The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education

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As states, cities and local municipalities struggle to balance their budgets, teachers and their unions are under fire. As the United States falls behind so many other countries in educational perormance, teachers also come under fire. Reach And Teach is honored to work with and be in touch with thousands of teachers all over this country, and quite a few around the world. We believe that the problem is not in the teachers, but in our nation's priorities and the flawed way we measure performance. That's why we were thrilled to catch Diane Ravitch on the Daily Show, a program that has become one of the best sources for understanding complex issues facing our country. Yes, it is a comedy show, but the best comedy is based on the truth. Check out this interview with Diane Ravitch, author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.

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Seeking Lesson Plans and Resources on Homelessness

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IvyReach And Teach will soon publish Ivy, Homeless in San Francisco. To go along with the book, we're creating a set of web resources and lesson plans. We would love your help in gathering some of that content. If you know of a great web site about homelessness (educational, inspirational, or practical), please click here to let us know. If you have lesson plans you'd like to share, or if you'd like to write a lesson plan, please click here. If you'd like to be an advance-reviewer and are willing to provide quotes about the book we can use in publicity, click here and let us know.

Below is a press release we're working on for the book, including a link to the pre-purchase page on our web site. We would be thrilled if you pre-ordered a copy (or ten). The more pre-orders we get, the higher the number of books we can print which will help reduce the per-book price. And... we'll donate $1 to the National Center on Family Homelessness for every pre-sold book! 

Click here to pre-order the book.

Press Release:

San Mateo, CA. February 16, 2011


One in Fifty Children in USA Are Homeless
Bay Area Publisher To Release Novel about a Homeless Girl in San Francisco

SAN MATEO, CA - Is a child sitting next to your child in school homeless? According to a study by the National Center on Family Homelessness, one in 50 children in U.S. schools is. Reach And Teach, a Bay Area peace and social justice learning company, wanted to bring national attention to this and in June is releasing Ivy, Homeless in San Francisco, a novel for children and young adults written by Berkeley author, Summer Brenner, and illustrated by San Francisco artist, Brian Bowes. Blending a spoonful of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist with a dash of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City and a few pinches of the Adventures of Lassie, Reach And Teach believes that Ivy's tale will appeal to young and old alike, in the Bay Area and beyond.

In this empathetic tale of hope, understanding, and the importance of family, readers face the difficult issue of poverty and the many hardships of being homeless through an inspiring young heroine named Ivy, a young girl who finds herself living on the streets of San Francisco when she and her father, Poppy, are evicted from their artist loft. Struggling to survive day-to-day, Ivy and Poppy befriend a dog who takes them to the ramshackle home of quirky siblings, Eugenia and Oscar Orr, marking the start of their amazing adventures.

John Broughton, Associate Professor at Columbia University wrote, "Ivy is an engaging, educational experience, with emotional range, density of characters, a cinematic visual imagination, and a heroine wild at heart. We have a lot to learn about homelessness, and Summer Brenner's saga of fractured family and redeeming friendship takes us deep inside the experience, while agitating our broader concern with social justice. All this in a lucid, poetic prose. She not only will get young people to read but make them want to write as well."

Nine-year-old Arianna of Berkeley said "Ivy is a great book. I especially like the way the storyline curves up and down with exciting and quiet moments. When I was reading it, I kept on saying to myself, 'No, just one more chapter, just one more chapter!' In other words, I could not put it down."

For More Information and To Obtain Review Copies:

The book will be available in bookstores on June 20th, 2011. A special web site will be available with lesson plans and other resources for learning and engaging in activities that address homelessness. Advanced-review copies will be available for press and award committees in April 2011.

Customers may pre-order the book now, and for each pre-ordered book, Reach And Teach will make a donation to the The National Center on Family Homelessness and the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.

Click here to pre-order the book.

Reach And Teach is an imprint of PM Press, distributed internationally by Independent Publishers Group (IPG). More information can be found at, and

Tunisia/Egypt Lesson Plans and Resources

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Photos by Timothy Kaldas and Ramy Raoo  From the Choices Program Web Site

Educators are beginning to compile resources that can be used in K-12 (and University) classrooms and as we learn of those resources we'll add them to this list. If you have a resource to recommend, please click here to let us know about it.

URGENT: A webinar for educators will be held by Harvard University on Monday February 7th. Click here for information.

Spring & Summer Job Opportunities Facilitating Service-Learning Programs for Middle and High School Students

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NEWS From The Civic Education Project:
Spring & Summer Job Opportunities Facilitating Service-Learning Programs for Middle and High School Students
The Civic Education Project (CEP) at Northwestern University is NOW HIRING exceptional staff for our Spring & Summer 2011 service-learning programs. CEP offers weekend, weeklong and three-week service-learning courses for outstanding middle and high school students during the spring and summer. CEP programs engage motivated students in exploring complex social issues, provide students with hands-on opportunities to explore their role in creating change, and inspire students to take action. This year, CEP will offer programs in Chicago, Baltimore, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, covering topics such as law & criminal justice, politics & urban development, education policy & school reform, public health and civic engagement.

Available Job Opportunities
We are looking for outstanding teachers from public and private schools and universities, service-learning practitioners, othereducation, youth development and nonprofit professionals, and graduate and undergraduate students. Instructional, residential, and administrative positions are available, ranging from two-day to seven-week sessions. Staff generally receive a cash stipend, room & board and training in service-learning and experiential education. However, the biggest payoff comes from the opportunity to work with bright, motivated students, build community with passionate, dynamic colleagues, and gain valuable experience educating young people about civic engagement and social responsibility.

How to Apply
To learn more about CEP programs and staff positions or to apply online, visit our website at:


Spring staff consideration begins NOW, and summer staff consideration begins February 1, 2011. Applications are accepted at any time but are reviewed on a rolling basis as they are received, so candidates are encouraged to apply early to ensure full consideration. Apply now to join a "group of people working together for a common cause," -- inspiring young people to make a difference!

Ivy - Homeless in San Francisco

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One of the earliest projects the team at Reach And Teach worked on was with a national homelessness organization, trying to save a curriculum from gathering dust in a closet. Ever since then we've continued to hunt for great resources to teach about homelessness and advocate for programs and policies that would reduce homelessness in our community, state and country.

In June 2011, Reach And Teach will take the next leap in working to educate people about homelessness through the release of our childrens/Young Adult novel, Ivy - Homeless in San Francisco. 

The awesome writer, Summer Brenner, wrote the first version of this book over a decade ago and it has long since gone out of print. We asked Summer to write a new version and she has done a fantastic job on an already great read. This new and updated version will also include brand new illustrations by artist Brian Bowes. 

About the Book:

Here's how the catalogs will be describing the book.

In this empathetic tale of hope, understanding, and the importance of family, readers face the difficult issue of poverty and the many hardships of being homeless through an inspiring young heroine named Ivy. Ivy is the story of a young girl who finds herself homeless on the streets of San Francisco when she and her father, Poppy, are evicted from his artist loft.

Struggling to survive day to day, Ivy and Poppy befriend a dog who takes them to the ramshackle home of quirky siblings Eugenia and Oscar Orr, marking the start of some amazing adventures. Blending a spoonful of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist with a dash of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City and a few pinches of the Adventures of Lassie, Ivy's tale will appeal to young readers as well as give adults material to discuss with children.

We Need Your Help

There are three ways you can help us in the months leading up to this book's release.

  • The manuscript has been completed and the illustrations are coming fast and furious out of Brian's talented hands. So, we're now ready to start asking for your help! We'd love to have some teachers, parents, literary critics, librarians, book-lovers, and others who would be willing to read the book either electronically (we can give you PDF or Kindle versions) or we can send an early pre-release print in April. Are you interested? If so, click here to let us know.
  • We plan to have a web page with lots of resources for people to learn about, teach about, and then do something about homelessness. Do you have a favorite lesson plan, fact sheet, activity, book, web site, or other resource you'd like to recommend? If so, click here to let us know about it.
  • Pre-Order a copy of this book from Reach And Teach (click here). OR, help get the book onto the NY Times Best Seller list by pre-ordering it from Amazon by clicking here (yes, we know, but if you buy books from them anyway, why not help a book like Ivy make the news?)

2011 Calendars at Bargain Prices

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We're hoping to clear out the remaining few calendars in our inventory so we've reduced the prices on them. Click here to visit our calendar page to get your 2011 calendars before they are all (we hope soon) gone!

Abe in Arms Chosen As One of Ten Best

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Abe in ArmsReach And Teach YA novel Abe in Arms was recently listed as one of the Ten for '10: Best Books for Youth on Social Justice and Intercultural Understanding by Lyn Miller-Lachman, author of the incredibly powerful novel, Gringolandia.

