Friday, October 24, 2014

Raising a Reader

Raising a Reader

I recently read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. I LOVE that book! Anyway, as I was reading I noticed that the Oompa-Loompas sing this song:

"The most important thing we've learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set--
Or better still, just don't install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we've been,
We've watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone's place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they're hypnotized by it,
Until they're absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don't climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink--
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
It rots the senses in the head!
It kills imagination dead!
It clogs and clutters up the mind!
It makes a child so dull and blind
He can no longer understand
a fantasy, a fairyland!
His brain becomes as soft as cheese!
His powers of thinking rust and freeze!
He cannot think--He only sees!
'All right!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say,
'But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!
We'll answer this by asking you,
'What used the darling ones to do?
'How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?
Have you forgotten? Don't you know?
We'll say it very loud and slow:! They'd READ and READ,
And read and read, and then proceed
To read some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching 'round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be!
Good gracious, it's Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
and Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and--
Just How the Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There's Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole--
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
 And children hitting you with sticks--
Fear not, because we promise you
Thank, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They'll now begin to feel the need
Of having something good to read.
And once they start--oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They'll grow so keen
They'll wonder what they'd ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did."

My tip for today.......turn off the tv (and I'll add, the personal electronics and video games)!
Thank you Roald Dahl! Love this poem!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child

The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller


Donalyn Miller is a dedicated teacher who says she has yet to meet a child she couldn't turn into a reader. In The Book Whisperer, Miller takes us inside her 6th grade classroom to reveal the secrets of her powerful but unusual instructional approach. Rejecting book reports, comprehension worksheets, and other aspects of conventional instruction, Miller embraces giving students an individual choice in what they read combined with a program for independent reading. She also focuses on building a classroom library of high-interest books, and above all, on modeling appropriate and authentic reading behaviors. Her zeal for reading is infectious and inspiring, and the results speak for themselves. No matter how far behind Miller's students may be when they start out, they end up reading an average of 40 books per year, achieve high scores on standardized tests, and internalize a love for reading that lasts long after they've left her class.

My review:

Where was this book 14 years ago when I taught my cute little first graders? I LOVE this book! It is my personal teaching philosophy all rolled up into one nice, neat package. Seriously! I love her ideas, her structure, her philosophy, her library, all of it. Ms. Miller focuses on reading for reading instruction. Her goal is to help kids love to read and to be life-long readers, and she does it by allowing them to actually read. I was definitely what she calls an underground reader in school. I would read the book we were reading in class, finishing it in a few days or a week, and then I'd have to sit through weeks of awful lectures and lessons and picking the book apart before the class finally finished. By then I'd probably read three or four other books. I hated reading books as a class. I hated that it took so long. I hated trying to find the meanings of each and every sentence. I wanted to scream, "I don't care, just let me read!" And that is what Ms. Miller does. She lets them read. Awesome. Even though this book is geared toward teachers, parents can learn a lot from it as well. I highly recommend it to all my teacher friends, and when I go back to teaching, this will be my top priority! Love, love, love this book!!!

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: High school and up. This would be great for high school/college students who want to go into teaching. Every teacher should read this book!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl


Willy Wonka's famous chocolate factory is opening at last! But only five lucky children will be allowed inside. And the winners are: Augustus Gloop, an enormously fat boy whose hobby is eating; Veruca Salt, a spoiled-rotten brat whose parents are wrapped around her little finger; Violet Beauregarde, a dim-witted gum-chewer with the fastest jaws around; Mike Teavee, a toy pistol-toting gangster-in-training who is obsessed with television; and Charlie Bucket, Our Hero, a boy who is honest and kind, brave and true, and good and ready for the wildest time of his life!

My Review:

I love this book!!! I have read it countless times, and each time I read it I love it just as much. It's definitely a classic, and a favorite at our house. This time I read it aloud to my daughters (9 and 6) and they loved it too! The best part was that as soon as I started reading, my boys (13 and 11), who I read it to years ago and they have both read it a few times themselves, would come over, sit with us and listen as well. It doesn't matter how old you are, the magic in this book pulls you in. 

