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Stacey Loscalzo

Latest Posts

Jan 28

Today’s Picture Book Favorites

by Stacey

Katherine and I found quite a few new picture books to love.

Here they are: 22521973

Last Stop on Market Street written by Matt De La Pena & illustrated by Christian Robinson. This book received a ton of pre-release  press and it was worth every word. This book is a wonderful lesson in celebrating the good in the world.

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I’m My Own Dog by David Ezra Stein tells the story of a dog who thinks he is doing just fine on his own until he finds an owner to love.

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Dangerous by Tim Warnes is the story of a small mole who labels everything he sees. At first, an alligator is dangerous but over time he learns that what once appears scary can actually be quite friendly. This book has a great message along with an amazing vocabulary lesson.

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The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach tells the comical tale of tricky canine who may or may  not have eaten a sandwich.

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Duck in the Fridge by Jeff Mack. I think that Jeff Mack is my new picture book crush. I love this hilarious tale that celebrates both humor and books.

 

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Jan 26

A Visit with Natalie Babbitt & Gregory McGuire

by Stacey

IMG_6181I have been following the Thalia Kids’ Book Club events at Symphony Space for years. For some reason, when things have been appealing, our schedules haven’t allowed us to attend. Earlier this week,  I noticed that there would be a 40th anniversary celebration of Tuck Everlasting with Natalie Babbitt on Sunday and amazingly, we had nothing on our calendars. I immediately bought tickets and began counting down the days.

Tuck Everlasting was the first book that I remember loving. I switched schools in fifth grade and I truly realized that I was going to love Lincoln School when Mrs. Capo began reading aloud from Tuck Everlasting. I had always adored reading but this was the first book that really got me thinking.

Fast forward a long time till last year when I gave Caroline an old copy of Tuck. She had so many questions that each night, after she went to sleep, I read ahead a few chapters so that we could discuss the chapters. While Caroline has loved reading since the time she was born, I believe that Tuck was the first book to get her thinking too.

IMG_6180We arrived at Symphony Space with time to spare and I felt lucky, as I so often do, to live so close to New York City and all the opportunities that we find there. The event began with a gorgeous reading of Winnie meeting Jessie Tuck. And then, we had the chance to listen to the incredibly entertaining Gregory McGuire (author of Wicked, The Egg and the Spoon and so much more) interview Natalie Babbitt. In fact, the program described it as a conversation and it was so much more that than an interview. I felt like I was eavesdropping on a chat between two friends.

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Their conversation began with discussions of the stories that Babbitt loved as a child. She adored Greek myths and fairy tales but her determined mother read to her from all genres in order to expose to all the great books. Babbitt says that while her mother was reading her ‘great’ literature, some of it was quite boring so when she began writing for children she vowed that her stories would not be dull.

Babbitt’s mother was an artist. In fourth grade, Babbitt decided that she too would draw and she held on to this dream through college. In fact she has illustrated many children’s book and drew the cover art for the original editions of Tuck Everlasting. When asked who she is writing for when she writes for children, she now says that she is writing for her childhood self.

Tuck, though, was written for her daughter, who was in the audience yesterday. At the age of 5, she awoke from a nightmare, terrified of dying. As Babbitt talked to her about death being a part of life and not something to be feared, the story of Tuck Everlasting began. Interestingly, we also learned that the Tuck’s cabin and lake was based on the Babbitt’s summer home where they lived for many summers. In fact, Sam Babbitt, Natalie’s husband, who read part of the book at the end of the event, had read early editions of Tuck Everlasting to their daughters while summering at the very cabin.

While the entire conversation was fascinating, I was especially drawn to what Babbitt had to say about childhood. She said that it angered her how long it takes for children to become real people in the eyes of everyone else. She continued by saying that schools and adults treat children as if they don’t really matter until they turn eighteen.

As we waited in line to have our books signed, it became clear that Babbitt practiced what she preached. We waited in line for ages as she spoke for long periods of time to each of the children that approached her. She looked them in the eyes and asked and answered questions. Unfortunately, by the time we reached her, her 82 years showed for the first time and she was clearly tired. She was not chatty so we said hello and thank you and moved forward but it was indeed an honor to have met her.

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Jan 24

Celebrate This Week: January 24

by Stacey

Discover. Play. Build.

Saturday has almost completely passed but I don’t want the day to get away from me without participating in my new favorite link up, Ruth Ayers’  Celebrate This Week.

This week, I celebrate

1. Snow! I hate the cold but I have to admit that I like a good snowstorm or two. I like that it slows things down and changes the scenery.

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2. Snow covered trees.

DSCN09763. And snow covered dogs.

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4. School concert days.

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5. Time to see a thought provoking movie with Rob. If you haven’t seen American Sniper yet, I highly recommend it. It was very disturbing on a number of levels but I think it’s an important movie to see.

 

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Jan 21

Read for Fun at Home (a.k.a. How to fight formal reading instruction in kindergarten)

by Stacey

IMG_6156I have a little secret for you.

