David Harrison and Mary Jo Fresch Present: 7 KEYS TO RESEARCH FOR SUCCESSFUL WRITING! + Win a Free Copy

As teachers, how do we get reluctant students to embrace writing projects?  Many of them struggle to produce good content for writing projects in all subject areas.  That’s why YOU NEED THIS BOOK by Authors David Harrison and Mary Jo Fresch: 7 Keys to Research For Successful Writing.  Here’s David to tell you more about it:

Thank you for inviting me to your blog today, Darlene. I’m delighted to tell you about 7 KEYS TO RESEARCH FOR SUCCESSFUL WRITING! published October, 2017.

    What motivated you to write the book (a break away from your usual poetry)?

Kids ask authors, “How long does it take to write a book?” A variation is, “How many books can you write in a day?” When I explain that I must first learn about my subject before I can write about it, many look surprised. When I tell them I often spend as much time getting ready to write as I do writing, they look amazed. Kids in school aren’t accustomed to spending much time investigating what they are going to write about.

My writing partner for 7 KEYS TO RESEARCH FOR SUCCESSFUL WRITING is Mary Jo Fresch, Professor Emerita and Academy Professor of The Ohio State University. Prior to becoming an educator of pre-service and in-service teachers of Kindergarten to Grade 8 teachers, Mary Jo was a classroom teacher.

Together we have seen far too many writing-before-ready results. They are usually dismal at best and at worst convince students that writing is too hard and mysterious and not for them. The goal of our collaboration is to provide classroom teachers with a practical resource to help them demonstrate that writers don’t just pick up and a pen or sit down at the keyboard and start writing.

  • What was the collaboration like?

This is our sixth book together. Prior to 7 KEYS, we wrote a series of five titles called LEARNING THROUGH POETRY, each dealing with different aspect of sounds: consonants, vowels, blends, digraphs, and rimes. We come from different backgrounds but share much in common, including work ethic and goals, so we make a compatible team. Before and during a new project we discuss ideas by email and conference via SKYPE. Once we establish a direction and general outline we agree on our respective responsibilities and jump in.

In this case we decided to use my 50-year experience to demonstrate how writers prepare to write and Mary Jo’s deep knowledge of classroom and scholarly research to provide meaningful follow up activities. We adopted a word not used much — presearch – to show how writers get ready to get ready before they write that first word. That gave us shape and direction. The result falls into seven categories, or keys, which are important elements that lead to good writing.

  • Things you learned doing your own research for the book.

The first thing we learned was that nearly all books we could find that are meant to help young writers focus on the process of writing and how to improve it. We decided early on that teachers might not need yet another book about the act of writing. What they do need is a book about the act of getting ready to write, the kind of thoughtful, organized preparation that leads to good writing. Except for a page here, a chapter there, we didn’t see a lot of help out there.

The challenge was to find ways to make “doing your homework” seem necessary, fun, and un-daunting. My solution was to show by example what I do, and Mary Jo created imaginative and practical activities that children can relate to. This also gave me a chance to introduce two segments, one directed to teachers and one to kids. The ones to teachers are a cross between mini-PD sessions and personal asides meant to provide insight into the KEY in that chapter. Those meant for students are like a quick author’s visit that can be read as often as wished. They, too, set the stage for Mary Jo’s creative activities. 

  • Anything else you’d like to add?

Please let your readers know how one of them can win a free copy of 7 KEYS TO RESEARCH FOR SUCCESSFUL WRITING. We say the grade range is 3 and up but a university president recently told me he thinks more than a few freshmen could benefit from it. We hope readers will enjoy our book and feel free to leave their comments on Amazon.com. Mary Jo and I will present a 2-hour workshop on the subject in July at ILA in Austin. Maybe we’ll see some new friends there.

David is the prolific children’s poet and author of 100 titles. His books have received more than 50 honors, including Best Children’s Nonfiction Book of 2016 by Society of Midland Authors. He has been translated into twelve languages, anthologized in nearly 200 books, and appeared in dozens of magazines and interviews in print and online. Among other professional books are Easy Poetry Lessons that Dazzle and Delight with Bernice Cullinan and Rhymes for the Times, Literacy Strategies through Social Studies with Tim Rasinski.  Professional articles have appeared in Dragon Lode, Reading and Writing Quarterly, The Reading Teacher, New England Reading Association Journal, and others. David is trained in research, holds two degrees in science and two honorary doctorates in letters. He has performed 300 times across the country and abroad in conferences, schools, and workshops. He is Drury University’s Poet Laureate.  

