All posts by Vivienne Fischer

Free and Subscription Based Read-Along Books

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Every time we take our kids to the pediatrician’s office for wellness checkups, we are reminded to read to our kids. I know we’re supposed to do it. Most people know the benefits of reading to their kids. But when both parents are working full-time, or kids are being raised by single parents, then there’s really no time nor energy (perhaps both!) to read to kids after work.

This was our typical day when Katie was two years old.

7:00 am    – Dropped off Katie to the day care center. Katie was usually one of the first kids to arrive. She had been going there since she was 5 months old, so she already knew the routine.

5:00 pm    – Ethan and I left work to pick up Katie.

6:00 pm    – Picked up Katie. At this time, there were probably two or three other kids aside from Katie left at the daycare center. There were about 20 kids in Katie’s class.

6:30 pm    – Arrived at home. This was when Katie usually went to her bookshelf to get a book for us to read. I would tell her, later after dinner. Ate the dinner that we bought somewhere on the way home.

7:00 pm    – Katie would get the book again and asked somebody to read to her. At this point, neither Ethan nor I really have the energy to read a book to her. Sometimes I would read to her,  sometimes I wouldn’t. I would ask her to watch videos instead.

I remember one time, I told her I couldn’t read to her and she just laid down on the couch, staring at me, like a poor, sad, little puppy. Only it’s worse, because she’s not a puppy. She’s my daughter. I felt guilty because she wasn’t asking me to buy her some expensive toy. She just wanted me to read to her.

Then, one day, I found out about the Los Angeles  Public Library online books. It offers a huge selection of read-along books. Some are available in CDs, some are available as an electronic resource. I use their online website quite often. The good thing about the online website is you don’t need to go to the library to borrow books. You can just go online and search the database for books that you are interested in. Another advantage is that you don’t need to worry about late fees. When the book or audiobook is due, it will be automatically returned. If the book that you want to borrow is not available, you can also place it on hold. You will be notified through email when the book becomes available. You can choose to automatically check it out for you or you can login to your online account to check it out yourself. If you live in Los Angeles, you can sign up at any location for free. Your minor kids can also sign up. I signed up for both of my kids so that we can borrow more books.

In addition to the public library, I also have/had subscriptions to other websites. The kids sometimes want a variety so I would switch from one subscription to another. I’ve listed them here.

ABCMouse.com has lots of learning activities. But the kids’ favorite part is the stories. They have a huge selection of read along books. Our favorite stories are from Aesop’s fables.

Disneystorycentral.com has a monthly subscription for $7.99, for which kids can listen or read any books in their website. There are books about many different Disney characters, including books about the princesses, Cars, Planes, Toy Story, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, etc. They have over 300 read along books that kids can listen to over and over again. The good thing about these books are they are very interesting so I can watch them with the kids without being bored. They sometimes ask me to snuggle with them and watch the read along books with them.

Raz-Kids has a yearly subscription for $110/yr. It is free for us because it is provided to Katie as part of Katie’s computer programs from school, but anybody can subscribe to it.

If you find any other interesting websites with read-along books, leave a comment! I’d love to know about them and include them in this list.

 

Learning Math Through Games

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My kids were bouncing up and down, ready to start the day. “Jiji! Jiji!”, Katie and Jessica chanted. Jiji is the penguin in ST Math. ST Math is a computer-based program designed to teach math visually. The lowest grade level available is kindergarten. But since it does not use words to instruct math concepts, Jessica (3.5 years old) is able to work on the math puzzles. I was surprised that she was able to progress quickly. I have been teaching her how to count for several weeks now and all I managed to teach her was to recite numbers.

“1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11…20. I know how to count already Mommy!”, Jessica said in an exasperated tone. “Jessica, that’s not counting. Let me show you…”, my voice trailed off as Jessica moved on to another activity.

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Prioritizing Testing Over Learning: A Recipe for Failure

In my experience, implementing Common Core Standards has provided multiple benefits. First, I was able to find out what my child was expected to learn by the end of the school year. Second, I was able to keep track of Katie’s progress relative to expectations.

Third, I was able to provide remediation. I was told that Katie was advanced in her writing, but because of the Common Core Standards posted online for everyone to see, I was able to easily figure out that Katie wasn’t performing on par with the sample writing provided in the Common Core Standards document. She might be advanced in her class but still behind Common Core expectations. Once I found out that Katie was behind in writing, I purchased a program called Strategies for Writers and we have been working on improving her writing skills.

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How to Convert Your Reluctant Reader to an Enthusiastic Reader

School is almost over! Hurray! Summer is about to start. Both of my kids (and especially Katie) are looking forward to Summer. Katie doesn’t have to go to school, and she would be spending time with me. For some reason, she prefers to stay with me over going to school and being with the other kids. She said it’s more fun to be with her mommy and her little sister. This is her first year of formal schooling, so I don’t know how long she’ll feel that way. When I was a kid, I always looked forward to summer as well because I got to play more. However, the excitement usually lasted about two weeks and then I got bored. I was excited to go back to school again. I had too much free time. Watching TV several hours a day became boring after a while. The only books I had at home during my kindergarten to 4th grade were textbooks. Some of them were good, like my reading textbook and the Filipino textbook, because they had lots of interesting stories. But I had already read them so I wasn’t interesting in reading them again. That is why I made sure that Katie and Jessica would have access to books that are interesting. I want to encourage my kids to read. In order to achieve that, I try to look for books that are interesting to them. However, given that the children’s books only take a few minutes to read but a lot of time to find the interesting ones, I am quite grateful to God for helping me find a great reading list. Katie already started reading the books from the Mensa for Kids – Excellence in Reading K-3 list. Most of the books that Katie read from that list are quite interesting – which does not surprise me, as the books from the list are mostly classics and books that have won multiple awards. What I have noticed is that if I put good books on the coffee table where the kids can easily see them, they will often come ask me to read to them or they will pick it up to read it themselves (in Jessica’s case, “reading” is looking at pictures).

So, if you want to get your reluctant reader be interested in reading, check out the list of books from the Mensa for Kids – Excellence in Reading below and ask the kids to pick out the books they want to read themselves.

PICTURE BOOKS

CHAPTER BOOKS

KATIE’S RATING:

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How My Non-Reader Child Came to Read Charlotte’s Web in 8 Months

My daughter, Katie, has always been interested in reading. Back when she was two, she often went to her bookshelf to get books for my husband and I to read aloud to her. After reading a book or two, I would told her I would read again the following day. She used to beg me to teach her how to read because she wanted to be able to read by herself after I was done reading to her. I wanted to support her desire to read independently, so I bought several books on how to teach kids to read. One of them is Montessori Read and Write: A Parent’s Guide to Literacy for Children. I wasn’t very successful with this because it took me a long time to read the book. I was working about 35 hours at the time, so I didn’t have time to put into practice the suggestions that the book suggested. Also, implementing them would take a lot of preparation time. I still tried some of the techniques like using movable letters and using sandpaper letters for tracing. However, it was too much effort and I didn’t have a lot of time. I wasn’t also getting the results quickly enough so I lost interest in using the techniques. 

After giving up on figuring how to implement the Montessori method in teaching how to read/write, hence, I signed up for ABCMouse.com. I had read a lot of reviews from families whose kids learned how to read from the website so I gave it a try. Initially, I put her in level 5 which is the level for kindergarten. She didn’t know most of the lessons.  She forgot the letter sounds that she had learned from the Montessori preschool that she used to attend, so she had to start from the beginning. She started on level 1, over a year ago. After 4 months, she had completed levels 1-4. At this point, she still couldn’t read. She memorized some words after completing the same lesson over and over. She did learn all the letter sounds after completing level 4. However, she couldn’t blend sounds together. Although I was reading aloud to her for at least an hour a day, she was never content. She wanted me to read more and my throat was very sore after reading to her, so I was very motivated to teach her how to read. Whenever I told her that story reading was over for the day, she told me that she wished she knew how to read. 

After searching for another way to teach my child how to read, I found a book called Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons in Amazon.com. It had great reviews. Most kids who were taught using this book were learning to read quickly. I got the book and sure enough, my child was making progress a little everyday. We worked on it consistently. By the end of lesson 100, which took about three months, she was able to read well. I took this picture right after she completed the book. As you can see, the book was worn out. I promised her a prize if she stuck to her lessons and she picked out a Mulan fan for her prize.

teach your child

According to the book, the child would be reading at second grade level by the time the last lesson was done. The book was published in 1986. At that time, the lessons were probably appropriate for second graders. However, based on Common Core Standards, it seems like the last lesson is at first grade level.

I gave our copy of this book to the mother of one of the kids in Katie’s class. His mom said that his reading wasn’t very good. I talked to her this morning, and she said that they are at lesson 70 and her son’s reading skills have improved a lot. His progress wasn’t as fast as Katie but the teacher suspects that he has dyslexia.

At this point, Katie was very excited to read books herself. We went to the library, and she picked out books from the easy reader section. However, some of the books she picked out were still too hard for her. The books used a lot of words that weren’t easily decodable.

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Story Retelling – The Tortoise and the Hare

This paper was started by analyzing the mentor text from Strategies for Writers by Zaner-Bloser . Then, I asked Katie to pick out a book that she wanted to retell. We went to abcmouse.com to get ideas for a list of books that she had already read. After browsing around, she chose The Tortoise and the Hare. She proceeded by identifying the story elements. She wrote everything she could think of in the plot section. During the drafting step, she identified the sequence of the events and wrote the number next to each sentence in the order that it happened.

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Why I Still Read To My Child Who’s An Independent Reader


This opinion paper was based on a lesson from Strategies for Writers.  When I asked Katie what her favorite book was, she immediately said that it was The Rainbow Fish. I was surprised because she hasn’t read that book in a long time. She used to ask my husband and I to read it aloud to her when she was a toddler. Between us, we probably read it to her more than 50 times, because she used to ask for it several times a night for weeks. I reminded her of the titles of books she has recently read – like Charlotte’s Web, which she gave a 10-star rating on a 5 star scale. But she said her favorite was The Rainbow Fish. From her paper below, I realized that it wasn’t just the story that she liked about it. She remembered the times when I read it to her and that made her happy. It has been almost three years since we read it to her (she was 2-3 years old at the time). She has literally read hundred of books since that time. However, Katie cherished the time when she was sitting down on my lap and hearing her mommy read it to her. That’s what made the book special. This is why from time to time I still read to her even if she can read fluently by herself.

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