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I am extremely excited to share this virtual-hands on learning system with you because my kids love it. Plugo offers a variety of learning options, and I elected to get their Letters, Count, and Link package. I chose the Letters kit by itself, and it came with a very high quality gameboard and alphabet kit (a lot of letters and a display that allows the app to read the letters). I also chose to get the Count and Link dual package, which also came with the gameboard, a three-spiked device named Spike, a lot of numbers that fit on spike, and magnetic patterned tiles for building. All of the materials are very well-made, and the app is very easy to download and follow (my three-year-old, for instance, figured it out immediately).

One thing I love about this system as opposed to other similar systems is that it adapts to the child’s age level. Each of my children have a profile with their grade level noted, and the app saves their progress.

I also like how well-made the product is. The magnets are strong, and the system feels very sturdy. My three-year-old has dropped several of the activity kits a few times, and they are still doing well.

Below, I share more details about each of the systems, all of which I recommend highly. As a family who is home for the summer (we’ve canceled all summer camps), this is what we’ve needed. The kids used to beg me for television, which we only use as a real treat, but now they beg me to play Plugo. This is much, much more exciting than their workbooks, and they love to engage in the varied games that each of the system offers.

Plugo Letters

An alphabet kit that goes beyond word-building. Develop grammar concepts like verbs, vowels, synonyms & more. Learn to spell & use new words through story-based games.

  • 5 story-based games in the app
  • 250+ challenges and puzzles
  • Age-adaptive challenges, PreK to Grade 5
  • Skills: language development, comprehension, storytelling

I love how my kids use this system and are reading and developing their language without even knowing it. I can hear them whispering the words as they sound them out. I see them trying out different vowels and experimenting with words.

Here, my 6-year-old spells out words along his pathway.

I thought my 3-year-old would be too young for the game, but sure enough, he played for almost an hour (when I cut him off).

The games are fun, and it goes all the way up to fifth grade. This is going to be a learning system that grows with our kids, and I am glad that they are learning letters and words through story. Rather than a video game, the app is more of a narrative that kids follow and stop at selected points to interact with the story using the letter tiles. If they get tired of a story, there are other games within the app to play!

Plugo Count

Traditional math made fun with an innovative hands-on approach. Plugo Count reinvents math with engaging stories that help kids understand and fall in love with numbers.

  • 5 story-based games in the app
  • 250+ challenges and puzzles
  • Age-adaptive challenges, PreK to Grade 5
  • Skills: math (+ – x /), problem-solving, logical reasoning

I love, love, love how this system adapts to the age level of the child, too. My 6-year-old loved playing the games and using operators like addition and subtraction. The repetition of the addition phrases is helping strengthen his memory of common equations. He goes through the story and learns math through authentic examples. I am looking forward to him being able to try out the multiplication and division operators in the future.

When my 3-year-old asked to play Count, I hesitated because I didn’t think he’d be able to play it. Imagine my relief when he started playing and the game asked him to count items in the story and complete the missing number (3, 4, 5, ___). I think about all of the worksheets within workbooks that ask kids to do these same skills, but with Count, he is able to count images that go along with a story. This feels more authentic and exciting!

Plugo Link

Classic building blocks meet modern digital play with Plugo Link! Build and balance the magnetic blocks in real world to solve exciting engineering puzzles on the screen.

  • 5 story-based games in the app
  • 250+ challenges and puzzles
  • Age-adaptive challenges, PreK to Grade 5
  • Skills: engineering, analytical thinking, creative design

My kids are Lego lovers. They could sit at the table for hours with a new Lego kit. So it comes as no surprise that they are obsessed with Link. In the image above, you see my 3-year-old linking up gears to complete an animal. In another game in the app, for instance, He is figuring out how to build pipes to prevent water from flowing out. Older kids can play a game like a word search to connect letters to make words with the patterned tiles. The kids absolutely love Link and enjoy all of the different building games.

Among Letters, Count, and Link, do I have a favorite? No. All three feel very educational and offer something different that is valuable for a child. It would be like asking me if I wanted my kids to attend math, reading, or engineering class. We’ve had a lot of fun with all three of the systems, and we recommend them all. For parents who are looking for more learning options and for parents who are looking to engage kids with hands-on learning, Plugo offers a fun and exciting option that kids will love.

From a teacher perspective, these systems would be really great options for learning stations and fast finishers. I would be really, really excited to see them in my kids’ classrooms because they offer a kinesthetic approach to learning.

**Thank you to PlayShifu for providing Letters and Count for Review!**

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Best Learning’s iPoster My WORLD Interactive Map is a “beautifully illustrated large floor map for kids, great for interactive lessons in school or at home. Explore and discover the world with your fingertips!

The smartest way to learn the world which includes 92 countries, capital cities, flag, population, languages spoken, important landmarks, fun facts with 4 challenging quiz modes.

Learn over 1,000 facts about the world we live in!

Capital & Country – Learn about each country and its capital cities with quiz.

Flag – Learn about each country’s flag with quiz.

Population – Learn about the population of each country.

Language – Learn about the languages spoken in each country.

Landmark – Learn about the important landmark or monument of each country with quiz.

Fun Fact – Learn a fun fact of each country with quiz.

  • Family Choice, Mom’s Choice Gold Metal & Tillywig Brain Child Award Winner 2018! The most valuable interactive touch activated talking map.
  • Learning has never been so much easy and fun. Hang on a wall, play on the floor or use as a colorful play mat.
  • Learn capital cities, countries with their flags, population, languages spoken in each country, important landmarks, fun facts with volume control.
  • Skills learned include concentration, earth science, memory, problem solving, geography and environment.
  • Requires 3 AAA batteries (included); intended for Preschoolers and early learners of ages 5 and up.”

Ricki’s Review: We received this map a few weeks ago, and my kids take it out to explore again and again. I love how it isn’t just a simple, straightforward map with just countries. The different settings allow kids to explore more about our world. For instance, my older son seems to gravitate towards learning the country names, capital cities, and landmarks, yet my younger son is fascinated with the flags, and he regularly puts the map on the flag mode.

When we first opened the map, all three boys were interested. They learned to take turns learning about the countries. The baby is only included in this picture because as you see, he prefers to push everything at once.

Here, my oldest son clicks on the flags to learn about the countries they come from.

And here, the kids take turns trying to identify the correct country in a fun quiz.

We plan to move the map to the wall this week, and we are happy that it will be something that the kids can keep referring to. I can’t count the number of times that one of them asks something like, “Where is XXXX country, city, or monument?” The map will offer a fun way to not only identify the location but to also learn more about the countries as they pop up in teachable moments.

Kellee’s Review: This map is endless entertainment and information! For those of us who have inquiry-driven kids, the freedom of the map and plethora of information just lends to their natural curiousity. So often I would get questions about a setting of a book or movie or just a random country that he heard somewhere, and now we can visit the map to find the country and learn all about it.

Trent is a fan of landmarks. He can tell you where the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, Pyramids of Giza, etc. are, so he immediately gravitates towards learning about them with the map. And he just adores quizzes and will relisten to information and retake quizzes until he knows things by heart and will randomly share information with strangers. He says that this is his favorite part: “I love that the map tells you what the place is and tells you everything about the place.” It is all of the interesting information that keeps him gravitating towards it.

While Ricki loves that it isn’t just a simple map, I understand what she means, but I love that in the end it is still a map. Although there are some graphics, it isn’t overwhelming, and we can still use the map as a map also. I love that something that Trent goes back to over and over is fun and educational!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This map would be a beautiful addition to classroom walls. It offers so much more than a simple, paper map, and it allows kids to learn more about our world. We would recommend using velcro strips to hang this map on classroom walls to allow kids to pull the map off of the wall and bring it to their seats for further investigation.

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**Thank you to Best Learning for providing maps for review!**

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Book Reader Animal Kingdom is an interactive book reader for children to learn about 12 animals through 27 book pages about their appearance, behaviors, habitats and much more! Filled with playful melodies, friendly voices, and interesting sounds of animals and nature! Also comes with Quiz mode for those up for a challenge to keep them enthusiastic and learning at the same time!

