Read Across America – Motivating Kids to Read (March 2nd and 3rd)

Every year the National Education Association celebrates Read Across America in conjunction with Dr. Seuss’ Birthday on March 2nd. According to the NEA website, it looks as if this special day will also take place on March 3rd, assumedly because the 2nd falls on a Sunday.

Read Across America is a national celebration of reading that many schools and libraries participate in.  It’s a fun way to share in the joy of reading. Here are some ideas for ways to participate in this special celebration of reading:

1. Attend a library program – check your local libraries for special events or programs happening in honor of Dr. Seuss and Read Across America.

2. Attend a story time at a library or bookstore – many libraries and book stores will have special story times on March 3rd. Some Barnes and Nobles will be hosting a read aloud of a favorite Dr. Seuss book on this day.

3. Read a book online – try We Give Books if you haven’t already – you can choose from many great books to read for free, and every book you read online, the site donates a book to kids in need, www.wegivebooks.org.

4. Find a new book to read – snag a new deal of the day e-book or get a classic or best-seller you’ve been wanting to read from the library.

5. Schedule family reading time – set aside a special time to all share in a favorite story together, or read individually during your designated time and share with each other afterward what you read.

6. Share a book with a friend – participate in a book swap with a friend, and/or loan a friend a book you feel is a must-read.

7. Read to someone – parents and older children can read to younger children, and younger children can read to a pet or a favorite stuffed animal.

8. Read with someone – participate in a shared reading of a book or a chapter, each taking turns reading a page.

9. Join a reading program (library or online) – extend the celebration of reading through the spring by signing up to participate in a reading program. Check your local library or book store for ongoing programs or find one online. If you can’t find one that works for you, create your own reading challenge on Book Adventure: http://www.bookadventure.com/create_reading_challenge.aspx.

10. Join, start and/or attend a book club (in person or online) – if you like to take reading one step further and talk about the books you read or if you want ideas for great books to read, find a book club to join. Check your library or local book store for one in your area or join Good Reads, www.goodreads.com, Barnes and Noble book clubs, www.barnesandnoble.com/bookclubs, or The Stacks for Kids, www.scholastic.com/kids/stacks/, to find one online that fits your needs.

For more ideas and resources to celebrate Read Across America and Dr. Suess’ birthday, check out these sites:

http://www.nea.org/grants/886.htm

http://www.seussville.com/special/read.html

http://www.readacrossamerica.org/

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Motivating the Unmotivated Reader

One of the biggest concerns I hear from parents is that their child does not enjoy reading. Sometimes it’s because a child struggles with reading, but often times it’s not a reading problem but rather a lack of interest. So how does one get a reluctant reader to want to pick up a book? There is no one right way that works for every child. I wish it was that simple! But, depending on your child’s age, ability, and reason for being unmotivated, here are some suggestions you can try that may help turn a reluctant reader into a motivated one.

1. Offer a Variety of Reading Materials – Let your child choose what they read when you can, but make sure they explore a variety of genres and materials. Anything counts – fiction, non-fiction, articles, comics, guide books, even reading a map or directions to build something or make something.  For kids who are more tech driven, have them read a book or article on a tablet, computer, or other device. Some kids’ ebooks are even interactive, which makes them more engaging. Think about your child’s interests when looking for fiction and non-fiction books. There are many great series out there for kids with a wide range of topics. You can find some here (https://literacymatterstoday.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/popular-childrens-book-series/). Also check your local library. Fiction books are grouped by age/grade level, with series books kept together for easy searching, and non-fiction books are grouped by topic. For just about every general topic, there are NF books available in a range of ages/reading levels.

2. Set Goals, Set Aside Time, and Offer Rewards or Incentives – You won’t turn your child into a successful reader overnight, but like any behavior change you are trying to make, it helps to have a plan. Get your child on board and have them help set goals (number of books read, or minutes read per week, etc.). Decide together on a plan of action for how these goals are going to be met (when? where?) and what will be the end reward if the goal is met? As goals are met, make new ones.

3. Build Confidence – Praise your child as they work toward meeting their goals, offer encouragement, and show them that you are proud of them when they make an effort, show improvement, and when they meet their goals. Give help and gentle reminders or guidance when needed.  Avoid using reading as a punishment or a chore.

