Whether it be in your classroom or your home, it’s not always easy to start difficult conversations or clarify confusing times for children. But the best conversations can begin with a story. They are a great way to expose children to different narratives and teach them about people outside of their immediate family. Having a diverse range of books can be a powerful tool in teaching children about tolerance and acceptance, all the while celebrating uniqueness and individuality. With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of books to help begin important discussions, not only about race, but also about inclusion, diversity and the differences that make us special.
Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where kids in patkas, hijabs, and yarmulkes play side-by-side with friends in baseball caps. A school where students grow and learn from each other’s traditions and the whole community gathers to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
Lily and Salma are best friends. They like doing all the same things, and they always eat lunch together. Lily eats peanut butter and Salma eats hummus-but what’s that between friends? It turns out, a lot. Before they know it, a food fight breaks out. Can Lily and Salma put aside their differences? Or will a sandwich come between them? The smallest things can pull us apart-until we learn that friendship is far more powerful than difference.
Big, small, curly, straight, loud, quiet, smooth, wrinkly. Lovely explores a world of differences that all add up to the same thing: we are all lovely! The simple, minimal text shows opposites: “black”—represented by a white woman in all black, “white”—a black woman with white hair, but includes them all under the umbrella of “lovely.”
“Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” the rhyming text begins, and each page that follows offers an affirmation of all the strength, talent, and promise that young girls have within them. While praising their inherent strengths and virtues, the text also encourages girls to show kindness, to be fighters, and to accept their fellow female for who she is and embrace all the unique qualities that make her that way. And no matter what, to know that no matter what the world expects of her or tells her she must be, she needs only to remind herself of the truth: “I am enough.”
Skin Like Mine is a fun and creative way to address and celebrate diversity among young children. It emphasizes the importance of not only accepting others, but accepting and loving yourself. This story compares skin colors with foods instead of with other people. From brownies, cakes, and caramel, this book is a lighthearted way of breaking the barrier down when talking about different skin colors and loving the body we were given.
The story of the beautiful relationship between a little girl and her grandfather. When she asks her grandfather how to say something in his language – Cree – he admits that his language was stolen from him when he was a boy. The little girl then sets out to help her grandfather find his language again. This sensitive and warmly illustrated picture book explores the inter-generational impact of the residential school system that separated young Indigenous children from their families.
Nate has a tough decision to make. Purim, a Jewish holiday, celebrated in part by the wearing of costumes, is coming up, and Nate has to decide between being an alien, his all-time favorite thing, or being a superhero like the rest of the boys in his class. He wants to fit in with his friends, but he really wants to be an alien. With the help of his two dads and his sister, he comes up with a costume that works for him. One of his dads shares the story of Queen Esther to help Nate see the value in being who you really are, even if it’s different from other people. Through the support of his family, Nate decides to be both brave, like a superhero, and original, like himself, to become a “super alien.” A really nice picture book about self-expression.
Zuri’s hair has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way. Zuri knows it’s beautiful. When Daddy steps in to style it for an extra special occasion, he has a lot to learn. But he LOVES his Zuri, and he’ll do anything to make her, and her hair happy. Tender and empowering, Hair Love is an ode to loving your natural hair and a celebration of daddies and daughters everywhere.
Henry Brown doesn’t know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves’ birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday — his first day of freedom.
Elliot lives in America, and Kailash lives in India. They are pen pals. By exchanging letters and pictures, they learn that they both love to climb trees, have pets, and go to school. Their worlds might look different, but they are actually similar. Same, same. But different!
A neighborhood cat observes the changes in German and Jewish families in its town during the period leading up to the Night of Broken Glass – that becomes the true beginning of the Holocaust. This cats-eye view introduces the Holocaust to children in a gentle way that can open discussion of this period.
The new kid in school needs a new name! Or does she? Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. Her new classmates are fascinated by this no-name girl and decide to help out by filling a glass jar with names for her to pick from. But while Unhei practices being a Suzy, Laura, or Amanda, one of her classmates comes to her neighborhood and discovers her real name and its special meaning. On the day of her name choosing, the name jar has mysteriously disappeared. Encouraged by her new friends, Unhei chooses her own Korean name and helps everyone pronounce it—Yoon-Hey.
These children and animals are all very different to each other. Some are big, some are small. Some are gentle, some are rough. Everyone is playful, but who’s the best at hiding? One thing’s certain: they all love a good bedtime story! The perfect picture book for little ones who are just beginning to make sense of their place in the world.
A timely book about how it feels to be teased and taunted, and how each of us is sweet and lovely and delicious on the inside, no matter how we look.The boy is teased for looking different than the other kids. His skin is darker, his hair curlier. He tells his mother he wishes he could be more like everyone else. And she helps him to see how beautiful he really, truly is.