  • Family Choice & Tillywig Parents’ Favorite Products Award Winner 2018! An interactive book reader for children to teach 12 animals about their appearance, behaviors, habitats and much more!
  • Simply press the paw down against the page as it reads aloud the contents.
  • Comes with a true and false quiz mode for those up for a challenge to keep them enthusiastic and learning at the same time.
  • Skills learned include animals, memory, dexterity, motor functions, concentration and problem solving.
  • Requires 3 AAA batteries (included); intended for preschoolers and early learners of ages 3 years and up.

Ricki’s Review: About twenty minutes after my 3-year-old started playing with this book, I messaged Kellee because I had to share about it. I wrote, “The Animal Kingdom book is SO COOL. He’s been playing with it for twenty minutes and hasn’t let his older brother have a turn. It would be so good for classrooms, too. It teaches reading comprehension really well!” Within about five minutes, Kellee had ordered one for her son, too. Although I was supposed to be reviewing this book alone, Kellee is joining me because she loved it just as much.

(This is how my 3yo started the book—he immediately placed it on the ground to start reading.)

This is a book (and product) worth sharing about. As you can see in the video above, the pages offer fascinating facts about animals, and the reader is clear and easy to understand. My kids listen intently to the reading, and they are always excited to take the true/false quiz to test their listening skills. Soon, my six-year-old will be able to easily follow along as she reads aloud. My three-year-old typically guesses the answers to the quiz (the concept of true/false is still a bit confusing for him), and my six-year-old is able to practice his listening and reading comprehension skills independently. The both love this product equally, despite their different reading abilities. Even my one-year-old gets a kick out of pushing down the reader to get her talking!

(20 minutes later…)

(I kid you not, 20 minutes after that…)

My three-year-old spent almost an hour with this book and even moved to a comfier spot. It is a favorite in our toy room (they consider it to be a toy!). We’ll be gifting this book to friends. (And I plan to write an email begging Best Learning to produce more of these books.)

Kellee’s Review: Like Ricki said, she shared with me how informative and engaging this book was, so I immediately jumped on and bought one for Trent. Trent adores animals but is more interested in watching documentaries and shows about them than reading about them (he is a fiction loving reader), but this book defies his normal interests, and he loves learning everything he can about each of the animals in the book. He’ll re-listen to pages, redo the quiz, and look back at the images over and over. This book is a hit in our household (it is in the living room because he keeps grabbing it to bring out here as a choice activity), and I, like Ricki, look forward to sharing as a gift and hoping for Best Learning to make more readers like this.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: ELA teachers focus on reading, writing, speaking, and listening (among the obvious other things like thinking). This is a beautiful example of a book that teaches listening. It would be a great learning tool to place at an independent or group station for reading comprehension. Alternatively, it could also be used for fast finishers. Even adults will find joy in this book.

Additionally, it would be a great mentor text for early education animal research projects. Students can emulate the format of a spread about an aimal of their choice.

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**Thank you to Best Learning for providing a copy of Animal Kingdom for review!**

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Osmo is an add on for your tablet (iPad or Fire) that brings digital learning to life! The Osmo Genius Starter Kit (from Tangible Play, Inc.) comes with materials for 3 of their different apps and with the Osmo stand and reflector, there are 2 other apps availabe to play without any materials.

Osmo knows kids learn by doing, so each game uses physical action. Whether it’s arranging tangrams, zooming number tiles around, or even freehand drawing, Osmo sees and reacts to every real-live move. Users will receive real-time feedback which lets kids learn through experimentation in a stress-free environment.

To date Osmo has been named one of Time Magazine’s Best Inventions, is a Parents’ Choice award winner, a winner of the prestigious Oppenheim award, and a 2016 finalist for Toy of The Year.

Tangram Demo: https://assets.playosmo.com/videos/games/tangram/tangram-demo-loop.webm

Words Demo: https://assets.playosmo.com/videos/games/words/words-demo-loop.webm

Numbers Demo: https://assets.playosmo.com/videos/games/numbers/numbers-demo-loop.webm

Newton Demo: https://assets.playosmo.com/videos/games/newton/newton-board-demo-loop.webm

Masterpiece Demo: https://assets.playosmo.com/videos/games/masterpiece/masterpiece-demo-loop.webm

Kellee’s Review: What I love about Osmo is that it takes technology and adds kinesthetic aspects to it. It is truly the best of both worlds. This combination of hands-on learning and technology is how we are going to prepare our students for their life journey.

Trent loves Osmo because he thinks everything about it is fun. Even when there is a challenge, he faces it, figures it out, and moves forward because of the engagement he has for the activities. And if it gets too tough, the app is intuitive and helps him out when needed.

It is hard to pick his favorites apps. I think Masterpiece and Newton would be what he picked first to play, but he wouldn’t argue about playing any of them.

Masterpiece shows his paper on the screen and an outline of what he wants to draw. It can be from their gallery, online, or even a picture he took. Then he can look at the screen and follow the lines. He loves drawing, so him loving Masterpiece makes so much sense.

As for Newton, which is a problem-solving physics platform. I found it to be extremely difficult, so I was pleasantly surprised that Trent loved it so much. He figured out so many creative ways to solve the puzzles, past the drawing that it initially instructs the user to do. It was fascinating watching him! (Please note: the Osmo whiteboard in the image is not from the Genius Starter Kit. Trent loved the starter kit so much, we bought other games and it came with another game; however, any white board or paper would work for Newton.)

Words is at this point a bit easy for him, but I know there are ways to up the difficulty, but he is really enjoying it and getting used to searching for the letters, so I don’t want to frustrate him.

Numbers starts with addition which is perfect for Trent and lets him practice his number skills in a low-stakes, fun environment. He is a math fan, so this is another favorite app.

Tangrams is probably the one he struggles with the most. When the tasks get more difficult and do not show which shapes go where, Trent has trouble visualizing which are correct (but I’m the same way, so maybe like mom, like son).

And like I mentioned above, we loved Osmo so much, we’ve purchased other kits which I’ll definitely share with you in the future. I highly recommend Osmo to parents and teachers as an extension to other learning.

Ricki’s Review: Kellee did an amazing overview of each of the games within the kit, so I will offer more of a holistic overview and perspective from two different kids’ age levels. We have been staying at home pretty much exclusively for three months. My kids are in need of something different. My 3yo is able to read simplistic books and words, and my 6yo is reading fairly fluently now. They are tired of workbooks, they are tired of any book that looks like an early reader, and they are looking for something more interactive. Osmo is the answer.

The kids beg me to play with it during the day. We are pretty strict about screentime in our house, but the Osmo is so interactive that it doesn’t feel like screentime to me. As a parent, it feels remarkably guilt-free as the kids cheer and play the games together.

What intrigues me the most is that Kellee’s son, who is the same age as Henry and has similar interests, has different favorite games than my son. (Although, truly, my kids love ALL of the games.) Tangrams is both of my kids’ favorites. It seems to come naturally to them (which surprises me because I am not very good at spatial recognition). Masterpiece is the hardest for them, and I wonder if they will progress more with it with some time. Regardless, all of the games are huge hits, and they want to play all of them every time they play with the Osmo.

 

Here, you see my 6yo cheering wildly for himself while he plays numbers. When he met his teacher for a small math group at the end of the school year, she spent a lot of time decomposing numbers. As a parent, I have been focused with addition, subtraction, and number sentences. I hadn’t realized how much decomposing numbers helps their math sense. Osmo’s Numbers does just this. My son is breaking down numbers and figuring out how they work. Using this game in repetition will surely help his math abilities.

Not pictured: the INTENSITY of this shot. Here, the boys are playing two-player Words. They are each tossing letters into the center and hoping to guess the spelling of the word. For the 6yo, it is conscientious. He is able to consider which vowels are the right fit. For the 3yo, it is a lot of guesswork. He focuses on the first and last vowels. The middle is still confusing, as is suspected. I stress here that despite the 3yo being outside of the age level, he is still able to have fun and try out words, which is fun and exciting for him (and for me!).

And lastly, I share a picture of the boys playing Newton together. (Kellee highlights Tangrams and Masterpiece above.) I said earlier that Tangrams is my kids’ favorite, but now I wonder if their favorite might also be Newton. Gosh this game is so fun. They are considering gravity and physics. The game forces them to problem solve. If they mess up, they might slide the paper a little bit.

If you are on the fence, we recommend the Osmo highly. The kids have been having a BLAST, and it makes learning really fun. As an educator who doesn’t believe much in worksheets, this is a phenomenal system that has brought a lot of joy to our house.

The kids have been making big plans for which kits they are going to put on their wishlists for birthdays and holidays! I am very intrigued by the Pizza kit, so that might be next!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: We highly recommend Osmo for centers in classrooms. There are ways to set up multiple profiles which will make it so students can each have their own progress and with the hands-on + technology, students will have so much fun while learning!

Here are the subjects that the Genius Starter Kit compliments:

  • Math: Tangram and Numbers
  • Reading: Words
  • Handwriting: Masterpiece
  • Science: Newton
  • Basic geography (maps): Masterpiece
  • Spatial relationships: Tangram

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**Thank you to Tangible Play, Inc. for providing starter kits for review!**

 

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Black Americans: We see you, we hear you, we support you, and we condemn the violent acts against Black Americans that happen too frequently in the United States including the murders most recently of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, David McAtee, Tony McDade, and Breonna Taylor. Black. Lives. Matter.

Racism is a long-standing virus in our country. Because of racism, Black people are brutalized, murdered, and unjustly treated. This virus is not new—it is engrained in our history. And what is happening in our country now (and throughout our time as a nation) is motivated by the White systemic racism that permeates structures and motivations of this country.

As Dr. Ibram X. Kendi states in How to Be an Antiracist, “The opposite of racist isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is ‘anti-racist.’ What’s the difference? One endorses either the idea of a racial hierarchy as a racist, or racial equality as an anti-racist. One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people, as a racist, or locates the roots of problems in power and policies, as an anti-racist. One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an anti-racist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist.'”

So to combat racism, we must be actively anti-racist.

Educate ourselves about the history of racism, race relations, and the act of anti-racism. 

  • Ani-Racism Booklist from @idealbookshelf
  • Anti-Racism Book List from Candace Greene McManus including gateway books and books to dig deeper.
  • Educators: Educate on race in education and in literature.
    • Books to share from The Brown Book Shelf and KidLit Community Rally for Black Lives:
      • We Got This: Equity, Access, and the Quest to Be Who Our Students Need Us to Be by Cornelius Minor
      • Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension by Sara K. Ahmed
      • Teacher for Black Lives by Dyan Watson, Jesse Hagopian, and Wayne Au
      • Libraries, Literacy, and African American Youth edited by Dr. Paulette Brown Bracy, Sandra Hughes-Hassell, and Casey H. Rawson
      • The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas

Educate ourselves about what IS racist. 

  • Learn about passive/covert racism as well as active/overt racism and take action on what.
  • Educators: Learn about how schools are racist and how they have the potential to get even worse (from The Progressive). (The links in this article provide further background, as well.)
    • Then, apply what you have learned to your own context. What can you do to make a change? How can you stop being complicit and start being anti-racist?

Make sure we understand our own implicit biases and White privilege. 

It’s time to start doing. Remember: educating ourselves is critical, but it is only the first step. Action must follow.

Share posts from Black activists or organizations that inform about, fight against, and educate on police brutality.

Support works produced by Black artists and creatives. 

Donate, join, support, and participate in organizations (a few are noted below).

Support Black businesses.

Highlight the history and contributions of the Black community. Below, we offer a list of contributions to education and books. 

Call your local and state reps and demand change.

Discuss race, race relations, and anti-racism with students, kids, family, etc. 

Read and share books by BIPOC authors and about BIPOC characters with our students, kids, family, etc. 

  • Book recommendations by Black authors (This is a list of books we have especially loved and recommend. This list is limited. Please be sure to click the links throughout the post for more book recommendations, and keep your finger on the pulse of new releases to constantly learn and grow.)
    • Picture Books
      • Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed, illustrated by Stasia Burrington
      • Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander
      • The 5 O’Clock Band by Troy Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier
      • Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier
      • Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis by Jabari Asim, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
      • Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James
      • The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
      • Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty, illustrated by Bryan Collier
      • The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba, illustrated by Van Thanh Rudd
      • Rocket Says Look Up! by Nathan Bryon, illustrated by Dapo Adeloa
      • Firebird by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers
      • Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
      • Shortcut by Donald Crews
      • Freight Train by Donald Crews
      • Just Like a Mama by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow
      • Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
      • Bedtime for Sweet Creatures by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
      • Going Down Home with Daddy by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Daniel Minter
      • Hands Up! by Breanna J. McDaniel, illustrated by Shane W. Evans
      • Fresh Princess by Denene Millner, illustrated by Gladys Jose
      • Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora
      • H.O.R.S.E.: A Game of Basketball and Imagination by Christopher Myers
      • Harlem by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Christopher Myers
      • Muhammad Ali: The People’s Champion by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Alix Delinois
      • Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson
      • Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson
      • My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete & Ryan Elizabeth Peete, illustrated by Shane W. Evans
      • Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
      • Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and his Orchestra by Andrea Davis Pinkey, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
      • Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
      • Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
      • Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomping Stride by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
      • A Day at the Museum by Christina Platt, illustrated by Sharon Sordo (chapter book)
      • Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold
      • Another by Christian Robinson
      • You Matter by Christian Robinson
      • Little Melba and her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Frank Morrison
      • Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, illustrated by Laura Freeman
      • Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe
      • Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton by Don Tate
      • Be A King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by James E. Ransom
      • Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
      • The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López
      • Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
      • This is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by James E. Ransom
    • Middle Grade
      • Crossover by Kwame Alexander
      • Booked by Kwame Alexander
      • The Usual Suspect by Maurice Broaddus
      • New Kid by Jerry Craft
      • Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
      • Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
      • The Watsons Go to Burmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
      • Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
      • Stella By Starlight by Sharon Draper
      • The Last-Last-Day of Summer by Lamar Giles
      • Great Greene Heist series by Varian Johnson
      • Robyn Hoodlum series by Kekla Magoon
      • Somewhere in the Darkness by Walter Dean Myers
      • Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri
      • Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri
      • Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
      • Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds
      • Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds
      • Track series by Jason Reynolds
      • Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
      • Louisiana Girls Trilogy by Jewell Parker Rhodes
      • Two Naomis by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrewy Vernick
      • Clean Getaway by Nic Stone
      • Logan series by Mildred D. Taylor
      • Gaither Sisters series by Rita Williams-Garcia
      • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
      • Locomotion series by Jacqueline Woodson
      • Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
    • Young Adult
      • Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
      • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
      • With Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
      • Swing by Kwame Alexander
      • Solo by Kwame Alexander
      • Kendra by Coe Booth
      • Tyrell series by Coe Booth
      • Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence, A True Story of Black and White by Geoffrey Canada, illustrated by Jamar Nicholas
      • The Belles series by Dhonielle Clayton
      • Tyler Johnson was Here by Jay Coles
      • Say Her Name by Zetta Elliott
      • Fresh Ink: An Anthology edited by Lamar Giles
      • Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes
      • Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
      • Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson
      • A Certain October by Angela Johnson
      • First Part Last by Angela Johnson
      • I’m Not Dying With You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal
      • March series by John Lewis
      • How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon
      • Tyrell by Coe Booth
      • Dope Sick by Walter Dean Myers
      • It Ain’t All for Nonthin’ by Walter Dean Myers
      • Monster by Walter Dean Myers
      • Knockout Games by G. Neri
      • It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
      • All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
      • When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds
      • Dear Martin by Nic Stone
      • Odd One Out by Nic Stone
      • The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
      • On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
      • Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia
      • Beneath a Meth Moon by Jacqueline Woodson
      • The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
      • American Street by Ibi Zoboi

Educate ourselves about the system we are part of.

Talk about anti-racism. Speak up when others are being racist. Educators, teach about being anti-racist. This is your job–in order to support young people. Just so we are clear, this includes teachers in predominantly White classrooms.

Continue to listen to Black voices, do not stop educating yourself, and focus your learning on anti-racist ACTIONS. White Americans, if you feel exhausted, keep in mind that Black Americans don’t have opportunity to shut off the effects of racism. This is a privilege.

Educators, we must frame everything we do to be anti-racist.

What anti-racist work are you doing?

