Saturday, September 8, 2018


As the 2018-2019 school year gets underway, I want to stress the importance of READING and challenge everyone to make reading one of the most important activities of every day. 

Many items have invaded the school day AND our lives in general making the most important activity of every day a luxury in many classrooms and homes. Reading aloud and independent reading are the two most important activities that should happen every day, in every classroom, in EVERY subject and in every home by every student, teacher and family.

Make reading a priority. The best way to become a reader is to read. Read a book that you can understand. You may have to look up a few words, ask a teacher or other person about a short passage. No matter what grade level or subject area - yes, even math and physical education, there are books that can be read to entice, inform, embellish and entertain. 

If you see students 4 or 5 days a week, certainly there is time to read. If you see students only once a week, devote part of your class together to reading and include a required reading book outside the class. Conversely, if you and your family are working and running around with activities and chores, there is still a way in every day to make time for reading for the entire family. 

Below are a few themed booklists to get you started. If you don't see what you need, take a look at some of my previous posts or inbox me with what your grade level, subject matter or particular student that can never find anything to read - the more specific you are with your goals and objectives, the better the suggestion. The more you read - the more you know... 

Reading Rockets Books By Theme

Pre-18th Century to Present Materials and Recommended Reading

Emily's Lists of Science Books for Kids of All Ages

Oprah's Favorite Books

Wednesday, August 29, 2018


Shop your local indie bookstore or visit your local library.
HAPPY NEW (SCHOOL) YEAR! Make this the best school year ever. Keep it simple, enjoy each moment and focus on your students. One of my favorite mantras is "work hard, show respect and be responsible." What are some ways we can model this for our students and children?

As parents make sure your child is ready to learn. I recommend reading My Shining Star by Rosemary Wells pictured to the left.

As teachers we should always be prepared and treat every student as though they were our own child or our favorite niece or nephew. My Shining Star is for everyone. Adapt it's ten principles to your teaching practice and classroom "rules." Students know when a teacher cares and respects them. Students know when a teacher is prepared. Students want things to be fair but understand that fair does not always mean the same thing for each student. 

When we model our expectations as adults and accept the responsibility of being a parent or teacher FIRST students will notice. It doesn't mean everyday will be easy, it does mean you are modeling the attributes you expect from them. Walk the talk.

Monday, July 2, 2018


Check the library or shop your local indie bookstore.
I just finished reading The Hero Two Doors Down by Sharon Robinson. Truth be told, it's been sitting in my pile for sometime and it's a level T so that means a couple hours for a "grown up" reader! But I digress, the year is 1948, the hero is Jackie Robinson and the author of this mostly true story is Jackie Robinson's daughter Sharon. I absolutely love the cover and would reinforce one of my favorite teaching mantras, "every picture tells a story." We would start by looking at the picture and imagine what the story might be about. The story is a perfect read for baseball season in 3rd or 4th grade - with a teacher leading and in addition to presenting a love of family and baseball it touches themes of friendship, prejudice and self-control. If you see your students every day you could easily read this book in two weeks. 

Check your library or shop your local indie bookstore.

Other books that could also be read with this title include the following:
In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord
Testing the Ice by Sharon Robinson & Kadir Nelson
Who was Jackie Robinson? by Gail Herman
We Are The Ship Story and Paintings by Kadir Nelson
Players in Pigtails by Shana Corey

The list is actually endless when it comes to forming a cohesive, meaningful and FUN unit around these books. In book me if you need assistance, otherwise let me know if you do a unit like these and how it goes.

Check your library or shop your local indie bookstore.

Here are a few more resources to add to your planning:
MLB's (Major League Baseball) Breaking Barriers in Sports and in Life

Check your library or shop your local indie bookstore.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Visit your library or shop your local indie bookstore.
Angie Thomas debut novel The Hate U Give is nothing short of amazing. It's no surprise that it has been on the New York Times Young Adult Bestseller list almost since it came out - 51 weeks as I write this. Power to the many young people that recognized a great story that needed to be told. It's also no surprise that it has won many awards including but not limited to 2017 National Book Award, Coretta Scott King Award and Michael L. Printz Honor Book. Power to all that award authors for their courage to tell stories of diversity and truth. And so it's no surprise that the book will also be made in to a movie. Power to the changing landscape of our film industry.

"Sometimes you can do everything right and things still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right." And sometimes you can seize the day and use your voice to make changes that are long overdue - power to Angie Thomas for putting it out there in a way that pushes the discussion and change. Everyone should read this book.

Sunday, February 18, 2018


President Obama visits Falcon Launch Site
Using multimedia offers many opportunities across all subject areas. Long a proponent of using a variety of media to engage my readers, today's technologies makes it so much easier than in the past. The challenge is in knowing how to format, pace and integrate appropriate sources. How do we do this? Let's take the recent launch of SpaceX Falcon Heavy as an illustration and the variety of appropriate media resources to engage your students in math, science, social studies, ELA and at home. 

