Author Guest Post: “Parent – Educator Partnership” by Punam V. Saxena, Author of Parent Power: Navigating School and Beyond


“Parent – Educator Partnership”

Parent Power: Navigate School and Beyond strives to normalize parenting. Every day is different presenting its own unique rewards and challenges. We often feel like we are on a merry-go-round and cannot seem to change the mundaneness of our routines.

I felt the same way while raising my four children, I often wondered whether I was doing a good job. Often, it felt like I was “winging it” and was hoping for the best. As a former educator and then stay-in-the-car-mom (I was never at home!) for more than 20 years, it was intuitive for me to build relationships with those who interacted with my children: teachers, administrators, and coaches. I assumed that’s what we, as parents, were supposed to do. We each learned from each other, and I soon became a trusted partner at the school and district levels where we made systemic changes for our children county-wide.

Educators are at a tipping point. They have the monumental task of ensuring our students receive the education they deserve while juggling the ever-changing pandemic world of schools opening, virtual learning, or even going hybrid. It has become almost comical at what is expected and what is reasonable.

Wouldn’t it be nice for educators to have a resource that has insight and expertise in the student’s physical and mental well-being? Someone who we can partner with to help the student where they currently are academically and then help them reach their full potential?

Parents! They are our ticket to helping our students achieve the success they deserve. We need their input, their perspective of how the child learns, or if any happenings at home are affecting the student’s school performance. Their knowledge is critical to helping educators navigate learning in the manner that is most beneficial and impactful for the student.

In this uncertain time, teachers need, more than ever, parent input and guidance.  We are counting on them to help us. But we also must realize the burden parents carry right now. It is imperative to create a symbiotic relationship between schools and parents for students to feel supported and achieve success.

In my debut book, Parent Power: Navigate School and Beyond, I share my insights on how an educator turned Parent Impact Coach built a relationship, became an advocate for schools and students, and helped create systemic changes at the school and district level that affected students and staff county-wide. My education background along with compassion and empathy catapulted me to the forefront of issues that impacted students long-term.

Published May 4, 2021

About the Book: Parent Power: Navigate School and Beyond strives to normalize parenting. Every day is different presenting its own unique rewards and challenges. We often feel like we are on a merry-go-round and cannot seem to change the mundaneness of our routines.

Parent Power offers insight, ideas, and methods to navigate this exhilarating, exhausting task – raising productive, compassionate, future generations. Tackling relevant topics that parents face, with a head-on approach to:

  • Social media
  • Sports
  • Discrimination
  • And many more

Each chapter ends with Punam’s Perspective, a personal anecdote that prompted the need to write the chapter. Those experiences shaped Punam as a parent and an advocate, and, eventually, on this journey to build a formidable team of parent, teacher, and school.

Mom’s Choice Awards, Gold Seal

Amazon #1 Release

Reader’s Favorite, 5-Stars:

Parent and author Punam V. Saxena shares her experiences on becoming a partner in the educational process in Parent Power: Navigate School and Beyond. This invaluable work tells the tale of a stay-at-home mom who became passionate about enhancing students’ educational experience by getting involved in the academic community and forging a trusting relationship with faculty members. She addresses parenting issues related to self-care, community participation, social media control, bullying, discrimination, and quarantined parenting. The book aims to guide parents in raising emotionally intelligent kids by engaging them in dialogues that help them understand the value of diversity and justice as a concept of fairness. As parenting is a lifetime vocation, this work becomes a supportive teammate.

If you’re like most parents, you feel you’re doing a fine job in raising and dealing with your kids based on your child-rearing philosophy. You exhaust all the means to be a good provider. But at some point, it will drain you. One particular aspect that I enjoyed in Parent Power is Saxena’s take on self-care. Children can prove to be a handful, and as a parent, you too deserve tender loving care. Saxena writes with no promises but assures that it is feasible, at the very least, to decrease the frequency of your most challenging parenting days. I strongly recommend Parent Power to all parents for its inspirational and realistic approach to developing strategies to help parents become more centered and productive.

-Vincent Dublado

About the Author: Punam V. Saxena is a mother of four, holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and a Master’s in Education. Throughout her 30 years of experience between teaching and volunteering in her children’s schools, she implemented several procedures that benefited students and administrators within the school district.

She is a Parent Impact Coach, TEDx speaker, author of Parent Power: Navigate School and Beyond, and podcaster. Her work focuses on bridging the gap and fostering and stronger relationship between parents and schools by empowering parents to become partners in their child’s education.

Punam has been recognized as Volunteer of the Year at Harrison School for the Arts and has received a Key to the City in Lakeland, Florida. She has been featured in the magazines Podcast MovementShoutout Atlanta, Global Fluency, and Women Who Podcast. She has also spoken at several mainstage events including She Podcasts Live, Passionistas Project’s “I’m Speaking and Podcast Movement’s Virtual Summit. Additionally, Punam has been featured on NBC’s Atlanta & Company, CBS, ABC, and FOX.

In her spare time, she enjoys running, cooking, reading, and spending time with her family.

