Sweet Reads for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and Red Apple Reading has a few suggestions for sneaking a little literacy into the holiday! While there is certainly nothing wrong with enjoying some sweets on February 14th, we would like to suggest another kind of sweet gift for the little loves in your life – sweet reads! This month why not swing by the bookstore and get a book for each of your kiddos (and maybe for yourself!). Here are some sweet titles to consider:

You're loveable to me




You’re Loveable to Me (Kat Yeh) – A mama reassures her little bunnies that she will always love them. A heart-warming tale of love! (Preschool, Early Elementary)



mushy gushy valentime



Junie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentime (Barbara Parks) – Junie B. loves “Valentimes” Day! However, she is surprised to receive a valentine from a secret admirer! (Early Elementary School)




snowy valentine



Snowy Valentine (David Petersen) – Join Jasper Bunny as he searches for just the right Valentine’s gift for his wife. A very sweet story with beautiful illustrations! (Pre-School, Early Elementary)





crankenstein valentine



A Crankenstein Valentine (Samantha Berger) – Not everyone loves Valentine’s Day. In fact, it turns this little boy into a real Crankenstein! Kids will love this funny story! (Preschool, Early Elementary)







Valentine’s Day Disaster (Geronimo Stilton, No. 23) – When Geronimo opens his empty mailbox on Valentine’s Day, he wonders if his entire day will be disastrous! Kids will enjoy Geronimo’s valentine’s adventure. (Elementary)




Along with a sweet read, why not take the opportunity to sneak in some literacy practice when putting together your child’s Valentine cards? These miniature missives really provide great opportunities to promote literacy.

  • Practice Penmanship – Resist the urge to quickly label your child’s valentines for him. Allow him the opportunity to practice his handwriting by addressing each card himself. Encourage him to do his neatest work but don’t expect perfection.  If your kiddo is still learning to write, make sure you have a list of names for him to refer to.
  • Rehearse Reading – When your little one comes home from school with her big bag of valentines, sit down with her and read through them together. If your child hasn’t yet begun reading, read the cards aloud to her. Kids who have already begun reading can read aloud to parents!

Valentine’s Day really is a lovely holiday. It’s wonderful to think about all of the loves in our life! We hope you’ll take the time this year to also promote a love of literacy in your family. Happy Valentine’s Day from Red Apple Reading!

Fostering Fluency

Finding FluencyLearning to read fluently is another key element in the reading process. In order for your kiddo to truly comprehend and enjoy what he’s reading, he needs to acquire fluency—the ability to read words and sentences accurately, at a reasonably quick pace, without the need to stop and decode individual words. Your child’s comprehension and enjoyment of a story will increase once she achieves reading fluency.

Perhaps the most important way children develop an understanding of fluency is by hearing text read to them. Reading to your child regularly provides a good model of how fluent reading sounds.


Here are some ways Red Apple Reading recommends to model fluent reading for your child:

  • Read out loud rapidly (but not too rapidly!).  If a child reads a sentence too slowly, he will not be able to synthesize meaning within “working memory.” On the flip side, if a child reads too fast, he may skip over words or miss important grammar cues within the text. Modeling an appropriate reading pace is a key piece to fostering fluency!
  • Pay attention to punctuation.  Point out how your voice changes and how you pause when you read. Emphasize words when a character in a book is shouting, or phrase a sentence like a spoken question when it ends in a question mark. This provides good modeling for children, demonstrating the importance of paying attention to punctuation and to the “flow” of a story. Scholastic recommends reading Yo! Yes? with your kiddo. This story is designed to provide plenty of punctuation reading practice!
  • Have your child practice with you.  You can read a sentence of text at a good pace, with appropriate phrasing, paying attention to punctuation, and then ask your child to read the sentence in the same way you did. This gives your child the chance to read with fluency without taking extra time to identify or decode words. Practicing with fluency strips as suggested by Primary Junction is a great way to rehearse fluency!
  • Encourage repeated readings of favorite stories.  As your child becomes familiar with a book, she might be able to begin imitating correct inflection and expression, repeating phrases after you or anticipating them. While reading the same story over and over might seem tedious to you, it’s actually good for fostering your child’s reading fluency!

