• 5 Tips to Choosing Books Your Kids will Love to Read & A Few Favorite Books

    5 tips to find books your kids will love title with kids reading books  & take the quiz reminder

    Are you looking for books your child will love? You definitely want to tap into your child’s interests! I also think having a “just right book” helps kids love to read. Check out my 5 tips for choosing books your kids will love & some of my favorite books!

    Start with your child’s interests when picking books your kids will love

    Dark blue background with stars. Tip 1 for choosing books your kids will love: stick to your child's interests

    Do you have a dinosaur-obsessed child (this stage can last from toddlerhood to beyond third grade!)? Let them read dinosaur books!

    Does your little one love fairies? Find all the fairy tales!

    Are they really into wizards? Let their little muggle self binge those books!

    Our kids are much more resilient than we think. YOU may not want to read another dinosaur book, but they will absolutely let you know when they are ready to move on from this topic!

    My daughter loves Christmas and snow, which sadly snow is not a regular occurrence in Virginia! So, we take out snow books year-round! If there is a place your child loves, like the beach, look for books with beach settings!

     Loosely stick to your child’s reading level

    Dark blue background with stars. Tip 2 for choosing books your kids will love: Use your child's reading level to (loosely) guide your book selection

    Reading levels are a hot topic in the reading research world. While I do not believe your child should only be reading level 12 books, I do think if a book is too hard for a child, this can easily frustrate them.

    Our goal is to get our kids to love to read, correct? So let’s save Harry Potter and other more difficult books for when they are ready! 

    OR, if your child really wants to read a book that’s above their level and they are struggling to understand the story, read it aloud to them or have them listen to it. When they are not putting all of their effort into decoding the words on the page, they can understand books at a much higher level!

    If you’re not sure where your child’s reading level falls, you can ask their teacher! I also have a Book Leveling Cheat Sheet you could check out that explains this in a little more depth.

    Book Reading Level Cheat Sheet image of the information included in the cheat sheet explaining letters and numbers for reading levels

    Explore the book & try the 5 finger rule to find books your kids will love

    Dark blue background with stars and a hand with five fingers. Tip 3 for choosing books your kids will love: explore the book & try the 5 finger rule

    Have you ever heard the phrase, “Never judge a book by its cover”? I would change that to: “Never judge a book JUST by its cover.” (make an image)

    As an adult, what do you gravitate towards when you’re picking books? The cover is the first thing we see! If you are not looking for a specific title or a specific author, we do tend to pick books based on their covers!

    I would take it a step further and read the back book blurb or the book jacket. Decide if the plot sounds interesting or if your child can relate to the characters. Sometimes, especially for those Transitional Reader Taylors (not sure what type of reader you have? Take the quiz here!), they may open a book and just look at all of the words on the page and decide it’s too hard for them.

    Again, go with your child’s lead on this. Transitional reader books tend to have more white space on the page and some picture support in these early chapter books.

    5 Finger Rule:

    I encourage kids to read the first couple of pages of a book before they decide if they want to read it. As they get to a word they either don’t know because they cannot sound it out or maybe they don’t know what it means, they raise one finger.

    If they come to another word they don’t know, they raise another finger. If they get to 5 fingers before they are done reading a page or two, then the book is probably too hard for them.

    Remember, if they really want to read a particular book and it’s too hard based on the 5 finger rule, you can read it aloud to them!

    Ask friends, family, librarians, teachers, or me, your personal reading consultant for book titles!

    Dark blue background with stars. Tip 4 for choosing books your kids will love: Ask friends, teachers, librarians, or your personal reading consultant (that's me!) for book suggestions

    You don’t know how many times I’m asked, “Hey Kim, do you have any good books for an 8-year-old boy who loves {insert favorite thing here!”?

    My answer is always, “Yes! Have you tried…?” From my time in the classroom to my time raising these 4 kids, I probably have a book suggestion for whatever you need 😉 Just ask!

