Friday, March 29, 2013

MORE Easter Websites for Kids

Easter is on Sunday! Here are 5 more websites to explore. If you missed last week's sites, click here.

Apples for the Teacher Scrambler puzzles

Family Fun  Off-line games – look like fun!

Easter Fun Games

DLTK Printables, coloring, games, puzzles

Busy Bee Easter Activities Printables games and activities

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Promoting Literacy with Easter Crafts

Following directions is a get way to practice reading while having fun. And then you have something to show for it when you’re done! I hope these sites give you lots of good ideas.

There are several ideas to choose from.

This site has several ideas for crosses.

Easter Baskets from Spoonful
A bunch of ideas for making Easter baskets.

Easter Decorations from Spoonful
This site has a variety of Easter crafts.

Chocolate Easter Nest from Red Ted Art

Handprint Lilies from Enchanted Learning
I love the way these look!

Easter Finger Puppets from Craft Jr.
Very cute!

Origami Bunny Craft from Free Kids Craft
This is very cute and the directions look do-able.

Easter Bible Printables and Crafts from Christian Preschool Printables
This site has lots of offerings.

Have a wonderful Easter!


Monday, March 25, 2013

Celebrate! MORE Easter Books for the Whole Family

Easter is now just a week away! Here are some more great Easter books to read.

 Junie B., First Grader: Dumb Bunny  by Barbara Park, illustrated by Denise Brunkus
When her classmate invites everyone to an Easter egg hunt, Junie B. is very excited. When she won a special game, Junie B. was even more excited… until she learns what the prize is. You can’t help but laugh at Junie B.’s adventures.

 Wake Up, It’s Easter!  by James Krüss, illustrated by Frauke Weldin
Mr. Croak is a raven. He visits Vicki Vole to tell her that Easter is coming. She runs off to tell Rob Rabbit, who then tells the all the rabbits. This book energetically shows Easter as a time to be happy.

 Bunny’s Easter Egg  by Anne Mortimer
Bunny is tired after spending the night hiding Easter eggs. There is still one left, but she is too tired. She brings it into her basket and goes to sleep. When it starts to crack, Bunny decides to look for someplace quieter – not an easy task. Be sure to look for the Easter eggs hiding on each page.

 Who Hid the Easter Eggs?  by Pirkko Vainio
Harry the squirrel watches as a woman hides Easter eggs in her yard. But he’s not the only one watching. Jack, the jackdaw (a type of crow) is also watching and steals each of the eggs. Harry talks him into putting them back but they don’t remember where each one was found. No problem, they just help the kids as they look.

 Piggy Bunny    by Rachel Vail, illustrated by Jeremy Tankard
Liam the piglet is like any other piglet, except he wants to be the Easter Bunny. Even though most of his family thinks this is a crazy idea, Liam goes into training. Funny story and funny pictures!

The Easter Bunny has an assistant, Skunk. Things would go well, except Skunk gets excited by everything: boiling the eggs, making the dye, decorating the eggs… And when Skunk gets excited, he does what skunks do when they are excited. How will the Easter Bunny solve this problem?

 Chester’s Colorful Easter Eggs  by Theresa Smythe
Chester decorates 6 eggs – one for each of his friends. Then he hides each in a clever place. I like how Chester decorates the eggs in a different way for each friend.

Easter  by Marc Tyler Nobleman
This book covers many aspects of Easter, including a brief history, the symbols of Easter and how it is observed in other countries. The last pages have a glossary, more facts and resources for more information.

 My Very First Easter Story  by Lois Rock, illustrated by Alex Ayliffe
The story of Easter is told simply, from Good Friday to Easter day. The attractive illustrations nicely support the story. The small size is perfectly suited for small hands.

 Usborne Easter Fun  by Fiona Watt, illustrated by Katie Lovell
There are 12 crafts in this spiral-bound book. There are cards, decorations, and art projects. The spiral is nice because it lets the heavy pages lay flat. Each craft is very clearly shown and looks fun to do.

