Saturday, January 30, 2010


The librarian at our school told me that when kids come to the library for their weekly class, she stops them at the door and throws her hands up. "I have no Wimpy Kid books," she announces, "so don't ask!"
     I read the first Wimpy Kid book when it appeared a few years ago and was quickly enamored. Greg is so  believable, so flawed, so funny in his innocence.  The cartoons Jeff Kinney (author and illustrator) scatters throughout the book are laugh-out-loud.
     I had no idea, though, Wimpy Kid would take off as it has. In every third and fourth grade group that comes into my room now, at least two of the students (of the usual 6) have one of Kinney's books with them. (The reading level of the books is approximately third grade. I have several second graders who keep trying to check out my copies, even though the books are a bit too difficult for them. I make them a bargain - they can get the Wimpy books if they read 15 other books in "their" bucket. A huge motivator.) Last week when I checked the AR website (AR is a popular web-based program that helps teachers test students' knowledge over books read independently), the Wimpy Kid series is the most-checked out book in 2009 for grades 3-6. Of course.
     Thank you, Mr. Kinney. I often tell parents it's not that boys don't like to read. They do - if they find something that talks to them. The boys run for Wimpy Kids. Girls do, too.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


     I am an avid follower of picture books. I run to the nearby bookstores to study how a talented illustrator has enhanced the world of children. I first bought A River of Words because it was a Caldecott Honor Book, but the more I look it over, the more themes I see -- and like.
     Jen Bryant and illustrator Melissa Sweet tells of the poet, William Carlos Williams (1883-1963), and how he managed to be both an active pediatrician and major poet of the day. I'm not sure if children will appreciate the art as much as I do, but the collages of prescription pads, lined pages, poems, textbook pages, celestial maps, and childlike drawings create an energy that should keep the kids visually engaged, as should the story of a boy who lives between a world of both boys and nature.
     And for those adults reading it, it reminds us that we really don't have to restrict ourselves into one lifestyle, one interest.

Monday, January 25, 2010


     So he just knows how to read short vowel words? No problem. There's still so much he can read. That is fun. And silly. 
     Here are a few tongue twisters below I made up that use mostly short vowels. (Okay, so I copied a few of them.) The object is not to help him -- at all. The reward for him once he conquers the words is to get to say the tongue twister over and over -- the faster, the better. Add some acting to it or some running or hopping -- it's amazing how much more fun reading is when you get to hop and run and do skits, right?

NOTE: A) Okay, you can help with the non-short vowel words that are in boldface, but nothing nothing nothing else. B) Periodically I will offer other tongue twisters for other phonic skills.

1. The bass with a bad back Dad whacked with a bat.
2. Will the vet get that pet into a net? Not yet.
3. How many cans can a canner can
    If a canner can can cans?
4. Did Mick quick-kick sick Rick?
5. The duck ducks under a dock.
6. If a fat cat pats a rat,
    Can the fat rat pat the cat back?
7. Of all the felt I ever felt
    I never felt a piece of felt
    That felt the same as that felt
    When I first felt felt.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


     I saved an article from the New York Times back in November. It tells of children as young as a year old who actively try to help adults in need, perhaps demonstrating that such behavior is innate in humans. Biologists find such helpfulness crosses culture lines with young children, that training does not improve this inclination, and that interactions in later years with peers and family members may then impact their helpfulness -- or lack of it. Interesting.


       The New York Times Learning Network asked kids where they'd most like to visit in the world. Canada. South Africa. MIddle East.Sri Lanka. Antartica.       
       Not one of them mentioned Disneyworld. 
       So I when I was called in to cover a third grade classroom while a teacher was called elsewhere, I asked these students where they'd most like to go. I did get one "Branson," the country-themed town in Missouri. But the rest gave articles like the children in this article -- Haiti, Israel, Africa, Antarctica.
      Says a lot about you, kids. Good for you.
Photo credit: / CC BY 2.0

Monday, January 18, 2010


     I have an aunt, the matriarch of our family now nearing 100 years old, who bemoans how the world has changed, how dangerous and ugly it has become. After the banking debaucle and the mortgage fiasco, after reports of gruesome assaults in our cities and our homes, after the bursting of New Orleans' levees from incompetence, after Iran and Iraq and Afghanistan, I sometimes want to agree with her.
     But I can't. There are simply too many amazing events going on today. Scientists are creating bionic fingers. Tiny cameras slip through the ill to assist doctors. Neil Gaiman writes his tales of strange world for our children while Jeffrey Eugenides and Cormac McCarthy write gripping tales for the rest of us, Greg Mortenson builds schools for girls in dangerous lands, "Phantom of the Opera" continues on Broadway, Sarah Sze creates her  eclectic mobiles. What is there not to like about today?
     As parents and teachers, it is for us to find, then share, this fascinating world with our children and students in a way they will understand. It is for us to review the science behind learning so we each can make intelligent decisions about what and how to teach. 
     That is the purpose for this blog.

Photo credit: SKBerenson