Monday, February 28, 2011

Dear Mom on Mars,

This is a guest post by Jackie's two year old son, Logan. Unfortunately my mom has been abducted by aliens and I will be resuming her blogging duties for the rest of the day. Just in case she can access her blog from Mars, I thought I'd send out a letter to her!
Dear Mom,
You know, I thought I could handle it around here without you. I generally think I'm in charge anyway! But as it turns out, dad's been in the basement painting all day and I can't keep up with this bratty brother of mine. We need those martians to return you to us. If it would help, I've compiled a list of reasons why we need you back. Please forward these to your new martian friends.
1. Tyson has taken over the toilet as a swimming pool. I really need you to return so you can do your special bathroom lock down techniques.
2. When I yell incessantly, "I need juice. I need snacks. I need juice. I need food." no one responds. Right now I'm standing near the fridge saying, "What I eat?"
3. Tyson's diaper is stinkin' up the house. The neighbors already moved out because of the stench!
4. My blankey has that funky smell again and there is no one to take it away. (Ok, in truth, even you can't get that stench out. Can you ask the Martians for some ideas?)
5.  We used 17 times too much glue on our art project today. You were right. That's a bad idea. It took dad an hour to get Tyson unglued from the table.
6. I can't remember the words to those silly songs you sing to me to get me to brush my teeth, go potty, get dressed. So for the time being, I have forgone all personal hygiene.
7. Daddy fed us cold corn for supper. YUCK!
8. The laundry is going to soon pile up to Mars... and you're gonna be stuck doing it anyway!
9. Our library books are 40 days overdue and are accruing some big ole fines because no one loves the library like you do!
10. We miss your hugs, your kisses, your snuggles. Come home soon!
Logan, Tyson, and Daddy

What would YOUR kids miss if you flew off to Mars? Disney explores that concept in a new movie, "Mars Needs Moms" which comes out on March 11, 2011. Nine-year-old Milo (Seth Green) finds out just how much he needs his mom (Joan Cusack) when she’s nabbed by Martians who plan to steal her mom-ness for their own young. This movie was produced by the team that made "Polar Express"  and "Disney's A Christmas Carol"-- so it's sure to be a hit with lots of special effects.
I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms blogging program, for a gift card worth $25. For more information on how you can participate, click here

Check back tomorrow to see if Jackie returns from Mars. (If they have beaches and lounge chairs she may not return!)

Seuss -sational stories

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Trivia Question of the Day: How many Dr. Seuss books written by Theodore Seuss Geisel are there?

The beloved Dr.Seuss's birthday is this week. This week is also Read Across America which is a reading initative sponsored by the National Education Assocation. Many schools, libraries, communities, stores, and families will be celebrating reading and Dr. Seuss books this week.
My boys love Dr. Seuss books-- probably more than I did as a kid-- but they are growing on me. They definitely have their favorites. Today I am focusing my "What my Child is Reading" Post on my boys' favorite Seuss books. These aren't necessarily my favorite picks but they are the most requested right now in our home. I wonder if it has something to do with the age of my children (1 year old and 2 year old). My elementary aged nephews seem to like the ones that are more of a story and less of a "early reader" book. But if my boys had to pick 4 Seusssational books, I think these are the ones they would pick:

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It is so good so good you see.

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"Willy Waterloo washes Warren Wiggins who is washing Waldo Woo" That can be a mouthful for mommy, but we mutter through it. I did love Dr. Seuss's ABC as a kid.

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Great early reader for introducing concept words like left, right, up, down, high, low, etc.
Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? , dr. seuss, seuss, dr seuss stories, dr seuss books list, theodor seuss geisel,  doctor seuss, ready set read, picture books, Mr. Brown can moo, Can You?
 Oh, the many many sounds Mr. Brown can do. He can moo, he can whisper, he can make thunder. The boys love to join in and make the sounds as I read this favorite.

And now for the answer to today's trivia question:
How many Dr. Seuss books written by Theodore Seuss Geisel are there?

According to the Harris County Public Library

There are 52 books that were published under the name Dr. Seuss. The first one, And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street was written in 1937. The last one Hooray for Diffendoofer Day was written in 1998-- which was after Seuss died. According to Wikipedia, this book was published under his name but was written by using sketches he had made.
This Wikipedia article lists all of the books that were written under the name Dr. Seuss, Theo LeSieg and Rosetta Stone-- all of his pen names. They attribute "over 60 books" to Theodore Seuss Geisel.

Which of the 60 books are favorites in your home?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ch-ch-ch-changes: Exploring Descriptive Text with Chameleons

The Mixed-Up ChameleonThis week our Eric Carle book was The Mixed Up Chameleon. In this story, a chameleon not only changes colors, he adds attributes of other animals. For instance, when he says, "I wish I could swim like a fish", he grows fins. In the end, he learns that he needs to just be himself in order to get what he needs.

