Summer Fun Toolkit: Sight Word Bingo

My kids love Bingo, especially if we use Goldfish, M&Ms or another tasty treat for our markers. I made Bingo cards from Cooper’s Kindergarten sight words, so he can keep up with them all summer long.

Click on the photo below to print out the cards. Make sure to print an extra sheet, cut out the pieces and put them in a bag or bowl to draw from.

SightWordBingo

You can also build up your child’s repertoire of sight words through DK’s Silly Sentences game, for ages 4 through 7. It’s currently Finley’s favorite game. We play it almost every day.

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Summer Fun Toolkit: Reading Logs

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll post some favorite activities and games for keeping skills sharp over the summer months. Researchers have shown that “summer brain drain” is a big issue for children, especially for lower-income kids. Teachers have to spend weeks each school year getting kids back to their pre-summer skill levels. There are lots of fun ways to stave off “summer brain drain.”

During summer break, we continue to make time every day for reading. Cooper and Finley have a mandatory hour of “rest time” in the afternoon. They can play quietly or read books. At bedtime, they each read to me, and I read to them. Every time they finish a book, they get to log it in their Brilliant Reader Log Book.

Brilliant Reader

I found these books at the dollar bin at Target a few weeks ago. For each book, kids get to write about their favorite characters and the best part of the book. There is space to draw a favorite scene. Then kids get to assign the book from one to ten stars. For my soon-to-be first-grader, the log doubles as handwriting practice.

How do you encourage summer reading? Does everyone in your house have mandatory reading time?

Mad Lib Magic

IMG_2740_2We are big fans of mad libs in our house. For Cooper’s Star Wars LEGO birthday party, I ordered mad lib books for the goody bags. The mad libs have been a big hit with the Curious Kids, especially on road trips.

As a mom/teacher/writer, I love that mad libs help the boys recognize parts of speech. To complete the mad libs, they have to know what adjectives, verbs or nouns are. They are getting practice with sentence structure all in the name of fun.

Here’s a MadLib (MS Word) I wrote for a special Star Wars fan, Renn. Learn about Renn and his galactic battle with epilepsy here. May The Force be with you, Renn!

New Year’s Resolutions: Starting a Reading Habit

What? It’s too early to talk New Year’s resolutions, you say? Well, just in case you’ve finished all your Christmas shopping, decorated your tree, and baked

Your-Beth

cookies, I have found something for you to do. Grab a copy of Emma Walton Hamilton’s Raising Bookworms and consider starting a reading habit with your child in the new year.

Walton’s book provides some wonderful “how to’s” for raising children with a love for reading. She organizes the book around children’s ages and stages, from toddlers to middle school and beyond. Each chapter is chock full of tips and tricks, as well as her book list of “family favorites” for each age. She also includes a section of frequently asked questions and an introduction with arguments for why reading is important. A wonderful supplement for this book would be Vivian Kirkfield’s Show Me How!, which provides craft and cooking tie-ins for many beloved children’s books.

At our house reading has long been a part of our nightly routine. Each boy gets three books before bed. Sometimes a section of the LEGO catalog substitutes for one of the books, but as Hamilton says, you need to think broadly about what counts as reading. For my kindergartener, I read him two books, and he reads me one. Or he reads me a chapter from a chapter book. After that, he gets to stay up an extra half hour to read in his bed. This is a privilege he is pretty excited about.

We’ve always visited the library A LOT. And the boys are never surprised to come home to a stack of books from the library used book sale or a couple of Scholastic Book Order paperbacks. These are two inexpensive ways to build your library if you are just starting out.

I am sure many of you already have an established reading routine with your children. But, if you don’t, Raising Bookworms can help you start one. A big thanks to Beth Stilborn (the birthday girl) for introducing me to this wonderful book.

Repost – Advent Idea: A Book a Day

This is a repost from last year, but I thought my book-loving followers might enjoy it.

I’ve wrapped up the books again, and the boys are eagerly unwrapping them — perhaps a little too eagerly. Finley unwrapped five books today! We have a planned trip to the library to check out some Christmas books and shore up our stash.

Enjoy!

