Literary Characters I would like to friend on Facebook…..

Sadly, I admit to wasting away part of my holiday weekend with Facebook.  (Never mind the  piles of laundry which need my attention.)  Eoin brought me our current bedtime novel to read,  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. We are enjoying reading many of  the classics together;   I,  reliving them from my childhood.  Many of these characters are like old friends whom I am reconnecting with, much like Facebook is a source for people to reconnect with  others. I then began to think about  fictional characters I would like to friend on Facebook.

Here are a few.  And why.

Elizabeth Bennett…one of the most complicated literary characters ever written.  Pride and Prejudice is one of the great romances of all of literature but yet extra special because it seems so romantic and realistic.   Elizabeth became attractive  to Mr. Darcy when he discovered her true personality, despite   not holding the same status as was required of couples in Victorian England.  Jane Austen introduces a couple that is not glamorized by beauty but fall in love with the personality of the other. Austen created characters with contrast.  Besides, I so love the Colin Firth movie version of Mr. Darcy.

Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables devilish curiosity, personal strength, helped her overcome the harsh hand life deal this orphan and as a result became a teacher. I so love her vivid use of imagination.

Charlie Buckett from Charlie and the Chocolate factory.  While this is a current read in the Potwin household,  I am reminded of Charlie’s kind  and gentle disposition as well as his honesty, despite being presented with the opportunity to profit greatly by deceitfully  participating in industrial candy espionage.  Besides, I would warn him to stay away from the  nasty Veruca Salt.  Not only is she a spoiled little girl, but has dreadful manners.

Nora Krank from Skipping Christmas by John Grisham, became multi million dollar grossing movie Christmas with the Kranks.  Anyone who celebrates the Christmas holiday with as much vim and vigor as Nora has my undying appreciation. I can totally relate to her and teh demands of holiday preparation.  Plus, I would love some of her holiday decorating tips.

Paddington Bear ( who, admittedly,  is really not a person).  Perhaps  meeting up for coffee…or tea…would be a better  initial meeting , before deciding to ‘friend’ Paddington.  I am not sure about having an actual meal with a bear, though in the whimsical spirit of this blog,  I would elect to have a proper British tea, including marmalade sandwiches, with the  Bear from deepest, darkest Peru,  most likely in Harrod’s Food Court..or possibly Fortum and Mason’s…or the like.  Hold the cream …I know that Paddington would make a mess of the cream and then I would be responsible for wiping off his whiskers. And use paper cups,  I do not wish to be responsible for  broken china.

Edgar Allan Poe’s Raven,  though I would choose when  to accept this friend request…..distinctly not  in the  bleak  December. Yes, I too choose to read as a form of escapism, though not  for seek solace  of  Lenore’s lost.  And yes, I too feel for the narrator’s sense of undying  devotion, though perk up buttercup…madness is not the answer.

Colin in the Secret Garden.  I would love to discuss his transformation from  doom and gloom to being a sunny optimist.

Eloise…living in that New York hotel for so long, I am sure she has become accustomed to  a certain level of service and a ” joie de vie” when approaching life.  Friending Eloise would be a must.  When she returns from Paris, of course.

Babar…I want more tidbits of life behind the palace walls.

Birdie Boyers…the Strawberry Girl  depicts Florida Cracker life,  in lieu of a friend request perhaps a nice meal out on the town, perhaps a strawberry short cake  desert would  be welcomed.  I would like to  learn more about how she   applied herself to hard work around her. If there is one thing which I value above all else in this world, it  is hard work and those who apply themselves to a challenge.

So many great books, so many great characters…many of them are like old friends.  I look forward to revisiting them,  perhaps not through Facebook, though through readings with my son as he grows to love the expressive written word as much as I do.

No Difference Between Kids’ Comprehension of Ebooks, Print Books, Study Says

Below is a reposted article, sponsored by Renaissance Learning, an automation company which profits are generated by student reading scores across the country, thus their business interest is boosted by the results of this study. As well, the variables of images /diagrams / picture books was not  factored into the results. While an interesting study,  one needs to take it with a grain of salt.

