Doc McDuke's Books for Kids!


 Forget Deep Reading for Total Comprehension: Let's Get Them Reading First

Adapted from Alan Jacobs

While almost anyone who wants to can train the brain to the habits of reading, in any given culture, few people seem to desire such. Should that be surprising? Serious reading for high comprehension has always been and will likely always be a rare pursuit.

At the beginning of the 20th century, approximately 2 percent of Americans attended a university; now the number is closer to 70 percent. A particularly sharp acceleration occurred in the years after 1945, when the GI Bill enabled soldiers returning from the Second World War to attend college gratis, thus leading universities across the country to throw up temporary classrooms, and English professors had to figure out how to teach forty students simultaneously, rather than eleven. (And those GI's wanted their children to have the same educational opportunities they had, or better). These changes have had enormous social consequences, but for our purposes here, the one that matters is this: From 1945 til about 2000 many more people than ever before in human history were expected to read, understand, appreciate, and even enjoy books.

I don't think of the distinction between readers and nonreaders—better, those who love reading and those who don't—has to do strictly with economic class. Readers or non-readers can be located at all social levels. But whatever designations we wish to use, it has to be admitted that much of the angst about American reading habits, and those in other developed nations to a lesser degree, arises from frustration at not being able to sustain a permanent expansion of reading among either our children or adults.

Beginning in childhood, the voracious reader is a rare bird. Those are my tribe, but they are few. It is more common to come across the person who has known some limited enjoyment of very shallow reading but who can be distracted easily. But even those folks do not compose a major percentage of the population.

Both American grade schools, prep schools, and universities are largely populated by individuals who neither love or hate reading—even rather intelligent individuals for whom the prospect of some minutes or hours attending to words on pages is not particularly attractive. For lovers of books and reading, and especially for those who become teachers, this fact can be painful and frustrating. We love reading, we think it's wonderful, and we want other people to think so too. We may believe we can coerce people to enjoy reading more. But what if, after great labor, we discover—as often happens—that we can't make them lovers of books? Whose fault is it?

Is it anyone's fault? Steven Pinker once said that "Children are wired for sound, but print is an optional accessory that must be painstakingly bolted on." Maybe we should  dissociate reading from academic life. Teachers and professors tend to make reading very dutiful and rarely take into account whether the assigned reading is tedious, boring, and a turn-off that may be carried into the remaining years of students' lives on earth.

When books were scarce, the situation may have been a bit different: The North African boy who later became known to history as St. Augustine spent countless hours of his education poring over, analyzing word by word, and memorizing a handful of books, most of them by Virgil and Cicero. This model was adopted largely because few had many books, so each tome was  precious. One of Augustine's biographers, Peter Brown, has commented that some of Augustine's mental eccentricities are the product of "a mind steeped too long in too few books"—something that appears true of almost no one in our day.

Then came Gutenberg and, with the plethora of books beginning to go to print, there developed a growing body of book lovers---even those who became intoxicated by the sheer joy of reading. There is a quote by Erasmus, one of the leading scholars of the Renaissance: "When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes."

Slowly but surely, the printing press ushered in an age of information overload. Even as far back as the 17th century, one French scholar cried out, "We have reason to fear that the multitude of books which grows every day in a prodigious fashion will make the following centuries fall into a state as barbarous as that of the centuries that followed the fall of the Roman Empire unless we try to prevent this danger by separating those books which we must throw out or leave in oblivion from those which one should save and within the latter between what is useful and what is not." It seems the poor man was grossly overstating the crisis. If this French scholar saw the mountains of books today, he'd probably have an immediate cardiac arrest.

So now we try to arrange books into some sort of order by genre, or popularity, or some other classification system. One of the most widely quoted sentences of Sir Francis Bacon is: "Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested, that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention."  Bacon might have applauded Clay Shirky's comment that we suffer not from "information overload" but from "filter failure." Bacon's famous sentence is really a strategy for making the sometimes terribly difficult judgments of what books to read in our extremely brief lifetimes on this planet.

