May 25, 2016

26 Ways to Incorporate Alphabet Signs into Your Story Times (14-16)

Today's post continues with a series of enrichment activities to incorporate alphabet signs into story time:

Image Source, Wikimedia
14. Create a One-Sided Deck of Alphabet Playing Cards 

This activity is similar to Activity 7, but the resulting deck of cards is one-sided instead of two-sided. Get some blank index cards, paste, and scissors, and download and print the alphabet glossary sheet from the Story Time with Signs & Rhymes Series (available on page 3 of the Story Time Activity Packet -Younger Children available at this link).   Cut out the letter "A" and the corresponding handshape from the manual alphabet. Paste the letter "A" on the front of an index card, and the corresponding handshape for the letter "A" on the front of a second index card. Repeat this process with pairs of index cards for each letter of the alphabet until you have a full deck of alphabet playing cards. These cards provide a fun way to practice spelling and fingerspelling and can be used for a variety of games and activities such as the activities described in #15 and #16 below:

15. Alphabet Concentration

This game can be played alone or with a partner. Use the playing cards created in Activity #14 above. Shuffle the 52 cards and lay them all facedown in a pattern of columns and rows. A player begins by turning over two cards. If the cards shown are a matching pair (i.e. the letter “A” and the handshape for the letter “A”), the player gets to keep the cards. If the cards are not a matching pair, both cards should be turned back over, and it is the next player’s turn. Play continues until all cards are matched. 

To add challenge to this game, a player must say (or fingerspell or sign) a word that begins with the letter in order to keep the cards. 

16. Fishing for the Alphabet
Image Source: Fat Brain Toys
Shuffle the playing cards created in Activity #14 above and deal five cards to each player. Place the remaining cards facedown in a pile. The object of the game is to get the most matching pairs. Players take turns signing letters of the alphabet to see if another player has a matching card. For example, if player one has the letter “C” or the handshape for the letter “C” in his hand, he would make the sign for the the letter “C” and ask another player, “Do you have a C?” If the other player has the matching card (i.e. the letter “C” or the handshape for letter “C”) she must give it to the first player. If she does not have that card she says, “Go fish,” and the first player takes a card from the pile. Play continues until all the cards in the pile are gone.

NOTE: It’s fun to add the sign for “fish” to this game.

Helpful Resources:

ASL Alphabet Glossary (use this link to download the activity packet for younger children, and the alphabet glossary from my books is included in that packet)

The sign for Alphabet

A to Z Sign with Me

Abdo Publishing Group
Please contact Dawn using the form to the left if you'd like to receive reduced pricing on books in the Story Time with Signs & Rhymes series. This offer is available to workshop participants, consulting clients, and subscribers to this blog or Dawn's social media accounts.  

If you'd like to be on the mailing list for the next offering of my online class: Sing, Sign and Story Time for Professionals, please use the form at the left to send me your contact information. 

Please share your own ideas and experiences in the comment section below, and subscribe to my blog to receive more ideas over time.  Happy Signing!

May 5, 2016

Beaverton School District Boundary Adjustment Process Recent Q and A

The Beaverton School District recently posted a summary of boundary adjustment Q and A's on their website. Not surprisingly, I had some thoughts about what the School District had to say. I shared those thoughts in the following letter to our School Board: 

May 5, 2016 

Dear Members of the School Board,

Today I reviewed the updated boundary information on the School District's website.

I read with particular interest the following Question and Answer:

"Question: Why was Free & Reduced Lunch Program (FRLP) information used as a primary criteria when student body composition is a secondary criteria?"

"Answer: The FRLP information was not used as a primary criteria. All criteria was considered by the Boundary Advisory Committee during their deliberations."

Although this may (or may not) be factually true, from my observation as a community witness to the Boundary Adjustment Process via the BAC conversations that members of the public were allowed to hear, and via the artifacts from the BAC’s meetings (for example, each map iteration), there is a great deal of evidence to support the notation that FRLP information was a dominant decision-making factor for the BAC. 

This is another example of why it would be beneficial to conduct important School District business in a manner that is genuinely transparent, whether or not the matter is legally required to comply with Oregon’s Open Meetings Laws. If the BAC’s deliberations had been recorded and fully open to the public, Board members and other members of the public who did not attend the BAC meetings could listen to the meeting audio to determine for themselves the apparent weight of FRLP information on the boundary lines proposed by the BAC and forwarded to the Board by the Superintendent. 

