AfterMath Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

I remember being in fourth grade when Columbine happened. I was in my second year of teaching when Sandy Hook happened. School shootings are true tragedies that affect those involved the rest of their lives.

AfterMath, by Emily Barth Isler, gives readers an inside look at grief, loss and devastation surrounding family, friends and gun violence.

Lucy is a seventh-grade girl who is moving to a new town after her little brother, Theo, dies from a heart condition. She moves to Queensland, Virginia, a town who experienced a school shooting in the elementary school a few years ago. She is the only student in her grade who was not part of that horrific day, but she is also grieving.

First, I must mention that I really loved the concept of this text. Typically, we read writings of the actual events that happen, but in this case, we see the ‘after’. We see how families, students, teachers, and the community grapple with tragic events that can never be forgotten.

I enjoyed the writing style of this book. I read it in two sittings and was thoroughly engaged. I love that there are little math questions and jokes, which emphasize Lucy’s need for definitive, black and white answers at this time. The point of view of Lucy is extremely effective. Readers of all ages can connect to being the new kid, experiencing loss, dealing with parents, and making friends.

Throughout the book, the theme of grief is seen in multiple ways.

Lucy’s grief. Lucy internalizes her feelings. She keeps her thoughts and emotions hidden not only from her new classmates, but also her parents. She doesn’t tell anyone at school about Theo because the teachers and students are already dealing with their own losses, and she doesn’t want it to seem as though she is competing with that. She doesn’t tell her parents because she has always had to be the ‘easy’ child. She gets good grades and does what is expected of her to make life easier for her parents. Also, her parents don’t communicate their feelings and memories of Theo, so the three of them constantly have an elephant in the room.

School’s grief. Lucy’s classmates react to their grief and loss differently than she does. They discuss the events and their feelings openly and matter of factly. They frequently bring up the shooting, their therapy sessions, injuries and emotions to one another to cope. The bond the school community has is supportive and loving.

The comparisons between the two situations shows readers that coping comes in many forms, depending on the individual and situation. Regardless of how someone grieves, we need to be supportive and understanding. Communication and honesty are also important aspects of the grieving process.

The theme of friendship is also seen in the story when Lucy befriends Avery, the girl no one notices. I don’t want to give away parts of the plot, but the author demonstrates to readers that kindness, standing up for one another, forgiveness and trust are all vital parts in a true friendship. Sometimes doing the right thing can be uncomfortable, but we must listen to our hearts and guts.

I would recommend this book for readers in sixth grade and up because of the mature topics. I can see this being used in a classroom as a whole class novel, especially since the author included some thoughtful discussions questions that highlight the themes in the text.

I would also like to add that this is the author’s first novel, which surprised me. Her writing is poignant, honest, supportive and loving. I could feel her warmth towards families affected by school shootings throughout my reading. I can’t wait to see what this talented writer does next.

To purchase the book click here.

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 6-12. For more information head to my website.

Avoid the Summer Slide: Tips for Parents

There’s just a special kind of vibe during the summer. The laid-back atmosphere allows our minds and bodies to relax and take a break. Kids of all ages take this opportunity to go swimming, hang out with friends, and not worry about the pressures of school.

However, while it’s important to take advantage of this time to rest and re-set, it’s just as important to keep kids academically engaged to some capacity.

The summer slide is a term used to explain learning loss that takes place over the summer.

Each family and child is different, so luckily there is no one way to avoid the summer slide. When choosing learning activities for your child, there are a few ideas to keep in mind.

  1. What are some areas of weakness that my child has?
  2. What is my child interested in doing?
  3. How much time do I want my child to spend doing “school work”?
  4. Do I want a specific schedule?
  5. Do I want to do activities with my child?
  6. Do I want my child to do activities independently?
  7. Do I want to invest in workbooks, books, camps, tutors, etc.?
  8. Are there local learning opportunities near me?

Some parents choose to do “school” in the mornings Monday-Friday, while others choose to do weekly tutoring sessions (for more information on tutoring check out Virtual Tutoring Services). Kids of all ages should spend 20 minutes each day engaged in learning activities.

Once you get a better idea of what you want for your child, it’s time to pick some activities!

Assignments.

Activity Books. These are fantastic go-to products for parents because there is no prep work involved and there are answer keys :). There are TONS of options for parents to choose from so you can find exactly what you’re looking for. I always recommend that parents get workbooks for the grade their child was just in. Why? To ensure there are no learning gaps and to prepare for the upcoming year. Of all the different workbooks out there, the following three are my personal recommendations.

  1. Spectrum. I’ve been using these books with my students for the last decade. They are easy enough for kids to work independently and cover all the skills required for each grade level.
  2. Flash Kids Editors. I’ve seen this series for years, but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I really took a close look at these workbooks. I really like that these activities are more application based, so students are using a variety of skills on each activity, especially for writing. They are also available as individual subjects, whole curriculums and test prep, so there are options for P-8 students.
  3. Summer Bridge Activities. These workbooks are geared towards helping students make the transition to the next grade during the summer. The activities are meant to be 15 minutes long so the tasks don’t feel overwhelming.

Summer Reading Assignments. For older students, there are usually school assigned activities that need to be completed before the first day of school. Many times this includes reading a book, taking notes, writing an essay, etc. Summer assignment information can usually be found on the school’s website. My best piece of advice with summer assignments is don’t wait until the last minute! Sometimes the book choices can be challenging, so it’s important that students have enough time to read and complete any tasks. Reading the SparkNotes versions of the texts aren’t usually enough to complete assignments.

Travel

Vacations. One of the amazing aspects about literacy is that it’s everywhere! You just have to know where to look for it. Instead of using GPS, spend some time showing your child how to read a map and help he/she plan your route. If you’re going to a place like Gettysburg, do some research as a family about the area before you get there. During road trips, playing the Alphabet Game is fun ways to practice letter recognition skills.

Day Trips. Taking the time to go to different places helps build a child’s background knowledge that will be used the rest of his or her life when it comes to reading. Local towns have historical landmarks, festivals, and events throughout the summer that kids of all ages can learn from. There are also destination locations that can be fun and educational. For instance, growing up we went on a day trip to Crystal Cave and learned about stalagmites and caves. On these outings, read any information you come across (plaques, brochures, etc.) and listen to the tour guides.

Read

Independent reading. This is the easiest go-to avoid the summer slide activity. Kids can read anywhere, so always make sure to pack them a book. When choosing a great summer reading book for kids, take advantage of lists provided by local libraries or ones created by teachers. I’m currently LOVING book lists by Imagination Soup because of the different search options and book descriptions. Libraries and companies like Scholastic have summer reading challenges that add an extra layer of fun.

Read-aloud. I’ve always been a fan of read-alouds, in my classroom and home. With the flexibility of summer, reading aloud can happen anywhere and any time. Take a blanket into the yard and have a picnic while reading a chapter or two. While waiting in traffic, have your child read to you from the read-aloud book. Audiobooks are fantastic for family road trips.The reading possibilities are literally endless. For read-aloud ideas check out Reading Aloud Resources for Parents.

Whatever activities or learning opportunities you and your family participate in, remember to still use summer to have fun and relax.

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 6-12. For more information head to my website.

Smallest Kid in the Class: Resources for Talking to Kids About Being Short

“Mommy, [Max] says that I’m a baby. He doesn’t believe I’m four.”

One day, Molly came home saying that her classmates think she’s a baby because she’s so short. As a mom, I had a little moment of panic, not going to lie. Molly is a sensitive kid and she has an incredibly accurate memory for remembering what people tell her. I knew she would remember my explanation and we would most likely have this talk multiple times over the years, so I had to set the foundation.

I’m 4’10”. Both of my parents are short, and my sister is also under five feet tall. So, it’s really no surprise that my daughter is the smallest girl in her preschool class. Growing up, I was picked on about my height, but I never really let it bother me. My mom proved to us multiple times over the years that being short doesn’t hold us back in life, and because of this I never felt self-conscious about being vertically challenged.

I told my daughter that there is nothing wrong with being short. I knew I would revisit this with her again, but I needed to think how I wanted to have a more in-depth conversation.

I spent some time thinking about appropriate resources for talking to my preschool-aged daughter about being short. All of the small characters show audiences that being short does not mean life has to be limited.

Reading Molly her first book, Madeline, in 2016.
  1. Being So Small (Isn’t So Bad After All) by Lori Orlinsky. I had the absolute pleasure of reviewing this book a few years ago (Being So Small (Isn’t So Bad After All) Book Review)and knew I would be using this book in the future with Miss Molly. I love that this book highlights the positive aspects of being small in a kid-friendly way with adorable illustrations.
  2. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. This was the very first book I read to Molly and it’s always been a personal favorite of mine. This past weekend we had a binge fest and watched the cartoon TV show from the late ’80s (currently on Amazon Prime). To say Molly loved it was an understatement. After hearing Madeline’s song, Molly declared that she wants to be like Madeline. The books, show and movie all show young children that size doesn’t put limits on someone. There are still so many adventures to be had, regardless of height.
  3. Disney/Pixar characters. There are sooo many reasons why I love Disney, such as the use of diverse characters. The following movies and characters continue to support the positivity of being short. RatatouilleRemy, a rat, not only breaks away from his family’s expectations, but pursues his dream of becoming a chef. I love how Remy uses creativity to cook in a real kitchen to reach various utensils and ingredients, showing viewers that there are ways to work around obstacles. Edna from The Incredibles and Incredibles 2. There is no stronger minor female character than Auntie Edna, in my opinion. Her self-confidence is clearly seen as she takes charge, especially with Jack Jack. She demonstrates that short statured women can still stand their ground next to successful and intimidating men. Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc. Did you just hear Boo’s voice, too? I love how the filmmakers add a sense of humor to being short. Whether it’s when Sully picks Mike up by the head, or when Mike’s eye is covered during the TV commercial, height is embraced in a loving and fun way.

