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    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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    HELP…My Kids Won’t Sit Still During Story Time

    Today I’ll be addressing a question sent in by a reader.  She wanted to know how she could get her children to sit and listen attentively during story time.  I’m sure some of you may be wondering the same thing too.  Or perhaps you’ve thought about it before in the past or read about it on other blogs or in books.

    Rest assured that many parents and caregivers have experienced this before – myself included.  During the first few months of my daughter’s life before she learned to crawl and move around on her own, I was in story time heaven so to speak.  Meaning, I could read as many books to her as I wanted and she wouldn’t move.

    Then, once she became more mobile, all hell broke loose!  I often found myself getting frustrated because she wouldn’t sit still and listen during story time anymore.  I nearly threw in the read aloud towel until I finally understood it’s perfectly normal for kids not to sit still…they should be moving.  In fact, they need to move.  It’s good for their developing bodies and brains.  Once I realized that I took a different approach to story time and it made all the difference.  Below are a few things to consider that have helped me.
    Help! My Kids Won't Sit Still During Story Time

    1. Just keep on reading.
    Even if you don’t think your kids are listening, just continue reading because chances are they are in fact listening.  Last night during story time the kids started out listening attentively as we all sat on the bed, but then daddy came into the room.  They started jumping on the bed and wanted to play with him.  I just kept on reading until I finished all of the remaining books.  Every now and then one of the kids would come over and listen for a minute or two and then go right back to playing and jumping.

    One of the things I like to do to test if the kids are really listening is to make dramatic pauses every now and then between words or sentences.  This works especially well if it’s a book the kids are really familiar with and know word-for-word.  When I take a brief pause and stop reading 9 times out of 10 the kids will jump in right on cue with the next word or phrase.  That’s how I know they’re listening and paying attention.  Try it and see if it works for you.

     

    2. Paraphrase when needed.
    Let’s face it, sometimes you have those days when you just want to get through a book so you can go to bed or get on with something else you need to do (like finish a last-minute blog post).  On days like those paraphrasing is your best friend.  That means don’t be afraid to skip some words or sentences every now and then.  Or, if there is an interesting illustration on the page just talk about the picture.  For example, if you see a horse on the page say, “Look at the horse!  What sound does a horse make?  What is the horse doing?”  Then move on to the next page.  Don’t worry, you’re still building language and literacy skills.

    3. Give them ownership over choosing which books to read.
    Although my kids don’t currently select their own books from the store or the library, I do allow them to pick which books we’ll read at story time.  That automatically gives them a sense of ownership like they’re in control.  It also increases their chances of actually wanting to sit and listen to the book as it’s being read.

    4. Don’t force your kids to sit still.
    In our adult minds, we expect kids to sit down like perfect little angels and pay attention during circle time and story time.  Especially if we’re out in public at a play group or library story time event.  Remember when I said kids need to move?  Yes, it’s true.  So don’t be that mom constantly chasing after your kids if they don’t want to sit down and conform to your agenda or the agenda at hand.  If they want to explore the environment or play quietly then I say let them.  They’re still benefiting from hearing the words being read aloud.  Now if they’re acting out, having a tantrum or being disruptive to others then stop reading until they’ve calmed down (if you’re reading at home).  If you’re out in public, it may be best to go out into the hall or restroom until they’re settled.

    Bottom line is don’t expect your toddlers or preschoolers to sit still for an entire 30-minute read aloud session.  Yes, even if you’re out in public and all the other kids are sitting down quietly in a cross-legged position with their hands on their laps.  Don’t beat yourself over it.

    5. Read during mealtimes or bath time.
    Sometimes I read to the kids during dinnertime (now that they can both feed themselves) or at bath time.  Since they are either strapped into their high chairs or sitting in the tub there is no where else for them to go.  They have no choice but to sit (or stand in the tub) and listen.

    6. Keep their hands occupied.
    This is one of the best tips I learned from reading books and listening to podcasts.  Keeping their hands busy during story time works wonders.  You can give kids things like paper and crayons, Playdoh, yarn, blocks, Legos, pom poms, or anything that will keep their little hands occupied while you read.

