Saturday, January 25, 2014

Fun, Easy-to-Read Science Mini-Plays (The Human Body) for grades 1-2

As a young child, I played "nurse" to my Raggedy Ann doll, giving her "stitches" that still hold today. You can even see the pink Mercurochrome! My wonderment with the way in which the human body works eventually led me to become a registered nurse, as well as an American Red Cross disaster volunteer. With Easy-to-Read Science Plays: The HUMAN BODY, I'm pleased to provide a fun and lively introduction for children to the way the amazing human body works---from how the brain sends and receives messages, to why we need blood and how it is pumped through the body.

My book is published by Scholastic Teaching Resources and can be purchased on These short plays require NO PROPS. That's right---no fuss, no muss! They're perfect for Readers Theater and designed for flexible grouping. Many are easily adaptable to include the whole-class! Fun and easy extension activities as well as amazing facts about the body are provided for each short play.

Designed for beginning readers, this collection of 20 short reproducible play scripts features large, easy-to-read print, predictable language, and informative illustrations. The plays provide a lively and engaging way to introduce children to key concepts about their own body, while expanding vocabulary and building reading fluency.

Topics include the brain, heart lungs, muscles, skeleton, five senses, the immune system, organs, teeth, nutrition, fitness, safety, and more! The easy-to-read text includes rhyme, repetition, songs, and predictable language to build reading confidence.

Do your children love to sing? They'll learn by reading and even singing about what different parts of the body look like, what they are named, where they are located, and what they do. For example, "Livin' in Skin", a poem with a great beat, helps children learn about the versatility of the body's largest organ---how skin protects them and how they can protect their skin.

In "Everywhere a Move, Move" (sung to the tune of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm"), children learn how their muscles help them stretch, smile, and play.
In "My Nose Knows," kids will giggle as they sing about their sense of smell to the song "B-I-N-G-O."

Special emphasis on proper nutrition, exercise, and safety, helps children build a foundation for health, growth and development, and learn good habits they can carry with them throughout their lives."

I think my book is perfect for homeschoolers, moms, dads, grandparents, and caregivers who want to have some FUN learning time with kids! Check it out and watch children get excited about their AMAZING body!

Sheryl Ann Crawford, RN

Monday, December 5, 2011

"There's Gramps!" she said. A Moment of Hope and Happiness

I will NEVER forget what "Anonymous" wrote to me on January 2, 2011.

Anonymous said...

"I was reading 'My Little Prayers'. I stopped because my dog needed an emergency bath. My 14 year old son volunteered to read to his 5 year old sister, as an exchange. When I returned she said there was a story like "us."

She turned to a prayer YOU wrote. It asked God for help remembering loved ones in Heaven. An auburn haired man was among those in a "thought bubble". "There's Gramps!", she said. My Dad died in November 2009. Now my Grandma, her "G.G." is near death. Your poem and the illustration made her feel 'Merry'. We shared a moment of hope and happiness. THANK YOU. I am sleepy, pecking at my mobile phone in the darkness. Know your prayer is with us. I thank our God we can share and have it. ( : Now I pray this makes it to you!"

This beautiful note did make it to me and it touched me DEEPLY. It sums up the reason I write. With God's help, to give a little HOPE and HAPPINESS to even just one child.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mini-Books for Your child to Make---For School, Homeschoolers or At-Home Fun!

Want to make a simple book with your child? A book they can read, color, even stick in their book shelf? Yes? Well then, meet LION and MOUSE, two lovable (even adorable!) and humorous characters who will help win the hearts of your kids as they learn basic math concepts! Nancy Sanders and I had so much fun creating this book together.

In "15 Easy & Irresistible Math Mini-Books" students in grades K-2 read stories about Lion and Mouse---two best friends who find ways to use math in EVERYDAY situations, such as counting seashells at the beach, baking cookies, or going shopping. These scenarios reinforce the idea to young children that we are living in a math oriented world---but math does NOT need to be scary. It WAS scary for me as a young child. I can still remember my palms getting sweaty just thinking about having to write a problem on the chalk board! I only wish I'd had a book like this one. Understanding how math is incorporated into daily life is a KEY CONCEPT of developmental learning for primary-age children.

