I picked something fun for July’s professional development book: WHAT THE FUN?! 427 Simple Ways to Have Fantastic Family Fun by Donna Bozzo. As you can see from my pink sticky tabs, I found lots of quick, easy, inexpensive ideas in WHAT THE FUN?! that work well in classrooms as well as at home, like:
- p. 35 “Comedy Club…Let the kids spend the day finding jokes and writing their own material.” Riddle and joke books can be less intimidating for some kids and make for meaningful reading and writing. Anthony, a wiggly first grader, found motivation for self-control when he knew that he could have time to shine as class clown at the end of the day. If everyone quickly got ready for home, the last few minutes before dismissal could be “open mic” time. I could remind Anthony when he got squirrelly during lessons to save it for when we could all enjoy it, a positive consequence instead of a negative one.
- p. 65 “Practice Speaking in a Kind Way and Teach Your Children to Do the Same:…say six nice things to six someones and make their day.” This can be a transition activity, a “brain break”, something to do while waiting in line, etc. Choose kids to compliment and to give compliments randomly (my students all had a class number so I’d just pull from a jar of numbered wooden sticks) or select someone and catch them being good. Some days it’s tough to remember to model kindness, so consider making this a daily or weekly routine.
- p. 149 “Groundhog Day Fun!” Donna Bozzo has creative ways to share picture books with kids, and she came up with fantastic ideas to use with my book, GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA! Donna, you made me swoon! I’m going to try both your suggestions for making a groundhog for retelling my story, and your cake with fun-sized candy bars decorated to look like groundhogs peeking up is yummy year ’round.
Here’s to us all having lots more fun! Thanks, Donna Bozzo!Read More
MYSTERY OF LONG SILENCE EXPLAINED!
My first two books, GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA and
DRAW WITH A VENGEANCE (under the pen name, Helen Wrath), were published.
I had a stroke.
I was in Boston at the American Library Association conference, attending for the first time not only as a librarian, but as a published author. I had a line at my booksigning event, dinner with a book promoter, brunch with my editor, coffee with an agent – and just before leaving for the airport, I lost all the peripheral vision on my right side. My husband called an ambulance and I spent four days at Tufts Medical Center recovering from an ischemic stroke.
I seemed to be slowly healing well, but in April I started having tremors and seizure-like episodes, up to eight a day. The four Michigan neurologists I saw were stumped.
Dr. Leung, the neurologist who treated me at Tufts, emailed to ask if he could interview me – he’s conducting research on young stroke survivors and I just barely still qualify as “young”! After the phone interview, this kind and generous doctor asked if I had any questions for him. I described the weird episodes, and he said, “If you’re ever in Boston, I’d be glad to see you as a patient.”
Off we drove to see Dr. Leung. Turns out I have epilepsy and most likely I’ve been having small seizures for years, maybe decades. (My friends used to tease me in high school about how I’d zone out. I was even diagnosed with a sleep disorder years ago because I’d have these odd, trancelike episodes that left me exhausted.) Having a stroke lowered my brain’s threshold for tolerating these electrical disturbances, hence the new tremors.
Now I’m on anti-seizure medication, and I’ve had only 3 small seizures in 15 days. If I hadn’t had the stroke while in Boston, I wouldn’t have seen Dr. Leung, and I might have gone on battling seizures without medication.
To make a long story longer, I am gratefully on the mend and will soon be bombarding your computer with more picture books that are just right for preschool – grade 3. Putting my entire life on pause while I healed made me realize how passionately I love what I do – writing and sharing great books for kids. Thanks for reading with me!
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, but it’s a challenge to find Thanksgiving picture books that connect with kids: I find many “pilgrim and Indian” books that are cringeworthy with stereotypes, or stories about turkeys. This year, I’m focusing on the “thanks” in Thanksgiving and sharing One Family by George Shannon with pictures by Blanca Gomez.
The simple counting book is elevated here to show the beauty of what a family can be.
“One is one. One lamp. One clock. One book to share.” A white-haired, bespectacled white woman cuddles a cat as she reads.
“One is two. One pair of shoes. One team of horses. One family.” An Asian mom and her son ride hobby horses in a cozy bedroom.
Counting up to ten, we see all kinds of inclusive loving groups: two dads and their daughter (all with different shades of skin), grandparents and kids, a family with the dad and his sons wearing turbans, a mix of adults and kids where it’s not clear what the relationships are but who cares because they’re smiling and together. On the last page showing all the people we read, “One is one and everyone. One earth. One world. One family.”
Use this book to inspire your students to write and draw about their own families. To continue the counting 1 to 10 structure, students can write about what they are thankful for this holiday. Pair this with the wonderful new nonfiction book Families by Shelly Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly if you want to compare and contrast to hit the Integration of Knowledge & Ideas standard. I count you among my many blessings!Read More
Because I gave a presentation to awesome librarians this month and I couldn’t resist sharing all the great ideas we came up with, you get a bonus post this month! And because you’re getting a bonus post, I hope you’ll allow me to indulge in a bit of horn-tooting.
