Friday, September 20, 2013

Visit Your Local Library

"Libraries allow children to ask questions about the world and find the answers. And the wonderful thing is that once a child learns to use a library, the doors for learning are always open."
--Laura Bush

A great resource for parents, educators and caregivers is the library. For parents of young children, I highly suggest taking them to Story Time at your local library. Story time is a wonderful way to get your students interacting with books, other children and to have some fun. Plus, you can connect with other adults in your community as well. The library is a great resource for Spanish speakers too. At my library there is a weekly Spanish Story Time and and books in Spanish for children.

There is a sweet little library that just opened last year in my community and I wanted to share the children's area...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Create a Reading Routine

Image Credit:
One way to incorporate reading into your busy life is to build it into your nightly bedtime routine.

When I was young and my mom would read me a story before bed. I remember feeling so excited about the stories we would read -- lots of Berenstain Bears and many other wonderful children's books. After getting ready for bed, my mom and I would snuggle next to each other and she would sweetly read me. I had so much fun finding out what Mama Bear, Papa Bear, Sister and Brother Bear were up to. Mom always had the perfect voice for each of the characters and to this day, I believe that no one else can read them as good as her.

Our nightly routine fostered my love of reading and a positive attitude towards literacy (also I was more compliant about getting ready for bed with this wonderful routine!). I hold those times of reading with my mom dear to my heart. Reading a book to a child is not a chore, but a time to create long lasting beautiful memories.

For new parents, caregivers or educators. I want to share this great website I found that has a suggested nightly routine schedule: Establishing a Bedtime Routine on

Perhaps reading at night doesn't fit into your schedule or even your preferred routine, but this is just one way you can get more reading time in with your child/children. This routine is not only important for Pre-K children but throughout their elementary years. suggests spending 15 minutes per day reading aloud with your children. Whether this is at bedtime or some time of the day. I urge you to make this effort. All of the minutes you spend reading with your children positively affects their learning development and attitudes about reading. Plus, it's a great way for you to bond with your child. Check out 's awesome graphic on their campaign for all parents/caregivers/guardians to read with children 15 minutes per day.

What book will you read with your child today?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pre-K Literacy Goals

"The process of becoming literate is not a one-time event that begins when children start formal schooling and reading instruction in kindergarten or first grade. Rather, the acquisition of literacy occurs as part of a developmental continuum that begins early in life, as early as birth and the first attempts at communication between a parent and child." -- Birth to Five Literacy Plan, Oregon

As stated in the above quote, preparing children for kindergarten is a process that begins many years before entry into formal schooling. Young children need opportunities to be active in learning, which will help them develop emergent skills for kindergarten. According to the Birth to Five Literacy Plan of Oregon, these are the emergent/readiness skills that pre-k children need to acquire:
  • Recognizing letters of alphabet
  • Identifying beginning sounds of words
  • Identifying primary colors
  • Counting to 20
  • Writing own name
  • Amount of time read prior to kindergarten
  • Accumulated experience with words also lists goals for  pre-k children -- important skills that they should obtain prior to kindergarten. These goals are worked on in many preschools across the United States. Here some that are listed on the website:
  • Simple sentence structure
  • Ways to handle a book
  • Numbers and prewriting skills, shape identification, letter recognition, sounds and rhyming
  • Oral language skills
  • Vocabularies
  • Conversations with other children and adults
  • Proficiency in language
  • Literacy skills related to writing and reading
  • Letters of the alphabet
  • Listening to comprehension
  • Motivation to read
  • Print awareness
  • Ways to use and appreciate books
Being knowledgeable about the skills that pre-k children need to acquire gives a sense of purpose to the time and type of literacy activities that parents/guardians provide for their children. The amount of time in literacy activities in the early years greatly affects the the child for the rest of his or her life: "...a poor reader at the end of first grade has an .88 probability of being a poor reader at the end of fourth grade" (Juel, 1988, Birth to Five Literacy Plan of Oregon) A poor reader in the elementary years leads to the likelihood that the child will eventually drop out of high school due to not meeting the basic expectations or state standards. High school drop outs often become engaged in negative behavior such as drug abuse, teen pregnancy and can get arrested for poor choices.*

The bottom line: Parents/guardians must consistently engage their children in quality, meaningful and engaging activities to boost literacy skills. Being a literate individual prior to kindergarten greatly affects ones academic achievement for the rest of his or her school career, and ultimately success in life.

