Teaching them the gift of presence vs presents

I recently spent time with a family member who had been in the hospital for a week. We were able to laugh and enjoy time together while various medical things were happening. We even watched Simon and Garfunkel on my laptop. Isn’t that a hoot? A private mini concert just for the two of us. I believe it was a gift to just be there.

IMG-6641 GG with presents under treeIsn’t that what people desire? For us to be present whether we share a joyous occasion, such as a wedding, or the tough moments of life, such as a hospital stay?

I recently asked some children about this. They range in age from preschool to second grade. My hope is to inspire them  to think of others and to become empathetic compassionate people.


First, I asked them to say “Present,” instead of “I’m here,” as I took attendance. This gave them the chance to understand that being present means the same as saying “I’m here.”

I asked them, too, “Do you like when mommy sits with you when you feel sick?” Once I heard positive responses, I followed up with, “What are some other times you want someone to be present with you?”

Here are their answers:

  • One time at the doctor’s office, I had to get a shot.
  • When I’m having a bad dream.
  • When I had a high fever. My mom helped me take off my long sleeve shirt so I could cool down.
  • My teacher helped me when I was scared the first few days in a new school.
  • I like when someone listens to me when I’m angry.

Then, I wondered out loud for them to ponder, “How can we do this for others?”

  • Tell a friend to get inside if a storm is coming.
  • Help someone get to office if they fall down and make sure he is okay.
  • If someone doesn’t feel well, I would offer her a drink of water.

And, this was my favorite one from a five year old:

  • Tell a shy person, “It’s okay if we see you.”

I believe we (educators and parents), can use the holidays to encourage children to consider ways they can “be present” and that those moments can be just as sweet as a present under a tree.

(Side note: As a serious cat lover, I love when GG, my kitty in the photo, just hangs out near me. I bet you have a beloved pet you love having around too.)

Remember how the Grinch finally concluded?

“What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

Whatever holiday you celebrate may you have a joyous time with family and friends. And perhaps you’d like to have a similar conversation with the children in your life. Of course, take the time to be present with them while they ponder and verbalize their thoughts.

My other passion is to promote literacy and encourage children to read and write books. Click here for information: Barb’s Author Visits and Book Making classes.

Oh, and, if you are curious, check out my famous GG books.


Thankful? How about this?


12194849_10205187177295273_3989539248775766435_o Thanksgiving wreath

As folks prepare for Thanksgiving and families gather again, I am reminded of a fun “homework assignment” I created for my second grade class many years ago.

I promise this wasn’t a mandatory assignment it was more like a fun suggestion. My thought was, “What a great opportunity for children to learn from older relatives, such as parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents in order to appreciate what they have these days.”

The idea was to have children compare their lives with their parents, and grandparents. My hope was that good conversations would abound while folks cooked turkeys and baked pies.

At the time, I created a graph for kids to complete as they interviewed the various members of their families.

This is a simple example of what I created in the mid 1980’s:

Thanksgiving checklist

The child would write check marks in the first column on the left and then ask family members to complete the rest of the graph.

My thinking back then? If mom was 30 in 1986, she was 8 years old in 1964. She may have had some of those things but grandma probably had even less of those things. Why? Because if grandma was 60 in 1986, she was 8 years old in 1934. Big difference, right?

I can assure you as an eight year old my family didn’t have a color TV, (never mind cable), a dishwasher, or a microwave. We most certainly did not have a computer and in our wildest dreams no-one ever would have known about “the internet.” But, by the time I was in high school my dad had a hunch we’d have hand held computers one day. Honestly, I thought that was a million years away but how I love my iPhone now!

Today, though, oh my goodness gracious there are so many newfangled gadgets and gizmos! Honestly, I don’t even know all of what is available these days beyond my laptop and the ever popular iPad.

Maybe this year, though, families could take a break from all the electronics and just chat. Older folks might enjoy reminiscing about “the good old days” as a way to teach young children what it was like when they were younger.

My mom is a history buff and enjoyed teaching us about life in earlier times. We visited places like Old Bethpage Village Restoration, and actually I worked there one summer. What a great way for children to learn how life was lived very differently. At Old Bethpage Village Restoration kids could learn how folks dressed in the 19th century, or used a loom, and how they cooked in kitchens without a stove. And, of course, they can witness the type of  tools used on farms. I think they still let kids churn their own butter!

How many of our young kids get these experiences these days?

