Series Books for All!

I was scrolling through Twitter today, catching up on tweets from several education-related conferences this week.

One tweet caught my eye, proclaiming that series books were the perfect way to maximize summer reading. In second grade, series books are a powerful way to get students reading a lot, while improving their comprehension skills. This tweet reminded me of many of my students this year. One worked his way through The Magic Treehouse series all in order (yes, I’m looking at you, B). Another student was so enamored with Junie B. Jones, she read the whole series and then reread her favorites (yes, C, I’m talking about you). Others plowed through all of the Mercy Watson books. Once I brought in the Kingdom of Wrenly series, there was a wait in our classroom library to get these books in their book bins!

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Images from Amazon.com

Wrenly

While series books are perfect for younger readers, upon reflection, I realized that I often read series books as an adult reader. I read the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series and couldn’t wait for the next installment. I read all of the Hunger Games. While I didn’t make it through the whole series, I know Miss Leonard has read every Harry Potter, probably more than once.

In addition to reading series books as an adult, I often read books by the same authors. In fact, the Goodreads website sends me emails to let me know when a new book is out by one of my favorite authors, because it knows this tendency of mine. This strategy of picking books by the same author began for me in elementary school when I read all of the Nancy Drew books. In sixth grade, my teacher read The Egypt Game aloud, and I proceeded to read every Zilpha Keatley Snyder book I could get my hands on. Now, I am likely to pick up a new Emily Giffin or Lianne Moriarty book, because I know I’ll enjoy it. I anxiously await new books by Kate DiCamillo, Sharon Creech, Jhumpa Lahiri, or Khaled Hosseini.

So, why are series books so great?

  • We know the characters. They become our friends.
  • We can predict what the characters will do because we know them so well.
  • Series books tend to follow a similar plotline. We know how the book “works.”
  • We want to know what happens next!
  • We always have a new book to read when we’re hooked on a series!

Are you hooked on a series or a favorite author this summer? Why do you like reading these books? Please comment below!

Terrific series books for 2nd and 3rd graders:

  • Cam Jansen
  • Horrible Harry
  • Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot
  • Junie B. Jones
  • Stink
  • Judy Moody
  • Galaxy Zack
  • Black Lagoon
  • Magic Treehouse
  • Ballpark Mysteries
  • Calendar Mysteries
  • Capitol Mysteries
  • A-Z Mysteries
  • The Kingdom of Wrenly
  • The Lunch Lady
  • Dragonmasters
  • My Weird School
  • Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew
  • Ramona Quimby
  • Time Warp Trio
  • Geronimo Stilton
  • The Boxcar Children
  • Who Would Win?
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Something Unexpected

When I go on vacation, I usually load up my Kindle with fiction books to read on the plane and while lying on a beach somewhere. Occasionally, I will also download a city guide or travel book to read up on the location we are visiting. This summer, we planned a big family trip to Hawaii. My husband and I went ten years ago on our honeymoon, and we decided to go back for our anniversary, plus our two boys. In preparation for the trip, I packed swimsuits and shorts, my hat and sunglasses, and downloaded several books from my “To Be Read” (TBR) list to enjoy on the very long plane ride.

Because our flight to Honolulu left out of Newark airport, we decided to spend the day in New York City first, since the boys had never been before. We had lunch at Katz’s Deli and dragged the boys all over the city. They deemed it loud, smelly, and hot. They were most impressed by Central Park, but overall, were not big fans of one of my favorite places. In the afternoon, they decided to check out the hotel pool with my husband, and I stayed in the room for some peace and quiet. Rather than pick up my Kindle to read, a travel magazine on the hotel night table caught my eye, and I picked it up for some light reading.

The magazine had several feature articles about exotic locations, but a short article profiling a Hawaiian chef named Ed Kenney caught my eye. I liked his story of working at some big name restaurants before deciding to open his own in a sleepy little town in Oahu where he lives with his family. Then, after the first restaurant became successful, adding two more.

Without really knowing where these places were in relation to where we were staying, I grabbed my phone and jotted down the names of his restaurants, as well as some of the other restaurants in the area Chef Kenney recommended. When we arrived in Hawaii, I looked up the restaurants again and figured out that the town was close to several sights we wanted to check out on our first day in Honolulu. After a beautiful early morning snorkeling at Hanuma Bay, we drove to Ed Kenney’s casual Kaimuki Superette for a terrific lunch.