Link to website:
Link to TEDx Ocala Talk:

Follow on social media here:

Thank you, Punam, for this post! We agree that parents need to support educators and the amazing work they are doing, more importantly now than ever. It is the partnership that is important; parents should not be telling educators what to do or micromanaging instruction or instructional materials, but instead working as a parent with their own children and with their schools to ensure success of students. 

Stop Asian Hate: Anti-Racist Strategies


Asian Americans: We hear you, we see you, and we condemn the violent hate crimes against you that are happening, and have happened, in the United States.

Anti-Asian violence has been on the rise over the last year here in the United States, but the recent murders are not isolated incidents, and are instead part of a legacy of racism again AAPIs.

As we shared in our Black Lives Matter post: Racism is a long-standing virus in our country. This virus is not new—it is engrained in our history. And what is happening in our country now (and throughout our time as a nation) is motivated by the White systemic racism that permeates structures and motivations of this country.

There is no in-between safe space of  being not racist, and thus we must be anti-racist. As a reminder, here are some key resources to working towards an anti-racist society for all BIPOCs:

First, educate yourself on the racism faced by AAPIs today and the history of this racism: 

Educators: Also, educate your students: 

Then, it’s time to start doing. Remember: educating ourselves is critical, but it is only the first step. Action must follow:

Share posts from AAPI activists or organizations that inform about, fight against anti-Asian racism and support—through volunteering and financially, if you can—the organizations however you can: 

Support works produced by AAPI artists and creatives, support AAPI businesses, and participate in Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month: 

Highlight the history and contributions of the AAPI community. One way this can be done is by reading and sharing books by AAPI authors and about AAPI characters with our students, kids, family, etc. 

Continue to listen to AAPI voices and do not stop educating yourself. Only through ongoing work will we work our way towards an anti-racist society. 


**Please note: Many of these links have been widely shared on social media, and we curated them here and added many others, particularly connected to reading, to give them a concrete place. This is shared work.**

Black Lives Matter: Anti-Racist Strategies


Black Americans: We see you, we hear you, we support you, and we condemn the violent acts against Black Americans that happen too frequently in the United States including the murders most recently of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, David McAtee, Tony McDade, and Breonna Taylor. Black. Lives. Matter.

Racism is a long-standing virus in our country. Because of racism, Black people are brutalized, murdered, and unjustly treated. This virus is not new—it is engrained in our history. And what is happening in our country now (and throughout our time as a nation) is motivated by the White systemic racism that permeates structures and motivations of this country.

As Dr. Ibram X. Kendi states in How to Be an Antiracist, “The opposite of racist isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is ‘anti-racist.’ What’s the difference? One endorses either the idea of a racial hierarchy as a racist, or racial equality as an anti-racist. One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people, as a racist, or locates the roots of problems in power and policies, as an anti-racist. One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an anti-racist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist.'”

So to combat racism, we must be actively anti-racist.

Educate ourselves about the history of racism, race relations, and the act of anti-racism. 

  • Anti-Racism Booklist from @idealbookshelf
  • Anti-Racism Book List from Candace Greene McManus including gateway books and books to dig deeper.
  • Educators: Educate on race in education and in literature.
    • Books to share from The Brown Book Shelf and KidLit Community Rally for Black Lives:
      • We Got This: Equity, Access, and the Quest to Be Who Our Students Need Us to Be by Cornelius Minor
      • Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension by Sara K. Ahmed
      • Teacher for Black Lives by Dyan Watson, Jesse Hagopian, and Wayne Au
      • Libraries, Literacy, and African American Youth edited by Dr. Paulette Brown Bracy, Sandra Hughes-Hassell, and Casey H. Rawson
      • The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas

Educate ourselves about what IS racist. 

  • Learn about passive/covert racism as well as active/overt racism and take action on what.
  • Educators: Learn about how schools are racist and how they have the potential to get even worse (from The Progressive). (The links in this article provide further background, as well.)
    • Then, apply what you have learned to your own context. What can you do to make a change? How can you stop being complicit and start being anti-racist?

Make sure we understand our own implicit biases and White privilege. 

It’s time to start doing. Remember: educating ourselves is critical, but it is only the first step. Action must follow.

Share posts from Black activists or organizations that inform about, fight against, and educate on police brutality.

Support works produced by Black artists and creatives. 

Donate, join, support, and participate in organizations (a few are noted below).

Support Black businesses.

Highlight the history and contributions of the Black community. Below, we offer a list of contributions to education and books. 

Call your local and state reps and demand change.

Discuss race, race relations, and anti-racism with students, kids, family, etc. 

Read and share books by BIPOC authors and about BIPOC characters with our students, kids, family, etc. 

