Friday, December 30, 2011

Winter Jokes to Make Them Laugh

It’s time for more jokes, don’t you think? After all, you can’t very well be telling the Christmas jokes anymore. Here’s a batch of winter jokes to keep your family and friends laughing.

Where does a snowman keep his money?In a snow bank.

What's a good holiday tip?Never catch snowflakes with your tongue until all the birds have gone south for the winter.

What do you call a snowman in the summer?A puddle!

What do snowmen eat for breakfast?Frosted Flakes.

What do you call an old snowman?Water!

What do you get when you cross a snowman and a vampire?Frostbite.

What do snowmen wear on their heads?Ice caps.

What do you call a Snowman on roller blades?A snowmobile!

What did Jack Frost say to Frosty the Snowman?Have an ice day!

What does a Snowman take when he gets sick?A chill pill!

How does a Snowman get to work?By icicle.

What happened when the icicle landed on the snowman's head?It knocked him out cold.

How do snowmen greet each other?Ice to meet you!

What do you sing at a snowman's birthday party?Freeze a jolly good fellow!

Who are Frosty's parents?Mom and Pop-Sicle!

Who is Frosty's favorite Aunt?Aunt Artica!

What does Frosty eat for breakfast?Frosted Flakes!

What do you call a penguin in the Sahara desert?Lost!

What sort of ball doesn't bounce?A snowball!

How do you know when there is a snowman in your bed?You wake up wet!

What do you get if cross a snowman and a shark?Frost bite!

What do you call an Eskimo cow?An Eskimoo!

What happens when you drop a snowball in water?
It gets wet!

What did one snowman say to the other snowman?
Can you smell carrot?

What often falls at the North Pole but never gets hurt?

Resources for these jokes:

Which jokes gave you the biggest laughs? Tell us in the Comment box!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Finding the Just-Right Book

Maggie Hames writes the blog Media Darlings. Recently, she asked me to write a couple of guest blogs for her. The first one was about matching books to readers. I combined and revised two of my earlier posts for her to use in her blog. This newer version is my post for today.

The first step to becoming an enthusiastic reader is finding books that excite you. Most kids (and adults) won’t stick with a book that doesn’t interest them, or is too hard. If a book has vocabulary they don’t understand or talks about things they have little interest in, they will become frustrated and probably abandon it.

For example, I’m not a geek, but I’m fairly comfortable with computers. When setting up this blog, I took several books out of the library. Try as I might, I couldn’t make sense of them. I went online for help. Still stumped. Finally, I met with a friend and he walked me through some of the hardest parts.

The books didn’t help me because even though they were written in fairly plain language, I simply didn’t have the background experience or the vocabulary. Our reluctant and struggling readers are often in the same boat.

Our kids need to be matched up with books they WANT to read. Ones that interest them and don’t ask them to work too hard.

This subject, matching books to readers, is a big one. In fact, huge. In this post, I’ll give you a technique, some tips and a few resources. I hope you find them useful.

The 5-Finger Method
The five-finger method is a quick and easy way to decide if a new book is at a comfortable reading level for a reader.
  • Select a page from the middle of the book. Before you read, close the fingers in one hand.
  • As you read silently, stick up one finger for every word you don’t know and can’t guess. If you open 3 to 5 fingers, consider a different book.
  • If you stick up 1 or 2 fingers, this book is probably in your comfort range.
  • This isn’t a fool-proof method. Sometimes you can read all the words in a book but not really understand the story/text itself (like me and the blogging books).
  • Sometimes a book fails the 5-finger rule but if you really want to read it, you’ll keep going (like some kids with the Harry Potter books).

So how do you find books your child wants to read? There are several things to try.
Ask questions
  • What was the last book that you liked/interested you? Show no judgment here – a book from a younger time is very okay. This will give you an idea of where to start.
  • What would you like to be an expert in? This can be a great jumping off point for research.

Teachers and Librarians
  • Ask what books your child has shown interest in and has been successful reading.
  • Ask for a few recommendations.

