Guest Post: Jennie Fitzkee

Jennie is an American blogger. She is a truly inspirational teacher of young children, with a real love of reading, books, and education.
She is not only the teacher I wish I had had, but the one we should all have had.

Here is her guest post.

How Reading-Aloud Made Me the Teacher and Person I Am Today.

My very first day of teaching preschool in Massachusetts, thirty-two years ago, was both career and life altering. Lindy, my co-teacher, asked me to read the picture books to children each day after our Morning Meeting. Sure (gulp)! I was new, scared, and unfamiliar with many children’s books. I had not been read to as a child, except for The Five Chinese Brothers from my grandmother. I still remember the page that opens sideways, with the brother who could stretch his legs. One book, and to this day I remember it vividly.

The book I read to the children on that first day of school was Swimmy, by Leo Lionni. It was magical for me, and for the children. The story line, the art, the engineering, the words… it was a taste of something I knew I had to have. And, I couldn’t get enough.

The next few decades I consumed children’s books. I realized that the more I read aloud, the more the children wanted to hear stories and be read to. I displayed books in my classroom front-facing, so children were drawn to picking up and ‘reading’ the books. In this way, the children wanted to handle, hold, and turn the pages of books. This was a big deal! It was true hands-on learning, with exploding questions and interest. I was the yeast in the dough, or perhaps the books were the yeast. Oh, our Morning Meetings grew. We had to include a children’s dictionary on the bookshelf so we could look up words that were new. That was fun!

By this time I had become picky about good books. Whenever I read a good book, it sparked so many questions and conversations, that sometimes it took ‘forever’ to get through the book. The first time I read Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky, it took forty minutes to finish reading the book. I started with the inside cover, a picture of the courtyard, and simply asked questions; “Where is this?” “Does this look like Massachusetts?” “What is different?”

Reading picture books triggered big discussions. I often stopped to ask questions. Sometimes I would simply say, “Oh, dear…” in mid-sentence and let the children grab onto that rope. Yes, I was throwing out a lifeline, a learning line, and it worked. It was exciting, always engaging.

Before long, I started reading chapter books before rest time. This was unconventional for preschoolers, yet it felt right because children were on their nap mats and needed to hear stories without seeing pictures. I started with Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, and have never looked back. The first thing children learned was ‘you make the pictures in your head’. This is thrilling, because we now have non-stop reading and multiple discussions, without pictures. Thirty minutes of pretty intense reading-aloud. My chapter books include the best of the best.

My teaching had become language based and child centered. Often there were ‘moments’, things that happened because we were reading all the time. Reading had spilled over into my curriculum. The day we had set up a restaurant in housekeeping, children were ‘reading’ menus and ‘writing’ orders on clipboards. I was spelling out the words to one child and listening to questions about the menu from another child. I doubt these moments would have happened had I not read so often in the classroom.

I wanted to tell families what happened, about moments of learning, and of course about reading-aloud. So, I started to write more information in my newsletters, and include details. I wrote, and I wrote, sharing small moments and relating those moments to the big picture in education.

I attended a teacher seminar, and Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, was the keynote speaker. As he spoke I wanted to jump up and rush over to the hundreds of teachers in the room, screaming, “Are you listening to this man?” “Do you realize how important his message is?” Instead I wrote him a letter and included one of my newsletters to families that spoke about the importance of reading-aloud. That sparked his interest in my chapter reading, and he visited my classroom to watch. I’m included in the latest version of his million copy bestselling book.

My public library asked me to direct a library reading group for second and third graders. This was another new adventure in reading. I read The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes, among many wonderful books. Again, these were new books to me, and I loved it. This past summer I embraced YA books, thanks to reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I read every Kate DiCamillo book I could lay my hands on. Every one.

My reading and reading-aloud continues to grow. Thank you Read-Aloud West Virginia for getting the message of how important reading is to the public. We are making a difference.


