Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

Maps and the Common Core

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Feb 23, 2017 3:19:00 PM

 One of the ten Common Core Anchor Standards for Reading is to “integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.R.7). In addition to illustrations and diagrams, looking at maps can fulfill this Common Core State Standard. Not only does map-reading further a students’ comprehension of nonfiction informational texts, this skill is also helpful for social studies and history lessons.

All maps provide information, but their specific function within a book depends on the textual context. Understanding these different functions will allow you, as an educator, to effectively discuss why an author decided to include a map and how a map brings important information to the text.  

Maps support an argument.

Wolves in the Wild, a nonfiction book from the Story World Real World series, argues that hunters threaten the future of wolves (7). This textual claim is supported by a map showing where “wolves used to live” (red) and where “wolves live” today (green). This visual evidence allows students to immediately understand that the wolf habitat is shrinking. Thus, the map strengthens an argument that is made through the text. 5337 Wolves in the Wild_Inside_FINAL (dragged).jpgMaps express diversity.

Breakfast Around the World opens with a two-page world map. The map is labeled with different breakfasts explained in the book. By pinpointing each breakfast on the same map, students can understand that these dishes really come from different corners of the world. A world map also encourage students to locate themselves and understand their geographic position relative to the children features in this book.

Maps explain history.

Anne Frank from the Hameray Biography series features a map of Germany and its surrounding countries (12). The map provides a visual aid for understanding that the Nazis crossed a border to invade the Netherlands, where Anne Frank lived with her family.

Maps provide information on different scales.

Nelson Mandela’s biography contains multiple maps. First, a map of Africa explains South Africa’s location within the continent (4). Then, a second map zooms in to focus on the country of South Africa and its major cities (13). Although both maps include South Africa, the first map provides a global context while the second focuses on the cities within the nation. Emphasize to your students that each map carries a certain perspective and scale.


Exposing your students to different maps is the key to honing their map-reading skills. Maps don’t just serve a purpose for geography and history lessons—they fulfill Common Core Reading Standards, too!


Click the left image below to learn more about Story World Real World, which contains Wolves in the Wild and Breakfast Around the World. Click the middle image to download a Teacher's Guide for Anne Frank. Click the right image to download a Teacher's Guide for Nelson Mandela.

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Topics: Common Core, Real World, Biography Series, Social Studies, Maps

Letter Buddies Part 2: Blends

Posted by Marcy Godesa on Feb 21, 2017 3:23:00 PM

marcy_godesa.pngThis is a guest blog post by Marcy Godesa, a first-grade teacher from Oregon who blogs over at Searching for Teacher Balance. If you like what you read here, be sure to check back here for more of her guest blog posts! 

It is always a great find when you have one resource that continues along with your students as their learning grows and develops. That is why I am still loving the Letter Buddies series from Hameray Publishing.


You can read all about how I used the first stage of Letter Buddies with my developing readers here. We have since moved into blends, which is huge for my readers! I am so proud of them and the connections that they have been making.

The blends books, which are the next stage in the Letter Buddies seriesare the perfect bridge to sight word development that all developing reading must achieve.

Slide1 (2).pngJust like the first stage, the blends books have a sight word book, Letter Buddies Blends, and a pattern book, Letter Buddies Best Friends, that complement each other.

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After reading and reviewing the sight word book, my kiddos practiced building the words and finding connections between other words that they have learned.

They then applied these new words to the pattern book. The success they have with the pattern book is incredible because they are familiar with the words, thanks to the sight word book.

If you haven't checked out the Letter Buddies series from Hameray Publishing, get on it.  I cannot say enough great things about these books.

What is your favorite tool for supporting your developing readers?  Leave a comment below.  I would love to hear from you.



Click the images below to read about the Letter Buddies Blends and the Letter Buddies Best Friends.

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Topics: Letter Buddies, Blends, Sight Words, Marcy Godesa

Recognizing and Respecting Differences

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Feb 16, 2017 4:16:00 PM


February is Black History Month, which means that your students are reading about Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., and other black historical figures. Although it is important for your students to learn about important people who fought for racial equality, their stories can sometimes appear as isolated legends with the beliefs and actions frozen in time. Reading narrative books about individual differenes helps students understand that diversity is still relevant and valued today.

The Kaleidoscope Collection focuses on representing different cultural background and teaching social themes. Kit and Henry Like Different Things, leveled at Guided Reading Level D, follows two brothers that have different hobbies. They like different sports, food, toys, and indoor activities.

For each page, conduct an informal poll to see which students have similar hobbies to Kit and which have similar hobbies to Henry. For example, on page 3, ask students to raise their hand if they prefer riding a bike or a skateboard:


Conducting a poll will allow students to visually understand that not all people have the same preferences. Does this fact mean that we can't be friends with people that are different from us? No! "Kit and Henry like different htings. But Kit and Henry like each other" (8).

The Friendship Shell, leveled at Guided Reading Level K, is suitable for upper-elementary school students. Its illustrations feature ethnicallly diverse characters, which can help you relate the discussion back to Black History Month.

Focus on page 4: "'A shell is just a shell,' I said, 'see one and you've seen them all.'" Ask your students if they agree with the narrator's claim. Then, discuss how the narrator's views have transformed by the end of the book. How did the narrator learn to recognize and respect his classmates' differences?
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Both Kit and Henry Like Different Things and The Friendship Shell do not explicitly discuss issues of diversity, but they carry strong messages that value indivdiual differences in hobbies, personalities, and ethnicity. Use these titles to supplement your Black History Month readings!


Click the images below to learn more about Kaleidoscope Collection, which contains the books featured in this post.

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Topics: Narrative Text, Kaleidoscope Collection, Diversity

Guided Reading to Support Textbook Reading, Part 1

Posted by Geraldine Haggard on Feb 14, 2017 2:42:00 PM


This is a guest blog post by Dr. Geraldine Haggard, who is a retired teacher, Reading Recovery teacher leader, author, and university teacher. It is the first post in a series about using guided reading activities to support content-area textbook reading.

The blog will demonstrate why students need explicit guidance when reading textbooks. Textbooks are often the backbone of content area classrooms, but can pose many challenges for a budding reader.


First, let’s examine the characteristics of formal educational textbooks and the challenges they present:

  • Textbooks are often written at a reading level above the students’ grade level.
  • The authors of textbooks have no conception of how much—or how little—prior knowledge their readers bring to the text.
  • An enormous amount of new vocabulary must be acquired if the child is to read with full comprehension. Students need very strong strategies, such as letter knowledge, for decoding these unfamiliar words. 
  • Many vocabulary words in content area-specific textbooks are not part of the everyday language. Students must read words that they have never heard before, making comprehension difficult.
  • Long paragraphs and passages, packed with new information, can overwhelm readers. The teacher needs to sort through and focus only on the information needed to master a specific concept.
  • Sometimes, students are asked to read silently without knowing the goals of textbook reading. Many students do not know how to independently set goals when reading formal texts and how to monitor their comprehension. The student may be led to think that they need to memorize the entire text.
  • Some textbooks are outdated and contain old information. The teacher must study the textbook carefully and only use sections that remain relevant and accurate. Additional sources of information should be used to support the textbook, adding opportunities for critical thinking and synthesis skills.
  • Good textbooks include specific features to help the reader. The reader needs to learn how to use the table of contents, index, glossary, diagrams, charts, and maps.

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Research shows us that student average comprehension percentiles become lower and lower as the students go into higher grade levels. We know that reading content area material is more difficult than reading narratives because it demands a more specific and sophisticated level of comprehension.

Intermediate, middle school, or high school teachers report that many students do not enjoy content area reading and have difficulty with textbooks. The joy that we often see in our younger readers as they learn about the world is not always present in the older reader.

Clearly, teachers of all grade levels need to provide verbal and guiding reading support for content area reading. Teacher can interact with students in small groups, large groups, and individual settings.

My next blog post will introduce guided reading activities and ideas for teachers to incorporate content area activities into the classroom.


