Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

Great beginnings…With Writing it’s All About the Hook

Posted on February 9th, 2015 by Jody

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Teaching Children about Writing - It is all about the HookMeghan Trainor says it’s all about the base, but really, in writing, it’s all about the hook. The beginning. It is in the beginning that we, as readers, decide if we will carry on. Do we attach to the characters? Are we pulled in? Are there stakes that make us want to know right away how things are going to turn out? The writing, and beginning lines, that do this vary from person to person. In the last two weeks, I’ve been working on writing with my students and we’ve focused, a lot, on great beginnings. I thought I’d share some of the activities we did to look at how students could learn about capturing their reader’s interest. It was fun, interesting, and spending the time to establish the link between what we read and what we write, strengthened their stories.





Write the first line of several novels on the board. Do not include the book name but make it clear that every line is from a different novel (when I did this, I didn’t make that clear and the students thought I was introducing them to a VERY strange book).

Have the students read the lines and talk about their favourites with a partner. Then have them talk about why. Give them a chance to share their opinions with the class. (Sentence frames are great for this kind of sharing: My favourite first line was ____ because ____.)

Seeing who liked what lines and why is interesting as both the teacher and for the students. From here, after a good discussion about which lines are best and why, we talk about what makes them good. We ended up brainstorming a list of good hooks: questions, mystery, surprise, humor, and more were among the list.

Students were given time to write a great first line. And their favourite part, of course, was the opportunity to share it. They tried to outdo each other with their captivating sentences.

The activities that followed this lesson were taught with the purpose of further establishing the connection between reading and writing.

Music and story telling:

I told the students we were going to listen to a number of songs and their job was to try to listen to the story that the artist told. We talked about how amazing it is that song lyrics basically tell a whole story in about three minutes.

This was very fun. The students listened, speculated, pointed out key words, told me what they thought the artist was trying to say, how they felt, why they might have felt this way. We used Speak Now (Taylor Swift), The Man Who Never Lied (Maroon 5) and How to Save a Life [Clean] (The Fray). We listened only to the beginnings (about 30 seconds) and the discussions that unfolded based on what the students heard in that time were excellent. They had theories and reasons for those theories that were mature and insightful. The best discussion came from How to Save a Life. Very powerful.

After this, we talked about how music sets a tone and the students were asked to choose a song that would be a good opening if their creative story was to be made into a movie. It was so awesome to see the students connect the tone of the music with the tone of their stories. Some were mysteries, some were comedies, but the best part was that by sharing their song choice, their classmates were able to guess the feel of their story.

And because the best way to encourage writing is to give them time to write (after getting them pumped up to do so), I gave them time to work on their stories.

Before the students shared their stories with each other, we reviewed what makes a great hook. I taught them the secret I didn’t learn until my late thirties (on Twitter no less). That “secret” was that to build a strong story, you need to know what your character wants and what is stopping them from getting it. I taught them the sentence frame I use (thanks again Twitter peeps):

____________ wanted _______________ but _____________.

(ie: Alice wanted an adventure but the White Rabbit led her down a rabbit hole and she wasn’t sure she would be able to get home).

We did examples of this so the idea became more concrete and it was a great guide for them when helping each other edit. Was your partner able to say, the main character wanted “blank” but “blank” was stopping them. If the student did that and the story worked toward a solution, had an engaging opening line, a beginning, middle, and end, along with the 5 W’s (Who, Where, What, When, Why), then the story could be brought to me for further editing.

This is where we’ve left off for now. From here, we’ll continue to edit the stories, do good copies, and then share them as a class. But the students are already paying more attention to great first lines.

Reading and writing are inextricably linked. Some kids don’t like reading and some don’t like writing. But chances are good that they don’t mind one of them. So try connecting the lesson with relevant activities (such as dissecting their favourite songs) to get them invested. I like seeing the students become more aware of themselves as readers, writers, and people. I like watching them establish what they like and why because I believe it helps them make choices that are more suited to their own tastes.

One of my favourite things is going to the library with my class and having them help each other find books or bring a book to me to tell me what’s great about it. Think about your own favourite line from a book or a movie. Talk to your students, or you child, about it. It ends up being great dialogue and a lot of fun.

What are your favourite first lines?

Don’t stop the readin’…hold on to that read aloud feeling

Posted on October 23rd, 2014 by Jody

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Don't Stop the Readin'  Hold on to that Feeling A Guest Post by @1PrncsSome days I’m more “quirky” than others. This is one of those days. Instead of just telling you that your middle grade children (grades 4, 5, 6, 7) are not too old for you to keep up that nightly ritual of reading, I’ve made some alterations to a classic Journey song. You can laugh or roll your eyes, but the message will be the same. They’re getting older, but it doesn’t lessen their enthusiasm for books. Nor does it mean they don’t need us there to help them navigate some of the issues that their favourite characters are facing. Bottom line? Take fifteen minutes at the end of the night, curl up on someone’s bed, and keep reading.





Don’t Stop the Readin’ (adapted from Journey’s Don’t stop believin’– hardcore Journey fans…I’m sorry :) (ps: it helps if you listen to the song in the background softly so you can read with the beat)

Just a grade five  girl
Readin’ bout’ a wizard  world
She read the whole series
Loved the characters
Just a grade six boy
Thinks he doesn’t like to read
He found The Outsiders
Thinks he’s Ponyboy

His father comes into the room
The moon is out the day is done
For a while they can read tonight
It goes on and on and on and on

Parents reading
Learnin’ bout the Hunger Games,
Heroes like Percy
Annabeth
Quests and danger
Find out what your kids are lovin’
Read with them every night

Workin’ hard to pay the bills
One on one time is such a thrill
Read a story, talk about your day
It’s worth the time
Picture Book
Non-Fiction
Doesn’t matter what you read
Graphic novels, Patterson
The list can go on and on and on

They aren’t too old
Even in the middle grades
Let them read to you
Read to them
Make it matter
A great way to stay connected
Just fifteen minutes a night

Don’t stop the readin’
Hold on to that feelin’
With your children
Don’t stop the readin’
Nielsen,
Sachar, Judy Blume
They keep you readin’
Keep on reading!

Don’t Stop Believin’ at Amazon.com

Don’t Stop Believin’: the Best of Journey at Amazon.ca

Fireflies A Writer’s Notebook

Posted on September 5th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

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Fireflies A Writer's Notebook by Coleen Murtagh ParatoreFireflies A Writer’s Notebook by Coleen Murtagh Paratore
Journal for writers published by Little Pickle Press





Ideas can surprise you like fireflies on a dark summer night, but sometimes it seems like all of the fireflies are hiding…

From beginning to end, Coleen Murtagh Paratore’s Fireflies A Writer’s Notebook shares a lovely message with writers: I respect you and I believe in you and your ability to write something special.

Inspiring quotes, helpful writing tips, intriguing prompts and though-provoking questions are sure to captivate young writers and encourage them to think and write with confidence. Lined and blank pages, in pastel colors offer plenty of space to brainstorm, outline, list, write, explain, recall or doodle. We especially enjoyed the quotes from (children’s book authors) Jane Yolen, Karen Cushman, Jacqueline Woodson, Kate DiCamillo and Stephen King.

For a preteen or older child who loves to write, Fireflies A Writer’s Notebook would be a lovely gift. It will become a treasured place to express thoughts, ideas, memories, reflections and stories.

It is interesting to note Little Pickle Press prints and distributes their materials in an environmentally-friendly manner, using recycled paper, soy inks, and green packaging.

