Books, Reading, and Puzzles

I can’t say enough to the families of the children I teach, about books and reading. The more they know and understand, the better it is for their child. This is a newsletter I sent to families yesterday:

Hi Families,

Every year it seems that our bookshelf is a popular and constant draw for children.  That’s wonderful, and this year is no exception.  Books are more than a teacher reading at storytime.  They are there for children to look at and access anytime.  The feel of turning the pages, looking at words in print, and the illustrations, are a step to reading readiness. Children become comfortable with books.  As they are learning to read, picture books become ‘a natural’ for them. Our wonderful bookshelf changes frequently.  As you can see, there is a collection of fiction, fact, old, new, classics, and favorites.  We’re picky about good books!

Did you know that puzzles are also a step in reading readiness?  Finding the knobs that connect to the holes is much like identifying a ‘b’ or a ‘d’.  We have puzzles out most every day for children.

Another important part of reading readiness is hearing the words.  Rhyming words are popular.  Following a story without pictures is something we do in the Aqua Room. Children have to concentrate and make the pictures in their head.  This is chapter reading. Every day at rest time we chapter read.  We have just started “Charlotte’s Web” – children love it!  They are listening, getting a huge dose of language and new words, and making their own mental pictures.  Stay tuned, as we read many chapter books throughout the year.

As the school year goes along, I will read aloud with passion every day, from picture books to chapter reading.  Some books will be planned, others may be totally spontaneous.  That’s the wonder and beauty of teaching.  I call it ‘seizing the moment’.


Posted in books, chapter reading, children's books, Early Education, Inspiration, picture books, reading, reading aloud, reading aloud, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , | 68 Comments

Happy National Read a Book Day!

Today I begin the wonderful journey of reading aloud “Charlotte’s Web” to my class. These quotations bring to life the passion and importance and learning that happens when reading books.

By Hook Or By Book







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Small Town America – Labor Day

This is my town.
Small town America.
Flags fly on Labor Day.

This Labor Day is so important
to thank all those who have labored for us,
especially firefighters, first responders, police officers,
military, teachers, doctors and nurses.

I cannot imagine 2020 without their help and bravery.
Thank You!


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Simple Eight Gifts that do not cost us a Cent………

Boundless Blessings by Kamal

Illustration Of A Cartoon Pack Of Happy Birthday And Anniversary.. Royalty  Free Cliparts, Vectors, And Stock Illustration. Image 39370898.

THE GIFT OF LISTENING: Must REALLY listen when someone is talking with a quiet mind. It is one of the most important aspects of our life. No interrupting, no daydreaming, no planning your response. Simply listen from your heartand soul.

THE GIFT OF AFFECTION: Be generous with appropriate hugs, kisses, pats on the back and a kind word to someone or the other who really requires your affection. Let these small actions demonstrate the love you have for family, friends and nature.

THE GIFT OF LAUGHTER: Clip cartoons, paint caricatures that make others laugh. See nice and funny movies. Share articles, jokes and funny stories. Your gift will say, ‘I love to laugh and play with you unconditionally.’

THE GIFT OF A WRITTEN NOTE: It can be a simple ‘Thanks for your help’ note pasted or a full sonnet written to make…

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School, the End of Summer, and My Porch

Back to school is hard. I feel like the children do, apprehensive and unsure. Summer is ending. The crickets are telling me so. During this transition, the place that grounds me is my porch.

On my porch, I’m still part of the outside.  I fully understand the term Mother Nature.  Yes, nature is my mother.  She calms me.  More importantly she makes me see the good.  

When night falls, my porch is even better.  Like the child who has played outside all day, I’m now under the covers, feeling deeply.

I listen to the crickets, hear the sound of a distant train whistle.  I am filled with goodness, and memories.  There is wood everywhere.  Wood, like my cabin at summer camp many years ago.  Wood and old furniture.  There’s a dry sink that has been in my family for ages.  It’s 200 years old.  There’s a table that has been in Hubby’s family for 100 years.  There’s a cabinet that my father and Hubby made together from wood that was over 200 years old.  

Old means beautiful and memories and stories, and furniture that is so well made it can be on a porch.  It means my family is always here.  Perhaps that is why my porch grounds me.




Posted in Expressing words and feelings, Family, Inspiration, Mother Nature, Nature, teaching, Teaching young children, wonder | Tagged , , , , , , | 70 Comments

The Day Before School… Ice Cream!

School starts tomorrow for teachers.  Today I drove out to a farm, in the country.


