Giving you the tools and skills to help you develop into a stronger teacher of literacy!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Book Review: Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett


****Here is a link to the author drawing the Gingerbread Baby and reading the story too!****

The Gingerbread Baby is a great story to read to young children.  Jan Brett does a wonderful job with the illustrations in her stories.  Her stories show the main illustration to match the text, but she also uses the borders of the stories to predict what will happen next in the story.

Having children predict what will happen next helps children increase their comprehension, or understanding of the story.

So, make sure you discuss with your children what is going on in the borders of the pages before turning the pages to continue reading the story.  

Extension Activities:
1.  Bake Gingerbread cookies or make them out of construction paper and have the children decorate them.  Printable gingerbread babies
2.  Retell the story using paper puppets as props.
3.  Watch the video of Jan Brett drawing and reading the story.
4.  Make Gingerbread Baby houses using graham crackers.

There are many other great books by Jan Brett to include:

The Mitten
The Hat
The Three Snow Bears
Gingerbread Friends
Town Mouse Country Mouse
The Three Little Dassies

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Learning Letters: Alphabet Books

Reading ABC books to your child is one of the best ways to your child learn the letters of the alphabet.  As you read each page, talk about the items on the page that begin with the letter.  Point to the letters and ask your child to say the letter and later add "a is for __(item on the page)__", b is for _____".  Your child will be say words that begin with the letter after reading favorite ABC books over and over again and talking about things that begin with the letter.

Your child will often become interested in letters and things that begin with that letter.  They may ask you, "What does dog begin with?"  A great response is "dog begins with d and the d says d (d sound) like in dog."

Other good ABC books include:


Friday, December 10, 2010

Phonemic Awareness: Nursery Rhymes

Nursery Rhymes are still a wonderful way to introduce your child to rhythm and rhyme in a playful way.  Reading and rereading classic nursery rhymes helps your child to learn the rhymes so they can recite them on their own.  You then use them as a teaching tool to help your child learn phonemic awareness, which is the ability to hear sounds in words.

Nursery Rhyme: Jack and Jill

Jack and Jill 
went up the hill
to fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down and broke his crown
and Jill came tumbling after.

1.  You can draw attention to words that begin with the same sound.
Jack and Jill have the same beginning sound.

2.  You can talk about how Jill and hill sound alike and are called rhyming words.  You can then ask the child if other words also sound like Jill and hill...(for example: Bill, fill, cat)
Bill sounds like Jill and hill.
Fill sounds like Jill and hill and Bill.
Cat does not sound like Jill and hill and Bill.

3.  You can also build vocabulary by talking about the words: fetch, crown and tumbling.

Find more Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes at: http://www.zelo.com/family/nursery/index.asp

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Book Review & Activities: Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See

Bill Martin, the author of "Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?", is one of my favorite children's authors because he does a great job with rhythm and rhyme.  The story is also predictable, where children learn what to expect on the next page.  They will often want to peek at the next page to see what is coming next.  Predictable books also encourage the child to participate in the reading of the story.

Your child may even try to read the book to you or read it on their own by memorizing the text they heard from reading the story over and over.  This is one of beginning stages of reading and should be encouraged.  Later, the child will begin to realize that the same word in one book is the same letters/word in another book.

Below is a link to a website with papers you can print at home to make puppets or flannel story pieces.  Encourage your child to use the puppets to retell the story in their own words.  This helps them build comprehension and show how well they understand the story.  After many readings, your child will do a great job using the puppets to act out the story.  Also, encourage them to use the book if they get stuck. The goal here is to have fun and play with language!

Link:  http://www.dltk-teach.com/books/brownbear/index.htm

There are many stories in this series which include:

Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?

Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear?

Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Phonemic Awareness Activity: Alliteration

Alliteration is where all or most of the words in a sentence begin with the same letter.  Making silly alliteration sentences to read with your child is a fun activity to reinforce phonemic awareness, or the ability to hear sounds in words.  It also helps your child to learn upper and lower case letters as well.

Examples of Alliteration are:


The baby bear brought blankets and balloons to the ball.

Mary might mix marshmallows in the muffin mix.

Willy went to the water to watch a walrus.


