Books to help you “Choose Kindness” inspired by the book WONDER, by R. J. PALACIO,

Envision a world where all people are accepted for who they are and not how they look.


April, one of my girlfriends from college whom I have always looked up to as a sweet blessing to our world, is mother to a super hero with Crainiofacial syndrome. Together they are working very hard to raise awareness of Craniofacial Acceptance Month.

Inspired by the book Wonder by R. J. PALACIO, a #1 New York Times Bestseller and listed on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, Random House launched an anti-bullying initiative called the Choose Kind Campaign.

In an effort to help children understand the wonder of our differences and importance of choosing kindness over bullying and ugliness, April and her friends have put together a Choose Kind Wish List for their school library. Families are invited to donate any of the books listed to help build the library. Each donated book has a nameplate for dedications and the books are even marked as “Choose Kind” books! This is such a brilliant idea.


Here is a list of children and young adult books that celebrate differences and encourage understanding, compassion, acceptance, empathy and inclusion.

The CHOOSE KIND Library Book List

  1. Monday is One Day Levine, Arthur: (p-k) Working Parents; Family Differences
  2. Mama Zooms Cowen-Fletcher, Jane: (p-1st) Wheelchairs
  3. Moon Rabbit Russell, Natalie: (p-1st) Self-Acceptance; Unlikely Friendship
  4. Just a Little Different Mayer, Mercer: (p-1st) Differences; Interracial Families
  5. What’s Wrong with Timmy? Shriver, Maria: (p-1st) Down Syndrome
  6. Skin Again Bell Books: (p-2nd) Race; Identity
  7. Howie Helps Himself Fassler, Joan: (p-2nd) Cerebral Palsy
  8. Clifford Vista el Hospital Bridwell, Norman: (p-2nd) Hospitalization
  9. The Name Jar Choi, Yangsook: (p-2nd) Cultural Diversity; Self-Acceptance
  10. Night Shift Daddy Spinelli, Eileen: (p-2nd) Socioeconomic Difference
  11. How Kind! Murphy, Mary: (p-2nd) Good Deeds
  12. What Can You Do?: Inspiring Kids to Play Haring, Kevin Arnold: 9p-2nd) Spina Bifida
  13. I Accept You as You Are! Parker, David: (k-2nd) Acceptance of Difference
  14. Dotty the Dalmatian has Epilepsy Peters, Tim and Epilepsy Foundation of America: (k-2nd) Epilepsy
  15. Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed Pearson, Emily: (p-3rd) Kindness;Social Responsibility
  16. Lost & Found Jeffers, Oliver: (p-3rd) Friendship
  17. Alex & Lulu: Two of a Kind Siminovach,Lorena: (p-3rd) Friendship Despite Difference
  18. Frog & Toad are Friends Label, Arnold: (p-3rd) Unlikely Friendship
  19. How Full is Your Bucket? Rath, Tom: (p-3rd) Behavior, Emotions, Self-Esteem
  20. Will You Fill My Bucket? McCloud, Carol: (p-3rd) Behavior, Emotions, Self-Esteem, Cultural Differences
  21. My Mouth is a Volcano Cook, Julia: (p-3rd)Behavior, Emotions, Self-Esteem, Respecting Others, Manners
  22. Diana Estubo en el Hospital Givaudan, Diana C.: (p-3rd) Hospitalization
  23. Let’s Talk About It: Extraordinary Friends Rogers,Fred: (p-3rd) Disabilities
  24. My Princess Boy Kilodavis, Cheryl: (p-3rd) Unconditional Love; Gender Roles; Acceptance
  25. Zoom! Munsch, Robert: (p-3rd) Wheelchairs
  26. I’m Just Small,That’s All Braithwaite, Karalee: (p-3rd) Dwarfism
  27. Lee, The Rabbit with Epilepsy Moss, Deborah M.: (p-3rd) Epilepsy
