Posted on Leave a comment

Family Fun Interactive Reading Strategies

Shared Reading

Quick Ways to Include Your Children in Shared Reading

Improve reading for emergent, beginning and conventional readers

Ann Yurcek, Jodee Kulp and Marcia Chambers are offering our 2020-2021 public school Furry The LIttle Penguins That Could curriculum FREE TO FAMILIES during this time of social distancing – SIGN UP TODAY! No strings attached!


Page-turning ideas, you can ask your child to:

  • Signal to turn the page
  • Turn the page
  • Provide the click to change the page
  • Provide the swiping motion.
  • After you have read the story once aloud and talked about the chapter, read the chapter again.
  • When you reach a word you and the child are practicing, keep your finger in place, pause, and allow the child to indicate the word with a sign, blink, click, breath or motion you have selected. Please do not do this with emergent readers as it will confuse their thinking process and the flow of listening to the story.
  • Act out the story as it unfolds and take turns doing what the characters are doing.
  • Pick an empowerment game card (FREE CURRICULUM FOR FAMILIES) Select ‘penguin’ or any other word you choose and say, “Look at this word. I will say the sounds in the word. You can say them in your head. Can you put a picture in your head?” More ideas available:
  • As you read, glide your finger under the word.
  • Provide a penguin as a prop for the child and each time you find the word penguin encourage the child to move the penguin.
  • Focus on Interest. If a chapter in Furry – The Little Penguins That Could pique an interest – take a field trip online to find more books on that subject.

Encouraging families to read together

  • Growing Book By Book offers excellent ideas to share with families. One of Furry’s favorite reading times besides bedtime is the family dinner time. There is even a book club!
  • Listen to audiobooks instead of watching television for a week.
  • Create a family reading time and ask your child’s opinion about what he or she is reading.

Promote and encourage a reading culture in your community.

  • Check out 25 Ideas to Motivate Young Readers – Arrest that book, musical books, stand up – these ideas are worth checking out.
  • Host a “Once a Month Evening Read-In” Choose a book, add some pizza or popcorn.
  • Students can bring Stuffies and wear pjs.
  • Invite parents, community members, local television, author, or local sports figures to be mystery readers.
  • Unveil the book for next month during the read-in.
  • Run a “Get Caught Reading Raffle” – every time a teacher ‘catches’ a student reading the student gets a ticket and goes into the draw for a weekly prize.
  • Have a book drive for your local police station of children’s books so they have a selection of books for children in crisis.
  • Raise money with a Read-a-Thon Instead of spending time selling overpriced fundraising products, students focus on reading. Students commit to completing 10 reading sessions, ranging from 10-30 minutes a day for 10 days. They can choose any book they want to read. Readers build personal Read-a-thon pages that they share with friends and family using social media, email or text. Those friends and family are asked to support the reader by making a one-time online donation.
  • Check out Kids, Communities, and Cops
  • Create an online book club
  • Host a community book swap where every book is free to trade and the remaining books are given to local non-profit, hospital, clinics or other places people may be sitting and waiting.
  • Create an escape place for children to chill out and read when overwhelmed or need a break time.
  • Check out 5 fun ways to get students to read aloud:
  • Download free lessons including a free homework pass
  • Have children join Storybird to write their own books
  • Launch young readers with Reading Rockets
  • Challenged readers check out Learning Ally
  • Join the Little Free Library program. Little Free Libraries inspire a love of reading, build community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world. If you have public transportation set up your Little Free Library near the bus or train stop.

Let’s Go!

Posted on Leave a comment

Stuffies Help Children With Emotional Development

Cuddle Up Challenge

Stuffie Emotional Support Partners
connect bridges between children’s hearts and minds?

Think about your own comfort item as a child. Was it a blankie or a stuffie or both?

by Jodee Kulp

Emotional Development of a child provides confidence and strength as an adult. Healthy positive relationships without trauma allow children to develop compassion, empathy, and an understanding of right and wrong. They learn to trust.

Stuffies are filled with what Furry the Penguin calls “Stuffun-La-Muffins.”

Stuffies provide unbiased consistency by simply being available as a silent emotional support partner.

Emotional Support Partners are important in the development of children and actually help build skills in emotions, language, social skills and belief in the impossible.

Here are 4 ways a beloved Stuffie helps a child develop emotionally.


