Iowa Reading Association 2013 May Newsletter

President's Column
It’s Been a Great Ride!
By Tony Pieper

It is hard for me to believe that I am writing my final newsletter article as President of the Iowa Reading Association.  This year has gone by so quickly!  As I am nearing the end of my term, I have been reflecting a bit on my journey to becoming president, the wonderful experiences I have had while in office, and what I hope the future has in store for me as a continued member of the Iowa Reading Association.

My relationship with the Iowa Reading Association began shortly after I started teaching at BCLUW Middle School in 1987.  My mother, Mary Pieper, was also a BCLUW Middle School teacher at the time and invited me to join the Hardy Reading Council, a local council of the Iowa Reading Association serving Hardin and Grundy counties.  After being an active member of Hardy for the next several years, my mother encouraged me to take over as the Membership Director of our council.  This eventually led to terms as Vice President (and Program Chair), President-Elect, and President of Hardy. 

While I was serving at the local level, my mother was serving two terms as Zone B Director for the Iowa Reading Association.  When her second term came to an end, she suggested I take over for her.  After careful consideration, I started a three year term as Zone B Director in 2007.  Being a Zone Director was a great transition from serving as a local council officer to serving on the state Board of Directors.  A Zone Director is a liaison between the state Board and the local councils.  Zone Directors must attend at least one meeting of each local council in the Zone per year; remind councils of important deadlines regarding state awards, scholarships, creative writing/poetry contests; encourage participation in Honor and Merit Council Awards; and report back to the Board of Directors accomplishments of each council within Zone.

As my Zone Director term neared its conclusion in 2010, I was asked by the Board of Directors to consider becoming Vice President of the Association.  I was very hesitant at first because the Vice President becomes Program Chair of the annual State Conference when he or she becomes President-Elect the following year.  However, I was assured that I would not have to plan a state conference since Iowa was slated to host an International Reading Association  (IRA) Regional Conference in the fall of 2011.  Unfortunately, after I accepted the office of Vice President, IRA announced it would be suspending all regional conferences until further notice.  That meant I would be planning a 2012 state conference after all!  Even though I was terrified at the prospect, I decided I could do it and planned to learn all that I could from President-Elect Julie Neal as she planned the 2011 State Conference. She was a great mentor!

The Iowa Reading Association began a period of transition in 2010-2011 in order to better serve its members and to become more financially efficient.  A decision was made to move our state conference from Des Moines to Ames in 2011.  Ames was a bit more centrally located and the new conference site at the Scheman Building offered many financial cost savings. The Iowa Reading Association continued to think outside of the box by approving the move of the State Conference from April to June in 2012. Another cutting edge idea was to coordinate two year-long state-wide book studies. 

I spent the two years prior to the 2012 Conference securing keynote speakers, accepting program proposals, coordinating concurrent sessions, working with exhibitors, writing and editing the conference program book, and attending IRA annual conferences in Orlando and Chicago to network with speakers and exhibitors. Fortunately, our first summer conference was a success! 

This year as President, I have spent much of my time assisting our current President-Elect Wendy Hammrich plan the 2013 Conference.  To build on our success last summer, this year’s conference will again be in June.  I have enjoyed assisting Wendy and the Board as we work together to put on another great conference.  I especially enjoyed attending this year’s IRA conference in San Antonio, Texas!  It was another busy time of learning, networking, and fun!

However, there have been challenges as President.  One of those challenges has been declining membership which has led to several struggling councils within the state.  Fortunately, our Board of Directors is committed to ensuring that the Association continues to survive.  We have been discussing many exciting ideas that we think will not only allow us to survive to thrive once again!

It has been an honor to serve the Iowa Reading Association for the last six years. I am look forward to helping the Board develop a Past-Presidents Advisory Council that will continue to tap into the expertise of our Past Presidents.  I have also accepted the office of Membership Director for Hardy Council next year.  I am excited at the prospect of becoming more involved at the local level again. 

It has been a great ride, and I appreciate all of the support that has been given to me by the Iowa Reading Association and my family.  I have made many new friends and feel blessed and enriched from the experience!

Doug Fisher Coming to the 2013 Reading Conference
By Wendy Hammrich, 2013 Conference Chair
As I sit looking at the sunshine streaming into my windows I am reminded that our summer conference will be here soon.  The Iowa Reading Conference is June 25th and 26th this year and is looking to be quite the event.  We have many wonderful speakers coming for all of our sessions.  
The 2 Sisters (Joan Moser and Gail Boushey) and Peter Johnston will be our keynote speakers on the first day.

