Archive for the ‘Storytime Standouts Shares Early Literacy News and Commentary’ Category

Children’s Books to help explain our pandemic

Posted on April 25th, 2020 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts shares free, downloadable books to help explain a pandemic to children.

Free picture book downloads for parents and caregivers who are trying to explain the current pandemic and the need for social distancing to children.

It is important to note that all of these picture books are meant to be read aloud and discussed with children by a parent, teacher or caregiver. These stories are not intended for children to read independently. We strongly recommend that adults read the books before sharing them with a child.

We will update this article as more books are published digitally. Please contact us or leave a comment if you are aware of books that should be included. Thank you.

I will be Patient... written and illustrated by Jose Fraguso

I Will Be Patient written and illustrated by José Fragoso

Advisor: Dr. Castrejón, Gregorio Marañón Hospital, Madrid.

Picture book to help explain a pandemic published digitally and free of charge by NubeOcho.


Also available in Spanish.

Appropriate for preschool children, I Will Be Patient shares a reassuring message that healthcare workers and scientists are working hard to help us. Briefly acknowledging “armchair quarterbacks” who complain, the author quickly transitions to positive, child-appropriate messaging about how each one of us can make a difference.

  • Washing hands
  • Physical distancing
  • Staying home
  • Staying in contact with family members, especially grandparents
  • Doing homework

Bright, colorful illustrations are a highlight of this story for young children. Sharing factual information and a message of hope and encouragement, we especially liked the frothing handwashing bubbles and the (eventual) return to the fun and friends found at playgrounds around the world.

Download a copy of I Will Be Patient from the publisher’s website here

Coronavirus A Book for Children will help parents explain a pandemic to children.

Coronavirus A Book for Children written by Elizabeth Jenner, Kate Wilson and Nia Roberts and illustrated by Axel Scheffler

Consultant: Professor Graham Medley Professor of Infectious Disease Modelling, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Picture book to help explain a pandemic published digitally and free of charge by Nosy Crow

Listen to the audiobook, read by Hugh Bonneville

Appropriate to share with children aged 5 years and up, Coronavirus A Book for Children provides detailed information about how viruses are spread, symptoms experienced by people who are infected by a coronavirus, why people are worried about the disease and why we need to physical distance.

Detailed, engaging illustrations feature a racially diverse community and individuals with mobility impairments.

Extensive afternotes provide additional resources for children and adults.

Download a copy of Coronavirus A Book for Children from the publisher’s website here

The Mystery of the Missing Soap written by Geeta Dharmarajan and illustrated by Suddhasattwa Basu and Charbak Dipta

Picture book to encourage hand-washing during a pandemic published digitally and free of charge by Katha. Katha is based in India and serves children and their families who are living in poverty.

Katha uses a framework of “THINK, ASK, DISCUSS, ACT and ACTION.” (TADAA) to share important information and to foster learning.

Suitable for late primary and older children, the book includes instructions for making soap using reetha berries. Afternotes provide facts about Coronavirus and handwashing.

The Mystery of the Missing Soap has been published in five languages: English, Hindi, Tamil, Marathi and Assamese.

Read a copy of The Mystery of the Missing Soap and/or download a copy here.

My Hero is You was developed by the (UNICEF) Inter-Agency Standing Committee Reference Group on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings, and supported by global, regional and country-based experts, in addition to parents, caregivers, teachers and children in 104 countries. It was illustrated by Helen Patuck

Picture book to help explain a pandemic published digitally and free of charge by IASC

Also available in Arabic, Chinese French, Russian, and Spanish

Appropriate to share with children aged six and older, My Hero is You is a metaphorical picture book that sees Sara discover ways to make a positive difference while travelling to destinations around the world on the back of a dragon.

“Remember our story. You can keep those you love safe by washing your hands and staying home. I am never far away. You can always be with me when you go to your safe place.” “You are my hero,” she whispered. “You are my hero too, Sara. You are a hero to all those who love you,” he said.

from My Hero is You

My Download a copy of My Hero is You or read it online.

