Archive For The “Reading” Category

Book Review: Baba Didi and the Godwits Fly

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Hardcover of Baba Didi and the Godwits Fly

We love doing book reviews especially when we come across a true gem with creative illustrations, a good story line and meaning beyond great characters.  Nicola Muir’s Baba Didi and the Godwits Fly is just that kinda of “gotta-share” book we like to bring to our readers.  We were provided a free copy of this book to review but the post is not compensated and the opinions that I’m about to share are in fact all mine.  Actually, just before typing this up, my daughter asked me to read her this story again before taking her nap… and I’m glad I obliged because once again it lifted my spirits and helps me to stay on track despite the continual distractions that surround me.

So here’s the deal, Baba Didi tells the story of the Godwit birds to her grand-daughter explaining that they represent something far more than a small brown bird on a long journey.  This story, as told as a light-hearted conversation between grandmother and grand-daughter, delivers a message of resilience, perseverance and overcoming adversity in away that children can understand.  In her explanation to Isabella, Baba Didi relates her own story of migration to this 18,000+ mile journey of the Godwits.

Illustrator, Annie Hayward, beautifully captured the little birds and their bigger message.  Love the colors through out and facial expressions on what appears to be canvas artwork.  Lovely!  My favorite illustration is that of a city with boats docked and airplanes in the sky, about 1/2 way through the book, where Ms. Hayward offers a peaceful greeting between sea and shore. My daughter took an extra long pause on the page illustrated by a Croatian immigrant family departing on a colorful boat and be waved off by another family on the shore.

Storytime with Baba Didi and Daddy

Additionally, we love a story that can showcase some geography without the boring lessons of “this is here and that is there”.  In this story children learn that the Godwit birds fly to and from places in Russia, Argentina, China and New Zealand. And while Baba Didi and the Godwits Fly doesn’t take you around the world with them, it does offer the opportunity for further discussion and exploration of these countries and cultures.

Suggestions to couple with the reading of Baba Didi and the Godwits Fly:

  • Create small paper Godwits and place on a globe or map highlighting places they migrate (Japan, Korea, US, New Zealand, Australia, China, Russia, Argentina).  Talk about which of these places you’ve been or learned about. What is something you’ve found special in your travels?
  • Draw one of these places from a “birds-eye” view.
  • Discuss why it is important to travel or learn about new places and cultures.
  • Have a few examples from your childhood or recent family experiences when you’ve (singular or plural as a family) had to overcome challenges.  When has your family had to overcome fear (a big move, a new job, a huge storm)? How did you plan for it, either before or after?  What lessons were learned?  Give examples for other challenges – since life is filled with big ones and lots of smaller ones too.  Examples might be a party canceled, major traffic delays, a missed flight or flat tire.  How did you cope with these setbacks?  What would be done differently?
  • Invite your children to a discussion by asking them when have they wanted to quit?  This will open doors to many follow up conversations and be sure to let them know that grownups too sometimes want to give up.  Here are my top 10 examples but see what your kids come up with and then as a family how you can support one another to make it the whole journey.
  1. losing a boardgame or sports game
  2. getting lost driving and wanting to turn around for home
  3. homework (includes book reports and finishing assigned book)
  4. fundraising (or saving for a big item when little splurges are tempting)
  5. exercise
  6. an art project not turning out like your vision
  7. running a race
  8. burnt cookies (or pot roast or cake or casserole or coffee or…)
  9. remodeling
  10. eating healthy

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Percy Jackson & The Olympians: Greek mythology series review and Giveaway

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Guest post by Greg Wolbert

A Review of Percy Jackson & the Olympians, a graphic novel by Rick Riordan


Percy Jackson & The Olympians Vol 1-3

Have you ever had an obstacle that seemed to be impassable no matter what way you approached the situation? Well that is exactly how Percy Jackson feels every day of his life. Percy has never been very intelligent, nor popular, or even liked by most of his classmates. Percy’s only true friend is Grover, a physically handicapped but extremely loyal pal. Its not only Percy’s classmates who distaste him, but many of his teachers despise him as well. The only one of Percy’s teachers who understands what he is going threw is Mr. Brunner. The reason why Percy has trouble in school is because he has dyslexia and ADD. To top it all off, Percy’s mom lives with a guy who treats her like garbage. He hates Percy and Percy despises him in return.

