Exciting Changes for Our Family!

You may have noticed that I haven’t been publishing as often as I’d like to over the last couple of months.¬†I have so many wonderful books and ideas to share! But with some upcoming changes in our family life, I wanted to announce that I will slowing down with the blog.

Last month, I accepted a full-time teaching position for the upcoming school year. I’m excited to return to teaching in the classroom! I believe that God has opened this door for our family. My daughters will be attending private preschool and my oldest is especially excited for that!

So this summer will be filled with lots of family time and preparations for the upcoming school year…. Hooray! I still hope to post on Sunshine Readers from time to time, but I’m not quite sure how often that will be. Please continue to stop by, or click on the button on the right to follow the blog so you receive an email notifying you of new posts.

Happy reading and happy summer! ūüôā

Cool Summer Alphabet Activities For All Ages

An Excessive Alphabet: Avalanches of As to Zillions of Zs by Judi Barrett is a fun, multi-use picture book for many ages. (It’s always a delight to find a good book or resource that can be used for kids of varying ages and ability levels! These are super helpful for classroom teachers and homeschooling parents.) The illustrations in An Excessive Alphabet¬†are intriguing and help further discussion and exploration of literary topics.

Because summer is right around the corner, I am going to categorize suggested activities for “Younger Readers” and “Older Readers” rather than distinguish between ideas for parents and teachers. Chances are, these will be used at home or in an alternative setting given the season! Whatever the case, I hope that you are able to take one or two of them and try them out. ūüôā

Plus, families with kids in a range of ages can do these activities simultaneously!

Best Ages: pre-k and up

For Younger Readers:

  • While you read, ask your child to name items in the illustration that begin with the letter of the alphabet represented on the page.
  • Using sidewalk chalk, go outside with the book and choose a few letters of the alphabet to work with. (Maybe use your child’s initials or the first letters in his/her name.) Then practice writing the letter in lower and/or upper case before finding words in the illustration that begin with the same later. Draw those words and any others you think of!
  • Choose a handful of the nouns used to describe an amount of letters in the book (for example, “dozens of Ds.”) Find items in your household to represent those amounts so your child can visualize each amount and make a connection between the text and the real world.

For Older Readers:

  • Using sidewalk chalk, challenge your child to think of a word that begins with each letter of the alphabet. Guess what each picture is before your child goes on to the next letter and picture. (I recently did this while having a 7 year old over for the day and we had a blast!)
  • Vocabulary expansion: have your child find definitions in a children’s dictionary that are seen in the book. For example, the adjective “excessive” in the title of this book, as well as nouns used on each page to describe the number of letters like “avalanches of As.” Then allow your child to¬†create a vocabulary book. I personally have used something similar to this one as a teacher and found it highly engaging and effective!
  • Design a poster to make an alternative illustration for the book using one word of the alphabet. Encourage him/her to think of additional words or even verbs they could illustrate in addition to the ones featured in the book.

 

7 Ideas for Fun Summer Learning

Can you believe it’s already June?! At this time of the year, the last thing our kids probably want to hear is the word “learning.” But learning in the summer can be fairly easy to sneak in… ¬†and lots of fun!¬†Here are 7 fun ideas for summer learning:

  1. Read, read, read! This is an obvious one, but arguably¬†the most important. For young children or struggling readers, be intentional about reading aloud daily whenever possible. (Audio books can be helpful, too!) For more¬†fluent readers, help find¬†enjoyable¬†reads at the public library or local bookstore. Magazines, comic books and graphic novels count! Just make sure you’re comfortable with the content of the literature – and if you’re uncertain, don’t hesitate to research online¬†or inquire with the¬†children’s librarian.
  2. Sign up for your public library’s summer reading program. Building on the first suggestion of reading, spend time at your local library and participate in their summer reading program if they offer one. These reading programs¬†vary from place to place, but are often a motivator to keep reading throughout the summer… as well¬†as a reminder to visit the library for fresh books as the summer goes on.
  3. Explore new places together. This can be as extravagant or as simple as your schedule and budget allow. Take a family vacation or go camping for a weekend.¬†Visit¬†a lighthouse, nature center or children’s museum in your area. Attend a festival or community event. Whatever activity you choose, be sure to¬†include some¬†relaxed, informal discussion time¬†with your child to help make a connection between those activities and real-life history, culture, and so on.
  4. ¬†Limit¬†entertainment¬†screen time.¬†I understand this is not possible for every family,¬†but if possible, limit your child’s entertainment screen time such as movies, TV shows and video games/iPad games. Encourage your child to find other things to do to keep their minds and bodies more active.
  5. Utilize educational screen time/technology. On the flip side, allowing your child to¬†a set amount of¬†screen time for educational purposes can help them maintain their progress from the current school year or even make academic gains. It can also be a time to learn something new that interests your child but might not be a part of their typical school-year¬†learning.¬†Diverse apps and websites (many for free!) can allow your child to¬†learn¬†a foreign language,¬†track¬†NASA space missions, or even¬†design his/her own video game….. The possibilities are endless!
  6. Sign up for a cool new activity. Park and Recreation departments frequently offer reasonably-priced summer activities. Check out what’s available in your area and let your child discover¬†a new skill or sport, from dance to soccer to art.
  7. Play board games as a family. Many board games help children learn social concepts (such as taking turns and understanding they won’t always win) as well as deeper critical thinking skills (such as number order, addition and subtraction, spelling, etc.). Make some popcorn and sit down for a board game or card game that’s age appropriate.

These 7 suggestions can help your child keep learning throughout the summer, even when he/she doesn’t realize it. ūüôā I’m sure there are plenty more ideas out there… I’d love to hear them!

Where Do You Turn When You’re Afraid?

Happy Memorial Day, everyone! We have been back from California for a week… Time is flying by! By the way, I previously – and erroneously – wrote that we were going to the Sunshine State, which my husband lovingly teased me is Florida. Oops! He is from the Golden State on the opposite coast. Don’t worry, I’ve updated the last blog post already. ūüôā

We had a good time with family and were able to attend two weddings at the beginning and end of our trip. Congrats to each of my brother-in-laws who recently got married!

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Always learning and exploring! Petting sting rays at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA, with my hubby’s beloved aunt.

You will probably not be surprised to find out that while we were in the Golden State ūüėČ I borrowed my mother-in-law’s library card and took the girls there twice during our two-week stay. We read many lovely books that I don’t have time to share about, but one was particularly¬†meaningful: Safe in a Storm by Stephen R. Swinburne. This book¬†has comforting text that will reassure young children that their loved ones are with them, keeping them safe, even when they feel afraid. It ends sweetly and has the most touching dedication, remembering¬†the lives of the students and teachers lost at Sandy Hook Elementary. (Yes, I always read the dedications of books!)

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Reading in the beautiful outdoors, just northwest of Malibu, CA.

As we celebrate Memorial Day in the United States, honoring those who have given their lives in service to our country to keep us safe, I think it is appropriate to consider the question: Where do you turn when you’re afraid?¬†Reading aloud Safe¬†in a Storm to my precious girls¬†reminded me of Jesus, who kept his closest friends safe in a storm, too, and who has often been my refuge in uncertain times. (See Matthew 8:23-27 and Psalm 46.) I truly believe that God’s¬†love is strong and powerful and peaceful, the kind of love that I long to give my children when they feel scared. And¬†I desire with all my heart that someday they, too, will experience the safety and comfort of God¬†in their lives.

Safe in a Storm is not a faith-based book, so whatever your family’s beliefs, it is a tender and powerful reminder of the love we desire to show our little ones, a protective and strong and¬†enduring¬†love… A love that all our hearts long for.

Best Ages: pre-k – kindergarten

 

 

Marvelous Books for May

Things have been very busy around the Sunshine Readers home! We are getting ready to fly to the Golden¬†State tomorrow for an extended visit with my husband’s family and attend two weddings.¬†Since I’m not sure if I’ll be able to post while we’re away, I thought I’d pass along some recommendations for books to read this month. ūüôā

Please share a book that you and your children/students are reading in the month of May!

At the Beach by Huy Voun Lee

A boy and his mother practice writing Chinese characters in the sand as they spend the day at the beach. The illustrations are wonderful and provide concrete connections between the forming of the character and the word it represents. This is a fascinating book that can be used for multicultural units or linguistic exposure!