Read our review of Coleen Murtagh Paratore’s The Funeral Director’s Son

Fireflies A Writer’s Notebook at Amazon.com

Fireflies A Writer’s Notebook at Amazon.ca

Time to Reestablish the Bedtime Reading Ritual

Posted on September 1st, 2014 by Jody

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Back to School Means Its Time to Reestablish the Bedtime Reading RitualMost teachers and parents are glued to the news and various forms of social media, hoping to hear the news that public schools will be back in session on Tuesday, or at the very least, next week. It’s been a longer summer than we’re used to and it started under less than ideal conditions. I don’t know one teacher who isn’t sad about the quick way we had to say goodbye to our classes in June. But alas, all this stuff makes us stronger, right? We’ll see.





In a typical summer, your child’s reading level will probably lower. This summer, because of it’s length, this is even more likely. It happens: later bedtimes, fun activities, and vacations change the routine that many of us have established through the school year. When we get back to school, we spend those first weeks reestablishing routines, both at school and at home. I can’t honestly put into words how very much I want (NEED) school to go back next week, but while we’re waiting, we can slowly start pushing ourselves and our children back into those old habits.

Getting to bed earlier, what used to be “on time”, is important. I’m not very good at this one, myself. I figure that the first week of having to get up at six thirty will curb my tendency to stay up until one a.m. For our kids though, it’s nice to ease them into it. This last week or so, we’ve been getting home earlier if we’re out, sending the kids to get ready closer to their usual time. The main reason for this is to reestablish the bedtime reading ritual.

Throughout the school year, this is one we try to hold onto tightly. The fifteen to thirty minutes with each of the girls at the end of the night is just as important to my husband and I as it is to them. Somehow, being told that it’s time to go up and read causes less confrontation that it’s time to go up to bed. One of the best things you can do for your child, regardless of whether school goes back, is get this routine going again. Get them excited about books, about reading. Maybe pick out a special book at the library or bookstore to get you back into things.

Students reading every night plays a huge role in their fluency and comprehension. Whether you’re reading to them or they are reading to you, this is a time that can result in great conversations with your kids. Why would the main character do that? Would YOU do that? What might you have done? My youngest likes to read to us but my oldest likes to be read to. Children (okay, people) are never too old to be read to. Just because your child is going into an upper grade, doesn’t mean that quality reading time has to stop. In fact, it might even be more important.

When they’re little, children are your shadow. But when they get older, they start to turn into themselves more, or to friends. That reading time at the end of the day is your chance to connect. We know how busy the days are, with school, work, activities, more activities. Building that constant into your schedule, keeping it that way, will allow for a time when your child can open up to you, if they want. They’ll know that at the end of every day, you’re checking in with them. Maybe they don’t want to open up about what boy they like or the mean girl at school, but they’ll know that you’ll be there and they can listen to your voice or that you’ll listen to them. There’s comfort in that. Our children take comfort in routine and whether school is back or not, it’s time for us to get back to it. Good luck with the first day, whenever it is.

Little Kid, Big Personality: What To Do If Your Toddler Is A Bully

Posted on August 6th, 2014 by AmyKWilliams

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It just started with a shove or a frantic bite, but now your little kid is pushing her weight around on a regular basis.  Children fear her. Parents whisper. You’ve justified your toddler’s actions as a “big personality” or “kids being kids”, but now this undesirable behavior has transformed your sweetheart into a bully.

She’s figured out this behavior gets results-  exactly what she wants!

Toddlers are enjoying mobility. Developing friendships and building a vocabulary are new freedoms. They are navigating new situations, people, and expectations in a very short time. The toddler’s world revolves around their needs and wants.

Most children go through a “bully” stage at some point, but it is extremely common for toddlers. To overcome this development stage is to identify the problem and consistently deal with the issue as it develops. If you take control now, you will avoid serious problems later.



Storytime Standouts Presents What to do if Your Toddler is a Bully - A guest post by Amy K Williams

If you are reading this, you have identified a problem and want to tackle the issue head on.  

According to the Pacer Center, children who bully may suffer as much as the victims they target.  Bullies are likely to experience school failure, depression, violence, and crime.  It’s obvious that this behavior can’t be ignored.

Watch for these signs if you suspect your toddler is a bully:

  • they need control

  • they demand

  • they meltdown

  • they frustrate easily

  • they are “left out “ from groups

You may have noticed the negative behavior on your own, or perhaps another parent approached you.

If a parent initiates the conversation, be honest and acknowledge that your child is going through a phase. Mention a few techniques you are implementing to stop bullying. Chances are, they will encounter a similar situation someday.

What can you do to curb this from developing into a full fledged problem?

Talk with your child. Don’t underestimate your child. Young children are capable of understanding a wide variety of situations. Model appropriate behavior and role play situations with your little one. Read stories or watch their favorite shows and point out positive behaviors portrayed.

Use your words.” Toddlers are at a unique development stage. They are placed in situations where they don’t possess the right vocabulary to express their needs. Help label their emotions and encourage “words”. Keep the phrases simple-  “next?” is a great way to ask for a toy instead of grabbing.

Encourage empathy. Use teachable moments to help your child understand what it feels like to be the other person. At Care.com, Rosalind Wiseman, author of Masterminds and Wingmen, recommends to “create a respectful home”.

Make your expectations clear, with consistent consequences. Hold your child accountable for their actions. If your toddler has a bullying event, follow through with time-outs or other age appropriate consequences.

Rule out a physical problem. Unfortunately, this is something to consider. Does your child suffer from a behavioral disorder? Are your toddler’s social skills limited? Is your child’s sight and hearing on target? If you suspect a physical problem, consult your pediatrician.

Avoid situations that trigger the behavior. Be diligent and supervise your child. Identify anger sources and try to avoid triggers. If you can’t avoid the issue, redirect the toddler’s attention to another object.

Apologize. Start early and encourage your child to apologize. A simple “sorry” with eye contact works or have the child sign “sorry”. At PBS Parents, they believe it’s important to have natural consequences for a toddler’s actions.

Seek support. Parents are not able to watch their children 24/7. Be honest with caregivers and teachers. Ask them to keep an eye on the situation and be aware of any incidents.

Be realistic. Let’s face it. Humans learn from their mistakes. It doesn’t mean you are a terrible parent or did something wrong. Take a deep breathe and decide to support your child through this stage. Be patient and teach your toddler how to navigate in the world around him.

It takes time and guidance to help your child become respectable citizens.

Bullying doesn’t have to define your child. This phase will soon pass. Your little sweetheart will quickly be making new friends and embracing life.

Amy K. Williams is am a mom of two and a former social worker, specializing in teen behavioral issues. She is passionate about parenting and determined to help put an end to cyberbullying. Please visit Practical Parenting for information about her work.

Reading Doesn’t Have to Involve a Book…

Posted on July 25th, 2014 by Jody

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Storytime Standouts' Guest Contributor Explains Reading Doesn't Have to Involve a BookOn an average day, you might feel like there are too many things that need to be done to stop, sit down, and read. There is no doubt that reading books and enjoying reading are immeasurable necessities in life. However, sometimes there just isn’t enough hours in a day. That doesn’t mean you can’t fit reading in, around, or between.

1. Cook with your children

It’s more than just reading a recipe. Encourage them to do this, yes, but it also allows for you and your child to converse about tastes, amounts, ingredients, and so much more. While making pasta sauce with my daughters the other night, we didn’t follow a recipe, but we talked. Oral language is incredibly important. Listening to and following instructions, asking questions, and completing tasks are all part of cooking even the simplest of meals. Take time to do this with your children.

