Learning to read

10 Children’s Books to Look Forward to in Spring 2019

10 Children’s Books to Look Forward to in Spring 2019 1000 668 admin


March is reading month, but it’s also the beginning of spring 2019. With spring comes the promise of rainy days, blooming flowers, and, of course, new books! We’ve gone ahead and found ten super exciting children’s books to be released starting March or spring 2019. Who knows, one of these could be your student’s next favorite!

Hiya Moriah

By Victoria Nelson

Release Date: March 10, 2019
Ages 1-10

This is a rhythmic story about Moriah, a girl with special needs, written by preschool teacher and Moriah’s mother, Victoria. Kids will learn how to celebrate uniqueness with Moriah’s brave and silly attitude, and how to make new friends with different abilities. This is truly a children’s book about love and acceptance for all families.


We Are the Gardeners

By Joanna Gaines

Release Date: March 26, 2019
Ages 4-8

This is the first children’s book by HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” host Joanna Gaines. The story describes Gaines and her children’s first attempt at planting a garden together. They face many obstacles along the way –like hungry bunnies — but learn that while trying something new isn’t always easy, it is rewarding!


Rumple Buttercup: A Story of Bananas, Belonging, and Being Yourself

By Matthew Gray Gubler

Release Date: April 2, 2019
Age 4-8

This story by Criminal Minds actor/director teaches children to embrace their individuality, especially the “weird” parts! With green skin, three strands of hair, five crooked teeth, and uneven feet, Rumple Buttercup and his imaginary trash friend Candy Corn Carl learn the magic of belonging.


Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson’s Journal

By Jeff Kinney

Release Date: April 9, 2019
Ages 8-12

Fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid will enjoy this new perspective on the series from Greg’s best friend Rowley. Read along as Rowley accounts his experiences and acts as Greg’s biographer, even if it doesn’t exactly go to plan!


Spy School British Invasion

By Stuart Gibbs

Release Date: April 30, 2019
Ages 8-12

In the seventh installment of the New York Times best selling Spy School series, superspy middle schooler Ben Ripley will defeat SPYDER once and for all! In order to do that, though, he and his friends will have to go rogue from the CIA and join forces with agents from across the pond. Will they finally complete their mission? You’ll have to wait until spring 2019 to find out!


You’re Missing It!

By Brady Smith and Tiffani Thiessen

Release Date: April 30, 2019
Ages 3-5

This Hollywood couple uses this charming story as a cautionary tale to remind parents and children to enjoy the time they spend together. A trip to the park with all its sight and sounds has the kids completely enthralled, but the parents are too absorbed by their phones. Something big needs to happen to regain their attention!


Aru Shah and The Song of Death

By Roshani Chokshi

Release Date: April 30, 2019
Ages 8-12

The sequel to Aru Shah and The End of Time is almost here! In this book, Aru is framed when the God of Love’s bow and arrow go missing. To clear her name, she must find them before the next full moon, or else she’ll be kicked out of the Otherworld forever! Together with her friends, she must battle demons, traverse unknown realms, and face her enemies, even if they aren’t exactly who she expected!


Shouting at the Rain

By Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Release Date: May 7, 2019
Ages 10-12

The author of New York Times bestseller Fish in a Tree is back. In this story, readers will learn about the importance of perspective and loving the family they have along with main character Delsie. Weather tracking Delsie lives with her grandmother, but can’t help but feel like she wants a “normal” family lately. To make matters worse, a close friend then outgrows her, so Delsie leans on her neighbors and a new friend, Ronan, to help weather the storm.


Just Jaime

By Terri Libenson

Release Date: May 7, 2019
Ages 8-12

Back with another story of middle school drama, national bestselling author Terri Libenson’s latest character Jaime faces trouble when her friends start acting differently. Lately, it seems like Jaime is the odd one out of her group, and it doesn’t seem she can even rely on her best friend Maya anymore. How long will it be until Jaime has no friends at all? You’ll find out this spring 2019!


Jasper & Ollie

By Alex Williams

Release Date: May 28, 2019
Ages 3-7

Two unlikely friends, Jasper the fox and Ollie the sloth, decide to take a trip to the pool. One is go, go, go! While the other is slow, slow, slow. Students will learn to celebrate their differences, and the benefits to living life in the fast lane, but also taking some time to stop and smell the roses.


15 Black History Month Kids’ Books to Inspire You

15 Black History Month Kids’ Books to Inspire You 993 726 admin

February is Black History Month, and we’ve found 15 great books to celebrate with. These titles both educate and empower children with the tales of various important figures in African American history, as well as kids just like them. As a parent, guardian, teacher, or mentor, it’s time to share these important moments of the past with those who will inherit our future.


Those Shoes

By Maribeth Boelts

Ages 3-5

Jeremy desperately wants a pair of the new shoes all the kids at school are wearing. His grandma says he doesn’t need new shoes until his current pair falls apart, but he’s willing to do anything to get those new shoes. A wonderful tale about being thankful for what we have, children will no doubt be able to relate to Jeremy’s plight.


Dancing in the Wings

By Debbie Allen

Ages 4-8

Sassy worries her legs may be too long and her feet too big to be the ballerina she always wanted to be. Based loosely on her own experiences as a dancer, Debbie Allen uses the story of Sassy to show how persistence can overcome even the toughest of challenges.


Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut

By Derrick Barnes

Ages 3-8

Barnes’ first picture book, this rhythmic story is a celebration of self-esteem and confidence that young boys feel when they leave their barbershop. The poem will resonate with little boys and how they seem themselves, and approve of what they see, in the mirror.


A Kid’s Guide to African American History

By Nancy I. Sanders

Ages 7-9

With more than 70 activities, this interactive history book is the most engaging introduction to African American history we’ve seen in a long time! It includes songs, games, and hands-on activities to teach children about important African American historical figures.


Mae Among the Stars

By Roda Ahmed

Ages 4-8

Young Mae Jemison has big dreams, a loving family, and a dream to dance among the stars. This is a story of tenacity and belief that against all odds, Mae will become the first African American woman to travel in space. (Spoiler alert! She did!)


Jabari Jumps

By Gaia Cornwall

Ages 4-8

Jabari finished his swimming lessons and now he’s ready to jump off the pool’s diving board! Or is he? This refreshing tale of a determined little boy and his patient and encouraging father is the perfect story to show young ones how sweet it feels to overcome their fears.


Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History

By Vashti Harrison

Ages 6-12

A New York Times Bestseller and recipient of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Children’s, this book features 40 amazing women of color who broke boundaries and paved the way for those to come after them. It features both iconic and lesser known trailblazing black women, including Mary Seacole, Shirley Bassey, and Katherine Johnson.


Dream Big, Little One

By Vashti Harrison

Ages 1-4

This is the illustrated board book version of Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History. It highlights 18 influential women of color in history, such as Raven Wilkinsin and Florence Joyner.


I am Rosa Parks

By Brad Meltzer

Ages 5-8

Part of his Ordinary People Change the World series, Meltzer uses this book to recount Rosa Parks’ quiet determination to change the way America viewed African American people. A prominent woman of black history, Rosa Parks’ desire for equality makes her an excellent role model for children to discover.


Last Stop on Market Street

By Matt de la Peña

Ages 3-5

CJ rides the bus with his grandma every Sunday after church. He begins to wonder why they don’t just take a car like his friends. He soon starts wondering about the rest of the things that other people have, but he does not. Luckily, his grandma is there to answer every question and help CJ see the beauty in their routine and the world around him.


Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13

By Helaine Becker

Ages 5-9

Katherine Johnson was the mathematical genius who made sure that Apollo 13, after landing on the moon, was able to return safely home. This story details how the mathematician began her journey as a child fascinated with counting, to become a groundbreaking American hero.


I am Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Brad Meltzer

Ages 5-8

Another addition to the Ordinary People Change the World series, the story of Martin Luther King, Jr. is even more understandable and engaging for young children. This book recounts Martin Luther King, Jr.’s peaceful, nonviolent methods of acquiring the rights that he, and all human beings, deserved.


The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist

By Cynthia Levinson

Ages 5-10

Nine-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks is the youngest known child to be arrested during a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama, in May of 1963. An outspoken young activist, Audrey listened to her preacher’s words and decided to march against injustice along with 3,000 to 4,000 other elementary and high school students. Hear her brave, bold, and remarkable Civil Rights story.


I Love My Hair

By Natasha Anastasia Tarpley

Ages 3-6

Kenya’s mother combs her hair every night before bed, but no matter how gently she pulls, it still hurts sometimes! She doesn’t feel very lucky to have the hair that she does, but Mama explains that she is. Mama says Kenya is lucky to have so many different, beautiful ways that she can wear her hair. Soon, Kenya learns to love her beautiful head of hair too.


The Other Side

By Jacqueline Woodson

Ages 3-6

Clover was told not to cross the fence to the white side of town where Anna lives, but she can’t help but be curious. So instead of crossing the fence, the two sit atop it and out of this bravery blossoms a beautiful friendship.

10 FREE Educational Apps with Value

10 FREE Educational Apps with Value 1100 733 admin

With little hands constantly grabbing for tablets and phones, it’s important to make sure their screen time has value. Apps for kids are a dime a dozen, but not all are created equal. We tracked down the best free educational apps so your young learner can make the most of their time with the touchscreen. All while having a blast, of course!


codeSpark Academy: Kids Coding (4-10, ESL friendly)

This app is a reading-free tool to teach children how to code. That’s right, there are no words, meaning reading level is not a factor in this learning interface. The app uses various interactive puzzles, games, projects, and game design to teach programming. The daily activities personalize to up to 3 children’s progress and allows them to use the concepts they’ve learned to code their own new games within the app. Enjoy a free week trial to test it out, but after that a subscription is required.


GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine (4-8)

Rated E for Engineers! Kids can learn the fundamentals of animation using drawing, coloring, photography, and stickers to create animations of their very own. Little directors will have a blast putting their creativity into action without interruptions from advertisements or in-app purchases. Colorful, well-drawn graphics and a wide selection of settings, characters, and props will surely satisfy the needs of any script.

Spelling Stage (4+, ESL friendly)

Character customization, fun narration, and engaging animation make this spelling app a must-have learning tool. The educational app is free to download and try out, but full access requires a subscription purchase. Based in spelling competitions from kindergarten to national champions, students at any level can hone their spelling skills. It features various difficulty levels with subcategories that include different aids such as audio hints, images, and definitions. This year’s spelling bee won’t know what hit it!


Todo Math (3-8, Dyslexic and ESL friendly)

Set off on a daily math adventure with this free app. Ten to fifteen minutes of practice a day and your student will be well on their way to mastering counting, geometry, mathematical reasoning, telling time, money, and more in no time! With a selection of over 700 different activities, players could select a different game every day for year and a half and STILL not run out. Also, for all you lefties out there, the app has a left-handed mode just for you!

Book Builder (0-5)

It’s a choose your own adventure book, app-style. Interactive and engaging, this storybook app features read-along text to help early readers navigate through multiple exciting scenarios. There may only be two stories, but there are over 30 different endings to discover. Kids can pick where they want to go and what they want to see in their story. Faraway islands, space, magic worlds, oceans: the options go on and on. Screen time here counts as an important step to improving literacy and fundamental reading skills.

Pet Bingo – by Duck Duck Moose (6-8, ESL Friendly)

Bingo with a twist! In this game, students must use their math skills in tandem with their strategy skills. You can choose between addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and mystery mode, as well as the level of difficulty. Once the game starts, math problems appear with their various answers on the bingo card. Kids must not only find the correct corresponding answer, but also choose the one that will put them in the best position to win a bingo! There are no free spaces here either!

