All things literacy — Authors, Books, Connections . . .

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Baby Is Growing Up - Democracy

Baby Loves: Political Science - Democracy!

Baby has been the main scholar in several books by Ruth Spiro.

But in Democracy, Baby seems to have grown up and in this case she is looking at how our democracy functions.  Just in time for other young scholars to learn how they can get involved.
Baby gets involved in a rally by making signs, and helps by putting stamps on postcards, and bringing cookies to meetings, and although Baby can not vote she goes with Mommy as she does.  Baby learns that the candidate with the most votes win and even if your candidate does not win everyone can still be friends.  And  the best part, "One day Baby will be old enough to vote.  Maybe she will be a candidate and win an election, too."

This book is just in time to inspire young scholars to get involved and look for ways they can be part of our democracy.  Baby Loves Political Science: Democracy belongs in every library and on every child's book shelf.

Spiro, Ruth.  (2020) Baby Loves Political Science: Democracy.  Charlesbridge.

And if you like Baby Loves Political Science: Democracy check out the other books by Ruth Spiro.
Each of the books in the "Baby Loves" series are board books and suitable for very young readers and for primary aged readers as well.  These books are hits with kindergarteners and 1st graders who enjoy confirming their reading strategies by reading them for themselves.  Other primary-aged readers enjoy each of them as an introduction and spring board to other books on the topic.

Ruth Spiro has also written other picture books that lead to other interesting activities.  Her very first picture book was Lester Fizz, Bubble-Gum Artist  (Dutton, 2008).  Lester was the inspiration for National Bubble Gum Day which focuses on having fun with bubble gum while helping others.  Check out ideas for celebrating at  
And if you are interested in focusing on encouraging young learners to use their imagination and creativity.  Check out Made by Maxine (Dial, 2018).

And check out this blog post: "Being Good with Gizmos and Gadgets" (2019, April 06). McBookwords.  Retrieved from
featuring these books:
Martin, Jacqueline Briggs. (2019). Bim, Bam, Bop . And Oona. Illustrations by Larry Day. University of Minnesota Press. ISBN-13/EAN: 978-1517903954
Spiro, Ruth. (2018). Made by Maxine. Illustrations by Holly Hatam. Dial Books. ISBN-13/EAN: 978-0399186295

Learn more about author Ruth Spiro on her webpage at and watch for more books by her.  Huzzah Huzzah.


Sunday, February 16, 2020

Building a Community of Readers

Building a Community of Readers

Reading Success is Not a Difficult Puzzle

Successful Readers:  Building a community of successful readers is not a difficult puzzle to solve.  The basic components are simple:  libraries and qualified knowledgeable teachers who practice a comprehensive approach to teaching reading.  

The Instruction Component

The reading teacher employs strategies to strengthen and master ten elements that create successful and life-long readers (and learners):
  1. Phoneme awareness (letter-sound knowledge and concepts of print).
  2. Phonics and decoding (knowledge of letter sound-symbol associations).
  3. Fluency (ability to apply decoding skills and read in a fluent and automatic manner).
  4. Vocabulary (knowledge of word meanings enhance reading comprehension and vocabulary is greatly enhanced through read-alouds which can be shared at a higher reading level).
  5. Comprehension (the purpose of reading is to understand the written words. Rote recitation of words on a page does not constitute comprehension.  Reading must be accompanied by understanding).
  6. Written expression (writing supports reading and reading supports writing - two sides of the same coin).
  7. Spelling and handwriting (both are enhanced by reading, and exhibit a positive correlation).
  8. Assessment (screening, listening, assessing strengths and weaknesses) to impact instruction.
  9. Creating a desire to read (motivation, exposure to new and varied reading material, encouragement).
  10. Time and choice - readers must be given time to read.   And they must be allowed a significant opportunity to choose their own reading for pleasure and information.

Parents - how does your child's school stack up?Teachers - what are you doing to include these ten elements in your instruction?Administrators - what are you doing to support teachers and full-time librarians in your school?

Great Libraries: Well-stocked and professionally staffed (full-time certified librarian and full-time clerical/secretarial help) libraries are a must.  They provide resources and support the teacher and students in selecting books and reading material to support curriculum and their personal interests.

