ABC Mouse Review: Early Literacy Skills for Preschool

Lockdown has completely changed our lives the last few months and will forever leave its mark on the education world. Like so many other parents, I have had to adjust to working with a child at home 24/7. In the beginning, I was all about creating a routine for her that mimicked her school schedule, but in reality this was impossible for me with work. I realized I needed to find a way to provide my three year old with a quality education at home without much prep work on my end.

For years I had seen the commercials for ABC Mouse and read testimonials on the company’s website. In full disclosure, I was skeptical. It’s very easy for a company to make a product look good and hire actors to portray parents and educators. However, I needed a program that Molly could work on while I worked with students and ABC Mouse seemed like the best option, so I purchased a subscription. I have no affiliation with ABC Mouse, and the following are all of my personal and professional opinions as a teachermom.

As a Reading Specialist, I’m very picky with what I look for in a literacy curriculum. I believe in phonics, multi-sensory learning, and reading quality texts. As a parent, I know my child’s strengths and weaknesses and worry about her early literacy skills.

Being a virtual teacher and tutor has made me quite tech savvy in navigating online programs. I can say that ABC Mouse is one of the most user-friendly apps I have used. It has a great balance of games, puzzles, art and music and academics. The concept of the classroom is fantastic for familiarizing little ones with a classroom environment.

Since Molly is a technically a preschooler, that is the level I have her profile set as. When I want her to work on different skills I have her continue her progress through the white board. One activity could involve counting, and the next could focus on practicing colors. The constant change in topics keeps her engaged, and the clear directions allow her to figure out the activities on her own, which is super important as a working mom.

When I want Molly to really focus on specific skills, I have her access the different options at the top of the classroom (reading, math, world around us, art, songs, library, puzzles, and games). I will admit, I do have her spend lots of time in reading and the library.

In the reading section, kids have a few different options for practicing their reading skills. Since Molly is at the preschool level, the activities revolve around the alphabet, letters and sounds. Molly can choose to listen to a library of books about letters, short stories, nursery rhymes and more. They program reads everything to her in a loud, clear voice and really emphasizes individual sounds when necessary. This is a fantastic option for learning phonics. Molly can also play games with letters and the alphabet. They even focus on ideas like capital letters. I LOVE that they have a tracing game for Molly to physically practice writing her letters, making this a great multi-sensory option. The puzzles section allows Molly to click and drag pieces with letters and pictures. The arts and music category offers “painting” activities with letters and songs about each letter to reinforce phonics skills. Everything in the app is very visual, with pictures used to support whatever the letter is, which also supports multi-sensory learning. Molly ABC Mouse

And my absolute favorite feature is the library. This digital library is jam packed with some great characters that kids will recognize. There are tons of options including Curious George, Disney princesses, Pixar, Marvel, National Geographic and more. There is a good balance between fiction and nonfiction texts that are engaging for young readers. Molly is a huge fan of the princesses, so she usually chooses one of those titles. Parents and kids can search using the categories button to filter all of the different choices. Since Molly can’t read on her own yet, I usually have her pick a text from the ‘Read to Me’ category. When she clicks on one of these, the text will read the story to her automatically, just like I would during a read aloud. But wait, it gets better! While the story is being read to Molly, it highlights the word as the voice reads it!! This is by far my most favorite feature in the entire app because it helps her practicing “reading”.

While I was very hesitant at first about using an app to continue Molly’s education during this time, I am truly so glad I took the chance. She has become more independent with learning and wants to do ABC Mouse. She usually works in the app for an hour a day and I have seen a growth in her skills since she started. The app is a good supplement for supporting early literacy skills at home and I would highly recommend it for all learners.

For more information about ABC Mouse click here.

For more information about Little Reading Coach’s online tutoring services click here. 

Toddler Literacy Skills: Doing More Than Just Reading Aloud

I’ve read aloud to Miss Molly since I was pregnant. During her first year I always had books with us in restaurants, family parties, etc. I was beyond excited when she first started singing the ABCs and asking me to read to her.

We are now in the toddler literacy phase, which is very different from baby literacy. The Reading Specialist in me is on high alert with how Molly is progressing learning her letters, sounds, rhyming, etc. I am beyond grateful that her school has a truly amazing curriculum (they even use Project Read).

