I was completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of support at my first book signing event! Thank you to all who stopped by. A special shout out to my friend, Carolyn Blaylock, who graciously opened up her lovely art gallery to host the book signing- it was a full house!
My talented illustrator, Alysha Christian, and I stayed busy every single minute we were there - personalizing book after book after book after book... What fun!!
A special thank you to my daughter, Elizabeth, and daughter-in-love, Mallory, for welcoming guests and keeping the wine glasses full : - )
Leni and Debbie, thank you for being in charge of the book and art sales!! I could not have done it without you!
To Rebekah, Liz, and Chrissy...thank you, thank you, for capturing so many special moments throughout the event. What fun to look back across the evening and see the event through your eyes!
Many of the attendees were elementary educators. I cannot wait to see pictures and hear about the grand conversations that unfold around Grandma's Handgrown Love and Grandpa's Talespun Love during read aloud time!
This was such a special evening...what a fun way to celebrate my authorship with family, friends, and new acquaintances. Thank you to everyone who came - your support means the world to me. For those who were unable to stop by, you were missed. My next book signing will be at the Bookmarks Festival in downtown Winston-Salem, NC on September 12th (children's exhibitor area). Hope to see you there!
Was this you at some point over the summer?
Have you already set up your classroom to welcome a new group of students?
Have you been to the "Back to School" sales more than once this month?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions...you are a CLASSY teacher and I wrote the following thoughts just for you!
The Wind Beneath their Wings
A tiny egg sits on the underside of a milkweed leaf, unnoticeable to many. In a few days, it hatches; a ravenous, munching caterpillar that eats its fill before entering its translucent, temporary, magical house. Although it may appear that all is quiet and still, the caterpillar works tirelessly inside, out of sight from the world. And then, one glorious day, in its own perfect time, the majestic butterfly emerges with damp wings unfurling, fluttering just a little at first, then flapping with greater urgency; understanding it is destined for something more. The anticipation builds... in both the one who has taken this remarkable journey and the one who has witnessed the metamorphosis; never tiring of being the one who stands expectantly on the sidelines watching and believing...the wind beneath their wings....time after time.
I was recently tagged in a Facebook post and encouraged to take a look at a video. At first, I was giggling, but quickly, I found myself shaking my head, letting out a sigh, and wondering why teachers are not featured on national television show for all of the wonderful contributions they make on a minute by minute (play by play) basis in the lives of students ... This parody brings to light just how off balance our society is regarding those who are worthy of praise (and big salaries). What if America valued the learning gained by students as much as they valued the yards gained by athletes?
What are your thoughts?
It is an honor to be affiliated with the International Literacy Association (previously International Reading Association). They always plan a wonderful conference and this year was no exception!! The city of St. Louis, Missouri was host to this year's annual conference. The Cardinals were in town all weekend and the city was clothed in a sea of red. It was a lot of fun to be in the midst of the masses - those out and about seeing the downtown sites and those inside the convention center learning about best literacy practices!
The ILA conference began with two highly inspiring and motivations speakers: Shaquille O'Neal and Shiza Shahid. Both of these individuals have a passion for education and literacy in particular!
"There's nothing small about basketball legend Shaquille O'Neal's commitment to literacy. His passion for learning led him to earn a doctoral degree in education, and he knows the power that literacy has to transform lives, firsthand." He exuded such passion for educators and for growing young readers and writers... Did you know he writes books for children?
Social activist Shiza Shahid cofounded the Malala Fund, where the global ambassador leads the organization in its work to empower girls through education. This inspirational champion works tirelessly to support the Fund's goal of creating a world in which every girl reaches her true potential." Her commitment to doing what it takes to ensure girls receive an education was heartwarming! As she said..."One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world." I believe that too!
Thanks to ILA for selecting our instructional unit for publication in the Bridges line (a second Bridges unit and international conference presentation for us!) - we are grateful to have our work touted as "quality literacy instruction" by some of our literacy heroes...Dr. P. David Pearson (Literacy Research Panel, chair), Dr. John Guthrie (Literacy Research Panel member), and Dr. Diane Lapp (Literacy Research Panel member)
My coauthor, Leni Fragakis, and I have decided we will have another go at instructional unit development for the ILA Bridges line. Our first unit targeted K-2 and the most recent unit addressed the ELA CCSS standards for grades 3-5. It only makes sense we center on the 6th-8th grade band next time! Stay tuned....