Right now, I am Fine written by Dr Daniela Own and illustrated by Bulce Baycik

Right Now, I am Fine written by Dr. Daniela Owen and illustrated by Gülce Baycik

Picture book to help children manage anxious thoughts published digitally and free of charge on the author’s blog


A narrated copy is available on YouTube and an accompanying coloring book is also available for download

Written specifically for children who are experiencing worries, fears, discomfort, or nagging thoughts during challenging times, Right Now, I am Fine will give children (and adults) very specific steps to take when experiencing troubling emotions, especially anxiety.

Simple, straightforward language and easily-implemented suggestions make the ideas shared in this picture book accessible to children of all ages. We can almost hear the author’s soothing voice and recommendations, helping us to cope with our worries and fears.

“It is important to remind ourselves that we are fine, right now.”

Dr. Daniela Owen

Download a Copy of Right Now, I am Fine

A Kids Book About Covid-19 by Malia Jones

a kids book about COVID-19 written by Dr. Malia Jones

Children’s book to help explain Covid-19 published digitally and free of charge by A Kids Book About, Inc.

Dr. Malia Jones is a social epidemiologist

Also available in Spanish

a kids book about COVID-19 relies on text and graphics to share information and is best suited to children aged 5 years and up. It includes a thoughtful, reassuring introduction for parents, a fact sheet and recommendations for follow-up questions and discussion.

We especially liked the author’s reference to “cocooning” and encouraging children to about other creatures that live (for a while) in a cocoon. Families who choose to print a kids book about COVID-19 could suggest that children color it as an extension activity.

This book publisher requires an email address.

Request a link to download/print a kids book about COVID-19 here.

LIVE with epidemiologist Malia Jones

Ask your COVID questions to Dr. Malia Jones of Dear Pandemic! Get Malia's FREE e-book, A Kids Book About COVID-19, here: play with the computer models from this chat, head to: at-home hands-on STEM activities, download our NEW Lesson

Posted by Science With Sophie on Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Talking about COVID-19 with young children

Talking About Corona Virus-19 with Young Children prepared by UNICEF LACRO Early Childhood Development team and reviewed by the Health, Child Protection, and Education in Emergencies areas

Illustrated by Sol Diaz

Available in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese.

An interactive book that includes cut and paste activities and an opportunity to draw or have an adult scribe. The content in Talking About Corona Virus-19 with Young Children is most appropriate for preschool-age children.

Choose your preferred language and download Talking About Corona Virus-19 with Young Children here

The Big Alone written by Alex Avendaño and illustrated by Jan Avendaño

Picture book about physical distancing and feeling lonely published digitally and without charge on the sisters’ website

Available in English, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Tagalog


An absolute delight, The Big Alone captures the loneliness and sadness experienced by children and adults who are physical distancing. Charming, black and white digital illustrations beautifully convey emotions through facial expressions, especially eyes.

The realization that being physically separate does not have to mean “alone,” is uplifting and inspiring.

Download The Big Alone here

Oaky and the Virus by Athol Williams and Taryn Lock is a picture book about staying well during the CoronaVirus pandemic

Oaky and the Virus written by Athol Williams and illustrated by Taryn Lock

Children’s book to help explain viruses published digitally and free of charge by Theart Press


Theart Press is a South African publisher specialising in inspirational books. All book profits go to READ to RISE which is a non-profit organization that promotes youth literacy in South Africa.

​Oaky and Oaket are brother and sister. They love to play with their friends. When a virus threatens their community, they are determined to stay well. They can’t trap the virus because it is too small to see. Instead, they learn a song that reminds them to wash their hands, wear a mask and stay home. They are both disappointed that they can’t see their friends but they resolve to read, play with toys and bake a cake.

Suitable for preschool-age children, Oaky and the Virus is part of a series of books about Oaky and Oaket. Afternotes include questions about the story and ways to extend learning.

Download a copy of Oaky and the Virus here

Easter Fun in Picture Books

Posted on April 7th, 2020 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts shares Easter-theme picture books for children.

Easter is the perfect to time add new picture books to a child’s library. Matching stories to seasons and holidays creates opportunities for children to make connections with family celebrations — and maybe even some festive baking! Today we are sharing three fun picture books for children who celebrate Easter to enjoy.

Storytime Standouts shares Easter-theme picture books including Eggs, Eggs!