I have followed Jennie’s blog for a long time now, and I don’t even have children. But I get inspiration and wonder from reading about her dedication to teaching, and her love of the kids she cares for. Please read her blog. And if you have small children, you will want to follow her heartwarming stories of a life devoted to education, kindness, and compassion.

Recent Guest Posts

I would like to thank everyone who sent me a guest post for publication. This was the best response ever, and I was delighted.

I hope that everyone will agree that the guest posts were of a very high standard, and I was very happy to feature the bloggers involved.
Although I apologise if you felt somewhat inundated by so many at once. 🙂

Please remember that this is not ‘time-limited’. You can always send me a guest post at any time, and it’s very easy to do.

1) Send me the text of your post to (Or a link to where I can find and copy that text)
2) Send me any photos/images you want to add separately, to the same email address. Make sure the images can be copied or downloaded though.
3) If you would like to add your own bio, or short introduction, send that separately too.
4) Please send any links to blogs or published work as ‘full links’, not just typed out.
5) Reblog my guest post on your site, to attract more readers.
6) If you have had a guest post featured before, no problem. Send me another one!

Feel free to promote your published work, or any current project. But I DO NOT allow blatant selling. So no links to your SEO, Etsy, or Ebay sites, please.

Nothing will be edited or altered, as long as it is less than 2,500 words, and the photos are reduced into small files.

This is a full-time offer, and open to anyone who follows my blog, or is a part of this wider blogging community.
I will expect you to acknowledge and reply to all comments, as engagement is the key to good blogging.

Best wishes to everyone. Pete.

Guest Post: Thom Hickey

Music and writing, poetry and memories. Thom’s blog has it all. There is NO better music blog out there, believe me, and Thom covers every genre of music with a passion, love, and in-depth knowledge that is apparent from the first word you read. And if you enjoy an Irish connection, he has a wealth of those too.

As much as I am delighted to showcase British blogger Thom, he really doesn’t need too much promotion. His blog is HUGE, with loads of followers, and umpteen views and comments on every post.
But see for yourself, just how good the best music blog can be.

Charlie Chaplin, Judy Garland, Lyle Lovett & Toots Thielmans : Smile

Exploring the genius of Charlie Chaplin featuring :

Chaplin himself, Nat King Cole, Judy Garland, Jimmy Durante, Lyle Lovett & Toots Thielmans.

Genius is an extremely overworked term when applied to popular artists of the twentieth century.

Nevertheless, without any hesitation I can assert that Charlie Chaplin was a genius.

He was a master of every aspect of film making – writing, acting, producing and directing.

And, he did something only the very rarest artists do – he created an iconic character (the Tramp) who has become part of the very fabric of popular consciousness.

He was a Poet of the Cinema with a deep tragi-comic vision.

A vision whose beauty and truth was recognised and welcomed whatever the age, language and culture of those who encountered his films.

The best definition of genius I know comes from Arthur Schopenhauer :

‘The genius … lights on his age like a comet into the paths of the planets, to whose well-regulated and comprehensible arrangement its wholly eccentric course is foreign.

Accordingly, he cannot go hand in hand with the regular course of the culture of the times as found; on the contrary, he casts his works far out on to the path in front …

Talent is like the marksman who hits a target which others cannot reach; genius is like the marksman who hits a target … which others cannot even see.’

Charlie Chaplin fully meets that definition.

Oh, and in addition to the honour board of talents listed above he was also a talented composer who wrote the music for one of the most affecting songs of his and any other era – ‘Smile’.

Chaplin, of course, thought in cinematic terms so let’s kick off this tribute to his genius with ‘Smile’ in its first incarnation as part of his score to his masterpiece from 1936, ‘Modern Times’.

Every element of this scene reflects the enormous pains Chaplin took to achieve the exact effects he was seeking.

Chaplin knew all about the Fear and Sorrow that beset so many lives.

He knew that a smile was often your best disguise and perhaps your only defence against the sadness that might otherwise overwhelm you.

The Tramp always keeps alive a spark of Hope, of determination to survive – to be present for what, who knows, may, just may, turn out to be a better tomorrow.

