Monday, September 16, 2019

Teacher's Discovery Enhanced Reader Series

Teacher's Discovery Enhanced Reader Series

The following is a sponsored book post in collaboration with Teacher's Discovery. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

One of the most popular questions I get from readers is: Where can I find new readers for my kids or students?

Slowly I've started collecting quite a few series for those of you with young beginning readers in elementary grades. But I've been missing readers designed for older students. So when Teacher's Discovery reached out to me and asked if I would take a look and share their new Enhanced Reader Series, I agreed to take a look and see if they are a good fit.

They totally are. 

I received three of the books in their Level 1 series: ¡Sí, yo puedo!, El intercambio, and Los novios¡Sí, yo puedo! follows the story of Mario and his struggle to get good grades. The book introduces his friends - Carmen, Eric, and Cristina - a cast of characters that also appear in the other two books. Three of them have been friends since kindergarten.

Los novios is the story of Eric and Carmen's romance. I know it sounds a little sappy, but based on my own kids, I would bet that most teenagers will eat it up! And so the language learning is made a little easier. Ha!

And finally, El intercambio tells the story of Carmen's opportunity to travel in Mexico and learn about the history and culture of the area.

Teacher's Discovery Enhanced Reader Series

Aside from the subject matter, what makes these books best geared for older students is the approach, design, and use of technology (see more below). Also, at the end of each book, there is a comprehensive glossary with all the words used in the book. They've made it super easy for the reader to understand the material.

Teacher's Discovery Enhanced Reader Series

Story Vignettes

The chapters are perfect in length and content. I think the longest one I've seen is five pages. The pages are not text-heavy, either. Each chapter is a short story - a moment, really, in the lives of the characters and the scenes are focused on helping the reader build their vocabulary and reinforce concepts. There is just enough repetition of words to help the reader master their understanding. And at the end of each chapter, there are 10 questions for reading comprehension and critical thinking. Everything is in Spanish.

Teacher's Discovery Enhanced Reader Series

QR codes

This is probably the most amazing part of these books. Most of the chapters contain a QR code* (or several) that introduce characters and/or give you, the reader, a little more background information. Some are dialogue scenes straight from the chapter. For example, in the first chapter of ¡Sí, yo puedo!, there are QR codes that lead to videos about each character. I discovered that Mario enjoys painting, playing the piano and chess.

*You can use any (free) QR code reader app on your phone. You can also use Snapchat to scan it! What?!? I know.

Teacher's Discovery Enhanced Reader Series

Full-Chapter Audio

There is also a QR code at the end of each chapter that takes you to a complete audio recording of that chapter. This is great for learning proper pronunciation, as well as to practice listening to Spanish in real-time. I love that the publisher uses voice actors to read the story aloud, theater-style. 

Overall, I believe that these are just fantastic teaching tools for the Spanish classroom. They are fun, engaging, and really facilitate learning. They can be used as independent reading, homework assignments, lessons for substitute teachers, class read alouds, and so much more.

You can find them on the Teacher's Discovery website here.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Little Creatures: An Introduction to Classical Music

The Secret Mountain does it again! Another excellent book for children has been released this month and it's as classic and beautiful as its subject matter.

Little Creatures: An Introduction to Classical Music (aff link) is a remarkable musical picture book with an accompanying CD. It features the work of 17 composers covering five centuries of music history. From Josquin des Prez to Silvestre Revueltas, your children will discover composers who composed music during the last 600 years.

What is most unique about this book, I think, is the way in which children are introduced to these musicians and their work. Visually, the focus is on little creatures; insects, arachnids, small mammals, and amphibians fill the pages of this book in unusual ways. They may sport little boots on their feet. They may be playing the violin or cello. They may be pounding away at the piano or blowing on a clarinet. It really is the craziest thing you ever saw.

But I love that it is a little avant-garde because that's how you capture a child's attention and keep them engaged. (It certainly caught my attention.)

And each illustration comes with writing that shares the title, the composition, the composer, and a short story that talks about the animal and its influence on the composer. Each composition has a sound bite on the CD. So, for example, the 8th track on the CD has a sound clip to go with the 8th story in the book. The musical snippets are about 1 to 2 minutes in length.

