Vashti Harrison visits the Lower School!

On Wednesday, November 20, Vashti Harrison visited with 2nd through 5th graders at the Lower School to celebrate the publication of her inspiring book, Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History. Vashti is an artist, author, and filmmaker with a passion for storytelling. She earned her MFA in film and video from California Institute of the Arts, where she snuck into animation and illustration classes to learn from Disney and DreamWorks legends. There she rekindled a love for drawing and painting. Now she uses her love for both film and illustration to craft beautiful stories for children. Her other books include Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World and Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History. Vashti has also illustrated the recent books Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o and Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry.





Happy Halloween!


This Halloween our 3rd – 5th grade students had the opportunity to practice reading aloud with meaning and expression. In the Library, we turned the lights down and gathered on the rug to hear Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz. Several students took this opportunity to try out the oral tradition of story telling and told their favorite ghost stories. For our younger students we focused on making predictions using these Halloween favorites:

Harvest Fest and Stone Soup

Friends’ Central Lower School celebrated its 19th annual Harvest Fest! This is the time of year when we celebrate our students’ connection to the natural world. Students are encouraged to bring in something they have grown themselves or something that they have observed in nature. Our activities during this week included pickle tasting, cutting vegetables to prepare our very own stone soup, and at the end of this wonderful week, our 5th graders wrote and performed a skit based on the folk tale Stone Soup!

In the library, we prepared by reading John Muth’s version of this classic folk tale. Students appreciated the change from the traditional European setting. The final line in Muth’s book, “And to think,” said the monks, “to be happy is as simple as making stone soup.” offered the perfect opportunity to connect our Harvest Fest with our Quaker testimony of Community. Author and our Ambassador for Community, DyAnne DiSalvo returned to campus to work with 5th graders on a backdrop for their performance. The skit was a success and the soup was delicious, stones and all!

Raina Telgemeier and the Guts tour!

On Wednesday, October 16, Raina Telgemeier visited Friends’ Central School Upper campus for an evening event. In an auditorium packed with fans, Raina discussed her career creating graphic novels and how her personal history informs her work. The most memorable quote from the evening: “Graphic novels are real reading!”

DyAnne DiSalvo, FCS Lower School Ambassador for Community

This school got off to a great start with a wonderful all-school assembly featuring DyAnne DiSalvo, author and illustrator of our all-school read, Grandpa’s Corner Store. The book celebrates this year’s Quaker testimony of Community. Each of our classrooms received a copy of Grandpa’s Corner Store and our students in Pre-K through 5th grade attended the assembly.

The community spirit shines bright in this story of a take-charge child who refuses to let her grandpa’s corner grocery quietly disappear when a big supermarket opens down the street. By organizing her neighbors, Lucy makes sure her grandpa’s small, independent business can stand up to the big competition. Grandpa’s Corner Store includes a wonderful variety of community members and a map of the neighborhood.

Before reading aloud from the book, DyAnne DiSalvo told our students about the true story that inspired the book. Ms. DiSalvo used to live near a neighborhood store just like the one in Grandpa’s Corner Store. The owner, Mr. Johnson, wore a red jacket and was a very special person who helped his neighbors. Ms. DiSalvo showed us pictures of Mr. Johnson and the store.


After signing books for our students, Ms. DiSalvo drew a beautiful portrait of Mr. Johnson and dedicated it to the Lower School. Ms. DiSalvo will be returning to our campus two more times this year. First, for our Harvest Fest/Stone Soup celebration and later in the spring for a 5th grade writer’s workshop. The Lower School presented Ms. DiSalvo with a special symbol of our gratitude created by our art teacher, Heather Exley. We are honored to have Ms. DiSalvo as our “Ambassador for Community.”

Fiction and Nonfiction

Today in Library, Kindergarten students learned about the difference between fiction and nonfiction books. Working in small groups and using their new skills, students worked to determine the difference. Some questions they asked were: Is this a made up story or is this true? Is this book teaching me something or is it entertaining me? Does this book have a beginning and an end or can I open this book anywhere and start reading? Are there illustrations or are there photographs, maps, and labels in this book? After discussing these questions with their group, students sorted books into two stacks: fiction and nonfiction.


Kindergarten is King!

A great first week of school for Kindergarten! We read the King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton. Teacher Mari, our Assistant Head of School for Academic Program, also got a crown to celebrate her birthday! Teacher Melody, our Lower School Principal, shows off the book’s cover.

New Library Signage!

We are so excited about the new shelf signage in our library and we are getting very positive feedback from our students! The shelf signage was creating right here at FCS through a collaborative effort that included our Light Lab, the Library, and our fantastic Physical Plant.

The National Geographic Kids Amazing Awesome Almanac Quiz Show


It’s the 10th anniversary of the world’s best-selling almanac for kids! To celebrate the 2020 National Geographic Kids Almanac, FCS Lower School hosted an interactive comedy show by the nationally acclaimed Story Pirates! The quiz show was made up of a series of interactive games and challenges that required student and teacher participation. Students loved the fast facts about animals, science, nature, technology, and conservation and the opportunity to display their knowledge!

April is National Poetry Month

Library Poet-tree #1


Lower School students celebrated National Poetry Month by learning about different types of poetry and then writing their own original poetry for two of our Library Poet-trees. We built one tree in the hallway outside of the library.


