What Every Kid Wants to Be When They Grow Up

I know, I know…. Your thinking, how in the world can all kids want to be the same thing when they grow up.  Well, it is true.  Sometimes kids want to think about careers, but most of the time they just want to enjoy being a kid.  They are really good at experiencing the present and at the end of the day they all want the same thing.

All kids want to be happy.  The traditional method of doing well in school, going to college, getting a job, and getting married is not always the solution.  However it is usually the path that we choose for our children.  No matter what my kids do in life, I hope that they are happy doing it.  This Ted X video below goes over one kids aspirations in life and how his mom helped him with creating it.  His mom pulled him out of the school system when he was 9 years old to homeschool him and give him the best education that she could.  Wow, did she do it.  You will see from this video how well articulated this young man is and how passionate he is about spreading his message.

This boy is one of the reasons that I love doing what I love doing.  I get to experience the creativity and imagination that kids have.  I don’t force kids to learn in a typical classroom situation.  In fact they can come in their P.J.’s and learn with their favorite stuffed animal if they like.  I have one boy that brings his dog to class everyday.  When kids are tutoring online, I get to see them genuinely happy with learning to read in the comfort of their home.  Some do it on their ipad, and others on their laptop.  It is pretty amazing to watch.

When I started tutoring online I had so many people tell me that it was so impersonal to tutor online.  I didn’t let that stop me, and I am so glad.  Everyday I get to see amazing smiles from these kids when they read.  I allow them choices instead of forcing them to read books they could care less about.  I allow them to learn at their pace and am able to skyrocket their success in a short amount of time.  I am truly happy “hacking” online tutoring.  That’s a word this young 13 year old boy named Logan LaPlante used in his Ted speech.  Take a look at it and let me know what you think.

Newest Book Release: A Spectacular Natural Wonder

Newest Book Release: A Spectacular Natural Wonder

Today is a super awesome day.  As many of you know, I love writing as much as I love reading.  Today my newest book called A Spectacular Natural Wonder: A_Spectacular_Natura_Cover_for_KindleNiagara Falls hits the Amazon shelves.  I was inspired to write this book after visiting the Falls myself.  Last year after visiting  with my family I wrote part of this poem.  I wanted to teach about Niagara Falls in a fun way, so I began writing it in poetry style.  This is one of those things that got put on the back shelf since I have been working vigorously on my Tutorpreneur program to teach other tutors how to run their own tutoring business.  This year, as we were travelling, I was reminded about it.  I begin revising my poem and then started searching for the best photographers that could help tell my story.  It was easy to do, but much more time consuming than I thought.  I worked and worked and worked on it to get it just right.  I am really pleased with the final product and would love for you to open the pages of it and enjoy it.  You will feel like you are right there in the falls experiencing it throughout all times of the year.

As I have been tutoring children in reading online, I have found that one of the areas that they struggle with is non-fiction reading.  Many children have a gap in their fiction and non-fiction reading levels.  Specifically girls find reading non-fiction as boring.  However, the more non-fiction books that a child reads, the higher their success rate in all of their other classes.  It is important that children are exposed to as much non-fiction books as possible.  This was one of the inspirations for writing this book.  I used easy to read language so that the earliest of readers could enjoy it over and over again.  It can even be read to younger children before bed, without boring them to pieces.

If you are interested in checking out the book, you can find it on Amazon.  A Spectacular Natural Wonder: Niagara Falls.

What is the most spectacular place that you have visited?

Book Stars: Interview with Kat Kirst

 

So, I have just launched a new video series where I interview the best authors.  Many of my clients ask about great books for their kids and Kat Kirst is one of my favorite Young Adult authors.  Her books are geared towards middle school and high school kids, but I can’t personally get enough of her books.  If your child is reading young adult books, then check out Kat’s books on Amazon.

She has just recently written her fourth book called The Cost of Living Forever.  It is about the horrors of what can happen if there was a pill that could make you live forever.  A young teenager has been living a sheltered life in this society, and he is about to take his first pill.  But then he falls in love with one of the hired hands.  His view and perspective on life and the society he is living in completely changes and he becomes a revolutionary pioneer. Check out this awesome interview below.

 

If you could live forever what would you do?

