Tag Archives: Jennifer Nielsen

It’s Bigger Than a Dot!

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-9-26-49-pmThis week, Sept 15 was International Dot Day. All across the world, classrooms were celebrating the creativity that springs from the initiation of effort-even the tiniest attempts.  “Make your mark!“became the mantra with students.  I believe that when we accept and encourage our children wherever they are and honor their efforts, great things can happen. Peter Reynold‘s brilliant book , The Dot , illustrates this so beautifully.  In this story, we are introduced to Vashti, a student who lacks confidence in her ability to draw. Her teacher encourages her to “just make a mark” and what happens after that changes how Vashti sees herself and her abilities. Talk about growth mindset! (check out the story below)


Worldwide, students heard that powerful message and experienced the potential of The Dot as the start of something wonderful.  These literacy events can be transformative for children everywhere, and the sense of community that comes from knowing we are part of something bigger than our classroom is empowering. When I tell kids that children on the other side of the world are reading this book today, or celebrating dots today, you can see the look of awe spread across their faces. Grab a globe and show them. Tell them about a child in Africa, or China, or France and watch them begin to think globally. We are all the same-we are all connected.

Sure, you might have missed Dot Day, but there is a year filled with events that celebrate literacy and our global community. Participation in these events means so much more than arts and crafts or reading a singular story.  Being a part of something bigger than ourselves helps us feel connected and important.  We can relate to others with a common story, idea, and message that becomes universal. We can identify ourselves as members of a larger, more inclusive community. We matter in the world.

So don’t worry if you missed Dot Day. There are many, many celebrations that you can plan for. You don’t have to do them all, but I encourage you to participate in something this year that lets your children become part of something bigger than their classroom. Maybe it is a school-wide or district event. Maybe it is something in your city or state. Perhaps it is a national or global initiative. You’ll be supporting their understanding of literacy while promoting the importance of humanity.

Some Literacy Initiatives You May Want to Check Out


International Day of Peace -Sept 21

Banned Books Week 2016: Sept. 25 – Oct. 1

Hispanic Heritage Month Sept 15-Oct 15

The Global Read Aloud Oct. 3- Nov. 11

Black Poetry Day – Oct. 17

Teen Read Week Oct. 9-15

National Day on Writing – Oct 20

National Family Literacy Day -Nov 1

Picture Book Month – November

American Indian Heritage Month- November

African American Read In- February

World Read Aloud Day – Feb 16, 2017

Read Across America Day -March 2, 2017

World Book Day March 2, 2017

World Storytelling Day March 20, 2017

D.E.A.R. Day (Drop Everything and Read) April 12, 2017

National Poetry Month- April

National Library Week April 10-16, 2017

Children’s Book Day- April 30, 2017

Children’s Book Week – May 1-7, 2017

You can also celebrate:

Author’s Birthdays, Book Birthdays,&  Book Awards

If you are like me, you love any excuse to celebrate books, authors, writing, and reading! Let’s ignite in our kids a genuine love of literacy. When we  rejoice and honor the role of literacy in our lives and our world we are giving our students an incredible gift.

What’s On My Book Radar?

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-11-52-20-amFans of Jennifer Nielsen will be thrilled with her latest book, The Scourge.  In true Nielsen fashion, it was a page-turner that I didn’t want to put down. Ani Mells lived during the time of the scourge- a plague from which no one recovers. When she is diagnosed with the scourge and sentenced to  Attic Island, the colony where victims live out the end of their painfully short lives, her loyal friend, Weevil, makes a brave decision to make sure Ani doesn’t die alone. But when Ani gets to the colony she makes some discoveries that may save others from her terrible fate, if only she lives long enough to reveal the secrets!  I am thrilled that this is a stand-alone book. I love a good series, but there is something satisfying with a well-told tale in a single text. I highly recommend this book to all middle-grade readers and their teachers! I think you’ll be mesmerized, too!


Back in the Saddle

Handing off my manuscript to the most amazing editor, Maureen Barbieri

I hadn’t meant to stop blogging, but time became a premium commodity this winter as I worked to finish my first book. My priorities became my family, my teaching, and the book. So when I turned over the manuscript last week to Stenhouse Publishers, it was such an incredible feeling of relief and exhilaration. I have always believed in Donald Graves’ advice that teachers of writing should be teachers who write, but this experience was more enlightening than I could have ever imagined.  My empathy for writers has grown exponentially and my appreciation for good writing and talented authors has soared.   I cannot look at a piece of writing the same way again.  Each book, article, or text I have read recently presents itself with layers to explore.  I savor word choice, contemplate the turn of a phrase, marvel at the organization, wonder what was edited out, and imagine the writer during those moments of creation.

I watch the students in our classrooms engaging with the writing process and feel compassion for their struggles and joy for their successes in deeper ways.  I listen more openly to their thoughts about the process and their ideas with a genuine desire to understand before “teaching”.  I am much more sensitive to how feedback might resonate with a writer.  They pour a piece of themselves onto that paper and want it to be loved ‘as is’.

But I also know the satisfaction that revision can bring to a writer. It’s a bit like sculpting a piece of stone.  Each time we revisit and rework the piece it has the potential to reveal something new and more refined-sometimes things we could not anticipate. Feedback from others (editor, colleagues, friends) is like  precision tools that helps chisel and polish the work toward its final form. I want our students to experience that satisfying sense of accomplishment by embracing revision rather than dreading it. This process has helped me contemplate these possibilities more sensitively.

So for the dozen and a half people who read my blog, I am back in the saddle! Happy to “think aloud” each week on topics that are dear to my heart and my teaching.  I am also thrilled to have time to get back to another of my most favorite activities…READING!

What’s On My Book Radar?

Finishing my book was like ending a second full-time job, giving me time to devour some books!  Two that have been on my bed stand for months were finally read and LOVED!

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Jennifer Nielsen (The False Prince trilogy) has created another hero we can follow- Nic Calva, a slave in the mines of Rome in her latest tale Mark of the Thief.  She starts us off with an amazing escape and keeps us on the edge of our seat throughout.  Nielsen is a master at creating characters who overcome impossible odds and her writing always includes twists and turns that I do not anticipate.  This series will be a hit for kids who love adventure, mythology, and smart writing!

Liesl Shurtliff is a gifted reteller.  She takes stories so familiar that we cannot imagine anything more could entice us, and spins a tale that is incredibly engaging. Her first book Rump: The True Story of Rumplestiltskin  gave us a different perspective on a much maligned character and her new book Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk offers us an equally imaginative version of a classic tale. The land at the top of this beanstalk will surprise you, as will getting to meet Jack’s family and neighbors.

Put these two titles on your summer reading list and you will have some ‘happy hours’ as you vacation to these distant lands.