Transition to Chapter Books

Half way through my second year of working with 2nd and 3rd graders, I think I’ve really started to master the art of transitioning from picture books to chapter books. For the most part, second grade is when students are ready to begin the transition. Some students do not want to make the transition because they are afraid of the length of a chapter book – they just don’t want to get out of their comfort zone. Others want the longest book they can possibly find, which tends to be something they are not going to find success in reading. Whether it’s giving them the little push into longer books that they’re leary of, or if it’s bringing them down several notches to a book that’s more realistic when their abilities are considered – I’ve found some books that the kids will embrace. Here’s my list of the go-to series chapter books.


Henry and Mudge by Cynthia Rylant

Mr. Putter and Tabby by Cynthia Rylant

Both of these series by Cunthia Rylant are incredibly popular with my second graders. Once they start reading a book in one of these series, they want to read them all. They have all of the characteristics of the best transitional books – colorful illustrations mixed in with the “chapter” formated text, larger font size, and adequate spacing between lines. Generally, if I have a second grader that has been DEVOURING picture books at an incredibly rapid pace, I try to move them into one of these series and they love it!


Bones Mysteries by David A. Adler

Young Cam Jansen by David A. Adler

Once again, two different series by the same author that really hits the mark right on. I go straight for these when I have a third grader who is a struggling reader that is dying to read chapter books like their friends. These books make a good stepping stone into longer series books such as Jigsaw Jones and A to Z Mysteries.

Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel

Several great classic stories in this series. Not *exactly* chapter books, since each book has five stories instead of one story broken into chapters, this is a great transition none the less. These are great books for children and parents to read together.

Iris and Walter by Elissa Haden Guest

Iris and Walter are the newest additions to my go-to transition collection. I purchased this series with the Cookin’ for Our Kids funds, and the kids have really enjoyed it so far!

I’m always looking for more books that fit into this category, since helping my students make this transition is something I do every day.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Our book club selection for this month was Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. We were glad that we chose this book, because we all found it to be a “lighter” read than the other books we’ve done recently. We thought this, even though the basis of the book was pretty heavy – the placement of Japanese-American families into internment camps during WWII. It’s a love story that’s just as the title suggests it would be – bittersweet. We had a good discussion about what happened at that time in our countries history, as well as great discussion about the relationships between the characters in this story. I would definitely recommend this book – it’s one that has real substance without completely weighing you down.

I hosted this months meeting and had so much fun! I went with the Japanese/Chinese themes from the book and served: Asian salad, edamame, pot stickers, egg rolls, and sushi! I even created a cocktail using lychee (which is really great, by the way!). Of course, this is south Louisiana…and it is Mardi Gras…so we did have a Zulu king cake after the discussion. We only have a small window for those delicious creations, and Ambrosia’s Zulu is my personal favorite.

On the school front, I am extremely overwhelmed right now. Yearbook and our new school Book Club on top of the everyday madness is wearing me down, but I really am excited about everything that’s coming up. And I brought my National Board binder into the house and out of the trunk of my car where I was keeping it out of sight. That counts for something, right??

Library Manners and AR Review

I’m blogging at home on a Friday morning because school is canceled today due to “potential severe weather.” I’m extrememly bummed out since this was going to be the only week that I would see all of my classes for the entire month of January, but I guess that’s life. I’m taking it as a chance to finish Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet for Sunday’s book club meeting. I should really take this opportunity to get myself on the Take One! National Board train, but sushi lunch or dinner with my college BFF sounds more appealing. We shall see how the day goes!

Since this was our first week back from the holidays, I did a review lesson. I read Manners with a Library Book by Amanda Tourville.

It’s short and to the point, which is exactly what I needed for the quick review. It goes through a list of things that we do are considered “good manners” when handling library books.