The Reading Puzzle - is Solveable

Reading in the Classroom -- An Important Piece of the Puzzle

There is a debate about the importance of reading in the classroom but we feel Stephen Krashen makes a compelling case for given children time and choice in reading during the school day, despite opposite opinions.  Common sense tells me that actually reading enhances skills - does one become a good golfer by only studying about golfing?  I think most would agree that one needs to practice, practice, practice and that is what time and choice with reading does -- allow readers to practice.  Expecting an athlete to become a great golfer only by taking lessons and seldom being on the links is as ridiculous as expecting a child to become a great reader without the opportunity to actually read.

Krashen, S. (2005) Is in-school free reading good for children? Why the National Reading Panel Report is (still) wrong.  Phi Delta Kappan 86(6): 444-447.

Summary: Stephen Krashen (2001)  reviewed the section of the National Reading Panel (NRP) report that dealt with fluency. He argued that in their review of in- school free reading research, the NRP missed a number of studies (they included only 14 comparisons of in-school free reading and regular instruction; Krashen found 53), and the NRP made serious errors in reporting the studies they did include. Krashen noted that some of the studies showing no difference between readers and comparisons involved students that were already advanced and had already established a reading habit. I pointed out that the NRP did not include long-term studies, which Krashen found to be more supportive of SSR than short-term studies, and they also included one study in which students were highly constrained on what they could read. Krashen argued that the case for free reading rests on more than experimental studies, that case histories also provided compelling evidence for the power of reading. Krashen concluded that the evidence in support of free reading in school was strong, contrary to the panel’s conclusion.  (Summary courtesy of Stephen Krashen, 2020).

Why Read Aloud?

There is an easy way to improve your child's chances at school. It will entertain and delight him. It will strengthen the bonds between the reader and you. And it is virtually free.

Read to Self • Buddy Read • Listening to a Read Aloud 

Sound too good to be true? Actually, it isn't. The magical method: taking time to read aloud to your child. Inspiration and ideas at

PARENTS AND TEACHERS:  When giving a book to a child/parents include a copy of this reading brochure with the book - it will help get the message to parents about the importance of reading. Go to McBookwords > Resources > Read Aloud Brochure (PDF)

TEACHERS: Promote reading at home with this program READ TO ME.  Information at when giving a book to a child/parents include a copy of this reading brochure with the book - it will help get the message to parents about the importance of reading. Go to McBookwords > Resources > Read to Me Everyday. (PDF)

Friday, February 07, 2020

Laura Ingalls Wilder - Happy Birthday

Celebrating Laura Ingalls Wilder's Birthday

(Originally shared on her birthday in 2009.)

A post from Sharron who is eating gingerbread with chocolate icing -- but alas no lemonade; only hot tea.

Today is Laura Ingalls Wilder's birthday or rather anniversary of her birth - born Feb. 7, as she died in 1957.  Laura Ingalls Wilder was born on February 7, 1867, near Pepin, Wisconsin. She was a teacher in South Dakota from 1882 to 1885, when she married Almanzo Wilder.   There is much discussion about the worthiness of her books given the image of Native Americans that is given throughout the books. There are indeed arguments both ways -- I prefer to say that they should always be used in the context of history and with much discussion about the times during which they were written. Actually I prefer the collections of stories that Harper has been putting together on thematic issues - dog stories, Christmas etc. With the addition of the wonderful illustrations these make great reading and do eliminate much of the stereotypic images that were in the novels themselves.

But it is her birthday and she traditionally served gingerbread with a chocolate icing, and often with lemonade, when company came.

Check out her own gingerbread recipe on the Hornbook site --  Scroll down and you will also see her recipe for gingerbread.  But here it is for those who want to bake it now.

1 cup brown sugar blended with
1/2 cup lard or other shortening.
1 cup molasses mixed well with this.
2 teaspoons baking soda in 1 cup boiling water
(Be sure cup is full of water after foam is run off into cake mixture).
Mix all well.
To 3 cups of flour have added one teaspoon each of the following spices: ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves; and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sift all into cake mixture and mix well.  Add lastly 2 well-beaten eggs.
The mixture should be quite thin.
Bake in a moderate oven for thirty minutes.
Raisins and, or, candied fruit may be added and a chocolate frosting adds to the goodness.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Celebrate the Holidays - with Books

Celebrate the Holidays - with Books

November 26
National Cake Day
Read The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake by Robin Newman
Miss Rabbit's carrot cake has gone missing and food detectives Wilcox and Griswold are on the case.
 Watch Wanda Slykes read the book on Storyline Online
Access a Core Curriculum correlated book guide here (pdf).