During the holiday maybe you could encourage children to ask the older generations some of these good questions:


What did you do to have fun?

What kind of toys and games did you play with? Did you have friends in your neighborhood to play with or did you join organized sports?

If you had a TV, what kind of TV channels were available? What kind of TV shows did you watch? Did you have cable TV?

How did you listen to music? Did you listen to the radio? Did you have record players and albums, 8 track cartridges, cassette and cassette players, or music CDs?

Do you use Pandora, Spotify, or iTunes now?

Did you listen to the radio, watch TV, go to movie theaters or watch videotaped movies? Did you go to ‘drive in’ movies?

Did you have to drive to a video arcade or did you have video games in your home?

If you “cooked out” in the summer did you use a charcoal grill or gas grill?

How did you chat with friends and family?

Did you use rotary phones (with a wire), phone books or have you ever used a phone booth?

Did you write handwritten letters, and cards, and put them in snail mail (USPS)?

How did you gather, and record, information?

Did you go to your local library, learn from encyclopedias, or read the newspaper?

Did you use a typewriter, word processor, or a computer?

How, or where, did you shop?

Did you buy things from a store or online?

Have you ever shopped in a Five and Dime Store?


Did you go to a bank that was a physical building? Did you, or do you, use an ATM machine, online banking, or make deposits by mobile upload?


Did you write directions down, use a paper map, or GPS?

Did you have crank windows, car seats, seat belts, and/or air bags in your car?


There are so many arenas where kids could learn some history from older folks. I hope this post gives you ‘food for thought’ and encourages many similar conversations, now and in the future, as this is not even close to an exhaustive list. And, of course, remember time spent listening to, and understanding, each other is something for which we can all be grateful.

But, for kicks and giggles, let’s not forget these gems:

Did you wear galoshes or rain boots?

Did you clear away snow with shovels or snow blowers?

Was a Macintosh something you ate or a computer?

May we all enjoy sweet moments with our families this Thanksgiving and holiday season!



Sweet ideas for Halloween

In just a few days, ghosts and goblins, cats and bats, superheros and princesses will be seeking all manner of treats. Once the trick or treating is over and the sweets are brought back home, many things will probably happen. Sacks of candy will be dumped out and examined, favorites will be devoured, families will share the booty as well as the fun, and children will go to sleep super happy ….. eventually.

As a semi-retired teacher, I’d like to share a few fun educational ideas I thought of to go along with the holiday:

  1. Sorting the colors of individual packs of candy: Of course, many children naturally do this anyway as they work to find the candies they like best. So I thought I’d run with this idea yesterday with a small group of almost 5 year old children.

First, we had a discussion about what usually happens with candy at their house once trick or treating is over. Then, I told them I have a new idea.

I dumped out a package of Skittles onto paper and asked them, “What could you do with these besides eating them?”

It cracked me up when they said, “We could measure them.” Oops, I guess I forgot to tell them I was going to use the ruler to draw lines but kudos to them for knowing why we use rulers, right?

IMG_5943 Spilling Skittles

One boy said, “There are more yellow ones” and another child replied, “I see more green ones.” “That’s great. You are making predictions,” I explained. “How can we find out?”

We sorted them into 5 groups by color, and counted each group. One boy told me to put them in a row to count them. Since he couldn’t explain why, I showed them how to count and move each one away as it is counted so none are counted more than once. I laid them on the paper in number order from lowest to highest amounts.

One boy noticed, “9, 10, 11 are all in order!”

Of course, I replied with, “Good thinkin’, Lincoln,” which always makes them Snicker.

Once they could see them all set out in rows it was easier to see which row had the most candies and which had the least. Hence, they learned about making, and reading, graphs and I encouraged them to try it with M&Ms or fruit snacks, etc. They didn’t exactly say it but I could tell they were thinking, “Sweet idea!”

Somewhere in the midst of this we had a short conversation about senses too since they commented that they could smell them. We may need to work on vocabulary related to aromas next.

IMG_5945 Graphing skittles

We even did a little addition and subtraction as I rearranged the goodies in appropriate ways to demonstrate the concepts.

IMG_5947 Skittles Early Addition and Subtraction

After I let them each eat one, a little boy even noticed the flavors were on the back of the package. How cool is that? “I had a green apple one,” he told us. Yep, this little guy is reading!!