I love the characters in the story. Mr. Dahl did an excellent job of describing each of the characters and their personalities. From the old grandparents at home in bed to the children in the factory, each character comes to life on the page.  My favorite characters are Charlie and Grandpa Joe. I especially like how Grandpa Joe bursts out of bed and suddenly has so much energy. Willy Wonka is a great character, too. I also love the creativity in this book. All the different rooms in the chocolate factory are unique and well described. I want a chocolate river in my house!!! The story is well written, it flows well, is easy to read and understand, and is just so much fun. I love that it teaches kids to dream and to use their imaginations. I also love that it talks about throwing the t.v. out the window and reading instead. :)  (I'll have more on that in a different post coming soon!) It also teaches kids not to be selfish, bratty, or disrespectful. 

As I was reading, I noticed that there is one swear word. I was shocked, actually, when I came to it, but it is there. I skipped over it so my girls didn't even know, but a silent reader would see it. Other than that, and a few minor "accidents," it is clean. Well, it does get a bit sticky and gooey in places, but there is no "intimacy" or violence. I highly recommend this book! It's great for silent readers and read-alouds!

Rating: PG (Just that one little word......)

Recommendation: Silent Reading: 2-3rd grades and up, depending on reading level
                              Read-aloud: Kindergarten and up

Friday, October 17, 2014

Quotable Quotes

Quotable Quotes

I have wanted to start a segment like this for a long time! I think reading is so important, and I love all things reading, including quotes about reading and the importance of it. I found this quote in a book that I will review next week, and I loved it. Actually, that book has many quotes and lots of information that I will be using later on. I will start with this quote though, because I loved it!

"To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life."
~W. Somerset Maugham
(Taken from page 19 of The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller) 

How many times have you turned to a book to escape? I know I have! I love that reading helps calm my anxieties and allows me to go back to reality with a fresh perspective, more patience, and a clear head. Is there a book that you turn to over and over when times get tough, or will any book help?

Happy Reading!!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Alchemist

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho


"Paulo Coelho's enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and inspiring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts."

Where have I been? I haven't ever heard of this book before until my book group decided to read it this month. This is a powerful book. It is full of symbolism, adventure, treasure, love, kings, crystal, long journeys, sand, wars, sheep, stolen money, gold, greed, wisdom, and alchemy. What is alchemy, you ask? Well, I'll admit--I had to look up alchemy in the dictionary. Alchemy is: 1. a medieval chemical science and speculative philosophy aiming to achieve the transmutation of the base metals into gold, the discovery of a universal cure for disease, and the discovery of a means of indefinitely prolonging life 2. a power or process of transforming something common into something special (Webster's Dictionary). I love the last definition. This book is about a journey of a shepherd boy. I don't want to give anything away, so I'll leave it at that. I love Paulo Coelho's writing style. It is simple, yet so profound. There are hidden messages everywhere in this book. There is a lot of imagery and symbolism. It is written well. It flows well, is understandable, and the characters are well developed. Some of them are a bit mysterious, but that adds another layer to this story that I loved. The life lessons this book teaches are important and meaningful. (Following your dreams, listening to your heart, working hard, positive attitude about where life takes you, making the best of every situation, etc.) I think everyone can learn something about living life to the fullest by reading this book. It's a short book, but is not a fast read. It takes time to really read and digest this book. I love books that have me thinking about them days after I finish, and this book is one of them. I also think that reading it at different times in your life will provide different feelings, lessons learned, and items of importance. If you've read it before, read it again and let me know if you took something different away from it the second time. I bet you will.  I enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it.

Rating: PG (There isn't any profanity or "intimacy" in this book. There is some minor violence with a desert war, but it's minimal.)

