Independent Reading Time: Listening to Books

Today we made a visit to our local library. We made our typical trip which consists of: picking a new movie, watching the fish, playing on the computers, and looking at books.  (The latter consists mainly of my almost-2 year-old pulling books off the shelf and me frantically trying to put them back. She is REALLY quick!) There is also usually some chasing involved in there…I am sure many of you totally understand the scene! Either way, they love it and I am usually ready for a little nap after. (Isn’t that how most trips are? Your kids get more energy from them, while yours is zapped?!)

While we were there we picked up some books that came with accompanying CD’s. Yes, I know- how archaic…CDs! My thought was that since my daughter already has a CD Player in her room she could begin listening to books on her own during her quiet time each day.

So, I brought her CD player down from her dresser and showed her how to open it, put a CD in, and then push play. (I forgot to tell her to hit ‘stop’ when the book was over, but quickly showed her when she was trying to yank out the spinning CD.) Seems so easy, but this was a big deal for her to be able to do on her own. She wants to be able to do everything by herself, so she really thought she was big stuff!

Today we chose 4 books: Mr. Putter and Tabby Spill the Beans (Cynthia Rylant), Corduory (Don Freeman), Planting a Rainbow (Lois Ehlert), and Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse (Kevin Henkes).

Today during quiet time my 3 year-old (who is almost 4…yikes!) had some independent reading time listening to books. You may wonder, how does listening to books ‘count’ as reading?

Here are a few reasons why emergent readers need time listening to books:

  • While listening they begin to recognize words, letters, and sounds as they start to match what is being read with the text on the pages in front of them.
  • They are able to listen while also looking at the pictures, matching what is going on with the story. This is building their comprehension. Later they will be able to look at the pictures to help them decode the words on the page and understand the story because this is something they are already familiar with doing.
  • Listening to a book being read helps emergent readers to be able to hear how you should sound when you read. It helps them understand fluency and internalize it.
  • It’s fun to hear someone else reading to you!
  • You need to be able to hear someone reading other than mom or dad once in awhile. Each person reads differently and it is good to become accustomed to following along with others as they speak and hearing others’ voices. (Building those listening skills!)
  • Listening to books by yourself is good independent reading practice. While emergent readers may not be able to decode the words on the page, they need plenty of time to explore books independently, in their own time and their own way. They need to feel and look like a reader!
  • They can do it on their own! All early learners want to be able to do BIG things, and do them independently. This is one way to encourage reading independence and confidence from the start.

This is something our little emergent reader will be able to choose to do during her quiet time (which we do each day right after lunch). It’s a great way to give her independence as a reader, while also still supporting her emergent reading skills and needs.

Check out your local library or even download some books (just make sure you have the paper copy so that your child can follow along!). It is a great way to support your growing independent reader!

Angela (a readingteachermom)


Validating Creative Literacies: Displaying Artwork at Home

My husband had a fabulous idea. Really, really, fabulous!

We are especially bad at printing and updating photos for display in our home. It’s not that we don’t have any-we have tons that our fabulous photographer friends have taken of our family. We simply just don’t remember to print them, so keeping them updated is another story.

We have had a picture frame hanging in our dining room without a picture (just the one that came in it) for quite some time. So long in fact, it kind of became a joke for anyone that came to visit. I was beginning to think the guy from the stock frame photo was just another member of the family.

Well, my husband solved the problem. It was genius. He took one of our daughter’s pictures that she had diligently created one afternoon and put it in the frame. Genius!


Not only did this solve the “who’s the random dude in the picture frame?” problem, but it totally made her feel like a star! (And as the first-born, this type of recognition is just her thing…especially from her daddy!) We decided that each Sunday she will get to choose a picture or ‘project’ she has created to go into the frame. The old one comes out and the new piece of art goes in. (And, we’ll have to get another frame for our youngest. She always wants in on whatever her big sister is doing).

If your house is like mine, you have tons of ‘projects’ and pieces of your child’s art piling up. I have no doubt it will only get worse unless I start to create a method for the madness. This is one solution for displaying art that is a great conversation piece for your family, and helps validate your little artist’s creativity and expression.