4. Engage in Different Types of Reading
Shared Reading – alternating page or paragraph, this is great for lengthier texts and allows the parent a chance to model reading
Echo Reading – parent reads a sentence or passage, child repeats the same reading (this is good for younger kids learning to read and works best if kids point to the words while reading)
Choral Reading – parent and child read the same passage or page together at the same time
Read-Alouds – parent reads to child, even older kids still like to be read aloud too (books that are read aloud can be slightly above your child’s reading level)
Silent Reading – child reads to him/herself – books should be at child’s independent reading level

5. Read and Watch TV and Movies

6. Books on Tape – Have your child listen to books they are reading on tape. They can follow along with the book to see the words being spoken. Listening to books on tape makes comprehension easier because kids can focus on the story rather than thinking about the words. This is a good way to have kids read books they have to for school but maybe struggle with.

7. Record Reading – Video or tape record your child reading and play it back for them. Let them see how they sound and what areas of fluency they need to improve on – speed, accuracy, prosody (expression). This is good for children learning to read or needing to work on fluency.

8. Model Reading – Let your child see you reading as often as you can. Show your child when you read for work, daily life, or pleasure. Show that reading is important for gaining information as well as a way to relax and escape in a good story.  If you have older children who read independently, read what they are reading, even if you aren’t reading to them. This shows them that books can be enjoyable and allows you to participate in reading discussions with them, which is great for building comprehension. Give the message that reading is informative, necessary, and most importantly fun.

9. Ask Questions – Ask your child about what they are reading. Help them build comprehension by having them tell you what their book is mostly about (main idea); summarize or paraphrase what they read (details); draw or describe a picture of what they just read (visualization); tell how what they read is similar to something in their own life or something they’ve read or seen before (making connections);  tell how what they read is similar or different to another book or to the movie (comparing/contrasting); tell what they learned or what facts or details they found interesting (drawing conclusions); and explain what they think what they read means (making inferences).

10. Make Reading a PriorityGive plenty of opportunities for your child to read and have plenty of books on hand. Set aside a time daily to read to your child or have them read to themselves (bedtime, nap time, after school), and give them time, quiet, and space to read whenever they feel like it at any time of the day (my kids love to read when on the potty!). Take them to the library or book store often for story times or activities and to get books. Keep a variety of reading materials on hand that interest your child, even when traveling, on long car rides, or when waiting at appointments or at another child’s activities (e-books are especially good for these times!).

11. Utilize Technology As mentioned before, let your child read on an e-reader, tablet, computer, or smartphone to make it more interesting. You can download a free e-reading app to any online device to turn it into an e-reader. There are several to choose from, but Kindle and Storia are good ones. Using technology to help with reading doesn’t have to be limited to e-books however. There are also many websites devoted to promoting reading, with tons of games, ideas, digital books, articles, resources, and activities to get kids reading while making it fun and engaging. There are also online book communities for kids to share what they read, and online book clubs for kids. For a sampling of reading sites available for kids online, check out the Reading Websites column of this blog, or you can do a simple search of what you are looking for (fun reading sites, reading sites for kids, etc) and find pages of results. For younger kids, you can make reading more fun and engaging using products like the Tag reading pen, a LeapPad, Leapster, or other handheld devices. 

12. Play Games – Visit any learning store or search online, and you will find dozens of reading board games that can help build reading skills and make reading more fun. There are also online games, printable games, and interactive apps that engage kids in reading activities. Games are great for helping to build confidence, increase comprehension, and motivating kids to read.

Helping Your Child Become a Successful Reader

I often get asked how parents can help their child with reading. Reading is a process, and there are steps that children follow sequentially to become proficient readers. Mastering these steps requires practice as well as developmental readiness. Here are 10 ways that you can help your child in his or her reading journey.

1. Read early and read often. I put this first because it is the number one thing you can do to help your child become a successful reader. The first step in the process of reading is language acquisition. This begins before a child is even born. Your baby can hear you in utero and begins to pick up on sounds. Talking to your baby and reading to him or her is a great way to develop language and vocabulary skills. Learning sounds is auditory, and these sounds have to be developed before a child can transition to written language. As your child develops and begins reading on his/her own, it is important to keep up the read-alouds so your child has a model of fluent reading.