Predictable language and repetition will help young readers gain confidence practicing their reading skills, while strengthening their math skills as the eagerly join Lion and Mouse’s math-driven adventures!

Children will learn about fractions with Lion and mouse in "Camping Fractions". They'll watch the clock while cooking Tick-Tock Soup, and add the number of falling leaves. The last page of each mini-book is a related activity page that reinforces the story’s key math concept.

Here's more fun---an extension activity is included to further reinforce the concepts in each mini-book. Children learn a rhyme about disappearing crickets as they count backwards from 5. They learn about shapes while cutting out birdhouses for a bulletin board display. They count to 100 while sharing small surprises from home.

Nancy Sanders and I hope these funny math mini-books will make your students fall in love with Lion and Mouse, while sparking their interest in math!

These mini-books and their corresponding activities correlate with the NCTM Standards (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics).

Friday, May 27, 2011

Theme: How to Stay on Track When Writing for Children

The theme is described as the underlying thread that runs throughout the entire story. It's the MESSAGE. The DOMINANT IDEA. It's what the reader will "take away" after reading your story. New writers often grapple with this problem of THEME. So do some of us who've been writing a while!

I like to write my theme (one sentence) on a 3 x 5 card and tape it to my computer. As I write, this reminder helps to keep me on the beaten path and not go off on "rabbit trails".

Here are some rules to remember about theme:

  • Try not to hit the reader over the head with your message. Even fun, light-hearted books for kids have themes. They don't have to be "heavy".
  • When writing for young children, it's best to stick with just one theme. Several themes will confuse the picture book age child about the message of your story.
  • The theme must come through the action and reaction of the main character(s).
  • The theme connects all events in your story.
  • If you can tell someone what your story is about in a single sentence, you have expressed the theme. Example: The universal theme in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” is: Each individual’s life is significant and affects others. That is the DOMINANT IDEA developed in the story. The theme was developed through the plot. The PLOT: All that George Bailey goes through in order to see what life would have been like without him.

Can you figure out the themes in these excerpts from two of my magazine stories? I've listed the themes at the end of this article. Don't peek until you've finished the exercise (o:

From my magazine fiction story, The Learning Bug:

Gabe Grasshopper didn't want the next day to come.
"I don't want to go to school," he told his mom and dad.
"You'll learn lots of new things," his mom said.
"I don't want to learn new things," Gabe said with a frown. "That's too hard."
"You'll learn how to read your favorite books and write your name," his dad said.
"And you'll make new friends," his mom pointed out.
"You'll learn about nature and the earth," his dad continued.
"You'll learn so many new things at school!" Gabe's mom said enthusiastically.
"I don't want to learn new things!" Gabe insisted. "Learning is too hard. I want to stay home and play. Playing isn't hard."

From my magazine fiction story, Cookie Crazy:

Chatty Chipmunk hurried along, carrying a big basket. A most delicious smell trailed behind it. Chatty always welcomed a new neighbor with her award-winning cookies.
"Hello! Welcome to the neighborhood," said Chatty to Puff Bunny.
"How nice!" Puff said. "Please come in."
They sat and talked in Puff's kitchen. Right away they felt like good friends.
"These are the best cookies I've ever eaten," Puff said, munching her third one.
"Thank you," Chatty said. "They are my PRIZE-WINNING cookies. And these are my blue ribbons." She pulled open her sweater to show the ribbons, pinned right smack dab in the middle of her apron.
"Oooh! I sure would like to win a blue ribbon," Puff said. "Perhaps I'll enter the contest, too!"
"Well, I'm certain to win again at this years baking contest," Chatty said. "But you can come over anytime to look at my ribbons."

