Confessions of a Nine-Year-Old ADHD Reluctant Reader

How one suggestion from an astute school librarian changed my view of history, reading and me

by Jeff Nathan


As a 4th grader with undiagnosed ADHD, I didn’t HATE reading; I just approached it with a very narrow brush. I was unable to find anything non-fiction for which my eyes would travel through the words rather than over them. We were studying the American Revolution. History—I HATED history! Why? Because it required remembering occurrences, dates, and places. I had so much trouble remembering the things that were currently happening in MY life. How could I do it for something so foreign as “the historical past”.

History required regurgitation of the specifics that I never fully consumed. Memorization WAS more difficult for me than my peers so I deemed history too difficult for me to learn—an exercise in futile torture. I went through the motions but absorbed little to nothing because of my perceived incompetence.

1675771How fortunate I was to have so many educators at Craig School in Niskayuna, NY, who did not give up on me as easily as I gave up on myself. One such educator was the school librarian, Ms. Savage. A group from my class was sent to the library so each of us could pick out a book about the American Revolution. I felt like I was being sent to the dentist for some drilling. Who would want to read about history? I wasn’t very good at hiding my disdain for the assignment. As my classmates immediately began looking at potential books to check out, Ms. Savage walked over to me and asked what was wrong.

“Would it be okay to get a book about something else?” I requested. She smiled and asked what I liked. I told her I liked fiction, not history.

“Oh, do I have a book for you,” she exclaimed, just as excited as I was disinterested. From the shelf, she pulled out Paul Revere and I by Robert Lawson. Seeing this historical name in the title, I protested, “But this is history!”

I don’t remember exactly how she got me past my insolence. It could have been the explanation that the story was told by the horse or it could have been the offer she made for me to just read the first page and if I didn’t like it, she would look for something else. Whatever it was, though, I owe her immeasurably. I LOVED this book, and the introduction to historical fiction was a turning point in my education.

I experienced something that could make aspects of history enjoyable, even for a devout history-hater. I found that reading the right book could help me learn what seemed impossible to learn otherwise. This also demonstrated how a spoonful of sugar could work wonders, even for someone as unreachable as I was at that point. To this day, I continue utilizing that lesson in everything that I create for kids, from educational assemblies to books intended to excite reluctant readers into the fold.



Jeff Nathan, “Boston’s Animated Children’s Author,” will be back for the third year in a row at the Reading For the Love Of It Conference in February. He travels internationally sharing his CurricuLaughs in Language Arts programming, applying music, performing arts and heavy doses of HUMOR to the most challenging aspects of language arts at each elementary grade level. (See His most recent book, Sherlock and Me, was just announced as a 2015 Ben Franklin Award winner for innovation in children’s literature. (See

Image Credits Copyright: Image by StockUnlimited

Writing A Christmas Circle Story

To get my Class in the Christmas mood, we started writing Christmas circle stories last week! (You know, the kind of story that ends in the same place it started).

First we read The Carpenter’s Gift, by David Rubel. This touching story about the huge Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center,  is a great way to introduce the circle story plot.


After reading the story, we used a picture prompt to brainstorm ideas for our own circle story.  Then we used this story planner to plan our stories.  The kids are excited to get writing their stories this week and I am excited to show them how they can develop each story event with “showing” using sensory imagery. I can hardly wait to read the stories they create!


Free this week only. Click on the pic!

If you’d like a copy of this story planner, just click on the pic!   Also included, are bonus story started pictures to get you started!

If you have some students who would like their stories published online, or would like to share with my class, let me know. I love to celebrate student writing.  Message me to see how we can share!

Have fun creating circle stories in your classroom!


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Great Apps that Allow Students to “Tell the Story” with Multi-Media

Lights. Camera. Action!  Getting your students involved in projects that bring literature to life in the classroom is a challenging and rewarding endeavour. Daunting, I know, but have no fear; technology can come to your rescue! Whether in the classroom or homeschooling, here are some highlights of  apps that  can help you set up  multimedia projects that will really engage their students while producing videos that will be fun to share with their parents and peers.  Now let’s get storytelling !

  • Smoovie is a stop animation app that has all the basics covered. This cool app allows students to use ipads to take photos, move, edit, and delete frames easily. With just a few simple commands, they can then play the frames back at different speeds, add titles and music.  The friendly controls allow the users to switch between the camera, editing and playback modes with ease.  My students worked in small groups to create this video summary of the first chapters of The Ultimate Treasure Quest 1: The Jewel of Peru.  They loved it and learned so much as they had to read, summarize, create a script, act out the scene and read fluently to add voice over and cooperate to produce scenes, puppets, movement and camera shots. A story telling project with plenty of learning embedded!
  • If you’re looking for a project that can incorporate both student shot video footage and  photos and quickly turn them into something to share, then try  Animoto or Magisto.  Both ipad apps allow students to shoot video using the ipad, then  quickly add  format effects, text and music.  The videos can then be shared via Facebook or email.  These apps would be ideal for quick chapter reviews, mock newscasts, current affairs reports ,students demonstrations, or coverage of school events.  What fun for students to be able  to tell their “story” with  all the bells and whistles pre- built in.  These apps create a quick professional looking project with minimal input time.  Just what we are looking for in the classroom!
  • Finally, if your wanting to give your students more experience with actual video editing the imovie,  pinnacle or  free VideoPad looks to incorporate many video editing tools that might make it something to explore, though I’ve note used it myself and it seems to need a lot of memory to access the media from the ipad gallery.  If anyone has experience with it, I would love to hear your feedback.  Have fun creating new projects and keep encouraging our students to tell stories in new and interesting ways!