5 Favorite Christmas Stories

It’s the week before Christmas! The kids are wired – ready for Santa and ready for their break. And I get to read Christmas stories for an entire week!!! My students check out Christmas books all year long, but I have to start snagging the ones that I want to use for story time a bit in advance, because they’re sneaky when they want the book with the book with the Christmas tree sticker on the spine! (By the way, using those nifty holiday stickers from Demco to tag all of the holiday themed books was a job well worth the time – the kids can actually find holiday books without having to ask me 2.8 million times.)

So here’s a post that EVERYONE can use – because everyone should read at least one Christmas picture book this time of year. Read a book (with or without a child next to you) and remember what it was like to be young and anticipate Christmas. And be jealous, because I get to do that every day! Oh geez, I’m tearing up for the 20th time today. I’ve been overly emotional since I re-watched The Half Blood Prince DVD on Friday and (once again) mourned the loss of our beloved headmaster. I guess it’s just this sentimental time of year. So here’s where you can get sentimental: read one of these books, because they are my top 5 picks for my favorite Christmas children’s books.

5. If You Take a Mouse to the Movies by Laura Numeroff

I love all of the “If you give a…” books by Laura Numeroff. Kids love the series of events and the way the stories loop back to the beginning. The illustrations (by Felicia Bond) are adorable. And here’s an added bonus – the book and a stuffed animal version of the characters from these series are available at Kohl’s for $5 each (which means I buy a set for myself and a set for my niece). Plus 100% of the proceeds from these items go to the Kohl’s Cares for Kids foundation that supports children’s programs nationwide. They change out the books/stuffed toys seasonally, so I stop by frequently enough to get whatever they have (because it’s usually something good – I got Curious George last Christmas).

4. Cajun Night Before Christmas by James Rice

I want to be able to read this book aloud just like my elementary school librarian, Mrs. Richard (Ree-shard), read it to me. I need to start practicing my thick Cajun drawl so I can do it justice next year, perhaps. But I refuse to read it aloud until I’ve fully mastered the exaggerated accent. This book cannot be read any other way. Shá, you gon love dis story!

3. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

It’s Dr. Seuss AND a Christmas story! It’s so much fun to read aloud and like all Dr. Seuss stories, it leaves you with a lot to talk about with your audience. I have a shirt that says, “Everything I know I learned from Dr. Seuss.” It’s not that far off, really. The man was a genius and this book is proof.

2. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

The illustrations in this book are out of this world. The story gives me chills every time. As I usually am with children’s books turned movie, I wasn’t into the idea and refused to watch the movie for quite a while. It’s actually pretty good, but nothing could possible do this one justice. And if you have never read this one, shame on you. It’s a work of art.

1. The Crippled Lamb by Mac Lucado

This is my favorite Christmas story. MY FAAAVORITE. I’ve probably said that 50 times today. My goal is to get everyone at my school to read this one. I had to use PhotoStory and record myself reading it because I get choked up every time. No glamour or magic here – this is a genuine Christmas story that will make you remember what it’s all about. I’d suggest you buy it and read it every year to everyone you know, because that’s what I do.


For shame, it has been a month since I’ve posted! With Thankgiving break, then jury duty the week after, I’ve been frantically trying to catch up at work. And I’ve been working on the yearbook quite a bit. I’m determined not to have a break down in February when it’s due. After Christmas break, I’m going to start really focusing in on my “Take One!” for National Board Certification, so I’m trying to get as much other stuff accomplished as possible right now.

Let me give the run-down on my library lessons for the past month:

The week before Thanksgiving, I had my last order of books come in from The Cookin’ for Our Kids fundraiser that was done for the libraries in our district last spring. Since I had an enormous amount of work to do (and I knew I wasn’t going to be at school for the next two weeks), I did something I hate to do – I showed a video. I found a really good one, though – William Bradford: The First Thanksgiving. It made for some really good conversation with the kids. I was shocked at how little they knew about the first Thanksgiving feast. Example: before starting the video, I’d ask, “Who was at the first Thanksgiving feast?” I got lots of “Jesus” answers. One girl even told me her grandma was there! So showing this video ended up working out. And I was able to get all of the new books processed and on the shelf! Yeah for Perma-Bound processing and MARC records – I don’t know how libraries functioned before it! They even put my AR tags on for me.

