If this is your first time visiting, you might want to subscribe so you'll be notified when there's something new to read! See the sidebar below to subscribe. 

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ethiopia Reads

I don't remember how I stumbled onto this neat website, but I was thrilled when I did. I have been praying a lot lately that God would use my passions AND talents in a meaningful way. And I still don't know what that will look like, or what I think (in my limited vision) that's supposed to look like... But maybe this website was revealed to me for a reason...

Ethiopia Reads does everything from planting libraries in Ethiopia, to running mobile libraries, to publishing children's books in Amharic (language most speak in Ethiopia), to training teachers. It's really amazing. Please, go read all about it at their website (linked in the paragraph above). And you can get involved while you're there!

I firmly believe that reading can change the world. Books are hope. And there are a lot of places in the world that need change, and need hope. Ethiopia is one of them.

Is there an effort you're involved in that's using books and reading to make a difference? Near or far? Tell me about it!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!

Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! (Candace Fleming). One of my favorite stories to read! Another guaranteed hit with kids. Always. And the activity I pair with this story always puts the fun over the top.

Last time I did this lesson, I showed up at one of my schools without the toilet paper rolls, which are a pretty crucial item needed for the activity. But I improvised and it worked. This year, I reworked the activity a little, and added to it a bit... and remembered to bring the toilet paper rolls! It turned out even better than last time!

We've been focusing on dramatizing each story ourselves during the month of March. Last week we got to let our stuff blow away in the wind (The Wind Blew). This week we used puppets to retell this week's story in a playful way.

Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! is a story that my students can't get enough of (neither can my son), and when they get to jump into the story and act it out themselves with their self-made puppets, they go bananas with excitement. My students were bouncing like the bunnies in the story on their way back to class. It's this kind of thing that makes my little teacher heart happy.

My next lesson better be good!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rerun: A Literacy Launchpad Nursery

As I prepare to welcome two new children into our family, and into our home, I am trying to brainstorm something cute, simple, and gender neutral for our new son and daugher's room...

I'm praying for clever inspiration like I had for my son Isaac's room. Take a look. Here's a rerun of a previous post I shared, that briefly explains how I decorated his room:

I always knew that when I had a baby, I wanted to have some kind of a reading theme in the nursery. I also knew that I didn't want to spend much money. So here's a little glimpse of what the hubby and I created for our little guy.

I really like this mobile. It was part of a whole bedding set, but I only needed the mobile, and it sure does look nice with the rest of the room (IMO). It's an elephant with the word "BABY" dangling from the legs (one letter from each leg). Our crib and changing table were purchased from a friend for a steal!

The letter blocks came from a garage sale, and are attached to a super-cheap curtain rod from Lowe's.

Isaac's Gramma made him this quilt. She let me choose the fabrics and theme, so of course, I love the way it turned out. She used a really cute story book fabric to back the quilt. Wish I had taken a photo of that also. Gramma also made the bumper, bed skirt, and window valance.

These are framed prints from a Children's Literature calendar I had. I think it was titled Celebrating Children's Books, or something like that. I don't think they make these calendars anymore. I wonder why. I loved them! I actually had these calendars from a few years, so I had quite a few prints to choose from. I figure I can rotate the pictures if I want, but I'm pretty happy with the ones I chose. The frames came from Michael's. they were on sale for $5 a piece.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Couple Things Worth Trying...

We're getting ready for some road trippin' this spring. We do not have a DVD player in our car, and I would like to avoid getting one for as long as possible. We do use our laptops sometimes in the car to let Isaac watch movies, but Isaac doesn't really seem to care for movies in the car too much.

Isaac does like being read to in the car though. The problem with that is I get car sick when I read while in motion (this happens to me on planes sometimes too), even while reading simple picture books. I came up with an idea though. What if I record myself reading the books ahead of time? Then I could play them back in the car for Isaac and not have to actually read while moving.

So I got out my little handheld tape recorder the other night and recorded myself reading aloud 4 story books. What I really like about using the hand held tape recorder is that we can use it to listen to the stories while we're in the car. This will be handy for two reasons:
1. We don't have a tape deck in our car (like most people these days)
2. I often sit in the back seat with Isaac on long road trips, which makes it difficult to mess with the radio up front.

We got a few books on tape from the library to listen to in the car as well. I'll let you know how this all goes over with Isaac...

Along those same lines, I also made a discovery of a cool new product this week. Well, actually, a friend told me about it. Hallmark has a line of recordable storybooks that they have come out with. I know the idea of audio books is nothing new, but what's so great about these books is that the audio device is built into the book. No CD or tape player necessary. You can record yourself reading the book, then lock the recording to protect it, and it will be saved in the book forever!

I think I'm going to try to bring one or two of these books to our Ethiopian kiddos when we travel for court and meet them for the first time. Then we can leave it with them and they can listen to our voices over and over again while they wait for us to travel again to bring them home. Granted, they won't understand what we're saying, but I'm pretty sure there are caregivers there that can translate. And even if they can't, I think it will be neat for them to hear our voices and look at the illustrations.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What My Little Reader Is Up To...

Lately Isaac has shown a great interest in writing, which is an important part of literacy (reading and writing go hand in hand). He is gaga for sticky pads! The smaller the piece of paper the better, it seems. He will sit for small chunks of time writing with pens and highlighters on his sticky pads. Actually, they're his daddy's stick pads. I need to re-stock daddy's office!

I think I'm going to check out writing supplies at the local craft or office supply store and see what I might be able to pick up to stock Isaac's Easter basket with. I know markers will definitely be in there. I bought him some toddler-type markers for Christmas and he's not diggin' them. He wants the real thing!

I'm going to look for some stencils, pencils, erasers, maybe some Scotch tape... I'm open to your suggestions too!