Percy’s adventures begin during what should be a normal class field trip to the local museum. The class was learning about Greek mythology and unbeknown to Percy, he was suddenly thrown into a Greek godly world. The story continue by introducing different Greek Mythological creatures and characters. The setting is placed in a Greek Mythological land called Camp Half-Blood, a camp for demigods. The setting includes training arenas, Pegasus’ stables, forges, and even an intentionally deadly obstacle course. Percy’s friends (a teacher Mr. Brunner and Grover) are there as well, but not as Percy is use to them. Grover turns out to be a Sater, or a half goat man. Mr. Brunner reveals himself as Chiron, fabled centaur and son of Chronos. But, to Percy’s dismay, his mother has vanished, with whom he is later reunited. Some of the gods and creatures mentioned are: Zeus, Dionysus, Athena, Hermes, Chiron, Poseidon, and Hades. Percy learns of his godly father – which we won’t reveal here. Percy begins making friends and together they face extreme tales of adventure, action and courage. Through-out the series, readers are introduced to new characters, one of which turns out to be a traitor, betraying the group’s trust and another as Percy’s brother.

The group learn that the magical barrier that protects Camp Half-Blood was slowly deteriorating. This becomes the basis for the second book. Someone had poisoned the magic tree that provided the barrier and the group of friends make it their mission to restore the camp’s protective barrier.


Thank you to the National Center for Learning Disabilities for offering the first three books of this series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians , for our giveaway. Please note that the main character, Percy Jackson, has Dyslexia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, among other characters in the series – a humanistic trait that can be related to by many of our young readers today.

To enter our giveaway, please comment below with your favorite or most memorable Greek Mythological god or character. Tell us what was so impressive about him/her. Multiple entries welcome.

Additionally, please comment below separately for entries tied to following Homeroom At Home on Facebook and Twitter. Please indicate that you follow us on Facebook/Twitter in your comment. Tweet “I entered Greek Mythology children’s series: Percy Jackson & The Olympians Giveaway @HomeroomAtHome.  #PercyJackson” and comment with your Twitter link for even more entries (once daily).  Drawing will be made randomly using on April 1, 2013.  Good Luck!

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Puppets: Entertaining Story Tellers Capturing Young Hearts

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Ventriloquist and puppeteers have been captivating audiences for centuries. As parents we can take note of this effective story-telling technique and incorporate into our lessons, sharing time or story times.

photo courtosy of

Making and Using Puppets At Home:

I found that especially for those with more than one child and therefore a million creative ideas and reminiscent stories spilling out all at once, puppets can help your little ones take turns spinning their tales. It is a creative way to encourage sharing and communication and creativity. During a summer visit with family, I suggested puppet play.  A couple of cousins and neighboring friends were playing and like most kids, after awhile, found themselves talking over one another.  I pulled the loveseat away from the wall just a enough for 2 little persons to fit and handed them each a puppet.  The others children and I sat on the floor to watch. The two “behind the curtain” had our attention to tell their stories. Taking turns, they each got to shared their imaginative characters and play make-believe.  It was so much fun to watch the creativity flow.  Lucky that I had a couple puppets in the trunk of my car.

This is also an excellent way to blend story time with younger and older children by having the older child “act” out the story with the puppet while you read it aloud. If you are feeling creativity, have your children make their own puppets with brown paper bags or old socks. This is a perfect stormy day activity and if the lights go out just have your flashlights handy for additional effects.

Cuddleuppets are a clever twist to traditional puppets, whereby offering a built in blanket with your puppet friend.  We have the crocodile one and often play “Teasing Mr. Crocodile, Can’t Catch Me” while reading the story.  Here are a few of the Spalding puppet family:

Spalding Puppet Friends

Puppets entertaining large audiences:

I grew up watching puppets on shows like Fraggle Rock.  Kermit was our family favorite puppet of all. Elmo became our character of choice once I had my son, and still is with my daughter. Sesame Street, Lamb Chop, Mister Roger’s Neighborhood and Disney’s Muppets are all puppetry masterpieces in finding compelling ways to relate to children, discuss sensitive issues as well as encourage kindness and community. Where would we be without these adorable loved characters?

