Books, Friends and Joy, Part 1

NOTE: As I was about to move my home office, I read a post by a friend who suggested those of us in a coaches group post pictures of our home office.  This was motivation to get crackin’ and make things look good. Or at least, better.  A day later, Jess Lahey and KJ Del Antonia were chatting on #AmWritingWithJessandKJ about their lack of workspace, reminding me how lucky I am to have a space and how needy that space was for some love.  So the move and requisite purge began with a little kick in the pants from these three friends.


At last count, four bookcases in my office and one in the basement. Stacks around the house and stashed in tote bags and baskets. About a dozen bankers boxes with children’s books.  After our fire in 2005, one of the movers said, “Lady, are you a librarian or something?”  “Nope, I am the Trifecta. Teacher. Parent. Reader.”  He didn’t get it.


We replaced dozens of the books lost in the fire.  A decade later, I have SO many books – Kids’ books. Teacher books. Grown up books. Picture books. Well-read books. Unopened books. I am now trying to part with some of them, because… well, I really do not need all of them and they need more love and care than I can give.  It’s more emotional than looking at a scrapbook or photo album, perhaps because I never managed to keep either of those.  I AM really good at keeping books.   Continue reading “Books, Friends and Joy, Part 1”

8 Traits

8 traitsv2

The past few posts have focused on defining family but in a broader sense, this blog is about what we model and instill with the children in our lives and the lessons we learn from each other. A huge part of raising and working with kids is keeping in mind the end game.  That doesn’t mean being wedded to a certain outcome (soccer star, valedictorian, Ivy-League college) but more a general sense of the values you want to instill and the kind of person you hope this little person is and becomes.  While much of development is dependent on temperament, health, experiences outside the home, parents and caregivers are the first teachers and often, the most significant role models.  


It’s important to spend time thinking about what you want to model and instill, and to know that this may change over time.Each family will grow to have it’s own unique blend of values and priorities. This may include a range of other big and small ideas, such as:






The foundation for building a connected family and children who learn to navigate their world with confidence, empathy and a willingness to accept challenges are based on eight traits explored on the blog.  They are:




Love of literature/communication



Problem solving

Resilience & resourcefulness


These are eight traits, among many, that are the foundation upon which strong families are based.  It also shares stories of a wide range of children in the classroom where these traits are nurtured and contribute to both the child’s development and the school community.  Each of these traits helps give rise to confident, caring and engaged children who learn to advocate for themselves and people and issues important to them, as they learn to be self-reliant and motivated thinkers and do-ers in an increasingly complex world.

With two emerging adults – kids that are late teens and early twenties but not yet fully adults – it’s easier now to look back on how we raised them.  There were definitely periods we were far too bleary-eyed or stressed to consider the big picture! Over the past twenty years, our ideals and values have shifted as circumstances and needs changed.  We faced challenges and many joys, but throughout these halos and hiccups, there are many values and traits that we clung to and strived to model and instill.


Over these same years, as I worked with children from ages three through thirteen, I was fortunate enough to work alongside dedicated colleagues who shared similar values and commitment to what we modeled and expected from our students. Beyond my own two offspring, I saw hundreds of kids from various backgrounds learn to navigate school and life with courage and integrity, learning from their mistakes and growing.  What’s most important to me as a person and my family can be summarized:


  • We must have the courage to be both creative and empathetic in our lives. We must listen to our hearts and the people around us. Everyone and every situation have something to teach us when we listen.  
  • Communicating with others orally, in writing, in our body language and our actions are essential in this world.
  • Literature has much to teach us, as well as an ability to help us escape from the world, explore new ideas, and connect with others.  
  • Life isn’t just about work; it’s about play and joy, too. Play is essential for big people, little people and all people, so we need time for authentic play that allows us to do something we love with no  purpose.  
  • Whether in play or work, we will need to problem solve, often. This requires looking carefully at the situation and trying new things. We will fail, and we will succeed, and we will learn.
  • To navigate our relationship and our world, we will be called upon, again to be brave, as we develop resilience and resourcefulness. Life will be complicated and messy and rewarding. We have to jump in the game and give it our all.  
  • As a family, we need to support each other as we take this journey, honoring each other, being open to the possibilities, holding each other accountable as we celebrate the failures and successes of our individual and collective growth and contributions to the world.