IMG_5948 Skittles flavors

2. More sorting ideas: Which ones are chocolate, which ones are hard candies, which ones are chewy, or crunchy?

IMG_5663 chocolate bars       IMG_5664 lollipops

It’s never to early to learn the names of candy too, right? These guys loved learning the names of these candies and the descriptions of what’s inside them. If their attention span was a tad longer I would have had them identify more alphabet letters.

IMG_5802 More chocolate bars    IMG_5900 chocolate bars edits

Educational activities are fun around holidays while their interest level is sky high. Talk about an educational PayDay!

To sweeten the experience, encourage them to donate extra candy. Teach them about being generous and sharing with others. Personally, I like sending candy to  Treats for Troops

And as a recovering sweet tooth myself, encourage your sweeties to brush those pearly whites!!

May your Sugar Babies be safe and enjoy Mounds of fun!

My Author Visit programs to child care centers, elementary schools and libraries are another sweet treat! I will be revising the site this morning so please don’t feel like you are being tricked.

Burnt out or ‘able to be rekindled’?

Burning candle

May I be completely honest with you guys? I am burnt out! I know it has been a while since I have written anything and I’m not at all happy about it. But yeah, I’ve been feeling pretty burnt out! Burning both ends of the candle … grouchy … exhausted … the whole enchilada. UGH! Already? October isn’t even over yet! How can this be? I mean I actually created a live video on my Facebook fan page about this in August reminding educators to take care of themselves during the school year.

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black, right?

I should know better because I had a major burn out in the early 1990’s. I know the signs: little sleep, not eating well or exercising much, and okay .. this is harder to admit …. angry. You know the acronym for HALT, yes?

H = hungry A = angry L = lonely T = tired

I’ve been working several part time jobs so I have “free time” during the week to promote my budding business. In one situation, I write all the lesson plans and prepare many materials as well as send home reports to parents several times a week. Of course, I also collect educational observations to monitor progress in order to communicate that with parents. Most of the time I enjoy coming up with fun activities and this is for a very special group of children whom I love dearly but they are also a challenging little group of chickadees! And, oh Miss Molly, this was a particularly difficult week!

Of course, you realize this is in the midst of many other things like running errands, dealing with a dental complication (making it hard to eat), trying to write more books, and working those part time jobs between 7am – 6:30pm daily.

When I feel I’m “too busy” to eat well or exercise, I know this is not a good sign!

Thankfully, this current little blip is nowhere near as bad as that other episode.


Rather than me blabbing on and on about my situation, though, why not use my story as a way to do something good for someone else?

You know “make lemonade out of the lemons” you’ve been handed. Ready? Here is my challenge to you. Actually, I have two different challenges you can choose from.

1). If you are an educator yourself, and, yes, I consider homeschooling educators, how can you take care of yourself right now. You know … like this weekend? What recharges your battery? Do you need time for yourself? (I can hear you guys cheering!) Do you recharge by getting together with friends? How about some shopping therapy? How about a nap? or a nice bubble bath?

2). If your children go to school how can you encourage their teachers? By now the year is underway and everyone is in a routine, and making progress but every teacher can always use support and something to uplift their spirits.

This doesn’t have to be expensive or extravagant. It can be a simple few words of appreciation, or an offer to volunteer in a helpful way, or small gifts. (Flowers, gift cards, homemade crafts or nut free yummies, etc.) When I taught second grade, the parents I appreciated most were the ones who took the time to get to know me as a woman. I’m not talking about baring my soul but I enjoyed when people asked if I had nice plans for the weekend, or about my favorite movies or who (currently) understand my goal at Weight Watchers. It made me feel they respect me as a person with my own life outside of work.

And, hint hint, as you get to know those teachers you can tuck away some great ideas for gifts for the upcoming holidays as well. I don’t ever want anyone to feel I ungrateful for thinking of me but yeah, the gift card to Macy’s was more appreciated than all the chocolates I received last year.

As for me I have put some things in place for myself that I am optimistic will help in the next few weeks and I have some scheduled down time, and FUN events coming up. So, “I’m good,” as the younger generation says and I hope this post, and my honest confession, does some good! I do love my little peeps and I want school to be fun for all of us!

That time of year again, or all year?


Back in July, of course, I noticed the plethora of school supplies that began to show up in  stores again. In my area, schools often post the required items right in the store to help parents get everything needed for the new school year. This year since I have had the pleasure of teaching young children, I mumbled to myself,

Back to school supplies“I wish that’s all they will need to get them ready for a successful school year.”