“How did you find this place?” my husband asked, surprised at my knowledge of local restaurant gems.

“Oh, I read about it,” I happily replied.

Reading does take you places. I usually plan what I want to read next, but sometimes, reading something unexpected has delicious results.

What have you read lately that helped you, surprised you, or took you somewhere new?

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

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Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. #IMWAYR

I recently went on vacation and finished two middle grade (4th-6th grade) novels that I had been very excited to read, and they did not disappoint. After I finished, I was unsure of what to read next. Looking at the list of books on my Kindle, nothing really jumped out at me. I had several choices and actually started a few different books before settling on one that hooked me.

The reason I ended up sticking with this book is because I recently read that it was going to be made into a movie. I always have to read the book before I see the movie! After reading a few children’s books recently, this one is a grown-up novel. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Steadman is about a lighthouse keeper and his wife who make a choice that ends up having far-reaching effects. On my Kindle, I’m 90% through the story, having been glued to it for the past few days. The book definitely makes you think about the choices you make in life and how they affect others (and your own life, too). I’m pretty excited to see the movie now, which comes out in September.

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Image from Amazon.com
 

Another wonderful book which is coming to theaters very soon is Roald Dahl’s The BFG. My students know how much I love Roald Dahl. We have read Matilda and The Witches for read alouds, and the children always love them. I love them because Roald Dahl’s characters are wonderfully fun to read out loud.

The BFG comes out in theaters in July, and since the movie is never as good as the book (in my humble opinion), I think almost Third Graders and their parents may want to read this one together before seeing the movie. What do you think? Happy reading!

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Image from Amazon.com
 

It’s Monday! What are you reading today?

Summer Reading

As we get closer and closer to the end of the school year, I have seen many articles and posts popping up on Twitter about summer reading. As a teacher, I know the importance of children continuing their reading lives over the summer and how much backslide can occur if they don’t. There is an incredible amount of research that supports this. As a mom, though, I admit that I am feeling just as tired as the kids are right now. While my teacher brain gets it, my mom brain is saying: “Ugggghhhhhhh, can’t we all just have a break?”

The answer is: “Yes, of course, we can have a break!” But after a few days of no structure and maybe definitely too much screen time, scheduling in some reading (and math!) fun should help bring a little routine into summer time.

Summer reading is actually pretty simple. Let kids pick what they want to read. Bring books and magazines in the car or plane on summer trips, on the beach, or just on the couch in the heat of the day when everyone needs some downtime.

There’s no magic formula about the number of books, or hours, kids should read over the summer, but every little bit helps. Reading independently for 15-30 minutes a day is plenty to keep kids on track. An extra 10 minutes of reading a novel together before bedtime is a great way to add some extra reading minutes, while spending some quality time together, too.

Dav Pilkey, the author of the Captain Underpants series and Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot, encourages kids to get reading this summer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Gm68Ovhc0M

To encourage your kids to read this summer, keep a list or a physical stack of books they want to read. Cross out or check off books as you go. Kids can even add a rating system (3 stars, for example) if they want to rate books after reading them.

I keep a stack of books that I plan to read on my night table. I rearrange and add books throughout the summer based on my mood and interests. I keep a list of books I’ve completed and get great satisfaction as the list gets longer!

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My summer reading stack from last summer- with my Kindle on top!

Kids can also join Scholastic’s Summer Reading Challenge to log their reading minutes and get virtual rewards:

http://www.scholastic.com/ups/campaigns/src-2016

Public libraries have summer reading programs, too. Check out your local library for great books and reading incentives:

Cobb County Public Library Summer Reading program:

http://www.cobbcat.org/summer-reading-program/

Atlanta-Fulton County Public Library:

http://afpls.org/kids

For more summer reading ideas, check out the Reading Rockets Summer Reading Page:

http://www.readingrockets.org/calendar/summer

Happy reading!

Holiday Gift Books: Delight Your Reader this Holiday Season

 

Holiday-Themed Books

With so many holiday books out there, it is difficult to choose the best. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a few that I think you can’t go wrong buying for your child.

The Night Before Christmas by Jan Brett

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In this book, the classic poem by Clement Moore is retold with beautifully rendered illustrations by beloved children’s book author, Jan Brett. While Brett has several other Christmas and winter-themed offerings (The Mitten, The Gingerbread Baby, The Wild Christmas Reindeer, and The Animal’s Santa), this classic will be a favorite in your house for years to come.

An Otis Christmas by Loren Long

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If you are not familiar with the Otis books by Loren Long, you are in for a treat. Otis is a friendly little tractor who lives on a farm. Along with his friends, the farm animals, Otis is always helping those in need. The stories are told beautifully, with the most gorgeous pictures to match, and this Christmas tale is no exception. In this story, Otis, the farmer, and all of the animals are excited for the holidays, and the impending birth of a new foal. On Christmas Eve, a big snowstorm arrives. The horse is ready to have her baby, but something is wrong. Otis knows he needs to help his friend. Only a miracle will save the horse and her foal. Will Otis come through? As in all of the Otis stories, this book is about being selfless and helping others. It is a book the whole family will enjoy!

 Simon and the Bear: A Hanukkah Tale by Eric A. Kimmel

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This newest book from storyteller Eric A. Kimmel (Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, Hanukkah Bear) is a beautiful book that spins a fantastic story of Simon, who leaves his home to immigrate to America. His mother packs him a menorah, candles, and latkes for his long journey. When Simon’s boat sinks after hitting an iceberg, his Hanukkah provisions, a friendly polar bear, and many miracles help Simon along the way, and lead to a happy ending. While the story is a little far-fetched, the illustrations are striking and my own children ask to read it again and again.

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

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If you are not already familiar with Van Allsburg’s books (Jumanji, Zathura, The Stranger), he is a magical and mysterious storyteller. In this Christmas classic, a young boy, awake on Christmas Eve, gets whisked away on the Polar Express train to see Santa and send him off on his sleigh ride. The narrator’s meeting with Santa and the events that follow make him a true believer for life. Be warned, this book brings up the possibility that Santa does not exist. While the message is one of belief, if you do not wish to bring up this possibility too early in your house, you may choose to wait a few years for this classic. It is perfect, however, for children who have begun to ask questions about Santa.

Gift Books for Second Grade Readers

If you are looking for some gifts for your reader this season, there are some wonderful books and series available right now that would make terrific gifts for your favorite reader.

The Kingdom of Wrenly series by Jordan Quinn

We just finished the first book of this series in my house, and it’s safe to say that my boys are hooked! While I enjoyed reading this book to my own children, it is a great book for second graders. It is a bit easier than the Magic Tree House books. The characters and story are engaging, and the illustrations help bring the story to life. This series would definitely hook kids who enjoy fantasy, or who are interested in knights, castles, ogres and fairies.

Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo

All of my students know how much I love Mercy. They all love her, too. They know that Mercy is a pig who lives with human parents, in a house just like you or me. They know that Mercy loves toast with a great deal of butter on it. In these early chapter books by renowned children’s author, Kate DiCamillo, we are introduced to Mercy, her family, and a rollicking cast of characters who live on Deckawoo Drive. These books are funny and appealing, and while they are easy chapter books, they contain interesting and sometimes unusual vocabulary words (ahem, porcine), which is characteristic of all of DiCamillo’s books. Your child will read these favorites again and again.

If your second grader has already read and loved the Mercy Watson series and can handle something a bit more challenging, try DiCamillo’s new spin-off series, Tales from Deckawoo Drive. These chapter books are a bit more difficult than Mercy, but with familiar characters from the original books. There are only two books in this series so far, but rumor has it there are more to come.

Check out Leroy Ninker Saddles Up (full disclosure: my class has already heard this as a read aloud) and Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon. If these books seem to be a bit too hard for your second grade reader to tackle, try reading it together as a family. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

Many other series books come in box sets for your reader. Try these:

Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy’s Ultimate Chapter Book Quartet Books 1-4

The Galaxy Zack Collection: A Stellar Four-Book Boxed Set

A favorite picture book is always a welcome gift:

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

Exclamation Mark! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Journey by Aaron Becker

One by Kathryn Otoshi

Which holiday books are your favorites?

Happy holidays and happy reading!

How to Choose Books for Second Grade Readers

 

Most parents have been there…

When you are in the library, or the bookstore, or your child comes home waving his book order in front of you…

You want to get him a book, you’d even spring for a bunch of books, but how do you know which ones are right for your child? How do you know if the book is a “good fit” for your reader?

