Thursday, January 28, 2010

Is Your Preschooler Keeping a Journal?

     Did you know having your child dictate journal entries or stories to you is an excellent way to teach her important literacy skills?  Writing what your child is thinking is a great way to build self-awareness, express feelings and helps you find out what she is thinking.  This is easy to do once you get into the habit.  Keep a notebook or clipboard handy and ask your child to tell you what she wants you to write.  At first it's hard to get her thinking in terms of something to say, but with practice, it will come easier.

  • It can be a sort of diary about what she did that say or what she wants to do another day.  ("We saw a red bird today.  It landed right in front of us."  or "Today I shopped for shoes.")
  • It can be what he's thinking about on any topic.  ("Joey has a big dog, but he doesn't have fish.  I think a dog is more fun.")
  • It can be what she's feeling that she may not have had a chance to express; any emotion at all is acceptable.  (I really don't like it when I have to make my bed!")
  • It can also be a story that he made up.
Whatever it is, you write it exactly as she says it.  Make sure she knows you are writing what she says.  Date it and put it in the same place every time, where it's easy to find.

This helps to develop the understanding that words we say translate into letters on the paper.  Then other people can read what we are saying.

Occasionally, take out all the dictation and read them to him  He will be proud of his "writings" and he will get even more ideas of what he wants to say next time.

Source:  Bev Bos, nationally-recognized expert on Early Childhood Education,

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Why are Nursery Rhymes So Important?

Why are nursery rhymes so important?

Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they are 4 years old, they are usually among the best readers by the time they are 8!  Source:  Reading Magic, by Mem Fox, p. 85

How many nursery ryhmes can your children recite?
How many can you recite?

Easy List
Baa, Baa Black Sheep
Hey, Diddle Diddle
Hickory, Dickory, Dock
Humpty Dumpty
Jack and Jill
Jack Sprat
Little Bo-Peep
Little Boy Blue
Old Mother Hubbard
Little Miss Muffet

Hard List
Hot Cross Buns
I Had a Little Nut Tree
Little Jack Horner
Simple Simon
Sing a Song of Sixpence
Old King Cole
The Grand Old Duke of York
Wee Willie Winkie
Three Blind Mice

Tonya's Terrific Book Review

That's Not My Puppy
By Fiona Watt
Illustrated by Rachel Wells
Review by Tonya Dirksen

     That's Not My Puppy, an Usborne touchy-feely book is very popular with the infant through preschool crowd.  Each page of the board book features a different puppy that is sporting a patch of texture to be touched.  The text describes what is being felt so the child is learning the correct description and vocabulary word of the texture.  There is a very cute puppy and also a little white mouse to find on each page.

     Shelli, my 2 year old, loves this book.  She enjoys the hands-on activity that goes along with reading.  The touching helps her concentrate and pay attention a little bit longer than normal.

     This book would make a great baby shower gift or an early years birthday gift!

That's Not My Puppy and Little Book of Nursery Rhymes can be found at

     I am exited to announce the launch of my new blog where you can access Tonya's Terrific Book Reviews and other literacy ideas!  Check it out at

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Usborne Complete Book of the Human Body

The Usborne Complete Book of the Human Body
By Anna Claybourne
Review by Tonya Dirksen

     "If bones are hard, how do children's bones grow?"

     This question and many more are answered in the Usborne Book of the Complete Human Body.  This is a fascinating book packed with interesting facts, beautiful illustrations and engaging and clear text.  There are fantastic microscope and x-ray pictures that enhance each topic. 

This book is also Internet-linked which means you can link to a website which will give you more information about a particular topic.  This is a great resource for school reports and projects.  The websites often have more experiments and activities that can easily be turned into a science project.  Many of the pictures and illustrations featured in the book are downloadable and are excellent for homework and reports.

     To give you an example, let's examine the skeleton page.  The skeleton is discussed over a double page spread.  There is a large x-ray of a walking human skeleton with all of the bones labeled.  Another picture is a close-up x-ray of a wrist that points out the carpals or wrist bones.  At the top is a microscope picture of the honeycomb structure inside the bone shown at about 70 times life-size.  There is also a close-up of the stapes, the smallest bone in the body.  At the bottom is a box explaining what bone detectives or archaeologists do.  Above that is a beautiful, downloadable illustration of the layers of the bones.

