Leo Lionni

We’ve had a month of dark foggy days, and this week our gray rainy days will return. It’s early-January winter! I am reminded of a favorite book, read aloud many times in my classroom[s] over the years, and it brightened this gray winter morning to pull it off my shelf and re-read it.


Frederick, by Leo Lionni, is about a group of mice gathering food for the winter. All are busy except for Frederick, who seems to be sitting on a rock in the sunshine doing nothing. But he IS doing something…he is collecting sun rays and colors and words. Later, in the middle of the dark, cold winter, when the food is scarce and the spirits are low, Frederick begins to tell the mice his stories. He weaves his memories of sunshine and colors into beautiful words which warm the hearts and lifts the spirits of his fellow mice. He is a storyteller and a poet!


A Thanksgiving Audiobook: The Wizard of Oz


I am having so much fun listening to the audiobook version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, narrated by the incredibly talented Anne Hathaway! It was already on my listening wishlist, when Audible offered it to me free as a Thanksgiving gift. (If you’d like to listen to a 28-minute excerpt from the book, click here.)

This book was one of my favorite yearly read-alouds when I was teaching. I’m missing those favorites now that I’m retired, so thought that I could give myself a gift of listening to someone else read it to me. Little did I know that Anne Hathaway, with her passionate love for character and acting, would be my reader. I love Audible for gifting me this audiobook, and I’m loving Anne’s fun-filled, energy-packed interpretation of L.Frank Baum’s wonderful words!

Overwhelmed, but still reading…


Life in fast motion…

My life right now is an interesting combination of a rushing blur of activity interspersed with stop-motion moments of beautiful, crystal clarity. My husband and I are preparing to retire at the end of this month and move to our beautiful new old home in Oregon. Making that happen is an enormous undertaking while finishing up our careers, selling our condo, and saying “goodbye” to dear friends and colleagues. OVERWHELMED is an understatement. But it’s all good, [our mantra throughout this time of stress] and we are excited and looking forward to beginning this new stage of life.

So, although life is crazy-busy right now, I am still reading (little bits at a time), and listening, and reading aloud to my Second Graders. Here are the reading delights of the last month:


A post from my teaching blog…

Originally posted on Photo-a-Day in 2nd Grade:

This week the entire school has enjoyed another Read Across America celebration.  At a random time each day, the beginning of our school song is played over the loud speaker. That is the signal to “Drop Everything And Read!”  We love this! The kids immediately head to a comfy spot somewhere in the room, and this teacher quickly pulls out her book, and we all start reading! It’s a 15-minute reading break that we all love.


View original


Today’s topic for The Estella Society’s bookish photo-a-day challenge is “Readalong.” My sweet Second Grade students have recently finished their first ‘readalong.’ Our project was a whole-class sharing of the Newbery Honor Award book, The Courage of Sarah Noble, by Alice Dalgleish. They did a wonderful job taking turns reading aloud, participating in class discussions [I was impressed by their insights], and working with a partner on assignments and activities. I could tell they enjoyed the book because they keep talking about it and I’ll occasionally hear them say, “That was just like in Sarah Noble”…


#EstellaGram – 19 “Readalong”

Virtual Advent Tour: December Celebrations, again!


Mandala colored by my 2nd grader…

Spending the month of December in a classroom is magical. Energy level is heightened. Children are excited. They work with an intensity that is wonderful to see. They can also be extra wiggly, off-task, and somewhere in dreamland! But this is my 27th year of spending such Decembers with a large group of young ones, and I love it. It really feels like the HOLIDAY season!

Our classroom December is spent with lots of poetry, art, and music. Everything is centered around our study of Families of the World and their cultural traditions. We read, we research, we share information learned. We watch films of families from every continent (except Antarctica!), we memorize poems about the holidays, we decorate our room with lots of color and light. And then, just before school gets out for Winter Break, we invite our parents to come to the classroom and celebrate it all with a “Heritage Feast” with delicious tastes of family favorites and foods from many different cultures.

So for this year’s Virtual Advent Tour (thanks to Kelly and Marg), I’d like to share with you two heartfelt holiday treasures — The poem my students memorize and recite every December, AND a video of one of the most inspiring groups of children (and their incredibly gifted music teacher) performing “Let Their Be Peace on Earth.”

To each of you, from whichever tradition you celebrate, I wish you a joyous, light-filled December, and a very Happy Holiday Season!

December Celebrations!

Every year at just this time,
In cold and dark December,
Families around the world,
All gather to remember.
With presents and with parties,
With feasting and with fun.
Customs and traditions,
For people old and young.
So every year around the world,
In all lands and all nations,
People of all ages love,
December Celebrations!

(by Helen H. Moore)

From the chorus of PS22 in Staten Island, New York:  Their version of the beautiful song, “Let Their Be Peace on Earth.”

