Summer Picture Book Clubs: Taking the Play Date Up a Level


Leveling up the Play Date.

Who says learning can’t be fun? When my girls were young, they’d prance off to alternating friends’ houses holding their lunch boxes for what is known today as a “Play Date.” We mothers would take turns providing drinks and supervising the kids while they played for a couple of hours, have lunch together outside, and then come home.

By organizing a Summer Book Club, you will be inviting kids of similar age and interests over to your home to listen to a story together and then do an activity or craft.

All the stories that we’ll use for the Summer Book Club are picture books that I’ve read aloud on my You Tube channel, Creating Smart Readers – always free to watch, of course.

At the end of each read-aloud story, I talk about a few ideas to enhance the story with an activity or craft.  I’ve tried to gather up some good ones for summer. I will continue to add to this blog post with each new story so you can go in any order. Depending on where you live, you can go out in the yard or stay inside and use your living room or kitchen. The most important thing is to have fun with the kids and relate it to a picture book.  So, here goes!

My Part

  • I will add new read-aloud stories as fast as I can on my You Tube channel, Creating Smart Readers. You can pick and choose according to your family schedule, schooling, and vacations.
  • I will coordinate the story with links and activities that I will post here on the website.

Your Part

  • Subscribe to my You Tube channel.
  • Take a peek here first so you can prepare necessary materials for your club meeting.
  • Choose a day and time and invite your members (relatives, friends, neighbors).
  • Listen to my read-aloud story together.
  • Gather the kids together for a supervised activity or craft.
  • Share your final products with each other over a small snack.

1. Scribble Stones

IMG_3477 (1)

This is the cutest – but short – story with a big message! A good activity after reading is to gather and then paint stones with designs or messages to give away to others as “Happiness Rocks.”  You can find more information on the author’s link:

In addition, this is a 6 minute tutorial on rock painting for beginners: . Please note that this is a You Tube channel that contains ads so it is for adults.

2.  William the Curious, Knight of the Water Lilies

Me 3This picture book has the most beautiful illustrations I’ve ever seen – so realistic, especially the ones of the guards at the drawbridge! This is a story about saving the environment from pollution. You can enjoy the read-aloud on my You Tube channel, same link as above.

I have included a link for kids’ activities for recycling.  I hope you can help them choose one or more to do at home.

Every year, when my children were young, we would clean out their toys and have a garage sale. Then they could write a list of new toys they wished to get for their birthdays. If you are ambitious and want to organize a yard/garage sale with your kids, younger kids might  enjoy this You Tube video about Barney and a yard sale. As always, please take a look at videos before your children watch them.

3.  By the Light of the Captured Moon

This is a fun story about a young boy who tries to bring the moon into his bedroom and hide it from his mother who keeps telling him to turn off his light.  Like Billy in the story, you and your children can have an adventure with the moon using the links below. Please always look at them first.

4. Rainbow Fish

This is an all-timIMG_3106 (1)e favorite of kids and it’s the perfect read-aloud story and art activity for a rainy day. Of course, any day is good but rainy days call for extra pizazz!  Plan ahead and gather up some paper, glue, glitter pens, markers, and glitter. First, join us for a read-aloud story on You Tube. Then let the kids get messy by creating their own rainbow fish.

rainbowThis is one craft idea that I found on Pinterest.  There are hundreds of other ideas for crafts using paper plates and other materials on that site.


5.  Mister Seahorse

51aFJnD9gSL._SX360_BO1,204,203,200_An adorable story about various fish fathers that care for the eggs until the new babies  hatch. Eric Carle, of course, is well known for his colorful illustrations. After listening to this story on my You Tube channel, Creating Smart Readers (link above), let the kids get messy with colored tissue paper and glue to design their own fish in the Eric Carle style.

Also, Pinterest has millions of ideas for crafts related to seahorses and underwater creatures. Here are a few links.

6.  We are Dolphins

dolphinsThis story brings kids into the sea with mother dolphin and her newborn baby.  We follow along as mother shows the baby how to survive and play in the ocean. This is a link to a short underwater video where you can view dolphins swimmi

And, here is a link for making cute dolphin crafts.,interested%20in%20learning%20how%20to%20hand…%20More%20

7.  Shark Lady

shark ladyThis is the true story of Eugenie Clark who was fascinated by sharks as a child and grew up to become a fearless  ocean scientist.

Some interesting shark facts in a cartoon can be seen using this link.

And, a shark study would not be complete without doing some crafts. Try some of these.

8.  One Tiny Turtle

tiny turtleThis book has been one of my favorite read-aloud stories to use for a multitude of elementary-school lessons including lifecycles for science. Later, use the graphic organizer of the 4 cycles in this story to write a report.

But, this is summer and here are some fun activities to try. I was lucky to have real photos of a beach in Florida that protected the baby turtles when they were hatching.  I’ve tried to find some videos for you that are just as interesting and awesome to watch.

cupcakeHere’s an adorable idea for making a turtle=decorated cupcake.  Great fun for an outdoor picnic for your Summer Book Club buddies!



9. Manfish

Copy of Join us for StoriesThis is a biography of Jacques Cousteau. I will read it on my You Tube Channel, Creating Smart Readers.

I hope you and your Summer Reading Club group of kids will enjoy making wonderful underwater scenes after this story. Here are some ideas.

Travel under the ocean to explore this video about the Coral Reef.

Try to create your own world under the ocean.

I hope you and your children enjoyed your Summer Book Club.  I will leave this post up until the end of August.  By then, all these stories will be up and running on my You Tube.  Until then, “Happy Reading!”


Picture Books & Poems: A Winning Comprehension Combo

I’m always on the lookout for connections. Each time a child can relate what they are reading to something else, the bigger their base knowledge grows.


Picture Books and Poems: Why?

Picture books and poems, when combined, brings comprehension rewards to kids in many ways, including:

  • Rhymes help beginning readers with phonics
  • Hidden meaning builds thinking skills
  • Compare/Contrast 2 genres strengthens comprehension
  • Develops deeper thinking
  • Fosters a love for poetry



Keep a Poem in Your Pocket

Keep a poem in your pocket
And a picture in your head
And you’ll never feel lonely
At night when you’re in bed.

The little poem will sing to you
The little picture bring to you
A dozen dreams to dance to you
At night when you’re in bed.

So –
Keep a poem in your pocket
And a picture in your head
And you’ll never feel lonely
At night when you’re in bed.

Beatrice Schenk de Regniers



What do stories and poems have in common and what do they have to do with me?


I can take the connections between a story and a poem and put them into action in my own life.

Visit my You Tube Channel for Stories

I recently added a section to my Playlist for Stories and Poems on my You Tube channel, Creating Smart Readers You Tube Stories. 

Here are complete Read-Aloud Guides for these stories and poems:

Always on the Lookout!

51jdCKVjWXL._SY420_BO1,204,203,200_[1]I constantly research picture books and other stories – and poems – for children.  I’m always on the lookout for connections. Each time a child can relate what they are reading to something else, the bigger their base knowledge grows. One small idea from a story reminds them of an event in their own lives, to something else they read, or it might motivate them to get involved in a cause. When teaching kids to read, we teach kids to make 3 kinds of connections so they have better comprehension:

  1. Text-to-Self Connections are when children can relate something in a story or other text to themselves.
  2. Text-to-Text Connections are when kids can relate a story, or text, to something else they read.
  3. Text-to-World Connections are what make kids become good citizens.  They read something that awakens a call to action within themselves to do something helpful in their neighborhood, school, town, or the world. Or, they may just become aware of the world at large.

This is a link to a Scholastic article on connections.

The “So What?” Factor

As a Reading Specialist, one of my goals was to get kids thinking about more than just single words on a page.  I wanted them go understand the central idea of what they were reading.  I call it the “So What? Factor” – what are the ideas the words are telling and, as a whole, why do they matter?

Some kids can open a book and read off all the words but cannot tell one single thing about the meaning. That is what comprehension is – what does it mean and why should we care?

So, I hope you and your children enjoy the read-aloud stories and related poems on my You Tube channel, Creating Smart Readers – along with other stories too.  I will continue to search for more.  There are Read-Aloud guides in the top menu for individual picture books as well as for the stories with related poems.

Please subscribe to this Blog, using the form to the right, so I can send you a notice for each new post.  Also, please subscribe to my You Tube channel using the easy button on my channel and I will let you know each time I read a new story.  I never use your information for anything else.  “Happy Reading!”



Picture Books about Music: How to Bring Learning to a Crescendo

Don’t be fooled because there is a pretty picture on the cover and others inside the book. PICTURE BOOKS ARE POWERFUL TOOLS THAT CAN MOTIVATE KIDS TO READ, LEARN, and BE USED TO TEACH VOCABULARY, SCHOOL SUBJECTS, AND READING SKILLS. Please do not just hand them over to kids who might be able to read the words but the true meaning will be lost.

Musical Picture Books

For P-3 Lexile Level 820
Picture Books about Music can both delight kids with great stories and bring their learning to a crescendo. Like I always say, there is power in picture books.  And, if your child likes music, a “Musical Learning Style” might be a strength you can build upon. Researcher, Howard Gardner, reported that children learn in different ways.  For example, I am a “Visual Learner,” so I learn best when I see pictures, videos, or charts about what I am studying. I understand and remember more information that way instead of hearing a lecture.

Teachers often assign homework using various forms of learning styles so students can explore their best ways of studying. Here is an article on the musical learning style.

For a general overview of learning styles, I found a short video for you to watch.