However, she doesn’t let me finish reading a book to her anymore. When I do get her to read with me, I do a lot of interacting with her. I’ll ask for her to point to a letter, answer questions about pictures, etc. But sometimes I do worry that I’m not doing enough, and realized that I need to do more than just read aloud.

Puzzles

Molly has a few puzzles that she really enjoys playing with, but I wanted her to Puzzle Linespractice recognizing letters and order of the alphabet, so I purchased this letter puzzle from Six Corners Educational Toys. Not only do I love the pop of colors, the puzzle is super lightweight and the pieces fit in very snuggly (no lose pieces!).

But, my favorite aspect of this puzzle are the easy drawing instructions for each letter. There are numbers and lines for kids to trace with their fingers while they put pieces in the correct slots.

I was really surprised with this feature and showed Molly how to do it. She immediately proceeded to sing and attempted to trace letters.

Molly Puzzle

Magnet Drawing Board

Last year my best friend’s mom gave Molly the Vtech Write & Learn Creative Center. Vtech Creative CenterShe has loved this toy from the beginning, and has started to interact with it differently as she’s gotten older. She started with the magnets, then began drawing shapes, and now writing letters on the magnetic drawing board. This weekend she even told me she was going to practice writing her sight words and did for several minutes.

There are a bunch of different activities for kids to do with the buttons, but Molly prefersMolly Writing Letters just to draw and erase her work so she can be independent. I do plan on exploring the buttons when Molly is a little older to really see what this center can do.

Magnetic Letters

As soon as Molly was able to walk, my mom bought her magnetic letters for the fridge. Molly has always loved playing with the magnets when she visits my parents and seems to make a game out of it every time.

A few weeks ago, Molly went to a children’s play place where they had a pretend school room. She made a beeline for the magnet letters and actually had to be pulled away from the easel at one Molly Magnet Letterspoint.

I recently purchased this really awesome magnetic letter set from Amazon (click here). It comes with a great magnetic board and an incredibly organized case of letters. Molly found the box and emptied it before I was ready to introduce the new “toy” to her, so I unfortunately did not get a chance to take any pictures.

I’m always on the hunt for new ways to support Molly’s early literacy skills at home. Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are amazing resources to see what other parents and early childhood educators do to help toddlers with these skills.

Guts Book Review

It’s absolutely incredible how quickly time flies. Almost a year ago I was contacted by an indie author who wanted to do a virtual author visit with my students. Christine Reynebeau truly inspired me to follow my own dream, which at the time was starting my online tutoring business, and has continued to be extremely supportive of all my progress. In the past I have reviewed her picture books Celebrate and PB&J, and today I’m excited to share another one of her works.

Guts, by Christine Reynebeau, is the perfect picture book for teaching children the importance of trusting your gut.

I love that the writing style is so clear and simple so that children of all ages can comprehend what is happening. The use of dialogue in this one really allows readers to grasp the concept of “following your gut” without it being confusing. Reynebeau even has the little boy ask his mom for clarification, which allows for a smooth transition into the definition. It feels like a natural scenario between a mother and her child.

There are little bits of humor in the story as well. The little boy touches his gut to see if it will talk a few times to test out his mom’s theory. I could see a classroom of students finding this part funny and laughing during reading time.

The writing flows perfectly into a great, realistic example for young readers. While the little boy is playing outside with his classmates, they want to go explore and area they aren’t allowed in. By following his gut, the little boy tells his friends he doesn’t think it’s a good idea and goes off to play something else. This pays off immediately when he sees how upset the teacher is and the punishment that comes shortly after for those involved. Readers are able to draw conclusions on their own through the clear writing and pictures of the importance of following your gut.

I would recommend this book for preschool through first grade. I also think it would make a great addition to anti-bullying and character education lessons.

To purchase the book click here.

The Tooth Fairy’s Tummy Ache 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.

I truly feel honored when I get to work with authors multiple times. I love watching the success of their books and all of the children these amazing individuals are impacting. In May I reviewed Lori Orlinsky’s first book Being So Small (Isn’t So Bad After All) 

The Tooth Fairy’s Tummy Ache, by Lori Orlinsky, is a fun, creative picture book that teaches readers about the importance of honesty.

