Words & Music to Lift Your Spirit

close up photo of person playing piano

Photo by Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas on Pexels.com

For several years, I’ve been a member of Ambler Station Singers. This beautiful group of people meet on Wednesday evenings from September through June to practice for their two major concerts at Christmas and at the end of the season. More importantly, this group also performs in nursing homes and other public venues throughout Montgomery County. Naturally, when the pandemic occurred, we had to cease public practices.

However, our director, Lisa VanHeldorf, is nothing if not relentless. Within weeks, she arranged for us to meet via zoom. Before long, she had the idea to create a virtual rendition of “Thankful”, by the prolific composer, John Rutter. Between the technology and my mediocre singing voice, I did not participate in this endeavor, but those who did have created an touching treat that I wanted to share with you.

It goes without saying that Covid-19 and the recent events surrounding the death of George Floyd, have affected all of us. When I listened to these amazing voices and the message of this song, I knew I had to put this out to as many people as possible. Whatever your political leanings, I’m sure we can all agree that a positive attitude and spirit of gratitude can go a long way towards coming together to work on the many issues that plague our country and our world.

Click on this link and scroll down a bit to find “Thankful”. Please take a moment to be still and to listen with your heart. Please share this with your children and extended family and friends. Like these dedicated singers, let’s all send our talents and our voices out into the world in an effort to inspire, to heal and to love. Enjoy! amblerstationsingers.com

 

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Raise a Reader

Hi, Friends. Today, I’m excited to offer this guest post from a Andrea Denish, author of a newly published picture book. Andrea has put together some terrific ideas and resources, especially for younger readers. As a special treat, Andrea has included the a You Tube link, where you and your children can hear her read her book, Everyone Loves A Parade. Enjoy!DSCN2366.jpg

I am so onboard with the mission of this blog, Nurturing Literacy, and was delighted when Rita asked me to write a guest post. As a preschool teacher and library assistant, I have seen first hand how raising children with an interest in books changes and shapes a young mind. Among many other important benefits, reading to your child increases curiosity, promotes the ability to develop empathy and fosters language skills. This blog has offered so many great resources to parents to help young readers. I’d like to chime in with some additional suggestions to help your child reap the benefits of being a lifelong reader.

1,000 Books Before Kindergarten – If you have not heard about this program, check out this website: https://1000booksbeforekindergarten.org/ As the name suggests, this program challenges parents to read 1,000 books by kindergarten. When you break down the number to roughly 250 books per year – that’s less than one per day. It’s definitely a can-do. The website offers incentives and book logs, but if that seems too overwhelming, try a goal of reading with your child at least a few minutes each day. Simple board books at first and perhaps early readers by Kindergarten. When you make reading a habit like brushing your teeth, you have done a wonderful thing for your child.

Visit the library and bookstore regularly – Sign your child up for a library card and find out where upcoming programs are posted. Taking advantage of story times and other exciting program offerings will change your life! Not only will your child benefit from making connections to literature, the social connections for your child and you as a parent will be worthwhile. Meeting children in the same age group in your town will often lead to playdates and friendships. Best of all, most of these programs are FREE.

Find the book connection – Maybe your child can’t get enough of the onscreen characters – Disney princesses, Paw Patrol or the Avengers. Double down on their obsession by finding books featuring their favorites. Some children are more constructive with building toys or science toys. Check out the non-fiction section of the library or bookstore. Yes, there are books about Legos and Minecraft.

What if???? – Maybe you would like your child to be a reader, but you do not feel confident in your own reading ability or maybe your native language is not English. There are audio books available for you and your child to listen to together. If you have access to the internet, there are many, many videos you can access to experience virtual storytime. Here’s a link to my book, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7J5aI2IUI4&t=115s Everyone Loves a Parade!* Find a comfy spot and allow yourself to be transported to the crowded streets of a noisy, festive parade – all from your own couch.

I hope you found something to help you and your child continue on your reading adventures. It’s never too early or too late to start. There are books available for every reason, every season, no matter your age or income – reading is for everyone.

Andrea Denish works in the children’s section of the Abington Free Library and teaches preschool science. She is the author of the recently released children’s picture book,

Everyone Loves a Parade!* (Boyds Mills & Kane). Find her at www.andreadenish.com.