Eggs, Eggs! A Lift-the-Flap Boardbook created by Salina Yoon

Easter Lift-the-Flap Board Book published by Price Stern Sloan an imprint of Penguin Random House

A twelve-page board book that includes four sturdy flaps and concludes with a fold-out. This is a story for very young children. We follow Molly, Pete and Kate as they search for Easter eggs.

Young readers will enjoy the bright, colorful illustrations, feeling textures on the cover and on some of the pages while peeking behind the flaps to discover baskets, rabbits, eggs and more.

When one child is unsuccessful in her hunt, the others pool their sweet treats and demonstrate a positive message about sharing.

Best for very young children, the board book is larger than some so it is suitable for small group settings.

Eggs, Eggs! at

Eggs, Eggs! at
Storytime Standouts shares Easter-theme picture books for children including The Gingerbread Bunny

The Gingerbread Bunny written and illustrated by Jonathan Allen

Easter Lift-the Flap Picture Book published by Picture Corgi an imprint of Random House Children’s Books

When a Little Old Woman and a Little Old Man bake a yummy gingerbread bunny and decorate it with chocolate, they can’t wait to taste it. They put it near a window to cool but, before they get a chance to taste it, the gingerbread bunny escapes out an open window and triggers a merry chase.

Catch me? Ha ha! That’s really funny! You can’t catch me, I’m the GINGERBREAD BUNNY!

Soon the Little Old Woman, the Little Old Man, Farmer Smith’s cats, Mrs. McBride’s dogs, Lady Fanshawe’s chickens, and Reverend Pugh’s pigs chase the Gingerbread Bunny through the village, to a river and an apparently helpful Fox.

A good choice for 4-6-year-olds, The Gingerbread Bunny is quite true to the traditional Gingerbread Man tale so children will be able to make comparisons with other stories. Charming illustrations include 8 flaps that conceal what is happening behind a door, inside farm gates and in the tall grass near the river. We especially noticed and appreciated the (drawn and watercolored) facial expressions of the gingerbread bunny and his pursuers. Look for shock, determination, teasing, charm and, ultimately, denial.

The Gingerbread Bunny at

The Gingerbread Bunny at

Bake some gingerbread bunny cookies to enjoy with this story
Storytime Standouts shares Easter-theme picture books including It's the Easter Beagles, Charlie Brown

It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown created by Charles M. Schulz

Easter Picture Book published by Simon Spotlight an imprint of Simon and Schuster

The always popular Peanuts gang celebrates Easter. Peppermint Patty and Marcie do their best to decorate Easter eggs, without much success. Sally needs new shoes for the special day and Linus is happily confident that the Easter Beagle will deliver special treats on Easter Day. Meanwhile, Lucy is focussing on her plan for a can’t-fail Easter egg hunt and Charlie Brown predicts disappointment.

True-to-character, this is a story that will be best enjoyed by children who are familiar with, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and/or A Charlie Brown Christmas.

It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown at

It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown at

Click Here to Explore All Easter Theme Printables and Picture Books

Storytime Fun with Bears

Posted on April 1st, 2020 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime with Bears features videos of authors and others reading stories about bears. Includes free printables for children.

Storytime Fun with Bears –

Today, rather than highlighting new books or books about a particular theme, we thought we would share videos of authors and an illustrator reading their picture books featuring bears. It is terrific to see their enthusiasm and personalities shine as they share these outstanding stories and share storytime fun with bears.

We hope this will be a helpful resource for families who don’t have access to these picture books at home or at their public library.

Storytime Fun with Bears – Storytime Standouts shares bear-themed picture book readings and learning activities for children. #prek #kidlit Share on X

“A Brave Bear” read by author Sean Taylor

Ask your child, “Why does Dad want Bear to do small jumps?” “Why does Bear want to do big jumps?” “What time of year is it in this story? Why do you think that?”

A Brave Bear at

A Brave Bear at

“Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” read by author Bill Martin

Read our post about this classic picture book.

Ask your child, “What was the color of the bird?” “What did the blue horse see?” “Can you think of words that rhyme with ‘see’?”

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? at

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? at

“The Very Cranky Bear” written and illustrated by Nick Bland

Read our post about this very cute book.