In the Times Union Newspaper, Lachman says: Many "top ten" book lists have appeared in the past month, and there will be more after the first of the year. Some of my favorite reads of the year have turned up on these lists, but many excellent books for young readers seem to have been passed over, particularly those published by small presses. In genres dominated by paranormal romance, and with economically beleaguered publishers going with what's established and safe, stories about young people from diverse backgrounds or stories that raise uncomfortable issues don't usually get the attention they deserve. So for all the librarians, teachers, parents, and young readers themselves, here are some great books that you might have missed.

Click here to read the entire article online.

Click here to read more about and purchase Abe in Arms.


Abe in Arms Nominated for CYBILS Award

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Reach And Teach is honored to announce that Abe in Arms, a YA novel by Pegi Deitz Shea, has been nominated for the 2010 Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Award. It was nominated in the young adult fiction category and between now and January 1st judges will be reviewing all nominated titles and come up with a short list for finalists. Information about the awards can be found at

Click here to buy the book.

About Abe in Arms

This contemporary young adult novel portrays the pressures of teens to live a normal life, let alone succeed at high levels; while facing mental illness and--in Abe's case--a past that no one could possibly understand--or survive.

A senior in high school, Abe's got a Division I track scholarship awaiting him, a hot girlfriend, and a loving and wealthy adoptive family, including a brother his age. But suddenly, horrific flashbacks and seizures rip him back five years ago to war-torn Africa, where he lost his mother, his sister, his friends, and almost his own life to torturous violence. In therapy for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Abe uncovers even darker moments that make him question why he's still alive.

Pegi Deitz Shea has written a suspenseful, action-filled book that will open teens' eyes and hearts to the lives of young people exposed to violence around the world.

Click here to view excerpts from Abe in Arms and see lesson plans and other resources.


Preview Abe in ArmsAbe in Arms is powerful and vivid, a moving exploration of the after effects of severe childhood trauma.  Readers will come to care deeply about Abe as he struggles to overcome the emotional consequences of surviving the brutal life of a child soldier.--Sharon McClintock, Children's Librarian - City of Mountain View Public Library 

"Written in straightforward prose, Abe In Arms hooks you on and pulls you deep into the past. It tells the story of Abe as he sorts through his war torn past. Abe struggles with the juxtaposition of the past and the present, Liberia and the US, a militant rebel and a loving family.  I found myself rooting for Abe, both on and off the track - Cheering when he succeeds and disheartened as he falters."--Jeremy Mineau, PAC10 and NCAA Championship Runner - University of Washington Huskies

"Pegi Shea’s book, Abe in Arms, although fictional in nature, could have been true for any number of young boys in West Africa whose lives were devastated by conscription into the rebel army through force, threats, manipulation, bribery, and drugs. As a counselor and member of a trauma team who went to Liberia to teach counseling skills to civic and religious leaders following their civil war, I found it very heart breaking to witness the long term effects of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome upon the young boys, often no more than 11-14 years of age. Although there is a nation-wide effort in Liberia to rehabilitate these young boys, many require extensive mental health treatment and the prognoses are often disappointing. In her book, Pegi Shea engrosses us in the horrors of war, pulls at our heartstrings as we weep for Abe, and causes us to yearn for a time when he can confront the demons that control his life. At the same time, she explores the wrenching irony of war refugees being thrust into an American youth culture that glamorizes the very violence that has caused Abe so much anguish.  Shea’s resolution, like Abe’s epiphany, is surprising, believable, and gratifying"
--Eleanor Porter Pershing, PhD., West Africa Trauma Team


"Whether in the ruined cities of Bosnia or the refugee camps in Thailand, the images that stay with me the longest are of the children... What will their futures be like when all they've known is war and fear? This book perfectly captures the ambiguity of traumatic memories and the paradox of healing faced by a boy who survived the war but struggles to become whole."
---Susan Beam, International Rescue Committee (IRC); Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Bosnia.

"Working in Zaire, I encountered many check-points to and from Kigali, Rwanda, patrolled by child soldiers.  Although they tried to look tough with their mirrored sunglasses and AK-47s, they could barely carry their weapons. They were also nervous and jumpy which made them extremely dangerous. This book doesn't romanticize child soldiers, but is nonetheless a story of their hope in regaining trust in themselves and in others."
---Ferdinand Kalkhuis, Doctors without Borders; International Rescue Committee (IRC); and United Methodist Committee for Relief (UMCOR) in Bosnia and Kosovo.

