Friday, July 29, 2011

OFF THE SHELF -- I Read It, But I Don't Get It

I Read It, But I Don't Get It
Stenhouse Publishers

This book is another gift to my fellow teachers who are preparing to start another year of teaching.  Even if you don't teach reading, even if you don't teach adolescents--this book will help you to create focus in your students as they read your lessons.  It is full of strategies and theories that will be immediately useful, and that will show results. I am a Tovani fan! We all know people who read the page but have no idea what they just read.  Help them focus by incorporating these strategies.

Level:  Professional

Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are
1964, Caldecott Medal 

Summary: Mas, after running wild through the house, is sent to his room.  He creates an imaginary forest, which he cruises away to, becoming King of the Wild Things that live there. 

Lesson:  This book was part of my Halloween unit, which also included Skeleton Hiccups and the song, "Monster Mash".  First I read Skeleton Hiccups.  The children, without much prompting on my part, loved doing the hiccups sound effects for each page.  I then read Where the Wild Things Are.  During the dancing section of the story, I played "The Monster Mash" and we all danced like monsters and zombies.  We returned to end the story.  The kids were then given handouts with a skeleton on it for them to color as they wished.  (If more time had allowed, I would have allowed glue-ons, like string for hair.)

Level:  PreK-2nd

Skeleton Hiccups

Skeleton Hiccups 
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2002

Summary:  In this hilarious story, Skeleton tries every known cure for the hiccups. 

Lesson:  This book was part of my Halloween unit, which also included Where the Wild Things Are and the song, "Monster Mash".  First I read Skeleton Hiccups.  The children, without much prompting on my part, loved doing the hiccups sound effects for each page.  I then read Where the Wild Things Are.  During the dancing section of the story, I played "The Monster Mash" and we all danced like monsters and zombies.  We returned to end the story.  The kids were then given handouts with a skeleton on it for them to color as they wished.  (If more time had allowed, I would have allowed glue-ons, like string for hair.)

Level: PreK - 2nd

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

OFF THE SHELF -- Tsunami!

by Kimiko Kajikawa , Ed Young (Illustrator) 
Penguin, 2009

After the Japanese Tsunami of 2011, parents and teachers wanted a book to use to talk to their younger children about the natural disaster.  This narrative tells of the foreboding caused by the surreal earthquake and tidal movements, the waves, the ensuing destruction, and the people's reaction throughout as one farmer's act of heroism saves their lives.  The narrative is supported by Caldecott winning illustrator Ed Young.  The vicarious experience opened doors for discussion about an ocean-based phenomena to students that had never seen the ocean. 

The Snowy Day

The Snowy Day
1963, Caldecott Medal

Summary:  Waking up to a snowy day, a young boy enjoys playing in the snow. 

Lesson:  2010 Read for the Record title. When I decided our campus would contribute in the Read for the Record event, my students were elated to be part of something that was worldwide.  Instead of reading the book to them, I decided to make it feel more global by showing the online book version.  The images were bigger and easier to see, so afterwards, I talked about the Caldecott Medal for artwork in a book.   

Level:  PreK - 2nd

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

OFF THE SHELF--Caddie Woodlawn

Caddie Woodlawn 
1935, Newbery Medal Winner

I would be remiss if I did not give recognition to one of my favorite books of all time, Caddie Woodlawn. It is a work of historical fiction written based upon stories told by the author's grandmother of her childhood.  Raised in the Midwest plains, with Indians for neighbors, young Caddie is brave, smart, and loyal, each of her adventures as harrowing as the next.  To this day, 30 years later, I can still hear the rattlesnakes rattling in this book.  When the 4th grade teacher said she wanted her kids to pick a work of historical fiction, it was the first book I grabbed off the shelf.  

If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks

If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks 
by Faith Ringgold , Faith Ringgold (Illustrator)
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2002

Summary:  This delightful book tells the story of Rosa Parks from the bus's point of view.  Unlike other Civil Rights books that speak from erudite perspective, this is a friendly voice that children used to Thomas the Tank Engine, et al, will feel quickly warm up to.  A great way to couch an important event in the visuals and language of a younger audience.  