Ask your child, “Which animal was plain?” “Why did the bear roar?” “Why did sheep stay outside the cave?” “How did sheep make a pillow for Cranky Bear?”

The Very Cranky Bear at

The Very Cranky Bear at

Michael Rosen Performs “We’re Going On a Bear Hunt”

Read our post about this terrific book for children.

Ask your child, “What noise did the family make when they moved through the mud?” “Why did the family stumble in the forest?” “What was inside the narrow, gloomy cave?” “Why won’t the family go on another bear hunt?”

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt at

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt at

“Where’s My Teddy” read by author/illustrator Jez Alborough

Ask you child, “What was Eddie’s teddy’s name?” “Who was sobbing (crying) in the forest?” “How do you think the teddies were lost in the forest?”

Where’s My Teddy? at

Where’s My Teddy? at

Free Bear-Theme Printables for home and school

Going on a Bear Hunt is a free Storytime Fun With Bears printable from Storytime Standouts

image of PDF icon  We're Going on a Bear Hunt

Predictable text, rhyming and opportunities for dramatic play make the We're Going on a Bear Hunt chant a favorite with children.

image of PDF icon  The Bear Went Over the Mountain

Add actions when you sing this song

Teddy Bear theme interlined paper for children is a free printable included in our Storytime Fun with Bears.

image of PDF icon  Writing paper for kids - Three Bears

Three Bears theme interlined paper for beginning writers.

image of PDF icon  Teddy Bear Interlined Paper

Teddy Bear printing paper for children

Bear-theme vocabulary printing page included in Storytime Fun with Bears from

image of PDF icon  Storytime Fun with Bears

Storytime Standouts shares bear-themed printables and bear-themed picture book videos from well-loved authors.

More books we’ve written about that feature bears

Storytime Standouts writes about Me and You
Storytime Standouts writes about The Three Snow Bears
Storytime Standouts writes about The 3 Bears and Goldilocks
Storytime Standouts writes about Jack the Bear
Storytime Standouts writes about Fraser Bear, A Cubs Life
Storytime Standouts writes about Big Bear Hug

A Celebration of Love and Families

Posted on February 18th, 2020 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts shares Love Makes a Family

Love Makes a Family written and illustrated by Sophie Beer

Board Book about Family Diversity published by Dial Books for Young Readers

“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” Maya Angelou

There are so many wonderful ways that families express their unconditional love. In Love Makes a Family, we see adults helping, cheering, consoling, entertaining, snuggling, playing, protecting, cherishing and more.

Ms. Beer shows us happy, loving and racially diverse families of all kinds. She chooses bold colors for the illustrations that will captivate young children. Whether searching for a child’s missing shoe or enjoying a fun tea party in a treehouse, the family activities and expressions of affection that she has illustrated are delightful. The author’s enthusiasm for imaginative play, being out of doors and bedtime stories is contagious and inspirational. From morning ’til night, family members are depicted expressing a beautiful rainbow of love for each other.

We reviewed a large, sturdy board book copy of Love Makes a Family that is well-suited to a group setting. Tracking the bold text and watching for the word, “LOVE” would be a great way to extend learning with preschoolers. A great choice for Valentine’s Day and/or a Circle Time about families, the book is also available for Kindle.

Love Makes a Family at

Love Makes a Family at

Storytime Standouts recommends Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer

More by Sophie Beer

Professional Resources for Children’s Librarians and Teachers

Posted on August 24th, 2019 by Carolyn Hart

When planning Storytime in libraries or Circle Time in classrooms, children’s librarians and teachers will find these professional resources very helpful

Circle Time and Storytime Resources  for Children's Librarians and Teachers

An effective Storytime or Circle Time is carefully planned to be welcoming, inclusive, engaging and educational. It should include a variety of enjoyable activities and well-considered materials.

When selecting books to share with a group, for example, non-fiction, as well as fiction, should be introduced. Writing style, book format and illustrations are also considerations – having some books with rhyming text is great but having every story told in rhyme would be tiresome. Big, bold illustrations will be seen more easily than those in small, lap books.