Further, regarding the following Question and Answer:
"Question: Did the School Board recently look at the criteria in Board Policy JC?"

"Answer: Yes, the School Board did review Board Policy JC and the criteria and gave the Boundary Charge to the Superintendent last June 2015. Policy JC was last reviewed in the following years: March 1997, Nov. 2007, Feb. 2009, May 2015. The criteria are to be considered by the Boundary Committee in their deliberations. They are not ranked or weighted or intended to be evenly applied."

I would like to bring to the Board’s attention the fact that although Policy JC may not require the Boundary Adjustment Committee to rank or weight the criteria, Policy JC does in fact require the Superintendent to do so:

"In planning and developing an adjustment of attendance area boundaries, the superintendent first shall consider the following primary criteria: availability of space, proximity to school, safety, and neighborhood unity. Whenever possible, neighborhood areas, particularly at the elementary level, should be retained within a single attendance boundary. The superintendent also shall consider transportation costs, student body composition, staffing patterns, feeder school alignment, and the efficient and economical utilization of the buildings.” (Emphasis added)

Given that the Superintendent relied heavily on the Boundary Adjustment Committee’s work in designing a new boundary, it begs the question how his proposal gives emphasis to the primary criteria, when the District’s answer to the above question indicates that the BAC did not rank or weight the criteria.

Shifting my attention from criteria to objectives, I continue to contend that we have fallen short on the objective of minimizing transitions for students, particularly for the Class of 2020. Policy JC reads,  ". . . where and when possible, the superintendent may allow students to remain at their current school for one or more years to complete the highest grade level or levels offered.” Although the Superintendent has argued that the Class of 2020 must transition to their new boundary school during their sophomore year to allow the newly built school enough attendees to operate successfully, I ask that we look for innovative solutions that will allow those students who wish to remain in the same school for the duration of their high school career the opportunity to do so. This might involve surveying Class of 2020 students/families about their preferences in this regard, allowing some students to transition early, allowing some students to arrange for their own transportation, and even allowing some students who are not in the boundary for the shiny new school the opportunity to fill “open slots” in that school so that it can start with a capacity that is conducive to a full complement of academic offerings and extracurricular activities. A Future Ready School District should be able to problem solve in innovative ways. Please set this expectation for our School District administration. 

Finally, I would like to point out that the Board is in a unique position to ask interested questions about the boundary adjustment process and anticipate answers in return. Although the general public has been able to ask questions, we have not been readily supplied with answers. For this reason, I request that you carefully consider the questions that have been posed by your constituents, and do your very best due diligence to seek answers to those questions in advance of your vote to approve or temporarily deny the District’s move forward on the proposed boundary adjustments.

With sincere appreciation for your service to our community,
Dawn Prochovnic

Beaverton Parent, Voter, and Community Volunteer  

NOTE: The School Board is anticipated to vote on whether or not "(1) the set of objectives approved by the Board at the outset were met; and (2) the superintendent applied the relevant criteria" at the May 16, 2016 School Board Meeting

May 2, 2016

Library Advocacy Summary Post

This past weekend I visited Springfield, Oregon to give the keynote address for an Oregon Association of School Libraries (OASL) regional conference. I gave a spirited talked entitled, "Library Evangelism 101," in which I shared the learnings from the School Library Advocacy effort in the Beaverton School District. In my opening remarks, I warned folks that I would talk fast, share an abundance of information, and potentially overwhelm them in the process. I'm pretty sure I accomplished all three!

I tried to reassure folks that it would not be possible to incorporate all of the ideas I talked about, and encouraged participants to try to identify one or two or three things they could personally incorporate. It was exciting to hear people percolating with ideas. I look forward to hearing the action items that people commit to and follow through with. Case in point, just last week I heard about another school library advocacy effort in the Eugene area that got off the ground after I gave a similar talk at the OASL state meeting last fall. I genuinely believe that if we each plant and nurture a few seeds of library advocacy in our own areas, the results from our collective advocacy efforts will be bountiful.

I realized after wrapping up my talk that although I've written several posts about School Library Advocacy, I've not yet created a summary post for this topic. A summary listing is below:

Why I'm Passionate About School Libraries (Sept 28, 2014)

I Am  Library Evangelist and You Are the Choir (April 23, 2015)

Oregon Library Supporters of the Year (May 15, 2015)

School Library Advocacy: An Update (Oct 6, 2015) and

Summary of School Library Advocacy Effort in Beaverton, Oregon (Glog Summary) (October, 2015)

Engaging Parents and Community in Library Advocacy Efforts (November 6, 2015)

Please get in touch if you'd like me to present "Library Evangelism 101" in your area. (If you'd like a preview, click here for an article that I wrote for the blog that touches on a couple of the topics I address in the workshop). If you'd like to access the slides for "Library Evangelism 101," please send me an email, or message me via the contact form on the left side of the blog.

I'd love to hear about the school library advocacy efforts in your own area. I hope you will share what's going on in your area in the comment section below.

April 26, 2016

Beaverton High School Boundary Adjustment Process, Continued

Image Source: Beaverton SD Website
Earlier this month I wrote about my displeasure with my school district's approach to a high school boundary adjustment process. This week the outgoing Superintendent made his recommendations to the School Board. The School Board will soon vote to ratify the Superintendent's recommendations. And so I write again:

April 26, 2016

Dear Members of the School Board,

Although I did not speak at last night’s Board meeting, I attended the meeting to listen and to learn, much as I attended nearly every Boundary Adjustment Committee meeting over the past several months.

We heard again at last night’s Board meeting that Policy JC reads in part, "If the objectives were met and the criteria were reasonably applied, the Board shall approve the attendance plan."

The policy does not read, “If reasonable people took on a difficult task and did the best that they could with the time and resources made available to them, the Board shall approve the attendance plan."

Similarly, the policy does not read, “If the Dr. Withycombe says that the BSD has the best Technical Team and Boundary Adjustment Committee he has ever worked with, the Board shall approve the attendance plan.” 

And most certainly, the policy does not read, “If Dr. Rose can ask Robert (or the Technical Team or the Boundary Advisory Committee) how the criteria were applied to a particular map and if Robert (or the Technical Team or the Boundary Advisory Committee) can answer those questions to Dr. Rose’s satisfaction, then the Board shall approve the attendance plan.”

The policy says that you must determine "If the objectives were met and the criteria were reasonably applied.”

I do not envy your position. If I had to make the difficult decision that you are charged with, I would need to be able to compare one map to another  (e.g. the springboard map to the final recommendation map, or to the various BAC maps in between) and reasonably understand how the final map is a better overall map than the maps before it in terms of meeting the objectives and applying the criteria. Despite my own high level of engagement in all aspects of the boundary adjustment process that were made available to the public, I’m not able to do this. Are you? If your answer is, “No," I do not see how you can vote to approve the attendance plan. 

Objectives and criteria exist so that people can understand how a decision was reached even if they disagree with the eventual decision. A school-related analogy may be appropriate to apply here: If I feel like I’m an “A” student, but my teacher assesses my work, and I get a “C,” I can refer to the learning targets, standards, and/or rubrics to self-assess how I measure up against those criteria. I may be disappointed with my grade, but at least I can see how the standards were applied to result in my grade, and likewise, I can compare my work to other students’ work to reasonably understand how their work might be in closer alignment with the standards than my own. 

I can’t do this with the boundary map(s). Despite my full engagement in the process, I can’t look at the objectives and criteria and then look at the various iterations of the BAC’s maps and say, “I get it. This map is better aligned with the objectives and criteria than others before it.” For example, I can’t determine with any level of confidence what criteria were applied when some neighborhoods' calls for unity were answered while other neighborhoods were left visibly split.

Most troubling of all is that I cannot see how the final proposed map minimizes transition for students, particularly when at least one high school will retain only 25% of its current composition of underclassmen when the transitions are made for incoming 9th and 10th graders in the year 2017. Further, when some members of the class of 2020 are required to change schools three years in a row (8th grade, 9th grade and 10th grade), I do not see how this minimizes transitions for students. Yes children are resilient, but the Board did not direct the Superintendent to bring forward an attendance plan that would test students’ resilience. It directed the Superintendent to bring forward an attendance plan that would minimize transitions for students. 

Becky, you asked Dr. Rose if the District supplied the BAC with adequate tools to do the job. I appreciate your courage and think your question has great merit and deserves a solid answer. I watched the boundary process closely and I would say that in addition to lack of clarity about criteria, the BAC was also limited in 1. Their access to supporting data to help guide their decision making process, 2. The amount of time given to complete the job, and 3. Discussion management tools such as “definitions of terms” (i.e. “When we say ’sophomores,’ we are talking about the class of 2020, the students who are 8th graders this current school year”) so that the BAC’s conversations could be focused on the issues themselves vs. on the effort to clarify what particular group of kids committee members have in mind when he/she says, “sophomores.”

