Friday, February 27, 2015

Encouraging Reluctant Readers With Films

I've always heard the phrase, "the book is better than the movie." And in my limited experience, that has generally proven to be the case. But just because this is true, doesn't mean the movie isn't worth watching. And in the case of reluctant readers, watching movies may be the pathway to creating a love of reading.

My son has always loved a good story. But he's always preferred to hear one rather than read it himself. When he was little, he would always bring a book and ask me to read to him. Even in our homeschool, our read-aloud sessions were - and still are - his favorites. But when it came to reading himself, he wasn't very keen.

Until he discovered How to Train Your Dragon. And I don't mean the books. Oh, no. The movie and then the television series captured his imagination. Then one day, we happened to be on one of our weekly bookstore trips and he spotted a little book. It was a beginning reader featuring - yep! - How to Train Your Dragon. Normally, he would be pretty apathetic and impatient about our literary shopping trips. But not this time!

This post contains affiliate links.

Using Movies with Reluctant Readers

So we bought it. And when he finished reading it, he begged me for another. And then, even though I thought they were far too advanced and difficult for him, I bought one of the bigger books by Cressida Cowell. I read the first chapter, and right when he was thoroughly hooked, I got "too busy" and told him to read it himself. He whined and begged, but I was very firm and told him I would read some more the next day if I had time. Before I knew it, he was reading it himself...before bed, in the car, on the couch. I would help him with difficult words, but otherwise he read the whole thing himself. And then I bought him another. And another.

Then one day, we stumbled upon Jeffrey Brown's Jedi Academy. And my little Star Wars lover was gobbling down all of Brown's books on that subject. Now we all eagerly await young Roan's next adventure in the third book set to come out this June.

From there we started ordering Indiana Jones books and graphic novels.

And after that? We watched Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events. I balked at the $13 price per book. Lucky for him, though, we found most of the series in hardback at a used bookstore for only $4 each.

Using Movies to Supplement Reading

But don't get me wrong. My son, who is now a voracious reader at age 8, doesn't only read books about movie characters he loves. Remember how I said he has always loved a good story? Well, that passion for reading and stories has now grown to include new books and even classics.

My once reluctant reader now easily accepts reading assignments in school, although I've had to abandon many of the easier reads for his grade. We started a set of illustrated classics I found at our local bookstore and he read aloud Robin Hood, Robinson Crusoe, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. But he couldn't wait and wound up reading Treasure Island and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer without me.

I surprised him with the movie versions of some of these titles...after he finished reading them!

Letting Kids Choose the Books They Want to Read

For school assignments, I've actively searched for "living books" written by authors passionate about the subject matter. We've even joined a homeschool book club.

Now we keep a basket in our car on the floor between my children's seats that holds an assortment of reading materials. Everything from comics to mysteries to classics to activity books to magazines. They read everything they can get their hands on. While my daughter has always been a strong reader, I didn't think my son ever would be. I'm so grateful for that I let him choose his own book. Even if it would be considered "twaddle" by some homeschoolers. Because I think to develop a love of reading in our kids, they need to be allowed to choose their own titles in addition to the ones they're assigned for school. Even (especially?) when that interest is created by movies.

25 Movies That Are Also Books

If you have a reluctant reader in your home, consider showing a movie first and then sharing the original or companion book. To help you, here's a short list to get you started. Or you may be interested in my other more comprehensive post, 55 Children's Books That Are Awesome Movies Too.

Keep in mind that there may be lots of other books or versions available than the ones I've listed here. For example, there are tons of books on Star Wars. But I listed Jedi Academy because it is perfect for a young child and emerging reader.

  1. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (television series / book series)
  2. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (movies / books)
  3. How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell (movies & television series / books - there are a ton of other books related to this series, including picture books, etc.)
  4. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (movie / books - the series is also available on Netflix)
  5. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis (movie series / books)
  6. Dinotopia by James Gurney (television series / books)
  7. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy M. Montgomery (television series / books)
  8. The Call of the Wild by Jack London (movie / book)
  9. The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé (movie & television series / books)
  10. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (movie & television series / book)
  11. The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks (movie / books)
  12. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (movies / book)
  13. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (movie / book)
  14. Peter Pan by James M. Barrie (movies / book)
  15. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg (movie / book)
  16. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (movie / book)
  17. Stuart Little by E. B. White (movies / book)
  18. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (movie & television series / book)
  19. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (movie / book)
  20. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (movie / book)
  21. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne (movie / book)
  22. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (movie & television / book)
  23. Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown (spin-off of Star Wars) (movies / books)
  24. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (movie / book)
  25. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett (movie / book)

Other Posts You May Enjoy

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Reading Comprehension Passages Vol.1: Famous Afro-Latinos

Black History Month got me to thinking about the role of Afro-Latinos in our country's - or world's - history. I thought it would great to study a different person every day for a week, but I had so much trouble trying to find educational materials on this topic. 