Day 2 will include Jarrett Krosoczka, Doug Fisher, and Barry Lane.

In addition to these individuals we also have some amazing people coming to lead break-out sessions that should also provide wonderful teaching strategies for our classroom challenges. Graduate and renewal credit will again be offered this year for those who wish to participate.  Look for the sign-up table when you check-in on the first day.
The registrations have been coming in strong, which has caused us to make even more plans to accommodate the excitement.  The room capacity has been met for seeing our Keynote speakers in the Benton Auditorium.  We are now setting up additional seating in a live video-feed room for anyone who is still planning on sending in their registrations for June.  Having this arrangement is not ideal but we are planning some “special surprises” for those located in this area that will truly make their conference experience just as memorable.
Hope to see you all in June as we “Tune into Reading” for our kids and ourselves!

2013 Iowa Reading Award Winners
By Deb Saylor Iowa Reading Awards Committee Chair

Iowa Reading Administrator of the Year
Mr. Kevin Farmer
Glenwood Schools - West Elementary Principal
Midlands of Iowa Reading Council
Mr. Kevin Farmer has been elementary principal at West Elementary in Glenwood for 28 years and in education for 38 years. He has done much to promote reading in the school. He is a very dedicated professional to the field of reading is so many ways.  He provides his teachers with the necessary training and professional development opportunities, so his teachers may provide students with the best possible ways to teach reading.  He goes above and beyond to help his teachers get the necessary training they need to keep up with all the changes that occur within the field of reading.  A few years ago he sent a group of teachers to a training in San Antonia with Fountas and Pinnell and went along himself.  He also encourages teachers to attend the Iowa Reading Conference and he himself attends and has attended the International Reading Conference.  He has a reading challenge each January and has dressed up as a lady and walked around the square, spent the night on top of the school roof, has been pelted with lunch leftovers, dressed as a clown and last year kissed a pig and served ice-cream sundaes to all the students.  Mr. Farmer’s commitment to teachers’ ongoing advancement in the area of literacy instruction is commendable and has been invaluable to students and teachers.
Iowa Reading Teacher of the Year
Becky Pashek
Waukee Community School District – Walnut Hills Elementary
Dallas County Reading Council Reading Council
Becky has been a teacher librarian for almost 20 years and was a classroom teacher before that.  Becky’s passion for her job as a teacher librarian is evident upon stepping into her classroom.  Becky provides students with a warm, vibrant and inviting space that truly fosters an exceptional learning environment.  Students can’t wait to come to the library to find books that make them giggle, that excite them, that empower them to take risks or to learn about special people or careers that they might want some day.  They can’t wait to select books that take them to new places they could only imagine!  Becky spends much time giving book talks, helping students find books they will fall in love with and following up with them to see if it was the “perfect one”.  Becky provides leadership for her staff, students and library colleagues across the district.  She generously shares ideas and resources with others.  Becky has actively engaged students of all ages with her love of literature and technology.  She introduces new authors, plans lessons that incorporate information literacy skills and infuses new technology into her projects.  The library Becky has created is truly the heart of the school through which all else flows.
Iowa Celebrate Literacy Award
Pastor Paul Stone
Church of the Damascus Road Storytellers
Quint County
Pastor Paul Stone represents all the volunteers of the Storytellers program.  The program allows inmates the opportunity to read a book to their child or children at home.  Volunteers go to the prison once a month for about 3 hours to listen to the men read to their children.  They encourage the men to read in order to encourage literacy in their own children.  The Storytellers program is very important to both the inmate and the child as it provides one to one contact as close as it is possible while the father is in prison.  The child is able to hear their father’s voice and be able to hear him say some personal words.  Pastor Paul Stone is instrumental in transporting books and materials and also monitors the program.  He advertises to the inmates of this opportunity, but he depends on the volunteers to assist.  The volunteers have heard inmates say, “Let me know how you liked this book.”  The inmates are very thankful to have this program and are very appreciative to the volunteers and Pastor Stone who come together to make the program possible.

