Posts Tagged ‘learning to read’

A Look at the 2014 Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal Award Winner and Honor Books

Posted on October 16th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts Shares Wonderful Choices for Beginning Readers

The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli 2014  Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal Award WinnerThe Watermelon Seed written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli
Picture book for beginning readers published by Disney Hyperion Books, an imprint of Disney Book Group

When a charming and exuberant crocodile explains that he loves watermelon, we are utterly convinced,

Ever since I was a teeny, tiny baby cocodile, it’s been my favorite.

While enthusiastically devouring his favorite fruit, the crocodile accidentally ingests a seed, his imagination runs wild and he assumes a variety of terrible outcomes.

Repetitive text, limited use of long vowel words and very good supporting illustrations make this a great choice for beginning readers.

The Watermelon Seed at

The Watermelon Seed at

Ball by Mary Sullivan a 2014 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Honor BookBall written and illustrated by Mary Sullivan
Picture book for beginning readers published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

There is little doubt that this dog loves his small, red ball. From the moment he wakes up, he is focused on only one thing: playing with the ball. He especially loves when the ball is thrown by a young girl but when she leaves for school there is no one available to throw it.

This is a terrific picture book that relies heavily on the illustrations for the narrative. Apart from one repeated word (ball) it could be classified as a wordless picture book.

It will be thoroughly enjoyed by dog lovers and young children – especially those who are eager for an opportunity to read independently.

Ball at

Ball at

A Big Guy Took My Ball by Mo Willems a 2014 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Honor BookA Big Guy Took My Ball written and illustrated by Mo Willems
Series for beginning readers published by Hyperion Books for Children

This charming story will remind readers that appearances can be deceiving and perspective is everything! Gerald and Piggie’s friendship is solid and Gerald is more than willing to stand up for Piggie when her ball is taken by a big guy.

Delightful illustrations will appeal to young readers as they effectively portray a range of emotions. The text is perfect for children who are beginning to read – lots of repetition and very few long vowel words.

A Big Guy Took My Ball! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) at

A Big Guy Took My Ball! at

Penny and Her Marble by Kevin Henkes a 2014 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Honor BookPenny and Her Marble by Kevin Henkes
Generously illustrated chapter book series for beginning readers published by Greenwillow Books An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers

It truly is a treat to read such a beautifully-written chapter book for beginning readers. Kevin Henkes has created a new character: Penny. She is a young mouse with a sense of right and wrong. In this book, she is out with her sister when she “finds” a beautiful blue marble. She excitedly puts it into her pocket and later wonders if she did the right thing.

Lovely, full color illustrations and a thought-provoking dilemma make this a great choice for newly independent readers.

Penny and Her Marble at

Penny And Her Marble at

Supporting a Child With Delayed Speech or Language Development

Posted on April 1st, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

Supporting a Child With Delayed Speech or Language Development

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

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

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

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

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

Alphabet won the following

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

Alphabet at

Alphabet at

Ravensburger See Inside Puzzle

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

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

10″ Echo Mic (Colors may vary) at

Magic Mic Novelty Toy Echo Microphone-Pack of 2 at

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

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

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

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

Spot the Dot at

Spot the Dot at

Learning Games for Beginning Readers

Posted on December 7th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart

Today we look at two popular learning games for beginning readers

I have used both spelling/reading games very successfully with four, five and six year olds. Neither is appropriate for younger children due to choking hazard caused by small parts.

image of learning games for beginning readers

We invite you to visit our page about beginning to read.

image of Melissa and Doug See and SpellMelissa and Doug See and Spell

I recently purchased a Melissa and Doug See and Spell puzzle set for my Let’s Read Together program. The set consists of 60 plus colorful wooden letters and eight, two-sided template bases. As shown in my photo (right), the sixteen words include long and short vowels as well as digraphs.