Lesson:  The Kindergarten and 1st grade teachers were looking for a book on Civil Rights.  Most books are written in textual format, with a few photographs interspersed.  This book was appropriate to engage their interests and to bring abstract concepts down to their level.  

Level:  Kinder-3rd 

Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse

Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse 
Penguin, 2010

Summary:  Nellie Sue is a cowgirl who needs a horse. And when she gets a bike for her birthday, she uses her imagination to ride her horse around the neighborhood.  Full of whoopin' and hollerin', and a good ole time. 

Lesson:  This was completely impromptu--the children realizing it was my birthday insisted we read a birthday book.  I had just gotten this one in a delivery, so I read it to them.  The girls loved it; the boys were at first put off by all the pink, but then became involved with her crashing down the hill and lassoing the other kids.  Afterwards, we had fun sharing what we imagine when we ride a bike, or go down a slide, etc. 

Level:  PreK-2nd

Monday, July 25, 2011

OFF THE SHELF -- Fox Makes Friends

Fox Makes Friends
Sterling Publishing, 2005

This book comes with my son's seal of approval.  I cannot even begin to count how many times he brought this book home from his school's library between kindergarten and 2nd grade.  So when I first started working in an elementary library, it was my "go to" choice when a student asked for a "good book".  When Fox's mother suggests that he go outside and make some friends, he takes her literally and starts to build a friend with sticks.  As other animals come along to help him with his task, he unknowingly fulfills his task by making real friends.

Level:  PreK - 2nd

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Latino Legends: Hispanics in Major League Baseball

Latino Legends: Hispanics in Major League Baseball 
Coughlin Publishing, 2003

Summary:  Short, Sports focused biographies of famous Hispanics in Major League Baseball.

Lesson:  I used this book twice.  First, when a grade level was doing biographical research, I showed them this as an example of how to find biographies based upon the topic's profile:  Female scientists, Presidents, Civil Rights Leaders, baseball players, etc.  Then later, when talking about searching for information, I was showing the students how to use the table of contents and the index pages. 

Level: 3rd - 6th

Cinco de Mouse-O!

Cinco de Mouse-O! 
Holiday House, 2010

Summary:  Following the smells, mouse visits a Cinco de Mayo celebration.  Danger ensues as he climbs onto a pinata above the stalking cat.  A great adventure, full of Mexican culture. 

Lesson:  I read this story on Cinco de Mayo (May 5th) as a way to celebrate Mexican culture and part of our state's history (Texas).  We also talked about ways our community celebrated Cinco de Mayo.

Level:  Kinder-3rd

Saturday, July 23, 2011

OFF THE SHELF -- The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games 
Scholastic, 2008

The Hunger Games is the first book of the dystopian trilogy, The Hunger Games, followed by Catching Fire and Mockingjay. The series combines the political statement of 1984 with the dangerous societal games of The Running Man, using teenagers as main characters.  While the YA target audience is middle and high school, I did suggest this first book to a few 5th graders already reading middle school books.  Before long, most of the 5th and 4th grade faculty had read the trilogy.  

Level:  6th - adult

The Popcorn Book

The Popcorn Book 
Holiday House, 1989

Summary:  This book includes recipes, facts and legends about popcorn.  An informative and entertaining read.

Lesson:  A teacher was going to talk about Native Americans foods, so I gave her this book to use in her unit.

Level: 2nd-6th

Arthur's April Fool

Arthur's April Fool
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 1985

Summary:  It's April Fools Day and the whole school is preparing for a talent show.   But the school bully is ruining it for everyone.  Arthur puts the bully in his place with a little joke of his own. 

Lesson:  A good book for standing up to bullies.  Also a good book for showing lower grades harmless April Fools fun. 

Level: 1st-3rd

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ah, to be young again........

