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    children's books, children's literacy, read aloud, reading tips

    Celebrate National Literacy Month with FREE Resources from Reading Is Fundamental

    Every year in the month of September we acknowledge and celebrate National Literacy Month.  In honor of National Literacy Month and kids heading back to school, Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) and Macy’s recently announced the launch of free resources and digital tools to support the fight against the national literacy crisis. Together, RIF and Macy’s are working to empower parents and educators with free resources that will help them meet the needs of children, foster their love of reading and learning, and provide students with the fundamental building blocks for success that literacy provides.

    Source: Reading is Fundamental

    This year’s support of National Literacy Month encompasses supplemental classroom materials for the whole family and resources for literacy advocates, parents and caregivers. Students, teachers, home school educators, and parents can take advantage of FREE literacy extension activities to go along with children’s books.  The selection of books featured on the website is very diverse so there’s something for everyone to enjoy!


    They also have additional resources including:

    • games
    • lesson plans
    • coloring sheets
    • video and other interactive media
    • reading passages
    • word searches
    • memory match puzzles
    • word search worksheets
    • read alouds
    • daily book bites
    • author interviews

    Reading is Fundamental (RIF) currently has over 14,000 books in their database to choose from.  To access their online book database and the resources go their Home page and then select ‘Find a Book’.  Once you’ve selected your book, click on either the cover image or link to see the available resources to go along with the book.  They truly have a treasure trove of excellent diverse children books to choose from including books for teens!

    Literacy Central includes a plethora of other valuable resources including: a literacy tracker, reading log, interactive activity calendars and more!   Check it out to take advantage of these free resources to help enhance story time and a child’s reading life.

    Your turn: Did you find these resources to be helpful?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    children's books, children's literacy

    Vooks: The First-Ever Streaming Service Bringing Children’s Books to Life + A FREE Year of Vooks for Educators

    Disclaimer: My family received a free one-year subscription from Vooks to review and enjoy with our family in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

    Have you heard about Vooks yet?  It’s the first-ever streaming service that brings children’s books to life with animated illustrations, read-along text and narrated stories. The best part?  It’s kid-safe since their library is filled with stories created specifically for children, for kids ages 2-8.

    Readers can enjoy Vooks on roadtrips, airplanes or in the comfort of their own home.  Vooks can be used anyplace where you have access to an Internet connection.  Additionally, Vooks may be used offline by viewing with mobile apps which allow children to enjoy their favorite stories even without an Internet connection!

    What I like best about Vooks is that it doesn’t contain any ads or inappropriate content.  It’s a safe alternative for kids’ screen time and is filled exclusively with animated versions of some of the most well-known and loved children’s books like: School’s First Day of School, Grace for President, Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site and more!  Additional titles are constantly being added to the platform regularly.  I also like that Vooks takes the time to work directly with the top publishers, authors, and illustrators around the world.

    Vooks has lots of love and appreciation for educators, so they want to show that by offering teachers/educators a FREE year of Vooks.  Yes, you heard me right!  Teachers and educators can access Vooks for one year totally FREE.  To take advantage of this amazing offer use my referral link to sign up AND get your FREE gift.  Easy, peasy!  Hurry, this offer expires on September 15, 2019 so take advantage of it before you miss out!

    Your turn:  Will you check out Vooks and see what they have to offer?  Do you like the idea of having an ad-free streaming service for kids?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    children's literacy, read aloud

    World Read Aloud Day: Share Your Love of Reading Globally + Fun Ways to Celebrate

    February 1st is World Read Aloud Day.  It’s a day that motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words and creates a community of readers taking action to show the world that the right to literacy belongs to all people. Each year World Read Aloud Day is celebrated by millions of people in more than 100 countries thanks to people like you who participate and spread the word across the globe!  World Read Aloud Day is presented by global literacy nonprofit LitWorld and sponsored by Scholastic.

    Why Reading Aloud Matters

    There have been countless studies that have proven the many benefits of reading.  When it comes to children, the ideal time to begin sharing books with children is during infancy, even as young as six weeks old (or sooner). From early on, children should own books, be read to often and see others reading and writing.  Children are rapidly learning language.  They often quadruple the number of words they know between the ages of 1-2.  Therefore, as parents and caregivers it’s crucial to read aloud with them often to increase their vocabulary.

    Have you ever noticed children who aren’t as articulate as others when they reach the age of 2 or 3?  From that alone, I can usually tell the kids who are being read to at home versus the ones who aren’t.  Either they are being read to OR they have frequent back and forth interaction with a loving caregiver.

