Connecting Through Stories: World Read Aloud Day Part 4

WRAD15 Day 4 (19)

It’s snowing in the northeast, so today’s WRAD15 connections were a bit tricky.  I had 4 cancellations today, but that did not stop classes from coming to the library to still hear some good stories read aloud.

Ms. Wright’s class read I’m Bored.  Ms. Yawn’s class read Goodnight Already and Wolfie the Bunny.  Ms. Li’s class read The Story of Fish and Snail.  Great conversation filled the air even though we were disconnected from our friends through Skype.

Ms. Spurgeon’s class also had a cancellation, so we used this time to hear some oral stories about Harriet Powers, a former slave from Athens who made a famous Bible story quilt.  I have a replica of the quilt, so we sat around the quilt and heard stories about Harriet Powers and the various symbols she put on her quilt.

The day still had connections.

Ms. Hocking’s Kindergarten class connected with Sherrell Stepp’s 1st grade in Gilbert, South Carolina.  We read Same, Same but Different.  Students asked questions about their schools to hear things that were the same but different.  We both have a college in our towns but they of course have different mascots.  We both have recess but our school has recess before lunch and their school has recess after lunch.  It’s always fun to see how same but different we are even if we are just a few hours away from each other.

Ms. Lauren’s PreK students connected with Catherine Word’s 4th graders in Baton Rouge, LA.  We shared Elephants Cannot Dance.  I was elephant and Catherine was Piggie.  Catherine’s students were the squirrels.  We took time to share our favorite Mo Willems books as well as other favorite books.

Ms. Ramsey’s class connected with Kelly Light, author of Louise Loves Art.  She read the book to us, but what we loved was how she pointed out so many details in the pictures that you can miss if you go too fast.  Kelly reminded us all of how important it is to slow down when we share a story aloud and spend time examining and talking about what we see in the pictures.  I know I need to do more of this as an adult.  I’m often rushing too fast to just get to the words.  I loved how Kelly told us that she chose red because it is a “strong color”.

Ms. Ramseyer’s 2nd grade class closed our Day 4 by connecting with author, Peter H. Reynolds.  Peter showed us all around his studio, let us asked questions, and just had a hangout session.  It was a blast.  We saw some examples of how he puts together a book idea such as putting ideas and sketches on index cards and then putting them in order.  Peter closed with Susan Verde’s You and Me and gave our students some encouraging words to go out and change the world.

Once again, we learned how much stories connect us!

Connecting through Stories: 2015 World Read Aloud Day Part 2

WRAD15 Day 2 (79)

Wow!  Day 2 was busy.  We had much smoother Skype connections and plenty of stories.  Here’s a quick look at what happened.

Ms. Hicks’ 3rd grade ELT students connected with Crystal Hendrix in Asheville, NC.  We shared the story I’m Bored.  Then, students had fun asking about life in each other’s communities.  We made several connections between Asheville and Athens including college towns and weather.

Next Ms. Brink and Ms. Wright’s 2nd grade connected with Carol Scrimgeour and her 2nd grade in Essex, VT.  We read the story Mr. Tiger Goes Wild.  We had our students form lines and step up to the camera and take turns reading pages of the book.  It was great fun to hear student voices reading across the miles.

Ms. Yawn’s 2nd grade came and read Elephant and Piggie Waiting is Not Easy.  We had some trouble getting the right Skype accounts connected for our author visit, but we finally got it worked out in time to make our connection with Alison Randall, author of The Wheat Doll.  She told us about her book and then read from Roald Dahl’s The Witches.  It was scary fun.

Ms. Clarke’s 3rd grade class connected with Cathy Potter’s students in Maine.  We were fortunate to be joined by Natalie Lloyd, author of A Snicker of Magic.  We got to meet her camera-shy dog, Biscuit.  Then, we saw some of her favorite books before hearing her read aloud the first chapter of Snicker of Magic.  It truly was magical to hear her words drifting to Georgia and Maine from Tennessee.  We even got to hear just a bit about her book that was just sent off to the editor.

Ms. Clarke plans to read Natalie’s book to her class as their next read aloud, so The Beedle just happened to put a new copy of the book in Ms. Clarke’s box.

Ms. Ramsey’s 3rd grade connected with Shannon Hyman’s Kindergarten in Virginia.  We were joined by author Melissa Guion.  She shared her wonderful penguin stories and illustrations.  Shannon’s students were able to share some facts about penguins that they had just learned.

