Tag Archives: read-alouds

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,



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

Share the Gift of a Story Community Read-In

One of the many important things adults can do to help instill a love of reading in children is to…READ! Show them the fun! Read to them, with them and let them see you reading for pleasure.

Every year around this time, I invite members of the community to come into the library and “Share the Gift of Story” with library classes from Kindergarten to Grade 9. Some bring a seasonal favourite of their own and some browse the public library for a book, some choose from the books in the library, and only one, so far, brought a story from her own experience and told it with aplomb.

Here are some of the favourites in my library. Click the screen shot to go to my Pinterest board, where most books are linked to the Goodreads page for descriptions and reviews.

SHS_Library Holiday Books

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The Week in Elementary Library Class


This week we practiced spacer use and finally began to check out books. It’s impossible to fuss when the children become so enthusiastic about actually taking a book home, they forget to put the ones they’re looking at back in the right place, with the spine out, or at all!

Grade 1

Students identified with poor Pigeon in Mo Willem’s Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late as he tried to talk his caregivers (the children) into letting him stay up. Afterwards we watched Laughter in Libraries’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Read the Books. (below) Luckily they didn’t seem to notice that I really didn’t have the pigeon’s voice anywhere near correct. I almost caved in to overwhelming demand to watch the video a second time, but then we would really have been short on time for book exchange.

Grade 2

The Grade 2 class thoroughly enjoyed The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark by Deborah Diessen, with ever s0 delightful pictures by Dan Hanna. We even snuck in a rereading of The Pout Pout Fish with the class remembering every bit of poor Fish’s refrain:

“I’m a Pout-Pout Fish / With a pout-pout face / so I spread the dreary-wearies all over the place. / Blub / Bluuub / Bluuuuub”

Grade 3

Grade 3 students are expected to be able to extract meaning from informational text so some nonfiction is in order. I found they had no trouble telling me what they had learned from each page we read from the stunningly beautiful and very informative Life in the Boreal Forest by Brenda Z. Guiberson, illustrated by Gennady Spirin. Our small town is situated in the middle of foothills/boreal forest, so the students were very excited to share what they already knew and to add what they were learning to their cache of wilderness knowledge. I hadn’t expected to be able to read the entire book but the students insisted we continue it next class. I’ll be happy to oblige. (Alberta L.A. Outcomes)

Grade 4

Justine got the Grade 4 students’ attention this week when she hauled 2 huge bags of stinking garbage from the dumpster into the school cafeteria. The cook and the principal were none-too pleased as you might imagine. But you can be sure she has a plan to help the environment by decreasing food waste and we think they’re going to listen to her. …continuing Justine McKeen Eat Your Beets by Sigmund Brouwer. (Alberta Science Outcomes)

Grade 5

The Dear Canada series continues to fly off the shelves as we continue reading Sarah Elllis’ A prairie as wide as the sea : the immigrant diary of Ivy Weatherall. This week we talked about Ivy’s father’s profession – blacksmithing, and how the job might have changed between 1926 and now. Ivy has landed at Quebec City and boarded a train. She is astounded at the vast grasslands her father shows her as they cross the prairies. (Alberta Social Studies Outcomes)

Grade 6

I have chosen to read The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis to the Grade 6 class after discussing it with their teacher. Parvana’s challenges in Taliban controlled Afghanistan will enlighten our pampered students to a reality that they have not likely ever imagined. The initiative Parvana takes in meeting those challenges will help students understand how people take responsibility in their own lives. The contrast will help deepen their understanding of democracy. (Alberta Social Studies Outcomes)

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The Week in Elementary Library Class



Earl the Library Ape

Unfortunately Easy Street does not accommodate 27 rambunctious 5-year-old Kindergarten children very well – a flaw in the design that I will have to work out. Happily, adding another weekly time-slot, their teacher and I have worked out a split, where she works with half, while the other half comes to me.

