Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Peek Into Easy Readers

Last week I shared a boxed set of books that I'm in love with. The Ready, Set, Go series is perfect for beginning readers.



I love the simplicity of these books. They have a simple sight word and the picture clearly matches the text. When you are reading simple books like these with your kids, they will memorize. That's ok! Just have them practice pointing to the words as they say them too. One to one correspondence of print is a learned skill. All of the books in set one have just two words on each page. My daughter loves these because they are only 4 page books! She feels like a reader and it's quick!

Set 2 has full sentences. Still, the text is predictable enough that kids can read on their own or with minimal support. Key sight words are used, which helps develop fluency in reading! Again, have kids point to the words as they read. Make sure your child understands where to start if the sentence is broken into two lines. That return sweep is sometimes hard for kids to understand. This is a perfect time to talk about the words on the page, punctuation, and the way authors write with mostly lowercase letters.
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Set 3 contains books with much longer sentences and more pages in each book. My daughter hasn't been able to read these books without support yet, but she keeps trying. Sometimes I will read these books to her and have her point to the words for me.


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Our new literacy program does have little books that we will be sending home. These will not start coming home for several more weeks. If you have had a child in kindergarten and still have the pre-decodable and decodable books that we used in years past, feel free to have your child read these. The Lynnwood Library has many easy readers too. I LOVE the Wright Group books. They are kept in tubs in the children's area. If you are looking to purchase books, Barnes and Noble carries the Ready, Set, Go series and the sets by Nora Gaydos. has fantastic books for early readers too!

Happy reading!

A Few Of My Favorite Books

I have a confession to make. As a child, I didn't like to read. Actually, I hated reading. I don't have a favorite book from my childhood or even a book I remember kind of liking. As a teacher, I've fallen in love with books. I love children's books! I could spend hours browsing the children's section at Barnes and Noble.

I'd like to share a few of my favorite children's books with you.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear is a classic. I think EVERY child should hear and read this book. Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle have produced several other books in the same line. The kids absolutely love these books. They love the repetition, the predictability, and the fact that they can read it all by themselves.

We use the pattern of the book to help us write many of our own books throughout the school year. During our first week of school we wrote Tell Me, Tell Me, Who Do You See. Just like that, our kindergarteners became authors. By the way, you really can't go wrong with any of Eric Carle's books. If you see these books at the library, bookstore, or in book orders, they are great to pick up! Our class is currently doing an Eric Carle author study.


Jan Brett is another of my favorite authors. She has a FABULOUS website, I could pick apart each of her books and tell you the things I love about them, but I'll spare you all of the details. The Hat is my all time favorite Jan Brett book. I love this book because on her website she talks about the real life story that was the inspiration for this book. Teachers teach their students to live like writers, and to know that small moments can turn into stories. A simple story about her pet, sparked Jan Brett's imagination. The Hat was the result. What small moment do you think your child will write about: baking cookies, riding bikes, family game night, caring for a pet?

Another Jan Brett favorite is Honey, Honey, Lion. I love this book because it is completely engaging for young children. They are sitting on the edge of their seats, waiting to find out what happens. I love Jan Brett's use of onomatopoeia (words that represent sounds), like boing or sprong. The shape she writes these words also represents the actions. Kids often start making hand movements as we read this story aloud. We use this book as a mentor text during our Writer's Workshop time. We encourage kids to use their own sound words in their writing.


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When I read book by Byrd Baylor I get goosebumps. These are amazing children's books that touch the depths of our busy lives. They remind me to slow down and simply enjoy the beauty in our world. I'm in Charge of Celebration is a book we use as a springboard for keeping an idea notebook. An idea notebook is our kindergarten version of a writer's notebook. We brainstorm special times, more than those they close school for.


Puddles... there couldn't be a better book for teaching schema. Schema is all of the "stuff" in our brains that we already know. We use that schema as we read to make connections to the books we are enjoying. It helps us make meaning from the text and deepen our comprehension. Is there anything children can connect better with than puddles? When we read this, EVERYONE wants to share their puddle jumping fun!


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This next book makes me melt. Ralph Fletcher writes books for teachers, helping them to become better writers and teach children to become better writers. In this children's book, his word choice reminds me of a wonderful, quiet song. I have not used this book with kindergarten. I used it when I taught second grade, as a mentor text for keeping a writer's notebook and the power of word choice.

Ralph Fletcher was speaking at a conference I attended a few years ago. He shared a page from his writer's notebook with us. I love the way you can really get a glimpse into his thought process as this book came to life. He shares ideas for titles, phrases he wanted to include in the book, and many ideas that didn't make the final cut. It is so rare to be able to peek into someone's thoughts like this. Attending this conference and reading his book and notebook was really a gift.

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Gingerbread stories have been around forever, as you can see by the old fashioned story from my childhood. Young kids love to read several books on the same topic. We read the classic versions of The Gingerbread Boy and then we also read gingerbread stories with a twist. I love it when authors take a classic and add their own spin on it. Again, Jan Brett has several wonderful gingerbread books. My favorite would have to be The Gingerbread Girl. She's a feisty little character!

I hope these books give you some inspiration when you see those book orders coming out. Whether you buy books at the bookstore, buy from Scholastic, or borrow from the library, please remember that the most important thing is to READ each day!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Organizing Your Kids' Books


My kids and I spent some quality time going through the bookshelf on Sunday evening. We weeded out many of the books that the kids have outgrown. Once we reduced the amount of books on the shelf, we were ready for a little reorganizing. In the classroom, our library is organized into thematic bins. I have about 50 little bins in the classroom.

classroom library

I don't quite have that much space in our home library nook. I use the area behind my bedroom door for our kids' library corner. It is unused space and if the door is open the messy books are hiding behind the door. The label maker was my best friend for this project. The labels are really for me, so I know where I want books put away. I'll be honest, my kids don't put books back on the shelf and they usually just leave piles around the house for me to pick up and put away.

I decided to divide the books the same way I do in the classroom. We sorted the books into piles and then made a section on each shelf. Since I don't have enough room for the number of bins I'd like, I just used my label maker to label each section. I'd like to do little pictures, like I do in the classroom. That will have to be a project for another day.

We had a lot of Dora books, so they got their own bin. Arthur books were pretty popular so they got a bin too. I have bins for a few chapter book series, but the rest of the books are just on the shelves, sorted by category.
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Shall we take bets on how long this lasts? How do you manage your kids' books at home? Any tips for organization?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Child's Work

Once upon a time, play was King (or Queen) of kindergarten. A child's first experience in school was all about social development, learning to interact as a community member, and developmental play. Teachers set up wonderful play experiences for children and sought out every teachable moment they could.

Gone are the days when play ruled in kindergarten. Standards, workbooks, accountability, and district mandated testing are the buzz words you'll hear. But, every single kindergarten teacher you talk to will affirm that there is a place for rigor in the classroom and there is a place for PLAY.

Today, I'm sharing a few pictures from our center time. It's the time of the day where we just play. Yes, there is learning involved in these centers. I promise to dissect them one by one and explain what is happening in later posts. Today, just enjoy getting a glimpse into play in our class.

If you are interested in reading more about the importance of play in early childhood, I have a great book to suggest. A Child's Work by Vivian Gussin Paley, is a wonderful book about the importance of fantasy play. She has several other wonderful books on the topic.

Thanks for taking the time to read this... now go out and PLAY! :)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Great Books for Kindergarteners

Hello families!

As you know, my daughter is in kindergarten and my son is a fourth grader. Yesterday afternoon my son was about to get started on his homework. He made a comment about how his sister was so lucky that she didn't have homework. I reminded them both that reading is part of homework and they are expected to READ EVERY DAY!!! Sometimes I think they forget that it's an expectation, because it's part of our daily life.

Last week one of our reading lessons was about how being good listeners during story time is the beginning of becoming a good reader. It is the foundation of literacy!

As our kindergarteners develop as readers and begin reading on their own, they will need books in which they can access the text. Last year one of our parents shared a book set with me. I purchased this set, by Nora Gaydos, at Barnes and Noble. My daughter loves it! She earns stickers each time she reads a book. (Stickers are included in the set.) The set for Pre-readers is fantastic.


While I was browsing, I found these sets of non-fiction books. I'm in LOVE with these books! The text is repetitive and easy for kids to access. The pictures are actual photos. The books are really gorgeous! My daughter really enjoys reading these books to me. She feels so proud that she is actually reading. She needs a little help with some of the vocabulary, but really enjoys these books. I purchased every set I could find. The structure of the books mimic the stories we write in class too!


If you are interested in finding books that your kids are able to read with minimal support, these sets are good suggestions. Even when your kids are reading on their own, please remember that reading TO your kids will always be an important part of your daily routine! If you have suggestions for other great books, please share them in the comment section or send me an email!

Happy reading!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Raising Happiness


I'm reading a book right now called Raising Happiness by Christine Carter. I decided to read this book because my kindergartener tends to be a "glass-half-empty" kind of girl. When I'm feeling joyful because it's sunny, she's pouting because it's too bright out.

Chapter 2 in this book is about building a village... It takes a village to raise a child. At first glance, my thought was that this topic doesn't really help make my child happier, but I was wrong. I often think about how lucky I am to have family living so close to me. My sister lives in my neighborhood and so does my sister-in-law. All of the cousins go to the same school and help me tremendously with with before and after school care. The grandmas are both retired now too and jump in to help quite often. Some of you are probably thinking, "Well, that's great for you, but I don't have family close by!"

Let me tell you about another VERY important member of my village. Her name is Diane and even though we aren't related by blood, I feel as close to her as any other member of my family. Diane and I met when our kids were in the same infant room at a daycare center. (Actually we met in our child birth class, but we didn't even remember each other.) When our oldest kids were three, we started mom and me swim lessons together.

Pretty soon, we found that our kids played really well together and started trading child care now and then. When our kids were three, we were both pregnant with our second babies. At that point we started working on something we just called "The Plan". Our crazy idea was that if we both worked part time, working exactly opposite schedules, we could share child care and save oursevles $1,500 each month in child care. We would raise our kids like they were brothers and sisters (except they'd go home to their own houses at night). We started when our babies were 9 months old and the big kids were 3.

My son is now 9, and my daughter is 6. The babies have gone off to kindergarten and the big kids are fourth graders.

WE DID IT! We made this crazy plan of ours work. We created a village and raised our children together.

So, why am I telling you this story?

In chapter 2 of Raising Happiness, the author talks about building your village. As a parent, I COULD NOT SURVIVE without my village. Yes, some of my village members are family. But there may be someone out there who is just waiting to invite you into their village. Relationships with other people is KEY to providing happiness in our lives. Children who are embedded in a strong network of parents, friends, neighbors, and family are happier children. Playing with other kids teaches friendship skills. When YOU make connections with the parents of your child's friends you are modeling how to foster relationships!

This week I sent out the phone list of kids in our class. I'm urging you to reach out to these families. Invite kids for playdates and get to know them on a personal level. Maybe you'll find a Diane, someone who is as close as family and ready to be part of your village.
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