Friday, October 30, 2020

Henry Holton Takes the Ice and Perfect Pigeons

Looking for some books that reinforce your commitment to sharing books highlighting inclusion and acceptance themes with your students?  Here are two good ones.

Henry Holton Takes the Ice, (Copyright 2015) written by Sandra Bradley and illustrated by Sara Palaciosis such a cute book with an important reminder to kids: Be true to yourself. It reminds adults to let kids choose their own paths and to support that path especially when it doesn't mirror your own.

Not always easy to do! 

From the moment he was born, it was hockey all the time!

By the time he was 7, he was the best skater in the family...and the worst hockey player.  

I love Henry's self-confidence and how he asserts himself.  If you have students struggling to speak up for themselves, check out these book suggestions on assertion. 

Henry never second guesses himself.  The pure joy of this picture says it all:

Henry is a great role model for our students and there are for sure kids in your class who NEED to know about Henry because they're a lot like him or may need a little dose of courage.

Henry's perseverance may rub off on your kids. He's the Oliver Button for a new generation, don't you think? 

Oliver Button is a Sissy is in my classroom and Henry Holton Takes the Ice is a perfect pairing. 

I love that this book shares the same themes showing kids that it's okay to be different and you don't need to conform to what others think is right for you...especially based on your sex.  

Today's generation, thank goodness, is way better at busting through gender stereotyping but society still has a long way to go. 

Books like these, I'm convinced, help change attitudes!

Want to watch Henry Holton?  Watch it below (11 minutes) ...or if you're on a mobile device, the video might not be showing up so here's the link: Henry Holton Takes the Ice.

I have a small product that I made to support the book because I knew I'd want to extend the book a bit.

I have over 90 Book Its in my store ($2) that all have the same activities: Retells (written and oral), Pick-A-Prompt where kids pick 1/3 prompts to write/share, and, to reinforce Word Work, Make-a-Word Activities.  (Can model for them with magnetic letters and do as group activity or kids can work independently or in small groups.)  

Perfectly Pigeons(Copyright 2020) written and illustrated by Katherine Battersby, is a fun book to use to reinforce the themes above.  

I just love how the pigeons are drawn and the colors of the book are lovely.

It's about a flock of seagulls who are all the same except for Pesky Pigeon who does things his own way.

Can the flock of pigeons still be perfect if they aren't all perfectly the same?  Check out the short peek into the book below.  (Or mobile users: Link is here.)

Let your kiddos decide!  

Because it's such a quick solid read and has adorable and quirky illustrations, I can see teachers and kids grabbing it year after year. I want it in my collection for both my curriculum needs and the students wants/needs.

Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Happy reading!

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Why I Share Books Like The Belonging Tree

Some books immediately flood you with memories...good and bad. This was one of them. I know it will be a must-read every year in my classroom.

I'm going to highlight the book now but after the last pic, I'll tell you the background as to why this type of book is ALWAYS front and center in my classroom and should be in yours too.

The Belongng Tree is written by the talented Maryann Cocca-Leffler and illustrated by Kristine A. Lombardi. A perfect pairing and a flawless book IMO.

The illustrations are really cute.  Kids are going to love them.

I love Zeke playing with the babies here. She loves all her new friends no matter the species.

I'll come back to "There goes the neighborhood" below...

A great converstaion would hopefully follow the reading of this book on inclusion, appreciating differences/diversity, and acceptance.

When I read The Belonging Tree, I immediately thought of a former student I had many, many years ago.

He arrived from a war-torn country months prior to finish off the kindergarten year and lived with relatives. We were told of all he went through and it was devastating. What he saw in his every day short life so far was traumatizing. 

When he started in my class in September, he just starting speaking a little English.  Can you imagine all the obstacles this child had to overcome?  He was a brave child and his having to be brave broke my heart.

At the same time, this very wealthy town that I was teaching in was getting its first low-income housing. Parents were furious. Beyond. And very vocal about their thoughts.

The topic consumed the town as the housing filled up.

I kept hearing, "There goes the neighborhood.  Not in my town," etc. everywhere I went.  

(Hence the trigger from above book.)

So on Meet the Teacher day, a few parents, upon seeing this child's nametag, were aggressive toward that sweet child's mere existence. 

