06/20/2016 - 12:18pm
Grow a Reader: Playing for Keeps

My favorite Grow a Reader practice in the whole world is (drumroll please!) . . . PLAYING!  Goofing off. Clowning around. Kicking up your heels.

But shouldn’t a pre-literacy practice require, oh I dunno—something like . . . practice?

Of course, playing comes very easily to most children. But don’t be fooled into thinking that because it comes naturally, playing doesn’t have value. Playing gives kids practice at thinking symbolically and using their imaginations. And, since words are basically just symbols for objects, actions, and ideas, learning to think symbolically is a priceless pre-literacy skill.*

06/20/2016 - 2:00pm
Grow a Reader: Sing, Sing a Song

“Bouncing, bouncing, panda on my knee; bouncing, bouncing, 1-2-3!”* I peeked around the doorframe to see my 3-year-old daughter with her stuffed panda, singing it a song I had sung to her and her brother over and over and gently bouncing it on her knee. I was delighted! Not only was she singing, she was playing with the lyrics, making them her own.

Fast forward two years, and I overhear my son singing while he’s playing with LEGOs, “Rain, rain, go away, Mia and Eli want to play…” We are definitely a singing household. I grew up learning folk songs as Dad accompanied us on guitar. My mom sings Christmas carols year-round while she does chores. The kids and I sing songs anytime we are driving in the car. They often request that I play songs by title.

09/29/2016 - 1:16pm

Officially, May Day is the 1st of May, but really anytime during this splendid spring month is a perfect opportunity to share small gifts of the season with everyone: teachers; friends; neighbors; and family. You can do that with May baskets—a wonderful, old-fashioned tradition.

01/12/2016 - 11:38am
We Are All Made of Molecules book cover

“My dad works at an advertising agency and my mom anchors the local evening news. They are both very good-looking for old people, and I’m not being arrogant but just stating a fact when I say I inherited the best from both of them.” – Ashley, We Are All Made of Molecules

Ashley is the best-looking and most popular person in high school. Stewart, not so much. Stewart is a certifiable genius. Ashley? Well, let’s just say she’s a few fries short of a Happy Meal.

01/05/2015 - 2:03pm

To open a book illustrated by Floyd Cooper is to be drawn into a world of warmth, bravery, and joy. His drawings are as essential as the text itself in illuminating the world of childhood, often of the Black experience.

He was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1956. Early on, his family lived in the projects and had little money, but his mother was able to give him a sense of self-worth that he has carried with him always. She also shared stories with him, helping to build his imagination.

10/05/2014 - 8:34am

Best known for her Newbery Award-winning books, Jacob Have I Loved, as well as Newbery Honor winner, The Great Gilly Hopkins, Katherine Paterson's very personal style of storytelling strikes nerves with her readers, who are able feel her characters' emotions, giving them practice for dealing with life's sorrows. What keeps her books from being simple studies in misery is her ability to find the humor and grace in any situation.

09/29/2016 - 12:57pm

Gather your family together for an hour or two of face-to-face gaming with a twist: you can make the games yourselves to match your family's interests.

11/02/2015 - 1:10pm

Not every child today learns in a big building with lots of other students all studying the same things at the same time. In the past twenty years, the homeschool phenomenon has caught fire across America.

11/21/2013 - 3:02am
The Blessing Cup by Patricia Polacco

The Blessing Cup, by Patricia Polacco, is a wonderful story for anytime, but especially during the holidays when family gathers close for this is a family story. Patricia Polacco’s great-grandmother Anna and her family came to America from Russia after the Czar ordered all the Jews to leave the country. Just like that, they had to leave behind everything they couldn’t carry. Momma and Papa packed the sewing machine, their menorah, the shofar, his tallis, and holy books. But also precious to them was the tea set they were given when they were married.

10/19/2016 - 10:08am

On Christmas Eve, a young girl dreams her beloved toy comes to life. He becomes her Nutcracker Prince and dances his Clara through the land of sweets and defeats the wicked Mouse King. Perhaps you've seen the ballet-- it's so popular that many ballet schools make it their featured holiday production year after year. The music is amazing—from the wild Russian dance to the slow and mysterious Arabian dance. It all flows together to create a magical night of exhilarating performances.


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