Best Book of June

This has been a good reading month. Of course, being on vacation does help.

The book I enjoyed most this month was Karen Hancock’s The Shadow Within. This was the second book in a series I found in the library. I read the first book last month and enjoyed it very much. The Light of Eidon and The Shadow Within are fantasy novels set in a 1500ish-1700ish sort of Mediterranean world, and though I found it in the adult fiction section of the library it would make enjoyable reading for young adults as well. I’ve enjoyed these two books enough that I am adding them to my book wish list and have recommended them to my husband.

What books have you enjoyed this month?


Reading Response Exercise #43: What do you think? Theme/Author Purpose

Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes. When you are done, consider what you have read.

What do you think the author was intending to do when he or she wrote this passage? What is it in what you read that makes you think this?

Write or discuss your response.

Play With Your Words Prompt #35: Family Memories/Narrative Writing & Point of View

  • Sit down with your family or a group of good friends. Provide pens, pencils and paper. Together, brainstorm a list of memorable times you have shared.
  • When done, cut up the list so each memory is on its own slip of paper. Fold or roll the pieces up and put them in a bowl.
  • Draw one memory from the bowl.
  • Set a timer for 5-10 minutes. During this time, each member of the group must write about what they remember from their experience of the prompt selected. There should be no talking about the event until sharing time (with the exception of pre-writers, who will need to dictate their memory to the first person who finishes writing theirs).
  • When everyone is done, share your recorded memories. Savor the unique details each member contributes to your group’s collective memory.
  • When done, pick another slip and start again. Repeat as many times as you wish.

Save your written memories and collect them in a binder. If you did this activity with your family, allow your kids to draw pictures, put on stickers, or otherwise decorate the borders of the pages. Title the binder, “Our Family Memories,” and stock it with lots of blank paper. Put in the writings that resulted from this activity as your first entries and encourage your children to write in the memory book as special events occur.

P.S. If you are on vacation, this would be a great activity for preserving this special time. Each evening, sit down and everyone write about the day that has just passed. (This would be a great way to kill time while waiting for dinner in a restaurant.) Read what you’ve written to each other, and preserve everyone’s writing in a scrapbook/binder to which you can add photos, attraction brochures, ticket stubs, maps, and drawings. Have fun and keep this as an ultimate souvenir of your time together.

Garage Sale Guessing Game

Most Saturday mornings, my husband is up early and heads off for the garage sales. If he sees items I’d like (“books,” “scrapbooking stuff ” and “beads”), he’ll come back for me at about 9:00 and off we’ll go. This kind of treasure hunting is an inexpensive way we enjoy time together.

This summer, you can combine bargain-questing with a game that utilizes everyone in the family’s descriptive skills. To prepare, provide everyone in the family with some paper (preferable in the form of a pad or on a clipboard) and a pen or pencil.

Explain that your garage sale expedition is the first part of a game you are going to play. Each time you stop for a garage sale, everybody should spread out and look at everything. Without telling anyone what it is, each person must pick one object from the sale to describe. Look it over thoroughly. It doesn’t matter if you know what it actually is, if you can do a quick sketch of it instead of writing down its name.

When you return to the car, everyone will get out their writing materials and describe the item they picked from the sale (again without telling anyone what it is). On the back side of the description, each person should write the name of the object or draw a picture of it. (For pre-writers, the child may dictate his or her description to a parent or older sibling and draw a picture of the item on the back of the paper.)

Now, head out garage sale-ing! Fridays and Saturdays are usually the best days. If you’re not searching for anything particular to buy, you don’t even have to make an early start. Just leave when you’re ready and go to as many sales as you want, stopping after each garage sale to write out a new description.

When you get home and are ready to play, place all the descriptions in a pile, description side up, and stir them around to mix them up together. Now stack them and sit in a circle with the stack at its center.

To play, whoever wrote the description on the top of the pile reads it aloud to the group. Moving clockwise around the circle, each member of the group gets a chance to guess what the object is. The person who guesses correctly gets to keep the description.

If someone guesses correctly the first time around the circle, the description gets ripped in half and the writer gets to keep one half, the guesser keeps the other.

If no one guesses after three times around the circle, the writer tells the group what he or she described, and the group votes to allow the writer keep the description if they think it was a good one or to permanently put it aside.

Continue to play until all the descriptions have been guessed, awarded to the writer, or set aside.

The winner of the game is determined by counting up the descriptions (one point per description) each person has won (each half of a description that was split between a guesser and a writer will count as a full point for each of them). The player with the most points wins.

I hope you and your family have a great time! While you’re doing so, you’ll be supporting your literacy and thinking skills along the way.

Reading Response Exercise #42: Summer Getaway

School is out and its time to kick back and relax. Right? Right.

However, just because there is no longer any required reading, there is no reason for your family to stop reading over the summer. It is important for students to read in the summer to maintain, and maybe even elevate their reading levels in readiness for the next school year. In keeping with this, I will continue to post Reading Response Exercises over the summer. Perhaps they could serve as conversation starters at the dinner table, or your student can create his own book blog and use the questions to inspire posts. They can keep it light, keep it fun, but make sure reading stays number one.