2. Instructions

My daughters, who both love to read, often come to me and ask how to do something (like a new game) or what something is. My response is generally, “you can read”. Reading, interpreting, and applying directions is a skill. A necessary skill. If your child looks at the directions and then passes them off to you (as I often do to my husband), get them to read them. Ask them what they are being asked. They will need this skill in the classroom for directions as simple as “write your name at the top” to how to complete an exam.

3. Comics

My youngest daughter has fallen in love with Archie. This brings me great joy because it is one of my favourite memories of being a child. I’ve had parents, in the past, who worry about their child picking up comics versus chapter books. If they’re reading, they’re building fluency and fostering their enjoyment for the task. Don’t stop this– encourage it. It is very fun to listen to your child laugh when they actually get a joke that is in print.

4. Signs and other environmental print

On long car rides, we pull out the iPods (and to be clear– a long car ride to me is from Chilliwack to Langley- I’m a bit of a wimp), but around town or anything under a half an hour, the kids go without. Generally, they’ll bring books with them but we also encourage them to read the signs and pay attention to their surroundings. Okay, maybe my husband encourages our children more strongly than others might, since I get lost quite easily. My children often ask me if I know where I’m going. Most of the time, I do. But, it’s pretty cool to have them recognize landmarks, signs, familiar areas and say, “that signs says…”. Things we, as adults, take for granted might be foreign to kids. Ask them if they know what all of the symbols mean when they’re posted. Ask them if they know what it means when a sign says 42K.

5. TV

Yes. I’m advocating television. I truly believe that your children can watch a huge amount of television and STILL love to read. I see proof of it every single day. Reading the TV guide, an episode summary, or the words that pop up onto the screen further encourage your child’s reading abilities. It all counts. Should they just read the TV guide? Probably not. The key with television, I find, is to talk to them about what they see and what they read. Another great way to improve fluency is Karaoke. Regardless of their singing ability, reading the words as they scroll along the top of the screen, while trying to sing them in unison, is hard to do. Try it with a song you don’t know and see how hard it is to match the beat, the words, and the your voice.

Regardless of how you get them reading, it is about more than books. You absolutely cannot underestimate the power of conversation with any of these activities, including reading a book. Oral language deepens and enhances our understanding of the world around us and, for children, expressing their thoughts and questions is a huge part of building their confidence and establishing connections. So, if you don’t have time for a book, there are words everywhere, all around us– improvise.

Using the Shopping List Game with a Speech Delayed Child

Posted on April 30th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

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Using the Shopping List Game with a Speech Delayed Child

You may have read some of my previous posts about working with speech delayed children. I visit the family three times each week and I work with a four year old boy and his five year old sister. Today, I will focus on my work with the boy. I use a variety of techniques to elicit speech and expand his vocabulary. Without a doubt, one of his favorite activities is the Shopping List Game. The box includes four shopping lists, four shopping carts and thirty two items you might pick up at a grocery store. Fresh fruit (three red strawberries, two green apples), vegetables (three orange carrots), chicken, bacon, fish, bread, pizza, dairy products (milk and cheese) are included along with bubble bath, laundry soap and toilet paper. In short, for someone who wants to introduce new vocabulary and encourage discussion, this offers a treasure trove of material.

Using the Shopping List Game with a Speech Delayed Child

When we first used the game, we used it as a memory game and we alternated turns, trying to find everything on our lists. The activity has evolved and now my young student lays out all four carts and shopping lists in front of him. He picks up a food item and determines which list it is on and which cart it belongs in. As he does this, we talk about each card and the illustration on it: “Three red strawberries, six fresh eggs, one loaf of bread, etc.

With the guidance of an adult, a relatively inexpensive and uncomplicated game offers up great learning opportunities for a speech delayed child – or any child.

Note: My copy of the game was produced by Orchard Toys. Some of the items are labelled using terms that are more common in the United Kingdom than in North America. For example, washing powder as opposed to laundry detergent. This is not an isse from my perspective because I am using the activity to encourage verbal interaction (as opposed to reading).

Shopping List Memory Game at Amazon.com

Shopping List Booster Pack – Fruit & Veg at Amazon.com

Shopping List Booster Pack – Clothes at Amazon.com

Shopping List Memory Game at Amazon.ca

Good Things Come In Threes; The Ascendance Trilogy

Posted on April 22nd, 2014 by Jody

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Good Things Come In Threes; The Ascendance Trilogy





The False Prince,  Book One of the Ascendance TrilogyThis isn’t a scientific fact but it is a completely accurate statement when applied to Jennifer Nielson’s Ascendance trilogy. After Carolyn recommended The False Prince, I wrote a post (okay, gushed shamelessly) about the book. I have never, in thirteen years of teaching, read an entire trilogy or series of books to a class. For one thing, there’s the time factor. I tend to read, at least, one book per term for read aloud. I try to do a selection of books, based on student interest. This year, we started the year with One for the Murphy’s and I planned another book for after The False Prince. I didn’t plan to finish four full novels before Spring Break. I also didn’t plan to fall head over heels for Jaron or for my class to be so captivated by his story that even my most reluctant reader, the one who claimed he would rather do anything before read, that we couldn’t focus until we knew how it all played out.
The Runaway King,   Book Two of the Ascendance TrilogyWe read through the second book, The Runaway King, even more engaged. More action unfolded and we knew Jaron now, cared about him. We read every single day, without fail. If I had a substitute teacher in for me, I wouldn’t let them read to my class. I would tuck the books away so the kids didn’t say, “Oh, she reads that to us every day.” I’ve never done that. I also made a promise to my class because they love that I hadn’t already read the books- I told them I would not read ahead. I would learn Jaron’s story along with them. Perhaps that is part of what made them connect to the story. My reactions were real and in the moment and the kids like that- they like seeing their teacher as a real person- one who gets outraged when the main character is suffering or maybe sheds a few tears when something heartbreaking happens. It gives them the freedom to attach strongly to the books as well. While we are reading, we are part of that world. Which is why, when Runaway King finished with a cliff hanger, we had no other option. We had to know. So we moved on to Shadow Throne and as much as I loved the first two, this one was my favorite. I loved watching who Jaron became, how my students reacted to what was happening, learning how it all unfolded and came together. My reluctant reader? He bought all three books and told me that he “didn’t make the same silly promise to not read ahead”. He brought them in to show me. As much as I loved these books, connected with them, the fact that they reached so many students, even the ones that did not want to be reached, made me love them more.
The Shadow Throne, Book Three of the Ascendance TrilogyI have posted before about how important I think sequels and trilogies are for reluctant readers. If you can find something they can latch onto, get immersed in, then you want to know there’s more waiting for them. Though there are no more in this series we loved, the students are now looking around the library differently. They’re looking for the next book that they will fall for the way we did these three. And while they’re looking, they’re reading. Reading is a gift. No matter how many times I tell my students this, the ones who just haven’t found the book that pulls them all the way in will never fully believe it without proof. This trilogy was proof for some of the students in my class. It spurred discussions, connections, and debates. Each book made us want more and the most important thing is, they delivered. There are many series where you read the first, love it, and then move on and the second one just doesn’t have the same draw as the original. One of the things that continuously got to me during the readings, was how far Ms. Nielsen pushed her characters and her readers. These stories are amazing tales of courage and redemption. Of making something out of nothing and of finding the way out of even the most harrowing situations. When the students look back, when I look back, these three books will be a large piece of what made this year special.

