Literary Techniques: What is Choral Reading?

If you’re looking for a unique way to keep your child engaged in reading over the summer, you might want to consider doing some choral reading at home.  In case you’ve never heard of it, choral reading is a literacy technique that helps students build their fluency, self-confidence, and motivation to read.  It takes a minimum of two people to participate, but the entire family can join the fun! 

During choral reading activities, the teacher is an active participant and helps set the pace and model proper pronunciation.  As participants rehearse a particular passage aloud in unison, they will learn to assimilate the following important reading skills:  (a.) decoding skills, (b.) effective and fluent oral reading skills, (c.) sight vocabulary, and (d.) pronunciation skills. 

It is important to make sure that choral reading is a fun learning experience, so you must find appropriate materials to use.  Rhymes, poetry, and lyrics are especially suited to choral reading because of their rhythm, meter, patterns, rhymes, and characters, but the choice is up to you. 

Here are some simple suggestions to help you get started:

1. Choose material that will be fun to read and have a printed copy available for each participant. One person reads aloud to the group or all read silently.

2.  Make sure the participants understand the meaning of the piece thoroughly by discussing the selection.

-Who is the speaker?

-What is the setting?

-Under what conditions was the piece written?

-What is the theme?  What is the author trying to say?  Explain the central idea of the piece.

-Define new words.

-Clear up vague meanings.

 3.  Teach the participants to:

- Begin together,

- Speak at the same rate of speed, and

- Finish at the same split second.

4. As you read the passage together, avoid the pitfall of a sing-song, dull, monotonous reading.  Work for variety.

5. Make it fun.


Here’s a great piece to help you get started with choral reading today.  I hope you’ll be inspired to look for more selections!

What Shall I Pack in the Box Marked "Summer"? 

by Bobbi Katz

A handful of wind that I caught with a kite

A firefly’s flame in the dark of the night

The green grass of June that I tasted with toes

The flowers I knew from the tip of my nose

The clink of ice cubes in pink lemonade

The Fourth of July Independence Parade!

The sizzle of hot dogs, the fizzle of coke

Some pickles and mustard and barbecue smoke

The print of my fist in the palm of my mitt,

As I watched for the batter to strike out or hit

The splash of the water, the top-to-toe cool

Of a stretch-and-kick trip through a blue swimming pool

The tangle of night songs that slipped through my screen

Of crickets and insects too small to be seen

The seed pods that formed on the flowers to say

That Summer was packing her treasures away.

Would you like additional information on Choral Reading? Take a look at this great resource…

A Chorus of Cultures: Developing Literacy Through Multicultural Poetry

Summer Learning: How to create a positive summer reading experience

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Summer vacation is supposed to be a break from the usual routine of school, but many parents worry their kid’s reading skills will digress without some sort of action plan.  According to the "Kids and Family Reading Report," a survey done by Scholastic, an American publishing company, those fears might not be far from the truth for some.

Scholastic’s most recent report showed that among kids ages 9-11, 14% did not read any books during the summer of 2018, compared with 7% in 2016. Among kids ages 15-17, 32% did not ready any books during the summer of 2018, compared with 22% in 2016. 

Now, before you hit the panic button, it’s important to let you know that the same report found that nearly 60% of kids ages 6-17 did have a positive experience reading books over the summer.  So, what can you do as a parent to help increase your child’s odds of having a positive reading experience during their time off from school? 

First, give your child permission to read as many books as possible this summer for pleasure.  Let them choose their own books whether they are easy or hard, long or short.  The truth is that it doesn’t matter as long as they enjoy them.   Also, let them know that you are not going to ask them questions to find out whether they understood the books or not.  If they can understand enough of a book to enjoy it and want to go on reading it, then let them!

Secondly, if a child doesn’t want to finish a book they’ve started, that’s okay!  They should give an author a chance to get the story going, but if they don’t like the characters and don’t care what happens to them, it’s perfectly okay to find a different book.

Lastly, you must keep in mind that reading is reading regardless of the venue.  Let your child select what they want to read from hard cover books and magazines to online versions.  Giving a child permission to read for pleasure will be the best thing you can do for them over the summer!  Too often, reading is associated with comprehension questions and vocabulary checks.  When you remove them, reading for pleasure becomes the focus!

