Scholastic’s 100 Greatest Books for Kids…be sure to check this out!

This is a really great book list that combines books for kids of all ages. There is a really fun contest as well. It’s a great resource for teachers and families who are itching to get their kids into reading but don’t know where to start! Thanks to my dear friend Ari Joseph for sharing this with me.

Cool! Thanks scholastic.

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Benefits of Teaching Typing

Some schools offer computer access for students. What does this mean? Well, it depends on the school. “Computer access” could mean:

  1. All classrooms are outfitted with computers (desktops, laptops or ipads)
  2. There is a shared laptop cart that teachers may use on a sign-up basis
  3. There is a shared computer lab that teachers may use on a sign-up basis
  4. There is a computer lab and a technology teacher, and each class visits the lab x times per week

In numbers 2 and 3, please take note that this kind of “access” is dependent on the teacher’s interest in using technology for student learning. Also keep in mind that there are some schools that do not have computer access for students at all. It is important that you ask questions about what “computer access” means at your child’s school.

Finding some way for your child to access technology is important for quite a few reasons. Today I’m going to focus on one important reason: Learning to type can strengthen literacy skills for students. While typing can strengthen reading skills, I want to focus mostly on writing.

Writing is a complex subject area to teach because there are so many components to develop including: topic generation, spelling, sentence structure, punctuation, grammar and capitalization to name a few. Writing with a pencil is one valuable way to foster these skills, while typing is another. I don’t believe that one outweighs the other or that one should take the place of the other. Balance is best. When we write, we generate letters, words and sentences independently. When we type we are selecting a particular button out of a field of options. This narrows our choices, which can be helpful for some students. When first learning to type, many students actually write more slowly (because they need are working on building motor coordination on the keyboard). This makes them stop and think about which key comes next. This can be helpful because:

  • Students must make a conscious effort to include proper spacing (by hitting the space bar).
  • Students must make a conscious effort to hit the caps lock button to get a capital letter.
  • Students slow down with their spelling and can often notice spelling mistakes more clearly on a word processing document than in their own handwriting.
  • Students must make choices about which type of punctuation to use in different situations – seeing the options on the keyboard can better help them choose the appropriate punctuation.
  • I have found that when my students type, they are more likely to stop and re-read what they have written before writing more. When they write with a pencil, they often write quickly and through stream of consciousness.
  • Students can edit their work using a variety of tools on their original document.

I always like putting these stickers on a keyboard when I am teaching a student to type.

[amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]B001JICZKK[/amazon-product]

Have any tips for teaching students to type? Share them by leaving a comment!

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Common Sense Media: So parents and teachers can get with the program

Today I want to feature an organization that is making groundbreaking progress with families and educators around the world. Rather than reword an already well thought out mission statement, I will quote straight from their site:

“Common Sense Media is dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology.”

I can’t say enough wonderful things about this site. The team at Common Sense is dedicated to offering advice to families and teachers regarding what types of media and technology is deemed appropriate for each age-level. My favorite aspects of the site are:

I want to discuss this curriculum for a moment. “Digital Literacy and Citizenship” is a FREE curriculum that encourages families and teachers to embrace technology and media with their children, while promoting safety through the use of appropriate resources. It is a strong curriculum for many reasons. Firstly, it is clear and simple to understand – and there is even an article explaining where to start if you are not familiar with understanding the scope and sequence format of a curricular program. The curriculum is broken down by grade level and the organization has even compiled alignment charts so that families and educators can better understand how this curriculum correlates with the standards. A great way to fully understand what Common Sense Media is all about is by looking at these ten points included in their mission statement.

Here are some screen shots of their advice and reviews section.

Reviews of websites

Reviews of music

Reviews of apps

Reviews of books

Thanks Common Sense Media, for all you do to better the lives of our children!

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Behavior Charting, Positive Reward Systems and Praise

Introduction by Marisa Kaplan of

The concept of rewards and consequences is usually a controversial topic amongst educational professionals. I have sat through many school meetings regarding school-wide systems for behavior management and the one thing I can say for sure is that there is never a simple answer. Some professionals believe that materialistic rewards such as stickers or allowance are appropriate for students. Others believe that only those non-materialistic rewards are appropriate. This article is an unbiased piece written by a school psychologist who wishes to offer tips to families at home. You can decide for yourself which types of rewards are appropriate for your child. My personal advice:

  • Always put intrinsic motivation at the heart of any behavior system
  • Always aim to develop a child’s sense of morality through modeling what makes something right or wrong
  • Teach children to make positive choices because they believe it is the right choice to make, rather than because they want extra allowance 

Charting and Improving Behaviors at Home – Emma Savino, NYS Certified School Psychologist

Behavior and sticker charts are a great way to reward and positively reinforce desired behaviors.  Not only does the child learn new strategies to manage their own behavior, they can visually see their progress and simultaneously work toward a goal.  The benefit for adults is the ability to consistently monitor a child’s progress over time.

The best part is that you can chart any behavior! Your child’s behaviors will vary based on their age.  Therefore, the type of chart you use and the rewards provided will change as your child grows. Older children might work towards a goal to obtain allowance or extra time with friends, while younger children can work for small tangible prizes or time on the playground.

Keep in mind; rewards do not always have to be tangible items.  A reward can simply be verbal praise or affection.  This applies to all positive behavior; not just behaviors you are tracking or looking to improve. Be sure to reward progress, not perfection. If your child is making gains, they should be rewarded in some way.  Address one or two behaviors at a time.  If you try to manage all undesirable behaviors, you will be unsuccessful.  Choose the most salient behaviors. For example, if your desired goal is to have your child put their toys away each day, you can create or print a behavior chart, similar to this one:

Minnie Mouse Chore Chart

I suggest writing the desired behavior somewhere on the chart to remind the child daily of what is expected.  Even if your child is not yet reading, exposing them to goal oriented language is important when improving behavior.  Your goal can simply state: “Molly will put her toys away each day.” If Molly cleans up her toys after playtime, she would receive a sticker on the day she completed the task.  If your child plays more than once a day, you can divide the chart into times and provide a sticker after each play session.

You can also rate your child on a scale from 1 – 4, or use picture icons such as smiley faces (J L), particularly if they are resistant to change at the start of the intervention or if they partially engage in the desired behavior.  This will visually show them where they need improvement.  After rating them, explain why they received a 2 or a L face.  Decide on an appropriate number of J faces or number range (i.e. 20-28 points per week) for your child to receive a reward.

For younger children (roughly PreK-1st), rewards should be more immediate and given directly after the desired behavior is observed or at the end of each day that the plan is in place.  Young children are not as mindful of goals as older children, and many cannot think past the present.  That is why direct and immediate rewards are important for that particular age group.  If your child is older (roughly 2nd grade and up), let them create a “reward menu” of what they enjoy.  At the end of the week, they can choose a reward from the menu. Use your judgment when rating behaviors, when giving rewards and determining the time frame to earn a reward.  This will vary with age and one particular plan will not work for all children.

Use of positive language is important when changing undesirable behaviors.

  • “I really like how you are cleaning up your toys and putting them in your toy box”
  • “You are really helping Mommy keep the house clean by picking up your toys.”

Try to avoid negative or direct comments like “Put away your toys!” or “Look what a mess you have made!” Rather than criticizing behaviors, teach and model how to behave appropriately. The more you praise, the more automatic the behavior will become.  Rewards can be gradually reduced as the behavior becomes more habitual.

Possible Chart Ideas: 

  • Homework Completion
  •  “Penny a Page” – I am stealing this idea from my mom, who used to make a chart for my brother and I to encourage summer reading.  She paid us a penny for each page we read at the end of the summer.
  • Anger Control
  • Potty Training
  • Sibling Argument
  • Whining/Crying
  • Picky Eaters
  • Going to bed on time


This website has a wide range of charts available.  Plus they are free! There are behavior tools for all ages that can be used at home and school.

Coming Soon: Classroom Wide Behavior Management

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Terry Doherty from The Reading Tub Shares About Family Literacy

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to guest blog for Terry Doherty at the Family Bookshelf. Today, she is joining EdGeeks as a guest blogger and I am absolutely delighted to have her! Terry Doherty is such an amazing resource for EdGeeks. I absolutely love The Reading Tub and Family Bookshelf because they promote literacy in the home through reviewing and categorizing books and offering ideas about ways to encourage a love of reading amongst children. EdGeeks is so lucky to have Terry Doherty guest blog today on the importance of literacy in the home environment and some simple ways to integrate literacy into your daily routines.  

Literacy Development in the Home Environment

If I say the word “literacy,” what do you see? A book? A teacher? A notebook? A cereal box? Your kids’ drawings? Toys?

What would you say if I told you that all of those things play a role in your child’s literacy development. It is true! Long before your child hears his first school bell, he has been building his literacy skills at home. While a book might seem obvious, some of the other things may not.
  • Pretend play – whether it is racing dump trucks around the sandbox or playing dress up – is a daily opportunity for literacy development. The stories kids create and act out not only build communication and vocabulary skills, but expand their imagination.
  • Sorting blocks by size or color and doing simple puzzles help kids think logically and begin to distinguish differences amongst objects. Later, when they are learning their letters, that same skill will be used to distinguish a “b” from a “d” from a “p.”
  • Those first artistic masterpieces are our kids way of learning to grasp, grip, and build the muscle strength they need for forming letters and numbers later in their writing.

But what about the teacher? Well, she is staring back at you from the mirror! Parents are our children’s first teachers. Remember that “oops” when your toddler repeated something you wish she hadn’t? They learned that from us!  We can teach them some good stuff, too! Literacy is the first building block of the “good stuff.”When you look at literacy in its entirety, it is VERY EASY to take everyday activities and turn them into literacy building blocks. As you walk through the store, ask your two-year-old to spot something red or round; or ask your four-year-old to find a yellow square. Get them focused on something they think is fun, but that also boosts literacy development. This makes shopping faster and easier, too! Last but not least, let your kids catch you reading! When our kids see us reading – cereal boxes, cookbooks, the newspaper, books – they absorb the message that reading is important. Modeling reading and spending time sharing books with our kids are two of the three linchpins to learning.

The last linchpin is having things to read at home! If your child can own a book that’s all his, that is great, but don’t discount the library. The goal is to surround your kids with different kinds of materials. Magazines, catalogs, books, junk mail – they all expose them to images and ideas that feed their desire to learn. So now you’re asking, “but what if I don’t actually like to read books?” Literacy isn’t a Norman Rockwell painting! It is a living, breathing part of our daily lives. Sorting and opening the mail, sending an email … these are all pieces of literacy that our kids observe. If you feel strongly about books but are uncomfortable reading, the library has lots of children’s books on CD/tape that you can borrow. Enjoy a quiet moment to sit and listen together.Literacy isn’t something you need to “add” to your to-do list, it is integral to daily living. From conversations at the breakfast table to cuddling up with a bedtime story, each day offers countless opportunities to give our children a strong foundation for learning and ultimately, lifelong success.

Thank you so much to Terry Doherty for sharing these helpful tips, tools and ideas about literacy with us. Learn more about Terry Doherty here:




twitter: (literacy, reading news), (books & reviews)




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Guest Blog for The Reading Tub: Bridging the Gap Between Home and School

I always love guest blogging! A few months ago, I met a new blogger friend, Terry Doherty. Today’s post was written for her blog The Family Bookshelf, which is connected to her website The Reading Tub. Make sure to check out both the blog and the site as a resources for book lists, reviews and ideas for creating a literacy-rich environment at home. A special thanks to my new friend Terry Doherty for supporting EdGeeks! Later this week, she will share ideas on literacy in the home…stay tuned!

Bridging the Gap Between Home and School

“Better parents can make every teacher more effective.”

-Thomas Friedman, NY Times

When things don’t go the way we want, we look for someone to blame. Right now, education in our country is not where we would like it to be. I have met some inspiring teachers throughout my career, as well as some who I have found…well, uninspiring. I can say the same of the families I have come across. There is always a range. I don’t think placing blame necessarily does anything for the problem – the problem is too large. What we can do in an effort to be proactive on the matter is try desperately to bridge the gap between home and school, which will support families and teachers in building a partnership rather than working independently.

I am a special education teacher by trade and the bulk of my experiences have been in Collaborative Team Teaching settings. A CTT class is wonderful for many reasons, but first and foremost because a team works together to provide support to a group of students. A teacher is never alone in regards to decision-making in a CTT class, because there is a team of teachers, related service providers and often paraprofessionals working together. I propose that we approach the parent-teacher relationship as a co-teaching experience.

Let’s take a logical approach to this issue. The hours in a student’s day are split between their home environment and their school environment. If families and teachers are working alone, chances are they are not thinking alike. Consistency is key in the success of a student. Consistency can be in reference to the teachers in a school, the adults in a family, but I’d like to think of the bigger picture…consistency between the home and school environments.

Fact: Working together to support a child has a greater effect than working alone. That being said, bridging the gap is easier said than done. Creating is my small contribution to the cause but let me put forth some ideas for ways that teachers and families can work together to improve a child’s education:

How Families Can Bridge the Gap

How Teachers Can Bridge the Gap

  • Put time into reading any notices sent home by your child’s teacher
  • Support your child with their homework in whatever way you can
  • Ask your child’s teacher for feedback on your child’s in-classroom performance
  • Ask your child’s teacher how you can support his/her work in the classroom
  • Show that you take your role as a parent seriously by using educational resources such as websites for learning
  • Assign family reading time as homework to boost family involvement
  • Invite families in for a parent-teacher night and discuss a particular topic
  • If a family asks for help, try modeling for them as you would for a student
  • Loan materials to your families (ie: books, math games, etc.) so they can practice skills at home
  • Send out an invitation for family members to come spend a period in the classroom



Why is consistency key to a student’s success in learning? Because without consistency, we send mixed messages to our youngsters. For example, when I taught second grade math, there was much confusion in regards to strategies for adding 2 and 3-digit numbers. The school’s curriculum guided students through a variety of strategies that did not include “stacking,” which is the good old-fashioned vertical way that many of us learned to add in school. Families would always come to me and say, “I taught my son/daughter stacking last night because that’s the best way.” It was challenging for me, but even more so for the students. They were learning one strategy at home, and then being asked to use the opposite strategy in school. Both their parents and their teachers were telling them that their way was “the right way.” This resulted in chaos, confusion and inefficiency for many students. I remember making that topic a “must discuss” during parent-teacher conferences that year. My co-teacher and I modeled the strategies for families so they could walk away understanding how to support their kids at home in math. I highly recommend choosing a focal point or a strategy to share at teacher conferences. Although it is a short amount of time, it can be valuable when focused.

Here are some other situations where a lack of consistency between home and school can be detrimental to a student’s success.

Teacher Says… Parent Says…
“It is so important that you get your homework in on time. If it is late, I will deduct 5 points.” “Don’t worry about it, it’s not a big deal if it’s one day late. I’ll talk to your teacher.”
“I don’t care about spelling on your first draft, that’s why we edit.” “You can’t hand in your writing with all of those mistakes.”
“You must always be sure to show your work when adding, even if you already know the sum.” “Why are you wasting time…you already know the sum. Just write it down.”
“Your homework is to complete the worksheet.” “Your teacher must have showed you what to do. What was the strategy your teacher gave you?”
“This is how you multiply two-digit numbers.” “This is how you multiply two-digit numbers.”


If you were a child, whom would you listen to?

Tough choice. Bridge the gap.

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A sweet, creative gift that will last forever!

I am absolutely in love with this company! Child’s Own Studio takes a child’s drawings and makes them into a reality by creating a stuffed toy using the design in the drawing. Take a look at these:


What an incredible way to encourage creativity. Thank you so much Child’s Own! You are awesome.