Billy's brown balloon

Lara's lemon lollipop

 purple painted pansey


1.  Write an alliteration sentence or phrase.

2.  Read the sentences or phrase a few times with your child.

3.  Ask you child to circle the repeating letter in each word that begins with that letter.

4.  Read just the words that begin with the repeating letter.

5.  Encourage your child to repeat the words and then the letter sound that the words begin with.

6.  Next, reread the silly sentence or phrase.

7.  Finally, have your child write the letter (repeated in the different words) and have your child draw a picture to match the silly sentence or phrase.

8.  Save these to make a book of silly sentences or phrases to reread in the future to practice letters and sounds.  Having your child draw the illustration will give him ownership with the book.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Story Extenders: More Puppet Ideas: Printable Puppets

Another way to make puppets to extend stories is find the characters in the stories online, in coloring books, or use your copier to make copies of the characters (in color).   When searching online, search for (insert book title characters printables)  and you will be surprised what you find as teacher resources that are free.

Have your child color the puppet characters and cut them out.  Then attach them to popsicle sticks using white glue or strong tape.

Reread the story and ask your child to hold up the character when the story is about that character.  Later, encourage your child to retell the story using just the puppets.

Again, this will help your child to build comprehension skills.  You will notice they remember more about the story each time they interact with the story.

Here is one site I found with printables for good books for emergent readers:   http://www.hubbardscupboard.org/printable_booklets.html#SharedReadingBooklets

It's just like an adult seeing a movie or reading a book more than once.  We see or remember things we missed the first time.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Extending a Story: Paper Bag Puppets

There are many ways you can extend a story with another activity other than reading the story a second time.

Children love to play and acting out a story is a fun way to play and build comprehension skills at the same time.

You and your child can make paper bag puppets using lunch bags, construction paper, googly eyes, feathers, and any other craft supplies you can find in your home.  You can also purchase inexpensive supplies at the Dollar Tree or your local craft stores.

Talk to your child about the different characters in the story and make puppets for some or all of the characters.  Then, reread the story and you and your child can hold up the puppets when they are in the story.

Later, encourage your child to tell the story with just the puppets.  This is where you can see how much your child comprehends or remembers what was in the story.  This is a skill children need to learn to become good readers.

Have fun and enjoy!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Journal Writing for Preschoolers

It is never to early to give your child their own journal.  For young children, you don't need to have lines on the paper.  If the journal or notebook has lines, don't worry they won't use them anyway. 

Encourage your child to draw anything they like.  In the beginning, it may look like scribbles and lines, but it will eventually start to look like some shapes as your child learns control with a crayon or pencil.  This will happen as their fine motor skills develop. 

When you child tells you about their picture or tells a story about it, record what they say on their paper.  Ask perrnission from your child first though!  This will show the child that their words can be put into print.

As your child begins writing letters, you will see them play with the letters and randomly write them down on their paper to imitate the writing you did in their journal.  Encourage them to read it to you, which reinforces that print or letters have meaning.

These are the beginning stages of learning to write, not handwriting, but writing for a purpose....writing to share an idea, story or information.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Book Review: Knock, Knock! Who's There?

Knock, Knock jokes become a fun way to play around with words with your children.  They are fun, silly and are a hidden way to build comprehension. 


The book, Knock, Knock! Who's There? by Tad Hills is labeled "My First Book of Knock-Knock Jokes".  It is a great book to read with your children ages 3 an up.

The jokes in this book all contain names of people as part of the joke.  It will provide fun and laughter for your family and show your children there are all different type of books that you can enjoy together. 

The bonus and funny part is when your children try to create their own knock, knock jokes.  Beware, they may not make sense at first, but laugh anyway.  Over time, they will learn there are connections of meaning between the word and the answer to the joke.  This is where the comprehension lesson is hidden.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fun Ways to Practice Writing Letters

Children need to enter kindergarten able to write their letters, or at least most of them.

Many parents teach their children to write their name in capital letters.  This is one of the hardest habits to break for little ones once they enter school and are expected to write their name the traditional way.

Teach your child to write their name with the first letter in uppercase and the remaining letters in lower case.  Also, make sure you teach your child how to write their full first name, not just a nickname.  This will help you child have an easier adjustment to kindergarten and teacher expectations. 

Your child will have an easier time learning to write if you teach the child to write from top to bottom as well.  This motions is less tiresome for little hands too.

Now...the fun ways to practice letter writing or name writing.

