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!”

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!”