Go Away, Big Green Monster!

Need a fun, quick read to get your kids (and you) smiling? Try my favorite monster book:

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Book Info

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1st edition (January 1, 1992) Fiction or Non-fiction: Fun, fun, fiction
Ages: 3-6
Theme: Monsters ūüôā Imagination and Conquering Fears

Opening Sentence: “Big, green monster has two, big yellow eyes”BGM2

Synopsis: The book takes you page by page introducing the monster and all his scary features. Then you work in reverse through each feature again, telling the monster, “You don’t scare me! So go away scraggily, purple hair” etc. until you come to the fun ending “And don’t come back… until I say so.”

Why I like it:¬†It’s just plain fun (and very short) ūüėČ I’m also a sucker for books with cut out pages, or moving parts. LOVE THEM. This one is so entertaining with the layering and how it works so perfectly building up the monster, then taking him away again. Simple, but brilliant!

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Activities:

BigGreenMonsterPlaydough
Click Here to see on http://www.makinglearningfun.com

Literacy Activity

Coloring, Lesson and Snack Time Ideas

Face Pieces Coloring Page

Video

Song

 

Buy the book on Amazon.com

See a complete listing of ¬†‘Picture Perfect Books’ here


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DON’T TOUCH! This is MY reading time!

Hand Over the Books

I’m in that phase of life – the Tasmanian devil in a mini van phase. And the endless running around leaves me wondering how to follow the holy grail of advice to writers:

READ – read – READ!

I tried reading in the morning while I ate my cereal. Not my brightest idea. My day goes a little like this. I wake up long before the sun comes up and wake up my children (two who are far too peppy for 6 am). Then clothes and hair and teeth and lunches. Some shoe tying and shoe finding, then library book hunting – under the bed, under the couch – until we’re five minutes past go time. One says they never ate breakfast, so¬†I hand them an¬†apple and bread and shoo them out the door. Repeat the process two times for my middle schooler and high schooler – throw in a little driving faster than I should ’til that school zone sign comes in to view and you’ve got my morning (sounds familiar to any of you?). I¬†count it a¬†success if¬†my kids get in the front door before the bell rings, I mean, who’s really¬†looking if their socks match anyway? So…

Reading while I eat breakfast is out.

The rest of my day isn’t much slower. I work from home part-time, which sounds magical to everyone I tell and in many ways it is. But without¬†set work hours and no clear cut ‘coffee breaks’ and ‘lunch hours’ like¬†most office jobs –¬†reading while I work is not an option either.

Afternoon carpool is different. I have about fifteen minutes in the car before my kids come out. I used to try and squeeze in some writing here (and still do sometimes) but most often, I read. Repeat that twice for picking up my middle schooler and high schooler and I’ve got 30-40 minutes of reading under my belt.

Afternoon carpool reading is a GO!

Is it selfish that that’s not enough time to me? I crave a big, long chunk of reading time but almost never get it unless I do the following:

Swap TV/Internet zoning out for reading time.

With four kids and all the after school activities that come with that, sometimes there isn’t even TV time to swap. When I do choose a book over HGTV I’m always more satisfied. In reality, I wish I was one of those avid readers that always preferred a book over TV – but I’m not. Often¬†TV wins out, but I still think – especially on the channel flipping nights-¬†we should all do ourselves¬†a favor by turning it off and grabbing a book instead.

The only curse (or maybe it’s a blessing) I have with reading is¬†it puts me to sleep. Anyone else have this problem? When I read I calm down. My body seems to take that as a cue that it’s time to sleep. When I was reading the sixth Harry Potter book for the first time, I came¬†to the climactic seen in the tower – you know the one I’m talking about. One of the most pivotal scenes in the entire series, and what do I do mid-sentence? I fall asleep. I woke up four different times trying to finish the scene and couldn’t. ¬†I finally gave in to the sleep and finished the chapter when I woke. My husband¬†still teases me about that to this day.

Bedtime is my reading time.

