Educational Technology & Mobile Learning

Click here to learn about 5 great Ebook Libraries for Kids

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Resource for Parent Advocates of Struggling Readers

Take a peek at this newly published book  Smart Kid, Can’t Read: 5 Steps Any Parent Can Take to Get Help   written by Lorna Kaufman and co-authors Sandra Doran and Leigh Leveeen.  Kaufman, Doran, and Leveen have worked together for over 30 years helping struggling readers and have provided advice on how parents can advocate for their children.  Order their book through Amazon or Barnes & Nobles.   Smart Kid, Can’t Read is organized into sections corresponding to these five recommended steps:

  1. Act as soon as you suspect a problem
  2. Understand what your child needs
  3. Learn about the reading process
  4. Know your legal rights
  5. Advocate for your child

Kaufman, Doran, and Leveen have also launched a related website Smart Kid, Can’t Read that includes a list of resources that include professional organizations, parent resources, and lists of reading programs.

Kris Zides, Literacy Specialist


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Happy New Year

Welcome Johnson Jaguars to 2017!  

Stay tuned for new and exciting things to hit the Johnson Literacy Blog this year.  We hope you had a Happy and Healthy New Year!  

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This Holiday Season Give the Gift of Reading (and Writing)


By the time December vacation rolls around we’re all in need of a well deserved break from school.  As a mom, I remember school work being the last thing my kids wanted to do over their break.  But learning can be wrapped in many colorful packages that don’t have to feel or look like learning.  Here are a few seasonal ways to get your child to read (and write) over winter break without them even knowing it!

Thank You Notes


Sadly, writing thank you notes by hand is a tradition that has begun to disappear. Receiving a thoughtful handwritten thank you note is still the most wonderful way to express gratitude for a thoughtful gift.  Teach your child how to format a thank you letter.  Help them express, in words, how they feel about their gifts.  Let them create their own cards using original artwork.  This personal gesture will be appreciated and your children will have fun doing it!


Have Your Child Help Plan Holiday Activities!

images-4 If  you are fortunate enough to be traveling during your vacation or just looking for things to do around Boston, let your child help with the planning.  Let them look at maps and tourist books in order to read about your destination. What a great way to plan your itinerary together as a family.

If you are staying local, there are tons of things going on around Natick and the City of Boston.  Have your child read the newspaper’s entertainment section or go onto websites that describe the festivities going on in the area.  Your child is guaranteed to be more engaged if they are a part of the planning.

Is the weather outside frightful?  There is nothing more cozy than staying in your pajamas, snuggling under a warm blanket, drinking a cup of hot cocoa, and diving into a good book.  You can read a loud to your child.  Share some of your childhood favorites by letting them know why you loved them so much.  The love of reading is a wonderful tradition to pass down!

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The holidays are a busy time and life can be full of to-do lists.  Dictate to your child and let them scribe for you.  It’s a helpful skill to write brief notes and assign due dates to tasks.  It’s also satisfying to cross them off once they are accomplished.

Listen, Laugh and Learn

images-6Understandably you might want your child to ‘un-plug’ from technology over vacation.  However, there are times when technology can actually bring families together.  Listening to audio books while traveling in the car, wrapping gifts, or cooking for the holidays is a wonderful way to share the adventure of reading with the whole family.  Listening to a story together allows you the opportunity to talk about a story, ask each other questions, and make predictions.  It is also a way to give your child exposure to a story that might not be accessible on their own.

Be a Holiday Bookworm

images-1Is the weather outside frightful?  There is nothing more cozy than staying in your pajamas, snuggling under a warm blanket, drinking a cup of hot cocoa, and diving into a good book.  You can read a loud to your child.  Share some of your childhood favorites by letting them know why you loved them so much.  The love of reading is a wonderful tradition to pass down!

Scrapbook Your Memories

images-7Creating lasting memories is both creative and satisfying.  Almost every photo website has the opportunity to make digital scrapbooks (or old fashion paper scrapbooks) with your holiday photos.  Sit with your child as you write captions and stories that go with the photos.  This will allow your child to write about their memories and preserve them forever.

Jenn Dannin, M.Ed – Grade 4 Title One

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Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately, quickly, and with expression.  After your child reads the story, ask him/her to evaluate their fluency.

1.  Did I read smoothly and pronounce words correctly?
2.  Did I read sentences in chunks or phrases?
3.  Did I emphasize bold words?
4.  Did I stop at a period?
5.  Did I pause at a comma?
6.  Did I change my voice to show question?
7.  Did I read with excitement at an exclamation point?
8.  Did I read as if someone was speaking?
9.  Did all the sentences make sense to me?
10.  Did I read at a good speed?