Most children’s librarians and teachers have a selection of props to enhance their Storytime and Circle Time programs. Flannelboards are often used as well as musical instruments, hand or finger puppets and other props. I also like including Cut and Tell stories, which involve cutting paper with scissors as a story is told or Fold and Tell stories. Similarly, Draw and Tell Stories are told and illustrated on the spot rather than ‘read’ aloud to a group.

Teachers and librarians who present on-going programs will want to include elements that repeat (such as welcoming and ending rituals) as well as including some unexpected activities that will make each session unique and memorable. Having extra copies of the books that you share will encourage children to borrow them and read them again at home.

The length of the sessions will depend on the age of the children, the size of the group, the collective attention span of the children attending and whether or not other adults are present. Teachers and Librarians who include movement in Circle time and Storytime will help children to manage their energy and participate successfully.

Watch as Sheryl Cooper shares tips for a successful circle time

She shares secrets to a successful Toddler Circle time on her blog.

Professional Resources for Planning Library Storytime and Preschool Circle Time

In addition to these resources, be sure to explore our free printables songs, rhymes, fingerplays and chants

Professional Resources for Children's Librarians and Teachers including I'm A Little Teapot! Presenting Preschool StorytimeI’m a Little Teapot – Presenting Preschool Storytime Compiled by Jane Cobb and illustrated by Magda Lazicka
Professional Resource for Children’s Librarians and Preschool Teachers published by Black Sheep Press

Featuring more than 60 potential storytime themes, I’m a Little Teapot is a handy resource that includes booklists (fiction and non-fiction), 500+ nursery rhymes/fingerplays, songs and “more ideas.”

For example, for a frog theme, I’m a Little Teapot includes 11 suggested stories to read aloud, 5 non-fiction books and 5 fingerplays. For a clothing theme storytime, there are 29 suggested picture books to read aloud (plus 10 ‘More Stories’ and 3 ‘non-fiction’ titles, 10 nursery rhymes, 16 fingerplays and many ‘More Ideas’).

The book also includes an extensive list of recommended resources, presentation tips and suggestions for program planning, including program structure. Ms. Cobb recommends a core list of felt stories for storytime and references the use of traditional folk and fairy tales with preschoolers.

One of the strengths of this resource is that it does not assume that teachers have access to an extensive library of books or that they know fingerplays or songs. I have used the book when preparing for preschool programs and have found it to be easy-to-use and inspiring. I’m a Little Teapot includes ‘Conventional’ themes and as well as some unexpected ones like Giants and Royalty.

I’m a Little Teapot! Presenting Preschool Storytime at

I’m a Little Teapot!: Presenting Preschool Storytime at

Professional Resources for Storytime including Step into StorytimeSTEP into Storytime written by Saroj Nadkarni Ghoting and Kathy Fling Klatt
Professional Resource for Children’s Librarians and Preschool Teachers published by American Library Association

STEP is an acronym for Story Time Effective Practice.

Almost one-third of this resource consists of professional development for librarians who present storytime programs to very young children.

The first section of the book includes a chapter that examines STEP and deals with implementation within a library system and also by an individual. Chapters 2,3,4 make a connection with child development including Developmentally Appropriate Practice, Intentionality and Scaffolding (adjusting the level of instruction to match the child’s readiness).

The second section of the book makes a connection between best practices and a child’s social/emotional development, cognitive development, physical development and language/literacy development.

Parent Education is a key component of STEP. The authors recommend that presenters model and speak regularly to parents about ways to support their child’s development.

The remainder of STEP into Storytime consists of plans (including scripts) for traditional and sequential storytimes.

As an example, the “Yummy in My Tummy” plan includes introductory remarks, an opening song, parent tip, Do You Know the Muffin Man?, a non fiction book, two fingerplays, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, an action song, a song featuring sign language, two action rhymes, a counting book, an activity, a parent tip, a rhythm stick activity, rhyme with puppets, a song, a parent tip, a closing action rhyme and an extension activity.

STEP into Storytime does not provide alternate books (to be used if the teacher or librarian does not have access to the preferred book(s).