Andrea’s book is available at online retailers – Amazon, B&N, Indiebound.

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Don’t Miss Out – Free Summer Reading Program

“Reading is a vacation for the mind.” Dave Barry

In my last blog post, I promised to explain the details of a summer reading plan I’ve designed to keep kids reading. In my opinion, summer reading programs should be enjoyable and simple. Hopefully, this plan meets that criteria. Basically, youngsters will choose a book to read, fill in the reading log at the beginning and end of the week and participate in a short zoom meeting with others in his/her group. Parents will provide support by helping kids set weekly goals, choose books, offer gentle reminders to read, and log youngsters into the weekly zoom meeting. Easy peasy!

This program will kick off with a zoom meeting on Monday, June 1st and continue through Monday, July 6th. Covid 19 has taken a toll and disrupted normal education. This is my way of helping out, so I am offering this to my followers at no cost.

Benefits

  • Goal setting provides motivation
  • Zoom meetings provide accountability and an opportunity to discuss books with kids their own age
  • Minimum parental support is required because a plan is in place

Parent Responsibilities

  • Help child set a realistic weekly goal
  • Help child find an appropriate book
  • Make sure child fills in the log each week
  • Help child log into the weekly zoom meeting, which will probably be on Monday morning

Participant’s Responsibilities

  • Choose an interesting, appropriate book
  • Set a weekly goal for the number of pages you want to read
  • Fill in the reading log at the beginning and end of the week
  • Participate in a short weekly zoom meeting

Materials

  • Reading Log
  • Independent reading book
  • Internet access

Criteria

  • Students must be entering fourth or fifth grade to be eligible for Group 1
  • Students must be entering sixth or seventh grade to be eligible for Group 2
  • Parents must follow this blog
  • Each group will be capped at eight students

To Enroll Your Child

  • If you are not already following this blog, please follow now to be eligible
  • Go to the Contact page on this blog and send me an email. Please include your name and your child’s name and grade.
  • If you are among the first eight responses I receive for each group, I will send you an email which will include the reading log and additional details.
  • Please respond as soon as possible but no later then noon on Sunday, May 31st.

Please note: My apologies, but my contact info is not showing up when I view this blog on my phone. Please use your computer or tablet to find it. Sorry about that!

I’m excited to work with your and your child!

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Keep Kids Reading This Summer

Teachers around the world are presenting their last round of lessons and packing up classrooms that haven’t seen students in months. One of the strangest school years in history is ending and Summer is almost here.

No doubt, most teachers will warn of the dreaded “summer slide”, which refers to the tendency for students to lose some of the gains they made academically over the school year. Educators often offer suggestions to help maintain learning in all areas, and almost always emphasis the need for kids to read regularly during the summer.

Over the last few months, educators have worked diligently to prepare and execute their lessons and serve students as well as possible in spite of distance learning. But, we all know, that for youngsters, nothing takes the place of the traditional classroom setting. I’m sure you agree that this summer it is more important than ever to ensure that your kids are reading on a regular basis so they don’t fall even further behind.

Bet you parents are shaking your heads yes, vowing that will happen for your kids this summer. It just makes sense and sounds so easy. How well I remember my own good intentions once summer rolled around. I had visions of our five kids, reading every morning before we went to the pool. When that didn’t happen, I would insist they read before dinner, before going out to play, before bedtime. Somehow, it never quite came off the way I expected. Sound familiar?

My teacher’s heart knows that summer reading is essential, but I still have the brain of a mom and must admit that too often, summer reading fell by the wayside. That was a long time ago. Since then, I became a Reading specialist and learned the facts about summer reading or lack thereof. Since then, I worked with children who had barely cracked a book all summer and saw first-hand the meaning of “summer slide”. Students that were reading on grade level in June, often returned several levels below. That gap took a long to regain and ate up valuable time meant for new learning. Most recently, Covid-19 reared its ugly head, stealing away the personal attention so many students desperately need.

Benefits of Regular Reading During Summer

In case you’re skeptical, here a just a few of the benefits of summer reading for students in every grade:

  • Enables students to maintain progress they have made
  • Increases vocabulary
  • Increases reading stamina
  • Enhances fluency
  • Builds background knowledge
  • Provides opportunity to practice decoding and comprehension skills & strategies
  • Provides opportunity to read in various genres
  • Introduces students to new authors
  • Instills competence and confidence

This summer, more than ever before, parents and youngsters deserve support for this vital endeavor. For this reason, I am creating a free virtual plan to guide parents in the challenging quest to have youngsters read regularly. This plan also offers a level of support to kids, enabling them to take control of their reading and share (virtually) with other youngsters.

There will be two groups, one for students entering grades four and five, and one for students entering grades six and seven. It will be open to children of anyone following this blog, but groups will be capped at eight students each. My goal is to simplify the process and motivate kids to read, while at the same time, reducing some of the stress on parents.

Interested? Don’t miss my post on Thursday, May 28, where I’ll provide more details. Here’s hoping it’s a happy and literate summer.

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Everyone Loves A Parade

selective focus photography of people holding clarinets

Photo by Vladislav Vasnetsov on Pexels.com

Often parades are associated with the summer season. The approach of Memorial Day made me think about the small towns across the country that will be canceling their traditional parade. Recently, a talented author from my writing group published her first picture book. Guess what? It’s all about parades.

Andrea Denish is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Andrea was already a member of our SCBWI writing group when I joined in September of 2016. I’ve been privileged to witness the birth of her first published book, Everyone Loves A Parade. From it’s inception through the entire publication process, our group supported and celebrated this endeavor. I am delighted to share that Andrea has agreed to write a guest post for this blog in the near future.

In the meantime, in this summer of no parades, perhaps Andrea’s book will help fill the void and spark joyful memories. This book is available at online retailers – Amazon, B&N, Indiebound. You can check out Andrea Denish’s website at www.andreadenish.com

Happy Memorial Day to all!

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Short Text for the Long Haul

Reading is to the mind, what exercise is to the body. – Joseph Addison

It seems discussions about supporting and motivating readers, especially youngsters that struggle or resist reading, often focus solely on books. Adults sometimes lose sight of the power and benefits of offering short, manageable texts. As a reading specialist, I only had thirty minutes to spend with each group of students. Although I did “book talks” and helped students select appropriate books, I relied on reading short texts in class to build confidence and teach strategies and skills. Allow me to share some of the benefits of this practice.

SHORT TEXTS BUILD CONFIDENCE                                                                                            Books can feel overwhelming to some youngsters. Even middle school kids shy away from long texts. Similar to offering a new food, a small portion of text can have kids asking for more. Short stories, articles, picture books, poetry and the like, build confidence by offering a taste of success.

person holding white ceramic mug on newspaper  SHORT TEXTS OFFER VARIETY                                                                   Offering short texts is like offering a buffet. Delve into any subject, get a sense of different authors, savor something short and sweet. Check out short story anthologies, find some appropriate magazines, search out online sites that interest your child, buy a joke book. This kind of reading allows a youngster to figure out his reading preferences and may eventually lead him to tackle books more easily.

SHORT TEXTS SUPPORT COMPREHENSION                                                                  Informational text usually features text supports which clarify the content. For example, you may find pictures and captions, vocabulary definitions, sidebars and of course, headings and sub-headings. These also break up the text, so it doesn’t appear as intimidating as a longer work. Additionally, short fiction offers a simpler setting and plot, as well as limited characters, which can enhance comprehension and enjoyment for the reader.

selective focus photography of a mailbox     SHORT TEXTS ARE EVERYWHERE     

 Reading is reading. Just look around your house and I’m sure you’ll find tons of short texts. There’s the back of the cereal box, the random basket of magazines or the junk mail that arrives each day. No kidding, all of these things and many more offer opportunities to develop your child’s reading skills. For example, you could ask your child to “look over” the mail for you and sort it based on what’s important and what’s not. Are they reading? Yes! Don’t overlook digital text. Obviously, during this time of distance learning, children have plenty of screen time. However, combing through the internet to find websites and articles that pique your child’s interest, provides another level of support and opportunity to enhance reading.

