Our Eric Carle Unit Study

(An elementary level, week-long, study with Eric Carle’s beloved picture books.)

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Eric Carle, a talented author/illustrator, inspires young readers with his bold illustrations and teachable content. Our youngest children (preschool to fifth grade) enjoyed a week-long study of Eric Carle’s works. By the end of the week, each child proudly displayed her book of Eric Carle art which was bound with a strip of fabric.

On the first day we re-read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, discussed the life cycle of a butterfly and created our own tissue paper collage caterpillar. We ordered planted plants which attract butterflies and watched a biographical video entitled Eric Carle, Picture Writer. Our children loved learning about the man and story behind the stories. 

On the second day we read The Very Busy Spider and discussed the benefits of hard work. Our preschooler made the sounds of the animals in the book and our elementary children discussed the differences between spiders and insects. We all marveled at the raised web on each page of this engaging picture book. At the suggestion of one of learners, we headed outside to look for webs and spiders. While walking, I remembered I had plastic spider counters. We made and added sets. The older learners made arrays—rows and columns (enter multiplication concept). When it came time to make our own spider art, the fifth grader remembered we had silver glitter glue in the art cabinet, which in her opinion, would make the perfect web. The younger children agreed and soon four very busy spiders were created.

On the third day we read The Grouchy Ladybug. We discussed good and bad attitudes, friendship, manners and the power of the spoken word. Our first grader had a quick review of telling time to the hour, with the help of the clock on each page of Eric Carle's book. Older children found the life cycle of the ladybug fascinating. We Googled ladybugs and watched a few informative video clips. Finally, we made our own ladybugs with wings which opened (thanks to a brass fastener) to reveal the words "thank you".  Google eyes brought life to the ladybug.

On the fourth day we read Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me.  We talked about the phases of the moon and were determined to watch the moon for a whole month to observe the phases. For the young ones, we discussed the difference between fiction and non-fiction. We concluded that the book was fiction because a ladder would never reach the moon. We then compared the illustrations of the books Eric Carle created designed our own fold-out ladder page for our book. Later that evening we read Mister Seahorse, discussed the sea life featured in the book and the important role parents play in the lives of their children. We marveled at the way the male seahorse cares for his young. One learner wanted to make tissue paper seahorses like the ones in the book. A great idea! We used scraps of tissue paper from the previous days to create very colorful and unique tissue paper seahorse.

On the fifth day we wrote a title on the book cover of our art masterpieces (hello copy work, spelling and an explanation of capitalization in titles) and bound our book by weaving a scrap of fabric through three paper-punched holes. The littlest learners enjoyed making paper plate jellyfish to hang from the doorway and hearing me read A House for Hermit Crab.

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Our week didn’t end there! Learning continued. After analyzing and comparing the art of Eric Carle to the work of other artists, we headed back to the library where our youngest ones selected more Eric Carle titles. Our four year old warmly stated, "Eric Carle is my favorite illustrator." Several weeks later, while on yet another visit to the library, I received another welcomed surprise. I mentioned I needed Mister Seahorse for a workshop I was presenting to moms in our homeschooling community. When the library volunteer asked, "Who is the author?" our six year old chimed in, "Eric Carle." YES!

Just what I had hoped...and more!  In addition to the academics we learned and retained, the curiosity and creativity of our four budding artists was fostered.

Our week had been productive, and FUN!

Ride the West with Living Books

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I didn’t see it coming.

Recently, I was reminded that some of the best learning “units” we’ve enjoyed were unplanned and unexpected. They were birthed by questions raised from learning a new word, being involved in an intriguing moment, or engaging in a fascinating event. One of our most recent learning tangents evolved after reading a few chapters of The Pony Express by Samuel Hopkins Adams (Random House, 1950) to my middle schooler. In the process, the elementary learner wondered what the excitement was about and she, too, was hooked. Before we knew it we were all riding the routes of the Pony Express (Mom included after realizing she didn’t know as much as she wished she did), racing through mountain passes, stopping at rest stations, and outwitting bandits.

I remembered we had a few more books about riders on our home library shelf—as well as books about the period of history. I invited my youngest to join me at the bookshelf to find other resources she might enjoy. She was intrigued by the cover of one in particular, Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express by Eleanor Coerr (HarperCollins,1995). Upon opening the book and fanning through the pages—seeing the larger font—she was even more excited. Large font. Easy, enjoyable reading. Unintimidating. We began reading and she immediately recognized some of the rider’s names and station stops from listening to me read to her sister. Learning about the Pony Express just got a bit more personal for her.

Three weeks later, looking back, the “unit” was more than I could have imagined, mostly because of the level of engagement. There was interest and they fully “owned” what they were learning, because they were interested. The more we read, the more involved my learners became. When they had questions, we did our best to find answers. This paved the way to practice research skills.


Language arts. Study skills. History.


