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Ready, Set, Smart!

School bells beckon, the joys of summer morphed into fond memories tucked in the recesses of our brain. With “Ready, Set, Smart” as our mantra, we embrace the excitement of an academic year ahead with all of its opportunities and challenges, in the classroom and bee-yond. Clover’s up for it and hive-fives you every month, suggesting new books you’ll find in your school and public libraries.

Your bitty bee buddy kicks off August with some real goodies that focus on a love of reading, new classroom friends and reaching out to others who might need a pal. Here’s to another year of “Paging On!” I’m so happy to walk the walk with you once again.

The Community Literacy Foundation, in partnership with Neighborhood Reads and with support from its sponsors, provides these books to 40 school and public libraries in Washington, Union, Pacific, St. Clair and surrounding communities. Learn more at

Youngest Read

School is home to a special place that serves us well. It’s a hallowed site where stories nestle inside enticing covers to charm the socks right off us. Reading takes us places and enables us to journey within ourselves too. “This is a Story,” by John Schu, an amazing literacy ambassador, celebrates the blessings that books provide.

With spare text, readers are first introduced to a book, on a shelf, in a library, a book about seahorses. The action begins when a child enters a library carrying a seahorse kite, her shirt adorned with little fish. She walks up to the desk where a kind, observant librarian directs her to the perfect book to fit her interest—one on seahorses, of course.

The little girl, who has been helped by a librarian, then offers her expertise, helping a little boy find his book of choice, a pass-it-along exchange in a lovely book with awe-inspiring, watercolor illustrations by Lauren Castillo.

An added treat makes this read extra special. The inside of the cover serves as a poster, one depicting a circle of children immersed in books, titles on display, seasoned favorites that children are sure to recognize and may have read themselves.

Middle Read

Class pets are a perk that students love to care for and cuddle. Not so with the class pet in Room 109, where Arlo shares a classroom with his buddies. You’ll meet Arlo and his unique new friend Jerry in “The World’s Best Class Plant,” by Liz Garton Scanlon, and Audrey Vernick, a book that proves: “It Isn’t Easy Being Green.”

While “Room 107 has a cockatiel. Room 108 has a chinchilla. Even the Art Room has a bearded dragon,” Room 108 has a plant. A spider plant to be specific. Arlo is appalled that his teacher, affectionately dubbed Mr. Boring, would consider this alternative to a furry or scaly class pet. He thinks the spider plant “… is about as exciting as a thumbtack. Or cornflakes. Or a sidewalk.”

All the students have a ho-hum attitude about the plant until Mr. Boring suggests they name it. After creative ideas are suggested, the kids decide that “Jerry,” their teacher’s proposition, is “just right.” The class then establishes a list of Jerry’s needs and designates helpers to take turns turning him toward the light, picking up any leaves that drop and taking Jerry home for the weekend. These to-dos are embraced by the students who now whole-heartedly care for Jerry.

The kids’ acceptance turns into sheer delight when Jerry gives back to the class in ways they couldn’t have imagined.

Delightfully expressive illustrations by Lynnor Bontigao help tell this sweet story. Another plus with the book is plant care tips that are offered.

Oldest Read

There’s no one better able to tell a school story than a teacher. Maggie Rudd, an English teacher in North Carolina, scores high marks for her new, unputdownable book, “How to Stay Invisible.”

In this realistic novel readers face life’s trials and successes alongside 12-year-old Raymond Hurley—a down-on-his-luck kid whose parents desert him when he’s at school. Poof! Just like that they’re gone, leaving the seventh-grader high and dry. When Raymond walks the 3 miles from school to home, he finds the family trailer, where the family has briefly lived, empty, without even a note to tell the boy where his parents have gone or when they’ll return.

Suddenly, Raymond is faced with finding a place to live and discovering ways to get food for himself and his trusty dog Rosie. Raymond must succeed with eking out a living in the woods behind his school because the last thing he wants is to be sent to a children’s home, a dreaded stint he previously experienced and hated. He must keep his solitary situation a secret, even from his two new school friends, Harlin and Lexi. Though school is a place of solace, providing him with a free lunch, companionship and a warm classroom, it also presents problems arising from a bully who endlessly taunts Raymond.

“How to Stay Invisible” is a pageturner chocked full of emotion and beautifully written. Young readers will pull for Raymond at every turn, and be amazed at his ingenuity, courage and overall goodness.

Written by Chris Stuckenschneider. Copyright 2023, Community Literacy Foundation.

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