Help Readers Bloom with Make Way for Ducklings

Spring has sprung, and I am very excited to share a classic Spring story with you and your students. I had forgotten how much I loved this story, until it was gifted to my son, during a recent trip to Boston. 
When we checked into our hotel, the front desk couldn't help but notice my slightly overly excited three year old, who waited patiently bounced off every wall! When they delivered his "very special big boy bed" it came with a welcome bag. He received a water bottle, coloring book, special bedtime snack, and story. To say that it was thoughtful, would be an understatement! 
When tucking my son into bed that night, we read "Make Way for Ducklings" - the most perfect Springtime in Boston story! 
Not only is this a cute leisure bedtime read, but it is also a great read aloud to share with your students. There are many skills you can emphasize with an interactive read aloud. 

Book Summary

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey (also the author of Blueberries for Sal) is a Caldecott Award winning story, about the journey of a family of ducks. Starting with Mr. and Mrs. Mallard looking for a place to nest, they fall in love with the Boston Public Gardens. But, after encountering some busy bikers, they eventually settle on the banks of the Charles River. After hatching their ducklings, and teaching them all the ducky ways, Mrs. Mallard does not give up on the Public Gardens. She enlists the help of Michael the policeman, to help her and her ducklings to their final family home. 

Teaching Vocabulary

Teaching vocabulary is so important, and often a skill that is overlooked. Introducing vocabulary can help set the stage to activate prior knowledge, while at the same time, begin to introduce new concepts to our students. Many times I have seen a student struggle to decode a word (that I really thought they should know), not because the phonics of the word was too difficult, but because their vocabulary just wasn't there yet. The vocabulary in this story is rich, not only as an introduction to a study on ducks, but also for words our students will encounter in other texts.
One activity I love to do when introducing new vocabulary, is to read off a list of words before starting the story, and have students predict what the words mean. This gives me a sense of their knowledge, and how much time to spend instructing on these words. I then assign each word to a select few students (the ones I know need a job to stay engaged) and it is their job to listen for their word throughout the story. When they hear their word, they quietly hold up a card to signal it's time to discuss the word. Then, using context clues, we try to uncover the meaning of the remaining words. I also DO NOT limit my students to ONLY the words I selected. Again, sometimes they surprise me with words they are unfamiliar with - and the whole point of going over vocabulary is to build background knowledge for the next time they encounter the word.

Before, During and After Reading

As I mentioned before, this book can make for a nice leisure read, as you transition out of the chaos of recess, however, this story can also be used to practice skills you have covered with your students throughout the year. By using before, during and after reading questions, you can engage your students by discussing genre, making predictions and inferences and evaluating characters, setting, and important events. The depth our students are able to pull from the story, can truly depend on our scaffolded questioning.
Providing our students with the opportunity to ask questions is another important experience that can create during our interactive read alouds. I try to encourage all types of questions.  My students ask clarifying questions, if they need more of an explanation. But, they can also ask their peers comprehension check questions, which allows them to take on a teacher role. This allows my students to have great input in their learning, and increases their metacognition of the story - a skill (I hope) that will transfer into their independent reading.

Making connections by building knowledge

Normally, we talk about building background knowledge before reading with our students, however after reading is another opportunity to build on our students' understanding. New knowledge is best developed by the connections our students can make. This charming story can make a wonderful transition into a study about ducks, and other oviparous animals.
Be sure to grab your blog exclusive FREEBIE! This non-fiction reader (2nd grade recommended) about ducks, and graphic organizer can help to expand your students' background knowledge about ducks.

... And there's more

This story has potential to bridge connections with your math curriculum. Mr. and Mrs. Mallard have eight ducklings - that makes a family of 10. Your students could explore ways to make ten, and write word problems about the infamous Boston family. 

Additionally, Mr. and Mrs. Mallard name all of their children with final -ck word family endings. If applicable, a lesson or review of final -ck would be an appropriate phonics connection for this story. Check out some of these "student and teacher approved" final -ck activities!
If you have used this book with your students, I would love for you to share how you have made connections and built upon your students' knowledge - you can share in the comments below.

