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Latest Posts

Oct 15

Twitterature: October 2014 Edition

by Stacey

Today is one of my favorite days of the month. It’s Twitterature day at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

Here’s what I have been reading…

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Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I suggest you drop everything you are doing and read this book right now.  I read Station Eleven the same way I watch Homeland. I can’t quite look all the time but I also can’t stop watching. This book is creepy and nerve wracking and totally addicting.

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I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson.  If I hadn’t read Station Eleven this month, I’ll Give You the Sun would have definitely been my favorite. This book celebrates art, creativity and individuality. Great young adult message with an even more compelling story line. And how totally great is the cover?

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The Greenglass House by Kate Milford. I really wanted to love this book because I haven’t found a  great middle grade book in a long time. Greenglass House reminded me of the Westing Game which is a good thing but I will say I only liked it. Didn’t love it.

 

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Oct 14

Picture Books: Our New Loves

by Stacey

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the power of picture books. I loved hearing from so many of you who also love these books.

I thought I would share a few more titles we have found since we last chatted about the great literary genius of the picture book.

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The Book With No Pictures  (written by B.J. Novak) because this is hands down the funniest book we have read in a long time. Trust me on this one and find it. If you have any classrooms full of children to read to in the near future, this is the book you should bring. And if you have a family of small children read it to them too. Laugh out loud funny.

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The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade (written by Justin Roberts and illustrated by Christian Robinson) because it turns out that our favorite children’s song writer is also an awfully good author.
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Telephone (written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jen Corace) because who doesn’t love a good game of telephone played by birds?

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The Right Word: Roget and his Theasaurus (written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet) because it proves there is good non-fiction to be had. One of my main worries about the Common Core is the emphasis on non-fiction reading at the expense of fiction. If all non-fiction were as great at The Right Word, I needn’t worry.

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Circle Square Moose (written by Kelly Bingham and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinksy) because it is just as funny as it’s predecessor Z is for Moose.

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My Teacher is a Monster (written and illustrated by Peter Brown) because it is a reminder to get to know a person before we judge them.

 

 

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Oct 13

Goodbye Reading Logs

by Stacey

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There are some weeks when one topic seems to surround me. Last week the topic was required reading and reading logs. The joy and the despair. The love and the hate. The necessity and the ‘wait, it is really a necessity?’.

I have always disliked the idea of reading logs for my girls. I acknowledge that they are the boost that some children need to read daily at home. That said, though, I have always argued that logs are the right method for a super small percentage of children. The avid reader does not need them and in fact can become frustrated by them. And they can be bad news for the developing reading adding another layer of challenge to an already challenging task. I have certainly never heard a parent credit their child’s new found love of the reading to their nightly reading log.

For the first few weeks of school, Katherine was required to read for 30 minutes and then log the book title and number of pages read. This fall, Katherine is dancing and playing soccer a ton (a post for another day!), so she is pretty tired when homework time rolls around. Before this week, we had found a schedule that worked. School, activities, dinner, homework, shower, read tucked in bed under the covers for 30 minutes before lights out. We always read before bed, either out loud or independently, so this plan was working easily within our schedule. Katherine would read when she would normally read and then we would complete her reading log in the morning before school.

This week though Katherine’s required reading requirement changed. In addition to the 30 minutes and pages logged, she also had to write a 3 sentence re-telling of what she had read. We tried two things. We stuck with our schedule from the prior weeks and logged in the morning. That didn’t quite work. Then we tried writing the three sentences in bed and that didn’t quite work either.

My ‘reading log week’ continued when I talked with a friend who was having a problem similar to ours. Then two really interesting blog posts landed in my in box on the very same topic. First The Reading Log Revolt and then Losing the Love of Reading.

I truly believe both as a parent and as a reading specialist that reading logs are not the way to go. What is then? Unfortunately, our school has not done away with reading logs. Fortunately though our principal has instituted two really smart ways to encourage a love of reading and to grow a community of readers.

Enter ‘The Book of the Month’ and ‘One Book, One School’.

Our principal instituted the Book of the Month a few years ago. Each classroom teacher is given a picture book each month and the book is read and discussed within the classroom. All the students in the school have heard and discussed the same book so there is room for school wide discussion on any number of topics related to the book. Genius, right? Authentic reading and discussion. Accessible to all the readers in the school.

And then this year, it got even better. Last week, every single child, teacher and staff member was given a copy of the same book. The World According to Humphrey. The children brought the books home with a letter, encouraging families to read the book together. Two chapters per week. And then there are school wide and community wide discussions about the same book. Genius again. Authentic reading and discussion that encourages reading out loud at home.

So can we throw away our reading logs? I actually think we can. I think we can find authentic and smart ways to get our kids reading without them. What do you all think? I see a campaign in our future. Who’s going to join me?

 

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Oct 09

A Close Up on Our Favorite Farm Store

by Stacey

Before we moved to New Jersey, I was very confused by all the different food stores my mother in law visited each week. In Richmond, we went to Ukrops and we could find everything and anything we wanted. Then we moved here and I understood. We shop at Stop and Shop for all the basics. We go to Trader Joes for all sorts of awesome things. And when it is open, from spring to late fall, we go to Demarest Farms. Demarest Farms is easily my favorite place to be. They have amazing fruits and veggies, delicious baked goods, a perfect salad bar and yummy heat up meals.

Today I was at Demarest Farms and I couldn’t stop taking pictures.

Here are a few of my favorites…

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Oct 08

Raise a Reader from A to Z

by Stacey

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I recently sent the piece of writing below out in to the vast world hoping it would be picked up for publication. When it wasn’t, I was sad at first but then realized I had my own publishing platform right here. Just another reason to love my blog, I suppose…

When I sat down to write this piece, I wanted to convey some of the simple things parents can do to raise a reader. Interestingly, just yesterday  I read a Salon article titled “My Kid Doesn’t Like Books and It’s Okay.” After reading this, I am sensitive to the fact that there are kids who are not going to be readers no matter what happens in their house. What I write below are simply a few ideas I have tried over the years both in our family and with clients. Enjoy and let me know what you might add to the list.

Raise a Reader from A to Z

Raising a reader can be as simple as A, B, C. Explore the suggestions below and watch your readers grow.

Allow your child to decide what books they want to read. Giving children control over what they read is a powerful step in raising children who choose to read.

Build a home library. Strong readers come from homes that are full of books. Buy books from book stores, yard sales and second hand stores and borrow books from the library.

Carve out special times during the day to read out loud. Breakfast and bath time are non-traditional read aloud times that can make reading fun for children.

Design your home with plenty of space for books. You can use baskets, shelves or book cases but include books in your design.

E-readers are great motivators for developing readers. Embrace this new technology.

Find books that everyone in your family can enjoy. Building a shared dialogue around books is crucial for raising a family of readers.

Give books as gifts. Pair a book with a fun toy or experience that relates to the book.

Have discussions with your children about what they are reading. Turning reading in to something social is a fun and easy way to engage readers.

Investigate new literature. While it is always tempting to share our childhood favorites, there are incredible new books being published every year. Check out annual awards and children’s literature blogs to find new titles to love.

Join a book club.  Find friends or library groups and turn reading in to a social activity.

Know what your children love. If they have a hobby or a topic that fascinates, find books on that topic.

Libraries. Go often. Borrow regularly. Make library visits a part of your weekly schedule.

Move and read. If your children have a hard time sitting still when you read aloud, let them move. Building with Legos, drawing or dancing can actually help young children to focus on the story you are telling.

Notice the types of books your child gravitates toward and provide more of the same type of books for your child to explore.

Organize your books with covers facing front. Children often need to see a cover to be drawn in to the possibilities of the story.

Prove how great reading is by reading. Children who see their own parents reading, are the ones who tend to be readers.

Quit books that you don’t like. If you have chosen a family read aloud that you thought would be hit but it turns out to be a yawn, stop reading it. It is important for children to understand that reading brings pleasure so if a book is not making your family happy, find another one that does.

Reward children with reading. Let children stay up late as long as they reading, reward children with new books instead of treats.

Spend money on books. Children understand that we value those things on which we spend our money. Set aside a small amount of your family budget for purchasing books.

Talk about the books you are reading. Share the favorite part of the novel you are reading. Read aloud from an interesting opinion piece and ask your children if they agree. Talk about your favorite books when you were young.

Understand that all children learn to read and to love reading at a different pace. Allow children to develop literacy skills at their own pace.

Visit author events at local bookstores. Meeting authors is a wonderful way to turn children on to reading or on to a new type of book. Hearing the author read the words they have written or draw pictures from the book is a powerful way to expose children to real-life literacy.

Wonder out loud as you read. Show your children what good readers think while they are reading. Say things like “I wonder if James is really a good guy?” or “I wonder why the author chose to set this book in the jungle. I wonder if the story would be different if the characters were farm animals instead?”