War Horse Photo by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

Puppetry is more than entertainment, it is an art form. War Horse on Broadway is a perfect example of puppetry at its finest with life size horses on stage to tell a compelling and emotional story.

War Horse Photo by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

War Horse on Broadway at the Kimmel Center

War Horse is now showing at The Kimmel Center in Philadelphia November 27th through December 2nd.  Take a behind-the-scene peek with the video clip below and be blown away with the realistic horse puppetry.

In fact, there is an entire Teacher Resource guide that you can download to include more on the making of the puppets but also the story, World War I and so much more.

And of course puppets for the adult crowd:

I still love Kermit and Lamb Chop but here are a couple of my “not for kids” favorites… just for kicks because hey, adults should have fun too!

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How To Encourage Children To Read

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August Moon 2012If reading is fundamental, then why the heck is it one of the most frustrating and difficult things for parents to engage their children in?  UGH!!  Seriously, parents everywhere are having the “put that down and pick up a book” battle.  Gizmos of all sorts have stolen the time that once was occupied by magazines and/or a great novel (and if really lucky, perhaps a newspaper).  My son, an avid reader – which sprung out of nowhere one day several years ago… has been sucked into the Netflix unending streaming of commercial free episodes of almost everything.  What ever happened to watching ONE episode a week and flipping thru magazines during commercials?

Here are twelve suggestions to help the kiddos engage in reading.  Try a few and let us know how they go, or perhaps leave us a suggestion or two of your own.

1.  Play game directly related to a story book. (Ex: Green Eggs and Ham has several games and puzzles, Fancy Nancy Game, etc)  Follow up by reading the book another night and remembering the game play fun.  Tie the two experiences together.


2. Start the weekend with a book.  If your child is slow to wake in the morning, take advantage with Saturday morning early story time, then breakfast, dressing, etc.  Makes for excellent cuddle time as you ease into your day together.

Start the day with a story

Start the day with a story

3. Keep books everywhere… children recipe books in the kitchen, easy-readers in the bathroom & bedside with picture books at coffee tables.

4. Find small pockets of time for reading… this includes picture books and reading the captions.  Five or ten minutes between activities adds up over a day… over a week.

5. Read to your children in the tub.  If your kids are anything like mine, staying in the tub til lips are blue, take advantage and read while they play, soak and bathe.

6. Encourage reading through song.  (Ex: The Cat’s Pajamas album Reading Rocks has two specifically good songs for this – “I’m A Bookworm” and “Read To Me”)

7. Make time for your own reading – yes this works as you set an example.  You can claim a “reading hour” or play soft music to further encourage the environment.

8. Keep books accessible for little ones – sturdy books in a play area, while treasured family favorites reside on a book shelf until shared together.

9. Register each child for their OWN library card.  Teach them the rules of the library but also care for books.

10. Dress up as characters.  Go all out with costumes or keep it simple with hats and accessories.

Cinderella: Getting into character

Cinderella: Getting into character

11. Act out favorite parts.  Use different voices and props as you read aloud.  For those really serious – combine 10 & 11 and make your own movie with dressing up and acting out the story.

12. Puppets are an effective way to tell a story.  (Here I’m using CuddleUppets Green Crocodile to tell the story of Five Little Monkeys Sitting In A Tree)

Using puppets and props for storytime

Using puppets and props for storytime

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Reading Rainbow – A Family Favorite is Back as an App

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The fondest memories of my childhood include dancing in the summer rain with my Dad, holding summer “camp” with my siblings and cousins in the backyard, taking day trips with my family and always story time – many times cuddled up with my Mom on our couch, or sometimes shared sitting on the floor of our local library, and often watching Reading Rainbow on PBS. Yes, my brother, sister and I were quite fortunate to have engaged parents, passionate about giving us nontraditional learning experiences and exploring with us through literature, discussion, art and hands-on activity.