There’s no real difference between ebooks and traditional paper books when it comes to kids’ reading comprehension, says a new study.

kindlestudy(Original Import)Student Comprehension of Books in Kindle and Traditional Formats” by Michael Milone, a research psychologist and educational writer at Renaissance Learning, asked students in two fourth-grade classes located in the Upper Midwest to read up to six books from a selected list of a dozen popular fiction titles that included Eleanor Estes’s Ginger Pye (Harcourt, 1951), Gary Paulsen’s Lawn Boy (Random, 2007), Mary Pope Osborne’s Sunset of the Sabertooth (Random, 1996), and Megan McDonald’s Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid (Candlewick, 2005). The 31 students—who read a total of 135 books, 69 on the Kindle and 66 in print—were asked to alternate between reading half of the books on the Kindle and the other half in a bound, printed format. After reading each one, they completed a brief, computer-based Accelerated Reader quiz to measure their understanding.

Milone found that there was no statistically significant difference in reading comprehension levels, with students correctly answering an average of 88 percent of questions about the books read on the Kindle, compared to 88.5 percent of questions answered correctly for print books.

“Results of the study indicate that parents and educators can rest easy knowing that students comprehend books they read digitally as well as they comprehend books read in a print format,” especially since electronic reading devices are rapidly becoming popular for both personal and educational use, the study says. Only narrative texts were used, and the results do not include informational texts or textbooks.

“As more schools and districts begin to incorporate ereaders into the curriculum, it is important to better understand how students comprehend books read digitally compared with print books,” says Glenn James, the CEO Renaissance Learning, a provider of tech-based student assessment programs for K-12 schools. “The results of this study confirm that every book read, in any format, is another step toward higher student achievement.”

Although previous research suggests no difference in reading comprehension between digital and print formats, many of those studies were conducted using animated storybooks—and none involved extensive reading for pleasure in a typical school setting.

When asked about using the Kindle, the majority (76 percent) of students said it was very easy to use. In terms of their reading comprehension, 28 percent found the Kindle much easier to understand than a printed book, 24 percent said it was a little easier, and 40 percent said it was about the same. If given a choice, 62 percent of those surveyed said they preferred to read using a Kindle rather than a book.

“The large number of books in the study and the naturalistic approach to the research—students read the books in a typical setting at school or at home—suggest that the results are dependable, and that students’ comprehension of narrative texts is the same for ereaders and print books,” the study says. “Students enjoy reading on ereaders, and the novelty effect of these devices may encourage less proficient students to read more.”

The study may help educators, especially since a growing number of individual schools and districts are incorporating ereaders like the Kindle and Nook, as well as tablet computers into the curriculum.

“This trend has not gone unnoticed by educational publishers; most are at least dabbling in adapting their texts to electronic formats,” the study adds.

Even though a relatively small number of students were used in the study, the report says its findings are dependable, “but replication and extension are clearly necessary.” The study does point out some limitations, saying that its results should not be applied to all forms of reading on digital devices. “Reading on a very small screen device, however, like a smartphone or online reading, with its links, multiple pages, and sometimes distracting graphics, pose very different comprehension challenges.”

The greatest limitation of the study is that students read narrative rather than informational texts, and “research has found that most ereaders are used for reading for pleasure, and most users are satisfied with their devices for this purpose.” When it comes to studying, traditional print books are preferred to ebooks.

Participants read the books beginning in early April 2011 after spring break, and the study concluded during the final week in May. The lists of books, in the order they were to be read, were provided to students, teachers, and librarians.

as cited from

Celebrating 50 years of Snowy Days

Part of my childhood, as many children growing up in the North, was Ezra Jack Keats’ most famous offering, Snowy Day. We looked forward to snow days (myself included!), often resulting the cancellation of school during the end of January or beginning of February. Keats’ illustrations capture the wonderment of the snowy landscape on these joyous days.