Don't forget to check out the other incredible ideas, lessons and strategies shared by my teacher friends, linked below.  HAPPY SPRING! 

Reinvent Your Prize Box Now - Reading is the Prize

classroom prize box reading is the prize reward reading with reading thyme to read

I recently shared a picture on my Instagram about my prize box. I received quite a few questions about it, so I thought I would share more here! 

First let me say, that I have not always been a prize box teacher. I would start off strong with rewarding "something" whether is was good effort, reading growth, or a 'wow' moment, but I never had the follow through. I certainly was not promoting any good behaviors or growth in my students with my lack of consistency. Once I realized this was the kind of teacher I was, I moved away from the prize box. 
And that's OK! You have to do what is right for you! Your students are not going to think less of you because you do not have a prize box. You can think of others ways to praise good behavior,  strengthen positive attitudes, develop growth mindset or celebrate goals, and your students will appreciate them just the same. 

So, why did I jump back on the prize box bandwagon?

It's pretty simple. I joined a team that was PRO prize box! Maybe not the best reason, but it's the truth. I started teaching in a reading intervention room with three other teachers, and they were all about the prize box. *Sigh* 

How could I, the new girl, be the only one who didn't use a prize box? For example, we can have 16-20 second graders in our room at one time, and how can my 5 be the only ones NOT getting to go to the prize box? I had to find a way to make rewards work. 

So, I thought about what was really important to me, and my students. If I was invested, they would be invested. Then, I realized that my students LOVED when I would print a book off Reading A-Z, we would read it together, and they would get to keep it forever. It was not the sticker, star or stamp that I put on the forever book, it was the actual BOOK.  *Ah-ha*

And so, the Prize Box was born (again, but better)! My students were motivated because they loved getting books that they could take home and keep forever. I was motivated because, what teacher doesn't like giving out books and seeing their students read them. This was a prize that I could actually commit to! 

How does the Prize Book Box work?

classroom prize box reading is the prize reward reading with reading thyme to readMy students K-2 have "homework". Each week, I put a sight word review sheet and a book to read (usually it is a re-read of a book we read in group the week before). My first and second graders also have a reading response question they are responsible for.  It isn't a lot of homework, but it is purposeful and encourages my struggling readers to read at home. If they are making progress on their homework each night, they earn a point on Class Dojo. When they have 25 points (or 5 weeks of doing homework), they earn a book. A real book that they can keep FOREVER
My 3-5 graders earn books a little differently. They do not have assigned reading homework from me, but they do have assigned reading from their classroom teacher. I piggy back on this, and offer them a some reading challenges/reading menu to encourage them to read different books. As they complete these challenges, they earn a book from the prize box. 
**You can get the cute Reading is the Prize poster from Hello Literacy's TpT Store, it is a FREEBIE

Where do the books come from?

All over! 
Primarily, I order the books from the Scholastic book flyers. I only order the $1.00 books. There is a wide range and they are appropriate for all of my students. I try to replenish the number of books that were taken from the prize box, plus one or two to keep a variety of choices available. But, I do what I can afford. It does come out of my own pocket, and that is my own choice. I'm sure if I asked to have money put away for the prize box, it wouldn't be a problem because I do not spend my budget money on stickers or other trinkets. 

I started my prize box collection at a garage sale. You can easily find gently used books at garage sales for CHEAP! If you are lucky, and you happen to mention you are a teacher, sometimes they are nice enough to just give you a bag to fill up. It has happened. 

classroom prize box reading is the prize reward reading with reading thyme to read

Similarly, check consignment sales. My area has a few each year at an indoor sports facility. It is mostly clothes, and baby gear, but they have a nice selection of gently used books. You do not get the "teacher discount" here, but you can still get a big bang for your buck. I just found out the next sale is opening early for TEACHERS! If you find a consignment sale, it can't hurt to ask if you can come in early just to shop the books. 

