Tag Archives: early reader books

How the “Not Yet, Baby” book came to be

I have been asked where the ideas for the beginning reading books came from.  Are they real stories?  Did we make them up?  The truth is somewhere in between, as Mrs. A, the illustrator explains below about the book, Not Yet, Baby:

The idea came to me as I was traveling through national parks in Utah and Arizona a few years ago.  Occasionally I would get a text or a picture from my son, Tom, the dad of two little boys.  The younger one was walking and following his three-year-old brother everywhere.  Whatever the older boy had, the baby wanted.  Whatever the older boy was doing, the baby was underfoot.

I reminded Tom that he too, had been a younger brother and had been a pain in the neck to his big brother, Lou.  Lou would build elaborate corrals with wooden blocks, enclosing a dinosaur in each compartment.  Tom would totter across the rug, destroying the entire habitat.  On the tour bus in the Rockies, as I remembered spending hours restraining the rambunctious Tom, the ideas flowed, and within a few days I had a book full of sketches!

Not Yet, Baby is the story of a big brother and the family baby.  The little one wants to do whatever the big brother does.

If big brother swims, baby wants to swim.  If big brother eats a hot dog, baby wants to eat a hot dog.  If big brother kick-boxes, baby wants to kick box.  Often in danger, the baby is dragged away just in time.

Not Yet, Baby illustrates typical yet humorous situations that a four, five, or six-year old would understand.  The book uses mostly one syllable, short vowel words appropriate for beginning readers.  Interactive activity pages follow—word searches, matching rhyming words, filling in the correct vowel and completing a crossword puzzle.

As you read Not Yet, Baby, you may remember being the older child trying to understand the limitations of a younger one.

Or maybe you can relate to a baby trying to keep up, or the adult who works tirelessly to keep one child safe and another one happy.  Maybe the story will lead to talks with your child about your childhood or his.  There’s so much to talk about in Not Yet, Baby.  You can find Not Yet, Baby at Amazon.com.

 

Fun picture books for beginning readers, plus learning activities

Are you looking for funny stories for your beginning reader? Silly stories using easy-to-read CVC and sight words?  With silly pictures to make kids laugh? And learning activities to reinforce the phonics?

We’ve made them!

Click on the image above for more information on these beginning readers.

Years ago, when my kids were learning to read, that’s what I wanted. But I couldn’t find them. So I started writing them. My sister, an art teacher, made them even funnier with her cartoon-like drawings. We tried them out on our kids and later my students, improved them, and now they are available for you to use with your beginning readers.

The story themes focus on little kids’ lives.

• A six-year-old receives a yo-yo for her birthday, but her father wants to play with it.

• A baby brother wants to do what his kindergarten-age brother does, but he’s too little.

• A wild child makes a mess while the babysitter gabs on the phone.

• A preschooler talks his grandfather into playing with his toys.

• A five-year-old devises ways to hide her father’s bald head.

After each story are several pages of game-like learning activities to reinforce the words and ideas of the stories.

My sister, Anne Trombetta, the illustrator, and I, the author, are teachers with masters’ degrees. We’ve applied educational research to devise story lines, words, activities and art to engage new readers.

Please check out our early reader picture books. We hope you’ll not only buy  them, but tell us how your little reader responded to the silly stories.

My child is almost four. She wants to learn to read. Where do I begin? Or does it matter?

It matters, according to research. You should start with teaching her “the code,” that is, the connection between the sounds of the English language and the letter symbols we use to mean those sounds. Here’s how. (Look for more information on all these ideas in previously published blogs at comicphonics.com.)