And, then I remembered a young boy I will call Adam. Adam like many children needed help understanding some basic things.

Like,  “What does it mean to share?”

Realizing that the first day in a Pre-K class can be intimidating to a young child when you must get used to new teachers, a new classroom arrangement, and perhaps new classmates I decided it would be great fun to pull out our big box of dinosaurs. My experience taught me that dinosaurs were a big hit with many four and five-year-old children. And, I knew this box contained, at least, 30 or so dinos. Some were small and others were three or four inches high but certainly we had enough for everyone who was interested in playing with them.

Until Adam came over to the box. A few other children were already playing with 10-15 dinosaurs they had pulled out of the box, when Adam started grabbing some for himself.

Then I heard it. He began jumping up and down while crying wildly, even though he was holding eight to ten dinos in his arms. Yes, this was a crazy loud temper tantrum. Of course, no one understood a word of what he was trying to say until we heard it plainly, “They are not sharing!”

Being the kind soul that I am, I went over and explained that he already had quite a few dinosaurs and that some children had only a few. That was as effective as trying to train my cat to play fetch with her toy mouse. In fact, it took him about 20-30 minutes to completely calm down. This poor little guy was inconsolable because he thought sharing meant the children were to give him as many dinosaurs as he wanted. And, this scenario played itself out many times that year with Adam. We often needed to have him removed from our room just so he could settle down.

Why am I sharing this story?

I just wanted to remind everyone that you can provide pencils, pens, notebooks, glue sticks, and even tissues for the classroom but in order to for children to be successful in school they need something else.

As in the case with my little friend, Adam, children need help with social and emotional skills. When children are so upset they just cannot focus on, and benefit from, the educational concepts and skills being taught.

As I was thinking about writing this post, I was also finishing a class on dealing with “Challenging Behaviors” for those of us working in early childhood education and I had just played a new game.

Have you heard of the game Catan? I played this game with my family for the first time about a month ago. Although I’m always up to playing new games, this was a tad confusing to understand. I mean the idea is get points by creating as many roads, settlements, and cities as you can on the island of Catan, and you win when you are the one who gets to 10 points first. But there is a lot to remember from knowing which area yields which resource to which resources combine to create roads, settlements or other things. And, that’s before even coming up with a strategy.

For me it was a lot to digest at once, and I wished I had more and more opportunities to play so I could get better and better at it. Now that I’ve played it three times I feel a tad more confident about how to play.

Isn’t it true that whatever new skills we desire to learn we all need all to practice? As an old school gal, I’m learning the more I play around with tweaking my website, or writing blog posts, or using social media the better I get at them. This was the concept that struck me as I completed my class.

I believe young children must feel as intimidated about learning social skills as I was about learning the game of Catan. Some might not even see the need for such skills. As I took my class, the refrain I read over and over again was that, “Children need a lot of practice and constant reminders, again and again, as they learn social skills.”

Give children opportunities to play together so they can learn how to share, take turns, and work together. Teach them the vocabulary to use manners and help them learn how to talk to each other to solve problems. Teach them basic emotion words so they can express themselves clearly.

And remember it takes time, and repetition, and lots of patient support from the adults in their lives. I’d say it’s probably like taking a class in learning to draw or paint with watercolors. It is a process and occurs within good relationships with adults, and amid all the other things they are learning. Patience, nurturance and understanding will go a long way too!




Wait … what is my name?

One year as a Pre-K teacher, the first day arrived and we had just begun our welcome back routine. We went outside at 10:30am as usual to let the kids get some fresh air, and shake out those adorable wiggles. My co-teachers, and I, had just introduced ourselves to the children, and of course, I told them, “My name is Miss Barb.”

When we were out on the playground, one child came running up to me and said, “Your nMs BBQame isn’t Miss Barb. It’s Miss Barbeque!” Then she ran off, giggling!!

I have to admit I didn’t like this new name at all so I nipped it in the bud as soon as I could. You know the whole “respect your elder thing.”

However, as I got to know her and learn her story the name grew on me. Her previous teachers shared that she, and her family, had just moved here from Korea in January. And that although she only spoke Korean at first, she had learned an incredible amount of English in eight months. She had become an amazing little sponge as she continued to pick up more and more English.

I also recall my co-worker working with her on Monday mornings, and sometimes asking her, “Are you speaking English?” (Silly me I just thought I didn’t understand her due to my hearing loss.) As her suspicion was confirmed she would remind her parents to use as much English with her as they could at home.