Depending on the age of your students, subject area and your objectives, the idea of space exploration from rocketry to cold war, studying the solar system can take many forms. For K-2 see Ms. M's Materials and my use of the First Graders From Mars series. One could easily add a short video of the Falcon Heavy launch (and I mean short - less than 5 minutes these are 1st graders after all). They will ask to "see it again" and that's fine but one of the biggest mistakes when integrating video is playing a "long" video. 

Visit your library or shop your local indie bookstore.
There are many books for elementary students and Emily Lakdawalla offers years of reviews on The Planetary Society website. Ms. Lakdawalla has been doing the list for 9 years and she checks every book for factual information. Older Than the Stars by Karen C. Fox, illustrated by Nancy Davis is on the list. Perfect for early elementary in its repetitive rhyme about the Big Bang Theory. The Planetary Society is an amazing resource itself, "Cofounded by Sagan. Led by Nye. Powered by you."

Visit your library or shop your local indie bookstore.

The movie Hidden Figures based on the book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly can provide engagement on many levels. There are a ton of resources for middle and high school students studying the Cold War. Journeys in Film not only offers a free downloadable viewing guide for the move, but will send teachers a free DVD. Also checkout NASA for the story behind the story and see some "Modern Figures," rocketry and many other resources.

Visit your library or shop your local indie bookstore.
Regardless of the direction of your discovery, when integrating media be sure to be clear on your objectives and make sure that your materials are age appropriate. Video, texts and hands on activities can be mixed together to foster maximum engagement by your students and/or plan a fun family activity. Have an idea but struggling to format it? You don't have enough time to pull all the resources together? Think you've got it but want to virtually brainstorm with you? I can help. Inbox me and turn ordinary lessons in to engaging discoveries.

Monday, February 12, 2018


If you missed the 2018 Youth Media Awards click here to see the ceremony and get more information and inspiration!


A quick post today to suggest other ways to find a book to read. Brightly is a blog started by publisher Penguin Random House in 2014 to help parents and educators connect kids with the right books at the right time. The layout of the blog makes it extremely easy to use and provides some great ideas to make reading fun. They also have a newsletter that you can subscribe to. Be selective about what sites or blogs you follow. Manage your social media. If you find you are not getting great suggestions for you, then it's not a fit and unsubscribe. There are so many great places to find ideas today but don't get lost in the forest of social media time waste. Focus on that book a week or challenge of your choice for maximum pleasure.

Another place to find inspiration is on the ALA (American Library Association) website. You can follow them on all the regular social media outlets, but check out their "Award, Grants and Scholarship" pages and create your own reading challenges from the comprehensive Award Lists. Perhaps this year you will see how many Caldecott Award Winners you can read in 2018! Book Riot author Laura Sackton offers 50 DIY Reading Challenges to Make 2018 the Best Reading Year of Your Life! There are 50 great ideas here including number 8 "Read 52 comics - one comic per week!" or how about number 10, "Think of one or two authors who have written at least one book that  you've loved. Now read everything else those authors have published." (Madeleine L'Engle was "her" first!).
Visit your library or shop your local indie bookstore!

Speaking of Madeleine L'Engle, reading or rereading a book you've already read is another way to keep your reading on track - especially when a movie is about to come out! I'm not certain how many times or when I last read A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle -  you can see by the cover photo it's an older version! I'm rereading the book so I'm ready for the March 9th release of the Disney movie. If you follow this blog, you know I am a firm believer of reading the book FIRST. For me, I won't even watch the trailer before I finish rereading the book...but if you want to entice your students or child, by all means watch the trailers.

Thursday, February 1, 2018


Good choice!
How do you find a book that is right for you, your child or your student? A book that one will read from cover to cover can be a daunting task for new readers. For this post, I would like to provide some guidance on getting the right books in to the hands of new and emerging readers. 

Let’s start at the beginning with a comprehensive, well researched article by Pamela Paul and Maria Russo (The New York Times Books) entitled How to Raise a Reader. If you are a parent, it's never too late to start but showing by example is extremely important. If you are a teacher of students that may not have had the type of access this article suggests from an early age, I want to invite you to think about your classroom as your home with your own child or children. How could you use these same strategies and ideas to modify how you teach? One example that is fun at home or school is to "read and repeat." My kindergarten and first grade students love doing this. “I say it first, you say it second.” The Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems are great for this as are Ring! Yo? and Yo! Yes? by Chris Raschka. 

Shop your local indie bookstore.
Determine your objective and identify resources to meet your objective. If you have a FREE or classroom library, be sure to include age appropriate anchor charts or reading checklists (for students who are already reading and writing) to guide your reader. Every classroom library should have an anchor chart that guides selection that you have hopefully reviewed multiple times with your students. 

Even after having library class for several years and some of the greatest rock star classroom teachers, my library students would stand in line to check out a book they had not even opened! You can not reinforce how to find the book that's right for you enough. On the flip side there are those students who will look at every book in your classroom library or take the entire class period in library and NOT find a book. This is a skill that requires lots of practice. For my upper elementary students I would often make reading passports and they would be challenged to read a book from multiple genres throughout the year and earn stickers for each. Access to a variety of reading materials must be matched by knowledgeable guidance and example!