Growing up, I remember our advent calendar held a small candy cane  for each day until Christmas. My brother, sister and I would eagerly take turns removing the candies (even though peppermint isn’t my favorite). We have a traditional advent calendar in our house now; each day the boys remove a different figure from a numbered pocket and velcro it onto the manger scene. Since Thanksgiving, my older son has been asking me if it’s December 1st yet, so he can start creating the scene.

Because this is such a special time of year, I’m always interested in new ways to count down to Christmas. My friend Nancy recently shared a good one: a Christmas book a day. Here’s how it works. Scour your children’s book collection for 25 books about Christmas. Don’t have 25 books about Christmas? Neither do I, so I also included books about winter and snow. For example, I include The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats and Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton. You can also visit your local library to supplement your collection. Just make sure to keep those at the front of the pile so they don’t become overdue! Also consider that booksellers may have Christmas books on sale during the holiday season.

Once you’ve amassed your pile, find a nice basket to hold all your books, and put it in a special spot, for example under your tree, by your fireplace or on a side table in the family room. Then it’s time to start wrapping! Pull out the wrapping paper, ribbon and bows, wrap each book and place it in the basket. (Note: You could use your recycled Christmas cards in lieu of bows here.) There’s nothing children love more during the holidays than unwrapping a present. Designate a special time each day (first thing in the morning or bedtime, for example), and let each child take turns unwrapping a “present.” Then you can all enjoy reading the book together. What a nice holiday tradition!

Perfect Picture Book Friday: The Camping Trip That Changed America

I feel truly honored to review this delightful book. I had read so much early press about it on several nonfiction blogs. The story intrigued me, especially since we recently took the boys to Muir Woods, named for naturalist John Muir. I was lucky enough to win my a copy from one of my favorite blogs, Teaching Authors. And Barb wrote a beautiful inscription to Cooper and Finley so that they’ll always remember their trip to Muir Woods.
Author: Barb Rosenstock
Illustrator: Mordicai Gerstein
Publication Info: Dial Books for Young Readers – Penguin Young Readers Group, 2012
Intended audience: Ages 6 to 8
Genre: nonfiction, picture book
Themes/topics: U.S. history, nature
Opening and synopsis: “Teedie and Johnnie didn’t have much in common — but they shared a love of the outdoors. They both loved a good story, too. And that was enough to change America.”
Rosenstock focuses on a brief excursion in 1903 when famed naturalist John Muir and then-President Theodore Roosevelt camped amongst the giant sequoias in the Yosemite wilderness. The two grown men swapped tales and relived their boyhood during their three-night camp out. Though Johnnie and Teedie never saw each other again after the trip, they became lifelong friends, and that friendship influenced outdoorsman Roosevelt, spurring him to protect more of America’s wilderness. Roosevelt subsequently helped establish 18 national monuments and 55 bird sanctuaries and game preserves. He also added 148 million acres to the National Forest system and doubled the number of National Parks, according to Rosenstock’s notes in the back of the book.
Resources: Rosenstock’s site has a lesson plan for teachers and parents, which is written to Common Core Standards. The boys and I also enjoyed exploring the Yosemite Web site, taking in numerous photos and videos of the majestic park. There are separate sections for kids and teachers.
Why I like this book: As a writer, I am always interested in narrative frameworks. In this book, Rosenstock focuses in on a period of four days, yet these few days have far-reaching impact in America’s history. This approach stands in sharp contrast to books that attempt to cover whole lives of well-known figures or entire historical periods. By narrowing her focus, Rosenstock is able to explore the camping trip in great detail, drawing upon primary resources like newspaper articles and government reports.
Mordicai Gerstein won a Caldecott Medal in 2004 for The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. His illustrations capture the beauty and majesty of the ancient redwood forests.
This book would be a great read for Arbor Day or Earth Day. Or, if you have budding naturalists or history buffs, this book is a perfect everyday read.
Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.

World Read Aloud Day 2012

Do you read aloud to your children? Did you know 793 million people worldwide can’t?

March 7th is World Read Aloud Day, a celebration that encourages us to “imagine a world where everyone can read.” This year, LitWorld is hoping 1 million people will join the event by registering read-aloud activities on its Web site. To make it easy, the site has a this list of suggested activities, including reading aloud with your class at school, hosting book swap parties, dressing up like your favorite storybook characters and more. And there’s no excuse for not reading aloud: the site has a free digital picture book, New Day, New Friends available for download.

