• Top 10 Life Skills Kids Need Before College

    My book list of Top 10 Books to Teach Kids to Be More Responsible made me start to think about life skills that kids need before going off to college. That and the fact that my oldest, Grasshopper and Sensei, will be starting high school next fall so we have only 4 years to tackle this […]

  • Today I am on the Front Page of The Boston Globe

    Today I am on the front page of The Boston Globe for the past week of posts that I wrote on my microblog, I Love Newton, about the anti-Asian racism in the local high school musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie. School play’s stereotypes bring outcry and apology. “Millie” touches nerve in Newton by Ellen Ishkanian, Globe […]

  • Get Kids Reading Strategies: 12 Surefire Ways

    I searched five years of digital photographs looking for photos of my kids reading and I only came up with the handful here. Why? It’s not easy getting kids reading, especially to love reading enough that they choose it over more exciting things like screens, playdates or sports! I started my blog after my oldest […]

  • 10 Perfect Read Aloud Books for 3rd Grade

    I had the great fortune to meet The Nerdy Book Club founders at a dinner for Anne Ursu hosted by Walden Pond Press to celebrate her latest chapter book, The Real Boy. (It’s wonderful. I put it on my  Newbery 2014 Contenders list! And it just won a Middle Grade Fiction Nerdie). Colby Sharp, one of […]

  • Best Beginning Chapter Books for 2nd and 3rd Grade

    Best books for beginning readers from my library. This list is perfect for 2nd grade and 3rd grade.

  • How To: Create a Great Kids’ Book Club (Activity and Book Suggestions)

    Some ideas on how to set up a book club for your child with examples of successful book club meetings.

  • Top 10: Best Dragon Children’s Books (ages 2-16)

    The Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors blog has a great post on dragons that preempted this post but I actually had been working on this for several weeks. There is something magical about dragons and I’m glad that some kids can keep the magic alive. I’ve gathered my favorite dragon books that range in age from picture books to young adult. What is your favorite dragon book? Please share!

  • Best Science Apps for Kids (ages 4-21)

    I am starting to buy into this idea of teaching and really connecting material through games and apps. I was sort of on board with this concept, but since playing around with The Elements (a Harry Potter version of the Periodic Table) that my brother-in-law turned me on to, I am now a believer as I saw, with my own eyes, how captivated my kids were with the Periodic Table, an otherwise dull chart.

  • Newbery Winners by Grade Appropriateness!

    Thank you to Hubpages for this information. There are additional book suggestions by grade if click here to see their post. I have added an asterisk to the books that I’ve read and loved (and two astericks for must reads!).

  • Best Picture Books That Teach Math Concepts

    Picture books can be a visual and fun way to introduce math concepts. I think it makes math less intimidating when it’s part of a story. For those kids who love math, it’s another way to eat it up!

percy jackson book club for boys,

Percy Jackson Book Club for Boys

3rd Grade Book Club for Boys

We used Percy Jackson’s The Lightening Thief graphic novel for a book club for boys. I had big plans initially. Blue food. Lots of indoor games. Duct tape fun.

When the book club rolled around though, I was tired  with low energy so I ended up doing a very low key book club. No blue food. Spaghetti and meatballs delivered instead.

duct tape sword craft, duct tape and aluminum foil craft for boys,

The first thing we did was break out the duct tape which I had purchased at Staples a few weeks ago and squirreled away. I had a new roll of heavy duty aluminum foil, tape, copy paper, and scissors. Read more…

jake shimabukuro, ukelele

Amazing Ukelele Virtuoso: Jake Shimbabukuro

With 11.7 million YouTube views, you must see this performance by Jake Shimabukuro, a ukulele virtuoso known for his complex finger work. Be sure to watch the last minute where Jake plays a pretty incredible sequence.

My husband gave found Jake on YouTube and my kids loved watching him play, especially my son who plays the guitar. My son then had his guitar teacher, a graduate student from the New England Conservatory, watch the video. His teacher had not heard of Jake but he was also impressed. He told us that Jake used Flamenco guitar techniques on the ukelele so, of course, my son wanted to try it himself.

The second video is instructional. Jake breaks down his fingering techniques. Though he’s very clear on how to do it and makes it look easy, it looks pretty difficult to emulate. Still, my son was inspired by Jake’s accessibility as a performer and watching him play makes my son play his guitar more. If Jake ever comes to Boston — he’s on tour now — we’d make a great effort to catch him.

What do you think of Jake? Did you ever imagine the ukelele could sound like that?

Read more…

free kindergarten readiness printable, my book about me free printable, free keepsake book about me for preschool

Kindergarten Readiness FREE Printable Book: My Book About Me

When my son was in preschool, I created this free Kindergarten readiness book for him. I printed it out, bound it into a 3 ring paper folder, and made a copy for each child in his class and the teachers had the kids work on it for a few months before preschool ended.

free kindergarten readiness printable, my book about me free printable, free keepsake book about me for preschool

It is both a keepsake book plus, having gone through the ropes with his two older sisters, a Kindergarten readiness book to capture all the academic concepts I thought he needed for Kindergarten:

  • Counting to 10
  • Bonus: counting to 10 in Spanish
  • Letters of the alphabet
  • Bonus: lower case alphabet
  • Days of the Week
  • Colors
  • Bonus: Counting to 100 (and even by 10′s!)