Kaplan Early Learning Company offers many wonderful educational products and I am honored to have played a role in developing authentic texts sets for classroom leveled libraries! It was refreshing to see that exhibitor station receiving a lot of traffic...hooray for authentic literature for children!! Kaplan was gracious enough to sponsor my presentation and even gave me with the opportunity to share my recently published titles with conference participants - THANK YOU, KAPLAN!
My husband surprised me on my birthday a couple of weeks ago with a little something special...an adult coloring book and a 64 pack of colored pencils (with a built-in sharpener!). Not that I do not take delight in the the Disney Princesses coloring book and a pack of Crayolas when my niece is in town, but how absolutely wonderful to have more intricate drawings to attend to and fine-tipped utensils to fill in tiny crevices!
Adults around the world have awakened the child inside them and I think it is fabulous! Coloring is a great way to de-stress and regroup after a tough day at work. By labeling it an "adult" coloring book, we are given permission to color! Turning inward, relaxing, and embracing creativity to bring the designs to life with color and personality is highly therapeutic. While others have also created adult coloring books, it is Johanna Basford's Secret Garden that has taken the globe by storm (as evidenced by the 1 million copies sold in a very short time); outselling the most popular cookbook in France...oui!! oui!!
"I love the idea of chic French ladies shunning saucepans for coloring pencils." - J. Basford.
I think part of the rise in popularity of adult coloring books may be that busy, overworked adults yearn to tune out the world for a bit. Retreating into the pages of a coloring book is a way to escape from the day's stresses... mimicking a simpler time when bill paying, parenting, and draining workdays were non-existent.
I believe there is great value in the act of coloring for children... and for adults. Like writing, coloring is a creative act. Everyone has a creative soul... it just needs to be unleashed, encouraged, nurtured, and celebrated. What would happen if coloring (inside the lines, optional) became a curriculum standard? What a delightful, interdisciplinary, and developmentally appropriate (regardless the age!) benchmark that would be! I love the parallels between a coloring book creator and "reader" AND a children's book author and reader: they are both collaborative acts, transactions, between the creator/author and the reader...the child brings the color...brings the meaning...
Time to add a little color to your life!
The US flag in the hands of children: a symbol of hope and freedom
Quatlity texts in the hands of children: a symbol of hope and freedom
It seems that on an almost daily basis I hear about what's wrong in education...from the media... Where I reside (NC):
And on and on...and this is only in my neck of the woods. I suspect there are similar stories around the country.
It seems that on an almost daily basis I hear about what's right in education...from teachers in the field... Where I reside (NC):
And on and on...and this is only in my neck of the woods. I suspect there are similar stories around the country.
YES! there is a LOT that is RIGHT in EDUCATION
This is the time of year when educators and parents begin to worry about the "summer slide"
There is one way to improve at anything....do more of it. Whether it is learning to play tennis, program a computer, or make homemade ice-cream, the more you do it, the easier it becomes and the better you get! The same principle applies to reading. Readers who engage with text for only 10 minutes a day encounter 90% more words a day than nonreaders. In fact, children who are considered to be "engaged readers" read 500 times more than those children who are not "hooked" on reading.
There is a plethora of research to suggest that reading proficiency rises exponentially when children have access to texts of all kinds, choice of texts to read, and permission to read those texts often and for extended periods of time.
Avoid the "summer slide" by...reading!
If those who read more over the summer have the highest reading gain and those who do not experience a decline in reading growth AND if parents cannot rely on school and classroom libraries to fill the void of reading materials at home during the summer months.....what are parents to do?
Avoid the "summer slide" by... visiting the public library!
In addition to affording all children access to plentiful, enticing reading materials, public libraries also offer summer reading programs to provide authentic reasons for children to gather with fellow readers and enjoy quality literature.
Public libraries are the perfect way to foster communities of readers!
Recently, the illustrator of Grandma's Handgrown Love, Alysha Christian, spent two days in and around her hometown, Mt. Joy, PA, reading aloud to children in public libraries. What a treat for those who were there!!
Day One: Milanof-Schock Library, Mt. Joy, PA.