    Your local librarian is also an amazing resource. Ask for help and book suggestions. Even better, let your child ask the librarian for help!

    One of my favorite ways to get new book ideas is to ask kids what they are currently reading. Have your child ask a friend or cousin what they are reading. Even better, do a book swap and swap out some favorite titles with friends!

    You can always ask me, your personal reading consultant! If you want a specific list of books curtailed to your reader’s ability and interests, check out my Personal Reading Playbook.

    Ultimately, it’s your child’s choice to find books they love

    We all have dreams of books our kids will love. 

    Maybe your muggles are letting you down and aren’t into  Harry Potter like you. 

    Maybe you have no idea why they’re not into “some pig” and they don’t think Charlotte’s Web is “terrific.” 

    Maybe you really don’t love the graphic novels they insist upon reading.

    I know it’s hard, but let your child pick what they read. You can make suggestions and try to guide them to pick just right books. The best way to help your kids to fall in love with reading is to let them pick their books!

    A few of MY favorite books your kids may love…

    As a teacher & a mom of four, here are a few favorite books your kids may love. It is their choice, but you could always suggest some of these titles to get them reading! If you think your Fluent Reader Freddie is too old for picture books, think again!

    The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

    You can’t go wrong with a Peter Reynolds book! This story is great for those little ones who think they “can’t draw.” Vashti’s teacher helps her go from a blank page by telling Vashti to “just make a mark and see where it takes you.” This teacher’s encouragement of Vashti’s dot drawings leads to an entire dot showcase. It can help your little ones see that they CAN draw, and encourages them to take ownership of their pictures by signing their names on their artwork. You can’t go wrong with any of Peter Reynold’s books!

    The Book with No Pictures by B. J. Novak

    Even though this book has no pictures, your kids will love it! It is a fun book for you to read aloud and share with your kids. It is silly and entertaining. Your kids will laugh so much (and YOU may need to preview the book to practice!).

    Peanut Butter & Cupcake by Terry Border

    This story of finding friends will make you and your little one laugh! What’s a lonely piece of peanut-buttered bread to do? Find a friend, but he runs into all sorts of different issues with everyone he comes across (hamburgers, hot dogs, eggs, cupcakes) and he is feeling very lonely until the end of the story where he brings everyone together.

    This is a great book to use to discuss including everyone on the playground or in school. It can be used with preschoolers through fifth graders to teach this valuable friendship lesson!

    Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin

    Dragons Love Tacos is a hilarious story that will finally teach you why dragons breathe fire! Dragons love tacos: chicken tacos, beef tacos, and any kind of taco. Just make sure you don’t serve dragons spicy salsa! Dragons hate spicy salsa (we change hate to “don’t like!” in our house).

    Find out what kind of parties dragons enjoy and talk to your little ones about their parties, dragons, tacos, and more with this funny story that they will absolutely love! You can also check out Dragons Love Tacos 2.

    The Adventures of Beekle by Dan Santat

    How many of your little ones have an imaginary friend?! Even if they do not have one, they probably have played pretend, and this story will tap into that creativity!

    On an island far away, an imaginary friend is born waiting to be chosen by a real child. When he keeps getting overlooked, he goes on his own adventures to a city where he meets his match and gets his name, Beekle. This heartwarming story is filled with amazing artwork, the true meaning of friendship, and a courageous journey.

    What book will your child fall in love with?

    I love to give book suggestions and ideas for holidays. Remember to take what I say and use what works for your kids and your family. Exposing our kids to different books will help them decide what they like and what they don’t. If you’re looking for book suggestions specific to your child’s reader type, click here to take the quiz!

  • Say goodbye summer & prep for that new school year with a reflection rainbow!

    Ready for all of those back-to-school activities? 

    Ready for the early mornings? 

    Ready to rush out the door screaming for everyone to grab their backpacks, lunches, and water bottles? Oh wait, that’s just me?

