When quarantining became a reality for many of us in March, we were both looking for activities that would help keep our kids busy but also interacting with other kids. Ricki then came up with the idea of doing virtual book clubs, and Kellee was all in!
Trent & Henry’s Two Book Clubs
Trent and Henry, Ricki’s oldest, both were really interested in reading the Bad Guys books, so we started a chat with just the two of them. This is the first virtual book club that both kids had been in and was a great way to help them understand how to discuss books with a peer. So far they have read four of the Bad Guy books and have had a blast discussing everything from illustrations, to motive, and predictions.
As of this week, we are going to pause on the Bad Guys books and are moving ahead with some partner reading with some of the boys’ favorite picture books!
Ricki put out a call on Facebook for anyone interested in doing a Kindergarten-ish book club, and many jumped in! The kids range from age 4 to 9, and we find the mixed age group is really working! The club voted on the first book to read, and we started with Sideways Story from Wayside School by Louis Sachar and then we moved to Unicorn Rescue Society: The Creature of the Pines by Adam Gidwitz.
Trent’s Other Book Club
Trent also is part of a book club with one of Kellee’s colleague’s daughters. With this book club, Trent and Gabby started with picture books (The Hat Trilogy by Jon Klassen, The Questioneers by Andrea Beaty & David Roberts, and Lights! Camera! Alice! by Mara Rockliff). Next up are the Questioneers chapter books.
Ben’s Book Club
Ricki’s three-year-old Ben is also in a book club using Juana Medina’s Juana & Lucas. Admittedly, this book club has been trickier because the kids are ages 3 to 4. They have had great questions like, “Do you like to chew gum, too?” and are connecting with the book, but their attention span usually lasts between 5 to 10 minutes. They are also incredibly shy and have difficulty volunteering questions. Either way, it is still great to see the kids connect with each other.
For the larger club, Ricki sets up a Zoom meeting and leads the meeting. She ensures everyone gets to ask their questions and that everyone’s voice is heard.
The questions that kids come up with, even at age 6, are intuitive and deep!
Bad Guys #1: Why do you think the kitty doesn’t talk but the other animals do?
Bad Guys #1: Why do you think those words on page 7 look like that?
Bad Guys #2: Do you think they would have made it without Legs helpiing them?
Bad Guys #3: Why did they think the ninja was a boy (she is a girl!)?
Wayside: Do you think it’s fair that Todd always gets in trouble?
Wayside: Joy’s name sounds like she should be good, but she keeps calling people dumb and stupid which isn’t good. Do you like her?
Unicorn: Why do you think Professor Fauna is hunting the unicorns?
Unicorn: Do you think the animal got tangled in the ribbon because it was a trap, or do you think it was something else?
Unicorn: Do you think Professor knows about the animal Elliot and Uchenna found? Do you think they will see it again?
With Trent’s book club with Kellee’s colleague, she used the teaching guides to drive the conversation (Hat Trilogy, Questioneers, Lights! Camera! Alice!), and she found that teaching guides are perfect for this as well. And their insight was wonderful!
With the smaller clubs, we use FaceTime. We’re still there while they are chatting, but it is easier for the two to chat back and forth.
Usually the club meeting lasts 20-30 minutes which is about how long they can stay on topic and discuss a book, but we think that is pretty great for kindergarten-ish kids.
We always end with “friend questions.” Kids are invited to ask their (new) friends questions about their lives. They tend to ask each other about their favorites (foods, colors, movies, books, sports teams, universities).
The book clubs have been such a highlight for our kids. They look forward to it each week! They love sharing the reading experience with others, specifically now when interaction with other kids is so limited.
An unexpected highlight: they’ve made some good friends. Henry and Trent have never chatted for more than a minute or two and last saw each other when they were babies, so it has been wonderful to see them bond these last few weeks!
We highly recommend virtual book clubs! Let us know if your kids have taken part in any virtual clubs!
