Category Archives: Recommended Books to Read, to Learn, to Inspire

Books that either Jennifer and I have read or have been recommended to read. Our husbands and collegues provide us a lot of the recommendations. We love suggestions, share them.

Suggested Summer Reading for Teachers and those who Play a Role in the Life of a Child

Having written my thesis on phonics, I found this book a good and reflective read. I am still a believer in the importance of phonics in the classroom and at home but I am and feel we as educators must be, open to others views and opinions. I learned a lot from this book and highly recommend it for your summer “must read” list.

“The Great Reading Disaster: Reclaiming Our Educational Birthright” by Mona McNee and Alice Coleman

Amazon’s Book Description:


“By the late 1980s half the nation’s children were receiving eleven years of progressivism schooling that failed to give them even the elementary basis of education that was completed by the age of seven in earlier days. This great reading disaster was caused by the ?look?say? method of teaching, which presented whole words not individual letters. This book explains the causes and provides the solution to this problem. In 2006, the Secretary of State for Education and Skills has ordered schools to use the phonic method but there seems little evidence that its implications are properly understood or that any serious re-training program for teachers is being put in place. The authors believe their explanations and recommendations in this book are thus needed just as much as ever.”



The next book is an excellent read and has sat in my office on my book shelve for a couple of years now. I have lent it out many times now in hopes that it might inspire those who read it to refuse to give into the easy path and CHOOSE to be the difference in the life of our children…our future! Our Unlock the Teacher team has talked on this before on how we feel ALL children are capable of learning. I know many have heard me tell the story of when I taught in the city and I was told that my students could not or would never understand Shakespeare, so I should not waste my time. Well, not only did my 8th grade English/Literature students learn all about Shakespeare, The Tempest became one of their favorite reads that year. Much of how our students respond in our classrooms or buildings depends most on how we choose to approach our environment and communicate learning expectations. I highly recommend this book for all educational staff and parents too!



“Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves but Can’t Read, Write, or Add”


Amazon’s Book Description:


Dumbing Down Our Kids is a searing indictment of America’s secondary schools one that every parent and teacher should read.
Dumbing Down Our Kids offers a full-scale investigation of the new educational fad, sometimes called “Outcome Based Education” the latest in a long series of “reforms” that has eroded our schools.
-Why our kids rank to, or at the bottom of international tests in math and science

-Why “self-esteem” has supplanted grades and genuine achievements

-How the educational establishment lowers standards and quality in our schools-while continuing to raise their budgets and our school taxes

-The dumbing down of the curriculum so everyone can pass-but no one excel

-How parents, students, and teachers can evaluate schools and restore quality learning.


If you have a good book to recommend or your staff has chosen a book to read as a team, please share and together we can learn from each other. It is in the collaborative process that we will make a difference for our children of today and the future of tomorrow.


May we continue to seek knowledge in all things,


Denise and the entire Unlock the Teacher Team



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Filed under Best Practices from Awesome Educators, Curriculum Resources, Recommended Books to Read, to Learn, to Inspire

March is National Reading Month…Here are some Great Books to Add to Your Classroom Library Wish Lists

A Collection of Recommended Books for Children Grades 1-5



Agee, Jon – Milo’s Hat Trick

Bruchac, Joseph – How Chipmunk got his Stripes : A Tale of Bragging and Teasing

Choi, Yangsook – The Name Jar

Eastman, P. D. (Philip D.) – Are you my Mother?

Jenkins, Emily – Five Creatures

Johnson, Crockett – Harold and the Purple Crayon

Kellogg, Steven – A Penguin Pup for Pinkerton

Kimmel, Eric A – Anansi and the Magic Stick

LeSieg, Theo. – Ten Apples up on Top!

Long, Melinda – When Papa Snores

Look, Lenore – Henry’s First-Moon Birthday

Mayer, Mercer – There’s an Alligator Under my Bed  (both my son and daughter loved this one 🙂

McCloskey, Robert – Make way for Ducklings

Middleton, Charlotte – Tabitha’s Terrifically Tough Tooth

Pattou, Edith – Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden

Piper, Watty – The Little Engine that Could

Rey, Margret – The Complete Adventures of Curious George

Rylant, Cynthia – The Great Gracie Chase : Stop that Dog!