One Saturday morning I saw her again at my church when we hosted a fall festival. We enjoyed creating a craft together and it was obvious that her parents didn’t speak much English.

Later I learned that her dad had been coming to our church to learn English as an ESOL student, and I was impressed by his desire to work hard to learn the language. Ahhh … perhaps that was some added incentive for his daughter.

What strikes me about this story is that it illustrates that kids really can learn way more than they think they can, and that we think they can. When the expectations are high, but not too high, children CAN meet them when properly motivated. I think in this case, this little girl was highly motivated herself to interact with her peers and her teachers. And, oh my, did it pay off for her!

This also reminds me of a little boy I worked with this past year who was frustrated with his kindergarten teacher because she pushed him to practice and learn phonics. As the after care teacher I always had a fun book to read to the class, and maybe my influence helped as well. By Spring, his mom brought him to school one morning looking sheepish. She told us he might be tired and cranky because he had been awake late the night before … R-E-A-D-I-N-G!!!!! Hallelujah! This boy who didn’t think he could read was reading voluntarily and for his own pleasure! By the end of the year he was reading Captain Underpants books and thoroughly enjoying the humor.

I realize there are many children who struggle with reading, and this is an exceptional story, but if children can learn all the names of their favorite Superheroes and all the Pokemon, I do think they can be pushed just a little more with academics in school and at home.

You can bet the stories of these two children have stayed with me ever since. They warm my heart but more importantly they inspire me to reach for my goals.

And, yes, my girlfriends still call me Miss Barbeque!

Hurray for Hanna Anderson!

This is one of those all too familiar “a funny thing happened on my way stories,” because a funny thing actually did happen just this weekend. I had been planning to write a very different post today until this thing came up.

And, it all started yesterday with a pair of sneakers that were getting on my last nerve. After buying myself a brand new pair of sneakers last December, they started literally falling apart. I mean the soles kept coming off after numerous attempts to glue them back together with Shoe Goo. I’m guessing the sneakers were dry rot, or something, because one of the heels actually collapsed on me. Since my summer job has me walking all over a campus and shopping for teacher, and office, supplies I admitted it was time to start looking around for a new pair. Ugh! I hate spending money unexpectedly, don’t you?

As it was a slow day in the office yesterday, I looked online at my local mall to see what shoe stores I might want to visit. As the website came in, so did all the stores that featured amazing sales and events.

One event caught my eye and I got very excited.

It was an ad for Storytime at 11:00am … TOMORROW!!!

Are you familiar with Hanna Anderson, the clothing store for children? Talk about “Oh my goodness!!” The clothes are gorgeous and I wish I were little enough to wear them myself. I am familiar with this clothing line because when I taught preschool I always loved seeing, and commenting about, the adorable clothes my kiddos wore. At times, I’d ask the children if they would mind if I could peek at their labels. Sure enough, often they were Hanna Anderson clothes. I really love the knit dresses because I used to sew some like that for myself. How I wish the local sewing stores sold nicer knit prints. I’d definitely dust off my sewing machine again!

Last night, after I spent considerable time at the shoe store of my choice I went to introduce myself to the woman at the Hanna Anderson store to learn more about this program. What I learned made my day!!

Hanna Anderson has partnered with a non-profit company, Raising a Reader, to “develop book routines with kids.” When you buy Hanna Anderson’s stripped long johns (PJs I believe) this organization gets 15%. Check it all out Hanna Helps: Raising a Reader

Somehow I missed this whole thing. Who knew this has been going on for 15 years? I guess I need to stop writing so much and get out more often.

Hanna also has an entire line of costumes to encourage kids to engage in imaginative play. Oh boy, I can just see some kids wearing that fox’s tail and pretending to be Max in Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. I’m sure he, or she, would let the wild rumpus begin. Okay, that’s maybe what I would do!

Hanna anderson costumes

Yes, as a semi-retired teacher, I agree that imaginative play IS “critical for kid’s success in school.” Hopefully, the whole Max skit occurs well before bedtime, though, so the child is tired enough to fall right to sleep once the last page in the bedtime story is turned.

So, of course, you realize I had to go back this morning and witness this story time myself, right? FullSizeRender Andrea at Hanna Anderson This is Andrea Bloch, the store manager, reading today’s selection to a few little ones. Then the children get a coloring book and a chance to win books. How cool is that?