It was a picture perfect day.  The farm is a dairy farm.  That means ice cream.
New England + dairy farms = the best ice cream.


This is what I saw while I ate my ice cream.  What a delight.

The old is there, too.  People need to see the old.  Farm life was hard, yet rewarding.


It’s always a pleasure to see the flying American flag.


I think this was a perfect day, and the best way to spend the day before school starts.  Don’t you?


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My Summer of Books – Part 3

In Part 1 and Part 2, I reviewed the picture books in the photo below.  These books were new and wonderful reads this summer.


Part 3:
Upper grade books for older children.

I had a double-dose of Patricia MacLachlan books.  Lucky me!  After reading Prairie Days (see Part 2), I read her chapter book, My Father’s Words.


My Father’s Words, by Patricia MacLachlan

I didn’t think there could be a book as wonderful as The Poet’s Dog.  There is!  Simple words can have a mightily powerful impact on the reader, if they are carefully crafted by a master writer.  My Father’s Words is a story told through the voice of Fiona, older sister to Finn.  Their Dad is a psychologist, makes runny eggs, plays basketball, and sings “Dona Nobis Pacem.”  He’s a great all-around guy who is unexpectedly killed in an accident.  Is the book sad?  No, it is about finding the way, ‘the eternal fitness of things’.  The many words their Dad spoke become part of a labyrinth, with unexpected turns.

Fiona is trying to make sense of everything.  The boy next door often stops by; he  tells Fiona some of the words her dad said, words she had never heard.  Finn is just plain angry, and Fiona wants to help him.  They decide to volunteer in an animal shelter.  The dog that no-one can reach is drawn to Finn.  He sings to the dog his father’s song, and the dog responds.  When a woman who was at the scene of the accident arrives at the house with her little boy and dog, Finn has a revelation, and the story ends in a surprising way – it brings down the house.  Does the dog at the shelter stay with Finn?  No, far better.  I couldn’t put the book down.  If you love dogs and have a warm spot for children, read this book!


A Nest for Celeste and Another Quest for Celeste, by Henry Cole

These two books combine history and adventure, with Celeste the mouse.  She lives on a plantation in the south in the 1800’s and encounters many adversities, including two ‘bully’ rats.  When company arrives for an extended visit, it is John Audubon and his young apprentice, Joseph.  Joseph is quiet and homesick, and takes a liking to Celeste – she spends her days in his pocket and learns much about birds and drawing, watching Audubon and helping Joseph paint backgrounds and flowers.

Along the way, she watches Audubon as he pins his birds in order to make perfect drawings.  Celeste rescues and befriends one of his birds, Cornelius.  In an effort to find him food, she is swept in a storm, looses her way, meets Lafayette, and learns the value of friendship.  The story’s adventures and subtle lessons never let up.

The sequel is equally fascinating.  Celeste unexpectedly leaves the plantation in a bale of cotton packed on a wagon.  She ends up on a riverboat and meets old Rosebud the dog.  When the riverboat became snagged by tree limbs under water, it sinks, and Celeste must save herself.  With the help of a turtle she makes it to shore, and her adventures begin.  After befriending squirrels and beavers, she is finding how to survive in the woods.  While she sleeps in a hickory tree, along comes a boy with an axe, young Abe Lincoln.  He sees Celeste, smiles, and takes her home.

Celeste helps Abe with his many chores, and also helps him to learn how to read and to write.  From the book Abe borrowed that became ruined, to her many forest friends secretly helping Abe, the book is full of adventures. Celeste must decide where home really is.  She has come from a plantation to a riverboat to the woods, making friends along the way.  What will she choose to do?  I highly recommend these books, for Henry Cole’s delightful writing and storytelling, and for the history they tell.


Amanda in Alberta, by Darlene Foster

Amanda lives in Calgary, Canada.  Her life is in cowboy country and the rugged, beautiful lands of Alberta – prairies, badlands, and the rockies.  Amanda’s best friend, Leah, lives in England, and comes to Alberta to visit Amanda.

Amanda and Leah see the Calgary Stampede (a rodeo), go on a cattle drive, visit Buffalo Jump, and the dinosaur museum.  These adventures are intertwined with a mystery- Amanda finds a stone, which people seem to want, one cowboy in particular.  Amanda is curious about the markings on the stone and is determined to learn more.  She is the modern day Nancy Drew, and her sleuthing proves to be both dangerous and exciting at times.

Throughout the book, the reader is engrossed in the story, learning about history and Canada, and solving the mystery of the stone.  Amanda and Leah have further adventures in Darlene Foster’s outstanding Amanda series.  I am looking forward to reading the newest book in the series, Amanda in Holland, and solving a WWII mystery.  If you love Nancy Drew, this book and the Amanda series is for you!


Stella Endicott and the Anything-Is-Possible Poem, by Kate DiCamillo

The latest book in the ‘Tales from Deckawoo Drive’ series is Stella’s story.  On the first day of second grade, she meets her teacher – with a lovely middle name.  Stella is smitten with names and words and stories, as she is a beautiful dreamer.

DiCamillo writes the teacher’s words, “Class, I want you to know that I believe in listening closely and speaking softly and singing loudly.  I also believe in examining mysteries.”  I was struck.  These words show up again and again in the story – just in the right place.

Horace Broom is mister-know-it-all.  He is annoying.  When the class begins to write poetry, the reader is reminded of Stella’s favorite quote, “Anything is possible.”  The class poetry assignment is writing a poem with a metaphor.  Stella and Horace clash over Stella’s poem.  They argue, and they’re sent to the Principal’s office.  On the way, the long and dreaded walk, Horace is a wreck, Stella is strong, and they get locked into the janitor’s closet.  What happens next while they’re trapped makes the stars align, literally and figuratively.  This is a perfect book!  Kate DiCamillo is a master at bringing the most important pieces of childhood into focus.


The Trumpet of the Swan, by E.B. White

This book stands alone in it’s popularity and reviews.  Every summer I treat myself to reading a childhood classic, one I never read.  This year it was The Trumpet of the Swan.  Louis is a trumpeter swan who was born without a voice.  His father, in determination to help his son, steals a trumpet so Louis can have a voice.  The course of events that ensue, and how Louis deals with a trumpet, and also his father’s well intended thievery, are written as only E.B. White can do.  I am so very glad I read this book.  It was a great pleasure.  If you missed it like I did, I highly recommend reading the book.  It’s never too late.


Posted in Book Review, books, chapter reading, children's books, Death and dying, Diversity, Dogs, E.B. White, Expressing words and feelings, history, Inspiration, Particia MacLachlan, reading | Tagged , , , , , , , | 68 Comments

My Summer of Books – Part 2

In  Part 1 I talked about many of the picture books in this photo, which shows all the children’s books I read this summer.


Part 2 continues with the picture books, and bridges to older children’s books.


Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud, by Lynn Plourde

A Model T Ford is ‘stopped in the rud by some pigs in the mud’.  Grandma is in charge.   The rhyming is classic and draws in the reader.  “Oh no.  Won’t do.  Gotta shoo.  But who?”  The story goes from pigs to hens to sheep to bulls – and the descriptive words  have a wide range from squealed, rutted, reeled, tussled, rustled and many more.  These aren’t typical vocabulary words for children, making the story all the better.  We see farming life in the early 20th century, with a classic sequence of events.  From the rhyming to what happens next, the book is delightful.


Fireboat, the Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey, by Maira Kalman

I reviewed this as part of an Eric Carle Museum post.  It was a favorite summer read.

Are you familiar with the John J. Harvey fireboat?  I wasn’t either.  It was launched in New York City in 1931, the same year Babe Ruth hit his 611th home run, and Snickers hit the candy stores.  The popular word Hot-Cha was invented.

The book opens with events and structures in New York City, such as the George Washington Bridge suspended over the Hudson River.

All the illustrations are beautiful.  The reader becomes part of the city in years gone by. Time passes.  We learn about the working parts of the fireboat and the crew.  The John J. Harvey helps to fight the fire on the ocean liner NORMANDIE.  Sometimes it goes out in the water just to celebrate, shoot water, and have fun.

By 1995 there were many fireboats, and the Harvey was set to be retired and sold for scrap. Of course the people who loved her rallied to save and buy the boat.  She was repaired and spent her days on the water, visiting other boats.  Did you know that four toots means hello?

Then something terrible happened at 8:45 AM on September 11, 2001.

The John J. Harvey wanted to help and get back to work.  We learn what each crew member was doing at the time, before they rushed to the fireboat.  No, she was too old to fight the fires, but she could help rescue people… and then at last she got “the call”, she was needed to supply water to the firefighters.  She was once again a real fireboat.