Iowa Service Award
Mary Pieper
Hardy Reading Council
Mary is now a retired teacher, but she had a very successful 39 year career in education. She has been an active member in the Hardy Reading Council for 27 years. To this day, people still approach her son on the street and share with him stories about how she impacted them as a teacher.  Her work has always been about “paying it forward”.  Mary developed a letter for Hardy Reading Council with information not only about the organization, but one, which includes teacher helps and tidbits.  She has written grants to obtain funding for special local projects.  She has single-handedly initiated and carried out council projects that benefitted children in the state, nation and world.  The language arts department at BCLUW Middle School has always been impacted by her involvement in the Iowa Reading Association.  New ideas are continually coming back to the school through her attendance at Hardy Reading Council or Iowa Reading Association meetings.  Mary always advocates for students to improve literacy skills and one of the ways is encouraging students to write poetry or stories which she made sure were included in the council’s contest.  Mary’s career has been dedicated to literacy and service.

Council Corner

By Deb Mortensen, Iowa Reading Vice President and
Member of Quint County Reading Council

The deadline for submitting this article is Groundhog Day and as chair of the Long Range Planning committee, I feel like that groundhog.  Our committee has had several ideas to pursue “during our long winter’s nap,” regarding the future of the Iowa Reading Association. Now, it is time to “wake up” and act on these issues.
The biggest one is the future of Zone Directors and the zone structure. We have had 9 zones in our state for a number of years. Those zones have councils and those councils have members. Each zone is represented on the state board by a Zone Director (Do you know what zone you live in?). Currently, the zone directors report at each board meeting (either through e-mail or in person) the activities of their councils. Some zones have few members (the smallest is 2) and others have many members (the largest is 209). Perhaps we will have to rezone our state to accommodate those active members.
Our membership has decreased so our revenue has as well. Did you know there is a “State only” membership option, if you live in an area that does not have a local council? Did you know that Nancy Wright, State Coordinator, would be happy to help you organize a council if you have a number of educators willing to begin one?
 Did you know that Iowa Reading is on Facebook and Twitter? We hope that you are a 21st Century “groundhog”, keeping up-to-date on our Association’s activities. Even if you can’t attend meetings, you can be an active member of our literacy endeavors.
Did you know we offer a state-wide class? This year it is The Café Book by Boushey and Moser. I am so excited to meet “the Sisters” at our upcoming state conference, June 2013.
There are so many reasons to join the Iowa Reading Association. It is the desire of the Long Range Planning Committee that we have the most beneficial structure to our board and its members. If you have any suggestions for our committee, I plan to be out of my “burrow” so you can contact me at  We are so glad to “gnaw” all of you and welcome your input!



By Lynette Kruger, Director of Membership Development

Six years have passed and my office as Director of Membership Development for the Iowa Reading Association is coming to a close in June.   It was six and a half years ago that Lindsey Helmers and I both agreed to serve on the board on a dare!!  The dare turned out to be a blessing.  We experienced rewarding memories and accomplishments by serving for an organization that has many goals in mind that serve one purpose: to provide professional development to our members as they seek to improve their individual skills as educators for the students they serve. 

During my tenure as Membership Director, I was able to be a part of some progressive and proactive thoughts and actions.  As membership was declining for the state and attendance dwindling at the state conference bold changes were made.   Those changes included providing a more comprehensive and member friendly website with an online only newsletter, changing the conference venue to Ames, piloting a summer conference, and unifying the membership dues across the state.  Our membership has now stabilized and the summer conference has been well attended with increasing excitement from the venders and attendees.

The gift of friendships made during this tenure will be cherished.  The support and concern during personal trials were appreciated more than words can say.  The trips to International Conferences and Leadership Workshops were always fun-filled and professionally fulfilling.   As I retire from teaching and my term on the Iowa Reading Board, I look forward to a more supportive role with the Iowa Reading Association in helping with membership and serving on the Long Range Planning Committee.  

Recently I ran across an inspirational message I’d like to share:    Part of the beauty of every sunset is that it gives us hope for a new day.  In Hawaii, instead of saying “goodbye” or “hello” people say “aloha”.  Aloha both bids farewell and welcomes.  Aloha also means love and affection—the kind that doesn’t just come and go but endures through all our hellos and goodbyes.  So I will close by bidding you “Aloha”!!