Exercise #42: Summer Getaway: Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes. When you are done, think about what you have read.

We all enjoy a getaway–day trips, weekends away, family vacations… Where has your reading selection taken you?

  • What is the geography of this place like?
  • Describe the homes and buildings?
  • What are the local businesses?
  • Describe the weather?
  • What is the mood of the place, of its people?
  • What are some of the unique sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and feelings of this place?
  • Would you like to go there?
  • Why or why not?

Write or discuss your response.

For Pre-readers: Enjoy a book together and talk about the questions listed above.

P.S. If you or your student starts a book blog, send me the link as a comment. I would love to read it!

Play With Your Words Art Prompt #6: Cake Fantasia

On Wednesday, I listed a number of cake sites to inspire families to bake a book cake together. The sites were so much fun, I couldn’t resist using them again today. So, for today’s Play With Your Words Art Prompt, visit one or all of the following sites:

Select a cake that inspires you.

Prepare to write a story about an event at which that cake is served. Think about the following:

  • What is being celebrated?
  • Who is being celebrated?
  • Where is this event taking place?
  • Who is attending this event?
  • How is this event being celebrated?
  • What kinds of conflicts might there be between characters, the setting, intruders, or the weather at the event?
  • What kind of tone do you want your story to have–comic, mysterious, serious, romantic, out-of-this-world?

Now write that story. Have fun. Be as creative as you wish.

When you are done, share your writing with your writing partners. Compliment each other on the strengths and things you like in the writing. Share as comment here. I would love to read your tales.

Working with a preschooler? Browse those sites together. Discuss with your child what she likes about the cakes, who might want a cake like that, what he might want to do with such a cake. Imagine the party where one of those cakes will be served. Encourage your preschooler to expand on his or her answers, and let your imaginations fly.

Book Cakes: Baking up Some Family Fun

Summer is here and it’s time to start having a good time! So, sit yourselves down and take a browse at these fun sites:

Now, as a family, select a book that all of you are familiar with and have enjoyed, and plan to bake your own book-themed cake.

  • Choose what flavor cake you want to make
  • Decide how you want to decorate your cake. Get creative; there are lots of options: frosting, candy, cookies, fruit, edible flower petals, toys, dolls–whatever else your imagination can dream up.
  • Go shopping together to buy whatever ingredients you don’t have around the house.

Have fun creating a cake together.

When you’re done, why not pick out a book to enjoy as a family read-aloud. Slice everyone some cake and begin to read the book together. Just be sure to take turns reading so everyone gets a chance to enjoy eating your scrumptious cake.

And please, take a picture and post it here! I’d love to see, even if I can’t taste, your wonderful creations.

Play With Your Words Prompt #34: Persuasive Writing/What Should We See at the Movies?

What is the best movie you have seen this year?

Jot down a list of what you think made it so good.

Now, think of someone you know, and write this person a letter telling him or her to go see this movie and explaining why.

Remember, in addition to explaining why one should do something, powerful persuasion takes into account the weakness or drawbacks of what is being advocated. Turn these negatives into positives, or explain how to mitigate the negative effect. In addition, different arguments will work better for different people. Consider the tastes and preferences of your audience and explain why that person would enjoy the film

When you are done, share your letter with your writing group. Point out to each other the parts of each persons letter you found most convincing. Explain one weak area that could be improved.

Share your letter as comment.

We can all enjoy each others recommended faves.

Time to Check Out Summer Reading Programs

Summer reading. The two words spell magic for me.

I remember coming home from the library in the summertime with stacks of books.

I remember reading on the cool floor of my basement bedroom, under deep green shady trees in the park, in the car on vacation, and practically every other minute I could cram it into the day. The freedom read with no school, or homework or book reports to think about was bliss, and the places my books took me were magical.

Summer reading programs are a great way to keep your child involved with reading and literature over the long school break.

Many public libraries offer summer reading programs for kids with themes, and parties, and prizes to celebrate reading all summer long. These are great because children’s librarians are the ultimate children’s book enthusiasts and it is part of their calling in life to find fun ways to connect readers with books. (For those who may be feeling a bit of a pinch this summer due to the slow economy, another advantage of these is they are usually free)

Another source of summer reading programs is bookstores. Independent bookstores are famous hosting reading events. One of the first Camp Halfbloods, based on Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series was started by an independent book store in Texas. Bookstores will often host author visits and book activities, and even the chains strive to make reading fun for young readers.

Want to start your own little program? Used bookstores are a great resource. Let you child select one book (they are cheaper if you buy them used. Garage sales are another great resource. There’s always some kid outgrowing his or her books). Design an incentive program of fun activities or rewards for every book your child reads. Replace each finished book with another used selection. You and your kids can have fun shopping for and reading these books. And with your incentives tailored specifically toward your child’s interests, what could be more motivating?

Remember, it’s important your children continue to read over the summer so they don’t find themselves struggling at a new grade level in September. Besides, what can be better than getting to read exactly what you love?