Favorite Halloween Books 2020

It’s almost time for Halloween! How are you celebrating in your town or school? Does it look different for you, or are things fairly similar? 

I can’t let a holiday go by without sharing my favorite books for the season! It’s just not in me. Here are my favorite Halloween books. 

The Legend of Spookley The Square Pumpkin. Maybe I love this book because my first-grade teacher (read about her here and how she gave me a love for books!) read this to our class on Halloween. But the message behind it is still great. 

Piggie Pie by Margie Palatini 

Room On The Broom by Julia Donaldson

It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown By Charles M. Schulz because how do you say no to a classic?! 

Pete The Cat: Five Little Pumpkins by James Dean. I think there’s a special element of fun when a beloved, well-known book character celebrates the same holiday you do. 

The Dead Family Diaz by P.J. Bracegirdle: it teaches about Day of the Dead from a unique perspective from the dead world side instead of the living world. It will also make you wonder if maybe the movie Coco stole some ideas and influence from this book….?

What are your favorite Halloween books to read to your class?

Great List Of Elementary Aged Read Alouds

I’m a sucker for a good read aloud in the classroom!! This post is focusing on read-alouds for elementary-aged students. Please also note that they are equally as good for middle and high school ages! But these specific books are age-appropriate for these younger grades. 

Picture books:

The Little House. It takes a talented writer and illustrator to give a house such expression.

My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits. 

The Book With No Pictures by B.J Novak. For when you just need a good laugh! It’s also excellent to teach how words can be so powerful and important in reading. 

The Day The Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

The Napping House by Audrey Wood. The rhythm of this book is so peaceful and nice, a great book when the class needs calming. 

I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont. I cannot read this book without shedding a tear! “I like myself! I’m glad I’m me. There’s no one else I’d rather be.” a message you really hope every one of your students knows. 

Chapter books:

Frindle by Andrew Clements

A Series Of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. Such a fun series! I’m also a big advocate for reading the first book in a series to students in hope that they pick up books two, and three, and so on….

Nate The Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat. Start them early with some good mystery books! 

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. 

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. My new favorite! It’s written in verse, making it a unique chapter book. It’s a great read! 

What are your favorite elementary school read alouds? 

Talk, Sing, Read, Write, and Play!

If you do a quick search on this blog of “talk, sing, read, write, play” you’ll find multiple articles I’ve written on the subject. I’ve referenced it many times, but I’ve never dedicated a post to truly defining what it is and what they mean. They are pretty self-explanatory, but let’s really break it down. 

Why do I use these terms together? These are the basic fundamentals for early readers. Reading begins long before preschool or kindergarten, and it’s through our interactions with them that these building blocks are put in place. 

“The power of literacy lies not just in the ability to read and write, but rather in a person’s capacity to apply these skills to effectively connect,  interpret and discern the intricacies of the world in which they live.’

-3P Learning

Talk– Talking with children builds vocabulary, tone awareness, and teaches them how to create and use sentences, and more. Talking, discussing, pointing out, and having conversations with kids teaches them all of these important skills. 

Sing- Singing words in songs can drag out sounds, making it more clear to younger ears to how the sounds work and are pronounced. The rhythms are catchy and easy to remember, and rhyming helps kids see word relations and sounds. 

Read- Obviously reading begets reading. It’s important for them to see words on the page and how they flow and work together. Read road signs, food labels, menus at the restaurants. Words are everywhere! Spending positive interactions reading with children creates a love of books and reading at a young age. 

Write- Writing doesn’t mean write out words and sentences. It means scribble, draw, and create art. These scribbles eventually become circles, squares, and lines, which then turn into letters, words, and sentences. 

“A child’s scribbles are precursors to adult calligraphy.’

– Briana at Carnegie Library of Pittsburg 

Play- Play is a child’s work. Play is where kids learn, grow, and develop. It is the most important task they can do as a child. Whether it’s for reading, writing, speaking, math, social skills, science, history, or more, PLAY is where they work. Read more about play-based learning here. 

Next time you’re overwhelmed by teaching your child letters or words or want them to have better literacy skills, please remember and go back to the basics. 

Talk. Sing. Read. Write. Play. 

Other Activities To Do Instead Of Explicitly Teach Letters

I’ve written a lot lately about teaching my daughter preschool. 

Read about my initial thoughts here. 

Read about the curriculum I’m using here. 

Read about a few things I’ve learned in the process here. 