     The Internet link for this page takes you to a website where you can take a tour of the human skeleton and play an interactive game.  You can do that right now by going to, use the keywords "complete body" and page 18.

     Framing these beautiful pictures and illustrations are facts about the skeleton.  Let's answer our earlier question:  "If bones are hard, how do children's bones grow?"  The answer is that their skeletons aren't all bony.  Some of their bones are made of a softer material, called cartilage.  The illustration shows a 12 year-old's bones containing cartilage discs.  The bone next to it is an adult bone in which the cartilage has turned to bone.  To see this please turn to page 19!

     To order this book and other Internet linked books please visit my website at or call me at (916) 812-2875.

The Complete Book of Farmyard Tales

The Complete Book of Farmyard Tales

By Heather Amery

Illustrated by Stephen Cartwright

Review by Tonya Dirksen

There are many fun and entertaining adventures on Apple Tree Farm in The Complete Book of Farmyard Tales. This delightful book is a combined volume of all 20 engaging Farmyard Tales stories. It also comes with a read-along CD that features a gentleman with a wonderful British accent reading each of the stories.

Each story takes place at Apple Tree Farm and includes the same cast of characters: Mrs. Boot; her two children, Poppy and Sam; their dog, Rusty; as well as various lovable farm animals. The other farm animals include Curly the Pig, Woolly the Naughty Sheep, Ears the Donkey, and Whiskers the Cat. Tractors get stuck, fire trucks are called to put out a fire behind the barn and two dogs take a train ride on their own. Children love getting to know the characters and following their adventures. Not to mention looking for the little yellow duck hiding on each page!

This book also has a detailed map of the area that makes it fun to find all the spots in which the stories take place.

Another special feature of this book is that it is a dual-reader book. The top line is first grade reading level. Just reading the top line tells the complete story. The bottom lines are second/third grade reading levels and add more details to the story. Therefore there are several ways this book can be read. You could just read the top line to a toddler with a short attention span. As your child gets older you could read aloud both the top and bottom lines. As your child began to read on her own she could read the top line while a more advanced reader read the bottom line. Eventually, your child could read both lines on her own. Of course it is always fun to read together during a special family reading time.

My little girls love reading the Farmyard Tales stories and getting to know all of the friendly characters. I know this book will continue to be a favorite as they learn to read and learn to love reading!

You can order this book on my website at or give me a call at (916) 812-2875.

Usborne Books make learning and reading fun!


My name is Tonya and I help parents prepare their children for a lifetime of learning by providing awesome books that make learning and reading fun. Thank you for joining Tonya's Books and investing in your children!

My first question for you is what is the most important aspect of your child's education? Is it math? science? computers? How about reading?

They must know how to read in order to master all the other subjects.

What are you doing to insure your child's success?

Experts say parents should be reading to their children (birth to teens) for 20-30 minutes a day! Those students who are read to have a much stronger vocabulary plus they learn to enjoy reading on their own which leads to better study habits.

How do you get your children to read?

Just like any other new skill, reading must be practiced. Humans are creatures of pleasure. We will only do what we like and enjoy so how do you get your children to enjoy reading? If they enjoy it then they will read with pleasure without you forcing them!

How do you select books your children will enjoy reading?

I am going to show you how to make reading and learning fun!

Usborne Books & More has books that children love to read. There are 1400 books for babies through high school. There is something exciting for everyone!

These books are magnetic - drawing children to them with their pictures, questions and activities. These books will help your children fall in love with reading.

There are touchy-feely books for the littlest readers, dual reader books for learning readers, picture books in every subject, and Internet-linked books for the older student. I will be posting book reviews to help you pick the best books for your students.

These are also awesome books for gifts! Baby showers, birthdays, Christmas and just because.

I want to help you pick the right books by being your personal shopper. I will be posting book reviews on all of these fantastic books so that you can be informed and choose what is right for you and your family.

You can also have me visit your home where I can show you and your friends my wonderful inventory of books.

Besides servicing families directly, I also service schools, pre-schools, day-cares and other organizations by holding book fairs and reading incentive challenges. These are great ways to raise books and funds for the children in your lives and community!

I am also building a team of Usborne Independent Consultants and would love to have to join me in this great adventure! Let me know if you would like more information on the Usborne opportunity!
Don't forget to check out my website at