Geraldine Haggard is the author of several books from our Kaleidoscope Collection. She spent 37 years in the Plano, TX school system. She currently tutors, chairs a committee that gifts books to low-income students, teaches in her church, and serves as a facilitator in a program for grieving children. 


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Topics: Geraldine Haggard, Science, Guided Reading, Math, Social Studies

Writing a Wishy-Washy Valentine

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Feb 9, 2017 3:29:00 PM


Valentine’s Day is just around the corner—this year, celebrate the day of love with Mrs. Wishy-Washy

In Wishy-Washy Card from the Joy Cowley Early Birds series, the animals on the farm decide to make a Valentine’s Day card for Mrs. Wishy-Washy. By reading this narrative text that is topical to the real world, your students will realize that reading is relevant and important to their lives, not just an isolated action that takes place at school.

In addition to its seasonal pertinence, Wishy-Washy Card also allows students to familiarize themselves with onomatopoeia (7) and high-frequency words such as “then,” the,” “she,” and “big” (3).


Use this opportunity to introduce card writing into your classroom. For your students to become strong and confident writers, they must learn to recognize and write in a variety of genres. Although the Common Core stresses opinion writing (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.1), explanatory texts (W.2), and narrative texts (W.3), we use many other kinds of writing in our everyday lives. By writing Valentine’s Day cards, students can directly experience the purpose of writing for interpersonal connection and communication.

Use page 8 in Wishy-Washy Card as a guide for card writing. Have the children replace “Mrs. Wishy-Washy” with the name of the recipient. Encourage your students to decorate their card with hearts, glitter, or other craft supplies. Just like the cow made a “big heart” (3) and the pig made a “little heart” (4), each student will be able to make their unique mark on their Valentine’s Day card! 

By using writing to express their emotions, students will learn that writing is an important tool. Help them spread the love!



Click the images below to learn more about Joy Cowley Early Birds, which contains the book featured in this post.

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Topics: Mrs. Wishy-Washy, Joy Cowley Early Birds, Holiday

Word Recognition with Letter Buddies

Posted by Marcy Godesa on Feb 7, 2017 3:21:00 PM

marcy_godesa.pngThis is a guest blog post by Marcy Godesa, a first-grade teacher from Oregon who blogs over at Searching for Teacher Balance. If you like what you read here, be sure to check back here for more of her guest blog posts! 

Teaching word recognition to developing readers can have its ups and downs. I swear there are days when my kiddos are on it, they are recognizing all their sight words, and then POOF!—the next day it is all gone. I decided to try out the Letter Buddies series with my developing readers.

According to Hameray, "This product line supports the development of letter knowledge and early literacy skills through letter recognition and formation, letter-sound correspondence, phonemic awareness, vocabulary development, and oral language development." I couldn't agree more with this statement. Right away, my readers started building letter recognition that they struggled with prior to using this series.


First of all, I love that the letters on the covers of the books are printed in a raised text. My kiddos were able to "feel" the letters before diving into the books. By using their kinesthetic sense, we began building a muscle memory that is vital for learners.


Each Letter Buddy has a book and a starter that go hand-in-hand. We started with the Letter Books and practiced our letter and whole word recognition. This allowed my readers to begin connecting the inital letter throughout the book.


After spending time with the Letter Book, we reviewed the words, generated a few more, and started gaining more letter and sound connections. It was amazing listening to my readers as they inquired about their learning. One of my students, who has really struggled with letter recognition, asked, "Why do all the words have red letters?"  This is HUGE!! He took his learning past letter recognition to word recognition.

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Once my readers showed an understanding of the letters and their sounds, we dove into the Starter Books. These pattern books take the words that students practiced in the Letter Books and place them in an early reader format. The Starters allow for students to continue to build on their letter and word recognition while gaining fluency and accuracy with more sight words.

I am so excited for my readers and the skills that they have gained. I cannot wait to use the Letter Buddies Blends Books with them!


Have you used Letter Buddies with your readers?  What are your favorite resources for teaching letter and word recognition?  Leave a comment below and let me know.