  1. Spread shaving cream on a cookie sheet and let them write the letters with their pointer finger.  Shaving cream is just soap, so your child will have clean hands when he or she done.  The cookie sheet cleans up easy too!
  2. Finger paint also works well, but a little messier.
  3. If you don't mind playing with food, pudding on a plate or cookie sheet work well.
  4. Writing on a dry erase board is also lots of fun for kids too.
The goal here is having fun while practicing writing and learning the letters of the alphabet.

    Monday, October 25, 2010

    Alphabet practice with Alpha-bits Cereal

    A fun activity to do with your preschooler is to buy Alpha-bits cereal and have them sort a handful of letters. 

    You will need to make is a chart that has one letter of the alphabet in each box.  You do this buy just drawing lines on a piece of paper to make the squares and write one letter in each square.  I like to write both the upper and lower case letter in each square and I place it in the corner of the square so the child can put the letters in the square and not cover up the written letters.  Once your paper is ready you can begin.

    First, give your child a small cup of Alphabits cereal. 

    Then, show your child that the cereal is made into letters.

    Then, ask your child to say the letter and show your child how to match the letters to the letters on the sheet. 

    Next, let them do one or two on their own while you watch.  Make sure they say the letter and put in in the correct box with the corresponding letter on their paper.

    Explain that some cereal pieces are broken and you can't see the letter so we put them to the side or eat them.

    When your child is done, check each box to see if they put the correct letters in the box, if not talk about the letter and show your child where it goes and let them place it in the correct square.

    After, eat the cereal as a snack.


    Friday, October 22, 2010

    Phonemic Awareness Activity: Zippity Do Da

    Phonemic Awareness is the ability to hear sounds in words.


    A fun activity to do with children is to sing different versions of the Disney classic Zippity Do Da...however, you change the first letter using a letter (specifically a consonant, not a vowel) to make a silly song.

    I have my little one tell me a letter and I sing the silly version...then we end with "What sound did the "letter used" make?

    My child says "T"


    Tippity To Ta, Tippity Tay,
    My oh my what a wonderful day,
    Plenty of sunshine coming my way,
    Tippity To Ta, Tippity Tay.

    What sound does a "t" make?

    Then I ask for another letter

    My child says "P"

    Pippity Pop Pa, Pippity Pay,
    My oh my what a wonderful day,
    Plenty of sunshine coming my way,
    Pippity Poo Pa, Pippity Pay.

    What sound does a "p" make?

    We sing this in the car, at bed time, while going on the swing or almost anywhere.  My daughter loves to sing and singing silly songs make it even more fun.

    Give it a try...it may end up one of your child's favorite songs or activity...Remember its okay to be silly!

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    More Great Books to teach Phonemic Awareness Using Rhythm and Rhyme

    Here are some books with rhythm and rhyme:

    Green Eggs and Ham
    Fox In Socks
    The Cat in the Hat
    Down by the Cool of the Pool
    Commotion in the Ocean
    Llama Llama Red Pajama
    Llama Llama Misses Mama
    Gobble Gobble Crash! A Barnyard Counting Bash
    Giraffes Can't Dance
    We're Going On A Bear Hunt
    Goodnight Moon
    The Lady with the Alligator Purse
    Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
    Miss Mary Mack 
    Cock-A-Doodle-Do! Barnyard Hullabaloo
    Rumble in the Jungle
    K is for Kissing A Cool Kangaroo
    Silly Tilly
    The Grumpy Morning
    Mrs. Wishy-Washy's Farm
    Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin
    Henny Penny

    Phonemic Awareness: List of Books to Read With Your Child

    Phonemic Awareness is the ability to hear sounds in words.  Children need to learn that words are made up of letters, of which each one has one or more sounds.  Phonemic awareness is the ability to isolate the sounds that make up a word.  Learning this skill prepares children to read and write.