Over the long haul, focusing on short texts can be a powerful way to grow reading skills, interest, and confidence. Search out short story anthologies, poetry, news clippings and internet resources your youngster will enjoy and watch what happens.

SUGGESTIONS FOR SHORT TEXTS

Google “Short Stories for Middle School” to find a variety of excellent texts that are accessible online. This is a treasure.

National Geographic Kids Just Joking: 300 Hilarious Jokes, Tricky Tongue Twisters, and Ridiculous Riddles  My elementary-age grand kids, love the joke books published by National Geographic. They are both fun and funny!

 

National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar!  Another treasure from National Geographic, but don’t forget those classic poetry books by Shel Silverstein and Robert Frost, as well as the many terrific poetry anthologies, which belong in every home.

This collection will take middle/high school students back to an earlier time. It is one of my all-time favorite collections, featuring poignant tales with strong themes that will touch your heart. This is one to read along with your older children.

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How to Help Your Child Hate Reading

Well-meaning parents and other adults sometimes inadvertently engage in behaviors that develop a negative attitude towards reading in children. As both a teacher and a mom, I’ve witnessed all of these behaviors, enough that I feel compelled to share them. Here goes…

USE READING AS A PUNISHMENT    “Forget about going out to play. You can just sit there and read for the next thirty minutes. Maybe next time, you’ll do what you’re told.”

In the moment, this can seem like an ideal consequence. The child is doing something          positive and at the same time you are disciplining them. Upon closer inspection, it’s                easy to see why this is a bad idea. Experts suggest that it’s vital to make reading a                  positive experience. Parents are encouraged to cuddle up and read to young children,            so they equate reading with pleasure. This behavior has the opposite result. The child            will come to equate reading with punishment. Not a good idea!

DON’T LET YOUR CHILD CHOOSE THEIR OWN BOOKS                                              Although it’s great to help kids find books that pique their interest and that are on an appropriate reading level, it is not a good idea to disparage books they enjoy or force them to read books they don’t like. This is a balancing act and it’s important to remember that offering choice goes a long way towards instilling a love of reading.

COMPLAIN, CRITICIZE, SHAME YOUR CHILD’S READING ABILITY                                  It’s hard to believe anyone would do this, but it happens. I’ve sat in parent conferences where mom or dad gets on a roll (right in front of their child) complaining and criticizing.  “He reads so slowly, it take him an hour to finish a chapter.”                                                 “She gets stuck on half the words she reads.”                                                                      “When I ask him what he’s read, he can’t tell me a darn thing.”                                                “My wife and I are avid readers, I don’t know what’s wrong with him.”                                 You get the picture. Concerns about a child’s reading must be discussed privately and out of earshot of the child. Naturally, you’ll want to discuss your concerns with teachers or counselors that can help, but I would caution you about discussing it with other parents and outsiders. Kids have radar and it’s easy for them or their friends to get a sense of the conversation. Shaming a child robs his self-confidence and motivation, the cornerstones of overcoming any difficulty.

ROUTINELY QUIZ YOUR CHILD ABOUT WHAT THEY’VE READ                                  Imagine if you were enjoying a great book, but your spouse insisted on asking you lots of questions to make sure you understood what was going on. It sure would take the fun out of a good read for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for discussions about literature as long as there’s a natural flow to the conversation. But, when parents (or teachers) overdo the  low-level questions in a “gotcha” kind of way, it turns kids off. Youngsters who struggle with reading comprehension are especially sensitive to this kind of questioning. It can make them nervous and reinforce the fact that reading is difficult for them. Check in with yourself before you start a barrage of questions. A better way is to throw out a general question, such as, “Are you enjoying your book?” and wait for your child’s response.

DEMONSTRATE A NEGATIVE ATTITUDE TOWARDS READING                                            Perhaps you struggle with reading, hate to read, feel inadequate about reading and don’t mind letting others know. I’ve heard more than one adult say “I don’t read,” in front of their child. Not to be preachy, but attitudes are caught not taught. Children easily pick up their parents’ biases and make them their own. Clearly, voicing your negative attitudes towards reading will color the way your child views it. They may start to believe reading is too difficult, not important or simply not a “cool” thing to do. Even if you struggle with reading, your youngster does not have to. Try your best to let them see you enjoying a magazine or news article, create a print-rich environment in the home, encourage them and let them know that reading will empower them.