Once a skinny and weak child, Gino Bartali rose to become a Tour de France champion and one of cycling’s greatest stars. But all that seemed unimportant when his country came under the grip of a brutal dictator and entered World War II on the side of Nazi Germany. Bartali might have appeared a mere bystander to the harassment and hatred directed toward Italys Jewish people, but secretly he accepted a role in a dangerous plan to help them. Putting his own life at risk, Bartali used his speed and endurance on a bike to deliver documents Jewish people needed to escape harm. His inspiring story reveals how one person could make a difference against violence and prejudice during the time of the Holocaust.
By the door there is an umbrella. It is big. It is so big that when it starts to rain there is room for everyone underneath. It doesn’t matter if you are tall. Or plaid. Or hairy. It doesn’t matter how many legs you have. Don’t worry that there won’t be enough room under the umbrella. Because there will always be room. A timeless picture book about acceptance.
Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them.
Noah is different. He sees, hears, feels, and thinks in ways that other people don’t always understand, and he asks a lot of questions along the way. Noah loves science, especially the weather. His books usually provide him with the answers he needs, until one day, there’s one question they don’t answer—and that is where Noah’s windy adventure begins.This book celebrates the inquisitive nature of all children, including those on the autism spectrum, who cannot stop asking a question until an answer has been unearthed. The book contains a page of information for parents, caregivers, and educators about the importance of helping children feel good about their differences and know that being different is okay.
A young boy dreads his visits to his grandfather. They don’t share a language, so their time together is strained, awkward, and silent. Until they discover a shared love of drawing. Together, they find a common language through art. Drawn Together shows that meaningful relationships are possible even across communication barriers, and as their illustration styles start to blend together, it shows the connections they’ve made without words.
The Family Book celebrates the love we feel for our families and all the different varieties they come in. Whether you have two moms or two dads, a big family or a small family, a clean family or a messy one, Todd Parr assures readers that no matter what kind of family you have, every family is special in its own unique way.
The journey starts on a sunny day in New York City and ends on a beautiful San Francisco night, with stops in Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, London, Paris, Cape Town, Cairo, Beijing, and Tokyo. These friendly babies welcome us to their cities with delightful greetings in their original languages (with English translations) in a simple narration that will appeal to any global mini citizen.
Lucky Me invites readers on a journey around the world to explore life’s simplest, yet often overlooked treasures. Pages come alive with a series of evocative, gratitude-filled messages, accompanied by Thank-yous translated into various languages, emphasizing global diversity.
Is there anything more splendid than a baby’s skin? Cocoa-brown, cinnamon, peaches and cream. As children grow, their clever skin does, too, enjoying hugs and tickles, protecting them inside and out, and making them one of a kind. Fran Manushkin’s rollicking text and Lauren Tobia’s delicious illustrations paint a breezy and irresistible picture of the human family — and how wonderful it is to be just who you are.
Seven-year-old Lena is going to paint a picture of herself. She wants to use brown paint for her skin. But when she and her mother take a walk through the neighborhood, Lena learns that brown comes in many different shades. Through the eyes of a little girl who begins to see her familiar world in a new way, this book celebrates the differences and similarities that connect all people.
With its heartfelt message and colorfully whimsical illustrations, “Our Class is a Family” is a book that will help build and strengthen that class community. Kids learn that their classroom is a place where it’s safe to be themselves, it’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s important to be a friend to others. When hearing this story being read aloud by their teacher, students are sure to feel like they are part of a special family.
Carl is an earthworm. He spends his days happily tunneling in the soil until a field mouse asks him a simple question that stops him short: “Why?” Carl’s quest takes him on an adventure to meet all the animals of the forest, each of whom seems to know exactly what they were put on this earth to do, unlike the curious Carl. But it’s not until the world around him has changed that Carl begins to realize everyone, no matter how small, makes a big difference just by being themselves.
Today is Pet Club day. There will be cats and dogs and fish, but strictly no elephants are allowed. The Pet Club doesn’t understand that pets come in all shapes and sizes, just like friends. Now it is time for a boy and his tiny pet elephant to show them what it means to be a true friend. A sweet story of friendship, acceptance, and inclusion.
Celebrating all that makes us unique and different, Skin Again offers new ways to talk about race and identity. Race matters, but only so much–what’s most important is who we are on the inside. Looking beyond skin, going straight to the heart, we find in each other the treasures stored down deep. Learning to cherish those treasures, to be all we imagine ourselves to be, makes us free.
So we’ve been cooped up at home for quite some time now due to the pandemic. For us adults, the use of technology plays a pertinent role in maintaining our social connection to the outside world. But for the little ones whose main form of socialization stems from the school environment, this can be especially difficult.
Social distancing keeps our children physically safe but how do we ensure they don’t socially wilt during this era of isolation?
