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Learning to read is hard work. For those of us who are fluent readers, that’s a statement of fact that is easy to forget or to minimize.

Once a child has learned how reading works, though, what helps them get to the next step, to the fluency level? In a nutshell, it’s all about the number of words a child reads. It really doesn’t matter what the words are about (content) or what format they are presented in (comics work just as well as chapter books). It’s the sheer number of words read that builds fluency.

So what happens when, as in South Africa, one child has three books to read in a year–and another has three a day?  The probabilty of one of them effectively becoming shut off from reading for the rest of his/her life skyrockets.

There are many injustices and inequalities in life and around the world. But depriving a growing mind of books ranks at the top. It’s one reason why the Biblio Burro in Colombia and the Camel Library in Kenya and Lubuto Library in Zambia are so life changing.

Being able to read goes beyond being able to access information. The ability to read directly affects the ability to think (Story Proof, Kendall Haven).

Children must have “stuff” to read–and libraries must exist for everyone, but especially the most vulnerable, those who have nothing to read.

Check out the links. Consider a donation. And in this day of school and public library closures in this country, tell the decision makers “no.”



I just received a terrific new board book! It’s Happy Baby, edited by Fiona Watts, and it would be great to add to your early literacy collection. Here’s why:

  • Most of the rhymes are “new” ones that you probably don’t know.
  • Each double page spread includes the words and directions for bouncing and playing with baby during the rhyme.
  • There’s a CD included so no worries about the ones you don’t know.
  • Each rhyme builds phonological awareness and fun times shared with this book will build print motivation as well.
  • Babies and parents are multicultural–AND there’s a daddy included!
  • The last two pages give a developmental guide to playing, dancing, and moving with baby.

This will check out well in any children’s collection, but it would also be a marvelous book to give to new parents and to parents who are not quite sure what to do with baby and how to play with them.

Happy Bouncing!


One hundred books makes for a really long list! 🙂 Here’s the next twenty-five. And on the Fuse #8 blog, the countdown has made it to #13; click here to see more. But now, back to the “shopping list!”

50. Island of the Blue Dolphins by O’Dell

49. Frindle by Clements

48. The Penderwicks by Birdsall

47. Bud, Not Buddy by Curtis

46. Where the Red Fern Grows by Rawls

45. The Golden Compass by Pullman

44. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Blume

43. Ramona the Pest by Cleary

42. Little House on the Prairie by Wilder

41. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Speare

40. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Baum

39. When You Reach Me by Stead

38. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by Rowling

37. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Taylor

36. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Blume

35. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fired by Rowling

34. The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 by Curtis

33. James and the Giant Peach by Dahl

32. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by O’Brien

31. Half Magic by Eager

30. Winnie-the-Pooh by Milne

29. The Dark is Rising by Cooper

28. A Little Princess by Burnett

27. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Carroll

26. Hatchet by Paulsen

That’s all for now. I’ll add #1-25 after she finishes her countdown. And then I’ll tell you my favorites for the whole 100. 😉

Link to #100-76

Link to #75-51

Link to #50-26

Stay tuned,


March 20th is “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Day. Maybe that’s why the NY Times featured a story about Fred Rogers and his legacy (he died seven years ago in February). There is so much wrapped up in this article about Mr. Rogers and his neighborhood.

First, the bad news: PBS is no longer distributing Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood to TV stations. I think this is a terrible loss and goes quite beyond a nostalgic sadness (which I will say more about below).

But the good news is that they’ve made his shows available through the PBS website. And that works find as long as you have internet access. It’s not at all good for those children who don’t, however.

I was a child when Mr. Rogers as well as Sesame Street got their starts on television. But we didn’t watch TV much as children and my first awareness of him was probably in 3rd or 4th grade when it was “the thing” to make fun of the way he talked.

My boys grew up with him, though. Their favorite lullaby tape was a collection of songs from the show. And as young men today, they still remember Mr. Rogers.

Now, I did sometime watch Captain Kangaroo as a child, and I remember him too. But not for the same reasons.  Despite what the article implies, Mr. Rogers falls nowhere in the same league as Captain Kangaroo, Shari Lewis, or Howdy Doody. They were all find entertainers; they were all pioneers in the field of children’s television.