Shaw, Nancy (Nancy E.) – Sheep in a Jeep

Showers, Paul – The Listening Walk

Smith, Charles R., Jr – Loki & Alex : The Adventures of a Dog and his Best Friend

Stevens, Janet – And the dish Ran Away with the Spoon

Stewart, Sarah – The Journey

Suen, Anastasia – Hamster Chase

Watt, Melanie – Leon the Chameleon

Wick, Walter – Walter Wick’s Optical Tricks

Winthrop, Elizabeth – Dumpy La Rue

Wood, Audrey – The Napping House

Wood, Audrey – Quick as a Cricket

Recommended authors for Grade 1

Eric Carl ; P. D. Eastman; Dr. Seuss; Kevin Henkes; Laura Joffe Numeroff; Rosemary Wells

Recommended Series for Grade 1

Capucilli, Alyssa Satin – Biscuit

Gantos, Jack – Rotten Ralph

Lobel, Arnold – Frog and Toad All Year

Minarik, Else Holmelund – Little Bear. Pictures by Maurice Sendak (A family favorite!)

Rey, H. A. (Hans Augusto) – Curious George

Rylant, Cynthia – Henry and Mudge



Allard, Harry – Miss Nelson is Back

Allard, Harry – Miss Nelson is Missing!

Arnold, Tedd – No More Water in the Tub!

Arnold, Tedd – The Signmaker’s Assistant

Bercaw, Edna Coe – Halmoni’s Day

Brown, Jeff – Flat Stanley

Cannon, Janell – Stellaluna

Creech, Sharon – Fishing in the Air

Ehlert, Lois – Waiting for Wings

Finchler, Judy – Miss Malarkey Doesn’t Live in Room 10

Guarino, Deborah – Is Your Mama a llama?

Hale, Bruce – The Chameleon Wore Chartreuse

Kvasnosky, Laura McGee – Zelda and Ivy

Leedy, Loreen – Mapping Penny’s World

Lester, Helen – Tacky the Penguin

Markle, Sandra – Outside and Inside Dinosaurs

Palatini, Margie – The Web Files

Prelutsky, Jack – It’s Raining Pigs & Noodles : Poems

Seeger, Pete – Abiyoyo

Silverstein, Shel – The Giving Tree

Simont, Marc – The Stray Dog : From a True Story by Reiko Sassa

Wood, Audrey – King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub

Recommended series for Grade 2

Barrows, Annie – Ivy + Bean

Danziger, Paula – Amber Brown is not a Crayon

Gantos, Jack – Rotten Ralph

Hoban, Russell – Bedtime for Frances

Lobel, Arnold – Frog and Toad are Friends

McDonald, Megan – Judy Moody ( A funny series! 🙂 )

Meadows, Daisy – The Rainbow Magic Collection. Volume 1 , Books 1-4

Meddaugh, Susan – Martha Speaks

Minarik, Else Holmelund – Little Bear. Pictures by Maurice Sendak

Osborne, Mary Pope – Dinosaurs Before Dark

Parish, Peggy – Amelia Bedelia

Park, Barbara – Junie B. Jones and the stupid Smelly Bus

Preller, James – The Case of Hermie the Missing Hamster

Rylant, Cynthia – Henry and Mudge

Sharmat, Marjorie Weinman – Nate the Great

Zion, Gene – Harry, the Dirty Dog


Grade 3

Allard, Harry – Miss Nelson is Missing!

Artell, Mike – Petite Rouge : a Cajun Red Riding Hood

Barrett, Judi – Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Blume, Judy – Freckle Juice

Cameron, Ann – The Stories Julian Tells

Cherry, Lynne – The Great Kapok Tree : A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest

Cole, Joanna – Bony-legs

Dahl, Roald – Fantastic Mr. Fox

Ernst, Lisa Campbell – Little Red Riding Hood : A Newfangled Prairie Tale

Etra, Jonathan – Aliens for Breakfast

Ferris, Jeri – Go Free or Die : A Story about Harriet Tubman

Ferris, Jeri – What are you Figuring Now?