  28. No Fair to Tigers Hoffman, Eric: (p-3rd) Courage; Standing up to Injustice
  29. Mixed Blessings Cosman, Marsha: (p-3rd) Interracial Identity; Multicultural Differences
  30. The Lemonade Club Polacco, Patricia: (p-3rd) Cancer; Friendship and Support
  31. My Brother Charlie Robinson, Holly and Ryan Elizabeth Pete: (k-3rd) Siblings of Difference; Autism
  32. Ballerina Dreams Ferrara, Joann: (k-3rd) Overcoming Obstacles; Determination; Hope;Courage
  33. My Brain Won’t Float Away Perez, Annette: (1st-3rd) Hydrocephalus
  34. Stand in My Shoes Sornson Bob: (p-5th) Behavior, Emotions, Self-Esteem
  35. Rosa Giovanni, Nikki: (p-5th) Differences; Race; Civil Rights; Courage
  36. Imagine Me on a Sit-Ski! Moran, George: (1st-4th) Cerebral Palsy
  37. What is Dyslexia? Hultquist, Alan M.: (1st-4th) Dyslexia
  38. Nice Wheels Hooks, Gwendolyn: (1st-4th) Wheelchairs
  39. Make Way for Dymonde Daniel Grimes, Nikki: (1st-4th) Self-Acceptance; Race
  40. Children, Just Like Me Kindersley, Anabel & Barnabas: (k-6th) Cultural Diversity
  41. Stretching Ourselves: Kids with Cerebral Palsy Carter, Alden R.: (k-6th) Cerebral Palsy
  42. Can I Tell You about Dyspraxia? Boon, Maureen: (1st-6th) Dyspraxia
  43. The Goodenoughs Get in Sync Kranowitz, Carol Stock: (1st-8th) Sensory Processing Disorder
  44. The Barn at Gun Lake Tuitel, Johnny and Sharon Lamson: (3rd-6th) Cerebral Palsy
  45. The Great Gilly Hopkins Paterson, Katherine: (3rd-6th) Fostercare
  46. In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson Lord, Bette: (3rd-6th) Race; Immigration; Cultural Diversity
  47. The Lemonade War Davies, Jacqueline: (3rd-7th) Sibling Rivalry; Pride; Values
  48. Hey World, Here I Am Little, Jean: (3rd-7th) Self-Awareness; Emotions
  49. The Thing About Georgie Graff, Lisa: (3rd-7th) Dwarfism; Self-Confidence
  50. Rules Lord, Cynthia: (3rd-7th) Autism; Siblings of Difference
  51. Liesl & Po Oliver, Lauren: (3rd-7th) Depression; Friendship
  52. The Great Unexpected Creech, Sharon: (3rd-7th) Friendship; Forgiveness
  53. Bridge to Terabitha Paterson, Katherine: (3rd-7th) Friendship; Loss
  54. Wringer Spinelli, Jerry: (3rd-7th) Peer Pressure; Character; Gender Roles; Bullying
  55. Jacob Have I Loved Paterson, Katherine: (5th-9th) Self-Knowledge; Sibling Rivalry
  56. Eleanor and Park Rowell, Rainbow: (7th-12th) First Love; Self-Acceptance; Individuality
  57. Stargirl Spinelli, Jerry: (7th-12th) Individuality; Popularity
  58. Maniac Magee Spinelli, Jerry: (7th-12th) Race; Orphan Identity; Defining Family
  59. King and King de Haan, Linda and Stern Nijland: (3rd-5th) Diversity
  60. The Sissy Duckling Fierstein, Harvey: (K-3rd) Diversity

5 strategies for managing teen stress


With never-ending homework, tests, school projects, soccer practice, band practice and countless other obligations, an important factor in overcoming stress as a student is learning how to manage time. Here are 5 simple steps to help organize and structure the life of a student.

Step 1 – Write it down

Write down all assignments in a planner each day at the end of each class. Only leave a classroom when you have written down the complete homework assignment, upcoming tests or projects and when you have a clear understanding of the teacher’s expectations for those assignments. A correctly written assignment looks something like this:

Biology – page 235 #1-5 Write the questions and the answers. Test on chapter 16 Friday, 3/21.

