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Director’s Thoughts #16 – When You Need a Pick-Me-Up

14 Mar

directorsDo you ever feel like you’re trying to make changes and you’re stuck in the mud? Or that things just aren’t moving as quickly as you’d like in regards to a work project? Or maybe you just feel like you need a vacation? It can make you feel defeated, tired and just plain ready to hide in a hole for a little while. These feelings aren’t quite burnout; when you’d rather do anything else than what you’re currently doing, but they do need to be recognized and as a director, it’s important to find ways to bounce back and regain your energy.

Here’s a few things that I do to relax, re-energize and get my head back in the game:

  1. Exercise
    I’m trying to make a point of exercising regularly, but even just taking the dog for a walk when I get home from work gives me a few minutes to let the stress of work go and focus on me. It’s amazing what a walk around the block can do!
  2. Read for fun
    I read a lot for my blog and sometimes feel inundated with the amount of reading I “have” to do. And that’s when I pull out something just because – my go-to is often Nora Roberts – easy romance that doesn’t require a lot of thought but is fun to read and is often something I’ll get fully immersed in, even if it’s just for a little bit.
  3. Review accomplishments
    Sometimes it’s good to write up a list of what has been accomplished instead of just focusing on what still needs to happen. I don’t do this often enough, but when I step back from the to-do list, I’m always pleasantly surprised by what I’ve been able to do.
  4. Spend some time with friends
    There are nights when the last thing I want to do is go out with friends – I’m tired from putting out fires all day, I’ve been dealing with small problems, big problems and people and all I want to do is throw on my pajamas and relax, but when I push myself to spend time with friends, it always feels good and re-centers me.
  5. Create an inspiration folder
    I have one of these folders and it comes in handy! Create a folder of thank you notes, words of encouragement, little stories of how you’ve made a difference, inspirational quotes – whatever you need to make you smile. I’m not a director because I like making decisions (although I do), or fixing everyone’s problems, or being in charge – I’m a director because I want to make a difference in my community and seeing those uplifting messages is always helpful.
  6. Connect with colleagues over social media
    I’ve met some amazing readers, librarians, authors, illustrators, publishing folk and friends through my blog and other social media outlets and although I don’t know many of these people in person, they always help put things into perspective and are ready to cheer me on or cheer me up when I need it.

What do you do when you need to re-energize?


Learn Well, You Will with Star Wars Workbooks

9 Mar


My most recent review box from Workman Publishing came to me with an awesome surprise – Star Wars workbooks! I was given 3rd Grade Reading and Writing and 3rd Grade Math as well as 4th Grade Reading and Writing and 4th Grade Math, but as you can see from the graphic above they have also released a number of options for kids from preschool through 2nd Grade as well.

These books come with the typical exercises and activities you see in grade level workbooks, set in the Star Wars universe with favorite characters from new and old movies alike, along with settings, plot lines, creatures and more!

For example, in 4th Grade Math, kids have to help Kylo Ren divide shapes into equal pieces with his lightsaber and while learning about area and perimeter kids myst help the clone troopers search a captured ship and measure the area they must search.

In 3rd Grade Reading, kids practice using past tense verbs as they work through sentences describing Jabba the Hutt’s history and compare and contrast Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker by using a Venn diagram.

dims.jpegThese workbooks are created by the editors of Brain Quest which for me, takes me back to my childhood where we would spend hours scanning through trivia questions geared toward specific grade levels. Now, Brain Quest does a lot more, including these awesome Star Wars workbooks which for would be a great way to encourage reluctant or struggling learners with a little bit of fandom!

These workbooks would be perfect to add to a summer basket of fun activities to encourage learning – add a Star Wars Lego kit, a few books to practice reading and maybe include some science experiment recipes that would work well with the Star Wars universe like slime to recreate Jabba the Hutt or create your own musical instruments to be part of the bar scene or use playdough to create the Death Star or make lightsaber sensory bottles – and voilà – the entire summer can be spent in Star Wars heaven, plus your kids are learning the whole time! Win Win!

