Book Review: Looking for Bongo by Eric Velasquez

Age 2-4

(I do not receive money to review books. I choose all books I review. But if you click on the image it takes you to Amazon where I do make a small profit if you purchase the book.)





A boy wakes up and finds that a beloved toy is missing. The boy searches through his house and investigates what each of his family knows in order to find it. Will he discover who is responsible for taking his favorite toy? The vibrant pictures and integrated Spanish text will delight young readers.

Why I like this book:

The pictures really drive the text. A child could pick up the book and easily tell the story just by looking at the pages which helps develop reading comprehension an important skill in emergent readers. Losing a favorite toy, stuffed animal or blanket is a familiar scenario for children. This story is told with a bit of humor and playfulness. It is a nice slice of regular family life with no heavy messages or teaching lessons perfect for young children who are concrete. The text is simple on the page so young listeners will stay engaged but also challenged with the multilingual dialog. New words will be learned through the text. I appreciate the diversity highlighted in this book not only in pictures but through text and how the nuclear family includes the grandmother. This book highlights VOCABULARY, PRINT MOTIVATION and NARRATIVE SKILLS.

Engage and interact with the story

1. What is your favorite toy? What would you do if you couldn’t find it?

2. After the first page, ask the child who she thinks Bongo is. An animal? A truck? Who do you think the boy is looking for?

3. Give names to the pictures on the page your child may not know. Bookshelves. Checkboard pattern. Conga Drums. Find something new and talk about it.

Take the story off the page:

  1. The author’s father is a musician. Go to a music store and explore different instruments.
  2. Find stories at the library or bookstore where stuffed animals come to life. Corduroy , Pinocchio and The Snowman are great stories to start with.
  3. The boy wanted to find Bongo so they could watch T.V. together. Set up a movie afternoon with popcorn and your child’s favorite stuffed animal and watch Toy Story.



Book Review: Sweet Pea and Friends The Sheepover by John and Jennifer Churchman

The following image will take you to Amazon where you may purchase the item. I do not get paid to review the book but if purchased from Amazon I do make a small profit.

By John and Jennifer Churchman

Ages: Preschool 3-5





Laddie, a farm dog, wakes Farmer John one night when he realizes something is amiss in the barn. Sweet Pea, the orphan lamb, has a fever from an infected leg. A doctor is called and her friends gather round as she heals. When the infection is gone she has a “sheepover” with her friends in the greenhouse to celebrate her good health.

What I enjoyed about this book is the illustrations which are vibrant and rich photographs. Your child will learn a lot of new VOCABULARY words in the text of this story. From the animals introduced, the people who help Sweet Pea get better and the enriching and rhythmical text. There are a lot of phrases that your child can repeat throughout the story, engaging them in the retelling which builds NARRATIVE, PRINT MOTIVATION, and PRINT AWARENESS skills.

The story may be a little too sweet for adults but children will enjoy the focus on friendship and gentle realistic pictures.

Skills Built:



Questions to enrich the story:

Look through the pictures and help your child identify the different animals.

Have your child repeat the sounds each of the different animals makes.

After reading the story, go back through and ask questions to help your child comprehend the story. Who woke up Farmer John? Who was sick? Who helped Sweet Pea get better? How did the friends celebrate Sweet Pea? When was the last time you were sick? Who helped you get better?

Take it further:

Have your child image what it would be like to live on a farm. Have them draw a picture of the animals they would see, the machines they would use and who would live their with them.

Go to the library and find books on Veterinarians. Explore the profession. The different types of caregivers and what they do to help animals.

Make your own photo book like the authors! Go outside and explore your neighborhood with a camera. Take pictures and print them out. Write out a story from the pictures.

Best Book Practices for Preschoolers

Life with Preschoolers is never dull. The world is brand new and they have tons of questions. They want to explore everything even the normal everyday. They have worked hard the past several years learning to walk, talk, play.

Reading twenty minutes everyday has built a large vocabulary. They are familiar with how stories are structured and you may find them creating their own through “handwriting” on paper that may look like scribble scrabble but is the building blocks of hand writing. They may know how to print letters, especially the letters that make up their name. They may be writing numbers and can consistently count to the number ten but anything after that can be jumbled.

Preschoolers although chaotic at times like order and routines. They will ask for the same story over and over and over again just like they ask for the same lunch. Don’t be frustrated when your child doesn’t want to try something new. It is all a part of learning and our job as parents is to offer new choices and respect the times a child isn’t ready for something new. Keep offering it and eventually they will accept it.

