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Summer book swap

What do you do when a child wants to read a book that's too sophisticated or you feel is plain inappropriate for them?

That's the dilemma a friend of mine confronted when her six-year-old son wanted to read a book that he could easily decode but that is probably most appropriate for upper elementary to middle school children. So she called me. (She knew her son — like most kids — would probably listen to a neutral but trusted third party more than he'd listen to his own mom.)

Exercise your imagination

It is official: summer has started, at least unofficially.

And with it comes the talk of the summer learning loss. But a video message from author Mary Amato makes a case that summer is a great time for kids to exercise their imaginations. They'll have fun and likely avoid losing reading skills.

How? Reading and writing!

What? Books, songs, plays — wherever and whatever the imagination fancies.

Summer slide

When I first heard the term "summer slide" I thought of equipment on a playground. But as I'm sure you're aware, there's another meaning entirely. This slide refers to summer learning loss.

There's lots of research about it. Children tend to lose reading (and math) skills over the summer when they're not used.

There are many activities that enhance reading and will slow or stop that slide — talking, singing, reading aloud, keeping a journal or photo album of summer activities, and lots more.

A golden birthday

Some picture book writers are like rappers; even though they're gone, their work continues to be reworked and reintroduced.

From page to stage

Books and drama go hand in glove — they're both about story, after all. Just look at the films that have drawn their inspiration from children's books.

On a smaller scale, Reader's Theater brings stories to life as I was reminded when reading a recent article by Elizabeth Poe. The educational — and social — benefits of second grade children sharing Eric Rohmann's A Kitten Tale (Knopf) with preschool children are clearly presented.

Goodbye poetry month

What fun we had with poetry month this year! At home we resurrected our copy of Joyful Noise and had fun sharing poems about insects. Anna loved the Grasshoppers one the best, mostly because we had a long talk about autumn-laid eggs and the interesting words and images within the poem, including grasshoppers 'vaulting from leaf to leaf and stem to stem' and being grass bounders and grass soarers. I doubt she'll ever look at a grasshopper the same way again!

Baseball and its lessons

The first pitch of the season has been thrown and the professional baseball season is in full swing. So it is for kids who play Tee ball, softball, and baseball at school, a recreation or community center, or in their own neighborhood.

Playing a team sport has huge benefits for children — I saw it when my son started playing Tee ball in first grade. He had lots of fun but also learned a great deal by playing with other kids, listening to his coach, and figuring out some of his limitations as well as his strengths.

Mentor texts

A mentor text is a published piece of writing whose idea, whose structure, or whose written craft can be used to inspire a student to write something original. The Writing Fix, sponsored by the Northern Nevada Writing Project, is the definitive source for lesson plans and book suggestions that can help teachers choose a mentor text to support their writing lesson plans. Mentor text recommendations include picture books and chapter books.

Earth day and the stories in nonfiction

I remember when Earth Day was first celebrated (but I won't date myself and tell you where I was in school!). The 40th celebration will take place on April 22, 2010. In other words, Earth Day is older than the children who will celebrate it this year — and probably older than many of their parents.

Why folk and fairy tales?

I'm frequently reminded that we want to sanitize the world for children, protect them from ugly truths. And, I suppose it's possible to some extent. But how do we help young children cope with the world that they live in without totally isolating them?

Maybe by introducing children to traditional tales while allowing them to take charge of the stories — like two remarkable teachers I know did recently.

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"To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark." — Victor Hugo, Les Miserables