Once Upon A Story

 Once Upon A Story name

Welcome to, ‘Once Upon a Story’ on FirefliesBlog! My name is Joanna Merideth and I am excited to be apart of the ‘Fireflies’ writing team! IMG_4619

Each month, ‘Once Upon a Story,’ will provide you with tips on how you can create the most memories out of story time with your child. I will share ways that you can foster a strong reading foundation in your child by simply snuggling up and sharing a story together! Each month the story I share with you will go along with ‘Fireflies’ monthly theme and create avenues for print, visual, and verbal communication.

me reading young August

Looking back over my childhood, a love for books was woven into my heart at an early age. I have fond memories reading with my stuffed animals, sitting alone on my Grandma’s staircase reading ‘The Box Car Children,’ and sneaking away to the library at the elementary school where my mother worked. Even when I was attending college at Florida State University and felt homesick, I would go down the street to the Leon County Library and found peace flipping through their children’s books.

I graduated from FSU with a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and taught Pre-K and Kindergarten in Orlando, Florida. I recently had 10 early sight word readers called, Mush Mush Readers, published! I still cannot believe I get to say I am a children’s book author!   (www.mushmushreaders.com)

10 books laid out

There are so many amazing children’s books to read to your children and I am sure they have their favorites! I wanted to share 3 of my favorite books that I love reading to children. In no particular order because I just am obsessed with all 3 of them for different reasons:

Quick_as_a_Cricket   best nest grouchy ladybug

Thanks for taking the time to learn a little bit about me and my upcoming monthly blog series, ‘Once Upon a Story,’ here on Fireflies. Make sure to stop by in September because I will be sharing a video story!


Joanna Merideth





The Big 5: I’ll Huff & I’ll Puff…

The Reading Tree Series

 The Three Little Pigs

“The Big 5 Ideas” of Reading!

_3 Pigs cover

“I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in!”

We all know these famous words from the captivating classic, The Three Little Pigs. This classic is a great example to demonstrate how you can build  up “The Big 5 Ideas,” of reading while you read it to your child. Using some of “The Big 5” strategies below, you will surely capture your child’s attention and plant some reading seeds along the way!blendchart

Phonemic Awareness-

  • Discuss that “the words huff and puff end in the same sounds and are words that rhyme” “What else can rhyme with huff and puff?”
  • Talk about beginning sounds! “Wolf begins with the letter W! W makes the sound /w/.” Stress the beginning sound of wolf… “/w/ /w/ wolf.“  (Remember to not make the sound for “wu” when saying “w”.)
  • Break up words and listen to how many syllables it has: house= 1,   brick= 1,  mother= 2, discuss how your chin goes down for each syllable


  • Model sounding out the word.  First say each individual sound: “p-i-g,” then sound it out by its onset and rhyme: “p-ig,” and last say the whole word “pig”
  • Point to the word, “little.” Tell your child there are some words you cannot sound out and you just need to memorize them. These words are called sight words. “little is a sight word… let’s spell it! L-I-T-T-L-E! Let’s see if we can find it on the next page! Oh, Look! There it is!”
  • Sound out a word using the “chunking” word reading strategy as you read: “br/ick= brick”   “str/aw= straw”blendchart


  • Make huffing and puffing noises when you say the words huff and puff
  • Create different voices for the 3 pigs and the big, bad wolf
  • If there is a sentence with an exclamation point!, depending on how the sentence reads, read that sentence louder or with excitement
  • When the pigs express that they are scared, when you read the words, make your voice sound like you are scared
  • At the end of the story, say THE END!

Vocabulary- Depending on the version of The Three Little Pigs you are reading, you may come across some different vocabulary words… below are some that I have in my 2 versions.

  • Tools, sturdy, tumble, gobble, inhaled, exhausted, confuse
  • Pick 2 or 3 vocabulary words from your version, explain what the word means, and if possible, give a synonym for the word and point it out in the illustrations
  • For reinforcement, use the vocabulary words that week during playtime with your child… “You were building a tall tower with your blocks and when it got to high the tower tumbled down! Let’s build it up again!… “Wow, your block tower is very tall! It must have taken you a long time to build it! You must be exhausted!”


  • Read The Three Little Pigs 2-4x in the same week!
  • Discuss the title and the front cover illustrations “What do you think this book is going to be about?” “Have you ever seen a pig using tools or living in a house?”    
  • After the 2nd pig’s house gets blown down, stop and summarize the events that have occurred so far and predict what might happen next
  • Ask 2-3 direct questions during and after the reading, such as “What material did the 1st pig use to build his house?”   “How did the wolf destroy 2 of the pig’s houses?”
  • Ask 1-2 open-ended questions during and after the reading, such as, “How do you think the 3rd pig felt when the wolf could not blow his house down?”     “How would this story be different if all the pigs used brick to build their house?”   “What tools and materials would you use to build a house?”

 Now, go! Read this oldie, but goodie to your child…
I bet they will love meeting three sweet pigs and a big, bad wolf today!

Previous posts in our The Reading Tree series:


Joanna Meredith

How to Build Up “The Big 5” Ideas of Reading

How to Build Up “The Big 5” Ideas of Reading through Read-Alouds

FB pic sept

Being a former teacher and a mommy-to-be, I have heard over and over again parents express to me, “How can I help my child learn to read?”… “Where do I start?” …“Am I teaching them well?” Research done by The National Reading Panel has determined 5 specific reading areas that are vital components in teaching children to read: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. These reading areas are referred to as “The Big 5 Ideas.” You can help foster The Big 5 Ideas,” in your child by understanding what the areas are and building them up during read alouds!

 big 5

1- Phonemic Awareness:

  • What is it? The ability to notice, think about, and work with individual sounds in words to make letter-sound connections *
  • How to Build it!
    • If your child’s name begins with the letter M and the main character in a book you are reading is a mouse, stress the beginning sound of mouse: “mmmmmouse, mouse begins with the same sound as your name: MMMMMadison!
    • Mention words that rhyme as you read, “hill, jill…both of these words end in the same sounds! They rhyme!”
    • Discuss if the book is a rhyming book or not

2- Phonics/Alphabetic Principle:

  • What is it? The ability to associate sounds with letters and use these sounds to read and spell words using decoding strategies *
  • How to Build it!
    • Model sounding out words: “ /c/ /a/   /t/… c-at… cat!”
    • Point to a compound word and break it apart word by word, “pop-corn… popcorn! Wow, when pop and corn are put together, it makes popcorn!”
    • Explain that some words cannot be decoded or sounded out- we refer to those as sight words! The cat is on the rug…. Hummmm, I can not sound out the word the, my eyes and brain just have to memorize it! I need to learn that word by sight… tell me if your eyes see the word the on the next page!”

3- Fluency:

  • What is it? The ability to read quickly, knowing what the words are and what they mean with proper expression +
  • How to Build it!
    • Model reading books aloud
    • Monitor your pace… not too fast! Not too slow!
    • Use appropriate expression when reading a sentence that ends in a period . , question mark ?, or exclamation point !
    • If a character is sad, scared, happy, or excited, match your voice to that emotion- even pout your lip or shine a large smile!
    • If a character is said to be whispering in the book, read the sentence(s) in a whisper voice

4- Vocabulary:

  • What is it? Understanding word meanings in order to communicate effectively
  • How to Build it!
    • Explain to your child what the word means, point it out in the illustrations, or give a hands-on example
    • The act of reading aloud to your child exposes them to words they would not hear in their daily language; for example: “enraged” “buoyant.”
    • Relate a new word to a they already understand- “enraged, enraged means really, really mad”
    • Use the new vocabulary word in their daily life (example: buoyant- “Luke! Your bath toy is buoyant… it floats! Remember from our story- the word buoyant? Your toy is buoyant!”

5- Comprehension:

  • What is it? Understanding and interpreting information from a text
  • How to Build it!
    • Retell and summarize important events that have occurred during the read aloud “oh, Goldilocks went in a house while the bear family was gone. She tried their food and sat in their chairs… I don’t know if she is doing the right thing!”
    • Make predictions along the way “What do you think Goldilocks is going to do if the bears come home right now?”
    • Ask questions, such as, “Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? What if?”
    • Ask open-ended questions, “How would you describe Goldilocks?”
    • Ask questions where your child can use illustrations to help them answer, “Look at this picture! How do you know it is going to rain?”
    • Have your child close their eyes and visualize the characters or setting of the story, “ok, close your eyes! I’m going to paint the picture of the Bears home… it has a triangle roof, 3 windows, a staircase inside….hummm what else am I missing?” Let your child respond!

So next time your child wants you to read a 5th book before bedtime or that one book you have read over and over again… be joyful; because you ARE making a difference and helping them build up their reading foundation. So… tell me, which one of “The Big 5 Ideas,” do you feel you is the hardest to build in your child?

Thanks to:
http://www.readingrockets.org/ *
http://reading.uoregon.edu/big_ideas/   ^
http://5bigideasinreading.wikispaces.com/5+big+ideas+in+reading   +

Joanna Meredith


Teaching Sight Words using the 8 Multiple Intelligences

The Reading Tree Series


Teaching Sight Words
using the 8 Multiple Intelligences

FB pic septAs explained in August’s blog post, sight words are crucial for learning how to read. They are words that are used over and over again and are difficult or impossible to sound out, therefore must be memorized as a whole word to gain reading fluency. From Early Readers to The Wall Street Journal, sight words make up 60-85% of reading material. By identifying and using the appropriate “multiple intelligences” to teach your child sight words, you can specifically stimulate their brain to learn and remember these ever-so important words for life! So what are “multiple intelligences”?

Dr. Howard Gardner of Harvard University identified 8 different ways people learn and retain information, and named them “Multiple Intelligences”. By identifying the particular multiple intelligence(s) through which your child learns best, you can specifically help them build a strong sight-word reading foundation! The chart below explains Dr. Gardner’s 8 different learning approaches.

MI sept blog

*chart from: http://www.4mylearn.org/Neurodiversity.html

Outlined below are brain-stimulating Multiple Intelligence(s) activities that you can use to teach sight words:


  1. Using a musical instrument, make 1 noise for each letter that makes up the sight word (have = beat a drum 4 times, 1 for each letter)
  2. Use a well-known tune and spell out the sight word (“Old McDonald had a sight word- m-y with an m-y here and an m-y there, here is MY there is MY everywhere is MY MY! Old McDonald had a sight word- MY MY MY MY MY!”)- change the sight word as you learn them!


  1. Puzzles! Using fun colored paper or post its, cut out letters in the sight word and have your child order the letters to spell out the sight word correctly
  2. Play ‘Dice’-Of-Fortune! Using square pieces of paper, write 1 letter per paper. Have your child roll the dice and say a letter. If he gets a letter correct, give him ‘tokens’ or Legos for the number he rolled. (if he rolled a 2, give him 2 tokens/Legos) Have your child try to figure out what the sight word is! When he guesses the sight word have him count the tokens or build something using the Legos he got! PLAY AGAIN with a new sight word!


  • Looking into a mirror, have your child read the sight words out loud. Have them say the sight word using different voices – happy, sad, excited, mad, shocked, and scared!
  • Create a ‘sight word book’! Pick 1 sight word and have your child use it in a sentence. Then, illustrate that sentence! (if developmentally-appropriate, have your child write or type the sentence)


  1. Play FREEZE using a song! Put a song on and have your child dance when the music is playing, but when the music STOPS have them freeze and say or spell out the sight word they are learning (advanced: when the music stops – use the sight word in a sentence!)
  2. Play Hopscotch! Instead of writing numbers in each square, write sight words! Have your child spell and say the sight word they land on.
  3. Using sight word flashcards, hold up 1 sight word at a time. When your child sees the sight word they are working on, have them do a jumping jack or jump up and down and say the sight word.


  1. Build each letter of a sight word using Legos or Unifix Cubes. If the letters are difficult to form, write the sight word on a piece of paper and have them lay the pieces on top of the letters. (advanced– do not pre-write the sight word and have them just build each letter themselves)
  2. Use play-dough and form each letter of the sight word. Make one BIG play-dough sight word and one SMALL play-dough sight word.


  1. Use stuffed animals, action figures, or dolls and have your child read the sight word to each toy. Have your child ‘be the teacher’ and teach the toy how to spell and read the sight words.
  2. Let your child invite a FRIEND over to play a sight-word matching game!
  3. Send sight word mail! Pick 2 or 3 friends or family members and mail them sight word flashcards/drawings. (have your child paint or stamp out the sight words using colors instead of just pencil and paper)


  1. Write out each letter of a sight word saying a little ‘story’ about each letter. (can= c– a cat is chasing his tail and stops… a– this is a ball and a stick so it won’t roll away… n– this is a short man taking one big step)
  2. Use pictures! Show your child a cut-out picture from magazines, photos, or clip art. Make up a sentence using the sight word and visual.
  3. Open up a book and use a magnifying glass to ‘find’ the sight word they are learning in the book. Count how many they find!
  4. Play a dinner table sight word-listening game! If anyone at the table uses the sight word(s) the child is learning that week when they speak, have that person clap their hands.


  1. On a not-so-windy day, hide side word cards around your back yard for your child to find.
  2. Have your child collect leaves or sticks from outside. Use those nature pieces to spell out the sight word(s) you are working on.
  3. In your backyard, use birdseed to spell out the sight word on a piece of paper. Leave the piece of paper outside with the birdseed on it for the birds to come eat! (Want it to stick? try spreading the birdseed with peanut butter!)

“Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive that is ‘youer’ than you.” Dr. Seuss says it best once again! Every child learns in different ways and certain approaches help their brain understand and remember things better than others. If you are unsure what Multiple Intelligence(s) applies to your child, click the following link to help give you a little insight: http://www.literacynet.org/mi/assessment/findyourstrengths.html

So tell me… how does your child learn best?!

MM LOGO color

*Also- look for more information about my Sight Word ‘Mush Mush Readers’ coming this fall! They teach 1 sight word per book, have great visuals to build vocabulary, and help build your child’s early reading confidence! 

Joanna Merideth <><

Don’t miss Joanna’s other Reading Tree posts:

12 Terrific Read-Aloud Tips

The Significance of Sight Words in Early Reading Skills