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Literary Road Trip Series: Springfield Museums

Summer is officially here! What is summer if not a time for adventure, exploration, and traveling to new and different places!  This summer the kids and I (along with some friends and maybe “the husband”) intend to hit the road and go on some literary-themed and kid-friendly road trips.

A few months ago, I compiled a list of places in the Northeast where we can get our book shopping and literary geekiness on thrown in with some family and kid-friendly fun!  This summer, we’ll be embarking on a literary pilgrimage of sorts.  I hope to offer my kids a unique, inspiring and educational summer vacation.  We’ll be visiting various museums, libraries and centers for children’s literature.  Whether your family will be hitting the road this summer, or whether you’re staying close to home, I hope this literary road trip series will inspire you and your kids kids to do some exploring in your own area.

SpringfieldMuseumsWe kicked off our road trip series with a visit to the Springfield Museums.  Located in the heart of downtown Springfield, Massachusetts, the Springfield Museums offers access to four world-class museums and the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, all for one admission price.  What a great deal!

The four museums are as follows: George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, Springfield Science Museum, Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts and Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History.  There is also a museum store which has a fabulous range of children’s books, educational kits and toys available for purchase. You’re bound to find a gem (or two) to take home.

The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum will be a brand new addition coming to the Springfield Museums!  It will include an interactive, bilingual museum for children and families that brings the stories of Ted Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss) to life. Visitors will encounter three-dimensional characters and scenes from his books as they explore Ted’s childhood in Springfield, Massachusetts. This colorful exhibition aims to make reading and learning fun for visitors of all ages and will open in 2017.

We only ended up exploring two out of the four museums which seemed to be the most kid-friendly ones.  First, we went to the Springfield Science Museum which has an Exploration Center of touchable displays, the oldest operating planetarium in the United States, an extensive collection of stuffed and mounted animals, dinosaur exhibits, and the African Hall, through which you can take an interactive tour.

Next, we went to The Museum of Springfield History which tells the story of the town’s manufacturing heritage. Did you know that Springfield was home to the former Indian Motorcycle Company?  The museum has a rich and beautiful collection of Indian bikes and memorabilia on display throughout.

Afterwards, we headed over to the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden.  The garden includes an array of bronze statues depicting scenes from Theodor Geisel’s famously whimsical children’s books.  The statues include a four-foot-tall Lorax, one of his most popular creations and the elephant from Horton Hears a Who.

The kids really enjoyed seeing all the animals and exhibits at the museum, playing in the interactive kid’s play area and running around in the sculpture garden.  One of my friends and her son accompanied us too – we had a ball!  Before heading home, we went to the on-site cafe to grab a bite to eat and ended up having an impromptu picnic lunch outside on a blanket.  What a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

If you’re ever in the area, I’d highly recommend going on a literary road trip to Springfield, MA, the home city of Dr. Seuss.  Make the Springfield Museums one of your first stops with your little readers!

What bookish adventures can you and your little readers go on in your area this summer? Please leave your thoughts in the comments as we embark on our own summer literary adventure!

Disclaimer: We were provided with complimentary tickets to the Springfield Museums in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

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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!

Summer Reading

94 Days of Summer: FREE Summer Reading Programs for Kids

Summer reading programs aren’t what they used to be when I was a kid growing up.  I remember being rewarded with small items like stickers and a pizza party if your class had the highest number of reading logs turned in from summer break.I used to get so excited when the summer reading lists were handed out.  Now that I have kids of my own I still get the same sense of excitement when summer rolls around even though my kids are both under the age of three.

I think summer reading programs are great!  They provide opportunities and incentives to encourage children to keep reading through the summer months.  There are plenty of fun programs to keep kids reading all summer long. Below are a few for your little bookworms to enjoy (ages 5 and up).


Pizza Hut

The Book It! reading program has been around for several years. Details for 2015 will be live in June and details can be found here.  The program kicks off June 22, 2015.
This year the Barnes and Noble summer reading program, Imagination’s Destination, gives out a free book to each child who reads 8 books over the summer.
This summer reading program runs May 19 – September 7, 2015.
Limits to Be Aware Of
The Barnes and Noble summer reading program is only available to school-aged children in grades 1-6.Only one book is available for each child who completes a reading journal and choice must be made from the selected books available at the store.

I mentioned this challenge in my last post.  Scholastic has a summer reading challenge where kids read and then go online to record the minutes they’ve read during the summer. They’ll also be able to take weekly challenges to earn rewards.
This summer reading programs runs May 4 – September 4, 2015.
Chuck E. Cheese has a reading program where kids can earn free 10 Chuck E. Cheese tokens for reading each day for 2 weeks.  This reading program goes on all year.To get started, simply scroll down on the website to download the ‘Reading Rewards’ log sheet to keep track of books read.

Note:  In addition to a reading incentive chart there are many other incentive charts including, good behavior, daily chores, clean room, good eater and more.Showcase Cinemas Reading Program

Live near a Showcase Cinemas theatre?  The Showcase Cinemas summer reading program gives out free movie tickets to select kids movies that plays every Wednesday morning at 10:00 a.m. beginning on July 8, 2015 until July 29, 2015. This means that your kid can see 4 free movies this summer!
Their summer reading program for 2015 is called Bookworm Wednesdays.
How it works:
Visit Showcase Cinemas Bookwork Wednesdays and click on Download the Book Report to open a PDF file of the book report form. Print out the book report and fill out the title of the book you read, the author, a description of the book, and the child’s name.
Bring the completed book report into a participating Showcase Cinemas movie theater each Wednesday from July 8, 2015 to July 29, 2015 for the 10:00 a.m. movie to get free admission.
Here’s the schedule for the free Showcase Cinemas kids movies:
·         July 8 – Rio 2
·         July 15 – Penguins of Madagascar
·         July 22 – How to Train Your Dragon 2
·         July 29 – Annie