Reopening an Abandoned Library

Reopening an Abandoned Library

5th grade

Joanne Kaminski, Author of The Three Little Sisters Learn to Get Along

As an author I have the privilege of travelling to local schools and motivating kids to read, write, and dream.  Today I had the special privilege to speak at a remarkable school.  It is called Siefert Elementary and the principle there, Mrs. Varela-Katz, has had a mission since the moment she set foot in the school.  When she first toured it, she found that the library was in the basement, and she was concerned.  But then, when she saw that it had been closed down, she was broken hearted.  The students in this

cutting

Top 5th grade reader, cutting the ribbon to the new library.

This principal decided to gather some volunteers and staff members and reconstitute the library.  After tons of dusting, organizing, and labeling of books the library
was ready to be unveiled to the children.  Since this school is a RIF school, they were able to coordinate giving each child a free book to take home, and an author
visit.  But before the free book and author visit Mrs. Varela-Katz had the top reader in the 5th grade do the honor of cutting the tape.  This girl was so proud to have this honor and together they began the kickoff event.

But that is not all.  They dedicated this library to a woman named Mrs. Reed who had worked 27 years at that specific school.  Mrs. Reed not only worked there for a long time, but now that she is retired she still continues to volunteer at the school.  She was given an award and the library is now called The Reed Library.

Mrs. Reed

Mrs. Reed, a highly dedicated educator

I love that this woman’s name is Reed.  How awesome that a teacher named Mrs. Reed motivates children to read.

If people are wondering if awesome things are happening in the schools, then they don’t have to look far.  The students energy and excitement regarding this visit was off the chart.  Many of these kids had never met an author before.  They knew that an author is someone who writes books, but to meet an author in their eyes was like meeting a star.

It is so exciting that because of the efforts of amazing leadership, like that of Mrs. Varela-Katz that kids will have the potential to access an unlimited amount of knowledge.  In their new library there are 4 brand new computers and they are also getting a Smartboard.  The access of the world will be at their fingertips to learn and grow in knowledge and wisdom.  One little girl said that she was going to be able to read more books than she has ever read before because of this library.

Libraries are not a thing of the past.  I have found with my own children that they prefer to read actual books vs. virtual books.  Actually touching books, holding books, and reading books is not something that is going to disappear in this digital world.  It is only going to increase the access that people have to books.

What do you think of schools like this that are doing everything they can to keep the library alive and well?  Let me know what you think in the comments section.

Do Standardized Tests Create Innovative Thinking?

Do Standardized Tests Create Innovative Thinking?

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 This is a great cartoon.  You can double click on it to read it better.  It really does speak the truth today about what is going on in schools.  We have all of these tests and honestly most of them are lame.  Why are they lame, because they don’t give us the information we need in order to effectively instruct our students.

When I was teaching in the classroom I remember the test results coming about 4 months after the kids had taken the test.  By that point the information that I could glean from the test, if I didn’t know that information, then I shouldn’t be teaching in the first place.  I should always know how well my students can perform during certain activities.

This leads me to the second part.  If standardized tests are not useful for teachers who are teaching kids, then maybe they are developing skills that kids need. Nope, they certainly don’t accomplish that either.  We don’t think in A, B, C answer choices.  Which makes this cartoon so funny.

As a student in the elementary, middle school, and high school years I did an absolute horrible job on all of my standardized tests.  I was put into the lowest performing classes and dumbed down to because my brain didn’t know how to process multiple choice test.  However, the most amazing thing happened for me once I got my Master’s degree.  The school that I attended dropped any kind of paper test and only used essay writing to determine what you knew and what you didn’t know.  As a result, I ended up graduating with a 4.0.  Now, I know that not everyone can communicate well through writing, but this fit more with my style to show what I knew.

I was working in the school system when I was getting my Master’s Degree and during that time I learned how to teach kids to take multiple choice tests.  Now, I know that these tests are not going away, so I will share some of the tips regarding multiple choice tests in reading that I have learned.  By the way, I now can do very well on multiple choice tests as a result.

1.  There is always one throwaway answer.

2.  Two answers are always good answers, but only one is the best.

3.  If you are reading a passage, read the questions ahead of time (not the answer choices) to get your brain thinking about what you are going to get tested on.

4.  Go back to the passage and find your answer if you are stuck or not sure of the answer.

5.  Never leave a question blank, always fill in one bubble even if you don’t have time to finish.  You will have a 25% chance of getting it right if you at least fill in one vs. skipping it.

