Monthly Archives: April 2013

Creating Readers

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As a school teacher-librarian (media specialist), I often find myself trying to find just the right book for a student. Many times I have seen a student that did not like to read suddenly get turned onto reading when they connected with the “right” book. My first two children loved to read for as long as I can remember,  but my third one was a hard sell. It took several years to get him to  actually read a book for pleasure. Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen, was the book that did it. Fortunately, his 6th grade teacher was willing to let him read everything Paulsen ever wrote. Unfortunately, his love of reading does not continue today.

What can we do to influence children to become life-long readers? I do not ever remember not reading. Reading is so much a part of my life that not a day goes by that I do not read for pleasure as well as to learn. I have 2-3 books going at any given time. I actually panicked last summer when I was invited to enjoy a beach house for the week and I did not have a stack of books on hand! It was Sunday and the library was closed. When I was growing up, there was no library nearby, but I dearly loved the bookmobile. The screeching of the tires was music to my ears. I remember loving Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, The Tales of Uncle Remus,  Pollyanna, The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew and many others. I combined my love of music with the book Oliver and the soundtrack  from the movie. I cried my way through My Friend Flicka and literally devoured my mother’s monthly selection of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books. I always loved when a Mrs. Pollifax mystery was included. There were times when I would search the house for something new to read. One day, in the far reaches of a cabinet, I ran across The Sensuous  Couple. I read it cover to cover in one day and put it right back where I found it! I couldn’t believe my parents did any of that!

So why am I still a reader and my son is not? What can I do to help my students become readers? Is there some gene that some of us have that makes us readers? I’m going to keep working to connect my students with the right books in any way that I can. Currently, I have begun using Edmodo, an educational social media platform, to have students write book reviews and encourage each other through comments. Tomorrow, I am starting a group that will create video book trailers to share with others. We’ll see what else the future holds!

Hatchet My Friend Flicka Mrs. Pollifax

Many of these books have undergone a facelift since my childhood!

Bobbsey TwinsUncle RemusMike Mulligan

Character vs IQ

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“There is no asucceednti-poverty tool that we can provide for disadvantaged young people that will be more valuable than the character strengths that…(the students that are followed in this book)possess in such impressive quantities: conscientiousness, grit, resilience, perseverance, and optimism.” This book made me feel like there is hope for our youth. Paul Tough has done extensive research on both children of poverty and affluent children. He has found that those that are nurtured in early childhood and those that experience and overcome failure are more likely to succeed regardless of IQ. He shows how it is never too late for a child to change. I find myself wanting to learn more about instilling these character traits in our children. After reading this book, I am convinced that it is more important to encourage good character than to drill students. Yes, education is important, but strength of character will determine success.

I don’t believe that anything can replace early reading, talking, singing, playing, and being verbal with your child. We do need to nurture children and help them to cope with their emotions, but it is refreshing to know that, as an educator, I can still have a profound effect on my students. Schools seem to be constantly trying to “fix” teachers. I agree that there are teachers that are not effective, but I strongly feel that the emphasis on testing has diminished the well-rounded education that our students deserve. What can we do to change this trend?

Baking Inspirations

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wrappersIt really doesn’t take much to get me motivated to bake, but when these adorable cupcake/muffin cups arrived in the mail yesterday from Pick Your Plum  – my mind started working. It is, after all, spring break, and I did want to take some goodies around to some neighbors and friends. I had thought of making Snickerdoodle muffins, but these wrappers called for something with a bit more pizazz!

Since I still had the Snickerdoodle idea in my head (you do know that cinnamon has now been determined a health food), I looked around for a Snickerdoodle cupcake. I found a recipe (thank you Pinterest) at Skip to my Lou. The cupcake itself was delicious, but I made a bit of a change to the icing. You can bake right in these precious cups, so I popped one into each hole in my muffin tin and preheated the oven to 350 degrees.

cupcakeplate

 

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 package yellow cake mix
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup melted butter (mine was  just softened)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Combine all of the ingredients for about 3 minutes. Do not over mix. I use an ice cream scoop to dip the batter into the cupcake  wrappers. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until the cake springs back when touched. Cool completely.

For the icing:

  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • add 2 tablespoons of half and half and keep adding until you reach desired consistency

Cream the butter and slowly add in the sugars. (Drape a damp dishcloth over your mixer to avoid a cloud of powdered sugar.) Add the cinnamon, vanilla, and salt. Slowly add the milk, scraping the sides of your bowl regularly (and tasting often) until you get the right consistency. Pipe the icing on the top using a star tip. I sprinkled mine with a bit of tourmaline sugar and cinnamon.

cupcake

Since my cupcake wrappers were a little on the large side, the recipe made 16 cupcakes. You could probably squeeze 24 out of it in regular sized wrappers.

I’m off to share these with the neighbors, but I think I’ll leave a few to enjoy here at home. What a special treat on a beautiful spring day!