And, don't forget to check your local library. They may occasionally have book sales too. This is great because the money you spend on books from the library sale will go back to the library so they can buy new books to fill their shelves with. And that is a win-win-win for everyone involved! 

Do you have more ideas on where to get books for cheap? Please share them below in the comments so we can all check them out!

Do your students think they are missing out?

I was asked if my students feel like they are missing out because they do not get a toy or a little notepad or a fancy pencil. And my answer was ABSOLUTELY NOT! My students brag about their new books, and the other students wide eye stare with excitement. Is there jealousy? I don't think so. My students wide eye stare at the toy cars and fancy pencils too. But no one complains about the prizes they have been given. I know my students appreciate the hand written note of praise that accompanies their book (and the parents do too). And all I can hope is that the excitement of the prize book lasts a little longer than the excitement of the toy car. 

I do want to add that I put my prize box on a bit of a pedestal. Much like you wouldn't let your students play with the toys in your prize box, my students cannot free read the books in my prize box. They are the most special books in the room! It helps to keep the appreciation of the prize box alive. If they were able to read them anytime, then what would they be working toward? 

How do I feel about the prize box now?

I'm loving my prize box! It took some time to figure out what worked for me, but I am excited when I can gift a new book to one of my students. I have finally matched the behaviors and habits I am trying to develop in my students, with the excitement of the reward. I am REWARDING READING, WITH READING! 
classroom prize box reading is the prize reward reading with reading thyme to read

  • If you are going to have a prize box, make it one you can commit to
  • Start small. You can praise the small moments, and reward the bigger milestones.
  • Check garage, consignment, and library sales and/or Scholastic Dollar Books to build your "inventory"
  • Reward the behavior with something that reflects the behavior. Reward reading with reading, because READING IS THE PRIZE! 

So do you use a prize box in your classroom? How do you make it work for you?

10 Things You Need to Run Fabulous Reading Groups

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Reading Groups! My whole day is made up of reading groups. I teach K-5 reading intervention, so my entire day, week and year is made up of small literacy groups. I love teaching reading, so for me, it is a good thing. However, I know that setting up, managing and planning for guided reading groups can be overwhelming. My friend Jenn, from Reading in Room 11, shared Ten Things that will Revolutionize your Reading Groups, and I'm here today to share 10 more things that will help you on your way to having fabulous reading groups. 

Color-Coded Group Materials
For me, this is the crux of my small group organization. I see at least 8 small groups per day, and having student supplies color coded is a must. My school uses the Fountas and Pinnell Level Literacy Intervention (LLI) system, and each kit (grade level) is color coded. So, my supplies for each grade level group matches the color of the grade level kit. This helps me as I am picking out books for each group, so I do not have to think too hard about what color LLI boxes I need to pull from. In each bin, I keep the books, and activities I need for that week. I also keep the students' color coded folders. These folders hold student progress monitoring assessments, sight word books, student reference charts (Fundations alphabet chart, RACE response and close reading mini anchor charts) and anything else my students may need to reference on a regular basis.
I took my color coding a step farther this year, by color coding our benchmark assessment materials. We copied student booklets and teacher recording sheets to follow the color coded system. This way, as we look back into student folders, we can clearly see what work has been saved from each grade. It may be a little too Type A for some, but I think anything you can do to make your job a little easier is worth doing.

Magnetic BINGO chips and wand
I use these materials every day, and I have found so many uses for them. I initially purchased them for practice isolating and segmenting sounds in words, and blending sounds together. For example, I may provide a word like 'brush' and ask my students to identify where they hear the 'sh' sound. They would then use one of their Magnetic BINGO chips to indicate initial, medial or final sound placement on Elkonin boxes. I may also provide the students with a picture of a word like 'crib' and they would push the chips into Elkonin boxes to represent the initial, medial and final sounds, before using the Magnetic BINGO wand to swipe all the chips and blend the word together.
But like I said, I use these tools all the time. I have used them to count syllables, represent points awarded in a game and to play actual BINGO. I have also recently started using them as a behavior management tool for one of my students. He has the "blurts" and I now give him three blurt chips (we started at 5), and when he blurts, I take a chip. When he has exhausted all of his chips, he misses out on earning a point on his classroom daily sheet.