Last night I was driving two 10 year old boys to see the final Harry Potter movie.  I was listening to them discuss the house elves, who had been (for the most part) a sub-plot left out of the movies.  As I thought of 2 ten year old boys reading and discussing what they had read, I thought--"It just doesn't get any better than this."  But then they went on to explain to the father of one (who hadn't read the books) how the elves deserved to be free, to explain the importance of Hermione's cause.  And then I knew--"It doesn't get any better than this."

OFF THE SHELF--When a Pet Dies

When a Pet Dies 
by Fred Rogers , Jim Judkis (Photographer) 
Penguin, 1998

Mr. Rogers talks sensitively about the emotions people feel as a beloved pet dies.  He discusses the grief and healing processes, reassuring the children that this part of life.  When a community death touched much of our population, teachers of lower grades sought resources to help the children understand death.  With this book, the teachers were able to first talk about death and grief and healing; and, then, they talked about the tragic event and loss of a father, uncle, friend of the family. 

Level:  PreK-3rd

One is a Feast for Mouse

One Is a Feast for Mouse: A Thanksgiving Tale 
by Judy Cox , Jeffrey Ebbeler (Illustrator)
Holiday House, 2008

Summary:  After the humans finish their Thanksgiving feast, Mouse climbs down to take just one pea for his feast.  But his eyes are bigger than his stomach as he adds more and more to his menu.  A repetitive book that kids loved repeating with me as each new item was stacked on top. 

Lesson:  I read this book for Thanksgiving.  The repetition allowed for students to become verbal participants in the storytelling, and to predict what would happen next. 

Level: Kinder-3rd

Shark vs. Train

Shark vs. Train 
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010

Summary:  Shark and train match up against one another to see who would win in a variety of scenarios, from swimming to hot balloon riding, video games to hide-n-seek.  Hilarious side comments are made in the voice balloons in the pictures. 

Lesson:  I read this book to expose my lower grades (and teachers) to the 2x2 list (recommended reads for PreK-2nd).  If I had found the book sooner, I would have used it for the "live vs not live" units in kindergarten and 1st.  After I read this book, the three copies never touched a bookshelf for the rest of the school year.  And the students loved the signed poster by author Chris Barton I put on the wall.

Level: Kinder-3rd  (although even my 5th graders loved this book)

McDuff's Christmas

McDuff's Christmas 
Hyperion, 2005

Summary:  McDuff and his family are waiting for Christmas to come, despite the tremendous snowfall outside.  When McDuff hears something outside, he wakes up his owners to go out into the cold.

Lesson:  This was a great book to talk about snow.  The types of clothing, the necessity of shoveling, the problems with holes in your shoes.  Being in the South, our children rarely see more than an inch once every few years.  They were very amazed at all the trouble it caused for McDuff and his family.  After I read this book, I couldn't keep McDuff books on the shelf. 

Level:  1st-3rd

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

OFF THE SHELF--The Night Before Kindergarten

The Night Before Kindergarten (Reading Railroad Books Series) 
 Penguin, 2001

I bought this book when my son was about to enter kindergarten.  Since then, I have suggested it to every parent I know has a kid about to start school.  The poem shows kids getting their clothes and backpacks ready for the first day of school.  The first morning, they find the classroom to be fun and engaging while the parents wait anxiously in the hall.  A great way to help kids move smoothly into their first day of school, by calming their fears. 

Level:  K-1

If I Ran the Rain Forest

If I Ran the Rain Forest: All About Tropical Rain Forests 
 Random House, 2003

Summary:  Two kids join the Cat-in-the-Hat in a journey through the rain forest, where they learn about the features, plants and animals of a tropical rain forest. 

Lesson:  I sent this book to a teacher who was doing a unit on the rain forest.  The students enjoyed having the "lesson" narrated by a familiar and fun character. 

Level:  1st-4th

A Day in the Life of a Zookeeper

A Day in the Life of a Zookeeper
Coughlan, 2004

Summary:  Using real pictures to match the text, the book chronicles all the duties and responsibilities of a zookeeper.

Lesson:  I used this book in my lesson comparing Fiction and NonFiction.  The students loved it so much, it was checked out for the rest of the year. It was paired with A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead for the Fiction title.