November 29
Native American Heritage DayRead Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith - and for other great books download this pdf of recommendations from First Nations.

And don't miss exploring the publications in the coming year that will be released by Heartdrum, a new Native-focused imprint from HarperCollins, led by award-winning and New York Times bestselling author, Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek).

Thanksgiving Day
Read Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano
Watch Marc Maron read the book on Storytime Online.  View the activity guide here.

Or read my favorite - Thanksgiving at the Tappleton's by Eileen Spinelli --
It seems as if EVERYTHING is going wrong, including Thanksgiving dinner.  A guide is available from Reading Is Fundamental (pdf).
December 9 - National Pastry Day
Eat a doughnut or two and listen to Chris O'Dowd read Arnie and the Doughnut on Storyline Online.  View the activity guide here.
And if you are an adult and you want to learn how to make doughnuts to share with young readers learn how to make doughnuts here.
Winter Solstice

Al Gore reads Brave Irene by William Steig .  Plucky Irene, a dressmaker's daughter, braves a fierce snowstorm to deliver a new gown to the duchess in time for the ball. View the activity guide here.  Or read the Spanish edition: Irene valientemente se enfrenta a una nevada para entregar el traje que su madre ha creado para la Duquesa. Aunque se encuentra con un peligro terrible, al final todo vale la pena.
I also love this book featuring the folktale about a mitten - The Mitten by Jim Aylesworth.
Compare and contrast Jim Aylesworth's version of the tale to other versions of the tale:
  • Brett,  Jan.  The Mitten. Putnam, 1989. Animals included in this retelling: mole, rabbit, hedgehog, owl, badger, fox, and bear.
  • Tresselt, Alvin.  The Mitten. Lothrop, 1964. Animals included in this retellling: a little mouse, a green frog, an owl, a rabbit, a fox, a wolf, a wild boar, and a bear
  • Aylesworth, Jim.  The Mitten. Scholastic, 2009. Animals included in this retelling: squirrel, rabbit, fox, bear, and finally a tiny mouse.
    Ask readers to think about their own story of the mitten and to retell that version in either written form or as an oral tale retold in an audio recording, video recording, or in a written form.
    Discuss activities to do on a snowy day -- while drinking hot cocoa (recipe for hot cocoa included.)
    Discuss the size of the animals and how likely it is that the animals could fit into a  normal sized mitten, glove,  or even a hat.
    Discuss how the plot of The Mitten is similar to or different from either of these tales:
    One-Dog Canoe by Mary Casanova
    Who Sank the Boat? by Pamela Allen
    Mr. Gumpy's Outing by John Burningham
Hanukkah is like nowhere like it is in Alaska.  Hear Molly Ephraim read Hanukkah in Alaska by Barbara Brown.  While a moose finds his way into their backyard, a young girl tries to entice him to leave - but nothing helps until Hanukkah arrives. View the activity guide here.

A true story of Christmas giving is embedded in the Grimm Brothers tale of the Elves and the Shoemaker.  In this retelling by Jim LaMarche, the shoemaker is on the receiving end of the Elves good deeds - but in true Christmas spirit the shoemaker and his wife find good deeds of their own to share.  Listen to Chrissy Metz read The Elves and the Shoemaker.  View the activity guide here.
December 31
Henri Matisse's Birthday

Share Eric Close's reading of  When Pigasso Met Mootisse by Nina Laden.  View the activity guide here.

But older readers will LOVE this picture book by Tomie dePaola that captures the essence of great figures in the art world - This review from Publishers Weekly will provide insight into this delightful title. "When Uncle Satie, a debonair cat-about-town,
comes to visit his niece and nephew, he regales the youngsters with tales of his escapades in Gay Paree. Satie ran with quite a crowd, it seems--numbering among his friends and acquaintances Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas and a host of others. (A key on the back flap identifies, rather coyly, the array of dazzling guests pictured at one of Stein's salons--Zelda F., Josephine B., James J., Isadora D. and Ernest H. Children will certainly not know--and may not care about--their famous surnames.) When a fight erupts over whether Pablo or Henri (Picasso and Matisse) is the greater artist, Satie is chosen to referee. The story, with its gentle message of individual merit and the folly of trying to judge apples against oranges, has a certain charm. The subtle shadings of dePaola's illustrations, too, are executed with considerable elan. Most of the references to the '20s and '30s notables, however, as well as the visual puns (Satie as Picasso's Blue Nude ), are aimed at a more sophisticated audience, and may go over the heads of puzzled readers. "   Bonjour Mr. Satie is worth a search in used book stores and libraries.  It is a classic to share.