I know my girls remember a large percentage of what they learned. That makes my heart smile. But, there was something else that grew along with their knowledge…a relationship. They had something in common, a mutual interest, something they could talk and wonder about. They shared what they learned; got excited together.

I could never have manufactured or orchestrated that aspect of the process.

Even after 26 years of homeschooling, I didn’t see a “unit” growing from this book.

But, it did!!

And, I am grateful.

Today, because of that deeper care for one another, they are outside reading in the fort. That’s another story for another day.

Related resources for riding and exploring the west:

Buffalo Bill, Augusta Stevenson (Childhood of Famous Americans)

Buffalo Bill: Wild West Showman, Mary R. Davidson (Discovery biography series, Garrard Publishers)

The California Gold Rush, May McNeer (Landmark series)

Annie Oakley: The Shooting Star, Charles P. Graves (Discovery biography series, Garrard Publishers)

Jim Bridger: Man of the Mountains, Willard and Celia Luce (Discovery biography series, Garrard Publishers)

Kit Carson: Pathfinder of the West, Nardi Reeder Campion (Discovery biography series, Garrard Publishers)

Daniel Boone: The Opening of the Wilderness, John Mason Brown (Landmark series)

Daniel Boone: Young Hunter, Augusta Stevenson (Childhood of Famous Americans)

The Story of Daniel Boone, William O’Steele (Signature series)









Beans in a Baggie

Thirty years ago, several amazing, veteran, early childhood educators mentored me--a new teacher. I was ecstatic as they shared their tried and true lessons. One I remember vividly is growing a beans in baggies. Little learners ran to the window every day to see if their beans had sprouted. When they did, there was celebration. 

Since that time, I have recreated this activity with all of my children, each time teaching to their unique interests, their unique bent. One time I placed all the materials on the table and allowed the child to figure out the experiment. Another time I quickly drew picture instructions on scrap paper. Yet another time we read a non-fiction book about planting seeds. Each time we've done it a bit different. No matter the learning style or the prefered modality of input, every learner has loved observing his or her first sprouts in a bag. It's wonder! It's discovery! It's learning!

Every. Moment. Matters. 

These are the results of our most recent bean-in-a-bag experiment. 

Gather sandwich-sized zipper baggies, one per child. Write the child's name on the baggie with a permanent marker. 

Look for lima beans in the pantry. Purchase limas if necessary. 

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Fold the paper towel in quarters and place in the baggie. Place five beans inside the baggie and on the paper towel. Using a spray bottle, add ten squirts. Zip the baggie.

Tape to a sunny window. 

Carefully observe the bean several times a day. Baby sprouts are fragile. Ask questions.

  • What is happening?
  • How are the beans changing?
  • Do all the beans look the same? What is different?
  • What do you think the beans will look like tomorrow? 
  • What will happen to the sprout? 

Fostering the Excitement

Where there's interest, learning follows.

Enthusiasm breeds learning. Enthusiasm increases retention. If excitement has been building as a result of anticipating what might happen to the beans or if the beans have sprouted and shouts of joy rise to the roof tops, consider next steps to further learning. 

Consider:

  • Drawing observations in a blank book. 
  • Measuring--very carefully--the sprout with a ruler or tape measure (a personal favorite). 
  • Planting other seeds in starter trays, window boxes, or backyard gardens
  • Learning the parts of a bean
  • Researching what plants need to grow
  • Reading a few good books

What happens when experiments don't go as anticipated? 

Happens all the time. Failed experiments are a part of science. When things go awry, new opportunities present themselves. There are new problems, new questions, and potential solutions. These moments are equally important to our children as they learn collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving skills.

Seize these learning moments. They matter. 

So, on Day 3--as soon as we woke--we checked our beans. MOLD! Ugh! I was disappointed. My learners were discouraged. What would we do? 

Brainstorm. Find an solution. 

We asked questions. Researched. Visited the local garden shop. 

The solution? Peat pods. 

We started over with new materials. The results were amazing. And, our discovery was so exciting we knew we needed to share the learning fun.

We decided to offer a planting station in our booth at FPEA. It was a huge success!

A failed experiment led to a solution and a new idea which benefited others.

That's learning at its best!

Vintage Science Readers for the WIN!

There is something to be said about tried and true. That's one reason our family enjoys older books.

This week we rediscovered Follett Beginning Science Books. 

Three learners, Kindergarten to middle school, have been glued to content as I read aloud Frogs and Toads by Charles A. Schoenknecht. During our time together, I heard "I never knew that." and "That's so interesting!" more times than I can count. YAY!

In fact, I am still learning. I didn't know that frogs pull in their eyes to help swallow caught insects--which they ingest WHOLE! Fascinating!

There's more I love about this series--at least the ones we have managed to find. Large font, simple text packed with content, invited my budding reader to give independent reading a try. I mean-- interesting content, large font, hardcover--she was excited!  