Read-Aloud Story as a Starting Point in Learning

Let’s use Ada’s Violin as an example.  It brings the love of music into the forefront of the story and that will motivate kids who like music to participate. This is a real story. Kids always love stories that really happened! Teachers often read picture books as mentor texts before teaching kids new subjects or skills.  For more about the power in using picture books, here is a recent Blog post. Why Picture Books?

Reading Specialist, like myself, use three parts of reading in our lessons:


  • Look at the cover illustration. What do you notice?
  • Read the title.  What do you think it means?
  • Predict what the story will be about.
  • Talk about what new words might mean:  landfill, bodega, stench


  • Stop occasionally to talk.  What would it be like to live near a landfill?
  • Why don’t these families move?
  • Help your child “Draw a Conclusion.” What conclusion can you draw about the safety of the neighborhood given that a violin was worth more than a house?
  • Stop to make predictions along the way.


  • What is the lesson of the story?
  • How did Ada change in the story? Why?
  • Take a “Virtual Tour” of a landfill or dump.
  • Collect bottles and bring them to a recycling machine in a store.
  • Summarize the story using the tune of a song you like.

These are just a few ideas.  A complete Read-Aloud Guide is downloadable here or on the top Menu. Ada’s Violin Guide

More Picture Books

Nurture your child’s interest in music by reading other books in a similar way.  Here are a few:

  • Dancing Hands (P-3, Lexile 1260)
  • Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo (P-1, No Lexile available)
  • My Family Plays Music (P-3, Lexile 580)
  • Drum Dream Girl (P-3, Lexile 650)
  • Because (P-K, Lexile 820)
  • 88 Instruments (P-2, Lexile 410)

I read Ada’s Violin and Drum Dream Girl on my You Tube Channel, Creating Smart Readers. There is a link in the above Menu or this link will bring you right to my channel.

A Word About Lexiles

Please refer to the above Lexile Levels chart.  A Lexile level matches a book’s readability to children who are good readers in a grade level. Children can understand stories read aloud to them that are 2 years above their own reading level.

Pay particular notice to Dancing Hands, listed for grades Pre-School to Grade 3.  The Lexile level or reading level for a child to read than book alone is 1260. That Lexile is way up into the high school.  Ada’s Violin is marketed to kids in Pre-School to grade 3 but the readability of this story is 820 which is the beginning of grade 6. Please know your child’s reading level.  Read-aloud picture books are a bridge to all learning.

The Power of the Picture Book

Don’t be fooled because there is a pretty picture on the cover and others inside the book.  PICTURE BOOKS ARE POWERFUL TOOLS THAT CAN MOTIVATE KIDS TO READ, LEARN, and BE USED TO TEACH  VOCABULARY, SCHOOL SUBJECTS, AND READING SKILLS.  Please do not just hand them over to kids who might be able to read the words but the true meaning will be lost.

A Final Word

I hope you enjoy these stories and I hope you can boost the learning for your children using Learning Style tips. Please let me know what is working for you and feel free to ask any questions about Reading.

Please subscribe to this Blog and I will send you a notice for each new post.

“Happy Reading!”

The Secret to Reading Success!



Picture Books Make History Come Alive: Reading Stories to Kids Builds Background Knowledge & Excitement for Learning

Please be aware that some historic events – like war, slavery, and the Holocaust – might be better read to older children. Know your history, know the story, and know your children.


Picture Books about Brave Escapes Build Background Knowledge

High-quality picture books make history come alive for kids and, at the same time, the story and illustrations build background knowledge on important subjects.  Stories about brave escapes will excite kids to learn about periods of history – slavery, World War II, and the Cold War (Berlin Wall), for example. Through the characters, kids will be immersed into an historic period. When they learn about these events in school, the new information builds on the background that was established by hearing these stories. All teachers start a new unit by “activating or building background knowledge” so kids have a reference point for learning new topics. High-quality picture books can be used as mentor texts in learning Social Studies.

Arouse Excitement for Learning by Asking Questions

Reading to kids and then talking about the stories together improves comprehension as children learn vicariously through story characters. Stop every now and then to talk about the story. Ask questions that get kids involved in the story and excited to learn more:

  • How bad could life have been that children risked their lives by skating to freedom?
  • What dangers do you think there are in ice skating in the canals?
  • Do you think it was safe to flee in a hot air balloon?
  • How did they know where to go?
  • What would happen if they were caught?
  • Why was there a goat living in the White House?
  • What is important about the White House?
  • What would it be like to be transported in a wooden crate?
  • How would the story be different if … ?
  • If you were in the story, what would you do?
  • What would have happened if they didn’t escape?
  • How did these people feel?
  • How is this like … ?
For P-3, No Lexile Level available
  • Henry’s Freedom Box (P-3 Lexile 490). Henry escapes from slavery by mailing himself on a long journey North in a crate.
  • The Greatest Skating Race (Gr 4-7 Lexile 750). This thrilling true story follows the daring escape of children who skate their way to freedom during WWII.
  • 8.Flight for Freedom (K-3, Lexile 21010). In this story, a family escapes from East Germany in a handmade hot air balloon.
  • Old Whiskers Escapes! brings a bit of historic fun to the reading. It chronicles the escape of a White House goat during the Harrison administration.

Boys Like This Story

For K-2 Lexile Level 550
Baseball Saved Us is an historic picture book about Japanese Internment camps during World War II following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Please read it first so you can appropriately introduce the topic to your children.  A free downloadable Read-Aloud guide is attached here Baseball Saved Us.

This story can be used to teach:

  • Character Traits
  • Character Motivation
  • Problem and Solution

The story is based on true events and what could have occurred in one of these camps. It is important because it personalizes events in history for a better understanding. Boys, in particular, like this story. Here is an archived Blog that you might enjoy.  When Boys Hate to Read

Reading Aloud Versus Independent Reading

It is my belief that reading high-quality picture books aloud is far better than handing over a book for a child to read alone.

  • First, read-aloud stories give kids background knowledge of the period in history being portrayed in the stories.
  • Next, historic events can be difficult for youngsters to understand on their own, so hearing a story and then talking about it with an adult, helps understanding and clears up confusion.
  • Finally, when adults read aloud, they become models of how good readers think when they read.  This happens as the reader stops to “think out loud” about tricky or unknown words and navigating through difficult text to find hidden meanings.

These are the skills we want our children to be good at so they become “Smart-thinking” readers on their own. Detailed read-aloud guides for many good picture books are available for a free download from the above Menu Downloadable Read-Aloud Guides.

So Many Good Historic Picture Books


By reading these good historic picture book stories to kids – at all ages – we can introduce different people, vocabulary, and events that will be studied in school. Children will learn about the time period and “feel” what it was like to live there through the eyes of the characters – some real and others fictional. Before reading to your children, please read them first to be aware of events that might be disturbing to some kids so you can talk about them first.

  • The Silent Witness (P-3 Lexile 950) is told from the point of view of a doll in the Civil War.
  • They Called Her Molly Pitcher (P-2 Lexile 930) is about a real woman who was helpful to soldiers during the American Revolution. A Read-aloud Guide can be downloaded free along with many others using the top Menu. They Called Her Molly Pitcher
  • Boxes for Katje ( K-2 Lexile 460) is a real story about how American children helped cold and starving Dutch children during WWII.
  • Luba the Angel of Bergen-Belsen (Gr 1-4 Lexile 750) is a real story of how one imprisoned woman saved many children during the Holocaust. This story and illustrations are absolutely NOT appropriate for very young children. Please read it first.
  • The Wall follows a man and his son as they visit the Viet Nam Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Please be aware that some historic events – like war, slavery, and the Holocaust – might be better read to older children. Although they are advertised for children often as young as Pre-school to third grade, these topics are complicated and intense. Very young children will not be able to understand them on their own. Some of these eras in history may not be appropriate for your child.  Know your history, know the story, and know your children. Picture books can be appropriate for all grades. They have been the basis of my lessons in grades 1 through 12 – of course, depending on the book, the grade, and the curriculum.

Segregation for Older Kids

Segregation is not studied in my school until the middle grades.  These read-aloud picture book stories can set the stage – by building background knowledge – for learning about the events during this period in history. Events become real, children have many questions, and are eager to learn more.

  • White Socks Only (P-3 Lexile 560)
  • Freedom Summer (P-3 Lexile 600)
  • Freedom on the Menu (P-3 Lexile 660)

A Word about Lexiles

Lexile levels are reading levels of books by grade. They are suggested for average readers in the grades listed. Please note that picture books are often misunderstood by adults.  Since they are advertised for very young kids and there are “pictures” on the covers, it is the general opinion that kids can take them and go read and understand them on their own. If you check the discrepancies between many grades and Lexile levels using the chart to the right, you will notice that they are not always good for the youngsters for which they are marketed. Also, the topics may not be appropriate for your children.

When you read to kids and talk about story events – especially tough topics in history – you can help them understand what is happening, why it is important, and the connections between different time periods in history. Children can understand stories read to them that are 2 years above their own reading level.

Picture Book Power

There are many valuable benefits of reading picture books to children. This is a link to a list.  Why Picture Books?. I hope you and your children get a glimpse into the past by reading these stories together.  I would love to hear about your experiences.

Please subscribe to this Blog (link on the right) and I will notify you every time there is a new posting. “Happy Reading!”

Picture Books make kids smart-thinking about books.





Don’t be fooled – picture books are not just for little kids. They offer a wealth of learning opportunities if read to kids properly.

Cuban folktale
For P-3, Lexile Level 720


Folktales Matter

Folktales are fun and beneficial to children in that they:

  • Reinforce the oral storytelling tradition
  • Teach about other cultures
  • Provide life lessons

On my You Tube channel, Creating Smart Readers (link to the right), I am reading, Martina, the Beautiful Cockroach today.  This is a really fun story to listen to and to talk about.  A cockroach? Really? Think of the fun you and your children can have talking about that critter!  This is a Cuban folktale that can lead to lots of activities for children who are quarantined at home right now. A downloadable partial Read-Aloud Guide to this story is included free here. Martina the Beautiful Cockroach  The complete and detailed guide is part of my new Kindle edition of The Read-Aloud Workout (link to purchase at an introductory low price is to the right).

Know Your Child’s Reading Level

Please notice that the recommended grade level for Martina is for children P-3 but the Lexile level (reading level) of this story is actually way too high for kids of that grade.  According to the chart to the right, 720 is for average readers at the beginning of grade 5.  That is why I always remind parents to read and discuss picture books with their kids before letting them go off and read on their own. This way, children can be guided to find their way around tricky words and hidden ideas in stories. Don’t be fooled – picture books are not just for little kids. They offer a wealth of learning opportunities if read to kids properly.

Folktales from Around the World

Another story I read on my You Tube channel is The Dancing Turtle (P-4, Lexile 500).  It is a folktale from Brazil.  I am going to list some good folktales from around the world that you and your children might enjoy.  Read-Aloud guides are available for all of these stories in my jumbo book, Creating Smart Readers, How to Read 50+ Picture Books to Kids 4-10 (link on right).

  • Mariana and the Merchild (K-3, no Lexile available) is a folktale from Chile.
  • The Blind Hunter (1-2, no Lexile available) is a tale from Africa.
  • Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters (P-3, Lexile 790) is a tale from Africa.
  • The Rough-Face Girl (3+, Lexile 540) is a folktale from Africa
  • The Old Woman Who Lived in a Vinegar Bottle (P-3, no Lexile available) is a folktale from England.
  • Rechenka’s Eggs (P-3, Lexile 610) is a tale from Russia.

513SE1X368L._SY431_BO1,204,203,200_[1]I am including The Caged Birds of Phnom Phen (K-2, no Lexile available) here for a few reasons.  Although it is not really a folktale, it gives an insight into Viet Nam through the eyes of a small child wishing to get out of the poverty in which her family lives. It also shows how this gullible child is almost tricked by a cunning merchant. This can be a great lesson for children today who are inundated by clever marketing that can lure them in at every turn.

Also, I am very proud to have received a signed copy of this book after I mentioned it in a published article that I wrote with a colleague.

Through folktales and other wonder picture book stories, we can enhance the listening comprehension, curiosity, and knowledge of our children. They can be step stools for our young children who are learning about the world and its people. I hope to see you over at You Tube later for our story.

I would love to hear about your favorite picture book stories and the activities you and your children are doing after reading them. Please subscribe to this Blog and to my You Tube channel so you get notification every time I post something new.

“Happy Reading!”




Let’s Visit Italy

After reading, talk to your kids about the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Ask them how it pertains to the way Pippo was perceived by the townspeople. 

For 1-3, Lexile Level 770
After enjoying, Pippo the Fool, let’s visit Italy. What a great activity for older kids when we are all staying home these days. I read this great historic and true story out loud on my You Tube channel, Creating Smart Readers (link on the right).  After listening to the story, there are lots of activities you can do to educate and delight your children. The free, downloadable Read-Aloud guide here Pippo the Fool Guide will break the book down into sections that include Reading Skills, Tricky Words and Word Work, Discussion Questions, and After-Reading Activities.

Where I live on Long Island, we are into week three of self-isolation with the schools still closed.  So I’ve included a few videos here about the dome in our story.  You can also search and view many virtual tours of parts of Italy and watch them with your children according to your interests. Since the read-aloud story is a bit long for very young kiddos, the first video below is an easier depiction of how Pippo designed and built the dome. You can adjust the after-reading activities so kids of all ages can enjoy them together.


Visit Italy with a Virtual Tour

This link retells our story and shows drawings of how Pippo designed the dome..

Here is a link to how the dome was built.

Here are pictures and information about the dome in Florence, Italy.

More facts about Italy, the country.

Italy facts: check out this beautiful country!

After-Reading Activities

After reading, talk to your kids about the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Ask them how it pertains to the way Pippo was perceived by the townspeople.  Also, have some fun with building with blocks or Legos.  Encourage your children to design and draw a building.  How about an invention that would make their lives better.  Perhaps they can present it to the family after dinner.  The Read-Aloud Guide (downloadable above) gives many ideas.

Know Your Child’s Reading Level

If you have the book, please note that the Lexile level (reading level) on is 770. That is the suggested reading level for an average reader near the end of Grade 5.  This is why I always suggest that you use a Read-Aloud Guide to read, discuss, and analyze a book first with your children before allowing them to go off and read alone.  The level of background knowledge, word knowledge, and ability to find hidden meaning of a 5th grader is quite higher than that of the recommended grade 1-3 grader for this book.  Please, please, please, know your child’s reading level and help guide them to be smarter readers by reading aloud to them. Picture books are so very tricky that way – they are targeted to the very young when, in fact, some stories are much more difficulty to understand.  We can help them by using Read-Aloud Guides.

Please stay inside and stay safe.  Thanks to the Internet, we can enjoy the world safely from our homes.  I would love to hear from you about what your children built, drew, or invented after hearing this great story. “Happy Reading!”

Spring is Here!

Spring is the perfect time for this story about a young girl who is concerned about the wind that is destroying her neighbor’s home.

girl plants trees
For P-3, Lexile Level 540

Spring is here! And we are all following social distancing and staying home.  Schools are closed. I hope you have been allowing the kids to watch my read-aloud stories on You Tube. The link is to the right.  I started a You Tube channel (Creating Smart Readers) because I, too, am at home and I figured it would be a new face, new voice, and a new story for children. It also allows me to read my favorite high-leveled picture books to kids. Anyone who knows me in person or on this Blog, knows I am passionate about high-quality picture books!

The story I am featuring this week is Kate Who Tamed the Wind. A full detailed Read-Aloud Guide is here for you to print. Kate Guide 

Spring is the perfect time for this story about a young girl who is concerned about the wind that is destroying her neighbor’s home. The Read-aloud Guide gives information about reading skills, word work, discussion starters, and after-reading activities.  During this time of social distancing and school closures, I’m sure you have been looking for meaningful activities to do at home.

After I read the story aloud on You Tube, I will make a few suggestions for activities:

  •  Find out about windmills
  •  Make a kite
  • Paint or decorate flower pots
  • Start some seeds indoors
  • Plan a garden
  • Draw 4 trees – one for each season

Connect Art
Parents can enhance the story by introducing Science topics like wind, trees, plants, ecology, and seasons. You can also encourage kids to appreciate art. The Internet provides a myriad of information. So, have fun with the learning that is inspired by this story.

In addition, there are other books that connect well to this story. If your library is closed, you might find them in an audio version.  If you have the featured book at home, notice the Lexile level and check the chart to the right to be sure your child is able to read and understand at the level stated.

  • The Great Kapok Tree
  • A River Ran Wild
  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
  • Wangari’s Trees of Peace

Picture books are tricky that way.  They are advertised for children at a young age and grade while the actual reading level is often much higher than a child of that age can read. Many children are able to “read” the words, but the necessary level of background knowledge of the subject is a bit higher for them to understand. And, there is a lot of “hidden meaning” in stories which makes it difficult for kids to figure out on their own. THAT IS WHY I STRESS READING HIGH-LEVELED PICTURE BOOKS OUT LOUD TO YOUR KIDS. It is the talking and modeling of good reading that helps your child grow as a smart-thinking reader. The Read-aloud Guides give you a breakdown on how to dig deeper into a story.  I hope you find them useful.  I took them right out of my own lesson plan book.

I hope to see you and your children regularly for stories on my You Tube channel. I also hope you enjoy the Read-Aloud Guides and activities. I’d love to know how they are working for you because I, like most of us, am a work in progress.  Please subscribe to this Blog and the channel so you get notification of new material.  “Happy Reading!”

Are Your Kids Bored Yet?

My goal is to add three (or more) stories each week.  At the same time I will post a Read-Aloud Guide for most of them on this Blog. 

Are your kids bored yet with school closings? I hope that my read-aloud stories will help. These are the three stories I am going to read on my You Tube Channel, Creating Smart Readers,  for next week starting Monday, March 23, 2020. By now we have all be cooped up inside our homes for at least a week so let’s do something new. I will read a story out loud so kids see a new face and hear a different voice. They are missing their classmates and teacher. Parents might be working from home. Here are some ideas for the kids that I hope you will enjoy.

The Stories

First. Mingo the Flamingo will take us with a lost flamingo who is trying to fly back home. I will give some ideas on activities for kids to do after the story. It will be helpful if you have a craft box ready.  Do you have any glue, paper, crayons, pieces of fabric, yarn, leftover buttons or feathers? Kids will be encouraged to try to make their own flying machine – either with a paper drawing or using random objects.

Next, The Dancing Turtle takes us to Brazil and the rain forest. Can you spare some time after the story to help your kids do some research on the rain forest and the country? Can you find a map or globe to show them where Brazil is located? Do you have  music available so the kids can do their own dancing?

Finally, Mighty, Mighty Construction Site shows how teamwork and persistence can get the job done. After the story, I will suggest that kids create their own construction site with toy cars and trucks if you have them.  If not, can you help them make some drawings?  Let’s help our kids use their imaginations.

The Read-Aloud Guides

I created Read-Aloud Guides from my own lesson plans in school where I used high-quality picture book stories like these in my Reading Lessons for all grades. Of course, the level of the story is based on the grades and ages of the children.  I used picture book lessons for every grade level from one to 12.

In these Read-Aloud Guides, you can choose as much or as little to use with your children as you wish.  They include reading skills (ie. cause/effect, problem/solution, making inferences, making predictions), vocabulary/tricky words and grammar, analyzing illustrations, before-reading motivators, during-reading questions, and after-reading activities including graphic organizers, writing, crafts, research, and day trips.  We can’t do any day trips during this virus lock-down, but there are many virtual tours available online.

Below are the downloadable Read-Aloud Guides for these stories.


The Dancing Turtle

Mightly consruction site guide

I hope you and your children are uplifted by these stories and that you find the Read-Aloud Guides useful. There is a jumbo book of guides available to purchase on the right. My goal is to add three (or more) stories each week.  At the same time I will post a Read-Aloud Guide for most of them on this Blog.  Please contact me on my You Tube Channel or here with any questions or suggestions and let me know how your children are enjoying the stories. Please   “Happy Reading!”

Sneak Preview of upcoming stories:

Making Connections that Matter

With this recent viral posting of the unlikely friendship between the disabled chihuahua and pigeon, we as parents, teachers, and adults have the unique opportunity in real time to talk to our kids about diversity and friendship. We can read stories with them and help them make connections that matter.

Every day, there are opportunities to make connections when we read with our children – connections that matter! As I mentioned in a previous post, life lessons in stories are the real nitty gritty of their messages.  And, we don’t need to jam values and lessons down the throats of our kids. We can make “natural” connections as we read and talk.

In reading, there are three types of connections:  text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world.  When children can connect something they are reading to themselves, they can identify with the feelings, motives, and actions of a character – either real or fictional. By connecting what they are reading to another story, book, or even a TV show or movie, they can expand the information into a broader context.  And, when kids can understand that the ideas, actions, themes (the “So-What” Factor The “So What?” Factor)  matter to people of their community, school, or the world, it might motivate them to take action to start or participate in a cause they find important.

th[5]With this recent viral posting of the unlikely friendship between the disabled chihuahua and pigeon, we as parents, teachers, and adults have the unique opportunity in real time to talk to our kids about diversity and friendship. We can read stories with them and help them make connections that matter.

This kind of connection to the world can start kids thinking about the importance of making friends with all people – not just with those who they think are popular or cool. We can talk about the values that we want in our friends.

Likewise, reading stories with our children about other unlikely friendships can start conversations about what really matters – we are all people and we are all different in one way or the other. We can compare and contrast animals and do some fun research in an educational way as well. Here are just a few stories that come to mind.

For P-3, Lexile Level 920
This is one of my favorite stories about an orphaned baby hippo after the 2004 tsunami who is taken to a rescue center in Kenya and forges a friendship with a 130 year old tortoise living there. My students couldn’t get enough of this real story with beautiful photographs. Please notice the Lexile level of 920 makes it way too difficult for the targeted audience of children in preschool to grade 3. Again, I urge parents and adults to read interactively with their children taking time to stop and talk.  Ask questions.  Help your kids make the connections about why this story matters.  What can they do in their own community to help animals? Is there an animal shelter who could use some supplies?  One Christmas, my whole family gathered dog and cat food and brought them to a local rescue center. Many local aquariums (or online) allow families to “adopt” an animal through a donation.

For P-3, Lexile Level 550
In this beloved and popular fictional picture book, a lost baby bat is taken in and cared for by a family nest of birds. This book is often read to young children in grades K-4. When reading it to our own children, be sure to stop and talk about the differences and similarities of bats and birds in their looks, sleeping habits, and diet. Help your kids make connections to the world again by putting up a bird house or bat house in the yard to help these natives make a home in our never-diminishing forests.


For P-3, Lexile Level 440
This is one of my long-time favorites. It is a simple read for young children and one that is fun to read aloud to them because of the repetition. I love the  predictable parts when kids can chime in with me as I read. There are a number of animals who join Little Beaver on his quest to find friends – all unlikely friends who set out together.

These three picture book stories and the news account of the other can bridge the gap for kids between making friends and helping others in stories and in real life.  Kids love stories about animals, especially the babies.  We can use them as “natural” life lessons

For P-3, Lexile Level 720
that kindness, friendships, and diversity matter.

I am attaching a downloadable Read-Aloud Guide for this wonderful picture book, Martina the Beautiful Cockroach, because it focuses on identifying the personality traits you value. Martina the Beautiful Cockroach Read  You can pick and choose how much or little of this guide to use when reading with your kids. Please note the high Lexile level of this story and read it with young kids first before letting them go off and read it on their own.  Have fun with it.  I’ve read this story with a diverse population of elementary school students and we all had a great time coming up with lists and lists of qualities we look for in our friends.

