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.
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.
Are you a fellow bibliophile like me? Want to know how you can build a decent home library at a fraction of bookstore prices? Read on.
Before we get into some of the many ways you can score free or discounted books for your home or school library, first let’s talk about some of the benefits reading provides. Research has shown people who read books—fiction or nonfiction, poetry or prose—for as little as 30 minutes a day over several years, live an average of two years longer than people who don’t read anything at all.
Research also suggests that children as young as six months who read books with their parents several times a week show stronger literacy skills, score higher on intelligence tests, and land better jobs than nonreaders. (Check out how I taught my two-year older daughter to read.) Bottom line is when reading is practiced over a lifetime, it keeps your mind sharp. Isn’t that great news?
Some of the other added benefits of reading?
increases empathy and emotional intelligence
improves analytical thinking
improved writing skills
I lead a full and busy life. How can I possibly find time to read each day?
If you think that you don’t have enough time to start reading, you’re wrong. How do I know? Because we make time for the things that are important to us. Period. How much TV do you watch? How much time do you spend scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.? You could easily replace reading with those activities. (Check out my post about how I find time to read.)
If you’re worried about the cost of books, the most obvious place to take advantage of is your local library. Most libraries use the interlibrary loan system, so you can check out nearly any book you want. I also use Worldcat to find libraries in the area that might have my book.
20+ Other Ways to Score Free or Discounted Books
AbeBooks Abe Books is a respected online marketplace in used books, and often has hard-to-find books at reasonable prices. I like to use this site mostly for searching for out-of-print titles.
Amazon Amazon is usually my first go-to website for online book shopping. This is especially true if I want to purchase a newly released or forthcoming book I’m excited about.
Amazon Marketplace I have purchased several of my books through the Amazon Marketplace, it’s Amazon’s used book service. You can get many titles for less than a dollar, and even though Amazon charges $3.99 shipping per book, the total still comes in under $5. I typically only purchase books in very good or excellent condition from here.
Black Baby Books Black Baby Books is a service that was created to make it easier to find and purchase children’s books with Black characters. They often have discounted deals on recently released books!
Book Fairies Do you believe in book fairies? I certainly do! Last year, my kids and I had so much fun being book fairies for the day leaving books around our city for others to find and treasure. Book fairies hide books around the WORLD, every day, for people to find, read, and then leave for the next person. You never know when you’ll find a free book or two from the book fairies!
Booksalefinder If you live in the United States or Canada, check out the The Book Sale Finder website. This site allows you to find book sales listed by non-profit organizations. The site is always kept up to date when I use it. Just click on your local area using either the map or the corresponding link to your state or province. The list will show you all nearby book sales in your area. The best part? When my kids and I have attended some of these book sales we score paperbacks for about 50 cents or $1 and gently used/new hardcovers for a $1 – $3!
Better World Books
Better World Books collects and resells used books to raise money for literacy programs around the world and also keep great books out of landfills. I like to occasionally browse their bargain bin deals.
Bharat Babies Looking for children’s books that feature Indian characters? The mission of Bharat Babies is simple: design and produce developmentally appropriate books that tell the stories of India’s heritage for children from birth through elementary school.
Book Swap Parties
Attending or hosting a book swap party is a free way to collect books for your home library. It’s also a great way to get rid of books you or your children are no longer interested in reading. You can have it at someone’s home or a local park or library. For each used book a family or person brings, they get to swap it for a different book at the party. For extra fun, have snacks and hold book talks during the event.
Craigslist is another place to find gently used or new books for a fraction of the cost.
DiscoverBooks Discover Books helps books achieve their greatest purpose by collecting and reselling them to other readers, donating books to those in need, or recycling used books to become another useful good with a new story to tell.
Don’t underestimate your local Dollar Store! I usually always browse the book section whenever I go into a dollar store. Sometimes I’ve found some really good deals there.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library
Unfortunately, we don’t live in an area that offers this program. However, if you do be sure to check it out! Just visit the website and search for an affiliate program near you.
I’ve heard there are lots of different Facebook groups where you can score cheap books from others. I haven’t done this personally, but know others who have.
Friends and Family Asking family or friends if they have any gently loved books never hurts, right? I often find people are generally happy to depart with books their children or relatives have outgrown or if they are in the midst of spring cleaning or downsizing.
Gifts I have a couple book-loving friends and family members who like to give my children books as gifts. When we receive great books from our wish list, we’re always thrilled to give gifted books a new home!
Green Valley Book Fair
I don’t live in the mid-Atlantic area, but it’s on my bucket list to make it to the Green Valley Book Fair one day. Have you ever heard of it? Residents of the mid-Atlantic region of the United States are fortunate enough to attend the 25,000 square foot Green Valley Book Fair when it is open. It’s a warehouse in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia that is open about six times a year, for about two weeks at a time. Prices for new books are typically 60-90% off the retail price, and the selection tends to be similar to what you find at large retail bookstores.