"It's a real book and I want to read it!"

She is motivated to become a more fluent reader and will learn science in the process.

That's a WIN!

I will add, these gems are difficult to find--published by Follett Publishing Company in the 1960s--but well worth the hunt. In fact, we have more coming this week! And, my learners can't wait.

In case you've been intrigued to find one to find out if your learners will be enjoy this series, here is a list to help your quest. Consider starting with a title of interest. For example, my learners are more interested in the animal titles, hence our beginning point. 

  • Air by Edna Mitchell Preston      
  • Animals without Backbones by Robert E. Pfadt   
  • Ants by Charles A. Schoenknecht            
  • Beavers by F. Dorothy Wood     
  • Birds by Isabel B. Wasson             
  • Birds That Hunt by Willard Luce
  • Butterflies by Jeanne S. Brouillette          
  • Climate by Julian May   
  • Comets and Meteors by Isaac Asimov           
  • Deer by John Feilen       
  • Electricity by Edward Victor        
  • Friction by Edward Victor             
  • Frogs and Toads by Charles A. Schoenknecht     
  • Galaxies by Isaac Asimov             
  • Grasshoppers by Robert E. Pfadt              
  • Heat by Edward Victor  
  • Hummingbirds by Betty John     
  • Insects by Jeanne S. Brouillette
  • Light by Isaac Asimov    
  • Machines by Edward Victor        
  • Magnets by Edward Victor          
  • Mammals by Esther K. Meeks   
  • Molecules and Atoms by Edward Victor
  • The Moon by Isaac Asimov         
  • Moths by Jeanne S. Brouillette  
  • Plants with Seeds by F. Dorothy Wood  
  • Robins by Edwin A. Mason           
  • Rocks and Minerals by Lou Page
  • Snakes by Esther K. Meeks         
  • Soil by Richard Cromer  
  • The Solar System by Isaac Asimov           
  • Sound by Charles D. Neal            
  • Space by Marian Tellander          
  • Spiders by Ramona Stewart Dupre          
  • Squirrels by John Feilen               
  • The Sun by Isaac Asimov              
  • Trees by George Sullivan             
  • Tropical Fish by Loren P. Woods               
  • Weather by Julian May
  • Whales by Val Gendron               
  • Your Wonderful Brain by Mary Jane Keene  

Reading and science? Yes, please. And that's a WIN! WIN! 

Light-Hearted Reads for Difficult Moments

Sometimes the only thing I know to do is pull them close and read aloud. 

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Difficult days. Napless afternoons. A sick grandma. Health issues. Flooded laundry room. Itchy mosquito bites. 

It had been a long day. We had accomplished math and worked on our family project for Christmas around the world night. Yet, I was determined. There was much to be done before our December baby was to due to be born.  On little sleep, I ventured out with four children to help them get their Christmas shopping done early. Honestly, my intentions were good.

Though the early afternoon was quite productive, mid-afternoon arrived with traffic jams, hungry tummies, and tears. I was overcooked and dinner hadn't even been started. 

I knew if I didn't hand out a few crackers for snack and gather the emotions, the night would continue to be difficult. 

I grabbed a sleeve of cheddar rounds from the pantry, asked the oldest to select two books from the book basket, and pulled teary-eyed littles to my lap (what was left of it). Two pages into the first book, emotions settled and crumbs accumulated on the couch cushions. 


Stories have power; power to calm attitudes, power to turn tears into smiles, power to smooth rough evenings. Stories pull people close and offer diversion.

Stories also bring understanding; understanding of emotions, understanding as to how to be a part of solutions, understanding of people, places and events. Stories bring perspective. 

Stories can lighten heaviness. At times, stories offer a metaphorical hand to hold through difficult seasons. For our family, a humorous light-hearted read invited us to chuckle through paragraphs when our days were heavy and sad in Grandma's last weeks.  In those times, stories helped lighten our heaviness, soothing hearts, souls, and minds. 

Stories help answer questions and bring clarity. We all have questions, children and adults.  In fact, a whole family may be trying to make sense of confusing, hurtful, or uncomfortable circumstances. In those times, stories can offer opportunities to see situations more clearly or from a different perspective. 

Stories help us know we are not alone. I remember reading Where the Red Fern Grows, written by Wilson Rawls, as a middle schooler after having a pet die. Knowing other children had been through and understood the loss of a pet, I no longer felt alone in my sadness. 

Have you had a difficult afternoon? Maybe a string of doctor visits have left your family exhausted, in need of fun and light-hearted humor.  Consider one of the fun reads below. One of these titles might just be an invitation to some down time, time away from stressful moments.