  • Book recommendations by Black authors (This is a list of books we have especially loved and recommend. This list is limited. Please be sure to click the links throughout the post for more book recommendations, and keep your finger on the pulse of new releases to constantly learn and grow.)
    • Picture Books
      • Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed, illustrated by Stasia Burrington
      • Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander
      • The 5 O’Clock Band by Troy Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier
      • Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier
      • Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis by Jabari Asim, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
      • Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James
      • The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
      • Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty, illustrated by Bryan Collier
      • The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba, illustrated by Van Thanh Rudd
      • Rocket Says Look Up! by Nathan Bryon, illustrated by Dapo Adeloa
      • Firebird by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers
      • Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
      • Shortcut by Donald Crews
      • Freight Train by Donald Crews
      • Just Like a Mama by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow
      • Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
      • Bedtime for Sweet Creatures by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
      • Going Down Home with Daddy by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Daniel Minter
      • Hands Up! by Breanna J. McDaniel, illustrated by Shane W. Evans
      • Fresh Princess by Denene Millner, illustrated by Gladys Jose
      • Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora
      • H.O.R.S.E.: A Game of Basketball and Imagination by Christopher Myers
      • Harlem by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Christopher Myers
      • Muhammad Ali: The People’s Champion by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Alix Delinois
      • Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson
      • Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson
      • My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete & Ryan Elizabeth Peete, illustrated by Shane W. Evans
      • Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
      • Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and his Orchestra by Andrea Davis Pinkey, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
      • Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
      • Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
      • Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomping Stride by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
      • A Day at the Museum by Christina Platt, illustrated by Sharon Sordo (chapter book)
      • Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold
      • Another by Christian Robinson
      • You Matter by Christian Robinson
      • Little Melba and her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Frank Morrison
      • Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, illustrated by Laura Freeman
      • Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe
      • Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton by Don Tate
      • Be A King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by James E. Ransom
      • Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
      • The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López
      • Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
      • This is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by James E. Ransom
    • Middle Grade
      • Crossover by Kwame Alexander
      • Booked by Kwame Alexander
      • The Usual Suspect by Maurice Broaddus
      • New Kid by Jerry Craft
      • Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
      • Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
      • The Watsons Go to Burmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
      • Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
      • Stella By Starlight by Sharon Draper
      • The Last-Last-Day of Summer by Lamar Giles
      • Great Greene Heist series by Varian Johnson
      • Robyn Hoodlum series by Kekla Magoon
      • Somewhere in the Darkness by Walter Dean Myers
      • Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri
      • Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri
      • Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
      • Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds
      • Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds
      • Track series by Jason Reynolds
      • Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
      • Louisiana Girls Trilogy by Jewell Parker Rhodes
      • Two Naomis by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrewy Vernick
      • Clean Getaway by Nic Stone
      • Logan series by Mildred D. Taylor
      • Gaither Sisters series by Rita Williams-Garcia
      • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
      • Locomotion series by Jacqueline Woodson
      • Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
    • Young Adult
      • Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
      • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
      • With Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
      • Swing by Kwame Alexander
      • Solo by Kwame Alexander
      • Kendra by Coe Booth
      • Tyrell series by Coe Booth
      • Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence, A True Story of Black and White by Geoffrey Canada, illustrated by Jamar Nicholas
      • The Belles series by Dhonielle Clayton
      • Tyler Johnson was Here by Jay Coles
      • Say Her Name by Zetta Elliott
      • Fresh Ink: An Anthology edited by Lamar Giles
      • Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes
      • Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
      • Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson
      • A Certain October by Angela Johnson
      • First Part Last by Angela Johnson
      • I’m Not Dying With You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal
      • March series by John Lewis
      • How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon
      • Tyrell by Coe Booth
      • Dope Sick by Walter Dean Myers
      • It Ain’t All for Nonthin’ by Walter Dean Myers
      • Monster by Walter Dean Myers
      • Knockout Games by G. Neri
      • It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
      • All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
      • When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds
      • Dear Martin by Nic Stone
      • Odd One Out by Nic Stone
      • The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
      • On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
      • Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia
      • Beneath a Meth Moon by Jacqueline Woodson
      • The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
      • American Street by Ibi Zoboi

Educate ourselves about the system we are part of.

Talk about anti-racism. Speak up when others are being racist. Educators, teach about being anti-racist. This is your job–in order to support young people. Just so we are clear, this includes teachers in predominantly White classrooms.

Continue to listen to Black voices, do not stop educating yourself, and focus your learning on anti-racist ACTIONS. White Americans, if you feel exhausted, keep in mind that Black Americans don’t have opportunity to shut off the effects of racism. This is a privilege.

Educators, we must frame everything we do to be anti-racist.

What anti-racist work are you doing?


**Please note: These links have been widely shared on social media, and we curated them here and added many others to give them a concrete place. This is shared work.**

Lessons Learned from Teaching My Kindergartener Stop Animation (Ricki)


At 11pm, I had the idea to teach my 6-year-old stop animation. I watched countless YouTube videos and tried to tailor them to his skill level. The next day went fairly well, but I learned some things along the way that I thought I’d share with other caregivers or educators embarking on this adventure.

  1. Create a Model, Show Examples/How-To Videos.

It is exceptionally hard to explain stop animation to a kindergartener. Thus, I showed many, many examples and then showed him my own example. I recommend pre-watching your examples because I found many inappropriate models that I was glad I ruled out in advance. I also found how-to videos that were way too intense for my kid. They would overwhelm him.

