#011: Instilling a Love of Reading in Kids and Families with Michelle Dunham

books reading teaching Jun 11, 2020
My guest today is Michelle Dunham from Ruby Reads. She's a mom of 3, a book aficionado, an educator and the creator of Ruby Reads where she supports families and kids by instilling a love for books and reading.

As you know, I'm a book lover and passionate about literacy and teaching students to love books and reading. I first found Michelle and Ruby Reads on Instagram @rubyreadsbooks. If you don't follow her account, do it now! You won't regret it!

We talk about how to simply create a culture of readers and book lovers in your classroom by what you read, how you pair books and the conversations you start with your students. The steps are truly simple. Like anything new, it's not always easy at first, but the more you prep and practice the easier it becomes. It all starts with a love of books, a few paired books and the heart of a teacher. 

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Here's a peek at what's inside this episode:

  • Who is Ruby and the history of that cute little red...
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#010: Using Your Classroom Library to Combat Racism and Create a Positive Classroom Culture

We simply can't let racism go on. People of color should not have to live in fear, worry for their own safety or their loved ones when they are simply going about normal life. 

Eliminating racism is a daunting task. No big, important goal is achieved in a day. While we can't eliminate racism today, we can start or restart our efforts. If we all make a simple 1% change each month in what we do, think, say or in supporting organizations that work to end racism, it will add up to big wins.

Figuring out where to start can be overwhelming, but as teachers, we have an easy place to start - our classroom libraries. 

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Here's a peek at what's inside this episode:

  • Why your classroom library matters.
  • How to make a 1% change that is both powerful and appropriate for our students' age levels.
  • How to begin evaluating what you have in your library already.
  • What types of texts are needed for a well rounded classroom library.
  • Why you need...
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Back-to-School Book Guide

Here's my back-to-school book picks for those first weeks of school. With the help of these 15 fun books, you'll set the stage for great discussion and the opportunity to teach your expectations and train your students. While this is far from a complete list, it's a good start to your back-to-school collection.

The Pigeon HAS to Go to School! by Mo Willems

Pigeon has to start school and is terrified until... As usual, Pigeon is dramatic and funny but expresses all the emotions (and excuses) kids really have. 

So many kiddos are nervous about school and the unknown. This timely book (and very funny) book can help pave the way to talking about all those fears. 


Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Chrysanthemum loves her unusual name until she starts school and the mean kids get to her. Not to worry, her teacher has an ace up her sleeve.

Perfect for talking about class culture and how to treat others. It's also great for reminding students what others think of us doesn't...

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The Power of Teaching with Read-Alouds

books teaching Jun 06, 2019

It all started with this question. "How have you seen students respond to and learn from read alouds, Lisa?"

Hmmm. Well, since you asked...

When I first started teaching I thought read alouds should be treated as an “extra” with “time permitting." Obviously, I had a LOT to learn. With time and experience, I've learned differently. Read alouds are actually a golden opportunity to teach a good majority of reading and writing skills and strategies in meaningful and memorable ways. Not to mention, if you plan carefully, you can add in non-fiction and historical fiction texts to pair with your stories and/or poetry and get some mileage in Science and Social Studies. That's a huge bonus.

So, here's an example of read aloud ideas I might plan for a week in a first grade classroom and in a fifth grade classroom

First Grade


The Egyptian Cinderella by Jewell Reinhart Coburn

The Rough-Faced Girl by Rafe Martin

Adelita by Tomie DePaolo


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Feeling Grumpy? 3 Texts to Pair with "Grumpy Monkey"

books teaching Mar 28, 2019

Do you ever just feel like being grumpy for a bit?

As we head into the latter part of the school year, we can all get a bit grumpy. Let's face it, life in a crowded place can wear on us. As I tell my kids, "sometimes it's just too much togetherness." Occasionally, we just need a break and chance to be grumpy for a bit. 

Helping students both understand their feelings and find appropriate ways to cope is a big part of effective classroom management. I find picture books to be a great way to do that while teaching content at the same time.

Your grumpy students will feel completely understood with Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Lang.

