An Interview with David Harrison and Mary Jo Fresch about their new book: Empowering Students’ Knowledge of Vocabulary

An Interview with David Harrison & Mary Jo Fresch about their new book: Empowering Students’ Knowledge of Vocabulary

Today I am continuing my series on effective educational practices. This week I was able to interview two good friends, David Harrison and Dr. Mary Jo Fresch. We discussed their new book Empowering Students’ Knowledge of Vocabulary. David and Mary Jo make quite the team. David is a long time Missouri Literacy Association supporter and a prolific writer. He is best known for his extensive collections of poetry writing and his children’s books. These books often take topics from science and turn them into engaging children’s stories. Dr. Mary Jo Fresch is a professor emeritus from The Ohio State University. She has an extensive body of work in academic journals, but she has also collaborated with David in order to create professional books for teachers. These books are the best of both worlds. They combine David’s innovative practices informed by Mary Jo’s extensive knowledge of the research.  The net results are books that give practical advice informed by the latest research in literacy. Here are is a link to the interview.

Here is the cover page followed by a link for ordering the book.


This  has an extensive collection of lesson plans. David and Mary Jo tried out many of these lessons using students from all around the country. Here is one lesson plan that David and MaryJo shared during the interview along with a sample of student work as students carried out the lessons.

Here is an example of a word origin tree            

Here are some bullet points about what was said during the interview.  I have provided time stamps for each point, so if you wish to jump ahead to selected parts of the interview you can do so.

  • In the beginning I introduce Dave and Mary Jo and they talk about themselves. Some highlights- this is their 7th book together; this is Mary Jo’s 20th professional development book, and this is David’s 100th book. WOW!!!! Congrats to David on that. (starting at minute 0)
  • During the Middle Part of the interview David and Mary Jo talked about chapters one to five of the book. The topics included Nymes are Names, Planting ideas about Similes and Metaphors, Raining Cats and Dogs (idioms), Using colorful language. (starting at 10:46)
  • At the end of the interview David talked about chapter 6, tips from popular authors. David is friends with many of the most popular children’s authors today. He was able to prevail on many of them to give writing tips.  Among these authors are Jane Yolen, Nike Grimes, and Obert Skye. (starting at 17:30)

The appendices of the book include:  a list of Lessons, Lesson Resources, Electronic Resources for Teachers, Electronic Resources for Students and Resources about ELL Students. I’ve placed  my order for the book and can’t wait for it to arrive. It is sure to become a “must have” resource for all teachers of writing. I want to thank Mary Jo and David for taking time from their busy schedules to do the interview.

Here is their contact information/websites:                 

Mary Jo Fresch-;

David Harrison-;      

Over the next few weeks, I will be continuing to interview folks about best literacy practices. If all goes well technically, I have two educators from Australia lined up to talk about the literacy scene “down under” and to talk about successful practices that they are using. Fingers crossed!!! Until next time, happy reading and writing.

Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka the guy who is getting by with a little help from his friends).

Copyright 2020 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

The book Empowering Students’ Knowledge of Vocabulary is copyrighted by David Harrison and Mary Jo Fresch                        

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3 thoughts on “An Interview with David Harrison and Mary Jo Fresch about their new book: Empowering Students’ Knowledge of Vocabulary

    1. doctorsam7 Post author

      They have several great books including this one. It will definitely be worth checking out.

  1. davidlharrison

    Dr. Sam, thank you for the opportunity to present our newest collaboration. Mary Jo and I are proud of the book and appreciated the time to talk about it with you. Thank you for all you do to advance the cause of early literacy in Missouri. David


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