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Incorporate Non-Fiction Text Into Your Home or Classroom Book Collection

The non-fiction genre is one that children either love or hate. The way I see it, kids who truly understand what non-fiction is love it. The kids who think that non-fiction is full of dense text with challenging or impossible vocabulary, usually run for the woods when they hear it’s coming! I have always wondered where this misunderstanding comes from. Could it be our own adult perception of non-fiction? Perhaps the rigorous non-fiction assessment that children must endure? It could even be the fact that children are often paired with non-fiction topics that are uninteresting to them or with books at levels that are too challenging. Whatever the reason, I say we put a heavy focus on encouraging our kids to love non-fiction! Here is how:

Do you read books about things you’re not interested in? Me neither! Peak engagement by choosing book topics that your child is interested it. Does your child love horses? Find a book series that teaches about horses! This should be obvious! When trying to get your child to read non-fiction books, pick something interesting. You can even use a survey like this one to see what your child might like to read about.

Get a subscription to a children’s magazine or newspaper. Whether you are a parent or a teacher, you can be using non-fiction publications as a way to build interest in your young readers. Click on the link above to see some examples of children’s publications that might be appealing to your child. I cannot stress enough how much children love to read about things that are happening in “real life.” It makes them feel mature and important!

Here are my top 3 picks for non-fiction book authors/collections:

1. Heinmann Raintree is an amazing publisher of children’s and teen non-fiction books. I love using these books in the classroom because they come in sets by subject area and believe it or not they are all aligned with the standards so they’re easy to tie into curriuculm. Some of my favorite collections are:

[amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]1434228061[/amazon-product] [amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]1434227820[/amazon-product] [amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]1434228096[/amazon-product]

Sports Illustrated Victory Superstars

[amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]1429648546[/amazon-product] [amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]1429648570[/amazon-product] [amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]1429648554[/amazon-product]

Action Science Collection

[amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]1410910113[/amazon-product] [amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]1410910105[/amazon-product] [amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]1410910083[/amazon-product]

You Are In Ancient…

2. National Geographic is and always has been a great resource for families and educators. We all know they have a fabulous magazine collection (differentiating for younger and older kids) and that their websites offer interactive games and activities…But did you know that they also publish fantastic non-fiction books for kids? Here are my top picks:

[amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]142630594X[/amazon-product] [amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]1426308647[/amazon-product]

Weird But True Books

[amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]1426300913[/amazon-product] [amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]0792255836[/amazon-product]

Jump Into Science Books

3. Nicola Davies is the author of a super collection of non-fiction books. What makes her books so unique is that they include both narrative text and factual text. This added narrative feature makes her texts highly engaging and accessible for young readers. Here are my favorite Nicola Davies books:

[amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]0763623113[/amazon-product] 

One Tiny Turtle

[amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]0763610801[/amazon-product] 

Big Blue Whale

[amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]0763624381[/amazon-product] 

Bat Loves the Night

And here is my favorite non-fiction book of all! Perhaps it’s because I’m a Native New Yorker. This book makes reading interactive and fun!

[amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]0792279824[/amazon-product]

Go Wild In New York City

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Top Secret!

For some reason, leveling books has always seemed like this top-secret venture…like only certain teachers in this elite book-leveling society could do the task. Well, today I will divulge my two go-to tools that I can always depend on when leveling books.

Memory: The first time I leveled a library was during my first co-teaching partnership. My co-teacher seemed to be a rolodex of children’s books and their correlating levels. Every book she picked up had a home and she knew exactly where to find it! As you can imagine, this was highly frustrating for a first timer. I kept picking up a book and not knowing what level it was, where it lived or how to label it. That is when I decided I had to learn the art of book leveling! I am proud to say that last year, I leveled multiple libraries at my school and I did almost all of the books by memory! Here are the tools that helped me…

1. The book-leveling bibles:

[amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]0325026084[/amazon-product]  [amazon-product image=”″ type=”image”]0325003106[/amazon-product]

Both of these books are by Fountas and Pinnell. They offer organized book lists so you can find many books for your child to read. How can this help? Imagine this: Your child’s teacher informs you that your child is reading books at a level P. You think to yourself, “What does that even mean?” How do you know what books your child should be reading? You can look at the P book list in the Fountas and Pinnell book to get an idea of what kinds of books are appropriate.