Jim woke up grumpy and got grumpier the more everyone tried to tell him what to do about it. When Norman finally tells Jim, "It's a wonderful day to be grumpy." Jim finally starts to feel a little bit better. There's just something about being understood that's more helpful than the most well-intentioned advice. 

Well...you know me. I...

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Science Read Alouds

books teaching Mar 06, 2019

I get asked by teachers for book suggestions, so I decided to periodically offer a few by category. The first set is below. It's a bit longer than I intended. Yes, I got carried away. :D

Here's a list of Mentor Texts for STEM topics. It is by no means a comprehensive list. That would be overwhelming for all of us. Think of it as a place to start.

Not sold on the power of read alouds? Listen to this sound bite on the power of reading aloud from Kate DiCamillo.

Want it as a printable list? I've got you covered! You can grab the full list here.





Books by Andrea Beaty

·      Rosie Revere, Engineer

·      Ada Twist, Scientist

·      Iggy Peck, Architect

Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

Papas Mechanical Fish by Fleming

Jack and the Geniuses by Bill Nye

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by Kamkwamba and Mealer


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Tried and True Picture Books for Teaching

books teaching Aug 08, 2018

Every summer I clean out and purge all of my books. It's a difficult task because I love them all. Many books are like good friends. But, I have limited real estate on the shelves. Sometimes I need to make room for some new finds that fulfill a teaching purpose or need for students better than an older book. Sometimes I have an older book that does the best job for me, so I get rid of a newer one. Hard choices, but necessary. 

Part of what I am doing is staying focused in my purpose in teaching and coaching. Having too much can be overwhelming and decision making becomes harder. Being thoughtful in my library makes me more efficient and directed. 

How do you choose the books you teach with and what deserves shelf space in your teaching library?

There are so many wonderful picture books coming out every year. It can be a bit overwhelming. However, we need to remember there are older books that are just as wonderful. Perhaps it's time to walk away from the next shiny thing...

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10 Back-to-School Read Alouds to Teach With

books teaching Jul 11, 2018

Using books to teach or enhance lessons brings a richness to everything we teach and makes the lessons more memorable. Stories embed in our memories better than facts alone. One of the things all of these books have in common is they teach a lesson in a fun way without being preachy. Each book can be used to teach about reading and writing as well.

I put a few suggestions for writing by each book. There are certainly plenty of other ways to use them, but these are a start. All of these books can be used for ideas for writing- new ending or beginning, write about a similar topic or from a different point of view, compare/contrast these characters to themselves, retelling, beginning, middle and end... This is a good place to begin the year in our writing instruction to get student started and be successful right away.


Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes (using type style and size effectively, sentence fluency)

Lily's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes (ideas,...

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How do Students Become Lifelong Readers?

books teaching Jul 04, 2018


You'd think I would've had enough of picture books after so many years of teaching elementary school and raising 5 kids. I haven't. Here's the thing... even my kids still read [and love] the new picture books (and chapter books) I bring home. They have an opinion on all of them, too. 

My love of books, especially picture books, began young in the children's section of our local public library. My mom is an avid reader and library user. So, I've been going to the library from the time I was born. I've had a lot of 'favorite' books over the years, but you never forget your first real love. 


It wasn't ground breaking, particularly moral instilling or really anything special in and of itself. Most kids my age probably never read it. It just captured MY imagination. So, I checked it out every time it was available for an entire year. My poor mother read that thing...

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3 Essential Reads for Educators: An Unorthodox List

books Aug 16, 2017

Sometimes stepping out of our comfort zone and learning lessons from other areas of life can transform our teaching and our schools.

Read these book pics with an eye and heart for education. I think you'll be inspired. 


by Dave Ramsey

You're going to say... What?! That's a business book. What does that have to do with teaching? 

And I'll say... Everything.

This book talks about how to build a team and a business. Education is both a public service and a business whether we want to admit it or not. As teachers, we work as both teammates and as entrepreneurs every day in our classrooms. When we get over ourselves enough to admit we need to think more like business professionals, we will start to find the true path to transforming classrooms, schools and education overall. Just read it with education in mind. You'll be surprised and inspired.


Man's Search for Meaning

by Viktor Frankl

In education, the latests hot buzz words are grit and growth...

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