Some have tried to solve the problem by looking for reference works and brief summaries that claim to boil down the most important input from books—We read the books so you don't have to!—or they try to learn slippery techniques for the rapid assimilation of knowledge. But serious scholars like Meric Casaubon denounced the search for "a shorter way" to learning, insisting that "the best method to learning ... is indefatigable (soe farr as the bodie will beare) industrie, and assiduitie, in reading good authors, such as have had the approbation of all learned ages." Casaubon declares: No shortcuts allowed.

All this may ring a bell: Casaubon might be a professor today warning students against Wikipedia, and it turns out that every era has its intellectual hucksters willing to sell knowledge on the cheap to the panicky or lazy. But there is definitely some truth to the fact that certain books don't need to be read with patience and care; at times it's OK, even necessary, to skim (merely to "taste" rather than ruminate). Skimming books can be crucial but precious few seem to be able to do so effectively.

Rarely have children and young people been expected to have truly deep knowledge of particular texts. Instead, education, especially in its "liberal arts" embodiments, has been devoted to providing students with "exposure" to various facts and books that have been somehow classified as the most "relevant" or the "most important." There are a minority of navigational tools which supposedly provide individuals enough knowledge to find their way through situations that they might confront later in life. Sadly, it is probably the techical or trade schools that dispense the most practical knowledge and experience in the sense of future use. All this to say that the idea which many teachers hold today, that one of the purposes of education is to teach students to love reading—or at least to appreciate and enjoy whole books—is largely alien to the history of education. And perhaps alien to the history of reading as well. It is almost guaranteed that one thing the majority of schools are not doing is instilling a love for reading in their students

It's true that the word "school" derives from 'scholia,' meaning leisure. You may have tried to convince your students that reading and study is "leisure". When we say that education is a leisure activity, we simply mean that you can only pursue education if you are temporarily relieved from the responsibility of laboring daily to provide yourself with food, shelter, and the necessities. Maybe this freedom comes from parents; maybe it comes from loans that will pose a crushing burden for years afterward. But somebody is buying students time to read, think, and study. We've come to think that leisure reading is "what we do in our spare time simply because we want to." From this sort of leisurely encounter, education, however constructive, must be distinguished.

It is not at all certain that deep attention to anything in particular can be taught in a straightforward way: It may, perhaps, only arise from within, according to some inexplicable internal necessity of being. Some people—many people—most people—will not experience that internal necessity for truly digging into books, in texts. For relatively few people are books the natural and inevitable and often-used means of becoming absorbed in something other than the self.

 The typical person on the street will likely never learn to concentrate on a complex book long enough to assimulate, digest, and put its knowledge to use.  A minority of people know what it is like to become lost in a book; who value that experience because they had the enormous and rare privilege of, at some point in their lives, coming across a book of a certain genre that yanked them in like a magnet and held their rapt attention, sometimes even into the wee hours of the night. They may then become hooked on books. In reality, a very large percentage of Americans read only a few books per year at best. Many don't like to read, they are too busy (or claim to be), they do not read well, they can only concentrate for brief periods of time. That lack of knowledge may not appear to matter in their daily lives, but there are many situations in which they will fall short, or miss opportunities, or lose others' respect, or fail in some manner because they lack the knowledge or the know-how gained through reading.

We must begin with our children. Far too many or illiterate or nearly so. It is usually not difficult at all to figure out a child's interests or reading tastes. Then it is only a matter of locating a few books that align with those interests. Viola, the child reads a whole book, suddenly realizes that reading can actually be fun, and digs into the next similar book you acquire for him or her. Then eventually the child may begin searching or asking friends about other books of that type. Soon they are occasionally reading without even being prompted by the adult!

But, you ask, how do I find the right books for my students, or children, or grandchildren, or whatever?  Well, I have designed a website in which I have done the homework for you. I list hundreds of books arranged by age group and story description. You can scroll through the books, click on one you like and buy it immediately. You will have it within a week or two. The site is


What makes reading so important for children?