Casey and Derek on the Ice by Marty Sederman

Do you have children or students who love sports? This rhyming text uses lots of sports jargon but the pictures make the plot understandable even for those who are less familiar with hockey. A fun read about teamwork that showcases the fact that we can work to change the outcome of a game (or anything in life) as long as there is time left on the clock!

The Perfect Dog by Kevin O’Malley

This is a book that is so fun to read aloud! If you have an expressive voice, your kids/students will be laughing along with you as a girl tries to determine what exactly makes the perfect dog. My daughters enjoy reading this one aloud to each other.

Police Officers on Patrol by Kersten Hamilton

Many young children aspire to be firefighters and police officers when they are grown-up. What a wonderful aspiration! Here is a sweet narrative story that shows a few of the things that police officers do to help our community. This could be used as part of a community social studies unit for lower grades and it would be great to read near your school’s scheduled¬†Career Day, too.

Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? by Susan A. Shea

I love this book! (Did you notice it as the image for my post?) Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? is so fun to read and has creative flaps for older children that will help them to grasp the concept of animate vs. inanimate objects. My kids really like this book as well.

Little Kids First BIG Book of Animals by Catherine D. Hughes

National Geographic Kids always puts together excellent resources with stunning photographs. Little Kids First BIG Book of Animals is no exception. It highlights 5 regions of the world and gives information for approximately 6 animals in each region. This is an excellent non-fiction book to include in a learning center, use for a geography or animal habitat unit, or simply give to a child who like animals.

My First Book of Hindi Words: An ABC Rhyming Book of Hindi Language and Indian Culture by Rina Singh

That lengthy title says it all! Want to introduce your child to other cultures or languages? This book is a perfect choice. My pronunciation may not have always been the best but the words are used in fun ways and include swing, lunch, journey and even phrases such as topsy-turvy!

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

Arbor Day and Tree Activities

Friday, April 28, is National Arbor Day in the US.¬†It’s a perfect time to read¬†A Tree is Nice¬†by Janice May Udry, and spend some time studying trees!

A Tree is Nice is a lovely book that won the Caldecott Medal in 1957, with illustrations alternate between color and black-and-white. The text describes the many ways that trees are a part of our lives. It even ends with planting a tree, which would be perfect if you plan to plant a tree with your class or at home!

You can easily use this book as a way to explore nature and scientific concepts of plant life, conservation and environmentalism.

Best Ages: pre-k – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • Take a walk with your child. Make observations about¬†the trees that are becoming more green and full in the spring season. Collect leaves from the ground.
  • At home, place a blank white paper over the leaves you collected on your walk and gently rub a crayon over the paper. You will create a raised image of the leaf. Talk about the difference in the shapes of the leaves and display your final artwork!

For Teachers:

  • Teach your students the parts of a tree. Use a free handout like this one if desired.
  • Explain the differences between coniferous and deciduous trees with this free slide show from Teachers Pay Teachers.
  • Discuss how trees are used to make products that we use. Here is a wonderful, free lesson plan from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

Finding a Book for Disinterested Early Readers

Do you have a child or a student who struggles to find something interesting to read? Try non-fiction!

It may sound counter-intuitive to adults out there who love fiction, but in my experience as a teacher, I noticed that many young readers love non-fiction. Find a topic that interests your child/student, and check the library for some great reading material for you to read aloud or for your child to practice reading independently. This can be an especially powerful motivating tool for boys who don’t always like what their female teachers or moms like to read. ūüôā

Looking for a book to start off with? Try Michelle Wie by Mary Dunn. This book is a biography of a Korean-American female golfer, which may interest students who like sports. Michelle Wie is a dedicated athlete who has made records for her achievements in golf at astonishingly young ages.

This book works great as a read-aloud and can be showcased as an example of non-fiction and a biography. It includes a table of contents, page numbers, headings, a timeline, glossary and index. Early readers can use this book to practice, too.

Another benefit of the book is that it is a part of series on athlete biographies for children, so you can keep going in the series if your child/student likes this one!

Best Ages: kindergarten – 2nd grade