STEP into Storytime: Using StoryTime Effective Practice to Strengthen the Development of Newborns to Five-Year-Olds at

STEP Into Storytime: Using Storytime Effective Practice to Strengthen the Development of Newborns to Five-Year-Olds at

Storytime Standouts Shares Professional Storytime Resources for Teachers and Librarians including Storytimes for EveryoneStorytimes for Everyone!: Developing Young Children’s Language abd Literacy written by Saroj Nadkarni Ghoting and Pamela Martin-Diaz
Professional Resource for Children’s Librarians and Preschool Teachers published by American Library Association

This resource is intended for librarians. Almost one-third of the book is devoted to professional development, including providing information about emotional/social, cognitive, physical and language/literacy development and ensuring that the recommended program is properly implemented by a library system as well as by a storytime presenter.

The author presents two different models: traditional storytime and sequential storytime.

“Both models include parent tips to help the adults understand the connections between the activities being presented and how they impact early literacy skills and other areas of child development… The traditional model usually starts with the longest story first and includes a mix of books songs, rhymes, fingerplays, and other language activities targeting all ages throughout the storytime…. The sequential model is designed so that each of three segments is planned with a specific age in mind- the first segment focuses on infants and toddlers….”

The remainder of the book provides detailed scripts for traditional and sequential storytimes, including remarks for parents and instructions for the participants.

As an example, for the Where’s the Beach? (sequential) storytime, the author provides an opening song, an action rhyme, a flannel board story, a song, an action rhyme, a transition song, a factual book, an action rhyme, a picture book, a transition song, a picture book, a fold and tell story, a song and a closing song.

Storytimes for Everyone!: Developing Young Children’s Language & Literacy at

Storytimes for Everyone!: Developing Young Children’s Language and Literacy at

Transforming Preschool Storytime written by Betsy Diamant-Choen and Melanie A HetrickTransforming Preschool Storytime: A Modern Vision and a Year of Programs written by Betsy Diamant-Cohen and Melanie A Hetrick
Professional Resource for Preschool Teachers published by American Library Association

Beginning with a comprehensive overview of the benefits and components of preschool storytime, Transforming Preschool Storytime: A Modern Vision and a Year of Programs provides a step-by-step plan for organizing a storytime and detailed scripts for 8 six-week programs, each focussing on a different book.

I am very partial to I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More! so, naturally, I gravitated to the series of sessions suggested for the book. Week #1 is an introductory session that included hearing the story read aloud, singing and painting. Week #2 adds a theme of houses, a flannelboard activity and playing with colorful scarves. Week #3 adds an exploration of body parts, a coloring activity and some body control games. Week #4 has a theme of bathtubs and includes a careful look at David Catrow’s I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More! illustrations including a discussion about lines, colors, shapes as well as scarf activities. Week #6 extends the learning by looking at other books by Karen Beaumont including I Like Myself! .

Transforming Preschool Storytime: A Modern Vision and a Year of Programs at

Transforming Preschool Storytime: A Modern Vision and a Year of Programs at

19 Mom-Approved Tips and Tricks for Encouraging Kids to Read

Posted on October 16th, 2018 by Carolyn Hart

19 Tips for getting kids reading and learning.

How do moms and dads encourage reading in the home? We share some great crowd-sourced ideas for encouraging kids to read

  • Read aloud…as much as you can. Make it a priority to read every single day. It doesn’t have to be at bedtime. Morning, bathtime and mealtime work too!
  • Don’t compare your child’s reading to that of any other child. Some children read earlier than others. It doesn’t mean that they will love reading and books more than someone who reads sooner.
  • Start with books on subjects that interest him/her. Topics like magic tricks, castles and sharks are often good ones.
  • Fill a basket or a bookshelf full of kids books and let your child choose which books you read. Even when you reread a book for the hundredth time, your child is still learning from it.
  • We used learn to read videos to help my child.
  • Share the reading instead of expecting your child to read everything from beginning to end. This way, you and your child will enjoy the experience and he/she won’t spend too much time on figuring out the words.
  • We used the Leapfrog
  • I buy her books that I know she will like or we go to the library and come home with a huge pile of books to experiment with.
  • Purchase a magazine subscription. My son has a subscription for National Geographic Kids. He enjoys reading the facts and looking at the photos.
  • My kids get Chickadee Magazine and look forward to it every month.
  • Reading doesn’t have to mean reading books. Check out comics in the newspaper, advertising flyers, recipes, maps, posters and signs.
  • Turn the audio off on your television and put captions on so your kids have to ‘read’ the dialogue to enjoy a show.
  • Read for pleasure in front of your kids so they know it’s something for everyone to enjoy. Make sure you talk about the book you are reading or looking forward to read.
  • Try setting a timer for 20 minutes. Knowing that reading wasn’t going to take “forever” really helped my daughter focus.
  • Set up a special reading area. Make sure it has good lighting, some pillows and a blanket.
  • Read books that have been made into movies and then watch the movie.
  • Substitute your child’s names or their friends’ names into a story to make it extra fun.
  • Read with funny voices or role play the book you are reading
  • Play language-based games (Quiddler Card Game, Mad Libs, Blurt! , Hasbro Boggle , etc.)
  • What tips do you have for moms and dads?