  • children moving letter tilesFirst, make sure she can pronounce all 42 sounds of English. Listen to how she pronounces everyday words and make sure she is saying the sounds correctly. Help her with pronunciation.
  • Then connect sounds with letter symbols, a few at a time. Start with the beginning sounds of a few key words such as the child’s name, m for mom, d for dad, b for baby. Help her to hear those sounds in the beginnings of other words. For example, if you are pouring her milk, ask her what sound milk begins with. Then show her an “m” and explain that is how we show that sound.
  • Beginning sounds are always the easiest to hear, so focus on them.
  • Help her to write the initial of her name and a few other meaningful letters.
  • child on floor reading picture bookSince each vowel has many sounds, teach her to associate each vowel with a word and an image that begins with a “short” vowel sound such as apple, egg, igloo, octopus and umbrella. Later, she can compare the vowel sounds in new words to those vowel sounds.
  • In speaking, start putting letter sounds together to form one-syllable short-vowel (CVC) words she knows, like “cat” and “dog.” When she can hear how words are formed (phonics) by combining sounds, use letter tiles to show her what the combining of sounds in words looks like using letter symbols.
  • When you are reading stories to her, point out words she might be able to decipher, and help her to sound them out.
  • When she knows most of her sound – letter matches, she is ready to start reading books which use one-syllable, short-vowel words. Unfortunately, few good ones exist. We at comicphonics.com have written five humorous books for new readers. (See the links to the right of this blog.) Your librarian can point out where other books are shelved, but many labeled “first” readers contain difficult words. Margaret Hillert has written some good beginning books, and so has Dr. Seuss. Good illustrations can help the child figure out the meanings of difficult words, but she will probably need your help as she begins.

Figuring out the code of written English is how a child begins to learn to read. There are lots of commercial methods to do this, but the best I have found is the Explode the Code series. Children find its combination of goofy pictures and sequenced phonics instruction fun.

Later you can focus on other aspects of reading including fluency and comprehension. But the place to begin is demystifying the code by connecting the sounds of our speech to individual letters and pairs of letters, and then combining them to form words.

My kindergartener wants to read chapter books. What features should I be looking for so she doesn’t get discouraged?

Congratulations! Some early readers are ready for chapter books, but that doesn’t mean all chapter books are right for them. Here’s what you should be looking for.

  • Characters whom the child relates to and cares about are really important. That means child characters, ones the same age or just a bit older than the reader, or characters who behave in child-like ways, such as Toad in the Frog and Toad series. The characters in books for young readers must be encountering situations that the reader can relate to—like Junie B. Jones fearing to take the school bus, or of Nate the Great visiting his friends’ houses in search of a lost cat.
  • girl reading Junie B. JonesCharacters should be different from one another—their names, gender, and personalities. Junie B.’s friend, Lucille, is prissy and wears pretty dresses while her classmate, May, is a tattletale. Frog’s friend, Toad is a short, brown scared follower while Frog is a taller, green, organized leader.
  • If the chapter book is part of a series, familiar characters or activities should appear. Children delight in recognizing these patterns. They know that when reading Nate the Great stories, for example, Nate always takes a break to eat pancakes. His friend, Rosamond, always appears with her four black cats. Nate’s dog, Sludge, helps him solve crimes, while another dog, Fang, always makes an appearance.
  • Asian girl reading book Plots should be straightforward with no flashbacks or complicated subplots. If the story concerns finding one of Rosamond’s cats, then that becomes the whole focus of the story. Good books remind children what they have learned. A character like Nate might think about the clues he’s uncovered, and a list of them might appear as an illustration. The plots are shallow and move quickly through a series of events.
  • Good chapter books for young readers should contain illustrations. A page of text will appear harder to read than a page with a line drawing on it. The drawings should provide additional information that the text might not dwell on. For example, drawings of Junie B. show her with fly-away hair and one sock up, one sock down, telling us in pictures about her personality. Illustrations don’t need to appear on every page, but more illustrations make the book appear easier to read.  Also, illustrations lengthen the number of pages, so the child thinks she is reading more than she actually is.
  • girl looking at book displayPicture books are printed with large type, but chapter books have reduced size type. To offset this change, good chapter books for young readers will increase the space between the lines of type and increase white space by making margins larger. This makes the text easier to read and the page “friendlier.” Good children’s books use dialog too. Dialog is usually short, so more white space surrounds it. Hyphenations will not be used at the ends of lines to split words, and sentences will end on the bottom of a page rather than being carried forward to the next page.
  • Discouraged child thinks there are too many words in a book she is readingThe vocabulary of chapter books for young readers should be easy enough to read so that the child can read for enjoyment, without help. New words can be introduced, but in context, and should be repeated during the story so the child can master them.
  • Sentence structure should be normal, that is, subjects followed by predicates. When complex sentences are used, the dependent clause should come second. That is the way children speak and write, so that pattern will be easy to understand. Sentences should be shorter than adults would expect. Not all sentences need to be short, but longer sentences should make sense on the first read through.