    What can parents do at home? Read books with rhythm and rhyme.  Children love these books too because they are playful and sometimes silly.  Below is a list of books that are great for building phonemic awareness from site: Readingtarget.com


    Pass the Peas, Please by Dina Anastasio
    Which Witch is Which? by Judi Barrett
    My Grandma Lived in Gooligulch by Graeme Base
    How Big is a Pig? by Clare Beaton
    Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

    Tiny Tim Collection by Jill Bennett
    Honk! Toot! Beep! by Samantha Berger
    Nana's Hog by Larry Dane Brimner
    I Love You, Good Night by Jon Buller
    Altoona Baboona by Janie Bynum

    Mrs. McTats and her Houseful of Cats by Alyssa Capucilli
    I Saw the Sea and the Sea Saw Me by Megan Montague Cash
    Who is Tapping at my Window? by Alhambra Deming
    Sing a Song of Popcorn by Beatrice deRegniers
    A Dragon in a Wagon by Lynley Dodd

    Casey Jones by Allan Drummond
    Rub a Dub Dub by Kin Eagle
    Top Cat by Lois Ehlert
    10 in a Bed by Anne Geddes
    Stop that Noise! by Paul Geraghty

    Mole in a Hole by Rita Golden
    Six Sleepy Sheep by Jeffie Gordon
    Skunks by David Greenberg
    Nora's Room by Jessica Harper
    A House is a House for Me by Mary Ann Hobermann

    Scat Cats by Joan Holub
    Surprises Collection by Lee Bennett Hopkins
    Miss Spider Series by David Kirk
    Bus Stop, Bus Go! by Daniel Kirk
    I Can Fly and The Happy Day by Ruth Krauss

    A Frog Went a Courtin' by John Langstaff
    When the Dark Comes Dancing by Nancy Larrick
    Chugga-chugga Choo-choo by Kevin Lewis
    Mice Twice by Joseph Low
    Nathaniel Willy Scared Silly by Judith Mathews

    A Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey
    Messy Bessy by Pat McKissack
    The Cat Barked by Lydia Monks
    Dinosaur Chase by Carolyn Otto
    The Helen Oxenbury Nursey Story Book by Helen Oxenbury

    Pickles in My Soup by Mary Pearson
    Splat! by Mary Margaret Perez-Mercado
    Read Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young by Jack Prelutsky
    There Was an Old Witch by Howard Reeves
    The Best Storybook Ever by Richard Scarry

    Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
    A Giraffe and a Half and Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
    The Three Wishes by Judith Stamper
    I Love Trains by Philemon Sturges
    Green Eggs and Ham and Cat in a Hat by Dr. Suess

    Mrs. McNosh and the Great Big Squash by Sarah Weeks
    Finders Keepers by Will and Nicolas
    Dumpy LaRue by Elizabeth Winthrop
    Clara Ann Cookie, Go To Bed by Harriet Ziefert

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    Books for Teens and Tweens: Scholastic.com suggestions

    Popular Series for Teens and Tweens


    Whether your child's a hipster, dreamer, or history buff, these popular boredom busters offer plenty of appeal.

    Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
    Explore freshman year's heartbreaks and horrors with the witty and wonderful Alice.

    Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
    Your dreamer will find plenty of "scope for her imagination" in this historical Canadian series.

    Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
    As the last in a line of criminal masterminds, a 12-year-old boy-genius plans to build his family fortune by holding a fairy for ransom.

    The Arthur Trilogy by Kevin Crossley-Holland
    Live the legend with these captivating medieval tales.

    The Bluford Series by Anne Schraff and Paul Langan
    Follow the lives of the Bluford High students as they suffer growing pains of life in an inner city in school and at home.
    The Brian Books by Gary Paulsen
    Dive into gripping survival stories about a teen in the Canadian wilderness.

    Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
    Adventure, enchantment, and an epic quest make these good-versus-evil tales tough to put down.

    Dear America by various authors
    Step into the lives of kids throughout history in this award-winning journal series.

    His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
    An unforgettable trilogy about children who cross worlds to fulfill their destinies.

    The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
    These long-heralded classics are newly hip with the release of the blockbuster movies.

    Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
    The son of Poseidon, Greek god of the sea, battles monsters and other fields from mythology in modern-day Manhattan.

    The Pigman Books by Paul Zindel
    Two teens meet a strange local man and get much more than they bargained for.

    The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
    Devour these funny diaries about a New York teen who has to learn to get control of her hair, her crushes, and an entire country!

    The Redwall Series by Brian Jacques
    Battles between good and evil abound in these thrilling stories starring animals.

    Sammy Keyes by Wendelin Van Draanen
    Move over Nancy Drew — there's a new no-nonsense girl detective who stumbles onto mysteries that she never fails to solve.
    A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
    Has your child outgrown "happily ever after?" Give her a taste of these gothic parodies where "nothing good ever happens!"
    The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley
    Descendants of the Brothers Grimm, Sabrina and Daphne, learn learn their ancestors' fairy tales are case files of magical events.

