My Little Readers is a place where you can learn about our family's learning adventures, techniques to help build literacy, and ideas for activities to engage in with your children.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Reading List for 2012

One of the ways to encourage reading in your children is for you to model that behavior; let them see you reading.  I have always enjoyed reading but unfortunately the past couple of years I haven't done as much personal reading as I'd like to.  Probably not much more than a dozen books between 2010 and 2011.  So one of my goals for 2012 is to read more books for my enjoyment and personal & spiritual growth.  Right now I typically do any reading after our children are in bed so the children aren't actually seeing me read other than the books I read to them but I anticipate that changing as they get a little older.  At some point I hope to be able to take 10 or 15 minutes during the day to sit down and read a few pages out of a book.  Right now that isn't possible due to the high risk of injury to my children if I do that.  With two very active toddlers who are incredibly curious, one who loves to climb just about anything, and a 4-year old who doesn't always use very good judgment, I can't turn my back for a minute much less sit down for 10 minutes with my nose in a book.  So for now, my personal reading will have to be done after they are in bed and any reading during the day will have to be reading their books to them.

But I thought it would be fun to share the list of books that I developed back in January, nineteen books total, as those that are "must reads" for me in 2012.  I'm sure I'll end up reading other books too, maybe reading some "fun" books if we go on vacation or reading more homeschooling books as needed but I think this is a good base list for now.  I started the year with good momentum as I took some time off from selling items on eBay but the past month I've done less reading as I've had more to do in the evenings.  Since it's an awesome list of books and I'm determined to read all of them this year, I'm going to need to get back to it!

Books I've Already Finished Reading in 2012:

  • Crazy Love by Francis Chan - FINISHED 2/21/12 

Books I'm Currently Reading:

Books I Will Read This Year:

So, what do you think?  Have you read any of these books?  If so, what is your opinion?  Are there any good books that you've read recently?  I'd love to hear! Please feel free to leave a comment.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dice and Domino Math Games

The weather was unseasonably warm and beautiful this week so we spent a lot of time outside.  Today we spent the morning indoors so that we could do some math and reading activities.  I had found some free dice and domino math games over at Confessions of a Homeschooler that I wanted to play with Snootz.  He and I had bought some large foamy dice at the dollar store a couple of weeks ago and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try them out.  So last night I printed the sheets off and had everything ready to go for the morning.  Whenever I prepare materials ahead of time the day goes a lot smoother and we are able to get more accomplished.  And I am usually a lot less stressed rather than trying to print things off and get materials together with four grabby hands (Tootsie Pop and Kitty Cat) grabbing at paper and materials, running off with things, ripping, crumpling........well, you get the idea.

So Snootz saw the sheets and dice on the table when he woke up in the morning and was so excited to give the games a try.  We ended up playing two of the games out of the pack, Preschool Yahtzee (using one die) and Elementary Yahtzee (the sum of the dice) and Snootz enjoyed and did well with both.  He had no trouble adding the dice together, sometimes counting the dots to figure out the sum and other times doing the math in his head.  I first introduced addition and subtraction to him maybe 6 or 8 months ago so he is already familiar with the concept.  See my notes below regarding my process for teaching him.  

Snootz and I had a lot of fun with the dice game and I look forward to completing some of the other games from the pack with him soon.  I would recommend those titled "preschool" games for any child who can easily count up to 6, and the "elementary" games for any child who is ready for some basic addition.  The domino games include addition, subtraction and multiplication but we'll be holding off on the multiplication sheets until Snootz is ready for them.

***TIP***  I have found it easiest to teach addition and subtraction using small objects, such as small wooden blocks (my favorite), Legos, crackers or cereal in conjunction with flashcards.  Here are the steps I follow for addition:

  1. Pick a flashcard and read it together.  I have Snootz pick a flashcard from the deck and ask him to read the equation we are trying to solve. I provide assistance if he needs it.
  2. Count out the appropriate number of blocks for each number in the equation. I ask Snootz to count the appropriate number of blocks for each number we are adding together and put them into two separate piles.  
  3. Combine the two groups of blocks and count them.  We move the blocks into one big pile and I ask Snootz to count the total number of blocks.  
  4. Verbally repeat what we just did.  Once Snootz figures out the total, I always follow up by repeating back the process we just followed.  "We had 3 blocks in one pile and 4 blocks in another pile.  When added them, putting them all together in one big pile, and now we have 7 blocks total". 
  5. Have your child say the equation outloud.  I ask Snootz to tell me the equation we just solved.  He'll usually refer back to the flashcard as a reminder.  "Three plus four equals seven!".
For subtraction we follow the same method of reading the flashcard out loud and then using blocks to work out the problem.  We start out with one pile of blocks and then remove the number of blocks we are subtracting.  We often put them in the "trash" (the fabric bag that holds the blocks) but if using food you can have fun eating whatever you are subtracting.  Snootz then counts the number of blocks that are left and I verbally repeat the process we followed.  "We started with 8 blocks in our pile and we subtracted 2, or put 2 in the trash, and now we have 6 blocks left."  I then ask him to tell me the equation we just solved.  