2. Practice reading daily. Learning to read is like learning to play a sport. It is a process of skills that needs continual development. Setting aside time daily to read to your child and having him or her read on their own is the best way to practice these skills. Choose books that are appropriate for your child’s reading and developmental level. Children first learn sounds. Then they learn the letters and that these letters make up the sounds. Once your child knows the letters and sounds, help him/her begin to recognize rhymes and identifying initial sounds in words. As you read with your child, point to the words you are reading. Help your child recognize basic sight words. You can even find simple sight word books at the library or a teacher store to read with your child. The simple text and picture cues in these books make them ideal for beginning readers. As your child begins to read simple sight words and gains confidence in reading, help him or her start figuring out words he/she doesn’t know but can easily decode. Use decoding strategies such as identifying the initial sound, looking for word parts they know, reading through the word, and using the pictures as clues. Reread familiar books often to help build fluency and confidence. Talk to your child often and explain unknown words to him/her to help build vocabulary. A strong vocabulary will help your child with reading.

3. Learn to Read – Read to Learn. Once children learn how to read, they transition from decoding skills to comprehension skills. They no longer focus on trying to figure out words and building fluency, but instead they start to focus on understanding what they read and gaining meaning from what they read. It is during this transition that you may begin to see your child struggle, especially if they haven’t yet mastered decoding skills. Reading comprehension involves higher level thinking skills and interaction with text. You can help your child with reading comprehension skills by asking comprehension questions, using comprehension strategies (Into the Book , http://reading.ecb.org/teacher/index.html , is a good online resource for this), and helping your child build his or her vocabulary skills and background knowledge.

4. Recognize if your child is struggling and get him or her help if needed. Reading skills build upon each other, and if a child begins to show signs of struggling with reading, it is a good idea to get him or her help, through reading services at school and/or with a tutor. Kids who fall behind in their reading skills need even more practice, and the farther they fall behind, the more practice they need. Sometimes struggling readers are hard to identify. Reading requires many skills, and a child can struggle with any one or combination of these skills. Often times a child may seem like they are a good reader because they can decode well and read fluently, but they may struggle with comprehending what they read. Or a child may comprehend what they read but continue to struggle with decoding or fluency. Your child’s teacher and school assessments can help identify if your child needs additional help in any areas of reading. Needing help with reading does not mean that something is wrong with your child or that your child will always struggle. Reading is a complex set of skills, and sometimes a child just needs a little extra help mastering some of those skills. Not getting needed help early on though can lead to greater reading and learning problems later.

5. Work with your child’s teachers. Your child’s teachers will know best how your child is doing in each area of reading. They can give you suggestions for how to best help your child practice reading at home.

6. Make reading a priority. Many schools will send home reading logs or offer incentives for reading at home. Some teachers even make reading at home part of daily homework. It is hard to find time to read daily, but as I mentioned in #1, practicing reading regularly is the best way to get better at reading. Read with your child (books that are at his/her instructional level which they can read with a little bit of help), read to your child (books that are too difficult for your child to read on his/her own), and give your child time to read independently (books that your child can read without help). Doing a combination of these kinds of reading at home and asking questions about what is being read will help your child practice different reading skills. Also remember that kids do what you do, not what you say, so be a reading model for your child as well.

7. Help your child find materials he or she is interested in reading. Keep trying different genres, series, or types of text for your child to read. Many kids’ movies today are based on books so if there is a movie they like, or a particular genre of movies they like, this is a good place to start. Reading doesn’t have to be limited to books either. You may find a kids’ magazine or newspaper your child enjoys reading. The articles are shorter and often the text is nonfiction, which may appeal to your child more. Try to expose them to a variety of texts so they have practice reading different genres and types of writing.

8. Find reading activities in daily activities and games. Reading is everywhere. You can help your kids practice reading while shopping (they can write and read the grocery list, read labels with you, read signs); cooking or baking or making things (they read directions or a recipe); traveling (have your kids read a map or road signs, or if you have younger kids they can play the alphabet game by finding the letters on signs); playing on the computer (there are many great educational websites that help build literacy skills); and even watching TV (there are great educational shows that help build literacy skills or you can turn on the caption setting on your TV and have your kids read along with their favorite shows).

