Read Across America is Coming!


At Sherman School, we make March a month-long celebration of reading. We always pay homage to Dr. Seuss on March 2nd by reading old favorites such as Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat in the Hat. But we also use this day to launch a month-long theme related to reading. What better way to celebrate Read Across America than by doing just that…reading about each of the 50 states.

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This year we’re incorporating Laura Purdie Salas’s new book, Wacky, Wild, and Wonderful: 50 State Poems, into the festivities! This wonderful collection of poems is as diverse as the country it celebrates. There are poems about geography, geology, and weather. There are poems about ecosystems, food chains, and history. In short, there is something for everyone in Wacky, Wild, and Wonderful: 50 State Poems.

Each class will choose a poem that supports a topic they have been studying. For example, second grade might choose “Wisconsin: Catch!” This poem, about a bald eagle’s swooping down to the water of the Mississippi to catch a fish, is a natural for their study of food chains.  Students could illustrate Laura’s poem or use this as a mentor for their own food chain poem. The form, cinquain, is very accessible for second graders.

To share their learning with the rest of the school, each class will decorate their classroom door to highlight their study of Laura’s poem and how its related curricular topic. I can’t wait to see what each class comes up with. The possibilities are limitless. Best of all, the classes that create the best doors will Skype with Laura later this spring.

I’m really excited to be pairing Laura’s poems with Read Across America, and will be posting photos of the doors and the kids’ work throughout the month here and on Twitter.

Laura also shared our plans on her blog today. Please pay her a visit to learn more about Wacky, Wild, and Wonderful: 50 State Poems and the other poetry collections in Laura’s “30 Painless Classroom Poems” series.

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna, and Beth for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.


Slice 2013 7 of 31: World Read Aloud Day

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Yesterday was World Read Aloud Day, and books were being read aloud throughout our building. All revolved around kindness as part of our month-long Read Across America celebration. (More about last week’s kick-off here.)

I started the day in Kindergarten, where I read Philip D. Stead’s utterly charming A Home for Bird.  If you have not seen this tale of friendship, kindness, and determination, read it as soon as possible.  The kids loved the book (they clapped when I finished reading), and had many insightful observations about Vernon’s kindness.


You can read Horn Book’s starred review here and learn more about Stead’s creative process at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

After lunch, I headed to first grade with Ame Dyckman’s Boy + Bot, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. The kids were mesmerized by this story, another gently humorous tale of friendship, kindness, and determination. Everyone thought having a robot for a friend would be a very good thing.


Anita Silvey recently shared her thoughts about Boy + Bot on Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac and Kirkus said “Dyckman’s debut offers pitch-perfect pacing…”

Finally, I went downstairs, where teachers in grade 4-8 were reading Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, to their students.


It was a wonderful day of reading at our school. Sharing these books offered lots of opportunities to talk about kindness. Hopefully, our reading and discussions throughout the month will help our students remember to always


Thank you to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting this Slice of Life Challenge!

Poetry Friday/Read Across America/Slice of Life Mash Up

At school today, we kicked off our month-long celebration of Read Across America. Usually we adopt the theme promoted by NEA, Read Across America’s official sponsor. Last year we made truffala trees out of butcher paper to decorate the hallways. Throughout the month, students created book jackets based on books they loved to decorate the trees. We also had a read-a-thon to raise money to purchase a tree in memory of a student who had recently lost her year-long battle with aplastic anemia.

Truffalas waiting to be hung up.
Completed truffala tree
Completed truffala tree

A few years ago, we encouraged everyone to literally read across America and read books from all 50 states. This was harder than you might think. To promote the theme, (Here comes the poetry part of this post!) I wrote a song, with a little help from some students.

See the USA

(Sung to the tune of Dinah Shore’s old Chevrolet commercials)

See the U.S.A., read a book today.

America’s got lots of tales to tell.

From Paul Bunyan’s woods,

to the engine that could

Reading is the way to meet them all.

On a couch or on a chair in the library,

Travel out west,

Meet Ramona the Pest.

To many new sights you will be carried.

So make a date today 

to read the U.S.A.

Pledge to read a book today!

© Catherine Flynn, 2009

It was lots of fun, and we still sing it. Here’s Dinah in an old commercial if you don’t remember the tune.

Which brings us to today. While I love this year’s “Hats off to Dr. Seuss” theme, last October our school accepted Rachel’s Challenge. Rachel Joy Scott was killed in the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999. After her death, her parents decided to share her story and writings to inspire people to prevent bullying. As Rachel said,

“I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”

As soon as I heard this, I thought of Auggie and Dr. Wayne Dyer’s precept, “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” The dovetailing of these two messages made doing a school-wide read of R.J. Palacio’s Wonder seem like the perfect theme for our Read Across America celebration this year.

Because we’re a K-8 school, we had to find a related text for the lower grades. Jacqueline Woodson thoughtfully wrote the powerful Each Kindness late last year, which filled that bill perfectly! Our PTO generously funded the purchase of a book for every classroom, and today we kicked off our month-long celebration.

Books waiting to be distributed to teachers
Books waiting to be distributed to teachers

We began the morning with each upper grade homeroom visiting a lower grade classroom. Teachers read Each Kindness aloud, and then the students paired up to create and illustrate Kindness is… statements. These will be displayed on bulletin boards throughout the school. Each homeroom in grades 4-8 will be reading Wonder aloud throughout the month, and the lower grades will be reading other picture books related to the theme of kindness. The whole morning went off without a hitch, and we have many fantastic Kindness is…statements. By the way, we wore hats too!

Sixth graders and Kindergarteners creating Kindness is… statements

Happy Read Across America, everyone!