Monday, May 16, 2011


I saw a class advertised through a local community college's offering of summer education courses called: Storytelling 101.  I wanted in. The dates of the class conflict with our summer plans, so this momma won't be officially polishing my story telling skills as of yet. But, I did think that perhaps I could share a few ideas that I have picked up here and there which can make storytelling a helpful reading tool in your home.

Storytelling invites imagination. It focuses the attention. It engages the audience.  Any activity that invites, focuses and engages my children without them even knowing it, all the while they are entertained and absorbed in creativity, is something I want in my home often.

We story-tell by reading aloud chapter books. We ask questions. What might happen? What would you do? How would you feel if?   Both my husband and I muster up imaginative answers and encourage dialog while we all four lay in our big bed drawing the evening to a close through the pages of a books, often interrupted with  some good old fashioned wresting matches, before returning to  snuggling over a story. It is fantastic to hear the insight that children have on subjects. Even when Moose does not fully comprehend what is happening in the story he has an understanding of what he thinks is happening. And, he has thoughts and feelings about it to share! Right now we are reading a fantastic chapter book for our before bed snuggle time. It is called The Invention of Hugo Cabret. It is both story and graphic novel, with art work that my children stare at intently and find a real sense of knowing the story and its characters through. The art in this book makes the book a friend, and that is so powerful for children.

Other ways to story tell......

1. Sit your children in a cozy space, on the swingset, in the car and begin to tell them a tale you have made up on your own. 

2. Share stories of your childhood or moments of theirs in vivid story form. Kids love to hear stories about themselves. Provide little twists in the story and see if they catch on! 
3. Have someone in the family suggest a topic and take turns creating a story together. 
4. Listen to books on tape together. 
5. Create playscapes (let the kids go at it with shells, blocks, leafs, dolls, cars, anything they can get their hands on) and make up a story together as they go along. 
6. Play dress up and act out characters in your own story. 
7. Take advantage of dark rainy days by keeping lights low and the stories flowing. 
8. Ask those gifted in story telling to share their talent with your family. Invite grandparents or friends over who can story tell for an evening of entertainment. 
9. Make wild art, where there is no wrong way to create it, and come up with stories for each creation. 
10. Sit back,. Be quiet. Listen to your kids. They tell stories all day long. Let them know those stories matter and that you adore them.

The possibilities are endless. Relax, its story time. Doesn't that sound nice?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Read what you love!

A few posts ago my mom wrote about teaching children to read through using the words that are meaningful to them. If your child likes Buzz Lightyear, then /b/ can be for Buzz! This can start at any age. My littlest one is a toothbrush nut. If he sees a toothbrush, bet your bottom dollar that he will find a way to get it into his hands. There is hardly a day that goes by that someone is my family is not hollering out, "Where is my toothbrush?".....and we all know the answer!  The Boo-Boo took it!

I came across this book, all about brushing your teeth, at the library and I knew we had to check it out. Now, in addition to hording the family hygiene products my sixteen month old baby wants to read the toothbrush book all day long. And, that puts a smile on my face...even if I can't find my toothbrush!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Desert: A Unit Study

Our family just returned from a trip to Arizona. While traveling we visited the Grand Canyon, the red rocks of Sodona, and the desert. I decided to use this trip as an opportunity to make my, "The World" study come alive.  Several weeks before the trip we began reading books about the desert, all kinds of deserts not just limited to the deserts in the southwest United States. After we scavenged the shelves at our library and then had books ordered from all over the place through the inter library loan system the three favorites that I used for our formal lessons are the above pictured, The Desert Alphabet Book, The Grand Canyon, and A Walk in the Desert.They featured history, animal, landscape shots, and more.

I also made sure we had storybooks about the desert and we read, read, read them! If you are doing a study about the desert for young ones I highly recommend: The Three Little Javelinas, Tortoise and the Jackrabbit, and the classic Clementines Cactus. These great storybooks made learning about the desert fun. From these storybooks we learned more than we bargained for about  desert animals and that was without even trying!

So, in addition to reading these books we also did art, music, and watched a wonderful Reading Rainbow (throw back to my childhood!) video on Native American art called The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush.

