reading with kids

Prime Time Family Time at Children’s Hospital

Today I told stories, read books, taught a lesson on magnifying natural objects, and made Instant Books with patients at the University of Mississippi’s Children’s Hospital. Here I am being introduced by Ms. Michelle Chambers of UMMC.

Teaching the use of Private Eye Loupes. Using a gumball from a gum tree and a tiny pinecone.

Wolfsnail is my storytelling standby. Works in any crowd.


Sharing prey snails for observation with Private Eye Loupes.

Dr. Jean Farish, second from left, created the Prime Time Family Time program, with generous funding from the Mississippi Arts Commission. I appreciated the invitation and the opportunity to get to know Dr. Farish. You can learn about her work here. The two women pictured on the right are part of the children’s care team at UMMC. I had great help today from Elena Voisin. She took all the photographs.


The Redeemer’s School Author Visit

Finding a wolfsnail is always a cause for celebration for me and people in my circle of teacher friends. About a week ago, Shirlene Phillips, my former neighbor and a pre-K teacher at The Redeemer’s School, got in touch with happy wolfsnail news. We agreed on a time for me to read Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator to a combined group of her students and the kindergartners.


reading wolfsnail

Reading Woflsnail

In this photograph, I have just finished reading the closest thing to a laugh line in the book: “the snail looks like it has a mustache.” Gets them every time! These kids were eager, bright, inquisitive and full of wonder. Their imaginations and their interest in science were on full display!

My favorite quick teaching activity to pair with a reading of Wolfsnail is a lesson in using Private Eye loupes to magnify an object from nature. In this case, I picked a bunch of leaves from my front hedges. You would be amazed at some of the things they described seeing on their leaves. (hint: a slimy critter with lip extensions that look like a mustache.)

looking at leaves

As I model looking at the leaf, the students do it along with me.

Then it was time for the star of the show: the wolfsnail.

looking at the snail

It’s always hard to wait your turn when a wolfsnail is coming around, but these kids were great.

Other activities for use alongside Wolfsnail can be found here.
I didn’t get a chance to get a picture with Shirlene so I snagged this one online. She’s pictured here with a cousin (Shirlene is on the right) with her house in the background. Happy snail hunting grounds! I appreciate the invitation to The Redeemer’s School. Also, thank you to Shirlene’s assistant, Morgan Gallon, who took some of the photographs in this post.
Shirlene with cousin

Summer Reading at Tisdale Library

I read recently at the Charles Tisdale Library as part of the Summer Reading Program. One challenge of these programs is the wide-range in age of the children who come. Many in this group were two years old, but the range went all the way up to 10- and 11-year-olds. I brought an activity for the older ones to do with the librarian, using Mysterious Patterns. I stayed with the large group of little ones and read a wide range of snail-related books, including Wolfsnail. With about 15 minutes left in my program, I asked the older ones back to talk with the whole group about fractals and other geometric shapes. I appreciate the help of the librarians, Patrick McCarty and Miss Mays.

Sarah Reading at Tisdale-2

Girls Prep Public Charter Visit

Last month, I visited Girls Prep Public Charter School in the Bronx, New York, to work with second grade students for a unit on writing nonfiction books. While I was there, I also spent an hour with the fourth grade writing club. With second grade, I worked with the students for three days. I was testing some ideas for a presentation I am slated to give at the International Reading Association annual conference in New Orleans in May.

Girls Prep WS group

The first day, I presented my “Love a Critter? Make a Book” session to all three classes in one big group. It was Read Across America Day so some of the girls and teachers were dressed as characters in books.

jess in background
The reason I chose Girls Prep is that my sister, Jessica Crosby-Pitchamootoo (pictured in the center dressed as the tree in Chicka Chicka Boom Boom), works there as a reading specialist. Jessica will join me and Dr. Amy Broemmel, a professor of education at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, to present “Reading and Writing Science Books? Paths to Creating Authentic Informational Texts.”
teacher gp small group
In the second and third days at Girls Prep, I led each class in a mini-lesson and then the girls did some guided practice. On the first day, my topic was “Taking information from research and writing in my own words to suit my purpose,” and the second day, it was “Making a plan for my writing, keeping my purpose in mind.”
lady bug girl
sarah w stu
During the mini-lesson on planning, I showed the students how I make a book dummy when I am deciding the order of things in my books. I led them in making an instant book.
girl writing
The feedback from the second grade writing unit has been good. One teacher said she believes the girls really understand author’s purpose in a much deeper way. One student told her teacher: “This is the most fun I’ve had while learning!” That’s exactly what writing should be. Fun, while learning!
I’ll post photographs of my session with the fourth grade writing club next.