Iowa Reading Board Members Attend International Convention in San Antonio
By Nancy White, Secretary

The Iowa Reading Association was well represented in San Antonio at the 58th Annual International Reading Association Convention.  At the Awards Ceremony honorees heard author Devin Scillian from Michigan speak and received copies of his delightful book Memoirs of a Goldfish.   Shown with Devin Scillian are board members Tony Pieper, Nancy White, Wendy Hammrich, and Wendy’s husband Jim with their autographed books.
The summary below is taken from the author’s website   A downloadable teacher’s guide is available from

Memoirs of a Goldfish
Illustrated by Tim Bowers
(Sleeping Bear Press, 2010)

The idyllic life of a goldfish falls apart one day at a time.  Told through the diary of the goldfish, a simple fish bowl becomes a very crowded, very grumpy place.  The goldfish wants to be on his own again --- until he gets his wish.  Tim Bowers' hilarious paintings make this a funny yet poignant fish tale.


Strategy Corner
Anticipation-Reaction Guide
By Lori Vicker, Zone A Director and a member of Northwest Iowa Reading Council
I’ve used  The Important Book  by Margret Wise Brown, as a model for introducing Fact and Opinion and also for Main Idea and Details. The passages in the book are short and provide a wonderful spring board for your students to create a sequel.  The first sentence names the topic and a summarizing idea.  The following sentences are details that support the topic. The final sentence repeats the first sentence which creates a “sandwich” paragraph. After reading all or several selections in the book, I choose a topic and model my own example:
The important thing about a cat is they like to purr when they are content.
A cat is soft and furry.  They usually love to play with yarn and sometimes chase their tail.  Some cats like to hunt at night and sleep during the day.
But the important thing about a cat is they like to purr when they are content.
Provide this framework (graphic organizer) to assist your students in their first attempt: 
The important thing about a ______ is __________________________
_________________________________________. ( Main Idea/Opinion)
(Detail/Fact) _____________________________________________
But the important thing about a _______ is _______________________
_______________________________________(repeat first sentence.)
Provide topics for your students to choose from:  pencil, glue, moon, tree, butterfly, grass, ocean, bicycle, mom, dad, brother, sister, cookie, mittens, school, dog, birds, rain, house, crayons, friend, apple, recess, summer, etc.

Happy Hearts Fund
 By Carol Duehr, Past President
Committee Chair of the International Project

As the end of my school year approaches, I marvel at how “Time” can crawl as slow as snail sometimes, while other times, “Time” is a whirlwind ride on a Merry-Go-Round.   Then I need to drag my feet to slow everything down so that I can catch up!
On that note, I hope your reading council has found “time” to chose an International Project to contribute to this year.  If you chose the International Literacy Project I suggested as chair, Happy Hearts Fund, I hope you have either already sent your council’s donation or will send it soon to Clark Goltz.   He will send Iowa Reading Association donations to Happy Hearts Fund headquarters.   Clark will inform me of individual council donations so that I can complete your International Project certificate which can be used by your council as you apply for Merit Council.   I will hand this certificate to a member of your council at Leadership Conference if you have your donation sent to Iowa Reading Association, care of Clark Goltz, by June 10. 
Happy Hearts Fund is a non-profit foundation solely dedicated to rebuilding schools as well as restoring hope and opportunity to children whose lives have been devastated due to a natural disaster.   When we read about the many natural disasters that affect many people throughout the world, we must agree with government and agencies that the most effective humanitarian aid to children must involve the reconstruction of schools and other needed services such as food, health consultation, and provision of clothes and other needed supplies.   Happy Hearts Fund pledges 100 percent of all donations received are ensured to be directed to children’s programming. 
So a heartfelt thank you to all of you who contributed to Iowa Reading Association’s 2012-2013 International Project, Happy Hearts Fund.   If you have not donated yet, there is still “Time” to donate!

Book Talk

My Life as a Book
By Janet Tashjian

Submitted by Debra Wake, Title Reading Teacher and Teacher Librarian at Fremont- Mills School District, Tabor, Iowa and a member of Midlands of Iowa Reading Council
From School Library Journal:

Gr 4-7–Twelve-year-old Derek has been identified as a reluctant reader. He likes to read, but doesn't enjoy required materials. He says he prefers having his own adventures (tossing as hand grenades the avocados his mother is saving for dinner, climbing onto the roof with a croquet set to hit wooden balls into the satellite dish) to learning about someone else's life. When his teacher gives the class summer reading and writing assignments, Derek finds a way to distract himself from the task. He discovers an old newspaper clipping about a 17-year-old who drowned, and his mother explains that the teen was babysitting him at the time and died saving him. Derek is determined to learn more about her death and his involvement in it. The margins of this book feature vocabulary words illustrated with cartoons. The protagonist is by turns likable and irritating, but always interesting. He is sure to engage fans of Jeff Kinney's “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books (Abrams) as well as those looking for a spunky, contemporary boy with a mystery to solve. Reluctant readers will appreciate the book's large print and quick-paced story. Helen Foster James, University of California at San Diego
© Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