  • Theme for The Learning Bug: Overcoming the fear of having to experience something new and unfamiliar.
  • Theme for Cookie Crazy: Competition between friends can be healthy even though it may be difficult.
How did you do? You may have worded your answers a bit differently than mine, but did you identify the themes?

When I read magazine stories and picture books, I like to see how soon I can identify the theme. It's a great exercise and can teach you how to introduce the theme SUBTLY in the beginning of a story.

Are you ready to choose an age appropriate theme and start writing? Get out that 3 x 5 card and don't waiver. Have fun!

Copyright 2008 Sheryl Ann Crawford

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Meet Author Evelyn B. Christensen and her Aba-Conundrums!

Evelyn B. Christensen's book, Aba-Conundrums, is a Parents' Choice Award Winner! The Abacus is back, and for good reason! Aba-Conundrums gives logic and reasoning room to move, as kids slide their abacus beads up and down to solve 120 clever puzzle conundrums. They'll use their knowledge of numbers and a variety of mathematical skills while having FUN! Yes, FUN with math! The book includes an abacus along with the write-on/wipe-off book.

ABOUT EVELYN: She is one of six children of a minister and a teacher. Ev grew up in a lively family where puzzles, games, books, and questions were daily fare. It wasn’t uncommon for someone to jump up in the middle of a meal to consult the dictionary or Book of Knowledge to settle a question or argument. Game rules existed to be revised or expanded. Ev fondly remembers the 4-board Monopoly game (laid out cloverleaf-style) that occupied the living room floor much of one summer.

With such a background, along with having a passion for teaching, it’s not surprising that educational puzzles and games would be Ev’s forte as an author—she’s had over 45 of them published. She has a doctorate in math education and has taught at levels from kindergarten to graduate school. Currently she’s writing full-time.

Now, let's hear what Evelyn has to say (o;
Hi, Evelyn! Thanks for allowing me to present this interview on SherriTales!

EV: I'm happy to be here!

SHERYL: Evelyn, how did you get your first educational book published?

EV: I was very blessed. Clip-Clue Puzzles was my first book. It’d been used for several years in a couple of different classrooms before I got up the courage to submit it for publication. The first publisher kept it about six months, which as a newbie I thought was way too long. He rejected it but said I should definitely try to get it published elsewhere. The second publisher accepted it almost immediately. My real break came several years later. MindWare had been carrying my Clip-Clue Puzzles, and I emailed them to ask if they’d be interested in carrying my Coin-Clue Puzzles. Fortunately (or by God’s grace, as I believe), MindWare at that very moment was looking for someone to write some puzzle books for them! I’ve written 24 books for them since then.

SHERYL: This next questions will interest those who want to break into writing for the educational market. What suggestions do you have for someone preparing a proposal for a puzzle or activity book?

EV: Other authors might disagree with me, but especially for a first proposal I think having your sample pages look as professional as possible can make a difference with editors. (I think that’s one of the reasons my first book sold so quickly.) Sure, the publisher’s design people will end up changing what you’ve done, but that first impression will let the editor know you’re serious about doing a good job. You’re also making it easy for the editor to visualize your work as a book.

For a first proposal it’s probably also important to try your ideas out with some kids in the intended age range for the book. What seems obvious to you may need more clarification with children.

Do check, and recheck, to make sure your activities and answers are error-free.

If you’re preparing a puzzle or activity book that you’re hoping will be used in the classroom, be aware of the effect of No Child Left Behind. Editors used to be much more willing to publish books which were fun, mind-stretchers. Now most of them want everything directly tied to curriculum objectives, because, they say, that’s what teachers are buying.

SHERYL: Great advice! Give some tips for an author who is trying to land that FIRST educational book contract.