So what did I have to do? Create my own, of course.

Reading Comprehension Passages Vol 1: Famous Afro-Latinos is designed for advanced readers in grades 3rd - 6th. It includes one-page reading passages about seven Afro-Latinos, including:
  • Celia CruzSammy Davis, Jr.
  • Soledad O'Brien
  • Roberto Clemente
  • Martina Arroyo
  • Pelé
  • Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez

There's also a set of reading comprehension boosting worksheets that require children to carefully read the text to find the answers. Answer keys are included for busy teachers. 

And guess what! TpT is having a site-wide sale in honor of teachers! You can get up to 28% off select products including ALL of my teaching materials, like the new one mentioned above.

To check out the sale, click here


Monday, February 23, 2015

Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa by Veronica Chambers

This post uses affiliate links.

Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa
by Veronica Chambers
illustrated by Julie Maren

One of the most delightful children's biographies in our family library is this tribute to Afro-Latina salsa singer, Celia Cruz. Beautifully written, Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa (aff link) sweeps us away into Celia's childhood and her subsequent rise to fame. You'll learn about what she was like as a little girl, how the country felt when she became the lead singer of their favorite band, and with whom she eventually found love. Even as a young girl, her amazing voice stood out and captured the attention of her family and friends. Did you know that her neighbors used to gather outside her home and beg her father to leave the door open so that they could hear her singing lullabies to the younger children?

Veronica Chamber's writing style is vibrant and engaging. Take a look at the opening sentence...
In the fabled land of Havana, where rhythm grows, sweet and juicy, like oranges in Florida, there lived a girl. 
The illustrations are warm and bold and even a bit flamboyant...just like the singer herself. Sometimes I find myself flipping through the book just to look at the pictures.

Even though the story is written in such a way that both adults and children will enjoy it, Veronica has included a section of notes at the end that not only shares her own experience (she is an Afro-Latina, too,  who was born in Panama) and gives more detailed insight into Celia's life. There's also a glossary and - eee! - a selected discography!!!

This would be a wonderful book to supplement studies on Celia Cruz, Black History Month, Afro-Latinos, salsa, Havana, Cuba, musicians, singers, Women's History Month, famous Latinas, aspirations, talent, encouragement, and more.

This book is written in English with Spanish words sprinkled throughout.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

How American Homeschoolers Measure Up

I found this fabulous infographic yesterday on Twitter. It shows some great information on homeschoolers and homeschooling here in the U.S. After reading it, I felt encouraged as a homeschool parent and I hope you enjoy it, too.

Homeschooled: How American Homeschoolers Measure Up

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fighting Asthma and Allergies with the New Dyson Animal + Allergy from Best Buy

This post is sponsored by Dyson and Best Buy and includes a review of the new Dyson Animal + Allergy.

There is nothing scarier than waking up in the middle of the night to find your child gasping for breath beside your bed. I'll never forget the time my son came tripping down the stairs at 2 am clutching his throat and trying to breathe. He has long struggled with allergies and is borderline asthmatic.

Did you know that Latino families are more likely to be affected by asthma than any other group? According to the Environmental Defense Fund, "Latino children are 40 percent more likely to die from asthma than non-Latino whites, and nearly 1 in 10 Latino children under the age of 18 suffer from this chronic respiratory illness."

Indoor and outdoor air quality plays a major role. We live on a small farm in the country and our home has a lot of carpeting. Every day someone is tracking in dirt and who knows what. In the spring, pollen and dust come wafting in every time somebody opens the door. My kids spend time playing with the horses and dog , then come in covered in hair. I'd love to be able to just rip the carpet out and finish the wood floors underneath. One of these days I will. But in the meantime, I have to try and stay up with vacuuming, changing the air filters on a regular basis, and dusting.

You might remember me posting a year or so ago about how I started using a Dyson to vacuum. It has made such a difference! While I've been thrilled about the easy way to dump everything in the trash without having to buy those little vacuum bags, I still had to was filters on a regular basis, which I wasn't that crazy about.

But now, there's a solution for even that. The new Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal + Allergy is a new tool for parents in the line of defense against pollen and other allergens.

