Archive for February 2011

Kids and Germ Warfare

February 25, 2011

I have that sneezing, coughing, aching, I-want-my-Mommy cold. Since my mommy’s not here to take care of me, I’m taking care of myself with a warm blanket, a cup of hot tea, a box of tissues, and lots of sick time on my hands to feel sorry for myself.

What’s the problem here? I exercise. I eat the right foods. I get enough sleep. So why am I sick? GERMS! Those darn germs! Where DO they come from? I’ve done some serious investigating and this is what I’ve found.

Approximately one-third of the teachers in our PreK-8 school are sick. Most of those teachers work with the primary grades. Upon further investigation, I’ve observed primary students with drippy noses and hands that wipe those noses clean and then remain unwashed. I’ve had students almost knock me over on their way to the bathroom only to have them do it again on their way out. Besides some shouting and banging of stall doors, I didn’t hear toilets flush or any hand washing sounds. I’ve seen students play with the bottom of their shoes, lick their hands, pick their noses, scratch in odd places, and cough in teachers’ faces.

This is my conclusion, and the real story behind those innocent faces of our student population. The kids in our school with these bad health habits aren’t really students. They are giant germs – a secret weapon – invented by other students, probably the upper grades, out to rid the school of all teachers so they can have a free-for-all with unknowing substitute teachers, or in the best case scenario, a free day for themselves because there is no one left to teach them.

Okay, maybe my cold symptoms are distorting my thinking, but just in case; here are some words of advice to all.

Teach your children good health habits and keep a wary eye on those who don’t have them.


Read Like an Egyptian

February 22, 2011

Anything we can do as parents and educators to get our kids interested in reading is well worth our time.

I’ve mentioned before I’m in the process of purging things from our household. I’ve found books are the hardest to dispose of. I love books! I love to hold them. I love to read them. I love the unique words and emotions authors use to tell their stories. And I love the special memories I have of each book.

My daughter has left many of her books behind – books that are taking up valuable space on our bookshelves. I was pulling them off the shelves, deciding what to do with them, when I came across books from her Egyptian phase.

I remember it well. We were living in Connecticut at the time and took a trip into New York City to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her favorite galleries were those with Egyptian art. Before leaving, we checked out the Museum Shop. Oh, how those shops pull you in, but it turned out to be a fabulous way to get my daughter interested in nonfiction books. The first book she chose was Mummies Made in Egypt by Aliki.

 When we got home she asked if I had more pictures of Egypt. I lugged out my old art history book from college. She spent hours going through it. Somewhere along the line she picked up Seeker of Knowledge The Man who Deciphered Egyptian Hieroglyphs by James Rumford and Fun with Hieroglyphs by Catharine Roehrig, containing 24 rubber stamps and a hieroglyph guidebook.

On another trip to the museum, she added Egyptian Mummies by Carol Andrews and Egyptian Life by Miriam Stead to her collection. As a teacher, I was thrilled to see her interest soar as she stamped out messages from the hieroglyph stamps and poured over her collection of books.

As I paged through the books in my hand, special memories of my daughter’s youth swept over me. I put the books back up on the shelf and gave up purging for another day.

More books about Egypt:

How the Sphinx Got to the Museum by Jessie Hartland (Blue Apple Books, 2010), Pharaoh’s Boat by David L. Weitzman (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2009), You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Pyramid Builder by Jacqueline Morley and David Salariya (Children’s Press, 2004), You Wouldn’t Want to Be an Egyptian Mummy by David Stewart and David Salariya (Franklin Watts, 2000)

Books for Black History Month

February 18, 2011

It was a library miracle! My usually restless fifth graders amazed me with their rapt attention as I read SIT-IN How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down. This book written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney proved to be a catalyst for an excellent discussion on the Civil Rights Movement.

What I like about this book is that it’s told in a straightforward manner and speaks of the nonviolent approach four African American college students took in order to be served at a WHITE ONLY lunch counter in 1960. All they wanted was “a doughnut and coffee, with cream on the side” – a phrase that is repeated throughout the book. Poignant quotes and life messages in large font and bold colors appear in the story. “We must… meet hate with love.” “Demonstrate calm dignity.” This book reveals how objectives can be achieved by quiet determination and nonviolence. In the back of the book, there is a Civil Rights Timeline and a note by the author which aids in class discussions.

Throughout the year I pull many different types of books to provide students with a variety of reading choices, but Black History Month offers the opportunity to concentrate on reintroducing names, faces, issues, ideas, and achievements of African Americans.

Below are several other books I like to use with different grade levels during this time.

Henry’s Freedom Boxa Caldecott Honor Book, written by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson is a true story about the Underground Railroad. Kadir Nelson’s fabulous illustrations reach out and pull you into Ellen Levine’s story about Henry “Box” Brown, a slave, who mails himself in a wooden box from Richmond, Virginia to freedom in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This book is a perfect segue into discussions about the Underground Railroad.

Jacqueline Woodson’s Newbery Honor Book, Show Way, highlights the generations of women in her family, spanning from slave times to the present time, and how the quilt-making tradition was passed down from generation to generation. Woodson’s poetic use of words tells the history of her family and the history of star, moon, and road patterns sewn into the quilts that contained secret codes, a show way, for those slaves escaping to freedom in the North. From the unique cut out design on the cover of the book to Hudson Talbott’s distinctive use of muslin and quilt patterns in his illustrations, Show Way is perfect for sharing during Black History Month.