Linda, you asked if the BAC deferred to the Superintendent re: the transition plan for the Class of 2020 because they ran out of time. Dr. Rose answered your question last night saying that the reason that issue was left unaddressed by the BAC is because there was a disagreement amongst the members of the BAC.

Unfortunately, since there is not an audio transcript of the meeting that you can hear for yourself, you are left to rely on the accounts and observations of others for this answer. I attended nearly every BAC meeting, including the final meeting where this particular transition was discussed. I took detailed, “live notes” that I shared with two other members of the public throughout the meeting. I am happy to share those notes with you upon your request. To note, Dr. Rose was not at that meeting. He was in Georgia. 

Here are my observations: 

Yes, there was disagreement amongst members of the BAC regarding this issue, but this was exacerbated by the fact that the team did not have at their disposal the necessary data/information to help guide their decision, and the team had in fact run out of time. Here are some supporting details: 

1. The consultant himself spent a great deal of time talking during the lead-up to each discussion about transition, such that there wasn’t much time left for the BAC itself to actually talk (again, this is where a recording of the meetings would have been helpful so you could listen to this for yourself, and not rely on someone else’s characterization of what took place at the meetings). 

2. There was not a clear definition of terms pertaining to transition, (which ideally would have been developed under the leadership of the consultant), so the BAC spent quite a bit of their “transition discussions" going back and forth trying to figure out what groups of kids and what particular recommendations they were actually talking about or being asked to vote on vs. actually discussing the merits of the proposal on the table. By this I mean, one BAC member might refer to “sophomores” and another might say the “8th graders” and there would not be clarity around the table as to whether these were the same kids (i.e. the class of 2020) they were talking about and being asked to vote on. This lack of clarity and confusion happened during the "sibling rule” discussions as well. Although the Superintendent provided the Board with a matrix to show clearly how his transition plan would impact different students/graduating classes, the BAC did not appear to have a tool like this to guide and bring clarity to their transition discussions.  

3. This confusion and lack of clarity was demonstrated early on when the BAC voted one particular way with respect to the sibling rule, (after a discussion, that was very hard to follow re: “who/what” was actually on the table for discussion). The next meeting, when those preliminary recommendations were seen in the meeting minutes, more discussion ensued (about 45-60 minutes of discussion) with the BAC members trying to seek agreement as to “what they had agreed to” vs. “what individuals thought they had agreed to.” The BAC was not able to reach clarity on what they meant or agreed to, so the issue was then tabled for another meeting (and this topic was revisited one or two meetings later). 

4. With the exception of data related to free/reduced lunch and numbers of kids in each school for each map iteration, there was not much in the way of reports related to the specific costs or implications of different transition plans). The Director of Transportation did present to the BAC to let them know that it would be difficult and expensive to design transitional transportation plans, and Carl Meade did provide a list of possible transition scenarios to the BAC, but from my vantage point of engaged observer, there was not enough information on the table for the BAC to make an informed decision (particularly given that there were people around the table with different interests and different concerns). The last meeting of the BAC had already been extended by an hour and that extra hour was nearly spent when the BAC turned its attention to the transition issues related to the Class of 2020. Although they deliberated briefly on this issue, they soon realized that they needed more information to resolve their differences of opinion/competing priorities so as to make an informed decision. The consultant reassured them that they had done good work and it was okay to return that particular aspect of the transition back to the Superintendent for further study. And so they did. 

Anne, you said it best when you said that the Boundary decision will likely outlast the next Superintendent’s tenure in our school district. This is a deeply important decision. Although I’m sure Dr. Rose would like to "finish this task” before he leaves, and although the Board is unlikely unenthusiastic about the prospect of extending this process while also searching for an Interim Superintendent and permanent Superintendent, (and although school principals and some community members want some certainty on boundary lines so they can begin to accept and adjust to the new boundaries), it is worthwhile to take a step back and take a few additional months to get the process right. When a reasonable citizen or a caring Board member can look at a final proposed map and transition process and weigh it against the objectives and criteria and say, “Yes, this map and this transition plan is better aligned with the objectives and criteria than others before it,” then we will know that the objectives have been met and the criteria reasonably applied.” We’re not quite there yet. 