I took a few pictures of some of the clothes as well because they are so adorable!! Bear with me as I share a few. I felt like a kid in a candy store! My girlfriends know I love the Red Hatters, so when I saw these red and purples dresses I had to take out my phone to snap this photo.

Yes, I even saw a red hat. Go Red Hatters!IMG_3991 Hanna Anderson red and purple dressesCheck out these darling slippers and fun dresses too. Oh, the potential for the famous twirl factor!!

Lastly, I took an opportunity to ROAR like a dino! Yes, it doesn’t take much to get me excited!IMG_4005 Hanna Anderson Roar like a dino

Thankfully, I did get a partial refund for the sneakers and the whole thang led me on this much more fun  journey. Sure, I’ll also buy new sneakers, later!

Click on this link for more information about Barb’s Author Visits and Book Making classes.

Also, come see Barb’s Books on Facebook page if you are interested in entering my Summer Contest. Someone will win a free paperback of one of my books about GG, the water loving kitty.

Enjoy these summer days, with a good book, of course!

What’s Write around you?

Last weekend, I had the sweetest opportunity. I went and paid a surprise visit to a former student of mine who had set up a lemonade stand. (Don’t you just love budding entrepreneurs?) It had been three years since we’ve seen each other, and bless his heart, he remembered me! What fun it was to catch up a tad and to learn that his favorite subject in school now … is reading, and, even better, W-R-I-T-I-N-GLemonade

Talk about making a (semi-retired) teacher’s day!!

We chatted for a bit, and I shared a video I saw on my Facebook page of a Giant Octopus Kite, and asked him whether he thought it looked neat or if it would be scary to him. (This has been a small research project of mine in recent days and I’ve learned I’m the scaredy-cat not today’s children.)  Later, I shared the video with his mom to suggest that he might want to write about it. Giant Octopus Kite

This, and a few other events, got me thinking about the ways we can prompt children to write over the summer.  My husband once said, “You may not be a teacher anymore but you still think like one.” Okay, I’ll admit it. That’s me! Haven’t you heard the expression: “You can take the teacher out of the school, but you can’t take the school out of the teacher.”?

That same evening, my cat and I were hanging out next to each other on my couch when we heard two dogs yapping outside. Although they were next door neighbors they hadn’t really had an occasion to get acquainted since the one is just a puppy and new to our area. They weren’t very loud, and they didn’t frighten my kitty, but they did get our attention. And, I’m sure they were just being playful. At one point my cat, GG, meandered over to our front screen door and watched the dogs. As an eight year old indoor cat, I wondered what she wondered as she watched the cheerful canines.

I almost wished I was teaching children again, or still homeschooling my son. What fun it would have been in that moment to ask children questions like these: “What do you think the dogs are saying to each other?’ “What do you think the cat is thinking while she is watching the dogs?” and “Would the cat talk to the dogs at all?”

What creative brainstorming opportunities to get young children using expressive language skills, and writing stories, right?

My husband and I had also taken a walk around a lake recently and ‘the playful little girl in me’ had to run and get on a swing and pump herself up as high as the clouds. Hey, it was a beautiful summer evening with warm temps and zero humidity. And, it was FUN!

Then, there were the 15, or so, ducks munching on grass on the side of the lake as we passed them. Being the silly willy that I am, I looked right into an adult duck’s eyes, and said, “We’ll just walk right by you guys. We promise, we won’t harm your beautiful babies.” (And, yes this amuses my husband!)

Maybe I’m just a crazy creative teacher chick but I used to get the creative juices of my students flowing with fun ideas like these. And, yes, children can be encouraged to write over the summer to practice, and improve on, those skills.

Even though most children are on summer vacation they can still read, and write, to keep those skills sharp. Parents can encourage this too whenever they have the chance.

Hey, it would be beneficial to encourage a break from screen time anyway, too, right?

Children can also be encouraged to write about their experiences, whether they too enjoy riding on swings or walking by a bunch of ducks. From my teacher perspective, the opportunities seem to be everywhere, especially as I recalled some of the events I had just experienced this past weekend.

Here are some other ideas that might get those brain waves jiggling enough to write some fun stories:

My first summer concert

My first camping trip

The Pop Up Summer Thunderstorm

Field Trips, or road trips, to places like these: pirate ships, amusement parks, beaches, pools, and/ or playgrounds. (In my area, there are several playgrounds and one is brand new. Maybe they would like to hop from one to another and contrast and compare them.)

I also just recently learned of two groups that come to schools and share their activities:

One group shares food, kitchen supplies, and recipes to encourage healthy eating and reading with a purpose while another one brought a huge mysterious truck. In this truck, children were able to sift through sand to find hidden gems and minerals. Posters hung above work spaces so the children could positively identify their findings.

Aren’t those great activities for kids to practice verbalizing those experiences and then writing about them?

And then there was the child in my Book Making class last year. She wrote about her family’s cruise in the Mediterranean Sea. She used photos from her family trip and wrote about the fun places they visited. I admit that I challenged her but she did a great job!

Whether they are inspired to write about our furry friends, their field trips or just fun times, I hope we can encourage children to write stories just for fun.

Click on this link for more information about Barb’s Author Visits and Book Making classes.

Also, come see Barb’s Books on Facebook page if you are interested in entering my Summer Contest. Someone will win a free paperback of one of my books about GG, the water loving kitty.

Enjoy these summer days, with a good book, of course!












Summer is about to begin and children will gain so much from

Summer Reading programs in local libraries

Read recipes …make homemade ice cream

write about the activity


Let’s scramble up some eggs … not our kids!

I saw familiar truck in traffic recently, and a had a good giggle. Every time I see a UPS truck it reminds me of  a precious four year old boy in one of my Pre-K classes.

Each time we would go outside to play he LOVED watching (and hoping) the driver of that truck would pull up near our school. He may very well become a driver himself, or become CEO of that company someday!
He’d yell, “Miss Barb, look the P-U-S truck is here!”   You realize he’d say each letter because he wasn’t reading words yet. Busted us up each time!!

It sure demonstrates the importance of teaching about the correct sequence of letters in words, right?

The little guy got the thrill of his life when I ordered something that was delivered to our school, a few months later, and he actually met the UPS driver!!

It is an important lesson because as children learn to read they will learn the correct order of letters in words when they see them often. However, when they are expected to write words, and sentences, the spelling sometimes comes out a tad all scrambled up.

I can see it clearly (Okay, I remember it clearly) after going to the zoo with second graders years ago.

I was a big hippopotamus.  No dear you should have written it this way:

I saw a big hippopotamus.

Obviously, there is a BIG difference in what those sentences mean.

Do you see the problem won? I mean ….

Do you see the problem now?

One day driving home from work, a laughed again as I saw another UPS truck. And, then I saw a license plate that got the creative juices of ‘my former teacher self’ all excited. The license plate looked like this one, with numerals on either side of a letter.

However, the same three digits in each numeral are in a different order. So I said to my self, “Hey Self, why don’t you write a post to encourage parents, and teachers, with an easy way for kids to learn and use numbers, and maybe letters?”

Wordpress License plate

Generally, before children are able to write numbers, and letters, they begin by correctly identifying, and matching them. As an educator it is second nature for me to develop meaningful lessons from everyday life. If the digits are in a different order that car might belong to someone else!

As I saw that license plate, I thought, “What a fun way to have children identify digits (individual numbers) and numerals, and then recreate what they see.”

I started by asking the children to identify the digits to the left (of the letter K) and then the digits on the right. (And, of course, encouraging them to identify from left to right is  a good way to remind them that we read from left to right as well.) It also helps them to say those numerals aloud so they can hear the difference.

Once they have read them correctly, then I would ask if they look exactly the same.

“Does 356 look like 536?”

Then, I would give them cards, and ask if they could rearrange the digits so they would look like the numeral circled in red. (See photo below)

Wordpress license plate with numerals circled

You could give an example like this, and ask if these are arranged correctly to match what is inside the red circle. Which one matches?

Wordpress 653 card          Wordpress 365

I decided to use cards from the Set game because they are nice and large but you can use whatever you have available.

Find a variety of ways to practice this with lots of repetition. In November, we would do this with a fire truck because fire fighters are so exciting for kids. Holy Smokes!

(Get it? I couldn’t resist, sorry.)

Kids love the fire fighter unit! Let them correctly arrange the digits, and the words, on the trucks.

Wordpress Firetruck

While you teach about community workers or transportation, it’s good to include road signs. And, all kids seem to recognize the famous S-T-O-P sign.

STOP sign
Encourage them to place the letters in the correct sequence
STOP no no no POTS sign
Oops, read that word to them so they understand the problem. Give them another chance now.








As children learn the letters in their name, it is important that they learn the sequence of those letters too. I mean Tom is not Mot, and Brian shouldn’t be spelled Brain.

And on a personal note, although, I prefer to go by Barb I do occasionally sign my full name on certain documents. But, I promise you I do not spell it like some Barbra’s. I know many folks use that spelling but I’m a much happier camper without BRA in my name, thank you very much. Talk about embarrassing! Well, for me it is.

Whether you help children with the correct order of digits, numerals, or letters, it is all worth it because we wouldn’t want anything like this to happen to our kids, right? Hopefully, no one turns in a book report with such a mistake.

Silly spelling error

With children so into electronic screens these days, encouraging them to read and write has become my passion. Maybe this is true because I struggled in school, and I believe it is important to encourage this generation of students to become thinkers and excellent communicators.

Click here for more information on Barb’s Author Visits and Book Making classes


Springing into action with books … and maybe more?

While working in a supportive role in an elementary school, I had these two conversations with very young children in recent weeks:

1). After an unusual looking fox ran in front of my car one evening, I shared the story with my Kindergarten children the next morning. I asked them if they’ve ever heard of a brown and gray fox. Several of them told me, with the greatest confidence five year old children possess, “No! Mrs C. foxes are red.”

“I know that’s what I thought too,” I replied (tongue in cheek), “but this was definitely not a red fox.”

After they shared “their wisdom” on foxes, I asked, “What can we use to find out more about foxes?”

These were their suggestions:

“Videotape them.”

“Ask a scientist.”

“Look on the computer.” (“Okay, I get that,” I muttered to myself.)

Sadly, only one child said, “Look in a book.”

2). Another day while escorting them down a hallway, I reminded them, “Follow who is in front of you and eyeballs forward please.”

A few of them questioned, thinking I was surely off my rocker, “Eyeballs?”

When I explained, “Yes, didn’t you know our eyes are like little balls?”

The next question piqued my interest, “What are eyeballs made of?”

So guess what my little (semi-retired) teacher self did next?

I went to my local public library and I borrowed a couple of NON-FICTION books.

Foxes and eyeballs nonfiction books

We have been learning so much about foxes and we are about to learn about eyeballs. (I promise I will be very selective, though, about sharing pages of ‘other parts of the human body.’)

The reason I love working with young children is because they become so curious and ask great questions. The best question came from one little girl who is about to become a big sister. “How does the mommy fox know if her baby will be a boy or a girl?” Of course, her mom had a sonogram done months ago to reveal the answer they aren’t going to wait to learn in the delivery room. I can assure you I chuckled, for quite a while, at the thought of a fox having a sonogram.

I am so passionate about encouraging children to read for many different reasons and for their families to participate in all that their public libraries offer. I guess my adult son is correct in saying, “Mom, you’re old school.” And, I proudly admit that’s true. I grew up going to the public library, researching through encyclopedias, and books found in the card catalog, to complete book reports in school and even larger papers in college. I am learning all I can about this new techno world, and trying embrace all it has to offer. (Well, okay most of it.) And, I’m on a mission to redirect children back to books. Books ARE fun!!

So here’s where I get bold and courageous and ask you to consider “springing into action” yourself. My husband and I have been sharing one laptop for about six years, and he needs it more for his line of work, so I need one myself now to make my dream business come true. (Oh, and, if you yourself are trying to grow a business, check out this new book.) I just started reading it this week: Business Boutique.

Anyway, in an effort to raise capital to buy a laptop and a projector, I just added this new post on my Facebook page.

And, I know my blog is new to the WordPress community but if you are at all inclined to support me, or share this post, I would be eternally grateful.

If you are not on Facebook, here is the post and my photos:

18055894_1014455765352741_6021563018920153684_o GG on snowflake sweatshirt
This is GG, my water loving cat. I’ve written two children’s picture books about her.

Here is your Fun Feline photo: Did you know kitties have whiskers ABOVE their eyes? How did I learn about that? I read it in a nonfiction BOOK. Yippee for facts one can read and learn about, right? Promoting literacy, motivating children to read, and inspiring them to write their own picture books has become my passion. Would you please consider donating to this campaign of mine, if you are able? I am hoping 17966218_1014457115352606_7998322466836385601_o GG with eye whiskers 2to take my business to the next level and impact MANY children!! https://www.gofundme.com/BarbsBooksAV4Kids


Thanks for reading. You’ve heard folks say, “You can take the teacher out of the school but you can’t take the school out of the teacher,” right? That’s me!!