Posts Tagged ‘commentary’

Food Dye Frustration – Are You Listening Kelloggs?

Posted on January 16th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


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


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

Reading Power: Teaching Students to Think While They Read at

Top Ten Comments About Reading

Posted on September 19th, 2013 by Jody


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.



10 Ways to help upper elementary students enjoy reading

Posted on May 25th, 2013 by Jody


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.

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

Posted on May 1st, 2013 by Carolyn Hart


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


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

The Lightning Thief at

Speech Delay and ESL – Making Progress

Posted on March 27th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart


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.

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

Breakfast for Jack at

Spring Break and Winter Break – An opportunity for homework?

Posted on January 10th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart


Spring Break and Winter Break - An opportunity for homework

Last year we visited the Mohave Desert on Spring Break

My sons’ school district is currently conducting a survey about Spring Break and whether it should be two weeks (or one). This year and last, the students have been afforded a two week Spring Break. When the change to the school calendar was initially approved, it was subject to review every two years.

I completed the school district survey. I love spending time with my kids and I feel that we usually manage to use these breaks well. I am solidly in favour of a two week Spring Break.

After answering three “yes” and “no” questions, I was asked if I wanted to share any comments. Those who know me well, will understand that I could not let an opportunity to express my opinion pass. This is what I said about homework assignments while high school students are on Winter Break and Spring Break:

I would like to point out that “Winter Break” and “Spring Break” should be considered “breaks” for students as well as for administrative and teaching staff. I do not expect my children’s teachers to be working during these breaks. Having said that, I feel strongly that these breaks ought to actually be breaks from school work for my children. My eldest works (almost full time) when he is not in school and my younger son is involved in Rep hockey. Neither boy benefits from homework assignments over so-called breaks. “Winter Break” and “Spring Break” homework assignments create pressure and defeat the purpose of taking a break.

It is one thing to ask students to do reading while on holiday – mine would do that anyway – but asking for lengthy reading responses is ridiculous and counter-productive. One does not instill a love of reading by forcing students to write responses after every chapter they read. For goodness sake, just let them read for pleasure and have a break from “making connections” and analysing everything they read.

My eldest son had a group project to work on over Winter Break. Fortunately for him and his group, we had not planned an out of town holiday. I do, however, wonder what might have happened if we had gone away for two weeks. Would he have lost marks? Or, would his group have had to do his share of the work?

We never “waste” breaks from school. We travel to interesting places, we like to go to the theatre or sporting events and we enjoy family time together. Teachers do not need to add onerous homework assignments to the mix.

I would be interested to know your thoughts on whether students should be given homework assignments to complete on Winter Break and/or Spring Break.

A new year to set an example in my classroom

Posted on January 7th, 2013 by Jody


I always feel some apprehension when returning to the classroom after a break. I wonder how I’ll go back to planning lessons, implementing them, assessing student growth, understanding, and engagement. I think about what I haven’t taught yet (a lot) and what I have. I ask myself what it is I really want the students to know. Then, because thinking about all of this causes apprehension, I distract myself by reading online, playing on my iPad, or writing. Over the break, I have read a variety of truly awesome articles and blogs. Fantastic words by a selection of online and print authors, by psychologists, teachers, and parents.

image of  cover art for Don't Give Me That AttitudeI have spent most of my life writing in some form or another. It’s my outlet, solace, hobby, one of my very favourite things to do. Yet, reading some of these articles, I was truly enlightened. I read about writing and publishing, about motivation, engagement, and other topics that I feel like I should be somewhat of an “expert” in. After all, I teach with the intention of motivation and engagement. Also, I write constantly and have published numerous online articles so one would think, that I have some prior knowledge and understanding. And I do. However, I’ve barely scratched the surface. The common thread in the articles I read was that you can always be better. You can edit more, add more, do more, learn more; always. This morning, while on Twitter, scanning more blogs and articles, I came across a quote from Jim Henson, tweeted by Dr. Michele Borba. For those of you that don’t know her, she is a psychologist, an author, an educator and an expert. Of all of the experts I’ve explored since I picked up my first What to Expect When You’re Expecting, she has been my go to in the classroom and my home. Her books, and now her blogs and posts, make me feel like not only am I normal, but for all those things that feel overwhelming, there’s solutions. My admiration of her is making me digress but I strongly recommend her to any parent, educator, or person who has social interactions.

The quote was this: [Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are. (Jim Henson). She then adds that ‘how you live [your] life is the best kid lesson.

This is how I will ease my apprehension about returning to the classroom tomorrow. I will remember that kids learn best from the examples they see. This means the good and the bad. By being my best, I encourage them to be their best. That means I have to be ready to learn, grow, and adapt, just as I expect them to. I need to show them that just because we feel like we are really good at something, we always have room for improvement. Likewise, I have to model feeling good about the successes that I have but show them that even so called experts are always growing and learning and that is what makes them stronger in their fields. As well, I have to show them how I am accountable for the mistakes I make if I want them to step up when they make mistakes. I have to show them it’s okay to make mistakes (I show them this quite often). I have to remember that five years from now, those same kids are unlikely to recall which novels I read them but hopefully, they will remember how we worked together as a class to make our school and the world a better place. I think what we often forget is that we are teaching people, not curriculum. The content of what we teach our kids is not as important as our delivery. Are we teaching them strategies to apply to reading problems in later grades? Are we teaching them how to deal with the first bully they meet in the work place? Have we taught them how to put others first but know when to step up for ourselves? Have we taught them to not only accept others as they are, but themselves as well? There’s so much more to teaching our children and our students than just making sure we’ve loaded them with specific knowledge. As parents and educators, we teach them to greet the world, face challenges, and be a positive member of society.

As I write this, I’m not sure if I’ve increased or decreased my apprehension. It seems a tall order to fill and there’s the risk of mistakes. But, as I will tell them, we’ll all do the very best we can, for ourselves and for others. We’ll try to remember that people will remember US, not the books we read. They will remember how we, as people, impacted their lives. Hopefully, that impact will have been genuine and positive.

Happy New Year everyone!

Interviews with Two Reluctant Readers

Posted on December 10th, 2012 by Jody


Storytime Standouts' Guest Contributor Conducts Interviews with Reluctant ReadersThis year, I have a few students who don’t love to read. They and their parents have been honest about this. Of course, when a nine or ten year old tells me they don’t like to read, I wonder “How is that possible?” For those of us who love to read, or find it easy, it seems impossible. It’s not; if reading is difficult for you, it becomes a chore. For parents, it becomes an argument with your kids because you know they need to be reading, but it’s hard to make them. Over the years, the students in my class that haven’t enjoyed reading are not being denied the opportunity to read. They have access to books, loving parents (who enjoy reading and model it), they live in print rich environments, and have capable oral language skills. So, it is not for any of these reasons, necessarily, that they have become reluctant readers.

Engaging students in conversation is a very simple and easy way to learn more about them. They like conversing with their teacher; telling stories and sharing information. I asked two of my reluctant readers ten questions on Friday.

1. Did you like reading when you started the school year?

2. Why or why not?

3. Do you like reading now, at least more than you did? Why or why not?

4. What makes you not like a book?

5. What makes you like a book?

6. Do you think reading is important?

7. Why or why not?

8. What makes you stop reading a book?

9. What makes you not want to put a book down?

10. Do you have any particular books you enjoy?

I asked this of one boy and one girl who I knew had some reading struggles but in the past month have increased their time spent reading considerably.

The answers were surprisingly similar. Obviously, the sample size is small and the conditions are not “test worthy” but I found the results made me wonder “Are they really reluctant?”Storytime Standouts' Guest Contributor Interviews Reluctant Readers

1. They both admitted to not liking reading in September. It wasn’t something they wanted to do when they had free time.

2. Answers ranged from it wasn’t fun to it was boring.

3. In the last month, they have both started to enjoy reading and said it was because they’d found books that they liked and enjoyed.

4. A book disengages them when the story isn’t good or it’s hard to follow. If they aren’t interested in the topic, they don’t want to read it.

5. Much like myself, one of the first things that draws them is the cover. Then the story and what’s inside. Are there graphics? Is it fast paced? Is it funny?

6/7. They both agreed that reading is important because you learn things and need to do it for school. Sadly, neither of them said that it’s important because it can transport you to a new world or because it can change the way you look at someone or something. Or because it is important to do things you enjoy. We’ll get there.