This week each group met Earl the Library Ape. Earl had a big problem when he first came into the library, running around and Ooo, Ooo, Oooing all over the place. He was so excited he grabbed one book after another off the shelf and tossed them on the floor. He was very embarrassed as he told the children about how, when he realized what a mess he had made he stuffed the books back into the stacks willy-nilly.

When Johnny came in to get a book, the librarian couldn’t find it because it wasn’t in the right place. Earl sheepishly suggested that I show the students how to use a spacer so that problem wouldn’t happen again. After that the students practiced with the spacers in pairs while they looked at the library books.

Grade 1

After glancing through a few nonfiction books about wolves and reading some ‘facts’, I read Becky Bloom’s delightful Wolf to the Grade 1 class. The class was tickled at the complete change in the wolf’s quality of life after he perseveres in learning how to read. We then chatted about the difference between fiction, the stories that come from an author’s imagination, and nonfiction or information books.

Grade 2

The Grade 2 class was shortened somewhat this week but we still had just enough time to watch Hector Elizondo read Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch on StorylineOnline. We always leave time for book exchange and a few minutes to snuggle up with our books before going back to class.

Grade 3

Enough by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch meshes nicely with Grade 3 Social Studies (Ukraine) and L.A. (Genres – Folktales). As the book is based on the ‘real’ famine in the Ukraine of the 1930’s, it was interesting to discuss how true events might have been ‘twisted’ to create this wonderful folktale. We listed some of the many different kinds of ‘old stories’ on the Smart Board – fables, folktales, fairytales, legends and myths – and discussed how they differed from one another.

Grade 4

In Grade 4 we are reading Justine McKeen Eat Your Beets by Sigmund Brouwer. The students are enjoying the story because they can identify with the character. Justine, who cares about the world and isn’t afraid to take action to defend it (Gr. 4 Science) and Blotzo, who isn’t really as nasty as he wants everyone to think. Students have been checking out other books in the series.

Grade 5

It might take us a while to finish Sarah Elllis’ A prairie as wide as the sea : the immigrant diary of Ivy Weatherall in Grade 5 library classes, because each week sends us off on a tangent exploring the details of the story. We have looked at fountain pens, emigrant ships, the East London accent that Ivy might have spoken with as well as the fashions and vehicles she would have used and seen. Pointing out that the book begins in the same year that Queen Elizabeth II was born helped some of the students put the time period into perspective. Many of the students are checking out and enjoying others in the Dear Canada series, which are all great supplementary books for Alberta Grade 5 Social Studies.

Grade 6

Not only was it a great connection to their Social Studies, it was fun to read Vote For Duck by Doreen Cronin to the Grade 6 class and then to discuss how the citizens of the farm participated in decision making and what they learned. We compared what offices Duck might have been running for if he had been Canadian rather than American and how each level of office became harder and harder for Duck.

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Friday Funny: Mutts Read-aloud Misunderstanding

Mutts – Copyright 2012 Patrick McDonnell. Distributed by King Features Syndicate.

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Two More Patterned on The House That Jack Built

A few days ago I blogged about a beloved old copy of The House that Jack Built illustrated by Randolph Caldecott that I will not weed along with equally tattered relics. At the end of the article I mentioned how I’ve had fun in the past comparing it with other books that have mimicked the catchy pattern in the story.

Today, while working on the ongoing project of reorganizing my K-2 section I ran across another two titles that I’ve used with this activity.

The Cake that Mack Ate by Rose Robart and joyously illustrated by Maryann Kovalski chronicles all that goes into the cake that Mack (the naughty dog), in the end, eats.  “These are the candles/ That lit up the cake,/ That was made by the woman,/ Who married the farmer,/ Who planted the seed,/ That grew into corn,/ That fed the hen,/ That laid the egg,/ That went into the cake that Mack ate.”

In Jon Scieszka’s inimitable style:

“This is a Book that squashes a Man that stomps a Bug that frays a Rug that trips a Hatter that knocks an Egg that startles a Pieman that flings a Pie that beans a Baby that tosses a Cow that spooks a Dog that chases a Cat that eats a Rat that falls in a Picture in A Book That Jack Wrote. Quantum physics explained in an oil-painting nursery rhyme.”

