Homemade Monday: Spelling Words

I stumbled up on this fun idea today while checking out a blog/tumblr. This blog has nothing to do with literacy, but the writer posts fun photos. And it fits in so well with our Start Smart initiative.


We will probably debate the effects of technology on children for years and years to come, but in the meantime, let’s agree moderation is key! But this post isn’t about the good and bad habits that form from using technology. This post is about a fun idea you can use with your preschooler, Kindergartner, and even first or second grader!

All you need is a laptop or computer. Check out the post by Emphasis Added for more details!

 Tonight we played a game – “Type on the Computer Game.”  
(Riveting.  For real.)

It started as a desperate attempt to distract the girls from a series of ridiculous squabbles- but it quickly proved to be one of my more successful diversions ever.

Hazel is suuuuuper into words & letters, right now.  She wants to know how to spell every word that pops into her head.  It is nonstop….yet endearing.   This march to literacy has been my favorite mama-milestone yet.

As Simon & Felix worked on dinner, Hazel & I sat together on the couch.  My computer perched on her lap.  She gave me a word (first one:  stroller).  We worked together to figure out the letters and I let her hunt and peck them out on the keyboard.  She’d then think up the next word and we’d repeat the sequence of action.  Tonight, Hazel learned to hit the Shift Button after each word and how to employ the backspace when lingering on a key too long.  We even dabbled with Caps Lock when spelling their names.

She belly laughed at least a dozen times during the activity (usually when finding an out of reach letter on the keyboard) – a perfect reminder of how much joy little ones seem to find in every task they undertake.

This was her list.  And the name she gave the doc.  It took us probably 20 minutes to get it all typed up.  I know this exchange could be easily dismissed as nothing more than…um, typing….but I wanted it documented here as a peek into the mind of my 4 yr old.

 What words does your child ask you to spell often?


Start Smart @ Your Library: Ready Rosie

Remember when we talked about children needing to hear 30,000 words? Have you been wondering exactly what you should say to your baby, toddler, or preschooler to reach that lofty goal? Well, I’m very excited to announce a brand new service at the Stark County District Library!



As part of our Start Smart early literacy initiative, we are offering all of our card-carrying patrons a simple and fun parent engagement and preschool learning tool called Ready Rosie. (And you don’t have to leave the comfort of your home to sign up!) Simply click on the link, and then choose “sign up” in the top left corner. You’ll need to enter your Stark County zip code to gain access, but once you do, just complete the form and click “Submit.” (If you need a Stark County District Library card number, click here to sign up for a digital card for FREE!)

Once a day, you’ll receive a text message, email, or both (depending on your settings) with a one- to two-minute video of a parent and child engaging in a fun activity. The activities and conversations that take place are realistic and occur in every day environments.

Going to the grocery store? There’s a video to give you ideas on making the experience more fun and sensory based. Standing in line? There’s a game you can play to keep your child busy and teach him to follow directions. There are over 700 videos–you won’t see a repeat for quite a while!

The videos are appropriate for parents and caregivers with children ages birth to 5 years old. For a sample, click here.

Letting Your Child Choose…

Recently, I have been seeing articles about children’s attitude toward reading as they get older. As I think back to my own childhood, I remember loving books, going to the library, and spending time reading outside in the backyard. I also remember some of my classmates disdain for reading. I remember them saying it’s boring, it’s hard, it’s not fun, or they don’t have time. Much of what they said is echoed in this post from Reading is Fundamental.

Credit: Real Teacher of NY

Credit: Real Teacher of NY

Reuters recently posted an article that states a study that found when children choose books they want to read reading scores can improve. Researchers asked students in elementary grades to choose a books they wanted to read over the summer. The researchers also gave another group of students books to read but did not let them choose the titles. Based on a series of reading tests before and after summer break, the results showed students who had the opportunity to pick their own books had higher test scores than those who did not get to choose.

Students, especially those living in low-income neighborhoods, typically lose learning over the summer. This is what many educators call the “summer slide.” Researchers also noted, though, that it’s still important to provide preselected materials to readers in order to help them hone their reading and comprehension skills.

By offering your child choices, it gives him the freedom to find something within his own interests. If you are struggling to find something your child wants to read, here is a checklist of ideas from Scholastic:

  • Don’t pressure your child.
  • Make time to read and let your child see you reading for pleasure.
  • Try audiobooks. (Check out our awesome app HOOPLA for free audiobooks you can download to your smartphone or tablet.)
  • Read book reviews and find popular booklists, and then share them with your child.

Great Apps for Children Part 3

Here are three more apps to keep your child entertained and learning all at the same time. Today’s apps are appropriate for children in preschool through about fifth grade, depending on their development.


imagesStoriesAlive – The Library App of Interactive and Award Winning Children Stories – Auryn Inc.
Ages: 3 to 6
Cost: Free with in-app purchases
Purpose: The free version comes with six stories and dozens more samples of stories to purchase. The stories can be read to the child with the words highlighted. Children can read it on their own or have it auto play for them. The app also features object identification as children press on different parts of the illustrations.


untitledNews-O-Matic, Daily Reading for Kids – Press4Kids
Ages: 5 to 9
Cost: Free!
Purpose: Features daily news stories written for children with many bonus features. Each page features a map of the globe to identify where the story is taking place, how far away it is, and a fun fact about the story or city. There are other features including ways to act on the story’s theme, photos and videos, extra facts about the story and ways to say “hello” in the language of the main person or setting of the story. The app also features three games: a puzzle using a photograph from one of the main stories, a hangman-like game called Mystery Word, and a guess the date game using a timeline.