8. A boring plot line and a lot of words are enough to make them silent stare rather than silent read.

9. They both found books that appealed to them individually, which revealed a bit about who they are. The boy loves hockey and has recently discovered books like Rink Rats. The girl is a curious sort (though she’ll admit to the term ‘snoopy’) and has begun reading through Carolyn Keen’s graphic novel version of Nancy Drew. She has read seven in the last two months. This is proof that we read what appeals to us as people; what compels us personally.

10. As mentioned, books on hockey, mysteries, and graphic novels are on the list. Books that are long can be intimidating. A series, such as Nancy Drew, keeps them hooked because they know there’s more on a character they’ve already connected with.

It’s not exactly a research-based understanding of what makes kids turn away from or toward reading, but it gave me valuable information. I don’t want to overwhelm them. I gauge their reactions and am honest about it being okay to not have a book appeal to you. I share my own reading struggles (I read painfully slowly) and tell them what makes me want to read. I know, now, that I’ve opened a doorway and we need to go through it now, while they’re engaged.

How does this transfer to reading the science text book and getting valuable information? If they’re reading for their enjoyment, they’re reading! They’re practicing and decoding and comprehending. This is powerful and will eventually transfer. In addition, the skills we learn as readers (to question, predict and connect) will hopefully transfer too. Once they are not stalled at the actual process of reading, they are free to move forward, enjoy, and learn.




What Should Be Our Priority When Evaluating a Family Literacy Program?

Posted on October 19th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart


Family Literacy Program Learning Materials

When developing and evaluating family literacy programs, what should our goals be?

Last year, I enrolled in a Family Literacy program through Vancouver Community College’s Centre for Continuing Studies. The program is delivered annually and consists of six online courses My goal was to earn a Family Literacy Certificate to augment my Bachelor of Education. So far, I have completed four of the courses and have been introduced, virtually and personally, to other indviduals who share my passion for developing and delivering high quality family literacy programming.

As a direct result of my involvement in the Family Literacy courses, last spring I was contracted to present a program for preschool-age children and their caregivers at a neighbourhood library. The program began in April and was held once a week until the end of June. The program resumed in September and will be offered until the end of November of this year.

Participation in our neighbourhood family literacy program has exceeded expectations. Most weeks, twenty or more children arrive for the program, along with their adult caregivers. In all, we usually have thirty to thirty five people arrive at ten thirty and leave at noon. Each session includes a storytime and a healthy snack along with learning activities, games and printed materials for the children as well as the adults in attendance.

At every juncture, we have ensured that our program is low-barrier and family friendly. From the outset, it was my personal goal that the program would be so successful that funding would be renewed and we would be in a position to offer the program again in 2013.

It has been a great joy to be involved in delivering this family literacy program and, frankly, I am alarmed by the changes that have been deemed necessary by an administrator who has no experience developing or presenting programs of this kind. Unfortunately, as a result of a new administrator, we have been advised that funding for the family literacy program won’t be renewed unless substantive changes are made to it.

Family Literacy Program Learning Materials – On the Farm

The existing ninety minute program will become a two hour program. The April to June and September to November program will now start in November, February and June. Preregistration will likely be required and the healthy snack will likely be reduced to fruit juice.

In my opinion,

~ It is relatively easy to attract families to a neighbood program when the weather is nice (and dry), I firmly believe that it will be tough to draw people out of their homes consistently in February. This will be especially true those who don’t have access to cars. The folks who walk to the program or take the bus will be reluctant to attend regularly if it means walking through snow or rain.

~ Offering the program in Spring and Fall ensures that it does not compete with families’ summer vacation plans and that only preschoolers are available to attend. Having a program begin in June and end in mid August will draw school age children as well as preschoolers. As a means of excluding the older children, some sort of preregistration will likely be required. Preregistration means that the program will not be low barrier. It will be available only to those families who can navigate the registration process and it will exclude those who need it most. Excluding school age children will mean that some families will not attend because they will not have access to child minding for their older children.

~ Reducing a healthy snack to “just juice” ignores the fact that one of the program’s objectives is to model healthy snacking.

~ Lengthening the program to two hours will be stretch for a large, noisy and diverse group of three and four year olds. Without the structure of a classroom, it can be difficult to manage a group this size. I find it hard to believe that program quality can be sustained over two hours.

I am saddened by the fact that organizers are ignoring good sense and by their desire to compromise some of the best aspects of the existing program. I know their goal is to “check the boxes” mandated by the grant they received. I would much prefer that their goal and that of the funding body be to deliver excellent quality programming that is respectful of the participants’ needs and goals.

