Archive for the ‘Teacher Resources’ Category

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

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

Story People by Brian Andreas

Posted on September 22nd, 2012 by Jody

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On a trip through an airport, Jody discovers the work of Brian Andreas and his Story People

While passing time at the Sea-Tac airport, I wandered into one of those everything-and-then-some stores. In between the hand-crafted cards, joke gifts, and eclectic jewelry, an interesting and colorful print caught my eye. Really, it seemed more like a scrawled version of a stick person. But it was the words that accompanied the image that grabbed me. It said:

I read once that the ancient Egyptians had fifty words for sand & the Eskimos had a hundred words for snow. I wish I had a thousand words for love, but all that comes to mind is the way you move against me while you sleep & there are no words for that.

Just like that, I was fascinated. Along with dozens of prints, all showing oddly shaped figures and sketches and sharing beautiful words, there were books. I had never heard of the author, Brian Andreas before. Flipping through his books, I was amazed at the power of his words and the fact that he could be so moving without truly defining characters. Somehow, without even giving them names and using, what seem like, pieces of conversation, he pulls you in and makes you feel like someone understands. I used all of my “mommy-needs-a-few-minutes-to-look-around-by-herself” time standing at that small shelf reading everything I could and trying to decide which print was my favourite. It’s not often you can read a few paragraphs that have the power to make your heart skip or your eyes tear; well, for most people, anyway.

As I read these little snippets of conversation between unidentified characters, I felt completely drawn in and captured by them. Some of the conversations had an almost “Time Traveller’s Wife” feel to them. Then there are sketches that accompany the words; sketches that should be amusing, but with the words, just seem beautiful. There’s so many times in life, as kids and adults, that we feel alone, that people don’t ‘get it’. It’s part of what makes a good book so important~connecting to characters makes us feel validated, understood, accepted, and “normal”. Reading through Mr. Andreas’ book Trusting Souls, I felt that way. It was so compelling that I bought it for my husband, who I’m sure would have rather had something else, from another store entirely. However, sometimes someone else has already written the words we feel we can’t express properly. When that happens, as adults and as children, it matters. It stays with us.

On his website, Mr. Andreas says “we are all story people”. I like that. Because we are. We’re all just trying to do our best, make connections, and make sense of what we see and think and feel.

His books and prints show the power words can have and I think that, in the classroom, that’s a strong message. Words matter. How we say them or write them or think them. The words we hear or see can leave a lasting impression on us. This is why it’s important to choose wisely what we say and what we read.

Here are a few pieces that will stay with me; that matter:

“Is there a lot of things you don’t understand? she said and I said pretty much the whole thing and she nodded and said that’s what she thought but it was nice to hear it anyway and we sat there in the porch swing, listening to the wind and growing up together”

With this phrase, he draws an interesting picture and scribbles that it is a “doorway that only lets some stuff through, but you never know what it’s going to choose so it’s hard to plan for the future”.
“Remember to use positive affirmations. I am not a dork is not one of them.”

This one is called “Anxiety Break”:

“things have been going so well that she’s taking an anxiety break to keep centered”

One more, from “Mostly True” :

“We lay there and looked up at the night sky and she told me about stars called blue squares and red swirls and I told her I’d never heard of them. Of course not, she said, the really important stuff they never tell you. You have to imagine it on your own.”

Story People at Amazon.com

Story People at Amazon.ca

Trusting Soul at Amazon.com

Trusting Soul at Amazon.ca

Mostly True at Amazon.com

Mostly True at Amazon.ca

A Text Connection

Posted on April 23rd, 2012 by Jody

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As a want-to-be writer, I find it fascinating that some authors can slip back and forth between genres and age groups. It shows a wide range of talent when an author produces a best selling thriller and then follows it up with a highly entertaining graphic novel. James Patterson and John Grisham are powerful examples of authors who show this flexibility on a regular basis. What really shows their strength as writers, however, is that the books they write for their younger audiences are so appealing to adults as well. Aside from providing more great reading material, authors such as these are also providing a unique way for parents (or teachers) and children (or students) to connect.

Patterson’s latest young adult novel is Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life. The quick and fun chapters, along with the sketch graphics and the humor of two friends trying to get through their first year of middle school make it a great read. I laughed out loud at parts, remembering my own middle school days. While it connects with many of the students in the upper elementary grades, it definitely reaches out to boys.

Finding things in common with our kids (and students) is extremely important. They live in a fast-paced world of texting, Facebook, and instant messages. They are “connected” in ways that we never were. We need to jump on the opportunities to share meaningful conversations with them whenever we can. Taking an interest in what your kids are reading can be a way to start these conversations.

