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Another Home Run Story: “Meadowlark” by Dawn Wink

Another Home Run Story: “Meadowlark” by Dawn Wink

Dear WinkWorld Readers,

If you are a reader of WinkWorld, you know that I love it when someone discovers their own home run reading book. This is what recently happened. In this WinkWorld, I will share three previous examples of home run reading, and I will add a new example.

What is a home run reading book?

A home run reading book is that particular book that opened up the joy of reading to you. It is the book that made you want to read another book. The idea is that none of us are readers until we find our own home run reading book. We parents, teachers, and caregivers just keep sharing books with the hope that someone else will discover their home run reading book. Thank you, Stephen Krashen, Professor Emeritus for sharing this idea with us.

A Personal Example

Some of you are aware that my home run reading book was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This happened when my own two children, Dawn and Bo, didn’t want to hear me read it one more time. I remember how sad I felt. It was at this moment that I decided to read it just for myself. Eureka!  Up until that time, I read every assignment any teacher and/or prof told me to read, but I was not a reader.*

However, after The Secret Garden, all of that changed. From The Secret Garden, I went straight to a decade of reading all of Hemingway and Michener. Bo, our son, immediately went on to motor bike magazines, and from there he jumped to Stephen King. Dawn, our daughter, went on to read chapter books by the tens and tens.

A Second Example from Deb Harrison, a teacher in WY

I loved it when one of my teacher graduate students discovered her home run reading book was actually a book written by Stephen Krashen, The Power of Reading. I remember how she struggled with me so much as a professor, and I just kept handing her books to read.  After she discovered that book, she was on fire in class. Since that time, she has written and published about her home run reading.


A Third Example: Junk Literacy and Henry

I can never forget little pre-K Henry whose Mom worried that he was only reading junk. Dear little Henry developed his own literacy by reading all of that junk mail that came to them daily. For him, it was compelling.

A New Fourth Example: Emmahleigh and Meadowlark

Emmahleigh is an undergrad student. She was never a reader until she grabbed Dawn Wink’s novel, Meadowlark, about my grandmother.

Missy Urbaniak captures the experience she recently had with Emmahleigh.

Recently, a friend of mine reached out with some questions about Meadowlark. Her name is Sandy, and she had given the book to her daughter, Emmahleigh, a college sophomore at Northern State University in Aberdeen. It turns out Emmahleigh is NOT a reader, and never has been, even though mom is an avid reader and dad (Pat) is a middle-school teacher. But after reading Meadowlark, Emmahleigh texted her mom, telling her she couldn’t put the book down and that it might be the best story she’s ever read. Mom then texted me, as I had gifted her the book, and said, “She has follow-up questions.” The questions included, “How is the author related to the main character?” and, “What area did the story actually take place in?” I shared that Grace is Dawn’s great-grandmother, and that the story took place near Howes, south of Faith, SD. I added that Dawn’s parents, Dean and Joan Wink, live in Grace’s house.

Since reading Meadowlark, Emmahleigh has asked to borrow more books from Sandy, and is seeking out books similar to her home run book, Meadowlark.

Thank you, Missy, and to Annie Hlavka for their help in creating this WinkWorld.

*Fortunately, I am no longer such a compliant reader. Now, I make sure I read all the banned books and any other book I want to read….

February 15, 2024Read More
Prairie Pedagogy: The End Is the Beginning?

Prairie Pedagogy: The End Is the Beginning?


Dear WinkWorld Readers,

Readers of WinkWorld know that I have been writing about prairie pedagogy because it fascinates me to see the powerful teaching and learning (a.k.a., pedagogy) that is going on in these tiny, tiny schools on the prairies. In addition, I want to help maintain the history of these schools. Missy, the teacher, is my second cousin, and I find her exceptional as a teacher. She pays no attention to me when I’m in the classroom which I love.

I am crazy in love with the students of this school.

However, let me be honest: The reason I am particularly motivated to finish this document is because I feared that the enrollment (seven students) was just too small, and the district might have to close the school. However, at the beginning of January 2024 we had a population explosion with five new students being enrolled.

Dare I hope? Perhaps what I feared will not happen; perhaps, the end is just a new beginning?              