Ms. Em’s 1st grade connected with Okle Miller’s Kindergarten in Tampa, FL.  We were joined by the amazing poet Laura Purdie Salas.  She had our students chanting poetry about rocks and listening to poems about books and unusual pets.

Ms. Slongo’s 4th grade had a special treat Skyping with Barbara Walsh, author of The Poppy Lady.  Barbara visited our school last year in person and it was her very first school visit.  This time, we were her very first Skype visit.  Our students loved hearing about the Athens connection to Moina, who is responsible for getting the poppy to be a symbol of remembrance.

Finally, we closed out our day with a high-energy Skype with 2 authors, Ame Dyckman and Adam Lehrhaupt.  These two were full of laughs and energy.  They took questions and then shared some stories.  Adam shared a book that isn’t coming out until October (shhhh….don’t tell anyone).  Ame shared Wolfie the Bunny.  Ame even sent some amazing book swag for all of the readers in the class.

It was truly an amazing day.  It was exhausting, but we feel connected to so many readers across our great country.  Thank you to each and every author and class who connected with us for World Read Aloud Day.

Connecting through Stories: 2015 World Read Aloud Day Part 1


Our first day of Read Across America and World Read Aloud was filled with wonderful stories and plenty of technical difficulties, but we didn’t let the technical difficulties prevent us from connecting through stories.

The day began with my first cancellation emails.  Since World Read Aloud Day is right at the beginning of March, many states are still experiencing winter weather.  Two connections were cancelled before we could even begin due to snow.  Did this stop us? No.  Ms. Wyatt’s 1st grade class still came, and we read aloud Goodnight Already and Waiting Is Not Easy and noticed many similarities between the two books.  We just didn’t have a Skype connection to go with it.

Ms. Freeman’s 5th grade students came to connect with Cassandra Ogletree and her students in Forsyth, GA.  Before we connected, our students made predictions about where they thought Forsyth, GA was located.  Then, we used Google Maps to take a look.  During our connection, we read Goodnight Already with Cassandra and her students.  I was Bear and Cassandra was Duck.  Since our 5th graders are studying perspective, they noticed how the book showed the different perspectives of bear and duck.  As usual, students had time to ask one another questions about where they live.  We often take for granted that students realize how connected we are around the world, but these Skypes surface that our students have lots of wonderings about the day to day lives of others around the world.  When we disconnected, we took time to look at a street view in Google Maps to see the school that we had just Skyped with.  Student were amazed by the lack of buildings around the school.  It seemed to be way out in the country surrounded by pastures and trees.  This is very different from our school that is right next to UGA.

Ms. Boyle’s class skyped with Colleen Friel and her 1st grade in Long Island, NY.  We shared The Story of Fish and Snail.  Our Skype calls kept freezing or dropping, so we reached a point where we just had to stop the call and finish the story on our own.  Once again, the students were so patient during the technical difficulties and we didn’t let it stand in the way of the story.

Ms. Haley’s class had an opportunity to connect with Elizabeth Garton Scanlon, author of wonderful treasures such as All the World and The Good Pie Party.  The downside was that we couldn’t get Skype to work at all in order to connect with her.  I tried every trick I could think of to make the connection better and faster and nothing worked.  Finally, I took out my phone and we huddled around my phone for over 30 minutes listening to her share about her books, her ideas, her dog, and her upcoming work.  We had the treat of hearing the first few pagers of her upcoming book The Great Good Summer.  Within just a few pages, several of our students started opening up about connections they had to the book.  One student shared about losing her dad.  Another talked about her dad being gone on tour.  I love how stories help us make connections to the emotions we wrestle with and give us a pathway to conversation with one another.  It must be amazing as an author to hear how your words open up conversations for readers.

Ms. Freeman’s 5th grade returned at the end of the day to connect again with Colleen Friel in Long Island, NY.  This time, our Skype connection was much better since the district worked on the network.  We read the book The Day the Crayons Quit.  Students loved finding out that even though there were 7 inches of snow on the ground, the New York students were still in school.

Finally, we closed our day by doing a triple Google Hangout with Donna MacDonald in South Burlington, VT and Craig Seasholes in Seattle, WA.  Ms. Carney’s Kindergarten class joined their Kindergarten classes in reading 3 Elephant and Piggie stories.  It was fun to connect across the country and hear words being spoken between thousands of miles of the United States.  We had fun, engaged in some silliness while we read, and made some new friends.  Even though Donna had some technical difficulties, we still made it work.  We could hear her, but not see her.