While it’s easy to focus on learning letters during this age of a child’s life, it’s not the end goal. Here’s what I wrote: 

“Learning letters and numbers isn’t the goal of preschool. Playing is the purpose of preschool, and throwing in the letters and numbers is just an added bonus. I was reminding myself often that just because my daughter still didn’t know that R says rrrrrr by the end of two weeks, it doesn’t mean the two weeks was a fail. We played, we sang, recited poems and painted. So much paint! The purpose of the R unit wasn’t to engrain the letter or sound into her mind, it was to expose her to a new letter, maybe recognize it, and most important- to play.”

Today I wanted to make a list of activities to do with your kids beside teach letters (that can still promote letter awareness and learning). 

Paint. We are BIG advocates for paint over here at our house! Super washable Crayola paint is our go-to. Paint on paper, paint on windows, paint in the bathtub, paint outside. PAINT! Paint flowers, letters, silly faces, rainbows, animals, numbers, and more. 

Other artistic outlets such as coloring, cutting and gluing, paper folding, etc. 

Sensory bin activities with different fillers. I’d list them all out for you, but I’ve already made a post for that!

Play outside. Discover the world, and talk about it. Talk about the green grass, the blue sky. Wonder why dandelions grow in your yard but not the neighbors? (This was an actual conversation I had with my daughter. Maybe a sign that we need a little more weed killer??) 

Build with blocks, build forts, build with safe items from the pantry. Talk about bigger and smaller towers and the letters on the packaging or the colors you are using. 

The blocks featured are sumblocks

Go on a walk. Discover new places, see new people, and have different experiences outside of your home. 

Keep letters around your home to be involved in play.

I’ve said it multiple times in multiple posts, but never forget the fundamentals: 

  • Talk
  • Sing
  • Read
  • Write 
  • Play 

These five incredibly important points create readers. And not just a child that can read, but a child that loves to read. Let’s stop the pressure of children learning letters at a young age, and start creating reading lovers. 

A few more resources: 

Reading Before Kindergarten- Is It Really Necessary?

Tips On Activities With Young Learners

What Is Play-Based Learning?

“The whole world opened up to me when I learned to read”

Mary McCleod Bethune

Books We’ve Recently Added To Our Home Library

I recently added new books to our little home library and wanted to share some with you.

Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai. I wrote about Malala months ago and what an impact she had on opening my eyes to new cultures. When I found a children’s book I could read to my kids, I knew I needed it!

Fly High! The Story of Bessie Coleman was also top priority on my list. My daughter is an avid Doc McStuffins watcher and in one episode they feature Bessie Colman and her accomplishments. I knew it would be fun to dive a little deeper into her history!

Who Was Jackie Robinson? A good old “who was” book! Are you catching on that we are trying to learn about people here? A chapter book is hard for my almost 3 year old to take in right now, but it has great information that I can pull from and teach her about Jackie Robinson.

The Hike was recommended to me by a dear friend. It ties in great science by labeling plants and animals subtly throughout the book, and shows great diversity, which is always important!

Addy A Heart Full Of Hope is an American Girl story about Addy, a girl growing up in Philadelphia during the Civil War. I tried reading bits and pieces of this to my almost 3 year old, but she lost interest and did not understand well enough what was going on. It’ll be a fun, quick read for me, and one that will sit patiently on our shelves until she’s ready to pick it up.

This Is How We Do It is a book so well loved by many! I hear this book recommended more by friends than most any other book. I have been wanting to buy it for quite some time, so once I decided to expand our library this week, I knew this one was on the list! We are currently on back order for it and anxiously awaiting it’s arrival!

Young, Gifted, and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes From Past and Present was recommended to us again by a good friend. This one has by FAR been our favorite! The illustrations are ravishing and the information is incredible. This book again featured Bessie Colman, already a hero of my daughter’s, and Michelle Obama, who too was featured on Doc McStuffins. Simone Biles, Stevie Wonder, Rosa Parks, and Zadie Smith are just a few of the others you get to meet along the way.

I love the history, science, and diversity each of these books bring to our little library.

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

Harry S. Truman

Reading Before Kindergarten- Is It Really Necessary?

Reading before Kindergarten- is it necessary? Is it beneficial? Is it something parents and educators should be spending their precious minutes with the children on? As time goes on, more and more pressure is put on parents to have high academically achieving children and preschools across the nation are meeting this “need” by giving kids an academic-based preschool in exchange for a play-based preschool.  

I’ve been hearing an ad for a local preschool in my area that boasts “We will have your kids reading before kindergarten!” and every time I hear the ad it makes me angry that they are adding to the social pressure put on parents for having a reading four or five year old! No parent should ever have to feel inadequate because their child isn’t an early reader. It goes without saying that this is not a preschool I can support.

Reading to her horses, even though she can’t read! What great pretend play that will eventually lead to reading.