How did you do with multiple choice tests when you were in school?  Does your child struggle with taking them?  What are your thoughts about standardized tests?  I would really love to hear your opinion on the matter.

 

 

 

Birthday Parties Galore and Thanksgiving day Grace

Birthday Parties Galore and Thanksgiving day Grace

So today’s post is going to be a little different than usual.  I love being able to share my family life with all of you, so I am going to talk about the most wonderful things in my life today and that includes my daughters.

Both my oldest and my youngest daughter were born in November and 1 week apart no less.  They are the light of my life, so this time of year it is birthday party central at our house.  I love that I have the freedom to do some pretty special things for my girls when it comes time to celebrating their birthdays.  So this past weekend we got to celebrate my 11 year olds birthday.

My 11 year old is one of those kids that is a camo obsessed Tom Boy, so she is not into anything girly except for arts and crafts projects.  On her birthday I told her we could go shopping at her favorite store Justice, and she could pick out a new outfit.  After spending an hour there, she decided they didn’t have anything that she wanted.  After going to a couple of other stores she said that she didn’t need any clothing.  Then I asked her if she wanted to go to Barnes and Noble to buy a new book.  Her eyes lit up, and we had finally found a winner.

Phew, I hate not buying her a lot for her birthday, but she doesn’t really need a lot.  She would rather have a birthday party sleepover for her friends, so that is usually our present to her.  But this year I had bought a few things for her little sister, whose birthday was one week after hers.  So I wanted to try to make it fair.  She not only picked out one book, but found two others as well.  I love that my kids love to read so much that they would rather books than anything else in the world.  That is pretty cool.  Having people in our lives that care about us and a good book in hand is all this wonderful little girl needs.

So Saturday during the day we went shopping to buy everything we needed for her sleepover.  We decided to take a picture of the group of girls, put the picture on a transfer and iron it to a pillow case.  Here is the picture that we took.

Can you guess which one is the birthday girl?  You guessed it my Tom Boy in the middle being lifted by her friends and her sister.  I look at pictures like this and I photo-3think this is exactly why I have changed my life around.  At the end of the day I care about my children and the reading success of all of my students.  It’s not about politics, whose right, or people’s egos.  It is all about the children and their overall happiness.

While children that struggle with reading can be happy, their self esteem and their self image begin to be affected.  When does this happen, usually around 3rd and 4th grade.  That is why it is so important to catch them up before these grades.

But back to our birthday party galore week.  Mikayla who is in the picture in pink is celebrating her 7th birthday and going to Chuck E’ Cheese with her friends.  She saw her other sister have one of these parties before and decided that this year that was how she wanted to celebrate her birthday.

Not only do we have birthday parties galore going on, but we also have all the other traditional holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Tomorrow morning starts the beginning of the hustle and bustle of Black Friday, but I am pretty much all done with shopping.  I don’t have too many more things that I have to get.  My kids are getting older, and their lists are becoming more expensive and less lengthy.  I am grateful for the wonderful people that we have in our life today, and I am grateful for to watch my own children share in this gratitude.

Today I am so grateful that I was able to be blessed with three amazing girls, a wonderful husband, a healthy mom, and the best students in the world to work with.  Doing what you love really is the secret sauce of living a happy and healthy life.  I am loving every second of it and I am so glad that in less than two months I will be officially rolling out my Tutorpreneur program to teach other teachers how to teach online as well, so they can teach from the comfort of their home and be a mom if they so choose.

What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?

 

15 Top Ways to Motivate your Child to Read

15 Top Ways to Motivate your Child to Read

In this neverending battle between electronics and books, it can be difficult to motivate our children to read.  I am going to list the most the influential things I have done that motivate my own children to read.

1.  Pick out a book together and read every night before bed.

2.  Just read to your child before they go to bed.

3.  Let them go to the library and pick out books on CD to listen to in the car.

4.  Let them purchase a book from the Scholastic Book fair.

5.  Ask them what books kids are reading in their class that they would be interested in reading.i-flip-flap-184343_640

6.  Look for book trailers on YouTube.  This is just like a movie trailer, but for books.

7.  Be a reader.  The best way to motivate kids to read is for them to see you reading.

8.  Go to rummage sales and pick out some new books.  Kids love getting presents.

9.  Find out where a children’s author will be appearing and take your child.  When you connect a child to an author it changes their perspective on books and really begins to engage them more.

