Ruth Culham’s latest book

Ruth Culham

Hi everyone,

Ruth Culham is often referred to as The Trait Lady for her years of research, publishing, teaching, and lecturing about the traits of good writing. She just returned from a series of meetings and workshops in Abu Dhabi. It’s a pleasure to help announce the publication of Ruth’s newest work, THE WRITING THIEF, which will officially be introduced by its publisher, International Reading Association, in New Orleans this weekend.
The Writing Thief

Word spreads fast among Ruth’s followers so the book is already into its second printing based on advance orders. Here’s a quote borrowed from the Internet: “Students learn more about reading and writing when we use mentor texts to explore how writing works. Within this book, you’ll discover more than 90 excellent mentor texts along with straightforward activities that can help you teach the traits of writing across the informational, narrative, and argument modes.

“Ruth presents exceptional examples of children’s literature and everyday texts, organized around the key qualities of the writing traits, that can give your students clear, enjoyable examples of good writing—which they can then pinch and pilfer as models for their own writing.

“Chapters also include brief essays from favorite writing thieves—Lester Laminack, David L. Harrison, Lisa Yee, Nicola Davies, Ralph Fletcher, Toni Buzzeo, and Lola Schaefer—detailing the reading that has influenced their own writing.”

For more about Ruth, click here.

Way to go, Ruth! I’m delighted to be in your latest book. Here’s to another great success!


Writers Hall of Fame

Hi everyone,

Many of you who live near Springfield may have already received the news release below about this year’s inductee into Writers Hall of Fame: Ridley Pearson. I hope you are already making plans to attend the gala event.
NEWS RELEASE: Ridley Pearson Wins 2013 Quill Award
Ridley Pearson, prize-winning co-author of the mega selling Peter and the Starcatchers as well as many other best- selling novels, has been awarded the 2013 Quill Award by the Writers Hall of Fame. The award will be presented to Pearson at the Quill Award Gala, Saturday, March 2, at The Tower Club. A limited number of tickets for the hors d’oeuvres buffet event are available for $35 each; tables seating ten are available for $300 per table. In addition to Pearson’s comments on his experience as a writer, the event will feature both live and silent auctions. All proceeds will fund scholarships awarded by the Writers Hall of Fame to promising young writers from area high schools. For tickets or further information, contact Kathy McQueen ( or 368-1231).


At each of our award banquets we hold an auction to raise scholarship funds. This year I’m blessed with a number of new books coming out so I asked my publishers to provide copies for the auction and they’ve all been generous in their support. If you attend the banquet, I hope the following descriptions will help you decide which items might be right for you.

A Perfect Home for a Family

This new picture book from Holiday House stars a pair of raccoons with an urgent need to find a roomy, quiet home. The twins are due! Mama and Papa finally find a roomy, quiet attic, only to discover that they have a people infestation below their floor

The story begins like this:

“What’s that?” said Mama.
“What?” said Papa.
“That,” said Mama.
“Oh no,” said Papa.

Chaos and a happy ending ensue. Beautifully illustrated by award winning Italian artist Roberta Angaramo.
$16.95. I’ll sign it if you wish.
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Learning through Poetry

I co-authored a set of five 136-page books for Shell Education with Mary Jo Fresch , professor of education at Ohio State University. My job was to create poems to demonstrate the language sounds that children learn to recognize as they develop reading skills. Here’s how the books are described by the publisher.



This must-have PreK-2 resource features short vowels and supports phonemic and phonological awareness through activities around level-appropriate poetry! Original poems are introduced and feature a corresponding lesson that includes two cross-curricular connections. The strategies provided in Learning through Poetry include phonemic matching, phonemic isolation, phonemic blending, phonemic substitution, and phonemic segmentation. Take-home activities are included to encourage linguistic interaction with friends and family members, which is especially useful for English language learners and their families. This book features digital resources that include activity pages, poems, family letters, and an audio recording of each poem. This resource supports the Common Core State Standards.

The five titles in the series are:
Each book is priced at $29.99 so the set of five has a value of $149.95. The 5 CDs contain a total of 96 original poems.
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Let’s Write This Week with David Harrison

This is a hands-on, interactive, creative writing program that brings me into your classroom to help teach students how to write. This program is designed for use in grades 3-5, but can be used in later grades if desired.

The Let’s Write kit includes the following items:

 A two-disk set that contains 20 whiteboard lessons in which David Harrison talks directly to the students and leads them through the creative writing process.

 20 Student Journals (co-written with Drury University’s Laurie Edmondson) that provide headings to help students organize their thoughts and enforces consistent writing habits.

 The Teacher’s Guide (co-written with Laurie Edmondson) includes lesson plans specific to the 3 titles included in the kit, along with generic lesson plans for poetry, fiction and non-fiction writing.

 Three book titles are included in the kit. They are:
Dylan the Eagle-Hearted Chicken: A baby chicken hatches in an eagle’s nest.

Farmer’s Dog Goes to the Forest, Rhymes in Two Voices: Ever-curious Dog has questions in verse for his new forest friends
Earthquakes: What causes the Earth to quiver and shake? This basic introduction explains why the Earth’s surface sometimes moves.

Ruth Culham (of 6 +1 Traits of Writing fame) wrote the foreword. Here’s an excerpt: “David Harrison knows how to coach writers like few others. He’s a natural. And now, with this project, you get to have David in your classroom as often as you want. What could be better than having him at your side, helping you teach and support student writers so they achieve what often seems out of their grasp: writing well and enjoying the process. You’ll find this series instructive and practical. It’s both inspiring and original. There is nothing else like it in today’s teaching world featuring tips, lessons, and ideas galore that are central to David Harrison’s core philosophy: Let’s Write.