Do you have plans for celebrating World Read Aloud Day? I think I’ll have to tote a favorite book along to my MOMS Club meeting that day and read to all the busy toddlers.

Read Across America 2012

Tomorrow, March 2nd, is Read Across America Day, which just so happens to coincide with the birthday of beloved children’s author, Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel). I know my five-year-old and millions of other children will host guest readers, read Dr. Seuss books, eat some green eggs and ham and make a Seuss-tacular, Cat-in-the-Hat hat.

Why is Dr. Seuss the perfect Read Across America author? As I read more and more picture books, I’ve come to appreciate Dr. Seuss’s magic. He combined simple language with complex, imaginative ideas. For example, Green Eggs and Ham relies upon only 50 different words. All of them, except one (anywhere), are single-syllable words. It’s a simple story for budding readers, but the story is not limited by Seuss’s limited vocabulary.

On the same note, Hop on Pop uses lots of single-syllable words with short vowel sounds, making it another good choice for encouraging new readers. In my household’s opinion, Seuss’s books are far more interesting than Bob Books and other texts aimed at preschoolers and kindergarteners. (No offense to Bob Books, which work for so many kids.)

If you are looking for Dr. Seuss activities, look no further:

  • Scholastic has a complete author study with biography and ideas for activities to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday. The latter includes bookmaking, making Cat in the Hat hats and graphing how many students like green eggs and ham.
  • Apples4theTeacher has an entire page dedicated to Dr. Suess’s birthday with lots of printables and activities.
  • TeachKidsArt had this fun Seuss art activity. Grab your paint and googly eyes and get going.
  • Seussville.com is chock full of ideas.

Happy Read Across America Day!

Nonfiction Friday: Snowflake Bentley

Family friend Carol Hopper always has given the boys the most wonderful books. From Eric Carle’s The Very Quiet Cricket to the The Mitten, she has introduced us to fantastic stories. Last year (at least I think it was last year), she introduced us to Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin (Houghton Mifflin Company 1998), the true story of Wilson Bentley, the man who loved snowflakes.

Wilson Bentley’s life’s work was photographing snowflakes. As a young boy with little schooling, “Willie,” as he was called, used an old microscope to study nature, including snowflakes. He discovered that each snowflake had a unique design, and he looked at hundreds each winter. When he was 15 years old Willie started to record his observations by attempting to draw snowflakes. When Willie turned 17, his parents bought him a camera so he could capture snowflakes before they melted.

From that day forward, Willie spent each winter photographing snowflakes. Sometimes he captured just a few. Some years, he photographed hundreds. He wrote and published his pictures, and when he was 66 years old, his book was published.

We love this book because of Willie Bentley’s inspiring passion for his work. He was often laughed at and ridiculed, but he still carried on. The book contains notes in the margins giving additional details about his story. I’m wrapping this one up and adding it to our basket of advent books.

Advent Idea: A Book a Day

Growing up, I remember our advent calendar held a small candy cane  for each day until Christmas. My brother, sister and I would eagerly take turns removing the candies (even though peppermint isn’t my favorite). We have a traditional advent calendar in our house now; each day the boys remove a different figure from a numbered pocket and velcro it onto the manger scene. Since Thanksgiving, my older son has been asking me if it’s December 1st yet, so he can start creating the scene.

Because this is such a special time of year, I’m always interested in new ways to count down to Christmas. My friend Nancy recently shared a good one: a Christmas book a day. Here’s how it works. Scour your children’s book collection for 25 books about Christmas. Don’t have 25 books about Christmas? Neither do I, so I also included books about winter and snow. For example, I include The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats and Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton. You can also visit your local library to supplement your collection. Just make sure to keep those at the front of the pile so they don’t become overdue! Also consider that booksellers may have Christmas books on sale during the holiday season.

Once you’ve amassed your pile, find a nice basket to hold all your books, and put it in a special spot, for example under your tree, by your fireplace or on a side table in the family room. Then it’s time to start wrapping! Pull out the wrapping paper, ribbon and bows, wrap each book and place it in the basket. (Note: You could use your recycled Christmas cards in lieu of bows here.) There’s nothing children love more during the holidays than unwrapping a present. Designate a special time each day (first thing in the morning or bedtime, for example), and let each child take turns unwrapping a “present.” Then you can all enjoy reading the book together. What a nice holiday tradition!