I selected the Melissa and Doug See and Spell puzzle set because it is self correcting and it lends itself well to a group setting. When not being used in the template bases, the letters could be used to spell other words, they could be sorted by attributes or they could be put into alphabetical order.

When one or more children play with See and Spell it is an opportunity to practice letter, object and word recognition, matching, fine motor skills and/or spelling.

Melissa & Doug See & Spell at

Melissa & Doug See & Spell at

Image of Boggle JuniorBoggle Junior

I have used a Boggle Junior game in my Beginning to Read program for more than ten years. It is a great learning game for children who are learning to read and spell. The game consists of a series of illustrated three and four letter words. The words and illustrations are printed on durable cardstock. To play, a child selects a card and spells the word it illustrates using three or four letter cubes. The cubes fit into a sturdy base. The child has the option of seeing how the word is spelled (and simply matching the letters) or attempting to spell the word correctly and then checking to see if he is correct.

Boggle Junior can be enjoyed by one or more children. When one child plays with Boggle Junior it is an opportunity to practice letter, object and word recognition, fine motor skills, matching and/or spelling. When more than one child plays with Boggle Junior, playing the game becomes an opportunity to share and take turns. If two children are at different levels with respect to spelling and reading, one child could match the letters to correctly spell a word, another child could try to spell each word (without matching) and then flip a lever on the base to check the spelling.

The Boggle Junior word cards include short vowels, some long vowels and a few digraphs (i.e. fish).

Boggle Junior Game at

Boggle Junior Game at

Anti bullying book for beginning readers: Fancy Nancy and the Mean Girl

Posted on November 4th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart

Fancy Nancy and the Mean Girl written by Jane O’Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser and Ted Enik
Anti bullying book for beginning readers published by Harper Collins Children’s

Be sure to check out our page about anti-bullying picture books for children, our page about anti bullying chapter books, graphic novels and novels for children , and our Pinterest anti bullying board

Fancy Nancy and the Mean Girl is part of Harper Collins Children’s I Can Read series. Ranked by Harper Collins as “Beginning Reading Level 1,” it is generously illustrated and includes words such as appetite, splendid, speechless and canceled.

Field Day is just around the corner. Most of Nancy’s classmates are excited about the upcoming races but Nancy is not. She is dreading Field Day because she is not good at running and last year, when her team lost, she was teased. When Nancy discovers that Grace is on her team, she is doubly concerned. Grace is sometimes mean.

Nancy trains hard for the relay race but her training is too little. too late. She decides a different tactic might work. She pretends she has injured her foot and she begins limping. Nancy’s dad is not convinced by her limp and he questions her about it. Finally, Nancy confides and explains why she is upset.

After a conversation with her dad, Nancy feels better and she approaches Field Day and Grace with a plan. She speaks to Grace

“I will run as fast as I can.
But if we lose,
don’t say mean stuff.
You are a good runner.
But you are not a good sport.”

Fans of the Fancy Nancy series are sure to enjoy this anti bullying book for beginning readers. The story is engaging. Both Nancy’s problem and the outcome are realistic. Fancy Nancy and the Mean Girl could lead to discussions of teasing and bullying as well as sportsmanship and doing one’s best in a difficult situtation.

Recommended for children aged six and up.
Fancy Nancy and the Mean Girl at

Fancy Nancy And The Mean Girl at

Note – my copy of Fancy Nancy and the Mean Girl is a (hardcover) First Edition, copyrighted 2011. There is a typo on page 16: “That’s means I’m not hungry”

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.

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

Posted on October 31st, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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

    Posted on October 21st, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

    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

    Environmental Print – Great for Beginning Readers

    Posted on September 25th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

    Environmental Print - Great for Beginning Readers!

    I’ve been having some fun this week. I grabbed my camera and headed out on a hunt for environmental print.