I Am A Book

My covers are scarred, sometimes even yanked off, and while I remain naked for many years, my heart is unharmed. I am the same as the day you bought me or found me in that old musty bookstore. I express the same truth faithfully through tribulation, staining, and gross neglect. I am like an old friend who dispenses good stuff to you as though nurtured with affection. While you may forget me for years, I'm still waiting for you to pick me up again day or night. The knowledge, the inspiration, the fascination of me does not diminish with time, but grows. I can make you laugh like a crazy person or I can bring tears. I can lift you to the heights of excitement or I can help lull you to sleep. I can accompany you whenever or wherever you go. If you leave me behind, I'm here on your shelf waiting for you. And if through some unthoughtful act, I am destroyed, I am still there for your pleasure and benefit in your memory. 

More Tips for Teaching Right-Brained Learners

It's human nature to doubt what we do not personally experience. It's also human nature to accept as correct what we're most familiar with. When confronted with someone who is wired differently from ourselves, it's human nature to urge them to just try harder to think and process the way we do so naturally.

While I understood for most of my life that other people have opinions or preferences that differ from my own, it was only recently that I grasped the idea that people truly think and process in vastly different ways. I can read and study and research about left-brained processors all I want, but I cannot truly understand that way of thinking because it is not at all how I think.

Where this distinction between right and left brain processors makes the most difference is in the arena of education. To put it in simplest of terms, our educational system takes a linear, analytical approach to teaching children. Children who are linear and analytical by nature, of course do well within that system, as do many children that have a good support system at home and at school, or who have a whole lot of determination to make it. There are so many children, however, who struggle to varying degrees. Those children experience failure not because they are not capable, but rather because the material is presented in a linear way – something these children just don’t know what to do with. Teachers who teach in a traditional way teach in the way that is accepted and often persist even if vast numbers of children are lost in the system.

So how can a teacher make material for friendly to the right-brained learner?

Key points to remember when teaching to the right-brained processor

  1. They have naturally pattern-seeking brains
  2. so they need to see all the body of learning at one time
  3. and won’t do well if they are fed one detail at a time in a prescribed order
  4. by an adult who thinks they need to be taught every detail, one at a time.

Rushing toward the right with reading

Here are some simple suggestions for making reading more right-brain friendly.

        1.    Display all sounds from day one. Introduce them casually in whatever order you want (most effectively by using stories and visuals), and then practice a sound at a time (kindergarten and 1st grade). Be sure to use stories, body motions, and images as vehicles for teaching the sounds… not chants or memorization.

        2.    Fill your walls with words from day 1. One wall can be a traditional word wall with columns of alphabetized sight words, another can be a wall of really big, colorful words that you know are way above their grade level, organized into three groups: NOUNS, VERBS, and ADJECTIVES. If you are in a classroom with children older than first grade, you can also add categories for ADVERBS and PREPOSITIONS and CONJUNCTIONS. Fill that wall with words you introduce one a day, modeling the use of the word orally as you write short sentences on the whiteboard or chart paper. I prefer chart paper because you can leave one sheet posted for a whole week as you add to it, a word a day. Once you have introduced the word, modeled its use, used it in sentences, and the children have done so as well (preferably in a little notebook with a date by each entry), move the word to the Big Words Wall. Do this all year and watch what happens to your children’s vocabulary.

        3.    Don’t limit content. I know firsthand that school districts have lists of words that are to be introduced, one at a time, in a prescribed order. Don’t listen to that! There is no such thing as a first grade word! Words are for any age child, and the more words you display and use and play games with, the more incredibly your students will advance.

