Saturday, August 27, 2016

Caught Reading at the Parthenon... in Nashville

Nashville, Tennessee
August 2016

Did you know there was a full sized replica of the Ancient Greek Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee - the Athens of the South? You did if you have read "The Lightning Thief."

Ms. J. is in 3 of these 4 pictures... can you spot her?
Do you see her reading?

Inside the Parthenon is this replica of the statue of Athena with eight pounds worth of gold gilding. All Ms. J. was thinking about was Percy Jackson and his fight with the Hydra in here in "The Lightning Thief."

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Caught Reading... Harry Potter

I know that it isn't "really" Harry Potter... it is a play by a different author based on a new story by J. K. Rowling, but I still felt the need to read it.

Anyone else out there reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child besides me?

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Ms. J. Caught Reading

Ms. J. was caught reading while waiting for the Red Line on the MBTA in Boston.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Get Caught Reading this Summer!

Summer Reading

Looking for a good book?
Check out the Wellesley Public Schools Summer Reading List at

Don't forget to get Caught Reading.

That's right, get someone to snap a picture of your reading in a fun spot 
email it 
Ms. J. 

We will display the best Caught Reading pictures on the Library Bulletin board in the fall.

Have a great summer and Read On!
Ms. J.

image from:

Saturday, June 11, 2016

3rd Graders and Storytelling

Sometimes we tell stories in the library.

This year marks my third 3rd Grade Storytelling Festival in the Upham Library and I do feel like they get better each time around.

Thanks to the Upham PTO awarding us a mini-grant, we were able to bring in a professional storyteller to both 3rd grade classes to tell stories, but also to talk about the process of selecting and learning a story that you want to tell.  Cindy Rivka Marshall was that storyteller and she was great (here's the link to her website: link).  The students enjoyed her storytelling and we also put her story mapping idea to work.

My emphasis in this unit is that students select a story they like - after all, who wants to tell a tale that they can't stand? They can chose from a wide variety of folktales from all over the world.  We use folktales for our storytelling because these are stories that started off being spoken aloud long before they were written down. After picking a story to tell, students need to learn the story in their own words rather than memorizing the words from the book.  After students learn the story and can tell it all the way through in their own words then they start to add different voices and changes in the volume of their voice as well as movements and gestures to make their telling more interesting and engaging for the listeners.

To take some of the performance pressure off, we had students scattered around the library performing their story to who ever stopped at their station.  Students were able to tell their story on average 3-5 times and many of them told me that each time it got a little better. Our audience was made up of classmates (everyone got to be both storyteller and listener), parents and kindergarteners.

I hope everyone gets a chance to roast some marshmallows over the campfire this summer and tell a story under the stars.  It doesn't get much better than that.

Congratulations to all my 3rd grade storytellers!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Questions? Answers!

From the very first moment I saw this book, I knew it needed to be read in library. A wonderful colleague brought it to my attention and I was thrilled to know about it.  This book is certainly entertaining and humorous so it would be fun to read, but my question was: could it be more?

Questions are one way we begin our quest to understand. When we ask questions we are trying to understand a little better how the world works. We can ask a lot of questions, but where do we find the answers? And are all the answers we find true and reliable?  Good question!

So my 2nd grade students and I read this story and talked about questions.  And answers.  Almost all of Little Miss Know-It-All's answers sound far fetched, but in fact, only about six of her facts are actually "malarkey"... we had fun trying to sort out what was true and what was not.

Also, we took some time to ask some questions - questions we want to know the answers to.  Here are a few examples of typical 2nd grade questions:

Why does the moon look different colors?
What is going to happen to earth?
How much hair does a cat have?
Why are the flag's colors red, white and blue?
Why is water clear?
Who invented pizza?
How high can frogs jump?
Why is the sea salty?
What did the world look like before the world existed?
How does the sun get so hot?

Now we need to get some answers!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Reading Aloud to your Child - an important piece of creating a lifelong reader

May 6th
Coffee with Ms. J.

We must take care that children’s early encounters with reading are painless enough so they will cheerfully return to the experience now and forever. But if it’s repeatedly painful, we will end up creating a school-time reader instead of a lifetime reader.” 
-The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

I had a chance to talk with a few Upham moms this past Friday about the importance of continuing to read aloud to our children even after they can (technically) read on their own. This topic was inspired by a recent Wall Street Journal article, What You Miss After Your Child Learns to Read by Clare Ansberry, about how parents often stop reading to their children once the child has learned to read. Here are some of the highlights from our Friday morning conversation:
  • Don’t forget how hard it is to read when you are just beginning. When my daughters were in 1st and 2nd grade I was reminded that learning to read is actually quite hard work.  Grueling.  Onerous. My daughters were not that interested in curling up with a book and reading… at least not yet. Spending 10-20 minutes a day reading a “just for fun” book to your child can remind them what all of that hard work is for… remind them of the joys of reading a great story.
  • There is a lot of competition for our children’s attention and some of it (video games, Apps and movies) is really fun and entertaining.  Spending time reading together gives reading a fighting chance with your child… a chance for him or her to realize that reading is fun and entertaining too.
  • Spending time reading aloud to your child gives them your undivided attention - something children love and long for.
  • You might be able to select a book that is special to you to share with your child, but be open if he or she is not as excited about the story as you were as a kid and be willing to try a different book if that first one is not a hit.
  • Keep reading aloud to your children as they get older because it is relaxing, bonding, fun, together time that de-stresses you both at the end of the day.
  • Don’t feel like you have to read to your child before bed if that is a bad time for your family… be creative and try different times like before school or every Saturday or whatever works for your schedule.
  • Check picture books with CDs out of the public library for your child to read along with in the car.
  • Model reading for your child - don’t forget that children love to do what their parents do (at least until they get to middle school)... if they see you reading they will be more likely to pick up a book or a magazine and spend some time with it.  Invite them to curl up on the couch with you and read side-by-side.
  • Jim Release's book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" is a valuable resource that you might want to pick up at the public library or purchase and keep.

