Conversation Resources

posted Apr 11, 2018, 12:31 PM by Julie Alonso

This is a collection of resources that might spark a discussion about upstanding, kindness, and empathy. There are many more beyond this list; please seek out the school’s librarians or counselors for more suggestions. Descriptions adapted from

Picture books for grades K-3:

Power of Language:

Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words by Karen Leggett Abouraya

The inspiring, true story of Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani girl who stands up and speaks out for every child’s right to education. A great example of someone who uses words to be an upstander.

Chocolate Me by Taye Diggs

The boy is teased for looking different than the other kids. His skin is darker, his hair curlier. He tells his mother he wishes he could be more like everyone else. And she helps him to see how beautiful he really, truly is.

Horrible Bear! by Ame Dyckman

Bear didn't mean to break a little girl's kite, but she's upset anyway--upset enough to shout "HORRIBLE BEAR!" Bear is indignant. He doesn't think he's horrible! Then Bear gets a truly Horrible Bear idea. What will he do next? This book reinforces the idea that we sometimes speak/act out of our own internal anger/frustration without taking the time to think about how it will impact others. The ending underscores the fact that saying sorry afterward/acknowledging our wrongdoing can make a big difference.

Ouch Moments by Michael Genhart

When kids say tiny hurtful things to others, they might not realize the cumulative effect these comments can have. Ouch Moments looks at how kids are affected by these words—not just the target, but the bystander and speaker as well.. Includes a "Note to Parents and Caregivers."

My Buddy Slug by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

After spending too much time together, best friend Alex explodes at Slug--and Slug's feelings are bruised. Friendship isn't always easy!

Let's Talk About Race by Julius Lester

In this acclaimed book, Newbery Honor author Julius Lester shares his own story as he explores what makes each of us special.

Just Kidding by Trudy Ludwig

Teaches that making a habit out of teasing and saying, “Just kidding!" doesn’t make it ok. A rare look at emotional bullying among boys.

Sorry by Trudy Ludwig

Does an apology count if you don't really mean it? Includes afterword by apology-expert Dr. Aaron Lazare, M.D., note from author, and discussion questions.

My Name is Bilal by Asma Mobin-Uddin MD M.D.

When Bilal and his sister transfer to a school where they are the only Muslims, they must learn how to fit in while staying true to their beliefs and heritage.

Words Are Not for Hurting by Elizabeth Verdick

Encourages young children to express themselves using helpful, not hurtful, words. Includes a note for parents and caregivers.

Doing the right thing:

The Bully Blockers Club by Teresa Bateman and Jackie Urbanovic

Lotty Raccoon is excited. This year she has a new teacher, new backpack, and new shoes. But her enthusiasm quickly wanes when Grant Grizzly begins bullying her. With the help of her fellow students, she forms the Bully Blockers Club.

The Empty Pot by Demi

Demi's exquisite art and beautifully simple text show how Ping's gardening failure is turned triumphant in this satisfying tale of honesty rewarded.

Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry

In this funny story about kindness and friendship, Stick and Stone act as some of the best friend duos in children’s literature and display a great way to encourage Upstanding vs. Bystanding.

One by Kathryn Otoshi

Even though the other colors don’t like how Red is acting, what can they do? When no one speaks up, things get out of hand — until One comes along and shows all the colors how to stand up, stand together, and count.

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts and Christian Robinson

When Sally takes a chance and stands up to the bullies, she finds that one small girl can make a big difference.

The Juice Box Bully by Bob Sornson and Maria Dismondy

Have you ever seen a bully in action and done nothing about it? The kids at Pete's new school get involved, instead of being bystanders. When Pete begins to behave badly, his classmates teach him about "The Promise". Will Pete decide to shed his bullying habits and make "The Promise"?

Peace Week in Miss Fox's Class by Eileen Spinelli

It's Peace Week, and the rules are simple: don't say mean things, and help others! But maybe that's not so simple after all. Can Miss Fox's Class keep the peace?  Great for discussing “think before you speak / act.”

