From The Book Shelf: November 2018

Each month I spotlight two books guaranteed to delight readers and provide fun activities to further extend the meaning of each reading experience. With so many wonderful titles available, this is no easy task! I bring a 35-year teaching career, literacy expertise, and a passion for creating joyful readers and writers to every column I write. I certainly hope you enjoy this month’s picks as much as I do.

Gratitude Is My Attitude

On a recent Baltic Sea cruise, I had the opportunity to make broad brushstroke-visits to six countries in less than two weeks. Sampling the cultural highlights served as a reminder that in spite of our unique differences, as humans, our similarities are vast and worthy of celebrating. I can think of no better avenue for understanding and appreciating our lives and the lives of others than children’s literature. Books serve as mirrors to affirm our own cultural “ways of being and doing,” and windows to learn about the lives of others. We may wear different clothes, eat foods that do not look, smell, or taste the same, travel by alternate means, live in different style homes, and enjoy unique holiday traditions, but when it comes to what matters most—enjoying life fully in the midst of those who mean the most to us and being thankful for all we have—we resemble one another a lot!

In this season of thanksgiving, it is important to express gratitude to those who love us most (even if things can get a little rough around the edges) and appreciation for everything we have—no matter the circumstances. Research shows that children who practice gratitude are more optimistic, feel more satisfied with life, and have more positive attitudes toward their family and friends.

Five Ways to Show Gratitude Every Day:

  1. Start a collection of little grateful moments by keeping a “gratitude journal,” and day by day, watch all the good in your life pile up.
  2. Verbalize your thanks to that awesome person. Show gratitude by verbally acknowledging someone and make his or her day (and boost your own mood, too!).
  3. Clean up after yourself. This small act of kindness symbolizes your respect for others and for their things/space.
  4. Don’t complain for 24 hours. This might seem strange, but it will be good to realize how quickly you might be prone to jump to complaints rather than solutions.
  5. Write a thank-you card. This physical memento shows that you are truly appreciative of someone giving you their time and effort.

(Source: Themuse)

“For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing.  It also depends on what sort of person you are.”  ~C. S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew)

Giving Thanks:  A Native American Good Morning Message

As a former elementary teacher, I know that any title featured on the long-running TV program Reading Rainbowwill be a hit even before I open the cover. This poignant text by Native American author/illustrator duo Swamp and Printup is no exception. A poetic children’s version of the “Thanksgiving Address,” an ancient message of the Iroquois Indians showing appreciation and celebration for all the rare and precious gifts of nature, is accompanied by beautiful illustrations depicting the Iroquois culture. From the first verse, “To be a human being is an honor, and we offer thanksgiving for all the gifts of life,” to the last, “So we will be happy and healthy every day and every night,” children and adults are prompted to express gratitude, daily, for all things.

Thanks a Million!

Award-winning poet Nikki Grimes has written sixteen extraordinary poems around the theme of kindness and gratitude. Poetry forms in this collection range from a riddle, haiku, and rebus to a narrative, free verse, and a poem for two voices; each genre carefully matched to the mood of the text. From appreciation for math, a book, and shoes, to family, weekends, and shelter, every poem reminds readers of the importance of saying “Thank you,” and how wonderful it feels to express our gratitude to others. The vibrant acrylic illustrations by Cozbi Cabrera are the perfect accompaniment to Grimes’ masterfully crafted poems. An example:


“Thank you”

is a seed I plant

in the garden

of your heart.

Your smile

is the flower.

A slow and sweet surprise,

it blooms before my eyes!

Extension Activities

Gratitude Concentration

Everyone loves a game of “Concentration.” Using plain 3×5 index cards, draw one item you are thankful for on each card and write the name of the corresponding item on the remaining cards. Include people, places and things that matter most to you and remember to include small, everyday things akin to those in Grimes’ Thanks a Millionand Swamp’s Giving Thanks. Once the cards are made, shuffle the deck and place the cards face down. This game can be played with any number of people (or play solo—as solitaire).  In turn, each player flips over two cards; turning them face up. The objective is to turn over matching cards (picture and corresponding label). The play continues until the two cards selected do not match. Those cards are turned face down (leaving them in the same places) and the next person takes a turn. The game is over when the last pair of cards is picked up, and the winner is the individual with the most pairs.

Gratitude Photo Scavenger Hunt

This is the perfect pre-Thanksgiving activity (or post-Thanksgiving meal opportunity to get outside and move around). Work with a partner or a small group to capture images of items on the list below (or create your own list!), using a digital camera or smartphone. Set boundaries (e.g., only go on certain streets) and a time limit for the hunt. When time is up, gather together and compare photos. Everyone is a winner…feel blessed!

Something I’m Grateful for

  1. that is in nature.
  2. that makes a beautiful sound.
  3. that tastes good.
  4. that smells amazing.
  5. that I would like to share with others.
  6. that is older than me.
  7. that I recently discovered or learned.
  8. that has words on it.
  9. that makes me laugh.
  10. 10.that has a vibrant color.

(List retrieved from lets.get.together)

Cooking up Gratitude

At my house, getting the Thanksgiving Day meal ready is an all-hands on deck, multi-day cooking event. At first thought, it may seem like the simpler, easier process to have only adults don the aprons and chef hats, but inviting children to assist with prepping, measuring, mixing, and baking can prove to be beneficial. Research shows that children helping out in the kitchen increase their confidence, empowerment, and independence. Additionally, it provides an opportunity to teach them about nutrition, measurement, and how to make healthy choices. So why not start a new tradition this year by giving ownership (with an appropriate level of adult supervision) to each child for making one family-favorite side dish or dessert? Sincere gratitude for a job well done will most assuredly produce big grins and possibly, a guarantee they eat their veggies.


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