Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 28, 2020

Book Giveaway: EMPOWERING STUDENTS’ KNOWLEDGE of VOCABULARY by Mary Jo Fresch & David Harrison

Author/Professor Mary Jo Fresch has teamed up with Author/poet/teacher David L. Harrison to write a book to help improve reading vocabulary with our students and children – Grades 3-5. This is a non-fiction book that teachers will love and you home schooling parents will put to good use. They are giving away a copy to one winner. This would also be a great donation to your local school or library.

All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Mary Jo and David.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


With this fun and practical book, grades 3-5 teachers have at hand both the research and the day-to-day practical activities that support a fascinating approach for empowering their students’ vocabulary. Upper elementary students will develop a deeper understanding of how the English language works, enrich their vocabularies, and improve their reading and writing skills through the information and lessons provided by veteran educators Mary Jo Fresch and David L. Harrison.

Five chapters present definitions and playful examples (in poetry and prose) to teach antonyms, synonyms, acronyms (and many more “nyms”), similes, metaphors, idioms, shades of meaning, and word origins. Practical lessons and activities for each category will engage students in joyful practice.

A final chapter offers insights into language choices by eight well-known children’s poets and authors, including two former US Young People’s Poets Laureate–Kenn Nesbitt and Margarita Engle–and world-renowned Jane Yolen.


Mary Jo’s book journey – how Empowering Students’ Knowledge of Vocabulary  came to be!

I have always loved to snag student interest in vocabulary by telling word histories or unusual information about a word. Imagine learning that the origin of school means “leisure” or coming to understand that no English word ends in “v”  (and that is why words like love, glove and have don’t follow that “e marker” rule). Once you know that fact you’ll never forget to tack that “e” on at the end of those words where short vowels are followed by v !

It was 2017 and David and I had just published 7 Keys to Research for Writing Success (Scholastic). Time for a new project and since I love vocabulary teaching I talked to David about another book!  We had, in 2013, published a five book series called Learning Through Poetry (Shell Education). David wrote 98 poems, each one focusing on a specific phonic element. The books are organized as Consonants, Long Vowels, Short Vowels, Rimes, and Consonant Blends and Digraphs. Each poem connects across the curriculum, including the arts.  These books help students in grades PreK through second grade develop phonemic and phonological awareness. I asked David about taking his writing to the next age group to focus on vocabulary development.  Of course he said yes!

Our experience writing together showed that I could give David any topic and away he’d go. In the research book we used David’s actual notes to show students how we get ready to write. In this book, I wanted David to show how he thinks about language…how we entice our readers with powerful and just right words. So, we agreed on the word categories for the chapters – “nyms” (acronyms, antonyms, eponyms, homonyms, retronyms, synonyms); similes and metaphors; idioms; shades of meaning and word origins. In each category David gave his perspective as a writer, providing a sample text where he wove interesting language into his writing.  I took it from there, providing lessons that scaffold off of David’s work. Teachers from across the country used the lessons in their classrooms and returned amazing student samples. The students worked in engaging lessons that built knowledge and skill. In all, the book has 39 teacher led lessons and 16 independent activities. An appendix contains templates for all of the lessons. Teachers can use these ideas whether they are teaching in person, hybrid, or online. I’ll let David talk his journey, as well as our final chapter. His good idea to add other children’s literature authors insights about language ends the book with a powerful punch!

David’s journey

Writing a book with someone else requires a high level of trust in your partner, a feeling that you’re lucky to be working together, and a strong belief in the project. These elements have brought us together for six previous books, so when Mary Jo suggested the idea that eventually became Empowering Students’ Knowledge of Vocabulary, deciding took as long as typing “Yes!” Writers love challenges and I knew from experience that Mary Jo was going to provide plenty of those during the months to come.  The goal was to help students develop a love for language by understanding how language works instead of feeding them lists of definitions to memorize and use three times. Writing, like reading, works best when it’s a fun, exciting adventure. Our goal defined my part of this new collaboration. I would take Mary Jo’s lead for subject matter, consider how to present examples for teacher/student use, and write them in ways that would hold attention and invite involvement.

