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children's literacy

My Orton-Gillingham Comprehensive Training Experience

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have recently seen me participating in a 30-hour Orton-Gillingham comprehensive training course. The comprehensive training is just ONE training option available if you want to learn the Orton-Gillingham methodology. Trainings and style can vary. You can view the different training descriptions that the Institute for Multi-sensory Education (IMSE) has here.

I chose the comprehsive course that also has a practicum in order to learn the approach and methods inside and out. My ultimate goal is to become a Certified Orton-Gillingham Tutor if possible. I took my training course through IMSE (The Institute for Multi-Sensory Education). There are other companies that train in the Orton-Gillingham methodology.

What is Orton-Gillingham?
Orton-Gillingham is a highly structured approach that breaks reading and spelling down into smaller skills involving letters and sounds, and then building on these skills over time. It was the first approach to use explicit, direct, sequential, systematic, multi-sensory instruction to teach reading, which is not only effective for all students but essential for teaching students with dyslexia.” (Definition taken from the IMSE website.)

The History of Orton-Gillingham
Orton-Gillingham was among the first teaching approaches designed to help struggling readers by explicitly teaching the connections between letters and sounds. In the 1930s, neuropsychiatrist and pathologist Dr. Samuel T. Orton and educator, psychologist Anna Gillingham developed the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading instruction for students with “word-blindness,” which would later become known as dyslexia.” (Definition taken from the IMSE website.)

What is the Orton-Gillingham Methodology?
The Orton-Gillingham Methodology is a direct, multisensory, structured, sequential, diagnostic, and prescriptive way to teach literacy. When reading, writing, and spelling does not come easily to individuals, such as those with dyslexia (or any new or struggling readers). It is most properly understood and practiced as an approach, not a method, program, or system. In the hands of a well-trained and experienced instructor, it is a powerful tool of exceptional breadth, depth, and flexibility.

It has been proven by research that when using a diagnostic, systematic, structured, multisensory approach faithfully, you take the guesswork out of reading.

My Training Course Experience
I’ll be honest and say I had no idea what to expect prior to taking this training course. While I was familiar with Orton-Gillingham, I had never used it and really didn’t know that much about it besides it being an effective approach to teach reading.

Since I don’t have an education background, (I have an IT background) I was unsure how quickly I’d be able to catch on and grasp the concepts. However, the instructor for our class at IMSE was AMAZING! She was a delight to learn from and very knowledge about all things Orton-Gillingham, literacy and phonological awareness. She made me feel at ease from day one right up until the last day.

Due to COVID, my training course was virtual and I had about 15 – 17 other people in my class. I was glad that the course was interactive giving you the opportunity to work in smaller groups during breakout sessions. The small group time allowed you time to really practice and hone the skills being taught by the instructor. In addition, it gives you the opportunity to communicate with others in the class and provide each other with constructive feedback.

The class started at 8am each day and finished up around 3:30pm for a total of 30 hours of Orton-Gillingham training. At the end of the course you receive a certificate of completion for the course. Please note: That certificate doesn’t mean you are a Certifified OG tutor, there is additonal training required for that which includes the practicum.

IMSE provided me with the following materials:

  • IMSE Comprehensive Training and Assessment Manual
  • Recipe for Reading by Bloom and Traub
  • IMSE Comprehensive Syllable Division Word Book
  • Phonological Awareness: Assessment Tools & Strategies by Zgonc
  • IMSE Phoneme Grapheme Card Pack
  • IMSE Syllable Division Cards
  • Set 1 IMSE Decodable Readers
  • Blending Board
  • Sand (for kinesthetic learning)
  • IMSE Interactive OG (online lesson planning tool) One-year subscription (additional years will require a renewal fee)

Some of the concepts I learned in the course include:

  • Encoding and decoding words
  • Syllable division patterns (multi-syllable words)
  • Vowel Intensive
  • Fluency
  • Red Words
  • Three-Part Drill
  • Phonological awareness
  • Vocabulary Development
  • Comprehension
  • Assessments
  • Guidelines for Weekly Lesson Planning for Students

Here are a few things I learned that I thought were interesting:

  • Dyslexia affects 1 in 5 people and it runs in families. Children DO NOT outgrow dyslexia. Children with dyslexia grow up to be adults with dyslexia.
  • Our brains are wired for speech, not reading.
  • The four phases of reading: pre-alphabetic phase, partial-alphabetic phase, full alphabetic phase, and consolidated phase.
  • The six stages of reading development
  • The Cat/Kite Rule (The Rules for letters C & K)

My training experience was absolutely amazing and so eye-opening! Who knew learning to read and teaching others to read could be so seamless and easy to comprehend? Throughout the course I kept thinking, all children should have the access to be able to learn to read this way. I definitely believe Orton-Gillingham should indeed be taught in every classroom. I truly believe Orton-Gillingham can make all children better readers. Here are a few reasons why I think this based on the things I learned during my training:

  • The Orton-Gillingham methodology uses systematic instruction techniques and resources to teach new concepts in the exact same way every time. By doing this, the brain is not expending energy trying to figure out a new method. Instead, the brain expects the routine of learning and can focus on the new concept being taught. Brilliant and way less confusing!
  • When teaching new concepts, the steps are clear and teach the rules one at a time. Each step builds from the previous step, building from simple to complex.
  • Learning is individualized to each student. Students should be able to move through the program at an individualized pace which allows for developing fluency and automaticity for each step. Students only move from one step to the next as they build fluency for each level of language skills.
  • Each student’s skill development is monitored along the way with assessments. The instructional practices are built upon what was observed in the previous lesson and what is judged to be necessary to move the student forward in the next lesson.

It’s also important to note that students with dyslexia need to master the same basic knowledge about language as any other learner. However, because of their dyslexia, they sometimes need more help when it comes to sorting, recognizing, and organizing language.

How I’m Planning to Use My Orton-Gillingham Training

As I mentioned earlier, my utlimate goal is to become a Certified Orton-Gillingham Tutor to help beginning and struggling readers learn how to read better. Since taking the course I’ve been continuing to use the skills I learned in class with my two children at home. I am also working with a Certified OG Instructor who is giving me a few hours of coaching in preparation for me embarking on the practicum. The practicum is a lot of work and it requires you to pass the KPEERI exam.

In addition, I have now acquired my first Kindergarten student who I will be tutoring starting next month. I need to complete 50 hours of tutoring which will be great pracice for me and allow me to keep my skills sharp. I’m excited for this new journey and look forward to seeing the progress my student makes in the coming months.

I’ll keep you posted on my journey along the way!

If you’d like more information about Orton-Gillingham or the Institute for Multi-Sensory Education please visit the IMSE website. There you can also find out the training requirements and pricing for each of the courses they offer. You can also purchase some of their products.

Your turn: What questions do you have about Orton-Gillingham? Feel free to ask your questions in the comments.

children's books

Storyville: A Reading Journal for Kids Ages 5 – 12

What do you do with an idea? Where do you let your ideas take you? Do you generally act on your ideas or put them on the back burner and eventually forget about them?

Two years ago, I had an idea to create my own reading journal for kids to help keep track of the books they were reading. I began working with a talented illustrator who I found online to bring my first reading journal to life.

The end result is Storyville, a full-color 138 page reading journal filled with enough space to log up to 60 books. Plus, there is additional space in the back for activities, extra drawing and writing space, and additional lists. I’m thrilled to finally share this journal with the general public that I’ve kept under wraps for the past two years.

Right now, you can purchase a printable download of my Storyville journal on the Teachers Pay Teachers website.

The purpose of this journal is two fold: to help promote lifelong reading habits and help maintain a reading routine. It’s recommended for ages 5-12, but can be used by anyone at home or in a classroom setting.

My kids enjoy using their journal to document their reading journey. It’s so fun to watch them use it and think critically to either write or draw their thoughts for each book they read. The activities in the back matter add an additional element of fun with word searches, book bingo and extra space for notes, drawing and writing.

Storyville: A Reading Journal for Little Bookworms Ages 5 - 12

We like to keep our journal in a central location in our home and encourage the kids to write/draw in it at least once a day.

People who use this journal can:

* Write their own questions about the story.
* Record observations about the characters and events.
* Make predictions about where the story is going and how it will end.
* Note favorite moments and quotes from the story.
* Draw pictures of favorite characters and scenes.
* Complete an activity in the activities section

When your journal is done, you’ll have a wonderful memory book of your family’s reading adventures that you can treasure for years to come!

