Category Archives: Books and reading

Summer Reading for Kids


We all have summer reading lists, but what about lists for reading books about summer? Here are a few of our suggestions:

  • A Summer Day, Douglas Florian
  • One Crazy Summer, Rita Williams-Garcia
  • The Relatives Came, Cynthia Rylant
  • A Summery Saturday Morning, Margaret Mahy
  • The Night Before Summer Vacation, Natasha Wing and Julie Durrell

After reading those books, here are a few activity ideas to do as a family!

  1. Read Williams-Garcia’s book and then search online to learn a little bit more about American History in the late sixties. If possible, visit an American History museum and learn a little about this time period.
  2. Read Rylant’s book and plan a trip to visit relatives, or invite relatives to visit you. First, make a detailed plan for food, drinks, sleeping arrangements, and costs. Calculate travel time, gas mileage, and activity costs. Work together as a family to do all of the math.
  3. Make a plan for your own Summer Saturday morning and then write a family story about it. If you can, take pictures to illustrate your story and turn it into a book.
  4. Read about summer vacation and then create a chart with two columns. On one side write down all of your goals for the vacation, on the other side write down everything you hope to avoid! (You can include snow, homework, or routines. Write down whatever comes to mind!
  5. Don’t forget to continue to read a little bit every day. Children usually fall behind academically during summer vacation. Reading for at least fifteen minutes every night before bed can help you keep up! 

Lastly, don’t forget about your local library! Visit early and often!!


Poetry for Elementary Students

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Reading poetry at home, and with your children, promotes understanding and appreciation of this art. Most parents are great at reading with their children, but some of us need to work on expanding the genre’s from which we choose our books and stories. We love the “Poetry for Young People” series and highly recommend the books. As history teachers, we love to promote American poets who can also tell us a bit about the time period in which they lived. Some of our favorites include:

  • Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes, David Roessel, Arnold Rampersad, Benny Andrews
  • Poetry for Young People: Emily Dickenson, Francis Schoonmaker Bolin and Chi Chung
  • Poetry for Young People: Edgar Allen Poe, Brod Bagert and Carolyn Cobleigh
  • Poetry for Young People: Maya Angelou, Dr. Edwin Graves Wilson, Ph.D., Jerome Lagarrigue
  • Poetry for Young People: Robert Frost, Gary D. Schmidt and Henri Sorenson

After reading the books, try these activities at home:

  1. Write! Write your own poem in the style of the poet you just read.
  2. Poetry Terms. Talk about poetry terms such as rhyme, meter, imagery, metaphor, simile, symbol, rhythm, blank verse, and allusion. (Check out this website for definitions:
  3. Poetry Reading. Have each member of the family select their favorite poem. Serve hot chocolate and cookies and take turns reading your poem out loud. Discuss meaning, form, and what makes the poem sing.
  4. Music. Look at your favorite musician or band and analyze the songs as poems. Discuss the different types of music popular today and compare the written songs to poems from the past.
  5. Memorize a Poem. Select a fun, beautiful, or funny poem as a family and try to memorize it. Practice every night after dinner.


Summer History Reading


Some of our girls working on “American History in a Box.” They love learning about Rosa Parks!

American History in a Box

K-7th grade available now

Fully reimbursable for some USG families abroad

Get books and activities for summer learning now at:


Why Should You Read Aloud to Your Children?


Reasons to read aloud to your children:

  1. Reading aloud enriches vocabulary for children. As you read aloud you can stop and explain what a word means within the context of the story. It is also easy to quickly connect the word to something connected to the life of the child. Reading aloud provides exposure to a rich and varied list of new words.
  2. Reading together increases the attention span. As children spend more and more time on tablets, computers, video games, and television, they become used to visual stimulation in quick bites of excitement. Reading aloud a chapter book promotes a longer attention span and encourages children to wait for a story to develop.
  3. Reading a variety of books to your child provides exposure to different types of writing. Reading poetry, nonfiction, or essays to your child can expose them to different options for reading. An adult who is excited about a specific type of writing can encourage interest in exploring other genres.
  4. Reading aloud models ways to interact with print. Unless expressive reading is modeled by an adult, children often read in a monotone designed to reach the end of a book, not to enjoy the journey. As children progress to more difficult levels of reading, it is helpful to be exposed to an expressive way to bring the book alive.
  5. Reading aloud shows what a love for reading looks like. Parents who read what they love share not only the book but the experience of reading with their child. Someone who genuinely loves books, ideas, and the act of learning can pass that enthusiasm on to their child. Reading aloud shares so much more than the plot of a story, it shares who we are and how we interact with a story.