Ferris, Jeri – Walking the Road to Freedom : A Story about Sojourner Truth

Fleming, Denise – Where Once there was a Wood

Frasier, Debra – Miss Alaineus : A Vocabulary Disaster

George, Jean Craighead – Look to the North : A Wolf Pup Diary

Giff, Patricia Reilly – Oh Boy, Boston!

Hopkins, Lee Bennett – Sports! Sports! Sports! : A  Poetry Collection

Kline, Suzy – Horrible Harry and the Dungeon

Krull, Kathleen – Wilma Unlimited : How Wilma Rudolph became the World’s Fastest Woman

MacLachlan, Patricia – Sarah, Plain and Tall

McGill, Alice – Molly Bannaky

Polacco, Patricia – The Keeping Quilt

Polacco, Patricia – The Bee Tree

Robinson, Barbara – The Best School Year Ever

Rockwell, Thomas – How to Eat Fried Worms

Rodowsky, Colby F – Not my Dog

Seattle, Chief – Brother Eagle, Sister Sky : A Message from Chief Seattle

White, E. B. (Elwyn Brooks) – Charlotte’s wWb

Yolen, Jane – Letting Swift River Go

Recommended series for Grade 3

Adler, David A – Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the Stolen Diamonds

Dadey, Debbie – Monsters don’t Scuba Dive

Danziger, Paula – Amber Brown is not a Crayon

Landon, Lucinda – Meg Mackintosh and the Case of the Missing Babe Ruth Baseball : A Solve-it-Yourself Mystery

Osborne, Mary Pope – Dinosaurs before Dark

Peterson, John Lawrence – The Littles

Preller, James – The Case of Hermie the Missing Hamster

Roy, Ron – The Absent Author

Sachar, Louis – Marvin Redpost : Kidnapped at Birth?

Sharmat, Marjorie Weinman – Nate the Great

Sobol, Donald J. – Encyclopedia Brown- Boy Detective

Warner, Gertrude Chandler – The Boxcar Children


Recommended authors for Grade 3

Matt Christopher, Beverly Cleary, Barbara Cooney, Robert McCloskey, Patricia McKissack, Allen Say, Jon Scieszka, William Steig, and Chris Van Allsburg.



Barasch, Lynne – Radio Rescue

Blume, Judy – Fudge-a-Mania

Coville, Bruce – My Teacher is an Alien

Dahl, Roald – James and the Giant Peach

Erickson, John R. – The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog

Howe, Deborah – Bunnicula : A Rabbit Tale of Mystery

Lowry, Lois – Anastasia Krupnik

MacLachlan, Patricia – Caleb’s Story

O’Brien, Patrick – The Hindenburg

O’Brien, Robert C – Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Richler, Mordecai – Jacob Two-Two meets the Hooded Fang

Sachar, Louis – Sideways Stories from Wayside School

St. George, Judith – So you want to be President?

Tang, Greg – The Grapes of Math : Mind Stretching Math Riddles

Thayer, Ernest Lawrence – Casey at the Bat


Recommended Series for Grade 4

Abbott, Tony – The Hidden Stairs and the Magic Carpet

Gutman, Dan – Jim & Me : A Baseball Card Adventure

Gutman, Dan – My Weird School Daze!

Osborne, Mary Pope – Dinosaurs before Dark

Scieszka, Jon – Knights of the Kitchen Table

Snicket, Lemony – The Bad Beginning

Wilder, Laura Ingalls – Little House on the Prairie


Grade 5

■Avi – Never Mind! : A Twin Novel

Berlin, Eric – The Puzzling World of Winston Breen

Birdsall, Jeanne – The Penderwicks : A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy

Bosch, Pseudonymous – The Name of this Book is Secret

Broach, Elise – Masterpiece

Clements, Andrew – No Talking

Codell, Esme Raji – Vive la Paris

Davies, Nicola – Extreme Animals : The Toughest Creatures on Earth

Erdrich, Louise – The Birchbark House

Fleischman, Sid – Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini

Going, K. L. (Kelly L.) – The Liberation of Gabriel King

Gutman, Dan – The Kid who ran for President

Haven, Paul – Two Hot Dogs with Everything

Ibbotson, Eva – The Haunting of Granite Falls

Janeczko, Paul B – A Kick in the Head: an Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms

Juster, Norton – The Phantom Tollbooth

Lange, Karen E – 1607 : A New Look at Jamestown

Lowry, Lois – The Willoughbys

Mercado, Nancy E. – Tripping over the Lunch Lady : and other school stories

Park, Linda Sue – Project Mulberry : A Novel

Yue, Guo – Little Leap Forward : A Boy in Beijing


Recommended authors for Grade 4

Matt Christopher, Eleanor Coerr, Roald Dahl, Dan Gutman, Gordon Korman, Lois Lowry, Ann McGovern (Mainly j 973′s), Patricia Polacco, Shel Silverstein (j 811′s), Mild

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Filed under Curriculum Resources, Leveled Reading Lists, Recommended Books to Read, to Learn, to Inspire

Recommended Level Books with Some of our Favorite Series for Pre-K to Grade 8

Working in education for many years and being an ELA teacher, I love to read, recommend and talk books with students of all ages.  I have compiled a list of books based on what students say they are reading as we go into schools, and some of my personal favorites that I have utilized in the classroom or read at home.  Unlock the Teacher loves to share the good in education, so we would love to know some of your favorite reads too.

Given that the holidays are just around the corner, please share your favorite books with us and we will post it here as we compile a Christmas Must Have List for Readers of All Ages.  Send us your thoughts here, on our Facebook Page, or on Twitter @unlockteacher.


“Phonics Friends” eBook by Denise Ball, Trisha Vaughn and Sue Atwell @ Unlock the Teacher

“Mrs. Bindergarten gets Ready for Kindergarten” by Joseph Slate

“Here we go Around the Mulberry Bush” by Will Hillenbrand

The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn

“Dragon’s Alphabet Soup~Learn the ABC’s” an eBook by Rachel and Michael Yu

1st Grade

“Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” an eBook  by Oceanhouse Media

Frog and Toad are Friends” by Arnold Lobel in paper or eBook format

“Biscuit” Series by Alyssa Satin Capucilli

“Katie’s Farm Adventures” an eBook by Denise Ball, Trisha Vaughn, Sue Atwell @ Unlock the Teacher

“Katie’s Exploring Adventure” an eBook written and illustrated by OLQM 1st Graders

“Katie’s Horse Adventure” an eBook written and illustrated by OLQM 1st graders

“Fox and Friends” Series by Edward Marshall

“Frog and Toad” Series  (My daughter loved this series.)

2nd Grade

“Biscuit” Series by Alyssa Satin Capucilli

“Little Critter” Series by Mercer Mayer

“Dragon” Series by Dav Pilkey

“Henry and Mudge” Series by Cynthia Rylant

Robert Munsch Books

Keven Henkes Books

“Nate the Great” Series by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat (My son loved this series.)

3rd/4th Grade

“Horrible Harry” Series by Suzie Kline

“Judy Moody” Series by Megan McDonald

“Cam Jansen” Series by David Adler

“Jigsaw Jones Mystery” Series by James Prellar

“Magic Tree House” Series by Mary Pope Osborn (paperback and eBook form) *Great to enhance imagination

“Junie B. Jones” Series by Barbara Park *Funny and good vocabulary builder

“Stink” Series by Megan McDonald

“Franny K. Stein” Series by Jim Benton

Matt Christopher Books

“Rainbow Magic” Series by Daisey Meadows

“The Adventures of the Beailey School Kids” Books by Debbie Dadey and Mearcia Thorton Jones

“Flat Stanley” Series by Jeff Brown

“Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle” Series by Betty MacDonald

“Pony Pals” Series by Jeanne Betancourt

“My Weird School” and “My Weird Daze” Series by Dan Gutman

“Nancy Drew” and “Clue Crew” by Carolyn Keene

“A to Z Mystery” Series by Ron Roy

“Black Lagoon Adventures” Series by Mike Thaler

“Katie Kazoo Switcheroo” Series by Nancy Krulik

“Amber Brown” Series by Paula Danzinger

“The Time Warp Trio” Series by Jan Scieszka

“Spring into Art and Poetry” an eBook and Poetry Unit by Denise Ball, Trisha Vaughn, Sue Atwell @ Unlock the Teacher

