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Breathing Life Back into Bookstores

Almost all of us can recall childhood memories of being surrounded by bookson visits to our local library or the bookstore in our neighborhood. It was like being in a literary candy store filled with tantalizing delights – each one ready to be unwrapped and savored. But as e-books and the like become more available and popular, an outing to the neighborhood bookstore almost seems quaint and anachronistic.

Nowadays, the bookstore is an endangered species and even libraries are battling budget cuts that force them to reduce hours and mean less money to acquire new books.

But you can’t huddle up in a quiet corner of an iPad to page through a stack of picture books with your child, or encourage him to get lost in the stacks on your laptop. Children who love to read learn to treasure books -books with bindings and covers and pages to be dog-eared and revisited. Nothing can replace the heft of a book in your hand, or your kid anticipating the turn of a page as you read aloud with her in your lap. Remember how exciting it was to bring a brand new book home and have it on your bookshelf? It was like having a friend who was always around and ready for adventure.

In San Francisco there’s a couple, Christin Evans and Praveen Madan, intent on saving the bookstore from extinction by bringing it into the 21 st century as an important community gathering place. They own The Booksmith, an indie- bookstore in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood and believe that the fight to save independent bookstores is actually more about tending to the diversity and vitality of our culture and strengthening our local communities.

In a Huffington Post article Christin and Praveen wrote, “You can buy a book anywhere but you can’t buy community...Around every successful independent bookstore there is a loving community of readers and writers engaged in thoughtful conversation and debate about important issues. Around every successful independent bookstore there is a group of informed citizens and social groups that are trying to build a better world.”

And their vision of the neighborhood bookstore includes a section that’s dedicated to young readers. This is the place where parents and their kids can while away the afternoon lost in the pages of a book and deepen their love of words and stories. And equally as important, they can also connect with other families in their neighborhood who make the community bookstore their destination too.


-Sondra Hall



Teachers & Writers Collaborative - read about some like-minded folks on the East Coast!



There's a cool organization on the East Coast doing wonderful things with teachers and the young writers they teach.

Teachers & Writers Collaborative is located in NYC and not only sends teachers into the schools, they also publish books, a blog and a magazine as well as provide workshops for teachers who want to being more creative writing to their classrooms.

Read more about them at



Grammar-ama & the Punctuation Party!

image from

Who said that parts of speech and punctuation have to be dreadfully boring?

Last Sunday afternoon eleven kids at 826 Valencia in San Francisco found themselves in hysterics listening to an alien (who didn't understand parts of speech very well) give instructions to our workshop leader on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. (It wasn't a pretty sight!) Then they had the pleasure of reminding him the proper uses for nouns, verbs and adjectives.

The kids also learned how to turn "Hide the cows outside." into three sentences with three totally different meanings, as well as how to perform other daring feats with punctuation. (Can you do that?!?!)

Our new curriculum, "Grammar-ama and The Punctuation Party"© will be part of our summer camp offerings, as well as offered as a special program in the fall.




Grattan Elementary

Griffin, 2nd grade

Secret Recipe: Giant Power


1 whip

6 sticks of butter

50 pounds of milk

To mix: First you take butter and mix it with milk. Then store it for 24 hours. Put it in the oven for one second. Then take it out and you have cream. Next you whip the cream.

If you feed this to anyone they will grow 60,079 feet. The more you eat  the taller you get.


Griffin grattan


Sam, 4th grade

Secret Recipe: Extreme Energy Drink


1 slice of bread and yogurt

1 ½ cup of powdered sugar

1 cup of strawberry, banana, orange smoothie

1 spoonful of ice cream

1 spoonful of vanilla

2 leg bones of a cheetah

1 shot of helium

1 cup of fizzed up soda

To mix: First you put the bread and yogurt into a blender and blend it for 10 minutes. Then you pour it into a bowl and mix it with the ½ cup of powdered sugar and spoonful of vanilla. Then put it in the blender again and blend it with the two leg bones of a cheetah and the cup of strawberry, banana, orange smoothie and spoonful of ice cream. Finally you add the helium and fizzed up soda and put it in a big bottle and shake it and that should give you about 4-6 cups of Extreme Energy Drink. 


Sam grattan


Teo, 4th grade

Secret Recipe: Levitating Board

Warning! Don’t pour or even get close with nitrogen: side effects could be exploding or death.


20 cups of kerosene

1 6,000 horse power engine

1 flat metal board

2 pipes

1 levitating jet

1 generator

Instructions: Connect 2 pipes to 6,000 horse power engine. Connect engine to board. Connect jet to bottom of board. Connect generator to board. Pour kerosene into the engine. Turn on power generator, get on, and have fun.


Teo grattan




Writing Excerpts from Havens Elementary (grades 3-5)

Finn’s "I remember..." poem

I remember the salty ocean crashing on my face.

I remember the white shimmering snow blowing past my face.

I remember the sliminess of the flounder that I caught with my dad.

I remember when I went snorkeling in Hawaii and seeing all the colors of the rainbow and they were all fish.


Luke’s "I remember..." poem


I remember playgrounds swarming with children

I remember eating ice cream and staring into the summer sun

I remember getting a trophy for playing on a baseball team

I remember my first day of school I was so nervous you could fill up a pool with my sweat.


Jenna’s "My Secret Is..." Poem


My secret is made

from wind blowing,

thunder crashing,

trees pitch black and



This secret can

electrify you, fall

on you, also you can



I found it on the top of a black mountain

that has nothing

on it, not even one seed.

It shadows over the town.


If I lost this secret

all the boys brains

will fall into millions of pieces.


Excerpt from "Justin’s My Secret Is..." Poem


My secret is made from the softest, lightest, brightest pixie dust,

Two drops of the reddest, thickest blood of a dragon, and

The hardest, shiniest pieces of metal that will never be destroyed.


I found it through a waterfall through the darkest cave behind a Chinese bakery in Sweden.


Excerpt from Jihae’s "Secrets on the line story": I eat insects.


While my mom was upstairs checking to see if I had made my bed, I put my breakfast in a paper towel and quickly threw it away. Then I snuck outside the back door and breakfast my style. Cockroaches with ants on top. Yum!


Kyle’s "Secrets on the line story": I saw my brother driving the car without a license.


Today when I was walking the dog with my friend, Adam, he said, “Zachariah, isn’t that your dad’s car?’

“Oh, my god, it’s Patrick driving dad’s car!”

He got his license taken away because he ran into a fruit stand last month.

I asked Adam to film the thing on his iPhone 4g. He said, “But I’m about to beat Angry Birds!”

I took his phone anyway and filmed it and emailed it to myself.

When Patrick got home, I told him, “I have a video of you driving the car.”

He told me I was bluffing, so I showed it to him. He said, “Please don’t ruin my life, I’ll do anything.” I told him to do whatever I said for the rest of the summer or I’m telling mom. And also, to stop pranking me! He agreed even though he was as mad as a billionaire gone broke.

This summer is going to be pretty cool I guess.