I included some drawing prompts too:

  • Self portrait
  • Favorite animal
  • What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?
  • Favorite Thing to Do At Preschool

You can download this FREE printable book: My Book About Me Read more…

teaching poetry at home, teaching poetry to kids, reading poems at home, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Forest has a song

Teaching Poetry at Home To Your Kids

For the last day of April and National Poetry Month, I am so excited to welcome my guest author, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater of poetry picture book Forest Has a Song. She has inspired me, a poetry-phobe to explore poetry with her gentle coaxing so I asked her to please write a post on teaching poetry at home with kids.

In concluding my month celebrating National Poetry Month, I hope that all of us feel more comfortable with poetry and will enjoy it the rest of the year with our kids. What poetry books are your favorites? Please share!

Teaching Poetry at Home to Your Children

Laughing and pointing, all five of us sat and watched as Cali and Sage, our two Border Collie mixes, wrestled on the rug. Charmed again by the antics of animals, nine-year-old Henry commented, “You know…if we didn’t have pets, we would be different people.” Henry was right. And his exact words have stayed in my mind for the past two years; they were a spoken poem. Read more…

Screen Free Week, strategies for Screen Free Week, Screen Free Week ideas,

Attempting Screen Free Week April 29 – May 5 2013

I’m not sure why, but our school had a screen free day last month. These screen free challenges are particularly difficult for my kids, hooked as they are to their iPhones, iPod Touch, computer, TV and Wii. Did I miss any? Does the Color Nook and Kindle count too?

Successful Screen Free Day Last Month

I was shocked when my little boy, 2nd grade, burst out of school with a plan to stay screen free. He cooked it up with his 3rd grade best friend Sam. They were going to:

  • Jump on Sam’s trampoline
  • Go inside and eat a snack
  • Play Clue and other board games
  • Go back outside and jump on the trampoline some more
  • Read books (our March Madness school reading competition was still going on)

It was imperative that he go to his friend’s house so his request was happily granted. Three hours later, he came home and announced that 1) We need to buy Clue (I had thrown our board game away ages ago), and 2) Going screen free for the day was not as hard as he had thought. Read more…

book club for Kane Chronicles, activities for Rick Riordan books

Kane Chronicles Series Activities for Kids: Poppins Book Nook

This month the Poppins Book Nook is about Wizards. I looked up the definition to make sure that my book choice was appropriate.

Wizards, Sorcerers and Magicians, Oh My!

wiz·ard  (wzrd)

n.

1. One who practices magic; a sorcerer or magician.
2. A skilled or clever person: a wizard at math.
3. Archaic A sage.

Wizards (or Magicians) in Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles

Ah, a magician is part of the definition. Phew! My son and I have been reading Rick Riordan’s books since the fall. We finally finished the last one this week. It was the third and final book of The Kane Chronicles, The Serpent’s Shadow (The Kane Chronicles, Book Three).
third grade poem, third grade poetry unit, third grade poems,

3rd Grade Poetry and Dreams Coming True

PickyKidPix‘s 3rd grade dream came true recently. Her third grade poetry unit produced this poem which articulated her dreams that were unbeknownst to us, her parents. It’s funny how all her dreams are contained in this poem about herself.

In the past two years, PickyKidPix went from the first travel soccer team, to the third team, and back up to the second team. There was some drama when she missed the cut for a new club team in our town. As parent, it’s so painful to watch your child’s heart break.

I’m proud of her though. For her resilience. For her determination. And for never giving up. She made another Club Soccer team and has been practicing hard all year trying to get better. She wants to make the top team! Will she? It almost doesn’t matter. Life lessons being learned here.

Read more…

monkey jealousy experiment, monkey fairness experiment

Fairness and Morality: Nurture or Nature?

My husband gave me this funny video but it’s actually a serious study on the source of morality: nurture or nature? The video is taken from a TED talk by Frans de Waal, primatologist and author of several popular books. His talk is called Moral behavior in Animals.

In this experiment, two Capuchin monkeys are presented with an unfairness scenario.  As de Waal notes, cucumbers are acceptable  food for the monkeys, but they prefer grapes. De Waal claims that monkeys like food in proportion to its price at the supermarket — he’s a funny guy and worth watching if you have 18 minutes. Read more…

poetry books for kids to read, best poetry for kids, best poetry books for kids, kids poetry books

Top 10: Best Poetry Books for Kids to Read GIVEAWAY

Oh how I’ve procrastinated this list. I think I’ve been “working” on it for more than a year. I feel somewhat fraudulent posting on best poetry books for kids because I’m no expert. National Poetry Month is forcing me to face my own fear of poetry to finally complete this list.

Poetry for April has permeated our house. My kids are all doing poetry units at school. No coincidence, I think.

The other week, PickyKidPix had to go to the library to research poems of oppression for her school poetry project. (Strange topic, right? Her friend Devin has “rain” as a poetry topic). We asked the librarian where the poetry books were. I had no idea there was a HUGE section of poetry books for kids in the Non-Fiction section!

It was eye-opening to realize the poetry books are NOT organized by topic. I’m no expert on the Dewey Decimal system but I’m not sure this is the best way to organize poetry books for kids. We pored over  four bookcases of poetry books looking for people of color which is a little like searching for that proverbial needle. Nevertheless, we found this small pile.

poetry for kids on oppression

After digging for poetry books, I realize that sometimes it’s nice to have a list served up to you. I hope this list serves you well!

Please share your favorite poetry books for kids. Together we can build this list. Thanks so much! Read more…