Limits to Be Aware Of
The Showcase Cinemas summer reading program is available only at participating Showcase Cinemas locations.
Parents who take their kid for the free movie get free admission as do children 6 years and younger without submitting a book report.TD Bank Summer Reading Program

The TD Bank summer reading program awards kids $10 when they read 10 books over the summer.
When a child reads 10 books, TD Bank deposits $10 into their new or existing Young Saver bank account.Bring the completed TD Bank summer reading program form into your local TD Bank before between June 1, 2015 and August 31, 2015. If your child has an existing Young Saver account, the $10 will be deposited into that account. If your child doesn’t have one, you’ll need to bring a form of ID for your child so a Young Saver account can be opened.

Limits to Be Aware Of
The TD Bank summer reading program is limited to children Kindergarten through 5th grade.
Each child can only complete 1 form for the TD Bank summer reading program.
They are offering kids ages 14 and under a chance to earn a $5 Gift Card for reading just 15 each day throughout the summer!Read 15 minutes a day for a month in June and July. (Grown-ups may read aloud to kids who are still learning.) Use this reading log  PDF , add up your minutes and have your parent or guardian initial each week. Once you’ve reached 300 or more minutes, bring your log to your local HPB to claim your Bookworm Bucks.

Local Public Library
Since my kids are too young to participate in any of the programs listed above (bummer), we’ll be checking out a few of our local libraries.Most library locations offer something special for thier community – often weekly!  Don’t forget to check out your local libraries to find out which programs they’ll be offering. Take a friend and make it a little field trip! Some locations will even be offering FREE books, prizes or crafts!

You can also create your own summer reading program.  Check out this 10 week do-it-yourself themed summer reading program from

Your turn:  Am I the only mom who gets excited about this stuff? What’s your favorite summer reading program? Do your kids enjoy summer reading or dread it? Do prizes help motivate them?

Summer Reading

94 Days of Summer: 5 Things to Do Before Summer Break Begins

There are 94 days of summer break this year.  That breaks down to: 8,121,600 seconds, 135,360 minutes, 2,256 hours.  How do you and your family plan to spend that time?

It’s amazing how quickly the school year flies by, isn’t it?  Although summer doesn’t officially begin until June 21st, many schools are now in the last month of the school year including my daughter’s toddler program at her preschool.

It’s hard to believe we’re almost at the halfway point for the year 2015.  That means summer break is right around the corner.  We signed up Sparkles for five weeks of summer camp including one week of vacation Bible school.  Mr. Tickles is still too young so he’ll still be at daycare during the week.

In my previous life, (before kids) I had grandiose plans of how hubby and I would soak up the glorious sun, kick back and drink ice-cold lemonade, or finally get to visit friends, family and places that we couldn’t seem to fit into our winter schedules.  Now that we have a family I’ve had to scale back our plans for summer and plan more things to do as a family.

I won’t bore you with our family summer bucket list, instead I’ll list five book related tasks I recommed you tackle now so you can relax later and make the most of your summer fun.

1. Find a summer reading program or challenge for your kid(s) to participate in.  Your local library is a good place to start.  Every public library has a different summer reading program, but almost all of them have rewards and prizes for kids as well as fun events.  Alternatively, you can search online for challenges like the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge.  Want to know about more challenges like this?  Stay tuned for a post next week where I’ll be giving you the scoop on some other reading programs for kids.

2. Make a summer bucket reading list and a general summer bucket list of potential things to do.  If you have older children have a family meeting and ask everyone to come up with 3-5 things that they absolutely want to do this summer (e.g., go on a hike, take a long bike ride, have a picnic, camp, visit a local museum or other attraction). Schedule these activities on the calendar now (and make reservations or buy tickets, if needed) to make sure they happen.  Also, pick out some books that relate to the things on your list so the kids will be familiar with your adventure beforehand.

3. Organize a summer reading and activity essentials tote for your car so you’re prepared for any adventure or get stuck waiting somewhere. Here’s a sample list of what to include:

  • Books, books, and more books!
  • Audiobooks
  • Magazines (for children and adults)
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Bubbles! (who doesn’t love bubbles?)
  • Coloring books
  • Blank sheets of paper
  • Crayons, Markers, Bingo Markers, Pencils
  • Beach toys like pails, shovels, rakes, sand shapers, and trucks
Of course you’ll want to include other items such as: bottled water, sunscreen, first-aid kit, etc.

4.  Make a generic weekly plan. I started doing this last summer and found it to be so helpful.  It’s inevitable that other things will come up, but I like to have a loose weekly plan that I use when I don’t have the time, energy, or money to plan an exciting summer adventure.

For example:
Monday – Library Day to pick up books, magazines, and DVDs for the week.
Tuesday – Playground Day
Wednesday – Nature/Outdoor Activities
Thursday – Cooking or Crafts
Friday – Water Activities: Swimming, Splash Pad, Water Table
Saturday – Playdates with friends/family
Sunday – Family Day and Church

5. Read books about safety and talk about it too.  Accidents can happen anytime, but since we tend to spend more time outdoors during the summer months the kids are more likely to get hurt.  If you have smaller children like me, read books about safety.  For older kids, have regular, age-appropriate conversations with your kids so that topics like playgrounds, swimming pools, private parts, being aware of their surroundings, bullying, and drugs are normal conversations rather than scary topics.

Your turn:  Are you a (neurotic) planner like me or do you like to just wing it?  What do you and your kids have planned for this summer?  Please feel free to share in the comments.