Summer Learning: Taking a Brain Break with Meditation

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If you’ve been following our Shurley English Blog posts, you know we’ve been flooding you with creative ideas on how to continue supporting your students’ academic progress throughout the summer.  We are aware that with the high demands placed upon our children in today’s U.S. classrooms, it’s evident that children (and adults) have fewer opportunities to truly unwind and relax. 

Today, my suggestion is to remember to INCLUDE some “DOWNTIME” into your child’s daily summer schedule, and here’s why:

  • Research shows that time off-task is important for proper brain function and health.

  • The brain uses 20% of the body’s energy while on-task.

  • Napping 10-30 minutes can increase alertness and improve performance.

  • Meditation is a way to give the brain a break from work and refresh the ability to concentrate.

  • Resting mental states help us process our experiences, consolidate memories, reinforce learning, regulate our attention and emotions, and keep us productive!

Downtime will give the brain an opportunity to make sense of what has just been learned, and shifting off-task can actually help learners refresh their minds, gain insight, and return to the task with more focus.

Brain Break Exercise: Meditation with Mindful Breathing

I mentioned meditation as a way to give the brain a break, so show your students how to tap into their own superhero relaxation powers with this simple breathing exercise.  Teach your students that their breath is an amazing tool that can help them relax or calm down at any given moment.  It can help them manage the ups and downs of school and life—all they have to do is breathe.

The purpose of a breathing meditation is to calm the mind and develop inner peace.  We can use breathing meditations to reduce our distractions and feel a deep sense of relaxation.  Allow this breathing exercise to bring more calmness into your classroom while your students learn a valuable tool that helps them relax.

  • Mindful Breathing Exercise (2-5 minutes)

  • Students can stand or sit for this activity.

  • Ask students to put both hands on their belly.

  • Students should close their eyes, or look down to their hands.

  • Guide students in taking three slow deep breaths in and out to see if they can feel their hands being moved.

  • You may like to count “1, 2, 3” for each breath in and “1, 2, 3” for each breath out, pausing slightly at the end of each exhale.

  • Encourage students to think about how the breath feels, answering the following questions silently, in their mind.

    What is moving your hands? Is it the air filling your lungs?
    Can you feel the air moving in through your nose?
    Can you feel it moving out through your nose?
    Does the air feel a little colder on the way in and warmer on the way out?
    Can you hear your breath?
    What does it sound like?

Remember, time off-task isn’t always wasted time or a sign of laziness. I encourage you to create the balance between being a “human-being” and a “human-doing” this summer!

End-of-School-Year Activity: Creating a Summer Bucket List

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As eager as your students are for the school year to end, it won’t be long until they are actually bored during their summer break.  Yes, I said “bored.”  Help your students stay focused and creative while they gear-up for that day with this fun and creative classroom activity.

In this blog, I will share an activity that will teach students a valuable lesson as they create their own Summer Bucket List.  The catch is that they will create it while working in small groups.  As always, you can do as much or as little as you like with this idea.  Here’s how to get started.


Lesson and Class Discussion:

First, start the lesson with the whole class by following these steps:

  1. Read aloud and discuss this story, Seven Captive Princesses

  2. Review the definition of the word boredom.  Merriam-Webster defines it as the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest.

  3. Discuss how boredom doesn’t have to be a negative or bad thing in their life.  The state of boredom can be an opportunity to tap into their creativity.  Allow students to share their personal experiences with boredom and their solution for it with the class.

  4.  Ask students if they’ve ever been bored during a vacation.  Ask them to describe what they will do when they get bored over their summer break.  Allow a few students to share their ideas. (Make popsicles, make a DIY costume, plant something, make a movie, etc.)


Group Work: Brainstorming

Next, divide your students into small groups (3-4 students per group).

  1. Allow 10-15 minutes for each group to brainstorm a list of activities they could do when they get bored during the upcoming summer vacation.                  

  2. Instruct them to write their list on a numbered sheet of paper. 

  3. When complete, have each group place their list in the middle of the table where they worked. 

  4. Give groups time to rotate around to each groups’ table. (3-5 minutes per table)

  5. Each group will review and discuss the other group’s ideas amongst themselves.


Then, when the rotations are complete, have students go back to their individual desks.  Explain the meaning of a “Summer Bucket List.”  In this case, you can describe it as a list of things or activities that someone has never done before but would like to do before the summer ends. 


