Engaging Literate Minds

Developing Children’s Social, Emotional, and Intellectual Lives, K–3

Increasingly, educators are recognizing that for children to thrive intellectually they need socially and emotionally healthy classrooms. Conveniently, this is exactly what parents have always wanted for their children—classrooms that offer and grow positive relationships and behavior, emotional self-regulation, and a sense of well-being.

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Using the guiding principles from Peter Johnston’s best-selling professional resources, Choice Words and Opening Minds, Peter and six colleagues (Kathy Champeau, Andrea Hartwig, Sarah Helmer, Merry Komar, Tara Krueger, and Laurie McCarthy) began a journey to create just such classrooms—environments in which children meaningfully engage with each other through reading, writing, making, and discussing books.

In Engaging Literate Minds, you’ll discover how these teachers struggled and succeeded in building such classrooms. Inside you’ll find the following:

  • Practical ways to develop a caring learning community and children's socio-emotional competence
  • Powerful teaching practices from real classrooms
  • Engaging ways to encourage inquiry and student agency
  • Suggestions on how to use formative assessment in everyday teaching practices
  • Helpful research behind the classroom practices and children’s development
  • Ways to help students inspire and support each other

Building a just, caring, literate society has never been more important than it is today. By embracing the ideas and teaching strategies in Engaging Literate Minds, you can help children to become socially, emotionally, and intellectually healthy. Not only do these classroom practices develop the skills to achieve district benchmarks and beyond, they help develop children’s humanity.

Meet the Authors of Engaging Literate Minds


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About the Author(s)

Peter Johnston's research explores relationships among classroom talk, engagement, and children’s social, emotional and literate development. Elected to the Reading Hall of Fame, he has received numerous awards for his research and writing.


Previously a Title I reading teacher, reading specialist, adjunct instructor at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and president of the Wisconsin State Reading Association, Kathy now serves as a consultant learning alongside students, teachers, and literacy researchers. She is a strong advocate for teachers as thinking professionals and values how the research and practitioner worlds need to be inextricably connected in intellectually stimulating ways.


Andrea Hartwig earned her undergraduate teaching degree from St. Norbert College and her master’s degree in reading from Alverno College. She has spent ten years teaching first and second grade in southeastern Wisconsin. She currently lives in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, with her husband, Brian, who is also an educator, and their two young daughters.


Sarah Helmer earned her teaching degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has taught kindergarten and first- and second-grade multiage classes in southeastern Wisconsin. Her passion for emergent literacy and what is possible for our youngest learners has truly been nurtured by her collaborative partnership with her co-authors, whom she is proud to call her mentors, colleagues, and friends. She currently lives in New Berlin, Wisconsin, with her husband, Mitch, and two young children.


Merry Komar was born and raised in Hawaii where she began her teaching career and received her master’s degree. As a teacher there, she had extensive literacy training as a participant in the Kamehameha Elementary Education Program (KEEP) for at-risk students, which included strategies for effective language instruction with a focus on writing as well as classroom management and organization. She was selected to be part of the KEEP Demonstration Classroom Project, and received commendation for the success of her students, her innovation, and her reflective practices. Merry currently teaches third grade in Wisconsin.


Tara has a master of education degree from the University of Minnesota. She began her teaching career as a Title I reading and math interventionist at a K–8 school in Milwaukee. Working with mostly English language learners, Tara was able to utilize her Spanish skills to support student learning and continue to develop her passion for education. Tara continued her career as a multiage first- and second-grade teacher in Muskego-Norway School district before moving to Colorado, where she now serves a diverse student population as a reading teacher, reading intervention program leader, and early literacy staff developer in the city of Denver.


Laurie received her undergraduate early childhood degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and master’s degree in critical literacy from Carroll University. For the past fifteen years, she has worked as a multiage first- and second or second- and third-grade teacher in the Muskego-Norway School District. In 2018, Laurie was recognized in her district, receiving the Compass Award for her positive impact on students, staff, parents, and community; her commitment to continuous improvement; her leadership and service; as well as for being a champion for innovation, creativity, and best practices. 



Product Details

Grades: K, 1, 2, 3
Media: 344 pp/paper
Year: 2020
Item No: 1162
ISBN: 978-1-62531-162-7
Publisher: Stenhouse Publishers