I had a Teacher on Call come in for me last week for a half day. I showed up right before the lunch bell and we were discussing how the morning went. I asked about a few students in particular and she made a comment that got me to thinking about this post: she had brought in the book The Mocking Jay, the third in the Hunger Games trilogy, so that she could read it while waiting for a friend after work. When a few of the students noticed she had it, they began asking her whether she liked it, had she finished it, did she like the others. The fact that she was reading a book that many of them are absorbed in right now created an instant connection, which is not always easy to do as a teacher on call.

Kids always find it a bit surprising when they realize that you may enjoy some of the same things they do. I have had wonderful conversations about Harry Potter, Holes, Twilight, Hunger Games, and a variety of other books that kids are hooked on. My enthusiasm is real and the kids respond to that. They want to know what you think, what you liked, and if you got to a certain part yet. I tell the kids how I feel about the books that we have in common and they feel open to sharing their thoughts. My class knows that even though I really liked Hunger Games, I stopped reading the trilogy because, for me, it was too sad. We ended up having a conversation about what makes us put down a book, what makes us go back to it, or what makes it so we absolutely cannot put it down.

I believe that connecting with kids strengthens our relationships with them and makes teaching them more successful. Try reading something your child is reading; aside from connecting with your child, you’ll likely find yourself reading a great book as well.

The Value of Child’s Play

Posted on November 4th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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Child's Play written by Silken LaumannChild’s Play: Rediscovering the Joy of Play in Our Families and CommunitiesSilken Laumann
Parenting book published by Random House





In her book, Child’s Play: Rediscovering the Joy of Play in Our Families and Communities, Silken Laumann, challenges parents to reconnect with their children and to build safe, supportive communities.

Ms. Laumann suggests that neighbors (parents and children) get together once a week, at a neighborhood park, to allow children opportunities to enjoy unstructured time together – ride bikes, skip, kick or throw balls, play tag, road hockey or basketball or enjoy the swings. She points out that unstructured play helps to keep children healthy, creative and active. Enjoying the park together gives parents and neighbours opportunities to meet, talk and get to know each other.

Child’s Play: Rediscovering the Joy of Play in Our Families and Communities at Amazon.com

Child’s Play: Rediscovering the Joy of Play in Our Families and Communities at Amazon.ca


Reading Comprehension – 8 Ways to Reinforce Your Child’s Understanding

Posted on October 31st, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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Try some of these strategies to help your child with reading comprehension

8 ways to reinforce understanding and reading comprehension

Here are eight ways to reinforce a young child’s reading comprehension…











You will also want to read our page about reading comprehension.

Please click on the book covers for information about each picture book.

  • image of cover art for Houndsley and CatinaBefore opening the cover of a book, take a moment to talk about the cover art and encourage your youngster to make some predictions. Do you suppose this will be a scary story or perhaps a silly one? Do you think this book will be like something else we have read together? Making predictions is a great way to help your child develop good reading comprehension skills.
  • Does your child recognize the illustrator’s style and/or the typeface? Savvy readers will recognize that Stella Fairy of the Forest and Houndsley and Catina are both illustrated by Marie- Louise Gay although the characters in the two books are not the same.
  • image of cover art for Stella Fairy of the Forest

  • Once you have read partway through a picture book, pause to talk about it. Involve your child in making predictions about what will happen next. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom offers more than a couple of opportunities to guess what will happen to the letters of the alphabet. If a character is facing a choice, ask your child what he would choose and why. Thinking and talking about the story will reinforce reading comprehension.
  • At the end of the story, take a moment to talk about the characters. Which character does your child like best? / least? Does this character remind him of a person he knows or another book you’ve read together?
  • image of cover art for The Three Snow Bears

  • Try reading more than one version of a fairy tale or other familiar story. Compare the illustrations and the author’s words. Which version of the story do you like best? / least?
  • Try reading wordless picture books. In these books, all or almost all of the story is told through the illustrations. Wordless and almost wordless books are great because they “level the playing field.” Your child becomes an equal participant in carefully “reading” the illustrations and deciding what is happening in the story. Wordless and almost wordless books are also great for young children to share with someone who does not read in English. They are also valuable because they offer an opportunity for your child to use visual clues when retelling a story to someone else.
  • image of cover art for The 3 Bears and Goldilocks

  • Speaking of “retelling,”  having an opportunity to retell a story is a great way for young children to develop her reading comprehension skills. Perhaps after you and your child enjoy a story together, your child could summarize the story for another adult.
  • Finally, matching a book to an upcoming event or experience will help your child to make connections between the story or information in the book and his own experience. Whether reading a story about a visit to the dentist prior to an appointment or laughing about No David’s misadventures, making connections is what it is all about.
  • 6,205 bedtime stories! A look at selecting great bedtime stories and the importance of reading aloud to children.