Keeping these goals and skills in mind for young learners, I will provide parents, guardians and educators with resources and advice this month.

Go read with your children! :)

*Many thanks to the Birth to Five Literacy Plan for excellent information for my blog post

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September Focus: Preparing Pre-K Children for Kindergarten

As children from all over the country are starting their new school year, I want to focus this month on how parents/guardians can prepare their young children for learning how to read in kindergarten.

The kind of support that a child does or does not receive when they are young can greatly affect them for the rest of their school career. Parental/Guardian support is critical in the early years. With that said, socioeconomic status is a major factor in the amount support that children will receive when they are young and as they go through their elementary, middle and high school years. I am an advocate for free resources for all parents/guardians, access to high quality texts, free literacy programs for children and for all educators to be knowledgeable of strategies to help children that come from disadvantaged backgrounds. I also feel as though their are little excuses for parents/guardians [who have the means to provide for their children's basic needs] -- they need to be active in engaging their children in literacy activities.

These startling statistics should have educators, parents and educator stakeholders alarmed:

37% of children arrive at kindergarten without the skills necessary for lifetime learning 1

By the age of 2, children who are read to regularly display greater language comprehension, larger vocabularies, and higher cognitive skills than their peers 2

Across the nation just under half of children between birth and five years old (47.8%) are read to every day by their parents or other family members 3

The most successful way to improve the reading achievement of low-income children is to increase their access to print 4

There are many more statistics on, where I found these. So many compelling statistics. All children deserve good quality books from a young age, time and attention to literacy from adults and literacy support throughout their school career. 

1 - Laundry, S.H. (2005). Effective Early Childhood Programs: Turning Knowledge Into Action. Houston, TX: University of Texas, Health Science Center at Houston.

2- Raikes, H., Pan, B.A., Luze, G.J., Tamis-LeMonda, C.S., Brooks-Gunn, J., Constantine, J., Tarullo, L.B., Raikes, J.A., Rodriguez, E. (2006). Mother-child bookreading in low-income families: Correlates and outcomes during the first three years of life. Child Development, 77 (4)

3- Russ, S., Perez, V., Garro, N., Klass, P., Kuo, A.A., Gershun, M., Halfon, N., Zuckerman, B. Reading Across the Nation: A Chartbook (2007): Reach Out and Read National Center, Boston MA.

4- Newman, Sanford et. al. (2000) Americans Child Care Crisis: A Crime Prevention Tragedy, Fight Crime; Invest in Kids.

Friday, August 30, 2013

A Quote from Lean In

"I have written this book to encourage women to dream big, forge a path through the obstacles, and achieve their full potential. I am hoping that each woman will set her own goals and reach for them with gusto. And I am hoping that each man will do his part to support women in the workplace and in the home, also with gusto. As we start using talents of the entire population, our institutions will be more productive, our homes will be happier, and the children growing up in those homes will no longer be held back by narrow stereotypes." 
--Sheryl Sandberg

(p. 171)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Book Recommendation: Lean In

Image Credit: Neen James

Book: Lean In: 
Author: Sheryl Sandberg
Copyright: 2013
Publisher: Random House LLC
Type: Personal read, inspiration for all educators and in general
Where to get it: Library (always!), Powell's, Barnes & Noble and

More information: I highly suggest you watch her thought provoking TED talk that she gave in December 2010. She discusses the three points in her speech more thoroughly in her book.

Check out the website

Why ~

Men and women of any age and industry should read this book! Ms. Sandberg did an excellent job of discussing the importance of women progressing in the workforce and being able to also have a family. She does not claim that women can have it all, but that there can be more of a balance at home and at a work. I particularly liked how Ms. Sandberg advocated for more respect for men as well as for women. Men need to feel as though they can be active in their home life without being marginalized at work.

