Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Mathematical Genius

Tonight Miss C was not in her bed.  When I went in for the tuck-in, I snuggled her four-year old sweetness like crazy and asked her this:

M: Do you know how much I love you?
C: Infinity.
M: Do you know what that means?
C: It's not a number and it means it never stops.

More kisses. And good night, again. Here's hoping there won't be an infinite amount of walk-backs tonight.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Teamwork in Revision or Awesome- Yet Incomplete- Writing Conference While Getting Ready For Hockey

As you know, this is The Reading and Writing House. I am a reading and writing teacher. I love reading and writing workshop. I love working with readers and writers. I love reading. I love writing. I love teaching.

My son loves math. And chess. And sports. He likes to read (mostly fluff and stuff and some "real" books, too), but numbers are his thing. He is practically famous for being very concise with his written assignments.

Today, Fran and I were discussing his revision of a narrative he's writing. Lucky kid, I know! It went like this:

M: Hmmm... (turning page over- anything on the back?) Fran, your revision on the car section was- well- short. What do you think you should do next?
F: I should work on it more.
M: How?
F: Well, I could add more words.
M: What kind of words could you add to tell more that matters?
F: (Confused).
M: Like- you could add dialogue to say more.
F: Yeah- talking!
M: And actions.
F: And add more memories! (Zipping hockey bag.)
M: And feelings, too, like you used in your ending. Hmm... You have lots of way to elaborate- or add more that matters: actions, dialogue, memories, and feelings! Wow- I should write those down so we don't forget them....Actions...(writing)
F: Dialogue. Memories...
M and F: And feelings.
F: Hey, mom! (Face brightens, looking generally excited.) Put that in my writer's notebook with the writing tips! (Rolling hockey bag to the porch.)
M: That's a great idea, Fran.

This may be what I am thankful for this year. That my kid can think of ways to tell more that matters and that he wants to keep his list of strategies in his writers notebook to help him remember ways to tell more today and in the days to come. And he can add to this list as he notices more ways that other writers and storytellers elaborate.

Concise is nice as long as you are careful to tell enough about what really matters.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

We Missed This

I'm the mom that was so busy writing report cards and doing parent conferences that I forgot to get tickets to see the Wimpy Kid author. It's a three hour book event. With snacks. And a DJ.
At least my kid doesn't know. Well, until he goes to school tomorrow.

But I did write insightful, detailed reports.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

We forgot to tell you about Christopher Paul Curtis

There is nothing better than hearing Christopher Paul Curtis in person. We heard his stories. We talked with his family. He signed our books- and he even gave Francis "Bud, Not Buddy" and signed it, too. I even subjected the poor man to my famous "The Watsons Go to Costco" story*.
It was the perfect way to start our summer. I felt ready to notice and truly experience my days and I was excited to read. It made me miss teaching with writer's notebooks.

Fran and Christopher Paul Curtis!

I nodded so many times while he was talking that I was worried that my head would fall off and roll across the floor. I am pretty sure I looked crazy- but I wouldn't have it any other way. I think CPC was pretty lucky that I had not yet read The Mighty Miss Malone, because then I think I would have seemed even crazier.

We almost missed this!  But I saw this sign at school:

and I was interested because the sign had dogs on it. Thank goodness it was a dog sign- we would have been sad to miss it!

* This story will be shared at a later time. It is a story to be savored. And it really reveals WHO Mr. RWH really is...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Too Much Technology is Too Much?

I have some Luddite tendencies, but I still get it. Technology sucks you in. I waste plenty of time "reading" snippets of nonsense on-line or checking Facebook or Weather.com. I google stuff I used to remember. I respond surreptitiously to a ding or a buzz in a faculty meeting.

I like to think I am more courteous than most modern-day tech users. My phone is off when I am teaching. It's in my purse when I am at home, hanging up on a hook in the closet. (Call the house phone, we still have one.) The only people I usually text are babysitters. And sometimes Zingerman's delivery-girls for an emergency Zang bar or Sesame Semolina delivery.

But- I have noticed that lots of kids- and adults- have trouble just sitting with themselves, by themselves.  They seem to crave action, wanting something to catch their attention quickly rather than personally choosing where to focus their attention. There's a lot of bells and whistles. Luckily, I have a theatrical flair as a teacher so I don't think this is heavily impacting my instruction, but even so- I do like being still sometimes. I am just as annoyed with a grown-up fiddling with a tech device instead of enjoying human interaction as I am with a young child screaming, only to be made happy with an I-phone app rather than real people (except in cases of long airport delays, extended waiting room stays, etc).

I do think it's too much media, too many screens. The RWH is a fairly low-media environment for kids, almost to the point of making the children weird.  I still remember my shock in the 80's in the 4th grade when a fellow classmate, a somewhat odd girl, told me "We don't have a TV." after I asked her if she saw The Family Circus Christmas special.  I felt so badly for her- it was awesome. Also, this particular girl later developed an unhealthy (and unfortunate) addiction to patterned Keds sneakers in high school- I am not sure if these two things are related. So we don't want it to go *that far* with the RWH kids. But we have noticed that Little Miss RWH is a bit cranky after her Saturday PBS-spectacular. It's just too much coming at her.