Picture Books

  • Make Way for Ducklings, Robert McCloskey
  • The Snowy Day, Ezra Jack Keats
  • Guess How Much I Love You, Sam McBratney
  • Caps for Sale, Esphyr Slobodkina 
  • No Roses for Harry, Gene Zion
  • The Napping House, Audrey Wood

Chapter Books

  • Mr. Popper's Penguins, Richard and Florence Atwater
  • The Borrowers, Mary Norton
  • Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren
  • The Cricket in Times Square, George Selden
  • The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster
  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Barbara Robinson
  • Henry Huggins, Beverly Cleary
  • Homer Price, Robert McCloskey

Sometimes pulling the family close to enjoy a good story is needed in order to carry hearts, minds, and souls away from present difficulties. 

Every. Moment. Matters.

Are you in need of encouragement? Want to know more about how your days can be intentional, real, and relational? Click below to sign up for the Celebrate Simple Newsletter. 

Reading through the Holidays: Preschool through High School

Hot chocolate, a blanket, a cozy couch, and a few favorite holiday reads. Picture books welcome us to tables with families and stables under starlight where we can count and pretend. Other books invite us into history, to meet people and walk through events. As weather cools and the holidays approach, I look forward to moments of reading and learning together. 

Thanksgiving reminds us it is time to pull Reeve Lindbergh's poetic Johnny Appleseed from our picture book shelf. It is definitely one of our fall holiday favorites. 

Our family's favorite Christmas story is found in the gospel of Luke. It is central to our home. However, over the past twenty-seven years of reading to littles and bigs, we have also enjoyed other literary treasures. We've all come to anticipate the month of December, a time when we read, reread, and compare Christmas stories from around the world. 

 

What are some of our favorite holiday reads?

We've compiled our list of holiday classics just for you! 

Thanksgiving for Littles

  • The Thanksgiving Story, Alice Dalgliesh
  • The Little Red Hen, Paul Galdone
  • The Very First Thanksgiving Day, Rhonda Gowler Greene
  • Ox-Cart Man, Donald Hall
  • Johnny Appleseed, Reeve Lindbergh
  • Why Do Leaves Change Color?, Betsy Maestro
  • How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, Marjorie Priceman

Thanksgiving for Middles

  • A Lion to Guard Us, Clyde Robert Bulla
  • Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims, Clyde Robert Bulla
  • The Courage of Sarah Noble, Alice Dalgiesh
  • Landing of the Pilgrims, James Daugherty
  • Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving, Eric Metaxas

Thanksgiving for Bigs

  • The Mayflower Compact (primary source)
  • Of Plimouth Plantation, William Bradford (primary source)
  • The Courtship of Miles Standish, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (poem)

Thanksgiving Family Read Togethers

  • Pocohantas and the Strangers, Clyde Robert Bulla
  • The Matchlock Gun, Walter Edmunds

Thanksgiving Poetry

  • We Gather Together, Adrianus Valerius (hymn)
  • My Triumph, John Greenleaf Whittier (poem)

Christmas for Littles

  • The Mitten, Jan Brett
  • Christmas for 10, Cathryn Falwell
  • The Stable Where Jesus Was Born, Rhonda Gowler Greene
  • The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale, Angela Elwell Hunt
  • 12 Days of Christmas, Rachel Isadora
  • The Crippled Lamb, Max Lucado
  • Gingerbread for Liberty, Mara Rockliff
  • The Polar Express, Chris Van Ausburg
  • Room for Little One: A Christmas Tale, Martin Waddell
  • Owl Moon, Jane Yolen

Christmas for Middles

  • The Little Match Girl, Hans Christan Andersenn
  • The Gift of the Magi, O. Henry
  • Silent Night: The Story and Its Song, Margaret Hodges 
  • The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis
  • The Call of the Wild, Jack London

Christmas for Bigs

  • A Country Christmas, Louisa May Alcott 
  • Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
  • A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

Christmas Family Read Togethers

  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Barbara Robinson

Christmas Poetry

  • Christmas Trees, Robert Frost
  • 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, Clement Clarke Moore 

As the fall and winter holidays approach, gather littles and bigs. Enjoy the sights and sounds, but also the literary treasures of the times. Perhaps a new read will become your family's favorite. 

Happy, intentional, real, and relational holidays to you and yours!

Want to learn more about how to simplify your holiday season? Check out this blog post. 

 

Spelling Cereal

Two weeks after an incredible "buy one get one free" cereal sale and an impromptu breakfast spelling lesson, Dad was home, watching the young ones while I met a friend for coffee. 

Dad asked the little learners,

"What would you like for breakfast?" 

The four year old promptly answered, 

"Dad, could I have some of that spelling cereal?"

Dad wasn't quite sure whether spelling cereal was a breakfast choice or one of our educational games. 

Upon further questioning, the four year old commanded,

"Dad, just open the pantry."

He did and quickly found out that spelling cereal was indeed a breakfast choice. It was letter-shaped cereal we had used for spelling a few days prior.