    The Tillerman Family Cycle by Cynthia Voigt
    Eloquent stories about a family struggling to survive the world — and each other.

    The Time Quartet by Madeline L'Engle
    Sci-fi at its best with these award-winning books about an extraordinary family.

    The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Books by L. Frank Baum
    Go over the rainbow for these continuing tales from Oz.

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Getting Teens and Tweens to Read By Eleanor Wolf

    Here is a great article to help you with your teens and tweens.  Keeping them reading can be a challenge.  I'm not quite sure why some children love to read when they learn, but lose the passion in the tweens or teens.  Hope this gives you some good ideas to keep your child reading.

     Getting Teens and Tweens to Read 


     By Eleanor Wolf

    Any child who can read and chooses not to is at a serious disadvantage. My grandmother was right when she said, “Reading is good for you. People who read know more.”


    Stephen Krashen, author of The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research, supports Grandmother. According to Krashen, research shows that voluntary free reading has more power in teaching language skills than direct school instruction. Required school reading is not the same as choosing a book of your own to read for fun. Children who are hooked on books have better vocabularies. Even comic books use more advanced words than most television shows. Since reading challenges memory and imagination, habitual readers develop better thinking skills.

    The good news is more Americans can read than ever before in the history of the United States. The bad news is, they just don’t read as much as they used to. This is ironic since there is an increased demand for literacy in even the most routine jobs. Krashen says, “We have taught our children how to read but have forgotten to teach them to want to read.”

    Reluctant Readers
    Aliterates, who say reading is boring, have not found the right books. The “you can’t make me read” aliterate teens in my acquaintance have recently discovered and devoured Christopher Poalini’s book Eragon. They now eagerly await the publication of the sequel and, while waiting, have actually begun opening other books.
    Harry Potter has taught us that the right books attract readers, young and old. Marc, an Hispanic sixth grader I know, told me he has read all the Harry Potter books twice. What Marc doesn’t realize is that his love of reading improves his English grammar without any conscious effort on his part.
    The more children read, the better readers they become and the more they enjoy it. Reading magazines, newspapers, comic books, graphic novels, and teen romances leads to other more difficult reading. If you’re not sure what to recommend to your reluctant reader, consult a librarian. They’re experts at helping kids find the right book, be it sci-fi, adventure, or fantasy.

    The “Three Bs” of Reading
    Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud Handbook, offers the three Bs as a way to encourage the reading habit:

    Book ownership. There is something special about owning a copy of a favorite book, reading it over and over, and not having to share it. Megabookstores and your neighborhood bookshop have staff who will gladly help parents find the perfect book for a birthday gift.

    Book rack. Trelease says magazines on a book rack in the bathroom encourage the whole family to read.

    Bed lamp. If a child is big enough to have a real bed, they are big enough to read in bed.

    Parents, Foster the Reading Habit by:

    Providing reading materials. A home with books, magazines, pamphlets, and newspapers is essential because when there are things to read, more reading is done. Teens who always have a paperback in their backpack probably grew up in a house filled with reading materials.

    Reading yourselves. Parents will make their children readers by showing them, not by telling them. If kids see their parents making time to read books, magazines, and newspapers, they can see it is something adults do for enjoyment. Parents who have gotten out of the habit will find it is fun to read again.
    Allowing children to read in bed. Bed is a nice quiet comfortable place to read. My mother allowed us to stay up a half hour past bedtime if we were reading.

    Getting a library card for everyone. In regular unhurried visits, parents can teach their kids how to use the library, look up references and find their own books.

    Being a book buddy. Oprah has taught us that one of the best parts of reading is sharing books. Parents who read and discuss books recommended by their teen show the teens that their opinions matter.

    Reading aloud. Even teens like to hear an article from the paper or a funny story their parent liked. Trelease says, “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”

    Listening to books on tape. A good book can be savored and debated on a car trip or at home. Our family just enjoyed a riveting mystery while putting a fresh coat of paint on the bedroom walls.
    Reading for fun does not guarantee a child’s entrance into Stanford University. However, reading, being read to, having books around, seeing parents reading for fun, and talking about what has been read will, as Grandmother promised, make children smarter. So, read, read, read!