Public Library
  • Let your child choose whatever books he/she wants. Books seem too young? Swallow your judgment! The point is to read, regardless.
  • Ask if your library system has an online site. These sites often have a powerful search engine to explore books.

Here are three sites I find helpful for finding books.
Finding the right book is essential for all readers. I hope you find some good ones for your child!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Hanukkah Books for the Family: Part 2

As I said last week, reading lots of Hanukkah books has been a real treat for me. Enjoy this week’s selections!

Hanukkah at Valley Forge by Stephen Krensky, illustrated by Greg Harlin
This is quite a beautiful book. It tells the story of General George Washington’s conversation with a Jewish soldier on the first night of Hanukkah. The soldier told Washington the story of the Maccabees and the miracle that Hanukkah celebrates. It is said to be based on actual events.

One Yellow Daffodil by David A. Adler, illustrated by Lloyd Bloom
During Hanukkah, two children help a flower seller to once again embrace his religious traditions. This story deals with the Holocaust in a sensitive way through its lovely story and characters you’d like to meet.

By the Hanukkah Light by Sheldon Oberman, illustrated by Neil Waldman
A grandfather tells about Hanukkah during World War II, when his family was forced to celebrate behind locked doors and closed curtains. The illustrations are cheerful and warm.

One Candle by Eve Bunting, illustrated by K. Wendy Popp
Grandma and her sister tell the story of their Hanukkah while they were in a German concentration camp. The way they created a candle is just lovely.

This is the Dreidel by Abby Levine, illustrated by Paige Billin-Frye
Max and his sister enjoy the dreidel and other special parts of their family's holiday celebration. This is a cumulative story, rather like This is the House That Jack Built. A fun read-aloud.

The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes by Linda Glaser, illustrated by Nancy Cote
At the last minute, the guest list for the Hanukkah party went from 9 to 17. How will Rachel’s mama feed all of them? Their next door neighbor is generous with all they need, but how will Rachel convince her to join their party? This is a wonderfully warm story.

Happy Hanukkah!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Hanukkah Online Fun for the Family

Since Hanukkah started this week, I thought you might like a few online activities to play. Enjoy!

Online Hanukkah Coloring Pages  (takes a moment to load)


Hanukkah Puzzles Crosswords, Jigsaw Puzzles and Other Games

Hanukkah Games and Activities Printables, Jigsaw Puzzles, Sliding Puzzles, Clipart

Happy Hanukkah!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hanukkah Literacy – Fun for the Whole Family

There are lots of things you can do at home to promote literacy during Hanukkah. Activities include making crafts, coloring pictures, playing games, cooking treats, watching videos, making cards and wrapping paper…the list goes on! Here is a sampling of things to try:

6 Hanukkah Crafts (scroll down)






Chanukah Crafts (scroll down for crafts)

Do you have activities to add to the list? Write them in the Comments box!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hanukkah Books for the Family: Part 1

As a Christian, I've had only a little exposure to books about Hanukkah. Researching for this week’s and next week’s Books post has been a real treat. I hope you enjoy the books I’ve chosen!

Chanukah Lights Everywhere by Michael J. Rosen
Each night of Chanukah, a boy counts the candles on the menorah and then the lights he sees in his home and neighborhood. This book also includes information on the history and significance of the celebration.

It’s a Miracle! A Hanukkah Storybook by Stephanie Spinner, illustrated by Jill McElmurry
Each night of Hanukkah, after Owen lights the menorah, his Grandma tells him a bedtime story. Each night it’s a different story with a different character. And each story seems both new and oddly familiar.

Moishe’s Miracle by Laura Krauss Melmed, illustrated by David Slonin
Moishe is a milkman who is kind to everyone in his poor village. When he receives a magic frying pan that produces an unlimited supply of Hanukkah latkes, he feeds his neighbors and changes his wife’s heart.

The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco
During a Michigan winter, there’s a scarlet fever epidemic in town. A Jewish family helps make Christmas special for their sick neighbors by making their own Hanukkah miracle.