Individual Work: Create a Summer Bucket List

  1. Pass out the “Summer Bucket List” worksheet.  (See Example.)

  2. Ask students to complete their list individually. Add some fun beach music in the background, or enjoy a popsicle treat if you’d like.

  3.  Have students staple their lists on a pre-made and ready to decorate bulletin board. (Be sure students take home their lists on the last day of school.) 


Again, go as big or small as you’d like to create the bulletin board.  It’s up to you! With their Summer Bucket List ready to go, your students will hopefully have a creative summer break!

Oh, and don’t forget about YOU!…what’s on your Summer Bucket List?

Activity Time: Say goodbye to mental burnout

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In some of my previous posts, I have touched upon the importance of keeping kids moving in the classroom.  Physical movement wakes up their brains, gets their blood flowing, and it’s just plain fun. While many of us typically seek comfort and routine in our daily lives, students in a classroom don’t always need that kind of comfort.  Yes, routines can help people stay focused and build self-discipline, but too much routine can also turn us into rigid creatures of habit. In my experience, students are more focused when classroom routines are followed, but there are also great benefits when they step away from the daily grind, and get moving. This is the ideal way to help them avoid mental burnout. 

When you add something out of the ordinary to your classroom activities, your students liven up.  I have found that the key to success in the classroom is the right mix of consistency and novelty, which can add just the right amount of spice!  The rhythm of Shurley English lessons provides day-to-day consistency and routine to keep students fully engaged in learning Language Arts.  However, students need something fresh and new to avoid mental burn-out.  Adding some creative flare to your Shurley English lessons can help you meet the needs of all learning styles and keep the learning process alive in your classroom.  When teachers integrate a healthy balance of consistency, practice, repetition, and differentiated activities, all students can enjoy success!

Take, for example, a simple game of charades.  This super activity engages the brain and has a powerful impact on kinesthetic and visual learners.  If you love to see students having fun while learning, here are a couple of ways you can make it happen when teaching verbs and imperative sentences, using charades:

Verb Charades

Supplies needed:  note cards

To reinforce verbs, make a list of simple action verbs and write each verb on an index card. Next, divide your students into teams. Then, one student from a team will draw a card and act out the action verb while their teammates attempt to guess the verb. If the student’s team guesses his/her action correctly, the team receives one point.

Imperative Charades

Supplies needed:  paper, pencil, note cards

To practice imperative sentences, have each student write a list of imperative sentences that can be acted out. (Examples: Close the door. Open a book.) Next, divide students into pairs and have them take turns reading their sentences. (This is the time to ensure each sentence is truly imperative.) Then, have students write each imperative sentence on a notecard. Gather all the notecards and mix them up. Now, it’s time to form teams and play Imperative Charades. One student from a team will draw a card and act out the command while their teammates attempt to guess the command. If the student’s team guesses his/her command correctly, the team receives one point.

These activities are sure to ward off the mental burnout that can sometimes set in at this time of year. So, liven up your classroom with a game of charades; it might be just the ticket to restore focus and energy!

FREE Language Arts Jingles from Shurley English


If you’re ready to learn English definitions in a fun and easy way, Shurley English Jingles are for you! Using domain-specific language, our definitions for the parts of speech and many other important language arts concepts incorporate rhythm, rhyme, and movement. Jingles provide the tools for critical thinking during sentence analysis and writing.  

Our multi-sensory approach provides an active, hands-on learning environment in which kids truly understand and retain language arts skills for a lifetime. (We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Jingles are an extremely effective way to learn information!) We invite you to incorporate Jingle Time into your classroom or homeschool today!

For the first time in 30 years, we are excited to offer our Shurley English Language Arts Jingles for FREE! Getting started is easy…

  1. Go to the Shurley Instructional Materials YouTube Channel.

  2. Subscribe so you will know when a new jingle is uploaded.

  3. Have fun learning language arts definitions!

P.S. Don’t forget to share these jingles with your friends!

What’s next? Have you learned all of the Shurley English Jingles? If so, take the next step! It’s time to show students how to apply this knowledge to sentence classification, where they learn the parts of speech and correct sentence structure. These skills serve as the foundation for students to write better sentences, paragraphs, and essays. The result—successful writers! Let’s get started.

