Category Archives: easy readers

especially for beginning readers

My Favorite Book Tradition

books

by Melissa Perry
Program Coordinator
Family Reading Partnership

 

As the leaves start to fall and the nights set in ever earlier, with signs of Jack Frost’s midnight escapades when we wake, thoughts in my home start wandering toward ‘the books’. Even my anticipation rises as I look forward to the joy of a few quiet hours, so precious in themselves as a parent, spent pouring over the books, reliving heart-warming memories as I wrap the books with newspaper or the remnants of last year’s holiday paper. When the time comes, these books will be unwrapped, more carefully than any gift, in reverence of what they mean to our family- togetherness and love during the holiday season.

These books are a collection of both old and some new holiday and winter-themed tales, collected overtime from many places- my childhood, from loved ones, from Bright Red Bookshelves in the community, yard sales, thrift stores, school book fairs, and local booksellers- all selected to be part of this elite group of books because they are meaningful to our family in some way. Lovingly wrapped and cradled in their own festive crate, these books have a designated place of honor amidst our holiday décor.

Each night, starting the day after Thanksgiving and ending on our big winter holiday, our family chooses two wrapped books from the crate. Before the books are unwrapped, the children love to try to guess which book is under the paper, in hopes of getting their favorites but never disappointed if it isn’t because they are all so special to us. Then, we pile onto the couch, with our cat, inevitably, budging his way on to someone’s lap, not willing to miss this family holiday book tradition, and we snuggle under the quilt meticulously hand-stitched so long ago by my beloved great-grandmother to lose ourselves in the spirit-lifting winter wonderlands of these stories.

This nightly ritual gathers us together and gives us pause during the bustling holiday season. We crave these quiet moments of reading and reminiscing together, all heading to bed with sweet words and memories to keep us cozy during the long winter nights. These books, gifts in themselves to be sure, become a focal point of our holiday celebrations, with reading together the most treasured piece of this seasonal ritual.

After the holidays, when all the books have been read and re-read countless times, the crate of holiday joy is quietly tucked away in the back of a dark closet. There they will await their time of glory next holiday season.

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Connecting with Grandchildren and Books via Skype

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by Elizabeth Stilwell
Early Childhood Specialist

If you are like many grandparents today, you may be experiencing the “love lag” of having young grandchildren who live far away and out of arm’s reach. More and more long distance grandparents are closing that gap using Skype, a service that allows you to communicate by voice and video over your computer. Seeing your grandchild on screen, watching all the new developments and making sure that they are familiar with your voice and your face, can make a big difference in feeling connected. Skype is also a great way to create read-aloud rituals with toddlers and young children.

 

If you are new to Skype – don’t worry! Chances are that you have everything you need to Skype. The setup involves a computer and a webcam. Most newer computers come with built-in webcams. Your computer will need a high-speed connection and you’ll need to use a speaker or earphones. That’s it! Then go to skype.com and set up your account. It is a free service and your adult children can help you with the simple set up and operations.

 

Reading aloud to children is a time-honored tradition used by grandparents to create special connections and memories with grandchildren. Although it’s not the same as having a little one snuggled on your lap, starting read-aloud rituals through Skype is another way to create and maintain meaningful relationships. Here are a few tips to make this experience more engaging for your grandchild and more rewarding to you.

 

  1. Choose books that are simple and age appropriate.   Often we remember childhood books that we read to young children when they were five or six. If you are reading to a toddler, classic picture books like ‘Make Way for Ducklings,’ or ‘The Little Engine That Could,’ have too much text and plot to keep a very young child engaged. It’s best to start with a simple board book, possibly with rhyming words or repeated phrases. Visit your library and get some help from the children’s librarian to find a rich selection of stories that are appropriate for you grandchild. The best part of this is that you can then invite your grandchild (and his/her parents) to check out the same story at his or her own local library!

 

  1. Make a “Skype date” for your read-aloud. Call or text your adult children to find a time that works for you to read to your grandchild. This should be separate from a regular video chat. The read-aloud Skype date will be a special time for you to share a story. Eventually try to set up a regular reading time that you can all plan on and look forward to.

 

  1. Practice the logistics of Skype reading with your spouse or another adult. It might feel awkward at first and if you practice you can be sure that you are holding the book so the child can see the illustrations and that you’re comfortable. Try pausing after reading each page and then do a “close up” so your grandchild can point to things in the illustration, just as they would in a traditional book. Read through the story in advance so you can anticipate characters, plot, and create special voices.

