Browsing Tag

elementary school

Books We Love: Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat

#bookexcursion, Books We Love

Huge thanks to Sue Lowell Gallion for sharing a copy of Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat with our #bookexcursion group! #bookexcursion is a team of nine educators who read and share new children’s and middle grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!


Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat is a sweet picture book about two friends who have different feelings when it comes to Halloween. Pig loves her costume, but Pug feels squished and squashed in his. When Pug abandons his costume, Pig is worried that she won’t have anyone to trick-or-treat with. Pug has to think outside the box to come up with a costume that works for him in order to help his friend.

A sweet story about friendship on Halloween night, Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat is perfect for pre-K and lower elementary readers. It makes for a comforting read aloud during the Halloween season. Readers will love looking at the facial expressions of Pig and Pug to see how they feel. The book might also start conversations about how to choose a costume that is both comfortable and fun. This book is a good addition to any Halloween-themed shelf at home or in the classroom.

Books We Love: Come With Me

#bookexcursion, #DiverseKidLit, Books We Love

As I write this post in mid-August 2017, violent protests have broken out in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Over the past year, students have been walking into classrooms with more and more questions about the world. They feel fear. They feel confusion. They feel helplessness. Wouldn’t it be powerful if, every day, we could do something to replace those feelings with ones of kindness? Connection? Hope?

Come With Me by Holly McGhee tells the story of a little girl who feels scared by the images she sees every day. She’s not sure to engage with a world that scares her. With the help of her parents, she learns to step beyond her fear and build connections with others. While the things she does with her parents aren’t groundbreaking steps towards social justice (she goes to a grocery store and rides the subway), the little girl learns to celebrate togetherness over fear.

Like any book, this book alone is not enough. But it’s a start in discussing social justice and current events with children. As the dedication of the book states, “Come With Me is written in honor of friendship, bravery, and the fact that we aren’t powerless, no matter how small and insignificant we may feel.”


Come With Me will be released in September 2017 by Penguin Kids.

Huge thanks to Holly McGhee for sharing a copy of Come With Me with our #bookexcursion group! #bookexcursion is a team of nine educators who read and share new children’s and middle grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!

Books We Love: Her Right Foot

Books We Love

It’s not often that you come across a children’s book that asks children how they interpret an American symbol. That’s exactly what happens in Her Right Foot, a new picture book from Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris. Alongside beautiful illustrations, Eggers tells about the construction of the Statue and Liberty. From the statue’s construction in Paris to its reconstruction in New York, Eggers gives children the facts about the statue in a hilarious tone. Eventually, Eggers gives one more fact: if you look closely, you can see that the statue is taking one step forward.

At this point in the book, Eggers has presented the facts, so he turns to the questions. Why would the statue be taking a step? What does it mean for us as a country that our most famous symbol is moving forward? This books asks many great questions, then poses an excellent solution. This text will spark great conversations about how the Statue of Liberty represents our American ideals. It’s a book that could be used from elementary grades through high school and beyond.

When I first started my blog, I sought to find books that help kids answer big questions about the world. I know that Her Right Foot will do just that.


Her Right Foot will be released in September 2017 by Chronicle Books.

Note: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book from Chronicle Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!

Books We Love: The Countdown Conspiracy

#bookexcursion, Books We Love

This summer, I joined an amazing group of educators in a project called #bookexcursion. Made up of avid readers, our group reads and shares new titles for elementary classrooms (inspired by #bookjourney). I was so excited when author Katie Slivensky sent a copy of The Countdown Conspiracy our way!

At its core, The Countdown Conspiracy is about a group of six preteens who are selected for the first ever mission to Mars. They’ve gone through a rigorous selection process, but they still have nine years of training ahead of them before they can actually takeoff for their historic journey. However, the aftermath of a world war looms over their mission prospects. With the six kids representing six different countries, tensions are high. The kids face many obstacles in their pursuit of achieving their dreams. Thirteen-year-old Miranda Regeant, the US expedition representative and the book’s narrator, begins to believe the kids may be in danger.

As someone who absolutely loves learning about the history of the space race, I immediately drawn in by this story. Its fast pace, well-developed characters and constant action make it a thrilling read. From the opening lines, this book is an absolute page-turner. The growth of the characters is also exceptional. This book truly instills a growth mindset in readers. The main characters are completing tasks that have never been asked of anyone in history. They have to recognize their own ability to grow and learn, and they have to keep trying when it gets difficult.

I can’t wait for this book to make its way into the hands of middle grade readers. Young readers need to see kids like them who code, engineer, problem solve, and innovate. Many young minds will be inspired by this book. Congratulations to Katie Slivensky on a fantastic middle grade debut!