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Kim Shurley

Kim Shurley is a wife, mother, educator, and wanna-be rockstar. She graduated with honors from the University of Arkansas-Little Rock with a degree in Marketing in 1999. Upon her graduation, Kim joined the Shurley Team, where she collaborates on product development and promotion with her mother-in-law, Brenda Shurley.

Kim believes wholeheartedly in the work she does in curriculum development, which is why she homeschools her two children in the summer months using the Shurley method of instruction. After all, educating children is what this family-run company is all about.

In her spare time, Kim can be found adventuring in the mountains of Colorado with her family.

Summer Learning: How to create a family storybook

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Summer Break is here, and our thoughts are revolving around words like vacation, relaxation, rest, getaway, and so on!  Words like homework, project, and assignment instantly turn into bad-words the minute summer vacation begins, so I encourage you to avoid them at all costs!  Instead, try to generate creative ways to keep your child/children actively involved in writing, reading, and processing information over the break.  One way to keep all these language arts skills at the forefront in a covert way is to develop family storybooks

Family storybooks are similar to reflective journaling yet different because they are created through group effort!  Topic areas are limitless because the stories can be written on just about anything!  (Examples include: Our Day at the Zoo, Cleaning Day!, The Cruise of a Lifetime, etc.)  No storybook will ever be complete until every person submits their entry.  It will be up to you to pick and choose the number of storybooks your family will create over the summer break!  All you have to do is introduce the activity and provide the encouragement.  Your participation will set an excellent example for your kids, and the final product will be a keepsake for everyone to enjoy now and forever! 

Here are the steps involved:

1. Explain the concept of the family storybook prior to the activity.

2. Encourage children to pay close attention to details during the event so they will be able to describe them in writing later.

3. Take digital pictures before, during, and after the event (if possible), and allow each participant to choose pictures to include with their writing.  Of course, pictures can also be drawn or painted; get creative! 

4. Encourage each child to write as much as they can about the experience, including personal thoughts and feelings.

5. Set a deadline for the individual drafts to be completed and pictures to be selected.

6. Combine everyone’s story in a logical order (example: youngest to oldest) and place them in a notebook, report binder, or digital file.

7. Enjoy reading each family storybook individually and/or together. 

8. Share your family storybooks with others!

It’s a fact that each person perceives their surroundings by seeing, hearing, smelling, and feeling.  Accordingly, everyone’s experience will be unique to them, and it will be fun to see and read varying accounts of the same event.  After the first family storybook is completed, subsequent storybooks will usually become easier and more detailed!  The best part about the activity will be that you and your family will be engaged in writing, reading, and information processing all summer long!  Family storybooks will be a unique memento that will capture moments in time to enjoy a lifetime!  This could become a new summer tradition!  Whatever you do, have fun with it!

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Jamie Geneva

Jamie Geneva is the Senior National Consultant at Shurley Instructional Materials and is a seasoned subject matter expert in the realm of English Language Arts.  Her career with the company began during the days of the Shurley Method binder, which was pre-1st Edition, and has spanned across three decades.  Over the years, her various roles have included teacher, presenter, state representative, consultant, manager, and most recently, a Shurley English Digital Assistant.  You might not recognize her face, but her voice could certainly sound familar.  That’s because she’s recorded Jingles, Q&A Flow Sentences, and other Shurley English content for many, many years. 

Jamie and her husband, Garret, live in the foothills of eastern Oklahoma. She loves spending quality time with her family, traveling, reading, cooking, and staying connected on social media.

Ms. Geneva received her B.S. degree in Elementary Education and her M.Ed in Public School Administration from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK. 

Summer Learning: Developing Your Child's Communication Skills

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Have you ever thought of scheduling a weekly family meeting during the summer months? It really is a great way to boost communication skills at home! Kids of all ages, when given the chance, can participate in structured discussions to recap the previous week and plan for the next one. Routine meetings can allow everyone to contribute personal thoughts, feelings, ideas, choices, etc., so that everyone has an opportunity to be heard.  Topic possibilities are endless, yet providing this type of platform can build family connections and help children develop their personal communication skills.