Phoneme-Grapheme Flashcards and Blending Binder
Incorporating spiral review into lessons was not a strength of mine. That is...until I introduced Orton-Gillingham strategies into my small groups. A big part of Orton-Gillingham is building upon the skills the students have already learned to help them be successful with the new skills. The Phoneme-Grapheme flashcards and Blending Binder make this "building block" like instruction not only possible, but very easy. These cards help you execute visual, tactile and blending drills into your daily whole group, or small group lessons. By showing the students a card, they can orally produce the sound the letter(s) make, or you can produce a sound and have the student produce the letter(s) in tubs of rice or sand. Additionally, for blending practice you can put these cards in a three ring binder (initial sounds in the first ring, vowel sounds in the middle ring, and final sounds in the third ring) and have the students practice applying their skills to blending words and syllables.

Coffee stirrers
Yes, I said coffee stirrers! Such a simple item has become one of the top 10 things I use during my reading groups. I was teaching my student how to decode a word using syllables, and my students were understandably using a bit of trial and error to figure out where to divide their word. I was trying to have them use their finger to to cover part of the word, but that wasn't working because they still needed to see the rest of the word. I needed something skinny that would allow them to manipulate the parts of the word, and still see the part that was currently hiding under their finger. So, I quickly ran to the cafeteria and asked for some coffee stirrers. Now my students can try different syllable patterns, and practice decoding easily.

The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo
This book should be gifted to teachers the way The First Days of School (Harry Wong) currently is! The Reading Strategies Book, is a must for all elementary teachers. This professional development text helps support step-by step strategies for skilled reading. It is not only the what to teach, but the HOW TO teach it. The book is organized into chapters focusing on engagement, early reading, comprehension (fiction and non-fiction) fluency, vocabulary and writing in response to reading. The strategies are research based and reading levels suggesting the appropriateness of the strategies are listed. Serravallo provides a guide for prompting students to use the strategies, as well as a visual that could easily be recreated. I have re-created many of her visual prompts into mini anchor charts. I use the large index cards, and introduce the visual image to help my students to understand the strategy a little more. They are great to pull out for a non-verbal reminder to prompt my students to use the strategy.

Phonics Notebooks
I was looking for a hands-on way to practice phonics skills, that would compliment my Orton-Gillingham routines. I really liked the idea of an interactive notebook, but with only seeing my groups for 30 minutes each day, I knew I could not commit time to the cutting and assembly required for many of the interactive notebooks. So I made my own. These phonics notebooks provide picture cues to help students recall the sound each focus skill makes, encoding (spelling) practice, multisyllabic word decoding practice, picture sort, sentence writing and word building using a spinner game. I started using these this year in my classroom, and my students are loving them because they are predicable (each skill has the same/similar components) and they feel successful. My colleagues are loving them because there are opportunities to practice reading phonetically regular words, encoding, decoding, phonemic awareness, and writing.

Sticky Notes
I feel like sticky notes are a must for every aspect of the day. There are just so many uses. I use sticky notes to write observations regarding my students' progress, or general notes about a teaching point I want to make at a late date. I add these notes into my planbook, or the communication log I share with classroom teachers and other providers. I write on the fly questions, like "Has ______ had an OT eval? Noticing _______" and later follow up with an email to the OT and school psychologist. I also write little "love notes" to my students praising them for something great they did or as a little take away about a strategy they should keep using in the classroom.