The first video I showed him was a LEGO animation (which I learned is called a brickfilm). The video I post below is very easy to follow and shows how it works:

Next, I showed a claymation, which is the clay form of stop animation. I watched many and found this one to be pretty clear:

And finally, I created my own (quick) model using clay. I left the clay model out, so I could explain how I did it. This was the quick model I made:

2. Use the “Stop Motion” App.

I learned (after watching many tutorials) that this app was not only very user-friendly but also very capable of advanced work (which we were not doing. The key to using the app is to avoid having to push the photo button. Every time you take a picture and touch the tablet/phone, it jiggles the camera a tiny bit. For the model above, I stacked five textbooks and hung the camera part of the tablet over the edge of the top book. This allowed me to set the automatic timer on the app and avoid touching the screen. I did everything flat on my table, as you will notice in the model.

Essentially, you set a timer for a certain length of time (I did five seconds for my model, but I set it to 15 seconds for my son.) In that time, you move your design slightly. If you miss the timer and don’t make the move, it is extremely easy to delete any of the frames in between.

My son chose to do a brick film with his legos, so I set up the tablet to lean against a chair leg. I had to remind him not to touch the chair, and I set the automatic timer. After that, he pretty much worked independently for an hour on his film.

3. Other Lessons Learned

There’s something that Stop Animators call “light flicker.” If you are close to a window, the changes in the sun (e.g. it goes behind a cloud) will make the light of your video flicker in each shot. Pros (my son and I not included), recommend doing your stop animation in a room with no sunlight or windows. You use two headlamps—one to put in front of your creation and one to put behind it for shadows. To remove the shine on the lego pieces, I learned that pros cover the front headlamp with parchment paper. This was way above our skill level. The pros also use professional cameras and not tablets/phones.

Stop animation takes time, but it takes far less time with this app. It is instantly rewarding to kids (at least, relatively to taking a lot of solo framed photos). It occupied my son for a good hour, and he got to play with his lego, so it was a fun time for him.

Don’t forget to add music. I got a bit lazy with mine, and I clicked the audio record option (which allows people to record their voices), and I just played a song through my cell phone to get it in the background. You can upload a song if you want better quality than mine.

Those are the basics. Kindergarteners are very capable of beginning stop animation films. My son’s ended up being a tray of his favorite minifigures. They appeared one-by-one, and then they disappeared one-by-one. It was a great first start for him!

Virtual Book Clubs with our Kids During Quarantine


When quarantining became a reality for many of us in March, we were both looking for activities that would help keep our kids busy but also interacting with other kids. Ricki then came up with the idea of doing virtual book clubs, and Kellee was all in!

Trent & Henry’s Two Book Clubs

  • Trent and Henry, Ricki’s oldest, both were really interested in reading the Bad Guys books, so we started a chat with just the two of them. This is the first virtual book club that both kids had been in and was a great way to help them understand how to discuss books with a peer. So far they have read four of the Bad Guy books and have had a blast discussing everything from illustrations, to motive, and predictions.
  • As of this week, we are going to pause on the Bad Guys books and are moving ahead with some partner reading with some of the boys’ favorite picture books!

  • Ricki put out a call on Facebook for anyone interested in doing a Kindergarten-ish book club, and many jumped in! The kids range from age 4 to 9, and we find the mixed age group is really working! The club voted on the first book to read, and we started with Sideways Story from Wayside School by Louis Sachar and then we moved to Unicorn Rescue Society: The Creature of the Pines by Adam Gidwitz.


Trent’s Other Book Club


  • Trent also is part of a book club with one of Kellee’s colleague’s daughters. With this book club, Trent and Gabby started with picture books (The Hat Trilogy by Jon Klassen, The Questioneers by Andrea Beaty & David Roberts, and Lights! Camera! Alice! by Mara Rockliff). Next up are the Questioneers chapter books.

Ben’s Book Club

  • Ricki’s three-year-old Ben is also in a book club using Juana Medina’s Juana & Lucas. Admittedly, this book club has been trickier because the kids are ages 3 to 4. They have had great questions like, “Do you like to chew gum, too?” and are connecting with the book, but their attention span usually lasts between 5 to 10 minutes. They are also incredibly shy and have difficulty volunteering questions. Either way, it is still great to see the kids connect with each other.

The Clubs

For the larger club, Ricki sets up a Zoom meeting and leads the meeting. She ensures everyone gets to ask their questions and that everyone’s voice is heard.

The questions that kids come up with, even at age 6, are intuitive and deep!

  • Examples:
    • Bad Guys #1: Why do you think the kitty doesn’t talk but the other animals do?
    • Bad Guys #1: Why do you think those words on page 7 look like that?
    • Bad Guys #2: Do you think they would have made it without Legs helpiing them?
    • Bad Guys #3: Why did they think the ninja was a boy (she is a girl!)?
    • Wayside: Do you think it’s fair that Todd always gets in trouble?
    • Wayside: Joy’s name sounds like she should be good, but she keeps calling people dumb and stupid which isn’t good. Do you like her?
    • Unicorn: Why do you think Professor Fauna is hunting the unicorns?
    • Unicorn: Do you think the animal got tangled in the ribbon because it was a trap, or do you think it was something else?
    • Unicorn: Do you think Professor knows about the animal Elliot and Uchenna found? Do you think they will see it again?