Library Poet-tree #2, designed and constructed by students




A second Poet-tree in the form of a sculpture made from natural materials was created by a 5th grade student with help from friends. This Poet-tree took up residence inside the library.




5th grade students focused on writing black-out poems: poems created by removing words from recycled book pages. Grades 3 and 4 wrote original poetry in a variety of forms including free verse, haiku, narrative, and limerick.

Students were invited to read aloud from their poems and our library class quickly turned into an authentic poetry reading with students stepping up on a library stool to make sure their poems were heard.

Matt Phelan Visit & the Lower School Book Fair

Author/illustrator Matt Phelan visits Friends' Central Lower School
Author/Illustrator Matt Phelan visits Friends Central Lower School


Knights vs Dinosaurs by Matt Phelan

On a surprisingly snowy morning in March, Friends’ Central welcomed celebrated children’s author and illustrator Matt Phelan to the Lower School. Matt is the author and illustrator of many picture books, graphic novels, and chapter books, including Knights vs Dinosaurs (2018), an illustrated chapter book and the first installment of an exciting trilogy. Speaking to two groups of students, Matt described his artistic process, where he finds his inspiration, and shared how he came up with the idea to include both knights and dinosaurs in the same book!



Our students found plenty of inspiration in Matt’s presentation, including 1st grade students who made a BOOK of their own in the shape of a pig (Pignic, 2018) to thank Matt for his visit. Our 4th grade had the opportunity to eat lunch with Matt and several students asked him for advice on their own personal drawing projects. In describing his career, Matt pointed out that he had taught himself to draw and he encouraged students to never stop drawing!


Matt Phelan’s visit coincided with our Lower School Book Fair where we highlighted his books, as well as our terrific book talk books, and our library wish list.

Friends’ Central Lower School Book Fair


And the winner is…


On Monday morning, January 28, students met in the library for a reveal of our Caldecott mock election results. Cheers went up when the first envelope was opened and the book Blue by Laura Vaccaro Seeger was announced.

The second envelope revealed our honor book choices Drawn Together by Minh Le and Dan Santat and The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld.

Students were invited back to the library later in the morning for a live-stream of the American Library Association’s (ALA) Youth Media Awards announcements. Excitement mounted as several of the picture books students reviewed for our mock election received Youth Media Awards in other categories.

And the ALA Caldecott Award for the most distinguished American picture book for children goes to…

Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall

The Caldecotts Are Coming!


The Lower School Library is buzzing with excitement about the upcoming Caldecott Awards! Students in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade have been learning about the American Library Association’s award for the most distinguished American picture book for children and the criteria used to select the award winner.

Students used the same criteria for choosing the Caldecott Award winner and worked in groups to discuss and review 12 picture books. In preparation for our mock election next week, students evaluated these picture books in four categories with a point system. The evaluation process produced rich discussion and debate as well as gave students the opportunity to become intimately familiar with each book. Students are now ready to cast an informed vote for the most distinguished American picture book for children published in the year 2018.

But our preparation was not over! Students in 4th grade spent extra time in the library during lunch and recess to review the evaluation forms and tally the points by title to create a new top five list. Next week we will use this shortened list to vote for the award and honor books! On January 28th, when the Caldecott Award is announced, we will compare our winners to the American Library Association’s picks. Stay tuned!

Author-Illustrator Laurie Keller visits the Lower School and teaches us how to draw!


Author-Illustrator Laurie Keller visited the Lower School on October 25th to discuss her newest book Potato Pants!, a wonderfully silly book about forgiveness. Using her main character, Potato, Laurie demonstrated for students in K-3 how to draw different emotions by changing the direction of an eyebrow or adding an eyelid.

Students followed along closely and created their own images of the popular characters, Potato (Potato Pants!, 2018) and Arnie (Arnie the Donut, 2003). Laurie also gave students an opportunity to use their social emotional intelligence skills to create a new story. Choosing from an array of everyday objects, students worked on character development and plot line to create a story about an ordinary baseball who, all of a sudden, becomes terribly sneaky because he is jealous of a popular football that everyone wants to play with!

After our assembly, Laurie signed books and met with fifth grade students. Last year, these students presented Laurie’s first book, The Scrambled States of America (1998), as a skit. Our students were thrilled to meet Laurie and show her the states they used for their performance. Laurie Keller’s visit to Friends Central Lower School was a delightful interactive author event that students will long remember!





Author Paula Young Shelton visits the Lower School



To kick off the upcoming Book Fair, Paula Young Shelton, author of Child of the Civil Rights Movement, presented two assemblies at the Lower School on Friday, February 9. Paula is the daughter of Civil Rights leader, Andrew Young, and her book describes what it was like growing up in the Deep South during Jim Crow. Lower School students learned about segregation, the Freedom Riders, and the Children’s March from Paula, who experienced these events in person as a child.




Our older students had many opportunities to demonstrate their own knowledge of the Civil Rights movement when Paula asked important questions like: “How do you think protestors passed the time when they were arrested and sent to jail?” and “Would you go to jail for something you believed in?” The highlight of the morning was when Paula taught us the freedom song, “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around” and explained that singing was how protestors communicated and passed time while behind bars. Paula’s powerful message that children can be activists too and change the world made a lasting impression on our young audience.