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

The true story of the family whose success eventually brought an end to the era of segregated education in California.


Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña

Each question CJ asks is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them.

Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson

Can one child's good deed change the world? Ordinary Mary starts a chain reaction that multiplies around the world.

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller

When Tanisha spills grape juice all over her new dress, her classmate wants to make her feel better, wondering: What does it mean to be kind?

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

When Chloe's teacher gives a lesson about how even small acts of kindness can change the world, Chloe is stung by the lost opportunity for friendship, and thinks about how much better it could have been if she'd shown a little kindness toward Maya.

Chapter books for grades 4-8:

NOTE: preview the book first to make sure the content and reading level are age-appropriate for your particular reader(s)

Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings

Tragedy strikes when the DiAngelos’ kayak overturns in the bay, and nextdoor neighbor Brady wonders if it was more than an accident. Soon, Brady discovers the terrible truth behind the kayak’s sinking, and it will change the lives of those he loves forever. Priscilla Cummings deftly weaves a suspenseful tale of three teenagers caught in a wicked web of deception.

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon

The fifteen-year-old narrator of this ostensible murder mystery is autistic, prone to fall silent for weeks at a time and unable to imagine the interior lives of others. Reading this story gives a window into his experience, building the reader’s empathy and compassion for others.

Books by Carl Hiaasen: Hoot, Scat, Flush, and Chomp

Carl Hiaasen’s chapter books for middle-grade readers feature kids standing up for what is right.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

The perspectives in this compelling story-- switching among main character Auggie, his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others-- converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

I never had a brain until Freak came along. . .That's what Max thought. All his life he'd been called stupid. Dumb. Slow. It didn't help that his body seemed to be growing faster than his mind. It didn't help that people were afraid of him. So Max learned how to be alone. At least until Freak came along. Freak was weird, too. He had a little body, and a really big brain. Together Max and Freak were unstoppable. Together, they were Freak the Mighty.

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Written in tandem by two award-winning authors, this four-starred reviewed tour de force shares the alternating perspectives of Rashad and Quinn as the complications from that single violent moment, the type taken directly from today’s headlines, unfold and reverberate to highlight an unwelcome truth.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

Joe and Ravi might be from very different places, but they're both stuck in the same place: SCHOOL. Joe's lived in the same town all his life, and was doing just fine until his best friends moved away and left him on his own. Ravi's family just moved to America from India, and he's finding it pretty hard to figure out where he fits in. Joe and Ravi don't think they have anything in common -- but soon enough they have a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and a common mission: to take control of their lives over the course of a single crazy week.

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

A young girl's kindness, compassion, and honesty overcome bullying.“When reviewers draw a parallel between Mockingbird and Lauren Wolk's Wolf Hollow, they are being neither hyperbolic, nor lazy. They are merely doing justice to Wolk's beautiful story.” — NPR, Best Books of 2016

Parenting resources:

Better World Ed

Wordless videos and short stories from around the world that ignite curiosity, empathy, global literacy, and youth leadership. We call these story kits "Empathy Challenges".

Beyond the Golden Rule: a Teaching Tolerance publication

A Parent’s Guide to Preventing and Responding to Prejudice

Build Character Strengths with Quality Media

How to support kids' character and life-skills development through media -- and parenting. By Caroline Knorr


The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness, by Dacher Keltner, Jason Marsh, Jeremy Adam Smith

Leading scientists and science writers reflect on the life-changing, perspective-changing, new science of human goodness.  In these pages you will hear from Steven Pinker, who asks, “Why is there peace?”; Robert Sapolsky, who examines violence among primates; Daniel Goleman, who proposes “constructive anger”; and many others.  A collection of personal stories and empirical research, The Compassionate Instinct will make you think not only about what it means to be happy and fulfilled but also about what it means to lead an ethical and compassionate life.

