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marshfieldRalph Fletcher was the visiting author at my daughter’s school this year.  She really enjoyed him and his books.  Her teacher read her class Fig Pudding, which my daughter suggested we read aloud with my son.  But, since it was early in the school year and there were no pictures in the book, he quickly said no.  A few months ago, she suggested we read Marshfield Dreams aloud.  We needed a break from Harry Potter, and this was perfect.  It is about Mr. Fletcher growing up in Marshfield, MA, his family – that seemed to be forever growing, his friends.  How easy it was to play outside for hours back when we were kids. (and yes, I did walk in the snow to school, uphill, both ways! – sarcasm!)  Ralph Fletcher’s stories bring you right there with him.  It is as though you are one of the 9 Fletcher children.  My daughter loved hearing theses stories.  And, guess what. when we fininshed, my son asked if I could read it to him.  We are not quite finished with it – but he is enjoying it as well, and there are only a few pictures at the beginning of every chapter.  Perhaps we can get him to listen to Fig Pudding next.  http://www.ralphfletcher.com/

Happy Reading!

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When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.  I got this book suggestion from Hooray for Books (that wonderful bookstore and blog in Alexandria, VA http://www.hooray4books.com/).  It intrigued me.  I try to get my daughter to read books about other children who live in different places.  We live in the country, sort of; definitely different from NYC.  I think its interesting  to read about children going through similar and different situations, even though they may live in very different places.

Sal and Miranda are best friends.  But, all that changes.  Sal stops wanting to hang out with Miranda, she begins getting notes about things that will happen in the future, her mom is preparing to be on TV.  Its a whole new world for Miranda.  The story takes place in the real world, but deep within, you will find that there is a mystery to be solved.  It was wonderful to see Miranda develop new friends, and navigate her way through her somewhat new life, while still trying to hold on to things from the past.  This book has a lot of references to A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, and even gives away the ending to it.  So, for that reason alone, I will be saving this book until after my daughter reads A Wrinkle in Time.

Happy Reading!

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I have seen Wonder by R.J. Palacio all over the place this school year.  I had it on hold at our local library, but was in the middle of another book, so I passed.  I was able to get it for the next go-round.  I am kicking myself for not reading it sooner.  If you haven’t read it, I insist that you put your name on the waitlist at your library!

Auggie is born with a facial deformity.  He has his family, and his friends that he has no since he was a baby.  Now, his parents have decided that it is time he starts “real school” in 5th grade.  Who wants to start a new school in 5th grade?  Who wants to start a new school in 5th grade and have facial deformities?  This book, these characters, all have something to say.  You never really know a person until you have walked a mile in their shoes.  I don’t think truer words were ever spoken.  Auggie, his sister, Via, her former best friend, Miranda, her boyfriend, Justin, Auggie’s new friends at school, Summer and Jack.  Each one makes you laugh and cry.  This book is  . . .  (I’m speechless).

I insisted that my daughter read it.  Usually, she fights me, but eventually reads the books I ask her to read.  I wanted her to read it while it was still fresh in my mind.  There are so many questions I want to ask her, so many discussions I want to have.  She’s about a quarter of the way through it, and is loving it.  I’m not sure she’ll cry like I did, but she is enjoying it.  One question I do have for her.  Is it better to be like Auggie – smart, regular 5th grade boy, who just happen to look VERY different.  Or is it better to not be aware of your differences?

“Shall we make a new rule of life . . . always try to be a little kinder than necessary.”

Happy Reading!

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I think about this ALL the time!

http://kristincashore.blogspot.com/2013/04/keeping-my-center-in-era-of-interwebs.html

Here are a few questions I ask myself before I hit “publish” on any blog post:

  • Is it too personal? Will it make me feel exposed in some way? Why?
  • Does it compromise my self-respect? How? To the best of my ability to judge, does it respect others?
  • How recently have I blogged and how much have I been blogging recently? Why?
  • Why do I want to blog this thing?  —–> No self-deception or delusion allowed here. Whatever the real reason is, am I okay with it?
  • What if I didn’t blog this thing? What if I kept it to myself, or emailed a friend about it instead? Would that feel more peaceful and centering? Why?

For every blog post I hit “publish” on, there are probably two I delete. For every two paragraphs I leave in a blog post, there’s probably one I delete. It doesn’t feel like a waste of time to me, because in the writing and questioning, I organize my thoughts and learn about myself, which I dearly hope helps me move respectfully and responsibly through the world. The internet is a wonderful tool, but I think it’s wondrousness is very tied up with its dangerousness. Even more than most of the tools at my disposal, I want to use it mindfully.

What questions do you ask yourself before clicking the magic button?