My first opportunity came when we decided to start by introducing kids to the “Nym” family. For my examples of homonyms, I use humor to make the point while keeping it light.

The Party   The Party
I dawned clean genes I donned clean jeans
and died my hare. and dyed my hair.
I gnu that I wood I knew that I would
sea ewe their   see you there
I looked but yew I looked but you
Weren’t they’re my deer, Weren’t there my dear,
And sew I left And so I left
Two come back hear.   To come back here.

Mary Jo has fun suggesting how teachers can use such examples to work with their children.

As we looked toward the end of our work, I thought the book would be even richer and more helpful to teachers and students if we asked some of the country’s leading authors and poets to tell us how they make their writing so compelling.

Nikki Grimes says her challenge is “to tell my story, paint a mental picture, using as few words as possible…With so little space, I must choose my words with precision because every word counts.”

Kenn Nesbitt says, “When poets write, they often think of many ways to write each line. Even after they choose the words they feel best express what they are trying to say, they may go back and rewrite, change a word here, a phrase there, until they can find no way to improve what they have written.”

Jane Yolen provides a concrete example of what Nikki and Kenn mean by telling about a night she was trying to describe the moon in a story she was writing and none of the usual adjectives, similes, or metaphors seemed quite right. Finally, Jane went for a walk, looking up at the moon and listening to night sounds as her feet crunched through the snow. Jane goes on to explain how she eventually combined two words – ballooning and hullabaloo – to form a word that was just what she needed: hulaballooning.

From beginning to end, the journey of Empowering Students’ Knowledge of Vocabulary was a voyage of pleasure, discovery, and sharing.


Dr. Mary Jo Fresch is an Academy Professor and Professor Emerita in the School of Teaching and Learning, College of Education and Human Ecology at The Ohio State University. She has been an educator for over 40 years. She began her teaching career as a 3rd grade teacher, then worked with adults with challenging literacy needs at the University of Akron, and finally, spent the last 30 years teaching pre-service and in-service teachers’ literacy courses at the University of Nebraska (Lincoln), The Royal Melbourne Institute and Deakin University (both in Melbourne, Australia) and The Ohio State University. She speaks nationally and internationally about literacy related topics.

Her research focuses on the developmental aspect of literacy learning. She has over 60 peer reviewed articles in professional journals such as Language Arts, Journal of Literacy Research, The Reading Teacher, Reading and Writing Quarterly and Reading Psychology. Her 20 professional books include Strategies for Effective Balanced Literacy (Shell Education); The Power of Picture Books: Using Content Area Literature in Middle School (NCTE); Engaging Minds in English Language Arts Classrooms: The Surprising Power of Joy (ASCD); and Editor of An Essential History of Current Reading Practices (Amazon). She has previously co-authored Learning Through Poetry (Shell Education), a five book phonemic and phonological awareness series, 7 Keys To Research For Writing Success (Scholastic), and Empowering Students’ Knowledge of Vocabulary: Learning How Language Works in Grades 3-5 with David L. Harrison. Mary Jo continues to provide professional learning workshops for teachers across the United States.

Twitter: @fresch_ideas


David Harrison has published ninety-two titles that have earned dozens of honors, including the Christopher Award for The Book of Giant Stories.  His work has been translated into twelve languages, anthologized more than one hundred eighty-five times, and appeared in over eighty magazines and professional journals. In Springfield, MO, David Harrison Elementary School is named for him. His poem, “My Book,” is sandblasted into The Children’s Garden sidewalk at the Burton Barr Library in Phoenix, Arizona and painted on a bookmobile in Pueblo, Colorado. David’s poetry inspired Sandy Asher’s popular, award winning school plays, Somebody Catch My Homeworkand Jesse and Grace and has been set to music performed for numerous live audiences. In 2007, the Missouri Librarian Association presented David with its Literacy Award for the body of his work.