Forty children’s books about civil rights and social justice

This booklist gives suggestions for the basic civil rights of all children.

It’s Time to Have “The Talk”

You don’t have to be an expert on texting, Instagram, Minecraft -- or whatever else your kids are into -- to have The Talk. Start by reading up on what's going on in your kids’ world (for younger kids and older kids). Ask them to show you what they like online, and why. Make sure to listen :) Then, express a few basic expectations, with the understanding that this isn't a one-and-done kind of chat. Good luck (you’ll be fine)!

Making Caring Common

A project of Harvard Graduate School of Education.  Many resources on this website!

Narrative 4

MISSION: builds a community of empathic global citizens who improve the world through the exchange of personal narratives.

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman (book)

One of the most influential books about children ever published, Nurture Shock offers a revolutionary new perspective on children that upends a library's worth of conventional wisdom. With impeccable storytelling and razor-sharp analysis, the authors demonstrate that many of modern society's strategies for nurturing children are in fact backfiring--because key twists in the science have been overlooked. Nothing like a parenting manual, NurtureShock gets to the core of how we grow, learn and live.

The Power of Words (note: this lesson is taught in 3rd grade at Town)

What should you do when someone uses mean or scary language on the Internet?

Stomp out Bullying: What to do if your child is a bully

It takes a courageous and open parent to realize that their child has a problem and that they need help.

Take a stand and lend a hand: GLSEN No name-calling week

Being an ally or a friend to someone who is being picked on may feel uncomfortable or scary, but there are safe ways in which we can all "Take a Stand and Lend a Hand."

toughLOVE: Raising Confident, Kind, Resilient Kids (book)

Combining a high level of nurture with an emphasis on boundaries and structure, toughLOVE shows parents how to help their kids become capable, responsible, and productive from the first day of kindergarten through the first day of college…and beyond.

The Heart of Parenting:  Non-Violent Communication in Action (Article)

How to role model kindness, with examples.

The Yes Brain, by Dan Segal and Tina Pyne Bryson (book)

When facing challenges, unpleasant tasks, and contentious issues such as homework, screen time, food choices, and bedtime, children often act out or shut down, responding with reactivity instead of receptivity. This is what New York Times bestselling authors Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson call a No Brain response. But our kids can be taught to approach life with openness and curiosity. Parents can foster their children’s ability to say yes to the world and welcome all that life has to offer, even during difficult times. This is what it means to cultivate a Yes Brain.  In The Yes Brain, the authors give parents skills, scripts, ideas, and activities to bring kids of all ages into the overwhelmingly beneficial “yes” state. You’ll learn:

• the four fundamentals of the Yes Brain—balance, resilience, insight, and empathy—and how to strengthen them

• the key to knowing when kids need a gentle push out of a comfort zone vs. needing the “cushion” of safety and familiarity

• strategies for navigating away from negative behavioral and emotional states (aggression and withdrawal) and expanding your child’s capacity for positivity

Thank you to Ivy Lavie and Jaymie Oppenheim for contributing to this list!

Examining our digital lives in Second Grade

posted Apr 3, 2018, 12:40 PM by Julie Alonso

In second grade, we have been discussing our digital lives, how to be safe online, and how to keep personal information private. While many of these conversations seem like common sense, it is important to review these habits now that the boys are developing an online presence.  

Here are some of the questions we've been asking that you may want to discuss at home with your emerging digital consumers:

Teen Tech Week 2018

posted Mar 5, 2018, 5:58 PM by Kim Stuart   [ updated Mar 5, 2018, 10:36 PM ]

Teen Tech Week comes once a year in order to celebrate technology in libraries. This year's theme,"Libraries are for Creating," encourages teens to become content creators using library resources. 

Each day during lunch recess the library will be hosting students in grades 6 - 8 in a variety of activities in order to celebrate Teen Tech Week. 