Her book is incredibly insightful, engaging and honest. She brings light to a topic that is not talked about enough. Women hold very few top positions in companies and political positions around the globe. This needs to change because women need to be represented.  If you're a woman, you should read this book to be inspired and given practical advice. If you're a man, you should read this book for being reminded that women need your support in the work place and the home. Together, we can create a better future for generations after us -- erasing the social limitations on gender and creating a world where both men and women can have more satisfaction at home and at work.

Head to your local library or order a used copy!

Happy reading!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Quote from My Beloved World

In efforts to keep my recommendation from being too long, I didn't put this quote in that post. I think Ms. Sotomayor's words are so thoughtful and inspiring, they must be shared. I have so much respect for this woman:

"The challenges I have faced -- among them material poverty, chronic illness, and being raised by a single mother -- are not uncommon, but neither have they kept me from uncommon achievements. For many it is a source of hope to see someone realize her dreams while bearing such burdens. Having caught people's attention in this way, I've thought long and hard about what lessons my life might hold for others, young people especially. How is it that adversity has spurred me on instead of knocking me down? What are the sources of my own hope and optimism? Most essentially, my purpose in writing is to make my hopeful example accessible. People who live in difficult circumstances need to know that happy endings are possible." 
--Sonia Sotomayor


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Book Recommendation: My Beloved World

Image Credit: Washington University in St. Louis

Book: My Beloved World
Author: Sonia Sotomayor
Copyright: 2013
Publisher: Knopf
Type: Personal read, inspiration for all educators and in general
Where to get it: Library (may still be a long hold), Barnes & Noble, or Powell's


I finished this book a few weeks ago, but didn't have the time to write a thorough recommendation (yes excuses but my Granny turned 102 and we had many celebrations!). I have to say, this is my favorite autobiography of the year so far. I was not able to put it down because of the way Ms. Sotomayor wrote. Her word choices were interesting and made her even more personable. I loved the way she wrote about her life from childhood until she became an Associate Justice of the Surpreme Court. At times I had to remind myself that I was reading a non-fiction book because she truly wrote her life in story-form. I got lost in her beloved world.

So why should you read this book? As an educator, this book is valuable because not only is it interesting but it gives insight as to what it is like for a child to grow up in poverty. Not only that but in addition to financial hardship, Ms. Sotomayor grew up with a father that was an alcoholic and she was diagnosed with Diabetes at a young age. Her determination to succeed is remarkable and a great reminder to all of us educators, that any child can rise up from difficult situations. While Ms. Sotomayor's inner strength helped her obtain her lifelong dream, it is important to remember that some children do not have this sense of perseverance. Everyone needs support and especially those that come rough backgrounds.

I hope you read this book soon or at least put it on your book list!

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Book Recommendation: Radical

Image credit from Barnes & Noble
Book: Radical: Fighting to Put Students First 
Author: Michelle Rhee
Copyright: 2013
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Type: Teacher Reads -  thought provoking ideas, inspiration, good for discussions/book clubs 
Where to get it: library (hold list may be long right now), Powell's, Barnes & Noble and

More information related to this book:
Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst grassroots organization - about reforming education
About Michelle Rhee and her educational career from her StudentsFirst website
The first organization she created called The New Teacher Project


Over the weekend I finished this book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Radical and could not put it down. Not only did I enjoy how Ms. Rhee wrote the book, but I was captivated by her passion for educating children in America. I will warn you, this book is controversial. However, with any education book that tries to address the issues in the public school systems is going to start debates and discussions. With that said, I think most can agree with her on her main point: all children, regardless of race or socioeconomic status deserve an excellent teacher and education. Depending on your opinions and even role in the education system, you might have a different solution in mind. Rhee defends and explains her views on how she has tried to solve the problem -- as she was chancellor in the D.C. school system for 3 years.

So why should you read this book? Well, it is important to be knowledgeable about what is happening in America's schools throughout the country. After all, the choices adults make affect the lives of children positively or negatively. Perhaps this will inspire you to be a better teacher. I know I feel even more compelled to learn all that I can so I can be the best for my future students. Maybe you will feel the urge to advocate for children in some way or even join in Rhee's StudentsFirst movement. Or maybe you will have a deeper sense of empathy towards children who suffer academically because of their race or low socioeconomic status. For me, this book makes me want to act.

