Technology Bridges the Gap

It’s been difficult to give up regular visits with our grandchildren. With that said, I am so grateful for the technology that is bridging the gap.  Since my older grand kids no longer have school followed by activities, I actually connect with them more frequently. Face Time and Zoom have been my friends!

Two brother, Carson and Jackson, are the youngest of the grand kids. It’s wonderful to see them on Face Time and we welcome the regular calls. However, they are still babies. Now that we can’t connect in person, I wanted to find a more structured way to interact with them. On Saturday, I decided to video myself reading a story to them. I chose a simple, short rhyming book, propped my phone up next to my chair and began. Of course, I was able to show them the pictures and draw their attention to certain things. Now Carson, who is two and his nine-month old brother will able to listen to Mimi read them a story. Not ideal, but “any port in a storm”.

In keeping with our poetry challenge Are you up for the challenge? I had a Zoom meeting with two of the other “grands” yesterday. Since everyone is grappling with emotions these days, (including children) I figure I’d share an easy way to write about emotions. This was a simple process that I’ve used many times with students and within a half hour, these eight and nine-year-olds had crafted an amazing free-verse poem. Tuck these steps away in your tool box. Perhaps they will come in handy as you help your own children handle their emotions.

Grab a pencil and paper before you begin and allow time for kids to write and then share between each question…

  1. Brainstorm various emotions                                                                                                        There should be nouns:  joy, disappointment, anger, surprise, etc.
  2. What color is that emotion to you?
  3. What does it taste like?
  4. What does it smell like?
  5. What does it feel (touch) like?
  6. What does it make you want to do?
  7.  7.At this point, share a sample. You can write one of your own or use these.

        Surprise is a burst of yellow                                                                                                                      that jolts me like the taste of lemon juice.                                                                                           Surprise grabs me like a splash of cold water.                                                                                     She wears a sneaky smile                                                                                                                           and makes me want to dance. 

      Anger barges through the door, wearing a dress of red.                                                                 She dances through the air spreading shots of heat and hate.                                                      Anger calls forth my fear and makes me want to hide. 

Both of these use personification, as well as similes and metaphors. It’s a good chance to review these forms of figurative language, but not necessary. Just let the kids have at it and go from there. Perhaps they’ll want to draw a picture to go along with their poem. Have fun with this and stay well.

We’d love to read poems you or your kids have written. Feel free to share in your reply.






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The Write Time

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“I find out more and more every day how important it is for people to share their memories.” – Fred Rogers

It seems like the right time to share this quote. Now, when we are all sheltering-in-place. Now, when we have to time to write and reflect. Now, when we are faced daily with rising deaths and a virus that is devastating our country.

In January, I received one of the best gifts ever from my youngest son and his wife. The concept is fairly simple. Each week, my son sends me a question. I write my response directly onto his blog or the Storyworth site. At the end of the year, this company will curate all of my responses and create a book. If I choose, I can upload pictures and I have a chance to go back to each response and edit them before the book is published.

I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed this project. This provides a structure that enables me to share family lore, memories and information that I want to leave my family. Like most of us, I wanted to write some type of memoir, but I simply didn’t know where to  begin or how to structure it. “You can eat an elephant if you do it a bite at a time.” A bite at a time, I am plowing through and creating a permanent legacy.

Through this project, I am also bonding closely with my son. The site offers suggested questions, but together we decided that we want to “go deeper”. To that end I came up with some possible questions, as did my son. At first, I was going to address it to all five of our children, but I decided to write this book as a series of letters to my youngest son. Obviously, the text will be there for him to share with his siblings. It’s been a rewarding experience for both of us. Recognizing its value, my goal is to continue and create a book in conjunction with the other four kids.

This Great Pause in life is the perfect time to get started on a project like this. Many of my friends are rummaging through their photos and mementos so they can share them with their families, as well. Don’t let this time pass you by. Remember Fred Roger’s meaningful quote. Storyworth is the name of the company for the book I’m writing. Check it out if you are interested.