Here are some simple ways to help your child stay connected to family and friends and develop important skills while doing so:
- Phone conversations – This form of communication seems to have gone by the wayside with the increase of smartphones (talking has been traded in for texting) but it can be quite beneficial for our little ones who are still developing their oral communication and social skills.
Talking over the phone helps children learn how to start (and end) conversations, engage in a back and forth dialogue (understand the reciprocity of communication), improve attention span, increase vocabulary, build empathy, give insight into other’s lives, develop oral language skills (speaking, listening, questioning, clarifying, rephrasing) as well as build and maintain friendships.
- Video chatting (i.e., WhatsApp, Zoom, Meet, Skype) – Just like speaking over the phone, this form of interaction is quite valuable as well. The added bonus here is the ability to see the other person’s expressions and reactions during the conversation. Reading body language is very important in understanding non-verbal communication. Learning to read gestures, tone of voice, posture and facial expressions can tell us a lot about our listeners. Are they attentive, bored, relaxed, happy, excited, confused? This can help young ones navigate the conversation better as they start to understand the give and take of communicating with others.
Video chatting can also allow children to introduce another branch of topics into their conversation. We all know from Show and Tell that children love to talk about their favourite toys and share their work with others. Video chatting allows for this kind of engagement more readily (and gives you a bit of a break).
- Social Games (Roblox, Fortnite, Mindcraft, Maker 2) – Although you may to limit the amount of time your child spends on video games, certain games can provide your child with the opportunity to interact with friends virtually.
Just as physical exercise helps in improving and strengthening muscles, cognitive games can help with cognitive functions. It can help improve coordination, memory, attention, concentration, as well as problem-solving and social skills.
- Writing Letters – Despite the prevalence of emails and text messages, everyone has to write letters at some point. Encouraging children to write letters from an early age will improve their communication, social and handwriting skills. It will also teach them how to structure letters. Letters can be valuable keepsakes as well.
Letter-writing does not only help children stay connected, but also reinforces important literacy skills and concepts. Writing letters can also be a lot of fun, especially if you can include different kinds of stationary, writing material, decorative stickers, stamps, and photos. The more creative children can get, the more they will gravitate toward this form of communication.
To introduce my students to the format of letter-writing, I wrote and shared a new poem with them, titled I Wrote a Letter.
The poem highlights the five elements of a friendly letter in a fun and lyrical way. If you are interested in downloading a copy for your personal use at home or in the classroom, please head over to my TPT store HERE to get the complete package. It includes three letter-writing templates (to accommodate different writing stages) and a sample page with headings.
Everyone loves to get mail, especially a nice note addressed just to them. Introducing this form of communication to your child will open up a new world to them, especially in today’s technological age where this is becoming a rarity.
Be well, stay safe and stay connected!
I Wrote a Letter by Lora Rozler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Here are some amazing books to have on your bookshelf at home.
Fantastic book introducing kids to the concepts of discovery, relationships, the need to belong, bullying and adventure. Available in French as well.
Cute story book about a little girl and her conversation with a pie. Kids will love the delightful illustrations and the engaging story. Never has examining rules and consequences been so much fun.
This dynamic, beautifully illustrated picture book explores how the world says Thank You. Kids will discover the importance of gratitude in their everyday life.
A charming and gorgeously illustrated adaptation of the old time favourite. Kids will enjoy the engaging conversations between the clever goats and the fearsome troll.
This inspiring collection of poems for children range in topic from educational to humourous, from seasonal to downright heartwarming. With over 90 pages of poems that will become timely treasures.
Coming soon …
You can listen to these storybooks on our YouTube Channel.
Enjoy your reading!
By Anita Franco
Keeping houseplants thriving all year long can seem difficult, as changing weather conditions and indoor climates impact their needs. Just as you would with your outdoor space, you have to adjust your gardening habits accordingly. After all, you wouldn’t use your electric lawn mower in the winter, would you?
Luckily, this can be much easier than you assume. To keep your houseplants healthy, remember these essential tips.
Plants often have dry seasons in winter. They need less water this time of year than they normally do. If this is the case (you should always research the specific needs of your houseplants to confirm it is), make sure you let water drain thoroughly into a sink after watering your plants. You should also check the soil periodically. It needs to be dry approximately two inches down. If it’s not, you may be watering too often. Start watering your plants twice a week for better results.
Fertilizer usually plays an important role in a houseplant’s health. That said, it isn’t necessary during most of the winter season. Your plants will be dormant at this time.
That’s not to say fertilizer will never be necessary during the winter months. In February, new growth will start to appear on indoor plants. That means it’s time to start applying fertilizer that’s been diluted by 50 percent. Additionally, you should once again start watering your plants more regularly, checking the first two inches of soil to determine if you’re overwatering them.