The story starts off with a little girl who accidentally swallows her tooth during her snack. She starts to panic when her she realizes the Tooth Fairy won’t visit unless there is a tooth, so the little girl places a popcorn kernel under her pillow. The Tooth Fairy pays a visit and takes the kernel, but when she gets back to her workshop she notices the “tooth” is a little off. While her fairy friends are helping her examine the tooth, the kernel begins to pop and a mountain of popcorn fills the workshop. The Tooth Fairy opens her mouth and eats some of the popcorn only to wind up in bed with a tummy ache. While the Tooth Fairy is in bed, she thinks about what will happen if she can’t collect lost teeth. She suddenly realizes that the little girl must have lied about the “tooth”.

I love that this picture book is a hardcover. It’s super sturdy and just feels like a good read aloud book. The illustrator, Vanessa Alexandre, did an incredible job creating adorable visuals. I’m a fan of the she included little teeth accessories on the Tooth Fairy and in the workshop.

What really caught my attention with this text is its ability to explore a world that readers don’t often think about. When we think of the Tooth Fairy we just know she comes and leaves money under a pillow in exchange for a tooth. But, what does she do with the teeth? This story answers so many questions in a fun and engaging way, touching on concepts I’ve personally never thought about, such as making dentures for older people.

And to make the story even better, Orlinsky throws in a  fantastic life lesson about the importance of honesty. As adults, we know that lying often has consequences, even if they happen years later. The originality of using a popcorn kernel as a tooth was perfect (and I honestly never thought of that), because it shows kids that while a replacement may look like the real thing, it never will be. The Tooth Fairy teaches young readers that it is always important to tell the truth, even if you are scared.

I would definitely recommend this book for kids in preschool through 2nd grade. I also think it can be used to for character education to discuss the concept of honesty.

To purchase the book click here.

Cami Kangaroo Has Too Many Sweets Book Review

I can’t believe this is my first review of 2020! Even though we are only in the first full week of January, there has been quite a lot happening in the world. The fires in Australia are beyond devastating and heart breaking. As a literacy blogger, I wanted to help bring awareness to this tragedy through books.

Author Stacy Bauer has written some fabulous picture books about Cami Kangaroo. She is currently doing a fundraiser where 100% of her royalties will be donated to saving Australian wildlife. This includes her picture books and stuffed animal kangaroos. It is my pleasure to help support this incredible author by sharing a review of one of her books.

Kangaroos

Cami Kangaroo Has Too Many Sweets, by Stacy Bauer, is a charming picture book that shows readers why healthy eating is important.

Cami is an extremely relatable character for young readers (and adults). She thinks about eating sweets and sneaks ice cream, cupcakes, and sprinkles while her mom isn’t looking. Cami locks the door of her playroom to eat ice cream, hides candy wrappers behind her dresser, and finds brownies in the microwave. She is a determined little kangaroo.

While Cami thinks she is getting away with her creative snacking ways, her mom is right behind her. Mom puts locks on the freezer door, puts sweets on the top shelf, and moves the lock from the playroom door to the pantry. She warns Cami that eating too many sweets will result in cavities, especially when she has a dentist appointment soon.

At the dentist it is revealed that Cami has four cavities. She finally realizes the importance of eating healthy and that it is important to listen to her mom.

As a mom, I love how Cami’s mom was characterized. She is always aware what Cami is doing and tries to help Cami curb her sweet tooth. In all honesty, I had a text to self connection when her mom moved the locks. As a little girl, my mom took my doorknob off of my bedroom door because I would always lock my sister out. Cami’s mom did a similar action so that Cami couldn’t lock the playroom door.

I was also a HUGE fan of the illustrations! Rebecca Sinclair, the illustrator, provided great visuals for the text. My personal favorite was the one of Cami eating ice cream in the playhouse in the toy room because as a kid I would have loved to have one of those.

I would recommend this book for readers in preschool through second grade. I see it being used to support health curriculum topics in schools or for homeschool.

Please help save Australian wildlife by purchasing a book or stuffed kangaroo. For more information on this fundraiser please click here.

To purchase this book click here.

To purchase a stuffed kangaroo click here.

The Mouse in the Hammock a Christmas Tale Book Review

There are officially 4 days til Christmas. It’s the last Saturday shopping day. In the midst of all the chaos of the next few days, spend some time reading books from The 15 Best Children’s Books for Christmas.  Some of my favorites include: Arial the Secret Santa, A Christmas Cookie ExchangeThe Elf Who Couldn’t Read and The Mouse in the Hammock a Christmas Tale.

