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Mentoring With Books
I will never forget reading Beatrix Potter’s, Peter Rabbit over and over and over with my firstborn, each time experiencing on a deeper level the simple, yet profound message. Peter helped me gently impress on my daughter’s heart the significance of obedience. Mrs. Rabbit does not, after all, create rules so that Peter’s life will be a complete drudgery. Mrs. Rabbit lays down the law because she loves her little rabbit and does not want him to be in harm’s way. Once, when snuggling with my three-year-old Hannah reading a well-worn copy of the story, I was amazed when she grabbed the little book and began reading to me, "…but his sobs were heard by some friendly sparrows, who flew to him in great excitement, and implored him to exert himself." I guarantee she understood the meaning of all those big words because she understood Peter’s story on a deep level.
We all have heard about and embraced the value of reading aloud to young children. Reading aloud plays a vital role in determining whether or not children will embrace books on their own. Because I believe in the transforming power of story, starting out as a Kindergarten teacher, my primary goal was to get children and their parents into the routine of reading. What I’ve come to realize is that reading with our children does not have to stop as they get older. We should never have to ask, "Remember the good old days when life was simple and we could snuggle up with our little ones to share the joys of reading a great story?" When my daughter began reading chapter books in the first grade, I did not want story time to end, so, to her delight, I began reading the same books she read so that we could dialogue about the story. The characters and situations we encountered in our reading, like Peter Rabbit, afforded golden opportunities for me to mentor my daughter.
When people ask me if they have to "read the book" when using Blackbird & Company guides, I am not sure how to respond. The first thought that always comes to mind is the pang of sorrow I had when Hannah began reading chapter books, "Why does story time have to end?" "When are children too old to share in story time?" I was relieved when I realized that my response had to be a resounding, "Never!" To this day our family reads aloud at the dinner table. We’re reading through Arthur Ransome’s, Swallows and Amazons this summer! Reading affords our family the opportunity to discuss situations that impact and affect the mind, heart, and soul.
Obviously, being a wife, the mother of four energetic and enthusiastic children, and a teacher involved in curriculum development and academic counseling, I understand the challenges involved in this fast paced world. But I’ve discovered that transforming the language arts program by creating a tradition of reading books alongside children has profound results. When we realize and embrace the truth that a great multitude of language arts standards are met while digging into and responding to literature, basing the language arts program on books makes sense.
Blackbird & Company guides enable students to develop the tools necessary to independently analyze and respond to great stories while freeing up the teacher’s schedule to read with their students. By combining our discovery guides with either a phonics program early on, or a grammar program and a classic roots vocabulary program at the upper levels, language arts standards are satisfied to overflowing! Our goal is to empower teachers to become mentors, free from the confines of a tedious and often frustrating language arts schedule that sacrifices golden opportunities to nourish and nurture the child’s heart.
Introduce your youngest students to the wonders of the season with our Earlybird Fall Stories Thematic Unit. Share five read aloud books with your little ones, then work together on exercises that start teaching them how to mine for the treasure in great stories. You may purchase the guide alone or as a bundle with all five books. Visit our website for more information and take advantage of our Stock-up offer.
Books included with the Fall Stories unit include:
- Barn Dance, by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault
- Scarecrow, by Cynthia Rylant
- How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, by Marjorie Priceman
- Earl the Squirrel, by Don Freeman
- Apple Picking Time, by Michele Benoit Slawson
Join Our Flickr Group!
We’ve created a place where you can share all the wonderful things your students are creating as they explore and are inspired by great stories! It’s a great place to catch some inspiration and it’s easy to join. Check us out and upload your photos to the group pool at www.flickr.com/groups/blackbirdandco/
Resources Coming Soon
We’ve responded to your feedback and very soon we will be offering more teaching rescources for you on our website, including:
- answer keys
- link to our flickr group
- our favorite educational web links
- videos, photos, sample pages
- archives of our e-news
Please be patient with us as we will be adding new content throughout the fall. It’s our desire to serve, support and inspire you as you endevor to engage your students with great stories!
We love books! Reading is a passion in our families and classrooms and we believe that great stories have the power to instruct, inspire and enlighten. With beauty and clarity, we desire to provide tools that will foster your students' delight in learning and encourage them to become lifelong readers!
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What better way to learn about history than to live it through the pages of a great story! Incorporate one or more of the following into your history learning this year to awaken understanding and spark interest in your students.
LEVEL 1 (Grades 1-3)
The Matchlock Gun
Period: Colonial New York
LEVEL 2 (Grades 3-5)
Ben and Me
Period: Colonial America, Ben Franklin
Period: 1800s Pioneers
Period: The Great Depression
LEVEL 3 (Grades 5-7)
Across Five Aprils
Period: Civil War
The Shakespeare Stealer
Period: Elizabethan England
Period: 1776, Captain Cook, Explorers
The Witch of Blackbird Pond
Period: Colonial Connecticut