About the Author:

Pegi Deitz Shea is best known for exploring human rights issues in children's books. Pegi has brought the worlds of refugees, immigrants, child laborers, and historical figures into the minds of readers of all ages. Her books include The Whispering Cloth, Tangled Threads, Ten Mice for Tet, The Carpet Boy's Gift and Patience Wright. Her books have been made Notables by organizations including the International Reading Association, National Council of Teachers of English, National Council for the Social Studies, Bank Street College, Junior Library Guild and the New York Public Library. She has been teaching writing for the Institute of Children's Literature since 1996, and teaching children's literature at the University of Connecticut since 2007. Pegi has presented at more than 350 schools, libraries and conferences across the nation. Raised in New Jersey, Pegi lives in Connecticut with her family when she's not traipsing around the world.


It's Here, It's Queer, It's a Coloring Book!

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Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away with Another Spoon
SF Bay Area Publisher Announces New Coloring Book for Kids and Adults
Available Worldwide on National Coming Out Day – October 11th

Click here to purchase a copy!


Sometimes the SpoonSan Mateo, CA (October 11, 2010):  Reach And Teach, a Bay Area peace and social justice learning company, has released the second in a series of “gender-stereotype-busting” coloring books, entitled Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away with Another Spoon with text by Jacinta Bunnell and graphics by Nat Kusinitz. Reach And Teach co-founder Craig Wiesner says “With the historic federal court judge's ruling saying that banning same-gender marriage is unconstitutional, and a likely hearing by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals scheduled soon, we are especially excited that this new coloring book has arrived just in time for October 11th, 2010 which is National Coming Out Day.”

Jacinta Bunnell, in the coloring book’s forward, says “If Mother Goose were alive today, she would have rewritten her nursery rhymes to reflect life as it is lived today. Let us do the job of Mother Goose; let us move forward with more honest representations of ourselves and our children. Consider this book a step in that journey. Today’s culture ridicules sensitive boys, strong girls, and other children who don’t fit into cookie-cutter categories.” Bunnell and Kusinitz decided to take a friendly jab at the ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’ nursery rhyme for this coloring book’s title and throughout they picked images and text that break down some of the stereotypes found in modern pop culture as well as historic children’s stories and nursery rhymes. Learning is always easier when you start with something familiar and use the familiar as a starting point to introduce new, more inclusive, and open ways of looking at the world.


The first in this series was Girls Are Not Chicks. “It has been by far one of our best-selling products.” said Reach And Teach co-founder Derrick Kikuchi. “The title alone stops people in their tracks. Then, when they start leafing through the pages, laughter ensues! We expect the title and cover art for this new coloring book to be even more eye-catching and track-stopping. Too many folks want to keep everyone else organized into neat little boxes. What better day than National Coming Out Day to say that those boxes (and closets) are way too confining?”

Press review copies of Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away With Another Spoon are available now from Reach And Teach (click here to email a request).

Cover and inside images and more details about the coloring book are available at

Click here to purchase a copy! 

About Reach And Teach:


Reach And Teach is a peace and social justice learning company, working to transform the world through teachable moments. Reach And Teach creates and distributes books, games, curriculum, music, DVDs, maps, toys, and fair-trade gifts that promote peacemaking, nonviolence, inclusiveness (GLBTQ/Gender) and healing the planet. Reach And Teach publishes books through its imprint with PM Press. For more information visit


About PM Press:


PM Press was founded in 2007 to create radical and stimulating fiction and non-fiction books, pamphlets, t-shirts, visual and audio materials to entertain, educate, and inspire. In August 2010 PM Press celebrated the release of its 100th title. PM Press titles are distributed worldwide through the Independent Publishers Group (IPG). For more information visit







Reach And Teach Author Honored

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Reach And Teach future author (Spring 2011 - Ivy, Homeless in San Francisco), Summer Brenner, is being honored for her book Richmond Tales: Lost Secrets of the Iron Triangle. What's most interesting about the award, is that it is a Historic Preservation Award, something that usually goes to buildings. But the city of Richmond knows that preservation is about much more than that. "When you think of preservation you think of buildings," said Sandi Genser-Maack of the Richmond Historic Preservation Advisory Committee, "but we don't have many buildings. We have people, we have publications, we have exhibits, which to me is exciting."

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