When I arrived home, my husband quipped,

"Will you quit having so much fun with the kids!"

I snickered.

It was real and it was relational. It was remembered. 

Tricky Y Game

"Those tricky Ys! They make all different sounds. They are so confusing!" 

A little learner, quite confused by all the "Y" words on a recent workbook page, voiced her opinion about why "Y" shouldn't have so many sounds. Those tricky "Y" words!

I decided to take learning off the page and put it into her hands. 

And we learned TOGETHER!

I made a list of words ending in "Y" which took on the ending sound of either long e or long i. Then, I created a document which would provide 2 x 3 inch cards when printed on 100 pound card stock (colored card stock made our game more fun). Once printed, little learners used a blunt-ended scissors to cut the words apart. 

Once cards were cut, I designed a pocket Y using two envelopes--one business and one letter. To make the Y, I sealed the envelopes. Then, I trimmed 1/4 inch off the top edge of each envelop to make two pockets. Next, I formed the "Y", gluing the envelopes together and traced around the outside edges with a black permanent marker to make the "Y" more pronounced. Finally, I wrote "long e" on one envelope pocket and "long i" on the other. 

Before we sorted the words according to ending sound, each learner read the words on the cards. We reviewed rhyming words as words that sound the same and sorted the cards in rhyming words piles.

After reading the words, learners took turns choosing a word card from the draw pile, read the word, and placed the word in the correct pocket. Turn taking continued until all words were placed correctly.

This game was a hit!

In fact, this game was requested for several days straight until one of the learners discovered the words could also be used as spelling words. Great idea!

Every learner had either learned or reviewed the Tricky Y concept, sorted rhyming words, and practiced spelling, all from printable cards and two envelopes.

Intentional. Real. Relational. 

State Study with Discover America Series

While sitting around a table this morning with a sweet mom and her precious daughter--discussing their state studies--I remembered one of our favorite resources.

Discover America State by State

Colorful, inviting and plentiful in intriguing content, this fifty-one book series takes young readers on journeys through each state's geographical landscape while also allowing children to become familiar with landmarks, wildlife and culture. Truly each book provides a window from which children can peek into places they may not otherwise visit. 

One day as we were combing the shelves for the state books, our children discovered Sleeping Bear had also published state-themed number books. These, too, quickly became favorites. In fact, when used in conjunction with the State by State books, our studies deepened. 

Visit the Sleeping Bear Press website for more information including a plethora of teacher guides and learner activities. The State by State activities were helpful to us in our studies as were the guides for the state number books

As I post this blog, I am with you on this summer journey of fondly remembering the highlights of our year yet looking forward to the learning ahead, just like the mom and sweet daughter we met this morning. 

Perhaps these books will enhance your future learning adventures. 

 

 

 

Summer Reading List

Summer’s here!

Vacations. Mission trips. Summer evenings reading on the couch.

Summer brings new opportunities, needed refreshment and necessary refueling...and the TIME to do such.

Family members looking for summer reads?

Our summer reading list continues to grow, some titles added this month, others compiled over the years. My lists have been published magazines, state newsletters, Appendix D of  You HAVE to Read This One: Raising a Contagious Reader and Celebrate High School (high school lists categorized American, British, world and ancient).

Parents often ask, "How do we chose books?" 

Choosing a book depends upon many factors, some unique to an individual or circumstances, however the most universal depend upon 

  • a student’s reading ability, age and maturity
  • a family’s values and worldview
  • a whether a book is to be read aloud or read independently.

All these factors, or a combination of these factors, help determine what titles may be appropriate for your children. 

Summer picture books for little learners

  • Arnosky, Jim, All About Turtles
  • Arnosky, Jim,  Deer at the Brook
  • Berkes, Marianne, Over in the Ocean in the Coral Reef
  • Carle, Eric, A House for Hermit Crab
  • Carle, Eric, Mister Seahorse
  • Carle, Eric, Slowly, Slowly, Slowly Said the Sloth
  • Gibbons, Gail, Ducks
  • Gibbons, Gail, The Berry Book
  • Krauss, Ruth, The Carrot Seed
  • Lionni, Leo, Swimmy
  • McCloskey, Robert, Blueberries for Sal
  • McCloskey, Robert, Lentil
  • McCloskey, Robert,  Make Way for Ducklings
  • Zion, Gene, Harry by the Sea

Chapter books for middle elementary to middle school readers

The spectrum of age and maturity of students in grades four through eight is great. As a guide, selections marked (2-4) may be considered acceptable read-aloud titles for grades 2-4. I have marked titles considered more difficult—by vocabulary, sentence structure or content— with (M). Parents may decide to wait until grades 7-8 to introduce these books. As always, if in doubt, read the book first.