With Trent’s book club with Kellee’s colleague, she used the teaching guides to drive the conversation (Hat Trilogy, Questioneers, Lights! Camera! Alice!), and she found that teaching guides are perfect for this as well. And their insight was wonderful!

With the smaller clubs, we use FaceTime. We’re still there while they are chatting, but it is easier for the two to chat back and forth.

Usually the club meeting lasts 20-30 minutes which is about how long they can stay on topic and discuss a book, but we think that is pretty great for kindergarten-ish kids.

We always end with “friend questions.” Kids are invited to ask their (new) friends questions about their lives. They tend to ask each other about their favorites (foods, colors, movies, books, sports teams, universities).

The book clubs have been such a highlight for our kids. They look forward to it each week! They love sharing the reading experience with others, specifically now when interaction with other kids is so limited.

An unexpected highlight: they’ve made some good friends. Henry and Trent have never chatted for more than a minute or two and last saw each other when they were babies, so it has been wonderful to see them bond these last few weeks!

We highly recommend virtual book clubs! Let us know if your kids have taken part in any virtual clubs!


In My Heart by Mackenzie Porter, Illustrated by Jenny Løvlie


In My Heart
Author: Mackenzie Porter
Illustrator: Jenny Løvlie
Published March 10, 2020 by Little Simon

Goodreads Summary: A working mother reassures her child that even when they’re apart, they’re always in each other’s hearts. This lovely board book is perfect for moms to share with their little ones.

Though we’re not together
we’re never truly apart,
because you’re always on my mind
and you’re always in my heart.

This is what a mother tells her child as she leaves for work each day. This lovely board book perfectly captures the sentiment that many women feel about being a working mom. The lyrical text takes us through a mother’s day away, showing us that although she’s working hard, her child is always on her mind and always in her heart.

Ricki’s Review: This book really hit me in the gut. I couldn’t read it without crying. I have a lot of mom guilt related to my status as a working mom. I genuinely believe that it is best for my kids, yet I struggle with the emotions that come with this decision. This book was as much for my kids as it was for me. There are many books that address concepts like going to school or learning to meet new people, but this is the first book that I’ve read that addresses the concept of working moms (particularly at this age level). I will cherish this book and read it to my children again and again.

Kellee’s Review: As a working mom, mom guilt is real. It is hard when I cannot come and be a reader in Trent’s class every time or be part of all celebrations in his classroom, but I also love working; however, there are very few books that reinforce the normality of this situation. As Simon & Schuster shares, 70% of moms are working moms, so there are so many of us that need this book to read to our children to explain that work is part of our life but that they get the opportunity to be in an awesome school situation while we are doing a job we love and need. And no matter what we love them! The author and illustrator do a great job of showing that balance. Thank you to them both for bringing this book to life!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Ricki is purchasing an extra copy of this book for her kids’ daycare/preschool. It is a great book for early childhood educators to use. Children might draw pictures of the emotions that they experience before, during, and after reading this book.

Discussion Questions: How do you feel when your parent goes to work? Why? What might you do to cope with these feelings?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn; Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney; Stella Luna by Janell Cannon

Recommended For: 


RickiSigand Kellee Signature

The Big List of Online Learning Resources for COVID-19 and Quarantine


If you are anything like us right now, you are quietly panicking a bit. Our young children (three, in Ricki’s case) are home for quite a while, and they cannot go to public places. This is different from the summer because…they cannot go to public places. Our parenting strategy is always to keep them busy. Our kids thrive on trips to the playground, visiting museums, play dates, etc. When we keep ourselves busy, everyone does well.

We know that online learning content offers a lot for kids. We did some hunting, and we found some screen-time options that offer great educational content. Luckily for us all, there are many generous people and companies offering educational opportunities for our kids. We’re sharing the list below and invite you to share other options! Something we are trying to remember—this will hopefully be a short time period. We all hope this passes quickly. In the meantime, we are all going to do the best that we can. Solidarity with the parents and guardians out there. <3 BE WELL!

There are some incredible authors who are doing LIVE (yes, LIVE!) readings and doodle alongs of their books. We are, quite frankly, blown away and in awe of these authors. Ricki’s and Kellee’s children are loving so many of these! Here’s amazing opportunities (some available for a limited time) for our children/students as we move to digital/distance learning:

Read Alouds

Mac Barnett, author of EXTRA YARN, SAM AND DAVID DIG A HOLE, THE TERRIBLE TWO, Shapes Series; THE TERRIBLE TWO, and so many more!

Mac is reading is books in order of publication, and he has over 40 books. We will be watching him every single day! He’s quite entertaining! Follow him on Instagram* to watch live at 12pm PST or watch the video within 24 hours! He recommends that kids wear a hat, and he answers questions at the end.

Starting 3/28, Mac Barnett switched to read alouds on Monday through Friday with a Live Cartoon on Saturdays.