When it comes to books your preschooler is ready to sit longer to listen to a story. Fairytales, folktales and fables are perfect for this age. Find fractured tales or old standbys filled with colorful illustrations and vibrant text.

Preschoolers are able to tell their own stories with fluency if they have grown up with reading. Find books with only pictures and have your child describe the action on the page.

They still might gravitate to board books and that’s okay. The simple illustrations and text are great ways to help them break apart the sounds of words in an safe and enjoyable way.

Rhyming books are still great choices especially as a young reader emerges. Try out different forms of poetry books as well as picture books. They can now play rhyming games with you. So whatever book you read you can pick out words and have them think of rhymes. Silly words or actual words all of it helps your child learn to read.

What can you work on to build your budding reader?

  1. Word games. I spy with rhymes or grocery store bingo or twenty questions at the playground. Pass time waiting at the doctor’s office or long car trips playing word games.
  2. Drawing Pictures. Sidewalk chalk, painting, crayons or whatever the artist’s tool of choice, hand grip and manipulation of writing tools improves the more your child practices. Always have paper and pencil available and let them practice.
  3. Reading Time. Let them explore books on their own. Set up library corners in their room with accessible books. Have baskets of books in every room of the house they frequent. The goal is to have your child picking up books and discovering their abilities as independent readers.
  4. Play Time. It may seem counter intuitive but kids learn a lot through unstructured play. Turn off the cell phone, clear the play date calendar and let your child roam free in the backyard and with their toys. Be nearby but out of their way. Their imaginations will explode, their brains will grow and they will be more comfortable entertaining themselves. A goal all parents can get behind.
  5. Be cautious of Screen time. Media is a part of our world and there is nothing wrong with that. But our job as parents is to monitor appropriate amounts of time with computers, tablets, smart phones, TV and other media. Be aware of what games your child plays. Not all are created equal. PBS Kids develops a lot of great games and apps to help children learn as they play. Put limits that are age and family appropriate.

My top 5 book picks for Preschoolers. (I do not get paid to review books. If you click on the picture the link will take you to Amazon. If you make a purchase from the link I do make a small profit.)




Post in the comments what your favorite books or games for preschoolers are.

Book Review: Maya’s Blanket La Monta De Maya by Monica Brown

(I am not given books to review. All books are chosen by me for the early literacy skills they possess. If you click on the picture you will be redirected to Amazon where I do make a small commission if you make a purchase.)


A retelling of the classic Yiddish tale I had an overcoat, Maya’s Blanket tells the story of a much loved blanket that Maya’s grandmother made for her. She loves this blanket so much it begins to wear out so her grandmother transforms it into a dress, skirt, shawl, scarf, ribbon and bookmark. She loves the blanket in all its many forms and is sad one day when she can’t find her special bookmark anywhere. Maya finds a creative way to keep her much loved blanket close to her for the rest of her life.

This book is rich in VOCABULARY, NARRATIVE SKILLS, PRINT MOTIVATION, PRINT AWARENESS, LETTER KNOWLEDGE and PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS. It is a great book to hit all the early literacy skills your preschool child has developed throughout their childhood. He will be introduced to layered language in the spanish and english text. There are many words to explore throughout the pages. The book also has vibrant and beautiful illustrations which will engage your child reading after reading. The way the story is laid out will highlight how readers follow a story and draw meaning from the pictures. The Spanish word is named first and then the child will derive meaning from the pictures and following text to understand what that word means and how it is used. Spanish words are in italics which draws attention to the letters. Lastly the mulilingual book is perfect for hearing letter sounds and putting together words from those sounds. The book teaches sequencing in story from the repetition of the transformation of the blanket to each of its next forms.

This is one of those rare books that engages children in every early literacy skill. I love it for its diversity and focus on universal themes of love between family members and those mementos every child keeps with herself to feel safe and secure.

What skills your child practices?


Questions to ask will reading the book:

  1. What is your favorite toy or blanket. What could you do to reuse it if it got old and frayed like Maya’s blanket?
  2. How do you think Maya felt when she lost the bookmark? What would you do if you lost your favorite toy, book or blanket?
  3. Can you tell me the story using the pictures?

