Archive for Literacy

Lately We’ve Been Reading…

Well, hello! It has been quite some time since I’ve posted. Here are some of the chapter books I’ve been reading aloud. We still read aloud lots of picture books, but starting last year I started to read aloud longer stories. Several of these were recommendations from Build Your Library, a Kindergarten lesson plan we’ve been following. We’ve enjoyed it very much! Here are our favorites.


This is a classic that we enjoyed! I have clear memories of reading this series throughout my childhood, so I was interested to see how I felt about it as an adult and if Curly would like it as much as I did. It didn’t disappoint! We then continued to read the second in the series, Little House on the Prairie, and it wasn’t as much as a favorite; however, when she’s reading well enough to read it on her own I will probably suggest it.


The antics of Mr. Popper, his family, and of course the penguins were fun to read aloud! I had never read this one as a child so it was an enjoyable story for me to discover as well. We had to watch the movie of course when we were finished, but it has really nothing to do with the book. It was still fun!


This was another one that I hadn’t read as a child that we had fun with. Set in China, Little Pear is an adventurous little boy that gets into a bit of mischief, but things always turn out well in the end. We even made a recipe for something that’s mentioned in this story; Pear’s favorite food is called tang-hulur, which is essentially candied fruit on a stick. They turned out pretty well!

This one was a favorite for both of us! The adventures of these mice reminded me a bit of The Littles and The Borrowers, but just for the fact that it was about small ‘people’ living in someone’s house. Tumtum and Nutmeg are quiet, homebody mice that live in the broom cupboard of a cottage in England. They live peaceful lives until they decide to help the resident human children of the cottage; then they have some mighty adventures!


Roald Dahl’s books are a pleasure to read aloud. I had never heard of this particular story, but I saw it at a library sale and decided to try it. It’s only 79 pages, and it’s about a giraffe, a monkey, and a pelican that have a window washing business. It’s as silly as it sounds, and delightful too!

This is a beautifully illustrated abridged version. All I knew about this story was that it had a Toad who was obsessed with motorcars. I’m glad I picked this up. It has lovely language, even the abridged version, and the characters are silly and great fun to read aloud! I didn’t realize I had bought an abridged version and was a little annoyed when I figured it out, but we tried listening to the full version and now I’m glad I have this one instead. The full version is very wordy, and while I was enjoying listening to it, it was apparent Curly wasn’t getting much. This version is much more accessible to a 5 year old! We may try the full version in a few years.

This was a surprise favorite! After reading about Linnea’s visit to Monet’s house and a little about his life, we tried painting in Monet’s style. We call it “blob painting” and is one of our favorite art projects. We had an opportunity to view some of Monet’s paintings when we were in New York City last fall, and I was happy to learn that Curly still remembered Monet. She was excited to see his paintings in person!

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Happy reading!

Our Pre-K / K4 Year

We made it through a year of at-home preschool! And as this is the time of year when homeschooling parents start to plan for the upcoming school year (Or, if you’re like me, you’re ALWAYS planning for the upcoming school year…) I thought I’d share my plans.


Curly will be 4 for the 2014-2015 school year, and I am not sure if I am going to label our year Pre-K or K4. I don’t know if there is even a difference, but I’m leaning towards K4 since we will be adding in a few things labeled Kindergarten level.

We will be continuing with:

Kumon workbooks for skills and pencil practice. We are currently using  My First Book Of Uppercase Letters,, My Book Of Numbers 1-30, and My First Book Of Cutting. We do these whenever Curly brings them up. Sometimes it’s several days a week, and we’ve also gone for weeks without looking at them. The cutting one is a favorite, as well the Kumon maze series. She seems to really love the little certificate you get at the end when you finish a whole workbook.

Building Thinking Skills Beginning for critical thinking. We started this last year, and we are about halfway through. It’s a big book! We only do this when Curly asks for it.