The False Prince at Amazon.com

The Runaway King at Amazon.com

The Shadow Throne at Amazon.com

The False Prince at Amazon.ca

The Runaway King at Amazon.ca

The Shadow Throne at Amazon.ca

Supporting a Child With Delayed Speech or Language Development

Posted on April 1st, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

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Supporting a Child With Delayed Speech or Language Development





Since September 2013, I have been working twice a week with a four year old boy who has delayed speech. He lives in a bilingual household and he has one older sibling – a girl who also had delayed speech. It has been enormously rewarding to help this child find his voice. He is unfailingly happy and is always excited to welcome me and my “bag of tricks” into his home.

Here are some of the items that have been particularly helpful as we find ways to engage him verbally.

Alphabet by Matthew Van FleetAlphabet by Matthew Van Fleet has been our go-to alphabet book.

At almost every one of our sessions, my student has touched, lifted flaps and pulled the tabs of this cheerful and engaging alphabet book and accompanying (pop up) poster. Whether feeling the alligator’s scaly tail or the yak’s shaggy head, this is a book that children love to explore through touch.

Phonemic awareness is also supported as the author effectively uses alliteration, ‘Wet waddling Warthogs,’ rhyming and onomatopoeia, ‘Furry Lions roar, Whiskered Mice squeak, Hungry newborn Nightingales – cheep, cheep, cheep!‘ while introducing a variety of animals. Older children will notice that extra details have been added to the illustrations but not the text. Termed, Safari Sightings, these animals and plants are illustrated and listed in an afternote.

Alphabet won the following

2008 National Parenting Publications Gold Award
Parenting Favorite Book of the Month, April 2008
Top Ten Children’s Books of 2008, Time.com
A New York Times Children’s Bestseller (2008)

Alphabet at Amazon.com

Alphabet at Amazon.ca

Ravensburger See Inside Puzzle

I can’t tell you how many times we have solved this Ravensburger See Inside Puzzle together. My young student happily turns the puzzle upside down, and together we turn all the puzzle pieces over. We chat as we start with the corners and work towards the middle of the puzzle. There are so many ways to enrich a child’s vocabulary, understanding and problem solving as we talk about the puzzle pieces and their attributes while noticing the plants, insects, animals, birds and structures featured in the puzzle itself.

Echo Mic Used With Delayed Speech or Language DevelopmentRather than focusing on the enunciation of specific sounds or words, I want to encourage playing with sound and making a variety of sounds. It is amazing how an inexpensive plastic toy ‘Echo’ microphone can encourage a child to sing, make sound effects and speak. I pick up an Echo Mic and put the other one on the table. Before long, we are both singing The Alphabet Song or The Wheels on the Bus or Happy Birthday. I hate to think what we sound like but progress is progress and the plastic ‘Echo” microphone has helped us along the way.

10″ Echo Mic (Colors may vary) at Amazon.com

Magic Mic Novelty Toy Echo Microphone-Pack of 2 at Amazon.ca

As we work toward improved verbal communication, I want to ensure that my student has a rich listening or receptive vocabulary as well as a large speaking or expressive vocabulary so I want to provide him with repeated meaningful encounters with words. I want him to hear and know colors, numbers, positional words (over, under, beside, inside) and nouns (windows, doors, wheels, roof, trees, flowers, bricks, fences, house, car, truck, steering wheel). Of course, I turn to my favourite toy. Ever. Each day I arrive with a bucket of Lego . We build houses and towers, we look for small bricks and blue bricks and yellow, white, red, black and blue bricks. We add windows and doors, stairs and roofs. And I talk about everything we do. I chat constantly and now he chimes in.

From the start, we have played Tic Tac Toe. I made a laminated game board (that includes a letter of the alphabet in each square) and I use Xs and Os from a dollar store game. When we first played, his job was to say, “Your turn,” after he played his “O.” Now, he says the letter name in the box and a word that begins with the letter, “C is for Cat.” He also says, “Your turn, ” and “I win!” He has never tired of this simple game. When we first started, he said very little. Now, it is a constant exchange of short sentences and the joy of communicating about a shared activity.

Spot the Dot by David A CarterSpot the Dot created by David A. Carter
Novelty book published by Cartwheel Books, an Imprint of Scholastic

Spot the Dot is an appealing, brightly colored, interactive pop up book that includes flaps to lift, a wheel to turn and tabs to pull. Visual clues and predictable text encourage children – even those with delayed speech – to venture into ‘reading.’ My student thoroughly enjoys this book and now points to the words as he ‘reads’ each page and then pretends to ‘search’ for the dot.

Spot the Dot at Amazon.com

Spot the Dot at Amazon.ca

Food Dye Frustration – Are You Listening Kelloggs?

Posted on January 16th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

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Kelloggs Food Dye Response I have written previously about my youngest son’s sensitivity to artificial food dyes. Last night we had yet another unexpected encounter with a colorant and, after just a few hours of sleep, I am once again on the phone to a large, multinational company about their decision to add (unnecessary) dye to a food product.

When your child is sensitive to artificial food dyes, you read every label. You watch for terms like “Yellow No. 5″, “Allura Red” and “Annatto.” You have a mental list of foods that are “safe” and you check new products with suspicion. You live in hope that food manufacturers will come to understand that consumers care about this issue and there would be a competitive advantage to those companies that vow to avoid dyes.

Yesterday my husband offered to do some grocery shopping. He asked what we needed and I mentioned that we were pretty much “out” of cereal. He came home with Kelloggs Frosted Flakes. The sugary cereal is not one that I eat but it has been a “safe” food for my son. He’s an active sixteen year old and he eats many times a day. On occasion, he enjoys a bowl of cereal before bed.

Frosted Flakes Canadian IngredientsLast night, he decided to open the new box of Frosted Flakes and enjoy a bowl before calling it a night.

Unfortunately, for some completely unfathomable reason, Kelloggs has changed the recipe since we last checked. The box of cereal that was once safe, now includes color.

Why oh why would they change their recipe and add color to a previously “safe” product?

After checking the label on the Frosted Flakes box, I telephoned the Kelloggs toll free number (twice) and got a busy signal each time.

I went to their website and was required to sign up for an account in order to leave a question. I signed up for an account but was unable to input my true birth year because of a glitch on their website. For some reason, you cannot scroll to a birth year prior to 1995 AND if you aren’t of age, you aren’t allowed to ask a question. Mmmmmm. How convenient is that?

Despite busy signals and an uncooperative website, I was committed to my mission.

I tried the phone number again and ended up at a Call Centre in the United States. Their list of (Canadian) Frosted Flakes ingredients does not include color. Rather odd… I left my name and number and asked them to get me the information and call back. I also pointed out the problem with (not being able to answer a question on) the website.

Next, I went onto the Kellogg Canada Facebook page and the response I received astonished me! (See above) I have never encountered this sort of resistance to answering a consumer question.

I expressed my amazement and guessed Annatto. They responded as follows, “Hi Carolyn. Could you provide us with your contact information via Private Message, so we can contact you directly and help answer your questions.”

I have one question. I want to know WHAT COLOR IS IN CANADIAN FROSTED FLAKES.

Kelloggs Facebook Direct Message About Food Dyes
































It is now more than twenty-four hours since my inquiry. I have provided an email address via Facebook DM and they have seen it. Their response was a follows, “Thank you for providing us with your contact information. We’re following up with our labelling team. We will get back to you as soon as we have this information.

They have not replied to yesterday’s telephone inquiry so I called them again today. Today they asked for the Best Before Date and the UPC on the package and then I was asked to tell them what colorants my son is sensitive to. Frankly, I don’t think that should matter. I do not understand why they can’t/won’t tell me the name of the colorant.