My reading¬†curse makes bedtime a great time for reading. It helps me unwind and fall asleep faster. Before my husband convinced me to trying reading at bedtime I would lie in bed for nearly 45 minutes – waiting for the chatter in my head to quiet. Books quiet my¬†internal chatter¬†’til¬†all I hear is the story I’ve wrapped myself in.

Then…¬†I fall asleep.¬†ūüôā

Being a reader does not require ideal circumstances. Don’t let yourself or anyone around you try and convince you it does. Readers can come from any kind of life and any level of busy – you just have to want it bad enough.

When and where do you read?

Please comment below.

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Your Book Bucket List

Book Bucket list

Do you have a book bucket list? I do – well, did. Proud to say I checked all those puppies off. Which is sadly not as big of a feat as it might sound since I was 11 or 12 when I wrote it (which means it’s a tiny list). Even still, it’s a list full of goodies. Wonder if some of yours are on it. Hmm…

I made my book bucket list because I hated reading until 4th grade. Once I liked reading, I spent 2 year reading whatever fancied me. By 6th grade my reader friends had all read these wonderful classic books under their belts and I hadn’t touched one of them. I wanted to know what the big deal was about this redhead named Anne and why the secret garden was a secret. So… I made a list. My book bucket list.

I’m totally game to let you see it (kind of a strange post if I wasn’t), but will you do me a favor? Promise me you’ll share at least one book on your book bucket list in the comments below? Kid Lit, Adult Lit – Whatever! I find some of my favorite books through other’s recommendations and would love to hear yours.¬†That’s how #7 got added to my list. Recommendations are gold!

Alrighty, enough of my chit chatting, here we go:

BOOK #1 РAnne of Green Gables Рby L.M. Montgomery

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BOOK #2 – Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe – by C.S. Lewis

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BOOK #3 – Bridge to Terabithia – by Katherine Paterson

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BOOK #4 РSecret Garden Рby Frances Hodgson Burnett

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BOOK #5 – Number the Stars – by Lois Lowry

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BOOK #6 –¬†Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – by Roald Dahl

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BOOK #7-  The Giver Рby Lois Lowry

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While I love all of these books for various reasons, three of them had a lasting impact on me.

Anne from Anne of Green Gables¬†taught me that optimism is contagious and that bosom friends do exist (I’ve met a few).

Bridge to Terabithia is one of the most beautiful tragedies I’ve ever read. No child should have to experience loss like that but how amazing to see the resilience of children through the characters in this story. Beautiful.

And,¬†The Giver. Like I said, this one was recommended to me. I don’t think I would have picked it up myself, but I love the world she creates. And her characters are so alive! Man,¬†I hope to write characters like Lois Lowry one day. I also love the ending – that debated, unloved ending. I find it symbolic and perfect, I could ramble on and on. I’ll¬†save it for¬†another post instead.

[Insert deep satisfied sigh]

I.    LOVE.    STORIES.

PERIOD.

Let me read a few of your favorites? Please share your book bucket list below!

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YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: “A Spoonful of Sugar? Nah. Just give ’em time.” ¬†

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Simple Fix for Reluctant Readers

mary-poppins-spoonful-of-sugarBribery works – almost as magically as Mary Poppins. When my kids dreaded reading I bribed them¬†so they’d read. Not with¬†a spoonful of sugar (or candy, or money) I bribed them with¬†time. Nothing fancy, just plain old time and it worked. Beautifully.

My oldest two are now teenagers who¬†love to read. If you had told me seven years ago they’d be readers I would have laughed -no – I would have thrown my head back and cackled.¬†These two? You kidding?¬†

Both struggled, week after week to get their required reading done. We read together, sure, but they were old enough I felt like they should be reading on their own more but to them (and to me) the number of minutes they had to read each week felt like Mt. Everest.  So, I did what any rational mother would do in a moment of crisis, I turned to google for help. I found a few articles, pieced some ideas together creating this magical idea Рlet them stay up later to read.