We used this book as a read aloud for third graders in the library. Derek is a reluctant reader. His father is an illustrator. Instead of keeping vocabulary words in a notebook, Derek draws them. When I read the book aloud, I stop when I get to one of the words Derek drew. I read the sentence and let the students brainstorm what the word might mean by using context clues. After they come up with a definition, I show them the picture and we see if their guesses were close or on target. We also talk about other ways to draw or define the word. The students have really enjoyed this and they have begun keeping vocabulary journals with their own illustrations.


Just For Me
Leisure Reading Book Recommendation
By Pat Johnson, teacher at West Delaware School District in Manchester and a member of Eastern Iowa Reading Council 

Standing for Something by Gordon B. Hinckley will reinforce your belief that traditional values have a place in present day society amongst the temptations of the world.  The book is a narrative of experiences gained from traveling around the world for four decades.  It contains combinations of person experiences, historical examples, and practical applications in a variety of cultures.  These basic underlying values have been the foundation of our society in the past.  Their applications to today’s challenges address our hopes for the future.  

Whether considering the changing role of the family or addressing mankind's drive for success and happiness, this book helps to both evaluate our current place in life and perhaps more importantly help us gain a vision for the future.  The humorous examples teach you the seriousness of the ten virtues: love, honesty, morality, civility, learning, forgiveness, thrift, gratitude, optimism, and faith.  This is a quick read for nightly enjoyment or a positive start to your day.

Iowa Reading Association Receives 2013 Award of Excellence
By Nancy Wright, State Coordinator
Iowa Reading Association president Tony Pieper accepted the 2013 Award of Excellence on April 19, 2013 at San Antonio, TX.  The International Reading Association presented the award at the annual Awards Banquet during the 58th IRA Reading Conference.  
Presented annually, the Award of Excellence is awarded to state and provincial associations that have distinguished themselves through organizing and implementing a wide range of programs and activities in their state or province that (a) serve and support councils and members, (b) contribute to education, and (c) coincide with and support the programs and goals of the Association.
Nancy Wright, current State Coordinator of the Iowa Reading Association, prepared the artifacts that were submitted to the International Reading Association in January.  Former State Coordinator, Deb Mortenson, contributed templates and information from the 2012 award application for Nancy to continue documentation for the 2013 award.  

Local Reading Councils Named to Honor Council Status
By Nancy Wright, State Coordinator
Two of our local reading councils recently were named to Honor Council status at the 58th International Reading Conference in San Antonio, Texas.  Hardy Reading Council received the Honor Council Award, marking 29 years as an Honor Council.  Tony Pieper was able to attend the IRA Awards Banquet to accept the award for his council.  Eastern Iowa Reading Council was also named an Honor Council for the 15th year.  EIRC member Nancy White also attended the Awards Banquet in San Antonio to accept the certificate for her local council.
The Honor Council Program annually recognizes local, student and special interest councils that organize and conduct well-rounded programs serving the council members, the community, the state/provincial council, and the International Reading Association. In order to qualify for Honor Council status, the council must be in good standing according to IRA Bylaws. Specifically, the council must demonstrate that (a) all reported council officers are members of the International Reading Association, and (b) at least 10 council members are also members of the International Reading Association.
Congratulations to Hardy Reading Council and Eastern Iowa Reading Council for their continued commitment to excellence!  The Iowa Reading Association officers and board encourage all local councils to apply for Honor Council, which is very much the same as the Iowa Merit Council award criteria.

Merit Councils
By Brenda Nugteren, Iowa Reading Merit Council Chair
Each year the local reading councils in our state have the opportunity to participate in Iowa Reading Association’s Merit Council Award program.  In order to be considered for the award, a council must complete 6 required items and at least 10 optional items.