Anyhow, I gave them a list of natural food dyes and they say that I will hear back from them. I explained that I am very disappointed in Kellogg Canada Inc.

Loving books can be contagious – Reading Power

Posted on October 14th, 2013 by Jody

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Loving Books Can Be Contagious




It’s no secret that we are impacted by the thoughts and actions of others. It starts early in life when we begin to mimic what we see, even as babies. As we get older and move into the preteen and teen ages, what others think matters to us immensely. We want others to like us, to want to be with us and the same goes for them. Someone out there wants you to like them. As I tell my grade five students, we must use this power for good. We have the unique opportunity of impacting many people’s lives every single day for better or for worse. It can be something as simple as a smile or kind words and you’ve made someone’s day better. As parents and as teachers, we need to know that copying what we see, what our children see and might be copying, influences who we become and what matters to us. So we should be asking ourselves, what do we want our children/students to see? To become?

cover art for Reading Power by Adrienne Gear Reading Power: Teaching Students to Think While They Read

Yesterday, I attended, perhaps, the best workshop I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending. I was extremely motivated, captivated, and inspired by Adrienne Gear who is the teacher behind “Reading Power”. Her passion led her to develop a different way to approach learners and really help them tackle the other half of reading: the comprehending and connecting part of reading. By the time I left the workshop, I had ideas I wanted to incoprorate into lessons and, even better, some ideas on how to motivate some of my struggling readers. Her enthusiasm and excitement over books brought out mine. I wasn’t the only one. Ms. Gear gave us a list of fabulous books that she loves and finds beneficial in her classroom teaching of the reading powers. After she left, our principal okayed our librarian to buy EVERY ONE OF THE BOOKS. Her excitement caused a ripple effect. That’s what we want to do in the classroom and in our homes.

You may not love reading or books but you want your children to. Reading opens doors that nothing else can. It is this amazing thing that can enrich your life even while it helps you live your life. We need to read. It’s a part of life and it’s vital. But just like working at a job, it’s so much better and so much more effective if you LOVE it. Help your kids love to read. Even if you don’t. Show enthusiasm for reading and for books. Talk about books that you’ve seen or read. Talk about articles in the newspaper or online. Engage in conversation about what’s happening in the real world or a fictional one. Inspire your kids to read something new, try something new. Visit a bookstore or a library. Read a book together. Read a book side by side. Our kids spend their developing years mimicking what they see. Let them see you take part in something that can and does, literally, change lives. Read. It’s contagious.

Reading Power: Teaching Students to Think While They Read at Amazon.com

Reading Power: Teaching Students to Think While They Read at Amazon.ca

Top Ten Comments About Reading

Posted on September 19th, 2013 by Jody

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Top Ten Comments About reading from My Middle Grade StudentsInstead of focusing on the fact that there are 42 weeks until summer break (I really DO love my job…but who doesn’t like summer break?), I’m sharing the top ten comments about reading that I’ve heard in the seven days since school started.

10:Can I read with a friend?

9: (about non-fiction) Can we please just look at a few more maps and try to find stuff?

8: Did you know that (insert more facts that you can possibly imagine about Wizardology)?

7: I love when the last sentence in a book is the book’s title.

6: Oh, I’m totally getting that book.

5: Can we say what we’d do if we were the character?

4: We’ll keep working if you’ll keep reading to us.

3: We really just want to read.

2: Would it be okay if we did less math so we can read?

1: I’m just going to put it (the book) down because I don’t want it to be over.

Editors note – Our fabulous guest contributor, Jody describes herself as a happily married mom of two girls. She is an elementary school teacher. She loves books and feels very fortunate to be able to read so many different genres and authors as both a mom and a teacher.

If you love books and reading as much as we do, you might enjoy our Books and Reading board on Pinterest.

 

 

Why bother? Reading with your kids

Posted on September 6th, 2013 by Jody

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Why Bother Reading With Your Kids a Guest Post by Jody Holford

Storytime Standouts’ guest contributor shares her thoughts on reading with your kids and why it matters.

In the summer it is easy to let routines flounder. Well, if you’re exceptionally lucky and both you and your spouse are teachers and therefore have your vacation together as a whole family. We spend our days doing day trips, staying in pajamas, the girls playing while I write; it’s pretty sweet. The kids go to bed a little later, you socialize more so the bedtime routine isn’t always predictable. I’m often tempted to just tell my ten year old to go ahead and read on her own. My seven year old, with a great deal of warranted pride, always wants to read to us. She reads us her three stories with unique and funny accents and expressions that never fail to make me smile. My ten year old reads her own book, a series with her dad and a series with me. There’s no lack of reading going on in our house. She was given the green light to read the rest of the Harry Potter series this summer (something I was torn about allowing as she is only ten). This made it even more tempting to just say goodnight and get to the quiet time early. We could probably convince our seven year old to read to herself too in exchange for being allowed to stay up later, reading in her room. So why do we bother? Even, or maybe especially, in the summer when we feel lazy and carefree?

  • BECAUSE READING WITH YOUR KIDS MATTERS.
  • Because it’s a way to connect with them through something you can both enjoy.
  • Because it gives one on one time.
  • Because it gives a reason and topic for conversation.
  • Because it’s enjoyable for both of you.
  • Because it helps them to be better readers and listeners.
  • Because it engages their mind and imagination.
  • Because there’s nothing better than getting lost in a book with characters you adore and taking someone along for the ride.
  • Because in an age of “go-go-go”, stopping matters. Stop, sit, read with your kids.
  • Because as they get older, they won’t want you to lay on their bed beside them.
  • Because you never get this time back.
  • Because it will matter to them and they will look forward to the daily routine of mom or dad curled up beside them, sharing a story.

So why bother? Some days seem especially long but in reality, time speeds by and we need to do what we can to form strong bonds and relationships with our children. I love the opportunities that present themselves through reading with my girls, particularly the older one because it lets me see how she would problem solve or resolve an issue. “What do you think of the way they treated that girl?” “Have you ever been part of a rumor?” “What would you do if two friends were fighting over you?” We spend so much time figuring out how to teach our kids to be prepared for life and how to handle stress that we forget that some of those very lessons are in the books they’re reading. Rather than fearing what they may face in middle school and high school, I like having the opportunity, through books, to talk to them about things rather than lecture. It’s one more way to be proactive in helping your child be the strongest, most capable person they can be. And that’s our job.

Storytime Standouts guest contributor writes about Reading with your kids

 

Top Ten Literacy Highlights of My Year

Posted on June 12th, 2013 by Jody

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Image of cover art for SlobWe all have our strengths in the classroom. Mine, as you may have guessed it, is Literacy. It’s because we are good at what we know and love. This is my area of passion so it translates well to most of the kids. That doesn’t mean it’s smooth sailing all the time or effortless; but when you love something so much, even the struggles can seem engaging. So, to recap another year that has gone by incredibly fast, I’m sharing my top ten literacy moments from this school year.

10. Almost every student in my class of 30 improved their reading level.

9. Several students recommended books they thought I should read and told me why.this

8. Forgetting the first book I read this year and having a student bring it up while making a connection the other day. Ellen Potter’s Slob left a lasting impression on them.

7. Starting a blog site where the students talked about their favourite books, questions, predictions, and started writing a group story.

6. Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper.

5. Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur

4. Writing Every Day. Especially on the days where I say I’ll give them a break and they say “NO! We want to write.”

3. Listening to the creative ways students express themselves. One of my students made a list called: Ten Reasons I hate to write. Another wrote a Wanted Ad for a perfect teacher.

