Martha Speaks Reading Buddies Newsletter
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Learn about MARTHA SPEAKS author Susan Meddaugh, try an author study in your classroom, find out about a Reading Buddies Program in Florida, and more in this month’s Reading Buddies newsletter. In this issue you will find:

In the Spotlight: Meet Martha’s Author: Susan Meddaugh
Classroom Tips: An Author Study
Pup Tales: Reading Buddies in Florida
More Fun with Martha: Susan Speaks and Martha in the News
Links & Books: Useful Web Sites and Recommended Reading

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Meet Martha's Author: Susan Meddaugh

As many teachers know, the MARTHA SPEAKS television series is based on the book series written and illustrated by Susan Meddaugh. Susan grew up in New Jersey, studied art and illustration, and now lives in Massachusetts with her family—including Kaiser (a black Lab from a shelter), Oats (a pug who needed a new home, and now has a role in the PBS series), and Dudley (a stray dog abandoned at a Georgia gas station).

Susan’s pets have been a regular inspiration for her writing. “We had parakeets, turtles, tortoises, lizards, pet rats, ferrets and other members of the rodent family, every one a potential character for my stories.” Martha, Susan’s first dog, was named after Susan's friend who rescued the abandoned pup and asked Susan to take her in. One day, when Susan's son Niko (who was then 7) was eating alphabet soup, he wondered what would happen if they fed the soup to Martha. Would she talk? Little did Niko know that this idea would spark not only a series of popular, bestselling children’s books, but also a PBSKIDS television show!

In addition to writing and illustrating children’s books, Susan is a member of the ASPCA and an advocate for shelter adoption. She has told and drawn Martha’s story at libraries and community events, as well as presented at conferences for groups such as the International Reading Association and Intermountain Therapy Animals. At book signings, Susan often includes a Martha “pawtograph” (a print of Martha’s paw) with her signature.

To find out more about Susan Meddaugh and the origin of MARTHA SPEAKS, watch this video.

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An Author Study

An author study is a great project to enhance literacy in your classroom. It allows students to make connections between books and the authors who write them and to view authors as real people with families and hobbies. It’s also a great way to incorporate technology as an educational tool in your classroom.

To do an author study of Susan Meddaugh and MARTHA SPEAKS, try the following activities:


  • *  Compare and contrast the MARTHA SPEAKS books to the television series. You can read the book, Martha Speaks aloud and then have students watch the episode. Pause the video from time to time and ask students what they notice that is the same. What is different?
  • *  Learn more about the characters. Print and distribute these character cards as you introduce Martha’s friends and family. Are the characters in the TV show the same as the characters in the books?
  • *  Write a class letter or email to Susan Meddaugh. Students can be encouraged to ask questions such as, What can you tell us about your family? What is your favorite color? Do you have any hobbies? When did you decide to start writing and illustrating books? Emails can be sent to
  • *  Susan Meddaugh often says that Martha is very “draw-able.” Have your class draw pictures of Martha, her friends or family members after reading the book and/or watching a television episode.
  • *  Encourage students to interact with Susan Meddaugh’s characters by playing an online game such as Martha’s Scrapbook.

In addition to Susan Meddaugh and MARTHA SPEAKS, your class can do a study on other authors. For example, Eric Carle, author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, has an excellent website with a photo and video gallery and answers to frequently asked questions. ARTHUR author and creator Marc Brown also has a useful website with facts, activities, and contact information. Students can try their hand at writing and illustrating their own story through this ARTHUR activity.


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Reading Buddies in Flordia

Thanks to a partnership with Florida public television station WFSU, and funding from Wachovia Wells Fargo, the MARTHA SPEAKS Reading Buddies Program has been a huge success at Astoria Park, Sabal Palm, and Gretna Elementary Schools. WFSU helped pilot the Reading Buddies Program in 2008. Since then, they have continued to bring the program into new schools and secured funding to provide the schools with necessary supplies and materials.

“This year we created MARTHA SPEAKS Reading Buddies Kits that will stay at the school to be used year after year,” says station coordinator Tasha Weinstein. “Each kit has a classroom set of books, however the Big and Little Buddies get to keep a special book at the end of the program. We hope that our funding will continue so we can keep providing schools with fresh program materials, but this way the program can carry on at the schools, no matter what.”

At Astoria Park Elementary School, first grade Little Buddies have partnered with fourth grade Big Buddies. Fourth grade teacher Mrs. Polani Kimberl says, “The best value of the MARTHA SPEAKS Reading Buddies Program is the incredible learning that goes on, not only for the first graders, but my fourth graders as well. The first graders get so excited when they see their “big buddies” in the hallway. My fourth graders truly love the program. In the process, they have learned how to teach and they feel a huge sense of pride being able to take part in these first graders’ education. They also have learned empathy for other teachers. After the first session, one of my students’ remarked, ‘Mrs. Kimberl, now I know why you’re always telling us to pay attention!’”

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A Conversation with Susan Meddaugh and Tolon Brown

Carol Greenwald, WGBH’s Senior Executive Producer for Children’s Programming, interviews MARTHA SPEAKS author Susan Meddaugh and ARTHUR producer Tolon Brown.

Sit. Stay. Watch!
Watch this short music video with your Reading Buddies to reinforce what the word vocabulary actually means!

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Recommended Links

Susan Speaks
Watch Susan Meddaugh discuss her life growing up, reveal how she came up with her story ideas, offer advice for young writers, and draw the story of Martha.

Martha in the News

See how MARTHA SPEAKS can help improve children’s literacy as featured in Texas’s CBS 7 evening news segment, “Communities in Crisis.”

Recommended Reading

Cinderella's Rat by Susan Meddaugh. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 1997.
Find out what happens when one of the rats transformed into a coachman for Cinderella's coach remains a human.

Nonfiction Author Studies in the Elementary Classroom by Carol Brennan Jenkins and Deborah White. Heinemann 2007.
Interested in doing an author study in your classroom? This book explains how and why author studies are effective and highlights units from five different teachers.

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MARTHA funders' logos

Corporate funding for MARTHA SPEAKS is provided by Chuck E. Cheese’s®, Kiddie Academy® Child Care Learning Centers, and Chick-fil-A, Inc. Additional funding provided by Jennifer and Steven Walske and by public television viewers. Additional series funding is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by a cooperative agreement from the U.S. Department of Education’s Ready to Learn Grant. ©2011 WGBH Educational Foundation. All rights reserved. "Martha" and all characters and underlying materials (including artwork) from the "Martha" books are trademarks and copyrights of Susan Meddaugh and used under license. All other characters and underlying materials are trademarks of and copyrights of WGBH. All third party trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Used with permission.

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