Run the Humidifier
Winter air is often dry in many parts of the world. To ensure your plants are still receiving enough hydration, run a humidifier in their rooms during this time of year. You can further boost humidity by grouping plants together.
Clean Your Windows
This may seem like a bizarre tip, but it’s actually very important.
Your houseplants still need light to thrive. When your windows are dirty, houseplants aren’t exposed to sufficient sunlight. Cleaning your windows regularly is a simple way to guard against this.
You might also want to move your plants to different rooms or areas of your home throughout the day as the sun’s position in the sky changes. Just remember that every plant’s light needs are unique. Research yours to ensure you’re exposing them to the perfect amount.
Add New Soil
As the winter months draw to a close, you may want to prune your houseplants. While you likely won’t need to use an electric grass trimmer like you would on outdoor plants, this is still an important job to perform to promote strong growth. This is also a good time to refresh their soil. All you have to do is remove the plant and trim the root ball. Place it in a new pot (it should be the same size as the old one) with new potting soil.
Of course, it’s always important to practice basic plant safety as well. Keep your plants away from both heaters and drafts, and clean them with a rag and warm water occasionally to remove dust and pests. By keeping these points in mind and staying on top of basic maintenance, you’ll grow houseplants that thrive in all seasons.
I would love to hear your thoughts on my take of the classic Three Billy Goats Gruff.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Author’s new book receives a warm literary welcome.
Readers’ Favorite announces the review of the Children – Picture Book book “Freshly Baked Pie” by Lora Rozler, available HERE
Readers’ Favorite is one of the largest book review and award contest sites on the Internet. They have earned the respect of renowned publishers like Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harper Collins, and have received the “Best Websites for Authors” and “Honoring Excellence” awards from the Association of Independent Authors. They are also fully accredited by the BBB (A+ rating), which is a rarity among Book Review and Book Award Contest companies.
“Reviewed By Mamta Madhavan for Readers’ Favorite
Meet five-year-old Emily in the storybook Freshly Baked Pie by Lora Rozler. Emily does not think being five is easy and it is all about bouncing pigtails and wearing colorful dresses. She is not too happy going to bed when the sun is still out, cleaning her room when she wants to play, and all the rules. Saturday is her favorite day because that is the day her Grandma Betsy comes. What is even more special is seeing the freshly baked pie sitting on the window sill. Emily is tempted watching the strawberry jam oozing, the buttery crust, and the aroma. She cannot wait, though her dad and mum have asked her to stay away from it and not touch it. Will Emily be able resist or will she give in to temptation?
The story is adorable and I like the way the author makes Emily’s temptation to taste the pie whimsical and delightful. The illustrations are as charming as the story, Emily, and the pie, and they breathe life into the story and the characters. Emily’s character is lovable, well portrayed, real, and tangible to young readers. I enjoyed the part where the pie speaks to Emily and that makes the book magical and gives it a mischievous twist. The manner in which Emily goes through those tempting emotions while looking at the freshly baked pie will bring a smile to the faces of all readers. It is a good story for bedtime storytelling and can be used for read aloud and storytelling sessions in classrooms.”
You can learn more about Lora Rozler and “Freshly Baked Pie” on our WEBSITE where you can read reviews and the author’s biography, as well as connect with the author directly or through their website and social media pages.
Readers’ Favorite LLC
Louisville, KY 40202
Nurturing a Growth Mindset in the Classroom
Hello everyone – happy Monday! I wanted to share my latest poem with you.
Yes, I Can! was inspired by a lot of self-defeating comments I’ve come to hear over the last 18 years teaching. Truthfully, if I had a nickel every time I heard a student say I can’t do it, I’d be off on a yacht somewhere right now (nah, maybe not – I get sea sick). Joking aside, the reality is that none of us are perfect. None of us can do everything. And sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we still don’t master various things – and that’s okay, at least we tried.
It’s when students give up before they even try that it’s NOT OKAY. That’s the point I’ve been trying to make with my students last week. Yes, some things are hard. Some tasks will challenge us. But the attitude we have toward challenges is what determines the outcome. It is this mindset, over time, that will shape and condition our thoughts and beliefs about ourselves. Our mindset consists of our thoughts and attitudes toward ourselves and the world around us. These beliefs shape how we perceive and handle everyday situations. Do we look at challenges as opportunities to grow or do we fall prey to self-defeating thoughts?
Yes, I Can! is a poem I wrote that celebrates what children can do, as well as embraces that which they cannot, yet, do. Teaching children to have a “Growth Mindset” is crucial in helping them become better learners. After all, in order to succeed at anything, we must persist and push ourselves forward, despite the challenges. Positive self-talk is what helps children persevere and not give up. Yes, I Can! encourages children to adopt positive self-talk. Instead of focusing on ‘I can’t do it!’, it re-frames their thinking, ‘I can’t do it, yet!’
