Category Archives: Library Class

I Need YOUR Help!

Dear readers,

I thought I’d try crowd-sourcing this one, as I’m striking out with my searches.

I need your help deciding on a novel to read to my Grade 7/8 library class. Not just any novel though – there are so many great ones to choose from. This one has to meet a host of criteria.

They would like me to stay with Deborah Ellis‘ books, with which the grade 8s have been obsessed since grade 6 and the Grade 7s got a taste of last year with The Breadwinner.

Why do they love her so much? Because she writes about ‘real’ people with interesting lives – characters with whom they can identify, but who make them appreciate their own lives; their freedoms. Ellis’ novels have perfectly appropriate shock value to keep them fascinated, meanwhile enlightening them; leading them to feel they understand parts of the world that they had not previously given any thought to.

But as wonderful as her books are, and were fabulous for discussions on democracy, Deborah Ellis’ novels do not meet the criteria this time.

This class’ Social Studies teacher is focusing on a theme of cultural compromise: the compromises, (if you can call it that), that First Nations made when Europeans first arrived in Canada, and those made by those Europeans and other immigrants upon coming to Canada to assimilate into the first developing and now entrenched culture. Applicable also would be the Metis and French Canadians who found themselves minorities in western Canada.

So…I’m looking for a fast-moving, adrenaline-rich novel that illustrates that theme of cultural compromise, with (a) strong, believable and preferably teenage protagonist(s), set in pre- or post-confederation Canada, with a few age-appropriate, realistic shockers and cliff-hangers (I know when to stop a reading) among the adventures.

I won’t tell you what I’ve been looking at or why I may or may not have rejected them. I want your suggestions.

Enlighten me, please! You can post suggestions in the comments below or to @Missus_K on Twitter, or you can email me at MissusK76(at)Yahoo(dot)com, if that’s the method you prefer. I’ll compile them all, with credit, in a later post here.

Thanking you in advance,

Cindy

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Filed under Authors & Illustrators, Books, Education, Library Class, Library Programs, Reading, Rethinking My Library

My Library This Christmas

Books are Snow Wonderful Bulletin Board

It’s “Share the Gift of Story” this week, with readers from the community coming in to read to K-Gr. 9 library classes. It’s so great for the kids to see that it’s not just school staff and parents who enjoy reading stories. Our local RCMP really get in on the act with several constables joining in the fun this year. Perfect way for the kids to meet the local police officers too!

Easy Street decorated for Christmas with New Fireplace

A long-time participant, whose grandchildren are now in school noticed a couple of years ago that the YouTube fireplace video that I put on the Smart Board behind the readers was a little pathetic. It couldn’t be seen well, it distracted the kids as the tender rustled logs and it often froze. This year, this kind gentleman brought in our very own electric fireplace to lend ambiance to our seasonal program and story time throughout the year. What a wonderful gift!

The Circulation Desk with Christmas Tree

Our Grade 6 class decorated the library. Doesn’t it look great?

The big project on the go is a wonderful collaboration cooked up between our local public librarian, Nancy Keough and me. It all started, more or less, with my not being able to work out how to offer e-books to our students. I get my own, personally through the public library system along with a plethora of other resources that aren’t available to us otherwise. Some of our students do have memberships but the majority do not. Wouldn’t it be great if we all had access to all the wonderful things they offer?

Nancy took the idea to the library board, who generously offered us a great deal on public library memberships for the entire school! All staff and students. Our administration gave the go-ahead and four local business have helped to fund it. We’re just collecting forms now and are hoping to have everything in place now.

For more about the membership project, the sponsors and a few other things around the library, see my December newsletter.

Other than that I’m finding myself with a little time to clear up my desk and check off some of those stickier tasks on my to-do list. Next week will be our last week before the break and I’ll read to library classes from my selection of Christmas favourites.

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After that, it’s focus on family (and shopping and cooking and wrapping and crafting) for 2 whole weeks! I wish you all a great holiday, if that’s what you’re in for as well and if not, enjoy December wherever you are.

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Filed under Education, eReaders in the School Library, Library Class, Library Programs

Text Polling on Reading Habits With Grades 7-9

The kids were surprised that I asked them to bring their mobile devices to library classes and they surprised me too!

