Today’s Quote

Soul Gatherings

I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything,

I still believe that people are really good at heart.

~ Anne Frank ~


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Weekly Wisdom 12 October

Thank you, Kally! Fairy Tales have withstood the test of time, which is a testament to hope. Yes, hope springs eternal.


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The Flights To and From LA – Book Stories

My flight to LA to appear on the Kelly Clarkson Show was packed.  I was in the three-seat section along with a nice young couple.  After a few hours in the air, it was apparent that she was pregnant.  He was glowing and reached over occasionally to pat her tummy.  She brought along plenty of healthy food, and shared her delicious figs with me.

Halfway into the flight I leaned over with a smile and asked when the baby was due.  “January!”, they both said.

I couldn’t help myself.  I knew what I had to do.  The conversation went something like this:

“Would you like to know the best thing you can do for your child?”

“Yes!  Please tell us!”  Their eyes were as big as saucers.

“Read aloud to your child.  You can start now, before the baby is born.  Goodnight Moon is the book you need to get.  Right away.”

“Wait, wait!  I have to write this down.”  He pulled out his phone and went to ‘notes’.

“I’m a preschool teacher in Massachusetts.  I recite this book every day to children before I begin chapter reading.  It’s rhythmic and rhyming.  Children love this book.”

“Chapter reading?, to preschoolers?”

“Yes.  When your baby is born, read all the time.  Music is also wonderful, especially classical music.”

“We’re both musicians.  I play the guitar and my wife plays the flute.”

My goodness!  We talked about music, art, playing in mud and sand, what to look for in a school, and I told them about the Eric Carle Museum.  This couple was over the moon with everything I had to say.  I remember the husband’s ‘lightbulb moment’, when he understood that a child can’t move forward and learn in school without hearing words and stories.

“Jennie, would you please quit your job and come and teach our child?”  How nice!

As we left the plane, they kept yelling out thank-yous and reaching out to me.  That’s as good as it gets.

Yes, I recite Goodnight Moon every day before chapter reading.  I sometimes do it ‘the silly way’, substituting children’s names into the story.  I even do a “Goodnight Moon Rap”


The return flight from LA was also packed, and I was in a three-seat section, along with a mom and her 10-year-old son.  They were quiet and friendly.  Every time they had to get up they apologized.  No worries, I kept telling them.  On this flight I had to finish reading the books the library had given me to review for Book Bears.  I host a library reading group every month, plus a read-aloud group.  It was peace and quiet to read, and I thoroughly enjoyed Gooseberry Park and the Master Plan.

As I was ready to put the book away, I looked over at the 10-year-old boy.  His head was down in a video game of some sort.  He had been a kind child on the flight, but he had not seemed happy.

Yes, I knew what I had to do.  Again.  I couldn’t help myself.

I leaned forward.  “Would you like to read a really good book?  I just finished it.  It’s so good!”

He looked up, and he smiled a big smile.  It took him only seconds to put away his video stuff.  I could tell he was excited.  I handed the book over and he settled in for a great read.  His mom was teary-eyed.  “Thank you.  He plays too many video games.  Thank you so much.”  She touched my arm and smiled.

As the flight continued, I kept glancing over to the boy.  He was absorbed in the book and looked happy.  When the flight landed, his mom took a photo of the book so he could get it at the library and finish reading.  Three people were very happy; it was a hat trick.

Never underestimate the power of a good book and reading aloud.


Posted in books, chapter reading, children's books, Early Education, Inspiration, literacy, music, preschool, reading aloud, reading aloud, School | Tagged , , , , , , , | 61 Comments

A Few Quotations On Books

Here are excellent quotations on books. Thank you, Charles French.

charles french words reading and writing

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“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”

                                                                  Marcus Tullius Cicero



“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”

                                                                 Jorge Luis Borges



“Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn’t carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.”


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Video Update

I posted the Kelly Clarkson video on my Twitter account, so bloggers outside the USA (Barb, Sally, Darlene…) can see it.  Let me know if it works!