I thought the The Family Circus was awesome because it was on TV  and in the newspaper.
It would not be there if it wasn't awesome, would it?

But still, it's too much. I found myself nodding obnoxiously while reading this article about teachers refining classroom practice with today's media-infused students in The NY Times.  Not that I want to hark back to the days of the Waltons, but it's enough to make me think. If your screen time logs enough hours to be a part-time job, is it too much?  I think even as an adult, I need to limit mine more. I'd get more real-stuff done.

I think The NY Times article sums up my thinking well in its closing sentence with a quote by Dmitri Christakis, the Director of the Center for Child, Health, Behavior, and Development at Seattle Children's Hospital: "The heavy technology use...makes reality by comparison uninteresting. Which is a shame, because real-life is pretty amazing.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hidden Power of Frances

Look who made the papers: The Badgers! They are calm. They live simply. The handicrafts. I think they might be hipsters!

My childhood is framed by the Frances books by Russell and Lillian Hoban. Oh, Frances. Her songs. Her angst. Her picky-eating. Her feelings. The closeness of her family. Her ability to notice everything. I was thrilled when my own children also enjoyed these stories.

Frances...Jam is the thing that she likes most!

A Frances book is a commitment for a bedtime story. There are a lot of words- and you will need to sing. Also, your child will probably have plenty of comments about what is fair, what is right, and whether or not they agree with Frances (which they almost always will), and comments about Francis’s feelings.

These books are like time travel: time spent with grandparents. The talk is not rushed, there is no smart-alecky tone, no materialism or branding, no texting or social media- just talk, long talk- like grandparents do. Reading Bread and Jam for Francis to my children brings my grandparents alive- their love of food and its varieties (and ability to describe any meal they ever ate in great detail), their kindness, their common sense, their joy in interacting with children.

My kids have loved hearing the Frances books as much as I have loved reading them to them. Francis (the boy in the TRWH) started sleeping with his “alligator doll” and asking us to bring his sled in his room after reading Bedtime for Frances* when he was  about 3 or 4. When we welcomed Baby Claudia, we read A Baby Sister for Frances so many times that (our) Francis suggested we name the baby Gloria. When he was older, he watched his sister Claudia love A Birthday for Frances so completely when she was waiting for her 4th birthday to happen, that he gave her a Chompo bar for her present. (It was really a Snickers, but she couldn’t read yet.) We gave her a paint set and good friends gave her a plush pig that she named Potato Chip. She already had a fancy china tea set from Nana. Unwrapping all those things in her green dress, she declared it all "too perfect."

These old-time books are a reminder to slow down and listen to feelings, but still expect good manners. Sometimes I wonder if my kids love the Frances books because I love them, because they just love them, or because we all love them.  I was a Frances growing up- and perhaps reading something I love so much aloud makes it impossible for my listeners not to love it, too.

These books have shaped me as a reader, as a teacher, and as a parent. 
And I love that.

* The spanking thing was never a big problem for us in Bedtime for Frances. We just explained it that “A long time ago, people sometimes got spankings for breaking the rules- but parents don’t do that anymore.” And, to me, the spanking also seemed quite out of character for her parents- who were always just right and far more patient with her than I ever could have been. I would have gone from appropriate to Joan Crawford in about two minutes with the picky eating and interrupted sleep. Frances is never spanked- the Badgers are clearly a family that handle their problems with talking. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

That's Not Two-Thirds! or Why a Classroom Teacher Is a Nice Buffer

Fran can be Mr. Literal sometimes. Perhaps that's why he loves-loves-loves math. Yesterday, I was asking him about his progress with his book in Reading Workshop. I do a bit of "reminding" for him to finish books, stay on task, apply himself, etc. Mr. RWH just stays out of this.

Here's what went down (including stage directions):

M: Hey, Fran. How's it going with Zoobreak?

F: Good. Now instead of rescuing one monkey, they are going to rescue other animals, too.

M: Hmmm.... So what do you think of the book so far?

F: I really like it. I want to go hear Gordon Korman at the library. (Looks at M.) I don't think it matters that I'm reading them out of order.

M: (Aside to the audience, stage whisper.)  Well, I hope it doesn't matter. I've only read the 1st one...Do you need to know that his friend has narcolepsy, like they tell you at the end of Book One? Why wouldn't you take my suggestion? I always read the first book in a series first. Why would you NOT do that?  Aaaaagh!

M: Sometimes it can help to read the first book in a series before you read the others- to introduce you to the characters. I'm glad that it doesn't seem to be causing you a problem to read them out of order. So are you almost finished?  How much more is there to go?

F: (Holds up a pinch of fingers.) About this much.

M: So you're almost done.

F: Well, there are 33 chapters and I am on chapter 20.

M: Ok- so you're two-thirds of the way through.

F: (Rolls eyes.) I said 33 chapters. Thirty-three. It's not two-thirds. Twenty-two is two-thirds.

M: Yeah. You're close to two-thirds.

F: Two-thirds of 33 is 22.