Click the image below to read about the Letter Buddies Letter Books and the Letter Buddies Starters.

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Topics: Letter Buddies, Sight Words, Marcy Godesa

Groundhog Day Science!

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Feb 2, 2017 3:12:00 PM

Happy Groundhog Day! Punxtsutawney Phil saw his shadow today, which means that we still have six more weeks of winter...or do we?

Groundhog Day is always filled with anticipation, so children are always disappointed when they learn that the custom has no concrete meteorological reasoning. Although the groundhog’s shadow might not accurately predict the arrival of spring, you can teach students that we can actually shadows on the ground to tell the time!


What’s The Time? from the Story World Real World series explains different ways in which humans can measure time. Before reading, discuss that shadows occur when an object blocks light. If your students have already learned about opaque and transparent objects, this discussion will review the concept that only opaque objects create shadows.

SWRW_WHAT'S THE TIME__INSIDE (dragged).jpgp. 4:

  • Read about the relationship between the sun and a shadow. When a groundhog sees its shadow, where is the light coming from? (The sun.)
  • If you have a portable projector or another movable source of light in your classroom, use it to demonstrate that when the light source moves, the shadow moves, too. 
p. 5:
  • What is a sundial? Ask students to point to the shadow in the image. This exercise teaches that images illustrate and support key ideas in the text (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.1.6).
  • How does a sundial look similar to the clocks you see today? How is it different?
p. 6–7:
  • If it’s sunny outside, make a class sundial as shown in the book. All you need are stones or chalk and a tall stick. You can make a sundial with snow on the ground, too, as long as the sun is in the sky!


Groundhog Day itself doesn’t have scientific credibility, but you can teach real science lessons about shadows and time instead. Students will be thrilled to turn off the classroom lights and watch shadows move! Make sure to read the rest of What’s The Time? to learn about egg timers, hourglasses, and other clocks that don’t use shadows.



Click the images below to learn more about Story World Real World, which contains the book featured in this post.

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Topics: Real World, Informational Text, Holiday, Science

[Classic Post] Lessons Learned: Digging a Little Deeper with Traditional Literature

Posted by Lyssa Sahadevan on Jan 31, 2017 3:05:00 PM

Lyssa SahadevanThis is a guest blog post, which was originally published in Dec. 2013, from first-grade teacher Lyssa Sahadevan. If you like what you read here, you can see more of Lyssa's posts here, or check out her own blog here! This post contains a free worksheet on lessons learned from traditional tales at the bottom of the page!

Lessons Learned

Comprehension, comprehension, comprehension! We want to make sure our youngest readers really understand what they are reading. We ask questions. We practice retelling the beginning, middle, and end in narrative stories. We make chart after chart of story elements. We confer and reteach in small groups. The primary grades set the stage for understanding (and we pretty much rock)!

The thing is, not all narrative stories are just telling a story. They have greater themes, bigger ideas, and often a lesson or moral. This is one reason I love-love-love traditional tales, also known as fables. Fables are short stories, typically with animals as characters, that convey a moral. My first graders love them and the fable basket is a hot spot in our classroom! Fables ask readers to think a little bit harder, and I love that!

To introduce fables, I read them like crazy! They are a great read-aloud because they are short, and the characters are relatable. Being all about movement in our first-grade classroom, we often act them out, too.

Crow and Rain Barrel Cover FinalI tell my readers that fables have a lesson hidden inside, and we must discover the lesson each time we read one. We retell the story first, then have a discussion about what the fable is trying to teach us. They do not always agree on the lesson learned, and that is okay—as long as the reader can provide a solid explanation, their answer is accepted. Another fun activity we do is watch fables on Youtube and then discuss them in the same way. We complete the worksheet (downloadable at the bottom of the page) together first, and then students complete it independently with their favorite fable or one we have read together. You can also compare and contrast, but that would be a whole different activity.

