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Books just in time for vacation

The weather says it is definitely summertime — often travel or vacation time.

Lots of families will take road trips; many will visit some of the wonderful national parks across the country. And a great time it is, too; after all, July is Park and Recreation Month.

In addition to summer pleasure reading, two recent books are must-haves on these excursions.

Poverty and planning skills

A recent study in the journal Child Development suggests a link between students living in poverty and poor planning skills that extends into several academic areas, including math and reading. Using scores from a strategic puzzle-based task that requires advance planning and tactical moves, researchers found that scores on the planning task in Grade 3 predicted children's reading and math outcomes at Grade 5, even while controlling for IQ.

No screen required

Many are best done outdoors while others are really intended for indoor use; some require special accoutrements, others none. They were once called "diversions" and although the names have changed, games are still around and in fact, have never gone away. (There is even evidence that ancient people in Greece, China, and even Sumeria played them.)

And summer is the time when there's more down time for children or even adults to learn or revisit games.

Travel journals AKA more dead guys in boxes

We're back from our big family trip to Germany, and it was everything we hoped it would be. One of my favorite aspects of the trip was how carefully Anna kept up with her travel journal. She's a writer at heart, so it feels very natural to her to capture her experiences on paper. She's been using the same travel journal for years, and it's really fun to look back at her first entries and appreciate how her writing has changed over the years (see below for entries from 2009, 2011 and 2013).

Preparing for a big family trip

We're heading off to Germany for some apple strudel, German soccer, apple strudel, and tours of castles and salt mines (and apple strudel). This is a big adventure for our family, and we've been prepping for weeks! It's been so fun for the girls to be involved in the planning and the excitement. I thought I'd share a few of the things we've done to get ready — most of these ideas could be adapted for a trip anywhere.

Making writing fun

Sometimes a new twist on an old assignment can change everything! Take a look at a birthday card for Copernicus, the mathematician and astronomer, written by a 10 year old.

The assignment: Research three facts about a historical figure. Incorporate those facts into a birthday card written by someone they knew.

The result: Searching for sources of information. Reading and discerning good facts to use. Choosing the "voice" for the speaker. Integrating facts in a meaningful way into a birthday card message.

Using technology to support parents

We recently wrapped up our 5-webinar series on Parent Engagement. We developed the series to support charter members of the Grade-Level Reading Communities Network, a key community-based effort of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. We've archived the entire Parent Engagement Webinar Series so now it's a free, permanent resource for all.

Book-inspired costume ideas

I don't know what to be! Every day my girls have a different idea for their Halloween costume. One year, Anna changed her mind around 5 PM! Thankfully a stocked dress up box meant she could throw something together last minute. That year she went as a … hmmmm … someone wearing crazy mixed-up clothes!?!

Summer symphony

There are special sounds associated with summer. The sounds of cicadas are a melody but I don't enjoy the percussive sounds of a thunderstorm.

Neither does a little boy named Brannon while his bigger brother, Chad, looks forward to the coming storm in a recent book by Marion Dane Bauer, Dinosaur Thunder (Scholastic). Adults in the family try to calm poor Brannon. Brannon rejects the idea that "thunder is only a big cat purring" or is "angels bowling in heaven." He's met cats and has been to a bowling alley. He knows that's not it.

Fun ideas for parents on Pinterest

I'm off for a quick Spring break this week, but I thought I'd recommend stopping by our Ideas for Parents board on Pinterest. Frankly, all our boards are so much fun! If you haven't started your Pinterest addiction, your Spring break may be a perfect time to check it out.

Our Ideas for Parents board has some cool literacy-based ideas like magic message bananas, a very sweet hungry caterpillar hand print, and a graphing idea with colored eggs — but there's a lot more too.

Enjoy your week!

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"Wear the old coat and buy the new book." — Austin Phelps