EV: This will sound obvious, but it’s still really important to study the market. You need to find the publishers who publish the kind of material you’re creating. When I subbed my first book I subbed it to the publishers who were my favorites to buy from as a teacher—I knew and loved their books and knew my book “fit” their publishing philosophy. If you’re not a teacher, spend some time browsing through the books in your local education store. If you’ve exhausted that resource, I have a list of educational publishers on my website for additional possibilities.

My second tip is to read Nancy I. Sanders’ book, Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books. She gives valuable suggestions on this topic.

SHERYL: I completely agree with you about the necessity of reading Nancy's book!It's been a break-through book for new writers. Evelyn, you include your book dedications on your website. Is there anything you want to share about those?

EV: I do that because my Christian faith is an important part of who I am as an author. All my books are dedicated to people who are special to me, but also to God. When my first book, Clip-Clue Puzzles, was being published, I wanted to include as part of the dedication— "to our Heavenly Father, the ultimate problem solver." I was naive at that point and thought authors could dedicate their books as they pleased. I learned differently. My editor said I couldn't use that dedication. She suggested that authors usually dedicate their books to someone who's been especially helpful to them in the writing of their book or to someone who's been an inspiration to them. I explained that that was exactly the reason I wanted to dedicate my book to God. It didn't matter. She was very polite, but still said I couldn't use it. So then I asked if I could use "to God, the ultimate problem solver”? No. How about "to the Ultimate Problem Solver”? No, I couldn't even use that. She finally let me have "to the ultimate problem solver." At least I knew it was dedicated to God, even if lots of readers probably thought it was just dedicated to people who really like to work puzzles. Fortunately, most of my publishers since then have allowed my dedications to include God. 

SHERYL: That's an amazing and inspiring story. Thanks so much for this wonderful information you've provided today.

EV: Thank you for letting me be with you today, Sheryl. I’ve enjoyed it and consider it an honor and privilege!

If you'd like to contact Eveyln, she has provided her email address and website link:

Web site:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Interview with Nancy I. Sanders About Her New Book, America's Black Founders

What a privilege it is to present an interview with my guest (and good friend), Nancy I. Sanders! We'll be discussing her book, America's Black Founders. Get ready for some jaw-dropping information.

Q: Nancy, in your new book, America’s Black Founders: Revolutionary Heroes and Early Leaders, how did you go about choosing those particular unsung heroes?

A: I’ve been doing research about the early years of our nation, and the names of these founding fathers and mothers were everywhere I turned! Today, in the city of Philadelphia, there are historic markers with their names on them. In various city and state archives, there are historic documents with their names and their signatures on them. In newspapers from that era, there are articles written by them. In the records of the Revolutionary War, there are documentaries about their heroic deeds. The African Americans I included in my book from the founding years of our nation were community leaders and influential men and women of their day. I simply brought their amazing stories out of the dusty pages of history and into the light of our generation.

Q: How exciting! Nancy, give us a time-line for this book, from coming up with the idea to its publication.

A: Here’s how it happened:

 April, 2005: I first got the idea to write this book. I felt God calling me to share the story of Richard Allen, a great man of faith and strong Christian leader who was also a Founding Father of America. I let the idea germinate and grow inside me until I felt it was strong enough to share.
 March, 2006: I pitched the idea for this book over the phone to Chicago Review Press, the publisher of my book, A Kid’s Guide to African American History, and the publisher requested a proposal.
 October, 2006: I submitted the proposal to the publisher.
 November, 2007: Editor Jerry Pohlen called me on the phone and offered me a contract. We set a one-year deadline. Wahoo!
 January through December 2008: I wrote the book. A lot of prayer went into working on this manuscript, and I spent a lot of time sitting at the feet of Jesus while working on this book. Because Richard Allen and most of the men and women in this book were strong Christians who devoted their lives to sharing the Gospel, I wanted to make sure I was listening to God’s heart as I worked to tell their story through this manuscript.
 December, 2008: I finished the book and submitted it for my deadline.
 January, 2010: America’s Black Founders hit the market, already racking up presales of over 1700 books.