Please chime into this conversation and share the things you do to build your child’s confidence as a reader and writer. There are some wonderful books out there that guide parents as they learn to support literacy in the home. Here are a few of my favorites…

READING MAGIC by Mem Fox is a must for parent of little ones. I always include a copy when I give a baby gift.

THE READ-ALOUD FAMILY by Sarah Mackenzie is a treasure. Sarah Mackenzie, a mother of six, offers countless ways to build a love of reading in your children.

HOW TO GET YOUR CHILD TO LOVE READING by Esme Raji Codell – The back cover states, “This book is akin to having one’s own personal children’s librarian.” Not only does she suggest how to to instill a love of reading, but offers a description of many books and authors. A terrific resource for parents.

Good news! I’m happy to announce that Christine Bialczak, author of the blog, Stine Writing, became a following of this blog in April and is the winner of the book Present Not Perfect. If you’re looking for a positive blog that celebrates life with lovely photos, poems and writing ideas, check out Christine’s blog:  Stine Writing – www.christinebialczak.com

Allie Cruice, a long-time follower of Nurturing Literacy, won the second giveaway copy of this book                                                                                                                                . Present not Perfect

Congratulations to both winners. Stay tuned for the next give-a-way for followers. Stay well!

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Simplicity & Specificity to the Rescue

parents-angryWhile reading an article about conferencing online with students, I was struck by the simplicity and specificity of the hints that the author recommended. It occurred to me, a focus on simplicity and being specific would probably be a helpful way to handle our new normal.

As the mother of five adult children, I have a front row seat on what it’s like to manage your work life, support your kids academics, and maintain a positive family atmosphere while sheltering-in-place. “Keep it simple” seems to be a recurring directive from teachers around the globe. Most educators realize that it is difficult for parents to step into the role of teacher in their child’s life. Many teachers themselves, my daughter included, have children of their own. Even they can’t really teach their own kids.

Anyone who has children or works with kids knows that when you are clear and specific in your approach, youngsters are more likely to respond in a positive manner. And yet, who doesn’t resort to generalizations…“We have to get this kitchen cleaned up now.” “Go finish your homework!” “You’re room is a mess. Clean it up or no TV.” Sound familiar? Here’s a few helpful hints…

  • Don’t beat yourself up                                                                                                   Everyone falls into the trap of complicating things and generalizing. We know what to do, but simply forget, especially when we feel overwhelmed and stressed. Relax. Remember Maya Angelou’s famous words, “When you know better, you do better.”
  • Keep it Simple                                                                                                                      Words have power. Simple, direct communication works best with youngsters. When kids are bombarded by a million directives, they get confused or overwhelmed and tend to tune out. Try to stop and think about your expectations and share them in a simple manner. It’s also a good idea to stay in the present. Perhaps you can make a list of all the chores, schoolwork and activities your children need to accomplish in a day, but you don’t have to verbalize it all at once. That’s a recipe for stress.                                     
  • Be Specific                                                                                                                         Without a doubt,  simplicity and specificity go hand in hand. When you give a simple directive, make it specific. When a youngster understands exactly what’s expected, he is more likely to get on board and follow through with the task. You may also want to specify a time limit or a consequence. Again, this helps set parameters and allows kids to work within them. Specificity leads to success.
  • Provide Choice                                                                                                             Sometimes, in the midst of trying to juggle all the balls, we become like drill sargeants, forgetting that everyone like to have a voice and choice in their lives. Providing choice give kids a sense of ownership and encourages responsibility. That’s a lot of bang for your buck!

Let’s consider a few examples:

Instead of, “Johnny you need to finish that Math assignment and clean up the mess you made down the basement”, you might try…                                                                                         “Johnny, Before you go outside today, I’d like you to finish your Math assignment and pick up the toys you left out down the basement.” Please get started and let me know when you’re done.”

Is it simple? Yes, there are two things he needs to do.