Creating is one way that little ones express themselves; one form of literacy. When you encourage, praise and highlight their attempts at communicating in this way it develops them as a whole little person. You may or may not be familiar with the child-centered Reggio Emilia approach to learning (created and founded by Loris Malaguzzi in Italy). This approach is based on the predominant thought that a child has a multitude of ‘languages’ with which to express themselves, learn, and be. In order to educate and grow the whole child, these different ‘languages’ must be embraced and encouraged. For a bit of a better understanding on this philosophy, read this poem ‘The Hundred Languages of Childhood’ by Loris Malaguzzi. Find out a bit more about Malaguzzi here. {If you have little ones I encourage you to read more about the Reggio Emilia approach and see how you might incorporate these principles within your family.}

This approach has always intrigued me. It gives the power back to the children by placing them as the primary learner, explorer, and teacher in their own route of discovery. Instead of little people that need to be just filled with knowledge, it empowers them to use their own brains to figure out what they already know, and inquire, experiment, and actively learn as they grow. Fascinating! {And I step away from my soap box…}

At our house one way we can give our children more ownership of their space is by purposefully creating places (even small ones!) for them
to display artwork and creative projects. We may need to get some gallery lighting for these works of art! (By the way- have you seen my hair in that family portrait?! I promise it doesn’t normally look that crazy!!)

Think about all the different ways your child likes to communicate and works to understand the world around them. How can you encourage all types of communication and literacies within your child?


Angela (a readingteachermom)

Early Literacy Resources from our Local Library- Part 2

A few weeks ago, (okay, maybe it was a month ago-but who’s counting!) I shared with you that we had been exploring the library for new resources. At our local library I found a bunch of Literacy Bags available for checkout. (You can read Part 1 here!) I really think literacy bags such as these are a great way to get kids involved, active, and interested in reading, learning, and books. They are great for all kinds of readers (young, independent, reluctant), good for shared reading experiences with parents or other caregivers, and they help promote positive reading experiences.

We had a lot of fun reading What Lives in a Shell? by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld (A Let’s Read and Find Out Science book), and talking about what things live in a shell. I chose a non-fiction tittle, and I try to be very intentional about providing opportunities for a mixture of non-fiction and fiction reading. A book about shells is perfect for the summertime, and I was able to use some little shells (from the craft store and ones I have collected from an actual beach!) to extend their learning as they investigated each one up close.

The girls loved playing with the puppets included in the Literacy Bag as we read the story, and as they played on their own. We are hoping to go to the beach next month, so we will be able to draw upon everything we learned about shells and the animals that live inside them. Maybe we will check this book out again so we can read it one more time before we head off to the beach! (the girls’ first visit!!!)

Here are a few photos of our reading fun:


Reading the book on her own.


Some shared reading of What Lives in a Shell?


Playing with the crab and snail puppets.


Someone liked the clam puppet best!

Explore your local library and find out what early literacy resources are available! You could also try putting together some of your own literacy bags, purchase some at Childcraft, or Teachers’ Bags, Books & Beyond. I also found some fabulous Literacy Bag ideas on Pinterest, simply by searching ‘Literacy Bag’.

I think we will try to make one of our own bags. Which book/theme should we choose? I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions!

Angela (a readingteachermom)

The Thursday Book Bite- A Book of Sleep

I picked up A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na a few weeks ago at a little independent bookstore (Beehive Books) in my hometown. The beautiful illustrations with soothing, perfectly-chosen colors caught my eye at first.

Then I was captured by the text that flows effortlessly (in a very Goodnight Moon sort of way), and reads in a calming rhythm. Perfect for before sleeping!! Now it is a favorite read at both bed and nap times.

Reading a book before nap/bed is a great way to help your child relax and slow their mind down, helping them prepare for sleep. We have always included books in our before sleep routines for both of our girls (shocking, I know!).

If you are looking for a book for a toddler you know or a gift for a baby shower, A Book of Sleep would be an excellent choice. Il Sung Na has also written some other books that would be great additions to a home library:

Need another bedtime book title? Check out another Book Bite suggestion here.

Sweet Dreams!

Angela (a readingteachermom)

Early Literacy Resources from our Local Library: Part 1

The weather is beautiful…and I spent my late morning at our local library chasing my toddler, hoping and praying she didn’t rip any board books, and convincing my 3 year-old that while other kids may climb on top of the tiki hut to read, I didn’t actually feel comfortable with that. Why, you ask??