If you are anything like us right now, you are quietly panicking a bit. Our young children (three, in Ricki’s case) are home for quite a while, and they cannot go to public places. This is different from the summer because…they cannot go to public places. Our parenting strategy is always to keep them busy. Our kids thrive on trips to the playground, visiting museums, play dates, etc. When we keep ourselves busy, everyone does well.
We know that online learning content offers a lot for kids. We did some hunting, and we found some screen-time options that offer great educational content. Luckily for us all, there are many generous people and companies offering educational opportunities for our kids. We’re sharing the list below and invite you to share other options! Something we are trying to remember—this will hopefully be a short time period. We all hope this passes quickly. In the meantime, we are all going to do the best that we can. Solidarity with the parents and guardians out there. <3 BE WELL!
There are some incredible authors who are doing LIVE (yes, LIVE!) readings and doodle alongs of their books. We are, quite frankly, blown away and in awe of these authors. Ricki’s and Kellee’s children are loving so many of these! Here’s amazing opportunities (some available for a limited time) for our children/students as we move to digital/distance learning:
Mac Barnett, author of EXTRA YARN, SAM AND DAVID DIG A HOLE, THE TERRIBLE TWO, Shapes Series; THE TERRIBLE TWO, and so many more!
Mac is reading is books in order of publication, and he has over 40 books. We will be watching him every single day! He’s quite entertaining! Follow him on Instagram* to watch live at 12pm PST or watch the video within 24 hours! He recommends that kids wear a hat, and he answers questions at the end.
Starting 3/28, Mac Barnett switched to read alouds on Monday through Friday with a Live Cartoon on Saturdays.
Starting 4/2, Mac Barnett moved to using IGTV which means the read alouds do not expire at 24 hours! And he is going back to reread all of the books that expired on IG Live.
Starting 6/1, Mac Barnett is moving to once a week Book Show Club Book Show meetings on Saturdays.
Oliver Jeffers, author of STUCK, LOST AND FOUND, The Boy Series, THE INCREDIBLE BOOK EATING BOY, ONCE UPON AN ALPHABET, HERE WE ARE, and so many more!
At 2pm EST and 11am PST starting on Monday, Oliver Jeffers will read one of his books every weekday on Instagram* Live and talk about “some of the things that went into making it.” He talks about what he was thinking when he made each book, which is really neat to learn. He is archiving the videos on his website.
As of 4/29, Oliver Jeffers finished reading all of his books and is no longer doing Stuck at Home Book Club; however, they all are available on his website.
Kate Messner, author of the Over and Under Series, Ranger in Time Series, HOW TO READ A STORY, and so many more!
The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy is going to do Shark Story Hour every day this week at 10am on Facebook Live! Available to watch later in the day as well! (Moved to about once weekly starting in May.)
Storyline Online has videos of celebrities reading their favorite picture books.
From April 2nd to June 4th, Dolly Parton is reading books from her Imagination Library during Goodnight with Dolly on Thursdays at 9pm on her Facebook.
Audio Book Sync is back! SYNC is a free summer audiobook program for teens 13+. Returning April 30th and continuing 13 weeks until July 29, SYNC gives participants two thematically paired audiobooks a week.
Penguin Random House Audio is offering a collection of free audiobook downloads for teachers and parents with kids home from school – or anyone looking for a great story right now. The free “Listen at Home” collection of classic titles is accessible via Penguin Random House Audio’s Volumes app (through 4/30).
Time for Kids has released their entire Digital Library free for the rest of the school year.
Also, amazing news: Kid Lit Authors are joining together and organizing a virtual book festival for May called Everywhere Book Fest which is archived and available.
Follow #CandlewickClassroom on social media to see videos including #WriteWithKate, weekly writing prompts and tips from Kate DiCamillo, from Kate DiCamillo. Candlewick is also hosting Instagram Live events, including My First Book Club Live with Shannon and Dean Hale talking about Princess in Black. Also, they have a You Tube playlist called Stay Home with Candlewick Press which have short and fun educational videos.
At 2pm ET, Jarrett will be doing a live webcast! And since it is on his You Tube channel, if you cannot watch live, they will be archived. We cannot wait to see what Jarrett will teach us to draw!
Mo Willems, author of the Elephant & Piggie Series, Pigeon Series, Knuffle Bunny Trilogy, and so many more!
Mo Willems is hosting a lunch doodle each day at 1pm ET. “Learners worldwide can draw, doodle and explore new ways of writing by visiting Mo’s studio virtually once a day for the next few weeks. Grab some paper and pencils, pens, or crayons and join Mo to explore ways of writing and making together.” Lunch Doodles with Mo ran for 3 weeks and ended on April 3rd.
During the month of May, Mo hosted Thank-O-Rama each Thursday in May at 1pm ET.
Matt Tavares, author of Red & Lulu, Crossing Niagra, and so many more!
Matt Tavares, on his Facebook page live at 10am ET, is hosting Monday Mornings with Matt! The videos are saved on his page to view later.
More Art-Focused Activities
On his You Tube, Nathan Hale is doing an Adventure Comic activity called Cooped Up Comics and other fun activites!
And many museums are stepping up on their blogs and websites to give us activities and resources to help with quarantine distance learning. For example, the Inside LSU MOA (LSU Museum of Art) blog has art activities and stories in art activity.
Disney and Kennedy Space Center are offering free online activities, such as Facebook Live events and imagineering in a box, for kids during school closures.
Washington Teachers’ Union has createdLessons on TV where each day of the week will feature a 30-minute lesson for a particular grade group. (Mondays – Early Childhood 1st Grade; Tuesdays – 2nd & 3rd Grade; Wednesdays – 4th & 5th Grade; Thursdays – Middle Grades; and Fridays – High School)
My little man is quite the reader. It makes me emotional just talking about it because it is just so wonderful to see your child love the thing you love so much.
I’ve always tracked on Goodreads what Trent and I read together. This year he is at about 370 books! And this doesn’t even count what he reads with his teacher and librarian at school–I get these amazing emails from his teacher listing all of the books she reads, and she reads at least 10 a week! (I just don’t track them on Goodreads since it is my account, and I didn’t read it with him.) Because of all this reading, he received is “500 books” button at school this week!
All of this means that there were many books for him to choose as his favorite, and when I asked him to narrow down his list, he said, “But these are my favorites; how can I get rid of anything?” with a shocked look on his face, so without further adieu, I present Trent’s VERY LONG list of favorite books as of his 6th birthday (in no particular order).
Picture Books (Stand Alone)
Let’s Do Nothing by Tony Fucile
Mr. Wuffles by David Wiesner
Ninja Red Riding Hood by Corey Rosen Schwartz, Illustrated by Dan Santat
Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You! by Sonia Sotomayor, Illustrated by Rafael López
Truman by Jean Reidy, Illustrated Lucy Ruth Cummins
Jasper & Ollie by Alex Willan
It’s NOT Hansel & Gretel by Josh Funk, Illustrated by Edwardian Taylor
A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz, Illustrated by Catia Chien
The Very Impatient Caterpillar by Ross Burach
When Sadness is at Your Door by Eva Eland
The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes, Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Red &Lulu by Matt Tavares
This Book is Not about Dragons by Shelley Moore Thomas, Illustrated by Fred Koehler
We Don’t Eat our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
Be Quiet! by Ryan T. Higgins
I Can Only Draw Worms by Will Mabbit
Fred’s Big Feelings: The Life and Legacy of Mister Rogers by Laura Renauld, Illustrated by Brigette Barrager
Rot, the Cutest in the World by Ben Clanton
Nobody Hugs a Cactus by Carter Goodrich
What Do You Do With All That Poo? by Jane Kurtz, Illustrated by Allison Black
Picture Books (Series)
Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins
Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast by Josh Funk, Illustrated by Brendan Kearney
Our Universe by Stacy McAnulty
The Lost Books by b.b. Cronin
The Shapes Trilogy by Mac Barnett, Illustrated by Jon Klassen
Nibbles by Emma Yarlett
Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester, Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin, Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri
Flubby by J.E. Morris
Elephant & Piggie Like Reading series by Various (Dan Santat, Laurie Keller, Charise Mericle Harper, Bryan Collier, LeUyen Pham, Ryan T. Higgins)
Early Chapter Books (all series)
Mr. Putter and Tabby by Cynthia Rylant, Illustrated by Arthur Howard
Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold
Yasmin by Saadia Faruqi, Illustrated by Hatem Aly
Inspector Flytrap by Tom Angleberger, Illustrated by Cece Bell
Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo, Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
Charlie and Mouse by Laurel Snyder, Illustrated by Emily Hughes
Mia Mayhem by Kara West, Illustrated by Leeza Hernandez
Fergus and Zeke by Kate Messner, Illustrated by Heather Ross
Chick and Brain by Cece Bell
Dragon by Dav Pilkey
Princess in Black by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale, Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Poppleton by Cynthia Rylant, Illustrated by Mark Teague
Graphic Novels (also all series)
Narwhal and Jelly by Ben Clanton
Dog Man by Dav Pilkey
Fox & Chick by Sergio Ruzzier
Mo Willems (yes, he gets his own section because Trent LOVES his books)
Elephant & Piggie series
Knuffle Bunny series
Unlimited Squirrels series
Leonardo, the Terrible Monster & Sam, the Most Scaredy-Cat Kid in the Whole World!
That is NOT a Good Idea
Phew! There you have it: the books that Trent chose to share with you all as his favorites! If you are ever interested in what Trent and I read, you can check out our Goodreads shelf.
I cannot believe my boy is five and will be entering elementary school next year. He is everything anyone would want in a kid including kind, respectful, empathetic, and smart. And not to mention, a kid who loves books!
According to Goodreads, where I try to keep as accurate as possible statistics on what Trent reads with us, he read 146 books in this year taking his total to 577 books in his life time!
Today, I am going to share with you his current favorite reads and his reasons why he loves them. He chose these books for me to include and the reasons why are in his own words:
Dog Man series by Dav Pilkey
“They have fliporamas! They show us cool stuff. Petey lets everyone go in their underpants. Dog Man is funny!”
Nibbles books by Emma Yarlett
“I like how Nibbles chomps stuff. I like that he gets away.”
Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
“I like how Pooh talks, and he finds a balloon. Eeyore is my favorite. I like how Eeyore talks and sits. Bei Bei (Trent’s stuffed Panda) sits like him, too.”
Beep and Bob by Jonathan Roth
“It is funny. Bob’s tongue gets stuck on Pluto. Pluto is cold and has a lot of ice. It’s the smallest planet and is in our solar system, but his new name is dwarf planet. Beep is an alien.”
Pete the Cat books by James Dean
“Pete makes a robot who is his friend robot Pete. Robot Pete does whatever Pete says to do. And Pete loves bananas though he ate a rotten one, so his mom tries to give him every food that there is.”
Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin
“I like about Dragons Love Tacos that they eat so much tacos. If there is salsa in the tacos, they will spit fire all over the place. It makes me scared, but I like it because it is cool.”
Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes
“The kitten thinks the moon is a bowl of milk. The kitten is sad because he can’t find milk. But the book ends okay when he goes to his house. The kitten is cute.”
Earth! and Sun! by Stacy McAnulty
“I want to be an astronaut when I grow up and study space, so I like these two books because they help me learn about space.”
Tinyville Town books by Brian Biggs
“I like how they build a new bridge and everyone helps. Everyone has a job in Tinyville Town.”
The Lost House by B.B. Cronin
“Grandpa promised to take the grandchildren to the park, but he lost some things, and I like finding things for him.”
Life on Mars by Jon Agee
“He tries to find life on planet Mars. He found a flower, but he didn’t see the big cat person. I want to go to Mars.”
Ella and Owen series by Jaden Kent
“I like how they go in a cave. They are dragons. I want to get the third book to see what it’s about. I think they’re going to find their mom and dad.”
Race Car Count by Rebecca Kai Dotlich
“I like how they honk. I like how they count.”
Penguinaut! by Marcie Colleen
“I like how he misses friends when he is on the moon, and I like how he puts his flag on the moon. And I like how he runs on the moon. I like penguins. And I like astronauts.”
Off & Away by Cale Atkinson
“I like how Jo sees that her dad is sick, so she tries to help him. She thinks the ocean has monsters, but it doesn’t. It has beautiful things and some islands.”
Ryan T. Higgins’s Books
“I like how Bruce goes BRUGH, and Bruce always says bad things to the other animals, but Bruce isn’t bad. I like Be Quiet because I think is funny and I think the other one is funny too because the dinosaur eats her classmates.”
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See by Bill Martin, Jr.
“I like how we slide the things over to see the animals. I like that I can read it by myself.”
Duck, Duck, Porcupine Books by Salina Yoon
“I like how they do different things like how they have a lemonade stand and how they get their things stuck in the tree and use a ladder to get their stuff. Everyone tries to get Little Duck’s kite. But all of their things get stuck in the tree. Even the ladder got stuck in the tree, too. I think they are good stories.”
Pigeon books by Mo Willems
“I like how the Pigeon doesn’t do what he’s supposed to like take a bath. The Pigeon is grumpy which is funny.”
In honor of our favorite conferences—the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) Annual Convention followed by the ALAN (Assembly on Literature of Adolescents of NCTE) Workshop, we are doing a countdown over the next two weeks. Each day, we will feature a list that reflects the number of days left until the conference! We can’t wait to see many of you there! If you can’t be there, make sure to follow #ncte18 and #alan18 on Twitter and other social media to participate in this amazing PD from your home.
1. Bob Books: Beginning Readers
Our boys LOVE these books. They feature stories that include predominantly three-letter (and some four-letter) words.
2. Bob Books: First Stories
These books are also a great help for our boys. They also feature short words, but each mini-book is a story.
Ricki: I’ll admit I never anticipated using workbooks with my kids. They don’t really align with my philosophy. But my son absolutely loves the map in this book and has so much fun doing it, and that makes me love it.
4. Flip-a-Word Book Series
Ricki: I am, admittedly, highly entertained by this series. They are fun for learning. My son used these when he was first learning to read.
5. Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin 6. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See? by Bill Martin, Jr. 7. One Lonely Fish: A Counting Book with Bite! by Andy Mansfield
Kellee: Trent has all three of these books memorized, but now that he is learning to read, he is making connections between the words he has memorized and the words on the pages.
Trent loves his magazines. He reads them in the car constantly and yells out the words he recognizes and sounds out other words.
“Teaching My Son to Read” (by Ricki) Part II (Part I Post: Here)
Thank you all for the wonderful advice in the comments section of my last post. I purchased the Mem Fox book and continually remind myself that read-alouds are the most powerful tool to teach a child to read. This has alleviated the pressure, and I feel your company when I roll my eyes when someone mentions, “So when do you think you’ll teach him to read.” In my mind, looking at pictures is reading.
But he is really excited about reading. His uncle, who follows this blog, asked him about his reading when we were video-chatting. Ever since then, my son will say things like, “I am going to show Uncle ___ that I read this page.” He’s started feeling a sense of pride in his reading skills.
I am not crazy about this term. But my son has started calling the books he reads his “reading books.” (I am not sure what he considers the other books.) It’s provided him the onus of saying things like, “Let’s do all reading books tonight,” or “I don’t want to do any reading books tonight.” Like I said, the term makes me itch a bit, but it’s his term, and I am trying not to use my critical educator framing on him. I am letting him drive the car, and I am focusing intently on not pushing him. If he wants to read and takes pride in the process, I will continue to support it. If not, I will let it go.
He’s gotten really into the Flip-A-Page series. I brought one home from the library, and he wants more, more, more. (They market all of the books in the series on the back cover.)