I won’t lie that I was a bit flustered today with all of the problems, but I have to say how important it is to persevere.  I could have easily given up and called it all off, but we made things work with what we had.  Because of that, our students had an amazing first day of connections through stories.

Dr. Seuss Day: Our Read Across America Celebration

Barrow Seuss 2015 crop

Today was the beginning of a very exciting week in the Barrow Media Center.  Each year on March 2nd, we schedule guest readers for every classroom in the school.  These readers select favorite Dr. Seuss books to share with our students.  It is amazing to see our community come together for this event.  Each time we celebrate, there are new faces that join our readers.

Barrow Seuss 2015 (4)

Courtney Tobin helped me this year to organize readers.  She created a Signup Genius and parent leaders in each grade level began sharing the signup.  It was also shared with our regular library volunteers and on our library and PTA Facebook pages.  By this morning, we had almost 2 readers for every classroom.

Barrow Seuss 2015 (3) Barrow Seuss 2015 (2) Barrow Seuss 2015 (1)

Readers gathered in the library, chose their books, and socialized before we took a group picture.

Barrow Seuss 2015 (7) Barrow Seuss 2015 (6) Barrow Seuss 2015 (5)

Then, students escorted them to their classrooms to read.  I quickly ran around to as many classrooms as I could snapping pictures.  It was so special to see students circled up on the floor listening to the words of Seuss spoken into the air.  There were also special memories shared as readers brought in their own copies of books that they had read to their children or had even owned as a child.  My wife, Denise Plemmons, shared a copy of Green Eggs and Ham with my daughter’s PreK class and she was able to show them where she had written her name in the book when she was a child.

These are the kinds of things that can’t be replaced by technology.  While I’m a huge advocate of using technology to share our voice, it doesn’t replace the shared experience of sitting around a book, hearing the pages turn, and losing yourself in the illustrations.  Thank you to all of the readers who took time to share stories with our Barrow readers.

Barrow Seuss 2015 (32)

This was just a warm-up to the 38 skype and Google hangout sessions that we have schedule this week for Read Across America and World Read Aloud week!

2015 Barrow 5th Grade Battle of the Books

BOTB 2015 (5)

Twenty two 5th graders have been busy since December reading a list of 10 books chosen to be a part of the 2015 Battle of the Books.  Students formed teams of 4-5 students.  Each student read at least 5 books and agreed to be an “expert” on at least 2 books.  Here are this year’s titles:

  • Deep and Dark and Dangerous by Mary Downing Hahn
  • Escaping the Giant Wave by Peg Kehret
  • Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia
  • The Giant Slayer by Ian Lawrence
  • Shooting Kabul by N H Senzai
  • Wonder by R J Palacio
  • Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole
  • Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

Students spent 2 days per week practicing during their lunch for about 30 minutes.  In Battle of the Books, a detail from one of the books is given in the form of a question.  For example, “In which book does a principal wink when a big surprise is coming up?”  On their team, students have 30 seconds to huddle and discuss.  The team captain gives the answer of the book title and author.  For example “Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea”.  If they get the question right, they get 5 points.  If they miss it, the next team has a chance to steal the question for 3 points.

Today, our 5th graders participated in 2 rounds of competition.  Their scores from each round were totaled and the two top teams competed in a final battle with 20 questions in the library.  The Reading Mustache Panthers and LJSG were our top 2 teams.

BOTB 2015 (8) BOTB 2015 (11)

As usual, the competition was fierce, but in the end the Reading Mustache Panters are the 2015 winners.

Each year, I think about how Battle of the Books fits within our library program.  It takes a lot of time, but each year I see students get involved in this competition that don’t get involved in other things the rest of the year.  I also see students who discover new favorite books and authors because they have to read from a list.  Even though some of the pieces of Battle of the Books don’t mesh with my own personal preferences, they do speak to what some students like.  For that reason, I think Battle of the Books is one piece of our library program that should stay.  I wouldn’t want our whole program to be based on reading lists and competition, but I’m so glad that a small part is.

Our winning team: Reading Mustache Panthers

Our winning team: Reading Mustache Panthers

Our runner-up: LJSG

Our runner-up: LJSG

Congratulations to this year’s winners.  Now, they will go on to the district competition and compete against the other 13 elementary schools in the district to defend our district title.

2015 World Read Aloud Day Blogging Challenge Week 3

It’s time once again for the World Read Aloud Day blogging challenge as we count down the days to this special week-long event of sharing stories with one another across the miles.  My friend and super librarian, Matthew Winner, has outlined the challenge on his blog.