Here’s how it works:

1. Pick a time which you set aside to conduct the weekly family meetings this summer.  It can be some time on the weekend or whatever works with your family’s schedule.  The point is to plan the time into your schedule so your children can look forward to having a special time to express themselves.

2. Work together to name the time set apart to meet. (Example:  The Johnson Council)  Create an official sign using the chosen name, and display it during family meetings!

3. Assign an office to each contributing family member.  Making the meeting time more formal can be fun for your children and also introduce them to the structure of a public meeting forum.  Here’s an example:

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4. Create an agenda for your meeting time.  Include a recap of the last meeting, a budget discussion by the treasurer, weekly stars, and weekly wishes that are ideas for the upcoming week.  (A “star” would be something that is working well in your schedule; a “wish” would be something that will continually change.)  Example:

Weekly Meeting Agenda.png

Providing your children with an opportunity to participate in a weekly family meeting during the summer months can sharpen their communication skills.  Meetings can coax reluctant speakers with a venue to express themselves as well as supply more vocal children with a vehicle to communicate in a safe, controlled environment.  Everyone can have a chance to contribute, and you might be surprised by what you will learn during these discussions. 


True Story:  (If I may share a short story with you from my own childhood, it might help you think about your own communication habits within your family.)

While I was in grade school, my mother used to braid my tremendously long hair in two braids every single day. Unbeknownst to her, the other kids would tease me about my braids, which of course mortified me.  I was embarrassed and would have preferred not wearing my hair that way, but in my shy obedience to my mom, I never said a word about it to her.

Imagine my surprise years later when I mentioned this period of my growing up years to her.  I will never forget her saying, “All you had to do was tell me. You didn’t have to wear your hair that way.”  …Wait! …All I had to do was tell her?! Ugh! 

My mother’s words opened a window in my mind to the value of communication.

Is there a shy, obedient child in your family that might benefit from a weekly time to express what is on his or her mind?  Do you have a more expressive child that needs structure and guidance to speak in an orderly way? Perhaps a weekly family meeting this summer could be just the tool your family needs to build communication skills.


Comment /Source

Cindy Goeden

Cindy Goeden has enjoyed being involved with Shurley English for the last sixteen of her twenty-six years in the field of education.  Working with various levels of students in elementary, junior, and high schools, in both the private and public arenas, Cindy surely is thankful for the providential day that she was introduced to Shurley English, which changed forever her approach to Language Arts instruction. That has led to her current job of having the joy of sharing about Shurley with other educators.  Her love of learning has prodded her to earn over two hundred and twenty hours, which includes two bachelor degrees in education.


Cindy currently lives with her husband, Donald, in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she enjoys puttering in her flowers, changing up her décor with the seasons, and occasionally getting out and traveling with Donald to either explore a new beach or view historic sights and gardens.

What is cyclical spelling?

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Here’s an idea to kick your kids’ spelling prowess into high gear. While it’s true that some kids are just naturally good spellers, my experience has been that most are not. They need a sure-fire way to lock in accurate spelling, especially when summer time rolls around and school is out.

Cyclical spelling might just be for you and your kids. Here’s how it works:

1. Start small.

Choose a source from which you will draw out vocabulary. It might be the word list your kid(s) used during the school year. Words can be drawn out of a book that you are reading aloud this summer, from a book your child is reading, from the newspaper, or even from video games with text narration.

Now, here’s the “start small” part…only pick one word a day! You pick it, or your child picks it—but pick only one. You will pick one word a day, but make it a fun competition between you and the whole family.

For that one word that is picked, have your players write it down somewhere fun. You can write words in sand in the sandbox, in sugar scattered on the table, or on paper with liquid jello. This is the time to get creative! The goal is for the word to be practiced at least six times throughout the day…and it MUST involve actually writing it down.

At the end of the day, at a designated time, the word should be spelled aloud and then written on lined paper. Everyone who is participating needs to have their own sheet of paper so that the list can grow.


2. Add a word-a-day.

When day two comes, pick another word and follow the same procedure for the new word. But, now enters the “cyclical spelling” approach. At the end of day two, both the first word AND the new word should be recited and then spelled correctly on the developing list.