    Fun Fact: Reading 15 minutes per day exposes children to over 1,000,000 words per year!  Reading 15 minutes every day for 5 years is 27,375 minutes.  Daily reading is enough to make a difference.  That’s why reading aloud matters especially now in a world where so many kids are exposed to screens on a daily basis.

    Fun Ways to Celebrate World Read Aloud Day

    One of the great things about World Read Aloud Day is connecting with other like-minded book lovers globally across the world.  It’s so interesting to follow the hashtag #WorldReadAloudDay to see how other libraries, educators, parents and children are celebrating the day.

    Here are a few ways you can celebrate and participate:

    • If you’re an educator or librarian, arrange to have a Skype session or in-person visit with an author or illustrator
    • Educators can arrange a Skype session with another classroom in a different state or country.  Both classes can take turns reading aloud a book (or a short chapter from a book)
    • Make your own Reading Crown using a brown paper bag.  So cute and fun!
    • Print and color your own Bookmarks!
    • Organize a book drive and donate collected books to a local organization or school in need
    • Make a monetary donation to LitWorld or another organization that promotes the importance of reading
    • Attend a read aloud event in your community or at a local library or bookstore!
    • Donate books you no longer want or need to a local organization, pediatric office, Little Free Library or shelter
    • Read aloud a stack of 2 – 5 picture books at home with smaller kids or read aloud a couple of chapters together with older kids
    • Incorporate technology and use read aloud apps like: Epic, One More Story, and Storyline Online
    • Follow along on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using the hashtags #wrad19 or #WorldReadAloudDay

    You can join in the fun of the World Read Aloud Day movement by registering on litworld.org/wrad.  On the website you’ll also find some helpful resources including a book list and activity packet to use at home or in your classroom.  To learn more about World Read Aloud Day visit litworld.org/wrad and scholastic.com/WorldReadAloudDay.  On social media, join the conversation and post videos or pictures using #WorldReadAloudDay.  Connect with LitWorld on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook.

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    children's literacy, eeboo, parenting, read aloud, reading tips, storytelling

    4 Ways To Enhance Story Time With Kids

    Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post.  All of the products mentioned here were purchased with our own money.

    It’s no secret that reading aloud to kids has been recognized as the single most important activity that leads to literacy acquisition.  Now, reading aloud may seem simple, especially if the children you’re reading to are infants and aren’t as mobile or easily distracted as some older kids.  I’ve learned from reading with my own children and reading in front of various groups of kids that it’s not always so easy to keep them engaged.

    Having a memorable story time experience sometimes requires you to be able to catch – and hold –a child’s attention from start to finish.  This includes everything from ensuring you choose meaningful books with intention (before story time even begins) to any possible extension/craft activities you may do after the story is over.

    Below I’ve shared four different ways I like to enhance story time at home with my own children.  But before we jump right into those, let me also share a few other things I like to keep in mind prior to reading books with my kids.  Note: I DO NOT always have time to do all of these things because sometimes life gets in the way.  Am I right?  However, if I have time to prepare ahead then I will follow these steps.

    1. Select a small pile of books to read for story time.  If it’s a book we’ve never read with them before I’ll write a brief and catchy 1-2 sentence introduction to let the kids know (briefly) what the book is about.  Of course, doing this requires you to read or skim it beforehand.

    2. Write a brief list of open-ended questions I may want to ask the kids as follow-up questions once the story is over.  See my first enhancement tip (reading comprehension cubes) below for a simple way to do this if you can’t think of any questions on your own.

    3. Have an extension/craft activity ready for the kids to do together after the story is over.  I usually choose simple activities that relate to the book(s) in some way.

    Here are the four ways I enhance story time when reading aloud with my kids:

    1. Reading Comprehension Cubes by Learning Resources
    We’ve had these story time cubes for a while now and they are always a hit with my kids!  They really help us have a deeper discussion about the story afterwards.  These cubes offer a total of 3 dozen different questions to test, challenge, and enhance your kids’ comprehension of the books they read.

    Simple roll the red cubes for questions before reading. Toss the blue cubes for questions about the story in progress. Roll the green cubes for questions after reading.

    2. Mindfulness Activities Before and After Story Time

    These mindfulness cards are so fun for doing things like “shaking out the sillies” before story time or taking a few deep breaths afterwards.