Explore many different genres. There are many children who dislike fiction but love non-fiction and vise versa. Make sure you expose your child to all different types of books.

You can model a love of reading in your house. Read, share what you are reading and talk about the books you love.

Zero in on what your children love about books. Do they like to read on their own, hear you read aloud or just enjoy the illustrations? Celebrate the pieces of reading that your children already love and watch this love grow.

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Oct 07

Quiz Day: The When Version

by Stacey

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I have been posting quizzes for the past few weeks as I participate in Big Picture Classes’ Quizapalooza. This week’s version of the quiz focuses on ‘when’ questions.

Here goes…

When is the best time of day? I love the way the light looks right around 8am at this time of year. Things are still quiet outside but the sun is up and the light hits the walls in our front room in just the right way.

When is my favorite season of the year? Right here and right now. I always used to think that I loved spring because it was my birthday season. And then I loved summer because summer is easy to love. Now though, I know I love fall the most. I love September for all the new-ness it represents and I love, love, love fall weather. I love the colorful leaves against the blue sky. I love the fact that you can wear just about anything and be comfortable. I love the fact that you don’t need to use the heat or the air conditioning.

When is my busiest time of year? This year my busiest time was most definitely the beginning of school. With Caroline starting middle school and my volunteer responsibilities at Katherine’s school, I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. I am glad to say (knock on wood!) that things are beginning to feel a bit more in control.

When am I most productive? I am neither a night owl nor an early bird. As a result, I am not productive in the early morning hours or late at night. With my current schedule, I would say I get the most done in the mid morning.

When am I completely comfortable? I am completely comfortable, wearing soft clothes, snuggled on our couch or in our bed  with a heavy blanket and a good book.

When do I feel out of my element? I really don’t do well in large crowds or with lots of noise. Being stuck in ‘people traffic’ on the sidewalks of NYC is one of my least favorite things and I hate being at loud parties when you can’t talk to the person standing next to you.

When do I feel on top of the world? I love talking with small groups of friends or reading on my own at home. When I first heard that extroverts are energized by being with people and introverts get their energy from being alone, I became a bit confused. I always considered myself an extrovert but as I get to know myself better, I know that I am a mix of both.

When do I need help? I need help when I have too many balls in the air at one time. I tend to say ‘yes’ way more than I should and I always feel grateful that I have friends that come to bail me out at just the right time.

 

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Oct 06

The Weekend Papers: Fifth Edition

by Stacey

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Every so often, I like to write about the newspaper articles that have caught my eye over the weekend. It feels like ages since I last sat down to write such a post and it turns out, it has been. When I looked back in the archives The Weekend Papers: Fourth Edition was posted on July 7th. It seems that perhaps the busy-ness of summer followed by the craziness of back to school cramped my newspaper reading just a bit! I have certainly read the paper since July but apparently not in a way that seemed meaningful enough to document. So here goes…

Forty Portraits in Forty Years written by Susan Minot features Nicholas Nixon’s ‘Forty Years with the Brown Sisters.’ Over the past 40 years, Nixon has photographed his wife and her three sisters in the same group pose, once each year. This life long project will be featured this fall at The Museum of Modern Art and the sampling of pictures on the pages of the magazine make me anxious to see the full exhibit.

The New York Time’s Modern Love essay is often one of my favorite parts of the weekend papers. This week’s At the Hospital, an Interlude of Clarity by Brian Gittis was no exception. Read on to see what happens when you fall on a glass and rupture an artery on your fourth date.

I wrote here recently that Lily King’s Euphoria is one of my favorite recent reads. I was excited, therefore, to read her piece Would Marriage Ruin Everything in this week’s NYT review section. Having read Euphoria, her personal experience with marriage was all the more interesting.

Crossing Class Lines by Stephanie Cote summarizes research conducted on how people befriend (or don’t) people from different social classes. According to this research, even those few people who befriend those in different social classes due so with difficulty. These friendships, researchers say, are fraught with tension and misunderstanding. What a sad statement this is to me. I wonder what can be done to change this as I believe that economic inequality is the greatest social injustice in the United States today. How do we fix this if we can’t even befriend those in differing class groups?

The way we could choose to spend our final days is beautifully explored in Atul Gawande’s The Best Possible Day. This surgeon, in his research, has come to believe that medical science may have it wrong. He writes of his daughter’s piano teacher and the way she stopped fighting and finished her life living, teaching piano and loving the music that had made her life.

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