Another book written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis is The Other Side. It’s about two girls – one black, one white – and a fence that separates the black side of town from the white side of town. It’s about those two girls who choose not to see their difference in color and become friends by sitting together on that fence. The story ends on a perfect note when one of the girls says, “Someday somebody’s going to come along and knock this old fence down.”

Don’t Pooh-Pooh This!

February 15, 2011

My idea of luxury is having a nice clean bathroom readily available when I’m in need of one. This has not always been the case for me. Take our faculty bathroom. It’s in the janitor’s closet! It’s not what I consider the most welcoming facility, but I think it wins the prize for the most innovative use of space. The good thing is you never need to worry about lack of toilet paper or cleaning materials.  I’d say my school is on the cutting edge when it comes to finding space for “the necessary” things. Don’t forget, the school library used to be the girl’s bathroom!

During my travels, I’ve found bathroom facilities come in many shapes and sizes and can be very creative. There are toilets with pull chains, push buttons, handles, and those that magically flush – sometimes sooner than you want them to. There are primitive outhouses and toilets that have a hole in the floor with special footprints on either side to place your feet. It’s a type of squat and go, if you please. There are more luxurious ones that literally look like a throne and those that have cushy seats.  There are even some bathrooms that seem to have two toilets. Warning:  Don’t confuse a bidet for a toilet!

And what about the variety of names assigned to bathrooms? They’ve been called water closets, lavatories, restrooms, powder rooms, facilities, washrooms, and just plain toilets. Oh, yes, they’ve also been called the john, the privy, the can, and many other slang names. Choose your own term. No matter what they’re called, there’s no room to rest when you need a restroom!

I’m flush with excitement to share these titles with you.

Picture Books:

On Top of the Potty:  And Other Get-Up-and-Go Songs by Alan Katz (Margaret K. McElderry, 2008), Who’s in the Bathroom? by Jeanne Willis (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2007), I Have to Go! by Robert N. Munsch (Annick Press, 1989),

Nonfiction Books:

Blasts of Gas: The Secrets of Breathing, Burping, and Passing Gas by Melissa Stewart (Benchmark Books, 2009).  The Truth About Poop by Susan E. Goodman (Puffin, 2007), Gee Whiz! It’s all about Pee by Susan E. Goodman (Viking Juvenile, 2006)

It’s Poetry Friday

February 11, 2011

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

I love revising,

What’s up with you?

A Heartfelt Win

February 8, 2011

What can I say? I was born in Wisconsin, and there are certain things you never forget – even if you move away. Yes, I’m talking about being a Packer fan – a Cheesehead. My dad taught me that once you’re a fan you’re always a fan. So on Super Bowl Sunday, I was decked out in my Packer gear. I had my lucky Packer items on hand, and we had enough food, drinks, and green and gold plates and napkins to last through the entire game and longer. I cheered. I waved my yellow scarf. (No yellow towel available.) I sat down. I stood up. I paced. I gritted my teeth. I muttered things under my breath, and I yelled – LOUD – for a big Packer win.

Whether the Packers won or lost, my dad was a life-long fan. He believed in his family and he believed in his team. He was always there for both of us. He was excited to see the Packers do well this season, and he was looking forward to cheering them on in the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to see the Packers win. On January eighth, he passed away. So it was up to us, his family, to cheer the Packers on for a big win. And cheer we did – every family member. We did you proud, Dad, and so did the Packers!

(Somehow, I know the Packers had some very special inside help from up above.)   

Packer books for kids:

The Green Bay Packers (America’s Greatest Teams) by Sloan Macrae (Power Kids’ Press, January 2011), Green Bay Packers (Super Bowl Champions) by Aaron Frisch (Creative Education, January 2011), Green Bay Packers (Inside the NFL) by Rob Reischel (All Sports, 2010), Green Bay Packers 101 (101:  My First Team-Board-Book) by Brad Epstein (Michaelson Entertainment, 2010)

Packer books for adults:

That First Season:  How Vince Lombardi Took the Worst Team in the NFL and Set it on the Path to Glory by John Eisenberg (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009),  Green Bay Packers:  Yesterday & Today by Chuck Carlson (Westside Publishing, 2009), 100 Things Packer Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Rob Reischel (Triumph Books, 2010)

Soup Warms the Soul

February 4, 2011

At seven in the morning I was off to school. It was another morning of white-knuckle driving on snow-covered roads. By the time I got to school, I felt like I had already put in a day’s work.

After my stressful drive, my mood was not what it should have been as the “happy librarian,” but it quickly changed when I was presented with a gift bag. It was from a student who was new to the school in September. She and her family were thanking the teachers who had made her transition into the school a pleasant one. It’s always a great day when families express their appreciation for what teachers do!

And what was inside? It was a perfect gift for a cold and blustery day – a carton of ready-to-serve soup, a snowman soup bowl, and a sleeve of crackers. One look and I was once again a “happy librarian.” Dinner tonight!


Soup warms the soul and so will these books.

Perfect Soup by Lisa Moser (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2010), Duck Soup by Jackie Urbanovic (HarperCollins, 2008), Bone Soup by Cambria Evans (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2008), Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005), Cactus Soup by Eric A. Kimmel (Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books, 2004), Stone Soup by Ann McGovern (Scholastic Inc., 1986)

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