Teaching My Baby To Read

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Monthly Archives: March 2016

“Treasure at Lure Lake” by

My ten-year-old son is on a reading rampage through all the middle grade books from debut authors in 2016. Here are his thoughts on Treasure at Lure Lake by Shari Schwarz which is our newest purchase:

Treasure at Lure Lake is an exhilarating read that I read in under three hours out of pure excitement. Bryce and his older brother, Jack, are staying with their Grandpa for a couple of weeks. Except, it’s not that simple. Bryce finds an old treasure map and starts hunting around. With twists and turns at every corner, the lure of Lure Lake remains illusive. Will Bryce find it? What is the treasure? Will Jack finally get cell phone reception? Read the book to find out!

This book would be great for third through seventh graders. Girls would probably like this book too, even though it’s heavy on boy characters. It’s a fast read that will keep you turning pages.

 

“The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee” by Erin Petti

My ten-year-old son has issued himself the challenge of reading all of the Middle Grade debuts in 2016 from my fellow Sweet Sixteen authors–except for “the girly books.” Here’s his review for The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee by Erin Petti:

I think that The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee is a great book with an artfully crafted build-up to the final moments. Thelma Bee is a very curious girl, and when her dad receives a strange antique she can’t help but investigate. I won’t give away the exact happenings, but she should have just burned that box on the spot.

One of the many things that makes this book special is the illustrations. They are beautiful paper and pencil efforts worked into the text. The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee is a short but sweet read that people of any gender will like.

“Hour of the Bees” by Lindsay Eagar

It’s hard discovering a book my fifth grader hasn’t read, but Hour of the Bees, by debut author Lindsay Eagar, is a fresh pick for 2016. Here’s my son’s review:

The Hour of the Bees is a lovely read, well worth my time. It tells the story of a girl named Carol and her grandfather, who has dementia. My great-grandmother has dementia too, but (no offense) she’s not nearly as interesting as Grandpa Serge. Carol’s grandpa starts telling odd stories, and they all chalk it up to dementia. But when the words of the story start coming out into real life Carol wonders: “Is it really just dementia or is there something strange afoot?”

Hour of the Bees didn’t start with a big bang, but by twenty pages in it was really going. I stayed up all night to read it. I couldn’t have slept without finding out what happened. I think this book is great for ages five (with a parent reading it) to fifteen.

“Poppy Mayberry, The Monday” by Jennie K. Brown

Here’s my ten-year-old’s review of Poppy Mayberry, The Monday (Nova Kids) by Jennie K. Brown. We received a free, advanced reader’s electronic copy as part of my participation as a debut author in The Sweet Sixteens. My son has read a lot of books in the past few months, but you’ll see that this one really captured his attention!

Poppy Mayberry, The Monday is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It has a perfect mix of romance, comedy, and suspense–all geared toward middle grade readers. The plot line is that all kids in the town of Nova have special powers determined by the day they were born on. Monday is telekinesis, Tuesday is teleportation, Wednesday is electrical, Thursday is mind reading, and Friday is disappearing. Saturday and Sunday don’t have any powers.

As the title states, Poppy Mayberry is a Monday, but she’s not a very good one. After being shipped off to a special school for power-disabled kids with her worst enemy Ellie (who can’t control her powers), Poppy is paired up in a team with Logan, a Friday, and Samuel, a Wednesday. That’s when things take a downward turn. I won’t give away spoilers but it gets pretty wild.

I think kids ages eight to fifteen would like Poppy Mayberry, The Monday. It is one of my favorite books ever!

Afterschooling for dyslexia with All About Reading

eggs“Never put your eggs all in one basket.” How many times have you heard that expression?  As a former teacher, this is how I view educational methods. My children are too precious to trust their brains to any one teacher, curriculum, or program.

This is especially true for my child with dyslexia.

If you are a parent of a dyslexic child you’ve probably heard promises before. “Spend $20,000 at our institute and your son will be on grade level!” Or what about that mom in your book club who says, “I heard cranial manipulation can solve dyslexia. Have you found a massage practitioner?” Yikes!

When you are trying to get help for your child with dyslexia it’s hard to know what to do.

My guiding principal is to spend time and money on evidence-based solutions my family can afford. That means no, we will not refinance the house to pay for private dyslexia school, but yes, we will forgo family vacations so we can pay for two hours a week of  tutoring with a certified Orton Gillingham and Wired for Reading teacher. No, we will not waste money on some crack-pot theory. Yes, we will flood our child with audio books via our subscription to Learning Ally.

But what if all that support still isn’t enough?AAS - Symptoms of Dyslexia Checklist

I’m a credentialed teacher, but a lot of the teaching methods I tried with my dyslexic child were not very effective. However, whenever I brought out the All About Spelling and All About Reading materials, they seemed to make a difference. Once I started researching dyslexia I realized why. Marie Rippel is an expert on dyslexia! She’s a member of the International Dyslexia Association, and incorporates a lot of the Orton Gillingham approach into her curriculum.

“Okay, great,” I thought. “All About Learning Press is helping my child but I have no idea how to fit this into our busy lives. We are not homeschoolers. I’m not going to start homeschooling anytime soon, so don’t even suggest it.” Instead of radical life changes, I went for easy modifications instead.

Here’s how to incorporate All About Reading into your everyday lives in a way that has produced real results for my child:

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#1: Read the Teacher’s Manual cover to cover and then give yourself permission not to follow it exactly.

What makes All About Reading a fool-proof homeschooling program is that it’s scripted. Marie tells you exactly what to say, word for word. Follow her instructions and you won’t screw up. But my kids are already in school all day. When they come home we have Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, gymnastics, ballet, guitar lessons, and dyslexia tutoring, depending on what day it is. Plus they need to do stuff like eat dinner, walk the poodle, and play.