Love You When…, by Linda Kranz

The past school year began with reading Only One You, and ended with reading You Be You, both by Kranz.  This summer I scored a hat trick by discovering her third ‘rock’ book, Love You When… The trilogy is a warm and delightful collection of stories about being yourself, finding your way, bravery, family, and love.  Children at school loved the first two, and this new discovery will be all the more meaningful with school reopening during the pandemic.  Why?  It is these affirmations of being okay and feeling grounded, which children desperately need to hear right now.

The book opens with, “Do you think of me during the day?” you ask.  “Yes,” I say as I close my eyes for a moment and smile.  In a voice as soft as a whisper you say, “Tell me when.” Each page has a beautiful photograph of rocks and the “when” words – “When a gentle breeze rustles through our backyard wind chime.”  Every page, every photo, every “when” moment is beautiful and comforting for children.


Prairie Days, by Patricia MacLachlan

The glorious illustrations by Micha Archer bring an abundance of life to Patricia MacLachlan’s intentional and soft words.  The story takes place over a summer day on the farm.  The opening sentence is, “Where I was born, the earth smelled of cattle and bluegrass and hyssop.”  Dogs, hay wagons, the farm pond, trains, sheep, and the wooden porch swing are woven into a childhood story.  The reader is left feeling the slow pace and happiness of years gone by.

The author won the Newbery Award for Sarah, Plain and Tall.  She wrote my favorite book, The Poet’s Dog, and many others.  Patricia MacLachlan has a way with words.  Just when I thought there couldn’t possibly be a book as good as The Poet’s Dog… there is, and MacLachlan wrote it – My Father’s Words.

Stay tuned for Part 3 as I review this outstanding book for older children and the other upper grade books I read this summer.


Posted in Book Review, books, children's books, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, Particia MacLachlan, picture books, reading | Tagged , , , , , | 77 Comments

Reading Aloud to the Rescue


A child’s serious head injury required surgery and plenty of rest at home.  Scary stuff.  How to help Miles relax and take his mind away from his boo-boo?  Reading aloud, of course.  Miles loved ‘Jennie reading’ when he was in my classroom.  I read a few picture books today, and then we became engrossed, together, in chapter reading.


For an hour we were on a wild island with Roz, the robot who was in a crate on a cargo ship, washed ashore during a hurricane, and activated by the otters.  I finally stopped reading after the bears tried to attack Roz.  Miles did not want me to leave.

He has no idea what is ahead in the book – adventures, learning how to help animals on the island, and slowly becoming less and less of a robot.   I will visit Miles every week to read The Wild Robot as he heals.  I feel like Peter Falk reading to his grandson in the movie, “The Princess Bride.”

“Children make your life important” –Erma Bombeck-


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My Summer of Books – Part 1


My summer has been filled with reading children’s books, from new picture books to books for older children, and classics.  Every one has been satisfying and thrilling, yet in different ways.  Some books are funny, some are filled with history, some teach important lessons in a subtle way.  On and on.  I will tell you about these terrific books.

Part 1: picture books.


Together We Grow by Susan Vaught

The gorgeous illustrations by Kelly Murphy bring to life the story of a barn full of animals during a thunderstorm.  A fox and her kits look for shelter, but they are predators to the animals in the barn.  Can the animals welcome a fox for the night?  The rhyming text is sparse yet rich in language.  The opening words are, “Lightning gash!  Windy lash!”  I love this book!


Be Quiet! and We Will Rock Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

For lovers of the Mother Bruce books, these two new Ryan Higgins books do not disappoint. The humor is engaging and never lets up in Be Quiet!  The storyline in We Will Rock Our Classmates is a classic for children; worry and self doubt combined with bravery.


Billions of Bricks, a Counting Book About Building by Kurt Cyrus

Where, oh where was this book when I was a child?  This is math, a counting book about building with bricks.  It brings counting and numbers to life.  “Two four six.  Ten twenty thirty.  Mix mix mix.  Arches pillars walls and cellars.  Twenty forty sixty eighty.”  These are some of the words in the story that combines rhyming, counting, bricklaying and architecture.  A must read book for children.


One Little Bag, An Amazing Journey by Henry Cole

The delightful pencil drawings, with the brown bag as the only color, are perfect illustrations for the story of a brown bag, over generations.  The wordless book begins with illustrations of a forest and the cutting of trees and a paper mill before the story even begins.  What a build-up.  No words are needed in this story.  It begins with a boy and his brown lunch bag.  It stays with him from family adventures to college, to meeting his love, and so much more,  It circles life and death, love and new beginnings.  This book is proof that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Stay tuned for Part 2, more picture books.


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