Family Literacy Program Development Part 2

Posted on October 8th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart


Family Literacy Program Development Part 2

Family Literacy Program format

Each session of our family literacy program began with a thirty minute “storytime” presented by a librarian. The storytime theme matched the weekly program theme. This ensured a good match between the librarian’s “storytime” and the program presented by the program facilitator. Following the “storytime,” the group learned a new rhyme or chant (in rebus form) and theme-related vocabulary. The group also reviewed material from previous sessions, sang the Alphabet Song and played learning games. For Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, the children (enthusiastically) made cards to take home.

Most weeks, the children spent time with the child minders while the program facilitator presented information to the adults. During this portion of the program, the child minders served a healthy snack of fresh fruit and juice or water.

The adult portion of the program included ways to help children with alphabet recognition, the importance of phonemic awareness, the value of reading aloud, ways to help a child with comprehension, why wordless picture books support vocabulary development as well as an introduction to affordable recreation opportunities in the community. The presentation of rebus chants and vocabulary activities also provided learning opportunities for adults.

Weekly handouts were provided to both the children and the adult participants. As well, multilingual information about accessing emergency services (911) was offered.

Introducing a Homework Component

During June, the children who participated in the family literacy program received “homework” assignments which included borrowing a book from the library, reading environmental print, counting, printing, drawing, comparing, borrowing a theme box from the library and enjoying read alouds. Most of the participants completed and returned the homework to the facilitator.

Also in June, the Summer Reading Club was actively promoted and most of the children signed up to participate. By the time the program ended, virtually all of the adult participants had library cards and were using them.

The final family literacy program session included the usual storytime, chants, vocabulary, snack and adult learning. The children who attended regularly received Certificates of Attendance. At noon, most of the participants walked to a nearby park and played with sidewalk chalk, blew bubbles and enjoyed the playground equipment. It was a happy, friendly time.

Family Literacy Program Development Part 1

Posted on October 6th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts Wrties About Family Literacy Program Development

This past year, I have been involved in developing a weekly Family Literacy program

Offered from April to June and September to November, the program is held at a neighbourhood library. It is intended to be a low-barrier family literacy program, especially appropriate for immigrant women who are caring for young children and who may be socially isolated. Initially intended to attract a maximum of twelve families to each session, the Spring 2012 program was enthusiastically attended by more than two dozen families each week. So far, our Fall numbers are almost as high.

As hoped, the program attracted a diverse population. The children in attendance range in age from one to five years. The adults who participate were almost all women; some are grandmothers and aunts however the majority are mothers, attending with their preschool-age children. Some participants have never been to the library prior to attending our family literacy program.

Many of the attending families are learning English as a Second Language. The group includes individuals who primarily speak Cantonese and others who speak Punjabi as their first language. As well, some families who attend regularly speak English fluently.

In keeping with the objective of making the program “low-barrier,” participants are not required to preregister and are welcome to join the program at any stage. For those who join the program partway through or who miss a session, handouts from the previous week(s) are easily obtained. The message is, “Whether you are able to attend every week, most weeks or some weeks, we are very happy to see you here.”

My team and I work to maintain a friendly, welcoming atmosphere for all participants. I am indeed fortunate to have multi-lingual child minders who assure participants that they were welcome to converse in their Mother Tongue during the program.

Story People by Brian Andreas

Posted on September 22nd, 2012 by Jody


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

Story People at

Trusting Soul at

Trusting Soul at

Mostly True at

Mostly True at

Young Adult Fiction – Different worlds…or not

Posted on July 21st, 2012 by Jody


Storytime Standouts' Guest Contributor Looks at the Morbid Storylines in Young Adult Fiction

I brought home 5 young adult fiction books from the Scholastic Book Fair to read this summer. It is always difficult to make a choice and I could easily get into serious financial trouble if given free rein in a book store. But since I’m fairly fond of my marriage, I limited myself. While making my choices, I was struck by the rather morbid story lines.

The selections included plots that dealt with the afterlife, ghosts, sibling deaths, parent deaths, autism, disease and similar horrible afflictions and topics you can think of. Most of the books sounded excellent, despite the rather grave subjects. More than that, the books were definitely capturing interest; many of my students chose stories that I had decided against because I wanted something lighter.