My son's favorite art projects:
Making a cactus out of green playdough and toothpicks.
Using a ruler to measure out and draw a life size tarantula, cutting it out, and hiding it around the house to "spook" us.

Our favorite desert song:
We put this to the tune of The Wheels on the Bus

The tortoise in the desert eats prickly pear fruit, prickly pear fruit, prickly pear fruit...all day long. 
The hare in the desert goes hop, hop, hop.....all day long. 
The tarantula in the desert goes creep, creep, creep...all night long. 
The owl in the desert goes hoot, hoot, hoot....all night long. 

You can keep the song going. We ended up having upwards of fifteen verses to our song. I used this as a good opportunity to teach nocturnal and diurnal too. So, we ended the song with "all night long" or "all day long" depending on if the animal is nocturnal or diurnal.

We did a study on Native American art from the southwest and while in a Grand Canyon gift shop the Moose found examples of the pottery. He was so excited to have made this discovery. It really made the lesson we did at home come to life for him, which is what this teaching Momma was hoping!  Upon coming home we have created a travel scrapbook, written in our family adventure journal, and read once more all of our desert books now that we can combine the pages of the  books with our experience in Arizona.

Up next on our gigantic unit study, "The World" is a study on rivers, lakes, and oceans.  Fun!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I am continually asked to suggest a curriculum for homeschool parents to use with their child. I know that I disappoint every time I aswer this question. I don't suggest a specific curriculum. You see, I don't know their child. There are quite a few good curriculum choices on the market, but not every one is best for every child and none of them are developed for an individual child. This is why I believe it is so important for a parent to understand the process of reading aquisition so that they can apply this process and the pieces to the process to any curriculum they choose. Then, if they find that a specific curriculum doesn't work with their child, pick another one. One of the main factors of a reading curriculum is whether or not the reading text in the curriculum interests and motivates their child. Instead of a curriculum calling the instructional shots, it is my hope that the parent as teacher will call the instructional shots and use the curriculum as a support!

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Skills in Isolation

Several parents at the Great HomeSchool Conference talked to me about theirs and their child's frustration when they were working on specific skills such as letter sounds or sounds of chunks of letters (th, ph, tion, ea, etc...). When I asked them to tell me more about how they were instructing these skills, I found almost across the board that they were just working on them by themselves, in other words in isolation from anything meaningful to the child. To be honest, most kids have no reason to care why letters have certain sounds. But if you teach them that a letter has a specific sound and it's used in the word _______ (fill in something your child knows and LIKES that has the sound in it that you are trying to teach), then the learning will have much more of a chance to stick because it suddenly becomes relevant to that child. For me, I would love to learn what sound ch makes and that it is in the word CHOCOLATE! Toss the premade alphabet cards that have the letter and a picture (A-apple, B-ball, C-cat, and so on, you get the idea) and instead make your own. It's not to be economical, it's to be relevant. HAve your child decide which picture best represents for him/her what the sound is. For one little guy I know, T is for Thomas Train, and his picture on the card is of Thomas. Another one is a B card that has Billy, a picture of his little friend on it. Now every time he needs a hint about the sound that B makes, the parent pulls out the B card and the connected learning kicks in so that he can say, "Oh, buh."


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Anxious to make a reader

Many parents came to me this weekend with concerns about their preschooler not making specific advancements in reading. Examples were they didn't know all of their letters, they didn't recognize little words, they had no interest in trying to read on their own etc... My answer to these questions was quite similar. Reading is a process not unlike other human processes such as walking, riding a bike etc...The truth is that people are ready to read, or even ready for specific readiness knowledge at different times. If your child is not learning hierarchical pieces in the reading process- letters, chunks, words, despite your time in teaching them, it is highly possible, no, highly probable that your child is not yet ready. It isn't even a maturity issue. Readiness supercedes even maturity. My advice is this is your concern is to back down on the formal instruction and begin doing more play with phonemic awareness: silly songs, making letter characters (draw a letter on a page and make a creature or other thing out of that letter), fun rhyming, environmental print (I'll bet they can "read" McDonalds!), and stop putting the pressure on yourself and your child. Read books together just for fun and make sure you are having genuine conversations with your child about your reading. This will build vocabulary and comprehension in a non-threating environment. Gently work your way back to some minimal instruction. Sometimes going back several steps gets you miles further in the long run.  

