3.23.22 Used Book Haul

A few months ago I made an ah-mazing discovery. I found a Barnes and Nobles with a HUGE used book section.

During my first book haul, I was able to snag the following titles for incredible prices:

My first used book stack from Barnes and Nobles.

Element Encyclopedia Secret Signs and Symbols by Adele Nozedar

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

The Woods by R.L. Toalson

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

Quidditch Through the Ages by J.K. Rowling and Kennilworthy Whisp

On Wednesday night, I took a trip back to my favorite Barnes and Nobles, and let me tell you I was super excited with my finds!

The used Children’s section has such an array of choices. I tend to feel overwhelmed digging through shelves of picture books, so I focus more on the chapter books. There is a good mixture of older and newer titles in a variety of genres. There’s literally something for every reader.

On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer

The first book I grabbed was On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer. I read this book in fifth grade, and re-read it once about ten years ago. This book always stuck with me because it has such a unique plot about friendship. It’s an older book, from 1986, but it’s a quick read with a memorable story. Without giving too much away, two young boys decide to play in the dangerous river.

The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau.

The next book that I added to my pile was The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau. I’m a big The City of Ember fan, and the second book in the series was calling my name. I read it once about six years ago after I used the first book as a read-aloud with my sixth graders. For some reason I didn’t finish the series, but since this sequel popped up out of nowhere I’m taking it as a sign to read all of the books.

Three Black Swans by Caroline B. Cooney

I was definitely having some throwback moments to my childhood reading choices, because along with On My Honor I found Three Black Swans by Caroline B. Cooney, the woman behind The Face on the Milk Carton Series. In middle school, I read the series, along with some of her other works, so I just had to add this one to my book collection.

I did see some other titles that caught my attention, including an Anne Frank book and another about British royalty, so if those are still on the shelves next time I will probably scoop them up.

Next, I hit the used Young Adult section. I will say this is a very small section compared to the others and it’s super random. There can be a whole series on the shelf, but the first book is missing. I tend to stay away from those because I NEED to read a series in order.

The Red Scrolls of Magic and The Lost Book of the White by Cassandra Clare and Wesley Chu

This time I got lucky. If you’ve been a reading my blog over the last five years, you know YA is my fave and that Mortal Instrument is one of my favorite series. I don’t know how I didn’t realize this, but there are more Shadow Hunter novels.

I noticed Clare and Chu on the binding of a hardcover, and in looking at the inside flap noticed Alec’s and Magnus’ names and got excited. The Red Scrolls of Magic and The Lost Book of White (books 1 and 2) were just sitting there waiting for me to take them home :). Now I’m debating if I should re-read/re-listen to the series again before I dive into these two additions.

I can say that this was a very exciting book haul :).

I may have also had a total book nerd moment in the Harry Potter section.

I’m a Gryffindor :). And this super comfy sweatshirt is from Amazon.

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.

Q&A with Author Elly Swartz

Authors are incredible people. They have an ability to create worlds and characters that transport us out of reality. Authors can make us cry, gasp and get angry (sometimes all in the same chapter).

I love that I’ve been able to connect with so many different authors over the years, and truly enjoy being able to share my experiences with all of you.

Dear Student, by Elly Swartz, is a powerful novel about navigating middle school, friendships, family changes and anxiety.

This middle grade novel is so spot-on with what adolescents experience today. Autumn is starting sixth grade. Her best friend moved away and her dad joined the Peace Corp. As she tackles middle school, she encounters friendship troubles trying to juggle two different friends with her social anxiety. Autumn believes in animal rights and finds a way to stand up for her furry friends.

I had the privilege to do a Q&A with Elly about her new book. Honestly, my reader heart wanted to hug her through the screen. Not only did I love the book, but I feel like I made a new virtual best friend with the author. Authors, like Elly, are making big differences in a world that is very scary for so many young readers.

1.       As an author, what is your writing process like? 

All my writing days begin by finding brain space. And for me, that means either walking my pups or, if it’s raining, dancing in my kitchen. I need to put aside of the stresses, worries, and distractions of the day. I need to give the creative process room to breathe. Then I dive in.