M: I realize that.  Hey- let me know what you think about the book when you're finished.

F: OK...Hey, I'm going to go play hockey in the basement.* (Exits, stage left. Footsteps on stairs, hockey puck noises commence.)

I still can't believe he's reading them out of order.

*Many of our conversations end this way.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Happy Chocolate Cupcake Day

Today is National Chocolate Cupcake Day. Our family observes this holiday and I hope yours does, too. I was stunned to find that this holiday was not recognized by our school district. Sadly, I went to work and the kids went to school. But, we were together tonight, with our cupcakes.

Jefferson Market Perfection! Two S'mores and Two Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes
Happy Chocolate Cupcake Day to you and yours!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

My Favorite Pothead

Ahh...I was just thinking about my favorite potheads.

I think I like him:

Nothing like Pothead to travel on your FP school bus...
He always sat in the back and seemed so distant...

More than him:

Everyone loves a happy pothead...

I love these Little People. I am relieved my mother saved every stinkin' one. The old design is simple, functional, and flexible. They're perfect. 

The new ones are terrifying, always holding stuff and look particularly bloated:

They are holding so much stuff that they don't fit into the FP Little People toy van,
which I am sure is not an intentional effort to teach children to pack light when traveling.

And the worst part is that there are no longer Fisher Price Potheads. 

So disappointing.

Busy or Just a Little Pout

I am really, really surprised how stinkin' busy we are with two jobs*, two kids, two schools, one dog, living, and volunteering. Fitting in exercise and social plans is a sudoku puzzle. I think I'll stop cleaning and cooking to make more time available...

It's funny that I feel cranky about this, because this isn't even a very busy weekend. All we need to do is hockey, soccer, finish Halloween costumes, unpack winter clothes, pack up summer clothes, grocery shop and cook, and chip away at the pile of stuff that isn't getting done (thank yous, belated birthdays, fixing house things like the broken window and re-caulking, etc.)

To all the people we truly intend to invite over for brunch... we'll get to it soon. To the babies who keep growing that we haven't seen for a while... stay cute! To ourselves... figure out what's really important and let go of the rest. Or better yet, be a little bit productive and then take a family bike ride.

Here's to a little rest this weekend!

* Really, it's one and a half jobs.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pencil Grip

Am I the only one thinking about pencil grips right now?

I am really, really thinking about it.

Monday, September 24, 2012

First Day Pics, Finally Posted

Oh, my! TRWH runs on an academic calendar! 
How could I forget to post first day pics?
It's like I was crazy busy, knee-deep in reading assessments...

Pics taken on Sept. 4  Fran and Sept. 10 for Claude,
but I am not above faking the photos when I forget.
("Please, put on your Halloween costume 
since I forgot to take a picture!" 
"But Mom, it's June!")

3rd Grader!

Oh, my heavens- do I love this school and this 101 year-old building! 
Little Miss Pre-K

Click here to read more about Claude's school and see a picture of Fran 
on his first day in the 3's class with Mrs. Barbara.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

read it yourself

Claude went deep, deep into her Grandma's basement and came home with this doozy:

Seriously, read it yourself.  I can't read it
one more time without losing my mind.

I simply love the cover: Read it yourself! 

I just can't tell: Is it joyful?  Read it yourself! Is it tired and can't be bothered? Read it yourself... Is it really angry? READ IT YOURSELF! Maybe it is all of these things.

Basically at our house, I stomp around the house after Claude goes to bed, saying "Read it yourself" with different emphasis and emotions, much to the delight of Mr. RWH.  (I know, he is a lucky man.) I think my high school drama teachers would be very proud of my skills.

Hey, read it yourself.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Request from a Phonics Professional...

Please... it's this:
"You get what you get, and you don't get upset."

Not this:
"You get what you get, and you don't throw a fit."
(Get is usually pronounced "git".)

Hearing the difference between those two vowel sounds is a big deal for beginning readers and writers.

Crabby? Maybe. Fastidious? You bet. But it's just one of those things on "my list" today...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I Miss Summer

It's good to be back in school. I do love school.  
But I miss summer because I miss this:

Fiona reading to her Claude.

Nothing better than bedtime stories on the porch, 
read to you by someone who has known you 
since the day you came home from the hospital.

Gotta love this street.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Kindergators or Behavior Books: Signs of a Desperate Teacher

Ahhh…Back to school books! 

This year I began with Rocket Writes a Story by Tad Hills.  And just last night I was looking at some more books when I found a book that you buy when you’re desperate:

 Hands Off, Harry! (From the “Kindergartors series”) by Rosemary Wells.  Claudia watched the promotional video and was smitten.  She stared at it, slack-jawed, and asked me to check it out from the library. (It’s already on hold…) She does enjoy a good behavior issue...

What amused me even more than this one title, were the titles that others purchased*:
Bailey by Harry Bliss (Bailey is having a smooth transition...)

and le piece de resistance:

Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns to Listen by Howard Binkow (Apparently, Howard B. Wigglebottom is a whole series of problem-solving books...)

I can only imagine the kind of year someone is having if they buy all these books…

On that note, Happy Back to School!