Happy New Year -

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Coney Island and Mermaids on Parade

Coney Island and Mermaids on Parade

Mermaids on Parade immortalizes the parade that has opened the tourist season on Coney Island since 1983.
The book by Melanie Hope Greenberg is a showcase of all types of people dressed in their finery - mermaids, Neptunes, and sea creatures -- all ready to show off their finery.  Colorful characters abound and one little girl is right in the midst of the festivities with her family.  The illustrations are created in a flat, gouache style with a soft candy palette.  Each illustration invites readers to find the little girl who dressed as a mermaid in a seashell wagon, is among the festive parade participants.  The parade, now in its fourth decade, attracts nearly a million spectators.  Readers will find more information about the parade in the notes at the end of the book which gives information about the event.

View a brief testimony to the delight in this book on Pryor Optimus's youtube channel.  This book review is narrated in part by Kiyah - Pryor's friend who loves all things mermaid.
This is Kiyah's first appearance as a guest reviewer but her love for the book is evident.  View the youtube video at

A newly (2019) released edition of this book in paperback is available on Amazon and from

And don't miss the book on the author's website at

Pryor Optimus hosts a youtube channel and invites subscribers.  He recently reviewed Greenberg's Aunt Lilly's Laundromat and continues his focus on interesting books with other Book Reader reviews.  Visit his channel at
and be sure to subscribe.

And learn more about mermaids and the Coney Island Parade.  Another great book featuring mermaids is Jan Brett's The Mermaid.  Kiniro is a young mermaid who happens upon a wonderful house all made of seashells - and much like Goldilocks, Kiniro is curious and must investigate.  The Octopus family that return to their home to find their food eaten, things broken, and Kiniro asleep in baby Octopus's bed are not at all happy.
More of a variant of the traditional Goldilocks tale than informative about mermaids, however, the setting shows the coast of Okinawa, Japan which shows that mermaids can be in Coney Island and around the world in Japan.  With a little searching you will find books about how to catch a mermaid, mermaid school, and my favorite for older readers - The Mermaid Handbook: An Alluring Treasury of Literature, Lore, Art, Recipes and Projects by Carolyn Turgeon (Harper Design, 2018).

And if you like mermaids as much as Kiyah does then you will certainly want to research what you can find out.
Information about Coney Island and the Mermaid Parade can easily be found with an internet search but will have a link to information about the Mermaid Parade and other Coney Island information.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Be a Citizen Scientist - Counting Birds

Heidi Stemple and Clover Robin have joined their talents to create an awesome book about Frank Chapman who had an idea - that idea was to promote a bird census on Christmas Day to replace the annual hunt that had become a tradition in many communities.  Chapman's idea and promotion of the Bird Count is credited for saving many species of birds.
I wondered what the audience for the book would be - as an adult I LOVED it.  But would the picture book set enjoy it as much.  So one morning I set down to read the book to a kindergartener that hangs around my house before school most days.  He has heard many books since he was a baby and definitely has likes and dislikes.  He LOVED it.  We named birds, talked about geography, talked about counting birds, what identifying birds meant, and learning bird calls, and he wants to count birds. I suggested we start as suggested in the book as bird feeder counters. Well he thought that might be too easy (I'm thinking it is not easy enough.). But we will begin this summer to "practice." And then he thought that his friends in his class will surely want to hear the book. 
We loved learning about Frank Chapman and how one person could make a difference - and the 6-year-old totally got that.The writing is accessible and informative but most of all interesting.  The art is magnificent and showcases Robin's artistic talents superbly.  And how fitting is it that an artist with the last name Robin has illustrated a book about birds?
Anyway whatever happens next, I love having material to get him thinking about being kind and thoughtful (including to birds) developing good citizenship, and being involved in doing something good. Never too early to begin and never too late to start - counting birds and reading.