Then after I have the supplies, I need to figure out a writing area for him; a place he can sit down at whenever he wants to write and just be creative! Brainstorming ideas for where I should put his writing center, and what piece of furniture I should use for it.

I've pondered the idea of putting his writing supplies in in a basket or little caddy of some kind that I then keep on a low shelf that he can take out and use wherever he wants. This might be the best idea right now, since I don't really have a table his size to keep it all at yet.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Books vs. Spring

Started off our March unit a little rough this week. It's the first week in a long time that we've had GREAT weather around here, and Literacy Launchpad had a tough time competing with that.

Honestly, I have never had this problem in any of my previous years of Literacy Launchpad. I can usually just walk out onto the playground and my students (and others) come running to line up. But I've got one rowdy group of boys this year, and they have a tough time giving up 30 minutes of their playtime for reading... whether they're outside or inside.

What's funny though is that once they get to class, they have so much fun!

So next week I guess I need to plan Literacy Launchpad around playground time a little better than I did this week. :)

We read The Wind Blew (Pat Hutchins) and did some playful experiments with the "wind" (a fan) after reading our windy tale. We then discussed how the wind outside is usually much stronger than the little fan that I brought to class (we could only get the really light stuff to "blow" in the "wind"). Hee.

We created our own little windy storybook to take home with us as well. This was (what I thought was) a simple project, that ended up taking longer than I anticipated. They had a good time though. Check out the photos.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Question/Confession Day

Sometimes life gets busy. Sometimes being a mom is hard and you're doing all you can just to make it through the day... the week... the month. Whatever the case may be.

Sometimes books are a sanity saver for me. But there are also days (even weeks) around here when reading falls by the wayside a bit. I don't know that we ever have days that we don't read any books, because stories are part of our bedtime routine. But there are days when the bedtime story is the only story my child hears that day. I feel terrible when that happens.

So there's my confession.

My question to you is, how often do you have days like the one I just described? AND How much per day (approx.) do you aim to read with your child?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Fostering A Love For Reading: Part 5

Building Vocabulary

Photo by Samuel Mann

Maybe it sounds strange to say that building a child's vocabulary can help foster a love of reading in them. But consider this, vocabulary is one of the handful of essential skills a child must possess to be a successful reader. And if we want our children to enjoy reading, we must help them be good at it.

The great news is, building a child's vocab comes easy! Here's how:

1. Read! Yes, just read to your child. And while you're reading, define new words, and identify and discuss objects in the illustrations. Sometimes I'm tempted to breeze over specific objects on a page because I know my son doesn't know what it is yet. But then I realize that he will never know what it is if I don't tell him (DUH)!

And try not to over simplify things when you're reading. If you're going to take the time to identify objects in the book, you might as well identify them properly. You'll be surprised at how much your child can understand with your help. And you'll also be surprised at the big words they can say and remember!

2. Talk, talk, talk to your child. Explain what you just did, tell them what you are doing now, and explain what you're about to do next. Identify things around the house and at places you visit. Make up stories. Ask them questions.

I can tell you honestly that we (my husband and I) do these things (read and talk) with our son, and he has become quite the chatter box! We didn't really know he was such a chatter box till others (babysitters, friends, family) began telling us. I guess we assumed all kids his age jabbered all the time.

People ask us if he has more words (or talks more) than most children his age, and honestly, I don't know. I've read that a typical 20-month old has a vocab of 12-15 words, but that there are many that have larger vocabs than that. Isaac definitely has many more words than 12-15. And he's at that stage where he's surprising us every day with new words he's using. We love it... usually!

Something else helpful to remember when it comes to vocab: Books have much, much richer vocab than TV! And it's easier to talk more with your child when the TV isn't on, blaring and distracting you both from the opportunities to chat with one another.

A good vocabulary feeds right into another one of those necessary skills needed for reading success - fluency! Fluency is the ability to read quickly and easily. It's important for being a successful reader, because children who aren't fluent readers have a hard time understanding and appreciating what they're reading. All their mental energy is used up simply reading the words. And when you don't understand what you're reading, you don't enjoy reading, and you aren't motivated to do more of it.

Having a good vocabulary helps with fluency because children with large vocabs have a deep well of words in their brains to assist them in decoding, reading, and understanding the words they will come upon in books. Think about how much easier it is to read a book about a topic you are familiar with and enjoy (maybe a book about a favorite hobby) than it would be to read the manual for a complex piece of technical equipment full of words that you have never heard and have no idea what they mean.

So keep on doing what I hope you're already begun doing with your child. Fill their ears and minds with words, and give them the chance to use them!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Read-A-Thon Kick-off!!

In honor of Dr. Seuss' birthday (3/2) and Read Across America going on this week, I am hosting a read-a-thon fundraiser at several schools and kicking them all off this week! Today was my first kick-off event. I did a brief read-aloud session with a large group of preschoolers and explained to them how the read-a-thon works (I'm hoping their parents will take the time to read the letter I sent home explaining it as well).

I am SO excited about this fundraiser! SO excited! My new friend, Elise, with Usborne/Kane Miller books helped me plan it. The reason it's so awesome is that
  1. It encourages reading
  2. The participating children are rewarded for their reading with new books of their choosing
  3. The schools all get new books for their classrooms (also of their choosing)
  4. We get money to put into our adoption fund!
The kids all seemed excited about the event at the kick-off today. Although, it was disappointing to only see a few children raise their hands when I asked how many of them read with their parents everyday. :( Perhaps this read-a-thon will help change all that. That's the goal at least!

I really think I'm going to try to make this an annual thing. It's so much fun. I'm hoping the families all take part in it and take the time to read and collect pledges. How fun for all the kiddos!

I'll keep you posted on how it goes. I have 3 more schools to kick it off at this week! Yahoo!!