Young Adult Fiction title Heaven by V.C. AndrewsI started thinking that maybe we shouldn’t be exposing the students, our kids, to these topics. I don’t really want my daughter reading or asking about the afterlife, wondering what terrorism is, or thinking about the dangers that exist for kids trying to find themselves in middle school. It’s one of those balance issues again because if my kids ask me about things, I’d rather be honest. I don’t want them completely unaware or in the dark, but a little unaware until they’re older seems okay with me. But most kids aren’t; unaware that is. They have access to far more information through social media and technology than I ever did at the same age.

Young Adult Fiction title Sweet Valley HighIt was this thought that made me think about what I was reading at their age. Surely it wasn’t about disease, terror, and end of the world chaos! I had to have been reading something that protected my unjaded 12 year old view of life. Only it wasn’t. I didn’t watch the news or have access to high speed internet at 12 so maybe I wasn’t as “aware” as kids are today. However, I was reading Heaven by V.C. Andrews and vividly remember reading it over and over again. No terrorism there. Just a girl growing up dirt poor, in a shack, hated by the father that eventually sells her, forcing her to go out into the world and discover the truth about her past. Nope. No terrorism there. Of course, I was also reading Sweet Valley High. What could be more innocent than Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield? The perfect Wakefield twins and their friends who experienced drugs, death, kidnapping, and a whole host of other over the top tragedies. I say that fondly, as I remember being completely addicted to the series. Just as, I would imagine, today’s young adults are addicted to the engaging plots and twists found in Hunger Games, Speak, Twilight, Abandon, Sold, Stargirl, Slob, and so many other well-written, attention-grabbing, heart-twisting young adult fiction titles on the best sellers list.

I didn’t take enough Psychology courses to truly dissect why, as both kids and adults, we are  drawn to stories that present that edge of darkness. Having said that, you don’t need Psychology courses to recognize that each of these books have common elements. The main characters are flawed, allowing the audience to connect with them. The crisis or darkness that each of them must confront seems overwhelming but they manage. They don’t escape the darkness without scars but are stronger for what they have faced. They aren’t perfect, but they survive. So maybe, the solace we all find in the dark is actually hope. Hope that we are strong enough to face what comes our way. Strong enough to be the people we want to be, despite the obstacles in our way.

In light of recent real-world tragedies, it seems to me that hope is never a bad thing. We can’t control real life and we can’t predict the outcome. But there’s a comfort in knowing that when the darkness comes in the book, somehow everything will be okay. I wish we could make the same assurances in life. I wish that in life, like in books, we knew, in the end, that the boy will get the girl, justice will be served, and good will trump bad. But life’s not like that. And sometimes, the only way to deal with that reality is to fall into a good book, with amazing characters that maybe remind you a little of yourself, and know that, in the end, things will work out.

Artificial Food Dyes, Behavior and My Son

Posted on July 3rd, 2012 by Carolyn Hart


Artificial Food Dyes, behavior and my son -

Carolyn shares details of her son’s sensitivity to artificial food dyes

About five years ago, I managed to figure out what was “wrong” with my youngest son. Some of the time he was a happy, relatively polite, relatively well-behaved, active kid but (and this was a huge issue), some of the time he was unpleasant, miserable and defiant.

We were at a loss to understand what was happening with him. It was completely illogical and sometimes scary. Frankly, at times, my husband and I worried it was a mental health issue. We consulted our family doctor and attended family counseling.

After one particularly miserable evening, I sat at my computer and started searching “kids and anger”. I think the first website that gave me hope was that of The Feingold Association of the United States. My son’s symptoms couldn’t be described as ADHD but there seemed to be “overlap” in some of their descriptions and our experiences.

Anyhow, we decided to try a one week elimination diet. We removed all coal tar food dyes from the foods he ate. Although we had planned to experiment for seven days, we knew in three or four that we had identified and solved the problem. He was a completely different boy when not consuming artificial food dyes – especially those derived from coal tar.

Now, fourteen years old, happy and healthy, he does not eat any artificial food dyes derived from coal tar or petroleum and he also avoids Annatto (which is technically considered “natural”).

Red dye derived from coal tar can be called Red Dye 40, Red Dye #40 or Allura Red. In addition to eliminating Red Dye #40 from his diet, my son also avoids Yellow Dye #5 (also known as Tartrazine) and Blue Dye #1 and #2.

