Booklist: Juneteenth Books for Children

Booklist: Juneteenth Books for Children

  • Booklist: Books about the Juneteenth holiday and what it means for African American communities.

  • Juneteenth is a holiday to celebrate the end of enslavement. After enslavement was Reconstruction. After and during Reconstruction the Black Codes were established. A short history from Stony the Road. 

Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19th each year in African American communities to celebrate when the Union army announced the freedom of slaves in 1865 in Galveston, Texas. However, two years before this announcement,  Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 during the Civil War. This Proclamation gave slaves the freedom of enslavement. Still, other challenges arose from slaves becoming free. For example, the ideologies of white supremacy remained where Black Codes and then the Jim Crow Laws were established.

After the Civil War ended, Reconstruction took place to bring the Confederate states back into the Union while also giving African Americans freedom, citizenship, political rights, civil rights, and economic rights. In many ways, Reconstruction did not give Blacks the rights they expected. Other scholars say that it failed. 1

Despite the challenges from former slaveholders and society, African Americans continue to celebrate how far they have come and Juneteenth is one example. Below are Juneteenth books for children in grades Pre-K through 5th.

1. Juneteenth by RJ Bailey

A story for pre-K through kindergarten readers. Describes what this holiday means and what people do such as parades food and gatherings.

2. Juneteenth by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and Drew Wilson
A detailed story for K-2 readers. This story describes how the last news was shared about the end of slavery in Galveston Texas. Even though the news was shared in 1865, during the Civil War Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. In the end, this

3. Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper
Mazie’s father tells her how her grandfather was a former slave and heard the news in Galveston Texas. He then told her how black people struggled after they were freed but kept working for equal rights. He encourages his daughter to celebrate and to remember.

4. Let’s Celebrate Emancipation Day and Juneteenth
by Barbara deRubertis
A nonfiction book for elementary readers discussing the reasons why Juneteenth even started which was due to the end of slavery. The author shares facts about pivotal abolitionists-such as Frederick Douglass. Later the author shares what life was like after the proclamation was given. Even though slavery is a dark part of our history Juneteenth celebrates freedom and about our ancestors as this book shares at the end.

5.  All Different Now By Angela Johnson Illustrated by EB Lewis
A story about a small enslaved child who witnessed her family becoming free. The illustrations captivate the narrative’s emotions. The writer writes in a poetic form to demonstrate the tremendous hope and joy that oppressed people heard about being free from enslavement.

6. Freedom’s Gifts By Valerie Wesley
A Juneteenth Story
June lives in Texas in 1943. African American people living in the South were legally segregated from the white community. This year and June was going to celebrate Juneteenth with her family and her cousin Lillie who lived in the North. June enjoyed where she lived, but Lillie always complained. June didn’t say anything. Through the story, we learn about her Aunt Marshall who witnessed slavery. She didn’t enjoy discussing it but loved Juneteenth. This story brings generational experiences and historical experiences about what it means to be Black and free.


7. Come Juneteenth by Ann Rinaldi
A historical fiction novel for Elementary-aged readers. Luli lives in Texas but is raised by her Master’s family. She enjoys her family and is afraid of change. Once she discovers that slaves are free, she does not tell. Two years later, soldiers come to Texas and her world is changed forever.

8.  The Story of Juneteenth An Interactive History Adventure
By Steven Otfinoski
This reader for elementary-aged readers allows the reader to choose a different story paths and endings. The reader decides to follow the story of a teenage girl, or a black man. Some endings have joy, others endings are faced due to racism. Not only does one learn about Juneteenth, but they learn what happens to African Americans once they are freed from slavery.

More details from Stony the Road provides dates and explanations on what happened after Black Americans were freed from enslavement.

  • 1865-1877 is the Reconstruction era in the United States. Reconstruction ended in 1877, because of the 1877 Compromise. This Compromise gave Confederate Democratic states electoral votes in exchange for a withdraw of federal troops in the South.
  • 1865 Mississippi and South Carolina were some of the first states enacting the Black Codes which restricted Black people from specific freedoms. Eventually, former Confederate states adopted the Black Codes.
  • Post Civil War, the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were ratified to end slavery, give Black men the right to vote, and recognize an individual’s citizenship if born in the United States.

There was also a larger question in the North and South was what to do with the Negro. The Cincinnati Enquirer stated, “Slavery is dead,” but “The negro is not, there is the misfortune.” We all know this was too true.

Quasi-Slavery or Quasi-Freedom

Former slaves were either migrating to the North to look for better jobs, and some remained working for a wage with their former Plantation owners. Henry Louis Gates calls this period “quasi-freedom or quasi-slavery: a state of being trapped in nether zone, between a state of being and nothingness, painted as unworthy of citizenship rights granted prematurely by contemporaries eager to justify the implementation of neo-slavery.” 1

One area of importance is that the celebration of enslavement ended, the need for cotton increased from 1860-1890, and doubled in 1920. Cotton was considered “King” because it made plantation owners wealthy and grew their capital. Once slavery ended Blacks were converted into sharecroppers.