Each council will be acknowledged for Merit Council status at the June 25 Awards Banquet held at Scheman Hall on the ISU campus in Ames.
Plans are being made to simplify the process of completing a merit book in 2013-2014. For example, councils will be given the option to submit their merit book either as a paper or electronic copy.
The following councils successfully completed the award program for the 2012-2013 year:
  • Eastern Iowa Reading Council
  • Hardy Reading Council
  • Midlands of Iowa Reading Council
  • Northeast Iowa Reading Council
  • Quint County Reading Council
  • READ (Reading Educators’ Association of Dubuque)
  • Three Rivers Reading Council

Creative Writing and Poetry Contests
By Becky Pashek, Dallas County Reading Council and Zone E Director
Every year the local reading councils in Iowa are encouraged to sponsor a creative writing and poetry contest for students from their counties. Teachers can submit their students' stories and poems to a reading council member and then the stories/poems are locally judged to submit a 1st place winner for each grade level (K-12).  The winning entries are then sent to the state committee.
Below are pictures of student winners from around the state.

Dallas County Council
Creative Writing Winners
Dallas County Council
Poetry Winners
Eastern Iowa Council
Poetry Winners
Eastern Iowa Council
Creative Writing Winners
Midlands of Iowa
Creative Writing Winners
Midlands of Iowa
Poetry Winners
Northwest Iowa Council
Creative Writing Winners
Northwest Iowa Council
Poetry Winners
Jefferson-Van Buren
Council Winners
Northeast Iowa Council
Creative Writing Winners
Northeast Iowa Council
Poetry Winners
Three Rivers Council
Creative Writing Winners
Three Rivers Council
Poetry Winners

Quint County Council Winners

A Document to “Treasure”
By Deb Mortensen, Iowa Reading Association Vice-President
I recently had a chance to go “geocaching”. Geocaching is a free, outdoor treasure hunt. Players locate hidden containers called “geocaches” using a Smart phone or GPS device. It was so much fun going on a ‘hunt” around my hometown.
This got me thinking about the Iowa Reading Association’s Bylaws, Policies and Procedures. When I first was asked to review this document, I thought it was overwhelming. But then, as I read it, I found this to be a real “treasure”. This document is the driving force of our organization. It helps us make decisions about our future and at the same time, gives us an insight into our past. Each local council should have a similar document. When is the last time you looked at it? Do you know where it is? Do you make decisions based on what it says?
The changes that were made this year in the state Bylaws, Policies and Procedures involve the Scholarship and Research Committee (as we no longer offer a research grant), the Legislative Committee (as we no longer have a legislative liaison) and the combining of the Public Relations Committee with the Vice President.
With the Vice President planning a conference the following year, it is important that this person be an advocate for the conference and many of the committees overseen by the state board. I hope you will begin “geocaching” and soon discover all the “treasures” found in your membership with the Iowa Reading Association.

State Wide Class Credit
By Julie Neal, Reading Specialist for Greene County Schools and Past President of the Iowa Reading Association
Just a reminder to those members who are taking the state wide class for credit to turn in the Verification sheets to Clark Goltz and their 5-7 page paper to Julie Neal by June 17th.    Papers may be sent in either electronic format to or mailed to Julie Neal at 705 South Wilson, Jefferson, Iowa 50129

Homegrown Iowa Authors
Athlete / Coach Turned Author Visits Schools in South Central Iowa
By Lois Van Houweling, member of the Three Rivers Reading Council and a Reading Plus and Math Discovery Teacher at Pella Christian Grade School
On March 18, 2013, several elementary schools in the Three Rivers Reading Council area were treated to a visit by author Ryan Sloth of Ames, Iowa.  Mr. Sloth shared with students his exciting career journey, beginning as a college football cornerback for Iowa State University.  He then played for the Iowa Barnstormers Arena Football League and has since been an assistant coach for the Columbus Destroyers, Albany Quest, and Iowa Barnstormers, as well as helping at Iowa State University.  The students really enjoyed seeing his football helmets and jerseys from his playing days.

His career has led him to appearances in such big screen movies as: “We Are Marshall,” “Leatherheads,” “Touchback,” “The Amazing Spiderman,” and “Batman.” 

Inspired by his son, Tucker, daughter, Taylor, and the family’s last name (Sloth), Coach Sloth described the process he used to develop the character Sammy Sloth, a slow-moving athlete who has sports adventures with other animal friends.  Coach Sloth shared the three delightful books he has written: Sammy Sloth Sport Superstar, Sammy Sloth’s Big Golf Tourney, and Sammy Sloth’s Big Fish

Later that evening, Coach Sloth entertained young creative writing and poetry winners and their families at the Young Writer’s Celebration, sponsored by the Three Rivers Reading Council and held at Pella Christian Grade School. After the students read their winning stories and poems, ice cream sundaes topped off the evening for the students and their families.