Beginning on September 9, the first major U.S. exhibition to pay tribute to the award-winning author and illustrator will open at the Jewish Museum in New York. “The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats” features more than 80 original works from preliminary sketches and dummy books to final paintings and collages for the artist’s most beloved children’s books, including Whistle for Willie (1964), Peter’s Chair (1967), and The Snowy Day (1962).

Published in 1962, at the height of the civil rights movement and winner of the Caldecott Medal, The Snowy Day featured the first African-American protagonist in a full-color picture book and paved the way for multiracial representation in American children’s literature. The Snowy Day—the first modern full-color picture book to feature an African-American protagonist – went on to become an inspiration for generations of readers, transforming children’s literature forever.

The exhibition, which remains on view through January 29, 2012, is part of a wide-scale celebration of the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Snowy Day (Viking), complete with eight pages of bonus material, including photographs that inspired the character of Peter and letters from fans like Langston Hughes.

An illustrated book for adults, The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats, is being co-published in October by the Jewish Museum and Yale University Press to complement the exhibit. The 104-page hardcover book includes 80 color and three black-and-white illustrations; essays by Claudia Nahson, curator at the Jewish Museum, and art critic Maurice Berger; and an illustrated timeline by Emily Casden and Nahson. It will be available worldwide and at the Jewish Museum’s Cooper Shop for $27.50.

Following its New York City showing, the exhibition will travel to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA (June 26-October 14, 2012); the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, CA (November 15, 2012-February 24, 2013); and the Akron Art Museum in Ohio (March-June 2013).

as cited on



The 2011-2012 Sunshine State Reading list is here!

Are you looking for the 2012-2013 Sunshine State list?  Click here to redirect.

It’s here! The new 2011-2012 Florida  Sunshine State Young Reader’s list was announced this morning.To all Saint Stephen’s children entering grade 4-5-6, you will be eligible to participate in our reading program. I would encourage you to be reading these books over the summer months, making notes at the end of each chapter.  Those entering grade five have the option of reading two  of the below listed books  ( from either the grade 3-5 list, or the grade  6-8 list) as part of your required summer reading. During the school year, Intermediate School children are invited to read at least 5 books from the recommended list, then take and pass the accompanying Accelerated Reader test. Children who read at least 5 books are then invited to our voting party in April 2012. Last year, 46  IS students attended our afternoon voting party off campus.

Why not join us in April 2012? Why not read some of these books over the summer months? Enjoy!

Grade 3-5

Barrett, Tracy The 100-year-old Secret (AR 4.4)  Xena and Xander Holmes, an American brother and sister living in London for a year, discover that Sherlock Holmes was their great-great-great grandfather when they are inducted into the Society for the Preservation of Famous Detectives and given his unsolved casebook, from which they attempt to solve the case of a famous missing painting.

Barrows, Annie The Magic Half (AR 4.2)  Eleven-year-old Miri Gill feels left out in her family, which has two sets of twins and her, until she travels back in time to 1935 and discovers Molly, her own lost twin, and brings her back to the present day.

Buckley, Michael NERDS: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society ( AR 5.3  )  While running a spy network from their elementary school, five unpopular misfits combine their talents and use cutting-edge gadgetry to fight evil around the world.

Clements, Andrew Extra Credit (AR 5.2  ) Three young middle-school-age children, Abby, Amira, and Sadeed, exchange letters back and forth between the prairies of Illinois and the mountains of Afghanistan and begin to bridge a gap across cultural and religious divides.

Draper, Sharon M. Out of My Mind ( AR 4.3 ) Considered by many to be mentally retarded, a brilliant, impatient fifth-grader with cerebral palsy discovers a technological device that will allow her to speak for the first time.

Graff, Lisa Umbrella Summer (AR 4.6 )  After her brother Jared dies, ten-year-old Annie worries about the hidden dangers of everything, from bug bites to bicycle riding, until she is befriended by a new neighbor who is grieving her own loss.

