Curriculum Guide Celebration Giveaway!

20150213_154554I’m excited to announce that free downloadable curriculum guides are now available for  THE BOY PROJECT  (Scholastic 2012) and THE BOY PROBLEM (Scholastic 2014)! Both books have themes that tie in with today’s middle school curriculum and both are common core aligned. The guides are full of fantastic reading, math, and science activities that can be used alone or separately. I feel like I can brag about I didn’t create them myself. 🙂 The talented Marcie Colleen created the guide for THE BOY PROJECT (click HERE to view) and the great teachers at EDUCATORS R&R created the guide for THE BOY PROBLEM (Click HERE to view). These guides are also available at all times on my website http://www.kamikinard.com. 20150213_154943To celebrate the completion of these guides I am giving away five classroom reading packs that go along with the themes from THE BOY PROBLEM.  These can be used for reading circles, book clubs, or any of readers who enjoy these books!  Each kit includes a heart-shaped box and seven:

  • cupcake containers with a dove chocolate heart
  • cupcake tattoos
  • signed bookmarks
  • cupcake erasers (scroll down to see a cute video featuring these)
  • hairy mustaches
  • fortune telling fish
  • and one top to create your own shoe box lid predictor as seen on page 185
  • Winners will also receive a free 20 minute Skype visit for your class or for a small group.

(Pssst: If you win and need more than seven of the items above let me know and I’ll see what I can do!)

To enter just enter the short form below. Contest ends on midnight EST on February 28. 

This giveaway is over! Congratulations to the winners:

Kim, Janet, Suzy, Karen, and Debbie. An email has been sent to each of you. Leave a comment here if you do not receive it. Thank you to all who entered! Winners were selected using the Random Number Generator at Random.org. 

3 easy ways to double your entries, tweet about this giveaway and tag me @kamikinard, give it a shout out on Facebook and tag my author page, or leave a comment! 

Whether or not you enter the giveaway, you can still get a free Skype visit from myself or Sudipta for World Read Aloud Day. Click HERE for details.

Good Luck Everyone! And if you want a closer look at the erasers that come with the prize pack, check out what Mr. Etkin’s class did with them last year. Bet you didn’t know erasers could dance!

Get Ready for World Read Aloud Day!

World Read Aloud Day 2015

World Read Aloud Day 2015

Wednesday March 4 is World Read Aloud Day! If you haven’t heard about it before, it is a global program designed to get children reading. Many authors help celebrate World Read Aloud Day by volunteering to Skype, and read, with children across the country. Last year the Nerdy Chicks had virtual visits with over fifty schools. In honor of World Read Aloud Day this year we will be available on March 4, 5, and 6 for virtual classroom visits. To find out more about World Read Aloud Day, visit the LitWorld website by clicking HERE.

New this year we have forms to make signing up to have us visit your class easy! If you’re interested in having one or both of us read for your school, just scroll down to find forms for both of us that you can fill out right here on the blog. OR just click on the shareable links above each form. Clicking on our photos just below will lead you to our websites so you can find out more about us and the books we  write. And please share the link to this post with educators you know!

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 Fill out this form to schedule a visit with Sudipta or click on this LINK.  Scroll down to schedule a visit with Kami.

 Fill out this form to schedule a visit with Kami or click on this LINK.

13 Things I’ve Learned From My Teen

My oldest daughter recently turned 13. (I’m sure that’s a recordkeeping error, as I am in no way old enough to be the mother of a 13 year old.) She has been a joy, a pain, a source of contentment and of frustration. Meaning, she’s a regular teenager.

Oldest children are typically described as conscientious, reliable, organized and even dominant. Unlike many oldest children, mine tends to be the opposite of most of these things. She’s emotional and emotionally needy. She’s flaky and more interested in fun than victory. She’s disorganized to the point of messy. She asks ridiculous questions and feels no disgrace if she doesn’t know the answers. And despite being firmly entrenched in middle school, she wears whatever she wants (including an array of My Little Pony hoodies, complete with manes), ignores “cool” or “trendy” to pursue her own interests (my kid skips study hall to play more violin!), and she laughs loudly and often, even when people stop and stare.