    7. Ask your children questions as you read.
    Whether they are jumping around you or fidgeting on your lap, point to pages of the book and ask questions. For older children ask questions about the plot or characters.  For smaller ones you can ask what they think will happen next, what color something is, what sound an animal makes or whats their favorite part of the page.

    8. Listen to books online or try audio books.
    This is one area we haven’t had too much experience in, but I’ve heard listening to books online and audio books are rather effective.  These could be great alternatives on days when you just don’t feel like reading or have too much on your plate, but don’t want to skip your read aloud session with the kids.

    Don’t let your read aloud sessions become cumbersome and frustrating.  Even if your little ones act disinterested that doesn’t mean they won’t eventually become interested.  Just keep pushing through even when you feel like quitting.  And don’t worry if you get off to a rocky start with your reading time.  Keep going and work together with your children to introduce them to the joys of reading.  Most of all remember to have fun! Be silly and enjoy this time of exploring the world with your children through books.

    P.S. If you have a question related to reading or literacy feel free to contact me.  I love hearing from people who read this blog!  I’m no self-proclaimed literacy or reading expert, but I will do my best to answer any questions asked.

    Your turn:  Help our reader friend who submitted this question out.  Do your kids sit still during story time?  What additional tips would you let her know?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    Seven Ways to Encourage Your Child to Love Reading & A Giveaway!

    Hello, October!

    Since the fall season is upon us, I thought it would be a good time to discuss a few simple ways to help your children fall in love with reading and books if they haven’t already.  Even if your little ones are already avid readers or seem to love books there are still some things you may want to consider doing to enhance your children’s reading and read aloud experiences.

    With so much technology and social media available today, how do you get your children to choose reading books over watching television, sitting in front of the computer, playing on the iPad, or texting their friends?

    Below are a few ideas that may help.  Read on.

    1. Make your children a part of the story
    Children love looking at pictures of other babies and children in books, especially when it’s their own pictures.    One way to make your child a part of the story is to create personalized books through online websites like storieChild.

    storieChild

    I found out about storieChild a few weeks ago while surfing the web.  storieChild offers one-of-a-kind story books and baby books for children ages 0-8+.   They pair technology with creative arts while guiding you through the process of creating an amazing story for your child.  Their products are designed by artists and storytellers and are available exclusively through pre-sale on their website.

    Creating your own story book with storieChild is super simple.  Say goodbye to those complicated websites that are way too time consuming and nearly impossible to figure out.  With storieChild not only do you get a beautiful, personalized book with your child/children as the star, but you also get an actual story to go along with it.  Oh, and did I mention the entire process only takes about 10 – 25 minutes?

    If you’re as excited about storieChild as I am, YOU can get in on the fun too!  That’s right, you can win your very own softcover customized storieChild book for FREE (pick any story of your choice)!  All of the details are listed at the end of this post, but read on for more tips.

    2. Bring them new books every day
    No, I’m not talking about going out and purchasing a new book each day for your child.  I mean show them at least 1 book every day either from your home library collection or your local library.  For example, every Monday (or sometimes on Saturday) I do a library haul.  I pick out through a stack of children’s books, read them, and bring my favorites back to the kids.  Then each day during the week I read the kids different books or sometimes we’ll read old favorites that we already have.

    The idea is that if you are trying to sell kids on books you should bring them books day after day.  These books should be ones that you think are: exciting, funny, poignant, adventurous, beautiful, interesting, or mysterious.  Bring your children books that support their current interests, make them wonder, stretch their imaginations, light them up with amazement, laugh, feel empathy, and connect with their own lives.  Sometimes you can bring them new books that are hot off the press, and old favorites from your childhood.  You get the idea.

    3. Let them choose what they want to read, even “twaddle” (occasionally)
    If you don’t know what “twaddle” is, it’s basically literature that has been dumbed-down and doesn’t add any value.  I don’t currently let my children choose their own books unless it’s an alphabet book.  However, I know as they get older they’ll want to start choosing what they read and I’m ok with that as long as it’s not all the time.

    As the kids age, I’ll have to learn to back off and let them read what catches their eye and ignites their imagination as they build their relationship with reading. If it is twaddle books, I’ll have to assure myself it is okay if they start with worthless ones.