No matter what your age, writing your thoughts and memories is a cathartic and important experience. If you are home with your children during this time, it’s an easy and enjoyable way to show them the value of writing. Grab an old copy book, jot down what it’s like to live during this challenging time, pour out your heart on the page and invite your kids to do the same. There are many ways to nurture literacy. Encouraging your kids to write for authentic reasons is a great one!

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Six Simple Steps to Writing a Poem

In keeping with National Poetry Month, I’d like a few simple steps to help you and/or your kids get started writing poems.

  1. Review:                                                                                                                                            It’s important to remember that poems come in many sizes, shapes and structures. Thanks to Betsy Hubbard, from Two Writing Teachers, for sharing a chart that will help you remember and review poetry with your kids. Simple formats are a great way to get started. Remember acrostic poems, haiku poems, cinquains, diamonte poems and the like. If you forget, just Google “poetic structures” for a wealth of information and samples. Also, keep in mind that poems do not need to rhyme.

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2.  Find an idea: Hope these jog your brain                                                                                        Poetry hides everywhere!  What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What are       you remembering? What’s happening in your life, your family, your neighborhood         or your country?

Take a walk, whip up something in the kitchen, clean a room, play a game – any              activity is fodder for a new poem. Sensory images will bring life to whatever you              create.

Think of one word from a category and build from there. Here are some examples:                                             Pets, Colors, Sports, Holidays, Famous People

3. Brainstorm Ideas                                                                                                                                      Make a list of words or phrases associated with your topic. Can you categorize them       or create any figurative language?  eg. Initial sounds, smilies, personification

4. Choose a structure you would like to try and draft your poem

5.  Read & Revise (until you are please with your finished product)

6. Publish                                                                                                                                                          Encourage your kids to write or type their finished poem in a creative, careful                 manner and share it with others. A finished poem is cause for celebration and                 affirming a child’s efforts will entice them to write more.

BOOK SUGGESTIONS:  Since it’s always a good idea to read in the genre you want to write, here are some wonderful poetry books to peruse. Check out this link for great ideas.

Read, write, relax, stay happy and well. Let me know if you would like me to share your child’s poem on this blog.







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Are you up for the challenge?

If I was in front of a class of students today, I’d open my lesson with this question. “Do you know what we celebrate during April?”

In April, we celebrate National Poetry Month. Of course, poetry means different things to different people. As a child, I was required to memorize poems. I loved that and can still recite many of them. Rhyme intrigued me and I love to write rhyming verse.

However, it’s important for all of us to recognize that poetry does not have to rhyme. There are many structures and many ways for adults and kids alike to tap into playng with language and sharing ideas and feelings in a concise manner.

Packed with power, poetry helps us get to the heart of the matter. It strips away extraneous words and uses well-chosen words, allowing our voice to be heard.

By now, parents and kids have been home together for weeks. The novelty is wearing off and we have to find new ways to challenge ourselves and continue to add a dose of fun to learning. To this end, I came up with a Poetry Challenge for our family during the month of April. Obviously, this is targeted at keeping the grand kids engaged, enhancing their learning and having fun together at the same time. Let me explain…

Yesterday I had a Zoom meeting with three of my grand kids. Two of the others weren’t able to connect and four of the older ones weren’t around. No worries. I rolled out my ideas and they seemed interested. Of course, I had to sweeten the pot a little and offer prizes at the end of the month based on a point system. My grandson asked,

“What are the prizes, Mimi?”

“Well, I haven’t decided yet, but they might be monetary prizes. Do you know what that means?”

They quickly figured it out and were all in. Here’s how it will work:

Each Monday, I will have a Zoom Meeting with the kids. I’ll share various poetic structures and provide examples. Then, they can earn 5 points for any part of the challenge that they do. They will send their poems to me, I’ll edit them (a teaching moment) and send them back. The kids will post their poems and videos to our family text thread for all to enjoy. I’ll also keep their poems and drawings and compile a book so we will have these to enjoy permanently. As you can see, I’m also encouraging the parents to participate. It will be great modeling and definitely add to the fun.