Mary Jo is Professor Emerita and an Academy Professor of The Ohio State University. After years as a classroom teacher, She became an educator of pre-service and in-service teachers of Kindergarten to Grade 8 teachers. She speaks nationally and internationally about literacy-related topics and researches the developmental aspect of literacy learning. Her articles have appeared in peer reviewed journals, such as the Language Arts; Journal of Literacy Research; Reading and Writing Quarterly; Reading Psychology; The Reading Teacher; Journal of Just and Caring Education; and Journal of Children’s Literature.  She has authored/co-authored 19 books for teachers, including The Power of Picture Books (NCTE), Strategies for Effective Balanced Literacy (Shell Education); Engaging Minds in the English Language Arts Classrooms: The Surprising Power of Joy (ASCD) and Learning Through Poetry (Shell Education).

To have your name entered in the random drawing for a signed copy of 7 Keys to Research For Successful Writing, leave a comment below stating you will happily write a review of the book on Amazon/Goodreads.  Darlene will add your name to the list and ONE winner will be chosen and announced her on Wednesday, March 7, 2018.









Bianca Schulze:Helping Kids Select the “Right” Book + Win a Signed Copy.

It’s true … the New Year brings new books. Plenty of them! New books release for kids each year in the thousands. The great thing about new releases is that they often reflect on current cultural themes and affairs. And, finally, we are seeing the slow and steady inclusion of books with characters of diversity—for proof, just check out this list of middle grade picks that released in January: Best New Books For Tweens And Preteens | January 2018.

There are so many new books worthy of being read. But … how about the “classics,” shouldn’t we keep reading them, too? And, how do we help our kids select books they are likely to enjoy? Let’s explore these questions!

 How about the “classics,” shouldn’t we keep reading them, too?

A classic book reaches this prestigious status usually because the story has been bound by a timeless truth that resonates, through the ages, with our hearts and minds—humor, love, growing-up, loss, friendship, and more. And when a story truth continues to resonate years after a book’s publication, there is only one answer to the question: Should we keep reading these classics? If the topic interests you, absolutely!

While a book doesn’t have to be too many moons old to be considered a “classic,” a little bit of story aging needs to take place to harness that true nostalgic feeling that is automatically attached to the word classic. Classic books can be like a magical time traveling device that takes readers back to times past— just like new books, they can also reflect on cultural themes and affairs from the time of publication and still feel very relevant. They often give a glimpse into how things were and can also provoke discussions on how far we’ve come, and then inspire young minds to imagine how far we could possibly go.

 How do we help kids select books they are likely to enjoy?

When reading for pleasure (which numerous studies say influences a love of learning and improves social and empathy skills, among many other amazing benefits), I recommend starting with a book that is based on a theme or story line that interests the individual. When you go to the library or bookstore, find the librarian or bookseller and have your child share their age, some interests, and, if possible, share the title of a book they have previously enjoyed. This will very easily assist a knowledgeable librarian/bookseller in helping to identify a book that could be of possible interest. The next step: read the book synopsis. Sound good? Try it! Doesn’t sound quite right? That’s ok! Let the librarian/bookseller know what isn’t working and keep going until you find that book of interest that sparks some excitement. Raising kids who read for pleasure can take a village—find your village, work together and you’ll get there.

By finding a book of interest, a child is more likely to enjoy the reading experience and happily go for the next book (and the next, and the next, and the next). Libraries are great, because you can check out a few books (or lots) at a time. If a book is not making a connection with your reader and they’ve given it a chapter or two, in my opinion, there doesn’t need to be pressure to finish it—move onto the next one. The goal is to find books they love. Finding books they love can definitely lead to reading for pleasure, which, as mentioned above, can lead to kinder human beings and improvement in academic areas. So … remove the pressure and surround your child with as many options as possible. Something will take!

