People Smart

“We Shall Overcome”

Posted by on Feb 21, 2021 in Early Learning, Fluency, Key Ideas and Details, Music Smart, Non-Fiction, People Smart, Poetry, Print Motivation, Social Studies, Song Books | 0 comments

Music can reach us in a way that nothing else can. During February – and every month – We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song written by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton is a cross-curricular book you can use to teach American history and social justice.

We Shall Overcome written by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
“We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song” written by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

The song, “We Shall Overcome” has its roots in the time of slavery in America. Its impact has lasted for over a century and has inspired change-makers around the world. The lyrics are interspersed through the book, along with gorgeous art showing moments in history when the song was sung.

Classroom teachers, music teachers, parents, and all those who work with children, you need this book. With your students, you can talk about what the lyrics of the song mean and why this song was and is important. The last illustrated page reminds us that the work for equality is not done. We need to raise our voices and declare that the barriers against justice will be overcome. Sharing books like We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song will teach our children that they are a part of the change for good, too.

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Play the Book!

Posted by on Jan 17, 2021 in Craft and Structure, Early Learning, Fluency, Holiday, Integrating Knowledge and Ideas, Key Ideas and Details, Michigan Author, People Smart, Self Smart | 0 comments

cover of Groundhog's Dilemma
“Groundhog’s Dilemma” written by me and illustrated by Matt Faulkner

Oh, 2021, we waited all through 2020 for you and frankly, you’re not off to the start we’d hoped for. We’re exhausted in so many ways. We still need to show up for our little ones. We need a bit of lightheartedness. “Playing the book” is a fun way to connect while it helps your child deepen their understanding of a story.

Groundhog puppet to color
Groundhog is ready to be printed and played with!

Groundhog and all of his friends are ready to be printed, colored, cut out, and played with!

Squirrel image to color
Squirrel and his kits are ready to play, too!

When a child retells a story, they are showing how much they understand. They are moving from just listening to a book to making connections.

Playing the book lets your child to go beyond retelling by extending the story with their own imagination. Use this link to print out Groundhog and all his friends (or click on the cover of my book in the upper right-hand corner of this screen for puppets and more free fun stuff to do!) Give the characters funny voices when they try to convince Groundhog to make Spring come early or to keep Winter lasting longer. Give the characters new adventures. Take time to play. And may this year bring us all more joy.

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It’s important: “Let’s Talk About Race”

Posted by on Feb 26, 2020 in Craft and Structure, Early Learning, Key Ideas and Details, Non-Fiction, People Smart, Print Motivation, Self Smart, Social Studies, Uncategorized | 2 comments

Let's Talk About Race written by Julius Lester and illustrated by Karen Barbour

Talking about race is hard for me, but that doesn’t let me off the hook. Racism isn’t either/or, as in I don’t shout hateful slurs therefore I’m not racist. I’m racist because I’d rather hide any prejudice I have from growing up as a white, middle-class, suburban female in America than have important conversations where I might feel uncomfortable. My silence won’t help our kids. So let’s talk about it.

Let’s Talk About Race was written by Julius Lester and illustrated by Karen Barbour. Lester, who sadly died in 2018, wrote, “I am a story. So are you. So is everyone.” He wanted kids to know that being African-American was an important part of his story, not the entirety of it. He wanted to engage kids in conversations to see our differences and our commonalities. “What is your favorite food, your religion, your favorite color, your nationality? All of these things are a part of our stories.” But, he reminds us all, “…some stories are true. Some are not. Those who say ‘MY RACE IS BETTER THAN YOUR RACE’  are telling a story that is not true.”

After you read Let’s Talk About Race with your kids, talk about race! Open up a safe conversation where students can share and ask questions. Work hard not to deny experiences, and challenge with compassion any statements that make others “less than.” And talk about all the other wonderful parts of our stories, from favorite foods to hair color to pet peeves. You can make a questionnaire based on all the elements Lester talks about for kids to answer about themselves. Then, kids can find someone who had the same answer on their list. When we help our children talk about race and equality, we help build a stronger, kinder world.

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Less “tizzy-busy”, more joy!

Posted by on Dec 4, 2019 in Early Learning, Fluency, Holiday, Key Ideas and Details, Michigan Author, People Smart, Print Motivation | 0 comments

The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish

Pout-Pout Fish fans, this is the just-right book for the holiday season! The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish is a wonderful addition to The Pout-Pout Fish series.

Mr. Fish feels caught up in the “tizzy-busy” rush to find the perfect gifts.
“… a gift should have meaning,
Plus a bit of bling-zing,
So I’ll shop till I drop
For each just-right thing!”

The repetition of these lines not only supports our early readers, it completely captures the overwhelmed feeling many of us get. When Mr. Fish has shopped until he’s plopped, Miss Shimmer helps him make wonderful gifts. Most importantly, they enjoy their time with their fishy friends.

Let’s scale back this season. Share The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish with your kiddos, and talk about what you can make and do instead of buy. I wish you all oceans of joy and contentment this year! Find more fishy fun at www.poutpoutfish.com.

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