Picture Books about Flight: Read-Aloud Tips that Make Comprehension Soar

And, the best of all is when you stop to point out something awesome in the story, you are showing your kids that it’s okay to stop and notice things of wonder.

Picture Books Kids Will Love

These delightful picture books about Flight will make your child’s reading comprehension soar if you read them in a special way to get your kids excited to do some thinking. I’ll show you some tips and tricks as a Reading Specialist. Try these three high-quality picture books to start.

  • Flight School (P-3 Lexile 490) Read-aloud Guide is attached here. Flight School
  • Goggles The Bear Who Dreamed of Flying (All ages, no Lexile available)
  • Penguin Flies Home (P-3 Lexile 620)
  • Mingo the Flamingo (P-3 no Lexile available) A Read-aloud guide is on the top Menu.

I will be reading all four of these stories on my You Tube channel, Creating Smart Readers. A direct link to my channel is here.  You Tube Stories  

Before You Read

Get the kids excited and curious before you read – make paper airplanes together. Also, talk about the cover illustrations and titles and ask kids to make predictions on what the stories will be about. Ask kids what they think about animals flying. Boys, especially will be motivated to read about aviation if they make planes and get to move around by flying them. When Boys Hate to Read

During the Read-Aloud

When you read aloud to kids, you become the model of how good readers think while reading because, after all, reading is all about thinking. So you will “think out loud” during the reading.  This will also get your children engaged in the story by guiding them to look at words and illustrations and to ask questions.  And, the best of all is when you stop to point out something awesome in the story, you are showing your kids that it’s okay to stop and notice things of wonder.

Picture books are often overlooked as great mentor texts that give examples of parts of speech, use of language, hidden meaning, and a call to initiate change in the world. For example, the author of Flight School uses onomatopoeia (sound effects) during the story. This story also shows kids that they should keep working to find a solution to a problem and never give up on your dreams. Ask kids what advice they would give Little Penguin to solve the problem. There are more ideas in the Read-aloud guide.

After-Reading Fun and Learning

It’s what you do after reading a story that cements the information into the minds of young learners. These activities also encourages kids to learn more about a topic and to have fun with what they learned. These are just a few ideas for the flight books listed above:

  • Compare and Contrast 2 or 3 of these picture books
  • Research penguins and flamingos
  • Create a flying invention for an animal
  • Write a new ending to one or more of these stories
  • Write a story that shows problem and solution and use sound effect words
  • Find out more about airplanes and flying
  • Make and fly a kite
  • Take a Virtual (or real) Tour of an airport
  • Build and create with blocks or Legos
  • Have races with your hand-made paper airplanes. Measure the distance for a Math connection.

The Power of the Picture Book

Kids love airplanes and making paper airplanes too.  Use this interest to teach them all about how good readers think smart when they read. You are their guide when you use picture book read-alouds in this interactive way. It has always been my feeling that most picture books are too hard for kids to read on their own – to get the deep meaning and understanding of the stories. That is why I stress the importance of reading picture books aloud to your children and talking about them as you read. In the top Menu, you will find Read-Aloud Guides for for many of the stories I feature.

A Word About Lexile Levels

A Lexile level is the range of numbers that matches a book’s reading level with a grade. Please note that Flight School is recommended for kids in P-3 with a Lexile level of 490.  A 490 level is at the end of  Grade 2. These levels are for kids who read in the normal grade-level range. Penguin Flies Home, however, is rated 620 in Lexile level which is at the beginning of Grade 4. It is targeted at kids P-3. Please know your child’s reading level.

Children should practice reading with books close to their own reading level for best success and to build confidence.  However, kids can understand books read aloud to them that are 2 years above their own grade level reading scores.

There are many great picture books available to read aloud to kids on aviation-related topics. Get them excited; get them engaged, and get them busy learning more!

“Happy Reading!”

Picture Books make kids smart-thinking about books.
The secret to reading success!


Picture Books and Food: How to Jump Start Reading Comprehension at Home

What interesting and vital creatures the honey bees are – yet most of us know little about them.

P-2, Lexile 520

A Taco Tuesday Picture Book?

