Friday, April 29, 2011

2 Fun Book Sites

Welcome to Friday Fun! Today’s blog gives you two book websites with fun games and activities.
I’m a big fan of Bruce Coville. I like his books because they are quite fun and give you things to think about. Before my son liked to read, Bruce Coville’s Space Brat series was the first series he read on his own. I was reading it to him but he thought I was taking too long, so he took over!
This site has lots of stuff to do and look at, including:
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Jokes
  • Directions to print out for amazing paper constructions
  • Kids’ art with an invitation to send some of your own

Scholastic publishes a lot of kids' books, including the Harry Potter books and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Check out what they offer on their website.
This site has a ton of stuff to do, including:
  • Arcade games
  • Puzzles
  • Make-your-own pictures and stories
  • Downloads
    • crafts
    • coloring
    • activities
    • paper airplanes
  • E-cards
Do you have any book sites you like to visit? Tell about them in the Comment box!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Matching Books to Readers

The first step to becoming a willing reader is finding books that excite you. I think most of us won’t stick with a book that doesn’t interest us, or is too hard. If a book has vocabulary I don’t understand or talks about things I have little interest in, I have to be VERY motivated to stick with 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, including Blogging for Dummies. Try as I might, I couldn’t make sense of the books. I went online for help. Still no sense. Finally, I met with the husband of a friend and he walked me through some of the hardest parts.
I tell you this for a reason. These books didn’t help me because, even though they were written in fairly plain language, I simply didn’t have the background experience and I didn’t know the vocabulary. Our reluctant and struggling readers are often in the same boat.
The point of today’s blog is that 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.
I think this subject, matching books to readers, is a big one. In fact, huge. Today I’ll give you a technique and a couple of resources . Please let me know if you find them helpful by writing in the comment box.
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 you really want to read it so you keep going (like some kids with the Harry Potter books).
So how do you match your child to books he 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.) Use the sites below to find similar books or ask a librarian for suggestions.
    • What would you like to be an expert in? This can be a great jumping off point for research.
  • Ask your child’s teacher and/or librarian what books your child has shown interest in and has been successful reading.
  • Go to the library and let your child choose whatever books she wants. Books seem too young? Swallow your judgment! The point is to read, regardless.

Here are two sites that I find helpful for finding books.
  • If I want to check the reading level of a book, I just type in the title or the author on the Quick Search page. (Caution: determining grade levels of books is a tricky process and there are many ways of doing it. The different ways tend to disagree a lot. Just use the grade levels as guidelines to point you to appropriate books.)
  • If I want to find a certain type of book (such as mystery), I go to Advanced Search. I choose the interest level, book level (grade level range) and then the topics and subtopics.
  • If there are more books listed than I can easily deal with, I narrow down the search.

  • I start in the I don't know my Lexile measure box.
  • Choose the grade level in the drop down box.
  • Choose the difficulty level that matches your child.
  • Click on Continue.
  • You can choose a broad category (like biography) or click on the + next to the category to narrow it down (like scientists) and hit enter.
  • The book suggestions give Lexile numbers. There’s a place on the site that explains these numbers. Basically, the higher the number, the higher the reading level. But as I cautioned above, use their levels just as guidelines to get you started.
Have you discovered other ways to find just the right books? Were the above suggestions/sites helpful? Please leave a comment!

Monday, April 25, 2011

10 Great Animal Books for Kids

I love learning new things about animals, especially when I can share them with others. Like, “Did you know that if one kind of flatworm loses its head, it can grow a new one?” It makes me feel a little more interesting and smarter. Are you like that sometimes?
Here are several books I found pretty interesting. Some books are what I call 2-layer – they have basic text plus more information included in text boxes, diagrams, addendums (sections in the back) and websites. That way, if you are really interested, you can read more. Some of the books are a part of a series.
Jellies: The Life of a Jellyfish by Twig C. George
I love jellyfish (also known as sea jellies). I could look at them all day. This book has beautiful photos and information about all kinds of jellyfish. Check out Seahorses by this author, too.
Animal Skin and Scales by David M. Schwartz
This is a Look Once–Look Again book. On one page you see a bit of animal skin and guess what animal it is. Turn the page and there it is! This is a 2-layer book and is part of a series.
Animals Grow New Parts by Elaine Pascoe
I like reading about animals that have traits that would be neat to have. Being able to grow back lost body parts would be pretty handy if you needed it! This is a 2-layer book and is part of the How & Why series.
The World’s Strangest Sharks by Victor Gentle and Janet Perry
This book has a ton of information, with outstanding (and creepy) photos. It’s a 2-layer book.
Koko’s Kitten by Dr. Francine Patterson
Koko is a gorilla who can communicate with sign language. When her human friend asked her what she wanted for Christmas, Koko asked for a kitten. This is the true story about Koko and her kitten, named All Ball. Great photos and story.
Insects That Work Together by Molly Aloian and Bobbie Kalman
This book describes how several different types of insects live and work together to survive. The insects discussed are bees, wasps, termites and ants. This isn’t a 2-layer book, but it does have a ton of information all the way through it.
Orangutans are Ticklish: fun facts from an animal photographer by Steve Grubman
This is a behind-the-scenes look at animals as seen through the eyes of a wildlife photographer. He shares some of his tricks and scary encounters. For example, to get an alligator’s attention, he dangled a piece of raw meat in front of it. And once he was chased by a tiger! It’s a 2-layer book.
Owen & Mzee by Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff and Dr. Paula Kahumbu
This is a true story about a baby hippo and a 130-year-old giant tortoise. Owen, the hippo, was swept away from his family during a flood. He was rescued and brought to an animal sanctuary. At the sanctuary, he became best friends with Mzee (pronounced mm-ZAY). It’s a 2-layer book.
Best Friends: The True Story of Owen and Mzee by Roberta Edwards is an easy reader version of the story.
How to Talk to Your Cat by Jean Craighead George
If you have a cat, this book is perfect for you. It gives lots of ways to understand what your cat is saying to you and ways to talk back. I wish I’d read this book when I had cats!
What to Expect When You're Expecting Larvae: a guide for insect parents by Brifget Heos
This book is really funny. Based on an adult book with a similar name, it presents the facts of insect development as if insects are reading it. The illustrations are hilarious. It's a 2-layer book. It's not part of a series but I wish it was!
I’d like to know what animals you find interesting. Please write your favorites in the Comments box!

Friday, April 22, 2011

10 Silly Jokes

I love jokes. I love jokes because they make me laugh. I love jokes because when I tell them, I can make other people laugh. Here are some jokes I think you might like.
What do you call a fly without wings?
A walk
What did the mosquito say the first time it saw a camel?
Did I do that?
Why did the Apatosaurus eat the factory?
Because she was a plant eater.
What’s the hardest part about taking baby elephants out for a drive?
Lifting them in and out of their car seats.
What would you have if you dropped a banana from the top of the Empire State Building?
A banana splat.
What did the little skunk like best about school?
Show and Smell
What did the judge say when the skunks ran in?
“Odor in the court!”
When is a bicycle not a bicycle?
When it turns into a driveway.
What time is it when you have a toothache?
Why is B such a hot letter?
It makes oil boil.
How did the ocean say goodbye?
It waved.

The jokes came from these books.
Bug Jokes Pam Rosenberg
Dinosaur Jokes by U.R. Phunny
Galaxy’s Greatest Giggles by Matt Rissinger and Philip Yates
Old Turtle’s 90 Knock-Knocks, Jokes, and Riddles Leonard Kessler
Recess Riddles by Marilyn Helmer
Stinky Riddles by Katy Hall and Lisa Eisenberg
Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? by Joanna Cole and Stephanie Calmenson

Check out the different kinds of jokes. Be sure to click on Wackyfish!

Have a great weekend!
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reluctant Readers Have Their Reasons

Do you have a reluctant reader at home? There are two basic types of reluctant readers:
  1. Kids who know how to read but would rather not.
  2. Kids for whom reading is a struggle.

Kids who can read but choose not to have their reasons:
  • They've never read a book they found interesting.
  • Reading equals school and school, for them, is not a fun place.
  • Reading is a sitting down activity and moving around is more fun.

Struggling readers have their reasons. They often have difficulties with:
  • Vocabulary development
  • Decoding skills
  • Reading comprehension
  • Processing information
  • Memory
  • Attention

Each of these reasons takes time to explain. I'll spend several Wednesdays writing about them. I'll pull information from several sources to supplement what I've learned over the years.
Fortunately, there are lots of ways to encourage reluctant readers to read. I'll write about them, too. And I hope you'll share some of the ways you've encouraged your child.
When I find an internet site I find especially helpful, I'll pass the link on to you. Please do the same! Today's suggestion is a site I've just discovered:
Reading Rockets is a big site with lots of information. There is a For Parents button in the upper left corner, which I think is a good place to start.
The comment box below is for you. Please use it to comment, ask questions, make recommendations and share what's working for you. I look forward to hearing from you!
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Monday, April 18, 2011

10 Kids’ Books That Will Make You Laugh

I loved putting together this list! I already knew some of these books. But then I went to the library to find some more. Very fun research!
Many of these books are picture books. Even if you think you are too old for picture books, give them a try. Their humor is NOT just for little kids. They made me laugh out loud. I found all of these books in the library.
I have definite favorites. Tell me yours in the COMMENT section. I’ll tell my favorites if you tell yours!

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? by Jon Agee
So you think the chicken crossed the road to get to the other side, huh? Fourteen illustrators give their answers to this question. Great pictures!

Hi! Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold
Fly Guy – is he a pet or is he a pest? And can he win the Amazing Pet Show? Book 1 of a series.

Minnie and Moo: The Case of the Missing Jelly Donut by Denys Cazet
Cow friends Minnie and Moo search for a jelly donut thief who may have left behind a blue feather. Their disguises are great. Part of a series.

Letters from a Desperate Dog by Eileen Christelow
Dog-human relationships are very complicated!

Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
Farmer Brown's cows find a typewriter in the barn. They start making demands and go on strike when the farmer says no.

Best Buds by Maxwell Eaton III
Best friends Max and Pinky have an adventure together every Saturday. The question is – where’s Pinky this week? Think marshmallows. Book 1 of series

Dodsworth in New York by Tim Egan
When Dodsworth sets out for an adventure, he does not expect a crazy duck to stow away in his suitcase and lead him on a merry chase around New York City. Book 1 of series.

Humpty Dumpty Climbs Again by Dave Horowitz
Humpty Dumpty has not climbed a single wall since his great fall. In fact, he’s become a couch potato (I love what he's wearing!). But will he climb again to save the king’s favorite horse?

The Day the Goose Got Loose by Reeve Lindburgh
The day the goose got loose … everyone had better watch out!

Piggie Pie by Margie Palatini
Gritch the witch flies to Old MacDonald's farm to grab some pigs for piggie pie. But when she arrives, she can't find a single porker. Disguises play an important part!
Now comes your chance. Did you read any of these books? What did you think? Can you recommend other funny books? Leave a comment!
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