    As Director of a Teen Parent Program, Eleanor Wolf has taught and worked with teenagers, their babies, and their parents for over fifteen years. She has raised two children of her own and is a freelance writer and a professional speaker. She would enjoy hearing from you at ruppwolf@pacbell.net.

    Saturday, October 9, 2010

    Teaching Resources...www.lauracandler.com

    Here is a link to a wonderful teachers resource.  I had the pleasure to meet Laura recently and she shared her wonderful site with me and I encourage you to check it out.  There are some great resources for teachers, homeschoolers, and parents.

    Here is the link to Laura's File Cabinet of free resourses:

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    Finding the Right Books...Helping Children Enjoy Reading

    Some children love to read and don't need a lot of prodding and some children choose other activities when they have free time.  For your child to succeed in school and later in college, they need to develop strong reading skills.  So, how do I get my child interested in reading?


    First, just like other activities your child chooses, you need to find books that interest your child.  Does your child love science, motorcycles, or is he or she a blossoming artist.  Try to find books that interest your child.  This may take time, so don't give up.

    Often when you find a book your child likes, there may be others in the series or ask the librarian for other books that are similar.  In time, your child will start broadening their interests and expand the type of books he or she will read.

    What is most important?  The most important time your child can spend is reading.

    Encourage your child to read daily for at least 15 minutes a day.  I have a saying, "Fifteen minutes a day and then you can play!"  This will help your child continue to maintain their current reading skills and build on the new reading skills they are learning.

    When the child is a solid reader, they are still learning.  Your child will go from learning to read, to reading to learn.  They will learn more about the world they live in and learn new vocabulary as well.

    Remember to continue reading to your children even when they can read on their own!

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    Caldecott Medal Honor Book Review: What Do You Do With A Tail Like This

    What Do You Do with A Tail Like This by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page is a wonderful non-fiction book about animals that focuses on the special job of the animal's nose, ears, tail, eyes, mouth and feet.  The story encourages prediction and encourages children to listen to find out more about the partial pictures they see. 


    This is also a Caldecott Medal Winner which honors artists of children's books.  The medal is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

    Click here for more Caldecott Medal Books.

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Visiting the Public Library

    Many of us forget how easy it is to get FREE books to read to our children...

    All it takes is a visit to your local library.  Many libraries even hold literacy events or story hours for families.  Taking a trip to the local library can be an enjoyable time for children of all ages.  Not only do libraries have a large selection of books, but also DVDs and CDs as well.  They also have computers for you and your family to use to seach information and play educational games too.

    Make it a habit.  Each week or every two weeks, pencil a visit to the library in on your calendar.  Doing this will make it a priority and you will try to schedule around it once you see how much your children enjoy the visit.

    How to make it a successful trip...Here are a few tips:

    1.  Bring a bag to take home your books.  Choose a bag your child will recognize as the library book bag.  It will help you to stay organized as well.  I usually keep the the list of books I checked out of the library in this bag to help me know which books we need to return or you may want to post the book list on the refrigerator to remind you to return the books.

    2.  At the library, be open to all kinds of books.  Let your children lead this journey.

    3.  Read a few books at the library!  Still take them home if they are ones your child enjoys.

    4.  Return your books on time to avoid fines.  That is why I like to schedule it on my calendar...then we get new books as well.

    5.  Watch for interesting events at your library.  Sometimes there will be storytellers or authors.  These are usually free events for the public to enjoy.

    Most of all...Read to your children of all ages, even when they can read themselves!

    Thursday, September 30, 2010

    Going on a Picture Walk

    Before reading a story with your children, always take time to look at some of the pictures.  This helps children to better comprehend the story and also learn new vocabulary.


    First, introduce the title of the story as well as the author and illustrator.

    Second, Look at some pictures in the story.  Talk about the pictures.  You may find it a great time to teach your child a new word.  Maybe there is a new animal on the page or new action word.

    Third, you might ask your child a question about what he or she thinks is going to happen in the story.  Making a prediction helps your child to remember the events in the story, since they are listening to see if their prediction comes true.

    Finally, check your child's prediction and talk about what happened in the story.  This is not a drill, just a subtle conversation about the book, which over time will increase your child's ability to comprehend, or understand the story.