* I have not read nor am I endorsing these books in any way.  I am just making fun of their titles in anticipation of the upcoming conversations I will have about behavior, social expectations, and getting along.

Monday, June 4, 2012

At the Copa

I'm not sure if it's normal, but Claude insists on hearing me sing "Copacabana (At the Copa)" before she goes to sleep. Several times. And she sings along.

It's odd hearing a four-year-old sing.."And drinks herself half-blind.."

But I'm afraid this Manilow-ia is most likely genetic.

I am worried that she will be wearing yellow feathers in her hair and her dress cut down-to-there for Halloween next year...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A to Z Mysteries (or Separated at Birth, Part 2)

Francis is obsessed with a book series- and in true Pavesi-style, he is hoarding... he has checked out all the way up to "L" from the library with the A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy.  My worries about him only wanting to read nonfiction sports manuals, Star Wars graphic novels and information books, and Garfield books FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE proved to be unfounded. Phew.

I watch in relief as Fran now pounds through the A to Z mysteries by Ron Roy.  He likes being able to get through it with one bedtime and one SSR time. Nice and fast, and he is able to think about the story and try to notice important clues (and connect them...) I am a bit embarrassed to say that I find them quite engaging. Also, it inspired me to read some grown-up mysteries again. (I had forgotten how much I enjoy them!)

We've had fiesty conversations about our favorite characters (he likes Dink, I like Ruth Rose), he told me Hayley's opinion about The Falcon's Feather book, we study the map on the endpapers, and he is checking off the books as he reads them on a list I printed from the author's website. He even told me-without prompting- that he wrote to Mrs. R for his weekly Reading Workshop letter about a "theme" from The Haunted Hotel.  He's a crazed fan.

This morning, he asked me to print a "biography" about Ron Roy, so I did.  It printed an extra author photo, so I made him a book mark.  When he got home, I handed it to him, smiling like a nut and expecting him to go c-r-a-z-y, too... It went like this:
     "Look, I made you a bookmark."
     "I don't want that."
     "But it's a picture of Ron Roy!"
     "Oh, I thought it was of Papa."

Poor Papa.  Out-ranked by Ron Roy.  (And Papa's done pretty cool things: riding motorcylces, amazing photography, really interesting travel,  hiking, biking...) And poor me-- I guess my Etsy-shop with "Papa Pageholders" (bookmarks with Papa's photo!) might not be as successful as I had initially envisioned.

Later, when I was setting up the bookmark for the photo below, Claudia walked past.  "Why do you have that picture of Papa?" she asked.

Last night's book and the objet d'art!

Separated at Birth?

Papa "Razzi" Roderique 

Author Ron Roy (Photo from www.ronroy.com/about)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I'm Still Tired...

I just realized that it's May.

I didn't post in April. I forgot to write about Pete the Cat! March is Reading Month was pretty intense this year. And April is birthday season around here. The blog may have suffered, but everyone is in clean underwear around here.

That being said, I did just get to see my son's first "big kid" reading response letter today. It was sitting on the table, and I asked his teacher if I could see it. I think bigger chunk of time for reading- and this great response journal and thoughtful communication with his teacher- will really help elevate his reading in these last weeks of school.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

March is Reading Month 2012, Tips #21 through #31

Alas, these March is Reading Month Tips weren't posted.  I was busy this month: I did report cards and my evaluation, read 8 books (4 for work, 4 for fun), took Colby to at least 14 Reader or Therapy Dog functions, made 6 costumes for the second grade play, attended the play twice, took Claude to dance rehearsals and the recital, celebrated hockey end-of-season events, hosted Mad Men, had a movie night (on a school night), saw two authors presentations, exercised at the Y, went out for near nightly ice cream, and... Phew.

Last ten tips:

March is Reading Month 2012 Tip #21: Read a little more
March is Reading Month 2012 Tip #22: Read some nonfiction.
March is Reading Month 2012 Tip #23: Give an author a second chance.
March is Reading Month 2012 Tip #24: Read Award Winners.
March is Reading Month 2012 Tip #25 Read a cookbook and try a new recipe!
March is Reading Month 2012 Tip #26: Try a movie verison! (A post about "The Hunger Games" will follow at some point!)
March is Reading Month 2012 Tip #27: Make a book collection.
March is Reading Month 2012 Tip #28: Find a new author.
March is Reading Month 2012 Tip #29: Act out a story!
March is Reading Month 2012 Tip #30: Play a board game.
March is Reading Month 2012 Tip #31: Read to a dog. Especially one named Colby Jean.

Thank goodness it's Spring Break!

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Hmm....I have been too busy reading to be posting.

I'll catch up soon!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March is Reading Month 2012, Tips #19 and #20: Go to the Library and Read the Newspaper

Tips #19 and #20: Go the the Library and Read the Newspaper! Or got to the library and read lots of newspapers!

I continue to be an enthusiastic library patron! I check out books for me, for my students, for Blaine, for Fran and Claude.  It's the best deal in town.  I also love the selection of movies and music.  But what I love the most is the programming! We just had the chance to hear Mr. Eric from the Pete the Cat books perform his books and some silly songs (and his new book coming out- about buttons- BUY IT!) How lucky we are in this little town in Michigan to have such great opportunities and access to groovy buttons!