If I am drafting a new book, I spend a lot of time getting to know my main character’s heart before I even begin writing. I need to know what they like for breakfast, if they love the rain, are scared of spiders. I need to know all of them. So, I interview them. I want to know everything. And once that happens, I begin.

I write what I know. That’s what I love about the writing process. It’s not linear. I don’t need to color inside the lines. If I know the beginning, I write that. If I know the end, I write that. I trust the process will enable me to fill in the rest as the story unfolds. Once I have a first draft, which I’ve fondly named Swiss cheese – because it stinks and has lots of holes – it’s time to dive into revision. For me, this is where the magic happens. I love revision!

At this stage, I work on my story in one big gulp. I sit all day with my characters. And it’s during this part of the process that I need to ensure that my characters are feeling all the feels. All happy, I’ve written a giant Hallmark card. All sad, well, no one really wants that. And I use emojis to help me get there. I promise, I’m not kidding.

After I write my Swiss cheese draft, I put an emoji at the top and bottom of each chapter. What’s the emotion coming into the scene and what’s the emotion coming out. This way, I can visually cue myself when I need to mix things up.

            Emojis keep me in check and allow me to create a story with true emotional resonance.

Once I go through the story, I rinse and repeat until I feel in my heart that my story is layered, authentic, and has all the feels.


2.       What kind of research did you do for this book? 

I feel that all fiction is anchored in something real. And making sure those details are accurate and authentic is at the heart of my writing. I think it might be the lawyer in me!

I am beyond grateful to the many people who shared their expertise and time with me. In Dear Student, I consulted:

*a pediatric therapist who specializes in anxiety

*a person who specializes in iguanas and snakes (pregnant ones!)

*a congressman who sponsored the Humane Act bill that prevents the testing of cosmetics on animals and those in his office in charge of the bill

*a Peace Corps volunteer

*educators who kindly shared their Spanish translation skills and input with me

It truly takes a village!


3.       What inspired you to write Autumn’s story? 

Much of the inspiration for Dear Student came from readers. Kids who have written me letters, sent me emails, dm’d me and shared their truth. Their anxiety. Their heart. Kids who think brave and strong is reserved for the popular, the loud, and the confidant.

I want these friends to know their voice matters. They can make a difference. I want them to know that it doesn’t matter if they are quiet or loud. Extroverts or introverts. Eat lunch surrounded by friends or tucked into a table in the library. They are strong. They are valued. They are brave.

I want them to know that sometimes we all feel like Autumn. We all struggle to find the right words to say, the right clothes to wear, the right way to be. In our social media world, we often see only the shiny penny version of life. The highly manicured happy moments. But those are just slivers of time. I want them to know we all experience all the feels. Even if you may not see them in the latest videos on Tik Tok.

4.       Why did you feel that Autumn should have social anxiety? 

I love Autumn. She came to me with her quiet introspection, her big heart, and her social anxiety. Autumn is truly a compilation and reflection of so many kids I know and have had the privilege of meeting at school visits. I want my characters to reflect the kids who read them. I want all kids to see themselves on the page.

I write about kids with anxiety because kids have anxiety. And with the pandemic, that anxiety is on the rise. (https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/surgeon-general-youth-mental-health-advisory.pdf)

I want kids to know they are not alone. Recently, I was visiting a school, talking to 200 six graders about Dear Student and Fearless Fred – the part of each of us that fear can’t boss around. And sharing how I saw courage and strength in every one of them. Even if they didn’t. After my presentation, a new friend came up to me. She whispered, “I have anxiety like Autumn in Dear Student.” Her voice shook. “Kids make fun of me.” She inhaled big. “Thanks for writing about someone like me.”

My heart melted.

I truly believe we are all a bit like Autumn. We all have moments where we wonder if we’re saying the right thing, wearing the right clothes, acting the right way. Especially now. Remote living. Remote learning. Masking. Reentry. It’s all hard. Exhausting. And sometimes scary.

Truth is, we are all working on something.

5.       Why did you choose to have Autumn in sixth grade? 

I love this stage. The start of middle school. The start of something new.

Kids are honest and vulnerable. They are discovering their voice and where they fit. They are navigating shifting friendships. And realizing the world is not always right and wrong, but often gray, nuanced, and complicated. Their feelings are big and real.

