Book Review: Educating Esme

Educating Esme New Cover Recently, I had the opportunity to read an interesting (and might I add – hilarious) book called Educating Esmé written by Esmé Raji Codell. Ms. Codell is a nationally renowned advocate for literacy and literature-based instruction and is “one of the nation’s most sought-after voices for empowering teachers" (People Magazine) and a “Superstar of Education” (Scholastic Instructor).

Educating Esmé is the exuberant diary of Esmé Raji Codell’s first year teaching in a Chicago public school. Fresh-mouthed and free-spirited, the irrepressible Madame Esmé—as she prefers to be called—does the cha-cha during multiplication tables, roller-skates down the hallways, and puts on rousing performances with at-risk students in the library. Her diary opens a window into a real-life classroom from a teacher’s perspective. While battling bureaucrats, gang members, abusive parents, and her own insecurities, this gifted young woman reveals what it takes to be an exceptional teacher.

The diary itself is exactly the same as it was when it was first released , but there’s a new foreword by Katherine Paterson, author of "Bridge to Teribithia", and a meaty guide that’s been added called “Hit the Ground Running,” which I created to help new teachers do just that. The most common question I’m asked is, “Do you have any advice for new teachers?” Now readers will find over twenty-five really specific and hopefully pragmatic pieces of advice and also a comprehensive shopping list for the first-year teacher.

I am not a teacher and have never had any desire in this world to be one – but I am a parent and I know that children are curious, crazy and sometimes obnoxious little beings. This book shows kids in every one of those lights and shows how one teacher took it all in stride, made learning fun and taught her students valuable life lessons. I would’ve LOVED to have “Madame Esmé” as a teacher when I was young! Esmé is young, hip, inventive, sassy and an amazing writer. I was hysterical reading some of the comments that came out of her fifth graders’ mouths!

Educating Esmé is a wonderful book and I would recommend it to anyone who comes in any contact with children. Parents, teachers and care providers alike will benefit from the lessons and humor in this book. I know a few teachers and I know that they give 110% of their hearts to their students. They spend their own money to try and make their classrooms fun and engaging and often do not get any help (or credit … or assistance …) from the schools they teach in.

Teachers are EXTREMELY IMPORTANT and should be treated as such. It was eye opening to me to see just how many brick walls they run into trying to teach our children – and I’m not even talking about over-crowded classrooms. It’s high time we let our teachers teach and stop making them teach the answers to standardized tests. Our children need to learn – not determine how much money a school earns based on how high they score on a boring, hours long test. *steps off soapbox*

Esmé has been interviewed on CBS This Morning, CNN, CSPAN’s Book Talk, and NPR. The author of "How to Get Your Child to Love Reading" as well as numerous award-winning books for children, Esmé lives with her husband and son in Chicago, where she spent many years as an educator in Chicago public schools and now runs the popular children’s literature web site PlanetEsme, and the unique literary salon, The PlanetEsme Bookroom.

You can purchase Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher’s First Year from Amazon!

Big Thanks to JBH Marketing & PR for the chance to read this book!

Support This: THE FRESH AIR FUND

In 1877, the Reverend Willard Parsons, minister of a small rural parish in Sherman, Pennsylvania, asked members of his congregation to provide country vacations as volunteer host families for children from New York City tenements. This was the beginning of The Fresh Air Fund tradition of caring for NYC’s neediest children.

The Fresh Air Fund, an independent, not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer vacations to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877. Nearly 10,000 New York City children enjoy free Fresh Air Fund programs annually. In 2008, close to 5,000 children visited volunteer host families in suburbs and small town communities across 13 states from Virginia to Maine and Canada. 3,000 children also attended five Fresh Air camps on a 2,300-acre site in Fishkill, New York. The Fund’s year-round camping program serves an additional 2,000 young people each year.

Thanks to host families who open up their homes for up to two weeks each summer, children growing up in New York City’s toughest neighborhoods have experienced the joys of Fresh Air vacations. More than 65% of all children are reinvited to stay with their host family, year after year.

There is no such thing as a “typical” host family. If you have room in your home – and your heart – to host a child, you could be one too.

Fresh Air children are boys and girls, six to 12 years old, who reside in low-income communities in New York City and are eager to experience the simple pleasures of life outside the city.

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