  • Alcott, Louisa May, Little Women (M)
  • Bagnold, Enid, National Velvet
  • Barrie, J. M., Peter Pan
  • Baum, L. Frank, The Wizard of Oz
  • Beechick, Ruth, Adam and His Kin
  • Brink, Carol Ryrie, Caddie Woodlawn
  • Bulla, Clyde Robert, A Lion to Guard Us (M)
  • Carroll, Lewis, Alice in Wonderland (M)
  • Crane, Stephen, The Red Badge of Courage (M)
  • D'Angeli, Marguette, The Door in the Wall
  • Dalgliesh, Alice, The Courage of Sarah Noble (2-4)
  • duBois, William Pene, The Twenty-One Balloons (M)
  • Edmunds, Walter D, The Matchlock Gun (2-4)
  • Forbes, Esther, Johnny Tremain (M)
  • Fritz, Jean, The Cabin Faced West (2-4)
  • George, Jean Craighead, My Side of the Mountain
  • Green, Roger Lancelyn, The Tale of Troy (M)
  • Henty, G. A., For the Temple (M)
  • Latham, Jean Lee, Carry on Mr. Bowditch (M)
  • Lenski, Lois, Strawberry Girl (2-4)
  • Norton, Mary, The Borrowers (2-4)
  • Sheldon, George, The Cricket in Times Square
  • Swift, Jonathan, Gulliver's Travels (M)
  • White, E. B., Stuart Little

Summer reads for high school young adults

A comprehensive list is included in Celebrate High School.

  • Aristolte, Complete Works
  • Austin, Jane, Pride and Prejudice
  • Bronte, Charlotte, Jane Eyre
  • Chaucer, Geoffrey, The Canterbury Tales
  • Chesterton, G. K., Favorite Father Brown Stories
  • Cierco, Orations
  • Cooper, James Fenimore, The Last of the Mohicans
  • de Tocqueville, Alexis, Democracy in America
  • Dickens, Charles, The Tale of Two Cities
  • Faulkner, William, The Sound and the Fury
  • Foxe, John, The Book of Martyrs
  • Graves, Robert, Claudius, the God
  • Green, Roger Lancelyn, Tales of Ancient Egypt
  • Hamilton, Edith, Mythology
  • Hemmingway, Ernest, Farewell to Arms
  • Homer, The Odyssey
  • Hurston, Zora Neale, Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • Keller, Helen, The Story of My Life
  • Lewis, C. S., The Screwtape Letters
  • Mc Cullough, John Adams
  • Plato, The Republic
  • Rawlings, Marjorie Kinnan, The Yearling
  • Scott, Sir Walter, Ivanhoe
  • Shakespeare, William, Julius Casear
  • Steinbeck, John, The Grapes of Wrath
  • Stevenson, Robert Lewis, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  • Thoreau, Henry David, Walden
  • Verne, Jules, Journey to the Center of the Earth
  • Virgil, The Aeneid
  • Washington, Booker T., Up from Slavery

Happy summer reading!

More to Playing Store

"Let's play store!"

There is much more to playing store than meets the eye. 

 

In fact, as a struggling learner, I believe playing store--adding customer orders and writing receipts--saved my declining math and spelling skills while building my learning confidence. As a mom, I have observed my children build the same skills behind their cashier stands and in their make-shift restaurants. 

Playing store is an essential developmental milestone, academically and socially. Playing store provides valuable educational entertainment. 

I remember, fondly, my pretend store years. Every day after school, I spent the afternoon at the neighbor's house until my mom arrived home from work. My friend and I would spend all afternoon in the basement, playing. The basement was alive with learning. In one corner stood three tall metal cabinets packed with craft supplies: old jars, paper, stickers, glitter, colored pasta, craft feathers, beads, and GLUE...lots of glue. Oh, and PAINT! Along end wall, all twenty to thirty feet of wall, was THE STORE! My friend's mom saved and cleaned EVERY box, plastic container and bottle she emptied from her kitchen--especially the ones loved most by children: Lucky Charms, Jell-O pudding, Tastykakes, soda. When the recyclables were cleaned, they were placed in THE STORE. There was a cereal section, a dessert section, a dairy section. Oh, and there was THE CASH REGISTER--an old adding machine with a roll of register tape a mile long. The store was a child's dream! We spent hours playing in the basement. 

When my oldest showed interest in "playing store" I began saving boxes and containers. I purchases garage sale price tags and we made an OPEN sign. The boxes lined the wall of my kitchen and provided hours of play...and much more!

Yes, the box shelf grew and grew, spilling over into the living room. Visitors were understanding, almost envious. They wanted to play, too! 

Today's the day. Save that box. Wash out the plastic container. There's learning in those recycles. And, there is so much more to playing store!

