Early Literacy Activities

Educator and mom is a difficult balance. I know all the things I should be doing, but most days I’m just too dang exhausted to do anything other than get through our regular evening routine. While I am absolutely terrified of what is happening in the world right now, I have chosen to focus my energy on feeling blessed. I am blessed that our schools made the decision to close their doors. The decision was not an easy one to make, but was the right one to keep us safe. All educators are filled with fear and anxiety for our students.

What are our school babies doing while they are gone?

Are they alright?

Do they have food to eat?

Are they learning anything virtually?

Do they know we still love them?

I push this anxiety aside by focusing on the fact that I am blessed to be able to experience more time home with my son. I finally have the opportunity to teach him. I have time to slow down and enjoy him. To soak up all of his snuggles and laugh at all of his funny sayings.

This is not a blessing I take for granted. I am so thankful for our amazing healthcare workers who do not have the opportunity to stay home. They are fighting the great unknown. Daily putting themselves and their families at risk. They are in my thoughts and prayers every moment of the day.

Families of school aged children are daily navigating the waters of homeschooling life. They are diligently working through assignments from their child’s teacher. MAD PROPS to these amazing parents! Overnight you had to become teachers while many of you are also still balancing a career. You are doing an amazing job!

Other families may be home with little ones because daycare or preschool is closed. They do not have plans to follow and are ending each day purely exhausted. Many are probably feeling like they are getting nothing accomplished. I see you and I feel you. I too am trying to find a balance of virtual work while also engaging with my toddler. Today I am sharing a few early learning activities that are FUN and guaranteed to keep your little ones engaged. I am sharing my top three in an effort to help and not overwhelm. Find one that your child likes and stick with it until they get bored. Do not feel like you have to do it all everyday… or do any! We are all trying to survive while also enjoying the opportunity to slow down. I hope you find them helpful and I hope your little one enjoys them. Happy learning!

ABC Fishing

Materials: ABC puzzle (this one from amazon is amazing), water, a scoop or slotted spoon

Gather all of your materials and fill a pan, bowl, or even the sink with water. Choose which letters you want your child to “fish” for. I would recommend starting with two letters at a time if you are just starting to learn letters.

Ask you child to “fish” for the letter. You can call the letter by it’s name or sound depending on what you are working on. I said the letter name and had him say the sound once he caught it.

Once they “catch” the right letter have them place it in the puzzle.

This activity is great! You can do this in so many different ways… letter names, letter sounds, colors, shapes, etc.

Letter Plate Clip

Materials: Plates (we used Styrofoam, but could use paper plates, cardboard, card stock, or even real plates), clothes pins

Put letters, words, or colors around the outer edge of the plate. Write the letters, words, or color the ends of the clothes pins to match the plate. See the picture below.

Have your child match the clothespin to the appropriate letter on the plate. This activity is not only great for letter recognition, but it is also a good fine motor activity! When we did this at home we did the letter sounds as we matched them. You could easily color the ends of the clothespins for younger children and have them match the colors.

Name Building Scavenger Hunt

Materials: Sticky notes, paper

Write your child’s name on a piece of blank paper. For older children you could write sight words or spelling words they are working on. Write random letters, including the ones needed to build the word, on sticky notes. Place them on a wall or other flat surface. Have you child find the letters used to build the word.

Resources for Homeschooling

Since we’re all stuck inside for the foreseeable future, I wanted to share some free, easy-to-access resources for homeschooling. The following are some of my favorite websites or apps to use both as a teacher and as a mom. I am sharing my top 5 in an effort to not overwhelm, but there are SO many other amazing companies offering free subscriptions as well. Sending prayers for health and happiness. Happy reading!

Storyline Online

Storyline Online is free and does not require you to set up an account. This site features authors and celebrities reading popular books. There are subtitles which is an added bonus for older children. The selection of stories is absolutely amazing! They have such a wide variety and feature popular stories which will definitely keep your child interested.

Hoopla or Libby App

This app is my favorite! All you need is a local library card and you are set to go. Once you have signed in with your card you have access to ebooks, audiobooks, videos, and music. This is a saving grace since our local libraries are closed. I primarily use this app for myself, but have been accessing children’s books for my little one lately too!

Reading A to Z

This is one of my go to sites as a teacher. Reading A to Z allows teachers to assign books as well as print leveled books with the coordinating lesson. This website is a win-win because it is also amazing for parents! The RAZ kids side to this site offers great ebooks and audiobooks for students to read, research, and discuss. They are offering free accounts for teachers through the end of the school year. The website is full of rich resources!

Riverbanks Zoo & Garden

Did you know that turtles have feeling in their shells?! I didn’t until I tuned in for Riverbanks Zoo’s z-learning this morning. Our amazing zoo has set up z-learning for animal lovers of all ages. Every morning at 10:00 they go live on their Facebook page to give viewers a behind the scenes look. They feature a different animal each day and give viewers an up-close look at them.

ABC Mouse

ABC Mouse is a great site for young learners (they recommend ages 2-8). It reaches from pre-kindergarten to 2nd grade level. The website features activities for reading, math, art (colors), and science. It’s engaging and fun for children. They are offering 30 days free!

Children’s Books With Diverse Family Structures

There is an old saying that books are mirrors to our souls. It is crucial that children see themselves in the books they read. We want them to also see their families in books. The traditional family of a mom, dad, and children is no longer the norm. There are single parents, grandparents, same gender parents, aunts, uncles, foster families, and more. All family structures need to be portrayed in books for children. Below I have listed some of my favorite books that showcase a variety of family structures. Happy reading!

Saturday by Oge Mora

Ava’s mother works everyday except Saturday. Every week Ava and her mother look forward to the adventures they will have on their one day together. This Saturday, Ava’s mother has bought them tickets to a puppy show. They begin their day and everything goes wrong…. from canceled library time to ruined hair, it just is not their day. Ava’s mother reassures her each time something goes wrong trying her best to keep Ava happy. They arrive to the puppet show and realize they left the tickets at home. This time Ava’s mom crumples. Now Ava steps in to reassure her mother. This story is so heartwarming! My Mommy heart could so relate to how this mother feels. It truly shows how deep the love between a parent and child runs.

We Are Family by Patricia Hegarty

This book is amazing! The text is so fun to read. The rhymes and sweet message appeal to all ages. The pictures showcase all different types of families and races. This book blesses all different types of families and the things they do together. Perfect for everyone!

Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie

This precious story follows a boy who does not like his name. He is named after his dad and longs for a name of his own. He spirals down the rabbit hole trying to find a new name when his dad comes up with a good solution. This sweet story of a father and son is a must have!

The One Day House by Julia Durango

This book gave me so many warm fuzzy feelings! The story follows Wilson and his Gigi as they spend their days together. Wilson makes promises of the ways he will one day fix up her house so she can relax and enjoy life. Gigi assures Wilson that he gives her all the love and joy she needs in life. Then Wilson makes their dreams come true and surprises his grandmother by following through on all of his promises. Such a sweet story of love and devotion.

Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer

This book is perfect for your youngest reader. It lists all the things love could mean to a family. From something as simple as knowing where missing things are, to kisses before bedtime, this book covers it all! The best part of this book is the pictures. They are very colorful and bright, but best of all they showcase modern families. From same gender parents to single parents, these pictures show all types of families!

Fred Stays With Me by Nancy Coffelt

This little girl goes back and forth between mom’s house and dad’s house, but her beloved dog Fred always stays with her. Dad gets frustrated with Fred, mom gets fed up, and they both insist Fred cannot stay with them. The brave little girl stands up and reminds them that Fred stays with her. A sweet story showing divorced or separated families.