  1. Stuffie touch is powerful and cuddling with a soft Stuffies give children the touch of a friend. Children cuddle into the warmth and softness. Healthy soft touch provides a sense of peace.
  2. Stuffies are calming. Stuffies can help children calm and soothe when life is hard. Stuffies can help distract from a painful experience or give a child courage to face a procedure. They can also become the training wheels to love a pet or as Furry did to connect with other children.
  3. Stuffies help self-soothe. Stuffies help a child self-soothe without the help of mom or dad or grandparents. Stuffies are a source of stress relief. Stuffies give emotional well being when life can be scary, strange or just new.
  4. Stuffied encourage development of empathy and compassion. Stuffies are loveable and children connect to them.


  1. Stuffies whisper nice things to children and help them work out unsolved problems by speaking the problem aloud plus children whisper nice things back to Stuffies. They practice positive and loving speech.
  2. Stuffies listen. Stuffies know how to remain quiet when a child is talking and not step on their thoughts or words. You can tell a story to a stuffie and they pay attention to every word.
  3. Stuffies are available. Stuffies never ignore a child when a child needs comfort. Stuffies do not take time to watch a sports show, talk on the phone, play video games or look at their cell phones. Unless Stuffies are pretending they are usually not busy with laundry, or work, or cleaning.
  4. Stuffies understand what you are saying. Stuffies know and understand the language of each special child.


  1. Stuffies understand acceptance. Stuffies help children test emotions. Sometimes we are kissed, pulled, and dropped. Stuffies are positive and they help increase the positive.
  2. Stuffies practice life skills. Stuffies are fed and put to bed. Stuffies play doctor and dentist, they ride buses, and trains, and go to school. They help build the responsibility of caring for another thing, remembering to pick it up and keeping track of a Stuffie so you do not lose your friend. Stuffies usually need care and attention daily especially in the early morning and going to bed times.
  3. Stuffies go places. Stuffies become the transitional object that allows a child to feel safe and connected in new or more challenging environments (doctors, hospitals, visiting others). Stuffies feed imaginations and are great at pretending.
  4. Stuffies are friends. Stuffies are friends that love you just for being you in all your good behavior and behavior others may not understand. Stuffies are often a child’s first playmate or the playmate available when friends return home.


  1. Stuffies provide possibilities. We can’t tell you why or how, but when a Stuffie becomes REAL to a child it increases – confidence, courage, and creativity.
  2. Stuffies create goal setting. Children learn to plan new events with stuffies. They can practice their events and then be more confident when working toward the goal. Stuffies encourage children to try new things.
  3. Stuffies reach inside. Somehow a Stuffie reaches the kindness of the heart of a child and from that kindness of Stuffun-la-Muffins – the child’s lovely heart emotions for nurturing another also grow.
  4. Stuffies are conversation starters. Stuffies help children say things they may be afraid to say alone and in Furry the Penguin’s case, started a whole Kindergarten talking with a a little boy who did not have words in school.


Visit Furry The Penguin Shoppe
Click photo to purchase.

Furry The Penguin
is a Member of the Aurora
Sweet and Softer Collection.

9.5″ PERKY PENGUIN –“Mac named him, FURRY”
Silky soft and sweet to the touch!


Posted on Leave a comment

Furry the Little Penguin – Shared Reading Curriculum

Developed by Marcia Chambers,
Ann Yurcek, Jodee Kulp, Jeff Peterson, Mac, his friends,
and all the Kindergarten Stuffies.

Read Together with Shared Reading

Furry – The Little Penguins That Could is designed to be a Shared Reading opportunity for children in schools, day programs, and homes. Children learn through play. Furry is playful, can be silly, and meant to be enjoyed. Shared reading creates a sense of togetherness in the classroom or at home. It empowers children to become peers and support partners. Shared Reading is an interactive reading experience that happens when students share reading a book while supported and guided by a teacher, friend, or caregiver.

The “Reader” models reading with expression and fluency. The child connects as he or she communicates with the story. As you will learn in Mac’s life, he connected through a stuffed penguin. Shared reading supports and encourages emerging readers to participate while listening and understanding the story.

The Furry -The Little Penguins That Could Shared Reading Curriculum is designed to enhance the love of reading through listening, playing, and participating with others.

We have worked hard to create a curriculum that includes almost ALL children.

The thirty chapters in this 204-page book stand-alone or can be read together. Each chapter is between 4-15 minutes of reading. Written above the reading level of many 3 to 8-year-olds, shared reading of this 30 chapter, fully illustrated book allows children to participate in a challenging reading experience regardless of ability. Children will get a sense of accomplishment. Main Readers will discover each curriculum chapter is filled with ideas to create a classroom that bridges friendships, promotes acceptance of differences, and includes everyone.

Furry provides chapter videos and links to help the main readers develop skills. We offer creative learning ideas for art projects, listening, talking, singing, movement, and playing games to build a love of reading.

