Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

This Sunday: #rrchat with Hameray Authors!

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on May 19, 2017 10:34:00 AM

Do you know about #rrchat? The Reading Recovery National Council of America, which provides effective intervention for struggling readers in first grade, has developed an ongoing Twitter Chat series. Focusing on topics such as "Teaching Reading and Writing Vocabulary" and "Leveraging Deeper Professional Development," these forums allow you to discuss important literary issues with fellow educators... without having to leave your couch!

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This Sunday, May 21 at 7 pm EST, Adria Klein and Allison Briceno will be joining Reading Recovery's Twitter Chat as special guests and leaders of the discussion "Language and Literacy: Partners in Learning." Dr. Briceno is a co-author of Hameray's Oral Language Development Series, while Dr. Klein has participated in the Hameray Biography series and our Family Literacy Workshops book. Both authors have dozens of experience on literacy and language development, and we're so excited for them to be sharing their knowledge with you!
To participate in the discussion, all you need to do is follow @rrcna_org on your Twitter account, where Reading Recovery will post questions related to the topic. Make sure to use the hashtag #rrchat to contribute to the discussion.
Mark your calendar for this Sunday, May 21—don't miss this opportunity to speak with our Hameray authors!

To download information about the Oral Language Development Series, which Dr. Briceno co-authored, click the image below.

Oral Language Development Series Free Teachers Guide 

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Topics: Adria Klein, Reluctant Readers, Reading Recovery, Allison Briceno

Hi-Lo Books for Movie Fanatics

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on May 4, 2017 4:17:00 PM

Books have a lot of competition in the modern day—children are increasingly turning to TV, video games, and the internet as their preferred form of entertainment. Many reluctant readers love watching movies, but find books to be stuffy or boring. Different media don’t have to exist in isolation to each other, though. Why not capture your reluctant reader’s interest with books about movies?


Behind the Scenes: Special Effects, from the Download series, discusses the various cinematic features included in movies. Readers learn about stop-motion animation, stuntmen, CGI, and more! The book showcases many pivotal moments in moviemaking history, such as the first movie with special effects and the first IMAX film. Any movie buff will be thrilled to read about the work that goes into moviemaking. Best of all, the book is filled with photographs from famous movie franchises such as King Kong and Spiderman.


The Hameray Biography Series highlights the life of Walt Disney, one of the most famous moviemakers of all time. The biography traces Walt Disney’s path to fame with Steamboat Willie and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Today, Walt Disney’s name still makes any child perk up with excitement; even your most reluctant reader will be drawn to this high-interest book!

Specifically written for students reading below their grade, Behind the Scenes: Special Effects and Walt Disney are perfect high-interest, low-level books. Your students will realize that books are just as entertaining as movies … and some books can even make movie-watching more interesting!


To download information about Download Series, click the left image below. To download a free Teacher's Guide for Walt Disney, click the right image below.

                                        Download Series Highlights    Bio TG

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Topics: Biography Series, Download, Reluctant Readers, Hi-Lo, Movie

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. 



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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.

New Call-to-Action       Extraordinary Files Sales sheet


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

A Call for Contemporary Books

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Mar 16, 2017 3:50:52 PM


We all have our favorite chapter books from childhood. As we fondly remember Charlotte’s Web, The Secret Garden, and Mr. Popper’s Penguins, we encourage our students to read them, too. Although it’s wonderful to recommend books that we genuinely enjoy, classics are not always the best option for reluctant readers. For students who are unconvinced about the pleasures of reading, classics actually have the danger of prompting students to ask, “Why should I even care?”

As much as we’d like to think that childhood is timeless, we can’t deny that technology, social, and other modern inventions are fundamentally changing the way children grow up. The “classics” I’ve mentioned above are called classics for a reason—Charlotte’s Web, the newest out of the three books, was published in 1952. Colored television didn’t even exist in 1952!

Reluctant readers may find it difficult to become invested in books that seem "old"—they’re much less likely to be compelled by a 19th-century girl that practices needlework than an urban teenager that wants to become a pop star. Relevancy is crucial in order for stduents to learn that books are meaningful resources.

Hameray’s Download series is committed to providing high-interest books about contemporary topics such as skateboarding, motorcycles, and PlayStation. Behind the Scenes: Fashion features famous fashion brands such as H&M and ZARA. With style pictures of celebrities like Pharrell Williams and Justin Timberlake, your students will be eager to make their way through the book!


Fashion is a constantly evolving industry, where styles can change drastically within months. The best part of Behind the Scenes: Fashion is that it focuses on the fundamental aspects of fashion, such as fashion shows, jeans, and fashion advertising. Even though this book was published in 2008, its contents are still exciting and relevant for children today! 

Childhood classics will always remain dear to our hearts, and there’s nothing wrong with passing them onto the next generation. However, especially for reluctant readers, contemporary books are a great tool for boosting reader enthusiasm!



Click the image below to learn more about the Download series.

