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March Madness reading competition, school wide reading competition, school reading competition,

Our School’s March Madness Reading Competition

School Wide Reading Competition: March Madness

I blogged a lot about our elementary school’s March Madness reading competition and have tried to answer emails about the rules of engagement. The rules have changed over the last 8 years since we’ve first started. Also, my recollection is hazy at best.  All I know is that my kids read like crazy to win that extra P.E. session and we all win in the end, no matter what place their class ends up in.

getting kids reading, kids and reading, reading strategies, reading competitions, school reading competition

This year, the competition has started again and I am posting the rules in hopes that it inspires your school to pick up the torch and try this reading competition next year. It’s a lot of fun and I do really notice a marked improvement in my kids’ reading abilities after just one month of reading madness!

march madness reading competition scoreboard


  • The Peirce School March Madness Reading Celebration will begin on Friday, March 1 and run through Thursday, April 4.
  • The kickoff will take place at our town meeting on March 1 and each classroom will be randomly assigned the name of an actual NCAA basketball team.
  • Students will earn points for their team based on the number of minutes read daily at home during March Madness.
  • Each student will log their daily reading onto the paper reading log and enter their WEEKLY MINUTES read into an online database AT HOME every Thursday evening. 
  • Students will hand in the paper copy of their reading log to their classroom teacher every Friday morning and should begin to log their weekly minutes read into the online database on Thursday, March 7.  Students should continue to log their weekly minutes read every Thursday evening up until Thursday, April 4.
  • Team points earned will be tallied and recorded every week onto a large graph in the main hallway.
  • Books read in school are not eligible for points.
  • Books read as part of nightly reading can be counted.  (March Madness reading does not have to be in addition to regular home reading, although we hope students will be more inclined to read).
  • There will be a separate point system for grades K-1 and for grades 2-5. 
March Madness reading competition

My mom friend Melissa says, “Quietest play date ever! Everyone is reading for the March Madness reading competition.”

Read more…, education search engine, educational search engine, college search engine

Education Search Engine:

Getting into College Search Engine

From the creators of the Princeton Review, meet It’s a personalized recommendation engine in Beta geared towards education. It’s focus is on the best way to help users — from parents and adults to high schoolers — to find the best schools and programs to fit their needs. Think of it as an interactive Princeton Review library of all their published works plus everything collectively in their brains., education search engine, educational search engine, college search engine

Stressed about getting your high school student into college? This is a good place to start your journey. is FREE and allows users to search colleges, graduate programs and K-12 schools, find study abroad programs, identify the best local tutors and test prep programs, search for a guidance counselor or education consultant, and access hundreds of thousands of free learning materials.

  • features data on over 130,000 schools and hundreds of thousands of education providers
  • offers content from the most credible sources, including federal and state education departments and agencies, LinkedIn, Forbes, Newsweek, YouTube Education, and US News & World Report
  • Users can select from over 350,000 interactive learning materials covering an expansive range of subjects, compiled from noteworthy sources such as National Geographic, The Smithsonian, Khan Academy and BigThink
  • With over 120,000 K-12 schools, 2,900 4-year colleges, 5,000 graduate programs,135 study abroad programs and 80,000 tutoring listings, has the largest compilation of education resources found anywhere on the web
  • Once users narrow their search selection and want to engage with friends, family and others who have shared experiences, enables them to share their findings from the site via Facebook and Twitter, and save their results for easy access Read more…
reading and writing, Kindergarten, invented spelling, making book crafts for kids

Connecting Reading with Writing in Kindergarten

Reading and Writing in Kindergarten

I am thrilled to be joining Share a Story, Shape a Future 2013 blog tour with other great literacy, children’s book and education bloggers!

  • Monday (Infants): Maria Burel at Once Upon A Story.
  • Tuesday (Toddlers): Carol Rasco at Quietly
  • Wednesday (pre-Preschool): Debbie Alvarez at The Styling Librarian
  • Thursday (Preschool): Tif at Tif Talks Books
  • Friday (Kindergarten): Terry at Family Bookshelf

My contribution is the connection between reading independently and writing for Kindergarteners … more specifically the idea of invented spelling as a necessary step that marries writing with reading.

Share a Story, Shape a Future, literacy, Kindergarten reading and writing

The Importance of Invented Spelling: The Writing Connection to Reading!

We had the most amazing Kindergarten teacher — Ms. C —  for all three of my kids. As rookie parents, she held our hand and guided us gently through the academic rigors of Kindergarten. Seriously, Kindergarten is the new First Grade. Ms. C’s goal was and is to get the kids reading by the end of Kindergarten.

She stressed the importance of writing as an important literacy step towards reading independently. In fact, invented spelling — you know that fabulous and funny spelling kids use when they first start sounding out words — is CRITICAL to teaching kids how to read independently.

“Froshus dobrmn pensr” is an example of invented spelling. What do you think the child is trying to communicate? Yes, ferocious Doberman Pinscher!

Read more…

fire safety, kitchen fire, kitchen fire safety, family fire drill,

Kitchen on Fire and Fire Safety

Christmas Kitchen Fire and Family Fire Safety

My sister’s house caught on fire on Christmas day and it was kind of my fault. You see, we were Skyping her for the first time. My husband and brother-in-law had set up a Skype time so that we could talk to her family and  my mom on Christmas day. We were in our family room. They were in their garage where my brother-in-law has his photography lab set up.

Our roast was in the oven and it was mid-afternoon our time on the East Coast. They were three hours back and were between Christmas events having come back from a family Christmas brunch and headed out to a dinner in a few hours.

We were chatting pleasantly with my mom and brother-in-law. My niece and nephew were playing in their house but my kids were crowded around our computer. My sister joined us for five minutes. She returned to the kitchen and all of a sudden we heard, “Fire!”

There was some scrambling. We saw my sister and brother-in-law rush past us, fire extinguishers in hand (the small kind). Read more…

bedtime books for kid, best picture books, best board books, best bedtime books for kids, best read aloud books for kids

Best Bedtime Books to Read Aloud

Best Bedtime Picture Books for Kids

Thank you to Susan Marx for emailing me this lovely poem full of some of my favorite children’s books for young children. Reading aloud is a passion for her and Barbara and they have penned a book about it.

Her lovely poem took me down memory lane at bedtime with my kids. We didn’t read all these great picture books and board books, but we enjoyed many of them over and over through the years!!

Thanks for this trip! What bedtime books or read aloud books are your favorites? Did you spot any in the poem?


Bedtime Rhyme

by Susan Marx
Let’s read a book Together to settle you down,
Time for Bed in your cozy jammies or nightgown.
Read more…
abductionary, alien vocabulary ipad game for kids

Alien Vocabulary App for Kids

Vocabulary App for Kids with Aliens!

This app caught my eye when I saw it on MediaPost’s Out to Launch newsletter by Amy Corr. Aliens and vocabulary. A strange but effective pairing to get kids to actually use it.

abductionary, alien vocabulary ipad game for kids

ABDUCTIONARY is an addictive and fast-paced word puzzle game for the iPad.
An evil alien race is getting ready to invade Earth but first they need to learn our human language. In ABDUCTIONARY you are one of these aliens, sent to Earth by the evil alien overlord to “steal words from the tiny brains of those ugly, puny, bipod Earth creatures” (his words, not ours).

Your job is to extract words from human brains fast enough so the “Language Extractor 6000”, a very advanced but finicky piece of machinery, won’t overheat. You do this by forming words from a stream of random letters being “sucked out” of an abductee’s noggin. Points are awarded by length and complexity of the word. Combine these with power ups, acquired by keeping the machine cool, and become the supreme master of language on the GameCenter leaderboards.


iPad app of the weekDOJO created Abductionary, a fun word puzzle game for the iPad.