Furry is a true story about a real child.
The story reaches out to all ages and stages of readers.

The Furry curriculum is designed for children ages 3-8 in three developmental reading levels:
1. Emergent readers.
2. Beginning conventional readers.
3. Conventional readers.

Emergent readers are individuals beginning to grasp the basic concepts of book and print.

Shared reading of this book with emergent readers is engaging and multi-sensory. If a child is showing interest, asking a question, or making a statement take the time to engage the child

Emergent readers are encouraged to:

  • Talk about the story.
  • Look and talk about the picture.
  • Enjoy the reading experience.

Emergent readers are learning the alphabet.
Research has shown that learning the UPPERCASE letters first, which have more variation leads to better understanding and allows for the transition to learning lowercase letters while developing many phonological awareness skills. These skills include recognizing phonemes (sounds that each letter makes), syllables, and rhyme. As they progress they begin to learn sound/symbol relationships starting with consonants and short vowels. This is why many emergent reader books contain CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words, rhyming words and high-frequency words (Dolch/Fry words).

When searching for books for early emergent readers look for concepts of interest to the person, large print with wider spacing, natural language and picture support of the story. Often these books have carefully controlled text, repetitive patterns, and limited text on a page. Furry – The Little Penguins that Could is an introduction to a larger more robust reading experience to encourage children to develop the love of reading and listening to reading.

Children move towards a more conventional understanding of literacy as they have a means to interact and communicate.
Over time the student knows most of the letters much of the time and actively engages during shared reading.

Beginning conventional readers have a grasp of the alphabet, phonemes, and early phonics.

They also know many high-frequency words. Books for emergent readers will have more lines per page, contain less repetition, patterns, and pictures. Again focus on books that hold the child’s interest to make deeper discoveries and create a love for reading.

Beginning conventional readers may share in some of the reading as they recognize a word, number, or symbol they already know. Recognizing and sharing is a time of celebration for accomplishments.

Furry has created games to play to encourage enjoyment for beginning conventional readers.

Conventional readers are able to read, decode, and write.

Furry’s wish for you is that he and all his friends with their adventures and antics will bring you a joy-filled reading experience. Our team of educators, parents, adults challenged with disabilities, and a curriculum designer have worked tirelessly to bring you an exciting and fun curriculum to include all children.

The chart below has been adapted from the Literacy For All Instructions in Canada – For more information visit:

Download the Curriculum Overview

Posted on Leave a comment

Free: Furry Inclusion Valentines

Mackie has his valentines ready for his classroom party. Taking the characters from the story, we made coloring cards with color crayons for his classmates.

Glue Stick
Double Sided Tape
Colored Cardstock or Construction Paper
Hole Punch
Coloring crayon packages
Envelopes- 4.75 in x 6.5 in.

There are four different Valentines on a sheet and a teacher card sheet in the download.

Cut 4.75 inch x 6.5 inch colored cardstock/construction paper backs.
Apply glue to the back sides and center on the colored paper backs.
Use a hole punch to punch two holes if wanted and tie with ribbon.
Have your child sign the back of the valentines before putting on the crayons.

Search Etsy for Children’s Name Stamps

Mackie struggles with writing his name. We purchased a stamp with his name on it for him to be able to “write” his name like his classmates.

Cut apart the Valentines list and glue the names

For kids who struggle writing the names on the Valentines, cut the list into strips and glue them to the envelopes. Accommodation and setting up our kids to be able to do their Valentines for their friends means we have to think out of the box.

Furry has Valentines for his friends!

We even found Valentines for Furry to give the classmates at the Target Dollar Spot. Furry Stretchy Penguins!

Safe treats for everyone!

His teacher reached out to check to see what Mac could have for the party and she is making sure he is included and not left out due to his complex food allergies and intolerances. Due to Mac’s shortened school day, the party is moved to the morning so Mac can be there with his friends. A parent checked in to see what treats he can have and I found Black Forest Organic Valentines Gummy Bears that are dye-free and gluten-free for his friends to put with his Valentines!

Now all that is left is for Mom to make gluten-free Crispie Bars for the classmates and Mac. Planning ahead we are making sure that everyone has a great Valentines Party.

Happy Valentines Day from Mac, Furry and the Friends at the Little School That Could!

Posted on Leave a comment

FREE: Furry Inclusion Valentines Instructions

Mackie has his valentines ready for his classroom party. Taking the characters from the story, we made coloring cards with color crayons for his classmates.

Glue Stick
Double-Sided Tape
Colored Cardstock or Construction Paper
Hole Punch
Coloring crayon packages
Envelopes- 4.75 in x 6.5 in.