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
A bunch of goblins are haunting an old synagogue and preventing the village people from celebrating Hanukkah. Hershel comes along and tricks the goblins, saving Hanukkah. This would be a great read-aloud, especially if someone is good at scary voices.

Papa’s Latkes by Michelle Edwards, illustrated by Stacey Schuett
It’s the first Hanukkah since Mama died. Two little girls and Papa try to make latkes and celebrate without her. The latkes aren’t like Mama’s but they help the three feel close to her and each other.

Hanukkah Lights selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Melanie Hall
Twelve lively short poems by different poets help celebrate Hanukkah. The pictures perfectly match the poems.

Did you enjoy these books? Check back next Monday for more! And please, let me know about other Hanukkah books by writing them in the Comments box!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Online Christmas Games

I hope you liked last week's Family Christmas Games. This week, enjoy the following online Christmas puzzles and games!

The Holiday Zone online puzzles

A Kid’s Heart online games

Squigly’s Playhouse online games

The Kidz Page online jigsaw puzzles

This is the last of my Christmas posts. I hope your next 9 days are filled with the best of Christmas spirit. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Promoting Literacy Through Christmas Music

There’s nothing quite like Christmas music. It sends us into that Christmas place like nothing else can. It draws people together. It also gives opportunities to practice reading skills. There may be challenging words but since the lyrics are familiar, they are less threatening. Consider trying some of these ideas:

Family Sing Along
  • Brainstorm carols (religious) and songs (non-religious) that you know and enjoy.
  • Look up the words to the carols and songs.
  • Print them up or display them on your computer screen.
  • Sing with or without a CD to back you up. Don’t have any Christmas CDs? Try your library’s music section.
  • Sing!

Singing Challenge
  • Choose a carols or song – either individually or as duos.
  • Practice.
  • Choose a judge.
  • Perform.
  • The judge chooses the best performances.

Singing Non-challenge
  • Same as above but with no judge.
  • Consider singing for a neighbor or relatives.

Taped Performance
  • Do you have a video camera? Tape your performances to appreciate next Christmas.

Here are some sites with the words of several carols and songs.

DLTK Christmas Songs (scroll down to the songs) provides words for several songs and carols, with music for some

Apples 4 the Teacher  provides words for several carols

The Holiday Zone: Religious Songs includes new religious songs that are set to common tunes

The Holiday Zone: Secular Songs  includes non-religious songs that are set to common tunes

I hope this Christmas is a musical one for you. Everyone sounds good when singing Christmas music!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Books for the Family: Part 3

Reading Christmas books for this blog has been a lovely experience. One of the nicest things has been discovering the Christmas books by Eve Bunting. Last week I wrote about December, which enchanted me. This week, Night Tree and Christmas Cricket captured my heart. I hope you enjoy them, and all the other books, as much as I do.

Night Tree by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ted Rand
A family goes out on a cold Christmas Eve and decorates a tree in the woods. They hang strings of popcorn, apples, oranges and seed balls for the animals on Christmas. I love this idea!

Christmas Cricket by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Timothy Bush
On a cold Christmas Eve, a little cricket feels small and worthless. He hops into a house and finds his way to the Christmas tree. His singing adds to the magic of the evening. I read this book several times, loving each reading.

The Spider’s Gift retold by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Katya Krenina
This is a retelling of an old Ukrainian Christmas story. There would be no Christmas for a family because there was no money for presents. However the children convinces the adults that they could all make presents. When the tree they brought in from the forest hatches hundreds of spiders, they had another problem to solve.

The Christmas Cobwebs by Odds Bodkin, illustrated by Terry Widener
An amazing thing – this is another Christmas book in which spiders play an important part. A German immigrant family’s home is burned by a fire. Everyone is safe but to get money for starting over, they must sell their Christmas treasures. Read to find out how the spiders help them out.