It's the first vacuum cleaner to never lose suction and that requires NO FILTER MAINTENANCE!! Dyson was the first to get rid of the bag and now they’re getting rid of the filter. Sometimes I absolutely love advances in technology.

Even with the relatively new Dyson I had before, I had to rinse the filter because it would eventually stop sucking up dirt. Sometimes it would get clogged with hair and paper and leaves and pine needles so I'd have to take it apart to clean out the suction line. Not anymore! Here's how it works:

Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal + Allergy
  • New Cinetic cyclones are smallest yet, so they can spin out the finest dust and dirt. They oscillate to dislodge any particles that would typically get stuck in a cyclone that small.
  • Cinetic cyclones allow for dust capture so small, that a filter becomes unnecessary. Thus, there are no dirty filters to wash, maintain or replace.
  • Tested and proven with 10 years’ worth of dust. (Others claim “no loss of suction” by only testing one bin full of dust. Dyson used the equivalent of 10 years’ worth, and Dyson Cinetic never lost suction.)
  • Cleaner head self-adjusts to seal in suction across carpets and hard floors.

It also comes with an assortment of attachments to help you clean those hard to reach spots. My absolute favorite is that little curved one in the middle left. You just snap it on to the extension hose and then use it to suck up all the dust that gathers on top of your ceiling fan blades or the top of your bookshelves. It is simply awesome. 

I'll tell you right now that it is a little pricey. It's valued at $699. But Dysons last forever so I consider it a worthy investment not just in keeping my house clean, but in my family's health. I'd rather invest in this vacuum than pay ER bills when I have to take my son in because he can't breathe. I know that using this vacuum doesn't guarantee that will never happen, but it makes me feel better knowing that I'm able to suck up and toss out those allergens that wreak havoc on his little respiratory system. And combined with other steps such as washing his bedsheet regularly and staying away from harsh perfumes and detergents, it is simply one of the steps I take to ensure my family's health.

If you feel the same way, or if you suffer from asthma or allergies yourself, you'll be able to find this model at Best Buy stores starting on March 1st. 

Disclosure: I received this product for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are strictly mine.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Growing Up Pedro by Matt Tavares

This post may use affiliate links. 

I have a teetering stack of books sitting next to my desk. As the 2015 L4LL Latino Children's Summer Reading Program comes closer and closer, the pile continues to grow as authors, illustrators and publishers send me new titles to consider for the program's recommended summer reading list. And in that pile are many, many wonderful stories just waiting to be discovered by a reader. So I'm going to try and focus on more book reviews so that you'll discover them, too, and be able to share them with your familia. 

Since this month we are celebrating Black History Month, I want to start off with a book that features an amazing Afro-Latino athlete. Growing Up Pedro (aff link) is a new title by Candlewick Press. Written and illustrated by Matt Tavares, it is the story of baseball legend Pedro Jaime Martínez, the Dominican-American pitcher who played 18 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) for five teams. According to Wikipedia, Martinez is "an eight-time All-Star, three-time Cy Young Award winner, and 2004 World Series champion. His WHIP is the lowest of any live-ball era starting pitcher, and his Adjusted ERA+ is the best of any starting pitcher in MLB history. Martínez also has the second highest winning percentage in modern baseball history, and the third highest strikeout rate and strikeout-to-walk ratio."

If you have a young baseball player in your home - and even if you don't - this beautifully illustrated picture biography of Pedro is a must read. Your child will learn what life was like for Pedro as a child in the Dominican Republic before he made it into the big leagues and moved to the United States. You'll read about the special bond he shared with his older brother Ramón, who preceded Pedro to the States as a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. And you'll cheer for him when despite his small size, Pedro becomes one of the best pitchers in the history of baseball.

The story is nicely told and the illustrations are phenomenal. It would be a great book to read together when you are covering the following themes: baseball, sports, the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic, Afro-Latinos, family, brothers, siblings, determination, persistence, and more. In fact, you can find a lesson plan for this and three other books by Matt Tavares on baseball legends here.

The book is written in English only.

Check out the book trailer below...

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for the purposes of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Monday, February 16, 2015

App Review: Ortografía Paso a Paso

You might remember my sharing this app for teaching children to read in Spanish using phonics-based games. Lee Paso a Paso has proven to be a favorite among both parents and teachers. So I was delighted when one of the app's developers contacted me to share some new ones that they've developed. I think you'll find this new one just as valuable and effective.