    This boxed card deck includes 50 creative mindfulness games, visualizations and exercises divided into 5 categories to help children feel grounded, find calm, improve focus, practice loving-kindness and relax.

    3. Tell Me a Story Cards from eeBoo

    I’ve mentioned these cards before on the blog, (click here to read) but they are worth mentioned again.

    Tell Me a Story Creative Story Cards.  These cards are my “secret weapon” I use when I want an alternative to reading books and they are perfect for honing my storytelling skills.  Recommended for ages 3 and up, the deck of 36 beautifully illustrated cards assist children in creating their own stories.

    An endless number of stories are possible by placing any number of the cards in any order. Short stories, long stories, kids create a new story every time they shuffle the deck. The whole family can make a game out of the cards, by taking turns picking cards and telling a story together. Parents, grandparents and teachers will find the cards useful as an aid in their own storytelling.

    To use the cards, you simply lay as many as you want out in front of you in an order that tells your story.

    4. Use educational flashcards like ABC Me Flashcards (or another set of flashcards you enjoy).

    Designed to be used in a myriad of ways, ABC Me Flashcards are illustrated in vibrant colors with easy to understand wording on the back. They begin with the alphabet but A isn’t for apple. This time, A is for Africa. And so from A to Z or from Africa to Zora Neal Hurston, younger children can learn their ABC’s and older children can use the same cards to learn about their history.

    I like to pair these with non-fiction picture or early chapter books when reading aloud with the kids.  They help make a connection with the person or event we’re reading about in a fun way.


    These are just a few examples of how you can keep your young audience engaged during story time.  I hope you find these tips helpful to help get you started and to put your best foot forward if you want to enhance story time.

    Your turn: What other tips would you add to this list?  How do you enhance story time with kids?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    children's literacy, children's magazines, storytelling

    A Quality Advertisement-Free Magazine for Children? Yes, Please! (Storytime Magazine Review + Discount)

    Disclaimer:  We were sent copies of Storytime Magazine for the purpose of this review, however as always, all opinions expressed are my own.

    Two years ago, I was introduced to Storytime Magazine and wrote a review here on the blog.  I’m pleased to share Storytime Magazine has managed to stick to their strict rule of not including any advertisements or plastic toys.  It’s still the same quality, thought-provoking and entertaining content they had since their initial publication!

    Storytime Magazine is one of the UK’s biggest subscription magazines for kids of all ages which is also available to subscribers worldwide. It’s packed with fairy tales, new stories, funny poems, myths & legends, gorgeous illustrations, puzzles, games and much more!

    Every issue of Storytime features classic, new and much-loved stories with beautiful original illustrations, plus storytelling tips and activities to help you bring our stories to life. You can read our stories out loud to your children or, as they get older or grow more confident, you can encourage them to read to you, depending on their reading level.

    I’m pleased with the amount of diversity featured in many of their magazines.  Although you will find some classic stories and fairy tales like Mother Goose, they also offer tales from around the world like Zuleika’s Gift featuring a little girl from Saudia Arabia.  Issue 46 also has a mythical story called The Eight-Headed Dragon which takes place in Japan.  Issue 42 has a beautiful African (Zulu) story about a woman named Manzandaba ho was married to a man named Zenzele.  There are even sidenotes that explain some vocabulary words and provide additional background information.  For example, it tells you how to say the phrase ‘Once upon a time’ the Zulu way which is ‘Kwasuka sukela’.

    Just like reading books, magazines play an important role in improving childhood literacy.  Experts now agree that including them in the reading mix, alongside books, is crucial – especially for those children who feel overwhelmed when facing a whole book.  Each issue of Storytime Magazine is like getting seven brilliant books in one! Every month you get six magical stories for kids plus one or two poems, all beautifully illustrated on high quality, glossy paper.

    Storytime Magazine also offers FREE printable downloads – masks, fingers puppets, recipes and games – to use in conjunction with the magazine and in school lessons.  Simply go to their website and download the printable templates to use with your little readers.  We enjoyed designing and decorating our own sandcastles using the Sandcastle Challenge Sheet (issue 48) and playing the Help a Hen game (issue 47).

    It’s also worth mentioning that although this magazine is made for children of all ages, I think it’s best suited to be read aloud with children during story time.  That’s especially true for younger readers between ages birth to 6 years.  Although the stories are great, each one takes up at least 3-6 pages in the magazine, depending on the story.  As children get older and learn to read, they will be able to read the magazine on their own without much assistance.  We like to read this magazine a little at a time over the course of a few days.  Some days we’ll read some of the stories or poems and other days we’ll do one of the activities.  I find it’s a nice way to mix it up and enjoy it without trying to read the whole thing in one or two sittings.