Sharecropping is defined as a category of farming where owners rented parts of their land to families. Whenever families grew a portion of their crops of part of their crops were given to the landowner. In essence, this became an economic deficit because families owed the landowners money if they were not able to produce the number of funds to cover their crops.

The sentiment of being freed was an event that altered the lives of millions of African Americans. 1 Frederick Douglass spoke, “At last, at last the black man has a future. Heretofore all was dark, mysterious, chaotic. We were chained to all the utterable horrors of never ending fixedness. Others might improve and make progress, but for us, there was nothing but the unending monotony of stagnation, for moral, mental and social death. Today we are free American citizens. We have ourselves, we have a country, and we have a future in common with other men.

More Booklists Here

1 Gates, H. L. (2019). Stony the Road. Penguin Press.


9 Ways to Introduce Early Reading

9 Ways to Introduce Early Reading

  • Language and Literacy for the Early Years

  • Early Reading Strategies for Kids

Introducing literacy skills and reading at an early age can provide the abilities to help your child grasp the language and skills to succeed as they grow. It is never too early to start, and you can provide a wonderful environment at your home. Parents can be the initial teachers to open the world for your child. Starting early does not only include reading a book but includes conversations, music, observations, and viewing images. These moments build literacy. Literacy is further explained here.

Ways to Teaching Early Reading

  1. Conversations-At the ages of 1, 2, 3, and 4 your child is experimenting with words and is speaking different phrases and sentences. With your 2-year-old, you might hear fewer words. Your 3-year-old might be forming clear and even silly sentences. Then by the age of 4-years old an expansion of vocabulary weaved into those sentences should be apparent. When you can, take advantage of any age to build their vocabulary through these fruitful conversations. If you hear singular words such as “truck,” “dog,” or “ball,” then describe what your child says, ask questions about it, or point to examples. When your child becomes older, continue the conversations and add new vocabulary words naturally to help them understand the conversation.


  1. Repetition– It is important to repeat the words that your children say because it provides more practice opportunities and memory building. When repeating, be intentional on words that might be useful. Be mindful of the language. When repeating, you can use different tones, emotions, and even objects to demonstrate how these words are different depending on the context. You can find more examples here.


  1. Read Daily-Take the time to read 2-4 books each day. Reading aloud each day gives the introduction to vocabulary words, sentence structure, word sounds, and the usage of language itself. Find ways to point out words and ask questions. Also, when selecting books, select nonfiction, poetry, and fiction text so your child can see the different word patterns. Reading aloud is a fun activity that encourages voice changes, expression, and fluency.

  1. Flashcards-Flashcards can be used for reading, viewing, listening, and speaking. Flashcards for young readers should have images so you can discuss the story, match similar images or words, identify colors, and see if you can find different categories or relationships with the cards such as animal words, food words, and more. Flashcards are great tools to display information quickly. Sample pack here.


  1. Screen Time-In the 21st century, logging on to YouTube, or giving your child a tablet to watch seems like a simple solution. If you must have your child watch a video, then repeat what you hear and expand on ideas from the video. Think about reinforcing vocabulary and encouraging your child to answer questions the character says. Technology is not the most important measure, but understand that as parents this might be one of your only options.Parenting is a challenge where sometimes placing your child in front of the television means getting more work completed, finishing up a household chore, or needing to take time for yourself. For whatever reason use screen time with the intent to learn by watching high-quality programming that can improve your child’s vocabulary and cognitive abilities. Also, consider the time limit. This article shares the impact technology can have on our children.


  1. Toys-The power of play for your child can have positive outcomes to build language, creativity, discovery, and even fine motor skills. With toys you can describe, categorize, and tell stories with. Play gives children the opportunity to try new things and learn from their mistakes. In this article, “Early learning and play are fundamentally social activities and fuel the development of language and thought. Early learning also combines playful discovery with the development of social-emotional skills. It has been demonstrated that children playing with toys act like scientists and learn by looking and listening to those around them.” When you encourage your child to play, you are providing opportunities for language growth and so much more.


  1. Routines-Decide throughout the day when you want to read a book or practice flashcards. Early language learning is critical. Children enjoy routines and predictability. I encourage you to have bookshelves or containers of books in your home. Books should be accessible when it is time for that time to read. You can establish the routine of reading a book when introducing new routines. For example, eating at the table, potty time, a new nap schedule, relaxing, and even car rides. One effective to motivate your young reader is to get into the habit of reading yourself. When your child sees you read, they might want to model after you.


  1. Be Intentional-Planning ahead might be a lot for working parents. However, reflect weekly on what it is that you want your child to do. This can be as simple as, “Each day we will read 2 books.” “Each day we will learn one new English and Spanish word.” “Each day I will ask what did you learn at school and tell me how you did it.” There are numerous ways to establish your educational intent with your child. Ultimately this pattern for yourself can help you when your child is school age.
  2. Writing/Scribbles-A pencil, crayon, marker, or paintbrush should be comfortable and familiar tools for your child. Once my son was holding a spoon for a few months, I introduce each tool little by little. Once he turned two, he identified and used each tool appropriately for use. I encourage my son to scribble, color, or paint every day so he can develop his fine motor skills and control. One suggestion is to have a notebook just for your child, and let them scribble away.

Feel free to contact us for additional information or consulting.

Additional resource here

5 Strategies to Teach your Toddler Sign Language

5 Strategies to Teach your Toddler Sign Language

  • Sign language can support oral language development.

  • American sign language is a visual language where the signer and viewer(s) communicate with their hands, fingers, and facial expression. 


Sign Language is a visual language developed from generations of signers before 1817. In 1817, the first Deaf school in America was formed by Laurent Clerc and Thomas Gallaudet now called Gallaudet University. Though Gallaudet and Clerc established the first deaf school, sign language was used many years before by indigenous tribes, immigrants, and deaf people. It continues to grow today amongst hearing individuals. Sign Language can be used by Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Hearing individuals. It is a systematic visual language that is learned and shared by others, changes over time, has its own set of rules, has its own set of symbols, and is honored by different communities. 1 As a parent, if you are considering teaching your baby or toddler sign language, it is never too late. Research has provided evidence that learning sign language early in infancy has positive effects on a child’s language development. One study showed that when a group of families used sign language, their children attained higher language skills compared to a group of families that did not learn signs. Research is still being done to provide more data and higher conclusions on sign language, but a person who signs in ASL and speaks an oral language is considered bilingual.  Other studies have shown that learning sign language keeps words in your mind. Take for example, learning to fingerspell, one has to know the spelling of that word and must know how to use it in a sign. 

ASL vs. Spoken English

American Sign Language uses words from the English language. Signs are visually represented as a fingerspelled word or as a sign. In contrast, the ASL rules on word order and even the meaning can differ. For example, in English, one would say: (Do you want to eat?) In ASL you would sign: (YOU EAT NOW DO?) In ASL question words are usually asked at the end of the phrase and the facial expression also changes.  Considering teaching sign language to your infants or toddler? There are many benefits. Below are a few key strategies of how sign language can be used easily with your family.

1. Two way

American Sign Language (ASL) can teach your child that communication requires two individuals. Think about the example I shared “YOU EAT NOW DO.” If I did not place the word “DO” at the end or if I used an alternate facial expression, the viewer might assume I am commanding instead of questioning. ASL is very human-centered and requires the viewer to view every sign to gain contextual knowledge. Once a sign is given, ASL requires the other individual to sign back or give a facial expression.  Luckily at home, this two-way communication is picked up easily with children. With ASL, your child can copy your sign, they can show you signs if you say or show the word, or answer you back in signs. This two-way visual language is building the foundation that communication requires two people. When your child become a better speaker, this two-way understanding could support this understanding as well. Teaching two-way communication is giving your child foundational literacy skills

2. Vocabulary

Learning ASL allows you to teach your baby or toddler key nouns and verbs that are commonly used on a day-to-day basis. Moreover, as they grow you can add in more vocabulary words. Eventually, when your child learns the meaning of these words, it reinforces their vocabulary and word usage. For example, if you say the word eat, and you sign the word EAT. That meaning is reinforced visually because your child learns that eating means putting food in their mouth. If you sign DRINK then you are referring that a drink is being poured down your throat. Unfortunately, there will be many words such as Color words that do not give a reference to the actual color sign. However, color signs keep the same structure. If you are attempting to introduce new vocabulary words to your child, I encourage iconic words that are representative of the visual word form. Some easy baby signs are MILK, YES, STOP, JUMP, STAND, MORE, COLD, HAPPY, SCARED, SHIRT, HAIR, SEE, Seasons (SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER). Once you learn these, you can keep learning even more signs.  For vocabulary usage, sign language gives a visual reference. These words can be an abstract or iconic symbol when signed. For example, if someone signs TREE, they place their elbow on the fingertips of the other hand and wave their arm like a tree. This iconic sign represents a real tree. Using signs that represent the iconic form of a word is a visual reference. Signing specific words is considered a referent, “The person, place, thing, idea, or event that a symbol is used to represent.” 1


3. Be Consistent

Children need consistency in their lives when learning something new. So when introducing new signs, be consistent on the usage. If new then give yourself the goal of teaching 5 words per month. Consistency will help your child learn how to use the word.

4. Visual intelligence

Sign language requires the signer and viewer to look at one another. The signer uses their hands, mouths, and even face to change the meaning of words. For example, The word NICE and CLEAN are signed with a hand palm down and the other hand palm up. Your palm down hand wipes across the palm up hand. You will wipe from the palm to the fingertips NICE The main difference between the two is that the signer should “Smile” when signing NICE. When signing CLEAN, the signer can wipe the hand twice or faster. ASL is not a visual language of gestures, it is a visual language of words and sentences.  This visual language requires the signer to use their entire body space to share a message with the viewer. ASL signs require vision to understand the meaning, and this can support your child’s visual intelligence.


5. Getting Started

List 10-20 words that you use daily with your child: Example words: MILK, FOOD, WALK, PLAY, NO, YES, STOP, ME, I, HELLO, BYE BYE, BIRD, TREE. Next test and try showing these words by signing. When I first started I tried by telling my son, “Show me “MILK.” It did not work in isolation. What worked for my family is when I said, “Let’s go on a WALK.” Or “EAT” please. Over time, he understood signs & words when I used the sign in our day-to-day activities.  Today, my toddler can show me those signs that I emphasized in isolation or conversation. My son and I are not speaking in full ASL sentences, however, I have hope that his vocabulary is building so that he will be a bilingual visual speaker and oral speaker.   As you think about your child’s literacy education know that there are thousands of safe ASL communities across the country. If you are hearing, you can be see as an ally and see a part of the world that needs to be heard. There is also a movement where Black Deaf families are reclaiming this language called Black ASL

 1 Baker-Shenk, C., & Cokely, D. (1980). American Sign Language, A Teacher’s Resource Text on Grammar and Culture. Gallaudet University Press.

Booklist: Black & Brown Teen Fantasy Books

Booklist: Black & Brown Teen Fantasy Books

Booklist Inspired by Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Looking for good graphic novels or novels for your teen?
Discover young adult fantasy books written about a Black or Brown teen.

1. The Gilded Ones, by Namina Forna, (2020) Deka lives in an unknown land and learns that her blood is made of gold. Young women must go through a Purity Ritual to see if their blood is gold or red. Gold bleeders living in shame, ostracized. They are held captive where their blood is harvested. Deka’s fate is tumultuous, and she learns about another path. She can stay and suffer, or join an army with other Gilded Ones or Alaki to fight the enemy. In this new place, Deka identifies her true self and learns that fighting for a cause has major sacrifices and victories. Her mentor encouraged her to look deeper within and in the end, Deka was determined to fight for women and change the narrative of the Gilded Ones.

2. A Song Below Water, by Bethany Morrow (2020)  Tavia is a mermaid living in Portland, OR. Her community condemns mermaids also known as sirens. So she must hide her identity but still secretly keeps her identity alive at home and with the friends in her choir. Effie her Best friend is not a mermaid, but the closest to Tavia since she has her struggles. They share a love for the water. When another Siren is murdered, Tavia’s world shakes up and is trying to keep out of sight but find justice for another targeted woman.

3. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Marvel Comic Series (2015-2019) A comic book series from 2015-2019 about Lunella aka “Moon Girl.” She is confident, powerful, and an inventive mind. Lunella gained powers after an incident gave her inhuman powers. One day she locates an Omni that she wants to tinker with to help her cure her inhumanness. This Omni is a time-traveling portal that brought the Devil Dinosaur and cavemen to her city-New York. This story is the first of many. It is about a young black girl who does not fit in already. But now that she is walking around with this colossal dinosaur.

4. A Blade So Black, by L.L. McKinney (2018) Alice lives a “normal life” her mom works a normal job. Alice attends high school, and Alice is grieving over  of loss her dad who recently died. But one terrifying day, she is being chased by a monster. She identifies that she is not normal and has superpowers. She can walk in and out of Wonderland-the land of dreams. She sees the dreams and nightmares of humans living on Earth. She also sees the nightmares and has to fight the monsters when nightmares appear. Alice must decide how to live in both worlds but also keep her other life secret from her mom.

5. A Dream So Dark, by L.L. McKinney (2019) Book 2 from A Blade So Black. Alice has an even bigger nightmare to fight. This time, she has to save the world because an evil queen is trying to become resurrected. Alice can no longer keep this secret hidden from her mother

6. Rebel Sisters by Tochi Onyebuchi (2020) Their world is cyberized where some people can download their memories and others cannot. This is Book 2, Ify is dealing with the war that happened before. Ify’s memories are coming back because her life was impacted by the war. Her home is Nigeria and she lives in space. A fantasy book about a teen wanting change.

7. Nubia, Real One by L.L. McKinney (2021) A DC comic book. Nubia, a teen superhero. She has the strength to fight villains. She lives in a modern-day society where she deals with having two moms, police brutality, and school. Nubia hides her powers and only shows them to protect the people she loves comes into harm. She scared away armed robbers, and she rescued her friend when she was being threatened. Regardless of the turmoil, Nubia is strong a powerful teen who is trying to find her way to live in modern society.

8. The Interrogation of Ashla Wolf, by Ambelin Kwaymullina   
Ashla Wolf is a leader of a tribe. Ashla and her tribal members all have powers. When Ashla becomes a teenager, she is locked up because all people holding powers are considered illegal. She is trying to escape and protect her tribe. While she is dealing with Connor who is spying on her and he holds a lot of power in the detention center. This story was inspired from the cultural heritage of the author’s ancestry in Australia. Critically, the reader will find cultural elements and fantasy in this novel.


9. Shadoweyes by Sofie Campbell, 2011
Scout’s community is plagued with crime, and she wants to fight. Nevertheless, one evening she placed on her cap attempting to stop someone. Unfortunately, she was hit by a brick. After her recovery, something happened. One minute she was Scout, the next, she turned into a blue alien creature called “Shadoweyes.” Whenever Scout turned into “Shadoweyes” she could now fight and save the people who needed her help.

10. Legendborn by Margaret K. McElderry Books

Most importantly, above you can find a new fantasy novel or graphic novel for a young adult. The characters are inventive, strong, and of course a Black or Brown girl. If you want to learn more on to evaluate their a book featuring a person of color, Click Here.

What is Literacy?

What is Literacy?

  • Literacy is the ability to demonstrate your language through reading, writing, speaking, viewing and listening.

  • A literate learner, an individual needs the knowledge, resources, and tools to effectively utilize the language that they are attempting to learn

What is Literacy?

When you hear the word literacy, what do you think of? If you’re like most folks, you probably think of books or high school English class. Or maybe you think of money management and the term “financial literacy”. Even thinking of technology and media and the phrase “digital literacy” may come to mind.

So what is literacy?

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), literacy is defined as “a means of identification, understanding, interpretation, creation, and communication in an increasingly digital, text-meditated, information-rich, and fast-changing world.” So by that definition, just focusing literacy efforts on learning to read is not enough to combat the literacy gap facing communities and learners today.

A literate learner is an individual who can understand, explain, interpret, and implement the language for a variety of uses. Literacy is more than the book. Literacy encompasses: Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking, and Viewing (which we’ll break down section-by-section later on). 

According to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, [Literacy is to] “make connections between reading and the other language arts by integrating speaking, listening, writing, and viewing with reading instruction. [Literacy] also fosters critical reading of texts across the content areas by extending and enriching opportunities for students to read multiple genres across the curriculum.”

To be a literate learner, an individual needs the knowledge, resources, and tools to effectively utilize the language that they are attempting to learn. A literate learner should have a strong grasp of technology use. In our digital world, readers need to know that literacy is beyond their own household, and that information shifts and changes every single day. This makes it highly necessary for literate learners to use technology to support their thinking and interpretation. 

However, because there are a variety of ways to incorporate literacy into a student’s day-to-day experience, some students may find that their literacy in one area of the topic is stronger than in another area.

For example, a student that is drawn to animation, comic books, and visual storytelling but isn’t able to focus when reading an assigned chapter book isn’t a poor reader or illiterate. Their area of interest and strength just may not be in the Reading track of literacy but rather fall within the category of Viewing.

Therefore, it is the duty of educators, administrators, and parents to assess, instruct, provide resources, refine teaching, and differentiate their instruction methods to reach all students where they are at in their literacy skill-building. Some of these resources include: cultural competencies to better engage students from a wide diversity of backgrounds, enhancing the learning environment for students to encourage literacy development, and the ability to build and introduce connections between the various types and interpretations of literacy as part of a holistic approach to the language arts.

In order to ensure that students are developing well-rounded and balanced literacy skills, it is important to incorporate not only Reading and Writing, but the additional aspects of literacy, including Listening, Speaking, and Viewing. Some examples of each facet of a holistic approach to literacy include:

Reading: Reading encompasses not only your standard books and novels but also poetry, word walls, motivational posters, articles, and written media.

Writing: The importance of writing as a form of literacy is to help students to explain their ideas and thoughts through written communications. This step in literacy is also vital to helping students to develop their own sense of voice and agency in their ideation. Writing can include completing a chart for a classroom project, writing an essay on a topic to share thoughts, or even posting on social media and the Internet.

Listening: While sharing thoughts is a necessary factor in literacy development, being able to listen, understand, and respond when others are speaking or sharing their own perspectives is equally as required. We’ve all heard the term “active listening”, which is the act of listening to understand rather than listening to respond. Active listening is a form of literacy in and of itself, due to the need for students and educators alike to be able to listen to what is being said and internally process that information. Examples of listening in literacy education include: listening to a poetry reading or spoken word, listening to podcasts sharing information on various topics, and listening to music to interpret an artist’s thoughts.

Speaking: Speaking is a necessary factor in literacy development, due to the need for students to be able to vocalize their thoughts on the content they are taking in. Some forms of speaking in literacy skill-building include commenting effectively on information being introduced, engaging in conversations and discussion about texts, and being able to speak in public about a topic or issue.

Viewing: Viewing may be the factor of literacy skill-building that comes to mind the least. This area of literacy includes viewing, analyzing, and interpreting visual media, including photographs, logos, movies, or advertisements. By encouraging the development of a student’s viewing skills, educators can contribute to a holistic view of literacy skill-building, and allow students to build context for their learning through a variety of content streams  

Reading Strategies to Motivate Struggling Readers

Reading Strategies to Motivate Struggling Readers

  • Reading Strategies to help your child to read.

  • Make reading realistic so they can see how to use it in their lives

Reading Strategies for Struggling Readers

You might be wondering why your 8-year-old struggles with reading or even why your fifteen-year-old struggles with reading. Unlocking the abilities of your child’s reading abilities can provide the vast potential and experiences so that he or she can navigate this world. Children need to have the foundational skills of word acquisition, word meaning, reading speeding and pace, understanding, and word structure. Reading is a complex skill, and if he or she does not have a general interest, below are some tips to consider.

A. Inventory A child who chooses not to read has a reason why. If they are old enough ask: Why don’t you read? What do you like or dislike? What is your favorite thing(s) to do besides reading? This inventory should take 5-15 minutes at a minimum so you can gather stories, experiences, and hear key problems. At the heart of every challenge, there is a core issue and I encourage you or a mentor to dig deep. Also asking about their interests will give you the tools to better understand their learning styles and interests. So if your reader says, “I love playing soccer.” “I love making graphics for Instagram.” “I love being outside.” You can now pinpoint, a soccer player loves movement and is kinesthetics, a social media child loves visuals and technology, and an outdoor kid might love adventure and has a knack for spatial intelligence. You can learn more here about the 8 different learning styles.  

B. Find a mentor Finding a mentor who can hold your reader accountable, checking- in consistently, and sharing their own experiences can be a critical shift. A mentor can bring real-world importance to the importance of reading and how it affects their lives day-to-day. I know that children sometimes lose interest in always hearing their parents “preach” to them. If you do not know where to find a mentor, search for mentoring programs, ask a colleague, ask for a referral from a friend or family member. Believe it or not, adults want to help our youth, and matching your reader with a mentor is possible.   

C. Make Reading Realistic Children go through a variety of developmental stages.

An example about an eleven to fourteen-year-old: What I’m Like: I’m more independent than I used to be, but I’m quite self-conscious. I think more like an adult, but there’s no simple answer. I like to talk about issues in the adult world. I like to think for myself, and though I often feel confused, my opinions are important to me, and I want others to respect them. I seem to be moving away from my family. Friends are more important than ever. To have them like me, I sometimes act in ways that adults disapprove of. But I still need reasonable rules set by adults. However, I’m more understanding and cooperative. I want nothing to do with babysitters—in fact, if I’m mature enough I can often be by myself or watch others.” You can find more about their Stages Description Here.

When your child hits the preteen stage, then their ideas of realism are stronger than before. The best way to make their experiences, “REAL.” Is by identifying the core reasons why your reader does not readExamples

  • Read teen or child magazines-talk about key points
  • Read a series of books that fits their interests.
  • If the booklist is realistic with topics on space, history, technology, and etc, extend that experience to take them to the place, write to the author or an expert, or a virtual visit.
  • Find books where your reader can learn a new skill. Ask them something they would like to do in ??? months. If determined these could be books on sewing, coding, sign language, and this way you could see how they are implementing this vocation and reading.
  • Make a blog, podcast, or private channel in TikTok or YouTube
  • Join a book club or start a book club
  • 1:1 if your reader “HATES” reading, I always encourage parents for every 1 book that YOU like, you will read an ACADEMIC text that is required by your school. Starting off will be painful, but it can work.
  • Of course, read with your child. Take dedicated time where you read your text and your child reads his or her own text.

D. Focus on Skill In the 21st century, learning has taken a new approach. Learning is less about the retention of large amounts of facts and datasets. Learning is about manipulating and utilizing those data sets. As you encourage your child to read they can focus on skills such as vocabulary skills, comprehension skills, fluency skills, phonics skills, and writing skills. Each skill has a unique pathway and keeping this in place. Learning is also about collaboration, and communication to solve future problems in the world they will live in. 

E. Read Consistently Reading should not be a serendipitous task. Reading should be something in your home that occurs on expected days. It can be different where reading is before TV time. Examples: Reading happens 30 minutes after social media check-ins. Reading occurs while eating breakfast. Read while driving in the car or on a bus, and “parent or guardian” will ask a question before leaving the vehicle. There are many opportunities to carve out that time. As a working parent make reading work the best for you. Reading should not be a chore, it should be an integrated experience that makes your household interesting.  

F. Learn a New Language Learning a new language might be difficult. However, learning a new language gives your reader the skills to compare “cognates,” “word structures,” “word orders,” “phrases” and more. Learning a new language takes years and immersive with others who speak the language. However, if your reader is interested in traveling or meeting other people you can use this new learning as a way to keep them engaged with their native language. It will be especially important to make sure there is a balance between reading the foreign language and reading their native language text. For example, I have learned American Sign Language. And ASL has a different structure. Where are you going? GOING WHERE? Reading this sentence alone made me think about how they order and change their sentences around.

G. Learn Storytelling or Spoken Word There are thousands of storytelling and spoken word opportunities for young adults and teens. Storytellers must have the skill of reading, writing, and speaking. There are even a host of competitions that young people can compete for with original spoken art. In your local community, you should look up different groups, but you can find more here at the National Storytelling Network Reading has opportunities, and it will take time to discover what those key opportunities are. Above are a few tips that we are excited to share with you. Feel free to contact us with additional questions.

Discover Pennez’s services if you would like support to motivate your struggling reader. Here

Virtual Teaching 2021

Virtual Teaching 2021

The ubiquitous field of online teaching and learning has been taken by force. It has been introduced from private institutions, businesses, and many more. Now that hybrid teaching or even 100% virtual learning is in place it is most important to keep youth motivated and connected with learning. With the experiences of virtual teaching we have discovered more challenges of screen fatigue, lack of peer interaction, limited face-to-face interaction, and so many social-emotional opportunities.

We are sharing information from our experiences as well as educators on Twitter who have shared successes with online teaching.


Building trust takes months to build with learners in person. So building trust online with new people that you do not know has even more bigger paradigms. I recommend use the same tools on building trust that you did with your learners pre-COVID: learn about their interests, speak regularly with their family, and share your own personal experiences.

Being vulnerable enough allows learners to see your humanity and expands their own understanding of each person In the virtual environment. The more that you all learn about each other; trust can be given. Another way to increase the power of trust is being willing to be vulnerable and facilitate conversations. Facilitating is where you as the educator “guide” instead of being the convener of the information.


Being unable to see your learner’s work or having a lack of high speed internet is a challenge. However, remaining consistent and intentional about what your learners are responsible for and what you are responsible for is huge. I remember when I told my adult learners to turn in their fieldwork in one week, only 2 submitted their work. However, when I said that if you submit your work and we will schedule 1-on-1 each week with submissions, then 80% of the learners submitted their work.  I discovered that providing this measure of accountability motivated each learner than just asking for a submission. Yes, one-on-ones took time, but I had a team who helped facilitate those 15-30 minute sessions.


Having a positive or encouraging attitude goes a long way than others. Learners still pick up on this and sometimes can feed into it or remain into it. It is most important to remember that your learner has many more things occurring in their lives which they cannot share. However, having a good attitude shift makes a huge difference for your participants.

Be Prepared

Virtual learning takes a new approach to preparedness. Questions, presentations, management, and many other areas. However, it is utmost to be prepared with any lesson opportunity. Learners are now used to this cadence and preparedness making them realize their time.

Build Connections

Just like any classroom, you have to build connections and common ground with your participants. The use of visuals shows the diversity in our world and builds conversations. Another example, ask a participant to be the “DJ.” Where they play a short playlist during your break or thinking times. When we discover someone’s personal interest, connections can be built. 



Facilitation puts learners at the forefront of learning. Instead of delivering the sole instruction, facilitation guides learners to discover learning. In this article, “Mirroring, paraphrasing, and tracking are three tools you can leverage to help you with active listening. Mirroring is when you repeat back the speaker’s words verbatim. It helps the speaker hear what they just said, shows neutrality, and can help establish trust. Remember, with mirroring you’re keeping your tone warm and accepting and you’re using the speaker’s words, not yours.”

Value Pauses

To encourage more discussions, I pose a question and inform them that anyone can speak up. If it becomes uncomfortable, I will say the question in another way and then turn my camera off. Being not visibly there informs the learners their speaking time is encouraged and was effective to push learners to talk without assuming they would receive my opinion.


It will be important to think of creative ways to encourage dialogue. Digitizing learning is still human-centered. Think about all of the ways that you engaged your learners before virtual learning. Thumbs-up, music, clapping, movement, and many more. You can still do these methods it will just be individualized. You can read more in this article from Edutopia.


When it comes to teaching and learning, nothing more is valued than face-to-face and in-person learning. However, we know that there are magnificent human beings who can still propel their children online.

When it comes to teaching and learning, nothing more is valued than the face-to-face and in person learning. However, we know that there are magnificent human beings who can still propel their children online.

If you would like to discuss more, please contact us on the About page.


These teachers summarize what it means to teach. All in all, we thank you educators for amplifying the knowledge and experiences of our youth.




Reading Pictures with Struggling Readers

Reading Pictures with Struggling Readers

Using images to build reading comprehension.


Images add more information to the vocabulary word because they refer to what the word actually is.

Teaching your child how to read is a marathon. You might be feeling overwhelmed at times or even at ease. Whatever the case, it is important to keep pushing and believing that your child will attain the skills to be a successful literate individual. Visuals brought an added feature to the conversation and uplifted stories when I was teaching. The use of imagery can be a critical asset when breaking down complex topics.

Ultimatly, we live in a visual world, and integrating visual literacy skills can assist your struggling reader to read. Think about all of the people who use visuals in their lives: Deaf or Hard of Hearing, painters, photographers, software developers, UI/UX professionals, and so many more. Images support these individuals everyday. So when you are transitioning from books with many images to a few, think about how you can continue utilizing images to make your reader blossom.

I am sharing information from this study ,Avgernou & Petterson (2011), Toward a Cohesive Theory of Visual Literacythey describe visually literacy as: Visual Perception, Visual Language, Visual Learning, Visual Thinking, and Visual Communication.


Images are produced from the artist’s perception. So a visual reader needs to learn how to describe, explain, and provide evidence for their thinking. The intent on teaching visual literacy is to use vocabulary, awareness about the image, and connections to the world around them.

Planning Theory into Practice

Start by being comfortable and using materials that interest your reader.

For example if your reader enjoys comic books then agree to read 1:1.

  • For every comic book, then the other book has to be an academic text. This way you can see how your child is applying their knowledge from their personal books.

With visual literacy it is key that your reader acquires this skill so that they can interpret visuals on other places. Visuals come from the artist’s perspective, their culture, and even intent. Remember to keep this in mind as well.

