Keeping Afloat with Books by Debby Smith

Keeping Afloat with Books by Debby Smith

A beautiful and important post about the power of sharing stories.

Nerdy Book Club

Each school year has its own personality, its own way of being remembered. Last year was like trying to maneuver a raft through whitewater while blindfolded without paddles. After two decades in the classroom, I thought I knew what to expect and what to do. But when one of my students died unexpectedly, standards and curriculum gave way to my greatest responsibility­ ­— responding to the children in front of me dealing with traumatic grief. During this life-changing time, we found much-needed comfort and guidance from characters, books, and authors.

We navigated the beginning of the year smoothly with the help of Gertie and her desire to be the best fifth-grader ever. Gertie’s Leap to Greatness, our first read aloud, engaged my students and helped us create a community comfortable having hard conversations. With the help of Kate Beasley’s writing, we explored our own identities, friendship, fitting in, and…

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Keynote Speaker Tami Charles’ Words of Wisdom

Still thinking about the keynote this week. Go Tami!!!

Bmore energy

Author Tami Charles

Charles delivering her keynote speech at the NJSCBWI18 conference.

Inspiration for Everyone

Tami Charles, whose middle grade novel Like Vanessa debuted in March, delivered a keynote speech at the NJSCBWI18 conference this past weekend.

She talked about the value of hope. “Somewhere between no and yes lies hope.”

She talked about rejections. “The word no has empowered me, broken me, and put me back together again.”

She talked about persistence. “You keep writing. You don’t stop.”

And she said, “Step into your greatness.”

Thanks, Tami, for words of wisdom that ring true for me as a writer and also for anyone trying to reach a seemingly insurmountable goal.

Click here to watch a short video about Charles and Like Vanessa. Take one guess which book I’m buying as gifts for some important tween girls in my life.

In this semi-autobiographical debut novel set in 1983, Vanessa…

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EXTRA! EXTRA! News Reporter Miss A. Weighs in on Latest AUTHOR VISIT!

A budding journalist reports on Laura Sassi’s author visit.

Laura Sassi Tales


As part of our homeschool time together, I have looked for opportunities to make writing experiences as authentic as possible for my reluctant writer, so when Miss A. asked if she could join me on a Friday afternoon author visit to her old elementary school, I said yes – IF she agreed to be a journalist for the afternoon – taking notes on the visit, conducting a few interviews, and then putting it all together into a news article, using the format we’ve been examining while reading our local newspaper together.  She fully embraced the assignment!  Take it away, Miss A!


By Miss A.

CRANFORD – On Friday, May 4th, my mother, picture book author Laura Sassi, came to Bloomingdale Avenue School to share her new book, Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse with kindergarteners through second graders. The purpose of her visit was to…

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It’s Not Complicated by Donalyn Miller

It’s Not Complicated by Donalyn Miller

This post from Donalyn Miller is at the heart of what The Author Experience promotes.

Nerdy Book Club

I have been blogging, writing, and talking about children’s independent reading lives for over ten years—starting with my first Ask the Mentor column for Education Week Teacher in 2007. I am not the first or the last educator to take on this topic. Scores of literacy leaders, like Daniel Fader, Rudine Sims-Bishop, Stephen Krashen, Teri Lesesne, Alfred Tatum, Richard Allington, Laura Robb, Nancie Atwell, and many more have been fighting for the reading lives of young people their entire careers—long before I came along. The work will continue long after me—led by folks like Pernille Ripp, Cornelius Minor, Kimberly Parker, Sara Ahmed, and Tricia Ebarvia.

Literacy still matters, but the literacy opportunities we provide children have to change. We have to change. The children cannot wait while we figure it out. I know more about the conditions…

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A Season-Dancing, Heart-Opening Retro Review of My Mama Had a Dancing Heart — by Rosanne L. Kurstedt

A Season-Dancing, Heart-Opening Retro Review of My Mama Had a Dancing Heart — by Rosanne L. Kurstedt

I finally worked up the courage to write something for the Nerdy Book Club. My retro-review is out in the world today.

Nerdy Book Club

My Mama Had a Dancing Heart (Orchard Books, 1995) by Libba Moore Gray and illustrated by Raúl Colón is a fun-loving, hand-clapping, heart-happy book that never gets old.

Libba Moore Gray effortlessly tells the story of a mother and her daughter through season-specific dances. Her use of noun-verb and verb-verb phrases adds rhythm and musicality to the story. From the word choice, to the repetition, to the illustrations this book captivates readers from the very first page.

The line, “My momma had a dancing heart and she shared that heart with me,” opens and closes the book. I’m a big fan of stories that begin and end the same. If done well that is—and Libba Moore Gray does it spectacularly. The closing sentence carries so much more weight, so much more meaning than the first. Each time I read the last sentence, I relive the characters’ journey and…

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Try it Tuesday: Silent Sticky Conferences

Try it Tuesday: Silent Sticky Conferences

Connecting with students in any way you can is so important. Here Amy from 3 Teachers Talk discusses how she uses post-its. I used to do something very similar when I taught upper elementary school.

Three Teachers Talk

A burning question I seem to repeat year after year is “How do I talk to more of my students one-on-one beginning on the first day of school?”

I know the value of making eye contact with the adolescents who enter my room. I know the importance of making them feel like they belong here — like they are in a place where they can be themselves, a place where they want to learn.

I confer regularly with my students — about their reading lives and their writing lives — but every year it seems to take me a while to get in the groove. You know, get all the procedures introduced and underway, get students interested in books (and sometimes reading itself), learn names, set up our writer’s notebooks and our blogs and all the different bits of technology we use regularly like Google Classroom and Twitter.

I know all…

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An Honest Reflection: No Ugly Crying Required

Just had to reblog this. It’s honest and exciting and I’m so thrilled that high school teachers are embracing Writing Workshop. Thank you THREE TEACHERS TALK for taking risks and for inspiring others.

Three Teachers Talk

I just finished an ugly cry. You know, the kind where you sob until your eyes close so tightly that you wonder if you might hurt yourself? The delicious, exhausting, purge of a cry that leaves you breathless and wholly satisfied at the same time? In my humble opinion, it’s the type of weep-fest that only great writing can deliver, and I am delighted to report that I just slobbered my way through another story’s end that left me wanting to pick up the book and start right over again. On the recommendation of colleague, I picked up Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls on Friday afternoon during last period and finished it by Sunday afternoon.

Though I could go on for pages about how amazing this book is, and how excited I am to 8621462book talk this story tomorrow, and how transformative I think this text could be for some…

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