Shop your local indie bookstore.
Visit Reading Rockets a national multimedia literacy initiative offering information and resources on how young kids learn to read, why so many struggle, and how caring adults can help. Choosing and Using Kids Books is a great section with information for parents, caregivers and teachers alike. A sister site in Spanish is Colorin Colorado.

You may also enjoy reading The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller and Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child by Pernille Ripp. Add more reading minutes to your day by listening...try Audible and get your first two books free!

Please note: If you purchase a recommended book through this site I earn an affiliate commission.

Friday, January 26, 2018


Joe Bagley in BU Today
Shop your local indie bookstore.
I had a great time this week attending the sold out BU Alumni Association presentation by City Archaeologist and fellow BU Alum Joe Bagley (CAS '06), Let's Talk Mutton! Held at Bastille Kitchen,  it was a perfect venue to talk about the thousands of artifacts unearthed at the site and the insights those artifacts can give us about people, place and time. You may recall I talked about his book in my currently reading blog back in October. This book was also selected by the Boston Public School Librarian's Book Club for non-fiction reads last school year, (2016-2017). Unfortunately you can't attend the talk, but you can buy the book that supports the City of Boston Archaeology Department and read more about BU's Archaeology program in BU Today. Joe was part of the team that excavated the Three Cranes Tavern in Charlestown as a result of the Big Dig. Secrets of the Three Cranes Tavern is Part I of a 5-part series about BU Archaeology Around the World in BU Today (by Amy Laskowski, 2014. Photo above by Cydney Scott, Video embedded in article by Bill Politis).
Getting my book signed!

Monday, January 22, 2018


My first blog post of the New Year challenged you and yours to read, read, read. Without becoming overly political or verbose in this space, I have watched far too many school years pass where students and teachers did not read or write very much. I’ve heard tons of “reasons” for completing just one or two books in an entire school year. Classes spend inordinate amounts of time reading passages and answering multiple choice and short answer form questions in an English class that meets 5 times a week! While this post is primarily focused on the role writing can and should play, I would like to inspire you with a quote from President Obama from the 2005 ALA Annual Conference address;
"At the dawn of the 21st century, where knowledge is literally power, where it unlocks the gates of opportunity and success, we all have responsibilities as parents, as librarians, as educators, as politicians, and as citizens to instill in our children a love of reading so that we can give them a chance to fulfill their dreams." 
Good readers think about their reading and what better way to reflect on good reading than writing? As a library media specialist for the last 9 years, I could always tell which students would pass a high stakes test and those who wouldn't just from their reading and writing habits. I have also watched as scheduling and a lack of understanding of school libraries support the plummeting of student success – but I digress and tempt you to come back another day for a future post about the importance of school libraries and the role certified library teachers play in whole school progress. For this post I'm asking you to recognize what distracts you and your students. How many times a day do you look at Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or text someone something that just happened? Parents: you have a role in this too–your child should have time everyday for reading and writing. 

Shop your local indie bookstore.

This blog is about solutions and Ralph Fletcher’s A Writer’s Notebook, got me thinking. What if everyone put down their device and picked up a pen or pencil and followed Mr. Fletcher's ideas for “unlocking the writer within you?” If you are a teacher this book offers ideas you can use immediately with your students. The 12 chapters could be divided into 12 or 24 weeks of writing–that’s close to a school year! I've given you a link to buy the book on Amazon, but I would be surprised if there wasn't one of these books in your school already. If you are new to teaching, this book could guide you very easily in your first year...inbox me and I'll help you with your lesson plans. If you are a veteran teacher and are noticing that your students are not progressing, I suggest you take a quick read of Mr. Fletcher's books and see some of his tips on his web site. I believe if you mastered teaching with this book, you would see student improvement in reading and writing. 

 After 40 years of teaching and learning, writing curriculum, and running many successful programs, I respectfully conclude that the answer IS simpleto create readers and writers we must read and write and give our students the time to read and write. I have seen so much money and time spent on new “researched programs” on what works including re-training staff sometimes every year brought about by changes in administration and low test scores. If you have taught or been an administrator for a short time you know what I am talking about. We must make the time for students to read and write everyday and guiding them should not take hours of training an already educated certified teacher with a complicated, expensive “researched” program. If you are hiring a teacher and they are not a reader–move on. If you are an administrator and you are not a reader and a writer–you lack two of the basic skills to lead. If you are a parent struggling to get your child reading - read with them. Let them see you as a reader. So friends, put down your devices and get serious about reading and writing for yourself, your students and your children. Simply stated, readers and writers pass most tests easily and the most important test of living a fuller, more informed life is aced.

P.S. Reading this blog counts as reading!

Monday, January 1, 2018


Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks
As you reflect on 2017 don't forget to ask yourself about how many books you read and think about why reading is important for you. Serious Reading has a great article that gives us 30 Reasons to Read Books including being inexpensive entertainment, reducing stress, and improving your brain. I'm sure you can find a few reasons there that are meaningful to you. Resolve to STOP the distractions and check out this article in the LA Times by Jessica Roy on How to read more books in 2018. No excuses in 2018. You may want to make your reading a more social affair, try one of my ideas in Form a Book Group Challenge a post from September 2017 and see how 2018 can be one of the best years ever...because you are reading!