Now that you will have two words for the spellers to spell, it’s time to pick the Teacher of the Day (TOD), who will be in charge of administering the cyclical spelling test. So, at the end of day two, someone needs to be in charge of gathering all spellers to take the Two-Word Test. The TOD will also be in charge of grading. Keep it light. You could implement M&M rewards…one M&M per correctly spelled word.

Remember, it's all about spelling AND having fun! At the end of day three, there will be three words on the quiz. At the end of day four…four words. You get the idea.


3. Keep the cycle going!

Continue to add the Word-a-Day and quizzing through all the words each day until you have five words on the list (skip weekends). Then, you will begin to drop off the very first word you started with, and it will now be omitted from the daily quiz. The next new word is added to the bottom of the list, which will, for now and until the end of the contest, contain five words to be quizzed daily.


The beauty of spelling like this over the summer is its cyclical nature. Too often, kids learn a group of words for the Wednesday Pre-Test and the Friday Final Test—and that’s it. When the next list of fifteen or so words is introduced, the first group becomes a mere acquaintance, soon forgotten. With cyclical spelling, spellers accumulate words that they have spelled (correctly!) and get the chance to work with them daily for five days in a row. This, my friends, is intensity without the tension.

Why not give cyclical spelling a try this summer…it may be a real hit with your kids—maybe even the whole family. Remember, the energy you put in is the energy you will get back out of it!


If you are using Shurley English, you engage in cyclical spelling in grades 1 and 2 all school year long. For more information about Shurley English and cyclical spelling in the primary levels, go to



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David Lutz

David, a former classroom teacher, administrator, and self-proclaimed grammar nut, considers the oddities of English vocabulary and grammar his playthings! He received his degrees in elementary education, teaching, and curriculum design from CMU in Fayette, MO, and the University of St. Mary, Leavenworth, KS, respectively. His career has been a colorful collage of experiences in education, ranging from Kindergarten to Adult education and parenting classes.


He and his wife, Marjorie, have been blessed with 30 years of marriage, three grown sons, a cherished daughter-in-law, and the smartest, cutest grandson on the planet! He’s worked for Shurley Instructional Materials, Inc., for over 11 years and loves to help students and their teachers learn to love language and language learning as much as he does.

Spend your summer at the library!

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I fondly recall the summers I spent taking my son to the local library when he was young.  I can still remember his excitement as he perused the library shelves, looking for just the right books to take home to read.  Those weekly trips were part of our routine, and we both looked forward to them with anticipation!

Did you know that many libraries across the nation create summer reading programs for children?  I know that my local library hosts an incentive system where kids can earn points for reading books.  Those points can be used to redeem great prizes that students can use and enjoy.  Another special opportunity that’s offered is designed to encourage parental involvement. In this program, parents are given points for each book they read with or to their child.  Once an entire card is filled with book titles, parents can redeem points for prizes they can use and enjoy.  I personally believe that summer library reading programs like these are invaluable because of the life-long love of reading my son and I still relish today.

I’m sharing this information with you now because some libraries are offering really cool prizes this summer!  It’s not too late to get started!  Here are just a few examples I found:

  • Students can earn points to win prizes.
  • Students can earn points to win restaurant vouchers.
  • Students can earn points for admission to local attractions.
  • Students can enter a drawing for a college savings account.

How long has it been since you visited a library with your child? There are numerous incentives out there, so find out what’s going on at your local library today!  Your child can enjoy a fun summer program where the more they read, the more they will earn! You might find a great book to check out and read too!  It’s truly a win-win for everyone!  Take it from me; the benefits of a summer library reading program can be big enough to last a lifetime!

Comment /Source

Cindy Goeden

Cindy Goeden has enjoyed being involved with Shurley English for the last sixteen of her twenty-six years in the field of education.  Working with various levels of students in elementary, junior, and high schools, in both the private and public arenas, Cindy surely is thankful for the providential day that she was introduced to Shurley English, which changed forever her approach to Language Arts instruction. That has led to her current job of having the joy of sharing about Shurley with other educators.  Her love of learning has prodded her to earn over two hundred and twenty hours, which includes two bachelor degrees in education.


Cindy currently lives with her husband, Donald, in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she enjoys puttering in her flowers, changing up her décor with the seasons, and occasionally getting out and traveling with Donald to either explore a new beach or view historic sights and gardens.