After reading the book, we explored changes.
I made some playdough  using this recipe.

Look, I got a new camera!! You can actually see my pictures!!!
 I divided the playdough into four parts and "hid" some food coloring in the center of each part of playdough.

 As we kneeded the playdough, it changed colors. I helped the boys make a connection to the text by saying things like, "Look, the playdough is changing colors just like the mixed up chameleon changed colors in the book." (This could make a great link into animal adaptations or camaflouge).

sorry about the runny nose... the new camera captures the good, the bad... and the ugly!
Then I invited Logan to create a new character. I included wiggly eyes, feathers, pipe cleaners, beads, sequins, tooth picks, and clothespins in a tub for him.

As he was creating I would say, "Oh, that hair looks like a porcupine." Sometimes he would contribute his own ideas like, "No, it has hair like a bird." We tried to stick with Carle's writing structure of "I wish I had ____like a _____" as we talked about our creatures.

This would make a great writing starter for early learners. They
 could either just fill in the blanks or write their own descriptive paragraph of their new creature. It might look something like this.
I created a ________________. (Make up a name for your creature)
It has ___(hair)_____ like a ______(bird)___________.
It is _______(funny)_____ like a ______(seal)_____________. (an example from Carle's book).

I am linking this up:

Shibley Smiles

play academy

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Summer time!!!

After I wrote a review of Mrs. Muddle's Holidays, I received a message from the author, Laura Nielsen. As a book lover, your heart gives a little pitter-patter when you hear from a real author!!I was so impressed that she took the time to thank me for my review. Along with her note, she sent a link to her website, The website lists each of Mrs. Muddle's holidays from the book along with some notes from the author. This month was "Let's pretend it's summer day." Mrs. Nielesen stated that she only had to name the holiday in the book, the illustrator, Tom Yezerski did all the imagining of the holiday and filled two pages with detailed pictures of people celebrating the holiday.
Since Februrary has been a looooong month of mostly snow and cold temperatures, we decided to do our own interpretation of "Let's pretend it's summer day".
We set up our tents in the living room

And we set up our swimming pool in the kitchen

We had a lot of fun playing in our tents and playing in the ball pit. It made us wish summer could come just a little faster!
What about you? Are you wishing winter away and for summer to stay or are you enjoying these cold winter months?
I'm linking this up to We play at Childhood 101.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Spice up your Story Retelling

As I mentioned before, we are reading a plethora of Eric Carle books at our home right now. I think you could cover an entire preschool curriculum just using Carle's books.
Very Hungry CaterpillarOne book that we've especially loved is The Very Hungry Caterpillar. In this story, a hungry caterpillar eats his way through a week of food becoming a huge fat caterpillar. After his belly is full, he cocoons himself and in a few weeks turns into a beautiful butterfly.
After we read this book, Logan always says, "I wish I could do that. I wish I could turn into a butterfly." And so I hold him in my arms and let him "nibble" his way out of his mommy cocoon. Then he spreads his wings and "flies" around the room. It's become tradition at the end of this story!
Cocooning with my boy not only sneaks in a hug, it also reminds me of the ways we can help a child comprehend a story. Sometimes all we need to do is reinact a bit of the story.
There are other ways of retelling a story too.
Paper and pencil graphic organizers can be great for helping a child retell the main parts of a story.
Graphic organizers can be completed online. There are great interactive organizers at
Another fancinating way to retell a story is by creating a podcast. This is still relatively new to me. Check out this podcast of The Very Hungry Caterpillar that was created by First Grade Students.

Isn't that cool? I would love to explore this with Logan when he gets a bit older. I found a great handout to explain how to create a podcast- either just an audio retelling of the story or incorporating video like this one.

What are some of your favorite ways to retell a story or to help your child recall the important parts of a story?

I am linking this up to:

Also, Ready. Set. Read! has been selected as a top 5 finalist in the Best Live and Learn Parenting Blog. If you like , RSR, I'd love for you to follow this link and vote-- as many times as you'd like ;)
Best Live and Learn Parenting Blog
More of our Eric Carle Author Study Fun:
Grouchy Ladybug

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Grouchy Ladybug Craft and Writing Experience

Currently, Kohl's department stores are selling Eric Carle books for $5 each. They are hardcover books so that's quite a steal! Eric Carle is one of our favorite authors so I plan to feature several of his books in the next week-- so if you've already bought some of those books, you'll be ready to go!
The Grouchy LadybugThe Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle is one of the books being offered at Kohl's. The Grouchy Ladybug is a mean little bug who never says please or thank you and challenges everyone to a fight- no matter their size!
I know that a grouchy ladybug trying to fight everyone doesn't sound like a positive message to send to your kids. I found, however, that the underlying message was good. Instead of preaching at kids, this book shows kids how their choices affect them.
After reading the book, we made a paper plate ladybug craft. We painted one plate black and a smaller plate red. After they dried we stuck on black felt circles and pipe cleaners for legs and antenna.