Next, I spent a good chunk of time talking about AR and reviewing our goals. School wide silent reading time starts on Monday, so we needed to get pumped up! Then we did an activity that went extremely well. At each table, I had six books that had the exact same AR book level, but included picture books, a chapter book, nonfiction books, and a poetry book. First, the students had to find out how the books were similar, eventually discovering that they were all on the same level. Then they discussed differences and sorted them into fiction/nonfiction with their group. Finally, the group had to decide which they thought would be the easiest and most difficult books to read and take an AR quiz on. This lead to a really good discussion on how books on the same level can still vary. We talked about what makes a book more difficult (unfamiliar nonfiction topics, length of book, etc). Now getting those little guys to apply this knowledge when they look for their books is a whole different issue, but we’ll get there eventually!!

Finger Lickin' Fifteen

I don’t know if I’ll ever finish The Fiery Cross. I put it down again when I got my notice saying that Finger Lickin’ Fifteen by Janet Evanovich was in for me at the library. It’s been a while since I read #14, so I think I enjoyed Stephanie Plum that much more. Plus, this one is packed with Lula, Grandma, and Ranger, making it that much better! I’m a big fan of Ranger, by the way. In my mind, he’s Vin Diesel’s twin. Of course, Morelli isn’t so bad either because he looks just like Colin Farrell (Stephanie = Anne Hathaway, Lula = Sherri Shepherd, Grandma = Betty White). These books would make such great movies, or a TV series, if my vision of a cast was used. Fifteen books in, I no longer judge these books on the storyline. I judge them on the use of my favorite characters, how much the book makes me laugh, and the presence of memorable scenes. In my opinion, this is one of the better books in the series! But anytime Stephanie’s staying in the “Batcave”, I’m a happy camper.

By finishing the series (15 is the newest book), I was able to cross another task off my “101 Things in 1001 Days” list. Here’s my list, in case anyone’s interested: Tiff’s 101. I’m not making any New Year’s resolutions this year, I’m just going to keep at my list!

School Book Club Beginnings

We’re going to be starting a book club at school! My principal and assistant principal came to me a little while back and we talked about starting book clubs with some of our students. They came upon the idea after reading about Lit Blitz, a competitive reading incentive book club. After some of the articles that I’ve been reading about students needing to get away from being rewarded for being “smart” and the overuse of incentive programs (I’ve been reading the November/December edition of Knowledge Quest, FYI), I’m really thinking hard about the direction we should take this. I don’t think we’ll be going with the Lit Blitz model, but I am thankful that it planted the seed for our club.

I’m still in the brainstorming/idea bouncing stages, but here’s my direction so far:

  • Incorporate an online discussion board (perhaps BlackBoard, since our district has the program) that students access from home during their reading process.
  • Pull in nonfiction passages that pertain to fiction that we’re reading.
  • Have some type of hands-on/creative activity for the discussion meeting.
  • Really address teaching students how to participate in a discussion, not just answer questions.

This should be lots of fun and I can’t wait to get this thing started!

The Lace Reader

Once again, I barely finished the book before our book club meeting. I’ve got to start giving myself a little more time! We read The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry. This really was a good book. I think we may have liked it better if we hadn’t read it immediately following The Thirteenth Tale, which is one of the best fiction novels of this generation, in my opinion. There were similarities between the two: the twin factor and the SHOCKER of an ending that makes you gasp out loud. Because of this, we couldn’t help but make some comparisons. We really felt that The Lace Reader didn’t have the resolution at the end or the feeling of closure that we liked so much in The Thirteenth Tale. Instead, the end left us with a few too many questions and a little too much confusion. The build up was so nicely written and detailed, but the end just felt rushed.  Would I recommend it? Sure, it’s a good read. But if I’m suggesting to someone who doesn’t read often and wants something really great: go with The Thirteenth Tale.

On a library note, I’ve been feeling kind of down since I heard about something rude that a teacher said regarding the library – basically she’d like my job because it’s so easy. It’s so upsetting when I put so much of myself into what I do and try so hard to be a resource to the teachers, to find out that some of them think I do so little. How do you find enough confidence in what you do so that jabs like this don’t bother you?

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 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.