Basically, if a food, medicine, toothpaste or beverage has an artificial dye or Annatto as an ingredient, he does not ingest it.

Interestingly, after we figured his intolerance out, we had one professional say to us that kids who are sensitive to artificial food dyes are likely very sensitive to alot of things. It is part of their “make up.”

On the “good news” front, the issue of sensitivity to color is now much better known than it was five years ago. President’s Choice (Real Canadian Superstore) has recently announced that they are eliminating artificial dyes from their products by the end of this year. McCain also seems to be moving in this direction. Some products, especially in the United States are now specifically labeled “No Artificial Colors.”

We have also discovered a few rather interesting differences between Canadian and American products. Miracle Whip produced in Canada has artificial food dye in it, American Miracle Whip does not. Jug chocolate milk, sold in Canada, has artificial food dye in it, American jug chocolate milk usually does not.

We don’t trust anything – we have found artificial dyes in vanilla ice cream, in chocolate pudding, in French fries, in cheese, in salad dressing and in snack crackers. I read every label before I put a product into my shopping cart or before he eats it. We have even asked to see labels when eating in restaurants.

We are very fortunate because he is equally committed to avoiding the artificial food dyes. He never asks to eat anything with dye even when tempted by cupcakes decorated with sprinkles or the cherry on top of a milkshake. Obviously, artificial food dyes and Annatto make him feel terrible.

There is not a day that goes by without me feeling grateful that we solved the mystery of my son’s behavior. What once seemed illogical and frightening is now completely understood and avoidable. We wonder, how many other children and their families are unknowingly dealing with sensitivities like his. We wonder how many children are having difficulty sleeping or managing their anger because something they ate was made to look “pretty” by adding an artificial food dye. This desire to create a more attractive food at less cost is unnecessary and is hurting our children. I continue to advocate for (at minimum) better food labeling but I would much prefer an outright ban of coal tar based artificial food dyes.

Some products we purchase (in Canada) because they don’t include artificial food dyes or Annatto:

Cavendish Farms frozen potatoes, Fanta soft drinks, Colgate regular toothpaste, (some) Sudafed cold tablets, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes but not Kellogg’s Vector (seems crazy), Smarties, Bryers’ Natural Ice Cream, Powerade Clear and Kirkland Organic Chocolate Milk, available at Costco.

Our Artificial Dye Pinterest Board

Websites with helpful information about Artificial Dyes and Behavior

Red Dye 40

Center for Science in the Public Interest – Urges FDA to Ban Artificial Food Dyes

Artificial Dyes and Behavior on YouTube

Tiffany Kenney’s report

I would love to hear your thoughts about this topic. It is one that I am passionate about.

I hate when things are over…summer reading beckons

Posted on June 28th, 2012 by Jody


Storytime Standouts’ guest contributor reflects on the school year and looks forward to summer reading

One of my favourite lines from the song Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Deep Blue Something is “And I hate when things are over/ when so much is left undone”. At the moment, it sums up how I feel about the end of the school year. Though I look forward to the summer, the break, the rest, and the, hopefully, nice weather, I know I’ll spend time thinking of all the things I didn’t manage to do this year.

Rather than think about all of the things I could have done better or more of, I thought I’d recount some of my favourite books from this year and share my summer “to read” list. The books I like most from this year are the ones that excited the kids. So while they may not have been MY favourite books, the following is a list of books that engaged my students, hooked my reluctant readers, and caused many classroom discussions.

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies

Warriors by Erin Hunter (actually a pseudonym for a number of contributing authors)

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Runny Babbit by Shel Silverstein

Wayside Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

Holes by Louis Sachar

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

The Fire Ascending by Chris D’Lacey

There were others. Many, many others. My students from this year loved to read. They read a variety of genres and authors and tried books their friends loved or that I suggested. They were open to new books and different types of writing, such as Poetry.

Tomorrow I will say goodbye to this group and in September, I will have a new class. I look forward to the reading adventures they will take me on and the books they will introduce me to. Of course, I have a few of my own that I plan on introducing them to as well. Some I have read already, such as Riding Freedom, but others, I will read over the summer. My “to read” list for this summer includes:

My life as a Book by Janet Tashjian

Slob by Ellen Potter

United We Stand by Eric Walters

Middle School, the Worst Years of my Life by James Patterson

The Little Prince by Antoine de Sainte-Exupery

The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling (I’ve read this one but am looking forward to reading it to my nine year old this summer).