Well, I set out this morning to discover what our local library has available in terms of resources for parents (Oh, and sign up for Summer Reading!). In the few minutes I had to search around before “someone” (little A) tried to run away (or dump all the books on a shelf onto the floor), I discovered that there is an assortment of ‘Early Literacy Kits’ that are available to be checked out at my local library. These Book Bags include a book and an activity page that gives parents ideas of things you can do before, during, and after reading the book with your child. Some kits also included props for storytelling. What a great resource! Very glad I found them!

The Book Bag we checked out today was: What Lives in a Shell? by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld (A Let’s Read and Find Out Science book). I picked this because it was a nonfiction title, appropriate level for a preschooler, and I thought I could easily incorporate shells into our learning time in the next few weeks (it was much more of a ‘Summery’ title than the other options).

Literacy Bag: What Lives in a Shell?

Our kit included:

  • A picture book
  • An activity sheet
  • Puppets that go along with the book (Clam, hermit crab, and snail)
  • Pamphlets of information on Early Literacy

How cute are these little puppets?!

Stay tuned for more on how we used this book during our learning time, and what my 3 year-old thought of this literacy experience…AND my challenge to you is to find out what resources your library provides. You might just find something new!

Angela (a readingteachermom)

**An additional note on Literacy Bags-

Back in the day, (which by the way, sometimes seems like a lifetime ago because so much has changed in my life since I was teaching full-time in the classroom) when I taught Title I (with a team of GREAT people!) we were able to send Book Bags like these home with our students so that they could borrow and share these books with their families at home. The students loved playing with the props while listening to (and retelling) the story, and the activity sheet can help parents by giving them practical ideas and tips on what to do in order to really make the most of their time spent reading with their kids. While we couldn’t control if and how these Book Bags were actually utilized once they made it home (as we realized many of them didn’t even get opened), I was very glad that the resources were there and we were doing something to encourage literacy in our students’ families! There were many families that did read the stories together, and that makes it all worthwhile! These Literacy Bags are a good tool to encourage and promote family literacy. If you have your own classroom, or wanted to purchase these to use with your own children, you can buy sets of these book bags similar to the ones I checked out from my library at Childcraft.

…On Reading with Toddlers (and our most-loved books).

Here is a quick list of some of our most-loved books- ones both of our girls have really loved. This was almost impossible for me to do because there are so many books they enjoy, but these are some that we have memorized and have read over, and over, and…(you get the idea!)

  • Maisy’s Morning on the Farm by Lucy Cousins (any of the Maisy books!)
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  • The Great Gracie Chase by Cynthia Rylant
  • Counting Kisses by Karen Katz
  • Freight Train by Donald Crews
  • Are you my Mother? by P.D. Eastman
  • Little Bear by Else Homelund Minarik
  • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
  • You and Me, Little Bear by Martin Waddell
  • Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff
  • LIttle Blue Truck by Alice Shertle
  • Peek a Who? by Nina Laden
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault
  • Shades of People by Shelley Rotner
  • I’m a Big Sister by Joanna Cole
  • Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman
  • How Do I Love You? by Marion Dane Bauer
  • How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? by Jane Yolen
  • The Fire Cat by Esther Holden Averill
  • The Napping House by Audrey Wood
  • Babies by Suzan Canizares
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? by Bill Martin Jr.
  • Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy by Lynley Dodd
  • The Colors of Us by Karen Katz
  • The Valentine Bears by Jan Brett
  • Dr. Seuss’ ABC: An amazing alphabet Book by Dr. Seuss
  • A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka

Here are a few tips for reading with toddlers…

*Encourage them to notice- point out and talk about parts or words in the story, illustrations, or things that the characters did. Help them to notice…

*Point to the words as you read- This teaches them that meaning comes from those little symbols they see on the page. It shows them how to track print from left to right, how to sweep down (with your eyes) to the next line while reading,  and even teaches them 1:1 correspondence (when you point to 1 word, you say that one word= each word ‘means’ something).

*Read in a comfy, cozy place- make it an enjoyable experience.