Dawn Prochovnic

Beaverton Parent and Community Volunteer 

April 22, 2016

26 Ways to Incorporate Alphabet Signs into Your Story Time (11-13)

Today we continue with a series of enrichment activities for incorporating alphabet signs into story time. 

11. Animal Sounds

Photo Credit: Dawn Prochovnic
This is a fun game for partners. Choose one person to be the fingerspeller and one person to be the responder. The fingerspeller begins by fingerspelling the name of an animal, for example, C-A-T. The partner responds by saying the name of that animal and a sound for that animal, for example, “Cat” and “Meow.” 

If you want to make the activity more challenging, extend the learning by inviting participants to research the ASL sign for the animal (for example, “Cat,”) before switching roles and continuing play.

12. Alphabet Sounds

This is is a fun game for partners. Choose one person to be the leader and one person to be the responder. The leader begins by making the handshape for one of the letters in the manual alphabet. The partner responds by saying the name of the letter, making the sound (or sounds) for that letter, and saying a word that begins with that letter. For example, if the leader signs “D,” the responder would say, “D” and the sound for “D,” and then a word that begins with “D,” such as “Dog.” If you want to make the activity more challenging, extend the learning further by inviting participants to also sign (or fingerspell) the word they say, for example, Dog (or D-O-G) before switching roles and continuing play. 

13. Alphabet Words 

This is a fun game for partners or small groups that extends the activity above. Get a timer and choose one person to be the leader and one person to be the responder. If you have enough people, choose another person to be the timekeeper (otherwise, the leader can be the timekeeper). The timekeeper sets the timer for one minute and says, “Go!” The leader begins by making the handshape for one of the letters in the manual alphabet and the partner responds by saying the name of the letter, making the sound (or sounds) for that letter, and saying as many words as they can that begins with that letter before the time runs out.  For example, if the leader signs “B,” the responder would say, “B” and the sound for “B,” and then the words, “Book” “Box,” “Bank,” etc. Points are given for every word said that begins with the correct letter. Switch roles and continue play for several rounds. The person with the highest score at the end of the agreed upon number of rounds wins. 

To add variety and challenge, modify the rules to focus on words that end with the target letter or that have the target letter somewhere in the middle of the word. You can also allow words that have the letter anywhere within the word. 

If you want to make the activity even  more challenging, invite participants to say and sign words that begin with, end with, or include the target letter, with three points being earned for each word said and signed. 

Helpful Resources:

ASL Alphabet Glossary (use this link to download the activity packet for younger children, and the alphabet glossary from my books is included in that packet)

The sign for Alphabet

A to Z Sign with Me

Abdo Publishing Group
Please contact Dawn using the form to the left if you'd like to receive reduced pricing on books in the Story Time with Signs & Rhymes series. This offer is available to workshop participants, consulting clients, and subscribers to this blog or Dawn's social media accounts.  

If you'd like to be on the mailing list for the next offering of my online class: Sing, Sign and Story Time for Professionals, please use the form at the left to send me your contact information. 

Please share your own ideas and experiences in the comment section below, and subscribe to my blog to receive more ideas over time.  Happy Signing!

April 20, 2016

The Importance of Voice

Click link for Image Source
I've said before that one of my greatest pleasures in being a sign language instructor is helping parents and caregivers teach their babies how to communicate using signs before they can talk. In essence, I'm helping pre-verbal babies find their voices. I also find it exciting when a child who speaks a non-dominant language finds his or her "classroom voice" through sign language, and I've said that one of the most rewarding aspects of being an author is being invited into schools and community spaces to help young writers find their voices.

I've written about how distracting it can be when an author's voice is inauthentic, and I've written about the power of having the right voices around the table. I've shared with young writers that one of the reasons I write is because I want my voice to be heard, and I've celebrated when young people find and use their own voices to advocate for themselves. I've also been known to take pause from my creative projects to give voice to issues that concern me in my local community such as Strong School Libraries and respect for and adherence to Public Process.

Image Source: Amber's Website
Suffice it to say, voice matters to me. Which is probably why I am so taken with Amber J. Keyser's, The V-Word: True Stories About First Time Sex. It is beautifully written. Thought provoking. Important. And, all about voice. I recently contributed a guest blog post about sharing this book with my teenage daughter. You can read my post here: Dear Katia, Love Mom.

