Pocket Tales Blog

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Why we chose ATOS for our book readability measures

Readability, which is the ease in which text can be read and understood, is an important measure that is used to pair text with a child’s reading ability. For kids to develop strong reading skills, they need to choose texts that are within their reading ability.

Choosing a good book for a young reader is similar to choosing a good shoe, it must “fit.” You wouldn’t buy a size 9 pair of shoes for your child if they wear size 7. The same goes for books! Kids must read books that match their reading level.

There have been several readability formulas developed by literacy researchers over the years. A few widely used formulas include the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level test, ATOS (developed by Renaissance Learning) and Lexile (developed by MetaMetrics). When we launched Pocket Tales, we decided to use one of these measures because we felt teachers would be familiar with how they worked, but it wasn’t an easy decision.

We chose ATOS over the others. Here are the 4 reasons why:

1.  Widely used (and accepted) by our teachers
A significant majority of the teachers that currently use Pocket Tales use it in combination with Accelerated Reader, Renaissance Learning’s assessment software. By choosing a readability formula our teachers and students were already familiar with, we felt our reading game would be easier to integrate into these classrooms.

2.  Easy to understand
ATOS is a fairly straightforward measure to understand. A book with an ATOS reading level of 3.4 means that book’s text complexity is in line with an average reader in the 3rd grade and 4th month of schooling. It’s easy for a teacher to quickly discern whether a child is reading below, at or above the average reading level of other kids at the same level of schooling using this approach.

With Lexile, the measures are based on a 2,000 point scale. An average 2nd grade level reader would have a Lexile range of 390L to 690L. If that 2nd grader does not know what their Lexile measure is, it may be difficult for them to interpret or relate to what these numbers mean. 

Where things get complicated is pairing text complexity with content appropriateness. While a 3rd grade student may be reading at a text complexity level of 8 (i.e. 8th grade), that doesn’t necessarily mean that they should be reading the content of a level 8 book. Lexile attempts to provide this additional context with Lexile ranges, or a range of books that are appropriate in complexity as well as content maturity for that reader.

Pocket Tales is creating a formula and framework similar in nature to the Lexile range to support this for ATOS within our reading game. Our formula gives the reader an ATOS level score, and based on this score, recommends books within an appropriate complexity and content level range based on their ATOS score.

3.  ATOS uses more factors to evaluate text complexity than Lexile
ATOS takes more factors into account than Lexile to determine text complexity.

Factors in ATOS measure are:
Average Sentence Length + Average Word Length + Vocabulary Grade Level + The Number of Words in a Book

Factors in Lexile measure are:
Sentence Length + Word Frequency

We felt because ATOS takes more factors into account, it provides a more accurate gauge of complexity than Lexile. 

4.  Open and free
ATOS has made its readability measures data free and open to anyone to access it. It also allows anyone to submit their text to have it analyzed and scored without any cost, while Lexile charges to have some pieces of text analyzed. We felt that an open, free approach would invite more publishers to submit their texts to be analyzed and scored by ATOS in the long-term, which in turn would yield a higher number of books with ATOS readability scores.

We’re big fans of open and free systems when it comes to education. 

There are tens of thousands of books that have already been analyzed and given an ATOS score. This was important for us as it gave us a large database of books with scores to work with immediately.

Bonus Consideration: CCSS valid measure of text complexity
It is nearly impossible to build an educational application without tying learning outcomes to Common Core State Standards (CCSS). It was extremely important for us to choose a readability formula that was endorsed and accepted by CCSS. The Common Core has named both ATOS and Lexile as valid measures of text complexity.

Conclusion
Readability is at the heart of everything we do at Pocket Tales. Our goal is to help kids discover great books that are appropriate in content and complexity for young readers. As we move forward, we will constantly evaluate book readability formulas and measures used inside our reading game. 