Parents can jump start reading comprehension at home with a mix of food and high-quality read-aloud picture books – and, it’s easier than you think! When picture books are read out loud and discussed in a certain way, they become “lessons in disguise” that entice kids into the wonderful world of thinking smart about books. Here are some reading lessons they promote:

  1. Make Predictions
  2. Make Inferences
  3. Ask Questions
  4. Motivate and Excite Kids to Learn More
  5. Build Word Knowledge

Let’s connect reading to that topic we all love – food! Does your family have Taco Tuesday or Pizza Friday? Much of our traditions and family time center around food so I think it will be fun to highlight some picture books about food.  Some are cute stories where food is referenced in the titles. This kind of “inference” is fun to talk about and actually gets kids thinking (and laughing) about the titles and content of the stories. Don’t forget, that there are two reasons to read:  for information and for enjoyment. Stories for kids about food serve up both purposes. And, since just about every classroom has a sign somewhere that says, “Reading is Thinking,” parents can get kids thinking at home in fun ways that don’t even seem like they are learning.

Talk about the Titles and Pictures

Although there are hundreds of good reading programs for kids, parents are the first teachers. There is much to do easily and quickly at home. The first step in successful reading comprehension is to think. For example, why on earth did the author choose dragons and not alligators for the featured book? Why was the story called, Enemy Pie (P-7, Lexile 550) and not Enemy Cookie? Kids will also have fun writing their own stories about foods they choose. Most of us are familiar with the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie ()-3, Lexile 410) a series of adorable stories for kids – but, do we know why the author chose the foods in these stories? Fun to think about.  How would the stories be different if the authors used different foods?  The Good Egg (P-3, Lexile 510) leads to all kinds of discussions and lessons about idioms. There is a Read-Aloud guide in the top menu for Dragons Love Tacos.

Most of the kids books I buy come from amazon.com.  I like that online bookstore because it gives so much quick information about each book, including the cover picture, description, ratings, and reading levels (Lexile levels).

Enjoy the Many Food-Related Titles of Picture Books

I went on an amazon.com search for kids books with titles that reference food. They will be fun to read and talk about with your children. The secret to helping at home is to get the conversation going to arouse curiosity and excitement in your child. Do some further research about the origin of the your favorite foods or you can also do an author study about particular books that you like.  Children are home right now with plenty of time.  So, why not get them excited about research and literary analysis about food-related stories?  Here are a few stories for kids that you and your children might like.  Remember, always read a book first before reading it to your children to avoid surprises.  Read it together and talk about it as you go (here’s more thinking). Then do some great after-reading activities to keep the thinking alive and dig deeper, like:

  • Research and write a report
  • Draw pictures of the story in Sequential Order
  • Write a new ending to the story
  • Write and perform a play about food
  • Do some cooking
  • Plan and prepare for a family party, including handmade invitations.

These are a few kids books that I found that look interesting:

  • Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast (K-2, Lexile 760)
  • Escargot (P-1, Lexile 520)
  • Pizza Day (P-1, no Lexile available)
  • Stone Soup (P-3, Lexile 560)
L=3 Lexile 480

Picture Books Explore the World

The Water Princess is about the water shortage in Africa and the great lengths people there go to in order to get daily water.

Do a search about where water comes from where you live.  You might be able to find a Virtual Tour of a water treatment plant. You are thinking about the topic now in the broader, global sense.


Learn about Honey Bees

What interesting and vital creatures the honey bees are – yet most of us know little about them.  Here are some picture books that might be well received by your family.

  • The Honeybee Man (P-3, Lexile 660)
  • The Honey Makers (K-3, Lexile 770)
  • The King of Bees (P-2, Lexile 600).

I’ll be reading The King of Bees on my You Tube Channel, Creating Smart Readers coming up soon (link in top menu). I bought this fabulous children’s book after attending a lecture by the author, Lester Laminack, at a Literacy Conference in New York City. He is responsible for my love of and extensive use of high-quality picture books. My eyes were opened to a new of using wonderful picture books – reading lessons for teachers when using them as mentor texts and “lessons-in-disguise” for parents when using as read-alouds.

Yes, there are adorable children’s books for toddlers and very young kids, but be on the lookout for the overlooked treasures hidden in the pages of high- quality picture books that are loaded with information, illustrations, hidden meaning, life lessons, and colorful vocabulary. It is so much easier to get your kids interested in reading – and, thinking about the stories – when you practice with these beautiful and captivating books.

Check out some short You Tube videos by National Geographic showing kids tending to bees. Always read or view a book or video first.

Kids Books for Young Chefs and Bakers

Let’s end up with some cookbooks for kids.  Most kids enjoy baking and cooking, so I’m including a few children’s books on the subject.  When cooking or baking, kids need to learn to follow directions and the sequence needed to successfully complete a recipe. You can also find great instructional videos and other books online or in the library. Have fun!

  • Kid Chef Junior (P-2 no Lexile available)
  • The Complete Baking Book for Young Chefs ((Gr 4-8, Lexile 1040)
  • The Vegetarian Cookbook (Gr 4-7, no Lexile available)
  • The Big, Fun Kids Cookbook (Gr 3-7, no Lexile available)

Here is a link to the Food Network site for cooking with kids. https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/packages/recipes-for-kids/cooking-with-kids

A Word about Lexiles

Please check the Lexile level (reading level) of the children’s books you want your kids to read on their own.  As you can see from the chart on the upper right, Lexile levels do not always jive with the grades that are targeted for these books. Please know your child’s reading level.  If a book is too hard, your children will not read it or they will “fake read” it.  Read more challenging books to and with your children so they don’t miss out on grade-leveled stories for kids that appeal to them and their friends.  Children can understand stories that are 2 years above their reading level. For independent practice, kids should always read at their own level. Start there and then slowly move up once their confidence and skills improve.

Finally, whether your family hosts Taco Tuesday, Pizza Friday or anything in between, I hope you will enjoy mixing these fabulous picture books with the foods you love. I am always happy to hear from you with concerns or questions about Reading.

Please subscribe to this Blog (and to my You Tube channel) and you will receive a notice when a new Blog post or read-aloud story is available.  I never ever use your information for anything else.

“Happy Reading!” (and Happy Eating)!

LOGO png 3000


Earth Day!

There are so many interesting stories that connect Nature and so many actions we can take – right in our own yards, neighborhoods, and schools – to help.


For K-3, Lexile 860
Today, in honor of Earth Day, today I read Cactus Hotel on my You Tube Channel, Creating Smart Readers. This book has been a longtime favorite of teachers and children for many years. It leads to further study about lifecycles, plants and trees, and animals and their habitats.

I like to pair it up with A Log’s Life (P-3 Lexile 730) which is similar in lifecycles of trees, especially for Earth Day. Another beloved story – based on true events – is A River Ran Wild (P-3 Lexile 670).  This one is about water pollution caused by factories and how years of work by local residents brought the Nashua River in New Hampshire back to health. Children will notice the borders the author paints around the cover and each page of the book to show what is happening in

the story. This is similar to the border on the cover of Cactus Hotel. After reading these stories, children will enjoy researching the lifecycle of any plant, tree, or animal and then making a book about it – of course, with page borders to illustrate the facts.

Books about Nature

For K-3
Here are some other books that you and your children might like that are about Nature:

  • Wangari’s Trees of Peach (P-3 Lexile 600)
  • Strange Trees (K-3)
  • Antsy Ansel (K-4)
  • Over and Under the Pond (1-2 Lexile 660)
  • From Seed to Plant (K-3 Lexile 560)
  • Kate Who Tamed the Wind (P-3 Lexile 540)
  • Shark Lady (P-4 Lexile 730)
  • The Great Kapok Tree (P-3 Lexile 590)
  • Manfish – Jacques Cousteau (K-3)

A Word about Lexiles

Please know your children’s reading levels, measured now in many schools using Lexile levels which are a range of numbers that coordinate with grade levels for average readers.  If you look at the chart to the right and reference the Lexile numbers (where available) for the highlighted books, you will notice that many stories are too difficult for the children in the grades stated. If there is no Lexile level for any book stated here, it is because there wasn’t one available. Please look them over first. That is why I always recommend that you read a story to your children first and then let them go off and read on their own if they wish.

Saving the Earth

Children learn about protecting the Earth in school, at home, in stories, and on television. There are so many interesting stories that connect Nature and so many actions we can take – right in our own yards, neighborhoods, and schools – to help.  Perhaps you and your children can plan a recycling routine at home, visit a virtual recycling plant, make bird feeders, start a garden, or plant a tree.  There are good stories about any part of Nature that interests you and your family.

Connect Stories and Art

For K-4 Lexile 560)
Sky Tree by Thomas Locker was published the year after I started teaching Reading in an elementary school and about the same time that I started to fall in love with picture books.

Not only does it feature the author’s beautiful paintings of the same tree throughout the year, it contains beautiful language to describe what is happening in each painting. This led to many writing lessons.

A colleague and I also used this book as part of an afterschool club, Stories and Art, where we first read it and then the children painted their own tree in each of the four seasons.

Storytime on You Tube

Please join me at my You Tube Channel, Creating Smart Readers (link to the right) where I read a variety of stories for children. I am working on a series of stories about famous people and something special for a Summer Book Club.

Please let me know what you and your children are reading together and feel free to ask any reading questions. If you subscribe to this Blog using the link to the right, you will receive notification every time there is a new posting.  The same is true for my You Tube channel stories.  Just subscribe to receive notice of each new story.

“Happy Reading!”


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 amazon.com 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!”

Egg Decorating

This story will introduce egg decorating as a great family fun activity. You can decorate real eggs in the Pysanky way as shown in this story or you can simply draw an oval and decorate an egg on paper.

For P-3, Lexile Level 610

Stay-at-Home Activities for Kids

During this time of health crisis and stay-at-home mandates for us, I’m trying to ease the boredom by reading stories on my new You Tube Channel, Creating Smart Readers. After reading each story, I suggest a few activities to keep the kiddos busy.  You can use this wonderful story as an introduction to an egg decorating activity. You may also want to explore the region of Russia where the story takes place.  Kids can also draw beautiful designs on oval shapes on paper if eggs are not appropriate.

Rechenka’s Eggs is a classic children’s story about hope and caring. While it is centered on a trip to an Easter Festival, the story is also appropriate for anyone celebrating Spring.

This story will introduce egg decorating as a great family fun activity.  You can decorate real eggs in the Pysanky way as shown in this story or you can simply draw an oval and decorate an egg on paper.

If you want to enhance the story, a detailed Read-Aloud Guide is available for a free download. Rechenka PDF

Egg Decorating Information

I am including some online addresses to making Pysanky eggs and the meaning of the symbols used. Some are very intricate, so please look at them first to see if they are good for the ages of your children.  You can also do a Google search for Pysanky egg symbols for a quick look at various authentic symbols. When I worked in an elementary and high school school a few years ago, I used the symbols for the children and teens to use for both decorating paper eggs and to identify with them in writing an autobiography.



The following two images are for some of many books available on amazon.com.

Of course, you can just do your usual egg decorating if you wish or make a drawing of an egg that you can decorate on paper.  Have fun with it and make it as elaborate or simple as you wish.

A Word on the Lexile Level

Notice that Rechenka’s Eggs  is a picture book that is advertised (on amazon) for children to read alone from Pre-School to Grade 3. However, a Lexile Level (reading level) of 610 from the chart on the right translates to beginning of grade 4 for an average reader. As I always say, the best thing to do is to read it to and with your children first and then let them go off and read on their own if they wish. When books are too hard for a child, it is difficult to understand tricky words, the message of a story, and hidden meanings. If you read it first, you become the model as you guide your children through a story.  In this way, you show them how you want them to read on their own. So, please be aware of your child’s reading level and enjoy being the adult guide for reading.

Please subscribe to this Blog and to my You Tube channel, Creating Smart Readers, so I can notify you of new posts.  Enjoy your egg decorating.  “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:

Coronavirus Keeping You Home?

This story is about trustworthiness. It takes place in ancient Korea as a small boy struggles to make an important choice when his father is injured.

519-APf05oL._SY442_BO1,204,203,200_[1]Millions of kids – and parents – are at home because of the safety measures brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.  So, I’ve started my own You Tube Channel on which I will read  favorite picture books and suggest an activity or two for after reading. Hopefully, seeing a real face doing the reading will help your child feel cared for by a teacher during these unsettling times.

As we are all adjusting to this new housebound normal, our children will become increasingly unhappy with being out of school.  They miss the classroom routine, their teachers, and their friends. So, we can make a home schedule that includes their online school lessons and other activities like a You Tube real-life story read by me with suggested activities.

The story I feature first is one of my all time favorites:  The Firekeeper’s Son by Linda Sue Park.  I am attaching here a downloadable copy of a Read-aloud Guide that you may Guide Firekeepers Son want to have handy as you discuss the story with your child. Depending on your child’s age, you may want to work together to research Korea and help organize a craft activity. Please note that I use the best-practice reading model of Before, During, and After Reading activities.

This story is about trustworthiness.  It takes place in ancient Korea as a small boy struggles to make an important choice when his father is injured.  It opens the door for lots of conversations and valuable life lessons.  I hope you like it.  Stay tuned for more stories to come soon. “Happy Reading!”

Please let me know if you have difficulty getting the viceo.  This is a new platform for me and I think I got it right!