Along with the poem, I created a follow-up worksheet (rehearsing high-frequency word can) and a mini-book that is co-authored with me (my students were thrilled with the idea). It invites students to fill in a missing high-frequency word, as well as add a skill or task they can complete successfully, as well another skill they aspire to learn, reminding them that their mindset is the only thing in the way.
Yes, I Can! by Lora Rozler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on work found at www.lorarozler.com
In all the excitement to teach children that our mindset is not a fixed state, I created a visual anchor for the classroom. Feel free to download a copy for your personal use by clicking on the image below.
Wishing you a fabulous week ahead!
Whoever said sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me surely didn’t know what they were talking about!
Bones heal, but left unchecked, the pain caused by words can linger for years.
We can all relate, I’m sure!
A word uttered that stayed with us too long. A word spoken we wish we could take back. A word unsaid we yearned had come to life. Whether we heard it, spoke it, or wished it to be said, one thing is for sure – words, or lack thereof, have a profound impact on our well-being and the way we see ourselves in relation to the world.
Words can build and shape our self-esteem or just as easily tear us apart. The world can be seen as a loving place or the world can seem cruel.
What takes only seconds to utter can leave an imprint for a lifetime.
Over the last couple of weeks it became my goal to share this message with my students. We read many books about friendship, kindness and the power of words, beginning with my very own picture book, Words. Since its original publication in 2015, I have had the pleasure of speaking with many parents and educators who used the book to springboard discussions with children around its various themes: belonging, fitting-in, bullying, friendship, making positive choices, character education, growth mindset, building a community, empowering others, etc. This list is not exhaustive -depending on the angle and your students’ age group, Words can be used to build on many important learning skills and themes.
I’m happy to share these ideas with you in my updated Words Companion Kit,
consisting of classroom lessons and activities, as well as teaching resources.
ACTIVITIES TO TEACH THE IMPACT OF WORDS
Think Before You Speak – Prior to the lesson, cut out an outline of a person (gender-neutral). To avoid race-specific figures, you may want to steer clear
of skin colour construction paper.
Begin by introducing students to their new classmate (you may want to use a number as a name in order to avoid associations with students). Ask students to think of mean and hurtful things they may have heard before. You may want to start by giving an example (i.e., “I once heard …”). Then invite students, one at a time, to come up and direct mean statements at Eleven (i.e., “You look funny” or “I don’t like you”).
Each time a student makes a hurtful comment, ask them to rip off a piece of Eleven’s’s body and hang onto it. Continue until Eleven is significantly torn up. Then challenge students to reflect on how Eleven must be feeling based on what transpired. Eleven is obviously really hurt. This is where I like to interject and point out phrases we often use to convey wounded feelings, such as feeling torn up, having a broken heart. The emotional context gives these words powerful meaning.
Next, encourage students to think of ways to make Eleven feel better. Certainly an apology would help. Invite the students who insulted Eleven to come up and apologize, while taping its torn limb back with a band-aid. When all the tears have been bandaged, ask students reflect on how the new student looks (better than before but still damaged, broken, hurt, wounded).
This may be a good time to decipher between physical wounds and emotional ones. Invite students to reflect on the saying, Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. What does it mean? Is it true? Can we change that statement to be reflective of the truth? You may want to collectively write up a revised saying and hang it alongside Eleven. Place Eleven in a visible place around the room as a constant reminder to always think before we speak. As a follow-up, you may want to have students write a reflection about what they learned from this activity.
TAKE-AWAY: Words cannot be unsaid. No matter how much we apologize, their damage cannot be reversed. Though band-aids help with physical ailments, they cannot be placed on a person’s heart. Hurtful words create scars inside us, and if we let them, they can last a lifetime.
Words are like a Tube of Toothpaste – For this lesson, you will need a tube of toothpaste and a plate. Begin by asking students what toothpaste is used for. Brushing our teeth keeping our mouth healthy. Point out to students that toothpaste is very much like words. Invite a volunteer to squirt toothpaste onto a plate. When he or she is done, ask them to put the toothpaste back into the tube. Obviously this will not be possible. The idea is to demonstrate that much like toothpaste, our words work the same way. When we use the right words to empower others, they bring people joy – just as the right amount of toothpaste does to our teeth. However, if we are not careful with the toothpaste, and we squeeze a lot out, we can easily make a big mess. The same is true with our words – if we’re not careful and if we don’t think before we speak, we can hurt others with the things we say.
TAKE-AWAY: Once a word is spoken, it cannot be taken back no matter how much we apologize and try. While we may forget what we’ve said, the person on the receiving end will remember it for years. Invite students to share experiences and examples of this, and perhaps even share your own stories.
