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Monday, August 31, 2009

Literacy Lava 2!!!

It's here! It's here! The second edition of Literacy Lava!! Come check it out with me!

Literacy Lava is a free pdf ezine for parents, offering tips on ways to incorporate reading, writing and communicating into family life.

In the second edition of Literacy Lava, you’ll find ideas: for motivating reluctant readers, for literacy on the go, for developing the imagination muscle, for linking math and literacy, for having a pirate party and a book picnic, for rhymes, games, activities and more!

Brought to you by bloggers and writers who are passionate about children's literature and literacy, Literacy Lava 2 is erupting with no- or low-cost activities parents can do with their kids.

So, if you think you'd like a little lava to read with your java...

If the price tag FREE appeals to you...

Grab Literacy Lava 2 today, via The Book Chook blog.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Garage Sale

You may have noticed my lack of post this past Thursday. Sorry! Me, the hubby, and kiddo are in Chicago having a MASSIVE garage sale to raise funds for our adoption. It' been an awesome weekend and it's not over yet! I'll share more on Monday (hopefully), when we're back in town.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Kidlit Superheroes

Photo by Dashu Pagla

I'm having one of those weeks... or maybe months, where I look around at all the brilliant kidlit bloggers and tweeters, and wonder how they have the time to read so many books, keep up on everyone's blogs, maintain awesome blogs themselves, stay informed of all the latest kidlit news, and work jobs and/or care for their families. Seriously, how do they do it? How do you do it?

I am certainly no kidlit superhero. There are never even close to enough hours in my day. Being in the midst of the international adoption process, and doing major fundraising for said adoption doesn't help, but I was far from Wonder Woman even before all that began.

So I'm laying it all out here. (Not that there will probably be any big surprises for anyone.), in the hopes that others will do the same, and make me feel better. I love to try to put on the pretty Literacy Launchpad face, but here's the reality (hopefully you'll still want to follow my blog by the end of this post):

- As much as I love to read, I hardly ever have time to do it lately. I'm lucky to squeeze in a chapter a night. It's depressing. I haven't read much of anything in a while, with the exception of picture books. What kind of reading role model am I?

- There are dozens of kidlit blogs I wish I could keep up with. I used to be pretty good at this, but it's a sacrifice I've had to make lately. It sucks. I feel totally out of the loop. Thank goodness for Twitter. I get little chirps of interesting things from time to time.

- I'm not all-knowing when it comes to children's books. Not even close. I'm sorry if I've ever let you down, or disappointed you by not having that perfect book recommendation, or by having never heard of that picture book you asked if I knew anything about. There's too many! No. I haven't read them all!

- Similar to the point made above, I do not own every picture book (family and friends: it's O.K. to gift me or Isaac a picture book from time to time). Even if I had the desire to buy every picture book, and a place to store them all, I certainly don't have the means. That's why we love our library! So don't be disappointed when you want to borrow some random picture book from me and I don't own it.

I could go on telling you how far from kidlit superhero I am. But I'll stop there for today. That's a just a little glimpse for ya.

None of us are perfect, right? Right? But I do believe we all possess some kind of super power in one area or another. Whether it be in your career, your family, a hobby, whatever.

When it comes to kidlit, my "super power" is that I can take a picture book and make it come alive with fun. Of course, that's what Literacy Launchpad is all about! I also think I'm a pretty darn good read-alouder (made that word up). I'll claim those strengths in the wake of admitting my mediocrity in pretty much every other area.

We can't all do it all. But when we pool our strengths, we can do BIG things together! And when we're talking about pooling strengths in the area of kidlit, that makes me really excited. Teachers, parents, bloggers, writers, librarians, caregivers... We can change the world. We will change the world!

Jump in here! Admit some imperfections, and then put on your cape and claim your super power! I know you've got one (or two)!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Literacy Launchpad Interview @ Kids Book Review!

Go visit the fabulous Kids Book Review and see the interview they did with me! It's fascinating! Ha! Ha!

Seriously though, I would love to hear your thoughts on some of the great questions they asked me. Come on over! Let's talk about kids books!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Book Chook and Literacy Lava to the Rescue!

Susan at The Book Chook heads up a AWESOME, FREE, online newsletter that's all about literacy! There are several other brilliant bloggers that contribute to Literacy Lava as well. I had the wonderful privilege of contributing to the first edition of Literacy Lava, and would have loved to be a part of this next edition as well, but adoption fundraising and paperwork has taken over my life, and unfortunately doesn't leave much time for fun stuff like Literacy Lava.

But Susan is so savvy to everything and everyone in the kidlitosphere that she knew the craziness in my life without me needing to explain it all to her. Love that lady! And she sent me the info about the latest Literacy Lava edition right in the knick of time: my son is sick with the flu, and I had nothing prepared to post today. No fear! Literacy Lava to the rescue!

So here's the official scoop!

Literacy Lava 2, Coming Soon!