What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Filed under atos lexile readability reading book scores flesch-kincaid text complexity

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Creating Books Huge Motivator For Reading

There was a great article in The Guardian, the other day, where a Kindergarten student had been motivated to read through the creation of her own book she had written. While she was helped by her teacher, the pictures and story were from her own imagination. The teacher, Anatol Young, explains that

My action plan from 2011 was to promote literacy among my students and the community at large. I feel that if [students] can read they can do anything else. Reading is key. So when I heard little Hunae telling her story during story time I was intrigued by her twist on the classical ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ tale. I knew I had to encourage her, so her teacher and I got together to make it into a book. It was a great project and Hunae has a sense of pride that will motivate her even more I feel.

In my own class, I have seen the powerful motivation that creating an actual physical book can make for a child. As the teacher states,

Caesar said providing a means for students to see their work physically was an incentive for students to continue to excel. She hoped that Hunae keeps her book for life and is able to look back at it and see what she accomplished at such a young age, and be proud of it.

In my own class, each year we have had the students creating books as part of our Poetry Unit. As the students work through the unit, they create poems on a variety of topics. At the end of the unit, students pick their three favorite poems to be included in a class book. At that point, the books are typed into a word document, we add pictures and upload it through the site, Lulu.com. Lulu takes our digital document and creates a book which they then send back to us. We get to choose the cover and style of the book which is a lot of fun. Students got to vote on which cover they wanted and the title for the book. Each student got to have their own book with extra copies ordered to sell to help offset the cost of the books. We also put a copy of the book in the library for others to see. What I noticed however was that the books were a huge motivator for students. They loved to read their writing and the fact that it looked so professional was very impressive to the children. They also were hugely motivated to write for something they knew were going to have a larger, peer based audience. 

While the focus was writing, there were huge benefits for the reading side. Students read more poetry for ideas and style, they talked more about poetry concepts and the poems they read and students took the concepts and used them in their writing. The books were very successful and they were great momentos of their year in Grade 3. I still have students talking about it and the books in the library are still signed out long after they were completed. While the cost can be high (especially with shipping), having something that was well made and looked professional really gave the students to motivation to succeed in their reading and writing.

If you are looking for some ways to get started, check out these sites!

  • Lulu.com - This is the site I have used before. The site guides you through the whole process of building your book, gives you lots of choices and is easy to use. It may be a little more expensive with shipping but the books look great at the end.
  • StudentTreasures.com - This site has several programs available for schools and classes wanting to create books. The site has lots of ideas, lesson plans and resources for teachers to use as well. The site describes their books as 
Our 8.5” x 11” full-color book is hardbound under tough lamination and is available in both landscape and portrait format. All pages are of a quality long-life paper. Each book has the author’s name and book title on the spine and features a dedication and title page. We stand by our product 100% and know the quality is unmatched. These beautiful books make favorite reading selections because students love to read books created by their peers. You’ll improve reading skills and promote a life-long love of books. Parents are always impressed with the books their children create through Nationwide Learning student publishing programs. The books make a perfect enhancement to Parents’ night, open house, and parent/teacher conferences. Or celebrate with an Author’s Tea and book signing.
  • Storybird.com - This is one of my favorite sites to use. The site uses professionally created illustrations to help motivate students and create ideas for stories. The stories can be used online and embedded on blogs and sites to view online or they can, for a cost be created as actual keepsake books. The site has programs available to create books for fundraisers and a wonderful backend to the site that makes it easy for teachers to work through the writing process and keep track of student process.

Whatever you decide, using writing as a motivator for increasing the desire for reading can be very powerful for students. Check out these sites and ideas to get going on your own programs!

