The Journey

I have taught for many years as an English as an Additional Language teacher.  I taught students from kindergarten to high school.  In working with so many children over almost ten years I was able to meet so many lovely families, who emigrated to the United States.  In many instances, it was my complete honor and privilege to know these students and their families.  I have heard so many stories about their journey’s, no two ever the same.  Some refugees, children of diplomats, university sabaticle and exchanges, some legal, some not so legal avenues, but all on a quest for a better life for their families.  The sacrifices, the hope and endurance all for the hope of something better.  The same reason my great-grandparents emigrated to the United States roughly 100 years ago.

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In The Journey by Francesca Sanna (Flying Eye Books, 2016) you will find a compelling story told from the perspective of a young child, who much like most children spends the summer by the water…until the war comes to her city.  Like many of my students who were impacted by war our narrator looses her father.  From there, the journey begins.

This is a beautiful story that needs to be shared in every single household.  This is the type of book that makes a difference.  Reading this book even one time, can create a sense of empathy for this young girl and her family, create an understanding of what it truly means to leave everything…for the hope of something better.  This little girls family had an incredibly long and arduous journey.  This book is an honest look at the migrant crisis we see daily in the news.  This story discusses some very relevant topics, but in a way that help to build empathy, compassion and understanding.  This story also ends on a high note, with our narrator and her mother and brother – safe and filled with hope.

Here is a link for discussion questions from Walker Books that you may find helpful in discussing this book with students.


10 Steps to Raising Petite Readers


When I sat in my many English classes throughout college, I thought deeply about books.  After moving I realized my obsession had gained a lot of weight (quite literally, I had probably 20+ boxes of books that I’ve moved across country twice and tenderly unpacked like Christmas morning).  These books are old friends, badges of courage (Moby Dick, YES!  I actually read it and sometimes even liked it).  Some of the books are ones that I would never part with: Harry Potter, Jane Austen – yep, all of them, sometimes multiple copies of the same title, and I would be sadly non-inclusive if I did not mention all of the books that I have taught and carefully highlighted and covered in post-its like the Crucible or Night.

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 3.43.00 PMSo seven years ago when my husband and I were expecting our first petite, it was clear that the first thing we needed to get our hands on for her nursery was a crib bookcase.  Most likely
two to house all of the books that
we had already purchased.  We were the expectant parents that read to the burgeoning belly faithfully everyday.  We discussed what it would be like to teach our daughter to read and how we could all share in the joys that reading would most certainly bring to our petite family.

After our daughter was born I transitioned from teaching at the secondary level to elementary school.  It was the perfect fit for me, I loved working with the little kids and watching them learn to read and grow as readers.  I also had some of my most memorable teaching moments working with struggling readers in the 4th and 5th grade and helping them find confidence in their reading through the vivid words of Roald Dahl.   So as you can see I have spent a lot of time helping others to find their passions for reading, so it seemed only natural that would be the case with my daughters as well.Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 3.53.43 PM

I have often been asked by friends and family, how I get my youngest to be so careful with books – or how we can hve a sustained silent reading time as a family on a Sunday afternoon for around 45 minutes.  These have all been put into place over time.  So I wanted to share with you how exactly we have grown our petites into the readers that they are now at seven and three years old.

1. Bedtime Stories.

We read every single night before bedtime.  Sometimes it is while the kids are in the bath when we are crunched for time, other times it is a snuggle party and we read for longer than the 20 minutes that is recommended.  This is usually one of the most relaxing points of the day and my husband and I take turns reading to the kids and now our oldest joins in and reads to us as well.  Which is amazing.

2. Provide Constant Access to Books.

As I was thinking about putting this post together I walked through our house and counted the room and noted which rooms did not have books in them.  Out of the 13 rooms in our house (I’m including the garage, coat closet and laundry room that I use as an office) we have books in 10 rooms.  We also keep a bin of books in our cars for when we are driving.

