Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Several Super Summer Reading Tips

Summer is coming! Summer is coming!
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 like, discovering new information and listening to great stories in a leisurely way. It’s a time to leave homework (not my favorite) and reading instruction behind. It’s all about reading pleasure and practice. Just let it flow…. Some of today’s tips are repeats from last summer, some are new ones. Click here for Monday's book post on summer books.

  • 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 chores, while waiting for appointments, dinner to be done, food in a restaurant, waiting in line at the beach…
  • Write stories and plays This is a time for creativity, not writing instruction. If your child wants help, he’ll ask, otherwise, let it be all about ideas.
  • Write letters Letters can take all forms: emails, postcards, letters, paper airplanes… Try designing your own stationery and postcards. Create a box or bucket of fun writing materials – paper, cardstock, markers, fancy pens and pencils, glitter… Send to: friends, relatives, authors, experts…
  • 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 (click here and here for suggestions), brochures, comics, directions, maps, atlases, cereal boxes...
  • 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!
  • Check out reading programs at your library Many local libraries have summer programs. Some schools do, too.
  • Board Games Many games have a reading component, and even if they don’t, play them anyway because they’re fun!
  • Motivate summer reading This site has some ideas. 5 Ways to Motivate

Here is a book that I just discovered.

Show Me How: Build Your Child's Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking by Vivian Kirkfield
This book is great! It gives a brief description of 100 picture books, then gives a craft and a simple recipe to go along with each book. Although the book is recommended for ages 2-5, I think this book would offer all kinds of family fun for older kids.

Resources used to compile this list:

In the upcoming weeks, I'll have lots of summer activities that involve reading.
I have to say it again: Summer is coming :)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Several Super Summer Reading Tips

For some of you, summer vacation has already started. For others, it starts next month. I say, it's never too early to be thinking about summer! Here are some good books to get you started...


 A Real Cool Summer by Martha Rodriguez, illustrated by Joey Rodriguez
It's the hottest, most boring day of summer vacation. What will the kids do to turn their misery around? This book makes me smile and it might give you some ideas!

 It’s Summer by Linda Glaser, illustrated by Susan Swan
There are so many things to do in summer: watch ants, make mud houses, catch fireflies… The text is fun to read and the cut-paper illustrations are quite nice. In the end, there are lots of summertime activities.

 Carl’s Summer Vacation by Alexandra Day
I admit I have to pretend I’m not a mom when I read this book. Watching the little girl go off with Carl, without an adult, makes me rather nervous. But… she does stay safe and have wonderful adventures!

 Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
I really like the Lunch Lady graphic novels series. This time the Lunch Lady and her student sidekicks, the Breakfast Bunch kids, are out to solve the mysteries at summer camp. What is the swamp monster? How can they defeat it?

 Take the Mummy and Run: The Riot Brothers are on a Roll by Mary Amato
The Riot brothers, Wilbur and Orville, are into games, jokes and mysteries. They are constantly on the move, thinking up new goofy stuff to do. They hate that their cousin Amelia is coming to visit until they find out she’s as crazy as they are. I like a lot of things about this book: it’s funny, plus there’s large print (not just for little kids!), short chapters, lots of silly stuff and a bunch of games in the back. If you like this one, check out the other books in the series.

 The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes: The Best is Yet to Come by Anne Mazer
Abby Hayes lives in a family of smart and busy kids. In this story (one of a series), she thinks the summer before middle school will be filled with lazy days with her friends. That is, until her mother’s friend shows up with her bratty daughter. Abby is stuck with babysitting misery. This story switches between regular storytelling and pages from Abby’s journal.

 Mrs. Dole is Out of Control! by Dan Gutman
AJ is graduating from second grade. In most schools, this is not a big deal. But for the president of the PTA at AJ's school, it’s time for fireworks, a petting zoo and all kinds of hoopla. So do you suppose anything will go wrong?

 The Summer Visitors by Karel Hayes
The summer visitors are a family visiting their summer home. They do all the summer things: sit on the porch, have picnics, fly kites, take out the boat… They think they are alone but not really. A family of bears is enjoying the summer right along with them. This nearly wordless book is great fun.

Summer by Kay Barnham [sorry, no link available]
This book tells about hot weather and fun activities that take place during June, July, and August. It also explains the reasons for our seasons. In the end there are directions for making a scrapbook. The photos are clear and colorful.

 Looking Closely Through the Forest by Frank Serafini
First you see just a piece of a forest thing. Guess what it is. Then turn the page and see if you are right. Although not all the photos in this book were taken in summer, the pictures really make you want to get to the forest. And really look.

 Summer Wonders by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Judy Stead
Although it’s nice to have great photos of summer, this book has great paintings. Each painting is a celebration of summer. The text is simple but perfect. Be sure to read it aloud!

 If You Find a Rock by Peggy Christian, illustrated by Barbara Hirsch Lember
I LOVE this book! It tells about all kinds of rocks: skipping, chalk, climbing, worry… And it tells about them in a way that makes me want to rush right out and find each one of them. A perfect summer book.

Need more summer book ideas? Check back next Monday!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Websites for Young Scientists

Sean Connolly’s books about science experiments caused me to check out science sites for kids. If science is your thing (and even if it isn’t), then check out these sites. 

Looking for some good books for summer? On Monday, I'll have a dozen for you!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rescued Readers: The Power of Literacy

Today’s post is from Rescued Readers, a wonderful organization cofounded by Tammy Flowers. This is Rescued Readers'  second time on my blog and today they have a lovely contest!

Rescued Readers helps classrooms in America collect books to donate to students in Africa. In the process, the students connect with and learn about another culture. Once collected, a small team from Rescued Readers hand delivers these books to a predetermined location in Africa.

Rescued Readers: The Power of Literacy
Tammy Flowers

Who is Rescued Readers? Our passion is the education of the whole child. Every child. We believe strongly in the power of community. We believe that we have something to share with children halfway across the world…and they, in turn, have something to share with us.

While our children saunter into libraries and choose bags full of books to borrow, these children hold tight to a page, knowing the value of these words.

Books Rule!
Many African villages lack resources…our own villages lack perspective. This is why we bring books to Africa…and this is why we allow our own children to gift the books. We seek to partner with a nation and learn and grow together. True community invokes change in all persons connected.

Rescued Readers is about relationships…friendship. It’s about connecting cultures and creating community. There are many ways we could choose to connect with a nation. We choose literacy. It’s the tie that binds…the vehicle within which we cross an ocean, connect with a soul, and hold hands with a child.

Our mission is simple, but bold. Let’s share our books…and let them share their gratefulness. Let our children share their abundance of words so they may learn first hand the most important word in our language: Thanks.

Join us as we embark on an adventure…a journey. A journey to bring the solitude of a story to villages in Africa. A journey to fill bookshelves and enrich minds. A journey to bring perspective and gratefulness to our own children. Partner with us as we make a commitment to love the whole child and take that child on his own journey…through the pages of a book.

WIN a FREE collection of books!
Multiple ways to enter!
  • Comment on this post.
  • Like Rescued Readers on FaceBook and leave a comment. Facebook
  • Follow Rescued Readers on Twitter and tweet about our website. Twitter
  • Buy a Rescued Readers t-shirt that says “My t-shirt helped to bring the gift of literacy to children in Uganda. What can your shirt do?” Rescued Readers Shop


Yep!   That’s right, you could enter the drawing up to 4 times!!!
You could win a learning library of 26 humorous storybooks that build phonemic awareness and teach each letter of the alphabet. 26 colorful 16 page storybooks and an 128 page teaching guide filled with lessons, alphabet activities and reproducible mini-book versions of all 26 books.

Thanks, Tammy for this terrific opportunity! Everyone, remember to leave a comment!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Irresponsible, Funny, Smart… Books by Sean Connolly

The books by Sean Connolly are all over the place. They’re about science, art, history and even jokes. You have to check them out! Since some are easy reading and some not so easy, I've given the basic reading level.

 The Book of Totally Irresponsible Science: 64 Experiments for Young Scientists (middle school)
Think you’d like to make lightning? A potato gun? A rocket? A tea bag hot air balloon? This book is for you! Each experiment is clearly written out and often quite funny.
 The Book of Potentially Catastrophic Science: 50 Experiments for Daring Young Scientists (late middle school)
More great ideas! Mini bow and arrow, Galileo’s telescope, water microscope… This book has more background information than the first book, giving you a better idea of what things were like when the first scientists did their experiments. The experiments to try are clearly written and use simple stuff.

 The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math (middle school)
If math is your thing, you’ll want to check out this book. Each problem includes survival strategies needed to solve the dilemma, a blank worksheet, a step-by-step solution, and a math lab with experiments and activities.

The Life and Work of … Series (about grade 3)
There are at least 5 books in this series. Each book tells about the life of one artist. You'll read about how the things that happened to them and the people they met changed the way they made their art.
 The Life and Work of Henry Moore
I love the sculptures of Henry Moore. They are a bit odd but I could look at them all day. Lots of his sculptures are of people. They don’t always look like people but still, you have no doubt that’s what they are.
Other artists in this series:

Lives of the Artists Series (late middle school)
Each book in this series also tells about a famous artist. The books in this series, though, give a lot more information.
 Claude Monet
Monet was one of the Impressionists. He painted in the late 1800s and early 1900s. There are many of his paintings in this book. Even if you aren’t interested in reading a lot about Monet, the paintings are worth looking at.
Other artists in this series:

Laugh Out Loud! Series (early elementary reading – good for all levels)
You can never go wrong with a good joke book.

 The Monster Joke Book
What did the vampire doctor say? Necks please!
 The Animal Antics Joke Book
Where do you buy baby birds? At the chick out.
 The Funny Food Book
Why did the potato cry? Its peelings were hurt.

Sean Connolly has even more books, mostly late midle grade to high school. I certainly admire his ability to write lots of interesting books about lots of subjects!

Friday, May 18, 2012

3 Fun Kids' Book Sites

I just discovered this site and I know I’ll come back to check it often. It's the website of Craig Frazier (Stanley Goes for a Drive), but he has books by other authors, too. Scroll down through the page and stop at books that interest you. At the bottom of the page, you can hit the back arrow to see more pages. Good stuff!

This site has 28 book trailers. Book trailers can be a great way to check out new books.

There are lots of book trailers on this site.

I'm always on the lookout for good book trailers. Please add any you find to the Comments Box!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Picture Books: NOT Just for Little Ones!

As I’ve said over and over in this blog, picture books are NOT just for little ones. Some of you will recognize the points below from a previous post. However, I feel so strongly about the importance of picture books, I'm running this post again.

Picture books offer so many things to so many readers. Some of the benefits include:

They are fun. Picture book authors know how to deliver a great story in few words and lively language. The illustrations provide another layer of energy, wonderment and delight.
They are motivating. Pictures draw us in and make us want to read on. Books without pictures can do this, too, but not unless we’re already hooked on the power of books.
They are easy to follow. Picture books tend to have straightforward plots. If there are twists, the pictures usually lead you to the right path. These plots invite retelling. I can’t tell you how many times my students have acted out the plots from picture books just because they were simple and easy to recall and of course, fun.
They often introduce new vocabulary and expressions. Picture books seldom use restricted vocabulary, such as early readers use. The authors use whatever language and vocabulary they need to tell their stories and often let the illustrations illuminate the meaning.
They introduce a variety of writing styles, authors, and illustrators. This can provide models for young writers to try in their own stories. When teaching writing, I often used picture books as models.
They provide an excuse to stay close. Reading aloud a chapter book with no pictures can be done from the other side of the room. Picture books demand to be seen. Sitting close is the only way to go.
They provide windows to complex subjects and ideas. Well-written picture books can introduce, clarify, raise questions, challenge and spark interest in all kinds of subjects: science, history, philosophy, emotions, math, attitudes, cultures…

Picture books offer us a chance to make connections and ask questions. But don’t forget, not every book needs to give us any more than a fun reading experience.

When making connections, readers tie what they read to personal experiences or to other reading, in order to enhance their understanding of themselves, other books, and life itself. This is something enthusiastic and experienced readers do automatically. They read something and think, “Oh, this makes me think of when I …”
For example, in Ezra Jack Keats A Whistle for Willie (my favorite Keats book), Peter tries and tries to whistle. Any child can relate to such repeated attempts to master a skill.
When reading a book together, try modeling this by saying something like, “When I read that part, it made me think when I ...” Or, “This makes me think of that book we read…”

As you read, you can pose questions about the story.
About the text
What will [a character] do next?
Where is [a character] going?
Who did that?
Why did [a character] do that?
Not so simple:
I wonder why [a character] seems so sad?
What message is the author trying to give?
What is your personal opinion about this?
Do you like this character? Why?
Do you like the ending? How would you change it?
Why might this story be scary (funny, confusing…) to some kids? To some adults?

About the illustrations
What season is this? How can you tell?
How many ___ are there in this picture?
What picture might be on the next page?
Where is the___?
After reading: What is your favorite illustration? Why?
Not so simple:
I wonder why the illustrator used such dark (bright, pale…) colors?
What do you think is the most important thing in this illustration? What makes it important?
How can you tell that car (girl, dog…) is going fast (feeling sad, is sleeping…)?
CAUTION: We adults tend to overdo the questions. The last thing we want is to make reading together at home seem like a chore. Be aware of your child’s reactions to your questions. Remember, our goal is to show that reading is fun.
Encourage your child to ask his own questions. Try asking your child to think of teacher-type questions for you. Pretending to be the teacher can be great fun and encourages a different type of thinking.


What does your family like to do when you are reading picture books together? Write them in the Comments box!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Picture Books: Something for Everyone

Time for more picture books! Most of this bunch came out in the last year or so, so you may not have read them yet. Enjoy!

 Cows Can't Jump by Dave Reisman, illustrated by Jason A. Maas
This book and its companion, Cows Can't Quack, are incredibly charming. The text is simple but clever and the illustrations are a stitch. They are a big hit with preschoolers and early readers.

 The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers
This book really is about a boy who eats books. He started with just a word, then a sentence, then whole books. At first eating books made him smart, but after a while... things didn't go so well. Can you predict what happens then?

 Too Purpley by Jean Reidy, illustrated by Genevieve Leloup
Finding the just-right clothes is sometimes a problem. This girl goes through scads of outfits to find just the right one. This book is perfect for predicting words. There are 2 more books in the series:
Too Princessy
Too Pickley

 Stanley Goes for a Drive by Craig Frazier
Stanley gets in his truck and goes for a drive. He has nothing in mind, really, until he spots a cow. Then he gets an idea. This is one of those books that’ll make you think, “How did the author ever come up with this idea? There are 2 more books in the series:
Stanley Goes Fishing
Stanley Mows the Lawn

 Along a Long Road by Frank Viva
If you are into bikes and biking, you should definitely see this book. The words are few but the pictures are very BIKE.

  A Leaf Can Be… by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Violeta Dabija
Although there aren’t many words, there is a lot of science in this book. The main pages give a fair amount of information and the end pages give more.

  Living Sunlight by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm
Another science book! This one explains how the sun is the source of Earth's power: for the plants, the animals and us. It's very much a "Circle of Life" kind of book.

 Pickles, Please! by Andy Myer [I don't know why the cover says Picklicious, my book says Pickles, Please!]
If you have a passion for a particular food, you’ll totally get this book. Alec Smart LOVES pickles. This passion leads him on an adventure and into a parade.

 In the Garden with Dr. Carver by Susan Grigsby, illustrated by Nicole Tadgell
I’ve always enjoyed reading about George Washington Carver. He was born as a slave but by the time he died, he was a college professor. This story tells about how he helped a school create a garden by making the soil richer. He was, in a way, one of the first environmentalists!

 Say Hello to Zorro by Carter Goodrich
Mister Bud was a dog with a very definite schedule. He loved his schedule. Then Zorro moved in. How will Mister Bud ever adjust? It’s very clear that the author knows dogs!

 One Mole Digging a Hole by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Nick Sharratt
This is a basic counting book with fun rhymes and pictures (my favorite: Seven Frogs – they look like they are smiling for a camera!) Try this: before you read a page, guess what the rhyme is by studying the picture.

 A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead
Zookeeper Amos McGee takes very good care of his animal friends. But one day he wakes up sick and can't go in to work. Not to worry, his good friends take the bus and visit him. The story and illustrations are terrific. But I have one question - how do they get on the bus?

 Dog in Boots by Greg Gormley, illustrated by Roberta Angaramo
Do you know the story Puss in Boots? This book is based on that… sort of. Dog wants a pair of boots that are as wonderful as the cat’s boots. He tries many pairs but none quite work. The illustrations are quite funny.

Have you read any picture books you’d like to recommend? Write them in the Comments Box!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Out of This World Space Jokes

It’s been over 2 months since I last posted a bunch of jokes. It’s about time for some more!

What do you call an alien with three eyes?
An aliiien!!

How do you get a baby astronaut to sleep?
You rocket!

Where do astronauts keep their sandwiches?
In a launch box!!

What is an astronaut's favorite part of a computer?
The spacebar!!

What do comets say to each other when they meet?
"Pleased to meteor!!"

One astronaut turns to the other and says, "I'm really hungry!"
The second astronaut says, "I'm not surprised! It's nearly launch time!!"

How do you see flying saucers?
Trip up a waiter!!

Why couldn’t the astronaut book a room on the moon?
Because it was full.

How do astronauts serve dinner?
On flying saucers.

Why does NASA believe there might be life on Mars?
The CD player was stolen from their Mars rover.

Star light, star bright
First star I see tonight
I wish I may, I wish I might
Oh wait, it's just a satellite

How many astronomers does it take to change a light bulb?
None, astronomers aren't scared of the dark.

How far can you see on a clear day?
150 million kilometers, from here to the Sun.

While living on Earth might be a little expensive, at least you get a free trip around the Sun every year.

What do you think of that new restaurant on the moon?
The food’s great but it has no atmosphere.

Where does Dr Who buy his cheese?
At a dalek-atessen!

Why did Captain Kirk go into the ladies toilet?
To boldly go where no man has been before!

What do you call a loony spaceman?
An astronut!

What do you call a space magician?
A flying sorcerer!

What did the metric alien say?
Take me to your liter!

What did the alien say to the gas pump?
Don't you know it’s rude to stick your finger in your ear when I'm talking to you!

How does a robot shave?
With a laser blade!

What do you call a robot that always takes the longest route round?
R2 detour!

Do robots have sisters?
No, just transistors!

How do computers make sweaters?
On the interknit!

Why was the computer in pain?
It had a slipped disk!

Why was the computer so thin?
Because it hadn't had many bytes!

Why did the mouse sit on the computer?
To keep an eye on the mouse!

What sits in the middle of the World Wide Web?
A very, very big spider!

What's small, expensive and being constructed at Greenwich, London?
The millennium gnome!

What holds the moon up?
Moon beams!

These are the sites I used:

While looking for space jokes, I found this space game site. Looks like fun.

Do you have any other space jokes? Write them in the Comments Box!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

3 Survival Guides for Kids with Learning Differences

If your child is a struggling reader, it’s possible he or she has been evaluated for learning disabilities (LD). It’s also possible he or she has been diagnosed with a learning disability for reading. This week I’ll talk about 3 books that look at LD quite differently. For the authors, Gary Fisher, PhD and Rhoda Cummings, EdD,
LD = Learning Differences

I recommend that we all adopt this new definition for LD because it's more accurate. We know our children have strengths. We know they can do lots of things quite well. We also know our children are struggling, for whatever reason. These books help us see the strengths, give us ways to capitalize on them, plus offer strategies to strengthen and work around the weak areas. These are all good things.

In describing the following books, I use the abbreviation LD. I mean it in both senses of the word - LD as schools use it and LD as an abbreviation for Learning Differences.

I first ran this post back in August, 2011. Reviewing it, I thought some of my newer readers might like to read it. This is basically the same post, with a few modifications.

When Your Child has LD (Learning Differences): A Survival Guide for Parents [sorry, no link available]
The first chapters include basic information for parents of kids with LD. It defines it from a school perspective, describes some possible causes, lists some early signs and explains parents' legal rights. These chapters are written clearly and give lots of information.
As important as the first chapters are, I think the later chapters are just as important. They present information about how Learning Differences affect the child, the parents and the whole family, plus give many ways to work with the school to boost success.

  The Survival Guide for Kids with LD (Learning Differences)
I see this book as having 4 major benefits:
  1. Helps struggling students know they're not alone with their struggles and that they are not dumb.
  2. Gives encouragement to seek and accept help.
  3. Gives hope.
  4. Gives strategies for successful schooling.
The print is large enough to be reader-friendly. There are frequent and helpful subtitles. Cartoons and other illustrations appear several times in each chapter. If this book appeals to you but you think it'll be a hard sell to your child, try leaving it out for a few days to see if he or she picks it up out of curiosity. That might be a way to get spark interest.

The School Survival Guide for Kids with LD (Learning Differences) [sorry, no link available]
This book was written as a response to the many letters the authors received from kids who read the first survival guide. It's broken down into 3 parts:
  1. Ways to Make School Easier and More Fun (organizational skills, learning differences, time management, time management, more...)
  2. School Tools for Learning (ways to improve reading, writing, spelling, math)
  3. Ways to Keep School Cool (school social skills)
There are recommended learning and teaching materials at the end of the book for organization skills, school skills, writing, spelling, math and social skills.

I hope at least one of these books prove helpful for you. They certainly would have been helpful to me when my son was in school and I definitely would have had them as part of the lending library in my classroom.

Please share your experiences on having a struggling student. We are in this together!