10.  Introduce your child to a new series.

11.  If there is a movie out and it was a book first, have your child read the book before going to the movie.

12.  Start a book swap with other moms in your child’s class. You can write a list of top books that you have that your child has loved and have your child pick a book that they would want to read on the list.  Then everyone swaps.

13.  Immerse your child with books everywhere, in the home, in  your car, on your tech devices.

14.  Listen to author interviews on the internet.

15.  Visit the author’s website.  This is a great place to become familiar with books that your child’s favorite author has written.

You may have a child that you need to throw carrots to once in a while to read.  This means that you need to constantly be thinking of things that you can do versus just tell them to read for their 15 to 30 minutes a night.  If you have a variety of things to try you will continue to motivate and inspire your child to read.  Don’t give up!  If your child is resistant, just keep trying.

West Palm Beach Florida Author Visit

O.k. so I live in Wisconsin and it is an extremely cold day today.  My thermometer said that it was 26 degrees out.  Then I had the awesome opportunity to Skype with  Kindergarten class in West Palm Beach Florida to talk about my book The Three Little Sisters Learn to Get Along.  Do you want to know the gorgeous weather they are having?  It was in the 80′s.

These kindergarten kids were awesome.  Their teacher Ms. Martin does all brain based learning with her students, and I have to say I was extremely impressed. When I used the word dabbled to describe my  writing, Ms. Martin discussed what that word means to increase their vocabulary knowledge.  She already has readers and writers in her classroom, and it is only November.  It is amazing what children can learn at such a young age.

In fact these kids were already using big words to describe the parts of the brain like frontal cortex.  Some people would think they entered into a 7th grade classroom with the things these kids were learning.

I loved that when one of the students asked me how many books I own, I was able to show him one of my bookshelves that was filled to the brim.  When I told him that I had five more that looked just like this he was astounded and told me that he has a lot of books too.  Then I said, “In order to become a writer, you need to read a ton of books.”  The teacher loved this comment so much she had her children become a mirror and repeat that phrase.  She had them repeat it again.  Then she had them teach this phrase to the other kids sitting next to them.  This will definitely be a concept that they will leave from our Skype visit.

I love it.  I love being able to highlight the amazing teachers in our school systems.  There are so many of them, but Ms. Martin certainly stands out as someone on top of the latest research, implementing things that her students will stick to their long term brains, not just to their short term brains.  I can only imagine the conversations that some of these kids have with their parents when they go home for the day.  I bet they don’t look at their parents with that blank look when they get asked what they learned at school today.

Thank you Ms. Martin for inviting me to your class and sharing your extremely bright Kindergarten students with me.  They are a treasure, and you are amazing. Keep up the awesome work.

If you are interested in having me come to your classroom to do a free Skype author visit, then you can contact me at jbkaminski@gmail.com with subject line Author visit.  I would love to meet your students and drive enthusiasm into their lives for reading and writing.

Where Should Libraries be in Schools?

Where Should Libraries be in Schools?

In the library right?  Well, more and more libraries are disappearing in our schools.  Is anybody saddened by this.  I certainly am.  I love books and going to the library gives me a feeling of exhilaration to be around so many awesome books.

In my small town we have two libraries within a 5 mile radius.  We really are blessed.  But not all kids have parents that take them to the library.  I love that in most libraryschools they have a library so that kids can experience the thrill of being in the library.  A place where you can just look for the kinds of books that you want.  Some people get lost and don’t know where to begin.  That is where the smaller version inside of a school is so great.  Kids can learn how to find books in a library, but on a smaller scale.

I worked for a school district that had completely gotten rid of their librarians.  They replaced all of them with aids so that kids could check out books.  In some cases there was still story time, but for the most part any of the other perks like learning how to use the library and learning how to research were placed in the teachers hands.  As if teachers did not have enough responsibilities.

I did an author visit yesterday at a school, and one of the reasons the librarian mentioned that libraries are disappearing is because classrooms are required to have their own libraries.  I bet the people that did research on the value of books in the classroom didn’t realize that people would misinterpret that one and begin getting rid of libraries.

I believe that books should be both in the classroom and in the library.  Getting rid of libraries in the school because there are books in the classroom is as crazy as getting rid of town libraries because people have home libraries.  I completely disagree that either should have to suffer.

