Category Archives: Reading Strategies

Bink & Gollie Two for One by Kate DiCamillo


Bink and Gollie, two friends, go to the state fair. At the fair they play a throwing game and enter a talent show. There’s a lot of humor as Bink throws wild balls and hits the game man three times. After each time he mixes up his words and acts stunned from being hit in the head with the ball. This is a great beginning reader for first, second, and third graders.

Schema: state fair games

Text-to-Self Connections: throwing games on the midway, visiting the fair, being in a talent show, stage fright

Point of View: Describe what happens at the Whack a Duck game from the game man’s point of view. What does Gollie mean when she says, “This fear this can only end in tragedy.”

Inferring: What clues do Madame Prunely notice on the girl’s clothes that give her an inference about what they have done at the fair? She sees the ribbon that says “participant” in the talent show and infers that Gollie was not a winner. She sees Bink’s button that says she lost at the whack a duck game.

Writing: What are some things you have seen at a fair? Did you win a prize? What about the school carnival? How is the school carnival like a fair?

Eric Carle and Friends: What’s Your Favorite Animal? by 14 children’s artists


Schema: Think about what is your favorite animals and why.

Text-to-Self Connections: Which animals in the book would be your favorite?

Making Mental Images: Try to imagine Eric Carle’s cat running up and down the hall with a green bean.

Idioms: “How’s the weather up there?” Have you ever heard this said to a person who is very tall?

Inferences: On the Mo Willems’ page do you infer that the snake has eaten the Amazonian Neotropical Lower River Tink-Tink?

Text-to-Text Connections: On the Peter Sis page he talks about in how people plan to eat carp every Christmas. I have read Merry Christmas, Strega Nona, by Tomie DePaola many, many times and did not realize that this was a widely practiced tradition in Italy and well as the Czech Republic.

Text-to-Text: Duck by Jon Klassen, Can you think of a book about a duck who likes to trick somebody? (Mo Willems’ Duckling books The Duckling Gets a Cookie

On Chris Raschka’s page, what other animals leave something of themselves behind? Starfish, turtles, shark’s teeth, animals we use to make clothing

Characterization: Nick Bruel’s page features his favorite animal, the Octopus, but his own character, Bad Kitty, interrupts his graphic story and gets a gift from Eric Carle. What are some of Bad Kitty’s character traits?

Writing: Write a short paragraph modeled after Peter McCarty’s paragraph about his pet bunny. Tell about your pet or a relative’s pet. What’s your favorite animal from the book?

Don’t Throw It To Mo! by David A. Adler


Schema: football, being on a team, being the smaller one on a team

Text-to-Self Connections: playing football, waking up for school

Story Elements: Problem: Mo is small and isn’t getting to play as much as he would like to

Plot: Mo wants to play and practices holding on to a buttery football. The coach uses Mo’s size to fool the opposing team into thinking that Mo will never carry the ball.

Solution: Mo gets to catch the winning pass in a game.

This is such a satisfying read for a beginning reader. It’s a level 2 in the Penguin Young Readers series. Full color illustrations feature Mo as an African American boy.

Art Parts: A Child’s Introduction to the Elements of Art by Kim Bogren Owen

What a beautiful book to introduce the elements of art to young children! The author explains and illustrates shapes then asks the reader to make similar drawings on the blank page provided. Next, the author demonstrates shading in colors and shows a dark green, a lighter green, a bright green, and a muted green. Following this, two blank pages are provided for exploration of colors. Texture, space, and feeling are explained in a similar way with pages to practice. This book is drawing book or workbook for beginning artists. I would recommend it for children ages 3-8. The drawings and comments that they make would be a wonderful keepsake for parents and grandparents. The child could also write some stories or captions to go with their art that could be given as a gift to loved ones. I would definitely read it with younger children, but I would hold off on the drawing part of the book until the child is able to make shapes and drawings that they could enjoy later on. Parents might enjoy using this book along with baby books and other memory type books that children write in. This book would be a wonderful gift book as well. After using this book as a tool to learn about art, children could then model their own books on its example.