But Mr. Rogers was a genius. He had a remarkable education including graduate work in child development. He understood children deeply and could put his head and heart inside their world, a world which is so radically different from an adult’s. He had children in mind first and a TV show second.

In today’s world, when children are being rushed and misunderstood as never before, we need Fred Rogers in their worlds.

I encourage you, if you are not familiar with Fred Rogers’ work, to watch his TV shows with or without your children. Read his books; many are written for parents and teachers. Purchase his books for children. My children negotiated potty training, making friends, moving, and family death’s with Mr. Rogers caring help.

And maybe we’ll see each other in Pennsylvania on day at the Fred Roger Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media. I’m awfully glad others are carrying on his work.

See you around, Neighbor!


Thomas Cahill has a marvelous piece in the NYTimes today about the Irish and how they saved Western Civilization after the fall of Rome. How did an obscure, ragtag bunch of folks in the early days of the Dark Ages manage  such a feat? They copied books.

What’s an added bonus in his article is his mention of their sense of play in the midst of all the seriousness of the world dissolving around them and the rest of Europe. And of course, it being St. Patrick’s Day, Patrick gets his fair share of credit as well.

I wish Cahill had mentioned another saint, though, one equally as important to the preservation of books and thereby civilization. That is St. Columba. I learned about him through a fascinating children’s book, Across a Dark and Wild Sea by Don Brown.

As a boy St. Columba was known as Columcille, and he was son of a king. But the church taught him reading and writing, and he was forever hooked–to the point that he copied a book rather illegally and thereby started a war. Yes, a war over a book. (Boys eat this up, let me tell you!)

Devastated afterward by what his actions had wrought, he exiled himself to an island off the coast–and thus was born the religious community of Iona.

The book combines fact, some of the legends associated with Columba, watercolor illustrations that stir up the windswept coasts of Ireland, a calligraphic guide to the Uncial alphabet from Columba’s time, and a bibliography. There’s even a diagram of a coracle (no, I’m not going to tell you; you have to read the books! ;-))

As you can tell, it’s one of my favorites.

Happy St. Paddy’s Day,


With no further adue, here’s the next batch!

75. Love That Dog by Creech

74. The Borrowers by Norton

73. My Side of the Mountain by George

72. My Father’s Dragon by Gannett

71. An Unfortunate Series of Events: The Bad Beginning by Snicket

70. Betsy-Tacy by Lovelace

69. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Stewart

68. Walk Two Moons by Creech

67. Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Colville

66. Henry Huggins by Cleary

65. Ballet Shoes by Streatfeild

64. A Long Way from Chicago by Peck

63. Gone-Away Lake by Enright

62. The Secret of the Old Clock by Keene

61. Stargirl by Spinelli

60. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

59. Inkheart by Funke

58. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Aiken

57. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Cleary

56. Number the Stars by Lowry

55. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Paterson

54. The BFG by Dahl

53. The Wind in the Willows by Grahame

52. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Selznick

51. The Saturdays by Enright

I almost entirely cannot quibble with the selections–although I’d love to dicker on a few of the rankings. What a list though!

Read on!


The Best of my March book order goes to:

Waiting Out the Storm by Macken: I don’t know which I like better, the writing or the illustrations. They are both lovely. A little girl is frightened of the storm blowing in. Her mother’s descriptions of what’s happening reframe and reassure without minimizing the child’s feelings.

“It’s too loud! I’m afraid!” the little girl cries. “Oh, it’s only a sound. Thunder stomps. Thunder stumbles and bumbles around,” her mother replies.

The vocabulary rhymes soothingly, the colors emphasize the spring-ness of the rain, and both fit together to build a cozy, if wet, wonder of a world.

Runner-up goes to Pink Me Up by Harper. I’m not a “girl book” kind of gal. I wasn’t much of one when I was a child and then I raised two boys. So I can name on just my two hands probably, the “girl books” that I am comfortable with and enjoy recommending (Princess Grace, Ladybug Girl, Fancy Nancy, and the Prydain Chronicles top my list).

Pink Me Up sounds silly to me. Mama and daughter’s “pink day” arrives but Mama is sick. So Daddy fills in–but he’s not pink enough! What to do?! Well, make him pinker, of course!