Some people will argue that funding is low in schools.  In my opinion, schools that get rid of books in schools should not have funding to begin with.  O.k maybe that is a little drastic, but seriously, how can you operate schools without books?

More and more schools are getting an increase in the amount of technology they have, but this is a whole different form of literacy.  This is called information literacy and it doesn’t replace reading.  I read a study yesterday that talked about how kids are using their laptops or computers and most of them are using them as word processors.  So the bulk of the time that they are on the computer is being spent writing final copies, vs. reading.

I have asked my own children how much time they spend on their computers, and both of them mentioned that even though they have their own computers they lug to and from school, they don’t actually use them a lot during the day. So computers aren’t replacing libraries and classroom libraries can’t replace libraries.

As much as I love schools, some crazy things are happening.  But what I love, even though some of these things are going on, and teachers have little control over it, great teachers are still introducing kids to great books.  Thank goodness we have teachers.  Teachers that no matter what is going on with funding and politics, do an amazing job and give our kids a first class education with what they have.  I know that all good teachers will always give the best education they possibly can.  I just hope that more schools would rethink the idea of getting rid of libraries and do the best that they can to make sure all kids have access to this amazing resource.

Where do you think libraries should be in schools?

Evaluating books – 7th Habit of Highly Effective Readers

Evaluating books – 7th Habit of Highly Effective Readers

Well, it is that time of year again. My kids are off to school, and I am excited to begin writing a brand new book. I will be creating the book through this blog, and you will have free access to all of it’s content here. This book/blog series is called 7 Habits of Highly Effective Readers and will give you information on what you can do to create an avid reader.

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This is it.  The very last post in this series.  See how easy it can be to write a book.  I started this in September, and now the rough draft of the book is complete.  It just takes consistent action each day, and it is done in no time at all.

After a highly effective reader has finished a book, they immediately have a response.  They think, hmmm… “Did I like it or not like it?”  How a book ends plays a big-human-65931_640 part in whether someone likes a book or not.  If they don’t like the ending, then they most likely will not like it.

A group of 7th graders were reading the book Monsters by Walter Dean Myers and one girl said, “I have never liked a book that a teacher has suggested before.  This book has been great all the way until the end. I hate that the author ended the book with a question.”  That speaks volumes for how important an ending can be.  The book was great until the last sentence.  This reader doesn’t like to be left hanging, but it is allowing her to discover what she likes and doesn’t like about reading certain books.

Having an opinion about a book isn’t just liking it and not liking it.  It is backing up what you have to say.  Why do you like it?  Which parts did you like?  Which parts didn’t you like?  If you were the author, would you change anything?  If so, what would that be?

Having these opinions about books is pivotal to figuring out your own tastes in reading.  It helps you become a better judge of a book the next time you pick one up.  If you know that you don’t like a certain genre because it has never caught your attention, then you will be less likely to pick that genre up again.  However, if you did like a certain genre, then you may be more likely to pick it up again.

Getting into  the habit of evaluating a book is powerful for a child.  I am going to show you how powerful it can really be.  Remember at the beginning of the book when I mentioned that Goodreads was a good tool?  Well, now we are going to see how it is like Pandora.

Everyone loves Pandora for it’s ability to customize music channels with music you totally love.  Well Goodreads does the same thing for books.  You leave your recommendation for how you felt about a book and then rate it on a scale of 1-5 stars.  Based on your reviews Goodreads will recommend other books.  Here is how the stars break down.

1 star = I hated this book

2 stars = I did not like this book

3 stars = This book was o.k

4 stars = This book was really good

5 stars = I loved this book

Have your child create an account with their e-mail address.  If your child does not have an e-mail address, then you can sign up under an e-mail address that you do not access all the time.  Then your child can become active in the community and begin rating the books that she has read.  She can add just the latest book she has read or have fun with all the books she has read in the past year.

Then she can begin adding her recommendations.  Here is an outline of information to include in a recommendation.

Introduction – List the name of the book, the author, and who you would recommend the book to.

Summary – Give some information about the book.

Assessment – Describe why you liked it?

Conclusion – Why you rated it with the star’s that you gave it?

Recommendations don’t have to be long.  This is a simple formula to follow that can make it an easy task.  It is not a book report, just your overall opinion.

Why is this important for all kids to do?  Well, again it helps them figure out what kinds of books they enjoy reading, and it spreads the love of reading good books to others.

What books have you reviewed lately?

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