She’s taught me more about life than I’d ever expected. Here are 13 things I needed my child to teach me:

1. Battles should be chosen wisely.

I’ve seen her do this with her brother and sister – if she thinks she’s going to win, she bares her claws. If not, she lives to fight another day. That taught me a valuable lesson. If the standard was, “you break a rule, we have a fight,” my teen and I would be fighting all the time. And nobody wants to live like that. Instead, I cut her slack on the messy room and the unfolded laundry, and save my fight for the really important things.
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2. Housekeeping is overrated.

In the theme of choosing one’s battles, my teen has taught me to view housekeeping appropriately – meaning, there is almost always something more valuable to do with your time. At the end of the day, does it matter more to make sure beds are made or to make sure you’ve had a 10 minute conversation you’re your child (even if the only answers you get are monosyllabic)?

3. Ask questions.

I’ll be honest, sometimes her questions are a little over the top. Sometimes, a little irritating. Sometimes, my response is to scream, “your phone has Google! Go look it up yourself!” But the fact that she constantly asks questions means she is constantly curious – and constantly willing to be educated. Many of us would benefit from those qualities.

4. Be unafraid of failure.

Oh, does my kid fail. Sometimes several times in a row. And yet, she keeps putting herself out there. Would that we all had that kind of courage.
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5. If people are staring at you, assume it’s because you’re doing something right.

Like I said, my teen laughs loudly and often. (She actually has this witch laugh that she loves to show off.) She fails at things and she asks aggravating questions. And when people stare at her for doing all those things, she acts like she is the star of the show, instead of shrinking away in embarrassment. It takes a lot of self-confidence to pull that off, and she does. Consistently.

6. Keep hugging.

My oldest may be 13, but she cuddles like a toddler. I’ll be honest – sometimes, that’s annoying, and I often find myself wanting to talk to her about respecting personal space. But then I realize that (1) she already knows that, because she doesn’t go around hugging strangers, and (2) that I should be as comfortable showing my love for the people in my life as she is. So I hug her back, and thank the universe for sending me someone to teach me this.

7. There’s always room for ice cream.

My teen is never one to forego a pleasure. Already, she understands that life is too short for that!

8. Having fun is more important than looking like you’re having fun.

I know I’m biased, but my teen is gorgeous. I wish I’d looked like her when I was her age. And yet, she is completely oblivious to her beauty. At an age where other girls are worrying about their hair and makeup and just looking good, my kid is out there having fun. If anyone cares that her hair isn’t perfect while she’s doing that, it certainly isn’t her.

DSCN00069. That I never understood love before I had kids.

I think kids sometimes think of their hearts as being finite like a house – the more people you love and have in your heart, there less room there is for each person. After you have children, you realize what it means for love to be infinite, and how unconditionally you can actually love.

10. That I never understood fear, either.

Before I had my daughter, I worried about things that could happen to me. Now, those don’t even make my top ten list of things I worry about. I can’t watch a crime procedural on TV without thinking, “That’s something I wasn’t scared of…until now.”
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11. They’re my dreams, but it’s your life.

This one was a tough one. The day she was born, I decided that my daughter would have the “perfect” life. At least, perfect by my definition. So I enrolled her in ballet and karate, I took her to art museums and to fancy restaurants, I bought her everything trendy and “cool” I could think of (or read about). I did my best to Disney-princessify her, and yet, over time – well, ballet has been replaced by cheer, karate with soccer. Art museums are out, orchestra is in. And trendy and cool? No interest whatsoever. But she is awesome exactly the way she is, and while I would’ve loved to have a frilly, fancy sidekick wanting to explore fashion, art, and culture, I couldn’t be happier that she is following exactly the path she wants to be on.