Mr. Eric!

Claude and Ola at the book signing!

What a great day! But Colbs, she rested at home with the paper. She does pride herself on being up on current events!

What a newshound!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

March is Reading Month 2012, Tip #17: Limericks

Tip #17: Limericks
I was reading Pigericks (limericks about pigs), and I thought I should add to my Colb-ericks (limericks about the Colby dog):

There was a dog named Colby Jean
Who didn't know how to be mean
She gave robbers a hand
To cash in the nightstand
And then went right back to her dream

There was a dog named Colby Girl
Who was truly out of this world
She was always so sweet
And she loved having treats
The whole world just loves Colby Girl

Colby is a good reader dog
But also she's such a love hog
She'll nudge you for a pet
And she just won't relent
You'll constantly pet Colby dog!

Couch Pup...I'm so old, so I should sit on the couch.

Friday, March 16, 2012

March is Reading Month 2012, Tip #16: Read Some Poetry Today

Tip #16: Read Some Poetry Today!

Yesterday, I had the good fortune to get to sit around with Colby and listen to third graders read her some dog poems. Time well-spent...

I love reading poems with Fran and Claude.  Claudia is really into nursery rhymes and I absolutely love it. I just checked out Here's a Little Poem for Claudia; it's fabulous selection of poems with joyful, expressive illustrations.  I think she'll love this one:

From "Here's a Little Poem"...a little Gertrude Stein for the Claude...
And Fran has been enjoying Toasting Marshmallows (Camping poems since MIRM has a camp theme!) and we have I Didn't Do It on hold at AADL (the follow up book to Once I Ate A Pie.) I also think he's just prime for the goofy, rhyme-y stuff that kids love (and I poo-poo, but totally loved as a child) along the lines of Prelutsky and Silverstein.

I can't believe I haven't published Fran's famous Fog Poem yet on the blog.  I recited Sandburg's fog poem with the little cat feet and silent haunches while driving him to school one foggy morning, and Fran had a different image in his version, which he barked at me from the back of the mini-van:

He's not always a prolific poet-- legos and basement sports do keep him so busy-- but he has some really good ones.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What are you doing Friday Night?

You-know-who will be at Bach Family Reading Night from 6:30-8:30 pm!
Four years and counting.

Just getting some reading done...

March is Reading Month 2012, Tip #15: Less Texting, More Talking

Tip #15: Less Texting, More Talking

I am so tired of people yapping through the grocery store, texting while crossing the street, or checking their phone while bicycling.


Monday, March 12, 2012

March is Reading Month 2012, Tip #12: Go to a Museum!

Go to a Museum!

We just found a new short-cut on bikes to the Museum of Natural History! My challenge for this Spring is to visit Museums and travel there by bike from our house.

I think we can do:
1.  Hands On Museum
2. UM Museum of Art
3. UM Museum of Natural History
4. UM Dental Museum (Seriously, Fran is desperate to go here...)
5. UM Kelsey Museum
6. Gerald R. Ford Library
7. Kempf House (I have always wanted to go here!)
8. Cobblestone Farm Museum (My favorite place in Ann Arbor for weddings!)

All within about 2 miles of our house. What a nice little town!

I'd also love to finally get to the DIA and the Henry Ford again, but we'll drive there... (Bicycles are prohibited on I-94.)

Fran, age 5, on the Rosa Parks bus at the Henry Ford.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Getting Reading to Sing

Happy Birthday, Papa Razzi Roderique!

March is Reading Month 2012, Tip #11: Storytelling!


Last year, I wrote about using your hand to follow a story arc when telling a story.  It's my favorite trick for writing narratives and also for scaffolding retellings. But today, I was thinking about my absolute favorite storyteller: my Pappap. Granted, if you asked him to tell a story during a Pirate's game, he'd say "I'll tell you a story about Jack McGlory, and now my story's begun. I'll tell you another, about his brother, and now my story is done."

But if it was story time, he would tell some doozies. He told them over and over again- and it was fun to hear what changed and what stayed the same. Most of his stories were about his grandchildren. I wish I had asked him more about his own stories, too. I don't think Pap ever knew how much he taught me about being a writing teacher.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

March is Reading Month 2012, Tip #10: Book Organization

Book organization is important; kids can only read what they can find!

Last year, the bookcases looked like this... and I talked a lot about front facing displays, grouping books, sorting by genre. This year, I finally got tired of sagging, crammed shelves.  It was true: Fran finally outgrew his bookshelves, so we went to IKEA.


Fran's new bookshelves: a place for books, legos, and team photos to live!

Claude's well-used bookshelves...there's a stack that needs to be re-shelved on the floor.
We seriously need to hire someone to come over and put the books back.

I love March!  I know I'll organize the books. Fran sifted through his books, giving some to Claude and some back to my library.  (Sniff, he's growing up... But he still sidles up and listens to select read-alouds with Claudia.) Right after we set this up, we were able to find Hugo Cabret to loan it to our neighbor! Thank goodness for March!

