Best Virtual Activities to Celebrate Read Across America & National Reading Month

March is National Reading Month. Schools dedicate time for kids to enjoy reading at all age levels by incorporating fun-filled literacy activities. These activities can be used throughout the month, not just during Read Across America week.

Virtual reading activities can still promote the love and joy of reading. In fact, there can be even more creativity to be had in the online environment.

D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read)

This is an oldie, but a goody. D.E.A.R. is one of those activities that can be done at any age, that allows kids to choose whatever they want to read. Whether it’s a graphic novel, or a classic piece of literature, giving students time to just read is always beneficial. However, if you’re looking to take this classic idea up a notch, add in an extra step to increase student engagement. Pose a question for students to answer in the chat, on Padlet or a Google doc so all can see the responses. Some really great prompts include: What kind of reader should choose your book? If you like ____________ then you’ll love this book because…

Themed Reading Days

Similar to D.EA.R, having students participate in themed reading days adds a little bit of fun to reading time. Teachers have more creativity with this chunk of reading time. My personal favorite themes are:

*Camping– when we think about camping, many of us instantly picture a roaring fire, s’mores and the great outdoors.

Some great ideas to make this set up virtual is to have a video of a campfire going on in the background, have kids wear camping clothes, make microwave s’mores using a recipe like this one, and allow kids to choose one of these ghost stories to read during class.

*Beach Day– students should bring their devices on the ground while sitting on a beach towel, wearing shorts and a t-shirt with flip flops, so they can read their favorite book. Personally, I prefer to sit in a beach chair for added comfort :).

*Coffee Shop- with the popularity of Starbucks, many students LOVE coffee shops. Kids should sit in their most comfortable chair with their favorite beverage (hot chocolate, tea, smoothie, etc.) and read some Time for Kids articles.

*Pajama Party– this is by far, my absolute favorite theme. Who doesn’t like to read in their pajamas? Students should wear their pajamas to class and bring a copies of their favorite bedtime stories to read.

Read Aloud Videos

As educators, we know that we are working with the YouTube generation, so why not incorporate videos into the classroom? There are TONS of read aloud videos on YouTube from picture books to chapter books. You can check out my latest read aloud video below.

My personal favorite read aloud channel on YouTube is Storytime Now for picture books.

School Wide Story Time

Now more than ever, schools are really trying to encourage school spirit and socialization in safe ways. Holding a school wide story time is a great opportunity for all students to come together and listen to a story. If the plan is to make this a one time occurrence, I would suggest reading a few picture books, especially for elementary kiddos. If this will be repeated a few times I recommend a short chapter book like Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl, which is one of those books that appeals to grades K-6.

Guest Reader Visits

Sometimes it’s good to change up the readers in the virtual classroom, and one of the easiest ways to do so is to have a guest reader. Having parents or even other teachers in the building read a story adds some extra excitement to reading time. Whether the reading happens live, or a parent/guardian sends a recording of the reading, having difference faces and voices reading goes a long way. If you’re unable to find guest readers, a website, like Storyline Online, is a fantastic option for any elementary classroom. Storyline Online features popular children’s books read aloud by different celebrities.

Student Choice

As educators, we know to try and give students choices as much as possible in the classroom. Why not let kids pick the book the teacher reads? Online platforms Vooks and Epic! are amazing resources for activities like this. For more resources for teaching reading online, check out this post.

Divergent is a great read aloud book for grades 6-12.
Divergent is my all-time favorite read aloud book for grades 6-12.

Teacher Read Aloud

While all of these ideas are great options to celebrate the joy of reading, sometimes just reading to a class is engaging. Whether a teacher reads a book from the curriculum, or changes it up by reading a personal favorite, kids LOVE being read to all the time. For more specific suggestions about virtual read alouds check out Effective Read Alouds in the Virtual Classroom.

It is possible to celebrate National Reading Month in the virtual classroom.

Don’t be afraid to get creative and have fun with reading activities. We always want to show kids that reading is enjoyable, even if it’s being done virtually.

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.

I Can Handle it! 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 always say that Molly, my four year old, is my mini me. The similarities really come out when she’s being emotional, which happens more frequently the older that she gets. As a parent, I use all the patience I can muster to calm her down and allow her to express her thoughts. As my readers know, I tend to use books for pretty much everything, and I’m happy to report that I have found the perfect book to help my child cope with her emotions.

I Can Handle it!, written by Laurie Wright and illustrated by Ana Santos, is a practical picture book that breaks down emotions and coping strategies for kids to help with mental health.

Readers follow Sebastien, a little boy, as he tackles emotions that he feels based on different events and situations he experiences. Each scenario provides three or four possible solutions for dealing with the issue, some are absolutely meant to be funny, and some are solid suggestions.

I really like that the story is told like a pattern. Readers anticipate what the next emotion will be and look forward to reading the different options Sebastien has for tackling his feelings. The wording and language is clear and concise, making it so even the littlest reader can understand the story. The illustrations do a fabulous job of capturing the facial expressions that all parents and educators will be familiar with when it comes to emotions that kids feel. It makes the character come to life and seem more realistic.

The scenarios mentioned are 100% on point. For instance, my child absolutely gets cranky when she can’t watch her TV show (she will react if you threaten to put on an adult show). Every single reader can relate to Sebastien and his feelings, thus creating trust between the character and reader. This is really important for this picture book because it shows kids different ways to handle situations that they can use in their life. It’s teaching kids in a fun and creative way.

One of my favorite scenes is where Sebastien is feeling bored when he is stuck at home. The suggestions for handling this situation include making slime, building a fort or video calling friends. I really appreciated how trendy and realistic these ideas for combating boredom are as a parent.

I recommend this book for kids ages 2-6. I can see it being used in the classroom as a read aloud activity to connect with social-emotional learning.

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.

New Year’s Activities for Kids

New Year’s is known as a time to reflect on the past year and make goals for the new one. New Year’s resolutions are set and there’s a sense of optimism and hope as we end the holiday season.

Now that Miss Molly is four, I wanted to start explaining the importance of this holiday to her. As always, I start by researching some books and other forms of media to help me with this process. Below are some great activities to help kids learn and celebrate this holiday.

Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution by Pat Miller. To be honest, I was drawn to this book because Molly always points out squirrels. This picture book does a fantastic job of not only explaining what a New Year’s resolution is, but following the main character Squirrel come up with one. This book is available in paperback, hardcover and ebook on Amazon. There is also a really lovely audio recording of a read aloud on YouTube by Storytime Now! .

Happy New Year Around the World (coloring book) by Sylvia Walker. I’m in love with this book for a couple reasons. First, it introduces young readers to how different cultures around the world ring in the new year. Some countries include: China, Germany, Italy and Mexico. But the absolute best part is this story has pictures for readers to color! So it’s pretty much a 2 in 1! My little reader always needs to be busy, so the fact that we can read AND color this book is fabulous!

Rudolph’s Shiny New Year. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the classic holiday films from the 70s, even if Eon still freaks me out a little. I love how this movie discusses the passage of time through songs and Rudolph’s journey that help little viewer’s understand the theme. It’s available on DVD and it can also be streamed on 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 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.

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.