Educating Esme — it's back and better than ever

If you haven’t read Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher’s First Year, um, what are you waiting for? The book is spirited, funny, and endearing. But don’t just take my word for it! It’s been hailed as “the gold standard” of the first-person account (The New York Times), and declared “hilarious” by People, and a “pop culture phenomenon” by Publishers Weekly. The book put Esmé Codell on the map–she’s now a nationally renowned advocate for literacy and literature-based instruction, dubbed “one of the nation’s most sought-after voices for empowering teachers” (People) and a “Superstar of Education” (Scholastic Instructor).

Educating Esmé was first published in 1999, and to celebrate its 10-year anniversary, we’ve just released an expanded edition that includes a new Foreword by Katherine Paterson, author of Bridge to Terabithia, a brand new guide filled with Codell’s invaluable advice and practical tips for teachers whether just beginning or more experienced, and a fantastic shopping list of must-haves for a teacher’s first classroom!

If you’ve been missing out on the book that’s been declared a must-read for parents and educators everywhere, read on for an excerpt…

September 27

After lunch each day I ready aloud to them. We push the desks out of the way, pull down the shades, and turn off all the lights, except for an antique Victorian desk lamp I have. It is a very cozy time.

I was reading them The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes, about a Polish immigrant girl who is so poor that she wears the same dress to school every day but insists that she had a hundred dresses lined up in her closet. The girls tease her mercilessly until she moves away. Her antagonists discover that she really did have a hundred dresses…a hundred beautiful drawings of dresses. Oh, God, it took everything not to cry when I closed the book! I especially like that the story is told from the teaser’s point of view.

Well, everything was quiet at the end, but then Ashworth asked if he could whisper something in my ear. He whispered, “I have to tell the class something,” and discreetly showed me that he was missing half of a finger. It was a very macabre moment, but I didn’t flinch.

I faced him toward the class and put my hands on his shoulders. He was trembling terribly. “Ashworth has something personal to share with you. I hope you will keep in mind The Hundred Dresses when he tells you.”

“I…I only have nine and a half fingers,” he choked. “Please don’t tease me about it.” He held up his hands.

The class hummed, impressed, then was silent as Ashworth shifted on his feet. Finally, Billy called out, “I’ll kick the ass of anyone who makes fun of you!”

“Yeah, me too!” said Kirk.

“Yeah, Ash! You just tell us if anyone from another class messes with you, we’ll beat their ass up and down!”

Yeah, yeah, yeah! The class became united in the spirit of ass-kicking. Ashworth sighed and smiled at me. The power of literature!

Want more? Can’t blame you. The expanded edition is now available at online retailers and bookstores nationwide. And come back tomorrow for a post from Madame Esmé herself on the power of picture book biographies for children. In the meantime, you can enjoy her children’s literature recommendations on the Planet Esme Book-a-Day blog!


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  1. Now I know exactly what I’m getting my best friend if she passes her National Board Certification for elementary education!

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