If you want to get started on this “finding the right book” quest pronto, I have put together a list of books, 101 Books to Read before You Grow Up (Quarto/Walter Foster Jr., 2016), sorted by age and genre that can be used as a literary journal to discover books of interest, to keep track of favorites, and it also provides “what-to-read next recommendations” for when a favorite is discovered. The journal can be taken to the library/bookstore to help the librarian/bookseller make even more recommendations based on likes, dislikes, and notes can be recorded by readers on the pages.   When selecting the books to be included in 101 Books to Read before You Grow Up (Quarto/Walter Foster Jr., 2016), I chose a combination of classic and contemporary picture books, beginning chapter books, graphic novels, and middle grade novels represented. With plenty of options, there is a starting point for which all readers can find a book style of interest, and then also expand on their preferred style of book and discover new reading pleasures.

I chose each of the books for their powers to entice kids to wonder, laugh, cry, and they will almost always close the book with a smile. Readers can discover both new and classic books that incite kindness, courage, and making good choices. Books that remember the struggles of those that came before us, and books that encourage us to always dream of the fantastical future ahead of us and those that will come after us. So go ahead and grab a copy from your favorite bookstore, head to the library and get those kiddos reading for pleasure!

IndieBound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781633221697&aff=childbkreview9

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2cEPtJT

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/101-books-to-read-before-you-grow-up-bianca-schulze/1123427825

Bianca Schulze is the founder of The Children’s Book Review, a resource devoted to children’s literature and recognized by the American Library Association as a ‘Great Website for Kids.’ She is a reader, reviewer, mother and children’s book lover. Combined with her love of books and experience as a children’s bookseller, Bianca’s goal is to share her passion to help grow readers.

Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, she now lives with her husband and three children near Boulder, Colorado.

TheChildrensBookReview.com | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Google+

Would you like a copy of Bianca’s new Book?  Leave a comment and the promise that you will write a review of the book and your name will be entered in the random drawing.  The winner will be announced on this blog on Wednesday 2-21-18.

SAM & EVA Picture Book Give-Away.

Throughout the next several months I am planning on “gifting” some of the great children’s books I’ve recently read.  If you’d like to be on the receiving end of one of these gems, here’s what I’m asking:

Nothing more than your willingness to WRITE A REVIEW of the book on Amazon and Goodreads, to boost the author’s name a bit and give him or her some well-deserved recognition.  I think it’s important to let our favorite authors know how much we love their books and to share that love with the rest of the literary world.

If you’d like to be part of this effort, leave a comment below and I will add your name to the drawing.  Winners will be announced on the last day of each month.

This weeks featured book is:  SAM & EVA by Debbie Ridpath Ohi.

Here’s my 5 Star review:

“A clever story of creative conflict and co-operation that will be sure to delight budding artists who can watch the drawings take on personalities Sam and Eva never imagined.  Like the creative “muse” in all of us…you never know where your pen  – or brush – will take you.”

I hope you’ll help me “pass on the love”.

Celebrate Multi-Cultural Children’s Book Day.

I ran this post a few years back, but it is relevant now more than ever.

Saturday, January 27, 2018 is Multicultural Children’s Book Day.  Why not join the celebration by reading some great books that honor all kinds of cultures.  Here are some old and new ones from my collection:

1. THE PEACE BELL by Margi Preus (Illustrated by Hideko Takahashi (Henry Holt 2008): This story is inspired by the American-Japanese Friendship Peace Bell that was brought to America by a US Navy Peace crew who found it abandoned in a Japanese ship yard after the end of WWII. They later brought it back to Japan as an act of friendship and peace.  Another book by Margi is the MG historical WEST OF THE MOON, that takes place in Norway.  A wonderful introduction to Scandinavian culture and a riveting folktale.

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2. IN A VILLAGE BY THE SEA by Muon Van, illustrated by April Chu (Creston Books 2015): A beautifully illustrated and tenderly told circular tale of a Vietnamese fisherman and the family who waits for his return. This book has received numerous starred reviews and well-deserved accolades.

3. LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET by Matt DeLaPena just won the 2016 Newbery Medal.  Take a peek at this delightful story honoring Hispanic culture.

3. GRANDMOTHER THORN by Katey Howes ( Ripple Grove Press 2017) a wonderful picture book about stubbornness, perseverance and love.  Beautifully told and artfully illustrated, it is sure to be a favorite for years to come.