Happy reading!


Saturday, April 2, 2011

HomeSchool Parents are Incredible!

I'm weary having just returned home from the MidWest Great HomeSchool Conference in Cincinnati. What an incredible time. I am in awe of the parents I met this weekend and the passion and fervor they have for providing their children with a quality education. I appreciate those who took the time to attend our workshop, their attention, great questions, and compliments. Your kindness is much appreciated. There is nothing I enjoy more than support a parent in teaching their child to read. I'm looking forward to hearing from several people who are interested in having Read Me Home present workshops to their HomeSchool Coops. Looks like we are going to be busy in the next couple of months!

Over the next few days, I am going to address several common questions that parents had about reading at the conference. Perhaps the answers to those questions can help a number of people in the instruction of their children. I'm home and tired, but I am already looking forward to next year's conference!


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Snapshots of Little Readers

I had to share these. They are my (Katie's) two boys caught reading. The first is of my almost five year old during nap time. He is surrounded by books and loving it. The second I caught on camera as I happened to walk by and discover my fifteen month old enjoying the pictures of a library book. Adorable!

13 Words by Lemony Snicket book trailer

A Book Trailer: 13 Words

Our interest is peeked! And, I for one can not wait to get my hands on a copy of Lemony Snicket's and Maira Kalman's new book. There is so much that we can do with this book in terms of vocabulary, creative writing, and art. What fun!
Introducing~  13 WORDS 

The trailer is above!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Great HomeSchool Conference in Cincinnati

Read Me Home will be an exhibitor and also presenters of a workshop entitled, Reading, Understanding the Pieces to the Process at the Great HomeSchool Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio March 31-April 1. Please come see us if you are attending the conference!

Reading Revelry

After school at our house can be described with a variety of adjectives and adverbs added to any noun or verb that describes chaos. It is probably not unlike many other after school home environments. A few years ago, a pop group released a song entitled, “Who Let the Dogs Out?” That aptly describes this timeframe in our home. On a recent, March afternoon, however, something was quite different.

It was one of those days when Mother Nature becomes a vixen and lures us with her charm of unseasonably warm weather. The sun was full and radiant, and the breeze smelled like, well, warm. I was putzing around the kitchen which is attached in a greatroom style to our living area. I had that sudden realization that something was wrong. What was wrong was silence. It’s never silent in our home at that time of day! I stopped in my tracks and looked into the living area. I was stunned to see both of my children and three of their friends all nestled into different pieces of furniture with their noses in books! Sunbeams were enveloping each of them with that wonderful, bone-warming heat, and they were gone somewhere other than the living area, each of them to the place he/she was reading about.

I turned off the oven, grabbed my Jan Karon book and found the last piece of vacant furniture. For the better part of an hour, we all lounged in this manner delighting in our chosen author’s conversation in print. No one even cared that we had toasted PBJ’s for supper!

Monday, February 14, 2011

FieldTrip: The Fire Station

For me, teaching preschool and kindergarten is an incredibly experiential few years. There are very few things that we formally learn about that we do not also find a way to touch or interact with on some level. Reading books can peek a child's interest in a topic and a first hand look at that topic can seal the deal~ a readers becomes a doer! It is much more difficult to forget that which we actually do with our own hands. Even if young children do not remember the specific event they will still integrate the experience into their continuously growing minds.

A field trip is the perfect opportunity to take a subject matter and turn it into hands on fun!

Using the book, Tito the Firefighter, which has both English and Spanish text I created a unit study that touched on fire safety, introduction of Spanish words, people in the community (firemen) and my son's favorite~ the big red LOUD  firetruck!

The unit study ended with a trip to the local fire house that really put the power (water power that is!) behind the story.

Tips for making a field trip to your local firehouse:

It is easy! Simply call your local fire department and express interest in visiting the fire station. Tell the ages of the children attending. Many fire stations will simply let you come for a visit and as long as no emergency is taking place they will give a tour, talk fire safety, and even let you sit in the truck! For an added bonus, check and see if your fire department puts on a special program for Fire Safety and Prevention Week October 9-15, 2011. And, make sure to make a special visit in May for International Firefighters Day and express appreciation for the work these men and women do each and every day!

Some more resources:
Crayola Fire Station Field Trip 
Apples for the Teacher Fire Safety Resources 
Sprout Online Fire Safety Activities

Many blessings raising readers!


Monday, January 3, 2011

Creation of a Reader

A new year and a new venture, or adventure is more like it. Thanks to the vision of my oldest daughter, Katie, we are trying out a blog about one of our favorite activities in the world- READING! While I have degrees, professional experience etc… with this things called reading from a teaching and research vantage point, I still think that the insights and lessons I gained from my own children learning to read, and struggling to learn to read make up my greatest bank of knowledge which I am happy to share with others in hopes that it may help another child bridge the gap into becoming a successful reader. I’m going to start with my oldest and work my way through the five, very different children, and very different learners of reading. Thanks kids. I love you all!

I’ve already changed my mind! Readers (and writers) can do that you know. I’m going to start with myself. My own transition to becoming a reader is surely my foundation from which all else was fixed.

I have so many memories as a child. Good memories. Marvelous adventures. Many wonderful relatives who spent time with me, building my bank of experiences on which I draw to this day. Reading, however, is somehow linked to most of my memories. As an only child of educated people, and from an extended family who valued education, books were part of my life from my earliest experiences. Bedtime stories were the norm. Books as gifts were looked forward to on any occasion. I remember when I was three, I had the chicken pox. My mother worked as a secretary and I usually went to “nursery school.” My dotted physique remanded me to being home with a babysitter. I can see in my mind’s eye my mother coming home early one afternoon. She had with her a bag. When the sitter left, mother sat by me on the couch and produced Golden Books, one after the other. There was Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and one about farm animals.  She read them to me several times that evening and I loved it. I still have the Sleeping Beauty book. Even though it looks as aged as I do, I have read that very book to my children and grandchildren and the pictures and story is just as wonderful!

My paternal grandfather had a great reading lap. I wonder how many times I crawled up there with books in my hands? He never told me that he was too busy yet I know that he probably was. In his deep, commanding voice, he read me the classics, and Bible stories. He changed his voice to become different characters, and he would add personal stories that fit just right with whatever book we were reading. Papaw, as we called him, would get tired and skip a page here or there. I don’t think that I ever fell for it and as I reminded him that he missed one, I can see the smile on his face as he obediently turned back to read every page.

My maternal grandmother was the smartest person I know. She was the daughter of immigrants and was selected to attend a public school for gifted children. Life was hard and she only went through the 8th grade. She raised 5 children as a single parent when her husband disappeared and those children say that they never knew that they were poor. Poor wasn’t the word for it! Somehow in their poverty, books were available treasures and they all read. Grandma read herself into knowledge that I would have put up against Ph.D.s any day. She was wise and smart.  She worked in factories until she retired. I would go and stay with her and couldn’t wait to explore her bookshelves. Every night, I would snuggle in her twin bed with her in our flannel jammies. She would read to me until she literally fell asleep and dropped the book! It was Grandma that read me Grimms Fairy Tales and developed the movie screen in my mind from stories. The Twelve Dancing Princesses was the kicker. I could see the beautiful ball gowns, the secret passage, and the lake that had to be crossed to get to the underground palace where they danced with their princes, and the book wasn’t illustrated! If I had a dollar for every time she read me that story to sooth my pleading for it, I would be a rich woman today.

I went to Kindergarten as a reader. I understood how stories and books worked. They were totally familiar to me and working with them was not overwhelming to me. While I don’t believe in teaching reading strictly from a curriculum of phonics, that is what I experienced in Kindergarten.  I caught on quickly to that aspect of reading because I had already had the balance of reading for meaning at home.

When my dad traveled, mother and I would read novels aloud to each other, The Wizard of Oz, Little Women, The Borrowers, and books I bought from school book clubs. As our family traveled, it was inevitable that we would locate a book from that region. Staying on Prince Edward Island for a month as a middle schooler pushed me over the edge of falling in love with Anne of Green Gables and all of her companions.

I was brought up as a reader and transitioning into the skills and activities it takes to be a reader just melted in to me seamlessly. I wish it worked that way for everyone, but it doesn’t. That will be what I share with you next.