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Monthly Archives: October 2014

“Muse” by Erin Mcfadden

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“Clean” YA can be hard to come by so I was especially excited to read  Muse (Descended From Myth Book 1), by debut author Erin McFadden.

Anna is unaware that she is a Talent, capable of impressing her will upon other people and inspiring them to greatness, until a Guardian named Daniel explains her powers. As their two fates intertwine, Anna and Daniel face danger, darkness, and the irresistible draw to each other, even though Talent/Guardian relationships never work out.

At 181 pages,  Muse is an enjoyable read. I found the story engaging and the characters likeable. The way McFadden alternates between Daniel and Anna POV chapters keeps the pace moving.

The author also peppers her novel with a lot of good lines. A favorite was from page 53: “I’m a very mature nineteen year old. People tell me that all the time! Of course it’s usually when they’re trying to get me to babysit their kids.”

This book is definitely a keeper, and I look forward to reading the second title in the series, TALENT.

P.S. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion and review.

“Just Sayin’: Write ‘Em, Draw ‘Em, Hide ‘Em in Your Heart” Review


Just Sayin’: Write ‘Em, Draw ‘Em, Hide ‘Em in Your Heart by Carol McAdams Moore is a 90 day devotional for modern girls. The format is simple; for each entry there’s a Bible verse and one or two opportunities to respond through doodles, artwork or writing. A plus for me as a United Methodist is there is very little editorializing of the verses. This book doesn’t push one particular religious dogma down kids’ throats.

I was however, a little bid disappointed in some of the verses Moore chose to include. Some of them seemed taken out of context. Do I really need to explain the woman at the well to my young daughter? I don’t know; that’s probably a personal parenting choice. But still, nothing was too “out there” for my five-year-old.

I realize that my daughter is probably younger than the target audience for this book, but she LOVES it. She is very committed to finishing every last page. Part of her enthusiasm comes from watching her brother get Moore’s devotional for boys, Dare U 2 Open This Book: Draw It, Write It, Dare 2 Live It, first.

All in all, I’m impressed with both books. You can find my review for Dare U 2 Open This Book: Draw It, Write It, Dare 2 Live It here.

P.S. I received a free copy of both books from BookLook in exchange for my honest opinion and review.

I review for BookSneeze®

 

 

 

Emergent Writing

Mom is a silly goose.

Mom is a silly goose.

“My kid writes upside down and backward!” Should you freak out?

Answer: Is your child mid third grade or older? Then yes, be concerned and look into it. Younger than third grade? Don’t sweat it.

My daughter is a classic emergent writer. All of the pictures in this blog post come from the past two weeks. I didn’t help her spell or write anything. The words come from her 5 year-old brain.

Here’s a picture of reverse writing, starting from the bottom and working it’s way up:

I'm sorry for being mean to mom. ???

I’m sorry for being mean to mom. ???

 

In this card to her uncle, she experiments with punctuation:

Uncle Steve. You are nice.

Uncle Steve. You are nice.

 

Here she starts writing in the middle of the page, but runs out of room for [with me] so she adds “wis me” at the top.

God is at Grammy day with me.

God is at Grammy day with me.

 

Here she starts at the top left–yay!– but then decides to go right to left again.

A bee is just right.

A bee is just right.

 

I wasn’t present when she wrote this one so I’m not 100% sure what it says. It looks like another bottom to top piece.

I want to do bedtime with me.

I want to do bedtime with me.

I’m a certificated, experienced K-4 teacher, and I’m telling you, this is what normal looks like for four and five year olds. So if your child is writing like this too, don’t freak out and think your child has a learning disability.

Luckily, there are lots of ways to help kids move past this stage. The #1 tip is provide lots of opportunities to write. It’s also helpful to focus on three types of writing:

  • Free writing (pictured above)
  • Scaffold writing (with dot letters or tracing)
  • Handwriting practice (worksheets that only focus on proper letter formation)
Handwriting

Handwriting Practice

 

And Remember! By winter of third grade, if your child is still doing reversed or backwards letters, that is the time to seek evaluation for a possible learning disability. I’ve consulted dozens of teachers on this, and that is the general consensus. By the end of third grade, backwards letters should be gone.

