Give the Gift of Learning to Read with Ooka Island

Some kids seem to pick up reading at an early age and are motivated to practice and improve. Other kids? Well, let's just say the process is not so smooth. Reading can be a hard skill to master, and those active little people in your life may be resisting your attempts to get them reading on a regular basis.

This holiday season, you may be tempted to run out to the bookstore and pick a number of books you think your child would like to read. While this sometimes works, there are other (easier!) ways to get their noses stuck in a book.

Ooka Island is an adaptive, game-based learn-to-read program that develops strong early reading skills through 24 levels of educational activities and 85 ebooks. Share your love of reading with a budding bookworm in your life by gifting them a subscription to learn-to-read on Ooka Island

Wait, what? Reading can become a game?

Yes! And a fun game at that! Lara's daughter begs to play this "computer game," and has given us her review of the program:

I like it because I can get a package of little books to read and you can play games. I also like the previews free play because as a reward for reading the books, you get to choose what you play. I also loves the alphabet song and the characters. Two more things I like: when you are rewarded with stickers and money to buy stuff like dogs, shorts, and bears.

Ooka Island makes you a promise: send your child to Ooka Island for 30 minutes, three times a week and they’ll graduate a confident reader in ONE YEAR. That's pretty impressive! Ooka also sends parents weekly progress reports that provide a detailed picture of where their child is excelling or having difficulty in reading. This actionable information empowers parents to maximize their child’s learning and to have meaningful and productive dialogue with teachers. 

How can I give the gift of reading?

Parents, grandparents, and family members will love that instead of buying another toy for the special child in their life, that they can give them the gift of reading with a ticket to Ooka Island, where children become confident, fluent readers.  If you have an emerging reader in your family, click here to give them the gift of reading this Christmas!

Giving the gift of reading is easier than ever. Ooka Island now allows family and loved ones to purchase a gift subscription (3 month or 1 year program) that can be redeemed at anytime by the recipient.  Every ticket to Ooka Island can be printed or sent to the recipient by email. With three gift subscriptions to choose from, Ooka Island is the perfect holiday gift for early readers!


Starter Subscription ($34.99 CDN / $29.99 USD)

Gift a 3 month starter subscription to Ooka Island and jumpstart them into reading. An excellent choice for any child!

1-Year Program ($99.99 CDN / $89.99 USD)

Gift a 12 month subscription and watch them become a confident reader! Recommended to complete program.

1-Year Program + Books* ($149.99 CDN & USD)

Gift little learners their first paperback library with a colorful collection of 11 Ooka books bundled with the 1-Year Program

*Shipping is free.
 

So if you are looking for a gift that will encourage a child's love reading a subscription to Ooka Island is perfect!

And don't forget to enter our Holiday Giveaway, where you get a chance to win a one year subscription to Ooka Island and a set of books!

This post is part of our 2016 Holiday Campaign, with support from Tag Along ToysThe Canadian Museum of NatureSaunders Farm and Ooka Island. Make sure to enter our giveaway!

10 Classic Kids Books for Summer Reading

My daughter is now reading on her own, but before she insisted on reading herself to sleep we would read chapter books together, many of which I read as a child. I find the school year a busy time for kids to read books outside of those needed for school. Summer is the perfect time to break out classic books and share them with a new generation of young minds.

You don't have to break the bank purchasing these books either! The Ottawa Public Library is a great resource and even if a book is not available at your local branch, you can request it and have it transferred to your branch (which usually only takes a couple of days if the book is already available).

Besides the traditional 19th century classics such as Little Women, Black Beauty and The Swiss Family Robinson there are many contemporary children’s books that have also made the classics list, including:

1) Ramona and Beezus by Beverly Cleary

Ramona and Beezus

Can you believe Beverly Cleary turned 100 years old this year? Her Ramona books, however are as timeless as ever. Ramona and Beezus is the first in the series of Ramona books and starts when Ramona is only 4 years old. Ramona is a great reminder of how important it is for kids to have the run of their neighbourhoods and also get into a little mischief sometimes. Ramona is a perfect book to start reading with emerging readers or as a first chapter book for more independent readers.

2) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

With the release of the movie version of The BFG this summer, why not introduce your kids to Roald Dahl’s other classics including Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was the first novel read by my daughter’s second grade class and she couldn’t put it down (and I often had to remove it from her bed at night). It was THE book that made my daughter love reading.

3) Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Charlotte's Web

What’s not to love in this beautiful story of true friendship between Wilbur the pig and Charlotte A. Cavatica, his spider saviour. Although the ending may draw tears, the power of friendship plays an important part in this book and is a story any child will carry with them for a long time to come.

4) Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter

 My daughter and I started reading this one together when she was five – she was instantly engrossed in the magic and possibility of Harry Potter. She immediately cheered for the underdog (in this case, Harry) and loved seeing him so confident doing what he does best – magic! She hasn’t read the others yet, but we have them in the house and she says when she’s ready for more “magic” she knows where to find them. I like the Harry Potter books because they are enjoyable for readers of all ages and because it’s fun to use the word “muggles” and have your children know what you are referring to.

5) Holes by Louis Sachar

 A great book about building self-confidence told through a mysterious and engaging story of Stanley who is sent to Camp Green Lake where he and the other campers are forced to dig holes every day. Holes is a fun book for kids heading to camp (even though Stanley’s is a juvenile detention camp, but don’t worry he didn’t commit a crime). I read this book in university for a children’s literature course and finished it in one sitting – not because of its length so much as the interesting story.

6) Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables

 An undeniable Canadian classic, Anne of Green Gables is a lighthearted read at any age; not to mention it’s the perfect accompaniment if you are planning a family vacation to Prince Edward Island this summer. Anne is an outgoing girl who is sure to win the hearts of anyone who reads her triumphant story of convincing her adoptive parents that they need her and how she makes everyone fall in love with her partly due to all of the humorous situations she finds herself in.

7) The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

If you have a strong reader in the house then The Secret Garden may be of interest. It’s about young Mary Lennox who’s lonely beginning make her appear rude, but thanks to a good-natured maid, Mary discovers a secret walled garden and unlocks all its mysteries. This story teaches the value of friendship and the healing power of being surrounded by nature and living things. It’s a beautifully told story that will have children looking for secret gardens of their own!

8) Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter

This book was my absolute favourite growing up! Pollyanna is an optimistic young orphan who lives with her wealthy but strict Aunt Polly. Pollyanna finds the positive in everything – including being locked up in an attic and even after an accident causes her to lose the use of both of her legs. Although it sounds a bit dark, the story of Pollyanna teaches children to look for the good in any situation and cannot help but make you feel happy, even at the end of a hard day.

9) The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Narnia

For many kids The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is their introduction to the fantasy novel. It’s the first book in The Chronicles of Narnia series and is sure to hold the attention of even the most reluctant of readers. Four children discover the magic land of Narnia through a wardrobe in an old country house. Once there they discover talking animals, a witch and a seemingly permanent winter world... what ensues is an adventure sure to lastingly stick in the minds of anyone who reads it.

10) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Remember the first time you travelled down the Yellow Brick Road? Why not share the girl with ruby red shoes, her little dog, and her magical friends with a new generation of inquisitive readers?  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is full of timeless humour, wisdom and, of course, mystery and adventure!

Bonus: 

11) A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

 Although Lemony Snicket is a pen name, this harried writer tells the story of Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire who lost their parents in a fire. Through a series of 13 books, Lemony shares how, following the fire, the children are placed with a murderous relative who is trying to steal their inheritance and the adventures that soon develop because of it. Throughout it all, Snicket tries to dissuade the reader from continuing… but of course he fails because the story is too engaging to not continue reading!

Do you have a classic children’s book we should know about? Share it in the comments!