    Posted on October 25th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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    Selecting great bedtime stories



    When making presentations to parent groups and professional organizations, my goal is always the same: to inspire adults to read good books to children on a frequent basis.

    I have two children and I began reading aloud to them when my oldest boy was 6 months. I continued reading two stories a day until the youngest was about 7 years old. (We still enjoy chapter books together.)

    Believe it or not, I actually did the calculation:
    8.5 years X 2 stories per day X 365 days = 6,205 bedtime stories! Unbelievable!

    Selecting Great Bedtime Stories

    We know as parents that we are going to read some books over and over again because our children will insist we do. The rest of the time, let’s do our best to find books that are worth reading.

    Whether through this website or a Parent Ed session at your preschool, I want to help you discover some new books that will help your child…
    • substantially grow his vocabulary. Remember, we tend to use the same words over and over again when we talk with our children. When we read aloud to them, they encounter new vocabulary. Here are some suggestions for picture books with rich language
    • gain and awareness of rhyming and alliteration. Also known as ‘Phonemic Awareness,’ discovering that words are made up of sounds will help your child read and spell. Here are some suggestions for you to support your child’s phonemic awareness.
    • learn about places and situations. Whether reading about Madeline’s life in Paris or Ping’s home in China, books take us to new and exciting places. They introduce situations that our children do not encounter personnally.
    • explore the language and conventions of print. Children learn that English is read from left to right and from top to bottom. They may also learn that exclamation marks and bold print send a message to the reader.
    • discover new information and ideas. Books are a great way for your child to learn about topics that interest them: dinosaurs, castles, robots and undersea creatures! Here are some non fiction picture books that we particularly recommend.
    • become a good listener. Ah yes, you can be sure that your child’s teacher will be grateful for his attentiveness.

    When selecting books for children we should look for
    • respected authors and illustrators and their well-reviewed books
    • good matches for our child’s interests (in my case it was, ‘Books about trucks!’)
    • ways to connect books with life experiences (i.e. an upcoming trip or planting a garden)

    Keep reading, I will do my very best to help you with selecting great bedtime stories.

    You may also enjoy…
    Answers to 10 FAQ About Reading Aloud to Children from Storytime StandoutsStorytime Standouts guest contributor writes about reading aloud to children10 Great Reasons to Read Aloud to Your Child







    Beyond Bedtime Stories – Early Literacy Can Include So Much More Than Just Reading Aloud

    Posted on October 21st, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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    Beyond Bedtime Stories by V. Susan Bennett-Armistead, Nell K. Duke and Annie M. Moses

    Beyond Bedtime Stories is a very thorough exploration of ways parents can promote early literacy with young children. The authors address dozens of important questions like “What if a book contains words or ideas that I find offensive?” and “Should I teach my child to read before kindergarten?” Beyond Bedtime Stories also includes suggestions of ways to fill your home with books even if you are on a budget, how to improve comprehension and ways to promote literacy inside and outside your home.

    This is a very worthwhile resource for young families, daycare and preschool settings.

    Beyond Bedtime Stories: A Parent’s Guide to Promoting Reading, Writing, and Other Literacy Skills from Birth to 5

    Beyond Bedtime Stories : A Parent’s Guide to Promoting Reading, Writing, and Other Literacy Skills from Birth to 5 at Amazon.ca


    Beginning Readers – 4 Strategies for Reading Tricky Words

    Posted on September 14th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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    When children are beginning readers, we often encourage them to “sound words out” but there are some other strategies that we can and should suggest. There are many words that don’t lend themselves to “sounding out.” If you think of your own reading, you probably have used some or all of these strategies -

    Beginning Readers should use these strategies to read difficult words





    1. Beginning readers should look at the illustrations. I once worked with a child whose mom covered the illustrations so he couldn’t use picture clues when reading! Please don’t do that! Reading pictures is part of a child’s early reading experience. That is why almost all easy-to-read books are generously illustrated. Please, encourage your child to use picture clues.