    Is there a discount?
    Storytime Magazine is currently offering Here Wee Read readers and subscribers worldwide a 10 % discount off their annual price for 12 issues.  There is also an option to just order 4 of their most recent issues.  Click here for the discount and to see their different pricing options based on your region.

    Connect with Storytime Magazine!
    WebsiteFacebookTwitter | Pinterest

    Your turn: Have you read this magazine with your little readers yet?  If not, are you excited to check it out?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    adult books, children's books, children's literacy, young adult books

    Celebrate National Read a Book Day with PBS the Great American Read

    National Read A Book Day is observed annually on September 6th.  It’s a day that invites us ALL to grab a book we might enjoy and spend the day reading (as many hours of reading you can spare).  National Read a Book Day is the perfect time to revisit your favorite novel or maybe finish that book you started, but put down months ago.  So mark your calendars now you don’t miss out on all the bookish fun!

    Today I partnered with PBS to remind you about National Read a Book Day (September 6th) and the return of the hit show The Great American Read (September 11th).

    Throughout the summer, the multi-platform PBS initiative THE GREAT AMERICAN READ has been encouraging people across America to read as many books as possible from its list of America’s 100 Favorite Novels and to vote for their favorites. While many readers find great joy in becoming immersed in a beloved book, busy schedules can prove a challenge for making time for pleasure reading. To assist those who need help making the most of their reading time, PBS’ THE GREAT AMERICAN READ has partnered with the Library of Congress to offer tips on how to make reading an essential and beloved part of a daily routine.

    THE GREAT AMERICAN READ aims to provide a place for all Americans to discuss the books that they love; books that have inspired, moved and shaped them in one way or another,” said Bill Gardner, Vice President of Programming & Development for PBS. “Through this eight-part series and associated events and activities taking place in communities throughout the country, we hope to help readers fall in love with the act of reading all over again whether that’s through discovering new titles or revisiting favorites from the past.”

    “We all have busy lives, and while many people want to read more for pleasure, they feel like they just don’t have time for it,” said Becky Brasington Clark, Director of Publishing at the Library of Congress. “The fact that we have such hectic schedules is even more reason why we need to make time for reading; it’s one of the most effective ways to detach your mind from the stresses of daily life.”

    Summer is a perfect time to develop better reading habits, since people often have vacations planned that result in more leisure time. It’s important, however, that these habits carry over into daily routines when vacation is over and fall rolls around. Here are some reading tips from Clark and the Young Readers Center at the Library of Congress to build reading into your daily life throughout the year:

    • Make the most of spare minutes sprinkled through your day. Keep a book with you so you can read it whenever you have an extra minute or two. They really add up.
    • If you have trouble putting down your phone, put a book on it. Read a few pages instead of checking social media.
    • If the weather is amenable, read outdoors! In the yard, at the bus station, under a tree, or at a museum, reading outdoors engages all of your senses and helps improve your mood.
    • Try downloading free apps from your public library so you can borrow e-books and audio books.

    Reading on the move:

    • Whether you’re going on an end of summer vacation or staying in town, make sure a visit to a bookstore or library is on your itinerary. Pick up a book. Read the jacket copy. Flip through the pages. If it grabs your interest – grab it!
    • If your phone is in “airplane” mode, that’s a sure sign that you should be reading a book. Put a book in your carry on – your time in the air and in the airport will be much more rewarding.
    • Family time in the car, whether that’s commuting to school or going to an activity, is also a great time to listen to an audio book.

    Choosing what to read:

    • Can’t find something new you want to read? Re-read a favorite. You’ll be surprised by the new discoveries found in an old favorite.
    • Embrace your not-so-guilty pleasures. It doesn’t have to be Tolstoy or Joyce – reading for enjoyment should be, well, enjoyable! Grab what you like and dig in. Sci-Fi? Check. Comic books? Yep. Graphic novels? Roger that.
    • Join reading challenges, such as Reading Without Walls by Gene Luen Yang, the former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Also, peruse lists of award-winning books on topics and perspectives that interest you.