Fall Shared Reading

Our Reading Rug…where we sit to share all these wonderful books.

When I say that I haven’t been reading very much recently, it’s not exactly true. My own reading has slowed down for many reasons, but I am still reading every day and going through books like crazy! Here’s why…

This is my 27th year of teaching, and this year I have the world’s sweetest class of Second Graders. They love to read and love listening to stories, so we are compiling quite a list of books shared (our Read Aloud books). We have a Read Aloud time every morning after recess, and it’s amazing how many books you can read in just 20-30 minutes a day! Here’s our list of the books we have shared during our Read Aloud time on our Reading Rug so far this year:

  1. Strega Nona, by Tomie dePaola
  2. Strega Nona: Her Story, by Tomie dePaola
  3. Big Anthony: His Story, by Tomie dePaola
  4. Strega Nona’s Magic Lessons, by Tomie dePaola
  5. Big Anthony and the Magic Ring, by Tomie dePaola
  6. Strega Nona Meets Her Match, by Tomie dePaola
  7. Strega Nona Takes a Vacation, by Tomie dePaola
  8. Strega Nona’s Harvest, by Tomie dePaola
  9. The Sunflower House, by Eve Bunting
  10. Tomie dePaola, by Eric Braun
  11. Mercy Watson to the Rescue, by Kate DiCamillo
  12. Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride, by Kate DiCamillo
  13. Akimbo and the Elephants, by Alexander McCall Smith
  14. Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen
  15. Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White
  16. Blueberries For Sal, by Robert McCloskey
  17. Squanto and the Pilgrims, by A.M. Anderson
  18. Room on the Broom, by Julia Donaldson (Thanks, Mrs. Lux, for reading this to us at our Halloween party!)
  19. Gooney Bird Greene, by Lois Lowry
  20. Catwings, by Ursula K. Le Guin
  21. Catwings Return, by Ursula K. Le Guin
  22. Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings, by Ursula K. Le Guin
  23. Jane on her Own: A Catwings Tale, by Ursula K. Le Guin
  24. Currently reading: Helen Keller, by Margaret Davidson

Re-Run: Boxing Up My Class Library

Five years ago, I wrote a post called “Boxing Up the Class Library” about finishing a school year and boxing up all my books and materials because of a big change in my teaching situation.  This week has been a re-run of that time, busy with the end-of-the-year activities AND boxing all my books and materials so that I can move to a different classroom (although not to a new grade level this time).

It’s a huge job to pack a library, but yesterday I had some wonderful help.  A Dad who volunteers frequently in our school, came in and asked if I needed help. I looked longingly at my class library, and he got to work immediately. Except…he didn’t just throw the books in boxes (as I would have done), he ORGANIZED them into boxes by size and genre. As the kids and I went through our last full day of school, I watched him work and thanked my lucky stars for this sweet, organized man!  In the Fall, when it comes time to unbox these books and set up the class library in my new classroom, it will be a DREAM LIBRARY, organized beyond anything I’ve ever been able to manage myself!

One more interesting piece to this story…my volunteer was Roger Goodman, our Representative to the State Legislature. This is a man who cares deeply about children, schools, education! He’s an active Dad in our school, and shows how much he cares about all of us by his consistent volunteerism and support. He gets my vote…and a big hug for doing such a huge job in my classroom yesterday!

A Father’s Day Book

A very happy Father’s Day to all you wonderful fathers out there!  My husband and I wanted to spend today with our son and grandson, but both of us have nasty mean colds, so we’re stuck at home. We hope to spend some time with them NEXT weekend, when we are well again.

So in celebration of Father’s Day, I am reposting a little piece I wrote back in February about one of my class’s favorite Read Alouds of this school year. After we finished reading it, I received this email from a parent. It was the compliment of a career for me, but also shows you how much children love this book!

Since my daughter is going to miss reading books with you more than anything else in her school life so far — would you have any recommendations for summer reading, books you wish you would have had more time to read with the class?  
E gave her Dad a copy of “Danny Champion of the World” for his birthday, because it was so good she wanted to read it with him!!

Last week, I read aloud to my Second Graders the wonderful book by Roald Dahl, Danny, the Champion of the World. I have always loved this book because it portrays one of the most beautiful father-son relationships in literature. But reading it this year, after a very difficult year in our own son’s life (his name is Danny, too!), had special meaning for me. I understand that single-father and son relationship in the book in ways I never expected, and I appreciate deeply that Roald Dahl created this loving, caring, nurturing, and sparky Dad for us all to love!

When I picked out this book to be the next read aloud in my classroom, it was because I knew it was a wonderful story that would capture my students’ imaginations. I didn’t realize consciously that I was picking out a book that would give me an even deeper love, appreciation for, and understanding of my own newly single-father son and our grandboy, and of their very precious and beautiful relationship.