Good reads for kids -Audio Book review

I wrote in an earlier post about audio books being one of my homeschool secret-weapons.
In this post, I would like to share one of our all-time favorite audio stories, A Coyote's in the House by Elmore Leonard.

Read superbly by Neil Patrick Harris- (really, I could go on and on about what a splendid job he did with this..) this is the story of Antwan, hip & wild Hollywood coyote- living the good life in the Hollywood hills, content to dine on left-overs scrounged outside movie-star homes, watching movies at the drive-in and through windows of homes, enjoying the wild/free life of living coyote.

Antwan is curious about the lives of domesticated dogs, and when he meets Buddy and is invited by Buddy to switch places with him, his curiosity gets the best of him, and he hilariously learns how to be dog. Antwan becomes the new family pet, sharing the house with Buddy and Miss Betty- a showdog. In return for lessons on being a dog, Antwan agrees to teach Buddy how to be wild and to introduce Buddy to Antwan's pack.

This story shines because of the fast and funny dialog between characters. It's wonderful on audio with the entertaining accents done by Neil Patrick Harris. Antwan calls Buddy "homes" and runs with a gang called the "wild diablos"- he exudes coolness. Buddy is the stern ex-dog star, Miss Betty the elegant, stuck-up show dog. The best character reading had to be Lola, the show cat Miss Betty talks Antwan into cat-napping, instead of eating...she is read as a valley-girl-talking aspiring actress, and it is just hilarious.

Antwan is accepted in the family as "our Timmy", Buddy becomes more depressed at being the over-the-hill dog star and Miss Betty comes up with a plan to cheer him up. The plot and adventures get all tangled up in good fun. All my kids, ages 7 up to 14 loved this book, they begged to continue listening everytime we got into the car.
-One warning, the *b word is used twice, in referring to a show dog- it's done in a technical, matter of fact way, not meant to be used as a bad word at all- but it might startle you if you don't know it's coming. My kids don't realize at all that it is used in a bad way, so it did not cause any comment with my bunch. -just a warning.

love this story, give it a 5 stars out of 5 stars.

Homeschool secret weapon #3 -audio books

Everyone loves a good story. Even if they do not know this indisputable truth of life -yet, it still rings true...everyone loves a good story. Your job, homeschool mom- is to reel them in...

My third homeschool secret weapon is...slip them a good, good story
- audio books are a highly effective way to accomplish this.

If you have emergent readers at your home- or even older readers who haven't fallen hard yet for reading...take a peek at the audio books your library has, and prepare to capture your captive audience.

My most successful audio stories to reign in the beginner reader:

The Boxcar Children are a series of easy chapter books written in the 1920's. Clean and innocent, with mystery. My first attempt at 'reeling' in my new readers was a big success.
~Here was my method, first time out of the box...

Step 1-I borrowed The Boxcar Children book #1-audio, listened to it in the car. The kids were a captive audience, became drawn into the story...and begged to listen to more whenever we were in the car.

Step 2- Brought home The Boxcar Childrn book #2 in regular old book format...began reading it to the kids nightly, and then- got too busy to finish 2 chapters from the end.

Step 3- left the book lying around in open areas...on the dining table/next to the couch/on the kitchen counter.

Step 4- happened on its own, spotted my readers curled up with book, finishing the story.

I keep my eye out for new/fun reads on audio at the library. We enjoy comedy best, but have enjoyed several classics, too. Have a long road trip coming up? Stock up on audio books, they will encourage an interest in books, and introduce wonderful vocabulary.

Hank the Cowdog is our hands-down favorite on audio- and what a treat, the episode supply is almost endless! Other audio books that tickled our funny bones include;

*The Tale of Despereaux ( a work of art!, not to be missed on audio!)
*Ella Enchanted (much different/richer than the movie) *Boston Jane *A Coyote's in the house
*did I mention Hank the Cowdog?...

others we have enjoyed:

*Winnie the pooh *Socks (read by Neil Patrick Harris, he is amazing- he did Coyote in the house, and did a superb job) *Pollyanna (wonderful, Sky loved this one on a long trip)
*Artemis Fowl *The Secret Garden *Chronicles of Narnia *Our only May Amelia

now, go reel them in, mom!

HeadSprout Phonics- My other homeschool secret weapon

Headsprout Phonics Review-

Headsprouts Early reading program is an online phonics program designed to teach your child to read, in a fun-interactive manner without a lot of teacher (mom) input.
Yeah! -A phonics program for the mom who has already taught phonics 3 times now...the slightly overwhelmed mom/the tired mom/the A.D.D. mom/the mom who is tired of tying her boys to the chair to do phonics... or who is teaching 5 kids and is having trouble staying consistent with the whole phonics instruction-thing.


My Homeschool Secret-Weapon #2 is:
Delegate what you can. And, electronic/computer delegation counts, too.

Headsprout will take your child from the very beginning of learning-to-read; basic letter sounds,- to reading at a solid 2nd grade level once he has gone through all 80 lessons. Headsprouts is phonics-based, but also has quite a bit of sight-word learning. Each lesson ranges from 15 to 20 minutes long and features great animation and different game type activities as the child progresses. Each lesson has a variety of matching sounds by sight, listening to the sounds said out-loud, point and clicking on the correct answer, and prompts for the child to say the sound. The lessons are individualized for the child and adapt to the child's learning progress during each lesson.