“Geronimo Stilton” Series

“Encyclopedia Brown” Series by Donald Sobol

“Mysteries of the Beach” an eBook by Denise Ball, Trisha Vaughn, Sue Atwell at Unlock the Teacher

“Boxcar Children” Series by Gertrude Warner

“Clementine” Series by Sara Pennypacker

“Animal Ark” Series by Ben Baglio

“Secrets of Droon” Series by Tony Abbott

“Wayside School” Series by Louis Sachar


“The Indian in the Cupboard” Series by Lynn Banks

“Fudge” Series by Judy Blume

E.B.White Books

“Michigan and American Chillers” by Jonathan Rand

Ronald Dahl Books

Beverly Cleary Books

“Little House” Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

“Eleanor Estes Books

A Series of Unfortunate Events” Series by Lemony Snicket

“Harry Potter” Series by J.K. Rowling in eBook or Paper Format

“The Ranger’s Apprentice” Series *One of my favorite series!

Louis Lowry Books


“Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls

“Winning Season” Series by Rich Wallace

The Adventures of Wishbone” Series by Nancy Butcher

“Harry Potter” Series by JK Rowling

“The Ranger’s Apprentice” Series *One of my all time favorite series!

Louis Lowry Books

Here are a few good websites for additional information on leveled readers:

May we continue to seek knowledge in all things,


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Workshop with Teens Produces a Great Insight into What They are Reading This Summer…Grisham, Patterson, Zusak, Riordan and Horowitz Were the Top Author Contenders

I met with a group of teens a few weeks back and asked them if they would like to share with all of our readers, the books they are currently reading and will read this summer.  The following is a list of books they provided.  I enjoyed teaching middle school and it is always refreshing to meet with young people and actually l-i-s-t-e-n to what they have to say or share.  This group of teens were articulate about their futures, the future of our country and the role they see themselves in helping make our world better.

So this is a shout out to that group of young people (that worked with Mrs. Ball ;-)), with whom I have no doubt will be amazing leaders of tomorrow. Acte non verbe!

Workshop Reveals What Teens are Reading

"Wolf Brother" by Michelle Paver was one of the group's favorites!

Grisham and Patterson were hot favorites for girls and boys.

"The Book Thief" by Zusak is an amazing read...highly recommend for literature teachers everywhere! Denise 😉

The whole team at Unlock the Teacher LLC is looking forward to an exciting teaching year with schools around the United States (and possibly abroad)…stay tuned as we will continually share what our children, our future is reading.  What we allow into our minds plays an important role of what and who we become, regardless of age!

May we continue to seek knowledge in all things,

Denise 😉


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First Graders’ Second eBook “Katie’s Horse Adventure” is Now Available at Barnes and Proceeds Go Towards Promoting Literacy at Elementary School

"Katie's Horse Adventure" an eBook Written by Kids for Kids

First Graders’ Second eBook Katie’s Horse Adventure is Now Available at Barnes and Thank you to everyone who has supported the Katie’s Farm Adventures series.  All Proceeds Go Towards Promoting Literacy at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Elementary School.

We have been busy working on additional eBooks to donating to elementary schools for the 2011/2012 school year…stay tuned!

If your school would like to have Unlock the Teacher LLC come in and facilitate one of our writing workshop for a class or series of grades, we would be happy to come and share this wonderful writing process that gets children so excited about writing and reading their own work.

Recommendations are available upon request.

I wish everyone a fabulous summer filled with many learning moments~

Denise 😉

Join us on Facebook and Twitter:

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Twitter~ unlockteacher

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1st Grade Authors and Illustrators Third eBook in “Katie’s Farm Adventures” Series Available at Barnes and Saturday, July 10th

Katie’s Farm Adventures Series

Book I ~"Katie's Farm Adventure" with Coloring Book and Parent/Teacher Resource

“Katie’s Farm Adventures” is just that, a 32 page children’s literature book that describes all the adventures one can have on a farm through Katie’s eyes. This book is one of four eBooks where all proceeds will go to selected elementary schools to develop literacy funds; the academic focus for this book is sight words. This eBook includes a parent/teacher resource section and 12 coloring pages, the sketches used for the paintings.