    Environmental print is print that is all around us. In our home, it is on food packaging and on other products we use. In a public building it is on door handles (PUSH, PULL) and above doorways (EXIT), when we go for a drive, it is on road signs (STOP), vehicles (POLICE, AMBULANCE), buildings (DRUG STORE) and in other public places (PARK, GARBAGE, RECYCLE).

    Environmental Print - Great for Beginning Readers - Storytime Standouts shares a Smile

    For a preschool or kindgergarten-age child, who is anxious to read his first word, environmental print may be “just the ticket.” Head out for a walk and see how many words your child can “read.” In all likelihood, he will already know how to read “McDonalds” or “Starbucks.”

    Can he use context clues to correctly “read” more of the words around him? Can he “read” a situation and use the information he sees to make a correct guess about the letters and words he sees?

    City Signs by Zoran Milich
    Environmental Print picture book published by Kids Can Press

    City Signs is a great book to share with four and five year olds, particularly youngsters who are anxious to read. City Signs is a series of photographs that each include at least one word. The word is shown in context so young “readers” can use their detective skills to make an educated guess about the word. Some of the words are unmistakable: ambulance, ice cream, life guard, horses. Other words are somewhat trickier: litter and supermarket could be mistaken for garbage or grocery store.

    For children who are desperate for reading success, looking for environmental print and encouraging them to read “EXIT,” “PUSH,” “BUS STOP” and “LIFEGUARD” can be a real confidence builder.

    City Signs at

    City Signs at

    When you go out with your child, take a camera with you. Take pictures of environmental print. When you get home, help your child to make a book to read. You can be sure he will be excited to show off his ‘new words’ to Grandma or Grandpa.

    Food packaging and pictures from advertisements are more great sources of environmental print. Work with your child to put together a collage or scrapbook to read and enjoy.

    Environmental Print - Great for Beginning Readers - Storytime Standouts shares Toys

    Environmental Print - Great for Beginning Readers - Storytime Standouts shares Books

    Our free Environmental Print printables for young children

    image of PDF icon  Environmental Print 1

    image of PDF icon  Environmental Print 2

    There are some fabulous environmental print resources online, here are some of our favourites

    Sharon MacDonald’s page about environmental print.

    Mrs. Horner’s Environmental Print Alphabet (PDF)

    Environmental Print Games – including Bingo from Canada’s National Adult Literacy Database

    Read Write Think – From Stop Signs to the Golden Arches: Environmental Print

    Logos from

    Candy Bar Wrapper Image Archive

    We invite you to follow Storytime Standouts’ Environmental Print Board on Pinterest

    Follow Storytime Standouts’s board Environmental Print for New Readers on Pinterest.

    Beginning Readers – 4 Strategies for Reading Tricky Words

    Posted on September 14th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

    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

    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 | Fat Cat at

    Jen The Hen at | Jen the Hen at

    Dog In The Fog at | Dog in the Fog at

    Bug In A Rug at | Bug in a Rug at

    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.

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

    Posted on September 13th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

    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

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

    Meet Nancie Atwell in The Reading Zone

    The Home and School Connection – Middle Grade Reading

    Posted on September 12th, 2011 by Jody

    Middle Grade Reading

    Middle Grade Reading Depends on What Happens Outside the Classroom

    My students have already figured out a few things about me, which they happily shared with my new student teacher today. They told her that I like diet Pepsi (to the point of obsession), that I’m 35 (not sure she needed this information), and that I love to read. I can’t really complain, since they were correct and also because I was glad they already figured out how much I value reading. From the way they’ve been raiding my book bins, I would say they value it as well. So far, so good. The boys are gravitating toward the graphic novels, making me glad I have plenty. The girls are really seem drawn in by the classics (Oliver Twist, Alice in Wonderland). I love those first few weeks of seeing their preferences. While things feel like they are off to a good start inside the classroom, the importance of what happens outside the classroom cannot be underestimated.