Hands holding phone texting

By Jhaymesisviphotography on Flickr

Mostly I was surprised that only about half of them had devices with them and a few of them were not text-capable. So the sample in my poll was quite small, although I did get some more answers by a raise of hands.

Not Enough Reading For Fun

I used PollEverywhere (a free and friendly site) and embedded the questions in a Power Point. I found that only about half of the students often read for enjoyment, and some did rarely or not at all, which was a little disappointing. Although I know that reading for fun is not part of some kids’ lives, I guess I had always hoped that most of those who were not checking out materials from the library were finding their reading materials elsewhere.

I also discovered that print magazines are still more popular than those online, however there is a possibility that some students weren’t identifying some of their online reading as ‘magazines’ and I will have to show and discuss more of this medium in the future.

Asleep with book in hand

By Quinn Dombrowski
on Flickr

Most of the readers did most of their pleasure reading in bed, which didn’t surprise me and is why I encourage parents to set bedtime at least a half-hour earlier than they expect their children to be asleep, and allow reading-only during that time. Most readers like series and most still buy from bookstores in spite of the fact that there is not one within 200 km. of our town. A few buy online or get from the public or school library and (another surprise) none swap with friends or buy used books.

Books/Movies Divide

When I asked the question: “More than anything else, I want stories (movies & books) to be: exciting, funny, realistic, romantic or supernatural”, there were choices across the spectrum. But curiously, most chose “funny”. However, when I asked them to name some funny books they liked they had no suggestions! It turned out that most thought only of movies when they answered the question. I do wonder then whether I need to purchase and promote humourous teen fiction. I also need to either rephrase the questions or ask it about books and movies separately.

Teenager reading by window

By Demi-Brooke
on Flickr

So, although the sample was too small to be really instructive, I did learn a few things. There are still students who are not reading for pleasure at all and some rarely. Since research is showing that reading for pleasure is one of the most important factors influencing life skills and academic success (one source), even one in that category is too many. I need to identify and target those kids. These non-readers tend to put up a brick wall when approached directly with book suggestions so I need to find out why they’re non-readers and then find some kind of back-door to sneakily get them to open a book that will grab their attention. Are they ‘reluctant readers’ or just too busy with other things?

What to Do?

I touched on teens and home reading in my September newsletter but maybe there’s more I can do. Junior High library classes have always been their book exchange and silent reading time. With their teachers’ approval, this year I will be showing online resources, book trailers and discussing books more as a group for part of their class. I’m also printing QR codes to attach to books so students can access trailers, reviews and series lists on their mobile devices.

By  Jayel Aheram on Flickr

By Jayel Aheram
on Flickr

Here is some of the reading I’m doing to strategize my approach to those kids who haven’t discovered or have forgotten the joy of reading for pleasure. If you know of any great tips or sites to share, please do in the comments.

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Filed under Education, Library Class, Library Management, Library Programs, Online Resources, Reading

January Elementary Library Classes

ECS

indexI’ve chosen author and illustrator Eugenie Fernandes to show the Kindergarten students a little more about books. Fernandes has written books that others have illustrated, illustrated books that others have written as well as both writing and illustrating some of her own, giving a good variety of examples to reinforce these important roles played in the making of picture books.

The first book we read was  One More Pet, which Fernandes both wrote and illustrated. (It was also a great book to launch a discussion of responsibility, which is our school’s character trait for January.) Fernandes’ daughter, Kim Fernandes used plasticine pictures to illustrate our next book Sleepy Little Mouse. The children were compelled to touch the illustrations to confirm that they weren’t the real plasticine creations. We talked about how ‘someone’ had to take photographs of the artwork in order to make copies that would go into the books. 327f465ad7397e1cb6a634eafb1004b5Ordinary Amos and the Amazing Fish was illustrated by the author’s  husband, Henry Fernandes. I showed 2 different editions of this book. We compared the covers (one hard, one soft), the updated artwork and determined that the text was exactly the same in both. We finished up with a wonderful fantasy written and illustrated by our featured author: The Tree That Grew to the Moon.

