Editor's notes

Sneak Peek at Storyworks Jr.: The History of Chocolate and a Greek Myth!

Anna Starecheski

We know that you're settling into a well-deserved summer vacation, but here at Storyworks Jr. HQ we're already thinking about the fall, and we know that many of you are too! So here's a sneak peek at some content you'll find in your September issue.



We love this simple read-aloud play version of the Greek myth "Pandora's Box." Our esteemed play writers have infused this myth with humor and a message kids will understand. Be sure to check out the slideshow on the website all about idioms that come from Greek myths: opening a Pandora's box, making a Herculean effort, having an Achilles heel...students will learn what these idioms mean and where they come from.



Who doesn't want to read about chocolate? This story about how Milton Hershey brought chocolate to America is paired with a short informational text about the first chocolate-eaters thousands of years ago. Students will be shocked to imagine a time when you couldn't buy a chocolate bar or a steamy cup of hot chocolate. And they might be surprised to hear that chocolate once tasted downright yucky! These texts make for a ready-made compare and contrast exercise.

Sneak Peek at Storyworks: A Riveting Disaster Story and Inspiring Paired Texts

Allison Friedman

It may only be July, but your September issue of Storyworks is already at the presses—and we can’t resist sharing a sneak peek with you! Here are a couple of the features we’re most excited about:

We’ve featured quite a few disaster stories in Storyworks over the years. But until now, we’d never had an article about the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history: the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900. In a time before sophisticated weather prediction, this Category 4 storm hit Galveston, Texas, with almost no warning, nearly wiping the coastal city off the map. Your students will be on the edge of their seats as they read about a 14-year-old boy who risked his life to save dozens of people from the raging floodwaters. And don’t miss our behind-the-scenes video, in which author Lauren Tarshis gives readers a glimpse at the research and writing journey behind the article.
This issue’s paired-text feature will introduce your readers to Osawa Owiti, a young Tanzanian boy who faced prejudice and cruelty because of his cleft lip—until a simple surgery changed his life forever. We’ve paired it with a Q&A with a 10-year-old girl who has raised thousands of dollars for Smile Train, the organization that helped Osawa. This powerful pairing will move your students and galvanize them to take action!

Sneak Peek at Storyworks Jr.: The Hindenburg and a Lively Debate

Anna Starecheski

We know that you're settling into a well-deserved summer vacation, but here at Storyworks Jr. HQ we're already thinking about the fall, and we know that many of you are too! So here's a sneak peek at some content you'll find in your September issue.



We couldn't think of a better way to kick off the year than with a thrilling, super-engaging narrative nonfiction story from Lauren Tarshis! In "The Flaming Sky," students will read about Werner Franz, who was a cabin boy on the Hindenburg when it tragically crashed in Lakehurst, New Jersey. This story comes with a skills focus on cause and effect, and we know your students will be fascinated by Werner's firsthand account of the disaster.

Don't miss the Video Read-Aloud for this story! If you aren't familiar with these videos, learn more here! They're a great way to hook students and to give them additional context as they read a story. This one is going to be great!



We love visiting classrooms and seeing students read our debates. Kids tend to have strong opinions about the topics, and we think this is one that everyone will have lots of feelings about: Are Trampoline Parks Safe? In our simple debate format, students hear arguments on both sides. Trampoline parks are great exercise for kids, but also lead to thousands of emergency room visits. Are these popular birthday party desinations a good idea? 

Do you need funding support for Storyworks or Storyworks Jr.?

Rebecca Leon

It is hard to believe that another school year has come to a close. We hope that our resources have helped you and your students share the power and joy of reading.


As we head into the renewal season, we’ve heard from many of you about the creative and effective ways you secure funding for your Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. subscriptions. Below, we’ve shared some of these great ideas and created some timesaving tools so that you are sure to have everything you need to begin the 2018-2019 school year with ease.










Do you have your own funding solutions to share? Add them in the comments below! If you have any questions, contact me anytime at rleon@scholastic.com.


