Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The #1 Way to Excite Kids about Reading

Today's Parent Post is coming from a blog I read regularly: Read Aloud Dad []. He makes an excellent point that I want to pass along to you.
Some highlights:
  • There is a reason why you want your little pumpkins to read more and any reason is a good reason.
  • Kids reading = Kids learning.
  • If you invest 10,000 hours of practice into something you will cross the threshold that will make you an expert in that certain discipline.
  • Ask yourself - can you do more to support your kids to become superior readers?
So ... the #1 Way to Excite Children About Reading?
* * * Start loving children's books! * * *
Please check out the complete blog post at While you're there, look around the site - good stuff!


Monday, June 27, 2011

11 Biographies of All Sorts of People

This week's Books post is all about the lives of people. I tried to include all kinds of people doing a variety of things. Although most biographies are found in the library with the call number of 92, followed by the subject's name, some are in other sections. I've included the call numbers in case they will be helpful to you.
Amelia Earhart: Free in the Skies by Robert Burleigh [J 92 Earhart]
Amelia Earhart was one of the first women airplane pilots. She became world famous for her long and daring flights. This graphic novel is a great read.
The Wild Boy by Mordicai Gerstein [J 155.45]
This is the true story of a boy who was found long ago by hunters in the mountains of southern France. He was alone and lived like a wild animal. He went to live with a doctor and learned, little by little, how to live with others.
Derek Jeter by Mike Kennedy [J 92 Jeter]
I'm a big fan of Derek Jeter. I admire his playing and his leadership skills of his team. This book gives lots of information about him and its format encourages you to read on.
Mother to Tigers by George Ella Lyon, illustrations by Peter Catalanotto [JP 92 Martini]
Helen Martini started out by caring for a lion cub in her New York City apartment. After this, she cared for other wild animals. In 1944, she created the first animal nursery in the Bronx Zoo. This is her story, beautifully told, with outstanding illustrations.
Levi Strauss and Blue Jeans by Nathan Olson, illustrated by Dave Hoover, Keith Williams and Charles Barnett III [J 92 Strauss]
We all wear jeans but have you ever thought about when jeans were invented? The first jeans were invented by Levi Strauss back in the mid-1800's. This is a graphic novel and is part of the Inventions and Discoveries series.
Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Son of Hope by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Bryan Collier [J 92 Obama]
Based on Obama's memoir, Dreams of my Father, this book was a New York Times bestseller. Teamed with wonderful pictures, it's the story of Obama's beginnings as a child of divorce and his drive to make a difference.
Mary Anning, Fossil Hunter by Sally M. Walker, illustrations by Phyllis V. Saroff [J 92 Anning]
Born in 1799, Mary Anning lived in a time when women had very few opportunities. Although she was a skilled fossil hunter, the scientists of her time didn't want to believe it. She discovered many of the best and most complete fossils in England. This is part of the On My Own Biography series. Note to parents: Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier is a historical novel based on Anning's life - I loved it.
Benjamin Banneker: Pioneering Scientist by Ginger Wadsworth, illustrations by Craig Orback [J 92 Banneker]
Benjamin Banneker was born in 1737. Although most black persons in America back then were slaves, his parents were free. Banneker loved to learn and he used his knowledge and observations to build a wooden clock, write an almanac and help survey the streets of the new capital, Washington, D.C. This is part of the On My Own Biography series.
Music for the End of Time by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Beth Peck [J 780.92 Bry]
Olivier Messiaen was a French composer who was sent to a German prison camp in World War II. His life there was very grim until a guard gave him a room in which he could write music for several hours a day. This is his story while he was in prison.
Margaret Knight: Girl Inventor by Marlene Targ Brill, illustrated by Joanne Friar [J 92 Knight]
In the mid-1800s, children were often sent to work in factories. These factories were dangerous places to work with kids frequently getting hurt of killed. Ten-year-old Mary Knight invented a way to make one of the machines safer.
Shaun White: Snowboard and Skateboard Champion by Marty Gitlin [[J 796.939 Git]
There's a lot to admire about Shaun White. He was born with a heart problem which gave him a rough start. In spite of this, he learned to snowboard when he was four. By the time he was nine he was winning every snowboarding event in his age group. This book follows Shaun White's successes at both snowboarding and skateboarding, including winning at the 2006 Winter Olympics. It's part of the Celebrity Biographies series.
I hope this list gets you interested in reading biographies. Go to the biography section of your library, J 92, and see what they have that interests you. Write about your favorites in the Comments box!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Online Fluency Games

Here are some online games to practice reading fluency skills.
Between the Lions
These stories are fun and a little goofy – a great combination!
The Effective Detective
This game is a lot harder than I thought it would be!
On this site, kids can create their own comic strips.
Roy the Zebra
I like the Interactive Reading Games on this site.
Resources used for this post:
Pass on any sites you like!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Improving Reading Fluency, Part 2

Last Wednesday’s Parent Post, Improving Reading Fluency, Part 1, began our investigation of reading fluency. This week’s post continues this topic, with a heavier tech slant. The important thing to remember is whatever you choose to try, keep it light. I’d hate to think that anything I suggested detracts from your family fun!
Audio Books
As I’ve said before, I’m a big fan of audio books. They’re good for vocabulary development and increasing enjoyment of books. They’re also great for developing fluency. Some reasons and ways to use audio books:
  • Many librarians and teachers are women. Audio books allow boys to hear male narrators as role models.
  • Audio books provide models of good reading, pacing and expression.
  • Have your child listen to an audio book first and then have him read the text on his own, either to himself or aloud.
  • Audio book readers are usually trained actors. Model trying to read aloud like the audio book reader. Encourage your child to do the same. Keep it fun!
  • Have your child listen to the audio book while he or she follows along with an unabridged (important!) copy of the book.
  • Consider making your own audio books of favorite stories. Family members can read different parts. Ham it up!
  • If your child has been identified as having a learning disability or dyslexia, taped books are available from Recordings for the Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D).
People Reading Activity
I love this idea! Check out for other ideas.
Print the People Reading cards.
Click on the following links to print off these short phrases:
Reader 1 chooses a People card and a short fluency phrase card. She must read the short phrase to represent the person that was drawn. Take turns. Variation: players try to guess what People card the reader chose.
Robot Reader
This site is not free, but is one I would have been interested in as a teacher and probably as a parent. I like games that help you practice skills and the sheer volume of games offered here appeals to me. I’d love to hear your take on this program if you try it out.
Resources used for this post:
LD Online
Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic
Robot Reader
Please share any fluency ideas you've tried!
To read more blogs, click here.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Junior Editions

What a fun series! These books are clever, informative and very hard to put down.
The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Junior Edition
This is the first book of the series. It’s divided into 4 chapters, covering survival skills at home, at school, your social life and the outdoors. Entries that caught my eye:
  • How to Survive Being Grounded
  • How to Survive Going "Splat" in the Cafeteria
  • How to Get Beyond a Bully
  • How to Survive Outdoor Chores
The appendix has helpful information such as useful comebacks and making contracts with siblings.
The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Weird Junior Edition
This book covers exactly what you'd think it covers - weird stuff. The chapters cover outer-space oddities, monsters, mysteries, time travel, magic and myths. The entries are funny and yet, at times, strangely informative. Sample entries:
  • How to Avoid a Black Hole
  • How to Survive a Vampire Attack
  • How to Survive a Trip to the Past
  • How to Get What You Want from a Genie
The appendix contains a field guide to magical woodland creatures and documentation forms for UFO sightings and bizarre-creature sightings.
The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Gross Junior Edition
There is definitely gross stuff in this book. The chapters cover the human body, home, school and the wild kingdom. It has lots of information that's good to know. Sample entries:
  • How to Deal with a Spit Talker
  • How to Scoop Dog Poop
  • How to Survive Lice
  • How to Remove a Tick
The appendix includes information about the grossest human habits in history and gross practical jokes.
The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Extreme Junior Edition
Yes, this one carries extreme stuff. There are 6 chapters covering survival in the sea, mountains, desert, jungle, arctic and on safari. Even if you never go to any of these environments, there's still a lot of helpful information here.
  • How to Treat a Jellyfish Sting
  • How to Avoid a Bear Attack
  • How to Find Water in the Desert
  • How to Catch Fish Without a Rod
  • How to Survive Falling Through the Ice
The appendix contains several more pieces of helpful information.
There is also a Middle School edition of this series that you may want to check out. Have you read any of these books? What was helpful? Leave a comment!

Friday, June 17, 2011

3 Fun Sites for Reluctant Readers

Here are 3 more websites that I think are worth checking out. As usual, I wish I knew about them when I was still in the classroom!
I Can Read Online and Downloadable activities
This site has a few online games that are linked to the I Can Read books. It also has many more downloadable activities that could be printed and done outside in the summer sun.
James Patterson, the author of countless adult books and the young adult Maximum Ride series, created this site. It has lots of book recommendations, tips for parents and a family newsletter with fun information and games.
The Teacher’s Guide
Although the title of this site sounds like it’s just for teachers, there’s a lot here for families. Check out the Ictgames Literacy Games, StoryLine Online, Reader's Theatre Editions, and whatever else interests you.
Have you found any fun sites recently? Share in the Comments box!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Improving Reading Fluency, Part 1

What is Reading Fluency?
Fluency is the ability to read text accurately, quickly and with confidence. It’s the ability to read phrases and sentences smoothly and quickly, and most importantly, with comprehension.
Why is reading fluency important?
As children become fluent readers, they begin to think less about the words and more about the meaning of the sentences they're reading. Fluent readers can respond to the material with emotion and thought. Without fluency, reading is a chore because so much effort goes into decoding (sounding out) each word. With that much effort, there’s little energy left for making meaning.
Fortunately, there are ways to improve fluency. Here are some suggestions. The important thing is to choose activities that your child wants to do or at least doesn’t mind (or fight) doing.

Model Fluent Reading
When you read aloud, read with as much expression as the story permits. No need to be over the top – unless that’s fun for you and your child. In my mind, goofy is good!
Repeated Readings
Many children enjoy reading, and hearing, the same story/book/poem over and over. This is a good thing – repeated readings and hearings builds in comfort and familiarity. Such familiarity reduces the need for decoding and allows better flow, and therefore, confidence.
Echo reading
Echo reading is when one reader read a piece of text and a second reader echoes that same piece. This works really well with poems but other text can be used as well. I suggest you switch roles frequently so your child gets to be the first reader and you are the echoer.
Choral reading
Try reading together! Choose a piece of text and read it together. Maybe even read it together for someone else.
See Monday’s post, 9 Books for Summer Drama Fun for resources for drama.

  • everyone has a copy of the complete script
  • highlight each player’s part (yellow highlighting is best because the  other colors tend to obscure the text)
  • read the script aloud before choosing  parts
  • ham it up!
I love games. I love games that are fun and yet teach, without being too obvious. I relied on games a lot in my classroom to reinforce what I was teaching. Consider the following games for improving instant word recognition.
Bananagrams – Using letter tiles, players race against each other to build crossword grids and use all their letter tiles first.
Perquackey Game – This game consists of 12 cubes (dice with letters on all 6 sides), a timer, and simple rules. You roll the cubes and make up as many words as you can until your hourglass timer runs out. It can be modified for different ability levels.
Boggle - A small container holds 16 cubes, each cube marked with a different letter on each of its six sides. Shake the container and the cubes land within little pockets. Find as many words (of three-or-more letters) as you can in three minutes. Points are tallied by word length.
Scrabble Upwords – A 3-D word game – build new words by stacking letters on top of those already on the board. Create complex layers of crosswords to earn more points.
Resources used while writing this post:
Reading Rockets
Coming up next Wednesday: Improving Reading Fluency Part 2

Monday, June 13, 2011

9 Books for Summer Drama Fun

Want to add a little drama to your summer days? Put on some plays! Your plays can be straight out of your head, ones someone else has written or a combination of both. Here are some books to get you started. In case your library system doesn’t carry some of these books, I’ve added the library call numbers so you can browse for summer drama.
12 Fabulously Funny Fairy Tale Plays by Justin McCory Martin [J 822]
The author has taken well-known fairy tales and given them a new twist. The titles give a pretty good idea of what to expect: Spiderella, Rafunzel, The Emperor’s New Hair, Slurping Beauty and 7 more.
The Jumbo Book of Drama by Deborah Dunleavy, illustrated by Jane Kurisu [J 812]
This book has many ideas to get your creative drama ideas started. There aren't many scripts, just countless ideas for creating your own plays and other bits of drama. Some of the chapters are: Magic, Clowning Around (really fun ideas), Puppets and Puppetry, Comedy and Tragedy.
Hansel and Gretel by Moira Butterfield [J 812.54] (sorry, no link available)
The story of Hansel and Gretel is the only play presented in this book. There are directions for each stage of the production, from choosing parts to creating props and costumes to actually putting on the play. A script is included.
Fifty Fabulous Fables by Suzanne I Barchers [J 812.54]
Did you know that Aesop was a slave in Greece and wrote his fables around 550 B.C.? That’s over 2,500 years ago! I love knowing this fact. This book is filled with fables that Aesop wrote, rewritten as short plays. The plays are written for 2-4 players and at 4 different reading levels.
On Stage: Theater Games and Activities for Kids by Lisa Bany-Winters [J 792]
Although there are a few scripts in this book, it is mostly filled with games and activities to get players thinking like actors and play-writers. There are all kinds of games that promote silly pretending, working together to create ideas, pantomime, creating characters, costume making and lots of others.
Putting on a Play by Paul Dubois Jacobs and Jennifer Swender [J 792]
This small book covers all aspects of play production (casting, scripts, makeup…) and then suggests different topics such as pirates, princesses, the circus, explorers… Each topic gives suggestions for costumes, props and 3 different storylines.
Tadpole Tales and Other Terrific Treats for Readers Theatre by Anthony D. Fredericks [J 372.67]
The plays written for readers theater are designed to be performed by actors who simply read the script for the audience. Sound boring? Not at all. Although the actors aren’t moving around the stage, they are free to put all their acting skills into the reading. Since you don’t have to memorize your lines, you tend to be much less nervous. There are plays for different reading levels. There's at least one other book in this series.
Cool Makeup: How to Stage Your Very Own Show by KarenLatchana Kenney [J 808.2]
There are 6 books in this series. The other books cover costumes, production, scripts & acting, sets & props, and special effects. Each book packs in a bunch of information but is very reader-friendly: it's colorful, with great illustrations and clear text. This makeup book gives directions for mustaches and beards, animals, wounds and other simple but effective illusions.
Wham! It’s a Poetry Jam by Sara Holbrook [J792.028]
I know this book isn’t about plays but it is about drama and performance. The author is a poet who encourages you to perform with your own and others’ poems. She shows how to use voice, rhythm, attitude, movement and other techniques to perform poetry solo or in a group. Just right for summer fun!
I hope you have a dramatic summer! Let me about it in the Comments box!

Friday, June 10, 2011

4 Fun Sites for Art and Craft Projects

One of the beauties about summer is there's time to do stuff that you simply don't have time for during the school year. Time for reading whatever you want. Time for just staring at clouds, or ants, or waves at the beach, or whatever....

And time for projects. Today I'm suggesting some sites that give directions for simple art and craft projects.
Making Books with Children by Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord
. Crafts for Kids
Disney Family Fun
Bright Ring Art Activities
I hope these sites start you on a summer of art and craft fun. Do you have your own suggestions? Write them in the comment box!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Summer Reading Tips

Summer is a great time to bring home the message that reading is fun. It’s a time for reading just what you want, rereading favorites as often as you choose, discovering new information and listening to great stories in a leisurely way. It’s a time to leave homework (ugh) and reading instruction behind. It’s all about reading  pleasure and practice. Just let it flow….
  • Be a reader yourself. Show your kids that you value reading by reading yourself.
  • Read aloud, read aloud, read aloud! Be creative – read alouds aren’t just for bedtime. Try between choreswhile waiting for appointments, dinner to be done, food in a restaurant, waiting in line at the beach
  • Connect read-aloud choices to summer activities. Going on vacation? Find some books about your destination – books for reading aloud plus books at your child’s level. Try to wow each other with new information about your destination. Make a list of must-check-out things as you read about them.
  • Gift Shops Look for books, brochures, maps and other written resources along your way, either about the places you’re visiting or future vacations.
  • Create a document/scrapbook of your trips. Pictures, captions, brochures, postcards… anything that will help you remember your time.
  • Allow your child to choose his books. Summer is for fun! Sure, we want to learn too, but fun comes first.
  • Help your child select books at a comfortable level. See Matching Books to Readers.
  • Don’t limit summer reading to books. Try magazines, brochures, comics, directions, maps, atlases, cereal boxes...
  • Audio Books These are great for the car, while cleaning and other chores, before bed…
  • Read a book and watch the movie together. This works for movies in theaters and movies you rent or get from the library.
  • Reread your favorites. Summer is a great time to read old favorites, either independently or as a read aloud. Maybe create a shared book list of everyone’s favorite kids’ books. Then trade books!
  • Act out the stories! Okay, many of us adults don’t like dramatics but go ahead, give it a try. This works best with shorter picture books but it also works with scenes from longer books.
  • Readers Theater Next week's Books post will be about Readers Theater and plays. As a teacher, I found short plays to be just the thing to get some kids reading. Take a look at Monday’s post for ideas. Try writing some plays yourself!
Online resources for summer ideas:
Menu Memory Game
I love this idea! Please check it out and let me know how it goes.
Resources used to compile this list:
PBS Parents
Reading Rockets
North Shore Pediatric Therapy
What are your summer reading plans? Write them in the Comments box. I hope this summer is your best reading summer yet!

Monday, June 6, 2011

5 More Graphic Novels for Kids

Another graphic novels post! They’re just so fun and with such an unbelievable variety out there, I’m sure I’ll want to write about them again sometime soon. I found trailers for some of today's books - check them out!
Babymouse: Queen of the World by Jennifer and Matthew Holm
Babymouse has one big wish – to be Queen of the World. But she also has another wish – to be invited to the slumber party of the most popular girl in class. I think the best parts of this book are Babymouse’s fantasies. Babymouse the Squid, Babymouse in Deep Space and others. Fun – and I expect the others in the series are too.
Gabby & Gator by James Burks
Gabby has trouble fitting in. No one seems to get anything about her. Her life takes a dramatic turn when she befriends an alligator who is living in the sewers. Gator is a great friend to Gabby. He listens to her, helps her recycle and deals with bullies. But what will happened when Gator has to face his biggest fear? The graphics are both simple and very expressive.
Amelia Rules by Jimmy Gownley
Amelia’s life has taken an unexpected turn. Her parents have divorced, so she and her mom have moved in with Amelia’s cool Aunt Tanner. I like this book for a lot of things: strong-yet-bickering friendships, many funny situations and parents who aren’t perfect yet still try to do the right thing. The graphics are perfectly matched to the story. This book is the first of a series.
Lunch Lady by Jarrett J Krosoczka
I laughed several times while reading this book. Although Lunch Lady and her sidekick Betty are the Super Heroes (sort of), they can’t solve the mystery without Dee, Hector and Terrence, the Breakfast Bunch. I look forward to reading more of the series.
Magic Pickle by Scott Morse
Trailer (This trailer is for Magic Pickle and the Planet of the Grapes)
I think Magic Pickle is my favorite of this group. I love the graphics, the humor, the story and the relationship between Jo Jo and Magic Pickle. Magic Pickle, a dill superhero, has been living frozen beneath Jo Jo bedroom floorboards. He’s just been called into action to protect the world from The Brotherhood of Evil Produce. Very entertaining and there’s more in the series. Yay!

Have you been reading graphic novels lately? Which ones do you like? Write them in the Comments box!

Friday, June 3, 2011

6 Sites for Summer Reading

Summer is near! Friday Fun for this week has summer reading suggestions. They come from an author, a librarian, and the librarian’s students. Check them out!
.Guys Read
This site is created by Jon Scieszka who has written many books, including The True Story of 3 Little Pigs and Math Curse. It’s dedicated to providing boys with books they want to read. A quote from the site:
This is the place to come if you’re looking for something to get a guy reading. We’ve collected recommendations from teachers, librarians, booksellers, publishers, parents, and guys themselves.
Girls – don’t be put off by the guy thing. These books should appeal to anyone looking for good books.
Mr. Schu Reads – 10 Most-Circulated Books of the 2010-2011 School Year
Mr. Schu Reads – 10 Non-fiction trailers
John Schu is a K-5 school librarian who is passionate about connecting kids with the right books. He’s a big fan of book trailers and these links will connect you to 20 of them. I hope you find some books that interest you.
Summer Reading Suggestions for Incoming Second Graders
Summer Reading Suggestions for Incoming Third Graders
Summer Reading Suggestions for Incoming Fourth Graders
Summer Reading Suggestions for Incoming Fifth Graders
These suggestions came from Mr. Schu’s second, third, fourth and fifth graders. Maybe some of these will look good to you. Don't limit yourself to your own grade. Many of these books will be just right for any kids. If it looks like it might be interesting, just check it out. Summer reading is all about *fun*.

What's on your summer reading list? Write the titles in the Comment box!


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Is Your Child Hearing Everything Correctly?

Today’s guest post is from Speech Therapist Cindy Fronhofer. Cindy, now retired, was a speech therapist for 30 years. Throughout this time, she helped countless parents understand the speech and language difficulties their children struggled with. Today she presents a condition that is often confusing to adults and may greatly impact reading and school performance.
  • Is your child easily distracted or unusually bothered by loud or sudden noises?
  • Are noisy environments upsetting to your child?
  • Does your child's behavior and performance improve in quieter settings?
  • Does your child have difficulty following directions, whether simple or complicated?
  • Does your child have reading, spelling, writing, or other speech-language difficulties?
  • Is abstract information difficult for your child to comprehend?
  • Are verbal (word) math problems difficult for your child?
  • Is your child disorganized and forgetful?
  • Are conversations hard for your child to follow?
If you answered yes to these questions, your child may be affected by an auditory processing disorder.
What is auditory processing (central auditory processing)?

Auditory processing has been described as “what we do with what we hear.”
What is an auditory processing disorder?

An auditory processing disorder is a condition in which the ability to interpret or process words or sounds has been compromised in some way.
Auditory processing disorder (APD), also called central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), affects about 5% of school-aged children. Kids with APD often do not recognize subtle differences between sounds in words, even when the sounds are loud and clear enough to be heard. These kinds of problems usually occur in background noise, which is a natural listening environment. Most kids with APD do not have a loss of hearing, but have a hearing problem in the sense that they do not process auditory information efficiently.
Many of these kids may have speech and language delays and academic challenges. In the classroom, a child who has problems screening out background noise may not always follow directions or attend to auditory instruction or listening activities. They may struggle with reading because decoding or sounding out words may be challenging.
Symptoms of APD can range from mild to severe and can take many different forms. Plus, APD is an often misunderstood problem because many of the behaviors noted above also can appear in other conditions.
If you think your child might have a problem processing auditory information (including sounds and/or speech), especially in less than optimal listening conditions, consider contacting their classroom teacher, speech therapist, audiologist, or pediatrician. Websites that may be helpful include Search by auditory processing disorder or central auditory processing disorder.
Do you have questions or comments about this post? Write them in the Comments box!