Photography and Bookmaking After School

I spent a delightful hour with the Poindexter Park After School Club. I read my books, guided the students in making an instant book, and turned them loose to take macro photographs.

Sarah Campbell with Poindexter Park After School Club members

After just a few minutes of “practice” with private eye jewelers loupes, the students took turns taking photographs using the macro setting on my Canon elph. These are some of the best images. Others were blurry, but most of us have to take many, many images to get any useable ones. I look forward to seeing how the photography improves and to reading the books they’ll make.

ferns and crown of thorn blossoms


crown of thorns

Tisdale Library Summer Reading

I spent time yesterday morning with children at my neighborhood library, the Tisdale branch of the Jackson/Hinds Library. I read Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator, Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature, a work-in-progress titled “My New School,” and we all made instant books. Many students also used Private Eye loupes to look at snails.
Sarah reading wolfsnail

making instant books

discussion of what students would write in instant books

reading growing patterns

up close to a snail

Magnolia Children’s Choice Awards for 2011

The list of finalists for the 2011 Magnolia Children’s Choice Award is available. If you are a school or public librarian, you can get your students and young readers involved in this program. Read more about the voting here. Voting is open now and continues until April 30th.

1. Alvin Ho:  Allergic to Girls, School & Other Scary Things by Lenore Look

2. Dragonbreath by Ursula Vernon

3. Extra Credit by Andrew Clements

4. Gooney Bird is So Absurd by Lois Lowry

5. Hush Harbor: Praying in Secret by Freddi Williams Evans

6. Knucklehead:  Tall Tales & Almost True Stories of Growing Up Scieszka by Jon Scieszka

7. Masterpiece by Elise Broach

8. Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel by Nikki Grimes

9. Moonshot:  The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca

10. Redwoods by Jason Chin

11. The Secret World of Walter Anderson by Hester Bass. Read my post about this book here.

12. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Letter from a Reader

I love getting mail from readers. This week I received a letter from a second grader about Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature.

boy with monarch on hand

Here’s part of what he wrote:

“This is what I like about your book:

1) that I can read it,

2) the colorful photographs of nature,

3) learning about the Fibonacci numbers.

The photograph of the pinecone is my favorite.”

This student wrote because he read Growing Patterns for summer reading. In writing the letter to me about the book, he fulfilled a requirement. It’s nice that students have choices about how to engage with the books they read for summer reading.

A few days ago, I went to an exhibit that included some photographs taken by my son Douglas.
boy with photograph His art class completed a project on everyday life that was inspired by a photography exhibit by students in Montana. In addition to taking and printing photographs, the students in D’s class made prints inspired by their photographs. It was really fascinating to see how the students interpreted their photographs in another medium.

The students in Montana are part of a rural Hutterite community so the photographs of their daily lives were quite different from the ones of the Jackson students. D and his classmates completed this project last year, but there wasn’t time for an exhibit until this school year. I know D enjoyed his time in the darkroom and looks forward to more photography projects.

son and mother at photo exhibit

Story Time at Tisdale Library

Charles Tisdale Library Story Time
Audiences with a wide age range are always tricky. At Tisdale Library this morning, I had kids from age 2 to 12. And lots of them. I read Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator. Then the kids examined some snails I found in my yard this morning and other natural objects that I carry around in a basket. I thank Anne Sanders, branch manager, for the invitation and for taking the photographs that accompany this post.

Charles Tisdale Story Time Wolfsnail
Charles Tisdale Story Time Wolfsnail
Kids examine snails
Sarah Campbell showing snails
natural objects
examining snails

Book Talk at Summer Camp

Sarah Campbell with Students Summer Camp
I had a delightful time Saturday afternoon with some students at a summer camp provided by Mississippi Families as Allies. I read Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator and shared the story behind its publication. I appreciated the students’ interest and questions. Vera Powell, the camp’s director, played a game with the students after my presentation to determine who well they had listened. We were both gratified to hear them recalling facts about snails and tips from my journey as an artist. Several of these students want to pursue careers in creative fields. As one of the youth workers took this photograph, another one was setting up the hands-on creative activity for the day: making masks.

On the Growing Patterns front, a positive review appeared at Curled Up With a Good Kid’s Book. Science News recommended it here.

I will be doing story time at the Charles W. Tisdale Library on Tuesday at 10 a.m. Come see me.