The Countdown Conspiracy will be released by HarperCollins Children’s in August 2017.

Thank you to author Katie Slivensky (@paleopaws) for generously providing an ARC of The Countdown Conspiracy to #bookexcursion! #bookexcursion is a group of ten educators who read and share new children’s and middle grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!

Author Interview: Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls

Author Interviews, Books We Love

This past January, one of my students came into school clutching Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo. Telling bedtime stories of inspirational women throughout history, this book re-invents the definition of a fairy tale. The stories and illustrations leapt off the page, bringing history alive for young readers.

I was amazed to learn the backstory behind the book itself. In 2016, the book topped one million dollars in a crowdfunding campaign and went on to sell more than 500,000 copies. Now, the authors are back with Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls 2, due out later this year, as well as a Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls podcast! The Kickstarter campaign for the new projects has already raised over $417,000.

There are so many things that make this book a must-read for students. So many of the stories readers encounter in this book aren’t being taught in history class. In Rebel Girls, students can learn about Ada Lovelace, the Brontë sisters, Malala Yousafzai, Maya Angelou, and more. Any child can find a role model within the pages of this book.

To celebrate the success of Rebel Girls and the release of Rebel Girls 2, I interviewed authorsElena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo. I knew they would have lots to say about the impact these stories can have on the world!

 

With so many incredible stories out there, how do you decide which ones to include in your books?
 

The first women we researched were Hatshepsut, the first female pharaoh who lived long before Cleopatra and nobody has ever heard of, and Maria Sibylla Merian, the German scientist who discovered the metamorphosis of butterflies. These are the first two stories that we tested with our Timbuktu newsletter, in the months leading up to our crowdfunding campaign. We are particularly fond of them not only because they are wonderful, unknown stories, but also because they helped us understand we were onto something really big. Our readers responded enthusiastically to those stories, asking for more.

We wanted to feature women from as many countries as possible, because children’s media productions don’t just lack diversity in terms of gender, but also in terms of race, sexual orientation, religious background… We also wanted to feature women in as many careers as possible: we wanted to have trombonists, marine biologists, judges, Presidents, spies, chefs, surfers, poets, rock singers. Finally, we selected women whose personal stories had something that could be particularly interesting for a child, for example the fact that the famous chef, Julia Child, started her career as a spy, cooking shark-repellent cakes during WW2.

 
In an interview with The Bookseller, Francesca said that “children are citizens of the present.” Instead of waiting until they are adults, how can kids begin to change the world today?
 

There are so many ways that kids can change the world now without waiting until they get older.  We get messages from kids and their families about different things they are doing to change the world already. Some are helping to start Rebel Girls clubs to promote these strong women and help others learn about them. Others are using the book as inspiration to write their own Rebel Girls stories-about their lives or about the lives of others and share it with their families and friends. Outside of the book, we hear about readers volunteering their time, raising money for great causes, or working to be inclusive to classmates at school. We’re also proud and excited to hear about the positive things kids are doing.

 
 
What makes 2017 the perfect time for Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls 2?
 

The position of women has significantly improved over time in our society, but there is definitely still lots to do. Especially because no accomplishment, no matter how big, can ever be given for granted.

In 2017, Children’s books are still packed with gender stereotypes. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls features 100 stories about the lives of 100 extraordinary women from the past and the present, from Elizabeth I to Serena Williams. These are stories about real women, which is different than a lot of goodnight stories about fictional characters. We wanted to feature painters, scientists, dancers, chefs, astronauts, jazz singers, pharaohs, boxers, writers, and political leaders-rebel girls whose actions have changed the course of history.

How do you think adding Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls to family bookshelves can change the experiences of young girls?
 

Stories are what humans are made of. As kids, we understand ourselves and the world around us through stories. The stories we have told girls so far offered them a very narrow representation of who they can be. The illustrations accompanying those stories have offered them an even narrower representation of the way they should look like. This reflects in a lot of self-doubt and the feeling of being constantly wrong, which plagues girls in school first, and later in the workplace. Studies show that girls start having less self-confidence than boys in first grade, despite having better grades on average! We feel the time has come to start changing the narrative around femininity, this is what Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is about.


For more on Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, you can check out the Rebel Girls website.

Reflecting on a Year as Readers

Literacy in the Classroom

One of my colleagues shared an amazing idea with me this past spring, and I just had to give it a try in my classroom. My colleague has her students write letters about their reading journeys. The insights students share are amazing! My students came up with questions they could answer in their letters. Here are a few:

  • What have you discovered about yourself as a reader this year?
  • What is your favorite reading memory from third grade?
  • What new things did you try as a reader in grade three?
  • Are there any books that stuck with you this year?
  • How have your reading habits changed in third grade?
  • What are your reading plans for summer and beyond?