Art Lab for Little Kids for art ideas. We didn’t use this much this past year (mostly because I forgot I had it..whoops) so I’m hoping to do better this year.

-We have an iPad we let Curly use, and I’ve found some educational apps I really like for her. One is StartDOT Handwriting by TrishCO LLC, and another is Avokiddo ABC Ride by AVOKIDDO. StartDOT is an app that teaches letter formation (sounds boring but the app is really well done) and Avokiddo ABC is…an ABC app. 🙂 If you have an iPad I highly recommend these two!


iPad Screenshot 2iPhone Screenshot 2 is a fun ABC and learn to read site. You can do the ABC learning for free, and if you want to use their learn to read games you pay a monthly fee. I haven’t tried that part out yet, but it’s very popular. Curly asks to use this site at least once a week.

Educational TV is something I do my best to limit, but sometimes this mama needs quiet brain time. The shows I like include Leapfrog, Wild Kratts, and Magic School Bus.

Whew! When I type out all the things we do it looks like a lot. Rest assured we are pretty laid back around here, and the above things aren’t even the primary part of our homeschool! The primary part is ….drumroll...reading. No big surprise if you’ve read my blog before. We go to the library every Monday to get new books. We get both nonfiction and fiction titles, ABC books, poetry books, ethnic goes on and on. I want to raise a reader! Not only for the joy of reading, but for the world of knowledge that opens up when you enjoy reading. When you can read, you can learn about anything!

So, all of the above are things I will be continuing. Here a couple things I will be adding:

Mathematical Reasoning Beginning 2 from the Critical Thinking Company. This math workbook is from the same company as the critical thinking book I mentioned above. We spend most of our time focusing on ABCs so I wanted something to spend a little time on the 123s. It has good reviews on Amazon, so I’m hoping it’s a hit for us.

KinderBach Piano Lessons is something I’m really excited about! I linked you to the DVDs on Amazon, but we will be getting the monthly subscription from the website, at I was thinking about getting Curly piano lessons starting next year (and not looking forward to paying for them), until I found this site. It’s geared for ages 4-7, and it’s super affordable. Booyah!

Build Your Library K: Around the World is going to be the main focus of our year. This is basically a reading list and schedule, including some science books and art projects. We will going on an exciting ‘trip’ around the world, cooking food from different countries and learning about people and animals from those countries. Build Your Library information can be be found here :  I am really happy I found this for this year, as I wanted to do a ‘Continents’ based year anyway; this way it’s all put together for me!

Edited to add:

I don’t feel Curly is ready to read yet, but every few months I reevaluate. If I feel she’s ready, I will probably use this:

Let’s all have a great year! I would love to hear about your plans!

Lately We’ve Been Reading…

I realize I haven’t posted since January…epic fail on my part! However, I have the time and inclination today to update you all on some of our favorite picture books from the past months. This is just a few of them – we have read dozens and dozens from the library. It really is the main part of my preschool program – read, read, read!


Mouse & Lion by Rand Burkert is my new favorite retelling of the classic Aesop fable. The illustrations are what really make me love this book!

Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? by Susan A. Shea is a fun nonfiction title. The rhyming text compares nonliving and living things to determine which ones will grow. A fun way to teach a little science!


We greatly enjoyed the onomatopoeia in this story! Here’s an example of the text:

Crush the stone. Crush the stone.
Chip and grind and munch.
Make new concrete from the old.
Whirr! Churr! Crunch!

If you have a child interested in machines this will be a great choice. Plus, it’s just really fun to read. Whirr! Churr! Crunch! Dad had a great time reading this one aloud.

This Caldecott winning title will probably be familiar to many of you, but we finally read it. It’s a wordless book about Daisy the dog and her favorite ball. She does everything with her ball – plays with it, sleeps with it, goes on walks with it. One day her ball gets ruined at the dog park, and Daisy is very sad. Of course this book has a good ending  – go check it out from your library and see what happens! This was one we read over and over.


Steve Jenkins’ nonfiction titles are usually a hit in our house, and this one was no exception. This is an interactive book, where the child is supposed to match pictures of animals. My 3 year old found this book really funny for some reason – and quoted from it for several days after we returned it to the library!


This book by James Rumford has really unique illustrations. It’s done in the calabash engraving style from West Africa – Chad, I believe. This book tells the story of Calabash Cat and his journey to find the end of the world. He keeps meeting animals who tell him they know where the world ends  – usually where the desert turns into grasslands, and the grasslands turn into the jungle, etc. It’s an interesting story for a child, but I personally found the underlying principle of the story very nice – sometimes even seemingly insurmountable boundaries can simply be walked across.


Do I even need to introduce this book? No, David! by David Shannon is a pretty famous book about a naughty little boy that does many naughty things; but at the end of the day, his mother still loves him. This book is useful for preschoolers to help them identify feelings they may be feeling, and etc…but I would not have included this book normally. I really dislike the illustrations. However, Curly liked it, so it goes here on the list.


Mo Willems strikes with awesomeness again! I feel like this book is even more enjoyable for the parents or for an older child very familiar with the classic story of Goldilocks than for a really young child. This book parodies the original story at every turn, leading to lots of laughs on my part!


I love Olivia, the ridiculously girly and imaginative pig. Curly loves her too – this is one of those that couldn’t get read enough! Ian Falconer has written several Olivia books now, but this one and the original are our favorites.

Happy reading!

Lately We’ve Been Reading…

Despite the frigid temperatures here, we have still been venturing outside to the library and to story time at the local book store. Here are some of our favorites!


Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes is a fun story about a little kitten who thinks the moon is a dish of milk. Try as the kitten might, she just can’t reach it! This one had Curly giggling at the silly kitten.


Adele & Simon by Barbara McClintock was a favorite for me. Adele is tasked with making sure her brother Simon doesn’t lose all his stuff on the way home. Poor Simon is terribly absentminded and drops all his stuff along the way, never remembering where he left it. This book has greatly detailed illustrations, which lent very well to this book actually being a search and find book! Throughout the story, you are ( of course) looking for all of Simon’s lost items.  My daughter loves search and find books, and this one is so unique I had to share.


LMNO Peas by Keith Baker is an absolutely adorable alphabet book! The story is told by peas, and for each letter they demonstrate what each letter can stand for. For example, for the letter A they say ” We are peas – alphabet peas! We work and play in the ABCs. We’re acrobats, artists, and astronauts in space.”  Spread across the page you see little peas jumping through hoops, painting pictures, and taking off in a rocket ship. We loved this one!


Teeth, Tails, & Tentacles: An Animal Counting Book by Christopher Wormell was a surprise favorite for me. It’s very simple, with pages like “1 – Rhinoceros Horn” followed by a picture of a rhino’s head; “2 – Camel Humps” followed by a picture of a camel, etc. There were two things for me that made it a favorite; the gorgeous illustrations, and the fact that this book counts up to 20. Curly is still confused by the -teen numbers so it was nice to have a book that went all the way up there.


Actual Size by Steve Jenkins was another surprise favorite. You can guess what it is – pictures of animals or parts of animals drawn to size. We both had a lot of interest in this one – it’s one thing to hear about a frog that weighs 7 pounds, and quite another to see a foldout picture of one! It’s quite large. It even eats small mammals! Let’s just say if I was swimming and ran into one of those I might just have post traumatic stress… In the back of the book it has information about each animal that was pictured. This is a book that will be nice to look at way into elementary school.


Love and Roast Chicken: A Trickster Tale From the Andes Mountains by Barbara Knutson is really fun, mainly because the protagonist is a guinea pig who keeps outsmarting a (not so wily) fox. The guinea pig and the fox seem to switch the normal personas in the book. The guinea pig is witty and inventive, whereas the fox is, you know, a bit slow. The fox keeps trying to eat the guinea pig, and the guinea pig manages use his ingenuity to escape every time, and always at the expense of the fox.