Bringing Middle Grade Books Into Every Classroom

28 Feb

mg books.pngA few weeks ago, I got the distinct pleasure of presenting to future teachers at St. Joseph’s University outside of Philadelphia. The young lady who invited me to speak is a junior at St. Joe’s this year and we just realized that I’ve known her for ten years already! She was in my middle school program at the library where I work when I first moved to the area.

Before Christmas she asked if I’d be willing to come to the school and speak for an “after-hours” event for the education department and I quickly jumped at the chance to talk about middle grade books with future educators! We came up with a quick outline of what she was looking for and I spent a month or so creating a slide show mainly of books to book talk to the group, but also some valuable information as to why literature is so important in every classroom, not just in English.

I book talked new titles, specifically because I know that these kids are familiar with the classics you’ll find on most syllabi in the middle grade classroom, what I figured was that they’d be unfamiliar with amazing new titles by authors that I gush about all the time and I was right! During the hour I presented, I book talked ten middle grade fiction titles that I felt could work not only in an English classroom, but that also had connections to science, math, technology, social studies, history and more. I also talked about five nonfiction titles that are easily accessible to elementary and middle grade students, showing them how much more exciting nonfiction is these days. I ended with talking about the importance of reading picture books (every day if possible) and highlighted just a couple that I love and felt would work well with a middle grade audience.

I had a really enjoyable time and was excited to see over 25 people in the audience on a Tuesday evening! Plus, the students had some great questions about how to use graphic novels and audiobooks in the classroom, which I was excited to answer.

If you’re interested in seeing what titles I talked about or would like to see the format of my presentation, I’ve included the links to both the slides as well as the handout that I printed for the students.

Bringing Books Into Every Classroom (Google slides in .pdf format)

Bringing Books Into Every Classroom (handout)

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’m No Longer Interested In Reading

20 Feb


This was a hard Top Ten list for me this week, because I hate saying I don’t want to read a book anymore, especially because I’m usually open to trying pretty much anything. So rather than listing specific titles, I’m going to post about themes or reasons why I don’t want to read something.

  1. New Kid in School
    I think there are some other ways to introduce characters to a new situation, besides throwing them into a new school – try learning a new activity, introduce a new character in the neighborhood, etc.
  2. Missing/Dead Parents
    I know this allows for kids to have adventures that you won’t see when parents are in the picture, but strong adult role models are just as important in middle grade literature (which you can definitely find some really great ones).
  3. Dystopian Fiction with a Love Triangle
    Hunger Games and Divergent… need I say more?
  4. Middle Grade Characters that are ALWAYS 12 years old
    Middle grade literature spans the age range of 8-12 year olds, but you will primarily find main characters that are 12 years old.
  5. Spelling Out the Message
    Kids are smarter than many realize and they often don’t need themes spelled out for them… so make it a little more subtle, they’ll get it, I promise.


TTT-Big2Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl.

Follow-Up to Sexual Harassment in the Children’s Book Industry Conversation

16 Feb

Not only do I think it’s important to share that sexual harassment is something that is pervasive throughout the society we currently live in, but I also think it’s important to share a heartfelt apology from a man named for sexually harassing women in the comments of the SLJ article.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, start with the article posted on School Library Journal, followed by the article written by Anne Ursu. And I also posted my response on Monday, if you care to read my opinions.

I think what’s amazing is that one of the authors named as someone who has sexually harassed women in the past owned up to his behavior, no excuses, no explanations, just an apology and a plan to be far more aware moving forward. Take a minute to read Myke Cole’s response to finding his name listed in a place you never want your name to be. I’m not familiar with Myke’s work, but he has earned my respect as one of the few people to my knowledge that has owned up to his poor behavior and  apologized for it.

It’s never easy owning up to your mistakes privately and even more difficult to do so in a public forum, but Myke realized with the help of a really great friend that his behavior could be perceived by many as being sexually harassing – even though he didn’t see it that way in the moment.

And so, I want to thank you Myke for being a stand-up guy for admitting when you’ve made a mistake, apologized for said mistake and having taken steps to never let it happen again.

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