You can see how much fun it can be to read these take-offs (along with the ones mentioned in the earlier post) and then try some out with the students’ imaginations in gear.

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Building Brilliance or Boring a Baby?


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Seasonal Stories with Embedded Video for a Busy Week

A couple of winter story books recommended by our regional library consultant were hits with primary students during our annual  “Share the Gift of a Story” program. They were even chosen and enjoyed by the Grade 8’s whose reader allowed the students to chose several books for him to read aloud. (It’s my experience that teens enjoy a good picture book read-aloud just as much as the little ones do.) I’ve linked the cover images to their Goodreads page where you’ll find reader reviews.

Froggy Gets Dressed by Johnathan London is a great way to kick off a discussion on seasonal adaptations and hibernation. Asking why might Froggy have so much trouble remembering everything he needs to go outside to play in the snow, fits the story neatly into Alberta’s Grade 1 & 2 Science curricula.

As a bonus it has the word ‘underwear’ in it, which is always a guaranteed a good laugh.

The best video narration I found is embedded below. It is particularly interesting as the clothing words are substituted with the Oneida terms, exposing children to this eastern North American First Nations language and encouraging them to guess the English words from the illustrations.


Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester is a wonderful ‘winter’ story about the value of individuality. Tacky is not like the other penguins, so they don’t really like him very much; that is, until they discover how his unique qualities can be a life-saver.

I’ve ordered several of the Tacky books, including Tacky’s Christmas (with CD music) for next year. They fit in very well with the Alberta Social Studies curriculum for Kindergarten as well as character education outcomes for all grades. A Google search alone turned up many teaching units.

Many of our teachers are beginning to use iPads and may find it worthwhile to download the iTunes App which includes, “professional narration, background audio and high resolution artwork for each scene”.

Enjoy this delightful narration. Show it on the Smart Board during this busy week to come or anytime on through the winter.

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Community Readers for Christmas

I wish I could show you the smiles on the faces of the students as they enjoyed guest readers for our annual “Share the Gift of Story” program in the library. Community members from the RCMP, Town Council and general public are setting aside time from their busy schedules this week to share seasonal stories with classes from Kindergarten to Grade 9.

Beside a virtual crackling fire on the Smart Board (which doesn’t show up in the photos very well), students enjoy a story and great conversation with people they may see in the grocery store and excitedly greet with recognition. As a huge bonus, I discovered that we have a talented storyteller in our community who entertained the Grade 7’s with a personal story of Christmas’ past.

See this post for past favourites.

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A Christmas Story About Empathy for the Older Students

I hesitated to write about this beautiful book because it is out of print like my previous recommendation. However it might be wasting away on a library shelf somewhere and fully deserves to be brought to light.

And light is the perfect symbol for this book. Telling a story of an ‘enlightening’ candle by that candle’s own light, it was the illustrations, reminiscent of Rembrandt, that first drew me to this book. Painter Jacob Collins is described on his website as, “…a leading figure in the contemporary revival of classical painting”.

Click on the image for the Goodreads page. (Different Cover)

Luminous and rich, the paintings demanded a story with equal depth, and Richard Paul Evans was equal to the task. This is a story of the awakening of empathy, told without reference to any deity and thus open to any receptive listener.

I wanted my students to get the full impact of the images, which I believe have the potential to open the heart in ways that words might not. Although I knew it would compromise the quality, I scanned the images and showed them on the Smart Board while I read the story to the Grades 4 & 5. I turned off some of the lights so the paintings would show up better and read by the scant light emanating from the board itself. If I dared, I would read this by candlelight.

The students were completely absorbed throughout the story and were highly appreciative of the message and of the art. I expect to have a chance to show this to Grades 6-9 before Christmas and although I expect the junior high students to demonstrate the obligatory ennui, I have confidence that it will touch them all and perhaps light a little candle of empathy within many of them.

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