Two of my favorite apps to use in my small reading groups are Class Dojo and Epic! Books for Kids.
Class Dojo has been a great way to promote positive reading behaviors like persistence and stamina, as well as communicate easily with families. The format of Class Dojo is really inviting, as it mimics familiar social media, and I have found that my parents are more likely to communicate through the app, than by email. My students also like receiving an occasional surprise reading challenge, that (if they choose to accept) helps them to earn a reward.
Epic! Books for Kids is a great app that can provide unlimited access to books for your readers. My students have been greatly motivated for the opportunity to read on the iPads. They enjoy the different format, and Epic! has audiobooks they really enjoy. These audiobooks are great for assessment days because it allows me to create a listening center, which needs almost no teacher support. I have also used these digital books for a guided reading lesson. Many of our students will develop into digital readers, and I thought it was a good idea to start engaging them with digital reading opportunities.
There are many other ways to incorporate technology into your small group lessons, these two apps are just the ones that have had the greatest impact.

Plastic Canvas
This is another tool I didn't know I needed, until I discovered the great effect it had for my students. You can add this plastic canvas to the introduction of sight words, and integrate a multi-sensory approach. For your tactile learners, this method could have an impact on the way they acquire their sight words. You can read more about using this tactile approach in my blog series about sight words. The best part of using this "bumpy board" as my students call it, is that your students will leave your small group with a crayon rubbing of their new sight word that they can use for later practice and review.

Encouraging your students to learn through play is one of the easiest and fun ways for them to meet your learning outcomes. I try to use games as often as possible in my small groups. Jenn has a great game called Students vs Teacher that I use all the time to warm up my students and review skills previously taught.
A big thing that I have learned about games, is to be consistent. Learning a new game takes time. Time that your students are not practicing content. So really, that means less time is being spent on meeting your objectives. To keep consistency, most often, my students play one of four games. These four games keep the novelty fresh, but also allow us to jump right into the game and have more practice. You can grab these games for FREE, and start using them right away with your students.

I hope the tips and tools I have shared will be helpful or inspiring for you. Reading groups can be difficult to establish, manage and plan for, but after some adjusting to figure out what works for you, they can become really fun to teach. If you have other things that are MUST HAVES for your small reading groups, please share them with me. I'm always looking for new and exciting things to share with my students. 

Don't forget to check out other great posts sharing more tips to improve your literacy instruction, from The Reading Crew

The Kid Approved, Most Wanted Books for Christmas

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Is it just me, or as a teacher do you feel obligated to give books as gifts, for EVERY occasion? Yes. OK, I'm glad I'm not alone. Even if you are not a teacher, books are the gift that keeps on giving. By presenting a child with a book, you are helping to share not only a story, but hopefully develop a family experience and memory.

In my family, for Christmas, we have started the tradition of giving something we want, something we need, something to wear, and something to READ. I hope this list of books will help you select a title to share with the little ones in your life. I should add that these books are not just great gifts for the kiddos in your family. They would make great additions to your classroom library. You could have a 12 days of Christmas Book Celebration by adding one new title to your classroom library each day leading up to your Holiday Break.
My students helped me pull this list of Holiday/Winter themed books together. Some of the books are their go to favorites, some were at the top of their wish list from the Scholastic Book Club flyers, and others are books that I just could not deny having a place on this list. 
I'll Love You Forever by Owen Hart
I have a very hard time passing up a book about Polar Bears (it is my school mascot). But, beyond that, this book is perfect for the child who has your heart forever and always. The Polar Bear reassures Cub that no matter what changes throughout the seasons, the love they have for each other will always stay the same. This book is currently in a Scholastic Book Club flyer. (Ages 2-5)

This is a New Release (released November 14)! If this book is anything like the first Hoot and Peep book, it will not disappoint. It is described as a story about sibling owls experiencing the first snowfall. When waiting for the snow to fall, Peep does not have patience like her older brother. However, Hoot knows that the snow is worth waiting for. This would be the perfect book to share with siblings. (Ages 3-5)

Maple and Willow's Christmas Tree by Lori Nichols
Here is another book about siblings! There is also a small collection of Maple and Willow stories, so these books may be great gifts throughout the year. In this story, Maple and Willow set out to find their first REAL Christmas Tree. They are so excited, until it is time to decorate the tree. When Maple gets close to the tree, she has an allergic reaction and the tree has to go outside. In typical sibling fashion, the girls have a falling out. But the story does have a happy ending, so don't worry. This book is currently in a Scholastic Book Club flyer. (Age 3-5)