    Before we jump back into those early mornings and the school routine, let’s all take a moment to reflect on the best parts of summer. Completing a summer reflection and taking the time to say, “Goodbye summer!” as a family can help everyone prep for the next school year.

    End of Summer Reflection

    If you made a summer bucket list, go through and review everything you checked off. Add any other adventures you took this summer that maybe didn’t make the list at the beginning of summer!

    If you didn’t make a list, you can make one together now or just verbally discuss your summer.

    You may need to prompt your kids about little things that happened over the summer: 

    • “Remember that time you belly-flopped in the pool?” *giggles*
    • “Remember that time we played hide & seek and I scared you in the fort?” 
    • “Remember when we stayed up late playing games?” 

    Chat about those memories and savor the last few moments of summer!

    Reflection Rainbow

    The first rule of the summer reflection rainbow is… there are no rules 😉 For those of you who may also have a type A personality, I know this stresses you out. Don’t let it. Simply print this reflection rainbow and see what your child wants to do with it!

    • Maybe they just want to color while you chat about your favorite parts of the summer.
    • Perhaps, they want to write their favorite activities on each part of the rainbow.
    • Maybe they want to write a complete sentence about their summer on each rainbow.
    Preschoolers can participate in this activity too!

    Remember, there are no rules here! Have fun with your reflection rainbow!

    Dreaming about school at the end of summer

    Maybe your child is dreading the school year. 

    Maybe they are getting bored with summer and want to see their friends every day. 

    Whatever their feelings about the start of the school year, they are valid. They could be both excited to see their friends and still dreading getting up early every day. If you’re looking for books to read on heading back to school, check out my list here.

    When I taught third grade, we always did a back-to-school bulletin board featuring our hopes and dreams for this year. I know everything is much more goal-oriented these days in school.

    Plant the seed for this school year by chatting about your child’s hopes and dreams!

    However, it’s nice to just dream sometimes.

    If you’re looking for a book to pair with this conversation, I LOVE Peter Reynold’s Happy Dreamer.

    Ask your child, what do you hope will happen this year in school? What do you dream about <insert grade level here>?

    • They may surprise you and say they just want to make one best friend this year.
    • They might be math nerds like my kids and want to learn multiplication or division (this was their second-grade dream!).
    • They may want to read a certain book.
    • They may want to complete a specific challenge in P.E.

    Whatever their hopes or dreams are, let them talk. They can write their dream on the back, draw a cloud and write in that, or just talk about it together as they color.

    From summer reflection to back to school ideas

    It’s always at this point in the summer that we all start to worry about that summer slide. I always have parents approach me and ask for my “favorite workbooks for <insert grade level.> My response is ALWAYS:

    Don’t waste your time with any of those workbooks!

    ~Kim Creigh, M.Ed.

    As a classroom teacher, there were workbooks I was told I “had” to use. Most of the time I used these for homework. If you know my stance on homework, you understand my feelings on workbooks 😉

    Throw the workbooks away. Please. Don’t start this year with your kids already dreading schoolwork from a poorly created workbook.

    If you want to set your kids up for a great school year, start putting reading back into your routine. Try to work that reading stamina up to 30 minutes a day.

    If you really want to be an overachiever ;), you can review those reading and writing skills with my Virtual Zoo Camp. It will even buy you, busy mom, some extra time to yourself. Simply watch the parent video, print the worksheets, and let your child listen to my virtual lessons.

    Your child will review research skills, read books, and take virtual field trips in Virtual Zoo Camp. Doesn’t that sound so much better than a boring ol’ workbook?!

    I can’t emphasize enough that your child does not need a workbook to prep for back to school! Add reading into your days and they’ll be all set for this school year.

    Goodbye summer~ Hello new school year

    While I love a good pool or beach day, there is something exciting about the start of the school year. 

    • The newly sharpened pencils.
    • The blank notebooks waiting to be filled.
    • The neatly organized pencil pouches… ready for writing & drawing!