9. Visit the library often. Libraries are rich with resources that promote literacy. They are a great place to find books and other materials your kids might be interested in, play educational games (computer and otherwise), and participate in story time and other reading and educational activities and programs. Libraries offer the perfect environment for learning and getting your child excited about reading.

10. Make reading fun. Reading shouldn’t feel like a chore for children. It should be a positive experience and something they enjoy. It just takes finding the right books or other texts and reading activities that your child enjoys. Reading skills can be practiced through board games, online games, toys, TV shows, movies, favorite books, and even every day conversations and outings. Take your kids on fun family trips to places like museums, the zoo, a farm, the beach, parks, nature preserves, orchards, etc. Outings like these provide great opportunities for building background knowledge, vocabulary skills, and practicing reading (for example older kids can read informational signs and maps while younger kids can point out objects or animals that begin with each letter sound). Finding ways to make reading skills fun for your child will help make reading a positive experience for them. This will help kids enjoy reading more, and the more they enjoy it, the more they will want to practice, and the better readers they will become.

Summer Reading Fun

Kids work hard during the school year and make great strides in their learning. With over two months off during the summer though, it is common for students to lose some of their gain. Help your child maintain his or her reading progress this summer without sacrificing any fun by following some of these tips. Also included are some websites for summer reading fun ideas and recommended book lists.

1. Sign your child up for summer school or other fun learning classes this summer. Summer classes are more laid back and often more interest-based, but kids still learn while they have fun.

2. Visit the library often. Sign your child or your family up for library reading programs and receive fun incentives for reading.

3. Participate in an online or local book store reading program:

Scholastic: http://www.scholastic.com/summer/,

Book Adventure: http://www.bookadventure.com/,

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/summerreading/index.asp,

Borders Education World:  http://www.educationworld.com/summer_reading/

Half Price Books:  http://www.hpb.com/community/fyb/

4. Visit museums, zoos, or other points of interest that provide learning opportunities. Encourage your child to read and discuss as much of the information as they can at the places you visit.

5. Provide reading opportunities at home. Students should continue setting aside time daily to read. You can also encourage reading through engaging activities such as cooking, shopping, or reading directions to make something. Be sure to ask your child questions about what they are reading to help with comprehension. Also read out loud to or with your child or encourage your child to read out loud to help build reading fluency.

6. Enrich travel experiences by finding reading opportunities. Kids can help by reading maps, road signs, or informational signs. You can also make a car or airplane ride go faster by playing games like travel bingo. Here is a sight with printable bingo cards:  http://www.squiglysplayhouse.com/ArtsAndCrafts/Crafts/CarBingo.html

Kids can also write about their travel experiences in a travel journal. Here are printable ones:

K-2: http://printables.familyeducation.com/skill-builder/reading-and-language-arts/51497.html?detoured=1

3-5:  http://printables.familyeducation.com/skill-builder/reading-and-language-arts/51498.html?detoured=1

7. Read books that have been turned into movies. After reading the book, watch the movie and compare/contrast the two. Here is a great site with a comprehensive list of books turned into movies: http://www.kidsreads.com/features/books2movies.asp

8. Summer is also a great time to introduce the classics, new fiction, or other quality children’s books to your child. Here are lists of recommended children’s books broken down by age, grade, or category:

By ages or categories: http://school.familyeducation.com/literature/reading/34576.html?detoured=1

By grade level: http://www.teachersandfamilies.com/open/summerread.html, http://www.hedgehogbooks.com/

9. Try a new reading activity each day of the month by following this summer calendar,  put together by Just Read, Families (FL Dept. of Ed.):  http://www.justreadfamilies.org/greatideas/K5Activities.asp?style=print

10. Play reading games online. You can find many sites online with reading games. Here are a couple of good ones:

From Reading is Fundamental (Reading Planet): http://www.rif.org/kids/readingplanet.htm

From Scholastic:  http://www.scholastic.com/kids/stacks/games/

Check out the links on my blog for more great reading websites and ideas.

The Benefits of Digital Books for Children

I have recently entered the world of digital books. For someone who loves visiting libraries and book stores and having the feel of a book in my hand, this was a big step for me. However, once I started using my Nook, it didn’t take me long to discover the benefits and convenience of using an e-reader. I’ve come to realize that my love of books can incorporate both traditional bound books and e-books.