The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan

Each night it’s mommy, daddy, and daughter all in the big bed. That is until the little one decides it’s time to confront the problem. Daddy just cannot stay in bed anymore. Laugh along as she convinces dad it’s best for him to sleep elsewhere. This book is adorable!

My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero

This story follows a girl and her father as they take a motorcycle ride through their community. The daughter describes all the sights she sees on the ride, while the father seems to quietly unwind after a long day of work.

Night Job by Karen Hesse

This book is about a father who works the night shift cleaning a school. His son rides along with him each night to work. The book tells the routine of their nights shared together.

Bebe Goes Shopping by Susan Middleton Elya

This adorable book features a mother and baby on their trip to the grocery store. The text is filled with color and rhymes making is very engaging. There are Spanish words throughout, but are easy to understand within the context of the story. I love that it showcases an everyday activity that all children can relate to.

Guy’s Favorite Books

Three years ago today, my sweet baby boy was born. I cannot believe that my little 6lb 9oz baby is now THREE! It has been a wild ride, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Being Guy’s mother has truly been the biggest blessing of my life. He is full of love, energy, and emotion! He knows what he likes and will let everyone know it. He feels big and loves even bigger. He remembers everything…. even when we wish he would forget. He makes us laugh each and every day. Happy birthday to our sweet Guy! May your day be filled with trucks, tractors, and all of your favorite things. We love you so much!

In honor of our little man’s big day, I am sharing Guy’s top 10 favorite books. Happy reading!

Little Excavator by Anna Dewdney

This one is Guy’s very favorite. Even at three he can read the words almost completely independently. This story is so fun to read aloud! It has lots of rhymes and onomatopoeia.

Little Excavator tries to help out, but is too small to do the jobs. He keeps trying and fails again and again. In the end, there is one job left and none of the big trucks can do it. Little E comes to the rescue and finally feels some success. This story shows that you are valuable and important even when you are small.

Stanley the Farmer by William Bee

Stanley is one of our favorite characters! This book features Stanley as a farmer. He plows the field, plants his wheat, spreads manure, and eventually harvests his crops. The pictures are very simple with bright colors which give it a vintage look. There are several other Stanley books, so you are sure to find a topic your little one will enjoy.

Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw

This one is an oldie, but a goodie! This fun rhyme keeps my little one laughing. The text is very simple, so it is a fast read which makes it great for very young readers. The sheep go for a drive in the jeep, but everything goes wrong.

Three Cheers for Kid McGear! by Sherri Duskey Rinker

This is our newest favorite by the same author as Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site. Kid McGear is new to the construction yard. She wants to help, but the other trucks insist she is too small and needs to stay out of the way. She does as she’s told until two construction trucks fall over a slippery edge. She uses her special features to save the day and all the trucks learn a valuable lesson about working together.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury

This is another classic favorite. We love reading this and acting it out along the way. This story has been loved by children for decades and we are no exception!

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin

Pete the Cat is another favorite character in our house! We love this book because Guy can guess the colors as we read. This fun rhyme also incorporates colors along the way. There are plenty of other Pete the Cat books you can read after this one. We have yet to find one we don’t love.

No, David! by David Shannon

No, David is the perfect book to talk about behavior. We love to read it and laugh at all the bad things David does, but it also allows us to talk about what why we shouldn’t behave that way.

Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle

Little Blue Truck is the perfect book for all young children! The friendly little blue truck rides through the country. The dump truck zooms past without speaking to the animals. He gets stuck and none of the animals want to help him. Leave it to the friendly blue truck to step in and save the day. This book teaches a valuable lesson on working together and being kind.

Potato Pants! by Laurie Keller

We checked this hysterical book out from the library and read it every night for two weeks straight. He has been begging for it ever since, so we surprised him with it for his birthday. Potato is excited that his favorite store is selling POTATO PANTS for one day only! His excitement quickly fades when he sees Eggplant, his arch enemy, through the window. Will he get the courage to go in and get his potato pants? This book is full of idioms and jokes making it fun for adults and children!

Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow

Another childhood favorite for everyone. Guy LOVE to read/sing along to this fun story! It’s a classic and needs no explanation. 🙂

Wordless Picture Books

Sometimes the best way to inspire conversation is to take the words away. Wordless picture books are an excellent way to allow children to make their own interpretations. They encourage children to converse about what they see while keeping an open mind. Below are some of my favorite wordless picture books for all ages. Happy reading!

That Neighbor Kid by Daniel Miyares

A new boy moves in next door and the neighbor girl can’t help but be curious. This book captures a new friendship forming. The pictures are black and white, but color begins to slowly form along with the friendship. This is a beautiful lead in for conversations on friendship while also showcasing ways in which authors use color to portray emotions.

The Monkey Goes Bananas by C.P. Bloom

This book is one of my all time favorites!!!! It is not completely wordless, but has just enough words to help readers know where to draw their attention. This book will make all children laugh. The Monkey Goes Bananas is the perfect book to help young children learn to infer. They will be begging to read The Monkey and the Bee, so do yourself a favor and buy them both!

Float by Daniel Miyares

Follow along on this journey as a young boy builds a paper boat and takes it on an adventure. The illustrations are shown from different angles which lends itself to conversation about perspective. The illustrations are also great for discussion about feelings and facial expressions. This is a beautiful book for boys or girls!

Unspoken by Henry Cole

This beautifully illustrated story portrays many unspoken stories from the underground railroad. This little farm girl sees an eye peeking from the corn field. She silently cares for the unseen slave. You can see the turmoil in her eyes as she decides to keep the secret to herself. This story is perfect for older children (I’d recommend 8 and older).

Wave by Suzy Lee

This book is absolutely adorable! Watch as a young girl experiences a day at the beach. She starts off hesitant of the waves and then gains the courage to dip in a toe. Follow along and feel her hesitation turn to excitement. This book would be great for talking about overcoming your fears.

Chalk by Bill Thomson

This book is so fun! It follows three friends who discover a bag of magic sidewalk chalk. Every picture they draw comes to life. Such a beautiful example of imagination. Another excellent book for teaching facial expressions and problem solving.

Journey by Aaron Becker

This beautiful book follows a lonely girl who draws a door on her bedroom wall. She escapes to another world full of life and adventure. With her magic red pen in tow, she creates everything she needs while on her journey. This book is the first in a trilogy, so be sure to check out Quest and Return to view the rest of the story.

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd

Have you ever had a backyard camp out? It’s cozy and warm in the tent, but don’t you wonder what is happening outside in the dark? Follow along as this little boy uses his flashlight to explore the dark. The flashlight illuminates whatever is in it’s path and is shown in color while the remaining picture is in dark tones. This book will encourage bravery and adventure.

I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoet

This story deserves all the likes and heart emojis. Vanessa is new to her class and a bully immediately targets her. A sweet girl feels bad and stands up for her. Watch as the students ban together in her defense. The perfect story to discuss friendship, bullying, and kindness.

Favorite Psychological Thrillers

I never considered myself a reader of psychological thrillers until I read Gone Girl. That book was a game changer for me. I can officially say I am now hooked. I have listed my top 5 for you, but since this is one of my favorite genres stay tuned for future posts. Happy reading!

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

READ THIS BOOK! This is one of my favorites. I read a lot of psychological thrillers and am pretty good at uncovering the “truth” before it’s revealed. This one though… no words. Reading this book was like being on a roller-coaster ride. I would have it all figured out and then… BAM…. plot-twist. I finally gave up trying to figure things out on my own and made myself just keep reading.

Here’s a quick rundown. Anna lives alone in NYC. She drinks (a lot) and spends her days isolated inside her home watching the outside world from the window. A family moves in across the street and soon she sees something odd from the window. That’s all I can say without giving it away…. go read it!

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

This book follows an artist, Alicia, who is married to a high profile photographer. He arrives home from work one night and she kills him, but then refuses to speak. Will her psychotherapist be able to break through to her and uncover what happened? This one is truly a page turner!

The Whisper Man by Alex North

A father-son duo is looking for a fresh start after a tremendous loss. They are settling into a new life and beginning to get comfortable when a boy in the community disappears. Shortly after, the son Jake begins to hear whispers at night. Not many books truly scare me, but this one had me shaking in my boots. Not only is it a well-written psychological thriller, but it also showcases how far parents will go for their children.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

A group of neighborhood friends has a dinner party like they have hundreds of other times. However, this time something goes horribly wrong. Anne and Marco’s lives quickly begin to get turned upside spilling secrets, lies, and suspicions along the way.

The Ex: A Novel by Alafair Burke

Jack Harris is accused of killing three people at a football field. His daughter, Buckley, calls a high powered defense attorney who happens to be Jack’s ex-fiance. If anyone will believe his innocence it must be someone who knows Jack at his true core right? As the evidence stacks, doubt grows, and the story twists and turns.

Favorite Feel-Good Stories

The following books are some of my very favorites. You will fall in love with the characters and mourn them when the story ends. They are all beautifully written and worth sharing! Happy reading.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

If you have never read Kristin Hannah you will want to binge read all of her books once you finish this one! This book follows a Vietnam Vet and his family as they move to Alaska desperate for a new life. However, the weather and terrain do not improve his emotional and mental state. A survival story that will make you truly fall in love with the sweet daughter Leni.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Rill and her four younger siblings are river rats living aboard a rundown boat on the Mississippi River. When their father leaves to go to the hospital with their mother, the children are whisked away into an orphanage. The story flashes forward to current day in Aiken, South Carolina following a character named Avery. She returns home to care for her father and begins a journey to discover her true family history.

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

I admit that I am not usually a memoir reader, but I am so glad I pushed myself out of my comfort zone for this one. Tara tells her story in such a entrancing way it is almost impossible to put down. I laughed, I cried, I sat in pure disbelief. As a teacher, I was of course drawn to the fact that education changed her life. This is definitely worth the read.

The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton

Sara’s grandmother owns a B&B in a quaint small town. Sara owns a bustling antique store in New Orleans. When Sara discovers her grandmother has passed away she returns home to settle the estate. When she arrives she learns that her grandmother has willed her the task of fixing up the B&B. This is a beautiful story that will tug your heartstrings and make you smile.

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Alice marries a handsome, wealthy man and moves from England to Kentucky to be his bride. Feeling outcast and bored, she volunteers to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library initiative. This story follows the journey of three women and the men they love. It’s based on a true story. This book empowers women and shows the lengths we will go to protect those we love.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Ove is one of my favorite characters! He is grouchy, antisocial, just an overall sourpuss. His neighbors call him the “bitter neighbor from hell.” A new family moves into the neighborhood with two small girls. One accident leads to more interactions and eventually you learn Ove’s true story. Read this book and you too will fall in love with Ove.

If the Creek Don’t Rise by Leah Weiss

Set in Appalachia, Sadie marries a man mean as a rattle snake and quickly realizes she made a mistake. This southern fiction stories is stocked full of colorful characters who will keep you on your toes. Will Sadie be able to find her way out of her situation?

Books for Girls

Two years ago today, I became Aunt Kate to the most precious bundle of joy.  My sweet niece Andy is full of personality! My sister and I talk about how important it is that we allow her to be herself. We don’t want societal pressures to hold her back, or limit her in what she can, and cannot do. We want her to be comfortable and confident in her own skin. 

Naturally, I began searching for books that would empower her to be herself.  I wanted to find books that celebrated girls for qualities other than their looks and clothing.  Below you will find some of my favorites. Happy reading!

1. Beautiful by Stacy McAnulty

This is one of my absolute favorites for little girls! The text is simple which makes it great for any age. The pictures showcase girls who are covered in dirt, paint, and more. This book gives permission for girls to be their own kind of beautiful.

