Back to Something….

It’s a time for renewal, for starting over and getting to know a new class of wonderful students, making new friends and celebrating a new chapter of teacherdom. At Novel Effect, we’ve been there. We know that you want something new to spice up the ol’ lesson plans.

Teachers cringe, librarians prepare, and parents rejoice!

Teachers, here’s something you might not want to hear, seriously, cover your ears, shut off the lights, pull down the shades (dun, dun, dun)…

It’s BACK TO SCHOOL (cue terrifying music and lightning flashes!)

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It’s not all terrifying though. It’s a time for renewal, for starting over and getting to know a new class of wonderful students, making new friends and celebrating a new chapter of teacherdom.

At Novel Effect, we’ve been there. We know that you want something new to spice up the ol’ lesson plans. Dust off those favorite books. Pair our awesome soundscape for “Giraffes Can’t Dance” with a music and movement activity. You’re all getting to know each other so it’d be fun to start with a book about the importance of being yourself. With our soundscape you can teach children different genres of music and then break into a movement activity.

Better yet read Oliver Jeffer’s fantastic “The Way Back Home” which coincides with the back-to-school theme of leaving home and making friends. Here are some great ideas for activities. Then, spend the time you were going to come up with accompanying activities enjoying one last summer evening cocktail instead.

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It’s a myth that librarians spend their entire summer reading hundreds of books. They actually read thousands! I jest, but librarians love a good story and the beginning of the year means setting up your space to encourage reading and interaction. Here is an adorable Mo Williams display for the library or classroom. Read “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” with our soundscape to address some of those bus ride anxieties and then have a pigeon noise contest!

While teachers and librarians might be scrambling to get ready, parents are breathing a sigh of relief. Put those babies on the bus, brew a cup of tea, throw on some Netflix and just enjoy all that peace and quiet….until school calls because Joey’s got a fever. Read him “Alexander and the Horrible No Good Very Bad Day,” with Novel Effect (one of my favorites) and then drink this tomorrow instead of tea.

No matter what your role, reading stories is probably a big part of what you do. We want to thank you for helping our littlest learners become book lovers now and the whole year through!

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3 Fun Activities for Community Story Times

Between the heat and vacation, we know the challenges of coming up with new ideas to add interactivity into routine story times. This blog, we’re focusing a bit on resources for community storytellers.

Greetings Story Tellers!

At Novel Effect we’ve been having fun at our local libraries and bookstores reading stories with our app and doing activities with little readers from Seattle to Charleston. Between the heat and vacation, we know the challenges of coming up with new ideas to add interactivity into routine story times.

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This blog, we’re focusing a bit on resources for community storytellers. These special story times can take place in community centers, at libraries and parks, in the children’s section of your favorite local bookstore, or wherever you find a group of children who are willing to listen and ready to have fun.

With Novel Effect, all you need is a device and a blue-tooth speaker (if you have a bigger group) and you instantly have an immersive story time that will keep kids focused and attentive. But, what are some other ways to get the children involved and interacting with the story? Here are 3 suggestions we’ve come up with at our events (all the books, of course, have soundscapes in the Novel Effect app). Try them at your next story time and see your story time crowds grow and grow.

 

1. Everybody dance now!

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Sandra Boynton’s Barnyard Dance is an adorable excuse to dance some sillies out and learn animal sounds. Let everyone pick a plastic animal (or picture) from a bucket. Gather the group in a circle and read the story once with Novel Effect. On the 2nd reading everyone stands up and dances to their parts in time with the music. It’s sure to be a baa, moo and a cock-a-doodle-doo, hoedown!

 

2. Bon appetit!

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Mouse and Minka share quite a few summer treats in Mouse’s First Summer by Laurent Thompson. Why not increase the flavor (sorry, wince) with some treats from the story? Serve sweet lemonade, watermelon and have children make their own PB&Js just like those adorable mice siblings.

 

3. Near, far, wherever you are!

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In “Duck and Goose Go to the Beach,” Duck and Goose are not quite on the same page about a summer excursion. After reading this story use this element as a springboard to discuss distant versus near places children might visit (or already have this summer). Then you can have the children draw two pictures: one of a nearby place to visit and one of a faraway place to visit.

 

What have you done at your story time events to keep families returning? Share your ideas be tweeting us @Novel_Effect!

And, as always Happy Reading!

A Note to Teachers from our Chief of Education

As an early childhood educator and now a parent, I know that it can be exhausting to fit everything you need to do into jam-packed days. As the school year comes to a close, I hope you take a moment to reflect on the joyful moments of success and the challenges that inspired to do better.