    2. Beginning readers are allowed to skip the tricky word and read the rest of the sentence. The rest of the sentence may give your child enough other information to help him figure out the word. As an aside, sometimes books use relatively simple words but include difficult-to-read names for characters. If your child can manage the story but stumbles over reading a character’s name, suggest calling the character by his or her initial and avoid the challenge altogether. It won’t make a bit of difference to your child’s understanding of the story (unless there are two tricky names and both start with the same letter!).

    3. Beginning readers sometimes check out the first couple of letters and then make a guess. Not very scientific but we all do it! Keep in mind that the larger your child’s listening and speaking vocabulary, the better his guesses are likely to be.

    4, Beginning readers should be encouraged to ask for help . When I listen to a young child read, my number one goal is that she enjoy the experience. I want her to want to read. I don’t want her to get hung up and frustrated. If I can make the reading experience more pleasant – by acting as a resource when she encounters difficult words – then she is more likely to attempt challenging books.


    Using Word Families With Beginning Readers

    Posted on September 14th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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    When working with children who are just beginning to sound out words, I have had great success using word families.

    image of cover art for Fat Cat, a book for beginning readersFat Cat written by Sue Graves and illustrated by Jan Smith
    A Fun With Phonics book published by Cartwheel Books, an imprint of Scholastic Books

    Shortly after a child discovers that C -A -T spells cat, it can be enormously rewarding to introduce B-A-T amd M-A-T. Often a child’s eyes grow as big as saucers as he realizes the relationship between the three words. He makes a connection and sounding out BAT, CAT, FAT, HAT, MAT, PAT, RAT and SAT is not nearly as difficult as he originally thought. Soon he has eight new words to be proud of (rather than just one).


    image of cover art for Dog in the Fog, a book for beginning readersThere have been many, many books written that focus on word families. A search of “Fat Cat” might produce a dozen or more results. I’m delighted to let you know about a series that combines word families, spinning word wheels, picture clues and early reader books. The word wheels are sturdy and easy to spin. They each create eight words: the wheel for
    image of cover art for Bug in a Rug, a book for beginning readers Bug in a Rug produces bug, hug, dug, jug, mug, pug, tug and rug.




    Beginning readers will need some help decoding the story but will find the illustrations helpful and will soon notice that the word family words are printed using red ink. if ‘reading’ with an older family member, the child could be asked to ‘read just the red words’ until familiar with the vocabulary. Good fun and a helpful resource for those who are just learning about word families and beginning to read.

    image of cover art for Jen the Hen, a book for beginning readers

    Fat Cat at Amazon.com | Fat Cat at Amazon.ca

    Jen The Hen at Amazon.com | Jen the Hen at Amazon.ca

    Dog In The Fog at Amazon.com | Dog in the Fog at Amazon.ca

    Bug In A Rug at Amazon.com | Bug in a Rug at Amazon.ca



    image of How to Make Word Family Flip BooksOn the Storytime Standouts Word Families page we include Word Family Flip Books for short vowel word families. Print the pages and cut out the individual letters. Cut out the larger rectangle along the lines. Make a pile of letters (check that they are all the right way up) and staple them to the left of the word ending. Encourage your beginning reader to ‘build’ on her knowledge that C-A-T spells CAT by flipping the letters and substituting the consonant. She’ll create many more words and feel a thrill of success.

    Our Word Families page also has several word family printables that show the words with pictures. These are great for beginning readers in Kindergarten and Grade One.

    Our early learning printables, including our word family printables are in PDF format, if you don’t already use Adobe Reader, you will need to download it to access the word family printables.

    Some of our printables for beginning readers are available to Storytime Standouts members only. To become a member of the website, please click on the “Members” tab and register as a user.

    You will find our selection of free printable alphabets here and all of our early learning printables here.

    If you appreciate our word family printables, please support this site by visiting and purchasing from Amazon.com or Amazon.ca.


    The Reading Zone by Nancie Atwell – Discover Ways to Help Teen Readers

    Posted on September 13th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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    Do you share my concerns about inspiring preteen and teen readers?

    Storytime Standouts looks at suggestions for inspiring preteen and teen readers from The Reading Zone by Nancie Atwell The Reading Zone written by Nancie Atwell
    Professional teaching/parenting resource about teen readers published by Scholastic





    Over the weekend, I had an opportunity to enjoy reading Nancie Atwell’s The Reading Zone: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers.

    I am always interested to read and hear leading educators suggest ways to ensure that children, preteens and teens become “Skilled, passionate, habitual, critical readers” because for so many teen readers this does not happen. Ms. Atwell’s approach to reading reading is practical and passionate. She reminds all parents of teens that everyone has reading homework and there is no more important homework than reading.

