Who Has A Pet Hedgehog? Book Review

Pets are a topic that kids love to read and talk about. The most common pet books I see are about dogs and cats, with some minor characters including fish and birds. I was intrigued to come across a book about a different type of pet.

Who has a Pet Hedgehog?, written by Jan Heng and illustrated by Tan Su En, is a delightful picture book about having a pet hedgehog.

Victoria has an African pygmy hedgehog named Odin, and readers learn all about taking care of a pet hedgehog, which is very different than taking care of a cat or dog.

First, I have to say that I really enjoyed the set up of this book. It really provides fantastic details about facts and the responsibilities needed to take care of this kind of pet, and includes great illustrations. The sentence structure is varied and reads really well. The font is reader-friendly for all types of readers (side note: I totally helped the author pick the font for this book!).

I consider myself an experienced reader with lots of background knowledge. Growing up, I had a friend named Kayla who had a pet hedgehog, so I was able to draw on some text to self connections while reading this story. However, there were so many facts about hedgehogs that I didn’t know until I read this book! Did you know that hedgehogs are nocturnal? Did you know they like to munch on three different types of worms? These facts were described so perfectly in the story that kids won’t even realize they’re learning new information. And the pictures really do a lovely job supporting the text with visuals to help in reading comprehension. The illustrations also show how absolutely adorable these little guys are and it really makes me want to get one for Molly one day.

I would recommend this book for kids ages P-8.

To purchase the book click here.

For more information about the book click here.

5 Favorite Halloween Books for Kids

October is just around the corner and it’s time to start busting out those great seasonal books. Whether you have a book basket in the living room, or a shelf displaying books, adding in some festive Halloween books is a great way to get in the fall spirit.

I LOVE that I can share some of my favorite childhood Halloween books with Molly, and I wanted to share a list of the ones that we will have in rotation over the next few years.

The Witches by Roald Dahl. This has always been a personal favorite Roald Dahl book of mine. Since Halloween is the time of year for witches, this book fits in perfectly. The plot is engaging and absurd as only Dahl could create. This chapter book is longer than other works by the author, so give yourself plenty of time to read it aloud to kids. I recommend this book for kids in grades 1-4.

The Berenstain Bears Trick or Treat by Stan and Jan Bernstain. To me, Berenstain Bears a staple in children’s literature, so reading one of their seasonal books is a must. As with all other books in this series, Trick or Treat includes an important lesson about right and wrong. I recommend this book for kids in grades P-2.

Arthur’s Halloween by Marc Brown. I can still remember when Arthur was afraid to touch the bowl of spaghetti that was meant to be brains. I really like how this story shows kids how creative Halloween can be, and that things can look much scarier than they really are. I recommend this book for kids in grades P-2.

Llama Llama Trick or Treat by Ann Dewdney. Since becoming a mom, I have fallen in love with Llama Llama books. I LOVE reading these books with Molly because of the simple sentences and great illustrations. This quick-read board book is ideal for NB- 5 year olds.

EEK! Halloween! by Sandra Boynton. Similar to the previous book, I became familiar with this author when Molly came along. This book throws in some great humor and wacky illustrations that will entertain kids and adults. I recommend this board book for NB- 5 year olds.

So, as the weather turns chilly, snuggle up with one of these great books and read with your kids with a bowlful of candy.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 3-12. For more information click here.

Writing Right: A Story about Dysgraphia Book Review

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a love/hate relationship with social media. Over the weekend I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, when I came across a very interesting post in a dysgraphia parent group about a teenager who wrote a children’s book about dysgraphia. I immediately took a screenshot to remind myself about the book and I am beyond glad that I did so.

Writing Right: A Story about Dysgraphia, by Cassandra Baker, is a phenomenal children’s book about the realities of a little boy with dysgraphia.

Before I launch into why I love this book so much, I have to share a little bit of background. Cassie wrote this book to earn her Gold Award with girl scouts because she grew up with family members who were affected by dysgraphia. Having been a girl scout a long time ago, I completely respect and admire this young lady’s passion and desire to share information with families.

As soon as readers open the book we are greeted by our main character, Noah, who has dysgraphia. He tells readers that he has great ideas, but his handwriting is messy and he has trouble getting his thoughts on paper. He does not write as quickly as his classmates and he wishes he had a writing robot.