What are some of your favorite multi-cultural titles?

Poet/Author Irene Latham Talks About Her New Book For Children..

CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship Carolrhoda/LernerPublishing. was inspired by a conversation with editor Carol Hinz about a book of poems for adults CITIZEN by Claudia Rankine, which she and I had both recently read. Carol shared her idea of a poetry book that tackles the same subject — systemic racism — except for kids! She thought it might work best as a conversation, and she asked if there was a black children’s poet with whom I would like to have this conversation. I immediately thought of Charles Waters– whom I had never met, and in fact did not meet until we presented together about the book at AASL November 2017!

Lucky for me, when I invited him to collaborate, Charles said YES. And off we went, writing poems madly about some intensely personal and sometimes difficult stuff. Within about 3 weeks we had a draft ready to share with Carol. The book includes paired poems about every day things like shoes and family dinner, and also poems about more difficult topics like the “N” word and police brutality. Illustrations are by the amazingly talented interracial team of Sean Qualls and Selina Alko.

 calls the book in their starred review, “A brave and touching portrayal worthy of sharing in classrooms across America.”

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY states in their starred review, “The poems delicately demonstrate the complexity of identity and the power of communication to build friendships.”

BOOKLIST adds, “Young readers searching for means to have difficult, emotional, and engaged discussions about race will find an enlightening resource in Irene and Charles’ explorations.”

THE HORN BOOK MAGAZINE proclaims, “This volume would make an excellent read-aloud or a launch pad for collaborative classroom writing.”

Here are other articles about the book from Shelf Awareness, bloggers Margaret SimonLinda Mitchell and two from Jessica Smith, here and here

We couldn’t be more pleased and grateful for the warm reception the book has received. We hope it gives readers a starting place to have their own conversations about race, mistakes and friendship. 

Irene Latham
Poet & Novelist
For more information about the book, the authors, and a downloadable Curriculum Guide, please visit charleswaterspoetry.com and irenelatham.com.

New Year = New Plans.

No matter how many times we grumble and grouse about new year’s resolutions, many of us still look forward to a fresh start and chance to do things differently in the new year.  As a writer, I usually make goals that reflect my aspirations and hopes in the writing field.  Completing a draft of a new novel.  Sending a finished project to my agent, hoping for a sale.  Reading as many MG, YA, and PB’s as I can throughout the year.  These have been recurring goals as I browse past journal entries.

This year I want to add something new:  For every PB, MG, and YA book I read, I hope to post a review on Amazon and Goodreads to boost the visibility of my author friends and help spread the word about books I really enjoy.  Popular authors like Kate DiCamillo, Neil Gaiman, Katherine Applegate, Jacqueline Woodson, etc, don’t have to worry about getting reviews.  Everything they write is featured everywhere we look.  Rightly so and deserved.

But for many of us who have written quality books for children, and received praise and accolades from friends and acquaintances, as well as the children we write for, I want to take it one step further.  It takes only a few moments to write a sentence or two stating what you enjoyed about a book.  It goes a long way toward helping an unknown author receive recognition and maybe sell a few more books.  (Caveat: If you don’t like a book, spare the author any venomous reviews.  There is enough negativity in this world.)

I hope some of you will join me in spreading the word and “paying it forward” for a favorite author.

Here’s a link to a printable calendar for keeping track of all those reviews…or for setting your own goals.


HAPPY NEW YEAR and Happy Reading!

Author David Neilsen Takes Us Beyond the Doors.

Today it is my pleasure to feature fellow Kid Lit Author’s Club: http://www.kidlitauthorsclub.com  member David Neilsen, who will tell us a bit about his new middle grade fantasy – with plenty of humor throughout –   BEYOND THE DOORS (Crown Books for Young Readers 2017).  I recently read the book and was delighted with the story, which follows the adventures of four siblings.  My review can be seen on the link below.  Here’s David:

What You Need to Know About Aunt Gladys and Her Doors

We sat down with the four Rothbaum siblings to ask them about their new lives living with their Aunt Gladys as well as the strange circumstances surrounding Aunt Gladys’ doors. Below are their answers.