Priced individually, the components of LET’S WRITE THIS WEEK WITH DAVID HARRISON total $600. Buying it as a kit, the price is $499.00.

* * *

Buy Me at Auction

We tried this idea at last year’s banquet and raised $1,500, which is the equivalent of three $500 scholarships. I’ll go to a school (within easy driving distance) designated by the highest bidder and speak to students about writing. My talk will include many of the ideas in LET’S WRITE THIS WEEK WITH DAVID HARRISON. My standard speaker’s fee is $2,500 so someone might get a bargain. If you are interested in helping a school host a visit by me, please come prepared to bid. If you know others who might like to consider this, please pass the information along. This is all done in the spirit of nurturing young writers.

Bidding starts at $500

I hope to see some of you at the Award event to honor Ridley Pearson!


Ruth Culham today

Hi everyone,

Yesterday you met Ruth Culham. Today you hear directly from her. She decided to share a preview, a glimpse into one of her upcoming books. So read on and enjoy! Ruth?


It is with great pleasure I offer you a preview of the introduction to a chapter I’ve written in the book, Developing Reading Instruction That Works. It will be available late January 2011. I can’t think of a better piece to share on David’s blog. In this chapter, I try to capture some of the reasons why it works so well to use reading to teach and inspire writing. There is a magical connection between the two disciplines that begins the moment the writer puts pen or pencil to paper and then reads it back to himself. Words inspire words. They give us chills, make us laugh, take us to new worlds, and most of all, inspire.

Great writing is a gift for readers. In this introduction to my chapter, I hope you’ll feel my sense of wonder in understanding how reading and writing work together to change lives for the better.

“Reading With a Writer’s Eye”

Preview of a chapter from:
Developing Reading Instruction That Works
The Leading Edge, Volume 6
Solution Tree Press, 2011

There they were: nineteen ninth graders suited up for the first home football game, squeezed awkwardly into their seats for my seventh-period English class. “Put your helmets on your desks,” I instructed, wondering how I was going to make it through the next testosterone-charged forty-five minutes. Surely the last thing on these young men’s minds was writing.

There must have been some wisdom in scheduling the entire football team into the same English class at the end of the day. I just had no idea what it was. This group was a challenge to motivate on a typical day, so it was going to take superhuman powers to pull off something good—even sorta good—on a game day.

After several unsuccessful attempts to engage students with paired readings, a routine activity for writing workshop, I grabbed a treasured book from my shelf—an autographed copy of Kavik the Wolf Dog by Walt Morey—and I asked the students to suspend their writing for the moment. “Just listen,” I said, hoping the book would do what I could not—focus and inspire my class. I began to read from chapter 1:
Charlie One Eye lifted the squirming pup by the scruff of the neck, and looked at him. His careless grip pinched the pup’s tender skin, and he wriggled and whimpered in protest. But the man studied him with no concern. The whimper turned to a growl. Suddenly the pup twisted his head and sank tiny needle-sharp teeth in Charlie’s thumb. (p. 1)

I read on. With each sentence, the mood became energized, like the feeling at a home game after a first-blood score. Motion ceased. Students who’d been squirming in their seats sat transfixed, hands gently wrapped around the top of their helmets, listening. Walt Morey accomplished more in five minutes than I’d been able to accomplish in twenty-five.

So I read on until the final bell. Though that was the sound my students had been living for just forty-five minutes earlier, they lin- gered a moment before Tracy broke the spell to ask, “Will you read more tomorrow?” I nodded, “Of course.” And then suddenly he and his teammates were gone—leaving a tangle of chairs and desks as they chest-butted their way out the door.

Now this story by itself might be useful to extol the virtues of reading aloud to even the most reluctant students, or to illustrate how to survive a challenging teaching situation. What happened over the next week was what really mattered and sticks with me to this day. As I continued to read aloud a little every day, qualities of Walt Morey’s writing began showing up in students’ work. Students who never tried a lively introduction came up with some gems. Those who had trouble creating insightful details were churning them out right and left. A student who rarely wrote more than a sentence or two shared a whole page at the next writing circle. Everyone, it seemed, was writing under the influence of Walt Morey. Everyone was a noticeably better writer from having a front-row seat to his work.

Until then, I didn’t understand the extent of the relationship between reading and teaching writing. I knew that students of all ages appreciate being read to. I knew they would agree to do disagreeable tasks if I rewarded them with more read-aloud time. I knew that even my most fidgety students would sit still and listen, soaking in the rhythm and cadence of well-written prose. But it didn’t occur to me that reading aloud was “teaching” them something. If the kids liked it, and I liked doing it, that was enough. I took great pains to make sure my principal and colleagues didn’t know just how much reading aloud I was doing. I wanted them to believe that what went on behind my closed doors was more rigorous and academic.

Today I know better. I know reading aloud is rigorous and academic. Some of the best teaching involves nothing more than a great book and a captive audience. There was a reason the freshman football players sat mesmerized by Walt Morey’s words. They were learning how writing works—how it should open, how it should unfold, and what chords it should strike to fully engage readers. Resolute in this new understanding, I’d now encourage my principal and fellow teachers to watch my students fall under the spell of a great writer as I read aloud and how simple it is to use their words to teach. And I’d challenge them to read aloud their own favorite books any time they wanted to do a really good job teaching writing.

Ruth, many thanks! Comments anyone? Please post them below.David