    *You should continue to read to children even after they can read themselves.*
    Why?  Because when you read books that are higher than your child's reading level you are building their vocabulary and listening comprehension, which will help your child to build on their current reading skillls.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010

    Fun with Pasta or Wikki Stix: Making Words

    So, dinner is over and what to do with the left over spaghetti noodles?  Well, how about practicing spelling or sight words with them.  Many children are tactile in learning, that means they learn well when they get to touch or manipulate objects as well as move things.  Have your child use spaghetti noodles or wikky stix to spell words they are learning.  Then have them trace the letters with their finger as they say the letters and read the word at the end. To reinforce the learning, encourage your child to write the words after making them.

    Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    Book Review: The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

    The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn, is a wonderful story for children 3-8.  I especially love this story because it gives children a way to reassure themselves when they are away from their family.  It is perfect for the first day of school or any time families are separated.

    In the story, Chester, a young raccoon, needs to go to school when he would prefer to stay at home with his mom.  To reassure her son, Mrs. Raccoon tells her son a secret that will make his time away at school feel better.  She kisses Chester's palm and he feels the kiss go right from his hand, up his arm, and into his heart.  She tells Chester, whenever you are lonely, just press your hand to your cheek and you feel my kiss and know I love you.

    I do this with my little girl when she goes to sleep at night.  I kiss her palm and we put her palm on her face in different spots as kisses and she says, "Mama loves me" each time her palm touches her face.  It's something special between the two of us.

    Monday, September 27, 2010

    Preschoolers: Most Important 15 Minutes You Spend A Day: Reading to Your Child

    Parents often ask what they can do to help their children prepare for school.  The first thing I always tell them is to read to their children.  Take 15-20 minutes each day and read books to their children and talk to their children about things in the books.  Talk about the pictures in the book, name objects on the page and tell what they do, ask the child what he/she sees, or even ask a few simple questions about the story.

    Let your child lead the book reading activity.  Letting children choose books helps you learn about things they are interested in.  They may choose to read the same book for many nights.  You may get bored with the book, but they don't.   

    Reading the same book over and over has many benefits:

    First, it helps your child learn new vocabulary.  Children need to hear words many times before they retain and fully understand them.

    Second, it helps them learn about story structure.  They learn that there is an order to the story, such as a beginning, middle and end.

    Third, they learn about the characters in the story, how they act and what makes up that character.  To change things up when you read the story, try to focus on something different each time.

    For example:
    The first time you read a book, talk about the title and the author (the person who writes the book) and the illustrator (the person who draws, paints or made the pictures in the story).  Read the story and talk about a few pictures in the story.

    The second time you read, talk about the pictures and see if your child remembers a new vocabulary word they may have heard the first time you read the book.  To do this, point to the object and ask if they know what it is.  Then talk about something else in the story that would help your child learn about the world we live in.

    The third time, bring your child's attention to something different in the story.  You can even tie in math with counting things on the page...maybe there are apples on a tree.  You can talk about apples: their colors, where they grow, that it is a fruit, you can count them on the tree, or maybe even give your child an apple as a snack after the book.

    Have fun with the story...play with your voice too.  This can make the reading more interesting and fun for your child.  This is the perfect time to be silly and really engage with your child.  Let you inner child out!

    Sunday, September 26, 2010

    Word Wall Words: Using Rhythm, Rhyme & Songs

    As you can see the recent posts have focused around word wall or sight word learning activities.  Here is another one that I like to use.  Some children respond well to rhythm and rhyme or songs.  So, whenever possible I try to have some fun with a word using rhythm, rhyme and songs.  My littlest one just turned three and she is up to five sight words that she knows pretty well is recognizing them in emergent reader books.  This method works well with her since she loves singing.  These methods also worked well in the classroom.  Again, I am trying to reach different learning styles with the different activities I use to teach sight words.

    my....m-y spells my , m-y spells my, m-y spells my, my my my
    can...c-a-nnnnn, can , c-a-nnnnn, can, c-a-nnnnn, can, can can can
    stop...s-t-o-p, stop, the hold our hands up to say stop. repeat
    see... s-e-e, see (hold our hands like we are looking through them, repeat.

    To practice the words, we sing them in the car, during breakfast, whenever she see the word cards on our refrigerator she reads them.  The words cards are ones you can buy on amazon or other stores. You can even make them at home using the dolch list.