From the time I first got the idea for this book in April, 2005 until I signed the contract in December, 2007, I worked on other book deadlines. Then I cleared my plate of most other deadlines so that for an entire year, I could devote my energies and focus on the intense research needed to write this book. It was a very challenging, yet very very rewarding journey to take.

Q: America’s Black Founders, features 21 activities. What significance are these activities to this era in history, and how did you go about writing them?

A: Each activity in this book holds important significance surrounding the history of America’s Black Founding Fathers and Mothers. For instance, there is a recipe for Pepper Pot Soup in my book. This was a hearty dish that George Washington requested be cooked for the troops at Valley Forge during that long, cold winter when many of the troops were starving. There were quite a number of black troops who suffered along with the other patriots at Valley Forge that winter, so this is a dish they probably ate.

Another activity encourages students to “pen a patriotic poem.” This activity is included in the book because of Lemuel Haynes. A black minuteman, Lemuel Haynes marched with his company from Granville, Massachusetts to join the Siege of Boston. The battle of Lexington had just occurred and militia poured in from all over the region to camp outside of Boston and not let British troops molest the countryside again.

Lemuel Haynes and his company camped outside of Boston as well. While there, Lemuel Haynes was so moved by the account of the battle of Lexington that he wrote a stirring ballad about the event. He titled his poem, “The Battle of Lexington.” His handwritten poem from 1776 is still in existence today! I located the poem and included the image of it in my book. Then I encourage students to follow Lemuel Hayne’s example and write a poem themselves to honor a great moment in history.

My book, America’s Black Founders, is part of a series of books called the “For Kids” series that Chicago Review Press publishes. Most books in this series have 21 activities in them—that’s one of the characteristics that sets this series apart. These aren’t just any activities, though. These can’t be “crafts” or “busy activities.” The activities in this series must be of significant historic value. They’re referred to as “historic-based activities.”

To help make a list of activities to include in my book, I researched various historical sites and explored the types of activities they did with students visiting their sites. I even communicated with the activity director of one historic site who helped explain how they had students make a stuffed straw mattress. I included this in my book as an example of the type of work children had to do who were slaves and lived in homes in cities such as how Richard Allen spent his early childhood days in Philadelphia working as a slave of prominent colonist Benjamin Chew, attorney general of the Province of Pennsylvania.

I’ve written a number of activities for other books of mine. Usually, once I determine an activity that has value, I make it. I might not make the entire activity, as I didn’t make a full-sized stuffed straw mattress, but I worked with folding a small piece of fabric and stuffing it. I relied on my conversation with the activity director to give me the confidence to know this was an actual project that kids could successfully do. Even though the step-by-step process to make these historic-based activities might not be exactly how they were made, the process is “based” on the real activity and students “feel” like they’re making something real.

Many times, I take a lot of photographs of each step of making the activity. For instance, when I stitched together a fanner, or basket used to winnow rice, I took photos of starting the fanner, making knots, and adding rows to the basket. I took photos of the fanner on a table for each stage of the process. But I also took photos of holding the fanner and the needle in my hands to actually show students how they should hold it as they make it, too.

When I submitted my manuscript, I also submitted all these photographs. The publisher forwarded these to the artist who used exact images as reference to the drawings that were included with the instructions in the finished book. Many publishers ask for these photographs when activities are featured with a manuscript, so now I just automatically take the photographs when I make the sample activities and submit them on a disc with the completed manuscript, even if a publisher doesn’t ask for them. They are always so grateful!

Nancy, thank you for sharing these treasures about some of American's most amazing and influential men and women. America's children need this inspiring book!

Nancy’s website:
Nancy’s blog:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Educational Markets for Children's Writers. Thanks, Evelyn!

Award winning author and puzzle creator has done it again! Evelyn B. Christensen updates and posts the most recent educational markets for children's writers. Why? Because she's not only a wonderful writer---she's a spectacular person!

Please visit her website at

Thanks again, Evelyn (o;