Level:  PreK-3

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

OFF THE SHELF---Mini-Lessons for Literature Circles

Mini-lessons for Literature Circles
Heinemann, 2004

Teachers and Student Interns often ask where I get some of my creative ideas.  I have to give a lot of credit to Harvey Daniels and Nancy Steineke's Mini-lessons for Literature Circles.  While Mr. Daniels previous books on literature circles provided a lot of theory behind the practice, this book provided actual lessons that could be quickly adopted or modified.  It is probably the single most influential professional text for activities that I have read.  I have adapted its tenets for other subject areas and units. 
Level: Professional

Skin Like Milk, Hair of Silk

Skin Like Milk, Hair of Silk: What Are Similes and Metaphors? 
by Brian P. Cleary , Brian Gable (Illustrator) 
Lerner Publishing, 2009

Summary:  A rhyming book that uses humor to show the difference between similes and metaphors.  Full of examples, the pictures help the reader to imagine comparison made by the figurative language. 

Lesson:  The 5th graders were doing a creative writing assignment in class.  After using this book to understand the writing technique, I grouped students with poetry books and asked them to find more examples. 

Level:  2nd-6th

City Dog, Country Frog

City Dog, Country Frog 
Hyperion, 2010

Summary:  Told in soft water colors, the City Dog visits the country and befriends the County Frog.  As the seasons pass, they play froggie and doggie games, until one disappears forever. It's use of parallel structure with each season makes it easy for younger readers to follow. 

Lesson:  I read this book as part of a book talk promoting new books in the library and the students loved it.  Several purposes jump to mind for its use in the library or classroom.  One is the seasonal changes that occur.  A second is the comparison with the original city mouse/country mouse tale.  Another is a biology lesson about animals and seasons/weather.  And a fourth is one about death being part of the cycle of life, and moving forward after it strikes a loved one.  Finally, that death is actually left up for interpretation, and so asking students what happened to the missing animal is a good discussion on reading between the lines. 

Level:  Kinder--3rd


Twosomes: Love Poems from the Animal Kingdom 
 Random House Children, 2010

Summary:  Each page is a couplet devoted to an animal.  Cute pictures go with each poem.

Lesson:  The first graders were doing research projects on animals.  I showed them this book, which they immediately identified as a rhyming book.  I had them write a couplet about their animal, which they put in their research folder.

Level:  2nd-4th

OFF THE SHELF-- The Fairy Tale Detectives

The Fairy Tale Detectives (Sisters Grimm Series #1)
Harry N. Abrams, 2005

A mother was looking for a book to read as a bedtime story to her 8 year old boy and 5 year old girl.  I  suggested The Sisters Gimm series, as it has action and fairy tales.  In this fractured fairytale, two young sisters (surnamed Grimm) learn that fairy tale creatures are real.  Living with their grandmother, they learn their family's legacy in a world where Prince Charming is the town mayor and the three little pigs are the town police force.  But when Grandmother Grimm turns up missing, the sisters turn into detectives to find her.  There are 9 books in the series.

Level:  3rd-6th

If I Ran the Circus

If I Ran the Circus
Random House Childrens, 1956

Summary:  A young boy elaborates on the wonders and exotic animals he would have in his circus.  A rhyming book.

Lesson:  On Dr. Seuss's birthday, the school held a character parade, so many of the children were dressed up and in a carnival spirit.  I read this during their storytime, and gave each a Dr. Seuss reading sticker.

Level: 1st-4th

Look at the Size of That Long-Legged Ploot!

Look at the Size of That Long-Legged Ploot! 
by Scott E. Sutton
Action Publishing, 2010

Summary:  When a Beebee accidentally breaks something and blames someone else, Jeeter and his friends set out to find the culprit.  A rhyming picture book that is also a chapter book.  Part of the Family of Rhee series. 

Lesson:  I only read the first 3 chapters to the students and then asked them to predict how the story would unfold.  Students had to provide prove from the text for their predictions.  Once it was established the Beebee had lied and blamed someone else, we discussed the consequences and morality of his actions. Then Scott E Sutton visited the campus.  He talked about drawing.  The he talked about narrative story building.  Afterwards, the kindergartners wrote their own stories and hosted their author visit, when the parents came to see them. 

