Reading Aloud – To You! Part 5 (and a Bonus)

My reading aloud The Poet’s Dog by Patricia MacLachlan continues with chapters eight and nine.  Chapter eight is 3:27 and chapter nine is 3:39.

Sylvan is stubborn about taking his medicine.  Flora wonders if Sylvan really left Teddy. She worries what will happen after the storm ends.

And, today was a bonus!  I went to hear Patricia MacLachlan, the author of The Poet’s Dog, speak at a bookstore.  Yes, this was the real deal!  She has written a new children’s book, The Hundred-Year Barn, which is absolutely wonderful.  If you love barns, history, and family stories, you will enjoy this book.  It feels like reading Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney.

I greeted her, and she was thrilled to know I was reading her book aloud on my blog.  It is a privilege to talk books with authors.


Posted in Author interview, Book Review, books, chapter reading, children's books, Early Education, history, Particia MacLachlan, picture books, reading, reading aloud | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

Gloria’s Excellent Adventure

Gloria often goes home with a child on the weekend.  She has a bag, a quilt, and a journal. She is ready for anything, from graduations to soccer games, to holiday celebrations.  It didn’t used to be that way, until Colin asked many years ago if she could have a sleepover at his house.  “Don’t worry, Jennie.  I have a night light.  She won’t be scared” were his exact words.  Since then, Gloria has been welcomed with open arms by children and their families.

Last weekend she joined McKinley and her family on their annual family hike to Hedgehog Mountain in New Hampshire.

While the hike was beautiful and adventurous, it’s the story of love and friendship that shines through, loud and clear.  A picture is worth a thousand words.

I’m having this framed for me.  No words needed.

Dad emailed me this photo and said, “Made it.  Top of the mountain.”

 A journal entry is even better.  It puts words and pictures together.

“Gloria visited our family and took a trip to NH to see my Grammy and Papa.  We also took Gloria with us on our annual family hike up MT Hedgehog.  After the hike to the top we looked at autumn leaves, took pictures, and even ate cupcakes!  Gloria had a great time meeting my aunts, uncles, and cousins.  We can’t wait for Gloria to visit again.

“Riding on Dad’s back.  Relaxing at the top of MT Hedgehog in Hillsboro, NH.  A well deserved rest at the top.  What a great view!!”

It’s one thing for the child to ‘get it’ and understand who Gloria is.  It’s another thing for the parents to ‘get it’ and embrace it, and accept Gloria into their family.  They are doing wonders for their child.  I learned many years ago that a teacher must include and educate the family in order to teach the child.  When families take the time to put Gloria on top of a mountain and take a photo, my heart spills over, because I know I have been a real teacher.

Gloria’s journals are in her bag, available for children to read anytime – like the books on our bookshelf.  Former Aqua Roomers still want to read her journals.  It’s wonderful.

On a side note, McKinley is the younger sister of Jackson.  He was the subject of my favorite blog post years ago, “The Boy Who Cried Tears of the Heart.”  It still makes my heart pound.  Big time.


Posted in Diversity, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Family, Gloria, Imagination, Inspiration, Kindness, Love, preschool, Teaching young children, wonder, young children | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 64 Comments

The Apollo, the Eagle, and an Astronaut

“With courage, imagination, and the will to explore, nothing is impossible.” -Neil Armstrong-

Those were the words that stuck with me when I visited the Kennedy Space Center in Florida last week.  I will make a banner of Armstrong’s quote to hang in my classroom.  I will teach children about courage and teamwork.  I will teach children about America and history.

Apollo 11, heading for the moon in 1969

I have much to tell.  It’s a good story, and an important story.

My husband was a Naval Flight Officer, flying F-4 Phantoms in the 70’s.  His squadron, VF-41, is a band of brothers.  They have a reunion every three years.  This reunion at the Kennedy Space Center was hosted by Jon McBride, a fellow squadron mate, and an astronaut. Jon is from my home state of West Virginia.

He told his story of a kid who loved planes, and his first time flying in a plane.  The pilot did loops and other maneuvers, and Jon was hooked.  After college he started his Naval career, and his first (and favorite) squadron was VF-41.  He became an astronaut, and had the position of President of all the astronauts and cosmonauts.

I am humbled by this.  Even more humbling is that many of his astronaut classmates were aboard the Challenger.  His last flight was the previous one, and he knew Christa McAuliffe well.

Jon hosted a tour of the Kennedy Space Center.  And, oh what a tour it was! We began in the main entrance.

Booster rockets

Then we boarded the bus.  Jon was a great host, telling many stories.  When he told his fellow squadron mates how astronauts fly a modified plane to simulate  a space shuttle, there were plenty of oohs and aahs.  They understood the modifications and techniques, like thrust reversal.