Filed under reading writing books writingbooks poetry studentpublishing

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Empowering Students to Improve Reading Fluency

Teaching reading fluency can be a difficult thing for students to understand. As you probably know, reading fluency is the combination of speed and expression in the reading of a book, passage or other reading material. The faster or more fluently a student reads the better comprehension a student usually has. Their brain as gained the capacity to recognize words quickly, allowing it to focus more attention on the meaning behind the words, phrases, action, etc. A student with poor reading fluency tends to read very choppily and spends a lot of their time and attention on deciphering the words they encounter. By the time they have reached the end of the reading text, the students rarely remembers what they have read in terms of the meaning.

Now, it’s one thing to say that a student reads to slowly and with a great deal of choppiness. It’s another thing to help students understand what that means. 

Keith, over at the Ed Tech Ideas blog, has a great idea and resources to help with this. He suggests having students use Audacity to record their reading. Using a hand-out, students then listen to themselves and fill in a self-reflection page to help them evaluate their reading. As Keith did this activity, the students began to understand their reading in a variety of ways as he states below:

Some things the students found out about their reading fluency from this activity were:

  • Pace – some found they read too fast or too slow
  • Expression – hearing themselves enabled them to decide whether or not their expression conveyed meaning
  • Punctuation Signals – a lot of students forget to pause at comas and periods
  • Voice Inflection – when reading narration or dialogue, it’s often difficult for students to change their voice. When they hear themselves reading, they really pick up on this.

It’s a great post, and he even includes the materials he uses including the worksheet and the tutorials for using Audacity.

Though he mentions that you can use any variety of personal recorders to record the voices besides Audacity, which can be a bit cumbersome, I would suggest using Vocaroo.

Vocaroo is a very simple, easy to use website which does records your voice. The interface is so simple, any student can use it. Once the voice is recorded, you have the option to save it, email it or embed it. Students can even do the assignment from home and email it to you! I would suggest this before trying something like Audacity just to keep the technical aspects from hindering lesson.

Filed under reading readingfluency resources languagearts teaching technology websites techintegration

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5 Resources for the Poetry Teacher

I love to read and do poetry with my students. It is so easy to adapt to any level and so many things that you can do with it. I like to do my poetry unit in March with the NBA tournament in full swing. We have our own mock tournament, where students pick poems to practice and read to the class. The class gets to vote on the poems and we display the winners on our own tournament bracket on the bulletin board. We also create our own poetry books, which we then publish through lulu.com. It makes an amazing keepsake for the students. We also donate one to the school library and the students love to sign them out year after year.

Anyway, I thought I would share some of the resources I have collected for poetry. Here are 5 of my poetry resources I use:

1) Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk: This is more a reminder of a good idea than an actual useful site. The site describes a contest where students find pieces of sidewalk and write about them using the text stamped on the sidewalk, details on the sidewalk or the location of that particular sidewalk. There are examples of past winners and the winners got to have their poems stamped onto pieces of sidewalk. I like this idea and have adapted  it to just have students take pieces of poetry they have written, go out on a nice sunny day and write their poetry on a piece of sidewalk. We like to make a bit of a walk out of it and go down to one of our busier streets and just have some adding some creativity to an otherwise drab sidewalk. 

2) Ode to Poetry: This site has lots of great resources for integrating poetry with technology. There are tons of resources with templates for writing poems, magnetic poetry, poetry generators and more. 

3) Giggle Poetry: A great resource for elementary teachers, this site has tons of great poems, resources and ideas for writing poems that tickle the funny bone. It also has lots of great choral poetry resources. This site, A Poem For Three Voices, also has a really neat example of a poem for three voices which we have done to great effect. 

4) Teachers Domain: Teachers Domain is a fantastic resource for lots of things but they also have a great poetry section with videos, lessons and resources spanning a variety of poetic styles. The site is free to register and pulls in clips from PBS to augment the resources available.

5) Creating Poems with Animoto: I love Animoto. It is a great resource for creating easy but amazing looking videos using still photos and music. The Animoto tool does all the rest of the work for you with the editing and blending of images and music together. This site illustrates and explains a way to write poetry using Animoto to make it more powerful and dynamic.