Friday, March 9, 2012

March is Reading Month 2012, Tip #9: Write and Send a Letter

Write and Send a Letter!

Well, letters are on my mind. I have some personal correspondence on deck: thank yous I need to finish for some volunteer commitments and for my cousin, an awesome newspaper clipping to mail to a certain high school friend in Indianapolis, a check to pop in the mail for some Girl Scout cookies, and of course a letter to my sweet old Granny. Also, my I even turned in two proposals to 826 for possible upcoming workshops on writing letters this spring!

I absolutely love mail.  Well, fun mail.  I love to send letters and to receive letters. Real letters- not email.

I hope I get off my tuckus (and computer) long enough to write some!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

March is Reading Month 2012, Tip #8: Puppet Show!

Today's tip: have a puppet show!

When I saw that the puppet show post was on deck for Tip #8, I was a little worried.  We've been busy and I've had little time for puppet costuming and set design. But something happened yesterday at school that made me realize that it doesn't have to be so hard. Yesterday, in a book with Father Bear and Baby Bear, I did a puppet show to the dialogue using only my hands. I did a puppet-less puppet show. And if I do say so myself, I brought down the house.*

This slacker puppet show had my right hand as Baby Bear and my left as Father Bear. (No symbolism intended, Father Bear is not "sinister." In fact, I find him to be overly patient with Baby Bear sometimes.) I held my right arm lower and used amazing character voices.  I raised my arm up when Baby Bear climbed a tree, peeking out of the hole in the tree with quick turns left and right.

After the show, the kids made their own hands be puppets and they thought of things the characters might say.  It was incredibly fun and required them to really think about the characters. I think "Puppet-less Character Puppet  Re-readings and Possible Conversations" needs to be in my bag of tricks.  I can't wait to try this with the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems, always a favorite at our house!

*Or in this case, I brought down the kidney table.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March is Reading Month 2012, Tip #7: Sing, Sing a Song

Sing, sing a song!

It's funny that today's tip is about singing because I am groggy from a crazy late-nighter of planning second grade costumes for their Fish Musical. (Guess who is in charge of the swordfish costumes?)

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about ways to build fluency with readers who need extra help. I think singing is a great step. As a classroom teacher, I think I did this very well. As a specialist, I think I need to find more opportunities for singing. Maybe I could just teach kids to read with kick "a-star-star" fluency using Justin Bieber lyrics? (Are the kids still listening to him?) I am thinking that my extensive personal repertoire of show tunes and Barbra Streisand songs may not come in very handy. Wait, maybe the kids would like a little Manilow? Regardless, better collaboration and idea-sharing with primary music teachers would be a great professional goal.

In all seriousness, singing is one way kids learn to read. Claude is the quintessential toddler, enjoying nursery rhymes, especially when put to music. It's terribly sweet to hear her singing "Baa Baa Black Sheep" to herself when she is supposed to be sleeping. Today I had a student singing the ABC song to himself while following the ABC chart with his eyes right before our lesson started. Clearly, I need to use music more in my instruction with this little guy!

Singing is a huge thing with teaching preschoolers. Why do we stop singing in the classroom when students get older? Singing considers phrasing, emotion, rate: all the things that readers need to read well.

So, for me, this March...I will sing more. I'll sing because it's fun, I'll sing because my mother* tells me that my voice is a gift, and I'll sing to teach readers more about fluency.


* My mother is known across the tri-state area for being very objective in matters dealing with me.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Not So Many Reading Minutes

Today it was so nice, the kids played outside with Mr. TRWH for a long time.

So, not many reading minutes will be logged tonight.

But, time outdoors is time well spent.

March is Reading Month 2012, Tip #6: Keep Reading Aloud

Tip #6: Keep Reading Aloud.

It's easy to remember to read aloud when kids are just learning to read. But it's also important to read aloud-- and listen to books together-- with older readers, both at home and school. 

In my teaching, Read Aloud grounds both my Reading and Writing Workshop. I also feel like a much stronger, more connected  mother when it grounds my parenting.

I think I said it well last year:
"I'm going to to try to squeeze in a little read aloud time by finding stolen minutes: after breakfast, waiting in the van before school (when we arrive to early to get out and wait in the cold), at the Y before swim lessons, at dinner.
Sometimes I think reading aloud is like exercise: sometimes you really have to plan your day so it is given time. But reading aloud shouldn't stop just because your readers can already read."

That's a fine goal for this year, too.

Monday, March 5, 2012

March is Reading Month 2012, Tip #5: Rethink your "library" and mix books and toys

It's so simple: Rethink your "library" and mix books and toys.

Typically, when children are young, it's easy to tuck baskets of books in corners, on coffee tables, and on the toy shelves. I find that when books are stored in many places--and not just on one bookshelf-- they are used more frequently.

In my classroom, our classroom library had two sections: one L-shaped section that housed fiction and leveled books around our meeting area (I like to think that the books anchored us) and a nonfiction library in an opposite corner. Personal book bags were also in table bins. No matter where you were, books were visible and accessible.