These books are really fun (for me, too!). Essentially, they work with the concept of word families. So for the first book pictured, it will introduce the sound of “ake” and then there are cut-outs on the page for both the word and the images. As the reader turns the page, the “ake” sound is repeated, and part of the picture is repeated. My son loves to flip back and forth to look at the transformation. It’s pretty ingenious and highly entertaining for both of us.
More Traditional Early Readers
My son received a bookstore gift card for Easter, and he came upon the Avengers books in the early reader section and wanted them.
I’ll be honest. I would never consider buying these books for my son on his own. Leveling books drives me bonkers (see this anti-lexile post). When he said, “Please can I get this one!” instead of the magnificently beautiful, new picture book that was on the display, I paused for a beat. I knew what was likely in these books, Page 1: “I am superman.” Page 2: “I shoot webs.” But then I remembered my critique of the educators who don’t allow kids to read freely. So we got them. This is how he chose to spend his gift card, and he couldn’t be happier. We are reading the simplistic, obvious descriptions of the superheroes each night. They are improving his reading skills, for sure, and he’s in love with the Marvel illustrations as we read. And I’m improving. I’m reminding myself that kids read what they are interested in. While I may find these books to be soul-crushing in its simplicity and while I may find these books to be wildly boring, my son is avidly devouring them. He begs to read them over and over, and he’s simultaneously loving how they are teaching him new words. I recognize that I must be true to my reader/teacher philosophy that we should let kids read what they want to read.
As corny as this may sound, I’m not sure. I am letting him be the guide.
The Backup Bunny
Author: Abigail Rayner
Illustrator: Greg Stones
Published March 6th, 2018 by NorthSouth Books
Summary: Everybody needs a backup plan, especially when you lose your favorite toy.
When Max loses his favorite toy—Bunny—his clever mom brings out the “backup bunny”—Fluffy—to save the day. Fluffy is thrilled to have the chance to play with Max, but is soon rejected by the observant child who notices that his ears are too new and perky. Can Fluffy find a way into his favorite boy’s heart?
The Backup Bunny will keep you laughing and inspire you to make room for another favorite story.
Review: This book truly made me laugh out loud because it made me think of so many stories! First, as a kid, I had LeeLee and Bean Baby who my mom both tried to get duplicates (Blue LeeLee and Talking Bean Baby) yet they never were equal to the originals. Then, as a sister, my sister had Banky and Huggy Bear who both had backups and were not replaceable. Finally, as a mom, Trent has a baby named Gus who, when I saw that Target was no longer going to carry them, I purchased 2 backup Guses, and when the original got super dirty, I decided it was time to try a backup. I said Gus was going to take a bath, and I brought back a new Gus. Trent hugged him but then looked at him in this super quizzical way and said, “Baby Gus has blue eyes?” And I freaked! I assured him that Gus has blue eyes, but then when we went to sleep, I checked the other Gus only to see that the original had brown eyes. That could have gone worse! Blue-eyed Gus is still going strong, but it almost backfired.
But back to the book. As you can tell from my reminiscing, this book is going to connect with everyone on so many different levels. The adult reader will remember their childhood and be nostalgic, the parent will think of their child and be filled with love, and the child reader will think of the toy that they love so much. And all of these feelings are accompanied by a fun-filled story about Fluffy trying so hard to be Bunny when really he just needs to be Fluffy to be loved.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The Backup Bunny will have a wonderful place in early ed classrooms talking about their important lovies. Having students write about their lovie’s personality would be a perfect early ed creative writing prompt. Fluffy has such a distinct voice, and The Backup Bunny would be a wonderful way to start that conversation about voice and characterization with students both in reading and writing.
How are Fluffy and Bunny different?
How did the author give Fluffy a personality that was distinct?
Do you have a lovie that is special to you? Tell us about them.
In what ways did Fluffy try to be like Bunny? Did it work?
What type of socks does Fluffy live with? What does this tell you about that drawer?