Take it further:

  1. Create a storybook about your child’s favorite toy, book or blanket. Write down special memories, draw pictures and read the completed story together.
  2. Go to the library or favorite bookstore and find other retellings of the Yiddish tale or other books that are strong in narrative skills like Maya’s Blanket. Joesph had a little overcoat by Sims Taback is a Caldecott Honor book. The bag I’m taking to Grandma’s or any of Shirley Neitzel’s wonderful books.
  3. Make your own special blanket together. Go to a fabric store and pick out fabrics in your child’s favorite colors. Explore the store while there and point out the signs your see and the objects he may not be familiar with.



Toys and Activities that Encourage Literacy

It didn’t take long for my husband and I to fall in love with the Montessori Preschool our oldest daughter attended. Every material had a purpose, children were given meaningful work and every activity supported independent exploration and grew confidence.

What I saw as each of my children progressed through the Children’s House  program is every activity served the child on multiple levels preparing them for reading well before they looked at a written word. Table washing, metal insets, cleaning mirrors it didn’t matter the activity it trained the child to look from left to right, to develop hand strength for writing, to explore the sounds of words. When ready, a child would trace the rough exterior of the letters and practice the sounds. It was amazing to see our children grow as readers every year.

Play is one of the most important activities your child can do to prepare for future school success. We can’t all send our kids to Montessori schools but there are great materials you can use at home to help build future readers!

IMG_3099I Spy. Collect objects from around the house. Toys or common household objects. Put them on a tray and start the game. Cater it to the age of the child. For very young children say something like, “I spy with my little eye something blue.” When the child selects the object name what it is. As they get older you can use sounds. “I spy with my little eye something that starts with an S sound.” It is important to highlight the sound and not the letter name. You want the child to hear the sounds of the words that will help him when he begins to read independently. For the oldest age you can use rhyming sounds or blended sounds. Another variation is to put the objects in a bag and have the child feel the object and name it before she pulls it out of the bag.

Texture Letters

Sandpaper Letters. Touch is an important element of learning. Especially for children because they are such concrete learners. Show your child how to trace the letters with their fingers. Sound each letter and try not to use the letter name. As they grow older put blended sounds together or begin to make words.


Alphabet Object Set

Similar to the I Spy game this toy has objects with cards. The child will label the item with the correct card. Aimed for older preschoolers this is still a useful game for young children. Label the object and read the name to the child and it will help associate the word with the thing. You can also do this around your house. Make your own labels and tape them to objects within your child’s line of sight. Dressers, beds, sink, cupboards. Get creative and help your child see words everywhere!


There are a lot of ways you can start building literacy skills before your child even enters preschool. Being intentional in play will help your child have fun while learning.


Mommy-Me The Wonder Years Blog

Montessori Literacy on Pinterest

Montessori Method for Literacy

Book Review: I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison

Ages Toddler-3

A girl explores the sounds of her neighborhood while she walks with her mother. She discovers beautiful rhythms in everything and everyone she meets. With fun illustrations, a diverse cast of characters and engaging text this is a book that all children will relate to and love.

This is a perfect book to build VOCABULARY. Body parts are named, sounds are described and unique words layer the text. Children will experience the parts of sounds, called PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS through the onomatopoeia used in the book as well as the gentle rhymes in the story. The diverse cast of characters participating in the every day routine of taking a walk in the neighborhood will draw all readers into the story encouraging PRINT MOTIVATION.

Literacy Skills Highlighted:

skills chart 2

Questions to ask:

  1. Look at the cover of the book. Ask your child what she thinks the story is about.
  2. Flip to the back page. Ask her how she thinks the story will end.
  3. Before reading the story flip through the pictures and ask what is happening on the page.
  4. Where do you think the mother and daughter are going?

Take it a step further:

  1. Have your child find their own rhythm. Break out the pots and pans, oatmeal container, plastic tubs or whatever you have that makes noise! Use utensils, your hands and help your child discover the rhythms of your house. Have them mimic your beat or create their own sounds.
  2. The book focuses on parts of the body and what they do. Explore the senses.
    1. Taste. Mix together sweet(honey), sour (lemon), bitter (tonic) and salty water. Have the child taste the different waters.
    2. Smell. Find different smells around the house. You can use dishsoap, lotion, shampoos, spices etc. Make sure they are distinguishable smells. Guide your child through each smell and help her identify whether the smell is strong, light, flowery, sharp etc.
    3. Texture. Use fabrics, blocks, sandpaper, towels, etc. Help the child explore the feeling of each different material and name how it feels. Is it rough or smooth? Soft or hard? Fluffy or thin?
    4. Sound. We used pots and pans above but explore other sounds. Music, dry beans or rice in a tube. Make maracas out or old medicine bottles or spice jars. Go on a walk like the girl in the book and name the sounds you hear together.
    5. Sight. Patterns are all around us. Find wrapping paper or scrapbook paper and notice the different patterns. Highlight the colors and shapes he finds.
  3. Try these Montessori based materials.