Did you know that if your kid is reading before kindergarten, studies have shown that by 2nd grade they don’t have much advantage over kids who learned to read in kindergarten? Did you know that teaching your child to read before they are ready can actually drive them away from reading and make them a worse reader in the long run? It may be exciting at your mom group to brag about how academically advanced your child is, it’s exciting to celebrate your kid’s accomplishments! But that shouldn’t be shadowing out what they truly need. 

I have even felt the pressure myself and my daughter is not even 3 years old yet. I see friends with kids similar ages who can name letters and sounds so easy, yet my daughter is just barely showing a small interest in letters and not even close to knowing what they are or what they say. This is discouraging because I have read to her every day and she has been exposed to letter for years now!! But she will pick it up in her own time. Until then, she is establishing her love of reading, and that is more important than letter names right now.

Reading before kindergarten is not bad by any means! If your child is genuinely showing an interest in letters and words and stringing them together to read sentences, by all means, let them fly!! When it comes to teaching kids to read, let them lead. 

There are so many other things we can and should be doing with our kids instead of pushing reading on them. First, back to the basics that create lifelong readers, and some of my favorite things to do!

Talk 

Sing 

Read 

Write 

Play 

These fundamental skills build the learning basics of reading. Talking and singing with them will do more in the long run than pushing letter learning on them. Giving them genuine time to play, build, and make-believe will do wonders. Play is a child’s work! It’s how they learn and grow. 

Choosing an academic-based preschool and even kindergarten robs them of their most needed resource- PLAY! Let the kids play, really play! Mary also wrote out 5 lessons her kids taught her about play that is also helpful in this situation! I also loved her perspective of Kindergarten readiness from a teacher AND a parent standpoint when her daughter was almost kinder age! She has amazing resources and tips for us. 

Other things you can focus on with your child that promote kindergarten readiness instead of reading: 

Sensory activities

Writing, drawing, coloring, and painting 

Puzzles and problem solving 

How to maintain and hold a conversation 

Establishing a love for books and being read to 

Build positive relationships with books- from the beginning!

Let’s take the pressure of reading off kids! Let’s play and sing and let the kids lead! Choose a play-based preschool, give them books, point out letters in your daily life, and when they are interested, let them read! 

What are your thoughts on reading before kindergarten? Do you as a parent feel the social pressure of early reading? 

A Review On Vooks- Virtual Books

After a week or so of social distancing, we were losing our minds being so stuck at home! Anyone else? One of my solutions was to sign up for Vooks- Storybooks brought to life. They have a first month free trial for parents- Or first year free for educators! I’m not an active educator right now, so I did the first month free and wanted to share my findings with you. Please note that blog posts from Honors Grad U are never sponsored or endorsed. These are my honest, true thoughts and feelings on our experience. 

A quick rundown of Vooks. Basically a “virtual book” of sorts. Imagine those YouTube read alouds that others so generously post for us, but with small animation of the pictures and the words lighting up when read. Here is one quick example of this cute book by Zack Bush.

Some of the pros:  

Good selection for browsing if you aren’t looking for a specific book. 

Great way to introduce audiobooks, can be a scaffolding method into them. 

Downloadable- Don’t need data or wifi to use the app. Great for parents! Also useful for teachers for the days when technology or the wifi is not on your side. 

No ads!! 

They hear various accents and voices that I’m not capable of doing. 

It’s a good change of pace and a novelty way to read a book.

It can be empowering for a struggling reader to still be able to read books without the pressure of having to know every word. 

Cons: 

It can be hard when you need specific books 

They weren’t used in our house often- However, I could see that changing in a classroom. I know I’ve had multiple times in my teaching experience that I needed two minutes to find the missing papers, or set up something I forgot for a lesson, and a quick Vooks would have done the trick to give me the time needed. 

It isn’t a great replacement for a book, it’s just a more “book version” of a movie by using the same text, lighting it up, and using slightly less animation. 

My 2.5-year-old didn’t find them engaging, so I ended our membership when the free trial was over. Please don’t take this as an end-all for every kid! She may like it again in 6 months. She’s 2, she doesn’t really know what she likes. 

They weren’t quite as engaging as a movie because it was less animation, and not quite as engaging as a book because I found the animation often took out the deductive reasoning books usually offer and didn’t have the book “feel” to it, more a movie feel.

Overall, they were fun when it was free! And if I were teaching I would definitely be taking advantage of the first year free to give it a try. However, I did not feel like it was useful enough to pay the monthly subscription fee. Please remember I am one human with one opinion, I strongly suggest you take advantage of the free trial as well and decide for yourself how you feel about it. 

I wonder how these pros and cons will change as my kids are older, and if they were used in a classroom setting instead of in my home. Have you used Vooks in your classroom? If you have, please tell us your experience in the comments below! 

Featured photo from Vooks.com