To cultivate the interest in playing store, gather

  • coins- real will provide opportunity for responsibility
  • paper money
  • receipt book
  • garage sale price tags
  • We're Open sign- with analog clock with movable hands to practice time telling
  • adding machine or cash register
  • extra paper for menus and handcrafted paper pretend food
  • clean recycles materials- drink holders, washed cups and plastics from food vendors and retailers
  • aprons
  • chef hat

Playing store creates opportunity to

  • write numbers- numerals and decimals
  • associate numerals with values
  • apply number concepts
  • add money values (decimals)- coins and bills
  • practice math vocabulary
  • use shapes and symbols
  • practice language and communication skills
  • read and spell high frequency vocabulary
  • write with purpose- menus, orders and receipts
  • repurpose recyclable materials
  • collaborate with playmates regarding rules of play and responsibility

There is much more to playing store than meets the eye. Yes, there is the potential for recyclables to take over a corner of a kitchen or develop into a basement marketplace, maybe even make a mess of a living area. However, the rewards of the store playing season are indeed life-impacting. The mind will imagine. The feelings toward learning, brighten. Conversational skills will develop.

Celebrate the learning!

Indeed, when the cardboard boxes and plastics finally end up in the recycling bin, children will have been encouraged and empowered. And that is definitely worth a season of box and container collecting. 

Reading Comprehension Made SIMPLE

Reading comprehension is one of those skills which can cause gray hairs!

Many parents struggle to teach, reinforce and foster this skill. 

Just as many children struggle with the skill, too!

We are not alone. We are all in this together. 

Over my almost thirty years of working with children, my own and others, I've rejoiced in light bulb moments when a strategy works. And, I've helped parents find alternative solutions, often individualizing teaching methods.

What has worked?

Some families find one strategy works. Others need more than one option. Still others cycle in and out of several. The key is to use what works for YOUR family!

Find something the child enjoys. Every child (yes, every child!) has an interest. Something engaging. Something the child will not put down. Grasshoppers? Recipes? Catapults? Military strategy? There is always an interest though it may take a bit of effort to find it. When it's found? GLORY!

Read together. I know a mom who instituted an "everybody reads at 10:30 am" policy. In other words, at 10:30 each person found something they enjoyed, found a comfy place, and read. Starting with 15 minutes, she gradually increased the time. Why? Because the children asked for the time to be increased. You know the "Mom, I want to keep reading!" exhortation. To get to that moment she had to allow the kids' cookbook, the Boy's Life catalog and the recent subscription to Highlights to come to reading time. And, mom? She enjoyed her current read. Reading time quickly became a favorite time time of day. All reading, all together. 

Draw a picture. Creative children love to create. Why not try building reading comprehension with the innate desire to create. Suggestions to draw a picture of a character, the setting or an exciting event in the chapter is an open invitation to design and color something visually pleasing. Draw a picture might also mean choosing reading material which fosters creativity, perhaps a how-to book, for example, how-to sketch barns. The child logs his or her reading time by learning sketching techniques and then applies what was read (comprehension and application) to create a piece of art. 

Read aloud. I know this takes time (I'm a mom of full days, too) however, the time and effort of reading something engaging (perhaps slightly above the child's ability) can build vocabulary and knowledge of language structure. Even a short time each day can pay off great dividends. 

Some of our favorite family read alouds are:

  • A Lion to Guard Us by Clyde Robert Bulla
  • Helen Keller's Teacher by Margaret Davidson (as well as her other amazing titles)
  • George Cohan: Boy Theater Genius by Gertrude Hecker Winders (and other Childhood of Famous American titles)

Take turns. Mix it up. You read a sentence, I read a sentence builds to I read a paragraph, you read a paragraph. Then one day, the learner takes of and reads the whole chapter, independently. This is an important strategy for emerging readers building fluency. We have found Step-up books and Discovery Biographies by Garrard Publishing  are perfect for this purpose. 

Give content. Often, today's book content is shallow, less engaging than the choices of days gone by. When we began purchasing vintage books, books penned in the 1950s and 1960s, our children read more often and more widely. Why? Real-life dilemmas and adventures--generally of lesser known people and events--intrigued my readers. There were problems to solve. History-changing events in which to be invited. For example, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo by Captain Ted W. Larson (Doolittle Raid pilot) from the Landmark book series pulled my readers into the plot almost immediately. We were with the fliers in training, incident and aftermath of the raid. Yes, there was mention of injuries, blood and bombing but courage, perseverance, real-life challenge (not fabricated and artificial) enveloped every page. 

NOTE: This book is one of the more graphic of the Landmark series and we chose wait until late middle school to introduce the content. Parents should read the content prior to making the decision to offer this book to their children. Not all Landmark books are as graphic. 

Practice and apply comprehension strategies. There are six components to comprehension: connection, visualization, question, inference, analysis and synthesis. All play an important role in the ability to comprehend written material and as such children must be given the opportunity to use, apply and master each component. 

What if my child just doesn't like to read?