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Jennie Video on The Kelly Clarkson Show

For my blogging friends who are unable to see The Kelly Clarkson Show, here is a clip of my part on the show.  Many bloggers have wanted to see me on the show, so here I am:

I cannot say enough about Kelly, her team, and the ‘bottom line’ of everyone on the show – kindness.  Everything I do in teaching is rooted in kindness, and how wonderful it is to see, first hand, big stars and a mega show that hold the same values.


Posted in books, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, reading, reading aloud, reading aloud, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , | 110 Comments

Sneak Peek Video

From the studio:


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The Kelly Clarkson Show – And Me

Everything people say is true.  Kelly Clarkson is genuine.  She’s as nice as the day is long.  She is all about others (not herself), and so much fun.

I know.  I am on her show tomorrow- in person with Kelly.

Kelly is the real deal, and she could be my best friend.  That’s just who she is.  When the doors opened to walk out onto the stage, she smiled and waved.  I did, too.  It was across a very crowded and busy room, a locked-on moment.

Everyone associated with the show is the same way.  Surely they must have to pass a ‘kindness test’ in order to work there.

To tell you the story, I will start at the beginning, nearly a year ago.  In the words of a ‘Jennie Story’, “It Happened Like This”:

Our blogging community is like a family, and the story begins with Kelly hearing about me through my blog and a fellow blogger, John Rieber.  I received a call from Dan Sterchele, a Producer on the show.  “Hi Jennie.  I only have ten minutes.  Please tell me about yourself.”

Twenty minutes later we were still talking.

I told him about reading aloud, Gloria, Milly the Quilter, the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, Jennie Stories… on and on.  He kept asking questions.  A lot of questions.  We laughed.  Then came the next step.

“Jennie, you need to ‘wow’ Kelly.  I need you to make a one-and-a-half minute video of yourself.”

“Sure.  No problem.”  How hard could this be?  Hard.  Very hard!  Seventeen video takes hard.  This was the best I could get:

After that nothing happened for a long time.  Covid hit and everything shut down.  I didn’t hear back and chalked it off to life.  Hey, it was fun to give it a try.  Then a few weeks ago, Dan emailed me.  My pitch sheet had been on his bulletin board all along.  “Hi Jennie.  We want to talk to you about how you help your students fall in love with reading by introducing them to books at such an early age!  Kelly is going to absolutely adore you.”

Wow!  So I had been on hold.

The next four days were a whirlwind of long phone interviews and planning.  They wanted to video me in the library at school as part of the Friday taping of the show.  I was excited!  I worked it out with school (of course they were excited, too), and then I got a late phone call from Dan – west coast time when I should have been in bed.

It was “The Call.”

“Jennie, we’re changing this.  Forget taping you in the library for the show.  We want you here, live.  We’ll put you on a plane to LA in two days.”  Did I tell you this was the first week of school?  The scrambling began to find subs, get a Covid test, sign papers, and answer questions.

And just like that, I was on a flight to LA.

There was still planning to do, as in ‘get to the point and say what I need to say right away, because I will probably get six minutes’.  Okay, no problem.  I asked who else would be on the show.  There are two famous people… and me:

Christo Fernández
star of the Ted Lasso show

JoJo Siwa
singer, dancer, and actress
Dancing With the Stars, YouTube, and more

Perhaps it was best that I did not know these stars.  Therefore I could hang out on the show and have fun with two new people.  Yes, they are absolutely fabulous.  Kelly wouldn’t have it any other way.  We laughed, shared stories, high-fived, and simply had a great time together.  But, I’m getting ahead of myself in this story.

At last I arrived at the studio.  As I drove under the Universal Studio entrance sign, I had childhood memories of seeing this on television or in the movies.  That made me smile.

The studio was right around the corner.  I pulled up to the entrance.

After my Covid test and meeting the friendliest staff ever, I was taken inside.  The long hallway was covered in photos of many people who had been on the show.  I wish I’d had time to study all the people along the wall of fame.

I had my very own room, a ‘greenroom’, where I waited until it was my turn.  The room was more like a suite.  It was fabulous!

To my surprise, I had my very own name outside the door!

“Jennie, we will come and get you when we need you.  In the meantime, relax and let us know if you need anything.  You will be the third guest on the show.”

