selected works

professional books for classroom teachers
In Writers ARE Readers, the mutually supportive roles of reading and writing are made visible through the idea of "flipsides": how reader's insights can be turned around to provide insights into his own writing, and vice versa. Lester and Reba's trademark engaging style is woven throughout chapters full of sample lessons, student writing samples, and recommended texts for maximizing the flipped concept across the year.
The 1970s' VW Beetle Owner's Manual found in the glove compartment of every Bug gave drivers security in knowing that whatever went wrong, there was always a quick fix to get them back on the road. The Writing Teacher's Troubleshooting Guide uses the same clear, concise format to offer practical ideas for helping students who may be out of gas, idling for too long,or just plain stuck in a rut. Lester and Reba first help you "notice and name" particular struggles that writers may have, identify possible causes, and then offer specific tools to nudge writers toward their next level of development. Their vast knowledge & appreciation for children's literature is showcased in the mentor texts they suggest to support your teaching. Don't let minor breakdowns stall your student's writing journey. With the Writing Teacher's Troubleshooting Guide in your back pocket, you'll always have a quick repair to keep them moving forward.
Professional books for classroom teachers
Bullying Hurts is not your same-old antibullying guide. Lester and Reba show how the read aloud, a familiar and proven instructional technique, can be used as a powerful way to neutralize bullying behaviors, create community in the classroom, and help you meet the Common Core State Standards all at the same time. Bullying Hurts does more than help children gain insights and language needed to confront and neutralize the behaviors of bullies. It convinces us that by working together, we really can prevent bullying.
Children's Literature
Review from Publishers Weekly: Three Hens and a Peacock Lester L. Laminack, illus. by Henry Cole, Peachtree, $15.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-56145-564-5 What might have been an ordinary be-yourself story is enhanced by Laminack's (Snow Day!) surprisingly thoughtful storytelling. Three hens on the Tuckers' farm are sick with envy when a peacock shows up and attracts the attention of passersby, drawing customers and electrifying the farm's roadside stand business. Laminack characterizes the hens with a fine ear for their Golden Girls outrage; they sound quite human. "We do all the work around here," fumes one. "I'd like to see that peacock lay one single egg." "Exactly," agrees another. "He just struts around screaming." The hens trade places with the peacock, dressing up in beads and ribbons and trying to attract customers--with predictable results. The warmth of the story is a bit overshadowed by the goggle eyes of Cole's (One Pup's Up) barnyard characters; the illustrations go for big guffaws and slapstick instead, and largely succeed. The final spreads--which suggest further complications with the arrival of an ostrich--add a final touch of humor, effectively keeping the book from feeling message-heavy. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)
Just the possibility of a snow, the mere mention of snow in the forecast can send the imagination spinning. Children (of all ages) will delight in the anticipation of a day with lots and lots of snow and----NO SCHOOL!
The 100th Day of School is a BIG event for young children everywhere. And Jake, like most children has been working on his very special collection for a long time. But in the excitement of the big day Jake rushes out to catch the bus and leaves something very important behind. Find out how a very caring principal helps save the day.
A heartwarming tribute to the love of a grandmother and the importance of making memories.
"...tender depiction of a life well-lived, which speaks to the value of maintaining loving relationships, even when they are altered by Alzheimer's disease."
Although he is happy about having a loose tooth, Trevor worries when his classmates tell him some of the ways others might try to pull out the tooth.
Professional Books for Classroom Teachers
A close look at spelling instruction and assessment in the writing workshop
A thorough overview of establishing and maintaining the writing workshop in the K-6 classroom
Bringing picture books and read-aloud into the curriculum to build vocabulary and both broaden and deepen conceptual frameworks for units of study in the content areas.
You'll find 14 ready-to-use mini-lessons to introduce your students to techniques and literary elements. Carefully selected anchor texts provide inspiration for exploring each technique and element. In addition, a professional workshop to use on your own or with colleagues will deepen your own knowledge base. This "workshop-in-a-book," also perfect for literacy coaches and teacher leaders, demonstrates how to read like a writer, identify "craft moves," and form theories about why the moves were made. The DVD features Lester explaining how writers practice audible and visual craft, using "Satudays and Teacakes" to illustrated both. The DVD also includes downloadable forms that you can share with your students to explore author's craft and to monitor their evolving understanding. Use the DVD to have Lester talk directly to the class, or use the book to present the lessons yourself. Either method will help you teach your students to develop their own "craft moves," which will enliven and refine their writing.
A year long focus on poetry for the K-2 classroom. Includes a big book of original poetry and two guide books to create a poetry environment, a focus on reading poetry and a formal unit of study on writing poetry.
The premise is simple yet potent: you can make every read aloud intentional, so the book becomes the richest opportunity imaginable for not only inspiring your students with the magic of story but also stretching them instructionally. With Lester as your guide, you'll learn how to help your students observe and explore what the author did, how he or she did it and why.