Making literacy part of our everyday family life is often just a matter of remembering. We need to make sure our kids see that reading, writing, and communicating are important to us, and give them lots of opportunities to participate too.

Literacy Lava 2 is a free magazine that will bring you ideas: for motivating reluctant readers, for literacy on the go, for developing the imagination muscle, for linking math and literacy, for having a pirate party and a book picnic, for rhymes, games, activities and more!

Brought to you by bloggers and writers who are passionate about children's literature and literacy, Literacy Lava 2 is erupting with no- or low-cost activities parents can do with kids to promote literacy.

Coming September 1 to The Book Chook blog!

Monday, August 17, 2009

After Burning the Midnight Oil...

... I always end up with happy students! Yeah, so I don't always have my lessons ready weeks in advance. What teacher does? My students don't know that though. Nor do they care. They just care that I come to class with super cool books, and super fun stuff to do with those cool books!

This week's story was The Apple Pie That Papa Baked by Lauren Thompson. We discussed the format, how the book starts at the end of the story (or process of making apple pie) and works back to the beginning. Then we used story cards to put the steps of making an apple pie in order.

Each student got to take a turn clipping their story card onto our story line (jump rope), and at the end we ended up with the complete story line pictured above.

Then we told our own story. Our story began, "On the last day of summer vacation I..." Each student took a turn adding something to the story, after each addition we recapped all the previous additions to the story. There were lots of giggles when someone tried to sneak something in about going "potty" on their turn. Ah, to be a preschooler again.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Preparing A Lesson.

I always have high hopes of getting my lesson plans done way ahead of time, but that hardly ever happens. I'm always burning the midnight oil the night before class. That's especially true lately with us beginning our adoption from Ethiopia. Oi! So fun, but SO tiring!

So if you're looking for something to do next Tuesday night, head on over to my house and I'll put you to work. Come on now, it will be fun! Take a look and see...

O.K. So we're reading The Apple Pie That Papa Baked (Lauren Thompson). I want to make some story pieces... Do I have some felt? Let's look in one of my craft drawers here. Yikes! Messy!

What am I thinking? Felt is going to be way hard to make these out of this late. Let's see if I have any card stock. Yes! I do. And it's cream colored too. It'll coordinate nicely with Jonathan Bean's illustrations in the book. Note to self though: You're running dangerously low on card stock and construction paper. Buy more!!

I feel like I've been using lots of homemade story cards lately. I sometimes get stuck on something like that when it comes to my lessons. Ah well. It always works great and the kids have fun with it. That's all that matters. Let's slice up this card stock!

Bucket o' crayons? There you are! I'll keep with the color scheme used in the book and use black, brown, and red. Sorry carnation pink and cerulean. Maybe next time!

Mmmm! Pie! My drawing looks good enough to eat!

Whew! That took way less time than fussing with felt, and accomplishes the same thing... perhaps even better than the left would have. I'm more than satisfied with how these story cards turned out.

I'll snip the end off this broken jump rope, and grab some clothespins...

Throw everything in my bag and I'm all ready to go for tomorrow!

Be sure to come back and see what we did with all this!

Monday, August 10, 2009

20 Places to Find Free Children's Books Online

Photo by Flickrized

The following is a guest article from Karen Schweitzer of About. com.

20 Places to Find Free Children's Books Online

The local public library isn’t the only place to find free books for kids. There are many different sites online that offer free children's books to read or listen to. Here are 20 places to read, create, and share free children's books online:

International Children's Digital Library - The ICDL hosts many different reading resources for children, including a wide range of illustrated books that can be read for free online. Books are easy to locate using the ICDL search features and are often available in multiple languages.

The Baldwin Online Children's Project - This amazing resource provides one of the best classic book collections that can be found online. Many of the books include illustrations and can be read on the web using a customizable reader.

Big Universe - This award-winning site is devoted entirely to children's books. Kids can read free books online, create and print their own books, and share reading recommendations with other Big Universe members.

Magic Keys - Magic Keys offers illustrated books for younger children, older children, and young adults. All books can be read for free online.

Children's Books Online - This volunteer-driven project provides a large online library of illustrated antique books for children of all ages. New books are added to the site each week.

ByGosh.com - ByGosh.com provides a modest collection of illustrated classics for younger children (Three Little Pigs, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, etc.) and classic novels (Huckleberry Finn, Peter Pan, etc.) for older children.

Mighty Book - Might Book offers a hodgepodge of animated stories, songs, jokes, and puzzles that can be enjoyed for free online. The site also has a paid membership service that opens up more resources.

Hans Christian Andersen Online - This site features a complete collection of stories from Hans Christian Andersen--nearly 170 stories in all.

Zelo - Zelo offers a large collection of free nursery rhymes for children.

Page By Page Books - This free online library features hundreds of free classic books sorted by title and author.

Classic Book Library - The Classic Book Library offers a wide range of free classic books that can be read online. More than 30 free books are available in the children's literature category.