Season after season, Reading Rainbow remained a “staple” program in our family’s television viewing. And this was true for millions of viewers as the television series was broadcast from June of 1983 to November of 2006. The program focused on literacy for children and introduced a wide variety of books to engage the young readers’ imagination and love of reading.

All smiles with his Reading Rainbow App

Well that beloved program is back – in a digital format to best relate with our youngest generation of readers.  On the 20th of June, RRKids relaunched Reading Rainbow as an iPad App. The Reading Rainbow App holds all of its original program’s charm and characteristics simply in a new format – a preferred method for our highly digital world. Below please check out an introduction to the App by Co-Founder and Host LeVar Burton.

Reading Rainbow Intro Video

Posing with LeVar Burton, Co-Founder

“Reading will never go out of style, but the tools used for learning are changing.  I am excited to bring Reading Rainbow back so that parents who watched the show can now share that same feel-good experience with their own children but on a platform that resonates with today’s digital kids.”  LeVar Burton, Co-Founder

This iPad App showcases several clever islands with themes such as Genius Academy, Animal Kingdom and My Family. Each of these islands hold a large variety of digital books based on the theme, age and interest of your child. Books are brought to life with some animation, activities and audio celebrity storytelling include LeVar Burton. In addition to the library of books of over 150, the App maintains the real-life exploration from the t.v. program with 16 exciting video field trip adventures built into the themed islands. This reinvented Reading Rainbow App truly captures the essence of the original television series I grew up with and loved as a child.

Posing with Mark Wolfe, Co-Founder

“Throughout its more than two decades on television, Reading Rainbow enjoyed an exceptional reputations for children’s quality programming. That same focus – bringing together the best, most enriching, content for children, all in one place – is what the RRKisz is all about; now with the Reading Rainbow App and in the future with a wide array of new projects.”  Mark Wolfe, Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer

But Parents – there’s more… with the subscription option an online parental resource and dashboard is included to keep track of the books your child read and give you updates on how many hours your child is reading, suggestions for books and summaries to aid with family discussions on the lessons in the books. As parents, we don’t necessarily read every book our child does but with questions and hints made available to us, we can engage in a more interactive experience prompting creative thinking, dialog and literature concepts.

Asra Rasheed, RRKidz CEO

“We’ve created an easy-to-use subscription service for parents, allowing then to unlock the extensive Reading Rainbow library books and videos without the worry of approving and purchasing each item separately.”  Asra Rasheed, RRKidz CEO

The Reading Rainbow iPad App is free to download with access to the library of books, field trip videos and the islands, however, books are limited to one download at a time. The subscription for the iPad App includes multiple book downloads and the parental dashboard/complimentary website. For a limited-time the subscription is offered at an introductory rate of $9.99 monthly or $29.99 for a six month package.
Screen shots of the iPad App:

With the privilege of attending a preview of the App, I was also fortunate to meet the team responsible for this reinvention of Reading Rainbow, including the beautiful and talented Ms. Tina Fabrique, the original voice behind the Reading Rainbow theme song. And who can forget the creative and tasty cake by Carlo’s Bakery, as seen on TLC’s Cake Boss.

Posing with the ever-smiling Tina Fabrique

Cake by Carlos Bakery, as seen on TLCs Cake Boss.

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Explore The Universe

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Here’s another DETAILED resource for teaching your school-aged children about the Solar System. Check out Questions and Answers SPACE as part of the Questions and Answers series published by Arcturus Publishing Limited. This book is colorful and offers a variety of photos and illustrations to depict planets, the moon, the sun and galaxy. I really like the Q&A style this book was written in because it makes for a very easy to read and interesting reference. Learn what makes certain planets blue in color, what the different crescents of the moon tell us, and what makes a shooting star. There is so much to explore in this hardback including satellites, space travel and asteroids.

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Frog and Toad Come to Local Theater

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Favorite Children’s Classic comes to theater…

Appel Farm Arts and Music Center of Salem County is offering a theater performance: A Year With Frog and Toad on February 11th at 2 PM.  For ticket information, directions and details please visit their website at :

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