“In a Book” Supports Choral Reading Activities

“In a Book” Supports Choral Reading Activities

“In a Book” written by Anthony L. Manna

Choral Reading with a Poem


In a Book … You Can

Live royally in the ancient past —-a king, a queen

Move to a galaxy far away and in between

Join a protest —-shout cheers of human rights

Convert a bully —-away with painful strife

Swim through the depths of a restless sea

Climb to the top of a rainforest tree
(Oh, what a landscape you’ll see)

Fly off on a dragon, a shape-shifting wonder

Survive a harsh battle, lament the plunder

Build a skyscraper, touch a cloud

Win medals of gold before a cheering crowd

Learn about folks hurtful to souls from afar have come

Meet kind folks who welcome others to their home

Enjoy a weird mystery, let’s fathom the deep-buried clues

Hear the crowds cheer the heroes, drown out the thunderous boos

Open a book, awaiting you there long-lasting treasures

Read a book, savor the savory pleasures

Share a book, a precious gift you’ll give

A wondrous guide, oh, yes, a compass for how to live.

—Professor Granpa Tonio

Choral Reading

Encourage readers to make this poem come alive with Choral Reading.

“Choral reading is a literacy technique that helps students build their fluency, self-confidence, and motivation in reading. During choral reading, a student, or a group of students reads a passage together, with or without a teacher. Choral reading can be done individually, in small groups, or as a whole class.”

Thank you “Strategies for Students” for this description of Choral Reading and for suggestions and plans provided at your lively website for ways to use Choral Reading with kids and teens.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day Book Review

Multicultural Children’s Book Day Book Review

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019 (1/25/19) is in its 6th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.The book Professor Granpa Tonio reviewed for the event~

The Adventures of Joy Sun Bear: The Blue Amber of Sumatra, Co-authored by Blanca Carranza and John Lee. Illustrated by John Lee. Joy Sun Bear, Inc., 2018

Something tragic is happening in the Sumatran rain forest. Many animals–orangutans, tapirs, apes, a rhino– must flee deeper into the wilderness to escape the “human machine” that is tearing into their rainforest homes. When Joy and his older sister Ayu, both sun bears, overhear two fleeing orangutans expressing their fear, brother and sister begin to wonder about the danger that is threatening the rain forest animals. When Joy and Ayu arrive at the annual harvest day festival at the Great Big Fig Tree, they learn about the rainforest destruction. A somber mood has overtaken the festival. Keliru, the oldest orangutan and a self-appointed leader, and Papa Bear, Joy and Ayu’s father, are conducting a meeting of rainforest animals, natives to the community Keliru oversees, and refugees who abandoned the rain forest. The Great Big Fig Tree, a valuable food source, is barren, and Keliru has convinced himself that the refugees are at fault because they bear a curse. The refugees must be excluded from Keliru’s community!

Sadly, none of the animals know that a shape-shifting fox–a sly trickster and evil culprit–has worked up his dark magic to make the tree appear fruitless and to place the blame for the problem on the refugees. Immediately after Joy becomes the victim of one of the trickster’s ruses, he runs off to the Dark Forest. There, he meets up with a magical golden bird and a wise frog, both shape-shifters. The bird transforms itself into a hot air balloon that transports Joy to the devastated rain forest where he discovers a mysterious blue stone that has the power to change Joy into a spirit being protected from danger and endowed with the gift of clairvoyance because, as the bird tells him, “you have something special in you.”It is Joy’s command of the stone that eventually restores order and harmony to the animal community and rouses respect for the refugees.

Meanwhile, the frog–transformed into a powerful ancient leader–sets Joy off with the stone on a challenging mission at the story’s final moment, a perfect set up for the story’s sequel and a continuation of Joy’s adventures.

Full-color cartoonish illustrations enliven the narrative and provide the characters with a range of entertaining expressions and movements. The links to online resources for skills development—games, activities, guides– will make reading a very active and enjoyable learning process. The story encourages conversation about rain forest ecology and preservation, respect for nature, the terrible displacement of refugees, human rights, the need for community, and the joy of allowing foreigners a place to live and thrive. Ages 8-12.