The week of Thanksgiving, I went up to school one day and put up my tree. It’s so cute and I’ve gotten tons of compliments. It’s a book tree, and my mom made the ornaments for it.

The week after break, I had jury duty, but great subs! And I didn’t have to go all week – thankfully! We read Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars by Douglas Florian. This is a book of poems about outer space. My subs didn’t care for it, but I had fun with it when I incorporated lots of discussion about poetry in general (rhyme, lines and stanzas, etc.), as well as discussion about their prior knowledge about outer space. I think this would be GREAT to incorporate into a science unit on space – very cross-curricular.

This week, I did The Mitten by Jan Brett. Such a fun story that completely sucks the kids in. They can’t believe when that bear crawls into that mitten!

After the story (which is pretty short), we played “Nanna Bingo.” I used http://print-bingo.com/ to make the bingo cards with different names that grandmothers are called all over the world. The kids had a blast with this game. It was a good activity for right before Christmas, because they are full of energy at this point! Next week will be a challenge, that’s for sure.

Axle Annie & Alpha Betti

I’m doing another reader’s theatre from Read! Perform! Learn 2 with my third graders this week. I’m reading the story Axle Annie and the Speed Grump by Robin Pulver.


It’s a cute story that could lead to some good discussion about following the rules and consequences for breaking them, but doing the story, reader’s theatre PLUS book check out in 45 minutes doesn’t give any time for discussion. Ah, the joys of fixed schedules. But I digress! The kids love this story, they think it’s hilarious – especially since “Rush Hotfoot is plucking his nose hairs” and wearing “purple underwear.” (Insert hysterical fits of 8 year old laughter here). My third graders are really starting to get into their reading, showing some real feeling with their voices. I’m looking forward to the reader’s theater unit that I’m contemplating for my “Take One!” entry.

With second grade, I’m doing Alpha Betti byCharlene Morton.


This is another cute story that’s popular with the kids. The book came with a lesson guide that has some great ideas for activities use. But once again, there is no time for that this week. I’m reinforcing some things with AR, quiz taking, and finding books in their ZPD. After the conference last weekend, I’m really trying to see how we can get our program in the place that it needs to be.

We’ve almost made it to Thanksgiving Break!

I'm exhausted!

I have not stopped since I’ve gotten back from Atlanta and the Renaissance Learning Symposium! I learned so much at the Symposium – bottom line is that Accelerated Reader MUST be a classroom program, not a library program. I’ve been trying to take as much of the program application upon myself because I don’t want the teachers to feel like I’m putting more work on them, but in doing this I have been doing the program an injustice. In order for this program to be implemented with fidelity, we must (1) have a minimum of 20 minutes of SSR time daily, school wide and (2) teachers have to use that time to monitor the reading of their students. Otherwise, we are just spinning our wheels. I have also been exposed to the incredible resources that STAR Reading presents for RTI. I think that if we can get everyone on board with the AR program, we will see some incredible benefits. It’s time to do it right!

A few hours after arriving home, I went to by book club meeting, where we discussed The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield.


I hadn’t read this book in several years, and I had completely forgotten the main points of the plot. I hadn’t forgotten how beautifully written it is. I savored the writting in this novel – it is absolutely beautiful. The various plot lines and many twists are woven together in a way that makes this book so easy to follow. I always recommend this book. If you haven’t read it, then you need to. And buy it, because it’s something you’ll want to keep so you can loan it to others and reread it yourself.

Immediately after book club, I went up to school for the Charette that is being held for the design of two new schools being built in my district. I’m so excited to be involved in this planning, even if it is not for my school. I’m so excited about what is taking place in my community! These new schools are going to be unlike anything our area (our state even, I believe) has ever seen.

Last week, I didn’t share what I was reading to my classes.


For second grade, I read The Most Unbelievable First Day of School. This is part of the Herbster Reader series by Herbie Thorpe, who is from Louisiana! I have the entire series (both sets) and my kids love it. This is a great series for 1st and 2nd grades, especially struggling readers. Last year, Herbie Thorpe came to my school and did a presentation about his books for my 2nd graders. It got them so excited about the books. My new 2nd graders needed to get excited, too, so I shared this book with them. They loved the story, and I know that Herbie Books will never stay on the shelf for long.


For my 3rd grade, I read Dolley Madison Saves George Washington by Don Brown. This is one of the LYRC books. For me, it’s okay. It’s a great story, but some of it (particularly the quotes used) are over the heads of my students. My advanced classes tend to enjoy it more, but they also devour lots of nonfiction. I don’t think this will be the book voted as the state favorite, although it does have lots of possible uses in the classroom.

My Take One! box came in the mail today, but I don’t have it in me to dive into it tonight. Not after a 12 hour day at school (just one more evening of this charette, I don’t think I could handle any more).

I really am starting to ramble now, I believe, so it’s time for me to call it a night.

Educator's Symposium on Accelerated Learning Part 1

Right now, I’m at the AR Symposium, waiting for my first session to begin. This is my first post from my iPhone using the WordPress app! Last night at check in, we recieved a Neo 2. It’s a nifty little piece of equipment, although I don’t think it’s worth the price. I’d rather spend a little more and get a netbook that could be used for so much more. Not that I don’t plan to use the heck out of this little Neo, I just won’t be spending the seven grand to get a set.

The keynote speaker is Kathy Cox, the Georgia State Superintendent of Schools. She talked about how far her state has come in the past several years. I thought her closing was the best: “If a school has it’s priorities right, then the Media Center is busier than the front office.” She said this light bulb moment came to her after she visited about 400 schools. Heck yeah!

My two sessions for this morning will be “New Frontiers in Professional Development: Doing More with Limited Resources” and “STARting Off Right: What You Never Knew About STAR Assessment.”

The changing world of libraries

My assistant principal rocks. He’s pushing our school to move forward technology wise, which I love. And he sends me great articles to read! He sent me an article today about the ways that libraries have to change to keep up with our world: Things That Keep Us Up at Night.

I read articles like this one, and get excited and anxious all at once. I’m excited about helping to move my school to a place where our students are learning what they need in an incredibly relevant way. Finding the path to get there is what freaks me out. There’s so much out there, so much that I want to do, so many ideas and programs that I want to incorporate. I get all pumped up with these ideas, then reality sets in because all I have time to do is shelve books and see my fixed schedule classes. For me, the hard part isn’t the fear of the uncertain future. It’s the frustration that I can’t just get there right now. I know that the reality is that it will take an infinite number of small steps (and some leaps thrown in at some point, I’m sure) to get there. And we’ll never actually “get there” because the envelope is always being pushed farther at a rate faster than we can keep up with. Phew, that’s all my brain can handle of that for today!


And as a side note – I’ve signed up for the Take One! program to help prepare myself for working toward my National Board Certification. I think that working toward earning my Certification is really going to push me professionally. I’m very excited (and a little scared, too).

Fourth Comings

I woke up with a terrible headache and a stuffy nose. NOT what I need with my Hanson concert two days away, Monday night football party five days away, and conference in Atlanta just over a week away. And I usually read while I’m eating my breakfast, but I finished Fourth Comings yesterday, and left Diary of a Wimpy Kid at school. I’m blogging about it instead.


Fourth Comings is the 4th installment of the Jessica Darling Series. Jessica is out of college, looking for meaningful employment, and deciding if she should accept Marcus’ proposal of marriage. Where the last book (Charmed Thirds) covered Jessica’s years at Columbia, this book covered about a week of her life – in painstaking detail. The style of the story was a little different, since the diary was addressed to Marcus. Overall, I liked it but didn’t madly love it. My favorite of the series so far has been Second Helpings, which I think has a balance that the last two are lacking. I’m ready to read the last novel of the series and find out what happens. I’m sure it will be a cozy, happy ending, which is exactly what I want.