BrainPOP-Icon-150x150BrainPOP Featured Movie – BrainPOP®
Ages: 5 to 10
Cost: Free with in-app subscription purchase available!
Purpose: Each week a new feature movie is added. Three movies are always available to teach topics in Science, English, Social Studies, Arts and Music, Math, Health, and Engineering and Technology. The animated short movies are based on questions students send in. Following the movie, a quiz to test what you know is also available. Subscriptions also give access to other features like encyclopedia references, photos, and more.

*Links take you to the Apple iTunes App Store.

Reading eBooks with Children

Electronic books (or eBooks) are increasing in popularity with every age group. The Stark County District Library has expanded its own collection to include a Digital Reading Room for children. However, reading eBooks does make the experience of reading with your child just a little different than reading a paper version of the book.


The very nature of a tablet or eReader with its touch screen, colorful display, games, and sounds make it a very appealing object for younger readers. You’ll want to keep in mind a few things as you begin reading eBooks together:

Don’t stress too much the first time you try to read together on the eReader or tablet and very little reading actually gets down. Explore the different features of the book, app or site you are viewing together. This “newness” will eventually wear off and children will be more focused on the book.

Don’t forget about the story! Take your time to enjoy the different features, but remember the reason you downloaded the book in the first place.

Don’t let the eReader or tablet become a babysitter. Enjoy the experience together!

For more information, check out this article by Reading Rockets: http://www.readingrockets.org/article/56082

More Great Teacher-Approved Apps

In October, I shared with you three apps perfect for your preschooler who is working on his/her early literacy skills. Today, I will be sharing three more great apps for your school-ager (Kindergarten through 2nd grade). These apps come from a teacher workshop at one of our local school districts.

k123 1. Kindergarten BINGO: Letters, Numbers, Shapes, & Colors – ABCya.com
Ages: 4 to 6
Cost: Free!
Purpose: Teaches shapes, alphabet, and numbers. Children can choose BINGO games based on colors and shapes, alphabet letter or sounds, and numbers. Parents can choose the difficulty settings.



grammarjammers2. Grammar Jammers Primary Edition – Pearson Education, Inc.
Ages: 5 to 7
Cost: Free!
Purpose: Animated songs and chants that explain adjectives, contractions, nouns, pronouns, verbs, punctuation, and sentence structure. Quick checks at the end of a song help with review.



pbsparents3. PBS Parents Play & Learn – PBS KIDS
Ages: Birth to 5
Cost: Free!
Purpose: An app for both children and parents to use together. The app comes with just a couple games that can be played on your tablet. The rest of the information teaches parents how to turn everyday activities like taking a walk, bathtime, and a day at the zoo into literacy- and math-based experiences.

*Links take you to the Apple iTunes App Store.

Wondering what to do today?

What city has the longest name? Do you know? It’s not Cleveland. It’s not Tuscarawas. In fact, it’s not even in the United States. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the official name for the city of Bangkok in Thailand holds the record for the world’s longest name of a place: Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. And this information comes from a neat little corner of the Internet: a place called Wonderopolis.


Every day the website offers a “Wonder of the Day,” where you and your child can read about a specific topic (today it’s exotic places) and then answers questions about the topic. There are more links to explore after reading the story: links to maps, photographs, words, and more research. But that’s just the Wonder of the Day.

Click on the “Explore Wonders” tab and you’ll find all sorts of questions and topics to explore. Topics on health, social studies, language arts, science, art, music, breakfast, careers, foreign languages, math, vegetables, and more. You can even suggest and vote on what others are wondering. These topics can be sorted by grade level (Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade) and matched to state Common Core standards.

This is the perfect site to visit while you are stuck indoors due to the cold, snowy weather!

So what do you wonder about? Comment below!

Three Great iPad Apps for Children

There are so many great educational apps out there for children to use, but there are also many not-so-great educational apps out there for children to use. So I spent the last week, testing app after app trying to find the best ones for you and your child. I’ve narrowed it down to my top three favorites; however, they are just that–my top three favorites. I’m hoping you’ll help test out these apps and let me know what you like and what you didn’t like.

play1231. Play 123 by CJ Educations
Ages: 3 to 5
Cost: Free!
Purpose: Teaches shapes, colors, and numbers. Allows children to PLAY by matching and spinning colors and shapes, STUDY by understanding the basic shapes, colors, and numbers, and THINK through activities that help develop creativity and imagination. The simple music in the background helps keep children focused as a narrator explains what to do. Children can draw shapes, build towers and othe ojects with shapes, build and break walls, mix colors, break down walls to create more shapes and more through 10 different games.

Learn-with-Homer-Logo2. Learn with Homer by Homer
Ages: 3 to 5
Cost: FREE! (with ability to make in-app purchases for more games)
Purpose: Teaches early reading. Children can hear stories and poems or read themselves, play alphabet games that test their knowledge of letter sounds and shapes, discover a world of non-fiction through stories about animals, and use their imagination through drawing and recording sounds. Parents can create an account to gain access to tracking tools, printable activities and crafts, and their children’s drawing and recordings. There are many free things to do in this game. Purchasing packages gives more access, but it is not necessary.

1333-1-feel-electric!3. Feel Electric by Sesame Street
Ages: 5 and up
Cost: Free!
Purpose: Teaches children feeling and emotions. This game teaches chidlren the meaning of words like surprised, stressed, annoyed, happy, ecstatic, and thrilled. Through different games, children can match emotion words to pictures that depict that feeling or write stories by choosing certain words (think MadLibs). There are six different ways to play but even more options once you choose a game. Created by Sesame Street, it’s an extension of the Electric Company.

So try them out. Let me know what you think. I’ll continue to post updates when I find more free apps for your child to use, so stay tuned!