    She identifies the key ways a teen reading ‘class’ can be transformed into a teen reading ‘zone.’ She also discusses the three categories of book difficulty: Holidays, Challenges and Just Rights. Her chapters on teen reading include Choice, Ease, Comprehension, Booktalking, Boys, Commmunicating with Parents and High School. The book’s appendix lists How to Create a National Reading Zone.

    This is a book that every parent of a preteen or teen reader and most teachers should read. It is both informative and inspiring.

    The Reading Zone blog

    The Reading Zone: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers at Amazon.com

    The Reading Zone: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers at Amazon.ca

    Meet Nancie Atwell in The Reading Zone


    Start a Kids’ Book Club – Why Not?

    Posted on September 11th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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    Start a Book Club - Why Not? Storytime Standouts Recommends The Kids' Book ClubFor all families, schools and libraries, finding ways to create a literacy-friendly environment should be a top priority. I feel fortunate that my boys have been surrounded by books since infancy and they both read enthusiastically and without difficulty today.

    The Kids’ Book Club Book: Reading Ideas, Recipes, Activities, and Smart Tips for Organizing Terrific Kids’ Book Clubs written by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp
    Parenting and Professional Resource for Teachers and Librarians published by Penguin Group USA





    When The Kids’ Book Club Book: Reading Ideas, Recipes, Activities, and Smart Tips for Organizing Terrific Kids’ Book Clubs arrived on my doorstep, I was at once curious about the contents and the authors’ approach. For so many young people, a kids’ book club could be a fantastic way to boost enthusiasm for reading and books.

    After suggesting ways to organize a group and choose books, the authors focus on fifty titles. They recommend books for grades 1-5, 4-7, 6-8 and 9+ . For each book they provide a summary, information about the author, recipes for treats that tie-in with the selection and more. Engaging headings like “Make It!” “Try It!” and “Ask It!” lead to enjoyable ways to make reading and discussing the books meaningful and fun.

    Selections for younger children include The Boxcar Children; Sarah, Plain and Tall and Because of Winn-Dixie .

    For middle grade readers they look at Holes, The Breadwinner, Harry Potter, Eragon and more.

    For young teen readers, one of the suggested books is The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Suggested topics for discussion (paraphrased here) include how the four girls deal with their problems, what each girl learns, which character you most identify with and why the girls’ bonds are so strong.

    Authors’ Website

    The Kids’ Book Club Book: Reading Ideas, Recipes, Activities, and Smart Tips for Organizing Terrific Kids’ Book Clubs is a user friendly, upbeat and comprehensive resource for any parent, teacher or librarian looking for ways to establish and nuture a young readers’ book club

    The Kids’ Book Club Book at Amazon.com

    Kids Book Club Book at Amazon.ca


    Parenting: What Exactly Am I Expecting – of Myself?

    Posted on September 1st, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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    Storytime Standouts looks at I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids: Reinventing Modern MotherhoodI Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids: Reinventing Modern Motherhood written by Trisha Ashworth and Amy Mobile
    Parenting book published by Chronicle Books





    Back after an all-too-short “Spring Break.” The boys returned to school this morning and I scrambled around doing some of the chores I’d put off while they were home. Well, actually, “home” is a bit of a stretch — six hockey games in four days meant we weren’t actually at home very much.

    I did manage to read quite a number of (mainly kids’) books during the break (after arriving at the rink 60 minutes prior to each game). My favorite of the week was not a children’s book. I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kidsreinventing modern motherhood was such a compelling parenting title that I couldn’t wait to delve into it. I was not disappointed – it was thought-provoking, funny and reassuring.

    The quizzes, commentary and quotes encouraged me to consider (and reconsider) my own ‘Never-Ending To-Do List” and My Expectations for Myself. I am still thinking about how I can match my expectations with the real world and, at the same time, honor my whole (not just parenting) self.

    In the meantime, I have decided to form a GET A GRIP CLUB – especially for hockey moms — because really, we all need to GET A GRIP and enjoy each and every day. Beating ourselves up because we haven’t crossed every last thing off our “to-do” list or met an inflated list of parenting expectations, is far too destructive to ourselves and our family life.

    I Was a Really Good Mom website (including blog)

    I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids at Amazon.com

    I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids at Amazon.ca

    Reading and Interpreting Pictures Supports Reading Comprehension

    Posted on August 31st, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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    Storytime Standouts explains how reading and Interpreting pictures bolsters reading comprehension



    Reading Readiness: Comprehension for Preschool and Kindergarten Can Involve  Reading and Interpreting Pictures

    What could your child tell you about this picture? Would she say that it is Fall? Would she predict that the family is choosing a pumpkin for Halloween?

    Two of the components of a child’s reading readiness are her comprehension and her interpretation. We can assist a preschool or kindergarten child with reading readiness by providing opportunities for him to read pictures and interpret them, including understanding the sequence of events.

    Reading and interpreting pictures includes noticing what is in the picture, what the characters are doing, the weather or time of day and other details (i.e. the color of a character’s clothing). A child could be asked to interpret the scene and confirm comprehension by telling or retelling the narrative.

    For the first picture, we could ask questions such as what do you think these people are doing? or why do you think the man is pushing the wheelbarrow? or Why do you think these people are visiting a pumpkin patch?

    Reading Readiness: Comprehension for Preschool and Kindergarten Can Involve  Reading and Interpreting Pictures

    How would your child interpret this picture? Would your child notice the old oil lamp?






    Why does one man have gold coins in his hand? or Do you see anything that looks usual in this picture?














    Wordless Picture Books Encourage Children to Interpret and Comprehend

    Wordless picture books provides opportunities for reading and Interpreting Pictures Wordless picture books are great tools for helping children to develop good comprehension and interpretation skills. We invite you to visit our Wordless Picture Books page to discover why great wordless picture books make narratives easily understood. Once a child has ‘read’ a wordless picture book with an adult, he should be encouraged to share the book with someone else. Making an opportunity to reconstruct and retell a story is valuable for a young child because reconstructing and retelling a story is a way to confirm comprehension.








    Sequencing Activities = Reading and Interpreting Pictures

    Children who have learned to ‘read’ and ‘interpret’ pictures will benefit from sequencing activities. These provide children with the opportunity to ‘read’ pictures and determine the correct order of events.
    Building a Snowman Sequencing Activity from Storytime StandoutsHere are links to three printable sequencing activities from my website and three from elsewhere on the internet.

    image of PDF icon  Building a Snowman Sequencing Activity




    Planting a Flower Garden Sequencing Activity from Storytime Standouts

    image of PDF icon  Planting a Flower Garden Sequencing Activity






    Making a Valentine Sequencing Activity for PreK Kindergarten from Storytime Standouts

    image of PDF icon  Valentine's Day Sequencing Activity

    Cut this Valentine's Day Sequencing Activity apart and have children put it together in the correct order or print two and use as a matching game.





    British Council Goldilocks and the Three Bears Sequencing Printable

    DLTK’s Story Sequencing Activities

    Early Learning Printables

    For additional information about comprehension and reading readiness, follow this link to our page about reading comprehension.


    The Reading Response – One Surefire Way to Turn Kids Off Reading

    Posted on August 30th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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    Monday morning and just five more school days until Spring Break. Boy, are we ready for a break from routine; swimming lessons, hockey, elder care and school have taken their toll this winter. It is time to sleep more, enjoy extra family time together and go on some fun outings. It is time for a break from the reading response.

    Once again this weekend, both my sons had (the dreaded) Reading Response homework. My elder boy worked on a title page for his assignment, due next Friday. He is worried that he hasn’t done enough work and this will hurt his mark in reading. He’s likely right — although an enthusiastic reader of fiction and non fiction, pausing to ‘respond’ is not his strong point. Rather than analysing, he’s much more likely to pick up another book and move on.

    My younger boy had already completed (yet another) chapter summary for Owls in the Family, but he had not yet written his ‘response’ to the chapter. His last response explained that we recently visited a bird sanctuary and saw a small owl — pretty cool. Unfortunately, he didn’t reveal his feelings about the experience (gosh, he didn’t reveal them to me either!!!)

    Now, I ask you, when was the last time you sat and did a multi-faceted report on a book you’d read (as my grade six boy is doing) or a chapter-by-chapter summary and response (grade 4)? I think Jim Trelease is absolutely right when he says, “let’s eliminate not all but much of the writing they’re required to do whenever they read… We adults don’t labor when we read, so why are we forcing children to?” (in The Read-Aloud Handbook)

    Jim Trelease is a favourite of mine. He really turned me on to creating a home environment that nurtures readers. He also encouraged me to get involved at the school level. His list of recommended read-alouds has been invaluable as we moved from picture books to short novels to full length novels.

    So I say, “Thumbs Down” to apparently endless book reports and “Thumbs Up” to a Spring Break that includes an enticing stack of books – that, when finished, require nothing more than a sigh of satisfaction.