So the next time you have an idea: draw it out on paper, write it down, share it with a friend, research the details, do anything you can right now to see that your ideas are pursued and don’t end up at the bottom of your ideas stack or to-do items.

I hope this encourages you to go forth and act upon your next big idea.

Happy Reading and Journaling!

To purchase a printable copy of Storyville: A Reading Journal for Little Bookworms Ages 5 – 12 click here.

children's books

Celebrate National Literacy Month with FREE Resources from Reading Is Fundamental

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

Source: Reading is Fundamental

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


They also have additional resources including:

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

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

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

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

children's books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

children's literacy

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.

children's literacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connect with Storytime Magazine!
WebsiteFacebookTwitter | Pinterest

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

children's books

How to Score Free or Discounted Books to Build Your Home or School Library

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
  • enhanced smarts
  • reduces stress
  • improves analytical thinking
  • increases vocabulary
  • improves memory
  • 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 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.

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.

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!

Bookdepository
I like to browse the Bargain Shop section on the Book Depository website.  Sometimes, you can find high-quality books at 50% off or more!  Bonus: They offer FREE shipping WORLDWIDE!

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!

Book Outlet
Book Outlet has made it their mission to offer you a huge selection of books at fantastic discounted prices of 50-90% off the original list price.  You really can’t beat their prices.  Their books are marked down so low because most of them are marked with a small line or dot on the edge by publishers who sell their returns and excess inventory. Book Outlet guarantees their books are new, unread, and in good condition.

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!

Bookshop.org
Bookshop is 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.

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
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.

Dollar Store
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.

Facebook Groups
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!

Price Matching
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.

Powell’s Online Bookstore
Browse the used books section on the Powell’s website.  You can search by different categories for both children’s and adult books.

Scholastic Book Fairs
Attending Scholastic Book Fairs or taking advantage of the Scholastic dollar book deals, is a GREAT way to stock up on brand new books at used book prices.

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.

Used Bookstores
Sometimes I find great deals at used bookstores between $3 – $7.  Bonus points for also supporting a local business!

Did you find this article to be helpful?  Share it!

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.

Book Reviews

KidLitPicks: 13 Picture Books To Help Find Yourself in a Book

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!

Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion, by Alex T. Smith

“Though she’s little, her inner strength and smarts make Little Red more powerful than brawn, mightier than a lion’s ROAR!” — Summer from @readingisourthing

 


Rulers of the Playground, by ​​Joseph Kuefler

“Regardless of physical differences or emotional differences, there’s a wide range of touchpoints in this book for readers to connect to.” — Mel from @spiky_penelope

Also an Octopus, by Maggie Tokuda Hall and Benji Davies

“When it comes to finding yourself in a book, no element does that as well as space – space for imagination, play, re-creation, or projection.” — Katie from @afriendlyaffair

The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

“If you want your lion to be purple with flames for hair, rock on! Be yourself and let your artist side blossom.” — Leah from @astoryaday


My Color Is Rainbow, by Agnes Hsu and Yuliya Gwilym

“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

When I’m a Mummy Like You!, by David O’Connell and Francesca Gambatesa

“I hope BookBairn and I have adventures like these two. And I hope she thinks I’m the best mummy she could have!” —  Kim from @bookbairn

A Year Full of Stories: 52 Folktales and Legends From Around the World, by Angela McAllister and Christopher Corr

“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


Samson the Mighty Flea, by Angela McAllister and Nathan Reed

“It also has a great message about perception, ambition, and finding happiness where you are.” — Megan from @chickadee.lit


Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine, by Allison Wortche and Patrice Barton 

“Rosie learns that there is never a wrong time to do the right thing!” — Arielle from @childrensbooksgalore

A Child of Books, by Sam Winston and Oliver Jeffers

A Child of Books is one of those gorgeous, lyrical works that you will want to open and read again and again- one that resonates deeply and viscerally.” — Lauren from @happily.ever.elephants

Lola Gets a Cat, by Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw

“Not only can my kids see themselves in this book, but I can see myself and my husband in Lola’s parents.” — Charnaie from @hereweeread

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.
children's literacy

Celebrate National Picture Book Month in November!