Christmas is Here words from the King James Bible, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
Starting with the scripture, And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field… and continuing just to when the shepherds kneel at the manger, this is a simply and beautifully told story. I read it several times and then ordered my own copy.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski
Mr. Toomey was a gloomy guy. He was also the most skillful woodcarver in the valley. A woman and her son visit his home to request that he carve them a nativity scene. He grumpily agrees. He also grumpily agrees to let the son observe him while he carves. The carving – and the watching – lead the man to change.

Mim’s Christmas Jam by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
On Christmas in 1915, Pap goes away to help build a subway in New York City. His family sends him Mother's special jam which works magic – both by turning the heart of his mean boss and by returning him home to celebrate Christmas.

The Worst Person’s Christmas by James Stevenson
This is the third book in the Worst Person series. This time, the worst person dislikes Christmas more than anything. When his neighbors' kindness causes a happy accident, it forces him to participate in some holiday festivities. He’s changed, but no more than you’d expect.

The Light of Christmas by Richard Paul Evans, illustrated by Daniel Craig
More than anything, Alexander wants to see the annual lighting of the Christmas torch.
When he stops to help an old man, he misses his chance to enter the gate leading into the town square. However, his kindness to the old man is soon rewarded.

Winter’s Gift by Jane Monroe Donovan
On a stormy Christmas Eve, a lonely old farmer brings a lost horse into his barn. In the morning, he awakes to a lovely Christmas surprise. This is a quiet story with lovely paintings.

If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out The 12 Days of Christmas. Fun books!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Family Christmas Games – No Computer Needed to Play!

Here is a collection of Christmas games to play, both offline (lots of good ideas) and online. I hope you find some games that your whole family enjoys.
For more ideas, go to the Old-time Thanksgiving Games post.

Family Fun  family games and activities



The beauty of the holiday season is we tend to be more into family activities than at other times of the year. I hope your family has many fun times together!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Promoting Literacy through Christmas Crafting Fun

For many families, Christmas is their biggest time for crafts. There are so many cards, ornaments, decorations and gifts that are fun, family-oriented, festive and darn cute. And if your crafts turn out less-than-perfect, Christmas Spirit covers MANY flaws!

Let all these opportunities for following directions promote literacy at your house. I hope you find lots of crafts your family enjoys!

Red Ted Art cards, ornaments, decorations, gifts (I love this site!)

Disney Family Fun cards, ornaments, decorations, gifts

Enchanted Learning cards, ornaments, decorations, gifts, printables

Danielle’s Place  ornaments, decorations, gifts

Amazing Moms cards, ornaments, decorations, gifts

Kaboose cards, ornaments, decorations, gifts

Martha Stewart ornaments, decorations, gifts

DLTK ornaments, decorations, gifts, origami

Parents Magazine ornaments, decorations, gifts (sorry, they start with an ad, plus see more links at bottom of page)

Activity Village cards, ornaments, decorations, gifts, origami

Moms Who Think gifts for adults to make for kids

Origami Yoda (love the books!)  origami Santa

So what crafting fun did your family enjoy? Please write your experiences in the Comments box.

Monday, December 5, 2011

More Christmas Books for the Family

Choosing books for Christmas has been a joyful and difficult task. How was I ever going to narrow down my list? Well, I decided to keep to picture books (not just for little kids!). I have 3 reasons for this. One, this tends to be a really busy time of year and picture books are just quicker than chapter books. 

Two, picture books have pictures and I love the look of Christmas. Three, picture books are just so much fun to share and enjoy together.

So... it was hard, but I managed to choose 10 books for this week’s post and 10 for next week. Enjoy!

December by Eve Bunting, illustrated by David Diaz
A boy and his mother are homeless and live in a cardboard box. On Christmas Eve, they let an old woman share their box to keep warm. This book is a wonderful discovery for me. When I first got this book, I read it over and over and will read it again Christmas Eve.

A Kenya Christmas by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Leonard Jenkins
How can an aunt who arrives with 2 pet cheetahs fulfill a boy’s dream to see Father Christmas? Not only that, how will she find a sleigh and snow for their African town? You’ll have to read this book to find out how she does it. Or does she?