Wrinkled Hearts – For this lesson, you will need to prepare a large cut-out of a heart and select a book that is driven by a character’s unfortunate interaction with others (The Rat and the Tiger, Words, Chrysanthemum). Tell students that you will read a story that shows how important it is to treat each another with respect and kindness. Hold up the heart and explain that each of us has a heart, which holds our happiness and our good feelings.
Tell students that we will pretend that this heart is the main character’s heart. As you read the story, invite students to come up and crumple the heart each time the main character experiences something hurtful. By the end of the reading, the heart will be crumbled quite a bit. This is a great way to demonstrate how our hearts feels when we get hurt by mean words and actions. Invite students to come up and say nice things to the main character, trying to smooth out its heart, a little each time. Students will quickly notice that no matter how much they apologize and flatten the heart, it will never be the same again.
TAKE-AWAY: It’s hard to fix a wrinkled heart! Mean words leave sad feelings in our hearts, which last for a long time. Bandage the heart and post it around the room as a reminder to always choose words wisely.
Words in the Classroom – There are many powerful picture books that lend themselves beautifully to teaching children about life’s many important lessons. Words is one of them. It is a simple, yet high concept picture book that strives to empower children to make positive choices in their daily interactions with others. A big part of life is, after all, based on the relationships we have with one another. In writing this book, it became very important for me to empower children, to show them how impactful they can be. With this understanding, I can only hope that they use their power for good, for creating loving relationships, through their words and actions.
Words explores universal themes of discovery, relationships and the need to belong, with an underlying message about bullying. As a lonely letter that sets off on a journey to find meaning, it encounters various letter combinations and soon discovers the power it holds. It is confronted by two distinct paths and must make an important choice. Words is an evocative tale about how letters become words and words create meaning – meaning which could ultimately build or destroy. Get your copy here.
Depending on your students’ age group and the dynamics of your class, Words can be used to teach a wide array of concepts. Below I have outlined various discussion points and lesson ideas to complement the various themes in the story. Feel free to use them as you see fit in your classroom. Please note that these are just some of the ideas included in the kit. For more lesson ideas and free templates, download the complete kit (link of the bottom of the post).
Building Literacy Concepts – letter identification, letter sounds, word formation, word meaning, sorting words.
Making Connections: Relating to the Text – Have you ever felt alone? What did that feel like? What do you compelled Little e to set off on a journey? What was it seeking to find? Have you ever had to make a difficult choice? How did you solve your dilemma?
Words and Emotions – What role do words play in our emotions? When is this a positive experience? When is this a negative experience? Why? How can we use this knowledge to improve communication with others?
Exploring Literary Devices – Look for examples of literary devices in the story (allegory, metaphors, personification, symbolism, foreshadowing, imagery). How do these literary devices shape the story line? How would the story go if Little e was a boy or girl?
Word Web – Choose a concept or idea that you’d like to explore with your students. They can be found in the book. See these 2 pages, for example.
Write the focus word on chart paper and invite students to brainstorm their thoughts, feelings and ideas relating to it. Example:
What does it look like? How does it feel? What is its purpose? What are its ramifications?
This activity may be used again and again with subsequent readings of the story, while focusing on a different aspect each time.
Words Depicted – Words are heard and felt. One of my favourite follow-up activities to the book involves inviting students to depict words in an art form (music, drama, dance, photography, etc). Examples include creating a collage to depict PAIN, acting out a scene relating to GREED, demonstrating SELF-ESTEEM in a visual art piece, making a diorama to show BROKEN, etc. You may want to assign various words to students or let them choose a word independently. Since words can sometimes mean different things based on their context and people’s personal experiences with them, it’s interesting to see how the same word can evoke different emotions and therefore be represented differently.
I should note that it is not my suggestion that certain words are ‘good’ while others are ‘bad’. A word could be neither. The meaning we give a word is often based on our personal experiences; changing from person to person, from situation to situation. Let’s look, for example, at the word bold. On its own, it is neither negative nor positive. However, in various contexts it can be used to implore daring, fearless, impudence; while in other contexts, it can be shaped to mean confident, straightforward, courageous. Again, neither category being straight-out good or bad. Words aims to explore the feelings and ideas that are generated by word concepts and the meaning behind them.
Classroom Book – Invite students to reflect on what it means to love, on a daily basis. How is it shown in our day-to-day interactions with others? Bind these reflective pieces into a class book that the students can enjoy throughout the year. Students love seeing their work in the classroom library.
This word experiment on apples was inspired by Dr. Masaru Emoto’s experiment on water. Dr. Masaru Emoto, was a Japanese scientist who revolutionized the idea that our thoughts and intentions impact the physical realm. For over 20 years, he studied the scientific evidence of how the molecular structure in water transforms when it is exposed to human words, thoughts, sounds and intentions.