One of the other things I love is that the author, Ana Gerhard, was born in Mexico. She studied as a concert pianist at the Mexican National Conservatory. Little Creatures is actually the fourth book in a series of Introduction to Classical Music. The others are:

In addition, the illustrator, Mauricio Gómez Morin, is also of Mexican heritage. His art is exquisite, as you can see from the images shown. It suits each piece perfectly and conveys what Gerhard is trying to present to her young readers.

Included in the back of the book are sections with:

  • a listening guide, 
  • short bios of the 17 composers, 
  • a timeline of composers and periods, 
  • a glossary of musical terms, 
  • and the accompanying CD.

Truly, this book can be used with children of all ages thanks to the information found within. Younger children will enjoy the illustrations in the front of the book and the music. And older kids can go more in-depth by studying the composer bios in the back of the book and reading the listening guide before (or while) they listen to the CD.

This is such a gem of a book that both families and schools alike will love it.

Spanish Teachers/Parents!

For those of you looking for Spanish-language resources, this book was first published last year in Spanish:

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Book for Latino Parents on Raising College-Bound Children

I have a college-bound 10th grader. We're obsessing over college. So guess how excited I am to have just found out about Flight of the Quetzal Mama: How to Raise Latino Superstars and Get Them Into the Best Colleges (aff). I have not read it, yet, but here is the book description:

Move over, Tiger Mom! Latinos now have Quetzal Mama.

Author Roxanne Ocampo – aka “Quetzal Mama” –  is a proud Latina mom who has demystified the complex college admissions process for Latino students. After strategizing her own children’s pathway to Harvard and USC, Quetzal Mama shares her strategies. She created the term, “Quetzal Mama” to refer to any person (male or female) who takes a leadership role in nurturing future Latino Superstars. 

A 3-Prong Approach: 

She provides a 3-prong approach to raising Latino Superstars that ensures Latino parents are focused and informed to prepare their students for success in academia. 

First, she provides parental guiding principles to nurture future Latino scholars. She calls them the “10 Quetzal Mama Principles.” Her Principles are more than philosophical ideas. She provides tactical, hands-on activities that she employed as a parent with remarkable success. 

Second, she shows parents how to “Work the System,” the intricate, inside track of K-12 public school systems that elude most Latino parents. She provides a step-by-step guide covering K-5, middle school, and high school – all geared toward maximizing college success. 

Lastly, she explains the nitty-gritty of the “College Admissions Process,” including how to strategize extracurricular activities, manage timelines, write an effective personal statement, create a Cyber Profile, and focus on each component of the college application process. No Hype. She informs students and parents with what they need to do, when they need to do it, and how they can achieve it. 

Her book provides resources, tips, strategies, and practical wisdom. Her book was written with the conviction that Latino parents are not looking to understand why their children should go to college but how to get them there. The content appeals to Latino students as each chapter includes culturally-authentic language and examples, recognizable colloquialisms, personal and relatable stories, and addresses our specific needs and challenges. Her writing comes from working directly with Latino students including traditional, non-traditional, first-generation, migrant, as well as undocumented students. 

This book will empower Latino parents so their children can achieve academic excellence, become the leaders they were intended to be, and make a valuable contribution to humanity. Become a Quetzal Mama!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

New Podcast from Read Conmigo & Giveaway!

Now there's another reason to love Read Conmigo! Did you know that they have launched a podcast to help parents raising bilingual, bicultural, and kind kids? They've already aired four episodes with some wonderful guests, including my friend, Maritere Rodriguez Bellas, who talks about how to raise bilingual and bicultural kids. It's a great interview!

The Read Conmigo Podcast needs to be on your list of things to check out.

They kindly asked me to go on the show and talk about homeschooling. So, I'm on there today! If you've been considering this as a schooling option for your family, I hope you'll listen. I share all sorts of advice and bilingual resources for you to reference.