Jonell, Lynne The Secret of Zoom ( AR 4.8) Ten-year-old Christina lives a sheltered life until she discovers a secret tunnel, an evil plot to enslave orphans, and a mysterious source of energy known as zoom.

Klise, Kate Dying to Meet You  (AR 4.4)  In this story told mostly through letters, children’s book author, I. B. Grumply, gets more than he bargained for when he rents a quiet place to write for the summer.

LaFevers, R.L. Flight of the Phoenix  ( AR  3.9  ) Ten-year-old Nate is sent to live with a family cousin, the world’s last beastologist, after his parents are declared lost at sea, but danger mounts when he is brought on an expedition to the Arabian desert, gets lost, and must protect a newly hatched phoenix egg and rescue his guardian.

Lin, Grace Where the Mountain Meets the Moon  ( AR  5.5 )  Minli, an adventurous girl from a poor village, buys a magical goldfish, and then joins a dragon who cannot fly on a quest to find the Old Man of the Moon in hopes of bringing life to Fruitless Mountain and freshness to Jade River.

Look, Lenore Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things   ( AR 3.8   )  A young boy in Concord, Massachusetts, who loves superheroes and comes from a long line of brave Chinese farmer-warriors, wants to make friends, but first he must overcome his fear of everything.

Mills, Claudia How Oliver Olson Changed the World  ( AR 5.0 )  Afraid he will always be an outsider like ex-planet Pluto, nine-year-old Oliver finally shows his extremely overprotective parents that he is capable of doing great things without their help while his class is studying the solar system.

Pitchford, Dean Captain Nobody  ( AR 4.8  ) When ten-year-old Newton dresses up as an unusual superhero for Halloween, he decides to keep wearing the costume after the holiday to help save townspeople and eventually his injured brother.

Thomson, Sarah L. Dragon’s Egg  ( AR 4.9  )  Mella, a young girl trained as a dragon keeper, learns that the legends of old are true when she is entrusted with carrying a dragon’s egg to the fabled Hatching Grounds, a dangerous journey on which she is assisted by a knight’s squire.

Yee, Lisa Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally)   ( AR  4.1  )  Bobby inadvertently gets into a fight with his best friend Holly, and their disagreement develops into a boys versus girls war involving their whole fourth-grade class.

Grade 6- 8

Angleberger, Tom The Strange Case of Origami Yoda  ( AR 4.1  )  Sixth-grader Tommy and his friends describe their interactions with a paper finger puppet of Yoda, worn by their weird classmate Dwight, as they try to figure out whether or not the puppet can really predict the future. Includes instructions for making Origami Yoda.

Baggott, Julianna The Prince of Fenway Park  ( AR 4.2  )  In the fall of 2004, twelve-year-old Oscar Egg is sent to live with his father in a strange netherworld under Boston’s Fenway Park, where he joins the fairies, pooka, banshee, and other beings that are trapped there, waiting for someone to break the eighty-six-year-old curse that has prevented the Boston Red Sox from winning a World Series.

Breathed, Berkeley Flawed Dogs: The Novel: The Shocking Raid on Westminster  ( AR  5.6 )  After being framed by a jealous poodle, a dachshund is left for dead, but comes back with a group of mutts from the National Last Ditch Dog Depository to disrupt the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club dog show and exact revenge on Cassius the poodle.

Draper, Sharon M. Out of My Mind ( AR 4.3 ) Considered by many to be mentally retarded, a brilliant, impatient fifth-grader with cerebral palsy discovers a technological device that will allow her to speak for the first time.

Falls, Kat Dark Life   ( AR  5.2 ) When fifteen-year-old Ty, who has always lived on the ocean floor, joins Topside girl Gemma in the frontier’s underworld to seek and stop outlaws who threaten his home, they learn that the government may pose an even greater threat.

Hegamin, Tonya & Nelson, Marilyn Pemba’s Song: A Ghost Story  ( AR 5.9   )  As fifteen-year-old Pemba adjusts to leaving her Brooklyn, New York, home for small-town Connecticut, a history researcher helps her understand the paranormal experiences drawing her into the life of a girl who was once a slave in her house.