Within an hour after our meeting, Shannon, one of my 8 year old grand daughters, send me a wonderful poem, a drawing and a photograph.

Check it out:


Sister of Patrick

Smart, kind, athletic

Who loves family, candy and, sports

Who feels happy and excited when playing basketball

Who needs love, attention, stuffed animals

Who gives love, kindness and art supplies

Who fears spiders, kidnapping, and a house fire

Who’d like to see a Sixers’ game

Who dreams of being in the WNBA

A student of Mr.Garcia



I was thrilled. Not much later, her brother submitted six poems. Wow! Nothing like a little competition. My husband and I got a good laugh and I am so pleased with their enthusiasm.

Knowing so many parents are searching for positive ways to navigate this difficult time, I offer this little challenge to you. Perhaps you will use it as is, tweak it in some way or simply come up with a new idea. Do keep in mind the many benefits of reading, writing, discussing and reciting poetry. More on this as we go through April. Please be generous and share your ideas and comments. We are all in this together. Stay well!

These are the guidelines I sent to the parents (our children & their spouses) and kids:

Celebrating Poetry Month Together

During the month of April:

  • Mimi will show you a new type of poem on Zoom every Monday
  • Parents are welcome and encouraged to participate in any/all ways. We would love that. There will be a good prize for the adult that writes the most poems or shares the most videos of themselves reading a poem.
  • Kids will earn 5 points for Part 1, sharing themselves reading a poem, 5 points for Part 2, writing a poem and 5 points for Part 3, submitting a drawing. At the end of April, kids will earn prices based on the number of points they have earned. 
  • You can do all three activities or just some of them…whatever you want. Let’s just have learn a little more about poetry, share our creativity and have fun together. 

            Have fun everyone! Can’t wait to see your wonderful poems, drawings & readings.


  • Find a poem that you like.
  • Practice reading it with expression.
  • Make a video of yourself reading it.
  • Share it with us via a text.

Here are some ideas:

The Wind by Christina Rosetti

 Hold Fast to Dreams by Langston Hughes

The Oak by Alfred Lord Tennyson

My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson

 The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear

 The Leak in the Dyke by Phoebe Cary

  The Fog by Carl Sandburg


Write a poem about yourself or someone you love. You can use this form or just write one on your own. 

Write a poem about yourself using this form or another poetry form.

Line 1: __ Your name

Line 2: _, _, _ 3 personal characteristics or physical traitsLine 4: Who loves__, __, and __ 3 people, things, ideas

Line 5: Who feels__ about__1 emotion about 1 thing

Line 6: Who needs__, __, and __ 3 things you need

Line 7: Who gives __, __, and __3 objects you share

Line 8: Who fears__, __, and __3 items

Line 9: Who’d like to see, __1 place, or person

Line 10: Who dreams of __ 1 item or idea

Line 11: A student of__ your school or teacher’s name

Line 12: __ Nickname or repeat your first name

PART  3:

Draw or paint a picture to go with your poem or find a photograph that goes with your poem.

Here’s an example based on the poem Charlotte, Patrick and Ave collaborated on today:


Mother of Michael, Matt, Jack, Rose and Joe

Who loves books, grandchildren and Pop-Pop

Who feels nervous and scared about amusement rides

Who needs water, warmth, laughter

Who gives gifts, money and love

Who would like to see her family

Who fears rollercoasters, cold and conflict

Who would like to see her family

Who dreams of being an author

A student of life




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A Mom’s Lament

With so many moms sheltering-in-place with their families, I thought I’d share this list poem a wrote a while back…

 A Mom’s Lament

Dirty dishes in the sink.                                                                                                                             Laundry that’s begun to stink.                                                                                                               Toys and trash on the floor.                                                                                                                     Fingerprints on walls and door.                                                                                                             Squabbling siblings acting rude.                                                                                                           Husbands in a grumpy mood.                                                                                                                 Dinners that get pushed aside.                                                                                                              One more kid that needs a ride.                                                                                                            Loud music pounding in my head.                                                                                                    Children that won’t go to bed.                                                                                                                Running ragged, running late,                                                                                                              Missing out on a rebate.                                                                                                                            Why’d I sign up for this life?                                                                                                                    It’s tough to be a mom and wife.                                                                                                            But the truth is, I wouldn’t change a thing.                                                                                      This life is what makes my heart sing.