Level: 1st-3rd

Monday, July 18, 2011

Pirate Pete's Talk Like a Pirate

Pirate Pete's Talk Like a Pirate
by Kim Kennedy , Doug Kennedy (Illustrator) 
Harry N. Abrams, 2007

Summary:  Pirate Pete is trying to outfit his pirate ship with a scalawag pirate crew.  Although each has their own unique talents with rope and cannon, if they can't talk like a pirate, then it's "Walk the plank!" for them. 

Lesson:  As a reward, the students were given a "Pirate Day" at school, when they could dress and talk like a pirate.  I read this book to enrich the experience for them, and had all the library's pirate books pulled out on display so they could check them out. 

Level: PreK- 3rd

D is for Dancing Dragon

D is for Dancing Dragon: A China Alphabet 
by Carol Crane , Zong Wang (Illustrator) 
Sleeping Bear Press, 2006

Summary:  By assigning a different aspect of Chinese Culture to each letter of the English Alphabet, the author is able to both entertain and inform the reader.  From legends of evil spirits to foods to Great Walls, there is much to learn about Chinese culture. 

Lesson: I read this book the week of Chinese New Year.  For the younger students, I focused mostly on the alphabet and the words that began with it.  I lingered on some of the more well-known cultural aspects, such as fireworks and kites.  For the older students, I ignored the alphabet and focused on the different aspects of culture, asking how it compared to some of our traditions.  Please note that Gale has a free teacher's guide for this book:

Level:  Kinder-5th 

The Story of the Chinese Zodiac

The Story of the Chinese Zodiac (El Zodiaco Chino)
by Monica Chang (Retold by) , Arthur Lee (Illustrator) , Beatriz Zeller (Translator)
Yuan-Liou Publishing Company, 1994

Summary:  The retelling of the Chinese legend of how their zodiac was created.  All of the animals are called to race, with the first 12 to cross the line earning a place in the zodiac.  Cat and Rat have a plan....

Lesson:  I read this the week of Chinese New Year.  I also made bookmarks with the birth years of all the grade levels corresponding to their Chinese Zodiac sign.  The children had fun figuring out their year, and that of siblings and friends. 

Level:  K-3rd

If I Were President

If I Were President 
Whitman, Albert & Company, 1999

Summary:  This book explains all the duties, responsibilities, and privileges of being the President of the United States of America by having children imagine themselves in the role.  From meeting foreign dignitaries and creating laws to commanding the army and using the White House movie theater room, the job of president is painted as one of responsibility, leadership, and fun. 

Lesson: I read this the week of President's Day, which happened to be two weeks after Career Week.  Since we had already discussed careers and their unique responsibilities, this was an extension of that conversation.  Also, since we live an hour from a President's birthplace, we talked about how someone "local" could grow up to be President. 

Level:  1st-3rd

Sunday, July 17, 2011

OFF THE SHELF--Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
by JK Rowling
Scholastic, 1997

A student teacher asked me for a book written on a 5th grade reading level.  Most 5th graders are about 11 years old.  I recommended the first book of the Harry Potter series.  It is the book that Harry turns 11 years old, and it is written on that level.  Each of the books becomes more complex, as Harry ages, and so as the reader ages, the reading level becomes more complex, too.  The book speaks to many of the concerns of a 5th grader, also.  The fear of leaving what you've always known as you go off to a new school (in the US, that would be middle school).  Making friends and creating enemies as cliques start to form on the playground.  Starting that adolescent trek of learning who you are as an individual.  It hits the 11 year old reader on all levels.

Level:  4th-8th

The Recess Queen

The Recess Queen
Scholastic, 2002

Summary:  Mean Jean is the playground bully.  All the kids are scared of her, that is, until the new kid in class befriends and tames her wild ways. 