Even though Noah has great ideas, when he works on a project it doesn’t come out like it looks in his head and he gets very frustrated. He even yells at his mom and rips his poster in half. His mom clearly sees his struggles and reaches out to the teacher, and together they come up with a great plan. Noah can use his mom’s computer to help with homework and he also goes to an occupational therapist.

With lots of practice, patience, and hard work, Noah improves his ability to express himself in writing. So much so that he even writes his own story!

There are so, so many aspects of this book that I love. The first is that it’s written from Noah’s point of view. The simplicity of his explanations and his honesty are absolutely spot on and relatable to children. The struggles that he faces are truly ones that children also experience, adding to that realistic factor.

As a parent and a teacher, I also love how Noah’s mom reached out to his teacher and came up with a plan. By working as a team, they were able to find out what would not only help Noah in the short term, but what would help in the future as well. This is the ideal type of teamwork parents and teachers hope to experience when working together to help a child in need.

I was also a HUGE fan of the in-depth look at OT from a child’s perspective. I have seen some OT’s come up with super creative and fun activities for students at all age levels, and it’s clear that Natalie, the OT in the story, is one of those amazing individuals who really “get” kids. She has Noah practice cutting, using different writing utensils and more in order to help him.

However, I think that my absolute favorite aspect was the end of the story. Not only do we see progress for Noah, but Cassie also includes super important information about dysgraphia. While the picture book is meant for children, these notes are clearly meant for adults, making this a true family text.

As a Reading Specialist, I am always looking for works to recommend to families and this one will definitely be added to my list. If you’re an educator, a parent or a child affected by dysgraphia in some way, this book is a must read.

To purchase the book click here. 

Project Dandelion: Reentry Book Review

It’s been a little while since I read a YA dystopian novel, so I decided to get back to my true love. In July I reviewed Project Dandelion, and I was so excited when the author sent me a copy of the sequel.

Project Dandelion: Reentry, by Heather Carson, is a fabulous YA dystopian novel that reminds readers how important it is to fight for our rights.

The story picks up right where the first book left off. The group is heading towards Katrina’s dad’s cabin to seek safety and hopefully answers. The nuclear explosions have cleared and the world is covered in ash. Early on, the group encounters survivors who realize the teens are part of Project Dandelion and try to capture them. However, the survivors don’t know they are dealing with incredibly resourceful teens who manage to escape.

During their trek to the cabin, the group uses their survival skills to hunt, fish, build shelter, etc. They work together to stay alive and they don’t leave anyone behind. I love that even those this takes place in modern day, the kids aren’t helpless without the use of a cellphone. There is no Alexa for them to ask for help, and yet these teenagers are able to make it through.

There is a smidge of teenage love, but it reminds me of the relationship between Tris and Four in Divergent. Katrina and James are like a team, supporting one another and keeping on eye out for the other. They do kiss, but other than that there is no mushy gushy stuff going on. Personally, I admire teenage relationships like this because it teaches readers about the important aspects of what to look for in a partner.

Without giving too much of the plot away, we learn more about Project Dandelion as the story progresses. The new government wants to keep all of the chosen teenagers safe so they can help create a new society. While this sounds good in theory, it quickly becomes obvious that the teens will not have many choices in the new world. They will be forced to have children in a few years and do what the new government tells them.

Katrina, Dreya, Mia, James and Jayden continue to go against the crowd, as they did in the first novel, to fight for their rights. They want the right to make decisions about their own lives, such as when to have children and where to live. By working together, they demonstrate the power of teamwork and perseverance. They don’t let petty teenage drama cloud their judgements, and show how important maturity is.

As we know, there is no utopia without a dystopia, and this novel is a fantastic demonstration of this idea. It is a quick read with a few curse words, so I would recommend the text for eighth grade and up.

To purchase the book click here.

The Knowledge Gap Book Review

It’s no secret that I’m an education nerd. I’m drawn to all things literacy and curriculum. Over my last ten years in education I have seen a lot of different theories, standards, and curriculum come and go with no real answers about how to improve the knowledge gap.

The Knowledge Gap: The Hidden Cause of America’s Broken Education System- And How to Fix It, by Natalie Wexler, examines the struggles American schools face, how it affects students, and possible solutions.

As a reader, it usually takes me twice as long to get through a nonfiction education book because I need to take breaks. The writing styles of these texts are dry and I find myself taking social media breaks. However, I have to admit, Wexler did an absolutely incredible job making the content flow. I think a lot of that has to do with her breaking up the reading with real life examples from different classrooms, and history of curriculum in America. The change up in content definitely kept me engaged longer and allowed me to draw my own conclusions between the historical facts/accounts and the classroom examples.

