Hidden Gems

I find the majority of people purchase books on Amazon (myself included), but there are times when I love to browse in a bookstore. In my travels I’ve come across some awesome small bookstores that remind me why I love reading so much. Small, independent stores stock books I probably wouldn’t look at in a Barnes and Nobles because there is so much too look at. The hole in the wall stores narrow down their focus to books guaranteed to engage readers of all ages. Sadly, these small stores don’t exist in my part of New Jersey, so when I find one during my travels my husband knows to expect new books to come home with us.

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As parents and educators, while it’s convenient to order books online from Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and Usborne Books & More, going to small bookstores allow kids to explore books in a quiet setting. They can interact with new books and genres, and spend a few quiet minutes reading a few pages to see if they like the book. Many of these small bookstores also offer story time and sell cute stuffed animals that make great book buddies. The people who work and own these stores are also extremely knowledgeable and clearly book lovers.

 

This past weekend wasn’t super hot in New Jersey, so we drove up to Peddler’s Village in Pennsylvania. We have gone there a few times, but never with Molly. I really wanted to get her a new toy and there was a toy store where we were headed called JaZams.

Educational BooksNever did I expect to fall in love with a store so much. While we looked at the toys, Sticker BooksI noticed a few Usborne books and immediately got excited. They had a few educational books and a nice variety of sticker and activity books. This was one reason to love the store, but then we went to the other side where the books were located.

They had at least 100 boardbooks for little ones on all different topics that included classic and modern stories.  They also had the new Usborne Beauty and the Beast book
(that is gorgeous in person) and bathtub books.

At this point I was more excited than any young child in there, until I saw the section for toddlers-YA, which is when I wanted to move in. The bookshelves were filled and organized and nestled int he middle were two window seats for readers to utilize. As with the infant books, the children’s section had a great variety of classic and modern books. The decorations also promoted reading and added to the cozy atmosphere.

So while it is convenient and cheaper to buy books online, nothing beats the experience of going to a small bookstore.

Test Prep Information for Parents

Every year around this time there is a shift in the education world from normal homework and routines to the dreaded test prep. Many teachers have been doing test prep all year long, but use this “crunch” time to make sure that students are fully prepared.

My third year teaching I taught literacy support and sent out an email blast with test prep suggestions for parents. I received a response from almost every parent with questions and gratitude for keeping parents “in the loop”. Today I want to share some of those suggestions as we start to get into the most dreaded time of the year.

This post is for parents of 3rd-8th grade parents.

General  Testing Information

  1. Know the test. Here in NJ we are in the third year of administrating the PARCC test. Prior to PARCC, there was NJASK, which was completely different in every way, shape, and form. As parents, the first thing you need to do is be familiar with the test. How many days of math are there? How many days of English/Language Arts? How many essays are there? Can students use calculators on all math days? All you have to do is find your test guide online (make sure it is for spring 2017) and read through it. The more you know as a parent the easier it will be to understand the score results.
  2. Understanding the results. Each test calculates their score differently, so please make sure you are looking at the most current information for your state as testing companies like to make frequent changes to things. Look back at your child’s scores from last year. How did he or she do? What were some of their strengths? What were some weaknesses? Now think about present day. Are those answers the same? If you’re unsure, please reach out to your child’s teacher. Teachers have a ton of information they can give you about your child’s progress this year, so they are your lifeline.
  3. Practicing the weaknesses. Based on previous test scores, conferences with the teacher, and current report cards you will have a lot of information at your fingertips. Depending on how your child has grown academically, there may be only a fewtest anxiety areas to improve on, but sometimes there can be quite a few. DO NOT try and fix everything at once. It will be extremely frustrating for both you and your child. Instead, pick one or two concepts that are manageable for your household. See below for ideas on improving literacy scores.
  4. Read all the school information. Testing days are THE WORST for teachers and administrators because it often means schedule changes. The school may also include information on snacks, breaks, etc. Be on the look out for any emails or letters home that outline information from the school. This will cause you less stress during testing days.
  5. Eating and sleeping. During testing time, please be observant about when your child goes to sleep and what they eat. My first year teaching I taught eighth grade and some of my students decided to have a sleepover the night before testing (which was English). The girls came to school on three hours of sleep and struggled to stay awake during the test. Consequently, when the scores came out in the fall, I had some parent emails asking how their daughter could have scored so low when she had high grades in my class all year. I also had a student last year eat a strawberry pop tart and a can of diet Coke for breakfast right before testing. The student was super engrossed in the test the first hour, but fell asleep during the second part of testing. Please make sure your child is getting adequate sleep and eating a healthy breakfast during testing time.