If you are raising a young woman, this book is for her (and for you). It's honest, explicit and empowering. Go get yours.

If you'd like to add your voice to the conversation, please share in the comments section below.

April 11, 2016

School Visits: How I Love Thee

One of the supreme delights in my work is being invited to schools and libraries as a visiting author.

Early last month, I had the pleasure of visiting four elementary schools in The Dalles, Oregon. The visits were coordinated by Jim Tindall, the District Librarian for the North Wasco County School District. He hosted the day in such a way that I felt genuinely welcome and appreciated in each school I visited. Not only did he coordinate the school visits, but he also arranged a radio interview, book store stop, and an interview over lunch with a reporter from The Dalles Chronicle, the local newspaper. It was great fun to receive a copy of the article in the mail the following week. (If you visit The Dalles Chronicle website and search on "prochovnic," you can read the article. )

Late last month, I had the pleasure of visiting three second grade classrooms at Raleigh Park Elementary to deliver a presentation called "Write On!" about why I write and some of the amazing experiences I've had because I'm an author. One of my favorite parts of school visits is receiving letters and pictures from the children. The image to the right provides a sampling of the artwork that arrived in my mail box last week. Isn't it lovely?

I thought it might be fun to share one of the letters I wrote back to one of the classrooms that sent notes and letters. Here goes:

Dear Mrs. Baumgartner’s Class,

Thank you for taking the time to write and for letting me know what you learned when I visited your school.  I have read and re-read each of your letters, and I have greatly enjoyed your artwork. I especially liked how many of you included pictures or mention of my chicken hat, my reading trophy, and Pickle the Cat in your notes! Pickle is sitting right next to me as I write to you today.

I’m delighted that so many of you are excited about writing and sharing your own stories, and I’m happy that you enjoyed learning some sign language.  I hope you continue to read, write, and sign regularly and with enthusiasm!  

Many of you had additional comments and questions.  My responses are below:

Cole: Thank you illustrating the cover of your class book. Pickle especially likes it.

Makena: I’m glad you love my cat. She’s very lovable!

Max: I’m glad you like my chicken hat. It’s fun to wear.  

Amara: You asked if I liked being an author. I LOVE being an author and I LOVE visiting schools. You also asked if I know the person who did the pictures. I do. Her name is Stephanie Bauer. You can see more of her work at her website.

Benicio: You asked if I’ve ever written a book that teaches the planets in sign language. I haven’t, but you sparked my curiosity. The sign for planet is really cool! You can look it up here.

Alejandro: I agree with you. Pickle is indeed funny!

Banyan (I may have spelled your name wrong. I’m sorry if I did): I enjoyed your picture of Pickle wearing my chicken hat. I wouldn’t be surprised if she tries to wear my chicken hat some day!

Lane: You asked where I got Pickle. We have had Pickle since she was a kitten. She and her sister, Noodle, were stray kittens without a mama cat to take care of them. Our family gave them a safe foster home until they got big enough and strong enough to take care of themselves, but then we decided to adopt them and give them a permanent home.  That was seven years ago. You also asked if I have met the illustrator of my books. Yes, I have met Stephanie Bauer, and I’ve been lucky enough to visit her art studio. You asked if I have had lots of illustrators. So far, Stephanie Bauer has illustrated all of my published books. That will change this fall when an anthology called, “Oregon Reads Aloud,” is published. Abigail Marble illustrated the story I contributed to this anthology. You can see examples of her work on her website. Lastly, you asked how I get the titles for my books. I write what is called a “working title” for each of my stories. Sometimes, but not always, an editor or someone from the publisher’s sales and marketing department might ask an author to change the title of a book, because they have an idea for a title that they think readers will like better.

Adriana: I’m glad you are starting to learn sign language, and I’m glad you enjoyed my visit with your class. If Pickle tries on my chicken hat some day, I will definitely take a picture and share it with you!

Jaden: I’m glad you liked my reading trophy. It is very special to me.

Mohamed: You asked if I have any problems. I’m guessing you are wondering if I have any problems when I sit down to write my stories.  Sometimes I get distracted from a particular writing project I should be working on. When I’m having difficulty focusing, sometimes I take a break. Other times, I do a writing exercise to help my creativity start flowing. I make writing goals for myself each week and I share those goals with a writing buddy. That seems to be the best thing that helps me stay on track.