Hiaasen, Carl Scat  ( AR 5.5  ) Nick and Marta are both suspicious when their biology teacher, the feared Mrs. Bunny Starch, disappears, and try to uncover the truth despite the police and headmaster’s insistence that nothing is wrong.

Logsted, Greg Alibi Junior High   ( AR 4.6  )  After thirteen-year-old Cody and his father, an undercover agent, are nearly killed, Cody moves in with his aunt in Connecticut, where he is helped with his adjustment to the trials of attending public school for the first time and investigating a threat in nearby woods by a wounded Iraq War veteran.

Paterson, Katherine The Day of the Pelican   ( AR   5.2)  In 1998 when the Kosovo hostilities escalate, thirteen-year-old Meli’s life as an ethnic Albanian, changes forever after her brother escapes his Serbian captors and the entire family flees from one refugee camp to another until they are able to immigrate to America.

Paulsen, Gary Woods Runner   ( AR 5.5   )  From his 1776 Pennsylvania homestead, thirteen-year-old Samuel, who is a highly-skilled woodsman, sets out toward New York City to rescue his parents from the band of British soldiers and Native Americans who kidnapped them after slaughtering most of their community.

Preller, James Bystander   ( AR 4.2   )  Thirteen-year-old Eric discovers there are consequences to not standing by and watching as the bully at his new school hurts people, but although school officials are aware of the problem, Eric may be the one with a solution.

Sanderson, Brandon Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians   ( AR 5.6   )  On his thirteenth birthday, foster child Alcatraz Smedry receives a bag of sand which is immediately stolen by the evil Librarians who are trying to take over the world, and Alcatraz is introduced to his grandfather and his own special talent, and told that he must use it to save civilization.

Slade, Arthur G. Jolted: Newton Starker’s rules for survival   ( AR 4.5   )  Many of Newton Starker’s ancestors, including his mother, have been killed by lightning strikes, so when he enrolls at the eccentric Jerry Potts Academy of Higher Learning and Survival in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, he tries to be a model student so that he can avoid the same fate.

Taylor, Greg Killer Pizza   ( AR 4.4 )  While working as summer employees in a local pizza parlor, three teenagers are recruited by an underground organization of monster hunters.

Woodson, Jacqueline Peace, Locomotion   ( AR  5.0 )  Through letters to his little sister, who is living in a different foster home, sixth-grader Lonnie, also known as “Locomotion,” keeps a record of their lives while they are apart, describing his own foster family, including his foster brother who returns home after losing a leg in the Iraq War.

And the nominees are …..2009-2010 Sunshine State Young Readers

It’s here!  The new 2009-2010 Sunshine reader’s  list was announced this morning.   To all Saint Stephen’s Children entering grade 4-5-6, you will be eligible to participate in our reading program.  I would encourage you to be reading these books over the summer months.  During the school year, Intermediate School children are invited to read at least 5 books from the recommended list, then take and pass the accompanying Accelerated reader test.  Children who read at least 5 books are then invited to our voting party in April 2010.  Why not read some of these books over the  summer months? Enjoy!


Grades 3-5



Berlin, Eric. The Puzzling World of Winston Breen.

Cheaney, J. B. Middle of Somewhere.
Davies, Jacqueline. The Lemonade War.
Fleming, Candace. The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School.
Frazier, Sundee T. Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything in it.
Funke, Cornelia. Igraine the Brave.
Hobbs, Valerie. Defiance.
Jonell, Lynne. Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat.
Kennedy, Marlane. Me and the Pumpkin Queen.
Lin, Grace. Year of the Dog.

Lisle, Janet Taylor. Highway Cats.

Lubar, David. Punished.

Salisbury, Graham. Night of the Howling Dogs.
Urban, Linda. Crooked Kind of Perfect.