Poor Readers Pay an Emotional Price

But, here’s the thing -kids who struggle with reading are very aware that they are “less than” their peers and, sadly, they will start to have emotional manifestations of their struggles both in school and at home.

flyThe sad truth – and there’s no way to be delicate here – is that poor readers pay a terrible emotional price in and out of school. Also, kids who can’t read well struggle in school every single day of their lives and their futures can be bleak too.  In order to fill out a job application, read safety manuals, and to understand rules and directions young adults need to be able to read and write so they can get, keep, and be good at a job. Not every child should go to college but trade schools require reading too.

Does your child love to get up in the morning and can’t wait to get to school?  Or, do you see him or her balk at the idea of “another day of school?”

clownsSchool is both an academic and social place and kids want to fit in. Poor readers are embarrassed every day because they know and their classmates are fully aware that they cannot read well.  That may be decoding words and/or understanding all the ideas that are hidden within a text. Can you imagine the panic of a poor reader when the teacher goes up and down rows of kids asking them to read a part of a book aloud? These kids shrink down into their chairs, heads hung low, praying they don’t get called on – wanting to be invisible. Struggling readers often react to their feelings of insecurity by being the class clown or being aggressive to classmates.

Do not despair, however, because there is much you can do at home to help them. In fact, my ideas are what I call “Lessons in disguise” because they are enjoyable for kids and parents. I will try to address tips and tricks that I’ve learned over 20 years of working in schools.

To be polite, we teachers use words like “poor readers” and “struggling readers.” Even in the early grades, you have probably heard the teachers tell you that your child is struggling with reading which has been proven by test grades and report card assessments. Perhaps you have been told to think about a tutor, get the child tested by a doctor, agree to in-school remediation, or make sure your kid reads more at home. All good advice and we will explore these ideas later.

But, here’s the thing – kids who struggle with reading are very aware that they are “less than” their peers and, sadly, they will start to have emotional manifestations of their struggles both in school and at home. You can help them in unexpected ways at home.

If you could be a fly on the classroom wall, these are some things you might see:

  • Frequent visits to the bathroom
  • Frequent visits to the Nurse’s Office
  • Acting out in anger and frustration towards other kids
  • Becoming withdrawn and isolated from other kids
  •  Shrinking down in seats in an effort to become “invisible” during class read-aloud time

Poor readers often feel isolated from the academic world.As a Reading Specialist working in schools with kids from K-12, I am writing this to encourage you – as a parent, caregiver, or other adult – to be aware of the signs and know what to do. At home you might see a constant rebellion at doing homework and “fake” reading during at-home reading time which is often a homework requirement.

The purpose of this Blog is to share with you what I have learned in over 20 years working with struggling readers.

  • First, start a sincere and open dialogue with your child’s teacher and the school’s Reading Specialist.
  • Talk to your child honestly and be supportive by assuring that you are going to work together to fix this as best you can.
  • Talk to your child’s doctor about the need for additional testing by a specialist. Be aware that there are very real problems that cause kids to struggle with Reading and specific programs that help. Sometimes schools will pay for the testing.
  • If in-school remediation is recommended, ask questions about it – will it specifically address your child’s reading problem. A Phonics-based program, for example, will not help if your child is deemed to have a comprehension or recalling information problem.
  •  When considering a tutor or a commercial tutoring center, find out if he or she is experienced in what your child needs (ie. phonics, memory, speech/language delays, comprehension, etc.). They should not be a paid homework companion but a teacher who actually teaches your kids to read better.
  • Before insisting that your child “read more” at home, know your child’s current reading level (based on school tests usually done twice yearly to all students). I write often about reading levels (now called Lexile levels). More tips in upcoming Blogs.
  • Be aware that there is much you can do at home.  In this Blog, I will try to give practical, quick, and easy tips to help you make home Reading more enjoyable, practical, and instructional.

children-286239_640Some of the topics I will cover on this Blog are:

  • How to read age-appropriate picture books for optimum instruction and pleasure (don’t freak out of the use of picture books – I will show you how to use them for kids of ALL ages. It is not what you think, so hang in there.)
  • How to build reading stamina
  • How to increase reading fluency
  • How to help your kids choose appropriate books
  • How to build vocabulary
  • How to motivate your child to love books
  • How to show your kids how to find hidden meaning

So, if you could be a fly on the classroom wall today you might see something concerning if your child is a poor reader. Stick with me, send me your questions, and together we can increase your child’s reading.

powUnfortunately, some children have serious learning disabilities that require specialized remediation. Some children need Special Education services. Even so, there is much you can do at home.

Next time, I will share with you my favorite topic in the world – how to use picture books to make your kids read smarter. I will include some real-life examples too.

“Happy Reading!”




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!”