And I truly think my sixth grade self is reading along with me, wishing she had these stories as she navigated the halls of middle school.

Elly at 12!


6.       How were you able to make Autumn, Logan, and Copper so realistic? 

I love Autumn, Logan, and Cooper. I love their vulnerabilities. And their rockstar qualities. They are a wonderful blend of all of it. The stuff they are proud of and the stuff they are working on. So when I was creating each one of them, it was important to me that they felt all the feels. And that they reflected the authentic lives of my readers. They are layered because my readers’ lives are layered.

Authenticity is at the heart of writing these moments. Authentic emotions and authentic experiences. So when I sit down to write, I try and forget the shoulds and worries of my adult life and wrap myself around the younger me. I need to be that kid again. The one who wondered the halls of middle school with butterflies in her stomach, hoping she could find her way to class, open her locker, and just be herself.

I need to write as if I am my characters. And I know that I’m truly in it when my story weaves itself into every fiber of my being and every moment of my day. For instance, when I was writing Dear Student, the main character, Autumn, flooded my dreams. You see, I wasn’t dreaming about Autumn, I was dreaming as if I was Autumn. My world and hers had become completely enmeshed.

And that is truly when the magic happens on the page.


7.       What do you hope readers take away from this novel? 

I hope readers know their voice matters. That strength and bravery can look a lot of different ways. And that true friends will always be there. As Autumn says, “We don’t have to think the same or believe the same things to be friends. But we do always have to be kind to each other. And respectful of each other.” (p. 255-56).

I also hope readers discover that the most fearless thing they can do is be themselves.


8.       What was your greatest challenge and joy about writing this book? 

I loved writing the Dear Student letters. It brought me back to my middle school self, walking the halls, feeling all the feels. The excitement, the worry, the happiness, the self-consciousness, the cliques, the doubt, and the crushes. It was fun to give advice. I hope it helps my readers as they navigate all the feels.

The most challenging part was writing the friend conflict. No spoilers, but there’s something that happens between Logan and Autumn that hurt my heart to write. It wasn’t how I envisioned the story going. But it was the path the story had to take for me to stay true to the characters.


9.       Do you have ideas for another book? 

Yes! And yay! I have another middle grade novel entitled, Hidden Truths, coming out in 2023. This story is told from dual pov between best friends Danielle – a star baseball player – and Eric – her forgetful, but kind, goofy, crossword-loving neighbor.

Their friendship has begun to shift when a terrible accident happens, accelerating their rift.

At its heart, this story asks how far you’d go to keep a promise to a friend.

I’m also working on a picture book and starting a new middle grade that I am bursting with excitement to write.

Lots more to come. Woohoo!


10.    What advice do you have for young writers?

Read! Read! Read! And then write what matters to you. Because in that space of true authenticity, lies the story of your heart.

Since Elly shared her 6th grade picture, I feel the need to keep it going by sharing mine.

Little Reading Coach in sixth grade 2001.

To meet Autumn and read about her sixth grade experience, 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.

Moneytopia: Earning 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 love when I come across books I can use in a real-life situation. As Molly gets older, it’s time for me to start teaching her about money. Today’s book is the perfect way for me to introduce Molly to financial literacy.

Moneytopia: Earning: A Bear, Bunny and Fox Book about Money, by Dr. Shanshan Peer and illustrated by Marta Maszkiewicz, is a picture book that introduces young readers to earning money.

For homework, Bear, Bunny and Fox need to earn money. Each animal approaches the task differently, which was the point of the assignment that the teacher points out.

Right away I was drawn to the name of the town, Moneytopia, and the animal characters. Having three different main characters allows readers to see three different situations, making it more likely that a reader will connect with one of the animals. The illustrations are charming and do a lovely job helping children comprehend the text.

Theme

The theme of this book, the secret of earning money, is broken down into kid-friendly terms. You’ll have to read the book to find out the secret :). Teachers and parents can use this to springboard discussions about earning money.

This is the first book in a series to help young ones learn about money, which is super exciting!

I would recommend this book for readers in preschool- second grade.