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Spread Joy

Today, I opened my eyes to sun streaming in the window. I hope the same is true where you are. Sunshine is synonymous with hope, with joy. As we shelter-in-place, aren’t we all grasping for a bit of hope and joy? Most of us are already two or even three weeks into this major change in our lives. Youngsters miss their friends, people are working at home and juggling the needs of their families, and many older people are more isolated than ever. In spite of these grim realities, it’s essential to seek out the gifts and call up our best selves. With creativity, compassion, communication and patience we will find ways to navigate this challenging situation.

One of our grand daughters connected with her cousins via text, suggesting they have special days to give everyone a lift. To date, these have included Crazy Hair Day, Backwards Day, and Favorite PJ’s Day. Using a group text, we sent pictures of ourselves. Even Mimi (aka me) participated. img_0058                                                                It’s amazing how connected I’ve felt to everyone and how much we’ve enjoyed this little game. I must remember to work on my Funny Hat for tomorrow’s theme. Steal this idea if you’re looking for a little fun.

Writing is an important literacy skill. I often told my students, “Reading and writing are married.” In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, let’s remember the power of the written word. A handwritten note is a rare and precious commodity today. This is the perfect time to provide authentic writing opportunities for your kids. This is the perfect time to help them reach out to others. Can you think of a few people who would love to receive a note, possibly along with a drawing? Grandparents, aunts, uncles, nursing home residents, folks that are sick or simply dispirited, would all welcome a surprise like this in their mail. Most kids are easily enticed into doing something meaningful for others. It’s a win/win. The children practice their writing and creativity; recipients receive a little slice of joy.

I look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions. Stay well, everyone.


Adults:  A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman: A beautiful book, guaranteed to lift your spirits.

Teens: The Diary of Anne Frank: Just to offer a little perspective, introduce your older children to this classic. Dip into this together and remember to allow time for discussion.

Younger Readers (Grades 3-8)  Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine:  Invite your kids to learn the riveting story of Henry Brown and his unique escape to freedom.





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Viewing…Make it a literacy skill

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Hi, Everyone. Hope you are staying well and managing to turn the negatives of sheltering-in-place into positives for your family. Often, when we think of literacy skills, we forget that viewing is one of them. In this time of isolation, no doubt there is no dearth of viewing going on. I’d like to offer some suggestions for how you can elevate some of your children’s viewing experiences and enable them to enhance their literacy skills.

Encourage discussion   Predicting, inferencing, making connections and summarizing are all vital reading skills that easily translate to viewing. Use that pause button once in a while and throw out some questions to generate discussion and get them thinking more deeply…

– Can you predict what will happen?  Why?

– Who do you think is the villain? the guilty one? the good guy?                                                  Encourage kids to support their thinking. (Inferencing)

–  Tell your sister (brother, dad, etc.) what’s happened so far. This is                                           an easy way to practice summarizing in a natural manner and                                             eliminates the need to rewind when latecomers join the group

– Encourage your kids to voice their connections to themselves,                                               to the text (or film), to the world around them. Model this…

“That reminds me of the time when…”

“That reminds me of our vacation to…”

“That reminds me of what’s going on in…”

This morning I saw a news clip about how tough it is for parents forced into the role of teachers in their kids lives. I’m hoping little hints like these can boost confidence and show you some easy ways to embed skills into your kids regular activities. Today, in lieu of book suggestions, here’s some sites and blog posts that might be helpful during this unusual time. Stay well, Everyone, and please share any questions or ideas that might help others.