    Make Your Child’s Read Aloud Experience Great

    Posted on January 8th, 2018 by Carolyn Hart

    Storytime Standouts shares 7 tips for sharing picture books with children

    7 tips to make your child’s read-aloud experience outstanding!

    • We think that your daily read-aloud time with your child or children should be the happiest part of your day. This is an opportunity to forget about work, forget about chores, forget about whatever is distracting you. Make storytime an opportunity to focus just on your child. Read aloud is a time to escape into great picture books or chapter books and create wonderful memories and learning opportunities for your child.
    • Just as you might count down the days ’til you visit a special friend or location, create some excitement about the books you read aloud. “What shall we read tonight?” “I can’t wait for our storytime!”, “Let’s borrow a HUGE pile of books from the library this weekend!”, “What kind of book would you like for your birthday?”, “Which books shall we take on our holiday?”
    • It’s completely fine to read the same book more than once to your child! Each time you read a book aloud, children are learning new vocabulary, they are gaining phonemic awareness and exploring new ideas and new themes. Don’t worry if your child wants to hear the same book over and over again. He is still benefiting from the experience and enjoying the time with you!
    • Beyond simplying reading aloud, have some “performance fun.” Use silly, giggling voices, stern, authoritative voices. Use high-pitched squeaky voices and low-pitched growls. Act out part of the story along with your child! Build a special fort and read inside it! Turn out the lights and read with a flashlight or read while stretched out on a picnic blanket. If your child doesn’t want to sit still for a story, it is completely fine to have your child play with Lego or draw a picture while you read.
    • Interrupt the story occasionally and engage your child in discussion. Encourage your child to make a prediction or tell you which farm animal he likes best or make a comparison to another story. Play I Spy with the illustrations or the text. When children make predictions and comparisons, they are flexing their comprehension muscles!
    • Choose age-appropriate stories for your child, look for books that match your child’s maturity and interests. When she is ready, move past baby or toddler books and discover great picture books and chapter books. Every now and then, be brave and give something challenging a try – don’t be afraid to stretch!
    • Make time for you and your child to enjoy this simple yet rewarding escape every single day. It will be good for both of you, it will instill a love of reading and prepare your child for independent reading!

    Local Girl Missing – intriguing adult fiction for a change!

    Posted on July 25th, 2017 by Carolyn Hart

    Local Girl Missing by Claire DouglasLocal Girl Missing writting by Claire Douglas
    Adult fiction published by Harper Collins

    It is almost six years to the day since I wrote about adult fiction! These days, my volunteer work absorbs so much time and energy, I rarely take the time to write reviews of the books I make time to read.

    I do want to let you know about Local Girl Missing. It was exactly the sort of book that I was ready to discover. Interesting characters and a good mystery kept me awake late and guessing right til the end.

    Sophie disappeared off a dilapidated pier nearly twenty years ago under mysterious circumstances. When human remains wash up on a local beach, it seems almost impossible that they could belong to Sophie. The fact that the remains are in a trainer (track shoe), could mean that they could be identified as belonging to her and the family will be able to experience some closure.

    In light of the gruesome discovery, Sophie’s brother Daniel convinces Frankie to spend a week in their hometown, investigating Sophie’s disappearance with him. Visiting old friends and locations and being near to the decrepit pier is, at times, alarming and creepy for Frankie.