They came to take me to hair and make-up.  When I walked in, I looked at the make-up guy, pointed to my face and said, “This is your challenge for the day.”  He burst out laughing!  I looked as his plethora of every tool, cream, and color and said, “I don’t have one of these things at my house.”  More laughing out loud!  We talked about his mother, my chicken neck, and life in the south.

As I was leaving he stopped me and said, “Thank you for bringing joy into this room today.”  See, I told you everyone who works on the show is wonderful.

Back in my greenroom, the taping of the show was starting.  The big television turned on and I could watch everything that was happening.  Oh, I paid attention.  Where would I sit?  How would I come onto the stage?  I needed to feel ready.  Frankly, I wasn’t the least bit nervous.  Nope, not at all.

Why?  I had been told that Kelly loves teachers.  Her mother was a teacher in Parkersburg, West Virginia.  She often has teachers in her audience.  I knew I was in good hands.  She tells the story of being on the Jay Leno Show right after she won American Idol.  There she was, a nobody so to speak, sitting alongside famous people.  She has never forgotten that, nor her humble roots.  The country western song, “Humble and Kind” by Tim McGraw makes me think of Kelly Clarkson.

Kelly opened the show singing a beautiful song about faith.  She then had a video in London with the actor Stanley Tucci, and his cookbooks.  They ate pasta together.  JoJo was the first guest.  She has a great story to tell, and her enthusiasm is contagious.  Gee, I should have asked her to teach me a few cool dance moves.  The next guest was Christo.  He is really nice, warm, and of course handsome.  His television series just won many Emmy Awards.  I was captivated by both of these guests.

The staff came to my greenroom.  I was walked to the area behind the set, pitch black with more computers and technology than you can imagine.  The doors to the set slid open, we waved, and I was taken to the couch where I sat beside Kelly.  While what seemed like a million people were rushing around with everything from cameras to mics, I waved at the audience, said hello to the other guests, thanked Kelly… and then I was on!

Still, I wasn’t nervous at all.

Kelly started by asking me what was the moment when reading aloud became my passion.  I told her about my first day of teaching, when my head teacher put “Swimmy” by Leo Lionni in my hands and asked me to be the one to read to the children.  Kelly jumped right in and told me her mother always read “Matilda” to her.  “Yes”, I shouted.  Then JoJo told us she loved the “I Survived” books growing up.  Again I shouted “Yes”, as I know these terrific books.  Christo told of a biography that was his favorite.  He was moved.

Kelly asked me about my blog, and about how I reach out to parents.  I remember feeling passionate about what I said.  I remember turning to the audience and asking, “Doesn’t everyone love a good story?”  The specifics are a blur.  Once I start talking about reading aloud, I go like the wind.

At one pause in the taping when the technicians were doing their thing, I had a chance to talk with Kelly.  She told me about her mother and teaching.  I asked her if she still reads aloud to her children.  Yes she does, and we laughed about keeping kids engaged.  I leaned forward and said, “Would you like to know the best book ever to read to your kids?  I have read it aloud so many times.”  “Yes, yes!”, she said.  I told her about “The Wild Robot”, by Peter Brown.

Just when I thought everything was over for me, Kelly announced there were two guests who had come to the show to say hello to me.  I was stunned.  I will only tell you I jumped out of my seat, yelled, told stories, and cried.  You won’t want to miss it!

When the show was over, photos were taken.  Here I am:

THE KELLY CLARKSON SHOW — Episode 1017 — Pictured: (l-r) Jennie Fitzkee, Kelly Clarkson — (Photo by: Weiss Eubanks/NBCUniversal)

THE KELLY CLARKSON SHOW — Episode 1017 — Pictured: (l-r) JoJo Siwa, Cristo Fernandez, Jennie Fitzkee, Kelly Clarkson — (Photo by: Weiss Eubanks/NBCUniversal)

THE KELLY CLARKSON SHOW — Episode 1017 — Pictured: (l-r) JoJo Siwa, Cristo Fernandez, Jennie Fitzkee, Kelly Clarkson — (Photo by: Weiss Eubanks/NBCUniversal)

As I left the studio, I couldn’t help but stop by the sunflower wall.

After I got back home, I knew I needed to send a thank you gift and handwritten note to Kelly.  What did I send her?  “The Wild Robot” to read aloud to her children, of course.