The World Read Aloud Day “Speak Your Story” Blogging Challenge begins February 9 and runs through March 8. If you choose to take the challenge, each week you will be asked to write a post in response to a prompt or question (outlined below), for a total of 4 posts counting down to World Read Aloud Day.

Each of the prompts addresses the WRAD theme “Speak Your Story.” Speak Your Story encapsulates that simple yet effective way that we connect with others by sharing our stories aloud. Your voice is powerful and when a story is shared a bond is made.

Week 3: February 23 – March 1
Profile Partner

Find a puppet, stuffed animal, or image of your favorite kid lit character. Next, take a selfie with the character. You now have a picture with your WRAD companion. He or she can travel with you wherever you go and whenever you speak up about World Read Aloud Day. Post the image as your profile picture on all of your most-used social media venues (Skype, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter).

I wanted to involve my students in this experience, and I’m so glad I did.  This has been a very popular activity in the 3 short days we spent at school last week due to ice.  I really wished that we could have done this longer before I posted.  I pulled all of the plush book characters from around the library and put them on cushions at the front of the library.  I put an iPad with them and invited students to start taking their own selfies.  Some of them got very creative with how they did this!

Every student who came in was smiling and laughing as they picked out a character to hug and pose with.  Here’s a look at our selfie gallery.

Barrow #WRAD15 Selfie (78)

I chose to do a selfie with characters from Kate DiCamillo books.  I specifically chose Despereaux and Winn Dixie.  I love what these two characters represent.  Despereaux is an unlikely hero.  He’s small, looks a little different than a “normal” mouse, but has a huge heart filled with bravery.  I love how he proves that heroes can come from unlikely places and that we all need to believe in ourselves no matter what.  Winn Dixie represents so much about the importance of community.  I love how Winn Dixie was a change agent for Opal’s life in the story.  Because of him, Opal explored her community, met unique people, and gathered the stories of her whole community.  She found friends, made connections, and exemplified the power of sharing our stories aloud with one another.

Join me and countless others as we celebrate LitWorld’s World Read Aloud Day on March 4th, 2015 and throughout that entire week.  Check out the shared Google Doc to find a connecting class or post your own schedule.

2015 World Read Aloud Day Blogging Challenge Week 2

It’s time once again for the World Read Aloud Day blogging challenge as we count down the days to this special week-long event of sharing stories with one another across the miles.  My friend and super librarian, Matthew Winner, has outlined the challenge on his blog.

The World Read Aloud Day “Speak Your Story” Blogging Challenge begins February 9 and runs through March 8. If you choose to take the challenge, each week you will be asked to write a post in response to a prompt or question (outlined below), for a total of 4 posts counting down to World Read Aloud Day.

Each of the prompts addresses the WRAD theme “Speak Your Story.” Speak Your Story encapsulates that simple yet effective way that we connect with others by sharing our stories aloud. Your voice is powerful and when a story is shared a bond is made.

For week 2, we have been exploring these stems:

Pick a question to answer with a partner. 1. If I could listen to anyone in the world read aloud to me it would be…2. I think everyone should read… 3. My favorite part about reading aloud or being read to is…

Barrow students used Flipgrid to respond to this question:

Week 2 WRAD Challenge

For this week’s challenge, I interviewed my Facebook friends to see what they would say about these stems.  I love the idea of crowdsourcing content and how technology can pull together so many voices. This has been especially helpful since I’ve been sick most of this week and losing my voice by the end of the week.  It was so interesting to see various friends take time to respond to these stems and learn something new about them that I didn’t know before.  Thank you to all who responded or paused to reflect!

I think everyone in the world should read…

Me:  Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.  I love that this story is about making connections in your community, listening to each person’s story, and finding the magic in your everday life.  Each time I read this book, it makes me feel good and makes me want to go out and explore my community.


  • El Deafo by CeCe Bell (Matthew Winner)
  • The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo (Kaycie Rogers)
  • Wonder by R J Palacio (Julie Moon)
  • Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (Shannon Thompson)
  • Austin Kleon (Carolyn Foote)
  • Anything that sets your imagination on fire! (Amy Fowler James)
  • Whatever, whenever, and wherever they can! (Diane Cordell & Judy Serritella)
  • As many books as you can (Lee Rogers)
  • Anything, everything! (Frances Hensley)
  • Everyday (Em Tendo)

If I could listen to anyone in the world read aloud to me, it would be:

Me:  My daughter.  She is just now learning how to read, so it is truly amazing to see how she has gone from a baby staring up at my face reading aloud to her to a reader who is working hard to figure out those letter and picture combinations on the page.