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.

nationalpbmonth2016

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.

children's literacy

Why Your Child Hasn’t Developed a Love of Reading by First Grade

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.

Why Your Child Hasn't Developed a Love of Reading by First Grade
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!

CLICK HERE TO GET SIGNED UP!

Perks of joining us:

  • Exclusive Facebook group with like-minded parents/caregivers who are passionate about early literacy and helping their children
  • Reading tips to help your child become a better reader
  • Advance notice on upcoming board, picture and YA books (6-9 months before they hit the market)
  • Book giveaways
  • Fun read aloud challenges for kids

What makes you a good fit for this course:

  • You have a child ages birth – 7 years old
  • You are an expecting parent
  • You have a desire to help your child become a better reader or fall in love with reading and books
  • You are looking for good quality books for your children to read

Testimonials from previous courses:
“It was money well spent and would gladly recommend it to any parent!”

“It really helped to reiterate and tweak some of the things I’m already doing and enhance some of the things of the things some of the things I need to do more of with my kids.”

*No refunds will be offered for this course once you are enrolled.*

children's literacy

Our Latest Obsession: Summer Bridge Activity Books!

I never gave the “summer slide” much thought until I became a parent.  It’s one of those new buzz word phrases that has become more popular over the past few years.  When I was growing up, I don’t recall much learning taking place – we simply had fun playing outside with our friends.  Since we couldn’t afford to go to summer camp or take elaborate family trips to Europe or elsewhere, we just used our imagination and spent our summers playing things like dodgeball, double dutch and kick the can sometimes until the wee hours of the night.  Those were the days!  Now looking back, I’m sure we definitely rode the “summer slide” just about every summer.  Yet, it didn’t prevent me from excelling in school, making the honor roll every year and graduating second in my class from high school.  Yes, I’m tooting my own horn!

Ok, back to the topic at hand – the summer slide.  What is it?  The summer slide is a decline in reading ability and other academic skills that can occur over the summer months when school isn’t in session.  Numerous studies show that kids who don’t read during summer vacation actually slip in reading ability by the time fall rolls around.

But as parents, we don’t need studies to tell us this, do we? It’s evident in all sorts of situations. For example, if your child plays the piano but stops practicing for three months, he/she isn’t going to be as good as his/her friend who continued to practice and play the piano over the summer, right?

The secret to preventing the summer slide is to keep learning all summer long. Now, don’t panic: I’m not talking about year-round schooling, although for some homeschool families, year-round schooling may be a good solution.  What I am talking about is providing learning opportunities throughout the summer that keep kids’ academic skills sharp.

I’m not usually a big fan of workbooks, flash cards or activity books.  However, on my quest for different resources to use with my kids over the summer break I stumbled upon this series of activity books called Summer Bridge Activities.  Have you heard of these gems before?

Prevent the Summer SlidewithSummer Bridge Activity Books!

With daily, 15-20 minute exercises kids can learn a variety of different skills ranging from letters to fractions and everything in between.  This workbook series prevents summer learning loss and paves the way to a successful new school year.  And this is no average workbook—Summer Bridge Activities keeps the fun and the sun in summer break!

Designed to prevent a summer learning gap and keep kids mentally and physically active, the hands-on exercises can be done anywhere. These standards-based activities help kids set goals, develop character, practice fitness, and explore the outdoors. With 12 weeks of creative learning, Summer Bridge Activities keeps skills sharp all summer long!

After researching these books, using them with my own kids and reading the rave reviews they’ve received online I was completely sold!  I ordered the Summer Bridge Activities Grades PK – K book and we’ve been working through it in just 15 – 20 minutes each day – it’s great!  These workbooks aren’t too easy either – they incorporate some challenges too which is exactly what I was looking for.  The book we purchased covers topics like: patterns, shapes, colors, numbers, phonics, writing and letters.

Following the introductory pages is a “Summer Reading List” that suggests 34 different fiction titles and 12 nonfiction titles.  It’s divided into three sections of increasing difficulty; each 20-day section can be completed in a month.  Every section begins with a list of Monthly Goals and a Word List, followed by the 20 days of activity pages, and they conclude with a few “Bonus” pages.