Some don't. Although most will with something of interest. If there is a continuous aversion to reading, even with something of interest, consider whether a physical reason may be causing a learning challenge. For example, if the eyes don't converge on a page of written material, reading will be difficult and hence not enjoyable--because it's hard, if not impossible. Learning challenges are not always obvious and should be considered a possibility when children have an aversion to reading. 

Reading comprehension can be as SIMPLE as enjoying a read aloud and discussing what was heard. On the other hand, several methods might be needed. Whatever the situation, building reading comprehension doesn't have to bring fit-induced gray hairs and is worth the effort.

 

 

Read Aloud to Foster Counting Skills

Counting books cycle in our home; about every four years over the past two plus decades as little learners grow and start their quest to conquer the concepts and skills involved in counting. 

Noticing some of our favorites are disappearing from the library shelves, intentionality finds me adding to our home library so we don't lose our loves. 

How Many Snails? Rich, bold vibrant colors invite little learners to jump in and count! Though counting is the main skill reinforced, attributes, following directions, and processing fair well, too. One of our favorites! Author: Paul Giganti, Jr. 

M&M Counting Book. The familiar candies on the front draw readers to the content. Once opened, this book teaches counting through 12, counting sets, and beginning addition and subtraction. Author: Barbara Barbieri McGrath

Counting is for the Birds. The rhyming text makes this brilliantly illustrated counting-to-twenty book an all-time favorite of ours. Author: Frank Mazzola, Jr.

Cardinal Numbers: An Ohio Counting Book. Counting 1-14 with beautiful illustrations and real-world word problems on the last pages, this book is one of many in the Sleeping Bear Press series. A favorite for older children, too, as side bars on each page offer additional opportunities for curious learners. Author: Marcia Schonberg

Great Estimations. An intriguing look at estimating as an advanced counting technique. Great photography, fun examples, and helpful hints for counting objects in large numbers. Great for older learners, too! Author: Bruce Goldstone.

The Coin Counting Book. Counting takes another journey into the world of coin recognition and value. Great for beginner coin counters who have a piggy bank of coins waiting to be counted.  Another of our favorites due to the interest most kids have in money. Author: Rozanne Lanczank Williams.

Eating Pairs: Counting Fruits and Vegetables by Two. Reading and learning odds and evens go hand-in-hand with this unique counting book. We love that the numbers are written down the side bar of each page, begging for us to count along...again! Author: Sarah L. Schuette.

10 Little Rubber Ducks. Fictionalized counting story of a real-life event presented alongside the classic Eric Carle collage art. Bright illustrations and a intriguing story line. Great addition to the home library, for sure! Author: Eric Carle.

 

Large Print for the WIN!

"Mom, look what I found!"

In front of my face--so close I had to back up for my eyes to refocus--a familiar cover. Laura smiled contently at her beloved rag doll. I instantly knew the exhilaration of my young reader. I felt the same way forty years ago!

"Mom, I was looking for another Little House book and found this!"

A 8 1/2 x 11 hardcover large print version of a book loved for generations. 

Large print books serve well. Though often considered solely for readers who are visually impaired, large print books hold great promise for building reading interest and fluency.

Consider large print books for

  • Early Emergent Readers. When reading aloud to early emergent readers--knows some letters, understands writing has meaning and therefore uses scribbles to create a "message", recognizes high frequency words in the environment--large print books provide big inviting font and extra line space for running a finger under words while reading (another important skill for emergent readers). Early emergent readers often find larger illustrations more appealing, too.
  • Emergent Readers. Using an engaging large  print chapter book as a read aloud offers more print per page and  introduces complex sentence structures to budding readers, building auditory skills (when heard during read aloud) and creating templates for growing language development. The large print warmly invited my reader to a familiar prairie setting with characters she had come to love.  Another WIN!  
  • Early Fluent Readers. Readers at this stage rely less on colorful illustrations (yet the still welcome a few), appreciate descriptive, new vocabulary and delight in varied sentence structure. These readers often look for books with more text on a page, hence the larger print provides the illusion of more words without compromising eyes to fine print. Large print chapter books, especially classics like the Little House series, offer all this and more. 
  • Fluent Readers. When a younger child becomes a fluent reader desiring richer vocabulary, complex action-packed plots, and greater character development,  he or she is often faced with chapter books in fine font and void of illustration. Not so with large print editions. Large print editions offer all the story elements young fluent readers crave in a font which is easier on young eyes.

My young budding fluent reader appreciates the large font and over-sized illustrations of this large print edition of Little House in the Big Woods. All 8 1/2 x 11 --2 1/2 inches thick--has become a fast, clutched-to-the-chest friend, a welcomed companion for one building independent fluency. Since being discovered on the library shelf, the book has rode in the car for errands, traveled to Grandma's house, and helped pass time at an appointment. And perhaps the most precious gift this new friend has given is the nightly you-read-to-me-I-read-to-you moments on the couch: a team effort of enjoyment.

Large print for the reading WIN!