DuoLingo (4+, ESL friendly)

About 300 million users across the world use this app to learn new languages completely free. The app offers 81 different courses over 37 different languages, including Japanese, Spanish, Navajo, and even Klingon! Don’t think they’ll just be using flashcards either. Listening, speaking, and reading are all creatively incorporated in various ways. The app is completely gamified with a daily streak, lives, and challenges. Just two lessons a day (about 5 minutes) keeps that streak and sets your student on the path to bilingualism.

Habitat the Game (6-8)

Time to welcome a new member to your family! That’s right, you just adopted a polar bear. In this app, kids take care of the endangered species by completing missions with real-life conservation efforts. Missions include actions like turning off unnecessary lights and the water as they brush their teeth. This earns them coins to spend on taking care of their bear. Students can play while making a real-world difference when it comes to the effects of climate change.

Prodigy Math Game (7-14)

Think math skill practice merged with an interactive adventure game. Over 15 million teachers use this completely free app to help their students learn math, and you can use it at home too! Students choose their grade and battle monsters by solving various math problems as they explore a virtual world of adorable graphics and characters. The app aligns with common core curriculum standards and uses an automatic in-game assessment system to gauge the skill level of the user and challenge them accordingly. With over 900 types of math problems, this app will challenge and delight any student. 


Real Scary Spiders (6+)

Not every kid is into cutesy graphics and animals. In this free app from Animal Planet, real-world species of exotic spiders combine with augmented reality to create a creepy crawler educational experience. Children learn about different types of arachnids, while taking care of one of their own. Spider facts and trivia are sprinkled throughout this easy going app. The graphics are realistic, but not so much so that you’ll actually think there’s a tarantula on the dinner table!

adorable boy reading comic book

What counts as reading?

What counts as reading? 400 300 admin

Does the Guiness book of World Records count as reading?  About this time every summer, my boys and I start negotiating what counts as reading.  As we haggle over what “counts” for their 20-30  minutes of daily reading time, I try to keep in mind all I have learned from other parents, teachers and researchers.  So here is a list of what my family has decided “counts” as summer reading.

  1. Chapter books of any type – Seems obvious, but when it is the 6th book about a soccer star, sometimes I must grind my teeth and grin.
  2. Graphic novels – Yes, the word count is much lower, but my teacher friends tell me that the comprehension is actually more difficult because it involves so much visual interpretation.
  3. Guiness Book of World Records – Okay, this one may be unique to our household, but reading about the most tattooed man counts.
  4. Audio books – This one was tricky. However, reading experts opened my eyes to the value of modeling fluent reading, teaching critical listening, and introducing vocabulary that is unique to audio books.
  5. Digital e-books – Here I am talking about “enhanced” books, with sounds and gizmos and gadgets. Still counts as reading.
  6. Web surfing – This one is very fuzzy. Our rule is it only counts if you can come and share with me the specific idea or article you read.
  7. Magazines – While I like National Geographic for Kids best, but any magazine counts.

Great Sites for Free eBooks

Great Sites for Free eBooks 300 200 admin

Finding great, free eBooks for your tablet, iPad or Kindle is a snap. I was especially excited to come across several websites that offer lists and links to eBooks for kids. While my kids and I have gone back and forth on the differences between digital and traditional books, it is the quality of the content – and your child’s interest in it – that is most important.

COMMON SENSE WARNING: As with all websites, an adult should check these out first.


Freebook Sifter
Freebook Sifter aggregates over 19,000 free eBooks available on Amazon.com. Notably, it features a children’s list organized by Amazon’s customer reviews. The top pick appears to be “The Secret Garden,” a classic, all-time favorite.


Gizmo's Freeware
Gizmo’s Freeware has compiled 72 sites that offer free online children’s books. Again, as with all sites, check them out before you let your students visit them unsupervised.


Amazon.com Amazon has made its own list of the 100 best free children’s books for the Kindle. While these are designed for the Kindle eReader, you can download a Kindle app to most mobile devices.