In this issue of WinkWorld, I will share several news items which interest me. First, I will share two short stories of the first week of school when five new students joined the previous seven students. Next, I will share about an international teacher literacy book club. In addition, I plan to update my photo on my web page. Finally, I will share a bit of health news.

Two Short Stories about the First Week of School in January 2024

Winter day playground
Winter day basketball hoop

It has been cold and frosty on the kids’  playground.

During the first week of class the reading lesson was on inferences. Suddenly, one of the new students had an a-ha moment. In their family’s chicken coop, he found some broken eggs, and he inferred that they had a skunk in the area.

Two of the new students and one of the previous students were studying the American Revolution by making invisible ink quotes like the spies used during the American Revolution.

The students and I each have an amaryllis plant. We share pictures every day or two as our flowers begin to open. Missy said that when the students entered the classroom on January 3rd after a long two eek break, there were audible gasps as they saw what the amaryllis had done in their absence.

Winter amaryliss
Winter amaryliss
Winter amaryliss

A Story about an International Teacher Literacy Book Club in Montenegro

Out of the blue I received a message from Marina Avvakumova, one of my treasured Masters’ students from years ago in Mallorca, Spain. She had a very specific question: What should be the first book which they use in an international literacy teachers book club? I have considered this question in other occasions, and I knew immediately what my answer would be.

The Power of Reading

by Stephen Krashen

I believe it relates equally well to first language acquisition and also to second, third, etc. language acquisition. Experienced and novice teachers will find it meaningful and compelling. Teachers in this group represent the following countries: US, UK, Turkey, Russia, and South Africa.

Here are a few links about this Krashen book

Deb Harrison, a teacher in WY, wrote this article telling about her experience with The Power of Reading when she was a grad student in one of my classes.

The post below is a fun Powtoons created by Deb, also.

Marina now lives and teaches in Montenegro. Where in the world is Montenegro?

Meet dear Marina

Time Marches On: A New Photo

Turns out, I no longer look exactly the way I did about 10 years ago when that previous photo was taken.

A word about health

This is the first WinkWorld I have done totally on a dictation program. The reason for this is that I have been diagnosed with essential tremors in my hands. I always sort of knew I was going to get this as it is hereditary, and I have watched several in my family who had it. It has taken my script away from me and much of my ability on the computer keyboard. This is a real bummer, but the good news is that there are no negative cognitive consequences that come with essential tremors.

Thank you to Missy Urbaniak, Marina Avvakumova, Stephen Fleming, Deb Harrison, and Dawn Wink.



January 17, 2024Read More
Meet Missy: The Teacher at Atall

Meet Missy: The Teacher at Atall

Dear WinkWorld Readers,

If you are a regular reader of WinkWorld, you know that I am writing about a  tiny school, Atall, on the prairies.  You also know that I find Missy Urbaniak, to be an awesome teacher of Atall School (K-8).  In the photo above, Missy meets reknown children’s author, Jan Brett, who is autographing a book which I gifted to Missy and students of Atall.

Recently South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB) did a feature on the tiny schools in our county.  We, prairie people, have enjoyed many parts of this video, but for our purposes today on WinkWorld,  I invite you to meet Missy.  Thank you to SDPB for sharing this link  publicly. The video is about 5 minutes total.  Missy first appears at about 57 seconds, and again at about 4 minutes.  She concludes the video at about 4:40  when she spontaneously says, “It’s my dream job.”

The  Rural School Traditions of Meade County, Dakota Life, SDPB

SDPB Radio | By Tim Davison
Published December 8, 2023 at 6 AM. CST

Rural schools brought people together before they were called South Dakotans. Today, those schools continue to keep strong and unique rural traditions alive for the next generation of students and teachers.

Link to article on SDPB Radio website:



December 13, 2023Read More
From Tiny School to Big University and Big Equipment

From Tiny School to Big University and Big Equipment


Dear WinkWorld Readers,

If you are a reader of WinkWorld, you know that I am focused on pulling together prairie pedagogy stories which I have collected; this post is part of that series.

As we think about these tiny schools on the prairies, sometimes people wonder:  How do these students do when they move into town for high school and on to higher education?