These are just a few of the resources I have used and collected over time that I enjoy using and adapting for my group. If there are any great resources you use for poetry, we would love to hear about them.

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Death Comes Knocking….

As you may know (unless you are living under a rock) the first book of The Hunger Games trilogy is being released this weekend. Having read the books about a year ago, I am excited to see what the movie brings to the storytelling and, from what I have read already, I don’t think I will be disappointed. 

However, today I had a strange confluence of things happen. At the same time as I was reading a review of The Hunger Games, I happened to also read an article about the anniversary of the Titanic. 

Now, I am sure you are wondering what brings those diaparate things together. The interesting thing is that they both talked about the same topic; how we deal with and teach on the topic of death today, whether it is at school or at home.

To provide some context, the author of the article reviewing The Hunger Games stated the usual critiques about camera angles, actors, etc. They captured the usual events in their critic’s eye But the reviewer then stepped outside the usual confines of the format and formed a thought that I hoped made other readers take pause, namely that, 

"The audience at Monday’s packed preview of The Hunger Games came out juiced and happy, ready to spread the good word, while all I could think was, They’ve just seen a movie in which twenty-plus kids are murdered. Why aren’t they devastated? If the filmmakers had done their job with any courage, the audience would have been both juiced and devastated.”

At the same time, the article dealing with the anniversary of the Titanic asked, how do we  balance “potentially scary details with more palatable, inspirational fare”?

How do we deal with the death aspect with children? We have two very real depictions of death; one fictionalized but very, very real and one historical and fascinating in it’s own gruesome way.

Before going further, I have to say that I loved the books in The Hunger Games Trilogy. They were so well written and, despite the content, evoked a very real desire to see the outcome. You were mentally a part of the action, cheering for Katniss and Peeta, sad when other likeable characters died but realizing that that meant one less person fighting for a spot. You were drawn in to the situations and characters in a way that hasn’t happened since the Harry Potter series. But in those books, you knew that the people dying were either the bad guys or people dying to destroy evil. The Hunger Games does not really have that. While there are some more unlikable characters in the Games themselves, many of the contestants are not inherently good or evil. They are there, like the others, because of the circumstance. 

I also had a huge interest in the Titanic, from the time I discovered that my birthday shared the same anniversary as the actual sinking. I read books, found images, built models and this was all before the actual site of the sinking and wreckage was found. I knew all about the bodies floating in the water slowly dying of hyperthermia (I mean, I lived next to the Atlantic. Ever tried swimming there?).

However, being a teacher now, this question of how to approach this topic, makes me take pause. It’s a question that every teacher has to answer. In fact, my teaching partner and I had this very conversation when reading “The Series of Unfortunate Events” series to the students. The students loved it but my partner had concerns over the cavalier nature of death and murder in the stories while I thought that students were already well acclimatized and saw much worse.

Which brings us to the crux of the problem: Do we gloss over death in literature, hiding the reality of it, in the hopes that we protect our children from harsh realities or do we bring it out in the open, hoping that as teachers we can bring a more rounded perspective to the depictions of death in literature?

The thing is, death has always been a part of the lives of children. In the past, children were constantly surrounded by the horrors of death, whether it was with the farm animals or the diseases we take for granted today but had such horrific effects on the people with no access to our modern scientific knowledge. People constantly got hurt in minor ways but ended up dying from infections treatable today. Diseases like tuberculosis, smallpox or whooping cough caught even the most healthy in it’s clutches. Death was not something hidden or uncommon for children. 

Neither to the children of today though, in many ways, it is more deceptive and alarming in how it is presented to children. The modern child is exposed to probably more gruesome death like caricatures than ever in previous generations. While highly fictionalized, it is still very real and in it’s fictionalization, maybe made too real in it’s attempt to sensationalize death. Coming alongside that, is the appearance, from the first days of video games, of the un-death death. No matter how many times, Mario walks into that turtle, he always comes back to life. The shoot-em up, shoot everything in sight stylings of Grand Theft Auto has left our youth with a very distorted view of death as something that is not really real. They have become acclimatized to it in way that has deadened their senses to the true emotions and realities surrounding death and it’s actual effects to the people surrounding that death.