Right now I am working with a second grader who is reading his first chapter book, Charlotte’s Web. It was assigned by his teacher. Some of the characters’ names are similar (Avery, and Mr. Arable, for example). The vocabulary is advanced. The pig is called “radiant”; he is put into a “crate”; he is watched by “goslings.” For a suburban child, these words are mysterious. The sentence structure is too sophisticated. Even though Charlotte’s Web is an excellent novel, it is not an appropriate first chapter book for my student. He is not ready to read it without help.

In my public library, chapter books for elementary school aged students are grouped together. Within those books, some are labeled on the spine, “First chap.” Those books are perfect for children reading their first chapter books. Or if you are lucky enough to have a children’s librarian, ask her what books she would suggest. Or phone or visit your school librarian and ask her for help.

Hundreds of wonderful books are appropriate for your kindergartener. Good luck!

How do I read to my two-year-old? Is he even ready?

Some one-year-olds are ready to be read to, and some two-year-olds are not yet ready. But most are. Reading to a two-year-old can be fun and educational for the child, and subconsciously, prepare the child for more sophisticated reading.

Two-year-olds are all about physical motion, so reading to them should include movement. You could start with board books, and ask the child to tell you what he sees. He might say, “Baby.” Probe a bit. “What is the baby doing? Show me.” Even if he can’t put into words the baby’s actions, he might be able to act them out.  Helen Oxenbury’s books are great for children who cannot speak yet.

baby reading a bookHis physical needs might include holding the book and turning the pages. He will learn to turn pages correctly if you help him. But he will want to go back and forth. He might see a dog on page eight and remember seeing the dog on an earlier page, and he might flip the pages to find the dog. Don’t expect formal sequencing of pages with a two-year-old.

Some books for young children have textured parts for the child to touch. Others have flaps that open and close, or they offer pop-up parts that unfold. Little children love these books, but roddlers tend to rip the pages. Beware. They love to move things in a trial-or-error way to see what happens. Yet their touch is usually not delicate.

You might start reading a picture book and the child might interrupt, pointing to a picture and talking about it. He might not care for the story yet, but he might be fascinated by the pictures. Don’t think that just because there are words you must read them. Let the child guide you.  If he doesn’t want you to read, look for some wordless books or just discuss the pictures.  Most wordless books are intended for toddlers.  They are also great for older ESL students new to English.

Two-year-olds are acquiring language rapidly. If you point to a picture and say “bug” or “triangle,” the child might remember the new word. Two-year-olds are also picking up grammar, so be sure you use grammar correctly, even if the child doesn’t. You don’t need to correct him most of the time.  By hearing you say grammar correctly, he will eventually say sentences correctly.

I remember my preschoolers choosing the same books over and over. I was bored reading them repeatedly, but they weren’t. Children find it comforting to hear, day after day, how the little bird found its mother or how Sylvester returned to his family.

father reading Old McDonald to childNursery rhymes are great for the littlest readers.  Some, like “The Itsy, Bitsy Spider” and “This Little Piggy,” encourage finger or toe play. You can tell the child enjoys nursery rhymes when he starts doing the finger play himself.  Plus, children love rhymes, anticipate them, and race to complete the rhyme.  Rhymes teach children about word families (spout, out; rain, again), too.

You might use reading to a toddler to establish routines, such as what you and your child do before or after a nap.

If there are older children, you might want to read to them at a different time, since a two-year-old’s abilities are quite different from a four- or five-year-old’s.  On the other hand, a patient toddler might pick up reading skills and vocabulary by listening to his older sibling read with you.

So should you read to a two-year-old? Definitely, but keep in mind the abilities of a child that age.

 

How can I help my child navigate ebook technology? There are so many features to remember.

In 2012 the most popular interactive parts of ebooks (according to research) were voice narration, hot spots (places on the screen that respond to touch), games, sounds (music and sound effects), and text highlighting.

None of these features are present in traditional print books.

Kneeling young girl is playing a portable video game.

What this means is that before children can “read” an ebook, they need to know how to navigate its interactive features. For some children, navigating is fun. If they have wrestled with video games, like Mario Brothers, they might find navigating an ebook a challenge or even easy.

But for children new to electronic equipment, or for children who find new situations difficult, learning to read an ebook can be frustrating. For example, ebook readers need to familiarize themselves with numerous icons, whose meaning changes depending on the ebook. Tapping a backwards circling arrow in one book might mean go back to the previous page, while in another book it might alert the narrator to read the book aloud.

What can you as a parent do to help your child navigate ebooks?Boy on floor reading an ebook on his tablet.

  • Show your child various versions of the same book—a print version, an audio version, and a digitally available one, for example. Or show several different digital stories. Point out that reading each one requires different skills. Try to name some features that are the same and some that are different.
  • Model how to navigate an ebook, talking to yourself out loud so your child can hear you think aloud. Ask your child for suggestions. Explore the technology of the book together.
  • When you or someone close to you gets a new phone or tablet or other device, explore its features with your child. Point out to your child the new features and how important it is to stay up-to-date on these changes. Imagine together what features your next device will have.
  • When the child reads an ebook and encounters a problem, help him to solve it with minimal involvement from you, so he develops a “can-do” attitude. Remind him of another situation like this which he has already encountered. Encourage him to try various approaches. Be persistent.
  • Most importantly, make your child comfortable with the idea of change.

What is choral reading?

Choral reading is group reading aloud in which a fluent reader serves as a model for students learning to read. It is a reading method frequently used in pre-K to second grade classrooms and in ESL classrooms, but it can also be a good method to teach reading at home.

Here’s how it works:

  • A fluent reader, usually a teacher, parent or recorded voice, reads a story aloud. The students gather around the teacher who uses a large-sized book whose text is also large. As she reads, she points to each word. Or, if children have their own copies of the text, they point to the words she says with their fingers.choral reading
  • The teacher reads the selection once while the children follow along silently with their eyes on the text.
  •  The teacher reads the selection several more times, each time with students joining in for the words they can say. Usually, with repeated readings, students can read more of the words.
  • Often the selection is reread the next day or soon after to reinforce the students’ ability to read the selection.

Why do choral reading?

  • It’s fun. Children love to read aloud when they are one of many voices. Many times the selections have repeated phrases like “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down,” or rhymes, which increase the fun.
  • More skilled readers serve as models for the less skilled students sitting by their sides. The less skilled readers listen not only to their teacher, but to their peers, and they learn from each other.
  • Less skilled students, who might be embarrassed to read aloud by themselves, feel comfortable as part of the group. Their mistakes either can’t be heard or are ignored. They feel more confident about reading aloud. They also realize that with repeated readings, they can read more words.
  • ESL students learn proper pronunciation, phrasing and intonation from listening and mimicking the fluent reader.
  • Dyslexic readers, who often memorize words rather than sound them out, remember better because they are enjoying the reading experience. Their lack of reading ability is less noticeable when they are part of a group.