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.

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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

Mommy-Daughter Book Talks

During our routine bedtime stories tonight, my five-year-old daughter stopped midway through reading her book to me and said, “Mom, this is like Jan Brett. The author is giving us picture clues.”

“What do you mean?” I asked her. It sounded like she was making a connection, but I was surprised by her casual use of an author’s name so I asked her to clarify just to be sure.

“Like in the book The Mitten,” she explained. “The author gives picture clues to show what animal is coming next.” Yep, she had made a text-to-text connection that both surprised and amazed me.

“What’s a text-to-text connection?” She asked me when I told her she had made one. And thus, a teachable moment about a reading strategy that she already does naturally began.

It may come as no surprise that I love reading to my kids and talking to them about books. But what I love even more is the excitement my kids show over reading and talking about books. Recently my daughter asked me if we could start our own book club. Just us. And sometimes we’d let Daddy join in too. Of course, I was more than willing to participate. During our special book club meetings, according to her rules, we each read a book of our choosing and then we tell the other person about our book. What a great way to practice summarizing! And we could ask questions about each other’s books. Another great way to gauge comprehension. My daughter doesn’t realize she’s learning. She just thinks it’s fun. But for the teacher in me, the teachable moments are endless! Our book clubs and book talks have become a wonderful way for us to spend quality time together as well as practice reading skills.

Just recently, I read my daughter a book titled Elena’s Story. It’s about a young Mayan girl near Guatemala who goes to school, helps her mom take care of her little brother and baby sister, does chores around their house, helps with planting, and figures out her role in the family while her father is away as she practices her reading and shares a story with her brother. The story provides great insight into the life of a girl, close to my daughter’s age, from another culture in another part of the world. After finishing the book, I asked my daughter how her life was similar to Elena’s. She pointed out that they both go to school and they both help their moms with their little brothers. Then we talked about how Elena’s life was different. Her life was harder. She had more chores to do, especially while her father was away. They had to walk everywhere and read by candlelight that they could barely afford. She struggled to find time to read and stay caught up in school because she was responsible for always watching her little brother.  It made for an interesting conversation about how people live differently in different cultures, but how she and Elena had many similarities as well even though their lives were so different. Just by talking about the book, we practiced several comprehension skills including making connections (text-to-self), comparing and contrasting, and drawing conclusions. Then my daughter asked a question (another comprehension strategy), that led to another teachable moment. “Are we rich or poor?” She asked, after we drew the conclusion that Elena’s family was poor and had more struggles than we did.

“Well, that’s a matter of perspective,” I said. And that led to a very interesting discussion about what perspective means and how one person’s view of things like rich and poor is different than another’s. And in my daughter’s typical 5-year old fashion of summarizing every new thing she learns, we ended our discussion with her giving me an example of perspective by using a butterfly analogy.

“So if everyone in the world owned butterflies,” she explained, “and we had, say, twenty butterflies, then someone who had 100 butterflies would think we didn’t have very many butterflies, but someone who only had four butterflies would say wow, they have a lot of butterflies.”

“Good example!” I responded, proud of her understanding. “That’s perspective.” Then, after another question about what jobs make the most money (I gave her a few examples like famous actors and singers and CEO’s of big companies) and whether her daddy makes a lot of money, I again explained that it’s a matter of perspective. She went on to further demonstrate her understanding by making more connections (the Aha! moments that a teacher lives for!).

“So Elena’s daddy (a plantation worker), would think my daddy makes a lot of money, but the person in charge of Facebook would think daddy makes hardly any money.

“Yep,” I responded again, laughing at her example. “You got it!”

And with that, we ended another great book talk with its ensuing teachable moments and comprehension practice. I love seeing my daughter learn through books, and I love sharing these moments with her. I hope our book talks never end, but rather grow and evolve as her love of reading does. And I also hope that by sharing my mommy-daughter book talk experiences, I can help inspire someone else to share wonderful teaching moments like these with their kids as well.

Choosing What to Read

I often get asked by parents for book suggestions for their kids. I have touched on this topic and shared book selection sites in various posts, but I realized that I don’t have a post that directly deals with this topic and contains all of these useful sites in one place. So here it is. Whether you are looking for books to read aloud to your child, books they can read on their own, books turned in to movies, books in a particular genre, or popular books for your child’s age/grade/or reading level, here are some helpful suggestions and sites that can help you find the perfect books to choose.

What is the right level?

Many schools now use Lexile levels to determine an individual student’s reading ability. These levels are measured using reading assessments from a test or program. Ask your child’s teacher for his/her reading level. Even if your child’s school doesn’t use Lexile levels, they can still give you an idea of where your child is reading. Check out this website which helps you search books based on your child’s Lexile level: http://www.lexile.com/findabook/. If you don’t know your child’s Lexile level, you can also search this site based on your child’s grade, interests, and approximate reading level. For a Lexile grade conversion chart, click here: http://www.cpschools.com/Schools/HMS/SummerReading/LexileConversionChart.pdf.  For more information about Lexile levels and how they are measured, check out this resource: http://www.lexile.com/about-lexile/lexile-overview/.

If you are looking for a book your child can read on his/her own, you want to search for books that are at his/her independent reading level. If you are looking for books you can read with your child (shared reading), find books that are at his/her instructional reading level. If you are looking for books to read aloud to your child, find books that are one to two levels above your child’s reading level. Children’s listening comprehension levels are generally higher than their reading comprehension levels.

 Sites for finding books:

Find a book based on Lexile Level OR Grade Level: http://www.lexile.com/findabook/, OR http://digitalbooktalk.com/?page_id=6

Find a book turned in to a movie: http://www.kidsreads.com/features/books2movies.asp

Find a book based on interest or popularity

Scholastic’s “The Stacks”: http://www.scholastic.com/kids/stacks/?esp=CORPHP/ib/////NAV/Kids/Tab/STACKSHP////

Kids Read: http://www.kidsreads.com/

 Find a book based on recommendations

By age or category: http://school.familyeducation.com/literature/reading/34576.html?detoured=1, OR http://www.readkiddoread.com/home

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

By interest: http://www.goodreads.com/