There are times when the child will be prompted to go get an adult for a section so the child can read out loud. (just in case you were in the other room wrangling kidlets, cleaning up after the dog, or telling someone how to find the area of a triangle...)

This program is pricey, but you get discounts for extra kids. I am not saying that you cannot teach phonics with a simple program...just that for kids that can't sit still, or for moms that have done this too many times, Headsprouts could be the answer.

For me, it was sooo worth it.

With your subscription, you get a packet containing a map-poster with stickers to track your child's progress. (Mine loved the map) ..the map also alerts you to days you need to get a booklet out for extra practice - the program will also email you to alert you of this. -A.D.D. mom loved this!
You also get a set of booklets for reading practice and a certificate for when your child finishes the program. Extra reading comes in the form of booklets and flaschcards you print off your computer..again, you will be emailed and prompted at the end of the lesson. These printable booklets are useful for coloring fun, too.

I appreciated the visual and auditory training for blending this program gave. I also liked how the later lessons left the game-style behind, and presented book pages- highlighting the sentences they were working on, and once finishing the passage, asking comprehension questions. The comprehension questions were usually in the form of a picture, read the sentence and choose the right picture to go with it. Once the correct answer was chosen, the child was rewarded with an animated story.

After each lesson, you get an email detailing progress made that day, what booklets the child can read for practice, and very detailed information about which sounds/blends were covered. I found this part very, very helpful for my record-keeping needs for my charter school program.

Cons: * price. Still worth it to me. *student has to start at beginning of program. This could be a problem if your child is reading some, already. When we started, Demi-Sky was already reading at almost a 1st grade level. I decided to go with it, and I could see the need to start at the beginning, because Headsprout teaches sounds with a different sequence then the other programs I have used...many things were too easy for him, but there was also some new sound patterns he didn't know. *The types of games over time would become predictable. The program did a good job of mixing things up, though. Blocks of lessons involved different 'worlds' and different characters, so as things became too repetitive, the 'world' usually changed.
*no teaching of phonics 'rules'. No, 'magic e' or 'when two vowels go walking, the first does the talking' sort of rules to remember. Learning seemed to happen from repetition, sight recognition and practice. I do think to get a good, rounded experience that will produce a great speller, you are going to need to add on a program like Explode the Code or All about Spelling. -Not necessarily at the same time. I took 3 children through this program, 2 landed at a solid 2nd grade reading level- and this with no outside program. (My 3rd student has an auditory processing disorder, so his progress is a whole 'nother playing field)

I whole-heartedly recommend this program. It's very, very well done and can take the pressure off of a struggling student and/or a struggling mom. It's fun, gives a good mix of visual and auditory learning and the animation is top-notch.

Headsprouts has just unveiled a new reading comprehension program for grades 3 through 5, which will be Available Jan. 11, 2009. It looks like another winner, and I am giving it serious consideration.

this is an unsolicited, non-compensated review of a program I purchased myself. :)

My local bookstore is my homeschool secret-weapon

I aim to keep my homeschool students busy, interested, motivated; and I love to put an occasional smile on their faces. One secret weapon (I happened to stumble upon) for doing all of these things is my local bookstore.

I thought I'd post a little 'this works for me' sort of post...

We are a family of bookstore-junkies. It is usually the end-destination for Sky and I on date-night, and we've made sure to pass along our bookstore affinity to the kids.
Our thought is that you grow young readers by example, in addition to seeing us reading at home, the kids see their parents enjoying an evening at the bookstore.

We started them on "bookstore night with daddy". The youngest looked forward to learning to read so they would be lucky enough to be invited.

I like to mix it up and take them once in a while during the day. Along with the exciting prospect of being out and about during the day, our trips to the bookstore encourage a love for reading in several (happenstance) ways:

1. The enjoyment of a yummy child's hot cocoa with a good read. I started them off with a few board books, then moved on to children's magazines, and then of course...Calvin & Hobbes [icon status in our home...]

2. reading lessons in a new place. Sometimes I would bring our phonics books with us and conduct a lesson while the other children browsed. I would keep it short and sweet and then let the student reader browse, too.

3. Read alouds. Fun way to dip into some new types of books. We might sit on the stage and be a little theatrical.

4. Prizes. I do not give prizes for expected good/responsible behavior, but I have found that prizes for skills not easily learned are a great motivator. In the past, I have given prizes for each 20 lessons completed in our phonics program - the prize was a trip and a book from the bookstore, and all the kids were invited to come along, so the winner spread the happiness. I've given book prizes for multiplication tables memorized, and lately I've given pennies for classical memory work- which can only be spent at the bookstore.

5. Calvin & Hobbes. If you don't know Calvin, look him will love his imagination and expansive vocabulary. My children were greatly motivated to learn to read so they could enjoy Calvin & Hobbes themselves.

Some of our favorite bookstore finds:

Calvin & Hobbes

Graphic Universe books on classic myths and legends


The Warriors graphic novels

and, why- yes, we were at the bookstore today! :)