Tiny Prairie School Emeriti*

As I reviewed the 10+ years of my observations, I am comfortable that these rural kids go on to thrive and make their ranch families very proud.  As I collected the 10 years of photos, it was so clear that the kids are productive, and they are great citizens.

You may see these photos in the post below.

Prairie Pedagogy: Pulling the Past 10 Years Together in One Big Story

“Hard Rules”

Recently, I noticed on social media that two of our tiny school emeratae* were talking about their self-imposed “hard rules” which guides their first year at the university.  These rules help keep them keep on track physically and emotionally.  When I  saw this, I thought: A-ha, there is a story here somewhere. So, Wynn Wink and Dawn Wink (my trusty assistants) and I checked in with them on ZOOM.

Mariah and Shaniah are twins and attended Atall School.  Jeslyn attended another tiny school, Hereford School, about 30 minutes away, mostly on gravel, which is a close neighbor for prairie people, who have to drive miles and miles for the basics of life. Mariah and Jeslyn are in their first year at the University of South Dakota, and Shaniah is ranching and driving big equipment.









On the left meet Mariah, Jeslyn, and Shaniah. On the right you see them today in their dorm room.












Above you see Jes and Mariah in high school, and on the right you can see what they look like today at the university.

When I think of Hereford School, I always think of the kids riding horseback to the first day of school.

See this previous WinkWorld.

Riding Horses to the First Day of School: Hereford (K-8) School

In addition, I have fond memories of Jes when she used to attended with her mom a grad class I was teaching at Black Hills State University. Below is Jess in that class.

A Peek Into Our Class

Shaniah, Mariah’s twin sister. is ranching and driving large equipment. See below.









Alanah, their younger sister in high school is getting her pilot’s license in her spare time. 

Respect and Collaboration

I asked the young women what part of their tiny rural school experience did they most value? They reflected that they went forward to high school and higher education with greater respect for others (including teachers and professors) and a greater ability to work with diverse groups of people on multiple projects.

Tiny school emeriti*, if you leave us with these two characteristics, respect for others and the ability to collaborate with others, our tiny prairie schools are doing fine and dandy!

*I doubt that I have ever used emeriti or emeritae in my prairie pedagogy blog  posts, but it is time.  My Mobridge High School Latin teacher would be proud.  Thank you, Hazel Grace Johnson.

It is an honorable  title awarded to a former exceptional member, professor, or student.

Emeritus – singular male

Emeriti – plural  male and female

Emerita – singular female

Emeritae – plural female






November 2, 2023Read More
Prairie Pedagogy Previous Posts

Prairie Pedagogy Previous Posts

Dear WinkWorld Readers,

As I shared in the previous blog post, we are working on Prairie Pedagogy.  Our purpose is to save the stories and the history.  Missy Urbaniak, the teacher at  Atall School, has already prepared the history, and selected  sections will be each chapter.  In addition, we have more stories prepared than we can possibly use, but here is  a peak into some of the stories which might make the cut.

We appreciate the help of Wynn Wink in the preparation of the manuscript.

Below on the left is the enrollment of Atall 2012-2013, and on the right is that of 2023-2024.











October 17, 2023Read More
Prairie Pedagogy: Pulling the Past 10 Years Together in One Big Story

Prairie Pedagogy: Pulling the Past 10 Years Together in One Big Story

Dear WinkWorld Readers,

If you read WinkWorld consistently, you are aware that I have been taking books and reading stories to students in a tiny little school on the prairies, Atall School. If you want to read any of those previous posts, just type in Atall or prairie pedagogy into the search bar over on the left of my main page,   On my computer, Chrome works well on the search bar–less so, Firefox and Safari. 

Missy Urbaniak, the teacher at Atall and my cousin, has been gracious and welcoming as I bopped in and out of the class for 10 + years. She is central to this project and is also my co-author.  In addition, I very much appreciate the support and kindness of the families and community, who has allowed me to share stories and photos of their children.  Families, if there is every any photo, which you do not want me to share, please just tell me.  I also wish to thank Wynn Wink who is providing tech support.

This year we hope to write a history of these years at Atall School. Our purpose is to save the stories and maintain the history of prairie pedagogy for the students, families, and community.  I will post selected drafts of these stories first on WinkWorld.