    Saturday, September 25, 2010

    Word Wall Activity: Magnetic Letters

    One way to help children learn to read and spell words it to manipulate the letters to make the words.  This can be done with magnetic letters on a metal file cabinet, on cookie sheets, or at home on the refrigerator.


    1.  Give the child cards with the words you want them to learn.
    2.  Ask the child to say the word first.
    3.  Next, have the child use the magnetic letters to spell the word.
    4.  Then ask the child to say the letters that spelled the word, then read the world.
    5.  You may also ask the child to write the words on their own cards to read later.


    Friday, September 24, 2010

    Word Wall Aerobics

    Science shows that most children learn with movement,  moving the body stimulates the brain.  So, one of the activities I do with my students each week is word wall aerobics.  We always do the five words that are going to be added to the word wall and I let the students pick a few more.  You can also do this with spelling words for the week as a center activity once your children know the aerobics routine.

    How do you do word wall aerobics:  
    1.  Have everyone stand up to start.
    2.  Look at the word and notice if it has tall letters (like t or l).  Tall letters are written from the top line to the bottom line.  For tall letters, you put your arms over your head and stretch your body reaching for the sky.
    3.  Next look for short letters, letters that start at the dashed line on writing paper and go to the bottom line (like a or o).  For short letters you crouch your body down half way with your hands on your hips.
    4.  Then look for letters that go into the basement (like g or y).  These letters go below the bottom line when you write them.  For basement letters, you crouch down with your hands on your hips and go down as low as you can go.

    So, for the word "they":
    Stand up tall with your arms over your head and say T
    Stay up tall and move your arms down then back up and say H
    Then crouch down half way with your hands on your hips and say E
    Then crouch down all the way with your hands on your hips and say Y
    Then pop back up to standing position and say "they"

    The children love to do this and it helps them get their wiggles out too.

    Thursday, September 23, 2010

    Word Wall: It Starts with Names

    You may have heard about having a word wall in your classroom or home.

    What is a word wall?  A word wall is a area where you display words your children need to learn to read and use commonly in their writing.

    Why should I have a word wall?  A word wall becomes a resource for your children when they are learning to read and write words that are used often.

    What types of words do I put on my word wall?  At the beginning of the school year, I always start with the names of the student in my class.  This does a few things.  It helps the students to learn each others names as well as how to spell them when they are writing to or about their friends in their journals.  Then I add 3-5 words per week.  For kindergarten or special needs classes start with 3 words per week.  For grades 1-6 add 5 per week.  Choose words that are high frequency words from the dolch list or words that help your children with spelling patters they are learning, or vocabulary from their reading or content areas lessons.

    Tomorrow we will add activities to do with your word wall.

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010

    The New School Year Has Started...Where do I begin?

    One of the first things teachers in the primary grades can do to begin the school year is label the room.  Use your computer to generate labels for common classroom items, such as chalkboard, pencil sharpener, books, centers, art supplies, crayons, glue, etc.  When you label the items, you may also want to highlight the configuration of the letters.  Some children learn to read words on site with the help of the letter configuration.   This is when the teacher either draws around the letters or cuts around the letters to highlight tall letters and letters that go into the basement (or below the line).

    Why should you do this....because for your youngest children, then begin to learn that those squiggly marks have meaning and eventually they will read those words.  For your readers, these words become are an added resource as they explore writing.

    I always had a rule in my classroom that if the word was on our word wall or on one of the charts we are reading in class, then they must spell the word correctly when they wrote in their journals.  There would be many days that children would get up out of their seats and find the word they needed to spell, so you need to be open to an active classroom.

    Some teachers may say that it will stop their flow of creativity.  I found that they only needed to get up a few times and they usually could recall how to spell it or they would look back in their journals to find the spelling.  The children were proud of their work and learned to spell high frequency words without too much trouble.

    Welcome to Your Literacy Coach

    I personally want to welcome you to "Your Literacy Coach", a blog to share with you literacy strategies, activities, book reviews, and assessments to help you develop stronger literacy skills to use in your classroom. I am a certified Reading Specialist who has taught K-4 in the elementary school, remedial reading and math, as well as teaching literacy and curriculum courses in the Education Department at the college level. I have worked with current teachers as well as pre-service teachers, mentoring them and helping them to build a strong literacy background. I welcome the opportunity to help you also broaden your literacy teaching skills and making a difference in your classroom as you try applying some of the literacy teaching practices you find her on my site.