1. Visual Perception

Prior experiences and image context support visual perception.

  • Tell me what you think about____?
  • What does the caption on the text say to support this image?
  • What is the image (video or image) telling you?

2. Visual Language

Visual language is about explaining the meaning and having a clear understanding about what they see.

  • Explain what you understand about this image?
  • Detail the lines, colors, or graphics
  • How do the colors affect the images?

3. Visual Learning & Visual Communication connected

Visual Learning is where a reader is motivated to interact with images. They communicate with images.

  • How are the scenes and characters interacting?
  • How is the time period portraying????
  • How do the illustrations relate to the text?
  • What themes are being constructed as you read?
  • Can you show me???

4. Visual Thinking

Linked with visual thinking. Visual thinking includes more image specific vocabulary.

  • Do the images make you change your mind?
  • How are images framed?
  • What are the elements that make this image critical?
  • Vocabulary: foreground, background, contrasts, lighting, borders, size, scale?

You can find more in Reading the Visual: An Introduction to Teaching Multimodal Literacy (Language and Literacy Series) 







Teen Stories: Booklist Inspired by Jerri Craft’s Graphic Novel “New Kid”

Teen Stories: Booklist Inspired by Jerri Craft’s Graphic Novel “New Kid”

“New Kid” by Jerry Craft is a graphic novel that shares the drama and experiences of Seventh Grader Jordan Banks. Banks lives in a New York neighborhood. He lives amongst Black youth and enjoys his time with them. When it is time to get back to school, his parents surprise him into enrolling into a private school. This school is in a different neighborhood, and Jordan is even escorted by a wealthy classmate in their limo. As a Black teen, Banks had to adjust to the expectations of his school where his school had predominantly white students. 

He experienced bias, discrimination, and prejudice amongst his peers and teachers. Right away, he just did not fit in with students nor classmates. His teacher said that saying the word “Dawg” is not nice and that he is a human being. Whenever he challenged his teacher, she never saw his side. 

What Jordan realized was that this school required him to play in his first organized school sport. This experience gave him a new experience and insight about his school culture. Over time his attitudes remain the same and some change. This graphic novel visually shares the joys and constraints that this teen lives of living in two different worlds. 

1. New Kid, by Jerry Craft

Below are additional books where teens have to manage transitions, friendships, and self-discovery. 

2. blended, by Sharon M. Draper


3. Twins, by Varian Johnson
A Graphic Novel

4. The Usual Suspects, by Maurice Broaddus

5. Public School Superhero by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts
A Graphic Novel

6. Genesis Begins Again, Alicia D. Williams

7. Ghetto Cowboy, by G_Neri
Illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson

8. For Black Girls Like Me, by Mariama J. Lockington

9. Middle School, The WORST Years of My Life,
by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts
A Graphic Novel

10. The Long Ride by Marina Budhos

How to Teach A 4th Grader to Read a Picture

How to Teach A 4th Grader to Read a Picture

A lesson on how to read a picture with a 4th grader. 

Reading images might be complicated, but using real world examples and discussions makes it easier to read images. 

A parent, N.J., provided a visual-literacy lesson with her daughter in December 2020. In her original social media post, she wrote:  “My daughter and I are studying Frida Kahlo as a well as imagery and symbolism (mainly using poetry.) One of her activities today will be to visit the Museo Frida Kahlo and survey some of her paintings via Google’s Arts and Culture link. “



You can find her lesson connected to the common core standard-enhance her daughter’s reading comprehension and visual literacy. This visual Common Core Standard indicates CCSS. ELA-Literacy.CCCRA.R7, “Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.”

Implementing a visual literacy standard indicates that you are viewing lines, colors, objects, patterns, animations, interactions, and more. The viewer is searching for cues to better understand what they are viewing.

Literacy Ideas states, “We can think of visual literacy as involving the similar processes of interpreting images and creating images. In a fast-moving world, with ever-increasing diagnosis of attention deficit disorders, we increasingly rely on images to quickly convey meaning.”

Reading images has a place for reading, comprehending, and understanding. When a young person reads a text with many pictures, you can use that time to-ask questions about the images, relate images to the real world, show examples, and build a conversation about what you see.


Below you can view more about N.J’s lesson at home.



We started reading a book about Friday. I asked opened ended type questions “What Do You Think?”


As we progressed, the book discussed the names of her paintings and the concept of surrealism. As an observation/art activity I printed one of work and asked, “What do you think she was feeling?” or “What makes you think…” “How does the color in the background make you feel that?” (Many of Kahlo’s paintings Hancock vibrant backgrounds.)

On a notecard, I asked her to write what she thinks each object represents. Later we discussed why.


We transitioned a bit into Shel Silverstein, Maya Angelou and Nikki Grimes. We focused on illustrations and poem titles to predict what the poem was discussing or how the author was trying to communicate the point of you.

I allowed her to visit a museum and eventually select a painting to observe.


N.J’s at home activities allowed her daughter to think about the words and images. As you are at home with your children, what is working well in your home?