Garrett: I really enjoyed your picture of Pickle wearing my chicken hat.

Ian: You asked if I ever get to meet my publisher. I have met several sales people that work for my publisher, but I’ve never met the editor that worked on all 16 of my books. (The editor is the person at the publisher’s office that helps turn stories from manuscripts into books). Here is a fun fact: I actually have never even spoken to my editor. Everything we’ve worked on together has happened in writing. We’ve written many, many email messages to each other, but we’ve never spoken on the phone or met in person. I’m working with a new editor for my new book that will be published this fall, and so far the same is true: We’ve written emails back and forth, but so far we’ve never spoken. I’m glad you like my saying, “Life = Stories.” I like it, too.

Lyla: I’m glad you loved learning more about writing and that you liked my chicken hat. You also had a question about my illustrator. See my notes to Amara and Lane for my answer.

Milo: You asked how many years I have been writing. I have been writing since I was in elementary school. I published my first book when I was in middle school.  It was a poetry book that I wrote for my mom as a Mother’s Day gift.  When I was in college, I wrote a book called a thesis.  I started writing my Story Time with Signs & Rhymes books about 14 years ago. My first books in that series were published in 2009.

Tylar: You asked what I do when I am not working. Some of my favorite hobbies are reading, going on hikes and walks, traveling to new places, and spending time with my friends and family. You also asked why I do sign language. I first learned about sign language before I started elementary school. I watched Sesame Street on television and learned about sign language from Linda Bove. When I started elementary school, I volunteered to help students with disabilities, and many of those students used sign language. Many years later, when my daughter (who is now in high school) was born, I taught her how to use sign language before she could talk. Eventually, I started teaching classes and writing books that incorporated sign language. So far I have written16 books that have been published, and I have a new book that will be published this fall. I have written many, many other stories that have not yet been published; too many to count! You also asked how long I’ve had Pickle. See my note to Lane for my answer.
Jackson: You asked if I have ever put a cucumber next to Pickle when she wasn’t expecting it. I have not, but I have seen some videos of other people who have tried that with their own cat. I’m not sure Pickle would appreciate me playing a trick like that on her.

Malin: You asked if I still write poetry. I do still write poetry. One of my unpublished stories is called, “There Once Was a Poet.” I hope it will be published some day.  

Scarlett: You asked if Pickle was all black or if she has a tiny bit of white. Pickle is all black except for her eyes, which are deep green. (I see you remembered that when you drew her picture!)

Kylie: I’m so glad to hear that you also love books and that you plan to be an author someday, too. I will look forward to reading your books some day. You asked why I named my cat, Pickle. From the time Pickle was a kitten she liked to get into mischief. In fact, we almost named her Mischief. When she would do something mischievous (like get on the kitchen table, or try to sneak outside, or hop up on someone’s shoulders), we would say, “You are such a Pickle.” Pretty soon the name stuck. It fits her well.

Julian: I had fun meeting you, too. You asked if Pickle was a boy or a girl. She is a girl.

Jasmine: You asked many questions. Good for you! Some of your questions I have answered in my notes to other students in your class, so you might want to read those, too. One of the questions you asked is why I didn’t make the pictures for my books. Publishers decide who will make the pictures for the books they publish. My publisher wanted to make books with my words and with Stephanie Bauer’s pictures. I love her pictures, so I’m happy with how it all turned out. You also asked if I’m still going to write books with sign language. I am still writing books that incorporate sign language, but I’m also working on other books that do not incorporate any sign language.

Oilli (I may have spelled your name wrong. I’m sorry if I did): Thank you for your nice note and picture. I enjoyed visiting your classroom.

Ariana: Thank you for drawing such a nice picture of me sitting at my desk. You asked many questions. Good for you! Some of your questions I have answered in my notes to other students in your class, so you might want to read those, too. One of the questions you asked was how I became an author. I have a detailed answer to that question here.

Dylan: I enjoyed your picture of Pickle taking a bite out of my manuscript! I think it’s great that you can spell your name in sign language. If you’re interested in more alphabet-related sign language activities, you can find some here (and there are free, printable materials on my publisher’s website.

Thank you again for all of your letters and pictures, and thank you to Mrs. Baumgartner for inviting me to visit.  I hope I get to visit your school again in the future.


Dawn Babb Prochovnic

I'd love to visit your school, too! If you'd like more information about author visits, click here, or send me a message using the contact form to the left.