Chaplin’s whole cinematic persona – in the delicacy of his facial gestures and the gamut of his physical pantomime amounts in a sense to an alertness to the promise of Life – no matter how dire the circumstances.

With his mastery of mime and the balletic grace of his movement he was able to convey more nuances of emotion than a hundred lines of dialogue could convey.

His genius was both to acknowledge the Fear and Sorrow but not to surrender to it – to grandly and magnificently literally laugh in the face of it.

And, if Charlie can survive so might we.

As cinema goers, a spring anew in their step, left a Chaplin film they were reassured that light and laughter could outshine the darkness.

Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky
you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through
for you ….

The lyric and a title for Chaplin’s melody came from John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons in 1954.

The Premier recording was by a peerless balladeer of Golden Age American Song – Nat King Cole.

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile what’s the use of crying
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you’ll just Smile.

There is no grandiloquence in Nat’s performance.

Knowing that he had a rare treasure here he simply presents the song allowing the beauty of the melody and the poignancy of the words to travel into the hearts and minds of the audience.

‘Simple’ for Nat King Cole because of the burnished gold of his voice which makes us all gladly share any emotion he is evoking.

If I imagine an exhausted couple slow dancing to Nat’s version in the sanctuary of their home I can only imagine the next take as a solo dance underneath a waning Moon.

Judy Garland.

If ever an artist was born to sing a song it was Judy to sing, ‘Smile’.

Fear and Sorrow and Heartbreak surrounded her all her days.

And, those circumstances were fully incarnated in her voice when she sang – especially when she sang, ‘Smile’.

Her Version is filled with tears and sadness – the gladness and the smile is in the going on, the going on.

I am going to repeat something I wrote about Garland before because I don’t think I can say what I mean to say any better.

Her singing on this song seems to me to be almost miraculous.

It’s as if her singing really came from secret chambers of the heart all the rest of us keep under guard.

No wonder she has such a deep impact on us – we know she is expressing a profound truth about the human condition – our need to love and know we are loved.

Judy Garland paid a high price in terms of personal happiness for living her life and art with such an exposed heart and soul but she fulfilled a vocation given to very few and left an indelible mark on her age and will surely do for aeons to come.

There are hundreds and hundreds of versions of Smile but not a single one sounds anything like the depths that Judy Garland does.

And now for something completely different!

Jimmy Durante brought his own very real magic to Smile.

A straight from the shoulder, Hey Bud, have one on me, growl that’s surprisingly affecting.

Lyle Lovett knows songs having written many fine ones himself.

There is always consideration and deliberation involved in the way he approaches a song.

So, his Smile is ruminative, baffled and melancholic.

To conclude here’s something really special.

The great Jazz Harmonica virtuoso Toots Thielmans, at 90, bringing a lifetime of craft and experience to bear on Chaplin’s insights into the changeable weather of the human heart.

In a previous feature on, ‘The Third Man’ I noted that it had one of the great endings in the Film Canon.

Well, Charlie Chaplin was a supreme master of ending a Film in a highly memorable and emotionally satisfying way.

The melody plays, the camera rolls and our hearts are uplifted.

Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky
you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through
for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile what’s the use of crying
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you’ll just Smile

If you just Smile.

Now I think you will agree that this is how to write about a song!

Guest Post: Brenda Scruggs

Brenda is a published writer and blogger and has sent me a guest post titled ‘Chasing Your Dream’.

Here is her own bio.

‘Brenda Scruggs is an inspirational multi-genre author of 7 books with at
least 25 more floating around in her thoughts. She studied journalism in
high school where she learned graphic design and typesetting. She believes
the written word can transport a person to different times, places and
where dreams come true. Her words bring the imagination alive experiencing
diverse emotions leaving the reader wanting to know more.’

Chasing your dreams can sometimes feel like when you watch fireworks
during holidays, they seem to explode in our mind only to fizzle out when
we don’t have the courage to chase them.
Do you have a burning desire to do something? Is there a dream that keeps
coming up but you’re too afraid to step out into it?
Bravery is facing your fear and having the courage in taking steps
regardless of how it feels. The word “courage,” is related to the French
word “Coeur,” which means “heart.” Have you heard the phrase,” to take at
heart?” If you take heart in something, you are encouraged and made to feel
optimistic by it. Synonyms: be encouraged, be comforted, cheer up.
In this post, I’ll share some helpful tips in chasing your dream.
Remember, real bravery isn’t about fearlessness; it’s about taking steps
in spite of it.
Courage is your fuel in achieving amazing success in life, follow/chase
your dreams.
• If you’re a writer, you could be the next best-seller.
• If you’re a singer, you could be the next pop or country, etc. singer.
• If you’re an inventor, you could invent the next creation that could
change the world.

Dreams are limitless. It’s the possibility of having a dream come true
that makes life interesting. So, don’t limit your dreams, live them.

Can you remember when you were a child and you chased your friends in a
game of tag or hiding seek? You would run as fast as you could to tag the
person you were chasing so that they would be it. In other words, you
chased the person for a purpose. When you chase something, for instance,
your dreams, it is for a purpose and that purpose is to see the dream come
to life.
Here is a story about a man that had the courage to continue when
rejection wanted to stop him.
George Lucas spent four years sending the script for Star Wars around to
various studios. After numerous rejections, he didn’t give up even when
Universal Studios and United Artist both turned him down. Rejection is a
mountain that wants to stop you.
Then finally, an executive from 20th Century Fox who had seen his American
Graffiti film and been impressed by it decided to give him a chance with
his Star Wars. The film was made for $11 million dollars and was released
in 1977. Since then the original Star Wars trilogy has grossed over 2.4
billion dollars. If he’d let his negative inner voice get to him, he would
never have ended up having the highest grossing film of all time. George
Lucas had the courage to chase his dream.

What’s keeping you from chasing/pursuing your dream?
 Could it be fear?
 Could it be not knowing where to start?
 Could it be finances?
 Could it be doubt in achieving your dream?
It’s easy to talk yourself out of something, but face the fear, begin
somewhere, invest in yourself little by little, and CRUSH doubt!
Steps in Chasing and living your Dream

1. Vision your dream
Think to yourself and imagine seeing yourself living your dream. Activate
your imagination and see where you want to be.

2. Design your dream
Once you have a vision of your dream, build a blueprint of it on paper.
Jot down an outline of ideas, and techniques.

3. Work your dream
Now that you have the vision and outline for your dream, you will need to
work it. This is where you need to collaborate with all the tools and
materials that you will need for the finished product – your dream.

4. Launch your dream
Now that you’ve seen your vision, planned it, worked it, it’s time to
launch it. Launching your dream can be exciting and scary at the same time.
An assortment of thoughts will bombard your mind some good others not so
good. But believe in your dream. Believing is a vital part of your dream.

I am an author of contemporary/historical romance and I am
following/chasing my dream.
Free Gift!
I have a historical romance on my website for you. Visit
to get your free book, “A Noble Wife.” Plotted in Nashville, Tennessee in

Norma Gentry is a natural entrepreneur. Her ideas are more than dreams,
they become reality. Her beauty is more than skin deep. Her heart is in
everything that she does from being a wife to starting different
enterprises. Though a lady’s place is in the home, her husband encourages
her dreams. But when the train that she is returning home on derails, her
life is changed forever.
Jim Gentry a notable councilman in the city of Nashville, Tennessee
considers himself fair and is respected by the townspeople. Known for his
astuteness and investments, he took the position of a moderator on the city
council to aid in the growth of this great city. But his world comes to a
standstill when the train Norma, his wife is on derails.
Book Trailer:
If you liked, “A Noble Wife,” then
You May Also Like…