Poetry for Teens

Poetry for Teens

Let’s explore poetry for teens. First, we’ll read some poetry for teens and then we’ll use the poems as models for writing a Memory Poem.

Let’s get going with poetry for teens in a fabulous book named Poetry Speaks Who I Am: Poems of Discovery, Inspiration, Independence, and Everything Else. Edited by Elise Paschen. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2010.

You’re gonna love poetry for teens in Poetry Speaks Who I Am: Poems of Discovery, Inspiration, Independence, and Everything Else, just like other teens have… because…

  • there are more than 100 fabulous poems chosen to interest you and your friends
  • an audio CD comes with the book: 44 of the poems read by 35 poets; most read by the poets themselves
  • there’s a section called “Please Write in This Book”~ You got it: It’s an invitation to write your own poems. YAY!
  • there are popular old poems like “Alone” by Edgar Allen Poe —“From childhood’s hour I have not been/As others were…—; “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost—“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—/I took the one less traveled by,/And that made all the difference.”—; “Hope is the Thing With Feathers” by Emily Dickinson—“Hope is the thing with feathers/That perches in the soul….”—; and “Sonnet 130” by William Shakespeare—“My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun….”
  • there are many new(er) poems: “The Germ” by Ogden Nash—“A mighty creature is the germ,/Though smaller than a pachyderm…. —; “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou—“You may write me down in history/With your bitter, twisted lies,/You may trod me in the very dirt/But still, like dust, I’ll rise…”—; “Vampire’s Serenade” by Dana Gioia—“I am the dream you cannot forget,/The face you remember without having met…”—; and “Sedna” by Kimiko Hahn—“Come to find out, Sedna,/is the Inuit woman,/whose father cast her from their kayak,/thus transforming her into the spirit of the sea.
  • there are upbeat, happy, even comical poems like “A Teenage Couple” by Brad Leithauser—“He said, or she said/(Desperate to have their say),/You know, we may not last forever….”— and “The Bagel” by David Ignatow—“Faster and faster it rolled,/with me running after it/bent low, gritting my teeth.
  • sad poems  like “Sometimes With One I Love” by Walt Whitman—“Sometimes with one I love I fill myself with rage for/ fear I effuse unreturned love….”—; and “Mediation” by Kim Stafford—“At the dinner table, before the thrown/plate, but after the bitter claim,/is the one beat of silence/before the parents declare war.
  • poems about relationships like “The Talk” by Sharon Olds—“In the dark square wooden room at noon/the mother had a talk with her daughter./The rudeness could not go on….”—; and “If I Can Stop One Heart from Breaking” by Emily Dickinson—If I can stop one heart from breaking,/I shall not live in vain.
  • poems celebrating the self and others like “I Am a Black” by Gwendolyn Brooks—“I am other than Hyphenation./I say, proudly, MY PEOPLE!/I say, proudly, OUR PEOPLE!….”—; “From For a Girl Becoming” by Joy Harjo—“Bury what needs to be buried./Laugh easily at yourself./…May you grow in knowledge, in compassion, in beauty….”—; and “The Delight Song of Tsoai-Talee” by N. Scott Momaday—“You see, I am alive, I am alive/I stand in good relation to the earth/I stand in good relation to the gods/I stand in good relation to all that is beautiful.

And so it goes. One delicious discovery after the other.

Had enough? NO?

Stay tuned: The next time we meet::: poems by teens themselves in You Hear Me?: Poems and Writing by Teenage Boys and Things I Have to Tell You: Poems and Writing by Teenage Girls, both edited by Besty Franco.

In the meantime: Write a Poem: A Memory Poem. 📝

First, go to:

6 Tips for Writing a Poem About Memories

And then take a look at some good examples of memory poems:

Memory Poems | Poetry About Memories 

Ready to write? Think friends, family, first love, pets, teachers…

Go ahead, get that poem down. Put your poem and/or your notes about the poem in your writer’s notebook. HUH? Writer’s WHAT? Right here, on this website, you’ll find my blog about WRITING TOOLS “Tween and Teen Writing Tips.” That’s where you’ll find a description of the writer’s notebook. Go there now. Be happy.