Janice Rothbaum, age 12

Our Aunt Gladys is… strange. And not ‘good’ strange. No, more like ‘freaky and maybe dangerous’ strange. I don’t know. It’s hard to trust her when she keeps so many secrets. And how do we even know she’s our aunt? We’ve never heard of her! Zack says there must be some explanation, but I think the explanation is simply that she isn’t our aunt. Which then begs the question, who is she? And why is she taking the four of us in?

She’s up to something, that’s easy to see. I mean look at her house! There are no doors! Anywhere! I find that very suspicious. Actually, that’s not exactly correct, though, is it? I mean we found the doors. And then Sydney went and opened one and…

Nothing good will come of this.

Zack Rothbaum, age 11

Our Aunt Gladys is harmless. She may not be all there, if you know what I mean, but there isn’t an evil bone in her body. She’s… kooky. Nothing wrong with kooky.

Her house, on the other hand, is a death trap. There aren’t any doors between rooms, not even the bathroom! And that means drafts flow through the entire house! And if there were a fire or something, it would just sweep through the place, burning us all to a crisp. Then there’s the stairs, which are way too steep. A kid could die falling down those stairs! Alexa almost did!

But, of course, it’s all the doors in the center of the house that are the real danger, the ones Aunt Gladys hooks up to her impossible machine. Every time she hooks one of them up to that brass frame and turns on the power the danger level skyrockets. You won’t believe what’s beyond the doors. I don’t even know if I believe it, and I’ve lived it. Sydney tries to convince us it’s all safe, but how would she know? She’s just excited to have ‘an adventure’ which is another way of saying ‘do something dangerous.’

Because those things are dangerous. I don’t care what Aunt Gladys says. Every time she hooks up one of her doors and walks through them, she’s putting everyone’s life in danger.

Because doors work both ways. She may like to go in, but what if something decided to come out?

Sydney Rothbaum, age 9

Thank goodness for the doors.

I mean this whole business has been awful. First Dad gets hurt, then the four of us have to go live with a crazy woman we’ve never even met!  You’d think living in a ring-shaped house might be fun. But it’s  so boring! There’s nothing to do. No video games, no basketballs or tennis balls or balls of any kind, nothing to blow up or set on fire. Boresville.

But then we found Aunt Gladys’ doors. Talk about cool! I mean Aunt Gladys may be missing a few screws, but that machine of hers is cool! Just hook up one of those doors, flip some switches, and pow! Flashes of blue lightning, bright white light, it is so mad scientist! And on the other side…

Zack’s afraid. What else is new? He’s all ‘We have to be sensible’ and ‘We have to take precautions’ and such. He needs to live a little. There’s nothing scary or dangerous about Aunt Gladys’ doors. At least, I don’t think so.

Alexa Rothbaum, age 7

Aunt Gladys is funny. And she’s Mommy’s sister so she knows Mommy! Maybe she knows where Mommy is, or why Mommy left six years ago, or when Mommy’s coming back. I bet she’d tell us. I can fix her a bowl of Honey-Nut-Oat-Blast-Ring-a-Dings. It’s her favorite. It’s also the only food in the house. That’s weird.

I wanna walk through the door. The one with the pretty blue lightning. One of the ones, anyway. She has a lot of them. Funny, she has lots of doors in the big room, but no doors anywhere else in the house. That’s weird.

Zack doesn’t want me to go through the door. He says it’s dangerous and I’ll get hurt and stuff. And Janice doesn’t want me to go through the door. Actually, she doesn’t want anyone to go through the door, not even herself. Sydney’s fine with her and me going through the door. But Zack and Janice are bigger and think they get to tell us what to do. Zack treats me like I’m a baby. I’m not a baby. I’m seven!

Mommy wouldn’t treat me like a baby. If she were here.  Hey! Maybe Mommy’s on the other side of the door!

DAVID NEILSEN is the author of two Middle Grade horror/comic/fantasies published by Crown Books for Young Readers: Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom (2016) and Beyond the Doors (2017). A classically trained actor, David works as a professional storyteller based in Sleepy Hollow, NY and spends much of October spooking the bejeebers out of people or performing one of his one-man shows based on and inspired by the works of H. P. Lovecraft. He lives with his wife, son, daughter, and two very domineering cats.


https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2211282452   link to Darlene’s review on Goodreads