(Why?)

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I have been getting a lot of book suggestions from the blog (http://hooray4books.wordpress.com/) at Hooray for Books in Alexandria, VA (http://www.hooray4books.com/).  If you are lucky enough to live in the area – be sure to visit them, the staff is very knowledgeable and they have GREAT stuff!  Whenever we visit the DC area – we always stop in for some recommendations.  They introduced us to The Penderwicks and my daughter and I will be forever grateful!

Okay – back to Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt.  I read about this on their blog.  It was in the teen section in our library.  I got it anyway, even though I knew it would be too old for my daughter.  I loved it.  It is 1968, Doug and his family have to move to Marysville, NY because his father got a job.  Nobody is particularly happy about the move.  Doug has one brother who is “a thug” and can’t figure out how not to be one, another brother who is in Vietnam, and his father is a drunk.  Doug figures out his path in Marysville, he finds people who care about him, and encourage him.  He realizes that after some time, you have to make the life that you want to live.  Doug is a wonderful character who you want to root for, even though at times, you’re not sure if its the right thing to do.  This is definitely too old for my daughter, but I kept thinking of my nephews for this book.

I also thought of a professor I had in Graduate School, Lorraine Monroe.  She started and ran the Frederick Douglass Academy in Harlem.  In class one night, she told us that she would tell her kids (the students) that no matter what goes on at home – and believe me, there was a lot of stuff going on at home for most of those children – when you come to school, you are you, and you have to do what is right for you.  For many of these children, like Doug, coming to school was their escape, and usually, the teachers and staff at the school were the only ones who cared.

One of my favorite quotations from the book,  “I’m not lying when I say that Hollywood actresses would kill for my mother’s smile.  You think Elizabeth Taylor can smile?  If you saw my mother’s smile, you wouldn’t even let Elizabeth Taylor in the same room.  If Joe Pepitone saw my mother’s smile, he would give up baseball for her.  That’s how beautiful her smile is.   . . . and we sat there in quiet in the heat, me looking up to watch her smile and wondering how I could ever draw it, it was that beautiful.”

How can you not smile when you read that?

Happy Reading!

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It doesn’t matter what nationality you are.  And, I know that so many of us are pressed for time while raising our children.  Put down your phone, don’t go on the computer.  Sit down, and read with your children.  You have no idea what 20 minutes a day will do for your them!!!  You can thank me later!

http://nbclatino.com/2013/03/20/opinion-prescribing-love-of-reading-to-young-families-should-be-mandatory/

Opinion: Prescribing love of reading to young families should be mandatory

by Esther J. Cepeda

9:19 pm on 03/20/2013

CHICAGO — A few weeks ago, I approached an apocalyptic-sounding essay in The New York Times titled “The Country That Stopped Reading.” Finally, I thought, another pessimist to join me in bemoaning the awful state of reading in America.

The author, David Toscana, was actually writing about Mexico. But he paralleled what I see here in this country. When he lamented that, in Mexico, baseline literacy is up but “the practice of reading an actual book is not,” the observation rang true stateside.

Admittedly, it’s not all that bad. According to a 2012 survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 83 percent of Americans between the ages of 16 and 29 had read a book in the past year and more of them did so for pleasure than for work or school. But if you spend enough time in low-income communities and schools, the world looks a lot different than what the national statistics imply.

Toscana recalled asking an auditorium filled with 300 or so 14- and 15-year-olds the question “Who likes to read?” He was shocked to see but one shy hand. I’ve had similar experiences in my local schools. He’s also spent time among teachers, never seeing them crack open a book. I’ve witnessed instructors scoff at the very suggestion that they read a novel over the summer in order to participate in a back-to-school book discussion.

The underlying problem isn’t simply about literacy. The reality is that while many people are taught to read, not enough grow up with a love of reading as young children. One group has honed in on this sad state of affairs and is doing something meaningful to change it. Reach Out and Read is a national nonprofit organization of pediatricians and medical providers that prescribes books as part of well-child health visits.

The organization helps young families learn how to read together and impresses upon parents that they are their child’s most important teacher. “The founders said, ‘We talk about nutrition, sugar, seat belts, car seats, exercise and such, why not start incorporating the message of the importance of reading?’” said Judith Forman, the Boston-based organization’s public awareness manager.

“Eventually, the program grew national. We now serve 4 million children and families a year via 5,000 health centers in all 50 states.” Doctors’ offices volunteer to join the program, train in specific literacy tactics and fund the purchase of enough age-appropriate books to furnish each one of their young patients with 10 books over the span of a few years.

