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Words in Context

To LIBERATE is to be free from a state or situation that limits freedom.


The Liberation of Gabriel King is a beautiful story about the power of friendship and the ability of two children who face their fears in order to become liberated during a time of social, racial, economic, and political turmoil.  The story provides a wonderful backdrop for teachers and parents to discuss historical issues that have relevancy today.

This is NOT simply a story of courage.

This is a quest toward becoming fearless!

Jimmy Carter, 39th President and former Georgian peanut farmer, comes to play a significant role in K.L. Going’s historical story about Gabriel King and his best friend Frita Wilson as they spend summer in small town Georgia between fourth and fifth grade. The plan is for each of them to become liberated from a very specific list of fears. Gabe is terrified of spiders and is bullied ruthlessly. But Frita, by far, has the biggest obstacle to overcome—racism and the KKK of the late 70s.

Setting the stage—a word from our Pages teacher and resident historian, Miss Lori:

“Protagonists Gabriel and Frita are children living in a small town in Georgia. It is 1978. America is in a bad place. The country had just been through Watergate. It is the end of the Vietnam War. Jimmy Carter is president.  The economy is down the drain.  Both Gabriel and Frita’s fathers respected fellow Georgian, Jimmy Carter, because he publicly refused to join the White Citizen’s Council in his town. His business was consequently boycotted. David Duke, in 1974, was named the Grand Wizard of the newly formed KKK.”

Note regarding the derogatory word utilized in the context of this story:

The implications of the KKK’s hateful views are exposed contextually through the delivery of a derogatory word spoken by a hateful antagonist. The author’s intention here is to sensitively expose middle-school readers to the extremely demeaning power of this single word. In the context of the story, Frita has just gotten into a fight with Duke and Frankie, a fight which is broken up by Gabriel’s dad.  Duke’s racist father scolds his son, “You got beat up by a n***** girl (page 15)?”   The whole interaction is observed by white adults, but the only person who confronts Duke’s dad is Gabriel’s father.  Later in the story, Frita tells Gabriel about her and Terence’s (her brother) horrible experience with the KKK burning a cross on their front yard. The presentation of the trauma caused to Frita is handled deftly by the author to bring the reader alongside the liberation Frita desires and to cheer her on.
By encouraging students to ask questions in class and encouraging parents to continue difficult conversations at home, we equip our students with the ability to process feelings as they navigate the harsh realities of racism.  Kirkus Review reminds us: “Readers will enjoy following the sometimes-tempestuous friendship of Gabriel and Frita, and they’ll be completely absorbed in watching the friends and their community come together to stand up against the evil within.” The stated purpose of this publications is to support the curation of library collections with both books of literary merit and inclusive content.

“My best friend, Frita Wilson, once told me that some people were born chicken.”

“Ain’t nothing gonna make them brave,” she’d said. “But others, they just need a little liberatin’, that’s all.” Least that’s how Frita told it.”

We hope that readers will continue to be inspired by this powerful story to go forth liberated beginning with this wonderful sneak peak from Penguin Random House.
Awards and Honors:
International Reading Association Notable Book, 2005
Top 10 Booksense pick
Book of the Month club selection
IOWA Children’s Choice Award nominee, 2009-2010
Massachusetts Children’s Book Award Master List, 2008
Pennsylvania Keystone to Reading Award nominee, 2007-2008
South Carolina Junior Book Award nominee, 2007-2008
Kentucky State Book Award nominee
Rhode Island State Book Award nominee
Children’s Crown Award nominee, Grades 3-5 category, 2007-2008
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Read Aloud Recommendation

Happy Birthday Dick King Smith!

Born in Gloucestershire, England on this day back in 1922, Dick King-Smith was a soldier during WWII, after that he was a farmer, and later a teacher. But he will go down in history as a prolific writer. The say, “write what you know,” and he certainly succeeded! Author of many stories from childhood that we know and love including, The Sheep Pig was turned into the movie Babe! But this is not his only famous story. In fact, during the course of his lifetime he wrote over 100 books!

Yes, Dick King Smith wrote over ONE HUNDRED books!

One of my personal favorites is A Mouse called Wolf because Wolfgang Amadeus Mouse is a big name for such a little mouse! But there are so many that are wonderful. These make wonderful read-alouds, especially for primary and early elementary children.

Pick up a copy to read aloud today or check out the website dedicated to his life and work to learn about the wonderful collection of audiobooks.



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Phrasing Verbs Well


I just finished reading a wonderful little novel translated from Korean to English.

Along the way I discovered several little jeweled takeaways about life and language.

The protagonist, Yeongju, abandons the corporate world to follow her dream of opening a neighborhood bookshop. Right up my alley.

In the midst of this adventure she realizes that owning a bookshop involves the art of writing. Again, right up my alley. In time, her blog and social media catches the attention of a newspaper editor who invites her to write a regular column. After writing the first draft of the first installment, she asks a writer friend to proofread. What follows is an absolutely wonderful writing lesson.

Before getting in to it, let’s begin with a refresher:

The definition of a sentence is a set of words that communicates a complete idea, is completely self-contained. A single sentence contains a subject and a predicate and can tell, command, ask, or exclaim. There you have it. Simple, right?  Well, yes, and then again NO.

Student writers should never (not ever) focus on learning all the rules before trying to compose sentences. No, no, no!  But along the way, via both direct instruction and editing, students will learn grammar the meaningful way.

Form follows function. Ideas are what make sentences come to life. Polishing form is a detail that follows idea making.

So in the story, Yeongju is writing that first article about how it feels waiting for customers to fill up her bookstore. She writes the sentence:

The customers were awaited. Awkward, right?

Her writer friend explains why this is grammatically awkward to Yeongju:

“‘Sonnim gidareyeojyeotda—the customers were awaited. The phrasing is awkward.”

“We use the passive form when the subject undergoes an action. So eat becomes eaten. But using the passive form with the verb to wait makes it seem like the the subject, the customers, was undergoing the action of waiting and this is odd” (213).

But what intrigues me is that Yeongju has the tenacity to explain her why she chose this awkward verbiage:

“Sonnim gidaryeotda—I waited for the customers,” doesn’t seem to adequately express the feeling of awaiting customers.  She wanted desperately to convey  the emotion of waiting that she experienced as owner of the bookshop.  Ultimately, it was suggested that she had indeed communicated this in her progression of sentences:

“‘Try reading the essay from the beginning. Your sentences clearly bring across the feeling you hope to express. You’re thinking that you have to put the emphasis in this sentence, right? There’s no need to. Those emotions have been sufficiently conveyed throughout the text. In fact, it’s better to keep this sentence plain'” (214).

This is what I love about books, the unexpected lessons!

Three takeaways from this little passage of reading:

1)  Each sentence we write is a self-contained unit.

2) Each sentence we write exists in community.

3) Always re-read what you write.



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One True Sentence

“Before I discovered the miracles of science, magic ruled the world.”

In a single sentence,  the first sentence of chapter one, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, William KamKwamba draws us in to the world of his small farming village in Malawi.

One day, William was approached by boys who told him that, while tending the herd animals, they discovered a random sack in the road—a giant sack filled with bubble gum! So begins the drama. The boys shared a handful of gumballs, which William, naturally, devours. When the trader realizes, however, that the bag of gumballs had slipped off his bicycle, he retraced his path. That trader was so upset, he went to the local sing’anga for help. When William got wind of this, he was terrified!

“Now the sweet, lingering memory of it soured into poison on my tongue. I began to sweat; my heart was beating fast. … I began crying so hard I couldn’t move my legs. The tears ran hot down my face, and as they did, the smell of poison filled my nose. It was everywhere inside me. I fled the forest as fast as possible, trying to get away from the giant magic eye. I ran all the way home to where my father sat against the house, plucking a pile of maize. I wanted to throw my body under his, so he could protect me from the devil” (page 4).

What comes next? Well, William’s father to the rescue. He walks 8 kilometers to pay the trader for the entire bag of gumballs which, by the way, amounts to a full week’s pay. No magic involved.

William’s father did not fear magic.