Lesson:  Making new friends; dealing with bullies; the new kid in class

Level:  PreK-3rd

14 Cows for America

14 Cows for America
Peachtree Publishers, 2009

Summary:  In this true story, Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah returns to his home tribe the Maasai in Kenya from New York City after the attacks of 9/11.  Listening to him describe the tragedy, his tribe decides to donate a cow (their most important of possessions) to the United States of America, which later grows to 14 cows.  The pictures are vibrant, providing much cultural information.  The afterword by Naiyomah himself provides information about the fate of the cows. 

Lesson:  I read this story on anniversary of 9/11.  Many of my students had not yet been born, and had lots of questions--turning this into a history lesson.  We also talked about the importance of tolerance between peoples.  Finally, we talked about doing something for someone that is sad, like the tribe did for the sad American people.  We discussed scenarios of how even little people like kids could help a sad parent, sibling, or friend. 

Level:  1st-5th

Saturday, July 16, 2011

That's Good! That's Bad! in Washington, DC

That's Good! That's Bad! in Washington, DC
Henry Holt and Co., 2007

Summary:  As a little boy tours Washington, DC, he encounters hilarious incidents that are both good and bad along the way.  From the Smithsonian National Zoo to the Lincoln Memorial, it is a fast and hilarious romp. 

Lesson:  This entire series by Margery Cuyler is good for predicting what will happen next.  I picked the one about Washington, DC, because it was Constitution week, so we could talk about the nation's capital afterwards.  For a science/geography lesson, the book about the Grand Canyon would be an equally good choice. 

Level:  1st-3rd

OFF THE SHELF -- Where the Red Fern Grows

Where the Red Fern Grows
by Wilson Rawls
Curtis Publishing, 1961

Throughout the year, several boys came to me looking for dog books.  They were aware of Sounder and Old Yeller, but not Where the Red Fern Grows.  I remember crying harder at this book than any I have ever cried through (but of course, I didn't tell the guys that).  I then noticed it was being checked out by word of mouth. It is the story of the bond that form between a boy and his two hunting dogs. So consider reading it, or re-reading it. 

Level:  4th - 12th


Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010

Summary:  These poems celebrate nature, as a haiku does, but from a boy's point of view with kites, rocks and mud. 

Lesson:  After enjoying a few samples from the book, students worked on counting syllables.  Then using templates provided by the author online, the students created their own guyku, complete with drawing. 

Level:  2nd - 8th 

Llama Llama Red Pajama

Llama, Llama Red Pajama
by Anna Dewdney
Penguin, 2005

Summary:  Llama llama can't go to sleep because he misses his mama.  A rhyming, picture book. 

Lesson:  I read this at the beginning of the year to the younger grades.  We talked about how mama was still there, even if we couldn't see her, trying to make the transition from home to school easier. 

Level:  PreK - 1st

Friday, July 15, 2011

Andrew's Loose Tooth

Andrew's Loose Tooth
by Robert N. Munsch, Michael Martchenko (illustr)
Scholastic, 2007

Summary:  Andrew's parents, best friend, dentist and tooth fairy try various methods to pull his loose tooth. 

Lesson:  Used in conjunction with a unit of dental health care.

Level: Kinder - 2nd

The Uglified Ducky

The Uglified Ducky: A Maynard Moose Tale
by  Willy Claflin
August House, 2008

Summary:  In this delightful twist on the Ugly Duckling, Maynard Moose tells the tale of the moose who thinks he's a duck.  Hilariously told, it comes with a moose glossary.  Willy Claflin tells the tale on the accompanying audio-CD.  Winner of the 2010 Texas Bluebonnet Award.

Lesson:   Used to discuss self-esteem and believing in yourself. As I read, Students picked up on the bad grammar and started to correct Maynard, so I think it could also be used in a grammar editing unit.

Level:  PreK - 3rd

The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy)

The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy)
Scholastic, 2010

Summary:  Using excepts from his daughter's biography of him, Barbara Kerley creates a biography of Mark Twain's home life and habits.  The final pages provide information on how to research and write a biography.

Lesson:  Used as a resource for teachers who were creating a unit on biographical reports. 