 

  1. Add a finger play, rhyme or song. Often at library story times for young children, the experience starts with a brief song or finger-play. This “warms up” the audience and helps the children settle in for the story. You could start each Skype story-time with the Itsy-Bitsy Spider, Patty-Cake, or any other simple song or finger play. Here is a website with songs and finger plays in case you need some inspiration! http://www.songsforteaching.com/fingerplays

 

  1. Read chapter books to older children. At Family Reading Partnership we believe that reading aloud to children should continue well beyond the time they can read independently. Sharing reading time with older children through Skype is a gift of time that you as a grandparent can give. It might be while parents are busy making dinner or as a break from homework. Invite your grandchild to check some books out of the library, choose a book to share and text you the title so you can check out the same book. Or, as a special treat, send a copy of a book to the child, maybe one that you remember reading aloud to your own children. Invite your grandchild to read ahead if it’s too hard to wait for your next Skype reading time but to let you know so you can do the same. Then have a conversation about the book in your own private Skype “book group”. In real time, these focused interactions can sometimes be hard to schedule in the busy world of young families. Skype can actually be a more intentional one to one interaction with an older grandchild.

 

There is a quote I love by Lois Wyse that says, “Grandchildren are the dots that connect the lines from generation to generation”. Sharing books through Skype is one more way for long distance grandparents to help connect the dots!

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Read All Summer Long!

girl reading

by Melissa Perry
Program Coordinator

Have you heard of the ‘summer slide’? Not the slide at the park, the slide that affects learning and the retention of knowledge. Did you know that children regress in their academic skills during the summer months? Fortunately, this can be avoided with one simple act- reading! Reading throughout the summer can prevent the loss of skills and knowledge and is a great activity to do with your child. Check out the tips below for planning a successful summer of reading.

Model Reading
Let your child see you finding pleasure in reading each day!

Read Together
Read aloud to your child, or have an older sibling or family friend read with him or her. Let your child read to a younger child, the family pet, or a favorite stuffed animal!

Let Them Decide
Let your child choose what he or she reads. Remember- newspapers, magazines, and comic books count!

Make Time
Set aside time each day to read. Make it an enjoyable time that everyone looks forward to! You can create a reading area with comfy blankets and a spot for books- inside or outside!

Take Reading on the Road
Whether you’re headed to the park down the street, a friend’s house the next town over or to visit family across the country, don’t leave home without something to read! Reading in the perfect way to occupy the lulls of travel time.

Host a Book SwapInvite your friends to gather up some books they are ready to pass on, and then get together to trade. You’ll have something new to read and the books will find new homes.

For more activity ideas, please visit www.familyreading.org.

 

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Reading to an Animal Builds Confidence

by Katrina Morse, Family Reading Partnership

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Madison Deljoo, age 8 of Ithaca, reads to her cat Jack, who looks on with great interest. Reading to an animal is a non-threatening way for children to practice reading aloud.

Read to a dog? Read to a cat? Yes! That can be just the thing for a beginning reader. Animals love the hugs and petting they receive when they are paired up with early readers. And children love having a non-judgmental audience when they practice reading.

If you have a pet at home and a child just learning to read, see what happens when they are together sharing a book. Pick a time when your pet is relaxed and resting and your child can sit nearby and read aloud. If you don’t have a pet, try a stuffed animal sitting on your child’s lap, “listening,” without interrupting or correcting.

The Cornell Companions, based in Ithaca, NY, are a group of pets accompanied by volunteers who have been listening to children read aloud for years. These animals, who are mostly dogs, visit area schools, libraries, nursing homes, hospitals and other venues to enhance the lives of children and adults. At schools and libraries they become “reading dogs.”

For an animal visit, kids usually choose books from what they have at school, because when the children read what they are already know well, it helps build their confidence. If a child needs help with a word while reading to their animal, they can skip over it or the animal handler, classroom teacher, or aide can offer a suggestion.

One volunteer, John Martindale, regularly brings his show-dog, a Rottweiler named Tank, to listen to children read at area schools. Martindale says that when children first see Tank they are a little intimidated by his 110 lbs. size, but then the children get to know him and some even lie down with their head on him, using Tank as a pillow when they read.

Sometimes Tank pays attention, but other time he rolls over on his back and falls asleep. When Penelope the rabbit comes to schools she sits very quietly; and when the llama visits on special occasions, she gets a lot of petting before children settle down to read. It’s all part of the read-aloud experience and helps children see that reading is fun to do.

Of course a child can read any book to a pet, but it’s fun to read a story about animals and imagine that maybe the furry friends understand just a little. Here are some books to try:

“Three Stories You Can Read to Your Cat” by Sara Swan Miller, illustrated by True Kelley. “The Rainy Day,” “The Yummy Bug,” and “The Good Day” are three short stories about all the things that could be a part of your cat’s day–nibbling plants, sharpening claws on the rug, diving into the garbage, and stalking insects. The humorous text accurately portrays the finicky, quirky nature of felines.