Our most important job as parents and caregivers is to raise children who learn to be self-sufficient, competent, caring and willing to contribute to the world – a world we cannot know right now, but can only give our very best effort to raising good kids who will go out and do good in their own ways.

What’s most important to your family or for you to model and instill in the children you work with?

I Just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Holiday Picture Books


Yesterday’s post “Savor the Rituals” has provoked a spontaneous and quick contest on Wonder of Children.

With over 100-holiday picture books in our home library, my whole family – okay, well, I’m the most eager –  looks forward to a few new holiday titles every year.  When I was in the classroom, I could see and share with children many of their favorite books.  And since I’m feeling both sentimental and curious… I wonder what your family’s current favorite holiday book might be?


Christmas Trinkles Book by Kay Thompson Hilary Knight ...

If you’re willing to share what your favorite holiday book is, I’m giving away a brand new holiday title.  With just a week until Christmas Eve, you’ve got to act fast!  The contest closes on Monday, December 22nd, giving the elves just enough time to get the book shipped out to the winner!

Here are three easy steps to entering the contest:

  1. Decide your favorite, favorite, favoritest holiday title.  That’s likely to be the hardest part!
  2. Post the title and/or a photo in the comments.
  3. Subscribe to the Newsletter – just look to the top right of the page.

Read and post FAST.   And after a weekend of celebrating and decorating and Christmas-ing,  don’t forget to check your email on Monday to see if you’ve won!

Happy reading….happy holidays!





Lisa Dewey Wells

11 Ways to Read this Summer


Many of us start the summer with good intentions to foster and develop reading all summer. Then, suddenly, it’s July. It’s hot, humid, hectic. Perhaps you need a reminder of why this is important or what the value is in encouraging summer reading.

So what does all this fuss over summer reading really  mean? It is clearly and definitively in our kids’ best interest – both for starting September on solid footing and to give them the tools and habits for life-long learning, to read over the summer. Today. Every day. All summer. All year.

Summer reading keeps kids in the habit of reading. It keeps their vocabulary and decoding skills active. It helps them pursue interests or perhaps harvest new ones. It lets them tune out the rest of the world, digital and physical, and be transported to a different time and place.  It allows them to just be and to wrestle with the quiet in their own head and be with their own thoughts.

Sometimes it’s a tough sell when there’s quick access to stuff that’s immediately satisfying and stimulating – whether that stuff appears on the screen or draws them into other activities. Often kids just need a gentle nudge to consider a wider range of options or the familiarity of a routine that includes reading. Other times, it’s just a “have to” that could become a “want to.”
But it doesn’t have to be like brushing teeth or taking vitamins or walking the dog.  There are gazillions of books and other materials to read that help keep summer reading easy and fun.  Children, particularly boys and those for whom reading doesn’t come easily, will be more engaged in reading when it’s meaningful, relevant and provides some sense of adventure or fantasy.

11 Ways to Slip Reading into Summer:

  1. Make it a priority.  A priority to have fun with reading. Remember, reading doesn’t always mean holding a book.  Magazines, e-books, audio books, direction, games like Bananagrams, Scrabble, Boggle.
  2. Build it into your day. Before or after a meal. during afternoon (nap or quiet time). On the way to the pool, day care, sports. Schedule a weekly library trip. Whatever works in your home, for your kids, for yourself.
  3. Add some drama – act out stories, dress up, make a stage, read into a microphone, video tape read aloud (share with far-away relatives), write stories and act them out.
  4. Make a list  – of topics, genres, authors your kid like; work together to find those titles at the library or book store (bonus: search on-line and that’s reading, too!)
  5. Ask  – friends what they are reading and share  – titles or the actual books.
  6. Keep books handy – beach bags, sports bags, bathroom, porch, tree house, car, backpacks, kitchen table.
  7. Pass –  on the traveling DVD player and opt for books on cd (or down load the mp3 files).
  8. Keep track – make a paper chain for each book read. Or log in a journal, on a popsicle stick or other ways to see the cumulative effect.
  9. Trade off  – 30 minutes of video games/screens for 30 minutes of tv. (This raises the bar in my house some days… but worth the effort!)
  10. Take it out – hang hammock, set up a chair under a tree and designate that as the reading spot.
  11. Make it light – take a flashlight and read under the stars or listen to a story outdoors.