Recommendation: 13 and up (7th grade-ish) It is clean, so it would be appropriate for someone younger, but it is quite deep, and I'm not sure anyone younger would understand it or be able to walk away from it having learned anything.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Katrin's Chronicles: The Canon of Jacquelene Dyanne Vol. 1

Katrin's Chronicles: The Canon of Jacquelene Dyanne Vol. 1


"'If you don't write your own history, somebody else will make it up for you.' And so, after enduring three years of mystery-solving adventures, 13 year-old Katrin DuBois decided it was time to write her autobiography. Who else could set the record straight about the outrageous rumors about her family? It all began when Katrin was in 6th grade. Her elder sister, 8th grader Jacquelene Dyanne, began exhibiting extraordinary, even paranormal, detecting abilities. Katrin's Chronicles take place long before laptops, the Internet, cell phones, and text messaging--Chicago, 1968, Although the time was technologically simple, the tangle of human relationships was as complex as ever. I'm sure you can relate:
     If you relate to the idea that life is filled with mystery.....
     If you recognize that everyone has talents waiting to be mastered.....Or,
     If you understand that awakening to your hidden power is not always easy, but is the only way to         truly live...
Then I welcome you to the Canon of Jacquelene Dyanne, Vol. 1, as chronicled by Katrin the Youngest.     ~V.C. Woods"

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this book when I received it. Unfortunately, the cover is a bit of a turn-off, but I decided not to judge it by it's cover, and I started to read. The characters are realistic and mostly believable. They are fairly well developed, especially Katrin and Jacquelene Dyanne. I think their parents and grandmother could have been developed a bit more, but they were ok. Katrin seems to act a bit old for her age, but each child is different, and it did take place in 1968, so maybe children acted older then? Katrin has a good voice for a narrator, and she uses a lot of good vocabulary words and descriptions. She even uses a few Latin phrases. J. Dyanne is an interesting character. You can tell that she has a talent but doesn't want to use it because she hates the attention that comes with it. What is her talent, you ask? Well, she is very good at deciphering clues (she's kind of like a young-girl Sherlock Holmes) and noticing details, and she puts them together quicker than most people do. Her talent even stretches into the paranormal when she is able to see and talk to ghosts. She thinks she is alone in her talent until she learns that some of the people around her have the same talent. Some of those people have hidden their talent, and some still use it frequently. J. Dyanne and Katrin are surprised when they learn these secrets. It's a clever idea and story, and I liked it. I like that it is different. Thank goodness there are no vampires or werewolves! 

I liked when J. Dyanne showed Katrin how she was able to solve the mystery by noticing the clues and putting them together into a solution. There is a time when her talent goes a little farther, though, and it gets into tarot cards, Wisdom cards, voodoo, and physic readings.  I didn't like that part as much, and wish they had left it at her just being a good sleuth. Some parents may be uncomfortable with their children reading about that. I did like the book. I'm not sure if my 13 and 11 year-old boys will like it, but girls of that age should. The language and vocabulary words used are at a much higher level than most middle-grade book are, which is great. 

Rating: PG+ (It's clean--no profanity, violence, or "intimacy," but the subject matter is geared more toward an older middle-grader. They do use Wisdom Cards to do readings, and that may make some parents uncomfortable.)

Recommendation: 5th grade-6th grade and up.

Disclosure: I did receive a free book in exchange for my honest review.

**I have to apologize to Ms. Woods!!! I was supposed to review this book on Aug. 24th. What's today? Oh, only October 15th. Yep, I'm just a little late!! I'm so sorry! Somehow this book fell threw the cracks. I try really hard, but sometimes I can't keep everything straight!**

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Janitors: Strike of the Sweepers (Book #4)

Janitors: Strike of the Sweepers (Book #4) by Tyler Whitesides

"The stakes have never been higher, and you've never seen squeegees do this before! It is a wild and slightly unsanitary ride as Spencer, Daisy, and the Rebel Janitors find themselves chased by Mr. Clean's new and terrifying half-breed Toxites--the Sweepers. Time is short. With the fabled Manualis Custodem in hand, Spencer must figure out how to summon the Founding Witches if they ever hope to mop up and save education."

