Background knowledge

Hidden Lives of Wolves: An Interview with Jim and Jamie Dutcher

Jim and Jamie Dutcher

A recent book for young readers and a presentation by the authors for 3rd and 4th grade children reminded me how much damage stereotypes and misinformation can create. In this case, Jim and Jamie Dutcher have spent their professional lives as filmmakers and writers documenting the real lives of wolves in an effort to correct the erroneous and ultimately destructive misconceptions about these magnificent and important creatures.

To Lexile or Not to Lexile, That Is the Question

Teacher question:

Our school district is going wild over Lexiles because they are in the Common Core standards. I think they are overdoing it and don’t feel comfortable with some of the decisions that we are making. What are the weaknesses of Lexiles?

First, Lexiles is only one of several readability measures included in the CCSS. They started with that one, but as studies were completed they added ATOS, SourceRater, and several others.

Let’s Play Ball! Meet Author Fred Bowen

Fred BowenI always associate summer with baseball. Many sunny afternoons were spent watching my son play various positions while in elementary and middle school. He learned a lot about life from playing baseball — and soccer, basketball, rugby and football – skills he has used as a young adult.

Catching Stars

In Carol’s final blog posting for the summer, the family embarks on another Start with a Book summer science exploration: The Night Sky. Unbeknownst to them, their exploration continues on in paradise, and wraps up at home in their own front yard.

We're Going on Five Planes!

Carol and her kids explore the topic of flight with a visit to the National Air and Space Museum. Their ongoing exploration of flight continues during their summer travels as they learn about Amelia Earhart, go on five planes, and make their own paper airplanes.

What Can Librarians Do to Support Student Literacy?

From a reader:

Any thoughts on top 2 or 3 literacy concepts on which you would focus librarians? Grades 4-8?

My response:

Let me say how happy I am that you are available to students and teachers. As I make my way across the country I find fewer and fewer school-based librarians. Unfortunately, you appear to be part of a disappearing breed. Here are a few ideas.


It’s a Tomato Warning!

Carol and her family share their gardening adventures. They learn the virtue of patience when it comes to gardening with some help from a book called And Then It’s Spring, and experience the satisfaction of growing their own fruits and vegetables from seed.

The other day, Addie asked me, “Mommy, why was there a tomato warning?”

“A tomato warning?” I repeated, confused.

“Yes, a tomato warning. It happened during the thunderstorm.”

Madam President

Addie explores the idea of becoming President. With a visit to the Lincoln Memorial, and a candid “what if I were President” interview with her mom, we get to see the world through the eyes of a five and half year old.

About a month ago, Addie came home from school, and said to me, “Mom, you can become President.”

“OK, why is that?”

“Because you have to be 35 to be President. And you’re 35!” (In all honesty, I’m 35+2, but why ruin a perfectly good moment by pointing out a harmless error).

A Strawberry Farm-to-Table Adventure

Carol shares the delicious fun of strawberry picking at a local farm, and how a book and Highlight magazine article lead to baking adventures in the kitchen with the kids.

One of my favorite things to do when the weather turns warm is taking my kids fruit picking. Yes, it gets hot. Yes, there are bugs flying around. Yes, it involves manual labor. But when you bite into that plump, perfectly ripe strawberry, blackberry, peach, fuji apple, and the list goes on, your mouth fills with such sweet and juicy goodness that it’s well worth the effort.

A Bonfire, a Bookstore, and Whales: Our Cape Cod Adventure

In this post, Carol shares how she prepared for a beach trip to Cape Cod with a Summer Tip text, and discovers the fun of stopping by a local bookstore. She’s also discovering how the role of books in their lives is evolving, and making summer explorations more memorable.


"Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them." — Lemony Snicket