On a celebrity note though, it would have to be Jessica Tandy.  There is something about her voice that is calming and peaceful to me.  Listening to her characters in Driving Miss Daisy and Fried Green Tomatoes makes me want to hang out with her all day and just listen to stories.  Her voice and her way of bringing stories to life through spoken word exemplify what it means for me to get lost in a story and suspend time.


  • Alec Baldwin (Lizzie Faville Payne)
  • Morgan Freeman (Jennifer Biddle)
  • My Grandmother (Ashlee Hembree)
  • My Grandchildren (Sherry Horton Jones)
  • Christopher Walken (Matthew Winner)  Read Matthew’s post on the Busy Librarian
  • Anthony Hopkins (Dera Weaver)
  • Shelby Foote (Amber Dawn Suman)
  • Andy Plemmons (my mom!)  She says that I make the story come to life :-)
  • Hemingway (Beverly Hembree)
  • Sarah Koenig (Amy Fowler James)
  • Maya Angelou, Lauren Bacall, William Hurt, Antonio Banderas…(Deborah Bambino)
  • The struggling reader with a good fit book. (Em Tendo)
  • Morgan Freeman, Meryl Streep, Billy Collins (Frances Hensley)
  • James Earl Jones and Mel Blanc together (George Webber)

When I read aloud my favorite character to impersonate is:

Me:  I absolutely love to read aloud Epposumondas.  I love making the southern voices in the story and watching kids’ reactions to the voice changes.  Sometimes I struggle to find the right voice for certain characters, but the characters in that book just come to life for me.


  • Skippyjon Jones and Pigeon (Frannie McClester)
  • Eeyore (Lizze Faville Payne
  • The Giant from Jack and the Beanstalk and the Big Bad Wolf from Three Little Pigs (Amy Fowler James)
  • Emma from a made up story (Cindy Plemmons)
  • The Dump Truck from Little Blue Truck (Amber Dawn Suman)
  • Junie B. Jones (Amber Pace)
  • Pruella the Boo Hag (Dera Weaver)
  • Violet Beauregard (Laura Smith)
  • Veruca Salt (Holly Wolfe)
  • Pigeon (Donna Carney)
  • Any villain (Em Tendo)

The genre or author that takes up most of my bookshelf is:

Me:  It’s no surprise to people who know me that it’s Kate DiCamillo.  I have every book she has written and most of them are autographed.


  • Stephen King (Lizzie Faville Payne)
  • Poetry (Dera Weaver)
  • Harry Potter and Kathy Reichs (Frannie McClester)
  • Female authors Toni Morrison & Anne Pachett (Frances Hensley)
  • Cookbooks & Crafts (Em Tendo)
  • mo willems and michel foucault (Sarah Bridges-Rhoads)

My favorite part about reading aloud or being read to is:

Me:  I love reading aloud because it brings the story to life in a different way.  When a story is spoken into the air and heard by an audience, we all experience it together in many different ways.  We laugh.  We gasp, We question. We discuss.  Reading alone is fun, but when you read aloud, the story comes to life.


  • Listening to how my daughter’s R sound evolves and becomes more developed. I can listen to her mature, and it’s amazing! (Dawn Jameson)
  • Getting to share the private experience of a story with someone else. (Lizzie Faville Payne)
  • Watching the faces of my first graders as I read to them, and then watching THEIR faces as they read to me! (Laura Smith)
  • I loved working with first graders @ the beginning they could not read then by the end they were reading a book! I miss those days! I love for Jacob to read to us! Read the Christmas story out of his bible Christmas Eve (Sandra Williams)
  • Seeing the expressions on the faces of my students when they get lost in a story…all kids deserve to be read to…even the older ones! (Tiffany Whitehead)
  • moving all around and acting out the characters! (Sarah Bridges-Rhoads)
  • My favorite part of reading aloud is doing funny voices. (Shannon Thompson)
  • The students’ interactions with the story and disappointment when the story is over that can be replaced with excitement when another is read. (Frannie McClester)
  • Becoming part of the story and “reeling” the kids in. I believe reading to children is the first step to helping them love to read. (Amber Pace)
  • Getting lost in a story, whether I’m reader or listener. (Dera Weaver)

Join me and countless others as we celebrate LitWorld’s World Read Aloud Day on March 4th, 2015 and throughout that entire week.  Check out the shared Google Doc to find a connecting class or post your own schedule.