I love using the Story World series for fables. Two of my favorites are The Crow and the Rain Barrel and The Lion and the Mouse (retold by Alan Trussell-Cullen). After reading The Crow and the Rain Barrel and discussing the message or lesson, we work on building the connection to our own lives. I record the students' thinking on chart paper. Students say things like, “the crow did it one stone at a time, just like we built our reading stamina a little at a time” and “the crow did it slowly, just like we have to take our time when we build a tower.” Powerful stuff! Students can then complete the attached worksheet for either book.

Fables are a fun read and provide an excellent opportunity for strengthening comprehension with our youngest readers. Do you have a favorite fable?


Lyssa Sahadevan is a first-grade teacher in Marietta, GA. She loves reader's and writer's workshop, is a former Teacher of the Year, and shares ideas at www.mymommyreads.com.


To download a free PDF of Lyssa's worksheet on lessons learned from traditional tales, click the template image below! To learn more about the Story World books used as an example in this post, visit our website or click the series highlights images below to download free information sheets explaining key features of the Story World-Real World series.

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Rhyme Time with the Meanies!

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Jan 24, 2017 3:51:00 PM

We all love Joy Cowley—her stories feature engaging characters, funny plots, and timeless illustrations. Best of all, Joy’s books are specially written to help your students read! 

Those Yucky Meanies! from the Joy Cowley Collection, leveled at Guided Reading Level H, contains rhyming words throughout the book. Rhyming always leads to a rhythmical read-aloud experience, and it also strengthens a student’s sound-symbol correspondence as they realize that certain sounds are represented by a certain string of letters. A familiarity with rhymes also allows young writers to spell by analogy. For example, if a child wants to write “shape,” recognizing that the word rhymes with “cape” will lead the child to the correct spelling.



While reading aloud, pause after the penultimate word of the sentence to encourage students to chime in with the rhyming word. For example, on page 6, read: “It will smell. It will make you feel... [together] unwell.”

The rhyming words in Those Yucky Meanies! are listed include the following:

  • mucky and yucky
  • lunch and crunch
  • smell and well
  • grimy and slimy
  • run and fun
  • lands and hands
  • swamp and chomp
  • nose and clothes

The last two rhyming pairs sound the same, but are spelled differently. (You might even argue, depending on which English dialect you speak, that “swamp” and “chomp” are slant rhymes, but this term isn’t necessary to teach in lower elementary grades.)

Point out to your students that rhyming words don’t need to be spelled the same way—sometimes the same sound it spelled differently, like “nose” and “clothes.” Note that this definition doesn’t apply for rime (not rhyme) chunks, which require the words to have identical spellings.

Discussing rhyming words will help your students become better readers and writers. Reading Joy Cowley isn’t just fun—it brings learning into the classroom, too!


Click the images below to learn more about The Meanies and the Joy Cowley Collection.

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Topics: Joy Cowley Collection, Meanies, Rhyme

[Classic Post] Building World Knowledge: Helping Parents Help Teachers

Posted by Susan Bennett-Armistead on Jan 24, 2017 3:00:00 PM

susan bennett armisteadThis guest post by Susan Bennett-Armistead, author of our My World informational texts, was originally published in Dec. 2013. 

As early educators, we enjoy relationships with parents that some of our colleagues who teach in older grades miss out on. We are often their children’s first teachers, and we set the tone for how that family will view and work with school. Let’s get off on the right foot and enter the relationship as collaborating experts, with us being the experts on children in groups and the parents being the experts on their own children. With that in mind, this post is focused on helping parents maximize their unique position in promoting their children’s developing world knowledge.

Most parents want their children to do well in school and to succeed in life. Not all parents are hip to the ways that they can support that, however. While the message of “Read to Your Child” has been sung loud and proud for a couple of decades now, many parents may be unsure of what to read, when to start to read,  how much to read, or even how to read to their children to maximize their literacy development. By sharing with parents some of the following tips, through conversations or newsletters, you can help them to help us lay an important foundation for literacy success in our youngest children.

father children reading 200Literacy begins early. Some parents believe that literacy starts when children enter kindergarten or first grade. It’s crucial to children’s literacy success that we move away from a “readiness” discussion and help families understand that literacy is ongoing and emergent, and it starts as soon as children are processing language. If families are waiting to think about literacy until kindergarten, they’ve missed five years of building skills and understandings that their little one will need to draw on when they are in school. Help your families understand the key role they play in building their child’s literacy skills by engaging in literacy activities in the early years. Offer suggestions for read aloud, songs, and games in your newsletters.