For me, silly or not, the book works because it captures the emotions of a disappointed preschooler so well. The spread where she falls flat on the floor (literally, face down) with the exclamation, “Today is the worst day EVER!” rings so very true. Then she goes through problem solving mode of who can take Mama’s place–but she never dreams of Dad. Why? “I tell Daddy something very important: Daddy! You’re a boy!…Boys are NOT pink!” Again, spot on for a preschooler’s mind (they are trying to sort out what is a boy, what is a girl–and things like clothes and colors and mommy- and daddy-ness are very important markers for figuring this out).

But Dad pulls out his pink tie and the wheels start spinning.

I won’t give the ending away but all ends well. 😉 I like that with a little encouragement from both parents, she becomes the problem solver and that, while she definitely associates pink with girls, it has nothing to do with being pretty. It’s just pink!

Have fun!


I’m loving reading Betsy Bird’s Fuse #8 Top 100 Children’s Novels. And the collection of covers after each review is fabulous.

But I also want to just see a list of them. The better to go shopping with, my dears. 😉 So if you are feeling somewhat frustrated with being list-less, here they are by nothing but title and author! (I’ll post twenty-five at a time and she is posting from number 100 down to number one.)

100. The Egypt Game by Snyder

99. The Indian in the Cupboard by Banks

98. Children of Green Knowe by Boston

97. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by DiCamillo

96. The Witches by Dahl

95. Pippi Longstocking by Lindgren

94. Swallows and Amazons by Ransome

93. Caddie Woodlawn by Brink

92. Ella Enchanted by Levine

91. Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Sachar

90. Sarah, Plain and Tall by MacLachlan

89. Ramona and Her Father by Cleary

88. The High King by Alexander

87. The View from Saturday by Konigsburg

86. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by Rowling

85. On the Banks of Plum Creek by Wilder

84. The Little White Horse by Goudge

83. The Thief by Turner

82. The Book of Three by Alexander

81. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Lin

80. The Graveyard Book by Gaiman

79. All of a Kind Family by Taylor

78. Johnny Tremain by Forbes

77. The City of Ember by DuPrau

76. Out of the Dust by Hesse

Ok, maybe I was skimming my reader too fast. But when I first saw this headline, Great ‘Read-Alouds’ for the New York Times, I thought it was for a kids’ book list.

I’ve never seen a read-aloud list for newspaper articles! What a fabulous idea! Children will hear a different style of writing and a different “grammar” beyond a story grammar. No one has ever said that when we read aloud to children, we need to read children’s picture books. But how often do we assume that’s what “read-aloud” means?

I spend a fair amount of time encouraging parents to continue reading aloud to their children beyond the preschool years and beyond the years when the child can read on his or her own. Now I have another angle to encourage!

Bear in mind, any reading aloud, as long as the child enjoys the time together, is good reading aloud. The material really doesn’t matter (my mother once read a dictionary aloud to my oldest when he was a baby; he was entranced! :-))

So find a book–or better still, change the pace and find a Times article and read on,


“We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that child is someone today.” – Stacia Tauscher

So well said. This should inform everything we do with children. They are not miniature adults. They are not incomplete humans. They just are, exactly as they are, with no comparisons between the child and an adult necessary, needed, or helpful.

So go pay attention to a child in your life!


If you’re happy and you know it–speak your first word in Toddler Time! Oh my, what a moment! We were all singing and had reached the “Hooray!” point–when out of the blue, a just barely walking kiddo said, “Hap-py!”  I’m not making this up. 🙂

We read Choo Choo Clickety-Clack by Mayo and we all got louder and louder and louder. So many great sounds to make in that book! So good for phonological awareness! So fun!

And Ring Around the Rosies was a winner as well. Lots and lots of giggles. And when the little boy with some social struggles grabbed his dad’s hand to join in–well, we did it again! We do Rosies with two verses (scroll down the column on the left to listen) and today there were children anticipating what comes next! Another name for “what comes next” is anticipation, which leads to making predictions and later reading comprehension, and sequencing, which leads to understanding how letters go together to make words (and that was the early literacy TIP for the day).

Betcha didn’t know you could have all that in twenty minutes of fingerplays and singing and a dash of reading!

Nothing but awesomeness!


I don’t know the group, I don’t know the song, but I know this is one of the coolest Rube Goldberg set-ups I’ve ever seen! Click here and then challenge the kids (I’m ready to clear out the garage and see what I can do!).

Build on!


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