My debut picture book, GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA, illustrated by Matt Faulkner (swoon!) will be published by Charlesbridge this December 1st, and it recently received a good professional review:
“Faulkner’s anthropomorphic animals and vibrant colors recall Uncle Wiggly, and the illustrations are packed with humorous details that repay rereadings. Remenar’s graceful prose and the subtlety of her message, pitched to older preschoolers and early-elementary students, are a good match. A sly and funny take on truth-telling and friendship.” – Kirkus, Oct. 2015
Ok, horn-tooting over.
I spent a morning with a roomful of youth librarians and bunches of new books. We came up with these activities revolving around the key early literacy skills: Talk, Sing, Read, Write, Play. (Look here for lots more good stuff from Every Child Ready to Read.) Many of our activities can be used with a variety of books. I’m including our list of ideas and the books we shared. Enjoy!
* Read Rufus Goes to School by Kim T. Griswell and talk about what you need for school, what you shouldn’t do in school, and favorite books you know how to read.
* Read Groundhog’s Dilemma by Kristen Remenar and talk about your favorite/least favorite parts of winter and spring. Talk about animals that hibernate and those that don’t. Talk about why the characters in the story wanted or didn’t want Groundhog to see his shadow.
* Read Clothesline Clues to Sports People Play by Andy Robert Davies and encourage kids to guess the sport. Discuss unfamiliar terms like foil and quiver.
* Use nonfiction books with photos of bees to go along with Bee Dance by Rick Chrustowski. Bring in a honeycomb and give kids bendy straws so they can act like the bees in the book.
* Read Pepper and Poe by Frann Preston-Gannon and discuss why Pepper feels the way he does.
* Discuss good and bad manners after reading The Entertainer by Emma Dodd.
* Encourage kids to respond to “which would you choose?” while reading Hot Rod Hamster by Cynthia Lord.
* Sing rhyming words, even nonsense ones, after reading Hi! by Ethan Long.
* Sing “Milkshake” after reading Lulu’s Party by Kit Chase.
* Sing the book Old Mikamba Had a Farm by Rachel Isadora.
* Sing “The Days of the Week” song after reading Pepper and Poe by Frann Preston-Gannon, or “If You’re Happy and You Know It”.
* Sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” after reading Groundhog’s Dilemma by Kristen Remenar.
* Read nonfiction books about groundhogs and Groundhog’s Day along with Groundhog’s Dilemma by Kristen Remenar. (It delights me every time I type it!) Use puppets to help narrate/read the story.
* Use magnetic or felt letters to rearrange and read aloud, after reading Little Bird’s Bad Word by Jacob Grant.
* Kids can decorate the first letter of their name or make pictures with die-cut letters after reading Alphabeasties by Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss.
* Write your own “wumbers” inspired by Wumbers by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld.
* Draw or write about something you cherish after reading Thankful by Eileen Spinelli.
* Trace your shoes and decorate the tracings after reading Whose Shoe? by Eve Bunting.
* Write a letter or draw a picture to convince Groundhog to predict winter or spring after reading Groundhog’s Dilemma by Kristen Remenar. Kids can write and draw about a time when they’ve had to resolve a dilemma. Outside with chalk, or inside on paper, kids can trace their own shadows!
* Create maps of your playground, classroom, school, library, etc. after reading Henry’s Map by David Elliot.
* Paint Q-tip paintings of trees inspired by Fall is Not Easy by Marty Kelley.
* Write your own “word equations” inspired by This Plus That by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.
* Use a string and pin it to a world map to show all the places from Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein. Compare it to Madlenka and Nothing Ever Happens on My Block.
* Act out Uh Oh! by Shutta Crum.
* Play a version of “Going On a Bear Hunt” after reading In the Canyon by Liz Garton Scanlon.
* Incorporate different dances like The Hokey Pokey and The Twist and act out The Sky Is Falling by Mark Teague. Have a dance party!
* Create hand/body motions and make the sound effects for Niňo Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales. Come up with other characters who might want to wrestle!
* Move like cats and act out the emotions from Pepper and Poe by Frann Preston-Gannon.
* Have a storytime party where kids act out what should and should not happen at a party after reading The Entertainer by Emma Dodd.
* Paint small boxes like houses after reading Vincent Paints His House by Tedd Arnold.
* Rearrange letter tiles to show how one word can become another after reading One Boy by Laura Vaccaro Seeger.
* Act out Groundhog’s Dilemma by Kristen Remenar. (Still fun to type!) Little ones can curl up in a box and pop out for Groundhog’s Day to look for their shadows, or try making shadow animals on a wall.