Grade 1

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Our Primary Magazines

This class has accomplished the unprecedented feat of returning every one of their books on time since the beginning of school in September. No overdues! They received the monthly library award for the second month in a row and each received 3 month prizes and the privilege of one more book each. (See Responsible Reader Awards.) The first class in January was a celebration – rather than having a story, I gave extra time for book exchange and when each student was finished, they collected a bean bag to sit on and a puppet or stuffy to read to. It was sweet to see them reading to their puppets all over the library. I also sent them back with a book for their classroom.

Since these students may now check out two library items, one of them can be a magazine if they wish. We took another class this month to get to know the magazines in our collection, what kind a regular features they might find in each and how magazines differ from books.

$T2eC16N,!zcE9s4g0-EQBRW8dz6z,Q~~_35We often read books in Grade 1 relating to their science unit: Needs of Plants and Animals. Grade 1 students naturally love nature and with all the nature right out our back door, it’s a natural theme for this age. In the Snow: Who’s Been Here? by Lindsay Barrett George takes us on a wintry walk through the woods, looking for signs of birds and mammals and learning a little about their habits and habitats as we go. David Suzuki presents the essential elements for a tree’s growth in the very entertaining The Tree Suitcase. Students were astounded that we breathe the same air and drink the same water that dinosaurs did millions of years ago and had no problem remembering that trees need soil, water, air and sunlight to grow after we had finished the story. The ecologically accurate The Tree in the Ancient Forest with cumulative verse by Carol Reed-Jones and beautiful illustrations by Christopher Canyon rounded out the month.

Grade 2

We always get a lot of snow in winter and this winter we’ve already had our fair share, so it was easy to stay with the Arctic theme at the first of the month and learn a little about Igloo building – an activity that every northern child has at least tried. We started out talking about what kind of books we look to when we want to get information, which most students already understood are nonfiction. Igloo by Lauren Diemer from the Canadian Icons series allowed us to not only learn about igloos, but to review helpful elements in nonfiction books like the Table of Contents, Glossary and Index. We then watched an Inuit boy and his father actually build an igloo from the BBC documentary, A Boy Among Polar Bears.

Responding to student demands, we spent the next couple of weeks giving everyone a chance to have their turn at Library Charades, where each student pantomimes a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ library activity while the rest of the class guesses what they’re doing and responds. (See Grade 2 in this post for a description of the program.) We also spent a class talking about our selection of primary magazines and how they compare and contrast with books. I always see a spike in magazine check-outs after I do this with a class and Grade 2 was no different.

Grade 3

This month we started a program I call “Show and Share”. Rather then me reading to the class, they do their book exchange first and then gather. Students are asked to look through the books they’ve checked out and see if they have one that they feel other students may not yet have discovered, but might enjoy. They then volunteer to show the book to the rest of the class and tell them what caught their interest, why they think others might like it and where they found it.

Our first volunteer was Aden, who showed an issue of Petersen’s Hunting magazine. Although the reading level is far above Grade 3, many families in our little bush-town hunt, so the class was very attentive when he highlighted a two-page spread showing completely camouflaged hunters sitting in a blind. It was like a Bev Doolittle painting, or a look-and-find like Where’s Waldo. He pointed to the magazine stand that is shared by the Nature & the Environment and Science and Technology ‘islands’ to show where he found it.*

photo

The periodical shelf shared by ‘Science & Technology’ and ‘Nature and the Environment’

Emma was next. She showed a book called Spring from the Get Set…Go! series, that she found on the Seasons and Weather shelf in Easy Street. She read us the entire directions on how to make a paper nest. In both cases, when I asked if anyone else would like to check out these media, a good 2/3 of the class raised their hands. That set the stage for a few weeks of students eagerly volunteering for their chance to show off their finds, with other students visibly excited for their chance to check them out.

Other books shared were: Socksquatch, How to Draw Animals,  (Face to Face with) The Horse, (Creative Crafts) Drawing, (Hayley & Bix) Late for School, (Life & Survival) The Seal, The Day the Crayons Quit,  Ninjago, Rabbits, 4 Wheeler, I Have 2 Mommies, and 101 Animal Babies. This program gives us a good chance to discuss the diversity of literary taste and how looking at others’ choices helps us determine, but shouldn’t dictate our own.