 Here's a profound quote I'll share with you, that will always stay with me (a special preview!):

"That said, I do believe that schools and teachers can make a tremendous difference in the lives of kids who face these challenges every day. Do our children face significant obstacles that impact their ability to learn? Absolutely. Can we, as educators, still make an enormous difference in their lives, if we're doing our jobs well? Absolutely. These are not mutually exclusive notions. The research is very clear: teachers make a real difference. In fact, of all in-school factors, the quality of the teacher in front of the students every day has far and away the greatest influence on student achievement." (p.109)*

*Except for the not, colors and bold words were added for emphasis.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday Reading

This morning...

This was how my morning started out and rest of the day was quite similar. While waiting for a repairman to come to our house, I sat on the couch and read. Since the repairman did not show up till much later I ended up reading all day, which was lovely. I want to finish the book I'm reading, Radical by Michelle Rhee (fantastic!) soon as I have one on hold at the library. Ah.... a day of reading and with a sweet kitty. Friday has been good.

Did you read today? If so, where? Or are you planning to later?

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Applying Those Bookworm Research Findings

You read quite a bit of compelling information in the previous post so now I am going to share with you a simple way to incorporate writing into your life. Right after I read Marina Koren's article, I thought to myself, "Why haven't I been journaling while I read?" I'm not talking of writing pages upon pages and reactions to everything you read. No, I am talking about writing down quotes and words that you want to remember.

Maybe you won't find something to write down every night or when you read, but hopefully you can get in the habit along with me. 
  • Keep a journal of some kind along with your book and whenever you come across words/sentences that speak to you, write them down! 
  • Share what you have written as that will further engage your mind with the book. Talk with a friend/co-worker/significant other etc., share via social media (I love using quotes as statuses!), use the words in a letter or note to someone, or create a piece of artwork inspired by those meaningful words, or your own unique way of sharing!
  • Enjoy going back and seeing what you have written. 
Here is what I'm doing:

Happy reading AND writing! Work that brain! 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Bookworm Benefits for the Brain in Old Age

Recently, on Facebook, a friend of mine shared an article about how being a bookworm can boost brain function in old age. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article, "Being a Lifelong Bookworm May Keep You Sharp in Old Age."  The author of this article, Marina Koren basically summarizes the findings from a brain study, published in Neurology. I suggest you read her post as it is only a page long (and reading is good for you!) and I'm only going to share a few tidbits*.
  • "In particular, people who participated in mentally stimulating activities over their lifetimes, both in young, middle and old age, had a slower rate of decline in memory and other mental capacities than those who did not."  -- Makes sense! Use it.... or (say it with me) lose it!
  • "Those who didn't read or write often later in life did even worse: their memory decline was 48 percent faster than people who spent an average amount of time on these activities." -- This is a profound finding. Wow. 
  • "Reading gives our brains a workout because comprehending text requires more mental energy than, for example, processing an image on a television." -- I want to post this everywhere in addition to the above quotes from this article. How many hours do you, me, children in this country spend in front of a TV? We have got to get our brains churnin' and burnin'! Reading and writing are the gym for our brain. Both develop our memory and stimulate it in critical ways. From what I gather from the article, reading is like running and writing is like lifting weights/doing weight bearing exercises.
  • Koren ends her post with a finding from a 2009 brain research study and leaves us with this scary finding: "By 27, mental processes like reasoning, spatial visualization and speed of thought begin to decline." -- So.... who fell off their chair with this? Our brains going downhill at 27?! I'm just about 26.5 years old. Yikes!
So I think the evidence is clear, folks. I know this is one study but it has some excellent points: READ and WRITE often! Do it for your brain now and when you are older!!!

Think I'll go pick up my book now :)

*bold words and emphasis was added by me for fun effects

Monday, June 24, 2013

Weekend Finds-- $5 Books at Kohl's!