Is it specific? Yes. Johnny need to complete an assignment and pick up toys. “Before he can go out to play sets a clear parameter.

Does Johnny have a choice? Yes, he can do either one first.

Mary is having trouble completing an assigned book, which needs to be finished by the end of the week. You’ve noticed that her school papers are in disarray, which eats up a lot of time when she has to go online or do her work. Instead of, “Listen, you need to get on the ball, finish reading that book and get your papers in order right now!” Whew…that’s a big order. How about this approach…                                                                                              “Mary, your book needs to be finished by Friday and I notice that your papers are disorganized. It takes a lot of time to find what you need. Let’s come up with a plan. Would you be willing to commit to reading for 30 minutes each day? You could decide to do it all at once or break it up. How about if you sort your papers by subject. When you’re finished, we could work together to create a better system? How does that sound?”

Is it simple? Yes. It only deals with two things.

Is it specific? Yes. This approach creates a specific plan for accomplishing these tasks.

Does Mary have a choice? Yes. She can read for 30 minutes or break it up. She can choose to let you help her create an organizational system. What’s more, this approach respects Mary. It doesn’t put her down and make her feel like a failure. It lets her know you are on her side.

I sure hope this post doesn’t sound preachy, but I’ve been there. No doubt, the challenge this virus is putting on families is real. It’s getting long and we are all wearing thin. Hang in there. You don’t have to be perfect. From experience,  I know how much a few timely suggestions can help. I hope this smooths some rough edges for you and your family.

BOOK SUGGESTIONS:     

I can’t talk about parenting without once again, suggesting my favorite parenting book. If you are look for great ideas to preserve your sanity and your child self-esteem while setting clear limits, I urge you to check out this classic book. In fact, there’s even a new text just for parents of toddlers. You won’t be sorry!

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & How to Listen So Kids Will Talk                                              by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish

How to Talk so Little KIds Will Listen                                                                                        by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Food for Thought

american breakfast celebration color

Good food is a crowd pleasure in my family. We all enjoy gathering around the table for a nice meal, going out to eat or simply noshing on some goodies as we relax in front of the TV. I’m guessing your family is not much different. That’s why all of my suggestions today relate to food. When I was child, my mother was a master at making up clever names for foods that she served. Who wouldn’t like “magic cupcakes” or “angels on a cloud”? Everyone enjoys a twist on something ordinary. So, today, I’d like to serve up these treats with the hope that they will offer tempting ways to slip some reading into your family time.

HAVE A READING PICNIC                                                                                                        May can be a fickle month, but usually about the third week, temps climb into the 70’s and start to stay there. Spread out a blanket along with some great books and invite your family to the picnic. Don’t forget to include some favorite foods or snacks. Bask in the sun, read silently or aloud and simply enjoy a little downtime with your family and your books. Don’t be discouraged if the sun doesn’t shine, just set up the blanket somewhere inside. Few kids can resist a picnic.

HAVE A POT LUCK SUPPER                                                                                                         Invite everyone in the family to bring one or two texts to the table. Any type of text will do…book, magazine article, short story, graphic novel, etc.. The idea is to bring a unique, interesting text and introduce it to others. Set aside a specific period of time for everyone to choose one from the selection and peruse it. Much like a pot luck supper, you bite into the text and share your reactions with the others. Makes for a fun night and may just introduce kids and parents alike to a delicious new “dish”.

WHAT’S FOR DESSERT?                                                                                                            Everyone ears will perk up at the word dessert. Tell your family to bring a short text, along with a treat, as dessert for dinner. After the meal, each person will have a chance to  share their treat and read aloud their text. If you want, you could change this up by deciding on a theme. For example, jokes, poems, or articles about a particular subject. Try this for a happy ending to your family meal.

BOOK SUGGESTIONS:

Adults: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarity – Like most of this author’s books, this text reels you in and doesn’t let go. Take it outside, sit in the sun and treat yourself to a good story.

Grade 5 & up: Freak the Mighty   Heartwarming classic that youngsters won’t forget. Highly recommend it if you’re looking for a family read-aloud.