Step 2 – Visualize your week

For students participating in after-school clubs and sports, keep a calendar/planner that shows the hours in each day.  At the beginning of the week, make it a point to sit down with your calendar/planner and plan out your week by marking off time for each and every activity. Each hour of the day should be marked with something – sleeping, class, baseball practice, student council meeting, study/homework, dinner. This helps students visualize their week ahead so that they can keep track of how much time they have for different activities.

Step 3 – Keep papers organized

Keeping all school supplies organized is a must. Have notebooks and folders for each subject. Only put math papers in the math folder/notebook, English in the English folder/notebook, etc. Being able to easily and quickly put your fingers on the homework that you completed last night will prevents unnecessary stress. Too often students do work at night and cannot find it when the teacher asks for it the next day.

Step 4 – A few minutes a day keeps the all-nighter away

Spending time each day on each subject will eliminate anxiety when it comes time for tests, project due dates, exams, etc. Because adolescents tend to live in the moment and do not see much past that moment, they often wait until the night before a project is due or the night before an exam to pull an all-nighter of memorizing (not learning) the information. Spending just a few minutes each night on each subject will eliminate the need for unhealthy, all-night cramming. Read over a chapter or the notes you took that day, make flashcards of key ideas/vocabulary that were discussed that day, and outline a chapter you read are all practices that will help students keep up with the information as the concepts are presented over time.

Step 5 – Structure, balance, accountability

Structure and accountability are key. Students need a proper balance of school, sleep, extracurricular time, and down time (or with young children, free play). Parents play a huge role in making this balance possible for their scholar kids. Maintaining a structured lifestyle helps keep students organized so that they can make the best use of their time. Holding students accountable for getting school work done is also paramount. Parents should stay on top of how their kids are doing in school so that they can help them make adjustments to their schedule if they’re missing homework or not performing well on tests.


Your daughter’s education – Open House this Thursday (sponsored)

I have three daughters. My oldest is in first grade. When I think about her education, I want her to love math and science and art and music. I want her to be a free thinker and a critical thinker, to take risks, be creative, think beyond herself and expand her boundaries, so that when she’s solving the problems of her time, her solutions and contributions are not bound by one place or one thing. She is limitless.

I want my daughter to benefit from technology, harness its power, and then walk away from it to go climb a tree. I want her to feel safe, guided, and supported as she discovers her individuality and develops into a young woman.

I want my daughter to know deep down in her gut that she can do anything, be anything, go anywhere.

Louise S. McGehee School is focused on understanding and educating the mind of the girl. The way she thinks, communicates, relates and learns is central to how the school’s curriculum and approach to education play out in the classroom, the community and beyond. This is a progressive approach to education.

This is The McGehee Advantage, and it is here for your daughter because she wants to soar.

If you want to know more about McGehee, read the school’s mission. It’s everything in a nutshell. If you want a picture of what they do everyday, visit their website. If you want to feel the spirit of McGehee, visit the campus. It’s contagious.

McGOpenHouse January

Navigating the PreK Intelligence Testing Process Required by New Orleans Independent Schools

A few years ago I produced an informational program to help parents navigate the PreK/Kindergarten intelligence testing process. Clinical psychologist, Dr. Arian Elfant, discussed the mechanics of the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI-III) required by most local independent schools, what to expect and how the results can be useful. Below is a recap.

For those of you who are new to town and/or New Orleans parenting of school-age children, all students applying to an ISAS (Independent Schools Association of the Southwest) school in New Orleans are required to take the WPPSI-III. For a list of ISAS schools, visit

WPPSI-III Overview

The WPPSI-III is a preschool intelligence test administered to children within the age range 2yrs 6mos – 7yrs 3mos of age. It is considered one of the most reliable and valid intelligence tests designed for preschool children.

For children age 3, 5 verbal/nonverbal subtests are administered. The test lasts approximately 30-45 minutes. For children 4 years and older, there are 10 verbal/nonverbal subtests typically administered. The test lasts approximately 45-60 minutes.

The test itself is colorful, engaging and interesting for children and it is typically administered at the psychologist’s office.