At home, I make sure that reading materials for all interests are on the coffee table, on bookshelves, tucked along with toys, in the car, and on the sun porch.  Fran just got a new shelving unit from IKEA and it holds books and legos and toys and awards and special photos and tchotchkes. And since he helped organize it and can find the books he needs (or have them find him), he is reading more.

If the books are accessible, the the kids will find the books.  And I love to find them when they've lost themselves in a good book.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

March is Reading Month 2012, Tip #4: Loan a Book!

March is Reading Month, Tip #4: Loan a Book!

Last year, Tip #3 involved some finger pointing at a lady we like to call "Christy" (since it is her name.)  A generous book loaner and giver, she is responsible for 2 of the 3 worst reads I have ever had. (I, alone, am responsible for finding  the third of the worst books ever.) But I do thank her for Magnolia Wednesdays, the Atlanta version of Ann Arbor's The Christmas Cookie Club, since I enjoy books that highlight restaurants that I have visited and roads I have driven on, even if they read like a Lifetime Movie.

Typically when I loan a book, I know there a chance I won't get it back, which is fine because I often check out a book I already own from the library on the occasions when I am unable to find it. I usually can't remember if I loaned I...or lost it.  But I am fastidious borrower, known across states for returning borrowed texts. Some borrowers don't return books. I always thought I was above such careless tactics, but if you would ask a woman named "Colleen", she may tell a tale about her copy* of Up in the Air and a local lady rabbi I'll call "Sara" may kvetch about me borrowing a poetry book for 5 years**.

One of my favorite parts of being a classroom teacher was leaving a book with tiny personal notes on a post-it on a student's desk.  I'd write notes like these:
"I thought you'd like this book since you like Melanie Watt books."
"The main character reminded me of you since you're both sports nuts."
"Mercy Watson loves buttered toast just like us!"
"This book reminded me of your library book last week!"

So, readers, loan a book, borrow a book, give a book. Spread the joy!

* I offered A Visit from the Goon Squad in return for the missing book, and now hope to borrow The Hunger Games.
** OK, she won't.  She's too nice.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

March is Reading Month 2012, Tip #3: Re-read a Favorite Book!

I live with young children, so clearly we read favorite books over and over again. Sometimes's it's a good thing...and sometimes not-so-much.  One of my recent favorites I re-read was Charlotte's Web.  It gets better every time I read it, aloud or alone.

When favorite stories are in our blood, they shape our experiences.  From the emotional reactions of experiencing the characters in Charlotte's Web to yelling "No Sittin' on Babies" from Pirates Don't Change Diapers (to Ellen's boys at Benny's Restaurant) to rubbing our tummies and saying "so tasty" like the Wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, familiarity with books serves so many purposes.*

In addition to emotional and social implications from getting books into our blood, there is also the consideration of reading fluency.  In my work in Reading Intervention, fluency is something I consider quite a bit. Recently, I have been reading professional books by Tim Rasinski about fluency. One aspect that I think has huge implications are his suggestions for using partner reading and deep readings to impact fluency of the text at hand and those beyond. Much about these instructional strategies is finding ways to recreate home-reading lap experiences and the glorious benefits of the repetition of reading in a classroom setting.

This makes me think about those books and favorite parts that we read over and over again. Like Terrific Trains when Fran was one.  I am a Kitten when Claude was two. Smash Crash when Fran was three. And Library Lion when Claude was almost four. And there's the series books we love: Little Critter, Chester, Mercy Watson, Froggy, Franklin, Frances,  Henry and Mudge, Poppleton, Elephant and Piggie. And of course, Chicken Butt.

So when our children say "Read it again," we must!

* I need to stop saying, "Nibble, nibble little mousey.  Who's that nibbling on my house-y" from Hansel and Gretel because I sound convincingly like the witch.  Perhaps I should also stop checking Claude's finger to see if she's ready to be eaten.

Friday, March 2, 2012

March is Reading Month 2012, Tip #2: Seuss It Up!

We were driving home last week when Fran announced that we should have a cake on March 2 for Dr. Seuss's birthday

It will be a busy week with MIRM starting, Mr. TRWH finishing his travels, and report card assessments creeping in, but my goal is to make these fabulous cupcakes from Confessions of a Food Bride:

Dr Seuss Thing 1 and Thing 2 Cupcakes
Photo from Confessions of a Food Bride

I ordered the cotton candy. I have a can of Sprinkles Red Velvet on hand in case of general slacker-ness. (And I would not be ashamed to pick up a 6 pack of Red Velvet from The Cupcake Station in the cover of darkness and smoosh the cotton candy on top.  Ta-da!) I've talked myself into the idea that making them on the weekend is a better idea so the kids can help, and we'll see if the cotton candy gets here in time.

Regardless, we will serve green eggs and turkey bacon for dinner!

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss. Your art, rhythms, and rhymes have shaped readers for years.

Update: Thing 1 and Thing 2 cupcakes, 2012!

Double Seuss Cupcakes!  His teacher made Cat in the Hat ones!

Cupcakes on our family heirloom: the Lierberman plate.