Each of the following years will be organized in this manner.

A Photo

A Story

A Story Book Used in Class

A Glimpse of the History

And, of course, the heart of the book, the students.

Posted below are the school photos from each year which will be highlighted in our history.

Atall School 2012-2013

Atall School 2013-2014

Atall School 2014-2015

Atall School 2015-2016

Atall School 2016-2017

Atall School 2017-2018

Atall School 2018-2019

Atall School 2019-2020

Atall School 2020-2021

Atall School 2021-2022

Atall School 2022-23

Atall School 2023-2024

Oh, how I love these kids!  Now, I also have the joy of following them through their high school years and beyond.




September 26, 2023Read More
GinnyWink#5, A Badger, and Me: Another Ranch Story

GinnyWink#5, A Badger, and Me: Another Ranch Story

Dear WinkWorld Readers,

Some of you may remember the snake story.

Ranch Visitors: Blue Racer Snakes

Others of you may remember the skunk stories: First, there was the dead and rotting skunk in our cistern. Below, I am copying/pasting that story from  my July 3, 2003 newsletter.  This was before our interactive blog.

Skunk in the Cistern
We never put water in the cistern without remembering the time a couple of years ago when a skunk got into the cistern and drowned. We slowly began to notice the smell of skunk in the house and guessed that a skunk was passing through the yard during the night. Throughout
the course of the next few days, the smell increased and eventually seemed to permeate the house. Finally, one Saturday evening while Wink was in the shower, he realized what must have happened, as he smelled skunk in the shower water.  We raced outside and could see a slight opening between the concrete lid of the cistern and the rocks surrounding it.

We lifted the lid, and the horrible smell hit us in the face. From here the story goes straight downhill. We put an 8-foot ladder down into the water, but Wink was too big to get through the opening into the cistern.

I went down the ladder next, and tried to shovel that mass of rotting skunk into a bucket, but I just couldn’t stay down there long enough to finish the ugly task.  Eventually, we  brought the tractor over and hooked a chain to the front-end loader.  I slowly lowered Wink into the cistern as  he held onto the chain hooked to the front-end loader. He could squeeze through the opening of the cistern if both arms were held up above his head.  In this way, we got the skunk out, and then we had to disinfect and clean the cistern.

See the original post.

Second there was the mama skunk and 3 babies, which we caught in one trap.

Still  others of you may know my dear friend, GinnyWink#5, the most precious laborador ever; she follows GinnyWink#1, #2, #3, and #4, who were also precious.

However, GinnyWink#5 and I just had a very scary encounter with a badger.  I did not bother to snap a pix during the scary 5 minutes, so the following photo is courtesy of Wikipedia.

I was outside picking up branches under a  tree on a gorgeous fall day about 30 yards from the house.  I suddenly heard hissing and growling under the next tree about 10 yards away, where the badger and Ginny were running around and around the tree, the badger chasing Ginny. The badger was making horrible rasping, grunting, grating sounds.  I was yelling to get Ginny to come.  She tried to come once, and the badger took a little nip.  Off they went in a circle again.  I was about 10 feet away when I suddenly realized I didn’t have anything for protection.  I ran to the porch where  I remembered Wink had left a 3 foot bolt cutter. I have no idea what I was going to do with it.  Fortunately, when I ran for the porch, Ginny came right behind me.  We watched as the badger was forced to slink away in defeat.

I have since learned about a children’s book about a Canadian boy who was lost in the woods when a mama badger befriended him as he took refuge in the badger hole.  Is there a hint of truth in this story? I do not know, but I intend to read the book.

Incident at Hawk’s Hill (Newbery Honor Book)


September 12, 2023Read More
Henry’s Literacy Development

Henry’s Literacy Development

Hello WinkWorld Readers,

If you are a regular reader of WinkWorld, you know that one of the messages I hope to send is that there is no one way to learn to read. For example, Dawn and Bo learned to read in a totally different way from the way I did. I learned through phonics in 1st grade.  They both read before kindergarten, and I have no idea of how they learned…could it have been all of those books we read during their pre-K years?  Another example of someone learning in a totally different way from how I did was Jonathan, who  puzzled me for years.