        4.    Teach every spelling for each sound at one time. I know it is accepted practice to teach first graders vowel/consonant/silent e as a spelling pattern that is ok for their level of understanding. If you teach that spelling for long A in isolation, you will confuse your right-brain processors the minute they encounter another word with long A that is spelled another way. As early as kindergarten, you can display a chart with all the sound spellings for Long A with lists of words that follow each spelling pattern, and they will not only easily grasp it but will also be able to use that information. Specifically, you can teach in kindergarten that Long A is spelled:            

  • A-E as in cake
  • AY as in pay 
  • AI as in paid 
  • EIGH as in eight 
  • AIGH as in straight 
  • A as in paper 
  • EA as in steak 
  • EI as in vein 
  • EY as in they

        5.    Avoid memorization. Ok, so I just put up a totally left brained chart that is trying to look a bit right-brained. The reason the chart in point 4 is left-brained is because while it does list the spellings for Long A in a global way, it just imparts the information and waits for the children to memorize it. There is no possibility for pattern-seeking, and remember, right brain processors must be able to seek patterns in order to make meaning. So, what is more right brain friendly is to display each sound spelling at the top of a long strip of paper hanging vertically on the wall, then let the children help you find words that follow that pattern and write them on the paper as you encounter them. They will learn to group words according to similar spelling pattern.

        6.    Learn by doing. Children can see and hear a factoid, such as that AI says long A, but they have to be able to DO something with that knowledge in order to learn, remember, and be able to truly use it in real life. One way to let children use and thus remember learning about Long A spelled AI: Generate other AI words with the students, letting them write the words on little cards. Then challenge the children to use the words they just wrote on cards in a little story, also allowing them to illustrate their story. If they are truly beginners and need to tell part of the story with pictures, great. Just encourage them to use their AI words as labels on their pictures. You might follow this lesson with one that focuses also on AY as a spelling pattern for Long A. This pattern most of the time appears at the end of words, while AI appears inside a word. The students will have fun sorting words into two groups if you supply them with words on cards, half of them with AI and the other half with AY words.

        7.    Involve the body in movement. Instead of just asking the children to remember that the A comes before the I in that sound spelling, body spell the sound so that their movements will help them remember the sequence of the letters. Here is AI body-spelled:

What children do with their bodies, they remember in their brains. 

        8.    As often as possible, share new material within charts or graphic organizers. Remember, right brain processors learn best by snapping mental pictures of the material to be learned. So if you have all the information in a format that they can look at and remember, their rate of learning will astound you. If a right-brained learner doesn’t “learn” the concept the first go-around, please don’t show them the same lesson again. Think about how to organize the information in a way that's compatible with their brains.

        9.    Go from whole to part. All of these points, 1-8, are inter-related to a degree. Starting with the whole and then teaching the part is similar to what I said about showing students the global whole before teaching little points. But really, there are several different applications for this same principle. Right brain processors need to see the goal before they can learn the pieces we often believe we need to teach them first to help them learn the concept. It goes terribly against our grain to start by showing a child a stylized word such as “TOGETHER” or “THROUGH” before we’ve taught them to chant the ABC’s, sounds, short vowel sounds, and how to sound out words with various phonics rules.

The honest truth is that while we are attempting to lead a flaming right brain processor through all those tedious little learning steps, what their brain is doing is getting hijacked by the burning questions, “What is this for?” “What am I going to make out of all these little pieces?” And they might stare at you blankly at times. Most frequently those blank stares are interpreted by adults as the child’s inability to learn. But really, the blank stares should be our signal that they are unable to learn the way we are teaching them.

Article by Deborah Gray,

Importance of Reading to Children

Reading to Children: The Most Important Reading You Can Do

Reading to children should be a priority for every parent. This is one of the best ways to ignite in kids the pleasure that can be found in books.  Thus, a growing desire will develop in children to learn how to read for themselves.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) "strongly recommends reading to children every day, starting after they are first born," because "reading stimulates the development of the brain, language and a closer emotional relationship with a child."

 As your child reaches the age of three or four and can understand the stories you read, take time to ask simple questions, e.g. What do you think will happen next? Do you know what that word means? Which character is your favorite? You can have her retell the story or make up a new one with the same characters.