The Mitten by Jan Brett
The book that needs no introduction! The Mitten is a classic winter tale, and loved by so many. Don't forget to share your favorite stories with the little ones in your life. My son loves this story, and it is one I shared with his pre-school class. Before reading to his class, I made felt board pieces with clipart images and transfer paper. Then I gifted his teacher the felt board pieces and a copy of the book. Boy was she thankful. This book is currently in a Scholastic Book Club flyer. (Age 3-7)

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
As a Caldecott Award winning book, it is no surprise the illustrations in this text are simply stunning. Here is another classic winter tale to share. This is the story of a father and his daughter who go "owling" and together enjoy the simple activity of a special night together. This book is currently in a Scholastic Book Club flyer. (Age 3-7)

The Christmas Wish by Lori Evert
This is the book to get for the child you are trying to restore "the magic" in. I remember being in first grade when "that kid" told me there was no Santa. I was a puddle of mess on the floor when I came home. My mom went through a very elaborate plan to get me to believe again. If only there was this book, it probably would have saved her a lot of time and scheming with my grandparents, aunts and uncles (bless my mother)! In this story, the little Nordic girl, Anja, wishes to be one of Santa's elves. You experience her journey and her encounters with Arctic animals along the way. (Age 3-7)

Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner and Mark Beuhner
These will be the "Frosty the Snowman" for the current generation of young believers. The young boy in the story wonders why his snowmen look droopy, so he imagines a night of fun and excitement for them. The rhyming story is great for the pre-school or young school aged child. The Buehner's have written more Snowmen books that will surely keep your kiddos laughing and enjoying the holiday spirit (Snowmen at Christmas, Snowmen at Play, Snowmen at Work, Snowmen All Year). This book is currently in a Scholastic Book Club flyer. (Age 4-7)

Immi's Gift by Karin Littlewood
This is a sweet story of an Inuit girl, Immi. When Immi goes ice fishing, hoping to catch even just one fish, she finds herself "catching" special treasures day after day. The Arctic animals are amazed with her finds, and come each day to share stories and befriend the young girl. But eventually, Immi's igloo starts to melt and it is time for her to move on. Before going, she drops a special treasure into her fishing hole, hoping that someone on the other end will find it. (Age 4-7)

'Twas Nochebuena by Roseanne Greenfield Thong
A classic Christmas story we are all familiar with... that shares Latino tradition. In this story your reader can follow a family through their night of celebrations. Spanish words are perfectly placed throughout this story, and it makes for a great tale you will want to read again and again. This book is currently in a Scholastic Book Club flyer. (Age 4-7)

Hanukkah Bear by Eric Kimmel
Eric Kimmel, has recreated his famous story of The Hanukkah Guest into a more kid friendly version. Bubba Brayna is known for making the best potato latkes, but she is nearly blind. So it is quite understandable when she mistakes a bear for her rabbi. She tries to take his coat, and attributes the bear's growls as a blessing over the Hanukkah candles. This is a funny story to be enjoyed by all. (Age 4-7)

The Christmas Truck by J.B. Blankenship
I was very excited to come across this book because it shares a beautiful story about what the Holidays are truly all about, selflessness and family. As a family, (Dad, Papa, and their son - yes, there are two dads) sets out to to celebrate their own family tradition, things don't go quite as planned. So, they make a new plan to help out someone they have never met, and save Christmas for them. This book is the perfect blend of a great message and a little humor.  (Age 4-8)

Mooseltoe byMargie Palatini
This is another story that is good for a laugh. Moose wants Christmas to be perfect, but in all of his preparations, he forgets to get a Christmas tree. As a result, he allows his family to decorate him by hanging decorations from his antlers and his moosetache. This book is currently in a Scholastic Book Club flyer. (Age 5-7)