    As you start to go to bed earlier, wake up earlier, and buy all those new school supplies, stop to take some time to chat about your summer. A family summer reflection wraps up summer nicely.

    Before your child hops on that school bus and you raise that celebratory coffee as they leave the bus stop, take time to reflect on the summer before this new school year begins.

  • Too much kids screen time? Try these 5 play ideas instead

    Two young children are staring at a computer. Too much screen time? Try these 5 play ideas instead. Alternative to screen time article with a read more button.
    Looking for an alternative to screens? Promote literacy with these 5 play ideas!

    Are you tired of fighting with your kids to shut off the screens? Whether it’s arguing for computer time, wanting to watch a TV show or movie, or wanting to play on the Switch, my little interns are always asking for screen time! There is an alternative to screens.

    We have come up with a pretty good system of balancing our non-screen time activities and promoting literacy as well. Today, I’d love for you to take away at least one alternative to screens that works for your family. Of course, my play ideas will be literacy focused 😉

    Looking for book ideas specific to your child? Take this 2-minute quiz and those book suggestions will be in your inbox soon!

    Estimated reading time for this blog is 6 minutes, or just watch this YouTube video:

    Kids Screen Time

    There are many amazing learning apps and other ways to incorporate screens throughout the day. Technology can help us do amazing things, but it needs to be balanced with other non-screen activities throughout the day.

    I also think it’s hard because we, as adults, are addicted to screens! I personally have been making a conscious effort not to mindlessly scroll on Instagram or Facebook throughout the day.

    There are definitely some negatives to screen time. While we are still studying the effects of screens in kids, we do know some things and they aren’t very positive. Too much screen time can cause behavior and sleep problems. 

    Most kids ages 8 to 18 average 7 1/2 hours of screen time per day according to this article. That’s A LOT of screen time. Let’s think about other fun ways to spend our time, and maybe throw in a reading focus (wink!).

    Instead of kids screen time… Build a fort

    One alternative to screen time is to build a fort. This fort is made from Nugget cushions and has a blanket covering the kids reading inside.

    Did you build forts when you were a kid? I remember building forts and how fun it was to camp out inside for the day! This is a great activity since it takes a bit of time to build the fort. (My little interns always ask for some assistance to make the “best fort ever” from me, and I’m happy to help since I know it will keep them busy for a bit). 

    We have Nuggets that we like to use to make our forts next to couches, but any pillows and blankets will work! After we build a fort, they like to keep it assembled for a bit. I usually encourage fort building in the basement for this reason.

    Once the fort is built, you can do so many other things:

    • They can play board games, or, of course, READ!
    • Grab a flashlight for some fort flashlight reading! This is a fun and different way to encourage reading, and is even more fun in the fort.
    • You can do a family read aloud inside the fort if it is big enough.
    • Set a timer and read for 20 minutes before they move onto their next activity.

    Each time my little interns build a fort, it’s the “most epic ever!” so this is a great screen-free activity!

    Legos, a great alternative to screens

    Who doesn’t love a good Lego building session? While I despise finding Legos all over my house (more on my new organization system later!), it is an activity they truly love. We have SO many legos. Sometimes, they like to rebuild and follow a set and the instructions. However, a lot of times they just like to free-build with Legos.

    Legos with a child's name written on them are a great alternative to screen time for kids.

    Of course, I’m going to suggest a reading focus for Legos! You can use Dry-Erase markers to write letters on the larger Legos. You can use this to practice recognizing letters in your child’s name and then building them. Or, use this with sight words or even practice spelling words with Legos.

    My kids can play with Legos for hours! You can give your child a challenge if they need a little guidance with their free Lego play. “Build an epic fairytale scene” or “Make something using only blue Legos” are some examples you could try.

    Read with your eyes or ears instead of using a screen

    Would I even BE a reading consultant if I wasn’t encouraging reading? No matter the season, I am always going to recommend fitting in 20-30 minutes of reading per day. I understand we are all very busy, but what if we did turn off the screens for extra reading time? Or, what if they could earn more screen time if they did extra reading?

