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.