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2018

  • Book of the Month – December: Bud, Not Buddy

    Author:  Christopher Paul Curtis

    Suggested age range(s): Grades 5 through 8

    How it builds vocabulary:

    This book was the winner of numerous honors including both the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award. It is a “crackerjack read-aloud” according to the School Library Journal. It will introduce words and phrases associated with the 1930’s and provides an excellent opportunity to build background and world knowledge about a historical period with which many young adults are unfamiliar. So, readers, be prepared to explain the meaning of “being on the lam” and “riding the rails” and what a “cardboard jungle” really looked like.

    Connection to print:

    The story offers a great opportunity for students to address the writing challenge to “compare and contrast.” For example, after hearing Bud’s story, students can consider what might be the differences and similarities between the “mission” where Bud waited in line to get a meal and the homeless shelters found in today’s cities and even some small towns. Another topic could be how the musicians in the story were given their colorful names and how that relates to any of the popular musical groups of today.

    Of course, certain topics addressed in the story need to be addressed with sensitivity. Bud lived in an orphanage and was sent to a very abusive foster home. Unfortunately, that scenario could be all to familiar to some students. Some individuals may choose to write about their own experiences in the foster care system and relate on paper how they were better, or perhaps even worse than Bud’s (with privacy respected, of course).

    Kathleen T. Williams, PhD, NCSP (Retired)

  • Book of the Month – November: Froggy Goes to the Doctor

    Author:  Jonathan London

    Suggested age range(s): PreK through first grade

    How it builds vocabulary:

    All of the Froggy books, and at last count there were twenty-five, deal with real events in the lives of young children. The anticipation of some of these may cause trepidation and fear, as in this case of visiting a doctor.

    Froggy is no exception. He is definitely not happy about going and, in fact, is so distracted he forgets to put on his underwear. Listeners will love hearing that. Froggy is introduced to all the steps of a physical exam, including wearing a paper gown, having his temperature taken and his tummy felt, and having the cold stethoscope placed on his chest. When he opens his mouth to say “ah,” the doctor almost passes out. Froggy’s anxiety also caused him to forget to brush his teeth and his “breath smells like dead flies.”

    These humorous Froggy stories help to dispel children’s concerns about new adventures, like going to the doctor, starting school, or learning to swim. Vocabulary unique to each venture is introduced through the entertaining antics of little Froggy.

    Connection to print:

    The text of the Froggy series is written at a first grade guided-reading level which means that with support and assistance of an adult, the stories can be read by children in the middle or at the end of first grade. They could also be read by an older sibling or by a peer tutor from an upper grade. My grandchildren attend a school where all students in kindergarten and first grade are assigned a “reading buddy.” The reading buddy is a student from an upper class who is either a very proficient reader or one who needs a lot of practice with lower level material. The system is enjoyed by students in both the lower and upper grades and you’ll often see kids wave to their reading buddies in the cafeteria or at dismissal. It seems to have a positive impact on both reading and personal confidence levels.

    Kathleen T. Williams, PhD, NCSP (Retired)

  • Book of the Month – October: The Roald Dahl Omnibus: Perfect Bedtime Stories for Sleepless Nights

    Author:  Roald Dahl

    Suggested age range(s): Grades 9 thru 12

    How it builds vocabulary:

    I think no one is too old to listen to a good story and this book provides a collection from the master storyteller himself, Roald Dahl. He may be best known as an author for children, but he also wrote wonderful short stories with outrageous and unpredictable plots. This volume contains 28 such works from the author’s fantastic imagination and his characteristic wry sense of humor that older listeners will be familiar with from reading when younger his books, like, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. These stories, however, incorporate more advanced themes and vocabulary and in some instances may be considered bawdy by some. Pre-read, of course, when selecting one for a class of young adults. You’ll find them all quite entertaining and generally, in the spirit of Dahl, shocking. Remember what happens to some of the children while visiting the chocolate factory.

    Connection to print:

    Trying to inspire students to write something beyond “what I did on my summer vacation” can be quite difficult. The unexpected and twisted plots of these Dahl stories can provide inspiration for even the most callous and jaded listener/writer. They can serve as a model for students to be inventive, creative and surprising in their own story telling without making the exercise seem juvenile. After listening to one or more, challenge students to write a story whose plot might surprise Dahl, himself, if he were still alive.

    Kathleen T. Williams, PhD, NCSP (Retired)

  • Book of the Month – September: Haunted Castle on Hallows Eve: Magic Tree House #30

    Author:  Mary Pope Osborne

    Suggested age range(s): Grades 2 through 4

    How it builds vocabulary:

    This book is the second one of the series based on a Merlin Mission. It is a great one to read in the days before Halloween featuring ghosts, a sorcerer’s apprentice, the lair of the Raven King, a tunnel of fear and the diamond of destiny. In addition, there is a craggy mountain and a horrifying creature. The enthralling story provides ample opportunities to introduce colorful, descriptive vocabulary not often found in lower level readers.

    Connection to print:

    The Magic Tree House series is a favorite of teachers and librarians because it engages young readers (boys and girls) and instills in them a love of adventure and travel that books can provide. The main characters explore various places around the world set during current or past times or within the world of fantasy.

    Kathleen T. Williams, PhD, NCSP (Retired)

  • Book of the Month – August: The Night Before Kindergarten

    Author:  Natasha Wing

    Suggested age range(s): Age 5 or entering kindergarten

    How it builds vocabulary:

    The text of the book is a parody on the familiar “Night Before Christmas” poem. The delightful rhyme scheme incorporates vocabulary that describes both the preparation and trepidation of the first day of kindergarten, not only children, but also for parents.

    I bought this book for my granddaughter Rylan and read it to her several times the summer before she started kindergarten in the fall. She also requested it on the nights one of her parents read to her at bedtime. Previously, we all thought she had no qualms about starting kindergarten since she would be going to familiar surroundings having attended preschool for two years at the same location. However, we quickly surmised that the word “kindergarten” in the mind of a five-year-old is associated with “real” school in a way that preschool is not.

    This was another “life lesson” for me. When working on vocabulary development with children of any age, I need to remember that a word represents a concept and that concept may be defined by differing emotional and visual representations based on the experiences of the individual. In Rylan’s case the word “kindergarten” represented a big, new step forward and she needed additional information and reassurances about what to expect.

    Connection to print:

    Rhyming is a basic component of phonological awareness and, therefore, an important early literacy skill. As you read the book, have the listener help you identify the words that rhyme as in end and friend. “They sang silly songs from beginning to end. Within just a minute each kid had a friend.” My favorite rhyming pair comes at the end of the book. “The children all waved from the door of the school. ‘Don’t cry, Mom and Dad: kindergarten is cool.”

    Kathleen T. Williams, PhD, NCSP (Retired)

  • Book of the Month – July: The Story of Ferdinand

    Author:  Munro Leaf

    Suggested age range(s): Preschool through first grade

    How it builds vocabulary:

    What does it mean to be lonesome? Or to be gentle? Ferdinand’s story is a great way to introduce young children to words they can use to talk about positive and negative emotions and attitudes. Some examples include, “Was Ferdinand mean, or do you think he was kind?” and “Why didn’t he want to fight?” Developing this aspect of vocabulary helps children express their feelings and preferences, and helps them answer the frequent and important questions adults ask, such as “What’s wrong?” or “What’s the matter?”

    Connection to print:

    The recent movie inspired by this book provides an opportunity to compare and contrast the story told by each medium. Children can list the differences and similarities in each story. For example, the book and movie differ because we meet Ferdinand’s mother in one and meet his father in the other. The ending, however, is the same: Ferdinand is happy to just “sit and smell the flowers” rather than fight in the bullring. The story can also help develop important listening and reading comprehension skill by thinking critically about which details support the main idea.

    Kathleen T. Williams, PhD, NCSP (Retired)

  • Book of the Month – June: Diary of a Worm

    Author:  Doreen Cronin

    Suggested age range(s): First through third grade

    How it builds vocabulary:

    The important role worms play in taking care of our earth is introduced through the humorous adventures recounted in a young worm’s diary. This is an entertaining and engaging starting point for ecology lessons on soil aeration and composting because the vocabulary is more accessible than what’s typically used in science textbooks for grades 1 through 3. Words like bacteria, circulation, compost, decay, ecosystem, fertilizer, habitat, and humus found in many primary science texts can be defined and illustrated using the adventures and cartoons in this story.

    Connection to print:

    Primary students are often asked to “journal” about their daily lives, but this concept can be too abstract for many young writers to understand. This book uses humor to show “how to do a diary.” Some examples include writing about a forgotten lunch (“ I got so hungry that I ate my homework”) and having a terrible nightmare (“Mom says I have to stop eating so much garbage right before I go to bed”). The story provides specific journaling ideas, such as forgetting something and having bad dreams, to help young writers get started and keep going.

    Kathleen T. Williams, PhD, NCSP (Retired)

  • Book of the Month – May: Love Song for a Baby

    Author:  Marion Dane Bauer

    Suggested age range(s): Read to babies and toddlers

    How it builds vocabulary:

    There is no question that reading to an infant or toddler can be a pleasurable and enriching language experience for both the child and the reader. Pick a comfortable chair and snuggle up with a book, but make sure that (1) it is either a “board” or plastic book and (2) there are only a few words on each page. The listener is probably going to chew, slobber, and drool on it and his or her attention span for each page will be brief, no matter how attractive the illustrations. The book listed above was my granddaughter Rylan’s favorite. It is just one of the many books with a “family” theme. Even as infants progress into the toddler stage, they love to hear words about themselves: “You had tiny hands with perfect nails and fingers like the petals of a flower. And yes, we love you.”

    Connection to print:

    Reading to a child from early on not only familiarizes a child with the elements of print, it also instills in the child a love of reading, the view that reading is a pleasurable experience, and a motivation to want to learn to read. Nothing can build that desire to want to learn to read like having someone read to you. And, it is never too early to start.

    Kathleen T. Williams, PhD, NCSP (Retired)

  • Book of the Month – April: Skippyjon Jones

    Author:  Judy Schachner

    Suggested age range(s): Read to children through grade 4

    How it builds vocabulary:

    You’ll quickly see why this book won the E.B. White Read Aloud Award for its engaging and ingenious story: Skippyjon Jones, a Siamese cat, imagines himself to be a Chihuahuas dog named “El Skippito,” the great sword fighter, who vanquishes an imaginary “Alfredo Buzzito,” the “Bumblebeeto Bandito,” wearing a “maskito” because he is “incognito.” Practice your Spanish accent so you can playfully deliver the five-line limericks that listeners will want to hear again and again. “Yip, Yippee, Yippito! Our hero is El Skippito! He’s the dog of our dreams. Who delivered the beans, and now we can make our burritos.”

    Connection to print:

    Limericks are a useful “entry-level vehicle” to poetry writing and can support and provide structure for the initial attempts of even very young authors. For motivation and inspiration, reread the limericks included in this book and point out the rhyme schemes of lines one, two, and five and of lines three and four. Bring it other examples. See the works of Edward Lear and Rudyard Kipling. Then using LEA (the language experience approach), write a limerick with your listener(s). If necessary, write the first line (“I like the color red”) and then see what your listener(s) can add that ends with a word that rhymes with “red.” Remember, nothing is too silly or has to make sense when you are writing limericks.