Improving Literacy Scores

There are tons of easy ways to work with your child to improve their literacy scores. Remember, always choose a text your child will like. Take them to the library or bookstore and have them pick out what they want to read. Below are some suggestions you can do at home.

  1. Nonfiction reading
    1. Magazine subscription- Purchase a subscription on a topic or hobby that your Common Corechild enjoys and spend time reading it together. For instance, if your child enjoys nature, get a subscription to Kids National Geographic. When it comes in, read the cover story with your child and discuss what they read. Do they agree or disagree? Why? How was it interesting?
    2. Daily/Weekly article- Either you or your child finds an article that interests them. Sit down together and read it and then discuss it. This is a great way of keeping up with what’s going on in the community and keeps your child up with current events.
  2. Fiction reading
    1. Find a book they want to read. This is half the battle and I discuss how do to thisHomework Help  (here). Once you have the book, read it together. You can read it in the car on the way to soccer practice, or ten minutes before bed. Make sure you always talk about the book and share your opinions.
    2. Book and a movie. Some kids require a little more work to read, so choose a book with a movie. Still read the book together, but then make it a family movie night when you finish reading the book. Afterwards, compare and contrast the book and the movie and discuss why things were done in each media form. Harry Potter is my normal go to book and movie suggestion for parents because it is such a great series and can be read starting at around 4th grade.
  3. Writing. For most kids at this age, they struggle with generating ideas and writing quickly.
    1. Writing prompts. Give your child a little writing prompt every few days and Writing Storieshave them write you a paragraph (can be longer in 7th and 8th grade).
    2. Keep a journal. Suggest to your child they start keeping a journal. Have them pick out the journal, or if they want to do one in Word, allow them to be creative with the colors and font. Depending on your child, you can read their entries or they can remain private. I have had some students that would show me their journals daily.
    3. Write stories. It’s incredible how many students love to write stories. Last year I had a sixth grade boy write about a super hero and it was amazing to see how excited he was to have me read it. Encourage your child to write fan fiction, poetry, or short stories. This is their free space to be as creative as they want to be.

To purchase any of the books you see on this post, click here. If you have specific test prep questions feel free to email me at littlereadcoach@gmail.com.

Toddler Literacy

Last week I discussed literacy in the first year, so today I want to share some information for toddler literacy. In preparing for this class, a lot of my research for toddlers overlapped my baby research information. Many of the same materials we use with babies can also be used with toddlers.

This post is for parents and early childhood educators on literacy in toddler years (from my Facebook class). It includes toddler development information, stages of learning and book suggestions.

get-dressed-max-and-millieYoung Toddlers (12-24 months)

  • Books with children doing familiar things
  • Books about daily routines/customs

Toddlers (2-3 years old)

  • Simple rhyming books that can be memorized
    • Kids this age can say 150-300 words so they can recobig-book-of-colorsgnize those used in rhymes
    • It helps them learn sentence structure and expressing a complete thought
  • Books about counting, shapes, colors, and size

    • Kids this age can distinguish the difference between sizes and colors
    • Foundational skills are developing at this age (numbers and letters)

 

Motor Skillsvery-first-fingertrail-playbook-garden

  • Gross Motor Skills– larger movements
    • Crawling, running, etc.
  • Fine Motor Skills– small movements
    • Using fingers, toes, lips, and tongue
    • These are skills that can be practiced with books

Potty Training

  • Many parents say this is the most stressful part about having a toddler. It’s important to talk to talk to your toddler about going to the bathroom and use books to help him or her get familiar with going potty. potty-training-books

New Siblings

  • Some children have a rough adjustment to welcoming a new sibling. You can help ease the transition by including your toddler in discussing the new baby and by reading books about family.

Special Interests

  • By two years old many children have a special interest. This can be animals, trains, trucks, ballet, etc. Make sure to have plenty of texts to reflect your child’s interests. little-ballerina-dancing-book

Strategies

  • Talk or sing about pictures. This helps with comprehension skills. Some examples include:
    • Who or what is in the picture?
    • What are it/they doing?
    • What color are they? Etc.
  • Show children the words.
    • Point while reading
    • Books with labels
    • Feel free to spell the words out as well
  • Ask Questions.
    • While reading ask comprehension questions that include why, how, and what. Focus on feelings and actions from the story.
    • Encourage your child to ask questions while reading.
  • Let child tell the story.
    • By around 2 ½ or 3, children can memorize a text. Use this to their advantage by letting them “read” stories they memorized so they can embellish and make it their own.
      • This helps with creativity and processing skills.

For more information on toddler books, feel free to follow my Facebook page or check out Usborne Books and More.