Brain Games Sticker Puzzles

Brain Games Sticker Puzzles

Okay, all, if you’ve been around for a few months, you’ve likely read about our girls’ obsession with the Workman Publishing Paint by Sticker Kids books. While we still love them, of course, I recently discovered a sticker puzzle mosaic series — Brain Games Sticker by Number/Letter books, by Publications International! Continue reading “Brain Games Sticker Puzzles”

The Zoey and Sassafras Series by Asia Citro

The Zoey and Sassafras Series by Asia Citro

About a year and a half ago, a friend recommended that I check out the Zoey and Sassafras series by Asia Citro, illustrated by Marion Lindsay, to read with my older daughter. Trusting this friend, I bought the first in the series sight-unseen and excitedly opened it to read with my daughter, but she wasn’t into it… Never afraid to abandon books, I put it aside, but I had taken enough of a look at it that I knew we’d be revisiting it when the time was right.

Fortunately for me, the time was right earlier this spring, when I picked Zoey and Sassafras: Dragons and Marshmallows up to read to both girls before bed one night, and they LOVED it! Even more fortunately, I had the foresight to grab the rest of the series from the library just a few days before they shut down for shelter-in-place. We absolutely flew through all 7 books in the series, and all of us (husband included) wish more books about Zoey and her scientific adventures had already been written! Read on to see what makes the Zoey and Sassafras series unique. Continue reading “The Zoey and Sassafras Series by Asia Citro”

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

If you follow me on Instagram, you might remember that we read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, about a month ago for a rabbit-themed family chapter book read aloud just before Easter. It had probably been at least 10 years since I had read this book in the classroom, and I was struck every single day we read by just how beautiful this book is. On top of that, my girls absolutely LOVED Edward’s story, asking for more and more chapters each day we read (I think we were able to finish this in about 4 days!). Sharing what makes The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane so magical became obviously necessary, so read on for a little insight into the emotional evolution of this beloved toy. Continue reading “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo”

Reading “Facts of Life”

Reading “Facts of Life”

It’s pretty simple… More than 30 years of education research boils down to these two basic facts about reading enjoyment and achievement (from Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook (7th edition), pages 6-7). Right now, we are the sole influences in our child’s reading lives. We must be modeling reading for them (I think I may need a whole post on that…), we must make reading pleasurable for them, and we must ensure that they are reading (both listening to books and reading/looking at books).

Because remember, as humans, we do things over and over again when they bring us pleasure, and we avoid things that bring displeasure or pain. Is reading pleasing to your child? What can you do to make the at-home reading experience more pleasurable?

And, just like riding a bike, hitting a baseball, or playing the piano, in order to get better at reading, we must practice it. The more we read, the better we get at it. Over and over again, research findings show that “students who read the most also read the best, achieve the most, and stay in school the longest.” (Trelease, page 7) Continue reading “Reading “Facts of Life””

Terrific Poetry Books for Children

Terrific Poetry Books for Children

Did you know that April is National Poetry Month here in the United States? Admittedly, this is a celebration from which I have shied away in the past, as my childhood love of Shel Silverstein and other fun poetry dwindled once I tried to analyze poetry in middle and high school. I want better for my children, though. I want them to be comfortable, maybe even confident, reading poetry.

And more than just wanting them to be (at a minimum) comfortable reading poetry (but hopefully enjoy reading it, too!), poetry positively affects literacy development in growing readers. So not only do I want my children to be comfortable and confident when it comes to poetry, but I want them to reap these benefits too! Reading poetry with children:

  • Helps pre-readers begin to connect the sounds they hear with the symbols they see on the page.
  • Strengthens pre-readers knowledge of familiar sounds.
  • Impacts phonological awareness by allowing independent readers to familiarize themselves with common phonemic patterns in rhyming words.
  • Helps children recognize high-frequency written words.
  • Increases reading and speaking fluency, especially when children are encouraged to read aloud through choral or repeated readings.
  • Builds problem-solving skills as children begin to predict the rhyming words (especially when children are given the opportunity to finish the lines and predict “What’s next?”).
  • Fosters memory recall, especially when poetry is experienced through repeated readings, or accompanied by songs, fingerplays, or other dramatic acts.
  • Builds positive relationships between adult and children when reading poetry is a fun shared experience.

Additionally, young children truly enjoy the rhythm and predictability of rhymes such as poetry. After all, there’s a good reason that so many favorite board and picture books, the ones your children reach for over and over, are rhyming books!

So, where to begin? How do you start reading poetry with children, so that they not only develop positive associations with poetry but also reap the amazing literacy benefits? Below, you’ll find our favorite poetry books, books from which I enjoy reading and to which my girls delight in listening. You’ll find the silly, laugh-inducing poetry of Shel Silverstein, but you’ll also find more serious, thought-provoking poems, so this list runs the gamut. Hopefully you can find something inspiring for your family, too! Continue reading “Terrific Poetry Books for Children”

Terrific Books to Inspire Design and Engineering PLUS Activities for Each

Terrific Books to Inspire Design and Engineering PLUS Activities for Each

Last week was technically our spring break, so while our spring break didn’t involve the travel and extended family visits that we had planned, it also didn’t involve keeping up with various Zoom meetings and struggling with the technical difficulties of distance learning. Instead, we focused on life skills (the girls took turns cooking dinner each night and learning how to use knives, the stove, and the microwave safely, as well as learned both of our phone numbers, and our older daughter finally mastered tying her shoes!) and played around with some book-inspired creative design and engineering. Read on to see what books we read and how they inspired our play! Continue reading “Terrific Books to Inspire Design and Engineering PLUS Activities for Each”

Book Baskets and Daily Independent Reading Time

Book Baskets and Daily Independent Reading Time

At this point in school cancellations and shelter-in-place, you’ve likely seen the advice that if you only do one “school” thing a day, choose reading (either independent reading time or read-aloud time). And this advice is given for good reason — research shows that both the amount of time children spend reading and the amount they are read to are strongly correlated to academic performance in all subjects down the road (Jim Trelease thoroughly documents research on both read aloud time and sustained silent reading time in his book The Read-Aloud Handbook).

So, how’s that reading time going for you all? As you can imagine, the read-aloud time comes naturally in our house, so we just continued on with our normal read alouds (take a moment to read my Practical Tips for Making Read-Aloud Time Easier if you’re struggling with read-aloud time in your house). However, we’ve never had a formal time for everyone in the house to read independently. We’ve been given the gift of time, though, so there was no time like the present to make independent reading part of our daily ritual, too! Read on for some ideas on motivating your children to read independently. Continue reading “Book Baskets and Daily Independent Reading Time”

Desmond and the Very Mean Word by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams

Desmond and the Very Mean Word by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams

Though I’ve been more quiet on here lately, we are still forging ahead with our Family Focus on authentic apologies and genuine forgiveness… But, life’s been a little crazy, so the focus and the family meetings have looked a little different. Case in point– last week, we had a family meeting over breakfast rather than dinner, because my husband’s work schedule has been unpredictable during this social distancing time, but he had some free time one morning! During that family meeting, we used Archbishop Demond Tutu’s book Desmond and the Very Mean Word (written with Douglas Carlton Abrams), based on a real event from Tutu’s childhood, to center our hearts and minds on forgiveness. We chose for April’s focus to be apologies and forgiveness way back in December, not knowing how different life would look in April than we anticipated. Man, am I glad we’re working on this, because so much time in such a close space leads to some real spats and moments from which we can recover! Continue reading “Desmond and the Very Mean Word by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams”

April Family Focus: Apology of Action Family Meeting

April Family Focus: Apology of Action Family Meeting

A few weeks ago, I mentioned how important helping our girls learn how to make an authentic apology is to us, and I referenced Responsive Classroom’s “apology of action” as a terrific way to model, practice, and teach authentic apologies.

So, what is an apology of action? An apology of action stems from the larger umbrella consequence of “you break it, you fix it,” which is exactly what it sounds like— children take responsibility for fixing what they’ve broken. Yes, it means that if he breaks a toy, he finds a way to fix it, or if she spills her milk, she cleans it up.

But, “you break it, you fix it” also covers hurting someone’s body or hurting someone’s heart, and that’s where we teach children to fix their mistakes through an apology of action. Continue reading “April Family Focus: Apology of Action Family Meeting”

Taking a Break for Spring Break

Taking a Break for Spring Break

Hello, all! This week is technically spring break for our girls. We were supposed to travel to see extended family, but we’re obviously staying put instead. Rather than venture cross-country and spend time with cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents… We’ll venture around the block and hunker down, just the four of us.

And I’m not going to lie, our honeymoon period of sheltering in place and schooling at home definitely ended last weekend. We had some long, rough days and some wonderful days. And I had many moments where I realized that I am trying to accomplish way too much in this new and different season. I kept all of the to-dos I had already filled in my planner for the last month, while also adding the to-dos that come with keeping up with things these days (does anyone else feel like having everyone in your house all day, every day means that you ALWAYS have a sink full of dishes, even if you just washed them???). I had originally planned to take this week off of posting and social media to spend our travels focused on our family and our visits, and I’m going to stick to that plan! Continue reading “Taking a Break for Spring Break”