A child’s score is compared to a normative sample of children within 3 months of age of your child. Change is so rapid at this stage of development, so your child will only be compared to other children within a very small window of his/her age. IQ is not stable until at least age 8.

A child can only be tested once within a year. A child’s test scores are confidential and are only forwarded to a specific school(s) per a parent’s written request.

What the WPPSI-III Test IS:

  • It is a snapshot of your child’s abilities;
  • It reveals a child’s ability to navigate the world/solve problems verbally and nonverbally;
  • It reveals a child’s ability to focus, which can indicate school readiness;
  • It evaluates a child’s verbal skills, such as acquired knowledge and understanding of words; and
  • It evaluates a child’s nonverbal skills, such as visual perceptual skills and spatial skills.

What the WPPSI-III Test is NOT:

  • Test results are not a reflection of you as a parent;
  • It does not necessarily predict a child’s potential or achievement;
  • It does not capture everything about how wonderful/unique/great your child is;
  • It does not evaluate a child’s creativity or personality;
  • It does not evaluate a child’s ability to read or write; and
  • It does not evaluate school-based information.

How the WPPSI-III results can be useful:

  • Results can give you a sense of your child’s strengths and weaknesses;
  • Results can provide you with a sense of the kind of learning environment in which your child will likely succeed;
  • You want to pick a school that is a good fit for your child and you want a school that can accommodate your child as an individual; and
  • These results may red flag a problem, but one that will probably not come as a surprise to you.

How much does the test cost?

Each psychologist has his/her own fee. A reasonable range might be $175-$400, which may or may not include a follow up consultation with the psychologist to go over the test results.

How do you pick a tester?

You can download a list of recommended psychologists who are qualified testers from any of the ISAS school websites. Also, ask for recommendations from schools, friends and/or family. If you are still confused about whom to choose, a good rule of thumb is to call 3 psychologists and find one you feel is a good fit for you and your child.

What credentials are required for a tester?

A tester must be licensed and have a Ph.D. in Psychology.

Where is the test performed?

The test is typically performed at the psychologist’s office.

What if I have a shy child?

Children communicate in many ways and not always with words. Shy children typically enjoy the one-on-one setting and your psychologist is well trained to handle this so that your child feels as comfortable as possible.

Should I have my child tested BEFORE or AFTER his/her 4th birthday?

It is up to you. The test for the 3yo is shorter in length than the 4yo year old test. Some prefer that their child have a briefer test and some prefer the longer test because more information is provided.

My child is bilingual. How will this affect her scores?

This information will be provided in the report as pertinent background information and considered in interpreting his/her scores.

Based on a child’s test results, will the tester/Psychologist make school recommendations?

Your psychologist will likely not make specific school recommendations, but may be able to help guide you about the type of setting your child will work well in (e.g., very structured vs. more hands-on learning). However, these recommendations are based on only limited information about your child. You are strongly encouraged to tour and visit the schools yourself. You know your child best. Ask yourself “can I picture my child here?” Another great resource is to consult with any teachers or caregivers your child has had and ask them questions about how your child operates in groups, interacts socially, etc.

Educating Boys: What We Learned from a Year of Co-education

The percentage of boys going on to college has dropped precipitously over the past 50 years—from 70 percent to 42 percent. That alarming number from the book Boys Adrift maintains that the decline has taken place even while the ratio of boys to girls has remained about the same: 51 percent to 49 percent.

Recently, a growing chorus of voices among education experts has advocated the need to refocus attention on boys’ academic performance as its decline has become too great to ignore. A lengthy but fascinating article in The Atlantic magazine by Christina Hoff Sommers details what she dubs the “war on boys.” As a community, we are seeking answers as to what has caused the drop and how to bring boys back from the brink.

As an educator at an all-boys school, I am often drawn into a debate about the merits of single-sex education. At Saint Stanislaus, we have had an unusual opportunity to witness both single-sex and co-educational settings at play.

Post-Hurricane Katrina, our campus became a real-life lab as we hosted students from our neighboring sister school. Our Lady Academy suffered total devastation of its campus in the storm surge of 2005. We opened our doors wide to welcome them to Saint Stanislaus and for one year, we were “two schools, one spirit.”