 Easter Sweets and Treats  by Ruth Owen
This book is best for family cooking or an experienced older child. All the recipes are clearly written and look delicious. There 6 recipes: Easter Brunch Eggs, Easter Bunny Cookies, Carrot Cake, Easter Nest Cupcakes Homemade Easter Eggs and Deviled Easter Eggs. Enjoy!

I hope you have a wonderful Easter!


Friday, March 22, 2013

Easter Websites for Kids

Looking for some Easter games, puzzles and activities? Here are 5 sites to check out. 

Primary Games: Easter Games Games and puzzles

The Kidz Page Games, puzzles, activities and coloring

Kaboose Games and coloring

Internal Schools Easter Activities Online games and printable activities

Next Friday, I'll have 5 more sites to explore!


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Easter Activities to Boost Literacy

Easter is March 31 this year. To get ready, here are several ideas for boosting literacy at home. Next week I’ll have a bunch of craft ideas.

Easter Egg Scavenger Hunt
This is really fun. We used to take turns creating scavenger hunts for each other. Try using some inside family information in some of your clues!
  • Gather 6-12 plastic Easter eggs. 
  • Place a clue in each egg, each clue leading to the hiding spot of the next egg. 
  • Example: Find an egg in a place in the kitchen that’s hot. The egg found in the oven could say, Find an egg hiding in someone’s slipper.
  • The final egg can have a clue to an Easter treat.

Word Searches
You can find Easter word searches online but creating your own is a better literacy idea.
  • Brainstorm a list of Easter words. Stuck? Click here.
  • Give each family member a piece of graph paper to create his own puzzle.
  • On the graph paper, write the letters of each word in the squares. Capital letters work best.
  • Fill in the unused squares with random letters.
  • Exchange searches.

Crossword Puzzles 
  • Brainstorm a list of Easter words and their definitions (clues). Or let everyone come up with her own clues. The simplest clues are fill-in-the-blank sentences: We like to ___ for Easter eggs.
  • Give each family member a piece of graph paper to create his own puzzle.
  • Lightly plot each word on the graph paper, in pencil, criss-crossing the words.
  • Once all the words have been plotted, heavily outline only the graph squares you used.
  • Write out your clues to correspond with the across and down words.
  • Carefully erase the words.
  • Exchange searches.

E-A-S-T-E-R Words
Using the letters in EASTER, create other words. Examples: sat, tear, rest… If you want, you can make it a contest to see who gets the most words. You can also give extra credit for longer words.

Easter cards can be fun to make. These sites will give you some ideas.

Easter lends itself nicely to science experiments. Check out these sites for some ideas. Very cool!
Dying Easter Eggs with Natural Materials (YouTube demonstration) 

This site has more Easter ideas.

Just thinking about getting ready for Easter makes me smile. How about you?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Celebrate! Easter Books for the Whole Family

Easter is March 31, just 2 weeks away. Of all the holidays, Easter is my favorite. For me, it’s a quiet holiday of church, family and chocolate. And then it’s spring. What’s not to like?

I have 2 weeks of books for you. Here is the first batch to get you started.

 April Adventure by Ron Roy
This book is part of the Calendar Mysteries series, by the author of the A to Z Mysteries series. Bradley, Brian, Lucy, and Nate are the younger siblings of the characters in the A to Z series. They are on an Easter egg hunt. They easily find the 12 plastic eggs but finding the special golden eggs is when the real mystery starts.

 10 Easter Egg Hunters by Janet Schulman, illustrated by Linda Davick
The rhyming text tells of 10 kids on an Easter egg hunt. Each page gives a clue as to where the eggs are hiding. But look carefully at the illustrations and you’ll find the hidden eggs before the 10 kids do.

 Fancy Nancy’s Elegant Easter by Jane O’Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser
Fancy Nancy and her best friend Bree are getting ready for an Easter party. Everything is, of course, fancy. This is a lift-the-flap book.

 Happy Easter, Mouse! by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond
Mouse, from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, finds Easter eggs all over the house. The color words (yellow, red…) in the text are the appropriate colors, making this a good book for early preschoolers.

  What am I? Easter by Anne Margaret Lewis, illustrated by Tom Mills
Each left page of this book has a riddle, such as, I am smooth and brown. The Easter Bunny leaves me in your basket. The right page shows a hint of the answer, covered mostly by a flap. Not terribly challenging, but fun.

 Easter Parade by Irving Berlin, illustrated by Lisa McCue
The text is based on the song from the 1930s. Anyone old enough to remember the song will have to sing it out. The illustrations, based on a bunny family, are charming and funny.

 There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Chick! by Lucille Colandro, illustrated by Jared Lee
I wonder how many books are based on the old song, There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly? This one has an old lady swallowing all things you might find in an Easter basket. The pictures perfectly match the foolishness of the text.

 Bently & Egg by William Joyce
Bently is a young and musical frog who gets roped into egg-sitting for his friend Kack Kack the duck. Bently is not very impressed by the plain white egg so he paints it with a beautiful design. This makes it look like an Easter egg, which causes a string of adventures. This picture storybook is very sweet.

 Easter around the World by Shannon Knudsen, illustrated by David L. Erickson
Although I've often read of how Christmas is celebrated around the world, I’d never really thought of how Easter is celebrated in different countries. This book tells of the Easter customs in 8 different countries, including Sweden, Ethiopia and Mexico. I learned a lot!

 Fun-To-Make Crafts for Easter edited by Tom Daning
I had great fun looking through this book. There is a wide variety of cards, decorations, art projects and jewelry. The projects use all sorts of materials, lots of them one you’d have lying about the house.

The First Easter: The Story of Why We Celebrate Easter by Carol Heyer (sorry, no link)
Starting with Jesus'birth, this book is a simple retelling of Jesus' life and the events leading up to the first Easter. The painted illustrations beautifully support the text. It would make a terrific read-aloud.

Come back next week for more fun Easter books!

Friday, March 15, 2013

More Fun Science Websites for Kids

I have had great fun finding this week's and last week's science websites. There are so many opportunities to learn, try things out and play - all from the world of science!

Lots of cool information, quizzes, videos and games.

See over 40 animals with infrared light – a much different view than with regular light.

Try lots of science activities.

Grow your own fungi garden, turn milk into rubber and more science experiments.

Experiment, videos, games and more.

Lots of science experiments.

If you haven't seen the science books from this week and last week, check them out! Science rocks!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Guest Post: Tips to Get Your Kids Reading

Today’s Guest Post is by Julie Landry Laviolette. Julie is a mom of two tweens and founder of Story Bayou , which makes interactive book apps for kids 8-12. Her first book app, Brush of Truth, has been recognized nationally for its appeal to reluctant readers.

Tips to Get Your Kids Reading
by Julie Landry Laviolette
Founder, Story Bayou

Many kids never pick up a book for fun. But studies show that kids who read for pleasure have better vocabulary, are more inspired writers and are better test takers.

So what’s a frustrated parent to do? Here are some tips for parents to make reading more accessible and fun for a finicky kid:

Try eBooks: Kids are drawn to technology, so anything inside a screen automatically ups the cool factor. Download titles from a book store or online marketplace to your laptop from the comfort of your living room. Check out free titles from you public library and transfer them via Wifi to your eReader. If you don’t have an eReader, download a free Kindle app to your smartphone or tablet.

Let’s hear it for audiobooks: Audiobooks, read aloud by professional narrators, are theater for your brain. They are excellent for bringing stories alive for kids on car trips, in doctors’ waiting rooms and while on the move. Download them straight to your child’s iPod or MP3 player from the library (free) or book store. If you have a smartphone, apps like “Audiobooks” allow you to download thousands of classics, like “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” or “Anne of Green Gables,” for free.

Get hip with book apps: The latest trend in kids’ literacy, book apps are a cross between an eBook and a game. You get the full text of a paper book, with interactive elements that let kids make choices in a story, or hear music or narration. Find quality book apps at review sites like Digital Storytime, or on sites like AppyMall, which let you search by grade level. The site moms with apps  runs promotions of free and discounted apps every Friday.

Go old school with comics: If the thought of a paper book is overwhelming to your child, head to the comic book or graphic novel section of your book store or library. If they’re already a fan of Spiderman or Snoopy, a comic book will hook them with the illustrations. Soon they’ll be trying to work out the words to follow the action. Start small with the comics in the newspaper.

Turn TV time into reading time: You can do this without turning off the TV! Just turn on the closed-captioning feature to display text on the screen during your child’s favorite program. If they have a flair for the dramatic – and what kid doesn't? -- challenge them to read aloud and recite the lines with the actors.

Thanks Julie, for your ideas!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Science Rocks! MORE Books about All Sorts of Science

Time for more science books - questions, answers, a funny story and robots!

 A Place for Fish by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Higgins Bond
Melissa Stewart is a science queen and writes wonderful books about science topics. A Place for Fish tells how human activities threaten fish. It also tells what humans can do, or change, to create places for fish to thrive. Each double page also gives more information for readers who want more. This is a beautiful and well written book. Other books in the series include:
A Place for Butterflies
A Place for Birds
A Place for Frogs

 Just a Second: A Different Way to Look at Time by Steve Jenkins

I have been a fan of Steve Jenkins' books for a long time. This book is one of his greatest. It has a simple concept: What can happen in a second? Well, a bat can make 200 high-pitched calls. A vulture in flight flaps its wings once. And what can happen in a minute? An hour? One day?... One year? Great stuff! 

 The Book of Why? 50Questions and All the Answers by Kath Grimshaw
Ever wonder why soap makes bubbles? Why leopards have spots? Why deserts are sandy? This book answers these questions and 47 more.

This Book Requires Safety Goggles: A Collection of Bizarre Science Trivia by Kristi Lew (sorry, no link)
Find out if lightning can knock your socks off. Find out about a mountain that grows. Find out about a liquid metal. Find out what the Magnus Effect has to do with baseball. This book has lots of interesting stuff!

 The Quest to Digest by Mary K. Corcoran, illustrated by Jef Czekaj
Somehow, this book’s author and illustrator manage to make the digestion process both easy to understand and funny. Sections include Chew on This, As the Stomach Churns, Give Me a Squeeze Please, and others. Quite fun!

 Why? by Catherine Ripley, illustrated by Scot Ritchie
Why do my fingers get so wrinkled in the tub? Why do my fingers stick to the frozen juice cans? Why can’t I see just after the lights go out? Why are peaches fuzzy? Why do horses sleep standing up? All good questions and there are 66 more!

 Question Boy Meets LittleMiss Know-It-All by Peter Catalanotto
Question Boy (dressed as a super hero) asks questions, LOTS of questions. Enough questions to make grown-ups back away or drive off quickly. So what happens when he meets Miss Know-It-All (who knows LOTS of stuff)? They clash, but then… This book made me laugh LOTS of times.

 Island: A Story of the Galápagos by Jason Chin
This is an amazing book! In just 25 picture book pages, it tells the life story of an island over a span of 6 million years. It starts as a volcano, it cools, animals find it and it becomes a complete civilization. The text and pictures are so clear, you feel as though you really understand the life of this island: birth, childhood, adulthood and old age. I look forward to reading this author’s other books, Redwoods and Coral Reefs.

 Robot Experiments by Ed Sobey
Written for upper-elementary and middle school students, this book is stuffed with science projects about robots. It starts with some easier projects (such as taking apart motors) and works up to actually building a robot. Projects that would make good science fair projects are marked. This is part of the Cool Science Projects with Technology series. Other books:
Electric Motor Experiments
Radio-Controlled Car Experiments
Solar Cell and Renewable Energy Experiments

Please share your favorite science books - write them in the Comments box!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Fun Science Websites for Kids

Monday I told you about a bunch of science books. Here are some science websites to interest your scientific mind. Science Rocks!

Ever wonder what you might weigh on Mars or The Moon? Here's the place to find out.

Learn about astronomy, earth science, technology and more.

Find out how those park rides work.

Find out all about skateboards and how they work.

Riddles, puzzles, science fair experiments and other things to think about and do.

Explore atoms, forces, Earth, and other science topics.

So what science thinking have you done lately? Write about it in the Comments box!


My original website address is now working. Please see my posts there!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Writing as a Family: Nimpentoad

Today’s guest post is by Henry Herz and his sons, Josh and Harrison. Henry’s love of the fantasy genre began in elementary school with “Where the Wild Things Are” and “The Lord of the Rings,” and continued by playing Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer.

Josh Herz is a middle-school student whose hobbies include parkour, building with LEGOs, and painting Warhammer miniatures.

Harrison Herz is an elementary school student who loves basketball, WWE wrestling, and playing XBOX. Both are big fans of The Lord of the Rings, the annual Comic-Con convention, and have an entrepreneurial bent.

With design help from their dad, they started three web-based businesses selling LEGO party favors, custom cast bases for Warhammer, and painted concrete yard sculptures.

The Herzes are (distant) relatives of Madeleine L’Engle, whose book A Wrinkle in Time was ranked #3 on the top 100 children’s books of all time by Scholastic’s Parent & Child Magazine. Writing must be in the DNA!

Nimpentoad is the fantasy story of a courageous and resourceful little Nibling who leads his tribe through the perilous Grunwald forest, overcoming obstacles and encountering strange creatures along the way. This post is about the creative journey of Nimpentoad by a father and his two young sons.


When my sons were five and seven years old, I wanted to share my love of fantasy with them. Struck by inspiration one day, I came up with a way to share the joy of entering the magical realms of fantasy. I would write a fantasy book for them.

What I did not anticipate was that my boys would give me feedback on the story. They devised some of the character (Nimpentoad) and creature (Neebel) names, and made plot line suggestions. And who better to help make the story appealing to kids than other kids?

My sons also helped with the art direction. Our artist would give us a rough sketch, and we would provide feedback on details and color palette. My goal of interesting my sons in fantasy transformed into encouraging them to participate in the creative process.

Of course, collaborating with kids is a very different affair than collaborating with an adult. Their work ethic is, shall we say, less disciplined. This can be mitigated by making the working sessions more like play sessions - we're telling a story, not crafting a manuscript. And once we began creating the artwork, the boys' interest grew as they saw images of Nimpentoad and the other fantastic creatures come to life.

Eventually, we had a good book, but no readers - the challenge facing all self-published authors. So, we then embarked upon the most arduous part of our journey – promoting Nimpentoad. While I handled the web-based promotional activities, I wanted my sons to be involved in the live events.

Once again, I had to train and encourage them - this time to become good public speakers. By starting with small groups, like elementary school classes, they learned to be comfortable in front of a crowd, and to make eye contact and use voice inflection to enhance the reading experience for their audiences. They have also participated in several phone interviews for web radio shows.

Once they mastered public speaking, the next learning opportunity for my sons was mastering the sale. We've found selling our book at farmer's markets to be surprisingly successful. Imagine trying to coldly walk past two charismatic young booth operators who ask, "Would you like to see the book WE wrote?"

But as before, they needed guidance. They had to be coached about engaging effectively with passersby - smile, sit up, and speak to them. My sons learned how to answer commonly asked questions about the book and their participation in its creation. And how to change a twenty dollar bill, or deal with someone who tries to haggle on price.

At the risk of infringing on child labor laws, I booked my sons as much as their school schedules would allow. We’ve done readings, giveaways and signings at San Diego libraries, elementary schools, farmer's markets, La Jolla YMCA, the New Children’s Museum, the San Diego Comic-Con, Mysterious Galaxy Books, Readers Books, Warwick’s Books, and Barnes & Noble. We will be signing our book at the upcoming Orange County Children's Book Festival - one of the largest of its kind in the US.

At the San Diego Public Library 46th Annual Local Author’s Exhibit, my sons asked for autographs from Chris Ryall (of IDW Publishing) and famed graphic novelist Eric Shanower. Both of these gentlemen then graciously asked for my boys’ autographs. First class!

At the La Mesa Centennial Readers & Writers Festival, we shared a booth with Ron Noble, animator of Rugrats, Rocket Power, and Wild Thornberry’s. He was very kind, and my boys left that day with personalized Wild Thornberry sketches. First class!

All these experiences have further enriched the journey for my sons. They understand some of the aspects of running a business and publishing. They are now comfortable meeting new people, doing public speaking, and rubbing elbows with famous authors. It has been a great ride.

The Nimpentoad authors have been written about in Entrepreneur Magazine and Wired Geekdad. The book's artwork was a semifinalist in an art contest sponsored by Warner Brothers (and judged by The Hobbit movie staff). Nimpentoad recently received its 72nd Amazon 5-star rating. The book is available in paperback and Kindle format. Our website is

Thank you, Henry, Josh and Harrison! Your story is an inspiration!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Science Rocks! Books about All Sorts of Science

Science is great for so many reasons. It answers questions. It creates questions. It comes up with cool things to observe and think about. Sometimes, it just stops you in your tracks with amazingness. And it is at the base of all this week's and next week's books.

A Rock is Lively by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long
I like this book for so many reasons. It’s all about rocks, a fascinating topic, I think. The pictures are fantastic, showing all the colors and textures of rocks. The information is clearly presented in easy chunks. And the ideas are neat: A rock is lively. A rock is mixed up. A rock is creative

First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
First the egg then the chicken. Cause and effect is all around us. As I read this book the first time, I tried to guess all the cause and effect pairs. Some are not too hard (tadpole-frog) but some downright unguessable (at least for me). I love everything about this book – its simplicity, its cut-out pages and its cleverness.

How We Learned the Earth Is Round by Patricia Lauber, illustrated by Megan Lloyd
It’s not too surprising that early people thought Earth was flat. If you look across a field or ocean, it certainly looks flat. But then people wondered about why ships seemed to sink as they sailed away, instead of just getting smaller and smaller. This book tells about how people used their observations to come to the conclusion that Earth is round.

Hello! Hello! by Matthew Cordell
A girl is bored with her electronics. She tries to get her family’s attention but they are distracted by their electronics. She goes outside and Whoa! there is a whole WORLD of interesting things. This book makes me smile.

 Metamorphosis: Changing Bodies by Bobbie Kalman
Metamorphosis is one of those things that just proves that life is very cool. Such changes! This book shows the stages of life of a butterfly, a frog, a dragonfly, and a grasshopper. Great pictures!

The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs: A Scientific Mystery by Sandra Markle (sorry, no link)
If you want to learn about scientific process, this is a terrific book to read. It closely follows scientist Karen Lips as she works to figure out why the golden frogs of Panama are vanishing. She looks at many possible sources – pollution, climate change and others. Although there is a lot of text here, it is written clearly. And there are also lots of pictures. I look forward to reading more of Sandra Markle’s books.

Ocean Sunlight by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm
This book is a marvel. It takes complex subjects – photosynthesis, the food chain, phytoplankton, marine snow (this one was news to me!) and lots of other stuff and makes them crystal clear. And it’s perfectly illustrated. There are other sunlight books by Molly Bang I look forward to reading:
My Light
Living Sunlight

Of course, I can't stop here - next week there will be more amazing science books!