Ladies of Entrepreneurship
The Ladies of this saga are Proverbs Thirty-One women. They are women who
are business orientated, strong-willed and determined to live the dream
that God has placed inside of them. Follow these women of free enterprise
and see how their story unfolds as God secretly works behind the scenes
fashioning love together, healing wounds and bringing dreams to life. Three
books in the series – Many Hats of a Lady, Sadie’s Mustangs, and Clara’s
Each novel can be read as a standalone book or as a historical saga.
I also have Contemporary books
The Chocolatier, Michaela’s Justice
And one Non-fiction – Fear- It is a Devour
Until next time… Chase your dreams and catch them!
Brenda Scruggs

Brenda can be found at:
Amazon Author Page:

Check out Brenda’s site or social media pages. You might enjoy her books!

Guest Post: Ian Swinton

Ian is a blogger and football fan. He lives in the north of England, and has two blogs.

This is his own short bio.

‘Ian is from Northern England and writes about his everyday experiences and family times. He is aged 45 and has been blogging for 5 years now mainly writing about daily life and his other passion of football where he writes and runs another website. To follow his personal blog do so here or if you like follow his football site here’

End of school holidays.

My son returns to high school on Wednesday going into year 9 which marks the start of his GCSE qualifications. Every year he has his six weeks off during the summer term it takes me back to when I was his age and memories of the time I had.

Over the years as parents we always had to juggle the summer holidays between us making sure our son was looked after either by us or our parents. Now he is a teenager, things are much more relaxed and easier. As he is very responsible he can fend for himself for a few hours and look after the dogs whilst we are at work. Fortunately I work shifts which means I have plenty of time off in the week or I am around in the mornings. With my wife working Monday to Friday, it is quite infrequent when our son is on his own at home.

I have managed to take quite a bit of time off this six weeks holidays which has allowed me to spend some quality time with my son. At the start of the holidays you wonder how they will fill their time and six weeks feels like a lifetime that the children are off. However, by the time he is due back to school it feels like the whole time has gone very quickly.

This holiday we had quite a settled period of weather especially for the first few weeks which in Northern England is no mean feat I can tell you.I managed to repair his mountain bike which had been sat in the shed for sometime looking sorry for itself. This allowed him to get out with his friends and get some fresh air and exercise. Sadly the bike finally gave up halfway through the holiday and had to be taken to the recycling centre but for those first few weeks, he loved every minute and got him away from electronics. We have managed day trips out to various places and attractions around the North West and Wales which has been fun. Overall we as parents have managed the 6 weeks well meaning we have all spent some quality time together whether out exploring, at home baking or just having family time.

When I was a teenager way back in the mid 1980`s, I did not have the same luxuries but my memories of those holidays are of endless days out playing with my friends from dawn to dusk. We only had four television channels to watch all the children’s television programmes on like Roland Rat and various cartoons that would be on all morning.

I did not own a computer console until I was around 13 or 14 years old. My dad bought a second hand Atari console off his work mate so I used to play classic games like Pacman, Pitfall, Donkey Kong, Asteroids to name a few. All iconic arcade games with what are now seen as shockingly poor graphics.

My parents worked throughout the summer holidays never taking time off to look after me like we now do as parents ourselves. I wasn’t given a house key until I was in my teenage years. My dad worked all week until around 4pm and my mum worked part time and was home by 11am. I would wake in the morning, sort my own breakfast and knock on for my pals and play various sports all day on the local fields. I loved it and only returned home if it was time to eat.

My memories are of endless games of cricket, football, playing on our bikes, exploring and making dens in the woods all innocent stuff until it was time for dinner. Then straight after dinner, I was out again until it started to go dark. We were lucky to have the fields and woods only a couple of minutes walk from home so we never ventured too far. It is funny how we as parents seem more protective of our children yet we grew up with such freedom. You would think we would allow our children that same amount of freedom but I worry about my son crossing roads, where he goes and whom with.

With the electronic age of Xbox, etc and the internet the new playing out is really staying in and gaming whilst talking to each other online. It seems safer in respect of children being at home but I cannot help but think how much children are losing out by not playing out and “being kids”. Whether that be climbing and falling out of trees, building dens, playing army or just playing sports which keeps you healthy.

