Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Great book: Dumb Bunnies

Dumb Bunnies beats Capt. Underpants.

Ever get so excited about a book you just have to tell someone?
Hayley did – and I’m so glad.

She e-mailed me about the Dumb Bunnies series, which she is enjoying with her whole family (ages 3, 7, 9, 39 and 39).

If the illustrations look familiar, it’s because author Dav Pilkey also does Capt. Underpants (of which I am not a huge fan - but millions of kids are, of course).

That’s why Dumb Bunnies is such a great series. It’s fun like Capt. Underpants, but without some of the edgier aspects. (Such as, say, a school principal in his underpants.)

Every book Dav Pilkey writes has its own website, with printable crosswords, online activities and behind-the-scenes information about the books. Here’s the website for Dumb Bunnies.

There are four books in the series so far. Here's how Hayley describes her family's reaction to them:

"Our son borrowed it from the school library last week and we were all laughing at it over dinner one night. The pictures and text are very funny. Our youngest pretended to read it again and again to himself. I guess I will have to break down and buy it."

Oooh, that Capt. Underpants! Why, oh why, do kids have to love him so and why does he have to be so exhibitionist? Strangely enough, it's less his underpants and more that he's the principal of a school who is being humiliated that bothers me. And it's exactly that that intrigues the kids, of course. Sic 'im, bunnies, sic 'im! Grrrr.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Happy First Birthday, Getting Kids Reading!

This month marks our one-year anniversary.

We had another milestone this month too – our 100th post.
(Woo-hoo! Streamers! Horn sounds in the background!)

We also finished 21st out of 178 blogs in our category in the BlogLuxe Awards. Thank you to everyone who voted.

More importantly, we have helped a number of children who weren’t great readers before, start reading. Their parents applied our suggestions and now the kids are reading. You can click on “Successes” to read a couple of the stories, but I know there are many more out there.

We recently started a postering campaign in Toronto and, strangely enough, in Yellowknife, NWT. If you’d like me to send you some Getting Kids Reading posters to post at schools, libraries, churches, grocery stores – just send me your address and I’ll be happy to send them out to you. And I’ll appreciate your help spreading the word.

But in the meantime – I’m gonna celebrate! Woo-hoo!

Thank you to Val, who designed our poster (it looks better in real-life than my crummy photo of it here) and Grace, who is doing most of the postering. And Laura and Patti, in our Yellowknife branch. Thank you so much! (And Michele, in our Scarborough branch.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sequencing game (online)

My friend’s daughter needs some practice with "sequencing."

Sequencing is important for reading, because it helps you understand what comes first, what comes next, and what’s last. That goes for words, sentences and stories.

A game you can make
One thing you can do to practice sequencing is to take a loooong (two or three feet) piece of paper. Write a sentence on it in marker. Then cut it up into words and mix up the words. Have your child piece the sentence back together. (She can use cues like the word with the period goes at the end; the word with the capital letter goes first.)

An online game
Here is an online game about sequencing.

Pick a game that matches your child’s interests.
Click on “Play this game.”
And then ask the child to tell you which activity goes first. Type in the appropriate number in the little box and click on “Check answer” or just hit Return.
Every time you get it right, it will reward you by turning over part of the image.
What, you may ask (and I wouldn't blame you), has the picture of the old car got to do with anything? This car-bit is one of the images that will get turned over as you guess the sequencing correctly. You end up with the whole car, and a couple of newlyweds, I think. Other reward images are snakes. You'll see.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Teen book recommended by Michael Cera

Actor Michael Cera really likes the book Youth in Revolt, by C. D. Payne.

In a recent Globe and Mail article, Cera said he is a “rabid Payne fan.”

This is a cool one to tell your teenager about - Cera’s career is smoking-hot right now. He starred in the huge hits Juno and Superbad, and will soon appear in the Toronto-centric film Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (also a series of books, btw).

In Youth in Revolt, he’ll be playing two lead characters (Nick and Francois) in the movie based on the cult hit novel.

“The 21-year-old says he first got hooked on the novel when he was 16, and loved the book because, ‘it was the one thing I’d read that didn’t condescend to teenagers’,” the Globe article said.

Here’s how Wikipedia sums up the book.

I must admit that it did occur to me that if some teenagers happened to Google Michael Cera, they might just come up with this website. But if that’s what it takes to draw teens away from the streets and over to literacy – well, hey, I’m willing to get my hands dirty. Guerilla literacy - it's just how I roll, baby. Joyce out!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Great books for teens

Teenagers are reading lots these days.

CBC Radio recently had two young book aficionados talk about what teens are interested in, and it’s more than just Twilight (although Twilight’s in there as well).

They said that some hot teen genres are:

*Speculative fiction (this used to be known as science fiction and fantasy) – including post-apocalyptic fiction where the world has virtually been destroyed and the characters are forced to create a new society with new rules for survival.

