I am conTENT. My work is CONtent.

Posts Tagged ‘reading’

free fun and learning game sites my preschool boys love: part 1

Posted by contentgrrl on December 6, 2007

My sons, 2 and 5, have some time on the computer every week. When they play online, they have a select few favorite sites:

First is Starfall.

Starfall site

My neice-in-law turned me onto this site, after her daughter learned to read on it. It is absolutely the best program I’ve seen for teaching regular* kids letter sounds and letter combinations, building skills along an excellent curriculum with fun games, songs, stories to click around, and more.

There’s even a lesson on the alphabet in American Sign Language. And there are activities for every season and holiday on the Calendar: Earth Day’s cleanup is one of our favorites.

The lessons may be low in production value, but it’s very lightweight bitwise, so it can work in low bandwidth, while still being very colorful and full of great animation. I don’t know how they fund it (well, there’s a store with games, books, journals, plush dolls, and phonics packs), but bottom line, it’s a wonderful site, and I give a lot of credit to Starfall for making it easy for my sons to learn phonemes.

* The exception is one of my former employers, Creative Education Institute, which has the best program around for evaluating people with special learning needs and tutoring them in reading, English as a second language, and mathematics from number recognition to fractions. But unlike the Starfall site, the CEI systems are not free.

Posted in games, learning, reading, What They Play | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

mom: free to be you and me

Posted by contentgrrl on October 30, 2007

I am thankful that my mother raised me to be fairly self-assured. When I was a baby in the Big Apple, it was just her, me, and Dad after five years of marriage. Oh, yeah, and Dad’s brother (my godfather) and his wife. Then Dad joined the Army and got stationed as a military surgeon in Oklahoma and San Antonio, where Mom dealt with being a military wife and mother.

And she taught me to love reading. We still like some of the same authors: Clavell, Tolkein, McCaffrey, MZ Bradley, CS Lewis, L’Engle. From there, I branched out into David Eddings, Stephen King, Frank Herbert, Ayn Rand, Katherine Kurtz, Robert Zelazny, Michael Moorcock, Morgan Lewellyn, Douglas Adams, and Robin Hobb.

Mom dove into Edgar Cayce psychics when I was very young. She actually had an audiocassette tape done for me, of a heavily accented psychic channeling what my past lives were, what my destiny was, and some symbols to keep around and ways to encourage my potential. I still like my symbols, and may make a mandala just for kicks someday. It was so psychodelic. Of course, I was a history teacher when Atlantis fell! Of course, I was a Mother Superior in 13th century France, and my mother and sisters were among my convent! We gals have always been together, the fate of our souls are entwined for all eternity! And we will all play a significant role in each other’s souls’ steps toward … whatever the goal is!

From my psychic reading, I think Mom took the role reversal theme to heart. Mom needed me, as a preschooler, to take on the role of the hero child. I helped take care of her through two difficult pregnancies, helped deal with my sisters (one autistic, the other just funny), covered for her substance abuse and some other bad choices (SO seventies!), and later helped her stabilize through a “certifiable” episode, coping mechanisms gone awry, an abusive stalking ex (not my father, just someone she met through a 12-step program).

She struggled hard through her own family baggage, through the changing roles of women over the last few decades, and through the consequences of some bad habits and decisions.

Mom is one of the kindest people you will ever meet. In my opinion, too kind. She believes she has special powers, and indeed she virtually radiates a generous welcome. One that attracts strays of all species. Mostly cats and unworthy men (again, excluding my dad). But when you have no boundaries, and offer all of yourself, there are predators who will take it all, and more. The emptiness and consequences that are left make it difficult to fill your life with wholesome things. Thank goodness for the community she found in a church.

I have to say I have learned a lot from her, and I am thankful for her part in my making. But she is also somewhat of an anti-heroine. I would not follow in her footsteps. She has taught me to be risk-averse, while more ambitious.

But she’s sober. She’s working. She moved to a city where she has friends and a friendlier church. I’m proud of my mom for making strides.

Posted in culture, grrly, heroines, reading | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

starting and running a reading group

Posted by contentgrrl on October 29, 2007

After I graduated Baylor into my adult life, I no longer had to study all night between my internship, my student teaching, my community service, partying, and classes. I also no longer had most of those activities to fill my time. When I started my first full-time job, I would plop down on my couch, and stare at the wall. Eight hours in one place was exhausting. Those were the days.

Eventually I found a restaurant (Max’s) that welcomed poetry readings, and of course there was Barnes & Noble and a couple of new friends in the office. We started a book group, where we met weekly over Mocha Valencia Grandes. We would each bring one question, comment, or passage for the group to discuss. We did Atwood’s Cat’s Eye, where I marveled over the recurring antiseptic theme, and then my very religious colleague made it obvious that C.S. Lewis was writing about Armageddon at the end of the Chronicles of Narnia, and then my activist colleague had us reading about life in the inner city, which made me so angry that I have blocked out the author and title (I still feel impotent about the rampant homelessness, drug abuse, child abuse, gang violence, and inequalities for which I can find no solution). Sometimes, just catching up would take us hours, but we had flexibility back then. If I hadn’t relocated to another city, I might still belong to that book group.

Then again, I might not. I appreciate the broad range of perspectives in that particular gaggle of gals. We were certainly not of one mind. On the other hand, I think I might be interested to find people who share more of my interests and values.

If you’re starting a book group, BookMuse has some great resources for starting and running a book group, including groups for kids, recommendations and reviews. I wish I had a reading group when I was younger. A kid’s reading club, around a neighborhood, would be a great opportunity for socialization and for learning new things.

My friend Karmon (one of my unsung heroines) was a big proponent of The Reader’s Place, which has an excellent forum for online reading groups, lists, and polls. Also through Karmon, I’ve found Reader2, where you can build your personal reading lists, export your latest read books or recommended books to your site or blog, find readers with similar interests, and track friends’ readings.

Of course, I rely heavily on Amazon’s customer reviews, Listmania, and So You’d Like To… . And they’re starting topical community forums, which you can find if you scroll down on some book pages. So far, Amazon’s forums remind me of only slightly more well-read versions of the message boards on (Internet Movie DataBase). There will always be trolling idiots.

I’m currently reading a public relations writing book, a couple of parenting books, and a couple of religious history books. I’m still recovering from devouring two Robin Hobb epic fantasy trilogies. If you’ve gotten this far on my blog, maybe I’ll see you around!

Posted in community, heroines, learning, reading | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

7 elements of a good book review

Posted by contentgrrl on October 29, 2007

Looking for elements of a good book review? Try the folks at Scholastic (How to Write a Book Review by Rodman Philbrick). Seven elements for book reports include:

  1. Identify title, author, genre, and theme.
  2. Share your personal reactions (what it made you feel and think).
  3. Summarize what happened and what it meant (but don’t spoil the ending for the rest of us!).
  4. Note characters or points that you loved or hated and why.
  5. Describe the writer’s style (descriptions that pulled your senses into the story, the moral, character or argument development, dialogue, etc.).
  6. Reflect on the time, culture, or perspective in which is was written or set.
  7. Conclude why it is or is not worth reading.

These tips work whether you’re writing for school, for your personal journal, or for widespread publication (such as a print magazine or even blogging). I’ve been a fan of Scholastic and its selection since I was in school. It’s nice to see some really good resources from this company online. Philbrick starts with an example to elicit discovery, then lists some excellent, concrete writing tips, some questions to elicit deeper thought, guidelines for revision or checks for success, and how to publish it.

Posted in learning, publishing, reading, writeroll | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »