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Posts Tagged ‘Books’

When I Am a Mac, I Shall Wear Black*

An Ode to Steve Jobs

When I am a Mac, I shall wear black

a black turtle neck with jeans and tennis shoes.

And I shall spend time finding apps and accessories

and upgrades, and drink copious amounts of coffee.

I shall settle myself in a coffee shop when my battery runs low

and check my email

and listen to thousands of songs on iTunes

and make masterpieces on iMovie

and read Jane Austen on iBooks.

I shall have internet wherever I go

and dare to create on my Mac.

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Thank you,  Steve Jobs for everything.  We will miss your inspiration, your innovation, your out of the box thinking. My life was so much better once I was a Mac and not a PC.

Go to www.stevejobsday2011.com for information about a day of remembrance.

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*Poem based on the wonderful poem Warning by Jenny Joseph

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This weekend we went to the store and I got the most awesomest costume for Halloween.  I’m going to be WolverineFrom Marvel Comics for Halloween this year!  I have a costume that has real wolverine claws and a mask and my dad was in the United States Wolverine Corps.  Wolverine is my favorite super hero.  I really like super heroes!  I have a Wolverine book and a Batman book.  Do you know I have a red cape with a lightning bolt on it?

If you give this little guy an inch he’ll go on and on and on. When he’s not rhapsodizing about super heroes, he’ll tell you more than you’ll ever want to know about sharks – all different kinds of sharks!  I enjoy every minute of his chatter.  He’s using age-appropriate grammar and a rich vocabulary.  OK, so some of his details are a little off.  Like how his dad was in the United States MARINE Corps, but you’ve got to love his enthusiasm and his pride in his dad.

In my opinion, one of the biggest predictors of success in Kindergarten is a child’s oral language skills.  So while those chatty kids might drive parents crazy, those are the students who are easiest to teach.  Sure, it takes time for students to learn when it is OK to talk in school and when it is not OK, but eventually they figure it out. And just so I don’t have a complete rebellion on my hands I allow opportunities for sharing about our days, responding to a story, or quietly chatting with neighbors.

It’s the quiet kids that always concern me. The ones who never raise their hands. The ones who never have anything to say even when called upon to share.

Sure, some children are painfully shy. And I completely feel their pain because I was super shy as a kid. Eventually, my shy students will come out of their shells long enough to answer a question or share a story – even if it means whispering to me or a friend to share for them.

But my concern for quiet kids does not include those who are shy, it is for those who never have anything to say. The chronic shoulder-shrugger “I don’t know” responders. The child who pulls an item out of a basket and can’t think of the word fish – and is a native English speaker. The child who says tiger for a picture of a tabby cat or house for a picture of a window. The child who has nothing to share about her weekend even after all the other children have shared about riding bikes, playing wii, or going to grandma’s house. These are the children who worry me the most.

Puritans thought that children should be seen and not heard. Fortunately this belief is no longer widespread for studies have shown that children who have more extensive vocabularies will perform better in school. Children with rich and extensive vocabularies have the words to express themselves and better overall comprehension. Dr. Louisa Moats found that linguistically poor children enter first grade with 5,000 words in their vocabulary while linguistically rich students enter first grade with 20,000 words.  That’s a huge gap to fill.

In the book Building Oral Language Skills in PreK-K, the author Cindy Middendorf cites research that shows, “Not all children who struggle with early reading skills have poor oral language, yet nearly all children who have poor oral language will struggle with early reading skills.”  This was repeated for me again at a literacy conference when the speaker mentioned that 70% of struggling third grade readers have poor oral language. I structure my Kindergarten schedule to do all I can to encourage oral language and vocabulary development.

But parents have their children for five years before they enter my classroom. So how does one raise their child to be a wolverine loving shark fanatic instead of a shoulder shrugging I don’t know-er?

Talk to your child from the day he/she is born. Have conversations with your child even before they can answer back. Use real words not baby talk. Talk about your day, where you are going, what you are doing. As your child begins to learn words and speak coherently then the fun really starts.

Read to your child. Read to your child. Read to your child. I cannot say this too many times. Read to your child from the day he/she is born! The earlier you start with books the better.  Baby books are full of fun vocabulary and pictures. You may not be reading a story but you are engaging your child in language development.

Once your child is ready to sit for an entire picture book, a gloriously rich world of literature is available for enjoying.  Picture books tell beautiful stories and often use more advanced language than you would think. One of my favorite lines is from Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin

Duck was a neutral party, so he brought the ultimatum to the cows.

I was reading this book to my son when he was two!  Now, I’m not saying he understood every word but he understood the general idea of the story and was exposed to some pretty fantastic words!

Reread the same books to your child (if they aren’t already demanding you to do so). Children love familiarity and predictability. Children learn through repetition, gaining something new each time they hear the same story. If you really get tired of reading the same book over and over then try introducing another text with the same characters. The characters in books become your child’s friends and it is fun for them to hear another story about familiar friends.

Let your child speak. Once a child has some words then encourage them to use those word and don’t let them get away with pointing and gesturing. Before my younger son was verbal he would gesture to his mouth when he wanted his binky (pacifier). When he was two and specifically requesting the motorcycle binky, I knew it was time for him to give up the binky!

And remember children should be seen and heard!

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Where I’m From

When I started this blog last June, I had no idea where it would go or how long it would last.  As I tried to find a wider network of women bloggers I stumbled upon the SITS Girls website. After lurking around the site for a while I registered for the Bloggy Boot Camp in Denver thinking it might be fun and I might learn something.  My ticket served as a great inspiration to keep writing and blogging. If I was going to a blogging conference then I had to be a blogger (well in my mind anyway).

Saturday was a blast! The speakers were well-spoken, funny, and informative.  I’m still processing all that I learned, but mostly I realized how much I have yet to learn about the blogging world. As a newbie, I opted for the writing breakout session rather than the business oriented one. The writing exercise was to create a poem using a template inspired by  Where I’m From by George Ella Lyon. Mama Kat (one of the SITS Girls) led the activity and decided to use the template as one of her writing prompts this week.

So here is my attempt at explaining where I’m from.

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I am from dog-eared books devoured over and over, from Snuggle scented sheets, and flashlights under the covers.

I am from swinging on a tire under canopied trees in a marshy wood with tall frondy ferns and hold your nose skunk cabbage.  From the sweet smell of freshly mown grass making me sneeze. From happy yellow forsythias, proud purple lilacs, and sprawling green pachysandra on a sunny spring day.

I am from the pink and green Holly Hobby bedroom full of Nancy Drews and kitten posters down the hall from the fancy blue living room you dare not enter. From the kitchen table at dinner covered with books and newspapers and all you hear is the clatter of forks on plates and the flutter of pages turned.

I am from new pajamas on Christams Eve and dimples in my shoulders.  From Scholzes and Muellers and Prokops.

I am from the loud yellers and the nervous hair twirlers and the step off the curb ankle sprainers.

From you’re not getting up until you eat your string beans and stop reading under the covers and go to sleep.

I am from genuflecting and incense and feast days. From hard wooden pews, creaky kneelers, and starchy wafers struck to the roof of my mouth. From questions I dared not ask.

I’m from the Bronx but not the Bronx. I’m from liverwurst on rye, potato pierogies and lasagna with a side of garlic bread.

From my grandmother crossing the Atlantic on a boat arriving St. Patrick’s Day 1929. And my grandfather landing in New York knowing only ham and cheese please. And my great aunts saving nickels earned at Horn & Hardarts Automat.

I am from faded Kodachrome Instamatic prints of birthdays, Christmases, Easters, Mother’s Days, Father’s Days and Thanksgiviging chronologically stuck in spiral albums with crinkly cellophane covers that are occasionally dusted, were saved from a flood, and rarely opened.

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The blogosphere has seen a flurry of repostings and responses to You Should Date an Illiterate Girl by Charles Warnke. I only came upon poor Charles’ post after first reading You Should Date a Girl Who Reads – which I posted and responded to earlier this summer.

While many people seem to focus on his ending paragraph:

Don’t date a girl who reads because girls who read are the storytellers. You with the Joyce, you with the Nabokov, you with the Woolf. You there in the library, on the platform of the metro, you in the corner of the café, you in the window of your room. You, who make my life so god damned difficult. The girl who reads has spun out the account of her life and it is bursting with meaning. She insists that her narratives are rich, her supporting cast colorful, and her typeface bold. You, the girl who reads, make me want to be everything that I am not. But I am weak and I will fail you, because you have dreamed, properly, of someone who is better than I am. You will not accept the life that I told of at the beginning of this piece. You will accept nothing less than passion, and perfection, and a life worthy of being storied. So out with you, girl who reads. Take the next southbound train and take your Hemingway with you. I hate you. I really, really, really hate you.