Terri Yee (Title I, Grade 2)


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Give the Gift of Reading

A book is a gift you can open again and again.

As the holidays and winter break approaches, you may be asking yourself what “new” books can I buy for my son or daughter or pick up at my local library?  Winter break is a great time to equip children with reading materials that maintain their current skill level and keep them happily entertained. I have enjoyed researching and reading a variety of current picture books.  I would like to highlight 16 picture books, appropriate for all ages and published in 2016.  It was difficult to narrow the selection to 16, but all are highly recommended.  Some are award winners.  Hopefully, these selections will make your shopping/book hunt easier.  

16 Books from 2016

1. Immigration:  This is Me! A Story of Who We Are and Where We Came From by Jamie Lee  Curtis and Laura Cornell                                                                                                                   National Best Selling Team
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If you were told that you were leaving tomorrow to live in another country and could only bring a small suitcase, what would you bring with you?  What items make you unique/special? What items tell your story to others?  This book serves as a great discussion starter with children about where they came from and what makes them unique/special.


2. Building Community/Intergenerational Relationships: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Peña                                                                                                                                           Caldecott Honor Book, John Newbury Medal, Coretta Scott King Award

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A grandmother and her grandson take a bus ride across town to Market Street.  The grandson asks several questions throughout the trip that the grandmother responds with an answer that makes the boy think about his surroundings in a whole new way.  The grandmother saw beauty around her where others including her grandson least expected it.

3. Where will your imagination take you? A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers

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A wonderful book for exploring the impact of quality literature on the imagination.  The storyline is brief but powerful as it follows a well read child and her friend on an imaginative adventure throughout the world of stories.  The words and titles from forty children’s classics and lullabies create the themed story landscapes that the “child of books” and her friend explore. Repeated readings lend themselves to new discoveries (and further reading of the “classics”).  Exploring the words and titles of the “text-scapes” is time well spent.

4. Caldecott Award Winning Non-Fiction: Finding Winnie: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick

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Capturing the attention of Winnie-the-Pooh fans, is the true story of the bear that inspired Winnie-the-Pooh.  Written by the great-granddaughter of Harry Colebourn.  This story is about a military veterinarian from Winnipeg hired to care for the soldier’s horses.  He purchased a bear cub while traveling with the army and named him Winnipeg (after his hometown).  Winnie was an asset to the military.  But when it came time for battle, Harry was concerned for Winnie’s safety.  He brought her to the London Zoo.  While there, a boy named Christopher Robin Milne visited Winnie and named his bear just that.  It was Chris’ father that wrote about his son’s adventures with his stuffed animal Winnie-the-Pooh.  The book is written in form of a of a story with information embedded in it.  Photographs of Harry and “the real” Winnie are added to the end of the book to capture all the major events.

5. Inspirational for young girls/Science: Ada Twist, Scientist by New York Times Best Selling Author, Andrea Beaty

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From a young age, Ada Twist is an observer.  She is intelligent and inquisitive about discovering the world around her.  Ada is constantly asking questions which lead her to conduct research and experiment.  Her parents encourage her to pursue her passions and “figure things out.”  


6.  Literacy is mightier than the sword (the power of books): The Story Book Knight: Even Dragons Love a Good Story by Helen Docherty & Thomas Docherty

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Leo, a small, gentle knight, loved to read.  His parents felt that although there was “nothing wrong with reading, he couldn’t do just that!”  They wanted him to fight and tame a dragon.  So Leo, dressed in armor and “armed” with books, set out to find the dragon.  He encountered “fearsome creatures” along the way.  Luckily, he had read about them and used his knowledge, books, and read alouds to win them over.  When faced with the “enormous” dragon, Leo persuaded him to clean up a village for a chance to listen to a story about dragons.  Leo empowered all the creatures in the land.  In the end, they all became readers.

7.  For the child who wants to make a difference in the world:  The Water Princess based on supermodel Georgia Badiel’s childhood by Susan Verde

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A young, African princess named Gie, Gie dreams of bringing clean drinking water to her village.  Every morning Gie and her mother wake up early and travel miles on foot to collect water for her family.  They must stand in line to fill their pots with the “dusty-earth-colored” water from the waterhole.  They carry the water upon their heads and return home by early evening.  The water is boiled and used for cooking, washing and bathing.  Gie, Gie wonders “why the water is so far away” and so dirty.  Her mother encourages her to “dream” and make a difference “someday.”  Having access to clean drinking water is a problem around the world.  This book sheds light on this crisis. Photographs show how Georgie made a difference in one African village as an adult.