2. Our class did a write and pass. So each student wrote one sentence then passed their sheet. The next person read that sentence, added a new sentence that made sense and continued the story. We did this in two groups of fifteen.

1. One of my two main reluctant readers (the boy) asked me if he could skip the free time they’d earned so that he could read (**insert teacher doing cartwheels here**). My other reluctant reader (the girl) came to me and said I need a book. I said, ‘Okay. How about this?” She’d read it. “This?” She’d read it. This? Read. This? Read. This went on for several books. She’s read over a dozen books since September.

There is absolutely no better feeling as a teacher than knowing you helped a child connect to books. Books open doors, minds, hearts, and worlds in a way nothing else can. These journeys are powerful and I feel so grateful for the ones my students took me on this year.

10 Ways to help upper elementary students enjoy reading

Posted on May 25th, 2013 by Jody

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10 Ways to help upper elementary students enjoy reading

There’s a great quote by Oscar Wilde that says: “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”. It’s a powerful quote and similar to the question: “Who are you when no one’s watching?” Both quotes/questions, I think, speak to being yourself, in your actions and in your choices. This includes reading and writing. One of the best ways to get middle grade students involved in reading and writing is to encourage them to learn more about themselves and go with what interests them.

What are some other ways to engage your middle grade / upper elementary students? Here’s what’s worked for me this year:



1. Get to know your students and their interests. Most kids who say they don’t like to read haven’t found a book that fits with who they are. Sometimes they are a little unclear on what appeals to them. They might not realize how many genres there are or that even if they are into sports, they might prefer mythology to sport related books. Case in point: I play absolutely no sports and have no athletic ability, but love to read books and watch movies where atheletes are the main characters.Storytime Standouts' guest contributor shares an Oscar Wilde quote and 10 ways to help middle grade students enjoy reading

2. Choose with them. Students like attention and we don’t get much chance for one on one or small group. When you go to the library with them, utilize the library time. Look through the shelves with them. Ask what some of the kids have chosen, show interest, show them some you’ve found. Check in with them or pick a few you think they might like. It gives you a chance to connect with them and get some insight into how they choose.

3. Take their suggestions. It is a big thing when a reluctant reader comes to you and says, “I think you would like this book I read.” READ IT. They read it and now are furthering their connection with you; even if you don’t like it, you can discuss the parts you did or didn’t enjoy with them and engage them in comprehension, oops, I mean conversation.

4. Be honest about your struggles and strengths as a reader. I have two struggles that constantly come up: I am a terribly slow reader and I don’t read aloud very well. Picture books are one thing but I stumble a lot reading novels aloud. The kids feel more relaxed about not being perfect if we’re honest about the fact that we aren’t either. We don’t encourage kids to only play sports they excel at if they get true joy from a certain one. Likewise, you don’t have to be ‘the best’ at reading to enjoy it.

5. Challenge them in unique ways. Kids love competition (well, most kids). Do a teacher vs. student challenge for who can read the most, give prizes or reading points when milestones are reached, celebrate reading at an individual and classroom level. I do Reading Bingo with my class and depending on how many bingos they get, they can get out of an assignment or choose a brand new book from scholastic. The bingo is mandatory but what they do with it (bare minimum or all out) is up to them.

6. Read a book to your class for the simple pleasure of reading. For my read aloud, I tend to shy away from making them do writing activities or exercises. I want them to see that books can be just for fun and the excitement of getting involved in the character’s story. Generally, if I have a writing assignment, I will use our read aloud as an example. This week, we made character pamphlets. I chose the character from our read aloud to demonstrate the process but they chose from their guided reading books.

7. Read them picture books. Kids of all ages (and adults) love picture books. They have strong messages, great rhythm, and are often funny. They enjoy looking at the pictures and there are endless activities at the upper grades you can do using picture books.

8. Teach them how to decide if a book is not working for them. Kids think that adults expect them to finish everything they start and lots of times, we do. But, I’m unlikely to finish a book that I really don’t connect with or enjoy. If it’s curriculum related and it must be finished, then that’s just life. But, if it’s for silent reading or read aloud, it’s perfectly fine to pick up a book, realize it’s not for you, and take it back. In fact, it shows strength as a reader to recognize what appeals to you.

9. Just let them read. We focused on non-fiction a lot this year as an intermediate team at my school. Until this year, I’ve always said that silent reading was for reading our ‘within our reading level’ books. Once we started focusing on how to teach non-fiction and how to get kids to choose these books, I wondered why, especially when I just want kids to READ, I was limiting them. Now, they can read anything that is appropriate at school. We do need to make time for their ‘grade-level’ reading but in the end, if they read, they improve at reading.

10. Show them the connection between reading and writing. In my class, we use writing every day to do this. They have become stronger readers and writers through the process. Those that struggled with reading out loud are getting stronger. They are recognizing errors in their writing, finding topics to write about because they have broader interests, trying new genres like poetry and non-fiction. They don’t have to write something every time they read but ask them to think about and share the connection they see between reading and writing.

My goal is for students to realize the amazing journeys they can have just from reading a book. We live in a digital age and yes, technology is essential and important. However, if we can get kids curled up with a good book, turning pages, reaching for the sequel, we are encouraging them to become stronger at a skill that is not only essential but can bring them endless enjoyment. Never underestimate the power of a great book.

Working with a Speech Delayed Child

Posted on May 18th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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Since late winter, I have been working with a speech delayed child.

She is five years old and she will start kindergarten in September. Initially, I worked with her for one hour each week. After a month or so, her parents were delighted with her progress and they asked me to double the frequency of our sessions. Currently we meet Tuesday and Thursday afternoons for one hour.

image of Vocabulary Development speech delayed childMy goals in working with her are to (1) expand her vocabulary (2) increase her speech from one or two word answers to full sentences (3) improve her phonemic awareness (4) increase her understanding of concepts (i.e. opposites, positional words).

Initially our sessions included (1) a wordless picture book (2) nine words that are related to a theme (i.e. Bedtime) (3) a rebus poem / chant ( i.e. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star).

Now, our sessions also include (1) pictures of words that begin with the same sound (i.e. fish, flag, fingers, flower, five, fork) (2) concept books (3) puppets (4) stories for beginning readers (especially the Oxford Press Read At Home series)


So far, my sessions with my speech delayed student have included the following themes:

Birthdays, In the Neighbourhood, Valentine’s Day, Feelings, Weather, Clothing, Families, Farm, Bedtime, Music, Fruits and Vegetables, Colours, In the Kitchen, in the Bathroom, Toys and Counting. All of the themes are intended to introduce new and reinforce her existing vocabulary. Once the individual words are mastered, we add description: blue umbrella, brown blocks, green grass. image of words that begin with F used with a speech delayed child
More recently, we have added concepts to our sessions: Words that Are Opposites, Positional Words (in, beside, under, over, behind, in front of).

A typical session with my speech delayed student includes -

  • Chatting about a simple Wordless Picture Book. Breakfast with Jack created by Pat Schories has been a favourite.
  • Reviewing the vocabulary introduced in previous sessions. My young student proudly gives herself a “check” each time she correctly says a word.
  • Reviewing the rhymes and chants introduced in previous sessions. She tracks across each line, using rebus picture clues to ‘remember’ the words. She loves to ‘read’ Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Grandma’s Glasses all by herself.
  • Sorting pictures into words that begin with the /F/ sound, the /M/ sound, the /C/ sound and the /S/ sound.  I mix picture cards for two sounds, she sorts them and then we mix up two more sounds.