Toddlers/Pre-schoolers:  Bedtime Songs by Scarlett Wing – Sound books are very popular right now with our two little grandsons. This 11-button interactive sound book was a bit hit. Push the button and hear the song, read the text to learn the lyrics. Lovely book that would make a great gift.

 

 

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Benefit of Book Series

Book series benefit all kids, especially teens and reluctant readers. As discussed in my previous post, finding the “magic” book often prompts a magic response. The right book can change someone’s perspective. I witnessed this several  times in my teaching career. Today, I’m going to repost something I wrote back in 2017. It outlines the benefits of reading a series of books.

I’m also reposting because in the last few weeks, Nancy Drew, turned fifty! Nancy Drew will forever live in my heart as a character that created a love of reading in my life, a love that has withstood the test of time. Hope this helps you understand the power of introducing youngsters to a series of books which piques their interest and entices them into the pages of many books. 

Lure into Literature with Book Series

ND PCB box mech.indd        In third grade, I met a new friend–a friend who would change my life! Her name was Nancy Drew. From the  time I opened the first book in this series, I was swept up into Nancy’s world of adventure, mystery and even romance. Book after book, I happily journeyed with Nancy, her two best girlfriends, Bess Marvin and George Fayne, along with Ned Nickerson, Nancy’s tall, handsome, boyfriend. This classic book series gave me my first taste of “losing myself in a book”. This series led me to explore many other popular book series of the day.

cherry ames           sue barton  When I met  Cherry Ames and Judy Barton, I learned about the world of medicine and often imagined myself wearing the crisp, white uniform of a nurse.

betsy-tacy     The Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Lovelace Hart, took me to small town America at the turn of the century and helped me understand the value of close friends. The Ingalls family inspired me with their courage, independence and ingenuity as I traveled West right along with them in the series of Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.These were just a few of the book series that cast a spell and worked their magic, ultimately transforming me into a lifelong reader. My experience is not unique. Countless times in my teaching career, I saw reluctant readers transformed into avid readers once they discovered a series of books they enjoyed. At first, it does seem like magic, but when we peek behind the curtain, we can readily see the common factors which create that magical result…

 The Familiarity Factor

By the second book in a series, the reader is familiar with the main characters, the setting and the author’s style of writing. Even if the books are not part of a sequential series of books, readers already understand how the books are structured and have a sense of what to expect.

This familiarity factor provides confidence, frees up a reader’s working memory and enables them to more easily read and comprehend the text. It’s like visiting someone’s home for the second or third time. You feel grounded, you’re more at ease, you know where things are and what to expect, so you can relax and enjoy the visit more each time.

Reading Volume

Once hooked on a series, kids tend to readily pick up the next book, eliminating wasted time deciding on what to read next and providing the motivation to keep going. This equates to an increase in reading volume, which is a very big deal for youngsters who have trouble getting into a book. Research repeatedly proves the power of reading volume. The more kids read, the better their chances of academic success.

Confidence

Reluctant readers of any age, need a boost of confidence. For the reluctant reader, the ability to read, enjoy, comprehend and complete several books in a timely manner, can be just the boost they need to spur them on.  Encouraging kids to delve into a new series of books may provide the key that opens the door to reading and enables them to see themselves as “readers”.

Entrance into the Community of Readers

Typically, certain book series become popular among members of a class. When a youngster reads books in the series, he gains entrance into this community of readers. In addition to being a solitary experience, reading becomes a social experience. The characters and plot provide fodder for discussion, book swaps and even role play as kids join together to extend the reading experience. Enjoying a book series with family, friends or classmates can lure the most reluctant reader into a life of literacy.

Memorable Experience

Reading several or all books in a series creates a memorable experience. Over time, the reader becomes deeply engaged with the characters and genuinely interested in their lives. Several years ago, I happened upon a Betsy-Tacy book. Immediately, I was transported back to my childhood. I felt like I had run into an old friend and hurriedly purchased the book so I could become reconnected with my pals. I’m sure many of you understand exactly what I mean. I’m sure many of you would like to recreate those pleasurable reading experiences for your own kids. What are you waiting for? Check out some book series suggestions that I’ll share on Wednesday and Friday, check back in your own mind for those special books you can now share with your kids, and check in here to share your own treasured series with others.

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