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Southern Heritage is Deep and Complex: The Flag Came Down

July 30, 2015

Southern Heritage is Deep and Complex
by Lester Laminack

My American family can be traced to a German immigrant who entered Philadelphia in 1739 and made his way to South Carolina in 1767. The roots of my family tree have reached deep into southern soil and spread far across the region. I grew up in a small rural town halfway between Birmingham and Atlanta. That Alabama county seat with its three traffic lights was my geographic world back then.

I was born in 1956, early enough to remember two water fountains on the side of the Tasty Dip, separate schools, and separate churches; early enough to witness, but not understand, two separate worlds. I was a child when the evening news brought black and white images from the streets of Birmingham into our home. I saw a bombed church and heard the somber voice tell of the death of four little girls close to my age. I saw fire hoses being used to force black teenagers off the sidewalk. I saw police officers holding taut leashes with German shepherds lunging toward black people on the streets. I saw images of people draped in white robes with conical coverings that hid their faces. I saw a burning bus twenty miles away in Anniston. I saw burning crosses and burned churches. I knew little and feared much. Those images from the news are as much a part of my southern heritage as long humid summers, bird dogs under the front porch, the wafting smell of pine and the haunting sounds of a whippoorwill at dusk.

There has been a lot of talk about heritage lately. Though our southern history is deep and complex we tend to cling to and glorify the charming and romantic images of the south while we gloss over or ignore the more heinous ones. However, history is not a flower garden where we are allowed to select the most beautiful blossoms to grace our table when company is coming. History is everything from the past, all of it. Our past unfortunately includes the truth of slavery and cruelty, mistreatment and systematic legal racism. We are not afforded the luxury of selecting only a few scenes from our storied history to set on display when we speak of our heritage.

Each time we embrace the soft, romantic notions of the old south we are pricked by the thorns of cruelty inflicted upon countless human beings. When we evoke images of Spanish moss drifting in the moonlight we must not forget there have been human silhouettes hanging from those same branches in the night sky. When we chuckle about Jack Daniels and Jim Beam as cousins who find there way into our family stories we must not forget how Jim Crow and George Wallace also played a role. When we think of southern women and speak with admiration for the character Scarlett O’Hara we must not forget the very real women named Harriett Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Mary McLeod Bethune. When we speak of the innocence of a southern childhood let us not forget Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, and Cynthia Wesley who had their own cut short. When we wave a flag and speak of valor and courage and honor we must not forget Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King and Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Medgar Evers who risked everything to ensure the human rights of our neighbors.

Our southern heritage is not rooted in a symbol emblazoned on a piece of cloth clipped to a chain and run up a pole. It isn’t an icon to flaunt in the faces of those oppressed by the attitudes, behaviors and policies of previous generations. We cannot gloss over the fact that one group of humans believed themselves more worthy than another group of humans and made their existence miserable at best. This truth is part of our history. So as we have conversations about our southern heritage we must remember this ugliness IS part of our history and all of it is brought forth in symbols of the past. Nothing is exempt. Any symbol from the past brings with it the best and the worst of our history. Let us recognize this is our collective southern heritage. As such the very symbol some hold up to honor their ancestors is an affront to the loss and pain and indignities suffered by the ancestors of their neighbors. Any symbol of our heritage should represent all of us and give each of us something to be proud of.

Let us pause and consider what we hope to bring forward, what we hope to represent us as southern people. What shared attributes can all southerners take pride in. What would we lift up and hold on to? What is worthy of continuation in future generations? The heritage I want to bring forward is a tradition of caring, of lifting up those in need and offering them food and prayers and support. It is tradition of music and praise, of family and friends, a tradition of community. This part of southern heritage is evident on front porches, in hospital rooms, and in a neighbor’s garden. It emerges when a house burns, when a child is sick, when a church needs a new roof, or when the high school band needs new uniforms. It is in the act of caring for others. It is a way of being, a manner of living, and an attitude of gratefulness. It is reflected in dialect and conversation, story and song, in “bless your heart” and “lawd have mercy” and “well, I never.”

If the roots of your heritage run deep and spread out into the rural south you are likely to find a plow and a pulpit, an outhouse and moonshine still, a hand dug well, and a chimney built of stones taken from fields plowed by a man walking behind a mule. You will likely find folks who ate what they planted or hunted, and built the houses that sheltered their families. You are likely to find folks who helped a neighbor bring in a crop or build a barn or change a tire.

