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:

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!


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:

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:

Atlanta-Fulton County Public Library:

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

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


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


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


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


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!

Steinberg Second


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:


Map of Teachers College to find various classrooms:


The Playbill at Wicked:


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

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IMWAYR?: Canine Edition!


So, I feel that I should start this post with a confession:

I am not a dog person.

I’m cringing as I type my truth in black-and-white. I have never owned a dog. When I was 13, I was bitten by a big dog when I tried to pet it and then had to go through rabies shots as a result. Since then, I’ve been afraid of large dogs of all types (with the exception of slobbery, friendly golden retrievers that are just too cute). While I’ve mostly outgrown my fear of dogs, I am hesitant around ones that I don’t know and when my children ask if we can get a dog, my constant answer is, “Maybe when you’re older.”

So, with that out of the way, I just have to share the book I finished last night. It is a classic child-and-dog relationship book, reminding me of other poignant dog-centered stories I’ve read and loved, such as Because of Winn-DixieWhere the Red Fern Grows, and Love That Dog. This book is special, because the main character is special.

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Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin is a touching book about a girl named Rose who loves homonyms, rules, and prime numbers. As a high-functioning autistic child, which Rose tells us is her “official diagnosis,” our narrator has many behaviors that seem different and strange to her peers and even to her father. But her dog, Rain (whose name is a homonym: rain, rein, reign) calms her down, cheers her up when she is sad, and serves as her companion and friend when she is lonely.

Rose is a character you will connect with despite her differences in this touching, sometimes sad, story about the relationship between a girl and her dog. Ann M. Martin, author of the popular Babysitters Club series has written a beautiful, emotional, heart-warming (and sometimes heart-wrenching) book about this special relationship. It is a perfect middle grade (4-6) read and could be a good read aloud or book to share with your third grader.

I picked Rain Reign up from my TBR pile yesterday evening and finished it in a few hours– I couldn’t put it down! That’s how good it was.

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This week, coincidentally, I also read a few other dog-themed books for younger children. My youngest and I shared Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion one night at bedtime. I picked it up at the bookstore because I remember it fondly from growing up. Rereading it again after a very, very long time, I was not at all disappointed. It is the same delightful story I remember of a dog who doesn’t like to take baths, but gets so dirty that his owners don’t recognize him! Your child will love figuring out how Harry will clean up his act in this oldie-but-goodie.

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Finally, my older son is a beginning reader, still learning to decode and read more fluidly. We took a BOB book break this week to try out the Tiny series by Cari Meister, published by Penguin Young Readers. Reminiscent of Clifford, the Big Red Dog, Tiny is a dog who really isn’t, and causes a lot of mischief. The detailed pictures give the reader clues to help figure out the text, which is sparse and just right for an emergent reader. We enjoyed reading Tiny Goes Camping this week and look forward to reading more books in this series.

That’s what I’m reading this week… how ’bout you?

When Do You Abandon a Book?

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So, I didn’t post yesterday because I was basking in the delight of having two kids at camp and the whole day to myself. I went to the grocery store by myself (all of the moms reading know how glorious that is) and spent the rest of my day reading my book.

I read at the breakfast table, in the carpool line, lounging in my favorite cozy chair, even while on the elliptical. I could not put the book down! Which is funny, because just a week ago, I wasn’t so sure I was into this book. Maybe it was the author’s writing style, maybe it was because I’ve read a bunch of other WWII-era novels lately, I don’t know what it was– but I just wasn’t feeling it.

Which makes me wonder…

When do you abandon a book?

When do you feel like you just aren’t interested, or you’re not engaged with the characters and storyline, or for whatever reason the book is just not sucking you in?

When is it okay to just put the book aside and try something new?

For Second Grade almost Third Grade readers, if a book or series is not engaging or feels too easy or too hard, it’s always okay to set it aside. Sometimes I think we forget when we choose good fit books that part of what makes it a good fit is our interest in the story or topic (remember the I-PICK song??? “Interest, interest, do I like it?”). If we are not interested, we are less likely to get in the “reading zone,” and then reading can feel like a chore instead of fun. When you really like a book and want to read it, you think about it when you’re not reading and can’t wait to get back to it.

Although a week ago I was ready to set this book aside for another time, I’m actually glad I stuck with it for just a little longer. Halfway through the book, it got very exciting, and I’m now fully engrossed. Should I have abandoned the book a week ago in search of something better? Maybe. Maybe not.

So…. when do you abandon a book?

I’m still not sure I know, but I do know that it’s always okay to put a book aside. Maybe you are just not ready for it yet.

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? 6.8.15


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

Last week, I took my boys to see the musical version of one of their all-time favorite books, Knuffle Bunny, by Mo Willems at the Alliance Theatre here in Atlanta. I was a little worried that the show would not live up to the book (you know how movies are rarely as good as the book), but it was terrific! We loved seeing the book re-imagined into a show. It was hilarious, sweet, and really the perfect musical for young readers/theater-goers.

After the show, we went to the new Seriously Silly!: The Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems exhibit at the High Museum.

At the High Museum exhibit

At the High Museum exhibit

Enjoying the Elephant & Piggie illustrations

Enjoying the Elephant & Piggie illustrations

While there, I learned that Mo has written a series for early readers titled Cat the Cat. Although this series is new to me, it has been around for a little while. The books are purposefully repetitive, predictable, and written in big, bold text to appeal to beginning readers.

We enjoyed this new gem in our house this week, along with our other Mo Willems’ faves, Knuffle Bunny and Elephant and Piggie. This week I also a picked up a few more not new, but new to me, picture books.

Milo’s Hat Trick by Jon Agee is everything you want a picture book to be: engaging, funny, with a great ending. I was definitely rooting for the poor magician who needed a big trick to save his career. The ending left a big smile on my face! I could definitely see my class enjoying this book. Check it out if you haven’t read it. You won’t be sorry!

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig is another book I’ve seen often, but never picked up to read before. It is about a boy who feels invisible. He is never picked as a partner or playmate. No one ever asks him to play or be on their team. The beautiful writing along with the illustrations by Patrice Barton honestly made me tear up. The feelings of Brian’s loneliness are palpable. When a new student joins the class, he sees Brian and eventually reaches out to become his friend. Next school year, I hope to use this poignant book during a class meeting to discuss inclusion, empathy, and friendship.

Along with these picture book gems, I’m still reading Jennifer Seravallo’s excellent new book, The Reading Strategies Book. Reading teachers, go get this book! Stat! I am really enjoying it so far.

What are you reading this week? Leave your titles in the comments!