Voted #1 best small town library in America.
Day Two: Manheim Library, Manheim, PA.
Children were able to try their hand at drawing pictures like Ms. Christian!
PLEASE VISIT YOUR LOCAL PUBLIC LIBRARY THIS SUMMER
A writer's voice is authentically powerful when it is pulled from deep places that matter most...experiences, relationships, hopes, fears, and dreams.
Five years ago (almost to the day), my husband and I began a journey that took us away from everyone and everything familiar and cherished. North Carolina had been our home for almost 50 years and we loved it there. Family, friends, fulfilling careers, and a treasure chest brimming over with memories (collectively, roughly 100 years worth) surrounding special people and places resided in that state.
We were entering uncharted territory.
Fueled with a mixed tank of emotions...anticipation for what lay ahead and heartache for what lay behind, we headed west. New life opportunities are like that. You know what you are leaving behind - and if it is great, it hurts to move forward. And yet...I believe the human spirit is hopeful, expectant, and open to new adventures and the wonderfulness that can be added to the whole of life.
Houston, TX, home to millions, many of whom we would discover were also "transplants", wrapped us up in a sea of concrete and escorted us along one super highway after another until we reached our new home. Permanent vacation....that is what it felt like for a while. Such a strange thing to never see anyone you know around town. In NC, I always made sure to do a double take in the mirror before I headed out the door - I was guaranteed to see somebody I knew before returning home ...
With its wide open spaces, pickup trucks, longhorns, and cowboy boots in abundance, we did our best to settle in, meet new friends, and fill up our social calendar. Due to a very intentional "plugging in" campaign, in a relatively short time, we were enjoying the company of many new friends. Life in a sprawling metropolis ensured no shortage of exciting things to experience with others and we have done our best to take advantage of much of them: professional baseball, football and basketball games; ballet, theatre, symphony and opera ; world series dog show, nation's largest rodeo, polo matches, horse races; zoo, aquarium, concerts, and museums, just to name a few! Travel 45 minutes in any direction and an entirely new set of possibilities for fun abound: San Jacinto Monument, Kemah Boardwalk, Galveston, NASA Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, the Texas Renaissance Festival, George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, and on and on. Looking back, I can see that we have been successful in packing in as much as possible during the past five years!
And then there is...the FOOD...oh my! To be open for business is to be spectacular. With the immense competition, it is impossible to stay in existence otherwise. Odd fact (yes I have data), but true: Houstonians eat out at restaurants more often than residents in any other city in the US. I can honestly say that we have done our best to prove the statistic correct and to sample every cuisine offered. Some foods became our favorites and some well...not so much. My least favorite hands down, was a crawfish boil!
With more twists and turns along the way than I would have ever dreamed or desired, we have finally found our way back home to North Carolina. For the past few months (ever since I have known we would make our way east this summer), I have done a lot of thinking, journaling and soul searching. As a writer, I find a time of introspection now and again to be very healthy, restorative, and needed in the busyness and dailyness of living. I have attempted to sort things out, make sense of this chapter, and look for what I have learned during this leg of the journey.
What I know for sure is that everything happens for a reason... This Texas adventure has grown and stretched me in immeasurable ways and has given me the opportunity to explore new interests, make new friends, learn new skills, and add a new dimension to my professional life... There will be remnants of my life in Texas that continue to find their way into my thoughts, conversations, journal entires, and I have no doubt, a future children's picture book. Yes, everything happens for a reason...
The movers are just about finished. It is time to go home. Home...where the hearts of loved ones beat the loudest.
With the end of the school year in sight and formal tests a thing of the past, it is time for teachers and students to enjoy the simple luxuries of classroom life...reading aloud great books and using up the rest of the art supplies!
I just have to share these wax reliefs inspired by Grandma's Handgrown Love. They are amazing!! The illustrator of this book, Alysha Christian, is a third grade teacher at Arts Based School in Winston-Salem, NC. The pictures below showcase how amazingly creative she is to prompt such beautiful artwork from her students centered on the book's repetitive phrase "Growing love, hand in hand."
Growing love, hand in hand.
I am a reader, a writer, and a dreamer. It is my joy to share quality literature for the most discerning of all readers...educators, children, and the child in all of us.
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