Reading to children is so crucial that parents should find time to do it every day. I realize how incredibly busy most parents are, but you can be creative at finding time to read aloud to your child. Read while waiting to see the pediatrician, having a treat at a restaurant, waiting in line at the store, or cooking dinner. Instead of watching the news, switch off the TV and read aloud. You can read aloud in the morning before school. Read a story aloud while waiting for the bus or train or once aboard. Make tapes of yourself or another family member reading stories and play them in the car on the way to school or daycare.  Perhaps the very best occasion is in the evening at bedtime. This is a time when the child craves affection and can be a magical time for reading to them.

This may seem slightly radical but I would encourage you to wait as long as possible before you introduce game players/video games to your kids.  My grandson is only six years old, and he used to beg me to read books with him. However, now that he's wrapped up in video games, he shows little interest when I suggest we read a book together.

Parents aren't alone in understanding the importance of reading to children. Good teachers read aloud in the classroom. Talk to your child's teacher to get suggestions for books to read aloud and observe the class to get tips on reading aloud. Make sure that family caregivers, like daycare providers and babysitters, also understand the importance of reading to your children.

Older siblings, relatives, and friends may also enjoy reading aloud. And when your children are ready, encourage them to actually read aloud to you and the rest of the family. This will pave the way for a love of reading.

By Dr. Steve Fortosis

Read it or Weep

When my grandson, Jenkin, was three or four years old, whenever he came over to our house, he’d shout, “Books, grandpa, books.” Of course, he couldn’t read and he could only understand the simplest of concepts, but he knew that when we sat down on the couch and leafed through books, he really enjoyed it.

            Now my grandson is six, going on seven, years of age. His father has introduced him to video games, and he spends hours every day playing them. The other day he came over to our home and I asked if he wanted to read books together.  He didn’t even nod hesitantly or shrug—he outright said, “No, grandpa.”

            I don’t want you to think I’m condemning my son. He happens to be raising three young kids himself and the mother is not in the picture. He was desperate to give Jenkin something to do in the evenings and on weekends, and I suppose the game player is better than TV, because it improves motor skills.

            Nevertheless, I’m describing a heartbreaking problem that spreads across a whole generation or two of kids.  They do not enjoy reading and many cannot read. Does reading really matter?  Well, humans must understand concepts in order to live their lives. And they must also be able to use critical thinking skills—that is, they need to know how to apply the concepts in real life. If a child’s reading skills are severely lacking, then it follows that their writing skills will also be poor. That can be disastrous.

            There are cases in which a person can hold down a job without knowing how to read well or write, but those jobs are becoming increasingly rare and they definitely are not the highest paying jobs. Some say, “Well, my child understands what he or she sees on television and is able to interact on the computer. Doesn’t that mean anything?”

            Just because they can understand the plot of a soap opera or movie and know how to converse with friends on Facebook and texting, doesn’t mean they know how to add significantly to their knowledge and their know-how in the important functions and duties of life. Nor does it mean they are developing their creative imagination.

Let me draw two quick scenarios for you. In fifth grade, my teacher read to us every day right after lunch. He happened to read from a series of books written by Ralph Moody, beginning when he was a boy growing up on a ranch in Colorado. His father dies and he must become the man of the house and help his mom survive on the ranch with younger siblings. The teacher read a chapter each day and we begged and pleaded that he would read more. I began checking books out of our school library and my parents bought us books. I remember reading so far above my grade level that I skipped over half the words because I didn’t know them yet.

            Now, here’s the bad news. All the way through grade school and high school I pretty much hated school. The last two months before summer vacation were torture. That’s sad, because school could have been so much better. Things got a bit more interesting in college and I went on to earn my doctorate, but what about all those miserable years before college?

            Let me just make two points, two suggestions and I’ll be done.

