Monday, April 30, 2018

It's All About the Books Blog Tour

We are so happy to be the first stop on the It's All About the Books book tour!  We are so excited about this book. We have always been fans of Tammy and Clare's work --loved their book Assessment in Perspective and were part of their tour then!  We love this new book and are excited about the impact it will have in schools across the country.  Make sure to stop at all the other stops on the blog tour this week!

And we are giving away a copy of It's All About the Books! To enter, post a picture of some part of your classroom library somewhere and put the link in a comment below.  At the end of the week (Friday after 5 pm), we'll choose a random winner to receive a copy of this fabulous new book! (Don't forget to check back to see the classroom library photos:-)

We asked Clare and Tammy some questions about the book. Here is what they said:

Franki and Mary Lee: How has your thinking evolved about classroom libraries over the years?

Clare and Tammy: Initially, we set up our classroom library before the students arrived at school. All of our books were organized in plastic bins and we knew exactly where each and every book was located.  Our library remained the same all year except for one book display that rotated each month. Now we include students in the process of setting up and maintaining our classroom library.  Instead of getting everything set up before they arrive, we provide the baskets, labels, and markers and let the kids set up the library.  When the students set up the library, they know where the books are and feel more invested in the space.   As they decide how to organize the books, we listen in to learn more about their interests and passions. The more students are part of the process, the more we learn about them as readers and the better we can help them find books they love.  The classroom library is now more than a place to pick books.  When we design it with our readers, and when we are set up to flexibly meet their changing needs and preferences, the classroom library truly becomes the home of an active reading community.

Franki and Mary Lee: What advice do you have for teachers about keeping up with good books to add to their classroom libraries?

Clare and Tammy: We keep up with good books by relying on our PLNs, both locally and globally.  We connect with our local PLNs by visiting book stores and public libraries to check out what is new.  We also speak with the school librarians, teachers, and reading coaches at our partnership schools to hear about what they are reading and what their students are enjoying.

Our global PLN on social media helps us know what is up and coming. We participate in #IMWAYR every Monday and join #titletalk chats on the last Sunday evening each month.  We read lots of blogs including yours - A Year of Reading, Watch Connect Read with Mr. Schu, Nerdy Book Club, and Colby Sharps book talks on Sharpread.  We have additional resources we rely on listed in the online resources in our book - OR 6.1

Franki and Mary Lee: How do you think classroom libraries should evolve over the course of a single school year?

Clare and Tammy: Readers love new books! Classroom libraries should be refreshed and revised to meet the ever-evolving needs of our students. A classroom library should reflect the growth and curricular journey of the students throughout the year. When the class studies particular authors, genres, and topics, we add these texts to the library.  As students share their personal interests and preferences we can also add these texts to our library. We are purposeful in introducing new series and authors to add complexity to the library as our students’ reading skills develop.  Throughout the year, we try to look at our library through the eyes of our students.  We ask, “Does the library offer a range of choices that will engage and support all the readers in the class?"  We take this information and use it to revise and refresh the classroom library.

Franki and Mary Lee: How has your thinking about bookrooms evolved over the years?

Clare and Tammy: We used to think about bookrooms as a place to store shared leveled texts for small group instruction (i.e. six-packs.) As we observed bookroom after bookroom not being used by teachers, we decided to revise our thinking.  Now we design bookrooms as an annex to every classroom library – we design each with the other in mind.  Teachers need books to support all aspects of reading and writing instruction, not just books for small group instruction.  As we talked with teachers, we heard again and again that they did not have the volume or range of texts they needed for their students to read independently.  It is near impossible for a classroom teacher to source a library that is equipped to meet the needs of each student year after year. We shifted our thinking and decided the largest section of the bookroom needs to support independent reading. These texts are organized by bands of text complexity into baskets of approximately 20 single titles that are categorized by genre, author, series, and topics of interest.  This design makes it easy for teachers to grab a few baskets and add them right to their classroom library.  The bookroom also has baskets of read aloud suggestions organized by grade level, mentor texts for units of study in writing workshop, texts to support content area curriculum, and even baskets of paired texts to support partner reading.  We still have some texts organized in 6-packs for small group instruction and book clubs, but this is now only one section of the bookroom.  Ideally, bookrooms supply the depth, breadth, and volume of books to supplement what each teacher needs and every student wants. All of this organized in grab-and-go baskets for a teacher to simply (and quickly) take and incorporate into her classroom library.

Franki and Mary Lee: For teachers who have very few books provided by their schools/districts, where do you suggest they start?

Clare and Tammy: This is a tough question because we believe that books are an essential tool for teachers.  When schools provide desks and chairs for students, they should also allocate funds to ensure that every classroom has a vibrant and engaging classroom library. In the first chapter of the book, we cite research to support teachers in advocating for what they need to inspire lifelong readers.

