Gerry the Giraffe

Do you love giraffes?  What about volleyball? Or colorful illustrations? Do you love stories of persistence and determination? Then you’ll love Gerry the Giraffe!  It covers all of these, and more.  Gerry the Giraffe is a sweet, interactive storybook from PicPocket Books, written by author Melissa Northway (of Penelope the Purple Pirate fame).  What Penelope did for pirates, Gerry does for giraffes. Gerry loves to play volleyball, but he’s too short to go with the team to volleyball summer camp. His mom acknowledges his disappointment, but rather than allowing him to dwell on that, she encourages him to think of what he can do to improve his skills. His dad also has wise words for Gerry: “Keep trying and don’t give up.” So, Gerry gets up early, practices running, bounces the volleyball off his head, passes it back and forth with friends (cute little animated volleyball flies through the air), and jumps over everything.  His hard work pays off and Gerry is invited to join the volleyball team. My favorite part, though? The very end, where Gerry passes on what he’s learned to younger giraffes. It’s fun to challenge children to find the words hidden in the illustrations (practice, try hard, boulder, pass to me, garden) and to notice the sparkling animations on various pages. Two features of Gerry the Giraffe particularly appeal to me as an educator and a grama.  I like the “Fun Facts” background information about giraffes and Africa at the end of the story.  Seeing photographs of giraffes and other wild animals will help kids make connections to the real world. I really appreciate the...

Are Squirrels Smart, or What?

Are Squirrels Smart, or What? follows in the path of the previous My Word! Reader stories, Are Bees Smart, or What? and Are Whales Smart, or What?  The book and activity apps are aimed at older students who struggle with reading. The iTunes store description of Are Squirrels Smart, or What? says: “My Word! Reader – Are Squirrels Smart, or What? is a ground-breaking app for the iPad based on sound educational and literacy theory that is designed to improve literacy skills in underachieving students. This app will be an essential tool for literacy learning for education and home markets. Simple to use, but sophisticated in design, it incorporates word analysis, phonics, writing skills, word recognition, comprehension and spelling in a series of dynamic, engaging, and delightful “word games” that are rooted in the high-interest, but easy-to-read story, Are Squirrels Smart, or What? Are Squirrels Smart, or What? is the third in the My Word! Reader series. Word games in this app include practice with rhyming words; short and long vowel sounds; spelling; writing exercises; vocabulary building. As students engage in the word games, they practice and review word analysis skills, thus building competence in learning the mysteries of decoding new words.” I think it’s especially fun that this story is based on a true one. As with the other stories, this one begins with a few questions to get the reader thinking: “Are squirrels smart? Do squirrels have brains? Do you believe that squirrels can think?”   This is important if students are using the app independently.  The story also provides background knowledge that will help with understanding the...

Reading for Educators about Dyslexia and More

The International Dyslexia Association has a new fact sheet listing six pages of suggested readings from the following categories: The Brain and Learning Comprehension Dyslexia and Dysgraphia Fluency Learning Disabilities Mathematics Morphology and Etymology Phonology, Phonological Awareness, and Phonics Professional Development/Teacher Knowledge Structured Language Teaching and Instruction RTI & Instruction Vocabulary Writing A couple of my favorites from the list: Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills, J. R. Birsh, editor.  I wrote about it in Book Bytes. Unlocking Literacy: Effective Decoding & Spelling Instruction, by Marcia...

The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia

Check out The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia! Quoting from the Director’s statement seems the best way to get the point across about this movie: “By conservative estimates, one in five people are dyslexic. Although very bright and often highly creative, they have a difficult time making sense of written language. I know a little about this. My son, Dylan, is dyslexic. Like many dyslexics, Dylan is intelligent, thoughtful and intellectually curious – a “big picture” thinker. But at the age of ten, he was barely able to read and write. To say that school was difficult for him is beyond understatement. Now that he is grown and thriving, there are many things that I wish I had known about dyslexia at that time – things that would have helped me understand that his struggle in lower and middle school was not the final verdict on his academic or intellectual ability or ambition. When I was given the extraordinary opportunity to make a film about understanding dyslexia, the mission was simple: make the movie I wish my family could have seen when Dylan was functionally illiterate in 4th grade. This film reveals that dyslexia is a neurological issue, not a character flaw. It explains that the struggle with the written word is not an indication of one’s ability to think, to create, or to solve problems – all valuable skills in the world outside the classroom. This film also reveals that some of our greatest leaders in business, law, politics and medicine are dyslexics who succeeded in spite of their learning challenges.” I have strong feelings about how reading should...