Community and Kindness – The Curriculum Goes On!

Like the concept of kindness to all, our unit continues to grow!  After our visit to The Cobble Hill Health Center on Dr. Martin Luther King Day, the kindness conversation continued. How can we thank other helpers in our community?

The children loved creating the beautiful tissue box covers for the health center residents, so we decided to make boxes for our parents too. And then we wondered who else needs a tissue box and a thank you. The Literacy Center was all abuzz, making Valentine’s and thank-you cards. The children decided that our firefighters, police and crossing guards needed to feel the love.

Valentine’s Day was the day chosen to deliver the cards, well wishes and Valentine’s candy to our local FDNY and NYPD.  I called Chief Clifford at Engine Company #202 and Community Affairs Detective Paul Grudzinski to ask if it would be alright to send a troop of four-year-old’s (because the stations are a pretty long walk from CHP) to deliver the goods.  As I expected, they were more than gracious and happy to hear that the children would be dropping by.

On Valentine’s Day morning, the children were off on their first mission. When the class arrived, the firehouse was ready!  A large group of firefighters was there to greet everyone and invited them in to see the station.  If that was not enough, each child had the opportunity, one by one, to sit in the firetruck. They even got to spray the hose!  Before the children left, each child gave each firefighter a card as well as extras for the firefighters who were off that day.  The firefighters were so happy!  Right before they said goodbye, the firefighters gave the children something too: Firefighter hats and books. What a magical trip!

The kindness continued to abound in the afternoon.  The children were off to the 76th Precinct. Youth Officer Nebar and her partner met the children at the door and then invited them inside for a tour.  They spoke with the children about what the officers of the NYPD do.  Officer Nebar explained how each member of the department has a different shield and she even let each child hold one!  Like our visit to the fire station, before the children left, they distributed the thank-you and Valentine’s cards. The officers posed for a photo in front of the station and the children left for CHP.

On the journey home, the group passed a crossing guard and gave her thank-you and Valentine’s cards too. Like the firefighters and police officers, she was thrilled!

What is next for the kindness unit?  We decided to turn our classroom supermarket center into a Care Center for people, babies and pets!  The children will don their doctor’s coats and get to work.  While “patients” are waiting for care, they can choose a book from a large box of books in the “waiting area.”  Of note is that these books were donated by the physicians and staff of CitiMD who were participating in their own kindness program this summer.  Sometime soon, we will be getting a visit from one or more of the folks at CitiMD to talk to the children about care centers. Better still, one of them will sit down and read the children a book!

Kindness is real and it is growing at CHP.  Pass it on!

Community and Kindness – The Curriculum Continues

The holidays are over, and we are back at CHP ready to immerse ourselves in our current unit of study.

Since school began in September, we have been focusing on what it means to be kind.  We have been kind to each other and even the squirrels as we hung feeders for our hungry friends in Mother Cabrini Park.  As for the community, some of us visited local stores on Court Street.  Our grocery store visits resulted in the children designing and create our very popular classroom supermarket center!

On Dr. Martin Luther King Day, it was time to visit another place in our community, the Cobble Hill Health Center.  This time, parents were invited too!  For those of you who were not able to go, your children still took part as everyone who visited the art table created beautifully covered tissue boxes as gifts for the residents.

While I was talking with a parent on our wonderful Community Support Committee, we discussed ways to explain to children that there are people in need.  You do not want to scare your children, but you do want to instill the concept of helping others.

Quite often, I speak with parents about the power of a great children’s picture book.  I believe that when children see something in print, the message and illustrations are often imprinted upon them.  A Chair for my Mother by Vera B. Williams is on my personal top-ten list of children’s picture books.  The illustrations are lovely (it earned a Caldecott award) but it is the story that is so real — a story about a mother, child and grandma who experience something not always addressed in children’s books.

The book begins with an explanation of why this family is saving money in a jar.  We soon find out that they are saving for a beautiful soft rose covered armchair. The family needs this chair because all their things were burned in a fire.  Fire is never gentle, but this book gently explains what happened in a way a child can understand.  No one was hurt, everyone was safe but everything in the house was spoiled.