Level:  1st-6th

Wolf's Coming

Wolf's Coming
by Joey Kulka
Lerner, 2007

Summary:  A wonderful twist on the Big Bad Wolf, in this narrative poem, the local animals run and hide and the wolf gets closer and closer, until---Surprise!

Lesson:  I read this during National Poetry Month to the students as an example of poetry.  We then learned the types of books available in the 800's, such as Poetry, Jokes, and Tongue Twisters.  This book also makes use of highlighted adverbs, so I gave it to a student teacher creating a grammar lesson on adverbs. 

Level: 1st-4th


by Bill Thomson (Illustrator) 
Cavendish, Marshall, 2010

Summary: In this wordless picture book, three kids use their imagination to make their chalk drawings come to life. 

Lesson:  The story was told by allowing each student to interpret a page of the story, since there are no words to the story. At different junctures, students were asked to predict what would happen next.  Students then went outside to draw on the sidewalk with chalk (can color inside on rainy days).  Book can also be used to show perspective, as the drawings are highly realistic and from a multiple of levels.

Level:  PreK-2nd

Ah, to be young again...

Kids often say or do the darnedest things!  Sometimes, these are so cute, they must be shared.  Perhaps it's as simple as spending half an hour looking for a book about cars, only to find he wanted the book "Heavy Metal Mater" based on the Cars movie. Or perhaps it's the long story about how the little sister spilled milk all over the book she just turned in dripping wet.  Stay tuned for anecdotes throughout the year!  Feel free to add your own in the comments section.


Game Day
by Tiki Barber , Ronde Barber , Barry Root (Illustrator)
Simon & Schuster, 2005
My recommendation today was to a mother of two boys (a year apart) who were athletically-minded.  I suggested the books written by Tiki and Ronde Barber, which reminisce their childhood playing football together as twins. The dynamics of good sportsmanship and family unity are stressed. There are multiple stories, which are available in picture book and chapter book format.

Charro Claus and the Tejas Kid

Charro Claus and the Tejas Kid
by Xavier Garza
Cinco Puntos, 2010

Summary:  When Santa Claus is overburdened, he calls upon his Mexican cousin to help deliver presents along the Rio Grande border.  His stow-a-way nephew joins in the spirit, creating a legendary team.  Funny, with illustrations by the author.  Book is written in English and Spanish. 

Lesson:  I read this story as the dual language and bilingual classes were preparing for La Posada celebrations.  The students enjoyed seeing their cultural identy on the page (as well as "helping" me to correctly pronounce the words.)  This was followed up by an author visit from Xavier Garza, who talked to them about becoming storytellers themselves. 

Label:  Kinder-4th grade

The Library Dragon

The Library Dragon
Peachtree, 1994

Summary:  The school librarian is a dragon, keeping students and teachers alike from abusing the library books.  But when a student shows kindness to the books, the real librarian is revealed.

Lesson:  I read this book at the beginning of the year to the lower grades.  We discussed what they could do to keep the library dragon out of their school by showing kindness to the books. 

Level: Kinder-3rd

Dear Children of the Earth

Dear Children of the Earth:  A Letter from Home
by Schim Schimmel , Schim Schimmel (Illustrator)
Cooper Square, 1994

Summary:  Mother Earth writes a letter to humans, asking them to care for her and the animals that live on her.  Stunning pictures on each page. 

Lesson:  I read this on Earth Day to talk about how we can help to save the environment.  The students were captivated by the pictures and stayed focus.  Afterwards, we discussed things they could do at school and home to help the environment. Is also a good text for teaching letter writing organization. 

Level:  Kinder - 5th grade

How Rocket Learned to Read

How Rocket Learned to Read
by Tad Hills
Random House, 2010
Summary:  In this delightful tale, Rocket is taught to read by his teacher, a yellow bird.  When she flies south for the winter, Rocket continues to practice his reading skills during his vacation. 

Lesson:  This was the last story I read to the Kinder and 1st graders before summer vacation.  They enjoyed sounding out the words with Rocket, showing that they too had learned to read.  At the end, we talked about practicing their reading during their vacation. 

Level:  Pre-K - 2nd