I-PICK Strategy

At the beginning of the school year, we teach students the “I-PICK” strategy (Boushey & Moser 2009). You probably heard your child singing the I-PICK song (it’s pretty catchy)!

The first I in the acronym stands for “I choose” because student choice is quite important when it comes to reading. If kids don’t choose their own books, how will they be motivated to read?

When making this choice, kids need to be empowered to choose a book that is a “good fit”– not too easy or too hard. The other letters in the acronym prompt kids to think about what makes a “good fit” book:

Purpose – Why am I reading it? Interest – Do I like it? Comprehension – Do I understand it?

Know – Do I know most of the words?

All of these questions remind kids that reading requires thinking, not just saying the words. There are many factors that make a book just right for a reader! Reminding your child to ask these questions will help him choose a great book.

Levels, Levels, Levels

In school, we use the guided reading leveling system created by reading researchers Fountas and Pinnell. Using this common leveling system helps teachers have a common language to talk about books and reading. But when you walk into a bookstore, books are not labeled with this leveling system. Often publishers will list their own levels, which vary from different publishers or book series. All of the different levels can get pretty confusing!

Rather than using the label on the outside of the book, have your child take a sneak peek, by looking at the picture on the cover, reading the title, flipping the book over to read the blurb on the back, and then reading the table of contents. If there is no table of contents, flip through and preview the pictures.

Next, have your child open the book and read the first few pages. Ask them, “Does it feel like a good fit? Did you know most of the words?” Follow up by prompting your child to think about comprehension by asking, “What do you think the book is about?”

At your local library or at the bookstore, the children’s section may be divided into picture books, early chapter books, and chapter books. While your child may be drawn to the longer, harder chapter books, these books will likely be too hard for your Second Grade reader. Even for the strongest reader, these books often have content that is inappropriate for Second Graders. Many of these books can be terrific books to read to your child; however, you will want to preview the book yourself before sharing it.

Oldies, but Goodies

When children begin to read chapter books on their own, picture books are often cast aside as being “too easy.” Actually, picture books vary widely in reading level and many of them are very appropriate for Second Grade readers. A lot of picture books are actually too hard!

Don’t put aside the picture books just yet. Some of the books you used to read to your child before bedtime are actually great Second Grade reads, and trust me, your child still loves them! We read picture books often at school. Look for books by Kevin Henkes, Mo Willems, Cynthia Rylant, and Corey Rosen Schwartz, just to name a few.

 

Enlist Teacher Help

If you are still struggling to help your child find good fit books, ask your child’s teacher for help. Teachers keep track of your child’s independent reading level as it changes throughout the year. She can give you suggestions for good fit books based on what your child is reading in school. If these books seem too easy to you, keep in mind that your child’s independent reading level is not only about decoding skills. Fluency and comprehension are factored into this level, as well. If your child can read accurately, but can’t talk about what happened in the story, it may not be a good fit book yet.

The Power of Yet

Once your child can read harder books, the temptation to read bigger and bigger books is great. Many Second Graders walk around with large novels that they are probably not ready to read because of the reading level, the content, or the vocabulary. At the same time, we want kids to choose books that they want to read, so choice and interest are key to motivating readers. A helpful reminder for kids who want to read books that are too hard is that they are not ready yet. Emphasize the word yet because they will get there! Research shows that the more you read “good fit” books (and the more books you read), the better reader you will become. Encourage your child to stick to a “good fit” book and read, read, read. After all, practice makes progress.

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?: Non-Fiction Edition

I didn’t post last week, as I was out-of-town learning at Teachers College in New York. I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s Summer Institute. I posted this last year right after the Institute and it still rings true, so I thought I’d repost. Happy reading!

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Good morning, Readers!

I just got home from an amazing week in New York at Teachers College (see last Monday’s post for details). I did a lot of reading related to my class work, but as I thought about the week, I realized that I did a lot of reading exploring the city, too. I bet it won’t surprise you at all that approximately 95% of my reading was informational text to help me navigate and learn about New York.

I read:

Subway maps and schedules:

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Map of Teachers College to find various classrooms:

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The Playbill at Wicked:

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Twitter (I know my students are shocked by this):

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