It is at this point in the story that you see friends and neighbors pull together to get the mother, grandma and child all they need to start again…all they need except for a new chair.  This is a wonderful way to explain to a child that there are people in need and what it means to be kind.  I guess it was the teacher in me that, with my own children, took the opportunity to discuss saving for something very special—because not everything in life requires instant gratification.

When I read this book to my own children, I was always moved when they became silent as they looked at the illustration of the fire.  I still smile when I think of what I saw–their faces shine when family and friends came to help and eventually, they got their beautiful new chair.

It is wonderful that today when I am reading to your children, I am still moved when the room gets quiet and soon after, I see the bright smiles.  I have read this book hundreds of times and I am always moved.


The Best Children’s Picture Books of 2017

One of the ways to understand a book’s impact on children is to gauge their interest.  Great children’s books command a child’s attention.  Often, conversations begin after you finish the book. Conversations which are thought provoking and can comfort teach and empower a child.  This list offers books which speak of kindness, empowerment, diversity, perspective taking, social action, bravery and more all wrapped up in beautiful illustrations.

Here are my picks–a dozen of the best children’s books of 2017.

EMPOWERMENT: Just because you are little, that does not mean you are not powerful.

After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) by Dan Santat

Life can be scary for all of us, grown-ups and kids alike.  Children are so egocentric, that it is important for them to know that others sometimes feel the way they feel do. This book illustrates that even if you are scared, you can face your fears and be brave.

Morris Mole by Dan Yaccarino

I think this message is just wonderful for small children who may feel like they are always surrounded by folks who are so much bigger than they are. Morris had a problem and he figured it out. His size did not stop him because knows, “I may be small but I can do big things.”  This is a great message for any child.

Lucia the Luchadora by Cynthia Leonor Garza

When Lucia dons a cape in the playground she is told by a group of boys that she cannot be a superhero because she is a girl. She later finds out a secret from her abuela–she is from a whole family of valiant women (lucadoras) who fight to stop injustices. This colorful book is a good dose of Girl Power!

The Giant Jumperee by Judith Donaldson

It’s a mystery…. Who is the Giant Jumperee whose voice is booming from inside a dark cave.  Get ready for a surprise. (Hint), little ones can be powerful!

Little Wolf’s First Howling by Linda McGee Kvasnosky

Big Wolf decides to teach his Little Wolf to howl and he takes this job very seriously; he stands tall and demonstrates his best traditional howl at the moon. Little Wolf is so excited to howl for the first time that, when he does, he does it his way. Big Wolf is set on correcting his son, so he can learn to howl “old school.” Each time Little Wolf has his turn, he does it his way. Surprise! Big Wolf realizes that Little Wolf’s wild and unexpected howls are swell.  It’s nice to know you can do your own thing and teach a grown-up a thing or two.

DIVERSITY:  These books are wonderful, and they offer something more: Main characters of color. Sadly, this is not the way children’s book characters have always been portrayed.  Did you know that research suggests that over 80% of children’s book characters have always been white? But that was then, and this is now.

Love Is by Diane Adams

This is a book that brings you a lovely little girl, a baby duck and more. Not only are the illustrations charming, but this children’s book explains change and growth in relationship to love.

When’s my Birthday? by Julie Fogiano, Illustrated by Christian Robinson

This book will make you smile as it truly captures the anticipation, excitement and wonderment of a birthday celebration, with illustrations by the amazing Christian Robinson.

Green Pants by Kenneth Kraegel

This is a great book about a clever child who solves a problem with style. It’s an even better book for the parents of children who only want to wear a favorite piece of clothing—all the time, 365 days a year!


Adrift: An Odd Couple of Polar Bears by Jessica Olien

Unlikely friendship is the theme of Adrift. Two polar bears do not like each other because they are so different.  Adrift is perspective taking 101 that also offers an opportunity to learn more about saving polar bears, the shrinking North Pole and what you can do to help.

Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima

Do you sometimes feel like you don’t quite fit in? Reading this sweet story of little Kelp just might help you sort things out.


We’re all Wonders by R. J. Palacio

There are never enough opportunities to discuss empathy and human kindness.  This book is a perfect way to start an important conversation.

Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers

Because times these days can seem uncertain, here is a book that will become a touchstone.  For the young and old who inhabit our wonderful planet—we are all together and never alone.


Gifts for the Holidays 2017

The season of gift giving has begun, and it has become a holiday tradition here at CHP for me to recommend some favorite classroom toys and books.

Happy Holidays to all!


Squigz Builders

This is a quite a popular manipulative at the Math Center.  The children use these suction builders to make all kinds of imaginative creations.  It is especially fun hear the pop when your pull the little suckers apart!

Magnetic Maze Activity Boards

This is another popular activity at CHP, found in the literacy center.  There are so many maze boards to choose from, for toddlers and up.  These boards offer opportunities to work independently, or to share and take turns.  Not only is this activity fun, it also helps develop hand-eye coordination, counting and manipulative skills.

Magna Tiles

Just in case you haven’t heard his wonderful building set, I recommend it highly because our CHP kids use it non-stop.  These tiles are a bit pricey but well worth it!

Magnetic Bug Toss

If you are looking for a fun way to learn letters and numbers, this is the toy for you!

Pretend Play

Fisher Price Cash Register

Everything old is new again.  This is a toy that will last forever, too bad you did not save yours from when you were little!  As we are in the process of changing over our housekeeping center to a supermarket, you might find your child playing store with this toy at home.


Puppets are always popular at CHP, of late there is a little dragon puppet which is all the rage.   Using puppets is a wonderful way to use your imagination and interact with family and peers…and maybe even put on a show!


Has your child ever drawn the world outside your home?  Just give your child some paper on a clipboard and these wonderful writing pencils and take off on an adventure and start sketching!

Clipboard (This is just an example; any clipboard will work!)

Prismacolor Graphite Drawing Pencils

Crayola Easy Grip Colored Pencils

Books, books, books!

When’s my Birthday by Julie Fogliano

Morris Mole by Dan Yaccarino

Noisy Night by Mac Barnett

Frog on a Log? and Dog on a Frog? by Kes Gray

Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima

The Giant Jumperee by Judith Donaldson

We’re all Wonders by R.J. Palacio

For four-year-olds with room to grow:

Hundred Billion Trillion Stars by Seth Fishman

Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers

After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) by Dan Santat

Sing-a-long Picture Books

Singing in the Rain by Tim Hopgood

Inch by Inch: The Garden Song by David Mallett

What a Wonderful World by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss

Winter Sing-a-longs:

I Have a Little Dreidel by Maxie Baum

Frosty the Snowman by Steve Nelson and Jack Rolins

Walking in a Winter Wonderland by Richard Smith and Felix Bernard

Winter and Holiday Favorites:

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson

The Magic Dreidels: A Hanukkah Story by Eric Kimmel

The Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett

Mice Skating by Annie Silvestro

Snow by Uri Shulevitz

Music and Empathy

My November Book of the Month selection is Puff the Magic Dragon.  Recently I have been hearing many students happily singing this song along with other songs from of our collection of picture song books.  I began to wonder if there has been a stronger connection to learning the song lyrics because children can visually follow along with the book.  I love hearing children singing loud and proud in the classroom and the music I have heard has filled the room with joy. This experience brought me to an epiphany. I had always heard that “singing is good for you,” but of late, I have started to think about why.

Many years ago, the notion of music and empathy was introduced to me.  I had always thought empathy was innate, something you were born with.  But, on my educational journey and over my years in the classroom, I have embraced the “nature vs. nurture” philosophy: There are some things that you are born with and some you can cultivate. One of the ways I have learned to foster or “cultivate” empathy in children is through music.

The other condition under which empathy is often gained in nurturing –if I am a contributor to your care and well-being, then I am more likely to understand and share feelings with you.  Music can provide opportunities for people to emotionally invest in one another.  (Bailey & Davidson, 2005)

I am a huge advocate of reading to children and have encouraged every parent to do so. I have written about remembering the books your parents read to you and how they made you feel.  It makes me so happy to learn that parents are reading to their children and loving it. So here is where my epiphany comes in: I do not think I have ever “sung” the praises of singing with your child and it might be time to remember the songs your parents sang to you.