Monday: Hands On
  • Legos, K’Nex, Playmags, and Tinkertoys 
  • Origami
  • CodeDrone 
  • Paper Circuits
  • Pixel Post It Art 
  • A project of your own choosing. You must sit at a table.
Tuesday: Video
  • Stop Motion Station - Use iPad, stand, and green screen for iStop Motion movie

  • iMovie - Use iPad

  • VidCode - Use Chromebook to make video memes

  • We Video - Use Chromebook

  • Pixel Post It Art 

  • A project of your own choosing. You must sit at a table.

Wednesday: Music
  • Sonic Pi - Use MacBook
  • P5.js Sound - Use Chromebook or Mac Book
  • SoundTrap - Use Chromebook or Mac Book
  • Garage Band - Use iPad
  • Pixel Post It Art 
  • A project of your own choosing. You must sit at a table. 

Mark Your Calendars!

posted Feb 26, 2018, 2:45 PM by Kim Stuart

The Town Library is going to be a busy place in the next few weeks! Here is a peek at some of our upcoming events: 
  • Common Sense Media Presents on Young Children and Technology - Wed February 28, 6pm - 7pm, Dining Room (RSVP here
Dana Blum, Bay Area Senior Director of Common Sense, will present The Common Sense Census: Media Use By Kids Age Zero to Eight on February 28th from 6:00-7:00 PM in the Dining Room. With a dizzying array of smartphones, tablets, e-readers, and on ­demand services, today's children are the most media- and tech­ saturated generation ever. Join us to hear recommendations and tips from our experts on fostering healthy media habits in early childhood. RSVP here. Childcare will be provided.
  • We Need Diverse Books Lunch for 7/8 Students and Town Employees - Thurs March 1, 12:10 - 12:50 pm, Library
During February break, we invited 7th and 8th graders and Town employees to read or start reading at least one book that features characters, viewpoints, or topics not often featured in books. This is based on the We Need Diverse Books initiative. Participants will discuss their book choices over a special pizza and doughnut lunch. There are only three requirements: 1. Read or start reading a book featuring a character, viewpoint, or topic often underrepresented in books. 2. Complete a short review of the book using this form. 3. Have parents sign off that students read with this form.
  • Teen Tech Week - March 5 - 7, Lunch Recess for Grades 6, 7, and 8, Library
Teen Tech Week is when libraries make the time to showcase all of the great digital resources and services that are available to help teens succeed in school and prepare for college and 21st century careers. Celebrate the next Teen Tech Week with the theme "Libraries are for Creating," March 4-10, 2018.This year's theme encourages teens to take advantage of all the great digital tools offered through the library to become content creators, and to leverage library resources to share out their creations, whether they be podcasts, videos, apps, games, wearable tech, or some other fabulous invention or creation! (from
  • Kindergarten Bedtime Stories - Tues March 13, 5:00 - 6:00 pm, Library
K families, please join the librarians and special guest Lorri Hamilton Durbin on Tuesday, March 13th from 5:00 - 6:00 for an evening of bedtime stories for kindergarteners in the library. PJs and stuffies encouraged. Children must have an adult accompanying them. No need to RSVP! More details here

Do You Know What Your Son Is Up To Online?

posted Jan 10, 2018, 11:30 PM by Kim Stuart   [ updated Jan 18, 2018, 3:31 PM ]

There are two possible paths before us — one in which we destroy what is great about the Internet and about how young people use it, and one in which we make smart choices and head toward a bright future in a digital age…. On one of these paths, we seek to constrain their creativity, self-expres
sion, and innovation in public and private spheres; on the other, we embrace these things while minimizing the dangers that come with the new era. 
- John Palfrey and Urs Gasser, Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives

Teens do not remember a time without iPhones and social media. They are history's first digital natives, so to help parents navigate the new reality for kids, Town held the Teens and Technology event on December 7, 2017. Several parents gathered with Laura Donahue, Upper School Parent Catalyst, and Kim Stuart, Director of Library Services, to explore the role of technology in teens' lives. The goal of the evening was to equip parents with knowledge about what teens might be doing online in order to help them make smart choices. 

