"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Wednesday, March 28, 2018


Kindness is one of those words that easily gets thrown out during discussions and conversations with the assumption that everyone understands what it means. I've noticed that some students have a hard time grasping what kindness is and don't recognize either their own acts of kindness or those of others because it often comes as second nature.

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Jen Hill is a book that helps children gain a better understanding of kindness.  Pat Zietlow Miller's writing and Jen Hill's art are a perfect pairing for this story about a young child trying to figure out how to be kind to a classmate who is need of kindness. Pat Zietlow Miller's writing makes the topic engaging and accessible. Jen Hill's art is powerful, it has a lightness both style and use of white space that allows the reader to access the emotional journey of the characters. 

A few things I love about this book.

~~I love that the young child who is trying to understand what it means to be kind is never given a name. In this nameless state, he or she is all of us. I love that my students were not sure whether it was a boy or girl and didn't need that defined.

~~I love that the focus is on how our words and actions impact others. 

~~I love how our young protagonist spends her time thinking about how to be kind to Tanisha.

~~I love how Pat Zietlow Miller breaks kindness down into three areas: giving, helping, and paying attention and provides concrete examples.

~~I love how the book shows readers that kindness is a circular story - how if you send it out into the world it will come back to you. Notice in the art how the acts of kindness out in the world also play out in the school.

~~I love how the story shows that every act of kindness counts and that all the small acts of kindness can add up and have big impact.

With this wonderful inspiration, my kindergarten students shared their thinking about what it means to be kind:
"play catch"

"When the teacher brang me to the nurse"

"thank you"


"sharing your toys"

"friendly...sometimes you are mean."

"giving  someone a flower"

"playing ball with someone"

"sharing an umbrella"

"sharing an idea"

"girl scouts"

"helping someone find something"


"caring and flexible"

"being nice"

Before I read BE KIND with my kindergarten students, they shared their ideas about kindness. They first shared how it made them feel to be kind or receive kindness. They then shared times they had been kind and times others had been kind to them. Their morning message looked like this:

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

ReedALOUD: Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets

I cannot wait to share Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets: A Muslim Book of Shapes with my students. I already know that they want to read it because it's been on my book bench in the library waiting for me to find time to write a lesson plan. Countless students have walked over to the checkout desk with the book in their hands, only for me to inform them that it is not yet in circulation, but reassuring them that it will be soon. Readers are drawn to this book.
This lush and lyrical exploration of shapes in the Muslim world almost demands to be read aloud. How can one not share such a beautiful book?
Hena Khan's engaging and rhythmic text flows smoothly as it introduces readers to elements of Islamic culture through shapes and geometry. 
A glossary at the back defines terms within the book along with helping readers know the correct pronunciation of those terms. 

Lush, saturated, intricate, rich, gorgeous are all words I want to use to describe the art. Mehrdokht Amini's art is something to savor. 
Richly textured textiles and radiant faces are often collaged over images of actual tile work, which in itself is gorgeous. Each spread depicts not only the shape and elements of the Islamic world related to that shape, but also sets that information in a different country. We see the diversity of Muslim families from all over the world.
I am not usually one for stories like the one I am about to share, but it shows, once again, the importance of having a library collection that provides both windows and mirrors for all students. As you are already aware, Crescent Moons and Minarets was on my bench at school. A student, who is Muslim, picked it up and started to read it. I noticed him and from a distance watched as a smile formed at the ends of his mouth and grew into a full dimple explosion. I went over and asked him about the book. His shinning eyes were all I needed for an answer. We then sat down together and he explained different parts of the book and pronounced all the Muslim words I was unsure of (there is that glossary at the back, but this was much more fun). He even translated some of the Arabic in the art. 
Other students began joining in the discussion and asked questions. The second grader took on the role of teacher with ease, sharing his world with his classmates. 

Good books expand readers' worlds; great books not only do that, they start conversations. This is what we should be sharing with our children and students, books that take the personal and make it universal (or vice versa). When this happens, readers see the interconnectedness of life on this planet. Not all children belong to a religious community, but if they do, they will find similarities and differences with this book. It is through knowing that understanding develops. Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets allows for this to happen.

This stunningly-illustrated and beautifully-written book should be on your shelf. Keep an eye out for it. It publishes April 10th.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Inspired by HELLO HELLO, these first graders found connections in these animals...

Last week, my first graders and I read HELLO HELLO by Brendan Wenzel. They loved this book! You can read about that experience here.

This week, inspired by HELLO HELLO, they found two animals with something in common. They used the PebbleGo Encyclopedia to find the animals and their features. I love their thinking. These first graders and seeing and listening.

Have a look: