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Spotlight: Reading Skills Board Games

The board game collection is expanding with games designed to help beginning readers with skills like sight words, multiple meanings, spelling, and more. These games are great for parents to play with kids to encourage reading skills and vocabulary. Each game has a unique way of making learning fun.

  • Word on the Street Jr.: A game of tug a war with letters that encourage kids to think creatively and spell bigger and bigger words to earn more points toward winning.
  • Multiple Meanings Around the World: Encourages kids to learn homonyms for common words they will run across while reading and writing.
  • Tower of Sight Words lv 1-2-3: A series of games that operates like Jenga but encourages the reading of sight words before pieces can be pulled.
  • My First Bananagrams: Teaches lower case letters to children and spelling. Also encourages reading and spelling growth with premade letter blends.
  • Spelligator: Word building game that teaches phonemic awareness, letter patterns, and positioning. It covers different letter combinations, including consonants, vowels, digraphs, and blends.
  • After Words: A creative thinking and vocabulary building game for kids who have most of the basics down. The game creates limits to inspire kids to use a larger vocabulary.
  • Classwords the vocabulary game grade 3: Based on common core vocabulary standards for 3rd grade, the game motivates kids to practice and learn the key words needed read and write at the 3rd grade level.


Games are a great way to teach kids new skills while keeping their interest by making the learning fun. They also provide a break from regular memorization and worksheets. Check out a few.


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Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. Season 1

Blooregard Q. Kazoo is an imaginary friend who lives with his best friend Mac, but Mac is getting older, and his parents want him to get rid of Bloo. They take Mac and Bloo to a foster home for imaginary friends, where unwanted imaginary friends are taken to be adopted by new families.

Madame Foster, the owner of the home, cuts Mac and Bloo a deal: if Mac comes every dayBloo can stay at the home without being adopted. Thus begins the chaos of Mac coming to the home every day and interacting with the wildly creative cast of imaginary creatures and the antics that he and Bloo cause daily. Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends (2004, rated TV-Y7) is filled with wonder, creativity, and beautiful animation from the opening to the end credits.

Watch season 1 of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends on Hoopla today.


Little Witch Academia. The Complete Series

I binge watched this heartwarming and fun series in one sitting. Akko has dreamed of becoming a witch from the moment she went to a Shiny Chariot event where she witnessed the power of magic. Although she is from a non-magical family, she is inspired by Shiny Chariot's performanceDetermined to make her dream come true, she attends Luna Nova Academy, a school where girls learn and develop their magical skills. It's where her adventure begins. There, Akko faces the trials of school and friendship while learning each step of the way.

Follow Akko and her friends on their fun and magical adventures as she pursues her dreams of becoming a witch in Little Witch Academia (2017, TV-Y7). Check out a Roku with Netflix to watch the series today.


Stepping Stones

This is a charming story of city girl Jen whose family leaves the big city for the country and farm life. If farm life was not bad enough for a city girl, Jen also has two new stepsisters who live in her room every weekend. Stepping Stones (2020) centers on Jen and her sisters' life on the farm and their time spent at the farmer's market. Jen and her new sisters learn about the hard work it takes to run a farm and to be part of a family that sticks together. Overall, Lucy Knisley's story is uplifting and will appeal to readers of books like Smile and Roller Girl

Regular Show. Season 1

Regular Show (2009-2017) is anything but regular. It follows two best friends a blue jay, Mordecai, and a raccoon, Rigby, who work as groundskeepers at a park together. They work at the park, but they spend most of their time trying to get out of work or slacking off whenever they can at the behest of their boss, a gumball machine named Benson. Their antics usually lead to some aspect of the park getting destroyed, leaving them to clean up the mess afterwards.

While it is unusual for a kids show to feature mainly adults, it helps with the charm of the show because they have many nods to adult items and drinks being switched for more family friendly ones. The adventures they go on are fun and the dialogue and characters are enjoyable. Look at Regular Show if you are looking for a more mature but silly animated show.

Watch season 1 of Regular Show(rated TV-PG) on Hoopla today.


Echo

Echo begins as a fairy tale with Otto, a boy lost in the woods who meets three strange women telling him of a prophecy concerning a rare harmonica. From there, we hear three different stories of four pre-teen children who all live in different times, places, and circumstances, leaning on music to get them through hard times. The tales take you to Germany, Pennsylvania, and California, with storylines interconnected and centered around the possession of a rare harmonica. The audiobook was magical to listen to. I would recommend this beautiful, historical fairy tale to readers for all ages.

Listen to Echo (2015) by Pam Munoz Ryan on Hoopla today.



The Bad Beginning

The Bad Beginning (1999) is the start of the downright dreadful, disastrous, and dangerous turn of events that Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire must endure after the passing of their parents in a tragic fire. They are sent to live with the dreadful Count Olaf, who cares more about the inheritance the children have than their wellbeing. The Baudelaire siblings must work together to thwart the evil doings of Count Olaf and figure out what really happened with the fire that killed their parents.

Lemony Snicket's writing gives the story character and makes the reader long for more with his unique style and prose.The Bad Beginning kicks off A Series of Unfortunate Events. Read the ebook on Overdrive or listen to the audiobook on Hoopla.



Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

I just saw Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1997) on Overdrive's ebook list. Well if you are looking for one great book to read, go no further. You found it. The best page-turning adventure that you can't put down, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is the first in this epic story of the eleven-year-old wizard who becomes every reader's favorite hero.

Even if you saw the movie, you'll want to read Harry's entire story. It has no boring parts and will grip your attention from page one. You will feel you've been transported into the story itself. And it does not matter how old you are. Even as I'm writing this, I can feel myself aboard the Hogwarts Express on my way to live Harry's journey with him and his pals Hermione and Ron. This is a ride you will not want to miss.

Check out J. K. Rowling's debut novel (and the one that started it all). Visit Overdrive to read or listen to the first book... then check out the rest of the series.



Front Desk

Mia Tang is 10 years old, and the new front desk clerk at the Calivista Motel in California. Mia and her family are immigrants to America from China. Her parents have worked many years at many tough jobs since arriving in America, but believe their dream has come true when they get jobs managing the Calivista. The only trouble with their dream is their new boss Mr. Yao, who is mean and keeps finding ways to take money from Mia's family's paycheck.

Mia finds out at school about a chance for her family to win their own motel, but she must write an essay explaining why she and her family would be the best choice. Mia has to balance her life with school, work, and friends, all while trying to keep Mr. Yao happy. It is a tough job, but Mia thinks she can do it all.

Check out Front Desk (2018) by Kelly Yang, geared toward kids in grades 4-6. It's the first in a series, with the second novel expected to be released in September 2020.

This book is available to read or listen to on Overdrive—check it out today.


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Series Spotlight: Owl Diaries

The Wingdale owl family (Mom, Dad, Eva, Humphrey and Baby Mo) live in a tree in, of course, Treetopolis. When Eva receives a new diary, she faithfully records all her adventures, concerns, problems, triumphs, and sadness in the diary.

Each of the 13 books (so far) in this series focus on one big event in Eva's world. The plots feature a mystery that Eva solves and most readers of this series will solve. Friendships, working together, and solving problems are what Eva and her friends do.

The digital illustrations are a major part of the storytelling. There are collage-like illustrations are on each page. The connection between image and words is very clear. It would be easy to extend activities by encouraging art projects.

The author uses clever references to owls: "What a hoot," "Anyhoot," "sticking her beak into my business," and Owliverse."Readers will enjoy searching for connections. Speech bubbles are used for dialog between characters.

These books by Rebecca Elliott have gentle plots, interesting characters, and are for readers beginning "easy readers." The first book is Eva's Treetop Festival (2015). Each book has 74 pages (Lexile 530-620). At the end of each book is, "How much do you know about…?" Questions follow and a final suggestion of further activities.

Many of the books in this series are available as e-books on Overdrive.

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Series Spotlight: Eerie Elementary

Strange events are happening at Eerie Elementary School (note the name of the school). Third graders Sam, Lucy, and Antonio find themselves in very scary situations as they work together to keep the school safe from the evil Orson Eerie. Their job as hall monitors is to protect the students of Eerie Elementary School by using their magic sashes. Mr. Nekobi, the janitor, knows what is happening and why, and aids the children with clever ideas. Illustrations of Orson Eerie show that obviously he is a scary, evil man!

Children who can suspend disbelief, believe that the physical Eerie Elementary School is alive, who likes "scary" books, and who are ready for unusual adventures will enjoy this series. Start with The School is Alive! (2014).

Each of the 10 books in the Eerie Elementary series by Jack Chabert is 90 pages with black and white drawings on each page. It is clear from the covers that the books are scary, strange, unusual…for sure. The final page of each book has discussion questions and sometimes craft ideas. Lexile range is 430-600.



5-Minute Marvel

Play the fast-paced 5-Minute Marvel game that puts you in the role of your favorite Marvel movie and comic book heroes.  The goal of the game is to defeat a horde of villains bent on destroying the universe.  The villains start easy and get harder as you eventually fight your way to Thanos to decide the fate of the world.  Each hero receives cards with special powers and abilities unique to their hero, which will help in the fight.

With each battle allowed only five minutes (a time gem would be helpful), you will have to be as fast as Quicksilver to win these battles.  The 5-minute clock makes this a quick game that is great for parties and short breaks. There is some reading involved, which makes 5-Minute Marvel (2016) perfect for ages 8 and up.

Series Spotlight: The Last Firehawk

Owls are determined to save their home – the island of Perodia – from the evil Thorn, a vulture who is destroying the island with the help of his army of tiger bats and prickle ants. Rivers are dry, trees are being destroyed, and no flowers are blooming. Heroes of this animal fantasy early chapter book are Tag, an owl who uses a magic map; Skyla, a squirrel who uses a slingshot; and Blaze, the last surviving firehawk who uses his wings. When Tag, Skyla, and Blaze are successful in the quest to find all the pieces of the ember stone, their home might be saved.

The first page of each book explains where Tag, Skyla, and Blaze are in their search for the ember stone so the books do not have to be read in order…but in order would be best. Start with The Ember Stone (2017).

A map of Perodia, which is a copy of the magic map used by Tag, is on the next page after the introduction. The reader will want to refer back to the map while reading the adventure. On the last page of each book are questions and activities suggestions, which will add to the enjoyment of the reader and extend their learning. Each of the 10 books (so far) in The Last Firehawk series by Katrina Charman are 90 pages. There are black and white illustrations on each page. Lexile range is 550-640.



Sleeping Queens

In Sleeping Queens, all of the world's queens have fallen under a spell forcing them to stay asleep. You will have to send your kings out to help the queens awaken, but be careful other players have knights and potions to steal your queens or to put them back to sleep.  You will have to be cunning to keep all your queens awake and safe.

One of my favorite things about Sleeping Queens (2015) is that an 8-year-old created it, and the fun way it plays shows that incredible passion a child has for games and silly happenstance.  This is a favorite game to play with my friends.  We all enjoy how quickly the game plays, and with simple rules, there are still some great play strategies.  The game is played with a single deck of cards and is quick to learn with no reading involved past the directions.  Some shape matching skills are needed to play; suitable for ages 6 and up.


Loot

Have you ever wanted to plunder all the treasures on the open sea?  If you find that the letter "R" rolls off your tongue as "Arrr," then Loot is the game for you.

In Loot, take on the role of a pirate captain and guide your crew to merchant ships full of treasure, but watch out for your pirate friends who want some loot too and will fight you for every bit of it.

The objective of the card game is simple, collect the most gold by the end of the game.  The gameplay is quick and takes about 20 minutes.  The game is for ages 6 and up, some simple math skills and color matching are needed.  If you want the thrill of the high seas matched with the fun of playing with friends, check out Loot.