Text-to-Text Connections: drawing

Genre: Expository text

Orchids by Kim Bogren Owen Photographs by: Amber Owen, Hanko, and Pearson

Have you ever wondered how vanilla ice cream gets that wonderful vanilla flavor? Vanilla seed pods grow from the Vanilla Orchid flowering plant. This book includes beautiful full color photographs of several different types of orchids including the Vanilla Orchid. Teachers and parents could use this book as an introduction to many concepts such as color, taste, and a more complicated concept of symmetry. Simple text paired with factual information create a perfect expository book for the youngest reader. The author includes ideas for further exploration with young children at the end of the book.

Four blank pages are included at the end of the book for young art students to make a symmetrical drawing or to make their own shapes like those seen in the orchids.

The hardback book has a very sturdy binding and will hold up to many readings and circulations.

Schema: flowers

Text-to-Text connection: vanilla flavorings

Main Idea: Orchid flowers are colorful and filled with elements of art.

Genre: Informational text or expository text are terms for nonfiction books that young children need to be familiar with and know the difference between this and other genres such as fiction.

The Story Circle / El círculo de cuentos by Diane Gonzales Bertrand and Wendy Martin

What happens in a school after a flood? After storms flood a school the children return to empty bookshelves. In this picture book a very creative teacher helps her class cope with the loss of their books by teaching them to use their imaginations to create mental images of the story she is telling them. The teacher allows the class to act out her words as she tells them her story. Then the teacher asks the children to share what they imagined which leads to the children writing about their mental images. The books the children create are filling their empty bookshelves.

Mental Images: Good readers naturally make mental images, but research tells us that this does not come naturally to everyone. It can be taught and with practice, can become automatic. This book is an excellent tool to use when teaching how to make mental images. The children are illustrated with what they are imagining. The illustrator, Wendy Martin, has created excellent illustrations that reflect what each child has imagined in the text.

Wendy Martin’s artistic interpretation of Bertrand’s text features a southwest setting with Hispanic characters. This books will be a perfect additionWendyMartinHiRes to any elementary bilingual collection. The illustrations and text will inspire children to practice making mental images. The illustrator offered a question and answer time about her newest book. I am so excited to include Wendy Martin’s interview:
Q: How did you become interested in illustrating literature for children?
A: I’ve always loved storytelling. And I’ve always loved creating narrative art. After a couple of decades working as a graphic designer and painting fine art on the weekends for gallery shows, I decided I wanted a bigger challenge. Creating a book to showcase a collection of art seemed like a natural progression. Some of my favorite artists were, and are, children’s book illustrators. Fifteen years ago I came up with a plan to be a children’s book illustrator and have been following it ever since.
Q: Do you like to read a lot and, if so, why?
A: I’ve been a voracious reader since I was little. I’d read anything I could get my hands on. I may have slowed down now that I have so many other demands and obligations on my time, but the last thing I do every day is spend time with a good book. My favorite genres are fantasy, magical realism and historical adventures. I’ve read about 45 books so far this year. I’d say a quarter of that figure is from picture books. Part of my job is to keep current on what’s new in the children’s book industry. The rest are either novels or non-fiction books.
Q: Are you interested in speaking to school, library, writer or other groups about your book(s)? If so, how can people get in contact with you?
A: I’ve been giving workshops for all age groups for many years. I do both in-person visits and electronic visits, either via Skype or Google Hangouts. I speak about how an illustrator works, how a picture book is made or guide students through their own book creation. People can find out more about my author visits here.
Find the book on Amazon or the publisher’s website.

A transplanted New Yorker now living in Missouri, Wendy Martin has been working as an illustrator for 25+ years.
Her love affair with art and illustration began at an early age. She never wanted to do anything else. So, she followed her heart and earned a degree in Fashion Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology, then continued her art education at the School of Visual Arts, earning a B.F.A. in Graphic Design. These disciplines can still be seen in her work as a children’s book illustrator and fantasy artist in the strong lines, textures and detailed patterns. See additional art and find out more author visits at Wendy Martin.