Online Resources

Video about how children learn language. Great for parents of young children:  

A challenge from Donna Lynn Miller (the Book Whisperer):

A poetry project for you and your kids:
Visit the San Diego Zoo, Mars, or the Georgia Aquarium with the click of your mouse. A shout out to Karen Lawler for suggesting these. If you Several virtual tours suggested by my friend, Karen Lawler. Thank you, Karen! Google “virtual museum tours to find more:



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Simple Suggestions

The unthinkable happened over the past few weeks. The coronavirus shut down schools across the United States and other countries around the world. Although some  are offering distance learning, it’s clear that these school shut-downs will have a profound effect on students’ education. Imagine this scenario…

It’s Day Five of school closure. The kids are finally asleep. Susan and Bob are sitting at the table discussing their concerns. This young couple has three children. Tracy is thirteen years old and in grade seven. Although she is good student, Tracy is an reluctant reader. Like so many teens, she can read, but prefers social media and rarely chooses to read books or magazines unless forced to do so.

Tom, their middle child, is nine-years-old and in fourth grade. A bundle of energy, he has a tough time focusing. Tom enjoys the social aspects of school, but academically he sometimes struggles, mostly due to difficulty reading. In the primary grades, he worked with a reading specialist on a regular basis and made good strides. Fourth grade has been a good year for him. Tom’s teacher provides excellent support, his confidence in reading and writing is growing and with support, he is finding books he enjoys. Susan and Bob are worried that he will lose ground during this crisis and are looking for ways to prevent that.

Jimmy, the baby of the family, exudes confidence and has enjoyed his first grade experience. His teacher reports that he is an average student, who meets the benchmark for reading. A typical first grader, Jimmy sometimes loses focus, but with his teacher’s insight and intervention, quickly gets back on track. Recognizing the essential learning that occurs in first grade, Susan and Bob wonder how they can pick the slack.

We are in uncharted waters, and no doubt parents around the world are worrying about how they can possibly support their kids academic growth during this time. Whether or not distance learning is available, parents now need to take a far more active role in their children’s education than ever before. Naturally, unless your a trained teacher, that feels overwhelming. Take a breath…I’ll try to offer a few gentle hints and easy activities that to get you going.

First…relax! No need to overdo it, no need to insist on hours a day of academics, no need to stress out yourselves or your kids. Everyone’s life has been upended. In my opinion, your most important job is to be the calming influence in your children’s lives and help them to look for the positives in this situation. You are the one that will set the stage for this unknown time period.

There’s one absolute that I’ve come to believe about working with kids–if you make it fun, they will buy into it. When my kids were young, they hated it when I put on my “teacher hat”, so I realize parents are in a tricky situation right now. You simply are not their teacher and they know it. Consequently, you have to sneak literacy activities into their daily routine. Here are a few ideas I would suggest to Susan and Bob. Hope they help you, too…

Jimmy is easy. How about writing sight words on index cards and spreading them around the floor? You can then throw him a ball. If he catches it, he can find a sight word he knows. A variation would be to set a timer. How many known sight words can he collect in 10 seconds. Then, review the ones that give him trouble.

How about a game of Homonym Bingo for Tom. Print out (or make) a blank Bingo sheet. Fill it in with pairs of of homonyms. Create a sentence for each homonym. Read the sentence and see if Tom can identify the correct homonym.

Tracy will be your challenge. Search out an interesting article. Maybe it’s a news article related to the coronavirus, maybe it deals with fashion or a celeb that she likes. Simply leave it on the table and tell her you read it and “thought of her”. See if she bites and reads it. If so, make sure you engage her in a casual conversation about it. Don’t give up! Try this once or twice a week to see if you can pique her interest in a bit of reading.

My heart really does go out to parents with school-age children. As the mother of five children who were close in age, having them all home under these circumstances would have been my worst nightmare. Of course, as a grandmother, I view this situation with a totally different perspective. I think of the quality time that families can have together if they accept the challenge and accent the positives. Our world has slowed down almost to a halt. Remember the days when you wished you could just breath and have a little more time with your family? Well, they are here! Hope you can keep positive thoughts at the forefront of your mind. You can do this.