I think they have missed his point. Poor Charles. He obviously  had his heart broken by a young, idealistic girl. My guess is that Charles was not living up to her dreams, dreams sparked by fictional heroines who have found their true loves and happily ever afters.

 You Should Date a Girl Who Reads, which I could relate to completely as a bookworm, seems to be a response to this paragraph of bitterness. But it’s an earlier paragraph that lets me know that Charles is truly not an ignorant fool who wants a mindless, thoughtless, girl who never picks up a book. At the beginning of his post Charles recommends finding, “courting,” and marrying a girl who does not read. He continues,

Let the years pass unnoticed. Get a career, not a job. Buy a house. Have two striking children. Try to raise them well. Fail, frequently. Lapse into a bored indifference. Lapse into an indifferent sadness. Have a mid-life crisis. Grow old. Wonder at your lack of achievement. Feel sometimes contented, but mostly vacant and ethereal. Feel, during walks, as if you might never return, or as if you might blow away on the wind. Contract a terminal illness. Die, but only after you observe that the girl who didn’t read never made your heart oscillate with any significant passion, that no one will write the story of your lives, and that she will die, too, with only a mild and tempered regret that nothing ever came of her capacity to love.

Charles gets it. He knows deep down that the girl who doesn’t read will not be able to challenge him, be his intellectual equal, be his true partner in life and love.

But right now he’s angry. He’s heartbroken. There was a girl he loved and she wanted more from him than he was ready to give. Maybe she was too idealistic and hasn’t lived enough to realize that life is not a fairy tale. Or maybe she was right and he will never grow up to be who she needs him to be.

Yes, Charles says he hates her. But there is the finest of lines between love and hate. And as much as he says he hates a girl who reads, when he grows up Charles will be exactly the type of man who needs to marry a woman who reads.

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Illuminating reading

A friend from college wrote the best post on Facebook today:

[My daughter] has a habit (can’t quite call it a bad habit) of staying up too late reading. The standard punishment in the house is loss of all electronics the next day, so she can’t use computers, watch TV, etc. Result? When she reads too much, the punishment is … more reading. I wonder who’s fooling who?

I remember my mom catching me with a flashlight under the covers. Supposedly reading with a flashlight was bad for my eyes. Considering I already wore coke-bottle thick glasses, I couldn’t imagine my vision getting much worse. I realize now that it was a matter of sleep. I wasn’t a morning person and staying up all night reading didn’t bode well for a good morning.

What a joy it was to read in bed at night. There was no one to bother me. No chores. No homework. No little sister bugging me. No loud TV in the next room. It was just me, my books, and the wonderful characters. I escaped into the worlds of Beezus and Ramona, Anne of Green Gables, Jo March and her sisters, Laura Ingalls, Nancy Drew, Betsy, Tacy & Tib, Caddie Woodlawn, Meg Murry, and so many others.

I think of those nights often as I snuggle in bed with my book and my book light (apparently a book light is an acceptable amount of light for reading, but a flashlight will ruin your eyes). There is no one to bother me. No cooking or cleaning. No school work. No kids bugging me. No loud TV. It’s just me, my books, even more wonderful characters, and my snoring husband.

I’m still more of an afternoon person rather than a morning person – just ask my husband or kids – so I try to not stay up too late reading each night. But sometimes there just isn’t a good stopping place. The next thing I know I’m turning out the light and it’s 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning. I think about the busy day that lies ahead – kids, school, errands, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and I’m grateful that I love coffee too.


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“No one ever looks at their baby and thinks, Oh, I hope my kid grows up and becomes a freak. I hope he gets to school every day and prays he won’t catch anyone’s attention. But you know what? Kids grow up like that every single day.”

Jordan found himself at a loss for words. There was the finest line between unique and odd, between what made a child grow up to be as well adjusted as Thomas versus unstable, like Peter. Did every teenager have the capacity to fall on one side or the other of that tightrope, and could you identify a single moment that tipped the balance? (p. 136, Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult)

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I was two months pregnant with my first child when Columbine happened. I was teaching first grade in Northwest Denver and that afternoon we are outside standing in our fire drill evacuation places when murmurings of the horror began. I don’t remember if we were outside for a regularly scheduled fire drill or if Denver Public Schools was ensuring that the schools were safe.

