Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

Visualizing Relative Words with Low-Leveled Books

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Apr 27, 2017 3:28:00 PM

Why is it so important to directly teach vocabulary to children? Children have an amazing ability to soak up new words every day from their environment without being explicitly taught. Many words in our English vocabulary, however, are relative and abstract in their meaning. With informational texts, you can teach your students about the meaning of relative words!


Directional words, such as “up” and “down,” are dependent upon the position of the speaker and the listener. The meanings of directional words are difficult to grasp without concrete visual aids. Going Up and Down, a new level B reader from the Kaleidoscope Collection, offers images of common activities such as sliding down a playground slide and climbing up a rock-climbing wall. The familiar images help the reader become situated and understand the spatial meanings of “up” and “down.” 


If you want to add a science twist to teaching the vocabulary, read Up and Down from the My World Series. Leveled at Guided Reading level E, the book features plants that grow up from the ground (like a sunflower) and plants that grow down underground (like a carrot).


Big and Little (Level D) from the Kaleidoscope Collection also uses adjectives with relative meanings. The meaning of the words “big” and “little” only make sense if the reader knows what the object is being compared to. The boy’s shirt is big compared to Baby’s shirt. Baby’s pants are little compared to her brother’s pants. Ask your students: Would the boy’s shirt be big compared to his dad’s? Would Baby’s pants be little compared to a doll’s pants?


Using photographs for reference will help your students distinguish between these relative words that are understood through context. Their vocabulary skills will go up, up, and up!


Click the left image below to download information about Kaleidoscope Collection. Click the right image below to download information about My World.

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Topics: Informational Text, Early Childhood, Kaleidoscope Collection, My World, Pictures

Teaching Character Traits with Little Red Riding Hood—with FREE download!

Posted by Hilary Gard on Apr 25, 2017 3:07:00 PM

Today's post features our new guest blogger, Hilary Gard, who is a 2nd grade teacher. If you like this post, make sure to check out her blog, Primary Planet!

Hi! I’m Hilary from Primary Planet and I am guest blogging at Hameray today!

Today, I want to talk about teaching character traits. I recently used Little Red Riding Hood, retold by Alan Trussell-Cullen from the Story World Series, to teach character traits in my classroom.

Most of my students had heard the story of Little Red Riding Hood, so before we started reading, we had a conversation about the important events in the story. With so many versions, sometimes the ending differs from book to book.

We read Little Red Riding Hood together and talked about how this particular version was the same or different from the other versions we know.


Then, we started talking about the characters. We decided that the two main characters in this story are Little Red and The Wolf.

We talked about what character traits are, and decided that there are character traits that you can see (outside traits) and traits that make the characters the people that they are (inside traits).

Then, using the activity sheets that you can download below, we listed outside and inside traits together for Little Red Riding Hood. I completed mine on the document projector with the help of the students.   


Next, we had a discussion about the wolf. The kiddos had a great time talking about his character traits. Then, they worked with a partner to fill out the page with the character traits of the wolf. We also switched partners to see if they could add anything new to their pages. After that, we came back together to compile our findings on a class page about the Wolf.

Teaching character traits is an ongoing lesson in my classroom.  We talk about the traits of characters often during read alouds, reading conferences, and in small groups.

Thanks so much for stopping by today! I hope you and your students enjoy the little freebie!


Hilary Gard has been teaching for 17 years, 13 of those years in 2nd grade. She is a children’s book collector and does a weekly book series called Book Talk Tuesday on her blog, Primary Planet.


To download Hilary's character traits activity sheet, click the left image below. For more information about Story World Real World, click the right image below.

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Topics: Story World, Character Traits, Hilary Gard

Engaging Readers with Literary Mirrors

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Apr 20, 2017 3:02:00 PM

“How can we engage children with books?” Teachers, literacy specialists, and publishers face this big question every day. Even if we teach young children about phonics and sight words, they will not successfully become independent readers unless they think that books are interesting.