To further encourage speech, we play with puppets and we play Simon Says and we sing If You’re Happy and You Know It. My student loves to be Simon. She giggles and laughs as she tells me what to do.

I can’t tell you how rewarding it has been to work with this young girl.  Her vocabulary and her ability to converse has blossomed.  It has been so exciting to witness the transformation in this beautiful, funny, enthusiastic child.

Child Trying out for Rep Hockey? Tips for Hockey Parents

Posted on May 11th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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Child Trying Out For Rep Hockey - Storytime Standouts Shares 13 Tips

My youngest son has tried out for rep hockey for the past seven seasons. Here are my suggestions for families who are already thinking ahead to rep hockey tryouts…

  • Believe in your child and his ability to go through the rep hockey tryout process, accept the coaches’ decisions and keep working to improve (whether he makes the team or not). Your steadfast confidence in his resiliency will make a difference.
  • Will yourself to remain outwardly positive throughout the process. Notice your child’s effort, a great pass, his ability to do crossovers. You do not need to critique his tryout. Your job is to be a support team for your child.
  • The player who excels in Atom is not necessarily the player who will excel in Midget. Whether your child makes Atom A1 team or not, believe it. It is true and the same applies to PeeWee. The success a child enjoys initially may be fleeting and the disappointed child may one day be a 6’2″ star.
  • Keep in mind that the tryout process is stressful for the players, the parents and the coaches. No one likes to tell a nervous, possibly tearful ten year old that he won’t be on the team. No one likes to face the stares of annoyed parents. Encourage your child to understand this is difficult for everyone.
  • Check and double check your child’s hockey bag and make sure that everything that should be in there, is. We once arrived at the rink and discovered that my (very) young son’s undershirt was missing from the hockey bag. He refused to go on the ice without it. Don’t let missing garments or equipment add to an already stressful situation.
  • If at all possible, avoid using brand new equipment for the tryout. Check that your child’s skates are the right size and that they are sharpened. If he is wearing new gear, get him used to it in a preseason conditioning camp or save the new elbow pads for mid September
  • image of hockey player

  • Remember water
  • Understand that there are many factors that go into a coach’s decision. The A1 coach does not necessary keep all of the best players. In minor hockey it is not unusual for some younger players to ‘make’ the team while an older (possibly more skilled player) gets ‘cut.’
  • ‘Cut’ players can be called back up and players who think they have ‘made the team’ can be cut. Don’t assume anything, just encourage your child to continue doing his best.
  • Playing on an A2 or A3 team or going to ‘House’ is not necessarily a bad thing. Unless equal playing time is mandated, a third line player on the A1 team can see much less ice time than a first line player on an A2 team.
  • Be careful what you wish for. It is great to ‘make’ an A1 team but often there is more ‘drama’ on A1 teams and frequently the demands in terms of expense, travel and time commitment are much greater on an A1 team. On more than one occasion we have encountered situations where parents were thrilled to have their son make the A1 team and later wished he hadn’t.
  • Allow plenty of time for traffic and getting into gear. Remind your child, never be the last one onto the ice or the first one off.
  • Remember that your child is having an opportunity to tryout because of a huge team of dedicated volunteers. Be sure to take time to thank the folks who make minor hockey happen in your community. They are probably living at the rink during tryouts.


  • After reading my Tips for Hockey Parents, it may not surprise you to know, the first year of ‘rep’ hockey, my son played on an Atom A3 team. In his second year, he made it to the Atom A2 team. First year PeeWee, he made the A3 team and first year Bantam, he made the A2 team. Last season, he was a first year Midget player and he played on the Midget A1 team. He is determined, he has never given up and he works every day to become a better hockey player. My husband and I believe in him and we believe that all of his hard work and determination will be rewarded.

    It is a long road. Best of luck to you and your child.

    Library Let Down ~You Had Your Chance, and You Blew It

    Posted on May 1st, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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    image of a sign on the exterior wall of a libraryAlmost three weeks ago, I drove forty five minutes from my home and met up with my eighteen year old nephew. He had just disembarked from a forty minute ferry ride. Our purpose in meeting was to spend the day together and make progress with his online Communications 12 course work. My nephew is a remarkable young man. Orally, he uses words like ‘pristine’ and ‘colleagues’ but, when he comes to writing those words on paper or typing them into a computer, he is challenged. Working his way through Communications 12 has not been easy. It is not offered at his high school. He is forced to work independently, completing assignments online.

    When I say that graduating from Grade 12 in June will be a spectacular achievement and one that the entire family will celebrate joyfully, I really mean it.

    To my nephew’s enormous credit he has persevered with the online course and even came and stayed with me over Spring Break so we could work together on it. We managed to make a good deal of progress during Spring Break but there was still a long way to go. We decided to meet in a Monday.

    I drove to the ferry terminal and picked my nephew up. Because we needed WIFI and a place where we could optimise productivity, we drove to the nearest public library. It was not “my” public library nor was it “his” public library. It was the closest public library to the ferry terminal.

    Although I had been to this library previously, it is not one that I know well. When we arrived, we explored the first floor, looking for a suitable place to work together. There were “Quiet” rooms and individual study carrels but we didn’t find anything suitable for the two of us. We walked up the stairs and found the Children’s Section to our right and the Teen Room to our left. Just beyond the Teen Room, we could see a group of four people who occupied a glass-enclosed meeting room. The Teen Room was empty and we decided it would be a good place to open our laptops and get to work.

    We settled ourselves at a counter, signed into the WIFI and got started. It probably would not surprise you to know that the Teen Room was lovely and quiet on a Monday morning. In fact, the entire time we were in the Teen Room, we did not see another patron. We worked our way through a couple of Communications 12 assignments and were surprised when a librarian approached us and informed us that we were in “THE TEEN ROOM.” We explained that we knew we were in the Teen Room, that my nephew is 18 and that we were working on Communications 12. Seemingly satisfied, she left us.

    We got back to work and continued to make progress with his coursework. We were completely alone. Not one other person came into the Teen Room until, a half hour later, another librarian approached us. “This is The Teen Room,” she said. It was pretty clear that she knew we had already had a similar discussion, “We don’t allow anyone who is over 18 into this room. Not parents, not tutors.”

    It was not even worth mentioning that I am neither a parent nor my nephew’s tutor. I am just someone who loves him and will do anything to help him succeed. We were told to move downstairs or into the Children’s Section.

    We packed up the laptops and moved to the Children’s Section where preschool-aged children happily chattered about picture books and distracted an eighteen year old who was desperate to get as much work done as possible.

    I would not have minded being asked to move out of the Teen Room if either librarian had offered encouragement or support. In my opinion, rather than ensuring that no adult ever steps foot into an otherwise unoccupied Teen Room, librarians ought to be delivering a message of support: ‘We are here to help you,’ ‘If there is anything you need, please let us know,’ ‘Congratulations on your upcoming Graduation’ would all have been great messages under the circumstances.

    It may not be immediately apparent to a librarian, but my nephew’s upcoming graduation is a momentous, life changing accomplishment that has been earned the hard way. The fact he is choosing to spend a day, holed up in the library, with his aunt is also awesome. You could have made that day brighter. You could have made that day more productive. You could have delivered a message of support. Instead, your disapproval was clear. Your lack of enthusiasm was clear. Your lack of interest in a young man who is admirably dealing with challenges you have never known was clear.

    Regrettably, I left feeling that I would rather not visit your library again. How sad.

    Is there such a thing as too much reading?