I Learned to Read Through Phonics and the Jonathan Story


Wyatt, our oldest grandson, is a third example of not learning  to read through phonics; he was a  sight word  reader with a photographic mind. In the third grade, Wyatt’s mom pulled him out of school for several months because his teacher accepted only one way to learn to read, phonics, which certainly was not his way. As I recall, he laid on the coach and read books for several months before his mom (Dawn) took him back to the little local school.  I remember that no one in the school questioned where he had been.

Click here to read about Wyatt.


Now, it is a ranch kid, Henry, whose literacy development fascinates me. I have written  about him previously, which is posted below.  Henry lives on a near-by ranch, 45 minutes away, and he is now 9-years-old.

Henry is the only child I know who learned to read through The Profit?

What is The Profit?

The Profit is a newsprint circular of several pages filled with information on cattle sales, new and used tractor and machinery and/or parts, various forms of cattle and  other animal feed sales,  and long charts of specific cattle sales from sale barns. Since Henry was 2- and 3-years old, he has loved it when the mail truck delivered The Profit to their ranch mail box. Through the years, I have been fascinated as Henry’s little pointer finger tried to follow the words and make meaning.  I remember the day when he proudly figured out what “weigh-up” cattle sold for at the Phillip Livestock sales barn. Many don’t know what a “weigh-up” cow is, but for Henry, it is compelling reading.

Henry is the only kid I know, who learned to read from The Profit.  He continues to read it now, but I note that he is  expanding his genre to include chapter books. Hank, the Cow Dog is his personal favorite.

Of course, Henry is now a “Just-one-more-chapter-please-kid.”

Below is a previous post I did on Henry and “junk reading.”

Henry Loves “Junk Reading:” Horrors. Nope.


One size does not fit all.  There is NO one way to learn to read.

There are many ways to learn to read.

Even though I learned to read through phonics, that does not mean it is the only way.

And for the Academics Who Follow WinkWorld

Many think that phonics is the ONLY way to learn to read, but there are many ways.  Professor Emeritus, Stephen D. Krashen reminds us (in personal communication, May 20, 2023)

There are too many rules and many are very complicated with numerous exceptions. Children acquire many and probably most phonics rules by reading.

Krashen, S. and McQuillan, J. 202o. The case for acquired phonics. Language Magazine.

August 29, 2023Read More
I Learned to Read Through Phonics and the Jonathan Story

I Learned to Read Through Phonics and the Jonathan Story

Dear WinkWorld Readers,

I have been writing about a cool ranch kid, whom I have been observing.  Henry, now age 9, is the only kid I know who learned to read from ranch circulars (weekly newsprint flyers about tractors, cattle, big tires, fertilizers, etc.)  Before Henry could decode, he would run to grab the newsprint flyer, and his little pointer reading finger would go to work.  I have even seen him get excited “to read” about new credit card offers.

However, I have not yet posted the story of Henry as I keep getting interrupted by questions from friends who are relatively new to literacy, and they always ask: “But, Joan, what about phonics?” This caused me to dig out something I wrote about phonics and the “whispering of the juxtaposition” of another fabulous little guy, Jonathan.  This story was published in the first edition (1997) of Critical Pedagogy: Notes from the Real World. This story was  cut from later editions.  I have no idea why, as it was some of my best work. (Apparently, WordPress has no emojis….)

This is sort of like doing your homework for reading about Henry, which is coming soon.


July 5, 2023Read More
Regalia: Woven Into Every Stitch

Regalia: Woven Into Every Stitch

Dear WinkWorld Readers,

As the incomparable Amanda Gorman writes in her poem, “Memorial” (2021, “Call Us What We Carry,”):

When we tell a story

We are living


That would explain why so much great art arises from trauma, nostalgia, or testimony (p.74).

When read that, I immediately called Dawn, our daughter, who was having a particularly challenging day.  I told her to go write, and write she did! 

Hope you enjoy Dawn’s writing as much as I do. I believe that Dawn captures how such beautiful writing can come from pain.

I have written about some of my experiences which Dawn references. See below.

Critical Pedagogy 4th Ed – Pivotal Experiences



May 17, 2023Read More