As the movie reviewer bemoans, 

"But where is the pervasive, lingering sense of loss? Where is the horror? Maybe the true horror is how easily the movie goes down."

So, what do we as teachers do? 

As I look at the kids in my class this year and their smirking attitudes towards someone being hurt and hear their misunderstanding of the full impact of what death actually means with their understated cries of, “That’s harsh”, it makes me sadly realize that what the youth of today may really need is more connection to death. That is, an arena where the concepts and situations involving death are brought out and discussed in the context of teaching life lessons. Maybe the classroom is the only place where these real discussions will happen. Maybe the bodies floating in the frigid waters of the Atlantic are important images. Maybe the atrocities of the Holocaust are important ideas that our students need to bring a truer understanding of the sacrifices, the pain and the mistakes our human race have made in the pursuit of knowledge, power, greed, and misunderstanding. How can we hide the things that have been so painfully gained? Do we continue to let movies, tv shows and video games teach our students about death?

Maybe Grade 1 is too young to bring full light to these concepts but certainly, I don’t think that we do our students any service in glossing over things so we don’t make them cry.

Two things brought this to light for me. First was our Annual Terry Fox Day Run. Terry Fox, for those who don’t know him, fought cancer twice to run across Canada raising money and awareness for Cancer research and those suffering and dying from cancer including young children. As is usual, most students don’t have a clue as to who Terry Fox is and why we are spending part of the day running around the track in his name. They usually see it as some free time to run around. However, the last couple of years, I have shown a really honest, emotionally compelling video on the life of Terry Fox. And I usually have children, including this past year, who are crying at the end (much like their teacher). Before you state how awful that is, making children cry, let me state that since I have shown that video prior to running, the students get it. They understand why this is important, they understand the sacrifice he made and the pain he went through to help others. They emphasize and they run with a different spirit than the other students.

The other thing is our annual Remembrance Day, which is particularly important since the passing of my Grandfather. My grandfather fought in WWII as an airplane mechanic. He never killed anyone or actually participated in the actual fighting, but, despite all my questions and queries, he still never told me a word about what it was like. When pressed, all he would tell me was that it was too sad for me and he didn’t want me to hear those sad details. To think what it was like for an airplane mechanic in England to not want to talk about the war because it was still too painful for him. How do we get our children to understand that type of pain, loss and desire to still sacrifice to protect countries and lives if we gloss over these types of remembrances.

If we do that, all our children have to pin their experiences with death to are Grand Theft Auto and C.S.I.  

What do you think? How do you deal with the topic of death in literature or otherwise in your class?

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Filed under hungergames childrensliterature issues teaching

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Five Questions for … Oliver Jeffers

Pockettales had the opportunity recently to catch up with renowned children’s author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers and ask him some questions about his writing process.

Oliver Jeffers has written a number of children’s books including Lost and Found, Up and Down, The Incredible Book Eating Boy, Heart and the Bottle, How to Catch a Star and The Great Paper Caper. His story, Lost and Found was recently adapted as an animated film in 2008 winning the BAFTA award for short film. His most recent book, Stuck in a Tree, tells the story of a boy who loses his kite in a tree and goes through incredible lengths to get it out of the tree.

We asked Mr. Jeffers five questions about his writing, illustrations and his favorite books.

Pockettales:  What led you to become a children’s book author?

Jeffers: I always enjoyed drawing and writing, and I have collected children’s books my whole life, so at university it occurred to me I could pair what I loved doing to make my own picture books.

Pockettales: What inspires you as you look for new ideas for your stories?

Jeffers: Everything and everyone around me, real life events, people and places. I always carry my sketchbook to be sure I remember any ideas I have. 