    Posted on April 1st, 2013 by Jody

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    Storytime Standouts' guest contributor asks Is there such a thing as too much reading?  We all want to see our children reading. Even parents who don’t love to read, (such as my own dad who refuses to) like to see their children enjoying reading. We know that it’s part of what makes us successful in life. Reading and comprehension open not only figurative doors, but literal ones as well. Having your child be able to read and understand what they are reading is a necessity. However, having your child read just for pleasure and the magic it provides, is a gift. As much as we try or don’t try, we can’t always determine whether our children will love the act of reading; of falling so far into a story that you feel like you’re part of it.



    What if, however, your child is falling so far into the story that they refuse to come out of it. For those of you that struggle to get your children to read their 15 minutes a night, this might not sound like a problem. However, I’m facing a dilemna that I don’t know how to solve. My husband, myself, and our children LOVE to read. We read constantly. Both of our children read far above their grade level and while I would love to say that’s our influence, (and, in part, it might be) I don’t think that’s the only factor. I say that because I know parents who foster a love of reading and it’s still a chore to get their kids to read. So, I’m very grateful that my children love their books. They are more likely to choose a book for a long car ride than their iPods. They’d like the iPods too, but are content with a pile of books. So how can this become a problem?

    This morning, my oldest daughter, who is caught deep in the trenches of Percy Jackson and the Olympians Lightning Thief saga, came downstairs, hugged me, went straight to the couch and crawled back into her book. When we spoke to her, she didn’t hear us (most likely because of how loud the cyclops and strange animals in the book are), when her sister asked her to play, Polly Pockets seemed a ridiculous choice over the half man-half dog that she was reading about. When we made her put down the book, she was less than impressed, in the way only a preteen, emotional girl can be.

    Cover art for The Lightning Thief

    Now I’m hovering between pride, that she loves this book so much, and irritation because she won’t do anything else. I felt absolutely ridiculous telling her to put down her book and spend time with her family. I told my husband that I felt like I was punishing her for reading, which is the very last thing I want to do. How can I be irritated that she’s reading?

    Then I started to think about the books that I have on the go; several, as always because I can’t read one thing at a time. Also, I currently have two manuscripts I’m working on open on my computer. I’ve got cleaner on the table because my plan is to spend some, much needed time cleaning. There are waffles on the counter because my youngest was desperate to have them. It would have been nice to stayed tucked up on the couch reading my own book, but the youngest is rather persistent. The point is, even though we want them to love reading and know that it will give them so much pleasure as they get older, balance is still the key. We have to still be able to attend to our lives, even in the midst of a great book.Reading and Comprehension open not only figurative doors but literal ones as well.

    I understand my daughter’s obsession very well; she gets it from me. When I get into a book, reading or writing, it can consume me. If my characters are unhappy, my mood is affected. Likewise, if they are happy, so am I. It’s wonderful to feel this much a part of a book and a great cudos to an author that they brought you into their world so completely. Still, we cannot forget the world around us that inspires and creates these stories. We cannot lose ourselves so completely that we miss out on what is right in front of us. It bothers me to tell my kids to put down a book but I have to sometimes, the same way I’d tell them to put down their DS or iPod. Okay, maybe not the same way; I’m far more likely to let hours go by just reading than I would be to let hours go by on the electronics. All the same, the world is still going on around us and it is very easy to forget when we aren’t paying attention.

    I don’t think I’ve solved my quandry because I still feel both guilty and justified over making her put down the book. Plus, now I have to see what’s got her so hooked. She has not loved a set of books like this since Harry Potter. Anyone who knows how obsessed my daughter has been with Harry Potter knows: that is saying something. She has decided that Rick Riordin is her favourite author and is reading anything she can get her hands on by him. She talks about his characters as though I’ve read every page with her; she starts telling me about something and only when she mentions half-animal bodies do I realize she’s not telling me something about her friends at school. She is IN those books. I love that; more than I can possibly say. But I still need her to be IN our life; playing with her sister, helping around the house, laughing and talking with us, and being a part of our day.

    I suppose, like anything else, we have to teach her how to employ that balance. If the author didn’t come up for air sometimes, hadn’t had the experiences he did, if he hadn’t loved mythology, or had a desire to share stories with his own kids, she wouldn’t be reading these books that have her so captivated. Living our lives is what makes for great stories. While it’s an amazing treasure to get lost in the stories that someone else has created, we have to remind ourselves that real life is pretty cool too.

    Percy Jackson and the Olympians website

    The Lightning Thief at Amazon.com

    The Lightning Thief at Amazon.ca


    Speech Delay and ESL – Making Progress

    Posted on March 27th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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    cover art for Breakfast for JackFor the past six weeks, I have been working with a four year old girl who is learning English as a second language and who has a speech delay. We meet once each week for one hour.

    I have been using a variety of materials and techniques to support her learning. Today I thought I would highight a few of them.

    Wordless Picture Books
    During each of our sessions, we read one or two wordless picture books. These are books that have little or no text. Readers use picture clues to decide what is happening in the story. Wordless picture books invite discussion because, as you turn the pages, the story unfolds and there is plenty of opportunity for meaningful talk.

    Although we have read several wordless picture books together, Breakfast for Jack has been our favourite. The book is a good size for sharing one on one. The story is relatively simple and yet the illustrator has included many interesting details. It is morning, the sun is rising. Jack wakes up and stretches. Soon Boy is awake. He and Jack go downstairs. Boy feeds the black and grey cat but, each time he starts to get Jack’s breakfast, he is distracted. Poor Jack is very hungry.

    When my young student and I first started reading Breakfast for Jack together, she was only able to talk about small snippets of the story because of her speech delay and limited vocabulary. Now she explains that Jack is orange and white, the cat is black and grey, Boy wears purple pyjamas. We talk about the family’s breakfast of toast and cereal. We also talk about the cat enjoying a bowl of milk and then snoozing under the telephone table.

    Breakfast for Jack is engaging. The illustrations ensure that the reader understands exactly what is happening. The story and illustrations draw young readers in and keep those same readers involved in telling the story.

    Puppets
    Since Breakfast for Jack has become a favourite, last week I added dog finger puppets to our session. You may be aware that hand puppets and finger puppets are frequently used for play therapy because children often feel safe using a puppet to express themselves. In working with a child with a speech delay, it seems very logical to include puppets and encourage her to play with them. On Thursday, our three little dogs played together, they talked and raced at the park.

    Illustrated Vocabulary
    Keeping in mind that my student is not only dealing with a speech delay, she is also learning English as a second language. Each week I prepare one page of vocabulary that is related to a theme. The page introdues nine words that are illustrated and related by theme. We have done ‘Weather Words,’ ‘Things Families Do,’ ‘Clothing Words,’ ‘In My Neighbourhood,’ ‘Valentine’s Day,’ etc. We review all of the vocabulary each week. As well, she reviews the vocabulary at home each week. Her progress with these words has been quite dramatic.

    Rebus Poems
    Each week we add a new rebus poem to our program. Usually the poem is related to the vocabulary we are learning. For example, when I introduced ‘Weather Words,’ I created a rebus version of ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider.’ When I introduced ‘Things Families Do,’ we learned ‘Grandma’s Glasses.’ I like using rebus poems with young children very much. We track the text with our fingers (reinforcing that we read left to right and top to bottom). When reading rebus poems, we use picture clues to help us remember the poem / chant, we hear rhyming and we learn new vocabulary.

    My young student’s mom and I are thrilled with the progress she has made to date. She is an enthusiastic learner and she is happy to enjoy stories, chants and learning new words. Next week, I will write again about our session together.

    Breakfast for Jack at Amazon.com

    Breakfast for Jack at Amazon.ca

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