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. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Catch Them Reading and Learning!*

Have you caught your kids learning lately? Isn't it the best when they don't even realize it's happening? In our house, literacy learning is pretty laid back. I try to provide opportunity, encouragement, and example and then let my kids pick it up from there.

We bring books and learning toys along in the car sometimes. Like our Word Whammer and Fridge Phonics!

We find fun ideas online like doing a library scavenger hunt. The kids really loved this, and did awesome with it. I was really impressed to see my shy, eleven year old do this pretty much all on her own, even asking the librarians for help (without me having to go with her) when she needed it! It helped us all learn some things about our library that we didn't know! And we stopped for some cold drinks on the way home as a reward for all our hard scavenging.

We have a variety of books and things around the house that the kids can pick up at any time and play with. This one is a book that has magnetic pages and letter magnets to spell words with.

We do bedtime stories every night. With all our kids. Mommy and Daddy take turns doing the reading.

My boys have been digging books like the Franny K Stein series and the Lunch Lady series at bedtime. My older one is still learning to read (ELL), but he often takes a flash light to bed so he can glance further ahead in our stories. The graphic novels are especially good for this. He also really loves his Action Bible.

We remember things from books like, "Hey, this is a waterspout, just like the one the Itsy Bitsy Spider crawled up!"

Sometimes we can't wait till we get home to dig into our library finds!

We do word finds on the back of our animal cracker boxes.

We re-read our favorite books over and over and over again. (Even when Christmas has long since passed.) Isaac especially likes this book because he can "read" it all by himself. Another one he likes to "read" himself is One Boy.

Isaac likes to do his "reading homework" with his Leapfrog Tag pen. I've been trying to get my big kids on board with it too (because it would be great practice for them too as they learn to read), but they don't enjoy it as much.

Storybook apps are always a hit. The Monster At the End of This Book is probably the current favorite.

We read books at the kitchen table a lot... Even though it's a dangerous thing to do with a library book.

Sometimes my kids get a bedtime story read to them, and sometimes they wait till the end of the day to practice their reading and so they have to do the bedtime reading. Having the cat snuggle up and listen too always makes it extra fun!

We go to special reading events like celebrating Dr. Seuss' birthday at the library!

Sometimes I find surprises by the bookshelves... like my kids and their friends curled up with books. This truly did happen. The girls were searching my shelves for AR books for school, and my son joined them.

I also catch my kids in spontaneous acts of writing sometimes. On this particular day (earlier this week) my son felt compelled to sit down and write a card to Santa about his "bad" cat.

So there's our randomness. Hope it can maybe help inspire some literacy randomness at your house too!

What are some literacy activities you catch your kids doing?

*Today was a Literacy Launchpad rewind of one of my favorites!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

DIY Writing Center

Today is the first of many more Literacy Launchpad videos to come. I will soon be fully launching the Literacy Launchpad Youtube Channel. My Video Producer husband is holding my hand through learning how to put these videos together mostly/partially myself.  I'm so excited to have the opportunity to make what I do each week at Literacy Launchpad accessible to so many more people! Let me know how I'm doing, share this week's video, and be sure to subscribe to Literacy Launchpad on Youtube so you don't miss any coming videos!

Reading and writing go hand in hand. So don't forget to create writing opportunities for your kids and students just like you create abundant reading opportunities for them!

Supplies for your writing center can be found at dollar stores, office supply stores, craft stores, thrift stores (one of our favorite places), and even yard sales! It doesn't have to cost a ton of money, and actually, it's better if it doesn't because then you won't feel frustrated if something from your writing center gets lost or broken (happens frequently at our house).

Writing centers can be stationary, and remain at one table or desk where your students can come and go. Or you could have a portable writing center, contained in a box or basket, and it could move from place to place around your home or classroom. You could even bring the writing center in the car!

Some ideas of items to include in your writing center:
- envelopes
- writing pads
- clip boards (this is especially handy if your writing center is portable center that moves from spot to spot)
-pencil sharpeners
- pencils
- erasers
- cards
- highlighters
- fun stationary
- printed materials grocery store ads, books, magazines, letters you have received in the mail... anything that could be used for inspiration
- dry erase writing cards, or boards
- chalkboards
- tape
- stapler
- calendar/planner
- paper clips
- folders
- notebooks
- sticky pads
- old phones or computer keyboards for playing office
- fun pens
- pencil holders and cubbies for organizing
- stickers
- rubber stamps

A few ideas for themes in your writing center:
- Teacher/Classroom (chalkboard, lesson planning books, workbooks... )
- Office (old phone, calendar, computer keyboard, general office supplies... )
- Grocery List-Making (grocery ads, coupons, notepads, calculators...)
- Hotel Manager (I loved to play this as a kid. We would use an old phone and a journal calendar and pretend to book reservations for guests.)
- Restaurant (small pads of papers, menus, toy cash register... )
- Author/Illustrator's workshop (blank books, writing tools, art tools, photos of favorite authors and illustrators working...)