The Giveaway

To celebrate their launch and my episode, I'm giving away 5 copies of my bilingual children's book, Linda and Reuben Learn at Home/Linda y Reuben aprenden en casa. Read Conmigo published this book two years ago to help share more information about homeschooling with families across the country. The two children in the storyline are fashioned after my two eldest, so this book is really special to me.

To enter, just use the Rafflecopter below.

Buena suerte... and go listen to all the episodes!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Win a Little Free Library!

Here's an opportunity that I just learned about on Facebook and immediately signed up!

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is giving away one official Little Free Library structure for you to add to your home or neighborhood. As a bonus, your Library will be filled with books from HMH! You have until the end of this month to enter. Just fill out this short form.

This giveaway is their way of celebrating the new children's picture book, Little Libraries, Big Heroes (aff link) by Miranda Paul and illustrated by John Parra. It tells the story of Little Free Library's founder Todd Bol and how he started an international movement that now boasts more than 75,000 mini-libraries around the world.

I'm looking forward to reading this book with my little one!

Monday, September 9, 2019

Printable Lessons and Activities to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

It's hard to believe that Hispanic Heritage Month kicks off next Sunday! And let me tell you, I think we need it more than ever. To dispel myths. To dispel stereotypes. To highlight the significant contributions of Hispanics to U.S. history. To fight racism.

I've seen a lot of activity going on with my printable downloads that focus on historical Latino figures, Spanish-speaking countries, and more.

To make things easier for you, I've compiled them all together below for easy reference. But if you visit my TpT store*, you'll probably find a lot more that would complement the upcoming month!

*Note: I'm working on getting all of these uploaded to my MommyMaestra shop this week, if you prefer to get them there. You can always shoot me a message and ask me to add a particular product if you don't see it.

FIRST, if you aren't signed up for my newsletter, you might want to do so. I try to share free downloads with my subscribers. Sometimes they are new products, and sometimes they are free versions of my paid products which I offer to my subscribers for a limited time. :) Right now, I have some new themed writing pages for Hispanic Heritage Month. Easy to print and go! A few ways to use them?
  • Research and write up the history of the holiday.
  • Have students write what Hispanic Heritage Month means to them.
  • Research and write up the story behind a Hispanic historical figure.

And now, on to the rest of the printable materials...

Country Studies

Explore the Spanish-speaking countries of Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Spain with this Country Coloring Activity BUNDLE!

Available in English or Spanish, it's simple and fun. Just have your kids read about a person, place, or thing related to the country, then have them find it on the map and color it in. You save when you buy the bundle, but you can also purchase the individual country files.

Latinos in American & World History

Teach your kids about Hispanic Heritage Month with this set of three minibooks that are perfect for lapbooks, interactive notebooks, or literacy centers.

This file contains three books:
  1. A top flip book featuring Hispanic musicians
  2. An accordion-folded book featuring Hispanic writers
  3. And a side flip book featuring Hispanic artists

My most popular download during this time of year, this reading comprehension packet comes with one-page reading passages about the following 10 famous Latinas:

  1. Ellen Ochoa
  2. Isabel Allende
  3. Dara Torres
  4. Frida Kahlo
  5. Linda Ronstadt
  6. Dolores Huerta
  7. Sonia Sotomayor
  8. Carolina Herrera
  9. Rita Moreno
  10. Sor Juana de la Cruz

I've also included reading comprehension worksheets that focus on facts and vocabulary from the passages, a matching activity, dictionary reference, and complete the sentence. Answer key included.

This reading comprehension packet comes with one-page reading passages about the following famous Afro-Latinos:
  1. Celia Cruz
  2. Sammy Davis, Jr.
  3. Soledad O'Brien
  4. Roberto Clemente
  5. Martina Arroyo
  6. Pelé
  7. Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez

I've also included reading comprehension worksheets that focus on facts and vocabulary from the passages, a matching activity, dictionary reference, and complete the sentence. Answer key included.

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by playing "Who Am I?" with this set of character crowns featuring 30 influential Hispanics in History. 

Each crown comes with a fact sheet and extension strips for making the crown. Directions for assembly and instructions on different ways to play the game, as well as different ways to use the crowns are included. 