Montessori sensorial – Nuts and Bolts


NEW Montessori Sensorial Material – Color Tablets Box 3 by PinkMontessori

NEW Montessori Sensorial Material – Rough and Smooth Boards by PinkMontessori

Print Awareness: What does that mean?


Print Awareness is the skill that demonstrates a child has a rich print environment in her life. Being read to is more than hearing the sounds and understanding the pictures. Before any of that happens we show children how to use books.

This all begins the first time we read to our baby. The child picks up how we hold the book, how we turn the pages, how we follow the story. In the first year we do nothing more than model.

In the toddler years we start naming the parts of the book. When the child settles in our lap to read we can point out the author and use our finger to point to where the name is on the title page. We name the front and back of the book and show the child through following the text on the page while we read.

In the preschool years the child will be able to name the parts of the book and although he or she can’t read, they will be able to point out where to find the author’s name. Where the first page starts and where the book ends.

So how do you make this fun and not a chore for you or your child?

  1. Don’t attempt to point out every single piece of the story in every single book. Pick one part to highlight and focus on that during the reading.
  2. Hand your child the book upside down, sideways or backwards and see what she does. Does she reorient the book the correct way? You can even start reading from the back to the front of the book. A preschooler will giggle and tell you to start at the beginning and a toddler might even turn the book the right way.
  3. Have your child use his finger to follow the text. Even if they can’t read the words after years of practice they will understand the flow of text.
  4. Look at the pictures and find the words on the page that describe the action. It helps connect the words with the action.
  5. Have your child read to you! At this point they will either recite the story as they have heard it told after many repetitions or they will use the pictures as a guide. No matter how they do it, you will see them demonstrate the many skills of print awareness as they tell you the title, turn the pages and follow the text with his finger.

Print Awareness is the building block to future reading success. Kids who feel comfortable and confident with books are more likely to pick them up. It doesn’t stop there though. Print Awareness is a skill a child can develop no matter where they are.

  • On a walk or in the car point out familiar signs and have them “read” to you. STOP signs and brand name stores are signs they will immediately recognize. You can help by pointing out the text.
  •  At the grocery store have them help shop. Give them a list either with pictures and words underneath or tell them a food and have them find it. Then point out the sign where the food is kept.
  • Read through a menu with them. Often times kids menus will have the picture of the food with the text. Have them point to the food they like and use your finger to read the word that goes along with it.
  • Write your child’s name in magnetic letters, sidewalk chalk, on paper or wherever you can.
  • Cook together. Follow a recipe on paper or in a book and make sure to use your finger to follow along as you read off the ingredient list.

Reading Rockets has a great informational video that describes many of the activities listed above and why Print Awareness matters in a child’s life.



I’d be remiss if I didn’t share some books that are great with helping children develop the skill! (All book suggestions are my own, I do not get paid to review them, however the link does take you to Amazon where I receive a small commission when you make purchases.)

Buy on Amazon


Buy on Amazon

Buy on Amazon

Buy on Amazon

Why Diversity in Picture Books Matters



Books for all kids#WeNeedDiverseBooksHead to the library or bookstore and take a detour to the picture book section. Pick out ten books at random and examine the illustrations on the page. How many of the pictures are animals personified as people? What is the percentage of illustrations where the main character is someone of color? Are the characters predominately girls or boys?

Have you ever noticed how un-diverse picture books really are?

One of the biggest factors in children being motivated to read is how they relate to the words and pictures on the page. Whether the book describes an every day routine, a tradition they celebrate or a face they look like, it matters to how a child connects with a book. In the short term we all enjoy books that take us outside of ourselves but imagine reading book after book where the main character doesn’t look like you? Don’t you think it would impact how you enjoy reading?

Diverse books need to have messages about every day kids participating in every day activities. When I worked in an inner city library I struggled to find diverse books that weren’t about heavy themes meant for older children. I wanted a simple book about a child visiting a store with a parent or going on vacation or heading to school or playing.

They were hard to find.