    As much as I would truly LOVE to spend the entire day reading and writing with the kids (and I would), there’s not enough hours in a school day. In a typical day, the students will get to hear me read aloud to them for 15-20 minutes and get to read to themselves for about 25-30. This sounds like a lot of reading in a day but it’s not if you consider that it’s academically directed. The read aloud tends to lead to learning strategies, such as predicting, questioning, and making connections. The 30 minute silent reading block is well liked by students, but hardly ever without at least one or two interruptions.

    It is important that students know reading is not a “school activity”. We teach them how to read, how to connect with what they read, and how to write about what they’ve read. At home, a perfect compliment to this routine, is encouraging them that reading is a great option for down time, car rides, before bed, or in the middle of a rainy day (or a sunny one). Kids need time to read that is uninterrupted. They also need time to read that is not leading to activities that will show what they know. When my oldest daughter is absorbed in a book, it’s amazing what kinds of connections and conversations we have. I know that in school she can perform the reading strategies both orally and on paper. However, it is truly engaging to listen to her rave about a book or character she loves or to see her smile when I agree to “just one more chapter.”

    It’s our job as parents to pass on our values to our children. Perhaps if you are not a reader, there are other ways to support and encourage your child. Take your lap top to the library while they read or ask them to cuddle on the couch, reading, while you do the crossword or watch tv. If you are a reader, READ. Your kids need to see you read. They need to see that you make time for reading and for yourself. This shows them the value, and pleasure, of reading.

    As in many other areas of life, maybe it’s time to go back to basics. Switch family movie night to family reading night. I want to say, show them they don’t need technology to be engaged, but it seems hypocritical since I’m wrapping up this blog now so I can go read my Kindle

    Grade Three Reading – What if You’ve Made it to Grade 3 and Can’t Read?

    Posted on September 10th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

    Whether your child struggles with grade three reading or not, this is an enjoyable, generously illustrated chapter book

    I Hate Books a great chapter book for grade threeI Hate Books! written by Kate Walker
    Generously illustrated chapter book published by Cricket Books

    Hamish is blessed with a Grandpa who reads aloud “with lots of expression”. When Hamish was little, he loved books but the love affair ends when he begins grade three reading and his teacher asks him to read aloud. Before long, Hamish is referred to a reading specialist and it is confirmed that he has been making up stories rather than reading the words on the page.

    After struggling with flash cards and remedial reading, Hamish decides that life will be fine – whether he learns to read or not. It takes a disastrous family road trip, an embarrassing birthday party and a persuasive older brother to change Hamish’s mind.

    Happily, Hamish overcomes his struggles and eventially earns a prize for “most improved reader.”

    Shortlisted for the Australian Children’s Book of the Year and the Young Australian’s Best Book Awards, I Hate Books! features relatively short chapters and very appealing illustrations. At about a grade three reading level, it is recommended for children aged seven to nine.

    I Hate Books! at

    I Hate Books! at

    Storytime Standouts Tips for Getting Ready to Read While in the Car

    Posted on September 4th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

    Storytime Standouts Tips for Getting Ready to Read While in the CarSome of the keys to learning to read are noticing sounds in words (developing phonemic awareness), recognizing letters of the alphabet and understanding words.

    Next time you’re in the car with your preschool or kindergarten child, spend a few minutes talking about sounds and words. Informal chats like these, can have a huge impact on her phonemic awareness and readiness for formal reading instruction…

    Listening For Sounds at the Beginning of Words

    ‘Here are some words that begin with the /b/ sound’ (Note: you should use the letter sound rather than the letter name) ‘boy, ball, bicycle, bat.’ I am going to say three words to you, can you tell me which one does not begin with /b/?’

    (1) baby, ladybug, bumblebee
    (2) shovel, bucket, blanket
    (3) basket, apple, bird

    Listening For Rhyming

    ‘Here are some words that rhyme: bat & cat, ring & spring. Rhyming words are words whose endings sound the same. I am going to say two words to you, see if you can tell me if they rhyme.’