Here is another Caldecott Award winning book, so you know you could buy this book based on the pictures alone. It is also another title written by Eric Kimmel, who seems to really understand the slightly twisted-traditional Hanukkah stories that are perfect for kids. However, that is not all this book has to offer. Each year, holiday-hating goblins come to ruin Hanukkah by breaking dreidels, throwing latkes, and ruining the menorah. But this year, Hershel (a traveler) comes to town and devises a plan to break the spell and save Hanukkah forever. This is a great story that parallels the ancient Hanukkah story, with a warm and humorous twist. (Age 5-8)

Sneezy the Snowman by Maureen Wright
The laughs just keep coming with these great titles. Sneezy is a snowman with a cold. He makes several attempts to warm up, but we all know what happens when snow gets warm... Thankfully he has the help of three children (and two cardinals) who rebuild him and attempt to make him comfortable. (Age 6-8)

Amazing Peace by Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou first read this poem at the White House tree lighting ceremony in 2005. In this story, a family comes together with their diverse community to celebrate the promise of peace during the holidays. The illustrations in this book are just beautiful! If you are looking to add this book to your classroom library, you may find that this book is more on the religious side, which I know is OK for some, but not for all. Use your judgement about what is best for your class. (Age 6-10)

I told you I could not resist a book about Polar Bears, and my students beg for any Magic Tree House story. In this story, Jack and Annie are sent to the Arctic to solve the final riddle to become master librarians. They encounter cracking ice, a seal hunter and a polar bear, but will they solve the riddle to make it home? 
AND...if one Magic Tree House story isn't enough, the Fact Tracker companion text is a must. Many of my students love non-fiction and these fact trackers are a great way to motivate them to read. If using them in the classroom, they could serve as kid friendly research texts. (Ages 7-10)

Magic Tree House: Merlin Missions by Mary Pope Osborne
As the Magic Tree House series celebrates 25 years, they have started to reorganize the series. The "new" Merlin Mission texts are geared for more experienced readers. In this first book, Christmas in Camelot, Jack and Annie receive an invitation to spend Christmas Eve in Camelot. However, their invitation turns into an adventure to save Camelot. 
AND...there are a few other Merlin Mission titles for your older readers that would look great wrapped up with a bow this holiday season. Some of these books have a companion Fact Tracker too, so your non-fiction fanatic can enjoy learning more details about Jack and Annie's adventures. (Age 7-10)

As the children in our life get older, it can be hard to motivate them to read. Many of my boys had this book at the top of top of their wish list. So, if you have a reluctant reader, or an older elementary boy you are shopping for, this book is sure to keep the stressful holidays fun and full of laughter! This book is currently in a Scholastic Book Club flyer. (Age 7-11)

Ellray Jakes is a series about an African-American boy struggling to fit in. In this holiday book, Ellray is faced with the struggle of being proud of his community and being the center of attention. He is challenged with a few dares from his friend, but then attention is turned on him for all the wrong reasons. This book is currently in a Scholastic Book Club flyer. (Age 8-10)

Weird but True Christmas by National Geographic Kids
Here is another title for an older more reluctant reader, or for the fact finder in your life. Even Christmas has some weird but true "secrets" that could make family time around the fireplace a little more interesting. This book is on the small side,  so it could even make a great stocking stuffer. This book is currently in a Scholastic Book Club flyer. (Age 8-12)
Compiling this list, with the help of my students, has been a lot of fun! In the process, I have added many new titles to my classroom and home libraries. I have also gotten some early Christmas shopping done for my niece and some of our close friends' children. I hope they like the stories as much as I do, but more importantly, I hope they enjoy reading together. If you have more holiday titles that you love, please share them in the comments!
Before you go, here is a FREE printable holiday book wish list. You can have your students fill out the wish list while looking at the Book Club flyers. Or, your children could write in their most wished for titles while searching online or at your local book store. Either way it will help to encourage the gift of reading this holiday season.
Happy Holidays!

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