“Happy Reading!”

The “So What?” Factor

When kids have to talk about what they read in terms of why it is important to them, their school, their community, and the world it forces them to search deep inside the text and inside themselves to determine why actions and words matter.



When working with my reading groups, there was always a huge sign visible near our table that read, “SO WHAT?” Whether we were reading about historic events, a notable figure in a biography, a nonfiction factual piece on science, or a fictional story, none of the words, charts, dialogue, or chapters mattered if we couldn’t figure out why it was important – the “SO WHAT?” factor.


This can alsobe described as the theme, author’s purpose, main idea, or critical literacy but the two words on the wall were easier for kids of all ages to relate to and figure out. When kids have to talk about what they read in terms of why it is important to them, their school, their community, and the world it forces them to search deep inside the text and inside themselves to determine why actions and words matter. If children and teens can think about what makes a real or fictional character or historic event good or bad, it helps them become better people themselves – the kind of kids we see making a difference. It can help give courage to a child being bullied to stand up and say no! It can help a shy child see why being a friend can help make a friend. It can show kids that instead of being the problem, they can become part of a solution.

The “So What?” factor, therefore, helps to instill values in kids and helps them to form in themselves a good character. They will know what they stand for and why it matters. They are responsible for the future and they will know why they can matter.I’ve been thinking about some of my favorite picture book stories – you know, the ones I go on and on gushing over. I will talk about the “So What” factor in some of them below. Don’t forget to check the Lexile levels of these books before allowing your children to read them alone because many picture books are promoted and marketed to kids who are too young to read the words and understand the ideas on their own.

For example, Mighty, Mighty Construction Site shown here is marketed on for kids preschool to grade 1. But if you notice the Lexile level (reading level) is a 710 which, according to my chart on the right, is for average kids in grade 5 to read. ALWAYS KNOW YOUR CHILDREN’S READING LEVEL! As I always do, I suggest that you read them interactively with your kids first and talk about them while you do. In this way, you will guide your children in becoming “smart” and thoughtful readers who know how to navigate through difficult words and parts when they read on their own. You will also show them by searching together for hidden meaning. Here is a Read-aloud Guide for Mighty, Mighty Construction Site which is part of my upcoming book, The Read-Aloud Workout.Mightly consruction site guide

Teamwork on construction site

For P-1, Lexile Level 710

Below I will list some other favorites and a short description about their “So What? Factor”

helping others
For K-2, Lexile Level 460

This story is based on real events. It is about American children who organized food and clothing drives for Dutch children during WWII. It matters because it shows how small acts of kindness can make big differences to others.





For 1-2, Lexile Level 630

In this story, Irene braves a raging blizzard to bring a dress her mother had sewn to a woman going to a big party. It matters because it shows again how one small girl can have the courage to fulfill her mother’s promise when the mother falls ill.


For P-3, Lexile Level 580

The kids at school always laugh when I preview a story I’m about to read by saying it is my favorite.  They remind me that I say that about all my picture books.  I value them like the little pearls of wisdom they each are to me.  This is one of them. Sang-Hee falters when his father is injured and he must light the important fire to signal to the king that all is well. This is a wonderful story matters because it shows how we struggle to do the right thing. It is a story of trustworthiness that will resonate with us all.

For P-3, Lexile Level 570


Poor little Chrysanthemum must find a way to get through her kindergarten day when she is teased about her name – the one her parents chose for her because it was perfect just like her.  This story matters because it shows how easy it is to hurt another person’s feelings with words.

Kate’s story matters because it shows how one small girl extends an act of kindness to a

For P-3, Lexile Level 540

neighbor that also shows how important it is for us to be mindful of our planet. Kate lugs her wheelbarrow filled with little trees up the huge hill in the hope they will stop erosion and, when grown, will ease the wind that plummets his house.






For P-3, Lexile Level 540




Flight School matters because it shows how we can help others achieve their goal by never giving up on ourselves or others. This is a silly story of finding inventive ways to be part of the solution instead of the problem.



For P-3, Lexile Level 550


We all know the plight of the baby bat, Stellaluna, who becomes lost from her mother and finds refuge with a nest of birds.  It matters because it shows how the welcoming arms of a family of birds means all the world to a frightened and lost bat who just happens to be “different.”



For P-3, Lexile Level 440

I discovered Little Beaver and the Echo when I was writing an article that connected picture books to poems based on theme. It matters because it shows how Little Beaver, a lonely young beaver, with no friends decides he will go out and find one – and then another, and another, and another, etc.

As you can see, stories matter to kids of all ages. When you read to them and take time to talk and think about what is going on both stated and hidden levels (like in my sample Read-aloud Guide above),you can help your children discover the traits and values that you want for them – now and in the future.  You can help them find the “So What?” factor in their lives.  Please sign up for automatic notification of new posts. “Happy Reading!”