Name: Ortografía Paso a Paso
Subject(s): Spanish grammar
Brief Description: An app that teaches the basic rules for accentuation of the Spanish language through interactive games.
Price: $3.99 (50% discount for schools)
Language:  Spanish
Ages: 6 years old and older
Device: iOS

What I like:
I especially love that this app focuses on accentuation, an aspect of Spanish spelling that I think many students and heritage speakers find confusing or difficult. In fact, it is designed so that students learn and practice the following concepts:

· Identifying the sílaba tónica
· Words classified as Agudas
· Words classified as Graves or Llanas
· Words classified as Esdrújulas
· Words classified as Sobreesdrújulas
· Accentuation of Agudas, Graves, Esdrújulas and Sobreesdrújulas words.
· Diptongos
· Hiatos

There are approximately eight games that are simple and fun, not overwhelming with repetition. The begin with a description of the rule or definition of the concept. I like that the audio is of a child reading the definition and the text appears on the screen with important words highlighted in larger, colored font. But you can definitely turn off the music, word sounds, and the narrator with just a swipe of the button.

You can also control the word pronunciation by selecting the Mexican or Spanish option.

But do you know what I liked best? It was that this app is helpful for anyone learning to read or write in Spanish. The reason I don't write in Spanish is because I was never taught how. I don't know all the rules, my conjugation can be embarrassing, and accents? Oy! I really loved that I learned something myself playing this app. 

There is also a Lite version that is available for free.

Note: This app is only in Spanish.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sesame Street's "The Cookie Theif" Premieres Tomorrow!

We're making cookies today. Want to know why? Because tomorrow on Sesame Street, there's an all new episode and it is super cute! In "The Cookie Thief," Sesame Street opens a new cookie art museum and everyone is excited...until the famous cookie art begins disappearing. And, naturally, You-Know-Who is the prime suspect! It's a logical assumption. I mean, if someone is stealing cookie art, wouldn't you automatically suspect that it was Cookie Monster?

This hilarious episode features our favorite penguin characters and even the hilarious comedian, Rachel Dratch. (She totally cracks me up.)

You can watch "The Cookie Thief" tomorrow on PBS KIDS. And if you miss it, don't worry! You can catch the repeats on February 18th and 20th.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

10 Latino Children's Books for Valentine's Day

I'm over at this week sharing my favorite reads in Latino children's literature for celebrating love and friendship. You might recognize some of the titles I've chosen, such as Juanito el cariñoso. They are all such great reads, but I'm very disappointed that so many of them are no longer in print. Fortunately for us, most are available from smaller, independent publishers, and the out-of-print books are still available through Amazon under "used and new."

I wonder if your list would be the same as mine? Did I forget any awesome titles? Take a look at my 10 favorite books here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Bilingual Valentine's Day Freebie

Here comes Valentine's Day. Each year we look forward to a party with our fellow homeschoolers. This year, we're making it a Valentine's school day with special crafts and activities.

I want to remind you that if you happen to be in charge of providing cupcakes for a party or school day, don't forget that I have this free printable I created for making your own Bilingual Valentine's Mobile and Cupcake Toppers. They are super cute and easy to print and cut out. Then just glue the matching toppers together (English on one side, Spanish on the other) with a toothpick sticking out the bottom and you're done! My kids love to assemble the cake toppers.

There's actually a few printables for Valentine's Day that you can find there in my TpT store. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Minecraft Valentine's Day Pinterest Board

Oh, the MADNESS! Are your kids Minecraft fans? If so, this resource is guaranteed to elevate you to "Awesomest Parent Ever" status. While doing research for our annual Valentine's Day party, I found the most amazingly fun Minecraft-themed valentines, printables, and decorations. I've compiled all of them in one place so that I can share them with all of you. Maybe you've already found some of these? Or perhaps you've found some that aren't listed here. If so, please share! My kids would appreciate it. :)

But if you are looking for ideas for your kids, take a look at my Minecraft Valentines Pinterest board. I've let my kids scan through it to decide which valentines they'd like to give to their homeschool friends (all of whom, naturally, are Minecraft addicts). They're eager to surprise everyone this year!


Friday, February 6, 2015

Free Craftivity: Curious George Valentine's Day Cards & New Episode

This is a sponsored post. Some of the links are affiliates.

Curious George continues to be one of the ways that children are first introduced to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) concepts. And what better way to teach kids about the world around them than with a clever little monkey who is curious about his world just like they are?