We created our app so that story time is an achievable daily goal that can create those moments of success. Novel Effect is an aid for those of us who don’t like to read out loud, for those of us who are too tired to make choo-choo train noises or roar like a lion, or for those of us looking for something to jazz up the ol’ classroom routine and get the wee one’s attention back to the basics of listening to a good story – with a little magic thrown in for good measure. 

“If every parent and every adult caring for a child read aloud a minimum of three stories a day to the children in their lives, we could probably wipe out illiteracy within one generation.” – Mem Fox

As an early childhood educator and now a parent, I know that it can be exhausting to fit everything you need to do into jam-packed days. As the school year comes to a close, I hope you take a moment to reflect on the joyful moments of success and the challenges that inspired to do better.

We created our app so that story time is an achievable daily goal that can create those moments of success. Novel Effect is an aid for those of us who don’t like to read out loud, for those of us who are too tired to make choo-choo train noises or roar like a lion, or for those of us looking for something to jazz up the ol’ classroom routine and get the wee one’s attention back to the basics of listening to a good story – with a little magic thrown in for good measure. Below are some tips on getting the most out of Novel Effect during your classroom storytime. 

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1. Get a nice blue tooth speaker

This isn’t crucial when reading to one child. You can simply use your device by itself for smaller audiences. In the classroom, though, you want something so the whole class can hear. I recommend something that doesn’t stand out – so that no one is distracted by all those fun buttons and flashing lights. There are plenty of great options out there, but my personal favorite is this economical little guy.

 

2. Practice during the summer. 

I know – the last thing you want is to think about class when you’re relaxing at the lake in July. Hear me out! Using Novel Effect is really fun for grown-ups, too. If you see books you enjoy reading to your class, try them out with the app with your family, friends, or pets. Our accompanying soundscapes have made me a better, slower and more articulate reader of stories. Once I read the stories a few times, I know when the sounds are coming, and this makes me slow down and enjoy the wonder of the story. Plus, my family has had a lot of fun perfecting our dance skills.

 

3. Figure out your set-up. 

The phone can be situated near you on a table or desk. Sit comfortably or sit on the floor with the phone not too far away. Placing the blue tooth speaker away from the phone (on your other side perhaps) will ensure the app isn’t picking up sounds coming from the speaker. Make sure the speaker is somewhere projecting so that the kids in the back can hear it but also isn’t blasting the front row sitters.

 

4. Take your time.

We’re following you in the text! If you don’t hear sounds right away – give it a few words, and it’ll pick you right up. If you want to skip around the story or stop to ask comprehension questions or talk about the illustrations, you can. We’ll be ready, listening for the text as you pick back up again.

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5. Get the students involved.

Have the children read lines to trigger sound effects and music. The students can participate by reading their favorite parts or lines aloud and get instant positive reinforcement with a fun sound effect or musical note. This promotes an even deeper engagement with the text, asking students to remember their favorite parts to share with the class.

 

Today, I had the good fortune of reading to a class during their lunch, incorporating many of these tips. As they happily munched on their taco boats, they participated in the story, answered questions and responded to the music and sounds as they played throughout the story. This reminded me that storytelling is about the possibility of something new. It’s about the wonders and mysteries in life. Stories allow us to learn things about ourselves and the world around us.

From everyone here at Novel Effect, we hope this summer brings you many wondrous stories of your own! No one deserves the break more than teachers! 

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Melody Zagami Furze is Chief of Education for Novel Effect and is a certified special educator with an emphasis on early childhood populations with blindness and visual impairments. With over a decade of education experience, Melody does research and development on Novel Effect’s application in educational settings. She lives in Olympia, WA with her husband, toddler, and fluffy white dog.

6 Ways to Get Kids Excited About Reading

How do we motivate our children to engage in reading experiences and understand the value of the written word? Some early readers struggle and get frustrated. Others find the many distractions more compelling (and instantly gratifying) than doing the work of reading.

How do we motivate our children to engage in reading experiences and understand the value of the written word? Some early readers struggle and get frustrated. Others find the many distractions more compelling (and instantly gratifying) than doing the work of reading.

Researchers have found that there are “two sides to reading”. Reading includes skills, such as vocabulary, comprehension, phonemic awareness and word recognition, but the other (more exciting) part is the “will” to read. This means the motivation to read and the desire to practice and get better at it!

What can you do to get your children motivated to keep reading and enjoy that oh so special, personal experience of sitting down with a good book? Research shows that literacy starts as early as six months, so engaging with children at even the earliest stages of life is key.

Here are six ways you can add reading-focused activities to your daly life to help foster the crucial “will” to read:

1. Expose children to a print-rich environment
Label things! All the things! Furniture, toys, food, pets (okay, maybe not pets) – anything a child might see or use.