P103047612. Feeling like you’re part of the group gives you the strength to forge your own path.

I truly believe that giving my kid a childhood filled with lemming-like activities helped make her unique. Adulthood is about individuality – but you can’t teach a child to be an individual by forcing them to be different than their peers. That’s because childhood is about assimilation, feeling like you belong. And it’s only when you feel like you fit in that you can build the confidence to stand out.

13. Democracy is fine for government, but families are corporations.

The more social studies my teen learns, the more outspoken and confident she gets, the more she believes in democracy and wants everything to be a vote. Well, I wasn’t born yesterday. In our house, we are no democracy. We vote on equity share of the mortgage. Which means I have controlling interest of everything.

Five Reasons to Read Aloud

Last week was Read Across America week, and I and many other authors participated by reading to kids all around the world. World Read Aloud Day was March 5 — for me, the day was filled with virtual visits to classrooms from Maine to California. I got a bonus day of reading on SNORING BEAUTY’s book birthday (March 4). By the time I was done, I had connected with over 40 different classrooms. It was AWESOME!

In honor of Read Across America, I wanted to take a moment to remind everyone why reading aloud to kids is so important.

skype1. Reading aloud is one of the best ways to build literacy skills. Children can listen to and comprehend books that are much harder than the ones they can read themselves. By hearing more complicated stories, plots, and concepts, they build their vocabulary and increase their interest in books and reading.

2. Taking time to read together demonstrates how you feel about reading.  Children learn from the adults in their lives. They model their own behavior on what they see. If you want your child or your students to value reading, show them that you make time to read. If you take it a step farther and not only block out time in your busy day to read but to read to them you will show them in your actions how important reading is. That is a lesson that will stay with them.

By the way, for all you math geeks (like me!) just 15 minutes of reading to your kids each day means that over the course of the year you will spend an extra 91 hours, 15 minutes with them.

3. It forms connections. There are many difficult topics that we have to discuss with children today. As a parent, it can be awkward to launch into some of these conversations. But when you do it in the context of a book or a story that you are sharing, it opens up the lines of communication. As a bonus, it teaches children that when they need guidance in life, they can turn to books.

goat war4. It makes kids smarter. We already talked about literacy skills. But reading aloud lets you introduce your child to all sorts of topics that he or she may not run into in a school curriculum for years. One of my favorite things to do with my own children is share interesting news articles with them. We’ve talked about everything from impressionist art exhibits, to giant squids, to baseball history, to (most recently) the possibility that there may be a terrible conflict with goats in our future. (It turns out the goat war is unlikely.) The result is my kids are not only able to converse on a wide variety of topics, they are interested in cool things, too.

5. It’s just fun. In my life as an author, I may never win huge awards or make tons of money. But I’ve had the great privilege of connecting with hundreds of kids and getting them excited about books. If that doesn’t make you happy…well, you need to look up the word ‘happiness’ again.

Eight Things to Teach by Eighteen that They Can’t Learn from Google

My son on his 18th birthday.

My son on his 18th birthday.

Once, before I had children, I ran into a friend who’d just had her first child. 

“How’s motherhood?” I asked.

She didn’t answer with the usual “Great!” or “Exhausting!” responses I expected.

Instead, she said, “I can already tell I’m going to be worried for the rest of my life.”

I’m not sure truer words have ever been spoken.  My son was born about two years after this conversation. And while there have been SO many joys over the years, there have also been worries. Lots of worries. Endless worries.

This month he turned eighteen. Eighteen! Eighteen years of worrying about things I can control.  And with every year that passes, more and more time spent worrying about the things I can’t. What’s a mother to do?

While the goal of every good mother is to teach her child to be independent, as that bittersweet eighteenth birthday passes, I can’t help asking myself: Have I taught him everything he needs to know to make it in the world?