With older children, Eric Carle books can be a great source for discussing a variety of texts. In the beginning of "The Grouchy Ladybug", Carle includes some informational text about aphids. You could use this paragraph as a mentor text. Read the paragraph with your child and show them how Carle creates a topic sentence with supporting details. Fill in a web like the one below to show your child each of the details Eric Carle gives about aphids.
Aphids Web
With early writers, a fun extension could be to write an expository paragraph about bugs. You could use pictures of bugs or toy bugs if you have them. Allow your child to choose a bug to write about. You could read a few nonfiction books about the bug they choose- or simply have them examine the bug. For example, by examining a ladybug, your child can tell that the bug has:
  • 6 legs
  • wings
  • antenna
  • black spots
Each of those things can be placed on the web and then turned into a detail sentence about ladybugs.
Insect Organizer

By the way, we purchased our books from Kohl's - I'm just letting you in on a good deal-- not advertising for Kohl's!

I am linking this up to:

Shibley Smiles

play academy

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mail Sorting Fun

Near Valentine's Day, your child may be receiving lots of mail. This is a fun time of year to play with mail. By letting your child explore the mail you receive in your home, you are exposing your child to a wide variety of texts.
 The Jolly PostmanA fun book to integrate into your mail play time is The Jolly Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg.
In the Jolly Postman, the mailman journeys on his mail route to deliver the mail to numerous fairy tale characters. Each of the pages have envelopes with real pieces of mail tucked inside. Your child can remove the small letters, invitations, etc. and read them.

As you are reading, direct your child's attention to the differences in forms of writing. You could say things like:
  • What do you notice?
  • Does all of the mail look the same? How is it different? Why do you think it is different?
  • Why do you think (Mama Bear) wrote a (card)? - switch out the character and the form of writing and discuss the author's purpose in his/her writing.
  • Who did each character write to? Why is that important?
You don't have to ask all of the questions. These are examples that I used with my early readers when I was teaching, so gear it to your child's age and attention span.

After reading the book, show your child some of the mail that you have collected from the past week. Kids LOVE to open the mail, so save up that junk mail! Include any cards or letters from friends/relatives, sale ads,etc. As you sort through the mail, guide the discussion by saying things like:
  • What do you notice?
  • Does all the mail look the same?
  • Do you write mail? Who do you write to? Why do you write?
Continue the Learning:
As your child is reading this week, guide them to notice differences in text. As they read, ask them things like:
  • Why did the author write this book?
  • What type of writing is this?
  • Does it look like any of the writing we saw in The Jolly Pocket Postman?
What your child is learning:
1. Authors use writing to communicate stories (narrative text) and factual ideas (expository text).
2. Different types of text (letters, invitations, poems, lists, paragraphs) have different structures.
3. Author and purpose influence how I write.

I am linking this up to We Play at Childhood 101.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Could you show some love for my blog?

Happy Valentines Day to my reader friends! I hope you have a wonderful day -- whether you have a Valentine to spend the day with or whether you are spending it with sugared up kids or whether you feel "alone" this Valentine's Day-- I hope something today brings you a feeling of being loved.
I have spent Valentines' Days in all of those situations! I remember surviving the Valentine's Day party my first year of teaching. After dropping my sugar-high kids off at the busses, a teacher who had taught 31 years and was getting read to retire said, "Just think, only 90 parties to go." (3 parties a year x 31 years of teaching -- just in case you needed to see the math!)
I spent many a Valentine's Day alone while I was waiting to meet the perfect man that God had for me. I remember waking up on those days saying, "God, could you just show me something beautiful today? Something that is a sweet Valentine's Day present from you to me." As I wake up on this Valentine's Day, that memory makes me smile. We are having warmer and beautiful days all week and I think that God is double blessing me- with a sweet Valentine and something beautiful! I also think of those that are spending Valentine's Day feeling a little unloved and I just wonder if God isn't trying to show them something beautiful.
Of course, this year, as I said I am double blessed. I might even be triple blessed because I'm spending Valentines day with my husband and kids. Granted, my husband is at work- but we had an awesome day of shopping on Saturday. He doesn't like to shop- but he put up with it all day just for me! And we bought a new camera. Unfortunately it was out of stock and so it should arrive on Wednesday. I hope to take my blog to a whole new level!!!
In the meantime, however, my blog HAS gotten a little bit of love. Someone nominated my blog for the Best Live and Learn Parenting Blog Readers’ Choice award on and it has been selected as one of five finalists to head into the final voting process. I don't even know who nominated me but Thank you to that person for showing my blog some love.
If you love Ready. Set. Read!, the link to vote for Best Live and Learn Parenting Blog is:
Happy Valentine's Day! I'm off to fry up some donuts for my boys and start them off on their sugar-high!