Classic Reader - Classic Reader provides hundreds of the best-loved classics for young readers. All of the books can be read for free online and may be reviewed after reading.

PublicLiterature.org - This site offers two features for young booklovers: a modern books blog, which features new works and new authors, and a classic books section, which offers an easy-to-use interface for reading classic books online.

The Literature Network - The Literature Network is a great place for older children to find free books to read online. The site hosts classic books as well as author biographies and quizzes.

Online Books Page - The Online Books Page does not host children's books exclusively, but the site does provide more than 35,000 books that can be read for free online. Many of the books are classic stories that would be appropriate for older children and young adults.

Read Print - This free online library serves both children and adults. It is an excellent place to find classic novels, poems, plays, and short stories.

Lil Fingers - Lil Fingers offers a small collection of story books for young children. Books can be read online and include sounds and graphics.

Starfall - This site offers free books and other material that can be used to teach small children how to read. Most of the books are suited for kids in kindergarten through second grade.

Librivox - Librivox volunteers record books that are in the public domain. Children will enjoy many of the audio books in Librivox's extensive catalog.

Storyline Online - This site from The Screen Actors Guild Foundation features videos of famous people reading books to children.

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the About.com Guide to Business School. She also writes about online college courses for OnlineCourses.org.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Magic Pots... And Mops!

Yes! Strega Nona this week! It was perfect for this food themed month I have planned. Besides a subject theme of "food," our learning theme is "What's your story?" We'll be working on using our imagination, being inspired by what we read, and telling stories of our own!

I had this idea to make a magic pot of my own, using the pulley-type-system that I used with my Jack and the Beanstalk lesson. What could I use as the pasta, I wondered? What? What? What? Then it struck me: mops! I could buy a bunch of mop heads and bind them together to look like a heap of pasta!

Seemed like an easy enough idea. Let me tell ya though, mop heads are not easy to attach to one another. At least not the kind you buy at the Dollar Tree. It took me forever! After several tries, and much frustration, I figured out a way to attach them to one another somewhat securely.

Then I had the task of attaching the clear thread to the mops to make the pulley-system. What was I thinking?? The mass of mop heads weighed a ton! I had to thread at least five strands of thread through to make it strong enough to lift without snapping the thread. It all worked out though.

Strega Nona is a bit longer in length than most stories I choose for a Literacy Launchpad lesson. I worried the students would get bored, BUT they LOVED it! Even the young ones who typically have attention spans of about two seconds! This made me so happy, and proud of my little book worms!

Check out the fun they had making our magic pot boil over with pasta! I had them each come up with their own magic words to say to the pot. I got lots of "Abra Cadabras" and "Bippety Boppety Boos!"

Yup! Told you it was heavy! These kids are strong though!!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Teaching Children to Use the Library

This post is more an asking post, than a telling post...

I was at the library this week, shopping the shelves for some potential books for Literacy Launchpad lessons. This is not my usual method. I usually have a list I'm working from of specific books I'm on the hunt for; books that I have read reviews about, or that have been recommended by a friend, or books I have read previously. As I randomly scanned through the numerous books, I noticed all the other parents with children there in the children's section, also seemingly doing the very same thing as me. And it made me wonder. Is this method the norm for choosing books at the library? Do we teach our children to just randomly pul books off the shelf, judge them by their covers (You're not supposed to do that, you know!), and then choose whether to take them home or not based on that?

I have some mixed feelings on this matter. I think it's important for children to be part of the choosing process on a trip to the library. But what are we teaching our children about choosing books when we encourage or teach an aimless strategy like this? Not all books are the same. Not all books are good. Is it good to be surprised by our random choices? Or would it be better to teach our children some strategies for finding what they're looking for, or what they might like?

I'm really curious to hear your thoughts on this matter. Please share.

While you think on that, here are my ideas for helping your child learn to find the books at the library that they really want to read:

- Ask a librarian. That's their job! They're there to help. Tell them what you like, or what you want to read about, and let them offer you suggestions!

- Do some research on the internet. I like to look up books I know and like on Amazon, and then check out the links listed on that page of related titles, or look at what books people bought with this favorite book of mine. You can follow some of the links in my sidebar and find book reviews as well as recommended reading lists on those various websites and blog (another place online you can start).

- Find a book your child really likes? Encourage them to find other books by the same author. How cool would it be for your preschooler to already have a favorite author! Maybe you could find a book with some info about that author in it. Perhaps there's a biography written on that author?

- Suggest that your child gets some reading recommendations from their friends. What kind of books do they like? Have they read any good titles lately? What kind of books have they seen their friends reading? Can you picture your child and his friends out on the playground discussing literature? It could happen!

- If your child asks a question you don't know the answer to, or shows a strong interest in something in particular, invite them to explore the topic with you further at the library.

These are just a few suggestions...

I think teaching children how to use the library with purpose at a young age helps nurture a love of books and reading. It empowers and motivates them to read more... now that they know how to find the books they really want to read!