These are just a handful. Bet you have more good ideas, so why not post a comment here or on Facebook to share ways your family is reading this summer?  And if you’re not signed up to get these posts right to your in-box, what’s holding you back?

Happy reading!


Lisa Dewey Wells

Summer Time. And the Reading is Easy


One of the most restorative acts I engage in over the summer is reading. The pace of school can make it difficult to enjoy a good read on a regular basis.  Summer reading is a luxurious treat – I bet I am not alone in my thinking and reading. So while the school year is a time to stay current with professional reads, summer can be a time to dive into old interests and new curiosities, with perhaps a few professional reads, too!

Last week alone, I’ve plowed through several great reads – The Mindful ChildAnd the Mountains Echoed, Switch, and various middle school reads.  The contrast of this passion with the reluctance many children have towards summer reading weighs on my mind, especially during summer. Perhaps it’s because I have one child who reads one or more books a week and another who would prefer to be rolling and moving; books don’t generally offer that action.  It keeps me on my toes and I know I’m not alone on this

So  my inner-geek went hunting for some reminders of the hard data behind the importance of summer reading, the real – not just marketing message – behind “summer slump.” I was on a mission to locate some more lists of recommended books and to find something that really excites and invites my adolescents to read. I was searching more for reassurance that gently scheduling reading and writing each and every day this summer is the right thing to do and a compelling reason to hit the library as soon.

So consider this statement. Even if it is half-true, it’s reason for concern:

“Kids who don’t have educationally rich summers will be nearly three years behind their peers by the time they reach the end of the fifth grade… Much like we would expect an athlete or a musician’s performance to suffer if they didn’t practice regularly, the same thing is true for young people when it comes to reading performance.”
— Ron Fairchild, Founding CEO, National Summer Learning Association

Some facts on summer reading:

  • A study in the Journal of Education for Students Places at Risk (April 2004)  showed that reading four or five books during the summer can prevent the reading-achievement losses that normally occur over those months.
  • Regardless of race, socioeconomic level, or previous achievement, researcher Jimmy S. Kim found, children who read more books fared better on reading-comprehension tests in the fall than their peers who had read one or no books over the summer.
  • Better readers read more than poorer readers, supporting the importance of extensive, successful reading experiences in the development of reading proficiency.
  • Researchers Guthrie and Anderson found that there are any number of motivational and volitional factors that influence reading activity. For instance, children’s voluntary reading seems linked to past experiences as a more-successful or less-successful reader. A history of less-successful reading experiences produces a lessened interest in voluntary reading than a history of successful reading experiences.  (This makes summer reading even tougher for struggling readers… another reminder to keep it positive!)
  • A recent study by  Harris Cooper, Professor of Psychological Sciences at the University of Missouri, estimates that summer loss for all students equals about one month on a grade-level equivalent scale.

It’s crucial our kids read in the summer. Like muscles, our brains and our bodies must stay conditioned to read.  The habit of inquiry and reading is a life skill.  While the methods and opportunities to read may shift, the fundamental actions of reading, processing, and synthesizing what we read remains constant and vital.  We are lucky to have so many ways to foster a love of reading and the opportunity.  Give them the leeway in choosing  the details – what, when, how, the format (digital, print, auditory, etc.)  These choices go a long way in garnering and sustaining their interests.  Stay attuned to their passions, cultivate their curiosity and offer  options.

Now, on to  a bit of housekeeping…

  • Keep current  by signing up  in the green box above to receive posts to your inbox.
  • Follow on Facebook or Linked In (just click the icons above) where I share stuff I find that relates to posts (or that I simply find entertaining or informative).
  • Have an awesome weekend – and make some time to plunk down with a good book!