 

What we do Afterschool

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In our state, half-day Kindergarten is only 2 hours and 4 minutes long. That’s why Afterschooling is so important for my daughter. Here’s a brief look at what we’ve been up to these past couple of weeks.

Kid Writing: "A bee is just right."

Kid Writing: “A bee is just right.”

 

Dot-Letter-Writing

Dot-Letter-Writing

 

Piano Lessons

Piano Lessons

 

Handwriting

Handwriting

 

Spatial Thinking Skills

Spatial Thinking Skills

 

Science experiments

Science experiments

 

More Science Experiments

More Science Experiments

 

Art Class

Art Class

 

Cooking--works on math!

Cooking–works on math!

 

Library visits and lots of reading

Library visits and lots of reading

 

Barbie Phonics

Barbie Phonics

 

Reading Eggs

Reading Eggs

 

We’ve been so busy, I haven’t had time to blog! Btw, If you’re interested in any of these resources, here are some Amazon links to get you started.


Mead 48166 Learn to Letter Tablet, 10″ x 8″, 40 Sheets

Phonics Fun with Barbie (Barbie) (Phonics Boxed Sets)

The Magic School Bus – Chemistry Lab

10 Pack FROG STREET PRESS SMART START K-1 STORY PAPER 100

“Call Me Grim” by Elizabeth Holloway

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Call Me Grim by Elizabeth Holloway is the perfect book for a misty October night.

Libi should be dead right now, except for creepy-stalker-guy Aaron saved her moments before a truck would have ended her teenage life. The catch is that Aaron is a local Grim Reaper and he wants Libi to take over his job.

As the clock ticks Libi has a multitude of decisions to make. Quick death or immortal discord? Best friend Kyle or Mr. Aaron RIP?

I was really impressed by how the story’s premise held together so well. There were lots of parts where I found myself thinking “Wow! That is sooooo cool!”

As YA books go, Call Me Grim is PG in terms of cleanness. It’s not too scary or too racy but it is definitely “I’ve-got-to-read-this-in-one-day!” material. I look forward to reading more books from Elizabeth Holloway in the future.

P.S. For the #YABookCook version of this post, head on over to JenniferBardsley.Net.

Q and A with Darlene Beck Jacobson, author of “Wheels of Change”

Darlene Beck-Jacobson

Darlene Beck Jacobson

Do you love a great historical fiction book for kids as much as I do? Then check out my previous review of Wheels of Change by Darlene Beck Jacobson. Today I’m excited to share a bit more about this fabulous new book. Darlene graciously accepted my offer to interview her!


Wheels of Change

Jenny: Was your protagonist Emily Soper based on a historical person in real life or is she purely a work of fiction?

Darlene: Emily is the name of my grandmother whose father was a carriage maker in DC at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Grandma also attended a reception at the White House and met Theodore Roosevelt. Those are the facts; the rest is fiction.

 

Jenny: You manage to work a surprising amount of vocabulary into your book, making me think you must be a killer Scrabble opponent. Where did you develop a love of big words?

Darlene: My Dad – Emily’s son – was a wordsmith who loved crossword puzzles. He often used big words and never talked down to my sister or me. My sister and I still enjoy competing against each other in word games. Our favorite is PERQUACKY. As far as SCRABBLE goes, my son’s got me beat. He plays online and really kills me with two letter words.

 

Jenny: Ouch! Two letter words are tough.

One of the funniest scenes is when Emily bakes a peach pie under duress. That’s exactly how I feel whenever I encounter pie crust. Do you like to bake? What’s your favorite pie: peach, blackberry or apple?

Darlene: I really enjoy baking. Cookies and muffins are my specialties, but there is something satisfying about a fresh baked pie. Strawberry Rhubarb and Key Lime are my favorites.

 

Jenny: Thinking about the book is making me hungry! Another food related scene revolved around gingerbread. Kids today are likely familiar with gingerbread cookies, but not many have probably tried real gingerbread. Do you have a favorite recipe to share?