I think most mothers wrestle with this question.  I’ve seen other posts listing things we might forget to teach our children because we do these things without thinking, like how to mend ripped fabric or cook a meal. And yet – with the power of Google at every teen’s fingertips — I know my son can find out how to do things like sew on a button with the touch of a screen. But what things does he absolutely need to know that he can’t find on Google?

Here’s my list of 8 things to teach them before 18.

1.Empathy: Teach them to consider how others feel.

feelings facesThis will make them better people. They will add to their own value when they show that they value the feelings of others.  There’s truth in the saying, “People don’t care what you know, until they know you care.”

2. Self-Worth: Teach them to value themselves.

Show them that what they have to offer matters to you and to the world.  The best way to teach your child self-worth is for you to value you.  I’m serious. Show your child that you are worthy of respect and love. You will be modeling the most important characteristic for them to develop.

3. Life is Unfair: Teach them not to expect fairness.

scales of justiceIt would be impossible for me to calculate how many times I heard my own father tell me life’s not fair.  He is a judge, so somehow, I always expected him to be on the side of fairness. Instead, he was on the side of “Deal With It.”  And dealing with it, is something we have to learn to do. See number four, below.

4. Bravery: Teach them to be brave in the face of failure, because they will fail.

This, they must accept.

5. Don’t judge: Teach your children not to judge others.

They will be happier if they are not constantly measuring the value of other people. They must learn that humans come from all situations and circumstances, and that sometimes it is almost impossible for a person to make good choices. (I included this because you should try to teach it, but you will fail. Judging is part of the human condition. Still, we must try. See number four, above.)

6. Self-Advocacy: Teach your children to advocate for themselves.

When they are growing up, you are their biggest advocate, but this will change when they leave the nest. So equip them with the skills needed for self-advocacy. Teach them not to be afraid to speak out logically and reasonably to defend their rights or to ask for what they need. Self-advocacy will not always bring desired results, but that’s okay, you’ve already taught them numbers two, three and four!

7. Humor: Teach them to embrace laughter.  

laughterIf your child learns to laugh, not only in happy times, but also in the face of failure, you will have taught them to find joy in unhappiness. And you will give your child a quality valued by all others. Everyone loves to laugh.

8. Faith: If you want your child to have a sense of faith, model this for him or her.  

It does not matter what your religion is, if faith is something you want for your child, you must ground them in it.The world will not do this for you. Google will not do this for you.

My son is now eighteen. Do I still worry? You bet! Have I taught him all of the above? I’ve tried, but I doubt it. I’m learning, though, not to beat myself up over this. I’m going to trust that with the foundation of love and guidance we’ve given him, he’ll be okay. 

For everything else, there’s Google!

The Education of the Nerdy Chick: A Chat with Margie Myers-Culver

mmcThis week, we are talking to Educator-Blogger-Literacy-Advocate-Extraordinaire, Margie Myers-Culver. Margie began teaching as a school librarian in 1973.  She says, “It has been the single best decision I have ever made.”  She has worked at all grade levels, loving each for their unique characteristics.  She continues to this day to believe the learning experience shared with her students is a give and take, where each is both student and teacher. Her blog is Librarian’s Quest.

As a librarian and teacher, we wanted Margie’s thoughts on The Education of the Nerdy Chick, especially when it comes to reading. Thank you, Margie, for talking to us today!

We asked Margie to finish some of our sentences — here’s what she had to say:

“The differences between girl readers and boy readers are…not how reading recommendations have ever been made in any of my school libraries.  When a class, group or individual student enters the library, they have always been greeted by a variety of book displays around the room based on genre, themes or format, not according to gender.  Booktalks feature a wide range of fiction and nonfiction titles with a mix of reading levels.  Students are encouraged to get any book which interests them.  Tastes in reading are like thumbprints, each individual is unique.”