David had three new new published books come out in 2020. A picture book titled, RUM PUM PUM written with Jane Yolen. GUIDED PRACTICE FOR READING GROWTH written with Laura Robb and this book EMPOWERING STUDENTS’ KNOWLEDGE of VOCABULARY with Mary Jo Fresch.  He holds two degrees in science and two honorary doctorates of letters (MSU and Drury University). He is poet laureate for Drury University and honorary doctor of letters degrees from Missouri State University and Drury University. He regularly speaks at conferences and visits schools. David lives with his wife, Sandy, a business owner and retired guidance counselor. He is working on many new books.


David and Mary Jo, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. The two of you make a great team. I am sure this book will help children increase their knowledge of words/vocabulary, and understand more of what they read and become more imaginative in their writing, which will help them be more successful in life. Good Luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Thanks for the enticing peek into this book! It looks like a wonderful resource for classroom teachers and for wordsmiths everywhere. I appreciate the opportunity to win a copy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your kind words. Mary Jo and I have written half a dozen previous books together and love collaborating on ideas that excite us. This is definitely one of them!


  2. Kathy, thank you for featuring our book today. Mary Jo and I are delighted to introduce EMPOWERING STUDENTS’ KNOWLEDGE OF VOCABULARY to your readers. It’s a different sort of book than you usually post on your blog so we’re all the more grateful. Most of us, most of the time, focus on writing and illustrating for young people through the world of trade publishing. But those same kids spend a lot of their lives in school, mastering the skills that allow them to read and enjoy our picture books and novels. That’s why books like this one are important too. I hope your visitors will help us spread the word through their own social media channels. With gratitude to all, David.


  3. Yes, Kathy, thank you so much! We hope teachers and families find this book empowering to their students – helping them become fascinated with the English language! Such enthusiasm will serve them well as readers and writers.


  4. Sounds fascinating and like an engaging learning tool, chock full of challenging kernels to prod student’s interest! Good luck with your new book David and Mary Jo, and thanks for this excellent review Kathy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Michelle. We appreciate your support and good wishes. We have our fingers crossed for a successful run with this one.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Michelle! We packed lots of good info in this book!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’d love to win a copy of this book to donate to my school! (I already have a copy, and love it!) It’s filled with “usable” lessons for teachers, all geared towards helping students learn!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Su! Thanks for the wonderful student writings you shared with us!


      • You’re welcome, Mary Jo! I’m always happy to help!


    • Thank you again for all your help, Su. I think we have a good book on our hands.


  6. Yet another fun book! Love the example of homonyms. Too cute. Congratulations!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Angie! David is an amazing children’s author and his writings are great mentor texts as well!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Angie. This was fun to write. I got a lot of giggles when I tried some of the examples in classrooms.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What an amazing interview! I love the concept of this book. Having been a language arts teacher, I know teachers and homeschooling parents will love this resource, and children will have fun learning through the entertaining examples. Congratulations Mary Jo and David!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Pamela! Hoping teachers and families have as much fun using it as we did writing it!


    • Thank you, Pamela. Let’s hope the word gets out there quickly and gives us a boost.


  8. My daughter-in-law home schools and is always looking for creative ways to teach my grandchildren! This sounds perfect!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Kim. I hope she gets to try a copy. The book will be very helpful to those who are home schooling.


  9. Congrats, David and Mary Jo! This sounds like a great book. (I’m subscribed to the emails as well.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Susan! We’re so excited to see the book in print at last. Can’t wait to start getting feedback from users.


  10. I shared on 2 FB pages and Twitter. looks great.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Carol. Many thanks for sharing news of our new book. I hope you get a copy and enjoy what you find in it.


  11. I just shared it with my daughter who is homeschooling and buying a copy for her family. Does that count as another chance??

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not my call of course, but I sure do like your support!


    • Carol,

      I think buying a book should give you another chance. Thanks!


  12. Congratulations to David and Mary Jo! This looks like a fabulous book — I love the homonym poem. Thanks for the chance to win a copy (and I’m a subscriber also, Kathy!). Happy New Year to all!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Christy. Mary Jo and I love working together and are already planning our next collaboration, this one with Tim Rasinski to make it a threesome.


  13. This book looks exciting! Congratulations David and Mary Jo.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jean, thank you very much. So far so good. Mary Jo and I are eager to get our book “out there” and into as many classrooms and homes as possible. We appreciate your help.

      Liked by 1 person

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