While the title doesn’t mention literacy, this whole book truly dives into the deep end of reading and writing. As Wexler points out, reading and math tend to be the focal points in elementary classrooms because of state tests. Even though teachers may have science and social studies scheduled for once a week, it’s rare that those lessons happen because teachers feel the need to constantly hit on reading skills.

One of the main ideas is that using balanced literacy, leveled readers, and guided reading are not helping students improve their reading comprehension skills. The Reading Wars are discussed briefly, with both sides being explained. However, it is crystal clear that phonics based explicit instruction will help the majority of all students learn to read, including those who are English Language Learners, classified with a learning disability, etc. As a reading teacher I was doing a happy dance with the evidence supporting phonics instruction.

Of course, one can’t discuss balanced literacy without mentioning Lucy Calkins. Wexler makes a fantastic argument against the literacy guru that there are indeed flaws in this reading model (and writer’s workshop, too). Readers even “saw” examples in the sections where Wexler observed classrooms using this concept.

But, if balanced literacy is not helping students, then what will?

The author’s #1 point in the 263 pages, is that in order to improve reading comprehension, students need to have more background knowledge, which can only be accomplished by exposing early elementary students to science and history. Yes, some students have social studies where they learn about members in the community, but they need world and US history.

Students have a thirst for knowledge and want to be challenged. Obviously we don’t want students feeling overwhelmed and shutting down, but the classroom teacher is there to guide students. Students can handle advanced vocabulary if they are seeing it in content-rich curriculum. The point of the Common Core was to have American students build on their knowledge from year to year, which a content-rich curriculum does.

Wexler also mentions Daniel Willingham. For my loyal readers you know that I LOVE this man and his book Raising Kids Who ReadIn The Knowledge Gap, Willingham is referenced for his contributions to education and the cognitive psychology. Yay!

Finally, Wexler’s last point was about teaching writing. I will admit during college and student teaching I was always told to teach that writing is a process. I have never used Lucy Calkin’s writing units, but would instead make up my own assignments/tasks with fellow colleagues. The author mentions Judith Hochman, who experimented with a teaching method that started with sentences and taught mechanics at the same time, and has seen great success. Not only has this approach been proven to improve student writing, it has also increased reading comprehension and the ability to critique information they are learning. Hochman and Wexler authored The Writing Revolution, which offers a road map for educators.

WOW!

I have so many parts underlined and marked in this book that there is no way I can share them all in a blog post. However, I would love to share my favorite line.

“…the transformation from a focus on comprehension skills and reading levels to one on content and knowledge is beginning to take hold.” (Wexler 259).

Education is changing. The Common Core sparked that change and caused a lot of educators to look at their teaching methods. As the education world continues to evolve, we need to remember that even though we live in a digital age where students can Google anything, we still need to be providing students with information. Knowledge rich curriculum makes sense for today’s readers. If we want to see changes in our students we have to start looking at the elementary school classrooms.

I recommend this amazing book for superintendents, principals, curriculum supervisors, teachers and anyone thinking about entering the world of education.

To purchase the book click here.

 

Using Social Media to Find New Books

I don’t about you, but every once and a while I go through a reading slump. It’s like when you can’t decide what movie to watch, but instead you can’t pick a book to read. When I have moments like this, I look to social media for some inspiration.

Facebook groups– These are amazing! Not only do participants post books they’re reading, they also ask for suggestions and often engage in a quick book discussions. One of my favorite parts of being a member of these groups is how honest people are. It also keeps me up to date on the new releases are current best sellers.

Following authors on Instagram– Personally, this is one of my favorite things to do in general. Authors are incredible people and love to share their love of reading. They will often post stories about what they’re currently reading, or share information about an author friend’s new book.

Friends on Goodreads- As a true bookworm, I love Goodreads. It’s such a great way to see what your friends are reading, how they rated books, and to see what authors are doing. I’ve been a member of Goodreads for years now and I have to tell you my absolute favorite part about it…THE GIVEAWAYS!! They are free to enter and you can add books to your To Read list. It’s kind of amazing.

Finding pins on Pinterest– Pinterest is the most addicting thing ever. The amount of boards I have with different recipes, teaching activities, and future office decor is insane. Some people create really great reading lists for each season, holiday or new releases. I love that you can get super specific with book lists, like apple picking for preschoolers, so I can find exactly what I’m looking for.