*Don’t set yourself up to fail- You know your kids and you know when the best time to introduce a reading routine would be. If they get way too cranky before going to bed try reading right after dinner, or right after their naps in the afternoon. Find a time that works best for your family and go with it. It will be no fun for anyone if it’s a struggle.

*Don’t stress too much- Reading a book with your kids (and enjoying it!) is enough. Please don’t feel pressured to quiz them incessantly. They’re toddlers. Talk about the story and the illustrations, but you don’t need to push too far. Above everything else, make sure time spent reading is a positive and relational experience.

*Ask them to read the story to you- Toddlers love to have control over a situation. Once your kids get old enough, ask them to tell you the story simply by encouraging them to look at the pictures. Will their story make sense? Maybe, maybe not. But, I bet you will be pleasantly surprised about how much they have internalized and how much they have been paying attention while you have been reading!

Also, check out Some of My Favorites.  Here you’ll find an ongoing list that I try to keep up and continue to add new favorites that I find.


Angela (a readingteachermom)

My ‘To-do’ list. Dreams, every day realities, and the in-between.

I have been thinking a lot about to-do lists, and what kinds of things are on my personal to-do list. You know, the one in my head that I keep adding to, and keep saying I’ll get around to. Not a ‘bucket list’ per se, but a list reflecting what I think the talents, skills, and passions I have been given mean for me and what I hope to do in my life. Recently having been challenged to take the next step and really do something with my passions and interests, I’ve started to think and pray about what I am supposed to do to change my world. We all have a role to play. So, what is mine?

With that being said, I’ve decided that part of taking the next step is sharing my to-do list publicly. I’ve got plenty of ideas and dreams up there in my head, but they’re scary. What can help make them more attainable? For me it’s to share these ideas with others. Say them ‘out loud’. Get myself some accountability- even if it’s just posting them to my blog. That alone will help to make them more real to me. I have always been an idea person. It’s making the idea a reality I tend to wuss out on.

There is a lot of truth in this: we can’t change the world by playing it safe all the time and sitting by with our ideas. We have to be active and participating in and writing our own story. Does that mean we all have to do highly publicized things that garner us a lot of attention? Not necessarily. We can’t all cure cancer or systematically change the educational system. But, we can each do something. Every story is it’s own, and every story has a place in the larger, collective narrative.

Let me add that I don’t write this so that people will think better of me, or want to make a big list like mine. I do think it is a good idea to share those wishes you have in your heart, because they were put there for a reason. I also think it’s important to be honest and transparent about yourself. This isn’t all about me, but rather what I think I have been gifted in order to serve others, and how I plan to go about filling and completing that purpose.

So, here are some of the things I have been thinking about (big and small) and hope to be able to add to my story.

    • Form a non-profit to provide children with a ‘starter set’ of brand new books to begin a home library.
    • Open up The Reading House (which would HAVE to be based in a historic home!), a place where kids and adults can enjoy reading and be a part of a reading community.
    • Publish my own children’s book. (I realize I’m definitely not alone in this!)
    • Complete more research on reading and reading motivation.
    • Publish my own research.
    • Create and publish a set of wordless picture books for infants/toddlers.
    • Complete my Doctorate.
    • Teach at the college level.
    • Encourage (in my kids) a love of reading by reading often and sharing reading through enjoyable experiences.
    • Commit more time each week to my writing. This includes my blog and other ‘ideas’ I have been working on.
    • Commit time each week to encouraging (and sharing) the work of others doing what I am doing (through social media).
    • Finish up open projects (especially those that are 90% finished!)
    • Plan my time so that I can be ‘hands-free’ when with my family.
    • Organize my home and de-clutter. Give everything a place and donate/sell what doesn’t belong. (Hopefully this will help me to think more clearly!)
    • Be intentional about encouraging and supporting moms/families that I come into contact with.
    • Commit a portion of time each day to read, study, and pray.
    • Read at least 1 book each month.
    • Finally volunteer at the non-profit I have been planning and hoping to become a part of!

There are some of my ‘to-dos’. Being an idea person, I had to stop myself before I got overwhelmed. 🙂 There are some lofty goals on my list, but also things that are easily attainable. Now, the trick is to make sure it doesn’t just become a list of things I never do…

What would you include in your list? Pick one item and take the next step.

Angela (a readingteachermom)