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Reading Rockets News

July 2014

  • In Focus: Active outdoor summer learning
  • Books & Authors: Chris Van Dusen interview | New booklist: Animals all around | Our national parks | Stone skipping, stoopball, red rover …
  • Ideas for Educators: First Year Teacher | Benefits of audiobooks | Book trailer tools
  • Ideas for Parents: Summer adventure tracker |  Powerful read alouds | Summer listening | Reading bees
  • Research & News: Brain science and dyslexia | Reading to children the right way: pediatricians' advice | Too soon for technology? Digital use by preschoolers

In Focus: Active outdoor summer learning

July is National Parks and Recreation Month. Kids can build reading, writing and thinking muscles while exploring the great outdoors this month — and all summer long.

Patterns and Categorizing

Children begin using their senses to recognize patterns and categorize things at a young age — skills that play an important role in early literacy and science inquiry. Head out into the great outdoors to discover all the amazing patterns found in nature. Try these four simple activities to help pattern recognition and categorization skills in this tip sheet for parents and summer program staff (in English and Spanish)
Patterns and Categorizing >

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The Nature Box
With an old fishing tackle box (or something similar) and some old magazines, your kids can create a fabulous place to gather and sort nature's treasures.
See Nature for Kids website >

All Things Green Scavenger Hunt >

Nature Match >

Leafsnap: Leaf collecting goes high tech with free field guide app >

Journals and Field Notes Video icon

Science and math explorations provide your growing reader with a chance to record all kinds of observations. Children love to keep special journals, filling them with all sorts of drawings, scribbles, sketches, notes, and graphs. Here are some tips to get the kids started (in English and Spanish).
Get writing tips >

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In the clip, "Keeping a field journal," nature writer Sy Montgomery (Kakapo Rescue) talks about the value of writing from the field.

"When I'm in the field, I have several different notebooks…and probably the most important is my field journal. And at the end of every day, instead of just sitting there writing a diary, what I do is I write a narrative. I write a story. And so if there's an immediacy and excitement to the books, it because it really came out of the field journal as it happened."
Watch video clip >

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Related resources:

Woodland Log Book >

Nature Map >

More Great Resources About Our Green World!

Find dozens of themed fiction and nonfiction books, hands-on activities, educational apps and more all about nature at Start with a Book.


Books & Authors

Gouache Rhymes with Squash: Our Interview with
Chris Van Dusen Video icon

Author and illustrator Chris Van Dusen brings humor, adventure, lively language, and richly colored, kinetic illustrations to all of his children's books. You'll meet some unforgettable literary characters in the pages of Van Dusen's books, including Mr. Magee (and his trusty dog, Dee), King Hugo (the royal with the big ego), and Kate DiCamillo's Mercy Watson.
Watch interview >

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I Spy: Animals All Around

Here's a delightful menagerie of picture books all about the feathered, finned and furry. Dog rescues, dolphins, daytime/nighttime animals and more.
See booklist >

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Our National Parks

From the Everglades to the Alamo to the Redwoods, these eight picture books take you on a grand tour of some of America's most remarkable landscapes and historical places.
See booklist >

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Stone Skipping, Stoopball, Red Rover … and More

Sidewalks full of life, all ages gathering, fireflies buzzing. Introduce your kids to the high-energy, big-fun outdoor games you remember playing as a kid all summer long, sometimes late into the evening. This lively, informative book will show you how!
Read blog post >

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Ideas for Teachers

First Year Teacher

First Year Teacher is our self-paced professional development course for novice K-3 teachers. It provides you with an in-depth knowledge of reading so you are prepared to guide your students into becoming skilled and enthusiastic readers. Here's what you'll find:

  • Your First Year: What to expect and how to survive, including classroom groupings, working with parents, and sample language arts blocks.
  • Teacher Toolbox: Understanding the struggling reader and what's important in teaching reading, from the alphabetic principle to classroom management.
  • Course Modules: 10 self-paced learning modules to deepen your understanding of how to teach reading effectively, from phonemic awareness to comprehension.
  • Resources: A selected list of great online tools for teachers.
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Benefits of Audiobooks for All Readers

Audiobooks can introduce kids to books above their reading level; model good interpretive reading, teach critical listening, highlight the humor in books, introduce new genres and so much more.
Read article >

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Personal Story: Why I Love Audiobooks

Teachers embrace audiobooks for students with dyslexia

5 Digital Tools for Creating Book Trailers

Student-created book trailers are an excellent alternative to traditional book report projects. Richard Byrne from Free Technology for Teachers, introduces us to 5 cool tools: Animoto, WeVideo, Pixntell, Narrable and Wideo. Have you tried any of these with your students?
Read article >

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Ideas for Parents

The Home Front Video icon

It's not always easy to keep your kids actively learning during the long summer months. Listen in to this mother of two, Wendy Bostic, talk about how she engages her kids — with reading, regular trips to the library, and exploring the world around them through local field trips.
Watch video >

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Summer Adventure Tracker!