Half Price Books
I really wished there was a Half Price Books in my area – sigh. (Please come to the Northeast!) They have a massive collection and excellent prices on both new and used books.
Kohl’s Cares Want to make a difference in your community? Simply purchase $5 items from the Kohl’s Cares cause merchandise program. There is a cute collection every season, so you can buy new books and soft toys year-round. What’s more amazing – 100% of the net profit is donated to support children’s initiatives.
Library Book Sales
My local libraries host these sales several times throughout the year. In the past I have bought hardcovers for $1 to $2 and paperbacks for $0.50 to $1. Check your local library to find out when they host their sales.
Little Free Libraries
I want to own a little free library in my neighborhood so bad! Aren’t they the cutest thing? The premise is simple: take a book and leave a book in one of the small boxes in various locations around the world. Browse their website to see if there is one in your community or better yet – start your own!
New Book Stores
Many large chain book stores have a bargain book section where you can sometimes find good books marked 50-75% off, or even more. Don’t be too proud to browse the clearance section!
Yes, price matching is a thing – even when it comes to book shopping! Simply check with your customer service desk before you purchase books. I know places like Target will price-match to Amazon.
Shop Off Season This tip really comes in handy when looking for holiday or seasonal books – just like when shopping for off-season clothes, holiday decorations or household items.
Tag Sales Hit up your local tag/yard/garage sales to find bargain books! I’ve found good, quality books for as low as 0.25 cents! Oftentimes, people just want to get rid of books so you can haggle and talk them down if want to pay a cheaper price!
Thriftbooks Thrifted books delivered right to your door? Yes, please! ThriftBooks is basically like searching your local thrift store without the hassle. If you’re looking for cheap books online, this is a good place to search.
Thrift Stores Goodwill, Salvation Army and local thrift stores usually have loads of books. You’d be surprised at what you can find given a little time and patience.
Sometimes I find great deals at used bookstores between $3 – $7. Bonus points for also supporting a local business!
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Now do you see it’s totally possible for you to read AND have a great home library on a budget? As your collection starts to grow, people may even start to offer you their unwanted books. Take them! If you don’t need them, you can share them with others, swap them, or even sell them and buy books you want. Happy reading!
Your turn: What other ways would you add to this list? How do you build your library on a budget? Feel free to share in the comments.
Being able to relate to the characters in a book is such a vital piece of enjoying it. It is through these characters that we find the courage and strength to be who we truly are. Trials and tribulations are at the heart of every story, and the way that characters triumph over them can be the essence of what readers are searching for in their own lives. It’s no coincidence then that so many characters can feel lost, alone, and full of doubt. The uncertainty that haunts the beginning of a book, though, can be washed away by the end, leaving behind a sense of hope and fortitude that we, as readers, need from time to time. It is this self-confidence that we hope to instill in the young readers who glance into unknown pages and hopefully are able to see themselves reflected back.
During January, @kidlitpicks shared books we could see ourselves and others in, and we’re excited to share our round-up for the month. A special shout-out to Wendy from Homegrown Reader for the theme!
“In the end, the little white arch learns that it doesn’t need to be defined by one characteristic alone, but that what makes it so beautiful is that it has a little bit of each color.” — Clarissa from @book.nerd.mommy
“With 52 stories, divided by month, this artistic collection is both a visual delight and a chance to relish conversation and story telling together. Certainly one I wouldn’t hesitate giving as a gift.” — Miranda from @bookbloom
“Odd Dog Out and stories like it are not only messages for those who feel lost and alone. It is also a message for those around them, spreading the word about empathy, love, and acceptance.” — Wendy from @homegrownreader
Fang Fang’s Chinese New Year, by Sally Rippin
“Growing up between the Chinese and Australian cultures, I absolutely shared Fang Fang’s self-consciousness about being different. But to all the little Fang Fangs out there, I hope you find yourself surrounded by good people and books that encourage you to embrace and celebrate what makes you unique.” — Shannon from @ohcreativeday
Your turn: What books would you add to this list? Feel free to share in the comments.
Hello, November…it’s National Picture Book Month once again!
What is Picture Book Month?
Picture Book Month is an international initiative to encourage everyone to celebrate literacy with picture books during the month of November.
Every day in November, there will be a new post on the website http://picturebookmonth.com from a picture book champion explaining why he/she thinks picture books are important. There will also be a literacy activity to do with your kids. Check out the calendar shown below.