Download Series Highlights


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Topics: Story World, Download, Reluctant Readers, Hi-Lo

Martin Luther King Jr. and Black History Month

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Jan 17, 2017 3:47:00 PM

Yesterday, many schools across America observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day. While teachers and students both enjoy the extended weekend, we must never forget that this day serves to remember Dr. King’s achievements and dreams of racial equality. With Black History Month only two weeks away, now is the ideal time to introduce African-American biographies into your classroom!


The Hameray Biography Series features the life stories of famous African-Americans: Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet TubmanMuhammad Ali,Barack Obama, and Jackie Robinson. Although his work was based in South Africa, Nelson Mandela’s fight to end apartheid is also a relevant and inspirational account during Black History Month. Providing a diversity of historical topics, from the Civil War to Major League Baseball, your students will be sure to find a biography that piques their interests. 

At Guided Reading Level M–S, each biography is written as a Hi-Lo text for reluctant readers. Our Hameray Biography Series Teacher’s Guides provide ideas for you to build social studies and literacy knowledge at the same time! Each Teacher’s Guide is specifically tailored to one biography, saving you plenty of time when you create lesson plans. 

You can download the Hameray Biography Series Teacher’s Guide for FREE by visiting our website or clicking on the images below. Extend your student’s knowledge of black historical figures and their passionate work towards social equality!


Click the images below to download the Hameray Biography Series Teacher's Guides.

Bio TG Bio TG Bio TG Bio TG Bio TG Bio TG Ali


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Topics: Biography Series, Reluctant Readers, Martin Luther King Jr., Social Studies, Black History Month

Reading About Reading

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Jan 12, 2017 3:23:00 PM

Your students are exposed to a multitude of texts every day—fairy tales, animal books, classroom signs, and more. Do your students ever read about reading? This “meta-reading” initially might not appear particularly helpful, but it can actually boost a reluctant reader’s confidence. When they read aloud, “I can read,” the textual content reinforces their accomplishment of reading that sentence. Sharing the following two books with a reluctant reader can also help you, as an educator, to identify ways to boost your student’s motivation.

The My World series focuses on providing emerging readers with real-world knowledge. Part of the Having Fun Theme, Reading is Fun explores the exciting world of reading.


Leveled at Guided Reading Level E, the book repeats two sentence structures: “Reading is fun” and “You can read ___.” The word “books” is also repeated seven times throughout the text. With this structured style, your student will gain confidence to read on his or her own.

After reading:

  • What is your favorite book? Use Reading is Fun as a guide to identify if the book is a story, a fact book, a cookbook, a scary book, an exciting book, a funny book, or a songbook. Can it be more than one of these things?

Where Can I Read? from the Kaleidoscope Collection also offers an opportunity for students to read about reading. Leveled at Guided Reading Level D, the text also utilizes a repetitive sentence structure.


After reading:

  • Why can’t we read in the shower? You can use this opportunity to conduct a science experiment examining which objects are resistant to water. Are plastics, crayons, and cotton balls resistant to water? Have them record their observations in a journal.
  • Ask the student where they enjoy reading the most. What do you like about that place? Is it cozy or quiet? Listen closely to the student’s answer so you can replicate this ideal reading environment in the classroom. For example, if your student likes reading at home because she can lie down on the couch, add some pillows to a corner of the classroom where she can read comfortably. A change in environment can greatly boost the motivation to read!

Reading about reading is beneficial for both the student and the teacher. Add a “meta-reading” title to your classroom library today!


Click the images below to learn more about My World and the Kaleidoscope Collection, which include the books featured in this post.

My World Series Info Sheet  Kaleidoscope Collection Info Sheet


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Topics: Kaleidoscope Collection, My World, Struggling Readers, Reluctant Readers, Reading

Text Variety Helps Inspire Striving Readers: Alan Trussell-Cullen Pt. 2

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on May 13, 2013 8:00:00 AM

Exposing students to a wide variety of texts will both prepare them for life outside the describe the imageclassroom and also increase the chances that even the most reluctant readers will stumble upon a topic that will capture their interest and nurture a love of reading. In the second installation of our series of interviews with Alan Trussell-Cullen, teacher educator and author of our new Story World-Real World series, he shares some of his experiences in the classroom that illustrate just how important this variety can be.

Can you explain why it’s important for children to read an array of different types of text?

Firstly, it’s a matter of survival. In order to survive in the world today, we are confronted by so many different kinds of text, from road signs and billboards to manuals and recipe books, from poetry and literature to advertising slogans and TV graphics, from romance and mysteries to weather reports and timetables, and from blogs and tweets to “How-to” guides and “Who-done-it” mysteries. To live a so-called “normal” life in our modern world, one has to be able to read, understand, respond to, and create all kinds of text.

Secondly, it’s a matter of knowing what is out there in order to exercise our right to choose. When it comes to reading, we all have our fads and favorites. Adults do, and children, too. That’s not a bad thing—when Harry Potter appeared on the scene, millions of children suddenly began to read in a way they had never read before!

But children can also get stuck on a particular kind of book. Sometimes they lack the confidence to branch out and try something new. That’s where the good teacher can do a great job building reader confidence and coaxing them to try something new.