I could go on…and on…and on because there are so many different books I’d like to read before the summer ends. However, in addition to Children and Young Adult fiction, I plan on reading a number of other books as well. So here’s to a summer of reading, re reading, and relaxing.

Thank you for being a Member of the Storytime Standouts Community

Posted on April 20th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart

We hope you will enjoy Storytime Standouts’ free early childhood learning printables and that you will check out our articles about terrific new children’s books and how children learn to read.image of Carolyn Hart, teacher and Storytime Standouts website owner
We regularly add new content to Storytime Standouts and we are proud to say that we offer more than two hundred childhood learning printables for teachers and parents. A well, we have written hundreds of posts about special children’s books. We are especially interested in anti bullying picture books, picture books about caring for our environment , wordless picture books and picture books that celebrate diversity.

Once you become a member of Storytime Standouts, if you are having a problem signing in or downloading our early learning materials, please don’t hesitate to contact us directly, by email. Please use the email link on the website.
We hope you will enjoy and we are especially grateful for referrals. Please let your friends and family know about the website.
Thank you and Happy Reading!
Carolyn Hart
Storytime Standouts
Raising Children Who Love to Read
Twitter @StoryStandouts

image of a printable alphabet

Free Printable Alphabets

Storytime Standouts offers a variety of free alphabets in PDF format for children in preschool, kindergarten and the early primary grades. We have grouped the alphabets together and you will find all of the free alphabets here. We suggest using the alphabets to make matching games, help a child to learn alphabetical order and/or letter sounds or decorate a bulletin board.

image of printable writing paper for kids

Writing Paper for Kids

Storytime Standouts offers free writing paper for children who are learning to print and write, visit our Writing Paper for Kids page to see the entire collection. We hope you will use the interlined paper to inspire young writers.

We have tried to match seasonal themes and the sort of topics a kindergarten or grade one child might write about. We regularly add writing paper to the website.

image of a printable nursery rhyme

Preschool and Kindergarten Songs, Rhymes, Chants and Fingerplays

Use these songs, rhymes, chants and fingerplays with children in preschool, kindergarten and early primary grades. We have grouped them together on our Songs, Rhymes, Chants and Fingerplays page. We regularly add new songs, rhymes and chants to the website. We try to anticipate your interests and early childhood classroom themes.

If you would like to suggest a song, rhyme or fingerplay, please contact us using the email link.

image of a printable word family

Word Family Printables

These word family printables are great for young children who are learning to read. We have grouped them together on our Word Family page.

For a beginning reader, discovering that cot, dot, hot, pot and rot are related is exciting. Children who are just learning to sound out words will be thrilled to learn that they can substitute the beginning sound and read three, four or more related words. We view word families as a great springboard for beginning readers.

image of printable picture dictionary

Picture Dictionaries

Helpful for beginning readers and writers, these picture dictionaries are all together on our Picture Dictionaries page. We know young children get a great sense of satisfaction from using pictures to help them decode words. With these picture dictionaries, they can read a series of related words or they use the words to write a story.


Ten Great Reasons to Read Aloud to Your Child

Posted on March 27th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart


10 Great Reasons to Read Aloud to Your Child

Storytime Standouts shares ten great reasons to read aloud to your child

Reading aloud to my sons has been one of the highlights of being a parent. My boys are both teens now and have pretty much outgrown picture books (Christmas Eve is always an exception) but shared memories of trips to the library and hundreds of great bedtime stories read aloud will remain with us forever. Having said that, reading a couple of bedtime stories aloud, every night for seven or eight years is hard work. There were definitely nights where I would have happily ‘skipped’ and had a little more time to myself. I clearly remember, on more than one occasion, my younger son being wide awake at his bedtime while I was falling asleep as I attempted to read aloud to him. He would say, “Mommy, your voice sounds really strange.” I would rouse myself enough to finish the story and then head off to my own bed.

image of Curious George by H.A. Rey

Curious George written and illustrated by H.A. Rey shows us that bold, uppercase letters mean the words are loud.

Let’s take a look at ten great reasons to read aloud to your child(ren)

When we read aloud to children, they (1) get to know books. They learn that books have front covers and back covers. The covers can be hard or soft/flexible. Books have spines and sometimes they wear jackets.