Grades 6-8




Auch, Mary. Wing Nut.
Durst, Sarah Beth. Into the Wild.
Fleischman, Sid. The Entertainer and the Dybbuk.
George, Jessica Day. Dragon Slippers.
Haddix, Margaret Peterson. Found.
Hahn, Mary Downing. All the Lovely Bad Ones.
Harkrader, Lisa. Airball: My Life in Briefs.
Hart, Allison. Gabriel’s Horses.
Hobbs, Will. Go Big or Go Home.
Jaramillo, Ann. La Linea.
Korman, Gordon. Schooled.
Smith, Sherri L. Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet.
Stead, Rebecca. First Light.
VanDraanen, Wendy. Runaway.

Sunshine State Reading Program 2008-2009

Looking for something great to read?  I would recommend that our students entering grades 4,5,6  select something from the Sunshine State reading list. The State of Florida recommends approxiamtely 20 to 25 books each year within  the grade 3 to 8 reading range.  Children who read at least  five books from the following list, and pass the accompanying Accelerated Reader test will be invited to our annual voting party in April ’09.  Intermediate School students are asked to check off the books they have read on list located ont heir library work folder. I might suggest that our children  take notes at the end of each chapter  in order to  better understand the story’s  characters, plot and setting.  Often  these titles can be used for an in class reading assignment, though  each student is encouraged to seek approval from their teacher. For more information go to the Sunshine State Young Reader’saward webpage.

Sunshine State Reading Program 2008/2009

Bauer, Marion Dane. The Blue Ghost.  

Clements, Andrew.  No Talking.                                          

 DeFelice, Cynthia. The Missing Manatee.           

DiSalvo, DyAnne. The Sloppy Copy Slipup.

Dowell, Frances O’Roark.  Phineas L. MacGuire. . . Erupts!: The First Experiment.      

Gorman, Carol and Ron J. Findley.  Stumptown Kid.                           

Graff, Lisa.  The Thing about Georgie

Gutman, Dan.  The Homework Machine.  

Haddix, Margaret Peterson. Dexter the Tough. 

Kehret, Peg.  The Ghost’s Grave.

Lord, Cynthia.  Rules.

Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds.  Roxie and the Hooligans

Pennypacker, Sara.  Clementine

Repka, Janice.  The Stupendous Dodgeball Fiasco

Tolan, Stephanie S. Listen!  

Broach, Elise.  Shakespeare’s Secret.  

Bruchac, Joseph.  Whisper in the Dark.  

Cummings, Priscilla. Red Kayak.  

Duble, Kathleen Benner.  The Sacrifice

Kent, Rose.  Kimchi & Calamari

Lisle, Janet Taylor.  Black Duck.  

Mass, Wendy.  Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life

Meehl, Brian. Out of Patience.                                              

Pearson, Ridley.  The Kingdom Keepers. 

Rorby, Ginny.  Hurt Go Happy.  

Smith, Roland.  Peak. 

Spinelli, Jerry. Eggs.  

Winerip, Michael.  Adam Canfield of the Slash

Yancey, Rick.  The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp 







Sunshine State Reading Program-reminder

Intermediate School Friends,

Just a gentle reminder that the Sunshine State Reading Program is slowly coming to a close for this year. Thus, if you are participating by reading 5 novels from the State of Florida list and have rec’ved a passing grade for the accompanying AR tests, you are all set! Please consult the State of Florida website for a total list of nominated books.  Students are encourgaed to read from both lists, regarless of their reading levels. 

Grade 3-5

Grade 6-8

If you are still working on this minimum reading requirement, please remember that you must complete the reading and test taking (with a passing grade) by TUESDAY MARCH 25th @ 3pm.  Results will be tabulated at this time.

Intermediate school children who haved completed this  extra reading will rec’ve voting party invitations on the following day.  The voting party will be held on April 2nd from 1pm-2.3opm.

Many of our grade four, five and six students have been busy reading during this year. If you have elected not to participate this year, perhaps next year?  Why miss out on the fun?

Please email me with any questions you might have,