    While I still have control over choosing their books, I’ll continue to guide them into the amazing ones until they start telling me to “back off”.  So if all your child wants to read is comic books then let them and be grateful they are reading something.

    4. Practice storytelling with story cards
    A few months ago, I wrote a post about a simple way to improve your storytelling skills by using eBoo story cards.  You can read more about the story cards here.  The kids and I still use our story cards every once in a while and I can honestly say I’ve seen progression since we first started using them, especially with my 3 year-old.  And for the price I paid (under $10.00 per pack) it was worth it.

    5. Explore different libraries in different cities, states or countries
    I’ve taken the kids to several libraries throughout Connecticut where we live and even to a couple in a different state.  We attend story time events as well as other programs and activities all for FREE.  I believe just by exposing kids to libraries helps them develop a love of reading and books in general.  Also, when we go to story time events they have the benefit of hearing someone else read to them and learn to sit attentively and listen with a group of children in a different environment.  A win-win.

    6. Entice children and make them curious about books
    I’ve noticed whenever I start clutching a children’s book I just read myself and start saying things like, “I love this new book…it’s so good!” the kids are instantly intrigued and want to know what the book is.  Try it next time and see if you are nearly stampeded by your kids dying to read it next.

    7. Read your own books/magazines in front of your children
    I’m sure you’ve read this tip before numerous times, but in order to build a culture of literacy in your home it’s important for your children to see you reading often.  Telling them, “Reading is important!” is pointless, if you never sit down in front of them and eagerly dive into your own reading material. If all they see is you collapsing in front of the TV or constantly sneaking off to your computer or checking your phone when you are tired or bored, they will learn that this is how one spends the invaluable minutes of one’s life.  Remember, YOUR attitude toward books and reading will likely be your child’s attitude as well.  Be a good role model to your kids.

    I believe the only true gateway into the world of reading, is by motivating kids to want to read something – anything.  When they start to realize the wonder of books, the places they can go, the people they can meet, and the things they can learn through books, I think only then can you start to stand a real chance at helping them become successful and lifelong readers.

    Don’t worry if your child isn’t “there” yet, meaning they don’t have a real interest in books or reading…it’s ok…I understand!  As the parent it’s important to keep trying and remain excited.  Make reading a priority in your own life and your kids will likely follow suit.  Every child is different, but I believe you can encourage every child to like books once you find what appeals to them.

    Your turn: How do you encourage your children to love reading and books?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    storieChild Giveaway!
    I am thrilled our friends over at storieChild were gracious enough to sponsor this awesome giveaway!  This would make a great holiday or birthday gift – wouldn’t you agree?

    What you’ll receive: 1 softcover customized storieChild book of your choice (Sorry, this giveaway is only open to US residents who are 18 and over.)

    Deadline: Enter by October 17, 2015 for your chance to win.  Good luck!

    P.S. Now through October 31, 2015 get 10% off all books and boxes by using code OCTPRESALE at checkout on the storieChild website.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

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    How My Read Aloud Journey Began

    When I was pregnant with our first child (“Sparkles”) friends and family gave me great advice and guidance.  I also read lots of parenting books on various topics such as: discipline, child development, breastfeeding, potty training, and communicating with children.  I found all of those topics to be useful, but the topic of reading aloud to your children resonated with me the most.

    How My Read Aloud Journey Began

    While browsing books in the parenting section of the library I came across a book called The Read Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease.  This book was first published in 1979 and is now in its seventh edition.  In this book, Trelease explains in plain English why reading aloud to your children matters. He tells you how to do it.  And he even gives you suggestions for books to read.  This book was my introduction to the importance of reading to children starting at a very early age.  Hence, the beginning of my wonderful read aloud journey began even before I gave birth to our daughter.

    With the birth of our second child (“Mr. Tickles”) I began to read to him immediately when he was born.  He also had the added benefit of hearing all the books I read to his sister while he was still in the womb.  Lucky kid!