One obstacle to reader engagement is that very few children’s books feature meaningful characters with minority identities. Classic children’s books feature white children living with two parents in a financially stable home. However, many children today do not fit this lifestyle, and they have trouble becoming invested in characters that seem so different to them. The library becomes an unwelcoming place that doesn’t accept minority identities—as a result, the children lose their interest in reading.

Rudine Sims Bishop describes this situation as a lack of literary “mirrors,” where readers can see their own lives and experiences reflected in the text. A mirror encourages self-affirmation and helps readers make connections between the book and their own lives. Thus, it’s essential that every child have access to mirrors in the books that they read.

Hameray is committed to featuring diverse characters and stories in our products. The Kaleidoscope Collection features authors of "diverse geographic and teaching backgrounds, [allowing] every student an opportunity to find the right books that best suit them":

  • Narratives such as Tortilla Sundays and The Hospital Can Be Fun feature stories about children with different cultures and abilities.
  • My Big Sister, The Tarp Monster, and The Friendship Shell feature protagonists of color.
  • Children of ethnic minorities will even find mirrors in nonfiction informational texts such as Here I Am! and Hot and Cold.
This blog only mentions a few of the many Hameray titles that will engage any child. All readers should have the right to be engaged with literary mirrors!



Bishop, Rudine Sims. “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors.” Originally published in Perspectives: Choosing and Using Books for the Classroom, v. 6, no. 3. 1990.


For more information about the Kaleidoscope Collection, click the image below.

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Topics: Leveled Readers, Kaleidoscope Collection, Diversity, Reading, Mirrors

Reading About Weather

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Apr 18, 2017 3:14:00 PM

Spring has sprung! Because spring is a transitional season, the weather outside often changes drastically from day-to-day—even if it’s sunny and pleasant today, it could be windy and raining tomorrow. Unpredictable weather fluctuations might be frustrating for your students, who are ready to play outside on the playground. On the other hand, though, since it’s possible to experience a vast range of weather during a short amount of time, the spring is the best time of the year to teach lessons about the weather.

Hameray offers a multitude of books, both narrative and informational, that discuss the weather and the changing seasons. On a rainy spring day, keep students engaged by reading narratives about puddles and umbrellas from the Kaleidoscope Collection:

  • In Puddles, a young boy frolics outside in the rain by jumping into puddles—he even sees a rainbow!
  • Whose Umbrella? traces a rabbit’s quest to find the owner of a lost umbrella.



On a sunny day, teach your students about the importance of sunlight with these titles from Fables Real World:

  • The Sun describes how the sun is so hot that “nothing can even get close to it without melting”!
  • Sun and Wind Energy discusses how the weather can be used for sustainable energy and for generating electricity.



On windy days, mix up the genres with one informational and one narrative book:

  • Wind, from Fables Real World, discusses the different words that we use to describe wind (breezes, gusts, gales, hurricanes, tornadoes, and blizzards). Students will be enthralled by the power of wind!
  • Hurricane Dog, from Kaleidoscope Collection, follows a dog that looks for a new home after a disastrous hurricane hits his town.


Selecting reading materials based on that day’s weather keeps your lessons relevant and engaging. Happy spring!


For more information about the Kaleidoscope Collection and Fables and the Real World, click the images below.

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Topics: Leveled Readers, Kaleidoscope Collection, Science, Fables and the Real World, Weather

A Better Path to Reading Success: Richard Gentry Discusses Kid Writing

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Apr 13, 2017 3:42:00 PM

Author Pages_Richard Getntry-1.jpgJ. Richard Gentry, affectionately known as "America's Spelling Guru," is an internationally acclaimed author, researcher, and educational consultant. He is also a co-author for Hameray's upcoming professional book, Kid Writing in the 21st Century: A Systematic Approach to Phonics, Spelling, and Writing Workshop, which will be released in May 2017.

Last week, Dr. Gentry published an article in Psychology Today, "Landmark Study Finds Better Path to Reading Success." The article proves that a young student's reading and writing skills go hand-in-hand. In other words, writing in the classroom will also boost students' reading scores!

In his article, Dr. Gentry cites a study by Gene Ouellette and Monique Sénéchal that was published earlier this year (2017). This study advocates for "invented spelling"—a young writer's "self-directed and spontaneous attempts to represent words in print" (Gentry). Through invented spelling, a student might incorrectly spell a word, like "KN" for the word "can." However, meaningful learning is still taking place—invented spelling requires the child to draw upon phonics and sound-symbol correspondence, which are two essential reading concepts!

Invented spelling even promotes a student's cognitive devleopment:

The human brain generally gets better at whatever it practices—including invented spelling. Reflection about how to spell a word allows the child to actively practice making decisions, rather than passively memorizing. This active practice likely results in synaptic changes in the child’s brain by strengthening neuronal pathways for long term-retention of spellings to be retrieved for reading and writing.

Dr. Gentry stresses the fact that writing exercises are win-win activities for a teacher—they improve writing AND reading skills!

Ouellette and Sénéchal found a direct line from invented spelling leading to improved reading scores at the end of first grade. In their carefully crafted longitudinal study, they found invented spelling to be “a unique predictor of growth in early reading skills, over and above children’s alphabet knowledge and phonological awareness.” Now that’s a huge finding! 



Kid Writing in the 21st Century further explores the research ideas stated in Dr. Gentry's article. In addition to explaining invented spelling in greater detail, the book also provides example lessons to encourage students to invent spellings. Dr. Gentry, Eileen Feldgus (Ed.D.), and Isabell Cardonick (M. Ed.), share their real teacher experiences and literacy lesson ideas. Incorporating the wisdom of its authors and the newest 21st-century research, Kid Writing is sure to become your go-to professional text!

Kid Writing in the 21st Century will be released in May, but you can reserve your copy today at this product link!







Click the image below to view a brochure about Kid Writing in the 21st Century!


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Topics: Kindergarten, Teaching Writing, First Grade, Kid Writing, J. Richard Gentry

Using Level A Books to Teach Children How to Read, Part 2

Posted by Paula Dugger on Apr 11, 2017 3:28:00 PM

describe the imageThis post is the second in a series that documents guest blogger Paula Dugger's experience of teaching her grandson how to read with Level A books. To read the first post, click here

In my previous post, I prepared my grandson, Carter, with literacy exercises in preparation for his first Level A book. After using the Letter Buddies Magnetic Letters to teach Carter about the words “me” and “my,” it was time for me to introduce the Guided Reading Level A book, Cowboy. 

3) I explained that both the words “me” and “my” are used in the book. I asked Carter to show me the word “my” on the first six pages of text and “me” on the last page. We also went back and looked at the pictures to see if he could tell me what he saw in each of those photos. This exercise encouraged him to use the pictures for textual meaning.


4) Now, it was time to model reading the book. Using my fingers, I matched each printed word with the word I said aloud to show one-to-one matching (“My hat,” ”My boots,” etc.). Next, I asked Carter to help me by pointing to the words while we read together. Finally, I asked him to read the book by himself, making sure he was matching one-to-one by pointing. The first six pages of text are patterned, but the text changes on page 8 and there are two lines (“Me! I am a cowboy”). Cowboy_v4 (dragged).jpg

In the following days, I asked Carter to read the book, but he sometimes would not use his finger to match one-to-one and would insert words that weren’t in the text. I repeated many of the steps listed on the first day to provide support, eventually dropping some of the activities until Carter was able to pick up the book and read independently.

The scaffolding and procedures set up on the first day can be used to introduce any book. A great follow up book to Cowboy is another level A book in the Kaleidoscope Collection called My Birthday. It is also structured and patterned much like Cowboy. The first two pages are “My friends” and “My present.” I would introduce the book and ask, “What would you have at your birthday party?” and then have the child look at the pictures and tell me what s/he sees to confirm meaning. Then I would say that there is a word on the pages that he (Carter) already knows from his last book, Cowboy. I would ask him to find it by framing it with his fingers or sliding his finger under it and reading it slowly. The word “my” should be a known anchor word that can be recognized and read, which provides confidence when reading a new book.

Some very important things to remember when teaching a child to read include the following:

  • Reading is a skill that takes time to develop.
  • A child should spend a minimum of 20 minutes a day reading or having books read to them.
  • Allow the reader to read the same books over and over to increase fluency and quick recognition of familiar words. Re-reading also provides confidence.

Hameray Publishing provides a wide variety of titles written for the beginning reader, many of which are found in their Kaleidoscope Collection. Thirty new titles have recently been added at levels A and B, providing a great selection of titles for aspiring readers!


Paula Dugger has a B.S, M.Ed. and Reading Specialist Certification from The University of Texas at Austin and Reading Recovery training through Texas Woman’s University. A former first grade teacher, reading coordinator and Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, Paula has served as an adjunct professor at Texas Woman’s University and Dallas Baptist University teaching reading classes for current and future teachers. She also does educational consulting and training through Dugger Educational Consulting, LLC, in addition to writing blogs and early literacy books for Hameray. She can be contacted at pdugger11@gmail.com 

Paula and her husband Neil have two married daughters and are grandparents to Carter, Blake, and Faye. She raises registered Texas Longhorns on the weekends. Her longhorn cattle are featured in her first book published by Hameray Publishing group, titled Longhorns. She has authored six additional titles in the Kaleidoscope Collection—Ben & Ruby, Buttons, Cowboy, Dinner, Going Up & Down, and Round, Not Round.


For more information about the Kaleidoscope Collection, which features many Guided Reading Level A books, click hte image below.

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Topics: Early Childhood, Leveled Readers, Kaleidoscope Collection, Paula Dugger

The Importance of Pictures for Reluctant Readers

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Apr 6, 2017 3:42:00 PM

Why do children’s books include pictures? Of course, colorful illustrations are eye-catching and pique any reader’s interest. Pictures in books don’t just exist for visual pleasure, though—they provide important visualization that deepen textual meaning.

The Common Core State Standards focuses on a reader's ability to gain meaning from pictures in both narrative and informational texts:

  • "Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, settings, or events" (RL.1.7)
  • "Distinguish between information provided by pictures or other illustrations and information provided by the wrods in a text" (RI.1.6)

Research shows that many students who struggle with reading comprehension also have trouble creating a mental image of what is happening in the text. With pictures to accompany the words, students receive a visual scaffolding that helps them understand the content of the story.

HRay_DoveKing_PAGES (dragged).jpgFor example, students might have never encountered "a flock of doves" (2) in their lifetime. This unfamiliarity would seriously hinder a student's comprehension of The Dove King from Fables and the Real World.

However, the illustrations on page 2 allow students to infer that a dove is a white bird. Furthermore, because many birds are pictured, a "flock of doves" must refer to a group of birds. In this way, the book's illustrations promotes understanding and allows the students to access a book through multiple avenues. 



Corrected Sleepwalker (dragged).jpg

Pictures aren't just for "little kids"! Hameray's Extraordinary Files series allows students at higher reading levels to benefit from visual representation in their books. Leveled from Guided Reading Level T to Y, this series features graphic novel-style art, like the one shown in the opening page of Sleepwalker (3). Even older readers will find this series sophisticated and age-appropriate.

Every spread of these 48-page books contain illustrations that give clues about the setting, plot, and characters' emotions. Better yet, the pictures don't sacrifice the complexity and richness of the actual text. Students must pay attention to the words and the pictures on the page to gain full understanding of the story. Older students who don't gravitate towards reading will love reading this series like a graphic novel!

As described above, pictures are helpful reading tools for readers of all age, especially for reluctant readers that would benefit from comprehension aids. What student doesn't love looking at pictures?


The foundational concept for this blog's ideas are supported by Gomes and Carter's "Navigating through Social Norms, Negotiating Place: How American Born Chinese Motivates Struggling Learners" (2010). 


Click the left image below to download information about Fables and the Real World. Click the right image below to download information about The Extraordinary Files.

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Topics: Narrative Text, Extraordinary Files, Reluctant Readers, Fables and the Real World, Hi-Lo, Pictures

Using Level A Books to Teach Children How to Read, Part 1

Posted by Paula Dugger on Apr 4, 2017 3:28:00 PM

describe the imageThis is a guest blog post series authored by Paula Dugger, M. Ed. Paul is an educational consultant who has previously served as a Reading Recovery Teacher/Teacher Leader, first grade teacher, Title I and high school reading teacher, and a Reading Coordinator. 

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend six days with my four year-old grandson, Carter. I thought that it was a great time for him to learn how to read. I was especially excited, as I had a copy of a brand new Guided Reading Level A book, Cowboy, that I recently wrote for the Hameray Kaleidoscope Collection. Best of all, this book features Carter on the cover and throughout the book.

 Choosing the appropriate leveled book is critical when introducing a child to reading. Guided Reading Leveled books A -C (Intervention Levels 1-3) are called early emergent readers. They are perfect for children who are learning the basic concepts of books and print awareness. Books at these levels contain the following features:
  • Controlled and limited text per page
  • Repetitive patterned vocabulary and text
  • Strong picture support for meaning
  • Familiar language and concepts
  • Large print and wide spacing

cowboy.jpgBefore I outline my teaching procedures, let me provide some information about Carter’s literacy background. His parents, who appreciate the importance of reading, have read to Carter almost every day since birth, and he has an ever-expanding library of books. He attends a preschool and has learned letter names and most corresponding sounds. He is also aware that his cool name contains the words car, cart, and art. All of the books read and re-read to him have helped build his speech, language and listening skills while expanding vocabulary, imagination, curiosity, and background knowledge. Carter is often seen picking up a book and “reading” based on what he has heard and remembers from being read to.


I felt that Carter was now ready for the next step in learning how to read. Here is how we first prepared to read Cowboy:



1). I began by using magnetic letters from Letter Buddies to display the words me and my. I took my finger and slid under each word and said slowly “me and then “my pointing out that they both started with the same sound and letter but ended with a different letter and sound. After my modeling, we did the task together and then Carter did this independently. I mixed up the letters and had him make each of the words, telling me what they said.

         dugg1.jpg          dugg2.jpg

2) Next, I had Carter write the two words, using the model that the magnetic letters provided. Afterwards, I asked him to read the two words, sliding his fingers under each to make sure he was looking at all the letters and making the correct sounds.

         dugg3.jpg           dugg4.jpg

Now, we were ready to start reading CowboyNext Tuesday, I'll share how to model reading with a Guided Reading Level A book. Make sure to subcribe to the Hameray blog in the right-hand bar to receive my next post in your inbox!


Paula Dugger has a B.S, M.Ed., and Reading Specialist Certification from The University of Texas at Austin and Reading Recovery training through Texas Woman’s University. A former first grade teacher, reading coordinator and Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, Paula has served as an adjunct professor at Texas Woman’s University and Dallas Baptist University teaching reading classes for current and future teachers. She also does educational consulting and training through Dugger Educational Consulting, LLC, in addition to writing blogs and early literacy books for Hameray. She can be contacted at pdugger11@gmail.com


Paula and her husband Neil have two married daughters and are grandparents to Carter, Blake, and Faye. She raises registered Texas Longhorns on the weekends. Her longhorn cattle are featured in her first book published by Hameray Publishing group, Longhorns. She has authored six additional titles in the Kaleidoscope Collection—Ben & Ruby, Buttons, Cowboy, Dinner, Going Up and Down, and Round, Not Round.


For more information about the Kaleidoscope Collection, which features many Guided Reading Level A books, click hte image below.

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Topics: Early Childhood, Leveled Readers, Kaleidoscope Collection, Paula Dugger

Role-Playing Traditional Stories

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Mar 30, 2017 3:17:00 PM


Reader's Theater, where students perform a written book like a play, is a tried and true way of engaging readers. Guided role-playing is another highly effective way to incorporate dramatic play into your reading lessons!


In guided role-playing, the teacher prepares a role-playing scenario that parallels a situation presented in the book. Students improvise and act based on what they would do in that situation. By being placed into the scene of a book, students learn to empathize and understand the story from the characters' perspectives.

Role-playing can take place before of after an initial reading of the book, but doing it beforehand might help your students act authentically—if they read first, some students might feel tempted to simply mimic the character's actions instead of their own. While students subsume the role of a character in Reader's Theater, the purpose of role-playing is to act in a character's shoes. This increased agency leads to higher interest and more personal investment in reading the book. 



Choose a narrative book like The Little Red Hen from the Story World Real World series. Decide on a role-playing scenario. The scenario should be relevant and not specific to the book—for example, you don't want to ask students to imagine that they're a "little red hen." The following scenarios are an example:

  • Actor A: You love cooking and live in a house with a friend that loves to have fun. One day, you decide that you want to bake bread, but your friend doesn't want to help you. Role-play the conversation you would have with your friend.
  • Actor B: You live in a house with a friend that loves to cook. One day, your friend wants to bake bread and asks for your help, but you just want to have fun instead. Role-play the conversation you would have with your friend.

Have students pair up, with one student playing Actor A and the other playing Actor B. After a few minutes, have them switch partners and switch roles.

Students will be eager to compare their actions to the characters in the book. Furthermore, guided role-playing takes up less time than Reader's Theater—it's the same dramatic fun in a shorter amount of time!


The ideas in this blog post were adapted from Lisa Simon's "'I Wouldn't Choose It, but I Don't Regret Reading It": Scaffolding Students' Engagement with Complex Texts" (2008), which uses guided role-playing with adolescent students. 


Click the image below to download a series highlights about Story World Real World, which contains the book featured in this blog post.

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Topics: Story World, Narrative Text, Reader's Theater, Role-play

30 New Kaleidoscope Books!

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Mar 28, 2017 2:17:00 PM

 If you’re a frequent reader of our blog, you’ll be familiar with Hameray Publishing’s Kaleidoscope Collection. As our largest series, the Kaleidoscope Collection features both narrative and informational texts between Guided Reading Levels A – K. With its commitment to diverse representation, students have a kaleidoscope of options to choose a book that appeals to them.

We’ve just introduced 30 new titles into the Kaleidoscope Collection, which focuses on low-leveled readers at Guided Reading Level A–C. Books like My Birthday! and What Is a Pet? are sure to peak the interest of your beginning reader.

Many of the new books are complementary in topic or sentence structure, making them ideal for students to reinforce their reading skills. For example, students can familiarize themselves with the sight words “I” and “can” by reading I Can Read. Then, they can apply their knowledge to a new book, I Can Write. Using multiple books to reinforce a reading concept is crucial for developing confidence and fluency.



Other complementary titles from the new Kaleidoscope additions include the following:

You can browse all of our new Kaleidoscope titles at our website. Remember, a portion of the Kaleidoscope Collection’s profits goes to the Reading Recovery Council of North America. It’s a win-win situation for everyone!



Click the image below to download a series highlights about the newly-expanded Kaleidoscope Collection. 

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Topics: Kaleidoscope Collection, Kindergarten, Preschool

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