The Story of Christmas words from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, illustrated by Jane Ray
The illustrations make the scripture come alive. This is a beautiful book.

The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers
There are many versions of this story. I like this one because the story is simply told and the illustrations perfectly show the magic. It would be a great introduction to the story if you are attending the ballet.

The Lump of Coal by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist
Lemony Snicket may be an unlikely author of a heart-warming Christmas story but he’s written one this time. Of course, it’s also odd and funny.

Christmas Tapestry by Patricia Polacco
Right before the Christmas Eve service, a tapestry is hung to cover an ugly hole in a church wall. This tapestry joins 2 families, 2 faiths and 2 lonely persons.

Merry Christmas, Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola
Strega Nona prepares for her annual Christmas Eve feast for her town. Her helper, Big Anthony, seems to not to be helping at all. This is one of my favorite Christmas books.

The Farolitos of Christmas by Rudolfo Anaya, illustrated by Edward Gonzales
Luz’s father is away, fighting in World War II. Her grandfather is too sick to create the traditional luminaria (small bonfires made of stacked wood), so Luz helps create farolitos (paper bag lanterns), for their Christmas celebration instead. Inspired by this story, I’m planning to have my own paper bag lanterns this year.

 The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
A mail carrier delivers Christmas cards to several famous fairy-tale characters, such as Humpty Dumpty, the Big Bad Wolf, and the Gingerbread Boy. Each very clever card can be removed from its envelope page and read separately.

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
The Polar Express train picks up a boy and other young passengers and takes them to the North Pole. While there, the children find out what the first gift of the season is going to be from Santa Claus. I’ve loved this book for years and always read it with my students. If you’ve only seen the movie, you must read this book. It is FAR BETTER than the movie.

Next Monday, I'll have more Christmas books. Check out Christmas Books: Part 1 The 12 Days of Christmas: Books for the Whole Family if you missed it last week.
What Christmas books have you enjoyed this year? Write them in the Comments box!

Friday, December 2, 2011

LOTS of Christmas Jokes and Riddles

Here’s my strategy: I’m giving you lots of Christmas jokes and riddles now so you can tell them (over and over) for the next 3 weeks. Good idea, huh? As I often say – Funny is good!

  • What goes “oh, oh, oh”?
    Santa walking backwards!
  • When does Christmas come before Thanksgiving?
    In the dictionary!
  • What is Santa’s dog called?
    Santa Paws!
  • Who delivers presents to baby sharks at Christmas?
    Santa Jaws!
  • What do you call Santa Claus when he doesn’t move?
    Santa Pause!
  • How do sheep greet each other at Christmas?
    A Merry Christmas to ewe!
  • What do you get if you cross an apple with a Christmas tree?
    A pineapple!
  • What kind of candle burns longer, a red candle or a green candle?
    Neither, candles always burn shorter!
  • What do you call people who are afraid of Santa Claus?
  • What did the dog breeder get when she crossed an Irish Setter with a Pointer at Christmastime?
    A "pointsetter"!
  • What do sheep say to each other at Christmastime?
    Merry Christmas to ewe!
  • What do sheep say to shepherds at Christmastime?
    Season's Bleatings!
  • How do sheep say Merry Christmas in Mexico?
    Fleece Navidad!
  • How do Chihuahua's say Merry Christmas?
    Fleas Navidog!
  • What's the best thing to put into Christmas dinner?
    Your teeth!
  • Knock Knock.
    Who's there?
    Mary who?
    Mary Christmas!
  • A definition of Christmas:
    The time when everyone gets "Santa"-mental.
  • What’s red, white and blue at Christmas time?
    A sad candy cane!
  • Knock Knock.
    Who's there?
    Donut who?
    Donut open 'til Christmas!
  • What do you call an elf who steals gift wrap from the rich and gives it to the poor?
    Ribbon Hood!
  • What always comes at the end of Christmas Day?
    The letter "Y"!
  • What do angry mice send to each other in December?
    Cross mouse cards!
  • What's the difference between the Christmas alphabet and the ordinary alphabet?
    The Christmas alphabet has "no EL"!
  • What did Adam say on the day before Christmas?
    It's Christmas, Eve!
  • What happens if you eat too many Christmas decorations?
    You get "Tinsel"-itis!
  • What's the best thing to give your parents for Christmas?
    A list of everything you want!
  • Why is it so cold at Christmas?
    Because it's in Decembrrrr!
  • What kind of Christmas tree comes from Hawaii?
    "O Tanning Palms"!
  • What do wild animals sing at Christmastime?
    Jungle bells, jungle bells, jungle all the way!
  • What's the favorite Christmas Carol of new parents?
    Silent Night!
  • Why do Mummies like Christmas so much?
    Because of all the wrapping!
  • What is the best Christmas present in the world?
    A broken drum - you can't beat it!
  • What is green, covered with tinsel and goes ribbet ribbet?
  • Why do reindeer scratch themselves?
    Because they're the only ones who know where they itch!