Ah Ha! by Jeff Mack

Schema: Frogs, ponds

Inferring: What a fantastic book to use when teaching inferences! Almost wordless, except for the, “ah ha’s,”  the reader must infer the story and the tone of each “ah ha” by looking at the illustrations.

“Aahh!” infers pure happiness and joy as the little frog sits on a rock in the pond. Next a child captures the frog in a jar as a dog grins a happy “Ah Ha!” as it gotcha!

The frog is shown yelling “aahh!” as the boy pours him out of the jar. I infer the frog is a little frightened at this point.

Frog sighs with relief, “ah ha!” as he climbs on the back of a turtle, and the reader can infer that the frog may be thinking he is on a rock like in the beginning of the story.

The turtle pops his head out of the water with an “ah ha!” that may mean dinner!

Frog escapes with an, “aaahh!” before he’s eaten by the turtle.

Frog happily lands on what he infers to be a log with a relieved, “ah ha!” only to find he is on the back of an alligator who is thinking, “ah ha!” We can infer the alligator is thinking about a snack.

Just before the alligator’s teeth snap shut on the frog, he jumps away with an, “aahh!” of fear.

At this point, even the youngest reader is inferring that what the frog lands on is not a blade of grass. Maybe it’s a snake? But no, now he’s landed on the leg of a hungry flamingo whose beak is open with a yummy, “ah ha!” The frog is too quick for the flamingo as he jumps away just in time for the flamingo to bite his own leg with a painful, “aahh!” As three predators chase the frog, he once again finds himself inside the child’s jar, but we can infer he’s not too unhappy about it since he’s being saved from the turtle, flamingo, and the alligator. The child exclaims an excited “ah ha!” as he admires his catch in the jar. As the child is walking away with the frog in the jar, frog says, “ha ha” to his predators. Can we infer taunting?

The lid falls off of the jar as the child is walking so the frog says “ah ha,” as he finds his freedom once more, and says a relaxing, “aahh!” as he lounges in the pond once again.

Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams & Khadra Mohammed


Schema: Sharing, friendship

The story is set in a refugee camp in Pakistan. Two girls, age ten, meet as they both get one each of a pair of sandals dropped off by a relief truck. The next day, Lina gives Feroza the sandal. Feroza suggests they share taking turns each day. The girls share their experiences of losing family and the sacrifices of being refugees and develop a caring friendship. They shared their hopes for finding a new home. They recognize the beginning of Ramadan.

Characterization: Lina and Feroza were both compassionate and caring, and both have a desire to learn. Although they were not allowed to go to school with the boys, they would listen by the window and practice writing in the dirt.

Symbolism: The sandals represented hope for finding each other in America some day. Each girl kept one as they parted.

Realistic Fiction: The story is based on real experiences in a refugee camp and can help readers to feel compassion for others who are homeless and immigrating into another country.

Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution by Pat Miller

Schema: New Year’s Resolutions

Summary: Squirrel hears about New Year’s Resolutions on the radio, but doesn’t know what it means until she goes to the library to ask Bear. When she understands what it means she plans to make one, but keeps getting distracted because her friends need help with various things. At the end, Rabbit points out to her that her resolution must be to help others. Rabbit tells Squirrel that her “actions speak louder than words.”

Fable: This book could be used as an example of a modern-day fable since all the characters are animals and the book does have a good lesson to teach.

Idioms: Actions speak louder than words.

Theme: Be kind

The Gift of Reading

What will reading for twenty minutes a day do for children? What a great chart and comparison table! When you think about the investment in time, why not model reading at the same time your kids are reading? Imagine the impact of that over the years, and to make it even better, begin a dialogue about what you are reading and what they are reading. Talking about reading is something that makes thinking visible to kids by showing them how good readers think while reading. For young readers to be able to share how what they are reading impacts their thinking is a great way to help them synthesize what they have read. So many times in reading with children, I have had aha moments that I would not have had if I had not been sharing my thinking about what we were reading together. To give a child the gift of time by listening to them with your full attention and responding to their thinking is priceless. How lucky am I that I am an elementary school librarian!