16075937The last 2 visits of this long month were spent on pirates – my favourite theme for comparing fiction and nonfiction materials in Grade 3. We began with A Pirate’s Guide to Recess by James Preller, a delightful portrayal of imagination play and a great foil for nonfiction as we discussed the ‘imaginings’ in the book cleverly set apart from ‘reality’ by illustrator Greg Ruth. We had to look to a few nonfiction books to see where Ruth may have found the source material for his pirates. Our mantra for fiction is that it comes from the author’s imagination. Phoebe Gilman’s rich imagination helps to reinforce this with books like Grandma and the Pirates, our second read on this theme.

Grade 4

Ricky has had his cover blown in Sigmund Brouwer’s Tyrant of the Badlands. We are all on pins and needles while Ricky and his friends wait for their fate deep in the bowels of the earth.

Grade 5

Grade 5 students have again voted and the majority wish to continue reading  A Prairie as Wide as the Sea by Sarah Ellis, following Ivy Weatherall through her first year in Canada. I know that part of the appeal is the enjoyment of sprawling on cushions while I read to them and the casual discussions afterwards. There are never any quizzes in library class. We have discussed the many ways Ira’s life differs from ours. Of special note was the striking difference in the number and value of Christmas gifts she received. She was grateful for fruit in her stocking, a book from her aunt, mitts that her mother had knitted and a box of watercolours.

Grade 6

After finishing The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis before Christmas, the class unanimously decided to continue the series. Parvana’s Journey started out with a surprise and Ellis again had the students hooked from the get-go. This was not my plan but I can’t turn my back on such enthusiasm.

~

You can see all the books we have read in library classes this year here.

*For those interested in my book-store-like library arrangement – the hunting magazines are one of those little anomalies in the collection. Although the books on hunting are the Sports department of the Arts and Entertainment island, I’ve put the magazines in the Science and Nature shared rack since I haven’t been able to fit a magazine rack in Arts. They go out well from there along with the ATV and off-road magazines (from Science & Technology).

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Responsible Reader Rewards Program

Overdues are just a drag. I don’t charge fines for overdue books but for each class, I have to print out and distribute notices and tell students that they can’t take out another book until they’ve returned or paid to replace their overdues.

Overdues are also inevitable – it’s a very organized child and/or family who never looses or forgets to return their library books. Sadly I am not included in that honourable club and I really admire those that are.

I believe that good organizational skills and attention to responsibilities are traits that will serve students well throughout their academic careers and personal lives and so should be recognized and encouraged.

Six years ago I decided to try something to reward those students who regularly remembered to bring their books back. At the same time, it might just motivate others who just needed a little nudge.

As a result – we still have library cards. When a class is coming in for a visit, I lay them out on the counter by the circulation desk. Students pick them up as they’re coming through to check out their books and they are returned to the file after book exchange.photo

Monthly Stamp

On the back of the card is a chart. Starting in Grade 1, at the beginning of each month, I stamp their cards if they have had no overdue books in the previous month. (I’ve posted the library card template here.)

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Three Month Award

After three, not necessarily consecutive months, the number at the bottom of the grade column goes up by one from the previous year, allowing the student to check out one more book. I tell them they have proven that they are responsible enough to take care of another library book each week. They always cheer for this! They also get a little prize.

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Originally I had the barcodes switched around as you can see by this nearly full Grade 6 card.

All the prizes are purchased with money that I’ve raised through our annual Scholastic Book Fair.

SHS 3-Month Prizes

This year, those that have earned three stamps in Grades 1-3 are receiving a ‘Books are Dino-mite’ bookmark, a dino sticker and a mini-dino that grows when placed in water. Grades 4-6 get a new bookmark and chose from 3 different Readers are Leaders pencils.

Six Month Award

After the sixth stamp, they’re given a little bigger prize. For example one choice in the upper elementary will be from posters saved from Pop Star Magazine that I’ve laminated. I’ll also have a set of free posters from the book fair.

Annual Award

At the end of the year, if their entire card is full they are presented with a “Responsible Reader” certificate as well as a prize that I’ve had imprinted with our school name and “Responsible Reader”.