    (1) king & ring
    (2) up & down
    (3) black & stack

    Make a Substitution

    (1) Change the sound at the beginning of dog to /h/
    (2) Change the sound at the end of cat to /p/
    (3) Change the sound in the middle of hat to /i/

    Blend these sounds together

    (1) /d/ /o/ /g/
    (2) /b/ /a/ /t/
    (3) /h/ /u/ /g/

    For more ways to help your child develop phonemic awareness, follow this link to visit our Phonemic Awareness page.

    Discovering Meaning

    ‘These words are opposites; in & out, wet & dry, awake & asleep. Listen to my words. Are they opposites?’

    (1) black & white
    (2) yes & no
    (3) sad & crying

    For more ways to help your child with reading comprehension, follow this link.

    b d confusion: Is it ‘b’ or ‘d’ ? Helping young readers decide

    Posted on September 3rd, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

    Storytime Standouts suggests way to help children with b d confusion #prek #kindergarten #letterrecognition #alphabetI made a presentation last night to a preschool parent group. One of the topics of discussion was how we can help children avoid reading a “b” as a “d” and vice versa. At the presentation, I was not addressing serious learning challenges like Developmental Dyslexia ( a condition / learning disability which causes difficulty with reading and writing). We were discussing ways to assist children with letter recognition and b d confusion. We talked about a few ways to help children correctly identify “d” and “b”.

    Method #1: Bat, Ball, Dog, Tail

    One mom mentioned that in their household they used the following:

    “This is the bat, and this is the ball, together they make a “b”. (Visualize: l + o = b, where “l” is a bat and “o” is a ball)

    “This is the dog, and this is the tail, together they make a “d”. (Visualize c+ l = d, where “c” is a dog and “l” is its tail).

    Method #2: Printing a ‘d’

    The technique involves examining how we print the letter “d”. It looks much like a “c” with a “l” added to it. Using this method, we discuss the fact that c + l = d and “d” is after “c” in the alphabet.

    b sees d  - One way for young children to avoid b d confusionMethod #3: ‘b’ sees ‘d’

    Relying on alphabetical order (and a little play on words)

    Method #4: Bulldozing a b works!

    If your child knows that bulldozer begins with ‘b,’ he can use a toy bulldozer to push a letter ‘b.’ Letter ‘d’ is not nearly as cooperative because of its shape.

    Method #5: bed

    My favourite memory device is to make a “bed” with the child’s fingers. Imagine making two small circles with the thumbs and forefingers, and pointing the remaining fingers upward. Push the two circles together to make a “bed” (minus the “e”). The left hand makes the “b” and the right hand makes the “d.” It looks like this: “bd.” “b” is at the beginning of “bed,” “d” is at the end of bed.

    Note, these methods will not work with very young children. With Method 3 especially, the child needs to know how to spell ‘bed’ in order for this device to be effective. From my perspective, with very young children, we should not worry about the occasional reversal. We can simply say, ‘That is a b. It makes the /b/ sound.’ With children who are starting to read, I find Method #3 to be very effective and easy to remember. I have seen children as old as seven do a quick check (underneath a desktop or tabletop) and then read a word with confidence.b d confusion - Storytime Standouts suggests ways for your child to know if it is a b or d including imagining a bed. #prek #letterrecognition #alphabet

    Hover over the photo for a description of the activity. Click on the photo to read the full post

    Alphabet Learning Game for Small Groups

    Storytime Standouts Free Printable Alphabets and Games for Learning Letters

    We invite you to follow Storytime Standouts’ Alphabet Recognition Board on Pinterest

    Follow Storytime Standouts’s board Alphabet Activities including b d confusion on Pinterest.

    b and d (bed) poster from Activity Village

    If you know memory devices for b c confusion, I’d love to hear from you. Please jump in with a comment.

    Really reading: what does this involve?