The Mouse in the Hammock a Christmas Tale, by Bethany Brevard, is an adorable Christmas book about the little acts of kindness.

I was requested to make a list of Christmas books for ELL students to read, so I did a little Google search, clicked on the top Christmas books for kids on Amazon, and found a lovely variety. While looking at this list, I noticed a book that was on The 15 Best Children’s Books for Christmas post I did a few weeks ago. Not gonna lie, I got super excited for this author because that is definitely an accomplishment. I mean the book is on an Amazon list with How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Polar Express.

Ever since I became a parent, I realize exactly how much is involved in Christmas. I mean, the list is pretty much never ending. I have had moments where I wish I had a little helper, just like in this story.

Our main character is a mouse, who makes his appearance once a year during the holiday season. His job is to help his human family with Christmas. This means sewing the hole in a stocking, hanging the mistletoe, and tasting the cookies. All of these little tasks are very important in making sure the family is prepared for Santa’s visit. There are so many tasks for our character, so he spends all day sleeping in his hammock in the Christmas tree.

However, the best day for our little helper is Christmas Eve. He is extremely thoughtful as he readies the living room for Santa’s big visit. The Mouse notices a hot coal in the fireplace and puts it out and he even blows on the hot chocolate so Santa doesn’t burn his mouth. These may seem like such little tasks, but they are definitely acts of kindness that don’t go unnoticed by Santa.

The overall theme of this adorable text is kindness, and the importance of doing little acts to help others. My favorite act the mouse does is to blow on the hot chocolate for Santa. It’s so simple yet one that I wouldn’t think to do.

As always, I LOVE books that offer readers more. This book has a few extra special components to it. The first is a fabulous little poem titled “The Mouse in the Hammock a Christmas Eve Tale”, that’s written to the rhyme of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. It is such a creative way to tie in a little bit of traditional Christmas to the story. I could see it being a great read aloud activity for young readers as they take turns reading every other stanza.

But wait, there’s more! Readers can purchase a mouse sleeping in a hammock ornament! The author even writes a blurb about adding the Mouse to the reader’s Christmas traditions. You can order the ornament right from Amazon!

AND THERE’S MORE! By buying the book, readers are helping the women in the Fair-Trade factory in Nepal who make the ornaments. In exchange for fair wages, healthcare and education for the women and their children, the women create the adorable mouse and hammock ornaments.

I would recommend this book for preschool and early elementary children.

To purchase the book click here.

To purchase the ornanment click here.

The Elf Who Couldn’t Read Book Review

Two weeks ago I shared a post about the 15 Best Children’s Books for Christmas and I wanted to share some of my personal faves from the list. I’ve already shared Arial the Secret Santa and A Christmas Cookie Exchange , and today I’m sharing my current favorite.

The Elf Who Couldn’t Read, by Sonica Ellis, takes a look at the realities of reading struggles in a fun, festive way that encourages readers to not give up.

I’ve been teaching reading for ten years. I have seen kids struggle to read aloud in front of their peers and how difficult it can be. We know these situations exist, but we often don’t see it in movies or books.

This story starts with Santa needing some help reading his list, after all the man is pretty old. Jingles, the elf, is asked by Santa to read the list to the other elves, and Jingles has a very difficult time reading the words. I LOVE how Ellis makes it a point for Santa to express that Jingles knows all his letters and sounds, but he needs time to practice and to take his time when reading.

Santa encourages and supports Jingles in his practice by working with him. With Santa’s assistance, Jingles gains confidence in his reading to feel comfortable reading in front of the other elves. When he gets stuck, he has no problem taking his time to sound out each word.

The story concludes with Jingles accompanying Santa on his Christmas Eve ride. Jingles is responsible for telling Santa where to go by reading the names on the list. Readers can see how Jingles sounds out the various names, and that even though he has gotten better, he is still working on improving his reading skills.

There are so many things I love about this book. I love the positive approach the author took about the challenges struggling readers face. I love how Santa is so supportive. We typically think of Santa as generous, but this shows a whole new side of Santa that really embodies the Christmas spirit. I love that the story teaches kids to not give up when a task is hard. I love that readers come away knowing that reading can be fun.

I was a struggling reader when I was in kindergarten, which is why I repeated. I think a book like this would have truly spoken to me as a kid because I could relate to Jingles. This book would be ideal for a class read aloud in for preschool through second grade.

To purchase the book click here.