2. Scholastic Book Wizard: The Book Wizard by scholastic is a book search tool. You can select the appropriate reading system. I always like to choose “Guided Reading” so that I can see the letter level, but you have a variety of other options as well. Then all you have to do is type in a book title, author or keyword to find a book. Here is an example of a book search for Henry and Mudge:

Should a parent have an in-depth understanding of book leveling? Not unless they are obsessed with libraries like me! One thing that parents should understand is what makes a book appropriate for their child. If a teacher tells you that your child is now reading level J books, and you have no conceptual understanding of what that means, you will have a hard time supporting your reader at home. Searching for books with these two leveling tools will help you begin to understand the characteristics of each level as your child develops as a reader.

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Guest Blog at Edutopia: Creating a Strong Parent Community

Today’s post is from my guest blog on Edutopia. Edutopia is such an incredible resource for the educational community and I am honored to be on it!

Hands down, teaching children is the most incredible and rewarding occupation that exists. That being said, teaching is a complicated profession for many reasons. There are so many variables that can impact a teacher’s year including: class size, administration, supplies and resources, colleagues, class makeup and of course families!

A supportive parent can be a teacher’s best friend. The only thing that could be better than that is a supportive group of parents! I have taught in a variety of educational settings and have worked with students ranging from toddlers to sixth graders. I can assure you that the support of family members has a strong correlation to a student’s success in learning and to the classroom community no matter what the age of the students.

As teachers, we can encourage our parents to become involved in meaningful ways. Here are some ideas that we can suggest to our families. Please suggest any others in the comments section below.

List of Helpful Parent Activities: Pre-K

1. Offer to come help out during lunch or an art project
2. Donate used books or art supplies to your teacher
3. Come in to do a “Guest Read Aloud” for the class
4. Make sure to read with your child at least 30 minutes a night
5. Support mathematical learning by intertwining counting into your daily routines at home (ex: counting socks in the laundry, counting eggs while cooking, etc.)

List of Helpful Parent Activities: Lower Elementary

1. Come show your support for writing during a publishing party
2. Offer to help out during publishing by typing up students’ stories
3. Stay late one morning to share about something you are really good at. You could even be a guest teacher for your particular area of expertise
4. Support your kids with homework responsibility and organization by asking them to see their homework each night to check for completion and understanding
5. Always be prompt for the start of class, distractions are very tricky for teachers!

List of Helpful Parent Activities: Upper Elementary

1. Read at home with your kids. Even though they are in sixth grade and may be strong readers, the texts are tough and getting tougher!
2. Come in for Parent-Teacher conferences and bring between one to five specific questions about your child’s progress
3. Ask the teacher questions. By middle school, the content is getting trickier so if you aren’t sure how to support your child at home, just ask
4. Email about a time when you used a resource from the teacher. It always makes us happy to hear the success stories. (Ex: I had a family email me about a website I had recommended. They said it had really been supporting their son and it really put a smile on my face)
5. When behavioral situations occur, make sure to stay calm and have a proactive tone rather than a negative one. Always try to work with the teacher and maintain a united front

A classroom community is built on trust. Our kids need to trust us and we need to trust each other. That is when the best learning happens.

An Amazing Memory

The best family memory I have is of a time when the entire class community was together during a publishing party. This was a second grade collaborative team teaching class and my co-teacher and I had printed compliment cards for the stories. One student did not have a family member present. Another parent walked up to him and wrote his first compliment card. That sparked an incredible idea — all of our families began writing compliment cards for multiple children — not just their own. The ultimate family member demonstrates a true interest in the classroom community rather than only in their own child. In my mind, this memory represents the ultimate classroom community.

What are some other ways that parents can be supportive?

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