There are many reasons I love instagram, but when you find one of your favorite children's authors through a literacy followers your heart explodes with joy. Maria Dismondy is one of my favorite children's authors of all times. Why you ask? She writes books about celebrating being kind and being yourself. One of my main goals in my classroom is encourage students to always been kind and celebrate the differences in their classmates.

I reached out to Maria asking about her new book Chocolate Milk Por Favor!, she was gracious and offered to send me a copy. When the book came in the mail, I ripped up the package to find a sweet book that had been autographed.

Chocolate Milk, Por Favor! is about one little boy learning to how to be open minded and accepting people for their differences. This story is to read at the beginning of the year to model how to deal with differences in a classroom. I am going to read this to my students next week as refresher to our school rules. I love the way the author teaches lessons through out the books she writes. There is always a BIGGER PICTURE moment. I love reading picture books to my 5th graders because they are able to get the bigger picture and build upon others. Lastly, I would give this book a 5 star rating because of the life lessons kids can learn from these books.

If you buy this book or any of her other gems on Amazon, leave a rating! Like Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun. Clearly, I am a fan because I shared that book this year too to teach character education.

Links are provided by my Amazon Affiliate with Ramona Recommends
Hi Open the Magic Readers,

Today, I would like to take this time to open my heart and share a little piece of my puzzle. Let me first start off by saying I CAN NOT believe Monday is June 1st. Where did the year go? If you have been following me from the beginning of Ramona Recommends, you know I have had quite the road trip of getting back into the classroom like so many other wonderful educators. I did have my own classroom, but because of budget cuts was let go. I had to swallow my pride and do jobs that sometimes I felt just like the "help". But guess what, it was ALLL worth it. I gained insightful knowledge from the teachers I worked with/for and was able to start Ramona Recommends. At the time, I of course felt upset and frustrated because I wasn't in my own classroom, but in hindsight I won. This year God blessed with "my right place". I prayed night and day for 4 years.  I did not want just a job, I wanted a place that I would call home. I believe I was put on earth to share my love of life and books with kids. I hold kindheartedly love love love the profession of teaching. Yes, sometimes I want to cry because I am overwhelmed with the amount of extra work, but in the end it is worth it. I believe I have worked so hard to be where I am today. Want to read how it all started in room 20? Each morning, I wake up thrilled to go to work. My kids, my team and my colleagues are my second family.

Last week, I watched my 5th graders investigate, help each other, and give encouragement to their classmates. It was a proud moment for me. I have seen this many times before, but last week it pulled on my heartstrings. I am fortunate to be working with students who have good hearts and know how to be kind. Each morning, I stand at the door welcoming my students with a smile. I want them to know I am excited they are here. At 2:50 each day, I stand at my door with my hand ready to high five my 28 rays of sunshine. It is our tradition.

Our last day is June 18th and quite frankly I am not ready to say good-bye. This group has been SUCH a pleasure to teach this year. I even had one student memorize the periodic table. #that'sdedication. I hope they always remember my classroom motto, "Let your HEART be your Compass!"-Lady Antebellum I love you Room 20!!!

Happy ALMOST SUMMER (I have until June 18th). If you are on SUMMER BREAK, hope you are starting your Summer Wish List! Jen and I decided to spice things up this go around and ask two dear gals to be guest bloggers for our SUMMER Read Aloud blog post. Please give a bookful welcome to Stacey from Literacy For Big Kids.

Hi Guys! Stacey here from Literacy for Big Kids. My fantastic literary friend Courtney, asked me to Guest Post on possibly one of my favorite reading topics: Read Alouds! Can we start with some research and information on why you, yes you, should be reading aloud daily to your upper elementary students? Why should we start with research? You as a teacher should be ready to support the choices you make for your kiddos, and let's face it; saying you saw an Instagram friend do it in her class might not cut it.

 "Read alouds stimulate curiosity in children as they are invited into a safe environment to marvel at the concepts being presented (Harvey, 1998)."

From the now famous Becoming a Nation of Readers released in 1985 (the year I was born):
"The single most important for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children."

Just because our kids are in grades 4-6, does not mean that they don't benefit from having a fluent reader read aloud to them regularly. Let's dig in to FIVE of my favorite read alouds for upper grades with a fun theme: Summer!

The One & Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Looking for an amazing read for your summer book club? Look no further. Why not meet up in fun summery places like an ice cream shop? (You know Bob is always hungry...) Have your final meeting for the book club at a local zoo where you can check out the place that Stella describes as "how humans make amends." This idea came to me from... wait for it... and Instagram friend. :)
All joking aside, The One & Only Ivan is a read aloud I do with my 4th-5th graders every year, no matter what. It gives kids an introduction to animal rights and advocacy; sharing with them that they can make a difference in the life of others. This book will change you. 
*Also important to note: Katherine's new book Crenshaw is due out September 22, 2015*

Holes by Louis Sachar
If you know me, you know that I love Holes. I love the book, I love the movie.
What a perfect summer reading for the hot, humid, sultry weather. Bring your canteen! You'll feel like you're at Green Lake with the juvenile delinquents yourself. Stanley Yelnats will steal your heart and you'll love to see him grow and change as a character. When you finish the book, you can watch the 2003 movie and get your compare and contrast on.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul
Have you ever read a DOAWK book aloud to your class? It is so fun. Teachers and Parents will love all of the hilarity that ensues when Greg's family sets out on a road trip for the summer. This series is one of the top grossing children's book series of ALL TIME. Yeah, let that be proof enough!