Clara and Asha by Eric Rohmann is an extremely beautifully illustrated book about friendship. As you may guess, Asha the giant koi is an imaginary friend, so their adventures are imaginary as well. As you probably may know by now, I’m a sucker for awesome illustrations!

Happy reading! Leave a comment if there’s anything you’d like to recommend to us to read!

New Picture Book Favorites

Here are some great picture books we discovered in the past few weeks. A couple of these we had to buy. That’s really saying something for me – I’m a true believer in the money saving value of libraries! I am very picky when it comes to buying books. Click on the pictures for more information about each book. The link will bring you to Amazon.

One by Kathryn Otoshi is a great book for many reasons. It gives a gentle introduction to both colors and numbers, while telling a story about bullying and standing up for yourself. The color red is a hothead who likes to pick on quiet color blue. The other colors feel sorry for blue, but no one has the courage to stand up for him. No one, that is, until the number 1 shows up. This is a great story to show how just one individual standing up to a bully can inspire others to stand up for themselves. Really tastefully done!

The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson is a Caldecott winner. Once again, I am late to the party on an awesome book. I looked this up on Amazon and it describes it as a classic – about time I finally read it! This book is illustrated by one of my favorite illustrators, Beth Krommes. This is a bedtime story that delves into the power of the imagination. It first starts at a house, then you enter a bedroom, and on the bed is a book. Then you enter the book and soar through the skies with a bird, which then gently deposits you back in the bedroom. It really is a perfect bedtime story – the whimsical illustrations and sweet text perfectly meld to whisk away stress and leave you feeling safe and warm inside.


We really got a kick out of Bubble Trouble by Margaret Mahy. It’s super fun to read with its use of alliteration and rhymes. The town gets involved when Mabel blows a bubble that wafts away her younger brother! Curly had me read this one over and over again.


I Love You Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt was a surprise favorite. This was one Curly pulled willy nilly off the library shelf and put in the take home bag. A child is being put to bed by his mother and asks a series of questions that all start with “Would you still love me if?” He goes through swamp monster, green alien, and stinky skunk variations, among others.  We’ve seen a few versions of this kind of story but for some reason Curly really loved this one.



The Adventures of Polo and its sequel Polo: The Runaway Book by Regis Faller turned out to be really fun finds. These are wordless books. I am getting more and more attached to wordless books, especially if they tell stories that include things like climbing ladders up to the moon and becoming friends with a princess that lives in the clouds. Flights of fancy like these are a delight to ‘read’ with a child.

Every once in a while I find a children’s book that stuns me with its illustrations. Journey by Aaron Becker is one, but it also has the added benefit of telling a greatly imaginative story. This is another wordless book. I can’t express enough how much I like this book, and what’s more, Curly loves it too. I love this story so much I wish an author would write a novel based on the illustrations – it has a castle, a flying ship (steampunk? I am SO there!) and a dark forest lit by gorgeous lanterns. If this guy doesn’t win a Caldecott for this book, I will be very surprised. If you can’t tell…this is one we had to buy.


Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller is one that I have seen highlighted on a few blogs and I thought we would probably like it. Well, I didn’t realize how much we would! This is another one we had to buy. It’s just so sweet! It has just the right dash of humor and even a little bit of science to even things out. I really enjoyed the ending, too. Some books feel like an author has a great idea but isn’t sure how to end it, making the book start out great and have a rushed ending. I thought it was paced exactly right. Sophie and her parents go to the farmer’s market to buy food for dinner. They buy a squash that Sophie is instantly taken with; she declares the squash’s name is Berneice and will certainly not be eaten for supper. Sophie takes Berneice with her everywhere. Eventually her parents try to drop hints that if they don’t eat Berneice soon she will rot. Sophie cannot accept that, and approaches a farmer to ask how to keep her squash healthy.


Happy reading! Please share if you’ve found a picture book lately that must be on your shelf!