Generations change and you cannot stop that. So as my son returns to school and another summer holiday ends, I fondly look back on my summer holidays that felt endless and were special times growing up.

Please check out Ian’s other posts, and if you enjoy football, his other blog is a must-see!

Guest Post: Colin Guest

Here is a guest post from someone whose name is actually Guest! That must be a first. 🙂
Writer Colin lives in Turkey, and his blog name is ‘Tigerman’.

As an expat, Colin Guest has worked in fifteen countries and lived a life most only dream. Click on the word Home to get a link to his site.

Here is Colin’s own bio.
‘Colin Guest is a freelance writer who has published eight books, with a ninth due out shortly. Five of them have been made into audio format via Amazon ACX, with a sixth to be available in early August 2019. Apart from his books, Colin has had articles published in various online magazines, with one published in a UK expat magazine. Colin also writes poetry with several in the final four in poetry contests. He once took part in a live American radio show, did a one-hour podcast re his writing and has taken part in a number of online interviews. A newspaper in his hometown in England, UK, published an article on Colin and his writing. Colin is keen on environmental and wildlife issues. His pen name Tigerman, comes from his love of tigers, with his adopting one for the past twelve years. Colin is married and lives in Istanbul, Turkey.’

This post is intended to give encouragement to other authors.

The first book I wrote was a memoir, and foolishly as it turned out, paid a chunk of money to get it printed. Despite what I had previously been informed, I could not reduce the cost the company decided to sell the book. Due mainly to this, and I must admit poor professional editing, there was only one copy sold. After my contract period was up, I cancelled sales of the print version. I later had it re-edited and self-published and eBook version. A lesson from this is to make sure that what you are going to receive from such a company is what you wanted. After writing several more books without managing to attract the attention of a publisher or agent, I struck lucky. In the space of two days I received offers from two companies to publish my books. One is a media company that is dealing with the majority of my books, and have produced new cover photos and republished the books. The other is a small publishing company that has published an erotic style romance story of mine in both print and eBook format. They will also be publishing a print version of my novel, A Dangerous Love Affair. At present, it is available in eBook format or as an audiobook via Amazon ACX. This version I am delighted to point out has recently had a significant increase in sales.
I am presently in the process of having Fatal Love; my erotic style romance story made into an audiobook, which is due to be completed in October. I also have plans in progress to have my memoir An Expat’s Experiences of Living in Turkey, made into an audiobook. It covers my living here for the past thirty years and includes advice to those thinking of moving to Turkey. I think that audiobooks are an excellent way to go for authors. It can help get your books read by more people at little cost to yourself.
On this note, I strongly advise all authors and budding ones to ensure that their manuscripts are professionally edited before trying to get them either published by a company, or self-publishing.
Given my late success, do not give up when seeking an agent or publisher. Remember, positive thoughts lead to positive results.

Here are some links to Colin’s work. Desperation Rules the Day Impending Disaster Follow in the Tigerman’s Footsteps For the Greater Good An Expat’s Experiences of Living in A Dangerous Love Affair Never Pull the Tiger’s Tail Terror Holiday Fatal Love guest/

Guest Post: Shaily Agrawal

I am very pleased to introduce you to an Indian blogger, Shaily Agrawal. Here is a link to her site.
Shaily is very engaged on my blog, and I am happy to host her guest post here.

Here is what she has to tell you about herself.

‘Shaily Agrawal: I am an Instructional Designer (Content Developer in Adult Learning). I am a ‘Social Introvert’ with countless ‘friends’ but still lonely. I am an inefficient mother of a two-year old and a working house-wife. Yup! Irony!’

And here is her very short post.


He looked at the tears flowing down her blackened eyes.
He pulled her in his arms and, once again, said, “Sorry, Love! Just don’t make me angry again.”

Check out her blog for other Tiny Stories, and lots more.