SHS Annual Responsible Reader Award

This year’s Grade 6’s are the first to have participated since Grade 1. I may have students who have never had an overdue book! I consider that an incredibly admirable feat of organization and responsibility so those students will be recognized somehow specially at the end of the year.

Monthly Class Award

This Award is to be Granted Monthly to the Elementary School Class with the Best Record for Returning Books.

This Award is to be Granted Monthly to the Elementary School Class with the Best Record for Returning Books.

The monthly class library award was created several decades ago prior to my time at the school. It was dormant for some time but I revived it when I started this program. It recognizes the elementary class with the best record for returning library books during the past month. Our principal or I present it at the monthly assembly and the winning class is always very excited to receive it. To some extent, it is recognition of teachers who are really good at motivating their students with reminders and agenda entries to get their books in. Students take it proudly back to their classroom and display it prominently for the month.

The Kids Love It!

Writing it all out here makes the program seem like a lot of work but it’s not really once it’s set up, and it’s so-very-worth it! The kids love it and it brings a huge positive to one of the two drags of library – the hassle of remembering to return your library books. (The other potential negative is the necessity for quiet but that’s a whole other discussion.)

Students watch the back of their card carefully, are excited when they’ve made each milestone and are disappointed if they miss out on the first stage of awards. Those that do, strive to earn it the following month so we sneakily get to encourage them to hone their organizational skills and give them an extra pat on the back when they succeed.

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December’s Elementary & Junior High Library Class and ‘Share the Gift of Story’ Reads

Constable Helder reads Red Parka Mary to the Grade 4 class

December is a short month with one week of library classes happily taken up with a community read-in called “Share the Gift of Story“.

Students really enjoy the program with parents and other community members coming in to read either a selection of their own or a seasonal book from the library collection in front of the fireplace (projected video) to the class.

Hey! Guess What! Reading is Fun! 🙂

Kindergarten

Continuing the snow theme, we read Norman’s Snowball by Hazel Hutchins, which the kids and I love despite such bad decisions throughout. We also enjoyed the delightfully imaginative Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn and Mark Buehner.

Parent, Mrs. Stenberg brought her own favourites to read to the morning class for the read-in. They were Charlie & the Christmas Kitty by Ree Drummond and The Christmas Surprise.  The afternoon class again enjoyed Snowmen at Christmas (they never mind a repeat of a favourite) read by RCMP Sergeant Dunn.

Grade 1

Grade 1 students enjoyed following woodland animals as they prepared for winter in First Snow in the Woods by Carl Sams & Jean Stoick, introduced with the author’s video below. The following week we read Stranger in the Woods another ‘Photographic Fantasy’ by Sams and Stoik, in woodlands that could almost be out our back door.

Just before the break, we read Elton the Elf by Lisa Mallen. This book is particularly appropriate for Grade 1 as poor Elton tours the year from New Year’s Day through Valentines and Halloween to find his way home to Christmas. RCMP Constable Helder choose It’s Christmas David by David Shannon.

Grade 2

We’re still in the arctic in Grade 2 with Jan Brett’s The Three Snow Bears and the demonstration of drawing a snow bear from the video below.

We also read another of Michael Kusugak’s books (we read Hide and Sneak in October). Baseball Bats for Christmas was a perfect combination of the seasonal theme and Social Studies as the book reinforces the isolation of arctic communities and how it was possible that arctic children truly may not have recognized trees a half a century ago – before ubiquitous media.

Former town mayor Mrs. Marriot always brings in a new book to leave with us after she has read it to a class for the Christmas read-in. This year she brought Santa Claus and the Three Bears by Maria Modugno, which Grade 2 thoroughly enjoyed.

Grade 3

At the beginning of the month we mutually agreed that Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark, while an excellent book, was not holding the students’ attention with weekly readings. My hope, of course, is that one or two of the students will pick it up to read in the future. Instead we looked at Spotlight on Peru by Robin Johnson and You Wouldn’t Want to Be an Inca Mummy by Colin Hynson before saying goodbye to Peru in the library class. (That is until I find a perfectly Grade 3-appropriate book to share with them.)

Mrs. Fenez is former program assistant and the parent of a graduate, who still loves to come in and read to a class for the read-in. This year she brought her own childrens’ favourite, The Very Best Christmas Present by Jim Razzi to read to Grade 3.