    Trelease basically explains that the main thing you need to do if you want to raise a reader is simply spend time reading to them, early and often.  He also argues that the most important thing is to read books that both you and your child enjoy.  Kids are wise and they will able to tell if you’re truly enjoying reading a book or not so don’t read something to your kids if you’re not feeling it.

    I think the best part of the book is the very end.  Trelease has created an amazing “Treasury of Read-Alouds.” In the copy of the book that I own, this treasury of books starts on page 173 and ends on page 294…that’s a lot of good, quality books!

    Not only does the author give you suggestions for books by age and subject, but he even tells you what the books are about so you can better select which ones you might enjoy reading with your child. I often refer back to this list time and time again.  This list is my go-to when I’m looking for something new to read to the kids.  It has been tremendously helpful to me because before I stumbled upon this book, I thought it was a little overwhelming to know where to start in picking out books for a young child!

    I am so grateful that I was introduced to the importance of reading before my children were born.  Now I try to pass this along to the people in my life who are new parents.  I truly believe in reading aloud and hope to see our children and others continue to reap the rewards of reading.

    So, that’s it.  The story of how my read aloud journey with my children began. I hope you’ll consider checking this amazing book  out. Maybe it will start you on the path to reading aloud, too (if you’re not doing it already).

    Disclaimer:  This is not a sponsored post and I was not compensated to promote this book.  All opinions expressed are my own.

    Your turn:  Have you read this book yet?  I’d be interested to know how you got started on your read aloud journey with your children.  What book(s) helped to inspire you?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    Literacy Expert Spotlight: Colette Marie Bennett

    Our literacy expert in the spotlight for the month of September is Colette Marie Bennett.  Colette is the Coordinator for Language Arts, Social Studies, Library Media, and Testing for the West Haven School District in Connecticut.  She is also a certified Literacy Specialist (K-12).  Colette has over 23 years of experience in the classroom grades 6-12.

    colettemariebennett

    Colette, please tell us a little about yourself.
    Oldest of nine; mother of two Marine Corps Officers (both Annapolis grads); blogger; talker; teacher in rural/urban/suburban classrooms teaching AP, Drama, Journalism, and seven grade levels of English Language Arts for over 23 years; and now an curriculum coordinator who has retired the red pen.

    I am now the English Language Arts, Social Studies, and Library Media Curriculum Coordinator in the West Haven Public School System in Connecticut.

    What are some activities that you’ve done with your children to promote literacy?
    I made sure that our house was filled with all kinds of books.  I read to my two boys when they were young, and I read with them when they were older. We shopped together in bookstores.  I did not censor their choices. I recommended books when they were young, and they now recommend books for me. I read for pleasure and helped them to understand that reading is an engaging activity….which meant reading should not be casually interrupted to ask if there is milk in the refrigerator.

    What were some of the favorite children’s board, picture, or chapter books you’ve read or come across this year?
    I just bought Meet the Dullards (written by Sara Pennypacker; illustrated by Daniel Salmieri) for my nephew Max. I laughed so hard in the bookstore that people moved away from me. The illustrations and text are very witty …and kids will understand what a dullard is! Max loved the book.

    I also just bought A House Held Up By Trees by Jon Klaussen  and Ted Kooser. I attended the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival at Hill-Stead Farm in Farmington, CT in June this year where Kooser (United States Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006), read several of his poems. Afterward, I stopped to get one of his poetry collections, and I noticed this collaboration between this remarkable poet and one of my favorite illustrators. I read it as I stood in line waiting to have my new copy signed, my eyes filled with tears. This house, personified as we all personify our houses, gains the reader’s sympathy –once loved, then abandoned, then rescued.  I asked Kooser to inscribe it for my friend Catherine, who is a literacy specialist in Sherman, CT. That night, she tweeted:

    “Moved beyond words by Ted Kooser’s House Held Up By Trees. Thank you for this beautiful book.”