Books mentioned in the video that could be used as writing prompts:


Do what works for you and your family or your classroom. Get as fancy or as simple as you want. And perhaps let your kids' interests guide the direction you take with your writing center.

Do you have a writing center in your home or classroom? What kinds of things do you keep in it for your kids to use?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Robot Zombie Frankenstein: The next book you should add to your collection

I was thrilled when Annette Simon allowed me to review a copy of her picture book Robot Zombie Frankenstein. I tend to also be a tad nervous about reviewing picture books, because what if I don't like  it??? I luckily did not have to confront that fear with this review, because Robot Zombie Frankenstein was a home run with My Little Reader.

Simon's book tells the story of two robots that get into a friendly game of one-upping each other with various disguises. Zombies, pirates, space-invaders... the fun-factor increases with each page. Who will win this robot-battle? I don't want to give any spoilers, but a peace-offering finally ends the feud, and a friendship is formed by book's end. You'll have to check out the book to see what brings about the peace!

I honestly wasn't quite ready to show my son this book yet when I did. I was waiting for a nice chunk of time to do a solid read through and some kind of planned activity. But he found it sitting in my room and instantly snatched it up and demanded I read it to him. OK, so I know it's cover has some obvious kid-appeal...

My Little Reader is such a Mr. Literacy Launchpad Jr., he saw the layout of colorful geometric shapes on the endpapers at the front of the book and started suggesting crafts and projects we could use these shapes as inspiration for: "Let's make these shapes with paper, Mom, and then glue them together into our own robots..." These endpapers were definitely one of his favorite parts of the book - he kept going back to them even after reading the story several times.

The bold, colorful robots, set against the clean white background was visually appealing to my son and I alike. It seemed to feel accessible to my son, something he got, and could then mock and expand upon in his own creative way. The predictable catchiness of the text had the same effect. I caught my son flipping through the book on his own and "reading" it aloud independently just by the visual cues in the illustrations and being able to recall the incredibly fun and simple text that had stuck with him so solidly after just a few readings.

Robots have such a mass-appeal with kids of a variety of ages. And this book is so creativity-inspiring for little ones. I have bunches of ideas of fun activities to do after reading this book with your kids or students. You'll see some of those ideas in an up-coming video post (I'm in the planning stages of launching a full Literacy Launchpad YouTube channel!).

In the meantime, check out some of the fun My Little Reader was having with this book this week. This was all initiated by him! Love that kid! Love this book!

Buy the book!


Visit Annette Simon online HERE!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Reading with a Theme!

Have the winter blah's got you down? Are they making your kids or students a little nutty? I discovered that digging into a theme in reading, while you're stuck digging out of snow and cold can be a great thing to keep everybody from driving each other crazy!

I tend to get a little irritated when I see some teachers coming up with a theme they want to use in their classroom, and then haphazardly throwing any picture books into their theme that seem to correlate - just for the sake of maintaing the theme. I have seen many sub-par books gets a lot of focus and attention simply because they worked with a teacher's theme. Sometimes great books are overlooked because it's not initially obvious that they might work with a particular theme.

How about first finding some great books, seeing if some of them relate to one another, and then creating your own theme that is structured around your reading instead of vise-versa? I know this method is not always possible, but worth a shot from time to time, right? I have found Pinterest especially helpful in this department. I can pin books I like, make helpful notes about each, and organize them by a theme or topic. Then I can easy find and utilize a great book at the right time!

I saw that I had some pet-themed books piling up that I really liked and wanted to read to my students. So I decided that's what we would be reading about at Literacy Launchpad in February! Not surprisingly, the students really enjoyed these stories. I mean really. Sometimes I couldn't get them to move onto an activity because they kept wanting me to read and re-read these books. A great problem to have!

A theme isn't only useful in the classroom though. I have used themes at home with my son, and often I will let his own natural interests guide the theme. Other times I will introduce a theme and watch his interest grow and grow on that topic as we read more and more books on it. I don't do structured units or lessons at home with these books. I simply scatter them about in our reading spots and pick them up to read when we have a moment or two.

You can see the pet books we've been reading at Literacy Launchpad in the sidebar. And here are some photos from the fun we had comparing, learning new information, and playing with these pet-themed titles!