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:
video and other interactive media
memory match puzzles
word search worksheets
daily book bites
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Viral video sensation and social activist, Sarai Gonzalez has teamed up with award-winning author Monica Brown to create a new illustrated chapter book series influenced by Gonzalez’s life. Sarai initially became popular back in 2016 when she “broke the internet” with a music video for Colombian band Bomba Estéreo for the song “Soy Yo” (“I’m Me”). The video has a contagious Latin rhythm and strong lyrics emphasizing self-love and diversity. The video garnered over 30 million views and the New York Times called Sarai a Latina icon.
Sarai Gonzalez is AWESOME. Fourth grader Sarai Gonzalez can do anything. She can bake, dance, and run her own cupcake business, Sarai’s Sweets. Sarai is a spunky little girl with a kind heart and big dreams.
My kids and I truly enjoyed reading both of these chapter books over the course of a few weeks as read aloud stories. We liked how much Sarai loves her family, her Peruvian and Costa Rican culture and her willingness to help her family and friends when needed. We found this chapter book series to be very fun and upbeat to read!
I also appreciated having a few Spanish words sprinkled throughout both books as well as a few Peruvian references like the word “Tata”, which means grandfather. Emerging readers would have no problem reading the text on their own, with some help needed from a grown-up every now and again. Overall, we adore little Sarai, her friends and tight knit Latinx family. A great series for emerging readers ages 7 and up.
About Sarai Gonzalez
Eleven-year-old Sarai Gonzalez became an overnight sensation after appearing in Bomba Estero’s, “Soy Yo,” a music video about embracing yourself and loving your flaws. Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome is the first book in her new chapter book series inspired by her life. Sarai lives in New Jersey with her family.
About Monica Brown
Monica Brown is the award-winning author of super-awesome books for children, including The Lola Levine chapter book series, Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/no combina, Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos, and Waiting for the Biblioburro. She is Professor of English at Northern Arizona University, specializing in Latinx and African American Literature. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her husband and her dogs, Lola and Finn. Visit her at www.monicabrown.net.
Your turn: Have you checked out this series yet? Feel free to share in the comments.
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
When a family member goes to war, the impact on those left at home can be challenging. In fact, the entire cycle of deployment can be a very painful and frightening time, particularly for children. Raising children in the military isn’t easy, but books can help youth and their families cope when a parent is deployed. Military must deal with the same issues other parents face, but they also have to grapple with challenges that directly relate to a military life.
Did you know that May is National Military Appreciation Month (NMAM)? In 1999, Congress selected the month of May because it contains more national observances in honor of the armed forces than any other month. NMAM’s aim is to “reflect upon the sacrifices made by members of the United States Armed Forces and to show appreciation for such service.”
National Military Appreciation Month is the perfect opportunity to express our gratitude and to salute those who are currently serving or have served in the military. I’ve gathered a list of children’s books to read with little readers throughout the month of May. All of the books listed have a military or war theme in some way. In addition, I’ve included a few ways adults and children can show their appreciation this month to honor our veterans and active duty members.
National Military Appreciation Month is an ideal time to salute our American heroes and thank them for their sacrifices. Be sure to show your gratitude to our servicemen and servicewomen this month and every month of the year!
Many people know that Jackie Robinson was the first Black baseball player who broke the color barrier by joining the Brooklyn Dodgers. But did you know he got in trouble for not sitting on the back of the bus BEFORE Rosa Parks? The United States v. Jackie Robinson is an amazing nonfiction picture biography that depicts a lesser known time in Jackie Robinson’s life serving in the military.
Wind Flyers by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Loren Long
This is a story about a young boy and his great-great uncle who was a wind flyer with the Tuskegee Airmen – the often under celebrated World War II heroes.
The uncle’s life is recounted from his childhood through his time spent with the Air Force in Alabama. This is not a nonfiction book based on a particular person, but rather a poetic story about the men who served with the 332nd Tuskegee Airmen. Apart from the illustrations, I love the fact that this book is lyrically written and not too wordy. Perfect for keeping smaller children up to age 9 engaged in the story. Check this one out for your airplane loving toddlers, preschoolers or elementary little readers.
My Sailor Dad is a beautifully illustrated book that does a great job explaining Navy terminology to kids. Children are likely to understand what it’s like when a parent or loved one is out to sea. This book also includes people of different cultural backgrounds and can appeal to either boys or girls.