These fact files may be used as individual bookmarks or a fandex. It features 36 historical figures. Directions for fandex assembly and use, as well as individual worksheets, cut-outs and answer key included. 

Introduce your students to Dolores Huerta with this easy, no-prep, printable poster and glossary! Available in full color or black-and-white, you can decorate your classroom or have your students color in the poster and read the glossary which features words related to the activist.

Worksheets are included that require students to study the words and then write in the definitions. Answer key included.

Hispanic Holidays

This is a collection of my four one-page reading passages on Hispanic holidays. It includes:

• Day of the Dead Reading Passage
• Las Posadas One-Page Reading Passage
• Día de los Reyes Magos Reading Passage
• The REAL History of Cinco de Mayo Reading Passage

Each one comes with a 1-page reading passage and a quiz.

Family Heritage Research

Encourage your children/students to explore their family's heritage with these sets of themed journaling pages. Each collection contains 42 different pages to record a child's family heritage and includes pages for sketching, photographs, recording family recipes and interviews, journaling and more. Just print what you need and go. 

Friday, September 6, 2019

Free Download: What's in My Backpack? Activities

By now my kids have been doing school for almost a month! Where does that time go? Maybe it is the same for you, or perhaps you are just getting started. Either way, this month's freebie is perfect for the new school year. MommyMaestra sponsor Spanish for You! shares this set of What's in My Backpack Activities in Spanish.

This month's 4-page freebie includes vocabulary cards, activity pages, and directions. And as always, you can find an attached audio to help you with pronunciation. Especially if your house is full of non-(native)Spanish speakers!

Remember! Spanish for You!'s program is geared for middle schoolers and is the perfect choice for homeschoolers and afterschoolers alike because their concepts are carefully divided up into manageable bundles that are available for immediate download from their website.

If this is your first time here, you can find other free samples from Spanish for You! here. There are some fantastic downloads of games and activities for you and your family to enjoy. If you enjoy this activity, be sure to visit the Spanish for You! website where you'll find tons of additional resources for you to help your young Spanish learner!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Imagineering in a Box: Free Online Program

This school year, I wanted to add something unique, fun, and educational to our homeschool studies. So I was pretty delighted to learn about Imagineering in a Box, a free online program for kids.

Walt Disney and Khan Academy have partnered to bring this unique learning opportunity to your home or school classroom. The program is a series of lessons made up of a combination of videos and exercises to help your children learn how to create their own theme park. 

In the videos, you hear from Disney professionals including artists, engineers, construction, management and more. They tell you about all the planning that goes into creating a theme park and how each of them has to work together with a team to make the parks come to life.

So far, my son has learned about how to create a story as the basis for your land, how to develop a theme, what goes into a layout, and what goes into building design. And there's so much more for him to learn.

Here's a peek at the introduction. Watch it and see if you think it might be a good fit for your child!

Monday, September 2, 2019

55 Children's Books That Are Awesome Movies Too

Some of the best family movies are those based on a beloved children’s book. Perhaps you are able to remember a few off the top of your head, but you might be surprised at the sheer number of movies that began as books for kids.

This post contains affiliate links.

For the parents and teachers who are challenged with reluctant readers, these movies provide a valuable incentive for getting children to read. My son never enjoyed reading...until he watched How to Train Your Dragon and discovered the book series. For him, watching the movie first has become the motivating factor for picking up the book.

If your young pupil is an avid reader, these movies may be used as rewards for reaching milestones or utilized as comparison learning opportunities. My daughter’s favorite book of all time is Swiss Family Robinson. She’s read the book dozens of times. And when I shared the movie with her, she was surprised to see how much of the book was changed (in the book, one of the children is completely left out!). It was a great opportunity for me to whip out my little Venn Diagrams to let her compare the book and the movie.

Either way, you can’t deny that a good story transcends media to engage and empower its audience. We hope you enjoy this list of more than 50 children’s books that are also movies.

Picture Books

You’d think that a children’s picture book wouldn’t have enough content to create an entire movie, but you’d be mistaken! Some of the most amazing stories are the simplest ones and the following books/movies are prime examples.

  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak - book/movie
  • The Night at the Museum by Milan Trenc - book/movie
  • The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg - book/movie
  • The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson - book/movie
  • Curious George by H. A. Rey and Margaret Rey - book/movie
  • Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg - book/movie

Dr. Seuss

Truly, Dr. Seuss is the Master of children’s picture books and the movies that have been made based on his works certainly do them justice. They are fascinating, engaging, and visual masterpieces...just like his books.

Chapter Books

Adventurous, whimsical, inspirational, gripping...all of these books make perfect family movies. From the action-packed Lightning Thief to the thought-provoking Wrinkle in Time, your children will be fascinated by these stories of perseverance, intrigue, and triumph.

  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney - book/movie
  • Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan - book/movie
  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater - book/movie
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Ron and Judi Barrett - book/movie
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman - book/movie
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan - book/movie
  • Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh - book/movie
  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster - book/movie
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick - book & in Spanish!/movie
  • Inkheart by Cornelia Funke - book/movie
  • The Borrowers by Mary Norton (the movie was titled “The Secret World of Arrietty”) - book/movie
  • The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks - book/movie
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle - book/movie (original) & recent version

Roald Dahl

Storytelling has never taken you so far as one of Dahl’s books. They lend themselves perfectly for film. And one of his stories is one of the few movies based on a children’s book that has been made more than once (think Willie Wonka Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).


If Hollywood has gone so far as to make more than one film of a series, then you can bet the stories are bestsellers with a loyal fanbase. It is evident by these legendary titles.

  • Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling - books/movie
  • How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell - books/movie
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket - books/movie
  • Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - books/movie
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis - books/movie
  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery - books/movie
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi - books/movie
  • Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder - books/movie


True classics are recognized around the world. The following books have been made into movies, some of them more than once.

  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White - book/movie
  • Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie - book/movie
  • The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss - book/movie
  • Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll - book/movie
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - book/movie
  • The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum - book/movie
  • Heidi by Johanna Spyri - book/movie
  • The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling - book/movie
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett - book/movie
  • Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers - book/movie
  • Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls - book/movie
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne - book/movie
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne - book/movie

For Older Children

Some movies are based on books better suited for older kids, such as those listed below. Some of them are required reading for middle schoolers. If you have tweens and teens in your household, don’t miss these stellar films!

  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien - book/movie
  • Holes by Louis Sachar - book/movie
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson - book/movie
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - books/movie
  • Jurassic Park by Micheal Crichton - book/movie

Friday, August 30, 2019

Jump Into Spanish

Are you teaching your kids Spanish at home? Are you looking for a support group to help you through the school year? My friend, Kali, from For the Love of Spanish is getting ready to launch a new term of Jump Into Spanish!

This is a paid membership group (one-time fee $99). Designed for children ages 3 to 9, the program consists of six 12-week terms in all, so it's like a 2-year program, and the lesson plans are all sent directly to members' inboxes each week. There's also a FB group connected to it for further community/support.

If you are a homeschooler, you'll probably understand when I say that this program follows a Charlotte Mason approach. Each month there is a suggested poem, folk song, and weekly vocab themes. Each lesson should take approximately 15 to 20 minutes a day.

Here's Kali's schedule:

  • MONDAY: Vocab + Learning a classic folk tale in Spanish (This coming term, they’re working through La gallinita roja [The Little Red Hen].)
  • TUESDAY: Vocab + Spanish poetry (The kids actually memorize a few Spanish poems each term!)
  • WEDNESDAY: Vocab + Game (Just any little game you choose to make the learning fun…I make suggestions in the weekly emails.)
  • THURSDAY: Vocab + Booklet (I make a little booklet you print out each week…kids add the illustrations or sometimes just color in the illustrations.)
  • FRIDAY: Vocab + Folk Song (They work on memorizing a few Spanish folk songs each term.)

The new term starts on September 2nd, but she lets people join at any time.

Go visit her site to learn more. (Psst! Scroll down to the bottom of the page and read the "What Will We Learn?" section!)

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Review: Kids Learn About Their Bodies with Dr. Bonyfide

Some homeschoolers are always on the search for comprehensive materials on specific subjects. If you are one of those, then today's post is for you!

Dr. Bonyfide (aff) is a comprehensive series of workbooks that introduces young children to anatomy - specifically, the skeletal system - through engaging characters, rhymes, and illustrations. This is truly a high-quality series from Know Yourself Academy, a company dedicated to building self literacy in children.

Self Literacy

This was a new term for me. I have, of course, heard the terms preliteracy, adult literacy, and even digital literacy. But self literacy? What is that? I wondered. Then was delighted to discover that it means having a working knowledge of your body and your mind. According to Know Yourself Academy’s website, “If you are self literate, you are happier, more confident, and better equipped to handle decisions for yourself and your health.”

What an empowering skill for every person to have! Naturally, I was eager to begin developing my children’s own sense of self literacy.

Dr. Bonyfide Workbooks

The focus of this series is the skeletal system. Your child will learn the names and functions of all 206 bones in their body. There are four workbooks in all:

Dr. Bonyfide Presents: Bones of the Hand, Arm, and Shoulder (Book 1)
Dr. Bonyfide Presents: Bones of the Foot, Leg, and Pelvis (Book 2)
Dr. Bonyfide Presents: Bones of the Rib Cage and Spine (Book 3)
Dr. Bonyfide Presents: Bones of the Head, Face, and Neck (Book 4)

Although I suppose you could begin with any of these books, I would strongly recommend starting with the first one because I think it is the easiest. These workbooks cover a TON of information, carefully teaching in manageable chunks so that children don’t become overwhelmed. And more importantly, each book builds on what your child has learned in the previous book.

The series is named for Dr. Bonyfide, your osseous guide on this journey through the body. He (she?) makes jokes, wears costumes, and even speaks Latin. The Doc’s sidekick is Pinky Le Darpals, a young girl who teaches the reader things like the Bonyfide Hand Jive and how to pronounce those longer, complicated words.

The workbooks are full of rhymes, puzzles, comics, games, fun facts, and even a pair of “x-ray vision” glasses at the back that you can use to discover secret images and words on specific pages. Your child will write, draw, and laugh their way through the activities. An answer key for the written activities is included in the back of the book, as is a glossary. There’s also a certificate of completion that you can fill out and present to your student.

These books definitely don’t read like traditional textbooks with gobs of writing on each page. Instead, the information is broken down and the illustrations dominate each page making this a perfect educational resource for visual learners.

Kinesthetic learners will also appreciate how the text regularly asks the reader to stand up for physical activities that demonstrate various concepts in the book. Your child will stretch, jump, balance and clap their way to understanding.

Osteology, triquetral, and scaphoid are just a few of the impressive terms your child (and maybe you!) will learn as you move through these books. DON’T worry! Your child doesn’t have to memorize all of them! The point of these books - in my opinion - is introducing your child to the bones and making him familiar with his own body.

The books say they are “for ages 6 to 206!” I agree. We are using these workbooks as part of our homeschool anatomy studies and my kids, who are 10 and 12 years old, are really enjoying the time they spend drawing, writing, coloring, and more. In fact, after learning about the bones in their hands (the 14 phalanges, which are made up of distal, intermediate, and proximal bones), my kids and I then spent time using our phalanges to fingerspell our names in sign language using the photo alphabet provided in the book.

I read the text aloud so that we can all benefit from the information being presented. Plus some of the words may be a little tricky for my 5th grader to pronounce. I find this to be an excellent resource for our homeschool lessons. However, this series could also be used in a homeschool co-op setting or in a traditional classroom.

Totally Worth It!

I strongly recommend that homeschool families, science educators, and school librarians invest in this comprehensive, (ironically) meaty series. The teaching approach of these books is remarkably engaging and effective.

My inner digital designer loves the layout of these books, while the artist in me appreciates the creativity in the illustrations. I also love that each book begins with a quote by a famous historical figure, each one on the theme of knowing thyself. And lastly, I am grateful to see that the characters depicted are inclusive, reflecting the diversity of our country. Our children deserve to see themselves reflected in the books they read, including textbooks.