The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship by Annie Fox:  I don’t like to recommend books  I’ve not read, but this caught my interest this morning when I read an interview with the illustrator. It seems like the kind of book that might just grab a teen girl’s attention (like Tracy). Looks like you can get if for free if you have Kindle unlimited. If not, check it out on Amazon.

For Adults: Greetings from Ventnor City by Jane Kelly:  Again, I haven’t read the entire book, but I’ve known the author, Jane Kelly, since first grade. This light mystery draws us back to 1968, when a young girl goes missing from Ventnor, New Jersey. A good dose of wit, an interesting main character and a strong plot will transport you from the problems of the day and give you a few chuckles in the process.

Before signing off, I just want to encourage you to send your questions or suggest topics you would like me to address in this blog during this time of crisis. Stay well!


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Coronavirus Crisis: Support & Suggestions

Welcome back, Parents, Teachers and Friends…

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted on Nurturing Literacy. As I’m sure you understand, life really can get in the way. However, in light of the current crisis all of us are experiencing, I’ve decided to resume blogging in the hopes it will offer support and ideas to parents and teachers alike. 

As always, our children must be a priority. Schools across the nation have closed. Although distance-learning is happening in many places, parents still have to step up in a unique way. We are all familiar with the “summer slump” that frequently occurs because students have not had positive, numerous experiences with literacy over the summer months. If this situation continues, it will have dire consequences educationally for many kids, especially those that usually receive extra support. 

Count on this blog for a post on Tuesdays Thursdays. Of course, I am hoping to post much more frequently and to offer guests posts from some wonderful educators and parents. At this challenging time, various age groups need various kinds of support. If you are a parent dealing with children at home all the time, if you are a teacher, looking for some suggestions, if you are a care-taker or grandparent wanting to help, may you find suggestions and support within these posts.

Take care everyone and stay well!

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Summer Read-Aloud Challenge Begins

Welcome to July and welcome to the Summer Read-Aloud Challenge. Hope your had a chance  to consider what your individual challenge will look like. At a minimum, try to read aloud to your kids at least once a week. Naturally, the more you can incorporate reading aloud into your family life, the more benefits both you and  your kids will reap.

My plan is to post a tips and offer reading suggestions appropriate for youngsters in Grades 4 through 8 several times a week.  My first tip is to start small. Find a short book, news article or even a narrative poem that you think your youngsters will enjoy. Kids this age often view reading aloud together as babyish. They don’t see the point, because they all ready know how to read themselves. Be sensitive to this fact and talk about how you hope to spend some quality time together and do some reading this summer.  Enhancing the experience with a special food or reading aloud while they eat dessert may be a great way to start.

In my experience, these short texts easily capture kids interest and may be a good starting point:

The Hundred DressesThe Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes:  Probably more interesting to girls, but this well-written classic story beautifully shows youngsters the damage that even subtle bullying can do to another.

NtStars   Number the Stars:  One of my all-time favorite books. You will need to provide some background knowledge about World War II and can find some great non-fiction picture books to help you do that                                         .

I Survived Books    The “I Survived Series” – Any book in this series would be an excellent choice. Although the plot and characters are fictional, these stories are all based on a true historical event. The books are short, intriguing, prompt discussion and make wonderful read-aloud material.

The “Who Was” Series – Concise but interesting biographies sure to grab your children’s attention.

Testing the Ice   Testing the Ice by Sharon Robinson – A picture book by Jackie Robinson’s sister, this text presents an unique look at this legendary baseball player.

Crickwing by Janell Cannon – Unusual picture book about a cockroach who bullies some ants, but eventually redeems himself and saves the ants from danger using his artistic talent. Includes non-fiction information at the end about both cockroaches and ants.

Good luck a you begin this journey and use reading to connect with your kids in a special way this summer.

Please share your great suggestions and help all of us find top-notch literature to read-aloud.










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