All the questions were optional, and there wasn’t a sentence or page requirement. I was amazed with the writing that came back. Students wrote pages upon pages about the books that made a difference in their lives, the ways they have grown, and their plans to keep reading in their futures.

Many of my students described finding the genres and book formats that fit their reading styles. Learning how to make reading choices was a big focus of ours this year, so I was so excited that many students now know where to look to find new reads!

I love how this reader admitted to losing her reading log. (I tell students all the time that it’s about the reading, not the piece of paper that says you read!) I also loved the description of finishing a great book: a mix of sadness and understanding.

As this reader says, this letter was my “ticket to knowing town” when it comes to learning about him as a reader. After finishing Stone Fox, I knew this reader would appreciate Pax. I’m so happy he stuck with it!

What a great description of a cozy reading moment! I hope that all of my students can identify some landmark reading memories. There’s nothing like curling up with a good book when it’s raining outside.

As this reader illustrated, “reading is what I live for!” When there are so many books out there and kiddos want them all, we know that our school has created a strong reading community.


How do your students reflect on their year as readers and writers? Let us know in the comments below!

Chapter Book Read Alouds for Third Grade

Books We Love, Literacy in the Classroom

We have an obligation to read aloud to our children. To read them things they enjoy. To read to them stories we are already tired of. To do the voices, to make it interesting, and not to stop reading to them just because they learn to read to themselves.
-Neil Gaiman

One of my favorite things about being a teacher is reading aloud to my students. During that fifteen or twenty minutes a day, our class connects in so many ways. We laugh together, we cry together, and we share big ideas we have about the world. This year, my class has connected around four chapter book read alouds. Some are funny, some are heartbreaking, some are inspiring, but all of them have brought joy to my students, and I hope they bring joy to you, too.

 

Sideways Stories from Wayside School
by Louis Sachar

Every year, the third grade team at my school starts off with Sideways Stories. There’s so much to love about this book: hilarious characters, fantasy elements, laugh-out-loud scenes, and teachable moments. This book reminded my students how much there is to love about reading. After we read this aloud, the other books in the Wayside School series flew off of my classroom bookshelves!

The BFG
by Roald Dahl

This year, we read The BFG as part of the Global Read Aloud. While the entire experience was amazing, the book itself takes a lot of the credit. Kids around the world love the characters of the BFG and Sophie. They immerse themselves in a world where “frobscottle” and “whizpoppers” are actual words, and where courage and kindness matter above all else.

 

Holes
by Louis Sachar

As you can tell, my class and I love Louis Sachar. Students are usually amazed when they realize that Sideways Stories and Holes are written by the same author. The books couldn’t be more different! I usually read Holes a little later in the year, when students can dig deeper into the questions the book raises about fairness, luck, hard work, and friendship.

 

The Wild Robot
by Peter Brown

Since The Wild Robot will be the selection for this fall’s Global Read Aloud, I decided to give the book a shot with this year’s crew of third graders. While we haven’t finished the book, the students absolutely love it so far. Reminiscent of Charlotte’s Web, but with a sci-fi twist, this book appeals to so many types of readers. Fair warning for teachers: make sure you have your robot voice down before giving this book a try! I highly recommend adding this book to your collection and connecting with other classes during the GRA this fall!


I would love to hear about the chapter book read alouds that captivated your classes this year. Feel free to comment below to share the literacy love!

Books We Love: I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark

Books We Love

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark
by Debbie Levy
Illustrations by Elizabeth Baddeley

 

Over the past two days, our nation has seen two historic events: the inauguration of our 45th president and the Women’s Marches in sister cities all over the world. One of the things that makes our country great is the ability we have to freely express our views. Oftentimes, disagreement helps us move forward. I Dissent tells the story of how Ruth Bader Ginsburg resisted and persisted to make her voice heard.

I can’t wait for this book to make its way into the hands of little girls around the world. It tells the story of a girl who wanted to change little things, and built her way up to changing big things. This story teaches a powerful lesson about activism. It proudly proclaims that even young children can work to change things in their communities.

With rich vocabulary and beautiful illustrations, I Dissent is sure to become a classic for classrooms. It tells how a young Justice Ginsburg was inspired by the women who came before her, and how she didn’t let disagreement get in the way of her friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia. Messages of hope permeate through the book’s pages as it tells us dissent can be productive, positive, and powerful.

Favorite Quotes

On RBG’s impact:
“Ruth Bader Ginsburg isn’t a rock star, a queen, or a goddess. But to many, she is a hero. She made change happen, and she changed minds.”

Words from RBG herself:
“Fight for the things that you care about. But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”