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/

Awesome Reading Site and Fun Online Reading Challenge

One of my favorite reading sites is We Give Books. This fantastic site both promotes a love of reading, and helps give books to children in need. According to the We Give Books site, it “enables anyone with access to the Internet to put books in the hands of children who don’t have them, simply by reading online.” The online books available on the site are a mix of fiction and nonfiction picture books, appropriate for children up to age ten. New books are added monthly, and there are books suited for read-alouds and independent reading. There is a wide variety of books, and you can search by genre, age range, or author. Best of all, it is FREE to join and read books online, and for every book you or your child reads, a book will be donated for free!

Currently We Give Books is offering a fun online reading challenge in conjunction with WWE. Get more information here for how your child can join the WrestleMania Reading Challenge 2014, which includes reading with an online reading buddy and the chance to win great prizes. http://www.wegivebooks.org/wwe

Read great children’s books for a great cause! Support literacy by reading, sharing, and giving on http://www.facebook.com/WeGiveBooks, @WeGiveBooks on Twitter, or www.wegivebooks.org.

Scholastic e-Reading App

If you aren’t yet familiar with Storia, it’s a free e-reading app by Scholastic. It’s a great way to get Scholastic ebooks delivered online to your computer or any app device. It’s easy to download, and you can set up bookshelves for each child in your family. There are a great selection of fiction and non-fiction books for pre-K through middle school. You can receive book recommendations based on your child’s grade level, and books can also be searched by lexile level. Best of all, you can get a free book just for registering and you get free books periodically throughout the year. If you love Scholastic books, this is a great app to use for kids to read on a tablet, computer, ipod touch or smartphone. http://store.scholastic.com/microsite/storia/home?esp=SSO/ib/2012/vanityURL/txtl/ads/storiasso//landing////

Popular Children’s Book Series

First of all, I haven’t forgotten about or given up on this blog. I just took an extended break to work on other projects. And of course life (aka kids) leaves me little time for writing. But that doesn’t stop the desire or the ideas for articles. And now that the new school year is upon us, I’ve been inspired yet again. The start of a school year means new school clothes, fresh school supplies, energized teachers, new friends, eager students, and of course . . . book logs.

Yep, if your child’s school is like mine, you are back to recording every single book and/or minute your child reads. And there are expectations for how many books and/or minutes your child should be reading (or read to) weekly. And if you really want to do it right, these books should be at your child’s independent or instructional reading levels. (If you don’t know what these are, see my previous post Choosing What to Read.) This can seem overwhelming, especially if it’s tough to find books your child likes, which is why many parents, and kids, love book series. One of the most common questions I get asked by parents is whether I know of any good children’s book series that I can recommend for their child. And now that my daughter is reading chapter books, I find myself asking the same question. Because once you find a book your child likes, you want more of it. You want to keep their reading interest and momentum going.

For the purpose of this article, I am focusing on chapter book series. Not that there aren’t some wonderful picture book series out there, but when the books get longer and tougher to read, that’s when some kids begin to lose interest, unless they find a series or genre they like. And those who love to read love book series too because when you read a book you like, you want it to continue. Also, to keep the list shorter, I am only focusing on early to middle level chapter books. Although some of these series are appropriate for junior high students, most of these series are for elementary age.

So here are some fun, popular early and middle grade chapter book series for kids at various reading levels. I know one worry some parents face is whether the topics in chapter books written at a middle grade level are appropriate for their primary-aged child, so if you have a an early reader or are looking for above level books to read aloud to your developing reader, most of the topics in these books are appropriate for a wide range of ages (approximately ages 6-12), depending on your child’s interests, and their developmental and reading levels.

The following list of fiction and nonfiction (marked as NF) series, in alphabetical order, is just a sampling of some great ones available. For more book series options, check your local library or search online bookstores or book sites.

  •  A to Z Mysteries
  • Abby and Tess: Pet Sitters
  • Absolutely Lucy
  • Amber Brown
  • Amelia Bedelia Chapter Books
  • American Girl
  • Andrew Lost
  • Animals Knowledge Series (NF)
  • Arthur Chapter Books
  • Babysitter’s Club
  • Bailey School Kids
  • Ballpark Mysteries
  • Big Nate
  • Books of Elsewhere
  • Boxcar Children
  • Capital Mysteries
  • Captain Underpants
  • Choose Your Own Adventure
  • Chronicles of Narnia
  • Cul-De-Sac Kids
  • Dear Dumb Diary
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid
  • Dog Diaries
  • Doll People
  • Dork Diaries
  • Encyclopedia Brown
  • Everything Kids (NF)
  • Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy
  • Flat Stanley
  • Fudge
  • George Brown, Class Clown
  • Goddess Girls
  • Goosebumps
  • Hank Zipzer
  • Hardy Boys (the original series or the new Secret Files series)
  • Harry Potter
  • Henry and Mudge
  • Horrible Harry
  • Horrible Histories (NF)
  • Horse Diaries
  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • I Was a Sixth Grade Alien
  • Ivy and Bean
  • Jigsaw Jones
  • Joey Pigza
  • Judy Moody
  • Junie B. Jones
  • Just Grace
  • Katie Kazoo
  • Knowledge Books (NF)
  • Lego Friends
  • Lego Ninjago
  • Lemonade War
  • Lily Series
  • Littles
  • Maggie Brooklyn Mysteries
  • Magic School Bus Chapter Books
  • Magic Tree House
  • Matt Christopher Sports Books
  • Mouse and the Motorcycle
  • My Little Pony Chapter Books
  • My Weird School, My Weird School Daze, and My Weirder School
  • Nancy Clancy (Fancy Nancy Chapter Books)
  • Nancy Drew (the original series or the new Clue Crew series)
  • Nate the Great
  • National Geographic First Big Books (NF)
  • Never Girls (Disney Fairies)
  • Notebook of Doom
  • Our Amazing World (NF)
  • Percy Jackson
  • Polk Street School
  • Pony Pals
  • Puppy Place
  • Princess Posey
  • Rainbow Magic Fairies
  • Ramona
  • Roscoe Riley Rules
  • Rotten School
  • Saddle Club
  • Secret Agent Jack Stalwart
  • Series of Unfortunate Events
  • Sisters 8
  • Star Wars DK Readers
  • Stink
  • Time For Kids Big Books (NF)
  • Wayside School
  • Weird Planet
  • Wild Soccer Bunch
  • Zach Files

Striving for Kairos: The process of teaching/learning may be a struggle, but the “Aha” moments make it all worth it

Every once in a while, I read something that really hits home and I can’t stop thinking about it for days. This happened to me the other night. I had put the kids to bed and was doing my routine check of Facebook when I came across a link to a blog article that someone had posted. Curious, and with nothing else to do at that moment, I clicked on the link and began reading. It was like a hit in the head.  I couldn’t believe it. This mom blogger was describing how I feel on a daily basis. The article, posted on her blog Momastery, is titled 2011 Lesson #2: Don’t Carpe Diem. It is about how well-meaning older women often tell younger moms to “Enjoy every moment: This time goes by so fast.” The mom blogger went on to express how what these older women forget is how hard the journey of motherhood is and how not every moment is enjoyable. Before I digress, however, let me share with you the two points that were made in her post that inspired me.  The first is the way the author described moments of time. She points out that “there are two different types of time,” known as Chronos and Kairos. “Chronos time is what we live in. It’s regular time, it’s one minute at a time” whereas “Kairos is God’s time. It’s time outside of time. It’s metaphysical time. It’s those magical moments in which time stands still.” The second point that hit home with me is that in life, it’s not the journey that is fun, but it’s making it through that you look back on and remember fondly.

I realized the very next day why these two points struck home with me so much. I was feeding my 8-month old son lunch and it dawned on me that on a daily basis, I am constantly shifting back and forth between Chronos time and Kairos time. As I am feeding him spoonfuls of pureed apples and looking at the clock calculating what time we will be done so I can put him down for a nap (Chronos), he begins talking to me in a stream of baby gibberish and giving me his most adorable gummy grin and suddenly I am in Kairos time realizing how lucky I am to have this beautiful baby boy. Then I notice a booger hanging out of his nose and I wipe it away, and now I have a booger on my finger and half of his lunch still to feed him and my oldest daughter downstairs waiting for me to get him down for a nap so I can play with her, and I’m back in Chronos time. Then my son starts laughing for no reason, except to make me smile, and I’m back in Kairos time thinking how amazing my kids are.