We finished off the month with The Christmas Day Kitten, a sweet story by James Herriot. I showed them the other Herriott picture books we have in the library and they were all checked out by the end of the class.

Grade 4

Short weekly readings from a novel are a great test of it’s power to engage and Sigmund Brouwer’s Tyrant of the Badlands is succeeding with Grade 4. The mystery is building as Ricky (aka Rocky) gets himself deeper and deeper into his adopted criminal persona to try to help his aunt discover what’s going on with her trailer park.

After perusing several choices, RCMP Constable Helder selected Peter Eyvindson’s Red Parka Mary to read to this class because he liked the message of how first impressions can be wrong; how not to judge a book by it’s cover, so to speak. A good discussion followed with children thinking about how people they were originally unsure of turned out to be good folk.

Grade 5

Happily, the Dear Canada series has been flying off the shelf again since we started reading A Prairie as Wide as the Sea by Sarah Ellis. Although a few of the students are not as ‘into it’ as others, they all listen and participate well in our weekly readings. What with Christmas Concert practice and other interruptions, we didn’t quite get to the entries on Christmas but will this month.

Mr. Goebel, a grandfather who has been coming in to read since the project’s inception when his children were in school, always gives the class a choice of which books they would like to hear. Grade 5 chose the ‘old’ favourites: It’s Christmas, David by David Shannon & Mooseltoe by Margie Palatini.

Grade 6

We finished The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis this month and, supported by activities that their classroom teacher has devised, it was such a winner,  that the class begged to continue the series. That wasn’t my plan, but not one to pass up an opportunity to nurture literary enthusiasm I asked them to decide whether to read on with this character in Parvana’s Journey or to see what happened to Parvana’s best friend, Shauzia in Mud City. They want to read them both but opted for Parvana’s Journey first. They are shocked, enlightened and intrigued. What more could I ask?

Unfortunately their program reader, an RCMP officer, was called away at the last minute and couldn’t make it to the scheduled reading. The class was looking forward to it so rather than follow the usual routine, I gave them a choice from about 20 assembled books and was delighted that they chose my favourite The Gift of the Magi by O’Henry in a beautiful edition illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger.

Junior High

We don’t usually read aloud in Junior High as the teachers prefer the class to be dedicated to book exchange and silent reading, but they are always included in the read-in. Sometimes I have to recruit teachers and support staff to read as ‘the public’ often can’t imagine this age group enjoying picture books. Far from it, I think they look forward to it just as much as the younger students and are no less receptive (although albeit a little less responsive) when community members read picture books to them.

I had sent several books home for volunteer parent, Mrs. Robertson to choose from. The Grade 7 class was quite touched by her selection:  The Christmas Miracle of Johnathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski. The illustrations by P.J. Lynch are just gorgeous in this book – atmospheric and evocative.

Mrs. Acorn, a former staff member and parent, who happened to be visiting town and volunteered for the read-in, chose Red Parka Mary for the same reasons as Constable Helder did above. The Grade 8’s were very receptive and it was interesting how much more maturely their 4-years-older minds processed the message.

Mr. Goebel had his second reading with the Grade 9’s and again let them have their choices. Their selections show how much this age enjoys revisiting their younger years: David Shannon’s It’s Christmas David & How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. (I think Mr. Goebel may have read the latter book at least once every year and still reads it happily and patiently when the students ask for it.)

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The Beginning of Critical Thinking

I recently read a review by a university professor slamming a children’s picture book because it depicted unsafe actions by the characters. I won’t say what the books is because I happen to love it and so do the children I read it to. It makes them laugh.

A lot of that laughter comes from the slightly uncomfortable, if unconscious feeling that what’s going on in the story shouldn’t and probably couldn’t happen. In other books there is vocabulary that we might not use, again soliciting uncomfortable giggles.

Wouldn’t you say that’s the beginning of critical thinking?

My message:

Sometimes characters in books say and do things that you would never say or do. [Shocking!!!] That doesn't mean that there are other people in the world who wouldn't say or do those things. There are all kinds of people in the world. [Thinking...] We grow by understanding others and then making our own choices.

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