    Of course, reading is a great alternative to screen time. Two young boys are reading chapter books on a couch.

    Whenever I speak to a group of moms, they ask if watching a YouTube read aloud is the same as reading. Since we are trying to turn off the screens, I would say no! However, reading on an app or having YouTube read aloud is better than not reading at all. 

    The next question I’m always asked is: Is listening to an audiobook the same as reading an actual book? 

    Well, no, but it is still a good activity! Reading with your ears is something we all can do and is a good skill to practice. I really encourage family read alouds and that can definitely be part of your reading time. 

    Is it practicing decoding skills? No. But, it is working on listening comprehension and it’s always great to hear fluent reading, whether it’s from a parent or an audiobook!

    To summarize, any time spent reading an actual book or listening to books is time well spent.

    Read to a stuffed animal or pet as an alternative to screen time

    If your child loves listening to you read and you just want a few minutes to yourself, let them read aloud to a stuffed animal. Whenever I see stuffies that coincide with books my kids love, I pick them up! 

    However, that is totally not necessary. Your child can read to any stuffed animal or even a pet! Or, put those older kids to work to read to those younger siblings. It’s a win-win for everyone!

    A sibling is reading aloud a book to a younger sibling holding a mouse stuffed animal. Reading to a sibling or a stuffed animal is a great alternative to screens for kids.

    I used to have my first graders read aloud to stuffed animals in one of the centers in my room. They LOVED it! Anything that gets our kids engaged in reading is a win!

    If you don’t have a pet (or maybe have an uncooperative one!), I have friends that go to animal shelters and read aloud to dogs and cats. It’s worth a shot if your child loves animals and needs to practice those decoding and fluency skills!

    Not sure what your child needs to practice? Take this quiz and you’ll get different strategies and book suggestions to work on with your kids at home!

    Act it out instead of turning on a screen

    This was again something we did in my first grade classroom, but can work for all ages. You can also ask your child to act something out from their own independent reading, or you can act it out together after your family read aloud. 

    A child is taking a nap holding Elephant and Piggie after she read I will Take a Nap by Mo Willems. Acting it out is a great comprehension skill to practice after reading.

    This is a great way to “test” those comprehension skills! You can let them reread a certain part or use the book to help them act out a favorite part.

    Keep this simple and fun. Stuffed animals and props not required! If your child does not enjoy this activity, skip it!

    Benefits to play over screens

    We definitely watch a good Disney movie and I’m always down for some family Mario Kart! I think the key with screen time for kids is balance. And, of course, we want to sneak in that reading time whenever possible 😉

    Hopefully, you found some fun alternatives to screens.

    If you want even more FUN reading ideas, you’ll love my Learn to Love to Read Activity Book. Each reader type has 5 different activities to try at home!

    This mock up of a Learn to Love to Read Activity book shows another example of an alternative to screen time.

    Let me know in the comments… what is YOUR favorite alternative to screen time?

  • 5 Favorite School Valentine Ideas (that also promote literacy!)

    3 kids making Valentines announcing the blog title, 5 favorite school valentine ideas that also promote literacy.

    I searched Etsy for the cutest school Valentine ideas that also happen to promote literacy. These are all non-candy Valentine’s ideas for school.

    If you want to promote literacy in your own home, you may be interested in my Learn to Love to Read activity book. You can check that out here.

    But first, let’s check out my 5 favorite school Valentine ideas!

    1. Slinky Class Valentines

    I use these little slinkies all of the time when I tutor for both reading and writing! Stretch out those sounds and write down the sounds you hear, after you spread some Valentine’s love, of course! Your child’s class will spring with joy with these cute class Valentines.

    “You make my heart spring” Slinky Valentines

    This school Valentine idea is different shaped small slinkies with "you make my heart spring!" printed cards from Etsy.
    These class Valentines make MY heart spring! How cute are these printed cards from JustPeachybyJulie?