While it’s a great idea to use these resources when talking to young children, it’s important to remember to follow-up with an open discussion. Ask questions about how characters are feeling, why they made decisions and what this teaches us. Personally, I would also include some of my own personal stories from my childhood to help show Molly that I truly understand how she feels. Every child is different, so always keep that in mind when having conversations.

To this day, many times I’m still the shortest in the class and I wouldn’t change it :).

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 6-12. For more information head to my website.

Mini Movers and Shakers: Anne Frank Book Review

I will be the first to say that I am not a history person, but there are specific time periods that do interest me. One of those is WWII all because of a young girl named Anne Frank. I was always a fan of the Dear America series as a kid, and in middle school there was just something about Anne Frank’s diary that helped me wrap my head around the historical events.

Anne Frank, written by Mary Nhin and illustrated by Yulia Zolotova, is an insightful picture book about the life of one of the strongest young women in history.

My readers know I am no stranger to Mary Nhin books (How to Win the World Cup in Your Pajamas, Arial the YouTuber, and eNinja to name a few), but when I saw that she was starting a new series called Mini Movers and Shakers and one of my personal favorite figures was to be featured, I instantly added the book to my ‘To Read List’.

Right away readers connect with young Anne because the story is told from her point of view. The writing is simple, yet mature enough for elementary school students to read. Nhin simplifies the events of Anne’s life, but does not water them down, which I really enjoyed. Vocabulary words like ‘invaded’ and ‘confidante’ give this text a more sophisticated feel that I was personally drawn to as a middle and high school teacher.

The illustrations really elaborate and explain the main ideas in the text, helping readers with their comprehension. I especially liked the map of Germany because it provides a visual to those children not familiar with the other side of the world. The Reading Specialist in me got excited that this text provided necessary background information to support reading comprehension.

It’s very clear that Nhin spent time researching her facts, and that she is a mom because she’s able to express these nuggets of information in a kid-friendly way. I even learned some new things about Anne Frank! The tone is friendly, as though Anne is speaking to the reader like a new friend. Kids are also to pick up on themes of perseverance, faith, courage, and family throughout the book.

Personally, I would use this in the classroom as a cross-curricular activity with social studies. It does a phenomenal job of introducing children to the events of WWII and the Holocaust. I would recommend this book for children ages 3-11.

*Be sure to check out more books in the Movers and Shakers series

To purchase the book click here.

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 6-12. For more information click here.

Friendship Has No Color Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

For kids, friendships are one of the biggest aspects of their lives. Moving and making new friends can always been a scary concept, but there are always sweet kids happy to make a new student feel included.

Friendship Has No Color, by Christopher Gordon, is a realistic picture book that celebrates diversity and teaches readers the importance of treating others with respect, regardless of their race.

Christopher Gordon has created The Warrior of Good Values, a superhero that teaches children valuable life lessons. I first met this hero in Timothy’s Lesson in Good Values, so I was super excited for this latest story.

Max is an African American student who has just moved to the neighborhood. Emily, a bi-racial little girl, instantly becomes friends with Max and at school introduces him to her other friends, Timothy and Billy. During recess, Max and Emily are excluded from playing because of the color of their skin and the texture of their hair by Jason, a Caucasian boy. The Warrior of Good Values arrives just in time to help explain the importance of treating everyone fairly.

The layout of this book is very engaging. Gordon is also an incredible graphic designer and he brings his talents to the text. The pictures help support the text and aid readers in reading comprehension. They also give the book a sort of graphic novel ish feel in a way, that I think connects really well with struggling readers because the pages don’t feel overwhelmed with text. I especially liked the character page at the beginning of the text, which is an aspect I don’t see very often in books.

I found the plot to be well thought out and realistic. We know that readers can face difficult situations in their lives, and one of the toughest environments is the playground. This story explains and shows readers the importance of not only including others, but being respectful in our thoughts and actions as well.

One of my favorite pages is when all the children think about their individual differences. Every single one of us is different in our own way and it is a beautiful thing. Even though our physical appearances may differ, on the inside we all have hearts and feelings. This page does an incredible job of showing readers that there are lots of differences between all of us, and that’s okay.