My recent book ‘Stuck’ was inspired by a true story.

Pockettales: What is easiest/hardest part of the creation process for you?

Jeffers: I’d say the easiest part is when I get to knock off early and go out and its also the hardest part, disciplining myself and being my own boss.

Pockettales: Do you create the pictures for your books first or do you write the story out? 

Jeffers: They happen at the same time, and I don’t mean I have a pencil in both hands! I mean I think visually and make the words and pictures as I go.

Pockettales: Who is your favorite children’s lit author?

Jeffers: Tomi Ungerer, Roald Dahl, Eric Carle and Maurice Sendak but to name a few.

Filed under author childrensbooks childrensliterature 5questions

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Fun Read-Aloud Resource

With Oscar buzz in the air, I thought it would be fun to highlight a really neat resource I have used in the classroom in the past but had forgotten about. As I was searching through my resources, I stumbled across this gem of a site. 

Storyline Online is an effort by the ScreenActor’s guild where well known artists and actors read children’s stories. Choosing one of the stories will provide students with a video of the actor reading the story with closeups of the book illustrations intersperse. The videos are well done with background music. As they are mostly actors, the stories are read with great expression. While there are not a whole lot of stories, the stories chosen are very good choices and the selection of stories are being added to with Betty White the most recent of contributors. 

All in all, it’s a fun site with several well know actors (maybe more recognizable to adults with the exception of Haylie Duff perhaps) and well done. The site also supports teachers with lesson plans and support materials to go with each story.

Visit Storyline Online!

Filed under readaloud reading resources lessons childrensbooks childrensliterature

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Should Children Be Forced to Read the Classics?

I love Anne of Green Gables. The book is a classic and always brings a smile to my face listening to Anne ramble and tears to my eyes when the end draws near. My wife and I were watching the movie version and, afterwards, my wife turned to me and said that I should read the book to the class. Which made me think, 

Is this a book that I would read to my class in today’s day and age? Would they actually be interested? 

Should we force children to read/listen/work through classic literature as part of the school day, whether as a read-aloud or book study?

So, first of all, I guess the first part of this would be to ask what we mean by the classics?

For children’s literature, my idea of the classics include books like The Secret Garden, Treasure Island, Anne of Green Gables, The Phantom Tollbooth and others along those veins published 20 years ago and prior. Wikipedia has a good list of books from the 18th, 19th and 20th century, which lists books that are still used in schools. I myself have read Little House in the Big Woods to my class, usually at the beginning of the year or for a pioneer. And while I love the book, I find that I have to do a lot of editing as the students start to lose focus in the longer, more drawn out detailed parts.

So do we continue to try and read this books to children? 

The one side of the issue would say, “Yes”. That children need to be exposed to books that are considered high-quality narratives that have defined literature; that these books give them access to words that people don’t use in everyday speech, exposes them to proper sentence structure and correct grammer. The writing is more detailed and strengthens reading comprehension, stimulates thinkings, evokes ideas, creates mental images and engages the emotions. They would also say classic literature has endured over time for a good reason, has universal meaning and explores the human condition in ways that Spongebob Squarepants does not. In fact, they would point out the proliferation of books sold by groups like Scholastics which seem to focus on selling brands and series to the detriment of good literature, as speaking to their argument. These days kids are so immersed in videos and flashes of information that unless you are reading longer, more descriptive passages, they are going to have a much harder time understanding what they read and hear in school. 

The other side would say that a lot of these classics perpetuate values and ideas that are outdated. These books contain too much detail and outdated verbiage that drive kids away because they don’t understand or get lost in the expansive illustrative details. How do we maintain a child’s interest in a story that has no relevance to the 21st century child? More modern books speak more to the angst and lives of the modern child with situations they are more likely to relate to. In speaking about a modern day authors effect on students, one teacher writes, in discussing the works of Walter Dean Myers, “Of course they loved Meyers - at night, they heard the gunshots he wrote about. They told me so when I asked about homework. On weekends, some of them visited brothers or cousins on Rikers. Doritos were breakfast. And, often dinner.”