    Posted on August 30th, 2011 by Jody

    What Does Reading Involve - Effective Reading Strategies for Your Child

    Looking at effective reading strategies for your child

    Being able to read encompasses more than you think. With your child getting ready to go back to school, it’s good for parents to know exactly what it means to be a ‘good reader’

    The benefit of being a ‘good reader’ is that you don’t even think about all of the actual strategies and tools you are employing to make sense of the words on the page.

    When I ask my students “What do good readers do?” they can state any or all of the following: Read ahead, Read back, Look at the pictures, Ask questions, Make Predictions, Summarize, and Re-Read. All of these are powerful strategies that ‘good readers’ use naturally. For a student that doesn’t naturally use these tools, reading is more difficult.

    Each of these strategies is taught both independently and with the other strategies until students don’t even realize they are using them. You can reinforce your child’s reading by supporting these tools at home. Reading is the ultimate example of multitasking. For the child that is missing certain tools however, they will feel overwhelmed. Obviously, this is addressed at the classroom level, but at home, reading every day is essential to helping your child become a solid, fluent reader. Ask your child to summarize what is happening, pose questions of your own about what you are wondering, and make guesses with your child about what could happen and why you think that.

    You can make these book talks fun and brief; basically just a check in that your child understands what they have read. These strategies can be applied at any reading level, including pre-kindergarten books with no words. When looking at books like these, I’ll ask my youngest daughter what she thinks is happening or if the character seems happy or sad. Start these talks young so your child feels comfortable talking about what they are reading. Oral language is a huge part of reading successfully.

    You should be able to tell if your child has picked a book within their reading range by asking them to read aloud to you. Can they read the words without getting stuck on more than five on a page? Do they self-correct when they make mistakes? Do they seem engaged and curious about what they are reading? Do they want to know more? Do they ask questions and make predictions?

    Reading is more than identifying words on a page. Books are meant to be read, enjoyed, and understood. Working with your child’s teacher, you can make reading more than acquiring information; you can make it a journey, an adventure, an escape and a lifelong pleasure.

    Making Reading Games

    Posted on August 29th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

    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 or

    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

    Peggy Kaye’s Games for Reading at

    Kathy Ross Crafts Letter Shapes at

    Kathy Ross Crafts Letter Shapes at

    Developing Phonemic Awareness: How’s Your Nose, Rose?

    Posted on August 27th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

    How's Your Nose Rose? Wordplay to support Phonemic Awareness

    You won’t regret using wordplay to support your child’s phonemic awareness – good phonemic awareness will help your child with reading readiness and spelling

    At one of my Parent Education programs at a preschool last Fall, I talked about the importance of helping children to develop phonemic awareness. I explained that, together with alphabet recognition, good phonemic awareness is critically important for young learners. We want children to understand that words are made up of sounds and we’d like them to learn to play with the sounds in words. Developing a good understanding of rhyming is one element of this. Children who ‘get’ the concept of rhyming are gaining phonemic awareness.

    After my presentation, one of the moms in the audience told me that she’s been playing, “How’s Your Nose, Rose?” with her young son. The game begins with one of them asking, “How’s Your Nose, Rose?”   The other replies with, “How’s Your Back, Jack?”  and the game continues until every possible body part rhyme has been exploited;  “How’s your toe, Joe?”,  “”How’s your arm, Parm?”,  “How’s your leg, Peg?”, “How’s your brain, Jane?” etc.

    What great fun and what a marvelous learning opportunity; it doesn’t cost a penny, it can be done anywhere, and asking, “How’s your nose, Rose?” just might make waiting in a long line a tiny bit easier.    If you have a great idea for an inexpensive, portable reading lesson, I hope you’ll share it with us.

    So, how’s your tummy, Mommy?

    Rhyming Words, Phonemic Awareness at Storytime StandoutsFor more information, visit our page about phonemic awareness.

    The Weekly Kids Co-Op

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

    Posted on August 27th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

    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 or

    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.

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