    Jim Trelease’s Website

    The Read-Aloud Handbook at Amazon.com

    The Read Aloud Handbook at Amazon.ca


    Making Reading Games

    Posted on August 29th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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    Making reading games is a fun, inexpensive way to support young learners

    Last month I was invited to make a presentation for the parents at a local preschool. Unlike most of my presentations, this was a hands-on workshop. We used rubber stamps, pencil crayons, stickers and foam shapes to make reading games. This sort of workshop becomes very social – the adults get to play with the craft supplies for a change!

    Over the years, I have made many, many pre-reading and reading games. Apart from the fact that the games can be customized with respect to theme and difficulty, from a cost perspective, homemade can’t be beat!

    Whenever possible, I like to make activities self-correcting. For example, for some matching activities I put small marks on the back of the playing pieces so that the children can double-check their “matches.”

    I’ve also tried to ensure that many of the games allow children to be active and move while they play and learn. For one of the games, I used green rubberized, mesh placemats. I cut out lily pads (beige works for elephant footprints) and then painted letters onto each lily pad / footprint. The clingy nature of the placemat material ensures that the lily pads are not slippery when placed in ABC order on the floor. The children love to hop from one lily pag to the next, singing the ABC song.

    Gift wrap is another great source for learning games. I’ve made games to used with many, many themes – everything from birthday cupcakes to balloons, pond life, western, sports, emergency vehicles and the circus. From time to time, you can find a licensed gift wrap that matches something you are doing in the classroom. I’ve used Cat in the Hat and Franklin Turtle paper.

    My favourite resource for pre-reading craft activities is Kathy Ross. For learners who are a bit older and in need of assistance with reading, Peggy Kaye has great ideas.

    Don’t forget to check out our free, printable reading games.

    Our printable early literacy resources for making reading games are in PDF format, if you don’t already have Adobe Reader, you will need to download it to access the reading game download.


    If you appreciate our printable early literacy resources, please support this site by visiting and purchasing from Amazon.com or Amazon.ca.


    image of PDF icon  Match the Ending Consonant Sound

    Another way to help children develop phonemic awareness. Matching the ending consonant sound is more difficult than matching the beginning consonant sound.

    image of PDF icon  Compound Word Riddles

    image of PDF icon  Sight Word Domino Game Part 1

    image of PDF icon  Sight Word Domino Game Part 2

    image of PDF icon  Sight Word Domino Game Part 3

    image of PDF icon  Match Upper and Lower Case Letters Part One

    Use with Part Two to create a matching activity

    image of PDF icon  Match Upper and Lower Case Letters Part Two

    image of PDF icon  Consonant Game Board

    Use a die and markers, move along the "star" path from one star to another. When you land on a star, say the letter name or say the letter sound or say a word that starts with the letter.

    image of PDF icon  Sight Word Tic Tac Toe

    image of PDF icon  Short Vowel Word Match Game

    Pictures to match with words.

    image of PDF icon  Animal / Alphabet Match

    image of PDF icon  Match the Beginning Consonant Sound

    Cut the pictures apart and have children match the initial consonant sound - a great way to support the development of phonemic awareness.

    Storytime Standouts’ early literacy resources download page

    Peggy Kaye’s Games for Reading at Amazon.com

    Peggy Kaye’s Games for Reading at Amazon.ca

    Kathy Ross Crafts Letter Shapes at Amazon.com

    Kathy Ross Crafts Letter Shapes at Amazon.ca


    Printable Sight Words – also known as Dolch, high frequency or whole words

    Posted on August 27th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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    image of printable sight words

    There are many, many ways to support young readers with these printable sight words

    We want all readers to aquire the skills they need to decode unfamiliar words so that most words become sight words. This aspect of learning to read is also referred to as aquiring ‘Instant’, ‘Whole’, ‘Look & Say’, ‘Dolch’, &/or ‘High Frequency’ words.

    We know readers with large sight word vocabularies read more rapidly and more fluently than readers whose sight word vocabularies are small. It is logical that a reader who is able to ‘instantly’ recognize and understand the words he reads, will be faster and more fluent than a reader who must often pause in order to decode unfamiliar words.

    We also know that some English words are not appropriate for ‘sounding out’ – they occur much too often and are not necessarily phonetic (for example ‘there’ does not sound anything like /t/+/h/+/e/+/r/+/e/).

    Our early literacy printables, including our sight word printables are in PDF format, if you don’t already have Adobe Reader, you will need to download it to access the printable sight words.


