendar.  Each month has a theme, and within that theme the daily topic is supported by books, songs, games, and craft ideas.  The resources are aimed at young children, with an emphasis on Kindergarten readiness skills, but many of the activities are suitable for older kids as well.

This is just one of several family resources provided through the S.C. State Library.  Others include the Read With Me site, where you’ll find fabulous family reading resources; Let’s Get Crafty, which shares ideas for arts and crafts projects;  Places in SC, with an interactive map highlighting family-friendly activities in each county in the state; and Be Healthy. to assist families with health, exercise, and nutrition information.  Parents might also be interested in the Family Friendly Standards page.

We round off the S.C. State Library offerings with The Reading Rooster Recommends (now available on Streamline SC), ReadSC (The S.C. Center for the Book), StudySC (providing South Carolina resources for students), and of course DISCUS (providing reference resources for students). 

Wow, good stuff State Library! 

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Books for Boys Webinar

On September 15 I participated in a School Library Journal webinar titled Books for Boys, hosted by Jon Scieszka.  He began by giving a shout out for his Guys Read website, and the new Guys Read book series; then he turned it over to representatives from Simon & Schuster, Random House Audio, and Candlewick Press.

Books for Boys Webinar

While it was basically a 60-minute commercial for the sponsoring companies, I did find out about a few interesting titles that I was previously unaware of, and some audiobooks that sound as if they are high-quality recordings. 

Books I’d like to get for my library include The DunderheadsRobot ZotSuperhero Joe, the Scream Street series, the Guardians of Childhood series (featuring Nicholas St. North, aka Santa!),  and the Jack Blank series.  (Goodness, where have I been that I’m unfamiliar with all of these??)

Audiobooks I’d like to get for my library include Jeremy Bender vs the Cupcake Cadets, the Alvin Ho series, The Tanglewood Terror, the Five Ancestors series, the Nicholas Flamel series, and Okay for Now

I did think it was a bit ironic that, even though you hear constantly that boys tend to prefer non-fiction over fiction, literally every title mentioned in this webcast was either a picture book or a chapter book!  I can’t remember a single non-fiction book that was recommended!  I don’t think any of them were even graphic novels!

The archive is now available if you’d like to view and/or download the presentation.  (You will have to register to access the site.)  You can also visit Guys Listen to request a free sampler CD.  And please consider leaving a comment to share your favorite books for boys!

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Reading Groups – Ideas Needed

Today I’m asking for advice.

First, some background:  I have a fixed library schedule and see every class (K-5) once a week for 40 minutes as part of the related arts schedule.  This year, we have 26 classes, which means that there are four time slots each week when there is no class in the library.  (The same is true for the other four related arts: Music, Art, P.E., and Computer.)  These open slots in the schedule serve as our planning periods for the week.

Rather than spreading the planning periods over four different days during the week, our principal this year put all four planning periods on the same day.  So on Monday I have four planning periods, on Tuesday the Art teacher has four planning periods, etc.  The reason she did this is so that on our “planning days” we can be pulled and used as substitutes for teachers who are absent, since there is a limited amount of funding to pay for subs this year.

Last week, all the related arts teachers were asked by our principal to begin using our planning periods (on the days we are not needed as subs) to assist classroom teachers with reading and math circles, to provide extra help for at-risk students.

We haven’t been told exactly how this will work, but my understanding is that we will have some input into which teachers we work with and how we will assist with helping the low-achieving students.  Therefore, I’d like to hear your ideas. 

What would be the best use of my time in working with elementary students in small groups to improve reading skills and achievement?  All suggestions are welcome!

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