I hope all the jokes you tell are funny!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

5 Fantastic & Free Early Literacy Resources: Guest Blog from Bob Books

As a teacher, I used Bob Books very successfully to support my students’ developing reading skills. When I discovered the Bob Books Blog, I was thrilled. Although I’m no longer in the classroom, I’m still passionate about literacy and I know the people of Bob Books are too.

I’m delighted that Bob Books has given me permission to reprint the following blog, which was originally posted on September 16, 2011.

5 Fantastic & Free Early Literacy Resources
Now that fall has arrived, you might be thinking about how you can get your hands on some learning to read resources that will enhance or supplement what your child is being introduced to at preschool or school. Here are five terrific early literacy authorities worth looking into. Best part? They’re free!

A wealth of early childhood reading resources is as close and accessible as your local public library! Go in-person and meet with a librarian to discuss what you’re looking for and address your child’s specific needs, or, since most libraries are now online, login to check your library’s list of resources. While you’re there, take a peek at the monthly calendar to find out about children’s story times and special events.

With a vested interest in student achievement and early literacy, The Department of Education has some wonderfully useful guides and learning to read resources for parents, such as:
Helping Your Child Become a Reader:  PDF with fun activities parents can use to build children’s language skills. The guide includes a reading checklist, age group developmental milestones, book suggestions, and resources for children with reading problems or learning disabilities.
Reading Tips for Parents: This guide can help you understand the components of reading theory, sort out various early reading programs and obtain tips for things you can do at home to boost reading skills.
Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers: Suggestions for improving early childhood education in preschool, day care, and at home.
Put Reading First: Helping Your Child Learn to Read, A Parent Guide: Another guide for parents with information and tips on creating better readers at home and at school.
National Institute for Literacy Publications: A thorough list of publications for families and educators to help improve reading instruction for children, youth, and adults.
Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success:  How children learn to read and how adults can help them.

Did you know that every year, 35% of American children start kindergarten without the language skills they need to learn to read? Literacy skills are an important part of a child’s health and well-being.
The AAPP includes helpful downloads including a patient guide for parents called How Can I Help My Child Learn to Read and a Literacy Toolkit that offers book lists, health literacy information and handouts.

Get Ready to Read! (GRTR), an initiative of the National Center for Learning Disabilities  is a national program focused on building early literacy skills of preschool children. GRTR brings research strategies, information and other resources to parents, preschools and caregivers. The translations section includes skill-building activities in Chinese, Arabic, Korean and Spanish. The website also offers screening tools if you are concerned about your child’s literacy development

Still haven’t found what you’re looking for or want something specifically in your area? Check out the literacy directory, which allows you to customize your search, based on zip code and types of programs.

Did we miss any? Be sure to let us know.
–posted by Allison Ellis
Republished with permission from Bob Books

Thank you, Bob Books for generously allowing me to reprint this blog!