Starting 4/2, Mac Barnett moved to using IGTV which means the read alouds do not expire at 24 hours! And he is going back to reread all of the books that expired on IG Live.

Starting 6/1, Mac Barnett is moving to once a week Book Show Club Book Show meetings on Saturdays.

Oliver Jeffers, author of STUCK, LOST AND FOUND, The Boy Series, THE INCREDIBLE BOOK EATING BOY, ONCE UPON AN ALPHABET, HERE WE ARE, and so many more!

At 2pm EST and 11am PST starting on Monday, Oliver Jeffers will read one of his books every weekday on Instagram* Live and talk about “some of the things that went into making it.” He talks about what he was thinking when he made each book, which is really neat to learn. He is archiving the videos on his website.

As of 4/29, Oliver Jeffers finished reading all of his books and is no longer doing Stuck at Home Book Club; however, they all are available on his website.

Kate Messner, author of the Over and Under Series, Ranger in Time Series, HOW TO READ A STORY, and so many more!

Kate Messner, who is always an ally to educators!, has put together a list of resources for us: “Read, Wonder, and Learn! Favorite Authors & Illustrators Share Resources for Learning Anywhere–Spring 2020” which includes so many videos, activities, and other resources!

She has also gotten permission from her publisher to do read alouds on her You Tube Channel! Including the upcoming OVER AND UNDER THE RAINFOREST which doesn’t come out until August!

More read alouds available:

From April 20th to May 11th, PBS & Penguin Random House have collaborated to bring storytime with Michelle Obama. Families can tune in to the livestream on PBS Kids’ Facebook page and YouTube channel, or the Penguin Random House Facebook page.

Levar Burton is back to reading stories to us, and he is reading for everyone on his Twitter Livestream!

Greg Pizzoli is hosting the Standby Book Club on weekdays at 11am ET on Instagram* Live. (After 4/21, he will be moving to weekly Monday meetings at 11am ET.)

Barb Rosenstock is offering to share read alouds to some of her picture books. Please see the image above for guidelines.

Josh Funk has announced that on his Facebook he will be doing read louds there and on his Instagram.

On her You Tube channel, Laurel Snyder read aloud her newest Charlie and Mouse book and included an activity at the end. When finished, she is also reading from her picture books.

Debbie Ridpath Ohi is doing read alouds and drawings on You Tube.

Dan Gutman is reading from his books on his Facebook page and archiving them on his website.

Peter H. Reynold is doing read alouds on his Facebook page.

Julie Falatko is doing read alouds on Instagram* Live.

Megan Lacera is hosting storytimes on Twitter.

School Library Journal published an article on the 16th: “Kid Lit Authors Step Up to Help Educators, Students, and Parents”

Josh Gad is reading books on his Twitter and Instagram* accounts.

The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy is going to do Shark Story Hour every day this week at 10am on Facebook Live! Available to watch later in the day as well! (Moved to about once weekly starting in May.)

Storyline Online has videos of celebrities reading their favorite picture books.

From April 2nd to June 4th, Dolly Parton is reading books from her Imagination Library during Goodnight with Dolly on Thursdays at 9pm on her Facebook.

Daisey Ridley read BB-8 on the Run by Drew Daywalt on the Disney You Tube channel.

Check out Storytime From Space where astronauts read books from the ISS.

There is a Google Doc that is also keeping track of author read alouds and activities that include some that we do not have listed!

There are read aloud opportunities for older kids, too!

Audible is offering limited free audiobooks while school is out!

Jason Reynolds is moving his National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature program online with videos and other virtual storytelling lessons through his “Write. Right. Rite. series” on the Library of Congress website.

K.A. Holt is reading from House Arrest on her YouTube channel.

Laurie Halse Anderson is promoting the #QuarantRead book club on Twitter where all ages may ask her questions.

On her YouTube channel, Kathy Burnette is reading Tracey Baptiste‘s THE JUMBIES and hopes to read more after that.

Grace Lin is doing read alouds from her books on You Tube.

Kenneth Oppel is doing daily read alouds from his books on You Tube.

Dan Gemeinhart is doing a Coyote Sunrise Book Club & Read Aloud on You Tube.

On Facebook and You Tube, Neal Shusterman is going to do a Storyman Virtual Reading Series reading some of his less well-known short stories. He’ll be posting two or three times a week.

At-Home with Kwame Alexander includes many videos including a reading of Crossover that has been added during the quarantine.

Dav Pilkey is joining in! He’s read from Dog Man and done some drawing on You Tube during Dav Pilkey at Home.

And find your next read by checking out First Lines, a video where 27 authors share the first lines of their books.

Audio Book Sync is back! SYNC is a free summer audiobook program for teens 13+. Returning April 30th and continuing 13 weeks until July 29,  SYNC gives participants two thematically paired audiobooks a week.  

Other Amazing Literacy Resources for All Ages

As we’re moving to digital learning for our country, there has been a lot of questions about copyright behind educators recording themselves reading texts to their classes. In this tumultuous time, publishers have kindly banded together and are giving guidelines for fair use for online storytimes and read-alouds during COVID-19 school closures.

