Archives for January 2016

Poem: Read to Me!

Why do we post poems and rhymes every month?  Because being exposed to and enjoying the “music” of poems is vital for your child’s language development.

“Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know eight
nursery rhymes by heart by the time they’re four years old, they’re usually among the
best readers by the time they’re eight.”  [Fox, M. (2001). Reading Magic. San Diego, CA: Harcourt.]

Poems and rhymes make it easier for children to learn new words. Learning new words appears effortless, because the rhythmical structure of the stanzas creates a familiar context for unfamiliar words. Moreover, reading rhymes aloud or repeating rhymes helps them practice pitch, voice inflection, and volume. It may seem trivial to you, the adult/parent, but the level of coordination required to master all the variables of voice is extremely complex.

Also, “Phonemic Awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and use the individual sounds or phonemes in spoken words.Helping children understand rhyming is one key skill of phonemic awareness” (Block & Israel, 2005)

We chose this poem in honor of Thomas Jefferson’s love of books.


Read to Me

Read to me riddles and read to me rhymes
Read to me stories of magical times
Read to me tales about castles and kings
Read to me stories of fabulous things
Read to me pirates and read to me knights
Read to me dragons and dragon-book fights
Read to me spaceships and cowboys and then
When you are finished – please read them again.

Poem by Jane Yolen

I Have A Dream

Author:  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Illustrator:  Kadir Nelson

I Have DreamOf all the speeches that have been given in our nation’s capital, few have had the lasting impact of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech of over 50 years ago.  His memorable words, calling for the freedom and equality of all people, regardless of the color of their skin, still echo in our hearts today.


I don’t suppose there is a person born who hasn’t at one time or another had a dream of what they wished their life to be.  Parents dream of great futures for their children, hoping to provide them with every advantage to make those dreams a reality.  The “dream” of Martin  Luther King, Jr. ran deep in his soul – it was a dream for our nation, a nation he believed in and loved.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'”

The illustrations in this book are magnificent paintings.  One of the most touching is of Dr. King’s little children, with the words of the speech which say;

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  His prayer was that one day all of God’s children would be able to sing My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.  In order for America to thrive and truly be a great nation, the words “let freedom ring” must be true for everyone.


The book includes a CD of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s original speech.   The speech is also printed in its entirety in the back of the book.

Mary Byrne Kline


Thomas Jefferson: A Day at Monticello

Author:  Elizabeth V. Chew
Illustrator:  Mark Elliott


I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit Monticello as a child, and still have many lasting memories of that day.  One of the three things that remain most vivid to me were the immense, beautiful gardens which Jefferson had maintained so carefully.

“Jefferson keeps up with the world of plants by exchanging information with his network of pen pals, both in the United States and across the Atlantic Ocean.  Fellow gardeners regularly send him seeds or plant cuttings, which he experiments with at Monticello.  Peas are always the first vegetable he sows each year.  He loves fresh spring peas and competes with his friends to see who can be the first to bring peas to the table.”


Even as a child I loved to read, so when I entered his Book Room, or library, I could hardly believe my eyes.  Jefferson was a man with vast and varying interests. His library contained about 7,000 volumes ranging from architecture to zoology.  He believed that through learning and gaining knowledge, people could govern themselves, solve problems, and improve the world around them.


My third memory of that day is one that is quite personal and dear to me.   My mother was quite impressed with the Jefferson china and purchased a replica cup and saucer.  Today that piece of china is mine, reminding me both of my lovely mother and the memorable day my family spent visiting the home of our country’s third President.

This book follows Jefferson through one typical day in his life in the spring of 1813.   The engaging text is based on Jefferson’s own letters, as well as his journals.   Combined with detailed illustrations are both archival images and photographs of the plantation.  This is truly a remarkable and interesting book.

Teaching through Technology- 13 Free, Alphabet Games

13 Awesome Alphabet Online Games

Happy family  mother father and children at home.

Happy family mother father and children at home.

I get it… you can only show your child a letter ‘A’ flashcard so many times before it bores both of you to tears. But there are so many ways to teach the amazing alphabet. Now more than ever our children are being exposed to technology, so why not use it! Below are 13 free, online websites that reinforce alphabet knowledge and phonemic awareness that will help your child develop a strong ‘pre-reading’ foundation. I have also included an ‘extension activity’ with each website that you can do with your child after they play the online games.


1- Starfall ABCs

Let your child click on a letter(s) and she will see pictures and hear words that begin with a particular letter sound.