The confederate flag has become so divisive that there is no clear message it can evoke in ALL people. Regardless of what it may mean to some, it has become a flagrant banner of racism and hatred and arrogance that calls up the worst of our past. At best that prevents old wounds from healing, and at worst it continues to inflict new ones. Many southern folk lift verses from the bible to justify their attitudes and behaviors. Here’s a verse to consider: “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into hell.” (Matthew 5:30). If you are a southerner, one who holds dear the best of our collective heritage this flag is “your right hand.” Clinging to it while knowing that it evokes pain and images of the worst of our history is a deliberate act that perpetuates the attitude of supremacy of one group.

No flag holds the essence of what is good about being southern. That is within us. The best of what it means to be southern is in our behavior toward others, in our kindness and caring. If pressed for a symbol of the south it would as likely be a magnolia blossom as anything, or perhaps a glass of sweet tea with beads of condensation swelling up on the sides.

We must move forward.

In recent weeks we have seen confederate flags coming down from flagpoles and being pulled from license plates and store shelves. This symbolic gesture did not come as the result of a single action. Rather, the cold callous killing of nine human beings engaged in a bible study group was the final blow in a long history of mistreatment. A young man invited in to worship ended the lives of the very people who embraced him in the spirit of kindness and love. And had you or I been there with a neighbor or friend that night we would likely be dead as well.

Let us remember those nine human beings rocked their babies. They went to work with us and paid their mortgage payments. They sent their children to school just as we do each day. They gathered for holidays and sang happy birthday to loved ones. They made ice cream on the Fourth of July. They worshipped together. Those nine people lived among us. They were our neighbors… our brothers… our sisters. They ARE us.

And as difficult as it may be to accept, this young man also walked among us. He attended our schools. He shopped in the same grocery stores. He ate hamburgers and fries in the booth next to us. He nodded when he passed us on the street and waved as he drove through the intersection. He IS us.

WE are ONE. Even with all our differences, the essence of our shared humanity, that which makes any of us human, is present within all of us. Behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes certainly run the gamut, but the essence of humanity is within each of us. We are members of one human family. Let us be humane and lift what is best in our shared humanity.

The people of Charleston, including the families of the nine who were betrayed and murdered, have demonstrated the best of our humanity. We witnessed the power of grace and dignity and love. This is the best of our southern heritage: family, community, caring, grace. May each of us take a lesson, shed our old skin and emerge with our essential humanity intact and ready to move forward.

“In all things be kind and truthful. Cause no intentional harm.”—Lester Laminack


  1. July 30, 2015 5:50 PM EDT
    Amen, Amen! Like you said, " we need to move forward..." and not stay in the past!
    - Judy Moeller
  2. July 30, 2015 6:07 PM EDT
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts so beautifully.
    - Patricia
  3. July 30, 2015 7:36 PM EDT
    Thank you for your thoughtful words. Though I did not grow up in the south, I was shaped by my own geographic cultures and influenced also by all the places I have lived since. Your words have caused me to reflect on the complexity of that culture, belief, and the symbols I have raised as emblems...and make me also see them for their brilliance and their tarnish.
    - Julie Burchstead
  4. July 30, 2015 10:34 PM EDT
    Lester, thank you for sharing your heart in this beautifully written piece. I wish more people could see the world through the eyes of Lester Laminack. ❤️
    - Donna Parrack
  5. July 31, 2015 12:00 AM EDT
    Lester--thank you for your lovely, thoughtful, words. This is what I hope so deeply to impart on my students year after year, seventh graders with a whole lifetime ahead of them. To regard others well, to appreciate, to consider. To love well and live well, to understand. I've been in your class at Hamline and had the privilege of seeing you courtesy of my school district--ISD 196. So glad I took the time to read your blog today! Michelle in MN
    - Michelle Shaffner
  6. August 2, 2015 6:19 PM EDT
    Thanks so much for sharing this thoughtful piece, Lester. You've captured so many of the beauties and horrors that make up our complex heritage. May your eloquent words help all of us be more mindful of our roles to make the world a more kind and just place.
    - Kathy Bartelmay
  7. August 11, 2015 11:07 AM EDT
    Your words are inspirational. I am grateful I was able to hear you read this blog at Teachers College last week. Hearing it in your voice made it all the more powerful.
    - Mary-Frances Tintle
  8. September 5, 2015 9:50 PM EDT
    You have such a wAy with words. I could hear a book here. A sort of companion to Saturdays and Teacakes about the south; scars and all. I think a perspective of the time from someone in the dominant culture could be helpful. I teach in a primarily white school and talking about race is difficult and, unfortunately, can be controversial. I plan to share the first couple of paragraphs with my fifth graders. We are studying Reconstruction. I always appreciate your sagacity.
    - Danielle Hance