8.  How artists can make a difference in the community: The Night Gardener by Terry and Eric Fan

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William, a young orphan, discovers new, beautiful topiaries in his neighborhood each morning.  The beauty of each topiary attracts more and more neighbors.  On a mission to find the artist and creator, William sneaks out at night to follow the night gardener. He teaches William his craft and allows him to help create a park full of topiaries overnight.  The next morning, the gardener leaves a pair of shears for William to carry on his legacy.  The illustrations are beautiful.  This book reminds me of Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett.


9.  Non-Fiction: A scientist determined to explore uncharted waters: Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor by Robert Burleigh

Screen Shot 2016-11-08 at 5.48.11 PM.pngMarie Tharp, the daughter of a map maker, traveled throughout her childhood/young adult life.  Her father’s work took him from state to state creating soil maps for farmers.  She, like her father loved maps and later map making.  In college, her teacher said that although half the earth’s surface was covered in water, scientists knew very little about the bottom of the ocean.  She graduated college as a scientist she was determined to map out the seafloor.  Despite the challenges that she faced in the 1940’s as a woman scientist, she used soundings to map the depths of the Atlantic Ocean.  Her map showed the continental drift on the seafloor of the                                              mid-Atlantic.

10.  Spoiler Alert: Let Me Finish! by Minh Lê

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A young boy finds a quiet spot to read a new book when he is interrupted by animals who spoil the ending for him.  Animals spoil the ending for each new book that he begins. He is angered and implores them to “just let him finish!”  I’ll let you “finish this book” without spoiling the ending.


11.  Recognizing shapes in our environment:  City Shapes by Diana Murray

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Are you observant?  Can you spot circles, squares, rectangles, ovals, triangles and stars in the city?  The child in this story sees shapes all around her.


12. A Non-Fiction Marvel:  The Secret Subway by Shana Corey

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This is a story of New York City’s first subway.  In the late 1800’s, Alfred Ely Beach created a secret underground subway with a fan-powered train.  Could it solve the problem of over crowded New York City streets?  The project took fifty-eight days to complete.  He encountered several obstacles along the way.  Passengers enjoy traveling on this “ride” but it had no destination.  Although Alfred planned to expand the tunnel, his plan was put to an abrupt stop.  All was shut down until the early 1900’s when others discovered it.

13.  A story of one artist’s determination to pursue his passion despite being bullied:  The Artist and Me by Shane Peacock

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Realistic Fiction, told from the point-of-view of a young boy who confessed to bullying artist Vincent van Gogh (along with all the townsfolk).  The story is set in the french countryside.   Vincent, a poor man, looked and painted differently.  Vincent continued to paint despite what children and adults said and did to him.  The young boy followed Vincent around laughing and taunting him while simultaneously sneaking views of his paintings.  The boy didn’t want to admit it but realized the paintings, although different were beautiful.

14.  Look at the positive when problem solving:  What Do You Do With A Problem? by Kobi Yamada

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When faced with a problem, avoiding it can make the problem bigger.  The boy in this story decides to confront his problem.  Looking at it more closely, he realizes that a problem is an opportunity to learn, grow, and discover things about ourselves.  What will you do with your problem?



15.  Creativity and Perseverance:  The Most Magnificent Thing by award winning author, Ashley Spires

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A young girl has a “magnificent” idea in her mind about something she would like to create.  She thinks building it will be easy.  She becomes frustrated when her creation does not look or work like it does in her mind’s eye (even after several attempts).  The angry inventor quits.  Her dog/assistant encourages her to look at it again in a new light.  She has an idea…


16.  Loneliness, Happiness, and Friendship: The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas.

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This book reminds me of Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli.  A lonely man, who lived on the coast, would watch the sea each day for glass bottles containing letters to wash up to shore.  His job was to read the letter inside and find its rightful owner.  He secretly wished that one of the letters would be addressed to him.  One day he receives a message without a recipient’s name.  In an attempt to find who it is addressed to, he finds what he has been seeking all along… friendship.

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-Jennifer Lipoma (Grade 3, Title I)


Other great books published this year (I’ve read most of them):

Screen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.12.08 PM.png    Screen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.13.11 PM.png  Screen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.32.55 PM.png   Screen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.14.07 PM.png   Screen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.14.44 PM.png   Screen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.15.20 PM.png  Screen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.15.58 PM.png   Screen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.16.36 PM.pngScreen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.39.42 PM.png