Human Cotton Candy Disposal System, nose crinkle edition

Thursday, March 1, 2012

March is Reading Month 2012, Tip #1: Relax!

Tip #1: Relax and enjoy March is Reading Month.

We seem so busy these days.  One thing March is Reading Month (MIRM) does at The Reading and Writing House (TRWH) is remind us to slow down.

Unplug. Unwind. Breathe. Think. Talk. Reflect. Grab a book. Relax.

Don't feel guilty about reading another chapter instead of vacuuming.  Tell and extra story at bedtime. Linger over dessert; the dishes can wait. Stay up too late one night reading.

Make MIRM what you and your family need to feel refreshed and connected with yourselves and others.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wise Words

Here's a quote from last year that I think sums up what I want for MIRM every year:

"(MIRM is about) creating a home where reading and writing matter. It's not about getting kids to read above grade-level, it's not about checking daily reading off a list, and it's not about school.  

It's about life. It's about living well. And it's about feeling connected to others and yourself."

Get ready for daily posts in March!

Fran laughing at some Garfield comics.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

March Is Reading Month, 2012

It's almost here again:  March Is Reading Month (MIRM).

Last year, I posted daily tips.  This year, I plan post daily, linking to the tips and providing additional commentary as needed.  My first concern with the daily tips was that the list was not intended as a to-do list, but a pick-and-choose menu for March and beyond. That hint will remain true for 2012.

For me, MIRM is an excuse to jumpstart both my own reading life and my children's reading lives, usually involving some goal setting.  As much as I tend to think that there must be more I can do for my students, my children, or myself as a reader, it's been reassuring to look back over the year and see successes.  So in 2012, we will again celebrate MIRM, keeping busy trying to slow down. And of course, Colby's reader-dog-ness will be in high demand.

There is more to life than just books (parks, sports, food, plays, ice cream, concerts, ice skating, dinner guests...)  But life is so much more with books.  Here's to MIRM 2012!

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Years ago, when I was a child, I carried a quarter at all times in case I needed to call home. (My parents were frugal people who I feared would not accept my collect calls.) I remember being shocked when phone calls began to cost 35 cents;  it was so much more challenging to carry two coins. I have always loved phone booths.

When Mr. TRWH and I moved to NYC with the Maggie dog in the 90s, phone booths were plentiful and well-used. Cell phones were still a luxury. We didn't have one for years and years of our city living, and then we shared one between us. So we used pay phones. I remember fondly the glorious recording of the woman with the thick Bronx accent, thanking me for using a NYNEX pay phone.

I worry about phone booths going away, but one NYer found a way to give them renewed value: he is crafting them into Guerilla Libraries, as detailed in this article on the TheAtlanticCities.com. Columbia University Architecture graduate student John Locke, sponsored by the Department of Urban Betterment, (a group of his own creation), has been making these:

Guerilla Library, NYC
(I hope we get one in A2 soon!)

I find these guerilla libraries to be inspirational, whimsical, and generous. Walking past one would be a daily reminder of how books connect us to both ourselves and others. I love Locke's suggestion that in this way they "give value back to a neighborhood." They most certainly do.

Now, can anyone tell me where I can get a Department of Urban Betterment T-shirt?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Rink's Down

Sadly, the backyard rink is down.

After above freezing temperatures on a regular basis, the rink was taken apart.  The liner is drying in the driveway, the boards are stacked in the backyard, and clamps and tools are strewn about.

We did have two days of glorious skating, but last year we skated for weeks.  We may be the only people hoping and dreaming for a colder winter next year.

And seriously, there better be at least one snow day this year.  After eight years of consulting (where snow days are unpaid and must be rescheduled), I was hoping for a snow day (or two) with my kids. Come on, winter!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Ring My Bell!

Well, it's that time of year again: Preschool Open Houses!

Fran's 1st Day at Stone School (2007)
Francis is a proud alumnus of Stone School Cooperative Nursery.  SSCN is housed in a beautiful, historic one-room schoolhouse that just celebrated its 100th birthday. As a cooperative, parents have assist (helper) days; this enables tuition to be beyond reasonable and also creates an amazing sense of community and camaraderie.

Fran, Blaine, and I made so many friends at Stone School.  We had great experiences with both Mrs. Barbara (3's) and Annie (4's) and are excited that Claudia will be joining a Stone School afternoon class in the fall.

In addition to the established teachers that we adore, SSCN boasts a wonderful, welcoming first floor, an indoor motor play area in the basement, and a lovely outdoor playground.  It is a play-based program that supports social-emotional growth.  As a reading teacher, this is exactly the kind of curriculum I recommend for 3s and 4s; play is the academic rigor that is behind strong readers, writers, and mathematicians. Fran's favorite part (and I think mine, too) was the daily ringing of the 100 year-old school bell before recess. Stone School  is currently accepting new students for the 2012-2013 school year and the membership chairs are always happy to arrange a tour and answer questions.

The entire experience at Stone School was completely magical.  I think Francis says it best in this poem:

Fran's 1st poem for Annie on his last day of Stone School

Hopefully, we'll see you in the fall at Stone School!