The sentence that begins this wonderful true story of how, when William’s family’s crops fail due to drought, William devises a plan—an idea that would not only benefit his village, but would set him on a journey to Dartmouth.

I know this because because the very first wonderful sentence drew me into the story.

“Before I discovered the miracles of science, magic ruled the world.”


Let’s unpack the sentence:

Before: Well, this word is a preposition (so is “of” by the way).

So the sentence begins with a complex prepositional phrase: Before I discovered the miracles of science, (which is also a dependent clause because it cannot stand alone as a sentence).

The independent clause, magic ruled the world, could actually stand alone as a sentence, though it would be way less intriguing.

Add the dependent clause, to the independent clause and now you have not only contrasting subjects (magic and science), but you have introduced a character and a significant revelation.

Hemingway reminds us: “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

One true sentence. Simple. 


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Let’s Talk Just Right Readers

 Books for primary readers are categorized into levels of difficulty—Just Right Readers.

Some of these books are categorized by grade level (GRL), some  by a developmental readiness assessment (DRA), and others still are categorized by a Lexile measure. The purpose of these readers is to provide opportunities for children to read as they are mastering the patterns of phonics.

Hatchling Volume 1 for kindergarten and Hatchling Volume 2 for 1st grade, systematically introduce students to phonics for reading and writing. In the Teacher Helps that is tied to both units, we offer information and strategies including this tidbit at the top of page 9:

“Phonics is a method of teaching students to read and write by helping them HEAR.”


In the English language, there are 44 sounds that make up every single spoken word.  These sound bites are called phonemes. The 26 letters of the alphabet are combined in various ways to replicate the sounds we hear. These are called graphemes. There are around 250 graphemes to write the 44 phonemes! Phenomenal, right? This is the heart of phonics.

During kindergarten and 1st grade, students using our Hatchling curriculum are introduced to over 150 of these graphemes setting them firmly on their way to reading and writing well. As students are introduced to phonics, it is important to practice both reading and writing. Early on, during kindergarten, students will have limited skills. At first, once the consonant and short vowel sounds are mastered, they will be able to read and write “can” or “fun” or “let” with ease. However, they might write “pepl” for “people” because those are the sounds they have mastered. As more complex graphemes are introduced (consonant blends, digraphs, long vowel patterns and so on), the reading and writing lexicon increases.

This is where Just Right Readers enter the scene.

Amelia Bedelia brought delight to my childhood. I mean, she took every figure of speech and turned it upside down, literally! She made me laugh out loud! “Dress the chicken,” seemed an odd task to Amelia Bedelia. But she obediently got on with the task and suddenly the chicken was dressed in overalls! Once upon a time, back in my day, this series of stories was not a Just Right Reader, but rather a wonderful series of picture books. The first twelve books in the series are written by Peggy Parish. After her death, nephew Herman Parish, continued the series. Since 2009, the stories have been adapted for part of the I Can Read series published by Harper Kids.

Just Right Readers are just right for primary readers. So fill a basket with wonderful stories for your Kindergartener, 1st, or 2nd grader. I promise Amelia Bedelia will make them chuckle! I promise she will stand the test of time.



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Remember to Read Aloud!

Kenneth Grahame, author of The Wind in the Willows, was born on this day in 1859.

I remember taking my four children to Barnes and Noble Story Hour back in the day to listen to this wonderful book being read aloud. They loved a good read aloud. And this book, with its rich language, drew them in for sure:

“Sudden and magnificent, the sun’s broad golden disc showed itself over the horizon facing them; and the first rays, shooting across the level water-meadows, took the animals full in the eyes and dazzled them. When they were able to look once more, the Vision had vanished, and the air was full of the carol of birds that hailed the dawn.”

Mole, who is friends with Rat (my son, Søren called him “Ratty”), loved adventuring in boats on the river:

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”


Mole and Rat loved boats, that is, until Mr. Toad introduces them to the horse-drawn carriage! But eventually Mr. Toad quickly loses interest and becomes obsessed with the motorcar! The best thing about this wonderful story? The wild rides of course!

Pick up a copy today and read aloud!