Behind the Scenes: What No One Knows About Our Videos

Allison Friedman

If there’s one online resource our teachers can’t get enough of, it’s videos. The most consistent piece of feedback we hear about them is “more, please!”

I’ve been working on Storyworks videos for 4 years now, and can honestly say that we love producing them as much as you and your students love watching them. But believe it or not, putting together a 5-minute video is no small feat!

Here’s a quick glimpse at what went into the Behind the Scenes video for our February 2017 Nonfiction article, “Disaster in Space”:

  • 2: The number of weeks it took to make the video, from beginning to end
  • 9: The number of times we edited the script before we were happy with it
  • 400: The number of photos and video clips our eagle-eyed photo editor Larry Schwartz gathered for us to look at
  • 200: The number of astronaut photos we combed through before finding this perfect image:

  • 30: The approximate number of snacks we consumed while working on this video (and that’s a conservative estimate!)
  • 5: The number of video drafts our incredibly talented (and patient!) video editor, Seth Stein, put together before we settled on the final
  • 12,200: The number of times the video has been viewed so far

Do you have any suggestions for future Storyworks videos? Let us know in the comments!

Check Out Our New Website!

Lauren Tarshis

We are positively bursting with excitement over this announcement: The beta version of the brand-new Storyworks website is ready for you to explore! We just couldn't wait to show you what we've been working on, and we hope you'll find the new site beautiful, easy, and intuitive. Check it out here!


Beta is basically code for “work in progress,” so keep that in mind as you explore. We will be making lots of changes and additions in the coming weeks. But there are so many cool features ready for you to check out now that I just couldn’t wait to show you!

Here’s what I want you to see:

  • The simple and delightful navigation 
  • The gorgeous new design
  • How to bookmark and save your favorite stories and activities for later

And, drumroll, please . . . 

  • Search! Yes! Search! At long last, you’ll be able to search by topic, genre, and skill. 

Here’s a sneak peek of what’s to come:

  • Easy integration with Google Classroom
  • Revamped vocabulary slideshows for an improved viewing experience
  • A showcase of students’ writing, which celebrates their work 
  • Access to a selection of articles and stories from prior years 

I hope you will take some time to explore the new site as it develops and to share your thoughts with us at storyworks@scholastic.com. Your input will be invaluable as we refine the site for Back to School. In fact, many of the site’s new features were created because teachers like you requested them. So please keep the feedback coming!

Student Writer Spotlight: Mickey M!

Anna Starecheski

One of my favorite parts of my job is managing student writing contests. On the Ideabook, we like to highlight extraordinary student writing through our Student Writer Spotlight. See our previous Storyworks Jr. winners herehere and here

Our winner for the February issue is Mickey M! Mickey sent us a powerful entry to our Smog contest. Students were asked to write a paragraph about what happens when we don't have clean air. Check out Mickey's entry below!




Did you ever think we could end up like the dinosaurs and become extinct? Well smog is dangerous enough to make that happen! Smog is dirt in the air, and if we don’t have clean air thousands of people could die. History tells about a time when smog created a blanket that people could not see through. It caused them to lose their way, and actually fall into waterways and drown. Smog can be like a ghost. It creeps into your house through key holes or in the cracks in the door. Then, like an invisible spirit, it enters your body and affects your lungs. It can cause disease or death. This could be why it’s called the KILLER smog!



We loved the vivid details in Mickey's paragraph—especially her comparison of smog to an invisible spirit. She did a fantastic job incorporating details from the story but putting her own spin on them. Great job, Mickey!

For more information about Storyworks Jr. contests, click here!

Help Make Storyworks Even Better!

Rebecca Leon

We are looking for passionate educators to join our Teacher Advisory Board for the 2018-2019 school year. As part of our board, you would provide essential feedback about our stories and resources while also guiding us on important editorial decisions. Plus, you would have the opportunity to connect and collaborate with your Storyworks colleagues—discussing ways to grow, sharing ideas for student engagement, and more!