Exploring your own local community this summer? Kids can track their adventures with our downloadable map and log sheet. Match your adventures with our Start with a Book themes — and find lots of related books, activities and apps to extend the learning.
Get your tracker >

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Simple Yet Powerful Things to Do While Reading Aloud

To get the most out of a shared reading, encourage your child to look at the printed words as you read aloud. Recent research shows that seemingly small things — like pointing to words as you read them, showing your child how a book is organized, and talking about uppercase and lowercase letters — can make a big difference in developing strong reading, spelling, and comprehension skills.
See tips >[Available in English and Spanish]

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Related article:
Print Awareness During Read Alouds

Summer Listening

The summer season is full of sounds. Find out how to put together a fun and educational summer listening program for your child. Active listening is an important literacy skill and really learning how to listen is especially helpful for kids with learning disabilities.
See article >

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Related resources:

Listen to This! 9 Audio Books for Kids

Tales2Go: Streaming Audio Books Mobile App

This Parents' Choice Gold Award-winning mobile app gives teachers and parents instant and unlimited access to over 1,500 audio stories at home, in the car or on the go. Stories include favorites like Clifford and Curious George, popular series such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Ivy and Bean or How to Train Your Dragon, and even classics like Treasure Island and Swiss Family Robinson.
Get the app from LearningStore >

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The Season of Reading Bees

"It's the time of year when kids come home with summer reading lists and reminders to read six books by September, or to read 20 minutes a day — something, anything, to stave off the drop in proficiency that can come with a few months away from school. If your kids love to read, it's no problem. But what if they're reluctant readers, or lack confidence, or just aren't that interested? My kids took their sweet time in making their way into the ranks of independent readers. Here's where my single undisputable achievement as a parent — the invention of the reading bee —comes into play. The rules are simple."
See article from the Boston Globe >

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Research & News

The Brain Science Behind Dyslexia Video icon

About 1 in 10 Americans struggle with dyslexia, a learning disability which can make reading a challenge. Children with dyslexia are often stigmatized, and feel the sting of failure when struggling with their disability. And that struggle can last for years. By the time a student is diagnosed with dyslexia, frequently in second or third grade, they've often already experienced numerous failures in school. New research, by MIT and Children's Hospital, is showing that it may be possible to detect the signs of dyslexia in kids' brains well before they start learning to read.
Listen to story from WBUR >

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Reading to Children the Right Way: Pediatricians' Advice

The American Academy of Pediatrics' recent advice to start reading to children "from infancy" may have parents of newborns running to the library. But the author of the policy statement says that sleep-deprived moms and dads can give themselves a break: The point of the recommendation is to start positive interactions early that include reading, talking, singing, rhyming, and cuddling — not to add another chore or obligation to the day.
Read article from Education Week >

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Related story:
Why Pediatricians Are Prescribing Books

Too Soon for Technology? The Latest on Digital Use by Preschoolers

The best place to begin thinking through preschoolers' use of technology is to consider what young children need. Kids under age five need to handle real objects, learning for themselves how the natural world works. They must move their bodies, coordinating their movements and gaining physical confidence. They should engage in unstructured playtime, exercising their imaginations, managing their emotions, and solving problems in scenarios of their own creation. And, most of all, young children need to interact with other people, navigating relationships with their peers and receiving guidance and support from adults. All of these needs are met most fully in the offline world.
Read article from School Library Journal >

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"It's so important these days to connect children with the natural world and how kids are very curious naturally about the outdoor world around them — so that they are just as intrigued by the butterfly in the backyard and the chickadee and the cardinal that they see every day as they are about the nature that they see on the nature shows."

Mary Quattlebaum (Jo MacDonald Had a Garden)

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Maria Salvadore
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"I'm wondering what to read next." — Matilda, Roald Dahl