Maya Lin is Asian-American architect, designer, and artist. This nonfiction picture book biography gives young readers a glimpse into Maya’s childhood and explains the creative process she used to design the Vietnam War Memorial. There is so much to learn about perseverance, art, history and standing up for yourself.
Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops by Jill Biden, illustrated by Raúl Colón A heartwarming and powerful story about a young girl named Natalie who misses her father while he is deployed in Iraq. It’s based on Jill Biden’s granddaughter Natalie’s own personal experience during her father’s deployment. Readers will understand how deployment affects young children and requires them to be brave while their parent is also being brave serving our country.
The Treasure Box by Margaret Wild When a war comes to Peter’s town, he and his father must flee their city and leave their home. Before escaping, Peter manages to bring a treasure box with him that contains a book inside. The entire city is bombed and destroyed, including the library. Peter and his father set off with other refugees to find a safe place, but along the way Peter’s dad turns ill and dies. Before he passes away, he asks Peter to promise to some day return to their city and bring the book back to the library in which they borrowed it from. A touching story with themes of war, refugees, and the power of books and literature.
An easy to understand depiction of a diverse group of moms serving in the military. I like that it shows the women being strong leaders and that this book opens up discussions based on gender/sex roles. Women are shown fixing military tanks, flying fighter jets, nursing soldiers back to good health and more!
A little boy talks about his dad being a superhero because he is in the military. There are references to some things you might see in the military like: camouflage, night vision goggles, and tanks. An easy to understand military themed book with simple sentences for young readers.
Pilot Mom by Kathleen Benner Duble A picture book about Mom who flies tanker jets? Yes, please! This book tells the story of a girl named Jenny who is scared on the day her mother is leaving for Europe to go on a training mission. Jenny’s mom reassures her everything will be ok and that what she’s doing is for her daughter’s freedom to do what she wants with her life. Due to the long text, I’d recommend this one for slightly older readers ages 8 and up.
An informational alphabetic picture book that explains the in’s and out’s of the military from A to Z. Each letter has a rhyming poem and some additional facts in the side margin. Suitable for both younger and older readers, this book provides a wonderful introduction of military life.
The Wall by Eve Bunting A young boy and his father visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Memorial in Washington DC in search of finding the boy’s grandfather’s name written on the wall. As they search the wall, you see various other people shown too: a wounded veteran, a group of school children, people of all different ages. There are themes of: loss, war, and family sprinkled throughout. Great for reading on Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day or anytime of the year.
A lovely tribute to our Veterans! Since World War ll, red poppy have been used as a symbol to remember fallen soldiers. This story explains the history of how this tradition came to be. Moina Belle Michael, a schoolteacher from Georgia, felt soldiers deserved to have a symbol to remind people of their sacrifice and courage. Her symbol of choice? Red poppy flowers.
America’s White Table explains the tradition of the “white table” and the symbolism behind it. The white table honors servicemen and servicewomen across all branches of the military who have gone missing or were held captive in the line of duty and never made it back for chow. The White Table is set in many mess halls in the military. Solitary and solemn, it is the table where no one will ever sit.
Who Were the Tuskegee Airmen? by Sherri L. Smith It’s up, up, and away with the Tuskegee Airmen, a heroic group of African American military pilots who helped the United States win World War II. While this book details thrilling flight missions and the grueling training sessions the Tuskegee Airmen underwent, it also shines a light on the lives of these brave men who helped pave the way for the integration of the US armed forces.
I adore this true story of how Winnie-the-Pooh became the beloved story book character that we all know and love today. Veterinarian Harry Colebourn purchased the bear cub for $20 while he was in route to serve in World War I. He named the Bear Winnipeg, Winnie for short, and she soon became the mascot of his regiment.
Told through the eyes of a family who has to uproot their home due to war to find safety, The Journey is a powerful book about the things many refugees have to face. I love how nurturing and protective the mother is over her children. Great for discussing topics about war, refugees, empathy and migration.
Luis wishes his older brother Nico wasn’t leaving for the Army. While his brother is deployed, Luis copes by using art as therapy to express his emotions and help him deal with her brother’s absence. Luis decides to paint a mural in his Dominican neighborhood and many people in the community come together to give him a hand. I really like this story that shows a community coming together to beautify their neighborhood and missing loved ones across the miles.