Once your child gets a taste of what it means to actually read and understand a story independently, then the sky is the limit! As her vocabulary and fluency continue to grow, she’ll begin reading more advanced texts and be able to choose titles that interest her rather than simple, decodable books. Then you can begin to foster a real love of reading that will last your child a lifetime! Visit our Finding Fluency Pinterest board for more ideas on developing fluency.


Help Your Child’s Developing Vocabulary

Developing Your Child's Vocabulary - Red Apple ReadingVocabulary is one of the 5 pillars of reading instruction — along with phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency and comprehension — that every child needs in order to become a proficient reader. Today we look at the crucial role vocabulary development plays in reading.

A rich vocabulary will serve your child well as she navigates through life. We often don’t realize the importance of a robust vocabulary. Although vocabulary acquisition may not be in the forefront of our minds, we notice the effects in our children when it is lagging or absent. If our children don’t understand the words that they hear, speak, read and write, they will become ineffective communicators and struggle with many daily tasks.

If you want to help your kids develop a rich vocabulary, check out these helpful tips from our team at Red Apple Reading!

Read to them!
The best ideas are often the simplest. The most important thing you can do to help your child’s vocabulary development is to read! When we read to our children, we are exposing them to words they may not otherwise hear. When I read to my 6-year-old, he is taking in new words and ideas and very often asking me questions about what he’s hearing! So when it’s time to pick up a book for the nightly bedtime story, remember that you are not only creating lasting memories, you are also developing vocabulary!

Display words on a word wall.
Include sight words for extra practice, and add new and more complex vocabulary as your child learns new words. Check out these word lists from Flocabulary for grades K-8.

Go on a word hunt.
Pick a favorite book and go through it page by page, having your child find specific words within the text. You can also do this in the car using billboards and business signs!

Point out familiar words in everyday life.
Very often opportunities for developing vocabulary happen organically and in the moment. Look through restaurant menus, draw attention to street signs, and show your child familiar words in your own reading materials.

Practice with flash cards.
Flip through words with your child, changing the order each time, or use the cards in games, having your child match words or pick words out from a pile.

Learning should be fun! When we share stories, tell jokes and play word games with our kiddos, this naturally aids vocabulary acquisition.  Check out these ideas from Hands On As We Grow for increasing your toddler’s vocabulary through play.

By implementing these simple strategies, parents will go a long way in helping their children develop a rich vocabulary that will serve them well in their daily life.

Need more ideas for enriching your child’s vocabulary? Check out the wealth of activities from the National Capital Language Resource Center.

Have any other ideas to share about building vocabulary? Please leave comments!

Charity Books: New Reading Material for Your Children

In a workshop discussing the importance of literacy in a child’s development, Denise von Stockar from the Swiss Institute of Children’s Literature once said, “All literature, and literacy, is born from the human need to tell stories, to tell stories about one self or about others, to tell stories about the world to better understand our existence, the others and the universe we live.” The fables, myths, and novels we read to our children help them grow and develop, but perhaps one of the best resources to expose them to the world are books about charity.

Contrary to what you may think, the concept of philanthropy is something that comes naturally to children because of their inclination to share and be compassionate. Not only will the introduction of charity books provide them a key understanding of global issues and encourage empathy, but children will also discover the importance of literature through the real-life, meaningful content of these titles:

14 Cows for America by Thomas Gonzales14 Cows for America - book image
Despite being separated by the boundaries of countries and continents, tragedy in one area has the ability to affect people halfway across the world because we are all global citizens. In this touching story about generosity, a man returns home from medical school in America and shares the catastrophic event of September 11 with his village. Their hearts feel for the Americans, thus they decided to invite a US Ambassador to help the country recover from this great loss, presenting him with 14 cows.

Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrierBeatrice's Goat - book image
Illiteracy continues to be a major global problem with many children in third world countries, often relying on others to sponsor their education. The struggle is reflected in a beautiful story about a young girl in Africa who can only dream of school uniforms and books because her parents can barely make ends meet for little Beatrice and her five siblings. A stranger one day approaches Beatrice with a goat, and quickly she discovers she can sell the milk to turn her and her family’s life around.

Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams
Four Feet, Two Sandals - book image Donating one piece of clothing or a pair of shoes may not mean much for the donor, but to a needy child, it means everything. Humility is a resounding theme is this wonderful book that starts off with a refugee camp in Pakistan receiving clothing donations delivered by relief workers. 10-year-old Lina finds a sandal that’s just her size, only to discover another girl Feroza has tried on the other shoe. Rather than fighting about who gets to keep the sandals, they claim shared custody as they demonstrate the powers of love and friendship in this turbulent world.

We at Red Apple Reading hope you will take the time to talk and read books with children about charity, teaching them the valuable gift of giving at a young age.


Activities for Mastering Phonics Skills

The Importance of Mastering Phonics

In our last post we discussed phonemic awareness and it’s critical importance to learning how to read. This week we will discuss phonics, which the Oxford Dictionary defines as, “a method of teaching people to read by correlating sounds with letters or groups of letters in an alphabetic writing system.” So, phonics further builds upon the foundation of phonemic awareness. Once your little one begins to correlate letters with sounds, they will begin building an important foundation for reading! Today Red Apple Reading shares several activities that will help your kiddo become a phonics master!



Beginning Activities

  • Practice letters with pictures:  Use letters with pictures that contain the letter sound to demonstrate sounds to your child. For example, show your child a flash card with a picture of a dog on it next to the letter d, and say the word “dog” out loud, emphasizing the /d/ sound.
  • Point out letters:  Point out letters within words in books, around the house, on signs, and so on, and explain the sounds those letters are making within the words. This phonics I-Spy bottle from The Imagination Tree is a fun way to sharpen this skill!
  • Introduce your child to phonics-related online media:  Let your child watch videos that demonstrate letter-sound relationships, and introduce your child to interactive phonics activities. If you haven’t already, now’s a great time to sign up for your free 14 day trial of Red Apple Reading.

Intermediate Activities

Once your child becomes more comfortable with the sounds that letters make, it’s time to help her connect the letter-sounds into words. Some of the best words to start with are CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words. These are phonetically regular words (words you can sound out, as opposed to words that include silent or unusually pronounced letters) like “mat,” “big,” and “get”.

  • Buy or create CVC word puzzles: Find a commercially produced product, or simply create your own puzzle by writing out a CVC word and then dividing it into separate letters. Puzzles that include a picture of the word can help children connect the word and the letters to meaning. This cute nuts and bolts activity from No Time for Flashcards not only helps your kiddos with their CVC words, but it also develops their fine motor skills!
  • Make a Letter Wall: Designate a spot in your home—perhaps the refrigerator door, or a bulletin board—and make it into a letter wall. Place magnetic or adhesive letters on the wall, and let your child create his or her own CVC words by moving the letters around. Check out No Time for Flashcards’ spin on this idea using a cookie sheet and letter magnets.
  •  Play writing games: If your child has begun to write some letters, you can begin to let him practice encoding (i.e. using knowledge of letters and letter sounds to write words). Play guessing games such as asking your child to write the letter that comes at the beginning of the word “bed.”

Advanced Activities

As your child’s developing reading skills continue to grow, you can build on these activities to include more advanced objectives. You can use many of the same resources as before such as flash cards, online activities, puzzles, but expand the material to include new and more complex aspects of phonological awareness:

  • Digraph and blend activities: Digraphs are two or more letters grouped together but making a single sound, for example “th” and “ch.” Blends are two or more consonants grouped together but making separate sounds, for example “br” and “gl.” There are several activities your child can do to practice recognizing digraphs and blends. Download this free, adorable diagraph activity from Make, Take, and Teach!
  • Blending and substitution games: Once a child can comfortably blend the letters “c” “a” “t” into “cat,” you can progress to more complicated words. For example, give your child the letters “f” “r” “o” “g” and let him or her practice blending those letters into a word. You can also introduce substitution activities, for example asking, “What happens when you take away the ‘r’ in “frog?”
  • Segmenting activities: Working in the opposite direction as the blending activities,   you can have your child start with a whole word, such as “block,” and break it into pieces. You can use the pieces to make a puzzle, or a flipbook with “-ock” at the end, or create a list of rhyming words (sock, rock, dock).

We hope these ideas will be helpful as you help your little one work on her phonics! Leave us a comment telling about your favorite phonics activity!