When I first started incorporating All About Reading into our schedule, I tried to follow the Level 1 manual exactly, just like I do with All About Spelling over the summer. But there was never enough time to finish a lesson, and it was hard to be consistent without stressing the whole family out. So I decided to go off script, and that’s when it became a heck of a lot easier to turn a homeschooling curriculum into something practical for afterschooling.

night stand

#2: Smoosh All About Reading into your child’s bedtime rituals.

We read at bedtime no matter what. Generally we have a fun chapter book going, like the “Cupcake Girls.” (Do those girls ever pay taxes? I’ve never been able to figure that one out.) Before we get to the read aloud, we do kid-reading first. There are two possible choices: the primer book or flashcards.

Right now the primer book we are working on is “What Am I?” It’s always there, right on the nightstand, ready to go. Easy! The flashcards live on the nightstand too. The reading glasses are often lost somewhere in the house, but that’s another story…

star stickers

 

#3: Repetition is your friend, and stickers make repetition fun.

Every time my child reads one of the short stories, a new sticker pops up in the table of contents. This helps us keep track of progress. We try not to read the same story two nights in a row so that memorization doesn’t remove the need for phonics. When the entire book is finished there is a major reward like a new toy.

Astute All About Reading veterans will probably wonder, “How do you know what lesson you are on in the teaching manual?”  The answer is I don’t. Shock! Gasp! Horror! I can kind-of tell from the flashcards, but I don’t pay that much attention.

What I’ve discovered is that the All About Reading materials are so well crafted, that my child can’t progress through the flashcards unless she’s ready. She can’t move up in the short stories unless she’s capable. The two components work together to keep her at the right pace.

flip books

 

#4 Prep the workbook activities and store them in your purse.

My purse is a giant mess of fluency worksheets, flip books, and other scraps of paper I intend to work on that week. We squeeze out time when we can. Waiting during the guitar lesson. Waiting in the car to pick a sibling up. Waiting in line at Costco. If we have five minutes to spare, then we work those five minutes.

For our situation, this means I also have to have a set of my kid’s reading glasses in my purse. I actually bought a cheap pair on Zenni for this exact purpose.

Do we try to do the activities that correspond with the stories and flashcards? Yes. Sort-of. I do the best I can to be consistent, but I give myself permission to not be perfect.

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#5 Don’t forget about the spelling board!

I am such a horrible speller (with a potentially undiagnosed spelling learning disability) that there’s no way I would risk going off scrip when it comes to All About Spelling. I keep that teacher’s manual right by our white board. The trick is fitting in spelling lessons each week. Generally we save these for the weekends.

Summer is when we hit All About Spelling hard. Whenever I feel like I’m failing as an Afterschooling mom, I remember that in summer we’ll rack up major learning hours when other families are watching TV.

 

BetterBingo

 

#6 Bring out the big bucks because bribery works!

The best way I’ve found to keep our schedule chugging along is by posting a new bingo board on the wall every week. Complete a row and earn a prize, it’s that simple.

Notice how our bingo chart mixes in All About Learning Press materials with the Handwriting Without Tears App, Learning Ally audio books, Dreambox Math, and Nessy. Margaret the tutor is also on the chart! This is a reflection of my guiding principle, don’t put all my trust in any one solution. All About Learning Press is wonderful and I love it so much I’ve been an affiliate for years, but it’s not the only method I’m using to seek help for my child.

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Conclusion: Is All About Reading making a difference?

Yes! A resounding Yes!

I’ve been saying “my child” instead of “my son” or “my daughter” because over the years I’ve become more conservative about what I reveal publicly about my children. I write a weekly newspaper column so I need to be extra careful about their privacy.

But…I have some pretty astonishing before and after pictures of writing samples I could share, as well as Dibels results, and sight words assessments.

My child is at grade level and does well at school. My child is achieving so much that the school district will not offer any special education services, only a 504 plan for disability. All of this success is directly related to help that happens afterschool.

Grandparents are also noticing a huge difference. Last summer they listened to my child painfully read from “Run, Bug, Run.” Now “What Am I?” is a comfortable reading level. That’s flippin’ awesome!

Finally, my child’s confidence is huge, and that’s a worth that is difficult to measure but the foundation for a happy life. Believe and achieve.

As I mentioned before I am an All About Learning Press affiliate, but I didn’t share any of this out of a desire to earn money. I typed it up because I know how scary it is when you  desperately want to help your child overcome dyslexia, and you don’t even know where to start. If you’d like more information about the specifics of my Afterschooling plan, please click here. To find out more about All About Reading or All About Spelling, click on the links below.

“The Last Boy at St. Edith’s” by Lee Gjertsen Malone

Here’s my ten-year-old son’s review of a brand new middle grade book we recently purchased. It’s called The Last Boy at St. Edith’s by Lee Gjertsen Malone.

In The Last Boy at St. Edith’s Jeremy Miner is the only boy at St. Edith’s Institution, a formerly all-girls school. It used to be an all-girls school, but as that it was doing poorly, it switched to co-ed. But, enrollment was still low. A bunch of boys were there but all of them ended up leaving but one–Jeremy Miner. Jeremy and his friend Claudia engage in a series of pranks meant to get Jeremy expelled. What happens next is a series of comical incidents including a giant snowman and whole bunch of lawn gnomes.

As a ten-year-old boy myself, being at an all-girls school sounds pretty sweet, but after all, I’m not Jeremy Miner. This book will appeal to a variety of kids, from fourth grade on up. I thought it was a rollercoaster of a read, and definitely worth my time.