Here’s an article from School Library Journal about the adapted policies publishers are putting forth to help educators (updated 4/15).

Dan Santat has created the SANTAT ONLINE SURVIVAL SCHOOL FOR THE PANDEMIC #DANDEMIC! He’ll be sharing lessons on Instagram, and all lessons are available in a Drop Box as well.

Josh Funk has many activities on his website for his books.

Jarrett Lerner has activities such as “Finish the comic” on his website.

Grace Lin is starting a new podcast called Kids Ask Authors which debuted this week!

Penguin Teen has a podcast called We Are YA, and they have added new episodes called The Check In, starting with Randy Ribay.

11 Free Reading Websites for Kids

Log into Kanopy or Libby (Overdrive) and download free books (provided by libraries).

The New York Times provides daily writing prompts for free for students.

Kids can write to Pete the Cat!

Publishers Weekly posted a story on how the kid lit community responded in our time of need.

Deborah Zemke is sharing activity sheets on her website that are based on her doodle, chapter, and picture books, and the 101 Ranger Rick cartoons that she’s done over the years.

Penguin Random House Audio is offering a collection of free audiobook downloads for teachers and parents with kids home from school – or anyone looking for a great story right now. The free “Listen at Home” collection of classic titles is accessible via Penguin Random House Audio’s Volumes app (through 4/30).

Time for Kids has released their entire Digital Library free for the rest of the school year.

Also, amazing news: Kid Lit Authors are joining together and organizing a virtual book festival for May called Everywhere Book Fest which is archived and available.

Follow #CandlewickClassroom on social media to see videos including #WriteWithKate, weekly writing prompts and tips from Kate DiCamillo, from Kate DiCamillo. Candlewick is also hosting Instagram Live events, including My First Book Club Live with Shannon and Dean Hale talking about Princess in Black. Also, they have a You Tube playlist called Stay Home with Candlewick Press which have short and fun educational videos.

Candlewick Press also created a book about the coronavirus for children and are offering it as a free download

Meg Cabot has found entries from Princess Mia Thermopolis of Genovia’s diary, and is sharing them free on her blog with The Princess Diaries – Quarantine Edition.

The Children’s Literature Assembly of NCTE (CLA) has started a twice-weekly blog intended to support PreK-12 and university teachers as they share children’s literature with their students in all classroom contexts. Each entry highlights a great online resource available for teachers and how it might be effectively utilized, or offers a description of a short lesson using children’s literature that educators can use in their newly located classes. New entries are posted every Tuesday and Thursday at noon.

Our friend Beth Shaum as put together a list of free or inexpensive e-book access during the quarantine.

#OneBookConnects is a part of Read to Them, a non-profit organization that focuses on family literacy, and is an “opportunity for families and schools to read the same book together digitally.”

And don’t forget publishers always have amazing educator guides for us to use!




Chronicle: (search for the book and look at available resources)

Cinco Punto Press:

Disney Books:


Lee & Low:




Random House:

Simon & Schuster:


Guides we’ve shared here on Unleashing Readers:

**Please note: This is just a small sampling of all of the amazing publisher resources out there!

Doodle Alongs

Ben Clanton, Author of the Narwhal and Jelly Book Series, BOO WHO?, and so many more!

Ben Clanton will be reading and drawing Tuesday and Friday this week. Our kids are very excited for this one.

Note: Now that these FB Live events have passed, Ben is moving to Instagram* Live each Monday at 12:30pm ET.

Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author of the Lunch Lady Series, HEY KIDDO!, and so many more!

At 2pm ET, Jarrett will be doing a live webcast! And since it is on his You Tube channel, if you cannot watch live, they will be archived. We cannot wait to see what Jarrett will teach us to draw!

Mo Willems, author of the Elephant & Piggie Series, Pigeon Series, Knuffle Bunny Trilogy, and so many more!

Mo Willems is hosting a lunch doodle each day at 1pm ET. “Learners worldwide can draw, doodle and explore new ways of writing by visiting Mo’s studio virtually once a day for the next few weeks. Grab some paper and pencils, pens, or crayons and join Mo to explore ways of writing and making together.” Lunch Doodles with Mo ran for 3 weeks and ended on April 3rd.

During the month of May, Mo hosted Thank-O-Rama each Thursday in May at 1pm ET.

Matt Tavares, author of Red & Lulu, Crossing Niagra, and so many more!

Matt Tavares, on his Facebook page live at 10am ET, is hosting Monday Mornings with Matt! The videos are saved on his page to view later.

More Art-Focused Activities

On his You Tube, Nathan Hale is doing an Adventure Comic activity called Cooped Up Comics and other fun activites!

These coloring pages from some of our favorite illustrators.

Access Art for Kids Hub for basic drawing videos for kids!

Many museums are offering virtual tours including the 12 shared in this article.

And many museums are stepping up on their blogs and websites to give us activities and resources to help with quarantine distance learning. For example, the Inside LSU MOA (LSU Museum of Art) blog has art activities and stories in art activity.