These modern day situations are what students relate to. It is part of their world now and not unattached from their realities like the classics tend to be. Afterall, proponents for not having children forced to read the classics would say, shouldn’t we encourage children to read what excites and interests them? Shouldn’t we foster a love for reading? We should be pushing young readers to try new genres, to explore a variety of authors. To use their imaginations to build worlds in their minds. Not stunting their comfort in reading through literary texts that might not be relatable to them yet. Do we chance having children driven away from a love of reading because we force on them books that we think are good for them?

I would say that I am in the second camp in many ways. I believe that we need to find the modern day classics and bring those to our children and students. We need to have literature available that will excite, captivate and encourage children to want to explore more. And in those explorations, if they come across “The Hobbit”, they may discover that they love the language and the ideas that come through. I would say good for them. Given a choice between reading “Treasure Island” or “Holes”, however, I know that my students are going to enjoy “Holes” more. While “Treasure Island” may be a classic and written as a boy’s adventure book, “Holes” brings in situations and characters that children can relate to and understand. I am not saying that children should never read the classics but maybe, as a lot of adults do, they will discover them later in life and be more rewarded through a better understanding of life and the context these great classics live in. 

So, while we may long to have the literature we grew up and loved brought to another generation, maybe those are longings from behind rose-tinted glasses. Teaching has always been a balance between what we want to do and what is good for our children. While I would love to draw them away from, and often tear my hair out at the books I find for sale in the Scholastics Book Club forms, the fact is, these books get my kids reading. It is what interests them. It is what they pick up. Choosing books for my class needs to take this into consideration. So I will continue to hunt for those modern classics to use in the class for book studies and read-alouds that are engaging and relevant but also make students realize that there are more things out there than the Captain Underpants/Squarebob genre of books that are placed prominently in front of children’s eyes.

What do you think? Are there Classic books that you have found kids love? How do you make it engaging for them?

Join us by adding your comments! If you haven’t already, let us help you sign up for an account to start using Pockettales in your class. Teachers and classes are always welcome! Sign up at Pockettales.com!

Filed under classicliterature books reading teaching

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Reading for Life: Video Resources for Parents on Raising Readers

As the Pockettales team continues building out cool new features and improvements in our website (btw, more new cool features are on the way!), we occasionally, come across some interesting resources for parents and educators.

Reading is probably one of the toughest areas to teach and definitely something that parents struggle with at home in knowing how to support their children. While parents and teachers can usually force children to read, what we want is for our children to have a love for reading; that with all the distractions in the world around us, our children will discover the joy, thrill and fulfillment that a beautiful and well written book brings to them. The other area of difficulty for parents is navigating the world of language terms they often hear when meeting with their child’s teacher. As the teacher explains the development of the language skills their child is gaining or having difficulty with attaining, parents can often get lost in all the terminology along with what to do with that information once they get home.

That’s why this free video series we discovered in our travels through cyberspace, is a nice introduction and resource for parents. Created by the Literacy Center at the Northern Illinois University, the videos include helpful information on topics including developing a love of reading, building reading habits, comprehension of fiction and non-fiction texts, phonemic awareness, and comprehension strategies. You can check out the video below and click on the link to view the other resources on their Youtube channel.

The link to the rest of the videos can be found here

How do you encourage reading at home? Share your tips and ideas here!

