Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: It’s Always Been All About the Books! #SOL17
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Slice of Life: It’s Always Been All About the Books! #SOL17


“Here is the classroom library.  It will be really important for you to read these books before school begins.”

I glance in the direction she is pointing and see a corner of the room filled with children’s books.  There had to be at least 40 baskets of books and three other displays filled with books.  I walk over to get a closer look.

She continues, “The books are organized by author, genre, series, topic and interest.  You don’t have to read every book in a series, but it helps if you have read the first one.”

I am beginning to think she is seriously thinking I am going to read all of these books in the next four days.  Does she realize how much work I have to do for my graduate program?  There are hundreds of books.  Why do I need to read them?

“We will have OTTER – Our Time to Enjoy Reading – every day.  Kids will choose books and we will confer with them in small groups and one-on-one.  You need to know the books to help them find books,” she explains. “ It’s all about books in this classroom.  Every child is a reader and it is our job to find the books that will make them believe it.”




Did I mention this was one of the first inclusion classrooms in Massachusetts?  Did I mention I was not planning to be a teacher?  Did I mention my main responsibility was to be an aide for a student with Down’s Syndrome?  Did I mention I literally just showed up for my first meeting about my graduate teaching assistant position?  Did I mention that I remember it like it was yesterday?



In those first ten minutes Tammy taught me everything I was ever going to need to be a teacher.  Love of reading is essential.  Believing in every child is required.  Engaging students in learning is everything.  Books are the key to making it all happen.

Tammy, it’s been twenty-three years and we still spend our days thinking about reading, writing, engaging kids, listening, learning, and reflecting.  I love that we are going back to our roots with the focus of our next book.  You introduced me to what a classroom library should be – the heart and soul of a learning community.  Students browsing, talking, sharing, choosing and connecting with books. Our library was the hub of the classroom – never empty and rarely quiet.  It was where kids and teachers went when they needed to connect.


This photo is one of my favorites.  Take a close look Tammy …. do you see it?  Right there in the Dr. Seuss Basket.  Hop on Pop.  I still have the copy of that book on my desk and Madeline’s response to that book.


All the data said she would never learn to read, but in your classroom every child was a reader.  Specialists told us that we should focus on her speech and life skills, but in your classroom every child was a reader.  They told us she would not understand what we were teaching her, but in your classroom every child was a reader.

Tammy you taught me how to move beyond the numbers and see, truly see, the reader.  You showed me how to connect with the reader through books.  You were right.  Madeline did learn to read and it was all because of a book – Hop on Pop.  One book, one reader and one magical connection that opened the door to literacy – a door that may have otherwise remained unopened.

Thank you for making me read all those books, it has made all the difference in my relationships with readers.

Happy Birthday Tammy!


  • Avatar
    Jennifer Laffin
    Posted at 10:04h, 15 March Reply

    Such a beautiful tribute to your friend and colleague! You two make a GREAT team.

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    Susan Kennedy
    Posted at 10:05h, 15 March Reply

    I was jealous when I saw another blogger thought of the handle, “I’ve got a book for that “. Thanks for challenging me with new books or new views of old books all the time. Though maybe my husband doesn’t thank you for my amazon bill. You two have an amazing enviable partnership. Can’t wait to design literacy libraries with you.

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    Diane Dougherty
    Posted at 10:44h, 15 March Reply

    This post is so inspiring. Clare and Tammy, you are a team affecting teachers and students all the time. Even when you are not present in the classroom, your influence is present. Madeline is a reader! I think of all the readers out there who need that breath of confidence “Every child in this classroom is a reader.”
    Looking forward to your new book!
    Happy Ides of March Birthday, Tammy.

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    Lorie Barber
    Posted at 11:09h, 15 March Reply

    How perfectly inspiring! You & Tammy have got it! Happy birthday to a wonderful teacher.

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    Michelle Haseltine
    Posted at 11:47h, 15 March Reply

    What a beautiful tribute! Thank you for sharing and Happy Birthday, Tammy!

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    Erika Victor
    Posted at 11:48h, 15 March Reply

    Happy birthday, Tammy! Thank you, Clare, for sharing this great story! I had no idea about how your partnership began. You are right, it is all about the books!

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    Aileen Hower
    Posted at 12:23h, 15 March Reply

    Wow! This is such an amazing tribute to your work, friendship, and Tammy as a teacher! Happy Birthday and happy friends 🙂

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    Paula Ruedebusch
    Posted at 12:30h, 15 March Reply

    Hey Tammy! Happiest of birthdays to you! A new book – can’t wait.

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    Lynne Dorfman
    Posted at 13:42h, 15 March Reply

    What a tribute to Tammy! Powerful, moving, true! I am glad that your next book will focus on this – creating a classroom library, knowing children’s books, helping every child develop a reader’s identity – so important! The photos made this so real for me. Your words:” All the data said she would never learn to read, but in your classroom every child was a reader.” Those words will linger with me for a long, long time. Perhaps, forever.

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    Linda Baie
    Posted at 15:49h, 15 March Reply

    Love your sweet tribute to Tammy, and Happy Birthday, Tammy! When I was doing my teaching degree (a long time ago) the class I most remember was my Children’s Lit class. Our professor book-talked through every class, we read the May Hill Arbuthnot book (which I still have) and we had to read and annotate every Newbery and Caldecott book (thus far). She said if we were going to be teachers, we must read, and read, and read. Luckily I was already a reader, but opening up the wonder of children’s lit was what that accomplished. Every child is a reader, thus every teacher must be one, too!

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    Posted at 21:17h, 15 March Reply

    So much love in those post, Clare – for books, children, the work you do…and Tammy. Such a heart-full post, love it!

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    Rose Cappelli
    Posted at 23:14h, 15 March Reply

    A wonderful tribute to Tammy and also to your work as a team! Collaboration, belief in students, book love! Happy Birthday, Tammy!

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    Karen Terlecky
    Posted at 00:52h, 16 March Reply

    Clare – I love hearing about your and Tammy’s beginnings. What a lovely birthday wish for Tammy this post is!! It is all about the books, and believing every child is a reader.
    Happy birthday, Tammy!!

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    Melanie Meehan
    Posted at 02:06h, 16 March Reply

    You two really are an incredible team. I’ve heard this story and it was still fun to read! Tell Tammy happy birthday! Love the reminders of what it’s all about. I’m writing them down.

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    Elisabeth E.
    Posted at 19:59h, 18 March Reply

    Love this post! I used to have all kinds of agendas in my Children’s Lit course for pre-service teachers, but now it’s very simple: we read. And read and read and read. I think it’s the most important work we can do as teachers.

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