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Valentine Bears

The Valentine BearsOne of my favorite classic Valentine books is The Valentine Bears by Eve Bunting (illustrated by Jan Brett).  There is a lot of text in this book  for a 2 year old. Before reading this book to my two year old,Logan, I did a picture walk. A picture walk introduces the book to the child before reading the book. Picture walks will vary based on a child's reading level and a child's background knowledge. A picture walk for The Valentine Bears might sound something like this:
This book is called The Valentine Bears. In this story, Mrs. Bear and Mr. Bear set an alarm clock so they can wake up from their long winter's sleep (or hibernation) in time for Valentine's Day. Look at the cover. What do you notice? (your child may say something like, "The bears are giving each other Valentine Cards.") If your child doesn't make the connection that bears should be sleeping during Valentine's Day, you might say something like, hmm, that's kind of funny because I thought bears were hibernating during Valentine's Day. 
Pick a few spots in the book that are important to the story. Here are some spots I picked out.
Page 1- Look at this cave. The bears go in there to sleep all winter.
Page 3- There's the alarm clock. Mrs. Bear set her alarm clock for February. Hey, Valentine's Day is in February.
Page 7- Mrs. Bear is going out in the snow. I don't see any other animals. I wonder if they are still sleeping. I wonder if Mr. Bear is still sleeping?
Page 10- Look at the hearts. Why do you think Mrs. Bear made hearts for Mr. Bear? (Maybe because it is Valentine's Day).
Page 15- Oh no, Mr. Bear is still sleeping. Will he ever wake up for Valentine's Day.
Page 20- What is Mrs. Bear doing? How will she wake up Mr. Bear?
You can either stop and read the book to find out or you can continue your picture walk through the end of the book depending on the amount of support you want to give to your reader.
After reading the book, we created a shape bear.
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We started with these shapes:
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We practiced building the bear face a few times before we glued it together. Logan just started Handwriting without Tears- if you are familiar with their mat man activity, we based it on that. Basically we built the bear and sang about it. We sang, "The Valentine Bear has 2 eyes so that he can see." etc.
After building the bear, I let him glue his together. It turned out so cute:

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I am thinking about printing a picture of the boys and putting it in the center of the bear's belly. It would make a great present for a grandparent, don't you think?
You could also write something like, "You are beary loved." or something equally cheesy ;)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Celebrate Good Times with Mrs. Muddle's Holidays (book review)

We haven't made it out in the snow to visit the library. We don't have many books to share but we did discover a whole year's worth of fun in Mrs.Muddle's Holidays.

Mrs. Muddle's HolidaysIn Mrs. Muddle's Holidays by Laura F. Nielsen, the neighbors on Maple street celebrate numerous holidays. They celebrate the "regular" holidays- Halloween and Fourth of July, as well as some lesser known holidays, like pioneer day. But when Mrs. Muddle moves to Maple Street, she introduces them to a whole new array of holidays- First Robin's Day, Watermelon Day (when the children carve Watermelons to look like Mrs. Muddle's favorite celebrities), the Birthday of the Inventor of the Roller Skate, and more. The children and parents have so much fun with Mrs. Muddle's holidays, they come up with a way to celebrate Mrs. Muddle.
We found this to be a cheery book in the midst of a gloomy month. From the whimsical watercolor drawings to the festive text that celebrates a diversity of children and traditions, this is a book that will bring a smile to your face!
We've already added one of Mrs. Muddle's holidays to our calendar, Let's Pretend it's Summer Day-- celebrated in the middle of a February snow!
We borrowed this book from our library and we'd suggest that you do the same-- and maybe even buy a copy--if you fall in love with it like we have.
I'm linking this up to:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

I heart this letter game

For a fun way to practice letter recognition, try this singing game.
Write letters on heart cut outs. (I only used 3 different letters.)
As you sing this song, guide your child to pick up the correct letter and place it in the basket.

Letter Hearts
(Tune: 10 Little Indians)
Pick up 's' hearts and put them in the basket.
Pick up 's' hearts and put them in the basket.
Pick up 's'hearts and put them in the basket.
Put the 's' *hearts in the basket.

*You can use the letter name or the letter sound- whichever you are working on with your child.
You could follow up by reading or chanting together this nursery rhyme:
A tisket, a tasket a green and yellow basket,
I wrote a letter to my _________,
and on the way I dropped it.

Let the child fill in new names each time you sing it.