I want every child to open a book and see themselves on the page. I want the book to relate to the world they see around them.  I don’t want any child to feel isolated or different. I never want a child to put reading aside because they don’t see themselves in the story.

It is time the pictures in our books start looking like the world around us.

Below are my favorite books with diverse characters participating in normal everyday routines. (The links will take you to Amazon. I was not paid to promote these particular books but if you make a purchase I do receive a small commission.)


Buy on Amazon

Buy on Amazon


  Buy on Amazon

Twenty Minutes a Day

ReadingpicIt is hard to fit in reading among the activities, work schedules and life as a family. Medical and education professionals recommend reading twenty minutes a day to help build future readers. So how do you fit one more to do into an already busy schedule?

The twenty minutes a day can be split up.  The recommendation is twenty minutes a day but it doesn’t mean all the reading happens at once. Find spots throughout the day when you can stop and share a story with your child. First thing in the morning as everyone wakes up, right before bed or anytime in between. Read as often as you are able!

Take books with you. No matter where you are, a restaurant, the doctor’s office or waiting in the pick up line at school for an older sibling, have books with you to share. It will help those minutes spent waiting go by faster!

Make reading an essential routine. Just like brushing teeth, reading is essential to your child’s development. Show them how important it is by making reading time a priority.

Some days there isn’t the time. You’ve made reading together a priority but some days life has other plans. Even if you can’t fit in the whole twenty minutes of reading together find some space within the day to share a few stories. Life will slow down and you can get back into the normal routine.

Invite other people to read. It doesn’t only have to be a parent who reads! Although sharing a book together with your child is critical there are a lot of people who are just as important in his or her life who can share books. An older sibling, a grandparent even a loved babysitter can contribute to the twenty minutes a day. Think of all the fun shared when people read together.

There are a lot of ways to squeeze in that reading time. Where is the strangest place you’ve found yourself sharing a book with your child?

Book Review: Bear and Duck by Katy Hudson

Ages 3-5

Bear doesn’t want to be a bear anymore. He is tired of missing winter, being uncomfortable in the summer and being chased by bees when he finds food. He discovers a flock of ducks and tries to fit in. No matter what he does he can’t become a duck. One of the group decides to help bear out and show him how much he is appreciated exactly as he is. Bear may not be able to become a duck but he can be a great friend.

Children will relate to wanting to be something they are not or feeling like they don’t fit in. The topics tackled in this gentle read are feelings all children understand. This book encourages PRINT MOTIVATION because of the universal theme of wanting to be something we are not. The VOCABULARY is strong in the book. Words like chimed, growled, circumstances to name just a few. There will be lots of words your child won’t have heard in everyday conversation.

The flow of the book will help introduce PRINT AWARENESS. There is the traditional text and a list of rules which will help a child learn to follow along. It is done in a way that doesn’t take the reader out of the story but compliments it instead. NARRATIVE SKILLS will also be built reading this book together. There is a strong story line of how the bear feels at the beginning of the story, his challenge, how he attempts to overcome the challenge and what he learns about himself in the process. It is a complicated storytelling thread that is made approachable to the youngest of readers.

What skills your child will learn:


Questions to ask while reading:

  1. Have your child name the animals on the front cover. What sounds do each of the animals make? What do they eat? Where do they live?
  2. Flip the book over and look at the back of the book. How do you think the Bear and Duck feel about each other?
  3. Open the book and look through the pictures. Ask the child to tell the story or if unable to you tell the story just through the pictures. Then start at the beginning and read the book. Do the pictures and words tell the same story?
  4. Why do you think the bear doesn’t want to be a bear anymore? Do you ever feel like you the bear does?
  5. After reading the story look again at the pictures. Focus on the bear’s faces and ask the child how you think the bear feels. Have your child mimic the expressions.

Take the story further:

  1. Have your child name their favorite animal. On paper, write down the “rules” for being that animal. What do they eat? Where do they sleep? How do they move?
  2. Talk about feelings. Part of developing reading comprehension is being able to draw concepts from the words on the page. Have your child draw pictures of different faces and have them explain how the face feels. See if your child can match the expressions to some of those that the bear feels.
  3. Act like a duck! Take the list of rules and see how well you and your child can act like a duck. Talk about what was easy and hard about each of the rules. What other animals can you act like?

What else have you done to enhance your reading experience today? Comment below and share ideas.


By clicking on the image at the top of the post you will be directed to Amazon. I am an affiliate and make a small profit if you purchase items using the link. The profits go to support our family’s reading habit.