Book II~ "Katie's Exploring Adventure" Academic Focus: Sight Words and Includes a Parent/Teacher Resource













This 23 page book is written and illustrated by a 1st grade class.  “Katie’s Exploring Adventure” is the second book in “Katie’s Farm Adventures” series.  In this book, Katie goes on a hike through the woods with her parents and discovers some colorful insects, falls into a huge pile of mud and through it all maintains a great sense of humor and sense of adventure.

All proceeds from these books go towards promoting literacy at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs School at For further information about having your class participate in a “Writing ePublishing Workshop” please contact Unlock the Teacher LLC at  or visit our website at

Book III~"Katie's Horse Adventure" Academic Focus: Sight Words, Includes a Parent/Teacher Resource













Katie’s Horse Adventure is twenty pages of colorful and fun-filled reading.  This book focuses on strengthening sight words and each page identifies sight words to help emerging readers.

We had so much fun working with this first grade class and seeing them get so excited about writing, illustrating and reading their collaborative efforts.  Thank you to all who have already purchased one of these eBooks that promotes literacy.  collectively, this series has sold over 50 books thus far.  All proceeds go directly to Our Lady Queen of Martyrs School Literacy Fund.  The principal and teachers can then utilize this money for professional development, new technology and/or new books for library. Unlock the Teacher LLC is just thrilled to be a part of this process.

If your district, school or youth group would like us to come and conduct one of our Writing and ePublishing Workshops, please email us at Additional information on all of our student and teacher workshops can be found at  We are scheduling events, workshops and conferences now for the 2011/2012 school year.

**We work with schools and youth groups who need financial assistance~together we can make a difference!

May we continue to seek knowledge in all things,




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Sneak Peak at the Cover for the Third eBook in the “Katie’s Farm Adventures” Series~All Proceeds Go Directly to Elementary School to Promote Literacy

"Katie's Horse Adventure" Book III in the "Katie's Farm Adventures" written and illustrated by a wonderful and creative first grade class...who love to write!

We love going into schools to work with teachers and students.  This year, we have had great experiences working with talented educators wanting to be ahead of the pack and correlate their curriculum to the Common Core State Standards; one year ahead of the CCSSI criteria set.  In fact, the teachers we worked with this year were so excited about the Common Core State Standards, that they not only correlated the Math as expected (one year ahead of schedule) but the ELA as well.  Thank you to all the educators who allowed us to work with them and be apart of the positive synergistic curriculum change for our children, our future!

With this said, out of all of our workshops conducted in schools this past year, from “How to ePublish for Teens” to “Writing Workshops for grades 1-5”, we had so much fun with the OLQM First Grade Class.  We enjoyed each and every workshop and all the excitement that the students brought, specially the teens so excited to learn how to use their writing to benefit their college future.
OLQM was the recipient of Unlock the Teacher LLC’s  first donated eBook  (“Katie’s Farm Adventures“) for the 2010/2011 school year.
The first grade class explained how they were so excited about the book, that they wanted to write another adventure for Katie.  Since January 2011, this first grade class has not only written and illustrated one adventure for Katie, but two”
Katie’s Exploring Adventure and Katie’s Horse AdventureKatie’s Exploring Adventure has received great review(s) from other educators and Katie’s Horse Adventure is due to be published with Barnes and by the end of the month.
Unlock the Teacher LLC is thrilled to be a part of this amazing experience and look forward to writing and donating more of our own work to new elementary schools in the upcoming 2011/2012 school year.
On behalf of all the students who will benefit from your eBook purchase, we thank you for promoting literacy!
If your school would like to receive one of our donated eBooks next school year or would like to participate in one of the many workshops we offer, please feel free to email us @ or visit our website at
Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend,
Denise, Trisha and Sue
The Unlock the Teacher LLC team


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