    2. Heart Crayons Valentine Cards for Class

    These heart crayons are ready to gift as your child’s school valentines! You can absolutely melt your own crayons into heart molds, but this Etsy shop owner has you covered if you don’t have time for that.

    I love this non-candy Valentine idea. Use the crayon to practice writing their name or writing sight words. If your little reader is not writing letters yet, they can draw and label a picture with it. All of these activities promote literacy!

    Valentine Heart Crayons

    These melted heart crayons are packaged in clear packaging with "Valentine you color my world" tags as a school Valentine idea.
    These Valentine Crayons from ShimmerLilac are one of my favorite Valentine ideas for class. While you absolutely can make these crayons with your own heart mold and old crayons, she makes it so easy to order and have a zero-prep class Valentine!

    3. Won-doh-ful School Valentine Ideas

    These won-doh-ful printable cards are perfect for preschoolers and elementary classes! Play-doh helps build up those important muscles for writing, so it’s a great Valentine for preschoolers.

    I know my elementary-aged little interns love play-doh too! It’s a great tool to use to soothe meltdowns and stay calm. It’s also fun to play with during family read alouds.

    PlayDoh Valentines

    This play-doh school Valentine ideas include cards that say "Valentine, you are doh-riffic!" "Valentine, you are doh best!" "Valentine, you are won-doh-ful!" and "Valentine, you are a-doh-able!" with hearts and red dotted frames.
    These a-doh-able Valentine cards from TexasMamaDesigns are perfect for preschoolers and elementary classes! Please note, you will have to purchase the play-doh separately.

    4. Scratch-a-Sketch Elementary Valentines Cards

    These require a bit of prep on your child’s end, but how cute are these Scratch-a-Sketch Valentines? Your child can write a secret message to each of their friends. I’m obsessed with these AND your child can practice writing!

    You can write in any color pen or pencil and then cover it with the scratch-off sticker. Attach a penny to help with the scratching or let the class scratch their secret message with their fingernail.

    In my opinion, these would be fun to send any time of the year to friends and family.

    Scratch-a-Sketch Valentine

    This school Valentine idea has a scratch-off grey surface where your child writes a note like "You are pure magic! heart-Emily" and this image contains a penny showing the scratch off on the inside red frame.
    These Scratch-a-Sketch Valentines are a favorite from InklingsPaperie! You write the message to your friends and these just may be the most fun Valentine cards for class!

    5. Poppin’ Valentines Class Ideas

    Pop-Its are popular for any age! Pop them to play or soothe, or for literacy activities! You can pop each sound you hear, or practice those spelling lists by popping for each letter you say aloud.

    Pop-Its are fun AND useful for school Valentine ideas!

    “Hope your Valentine’s Day is popping” Pop-Its

    This school Valentine idea is a red and white pop-it attached to a card that reads, "Hope your Valentine's Day is poppin' Your friend, Nolan"
    Your class Valentine’s cards will be poppin’ with these cards from NolieSmiles!

    Learn to Love to Read this Valentine’s Day

    If you’re looking for literacy activities to do with your Valentine, you should check out my Learn to Love to Read activity book!

    The truth is, enjoyment while reading plays a huge role in reading success.

    What if this Valentine’s Day you could do quick, easy, FUN activities with your child to encourage reading?

    Help your child fall in love with reading and purchase your digital copy of Learn to Love to Read.

    With the words "love" in the background and an image of the Learn to Love to Read activity book with 2 young girls reading in a tent. The words "Activities you'll love!" by Kim Creigh, M.Ed. are along the bottom.
    This activity book mock-up shows the cover of Learn to Love to Read, the table of contents, and the different reader types like beginning, transitional, and fluent readers.

    If you’re looking for Valentine Morning Meeting activities, teacher friends, check this out from The Education Flyaway!

    What Valentine cards or activities are you doing to promote literacy this year? Let me know in the comments!