The first stop was the Apollo building, and the area where people watch a space shuttle take off.  There are plenty of bleachers, three miles away from the launch pad.  “You don’t want to be any closer that that”, said Jon.  The area outside had a new monument to the astronauts who had landed on the moon, fifty years ago.

Monument to the astronauts who landed on the Moon

It is magnificent.  The inscription says “The Eagle Has Landed.”  How important it is to connect the eagle with this Apollo mission.  The eagle is the bird of America, our symbol of freedom and bravery.  Walking across the NASA emblem in the center of the yard felt like walking on hallowed ground.

There are no words to describe the magnitude of the enormity of size of components of the Apollo space program.  A picture is worth a thousand words.

Saturn V Booster Thrusters

Saturn V

Jon and his squadron mates are knee-deep in discussion

The astronaut’s gloves look a little creepy

The space capsule reminded me of R2-D2

Our next stop was the Atlantis exhibit.  The two movies educated people on the space shuttle and how it evolved.  Picture a guy in the 1960’s flying a paper aircraft to his fellow brainy science teammates (who can think outside of the box) and telling them to figure out how to get this into space.  The movies ended with the unveiling of the Atlantis.

Grown men cried.  You could have heard a pin drop.  No one realized the Atlantis – the real deal – would be there.  Right there.

That evening we had dinner at the Valiant Air Command Museum.  We had the whole place, with planes predominantly from Korea and Vietnam – the squadron’s era of aviation.

The F-4 Phantom.

I love this plane!  It is an F-11 Tiger.  It was parked at the entrance.

American history is important, and that’s much of what I teach to preschoolers.  History builds pride and goodness, doing the right thing, and helping others.  Our world needs a big dose of just that.

I will start teaching about the astronauts landing on the moon.  We will learn about the moon.  I will tell a Jennie “It happened like this” story, because I was there, fifty years ago.

Where will I begin?  With the eagle, of course.


Posted in America, Early Education, geography, history, Inspiration, Learning About the World, military, patriotism, preschool, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 68 Comments

Reading Aloud – To You! Part 4

My reading aloud The Poet’s Dog by Patricia MacLachlan continues with chapters six and seven.  Chapter six is 4:25 and chapter seven is 3:04.

Ellie can now hear Teddy speak, and Sylvan becomes quite sick.  The snow storm is showing no sign of letting up.


Posted in books, chapter reading, children's books, Dogs, Early Education, Particia MacLachlan, reading aloud, reading aloud | Tagged , , , , , , | 37 Comments

Reading Aloud = Academic Success

I will always champion reading aloud to children because I know, first hand, what a huge difference it makes.  Some people need to hear all the reasons.  I have written plenty of stories about those.  Some people need to read statistics.

Words of wisdom from research:

I read to children in my classroom all the time.  They have full access to books that are front facing and readily available.

Children copy what they see, and if they see reading, they are far more likely to get books from the bookshelf and read.

Whether it is group reading or independent reading does not matter.
As children become comfortable with books, they take it to the next level, incorporating books into their play.
Often, Gloria is the beneficiary.

The most important thing I do for children is read aloud.


Posted in books, Early Education, reading, reading aloud, reading aloud | Tagged , , , , , | 84 Comments

The Crossing Guard Chronicles: New School Year and The ‘Curbside Classroom’

Steve the Crossing Guard is back to his ‘Curbside Classroom’ for another school year. What he brings to children is nothing short of amazing. Yes, Steve, as you said so well, “Directions are important. We need to know where we’re going in life.” Thank you for pointing children in the right direction. Read on!


I stood resolute at my post, the early morning calm about to be broken by the approaching din of young voices and squeaky bicycles, a familiar and welcoming sound. It’s the first day of the new school year in Brighton, New York.

I stood prepared, blue book in hand, to take names and review notes, notes to refresh my memory of ‘old faces’ and add new names for new faces. As a school crossing guard, these are ‘my kids’ for the next ten months, learning their names is important.

And the ‘Curbside Classroom’ is reopened for business.

“Pick a card! Point it in the direction according to its label: North, South, East or West!”


That was the first day of school, a month ago, and I’m getting better with names, and the kids know we cross in an easterly direction.

It’s my job to see the kids make it…

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Reading Aloud – To You! Part 3

I continue reading aloud The Poet’s Dog, by Patricia MacLachlan, with chapters four and five.  Chapter four is 4:22 and chapter five is 4:32.

In chapters two and three, Teddy took the children to the cabin.  We learned about Sylvan.  The snowstorm is raging.  In the following chapters, we learn more about Sylvan the poet and the teacher, and about Ellie.  And, the snowstorm grows worse.  It is good, so hang on!


Posted in Book Review, books, chapter reading, children's books, Dogs, Inspiration, Particia MacLachlan, Poetry, reading aloud | Tagged , , , , , | 30 Comments