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The Section 5 Project is a CORE Literacy

Aesthetics is a set of principles that inform the outcome of a work of art. It taps into that part of our being that connects with beauty. At the heart of this concept is imagination, and imagination is where ideas are born.

There is a trend in all sectors of education to not only discount the reading of pure fiction, but to undervalue the  power of the arts to speak in a way where words fail. This is not wise. Arts education is inextricably linked to English Language Arts.

Section 5 provides an opportunity for students to practice communicating an idea in a visual language. Because great stories offer fodder for the imagination, each and every Literature + Writing Discovery Guide (the CORE of our language arts offering) sets aside a full week to create and celebrate.

Don’t wait until week 5 to begin thinking about your Section 5 idea!

Make a plan.

During Section 2, begin brainstorming. Download our free planning worksheet to begin. Write down your ideas and, since your Section 5 will include a visual component, create small sketches demonstrating different ways you imagine your idea might take shape and what materials you might utilize.

During Section 3, choose the idea you like best and make a full-page sketch with labels that will help you prepare.

During Section 4, gather all the materials you will need to complete your project build.

After all this, when Section 5 rolls around, your student will be prepared to focus on creating a meaningful project. A project that your student will surely be proud of for years to come. Check out our Student Project Gallery to be inspired. Send us photos of your completed project so we can add it to the gallery to inspire others.

This past fall, during our Professional Development offering, I walked teachers through the following little project connected to one of my favorite childhood reads—The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. With a cardboard box, some printed images, paint, pencil, markers, a tiny linoleum sample, and a bit of glue… voilà!

This story that has stood the test of time (published in 1967) and is, in my opinion, powerful proof why we all need to read across many genres, read all kinds of stories. Every time I’ve led students through this purely fictional story set in a very real setting—The Metropolitan Museum of Art—they engage at once in the mystery, but also gain an appreciation for visual art as they wander the museum with Claudia and Jaime Kincaid.

This past fall, during our Professional Development offering, I offered some tips and tricks to elevate the Section 5 Project Build. Click through to a recording of the session.

Happy Project Build!

~Kimberly Bredberg

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Getting to the HEART of Literacy

What is meant by Core & Application?


Our English Language Arts program is built around a simple structure of Core and Application materials.  When it comes to literacy, integrating the act of reading and the art of writing gets students thinking independently. Our unique scaffolding supports students as they gather information from books, both fiction and non-fiction, and challenges them to respond with original, authentic ideas. Our longitudinal Discovery MethodTM motivates students to work through the processes of writing: brainstorming, drafting, re-reading, editing, conferencing, and polishing of the final work. While engaging in our Discovery Method, students will gain, and put into practice, skills that will make their ideas shine.

Both our CORE + APPLICATION materials provide opportunities for students to:

1. Read to discover
2. Write to catalog thoughts and insights
3. Think to spark curiosity, ideas, and imagination


Our Core offering is literature based, but is much more than just a literature program. Core is an integrated literature & writing program that uses great writing to model, inspire, and springboard students into becoming great readers, writers, and thinkers.


Our Application offerings provide focused opportunities to develop the specific tools and skills needed for successful writing—vocabulary development, sentence construction, parts of speech, punctuation, rhetorical device, etc. These skills are explored alongside the specific domains of writing—narrative, persuasive, descriptive, imaginative—within various forms—paragraphs, micro stories, research, essays, poems.

While interleaved instruction is used throughout our materials, our Application offerings fall into two broad categories:

• Application 1: Grammar, Mechanics, Style
• Application 2: Research, Composition, Creative Writing

When applied over time, our Core & Application materials lay solid foundations and build strong students that not only have the ability to read well, write well, and think well, but also have the desire to do so.


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Around the Campfire: Get Published

We are proud to announce our first annual call for entries to Reveal, a published journal of student work—sentences, paragraphs, poems, essays, and research accomplished utilizing our ELA curriculum. Artwork inspired by famous artists plus writing inspired by composers during our Pages online sessions this school year will also be scattered throughout this first volume.

Cover artwork was accomplished by ninth grader Kingsley during Session 1 of Pages online classes. Congratulations!

Tip Number  12.

Get Published!

Details to follow soon!