*Series – they like to be able to keep reading about the characters, even if it means they’ll have to wait awhile for the next book to be written.

*There’s also a trend in which the classics are being rewritten.

Here are some of the books they presented as great for teens.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart – a fun, smart book set in a school.

The Well, by A. J. Whitten – a horror apparently based on Hamlet.

Hunger, by Michael Grant – the sequel to Gone, and the second in what is to be a six-part series.
The Uninvited, by Tim Wynn-Jones – a mystery set in the Muskokas

Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe, by Bryan Lee O'Malley – Number five in a series; the film (starring Michael Cera) was recently shot in Toronto

A lot of what the teens are reading these days freaks me out. The world has been blown to bits and everyone's fighting over the last remaining jar of relish for dinner. Brrrr. But hey, not understanding teenagers is the price we pay for being an adult, right?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

New Tag books

Tag has some new books for learning short and long vowel sounds.

You know I love the whole LeapFrog system. My son learned so much from it when he was little.

So when I received these book kits, I was excited.
What I discovered, however, is that you have to:
a) Find your Tag reader (difficult enough, if you have the kind of kid I have - which is to say, not particularly organized).
b) Find the original box in which you've kept the Tag cord and CD.
c) Go through the books one at a time and download audio for each one from the LeapFrog website.
d) Save it on your Tag reader, ensuring you don't go over 20 MBs.

I managed to get 13 books on my reader before it told me I was over my limit.

Then I was ready to begin. Now, if I was the child, all of this would be transparent to me. My parent would be doing all the work. (So like life.)

The books look pretty good. Kids can read each one, using the Tag reader (by pointing to the words or letters, or the page icon to let it read an entire page out loud).

There are games in the back of each book that reinforce the ideas from the book. For instance, help a cook find ingredients for his "short-a" cookies - all the ingredients have the short-a sound.
So all-in-all, Tag is a pretty decent value for the money, and worth the up-front work to prepare it for your child.

If you want to know more, here's an awesome, in-depth review on the Tag system by KidsTechReview website. They give it 4.5 stars out of 5.

Disclosure: LeapFrog gave me a Tag system and the books to review. However, I don't work for them or receive monetary compensation from them and I'm free to write whatever I want about their products. If they sucked, I'd tell you - or more likely, I just wouldn't blog about them.

Product review - I'm going to have one or two of the neighbourhood children try this product, and the books, out. Then I'll let you know what they think. Much better than hearing about it from me.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Creating comics online

I made this comic myself - and it was fun.

Imagine how much your child will enjoy creating their own story lines.
And afterwards, they can print them out and put them in a binder, or e-mail them to their friends.

Making comics not only ensures that your child will be reading, it means he'll be thinking logically about plot lines, beginning-middle-and-ends, character development and so many other things that are important to budding writers.

It's simple to do - and did I mention it's free (you don't even have to sign in).

The software is very intuitive, so there's no need to "learn" a software program.
You choose one, two or three boxes. Then you pick a character and his or her "mood." Then you choose a balloon and type in the words.

What I like about this is that it's easy enough so that kids can do it themselves, but sophisticated enough to provide lots of options for the child to make the cartoon his own.

Visit Make Beliefs Comix and try one yourself. Then let your child loose on the site.

Oh, and you know you and your spouse are gonna end up as characters in your kid's comic scenarios, right? The sacrifices we make to get our kids reading.

BTW, the image on this post is a bit blurry - but that's because I'm fairly inept at photoshop, not because of the site. It's very crisp.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Goofy titles draw kids in

If you lie, your butt will grow.

I don't know if that's true or not, but my son sure wants to read this book.

We were at the library today. I was trying to get my son to check out some books. He was more interested in the computer game the kid next to him was playing.

And then I saw - a-aaah! - this book. "Tell a lie and your butt will grow," by Dan Greenburg. I passed it over to my son, and it got his attention instantly.

He stopped looking at the computer. He started giggling. He got red in the face he was giggling so hard. He couldn't believe they would put that title on a book!

Now, here's another example of why I love series so much. Bless Dan Greenburg's socks, he wrote a number of these "The Zack Files" books, so I was able to get a handful. The first one, with the Butt title, has drawn my son in - and having read one, I know he'll read the others.

Update - Sept. 10, 2009 - OK, so my son didn't take to the Zack Files books. Fortunately, he did read all six of the "My Weird School" series that I got out of the library the same day. Meh. (However, I still think that the "butt" book got him on the reading track.) Anyhoo, I'll do a review of the "My Weird School" series in an upcoming post.

I tossed all of the Zack Files books onto my son's bed. This is a great trick for parents - put new books somewhere really accessible. When he wakes up tomorrow morning, he's going to run across the books, and, well let's just say he'll be delayed for breakfast. In a good way.