Often, it is a matter of finding some kind of personal link or connection. I can remember a nine-year-old boy in a class I was teaching. His name was Steve, and Steve was adamant that he didn’t like reading. Every day after the lunch break, the children in my class came back into the classroom and did about ten minutes of SSR. (Everyone probably knows that SSR stands for “Sustained Silent Reading,” but one six-year-old recently told me SSR stood for Super Silent Reading!)

Anyway, Steve hated SSR. While everyone else read their chosen library book or a book from the Class Bookshelf, or a book or story written by one of the children in the class (the kids would tell you: “We are all writers in this class!”), Steve would sit and fidget or stare into space. All my attempts to find something of interest for him didn’t seem to work.

And then one day a miracle happened. He told the class about his big brother. His big brother had a motorbike. His big brother loved his motor bike. So did Steve. He loved to help his brother take it apart and clean it and tune it. Now I knew next to nothing about motorbikes, so I asked Steve how he and his big brother knew what to do when they worked on the bike.

“He’s got these manual things,” said Steve. “He lets me read them, too.”motorcycles

 “Hey,” I said. “Do you think your brother would let you bring his motorbike manuals to school? You could read it at SSR time!”

Steve’s eyes lit up.

“Could I?” he asked.

The next day when the kids settled in for SSR, there was Steve with a rather tattered and suitably oil-stained volume which was obviously his brother’s motorbike manual! It was very technical, with diagrams and photographs, but Steve seemed to be reading it. I usually finished SSR with a few minutes of sharing, so on this day I asked Steve to tell us about his book. He began shyly, pointing out what he and his brother did the other night. He showed the class the page and explained the diagram. The class was enthralled—and not just the boys!

I had a special list on the wall headed “Our Class Experts.” Whenever someone showed they had special knowledge about something, we put their name up there. Then the other kids knew who to go to when they needed information or help on that subject. One of the kids put a hand up and said: “I think Steve should be up there as our class expert on motorbikes!”

Everyone agreed.

By now Steve was obviously floating on cloud nine!

He brought more stuff on motorbikes the next day. He wasn’t just looking at pictures—he was really reading. Other kids began to ask him questions. In art he drew motorbikes. Each day we had a writing time. Steve began to write about motorbikes. At first he wrote about the things he did with his brother. Then he began to write a book on motorbikes. The other kids loved it. One girl took it home. She said she wanted to show it to her brother, but I knew she didn’t have a brother! The whole class began to write manuals. Steve then began to make up stories about motorbikes. From motorbikes he moved to racing cars, and then big trucks. Then it was action stories and action heroes...

And what did I, as a teacher, learn from that? Reading shouldn’t just be about reading what the teacher thinks the children need to read. It isn’t just about reading books. And it isn’t about doing lots of “reading practice.” It’s about doing real reading, about helping kids connect their school experience with what they know and enjoy and love doing in their own lives. It’s about bringing the real world into their classroom and into their imagination.

Should parents and teachers approach how they use informational texts differently than narrative reading materials when reading with children? Why or why not?

I think Steve is the answer to this question. We don’t need to make a big difference between reading informational texts and reading fictional and imaginative material. It isn’t really a child reading smiling 6079588 Monkey Business Imagesdifferent kind of reading. If something is part of our lives, it can be part of our reading. Sometimes people think fiction is more emotional than nonfiction—but Steve really loved his motorbike manuals! And sometimes people think boys enjoy informational texts more than girls do. Well, maybe sometimes boys do, but we need to push children beyond received stereotypes. The girl who first took home Steve’s book on motorbikes wasn’t doing so to share it with her non-existent brother—she wanted to read it for herself!

Children need to read both informational texts and narrative reading material and they also need to write both and talk about both and feel free to choose both.

And incidentally, that is why I chose to write the Story World-Real World series for Hameray—it combines the world of imagination with the world of reality. We need both because one balances the other.

Can you tell us your best tip for teaching reading to beginning readers?

Don’t get too hung up about lots of standardized tests and reading levels. There are two wonderful instruments for assessing reading progress, and they are way better than any standardized test. And those are a good teacher’s ears and eyes!

The more we observe our children and listen to them, the more we will discover about them and the more we can help them become confident and engaged and unstoppable readers and writers.

...5054 Bears Cover FINAL

Story World-Real World, Alan's newest endeavor, features retellings of traditional tales that are coupled with informational texts to provide real-world background knowledge and support the elements of the story. For example, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, which stands well on its own as an entertaining story, is available in this series bundled with books on bears, temperature, and breakfast. Each "theme" in the series works this way—by pulling elements out of the narrative text of the traditional story and giving children information about how those elements work in the real world. 

To learn more about the new series, you can download a page of key features below:

New Call-to-Action

We'll have more content from Alan Trussell-Cullen in the coming weeks, so be sure to check back regularly if you like his tips for helping children learn to love reading! Additionally, if there is a reluctant reader in your home or classroom who likes motorbikes, be sure to check out our Download series, with topics such as Motorcycles, Motocross, and BMX bikes!

- Tara Rodriquez

*Photo credit: Monkey Business Images

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Topics: Making Learning Fun, Story World, Real World, Interview, Alan Trussell-Cullen, Download, Reluctant Readers

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