When I was young, my family traveled in the car “Philly-Style,” boys in the front and girls in the back! While my mom and I sat in the back of our station wagon, we often sang together.  We sang songs from my mother’s youth (bands like the Andrews Sisters and Glenn Miller), Broadway shows and radio jingles.

Thinking back on that experience makes me smile.  The time is now to start singing loud and proud, together with your child, to enrich your bond, learn empathy and just plain be happy and feel good.






Encouragement for Little People, and their Grown-ups

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.   e.e. cummings

I always knew that reading to children was important because, well, it’s reading and reading to children is good.  In time, I came to realize that reading can be even more than the bonding that happens when you read to a child and teaching children to love books.  By reading, you can help children learn so much about themselves and their world and, better still, a good book can start important conversations about life.

I began to understand a book’s impact when I first experienced the attention of my young listeners.  I got to know when the story was thought-provoking because the children got very quiet and they hung on my every word.  I then learned to wait for what was the clincher — when the conversation began after I finished the book–questions and comments flowed.  I found that reading a book with a thought-provoking subject could comfort, teach and empower a young listener, and that was so powerful.

I find joy searching for that next great book. I do a lot of research.  Unfortunately, you cannot just read the reviews or trust that a favorite children’s book author’s next book is going to be a great one too.  Recently, I read some amazing reviews about After the Fall, by David Santat.  His Caldecott Honor winner, The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, was NOT a favorite.  However, there was something about the reviews of After the Fall that made me take a chance.  I bought the book for CHP and am glad I did!

In After the Fall, I found a book that could spark a discussion about what it means to face your fears and try again…not an easy lesson even for a grown-up.  The first time I read it, I shared that, like Humpty Dumpty, I am afraid of heights and I would never ever ride on a roller coaster!  Reading this book offered an opportunity to share that even grown-ups can be frightened of things.  Children are so egocentric, it is so important for them to know that others sometimes feel the way they feel too.  I believe a storybook gets that across to a child because they listen, see and experience it; it is not just words.  The experience is helping teach bravery and the courage to try again.

Who knew that a character like Humpty Dumpty could make ME inspired to be brave and if a picture book about an old storybook egg could do that for this grown-up, imagine what it could do for your child.

Storytime: A Classic Library Service Boosts Literacy and More, Studies Show

As the school year is fast approaching it feels like kismet that I came across this recent article from the School Library Journal.

Parents of students returning to CHP are well aware of my commitment to filling our school with amazing children’s books. I have written many a Carol’s Wall showcasing the magic of books and how they positively affect brain development, relationships and learning.  I am happy to now have a new group of parents to share the message with me!

“`Children enter pre-K classrooms with widely varying prior experiences,’ according to the report. The science is clear: early experiences in the home, in other care settings, and in communities are built into the developing brain and body with lifelong effects on learning, adaptive behavior, and health. These experiences provide either a sturdy or fragile foundation upon which young children’s pre-K teachers construct the next stage on their educational progressions.”

I fill the classroom with books to the delight of our teachers, students and duty parents who are reading and listening. You can also find great picture book recommendations in the Book of the Month section of our website.  As most of you know, I also volunteer every Saturday at the Carroll Gardens Public Library, sharing a Storytime as described in the article. This year, due to the success of the program, there is now a Saturday Storytime in every library in Brooklyn. As this year’s unit is about our neighborhood and service to the community, it is nice to know that giving of yourself in a small way can result in making good happen for all.


School Year 2017-18: Children and Service Projects

In early summer I always reach out to new and returning families to share our unit for the upcoming school year.  This past year, students and staff alike loved the animal unit– a unit that was born the year before from listening to the interests of our students.  

Our program is tailored to the interests of the children; inquiry drives the learning process. We focus on a child-generated theme which allows as much student-centered inquiry as possible. We follow our students’ leads and within the context of their interests, infuse developmentally appropriate literacy, math, science, music, art and drama concepts related to the theme.

The animal unit transformed the classroom’s dramatic play area into “The Pet Vet,” the veterinarian’s office.  This proved to be a wonderful venue for many learning opportunities across the disciplines.  The children loved working and playing in the vet’s office, which sparked their interest to learn more about the people and places in our neighborhood.  This set the foundation for our upcoming curriculum unit: children and service projects in the neighborhood.