Download and Print and Cut out the Furry Inclusion Valentines.
Cut 4.75 inch x 6.5 inch colored cardstock/construction paper backs.
Apply glue to the backsides and center on the colored paper backs.
Use a hole punch to punch two holes if wanted and tie with ribbon.
Have your child sign the back of the valentines before putting on the crayons.

Valentine's Day Inclusive Coloring Sheets
Posted on Leave a comment

Acceptance Changes Stigma

Furry says, “Let’s Stomp Out Stigma!”

Stigma continues due to a lack of knowledge and awareness about rights, legality and how to empower people with a learning disability.

Stigma and discrimination makes people with a learning disability more prone to lower self-confidence and increased vulnerability (Jahoda and Markova, 2004)

Stigma and discrimination

Beyond school time

  • People in the local area calling them names
  • People in the local area ignoring them
  • Violent physical contact by people in the local area
  • Their parents restricting them
  • Their siblings calling them names

Within school time

  • Being ridiculed/called names by other pupils
  • Violent physical contact from other pupils
  • Being ignored by other pupils
  • Teachers giving unwanted extra help
  • Teachers refusing to help
  • Teachers getting angry about the mistakes they made
  • Being ridiculed by teachers

(Cooney et al., 2006)


  • Cooney, G., Jahoda, A., Gumley, A. & Knott, F. (2006). Young people with learning disabilities attending mainstream and segregated schooling: perceived stigma, social comparisons and future aspirations. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 50, 432-445.
  • Jahoda, A. (1995). Quality of Life: Hope for the Future or an Echo from the Distant Past? In I. Markova and R. Farr (Eds.) Representations of Health, Illness and Handicap (page range). Singapore: Harwood.
  • Jahoda, A. Cattermole, M. & Markova I. (1989). Stigma and the self-concept of people with a mild mental handicap, Journal of Mental Deficiency Research, 32, 103-115.
  • Jahoda, A., Dagnan, D., Jarvie,P., & Kerr,W. (2006). Depression, social context and cognitive behavioural therapy for people who have intellectual disabilities. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 19, 81-89.
  • Jahoda, A. & Markova, I. (2004). Coping with social stigma: People with intellectual disabilities moving from institutions and family home. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 48, 719-729.
  • Jahoda, A., Trower, P., Pert, C. & Finn, D. (2001). Contingent reinforcement or defending the self? A review of evolving models of aggression in people with mild learning disabilities. British Journal of Medical Psychology


Posted on Leave a comment

Target Finds: Halloween Allergy Friendly Candy (Mackie Approved)


Snoopy and Pumpkin 2017

Halloween is approaching and slowly people are beginning to learn about Teal Pumpkins and non-food alternatives to Halloween Candy. Last year here in the “Little Town That Would” our town went Teal so that Mackie Could be Included.
This year I have decided to stock up on the Allergy Friendly Candy starting to hit the shelves as an alternative as well.


Learn More About Teal Pumpkin Project 

Finding Allergy Friendly and what we call “Mackie Approved” candy can be a challenge.  Last year I found a few candy items that fit our “Dye Free”, “Dairy-free”, “Gluten-free”, “Nut Free”, “Soy-free” and packaged in a facility that does not cross contaminate with gluten. We are fortunate that Mackie’s peanut allergy is not so severe yet and so we can sometimes let him have products that share equipment processes with nuts. But not gluten.   Target had a few options and they SOLD OUT FAST and Targets that carried it were Rare.

Mackie Approved Candy
from Target

I went to Target Monday and picked up the Candy that Mackie can have.  The shelf was already looking empty and it isn’t even October yet.  At Christmas and other Holidays the selection often does not contain candy that he can have and those are very expensive.  But Halloween is Mackie’s favorite Holiday and when I find it I stock up for the year and his birthday. I checked the expiration dates and they are will make it almost to Halloween next year or longer.   But the shelves will be empty very soon.  I was to Walmart and Walgreens and found nothing he could have. FYI:  The Welchs Fruit Snacks for Halloween contain dreaded Food dyes.

But fortunately Target you Rock!  I also found a hidden secret, I can order it online from and save the disappointment of Empty picked over allergy friendly candy shelves.  Besides we do not live in the land of Targets and it is 36 miles to Dubuque and 85 or more to Madison.  I cannot stalk Targets!  Besides it is rough on the budget to go there! Doc will be happy, Mackie not so much.  He and Furry can spot a Target despite not seeing well from the window in the Sequioa.

Mackie has been begging for Sour Patch Kids, but they are loaded with food dyes and just one piece of candy with Red Dye will create a monster we do not want to see. Ask his therapists or teachers when Doc accidently let him have some or Mac stole it when too fast for us to intervene.