I remember the horror I felt as a teacher and a parent to be – someone was shooting kids in a high school. Who was it? Why were they shooting? How many children were hit? Was the gunman captured?

I left school and stopped at the grocery store on my way home. The lady behind the deli counter asked me if I was having a good day. I looked at her in shock and said, No. Haven’t you heard. There was a shooting at a high school. She looked at me oddly and filled my order.

I was glued to the television that night. My heart went out to all the families of Columbine. I had never seen anything so horrific in my entire life. I was an emotional wreck and I didn’t even know any of the teachers or students. My husband attributed my sadness for those I did not know to hormones. I knew it wasn’t hormones. It was a sadness that overwhelmed. Twelve students and one teacher died. Twenty-four students were wounded – some would never be able to fully recover. And then there were the psychological effects the survivors would endure. An unbelievable massacre orchestrated not by a deranged gunmen but by two fellow students. This was a very dark day in our society.

The next day all the outside doors at my school were locked. Teachers were given a key. We were a neighborhood school supporting families – free breakfast for students, ESL classes for parents, social services for families –  and our doors had  always been open. Now our doors were locked.

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Twelve  years later I am teaching again after a hiatus as a SAHM. There are some significant differences in schools. All teachers must wear a school badge. All visitors must wear a visitors badge after signing in at the office. All outside doors remain locked. And we have Lock Down Drills.

I was in elementary school during the Cold War and we had air raid drills. We practiced sitting in the hallways, backs against the wall, heads down between our knees. Apparently this would save us if an atomic bomb was dropped on New York City. I’m sure during the 50’s and 60’s the threat of nuclear holocaust was terrifying, but by the 80’s it was a pretty safe bet that it wasn’t going to happen. And as kids we though that sitting in the hallways was a joke.

Lock Down Drills are not a joke. One thing teachers are taught during emergency training is that deaths have never occurred in a classroom with a locked door. Because they know. School shootings have occurred and lives were saved by locked doors.

The hardest day of my entire school year is the day I have to teach my Kindergarteners about Lockdown Drills. How do you explain to five year olds that we have to learn how to hide from bad guys? We need to lock our doors, turn out our lights, and hide out of sight. We can’t make a sound. We can’t move. We can’t get a drink of water or go to the bathroom. We have to hide.

I can tell my class that a bad guy probably won’t come to our school, but I cannot say a bad guy definitely won’t. It makes me sick to my stomach to say probably instead of definitely.

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Why do some kids snap and others do not? We’ll probably never know.

In the  meantime I hope and pray:

               that those on the tightrope find someone to listen and help

               that we will never have another school shooting or worse

               for all those who are odd, unique, different, quirky, or find themselves on the outside for no apparent reason

               that they may find love and self acceptance

                for tolerance and ultimately acceptance.

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Reading picture books every day is a great perk of my job as a Kindergarten teacher. OK to be honest, I would probably read picture books even if I wasn’t teaching.

The illustrations in picture books can be beautiful, poignant, or perfect in their simplicity. The stories can make me laugh. They can make me cry. Very often I find meaningful life lessons in picture books.

Yesterday I read Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes by Erick Litwin and James Dean to my class. This was a new book for me – recommended by another teacher friend.  Once we were done reading it, I couldn’t believe I had never met Pete before!

You see, Pete the Cat loves his white shoes so much that he sings about them – I love my white shoes. I love my white shoes. I love my white shoes. But as he is walking around he steps into different strawberries, blueberries, and mud turning his shoes different colors. Does Pete get upset? Does Pete cry? No! Not even close. Pete’s a cool cat and when his shoes turn a different color he loves them just as much as before. His responses include awesome, everything is cool, and groovy.  He sings about how much he loves his new [insert color] shoes.

The moral of Pete’s story is: No matter what you step in, keep walking along and singing your song….because it’s all good.

We had a phenomenal time singing along and saying cool things with Pete – because it’s all good!

I think we  should all approach with the ease and equanimity of Pete the Cat. That’s my life lesson for today!

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For a little fun click on the TV to watch a video of the author performing a live reading of his awesome book!

Eric Litwin reading Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes

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