Based on a true story, Tucky Jo and Little Heart is a beautiful story about love and friendship. I love the special bond that develops between a young WWII soldier and a little Filipino girl in the South Pacific. Provides readers with an insight of war and the power of friendship and kindness.
When a soldier’s work takes him half-way around the world, he enlists the help of the North Star for a nightly game of catch with his son. Night Catch is a timeless story that connects families while they are apart and offers comforting hope for their reunion. A great book for families facing deployment of a loved one and introducing a creative way to connect with others who are far away.
Different Ways to Honor and Show Appreciation to Veterans or Active Duty Members
Say Thank You. Teach children to simply say “thank you” if they see a member of the armed forces in his or her uniform. Taking a moment to thank them for their service goes a long way.
Offer and publicize a military discount. If you are a business owner, a military discount for all current and prior service members could be an easy way to show your thanks. Every penny saved helps a family’s budget stretch further.
Decorate or clean up at your local cemetery. While there are some organizations that attempt to maintain the graves of the fallen servicemen, perhaps in your city or town, it has been a while. Simple bouquets of flowers (often on sale at super stores during May for this very reason) or small American flags could be a nice gesture.
Donate to or volunteer at your local VA hospital. By volunteering at the hospital or even donating things like blankets, new warm socks, or other similar comfort and care items can make a person’s stay just a bit more comfortable.
Fly a flag at your home of place of business. This is perhaps the simplest way to show your respect and appreciation for the work that our active member and reservists do, and what our veterans have done. The American flag is an important symbol in their daily lives, and by showing it the proper respect and honor, you are thanking them as well. Why not wear a lapel pin on your clothes for the entire month? Putting it on every morning and seeing it in the mirror throughout the day will be a reminder to think about with gratitude all our armed forces members have done and continue to do for those needing help across the globe.
Send a care package. Contact Operation Gratitude (or another military organization) to find out how you can lift the spirits of new recruits, U.S. service members deployed overseas, and America’s wounded heroes. Packages contain snacks, toiletries, magazines, games, DVDs, and personal letters of appreciation.
Organize a school event. Whether you’re a college student or the parent of school-age children, talk to the university dean or to your child’s principal about incorporating military-related curriculum in some way this month.
Help a military spouse. Consider the many ways you can lend a hand to the spouse of a deployed service member. Offer to babysit, mow a lawn, paint a fence, pick up groceries, cook meals, or help drive children to after school activities. Taking on a few simple chores can really help lighten the load of a parent struggling to do the work of two people.
Your turn: What other military/war themed books would you add to this list? Feel free to share in the comments.
Ruby’s mind is always full of ideas. One day, she finds some old boards and decides to build something.
She invites her brothers to help, but they just laugh and tell her she doesn’t know how to build.
“Then I’ll learn,” she says. And she does!
When she creates a dazzling fort that they all want to play in, it is Ruby who has the last laugh.
With sprightly text and winsome pictures, this modern spin on a timeless favorite celebrates the pluck and ingenuity of young creators everywhere!
This book is not only fun, but it’s empowering too. Little Ruby’s mind is always full of ideas. One day, she decides to build a fort and asks her three brothers for help. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done: the plans have to be drawn up, supplies need to be gathered, boards need to be cut, and more.
Illustration courtesy of The Little Red Fort
When Ruby asks her three brothers (Oscar Lee, Rodrigo and José) for help, they all say they’re too busy to give her a hand. When the fort is finally completed, Ruby asks her brothers if they want to play in her fort. Of course, they all jump at the opportunity once they see how amazing and fun the fort is, but Ruby doesn’t let them get off so easily.
I adore this retelling of the folktale The Little Red Hen featuring a little Latina protagonist! This book has great read aloud appeal, vibrant and bright illustrations and STEM. I love that the brothers learn a great lesson and that little Ruby has a determined mind of her own to build a fort. Although she didn’t have support from her brothers in the beginning, her mom, dad and grandmother help pitch in showing great teamwork and family support.
The Little Red Fort pays homage to the classic folk tale and commemorates its one hundredth anniversary in picture book form.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary book in exchange for an honest review. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.
Your turn: Have you ever read the classic folktale The Little Red Hen? Feel free to share in the comments.