Sharing stories with children also helps them learn (2) how to hold and manipulate a book. When we read aloud to children, they discover how a book “works.” They come to understand that a book written in English is read from front to back and that we (gently) turn the pages as the story unfolds. They discover that, if we want, we can go back and reread a page, we can also skip a page.

Occasionally running a finger along the printed text will also help children learn that (3) pages are read from top to bottom and the text is read from left to right. With a little help from us, children will discover that bold words are often important to the story and usually we think of bold words or words shown in uppercase letters as LOUD WORDS.

If we read lift the flap books or pop up books, children will learn that (4) sometimes books have flaps or other features that hide the solution to a riddle or some other surprise.

Reading aloud also exposes children to the (5) beauty and richness of our language. Children will also gain (6)phonemic awareness as they discover how to play with words and sounds through rhyming and alliteration.

When hearing books read aloud, children (and adults) learn (7) new words and all sorts of wonderful (8) facts (especially when the children are wild about dinosaurs!)

Hearing a selection of books gives children an understanding of (9) what a story is , how a fairy tale is different from a fable and how tall tales exaggerate.

Hearing picture books read aloud can also enable children to (10) safely explore worrisome or difficult topics like going to the hospital or coping with illness, disability, bullying, or even the death of a loved one while safe in a loving and comfortable environment.

Reading for Reward – Are Extrinsic Rewards Good or Bad?

Posted on March 21st, 2012 by Jody


Reading for Reward - Are Extrinsic Rewards Good or Bad?Whether it’s reading, math, science, or socials, there is conflict over rewarding children for meeting goals and expectations in the classroom. If we reward them with tangible “prizes”, do we diminish their intrinsic motivation? An argument can be made either way. We need, and kids need, to understand intrinsic motivation. Not every accomplishment deserves a prize, just like not every misstep deserves a consequence.

I think that we can create a balance in the classroom that reinforces intrinsic motivation but allows for concrete rewards as well. Let’s be honest: we all like rewards; take out on Fridays, a trip to Starbucks, a special purchase. So while we need kids to know and understand that reading in and of itself is a reward, I’m okay with giving a little more every now and then. At my school, we do Accelerated Reading which allows kids to read books at their level then take a test to check their comprehension. Each book is worth a certain amount of points (harder book = higher points) and your points are based on how well you do answering questions about the book. The teachers at our school take various approaches when deciding how to utilize those points as motivation. I have seen (and borrowed) some incredibly creative ideas. Depending on the grade level, the teacher, and the goal, kids have earned computer time, tours of the office and staff room, buddy time, time with the principal, lunch with the teacher, and a host of other special rewards.

So does this add to or diminish the academic and personal reasons for reading? In my experience, it adds to both. Students who are academically motivated already, will enjoy the extra rewards and bonuses that come from doing something they were going to do anyway. For the at risk, unmotivated, or uninterested readers, the reward might provide a hook to get them started. The key, for me, is knowing your learners and knowing what would be a reward for the individual student. It might not be a prize from the ‘prize bin’ or an extra ten minutes on the computer, but if you can know your students, you can find what their motivation is and use it to help them move forward.Reading for Reward by Jody Holford

I’ve noticed that once you start a ‘system’ with students, they become attached to the routine as much as anything else. In my class, every AR point goes up on a chart. From there, every 5 points gets a sticker and every 5 stickers receives a prize, which could be a new pencil, sharpener, eraser or bookmark. Most kids are going to meet these goals anyway, so the ‘prize’ is just a little bonus for effort, time, and achievement. The students are very particular about the routine, even at the grade 4/5 level. They put their AR quizzes in the folder, remind me to tally points, let me know when they’ve reached personal and/or class goals. Recently, my class walked to the store as a reward for achieving the class goal of reaching over 500 AR points. Every student in the class contributed to that goal. It didn’t matter by how much, but it mattered that together we worked towards it and together, we celebrated it.

I can teach without giving rewards. I can implement curriculum and engage my students without giving them prizes or anything more than verbal praise. The 21st century learning goal is to motivate and engage all learners. I like to think that I can meet this goal without the bonus incentives. If my objective is to do just that, to motivate and engage without incentives, then, for me, offering the incentives only enhances the experiences and the enjoyment for my learners.

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