In addition to using an e-reader for personal use, I’ve also begun publishing my own children’s e-books online. With the popularity of both the Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook, online publishing has soared. And while I am not willing to give up on traditional bound books for myself, my kids, or my students, I have learned there are many benefits to starting a digital library. Read on to learn more about how and why to start a digital library, and check out my first online e-book if you are interested:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004TGUR2M/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_alp_nLlJnb1ASTPYX. Currently my book is published through Amazon for use with the Kindle or Kindle App (the app is available for free download on any computer or smartphone), but soon it will also be available through Barnes and Noble for use with the Nook.

What is a digital book or e-book?

As defined by Wikipedia, “An electronic book (also e-book, ebook, digital book) is a text and image-based publication in digital form produced on, published by, and readable on computers or other digital devices. Sometimes the equivalent of a conventional printed book, e-books can also be born digital. The Oxford Dictionary of English defines the e-book as ‘an electronic version of a printed book,’ but e-books can and do exist without any printed equivalent. E-books are usually read on dedicated hardware devices known as e-Readers or e-book devices. Personal computers and some cell phones can also be used to read e-books.”

In other words, it is an electronic book that is available in digital form, via any e-reader, or through an app on any smartphone or computer.

How do I get digital books?

If you own an e-reader, like the Amazon Kindle or Barnes and Noble’s Nook, you simply search for a book you want and order it directly from your e-reader. It will download in a matter of seconds. If you don’t own an e-reader, you can download a free Kindle app for any PC or Mac computer or any smartphone. Check out this link for all the available free Kindle apps: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&ref_=amb_link_352814142_11&docId=1000493771

Why start a digital library? (5 Great Reasons to start buying e-books for kids)

1. E-books are less expensive. They start as low as 2.99 at the Amazon Kindle online store, and many great titles are available for under $5. Most children’s e-books, even ones that are part of popular series, are under $10.

2. E-books are more convenient. When a trip away from home takes longer than expected (think waiting in a doctor’s office or a long car ride) and you didn’t bring enough toys to occupy your kids, having a digital library at the ready on your smartphone or laptop is a great way to entertain your kids for awhile. Plus a digital library is much easier to carry around than a bag of books!

3. E-books have a lot of variety. With digital books becoming more popular, many authors are going straight to digital publishing now because of its convenience. You can find a variety of popular kids’ books online that are also in print as well as many that are only available online.

4. E-books take seconds to download and can be instantly acquired via any e-reader, smartphone, desktop, or laptop. No more waiting around for that book you want to read or your next trip to the library to have new books for your kids.

5. E-books help prepare kids for the digital world. Not only will your child be building literacy skills with an e-book, he or she will also be building computer skills as well. Technology is all around us, and children are motivated and engaged by the multiple forms of technology that surround them. Why not use these tools to benefit children’s learning? E-books engage children in reading and motivate them to want to read. Here is an interesting article I found that discusses why e-books are good for literacy: http://publishingperspectives.com/2010/04/the-kids-are-alright-why-digitization-and-e-books-are-good-for-literacy/

 

The Practice of Reading

One of my favorite posters I’ve seen hanging in classrooms is this:

I like this poster not only because it makes me chuckle, but also because it’s a good reminder that in order to get better at something, you have to practice. Reading is just like a sport, riding a bike, cooking, or any other skill you learn. It needs to be practiced in order for you to get better. And just like a sport or other skill you are learning, the best way to get better is to have someone guide you, teach you the correct techniques, and be a model for you.

Teachers are models and guides for students at school, but kids spend most of their time at home. Parents therefore are a child’s best teacher. Here are some tips that I share with parents of the students I teach to help them reinforce reading practice at home.

Tips for Reading at Home

Adapted from the Reading is Fundamental Website (http://www.rif.org)

1. Read aloud with and to your child daily and have him or her read to you. When your child reads to you, the books should be at his/her reading level. When reading to or with your child, choose books that your child is interested in but that are too difficult for him/her to read on their own.

2. Create a print rich home environment. Include a variety of reading and writing materials and set aside a special reading area that everyone uses.

3. Model reading and writing. Let your child see you read and write often and demonstrate fluent reading and correct forms of writing for your child.