Books for $5 each at Kohl's! 
This weekend Mom and I did a quick trip into Kohl's and I noticed that they were selling a book I have been wanting for a couple of years now. The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen has been on my must have list ever since I student taught in kindergarten. I love the illustrations and funny rhythmic lines, "I'm a pout-pout fish with a pout-pout face..." Since I love this book so much I had to get the companion book they were selling as well, The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark. So happy to have these cute books! *

The price was stellar as you've seen my caption! $5 each and hard cover. Score! I learned that the books sold at Kohl's are for their foundation called Kohl's Cares for Kids. 100% of the money from each book is used for providing better health and education for children. According to Kohl's website, "Since its inception in 2000, our Kohl's Cares cause merchandise program has raised more than $208 million, up from $180 million as of the end of Kohl's 2010 fiscal year, to support kids' health and education initiatives in communities nationwide." How awesome is that?!

I did a little research and found that Kohl's donated $1.5 million dollars to the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin on May 21st, which is great. I'm glad that children are getting the help they need and hopefully that brings some hope to parents.

I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for the next book feature at Kohl's!

Happy Book Hunting :)

*I will do a book recommendation post on these soon

Friday, June 21, 2013

Book Recommendation: Work Hard. Be Nice.

Image from
Book: Work Hard. Be Nice: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America 
Author: Jay Mathews
Copyright: 2009
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Type: Teacher Reads - to inspire educators of all kind
Where to get it: Your local library, Powells or Amazon (you can get used or new)
More information on the book and the KIPP:
I read this book over a year ago, but it has had a lasting affect on my views towards children that come from low-income and disadvantaged living situations. Today, there is much talk about the "achievement gap." Sadly, students of color and/or that come from low-income areas often perform less than their counterparts. This is a controversial issue but it is one that must be dealt with so that all students can have equal opportunities to learn and be successful. Jay Mathews describes how Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin took a stab at this issue by creating their own unique charter schools, Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP). Creating these charter schools came with challenges and struggles, but they have positively touched many lives as a result. These schools provide underserved communities with education that prepares students for college. According to the KIPP website, more than 83 percent of the KIPP students have gone to college; students that may have not had opportunity without such good quality education.

This book helped me understand the problems that these students face and what it takes on the educator's side to solve this massive injustice. Depending on your area in the education field, you will take away various aspects from this book. A principal may read this book and see an overall way to improve his/her school. A teacher or teacher candidate, like me, may be learn how to communicate and motivate struggling students.

This story in the book made an impression on me, "Kenneth McGregor, at his previous school, had been like many bright children. He had been considered a problem, not an asset. He sensed the fear and hostility and reacted negatively, exacerbating the cycle of bad behavior... He got by on little work, which led him to lose respect for the routine of going to school each day, which made him misbehave more" (p.245). Sound like anyone you know? Unfortunately, I have met many Kenneth's in my day.

However, when given the opportunity to grow, these types of students blossom. They become bright and vivid, just as they should and deserve to be: "It took Kenneth some time to grow accustomed to his change of circumstances at KIPP. Eventually he realized that the hard work he was getting at KIPP was not another annoying school chore but a sign of respect. These people, as irksome as they were with their demands and tough talk, cared about him, just as his mother did when she tied him up with all the rules" (p. 245). Yes, when students are respected, cared for and have boundaries -- they shine. There may be stormy days but these students internalize that they have a purpose. This my hope for all children.

I encourage anyone in the education field to read this book and those concerned about America's students.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Book Recommendation: Miss Rumphius

Book image from
Book: Miss Rumphius - a Winner of the American Book Award
Author & Illustrator: Barbara Clooney
Copyright: 1982
Publisher: Picture Puffins
Type: Read Aloud, suggested for K-2 grades
Where to get it: Your local library or Amazon (you can get used or new)
More information on the book: Scholastic website

Recently, a parent asked me what book I would recommend to her young daughter. I suggested that she read Miss Rumphius because the book contains beautiful illustrations, higher level vocabulary and a powerful message.

Barbara Clooney uses interesting words and phrases, such as: wharves, bristling masts, prows of ships, conservatory, and several others. Her words flow on the pages just like the calming scenery. A gentle journey through Miss Rumphius' life with a repeated and compelling message: "You must do something to make the world more beautiful."

I suggest this book for all children because it encourages one to follow their dreams, but to give back to their communities. Further, I recommend this book because it fits with my life and teaching philosophy: learning is great but we must do something with it. I highly recommend this book for parents and educators to read to children.

Happy reading!