Happy Reading! Happy Writing! And away we go…

Your Bio

Tween and Teen Writing Tips

Tween and Teen Writing Tips

With tween and teen writing tips, you can become a writer today.

What tween and teen writing tips do you need to begin? Try these:

  • an active mind
  • a block of time
  • discipline
  • an idea or two
  • some tools.

Let’s start with the tools.

A very basic tween and teen writing tip are to Buy a writer’s notebook. It’s bound, large, with plenty of space per page. Avoid the spiral binder kind of paper holder (You don’t want to lose your precious pages, do you? Nooooo.). Buy your notebook at a “dollar” store, or go fancy and buy one at a stationery store.

Alright, you have a notebook. Now what? Another tween and teen writing tip is to Write. Write about what? Anything and everything that’s important to you. Help needed? Try these topics:

sports, pets, friends, family members, relatives, important people, interests, hobbies, imaginings, worries, concerns, fears, annoyances, hopes, love, and friendship.

Another tween and teen writing tip is Write every day. A few sentences will do to get you started. Keep on. Each day a little more. Or if you can’t think of anything to write, try something WEIRDO:

Write over and over: I can’t think of anything to write today. Why does this help? ‘Cause sometimes writing that sentence frees you up, like a warm-up before you jump into a sport. And before you know it, you’re sprinting … through ideas. GET IT?

Another tween and teen writing tip is to Decorate your writer’s notebook. Decals, drawings, wild lettering, photographs, cut-paper collages, and so on and on. LET THE DECORATIONS REFLECT Y-O-U. Special you. The special writer you. Unique you.

Another tween and teen writing tip is Use a special pen or pencil. Many writers, I know, myself included, must have that special pen or pencil. Can’t write by hand without it. Freak out if it can’t be found. Jitters, oh, if the lead or ink runs out. Soooo, become a friend with your very special writing instrument. Maybe you’ll choose to use it only for the writing you do in your notebook ‘cause it’s that special. Maybe it’ll only be for your notebook entries …or … a pen or pencil for your JOURNAL entries.

What journal? It’s the other ‘cheapo’ or ‘expensivo’ bound notebook you bought the other day, You’re gonna spend some time daily writing in your journal. Too much? —- Okay, then every other day. Take a few minutes to write your observations and feelings. Observations and feelings that day, the day before…the here and now stuff happening in your life. Good, bad, neutral stuff. Some writers and teachers of writing like to call this a “diary.” Whatever. Observations and feelings. And this might happen: Stuff you write here becomes the ideas you chase into your writer’s notebook. Get it?

Let your writing journey begin. Good luck.


Read Like a Writer

Read Like a Writer

What does it mean to read like a writer?

Begin to read like a writer and you’ll become a better writer. Really? Why? How?

Allow the professor to explain. But ya’ gotta stay awake…

You’re a writer, right? If you say, “NO,” then I’m inviting you here and now to pretend you’re a writer.

You’re a reader, right? If you say, “NO,” then I’m inviting you here and now to pretend you’re a reader.

Now, invite your writer self to meet your reader self. “Howdy, writer, and hey ho, howdy reader.”

Now, you can be a writer who reads and a reader who writes.

Maybe, you’re still wondering what I—Professor Tonio—am talkin’ about? Follow me—play it forward.

 Do you have a sport or hobby you really like—a whole lot?

You’re a gymnast, skateboarder, a basketball or baseball or soccer player, a LEGO guy or gal—like my grandsons Lucas and Anthony—or, you love to draw, dance, pole vault (WHAT??)—any activity that makes you happy even though it takes a lot or at least some effort—practice—commitment— to “stay in the game.”

Effort, yes, and this: You watch guys and gals who are in top form, who are experts, and winners. You observe their skill and learn from them. Maybe you even practice their moves and you get better at the sport or the hobby or at making jewelry or dancing or drawing or photography. Get it? Got it?

Now, follow me, dear readers who like to write and writers who like to read. You can read and observe the way writers of mystery, fantasy, science fiction, humor, historical fiction, informational books do the following:

And what do you—the reader who writes and the writer who reads—what do you do when you observe a writer’s technique—that is, what the writer does to tell a story or introduce factual information in an interesting, awesome way?