4. Find opportunities everywhere to practice reading and writing skills. Practicing literacy skills doesn’t have to be a chore. Make it fun by incorporating learning into every day activities, playing games, singing songs, even watching TV together. If you speak more than one language, literacy development should occur in the language you speak most at home.

5. Cook and shop with your child to develop literacy. Read recipes and ingredient labels together and write and read shopping lists together.

6. Explore books together. Ask your child questions about the books they are reading.

7. Tell stories together. Use pictures to help tell family stories, tell stories about your day or about a special time you shared, or make up silly stories.

8. Write with your child. Encourage him or her to draw pictures and write about what they draw. Write lists, thank-you notes, letters to family or friends, signs, etc. to practice common forms of writing.

9. Visit the library often. Join family book clubs or participate in family reading programs.

10. Ask your child what he or she is reading in school. Have discussions with your child’s teachers about their literacy development.

 

If you have a child who is unmotivated to read, perhaps these Top 10 Reasons from Garfield will help encourage him or her to keep practicing (or at least make you both laugh).

 

Online Learning Fun

There are so many great sites today providing free online resources, activities, and fun games for kids to help build essential learning skills.  Many of these sites also provide valuable ideas and resources for parents and teachers. Whether you are looking for fun, educational games for children to play, online stories for them to read, videos for them to watch, help for a child practicing a specific skill, or an online museum for children to get lost in learning, there is a site for just about every age and need. Even the youngest of kids can tap away on the computer keys and be awed by games of peek-a-boo in sites geared for babies. And while children are having fun learning, they are also building computer literacy, an important skill in today’s world.

Check out the links section of this blog for dozens of great sites sure to entertain your children and help them learn. You can hover over the site names with your cursor to see a description of each site. Listed below are just some of the educational sites you can find online (see the links section for these and more great sites). I’ve organized the sites below into approximate age categories, but please note that many of the sites extend beyond one age group. Also, many of the sites have a resource section for parents and teachers.

Babies/Toddlers:

Knee Bouncers – http://www.kneebouncers.com/ – Games for babies and toddlers to enjoy while they tap any keys on your keyboard

Fisher Price Online – http://www.fisher-price.com/fp.aspx?st=30&e=gameslanding – Learning games and activities that grow with your child

Preschool/Kindergarten:

Starfall – http://www.starfall.com/ – Helps pre-readers build phonics and phonemic awareness skills

Bembo’s Zoo – http://www.bemboszoo.com/ – Fun for kids learning their letters, this site turns each letter into an animal starting with that letter

Between the Lions – http://pbskids.org/lions/ – Games, stories, and video clips for beginning readers, based on the PBS show

Super Why – http://pbskids.org/superwhy/ – Games, rock and read songs, videos, etc. to help develop literacy skills, based on the PBS show

Nicky’s Nursery Rhymes – http://www.nurseryrhymes4u.com/NURSERY_RHYMES/HP2.html – Games and printables to practice numbers, letters, sounds, shapes, writing and other pre-K skills

Elementary:

Roy the Zebra – http://www.roythezebra.com/ – Interactive reading games, guided reading stories, literacy worksheets for kids in K-3 to practice reading skills

Kids Reads – http://www.kidsreads.com/ – Book recommendations, reviews, trivia, and word searches based on popular kids’ books

Scholastic – http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/index.jsp – Games, videos, book clubs, and more

Time For Kids – http://www.timeforkids.com/TFK/kids – Games, news, worksheets, quizzes, graphic organizers, homework help, etc.

National Geographic Kids – http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/ – Stories, games, videos, activities, kids’ blogs, etc.

Middle School/High School:

Exploratorium – http://www.exploratorium.edu/ – Online museum with pages of information and activities covering hundreds of science and art topics

My Hero – http://myhero.com/go/home.asp – Online educational project where students can share stories, art and short films honoring those heroes who have made a difference in our world

Parents/Teachers:

Into the Book – http://reading.ecb.org/teacher/index.html – Tools for helping students learn to use reading strategies

Reading Rockets – http://www.readingrockets.org/ – Resources to help those who work with developing readers and struggling readers

The Reading Lady – http://www.readinglady.com/ – Great site for teachers to find ready to go literacy units, information about reading and writing, and learning with other teachers


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