Meet A Cat Who is Helping Children Read!


Do you have a pet? I do! 5 years ago I adopted my fluffy, friendly cat named Mush Mush from a local pet store. Not only is he the best lap cat around, he is helping beginner readers learn to read all across America!


I am excited to share how my published, early sight word books called, “Mush Mush Readers,” came to fruition and how they can help your beginning reader!


DID YOU KNOW that in the beginning of Kindergarten, the teacher assesses each child’s reading ability? As a former Kinder teacher I assure you it’s true! After I assessed each child, I placed them into one of three ‘Reading Groups:’ BEGINNING/LOW, AVERAGE/ON, or ABOVE. Over time, I noticed that the children who were in my ‘Beginning/Low’ & ‘Average/On’ groups all had something in common= they lacked a knowledge of sight words*(What is a sight word? See explanation below). Yes, they knew letters and how to blend sounds together to make words, but when it came to reading sentences – they fell short because they could not read sight words!

When I went to look for books to match their developmental needs- I found nothing appropriate! The books were too advanced, contained too many reading concepts, and had too many words per page. These books left the children feeling frustrated and defeated. So, I decided to write 10 early sight word readers to fill in this beginning reader resource gap. It is VITAL to have developmentally appropriate books in the hands of  our most vulnerable readers; therefore Mush Mush Readers was born!

How can Mush Mush Readers help your beginning reader? Below I outline 6 reading areas my books focus on that are sure to help!

  • Reading Confidence- Each book contains 5 pages and a repetitive sentence structure. The sentences are made up of sight words  and picture words. The reader only learns one sight word per book so they are able to master it. Also, each word has a paw print under it to help guide the reader through the sentence. All of these components help ease reading anxiety and boost reading confidence!

  • Sight Word Fluency- Each reader has the sight word and ‘review’ sight words printed on the back for easy practice. Seeing it repetitively as they read and hearing how the word is used in context, both help the reader master the sight word with ease. 
  • Vocabulary- Each book has a theme, such as, animals, fruits, or shapes. I used themes that children are familiar with so they can make connections from the book to their real life! The picture-words within the sentences and child-friendly illustrations help build conversation and expand vocabulary.  
  • 1-1 Correspondence- This simply means one spoken word means one written word. I put Mush Mush’s paw print under each word so the reader knows only to say one word for each word they read (This is a hard concept for beginning readers! They want to add words on to the sentences they read). The paws help lessen anxiety because they help guide the reader through the sentences.  
  • Concepts of Print- The pages are thick and are great for learning how to turn book pages! The pictures of a pencil and paintbrush on the front cover serve as a great visual clue for discussing the role of the author & illustrator. Also, the few words per page help the reader distinguish between words and pictures.
  • Comprehension- At the end of each book, there are 2 ‘higher-order thinking’ questions to help the reader think about what they just read and connect more to the book.

Mush Mush would love to join your library and beginning reader’s reading journey! My fluffy, friendly kitty is more than just a pet… he is a reading advocate and partner. I invite you to visit my website & Instagram to learn more about us!   @mushmushreaders

Here is to helping all beginning readers feel confident and successful!

Joanna & Mush Mush

*What are sight words? Sight words are a group of 220 words that are taught to children between Pre-Kindergarten and 3rd grade. Sight words are difficult to sound out and decode, therefore, they must be memorized in order to achieve reading fluency. Click HERE to review the list of words! They make up 60-85% of words in early readers. It is near impossible to read sentences and children’s books with fluency and accuracy without mastering sight words.

Beginning Sounds with “Snowballs”

Winter!   What a beautiful season! Unfortunately, I don’t get to experience nature’s true winter here in Florida. Oh how I would love to run out in the snow and make a snow angel or roll a big snowman… but for now, I only get to experience it through books like, “Snowballs.”

Snowballs by Lois Ehlert is a true classic. It’s simple sentence structure, unique pictures, and clever humor (I mean fish for the snow cat’s eyebrows… that’s funny!) captures children’s attention and heart.

In Snowballs, each “snowman” created is part of a snow family. Teaching Kindergarten, I used this book to nonchalantly reinforce beginning sounds. I focused on the words and names that make up a family: dad, mom, boy, girl, baby, dog, and cat. (Yes, pets are family!!)

 While you read, reinforce the beginning sounds of these words:

  • /d/ /d/   dad
  • /m/ /m/  mom
  • /b/ /b/  boy  (discuss that a boy in the family can be a /b/  /b/  brother)
  • /g/ /g/  girl  (discuss that a girl in the family can be a  /s/  /s/   sister)
  • /b/ /b/  baby
  • /d/ /d/  dog
  • /c/ /c/   cat

Ask what TWO family names begin with the same sound?

  • Dad & Dog
  • Boy & Baby

Discuss where they feel movement in their mouth when they make these sounds. For example, the /d/ sound sure feels different than the /b/ sound! Go ahead… say these two sounds and feel for yourself!

The family words used in “Snowballs” are in your child’s daily vocabulary, therefore are great to use when discussing beginning sounds because they are familiar. Using words your little learner uses daily or are able to see and touch are the best words to use when you start teaching beginning sounds because they are able to make personal connections to the words.


Click HERE to visit my TeachersPayTeachers store to download and print my *mini snowfamily interactive reader* called, “My Snow Family.”   (pictured above) Practice reading the sentences with your little learner. Encourage them to put their finger on the paw prints as they read each word and say the sounds. Then they can illustrate each snow family member!  1= READ  2= ILLUSTRATE  3= CUT  4= READ 🙂  It is FREE to download for the next few days.

I hope you enjoy talking about your family with your little learner and illustrating what you all would look like as snow people! Please tag me on Instagram if you use my snowfamily interactive reader! I would love to see it in action.

Joanna and Mush Mush


I invite you to visit my website and read up on my newly published,
early sight word books called,
“Mush Mush Readers.”

Read, Repeat, and Recite


‘Five Silly Turkeys’

Read, Repeat, and Recite this Fall Finger Play

Once Upon A Story there was a Thanksgiving fingerplay-book called, “Five Silly Turkeys.” A finger play is a short song that often rhymes, and is paired with finger motions. (example – 5 Little Pumpkins and The Eensy-Weensy Spider) I love any finger play that has the ‘5 little’ theme and I especially love them when they have a matching book! “Five Silly Turkeys” is about 5 turkeys that have fun together, but one keeps leaving for a silly reason. At the end, all 5 turkeys end up eating a Thanksgiving feast together!

img_3866Singing, “Five Silly Turkeys,” is fun, but reading it is even better! Use this Thanksgiving finger play-book to help your little learner develop recalling skills, hear rhyme, and strengthen their ability to memorize through repetition. Nemours, “Reading BrightStart” states that, “Repetition helps to improve speed, increases confidence, and strengthens the connections in the brain that help children learn.”* “Five Silly Turkeys,” is perfect for giving your little learner a repetitive and interactive reading experience this fall season!

WANT MORE? When I use this finger play book to teach, I also discuss the following:

= rhyming words

= subtraction

= cause and effect: why does each turkey leave?

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Thanksgiving is such a sweet time! I hope you have fun reciting this silly turkey finger play with your little learner! Click HERE to visit my TeachersPayTeachers store to download and print my ‘5 Silly Turkeys’ recalling stick puppets! FREE for the next 3 days :) Use these stick puppets while you read, repeat, and recite this adorable Thanksgiving finger play. Children learn best through multi-sensory learning, and using my turkey recalling puppets will give your little learner just that!

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Happy Repeating and Happy Thanksgiving!

Gobble Gobble!

~i’d love for you to visit my website and check out my newly, published early sight word readers!~

Blessings~ Joanna <3



Fall Comprehension~ ‘Apples and Pumpkins’


Once Upon A Story there was a book named, “Apples and Pumpkins,” By Annie Rockwell. “Apples and Pumpkins,” takes your little one on a young girl’s family fall adventure picking apples and pumpkins; and is one of my favorite fall books to use when I teach reading comprehension!

What is reading comprehension? It is the ability and skill to understand what you read. Just like we teach the skill of blending (putting letters together to make words), we need to teach the skill of comprehension.

Read “Apples and Pumpkins” and dialogue using these 5 basic questions below to model and foster the skill of comprehension! img_3575

WHO- Who is the story about? A family: Mom, Dad, and young girl

WHAT- What are they doing? Traveling to a farm to pick apples & pumpkins

WHEN- When does the story happen? One day in the fall/ October

WHERE- Where does the story take place? Comstock Farm

WHY- Why does the family go on this adventure? To pick apples & a pumpkin for their Halloween activities!

Click HERE to download my *FrEe* APPLE and PUMPKIN question cards for added fun!

Over the years, I have taught many children who can read above their grade level, but struggle when asked these basic comprehension questions. If your little learner can read, but does not remember or understand what they read, it will limit their reading success. These basic comprehension questions (who, what, when, where, why) are asked in all grade levels, so why not help your little learner begin to understand these questions early for future success?

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Another great way to work on comprehension with “Apples and Pumpkins,” is to compare and contrast the story with what your family does when it is fall. Do you go to a farm to gather apples and pumpkins? Do you carve a pumpkin? Do you hand out apples on Halloween or something different? Comparing and contrasting “Apples and Pumpkins” to your child’s real life experience is a true ‘higher order level thinking’ activity!


“Apples and Pumpkins,” is a wonderful, snuggle-up-and-read fall story to use to help your little learner consciously learn how to comprehend; and I hope it makes its way into your home!


So, do you have a fall family adventure that you do every year?
I would love for your little learner to illustrate one of your fall family adventures using
*FrEe* drawing page (pictured above) and tag me in it:
@mushmushreaders OR #mushmushreaders