It was an instructive experience. The good news was that our boys started to comb their hair and use deodorant regularly, mindful of their status with the girls. As we have always known, women certainly have a civilizing effect on men – and that is important. However, the downsides in the classroom were all too apparent from the outset.

Where once our young men would focus in class on the material, they were distracted and less likely to participate or pay attention to the teacher; where we had a thriving group of school leaders who took the initiative in Student Council and other formal organizations, the girls dominated and boys lost their gumption.

Our faculty quickly noticed that, although the boys were better behaved and smelled nice, they were missing much more critical components of their formation – active participation and willingness to engage in the classroom, strong leadership and involvement in extracurricular activities and the bright-eyed ambition that our boys had been known for.

I was happy to have the girls in my classes because they were smart, interesting and almost always prepared, but I grew frustrated at how reticent even my most talented boys had become. In a private conversation with a student I had previously recognized for his intellect and insight, he confided that he was simply petrified of “looking stupid in front of the girls if I say the wrong thing.” His calculation seemed to follow Mark Twain’s advice that it is “better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

When the challenging year came to a close, the consensus among both faculties of Saint Stanislaus and Our Lady Academy was that this experiment had been necessary and instructive (and had its own moments of fun), but was not a situation we wanted to continue. The faculty and the kids all learned some important lessons about co-existing happily with our neighbors, but they also poignantly understood, both practically and intellectually, the clear value of giving both adolescent boys and girls the space they need to grow academically and emotionally.

Local girls’ school inspires next generation of female tech leaders (sponsored)

“An understanding of computer science is becoming increasingly essential in today’s world. Our national competitiveness depends upon our ability to educate our children – and that includes our girls – in this critical field.” Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer, Facebook

The number of computer science jobs created every day far exceeds the number of students preparing for careers in this field. With technology being a critical driver of growth, it’s imperative that our future leaders understand technology and know how to harness its power.

If only 13% of girls graduate with computer science degrees today, what does this tell us about the leaders of tomorrow? Even though computer science remains a primarily male-dominated field, one local girls’ school is working hard to change that.


Since the 1990’s, Louise S. McGehee School has been at the forefront of integrating technology into its academic curriculum and educating the next generation of female tech leaders. Its commitment to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) will elevate to a new level when McGehee girls Grades 2-8 participate in the first ever Hour of Code during this year’s Computer Science Education Week, December 9 -15.

Hour of Code is a national effort to introduce students to computer programming concepts, demystify “code” and get them excited about a world of career opportunities across the tech industry, many of which offer some of the most exciting, high-paying and flexible jobs out there.


Hour of Code is sponsored by, a non-profit foundation dedicated to growing computer programming education, Microsoft, Apple, Google, The National Center for Women & Information Technology, and many more. As of this email, over 2 million students in over 151 countries will participate.

Whether you’re a school, a camp, a teacher, an employer, a student, or parent, you can be part of the Hour of Code. Learn how.

“Everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer… because it teaches you how to think. Computer science is a liberal art. ” Steve Jobs, The Lost Interview

Kindergarten Readiness Forum

The Kindergarten Readiness Forum is designed to demystify the kindergarten enrollment process and reduce stress for families going through the application process. A panel of experienced local professionals will discuss the best ways to prepare oneself and one’s child for a successful transition into kindergarten. Topics include:

  • social adjustment to a new school and classmates;
  • what a child is expected to know when entering kindergarten;
  • how to ensure one’s child receives all the services he or she needs; and
  • the testing and acceptance process.

Panelists will be available to answer questions after the program.


Alisa D. Dupre’ – Audubon Charter School, Admission Director/Operations Manager

Deb Marsh – Community Day School, Director of Admissions

Steve Salvo – Director of Admission and Marketing, Trinity Episcopal School

Chris Gogreve – Jewish Community Center Nursery School, Pre K teacher

Janine Murry – Lusher Charter School, Kindergarten teacher

Stacey Gengel, Ph.D – Psychologist


Sharon Pollin, MS, Ed.D. candidate – Community Day School, Head of School

The program is free of charge and open to the public. The Kindergarten Readiness Forum is hosted by the Jewish Community Center (JCC) and the Community Day School and will be held at the JCC’s Uptown campus, located at 5342 St. Charles Avenue.

