Thursday, March 29, 2012

Flat Emma’s Adventures

Flat Emma, like Flat Stanley, was sent to California in an envelop to visit her cousins. She spent the day with her cousin, Noah, on his 7th birthday. The next day she flew with me to Florida to visit some more of her cousins. She had an unscheduled stop in Atlanta, Georgia and arrived in Florida a day late. She was just in time to help her cousin, Brian, celebrate his 6th  birthday. Flat emma singing HB

Flat Emma also visited the University of Florida Museum of Natural History with her cousins, Brian, Abby and Nora. She saw the Colombian Mammoth skeletonPhoto Mar 25, 1 47 44 PMPhoto Mar 25, 1 48 16 PM







Flat Emma and her cousins learned that this mammoth’s remains were found in river sediment with tools used by Florida’s first human inhabitants, which means that one people and huge elephant like animals roamed around Florida together! Next Flat Emma went to the Seepage Bog  exhibit with its carnivorous plantsPhoto Mar 25, 1 25 11 PM

and listened to the sounds of all the insects and birds that live in Florida’s bogs.

Our next stop was The Discovery Room where Flat Emma got to take a ride in the museum's wind tunnel

Photo Mar 25, 1 31 38 PM

Flat Emma is back in California now and is planning more adventures with her cousin, Noah, this week.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Flat Stanley and His New Pal Flat Emma

Forty eight years ago, Jeff Brown wrote a book called Flat Stanley. One night, while he was sleeping, a huge bulletin board fell on Stanley.  When he woke up he was four feet tall, one foot wide and  1/2 inch thick. In the first book, Stanley was sealed in an envelop and mailed off to California to vacation with friends.

Flat stanley book

The real Emma lives in Minnesota. She is in the first grade. Flat Emma arrived in an envelop in California on Friday. On Sunday, she is going to visit her cousin in Roseville to help him celebrate his seventh birthday. On Monday, she is boarding a plane to Florida to visit some more cousins and to help one of those cousins celebrate his sixth birthday. Stay tuned for a glimpse of Flat Emma’s adventures. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Reluctant Readers Part 2

In an earlier post  from last week, I gave some ideas about how to deal with reluctant readers who were just learning to read. This week we’ll look at some ideas to motivate readers who can read well but don’t read on their own. Every child has interests. So much of what is offered in school has to do with what each child needs to know. There are also things kids would like to know; this is how you can hook a child. Everything counts: picture books, chapter books, the sports page, the comics, magazines, graphic novels even the back of a cereal box. Once a child finds out that reading can lead to finding out things they want to know, they will look for other things to read.

Another avenue to hook kids is audio books. Play them in the car or at home. Lots of kids have iPods, there are formats available for them too.  I know several kids who were hooked on the Harry Potter books by listening to the audio versions (Jim Dale’s reading of all seven books is a special treat, he is a magnificent actor and has a unique voice for each of over 110 characters) of the books. For younger readers there are book apps for iPads, iPhones, iPods and Nooks. And , of course, a book may be more attractive if it is on a Nook or Kindle or any other electronic reader. You can even find picture and chapter books to read for free on your computer at

Book Clubs can also motivate kids to read. My oldest child had a fire lit under him in the fourth grade by Book Club Fridays. His teacher (thank you Mrs. Deer) had her class sit in a circle and talk about the books they were reading. Every Friday, he came home excited about a book or books that he had heard about in book club. It gave him a huge list of books to read that kept him busy for months. I visited a Book Club last week for fourth and fifth graders that I will write about next.

Most kids would find this a controversial recommendation: limit screen time. That used to mean television but now it also means various game systems that can include some of the aforementioned Nooks, iPads, iPhones and iPods as well as Nintendos, Game Boys and X-Boxes. Some parents allow the same number of minutes in front of a screen as the child spends reading. As the Oompa-Loompas sang  in the Mike Teavee song in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory:

What used the darling ones to do?

How used they keep themselves contented

Before this monster was invented?

Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?

We’ll say it very loud and slow:


AND READ and READ and then proceed to READ some more.”


In future posts we will look at book clubs, reading apps, e-books, non'-fiction books, magazines for children and graphic novels.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again

When my children were young, I read them books like Charlotte’s Web and Treasure Island. Books that were favorites from my childhood, but ones they were too young to read on their own. They loved these books and my youngest daughter, even to this day, lists Charlotte’s Web as one of her favorite books.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang  Chitty Chitty bang bang flies again

Ian Fleming’s (yes, that Ian Fleming) children’s book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang came out in 1964 and was made into a movie starring Dick Van Dyke in 1968. The Fleming family asked British author Frank Cottrell Boyce to write a sequel. This morning, on NPR Weekend Edition Saturday, Scott Simon interviewed Mr.  Boyce about his new book (to be published on March 13th) Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again. You can listen to the interview here and read an excerpt. This might be just the adventure to  read to your kids.

Monday, March 5, 2012

How to Motivate a Reluctant Reader

There are two kinds of reluctant readers, the first don’t want to read because they lack the skills to read fluently. The second  have the skills (or at least, most of the skills) to read fluently but lack interest in the content of books. The first kind I’ll start to tackle in this post and the second in a post later this week.

For struggling beginning readers it helps to remember that decoding is important but so is comprehension.  If words are just strings of sounds with no content then why would you want to read? Some kids will reread a sentence on their own to get the meaning. Others will be so relieved that they finished  another sentence that they just want to move on. Raise your hand if you are guilty of letting the meaning of the sentence go because you too are relieved that she finished it (there is at least one guilty hand raised).

Beginning readers sometimes have trouble telling where a word ends, books with big print and lots of white space help in decoding and comprehension. It also helps to offer just right books. Just right books meet the  five finger rule. Have your child read a page or two of a book, put up one finger for each word he doesn’t know. If all five fingers are up after reading a couple of pages, the book is too difficult. Another way to think of it is the one in twenty rule: the child should miss only 1 in 20 words.

In the Dr Seuss birthday post, we learned that some education experts thought that one reason why kids were not learning to read in the 1950’s was because the reading primers were, to put it bluntly, boring. Dr Seuss was challenged to write a book that a first-grader would love using only 225 different words. The result was The Cat in the Hat. Today’s kids also want engaging reading.  Fortunately, there are many more good authors writing beginning readers in all kids of genres. I have a grandson who was fascinated with superheroes. Did you know that there are Batman and Spiderman beginning readers? Another grandson loves any book about animals, an easy find in beginning readers.

In the coming weeks, I will be visiting this topic again. There is much more to be said. Topics will include ideas for developing a reading foundation, picture books apps and e-books, Scholastic’s 2010 Kids and Family Reading Report,  and more on great reading choices for the beginning reader.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Junie B. Jones at Wells Fargo Center


Tomorrow, Friday, March 2 at 6:340 PM The Clover Stornetta  Family Fun Center presents Junie B. Jones, a musical based on the books about the spunky first-grader by Barbara Parks. One hour before curtain time there will be Free Fun with Art and a chance to meet Clo the Cow and the performers. Tickets are $12 for children and $17 for adults. For more information visit Wells Fargo Center for the Arts.