The “McDuff” books by Rosemary Wells, illustrated by Susan Jeffers, are about a little Westie dog that will steal your heart with his adventures through seasons and situations. The expressions of McDuff, with head cocked to the side in an inquisitive look, will be familiar to anyone with a lap-sized dog.

“Biscuit Goes to School” by Allyssa Satin Capucilli, illustrated by Pat Schories, is an “I Can Read” book especially for beginners. Biscuit is a little puppy who wants to do everything like his owner, including going to school and listening to stories! Very few words on each page help keep the attention of young children practicing reading.

 

 

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Carlson’s Books Give Kids a Positive Message

Nancy Carlson, a native of Minnesota, knew from the time she was in kindergarten that she wanted to be an artist. As an adult she was so determined to make that her career, she never considered any other goal. Now, some 50 years later, she has illustrated and written more than 50 children’s books.

Carlson clearly has an agenda when creating her books. She writes about issues children face, but from a positive point of view. Her stories are about being happy, telling the truth, trying your best, and being nice. The upbeat messages are mirrored in the bright colors and bold patterns of her illustrations.

A cast of animal or human characters play out the gamut of childhood emotions in her books. Many of them are based on friends or neighbors, starting with Harriet the golden retriever, whose personality is based on Nancy Carlson herself when she was young. In three different stories Harriet has to get over stage fright, share her Halloween candy, and be brave enough to ride a roller coaster.

Louanne the pig is a great role model for positive self-image. Sam and George are dogs that are bullies often encountered by other characters. Vinney the frog consistently has the outlook “Don’t worry; Be happy!”

Carlson’s stories may be overly optimistic for some children’s (and grown-up’s) sensibilities, but for others, these books will say just the right thing at the right time. She presents real life in the form of comical moral lessons. And for Carlson, the stories provide the perfect opportunity to do what she really loves–create art!

• “Smile a Lot” features Vinney the frog. After reading this book you realize how contagious a smile really is. “Smile a lot. It gets you through hard times. It gives you lots of courage. It helps you reach your goals” …and it’s much easier than complaining!

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• “Henry’s Amazing Imagination!” features Henry the mouse. Henry used to lie about everything, until he learned how to tell stories for show and tell at school.

• “I Like Me!” features Louanne the pig and her “you can do it” attitude. When she makes a mistake, she tries again. When she falls down, she picks herself up.

• “Arnie and the Stolen Markers” features Arnie the cat. When Arnie doesn’t have the allowance money to buy some markers he wants, the temptation to take them is just too much. Find out what happens when his mother discovers what Arnie’s done.

For more information on Nancy Carlson, visit her website: www.nancycarlson.com.

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Emergent Readers

It is truly magical when a child learns to read. The hidden messages on the pages of a book are revealed; the mystery of a story discovered. All the time you have spent sharing books together before this, have given your child the motivation to learn to read. Your child knows that books are full of adventure, feelings, facts and fun. Now that your child can access the magic of books on his or her own, it is amazing!

Your emergent reader will still benefit from hearing books read aloud, but will most likely be proud to read aloud to someone else. Parents, grandparents, siblings and friends can all be good listeners. Even pets and stuffed animals can be included. Books that your child has heard you read aloud are familiar and may be a natural choice for your child to read. But books new to your child hold a treasure of excitement as they are read for the first time.

Praising your child’s efforts at reading will go a long way in establishing your child’s confidence in being able to read. Reading is a skill to be practiced and learned. Reading aloud gives a child the opportunity to pronounce words and speak in a natural cadence. It also gives the listener a chance to gently guide the early reader into sounding out or using context to approach new vocabulary.

Asking questions about the story can check your child’s comprehension. When your child has finished a page of reading, ask about the characters in the story. What will happen next, or what is the character thinking or feeling? Does your child know the meaning of what he or she read?

Your child will enjoy picking out books that are interesting to him or her, but steer the choice of books to a level that is appropriate for your early reader. Many books have been written especially for early readers and are labeled as such right on the cover of the book.

Save longer, more complex books for an adult to read to the child. Remember that beginning readers are veteran listeners (Jim Trelease, “The Read Aloud Handbook”) and can understand a higher level of book read aloud than they can read on their own. Keep reading to your child, even when they read to you!

Suggested books for early readers:

“Are you My Mother?” By P.D. Eastman. A little bird looks everywhere for his mother. His ideas of the identity his mother may be appeal to a child’s sense of humor.

“Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” By Eric Carle. The sing-song text goes through the names of colors and animals and makes reference to school.

“If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” by Laura Numeroff. An unusual series of events takes place before this mouse ever gets his snack.

“Ira Sleeps Over” by Bernard Waber. Ira wants to spend the night at his friend’s house, but doesn’t know if his teddy bear is too childish to bring.

“The Foot Book” by Dr. Seuss. Repetition and rhyme make the text of this book predictable.

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