YOU KNOW YOUR CHILD LOVES TO READ WHEN... :)

YOU KNOW YOUR CHILD LOVES TO READ WHEN... :)

 

Imaginary Friends: Taking reading to a new level!

I have a lot of friends who get to be involved in really cool things in their work and a few weeks ago a friend shared a Kickstarter campaign for Imaginary Friends. I watched it and got so excited I was ready to back the campaign on the spot. After a conversation with my friend she offered to send us a Beta version of the book for us to try out and I jumped on the opportunity. Turns out, it's as awesome as I expected and I think you should back the Kickstarter too. (For those of you who don't know, you pledge now but don't pay unless the goal is met. You're pledging to help them have the funds to create the product but in this case the timelines aren't too long and first products are going to ship in September.)

 

What is it?

It's a chapter book that is printed with each chapter as its own mini book. There are also activities that take the kids out of the story and into real life between each chapter. This includes scavenger hunts (for example, my son had to find all the pieces of a puzzle around our house based on clues we created), games on the computer and one game in our book even had our son exploring the neighbourhood using the gps on my iPhone.

Imaginary Friends set up stories that take kids outside of just reading. The way I see it there are advantages for all types of readers.

My son is an avid reader, sometimes it's hard to get him out of his room. The pause between each chapter for an activity had him up and running around and excited to take on another task. (I haven't seen him this enthusiastic about anything other than Minecraft in a long time!)

For a non avid reader, I can see the activities making reading feel more interactive and exciting and less "boring".

How it works

When you get the book, the parents are in charge of setting up an account and getting things rolling. There is an account for the parent to move the story forward and set up activities and there is an account for the kids to log in and play the games on the computer and get prompted to do activities (the games run on an ipod/iphone but it worked better on an actual computer). 

When we first started out I wanted it to seem magical that the games was leading him to things around our house but until I explained that we had been involved he would often just stare at the computer baffled at how to follow through within the computer game. Once that clicked he was thrilled and really got in to all the games.

 

Parents need to log in to their system to move to the next game and be ready to hand out the chapters one at a time, so it takes more involvement from the parent than a typical book but it was well worth it. There was one time when I thought the game wasn't working properly but it turned out I hadn't done my part in the parent part of the system so you just need to remember to do all the parts.

Who are these for?

They say they're targeted at 8-12 year olds. I think because my son is such an advanced reader that it seems to me it could be younger than that but I know most kids aren't devouring chapter books on their own at 6. I do think you could be even more involved and help with the games and the chapters and kids as young as 6 would really enjoy these stories.

I asked my 8 year old what he thought and here are a few of his points:

I liked getting to play a game between each chapter. (Books and video games, my son's favourite things! :)

I really liked the story because it was exciting, it had superheroes and the ending was kind of surprising.

It was surprising at the start because I didn’t know there would be games. In one of them the computer game told me to look for things in my own house and I couldn’t figure out how they did that. 

Now what?

Check out the Kickstarter. They only have 7 days left and they're 75% of the way to their goal. I liked the book so much that I bought their 4-book pack knowing we'd get the same book as we already have and planning to give it to someone as a gift. 

I love encouraging reading and making it even more fun by taking them outside of the books was a total win for me. We read Capes in the Family and I can't wait to get Circus of Mirrors in the Fall. Eventually I think we'll get one of their deluxe books that has artifacts and props. Because seriously - how cool is this idea!? So Cool!

The Imaginary Friends team put together a few freebies if you want to try things out. Check it all out to get a taste for the products.

Free Sample Kit: Try out some of Capes in the Family game now! http://try.imaginaryfriendbooks.com 

Free Father's Day Cards:  http://imaginaryfriendbooks.com/blog/2015/06/17/imaginary-friends-free-downloadable-fathers-day-cards/

Websitehttp://imaginaryfriendbooks.com

Connect with Imaginary Friends on TwitterFacebookPinterest and YouTube

Full disclosure: I was given a book for free to test out but wasn't asked to say anything specific. I really do just love this idea a lot :)