You observe the technique and learn from it. Maybe you even practice the technique and you get better at writing.

[pssssst:: Are you still awake?]       [Good.]        ‘Cause I have two examples to show you from a book many of you have read and enjoyed: Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods by Rick Riordan

Example #1: p. 103, in the chapter titled “Persephone Marries Her Stalker (Or, Demeter, the Sequel)”: “I will make you moral, little one, Demeter thought. It’s the least I can do for your kind mother. I will make you so strong no one will ever abduct you the way my poor daughter was abducted.”

Now, what’s this, and what did it teach me as a writer who reads: It’s those slanted words—called “italics”—to show a character ’s thinking. Such a simple technique, right? Yes, indeed. It’s a cool technique I use in my most recent story called Loukas and the Game of Chance ‘cause the italics get my readers inside my character’s head where they observe his thinking. [psssttt…It’s not a technique I use a lot. Only when the character’s thinking is intense or radical. Get it, a reader who writes and writer who reads?]

Example #2: pp. 226 – 227, in the chapter titled “Athena Adopts a Handkerchief”: “So about a million pages ago, I mentioned Zeus’s first wife, the Titan Metis. Remember her? Neither did I. I had to go back and look….”

And this: “As you can imagine, this gave Zeus a splitting headache.”

What’s the technique that I like here: The writer—the storyteller—carries on a conversation with the reader. I love that. I love the relationship that creates. Someday, I’ll try using this technique: “talking” directly to my readers. Someday I’ll experiment with this technique to see if I can make it work. Cool, Professor Tonio.

My example of how I might step outside of myself as a narrator who’s sort of hidden and talk directly to my readers: “You know, reader, it wasn’t easy getting Keeper of the Forest to talk in a weird way. I wanted to do that ‘cause an accent or dialect of some sort seemed like such a good thing to make his character unique. I had to give his way of speaking a lot of thought until I came up with his strange accent. See for yourself in the next scene in Loukas and the Game of Chance.” That’s that. I’m curious. I wonder if I can pull that off … some day. Experiment with talking directly to my readers; that’s what I’ll do. Writers often experiment with different techniques until they find one that feels right.

Readers and writers. I gotta go. So do you, no doubt. But, listen up, please: My grandfatherly advice: When you find a writer’s technique that you like: Make sure you write a brief note about it in your writer’s/reader’s journal. Click this link that’ll bring you to my website (www.anthonymannabooks.com) where you’ll find suggestions about using a Reading or Writing Journal:


Calling all teachers, parents, advocates. Do you want to encourage your readers and writers to read as a writer reads? Try using mentor texts with your kids, tweens, and teens. What is a mentor text?

I found an inspiring description of mentor texts when my Google search for “mentor texts” led me to (www.teachmentortexts.com):


Mentor texts or anchor texts are any text that can be used as an example of good writing for writers.  Writers use a mentor text to inform their own writing. Ralph Fletcher explains that mentor texts are, “…any texts that you can learn from, and every writer, no matter how skilled you are or how beginning you are, encounters and reads something that can lift and inform and infuse their own writing. I’d say anything that you can learn from – not by talking about but just looking at the actual writing itself, being used in a really skillful, powerful way.” To read or listen to Ralph talk more about mentor texts, you can listen to this great Choice Literacy podcast.”  Posted by Jen Vincent

Also, let Ralph Fletcher be your mentor text guide in Mentor Author, Mentor Texts: Short Texts, Craft Notes, and Practical Classroom Uses by Ralph Fletcher

Find two other good guides:

Teaching Writing With Mentor Texts in the Primary Classroom: 20 Lessons Based on Favorite Picture Books That Introduce Story Structure, Nonfiction Text Features & Author’s Craft by Nicole Groeneweg.

More About the Authors: Authors and Illustrators Mentor Our Youngest Writers by Lisa B. Cleaveland

Mentor texts rock. When I work with mentor texts in elementary and secondary classrooms I am awed by the skills writers experiment with whether in their reports or their stories. And their poems, as well, according to Mr. Ralph Fletcher who wrote Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem from the Inside Out.