In Abductionary, each player is an alien sent to earth by an inept alien overlord that demands his underlings “steal words from the tiny brains of those ugly, puny, bipod earth creatures.”

Players have to extract words to prevent the “Language Extractor 6000” from overheating, by forming words from a stream of letters being sucked out of human brains.

The app is 99 cents in the App Store. Read more…

child's inner voice, New Year Goals for my son

Your Child’s Inner Voice is You!

My 8-Year-Old Son’s New Year Resolution

I remembered this quote from Pinterest and it reminded me of the influence we have over our children. We can box them in with “you can’t … ” or open doors with “you can be anything you want to be.”

child's inner voice, the way you talk to your child becomes their inner voice

From Spiritually Speaking.

Then, when I dropped my 8-year-old son off at school, I saw his classroom hallway display with the kids’ New Year’s Resolutions. I read them all but could not tell which one was my son’s. He reluctantly showed me.

It seems that the nagging we do about too much screen time has left an impression. And his reluctance to identify his balloon stemmed from knowing that he, in fact, is on screens too much.

child's inner voice, New Year Goals for my son

It’s funny that our “Less Screen Time” message morphed into a more exercise message. I’m not sure if it’s made a difference.

The sports he plays are all organized sports and he spends a lot of time negotiating which practices he will wants to skip with me. The make up soccer practice last night since he will miss practice for a birthday party was nixed in exchange for the new Club Soccer Winter practice on Sunday. Fine!

As for screen time, he finished all his work before dinner and excused himself. PickyKidPix remarked that he had two screens going simultaneously, a video game on the computer while watching TV.  Read more…

best new chapter books, best books for kids, best chapter books, 5th grade books for kids, 6th grade books for kids, 4th grade books for kids,

Great New Chapter Books For Ages 9 and Up

Best Chapter Books for Ages 9 and Up

Need new book ideas to keep your 4th grader, 5th grader, 6th grader or 7th grader reading? From realistic fiction to action adventure series, here are some new discoveries to get excited to read.

What if your child is a reluctant reader? Try the Orca Currents series or a graphic novel. For Percy Jackson fans, try the graphic novel of The Lightening Thief or The Ghost Leopard for a new action adventure series that is similar.

Kids who like Newbery quality book and realistic fiction will find Sharon Creech’s latest, The Great Unexpected, to be her finest work to date. See You at Harry’s and Precious Bones with both make you wonder why they didn’t get a Newbery nod. Alas, all these great books can’t win the Newbery!

What are your child’s favorite chapter books or graphic novels?


Oracle by Alex Van Tol

The Orca Currents series targets middle school reluctant readers with pocket-sized very short chapter books and a high interest fast-moving plot. Each line on the page has 8 words or less! It’s a formula that works. 8th grader Owen has a crush on the Queen Bee Mean Girl Camryn, who in turn, is crushing on his older brother. With the help of Hannah, the class president, Owen sets up an anonymous blog that gives relationship advice. It seems to be working but Camryn discovers the truth and Owen must face the music. Middle school boys who find girls puzzling but attractive are the natural audience for this quick read. [chapter book, ages 11 and up]

Read more…

home library, home libraries, secret bookshelf door, secret door to library, secret library door, hidden room door,

A Perfect Home Library?

Home Library Inspirations

All this watching of Downton Abbey and their libraries has me on the search for the perfect home library. Pinterest is where I daydream and I’ve been collecting ideas on my Home Library Inspiration board.

How do you get the perfect combination of cozy, book capacity, wired desk space and reading spaces? Are you a ladder person? Should it be tucked away or in a prominent spot? Should kids have their own reading nooks or can you share? Should cookbooks get their own space? All of the above?

What do you think? Do you have a special cozy spot to read?

Home Library as Office110056784614400798

An office and a home library. Nice sharing! But you need really high ceiling heights.

image from A Ceiling 4 Walls and a Floor.


French Doors are nice for separation. Read more…