This year’s list of picture book champions are: The 2016 Picture Book Month Champions are: Kwame Alexander, Kevan Atteberry, Phil Bildner, Elizabeth Bluemle, Alyssa Satin Capucilli, Laura Gehl Chamberlain, Matthew Cordell, Pat Cummings, Doug Cushman, Erzsi Deak, Josh Funk, Marita Gentry, Paul Hankins, Verla Kay, Lester Laminack, Minh Le, Adam Lehrhaupt, Sylvia Liu, Ralph Masiello, Laura Murray, Carmen Oliver, Todd Parr, John Parra, Jan Peck, Alexandra Penfold, Jeanie Franz Ransom, Isabel Roxas, Jodell Sadler, Andrea Pinkney, Ashley Wolff.
In this digital age where people are predicting the coming death of printed books, picture books need love now more than ever. And the world needs picture books. There’s nothing like the physical page turn of a beautifully crafted picture book.
Join the celebration and party with a picture book! Be sure to check out the hashtag #picturebookmonth (on Instagram) for additional picture book suggestions to read with your little ones.
Disclaimer: I signed up to be a Picture Book Ambassador simply to support this initiative and share the information. I did not receive any compensation to write this post.
Your turn: Will you be celebrating National Picture Book month? Which picture book champion are you looking forward to reading about this month? Feel free to share in the comments.
Have you heard the good news? There’s another new diverse subscription box for kids that recently launched called Culture Chest. Created by Rose Espiritu, a half-Filipino, half-Nigerian woman, Culture Chest allows you to introduce your child to different cultures every month. Growing up in Houma, Rose said there weren’t a lot of books about different cultures available. Much of what she learned about her own identity came from her family. Rose wanted to make learning about other cultures more accessible to families thus Culture Chest was created.
Culture Chest is a monthly care package designed to empower your child to learn about other cultures in our interconnected world. Each box offers the perfect way to nourish your child’s pride in their culture, learn about other worlds, while promoting tolerance and tradition.
Here’s what you need to know:
• Each box contains 1-3 books about different cultures based on a monthly theme such as music or food
• Every box also has 1 activity for you all to do together such as a recipe or a fun arts and crafts project
• The price of each box is: $25 (shipping included) for 1-3 board books or paperback books and 1 activity. You can also choose hardcover picture books for $35 (shipping included).
• Culture Chest currently caters to two different age groups: 0-2 (board books) and 3-8 (picture books)
• Monthly subscribers are charged on the 15th of every month. For example, their monthly subscribers were charged on September 15th for their October box.
Music and dancing is part of September’s culture box theme. We received a beautifully curated box that contained two Hispanic books in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month: Tito Puente, Mambo King and My Name is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz. We didn’t previously own these books so I’m happy we now added them to our home library.
Our box also included an activity card with instructions on how to make a shoe box guitar using a shoe box, a paper towel roll, craft sticks and paint. Since I am more of a visual person (and I’ve never made a shoe box guitar before), I would have liked to see example pictures of completed projects included so I’d have an idea of what our finished product should look like. I ended up going to Pinterest and printed off pictures from there. We definitely plan on making our own guitar – what a fun family project! Thanks for the idea, Culture Chest!
October’s theme will include a combination of Asian cultural traditions and cuisine. They will be sharing two stories about the influence of food in two Asian cultures. Hint: One story is about the popular Filipino food, pancit! The October Box and all future boxes will ship on the 5th of the month and are expected to arrive between the 10th and 14th of the month.
To get 10% off the first order, subscribe with an email address at culturechest.com or get 15% off by entering the promo code GETCULTURED for a limited time.
I learned to read while I was in preschool at the ripe age of four. I don’t remember the methods that were used to teach me, but I do remember reading and literacy wasn’t seen as a big deal in my household. I didn’t have someone who read stories every night before tucking me into bed. Instead, once I learned how to read on my own I would read books and then fall asleep shortly after.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a passion for books and reading. When people used to ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up my first response was, “I want to be a teacher!” For me, being a teacher was a no-brainer since I loved to read and had a passion for helping others succeed from a very early age. By being a teacher I had a desire to transform instruction so that children could become powerful readers, writers and thinkers. My dreams of becoming a teacher never came to pass, however I believe making the decision to be an early literacy and learning consultant will help satisfy my desire.
As an early literacy and learning consultant my goal is to offer a host of personalized learning, tools, feedback, and resources to parents who have prioritized their child’s early literacy.
Through my interactive, online workshops, I help you figure out your child’s reading stage and where he or she is going next. This enables you to tailor home literacy practices to your child’s unique strengths and needs.
During the months of October, November and December I’ll be offering a beta version of my very first workshop, “Why Your Child Hasn’t Developed a Love of Reading by First Grade” as a holiday special promotion for $47. Start a read aloud habit with your children and set your child up to have a successful school year. Let me show you how. I look forward to working with you!