Not only did this idea stem from our own CHP students, it was introduced in my graduate class by one of my students. She had her own class celebrate the bus service. Every time one of her students took a ride on a city bus, they handed the driver a handmade thank-you card.  Can you imagine how that driver felt at that moment?  When I spoke to my teachers about incorporating service projects into the upcoming neighborhood unit, they were smitten.  Just imagine how much our little ones will learn about where we live as they are offered a chance to say thank you to family, friends and community members.  

Right now, I can see our “Makers Space” (the self-help table in the art area) being a place for children to create things for someone they love — to say thank you to those who have helped them.  We might decide to, as a group, reach out and say thank you to someone in our community and beyond. We could also do things like make bird feeders for hungry birds, collect toys for those in need, and write letters to authors of books we enjoyed. Oh so many possibilities!

Preschoolers and Change…

As the school year nears an end, I thought would I would share some ideas on preparing your children for the upcoming change.

Throughout the year, so many articles pass by my desk, and when I find one I think parents would benefit from, I share it on Facebook or on Carol’s Wall.  In the INTERCHANGE section (where parents send letters to the experts) of Parent Work & Family Life I found something quite “sharable” and appropriate for this time of year.

A parent wrote in to ask the best way to talk to a preschooler about change.  School is almost over and summer without school is almost here.  Transitions, even good ones, can be hard for young children.  Change even makes some adults anxious. I wanted to share this as we are about to embark on summer vacation time.  Some of our students are moving on to Kindergarten and some are off to other programs. This advice should benefit all.

In addition, Dr. Tovah Klein, Director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development and author of How Toddlers Thrive offers this advice:

“Stay in the Present:  Young children live in the here and now.  Hold off until the last week of school before you start talking about the school year being over.  When you talk about it, also tell your child one fun thing you will be doing during the summer such as going swimming, visiting cousins or playing outside.

Don’t Force Goodbyes:  Children have their own way of handling them.  Some avoid goodbyes, others jump in with enthusiasm. As a way of saying goodbye, you and your child can paint pictures, make cards or purchase small gifts like flower seeds, bubbles, or sidewalk chalk to give to teachers and classmates.

Find Ways to Celebrate: A good way to make the completion of the school year is to plan a joyful celebration at home or out with friends and family.  This marks the occasion for kids in a positive way and helps give them closure.  Make an end-of-the-year cake or have a picnic or play date with friends in a nearby park.

Create a Memory List with your child that lets her or him recall all the fun things that happened at school during the year.”

Hope you found this advice helpful!


The Annual Parent Survey

The annual parent survey gives our parents the opportunity to assess how we run our program.  It not only is a requirement of our continued accreditation with the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), it offers CHP the opportunity for self-reflection and to examine whether our parent community understands:

  • Who we are
  • What we do
  • How your child’s learning experience will impact their education in the future
  • How, as a parent, you feel like a valued part of the school community

When the survey results come in, it is my hope that you and your children feel kindness here and see that every relationship in this program is valued. CHP is a rich place to learn, play and grow.

On your duty day, while you are in the classroom, it is my wish that you observe an abundance of Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP). You will often hear me use this phrase as it is one of the primary tenets of NAEYC.

Here are effective DAP teaching strategies you should be observing in our classroom:

  1. Acknowledge what children say and do; give positive attention.
  2. Encourage persistence; it is not all about evaluating and praising.
  3. Give specific feedback. General comments to students should be minimal.
  4. Model problem-solving, attitudes, and kind behaviors toward others.
  5. Demonstrate things that are always done a certain way.
  6. Challenge and create so an activity goes beyond what a child can already do; observe and reduce the challenge if need be.
  7. Stimulate children’s thinking; ask questions!
  8. Offer hints or clues if a student needs a bit of assistance to reach their goal.
  9. Provide information and offer facts.
  10. Give directions for behavior or action.

Children enter our classroom with joy because they know CHP is a place where they are cared for. Because of this, there is strong sense of belonging.

Thank you for being part of our CHP family and for taking the time to complete this quick, but important survey.