As I stood a few feet away talking to a child, I could hear a conversation that horrified me.

A parent pointed to this child's nametag and said to a group of people around him, "He isn't the "standard" accepted in this town."  Then one remarked how she saw him having a meltdown at every baseball game he played in that summer. They laughed and rolled their eyes.

I shut that shit down. Fast. 

I've always been outspoken and I'm not easily intimidated.  Parents were a bit surprised that as a young teacher, I spoke up to advocate for this child and shut them down so fast.

I stood on a chair, and gave them a speech that clearly let them know that I would not tolerate gossiping of any kind. 
I let them know that my - our- classroom community was always and would always continue to be a safe haven for ALL kids and families.  "I can promise you this: If a parent in this class or any class approaches me and tries to gossip about your child, I won't allow it. We all know that 5 and 6 year olds are learning from their mistakes each and every day. That's what children do. Your child is safe in here."

Parents clapped. The two that made those comments looked uncomfortable. They later apologized privately.

I've been doing this at EVERY Meet the Teacher and reinforcing the message at BTSN since.

It's too important not to.

NOTE: I also gave examples of gossip and what is a true concern when another child is affecting your child's safety/well-being.  

I've mentored a lot of teachers and have encouraged them to shut down the gossip the SECOND you hear/are approached with it. 

Because of this student (who I adored!), I still continuously seek out books about inclusiveness and books that convey empathy in an easy to understand way.  

Books such as these not only help me build a strong classroom community, they make it thrive.

Or their parents!

Which is why I love to include retellings for homework: For homework tonight, retell The Belonging Tree to your family.

If you read this far, thank you! 

If you want free materials on Bucket Filling and see how this powerful activity can help build and strengthen your classroom community, check this out and sign up for me free newsletter.  

Have a great day!

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

A Must-Read Book for Your Class Library

Trying to build and strengthen your classroom community? One way to do it is to shine a light on empathetic behavior.

I've posted my thoughts about teaching empathy here and highlighted a few books that perfectly demonstrate empathetic behavior that kids can easily understand.

So yesterday, I wondered how I am only now discovering such a fabulous book that shows such an amazing empatheic and compassinate character, Marissa, in The Tooth by Avi Slodovnick.

Full disclosure: I've seen the cover on Storylineonline dozens of times but the cover never grabbed my attention and I always scrolled past it.



The video is only 5 minutes long and it is PERFECT. 


(I noticed the video doesn't show up on mobile devices so here is the link: The Tooth,)

What did you think? Did you love it as much as I did?  

Will you be using it in your classroom?  

I'd love to hear your reaction. If you have any other book recommendations, please share.

Have a great day!

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Sunday Snapshot: Saturdays Are For Stella Picture Book

Friends, I found a magnificent book at the library just hanging out on the new picture book shelf!

Saturdays Are For Stella is written by former teacher Candy Wellins and illustrated by Charlie Eve Ryan.

The fun cover immediately made me snatch it up.

George loves spending his Saturdays with his Grandma Stella. They have a blast hanging out together.

The author and illustrator nailed their relationship!

Now when I turned the page, it was obvious what happened next.  

Ugh.  I almost closed the book thinking I didn't want to read this to my first graders.  Death and dying books are always a tough call.

But, let me tell you, this is truly amazing and the author/illustrator managed to perfectly balance grief with hope and joy. Kudos to them!

Kids will see Geroge's grief in relatable ways. They'll nod when he decides he hates Saturdays.

But then...

And I'll leave the last few pages for you to discover on your own.

It really is such a lovely book. It moved me. The joy shines through. 

When would I read it? Honestly, I think I'd read this early in the year when we're talking about our families. 

Would also be a fantasic book to revisit privately with a student who is grieving. 

But to be clear, there is no need to try to fit Saturdays Are For Stella into any unit. An excellent book ALWAYS deserves to be read on any given day.

It evoked strong feelings of my own grandparents, and to be quite honest, my parents who have passed.

But it makes me feel all sorts of good inside. A gentle reminder that my parents and grandparents are still here in my own kids and a part of them will be a part of generations to come.

Is this a book I'd purchase or get from the library?

Oh this is a must-have for me.