Section 1 features shape recognition, fine motor skill development, and numbers and counting activities provide a good variety of potential learning opportunities. Its bonus sections seem to focus on physical activity and character development. Section 2 highlights numbers and counting, handwriting and phonics, and colors. The bonus section following this section had a science activity, outdoor extension activities, and character development exercises. Section 3 focused on classification and phonics, handwriting and phonics, visual discrimination, grammar and language arts, numbers and counting, and the alphabet.

63 flash cards complete the final “learning” portions of the activity book. There is also a certificate of completion you can remove from the book and fill in with your child’s name once they complete all of the exercises. For those who like a visible affirmation of “great job”, a page of 264 star stickers has been included to use as well.

You can find the complete Summer Bridge Activity Series listed below.  Now that I’ve started using these workbooks with my kids, I’m excited to complete the entire series in the summers ahead!

Summer Bridge Activities Grades PK – K
Summer Bridge Activities Grades K – 1
Summer Bridge Activities Grades 1 – 2
Summer Bridge Activities Grades 2 – 3
Summer Bridge Activities Grades 3 – 4
Summer Bridge Activities Grades 4 – 5
Summer Bridge Activities Grades 5 – 6
Summer Bridge Activities Grades 6 – 7
Summer Bridge Activities Grades 7 – 8

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and I was not compensated to write it.  I purchased the workbook with my own money.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Your turn:  What do you plan to do with your children to beat the summer slide? Have you used these workbooks with your kids before?  Share in the comments below!

children's literacy

The Story Box: New Packages, Lower Prices & A Discount!

Great news!  In an effort to bring you more value and more affordable options, our friends over at The Story Box are celebrating their new book packages and they’ve lowered their prices a bit.  Hooray!

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Receiving a surprise package in the mail is always a thrill for me!  My daughter is at the age where she thinks getting mail is so fun too now that she recognizes here name in print.  It makes her feel special to open up a box with her name on it. That’s one of the many reasons why I think a kids’ monthly subscription box is a great gift idea.

Owned by speech-language pathologist (Holly) and her husband (Clint), the Story Box is a subscription box that is intended to be an inexpensive way for parents to grow their children’s personal library of books.   When you subscribe to The Story Box, your family will receive a monthly box that is curated by a nationally certified speech-language pathologist.

Each book is carefully selected to be fun and appealing to your little readers.  The Story Box family also takes great care in selecting books that will facilitate your child’s communication development and emergent literacy skills.  Just to name a few attributes, they love books that are colorful, have great illustrations, good vocabulary, good story line, rhyming, alliteration, and so much more!

We received the Family Package box in the mail which is perfect for our family!  Our box contained 1 picture book, 1 board book, a tip card and a parent guide.  The tip card contained a challenge to make reading a part of your child’s routine every single day.  This challenge isn’t hard for us since we’ve been doing this daily since both of my kids were born.  I think the parent guide is so helpful and full of excellent information including language concepts and example extension activities to go along with the picture book we received.

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Ok, sounds great.  Let’s hear about the new pricing structure and packages!

Board Book Package (Ages 0 to 2 1/2 years old)
Includes: 2 board books per month and the monthly tip card
Month-to-Month Plan: $14.99 per month
3 Month Prepay: $44.97
6 Month Prepay: $89.94

Picture Books Package (Ages 2 1/2 to 6 years old)
Includes: 2 picture books and a parent guide
Month-to-Month Plan: $19.99 per month
3 Month Prepay: $59.97
6 Month Prepay: $119.94

Family Package (Appropriate for families with children in both ages ranges)
Includes: 1 picture book, 1 board book, tip card and parent guide
Month-to-Month Plan: $17.99 per month
3 Month Prepay: $53.97
6 Month Prepay: $107.94

Shipping is always FREE for all plans!

The Discount: Here Wee Read readers get $5.00 off the first order! Just use coupon code SPRING at checkout!

Disclosure: I received this complimentary box for review purposes. I was not compensated in any way. All opinions are my own.

Connect with The Story Box!
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Your turn: Have you tried this fantastic subscription service for your little readers yet? Feel free to share in the comments.

hereweeread