3. Go to the library.

I have found that raising readers takes little money, especially if you can remember to return your books on time (which I never do, but that’s a different topic).  We make a big deal about going to the library, we talk about what we want to look for and have special library bags.  We place a lot of importance on what libraries in our community can do to help us learn and grow.

4. Let Your Kids Choose Their Books

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-4-51-52-pmIt has been show that children who choose their own books and have interest in the topic can read at a higher level than if they are not interested.  When this happens petites are able to build their reading confidence and grow into life long readers.  Remember that even if the books they chose are not award winners, you know which books I am talking about, filled with characters found in their favorite TV shows, still rejoice in the fact that they are choosing books and are interested in reading.



5. Spend a lot of Time Talking About Books and Our Reading Habits.

My husband and I are avid readers.  At any given time I am reading 3-5 books (mainly because I can never just read one book at a time, sometimes I read books based on my moods, so you need a few options, right?)  My husband devours books at an alarmingly quick rate; and can remember even the smallest of details years later.  We spend a lot of time talking to the girls about what they have read, what they liked or didn’t prefer about the books.

6. Read Many Different Genres.

We tout the importance of all of them.  We read comics, non-fiction, fiction, historical fiction, maps, magazines, newspapers and of course an immense amount of picture books.  All reading is beneficial, find what your petites love and get books all about it.  If they love comic books, go for it!  When they are learning to read always provide what they like even it is twaddle.

7. Get Excited About Books and Reading.

We make a big deal out of getting new books, whether the kids earn money for doing chores and choose to buy books or get special books as gifts for holidays and birthdays.  We also get excited about books themselves, how they smell, how they sound when you crack one open, how very old ones need special care and handling, how important the stories are and why it is important we read stories and continue to learn.

8. Follow Your Petites Interests.

It is so important to always follow interests, even if they are fast and fleeting.  That is why the library is so perfect, you really don’t have to commit or even spend a penny.  You get to have thousands of books at your fingertips so when your three year old declares opossums are her favorite animal and the next week she is all about airplanes and maps you’re good to go.

9. Model What Readers Do.

This can sometimes be really hard, my husband and I do a lot of reading at night when the kids are asleep.  But modeling what readers do is so important, we read inside and outside, in the car, we take books with us everywhere we go.

10. Reading Should Never Be a  Punishment.

When your kids are old enough to start reading you may have the child that refuses to read on their own and puts off school assignments, punishing little ones with reading is never a good idea.  On the flip side of that, if you little one is sneaking in reading time when they are supposed to be doing something else like chores or sleeping try to avoid “taking reading time away”.  As a teacher I have seen kids sitting in class with a book not so discretely hidden in their lap, while they are supposed to be paying attention

This is what we do in our house.  This weekend, we were all able to sit down and read for 45 minutes, it was amazing.  My husband and I started reading and the kids slowly trickled in from playing outside, our three year old walked over to the overflowing library book bin and grabbed a book and snuggled up and started “reading”.  Our oldest came a little later and made a gigantic pile of books and read with us.  This is something we have worked towards doing, we’ve built in that capacity to sit still, to be engaged quietly.  Of course, it doesn’t always work like that, but we strive to capture those little moments when we look at each other and silently smile knowing that we nailed it.

Petite Patriots: Part Six

Eek today is the day!

Election Day! 

For our sixth installment of Petite Patriots, I have three books for your story-time enjoyment.  These three books are all about voting, specifically, suffragettes and Women’s Right to Vote!

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Created Equal: Women Campaign for the Right to Vote 1840-1920 by Ann Rossi (National Geographic Society, 2005) which is a fabulous look at what it took to gain the women’s vote.  This book is very informative and would be a perfect addition to the classroom to learn more about suffragettes and the incredible women who worked so tirelessly to gain the right to vote.  This book has amazing photos as well as historical documents, like you would expect from a National Geographic book.  What you will find in this book is 40 pages filled with everything you need to know from what was happening in the US in 1840 all the way to reaching the vote and passing the 19th amendment.  This book is geared for ages 10 and up.