I always try to keep it fun and present it as a game and once Snootz is no longer interested we pack it up and put it away.  He is so young that there is no reason to push it on him.  

If you try any of the dice or dominoes games with your child(ren) please leave a comment and let me know how it goes!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

$5 for $10 Amazon.com Gift Card *SOLD OUT*

**SOLD OUT**  Amazon Local is launching and they are offering a $10 Amazon.com gift card for $5 today.  I believe this deal is offered in all cities.  If you are interested, you will need to purchase this before the end of the day and they are limiting this to one per household.  This is a great offer you can take advantage of!

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Oh, how I love Swagbucks!  It's FREE to sign up and you can earn FREE gift cards and other items!  In the past three months I have earned a total of $30 in Amazon gift cards just by taking a few minutes every day to go on the Swagbucks website.  I initially thought Swagbucks would be one of those things I would sign up for that wouldn't result in much of anything other than some junk email.  But I am happy to say that I was wrong!

What is Swagbucks?
"Swagbucks.com is an online portal dedicated to helping you earn digital dollars called "Swag Bucks", which can be redeemed for exclusive Swagbucks.com merchandise." 

How do I earn Swag Bucks?
You can earn Swag Bucks by doing various things on their website, such as taking their daily poll (earn 1 Swag Buck), conducting searches on their search engine (earn 7 or more Swag Bucks), watching videos, finding and entering Swag Codes, printing off and redeeming grocery coupons (10 Swag Bucks for each redeemed coupon), playing games, taking surveys, signing up for special offers and more.

How do I find the time to do this?
You can earn Swag Bucks by spending just a few minutes a day on their site.  I usually only have time for the daily poll and conducting searches on their search engine.  I really like and have typically used Google as my main search engine but I now often use the Swagbucks search engine because I'm basically getting paid for it!  Swag Bucks are randomly rewarded so not every search will result in Swag Bucks.  If I'm not rewarded for my initial searches I will sometimes take an extra minute to do some different combinations of searches by rewording or coming up with silly things to search for.  When I do get rewarded for searching it is typically 7, 8, 9 or 10 Swag Bucks.  I have received as many as 28 Swag Bucks while searching though.  And some people have received 50 or more!  In addition to the daily poll and using the search engine, I have also printed and redeemed some grocery coupons for items I was already planning to buy and I have also watched videos here and there if I am folding or putting laundry away.  So it doesn't take a lot of extra time or effort to earn Swag Bucks.  And it may seem like you aren't earning many Swag Bucks at first but if you keep plugging away at it all of sudden you will realize you have enough Swag Bucks to cash in for a gift card or purchase an item you want!

So I've earned Swag Bucks but now what?
You can redeem your Swag Bucks for a gift card or other item you want or need.  My favorite item in the Swag Store is the $5 Amazon gift card.  I have used my Amazon gift cards to buy books and other learning items for our children.  The cost is 450 Swag Bucks, which is one of the best deals I have seen in the Swag Store, and multiple Amazon gift cards can be combined which is really nice.  Some of the other gift cards have restrictions so just be aware of that.  But there are many gift cards and items that can be purchased; there is something for everyone.

What's the next step?
When you sign up you will automatically receive 30 Swag Bucks and remember it is FREE to sign up.  Click HERE to start earning!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

15 Must-Read Children's Books

Money Saving Mom shared her list of 15 must-read children's books today.  We've only read a few of these so I'm looking forward to checking the others out from the library.  I am always looking for good books to read with the children.  I'll be sharing our own list of favorite children's books in a future post.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Imagination Station Books

I have read quite a few recommendations online for the Imagination Station series books as a children's read aloud. We haven't done any read alouds with Snootz yet so I thought these might be good books to try. When I'm referring to a read aloud I mean a book we read to him with no (or very few) pictures.  I was interested in doing this to continue to develop his listening skills, reading comprehension, vocabulary and enjoyment of reading. You can read about some additional benefits here.

The Imagination Station series is Christian-based adventure books and they are recommended for children ages 7 and up. I wasn't sure if our four year old would be ready for them but I decided to give them a try anyways. I figured the recommended age was assuming the child would be reading the book on their own.  So after shopping online a bit I decided to order the first 4 books in the series from Amazon. I had first looked for preowned books on eBay and Half but didn't find any so I decided to purchase new from Amazon since these books were part of their 4 for 3 promotion (buy 4 books for the price of 3). I then used a gift card I earned from Swagbucks to help pay for them. I absolutely LOVE Swagbucks. Stay tuned for more on Swagbucks. I'll post about that sometime later this week.