I need to interject here. I wasn’t in love with this idea at first. Bedtime is sacred at my house. I¬†need my two hours after my kids go to bed to regain my composure from the frazzle of the day. I sometimes wish I was one of those fun, carefree moms that lets there kids stay up and play ¬†– but nope. I’m not. Bedtime hits and it’s hugs, kisses, and SEE YA! You can understand why I was hesitant to give this a try?

Here’s my twist on the idea: ¬†Let your kids stay up for an extra thirty minutes after their normal bedtime to read in bed.

Brillantly simple, huh?

Too simple, I thought. All I could see was more minutes of “I need a drink” and “I have to go to the bathroom.” I also envisioned my son filling his bed with action figures instead of books. My husband and I were desperate so we tried it anyway.

We just adjusted their bedtime back 30 minutes and then let them read for 30 minutes. SO… they really were going to bed at the exact same time (shhh.. don’t tell). Luckily they¬†were young and naive and never¬†called us out on our trickery. The most beautiful thing was that it worked. They read and liked doing it.

We¬†did have¬†to make it a strict 30 minutes of¬†reading.¬†More than one night their lamps got turned off early when we caught them playing with action figures or ¬†coloring books instead of a reading but they learned the rule quickly and we had few issues after that (except them wanting to finish just one more chapter… please!).

Not only did their reading chart fill to overflowing each week, but their night time reading spilled over in to day time reading. To this day they still do their thirty minutes (or more) of reading each night, without fail. Our younger children have started the tradition too Рa tradition I hope will be passed on and on.

What about you? Any reluctant reader tips or fun reading traditions?

Teachers, in your opinion, can giving dedicated reading time improve a students desire or ability to read?

Please share below!

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Writing Basics that Work

I’ve done my fair share of web surfing. My fair share of looking for the writing “diamond in the ruff” that works for me. Below are three¬†tried and true writing basics that will help every author become a better author (or just get that darn manuscript finished).

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#1 – Be consistent

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How you define consistency is 100% dependent on you and your life. But every author (yes, every author) needs their version of routine to be successful at this craft.

I’ve tried all sorts of routines. The early morning, butt glued in the chair, write or die method. I’ve tried the late night, half asleep, slap the face and keep going method. I’ve even tried the method of locking myself in my room with a sign on the door for the kids that says: “No blood? No Broken Bone? No Enter.” All these methods had their perks, and all had downfalls (my 5 year old laying outside my door screaming for me to let her in while my husband tried to coax her back downstairs was one of the big downfall).

Given my full and crazy life, I’ve learn to snack write. I’m never entirely sure when I’ll have time to write, but I seize the moments I get and try my darnedest to write every day.¬†

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#2- Read. A LOT.

Writing Basics - Read

If any of you are working parents, like me, finding time to write (let alone read) can seem near impossible. But good reading does make better writing. I don’t find it coincidental that many authors, especially beginning ones, reflect¬†their favorite author’s style in their own writing. It’s a good place to start. And hopefully it eventually carries them to find their own voice.

Reading also inspires you to write. Don’t believe me? Try it. ¬†Next time you have a slump in your writing, re-read a book that once struck your internal tuning fork. Just see if you can stop yourself from wanting to write.

Don’t limit yourself to paper or e-books. Audio books are great for commuters or busy parents like me who live in a car – driving one carpool after another. ¬†I also¬†listen to books¬†while I’m cleaning the house – laundry’s not nearly as awful with a great book on in the background.

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#3 – Write – for goodness sakes, WRITE!

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What? Did I really put that? Seems a tad obvious..hmm?

Well … it is.

But I know that I’m not the only writer that has gotten caught in the research whirlpool then wondered why my word count for that day was so low. You know what distractions you have to turn off to make you focus, so now, you just have to do it. Every day (or whatever version of consistently you have).

To keep your writing flowing you also have to stop editing yourself. ¬†Especially with that first draft. Make a mess! Know it’s not going to look great! Little secret here that some writers forget… no one has to see that first draft. No one. Your goal simple needs to be to finish it. Then, when revision time rolls around, you can spit shine it all you want. But first, you write.