Read On!
Ms. J.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Thoughts on the Book Fair

Some folks think I won't be overly excited about the book fair taking over the library for a week, but, in fact, I rather enjoy it.  It is sort of like working in a book store for a time. There is definitely a different vibe.

Students are so excited about shopping and buying books.  Sometimes, I'm taken aback by how excited these kids get about the prospect of buying books. I mean they see a lot of books in their lives and most of them get to buy books rather often, but there is something magical about the school book fair.  I get it.  I feel the same way.  Like being let loose in a candy store.  So many colorful covers.  So many books to look at and pick up and feel in my hands; to turn over and read the flap or the back cover.  To weigh in my mind, which one do I want to buy more - this one or this one?

I also find out what my students are really interested in.  I get to see what books they select and ask them about why that book appeals to them.  I get to help a student who is looking for, " that perfect book for my little sister" or field the frequent queries about where the Minecraft books are.

Yes, it is rather chaotic and my regularly scheduled week has been pre-empted, but I can handle it. Its only once a year, afterall.  In exchange for my regularly scheduled library programing I get so much thrilling energy and excitement from my students and it is all centered around and about books.

Read On!
Ms. J.

p.s. I ended up buying four books this week - definitely the danger of being in such close proximity to so many great new books. My purchases included: The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, The Boys in the Boat (for Young Readers) by Daniel James Brown, a really beautiful paperback copy of The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling and The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox for my 8th grade daughter.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Author Visit in the Library

"Every spring, Dario and his mom move from Brazil to the beach at Cape Cod so that his mom can work. Dario is having a hard time making friends, not quite knowing how to join in the sandy fun with the other children. He is thrilled to see a young whale one day, swimming off of the coastline. The whale is also very curious about the boy. An immediate bond is formed, and the two visit daily, communicating with whistles, spouts, waves, and breaches. One day, Dario gets the sniffles and his mom orders him to bed until he is well. He is worried that his whale will have migrated before he gets to see him again, but Dario gets his chance to say goodbye." - School Library Journal

We were lucky enough to have the author Cheryl Lawton Malone came into our 2nd grade classes today in library to read her book and talk about the small moments that inspire stories.  Cheryl read aloud and answered questions and talked about some of the decisions that go into making a book.  We also had time for students to write down some of their own memories and ideas that could make good stories.  Cheryl signed a copy of her book for the Upham Library and also gave us an extra copy that we will be raffling off to the 2nd grade after the April Break.

If you would like to know more about the author please visit her website at

Sunday, April 3, 2016

April is poetry month

I probably shouldn't admit this, but I'm not a great lover of poetry.  Or I wasn't.

Now that I am a teacher and have the month of April to spend exploring poetry with my students I have found so many delightful and unexpected aspects to poetry that I really enjoy.

Poetry can be fun.
Poetry can be playful.
Poetry can be playing with words. 

Here is a brand new book of poetry that qualifies as all of the above that I will be sharing with classes this month.

Poetry can be simple.
Poetry can be surprising.

One poet I admire for his deceptively simple poems that are remarkably unforgettable is William Carlos Williams.  For a long time I hung this well-known and beloved poem of his on my refrigerator door:

This Is Just To Say

William Carlos Williams1883 - 1963

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
A colleague of mine noticed a recent article in the New York Times that reveals some interesting background information about William Carlos Williams' poem,  The Red Wheelbarrow. The NY Times article tells a fascinating story about the real person behind this poem. These few simple lines of poetry years later ended up inspiring a historian to research and uncover a lost story. Which now gives us an opportunity to remember. Amazing.

April is Poetry Month.
I encourage you to take a moment and read a poem.
It may very well surprise you.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

March is National Women's History Month

This is the first year that I can remember connecting that March is Women's History Month.  All of a sudden all of my third grade students were coming into the library and checking out biographies of famous women to use for a research project. It finally hit me that there was a connection.  One of my favorite things about being in a school library is that I get to make connections between events such as Women's History Month and work that students are doing in the classroom and in the library. The really fun part is getting to share those connections with my students.

This month, I discovered a new book that made all sorts of connections and the 2nd grade and I had a great time discussing and working with some of those ideas.  Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor by Robert Burleigh,  tells the story of a woman scientist who was the first person to create a map of the ocean floor.  While sitting and reading through the book for the first time I thought, "Wow, this book would be great for Women's History Month. Wow, this book would be great to share with 2nd grade because they are working on geography and mapping right now in the classroom."  It is fun to find a book that connects so many areas into one great story.

I read this book to my second grade classes and we talked about Marie Tharp and her love of maps. Students had a chance to make their own maps of the Upham Playground and practice using colors and labels just like Marie Tharp did with her revolutionary map of the ocean floor.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Read Across America Day: a celebration of reading

Sometime in the middle of this week's rehearsals of our school flashmob song and dance for our Read Across America Day Assembly I realized that all of this hoopla about reading is kind of silly.  After all, reading is something we do on our own in a quiet spot.  I slip away from all the things I should be doing and curl up on the couch with a story I just can't put down.  Reading is a solitary activity for sure and a quiet one.  Every now and then, however, it is fun to connect with others who have enjoyed the same book or who love the same simple pastime.

The singing, the dancing, the crazy antics are silly, but celebrating the joys of reading, well that certainly is not.  This Wednesday, we will be acting, cheering, dancing and singing (and jumping up and down and most likely screaming) all to acknowledge how much fun we have every time we sit down in a solitary spot with a great book.

Happy Read Across America Day!
Read On.