Mackie’s favorite find of the season.  Black Forest Organic Sour Heads. $6.99
The Characters and in Orange, Lemon, Raspberry, Fruit Punch and Lime. ** This is from a factory that uses shared equipment with milk, eggs, almonds, coconut, peanuts and soy.  We are letting him try them and watch for any reactions with his behavior or allergies. 

More Allergy Friendly Candy Choices from Target:
* Check Items Allergy Status on the Target Website
I have included the links to the differing items we purchased.

Plan ahead as they sell out quickly. HAPPY HALLOWEEN everyone. 

Wholesome Organic Halloween Lollipops  (30 count)

Surf Sweets Organic Halloween Spooky Shapes (20 count)


Yum Earth Halloween Organic Candy Corn (24 count)

Yum Earth Halloween Fruits (24 snack packs)


Yum Earth Halloween Organic Fruit Pops  (80 count)

Thank you Target from a very Happy Mackie and a Special Needs Mom who doesn’t have to stalk the Target shelves for the very elusive Allergy Friendly, No GMO, Dye Free Candy this Halloween.

Anny and Mackie and of Furry the Penguin











Posted on Leave a comment

Educate the Teacher About Your Child: A Back-to-School Introduction Letters-free download

Writing a “Dear Teacher” letter is an important tool to start the school year.

I learned early on that writing a letter to Becca’s teacher was an important tool to help her with starting school.  I continued the tradition with writing Mac’s Dear Teacher Letter at the start of the school year.  A simple version of the letter is contained within Furry and Macs story.

Back-to-school introduction letters

I found this valuable resource from
Download your FREE Back-to-school Introduction Letters.

“Writing a back-to-school introduction letter to your child’s teacher can help get the school year off to a good start. It’s also a great way to start building a positive relationship.

You can use the letter to share important facts about your child and the strategies that have worked in the past. For example, you can call out any accommodations your child may use.

Involving your child can help him build self-awareness, too. Tell him, “Your new teacher may not know the same things about you as last year’s teacher. Let’s write a letter to give her an idea of what you like to do, what you do well and where you may need some extra help.” (Filling out a self-awareness worksheet can get your child thinking about it.)

Use these back-to-school-introduction letters as guides. There’s one for older kids and one for younger ones. You can use the one for older kids to gather information to write a more traditional letter if you and your child prefer that approach.”

I hope you have a great school year!

Posted on Leave a comment

The Night Before School Starts (Trauma Informed)

Trauma Edition

It Was The Night Before School Started
By Ann Yurcek

 It was the Night before school started

And all through the house,
Not one person was sleeping not even the mouse.

The children were anxious and worried with fright.
While Mom was all worried things wouldn’t go right.

The backpacks were packed and set out with care.
While visions of morning haunted Mom with a scare.

Her children were anxious and for them school was tough

Would the teacher understand or makes things too rough?

For children of trauma, school can be drama.

Or was it school can be drama for children of trauma

School is anxiety and too much change.

They cannot learn when all is not arranged.

When everything’s new the children are blue.
Mom checked her list for fidgets and chewls?

The IEP papers were approved but Mom has her doubt.
Would the school help her children or cause them to act out.

While Tommy cannot sit still, and Sally can’t read,

Mom knows that they have different kinds of needs.

Would her children find empathy and understanding

Or would they be bullied and met with demanding?

Mom woke up the children and into the pack I went,
to help the children was the job I was sent.

Mom kissed the children and hugged them goodbye,
The children put on their courage and tried not to cry.

One foot in front of another, off the children, went.
To be met by a smile that was heaven sent.

Each school can make a difference for those who are left out.
With trauma-informed teachers and accepting students with FRIENDSHIP throughout!

Everybody Matters.

Wishing everyone a productive and calm school year!

©2018 Furry The Penguin

Posted on Leave a comment

Telepresence Robot Buddies for Home Based Students

“BUDDY DOUBLE ROBOT” can provide a telepresence into a classroom for children who must remain home due to illness, injury, or disability. This “Buddy Double” can move through the classroom and record learning experiences providing in classroom participation when you cannot be in class.

In addition, studies show that humanoid robots can act as peers and help give autistic children the social skills they need…

For children like Mac, Stuffies can become Emotional Support Partner and for some children, Robots as buddies in a similar way.

Maja Matari,a professor of computer science, neuroscience, and pediatrics at the University of Southern California, who has done several studies on humanoid robots and how they can act as peers and help give autistic children the social skills they need states, “Something very special happens when you put a machine and person together.”

Plus, Double saves schools money.