That being said, here are a few of the ideas we share in the book to get you started without school or district support …  

If you don’t have books to source a classroom library, we recommend you get in touch with your school librarian and begin by borrowing books from the school and public libraries.  You can borrow collections of texts organized by author, genre, series and topic to figure out what your students love.  Once you have a sense of what engages your students, ask the school librarian to help you gather some of these texts.  Some teachers even ask parents to help out by going to their local branch of the public library to pick up books they need for the classroom library.  Colleagues are another great option for borrowing books.  Many teachers have a wealth of books and are happy to loan books, especially texts their students are not accessing at that time of the year. Even colleagues with a small collection may be willing to rotate books between classrooms to increase their volume of books as well.

At some point, teachers do need to get some books of their own.  Scholastic book orders are a great option for teachers to earn bonus points to purchase books.  Box Tops is another way to earn money for books and families are happy to help out by organizing a collection. Families are also often willing to donate gently used books to supply classroom libraries.  Grants are another source of funding. Many schools offer grants through the parent organization or local school foundation.  Teachers also seek grants through Donors Choose and The Book Love Foundation (see question 6) to fund a classroom library.  If you do receive funds be sure to check out specials with vendors, discount book stores and even public library book sales to get the best bang for your buck!  We have many resources in our book, including lists of our favorite vendors and some of our tried and true texts, to support you once you are ready to go shopping!

Franki and Mary Lee: Can you tell us why you chose to donate all royalties from this book to Book Love. Of all the literacy organizations out there, why this one?

Clare and Tammy: When we decided to write a book advocating for more books in classrooms, we felt we had to help get more books into the hands of students and teachers.  I didn’t feel right to highlight the problem without trying to be a part of the solution. We were trying to figure out how we could make an impact.  Then we heard Penny Kittle speak at the Donald Graves Breakfast at NCTE.  She shared how Don impacted her personally and professionally, “That generosity for someone he didn’t know just became a theme in my life.” We looked at each other in that moment and knew what we needed to do.  We found Penny at the end of the session and asked her if we could join her mission for Book Love. Book Love is a not-for-profit organization founded by Penny Kittle with one goal: to put books in the hands of teenagers.  We were fortunate that Penny and Heinemann both supported our vision and helped us bring it to life by generously agreeing to allow the royalties of our book to expand that goal and put books into the hands of elementary and middle grade students as well. Each time someone purchases a copy of It’s All About the Books, the royalties go directly to the Book Love Foundation to fund elementary and middle grade libraries. This made the project so meaningful for us – a book about books that will bring books into the hands of readers – what could be better than that!

If you would like to donate directly to the Book Love Foundation simply send a check or donate online  If you would like your donation to fund elementary and middle grade libraries, please send an email to or write elementary or middle grade libraries in the memo line of your check.  Checks can be mailed to Book Love Foundation, PO Box 2575, North Conway, NH 03860-2575.

High Flight

Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.
~Kevin Durant

High Flight

The last day of school is in sight. You can’t imagine how hard
it is to release my masterpieces, say goodbye to my best work.
Launching you, I imagine the sigh of wing-beats
as you fly away, soaring with your talent,
your sense of humor, your desire to set the world right. When
you alight again next fall, don’t you dare hide your talent,
head under wing, letting others lead. Genius doesn’t
need adult plumage to rise and spiral. All genius needs is work.
And remember, the work of flight is joyful, not hard.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Word Game Wednesday

Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is not path and leave a trail.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Word Game Wednesday

What would you like to do?
Play Word Around? Rhyme Out? Bananagrams? Do not
dawdle; find a group and go
tinker with words! Play Scrabble; observe where
words intersect, criss-crossing a path
of letters that may
to unexpected mergers. Perhaps go
online instead
and play Free Rice, where
you earn kernels of rice for nuggets of knowledge. There
guarantee, but Word Game Wednesday could have been the path
that led us to be homophone, homonym, and
homograph hunters. Words open the world. Using them, we leave
splendiferous trail.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Winter Memory

Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.  ~Unknown

Winter Memory*

When you consider the life
of another creature, it is is
often humbling. The temperature that day was not
much above zero. We measured
the cold by
frost on our scarves from our breaths.
were by the lake to take
winter pictures, but
we became fascinated by
geese in the water. After a few moments
of observation, we could see that
the cold didn’t seem to bother them. We had begun to take
photos when we saw it – goose breath
puffing in the cold air. Blew us completely away.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

*Mr. Wald, our classroom stool-repairer, provided the memory that became this poem.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Poetry Friday

Whatever you are, be a good one.  ~Abraham Lincoln

Poetry Friday

Pick a poem about whatever
captivates you
endangered animals, a hotdog car, dinosaurs, or ants – you are
in charge of choosing and practicing. Be
an attentive audience for others. Then, be a
positively excellent performer. Make us sigh, or laugh and say, “Good

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

Poetry Friday is one of the most beloved routines in our classroom. My students start the year not knowing the names of any children's poets and end the year with favorite poets and favorite books. (I'm pretty sure someone has hidden I'm Just No Good At Rhyming so they won't have to share it!) One of my greatest hopes is that they will be able to hold onto this love of poetry!

Irene has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week at Live Your Poem.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Endless WInter

You're never a loser until you quit trying.  ~Mike Ditka

Endless Winter

Indoor recess AGAIN? You’re
kidding me! Spring is never
going to get here! Oh, well. Grab a
board – mancala, chess, Clue – there’s no loser
in a never-ending game. We’ll play until
…what’s that you
say? The snow has quit?
The sun is shining…or at least trying?!?

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Go Ahead and Give It Your All

Life is short. Make it amazing.  ~Hugh MacLeod (

Go Ahead and Give It Your All

Making a Valentine box is like making a life.
The amount of effort you put into it is
the amount of fun you get out of it. Don’t be short-
sighted. Use every bit of imagination to make
(your life or your Valentine box) amazing!

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

Tuesday, April 24, 2018


We all have the same roots and we are all branches of the same tree.  ~Aang (in Avatar: The Last Airbender)


Testing means work silently (all by yourself) but we
are accustomed to collaboration. We know we are all
smarter when we work together, but we have
to take the
test alone. It is not the same
as (all those times) when we discovered how our (very different) roots
could lead us to common understanding. Testing is too quiet and
the air is filled with tension. We
struggle silently (on our own) until we are
all finished. At last we get our voices back and we are all
of us (once again) like branches
(grafted from many nations and cultures) of
(strong enough to support us all and tested by time) same
(collaboration makes us all smarter) tree.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

Monday, April 23, 2018

24th Line of the 2018 Progressive Poem

Welcome to the 24th line of the 2018 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem! Thank you, Irene Latham, for this (now beloved) yearly tradition!

In Heidi's "pre-progressive poem pre-poetry month poetry friday round-up" post she assigned us the task of jotting some thoughts after the first line went live and then hiding them from ourselves until it was time for our line.

Here's what I wrote:

Nestled in her cozy bed, a seed stretched.
POV the plant/seed?
internal rhyme/assonance

How very...thoughtful and...detailed of me! (NOT.)

Here's what I know now. We've got a seed named Jasmine (Jas for short) who has awakened on a moonlit night. She's playful, inviting Moon to a game with her and Owl. Jasmine first twines herself around Owl's toes, then around a trellis provided thoughtfully by Sky. In line 13, Jasmine and Owl headed for Lee Bennett Hopkins' birthday party. As Jasmine twines, she is writing a poem (or singing a song?). As for poetic moves, we have
As I write on 4/22, awaiting Amy's line on 4/23, I wonder if she'll move the poem ahead by adding to/explaining more about the game, the birthday party, or Jasmine's poem. Or will she surprise me?!?! (She surprised me.)

Cue several hours of brainstorming and doodling, hair-pulling and thesaurus-consulting.

And now, without further ado, here is the poem, with my version of stanzas and my line added. (Kiesha, feel free to add punctuation to the end of my line if you need it to make yours work):

Nestled in her cozy bed, a seed stretched.
Oh, what wonderful dreams she had!

Blooming in midnight moonlight, dancing with
the pulse of a thousand stars, sweet Jasmine
invented a game.
"Moon?" she called across warm honeyed air.
"I'm sad you're alone; come join Owl and me.
We're feasting on stardrops, we'll share them with you."

"Come find me," Moon called, hiding behind a cloud.

Secure in gentle talons' embrace, Jasmine rose
and set. She split, twining up Owl's toes, pale
moonbeams sliding in between, Whoosh, Jasmine goes.
Owl flew Jasmine between clouds and moon to Lee's party!
Moon, that wily bright balloon, was NOT alone.

                                               Jas grinned,




                                                             a new,

                                   around          tender

a trellis Sky held out to her, made of braided wind and song.
Her green melody line twisted and clung. 

Because she was twining poet's jasmine, she
wiggled a wink back at Moon, and began her poem.
Her whispered words floated on a puff of wind,
filled with light and starsong. "Revelers, lean in –
let's add to this merriment a game that grows
wordgifts for Lee. He's a man who knows
selection, collection, and wisely advising

These blogs are where the poem's been, and where it's going:

1 Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass
2 Jane at Raincity Librarian
3 Laura at Writing the World for Kids
4 Michelle at Today's Little Ditty
5 Jan at bookseedstudio
6 Irene at Live Your Poem
7 Linda at TeacherDance
8 Janet F. at Live Your Poem
9 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
10 Matt at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme
11 Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales
12 Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink
13 Linda at A Word Edgewise
14 Heidi at my juicy little universe
15 Donna at Mainely Write
16 Sarah at Sarah Grace Tuttle
17 Ruth at There is no such thing as a Godforsaken town
18 Christie at Wondering and Wandering
19 Michelle at Michelle Kogan
20 Linda at Write Time
21 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
22 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
23 Amy at The Poem Farm
24 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
25 Kiesha at Whispers from the Ridge
26 Renee at No Water River
27 Buffy at Buffy's Blog
28 Kat at Kat's Whiskers
29 April at Teaching Authors
30 Doraine at Dori Reads