“Girls can be reluctant readers, too. To get girls to read, I…address them as I do all readers.  A mantra learned in college has served me (and many, many others) well over the years; …the right book for the right reader at the right time.  Readers are advised according to their individual wants and needs.  I ask them:

  • about their activities outside the school day,
  • what their favorite thing to do is when they have free time,
  • is there a dream or goal they want to reach, perhaps we can find a title on that topic,
  • what was the last book they read or had read to them which will remain in their hearts forever.”

“It’s extremely important for girls (all readers) to know you care about them as individuals; that you sincerely want to know as much about them as possible so you can pair them with a book they will enjoy and remember.  There is nothing better than hearing a book you recommended to one student being recommended by them to another.  In that moment you know a flame has been kindled.  I want to keep that flame fanned with titles as often as I can for as long as I can.  It’s about trust and connection.  For many years I hosted brown bag lunch book groups with girls.  This past summer I had a very small group of girls who would come to my home as I read books aloud to them.  We even Skyped with one of the authors.”

“It can be hard for younger girls to embrace their inner Nerdy Chick. But what is great about when that happens is…it’s as if a load has been lifted; they are free to be themselves, to bravely follow their heart.  It’s almost magical to watch.  It spreads from one girl to another and to another.  Sometimes they will read the same book together.  Or sometimes they will explore subject areas or genres they have not previously visited.”

“When a Nerdy Chick comes into my library, I notice…the air of confidence they carry.  Now they not only know what they want and need but they are able to voice it too.”

“Even Nerdy Chicks need guidance. To help her expand her reading interests, I…would suggest she join an online reading community like Biblionasium or Scholastic’s The Stacks. I would share my own book community experiences using Goodreads (and as a member of the Nerdy Book Club).  We all have, as Donalyn Miller, teacher and author of The Book Whisperer:  Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child and Reading in the Wild:  The Book Whisperer’s Keys to Cultivating Life Long Reading Habits, calls them, book gaps.  I might invite her to join a challenge or start one of her own.  Again I would share my own experiences with online challenges and reading outside my main interest area.  Each year reviewing journals publish their best books of a given year.  I would refer her to those also.”

“As a Nerdy Chick, I…was the student who knew the answers and bravely raised my hand even when I knew I would be teased as being some kind of brainiac.  I have always talked about books and reading with anyone who would listen.  No one is immune to my suggestions including complete strangers in bookstores who look like they need help.  Even one of my former students in his mid-twenties who has been doing some painting for me, remarked as he was leaving today, “You can get anyone excited about reading.”  I was booktalking the graphic novel series Hazardous Tales by Nathan Hale.

“Once a Nerdy Chick always a Nerdy Chick.  Come join the flock!”

Once again, a big thank you to Margie for joining us. Want to read more of her brilliant thoughts? Follow her on Twitter. And go find your right book today!

Oh, and in case you thought we forgot…

We have a winner in the original art giveaway! Everybody put your hands together for

@BookishAmbition!

Thanks to everyone for entering!

 

Twelve Things to Tell Your Tween Tonight

I am the mother of two tweens. TWO OF THEM. That’s double the hormones. Double the attitude. Double the drama.SAMSUNG CSC

I’m not sure what I’ve done to deserve this, but there it is.

Obviously, there are wonderful things about tweens, too. Like how they are mature enough to be interesting, but they’re still really kids who let you be their mommy (sometimes). But I’ll be painfully honest – it is tough, too. Because they’re mature enough to argue with you and are no longer satisfied with the “Because I said so” answer, but they’re still really kids who cannot fully handle the emotional roller coaster of life.

In my recent interactions, confrontations, and sob-fests with my own tweens, I started to think of things to say to them. I like to think that they respond truly positively to these pearls of wisdom. Here are the top twelve on that list for you to share with your tween:

1. You are literally a part of me.

frankensteinPractically every meal you eat, I cook. Practically every item of clothing you wear, I provide. I screen your music, your television shows, your books (even when you don’t realize it!). I’m trying to give you the life I always wanted while also forging you in my image. Like Victor Frankenstein made his monster, so have I made you. So no matter how foreign I might seem to you, you are a lot more like me than you want to admit.

2. You are going to be so much smarter than me someday. But today is not the day.

There is nothing that your tween brain has figured out that I cannot deconstruct. And while I am so happy that you are smart and know wholeheartedly that you will be much, much smarter than me someday, the reason I still give you boundaries is because you’re not smarter than me yet.

3. You are not a disappointment.

Yes, you do things that disappoint me. And, yes, sometimes I want to trade you in for a toaster. But the things you do are not the person you are. I might be disappointed in some of your actions, but for my entire life and yours, you will never be a disappointment to me.

4. There’s a 90% chance that the friends you care so much about now will be irrelevant to you in 5 years.

It’s about perspective. You won’t believe me when I tell you that it doesn’t matter what she thinks or it’s ok if she doesn’t want to hang out with you anymore. But I’ll tell you anyway. Because you need to hear it, even though it doesn’t sound true. Yet.

5. He’s going to break your heart.

broken heartEven if there isn’t a “he” yet, it’s going to happen. And it will hurt. And there’s nothing anyone can do about it. And you’re going to feel like you are the only one who has ever felt so bad. But you’re not, or you won’t be. And I’ll be here for you if or when that happens.

6. They’ll all break your heart, but you will get over it.

This applies to those friends who stopped hanging out with you (see 4) or the crush who didn’t pan out the way you wanted (see 5). They’ll break your heart, and you will survive. You will learn why all women worship at the altar of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive. There is nothing on earth that can crush you. As soon as you internalize that, moving on will become so much easier.

7. You will get caught.

I don’t care what it was that you did. I don’t care how careful you think you were. I don’t care how smart you are (see 2). You will get caught. Let me repeat that. YOU WILL GET CAUGHT. Factor that in to your calculations BEFORE you do whatever it is you will get caught for. I promise, this will make your life better than it will make mine.

8. Monkeys like rutabagas, too.

rutabagaOr something equally nonsensical. Especially in moments of tension. Your life is drama, drama, drama these days and, every once in a while, I’m going to remind you that “monkeys like rutabagas” or that “pinochle isn’t a real word, no matter how many times Gramma says it.” I will say those things, and you will laugh. And sometimes that is the point.

9. Laughing makes everything better.

Thus, the purpose of 8. You take yourself entirely too seriously at times. And if I try telling you that directly, you just get even more serious. So instead, I’m going to make you laugh, even when you don’t want to. Especially when you don’t want to. And eventually, you will learn that laughing helps you get through most things in life.

10. Life is about jumping through hoops.

dolphin_jumping_through_hoop_by_carolinerutland-d6keh6uI get it. You already know how to do [INSERT TASK HERE] and you don’t understand why you have to jump through some hoop just to prove it. Especially if it is something meaningless (and let’s face it, you think everything is meaningless). Well, let me tell you something, chickie – LIFE IS ABOUT JUMPING THROUGH HOOPS. Better get good at it now, since that is what adults do all day long. If there was a way to avoid that, I would’ve found it a long time ago.

11. You should have a theme song.

There should be a song that absolutely sums up who you are right this moment – or who you want to be. Identify it and make it your theme song. Because this simple exercise forces you to be self-aware – and self-awareness is the cornerstone of happiness. You can fix anything in your life, you can make anything better, as long as you are honest about what it is that needs changing. (And, by the way, your theme song not only can change over time, it should change. No one is one thing forever.)

12. Because I’m your mother and I say so.

I promise I will try reasoning with you, sharing my logic and my thoughts. I promise I will generally follow the same set of rules so that you can learn how to anticipate my reactions and not just wait for me to give them to you. And I promise I will listen you and let myself be persuaded by your arguments at appropriate times. But, every once in a while, the answer is going to be, “Because I’m your mother and I say so.” Which I know is a totally unsatisfactory answer. Make your peace with that.