Stemple, Heidi E.Y.  Counting Birds: The Idea That Helped Save Our Featured Friends. (Young Naturalist).  Illustrated by Clover Robin.  Seagrass Press.
Update 2019 -- Counting Birds was named the Northern Lights Award Winning title in the STEM category.  More information at the award website at:

Previously this book was named:

A 2019 Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students: K–12
- The National Science Teachers Association and Children's Book Council

A 2019 Green Earth Book Honor Award in the Picture Book category
- Awarded by The Nature Generation

A 2019 Best STEM Book for K–12 Students

- The National Science Teachers Association and Children's Book Council

Read more about the author, Heidi Stemple on her website at  Follow her on Twitter @heidieys and Facebook as Heidi E.Y. Stemple.
Read more about the collage artist and illustrator Clover Robin, on her website at  Follow her on twitter  @cloverrobin; and on instagram @clover_robin, or on Facebook as cloverrobincollage.  

If you have other great books about birds, great field guides for identifying birds, or identifying bird calls or other great collaborative reads please post those suggestions in the comments.

And if you wish to have Quarto Books' great 8 page teachers guide to this book you will find a pdf of the guide on Stemple's website  (a free downloadable guide).

This book gets ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ five hearts.

Collaborative reads/views:

Kid Time Story Time. (2018 December 20). Counting Birds - Reading for Kids (a STEM Christmas book). — a reading of the book by Heidi E. Y. Stemple, with interspersed comments by the reader. Retrieved from

 Public Broadcasting System (PBS). (2013, November 24). Counting birds. Retrieved from — a 56 minute narrative about the history of and the bird count origin and the contemporary counts in NH, ME, Ecuador, and Cuba. National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count.

Richmond, Susan Edwards. (2019). Bird Count. Illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman. Peachtree. Counting Birds: The Idea That Helped Save Our Feathered Friends. Illustrated by Clover Robin.  Quarto Kids.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Little Green Witch (or maybe The Little Red Fort)

Fall is coming and that brings along some favorite books for Halloween.  But before we can really enjoy one of my favorites Little Green Witch by Barbara Barbieri McGrath. Illustrated by Martha G. Alexander. (Charlesbridge, 2005) we need to start now and read all the versions of "Little Red Hen" that we can get our hands on.  Check out the lesson sequence created for the "Little Red Hen" tale at
Read the poem "The Mouse, The Frog, and the Little Red hen"  - a copy can be found at  And then during the last week in October read Little Green Witch by Barbara Barbieri McGrath.
It'll be worth a search to find this gem.  And pay close attention to the illustrations and the literary allusions to the little red hen.  Alexander's sly inclusions are inspired.
And when checking the companion books mentioned, don't miss making Great-Granny's Magnificent Strawberry Shortcake.
Check this blog entry: 
Image result for Little red fortBut if you have missed any of the chances to share Little Green Witch as a finalé during the fall be sure to read this brand new twist on Little Red Hen -  The Little Red Fort by Brenda Maier, with illustrations by Sonia Sanchez (Scholastic, 2018).  This is a girl-powered perspective on cooperation today.  A great read.

Little Red Hen's Magnificent Strawberry Shortcake

Big Brown Rooster is Little Red Hen's grandson and shades of his grandmother BB Rooster has the same difficulties getting help as did the Little Red Hen.  But all comes out well in the end when the menagerie of friends finally share a strawberry shortcake.

As presented by Big Brown Rooster in Janet Steven's book 
Great-Granny's Magnificent Strawberry Shortcake

is easy to make and a delight to share after reading a copy of Cook-A-Doodle-Doo! by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel  (Harcourt, 1999)

Great-Granny's Magnificent Strawberry Shortcake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (one stick)
1 egg, beaten
2/3 cup milk
3 to 4 cups strawberries, washed and sliced
whipped cream

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Sift flour, then sift together dry ingredients.  Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add egg and milk, stirring by hand just enough to moisten.  Spread dough in greased 8 x 1 1/2 inch round pan. building up edges slightly.  Bake for 15 to 18 minutes.  Remove cake from pan; cool on rack for 5 minutes.  Split into two layers; lift top off carefully.  Alternate layers of cake, whipped cream, and strawberries, ending with strawberries on top.