Families are ALREADY doing good things for their children’s literacy development. You may be working with some families who feel like they have nothing to offer their child…except to turn him over the “the experts.” One of the best things we can do in building relationships with families is letting them in on fact that they are already supporting their children’s success. Could they do more? Sure, we all can—but by letting parents know that talking with their child, reading to their child, telling stories about when they, themselves, were little, and generally engaging with their little one all make a difference in their child’s connectedness to language and literacy…not to mention building a positive relationship with their parents!

boys sugaring 200Families are uniquely positioned to build world knowledge. It’s pretty challenging for us, as teachers, to get a group of children to the park for a field trip. (Shoot, some days, it’s pretty challenging even to get everyone dressed to go outside!) How much easier is it for a family to go to the park, the grocery store, the post office, etc.? Let families in on the fact that those little excursions that can seem like a hassle with children are really wonderful ways for their child to learn about the world around them. Just talking about what they’re seeing and doing can help their child make connections, build vocabulary, and understand their world. All of this information will be useful when they encounter those ideas or vocabulary in books later.

5252 Gingerbread Kids Cover 355Families can build connections to text better than teachers can. When we read Gingerbread Kids and ask, “Have you ever baked cookies at your house?” We really don’t know who has and who hasn’t. Families reading to their children know what their previous experiences are and can help them connect to the text, making it their own, by offering nudges like, “Remember that time you and Grammy made sugar cookies? You put sprinkles on yours. If you were making a gingerbread kid, how would you decorate him?” Encourage your families to talk about what their children have seen or done that relates to the book they’re reading. Asking questions that connect the children to the text can maximize their comprehension as well as helping them start to ask questions themselves.

Families know the child’s interests better than we do.  If you have a child in your class who is crazy about trains (or sharks or princesses or horses…), chances are, her family knew that before you did. Encourage families to use their child’s interest in a topic to build their knowledge of literacy. Let the family know that checking out every book on dinosaurs from the library and reading all about dinosaurs is helping their child in several ways:

  • building their child’s knowledge of dinosaurs
  • building their knowledge of how to learn things
  • creating a foundation for learning about other animals (there are plant eaters and meat eaters alive today!)
  • creating a foundation for categorizing new information
  • learning about informational text
  • learning how informational text about dinosaurs is different from stories about dinosaurs
  • linking information read in books to information learned on a field trip to a museum, and being critical of information that doesn’t “match”

child in water 200One of my brothers, who is a veterinary surgeon, went through waves of interests (presidents, dinosaurs, Egypt, Beethoven, etc.) that helped him learn all about many things in his early years. He doesn’t particularly care about any of those topics now, but his ability to learn, and learn well, has helped him a great deal. My other brother, a restaurateur and chef, identified early that he loved cooking and history and never wavered. Using children’s interests can be a passing thing or a permanent tool to build both their knowledge about the topic and their knowledge about learning. Families can capitalize on those interests well.

Families are our best partners in promoting children’s literacy and learning success. No one cares more about that child than his or her family. By encouraging families to capitalize on their special knowledge of their child and sharing the strategies here, we can promote learning for all our children.


Susan Bennett-Armistead, PhD, is an associate professor of literacy education, the Correll Professor of Early Literacy, and the coordinator of literacy doctoral study at the University of Maine. Prior to doctoral study, Dr. Bennett-Armistead was a preschool teacher and administrator for 14 years in a variety of settings, including a brief but delightful stint in the Alaskan bush.


For more information on the My World series by this author, you can click the image below to download an information sheet. Also, check out our Story World Real World series to see some more informational texts, including Gingerbread Kids.

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