Heart on Fire: Susan B. Anthony Votes for President by Ann Malaspina and illustrated by Steve James (Albert Whitman & Co., 2012) this is the story of Susan B. Anthony, who was an incredibly strong and determined woman.  If you’ve been seeing all of the posts on social media of people paying tribute to Susan B. Anthony’s grave with voting stickers you might consider adding this book to your petites shelf.  It is well written, in such a way that even young petites will be able to understand just what it took for women to get the right to vote.  Susan B. Anthony is a true hero and inspiration.  We love courageous women, just like Susan B. Anthony.  This book is perfect for first – fourth grade.

Miss Paul and the President: the Creative Campaign for Women’s Right to Vote by Dean Robbins and illustrated by Nancy Zhang (Alfred A. Knopf, 2016), is the absolutely fantastic story of Alice Paul, a suffragette, who never backed down from the cause that she believed in.  This story tells about how she created a parade that overshadowed the arrival of President Woodrow Wilson in Washington DC, her organizing protesters and even her bold meeting with President Woodrow Wilson.  It was during this meeting where she demanded the right to vote.  You have to love a woman with gumption.  Let’s also take a moment to discuss the illustrations from Nancy Zhang, they are gorgeous, they perfectly capture the mood and feelings of the movement.  This book is perfect for petites to learn about suffragettes, it is geared for preschool – third grade.

Check out the posts below for previous Petite Patriots:

Cinderstella: A Tale of Planets Not Princes

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Cinderstella: A Tale of Planets Not Princes by Brenda S. Miles and Susan D. Sweet with illustrations by Valeria Docampo (Magination Press, 2016) is an updated take on a classic.  Currently, we are seeing a huge shift in picture books that promote strong female protagonists who don’t need a prince or anyone else to come and save them.  We have strong willed girls who are perfectly capable of determining their own destiny and that is what we have in Cinderstella.


This story follows the same premise of a young girl, Cinderstella who lives with her step-mother and two step-sisters.  She is forced to take care of all of their needs and then when there is time her own.  Cinderstella has plans of her own though, she isn’t waiting for some prince to come and rescue her, she is too fond of her telescope and calculations to give up her interstellar dreams.  Cinderstella even has a fairy godmother who is convinced she wants all the usual things: a lovely gown, glass slippers and carriage; but not our smart girl.


In this book, you will find something different entirely, Cinderstella is quite inclusive and includes her step-sisters in her interstellar adventures.  In doing so she showed her step-sisters a world of possibilities.


Another component to the fantastic books published by Magination Press is that they offer notes to their readers with ways to offer support for families to encourage children to find interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).  They offer suggestions for parents, teachers and caregivers to use this book to foster conversations about STEM, talk about interests and goals and what it means to dream BIG!


petite-stag-favoriteA huge thank you to Valeria Docampo for permission to use her incredible images, they are absolutely stunning.  As we read this story last night my petites, kept oh-ing and ah-ing at the illustrations.  They both immediately after reading declared they wanted to read more books about space, look through a telescope and make a planet mobile just like Cinderstella.  So in one simple read, this book became a Petite Stag Favorite for inspiring my petites to dream big, desire to learn more and engage with the text in a meaningful way.

Rad Women! Nasty Women! Brilliant Women!

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about women.  Specifically, how so many incredibly brave, brilliant, talented, strong-willed women trail blazed, made incredible sacrifices, stood up for what was right.  These are the women I want to be teaching my daughters about – these are the women I want to be reading about.

So with that said here are two phenomenal books that you will want to add to your shelves immediately.


Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz and art by Miriam Klein Stahl (City Lights, 2015) and was instantly all over social media for the amazing content as well as the incredibly  rad art that go along with the pictures.  We picked this beauty up at Powell’s in Portland and fell hard for these miniature biographies.  This book focuses on 26 women who made a big impact on the United States.  These women come from all over the US, from all different backgrounds; but they have one astounding thing in common, they all stood up and made a contribution a difference.

  • Carol Burnett
  • Florence Griffith-Joyner
  • The Grime Sisters
  • Nellie Bly
  • Patti Smith
  • Sonia Sotomayor
  • Ursula K. LeGuin
  • Virginia Apgar

I love the selection of women that they have chosen for this book.  These are 26 fun snapshots into the lives of these amazing women.  Teachers, this would be a  book to add to your shelves for biography units, although they aren’t what I would call traditional biographies there are facts that would be perfect for a report or paper.

Not to mention, the art for this book is so vibrant.  It looks gorgeous on a shelf and is eye-catching for sure.  This book is perfect for grade 5 and up.


Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History (Ten Speed Press, 2016) is the next installment of rad women we’ve been waiting for.  This book covers women from every continent, starting with ancient Mesopotamia moving to present day.  The biographies in this book are fantastic and again are little one page (sometimes more) biographies of incredible women who have changed the world in wonderful amazing ways.  Here are just a few of the incredible women features in this book.  Again you have stunning art to go along with the mini biographies.

  • Malala Yousafzai (Pakistan)
  • Hatshepsut (Egypt)
  • Frida Kahlo (Mexico)
  • Guerrilla Girls (USA)
  • Grace “Granuaile” O’Malley (Ireland)
  • Marie Curie and Irene Joliot-Curie (France)
  • Maria Montessori (Italy)

This book covers 40 heroic women and their lives.  It is a mixed group of remarkable women, some you may be familiar with others, who perhaps will be new and inspiring to you.  This book is geared for older kids, upper elementary and up.

Bloggers Note: I received Rad Women Wordlwide from Blogging for Books for this review.  However, the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Petite Patriots: Part Five

Eek! We are only a few days away from the election, have you voted yet?  We voted last night as a family with our two petites and discussed what it means to vote, what types of things we can vote for and how even one vote can make a difference.

For today’s Petite Patriots we have three books to share with you:

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Duck for President by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2004) two powerhouses in the kid lit world.  Duck for President is the 3rd book in the Click, Clack, Moo series; this book is filled with wit and is perfect for reading aloud to petites.  This is the story of Duck who believes that he is more equipped to run the farm than Farmer Brown, so he holds an election.  Once he wins, he takes his political prowess all the way to the top.  This book is perfectly marvelous and would be so much fun to share with preschool to third graders.

petite-stag-favoriteMonster Needs Your Vote by Paul Czajak and Wendy Grieb (Mighty Media Kids, 2015) is so bold and bright it begs you to read it.  This book is not only cute it is exceptionally educational.  We found ourselves stopping at many different points to discuss the new terminology that is being used.  What we loved about this book are the ample teaching opportunities, to discuss voting age, soapboxes, oratory skills, issues, town hall meetings, debates, grassroots movement and so much more.  This book is the perfect jumping off point to discuss the election process.  To perhaps even use as part of  a mock debate.  This book is bright and cheery enough to hold small petites attention even when the content is too advanced.  The recommended age for this book is preschool to third grade, but for comprehension of all the details I would say 1st grade to fourth grade.  Teachers, be sure to check this one out there are tons of great teachable moments just waiting for you.

Vote for Me! by Ben Clanton (Kids Can Press, 2012) is spectacular, it has a Mo Willems like feel, a very clever duo and of course convey the mudslinging that is often times found in politics.  This book, offers something a little different than the others that we have shared before, it really focuses on the satire of the political process, the negative name calling that can take place.  We loved the anti-bullying, anti-arguing message that is so strong in this book.  A quick read, but one that is sure to tickle your petites.

In case you are just tuning in, here are the links for prior Petite Patriots: