Monthly Archives

June 2015

    children's literacy, sight words

    Fun With Sight Words: Water Balloons & Word Walls

    I love discovering new and simple sight word activities to try out with the kids!  Once a month I present a short list of words to both of my kids, specifically my daughter since she’s older.

    Since I started doing this some time last year there are many words my daughter can recognize instantly and effortlessly.  I believe that by automatically recognizing these words it has helped her develop into a fast reader. Repeated exposure to sight words is key so I come up with different ways to expose the kids to the same words over and over until they stick.

    Recently, I created a simple “word wall” using post it notes which turned out a be a big hit with my daughter.  I often catch her reading her words when she wakes up in the morning or when preparing for bedtime.

    Since it’s summertime, I wanted a sight word activity we could do outside that involved water.  Then I came across a simple activity with water balloons.  I thought how hard can this be – Fill balloons with water- Write words on balloons – Throw at each other.  Viola!  Instant fun and learning at the same time.

    Before throwing each balloon we sing a song that reinforces the spelling of the word and then bombs away!  Such a fun activity on a hot day!

    Your Turn:  What are your favorite sight word activities to do with your little ones?  Feel free to let me know in the comments.

    adult books, children's literacy

    Upcoming Book Releases for Children and Adults

    There are lots of promising new book releases coming out in the next few months for both children and adults.  I’ve rounded up some books to get excited about that you may want to pre-order or put on hold at your local library.  Read on.

    upcoming book releases

    July 2015
    I’m Trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton (Children’s Book)
    Release Date: July 7, 2015

    I’m Trying to Love Spiders will help you see these amazing arachnids in a whole new light, from their awesomely excessive eight eyes, to the seventy-five pounds of bugs a spider can eat in a single year! And you’re sure to feel better knowing you have a better chance of being struck by lightning than being fatally bit by a spider. Comforting, right? No? Either way, there’s heaps more information in here to help you forget your fears . . . or at least laugh a lot!

    Dad’s First Day by Mike Wohnoutka (Children’s Book)
    Release Date: July 7, 2015

    All summer Oliver and his dad played together, laughed together, sang together, and read together.  Now it’s time for Oliver to start school!  On the first day, Oliver’s dad isn’t quite ready. . . . Suddenly he feels nervous. His tummy hurts, and he would rather stay home.

    But Oliver isn’t convinced. What if the first day is really fun? What if it’s the start of an exciting year?

    In this charming story of first-day jitters, acclaimed author and illustrator Mike Wohnoutka perfectly captures the mixed emotions felt by kids and their parents when big changes are afoot.

    The Black Star of Kingston by S.D. Smith (Children’s/Adult Book)
    Release Date: July 13, 2015

    Whitson Mariner and Fleck Blackstar face old fears and new enemies, forging a legend that will echo through the ages.  Old wars haunt. New enemies threaten. An oath is born.  A hero rises.

    Granddaddy’s Turn by Michael S. Bandy (Children’s Book)
    Release Date: July 14, 2015

    Based on the true story of one family’s struggle for voting rights in the civil rights–era South, this moving tale shines an emotional spotlight on a dark facet of U.S. history.

    Life on the farm with Granddaddy is full of hard work, but despite all the chores, Granddaddy always makes time for play, especially fishing trips. Even when there isn’t a bite to catch, he reminds young Michael that it takes patience to get what’s coming to you. One morning, when Granddaddy heads into town in his fancy suit, Michael knows that something very special must be happening?—?and sure enough, everyone is lined up at the town hall! For the very first time, Granddaddy is allowed to vote, and he couldn’t be more proud.

    Wait by Antoinette Portis (Children’s Book)
    Release Date: July 14, 2015

    As a boy and his mother move quickly through the city, they’re drawn to different things. The boy sees a dog, a butterfly, and a hungry duck while his mother rushes them toward the departing train. It’s push and pull, but in the end, they both find something to stop for.

    Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter (Children’s Book)
    Release Date: July 14, 2015

    An elderly African American woman, en route to vote, remembers her family’s tumultuous voting history in this picture book publishing in time for the fiftieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

    As Lillian, a one-hundred-year-old African American woman, makes a “long haul up a steep hill” to her polling place, she sees more than trees and sky—she sees her family’s history. She sees the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment and her great-grandfather voting for the first time. She sees her parents trying to register to vote. And she sees herself marching in a protest from Selma to Montgomery.

    Steve Jobs: Insanely Great by Jessie Hartland (Adult Book)
    Release Date: July 21, 2015

    This fast-paced and entertaining biography in graphic format is a perfect complement to more text-heavy books on Steve Jobs like Walter Isaacson’s biography. Presenting the story of the ultimate American entrepreneur, who brought us Apple Computer, Pixar, Macs, iPods, iPhones and more, this unique and stylish book is sure to appeal to the legions of readers who live and breathe the techno-centric world Jobs created.

    Jobs’s remarkable life reads like a history of the personal technology industry. He started Apple Computer in his parents’ garage and eventually became the tastemaker of a generation, creating products we can’t live without. Through it all, he was an overbearing and demanding perfectionist, both impossible and inspiring.

    8: An Animal Alphabet by Elisha Cooper (Children’s Book)
    Release Date: July 28, 2015

    Explore the animal world, from aardvark to zebu!

    Discover hundreds of animals, great and small. Lion and lizard, whale and wombat. Learn one wild fact about each animal. (Did you know that gorillas yawn when they are nervous?) Look carefully, because for each letter of the alphabet, one animal is pictured eight times. Why 8? Come inside and find out.

    What Pet Should I Get? by Dr. Seuss (Children’s Book)
    Release Date: July 28, 2015

    This never-ever-before-seen picture book by Dr. Seuss about making up one’s mind is the literary equivalent of buried treasure! What happens when a brother and sister visit a pet store to pick a pet? Naturally, they can’t choose just one! The tale captures a classic childhood moment—choosing a pet—and uses it to illuminate a life lesson: that it is hard to make up your mind, but sometimes you just have to do it!

    Told in Dr. Seuss’s signature rhyming style, this is a must-have for Seuss fans and book collectors.

    August 2015
    Get Out of My Bath! by Nosy Crow, Britta Teckentrup (Illustrator) (Children’s Book)
    Release Date: August 4, 2015

    Ellie the elephant loves to have fun in the bath, but she’s not the only one. Her fun is interrupted when a crocodile decides to join her, followed by a flamingo, then a mouse and even a tiger! Poor Ellie’s bath is ruined. What can she do? She sucks all the water into her trunk, of course! Then she waits until all the uninvited animals have left before squirting it back. Finally she can enjoy her bath in peace!

    The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt (Author), Oliver Jeffers (Illustrator) (Children’s Book)
    Release Date: August 18, 2015

    The companion to the #1 blockbuster bestseller, The Day the Crayons Quit!

    From Maroon Crayon, who was lost beneath the sofa cushions and then broken in two after Dad sat on him; to poor Turquoise, whose head is now stuck to one of Duncan’s stinky socks after they both ended up in the dryer together; to Pea Green, who knows darn well that no kid likes peas and who ran away—each and every crayon has a woeful tale to tell and a plea to be brought home to the crayon box.

    The Wonderful Things Will Be by Emily Martin (Children’s Book)
    Release Date: August 25, 2015

    From brave and bold to creative and clever, the rhythmic rhyme expresses all the loving things that parents think of when they look at their children. With beautiful, and sometimes humorous, illustrations, this is a book grown-ups will love reading over and over to kids—both young and old. A great gift for any occasion, but a special stand-out for baby showers, birthdays, and graduation. The Wonderful Things You Will Be has a loving and truthful message that will endure for lifetimes.

    Rising Strong by Brene Brown (Adult Book)
    Release Date: August 25, 2015

    Our stories of struggle can be big ones, like the loss of a job or the end of a relationship, or smaller ones, like a conflict with a friend or colleague. Regardless of magnitude or circumstance, the rising strong process is the same: We reckon with our emotions and get curious about what we’re feeling; we rumble with our stories until we get to a place of truth; and we live this process, every day, until it becomes a practice and creates nothing short of a revolution in our lives. Rising strong after a fall is how we cultivate wholeheartedness. It’s the process, Brown writes, that teaches us the most about who we are.

    September 2015
    The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz (Adult Book)
    Release Date: September 1, 2015

    This fall, Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist return in the highly anticipated follow-up to Stieg Larsson’s THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST

    In this adrenaline-charged thriller, genius-hacker Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist face a dangerous new threat and must again join forces.

    Late one night, Blomkvist receives a phone call from a trusted source claiming to have information vital to the United States. The source has been in contact with a young female super hacker–a hacker resembling someone Blomkvist knows all too well. The implications are staggering.

    The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield (Children’s Book)
    Release Date: September 1, 2015

    One day, a young bear stumbles upon something he has never seen before in the forest. As time passes, he teaches himself how to play the strange instrument, and eventually the beautiful sounds are heard by a father and son who are picnicking in the woods. The bear goes with them on an incredible journey to New York, where his piano playing makes him a huge star. He has fame, fortune and all the music in the world, but he misses the friends and family he has left behind. A moving tale of exploration and belonging from an exciting debut author-illustrator.

    October 2015

    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: The Illustrated Edition by J.K. Rowling (Children’s Book)
    Release Date:  October 6, 2015

    For the first time, J. K. Rowling’s beloved Harry Potter books will be presented in lavishly illustrated full-color editions. Kate Greenaway-award winning artist Jim Kay has created over 100 stunning illustrations, making this deluxe format a perfect gift as much for a child being introduced to the series, as for the dedicated fan.

    November 2015

    Diary of a Wimpy Kid Old School by Jeff Kinney (Children’s Book)
    Release Date: November 3, 2015

    Life was better in the old days. Or was it?

    That’s the question Greg Heffley is asking as his town voluntarily unplugs and goes electronics-free. But modern life has its conveniences, and Greg isn’t cut out for an old-fashioned world.

    With tension building inside and outside the Heffley home, will Greg find a way to survive? Or is going “old school” just too hard for a kid like Greg?

    January 2016

    Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass by Dean Robbins (Children’s Book)
    Release Date: January 5, 2016

    Two friends, Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, get together for tea and conversation. They recount their similar stories fighting to win rights for women and African Americans. The premise of this particular exchange between the two is based on a statue in their hometown of Rochester, New York, which shows the two friends having tea.

    Is there anything more splendid than a baby’s skin? For families of all stripes comes a sweet celebration of what makes us unique—and what holds us together.

    Just savor these bouquets of babies—cocoa-brown, cinnamon, peaches and cream. As they grow, their clever skin does too, enjoying hugs and tickles, protecting them inside and out, and making them one of a kind. Fran Manushkin’s rollicking text and Lauren Tobia’s delicious illustrations paint a breezy and irresistible picture of the human family—and how wonderful it is to be just who you are.

    A Birthday Cake for George Washington by Ramin Ganeshram (Children’s Book)
    Release Date: January 5, 2016 (Update: 1/18/2016 – Scholastic has pulled this book from publication.)

    Everyone is buzzing about the president’s birthday! Especially George Washington’s servants, who scurry around the kitchen preparing to make this the best celebration ever. Oh, how George Washington loves his cake! And, oh, how he depends on Hercules, his head chef, to make it for him. Hercules, a slave, takes great pride in baking the president’s cake. But this year there is one problem–they are out of sugar.

    Your turn:  Which books from this list are you most looking forward to?  Did I miss any upcoming books?  Feel free to let me know in the comments.

    children's literacy, reading tips

    Raising Readers: How I Taught My Two-Year Old Daughter to Read

    How did you teach your two-year old daughter to read?

    This is a question I’ve been asked several times over the past few months.  My answer is always the same…I didn’t.  I fully intended on teaching her how to read as I wanted to be the one to do it, but since she reads well on her own I may not even have to do this.

    how I taught my child to read

    Not many people know that my daughter can read as it’s not something I go around telling others.  I’ve noticed sometimes people think you’re bragging or maybe even lying, when in fact you’re just happy and proud.  Therefore, only a handful of people have been privy to my daughter’s reading skills.

    Education has always been extremely important to me.  When I was a child I used to always say I wanted to be a teacher when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Well, when I finally “grew up” I changed my mind and decided on the computer field instead.  Perhaps some day I’ll be a college professor and finally have the opportunity to fulfill my dreams of teaching.  For now, I’ll settle as being my children’s first teacher.

    I knew even before I had children that I didn’t want to their learning left entirely up to the public school system.  I make it a point to supplement whatever they are learning in daycare or school with my own teachings by making it fun.

    Here are some things that worked really well for us in helping my daughter to read:

    • Talking to my daughter telling her what we were doing. “I’m putting your pink dress on you. Here it goes over your head. Now, let’s put on your socks. Here’s your left foot. On goes the white sock.”  You’d be surprised how much kids appreciate it when you talk to them about their daily activities.  Now, my daughter will often ask me, “What are we doing today, mommy?” and I tell her our plans for the day.
    • Starting at six months I used index cards and labeled furniture, toys, television, tables, mirrors, stairs, refrigerator, doors, etc. Nearly everything in our house was labeled and I would take the time to “read” the words as we walked by them.
    • Lots of exposure to the alphabet in the form of singing songs and reading alphabet books. We read the same ones over and over and over.  This also helped her learn the sounds each of the letters make.
    • Exposure to traditional nursery rhymes and poems in the form of books and songs.  I chose books that had lots of colored pictures, pointing out any objects and words as I read them.
    • Reading books aloud daily for at least 15 – 30 minutes since birth.  I keep several books in rotation each month reading them over and over again.  Then at the end of the month I pick out a new set of books to read for the next month.
    • Making frequent visits to the library.  We go weekly to pick out new books, for story time, playgroups, etc.
    • Teaching and practicing sign language since birth.  She knows several signs as well as the letters of the alphabet in sign language.
    • Doing sight word and alphabet activities together including craft projects.
    • Alphabet puzzles, alphabet mats, sandpaper letters, and alphabet foam letters from the Dollar Store.
    • Reading my own books in front of the kids.  The children see me reading often.

    Around the age of 18 months I noticed my daughter had become smitten with the alphabet.  She was always singing the ABC song and she only wanted me to read her alphabet books.  By the age of two, (24 months) she could recite several sight words and started taking more of an interest in words and what they said.My daughter is now almost 3 years old (33 months) and she can read several easy reader books on her own.  At first, I thought she was just reciting the books we owned from memory because she knew them so well.  However, I realized that wasn’t the case when I started giving her easy reader books to read that she’d never seen before.  That’s when I realized…my baby can read!  She can actually read!  And I’m not talking just those beginner reading books that contain sentences like, “Pat sat on her mat” and “See the fox run.”I guess all my hard work is paying off.  I am raising readers!  Of course, she’s still very much in the beginning stages of reading, but she’s off to a great start!

    Here are a few other things to note:

    • I try to foster a love of reading and books.
    • I try to take advantage of teachable moments no matter where we are: the grocery store, the library, driving in the car, the playground.
    • I do not try to push my own style of learning onto my daughter.  Instead, I notice what she responds to (i,e., music) and just go with it.
    • I do not drill my daughter with flash cards or worksheets.  I think flash cards and worksheets are great, but this is not my approach.
    • I do not pressure my daughter to learn.
    • I try to make things fun like a game so it doesn’t seem like a chore or a hassle.
    • I do not try to compartmentalize learning into just one time of the day.
    • I do not get upset if she doesn’t learn or understand something; instead I set it aside and try again another time usually in a couple of weeks.
    • I do not try to make my daughter sit still; instead, I keep learning active.  Our bodies are meant to be in motion.  I let my daughter get up and move around if she wants to.
    I plan to follow this same approach with my 18-month old son.  He’s already showing signs of following in his sister’s footsteps.  I look forward to seeing if he learns to read on his own the same way my daughter did.
    Your turn:  What has helped your child learn to read?  Feel free to let me know your tips in the comments.
    adult books, currently reading

    What I’m Reading (in July 2015)

    Summer is officially here and I couldn’t be happier.  I’m looking forward to days of warm weather, long, lazy afternoons and gentle breezes with lots of sunshine.

    Welcome summer, I’m so happy you’re here.  Let the summer of reading commence!

    Below are the three books I plan to read in July.

    Status: Finished


    This book has been on my list of books to read since it came out earlier this year.  I’m a huge fan of Issa Rae.  I used to watch The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl web series on YouTube religiously in its early days.  I am excited to read her memoir and learn more about how she got her start especially now since she recently had the opportunity to meet my role model, Oprah.  I love to read about successful, empowered women.


    Status:  Finished


    When she discovered ballet, Misty was living in a shabby motel room, struggling with her five siblings for a place to sleep on the floor. A true prodigy, she was dancing en pointe within three months of taking her first dance class and performing professionally in just over a year: a feat unheard of for any classical dancer. But when Misty became caught between the control and comfort she found in the world of ballet and the harsh realities of her own life (culminating in a highly publicized custody battle), she had to choose to embrace both her identity and her dreams, and find the courage to be one of a kind.

    Life in Motion is an insider’s look at the cutthroat world of professional ballet, as well as a moving story of passion and grace for anyone who has dared to dream of a different life.

    Status:  Finished

    Big Little Lies by Lane Moriarty

    Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

    Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

    Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

    New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

    Your turn:  What books do you have in your queue for the month of July?  Have you read any of these books already?  Feel free to let me know in the comments.
    blog updates

    We’re Moving!

    Exciting news….we’re moving!

    No, we’re not selling our house and moving out of the state (not yet anyway).  We’re moving off of Blogger and on to our own public domain.  Why?  Because it was one of goals for this blog in 2015.

    I wanted to put this post out before the move happens so you can have a heads up in order to update any bookmarks you may have saved to this blog.

    Our new website url will be so if you are trying to find our blog check there as this one is going away in early July.

    In addition to this exciting news, I have two other “secrets” I’ll be sharing with you in the coming weeks.  P.S. They are both related to the blog.

    Stay Tuned!

    read aloud, summer reading

    94 Days of Summer: 4 Books I’m Reading Aloud to Kick Off Summer

    In addition to being Father’s Day, this Sunday is the official start of summer — the longest day of the year known as the summer solstice.

    Summer is by far my favorite season and I look forward to it every year.  Did you know the June summer solstice date usually varies from June 20 – June 22nd?  For example, it’s on June 21 this year, but on June 20 in 2016.  A June 22 solstice will not occur until 2203. The last time there was a June 22 solstice was in 1971 – wow!

    In honor the longest day of the year, I picked up four books to read aloud to the kids this weekend.

    I think this is an awesome non-fiction book that has well-written explanations and vibrant illustrations.  The Longest Day provides answers to many questions about the summer solstice: its definition, how ancient cultures have interpreted and celebrated it, to current solemnizations.  This book also contains suggested readings and websites and activities for children to celebrate the sun’s longest day of the year.  I believe it’s best suited for children ages 6 – 10, but can be read aloud to children of all ages.
    Llama Llama Sand & Sun by Anna Dewdney
    We are huge Llama Llama (and Nelly Gnu) fans so when this book came out a few weeks ago I had to snatch it up from the library.  It’s a touch-and-feel tactile board book and quick read so not that advanced for older children.  Very cute book though about Llama Llama and his mama spending the day at the beach.The Night Before Summer Vacation by Natasha Wing

    Ahhh…who doesn’t love a summer vacation?  I know I do!  I could definitely use one right about now.  In this book, a little girl and her family are getting ready to go on vacation . . . or at least they are trying to.  In the effort to pack everything that will be needed, there’s bound to be something overlooked.  The rhyming text and colorful illustrations make this a fun book to read aloud.  A cute twist on Clement Moore’s classic book, The Night Before Christmas.


    Harry likes to play hide-and-seek, but it’s hard to hide a hippo!  When Harry and his friends are at the beach, they always play their favorite game, hide-and-seek. In a hammock, under a sand castle, or behind a palm tree — there are so many places for Harry to hide. Or try to, at least!  I think this is a cute book for babies and toddlers who enjoy a good game of peek-a-boo.

    After you finish reading to your little ones, perhaps you’d like to do an activity to celebrate the summer solstice.  Below are a few ideas you may want to try.

    Summer Solstice Extension Activities

    Plant Sunflowers:  Planting on the solstice will remind you how essential the sun is for growth.

    Draw/Paint Pictures of the Sun:  Creating sun prints invites you to capture beautiful images using the power of the sun.

    Brew Sun Tea: Brewing sun tea gives you the taste of summer in a glass.  Drink up!

    Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there and Happy Summer in advance!

    Your turn:  Have you read any of these books to your children?  Feel free to let me know in the comments.

    family fun, our latest obsession

    Our Latest Obsession: Tenzi!

    In our family, Sunday is reserved for Family Day.  It’s the one day of the week we make it a point to spend quality time together doing family-friendly activities.  A few weeks ago, I started looking for different games we could play as a family and I stumbled upon Tenzi.  This gem is great for the entire family to play.  Yes, even daddy gets in on the fun – score!

    What Is Tenzi?
    Tenzi is our absolute favorite family game right now.  It’s is a fast paced dice game that can literally keep you entertained for hours. It’s easy for kids of all ages to participate and our family has crazy fun when we play.  Sparkles seems to understand the concept of the game, but Mr. Tickles is too young to know what’s going on.  He just gets a kick out of throwing his dice around!

    Each player has their own set of colored dice.  When the game starts, everyone starts rolling their dice as fast as they can. With each roll, a player may choose to keep a certain number. Once they have all 10 dice on the same number, that player will shout “Tenzi!” declaring them the winner of the game. The other players continue rolling until they’ve all gotten 10 matching dice.  There are lots of variations, which are included in the instructions, and we enjoy all of them. It’s a race against chance and everyone is dying to yell “Tenzi!” before anybody else does.

    I know you’re probably thinking – “That’s it?!” Yes, that’s it – sort of. Because the play is so fast and furious (and close), you find yourself wanting to play “just one more round”. You can run through multiple rounds in just a few minutes.  Oh yeah, and once you’ve mastered Tenzi, there are a few other game options mentioned in the instructions, like “Splitzi” where you must now get five of one number and five of another to win.

    Still confused?  Watch this video below to see Tenzi in action.

    A very worthwhile addition to Tenzi is an expansion card deck 77 Ways to Play Tenzi.  I’ve read the games on the cards open up so many more creative ways to use the Tenzi dice!  We didn’t purchase the expansion card deck, but we may if we ever decide to spice up the game a bit.

    Sunday afternoons and game nights have been a lot more fun lately since we started playing Tenzi!

    Your turn:  What are your family’s favorite games? Have you ever played Tenzi before?  How and when does your family play together?  Feel free to let me know in the comments.