For more information, contact Adrienne Shulman at 5048970143 or

MakerKrewe: a place for kids to be creative and make things

As the mother to a future engineer/architect/scientist/paleontologist, I am always looking for new opportunities to feed her curiosity in areas that have nothing to do with anything I know anything about.


Anson engineers a machine that “makes her little sister be nice.” It did not work.

Oskie Creech, creator of the Newman summer day camp, recently launched a new project called MakerKrewe, where creative kids Grade 3 and above, gather together in what is called a “makerspace” to work without interruption and solve meaningful, hard problems like how to wire LEDs to motorized cardboard, design a self-powered boat or build a robot.

MakerKrewe is a place for kids to be creative and make things. Learn more or register your Tinker Bells and Sparrows* for one of the Saturday spots. Creech’s plan is to continue offering MakerKrewe gatherings every Saturday (with a few exceptions), and then expand into summer and after school. 

After looking at all these inspiring pictures of MakerKrewe kids hard at work, I wonder… WHERE ARE ALL THE GIRLS?

*Clank and Bobble were “tinker sparrow men” and Tinker Bell’s first friends. Yes, I googled “male Tinker Bell.”

Local software company releases learning tools for kids with dyslexia and other learning differences

Kids with language-learning differences like dyslexia and dysgraphia struggle to read, write, organize materials, concentrate, decipher directions and often get lost in class. As a result, there is a total lack of academic independence for these types of learners; teachers hover in the classroom and parents hover during homework. It’s a long day for everyone.

LexiaTech, a local software company owned and operated by experts in the field of language-learning differences, has released a new software that includes a series of learning intervention tools to make reading and writing comprehension easier and increase learning independence:

Medialexie KorectDys Plus

The Medialexie KorectDys Plus is a USB-based software that opens up a series of reading, writing and organizational applications designed to help students with word prediction, spelling, letter inversions, grammar, research and word processing. Each student’s learning profile and settings are continually optimized with each use and saved on the USB, which means a fully-customized learning environment travels wherever the student goes: plug and play.

cPen 3.5


The cPen 3.5 is a simple OCR scanner that transfers printed text into editable text on a student’s computer. This modern highlighter allows students to easily transfer homework directions/questions, definitions and research to the computer and then hear the information rather than just reading it. It is an ideal tool for students who have trouble reading and/or writing. The cPen 3.5 is Bluetooth ready and compatible with Android OS, Windows and Mac OS X.

Choosing the right assistive technology depends on your student’s needs. Children who benefit from the Korectdys Plus and cPen include those diagnosed with dyslexia, dysgraphia, a Receptive Language Deficit, Expressive Language Deficit, Language-Based Learning Disability, Attention Deficit Disorder, Memory Issues, and Processing Speed Disorders.

A child who can read, write and process information independently is free to learn and more importantly, self-confidence is increased.

To learn more about how the Medialexie learning intervention tools can help your child, visit To request a demo, contact Barkley Rafferty at (504) 952-5831.


New Orleans Children’s Books

One of my favorite hidden treasures of the Jazz Fest is the Book Tent, a pop-up bookstore featuring local authors and curated by the New Orleans Gulf South Bookstore Association (NOGSBA), a consortium of local, independent bookstores. All of the proceeds from book sales go to support children’s literacy through organizations like STAIR (Start the Adventure in Reading), a volunteer-based, non-profit children’s literacy organization that provides reading tutors for public school 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade students.

For your viewing pleasure, we’ve created a NOLA Children’s Books pinterest page featuring all of the local children’s book authors we found in the Book Tent. If you notice something missing, please let us know so we can add it to the board.

A big shout-out to The Garden District Book Shop for helping us put this together and shedding some light on the wonderful work the NOGSBA is doing to support literacy in our community.

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