TAKE-AWAY: Your words have the power to build a person, to empower them, to promote love. Your words also have the power to destroy a person’s spirit, to torment, to spread hate. Words are impactful – choose wisely.
ACTIVITIES THAT ENCOURAGE STUDENTS TO BUILD EACH OTHER UP
Character Web – Place all your students’ names in a jar. Invite each student to draw a name and create a Character Web about their selected classmate. Depending on your students’ age, you may want to precede this activity by brainstorming adjectives and have a list of them accessible around the room. Ask students to think of as many uplifting words as they can to describe this person. Read over the webs prior to presentation and hang them around the room for esteem building and to help enforce a positive classroom climate.
Name Poems – As an alternative to the Character Web, the activity above can be modified for use as an acrostic name poem.
Praise Words – Brainstorm a list of Praise Words and hang them around the classroom. Encourage students to refer to the list throughout the day and use them as much as possible when interacting with others. Some example include: “I like the way you…” “Thank you for…” “I appreciate when you…” “You are really good at…”
To download a personal copy of Words Companion Kit,
click on the image below.
Words can heal or hurt. They can encourage creativity or dampen a person’s spirits, they can boost self-esteem or destroy confidence, build understanding and compassion or build barriers and apathy. What comes out of our mouth can do a lot of good but conversely a lot of damage. Let’s teach our students to be compassionate, to be kind, to use our words lovingly, always to build.
I’d love to hear your lesson ideas and inspiring literature around this topic.
With love and respect,
Hello everyone! I was delighted to be featured in
Story Monsters Literary Magazine this past week.
I’d like to share my interview with you.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Israel and moved to Toronto when I was 11 years old. My family had just emigrated from Russia when I was born. I grew up weaved into a mix of cultures which taught me to have an appreciation for differences. But I can honestly say, having lived in Canada most of my life, I feel very much Canadian at heart.
What were some of your favorite authors and books?
I loved (and still enjoy) Shel Silverstein’s color-outside-the-lines style of poems and stories. One of my absolute favourite books by him is The Giving Tree. Also, I’ve always enjoyed fairy tales (but didn’t we all?). Charlotte’s Web, The Babysitter’s Club series and The Outsiders were some of my other favourites when I was growing up.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was 5 years old. At some point that changed to wanting to become an interior designer, a lawyer, and even a psychologist. I finally opted for my first love and chose a career in teaching.
Tell us about some of the jobs you’ve had before you became a writer.
Some years into my teaching career, I began writing poems and stories for my students. I guess you can say that writing became a calling after I began to see how important storytelling was as an educational tool. But then, I also learned that books added a fun element as well. I’m delighted that I had a built-in audience before I even published my first book!
How did you get started writing?
I wrote quite a bit as a teenager (mostly poetry) but found an audience for my writing in the classroom, writing mainly to support areas of study at school. I eventually discovered a terrific outlet to share my work with others—on my blog (wordsonalimb.com) and associated social media. This allowed me to create a digital library of some of my classroom content. In fact, several years ago, I wrote a poem to teach students about the power of words and their impact. It began to receive positive feedback from students, parents, colleagues, and online subscribers. It soon took a life of its own as an animation and eventually as my first a picture book, Words. This was the breakthrough that marked the beginning of my writing journey.
Why do you write books?
I love taking an idea and molding it to life with words and images. I also love being able to convey important messages through literature. These notions shine through in my book Freshly Baked Pie. It is a simple story, based on a poem that I wrote, that, through effective illustrations and whimsical writing, both gently teaches a lesson and entertains readers.
What do you like best about writing?
I love the creativity and flexibility that writing offers. Anything and everything can exist in our imagination. Real life may have boundaries, but stories, not so much. I revel in seeing a concept, that exists only as a mental sketch, come alive through words and images. I also appreciate the way an author can arrange letters, words, and sentences into a composition that evokes strong emotions—joy, sadness, surprise, wonder or inspiration. I also feel that picture books give me the freedom to take a lyrical form of writing, like poetry, and transform it into a story that can be enjoyed at bedtime. There is something unique about being able to create art from a simple idea.
What do you find the most challenging about writing?
Writing requires commitment, dedication, and most of all, discipline in order to take it beyond a hobby. So I have learned to carve out time from my busy schedule to meet self-imposed deadlines. Sometimes I find that ideas flow through my head faster than I have time to devote to them, and that can be quite frustrating.
What do you think makes a good story?
I think a good story has a redeemable value, something the reader can take away, all the while being entertained. Also, a good story has an element that the reader can relate to, whether it be a character or an event. That connection between literature and real life experiences make the story more meaningful to the reader.