Each child between the ages of 6 months and 5 years who comes in gets a book, and their parents are given a mini-lesson on what age-appropriate literacy activities should take place at home. One thing that really stuck out to me as I spoke with Forman is that although the physician groups participating in the program are heavily concentrated in low-income communities — arguably where they’re most needed — once a practice signs on, all families are exposed to the benefits of reading.

“The medical provider tailors the program to each family,” Forman said. “Particularly now, in the age of technology, some families are time-poor as opposed to economically poor and fall into the trap of replacing reading with screen time. In other families where parents might have low literacy, or a second language, we show parents how to sit with a child and flip through books, look at pictures and ask questions.

The reading, talking, singing, and rhyming together are all the things that set the skills for children to be ready to read, learn and succeed. And it’s a special bonding moment when kids are on a parent’s lap.”

Dipesh Navsaria, a pediatrician and children’s librarian, as well as the director of Reach Out and Read Wisconsin, literally writes out prescriptions to his patients calling for doses that range in minutes per day to “every night at bedtime.” Refills are to be requested at the public library. “It’s cute and gimmicky but families are surprised by it,” Navsaria told me.

“It helps them understand that I really mean this. It is as important as bike helmets, ‘back-to-sleep’ and immunizations. It is as important a prescription as one for [the antibiotic] amoxicillin.” Prescribing a love of reading to young families — what a brilliant idea. Sadly, it’s one that needs to be more seriously considered for widespread adoption as book reading remains nonexistent in some families and gives way to our society’s endless electronic entertainments in others.

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So I liked The Candymakers so much, I figured I would try more of Wendy Mass’ books.  Good choice.  Over the past couple of months I have started books, but never loved them enough to keep reading.  That changed with Jeremy Fink.

Jeremy receives a box about a month before his 13th birthday.  It was from his father, who passed away several years ago.  A friend of his dad’s had held it for safekeeping.  On the box is engraved “The Meaning of Life: For Jeremy Fink to open on his 13th Birthday”  However, the friend who sent it lost the keys to open it.  So brings us to the adventure of finding the keys and the meaning of life.  Jeremy has a best friend Lizzy.  The two of them discover many things that summer; they go to flea markets, lawyers offices, and to some interesting characters homes.  It is a wonderful story about family, friendships and finding your way.  I laughed, I cried.  I was sad to see it end.  However, the story ended so well, that I was okay with moving on from Jeremy and Lizzy.   And, there is a movie. . . maybe after my daughter reads it, we’ll look into getting the movie.  I do so much prefer the images in my head!

I am looking forward to reading more Wendy Mass.

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The Candymakers by Wendy Mass

I saw this book at my daughters book fair back in November.  She said she wasn’t interested, but I was intrigued.  So, I bought it for myself, and in the hopes that she would be interested at some point.  She is a chocoholic, like her dad, so I thought I, at least, had that going for me.  I loved it!  And, now it is on her list of books to read.

At the Life is Sweet candy factory four twelve year olds are about to compete in the national candymaking competitition.  Logan, Miles, Daisy and Philip all have different reasons for wanting to win, and all have different secrets they want to hide.  However, they find that through true friendship they want to share these secrets that make them who they are.  It is an important lesson for children to learn – not everybody is what they seem on the outside, and you never know what is going on in someone else’s life that makes them act the way they do.  This was beautifully written, from each child’s perspective, each one filled with surprises, chocolate and sweetness!  I couldn’t wait to find out what was in store for all of them at the competition.

I am looking forward to reading more of Wendy Mass (http://wendymass.com/)

Happy Reading!

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Shark Attack! (Ready, Freddy! Series #24)I am always looking for chapter books to read to my son.  He is picky.  Although, its like everything with him – tell him he has to take a shower and he whines and whines, then he gets in the shower and never wants to get out.   Once we start to read, he loves it.

My mom got him Shark Attack by Abby Klein, illustrated by John McKinley, for Christmas.  He is on a shark expedition lately, so she thought this was a good choice.  Freddy is a 1st grader who loves sharks – he has a shark tooth for good luck, he has sharks on his clothes.  In this story, his class is going to the Aquarium and he is very excited.  He will get to see sting rays, moon jellies, and what he is most excited about, sharks! I like the other students in the class, I like the teacher, I like the facts that are given.  There is even a bully in the class, and the way Ms. Klein writes,  children are learning the best way to deal with him. It was a good story!  There are even crafts to make on your own, and Shark facts at the end of the book.  And, if you look closely in every picture, you will find the word FIN.

When we finished the book, my son was looking at the Shark Facts at the end of the book and guess what?  It’s a series.  However, we started with the last one – so we decided to go backwards.  Last night we finished Science Fair Flop.  He is loving them.  Success!!

Happy Reading!

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