What a fun (and slightly disgusting) book! I have enjoyed this series, as have my boys (13 and 11), and this one does not disappoint! Beware: there's a lot of garbage, a porta-potty, a germ-filled bowling ball, lots of toilet paper, and maybe even a little magical dust. I love the new glopified inventions in this book; I think I need to stock up on squeegees and Windex! The characters, as always, are great. They can be a little cheesy at times, but they are also brave, witty, intelligent, creative, and well developed. I do not think I'll be able to buy anything labeled "Mr. Clean" again. Sorry to the real Mr. Clean, but the Mr. Clean in this book is not a good guy, to say the least. He definitely makes a fantastic villain. There are some new characters, some of the same, and we get to see the return of a few characters, which is always fun. The story is written well. There may have been a few stretches, but it's fantasy, right? Anything can happen! I love that when you're reading it there's never a question in your mind as to whether or not that could really this world, it does happen and it's believable. That is the sign of a great author. Mr. Whitesides' writing is creative and fun, with just enough humor, wit, and action to keep the reader engaged throughout the entire book. Brandon Dorman's illustrations are, as always, amazing. There were a few twists and surprises in this book Just wow. I never saw them coming! My boys are going to LOVE this book! It is a great middle-grade/early YA read. If you've read the first three, you need to read this one pronto! And if you haven't read any in this series, I definitely recommend it!

Rating: PG+ (It's clean-no profanity or "intimacy." However, at least two characters die, and those deaths are a little graphic. There's lots of Toxite-fighting as well.)

Recommendation: 3rd grade and up

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, October 6, 2014


Focused by Noelle Pikus Pace


"Where are your choices leading you? Regardless of our circumstances, each moment presents us with decisions to make. It doesn't matter what question, trial, or success we experience--each traces back to a choice. At any given moment, we can choose to doubt, fear, worry; to be prideful, angry, depressed, or miserable--or we can choose to be a light. We can choose to be happy. The choice is always ours, and each choice can be a step forward on the path of life we want for ourselves. The life lessons learned by Olympic athlete Noelle Pikus Pace can equip each of us to turn daily choices and challenges into opportunities for growth. In her warm and relatable style, Noelle shares touching personal stories and teaches how these experiences can help us keep a healthy perspective on the things that matter most. She helps us to see that though all of our goals and trials are different, we each can choose to become the best versions of ourselves one day at a time."

What an inspiring woman! Wow! I loved this book! I love how positive her message is. Her writing style is fun and light, even when discussing some difficult situations. She has the ability to take hard things and make them better. I am always telling my children that they have the choice to make each day a great one or a miserable one, and I'm glad I finally have someone to back me up on this! I love her message and think it is so needed today. We don't need to be victims. We don't need to let what happens in the world or in our lives bring us down, we get to choose to make it better. I enjoyed reading about her life leading up to her Olympic dream, and thought that her goal setting suggestions were right on. I love that she says to dream big and then work hard to make that dream happen. Her message of having integrity hit home. Be yourself. Stand up for yourself and your standards or your values. Be honest. I liked this quote, "I know who I am and what I stand for regardless of what others say or think. Skeleton is just a sport. My integrity is everything." There are a lot of great quotes in this book. I think I'm going to copy some of them and put them in my kids rooms. I am also going to have my boys (13 and 11) read this book. I know she's a girl, but the message is fabulous for both boys and girls. And, the good thing is, it's great for everyone, not just athletes. The message applies to every aspect of our lives. I highly recommend this book! Reading it makes you feel like you can conquer the world (or at least achieve your goals)!

There is a slightly religious undertone to this book, which didn't bother me at all. She quotes some scripture and some religious leaders (she also quotes nonreligious leaders and has a bunch of nonreligious poems). It isn't about religion, and it's not preachy at all, she just uses the scriptures and quotes to emphasize her points. I don't think it matters if you are religious or not, this book has such a positive and uplifting message that it's great for everyone. I definitely recommend this book!

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Fifth grade and up as a silent read. First grade and up as a read-aloud. I'm going to read it to my daughters (6 and 9), and I think they'll understand it just fine. There are a few things I'll need to explain to them (miscarriage is one thing that comes to mind), but I want them to hear the message.

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Castle of Fire

Castle of Fire (Adventures of Jonathan Moore Book #2) by Peter Greene

"The once-orphaned Jonathan Moore is now reunited with his father, though soon leaves the comfort of family and London on what is considered by all to be a 'peach' of a mission. However, with the arrival of another midshipman holding a severe but unexplained grudge, life aboard the HMS Danielle is anything but pleasant. Why are the new midshipmen his enemies? Who is stealing food from the ship's stores, and why must Jonathan and Sean sneak into a heavily guarded Spanish fort in the middle of the night to do some burglary of their own? In the second book of the Adventures of Jonathan Moore Series, Jonathan must capture a stolen British ship from blood-thirsty pirates, solve the mystery of the surprising stowaway, and defend his honor and his life during a fierce duel to the death with a murderous adversary. Alone and vastly outnumbered, the crew of the Danielle engages in a violent battle on the wild seas south of the farthest tip of Africa. Only Jonathan, Sean, and an unexpected guest can turn the tide of the struggle by unlocking the secret of a mysterious island and re-igniting the ferocious power of the Castle of Fire!"

I loved the first book in this series, Skull Eye Island, and my boys did too. Since I received the second book, a long time ago, my boys have asked me many times if I have read it yet. Well, I finally got to read it! Good ol' Jonathan is back at it, with his trusty friend Sean. The characters are the same, with the exception of a few more. The characters in this book are so fun. I love their personalities and their relationships. There are a few grumpy old (and young) sailors, and even a few happy ones have their moments of temper, but they each have their place on the ship, and each makes for a great story. There is a lot of action in this book, as there was in the first book. There's sword fighting, pirates, cannons, stealing pirate ships, a little romance, a stowaway, friendship, and much more. 

I didn't love this book as much as I did the first, unfortunately. I thought it started slowly and didn't really get into the story or the action until half-way through the book. I was disappointed. However, the end of the book was great and got back into the adventure and the fun of the first book. The ending made reading this book worth it. There were a lot of grammatical and spelling errors in this book, which drove me crazy. I hope there is another edition out that has fixed all the errors, but I'm not sure if there is. This book is clean, though, and that is fantastic! I love it when I can hand a child a book and not worry at all about questionable words or content. If you liked the first book in the series then you should read this one. Push through the beginning and you'll love the ending. 

Rating: PG (Fighting pirates, sword fighting, a few minor characters die)

Recommendation: 9 years old (Fourth Grade-ish) and up. My boys read Harry Potter in third grade and Fablehaven in second grade. If that is the case then this book would be fine for third graders. It's no worse than Harry Potter. There are some sailing terms they may not understand, but that is a quick (google) fix. 

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Raising a Reader

Today's tip is one of my favorites!!! Why? Because I get to do what I love and not feel guilty! 

Be A Good Example!!!!

Yep, that's it! Be a good example and read, read, read. Read all sorts of different genres, and if you can, let your children see you reading, and let them see that you enjoy it. Children mimic their parents' attitudes towards many things, and reading is one of them. If you have a good attitude about reading then they most likely will too.

A good idea is also to talk to your kids about what you read. If it's a history book then you can 
talk to them about it. Talk to them about that time in history and if you remember it or not. Maybe their grandparents lived through that time, maybe you did. This gives them an opportunity to get to know the person and the events. I know my kids are always asking about the books I'm reading. I try to summarize the plot and discuss a few of the characters, because it teaches them those skills. And it teaches them to pay attention to those things when they read. 

If your children are old enough to read the book you are reading, and it's appropriate for them, then recommend it to them. Have them read it after you do, and discuss it together. I love doing this with my kids. We've had some very good discussions.

Here is a list of books that I have read and then recommended to my boys that they've enjoyed:

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

( My sixth grader did read this book and did enjoy it. There was just one page I didn't let him read that was about naked women or something.)

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

These are just a few of them, but we've had some very good discussions and some fun times together discussing these books. It's like your own mini book group in your own house. So fun!!

Happy Reading!!!! 
(And now you can do it guilt free, knowing it's good for the kids!!)