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On that note. ¬†This would be a great time to close this blog and get back to your writing¬†(but not until you’ve left a comment below¬†‘cuz¬†I’d love to hear if you’ve got any other writing basics that are must haves for you).

Please tell me your thoughts below.

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Knowing Your Voice

If I could pick any singing voice to be my own, it would be Karen Carpenter’s. It’s effortless. Her deep alto voice has a richness that my own voice will never have. I sing soprano – not like the angelic choir version of soprano. Think of the obnoxious kid pulling tight on the end of a balloon as the air rushes out. Can you imagine that awful screech? The one that makes dogs howl and little kids plug their ears? Ya, ¬†that’s a little closer to what my¬†upper register¬†sounds like.

But Karen. Oh, Karen.

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The Carpenter’s Christmas album is nearly a religion at my house. If you don’t love it, we’ll just play it over and over until you can’t get it out of your head. In summer time, when I’m missing Christmas desperately, I sneak her CD in my car and play it for a couple days (yes, days). I sing along, pretending I can hit all the low notes. ¬†Deluding myself that I nearly sound like her. ¬†If only.

Being a “young” writer, I catch myself doing the same thing with my voice in writing. Each author has their own voice – their own “sound.” ¬†I don’t have the pensive rhythm of Lois Lowry or the vibrant descriptions of Stephen King. I don’t have the soothing voice of Chris Van Allsburg or the bubbly joy that Kevin Henkes brings to his writing – but I do have a voice. One that is unique to me. If we try and write like someone else, we’ll be called out eventually. The successful authors¬†know their own voice and create works that showcase it.

What have you done to help yourself find your authentic voice as a writer? How does knowing your voice as an author differ from knowing the voice of the main character in your story? Please reply.¬†I’d love to hear your¬†comments below.

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100 pages or less… that’s all I got in me.

When I was in Ms. Sloans’ third grade class, they split us up by reading levels. Most of the kids in my reading level whipped through¬†War and Peace in preschool. But I was not one of those kids.¬†I hated reading.

Book report time made my stomach churn. Ms. Sloan dropped a list of approved books on each of our desks while we fidgeted in our blue, plastic chairs.

“Pick one from your reading level!” she said.

All I could think was, which one’s the shortest?

During library time, I walked past shelf after shelf of books, letting my finger bump along the spines until I found one of the books on the list. Without glancing at the cover, I flipped to the last page.

“142 pages. ¬†Nope.” I slapped the book shut. I had never read a book over 100 pages and had no intention to start now.¬†I found every book on the list. Flipped to every last page and put most of them back. The book I finally settled on looked boring, but it was only 87 pages (87 pages, I never finished).

I’m not honestly sure how I got away with not reading a novel until fourth grade, but it was Ms. Jensen, a 4’10” ball of spunk, that caught me in my fib. ¬†She called me to her desk and asked me outright if I had every finished a novel. I felt my heart run to hide in my¬†throat. How had she found out? My mom? I couldn’t find the words to answer, so I shook my head no.

“Maybe you haven’t found the right author.” She stared at me. “Let’s try Lois Lowry. Today in library, look at all of her books. Find one that looks interesting to you, and that’ll be your book report book.”

I found¬†Anastasia¬†Again. All¬†160 pages pages of it (gulp). I read it all that afternoon. I read it all the next afternoon, and before too long, I’d finished it. And… I loved it.

“Great!” she said, when I told her my good news. “Now let’s try some others.” She recommended Beverly Clearly’s Ramona books, Ann Martin’s Babysitters Clubs series and on and on. I read them all, and loved them all.

It was the stories I fell in love with, not the reading. Ms. Jensen (and Lois Lowry) taught me that once I was caught up in the story I stopped caring about the page number. I learned to love the characters. They felt like real people. People who went to my school, people who went to my pool. And because I cared about them, I cared about their stories.

For anyone who claims they don’t like reading I say, hogwash! Everyone has a character they can relate to. Someone that can pull you into their world; make you laugh, make you cry, make you wonder. You just have to start looking. Some of them might even be in those darn books over 100 pages.

Happy reading storytime, everyone!

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