Our current favorite classic books to read aloud to children:

  • Heidi, Johanna Spyri
  • The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren
  • Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery
  • The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame



Learning to Read


Every night, my children and I cuddled in the bed and practiced sounds, then short words, then short sentences. We struggled over distinguishing between the b and the d and laughed at the sounds made by ch, sh, and ph. Slowly, slowly, slowly, but surely, we work our way through the sounds, through the sentences, and into paragraphs. Slowly, slowly, slowly, my children turn away from me and into their books until they read independently, happily, enthusiastically. So far, I have taught two of my four children to read and I’m working on the third. My children learn to read in French so I have to teach them in English. I want them to be able to read basic books in English before learning to read in French. I believe it helps them with the French and also supports my goal that their dominant language will always be English. I did it with three resources and three steps. This is how.


  • The Letter Factory, Leapfrog – this video teaches children about the sounds a letter makes.
  • Talking Words Factory, Leapfrog – this video teaches children to make words with sounds.
  • Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons, Michael Levin, MD, and Charan Langton, MS – this book uses phonics in a logical progression to teach reading. The book makes it easy for parents without an educational background in literacy.

Steps to Reading

  1. Talk about the sounds that letters make and practice them until they know them cold.
  2. Put sounds together to make words. “c” and “a” and “t” make what word? Form progressively harder words.
  3. Start the phonics book and complete two pages a day.

Then, I would move on to easy reading books and progressively move on. We’d stick with our former goal of reading for fifteen minutes a night until they were ready to read on their own.

There are many different ways to teach children to read. Most will learn quickly and easily once they enter school. For parents in special circumstances, teaching at home is one way to ensure children learn to read.

New Vocabulary Words at Home

When your child is reading a difficult book and asks you to define words, it helps to model the definition process. While sometimes we are busy and can’t take the time, there are other times when it pays off to take a few moments to walk through the vocabulary learning process.

First, ask your child if they need to know the exact definition of the word. Is it important or does the child understand the text without the word?

Second, can your child figure out the word from the context clues and the surrounding sentences?

Does your child recognize any parts of the word? Is it similar to any other words they know?

Is it necessary to look the word up in a dictionary?

Finally, after looking up the word, re-read the sentence and review the questions above to see if they could have figured the word out on their own.

If your child struggles with vocabulary, it would be helfpul to have a vocabulary chart. Write down any new words with their definitions and review them every once in awhile. Ask your child to try to use them in spoken or written sentences. Model this by using the words yourself.

10 Tips for Reading Aloud to Children

Reading books with your child is proven to have many benefits. There are benefits to reading with children all the way up until eighth grade. It is wonderful to just pick a book, cuddle up, and read it together. But, there are many ways to extend that experience and easily support the learning being done in school. Here are ten easy ideas:

  1. Preview the book. Talk about the title, the author, and anything located on the back of the book. Explain the terms and why they are located on the book.
  2. Page through the book and read chapter headings (if relevant) and look at pictures.
  3. Predict what will happen in the book.
  4. Pause while reading to discuss the characters.
  5. Use basic vocabulary like character, plot, setting, and theme.
  6. Compare the characters with characters from other books that you have read together.
  7. Find contrasts to discuss. Students often enjoy contrasting the setting with their own home.
  8. Discuss the ending. If you were the author, would you choose a different ending? Why or why not?
  9. Extend by reading other books by the same author, researching the author, reading other books with a similar setting, or other books with a similar theme.
  10. Follow up later in the day and try to connect something from the story with your own life.

Of course, don’t forget that the most important thing is reading, and talking, with your child. These ideas are optional extensions but absolutely not necessary. Enjoy your reading.