    What are some of your must-have children’s books for a home library?
    I have a special spot for Tomi Ungerer’s illustrations picture books (The Three Robbers, Flat Stanley), The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne (but only if the text is illustrated with Ernest Shepard drawings); P.D.Eastman’s Sam and the Firefly and Put Me in the Zoo;  any book by David Weisner (but Tuesday is my favorite); D’AulairesBook of Greek Myths; Eric Carle books (choose…any one will do): Fredrick by Leo Lionni ; Don and Audrey Woods’s The Mouse, The Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear and King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub (hilarious!); Nancy Drew (but only if the child wants them); Maurice Sendak’s  Where the Wild Things Are;  Robert McCloskey’s Blueberries for Sal; E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web; Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time; and Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. I became a reader because of Little Women.

    Do you have any literacy rituals that you practice in your family?
    Read. Often.

    Besides reading, what are some other things parents can do to set their children up for literacy success?
    Watch movies together, listen to audio-books, go see theater….and talk about these experiences. These are all story-centered activities and stories improve vocabulary. Stories develop empathy. The world needs to have people who view others with kindness and compassion…stories do that.

    If you could give parents one piece of advice about reading with children, what would it be?
    Read. Often. (see advice above!)

    That is because any reading practice helps everyone read better, parents included. Many of my teachers at the middle school level have told me they notice they are becoming better readers because they read with their students during silent sustained reading.

    Here is another interesting fact: We ran a “How Do I Feel About Reading” survey for grades 7 & 8 in West Haven, and well over 50% of students said they share what they read with members of their family…that’s amazing! That means 11-14 year olds admit they share what they are reading with their parents!  That percentage was almost as high a percentage as sharing what they read with friends.

    We could conclude that parents are the under-appreciated part of the reading equation!

    Hardcover, Paperback or e-book (when reading a book on your own)?
    I am omnivorous. Whatever way the material is available at the time. I like the efficiency of an e-reader, but I do have some problems finding my way back through a text for a quote or fact …I just do not have the hang of the digital marker yet.

    Fiction, non-fiction or some other genre (when reading a book on your own)?
    Again, I am an omnivore. I have been reading more non-fiction lately, but I think that is because the quality of non-fiction is so much better. There is a narrative style like in Erik Larson’s Dead Wake or or Helen MacDonald’s H is for Hawk that makes for good storytelling. Like Nora Ephron said, “Why write fiction when what actually happens is so amazing?”

    Name an adult book that:

    a) Inspired you: Kelly Gallagher’s Readicide. The premise is that English teachers have killed reading by limiting choice and over-teaching. I agree. I am working hard to correct that practice.

    b) Made you laugh out loud:  Roz Chast’s  Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? Roz Chast’s mother had dementia. My mother has dementia. She shares the same funny observations and heartbreaking moments that I am now experiencing.

    c) You recommend to others often: I have recommended The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt-2,000 years on the history of writing and Epicurian philosophy makes you feel smarter. I just read Joseph Ellis’s The Quartet. Right now, I have a mad crush on George Washington…he was dignified, poised, well-spoken, and self-effacing. Dreading the upcoming political election season …. I long for George Washington.

    What books are on your nightstand or e-reader right now?
    James McBride The Good Lord Bird; just added Ursula Le Guin’s Wizard of Earthsea  to the Kindle to re-read (I wrote about her commencement address in ’83 to Mills College…amazing!) Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein…it came highly recommended.

    Are you working on any special projects that you want to share with others?
    I am creating a book flood in the West Haven schools, grades 5-12.

    The book flood idea came from Readicide where students are flooded with titles they might like to read. I began the practice in July of 2010 for Regional School District #6 (Litchfield, CT) Wamogo and continued through June 2014. I added gently used books that I purchased (.50-$2.00) to Middle/High School classrooms. That first year (June 2010-2011) I added well over 2,500 books for less than $2,000.00 by shopping at thrift stores or at seasonal public library book sales!

    Expanding classroom libraries allows students at each grade the opportunity to choose the books they want to read. So, examples of titles I look for at book sales are Dork Diaries; Captain Underpants; Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging; Hatchet; or The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The titles students want to read can still build vocabulary and fluency for the classic literature they are assigned in school.

    Independent reading builds vocabulary.

    Here is an interesting set of statistics: a student who reads  67 minutes a day is exposed to 4,733,000 words per year; a student who reads  17 minutes a day reads 1,168,000 words; a student who reads  1 minute a day reads 51,000 words.  Independent reading is also a predictor of student success.

    How can people get in touch with you on social media or on your website?

    Twitter:  @Teachcmb56
    Blog: usedbooksinclass.com

    Your turn:  Did you enjoy this post?  Are you interested in being featured?  Do you know someone who might want to be featured?  Feel free to let me know in the comments or send me an e-mail.

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    Literacy Expert Spotlight: Kathleen Odean

    Starting this month, I will be featuring a literacy expert on the blog each month!  Exciting, right?  This is one of the “secrets” I’ve been working on behind the scenes in an effort to keep bringing you fresh content and new literacy ideas.

    For now, these posts will only last through the end of this year.  If they prove to be popular and if I’m able to feature more people I’ll keep it going.

    This month’s literacy expert is Kathleen Odean, an expert on children’s and adults books.   Kathleen has spent the last thirty years steeped in books for young people as a librarian, workshop presenter, reviewer, university instructor, and author of four guides to children’s books. All her work is aimed at helping young people connect with books that will enrich their lives and add to their happiness.

    odean_kathleen

    Q: Kathleen, please tell us a little about yourself.
    A: I spent seventeen years as a children’s librarian in public and school libraries. Now I give workshops to educators on new books for young people and do a lot of reviewing. My mission is to connect kids and teens with good books, whether I’m doing it directly or through their teachers and parents. I’ve written four guides to children’s books, published by Random House: Great Books for Girls, Great Books for Boys, Great Books About Things Kids Love, and Great Books for Babies and Toddlers. I also had the wonderful privilege of chairing the 2002 Newbery Award Committee.

    Q: Do you have any literacy rituals that you practice in your family?
    A: Growing up, I was lucky enough to have a mother who read to me and took us five kids to the library a lot. My husband reads to me now when we have time, mostly nonfiction. He and I have been in a nonfiction book group with other adults for about 7 years, which is sheer pleasure.

    Q: If you could give parents one piece of advice about reading with children, what would it be?
    A: Make it fun. You don’t have to teach your children to read, because that’s what schools do. You need to give them positive associations with reading, which means having a good time together around reading and choosing books you both enjoy. Let them see you read for pleasure, too—that makes a big difference.

    Q: What were some of the favorite children’s board, picture, or chapter books you’ve read or come across this year?
    A: A picture book I like a lot is A Poem in Your Pocket by Margaret McNamara with pictures by G. Brian Karas. I love Jerry Pinkney’s new version of The Grasshopper and the Ants. I’m a big fan of Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie books, the latest of which is I Will Take a Nap! All three are 2015 publications.

    Q: What are some of your must-have children’s books for a home library?
    A: Two categories come to mind.  One is your children’s favorite books that they will want to re-read and cherish. Another is poetry anthologies like The Random House Book of Poetry for Children selected by Jack Prelutsky, with pictures by Arnold Lobel. A love of poetry is a gift parents can give to their children, and having anthologies at home is a large part of that.

    Q: Hardcover or e-book (when reading a book on your own)?
    A: Actually, paperback is my favorite but I use e-books when I’m traveling.

    Q: Fiction, non-fiction or some other genre (when reading a book on your own)?
    A: Everything. I love fiction including literary fiction and mysteries, narrative non-fiction, and poetry.

    Name an adult book that:

    a) Inspired you: I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick (a young adult memoir)
    b) Made you laugh out loud: Anything by Terry Pratchett.
    c) You recommend to others often: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

    Q: What books are on your nightstand or e-reader right now?
    A:
    I give workshops to educators on new young adult books, so I’m busy reading the newest ones.

    Q: How can people get in touch with you on social media or on your website?
    I blog about YA (Young Adult) nonfiction at greatcommoncorenonfiction.com. I can also be reached through my website, kathleenodean.com.

    Check out Kathleen’s Books!

    Great Books for Girls
    Great Books for Boys
    Great Books for Babies and Toddlers
    Great Books about Things Kids Love

    Your Turn:  Did you enjoy this post?  Are you interested in being featured?  Do you know someone who might want to be featured?  Feel free to let me know in the comments or send me an e-mail.

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    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.
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