I heard somewhere that all children are born scientists with an innate curiosity, but that in time, we wind up suppressing their curiosity so much that they begin to do it themselves and stop asking questions. What a shame! Too few of our kids grow up to explore careers in STEM fields already. That's why I like to encourage parents to nurture their kids' interest in science and math. But the art is important, too, because without it there is no inspiration, no creative thinking, no invention.

I'm excited to share today's post because the creators of this beloved little monkey are showing their love to all of his fans, too, with a special new episode this Monday! In “Happy Valentine’s Day, George,” Curious George wants to make his friends the best Valentine’sDay card ever, but even with four paws, it takes a long time to create homemade cards for everyone. Using sponge shapes, red paint, and a waffle iron, George creates the first ever monkey Valentine’s printing press! Here's a sneak peek at the episode.

And you and your kids can make your own Valentine’s Day cards just like George does in the episode! Just click here to download the simple instructions, then watch the episode on Monday to inspire your child to make his or her own valentines.

Don't forget that you can visit the Curious George website for a more fun games, special activities, printables, and videos!

And remember that there are a lot of wonderful books that feature your child's favorite chimpanzee, like this one...Happy Valentine's Day, Curious George! (affiliate link)

Disclosure: I'm a PBS KIDS Ambassador. I received a screener kit for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

"Cantinflas Show" Now Available on DVD

This post uses affiliate links.

Time for another Edutainment Shelf treasure! Several weeks ago, I received a copy of the Lo Mejor de Cantinflas Show DVD. I'll be honest: I've never watched a Cantinflas show. Not that I can remember, anyway. Of course, everyone talked about him when I was growing up, so I knew who he was. But I never actually sat down and watched one of his shows.

Therefore, I didn't really know what to expect when I popped the DVD in for this review. But, oh my, it is so awesome! This little, animated series features the voice of Mario Moreno, who was the original Mexican comedian Cantinflas. This special collection has 13 episodes that take your children on a learning adventure through time and around the world, and they will love learning with Cantinflas as their guide.

The clever and fast-paced episodes cover:

  • Rembrandt
  • Thomas Edison
  • Water 
  • Yosemite Park
  • Electricity
  • Mexico City
  • Friar Serra
  • The History of the Space Program (mention of Jules Verne, etc.)
  • Galileo
  • Mount Everest
  • Marco Polo
  • Golf
  • La Navidad (Christmas)

The entire show is in Spanish (no English language or subtitles are available), so this is best suited for children who are completely fluent in Spanish and would be perfect for bilingual or Spanish homeschoolers. You could use various episodes to supplement your studies of electricity, music, astronomy, and so on.

If you grew up with Cantinflas, this is a great way to share the man and his humor with your own children.

Note: Veracruz Media purchased the original masters from Hanna Barbera and worked to restore them. The quality is good, but definitely reminds me of original film quality of the '70s and '80s.

The DVD is available at Walmart,, and Amazon.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this DVD for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are strictly my own.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Free Download: Family Tic Tac Toe Plus Audio

This post contains affiliate links.

We are so excited about this month's free download from our sponsor, Spanish for You! It is a family-themed Tic Tac Toe game plus audio file for your young Spanish learner!

This fun activity sheet introduces your Spanish-language learner to family-themed vocabulary. It includes three tic tac toe game boards and a bilingual booklet. The accompanying audio file is a bonus for parents and children who are learning proper pronunciation. 

And to supplement this activity, here are some of our favorite books about family.
The following links are affiliate links.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Free Download: Spanish Spelling List

A couple of weeks ago, a MommyMaestra reader wrote and asked me about Spanish spelling lists. I asked our wonderful sponsor, Lectura para niños, if they had any available, and they quickly created one from their Maravillas reading series.

Leah says:

Each week, we send these little books home after we have reviewed for the week. We ask the students to be able to recognize these words weekly. We don’t expect them to spell them on their own until spring break. Every week the little book includes a game board of all the words taught until this point. First, we read all sight words and letters on the page all the way through, then we play in groups of four, moving our way through the game board. This is not only fun, but it reinforces these sight words on our list.

Some of the things we do with our kids to practice sight words:
  • make the words using play dough
  • write the words with salt in a tray
  • segment the words into sounds while tracking the letters in print
  • segment the words into sounds without looking
  • make the words using magnet letters
  • paint the words
  • type the words with old keyboards
  • rainbow write the words
The last page of this document has a list of all of the links to my small group readers that will study and review these words each week.

For more awesome Spanish materials, especially those that teach children to read in Spanish, check out Lectura para niños on Facebook, Teachers Pay Teachers, Blog, and Pinterest.