Book! Book! Book!


This week, I’m doing a reader’s theatre for Book! Book! Book! with my second graders. This is a cute, quick story with bright illustrations. The kids really get into it. The reader’s theatre script comes from the first edition of Read! Perform! Learn! It’s a good intro to reader’s theatre for my second graders, and I used it last year as well. A lot of explaination has to go into how to read the script and such, and the first reading is pretty painful until they start to “get it.” The first few reader’s theatres that the struggle through are worth it when they finally become confident are really get into their parts.

Next week is Halloween, which means The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Stellaluna!!!

I’m thinking about doing National Board Certification for Library Media. Next December, I’ll have my 3 years of experience needed to begin the process. I may do Take One! in the spring, which lets you do one portion of the certification process.

Casey Back at Bat

This week, I’m reading Casey Back at Bat by Dan Gutman to my 3rd graders.


This is one of the Louisiana Young Readers Choice (LYRC) books for 3-5 grade this year. I’ve read them one other LYRC book this year – Martina the Beautiful Cockroach, which I LOVE!

When I taught middle school, I taught the poem “Casey at the Bat,” and the kids usually enjoyed it. I really like this sequel story by Dan Gutman, and if I were still teaching in middle school, I would definitely add this to my poetry unit. I wanted my 3rd graders to get some back story before I read the book. I just read the poem to my first two classes, but the language is difficult for the younger ones to understand, and it didn’t particularly hold their attention, either. Then I found this video of a cartoon that Disney made of the original poem in 1946. The kids love it!


We discussed how the cartoon lead into the story, then I read Casey Back at Bat. I really enjoy this book, and the kids love it too. The illustrations are great and the rhymes are fun. The ending leads into some heated discussion by the students, which is always fun. I see lots of my boys voting for this as their favorite in January, since it’s a baseball story.

I’m really enjoying this story this week (much more than my 2nd grade lesson, which I’ll talk about tomorrow).

Fourteen + 3(rather, Thirds) = Chick Lit Overload

As I was finishing up Charmed Thirds this afternoon, I thought, “Has it taken me an entire week to read this book?!” After a minute of confusion, I remembered that I finished Fearless Fourteen on Thursday. Yeah, it was that memorable. Here are my thoughts.


I love the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. I’ve been reading these books for several months. They are absolutely hilarious, and I love that they make me laugh out loud. The series is a go-to recommendation for reading that’s just plain fun. However, I can never read more than two in the series in a row without needing a break. By number 14, I’m getting a little frustrated. How much longer can the uncommitted relationship of Stephanie and Joe go on? How much longer will she play this game with Ranger? How many more cars can she get defaced? For me, this was definitely not a memorable addition to the series (obviously, since I had forgotten that I’d even read it just a few days after finishing). Not enough Grandma Mazur (my favorite) and too much of the same old, same old. Do I want to read Finger Lickin’ Fifteen? Heck yeah. I’m hoping that something outside the norm will happen in it! Am I running out to buy it so I can dive into it? Nah, it’s on hold at the public library and I’ll read it whenever it comes in.

I needed another easy read, so I moved on to another series that I’m into, the Jessica Darling books by Megan McCafferty.


These are fun, easy reads. A fellow book lover friend suggested these books many times before I finally picked one up. I immediately fell in love with Jessica Darling, a brainiac high schooler with a generally negative outlook on life who overthinks everything. She completely reminded me of myself! Jessica is growing up in this book, which covers her college years. I liked and disliked it equally for the way that it just skimmed past big chunks of time. There were parts where I wasn’t loving it, but overall it was a fun read. And the end left me wondering, so I’m going to go straight into Fourth Comings, which is sitting beside me as I type. So on with the mindless reading! My TBR pile has enough heavy material in it, so I’m going to enjoy the chick lit while it lasts.