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
Need another road trip inspired tale? Wondering how to read aloud a graphic novel? This book is easily relatable for all older kids. Raina wants a little sister more than anything, but what she gets is a little {not so nice} sibling that is nothing like what she imagined. Raina delves into childhood with a realistic  eye that will leave kids shaking their heads in agreement. When mom decides that they need to go visit family out West, all heck breaks lose on the road. Share this one with your kiddos on the ELMO or just side-by-side so everyone can see the beautifully illustrated panels.

Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord
"When Lucy's family moves to an old house on a lake, Lucy tries to see her new home through her camera's lens, as her father has taught her—he's a famous photographer, away on a shoot. Will her photos ever meet his high standards? When she discovers that he's judging a photo contest, Lucy decides to enter anonymously. She wants to find out if her eye for photography is really special—or only good enough."
Sounds pretty compelling, right? If you liked loved Rules, then be sure to add this one to your summer read-aloud list. I had a decent amount of kiddos this year that ate this one up!

There you have it guys! Good luck with your Summer TBR list. I know mine is never-ending at this point, and I'm okay with that. 
"I was born with a reading list I will never finish." -Maud Casey

Hop on over to Jen's blog to see sparkling ideas from Jamie at Bright Concepts for Teachers!

What books are on your TBR list?

Good Sunday Morning to YOU! Yesterday, I hosted my annual Scholastic Warehouse Meetup in Anaheim, California. This place is probably in my top 3 favorite places to go. First {Nordstrom}. It was a fun day filled with books, meeting new friends, and catching up with old friends. The day started at 10am in front of the Scholastic Warehouse. If you are unfamiliar with Scholastic Warehouse SALES, let me fill you in! First off, check and see if you have a SALE near you. Depending on the SALE, they are usually 3-5 times a year. They have mini warehouse sales that are usually in hotel conference rooms. Luckily the Southern California BIG warehouse is only 30 minutes away from me. Today was my third hosted event, even though I have been to the warehouse MANY times. I go around and give suggestions about books I think the attendees would love to have in their classrooms. The warehouse is filled with picture books and chapter books. I would love to get more upper elementary teachers in because there are so many great titles!
Do you have your very own HELLO LITERACY T-shirt? My sweet friend Jessica from Tassels and TK purchased this adorable (my favorite t-shirt ever) t-shirt from the one and only Jen Jones of Hello Literacy. We had to wear our cute shirts to my meetup today. I mean PERFECT, right!
Here is the dynamic duo behind Sparkling Recommendations. Are you unfamiliar with our monthly read aloud post? If so, check out one here.
 Creepy Carrots! for the WIN!

 Does this picture s.c.r.e.a.m TEACHER or WHAT!


 Our ELLEN selfie!
 The group! So fun ladies!!! We all picked out our favorite book we purchased from our day at the warehouse. Kristen's book is hilarious, poems about how to get a girlfriend written by kids. I wonder will they come out with a "How to get a Husband?" book. If so, I'm there!
 This year I gave away OPEN THE MAGIC wands from Luisa's Chocolatiere shop in Laguna Hills, California. She does ship! Her chocolate is all natural and YUMMY!

 Three gals all had the last name- SMITH! We thought it was funny!

{Here are the books I purchased for my 5th grade Classroom}
 Non-Fiction Stack (Need Grahpic Organizers for Non-Fiction Text, check out these.
 {Picture Book Stack} Want an I LOVE PICTURE BOOKS poster for your classroom? Click Here
{Chapter Books} The boys will be super excited about this trip!
These boxes are wonderful storage tool for holiday decor (Tips by Ramona Recommends) ;)

 Had to get my little nephew a present!

 TEACHERS in Orange County, California say, "OPEN THE MAGIC!"

Lastly, I would like to thank four very special literacy advocates for donating some of my favorite READING products from their stores to my OPEN THE MAGIC raffle today. 
Jen Jones, Hello Literacy
Nikki, Melonheadz



Do you need a QUICK teacher gift to give to your teacher friends? I've got the perfect idea for you. My district did not have school yesterday so I decided to do a little crafting. I pulled out all my scrapbooking paper and a yellow note pad to make a list of ideas. Then a HUGE light bulb idea came into my head. I've seen other bloggers like Aris from Sailing Into Second and Beth from A Kindergarten Life for Me make adorable notepads, but I had not seen the idea that was sparkling in my head. I quickly rummaged through my scrapbook paper for light pink and gray paper. BINGO! I found just want I need to make a PENCIL notebook. I mean what teacher doesn't A)love notepads and B)LOVE Ticonderoga pencils????

Materials Needed:
Light Pink and Gray Patterned Paper
Yellow Notepads (Staples!)
Black Magic Marker
Elmer's Glue
Paper Cutter or Scissors

How To:
-Cut Pink Paper the size of the notepad plus room for the fold over.
-Glue paper on back and the fold over to make the eraser.
-Cut a strip of grey paper for the metal of the pencil and glue.
 -Write No.2 with black sharpie in the right hand corner of the gray paper.
If you are giving this as a gift, then put a cute yellow ribbon it with a tag that says,
Hi! I'm Courtney from Ramona Recommends. It is a pleasure to meet you. Welcome to RAMONA RECOMMENDS. I am so lucky to live in California, better yet Southern California. It is a magical place. The palm trees, ocean breeze, sunshine almost all year, and the beautiful outdoor malls make me NEVER want to leave. EVER! Come take a tour of where I call home.

As of Tuesday, May 26th, I will have 18 more days until I can say SCHOOOOLLLLS OUT FOR THE SUMMMMER! Don't get me wrong, I L.O.V.E my class, but I am ready for morning gym sessions and bronzed skin.

THREE PLACES YOU WILL FIND ME AT THIS SUMMER (or at least a picture from instagram)

One of my favorite places to go in the summer is Angels Stadium. There is something magical about overpriced hot dogs, fresh cut grass, and the jumbo tron that make California summers poppin. 

Need I say any more. :)

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