    Ms Douglas skillfully intertwines Sophie’s thoughts and experiences with those of Frankie by alternating the chapters. The book begins with Frankie’s thoughts in February 2016. The next chapter is set in 1997 and is narrated by Sophie.

    Well-paced and intriguing, Local Girl Missing is the sort of book I really enjoy. Entertaining and suspenseful, it kept me guessing until the pieces came together and the mystery was solved.

    Let me know about your favorite escapes! This is a book that reminded me of the pleasures of reading. Thank you to Harper Collins for providing me with the proof copy.

    Local Girl Missing at

    Local Girl Missing at

    Great beginnings – With Writing it’s All About a Great Hook

    Posted on February 9th, 2015 by Jody

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Music and story telling:

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

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

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

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

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

    ____________ wanted _______________ but _____________.

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

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

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

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

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

    What are your favourite first lines?

    Don’t stop the readin’…hold on to that read aloud feeling. Sing Along!

    Posted on October 23rd, 2014 by Jody

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Don’t Stop Believin’ at

    Don’t Stop Believin’: the Best of Journey at

    Fireflies A Writer’s Notebook by Coleen Murtagh Paratore

    Posted on September 5th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Fireflies A Writer’s Notebook at

    Fireflies A Writer’s Notebook at

    It’s Back to School! Time to Reestablish the Bedtime Reading Ritual

    Posted on September 1st, 2014 by Jody

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted on August 6th, 2014 by AmyKWilliams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • they need control

    • they demand

    • they meltdown

    • they frustrate easily

    • they are “left out “ from groups

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Reading Doesn’t Have to Involve a Book – Jody has ideas!

    Posted on July 25th, 2014 by Jody


    Storytime Standouts' Guest Contributor Explains Reading Doesn't Have to Involve a Book

    On an average day, you might feel like there are too many things that need to be done to stop, sit down, and read. There is no doubt that reading books and enjoying reading are immeasurable necessities in life. However, sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in a day. That doesn’t mean you can’t fit reading in, around, or between.

    1. Cook with your children

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

    2. Instructions

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

    3. Comics

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

    4. Signs and other environmental print

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

    5. TV

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

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

    Using the Shopping List Game with a Speech Delayed Child

    Posted on April 30th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

    Using the Shopping List Game with a Speech Delayed Child

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

    Using the Shopping List Game with a Speech Delayed Child

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

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

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

    Shopping List Memory Game at

    Shopping List Booster Pack – Fruit & Veg at

    Shopping List Booster Pack – Clothes at

    Shopping List Memory Game at

    Good Things Come In Threes; The Ascendance Trilogy

    Posted on April 22nd, 2014 by Jody

    Good Things Come In Threes; The Ascendance Trilogy

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

    Lexile Measures
    The False Prince – 710L
    The Shadow Throne – 810L
    The Runaway Kings – 710L

    The False Prince at

    The Runaway King at

    The Shadow Throne at

    The False Prince at

    The Runaway King at

    The Shadow Throne at

    Supporting a Child With Delayed Speech or Language Development

    Posted on April 1st, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

    My experiences working with a child with delayed speech

    Great ways to support 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.

    Download Song Sheets

    image of PDF icon  The Wheels on the Bus

    Free printable lyrics for The Wheels on the Bus

    image of PDF icon  The Alphabet Song

    Free printable lyrics for The Alphabet Song

    image of PDF icon  Monkey Fun Alphabet Song

    10″ Echo Mic (Colors may vary) at

    Magic Mic Novelty Toy Echo Microphone-Pack of 2 at

    Using Lego to support a child with delayed speechAs 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. 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, and black bricks. We add windows and doors, stairs and roofs. And I talk about everything we do. I chat constantly and now he chimes in.

    Playing Tic Tac Toe with a Speech-Delayed ChildFrom 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 Carter is a great book to use with a speech delayed childSpot 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

    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 by Adrienne Gear

    Posted on October 14th, 2013 by Jody

    Loving Books Can Be Contagious, our guest contributor writes about Reading Power by Adrienne Gear

    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 from my Middle Graders

    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.



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