    Kathleen T. Williams, PhD, NCSP (Retired)
    February 22, 2018

  • Book of the Month – March: James and the Giant Peach

    Author:  Roald Dahl

    Suggested age range(s): Read to students in grades 3-6

    How it builds vocabulary:

    No one is too old to listen to a great story and this one will grab the attention of even the most casual listener, i.e. the kid who’s too cool to listen. I mean whose parents get eaten by “enormous angry rhinoceros” and is forced to live with two hideous aunts who refer to one as “you disgusting little beast?” Poor James lives a truly horrible existence in his aunt’s “queer ramshackle house.” That is until he climbs inside a giant peach, meets a strange collection of insects just his size, and rolls away on a journey of colorful and exciting adventures, escaping his former cruel home. Each page is filled with adjectives and adverbs that not only hold the listeners’ attention, but leave children wanting to hear more.

    Connection to print:

    Many of Dahl’s themes are dark and involve children getting back at adults who behave badly as in “Matilda” and “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” He also wrote wonderfully wicked short stories for adults. I’m in favor of getting students hooked on reading, especially when it is great, colorful, and engaging literature. The best way to improve anyone’s reading ability is to read. J.K. Rowling did it in the not too distant past with the Henry Potter series. Let’s introduce this generation of readers to Roald Dahl (who proceeded Rowling by over 40 years) and see where it leads

    Kathleen T. Williams, PhD, NCSP (Retired)
    January 29, 2018

  • Book of the Month – February: Shivering Sheep and Playful Pigs

    Author:  Shari Brand Robertson

    Suggested age range(s): Read to children 8 and under.

    Note: A great book to use with peer "reading buddies." For example, have a fourth-grade student read the book to a student in prekindergarten or kindergarten.

    How it builds vocabulary:

    The story is based on the use of paired words "Mountain sheep. Cave sheep. Wind sheep and Wave sheep." and antonym pairs, "Smelly sheep. Sweet sheep. Messy sheep. Neat sheep." On a second reading, I pause and see if my listeners can supply the correct second word of each pair as I read the first. During later readings, I see if by using the pictures and beginning decoding skills, my listeners can supply both words of the pair as I read aloud the first part of each phrase. No worries about lack of interest during these repeated readings. This story has a surprise ending which seems to charm young listeners no matter how many times they hear it.

    Connection to print: The book includes a set of 12 cards which illustrate six of the seventeen-word pairs in the book. Each card includes the same illustration and same words as used in the story. For example, the card for "messy sheep," pictures a sheep at a school desk covered with used paper and the words "messy sheep" at the bottom of the card. After a reading, I have my listener try to match each card with the picture and text in the story. We've also played "match" games with just the cards, having my listener put the 12 cards into the 6 antonym pairs using the picture and the text on the card. [Note: Thankfully, there is also a small plastic pocket at the back of the book for storing the cards.]

    Kathleen T. Williams, PhD, NCSP (Retired)
    January 29, 2018

  • Book of the Month – January: Bear Snores On

    Author:  Karma Wilson

    Suggested age range(s): Read to children 5 and under

    Note: A great book to use with peer “reading buddies.” For example, have a fourth-grade student read the book to a student in prekindergarten or kindergarten.

    How it builds vocabulary:

    This delightful little book is chockful of evocative rhyming text that stimulates phonological awareness (the awareness of the sounds of language) which is a crucial building block for learning to read. “The cold winds howl and the night sounds growl. But the bear snores on.” The vivid adjectives and extensive use of synonyms helps build a child’s descriptive vocabulary. “An itty-bitty mouse, pitter-pat, tip-toe, creep-crawls in the cave from the fluff-cold snow.”

    Connection to print: Fluent readers visualize as they read in order to accurately comprehend the setting, characters, action, and progression of a story. Teaching children to form mental pictures as you read aloud helps them develop this important comprehension skill – even before they begin to read. To encourage listeners to visualize, stop and ask questions while reading like, “Where do you think this story is taking place, in the city or in the woods? Do you think it is warm or cold there?” After reading, ask children to try to remember all the animals that came into the bear’s cave.

    Kathleen T. Williams, PhD, NCSP (Retired)
    January 5, 2018