Teens and Technology December 7, 2017

First the group learned about terms like "swatting" and "FINSTA," and Laura shared findings from Common Sense Media's Cyberbullying & Digital Drama: Mean by Mistake presentation. The biggest takeaway was that there exists a paradox: technology use is linked to teen depression and insomnia, while also contributing to feelings of innovation and social connection. There seems to be a fine line between technology use and abuse, and it is up to parents and educators to lead children to make positive choices. 

Then event participants read scenarios in small groups based on real events and discuss ways to address common problems teens face. One particularly poignant scenario involved a hypothetical student who was exhibiting addictive behavior to video games, which caused him to become isolated from family and peers. Solutions to this problem was simply to have devices in a common area near other family members. The common thread for all strategies across scenarios was to promote transparency, establish boundaries, and spark conversation between teens and adults. 

Town believes that teen technology use is best navigated through proactive conversations with and preemptive guidelines from the adults in teens' lives. Town has many resources to support this and hope that you will join us at future events further exploring this topic. Please reach out to Matt Mena-Landry, Director of Educational Technology, Kim Stuart, Director of Library Services, or Laura Donahue and Keval Desai, Town School Parent Catalysts, if you have questions. 

Events - 
  • Common Sense Media's San Francisco Teen Panel: Notes to My Middle School Self on January 18, 2018, 8:30am – 10am, at Town (register here)
  • Lower School Kids and Technology will be oFebruary 28, 2018, 6pm – 7pm; please check your email for more details on that closer to the date. 
Online resources - 

Kindergarten takes on the 40 Book Challenge!

posted Nov 27, 2017, 8:56 AM by Julie Alonso   [ updated Nov 27, 2017, 12:12 PM ]

This school year, Ms. Stuart launched the 40 Book Challenge in grades Three through Eight. This was very mindfully done to build a culture of reading in the older grades where often students become so busy, readership drops off. The challenge, a personal one and not a contest, where the prize-- an extra spot on one's library account for more books-- simply provides more access to reading, has been popular and visible, not just in the library where we have a display dedicated to the different genres, but also in the Upper School hallway, where teachers spent a day modeling taking part in the challenge, and in various classrooms, where teachers are posting their progress as they work their way through the challenge.

Even the youngest students at Town have heard talk of the challenge and want to participate. In Second Grade, we do a modified version (Reading around the Library), and of course everyone who asks to participate is welcome to do so-- we have a shelf in the library by the 40 Book Challenge display dedicated to the materials (forms and accomplishment stickers). Having said that, we aren't promoting the challenge in K-2 due to the nature of reading at this age. Books are so much shorter for beginning readers, and genres are not as defined. 

Even so, one of our Kindergarten classes was eager to participate and decided to do their own version of the 40 Book Challenge! KA teacher Ms. Calkins switched up the genres to make them more Kindergarten-friendly (no dystopian books in K!). With each new read-aloud, they discuss the different genres and read the books as a class and then each book is added to their list.

Thanks, KA, for taking the initiative in adapting this challenge to our youngest readers! By taking on this challenge as a class and displaying their reading, they are fostering a culture of reading in their classroom.

If you are interested in this challenge but daunted by the genre restrictions, don't be! Switch it up! Make it work for you like KA did. After all, this is a personal challenge. Any reading is good reading!

We Now Have OverDrive!

posted Nov 8, 2017, 1:17 PM by Kim Stuart

The Town School Library is excited to announce that we now have access to OverDrive,
an online collection of thousands of ebooks!  

Our OverDrive collection is located on When signing into the website, choose Town School for Boys from the dropdown menu and sign in using your Destiny Quest/Follett login

You also can download the OverDrive appSearch for Town School in the OverDrive app, and there will be a few steps before being able to browse your digital collection. Help with these steps (depending on the device being used) can be found here.