If selected, your commitment would include:

  • Using each issue of Storyworks (doesn't have to be in its entirety, but at least three articles or features)
  • Completing short questionnaires (10 minutes) for each issue in a timely manner to provide insight into how you used the issue, what worked, and what didn’t
  • Periodically giving feedback about upcoming articles, images, and topics, as well as new teaching tools
  • Optional: Promoting Storyworks through social media or through attendance at conferences and professional development events

In return, Storyworks Advisers receive:

  • A FREE one-year subscription to Storyworks for your class (up to 35 student copies)
  • Partnership and editorial influence on the development of Storyworks magazine and teacher resources

Ready to join?

Apply Now

Our goal is to form a diverse board representing different school environments, student populations, and geographic regions. Please consider adding your voice to the mix! Follow this link to apply by June 30. Questions? Email education editor Rebecca Leon anytime!

Student Writer Spotlight: Anouk B!

Anna Starecheski

One of my favorite parts of my job is managing student writing contests. On the Ideabook, we like to highlight extraordinary student writing through our Student Writer Spotlight. See our previous Storyworks winners herehere, and here!

Our February winner is the talented Anouk B, who wrote a fabulous entry to our Macaque contest. Students were asked to write a paragraph including at least three vocabulary words from the Word Power feature about a selfie-taking monkey. Read her entry below!




Naruto smirked at the curious contraption. His friend Kajula grinned at the lens. Kajula and Naruto gathered around the human's printer, where images of monkeys mooning over the portraits of themselves came out of the machine. Each time another selfie or close-up picture popped out, the human who had set it up put on a beautiful beam. Of course, bananas were much better than this piece of junk! Naruto huddled in a corner, watching the overgrown ape work. The man was less hairy, but was certainly smarter. Kajula fluffed her fur, ready for another photoshoot. She snorted when Naruto sniffed at himself like a caveman, mocking her. Kajula smashed a banana over his head. Then, the man did something curious. He walked away from the photos without taking them. Wait, no! He had taken the best photograph: one of Naruto's toothy grin.




We were struck by the sophistication of Anouk's writing and her use of humor and imagery to reimagine the story from the monkey's point of view. Great job, Anouk!

Click here to learn more about Storyworks contests!

Four Quick Teaching Ideas from Twitter

Anna Starecheski

It's such a joy for all of us here at Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. to scroll through Twitter and see what you're up to. We love seeing the unique ways in which you teach with our magazines—often, you come up with ideas we never had in mind when we were gathering stories and creating support materials. Here are a few of our recent favorite tweets from you!


We loved seeing Alison Chaplar celebrating her student's fantastic winning entry to a Storyworks Jr. writing contest. Alison shared news of her student's win with her local paper, and so our fabulous contest winner got to be featured in print! We love when teachers go the extra mile to celebrate their students' accomplishments!


Hanan D'Ariano created these fabulous interactive charts to teach cause & effect using the Storyworks Jr. article, "The Killer Smog". We love a good chart, and sticky notes make it extra fun!


Leslie Smothers has another fabulous collection of colorful, sticky noted charts! She used the Storyworks paired texts "Two Miles for a Drink of Water" to get her students thinking about the main idea, not just of the article, but of each section.


We were thrilled to see Laura Hernandez using our beloved Word Nerd from Storyworks to review context clues and vocabulary! Every issue comes with a Word Nerd feature, as well as a video online, and these features make for a quick and fun vocabulary lesson.


Keep these ideas coming, teachers—be sure to use the hashtags #Storyworks and #StoryworksJr so we see your tweets! And don't forget to follow us:


  • Lauren Tarshis, editor of Storyworks: @laurenTarshis
  • Allison Friedman, associate editor of Storyworks: @alli_friedman
  • Kara Corridan, editor of Storyworks Jr.: @kcorridan
  • Anna Starecheski, associate editor of Storyworks Jr.: @annastarecheski
  • Rebecca Leon, education editor for Storyworks and Storyworks Jr.: @RebeccaLeon12
  • Aimee Dolan, director of teacher outreach for all of our ELA mags: @Dolan_AS