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**Please note: These links have been widely shared on social media, and we curated them here and added many others to give them a concrete place. This is shared work.**

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We’re excited to share Camp Candlewick, a new online reading program! Over the course of twelve weeks, young people of all ages will be encouraged to take part in shared reads, activities, and virtual events with prominent creators.

Via website content (at https://stayhome.candlewick.com/) and email newsletters as well as robust support resources on sites such as Pinterest, “campers” will be alerted to reading suggestions, prompts, and activities for the “cabins” appropriate for their age.

Here are the four cabins! Each are hyperlinked to take you to the cabin’s Pinterest board:

From the press release: The idea for the summer camp grew out of the success of the publisher’s Stay Home with Candlewick Press initiative, which has provided resources and support to families during the transition to remote learning. “We realized that families might feel even more in need of diversion over the summer, when the school year has ended and many camps will be closed,” said Kathleen Rourke, executive director of educational library sales and marketing at Candlewick.

“Preventing the loss of skills is more critical than ever this year,” Rourke said. “We hope that these 12 weeks of activities will provide connection and enrichment when young readers need it most.”

We look forward to our sons taking part in Camp Candlewick as well as sharing the opportunity with our students!

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At 11pm, I had the idea to teach my 6-year-old stop animation. I watched countless YouTube videos and tried to tailor them to his skill level. The next day went fairly well, but I learned some things along the way that I thought I’d share with other caregivers or educators embarking on this adventure.

  1. Create a Model, Show Examples/How-To Videos.

It is exceptionally hard to explain stop animation to a kindergartener. Thus, I showed many, many examples and then showed him my own example. I recommend pre-watching your examples because I found many inappropriate models that I was glad I ruled out in advance. I also found how-to videos that were way too intense for my kid. They would overwhelm him.

The first video I showed him was a LEGO animation (which I learned is called a brickfilm). The video I post below is very easy to follow and shows how it works:

Next, I showed a claymation, which is the clay form of stop animation. I watched many and found this one to be pretty clear:

And finally, I created my own (quick) model using clay. I left the clay model out, so I could explain how I did it. This was the quick model I made:

2. Use the “Stop Motion” App.

I learned (after watching many tutorials) that this app was not only very user-friendly but also very capable of advanced work (which we were not doing. The key to using the app is to avoid having to push the photo button. Every time you take a picture and touch the tablet/phone, it jiggles the camera a tiny bit. For the model above, I stacked five textbooks and hung the camera part of the tablet over the edge of the top book. This allowed me to set the automatic timer on the app and avoid touching the screen. I did everything flat on my table, as you will notice in the model.

Essentially, you set a timer for a certain length of time (I did five seconds for my model, but I set it to 15 seconds for my son.) In that time, you move your design slightly. If you miss the timer and don’t make the move, it is extremely easy to delete any of the frames in between.

My son chose to do a brick film with his legos, so I set up the tablet to lean against a chair leg. I had to remind him not to touch the chair, and I set the automatic timer. After that, he pretty much worked independently for an hour on his film.

3. Other Lessons Learned

There’s something that Stop Animators call “light flicker.” If you are close to a window, the changes in the sun (e.g. it goes behind a cloud) will make the light of your video flicker in each shot. Pros (my son and I not included), recommend doing your stop animation in a room with no sunlight or windows. You use two headlamps—one to put in front of your creation and one to put behind it for shadows. To remove the shine on the lego pieces, I learned that pros cover the front headlamp with parchment paper. This was way above our skill level. The pros also use professional cameras and not tablets/phones.

Stop animation takes time, but it takes far less time with this app. It is instantly rewarding to kids (at least, relatively to taking a lot of solo framed photos). It occupied my son for a good hour, and he got to play with his lego, so it was a fun time for him.

Don’t forget to add music. I got a bit lazy with mine, and I clicked the audio record option (which allows people to record their voices), and I just played a song through my cell phone to get it in the background. You can upload a song if you want better quality than mine.

Those are the basics. Kindergarteners are very capable of beginning stop animation films. My son’s ended up being a tray of his favorite minifigures. They appeared one-by-one, and then they disappeared one-by-one. It was a great first start for him!

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