If you need more help, please let us know!

Teen Read Week 2017

posted Oct 17, 2017, 1:17 PM by Kim Stuart   [ updated Oct 19, 2017, 10:31 AM ]

Last week, students in grades 6 - 8 came to the library during recess to enjoy snacks, activities, and of course, reading for Teen Read Week. The library celebrated with a Kahoot quiz, giveaways, a favorite book poll, and book trailers. 

If you haven't stopped the library lately, please join the teens and add you favorite book to the Story Room walls!  

The 40 Book Challenge!

posted Oct 2, 2017, 10:25 AM by Kim Stuart

The 40 Book Challenge was conceived by Donalyn Miller, a 6th grade Texas teacher and author of The Book
. Donalyn instills the love of reading in her students by challenging them to read 40 books over the course of the school year. The only requirement is that students have to read across a variety of genres. Sounds impossible? It isn’t, as her students usually pass or surpass the 40 book goal. 

Miller found that providing time, space, and freedom for independent reading creates a culture of reading and lifelong reading habits. This work is important, as studies show that independent reading increases performance on tests, vocabulary, reading fluency, and motivation to read even more.

Here at Town the library has historically tried a variety of ways to encourage reading, especially in the older grades. After a self-study and correspondence with peer schools, we
piloted a half-year version of the 40 Book Challenge with 4th grade, and found that it encouraged many students to expand their reading repertoire while increasing book
 checkouts. It was a no-brainer to adopt the full 40 Book Challenge in the library this year in grades 3 - 8, especially because it complements our Reading Workshop instruction.

The 40 Book Challenge is already off to an amazing start, with four students having completed it! 5th grader Kyle, 3rd grader Vickram, 3rd grader Sean, and 4th grader Timothy are already done, and now can check out one extra book on their library accounts. Several teachers are participating too, as well as many families. 

If you haven't joined the challenge yet, we hope that you will consider trying it by tracking books with this form and sharing your progress with the Town community. Email stuart(at) if you need help or have questions. Together we can build a culture of reading! 

Second Grade Library Class

posted Sep 12, 2017, 4:31 PM by Julie Alonso   [ updated Oct 2, 2017, 8:51 AM by Kim Stuart ]

Wow, we have a lot of phenomenal readers in Second Grade! You may be surprised to see that your reader, who has been making real progress towards chapter books, is bringing home picture books from the Town School Library. Why is that? This year, Second Graders are participating in a library challenge meant to introduce them to a variety of genres that perhaps they haven't read before. We are also hoping that boys begin to understand how the library is organized so that they can feel self-sufficient in the library as they get older.

Reading Around the Library

Today, we talked briefly about how the library is organized by the information you find on the spine of a book. Every book in the library has a  sticker that tells the Call Number (which we describe as the address) of the book. Above the white call number sticker is the category sticker. These two stickers will give information that will help you find a book on the shelf.

Because the library is a big place with many different categories to navigate, we start Second Grade by just choosing books from the Picture Book section (or books spread out on tables, which is a way to continue to offer a variety of reading levels and interests within the "rules" of the challenge). Within this section, there are 22 different genres or topics, ranging from Adventure to World. Each genre/topic has an accompanying sticker at the top of the spine. This year, the Second Grade will have the opportunity to read from different sections of the library. 

For each genre they choose, they will earn the accompanying genre sticker on their library check-out card. As they reach different milestones on their card, different areas of the library open up to them and they earn a new level of access. Of course, all areas of the library (except Young Adult) are open to students before and after school, although earning stickers only happens during class for equity's sake.

The fun part is that they will be exploring different areas of the library and challenging themselves to find a just right book from various genres. After they complete the first row (and earned three different stickers) on their cards, they will be invited to check out from the Early Chapter Book section of the library, so rest assured that if they feel limited in their choices, they will very soon be allowed to check out from an expanded selection of books.

Thank you for your support of the library and your son's reading this year!

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