Neither of the girls pictured above read when they were in kindergarten.

In fact, neither of them were truly fluent readers until the end of first grade. They both had excellent kindergarten and first grade teachers. Our school is one of the highest ranking public elementary schools in the state. I hold masters degrees in speech-language pathology and reading education. We are a family of book lovers. And neither of the girls read on their own until the end of first grade.

And now, if they have a spare moment, you know what they do?

You guessed it. They read.

There are any number of reasons for this. Good luck might be one of them. And the fact that neither girl has a learning disability. I attest, though, that one of the main reasons the girls are readers is that from the start and through to the end of  their ‘learning to read’ process, my girls associated reading with happiness.

Both girls heard stories and nursery rhymes read aloud from birth. I would spend hours of those quiet early days reading. When the girls were a bit older, they were surrounded by piles of books as they played on their floor. There were times when books were used as blocks or as teething toys more than things to be read but books were there all the same. When the girls began to work on the art of reading, I supported what was going on in the classrooms, but more than that, we kept reading as a family. At that point, that meant a lot of reading aloud. When the girls were struggling through decoding work, I never let that be their ‘reading’ time for the day. I wanted them to understand that time was work and reading was, well reading. This way, reading was always something fun.

Now I am so grateful that I did rush the reading process and I am even more grateful that their school did not. I have not truly entered the Common Core debate here. Our district is fully implementing the CCSS and it’s associated testing this year for the first time so I taking these months to form my opinion on the topic.

That said when I read a piece in the Washington Post last week titled, “Requiring kindergartners to read- as Common Core doe- may harm some.” I knew I had to chime in on this topic.

The article summarizes a report commissioned by the groups, Defending the Early Years and Allicance for Childhood that states,

“Under the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) the snowball has escalated into an avalanche which threatens to destroy appropriate and effective approaches to early education. The kindergarten standards, in use in over 40 states, place huge emphasis on print literacy and state bluntly, by the end of kindergarten, children are to “read emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding.”

Now, in all fairness, I am not certain how our kindergarten and first grade standards were written when my girls were younger. It is possible that we had similar standards but that we also had teachers who were able to appropriately interpret how to implement those standards in reality. It is possible that there are still classrooms where teachers are making wise decisions regarding their own individual little people but I attest that it is most likely getting harder to make those decisions.

I shudder when I imagine what might have happened to the girls as readers if they were forced to read in kindergarten. While it is tempting as I think about all of this to crawl under a blanket and never come out, I think instead that there an important message for me to share.

As parents, we play an enormous role in raising the readers in our house. If your child is being pushed to read too early in school, you can still control what reading looks like in your home. You can take any and all pressure off of ‘learning to read’ at home.  You can model how fun reading is by always having a book of your own to read. And of course, you can read aloud every single day.

I know where I look at something as big and overwhelming as the Common Core, I am tempted to do nothing. Instead I say, let’s fight questionably inappropriate reading instruction in the schools but let’s not fight it in the school. Let’s fight it by filling our homes with reading fun.

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Jan 20

Bookish Tuesday: Top 10 Authors I Would Love to Meet

by Stacey

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The topic at The Broke and Bookish today is ‘freebie’ so I went back in to their archives to find a fun subject that I haven’t tackled yet.

It was really fun to make a list of ten authors that I would love to meet. You see, authors are my celebrities. The few times that I have met an author, I get all choked up and can barely sound intelligent. I’ve had this experience with Patricia Polacco, Brian Selznik, Suzanne Collins and Kelly Corrigan. In all cases, I really did clam up. Maybe if I met the folks on my ‘love to meet’ list, I would have better luck.

Top 10 Authors I Would Love to Meet

Anne Lamott- I’m quite sure I could learn most of what there is to know about reading, writing and life if I spent just a few moments with her.

Anna Quindlen- I would love to talk with Anna about how she takes the smallest moments and turns them in to super meaningful essays.

Ann Patchett- I have loved everything ever written by Ann Patchett and now she owns her own bookstore. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Joan Didion- Coincidentally, I was reading Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking right when my dad died. Since then, I have just considered her to be a part of my story.

J.K. Rowling- This one may seem a bit unoriginal but I would love the chance to sit down and learn more about Rowling, who she is and how amazing her imagination truly is.

Jeanne BirdsallJeanne Birdsall is the author of our most favorite read alouds of all time. The Penderwick series. Really, I would just like to thank her.

Beverly ClearyI grew up loving everything that Beverly Clearly wrote. Just the other day while reading Ralph S. Mouse, Katherine declared that Cleary was her favorite author. I often think that many of my favorite childhood authors are much too outdated for today’s kids but Cleary definitely doesn’t fit in this category.

Lois Lowry- The Giver is Caroline’s favorite book and it’s pretty close to mine too. I would love to hear more about how she creates the worlds she is able to create.

Kevin Henkes- We have many favorite picture books here in our house but I think that Henkes’ might be our most favorite.

Jon Klassen- I would love to spend some time with the man that created I Want my Hat Back. There just must to be something really interesting about him.