So the Imagination Station books were delivered last week and I started reading book one, Voyage with the Vikings, to Snootz over the weekend. We have read seven chapters so far and he is really enjoying the story! At times I've thought he is losing interest in the book because he gets fidgety but I'll ask him a question about the story and he is able to answer.  He also never wants me to stop reading and keeps asking for me to read more.  There are some words that he is not familiar with but this is a great opportunity for him to continue to expand his vocabulary and to learn about historical figures and geography too. There is a vocabulary list and historical information provided on the Imagination Station website. I didn't prepare anything for him before starting to read so we'll probably backtrack a bit and go through some of the vocabulary and historical information after we finish the book. I'll try to be better prepared for book 2 and I'm sure we'll read all the books again at some point anyways. I'm just glad he's enjoying the first book so well! I'll give you an update when we work on the vocabulary. I haven't decided how I'm going to do it yet. I want to keep it enjoyable for him so it's something he's excited about and wants to do.

Every child is different so just take your child's lead with the types of books they want to read and have read to them.  You know your child best and are the best person to determine whether they are ready for a certain type of book.  And if you try something and it doesn't work, just put it on the shelf and try again in six months or a year.  So tell me, have you had success with read alouds?  If so, what books have your children enjoyed most?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Put on your Tap Dancing Shoes

Maybe it was the Daylight Saving time change over the weekend that had me so tired this afternoon or maybe it was from a year and half of sleep deprivation, I'm not sure.  But I do know that I could barely keep my eyes open this afternoon and I lacked patience and motivation.  Finally I decided I needed to do something to snap out of it so I turned on Pandora for the children and I to listen to.  But I felt like I needed more than music to perk me up and decided that we needed to get our bodies moving and do some dancing.....and then I remembered my tap shoes.  They were in storage but I knew exactly where to find them.  I ran downstairs and came back to my children with transformed feet.  It's been years since I've done any tap dancing but I performed some of the moves that I remembered and the little ones absolutely loved it.  Even though I am really out of practice and it was a pretty pitiful performance the children were amazed.  They stood in awe with their mouths hanging open.  And do you know what?  It felt good.  Really good.  Here I was doing something for them that they've never seen before and although it was some pretty rusty tap dancing they didn't know the difference and were just excited to see their mom do something fun and then have their turn!  They loved the shoes even though they were falling off their feet.  It was so fun to watch.  These are the moments to cherish.

So, put on your dancing shoes, or whatever other fun thing you want to do with your little ones and enjoy these precious moments.  Some day they'll no longer think it's amazing when we put on our dancing shoes so let's do it while we can!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

$18 Worth of New and Used Books for $7 plus Free Shipping! **EXPIRED**

**EXPIRED**  Here is a great deal on new or used books!  You can get $18 worth of new or used books shipped free from Better World Books for just $7 over at Eversave (daily deals site similar to Groupon).  You can use the discount code GAS to reduce the price from $9 to $7.  I've bought deals at Eversave in the past and it seems to be a very reputable site.  I found out about this deal at Motherhood on a Dime and it's only good through Sunday so if you are interested you will want to jump on it!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

So we begin..........

Maybe my first blog post should be something extraordinary but I can't think of anything extraordinary so I will just begin. The reason for this blog.....right now my intent is to document the learning of our three precious children who are growing so fast. After deciding to homeschool next school year (unofficially because our little guy will only be in 4k) I figured it would be beneficial for others to see what we are working on and the learning that is happening in our home. And it will be a good way for us to look back and see our children's progress. I want to begin blogging before September because there is already a lot of daily learning that takes place in our home. I'd also like to share some of the activities that we are doing in case anyone else is interested in trying them with their own children.  And lastly, I will share any tips or tricks that I use when working with my three little ones.  I have really appreciated reading other blogs for the past year to gain knowledge on frugal living, saving money, finding activity ideas for the children, learning about homeschooling and finding encouragement from other stay-at-home moms who are battling some of the same daily struggles that I am.  I've seen other bloggers use nicknames for their children and I've decided I'd like to do that as well. So you will see lots of fun posts about Snootz (age 4), Tootsie Pop (age 18 mos) and Kitty Cat (age 18 mos).

It seems appropriate to focus on the reading that we did today since, after all, this blog is called My Little Readers.  It was a pretty laid back day and mostly the children just enjoyed playing together. Snootz is great at creating games for us to play, such as finding our way through the maze of toilet paper that the girls unrolled or making the colored bean bags into a pyramid and getting extra "points" for arranging them a certain way.  In addition to playing, we also read lots of books.  We received some "new" Sesame Street books in the mail and the girls especially loved looking at those. They paged through them quite a bit and they pointed to the pictures saying "that!" which means I need to tell them who the characters are even though they already know. Snootz read through the books and was excited that one of the books had numbers all the way up to 100, his favorite number!  I purchased the books because Tootsie Pop and Kitty Cat LOVE the Sesame Street characters and we read the books they have over and over and over again.  I wanted to have some books that focus on the alphabet, numbers and vocabulary.  So I decided on the following:

I've found half.com to be a great place to go for books and that's where I ordered these particular books. They show some wear but the children didn't notice or care so they'll be perfect for us. I will share my strategy for saving money on books in a future post.

So, here are my Little Readers enjoying their new books.
Tootsie Pop

Kitty Cat


Do your children love any particular character books?  Are there any character books you have found to be helpful for them to learn their alphabet, numbers and/or vocabulary?