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Enhanced Books for the Ipad Kid

More and more, kids are using digital platforms like the ipad for reading. With recent studies showing that kids prefer digital e-books with enhanced content over regular paper editions and comprehension levels remaining similar for both digital and print copies, enhanced books are going to become increasingly popular. While some critics state that, 

the level of recall actually was less when comparing an enhanced ebook to a standard digital edition” and that “the culprit seemed to be too much focus on enjoying what the screen could do rather than the material itself

there is no doubt that enhanced books are engaging and fun forms of literature that take advantage of new technologies and new ways to bring stories to life (For more on the debate, check out the articles, “Digital Media Brings the Reader into the Book" and "Are Children’s E-books Really Terrible For Your Children”).

My own children, ages 3 and 1, both love the Dr. Seuss books available on the ipad. Not only can they have the books read to them and follow along but they can also touch objects on the screen and have the app say what those objects are. The text is highlighted as it is read so children and see and hear the words and they are both very engaged. Of course, we don’t use the apps exclusively and we provide tons of great print books for our children which they also love. We believe it is always about moderation and allowing them to enjoy the fun of the apps but also knowing that the act of reading print books to our children is also an important bonding experience that an app just cannot give.

Regardless, there are some great apps out there. The blog, Digital Media Diet, has a great post on 25 Essential Children’s Book Apps, where the author has,

whittled down my favorites to just 25 apps I would recommend for a well-rounded collection. This list represents just 10% of the 250 books reviewed on our site (and includes insights from previewing over 1000 book apps overall).

Our Top 25 Children’s Book Apps:

Essential Fairy Tales & Nursery Rhymes:

The Three Little Pigs - Nosy Crow Interactive Storybook App Review

The Three Little Pigs - Nosy Crow Interactive Storybook

Nursery Rhymes with StoryTime App Review

Nursery Rhymes with StoryTime

Cinderella, a PicPocket Book App Review

Cinderella - A PicPocket Book

Extra Special ‘Wow’ Factor:

Teddy's Day App Review

Teddy’s Day

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore App Review

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

The Penelope Rose App Review

The Penelope Rose

Great Enhanced Storytelling:

Fierce Grey Mouse App Review

Fierce Grey Mouse
Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really BIG Adventure App Review

Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really BIG Adventure

 The Fine Musician App Review

A Fine Musician

Digital Classics:

The Cat and The Hat - Dr. Seuss App Review

The Cat and The Hat – Dr. Seuss
PopOut! The Tale of Peter Rabbit App Review

PopOut! The Tale of Peter Rabbit

The Monster at the end of this Book App Review

The Monster at the end of this Book

For the Very Young:

Scruffy Kitty App Review

Scruffy Kitty

Digital Storytime Review of The Going to Bed Book for iPad

The Going to Bed Book

Pat the Bunny App Review

Pat the Bunny

A Present for Milo App Review

A Present for Milo

For Older Kids:

Treasure Kai and the lost gold of shark island App Review

Treasure Kai and the lost gold of shark island

Be Confident in who you are: a middle school confidential graphic novel app review

Be Confident in who you are: a middle school confidential graphic novel

Trans-Media Chart Toppers:

Toy Story Read-Along App Review

Toy Story Read-Along

Angelina Ballerina's New Ballet Teacher App Review

Angelina Ballerina’s New Ballet Teacher

Bedtime Favorites:

The Wrong Side of the Bed App ReviewThe Wrong Side of the Bed
Nighty Night! App Review

Nighty Night!

Too Unique to Miss:

Bartleby's Book of Buttons Vol. 1: The Far Away Island App Review

Bartleby’s Book of Buttons Vol. 1: The Far Away Island

The Strange & Wonderful World of Ants App Review

The Strange & Wonderful World of Ants

Lazy Larry Lizard App Review

Lazy Larry Lizard 

Another great site to find Digital E-books is Digital Storytime. The site lists e-books that are available on the ipad and reviews them so you can get a good idea of what the story is about and about how the interactive elements work.

Whatever you decide about digital e-books, there is no doubt that there are going to be more and more published as publishers jump on the digital bandwagon. 

What do you think about digital e-books for children? What are some of your favorites? 

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Filed under books childrensliterature interactive ipad e-books technology