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Jan 19

Quick Lit: January 2015

by Stacey

You would think that I would have remembered to get my Quick Lit post up on the right day in January now wouldn’t you? Well, I didn’t. Quick Lit took place at the amazing Modern Mrs. Darcy last week but it’s happening here today.

So here goes…

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Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. Caroline and I were thrilled when Sally at our favorite bookstore, The Curious Reader, lent us her advanced reader copy of Fish in a Tree. I have always loved Albert Einstein’s quote, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Fish in a Tree tells Ally’s story as she comes to realize that she is not stupid but dyslexic. Fish in a Tree is a beautiful tribute to children, hard work and awesome teachers.

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Us by David Nicholls. Us tells the story of a family on the brink of separation. The book was equally depressing and uplifting. I was sad but also laughed out loud multiple times. The writing is accessible but subtly really thought provoking. I enjoyed this book but it has fallen in line with a few others of late in which the ending took me from ‘love’ to ‘like’.

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The Accident by Chris Pavone. I am always on the look out for really well written mystery/thriller books so when I saw The Accident at the library, I grabbed it. I enjoyed the story of a manuscript that took the publishing world by storm. I can’t say I loved it but it was fun while I was reading it.

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Jan 17

Celebrate This Week: January 17

by Stacey

Discover. Play. Build.
Last week I joined Ruth Ayers’ Celebrate Link Up for the first time and I was so glad I did. Just knowing that I was participating made me look out for happy things over the course of the past super cold 7 days.

The best example being #1. And yes, I did use my camera phone in the library bathroom. I was standing up if that makes the whole thing any better.

1. There was a “You Are Beautiful” sticker in the library bathroom. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t get much better than that.

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2. I went to my first in person writing class in years. I am thrilled that The Writers Circle will be coming to my local area in April. Stay tuned local writing friends- classes for you and your children are coming to Ridgewood! But… in the meantime, I spent Wednesday morning in Maplewood and had the best time.

3. I am so desperate for spring that I bought tulips at Stop and Shop. They are a bit droopy but they make me happy.

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4. I think Katherine has found a book series that she likes. While Boxcar Children is an old one, it’s new to her. She has been reading lately but she hasn’t had a go-to series for a while. I think she may stay with this one for a bit…

IMG_61425. I am so glad that I went to my book club today even though I didn’t love the book. I got so much out of the discussion that it’s making me re-think my evaluation. Discussion and reading books that I wouldn’t otherwise read are what makes book clubs great.

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Jan 14

Reading Aloud is Important

by Stacey

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Reading aloud to and with the girls is pretty much my favorite thing to do. For years, we all read together multiple times a day. When the girls were tiny, we’d pass hours working our way through big canvas bags of picture books that I collected at the library. As they grew, our read aloud rhythms have shifted but read aloud is always a part of every day.

There are certainly periods of time when we read more and then others when we read less. Right now with the short, dark days and super cold temperatures, we seem to be in a phase of lots of read aloud time. Caroline leaves for school almost an hour before Katherine, so we are able to sneak in picture books in the morning when things are quiet. And then in the evenings, if everyone has finished their reading for school, we are all reading aloud together again. We had stopped doing this for a long time. Caroline was reading a lot on her own so I was reading aloud to Katherine after she read to herself. And then, enter The World According to Humphrey, our first ever all school read aloud. We had read a few of the Humphrey books together a few years ago after Caroline’s fourth grade teacher read them to the class and we were glad to have Humphrey back.

And the best part of the Humphrey read aloud? Caroline does the reading. I love to read aloud but who doesn’t love to be read to? As the mom, this doesn’t happen very much so it is a treat. We tried to swap roles once but truth be told, Caroline does an awesome Humphrey voice and mine is pretty sad. So a tradition was born.

While I know that reading aloud is fun and educationally, super important, I always love when a new study comes out to support reading aloud. I especially love it when the study supports reading aloud to and with older kids. Parents do a great job of reading to their little guys; it’s just natural. The real work comes once the kids can read on their own.

Since 2006, the folks at Scholastic have commissioned a study to research reading habits titled “The Kids and Family Reading Report”. If you are a read-aloud geek like me, please click through and read the whole report. It is super, super interesting. If this doesn’t sound super, super interesting to you, then stick around here because I am going to be talking about a lot of different pieces from this report.

There are many critical findings in the report but one of the simplest is the link between being read aloud to and a love of reading independently. The study found that..

“Reading aloud through elementary school seemed to be connected to a love of reading generally. According to the report, 41 percent of frequent readers ages 6 to 10 were read aloud to at home, while only 13 percent of infrequent readers were being read to.”

There is always lots of debate about how reading is taught in the schools and there is certainly a lot I have to say on that subject but as parents, the home is where we get to make the decisions. For me, the Scholastic reports gives me at least one task that I can easily complete. If I want to continue my girls down the reading path, I need to keep reading aloud.

I think I can do that. More to come on reading aloud in general and The Kid and Family Reading Report specifically.

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