Friday, December 12, 2014

Jimmy Cantore Steals Christmas

Ho, ho, ho!
It's time for another fun year of Susanna Hill's Christmas Story Contest. She's come up with a doozy this year.

The Contest:  Write a children's story (children here defined as approximately age 12 and under) in which wild weather impacts the holidays!  Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, but is not to exceed 350 words. Stories must be posted by Friday December 12 at 11:59 PM EST.

Here is my entry in 348 words. The original idea was ReindeerNado...but then the toys got mixed in, and here's where we ended up. (Note: This story is fictional and any resemblance to persons living or not is purely coincidental!)   :D

Jimmy Cantore Steals Christmas

By Lauri Meyers

Jimmy Cantore tightened the last nut on the Weatherstation 2000 Wind Turbine. His plan was simple. The machine would create enough wind to sweep over the block. All the presents Santa delivered would be blown right to Jimmy’s porch!

He flipped the switch.

Whirr, whirr.


A remote-controlled racecar! Winner!


A telescope – out of this world!


An X Box! Game on!

Whish, swish, plop!

A dragon! A train! A pee-pee doll?

The toys came faster and faster from every direction and buried Jimmy. He climbed over a rocking horse and pushed out a bouncy ball.


“Oh-sugar-cookies!” a voice called.


A fluffy white beard flew right into him.

"Why, hello, Jimmy. I hope you enjoyed the Understanding Weather Kit I brought last year."

"Um, yes. I've learned a lot," said Jimmy.

"Perhaps too much."

Jimmy's cheeks turned red.

Santa shimmied through the hole and pulled Jimmy out.

“I must be on my way. It’s a busy night for me.”

"But all these presents have to go back," Jimmy cried. Santa hiked up his red trousers.

"I didn’t mean for so many presents to fly here,” Jimmy said. Santa stroked his beard.

“Maybe if I flip the wind direction the gifts will fly away. But how will they get back to the right places?"

(Old Santa Claus by Alcide Nikopol via freeimages)
“I’ll take care of that,” Santa said.  

Jimmy flipped the switch. A tornado of presents lifted into the air. Santa laid a finger aside of his nose, and the gifts flew down chimneys and magically snuck through keyholes.

“I’m sorry, Santa,” Jimmy said, but no one was there. “Ho, ho, ho!” echoed through the sky.

Jimmy was surprised to see a present from Santa Christmas morning. He opened it slowly knowing it would be coal. His eyes lit up when he read the box – Deluxe Snow Making Kit.

“Wow, if I hook this up to the wind turbine, I could create a blizzard!” Just then a jingling bell reminded him to read the card.

Jimmy, I trust you’ll figure out how to use this, but please use only as directed. - Santa

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Geeking Out - Leveling Books for New Readers

My 6yo and I GEEKED OUT last week. 

Over 2 days, we leveled our personal library following the Fountas & Pinnell system her teacher uses. In her first grade classroom, books are in tubs with a letter on them. Kids know their letter levels, and they get to pick from the book boxes for independent reading. 

The Fountas & Pinnell system creates a gradient of text levels, assigning a letter to the text difficulty from A to Z. The system uses word count, vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure, content, etc. to assess how accessible books are to young readers.

Image by Anissat via

I started wanting to help my new reader. It turns out I learned quite a lot about picture books in the process. I also discovered my daughter (who can be a handful at homework time) loves doing analytical things as much as I do! When I was pooping out, she would bring down "just one more" stack of books. Now, most of our books have a lovely hot pink post it note with the letter on it.

You don't have to do your whole library to get the feel for how the system works. Here are the resources we used:

Scholastic Look Up - Scholastic has a website and an app which covered many of the books. The best place to start. If you have a school age child, you will start to notice the levels listed for many books in the scholastic flyer.

Lexile Scores  Look Up - If a FP level isn't listed, you may still see a Lexile score. Use a conversion charts to turn it into FP.

A to Z Teacher Stuff - This site had a few books which were missing elsewhere.
Bound To Stay Bookstore - This bookstore site had a good number of AR Levels. Use the conversion chart to turn it into FP.

Reading Level Conversion Chart - This chart compares Lexile, AR, and FP levels. So with one data point, you can translate to the other methods.

Some Easy Readers have the levels listed on the back. Also, some publishers, like Peachtree, have levels listed on their websites. 

What if you can't find the levels for a book? Well, I asked my cousin who is a second grade teacher, and she said "After a while of leveling books, you can tell just by reading them and comparing them to similar titles." I thought she was just being a stinker J , but I have to admit after going through the exercise you do start to see it.

I realized I had pushed books where the content was appropriate (i.e. The First Day of First Grade) but the reading level was way off. We also had an easy reader shelf; however, half of those books were really second grade readers which weren't accessible to my daughter. Now, she can easily find books right for her, and she can celebrate when she's read something a few levels up. 

Have you leveled books before? Please share any insights in the comments.

First Grade targets levels D to J. Here's our library to "K" to give you some perspective on how books level out:

Picture Book F&P Levels

Bathtime for Biscuit (Harper My First I Can Read)
Silly Sally

Feathers for Lunch
Bring on the birds

No, David!
Biscuit (Harper My First I Can Read)
Pete the Cat: A Pet for Pete (Harper My First I Can Read)

David Gets in Trouble
Tiger in my Soup
How Do Dinosaurs Say Good night
Boy and Bot

Sammy the Seal
Big Snowman Little Snowman (Random House Step Into Reading 1)
If you Give a Pig a Party
Hey, Pancakes

Fly Guy Meets Fly Girl
Pinkalicious Pinkie Promise (Harper I Can Read 1)
Just a Mess
Max Spaniel Best in Show
If You Give A Dog a Donut
Splish Splash (Scholastic Reader 2)
The Day Sheep Showed Up (Scholastic Reader 2)
I Want My Hat Back
Prairie Chicken Little

Ten Apples Up On Top
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
Hop on Pop
Harry the Dirty Dog
The Cat in the Hat
The Ice Cream King
Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad?
Curious George
Three Hens and a Peacock
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

If you Give a Pig Pancake
If you Give a Moose a Muffin
Fluffy and the Firefighers (Scholastic Reader 3)
Splat the Cat with a Bang and a Clang (Harper I Can Read 1)
This is Not my Hat
Peppa Pig (The Tooth Fairy)
Children Make Terrible Pets
Camp K-9
Owl Babies
Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late
I’ve Got an Elephant
Snow Day
Knuffle Bunny
Kitten’s First Full Moon

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