2. Dear Girl by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Dear girl is a must for little girls you love.  It’s a sweet letter showcasing how important she is in the world.  It’s the perfect book to gift for important life events (showers, graduation, birthdays).  

3. Go, Girls, Go! by Frances Gilbert

This book shows that girls can be anything they want to be when they grow up!  It showcases female pilots, construction workers, etc. The text is simple and the illustrations are bright making it perfect for even the smallest girls. 

4. She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton

This book showcases 13 women who have impacted the world in some way.  Each woman’s story is brief which makes it an easy read. This book is guaranteed to empower girls to speak up and fight for what they believe is right.   

5. Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malalaa Yousafzai

If you have not heard Malala’s story, now is the time!  Malala grew up in Pakistan and wanted nothing more than to attend school.  When girls are no longer allowed to attend school, she finds magic in the form of a pencil and uses her words to activate change.

6. I Am Enough by Grace Byers

This book is written in a beautiful lyrical format.  It empowers young girls to love who they are as well as respect who others are.  This is a fun book to read aloud and allows for great conversation!

7. Think Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison

This board book is perfect for small hands!  Each page features a woman who has impacted our world in some way.  The simplicity of the text is great for early learners but also allows for further research and discussion with other children.

8. Girls Can Do Anything by Caryl Hart

This beautiful book showcases all the different things girls can do. The pictures are bright and diverse. This rhyming text will engage readers of all ages!

9. Doll-E 1.0 by Shanda McCloskey

Charlotte and her adorable dog love to create. This book spotlights a little girl who knows all about technology. It’s the perfect STEM book for little girls.

10. Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell

Molly Lou Melon is one of my favorite characters! She fearlessly stands up for herself and doesn’t let anything slow her down.

Hello Friends!

Photo by Erica Carter (She’s AMAZING! Follow her on IG @ericacarterstudio)

Hey y’all! My name is Katie Roush and I’m the book-loving girl behind this blog. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and a Master’s Degree in Language and Literacy. After 5 years in the classroom, I now work alongside our building’s amazing teachers as the Reading Coach in the same Title I School where I started my career.

I met my husband more than a decade ago and since then he has been the perfect partner for me!  We have an almost three year old son named Guy. We are water lovers and spend most weekends at the lake sailing or swimming.

Why did I decide to start a blog about books?

  • As a Reading Coach, I talk about books all day long. It’s truly the perfect job for me!
  • I LOVE to teach children to read. Since stepping out of the classroom I have felt a deep void that I have filled by becoming our school’s “book dealer.” I am constantly sharing personalized book recommendations for students and teachers.
  • Confession: I have not always loved to read. I found a love a reading once I became a teacher. Seeing the excitement on my student’s faces when they heard a story they loved inspired me to do the same for myself.
  • I don’t believe anyone doesn’t like to read, I believe they haven’t found the right book yet.

Books are amazing. They give us the opportunity to travel to places we may never visit, experience cultures we may never meet, and live through time periods we cannot reach. As your resident book matchmaker, I hope to help you find your soulmate – a book that will light a fire of inspiration under you.

Random Facts About ME:

  • I am an older sister. Jordan is 15-months younger than me and is my absolute world! You will probably hear me talk about her a lot. She is a huge inspiration to me!
  • I believe polka dots are a neutral.
  • I’m obsessed with true crime. It definitely causes me anxiety, but I’m addicted… help!
  • I have a weakness for reality TV.
  • I am a total nerd (#LifeLongLearner!) and pretty much exclusively listen to podcasts.
  • My sister has inspired me to sew more (mostly baby quilts and tote bags). I hope to be half as good as she is one day.

I am so happy you found my little slice of the internet. Grab a warm cup of coffee (or tea!), slide on your favorite cozy slippers, and let’s find your next great read!

Let’s stay in touch! Follow my journey by subscribing to this blog and following along on Instagram.