@MrsVelazquezArt has created a guide to art at home!

A wonderful blog that focuses on learning through play with lots of crafts and art activities is LearnCreateLove.

Crayola is hosting online seminars about creative thinking and learning. They also always have online resources to add creativity to your kids’ lives.

Disney’s YouTube channel includes #DrawWithDisneyAnimation!

The Knock Knock Children’s Museum has started a Knock Knock at Your Door series to continue their objective even while closed.

Art Time Today with retired Elementary Art Teacher and Arts Ed Professor (and my Art in Elementary teacher at UCF!) Cheryl Smith includes lessons for all ages of kids!

Mark Siegel and the 5 Worlds team has released a free sample of their coloring book for the book series.

STEM-Related Activities

Zoologist, artist, and author Jess Keating is releasing Keating Creature Activity Pages with a new creature featured on each one!

Visit the Cincinnati Zoo at 3pm ET/1pm MST Live where they highlight an animal each day on Facebook Live and include an activity to do. (Available to watch later in the day, as well).

Find a science-related video at Mystery Science! (Free memberships with some content available).

The Shirley Journal blog created a 30 day LEGO Challenge calendar!

This doc shares Engineering Activities for Kids (when under quarantine).

The Georgia Aquarium has live webcams for their exhibits, so you can go under the sea at home. is a nonprofit focused on getting computer science to every kid!

Mass Audubon has many resources including nature BINGO.

Kiwi Co., a company that has STEM focused monthly subscription boxes, is now updating their At-Home Resources for Kids (and their grownups) daily to help with STEM activities while schools are closed.

Oceans Initiative, whale experts from Seattle, have shared a free, virtual marine biology camp to entertain and inform kids while schools are closed.

MakerMaven has shared resources for distance learning including STEAM challenges and other STEM Resources.

The Orlando Science Center has created OSC At Home: Resources and Activities for Engagement and Education While at Home.

Ripley’s Aquariums has an At Home page which has Live Events including storytimes, Q&As, and more; Educational Materials; and Live Streams.

Sea World has so much to offer: Animal Info Books, Classroom Activities, Teacher’s Guides, Saving a Species video series, and Animal Bytes.

History and Social Studies Related

The Erie Canal History Museum has provided the public with a virtual tour on You Tube and Educational Resources.

Travel the world with Travel Kids.

[Canadian] “Indigenous educators volunteer to teach short K-8 lessons online amid school closures”

Little Passports, a company that has social studies focused monthly subsrciption boxes, has opened up their activities for fun learning at home to all.

Physical Education

Do some Cosmic Kids Yoga with the kids.

Virtual dance lessons for kids or the Just Dance Kids videos are uploaded on this account!


There are live virtual concerts that are available to watch during the shutdown.

Multiple Curriculum Lessons

Scholastic has rolled out FREE! Learn At Home lessons that are very easy to follow Scholastic lesson plans (book, video, discussion questions)! They also shared that more will be coming.

PBS Learning Media has curated standards-aligned videos, interactives, lesson plans, and more for educators, and PBS Digital Studios has a ton of content in many different content areas.

Other Fantastic Learning Explorations

Our friend Jenny Seiler has put together an Edu Resources Padlet with lots of resources as well–it is separated by type of experience and is continuously being added to!

Join Miss Megan’s Camp Kindergarten for Morning Meeting (ages 3-7)! Videos are posted to the website and can be accessed whenever you are eating breakfast!

Join Mr. Jon and Friends weekday mornings live for musical fun at 10:30am EST/ 7:30am MST (or watch later on the page).

Try out a free kids’ recipe from Raddish Kids.

Go on a virtual field trip including 30 National Parks!

There is this great list of 150+ Enrichment Activities for children while their parents work remotely.

Zoom is being kind and allowing their service for free! Zoom will easily allow anyone to have face to face meetings. And a kind educator created a document for instructions for students/kids.

Learn in Color, another education-focused blog, has compiled “75+ Entertaining and Educational Activities for When You’re Stuck Indoors” including a BINGO card to complete with the activities.

We Are Teachers is a fantastic resource for many resources including lists of podcasts, TED Talks, online learning resources, and, like us, they have curated a list of authors doing online reading and activities.

Disney and Kennedy Space Center are offering free online activities, such as Facebook Live events and imagineering in a box, for kids during school closures.

Washington Teachers’ Union has created Lessons on TV where each day of the week will feature a 30-minute lesson for a particular grade group. (Mondays – Early Childhood 1st Grade; Tuesdays – 2nd & 3rd Grade; Wednesdays – 4th & 5th Grade; Thursdays – Middle Grades; and Fridays – High School)

John Krasinski is hosting Some Good News on You Tube. Not exactly education-focused, but it is good for life in general.

* Please note: Instagram Live recordings can be watched for 24 hours after the
recording before they expire, and they have to be watched from your phone.

What are some ideas that you’ve found? Share them in the comments! We are in this together. <3

Please note: This post was updated by us often from its publication until May 31st, 2020. After 5/31, the links and information may not be as accurate.