2. Talk about the text in books
Ask children questions that focus on elements of print within the text. You can comment on the length or shape of the words. Ask where the words on the page are and point out features of the book like the author’s name, book title, or page numbers.

3. Pretend read
Kids love pretending and make believe, so tying that activity to reading is a great way to positively connect the two in the child’s mind. Encourage your child to “read” a story to their favorite stuffed animal (or that non-labeled pet.)

4. Make a book together
This is both an awesome craft project AND a literacy tool! Let your child dictate the story. You write the words and they make the pictures.

5. Write in front of your child
Engage in various writing activities in front of your child, whether its writing a letter, journaling, or balancing your checkbook. Say the words you’re writing aloud.

6. Read in front of your child
Read a variety of types of text in front of your child and talk about them. Stories on Novel Effect come with a multi-sensory experience, which can help provide context clues and keep everyone more engaged in what’s happening. Look for poems, a different type of text, on Novel Effect starting in April!

Keep the conversation going with some great information on motivating older readers from the good folks at PBS Kids.

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Some of the ideas in this post were adapted from “Book Smart: How to Develop and Support Successful Motivated Readers” (2014) By Anne Cunningham and Jamie Zibulsky. Anne Cunningham is a literacy expert and teaches at the University of California, Berkley. She is also on the Board at Novel Effect. You can pick up a copy of her book here.

Books to Celebrate with in February

Looking for the perfect book to pair with all the February holidays? Then look no further!

Despite being the shortest month of the year, February is packed full of reasons to celebrate. From month-long tributes, to candy-worthy days of glee, to major sporting events, we’ve got a book to join you and your little one no matter what the celebration might be. Here’s our suggested pairings:

 

For Black History Month (All Month Long)

We suggest: Emmanuel’s Dream

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Share with your child this incredible, true story about a man with a disability who rides his bike 400 miles to prove that dreams can become a reality.

 

For the Super Bowl (and the aftermath of no more football season) (Feb. 4th and after)

We suggest: Goodnight Football

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Sharing hobbies is a great way to build family time and bonding. This is the perfect night time story to keep football, and those family memories, around all year long.

 

For Mardi Gras (Feb. 13th)

We suggest: What the Dinosaurs Did Last Night

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Everyone needs to let their hair down and celebrate on occasion, even toys. What sort of mischief will be unleashed this time?

 

For Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14th)

We suggest: I Love You Through and Through

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Incredibly sweet and very relatable for young kids, this rhyming story is a great one to snuggle up with on the day celebrating all kinds of love.

 

For President’s Day (Feb. 19th)

We suggest: Grace for President

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Use this very colorful, fun, and accessible book to teach kids about politics, public service, and the electoral college during presidential elections.

 

For Tell a Fairy Tale Day (Feb. 26th)

We suggest: Zen Shorts

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Stillwater the giant panda loves to tell a good story that always helps his young neighbors learn important lessons.

 

Tell us what books you celebrated with this month! Join the conversation on social media or email us at info@noveleffect.com.

 

Tips for Teachers to Survive and Thrive this Winter

Even though the new year and new term are just barely upon us, it’s hard not to already be thinking about summer break! But hang in there for a few more months. We have some titles and activities to get you through the winter months right on into spring!

It might feel like we’re stuck inside but we can get “outdoors” at story time with the Ezra Jack Keats classic “The Snowy Day.” Get everyone excited about the potential of a snow day. Maybe the teachers and the kids have a touch of cabin fever? Get out of the classroom and pair that aquarium field trip with “Rainbow Fish”.  Let our soundscape for the best-loved tale of friendship accompany your story and all of its shimmery sweetness.

There are, of course, a lot of great activities for Valentine’s that go beyond making a mailbox out of a paper bag and passing out Minion themed cards. Here are some toddler activities that could be easily adapted for higher grades as well. One of my personal favorites is to make seed cards to exchange or as a personalized activity, and then you can plant them in preparation for spring classroom gardens. And don’t forget to keep an eye on your Novel Effect app to see some of the Valentine’s Day and Spring titles we’ve got coming your way!

If fish aren’t your thing, or you already can’t stand the thought of one more tiny heart-shaped box of bad chocolate,  then let’s focus on another great February theme with “Grace for President.” Here are some pretty cool comprehension questions and discussion prompts  from the good folks at Rutgers University. We really appreciate this book and the wonderful message it has for women big and small.

Have ideas on how you’re using Novel Effect in your classroom? Let us know here! Happy Reading!

 

3 Tips to Survive “Back to School”

Now that Labor Day is behind us, there’s no getting around it. School is back! The change in routines, peers, teachers, and workload can be a daunting task for kid and parent alike. We’ve compiled three tips to help you through the transistion!

Continue reading “3 Tips to Survive “Back to School””