The last page of the book includes a bonus to help readers reflect on what they learn in the book. There is a short writing activity with lines provided and a coloring page, making this accessible to all types of learners.

I suggest this book for children in K-3. This book would work really for lessons on diversity and bullying.

To purchase the book click here.

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.

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.

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.

My Hair Went On Vacation Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

Being a book reviewer for the last few years has allowed me to connect with incredible people. The love and passion that my author friends put into their books is evident to all readers, and today’s book is one of those that truly tugged at my heart strings.

My Hair Went on Vacation, by Paula Quinn and illustrated by Chirara Civati, is a heartfelt picture book about a little girl’s journey with alopecia.

One day, Rosie wakes up with her hair missing from her head. She tells readers that her hair is on vacation and we see her navigate the real world with a bald head. Rosie endures mean comments from kids at school, and her family gives her strength. Rosie loves to paint, and her parents get a head scarf designed for her based on one of her pieces! Rosie then proceeds to send paint to kids near and far, so they can design headscarves for themselves.

I have to be completely honest, my mom read this book before I did. She saw it sitting on the counter and dived right in. After reading, she had tears in her eyes and we had a discussion about the strength of kids (and parents) in this world. When I read this book, I also started to tear up and felt a surge of admiration for this family.

The writing style is fabulous! The rhyming gives the text a great flow, without feeling too juvenile. The sentence structure is a mixture of simple and complex, so that it can appeal to a wide range of readers. The illustrations are fun, especially with the color theme used. The pictures enhance reading comprehension and gives a visual life to the story.

There are a few clear themes in this picture book- pride, strength and making a difference. The themes are clear enough for even younger readers to identify, which will make for great discussions.

As always, my teacher heart gets super happy when author’s include bonus features in their books. This text includes a kid-friendly glossary and a teacher’s guide. The guide has a self portrait idea and discussion questions, with an accommodation for older students (which I LOVE).

This picture book would work well for students in grades P-4 to help discuss character education topics and alopecia.

To purchase the book click here.

*100% of the proceeds of this book go to supporting the Coming Up Rosie’s mission to restore confidence, happiness and pride to anyone struggling with low self-esteem during their medical journey, especially bald children.*

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.

eNinja Book Review

One of my favorite aspects about being an English teacher is using books to teach my students life lessons. I believe that picture books can teach kids at all ages how to handle life situations, even high school students. I’ve been teaching virtually with EdOptions Academy by Edmentum for three years, and now more than ever, students need guidance in making the transition to online learning.

eNinja, written by Mary Nhin and illustrated by Jelena Stupar, is a relatable picture book that shows readers how to be successful with online learning.

It’s no secret I’m a HUGE Mary Nhin fan (How to Win the World Cup in Your Pajamas Book Review, Arial the Youtube Book Review, Arial the Chef Book Review, and Arial the Secret Santa Book Review) and her Ninja series is just as fabulous as her other works.

eNinja follows Ninja on the journey of transitioning to online learning. This can be a very big change for students, and Ninja isn’t so sure about this way of learning. With the help of a friend, Ninja learns the secret to this transition: the 3 P’s (polite, positive and prepared). I LOVE that readers have an easy way to remember how to handle online learning.

Prepared. Being prepared means more than just showing up to class in an online environment. As the text mentions, students should charge their devices, have a quiet spot in the house to work, and all of the necessary supplies within arms reach. Staying organized is really the key. Even as a virtual teacher, I take these steps to make sure I am ready to go for all of classes.

Polite. For me, this one is a biggie. Since I use Zoom constantly for student interaction, it’s important to follow the advice given in this part of the book. Some of the suggestions include: don’t be on another device, have loud background noises, and wait for the teacher to listen to questions or raise my hand. There is a fantastic illustration to show students online etiquette, which I would suggest putting next to a student’s learning area as a reminder.

Positive. Is online learning a big change? Yes. Can be hard and scary? Absolutely. The fact that Ninja expresses these feelings allows readers to connect with the character, because chances are readers feel the same way. I LOVE that Nhin doesn’t just have Ninja talk about his feelings, but also explains ways to help alleviate them. Students should use checklists and schedules to keep them on track. The book literally ends on a positive note :).

But, wait! As always with a Mary Nhin book, she thinks of some extras. At the end of eNinja, readers are given advanced learning tips (which are AMAZING ones to use) a virtual meeting success cheat sheet that includes being prepared, polite and positive.

Even though this is a picture book, I would recommend it for students in grades K-12. It is a quick read that offers solutions to some problems that students can face making the transition to an online classroom.

To purchase the book click here.

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