Coach Sloth has also visited READ council and is available to give presentations at other councils. You can contact him at:


Teacher Tech Time
Submitted by Renee Thomas, reading instructor at Van Buren Middle School in Keosauqua and  member of Jefferson-Van Buren Reading Council
This article was originally published on
Monica Burns is a NYC educator, EdTech Blogger, and Apple Distinguished Educator with a passion for using technology with her students.  Check out her website for lesson plans aligned to the Common Core Standards and more ways to become a tech-saavy teacher!
Five Reasons I Love Using QR Codes in My Classroom by Monica Burns
There are so many tools that educators can use to get students interested and engaged in their work. Like most teachers today, I integrate technology into my instruction everyday. I'm lucky to work in a school with one-to-one technology and use iPads with my students throughout every school day. That makes it easy to use QR codes in my classroom -- and there are many reasons I love using QR codes!

What is a QR Code?
A Quick Response Code is a digital image that can be scanned without the beam of light needed to scan barcodes at the supermarket. It's used in advertising and marketing for smartphone users. You may have seen QR codes on flyers, subway posters, brochures and even cereal boxes. They are often accompanied with a message that says, "For more information scan this code." They can be scanned using one of the many free QR scanner apps available for smartphones and tablets. When you scan the code, you'll be taken directly to a website.

What does this marketing tool have to do with education? If I want all of my students to visit one website, I'll create a QR code for that website. And that's only one of the benefits.


How QR Codes Can Make a Difference in the Classroom

1. Eliminate the Frustration of Long Web Addresses

Instead of asking students to type in a long web address where they could easily make mistakes, a QR code will take them straight to a website.

It's easy to type in, but directing students to a specific article might require them to type in a combination of case sensitive letters and numbers. QR codes are perfect for students of all ages, but especially for children with special needs and those students who are easily frustrated.

2. Take Students Directly to a Designated Website

We all want to avoid using search engines that might bring our students to the wrong website. This direct approach also limits their exposure to similar sites that might not be kid-friendly. You can create a list of QR codes for websites to make Internet research easier for students.

3. Save Time

Instead of waiting for each student to type in a long web address, they can all quickly scan the QR code. You won't have to waste valuable minutes from your lesson because all students will be on task and viewing the correct website in seconds. Try projecting the QR code on the board or printing just one QR code for each table of students to save yourself the time of making extra copies.

4. QR Codes are Easy to Make

Websites like allow you to generate your own QR code for free. Copy and paste a long web address, and they’ll create a code that is unique to that particular website. You can save, print and distribute the QR code to students.

5. Change Up Your Normal Routine

I love to keep things new and exciting for my students. Try creating scavenger hunts that will get your students to visit a variety of websites to gather information on a topic. Get students engaged and moving by placing QR codes in different parts of your classroom or school building.

Are you already using QR codes in your classroom? I'd love to hear how you're integrating this technology tool into your instruction.


Tune Into Iowa Reading for a New Editor this Fall
By Nancy White, Iowa Reading Newsletter Editor

This fall readers of the Iowa Reading Association newsletter will find that a transition to a new editor has taken place.  This May issue will be my last one as editor.  I have been the secretary and newsletter editor of the Iowa Reading Association since 2003.  During these past ten years I have had the privilege of working with so many dedicated Board members who share our passion for literacy.  I want to sincerely thank all of those members who have so willingly wrote and submitted such wonderful articles and pictures for the newsletter.  I have thoroughly enjoyed this position as editor.

After our June Board meeting and 2013 Summer Conference I will be turning over the responsibilities of secretary and newsletter editor to the newly elected and very capable Carol Duehr of Dubuque.  Carol is a member of the Reading Educators Around Dubuque (READ) Council and past conference co-chair and past president of Iowa Reading.  I am confident that Carol will make the newsletter even better for our members.

I will be taking on a new challenge within Iowa Reading.  During the elections this past winter I was elected vice-president of our organization.  I will assume this position following our June 2013 Summer Conference.  I am already thinking about the 2015 Conference when I will be the conference chair!

Thank you again for your contributions to this newsletter over the past decade and, most of all, for reading each issue and staying informed about happenings within the Iowa Reading Association.


Our mailing address is: Iowa Reading Association | P.O. Box 16 | Ossian, IA 52161