    Please note: some of our early literacy printables are available to Storytime Standouts members only. To become a member of the website (without cost or obligation), please click on the “Members” tab and register as a user.

    You will find our selection of free printable alphabets here and all of our early literacy printables here.

    You may be interested in our Sight Word board on Pinterest

    image of Storytime Standouts' Sight Word Board on Pinterest







    If you appreciate our free early learning printables, including these free printable sight words, please support this site by visiting and purchasing from Amazon.com or Amazon.ca.




    On my “Printables” page you will find links to printable sight words, that is, lists of high frequency words. We also refer to these as whole words. I have organized the sight words in groups of ten (per page) and a total of sixty sight words per link. (#1-60, 61-120, 121-180 & 181-240). Here is a shortcut…

    image of PDF icon  Sight Words 1-60

    Sight Words 1-60

    image of PDF icon  Sight Words 61-120

    Sight Words 61-120

    image of PDF icon  Sight Words 121-180

    Sight Words 121-180

    image of PDF icon  Sight Words 181-240

    Sight Words 181-240

    The printable lists can be used for flash cards (I don’t call them ‘flash cards’ with children. I prefer something a bit zippier) but the real fun is in finding creating ways to introduce these words and make them ‘instant.’

    There are dozens of ways to make learning sight words fun – especially if you have access to colored paper, attractive stickers, cardstock and/or file folders. Adding authentic game pieces (like dice, markers, spinners, and penalties (for example “go back two”) will help to engage your child in the activities. In all likelihood, he or she will be glad to help you create board games, memory games, special tic tac toe squares or bingo cards.

    Note, we also have sight word dominoes, practice sentences and special PDFs (i.e. seasonal, vehicles, and activity-related sight words) that include words and pictures.

    image of PDF icon  Sight Word Domino Game Part 1

    image of PDF icon  Sight Word Domino Game Part 2

    image of PDF icon  Sight Word Domino Game Part 3

    Important Note: Please limit the number of sight words you introduce at any one time – five or ten at most.

    Rebus Chants

    Posted on August 26th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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    Have you tried rebus chants in your early literacy programs? I present programs for 4,5 and 6 year old children. I use a variety of materials and have had considerable success with rebus chants. The chants are usually poems where several words are replaced with pictures. They are great for emergent readers because there is frequently repeated, predictable text. The young child does not have to decode all the words – the rebus pictures fill-in-the-blanks.

    There are many sources of rebus chants. This is one that I created

    image of PDF icon  Counting Snowmen Rebus

    My favourites are created by Vera Trembach and published by Rainbow Horizons Publishing. Ms. Trembach offers seasonal and theme-related chants – there is truly something for everyone.

    Whether you checkout the Canadian Rainbow Horizons Publishing website or the American website , you’ll find free teaching units and detailed information including previews of the chant books.

    Engaging, Make-it-yourself Booklets for Young Readers

    Posted on August 24th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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    Storytime Standouts looks at a kindergarten teacher resource: Literacy-Building Booklets: A Big Collection of Interactive Mini-BooksLiteracy-Building Booklets: A Big Collection of Interactive Mini-Books by Suzanne Moore
    Professional Teaching Resource published by Scholastic





    Scholastic’s kindergarten teacher resource Literacy-Building Booklets: A Big Collection of Interactive Mini-Books… is a collection of reproducible mini booklets for PreK and Kindergarten. Grouped into ‘Fall’ Booklets, ‘Winter’ Booklets and ‘Spring’ Booklets, topics include colors, opposites, positional words, size, sequencing and much more.

    Booklet formats are fun: shape books, flip books and, like the What’s in My Lunch Bag? booklet, some are 3D.

    I particularly like the suggestions for extending the lessons and the variety in the booklet formats.

    Literacy-Building Booklets: A Big Collection of Interactive Mini-Books That Help Children Explore Concepts of Print, Build Vocabulary, and Tie Into the Topics You Teach-All Year Long! at Amazon.com

    Literacy-Building Booklets: A Big Collection of Interactive Mini-Books That Help Children Explore Concepts of Print, Build Vocabulary, and Tie Into the Topics You Teach-—All Year Long! at Amazon.ca

    Do you have a professional resource that you would like to share?



    Dream Big!

    Posted on August 22nd, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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    Every student, teacher and parent should see the video clip attached to this CBS news story. It is one of the most inspiring videos I’ve seen. Congratulations to Jason McElwain, Jim Johnson and Greece Athena High School. This is a wonderful story of inclusion and acceptance.

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