Darlene: Have you tried the recipe for Mrs. Jackson’s Gingerbread found in the back of the book? It’s actually a very simple recipe and produces a tasty gingerbread. It’s been adapted from the Fanny Farmer Cookbook of the era. Here it is:

 

Mrs. Jackson’s Gingerbread

¼ lb. butter or shortening                                             

 2 ½C flour

1 C sugar                                               2 tsp baking soda

2 eggs                                                    ½ tsp salt

¾ C boiling water                                2 tsp ginger

¾ C molasses                                       1 TBSP white vinegar

  • Grease and flour a square cake pan. Preheat oven to 350.
  • Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add eggs. Add water, molasses and vinegar. Stir until blended.
  • Add dry ingredients to wet mixture. Pour into prepared pan.
  • Bake 35-45 minutes. If a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out dry, it’s done

 

Jenny: Yum! That sounds good.  Unfortunately, I can’t eat gluten but I bet my family would like that recipe.

A big theme of the book is Emily struggling with her mother and society’s expectations of what it means to be a “proper young lady”. She has to iron, keep clean, bake and stay tidy. When you were a 6th grade girl did you have expectations placed on you that felt like a burden?

Darlene: My parents never told us what we should or should not do. I’ve always been a goal setter. I get a great satisfaction from achieving goals that I’ve set for myself. There was always peer pressure and pop culture telling us girls to look and act a certain way; that still happens today. But then – and now – I choose to march to my own drum and do what feels right for me. I tried to convey that message to my own daughter as well.

All the expectations of my life have been self-imposed. I grew up reading Nancy Drew books. She seemed so cool and confident. It was fun to pretend to be Nancy. I think early seeds of feminism sprouted within me from reading books like that.

 

Jenny: That, and a life-long desire to buy a yellow convertible. Oh, wait. That’s my own reaction to Nancy Drew. 🙂

A very moving scene is when Emily’s family goes to visit their African American friend Henry in the Shaw neighborhood. For those of us who are unfamiliar with D.C., what is Shaw like today? Is it still a predominantly African American part of town?

Darlene: Washington DC is a much more urbanized place than it was 100 years ago. There is a large African American population as well as people of Hispanic, Asian and other cultures and ethnic backgrounds…much like any American city. Shaw suffered during the riots of the late 1960’s, and population declined throughout the district. It has been on the rebound over the last two decades. The Shaw section of the district is a mix of multi-generational professionals who are committed to revitalization of the area. It has become a very fashionable neighborhood.

 

Jenny: Civil rights, both for women and people, of color is a central element in Wheels of Change. When you were a child, did you ever witness a civil rights struggle that made an impression?

Darlene: While I never personally witnessed the struggles that took place, they were a part of the daily landscape of growing up in the 1960’s.

 

Jenny: Any new books in the works?

Darlene: I am working on a PB titled TOGETHER ON OUR KNEES about the childhood of a little known suffragist named Matilda Joslyn Gage. There is also another historical MG in the editing stage called A SPARROW IN THE HAND. This story takes place in the coal mining area of Pennsylvania during Prohibition.

 

Thank you Darlene! You can find her book, Wheels of Change, on Amazon. The next stop of the Wheels of Change Blog Tour is Live Your Poem.

 

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Dare U 2 Open This Book


Dare U 2 Open This Book: Draw It, Write It, Dare 2 Live It is a 90 day religious devotional for boys by Carol McAdams Moore. It’s extremely visual-spatial and only a little bit verbal. By this I mean Moore asks kids to draw pictures, doodle and mess around with crayons and pencils in order to journal their thoughts, instead of write a bunch of paragraphs. I think this format works great. We should give boys the opportunity to do visual-spatial activities as much as possible.

Dare U 2 Open This Book: Draw It, Write It, Dare 2 Live It is a devotional, so it’s heavy on religion. Each section starts with a Bible verse and then asks boys to think about it. But unlike so many other religious books for kids, Moore doesn’t tell boys how to think. She doesn’t cram a particular dogma down kids’ throats. I appreciate that tremendously.

Now for the harshest critic of all. I gave this book to my nine-year-old son and he thought it was pretty cool. I asked him if it was something that he thought he would use and he said “Not right now, but if it’s laying around the house I’ll eventually read it.”

Good enough for me.

P.S. I received a free copy of this book from Book Look in exchange for my honest opinions and review.

I review for BookSneeze®