Where do you get your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from working with kids,
my students, and my children. Sometimes an idea strikes amid a busy, noisy day. Other times a vision sneaks up in quiet moments of contemplation. My book, Lucky Me, stemmed from a theme we discussed in school. It was around the time of Thanksgiving and we had a great conversation about gratitude and things we felt blessed to have in our lives. This inspired me to write a poem for my class, and eventually I wanted to share this message of gratitude with a wider audience. Regardless of where in the world we each came from, and what stories we each had to tell, we had one thing in common—a sense of gratitude. This element inspired me to incorporate thank you in many languages. Several arduous months later, we published a truly global and memorable, sweet picture book. It was a hop, skip, and a jump from conversation to message-filled pages.
Tell us about your latest book/project.
My most recent title, The Three Witty Goats Gruff is a modern adaptation of the fairy tale, Three Billy Goats Gruff. Once again, the idea came from a simple math lesson about measurement and patterning. My students loved learning math through this story of the three goats! The math unit became my best-selling teacher resource package on a website I love to contribute to, called Teachers Pay Teachers. Once again, I felt compelled to transform this simple lesson into a book that can both teach and entertain kids all over the world. In my remake of the story, I proposed an alternative way for the goats to solve their dilemma—rather than using force to subdue their bully, they use their wit to outmaneuver the greedy old troll. As well, I incorporated a female goat as the heroine of the story as girls are seldom depicted as the hero, and I felt it was time to turn the tables! The book also contains plenty of fun learning opportunities for young children. I am so pleased to have completed and published this title.
What’s next for you?
I am currently working on a compilation book that features many of my poems and short stories that I composed throughout my writing and teaching career. Obviously not all of them can make it into a full picture book! But I wanted to share them in the shorter format just the same. I feel this book will be a landmark piece on a personal and professional level. Sometimes writers can feel vulnerable when they compile an anthology of personal thoughts in words. For me, it is especially the case since I will be sharing work that spans from my early years as a writer to some of my latest poems and short stories. We are currently deciding on the illustrations and book design, but it won’t be long! I am also working on converting my published books into a digital format so parents all over can swipe through my stories on their tablets before bedtime.
Is there anything we didn’t ask that you’d like people to know about you and/or your books?
I want your readers to know that, like many authors, my books are very personal to me, creations that I have nursed from their infancy until they are shared with the world. Readers will find that they can enjoy my stories on many levels: as literal stories, symbolic allegories, educational tools, and of course, bedtime treats.
Lora’s author page on Amazon.
Thank you Story Monsters for the time in the spotlight!
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Three hungry goats need to cross a bridge to get to a luscious field of green grass. But a greedy old troll stands in their way and threatens to devour anything that sets foot on its path. So how can the goats safely cross the bridge?
They must get clever, of course!
The Three Witty Goats Gruff preserves the fun and charm of the beloved original, Three Billy Goats Gruff, while adding a new spin to this cautionary tale. With plenty of repetition and exciting dialogue, young readers are sure to join in on the adventure. Perfect for shared reading at home or in the classroom.
The original tale of Three Billy Goats Gruff came to us from Norway where it was first published by Peter Christen Asbjornsen and Jorgen Engebretsen Moe in the early 1840’s. Prior to television and radio, oral storytelling was the most effective way to entertain people. Asbjornsen and Moe’s collection of folk tales brought many of these stories into a written form still shared today.
Three Billy Goats Gruff is a tale about three famished billy goats (male goats) who desperately want to get to a fresh field of grass that grows
on the other side of a bridge. In most incarnations of the story, the three goats are brothers – youngest to eldest. In others, they are youngster, father and grandfather (Gruff is used as their family name).
As the story goes, under the bridge lives a greedy troll that threatens to eat anything that dares cross it. The first and second billy goats manage to outwit the troll and cross the bridge by convincing him to wait for their bigger brother, a classic eat-me-when-I’m-fatter folk tale plotline. The eldest goat eventually knocks the wicked troll off the bridge with his mighty horns. The troll gets carried away by the stream and alas, the goats live happily ever after.
Since its initial publication, there have been many different versions of this folk tale. When people retell a story, they sometimes make changes to bring it up to date or make it their own. In my adaptation I incorporated a female goat (nanny). Although female goats have been used in previous editions of this tale, they have seldom, if ever, been featured as the heroine in the story. As well, I proposed an alternative way for the goats to solve their dilemma – instead of using force to subdue their bully, they use their wit to outmaneuver the greedy old troll.
From an educational perspective, my book strives to enrich young readers in the area of literacy (vocabulary-building) and mathematics (concepts of patterning, number sense and measurement), as well as encourages discussions about various themes, including overcoming obstacles, problem-solving, teamwork, unity, courage, greed and bullying.
I hope you enjoy reading The Three Witty Goats Gruff as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Feel free to share your comments and thoughts below.