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Common Core

December 04, 2014

Study Guide for Death by Toilet Paper by Donna Gepart

Death by Toilet Paper
by Donna Gephart

Common Core Standards

Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.

Use context (e.g., definitions, examples, or restatements in text) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase. 

Explain the meaning of simple similes and metaphors (e.g., as pretty as a picture) in context. 

Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events

Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).

Questions for Discussion (During Reading)

Read More…

October 07, 2013

National Bullying Prevention Month


When the staff at Random House Children’s Books began reading Wonder shortly after it was presented to us by its editor, Erin Clarke, we all quickly came to the conclusion that we had something special on our hands. It’s incredibly rare to find a story that inspires so many people, all from different backgrounds, to take a deeper look at themselves and their actions. It began a conversation that spread nation-wide—teachers brought the book into classrooms, classroom reads turned into school-wide reads, and pretty soon entire school districts were adopting the book as required reading.

Raquel (the “R” in R.J.) hits the nail on the head with the quote above. Empathy is difficult to teach, and perhaps one of the reasons why Wonder and other titles have been so successful in inspiring kids and adults alike is that the book doesn’t preach a set of values to readers. Auggie, and the family and friends who chime in, show you the experience of being outside the “norm,” and the way words can be used—intentionally or unintentionally—as weapons. You feel for him when he overhears his friend, Jack, say something cruel, when kids stare at him, when some of his classmates develop a game around not touching him. At one point or another, everyone experiences the sting of being bullied, and everyone is faced with the choice of joining in or rising above hurtful behavior toward others. The Choose Kind pledge campaign was directly inspired by Auggie’s teacher, Mr. Browne, who chose this as his September precept: When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.

 Wonder is a great choice for kids in middle school to start a conversation in your classrooms and libraries about bullying.  We have an educator guide available (with Common Core Standards tie-ins) to help get things started.  Have they already read Wonder, or looking for another perspective? Give Twerp, told from an accused bully’s point of view, a try.

For younger students, may we recommend the absolutely heartwrenching title The Invisible Boy

Looking for more ways to develop a lesson plan around bullying, including activities and vocabulary? Be sure to download our full Bullying Discussion Guide!

To learn more about the origin and mission of National Bullying Prevention Month, please visit PACER’s site.

September 06, 2013

Class Trips and the Common Core

Over on SLJ, library Joy Fleishhacker has compiled a fantastic list of books that would help in enhancing a number of different class trips, all of which can be used to support Common Core Standards through a number of different avenues. For instance, introducing vocabulary related to the location you and your class will be visiting, or as a means of inspiring a post-trip creative or research project.  What ties them all together? As she explains, these books “encapsulate the magic of a field-trip experience and expand the learning–and enjoyment–well beyond the designated outing.”

Several of our titles were included in her original list (noted with an asterisk), but we’d like to expand upon her recommendations with a few more.

Farm Forays

The Apple Orchard Riddle by Margaret McNamara,  illus. by G. Brian Karas

Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-375-84744-8; lib. ed. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-375-95744-4; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-0-375-98783-0.

K-Gr 2–Mr.Tiffin’s students mull over a brainteaser while touring Hill’s Orchard: “Show me a little red house with no windows and no door, but with a star inside.” Gathering bushels of apple facts throughout the day, the children make guesses galore, but only the quietly observant class daydreamer gets to the riddle’s core. Personality-packed artwork spices up this winning tale.


An Edible Alphabet: 26 Reasons to Love the Farm  by Carol Watterson, illus. by Michela Sorrentino

Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-58246-421-3.

Gr 1-4–Bursting with wordplay and whimsy, this exuberantly illustrated A-to-Z provides a bounty of intriguing facts and helps readers make the connection between food and farm. Letters are accompanied by alliterative snippets (“Blueberries, Beets, and Beans”) while smaller-size text introduces the featured plants, animals, or agricultural process. A captivating read-aloud or invigorating idea-starter for creative projects.


Though they don’t involve class trips, we’d also recommend the following titles for introducing your students to life on farms: It’s Milking Time, Our Farm, and Chicks!


Museum Meanderings

Time Flies by Eric Rohmann

Tr $17. ISBN 978-0-517-59598-5; pap. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-517-88555-0.

PreS-Gr 4–In this wordless picture book, a bird flies into a museum’s dinosaur hall during a storm-charged night. Suddenly, time slips away–the walls disappear, the gigantic skeletons become fully fleshed-out behemoths roaming a prehistoric landscape, and the bird is placed in peril. This gorgeously illustrated flight of fancy can inspire creative endeavors or paleontological research.


For more museum tales, be sure to check out: The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum, Arthur Lost in the Museum, and The Sixty-Eight Rooms.


Is this a strategy you’ve tried in your classrooms?

Common Core in the News: Mountains Beyond Mountains
May 28, 2013

Common Core in the News: Mountains Beyond Mountains

School Library Journal just posted a nice round-up of nonfiction for teen readers that Junior Library Guild has had on their radar, including our own Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World.

If the title or premise sounds familiar to you, it’s likely because Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains was originally released as an adult book. It was adapted this year for younger readers by Michael French–it underwent “youngification,” as we call it in the biz!  If you’re interested in more of these Youngifications, which are, indeed, perfect for integrating Common Core Standards in your classrooms, we have a handy guide for you to look through.