P.S.  I look forward to watching the show on Tuesday.  I hope some of you have a chance to see it, too.

Posted in children's books, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Giving thanks, Inspiration, literacy, reading aloud, reading aloud, School | Tagged , , , , , | 136 Comments

1-800-Viola Swamp

Over the past few days, many bloggers have been reading an older post, one of my favorites.  Every day in the classroom is not always a good day.  Humor to the rescue.  I hope you enjoy reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Kate brought her mother’s beloved old book in to school this week.  Miss Nelson is Missing is a classic.  I love that book!  My children loved it.  Over the years I must have read it hundreds of times.

The story is about Miss Nelson, a kind teacher, and her unruly class.  In exasperation she leaves school one day only to return the following day dressed in character as Viola Swamp.  Hmmm…

Naomi, my assistant teacher, started to read the book to the children.  I couldn’t wait to hear those words again.  Now, it is important in this part of the story to tell you that Naomi is a saint.  She has never-ending patience, kindness, and a deep understanding of children.  She is the best teacher.

Wait!  She sounds like Miss Nelson.

So, as Miss Nelson (aka Naomi) began to read, things went wrong.  Really wrong.  Perhaps remembering that the children have now outgrown “their nest” might have been a good idea.  After all, when fledglings leave home to branch out into the world, things happen.  Not always good things.  Fighting and survival come to mind.  And of course, when reading the story began, things happened.

Nobody could see.  Yet, they were all in the front row.

Everyone complained of pushing and shoving.  Gee, there was lots of space.

Children yelled at each other.  Best friends.  Hmmm…

Naomi – I mean Miss Nelson – was beside herself trying to read the story.  It seemed hopeless.  We needed Viola Swamp.  We needed some humor.

Remember Viola Swamp?  The teacher who took over for Miss Nelson?  I called.

1-800-Viola Swamp.

I grabbed my cell phone mumbling loud enough for the children to hear that I needed to call Viola Swamp.  The conversation went something like this:

“Hello.  I’m calling for Viola Swamp.  Is she there?”

You could have heard a pin drop.  The children looked worried.  I covered the phone with my hand and whispered, “She sounds grumpy.”  Then I went back to the phone.  I don’t know how complete silence can become even more silent, but it did.

“Is this Viola Swamp?”

Those fifteen gigantic saucer eyes were now ready for some humor.  After all, laughter is the best medicine and can cure anything.  We needed some curing, and Viola Swamp had been just the right fix.

I smiled.  Big.  Then Savannah asked, “Was that really her?”  Parker said, “Of course not!”  We all started to laugh.  Even Naomi, the real Miss Nelson, belly laughed.  Then, we sat down to read the book.

There are two more weeks of school to go, and children have grown.  They’re ready to move on to their next journey.  With humor and hugs, the next few weeks will be fun!

Viola Swamp told me so.


Posted in Book Review, children's books, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, picture books, preschool, reading aloud, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , | 53 Comments


Thank you, Annika Perry, for really seeing and capturing the world around us. It is wondrous. Every beautiful photo has a remarkable quotation that perfectly speaks to the photo. You will knowingly smile. Some might give you a lump in your throat. Some will flood you with memories. This is a beautiful post.

Annika Perry

"Star-like purple-blue flower close-up."

How often do we happen to look but fail to see? Fail to take the time or effort to truly assimilate and absorb the life around us? Perhaps something is simply too far away?

"Muntjac deer peering from undergrowth in woodland."

A camera is ideal to focus one’s attention and as an amateur photographer a recent birthday present of a new camera reignited my passion for the craft.

"Two marigolds close-up, golden yellow, folds of petals with crystals of dew drops."

It rarely leaves my side; accompanies me on walks, to the garden, around the house. I’m overjoyed to share ten of my favourite photos taken the previous week and hope you enjoy them and some of the quotations they inspired me to seek out! Each one has taught me to look afresh at the world, showing me a new perspective on life.

"Blackberries, unripe green, ripening red and ready to pick black ones."

“So it is with blackberries. If you pull too hard, you may get the berry but you will lose the sweetness of it. On the other hand…

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