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.

The Magical Envelope Book Review

I love reading picture books because authors are able to convey powerful themes in simple ways to readers of all ages. I know I’ve read a good one when I walk away with all the feels. Today, I’m excited to share a book that gave me the warm and fuzzy feeling.

The Magical Envelope, written and illustrated by Nathenial and Delilah Adams, is a touching picture book about the importance of kindness and thinking of others.

I was scrolling through Facebook the other night, when I saw a post in a local moms group about two children who just published their first picture book. Being the book nerd that I am, I instantly messaged the mom and let her know I would be reviewing this new book. These two young authors are incredibly talented, and truly have bright futures ahead of them.

The book shares with readers the story of two twins, Nathenial and Delilah, who believe in helping others. Their Daddy is a soldier and is away, so the children send him cards with pictures and drawings. The twins decide to make cards for all of their Daddy’s friends and send them off with the mailman, only to discover that the card for their Daddy was still at their house! With a little bit of magic, the envelope goes on a journey to make sure Daddy gets a card.

First, I LOVE that this book has a little dash of magic. I felt this went along wonderfully with the plot because it truly embodies the hope and positivity that kindness can give others. The magic does not change the message or detract from the overall feel of the text.

The illustrations are engaging and highlight the important ideas in the story. I found myself looking at each one after I read a page. The magical envelope is whimsical and friendly, and reminds me of a character from Blue’s Clues.

The Characters

Nathenial and Delilah are so kind-hearted and thoughtful. They show children little acts of kindness go a long way. From helping to carry groceries, to making cards for our troops, no act is too small.

Kindness

The theme of kindness is seen throughout this children’s book in the actions of the characters. Helping others and spreading positivity are expressed constantly, showing readers how impactful our actions can be to others.

This book also offers a craft for readers! Kids can make their own magical envelope by folding a picture included in the back. I can’t wait to do this craft with Miss Molly.

Just like the characters in the book, the authors themselves have hearts of gold. They are donating 10% of all book sales to MSAWI Organization in honor of their brave fallen hero, Major Stuart Adam Wolfer.

I recommend this book for all families.

To purchase this book click here.

To read more about these amazing young authors, check out this article.

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.

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.

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 3 Favorite Virtual Reading Activities

Teaching reading and writing online is definitely a change from in person lessons. We know that kids need to be engaged in the learning process, and we need to be introducing them to different activities to help keep their focus.

As a virtual teacher, I’ve experimented with a few different ways to engage my students when it comes to literacy. I want my students to have fun and appreciate the joy that reading can bring. I use Zoom with my students, and will record my sessions to pass along to those who couldn’t make the session, or who want to re-watch it. Here are three my three favorite virtual literacy activities I’ve used with my students.

Virtual author visits– I was fortunate to have an author, Brenda Felber, reach out to me a year and a half ago about doing a virtual author visit. She found me on social media and we arranged to have her Zoom with my students.  She shared her research and writing process and more (click here to read about her visit). Brenda writes mystery chapter books (click here to check out my review of her novel)

I also had another author visit with Christine Reynebau a few weeks after Brenda. Christine writes and publishes picture books (Celebrate, PB&J, Guts, Rescue, and Lost) and did a read aloud during her visit along with a discussion of how she made her dreams of being a children’s book author come true.

I typically network with a lot of indie authors for my book reviews, and it’s truly incredible when I can introduce my students to quality texts.

Read alouds- if you’ve been a follower for a while, you know this is my jam. Read alouds are my thing. I LOVE being able to make great stories come to life for my students and be able to discuss the works together. I’ve been able to create a community of readers through an online platform which makes my heart so happy.

When I first started doing virtual read alouds, I used texts that were part of the curriculum. For sixth grade I read The Hunger Games, seventh grade was A Wrinkle in Time and eighth grade was The Giver. My students loved being able to throw their ideas into the chat box and discuss with their peers while I facilitated. At the time, my kiddos preferred the chat box because they didn’t feel comfortable being on camera.

The last read aloud I did with grades 6-12 was Divergent, and it was pure magic! My regular group would join me once a week and we had the best time. They even created hashtags that would pop up during our discussions. For more specific information on virtual read alouds click here.