Screen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.22.58 PM.png  Screen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.26.53 PM.png  Screen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.29.54 PM.png  Screen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.29.09 PM.png  Screen Shot 2016-11-12 at 11.38.35 AM.png  Screen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.49.27 PM.png  Screen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.41.16 PM.png      Screen Shot 2016-11-12 at 11.39.47 AM.pngScreen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.44.14 PM.png  Screen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.34.35 PM.png    Screen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.33.53 PM.png  Screen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.38.52 PM.png  Screen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.35.35 PM.png  Screen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.39.15 PM.png  Screen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.37.03 PM.png  Screen Shot 2016-11-12 at 11.51.55 AM.png   Screen Shot 2016-11-12 at 11.54.04 AM.png Screen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.38.12 PM.pngScreen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.40.14 PM.png     Screen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.43.41 PM.png Screen Shot 2016-11-05 at 3.33.21 PM.pngScreen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.17.41 PM.png  Screen Shot 2016-11-05 at 2.50.40 PM.png Screen Shot 2016-11-12 at 11.41.11 AM.pngScreen Shot 2016-11-12 at 11.42.24 AM.png  Screen Shot 2016-11-12 at 11.44.19 AM.pngScreen Shot 2016-11-12 at 11.45.19 AM 1.png

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Picture Book Questions

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Take advantage of those “teachable” moments……

As you curl up and read a special book with your child, you may wonder, what questions can I ask to make the most out of this reading experience?  Below is a list of questions that you can tweak to match any book that you are reading.  You can pick and choose questions that work best for you and your child.  When thinking about your line of questioning, divide the book into three parts.  Ask questions before, during, and after reading.  This process will allow your child to practice specific comprehension strategies in order to fully understand the text.

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Asking your child open ended questions (questions that can’t be answered with a yes or no answer) are beneficial.                                                                                                                 Responses to open-ended questions…

require the use of complete sentences                                                                                                                   allow children to express their thoughts or opinions                                                                                  –are imaginative and creative                                                                                                                                   –require problem solving                                                                                                                                             -provide additional information

You can help your child become more proficient by modeling this process for them and asking a variety of questions.  He/she will begin to internalize this process and eventually use it while reading independently.

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Before reading the text, evaluate the quality of the text.  Set a purpose for reading.  Why are you reading this book?  Is it for pleasure, to discover new information, or to find specific information?  Preview the book with your child and make predictions.  Ask your child a few of the questions below:

  • What do you already know about the topic of this book?
  • Does the topic of this book remind you of anything you know or have done?
  • What do you think this book will be about? (Use clues from the title and the illustrations).  Why do you think that?
  • Is this a real or imaginary story or (for older children) what is the genre?
  • What characters do you think might be in this story?
  • What predictions can you make?
  • What questions would you like to ask the author before you read this book?
  • What are you wondering about as you look at the cover and back of the book?

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While reading, stop at specific points within the text to ask questions.  You can pre-select these stopping points so that you don’t break the momentum of the story or hinder the child’s comprehension.  As you check for understanding, you may recognize misconceptions that need to be addressed by rereading, further questioning, or explanations.  Ask a few of these questions while reading:

  • What do you understand from what you just read?
  • Why do you think the author chose this particular setting?
  • If you were in the story, what would you hear, taste, smell or feel?
  • What does the character/setting look like in your mind?
  • Tell me what you were imagining in your mind as you read that page/paragraph.  Describe it.
  • What do you think will happen next? Why?
  • Describe the setting of the story.
  • What connections can I make to the text? How do I feel about it?
  • How do you think the character will handle this situation?
  • Why do you think the character did __________________? How do you know?
  • What happened here that the author didn’t tell us directly? Let’s pair what we know with what we read.  You can use clues from the pictures to make an inference.
  • What emotions is the character feeling? How do you know?
  •  What would you have done if you were the character?
  • Has anything like this ever happened to you? Does it remind you of something?
  • How would you have felt if that happened to you?
  • Do you know someone like this character?
  • How are you like/different than this character?
  • Is there anything you’re wondering about right now?
  • What’s happened to this character so far?
  • What’s going on here?
  • What does this word mean?
  • Why do you think the author chose to tell the story from this point of view?
  • Do you have any questions about what has happened thus far?
  • What’s happened to this character so far?

Screen Shot 2016-11-08 at 9.43.35 PM.pngAfter reading, reflect on what you’ve read and check for understanding.  The most challenging questions that you can ask your child begin with Why?  These questions will require them to think deeply.  Providing evidence is also a great way to challenge your child.  Ask….

  • If this story had a sequel, what do you think it would be about?
  • What questions would you like to ask the author?
  • Summarize what you have read in your own words.   Retell the most important events in order.
  • Are there some parts of the story that are more important than others? Which ones? Why are they most important?
  • What is the main idea?  Theme?
  • What is the message of this book? What does the author want you to think about?
  • Which of your predictions were correct? What information from the text confirms these predictions?
  • Why do you think the author ended the story this way?
  • What new facts did you learn? Which is your favorite?  Why? (non-fiction)
  • What was the problem/solution?
  • What were some of the character’s traits?
  • What was your favorite part? Why?


-Jennifer Lipoma (Title I, Grade 3)



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