You can order your set here (aff).

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Make the Time to Read

The following article is part of a series of guest posts on biliteracy by Dr. Carlos Ulloa. Originally published on the L4LL website, both have given me permission to reshare these valuable articles to help parents raising bilingual and biliterate children. Thank you, Dr. Ulloa!

The ritual of a bedtime story in English or Spanish is a beautiful opportunity to bond and unwind with your child. Reading is more than building your child’s vocabulary and comprehension in two languages; reading helps your child define his or her relationship with the world. When you find your son or daughter’s just-right book, the nighttime read or reread will become your own oasis for those few moments before you both retire and recharge for the evening.

One of my kindergarten parents has been reading to his daughter since she was in her mother’s womb. There isn’t a night that goes by when he doesn’t read to his daughter. What he shared really stuck with me. “Look at where you spend your time and your money. This will give you a clear indication of what you value.”

I also love to share the example of my three-year-old nephew who thought books were the coolest Frisbees. He comes from a family of readers but unlike his older siblings, he would not have anything to do with books. In listening to his words, I discovered that if I said the word truck, I had his complete attention. I found the just-right truck books for him at our local independently-owned bookstore. His idea of a good read turned out to be a board book with multiple visuals of every kind of truck imaginable and one-word captions describing each truck. He lugged those books everywhere, even to bed! He asked everyone to read to him his three new books, over and over again. Yes, his truck books were his entry into the meaningful and relevant world of reading!

My son, on the other hand, preferred listening to audiobooks while commuting. A perfect opportunity to use our downtime to engage in a book. My son allowed his imagination to come up with the visuals while he listened to the story in the car. His idea of a great book meant a world of fantasy where he could look out the window or close his eyes and see all of the pictures in his head.

While reading with your child, consciously ask questions aloud of the author, story setting, characters, and/or plot. This is what great readers do in their heads and you can model this for your child. Put yourself into the book and honor your child’s responses. Your child’s taste in books will evolve over time. 

The key is to respect the books your child loves. When you do this, you will be able to build a bridge and introduce to your child the books you love. Your child will come to respect your opinion when it comes to books because you have built this trust and respect for books.

As parents, we must learn to create a balance in the home with television time, computer time, and unstructured time during the day. My biggest sigh comes when I see multiple screens in a traveling vehicle or every member of a family on their own personal tablet or device. Whatever happened to reading a great book, singing, engaging in a conversation, or gazing out the windows while traveling?

There are a growing number of books written in English and Spanish. Your local library, your child’s school library, or your local independently-owned bookstore are the best places to start. 

To nurture your biliterate child, start by checking out Pura Belpré Award-winning books. The award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. It is co-sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), and REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, an ALA affiliate. For a list of current award and honor books, check out the Pura Belpré home page.

In making your reading time relevant, look for books that honor and nurture your child’s interests. Just be aware that your son or daughter’s choices in books will evolve as he or she gets older. Regardless of age, great books are a powerful mirror and window to the world. Your example as a reader and your enthusiasm and passion for reading can be one of the greatest gifts you pass on to your child. Your time is one of your greatest resources. Value your time with your child, reading the just-right book. Sooner than later, your son or daughter will be out of the nest and you will wonder, “Where did all the time go?”


Dr. Ulloa y su Tía Chepa
Dr. Ulloa grew up speaking Spanish with his mother and English with his father.  He is currently a Dual Language reading teacher in the Escondido Union School District and a lecturer in the Dual Language and English Learner Education Department at San Diego State University. Dr. Ulloa has over 28 years of experience as a director of curriculum and instruction, elementary teacher, Descubriendo la Lectura/Reading Recovery teacher and parent involvement specialist.  He served as a commissioner on the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC), an advisory board to the California State Board of Education from 2012 to 2016. Ulloa earned his bachelors at San Diego State University in Liberal Studies with a Spanish Bilingual Emphasis, masters degree in Education from Harvard University and doctorate in Educational Leadership at the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Ulloa can be contacted at

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