Extension: Have her cut out 10 paper squares and write the uppercase letter on 5 squares and the lowercase letter on the other 5 squares. Mix up the letter squares and let her sort the squares according to the case! Make it a timed game of 15 seconds!


2- Letter Tracing!

Your child can trace the uppercase letters using the computer mouse. Let him pick any letter from the top column to practice. This is a fun way to practice making letter strokes without a pencil!

Extension: He can write letters on a piece of paper, and then trace the letter using different materials, such as a feather, leaf, stick, spoon, paperclip, or toothbrush!

3- Alpha Pigs’ Alpha-Bricks-

Mr. Pig asks your child to find certain letters of the alphabet so the big, bad wolf doesn’t blow down the house. Choose the easy, medium, or hard level. The harder the level, the more uppercase and lowercase letters your child will have in the answer choices.

Extension: ‘Build a letter house’ using blocks! Lay 3 letters in front of your child. Say a letter and have her identify the letter you said. For each letter she identifies correctly, let her add a block to the house.


4- ABCD Watermelon-

A lion needs help identifying what letter comes next in the alphabet.

Extension: Play the Alphabet Puzzle! Give your child a strip of paper with 4-6 letters that is missing one letter! Let him write the missing letter in the correct place to complete the alphabet puzzle strip!


5- Match Upper and Lower Case

Your child will draw a line to match an uppercase letter with its lowercase letter.

             Extension: Read “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom,” and reinforce the letter pairs!


6- Color by Letter

Using the ‘alphabet color key’, your child will color a picture by associating a color with a corresponding letter.

Extension: Print out a black and white template of an animal. Have your child create her own ‘alphabet color key’ and write the corresponding letters on different areas of the animal. Then, you color the picture according to the key and let her check to see if you did it correctly!





1- Letters to Big Bird

Help Big Bird find pictures that begin with the letter he finds in his mailbox! This game helps build vocabulary too!

Extension: Without him knowing, put a letter in your mailbox from Big Bird discussing the letter(s) he is working on. Get the mail with him, read the letter together and have him write and mail a letter back to Big Bird with drawings and pictures that begin with that letter sound!


2- Monkey Match-

Your child can pick between matching uppercase and lowercase letters or matching a letter and the picture associate with its beginning sound.

Extension: Make your own matching game using pictures she draws or cuts out of magazines. Start with no more than 5 possible matches to help her build game confidence!


3- Bumper Cars

In order to play the car game, your child has to identify what pictures begin with a certain letter sound. The words are below the picture, so this is a relatively easy, confidence-boosting game since he can see the beginning letter.

Extension: Use your own picture cards and after he identifies what pictures begin with that letter sound, let him play with his toy cars for 30 seconds…then do another letter! Hands on fun!


4- Alphabet Letter Puzzles:

Move puzzle pieces to match up a letter and its beginning sound picture.

Extension: Make an Alphabet Letter Puzzle! Using a flashcard, your child can write a letter and draw a picture that begins with that letter. Have her cut up the flashcard into in 3 or 5 pieces and practice putting the puzzle together! After she has built some confidence, challenge her by making it a timed game.


5- I Spy Alphabet!:

Your child matches a letter with pictures that begin with the letter’s sound to complete the puzzle. Reinforces vocabulary too!

Extension: Pause the game and create your own alphabet puzzle!


6- Painting Beginning Sounds:

Decipher what picture begins with a given letter. The pictures are big and easy to identify. Good for building vocabulary!

Extension: Bring this game to life in your home! Pick a letter that your child is working on. Let him paint 3 pictures on one piece of paper: 1 picture of something that begins with the letter sound he is working on and 2 that do not. Have him ask people who live in your house to select the picture that begins with the letter sound.


7- Match the Sound

This is for very beginning letter-sound learners! This game is a great way to introduce the concept that each letter makes a sound. Explain that animals have a name and make sounds, and so do letters! Each letter has a name and each letter makes a sound- just like animals! This can help your child associate that letters make sounds!

Extension: Make animal puppets and ask her to make the animal sound associated with the puppet.


BBC News recently reported that, “Children aged 5 to 16 spend an average of six and a half hours a day in front of a screen compared with around three hours in 1995.”* That sure is a lot! So, if your child is in front of a screen during the day, try to make sure that some of their screen time is used to play one of these fun, educational online games!


So tell me, what game did your child like to play?!

Joanna Merideth