As I slip in and out of Chronos and Kairos time, the educator part of my brain kicks in and starts thinking about how these moments of time are not exclusive to parents or day-to-day life, but they also apply to teaching and learning. It doesn’t matter if you’re a classroom teacher or a parent teacher, we are all educators of children either at home or in school. Whether I am teaching struggling readers or teaching my own children at home, I realize how implicitly these moments of Chronos/Kairos apply. For example, while listening to my daughter read word-by-word and helping her apply decoding strategies to words she doesn’t know or having to read her a favorite book over and over before bedtime and counting the minutes until I can turn out the lights and she’ll go to sleep, I am in Chronos time. But when I pause for a moment and realize how amazing it is that my 4-year-old is reading and feeling so proud of her accomplishments and my role in teaching her, I am transported to Kairos time. The same principal applies to any skill being taught. When parents and teachers go through the routines of the day or the steps of a lesson, they are in Chronos time. But when they see a child suddenly get it, what is referred to as an “Aha moment”, or when they take time to reflect on how a lesson went or look at a child’s growth over a period of time and realize how far they’ve come, they are in Kairos time.

Taking the Chronos/Kairos moments in education one step further, I think about how they apply to learners as well (our kids or our students or even ourselves when we learn something new). Learners go through moments of struggling and moments of “Aha” realizations every time they go through the process of learning something new. I see this first hand when I work with struggling readers. They try so hard yet often struggle with each step of the reading process, but when they finally read an entire book on their own, or do well on a test, or go up a reading level, they feel such a sense of pride and accomplishment.

What does all of this reflection of a simple blog post, particularly the points made about moments in time and the journey, teach me? That we need to strive for the Kairos moments. And we need to help our children and students to do the same. It’s not the process, but the ending that is rewarding. In the example of a struggling reader, it’s not always reading the book that is fun, but it’s having read it that counts.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I love the start of a new year because it’s a time for fresh starts. Whether you make resolutions or not, the New Year is a good time to reflect and move forward with a renewed energy. At the beginning of each year, I think about all that I accomplished in the past year and what I want to accomplish in the year ahead. Whether I accomplish all I set out to do or not doesn’t matter. It’s looking back and realizing all I’ve done that is rewarding. This year, my goals are to continue my accomplishments from last year. I ran my first 5K in November and this year I want to run more races, improving my speed, distance, and time. I started my blog last year, and this year I hope to see it grow and expand. I also published two children’s e-books for Kindle last year. This year, I hope to publish more and continue to make strides in my writing. I also had a baby last year, my second and last, and I went back to being a stay-at-home mom. My oldest will be off to Kindergarten in the fall and though she is more than ready to go, I feel like the last 4 and a half years have gone by in a blur. If I had to sum up my New Year’s goal in one word, it would be “Enjoy”. This is a busy period of my life, but it is also a fun and rewarding time. I want to enjoy it as much as possible.

How many of you set New Year’s goals for yourself? What are you most looking forward to in the year ahead? To get thinking about the New Year and to help teach our children and students about this holiday, here are a few links with books and literacy activities I’ve compiled to help learn more about its history and traditions.

Thank you to all of my blog readers. I look forward to another great year, and I wish you all a healthy, happy, prosperous New Year as well.

 

 

 

What’s New? Check out the great new links I’ve added to my blog!

Recently I have come across two great new educational sites that I have added to my links. The first is ABCya.com. This teacher-created site has fun, creative learning games for kids in grades K-5 (though many of the games in K-1 are appropriate for pre-K, depending on your child’s skill level). It includes a variety of learning skills in math, reading, building, and holiday themed games, and it includes easy-to-use, mouse-controlled manipulatives. My daughter loves this site and could spend hours on it. There are so many things to do and learn on this site. It is a wonderful, interactive, and free resource to enhance children’s learning.

The second site is clarkness.com. This site provides free stories and books for downloading, printing, or reading online. The stories range in level from Pre-K to end of first grade. They are a great way to practice sight words and fluency. The site also includes books in a variety of subject areas including math, science, and social studies. Check out these two fabulous new sites, as well as other great educational sites, in my links section.

I’ve also added a new page to my blog: My e-books. This page has links to the electronic children’s books I have available through Kindle. These e-books are available on any Kindle or Kindle app. Kindle apps are free to download on any PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry or Windows Phone 7. E-books are a great way to read with your child. They are inexpensive, convenient, and a fun way to help your child learn while playing with technology.

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