This summer I taught kindergarten, and I spent our morning meeting time with a read aloud. I chose a different picture book every day and we practiced pre-reading strategies, reading comprehension, and making inference skills during our time together. My kiddos loved knowing we would read something new every day, and they were engaged while practicing new skills.

For kindergarten, I used e-book versions of text and shared my screen while I read. I got my daily books from Kindle Unlimited (a truly amazing service) and introduced my readers to a lot of indie authors.

Scavenger hunts– I actually got this idea from my elementary supervisor this summer during a meeting about student engagement. She encouraged us to get the kids moving and grooving as much as possible, since they were sitting in classes with us for 45 minutes at a time.

When we were working on phonics and letters, I would tell my students to grab objects  in their house that started with a specific letter. For instance, they had to grab objects that started with the letter ‘w’ and kids came back with walnuts, a dollhouse (she pointed to the window) and a wallet. Not only did it get them up and moving, it was seriously entertaining to see what they came up with.

For older students, I would use the idea of a scavenger hunt to help with teaching symbolism. I would tell students to find an object in their room that represents (symbolizes) them. Once students returned we would all discuss the object and how it symbolized the student.

 

Literacy activities don’t always have to be an online game or writing activity. By adding in some different activities, we can keep our students engaged and also have fun.

 

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.

 

Resources for Teaching Reading Online

As a middle and high school teacher, I was never really given a reading program to use with my students. I loved this flexibility,  but it was time consuming to find the resources I wanted to use with my students.

As many educators are putting together their own collection of online reading resources, I wanted to share my experiences with ones that have helped my readers.  I have used these programs with general education students, special education and honors students.

Raz-kids– This is an awesome online reading program. I love that students have access to their account 24/7 and that parents can see what their student is reading. This site is great for students in grades K-6. I did use this for my readers in 6th grade and some of them were too advanced for the program, so I gave them a supplemental novel to focus on instead. The leveled libraries are filled with a mixture of fiction and nonfiction texts that require students to read each work multiple times by listening to it and reading it independently. The comprehension quizzes focus on specific topics (characterization, plot, cause and effect) so teachers are able to really see the areas of strengths and weaknesses. The system also creates progress reports based on this data, which I’ve actually used in parent conferences.

Teachers do have the ability to conduct running record assessments with the program as well. I have used some of the passages, but have never had students record themselves with the software.

ReadWorks– I found ReadWorks when I first started teaching in 2010 and have used it since. This is one of those rare programs that can be used with grades K-12. The site has SO many filer options for finding the perfect text. Users can search using Lexile levels, grade level, fiction/nonfiction, content type, activity type, etc. I typically use grade or Lexile level and fiction/nonfiction to find the passages I want. Users can listen to an audio version and/or read the text independently before tackling some reading comprehension questions. Being super honest, I wish that the questions were a little more challenging at times, especially for the older grades, but these work really well for my population of students.

While teachers can print the passages and questions, you can also set up online classrooms through the site and electronically assign students assignments. I have used this feature tutoring and it was super easy to navigate and access.

Reading Detective by The Critical Thinking Co.- This is hands down my FAVORITE  resource to use with my kiddos. Each passage is one page and has a page of questions that accompany it. The questions are absolutely incredible by requiring readers to use their higher thinking skills. The questions also constantly ask for textual evidence to support answers, expecting students to look at specific sentences and paragraphs.

I’m currently using the traditional book version, and using my document camera or taking pictures on my phone of passages. However, the company offers e-book, with software and app versions that I will definitely be looking into in the next few weeks to make my life easier.

Vooks– I came across Vooks earlier this year when I saw they were doing free accounts for teachers. This resource is geared towards preschool and elementary aged kiddos, so I don’t use it as much with my students. Each book is read aloud and students watch the book come to life through video. It feels like a mix between a read aloud and watching a cartoon, which is really cool for readers.

Epic– this is a one of a kind resource. It’s a digital library for grades P-6 that includes popular texts for students to read. It includes works such as Fancy Nancy, Frog and Toad and Ella Enchanted. I would recommend using this program for mini lessons and activities.

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.

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.