1)      Teachers, wake up!  Do whatever it takes to teach your courses in a way that turns kids on---even if it takes a bit more time and effort. Don’t you think kids would rather know what it was like to be an 18-year-old soldier suffering through the Battle of Gettysburg than to memorize the fact that Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863? Don’t you think that kids would rather do experiments and handle real substances in nature than simply memorizing the abbreviations for various chemical compounds?  Figure  it out.

2)      Turn kids on to books and then use good old synthetic phonics to teach kids to read just like the millions of us learned in previous generations. It isn’t rocket science. I don’t know if your kids’ teachers have a bunch of books that your kids will not be able to put down, but I’ve put together a website full of proven books that kids love. I’m not saying every book on my list is perfect for every single kid. But there are books for every level and for just about every taste. I searched long and hard for these books and I challenge you to get these books for your kids and turn them on to reading. Read some aloud to them at first, then there’s a great chance that they’ll want to read some on their own. I believe this website can help if you put it to use!

Dr. Steve Fortosis 


How to Help Your Child to Read


Reading is not only one of the most important things we can learn as humans, but it can also be one of the more enjoyable. But illiteracy is not a rarity in America; in fact, it’s probably more common than we’d like to think. Reading is one of the most important life skills any person can gain. Reading helps us learn things about life that are extremely essential. Reading can show us more about ourselves and others; it provides many hours of fun and entertainment. Reading helps us learn step by step instructions to do thousands of different things. Reading is something that should be learned during childhood. So what are some ways we can make sure that the children we love and care about learn this all-important skill?


1)      One of the most important ways to encourage children to want to read is to read fun, quality books to them at their particular age-range or level of understanding.


2)     Let children see you reading. If the only thing they see you do every evening is watching TV, then they’ll probably do the same.


3)     Stay in contact with your children’s teachers. Find out how well they read or if they’re having problems. Ask if there’s anything they can do if one of your children needs extra help.


4)     You know phonics. In fact, it’s most likely the way you learned to read. If you think your child is having trouble, start teaching them words using phonics. Once that light bulb goes on in their head, they will usually want to show off the words they’ve learned to pronounce.


5)     Let your child read a book to you, and saturate him or her with praise. Give some sort of reward if your child reads a book to you. Then give a prize for every book your child reads. (Of course, you might have to ask what the story was about, just to make sure).


6)     Find out the books that children cannot resist. Sometimes a child who hates reading suddenly begins to consume books because you’ve found the sort of stories or subject matter he or she loves. This website offers many well-researched selections.


Do not let your child or grandchild grow up without the gift of reading.

Dr. Steve Fortosis

10 Tips to Help Raise a Reader

Reading books to children is one of the most important things you can do to promote literacy development—but why stop there? In addition to just regurgitating the words on the page, try these creative strategies to foster your kids’ love of reading.

  1. Add a little playacting. Instead of just reciting the same old story, improvise a little. Don’t be afraid to deviate from what’s on the page. Incorporate different accents for the characters, add drama with theatrical hand gestures, build anticipation by including pauses, and let the emotions of the story register on your face.

  2. Encourage interaction. When reading to your preschooler, pause every now and then to ask questions about the story, wonder aloud about alternate endings, or propose new character names.

  3. Talk about books. The benefits of reading to children don’t have to stop after you’ve closed the book. After sharing a story together, bring it up in conversation throughout the day. Compare a real-life event to something that happened in the book, or ask how they think a certain character would handle a specific situation. Incorporate key vocabulary that was presented in the book, so your child gets an idea of how the words fit into different contexts.

  4. Introduce books in new scenarios. Why wait until bedtime to pull out a book? For babies and toddlers, bath times and mealtimes provide great opportunities for enjoying a story.

  5. Consider joining a book club for children. With the overwhelming number of kids’ books on the market, it can seem like a daunting task to select the ones that are right for your child. When you join a book club for children, you’ll receive hand-picked titles tailored to your kids’ ages and interests. Getting shipments of high-quality children's books delivered right to your doorstep is a great way to encourage excitement about reading.

  6. Explore reading resources for children. The Internet offers an abundance of children's Web sites with creative ideas for promoting early literacy, fun literacy games, and reading tools for children.

  7. Encourage reading outside of books. Throughout a typical day, there are hundreds of opportunities to recognize words and phrases. Challenge your child to find new mediums for reading, whether it’s a billboard, newspaper, cereal box, or storefront sign. This will help your child grasp the significance of reading in the real world and give him a chance to apply what he’s learned.

  8. Introduce your own childhood favorites. Remember those timeless classics you couldn’t get enough of as a kid? Bring them back into the limelight by reading them to your own child. Your excitement for those old beloved stories is sure to rub off on your little one.

  9. Volunteer your reading services. If your child is of school age (or even in daycare), reading aloud to his class is an excellent way to foster his love of books and to demonstrate your support and commitment to his reading success. Most daycare centers, preschools, and elementary schools welcome parent volunteers.

  10. Take field trips to the library. The library is an invaluable reading resource. Acquaint your budding reader with the book loaning process, emphasizing a respect for the facility and the books. Many libraries feature designated story hours, where a librarian reads selections aloud to a targeted age group. Check with your local branch for more activities to promote reading.

The importance of reading to children can’t be disputed. By utilizing literacy resources for children, incorporating books as part of your child’s everyday routine, and looking for creative ways to promote reading, you’ll be giving your youngster a head start toward academic success and a rich, vivid imagination.

This article originated on an excellent website: Check out this website for terrific ideas to turn your kids on to reading!

Check for a Super Phonics Program

The Starfall reading program is designed to be fun, exciting, and to instill confidence in young children as they learn to read. The website and companion printed materials are clear and effective tools to help you implement proven teaching methods. Our website was created by carefully observing the way children learn using a computer. The Starfall Website is easy for students to navigate independently, but it is not intended as a surrogate for the teacher. Our scientific, research-based reading materials and activities are modeled on the "Big Five" focus areas recommended by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: phonemic awareness, systematic phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. We built-in a sixth we'd prefer not be overlooked—Motivation!

Starfall employs the computer to develop feelings of wonderment and play, not rote assessment. The activities, songs and books complement your classroom by creating an atmosphere of fun and enthusiasm that infuses all aspects of learning. Our online and printed activities use positive reinforcement to guide children in making correct responses. Because students meet success with our activities, they are motivated to want to learn more. You will find that Starfall students of all reading levels are excited and eager to participate. Starfall students who receive personal copies of the materials feel a sense of ownership, responsibility and pride.

Phonemic Awareness
Your children will explore and interact with speech sounds in every book and game. See online: Starfall ABCs. Children click on the letters in any order to see, hear, and manipulate the sounds and letters of the alphabet. Kinesthetic learners will love using American Sign Language to demonstrate their letter knowledge.

  • Reinforce the children's online experience by downloading our free ABC Practice Pages. Your children will apply initial sounds to letters, and practice letter formation.

Systematic Phonics
As your children master speech sounds, they will be able to apply them to letters in predictable ways. See online: Learn to Read. Begin at row 1 and proceed systematically to row 15. See Learn to Read Scope and Sequence.

  • Support your children's progress by downloading or purchasing our Level I Journal (Blockprint or Manuscript). Designed for K-1 emergent readers who have a basic understanding of letter-sound relationships, it offers opportunities to practice the short and long vowel sounds in word families, blends, and digraphs. The Level I Journal corresponds to our online Learn to Read series.
  • See our Cut-Up/Take-Home Books featuring all 15 stories from our online Learn to Read series, and 5 bonus artist books including Vincent van Gogh. Children are excited about taking these full-color versions of Starfall's online books home to read to their families.

With a basic understanding of letter-sound relationships, your children can explore a variety of genres and topics. Starfall supports their exploration. Every word on the site is clickable, and will read aloud. In this way the speaking, reading, and writing vocabulary can grow alongside new concepts. See online: It's Fun to Read. This fiction and nonfiction environment cultivates inquisitiveness as children explore the purposes of reading.

  • Enhance your children's reading and writing development by downloading or purchasing our Level II Journal. This inviting writing journal opens with introductory grammar exercises. The pages that follow contain imaginative open-ended writing exercises supported by picture dictionaries. This journal is intended to meet the needs of students at many different reading and writing levels and is perfect for students studying English as a second language.

Starfall reinforces high-frequency words in sentences, rather than in isolation. This helps your children make meaningful associations with these words and more easily commit them to memory. Our selections model the qualities of fluent reading: intonation, expression, inflection and rate. See online: I'm Reading. This series develops comprehension and reading fluency in beginning and advancing readers.

As your children develop the above skills they will transition from learning to read to reading to learn—the end goal of all reading instruction. Writing prompts appear site-wide, but more importantly, every activity at Starfall is a springboard for class discussion.

 How Crucial is Reading, Really?

Reading is one of the most important skills to master in life. But it’s sad to acknowledge that a majority of us aren't intrigued by the fascinating world of books. If you are one of the non-readers who feels you “don’t need no stinking books”, here are some reasons to begin reading now…before you die deprived of one of the greatest enjoyments of life!

  1. Reading is an active thinking process: Unlike sitting in front of the TV, which does your thinking for you, reading makes you use that gray stuff packed in your skull. While reading you are forced to reason out many matters which are unfamiliar to you. In this process you would stimulate your brain to think and become smarter.
  2. Reading improves your vocab: Remember in elementary school when you learned how to infer the meaning of one word by reading the context of the other words in the sentence? You get a similar benefit from book reading. While reading, especially challenging books, you will find yourself exposed to many new words you wouldn’t know otherwise.
  3. You gain incredible insight into other cultures and places of the world: How would you know about the life of people in Mexico if you don’t read about it? Reading gives you an insight into the diversity--the ethnicity of people, their customs, their lifestyles etc. You become more aware about the different places and the code of conduct in those places.
  4. Improves concentration and focus: It requires you to focus on what you are reading for long periods. Unlike magazines, Internet posts or e-Mails that might contain small chunks of information, books tell the whole story. Since you must concentrate in order to read, you will get better at concentration and will be able, thus, to think things through, which is indispensable in life.
  5. Builds self-image: The more you read, the more knowledgeable you become. With more knowledge comes more confidence. More confidence builds self-esteem. So it’s a chain reaction. Since you are so well read, people look to you for answers. Your feelings about yourself can only improve.
  6. Retains memory: Many studies show if you don’t use your memory, you lose it. Crossword puzzles are an example of a word game that staves off senility or Alzheimer’s. Reading, although not a game, helps you stretch your memory muscles in a similar way. Reading requires remembering details, facts and figures and in literature, plot lines, themes and characters.
  7. Improves your self-discipline: Making time to read is something we all know we should do, but who schedules book reading time every day? Very few… That’s why adding book reading to your daily schedule and sticking to it, improves self-discipline.
  8. Explodes creativity: Reading about diversity of life and exposing yourself to new ideas and more information helps to develop the creative side of the brain as it imbibes innovation into your thinking process.  Reading books can be one of the most enjoyable things you do every day.
  9. Gives you interesting subjects to talk about: Have you ever found yourself in an embarrassing situation where you didn’t have anything to talk about? Did you hate  making a fool of yourself? Do you want a remedy for this? It’s simple. Start reading. Reading widens your horizon of information. You’ll always have something to talk about. You can discuss various plots in the novels you read, you can discuss the stuff you are learning in the non-fiction books you are reading as well. The possibilities of sharing become endless.
  10. Reduces boredom: One of the rules I have established in my life is if I am feeling bored, I will often pick up a book and start reading. What I’ve found by encouraging this habit is that I become interested in the book’s subject and become intrigued. I mean, if you’re bored anyway, you might as well be reading a good book, right?