    Reading with the kids:

    • Pick a book to read out loud together as a family activity. Take turns reading. Act out the parts. Use funny voices. Have some fun playing, reading, writing, talking and singing with the young members of your family.
    • Read your favorite childhood novel to your kids! Your child is never too young or too old to enjoy listening to a book being read out loud.
    • It’s all about choice. The more formats and books your child can choose from, the more likely they are to develop a lifelong love of reading. Show that reading is a part of life by your example, and always give them opportunities to self-select. Respect their choices and, together, enjoy what they enjoy.

    THE GREAT AMERICAN READ launched on April 20 with the release of America’s list of 100 favorite novels as chosen by a demographically and statistically representative survey (the full list is available at pbs.org/greatamericanread). A two-hour launch special hosted by Meredith Vieira premiered on PBS stations on May 22. The series will return this fall on Tuesday, September 11 at 8:00 p.m. (check local listings) to continue its search for “America’s Best-Loved Novel.”

    The initiative is supported by an extensive multi-platform digital and social media campaign designed to inspire Americans to read, vote and share their personal connections to titles on the top 100 list and beyond over the course of the summer. Since voting began during the two-hour launch episode, avid readers across the country have cast more than two million votes for their favorite books. For more information on how to vote, visit https://www.pbs.org/the-great-american-read/vote/.

    As part of the campaign, more than two dozen local public television stations across the country have planned over 125 community engagement activities, including book clubs, author appearances and readings, screening events, book-themed family activities and more. The Library of Congress will host the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 1, and attendees will be able to engage with THE GREAT AMERICAN READ.

    About PBS

    PBS, with nearly 350 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and digital content. Each month, PBS reaches over 90 million people through television and 30 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’ broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. Decades of research confirms that PBS’ premier children’s media service, PBS KIDS, helps children build critical literacy, math and social-emotional skills, enabling them to find success in school and life. Delivered through member stations, PBS KIDS offers high-quality educational content on TV – including a 24/7 channel, online at pbskids.org, via an array of mobile apps and in communities across America. More information about PBS is available at www.pbs.org, one of the leading dot-org websites on the internet, or by following PBS on TwitterFacebook or through our apps for mobile and connected devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at pbs.org/pressroom or by following PBS Pressroom on Twitter.

    Your turn: Do you plan to celebrate National Read a Book Day?  Will you be tuning in for the return of The Great American Read?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    book reviews, children's books, children's literacy, read aloud

    Sisters and Champions: The True Story of Venus and Serena Williams (A Book Review)

    Sisters and Champions: The True Story of Venus and Serena Williams by Howard Bryant, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

    Synopsis
    Everyone knows the names Venus & Serena Williams. They’ve become synonymous with championships, hard work, and with shaking up the tennis world. This inspirational true story, written by award-winning sports journalist, Howard Bryant, and brought to beautiful life by Coretta Scott Kind Award and Honor winner, Floyd Cooper, details the sisters’ journey from a barely-there tennis court in Compton, CA, to Olympic gold medals and becoming the #1 ranked women in the sport of tennis. Here is a worthy ode to Venus and Serena Williams, the incredible sister duo who will go down in history as two of the greatest athletes of all time.

    Reflection

    Every time I read this book it moves me to tears. Not because it’s a sad story, because it fills my heart with so much joy and inspires me to keep on pushing and grinding despite any odds, haters or obstacles I may face.

    Venus and Serena’s tennis careers began before they could even hold a racquet properly at the tender age of 3. Their father, Richard Williams a former sharecropper from Louisiana, knew from the day he put tennis racquets in their hands they would be known as the greatest tennis duo in the world. Others laughed whenever Richard would talk about it.

    Sisters and Champions gives you an inside glimpse into the lives of tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams. You learn about some challenges they overcame (like racism and health issues) and their many impressive victories.  Floyd Cooper’s vivid and gorgeous illustrations really complement the story so well.

    I love how the girls’ parents took a gamble by putting everything they had on making tennis stars out of their daughters. All of their hard work and dedication eventually paid off…big time! In February 2002, Venus was ranked number one in the world. Six months later, it was Serena’s turn to be number one. It is the only time in history two siblings were ranked first and second in the world.

    Check this one out if you want to read about Venus and Serena’s story, if you need a dose of inspiration, or if you have any aspiring little tennis players in your life. Makes a nice addition to any home or school library. Now available wherever books are sold. Recommended for ages 4-8 and up.

    “It’s not about winning today, it’s about winning tomorrow. You’re building your game.” -Richard Williams

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